Advent: What It Feels Like to Wait for a Baby (And Comfort for Those Still Waiting)

I wrote this blog post on November 29th, but I want to share with you these honest thoughts and feelings I had before Asa was born on December 2nd, 2016. May the Lord use them to encourage and comfort.

In a world full of darkness and fear, I am learning to hope. I am learning to trust.

Nine months of pregnancy all began with a scare. Just 10 days after Landon and I discovered that we would be parents, we lost that joy. For four and a half days, we grieved and mourned the loss of our blueberry-sized baby. I sank into sadness and depression and apathy with one whole month of the school semester left. Emotionally, I did not have the strength to focus on academics in the midst of such sadness.

Spiritually, too, I was drained. We were not yet planning to start our family, and I was supposed to graduate with my undergraduate degree December 2016. A baby due in November 2016 would be a lot to handle with just one month left of school. However, we began to look forward to meeting our little “Blueberry.” When we thought we lost him, I didn’t understand why God would prepare us to receive such a precious gift only to snatch it away. I didn’t understand what He was doing.

Then I saw a doctor. Our Blueberry was okay… His heart was still beating… His light was still shining…

And I had a big choice to make: I could cling so tightly to this gift, terrified to let go lest I lose it again, or I could trust that the Lord’s plan was good and perfect and beautiful, whatever it held in store for us.

As Mary did when she sat at Jesus’ feet, ignoring Martha’s nagging to stress over the details of a meal, I believe I have chosen the better portion. I have taken my fear of loss and laid it at Jesus’ feet. I have chosen rest for my soul despite the possibility of hurt. Trust can be so scary if you don’t have Someone trustworthy to rely on.

Sometimes, my heart is tempted to stray away from trust. It is tempted to clutch tightly to the gift Landon and I are waiting for, despite God’s tender call to release my grip. At times, I tremble at the possibility of our little boy’s heart giving out so late in my pregnancy and feeling no more baby kicks. No more kneading on my bladder when our baby needs more room in my womb. No more.

Occasionally, I must talk myself down from a ledge of fear. The fear that I will fail. The fear that something tragic will happen to my child. The fear that my son’s heartbeat will stop and mine will have to continue on without his. These are just a few fears mothers experience.

That fear is a reality for so many parents. A worst fear realized.

“No parent should have to bury their child.”

Yet it happens in our world of darkness and despair. I will never stop wishing that this would change.

Sometimes, my heart is tempted to feel guilty that I thought I lost my tiny baby and didn’t. Sometimes, I don’t share my story for fear I will awaken painful memories in another woman’s heart and incite bitterness in her soul.

I don’t want my guilt to crowd out gratitude. It is not my merit that preserved Asa’s life thus far. It is God’s mercy. A mercy I do not understand. A mercy I wish would touch each broken woman of our world.

In a way, it does. Somehow.

That little baby we have all been waiting for… He came. He is the One we wait for each Advent as we celebrate His first coming and anticipate His return. Then, 2,000 years ago, the Father endured the death of His Son so that we might have life and joy and hope.

stained-glass-nativity-1185056-1600x1200

That is a hope and joy that will never be snatched away from the broken heart of the believing woman. The darkness cannot extinguish the Light of the Gospel.

My prayer for this season for those who have lost hope is that you will open your heart to healing and joy. I have had a taste of your pain. The teensiest, tiniest taste. And I mourn with you. I pray for you. My heart grieves with yours. May the Great Physician heal you and the Holy Spirit comfort you as you enter this season of waiting and wishing and anticipating.

Holy Rest

The Most Holy humbled Himself. In a manger, Mary made do with what she was given. The shepherds heard from the angels the resounding chorus that announced their Savior’s birth.

This. This was the Savior of the world. That was Israel’s promised rest. His was the Sabbath fulfilled. This was the end to striving. This was Holiness robing us with His righteousness.

Advent is awaiting Christ’s coming. We celebrate His first coming, and we eagerly anticipate His return.

O come, O come, Immanuel…

“God with us.”

Holiness with us. Holiness given to us. We are now robed in righteousness when we have done nothing to deserve it. We could not earn our rest. We could not earn our holiness. Yet the Lord paid the price so that we may be made holy.

Baby Jesus, Christmas, reminds us that God has not abandoned us. He remembers us. He established rest at creation, and Jesus fulfilled the Sabbath through His coming.

Hebrews 2-4 has a lot to say about that Sabbath rest:

In the Old Testament, the Promised Land was a place of rest for the people of Israel, but many of the Israelites missed the rest that the Lord’s desired for them. Many attempted to earn rest through the Law of Moses (Hebrews 3:1-6), and some blatantly disobeyed and forfeited the promise of rest (4:6).

