The Silent Battle: When fear tries to destroy your pregnancy after a loss

I stood in the empty nursery, laughing at how it would never be this clean again. My huge belly made it hard to get much more done, but it was my last night of pregnancy and there was still much to do before my early-morning inducement. I glanced up at the wall above the changing table, which I’d decorated with a few prints and scriptures. One caught my eye. It read, “Joy comes in the morning.”

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After all I’d been through in the past year, it was a verse that held tremendous meaning for me.

As I looked at it, I heard the Lord say so clearly,

Yes, joy does come in the morning. And his name is Hudson.

A few moments later after just laying down for bed, my water broke and we headed to the hospital, beginning a season of more joy than I’d ever known. And yes, his name was Hudson.

20 months before this, I would have never believed I could feel joyful again. You see, after announcing our 6th pregnancy, telling our children and starting to show, we heard those awful words.

There is no heartbeat.

At 16 weeks gestation, I lay in a hospital room… the same type that had previously produced so many happy memories… and waited for my induced labor to begin. Friends and pastors filtered in and out of the room. People talked of politics, the weather, anything to distract from the horror that was about to commence. Labor pains started and so did the tears.

Neither the pain nor the tears really abated for many weeks… months.

With the death of my sweet baby boy came a season that I now recognize as grief mixed with postpartum depression. I became desperate to get pregnant again. Desperate to not end my child-bearing years with a miscarriage.

I immediately miscarried again.

A new wave of grief nearly knocked me out this time. Months went by. My usual fertility waned and for the first time in my life I rode the monthly rollercoaster that is “trying to get pregnant.”

I’ve written before about how God was near to me in that dark time, about all that He taught me. I won’t go into it here, except to say that around the first of 2015 I finally relented, finally ceased my striving and came to peace with not having any more children. I’m sure you can imagine what happened next.

I became pregnant with my sweet Hudson.

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I wish I could say that those next 9 months were full of rejoicing. No, just the opposite. I now experienced another first.

The fear of miscarriage.

I now know that this is incredibly common. And yet, it never had been for me. With every twinge and sensation, I rushed to the bathroom, so sure I would find evidence that it was beginning. This literally became a constant meditation of my mind… when would I miscarry? Where would I be when it happened? How would I survive it? And yet the days went on.

I traveled out of state to a pastor’s conference with a few other couples. The fear followed and took advantage of my extra mental space during the trip. During the worship session, I again was sure it was beginning and rushed to the restroom.

There the Lord met me. In the bathroom stall of a small church in rural Alabama. He spoke His Word to me:

Perfect love casts out fear.

I wanted to write down the reference so I searched the words on my phone and an image appeared which spoke to me so clearly. It said,

Fear knocked on the door. Love answered and no one was there.

This was my turning point. The day I decided that fear would no longer dominate my pregnancy. Every time I felt fearful, I spoke out loud, “perfect love casts out fear.” Sometimes I believed it and sometimes I spoke it through gritted teeth. Either way, the truth had its effect. Day by day my fear lessened a bit and hope began to creep in.

This declaration was not my only tool against fear. I also chose to be grateful, even though I didn’t know the end result. I began saying, “Thank you Lord for allowing me to spend this day with this child.” As time went on, I found myself thanking him for weeks instead of days, months instead of weeks. Oh, how this perspective changed my outlook.

As the pregnancy progressed, I noticed that I didn’t feel bonded with Hudson. Truthfully, that was a coping mechanism. If I didn’t bond with him, then it wouldn’t be as hard to lose him (or so my still grief-soaked heart reasoned). I asked the Lord, “How can I love someone that I have no guarantee of ever knowing? How can I love someone that I might lose?” And He so sweetly reminded me that He does exactly that every day. He loves people with no guarantee of a relationship with them. He loves people that He may lose. And yet He loves them just the same. Wow. I’ll never forget the way He taught me that truth.

I’d love to tell you that I eventually conquered my fear of losing Hudson. But that would not be true. As I lay in the delivery room awaiting each wave of contractions, it all felt too similar. The last time I was there, feeling those pains, I delivered a lifeless baby. What if today was the same?

But then he came.

Peacefully, easily, calmly, with a sweet cry and bright pink skin.

Completely alive in every way.

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I sobbed uncontrollably. The tears carried away the final remnants of my anxieties and my heart inflated with more joy than I had ever felt.

