oh the joy

Without a doubt, my very favorite part of pregnancy is feeling my son’s kicks.  I remember feeling the first one on October 13th, right at about 20 weeks.  Initially, I just felt tiny little flutters, so small and faint.  But with each day, his movements have become stronger and more purposeful.  The first thing I do when my alarm clock goes off in the morning is feel for my son.  As soon as I am awake, I place my hand on my belly and wait for his first movement of the day.  I look so forward to feeling that morning prod of his knee or elbow in my side.  It gives me peace, reminds me that he is thriving, and brings me so much happiness.  The grace and mercies of The Lord have never been so evident.

Pregnany belly

As I laid in bed one morning recently waiting for my baby boy to move, it occurred to me – isn’t this how God feels about us, His children?  Doesn’t He long for us to seek Him as soon as we rise?   Psalm 119:2 says “Blessed are they who keep the words of The Lord, who seek Him with all their heart.”   Am I seeking Him with all my heart?  Psalm 119 is filled to the brim with descriptions of devotion.  “I rejoice in You.” “I hold fast to You.”  “I have sought You.”  I realized that just as I excitedly wait for my son to respond to my touch, God’s desire is for us to respond to His loving pursuit of our hearts.  This has been His will for us from the beginning.  Before we knew Him, He called us by name.  Before we were born, He set us apart.  My son’s precious features are still developing.  He can open and close his eyes, and the tissues and cells in his ears are allowing him to hear sounds for the first time.  He doesn’t know it, but he’s been perfectly encased in safety and security for the past 8 months.  My heartbeat has been the steadfast sound with him at all times, yet he’s just recently become able to detect it.  Like a baby, we’re often unaware of The Lord’s gentle presence with us.  Even though my son doesn’t know me as his mother yet, I know him and love him profoundly.  I think about him constantly, and his needs are at the forefront of my mind. I am focused on tasks for his benefit – washing his clothes, folding his blankets, and preparing a crib for his arrival.  Isn’t our Father the same way toward us?  Sometimes He’s so quiet, waiting for us to move and reach out to Him.  But even when we don’t sense Him, He’s there.  He is actively involved in our lives and He is deeply concerned about every aspect of our being.  If I am this concerned about my unborn child, how much more is the God of the universe concerned about us?  He is fascinated with you.  You are one of his finest treasures.  Your needs and desires are forever on His heart.

never forget

Just as my soon-to-be-mother’s heart longs to feel my son’s movements, our Father’s heart longs for the same; that we will move under His gentle touch, that we will respond to His loving voice.  I talk to my baby boy all the time.  When I’m driving to work or when I’m just resting at home, I’ll sing a little song to him or tell him about how much his dad and I love him.  At 34 weeks now, he is capable of responding to my voice, and he does!  By about 24 weeks gestation, babies can detect sounds outside of the womb.  In fact, research shows that the sound a baby hears most clearly is his mother’s voice, because it comes from within and reverberates through the body.  All other noises outside of the womb are muffled compared to the clarity with which a baby can hear the sound of his mother. My son hears my voice, and he knows it.  This truth fills my heart with joy.  Our heavenly Father wants the same type of relationship with us.  John 10:27 is a beautiful reminder of the depth of our Father’s love for us.  Jesus says, “My sheep hear My voice.  I know them, and they follow Me.”  He knows us.  Oh that we, as His children, would seek to know Him in the same way.  That above all the distracting sounds of the world, we would hear His voice and know it.  And like a baby in utero, that we would follow it.

my sheep

Through what has been a rather challenging pregnancy, Jacob’s movements have become my joy. How I delight in this little life within me.  His every motion captivates me.  Often, I’ll stop whatever I am doing to simply enjoy him.  And is this not exactly how our relationship with The Lord should be?  He is concerned about our every motion.  The comings and goings of our days are written in His book.  He is enthralled with us. Shouldn’t we devote just a few minutes of our day to simply enjoying Him?  My son, whom I haven’t even met face to face yet, is more precious to me than anything.  I can only imagine the depth to which our Father feels this way about us.  I’ll admit that pregnancy encompassed much more than I ever dreamed.  I never knew that bearing a child would require so much of me during these early stages.  I was unaware of the extent to which I would sacrifice my body, my energy, and much of my career before my son was born.  But I was happy to do all of it.  Though unexpected,  I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world.  Jacob is my perfect gift from The Lord.  I won’t get to hold him in my arms for another six weeks, yet I would do anything for him.  I wonder if God designed motherhood as a way to teach us more about Himself.  The similarities become more evident to me each day.  He knew us before we were formed.  He loved us before we could love Him back.  He willingly sacrificed everything for us before we even knew His name.  And just as my heart longs for the day my doctor will place my son in my arms, The Lord God waits patiently with open arms, anticipating the day that we will run to Him.  In His presence is fullness of joy.

