Letters to God from a New Mom

As a new mom I found a closeness with God during those wee hours of the morning when I was nursing and rocking my son back to sleep. In the quietness of the house, God’s voice seemed ever-present and comforted me through the [still ongoing] emotional journey into this new foreign role called ‘motherhood’. I was desperately seeking an understanding of my purpose and an assurance of my capabilities.

Often during these times, I would focus my mind on passages that declared God’s might and power, passages that spoke of His faithfulness and His provision, or passages that displayed His unending compassion and grace. Then with a deep sigh, I would continue to rock slowly and whisper my thanksgiving. I knew His promises.

These words that slipped past my lips often fell into a specific cadence that was deeply personal and sounded almost like a letter to a good friend. Because, after all – that’s what they were. So below is a passage that I wrote early one morning when I was exhausted and needed comfort. I was drawn to Psalms and Isaiah, reminding me that our ever-present God is full of love and ready to tuck me under His wing.

Lord, I feel so alone. So tired. And so insignificant in this endless cycle of the newborn cries. But I know you’re there. Thank you for your never-ending compassion towards me.

 When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches, for You have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy. My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me. (Psalm 63:6-8)

 Your scriptures tell us that you have measured the waters in the hollow of Your hand and marked the span of the heavens. That you have weighed the mountains and calculated the dust on the earth. (Isaiah 40:12)

 You are mighty beyond comprehension, and yet here you are beide me, fully present and loving. You know every tear shed through these trying days. But I rest knowing that my name is written on the palm of your hand. (Isaiah 49:16)

Thank you, I love you.

I miss the closeness that I found in those dark and quiet moments. The business that so easily consumes our days can drown out these opportunities. In looking back over the last 18 months, I realize that the rocker has become my most common meeting place with God. I still find myself there in that chair feeling stranded and at the mercy of my child, but once I settle in and he nods off, I find God waiting patiently for time alone with me. I am fully focused on Him, and He’s ready to talk.

About the Writer:
Audra has a passion for encouraging women in their roles at home in both marriage and motherhood. She enjoys sharing her journey of refinement and learning through these important transitions on her blog called The Homegrown Project.

Advertisements

Noble Wife

An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels.  Proverbs 31:10

Have you ever wished that King Lemuel would’ve just run out of ink at verse 9? Me too. On the surface, the Proverbs 31 woman seems like this perfect specimen that we, mere mortal women, are supposed to aspire to be, a goal which seems impossible.  Here’s the thing about “impossible”: God LOVES it! God is just waiting for you to allow Him the opportunity to perform the impossible in you. Now, does that mean that your kids are going to get up in the morning calling you “blessed”? That’s the impossible in them, not in you!  Herein lies the REAL challenge: you are trying to become this Noble Woman whether or not your family is trying to become the Noble Family.  I don’t know about you, but I was NOT trying to be the Noble Daughter when I was growing up (my poor mother!) so why would I set that level of expectation on someone else? Now I am trying to be worthy of God’s blessing and live the purpose He has for me. Why? Because my mother was striving to be Noble! I think she succeeded! Perfect? No way! But always striving, she set the example for me, so now it’s my turn to do that for my family. While we are striving, and seem to be getting nowhere, God is there, working things out for good the whole time, and not for just our good, but of those who see our efforts as well. So even if you’ve never considered a field and bought it, and then planted a vineyard, that doesn’t mean you won’t someday. I mean, I don’t think I’ve ever known a 23-year-old that I would consider Noble, (Proverbs 31:28-31) but I do know quite a few of 50-year- old women that I would put in that category. This is all process. God spoke all creation into existence but the Bible tells us that He formed man and then placed him in the garden. He fashioned the woman and then brought her to the man. I interpret that to mean that He took His time and used His hands, focusing on the details that make a human a scientific marvel. He brought it all about then as He does now: the impossible through God is just done! So don’t fret that you haven’t achieved nobility because there is a big, fat “yet” at the end of that sentence. Keep on striving, sisters!

About the Writer:
Cindy loves being an RN, wife, mom, and CiCi (that’s a grandmother but I’m way too young and hot for normal terminology) to one sweet little 5 year old girl. She loves the Lord with all her heart and wants to serve Him with gladness til her dying breath. Cindy plans on starting seminary very soon. She can hardly wait for Wednesday and Sunday to roll around so she can sing with the choir and experience just a sliver of the joy we’ll have when we all get to Heaven!