If God had only done this. If He had only given me a healthy child and nothing more, I would praise Him until the end of my days. But did you know that my God is one of abundance? One who does “exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think”? (Ephesians 3:20)

On top of a perfectly healthy child, He gave me the sweetest, most affectionate, most peaceful child I’ve ever known. From birth, Hudson has been a pure joy. He is truly like a salve to my scarred soul. His life has ministered to me like no one else.

 

The Lord has loved me through Hudson. That’s the only way I can explain it.

Recently this sweet babe turned 3. And again I say, “Thank you Lord for allowing me to spend 3 years, plus 9 months with this child.”


 

Are you struggling with fear during a pregnancy after a loss? I want you to know that you are not alone. Many women have walked the same path. It just isn’t one that’s easy to talk about. I hope my experience can help you in some way.

I would love to talk and pray with you if that is helpful. Feel free to reach out here or by email to shoeslur2@gmail.com.

Grant has a story to tell

I wrote this story in 2011 and each year on Grant’s birthday I try to post it again to remind you (and me!) of God’s faithfulness.

223132_10150227969075600_2996515_nNine months ago, Rick and I were perfectly content with our 4 kids.  We both felt “done” and were already giving away all the maternity and baby stuff.  Honestly, the thought of getting pregnant again made me literally ill.  I had NO desire to go through that again and certainly didn’t feel like I had any extra capacity for another pregnancy.  Around that time, God was working big time on both of us.  God had begun a true revival of Rick’s heart.  It was amazing to watch.  I was trying to keep up, tagging along, reading the same books.  We both became very convicted of WHO was in control of our lives… was it us or was it the Lord?  He was asking us both for full submission and surrender.  I heard him ask, Would you move for Me?   Would you let Rick quit his job if I asked him to? and then the BIG one, Would you have another baby if I wanted you to?  Oy.  It took some time, some real killing of my flesh and some tears, but in August I finally said, Yes, Lord to each of His questions.  And certainly the last one was the hardest.

On October 16th I found out that I was pregnant.  I’d like to say that I skipped around the house in joy, but that’s not what happened.  I wasn’t thrilled.  I was overcome with fear of dealing with a tough pregnancy while parenting these 4 kids.  I felt totally incapable.  But in the midst of those feelings, there was a deep assurance that I was in God’s will.  For surely this had not been my idea.  And when we’re in God’s will, we know He is with us and for us.  So I prayed a very specific prayer that night.  I asked God for three things…1) That I would not have headaches (with Anne Claire I had a 1-month long headache)… 2) That I would not be nauseous… 3) That I would not have my typical contractions beginning half-way through the pregnancy.

Now 7 months later I can testify that God answered ALL of those prayers completely.  NO headaches, NO nausea, NO early contractions.  This has truly been my easiest pregnancy!  I could go on and on about just this part of the story because it was so truly miraculous and personal.  But the best part is still to come…

Throughout this time God was still doing amazing things in Rick.  In 10 years of 206754_10150204109830600_48872_nmarriage, I have never seen him reading the Word or praying more.  And he began fasting consistently.  In January he went on a mission trip to Ecuador and saw God do mighty miracles, including healing the blind.  His faith was growing day by day.  When he came home, he told me that he was looking for the next step and asking God to stretch him (FYI husbands: You should ask your wives’ permission before praying a prayer like that!)  Neither of us knew that God was going to quickly take Rick up on his request.

In February we went to the doctor to find out the sex of the baby.  As I signed in, I was handed a bill for many thousands of dollars.  Long story short, our insurance had changed at the beginning of the year and we were now required to pay my entire doctor bill BEFORE we could go to another appointment.  Needless to say, we did not have that money on hand and had no idea where we would get it.  We were given until April 8th to pay the bill.

215397_10150227963145600_361931_nWe discussed the idea of finding a different doctor who’d let us go on a payment plan.  We also discussed applying for some kind of gov’t assistance.  But Rick felt that this was it – the stretching of our faith that he had been asking for.  He said that we should pray and believe God would provide.  I went along with his idea, though struggling to have the faith to move such a huge mountain.  So we prayed, we read the Word.  It was such a sweet time.  We even told the kids about it and began praying with them.  At night, Luke still asks to pray for baby money.  The week before April 8th we all fasted one thing per day… candy, sweets, TV, etc.  Then every night we prayed as a family.

