Fearfully + Wonderfully

Dear Baby,

Last night, while I was lying in bed, I realized that something was different. I had pretty bad heartburn as usual, and a somewhat uneasy tummy. Your dad had fallen asleep several minutes earlier, leaving you and I alone in the dark. I closed my eyes and tried to imagine what life is like for you in my womb. It must be pretty dark in there, and I don’t think you can even hear us yet. It sounded kind of boring.

I patted the lower half of my belly to reassure you that one day life will be more exciting, when I felt something different. I pressed down a little harder and then started laughing and crying, because that’s what I do these days. I realized that I could feel the little round bubble you call home. Sometime in the last few weeks, the beginning of a real baby bump had grown without me ever noticing.

I was happy to be able to feel that small balloon-like place you live in. It was very strange and kind of funny to see how you’re already changing things around. My body belongs to both of us now, but that’s okay with me. I just hope you’re happy in there. I may change my mind in a few months, but for now I’m fine with you taking all the extra space you need. If my uterus expanding is what it takes to get you, I’m more than happy to deal with it.

I have to wonder what you do in there all day. Do you swim around like a little goldfish in a bowl or do you just take naps and relax? Can you feel how much your dad and I already love you? Do you talk with God a lot, while He’s busy putting you together, exactly the way you’re meant to be? I would imagine that’s probably how you spend your days. That lets me know that you’re happy in there. You already know the source of all love and you know that He loves you. You must realize how tiny my love is in comparison, but I hope you know it’s the most I have to give.


13 For you formed my inward parts;
    you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
    the days that were formed for me,
    when as yet there was none of them.

-Psalm 139:13-16


I spend a lot of time imagining what you’ll look like too, because I honestly have no idea. You could have dark hair like me, or blonde like your dad when he was little. Or from looking at your daddy’s beard, you could end up with red hair for all I know. You might have light blue eyes or they could be dark brown. You could have pale snow-baby skin or be sun-kissed from your very first day. All I’m certain of is that you’ll be the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.

I’ll definitely be crying the first time you see me, so I’ll go ahead and apologize for that now. They will be happy tears though, the happiest tears I’ve ever felt. I try to imagine that moment a lot too, the first time we officially meet. It almost makes me nervous thinking about you seeing me for the first time. I hope you’ll be glad that I’m your mama. I picture Dr. Rogers holding you while you cry for the first time, and then passing you quickly over to me. Your dad will be standing next to me, smiling and maybe a little teary eyed.

I try to picture what holding your tiny hands might feel like. I wonder if my heart will be able to stand the first time your eyes look into mine. My baby, my very own little baby. I might never put you down. It’s hard for me to imagine past that moment though, without knowing if you’re a boy or a girl yet. There are just way too many scenarios for me to go through them all. We should find out, three weeks from today, if you’re our little man or our sweet girl. We just can’t stand to wait any longer.

I can’t wait to give you a name. To have something unique and special to call you. I wish I could ask you what you want to be called, that might make it a little easier to choose. I just want you to know that I’m thinking about you, and that I finally noticed your little home. Now I know exactly where you are, and your daddy will have a more specific place to sing to the next time he writes you a song. I hope you can hear him talk to you and that it makes your heart as happy as it makes mine. You are so, so loved my little one. I can’t wait to meet you.

Love,

your mama

Contentment + Culture

10710747_10152451801272896_2122558450221679951_nSometimes I wonder what life would look like if everyone focused more on the things that really matter. If we, as Christians, focused more on giving love instead of gaining “likes.” If we worried less about appearances and more about the condition of our hearts. Life would undoubtedly be much more satisfying.

It’s a struggle in our culture to keep sight of what’s actually important. We’re constantly being bombarded with advertisements and celebrities and news media and social platforms all telling us how to act, how to look, and what to think. The apostle Paul actually had a lot to say on this subject.

Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it.

Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. (Romans 12:2 /MSG)

It’s about asking the question, are you just following everyone else without stopping to think about it first? In my opinion, there’s nothing inherently wrong with wearing skinny jeans and thick rimmed glasses, as long as it’s not the most important thing in your life.

Instead of basing my self-worth on the cost of my shoes, or searching for acceptance through the favorites on my tweets, I know that my true value comes from God. When you start seeking Him instead of serving culture, you’ll find contentment.

 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes.  Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. (1 Peter 3:3-4 / NIV)

In an effort to grow my “gentle and quiet spirit,” I’ve begun to pray more, worship more, serve more, and love more. I’m seeing myself grow into a kinder, more patient and caring person. I’m free to build other women up, without feeling the need to compete with them. I can see how God is growing this new sense of maturity in me.

Taking a step back from the flurry of culture, and spending time alone with Him helps keep my mind at peace. There’s such incredible self-worth that comes from walking in His will, and furthering His plan for my life.

Knowing that God loves me exactly as I am, in this moment, is enough. I’m set free from working toward culture’s idea of happiness, and overwhelmed by His unending love.