The Lord, since the foundation of the world, established rest for the people, through faith (4:3), even though Jesus had not yet come. Joshua brought temporary rest, but Israel missed out on the even greater everlasting rest – an eternal rest for the soul (4:8). Deaf ears and disobedience kept the people in a state of restlessness.

When the author of Hebrews says to “strive to enter that rest” (4:11), it is not a command to depend on one’s own works to acquire rest, but it is a daily reminder of one’s place before God – humility leads to repentance and a desire to be obedient. As believers today, “we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard” (2:1) in regards to salvation, so we can rest in what Jesus did on the cross, not neglecting what we have heard and read. It is through the promised Messiah that rest is found. A Sabbath rest is an outward expression of an inner, intimate rest in Jesus Christ – a regular reminder that we do not have to work for the rest that the Lord offered us freely long ago.

Our Sabbath rest is fulfilled in Jesus Christ, His coming about 2,000 years ago.

Though rest can still be watching a movie and lounging in fuzzy pants, “holy rest” is something different.

As I mature, reading the Word of God is more and more restful. Yes, it takes more brain power than Hulu (I’m too cheap to pay for Netflix), but it is more fulfilling, by far. The Word of God is the letter that declares our freedom, our rest.

This is “holy rest.” Jesus came to give us holy rest, Sabbath rest.

So while my break could be filled with hours of television and social media and movies (that doesn’t mean I am not going to catch up on a couple favorite television shows), I think my break is better used in the Word. It is better used working hard for the glory of God. It is better used preparing for next semester.

My break is better used resting in the holiness and righteousness of God.

You are here

You are holy

We are standing

In Your glory

All Sons & Daughters, God with Us

The Birth That Ended Death

Death.

Darkness. Lack of life. Heartache.

Those are words that come to mind at the mention of death.

It troubles me to think of someone who was alive and well the last time I saw him, knowing that when I see him next, it will be in moments filled with mourning alongside others.

Once gone, the spirit, the soul, is no longer with the body. That body is no longer the person you loved. Their temporary home in the body is now vacant. There is no one there. They’ve left their cramped, broken-down apartment for something else.

My grandfather was a sweet man. He wanted to provide for his family. He loved his family. He had a great smile and a few funny jokes. I didn’t grow up around him much because I was moving around. But I have sweet memories of him. He pursued the Lord despite undesirable circumstances.

Now, I rejoice because he is in heaven! But it is bittersweet for those left on earth.

I would never wish that someone’s healing come through death. But oftentimes, the Lord chooses to heal that way, to remove the sufferer from the pain that comes with a fallen world, and those left here on earth feel the sting of loss.

But this sting… it isn’t the sting of death. It is just the temporary, momentary sting of loss. Death has been conquered! Because of Christ’s coming, because of Christmas, we have hope! This life, all of its pain, all of its troubles and sadness and darkness will soon be gone!

With all of my heart, I yearn to be in the presence of the Lord where things are perfect and He is most glorified. One day, I will stand… No… I will bow before the Lord of Lord and the King of Kings and there proclaim his praise alongside many others who have gone before me. I’ll stand beside those who I love and those with which I share a unified purpose: Glory to God on the Highest.

Christmas is about hope. And death does not extinguish that hope, for it does not diminish the glory or power of God. Christ came to earth as a baby 2,000 years ago so that death wasn’t the end. He came that we might be reconciled to Him.

Through Christ we have the Hope of the Glory of God.

And here, on earth, we spread the hope that Christ gave us through His coming! Here, we bring glory to the Lord, awaiting the day that “the perishable puts on the imperishable.

Jesus’ birth was the birth that ended Death.

We have no reason to fear or despair.

We have Hope.

Christmas: Part 2

“Now muster your troops, O daughter of troops;
siege is laid against us;
with a rod they strike the judge of Israel
on the cheek.
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old,
from ancient days.
 Therefore he shall give them up until the time
when she who is in labor has given birth;
then the rest of his brothers shall return
to the people of Israel.
 And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great
to the ends of the earth.
 And he shall be their peace.”

Micah 5:1-5

This was the promise of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. The Son of God, who came from the small town of Bethlehem, has come to shepherd His people.

This passage from Micah is often used in Christmas sermons because it points to the coming of a Savior.

Because He came, we can now “dwell secure” (verse 5). Salvation is available through Christ, and through Him, we can know where we will spend eternity.

So may your new year begin with a deepening relationship with Jesus. May He be your peace. Make Him your peace this upcoming year.

Christmas: Part 1

It’s a beautiful season where the world either focuses on the birth of Christ or the coming of Santa Claus.

This Christmas, I’ve enjoyed visiting with family in Louisiana, listening to family stories, and visiting cemeteries. Because we live so far away, I’ve never really been to the cemetery. It’s a different experience. A piece of history. And I am thankful that I know where I will go when I die.