But April 8th came and there was no magical money in the mailbox, no unexpected gifts.  Only our tax return which we needed for something else.  That morning when I left for the doctor, Evie said, Mom, don’t forget to call and tell us what God did.  Yikes…. The pressure was on.  I walked up to the counter and, sure enough, I was again handed a bill for many thousands of dollars.  I must have looked as terrible as I felt because they agreed to split the bill in half.  I handed over several cards and cobbled together the money, mostly from our tax return.  I texted Rick the bad news.  I couldn’t stand to hear his disappointed voice.

That was a hard day.  Not because of the money, but because we had to tell the kids.  Why had God not provided?  He would have received so much glory.  It would have been such a faith-builder for the kids.  We didn’t understand.

But Rick had an idea.  He sat us all down and read a story from Hudson Taylor’s biography about a time God provided, but not when Taylor had expected it.  He also had us recount all the ways God had already been faithful to our family (i.e. healing Rick’s dad of cancer, providing our home and his job).  We thanked God for all of those things.  I don’t know if I have ever been more proud of Rick.

So the second half of the money was due May 10th (this past Tuesday).  So again we prayed, but it was hard to muster up the same level of expectation.  It showed me that I have so far to go in my level of faith and perseverance in prayer.

But then it happened.  Out of the blue one Thursday afternoon, Rick checked the mail and there it was.  One sentence on my doctor’s letterhead.   

This letter is to make you aware that your account is paid in full for your OB Prepay…

We both looked at each other in astonishment.  How was our account paid in full?  We had only paid half.  Being the skeptic that I am, I immediately contacted both of our moms, but they both said they had NOT paid the bill.  We were baffled.  Again, being the skeptic that I am, I feared they had just made a clerical error.  I couldn’t be completely sure until I walked into the OB and talked to them face to face.

So Tuesday morning I packed that letter in my wallet and drove to the doctor.  I checked in and sheepishly said, Do I need to go over to the payment desk?  I heard the most beautiful words, Nope.  You’re good to go.  You can have a seat.  It was true.  The bill was paid in full!  We don’t owe them any more money!  Praise the Lord!!

199203_10150204111290600_3047896_nDo you know who paid that bill?  GOD paid it.  Not in the way we expected or even the way we prayed, but He did it.  And He gets all the glory.  Praise the Lord for his incredible goodness!  In March, Fran Busch gave us this scripture from Psalm 31:19-21 Oh how GREAT is Your goodness…which you have prepared for those who trust in You…Blessed be the Lord for He has shown me His marvelous kindness!  (I love the idea that God’s goodness was already prepared for us even before we had the need).

So this baby has only been alive for 33 weeks and look at all God has already done for 265124_10150300097680600_3943236_nhim and because of him.  Maybe now you see why we chose the name “Grant Fidelis” meaning “Great Faith!”   I can’t wait to tell Grant about what God did.  I am reminded of this verse that the Lord gave me at the very beginning of my pregnancy.

Psalm 22:30-31  Our children and their children will get in on this as the word is passed along from parent to child.  Babies not yet conceived will hear the good news – that God does what He says.

 

RSV :: Hudson’s Story

With 6 kids and a limited income, I’ve become an expert at researching my kids’ sicknesses and staying out of the doctor’s office whenever possible. Despite all the wonderful medical info online, I often find myself drawn to personal stories written by parents describing their experiences with their kids’ illnesses. Since we’ve experienced hospitalization with RSV, I thought it was my turn to write a story in hopes that it will be helpful to parents looking for answers.

Please note that I am a stay-at-home mom, not a medical professional. Please consult your doctor concerning your child’s illness.

 

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Meeting their baby brother

Hudson :: Background

Hudson is my 6th child. He was born much like the rest… fat and healthy at full-term via a vaginal birth. He came home from the hospital right away with no issues. Unfortunately he was born in December and straight into flu season.

How it began

At 3 weeks Hudson became very congested which caused very noisy breathing. I figured it was just a cold. But when his temp went above the infamous 101 mark, I took him to the ER in the wee hours of a Sunday morning. Of course by the time they took his temp, it was down in normal range. They took a urine sample and hooked him up to the oxygen and heartrate monitors. Being that it was 3am, he quickly fell asleep. With nothing else to do, I watched the monitor and noticed that the oxygen saturation would occasionally fall to 88, even 87 once. This would sound an alarm but no one would come in the room. As the number went up, the alarm went away. This happened again and again. Finally I googled “oxygen saturation” and learned that a reading of 87 is very dangerous. I mentioned this to the nurse when she checked on him, but she told me it’s normal for O2 sats (as I learned they are called) to drop that low when infants sleep (this was not correct). We were discharged a few hours later and basically told those dreaded words, “it’s just a virus.” I felt like they were treating me like an over-reacting mom. I wanted to scream… and probably should have… I have 6 kids and I know what I’m doing. Why in the world would I come here at 3am and pay gobs of money if I didn’t think it was serious?!

