Thursday, April 25, 2013

Not What My Hands Have Done

As I sit here typing, a bright beam of sunshine streams through my window this morning. Making the room bright and my heart full of hope. It is supposed to be a warm day and I have plans to go outside and absorb some of that sunshine. Hope is on the horizon for us right now.

And I am reminded, there is always hope for me in Christ. Always. Not just when I feel it because I can see sunshine, but always. Through the clouds and through the rain.

I have learned throughout the years of being taught under my pastor, Bill Vogler, and reading and listening to Jerry Bridges, to preach the gospel to myself each day. It is as if the joy of the gospel is too wonderful for us to really wrap our little minds around, and hold onto. And then there is the fallen world that is pressing in on us from all sides and we forget. So, we must preach ourselves the gospel every day.

Today, I would like to do that by sharing this poem with you:

Not What My Hands Have Done

By Horatius Bonar

Not what my hands have done can save my guilty soul;
Not what my toiling flesh has borne can make my spirit whole.
Not what I feel or do can give me peace with God;
Not all my prayers and sighs and tears can bear my pressing load.

Your voice alone, O Lord, can speak to me of grace;
Your power alone, O Son of God, can all my sin erase.
No other work but Yours, no other blood will do;
No strength but that which is divine can bear me safely through.

Thy work alone, O Christ, can ease my weight of sin;
Thy blood alone, O Lamb of God, can give me peace within.
Thy love to me, O God, not mine, O Lord, to Thee,
Can rid me of this dark unrest, And set my spirit free.

I bless the Christ of God; I rest on love divine;
And with unfaltering lip and heart I call this Savior mine.
His cross dispels each doubt; I bury in His tomb
Each thought of unbelief and fear, each lingering shade of gloom.

I praise the God of grace; I trust His truth and might;
He calls me His, I call Him mine, My God, my joy and light.
’Tis He Who saveth me, and freely pardon gives;
I love because He loveth me, I live because He lives.

Monday, April 22, 2013

How He loves us.

I just had to share this cool story from today!
Levi and I had just finished a morning of grocery shopping. It had been one of those mornings where I had to pause the shopping quite often to remind Levi that if he was a good boy, he would get some animal crackers. And so, we had just arrived at our car with all the groceries and he began to have an emotional break down. I barely get him strapped into the car seat. (there was a lot of flailing and arching of the back going on.) Then after I unload all of the groceries into the car, I realize that I am no where near a place to return a cart. It took a great deal of work to get Levi strapped into the car, so I was not about to take him out of the car seat. And he was in there desperately eating animal crackers and so I was also not going to leave him alone, in a locked car, as he shoves ridiculous amounts of animal crackers into his mouth. So I just stood there contemplating whether or not to obnoxiously leave my cart in the parking space or go through all of the work and emotional turmoil of getting Levi out of the car seat only to fight to put him back in again. Now this is not a big problem in the grand scheme of things, but I was beginning to feel very overwhelmed in that moment.
Now this is the cool part. An older gentleman must have noticed my dilemma, because he came over and asked me if my kids were already in the car and he offered to take the cart inside for me! He laughed and said he had kids and had "been there" once too.  I was so thankful! It was such a small thing, but we hardly ever see kindness like that anymore. As I got in the car and drove away, I marveled that I had a small, but real dilemma, and God faithfully attended to it with the kindness of a sweet old man. I thought about how if God can so obviously attend to my very small needs, then surely He is attending to the needs of my very soul. He is going to get me through life on earth without Ezra. He will turn the darkness into light and He will make the rough places smooth. (From Isaiah 42:16) And maybe, He will even give me another baby.
There's still more to the story though! As I was driving home, I noticed the song that came on. It is an awesome, powerful song by Tenth Avenue North (Not surprising, I know. They are the only band I ever talk about on the blog so far. But they are just so good!) called over and underneath. There is one portion of the song that talks about all the ways that God loves us, and this is when I tuned in. He says, "My love is over, it's underneath. It's in the sides, it's in between." I love that! That is what I had felt through that mans kindness today. God's love is everywhere. In the most unexpected places. Then, as if to further drive the point home that this song was for me, when I arrived home the song ended at the exact same time I put the car in park.
These are small things. But when you are in tune with and aware of God's presence, the small things become big things, because we can see Him working there.
The morning had been peaceful for me. I had been talking with God and dreaming of Ezra's life in heaven. I wasn't really in a place where my soul was longing for a gift like that, but He gave it to me anyway.
God is good.
All the time.
This is how He loves us.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Our Joy ~ April 19, 2013

It's Joy post Friday, and I'm actually doing it!

