Walking through the Valley of Tears

“Nothing comes to you that doesn’t pass through God’s providential fingers first.” – Tony Evans

Oftentimes I post a blog after I’ve come through a valley and found myself on the other side. I can share my experience and hope because I’ve found comfort in the outcome or the resolution of a pain. However, I realized it may be beneficial to offer honesty in the midst of a tragic and deeply sorrowful season so others know they aren’t alone.

Can you relate? What happens when life hits and all you can think is, “it’s not supposed to be this way?” How can situations be reconciled when you’ve prayed so hard, fought relentlessly and tragedy still occurs? Waking up each morning with the gut wrenching alarm clock that life is forever changed…it isn’t merely a dream…this is a sickening awareness.

Sorrow is a deep experience encompassing the soul, overwhelming the heart and emotions. It is a process that can be devastating physically, mentally and spiritually. When tragedy happens through death, betrayal and losses of other types it can be paralyzing. Although time does not stand still, I sometimes wish it would so I could regain a sense of grounding. Each day is a battle, a conscious one, to face life one day at a time in the midst of a new reality. A new reality I didn’t choose. One that effects so many. One that was never supposed to happen but it did anyway. Where is God’s providence in that?

“Providence acknowledges that ultimately God is in control, and that His method of being in control often involves twists, turns and meanderings.” -Tony Evans

So how do we fight this battle with courage, hope and dignity? How can I maintain a patient enduring trust without an end destination in sight? Here is where I am landing. We fight, we fight relentlessly with His Word as our sword. I honestly take my pain, anger, hurt, frustration, confusion, fear and selfishness to His throne. I lay it down there multiple times throughout the day and ask for His wisdom to see the situation through His eyes. I seek Him through His Word and have found much comfort in Psalms. I repeat scripture back to Him. I cling to His promises even when my emotions don’t line up and trust they will…..eventually. His word penetrates and pierces down to the joints and marrow, it judges the thoughts and attitudes of my heart and WILL straighten out what is broken within.

“…God will often allow things in our own lives to go south, or remain unchanged in order to bring us to a place where His sovereignty is on display. Whether it is our own hearts or someone else’s, rebellion against God breeds further rebellion as the Lord uses those times and situations to demonstrate His sovereign hand.” – Tony Evans

When I’m hurt my tendency is to find someone or something to blame. Although this is only natural, we are not called to live a life of the natural but of the Spirit. The enemy is the enemy and we live in a broken, lost and confused world. He comes to steal, kill and destroy so when these fiery trials happen, why do we act surprised? It is in these moments that I must fight everything within me and choose to submit and clothe myself with the most unnatural clothing, that not of my flesh but of His Spirit. Why? Because bitterness and anger will only destroy me and many others around me. This is what I must set myself against, not another person but the self-will & humanity of my flesh. I’m called to be different and shine a light regardless of the darkness threatening to settle.

“Because when you know that God is in control – even of those things that appear to be out of control – you are able to move through life benefiting from the blessings of assurance, peace and self-control. When you truly understand that He is in your corner – our greatest defender and vindicator – you will no longer seek to rescue yourself.” – Tony Evans

The Valley of Baka, or Valley of Tears, is referenced in Psalm 84. I was led to this passage in Beth Moore’s The Quest just this morning. It is proving to be a balm to my wound and is pulling me out of the hole I crawled into when my grief overtook me. I pray I will embrace the blessing of His strength and sovereignty. When my world is falling around me and the depths of my sorrow know no end, I pray to pass through this valley as His strength transforms my pools of tears to springs of abundance because of His favor. I pray this for you also. This doesn’t mean the circumstance has to be resolved for my soul to be still. This is an active, daily choice knowing the Lord will work out His plans for my life, in His time.

So what will I do? I will grieve this season of life, fully. I will feel the emotions to the deepest levels. I will mourn with all that I have within me, but yet I will trust Him still. I will continue believing His promises and know that one day He will turn my mourning into dancing. I will allow myself to be broken completely so He can put me back together His way, not mine. My brokenness will be used for His glory. I will not pretend to be ok when I am not, but I will not be one without hope. Though outwardly I’m wasting away, inwardly He will renew me day by day. One day He will bring purpose and redemption, because He promises to do so. It’s who He is. I however must release any expectation of what that may look like. Right now my position must be one of surrender to mourn what must rightfully be mourned as He catches my tears, EVERY SINGLE ONE.

“Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.” Isaiah 58:8

Grief- A Story of Shattered Pieces

“Laughter can conceal a heavy heart, but when the laughter ends, the grief remains.” Proverbs 14:13
This month I’ve had two episodes of glass breaking. The first occurred when Tyler knocked a lamp off a table shattering the light bulb spraying tiny pieces in every imaginable direction. The second happened when yes, Tyler, dropped a glass scale on the tile causing it to break in various fragments with a continual crackling in what remained of the scale. It’s interesting considering both breaks involved glass but the aftermath looked different. Such is Grief. It doesn’t have rules. There isn’t a playbook or a set expectation. Like glass shattering, grief sends splintered shards of your heart in all directions. Remnants of what “was” continue to be discovered as gut wrenching reminders of what will never “be” again. Not that things can’t be restored & made new but letting go of what has been is hard & that’s the first step into what is to come.
“For the land you are about to enter and take over is not like the land from which you came….” 
Oftentimes when I write it’s something I’m currently struggling through or learning, but at least feel some sense of resolution. Not with this. I’ve been waiting, writing thoughts and quotes as they grab my thoughts. I’ve been living and processing, but see no end in sight. I write to make sense of things. I write to share my experience with others. I write in prayer that somehow my pain can help someone who is struggling. Yet now I write out of pure obedience because I don’t see how my jumbled thoughts and emotions are going to make much sense. I’ve been holding onto this theme for several months waiting for the moment when I know it is time. That time did not come in the way I expected it to, but here I am typing away.
“Rather, the land you will soon take over is a land …. with plenty of rain.”
I’ve been waiting for a moment of clarity but inevitably something happens….a subtle reminder of the pain that remains. I so desperately want to share something encouraging that sends the message “I’ve figured something out.” No such luck. Time can pass but in an instant the emotions come crashing with an intensity I’m completely unprepared for. So here I am with an unnerving level of authenticity that I pray at least offers comfort of solidarity. Know you are not alone. I’m hurting too. When I used to envision grief and pain of loss it always dealt with death. The kind of death that involves one passing from this life into eternity. Although that is so utterly painful, it makes sense to me. This void causes a shift of perspective and makes each memory hold so much more depth. I remember this hitting me on the way to my grandmothers’s burial. Her death felt too abrupt, although we knew it was coming.
My current struggle is grieving the loss of what still holds breath. The letting go of what I thought life would look like. This grief is a daily struggle to determine what reality is, for today…one day at a time. Submitting is a daily grind when it entails a surrender of something you want with all your heart yet know its not in God’s plan, well at least not for today. Maybe it is a dream that appears to no longer be a possibility, maybe a relationship that has seen its last chapter or a calling to move onto something ahead but to leave behind what you still love. Perhaps the grief of time, as it does carry on lest our best efforts, has brought about realities you never thought you’d face yourself. How do I grieve what remains to offer life to others, but for today has no room for me? This reality can be utterly devastating. In these moments I find myself face down on my blue shag rug crying my eyes out to songs like “I Surrender” and “I’m Listening”. Other times I blast music as loud as it goes in my headphones, take off running down the road and try to drown out the noise with heavy metal and screaming guitars.
“…a land that the Lord your God cares for. He watches over it through each season…”
I’ve discovered a new form of grief in the changing of seasons. I’m learning what it looks like to let go of dreams and desires that aren’t bad in and of themselves but yet the answer is still “no” or simply not now. Guys, I’m in the midst of a heartbreaking journey. Yet where anything is broken there is a promise of restoration. My God is good and I trust Him, so I willingly remain steadfast abiding in the shadow of His wings. There is one thing I don’t want to miss, that’s HIM. Uncertainty is certain, but Jesus is here with me through it all. If the goal or end hope is anything other than Him, I’ll be greatly disappointed. There are so many things in this life that I truly believe are His desires for me, I just don’t have the road-map for all the stops along the way. I don’t want to give up dreams and hopes that are so deeply woven in my soul because something turned out differently than I thought it should. It can be excruciating, overwhelming, even paralyzing when life…well when life happens. We can pray continuously, sob endlessly, bargain and plead, but sometimes life just is what it is. What do we do then?
“….He will send the rains in their proper seasons – the early and late rains- so you can bring in your harvests…”  Deuteronomy 11:10-14
In this season of grief, I’m embracing the truth that HE IS ENOUGH. He is enough to handle my disappointment, questions, anger, sadness & fear. He is enough to be my comfort, teacher, Father, husband, counselor, refuge and friend. When the scattered pieces of broken glass appear & even cut me deep….instead of being surprised, I’m learning to immediately take the pieces to Him. The pieces will continue to appear as I live but I cannot live with the delusion that they aren’t there. He makes beauty from ashes. He creates collages from broken things. Out of my shattered heart He will bring forth a flame that will catch fire to refine my deepest hurts for His purpose of redemption. This I believe and hold fast when the pain threatens to suffocate. He is my breath. Not the outcome of a situation, healing of pain, restoration of relationship, return of what was lost…no, He alone is my comfort & He is here NOW. I don’t have to wait for the pain or grief to subside to live the life He has for me. I have a beautiful life in the midst of it all. God goes before us. His provision prepared in advance. Even in the midst of uncertainty, His plan prevails. He has planned for every moment. My life is so full today because it is centered on Him. I don’t want to miss the blessing of the present, I want to experience the depth of it all. The joy and the pain.
“Each heart knows its own bitterness, an no one else can fully share its joy.” Proverbs 14:10
When loss occurs there is a somewhat unsettling stark reality check. What once was will never be again. It leaves you forever changed. It adds a tenderness to life, an appreciation of the present. Grief doesn’t take away from the beauty of the moments in the past but adds a level of gratitude mixed with vulnerability sometimes in unwelcome measure. This is where I’ve been with grief lately. It’s a common misconception of mine looking back over life and still can be today. If I’m obedient, why does it hurt so bad? If I’m listening to God and doing what He’s asked me to do, shouldn’t it be easier? Grief is something in the past I’ve associated only with death or disobedience. It’s a new experience as I approach grief from a posture of obedience, trusting God’s provision. If you’re hurting and grieving please don’t think something is wrong with you. Sometimes obedience can hurt the most, especially when people don’t understand. Loneliness may visit, but remember you are not alone. Of one thing I am certain – He will never let you down.
“Oh Lord, you are my God, for in perfect faithfulness You have done marvelous things, things planned long ago.” Is 25:1 
I picture a dark tunnel where I am standing at one end, seeing light on the other side and knowing the only way to get there is to walk through the pain. I never lose sight of the light up ahead, but there is uncertainty with what each present step has for me. I do not waver because the light is ahead. I don’t know how long it will take me to get there. What is behind may seem closer, maybe if I turn around and go back? But no. I must move forward. I must because He is calling. He has something waiting for me. So I trudge on.
“Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy.” Psalms 126:5

