My Son & My Selfishness

n55713931_5260Life with a child… there’s simply nothing in the world like it. It’s pretty wild the influence our culture has had on me  when it comes to having children: they’re too much work, they’ll ruin your fun, you won’t be able to do anything anymore, you’ll become older faster, your career will be over, they’ll be a burden to you and others… the list goes on.

While children are certainly hard work it is the best hard work I’ve ever done. I’m only four months into it all, but I feel like I can say that getting up multiple times at night, nursing non-stop around the clock, changing 25 diapers a day, washing spit up out of my hair and clothes, taking multiple trips to the doctor, and putting whatever need John has before my own has been worth all the sweat and tears. He has been everything but a burden. He’s been a beautiful addition to this union of marriage.

img_8684Most of all, my son is teaching me to be Self-less which is something I think our world doesn’t want. It’s hard to give up self. It’s painful sometimes to put someone else’s needs before our own. Sometimes I just want things my way, when I want them. And don’t tell me anything different. But God calls me  to deny my self. He calls me to higher living because life’s more abundant when I’m not looking into mirrors all day. 

My friend Bethany’s mom would always tell her, “Marriage strips away one layer of selflishness and having children strips away the rest.” I couldn’t agree more.img_8680

Rethinking Bethlehem & Redemption

bethlehemOne of the most amazing things about my job is being able to hear and reflect upon solid teaching from our video shoots before I write. I’ve been writing the discussion guides for our Bluefish TV 2009 Small Group Kit that releases soon. Some of our teachers/pastors in the kit include Erwin McManus, Todd Phillips, Mark Batterson, David Nasser, and more. Right now, I’m working on the Christmas small group series called “A Savior is Born: Experience the Wonder of the First Christmas” with Pete Briscoe- the Senior Pastor at Bent Tree Bible Fellowship.

Let me tell you… this series is beautifully taught. Pete’s teaching has helped me to better reflect on why God chose certain details in bringing his son into the world. For instance, Shepherds. They were the poorest of the poor in that time. Considered ceremonial unclean. Not allowed to worship in the temples because they worked with animals (who were unclean). So why did God choose to bring the good news that a Savior was born to them first? He could have chosen the chief priests or the elders. Well, God always exalts the humble and they were watching for Him.

Bethlehem? The town wasn’t anything special. But it was great in the eyes of God. A manger? No newborn infant at that time would have been placed in a feeding trough. Why wasn’t he born in a palace? Why didn’t he come in apparent glory like many expected? 

And Mary? She was a simple human touched by divine power. People try to exalt her today above God but what made her extraordinary was the Spirit coming upon her. His grace and favor was on her, but not because of anything amazing she did. He chose her to bring His glory.

I’m so perplexed that God came into the world as a humble servant- for me. For us. He chose lowly Bethlehem and took upon a criminal’s death on a horrific cross to save me from my sin and to heal my brokenness. Why did he do it? Because of His relentless love, grace, and redemption for all mankind. There’s no condemnation here. There’s no pomp and circumstance. 

If that doesn’t cause me to sing, I don’t think anything else will.

Community for the Soul

walk_with_flowersYesterday our best friends, Jay and Julia came over for a surprise visit. They brought John a Valentine’s gift- two really cute t-shirts for his little body. Julia and I catched up on life and the guys talked about finances and you know, guy stuff. Our relationship with them is so wonderful because we both get along so well as a couple and separately: me and Julia and Jeremiah and Jay. Through them and our community group at Watermark, we’ve learned so much about authentic community.

Being in real community where struggles are revealed, sin issues, hurts, habits, hang-ups and the like is a real rarity in our culture today and especially in the church. We’ve become more isolated. I think the Baptist church I went to as a teen meant well, but there were some issues when it came to being honest. I don’t remember feeling the freedom as a teen to share my problems for fear of rejection. That kind of fear is a tragedy in the church because real healing comes from being real and not pretending to have it all together.

What I also love about authentic community is that friendships are taken to a deeper level and accountability becomes a must. The meaning of unconditional love really becomes reality as well. No matter where you’ve been or what you’ve done, you’re loved regardless and you’re spurred on by someone else who really cares.

When Jay and Julia left, Julia texted me and said “So good to see you. Those visits are SO good for the soul.” I couldn’t agree more.

So how has being in community been good for your soul?

He’s got the Whole World in His Hands

blueThis past weekend wasn’t typical that’s for sure. Saturday morning at approximately 2 AM, we heard gun shots that woke us up out of bed. Yeah, not the exact thing you want to hear at 2 AM. Half way asleep, I just kept thinking: Is that really what I think I’m hearing? Jeremiah is much better than I am in stressful situations. He had heard the shots before I did. He then called 911 and explained the situation. The dispatcher said she’d already received calls about it and they were taking care of it. Oh well that’s good, I thought. Meanwhile my heart is still beating a million times a minute. So is Jeremiah’s. We went across our apartment to check on John and he was fast asleep. I couldn’t believe what was happening. 

