Monday, March 07, 2011

My Journey of Grief at the 9 Year Mark


Today, March 7, 2011 marks the nine year anniversary of the day my first son was born. He was beautiful and perfect, but never took a breath. At 37 weeks pregnant, and a “textbook perfect” pregnancy, I realized that my reality was the one thing that “could never happen”.

Words cannot describe how my world crashed down around me when my doctor spoke just three words: there’s no heartbeat. While my son had been active just hours before, my womb was now still and quiet. Even nine years later, everything is so very vivid and the pain so easily breaks through the surface of time.

Even in the midst of the immense pain I felt, I had an unexplainable peace. After our son was born, I remember Chad’s arms wrapped around me, but I could also feel the arms of my loving Heavenly Father wrapped around me. I knew He would be with me as I walked the uncertain path ahead and I felt comforted in a way that I had never felt before.

During the past 9 years, the Lord has always been faithful. This does not mean that my heart does not still ache, it does not mean that I don’t shed tears and it doesn’t mean that I miss my son any less… but it does mean that through this journey, my faith has been strengthened and I have been comforted.

While I may never know the full reason that God chose to take my son from this earth, I do trust that His will is always good and perfect. I know that the 37 weeks I carried Grant in my womb were the days that God ordained for his life. I know that from the beginning, God knew the pain I would feel and that He allowed it for my good.

I also realize that the Lord has blessed me abundantly through Grant’s life and through Grant’s death. God has given me opportunities to reach out to others during their darkest hour. He has held me when I could not stand, He has led me, and He has grown me in ways that I could not have grown otherwise.

My life has changed in so many ways in the last 9 years and I am thankful for the blessings and for the pain. I am thankful He has given me a desire to live fully for Him and I am thankful He is continually growing me in my walk.

While grief is a journey, life is also a journey. I know that my destination is an eternity in Heaven praising my King and being reunited with all of the loved ones who have gone before me who were called by God to salvation. I have hope and I have peace. I have comfort and I have joy – even through trials and affliction.

On this day of my son’s ninth birth-day, even though my heart still aches, I can praise the Lord. I look forward to the years ahead and how the Lord will continue to sanctify me and bless me through the life and death of my beloved son.

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Thursday, February 10, 2011

What Goes In Must Come Out


This morning, I was thinking about the popular saying "What goes in must come out" and how true it is when it comes to everything in our life.

This is true from the television shows we watch, the books we read, the people we spend time with, the music we listen to, the websites we visit, and every other area that we invest our time in.

As Christian women, we must carefully guard the things that we let into our lives, hearts and minds. There are so many things vying for our attention and many may even seem good or neutral but not all things are equal. While we may not always realize the impact that something will have on our life, we can be sure that it will eventually come out in one form or another.

While this is not an exhaustive list, here are some common pitfalls that we need to look out for:

Books:
Are we reading books that will encourage us in our walk with the Lord. Are we making time to read the Word of God first. For anything else, is it doctrinally sound and does it challenge us to live a holy and obedient life for our Lord? If we are reading things simply for our entertainment and pleasure, how is that time redeemed? Also, we must be careful that we are not reading books that will distract us from a holy walk or will cause us discontentment.

Television/Movies:
Our family has very strict guidelines for the things that we will allow our eyes to see and our ears to hear. If a movie takes God's name in vain (even 1 time), then as Christians, that movie is not for us. If the movie has inappropriate scenes or the characters dress in a provocative manner, then it should not be something we consider entertainment. If the characters are involved in sin and that sin is glorified, then again, it is not something that would be edifying for us to enjoy. It is far better limit the amount of hours you spend watching television or movies than it is to allow the secular ideals to weaken our faith. The area of Christian films is growing quite steadily (The San Antonio Christian Film Festival is a great example of this) and there are options for movies that are edifying to our faith.

People:
I think this one is the toughest of all! I have come to realize that the one thing every one of us has in common is that we all want to be loved and accepted. We will often do or say things that we know are unBiblical because we fear losing the love of another or because we think it will gain us the love we desire. Think for a moment about who you spend the most time with. Are they people who love the Lord, who live for the Lord, and who encourage you in your own walk? Are they Sunday only Christians or do they truly strive to take every thought captive? If those you surround yourself with those who are not edifying, it may be time to seek out those who will challenge you to grow in Christ.

