I’m so much like her.

I’m sitting here rocking my almost nine month old daughter.

We are both crying.

She’s fighting sleep, as usual. And I’m fighting constant exhaustion.

I just came back in to hold her after leaving her in her crib for a few minutes. She cried and I cried. I knew it would happen as soon as I laid her down.

But I had to step away. Just for a moment. Just long enough to step in the other room and fall to my knees and cry out to my Jesus. Tears flowed and I prayed. She cried and I cried.

And as I came back in to hold her, all I could think was how alike we are. This little one needs me every moment and depends on me for everything. She’s helpless on her own. She can’t fall asleep without help. So when she is tired, I can comfort her to rest.

There are times I have to let her cry, but that doesn’t mean I’m not crying with her.

There are times I walk into the other room, but that doesn’t mean I have left her.

There are times I don’t let her do things, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love her.

She doesn’t always see me and definitely doesn’t always understand what’s going on, but she is never alone and my intentions are always for her good. She needs me, and it is a need that echoes the deep human need for a Savior.

There are times I cry, but I know my God sees every tear that falls.

There are times I feel alone, but I know my God never leaves me nor forsakes me.

There are times I just don’t understand what or why or when or how, but I know my God works everything out for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

I am nothing without my Savior. And I am so thankful for the picture this morning that just as I hold my little one in my arms, my Savior holds me. Knows me. Loves me. When I am worn out and exhausted in so many ways, my Savior whispers for me to come to Him and find rest in Him.

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Planning Peace

Reading through some of Proverbs this morning, I came across a verse that really struck me. Proverbs 12:20 “Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil, but those who plan peace have joy.”

I often associate joy with suffering. One is a product of the other (if you allow it). James 1:2-4 and Romans 5:1-5 have been verses I have clung to throughout my life. When suffering comes alongside you, as a believer you have the opportunity to truly know joy and have the ability to rejoice in any circumstance.

But this verse in Proverbs enlightened my heart to another way the Lord provides joy to His people:  through planning peace.

I use the ESV, but other versions say those who promote peace, and those who are counselors of peace. But the basic idea is still the same:  being a peacemaker, desiring to fill your life and others with peace and not strife.

So what exactly does that look like? How can I plan or promote peace?

I will be the first to say I don’t have all the answers. But what I do know is that right now my main ministry is to my family. So, as a wife and a mother I need to plan peace in my heart and home.

1. Be still with the Lord. That means setting aside a few moments each morning to just sit, be still, and read the Word. It might not always be quiet, especially if my little girl is crying through her nap. But I do my best to orchestrate a pleasant environment to commune with my sweet Savior. I know it’s hard to be still, to leave the phone in the other room, to stay away from social media, but it’s necessary for the heart for so many reasons. Completely necessary.

2. Keep the house clean and organized. For me, planning peace also means not allowing the dishes, laundry, and dust to overflow. That means taking a little time each day to do simple chores so that my house is in good order. If the house is clean and in good order, stress doesn’t begin to creep in. If the barriers are put up between stress and I, then I can be happier and more content and in turn be a more encouraging, loving, and fun wife and mother. When I do little things each day, I have more time to spend devoted to my family. They get all my attention. They get all of me.

3. Seek forgiveness and forgive. Being a planner, or promoter, of peace also means dealing with sin. I need to be able to look inside my heart, at my actions, thoughts, words from the day before, and seek forgiveness from my Heavenly Father and then from my husband. That gives me the opportunity to learn from my sinful ways, grow in grace and truth, and in turn be the wife and mother I’m called to be. And when I examine myself, I have more of a pure heart to gladly forgive others. And when you walk in forgiveness, you don’t allow bitterness and strife to develop.

