Momentary Light Affliction

This blog is (or, perhaps has been) my attempt to encourage and challenge primarily myself, but other women as well, to view every area and event of life through the lens of Scripture. And to be joyfully content as we recognize God’s undeserved grace, mercy, and sovereign care in the big, unexpected joys, as well as in the difficult trials, but especially in those little, often overlooked, everyday moments.

Because, most of life is lived in the simple and the ordinary.

But, in doing so, my desire is not to paint our life as one of sunshine and unicorns, untouched by reality and troubles.

Like everyone, my days are filled with joys and failures, blessings and trials, celebration and suffering. My children are sinners. Their mother is a sinner. (I know Scripture says that I married a sinner as well. But, I’m beginning to wonder about that one. He’s amazing.)

I detest the trend of airing one’s dirty laundry to the whole of the worldwide web, under the guise of “transparency.” I don’t want to complain. I don’t want to “vent.”

My desire is to focus on that which is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy (Phil. 4:8). To look for the grace and mercy that God has so richly, and undeservedly given, not in spite of the difficult times, but through, and maybe even because of them.

Amy Carmichael wrote, “A cup brimful of sweetness cannot spill even one drop of bitter water, no matter how suddenly jarred.”

So, it is rare that I will write from a place of discouragement and weakness.

But, you want transparency? Here it is…

Life is hard.

I am not making that statement in relation to the suffering, trials, or circumstances of anyone but myself. The comparison game is futile. Comparing my situation to that of someone else is like comparing apples and oranges. No. It’s like comparing apples and turtles. You just can’t. There is always someone else going through something bigger, something worse, something harder. (And I know many who are.)

I am just stating the simple fact that, life can be hard.

And, recently, it has been.

“In this world you will have trouble.” John 16:33 (NIV)

In addition to multiple minor illnesses hitting every member of our family, teething toddlers, night terrors, mastitis, our recent miscarriage, migraines, and a stint in the ER, I have been living with severe anemia (and the accompanying symptoms and side effects) for at least a year…likely a lot longer. I am now on a prescription iron supplement, which I am praying might remedy some, or maybe even all of that.

Oh. And, did I mention that, as a result, we are still trying to finish up our school year? And the laundry and dishes have continued to multiply at alarming rates.

So, those simple, everyday, real life moments are still very much there, very much demanding that we keep up.

And, somehow, in the craziness of caring for, and keeping up with us, my husband still has to do his job. He still has to prepare sermons and Sunday school lessons. Some weeks, I have wondered if he isn’t writing his sermons on the back of a napkin on his way to church! (Don’t worry. He’s not!) People are still coming to him for counsel. Each one a judgment call. Is this an urgent need? Can they wait? And, meetings that have been canceled, long-postponed, and rescheduled (multiple times), have to be attended.

There are just not enough hours in the day.

“Why does our heavenly Father seem at times to be steadily shoveling suffering into the lives of those he loves so deeply, when he could easily relieve it?” (Running on Empty, pgs. 15-16)

You may thinking, “Stop complaining. That’s nothing.”

And, you’d be right.

“Suffering, even in its mildest forms – inconvenience, delay, disappointment, discomfort, or anything that is not in harmony with our whims and preferences – we will not tolerate. We even reject and deny it.” (A Path Through Suffering, pg. 13)

We do not like to suffer. We avoid it when we can…except in the cases when, as a result of our own sinful stupidity, we run headlong into it.

But, I say that all that to say this…I am just weary. Physically, mentally…and yes. Spiritually.

I love what Gloria Furman says in her new book, Missional Motherhood (I am quoting from a much larger section, and, I hope, doing justice to the original context. But, I would encourage you to read the entire section, or even the whole book, for yourself.):

“Things that are part of our design – our need for others in community, our physical limitations, being embodied in an “earthly tent,” and our lack of knowledge – are not failures. We have no need to repent of those things, for this is the way God designed us. God has no need to repent of making us this way, because he reserves the right to create in whatever way his holy will desires. Moms don’t need to be redeemed out of their God-given design. But here is another place where we have to “use our words” very carefully. We must be very, very hesitant to name something sin. If it is sin, it requires atonement. But we often place worldly blunders on the same level as unholy sins….The eternal Son of God did not go to the cross and suffer crucifixion and the wrath of God to atone for a moms inability to accomplish everything she wants to do in a day…..Before we call upon the great doctrine of justification by faith alone to redeem us out of our so-called calamity, or before we herald the massive truth that we are counted righteous in Christ by faith in him, we ought to consider the nature of our need….If that neediness is owing to your sin, that vile rebellion against your Maker, then you repent….But if your neediness is simply because you are a human being (i.e., not omniscient, not omnipresent, not omnipotent, not God), then you have reason to rejoice.” (Missional Motherhood, pgs. 124-125, bold mine)

Rejoice?