We have a very short time to live on this earth, so let us make every moment count for the glory of the Lord. If we allow the bad in, the bad will eventually come out. If we fill our life with the things of God, this will be displayed by the fruit we bear.

While there is so much more I could share on this topic, I do hope that this will give you an opportunity to stop and consider what you are putting into your life and the the effect it has on your relationship with the Lord.

May the Lord bless you!

Love,
Dana

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Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Valentine Expectations


Ladies,
As you know, there is a hugely popular holiday that many will celebrate in just under a week! Yes, Valentine's Day! It is a day where we give our husband the opportunity to show his love with flowers, candy, dinner and maybe something shiny :o)

Are you already planning out how wonderful this holiday will be? Are you taking steps to make it extra special for your husband or even your children? If so, keep reading...

While Valentine's Day has become a day about showing our love, I think that too often, as women, we tend to turn this day into a bit of an idol. If our husband fails to shower us with everything that *we* think he should, then we often feel let down or even unloved.

Why not make a change this year? This year, instead of planning for, and expecting, all of these outward displays of affections, why not make the decision to simply show love everyday to those around you. It is much better to make the effort to show love 365 days a year, than to put our focus on just one day.

Let us also consider this... the greatest act of love was the one that played out on the cross. It was when the God of the Universe, sent His son to earth, to be born, live a sin-free while life while pouring His life into others, to be condemned to death by those He came to save, to die a humiliating and painful death, to be buried in a tomb and to rise again on the third day. Jesus bore our sins because of His great love for us. His life was lived for us! Let that sink in... because that is true love.

This is the kind of love we need to show, each day, to those we love (and those we don't *smile*). We must not look upon what it is costing us, but how it is blessing another.

May your year be filled with true love <3 size="1">Flower Arrangement Photo Courtesy of Teleflora.com

Friday, June 25, 2010

John 9: A lesson in obedience


This morning, I was reading in John 9. I love this passage and saw that I had made a one word note in the margin (from an earlier reading): obedience.

You will know the story well: Jesus heals a blind man by making a mixture of spittle and clay, which He applies to the eyes of a man who had been blind from birth, and instructs him to go and wash in the pool of Siloam.

What does this man do? He does exactly what Jesus told him to do.

When he goes and washes in the pool of Siloam, his sight is restored. Now, we must realize that his sight was not restored b/c of the clay mixture or the pool; it was restored because this man had enough in faith in Jesus to obey Him.

In thinking about this passage this morning, I couldn’t help but wonder if this man had any reservations about obeying the Lord. The Bible doesn’t say if he does or not, but I am thinking that I may not have been so quick to obey.

What are some of the objections this man could have made? “But Jesus, I cannot see. How can I journey to the pool of Siloam?” or “but Jesus, do you know how ridiculous I look with this clay on my eyes, surely you are not meaning to send me out like this (what if people mock me?)” or how about “but Jesus, my sandals are not fit for trip there.” Perhaps, he even had fears about obeying Jesus, after all, we learn later in this chapter (v.22) that he would be put out of the synagogue if he confessed Jesus to be Christ, and no one but Christ could work such a miracle.

I would like to think that I would have been as bold as this early believer, but I also know how strong the pull of the world is on me at times. Do you ever feel it too? Do you sometimes have fears about obeying Christ and following Him? It isn’t always easy!

This reminds of some other words of Jesus that I have found in Scripture, that I come back to over and over: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15).

In reflecting on the first part of John chapter 9, I am struck with the realization that this early believer REALLY loved Jesus. This blind man put everything on the line in order to obey the Lord! This man did not run from the Word, he did not ignore the Word, he listened and obeyed! Through his obedience, he is blessed beyond belief: for the first time in his entire life, he is no longer blind, but he sees!

Today, we face the same choice that this man did. We can be in the Word and obey the Word, or we can simply ignore the scripture, after all, if we do not read the Word, how can we heed the Word?

My prayer today is that we would be bold for the Lord, that we would show our love for Him through obedience to His Word. Even if we look different from the world (and even the modern day church), we must only look to Him, through Scripture, and obey.

