Friday, November 30, 2018

Dear Liesel Marie

Dear Liesel Marie, 

     Happy Due Date, my darling. 

Part of me can't believe that you are not inside me and I will never hold you in my arms. The other part of me can't imagine what it would be like to have a tiny infant right now, to be responsible for raising a little human. 

But let me back up and tell you how I got to this point. 

You came to us on April 1st of this year; at least, that's when we found out about you. The awkward mix this year of Easter and April Fool's day seems appropriate for how we felt - was this a bad prank or a gift of new life?

The weeks leading up to that pregnancy test were full of health issues, car issues, busyness at work, and suppressing panic at the thought of being pregnant. Truthfully, we were trying not to have kids; but, no method of birth control is 100% effective, and so you came. 

I'll be honest - as soon as I saw that positive sign on the pregnancy test, I felt a huge weight of fear fall on me. "We're not ready yet!" kept pounding through my head. As your dad and I sat on the couch overcome by shock and fear, I thought, "This isn't how it's supposed to be!" The arrival of our first child should be a time full of joy and excitement, not tears and uncertainty. 

That first day or two were really difficult for both of us. My mind kept running in circles, trying to process this new life. How was this going to work out? We didn't have enough money, I was working three jobs, our apartment was really tiny, we weren't ready yet! I was afraid of others finding out; it was as if I could hear their voices loud and clear - 

"How could you make such a stupid mistake?"
"There is such a thing as birth control, you know."
"You guys aren't prepared for this!"
"You've only been married 7 months!"

Abortion was never an option for us, but I'll admit that I can now understand why to some, it might seem like a good option at the time. I am SO thankful for the way that your dad and I came together during this time, and for the support of my sister as I shared all my fears and doubts with her. But, if a woman is faced with a surprise pregnancy, and her family won't support her, or her boyfriend is angry about it, or she's working several jobs just to make ends meet, I can better understand how our minds would make it feel like the best option is to just get rid of the "problem" and make everything go back to normal. But, it makes me so sad that any woman would ever choose that option. So, thank you for helping me to learn a new compassion and grace for others. 

Well, as the week went on and we talked about you, and prayed about you, and our minds settled, we grew more and more excited. Yes, it was still kind of scary, but somehow we'd work it out and make it through, and, we had a child!

All along, I had been having odd cramps and back pain, along with other symptoms. That week, Friday afternoon, something changed. I remember thinking, "Oh, I feel normal again!" I still think with regret about how it seemed like a good thing to me at the time, but I couldn't have known. That night, I had the worst back pain I can ever remember, and the next day, Saturday, April 7th, we lost you. 

It's ironic - they say you don't know what you've got til it's gone. That was certainly true with you. Although my excitement had been growing over the week, it wasn't until the moment I saw the blood and felt what was happening that I truly knew just how much I wanted you. 

Miscarriages are cruel. It's the worst period, worst flu, and worst emotional trauma you've ever had, all rolled into one terrible bundle. 

The next few weeks were some of the most difficult I've ever experienced. I felt so guilty - what if it was my fault? Is it because I didn't want you at first? Is there something I did wrong to cause it? My body must be screwed up. 

I felt angry at God. Why did You allow this? Where are You? I felt like a little child, sitting on the floor and building a block tower. Just one week ago, God had come along and knocked down my tower with the news of a baby. And then, just as I had picked up the spilled blocks and starting building again, He came over and knocked the tower down all over again. Like a little child, I was sitting on the floor crying, angry, confused, and surrounded by mess. 

It took a while. It took lots of ugly cries, and lots of shouting at God, and lots of reading Scripture, and lots of declaring the truth even when it seemed false. But eventually, things changed. Something a dear lady at church shared was the turning point for me. She showed a video of a little girl throwing her arms into the air and shouting "Daddy!" with such joy. She used this as an illustration for worship, and talked about how some of the times she needed to worship God the most were the times when she felt like it the least. I realized that like the child on the floor, surrounded by mess and confusion and tears, if I would just throw my arms up and say "Daddy, hold me!" that He was waiting to pick me up, hold me tight, wipe away my tears, and show me His plan. 

