Friday, September 9, 2016

A Memory

I wanted to write this down so I don't forget:

Yesterday morning, Scott had to leave around 5 a.m. to go meet someone for a breakfast meeting 2 hours away. He does this occasionally to be at a dairy during milking or feeding time. When he leaves, he kneels by my side while I'm in bed, holds me, kisses me, and tells me how much he loves me. It. Is. The. Best. And then I get to fall back asleep.

Later in the day, I remembered how, when we used to have a dairy, he would do this each and every morning. Sometimes it was at 3:30 a.m., others it was at 6. But I loved it. If I happened to be awake around 6 when he left I would stay in bed pretending to still be asleep so that he would go through the same routine. And I was sadly disappointed on the days I had to get up before him, which was rare.

Now, it only happens about once a month, and I didn't realize until this afternoon how much I missed that sweet little start to my day. We're so busy with kids and jobs and life that taking 30 seconds out to focus only on each other is just a really special moment, something we need to work harder to make a priority.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

An Answer to Prayer

I’ve been struggling a lot lately. 

Do you ever pray and pray and pray about something and never get an answer? Not even a “no” or “wait” or even any peace about it? I’ve been wrestling with this one particular something off and on for the past 6 weeks.  I have good days and bad days, days where I am supremely confident and days when I seriously question if what I am doing is hurting those I love the most. I’ve let it consume me and define who I am as a person. It’s not been a happy time in my life.

One day last week I was at a breaking point. I was exhausted, tired of crying, tired of praying, tired of stressing, and oh-so-ready to just give up.  It was an unseasonably cool day and I decided to go for a walk with my baby, just to get some fresh air. I love the winding, picturesque dirt road next to my house- it’s my favorite place to run and clear my head. Our neighbors also just built a new road through their property around a large tank and I was eager to explore (I had been given permission. Don’t trespass. Especially in Texas.) so we started off at a brisk pace.

Again, I found myself praying, no, begging God for some kind of peace over this current thorn in my flesh. I turned the power walk into a prayer walk, and it wasn’t long until the tears started flowing. I texted two friends that I had confided in a few weeks ago and told them I could use some prayers, that I was really struggling at the moment. Their replies came quickly with offers to come help in any possible way, full of love and support.

My daughter slept most of the way, but woke up and started to fuss with a half mile to go. I started singing “Jesus Loves Me” but that wasn’t cutting it. I opened up a playlist on my phone and hit “play”.

Then came the answer to my constant prayers and restless heart.

The first song was “Completely” by Among the Thirsty.

“I'm feeling so small
Standing here weeping
As I'm coming clean
Of the secrets I'm keeping
I've caused so much pain
To the ones I love the most
And I'm falling apart
As I carry my heart to Your throne

I am completely surrendering
Finally giving You everything

You're my redeemer, I run to the cross
Because You are more than enough
Lord complete me
Cause I'm Yours completely”

That was it. That was what God was asking me to do, to surrender, to stop striving, to give Him space and let Him work. I sang/mouthed/sobbed those words and the rest of the song as a confession and felt so much weight lifting off my shoulders, even carrying my 10 pound baby in a sling. I praised God in that moment first for His answer to prayer and second for the relief I felt at finally not holding on for one. more. second.

As if that wasn’t enough, God gave me another answer in the next song, “Come as you Are” by Crowder.

“Come out of sadness from wherever you've been
Come broken hearted let rescue begin
Come find your mercy
Oh sinner, come kneel

Earth has no sorrow
That Heaven can't heal

So, lay down your burdens
Lay down your shame
All who are broken
Lift up your face
Oh wanderer, come home
You're not too far
So, lay down your hurt
Lay down your heart
Come as you are”

The invitation and the promise that He could and would fix it, that no burden was too great, that he felt my broken heart and longed to restore it, I just had to relinquish control first and come to Him whole-heartedly. It would be another two days before my situation improved dramatically. But in those two days I had something I’d been lacking: patience, clarity, and hope. And hope does not disappoint (Romans 5:5).