4. Live a healthy lifestyle. That can mean so many different things to different people. But for us, that means meal planning, taking Juice Plus+ and eating as much whole food plant based nutrition as we can, and being active. That might sound silly for what this post is talking about. But hear me out. When I plan meals I know what is coming for the evening. I already know what it is going to take to prepare the meal and can try to have it ready for my husband when he gets home. When meals are planned I don’t have to rush to the grocery store last minute or try to throw something together or be tempted to eat out. And when I’m doing all I can to be healthy, I am giving my best self to my family. I can’t serve my family to the best of my ability when I’m sick. So I need to do all I can to present to them the healthiest version of me, not only for the present time, but the future.

5. Have a budget and save money. Money can easily rip apart any peace that exists between you and your spouse. Establishing a budget lets you both know financial expectations and where the money is going. If you don’t have a handle on your money, it can cause an awful amount of discord. And if you save money, even if it is just a little at a time, whenever something comes up that you didn’t expect, you are ready for it. Preparation can take a lot of the stress out of stressful circumstances.

Some of those might appear silly to you. And you might have other categories to add. But for me, those are what I can do to be at peace and promote peace in my family. My family deserves the best me that I can give them. When I am disciplined enough to take a few moments each day to do these things, contentment and peace, happiness and joy will radiate from me to my family. And they are so worth it.

It seems natural that when my heart and home are peaceful, joy will follow.

Take time to plan peace.

And I have a suspicion that more than joy might just come along.

 

Just Keep Walking: Lessons from Isaiah

My heart inclines towards certain passages of Scripture. It just needs to cherish those trusty truths and dwell on the past faithfulness of God in order to be strengthened for the current day’s struggles, temptations, and troubles.

Sometimes the Lord will refresh my heart with a new insight to a passage. But other times He directs me to a place we have tarried before. He invites me to sit with Him and remember the way He comforted and sustained, gave peace and strength in previous days. 

As I’ve traveled into motherhood, the Lord has continually brought to mind a few verses in Isaiah. They have been a source of refreshment and encouragement through several trials and uncertainties.

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

Isaiah 40:28-31

Do you notice how the last part doesn’t make the progression from walking to running to soaring, but rather the opposite? I will forever remember the teaching I heard on this in an Old Testament class at Union by one of my favorite professors, Dr. Kelvin Moore. There is an intentional reason for this order of things. The author describes different stages in life: mounting up with wings like eagles, running, and walking. He goes from what is least common to what is most common.

There are moments in this Christian journey when we feel like we are soaring. Happiness, joy, peace, excitement fill our hearts. Our yearning for the Lord and His Kingdom cannot be contained. These mountaintop experiences give us such renewed energy for the faith and set our hearts on fire for our great God. Praise God for moments like that. But, most of life is not lived on the mountaintop.

Most of life is not spent soaring like eagles.

Most of life is not even spent running.

Most of life is spent walking.

Usually fainting is not a consequence of merely walking. But the author declares that our God will renew our strength and give us the ability to walk and not faint. Why? It’s the everyday walking that wears us down. The dirty floors, piles of dishes, stressful jobs, financial hardships, endless laundry to do, continuous meals to prepare. The feelings of loneliness, inadequacy, weakness. The subtle temptations and the giant reminders from the enemy of past sin. Thinking about daily struggles is enough to make you want to faint.

But this is a call to remember that the Lord provides what His people need.

Some days it takes everything you have to simply breathe. So just keep breathing. And know that Lord is holding you and calming your weary soul.

Some days will be painful. And on those days know our God comforts, heals, restores. And just know He will give you the strength to keep going.

Some days won’t necessarily be hard, but will just feel mundane. And so when you feel stuck, know the Lord is sustaining you and growing you even in the routine.

And everyday, know the Lord is preparing you for something greater. That greater thing may come in this life, but if it doesn’t it will most certainly come in the next.

So keep walking, my friend. It’s in the walking that we learn to truly trust our Savior and depend on Him for our every need.

February 5th

February 5th will forever be a celebration of life for me.

 

It was on this day last year that we found out there was a life growing inside of me.

And it was on this day six years ago that God spared the lives of my best friends when an EF-4 tornado ripped through their dorm rooms.