In weakness? In weariness? In suffering?

Yes.

And, more than that, we can be thankful for it.

“Who can be grateful for pain? Only those who see beyond to the ineffable mercy, tender and severe, which is silently at work.” (A Path Through Suffering, pg. 56)

It is a gift.

It is a gift because it teaches us about the character of God. As discipline, it confirms God’s love for us, and our position as His child. It tests, strengthens, and refines our faith. It produces endurance, character, and hope. And, it is a condition of discipleship.

If we are to follow Christ, we must expect to suffer.

“He accepted suffering. He willingly laid down His life. He poured out His very soul unto death. Shall not we, His servants, tread the same pathway?” Pg. 39

But, perhaps, just maybe, our troubles, our inconveniences, our sufferings are not for us.

Lilias Trotter, in her book, Parables of the Cross, wrote “God may use…the things that He has wrought in us, for the blessings of souls unknown to us….” (as quoted in Elisabeth Elliot’s A Path Through Suffering, pg. 15)

It has been unintentional (on my part), but many of the books I have been reading recently have had a providentially similar theme. Suffering.

In her book, Running on Empty, Barbra Bancroft says,

“Ministry brings suffering into our lives. It is the hardest gift for us to accept from God. None of us enjoys suffering and it is one aspect of ministry we are always trying to avoid. God brings his gift of suffering and our response is to begin negotiating for a different one. We want to return this gift for one we think would better meet our needs. This is why Paul’s description of himself in Philippians 3 is so startling. We are attracted and repelled by it. We want his passion for Christ. We identify with his desire to know Christ and the power of his resurrection, but to share in the fellowship of his suffering is frightening.” (pg. 15)

Now, I don’t think for a moment that our church, or my husband’s vocation has been the source of the difficulties, trials, and yes, genuine suffering that we have faced in recent days.

Quite the opposite. Our church family has been a source of help, encouragement, strength, and comfort in all of this.

But, it is true that ministry brings suffering. It has a cost. Our family, our marriage, our children, our parenting, our faults, our sins, our quirks, our sufferings…our lives are all put on constant display. And, we are willing to live in that proverbial fishbowl for the sake of others.

“For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” 1 Corinthians 4:15-16 (ESV)

Paul prayed three times that God would remove his “thorn in the flesh,” his “messenger from Satan.” (See 2 Corinthians 12:7-10)

“God said no to Paul’s plea because He was to bring forth, for the sake of the rest of us, the beautiful flower of acceptance, a gift of grace, enough for his need. But that flower was to bloom, not in spite of, but because of the thorn…Could he know the millions who would be cheered and comforted by his example of quiet acceptance of a painful thing which he knew God could have removed? No, he couldn’t.” (A Path Through Suffering, pg. 45)

Maybe our troubles, our inconveniences, our trials, our sufferings are not for us at all. Maybe they are put in our life for the spiritual benefit of someone else.

We do not know. And, frankly, it isn’t for us to know.

“Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10)

“We may take heart from the suffering of Job. Suffering was the necessary proof of the reality of his faith – to us, as to his contemporaries and his enemy Satan (his and ours). The suffering of our Savior proved the reality of His love for His Father. The world still needs to be shown that there are those who, no matter what the circumstances, will, for love of Him, do exactly what God commands. The end He has in view is a glorious one. We can fully count on that…” (A Path Through Suffering, pg. 53)

“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” 1 Corinthians 4:17-18 (ESV)

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Parenting Conference

The last two months have been rather difficult in our home.  So, I am just now getting my bloggy act together, and posting a few of the more enjoyable happenings.