From the bottom of my broken now mended heart: thank you to my sisters in Christ, Jennifer Maxwell and Sara Whitworth, for standing in the gap and interceding on my behalf. Friends, our Lord heard your prayers. 

Friday, August 19, 2016

What I Learned on my "Summer Vacation"

Last June, my in-laws went on a vacation that combined two of their favorite things: the church and the mountains.  For the past 30 years, the Red River Family Encampment has been blessing the lives of campers in the mountains of New Mexico through time spent in praise and worship, excellent speakers, and a variety of Bible classes. My in-laws came home raving about it and bribed their children with paying for the accommodations if we would commit to going. Shortly after the cabin was booked, we found out I was pregnant with our second child. A quick look at the calendar confirmed that we would most likely be taking a 6 week old newborn and our 4 year old with us on vacation…. Hesitantly, we decided to make the 9 hour drive for the week-long trip.

Any mom knows that vacation when you are with children isn’t really a vacation. You are still Mommy, just at the beach, or in the mountains, or at Disneyland. There are still 3 am feedings, baths, dirty clothes, blow-out diapers, and can I get a cyber-hug for the over-tired, different time zone bed time battles with a 4 year old and newborn sleeping in the same room 2 feet from the adjoining in-laws room?? I failed to realize this. I had psyched myself up for our first vacation in nearly 3 years. We were going where it was cooler and rainier, there was a lot to see and do, I was going to get to re-connect with my husband.  Most importantly, and we were going to hear some awesome speakers and recharge, something this tired, post-partum momma desperately needed.


Do you remember Sundays with small children? Trying to get everyone up and fed and dressed to get to church on time? A child not wanting to go to Bible class? Keeping children occupied and quiet for an hour during the sermon? Walking around and patting and bouncing and swaying with a newborn outside or in the foyer (completely missing the sermon) so they would go to sleep, only to have someone touch them or a loud noise startle them awake?!?!  Hoping for a long Sunday afternoon nap, only to realize you had something else scheduled that afternoon before going back for evening services?  THAT was what I did on my summer vacation. For five days.

How I spent my summer vacation....
It was ugly, and we were miserable. In the presence of ALL my in-laws (it was a small cabin). Our misery was brought into sharp focus for me by watching said in-laws having a great time, going to do fun things together, relaxing, and getting so much out of the camp. Yes, they helped out every now and again when they could tell we were at the absolute breaking point or to give us 5 minutes to eat or shower. But it was their vacation, too, so we tried not to pawn our kids off on them any more than necessary.

I was insanely jealous. If anyone ever needed to have fun and recharge and relax, it’s the parents of a 6 week old. My husband would take our son to go fishing or hiking or to play on the playground while I was stuck feeding or getting the baby back to sleep. He would keep him occupied during sermons while I paced back and forth outside with her.  I remember sitting in a sermon at camp watching my sisters-in-law take notes and thinking, “I hope they know how lucky they are!”   It was very isolating.

One night, as I was inside trying to get the children to sleep and everyone else was outside visiting and playing games, it dawned on me what was going on. I texted my dear friend, who was also at the camp.  I knew she was in her hotel by herself trying to get her child to sleep as well, because her husband was outside visiting with my husband.

Me:     “Sorry it’s late…. Does it sound strange to say that I think Satan has been after me this week? Keeping me from hearing the gospel, worshiping, and studying? And then wearing me out so much with the kids that when I can attend a class I can’t stay focused?”

Her:    “No, not at all. I’ve kinda been in the same mood. I think he will do anything he can to keep us from learning/worshiping.”

That thought changed my focus for the rest of the trip (read: 2 days) but I forgot about it until this past Sunday morning. We’ve had an over-tired, fussy, restless baby on our hands this past week. We’ve done anything and everything we can to get her to go to sleep and to stay asleep. In fact, she hasn’t slept more than 2 ½ hours at a time this whole week. Saturday we kind of turned a corner and she got some great naps in and went to bed very easily. I only got up with her once and she went back to sleep around 4:30 am. I had set my alarm for 7:30 so we’d have plenty of time to get ready for Sunday services, but we woke up at 8 (which never happens- 4 year old and a baby, remember?). We rushed around and got ready and then went to wake up the kids.