Worship + Worry

Sunday mornings are usually pretty busy at our house. Although we don’t have children to chase down and dress, my husband and I somehow find our own ways to make things hectic. I’m the type of person who’s always late for everything. No matter how hard I try, I’m usually  a few minutes behind, or getting there just on time. Daniel, on the other hand, is a highly punctual person who prefers to arrive anywhere ten minutes early. This causes friction, but we’re working on it.

As we pull into the church parking lot with a handful of minutes left to spare, I can usually feel the weight of the past week on my shoulders. All the tiny little stresses of day-to-day life float around me like snowflakes, each one piling onto the next, and before I know it, I’m buried underneath six feet of it.

I could never fully understand how much of an anxious, stress-filled person I am until after Daniel and I moved in together. When we were dating, we were together almost all day every day, but you’d be surprised how much you can hide in those few hours apart. All of my worrying I did when I was alone. In the morning while I was getting ready, in the car on my way to school, at night when I was lying in bed trying to sleep, all the worries and stresses and self-doubt crept in to make their home inside my head.

When you’re married and living together, you do still have a little time to yourself, but not much. Suddenly, there was this extra person invading my worry-time and he wouldn’t leave me alone.”Why are you always so sad,” he would ask. “I’m not sad, I’m just thinking,” I would answer. “You seem sad while you’re thinking. What are you stressed about?” The conversation would continue and I would get frustrated thinking “Just leave me alone, let me feel bad in peace.” Because in my mind, if I wasn’t worried about something, I didn’t care about it enough. If I didn’t feel stressed about it, then I had overlooked something. This was the kind of person I was used to being, so why would I need to change? After a few months of struggle, I realized that my worry was hurting Daniel.

The funny thing about most husbands is that what makes them happiest is making their wives happy. Daniel wasn’t happy because he felt I was never happy. He viewed this as a failure on his part. It took a while for us to get on the same page about this, because to me, nothing was wrong. Everyone in my social circle thought I was a very friendly person, always talkative and personable and funny and a lot like that girl Daniel knew when we were dating. No one had ever pointed out this problem to me before because no one else had ever seen it.

The more I actually thought about it, the more sense it began to make. I can’t say that since then I’ve completely fixed the issue. I still catch myself over thinking things and stressing out over ideas of scenarios that may or may not ever actually happen. But I’m working on it every day, and Daniel helps too. More than anything I think he just wants to know that I trust him to lead our little family of two. He’s the best kind of husband and I’m so lucky to have him as my partner. However, regardless of what he says, he can’t bear the weight of my struggles added to his own and he shouldn’t have to.

“Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”

1 Peter 5:7 is one of the most popular Bible verses, and for good reason. It’s something I try to remind myself of daily. Not only did the creator of the universe give me an incredible, loving husband to care for me, but HE Himself cares for me too. God wants to know all of my worries and fears and struggles. He wants me to tell Him everything I’m afraid of and everything that stresses me out. He wants to take away my insecurity and show me how special I truly am. He wants me to give Him all of these things to carry so that I don’t have to. He loves me. God loves me.

The Creator of the Universe loves me.

“I’m wide awake, drawing close, stirred by grace, and all my heart is Yours. All fear removed, I breathe You in, I lean into Your love, oh Your love.” – Sinking Deep : Hillsong Young & Free

Sunday morning, when the last worship song ends and I’m standing there, hands raised, talking to my Father, I can actually feel the weight lifting off of me. This is the part of being a Christian I find hardest to put into words. It’s that indefinable connection between your soul and its maker.

Of course you can give Him your troubles at any time, it’s just that for me during worship is when I feel the freest to do so. It’s when I can most easily let go of things. 

So I close my eyes and feel His love and I know there’s nothing left to worry about anymore.

 

Marriage + C. S. Lewis

Just the word “marriage” conjures up all kinds of emotions, doesn’t it?

I bet right now, you’re thinking about your parents or maybe your grandparents or maybe yourself. You picture what it would look like to be partnered with your significant other for the rest of your life. Maybe you’re imagining yourself with a future spouse you haven’t even met yet.

Or, you could just have easily gone straight to thinking about divorce. Whether it was you going through divorce yourself, or you watching it happen to your parents, you know how hard it is. It’s the kind of thing most people would do anything to avoid.

“They [different church denominations] all regard divorce as something like cutting up a living body, as a kind of surgical operation. Some of them think the operation so violent that it cannot be done at all; others admit it as a desperate remedy in extreme cases…What they all disagree with is the modern view that it is a simple readjustment of partners, to be made whenever people feel they are no longer in love with one another, or when either of them falls in love with someone else.” – C. S. Lewis

The first time I read that quote was about four months ago. I had picked up a copy of Mere Christianity at Barnes & Noble and it changed the way I looked at my life and my marriage.

There’s a link at the top of the blog to the story of how Daniel and I first met. It’s a little silly and a lot sweet and I enjoy telling people about it. We’ve been married now for just over two years. Across that span of time we’ve grown together, pruning our relationship by trimming away the harmful, old things and making way for the good and new. I honestly feel that when we’re apart from one another, I’m missing a piece of myself. It’s a bit like having one arm tied behind my back, I just don’t function as well.