This season is one where I am reminded of Jesus’ great sacrifice. His gift is better than any material gift. So here is to the real reason for Christmas!

Look for new posts – I have two drafts waiting to be finished. (Neither is about New Years resolutions.)

Where’s the Manger?

The smell of mistletoe candles, hot tea, Red Velvet coffee, leaves in various hues, Christmas music, twinkling lights – these things remind me of the Christmas season.

Christmas is so quickly approaching. But are we losing the real spirit of Christmas?

In a “gimme” generation, where is Jesus? Has He been stuck under the tree alongside all the other gifts from department stores? Is He just a side show to Santa Claus?

I like to think that I make Christmas all about Jesus, but honestly, it is easy to get caught up in the desire for more stuff. But I don’t need anything more. I already have too much now. This Christmas season, I remind myself that there’s so much more to Christmas than the sounds, the sights, and the smells.

The beautiful and amazingly wise Amanda Keeny shared this with me a couple years ago: “You can’t take stuff with you to heaven, but you can take people.”

In 1 Timothy 6:7, Paul reminds Timothy that “we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.” Material things won’t be any good when we leave the world. So why do we put so much focus on the material? It’s because we can see it. It is difficult to focus on heaven when we can’t see it – but it is more than worth it (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). Then in Colossians 3, Paul reminds us to “set [our] minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (3:2). Because of the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, we, as believers, have a reason to set our minds on heaven. We have hope. And it is Christmas season when we celebrate the birth of that Hope.

So where is the manger this Christmas? Is it the focus of the season? Or is baby Jesus just shoved under the tree?

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

            It’s already Christmas Eve… December and 2011 has passed by so quickly.  Today, I enjoyed a run with my dad, a candlelight service, some Apologetics and pleasure reading, and I am getting ready to eat some delicious chicken and dumplins. Christmas music, advent stories, wrapping presents – it is all fantastic. However, the time I get to spend with my family is even more special.  But the reason I enjoy Christmas so much isn’t all the material sights, sounds, and tastes; it is the birthday of the One I call Savior.

            The whole reason behind Christmas is the birthday of God into human flesh.  Christ humbled Himself to be born in the small town of Bethlehem, in a borrowed stable and swaddling clothes, to an unmarried virgin, with an audience consisting of foreigners, shepherds, and animals.  Jesus left the throne room of heaven, robes of the purest white, His unlimited power, and the praise of the angels for the smallest, poorest, and most scandalous way to be born to an audience of the least important.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,  so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,  and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:5-11

            In the spirit of Christmas, we see true humility in the person of Jesus.  I cannot imagine serving any other God.  On what may not be a silent night, tonight, I know that through the coming of Jesus Christ, I have been made holy, and I am justified. 

            I wish all of you a Merry Christmas!  Eat good food, sing some carols, and don’t forget why we celebrate Christmas!

Exercising Self-Control

          “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…”  Self-control is one of nine characteristics listed as the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23.  And self-control is something I continually have to work at, specifically in the amount of time that I spend on Facebook. 

          Facebook is addictive.  I am not quite sure why, but for me, part of it has to do with habit.  I login to the website when I don’t want to do what I’m supposed to be doing.  Checking Facebook has become an unhealthy habit that steals away my time, and my focus.  If I am not communicating with people, I have no reason to waste time scrolling through everyone’s updates about the most random details of their lives.

            For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”  Hebrews 12:11 is right:

Discipline can be an upsetting word.  When I was much younger, I thought discipline was just something your parents dished out, but there is this thing called self-discipline.  (It is kind of like self-motivation: it is hard!)  I constantly have to work, and discipline myself, in the time management arena.  Finishing all the schoolwork that I don’t want to do is not really my idea of fun.  Challenging?  Most definitely.  Worth it?  It will be one day.

            “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (emphasis added)

            To win a race, a runner must “exercise self-control in all things.”  If I, as a runner, never go running, and eat whatever I want, then I am not going to even get close to winning a race.  In life, if I sit on Facebook all day, eating bonbons, I am not going to finish life well.  “But I discipline my body.”  Instead (that is what “but” means), I discipline myself.  It is not someone else’s job to make me manage my time, but it is my responsibility to finish high school, and finish it in a timely manner.  Self-control and discipline go hand-in-hand in the race of life.

            So as I begin my schoolwork today, I fight the urge to login to Facebook, and I try to stick to the hourly schedule that I have set up for myself.  Yesterday was a success, and I go through today praying that I will continue to be successful in self-control and discipline.

 

          P.S.  Thanksgiving and Christmas are coming up, and I am glutton for punishment.  Writing about self-control and discipline before the season of food?  What was I thinking?  I’m not quite sure what I was thinking, but it will keep me accountable to not consume half a pumpkin pie, and whatever other desserts come my way within the next 2 months.