Promises, Promises

When I read the book of Joshua, I am overwhelmed with the patience and persistence of God to fulfill his promises to his people in spite of their unfaithfulness. Throughout the book we read about how the Israelites responded disobediently to the instructions of the Lord . . . taking things from the destruction of Jericho that had been set apart for the Lord (7:1), and building an altar for themselves to rebel against the Lord (22:16).  And what was God’s holy response to their acts of disobedience?  We find it in chapter 21, verse 45:

Not one of the good promises which the Lord had made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass.

In fact, from chapter 6 all the way to chapter 23, we keep reading about the Lord and exactly how he fulfilled his promises.

Wow!  That just blows my mind.  When I think of the times that I have been disappointed by friends or family, it doesn’t come to my mind to fulfill all the promises I have made them.  I tend to lean toward unforgiveness, thinking of the unfairness against me, or even lashing out or getting even.  But not God . . . in His mercy He forgives my unfaithfulness.  In His grace he forgets my desire to build walls against Him or his loved ones. In His love He continues to fulfill all the promises He has made to me. Now, that is worth praising Him.  That is worth trusting Him.  That is worth serving Him.  That is worth loving Him.

As a matter of fact, when I read these verses, I want to be forgiving like God; I want to be faithful like God.  Instead of dwelling on the unfairness of life, or my own plans for improving my situation, I want to let Him continue to show me His character of faithfulness through these Bible truths, like he does in the book of Joshua.

He has such a long way to go with me, but I’m so very thankful he doesn’t give up. He just keeps on cranking out the lessons with His promised blessings attached.  And then I am reminded . . .  “Not one of the good promises which the Lord had made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass.”

About the writer:
Pam is Director of Women to Women Ministry of First Baptist Dallas, a wife, a mom, a grandmother, and grateful to be included in this great team of Yada Yada bloggers.

Broken Promises

I have been married three times. Unfortunately, I know the deep pain of broken
promises and breaking promises. Broken vows come with devastating consequences. Some memories take years to heal, and I still occasionaly struggle with the tidal wave of grief and loss for those earthly relationships and covenants that were never created to be shattered.

God holds us accountable for our words. In Matthew 5:37, when talking about promises Jesus says, “But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes ‘ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil.” In Matthew 12:36 “But I tell you that men will give an account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.” And finally, Matthew 15:11 “A man is not defiled by what enters his mouth, but by what comes out of it.”

 Jesus had much to say about words in general, but vows carry an even heavier weight. In the book of Joshua, chapter 9, there is an interesting account of the people of Gibeon. The Gibeonites deceived the leaders of Israel by creating a heart-tugging story that wasn’t true so that the people of Israel would not destroy them as they had all the neighboring tribes in their conquest to take the Promised Land the Lord had set apart for them. The Gibeonites convinced Joshua that they were foreigners and begged for peace between the two groups of people. Joshua and the leaders made an agreement with the Gibeonites without consulting the Lord. Within a few days the truth was discovered, but, alas, it was too late. The treaty was binding in the eyes of the Lord, and they dared not break it lest the Lord be angry with them for breaking their word—even though the Lord’s initial command had been to destroy all the nearby cities and peoples.

 But all the leaders said to the whole congregation, ‘We have sworn to them by the Lord, the God of Israel, and now we cannot touch them. This we will do to them, even let them live, so that wrath will not be upon us for the oath which we swore to them.’ The leaders said to them, ‘Let them live.’ Joshua 9:19-21a

 Many of us have made promises or commitments only to talk ourselves out of them by our own logic. But for anyone who has done so or even just said a careless, hurtful word, there is hope: God sent His own Son Jesus Christ to suffer greatly, die, and conquer death and sin itself to remove that sinful stain from our hearts, minds, and spirits. In the process, God also teaches us to value our words and promises, even when doing so is uncomfortable or disquieting, as it was for Joshua and the Israelites. What a gracious God we serve to give us new opportunities to follow through on our promises.

 I have wiped out your transgressions like a thick cloud And your sins like a heavy mist. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you. Shout for joy, O heavens, for the LORD has done it! Isaiah 44:22-23a

About the Writer:
Lyndsay has been many things in her past, but no career, experience, or calling define her more than the desire to follow after Christ in response to His gracious work in her life. At present, she teaches movement classes and works as a wellness consultant in addition to loving her amazing husband and raising her daughter to know and love the Lord.

The Secret of Contentment

I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11b-13)

If you grew up going to church or have been a believer for any length of time, I can almost guarantee that you have heard this passage. I have always loved the comfort that stems from it. Reading back over it in preparation for writing this blog however was eye-opening. Look back at verse 12: “I have learned the SECRET.” I don’t think I have much paid attention to that crucial word that has such an impact on the way I now view my circumstances.