Are you in the Word? Are you soaking it in and asking for Him to take the blinders off of you? Are you willing to step in faith, through the darkness, and obey Him, no matter the cost? In doing so, you are not only showing your love to Christ, you are showing the world your love of Christ. If your heart is truly open to Him, you will not be the same person you were last year (or even last month). Ladies, let us go forth and boldly obey the Lord!

Lord Bless,
Dana



The print above (Blind Man Washes in the Pool of Silaom by James Tissot) can be purchased from Art.com

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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Biblical Parenting: Foundations


It has been my prayer and desire for nearly a year to write a series on parenting. While I am certainly not an expert, the Lord is continually teaching me about my role as a mother and I hope that my experiences can be a source of encouragement for other mothers. Please know that I am not a perfect mother (far from it!) but we serve a God who, by His love and mercy, is an example of the kind of parent we are to strive to be. While I have a whole list of topics that I would like to write on, I know that it will take a good many months since I don’t have the time (or energy) to write on daily basis (I am often too busy BEING a mother to write about it - LOL). This is the first post of the series and I hope that it blesses you as you pursue your higher calling as a mother.

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As a Christian parent, one of our number one goals should be to lay a firm foundation for our children. This is something that many parents don’t give any thought to because it is not something that most of us have been taught to do. I would like to examine WHY we should lay a firm foundation and then discuss (in a later posts) some ways that we can do that.

I am sure most of us have heard the children's song that goes something like this: “The wise man built his house upon the rock, the wise man built his house upon the rock, the wise man built his house upon the rock and the rains came a tumbling down… and the house on the rock stood firm. The foolish man built his house upon the sand, the foolish man built his house upon the sand, the foolish man built his house upon the sand and the rains came a tumb-a-ling down… and the house on the sand went splat” I love this song and I think it teaches a great truth to our children that we can find in scripture (Luke 6:48-49) If our foundation isn’t strong, then everything we have spent our lives building will crumble and be destroyed when we face the devastating storms of life.

I cannot sing this song and not think about the foundation that is under our own home. We live in an old farmhouse that is over 100 years old. I love this old house and all of the character that it has. It must have a very strong foundation to have withstood the test of time thus far! With this in mind, if you were to crawl under my house, you may be very surprised by the foundation that you see. The foundation under my house is not something that is a marvel of technology; it is not even very symmetrical. You see, my house is help up by rocks! Yep, piles of rocks! They are all different shapes and sizes and they have lots of rough edges! Even though the foundation may not look like much (since it is not a professional looking foundation that you would find in the modern homes built in this day and age), it has proven to be a firm foundation for what is built on top of it: my house!

In the 12 years that I have been a mother, I see myself like the foundation that is under my house. I have lots of rough edges, but if I do what God created me for, then I will prove to be a firm foundation for the faith of my children to be built off of. If I do my job as a parent, my children will build off of what they learn from me, and they will be stronger in their own faith. Their own foundation will be firm and built upon the Rock.

The longer I am a mother, the more I realize the importance of instilling the Word into my children. I also see more of my own shortcomings. It seems that when my children sin, it is often a reflection of my own inadequacies. I have found that the Lord teaches me through my children and I grow in my faith as a result.

While I have read numerous books on parenting, the one that I come back to every time is the Holy Word. There is not another source out there that teaches us how we are to live and how we are to raise our family. It takes more than just reading the word or doing a Bible study, it takes LIVING the Word and striving to be a reflection of Christ for our children. We do not do this so that our children can be just like us, but so we can point them to Him and desire to be just like our risen Lord.
We must also remember that we cannot build a firm foundation in a day, in a week or even a month. In order for us to build a solid foundation for our children, it is a work that will take years and it is something that we cannot delegate to someone else.

Mothers, “let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9). Even though the days are often long, we must keep in mind that when we raise our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, we are truly making a difference. We will one day see the harvest reaped when they continue to build their lives and their own families upon the firm foundation that was laid before them.


