Saturday, May 25, 2019

Pages From My Journal

A New Series, featuring a collection of my old journal entries.

So many journals that were once blank and brimming with possibility, now sit on my shelf filled with truth, and pain, and joy, and life. Writing has always been my secret weapon; the key to unlock what I didn't even know was there. Some journal pages are filled with prayers and conversations with God, while some are filled with dialogues only with myself. Certain pages are lined neatly with quotations or verses that inspire me, while others are filled with messy scribbles or attempts at some form of expression in the midst of chaos. God reveals things most clearly to my heart through writing. It has always been this way. It is difficult to explain what happens when I write. Some people hear God's voice in the quiet of their heart or through the creation of art, but for me it is through the familiar marks of a pen hitting the paper. Even as a little girl, some nights I would stay up late writing stories or nonsense that happened in my day. This is still the case, but I find myself communing with God in this sweet quiet time more than ever before. I have quite literally over a decade's worth of journals to sift back through now. There is something comforting about re-reading old memories or allowing myself to regain encouragement or inspiration from past insights written. In the midst of the stacks of my old and tattered journals, lives failure and hope, confusion and encouragement, discovery and life. As I read back through the pages, I am finding remnants of old journal entries I feel God is stirring in my heart to share. One by one, in this series, I will share excerpts, devotions, and thoughts from my old journals. I hope you are encouraged and challenged along the way. 

May 27, 2017

I want desperately to be a woman that yearns to be in your presence; that doesn't assess her worth based on performance or even service, but draws her strength and peace from your eternal well that never runs dry. I want to be a woman that is content to be your daughter, to always be getting to know your heart more, constantly desiring less of myself. Jesus help me to be a woman who never gets bored of your word, who never grows tired of communing with you in prayer.

Jesus, it's amazing that even in the gospels you turned NO ONE away. You healed and loved all who came to you. You were passionate about moving around and sharing the word with all people, regardless if it was convenient or comfortable. Help me do this in my daily life. How can I not long for you? How can I not long to be with you? You bring peace where this is only chaos. You shed bright light where theres is only darkness. 

Your love covers many sins. Without your love, your peace, your forgiveness- what hope is there? What purpose is there?

Help me to not chase after empty fulfillment, false promises, or distractions that push their way in front of you. Even in circles of other believers it is getting harder and harder to truly lay aside fleshly desire and wordly pursuit and wholeheartedly strive after you. 

I want to be a woman marked by my pursuit of you- of what's truly important. I desire to fix my eyes on you, placing my whole confidence on your truths and commands, never looking back to count what I've lost and never forcing burdens and worries back in my own arms. I don't want to turn away from you.

"The mustard seed is one of the smallest seeds on earth. However, when it is planted it comes up and becomes taller than all the garden plants. It grows such large branches that birds can rest in it's shade."
-Mark 4:31-32

As illustrated in this verse:
When truly seeking after Jesus, one eventually becomes a HUGE light, though once very small. Regardless of how small it started out, the light and peace can become a huge resting place for hurting and broken people, in need of Jesus's love too. The believer with strong roots grows tall and can provide cool shade for others, more than any alternative source of hope or comfort could ever provide.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Rethinking Motherhood

My husband and I fell in love young. I was only seventeen years old and a brand new believer, not having grown up around the gospel. My husband, Simon, was eighteen when we met. He had grown up in a believing home and was just beginning to become serious about his faith and form his own viewpoints and thoughts. In our early dating years, he patiently pursued me and gently lead me towards Jesus as I grappled with questions and curiosity. The foundation of our relationship included lots of in depth conversations about the gospel as I began to understand the lavish love of our savior. We also dreamt of our future family often. Throughout our dating, engaged, and young married years (we married at just barely twenty and twenty-one) we’d chat for hours about what our children may some day be like, what we’d like our family values to be, and our hopes and dreams as lifelong partners and eventually parents. God had placed a passion in both of our hearts to shepherd little ones and grow a family. This desire was straight from the Father; before coming to faith in Him, I didn’t overly fantasize about being a Mom someday or caring for a family. After meeting my husband, though, and falling in love with the savior, I knew with each passing day that I desired deeply to raise little ones and God blessed my husband and I both with unity and passion in this area. 

After getting married, we decided to leave our family completely in God’s hands, meaning we trusted him wholeheartedly with when He decided to bless our new family with a baby. This was truly a test of trust for us and we mutually felt like it was something God specifically called us to do. We had many conversations wrestling with this concept, still sometimes trying to take back the control and “plan” our family ourselves when the “timing seemed right.” Ultimately, though, we felt convicted that if God had called us to trust Him in everything, big and small, than how could we deliberately choose not to trust that He alone had the perfect time for our family to grow? This was difficult to swallow. I also realize not everyone has this same viewpoint and I am in no way trying to shame anybody for choosing to walk differently. I am simply sharing the road that God called us to in our early marriage and the prompting He placed on our hearts. We felt strongly that God was wanting full obedience in this area, despite the unpopularity of the decision, many reasons why it’d be easier or “safer” to choose another way, or the wide availability of other options for growing a family.