be glad

mom and baby

maternity – a lesson in trust

formed Until now, I never knew The Lord would teach me so much about trusting in His perfect timing and faithfulness.  June 24, 2014 is a day Daryl and I won’t ever forget.  It was the day I got my first positive pregnancy test.  In years prior, I’d thought about that day and prayed about that day.  Daryl was actually on a business trip in Denver on the day I took the test.  I was by myself in the bathroom, expecting nothing other than a single line of negativity.  I remember seeing the two pink lines and my heart started pounding.  Holding the test in my hand, I dropped to my knees and tears rolled down my cheeks as I thanked God for the life inside of me.  I felt so overjoyed yet so underserving of this precious baby. My life changed almost immediately. I always thought motherhood began after the birth of the baby.  No, it began the day I found out about my pregnancy, the day I found out that The Lord had answered my prayer.  I don’t think I ever fully understood what it meant to trust completely and wholly in God until I started praying for our baby.  His faithfulness is amazing. great is thy faithfulness I’m sure most mothers-to-be would agree that pregnancy is a season of immense joy, excitement, and fear.  I felt all three of these things until I realized that fear isn’t supposed to be part of the equation.  I remember hardly even being able to sleep during the days leading up to our first ultrasound.  We couldn’t wait to see our precious baby on the screen.  But then my heart would be gripped with fear.  What if the doctor says something is wrong?  What if she says our baby isn’t healthy or that something isn’t developing right?  Will our baby have eyes to see, ears to hear, and arms and legs to run and play?  When we were in the exam room, I remember looking at my doctor’s face as she began the ultrasound.  I searched her expressions for signs of worry and concern as our baby appeared on the screen.  I was trusting in her to ease my fears, to tell me that everything would be okay and that our baby would be healthy.  It wasn’t until later that I realized I should be trusting in the One who created my baby.  The One who is knitting my baby together in my womb.  The One who knew my baby before it was formed.  My God, who has blessed me with 19 weeks of a healthy pregnancy so far.  How could I even think of doubting Him? goodness of God I’m not saying pregnancy is nine worry-free months of pure bliss.  I know there will be challenges. I know there will be pain. But I also know that the Lord my God is creating a child within me that is already fearfully and wonderfully made.  I believe that The Lord blessed me with my first pregnancy so that I could fully experience and comprehend the depth of His love.  A verse that has been on my heart throughout my pregnancy is this one – “Taste and see that The Lord is good.”  Psalm 34:8.  He is teaching me to take every worrisome thought captive and lay it at His feet.  And I leave them there.  He is reminding me that His hands are capable and that they’re holding my precious baby since I can’t yet.  I realize that He made me for this.  He knew that this season of my life would be one in which I would learn to rely completely and unashamedly on Him. forgive me The world throws so much at mothers-to-be.  So many worries, so many concerns.  Books and websites and online forums are filled with discussions of miscarriage, stillbirth, and thousands of possible complications.  It’s so easy as a first-time mother to get sucked into what the world has to say about pregnancy and motherhood.  It is the desire of the world that we will become so consumed with the what-ifs that we won’t rejoice.  This is not God’s will for us.  His desire is for us to find joy in His work; to be grateful and thankful.  In motherhood, nothing matters more than knowing your baby is okay.  I would sacrifice my own life, my own sight, my own ability to hear and walk and talk so my baby could have them all.  But I know that my God is perfectly able to form and fashion my child to bring Him glory.  Women of The Lord are not to conform to the standards of this world.  We are not to allow our hearts to be overcome with the fear the world offers us.  For those who trust in Him, God offers something different.  Instead of being plagued by the anxieties of pregnancy, trust that your Savior will be to you a wall of fire, the glory in your midst. glory in her midst Instead of worrying, I take every doctor’s appointment as an opportunity to praise Him.    Thank you, Lord, that our baby has two legs and two arms.  Thank you, Jesus, that our baby is growing.  The doctor originally told us that our baby was “too small.”  I remember getting in bed that night, tears rolling down my cheeks, praying to God that being “small” wasn’t a sign of a problem.  At our next appointment, the doctor re-measured our baby and instead of the word “small,” she used the words “perfect” and “beautiful.”  His mercies are truly new every morning, and His faithfulness is great.  On Friday, October 3rd, we found out we are expecting a baby boy!  We are overjoyed and can’t wait to meet our son.  The doctor told us that he looks healthy and strong.  Of course I still worry sometimes.  But when I see my son’s heart beating on the ultrasound screen and when I hear its rhythmic thumping on the doppler, I am reminded of the sovereignty of my God.  I’ve never seen or heard something more powerful in my life.  A heartbeat that is strong, persistent, and flawless.  It’s almost like our son’s heartbeat is God whispering to my soul, “Look what have created within you.  I am faithful.  You can trust Me.”   Every day, every hour, every moment of pregnancy is a profound blessing, a miracle.  When my mind is prone to wander, I remind myself that the love I have for my little boy is so small compared to the love the Father has for him.  He is able to do immeasurably more than I could ever ask or imagine, and He won’t stop now. wonders holding baby