(Photo above from art.com by Walker Evans)

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Sunday, May 02, 2010

Clutterbug Challenge #1

Hello Ladies,
As I have recently shared my desire to declutter my house, I am in the process of putting legs to my plan. As my wonderful dh always tells me, "You can sit around and read about cleaning and decluttering but it would be much better to just do it!" I am so blessed by his wisdom!

Since I know I am not alone in my desire to purge my home of all of the needless clutter, I thought I would share what I plan to do in case anyone else wants to join in! I am not sure how many challenges I will do, or even what they will be beyond this first week (send me your ideas!!!), but it will be fun doing them and rewarding to see empty space in my home.

Clutterbug Challenge #1: Each day, go through your house (or pick one room) and fill up ONE 13-gallon trashbag. Put this bag in the back (or trunk) of your car so you can drop it off to charity when you go out next. If you leave this bag in your house, it will be subject to pint-size "dumpster divers" who will drag half the stuff back out (and cause you more stress - LOL).

That's it! At the end of the week you should have 6 bags to donate!!!! Oh, and you are not allowed to feel guilt because these wonderful treasures (that make your house messy) will be the perfect blessing to another!

Have fun :o)

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A Command to Love

Love.

This is a small word but the full depth of its meaning is often unexplainable as it can only be felt.

Over the last several years, the Lord has been teaching me about love. Love is the one thing that everyone longs for. Love is the driving force of so many of our actions. We often do something for someone as a demonstration of how strong our love is for them, however, we often do something against someone when we feel that they have rejected or withdrawn their love from us.

Love.

It is the glow that surrounds a new mother. It is what the young girl who gets pregnant out of wedlock is longing for. It is the “swelling of the heart” that the groom feels as he watches his bride walk down the aisle. It is what causes the tears of the discarded elderly man who is wasting away as he grieves for the wife of his youth.

Love.
It was the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus made for us. It was being nailed to a cross. It was humiliation. It is the only thing that could overcome death. It is the reason we have salvation. It is forgiveness.

As I have pondered about love, I have turned to the Scripture. God was not silent on this topic. In fact, when I did a search in e-Sword, there were 506 verses that contained the word love (ESV).

Over the last six months, the Lord has been speaking even more to me about love. Love is not is not just what we have for our parents, our children and our close friends. Love is not just for those who have extended it to us. No, if we are to love like God loves us, we are to extend it to those who may not “deserve” it. In fact, we are not derserving of God’s love but the Lord freely gives it to us (Romans 5:8, “But God commanded His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”)

When we look at the Scripture, we find in 1 John 4:19, “We love, because He first loved us.” When we dig a little deeper, we see in verses 20-21, “If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And the commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”

If that was not convicting enough, Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:44, “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” (KJV)

This is a very strong commandment and it is not a very easy one to obey. And yes, we are called to obey Jesus and the reason is because we love Him (John 14:15, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments”).

For the last 6 months, I have really meditated on these (and similar) verses. The Lord is penetrating my heart. The Lord has been opening my mind. He has been purging my fleshly desires and teaching me to strive for His holiness as I learn to extend His love to others.

He has freely poured out His love on me. How can I not freely pour it on others, especially since my sins are just as vile, if not more so, than those that another may have committed against me?

I am still weak, I am still fleshly, but I have made huge strides in this area. However, lest you think I have this down pat, I can assure you that I don’t. It is still an area of that I must pray about daily and as the Lord gives me tests on this.

God has been patient with me. He has been merciful and He has fanned the flames of love within my heart.

While it is not always easy to obey this command of love, once you start to make it a habit, it is simply unexplainable how differently you see the world.

When someone rises up to do you harm, you are not filled with bitterness and hate, you are filled with a godly sorrow and a desire to make things right. You desire to bless and return good for evil (1Thessolonians 5:15). Your greatest desire is not to exact revenge, but to honor the Lord by turning the other cheek as you kneel and pray.

You begin to pray FOR those who hurt you rather than ABOUT them (yes, you know the difference and it is huge). Your heart aches for them, but it is only because you deeply hurt for the pain that is in their life that causes them to lash out at others.

Everyone goes through pain. Everyone experiences trials. Everyone has had their heart broken, at least once, through a situation that was not within their control.

It is in how we handle these events in our life that makes the difference.

