Coming up to breathe

It’s definitely been an eventful past few weeks celebrating Easter, dealing with morning sickness, major fatigue, spending time with family, and working out some details with my husband’s school schedule and my work schedule. I have to admit that we’ve had some tough days like never before. The weight has been hard to carry and I just haven’t had it in me to blog, socialize, much less read email, cook, or clean. Yep, it’s that bad. And the main problem is that I haven’t been in the Word for spiritual renewal.

But, I know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and my first trimester will be over soon. That’s not to say I won’t be sick after it, but I am praying for renewed strength. I am praying for change.

In a sense, I am thankful for the times I feel like I’m in the fire struggling. For the times I sense God’s discipline in my life. He loves me and is making me the woman he’s called me to be. I pray that I will be more like him in this season of struggle and in the areas he’s refining me in.

I’m curious to know where you’re at right now. What season are you in?

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10 things the Cross has saved me from

… continues to save me from:

anger, control, pride, fear, condemnation, envy, shame, bitterness, anxiety, lust.

The weight of my sin on the cross was great, but not greater than the One who took it upon his shoulders:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rFvMzDlsmig]

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Amena Brown: Resurrection

This week, I’ll be taking a break from writing on my blog to post a few video clips that our Bluefish producers have created. I’m excited to spend this week taking a step back to reflect on all that our Savior has done for us and will continue to do.

I hope the videos posted this week will strengthen your faith and encourage you in whatever you’re facing today.

The voice behind this 2-minute video is spoken-word artist, Amena Brown.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nl40wVuCJUA]

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Life is in Creating

This post has been inspired by one of my new favorite blogs: History in the Making with Ben Arment. Ben’s passion for the church and for creativity leaks all over his blog. It’s awesome.

Yesterday he wrote about how creating is worth all the potential consequences. He lists what those consequences might be and says to not create is simply…

the greatest tragedy.

This struck such a chord with me because all my life, all I’ve wanted to do was create. Whether it was through creating a photo book for my family for Christmas, an imaginary story while playing dolls or building forts with my friends, a short story in creative writing class, a scrapbook, photos in the darkroom, a non-fiction article from scratch… the list goes on.

For me to not create would be impossible because it’s part of who I am. It’s how God has designed and wired me. And this desire to create doesn’t make me better than someone who doesn’t particularly love to “create” or would say that being creative isn’t one of his or her gifts. It’s all about how God is best glorified through us, whether that’s working with numbers, performing surgeries, or writing scripts.

In a sense though, we all have the ability to create something. We’re made in the image of God, the Creator.

I don’t know if I’ve come to the place yet where I’m willing to risk it all though. I have a huge desire to craft a book proposal, but I wonder if it’s worth creating even if it gets rejected a thousand times. Is it worth writing if I have to rewrite it or if it never sees the light of day?

For some reason I think God would say yes. It’s just up to me to dive in and risk.

What about you… Can you live without creating? What are you currently creating or hoping to create in the future?

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When faith has action

For quite a while now, I’ve been praying for God to help me live out my faith on a day to day basis (in the mundane details of life). Sometimes I feel like I have a lot inside me, but I don’t know how to give it away. I’m impatient with the Lord and wonder why more opportunities don’t exist to be a light.

Well yesterday, Jeremiah and I went for a walk to the park with John. We put John in his favorite swing and noticed a young man walking our way with three kids. He positioned his twin toddlers in their swings next to us and his older daughter went off to play on the slide. He managed to have his eye on all of them, but he did look tired.

We introduced ourselves and started talking about random stuff. He lived in the lofts off in the distance. Jeremiah engaged with him more so I decided to go play with his kids on the slides. During that time, Jeremiah learned that he was divorced with a lot on his shoulders taking care of three kids and working a lucrative job. It was neat to see him really open up.

When it was time for him to go, I asked Jeremiah if we should give him our number if he ever needed someone to help out with his kids. He nodded, so I went up to him as he was getting his kids situated.

“Hey I know we just met and you don’t know us well, but we’d love to help watch your kids sometime.”

I was nervous about his reaction but his eyes lit up. “Really? That would be such a help. Thank you so much.”

He then asked us to text him our number. He told his kids to tell us goodbye- they were adorable. 30 minutes later, we got a text back saying how he would probably be spent by the end of the week. We told him we were available Saturday to help him out. I couldn’t believe how quickly we were going to be able to help!