When I started to worry

A day or 2 went by and I noticed Hudson was very sleepy and not feeding well. He was also spitting up all the time, which is unusual for my babies. His noisy breathing was still there and so was his fever. I remember looking down at him in my arms that morning and thinking he just doesn’t seem well. I started messaging some nurse friends of mine with some questions. One of them stopped by and looked at him. “They didn’t check him for RSV in the ER?” she asked. She seemed amazed by this. I really started to worry.

How I figured it out

Hearing about RSV set me off on a flurry of googling. That night as Hudson lay in my bed breathing loudly, I read everything I could find about RSV. I found some great YouTube videos (like  this) that explained all the terms I was reading such as cyanosis and retractions.  They explained that RSV can cause bronchiolitis, among other things (this video was very helpful). That night I barely slept as Hudson quickly deteriorated. From my research I learned to count his respirations. They were definitely above the limit. Using the light from my phone I looked for the retractions I’d learned about and noticed his sides sucking in around his ribs as he breathed. And I felt so dumb as I remembered that earlier that day the skin around his mouth had seemed bluish… and I’d just thought it was a newborn thing. I now know that he had all the signs of RSV and was entering respiratory distress.

When they finally took us seriously

The next morning we went to our pediatrician. As soon as they put on the oxygen monitor we all saw the reading… 88. There was a flurry of activity. They tested him for RSV (it was positive.) They put him on oxygen and then gave him a breathing treatment. Within an hour’s time I was driving him to be admitted at the hospital.

The hospital stay

Hudson spent 5 days in the hospital with RSV-caused bronchiolitis. Although it sounds very serious (and it was), the stay was very uneventful. He received IV fluids for 24 hours due to dehydration from poor feeding. He received oxygen through a nasal canula and they slowly  weaned him off of it until he could keep his O2 levels at 97 and above for 4 hours. They also did deep nasal suctioning, which is just as violent as it sounds!  Basically they were just supporting him as his own body recovered from the virus.

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Right after the nasal canula was inserted

 

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After a long night he was taken off IV fluids and I started mine!

 

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Even though he was sick and drowsy, he still managed to fuss whenever it was my turn to eat 🙂

 

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After 5 days of staring at these numbers, a reading of 99 was a beautiful thing! This was the day we were discharged.

 

The good news

At discharge I was told that Hudson would very likely develop asthma and have frequent bouts of bronchitis and pneumonia. Although it took over 5 weeks to fully recover, he is now 14 months old and I’m happy to report that he has been mostly healthy. However, when he does develop a cold the doctor can hear some slight wheezing (I never can hear it.) After a few days of nebulizer treatments he is fine. We continue to monitor him closely and watch for signs of asthma, but I’ve been thrilled so far at his health!

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Hudson at his first birthday!

What I learned

I am my child’s BEST advocate and so are you. I often wonder what might have happened if I hadn’t done so much research on my own. I could have easily assumed that the ER doctors had done a thorough exam and left it at that. So my advice to you is to follow your mother/father instinct and advocate for your child. As a PA friend recently told me… the doctor only sees your child for a small window of time. You have been with your child 24/7. You know best what their symptoms are and what is and isn’t normal for them.  Don’t be embarrassed to go back to the doctor for the same issue. And be willing to get a second opinion if you’re not sure the first one was accurate or well-thought out. Doctors are just people who can miss things and make mistakes. You are the expert on your child.

I also purchased this pulse oximeter for use at home. Did I mention that I’m cheap and hate to go to the doctor? This has saved me many trips when I’ve just wanted to check his O2 levels.

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Having my own pulse oximeter has been so helpful!

If  you have any questions, feel free to comment below. Thanks for reading!

Why I’m a little tired of being called a super mom

I could never do what you do.

Better you than me.

I don’t have as much patience as you.

These are the top comments I hear from other moms when they hear that I have lots of kids or that I homeschool.  And I’m here to say that those 3 statements couldn’t be any further from the truth.