 

When I told Spencer on the evening of February 5th that we were pregnant, I couldn’t speak before I started bawling.  (Not tears of joy I might add.)

When that awful tornado came through Union, it left behind complete devastation and destruction.

 

But in times of dark uncertainty, God provides hope.  He provides His Word.  He even provides miracles.

In the times when chaos encircles us, God allows us to rest in His unchanging character and in the love of the Church community.

 

The theme of my life has always been that God is good and faithful.

And He is always good and faithful.

In every circumstance.  Expected and unexpected.

No matter what happens between sunrise and sunset or between sunset and sunrise.

He is good.  He is faithful.

And He is God.

 

If Katherine wasn’t healthy, and if the students and staff at Union University weren’t protected He would still be good and faithful.

But K is healthy.  And every life on that campus was spared.  Miracles?  Indeed.

 

Was there any reason to think K might not have been healthy?  No.  But after experiencing pregnancy and childbirth, there is no doubt in my mind that every child is simply a miracle.

Was there any reason to think that there were lifeless bodies among the rubble after an EF-4 tornado stormed through Union’s campus?  Absolutely.  But God had His hands around each person there.

 

I fully know that God gives and He takes away.  He doesn’t always spare lives.  There are times to rejoice and times to mourn.  But in everything we are called to give thanks.  And in everything we can rest in the truth that God is good and faithful.

 

So today, I choose to celebrate life.

I choose to celebrate the brightest of mornings that comes after the darkest of nights.

 

February 5th will forever be a reminder to hold my little one a little closer, kiss my husband a few times more, say “I love you” every time I think it, and fully trust in my good God.

 

 

 

(You can read the first hand stories from the February 5th tornado in Tim Ellsworth’s book God in the Whirlwindhttp://www.amazon.com/God-Whirlwind-Stories-Tornado-University-ebook/dp/B004OA6LT6/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top or watch more about that night on youtube with videos like this:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3O-IiHCrsK8)

 

Confessions of a New Mom

Two nights before Katherine was born I wept.  I sat in bed and just cried.

I will always remember the conversation that Spencer and I had.  It was the last night just the two of us would spend in our home.  The next day family would arrive and the following day we would have a child.

Life would never be the same.

I knew it was coming.  I had almost ten months to prepare.  But no preparation takes away that top of roller coaster feeling.  Preparing doesn’t make that final moment before the leap any easier to handle.

I mourned for the things Spencer and I dreamed of doing and would no longer be able to actualize.  I mourned for the quiet Saturday mornings we spent together and the sweet Sunday afternoons.  I mourned for the adventures we couldn’t embark upon and the risks we couldn’t take.  I mourned for the life we pictured we’d have before having kids.

I simply wept and mourned in the arms of my husband.  We shared such intimate conversation and prayed such raw prayers.

When constant excitement from others bombards you, how can you share your sadness and questioning of God’s timing with them?What do you do when your authenticity would disappoint or hurt or confuse others?

I learned I don’t have to be vulnerable with everyone.  But when I chose to be vulnerable with the Lord and with my husband, fears are eliminated, worries are destroyed, questions are answered, joys are delivered.

I walked into labor on October 16th already exhausted from a hard pregnancy and already emotional from crazy hormones and dwelling on a changing life.  (Read more about that here:  https://spencerandsarahc.wordpress.com/2013/12/18/katherines-birth-story/)  When 11:19 pm came and Katherine finally arrived, I expected some sort of physical relief.  But the pain continued and I was completely wiped out from everything.  I’m sure being induced and giving birth naturally had something to do with it, but I’m not always easy on myself.

I jumped from a hard pregnancy to an exhausting labor to the crazy life with a newborn.  And those first six weeks of life with Katherine here was hard.  Very hard.  For both of us.  I was an emotional wreck.  Thankfully, physically I felt good and healed by two weeks.  (If the crazy healing process from my pilonidal cyst and cystectomies a few years ago were good for anything, they were to help me have a high pain tolerance and prepare me to heal from a episiotomy.  Because healing from the episiotomy was nothing compared to the cysts.)