Are you a planner like me? I like to pretend that I am super spontaneous and go with the flow, and I am very laid back for the most part; but I prefer to know what’s coming next in life, don’t you? The Lord and I have had lots of chats (which consist mostly of me telling God how He should probably follow MY plan) about the plans I have for my life and, in turn, learning what His plans are (which are by far better than any I could ever dream up.)

The nugget in this passage of Philippians where it talks about the secret of contentment has the power to transform my controlling personality if I allow God to  nudge gently me when I slip into old habits. What are you holding onto in your life that God is asking you to let Him carry? For me it’s being frustrated at not knowing what the future holds so I can plan ahead! But when I ask Him to show me where I need to let go and trust, He is gracious to show me in tangible ways that He’s got this and won’t let me fall. There will be times that I pray for specific encouragement and that very afternoon I’ll get a card in the mail from my bestie, or I’ll have the joy of buying a coffee for someone else who may be having a crummy day. Contentment reminds me to live in the moment so that I can enjoy those daily blessings.

We’re all in this journey together, my friend. Contentment is a daily practice, sometimes hourly if you’re impatient and intent on getting your way like me. BLESS. The secret of contentment is Jesus, plain and simple. If we are walking closely with Him, we’ll want what He wants and be satisfied with what He provides, even if it looks very different than we thought it would.

About the Writer:
Anna is a full-time student finishing up her degree at Liberty University while also working full-time at First Baptist Dallas in the Young Married and Singles Ministries.In her spare time when she’s not writing papers for school, she enjoys laughing with friends, road trips to new places, and drinking copious amounts of iced coffee.

A Tale of Two Sisters In-Law

We don’t always hear wonderful in-law stories, but here’s a great one about a Mother–in–law from the book of Ruth in the Bible:

Ruth 1: 9-18: “Then she kissed them goodbye and they wept aloud and said to her, ‘We will go back with you to your people.’ But Naomi said, ‘Return home, my daughters. Why would you come with me . . . Return home . . .’ At this they wept aloud again. Then Orpah kissed her mother-in-law goodbye, but Ruth clung to her. ‘Look,’ said Naomi, ‘your sister-in-law is going back to her people and her gods. Go back with her.’ But Ruth replied, ‘Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.’ When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.”

What a great mother-in-law Naomi must have been.  But when it came decision time, even Naomi wasn’t enough for Orpah to leave her familiar circumstances.  It would require something greater:  faith.  Lately, I’ve been thinking about faith and how it plays a role in our futures. To believe in something without actually seeing it requires a great deal of hope and patience. It is so much easier to go down a path we recognize, even when that path is filled with potholes we can see.  Ruth and Orpah show us the struggle with faith.

It has always intrigued me that Orpah chose to stay in Moab, and Ruth chose to go with her mother-in-law to Bethlehem.  It seems that both daughters-in-law had a sweet, loving, loyal relationship with Naomi, and Naomi genuinely cared for them and wanted the best for them.  If this is true, why did Orpah turn back and go home?

I think there is a lesson we can learn.  Ruth had seen faith in God through observing this Hebrew family while they lived in Moab.  She was willing to let what was familiar go and head into an uncertain future with the God of her mother-in-law.  Orpah loved Naomi, but she wasn’t willing to risk losing the familiar for her.  Back then, to leave one’s country also meant to leave the gods worshipped there.  Orpah was not committed to the Lord, and she was willing to lose the relationship with Naomi, whom she loved, for a life she could predict. Verses 16 and 17 are two of my favorites.  As a matter of fact, they were featured in my wedding.  In these verses, Ruth not only commits to Naomi, but she states her unwavering faith in God, leaving all other gods behind, and clinging to Him, trusting that He has a plan for Naomi and her.

It is interesting to me that we never hear from Orpah again.  Maybe she did go back and remarry, or maybe she lived a sad but safe life in her familiar circumstances.  We may never know.  What we do know is Ruth was redeemed by God’s man and birthed Obed their son, who became the grandfather of King David, selected by the Lord to deliver His people, and become the seed of Christ.  Wow, what a legacy of faith!

God uses people who will trust Him, and He blesses people who will commit to Him rather than what they can see.  I pray I can remember this when I experience challenging circumstances, and remember to be more like Ruth and less like Orpah.

About the writer:
Pam is Director of Women to Women Ministry of First Baptist Dallas, a wife, a mom, a grandmother, and grateful to be included in this great team of Yada Yada bloggers.

He is in the Waiting

Have you ever been in a season of hardcore waiting? I’m talking about emotions all over the place, ugly crying, digging deep into the Word to try to find some answers, kind of waiting. Just me? Ok, cool.