You can do what I do.

You would probably do it better than me.

You SURELY have as much patience as me.

BThere is a myth that large-family and/or homeschooling moms are somehow a cut above the rest.  That only a select few can succeed at such a feat and the rest of moms shouldn’t even try.  As my tween daughter would say, that’s “riDONCulous.”

Just like a runner finishes a marathon or an accountant finishes an audit or a nurse graduates from school, any mom can raise lots of kids or homeschool.  And just like running, business and college, it’s not easy or for the faint of heart. Dare I say it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done?  But it should be hard.  Molding little tyrannical toddlers into responsible adults is no small job.  But it’s doable.  And worthy of being done.

So why shouldn’t you do it?  Why shouldn’t you be the one to raise a bunch of beautiful babies who go out and change the world?  Why shouldn’t you be the one to teach those minds of mush what they need to know?  Why not you?

But I must confess that I do have one secret weapon.  And I’m guessing many moms in my situation would agree.

I have Someone who steps in and takes over when I am spent, done, gone, about to run away.  He made me a promise a long time ago that when I am weak, He would be strong on my behalf.  I’ve taken Him at His word and found him to be completely trustworthy.

You have access to this same secret weapon.  His name is the Lord of Hosts. God Almighty.  He is the source of patience.  The source of order.  The source of organization.  The source of love.

How many times have I cried out to him (usually by about 8:00am,) okay Lord, I’m all out of patience!  I need to draw on yours now.  And He delivers.  Every.single.time.

So, yes, mom… you can do it.  Because He has all that you need.  He loves those babies even more than you do, if you can imagine it.  He spent 9 months crafting them in perfection in your womb, just the place He chose for them to begin.  And He has big plans for those mini monsters.  Plans for them to learn, to influence and to thrive.  Surely He will give you all you need to partner with Him in this incredible role of Mom.

Time with God:: How I manage to stay connected in the midst of kids & chaos

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Because if I go read my Bible in my room for 30 minutes, the 2yr old will find the chocolate cake batter!

I was 19 and away at college.  I would wander out of my red brick dorm and across the street to the breezy outdoor amphitheater, complete with white columns among a pristine lawn.  There I would sit with my warm coffee, full journal and frequently-read Bible, praying and reading and writing complete sentences.  THIS is what a “quiet time” with the Lord is supposed to be… or so I thought for many, many years after.  But I found it impossible to recreate that sublime moment as my blessed life brought me a house to care for and babies to puke on its floors.  On those few days when I could actually FIND my Bible, I spent the entire time re-reading the same chapter five times because each verse had been interrupted with butt-wiping or fight-settling or snack-providing.  And at the end of my so-called quiet time, I felt more stressed than when I had begun and more prone to giving up on the whole idea.  And maybe I would have if it hadn’t been for the GUILT. See, I was a youth leader. I was a small-group leader.  I SHOULD BE HAVING PEACEFUL, ANOINTED, INSPIRED TIMES WITH GOD EVERY DAY. But I wasn’t. I was fighting to read a chapter that I wasn’t even comprehending.

Maybe you’ve been there. Maybe you are there. Well, girlfriend, I am 12 years and 5 kids into this parenting adventure and I have some advice for you.

Give up on having a daily quiet time.

At least that white column, hot coffee type.  Girl, you are in a new season and you need a new strategy.  I feel like I’ve finally found it and MAN is it liberating!  Now, slow down.  I didn’t say to give up on connecting with the Lord.  That is more necessary now than ever!!  I mean, what did I even have to pray about in college?  Which elective to pick?  What to wear on my date?  Oy.  NOW is when we need to cry out, ask for wisdom and draw on His strength.  But not in the same way. New season.  New strategy.

So how do we do it?  Here’s what’s been working for me.

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A dear friend gave me this and I’ve had it by my sink ever since. Such a great reminder!

Put Bible verses up in my house

No, you don’t need the help of Pinterest or a trip to Hobby Lobby.  (unless you want to go to Hobby Lobby, then by all means use this as your excuse)

Just grab some computer paper and your Bible and write down a few verses that encourage you.  Tape those things around your house. No tape?  Band-aids work great! I put mine by my kitchen sink, washing machine and fridge.  Which means I’m guaranteed to read those verses about 100 times a day!