That was the first time I truly surrendered you to God, and let me say, He showed up. I experienced Him in a way that was so much more real than I ever could have imagined. 

Over the next several months, I continued to heal. I am so thankful for the way God used you in my life, and in my relationship with your dad, and how He taught me new grace, new compassion, and a new reliance on Him. 

A month or two after, we decided that we wanted to name you. Your dad and I wanted to celebrate your life, not just remember the loss. After much searching on my part, your name came together in a more perfect way than I could have planned. The name Liesel Marie means "In the pain of this wished for child, God has been my satisfaction." It truly sums up that time.

Every month, when my cycle came around, I would relive the loss, guilt, and pain. It gave me a new burden for women who want to or have chosen abortion. I was feeling so hurt and guilty about something which I had no control over; I couldn't even imagine what those women must feel knowing that they choose to kill their child. So again, thank you for teaching me that compassion.

This month, the month you would have been born, has been especially difficult. Many times, I have literally felt empty inside, like there's a hole in me. Once again, I have had to surrender you to God, being thankful that you are with Him, and trusting in His plan. 

As I look back over the last nine months, I am incredibly humbled and grateful for the ways in which your unexpected life and loss have allowed me to connect with, encourage, and be encouraged by other women. I pray that I can continue to reach others and bring glory to God through my experience, and know that this time has not been in vain. 

And so, my dear Liesel Marie, you may have been with us for only a few short weeks, but you had a grand impact on our lives. I may never hold you in my arms on this earth, but I look forward with joy to the hope I have of meeting you in Heaven. 

I love you, 
     -your Mama

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

For His Mercy Endures Forever - Write The Word

Today's main text is Psalm 136:1-12, with the rest of the passage to be copied out tomorrow.

O give thanks unto the LORD, for he is good: 
for his mercy endureth forever. 
O give thanks unto the God of gods: 
for his mercy endureth forever. 
O give thanks unto the Lord of lords: 
for his mercy endureth forever. 
To him who alone doeth great wonders: 
for his mercy endureth forever. 
To him that by wisdom made the heavens: 
for his mercy endureth forever. 
To him that stretched out the earth above the waters: 
for his mercy endureth forever. 
To him that made great lights: 
for his mercy endureth forever: 
the sun to rule by day: 
for his mercy endureth forever: 
the moon and stars to rule by night:
for his mercy endureth forever. 
To him that smote Egypt in their first born: 
for his mercy endureth forever: 
and brought out Israel from among them: 
for his mercy endureth forever: 
with a strong hand and a stretched out arm: 
for his mercy endureth forever. 

Webster's Dictionary: Mercy
      - From the Latin merces "price paid for something, wages, reward" and the old French mercit or merci "kindness or pity shown to someone"
     - #1 A kind and gentle treatment of someone (as a wrongdoer or opponent) having no right to it. 
      -  #2 A blessing as an act of divine love.

      - Clemency: a mild or merciful disposition in the person having the power to punish.
      - Leniency: the repeated overlooking of mistakes by one not inclined to punish. 

     - But he, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and destroyed them not: yea, many a time turned he his anger away, and did not stir up all his wrath. For he remembered that they were but flesh; a wind that passeth away, and cometh not again. - Psalm 78:38-39

      - Be merciful until me, O LORD: for I cry unto thee daily. Rejoice the soul of thy servant: for unto thee, O LORD, do I lift up my soul. For thou, LORD, art good, and ready to forgive; and plentious in mercy unto all them that call upon thee. - Psalm 86:3-5

      - I will praise thee, O LORD my God, with all my heart: and I will glorify thy name for evermore. For great is they mercy toward me: and thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell.  - Psalm 86:12-13

     - But thou, O LORD, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plentious in mercy and truth. O turn unto me, and have mercy upon me: give thy strength unto thy servant, and save the son of thine handmaid. - Psalm 86:15-16

      God has the power to punish, and He does at times, but that is not His first inclination. He is not waiting around for the first opportunity to punish us. No, instead, "many a time turned he his anger away". He repeatedly overlooks our mistakes, wrongdoing, and opposition of Him, and treats us with kindness and gentleness, because the price for our sin was already paid by Jesus. 