I know we all have different ways of dealing with stress and seasons of waiting. I don’t know about you, but I’m definitely not the most patient person. If you’ve ridden in the car with me at any point, you know. I’m a work in progress; it’s fine.

When I read the story of Ruth in the Bible, the major theme that jumps out at me is the word “wait”.  We read within the first few verses that Ruth’s husband has passed away, as has her sister-in-law Orpah’s husband. These deaths have left their mother-in-law, Naomi, childless and widowed.

We don’t have much of a background about Ruth; we don’t know how old she is or what her story is before now. We just pick up at the point in her life where she has just gone through a very hard loss. Being a single girl myself, I know it’s hard sometimes to do life alone. Don’t get me wrong: I’m a sassy, independent person who actually enjoys being able to go and do without having to be responsible for anyone but myself during this season, but I am also constantly reminded that I’m often alone in the going and doing.

Sometimes I need to be reminded that waiting is part of the process while God is preparing something about which we have absolutely no clue. Ruth 3:18 is a good reminder when I’m stuck in a tantrum of sorts about the hardship of the wait: “Wait, my daughter, until you learn how the matter turns out.”

Waiting can oftentimes include grief, as in Ruth’s case with the death of her husband. It can also include a season of loneliness and heartache because we get tired of waiting for what WE think would be best. But God is always preparing us for the thing which will not only benefit us, but most importantly, glorify HIM. He exceeds Ruth’s expectations by bringing Boaz into her life when she least expects it.

Your story may look completely different in that you are not single like me, but you could be waiting on God to answer your prayers about being unable to start a family; you could be circling back with God for the tenth time this week about that dream job you would really love; or maybe you’re waiting on God to mend a relationship that to you looks broken beyond repair. My sweet sister, don’t give up hope. If God has placed a dream, desire, or request in your heart for something that would help you bring glory to Him, He WILL bring that hope to fruition. It may look different from what you had pictured, but I can promise you it will be better.

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6

About the Writer:
Anna is a full-time student finishing up her degree at Liberty University while also working full-time at First Baptist Dallas in the Young Married and Singles Ministries. In her spare time when she’s not writing papers for school, she enjoys laughing with friends, road trips to new places, and drinking copious amounts of iced coffee.

 

Twist, Turns, Trust

John Piper describes the believer’s life as a twisty-turny state road through the Blue Ridge Mountains of Tennessee. There are rockslides, dark mists, and slippery curves. Sometimes the difficult road is caused by our own sin, sometimes by the sins of others, sometimes for the purpose of glorifying God, and sometimes just because life can be a rough road.

Along that hazardous, twisted road are frequent signs of hope, but unfortunately, it’s possible to completely miss them. We can keep our eyes up always looking for the signs of hope–the presence and sovereignty of God–or we can keep them focused on the mist, the precipice, and the darkness. The experience of our journey is not determined by our circumstances, those twists and turns, but by our responses to them. Will we keep our eyes peeled for the signs of hope and trust? Or will we focus on the twists and turns and allow our faith to falter?

The book of Ruth describes two women who between them cover almost every season of life and every type of emotion. First, we meet Naomi, a woman in dire circumstances. I cannot overemphasize the severity of her condition. In a culture where a woman is completely dependent on her husband or sons for support, Naomi is bereft of both. She and her two daughters-in-law have no means of sustenance. She is childless, widowed, impoverished, aging, and destitute of all land and possessions. She decides to return to Bethlehem, her home.

When she arrives, she tells her old friends to call her Mara, which means bitter, “. . . for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away full, and the LORD has brought me back empty.” (Ruth 1:20-21, ESV) Naomi, consumed with sorrow, looks down at her circumstances and suffers spiritual amnesia. Her faith is shaken. She missed road signs of hope on her dark and winding road. What were they?First, God wooed her home from Moab, a godless country. Second, He gave her Ruth, a woman who steadfastly refused to leave Naomi’s side despite her bitterness and hopelessness.

Scripture hints of God’s plans for Naomi and Ruth.

So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabite her daughter-in-law with her . . . And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest. Ruth 1:22

This is one giant road sign of hope–hope of a new day, a season of spring, and a ripe harvest after famine. God has an abundant future in store for Naomi and Ruth. His loving-kindness, provision, and ultimately redemption are beautiful themes of this book.

Look up, Sweet Friend, if you’re walking a twisty-turny road of tragedy or pain. Look up for signs of the Lord and hope!

I wait for the LORD, my soul does wait, and in His word do I hope. Psalm 130:5

His Word–a trustworthy place in which to hope. The LORD–a trustworthy One on whom to wait.