Listen to worship music

Whether you use Pandora, Spotify, or YouTube, make yourself a good playlist.  And if you’re not tech savvy or want to cry at the thought of anyone having enough free time to make a playlist, just go to YouTube and search “worship playlist.”  Hit play.  Done.  Do this while you wash dishes, make dinner, fold laundry, nurse the baby, whatever.

Listen to quality Christian teachers

During the day, put on a video of a good Christian teacher.  Some of my favorites are Beth Moore, Francis Chan, and Matt Chandler.  Even if you only catch bits and pieces as you walk in and out of the room (what is this “sitting down” thing that people speak of?), that’s fine.  And it’s great for your kids to hear too!

Follow Christian people & organizations on social media

Let’s face it.  What you see while you scroll through Facebook / Instagram / Twitter really does affect your perspective. Next time you’re sitting in a car line  or sitting at the 22nd pediatrician visit this month, go through your social media and delete all the trash, all the new age nonsense, all the gossips, etc.  Then start following some people or organizations that post truth. Some of my favorites are GraceLaced, Lysa TerKeurst, Franklin Graham, Reinhard Bonnke, and Dr. Henry Cloud.

Read the Bible and pray with your kids

Did I lose you?  Has your mom guilt already overcome you?  Wait, hear me out.  This is what it looks like at my house.

Me: “Kids!!!  Grab your Bibles and come sit down.”

{10 minutes of searching for Bibles, me included}

Me: “Let’s read [whatever pops in my head / a story that’s been on my mind / something my church has been teaching / today’s Proverb]”

Big kids take turns reading the verses.

By now your littles may be coloring on your walls or sitting on your head (I wish I was making that up).  So you might be done for the day.  But maybe, just maybe, the Holy Spirit’s sweet peace has descended on that room (try it, it happens!) and maybe there’s time for a few questions.  Ask the kids what they thought.  Explain the verses to them.  Make some sort of practical application.  Now take turns praying.

{10 minutes later… after THAT child has prayed for every known creature and situation in the entire universe}

You’re done.  You did it!  No one died!  And guess what?  You learned something too.  There is NO better way to learn something than to teach it.  Trust me.  I’ve just figured out compound interest, thanks to homeschooling!

Talk to your kids about God during the day

Isn’t the sky gorgeous?  God painted that!  He paints a new one every day!

Why do you think God made a caterpillar to turn into a butterfly?

Did you know that God made this tangly hair?  Let’s brush it and see if we can count it.  Did you know He knows the exact number?

I’m sorry your tummy hurts.  Let’s ask God to heal it.

That was very naughty.  God says that children should obey their parents… and he promises long life if you do!

I promise you that these types of comments will do so much to direct their AND YOUR hearts toward the Lord.

Pray all day long

Who said prayer had to be a 30-minute event that happens in a closet?  Here’s what my prayer life looks like these days.

Lord, thank you that my children like to greet the rising sun, so that I can see your sunrise… and forgive me for maybe not meaning that.

Lord, help me make breakfast for 5 kids with 2 bananas and 3 bagels.

Lord, forgive me for yelling at the kids and lecturing them about how starving kids in Africa would die for a breakfast made from 2 bananas and 3 bagels.”

Lord, our attempt at a family devotional was a disaster.  Help me to do that better next time.  Give me a better strategy.

Lord thank you that I get to stay home with these kids, an answer to prayer from a long time ago.

Lord thank you that we have the money to pay for these clothes and this washing machine that I get to spend so much time with.

Lord, it’s 3pm and I don’t think I’m going to make it through this day without hurting someone.  Please be my strength.  You say that You are strong in my weakness.

Lord, I just heard about someone who is sick / hurting / lonely / poor.  Please be with them and thank you for giving me a new perspective on my wonderful life.  Help me to stay grateful.

Lord, we made it through another day.  Those sweet babies are the world to me.  What a privilege it is to raise them, even though I am currently wearing more than one of their bodily fluids.

So there you have it.  My uber-spiritual prayer life.  Now, is there time for true intercession, true undivided time with God? Of course!  It’s tough to manage, but it is necessary.  But I think in this season, God is okay with our one-liners.  You see, He already knows the cries of your heart.  It is our choice to cry TO HIM that is so pleasing to Him.

So be at peace sweet mama.  Make some intentional efforts to weave your connections with God into your day.  And then relax.  He is with you.  Look to Him for all you need and cut yourself some slack.