God didn’t give us all of these verses about love as a way to fill the pages of the Bible. He WANTS us to learn to love because a heart that is filled to the brim with love will eventually overflow with that love. This is a heart that reflects Christ the most clearly.

As our focus is on the Lord, and growing our heart to be more like His, we can learn to love even those who choose to love us the least. As Christians, we are to be set apart from the world by the way we love others: “And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto unthankful and to the evil. (Luke 6:31-35)

While hate and bitterness continues to destroy lives, families and even entire congregations, we have hope in Jesus Christ. As we mature in our faith and grow in our love, we share the gospel by loving others. We do not love in a way that says “look at me” but as way to give honor and glory to the Lord when we encourage others, through our demonstration of love, to “look to Him.”

If our life is full of pain and turmoil, bitterness and hate, then we have a choice to make. We can choose to act in the manner of the world, which would be to “get even” or we can choose the higher path, which will reflect the love of our Father in Heaven, and we can simply choose to bless them. While it is initially much harder to bless someone who hurts you (because the flesh cries out that it would feel good to hurt them as much as they have hurt us) , if Christ lives in you, you will not feel good about this.. When you make the choice to love another, you know that you are living in a way that is above reproach and honorable to the Lord. In doing this, you will feel a peace and a joy that will lift your burden and give you a sense of freedom, even in the midst of sorrow. Satisfying the flesh only lasts for a moment, but honoring the Lord through loving others will have eternal rewards.

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Friday, April 16, 2010

Time to Prioritize

Family Time

Since yesterday, I have been thinking and praying a lot about the excess amount of toys that we have in our home. I have been overwhelmed by the sheer quantity and it has been hard to let it go and impossible to keep it organized.

As I was praying about it this morning, the Lord really spoke to me. I was faced with this question: “How do you want your children to remember their childhood home and how will the things in your home prepare them for their future?”

This is a simple question but the answer to it could affect the very eternity of the soul of others! Let me explain this by answering the above question:

I want my children to remember their childhood home as a place that was filled with love and God’s Word. I want them to remember it as a place that was calm and peaceful, not overrun with toys and strife. I want them to remember home as a place where we spent our days learning about God’s creation and enjoying His creation instead of shuffling man-made entertainment from box to box and room to room. I want them to remember their childhood home as a place where others felt at home (not worried about soiling the carpet) and the hand of hospitality was liberally extended. To sum it up, I want my kids to remember their home where the Word of God was taught and lived and where the things of the world (like excess toys, rebellious attitudes, and a multitude of unedifying things) where not welcome.

With this as the goal for my home, it will help them grow into godly men and women. If our focus is on spiritual matters instead of worldly possessions, they will learn that God is more important than stuff. If we have fewer possessions to organize and less to clean, it will give us more time to disciple and to witness. This will teach my children that we should not be self-centered (what makes ME happy) but that we should be other-centered (how can we bless someone else). In blessing others, it will give the world a window into the heart of Jesus through our lives and this could be the very thing that the Lord uses to draw them to Him!

The Lord is working on my heart. He is continually teaching me about what is really important. It is so easy to get caught up in the here and now instead of thinking ahead to the future and how our actions today will affect the tomorrow of our children. As the Lord pricks my heart in this area, I must take action. If I continue to collect clutter, which breed bad attitudes and distracts from our relationship with the Lord, then my whole family will suffer the consequences. If I choose to release the clutter, not only can we bless other people with our excess, but the act of giving will grow us in more ways that I can imagine.

*** Lord, I thank you for your love and for your patience for me. So often my focus is on the world and not on You. Lord, please help me to be a woman who is known by my love for You and not by the things in my home. Lord, help me to focus more on you and less on the things that offer no eternal value. Lord, help to pass a love of You to my children. Help me to disciple them in Your ways instead of the world’s ways, help me to teach them godly attitudes and actions instead of those that are contrary to your Word and your life. Lord, I am so thankful for your peace and your Word, and I am grateful that you have promised to help me to share these with others. Thank you Lord for blessing us so that we can, in Your name, bless others with our abundance. I love you, Lord. Amen ***


(HT to Better Homes and Gardens at bhg.com for the above pic)

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