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Needless to say, things aren’t always so perfect. Some people assume that because we’re young, and we haven’t been together for decades, that we have it easy. That we’re still in the “honeymoon phase.” These people are more than a little bit wrong, and you know what they say about assuming things.

Even though we’re not always happy, it doesn’t mean we’ve made a mistake. If you ever find that you and your spouse are in the same boat, don’t fret. After our first big, married fight I kind of fell off the deep end. I wondered if we’d made a terrible mistake, if we should have waited longer to get married, or if we were ever going to be happy again. Just hours later, everything was back to normal, if not even better. We kissed, we made up, we moved on.

“Love as distinct from ‘being in love’ is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by (in Christian marriages) the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God. They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other.” – C. S. Lewis

As I read further into Mere Christianity I began to feel a little uncomfortable. Was he really trying to tell me that I wouldn’t always be in love with my husband? This worried me. But the longer I thought about it, the more I understood what he was getting at. Being “in love” with someone is different than Love itself. Being “in love” is just a feeling but real, true, committed, marital Love is a choice and that makes it all the more beautiful.

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“‘Being in love’ first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.” – C. S. Lewis

I love you, Daniel. I’ll always choose you.

Jesus + Childhood

“J-E-S-U-S, no one’s bigger from the east to the west, higher than the highest, better than the best…”

When I was a little kid my Meme (grandmother) bought me this little red cassette tape that was just full of silly little christian songs for kids. And of course I thought it was awesome. I jammed out to that thing in my playroom probably every day. Thanks to that, whenever I spell out my Savior’s name I sing that song in my head. It would probably be better if you could actually hear the song but I literally have no idea how to find that.

I felt like my path to Christianity deserved an introductory post of it’s own, because that’s probably what I’ll be talking about most of the time here. It also made sense to start it out by talking about my Meme, because when I think about Jesus I think about her.

Instead of going to daycare after school, I went to my Meme and Pop’s house. So they basically half-raised me. I spent most of my childhood reading any book I could get my hands on, watching tons of Barney episodes, and repeatedly reenacting scenes from the Bible using various stuffed animals with Meme.

I remember one day in particular we were acting out a story involving King Solomon. To paraphrase, two women lived together and both had babies. One woman’s baby died during the night, so she swapped her baby with the living one. The next morning they went to Solomon arguing over who would get to keep the baby. Solomon bluffed, saying he would use a sword to split the child between the two women. Then the true mother said “NO, she’s his mother, please don’t kill him!” Which showed Solomon that she was the baby’s mother and we can presume she got to keep him.

Obviously this seems like a pretty brutal story for a grandmother to act out with her six-year-old grandaughter and a white fluffy teddy bear, but that’s just how we did things in my family. And it’s one of my fondest memories, followed closely by acting out the story of baby Moses which is arguably more age-appropriate.

All of this is to say that I learned A LOT about the Bible from Meme. She was and is a wonderful teacher, and an even better grandmother. I don’t call her as much as I should, but I’m trying to work on that.

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During that young season of my life, my parents were still married and they took my younger brother and I to church every sunday, followed by the most delicious, classically southern lunch at Meme’s house. My parents were both active members of our church community and as far as I was concerned, everything was perfect. This was probably the happiest time of my life.

A few years down the road, right before my 12th birthday, my parents separated. A few months later, they were officially divorced. This was probably the saddest time of my life. A lot of things changed for me following their divorce. Already, those early teen years are important ones, but the divorce just heightened the difficulty. When I look back on that time it’s hard to remember anything in particular. It’s just one gigantic dark cloud of sadness and confusion.

My parents quit going to church after the divorce, and I was left alone to stumble blindly along my path to true faith. Somehow I never really questioned the existence of God, and I think it’s because he always made his presence so known to me. It was religion that I was struggled with.

I grew up going to a Church of Christ. As a child, I had no questions or comments on the way we did things there, it was all I knew. But later, during my high school years, I visited a lot of different denominations. I even went to a greek orthodox church a few times. Through this, I gained a much broader perspective on how things could, and should, be done. Since then I’ve found that I have several questions and comments on the Church of Christ, but it will always and forever hold a special place in my heart. It’s where my faith was firmly and deeply rooted and I will forever be thankful for that.

Eventually I came to realize that what Jesus really wants more than anything is a relationship with me, not a religious experience. I currently attend a Church of God that seems non-denominational but isn’t. I’ve found my home and I feel overwhelmingly blessed for that.  There’s not a single doubt in my mind that God has led me every step of the way. From that tiny little kid sing-yelling with her red cassette tape to this woman (it never feels right calling myself a woman, I’m a girl) who’s striving to find her place and be as Christ-like as possible along the way.

Mainly I just want you guys to feel like you know me. I don’t want anyone to ever think I’ve got it all together or that I’m the “perfect Christian” (if there’s ever been a bigger oxymoron I haven’t heard it) because I can promise you I’ll never be either of those things. I’m just a little lost person trying to be the best version of myself I can be, and for me, that means following Jesus.

Now, I should probably go call Meme.