Look up

I’m a helpless news junkie.  The kind that knows exactly what time BBC America comes on.  And what time it’s replayed in case I miss it.  NPR and talk radio round out the top 3 pre-sets in my car.  My Twitter feed looks like it belongs to a White House pool reporter.  While this obsession interest provides for some great mommy brain stimulation, it can also be incredibly depressing. Because the news is awful.  Horrible.  Vile.  Perverse.  And that’s just my local 11pm newscast.  As you move from there to the national and international stage, the news becomes overwhelmingly dark, almost too much to wrap your mind around.  Sex trafficking?  Hostages burned alive?  Children tagged and sold in open markets simply for being Christians?  Tens of millions of babies aborted on our street corners?  Child pornography flowing like water across our airwaves?  It’s simply more than I can bear sometimes.

What do we do with this evil?  Some of you may choose to look the other way.  Some of you may choose to join it.  Some of you may look down in shame that you do nothing.  But I have found that the only place to look is up.  The only answer to the horror that surrounds us is God the Father.  The God of the Bible.  The God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob.  You see, the presence of this awful depravity is proof of God’s existence.  How can there be dark without light?  How can there be evil without good as its counterpart?  How can there be lies without truth?  God stands alone as the perfect specimen, the ideal form, the classic exemplar.  When men and women reject Him, turn from Him, walk in their own way, they do so at their own peril.  Because walking away from the Light must be equivalent to walking toward the darkness.

Friends, we were not created to live in darkness.  We were fashioned perfectly to walk with Him in the garden [of Eden] in the cool of the day (Gen. 3:8) but instead, God found us hiding in shame.  Why?  Because we chose against Him.  We chose the forbidden fruit.  Darkness instead of light.  Self-gratification instead of obedience.  And so, we left Him no choice.  As a holy, righteous and pure God, He could not abide with rebellion.  Like a bright light suddenly casts off all the darkness, so Adam and Eve had to be cast from His presence.  How it must have grieved the Creator to be separated from His creation.  In fact his grief was so great that then and there He set a plan into motion to rescue those lost and wayward children from their own depravity.  He signified this by the first ever shedding of blood.

The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.  (Gen. 3:21)

Adam and Eve could have never known the significance of this act.  But God knew.  He knew that several thousands years later, after seeing His people suffer from the consequences of sin and rebellion, He would put an end to it once and for all. An end to the rituals of blood sacrifice.  An end to the rigorous requirements of Jewish law.  And ultimately an end to the evil that had entered the world with the bite of an apple.

Look up He chose for Himself one last sacrifice.  But this couldn’t be an animal.  No, even the most pure and spotless lamb wouldn’t do.  The only sacrifice that His righteous nature could abide was that of a perfect human.  And so God looked around, found none who was righteous, and chose from His own family.  His Son, Jesus.  We know the story of Christmas, of the carpenter and of the miracles.  But that was all just the preamble to His ultimate purpose.  On that fateful Good Friday, Jesus accepted His role as our scapegoat.  He opened His arms and embraced every vile, disgusting, depraved act or thought we have ever or will ever commit.  This blanket of filth enveloped Him and it killed Him.  Our precious Lord lay dead on a tree.  But, my friends, the story is incomplete.  Though his body lay in a borrowed tomb for three days, His spirit descended to the depths of evil itself, depositing our awful deeds in the fiery pit where they belonged.  Then Sunday morning came.  His limp body inflated with life and He walked out of that tomb, free from stench of sin and rebellion.

This act both reviled and pleased the Father immensely.  Imagine watching your only child tortured and killed, yet knowing this martyrdom would be the salvation of all that you love.

So is that it?  No, because my nightly news is still full of the horrors of sin.  You see, God has done His part.  His Son fixed the problem with His death on the cross.  We are no longer banished from the garden.  We are no longer sentenced to death for our rebellion.  God has offered us a robe of righteousness, meaning that any of us can accept the blood sacrifice of Jesus that washes away all of our sin.  Any of us can stand in the presence of a Holy God and be loved, accepted and welcomed.  We can turn from the darkness and walk in the light.  But the choice is ours.  He does not force it upon us.

Where are you walking today?  Is your heart heavy with guilt, shame, lust and anger?  Do you feel as if all around is dark, Look upthe way is unclear and the night is closing in?  My friend, this doesn’t have to be your life.  Look up.  Ask the Lord to wash your heart clean of all that is unholy.  Receive his forgiveness and the sacrifice of His Son.  And take His hand as He brings you into the light.