     That, as I see it, is the full definition of mercy; that the person showing mercy takes the price upon himself, and therefore can treat someone who doesn't deserve it with kindness and gentleness. Just as the Samaritan, who showed kindness and gentleness to a man who didn't deserve it, by paying the full price of his lodging and care himself. In such a way God shows mercy to us, taking all the cost of it upon Himself. Truly, His mercy endures forever.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Proverbs 31 - In Closing

I was kind of surprised this morning to find that I had come to the end of Proverbs 31 study. It's been such an on-going study that I hadn't realized how close I was getting to finishing. 

But, in closing, I wanted to say a few words to wrap it up. This list of seventeen attributes that I have created here are not meant to be a to-do list for us to cross off every day just for the sake of crossing off. Nor are they the benchmark for a "perfect Christian woman" or a way to measure our own righteousness or a recipe for a perfect life.

However, I do believe that these are things which we should be seeking after, praying for, and practicing in our lives. They are attributes which God will work in us and through us as He changes our heart to be more like His, and which show His character to a world desperately needing Christ. 

I pray that God has used this study to work in your life as I know He has done in mine. So many times, completely without planning on my part, whichever attribute I was studying that week spoke so clearly to something I was dealing with. 

I don't know what I'll study from here, or if I'll keep posting it on the blog, but may we all continue to seek to be like Christ and study His words.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Study of Proverbs 31 - Week #18 - Peaceful

"She is not afraid of the snow for her household..." v. 21

"..and she shall rejoice in time to come." v. 25

A godly woman is peaceful. Some versions of the Bible translate verse 25 as "she will rejoice without fear of the future." She doesn't spend her time worrying and fretting and afraid of the future. 

Webster's Dictionary - Peaceful: untroubled by conflict, agitation, or commotion

Webster's Dictionary - Unworried: not afflicted with mental distress or agitation

I appreciate Webster's definition of peaceful; it doesn't mean "to not experience conflict, etc.", but rather to be "to not be troubled by the conflict that we do experience."

1. Numbers 6:26 - the Lord gives peace
2. Deuteronomy 31:6-8 - do not be afraid, because God fights for you
3. Joshua 10:25 - " "
4. Psalm 3:5-6 - do not be afraid, for the Lord will sustain you
5. Psalm 4:8 - be at peace because the Lord takes care of you
6. Psalm 23:4 - fear no evil, for God is with you
7. Psalm 27:1-5 - who will we fear? The Lord is our strength
8. Psalm 29:11 - the Lord will bless with peace
9. Psalm 55:18 - He will deliver us into peace
10. Psalm 55:22 - cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you
11. Psalm 56:3-4, 11 - I will not fear for my trust is in the Lord
12. Psalm 85:8 - God will speak peace to His people
13. Psalm 91:1-6 - God is our refuge and fortress, so we do not need to fear
14. Psalm 112:7-8 - do not be afraid; trust in the Lord
15. Psalm 118:6 - I will not fear for the Lord is on my side
16. Psalm 119:165 - those who love God's law have great peace
17. Proverbs 3:5-6 - trust in the Lord, and He will guide you
18. Isaiah 26:3 - those who trust the Lord will be kept in perfect peace
19. Isaiah 26:12 - the Lord will make peace, and will work for us
20. Isaiah 41:10, 13 - fear not, the Lord will help you
21. Isaiah 43:1-5 - fear not; God has redeemed you and will be with you
22. Jeremiah 29:11 - God's plan is for our good
23. Joel 2:21-22 - do not be afraid; the Lord will do great things
24. Matthew 6:25-34 - you can not add to your life by worrying; God will care for you.
25. Luke 12:22-31 - " "
26. John 14:27 - God gives His peace to us
27. John 16:33 - we have peace in Jesus because He overcame the World
28. Romans 8:6 - focusing on spiritual things life and peace
29. Romans 14:17 - the kingdom of God is peace in the Holy Ghost
30. Romans 15:13 - we have peace through the hope from God and the Holy Ghost
31. Galations 5:22 - a fruit of the Spirit is peace
32. Philippians 4:6-7 - do not worry; but by prayer and thanksgiving let the peace of God keep you
33. 2 Thessalonians 3:16 - the Lord of peace Himself gives you peace
34. 1 Peter 5:6-8 - cast your cares on God because He cares for you

The characteristic of peace is very similar to the last topic of joy, in that true peace is not dependent on the circumstances around us or based on our own ability to plan for and control the future. True peace comes from the Lord. 