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On April 1st and 2nd (wow! that seems like a long time ago!), our church hosted a Parenting Conference, with Dr. John Street, and his dear wife Janie, as the speakers. If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you will know that the Streets are very special to our family. Dr. Street was one of our professors at The Master’s College, and was instrumental in our understanding and embracing the truth of biblical counseling, both in our personal lives and ministry.  He was the pastor of our Sunday School class at our church in California. And, Dr. Street also did our pre-marital counseling, and performed our wedding. We also have the privilege of knowing their 4 (grown) children, and seeing the legacy of their parents’ love for the Lord continued in their lives.

So, it is a joy for us to share the Streets’ wisdom with whomever we can, whenever we get the chance!

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I had a one year old who is not a fan of the nursery, and a 2 year old who still desperately needed a nap. So, I did not get to hear as much of it as I would have liked, because I was a little too busy, well…parenting! But, I have since caught up on our church’s website. (And I would strongly recommend that you to listen to Dr. Street’s messages here too!!)

2016_04_021While the adults were busy, the kids enjoyed their own Children’s Conference. They learned about the Armor of God, sang songs, did crafts, played games, and sang more songs when a few of the adult’s sessions went a little long.

(Big, huge thank you to Fred and Kathy, Steven and Nary, Rosie, Joanna, and Erica for all their work, and for serving our parents and little ones!!!)

The children loved their time together, and the parents were challenged and blessed by the teaching.

12963542_10153404226351286_2727087751349474441_nUnfortunately, the conference ended on a bit of a low note, with, at final count, some 21 people coming down with a nasty stomach bug. Our family was among the first hit, so we never did get a picture with both Dr. and Mrs. Street.

But, we are so thankful for the time they invested in our church. And, I am excited to see how the Lord will use this conference to continue to shape the families of our church in the future!

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Sad News

Just a few weeks ago, we announced that we were expecting another little one.

On Wednesday afternoon, we went to my OB’s office for what was supposed to be a “pregnancy confirmation” appointment. Of course, in my mind, I received that confirmation over a month ago, courtesy of a home pregnancy test. I was almost 10 weeks along.

But, this was not to be the happy appointment the name would indicate.

I have had spotting during the first trimester of my last two pregnancies (three, including this one). It is, apparently, “my normal.” And, twice, it has been nothing to worry about.

So, when it started this time, I didn’t really worry. Or, rather, I tried not to worry.

But, this time, it was different.

After about a month of on-and-off spotting, it turned into true bleeding on Tuesday evening. So, I was not expecting good news going into my appointment.

As my doctor started the ultrasound, I glanced at the screen. Hoping, and praying that, despite the symptoms to the contrary, we would see the flutter of a tiny, beating heart. My doctor was uncharacteristically quiet. And, one look at her face confirmed my suspicion. “Are you sure you have your dates right?” Yes, I’m sure. “Because, baby is only measuring at 6 weeks. And…I’m not seeing a heartbeat.”

Miscarriage.

It’s the word no mother-to-be wants to hear. But, there it was.

I miscarried on Thursday, at home.

“…I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.” 2 Samuel 12:23 (ESV)

When I announced our pregnancy, we were looking forward to meeting our son or daughter around Thanksgiving. So, I said that we had much to be thankful for this year.

We still do.

Yes, of course, we are sad and grieving.

We already loved this child. We wanted this child.

But, even though we will not have the joy of knowing this child, this side of Heaven, I am still so grateful for each moment I was given with this little one. I am thankful for the time, no matter how short, that I was blessed to be his or her mommy.

“…The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away;
blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Job 1:21 (ESV)

Thank you for being excited with us over this little one. And thank you for being willing to grieve with us. We appreciate your prayers.

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Hannah’s Jamberry Birthday Party

If you follow me on Instagram, you might have noticed my obsession with Jamberry Nail Wraps. I love them! And, I seem to have passed this little addiction on to my oldest girl. So, a Jamberry birthday party was the perfect way to celebrate her 11th birthday!

Her actual birthday was on April 4th, and we had a simple family celebration that evening. But, we had a Parenting Conference at church that weekend, so we planned to have her party the following week. But, it had to be postponed. More than once. Of course, my sweet birthday girl handled the delays graciously. And, we finally got to celebrate last weekend.

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Hannah is my little party planner. Many of the details were her doing. She picked out the wraps that she and her friends got to put on, helped set up the table, and even made place cards for everyone.