I am thankful that God continues to teach me, even though it has been through immense pain. Maybe I really will be that wise old woman who exudes peace that I have always hoped I could be someday.

I am thankful for all of the special women in my life who have been continuous in prayer for me. Many of whom I would not have expected to be. Many of whom I do not even know. They have been feeling my pain, which I would never wish on anyone, but it brings me comfort that they grieve with me. To anyone out there who has been going before the Lord on my behalf, thank you. I remember you in the times that I do not have the strength to lift my eyes up. I know there are precious women standing in the gap for me, interceding in prayer. Love to you all!

On a lighter note, I am thankful that Levi has finally accepted the filling of our dishwasher. As his first chore, he is helping me empty the dishwasher by handing me the big plates and such. He says "big" when he pulls out a big plate, and "baby" when he pulls out a little one. It was all so cute until he could NOT handle me filling the dishwasher. He got so red and mad at me for undoing what he had just made clean. Why yes child, I know just how you feel! I have been explaining to him what is happening when I fill the dishwasher, and I think he is starting to get it because he doesn't get so red and mad anymore. Hopefully someday I can capture how red he gets in a picture and share it with you. It's pretty intense!

And here are some precious moments that I am thankful from the past week:

Watching father and son bonding on our hike by the river.

Enjoying a beautiful day.

Getting to give Levi a bottle like a baby! He was so tired after our little hike, that he could not hold the bottle and get water into his mouth, so i helped him. :) It was nice to feel like he was a baby again for thirty seconds.

We went to the mall for some distraction on the day I found out we were not pregnant, and Levi loved the big Mickey. He looks so little! I will take any picture that makes him look little. He's going to be two in May and I am starting to freak out a little bit.

We rode on the indoor carousel at the mall and I think he liked it because he kept asking for more, but he plugged his ears and was very still the entire ride.

Levi cruisin in his new set of wheels. There was a car playground at the mall and he was in car-car heaven.

Baking together. Levi thinks he's a pro now.

Looking at the "rainbow" that comes through our window with the morning sun. This is also a nice shot of Levi's morning hair. This is actually mild compared to normal.

That's just some of what I am feeling thankful for this week. 
What are you thankful for?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Pulling weeds

Why is it so hard to give our desires over to God and feel like our heart has really let go?
Our knuckles are white from the tension of holding on too tightly to the things we desire. I have been learning lately (my entire life actually) that giving a desire over to God is not a one time thing. Why do I always think that it is? If I really saw how strongly that desire had a hold on my heart, I would see that it needs daily attention. I need to come back each day, to check, and make sure that little monster is really gone and hasn't come back to wreck havoc on my desire to follow God's plan for me.
I love this image because the women is
bent over, working in her garden ,
and  yet she looks so peaceful.
 I gives me
peace to think of this image
as I go to "pull weeds" with God each day.
As Christians, we often talk about our sin nature. Sin, within nature makes me think of a weed. You can work and toil to pull every last one out of the ground, and at the end of the day your garden looks beautiful. But any good gardener knows that these weeds are not gone forever. They will surely come back. They might look different, or they might be the very same weed that you worked so hard to get rid of in the first place.
Sin nature.
It is continual.
And thus, the weeding should be continual and done on a daily basis.
Maybe some of this seems elementary to you. I have "known" this stuff all my life. But now it is starting to really click in my brain. I have the "aha" feeling.
I realize that my brain can operate in such a black and white fashion when it comes to God. I really have thought, for a great deal of my life, that I can simply give a desire over to God in one single act, and it's done. Now, I must say one thing that is done in that single act, is God's forgiveness. He doesn't hold our sin against us. It is a far as the east is from the west and He remembers it no more. But my finite brain must remember that the pull toward sin within me is not yet done. He calls us to put on the armor of God every day. We don't put it on once and wear it forever. Since it is intangible, our human brains forget that we have it, and so we must put it on the next day. We must accept our weakness. Our eyes can be so opened to what God wants to teach us when we are aware of our weakness. And my goodness, I have never been more aware of my weakness in my life!
The reason I am stewing on all of this is because a dear friend of mine gently pushed me towards giving God my desire to have my babies close together in age. I know in my heart that this is a good desire, but by being so attached to the desire instead of God, I am setting myself up for a huge, emotional crash every month because there might be a negative pregnancy test. I am creating so much anxiety and tension by holding on tightly that I quickly spiral into hopelessness and depression when God doesn't give me the answer I desire. The truth is, I would really like it if God would listen to my plan about when I want to have another baby. But He calls me to His good plan, and so I will try to give that desire over to Him. I can see the peace and calm that God can give me on the other side, and I want that. I want be with Him.
Trusting that He will give me the faith to get through the waiting.
Trusting that He will give me peace in knowing that His plan really is the very best for me.
Trusting that even though it can be painful to give over my hearts desires to His control, I am safe in his arms.
Trusting that it all makes sense in His glorious, omniscient purpose for my life.
My heart has a strong bond to the idea of wanting Levi to have a brother or sister who is close to him in age, and I realized that there is no way I could give this desire over to God just once. I have to break that bond down, and I can do that by giving that desire over to God and His control everyday. Over and over and over again. You've heard of the phrase "kill them with kindness"? My hope is that, with God's help, I can break down this bond by killing it with obedience.