We do not need to fear our present situation or whatever the future brings, because God. God will guide us; He cares for us; He has redeemed us and has a good plan for us; He will do great things! He will fight for us, and sustain us, and give us strength; He is our refuge and He will deliver and keep us in peace. 

Fear is something I struggle with so much, and it constantly pushes me back to prayer, to cast my cares on Him. Some of my fears are simply irrational, but many of them are fears of unknown or unwanted situations. I'm continually learning that I can trust God, not because He will keep me from those hard situations, but because He will never leave me as I walk through them.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Study of Proverbs 31 - Week #17 - Joyful

"Strength and honor are her clothing, and she shall rejoice in time to come." v.25

Strong's Concordance - Rejoice: to laugh, to play, to make merry

Webster's Dictionary - Rejoice: to feel joy or great delight

Webster's Dictionary - Joyful: experiencing, causing, or showing joy

1. 1 Chronicles 16:10 - let those who seek the Lord rejoice
2. Psalm 5:11 - let those who trust in God rejoice
3. Psalm 16:8-11 - in His presence is fullness of joy
4. Psalm 20:5 - we rejoice in God and His salvation, in His name we set up our banners
5. Psalm 21:1 - our joy is in the Lord's strength
6. Psalm 30:5 - joy comes in the morning because in His favor is life
7. Psalm 31:7-8 - we rejoice for God knows our trouble and adversity
8. Psalm 32:10-11 - rejoice because of the Lord's mercy
9. Psalm 33:21 - rejoice, because you trust in His name
10. Psalm 35:9 - my soul will be joyful in the Lord's salvation
11. Psalm 40:16 - let those that seek the Lord rejoice
12. Psalm 43:3-5 - in His light and truth, we go unto God in joy and hope
13. Psalm 51:12 - our joy is in His salvation
14. Psalm 63:3-7 - we will praise Him with joyful lips because of his Help and lovingkindness
15. Psalm 70:4 - let those that seek the Lord rejoice
16. Psalm 90:14 - we rejoice because of the Lord's mercy
17. Psalm 95:1-2 - make a joyful noise with thanksgiving to the rock of our salvation
18. Psalm 97:1 - rejoice because the Lord reigns
19. Psalm 118:24 - rejoice because the Lord has made this day
20. Proverbs 12:20 - those who promote peace have joy
21. Ecclesiasties 3:4 - there is a time for everything, to laugh and dance
22. Isaiah 12:2-3 - we have joy because God is our salvation
23. Isaiah 51:3 - there is joy where the Lord rebuilds
24. Isaiah 61:3 - the Lord give joy for mourning
25. Isaiah 61:10 - our joy comes from God's salvation and righteousness
26. Jeremiah 15:16 - God's word is our joy
27. Joel 2:21 - do not fear, but rejoice, for the Lord will do great things
28. Habbakuk 3:17-19 - even when everything goes wrong, I will rejoice in God's salvation
29. John 15:11 - as we abide in God's love our joy will be full
30. John 16:22 - no man can take away the joy that Christ gives
31. Romans 5:10-11 - we have joy in God because of the atonement of God
32. Romans 12:12 - rejoice in hope through trials
33. Romans 12:15 - rejoice with those who rejoice
34. Romans 14:17 - the kingdom of God is about righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost
35. Romans 15:13 - our faith in Christ brings peace and joy
36. Galations 5:22- a fruit of the Spirit is joy
37. Philippians 4:4 - rejoice in the Lord always
38. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 - rejoice forever, through prayer and thanksgiving
39. James 1:2-4 - there is joy even in trials, because trying our faith grows us

I found it interesting when I looked up the word "joy" in Webster's Dictionary, that it was defined as "the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires." Unfortunately, that very conditional emotion is the only thing the world knows of joy, and is also our first instinct - our situation dictates our joy. 