And, she had very specific ideas about her cake…as usual. This year, she chose Angel Food Cake, with fresh berries and homemade whipped cream. (She made it very easy on me!)IMG_3960

And, instead of ice cream, we made strawberry Greek yogurt popsicles.

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Rebekah wasn’t a fan of the cake, but she really liked her popsicle!

After a lot of rain, the weather was perfect for enjoying their treats outside on the patio!

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She received some very thoughtful gifts…and had a very enthusiastic helper!

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Hannah has some very sweet friends, and we were so thankful to have them, and Grammy & Grampy come celebrate with us! (And we missed the ones who were unable to make it!)

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Happy 11th Birthday, Hannah!

 

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Book Review: Wonderfully Made

As a mom of 4…well, soon to be 5, you might think that, by now, this whole pregnancy thing would be getting old and boring. Oh no! I still fill my phone with a variety of apps that entertain me with daily facts about my child’s size and developmental milestones. I still look at each grainy 8 week ultrasound picture with the same amazement I did with my first. I am still in awe of the changes that take place in the few short weeks between those early ultrasounds, and the much more detailed, clear, 4D images at my 20 week scans. I stare at those earliest pictures, and memorize every feature of those sweet faces…and excitedly show them to their big siblings. And each of the older siblings seemed to be equally fascinated by their newest brother or sister.

My oldest was 6 when I was pregnant with her brother, and she had been praying for a baby brother or sister for years. So, she was full of questions right away… How big is he? Is it dark in there? Can he hear me? What does he eat? How did he get in there?

I answered (or avoided) these to the best of my ability.

That baby boy is now a big brother himself. He was only 20 months old when his first little sister was born, and not extremely verbal. But, by the time his second little sister was on the way, he had come up with all sorts of questions of his own….Does she have any toys? Where does she go potty? (All boy, that one.) Can she smell this? Can she see this? Will she get wet? (Asked during a run to the car in the rain.)

I love seeing my children’s early interest in, and love for their younger, pre-born siblings. But, I didn’t always have the answers to all of their questions. And, as I quickly discovered, some apps aren’t always what I consider age-appropriate for little eyes and ears. And, finding good, age-appropriate, biblical resources for children on the topic of conception, and development can be very difficult. I found that many of the books were either way too mature, or way too evolutionary for my liking and conviction.

Wonderfully Made: God’s Story of Life from Conception to Birth is different. Danika has written a book that truly does tell God’s story.

The book begins…at the beginning. With God’s design for marriage, the relationship between a husband and wife, and how that special love and commitment leads to the creation of a child. I thought this section was exceptionally well done. I realize that all parents will have their own opinions on how and when to address the question of where babies come from. But, in my opinion, this book offers a clear, but not explicit, explanation that is simple, and entirely appropriate for little ears.

Throughout the book, Danika weaves together the scientific facts of a baby’s weekly development with the beautiful truths of Scripture. As I read this book with my own children (ages 11, 4, 2, and 1), they loved the comparisons of the baby’s size to familiar, everyday objects. We read the book together shortly after discovering that we were expecting baby number 5 to join our family. I was 6 weeks along, and we read that at that point, our baby was about the size of a nail head. My 4-year-old son was especially fascinated by that little fact! My oldest (11) loved the most recent size comparison to a pencil sharpener, at 8 weeks!

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While we read the whole book in one sitting, I like that I can also read one page with them each week, and tell them “This week (week 9!) your brother or sister can already make faces at you!” Or, “In a few weeks (week 14), your baby brother or sister will be able to burp and hiccup!” (This is specifically for my boy.)

The book is wholly wonderful, but my favorite part was the ending. (Yes, I am going to give away the ending!) Just as clearly as she shared about the beginnings of our physical life, Danika shares about the beginning of our spiritual life, when we are born again – in Christ. She ends where life truly begins – with a beautifully simple presentation of the gospel!

This book was designed for children from ages 5 to 11. But, it easily held the attention of my 2, 4, and 11 year olds. I also think this would make a perfect baby shower gift for a new mommy (and daddy!).

I am so thankful to have such a wonderful, biblical resource to share with my children each week as we anticipate the arrival of their newest sibling. And, I would highly recommend this book to any parent – expecting or not.

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