People offered to help us out whenever we needed it, but I didn’t even know what to ask for.  People asked if I was loving motherhood, but all I could do was smile and nod.  People wanted to know if she was a good baby and how she was sleeping, but I had no idea how to answer that without having to fight back tears.  Some people tell you to get out of the house while others tell you to stay home.  Some people tell you to feed your baby on demand while other tell you to stick to a schedule.  Everyone has differing, strong opinions on how to get babies to sleep.  And everyone provides plenty of comments, stories, and advice.

People asked why we didn’t take weekly update pregnancy pictures or maternity pictures or lots of hospital pictures or newborn pictures.  (And social media has a way of making you feel bad about that even if you aren’t asked.)  Through pregnancy it was enough to just do laundry and dishes, keep a clean house, and make dinner.  Once Katherine came it was an accomplishment to just get through the day and stay sane and emotionally stable.  Nursing was anything but easy the first two weeks.  (I kept telling myself what the pediatrician at the hospital said, “Just get through those first two weeks and you’ll be fine,” which turned out to be true.)  I know I didn’t eat nearly enough.  It might sound silly, but I had gotten so used to not being able to eat much during pregnancy, it took awhile for me to adjust to eating and drinking a whole lot more in order to provide food for my baby.  I’m sure not eating enough those first two weeks definitely added to my crazy emotions.

I’ve slowly learned to take everything people say with a grain of salt.  What works for your baby might not work for mine.  What helped you might not help me.  I almost wish I hadn’t read all the books I had.  My head was filled with opposing ideas and differing views.  I’ve learned that you need to have grace with yourself on the journey of parenthood.  And I’ve learned it’s okay to do things differently than others; you just do what’s right for you and your baby.

It’s hard for me to admit to others that the journey has been hard.  I’m a strong person, know perseverance, and live with joy, but those first weeks were exceptionally hard.  I even wondered if I had postpartum depression.  I just wasn’t myself and didn’t know how to get back to it.

Life wasn’t the same.

But once we hit that six week mark, the sun began to shine brightly again.  And with the rising of the sun, all was made well again.  I was no longer an emotional wreck, but a happy, new momma.  As I went in to my doctor’s appointment, I was reminded of the verse he shared with us, Psalm 127:3 which declares that children are a gift from the Lord.  My mind and heart were renewed that day.  I no longer questioned the Lord’s timing.  God entrusted Katherine to us.  He trusted us enough to give us a child when we were just six months into our marriage.  That thought overwhelmed me and allowed my mindset to completely shift.

I’ve learned that what might be a challenge for me, might not be a challenge for others, and that doesn’t mean I’m weak.  Every circumstance and every person is unique and different, especially when it comes to pregnancy and babies.  I’ve learned that the Lord reminds us of such simple truths when we need it most.  He restores and refreshes, redeems and renews.  His grace is truly enough each day.  I’ve never been more certain of that.  I haven’t slept through the night in over eight months.  In my exhaustion, He constantly sustains me.

Life will never be the same.

And I’m so very glad.  My mourning has turned into rejoicing as we build our family.

I rejoice that God has trusted us with Katherine so early on in our marriage.  I rejoice that we have the opportunity to love, nurture, and raise this little girl.  I rejoice that she is so healthy.  I rejoice that I have an incredibly amazing husband to go through this life with.  I rejoice for this life God has granted us and all that awaits us.  I rejoice in the mundane; I rejoice in the chaos; I rejoice in all I’m learning.  I rejoice with every smile, every little giggle, every new discovery my little girl makes.  I rejoice in each new day with my family and cannot wait to see how the Lord grows us.

Those first six weeks were rough.  But we got through them.  I’m so very thankful for the hard times.  They make the good times so much sweeter.

And life is all the more sweet with our little Katherine Elizabeth by our side.