My soul finds rest in God alone;
My salvation comes from Him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation;
He is my fortress,
I will never be shaken.
Psalm 62:1-2

Will you help me "pull out the weeds" in my heart faithfully each day. Will you garden alongside me, so that my heart blossoms in beauty and bears much fruit for you?
In Jesus name,

Monday, April 15, 2013

God, help me.

I had a song on in the car on the way home from target today and found that it was exactly what my heart was feeling. It is so comforting, calming, to hear that others have felt the same emotions you have. I have been a little scared these past few days as I have struggled with feeling so hurt by God's decision to not give me another baby within a year of Ezra's birth. I had prayed for this ever since we got home from the hospital. I felt very angry with Him, and I still am working through those feelings. But as my emotions raged and my heart began to worry about my faith, I realized that the reason I am so angry about this is because I believe God is all powerful and in control of everything. Obviously, I'm not doing the best job of bowing to that all powerful rule. It is hard to accept that a decision that hurts me so much can be for my good. And I suppose that is what I am still working on: believing that this decision of God's really is good. Somehow, it really is what is best for me. Because all I feel is hurt. And intense pain can make your vision that was once clear, very clouded. But just because the vision was clear once, doesn't mean that it will always be clear. And just because it's clouded now, doesn't mean that it will always be clouded.
But right now, I have no emotion left to pour a heartfelt prayer before the Lord.
I have no strength to lift my hands and praise Him for my salvation.
Although I know He is my salvation.
I have no energy to work through letting go of my desires enough to give them over to God.
All I can do right now is say "God, help me."
And that is all He requires.
Me, realizing that I have nothing within me.
Me, realizing that apart from Him, I have no good thing.
I have resigned to the fact my prayers don't need to explore every depth of my heart right now. I can just ask God to help me, and the same amount of supernatural power will come to my aid. And right now, I really have to remind myself why. It's because He loves me. His actions right now don't feel like love, but it is love. I wish I knew how.
But it is love.
I know I am not losing my faith. What I am, is struggling to see God clearly through my pain. I still know what is true about God and I still believe. It is my intense belief in his good and all-powerful nature that makes accepting this so hard.
But I know that if He helps me, I can.
He can.
And so I am thankful for psalms and songs that can help our grieving brains put a prayer together. And this is mine.

Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends
That you can mend a heart
That’s frail and torn
I wanna know a song can rise
From the ashes of a broken life
And all that’s dead inside can be reborn
Cause I’m worn
Help me.
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why such turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.
(Psalm 42:5&6)
God, please help me.

And now, I want to leave you with the song that explained my heart so well today. It's "Worn" by Tenth Avenue North. 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Rain and tears

God, have we not endured enough pain already?
Why do you bring more?
I prayed and you did not answer me,
I have no verses that readily come to mind in this pain,
Only the hurt of feeling so bitterly disappointed.
Why do you keep a baby from me?
What could your good plan possibly be?
Oh, would you make me wise so that I know why and my pain might be relieved?
Why do I see others given this gift constantly, and easily
And not only did you take it from me when I was so close to receiving it,
But you are keeping me from it still.
Why do I see others given the gift of children close in age,
While the gap between the children I could have on earth is ever widening?
Why God, would you give me a heart for children
Only to take them away from me, and withhold them?
How is this good?
How could this possibly be good?
Can I still believe you are good?
I can't be strong anymore, God.
Not through this.
I have no faith of my own.
I need you to give it to me.
I need you to come and lift my completely weary and limp body.
I have no energy to come to you on my own.
I need to you to come rescue me now.
Make my heart desire you and not be angry with you.
Cause me to see you, for my eyes grow clouded over with doubt and pain.
I can offer nothing.
All I can bring is me and beg you to change me, and calm the raging storm in my heart.
I know I can trust you, but it doesn't feel like I can.
Change me.
Change my heart.
Give me the faith that I could not possible find on my own in this unanswered prayer.
Help me to continue to pray.
Help me to believe again.
Help me believe that you want to bless me,
That you care for me.
It is hard to feel cared for when your decisions bring me unspeakable amounts of pain.
Bring Spring, and please bring me a baby with it!
Help me believe that you can answer prayer with a yes.