The evil that we see does not get the final say.  There is One who stands watching, waiting, pleading for a dying world to simply look up.

Birthday gifts:: How I managed to cut back on what we spend

carrieschuessler.wordpress.comIf your kids are at least preschool age, you know the reality of the birthday party scene.  For the next many years, you will spend a fair amount of Saturdays sitting next to a bouncy castle, eating carrot sticks Olaf noses and making small talk to people you’ve just met.  And all these parties will require a trip to the store where you’ll try to guess which princess or super hero the birthday kid is into, gawk at how much toys cost, then realize you need to spend $8 more on a card, bag and tissue paper.  Geez, did I really just spend $30 on a present for a child we barely know?

Disclaimer: This is not a post about being stingy.  I love generosity.  And God does too.  It’s His thing for sure.  This is a post about balance and perspective.

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Forget the glitzy gifts. What kids really want on their birthday is to feel special.

Take a moment and try to add up how much you’ve spent in the last 4 months on scenarios like I described above.  Yikes. Probably more than we’d all like to admit.  Let’s say you went to 8 birthday parties and spent $30 on each one.  That’s $240. (Thanks to homeschooling, my math skillz are impressive).  So, is it fair for me to tell my daughter I can’t afford dance lessons this spring, but I can spend $240 on kids in her preschool class?  Now, maybe you’re in a great financial place and you don’t have to make those kinds of trade-offs.  That’s great.  But I’m guessing I’m not the only mom on a tight budget.

So how do we cut back?  After all, birthday parties are major social events for the preschool and elementary school crowd.  My kids count down the days, sometimes hours until they happen.  Well, here’s a few ideas:

1. We don’t go to every party.  It’s okay to pick and choose.  Go to all your besties’ parties, but maybe not to all the school ones or the football team ones or the I-think-we-met-at-the-library-once ones.

2. Start a “Gift Box.”  In my house, this is a cardboard box in my laundry room.  When I find things on clearance, I buy them and throw them in there.  Hit up the end-of-summer clearance at Target.  Grab some water guns, bathing suits, bubbles and beach toys.  Put them in your gift box and then pull them out for next year’s summer birthdays.  Instead of spending $20 on a full-price water gun, you can spend $10 and give them a water gun and a fun bathing suit.  Keep the gift box stocked all year and you’ll save a ton.

3. Think outside the toy box.  (See what I did there?)  Instead of the toy aisle, head for the craft or grocery store.  Do they love to draw?  Grab a sketchbook and good pencils with your Joann’s coupons.  Do they like to cook?  Buy them their own apron, measuring cups and cookbook at Ross.  No, these might not get the oohs and ahhs at the party, but they may get the most enjoyment later on.

4. Buy wrapping supplies on clearance.  Just a few days ago I scored a bunch of solid red wrapping paper at Ikea for $0.50 a roll.  It’s from Christmas, but who cares?  It’s solid red.  Add some bakers twine and I’ve got myself some Pinterest-worthy gift wrap.  Also, the dollar store sells brown kraft paper for $1 a roll.  Leave it plain or let your kids jazz it up with some markers.  Keep an eye out for bags and white tissue paper on clearance and stock up.  Oh, and don’t forget to save the bags you get from parties, if they are in good shape.

4. Skip the card.  I just saved you $4.  You’re welcome.  Grab some construction  or computer paper, stickers, whatever.  Sit your kid down and have them draw or write something.  Honestly, I adore these kinds of cards and they are usually the only ones we keep around here.

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My daughter received this journal about 4 birthdays ago and she still uses it! It wasn’t a toy, but it was still a wonderful gift.

5. Stop caring what other parents think of you.  Seriously, I could write an entire series on this.  Your identity is in Christ, not in the fact that your gift got the most squeals from the kid (or the parents.)  Oh, how much better life would be if we all (me included!) would live this out.

Now, there is a time that I gladly break all these rules.  When I buy gifts for family.  Nothing out of the gift box.  We go to the store, grab just that perfect gift and wrapping paper.  We might even buy the musical $6 card.  But that’s only a few times a year and I always look forward to it.

Last thing.  Can your kids remember who got them what and how it was wrapped from their last birthday?  Probably not. Do you know what kids want?  To feel special on their birthday. So skip the glityz gifts and wrapping and instead show that birthday kid that they are the most special one in the whole world, even if you’ve only met them twice at karate.

How do you manage the birthday scene?  Comment below and let me hear your ideas!