About the Writer:
Joni C. passionately enjoys sharing what she learns studying her Bible with the ladies of Refresh and Refresh@Night. Her days are best described as comfortable chaos – filled with grandchildren, a sweet mom-in-law, study time, and unexpected changes in plan. She’s also a frequent flyer to Pittsburgh for fun and cold weather chaos with her transplanted grandchildren in the north. All of this is far from the bon bons and leisure time her husband imagines her daily enjoying!

Nice is Not a Fruit of the Spirit

 

“Some people are naturally good, you know, and others are not. I’m one of the others,”  LM Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables.

Anne with an “e” didn’t quite get her theology of original sin correct, but she certainly voiced the experience we all have as “one of the others.” Preschool is an excellent laboratory to prove that no child ever must be taught to be selfish, but needs a basic lesson in civilization to “be kind”.

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:32

In his letter to the Ephesian believers, Paul encouraged them to be kind, not just in general, but specifically to “one another”. Why is it easier for us to be kind to strangers and let someone in front of us at the checkout, but get quickly annoyed with a family member who has a bad day and is a bit grumpy?

If that’s not enough, Paul carries the instructions a step further when he adds the word: “tenderhearted”. And then, as if to stretch us to an impossible limit, he continues: “forgiving each other, JUST AS God in Christ also has forgiven you.”

This is one of those familiar verses that those of us who grew up in church have known from infancy. The old saying that “familiarity breeds contempt”, or at the very best “complacency,” fits well right about here. It was helpful to me to learn that “nice” is not a fruit of the spirit. Being kind and being nice are not the same thing. One can be nice and observe outward boundaries of civility and have an unkind and selfish heart. One of the most powerful illustrations of this is played out in Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables. The novel is a masterfully written contrast of law and grace, of niceness and kindness. Set in early 19th century France, the story follows a man imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister’s starving child. He is shown mercy and kindness by a friendly bishop and his life is forever changed. In contrast, he is hunted by a police inspector who doesn’t understand kindness and mercy, but sees them as a weakness.

The fictional story is true in that we cannot extend kindness until we realize, like Anne and Jean Valjean, our own lack of goodness and accept God’s forgiveness.

About the Writer:
Nan is so grateful to belong to God’s people. She loves getting to know all kinds of people and enjoys discovering new places, which is a good thing since she’s moved twenty five times. She has been married to Jim, a pastor, for 34 years, and together they have four grown kids, a son in love, and three grand puppies.

Stand Firm

The road was tough, the pain severe, the circumstances horrendous. The strength of one young woman was fading and discouragement was setting in. “Was it worth it anymore?” she pondered. Lisa stood at a crossroads in her mind. One way meant a great deal of work, sacrifice and perseverance, but victory guaranteed. The other road, the most popularly traveled, would certainly be the easiest but would result in little at the end.

The deceiver was attacking Lisa’s mind, and quitting suddenly seemed best. She was tired, weary, and uncertain of her future. She had almost talked herself out of the path to which God had called her. Why? She was focusing on the circumstances surrounding her journey instead of on the God who had called her to it.

Lisa, quickly realizing she was in the middle of a spiritual warfare, surrendered her thoughts and feelings over to God. As the Lord overtook the young woman’s heart, she determined from that moment on to move forward with her Father, no matter the severity of the path.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Ephesians 6:10-13 NASB

At times, we too may find ourselves in conflicting situations. Yet we must remember that Satan longs to alter our progress by tempting us to take the easy route or even to quit the course all together. However, through Christ, we must learn how to fight the battle of spiritual warfare.

Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:14-17 NASB

Pay close attention to the words, “Stand firm.” They mean, “To be of a steadfast mind.” As we support ourselves with God’s armor, we must do so by refusing to waver as a result of circumstances. Trials are going to come. Temptations will frequently persist. Satan will continue to attack until you and I go home to be with the Lord. Yet in God’s word He clearly states how to fight the good fight effectively and accurately.

Don’t allow the enemy to sway you back and forth in your emotional stance between circumstances or God. Armor up and stand firm!

About the Writer:
Shea is the mother of two and nana of four and enjoys both roles tremendously. She also loves the opportunity to serve through ministry and share through speaking and blogging. A member of First Baptist Church, Dallas, Shea serves with the church’s First Impressions ministry and teaches the Strong & Courageous Sunday School class for single moms. She also speaks to women’s groups, assists with biblical counseling when opportunities arise and is constantly working to develop women’s Bible studies. Shea received her bachelor’s degree in Christian Ministry from Blue Mountain College in Blue Mountain, Mississippi; her master’s degree in Biblical Counseling from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas; and will begin her doctoral work at Southwestern in family ministries in the fall.