Breaking Free from Fear

The last post I made was entitled “Fear the Evil and Corroding Thread” which describes the imagery of fear perfectly. It’s a thread at the end of a woven sweater. If you tug on it and keep pulling, before you know it you’ll be short an arm. Eventually if you don’t cut it off, you’ll be left standing with a handful of unraveled wool and an exposed torso. The remnants of a once beautiful item but a memory, just because we refused to let go.

I continue to wage war and fight this battle to let go. I refuse to blindly accept my thoughts and emotions as truth. When my feelings are clearly in conflict with God’s word I must actively choose to live in active faith instead of dwelling in fear.

Without realizing it for much of my life I’ve had the expectation that “it” all works out, but my “it” has been an external focus. The “it” that will get worked out is my spirit, the inner man. I’ve been promised that He who began a good work in me will carry it to completion. I’m assured my tests and trials have purpose to produce steadfastness, maturing faith and for the comfort and encouragement of others. My expectation that “it” all works out hinges on a perspective originating from self, not the Lord. This view is so limited that I can wear blinders creating a tunnel vision effect and not even realize what I’m doing. “It” has to work out and “it” will, but it’s going to be worked out inside my spirit through the power of Jesus. My circumstance may not work out how I would like, wish or pray. That’s reality and where fear most often taunts and tethers.