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Amy to Africa

Amy is eight years younger than me.

Amy is a high school senior and was voted “Best All-Around Girl.”

Amy is athletic and smart and beautiful.

Amy has a tender and gentle, compassionate and loving heart.

Amy is shy but hilarious, quiet but confident.

 

This is a post about my youngest sister.

This is a post about Amy.

 

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I have loved watching my youngest sister’s heart grow more and more fond of Jesus.  She has fallen in love with the Gospel and with our Savior; it has been a beautiful thing to watch over the years.  These have been things she’s made for me as Christmas, birthday, and wedding gifts:

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I love looking at this wall because it reminds me of how her heart has grown towards the Lord over the years.  She’s been making the burlap wall art with custom verses to raise money for our future adoption.  You can check out more about that here:  http://amy4orphans.webs.com

More recently the dream of spreading the Gospel in Africa has grown in her heart.  And the more the Word has nourished that dream, the more she has talked about it and looked into how to make it a reality.  She’s reached out for help and advice, and she’s anticipated the day when she could tell everyone she would get to go overseas.

Well, last week she contacted our old church back in Orlando.  Turns out they are going to Burundi, Africa (a nation they have been connected with for several years now) in March.  Amy excitedly asked if she could join them on the trip and after sweet conversation that can only be arranged by God, she will be headed to Burundi in less than two months!

She cannot contain her excitement to live out this dream, experience the Church abroad, and share the Gospel.  Her heart is overflowing.  I am so proud of her and am excited to see what the Lord has in store for her.  I know He will use her, but I also know He will teach her more than she can imagine while she is there.

She would be so honored and grateful if you would join her in this journey.  Prayers are essential, especially as she travels on a trip like this for the first time.  And she is in need of financial support.  If you have something to give, it would bless her abundantly.  To hear from Amy and donate, go to: http://www.gofundme.com/sendamytoAFRICA  She would appreciate any amount.  And she most definitely appreciates your prayers.  Thank you for considering supporting her!

I am beyond proud of my little sis.  It will be a joy to see where to Lord takes her (spiritually and physically) over the coming months and years.  May the Kingdom grow because of Amy’s faithfulness to the great commission!

Finding the Good in the Migraine

Thursday, that horrible monster, the Migraine, came lurking around the corner and quickly pounced.  I’m helpless when it comes.  Nothing can interfere with its awful stare.  Nothing cures its awful bite.  I’ve dealt with it for about ten years and it’s never fun.

The Migraine is especially hard to deal with now.  I have a little eleven week old that needs me.  I just can’t function when it comes.

So when I quickly realized I couldn’t do the errands I had planned, I let the people know that I was supposed to meet up with.  And one dear friend offered to watch Katherine for several hours.  I knew I needed to take her up on it.  I needed help.

It’s always been hard for me to ask for help.  I’ve always been a very independent person, and I tend to think I will burden or inconvenience people.

But Thursday reminded me that I need to ask for help.  I need to accept help.

I’m not supposed to do everything on my own.

In the midst of awful pain on Thursday, I could sit and be filled with gratitude.  I was thankful for the time I was forced to rest.  I was thankful for the reminder that I can’t do it all on my own.  I was thankful that someone offered to help.

And at the end of it all, I was reminded that allowing someone to help you can actually minister to them.  I wasn’t a burden, but a blessing.  And I needed that reminder.

And today I had another migraine.  I always look forward to the weekends because we get to spend time together as a family.  But today wasn’t fun.  All I could do was lie in bed and pray the pain would end soon.

And once again, in the midst of the pain, the Lord ministered to my heart.

My dear husband spent the day with our little girl.  I could hear them together and it made my heart so glad.  He allowed me to rest and it meant the world to me.  Seeing Spencer love Katherine makes my heart grow so much fonder for him.  My love for him grows as he loves and serves us both.

So I’ve been reminded that there are blessings beyond the pain and wonderful lessons to be learned.  No matter what may come, there is always something to be thankful for.