love notes

 

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People always say it’s hard to love people you don’t know.  This is true.  It can also be difficult to love people you do know.  Let’s face it – we aren’t very nice to people we don’t like.  Maybe they aren’t like us, they get on our nerves, or we just don’t see eye to eye.  They may be a different race, speak a different language, or have different beliefs.  We have talked badly about them with others, whispered something rude in passing, and tried to avoid them. We might even call them unlovable.  We might laugh at their misfortunes and wonder how anyone could love them.   We think we’re better than them, more likable and more lovable. But weren’t we all unlovable before Christ?  We never did anything to deserve the unconditional, relentless love of a holy God.

Loveblocks

But He loves us anyway.  We fall short of His glory every single day.  There was nothing we could have ever done to earn His love.  The blood of Jesus paid our ransom, and His sacrifice allows God to look upon us with love.  Romans 9:25 says that only God made us lovable.  He took our shame and guilt.  Our burdens and sins and lies nailed His precious son to a wooden cross.  No matter how good or how deserving we think we are, God put His son on the cross for our sake.  He made us worthy.  His Word says “I will call the nobodies and make them somebodies; I will call the unloved and make them beloved.”  Beloved.  We were the nobodies.  He didn’t say He would make us likable or tolerable.  He said He would make us beloved.  The word ‘beloved’ means ‘dearly loved.’  We are dearly loved by the Creator of the Universe.

African Kids

beloved

The thing is, everybody is dearly loved by Him.  Not just some people. Not just the people we like, or the ones we relate to.  Everybody.  And what right do we have to withhold His love and grace and mercy and compassion from the rest of the world?  We might not get along with everyone, but we do have one thing in common – a sinless Savior was crucified in our place.  He was shamed so we can be unashamed.  He was spit upon so that we can be pure.  He was beaten so we can be blessed, and He was unloved so we can be beloved.

Mercy triumphs

Isaiah 43:4 says we are precious and honored in His sight.  God didn’t need us.  In fact, He’d be just fine without us.  But He wants us.  He chose us.  We are precious to Him. He desires to pour out His love upon us, in our communities, and in our nations.  1 John 3:1 says “what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called His children!”  The magnitude of His love should overwhelm you.  I don’t think I’ll ever fully understand the depth of His love, and I know I can’t repay Him.  But there’s one thing I can do – share it.  One of my favorite hymns says “How deep the Father’s love for us; how vast beyond all measure.  That He would give His only Son to make a wretch His treasure.”  Regardless of all we’ve done wrong, that’s what I am and that’s what you are – a treasure.  So the next time you’re tempted to judge or whisper about someone, don’t. Love them instead.  They’re one of God’s precious treasures too.

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proverbs 31

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Proverbs 31 is one of the most inspiring passages of Scripture.  To me, it’s almost like a love note from God, gently reminding me of my calling.  Proverbs 31:10-31 details the daily life of a godly woman.  We’ve all heard the phrase “Proverbs 31 woman,” and maybe you’ve heard someone described that way.  A quick glance over these verses might not seem to yield much, until you take the time to consider what God’s message to us is.  We ladies have a very special calling, and it’s one that our society is quick to cheapen.  The Lord created us to love and nurture our husbands and children and to care for our families with tenderness and compassion amid a world that seeks to weaken marriage and motherhood.  These couple of verses are rich in wisdom for us.  Here’s what God has to say about a godly woman, and I’ve offered a modern day interpretation of what we can do to be the Proverbs 31 women God has called us to be.

About a godly woman, God says in verses 10-28:

“she is worth far more than rubies” ~ she is is priceless because her heart is tender and her spirit is humble amid a world of darkness.   Your faithfulness to God and to your family is rare.  Don’t miss an opportunity to love the people around you. Regardless of what the world tells you, don’t lose sight of who you are and Whose you are.  You are the daughter of a King, the wife of a man God has given you, the mother to children He’s entrusted you with.