And here’s where we got caught: we made the decision to not wake up the baby, and that I would stay home with her and let her sleep.  I found myself cleaning the kitchen when I should have been in Bible class and realized what had happened. Once again, Satan had used my children as pawns to keep me from learning and worshiping.

I read a blog not too long ago called “When Satan Steals Your Motherhood” about how easy it is for him to use the insurmountable task of raising children to breed bitterness, weariness, and hopelessness inside a mother’s heart. That really hit home with me. What I see him doing now is taking it a step further and using them to prevent young parents from learning, praying and worshiping.

How many times have I had to leave a service or Bible class with a crying child? How many times have I just gotten into bed at the end of a long day and skipped my nightly Bible reading? In truth, my prayers since my baby has been born have been primarily something along the lines of, “Please Dear God, let this baby go to sleep.” I also admit that I don’t even take my Bible to worship anymore- I use the Bible app on my phone (sorry to any preachers who thought I was texting!) because it’s too hard to turn pages and hold a squirmy baby (disclaimer: I am not saying Bible apps are wrong, but I am a visual learner and I need to take notes and highlight and underline to fully absorb a lesson). When I do get to sit in the pew during a sermon I am most likely trying to keep my 4 year old quiet or I have zoned out from sleep deprivation.  How many times have I just wanted to skip Wednesday night Bible class altogether because it’s been a long week and we won’t get home until well after bedtime? So many times I sit down to take a break during naptime to read or write and it’s like a cue for the baby to wake up.

Parents everywhere are thinking, “That’s just part of raising children, at least you are bringing them to church!” There is a lot to be said for setting an example and establishing a routine. But this pattern is going to be my norm for at least eight years.
  • ·         EIGHT YEARS without fully hearing or focusing on a sermon.
  • ·         EIGHT YEARS being distracted during praise & worship.
  • ·         EIGHT YEARS hoping your kid doesn’t knock over the communion trays instead of taking in the weight of what those symbols represent.
  • ·         EIGHT YEARS being so busy caring for others that sitting down to read the Bible for 15 minutes seems like a huge guilty luxury.
  • ·         EIGHT YEARS of missing out on close fellowship because I am constantly making sure my kids aren’t about to fall off the slide on the playground after services.

That’s a whole lot of missed time worshiping, meditating, studying, and communing with Christ and spending time the Word and with my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

Parents are specifically instructed to teach their children, the next generation of believers, about Christ and His love for us in order to perpetuate the Kingdom of Heaven. Satan has got to see that if he makes it sooo hard to bring children to worship and Bible class that he has prevented the next generation from knowing and loving God. What are the old proverbs? "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?" "The best defense is a great offense?" If you don't believe that he will use every single trick in the book to attempt to stop God's people from becoming strong in the Lord, get ready to be blind-sided, just like I was. 

So what’s the solution? First, I think recognizing that, like my friend said, Satan can use anything from keep us from worshiping and learning- even our precious children. Recognize that attending services and singing praises to the Lord is very threatening to Satan. Second, do what you can to study, worship, and pray outside of formal services and classes; learn when and while you can. This is huge. My new biggest piece of advice to expecting parents is to build up their relationship with Christ as much as possible before the bundle of joy arrives, so that they are used to seeking Him in everything, even at 3 a.m. Bonus, when you study outside of the church setting, you are setting a wonderful example to your children. Third, Pray. Pray for strength to endure and not give in and just stay home or go to bed before spending time with the Lord. Pray for resilience when you miss the sermon again and start to wonder “what is the point?” Pray for your children when you start to become frustrated. And finally, find an ally: your spouse, another family in the trenches with young children, your extended family (or church family) that is willing to give you a break from time to time.

"Children are a heritage from the Lord". (Psalm 127:3) Jesus loved children and used them numerous times to teach his disciples. Raising them up in the way of the Lord is of utmost importance. Why else would Satan do everything he could to keep their parents from going through so much stress to get them to church and isolate the parents into “baby jail”? Recognize the enemy. “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7 ESV).  Instead of fighting your children in the pews, fight to keep them, and yourself, there.