Monday, November 30, 2009

Suffering Well

As I look at my calendar and realize that in a few hours we will actually be in December, for some reason it stops me in my tracks. The holidays are undoubtedly filled with such joy and I am so grateful to be able to say that as we approach this second Christmas without Maddox, I am overwhelmed with peace and I have a very content heart. However, this time of year is definitely marked for me. December 1st initiates the time of tremendous joy and intense pain that I experienced as I walked intimate journeys with close friends while they welcomed and then often quickly said goodbye to their precious babies. First Angie, then Yvette, then Christie, then Kim and Karen... then our turn... the list goes on.

As I reflected on this time of year today, I came across a devotional in my Bible that spoke directly to this and it reminded me of a memory verse from earlier in the year: "I tell you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!"- John 16:33. Each of us will suffer, in some way, at some time. And the crummy thing... it likely won't even be just once! But what exactly does it mean to suffer and do it well? Is that even possible? Read this devotional and let me know what you think...

Suffering Well
1 Peter 2:4-25

Have you ever asked that question? If so, you're not alone. The problem of pain and suffering in the world has turned many people away from faith in God and has inspired countless books and articles. Scholars and laypeople have tried for centuries to unravel the mystery of how God's plan can include evil in any form.

We live in a corrupt, fallen world in which illness occurs, violence happens and evil, for the time being, is allowed to run its course. Suffering is inevitable... our passage today even tells us we were "called" to suffer. It's not a matter of if we will suffer but when we will suffer. As believers in Jesus Christ, however, suffering offers the opportunity to display Christ's character and grace. For Christians, rather than asking, "Why does God allow suffering?" or even, "Why am I suffering?" we should ask, "How can I suffer well?"

Most of the early church leaders suffered violent deaths because of their outspoken and radical faith in Jesus. But every time one of them was martyred, the number of Christians grew. Why? Because people long to give themselves fully to a cause worth dying for. We all long for purpose and peace- and Jesus Christ offers both.

In his book Velvet Elvis, Bible teacher Rob Bell writes, "Ultimately our gift to the world around us is hope. Not blind hope that pretends everything is fine and refuses to acknowledge how things are. But the kind of hope that comes from staring pain and suffering right in the eyes and refusing to believe that this is all there is. It is what we all need- hope that comes not from going around suffering but from going through it."

Let's pray that God will allow us the privilege and strength of suffering well... for our sake, for his sake and for the sake of those who don't yet know him.

"But you are a chose people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light."- 1 Peter 2:9

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Counting Blessings

Counting my sweet blessings on this day to give thanks!

Thankful for the blessings that surround...

Thankful for the blessings that are waiting...

Thankful for the blessings that keep me in the moment...

Thankful for the blessings of love, laughter, joy and faith...

Thankful for the blessing of this precious life... and the next!

"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful."- Colossians 3:15

Monday, November 16, 2009

It Seems Someone is One!

It seems virtually impossible that you are now one year old, my precious Faith Clare! Oh, how I remember that mid-November day of 2008... what sweet one as we welcomed you to our world! I want you to know how much I have loved being home with you, enjoying each and every moment of your growth and development... celebrating your milestones, loving you through your hard times and frustrations, cherishing your little-bittiness, and now treasuring your attempts to be a "big girl."

It seems like just yesterday that we found out you were on the way, and you filled our hearts with joy, hope, and thankfulness. I have always known that you are a special promise from God and it amazes me how you have brought such a fun-loving dynamic to our family. You make your daddy softer as I see him love and cuddle you, your brother sweeter as he rubs your head and says he loves you, and me... You've made your mama more thankful and present as I try to absorb each moment that we snuggle, sing, laugh, and play. We would be far from complete without you here in this family!