“her husband has full confidence in her and lacks no good thing” ~ she is a faithful and loving wife, and she treasures her husband’s heart.  Learn your husband’s love language, and speak it fluently.  In this way, you will help him become a better husband and father.  With you as his support, he can accomplish anything.

“she brings her husband good, not harm, all the days of her life” ~ she puts the needs of her husband above her own and is his helper.  Love your husband selflessly and unconditionally.  Don’t get caught up in his flaws and mistakes, but appreciate the man he is and affirm him.  Respect him, honor him, rejoice with him, and pray over him daily.  Marriage is one of God’s greatest blessings.

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“she works with eager hands” ~ she is passionate about the work God has called her to doDo not become hardened by life, but bear the tasks The Lord has set before you with excitement and dedication.

“she brings food from afar and rises early to provide food for her family” ~ she makes healthy meals a priority, and buys the best foods she can afford.  Nourish your family.  Equip your husband and children for the day ahead of them.  Make family dinners a priority, and you will nourish their spirits and hearts as well.

“she plants a vineyard out of her earnings” ~ she uses her money wisely and saves for her children’s future.  Enjoy the financial blessings God gives you while praying that He’ll give you wisdom and discernment.  Tithe off of what you and your husband bring in every month and seek to honor Him with your income.  Take every opportunity to bless others.

“she sets about her work vigorously” ~ she works with all of her heart, as working for The Lord and not for men.  Do everything to the best of your ability, even the things you think no one will ever notice.

“she sees that she profits from her work and her lamp does not go out at night” ~ she recognizes the goodness of God in her life and how He blesses the work of her hands.  Be a committed wife and mother both day and night.  Your efforts will be rewarded.  God has promised you He will throw open the floodgates of heaven to bless you (Malachi 3:10).

“she holds a staff in her hand and grasps a spindle with her fingers” ~ she is strong yet gentle.  You are talented and very capable.  You can do whatever God has called you to do, because He’s equipped you with every necessary skill.

“she opens her arms to the poor and extends her hand to the needy” ~ she is generous with her time and money.  Be the hands and feet of Jesus wherever you go.  Teach your children while they are very young that it is better to give than to receive.  People will see Christ when you share your time and money with others. You are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14).

“she does not fear when snow comes, for her family is clothed in scarlet” ~ she is not consumed with worry.  She doesn’t crumble when trials come because she knows Who her God is.  Do not be overtaken by perfectionism.  Struggles will come and go, but your God is sovereign over them all.  Take captive every thought, and remember Whose hand you’re holding each step of the way.

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“she makes coverings for her beds and is clothed in purple” ~ she lovingly cares for her home and makes it a place where her family feels loved.  Whether your house is big or small, dedicate it to The Lord.  Use the home He has given you for His purposes.

“her husband is respected at the city gate” ~ she never speaks badly of her husband.  Refrain from saying negative things about your husband.  Affirm him in front of your family and friends, even if he is not present.  Remember that words spoken kindly are as precious as gold and silver (Proverbs 25:11) – how sweet these will be to your husband’s heart.

“she makes linen garments and sells them, supplying the merchants with sashes” ~  she uses the talents God has given her.  Thank God for the talents He has blessed you with, and use them for His glory.  Acknowledge your husbands talents, and help your children realize theirs.  You are their biggest fan, and you can help them become everything God has called them to be.

“she is clothed with strength and dignity and laughs at the days to come” ~ she is confident, rooted and built up in her faith.  Don’t let anxious thoughts steal your joy.  Recall that your God has gone before you and nothing can touch you before going through His hands first.  Remember in sickness, loss, and heartache that the One who spread the stars in the sky is carrying you.

“she speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue” ~ she speaks lovingly to her husband and children. Encourage them and guide them.  You want what is best for them.  Pray that God will give you the words to speak, and He’ll use you in a mighty way.  Let your children hear you speaking well of others.

“she watches over the affairs of her household and is not idle” ~ she doesn’t waste time envying others.  Be grateful for everything you have and care for what God has given you.  Do not spend your time thinking of what someone else has.  Instead of letting jealousy take root in your life, recognize that you have been given exactly what you need.  You are perfection in God’s eyes, for you are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).

Wow.  What a calling.  And what does God say of a woman like this?  He says that her children arise and call her blessed, and that her husband praises her (Proverbs 31:28).  Verse 29 says “many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.”  Be the woman who surpasses the standards of the world.  Women who fear The Lord leave a legacy.  If you have a Proverbs 31 woman in your life, thank God for her, for you have a rare and beautiful treasure.