Believe it or not, we live in a very nice area. Our apartment complex is very nice. Three-story luxurious town homes and midrises are right beside us. The problem with Dallas is that right around the block from a nice area can be a really bad part. It’s a very transitional city. Unlike any I’ve lived in. I’ve been reflecting on the past two days about God’s sovereignty in my life. It’s crazy to think how there’s never a moment in time when He is not in control. I’ve heard it said once that you’re indestructible until God calls you home. It doesn’t matter if you’re on the mission field in the Middle East in the hot spot of war and danger or serving God right here in America… God is still in control. He knows when my time is up. My days have been numbered. He is protecting my family and nothing happens in my life in which he isn’t sovereign over.

I’m not really sure what gun shots mean in the start of 2009. Hopefully nothing but a wake-up call to pursue things that matter most in life more. We don’t even know what really happened yet that morning. But I do know that I trust in an all-powerful God who cares deeply for my needs, for what concerns me, for the fears and frustrations that fill my mind. He is watching over my son too just as Jeremiah and I attempt to do our best in protecting him. I definitely don’t understand all of God’s mysterious ways but I can definitely trust that His ways are higher and his thoughts are not my thoughts. His heart breaks because of the evil in our world. I can lay my head down at night, a little more comforted, knowing that He’s got the whole world in His hands.

I just now found out that my husband blogged about this too on his Old Testament online journal for DTS

Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. – Luke 12:17

I am Second

cornFor several months, I had seen billboards for I AM SECOND here in Dallas and never knew what it was. A few weeks ago, my pastor Todd did a message on prayer and showed a powerful video of a woman sharing her story of the hardships she faced growing up, living on the streets, and eventually giving herself to prostitution. Our whole church was really moved by her story and at the end of the video, we found out that Karen was a part of I am Second. Not only that, Todd had invited her to be a part of our service. She talked with us about prayer and giving her life to Christ. It was really awesome to have Karen there.

Countless real-life stories fill the site of I am Second. There are people like Brian Welch formerly from Korn, Jason Witten (Dallas Cowboys), Joe Gibbs, Stephen Baldwin, Jason Castro (I just love the way his story was done) and more. It’s truly incredible to hear their stories and how God intervened in their life and how he wants to do the same in ours. His grace is for everyone to accept no matter where we’ve come from or what we’ve done. That’s exactly why Christ came- to free us from sin that ultimately chains us to bondage. Condemnation wasn’t the reason he came, but because of his love and grace alone towards all people. This is a message the world desperately needs to hear. I truly hate how this message has been distorted by “religion” and false teaching. It has clouded the truth that Christ will do everything it takes for us to know him and be set free from sin. He has no concern for religion but for a relationship. This reality has invaded my life and I can’t help but speak about it too.

Truth on a Starbucks Sleeve

coffeeIt’s wet, cold, and rainy here in Dallas. I’m off work today as well due to a severe case of strep throat. Before my husband left to workout with his friend Jay, I hinted that I would love a warm cup of Starbucks. A few hours later he came in the door with one. I was so happy he remembered! While sipping on my white chocolate mocha, I noticed the writing on the sleeve advertising their new Tea Time drinks. It read ‘Your next “action item”: Do as Little As Possible.’ 

I just loved reading this simply because that is what I’m trying to do in my life. I don’t know if you struggle as much as I do with that “to-do list”. I have things to get done and when they don’t get done, I get frustrated. And sometimes my mood is determined by what hasn’t been done. I don’t focus on what has been done. As Americans I think we also characterize success by what we “do.” But I think we can be successful and still do only a little. Little in the fact that we’ve come to understand priorities, moderation, and balance in day to day life. Not being so overcommitted or stressing ourselves out to the point of physical, mental, and spiritual exhaustion. Maybe it even comes down to not being so hard on ourselves to be all things to all people.

I saw this lived out on my trips to Argentina, Guatemala, and Africa. Tea time and siestas was a daily thing. They lived simple lives, they loved well, and were relationally driven. They probably have less heart attacks than we do. 

Success in the simple really is attainable. I’m striving hard for it. Do you think living a simple life is possible in our culture today?

Giving Respect

6-13-sweet-pearI’ve been reading through the book Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas for some research for our upcoming Bluefish TV marriage series. I read the book last year for my small group but there’s just something about reading a book for the second time. 

Gary is a man full of wisdom who draws on his personal experiences being married to his wife, and from classic leaders and writers of the past. So many things Gary said challenged and spoke to me today. A concept he wrote about today was on the issue of respect- which happens to be what I’m learning most about right now in my marriage. He described how comparitively few Christians think of giving respect as a command or spiritual discipline. We are obsessed with being respected, but rarely consider our own obligation to respect others (54).