But in reading the scriptures you get such a different picture of joy. The joy of the Lord is not conditional by any means. In fact, I think Habbakuk 3:17-19 does a very good job of showing that even if everything is falling apart around you, you can still find joy in God. James reiterates that you should specifically choose joy when you go through trials, because the trying of your faith will build you and make you stronger. Our life is Christ is about so much more than just what we eat or drink, or what happens to us; it is about living a life of righteousness, peace, and joy through the Holy Spirit.

So, what do we find our joy in? In God, and in His name. It is because of who He is that we can have joy. In His presence, in His favor, in His strength, in His light and truth we find joy. In His Word, in His love, in His atonement of us, in His help and kindness we find joy. Those who seek and trust the Lord can find great joy no matter what is happening around them.

This joy in an outpouring of Christ through us as we abide in His love and are filled with His spirit. We rejoice because we know that God sees our troubles, and yet we rejoice even more because we know that God reigns and that He is our salvation. Even if there is brokenness, and messiness, and mistakes in your life, there will be great joy as God rebuilds, and take comfort knowing that He will change joy for mourning. 

No matter what happens, through prayer and thanksgiving, we can experience joy always, and no one can take away the joy that comes from Christ.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Write the Word - Peace

The last few weeks have been hard over here. Between a variety of health issues over the past few months, and my grandma's passing, and a few situations which are full of uncertainty, I was left feeling entirely overwhelmed and nowhere near strong enough to handle it all yesterday. 

As yesterday was my normal Bible-study day, I decided to take a break from the Proverbs 31 study to focus more strongly on what I really needed, and I chose to do that through writing out scripture. I love writing the Word; it helps me to focus on and absorb the truth so much more than simply reading it. I hope that these verses also help you, wherever you're at today. 

Even in the nighttime, when it's dark, and scary, and I have no idea what is going on, the Lord still guides me and instructs me. If the Lord is before me, I can rest in hope, and rejoice.

 This is a long time favorite of mine; I believe that I will see God's goodness in this life, and that keeps me going. I can find strength and courage as I wait on the Lord.

 This is my March theme verse; I don't have to do everything, and I don't have to do it all now. God is working, and I can wait patiently for Him, and find rest as I wait.

No matter what the circumstance, I can trust that God is in control, that He is working, and that He will be with me - as I fix my mind on that truth, He will fill me with His perfect peace

Whether I walk through the water, or the river, or the fire, I will not be overwhelmed, because the One who created me has called me His own, and is always with me. 

Christ has given His peace to us, but not as the World gives it. The World gives things circumstantially, conditionally, and expecting something in return. Christ has given me His peace fully, unconditionally, as much as I need, and not based on the circumstances. So my heart does not need to be troubled or afraid.

A hand is made for doing things - a hand builds, moves, cleans, holds. Whatever God's hand is doing in my life, I need to humbled myself under it. And as I wait for His work and timing, I can cast all my cares on Him knowing that He does care for me.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Study of Proverbs 31 - Week #16 - Honorable

"She makes herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple." v. 22

"Strength and honor are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come." v. 25

A godly woman is honorable.

Webster's Dictionary - honor: a good name or public esteem; one who's worth brings respect or fame

Webster's Dictionary - honorable: deserving of respect or high regard;
consistent with a reputation that is not tarnished or sullied;
characterized by integrity; guided by a keen sense of duty and ethical conduct 
Strong's Concordance - honor: ornament, splendor, glory, majesty

Strong's Concordance - honorable: of good standing, respectable,
bearing one's self becomingly in speech or behavior

The idea of being honorable includes many different facets, in my view. First, from verse 22, we see that her clothing is made of silk and purple, a precious color. No matter how humble she is (remember from last week, she's making her own bed linens), she still clothes herself as befits the wife of an elder. She doesn't dress in rags and act like a beggar; no, she dresses and acts in a way that will bring respect to herself and her husband. 