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grace for the moment

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Sometimes life is hard.  The trials, the pain, the losses, and the heartaches.  We’ve gone through a number of challenges lately, and it’s so easy to give in to the doubt and the uncertainty.  At the end of a particularly long and difficult month, I sat on the couch with my Bible.  It was my Friday off, and it was early in the morning.  The sun was just starting to peek through the trees, I had a steaming cup of vanilla coffee next to me, and everything was blissfully silent in our little cul-de-sac.  As I sat and considered the stressful events that we’ve dealt with lately, God reminded me how small my problems really are in comparison to His greatness.  Image

The thing is, we have a God who is far greater than the challenges we face in this life.  He is more than able to lead us through everything the world throws at us.  He has overcome the world.  And He puts us right where we need to be, even if it doesn’t seem like it.  What finally occurred to me as I sat on the couch paging through my Bible on that Friday morning was this – God has a purpose for my problems.  Maybe what I see as a “problem” is something He is using to fine-tune my faith. Maybe He is using these struggles to prepare me for what is ahead.  Maybe He knows, in His sovereignty, that Daryl and I will face much more difficult challenges in the years ahead.  If that is His will for us, so be it.  Because the beauty of it is that He goes before us.  Deuteronomy 31:8 says “God will go before you.  He will be with you and won’t forsake you.  Don’t be afraid.”  How’s that for a promise?  The God of the universe, the One who spoke the world into existence, who fashioned and formed us, who stretched out the heavens, is with us.  And it’s not because He has to be.  It’s because He wants to be.  It’s because He loves us.  Isaiah 54:10 says “Though the mountains be moved and the hills be shaken, my unfailing love for you will not be removed.”  Unfailing, unending, unconditional love…regardless of your circumstances.  When life feels like a roaring sea, His love never changes.  His grace abounds in hardship.

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Though we don’t know what is ahead, we can trust in the greatness of our God.  What we see as a problem, God may see as a blessing.  We don’t know why we face what we face.  We can’t explain why we’ve had to deal with the emotionally and physically draining events of this semester.  But we do know this – our God is greater.  And His grace does abound in the deepest of waters.  If we never had to face hardships, we wouldn’t ever get to see the magnificence of God’s hand and the redemptive, protective, sustaining love He has for us.   You can make it through anything in life holding on to the hand of the One who gave up His life for yours.  

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anchor

This gallery contains 6 photos.

Until last week, an anchor didn’t mean much to me.  It’s a nice nautical symbol, but I’ve always been afraid of deep water, and I’ve only been on a boat a few times in my entire life.  But last week, … Continue reading

cookie bars

cookie bars

If you’re looking for a simple dessert, this one’s for you!  Of my many recipes, this one is my husband’s favorite and has been since I first made them for him when we were sophomores in college.  I’m sure they … Continue reading

red velvet

red velvet

If you’re a red velvet cake fan, these cupcakes are your new best friend!  Because this is one of my most requested recipes, it’s the first one I want to share. For the cupcakes, you’ll need -1 box of red … Continue reading

tune my heart

Tune My Heart

The same phrase has been resonating in my head the past few weeks – “tune my heart to sing Thy grace.”  Though this phrase from the hymn “Come Thou Fount” was composed in the 1700’s, I can’t help but be amazed by its poignancy.  I was at work, and it had been a hectic day by the time I heard the song on the radio.  Something about it made me stop what I was doing and consider what it means to sing God’s grace.  Singing God’s grace means I need to be selfless, because His grace is selfless.  Singing His grace means that I need to show unconditional love to other people because his grace is unconditional. His grace means that I need to forgive because a sinless Savior died in my place.  It means that I need to move beyond my own preconceptions and see people through eyes of mercy.  In quiet moments and in crazy ones, I find myself praying “Lord, tune my heart.”  When I’m tempted to give in to frustration, doubt, or selfishness, I remind myself of my prayer – “tune my heart.”  It’s incredible how a simple prayer can be so life-changing.  I’m reminded of the grand piano in the foyer of my childhood home.  My sister and I practiced for years on those ivory keys, and I have the most beautiful memories of my mother playing Christmas songs in the evenings.  I remember, when I was young, that one day she said we weren’t going to have our piano lessons that week because the piano needed to be tuned.  She said that until it was tuned, the notes would sound dull and off-key.  It took me many years, but now I understand.  Our hearts need to be tuned, too.  Without the constant presence of God and His hand shaping and molding our hearts to become more obedient to His extravagant plans, we are like piano keys that are pretty to look at but cannot produce the breathtaking sound we are capable of.  So now I pray daily that God will tune my heart to sing His grace regardless of my circumstances.  By grace we were saved, and His grace is sufficient.

His Grace is Sufficient