When God says, “Fear not” He isn’t saying don’t be afraid because your life is going to be roses and butterflies. He wants me to trust Him even when it hurts. So many times God tells me not to fear but He’s not telling me there won’t be horrible, painful, heartbreaking trials and tragedies…no, He’s strongly suggesting I hold onto Him for dear life while everything inside screams in terror. He provides peace that surpasses all understanding in the midst of these situations, but I must choose to embrace it. He will keep me in perfect peace when my mind stays on Him because I trust Him. On my own I am not able or meant to withstand the tumultuous current of crashing waves on the shore of life. There are so many verses addressing fear because it is such a natural and common human response.

Well hold on, there are some legitimate things happening that I’m afraid of. Yeah, I understand, believe me. Some of my greatest fears have been realized, but I’m still breathing. I’m facing some seemingly insurmountable obstacles which have aroused fear. There is almost relief being on the other side, no longer in anticipation and apprehension because in my desperation I have no illusions I could go forward on my own. I must live one day at a time in reality and His grace is here with me.

 

thread of fear

 

I heard the coolest illustration this week describing faith and trust. Faith is going to a circus, seeing a funambulist about to perform and believing he will walk across the tight-rope safely arriving on the other side. Trust is an entirely different thing requiring action. Trust is climbing in a wheelbarrow and allowing the funambulist to push you safely across. I have to take action to fight for victory over fear, because simply saying I have faith isn’t enough. Victory requires effort by consistently submitting to the Lord trusting His Spirit in me to overcome obstacles arousing fear. Faith without works is dead.

 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened and do not be dismayed for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:9

God continually told the Israelites in the Old Testament not to fear, be frightened, live in dread or be terrified of the enemy because He would fight for them. Yet they continued to doubt Him and complain. Reading through the stories its almost unbelievable how soon they forget God’s provision for EVERY single need. But you know what, I do the very same thing. When I begin to doubt, demanding answers to questions beginning with “Why” finding no satisfactory explanation to reconcile the hurt inside of me, similarly I too forget His provision. God usually doesn’t fight for me the way I want Him to. I want Him to fix, adjust, bring justice or alter a circumstance based on my perspective and when that doesn’t happen I can slip into doubt. Does He see me? Does He care? Well of course He does, but I have to open my eyes to see how He is fighting for me. I have to surrender and take a look at my heart. This process isn’t easy, its a hashing out of emotions and tears. My friends, life can be really hard sometimes, excruciatingly painful and overwhelmingly unbearable, but God is constantly fighting for us. Some days we may just need to cry, but not with hopelessness. It’s ok to grieve what has been lost, but let us never doubt God will redeem every moment for His good. The hope is in moving forward. We must go forward to receive what God has waiting. He has gone before, because unlike you and I, He isn’t limited to today. He is the God who is, who was and who is to come.

 “And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” The Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward.”

Exodus 14:13-15

In the New Testament as Paul reminds us of the Spirit of power, love and self-control Jesus has gifted us, not one of fear. The word used for fear in this verse is “deilia” which is always used in a negative sense. It applies to a personality trait of cowardice and timidity often translated to fright or fearfulness. In my previous post I spoke of the spiritual oppression and the sense of dread that comes with fear. If my response is to do nothing and hide in comforts and habits, I’m acting out of the personality trait referenced here. We are reminded that Jesus wants us to live freely. He did not rescue us for us to live in slavery to fear. In Romans Paul offers the encouraging truth testifying we did not receive a spirit that makes us a slave to fear but God has adopted us as His own.

Fear is in direct conflict with the peace Jesus desires for us. However another word for fear “phobos” and “eulabeia” can be used speaking of deep respect and accountability to God, a reverential caution or apprehension. I think there are some things we should be cautious about. There have been moments in my life where my gut feeling, my spirit, my conscience…basically everything inside of me screamed that something was wrong. I’ve learned those are the times I must hit my knees and ask for wisdom. Lack of power is my dilemma, but only when I’m trying to do it on my own. God has gifted us with His Spirit, if we’ve accepted Jesus as the leader of our life. All power is available to us in submission to Him.