Wow! Isn’t that so true? Being the fact that I’m a woman created in the image of God, I’ve been commanded to respect my husband- when I may not agree, when I might be offended, or irritated, whatever, I’m called to show respect most importantly through my actions. It’s interesting how I can put on my best face in front of others and respect others easily, but when it comes to those I really love, I sometimes have a harder time. 

In our culture today, and since the fall, respect has always been an issue. Women, in particular, struggle with being domineering, controlling, and taking the authority that should be a man’s. But that is not our role at all as women. God’s word is pretty strong in saying that the word of God is blasphemed (I know it’s a weird word but it means insulting, showing contempt, or irreverence) when a woman tries to usurp the man’s role, leadership, authority, etc. God knows what he’s talking about. It simply “works” when we’re functioning rightly in our appropriate role. I see it in our marriage clearly when I go against God’s will for me as Jeremiah’s wife. In humility, I’m called to submit out of reverence toward my husband. This is not the kind of submission that some men have a skewed view on but the kind where the woman delights in submitting because she knows her husband loves and cherishes her.

Do you agree that the role of women/men is often reversed? What ways have you seen your marriage work beautifully when the love and respect is really happening? In general…Guys- what’s it like for you when a woman tries to overtake the role you were created to fill?

two days with “iPhone”

0283_apple-iphone-case1A few Sundays ago, our contract ended with Sprint and we were contemplating buying new phones. Jeremiah did some shopping around and just couldn’t find what carrier he wanted. He knew how much I loved my sister’s new iPhone during Christmas and spontaneously, he decided to purchase two new iPhones for us under AT&T. I was really excited about it. He bought a pink case for me and everything. That was Sunday.

After having so much fun playing with the phone and loving its ridiculously amazing features, both of us around the same time began doubting the decision. Jeremiah knew we had 30 days if we wanted to take them back. We figured out the numbers and with our plan over a span of 5 years, we would have spent $10,000 on the two phones. We decided that maybe should go towards the baby’s fund or towards the church. Whatever. Well Monday came and a lot went on at work evaluating the future more closely with the economy the way it is. I then evaluated my decisions and what I could do personally. On Monday, I said “Let’s just take them back.” (I think Jeremiah was waiting for me to say it).

He was really happy at my suggestion. (I know he wanted to make me happy and I honestly believe we might have just kept them if I said I wanted them- who knows) but I also knew deep down that he was probably thinking it wasn’t the best financial decision. All along I think I made too many hints at what I thought I wanted and Jeremiah probably felt he should provide in that way. I know that many people have this revolutionary phone (all the guys I work with do) and I am not at all judging their or your decision, but for me personally, choosing to let go of the phone was what I knew I should do. I already struggle with checking email too much and with that phone I knew I probably would even more. I also knew the ability it had to define my worth or “status” or keeping up with what’s new. I even knew it could quickly become some kind of an idol as strange as that might seem. Even though of course I know it’s a heart issue.

For a short period, I was bummed we gave them up but yet I also felt so freed especially knowing the money could go elsewhere. In 5 years from now, what will compare to the iPhone? Maybe nothing will. Who knows. I may even have one in the future, but for right now, this was the decision we had to make. Those two days were really a time of growth for me- learning to let go and not put my worth in material things- something I will continue to learn all my life.

The good thing is I have enough friends that have them so I can play with theirs if I need a fix!

Welcome John Samuel

img_0081It has been just shy of three months since John Samuel was born. (I’ve really been MIA from blogging) There’s absolutely no way to fully explain the joy of a brand new baby. A baby that is yours in fact. John arrived on October 23 at 5:55 AM. I had prayed that I would be able to have a natural birth and God answered my prayer. It was the worst pain of my life but I knew it was purposeful and that I would not regret choosing to go natural. Hiring a doula gave me great confidence in addition to my husband’s support. She had me up and going during contractions and everything! As crazy at it may seem, I am so glad I was able to feel everything and that I didn’t have to get the needle of an epidural. Our entire experience at Baylor University Medical Center here in Dallas was exceptional. I am just so blessed that the entire birthing process went so well.

John has made our marriage complete. We just love him to pieces. I love watching Jeremiah being a new dad. I’ve never seen this part of him and I am just amazed by him. He is truly going to be #1 Daddy. I never knew I had the capacity to love like this. He is such a sweet-natured boy who I truly believe has great things in store for him. As I write this, I’m pretty exhausted but so thankful for so much. So much has changed yet so much has stayed the same. I’m really looking forward to a full night’s sleep sometime soon, but I hope to be content no matter what the circumstance or how many hours I get.

John Samuel- Welcome to Mommy’s blog. I’m excited to write in the new year of 2009 and give my readers updates about you. You are a gift from above and it would be selfish for me to keep you all to myself so my reader’s are going to get to know you too. I hope you’re having a good nap right now. Sleep sweet my precious boy.

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