She also figuratively wears honor. She is known for integrity and is worthy of high regard. Her integrity and good conduct are so much a part of her that they are like the very clothes she puts on day in and day out and are present in every part of her life. 

1. Genesis 39:7-12 - Joseph had integrity in refusing the temptation of his master's wife
2. Psalm 7:8 - God judges our integrity
3. Psalm 25:21 - let integrity preserve you as you wait on the Lord
4. Psalm 41:12 - the Lord will uphold you in integrity
5. Proverbs 11:3 - integrity will guide you
6. Proverbs 11:16 - though violence may gain you riches, graciousness will gain you respect
7. Proverbs 19:1 - it is better to have integrity and be poor, than to be crooked and a fool
8. Proverbs 20:7 - a just man walks in integrity and causes his children to be blessed
9. Matthew 6:1 - do not do good deeds just to be seen by men
10. Matthew 23:27-28 - our integrity needs to come from our heart and not just be on the surface  
11. Ephesians 4:1-3 - walk in a way worthy of the Lord's calling
12. Ephesians 4:21-24 - put off your old mode of conduct and put on the new one which is patterned after God in righteousness and holiness  
13. Philippians 1:9-11 - be sincere and pure, filled with the fruit of righteousness to the glory of God
14. Philippians 1:27 - let you conversation be becoming to the gospel
15. Philippians 4:8 - consider good, honorable, upright things and weigh out how you are practicing them in your own life
16. Colossians 1:9-10 - we can walk worthy of the Lord through a knowledge of His will and spiritual wisdom
17. 1 Thessalonians 2:10-12 - Paul behaved justly in Thessalonica, and wants them to walk worthy of the Lord as well
18. Titus 2:3 - older women should behave in a way becoming to holiness and teach the younger women to do so as well
19. Titus 2:7-8 - show a pattern of good works and sincerity in your life
20. 1 Peter 1:13-16 - be holy in all of your conduct as Jesus Christ is holy 
21. 1 Peter 2:12 - let you conduct be honest so that even those who speak against you may see your good works and glorify God 

As the children of a holy and righteous God, we are called to a high standard of conduct. Jesus Christ is our example and goal of holiness; that is an incredibly high calling, and we need to walk in a way worthy of that. 

It is so important for us to walk in a worthy manner, because that is the greatest example of Christ. It also is our greatest witness to others of the gospel; unfortunately, I have heard one too many times of unbelievers being turned off from faith because of the poor way a Christian in their life has behaved. Of course, we all sin and we ought not pretend to be perfect; but we should strive to act in a way becoming to the gospel, so that even those who would wish to slander us will have to acknowledge the good they see, which will bring great glory to God. 

I think a big part of being honorable is having integrity - doing the right thing even when no one is looking, or no one will know the difference. Joseph displayed immense integrity when his master's wife tempted him to join her in sexual sin, but he refused because he could not betray his master's confidence. Even though Joseph did the right thing, the situation was used against him and landed him in prison. Sometimes even in our integrity we will face trials and persecution, but it is that very integrity that will guide and preserve us as we wait for the Lord to act on our behalf. 

God sees all we do and knows our inner intentions, and He will judge our integrity. We should not do the right thing just to get attention or make ourselves look good, all the while being filled with sin and darkness and on the inside. Our integrity needs to come from a renewed heart and mind, one that is patterned after God and filled with the fruit of righteousness. 

I love how Paul talks about this in Philippians 4:8; that phrase "think on these things" is more than just to have good and excellent thoughts. Rather, it means to reckon, calculate, or make an account of. Almost as if you were going over your finances at the end of the month, making an account of everything you spent and earned, seeing what in in your bank account, and balancing your records. Take stock of and weigh out the account of the good, excellent, honorable things in your life, and see how you well you are truly walking in a righteous way. We all fall far short of the goal of Jesus Christ, but by His grace we can walk in a more worthy manner.