Here is what its coming down to for me. Is the object of my faith Jesus or what I believe He will DO for me? Is my hope set on Him or how I’ve interpreted His promises? Is my respect for God and desire to live accountable to Him greater than my need for success, affection, approval, relationships, prosperity, financial security, ad infinitum? Do I trust Him even when it hurts and the tears won’t stop flowing? Can I live my life today, one day at a time expectantly awaiting His provision? Perfect love casts out fear and God desires to perfect us with His love. It’s the only love that will do.

I cherish this passage and will end with this. Jesus gets it ya’ll. He lived in the flesh and experienced all these feelings just like us. He hurt and sacrificed all to offer us freedom in the midst of pain.

“While Jesus was here on earth, he offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to the one who could rescue him from death. And God heard his prayers because of his deep reverence for God. Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered. In this way, God qualified him as a perfect High Priest, and he became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey him.”

Hebrews 5:7-9 NLT

Fear, the Evil & Corroding Thread

fear

When the past comes crashing, rudely interrupting the beauty of the present it is unnerving. This happened to me recently. I was driving nonchalantly going about my “to-do’s” when the past wrecked into my today. Nothing physically happened, but a reminder of things before, not so pleasant triggered an anxiety response. I really struggle with fear and anxiety. It grips my insides and won’t let go. It clouds my perception where I’m unable to discern reality from illusion. My emotions can take over and turn me inside out faster than I realize what’s happened. I hate it. I feel out of control, short of breath and frantic. Frozen yet reeling. Grasping for anything to hold onto & regain my sense of control. But this is where I habitually take a wrong turn. I try to control. I frantically take action hoping that changing some external stimuli will settle my soul. Frequently it’s a person. If I can get another human to act the way I’d like, I falsely believe my security will be found there.

“So woeful about the past and so worried about the future, we miss the wonder of God in the present.” – Beth Moore

Anxiety can sneak in. Uncertainty created within a circumstance. Some of my personal anxiety was born out of extremely stressful and traumatic life events. Yet those events shouldn’t be allowed to alter my perspective on life indefinitely. I have a decision to make. In whom or what will I place my trust & allow to shape my perception of reality? I’m not saying that I just have to “get over” things that may have happened. I’d never so callously suggest anyone else do so either. I’m in the midst of a battle to walk through the remnants of past destruction and cling to God as He restores what has for so long lay in ruins. Many recent life events are revealing an underlying brokenness I’ve accepted as normal MY ENTIRE LIFE. I even wrote “Faith in the Midst of Fear” several years ago. I cannot remember ever being absent of the dull ache of anxiety and need to control my surroundings to feel safe. The daily dread and insecurity shadowing each day has wrecked havoc in my life for years. That is one of the main problems of fear, anxiety, dread, worry….whatever term you prefer. Pick your poison, but they all have the same cage to offer. They steal from the freedom and beauty of the present. “Today” becomes pressed upon and shrouded by “yesterday” with a suffocating dread of “tomorrow”. Fear is ever-so taunting of the “could-be” or “once-was” refusing attendance to the “actually-is”.

Andy Mineo : Anxiety is fear mixed with control…. (click for song)

One way my anxiety is created is when my devotion to something is out of proportion. I naturally associate false gods and idols with tokens made of gold, however that is much too simplistic. I easily make relationships something I worship. If I value these relationships more than the Lord, anxiety can arise. Nothing was made to hold my security other than Christ. Even good things, like my husband and children, that are gifts from God create opportunities for anxiety when out of balance. God celebrates marriage, family, friendships, community, our aptitude’s and gifts but these things are all meant to point TO Him. They aren’t for my “glory” or comfort. Recently my son was hospitalized for breathing related issues. We’ve had some difficulties in the past but have always been able to manage at home with breathing treatments. This time it was different. As my mothering instincts to protect and nurture my child weren’t enough to “fix” him, I hit the wall of self-sufficiency. Do I trust God with it all? Do I trust Him with my children’s health? It’s a question I’ve continued asking myself since we’ve been released from the hospital. Security is reality only when centered on Jesus. It is not circumstantial, because very disagreeable things happen. Life happens. I must continually make a decision to live in this truth: my comfort comes from security in God alone. My feelings or positive outcome of situations are not a sufficient substitute but a temporary distraction from the source of anxiety that still remains.