Initially it was tempting to not act on the need we saw. This guy didn’t know us at all. But I think the issue wasn’t really him, but us. Would we extend a hand? Yesterday really helped me see that God uses us to help bring his love to people. And to me, that is just amazing that he would use us (in spite of our shortcomings).

I’m thankful that a Monday evening at the park is going to turn into more opportunities to serve…

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About 3 weeks ago, we discovered…

I am pregnant! On Saturday, Feb. 27 I had that feeling. My friend encouraged me to take a pregnancy test. It was positive. I cried and was overjoyed at the same time. Jeremiah was in San Antonio for a class so I waited all day long to tell him. I went to Whole Foods and got 4 chocolate covered strawberries to represent that we will now be 4 and a card to write down all the details that happened before and after finding out.

We celebrated that evening together, surprised, excited, and shocked.

Since then, it’s been a bit of a whirlwind. I’ve had extreme nausea, cravings, morning sickness, fatigue, and feeling like a truck has hit me at about 8 every night. Since I often love to control things, this pregnancy is teaching me that I just can’t have control. Every day is something new. Every day I have to rely on God’s strength to help me love and respect my husband well and be there for John even when I feel like a mess.

Last Friday we went to our doctor and he said everything looked great and that our baby’s due date is Oct. 26, exactly three days after our son John was born. It looks like they will be 2 years apart. I am currently about 9 weeks along.

I definitely have my concerns: How will I love this baby the same as I do my son? Can we really handle two? We live in an incredibly small apartment on campus at seminary- will we survive until school is done? Can I really go through natural labor again? Are we crazy for trusting the Lord to grow our family?

Even in the midst of it all, we are so grateful that God has chosen us to bring about new life once again. His grace is amazing. And this new life is His. We have to hold this baby with arms wide open. It’s funny, I kept running into these verses in Psalms before we found out:

Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.
– Psalm 127:3-5

I think God was preparing me all along and I love how he does that.

Thanks so much for sharing in our joy today (I couldn’t wait to tell you)!

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Heaven isn’t what you think

Growing up, I heard that in heaven I would worship God all the time, throughout eternity, f-o-r-e-v-e-r… I pictured harps, angels, clouds and the ability to fly. I always wanted to fly as a little girl (still do).

My mom taught me that God was going to build a new city, a new Jerusalem for us here on earth one day. And I especially liked the part about there being streets of gold.

But I also know that there is so much more that my mind has never conceived about what heaven will be like. All throughout the Old and New Testament, God talks about a kingdom that he is building on earth. And I’m just now starting to grasp that he is, as we speak, preparing a real place for you and I- his people, his church- the bride of Christ.

There will be no need for the sun or moon to shine on this city because the glory of God gives it light. His glory will consume the new city and we will see it fully. We will finally be with the One we’ve been waiting for. He will wipe away our tears. There will be no more death, sorrow, crying, or pain. The former things will pass away and all things will be made new (see Revelation 21). The greatest sins we struggle with will be no more. We will partake in the ultimate wedding feast as sons and daughters of the King.

Hell too is a real place that is so awful, where there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 13:36-42) because God’s presence will not be there. Those who reject his Son will be outside the gates of the holy city- unable to join in on the celebration. And to not be with God is the worst punishment anyone could ever receive. That’s why he desires that everyone would turn to him for life and salvation.

As believers, we have lots to look forward to in the future. No matter what frustration, hurt, or sorrow we face in daily life, we know that in the end, we will be with God in the new city- one that will be unlike anything we’ve ever tasted, touched, seen, heard, or read. Even our greatest imaginations of what we think heaven will be like, won’t even come close to its splendor.

I can’t wait for that city!

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Books, Blogs, or Both?

Over the past few years, I’ve started reading a lot of blogs. I read blogs more than actual magazines or ezines. In the season of life being a wife, mommy of a toddler, and working part-time, I’m having a harder time finishing books. I managed to sneak in Chapter 1 of  Chris Tomlinson’s book, Crave, a few weeks ago and now I’m waiting for the next moment to get to Chapter 2. I absolutely love curling up in a chair with a blanket, opening the clean, crisp pages of a book and allowing my heart to soak up every single word.

I’ve heard it said that you are the same person today as you will be in five years from now, except for the books you read and the people you meet.

I believe that and I’d have to add God’s word in there. Nothing can replace a good book or even more so a book that’s been inspired by God. I have a long list of books that have transformed my thinking and helped make me a better person. My dream is to write a book of my own one day.