I have prayed that God would let us have a baby within a year of Ezra's birth ever since we got home from the hospital. And I have prayed this prayer fervently. We have a little newborn sleeper that we got for Ezra, and I prayed that God would fill that sleeper with a precious baby for next years Christmas. If I had gotten pregnant this month, we could have had another baby by Christmas like we would have with Ezra. We could have had that baby around the special time that Ezra was born, and that would have brought so much healing for me. Now the only way that would be possible is if I got pregnant next month and that baby came very early. Almost four weeks early. I'm not going to pray for something scary like that. My dream is gone. I became very vulnerable to God in asking him for such a specific prayer. Knowing the answer is no to this month, brings more pain than I thought it could. I can't help but doubt. I can't help but feel very hurt and angry over this "no". I can't help but be completely stumped over how this could possibly be a good plan. I feel so hurt to have my dreams dashed again. And I don't feel like I can have hope for next month. Would you pray with me? Ask God to give me faith, hope, and trust again. And please, beg him to give us another baby next month.
I was hesitant to share my hurt and anger here because I want this to be a place of healing for others. But this is real. Pain is part of healing. It is a part that makes no sense now, but maybe it will later.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Our Joy ~ April 5, 2013

Our Joy ~ April 5, 2013

I am sorry I have skipped the past two Fridays. The first Friday my husband and I were out of town on a little getaway in a cabin in the woods. It was awesome!
Here is our place, beautifully covered in snow. 

And this was our view from the jacuzzi. It was definitely a glam cabin in the woods, but we loved the seclusion and being surrounded by nature. And I loved the hot tub!

 Then last Friday was the Friday before Easter and I was just so swamped with things to do, I completely forgot.

I have noticed that the writing hasn't been pouring out of me as it was before. We have reached a point where we have to move forward with life and find our new normal, our new routine of life. It's not easy. At one point, I was becoming so overwhelmed with this new life and the little tasks that came with it, that my husband had to tell me to just make Levi my only priority right now. And It has helped. I have missed the writing, but it has been such a rich couple of weeks with a majority of my time and attention being to Levi. We have bonded so much more, and I am really thankful for that.

I am also super thankful for music, and the calm it can bring to our soul. The music I have been choosing to listen to right now is so full of God's truth. It is just the best thing to have that playing in the back round of your day and in the car when you can be left alone with your thoughts. 

I want to share one that really resonated in my heart today.
It's "By Your Side" by Tenth Avenue North. 

Look at these hands at my side
They swallowed the grave on that night
When I drank the world's sin
So I could carry you in
And give you life 
I want to give you life

And I'll be by your side wherever you fall
In the dead of night whenever you call
And please don't fight these hands that are holding you
My hands are holding you

Ah, it's so good! Thank you Jesus!

Observing and thinking on Christ's sacrifice has been my joy these past two weeks. Easter had a new depth to it as I feel I now have a glimpse of what Christ's sufferings might have felt like. And that is so powerful.

Here are some other times of joy from these past few weeks:

Watching Levi show Grandpa how his puzzle works

Watching Levi kiss himself in the mirror, while wearing the cars blanket that he is obsessed with as a baby toga.

Watching Levi pretend to read Mommy's bible.

Finding amazing views on our getaway to the Ozark Mountains

Hiking, just me and my hubby.

Watching some Grandpa and Grandson bonding unfold as they both couldn't take their eyes of the KU game. (So sad they lost! That was not necessarily a time of joy.)

Holding my sweet baby as he feel asleep, cuddling with His new bible we gave him for Easter. That moment was so sweet, and I was so thankful my husband stopped by for lunch that day so he could capture it.

Having a glorious spring day with my cutie.

Watching Levi surprise his Aunt Hannah with a kiss.

And finally, seeing signs of spring after a snow storm.

We kept some of the branches from this bush and have them next to a picture of Ezra. They serve as a physical reminder that God does bring spring out of winter. Light out of darkness. And He will turn our mourning into dancing.