Recently I heard a person share something so simple but it was huge for me. “Feelings are not always truth. They are just feelings.” I relate. This was a sudden realization of how much faith I place in feelings, my own and others. I’ve continued mulling over the powerful effect emotions can have on life. Feelings can easily become the active driver for decisions. This can be very dangerous when operating from a false basis, not living in truth. If I allow my emotions to shape my reality, I’m in for quite the ride. Cue the playback reel of my life! I mean really, think about it. Do people make major life decisions like divorce because someone isn’t helping with laundry, one spouse works too much or financial disagreements? Would it be more accurate to say divorce stems from the emotions evoked by each of these circumstances? Some of the same emotions can be created with each situation. Perceived betrayal. Abandonment. Fear. Insecurity. Anger. Loneliness. In no way am I dismissing the true absolute damage and destruction caused within abusive & unhealthy relationships, but is it not the feelings that bring us to a breaking point? A wall we can no longer push forward.

Our journey may be different. Some paths may be similar. However one thing I’m learning – feelings cannot be the tool for navigation. There must be a higher truth that I rest in. A consistent basis to gauge life instead of the broken lens of my perception ever clouded and smudged by my emotion of the moment. I’ve accepted the truth that I’m dealing with spiritual warfare. I’ve noticed the subtle emotional manipulation within my life and surroundings. I’ve suddenly become attune to this pervasive cloud and realized I’ve accepted its presence far too long.

“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,”

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 ESV

I’m meditating on the above passage as a direct approach to remove the enemy’s influence over my reality. I’m refusing to accept these all too familiar feelings of fear and anxiety. I’m beginning to see how they are a stronghold in my life. A stronghold can be a safe place offering protection from outside forces. However when I use strongholds of self-sufficiency, I’ve walled myself in from the true source of help. Fear has been my safe place. My false argument against discomfort. Fear has been a place of complacency. A place to hide & escape reality. An excuse to push others away and a desperate attempt to control people who get too close. The stronghold of fear has served as a way to refuse accountability avoiding the responsibility and charge to make changes within myself. I’m ready to take some action. I want there to be a revolutionary change , cause I ain’t done.

Change is a process. It’s not an overnight thing. Once the battle for change begins it becomes a daily grind to press on and not settle back into habits of the familiar. It’s much too easy to react in fear because that’s what I’ve always done. A different approach is to actively take my thoughts captive and ask God to show me a different way. To plead for His truth to become louder than my anxiety which may be deafening. Although my thoughts and emotions may continually default to fear-based, anxious and self-protecting norms, with God’s guidance I battle to change the status quo. I’ve begun this process over the past few months and continue to pray for awareness in the many ways I attempt to fight with the limited arsenal waging war by the flesh. One way God brings clarity is through writing and being vulnerable sharing my struggles with others. I believe this fear, anxiety and the resulting depression is something weighing down so many of us. Let us take up our weapons which have divine power and begin to demolish strongholds offering false security. Let us together wage war using the truths of scripture as our swords. I plan to continue sharing my struggle with fear and would be honored if you’d reach out to me and share yours.

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.”

Ephesians 6:10-20 ESV

 

*The reference of fear as “an evil and corroding thread” is a reference from pg 67 of Alcoholics Anonymous**

Wounds, Scars and Marks

“So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.”

1 Peter 1:6-7 NLT

Sometimes life has reoccurring themes. Maybe I just notice because my ears are attune to common words and ideas that are floating around in culture. Quite possibly and with much more probability I’d conclude it is the the Holy Spirit guiding my attention towards lessons I need. The symphony of life gradually orchestrates a crescendo with the featured solo stuck in a loop. You know what I mean, the same topic of conversation among different friend groups, the Bible verse that keeps appearing, that one song that keeps playing on the radio, or even just a word you keep hearing like its being shouted from a megaphone. Whatever the topic, it beckons me closer. The loops that play are hooks to something deeper. When I slow down enough to take note I have the opportunity to learn and have my eyes enlightened. To be renewed with fresh perspective. To be marked by something much greater. To be transformed, one day at a time into a likeness resembling much less of me and more of my Creator.