What I appreciate about blogs is the ability to access bits of content right away, interact with the writer and other readers, and keep in touch with what some of my favorite writers and leaders are doing. I’ve learned a lot about things I probably would never know because of the ability to access so many blogs.

I don’t think I’d ever say I love blogs more than books, but I definitely appreciate them in my life right now.

What about you- Do you read blogs more than you do books or have a little mix of both? What do you love about them?

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Oh me of little faith

Heart’s racing. Knees weak. Stuttered words. What will they think of me? Will I be rejected? Laughed at?

Sharing my faith with other people isn’t always easy.

I fear and worry still today even when the last time I tried to get things going spiritually, everything went fine. My waiter was receptive. It was an awesome conversation. The last time I had the opportunity at my eye doctor’s office, I didn’t take it. I had a hard time transitioning into spiritual matters. I think most of all, I feared what the admin. assistant would think of me.

I’ve been really thinking though- what is the worse thing that could happen when we share our faith? The worse thing that has happened to me so far is that my husband was fired for sharing his faith on the job three months into our marriage. You can hear more about our story in this 3 minute video.

I remember in high school being called “religious” at times. I’ve had people change a spiritual conversation on me really fast. I’m guessing I’ve been made fun of for my facebook status updates that are about God. And I’m guessing someone may have chosen not to be around me because I love and talk about Jesus. But I can’t pinpoint anything (as of yet) where people cussed me out or just hated me after loving on them and sharing my story of grace.

And even if they did, that’s okay. I’ve been commanded not to be silent. Heaven and hell are at stake. I know, no one talks about hell anymore. But it’s the hard truth. It’s okay if our heart races a little and we feel like we’re going to fall over and die! Because God is the one who cultivates. Convicts. Redeems. Restores. He is the only one with the ability to raise a life up from the dead.

He just chooses to use us in his plan. I’m so thankful he does despite all my crazy, ridiculous fears.

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Starting Celebrate Recovery

My pastor Todd speaks regularly from the stage about how the healthiest people in our church body are those who’ve gone through Celebrate Recovery and have dealt with their “hurts, habits, and hang-ups” in light of Scripture.

I’ve held back from going to CR for a long time because I didn’t struggle with alcohol addiction or drugs or anything like that. I struggled with other “minor” things you know and I didn’t need a silly program to help me out. God and his Word could help me fine.

Well last Monday, after a long three months of my husband and I deciding to commit, we went to our first meeting. The first part of the night included corporate worship, a personal testimony of someone who’s gone through the 12-18 month program, and a separate introduction for newcomers. One guy on stage introduced himself and said, “I’m a believer in Christ who struggles with pornography.”

My eyes grew wide and I looked at Jeremiah, whispering, “That was really awkward.”

The guy went on to share more about the program.

It was rare to see people so open about their struggles publicly in a safe environment, but I knew God had taken them through a process- the process I was there for.

When it was time to go to our open group consisting of about 15 or so women (they split up men and women), we went around in the circle of complete strangers and shared what we think we struggle with. I was nervous, but when some of the women began to share I realized that none of us were alone. I couldn’t believe some of the stories I was hearing. Then it was my turn. I got a little teary eyed and pushed these words out:

“I don’t want to be here. It’s my pride. But I’m a believer in Christ who struggles at times with anxiety, anger, and control.”

To my surprise, after I confessed those struggles I felt like a balloon that had been popped with a needle! There was such relief and I was one step closer to freedom.

Reflecting on my time that night, I realized that my thinking was so evil and carnal regarding the “bigger” sins. Who was I to think that my sins were less damaging? Or that I was “above” CR? The hard truth is that we all struggle with something and sin is sin no matter what. Perhaps the reason we are Christians is because we don’t have it all together. We must depend on God alone.

I admit, I still have pride in my heart that God is working on and I know it’s going to be a humbling process. I didn’t even want to write this post or really let you know that I’m going through the program. I fought hard at telling you the truth.

But I want to be as authentic as I can with you about my faith and where I’m at.

Well, I probably won’t always write official posts about what’s going on in my life through CR but I’m sure you’ll see glimpses of what I’m learning through my writing. And I hope that whatever God decides to teach me that it will encourage you in your struggles.

Tonight is my second week (taking a deep breath). Maybe it won’t feel as awkward?! Hmm. Probably. not. Yet. We’ll see.

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