Naturally, after finding unity in this decision and fully surrendering our marriage and family to Him, we assumed we’d quickly see the humor and that I’d become pregnant immediately. We figured we’d become a family of three rather quickly since God had asked us to obey in this area, but this was not at all the case. Month after month passed and I was not pregnant. I’d often convince myself that I was, googling an array of early pregnancy symptoms and trying to make them fit. I bought so many pregnancy tests, both afraid and hopeful about the potential possibility of becoming a mom. Negative tests piled up in our garbage can and worries piled up in my mind. By this point, I had completely welcomed the idea of being a mama. I daydreamed about sweet lullabies, sticky fingers, and soft cuddles. As the days passed, though, I began to place the idea and the role of motherhood on a pedestal without realizing it. I had vivid images in my mind of being a stay-at-home-mom/ full time writer and having a flock of teeny ones in my care. In my daydreams, I’d cook homemade meals, homeschool, nurse babies, go to the park, teach my littles about Jesus, and write in my spare time. These desires were good and pure, but they became impure and selfish when I placed all my stock in them and forgot to praise Jesus for exactly where He had me. I had forgotten that the moment I surrendered my trust in Him alone for the timing of my family,  it meant I had to completely let go of any pre-conceived notions of what I thought it was supposed to look like. My blueprint wasn’t supposed to matter, but somewhere along the way I started to worship my idea of family and my idea of motherhood. I was finding discontentment in my daily life, although the richness and joy of Jesus was all around me. God was using me to pour into other women around me in my community and in my workplace and to strengthen the bond with my husband. Some days I missed it. Some days I convinced myself that contentment would come when my life looked like the moms I saw on instagram.

Almost three years had passed and God had not allowed my husband and I to have a baby yet. My mind swarmed with thoughts constantly. “What if we’re never able to have a baby?” “Is something wrong with us?” “God, I thought we were supposed to trust you?” I was even diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome and I had a doctor so bluntly tell me it would be very difficult for me to have children, if ever. I never suspected that our marriage would take this shape after we felt the tug to trust so strongly from God. But He wanted us to trust despite what it looked like and despite what was happening. After long sessions of prayer, my husband and I began to consider foster care and adoption. We both felt strongly about being parents and shepherding children and our eyes were opened to the great need in our community for loving families to take in children. We began to draw parallels between adopting and caring for lost children and the way God adopts us into his kingdom and cares for us. The decision to pursue this road was bittersweet, because I began to realize that God could really use us in this area, but at the same time I was mourning the possibility that we may never have children of our own. I had thought about being pregnant so often and birthing my own little one, that the idea of it never happening was altogether devastating. I battled these thoughts. “God, why would you so distinctly ask us to trust you with the timing of our family, but then never allow us to become pregnant?” I’d cry and get upset some days and other days I’d snap out of it and realize the rich gift available in being a foster or adoptive mama and how God could be calling our family to that route. 

In the mundane moments, God began to shift my perspective. I started to pray for our future little ones, whether they’d be our own or precious gifts God may allow us to foster and care for. It was a slow process, trading my desires for God’s. One day, though, I was writing in my journal and I stopped and said “no”. I cried out to God and said “no”. With tears streaming down my face, I said “no” to all of it. I said no to the discontentment in my heart. I said no to the idol of ideal motherhood that was holding me captive. I said no to the lies from the enemy about my health and the phrase a doctor had spoken over me. I wrote these words in my journal, “God, I am okay with it if you never allow me to be a mama to my own children. Please give me the strength to be faithful and obey whatever you may have for me.” That was at the end of October. In a few short weeks, my husband and I would be moving to a bigger space so that we could begin the process to become foster parents and prepare a home for the potential children that may be placed with us. Settled in our new space, we were days away from filling out paperwork when a positive sign showed up. As we looked at the pregnancy test in utter shock, we realized the miracle that God had done. Just when I had finally accepted and welcomed whatever God’s will may be, whether that included a baby of our own or not, He had allowed us to conceive. It was a beautiful representation of His timing. I firmly believe in my heart that God desired for me to reach a place of blind acceptance and total obedience of HIs plan, before allowing a little one to enter our family. He wanted me to be content regardless of the circumstances and He wanted me to lay down my ideas of motherhood before entering  into it.

We still plan to foster and adopt someday, but God has made it clear that He wants us to focus on welcoming our little boy into the world first. I hope and pray I can use the experience as a new mom to someday love and cherish other children in need, too. I am currently 24 weeks pregnant with precious Theodore Samuel and I am praising Jesus for this miracle with each passing day. This sweet boy growing inside of my tummy is not by chance. God has placed him in our care in this time, in this season, for a specific purpose. I already adore being his mama and by the grace of God, I am taking it day-by-day and allowing His truths to penetrate deep in my heart as we prepare for this next season. Now is when God is preparing us to be parents to baby Theo. No other time, but now. Despite being very sick up until about 18 weeks (insert one trillion green face emojis), I feel the presence and purpose of God as He carries me through this pregnancy. In the beginning, some days I struggled to find joy and felt guilt when I had to search hard for it as I threw up several times and couldn’t eat for what seemed like eternity. After surviving on green olives and mashed potatoes for essentially a decade, my appetite is now back, my energy is back, and I’m praising God for carrying me through once again.

I don’t know what our family will look like in one year, five years, or ten years and I don’t care. I will lift my hands and find joy in what it looks like today. I’ll sing about His strength as I fold sweet baby boy onesies and I’ll say a prayer of thanks in my heart every time I feel my baby boy leap in my womb.

“Many are the plans of a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” -Proverbs 19:21