It seems that many think you are more like me than I could have ever imagined! You are feisty, fun and often fiercely independent. You generally know very definitively what you want and have no problem expressing that to anyone within about 50 feet! You love reading books, engaging in lively conversation, and playing with your new babies. You are often happiest while wrestling, dancing, chasing, tickling, stacking and of course unpacking your diaper bag. You have a sweet spirit, tend to be very smiley and love being in your mama's arms. Deacon and Scarlet are your best buddies and it brings me such joy to see your face light up at the end of the day when "da da" walks in the door and you head straight his way to be picked up and loved.

It seems to me that you are beautiful, strong-willed, loyal, fun, challenging, sweet, loving, playful, demanding, energetic, daring yet cautious, independent yet dependent... It seems that you are full of life and full of contradictions, and we are full of love and thankfulness for you! You are my precious first girl and I can't wait to continue to celebrate life with you!

It seems to me that you are just about perfect! Happy 1st Birthday my sweet love.

"O LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done marvelous things, things planned long ago."- Isaiah 25:1

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

My Reflection

Right now I'm coming to confess that I haven't been myself lately. Or at least I haven't been the self that I would like to think that I am. I seem to be an ugly version of me. My reflection shows an impatient, frustrated, worn-down, tired, and not joyful person. Where did I go?? I'm mad at myself for being this way, and yet I totally know what is wrong. I'm trying to do it all myself. I have been asking God for help, telling Him that I'm reaching my limit and can't do this on my own, and yet, things haven't gotten easier. The funny thing?? I know exactly why. I am still holding on to all of it. I'm asking for help and not giving one ounce of it up.

On Sunday at church I just cried during worship as I thought of all that the Lord has done for us, for our family. I cried because of the ugliness that I saw in my life. I cried because my daughter is such an amazing gift from Him and yet, she is so hard and is challenging me beyond what I ever expected. I cried because if Maddox were here things would undoubtedly be so much harder and yet I'm struggling just as it is. The contradictions I see are astounding.

Do you ever just feel inadequate? So often it seems cyclical and in different seasons of my life I feel like I have a great balance- being a wife, mother, friend, daughter, sister- and then at other times I feel like things are so out-of-whack. Quite simply, this is where I am now. I feel like I'm pouring so much into being the mom that my kids need (and taking care of "domestic" duties) and yet I'm still falling short. It seems to be a negative chain reaction and by time my sweet hubby gets home, I'm spent. Lack of time with him means the whole family balance is off. I just can't find my bearings. And my precious girl... oh my amazingly fun and independent girl... She is so. much. more., in all ways, than what I could have ever imagined. As of late she has been waking up at all hours of the night, for the last two nights crying for almost two hours straight. "If baby doesn't sleep, mama doesn't sleep". You know the drill. So for me to wake up and have any alone time with the Lord is virtually impossible since she is still beating me awake after the two inconsolable hours when I'm also awake hearing her cry. Suddenly, my day gets going, nighttime somehow arrives and I'm left wondering where it all went wrong. Honestly, I'm just tired... and the crazy thing is all the while I know what I'm missing. So where has the Lord gone? Maybe I should re-phrase it... where have I gone? And what am I going to do to fix it?

I certainly know how blessed we are. I could list a thousand ways and more that our Father has blessed, provided, protected and sustained us... and still in the day-to-day I get entangled. Sometimes I feel so deep in the trenches of motherhood that I wonder where the fun, exciting, knowledgeable person I used to be went. I LOVE this job... I wouldn't trade it for any other in the world and crazy as it seems, it didn't even take losing my son to make me realize it. I don't take this for granted. I know God has called me to this place and if it is where HE wants me then HE will provide. He will provide the strength, the wisdom, the joy, the energy, the spirit of fun... all these things I so desperately need right now.

In some ways I wish I was the only one experiencing this right now, but I know that I'm not. Would you pray with me for encouragement for all of us moms out there? Would you ask God to give us the JOY, the wisdom, the rest, and the strength that we are all needing? Would you ask Him to help us to daily turn it all over? It's so hard but the Holy Spirit can't do his work when we don't let go of the reigns.

I'm praying that in the days and weeks to come my reflection would be one of beauty... a beauty that can only come from fully relying on God to sustain each and every day.

"Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer."- Romans 12:12
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