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.

Comfort

When you hear “comfort,” what do you think?

When I hear comfort, I think fuzzy socks, chunky scarves, reading by a crackling fire.

But there is a time where all of these material things do not provide comfort. They don’t emotionally or mentally comfort you. A good cup of tea can take care of the symptoms of stress, but does it actually melt the stress away? (Okay, maybe sometimes, but work with me here.)

In our darkest hours, through our tears, we yearn for some unexplainable sense of peace. We yearn for a comfort that will quench our sufferings.

As Paul wrote to the church at Corinth in his second letter to them, to share in Christ’s sufferings means to share in his comfort as well.

Second Corinthians 1:3-11 is about the God of all comfort. He is the Source of Comfort. What a beautiful passage to read and know that the God we serve will comfort us when we are afflicted. “For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too” (2 Corinthians 1:5). What a reminder!

We will share in Christ’s sufferings. But we will also share in His comfort.

So take comfort.

Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

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.

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?

Are You Hungry?

I seem to be hungry all the time. (I’m not quite sure why, though, since I haven’t gotten any taller for the past 4 years.) Hunger is a natural part of life. Our bodies need food in order to function.

As fallen people, we also hunger for purpose. We spend our lives searching for the reason we were placed here on earth. We need the purpose that God provides in order to live life to the fullest.

Early in Jesus’ ministry, he spoke to the crowds and delivered a powerful message. During the “Sermon on the Mount,” here’s one of the things Jesus said:

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”

Matthew 5:6

Jesus knew that true satisfaction – a full belly and quenched thirst – would only come from a relationship with Him. In John, Jesus tells the Samaritan woman at the well that He has living water. A couple chapters later, Jesus calls Himself the bread of life.

Clearly laid out in Scripture is this: we, as believers, are to hunger and thirst for righteousness. We are to desire a growing relationship with the Lord. We are to spend time in the Word of God so that we can spiritually grow.

One day, it will be too late.

Amos made a prophesy for the nation of Israel that came to pass while Saul was king and Israel was in captivity. He said:

“Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord God,
    “when I will send a famine on the land—
not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water,
    but of hearing the words of theLord.
 They shall wander from sea to sea,
    and from north to east;
they shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the Lord,
    but they shall not find it.

 “In that day the lovely virgins and the young men

    shall faint for thirst.”

Amos 8:11-13

Israel experienced the hunger and thirst for the Word of God, for righteousness, yet they waited too long. They lost their chance because of the hardness of their hearts.

Don’t wait that long. Don’t wait until it is too late for your hunger to be satisfied and you thirst quenched. Pursue the Lord now. Allow Christ Jesus to satisfy you. It is so fulfilling to be satisfied as I pursue Christ with a hunger and a thirst for righteousness and for His Word.

So.

Are you hungry yet?

Laboring in the Whitened Fields

To work or not to work on Labor Day – that is the question.

Actually, it’s not really a question I’ve considered today. Balancing relaxation and work is not always easy, but I’ve tried to do that today with a little extra sleep, a nice run, and some homework.

Work.

Labor Day = food (at least, it usually means food)

Now check this out:

Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”

John 4:34-38

Christ lays out what sustains Him: “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.” Jesus knew His purpose and He knew that carrying out this purpose would produce the greatest satisfaction.

Sometimes, my desire for a lazy day blinds me: “Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.”  I’m so focused on doing my own thing that I can sometimes miss what is right in from of me. Opportunities, hidden motivation (you know, that motivation you get after you finally start a project), and the fields that are ripe for harvest pass me by as I focus on myself and my comfort.

I know this passage isn’t about me. Ultimately, this passage points to God’s work. He is preparing people for the gospel, and if we aren’t aware, we will miss opportunities to speak with people. Sometimes, we sow – we plant the seeds of the gospel, we help get people thinking. Other times, we reap – we get to pray with someone to receive Christ, we see life change happen. Either way, it’s so important that we keep our eyes open to what God is doing in the world.

So are the fields white for harvest? What are you missing out on because you aren’t paying attention?

(Please excuse the very informal and rambling post as it is Labor Day, and I didn’t want to go overboard on my labor for today.)

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!

Nicaragua, Here I Come!

Hola Familia y Amigos!

In 1 Peter 2:9 it says, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”  I have an awesome opportunity to proclaim the excellencies of Jesus Christ in Nicaragua!  This summer, I will be going to Nicaragua with a group of youth from Shandon Baptist Church from July 16 to July 23, 2011.  We will be involved in evangelism, construction, Vacation Bible Schools, and distribution of food and supplies in the Paradise and Marvin barrios outside of Managua, Nicaragua.  Last summer, I felt God’s call on my life to serve Him through missions.  This is an incredible opportunity to glorify Christ during my summer break and prepare for future missions as well.

First, I would like to ask that you would support me through prayer.  Please pray for me and my team as we prepare and as we travel.  Please pray that our attitudes and our words will be uplifting as we minister to believers and unbelievers in the barrios.  Please pray we have wisdom and discernment in all situations, especially when we face difficulties.

Second, I ask that you pray for the salvation of people we talk to, so that they may experience the hope and eternal life that we have found in Christ Jesus.  2 Peter 3:9b says, “He is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”  God wants to see each individual find love in Him and grow in His likeness. The gospel is the reason we are going to Nicaragua; please pray that hearts will be prepared for the good news.

Lastly, I would like to ask for your financial support as God leads you to give.  My trip’s total cost is $1,300.  Philippians 4:19 says, “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”  I am trusting in God that He will call many to give financially, making this trip possible.  This is an opportunity for you to partner with me in this ministry though your finances. 

In appreciation for your prayer and/or financial support, I will send a letter detailing our work and the fruit of our labor after the trip so that you may see how your support in this ministry was used for the glory of God.  Information on making donations is included on the back of this letter.

            For updates on preparation and prayer requests, check out my blog (https://emilythorn.wordpress.com).

Gracias!

[That is my support letter.  If you would like to partner with me in prayer or in finances, please e-mail me and let me know. (emilythornblog@hotmail.com)] 

I am so excited about my trip this summer!  I already have my passport; I received it in the mail a few days ago.  It signifies a step closer to Nicaragua.  I am so excited!  I don’t think I can say that enough!  I have an appointment with the travel clinic on May 6th where I will get my shots and malaria pills.  I’m not so excited about that, but I know it is neccessary to prevent diseases and sickness during my trip.

I really wasn’t expecting to go to Nicaragua this year.  I had my heart set on going to China with Global Expeditions for the month of July.  But my parents didn’t agree to that and they asked me to think about maybe saving money this year, getting a sumemr job, things like that.  And they weren’t keen about sending me to California and then to China with people that they didn’t know and had never met.  At first I was extremely disappointed, but it meant I wouldn’t be in China for the whole month of July.  See, our youth group goes to Nicaragua in July.  I had my heart set on China, and God closed that door.  But He left the door open for me to go to Nicaragua with people my parents know.  And I know this is preparation for my future in missions, even if it isn’t in China.  I am still so excited to share the gospel with others in Central America!  It will be a learning experience and give me a taste of international missions. I cannot express the excitement that I have for this trip and for the work that God will do in the hearts and lives of everyone involved!

I love you guys, and I’m praying for y’all!

Consumed by the Call,

Emily