“For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.” 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 NLT

Transformation is quite a word. Metamorphosis, a word that has nestled and woven itself a cocoon inside my soul. Several years ago I looked at my life and realized my values and beliefs were not translating into consistent actions. I didn’t want to be “one of those people” who said they loved God but their lives looked no different from the world and society in general. However that’s exactly what my life was. That is who I was. If someone from the outside looked at my life they wouldn’t say the foremost thing about me was I loved Jesus and He had transformed my life. To be completely honest with myself, God was someone I believed in but wasn’t my go-to. I didn’t believe Him “enough” to run to Him daily. I didn’t place my faith in a long obedience but in short term satisfaction. Remaining under His hand in the difficult times seemed too hard. I wanted relief in the “now” and couldn’t grasp how a patient endurance could accomplish that. I could talk a good game. I went to church. I knew the right phrases, but my heart was proud. My spirit was dry and my eyes were a river.

“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.” Proverbs 12:15 ESV

I know I’m not alone in this. What a wreck this world is, full of the broken and wounded. We are hurt but instead of receiving healing, we turn around and hurt others. These wounds we have…gaping, bleeding, oozing sores…completely exposed though we try to cover them. If I smother enough salve on this, I’ll heal. This salve comes with variable applications of man-made options. Success. Accomplishment. Striving. Isolation. Playing the hero. Acting the victim. Working harder. Giving up. A drink or a drug. Available with a human face, a “Him” or a “Her”. All of these temporary solutions. The wound remains and festers.

“Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them.” Jonah 2:8 NIV

However there is another way. We can allow our wounds to heal. Through Christ’s redemption each wound can become a scar. Though still visible they hold a deeper meaning, a story. Scars are a reminder of where we have been. A piece of our history. Some wounds are so deep inside there isn’t physical evidence to those around us, but the soul ache holds us captive and paralyzed. When we embrace courage to share our experience the stronghold of fear, guilt and shame is shattered and replaced by the beauty of redemption. Our past is bought back with purpose for the present. Redemption illuminates my greatest fears and exposes the fallacy of my self-focused perspective. With Jesus these marks become part of the story we have to share with others.

I have several tattoos. They are my marks, my scars of journeys and moments where God has shown Himself to me in ways that have changed me forever. The pain and subsequent healing has been so profound that I want a visible reminder of the life change that took place during each season. Sure, they can be conversation pieces, but more so a reminder of lessons I don’t want to forget. Unfortunately my memory can be selective. Consequently, I must do all I can to be brutally honest with myself of who I am and what I’m capable of by my own works. God’s grace abounds.

God revealed himself to me as El Roi during a season where I felt utterly alone, completely exposed to the elements. Although there were godly people who loved and supported me, they were not with me in my valley. They weren’t supposed to be. The desert of my circumstance allowed the Holy Spirit to tend to my parched soul through Scripture and guide me to an intimacy I had never know existed. It is the reality of knowing someone for many years, spending time, and having some amazing conversations before going through a shared experience that ultimately revolutionizes the relationship. I’ve known Jesus the majority of my life, but never like this. Never so real. This season brought about by external circumstances beyond my control created a refining internal pressure pushing me towards Christ with a thirst I had never experienced or submitted to previously. There was no earthly being who could answer my questions, hold my tears or heal my wounds. Only Jesus. He isn’t just a “someone”, He became my only One. I wanted a reminder of this life changing experience where God came to meet me exactly where I was.

“I feel great pain deep down inside me. The terrors of death are crushing me. Fear and trembling have taken hold of me. Panic has overpowered me. But I call out to God. And the Lord saves me. Evening, morning and noon I groan and cry out. And he hears my voice. Psalm 55:4-5, 16-17, NIRV

Hagar referred to God as, El Roi, the One who sees me in Gen 16:13 when she was fleeing Sarai. He asked her, “Where are you going and where have you come from?” Hagar told the truth, she was running away and God told her to return. I still don’t have the answer to many questions that arose during this particular season, and to many questions that have arisen since, but He does. The tension of the question, “Do I believe God is who He says He is?” would have destroyed me if it had not been for the comfort of His Word. Many times I found assurances not specific answers, but my Spirit was calm. That peace is an answer in itself. I began learning to trust His provision. So my visual reminder is a tattoo on my back, although I don’t have a picture posted I’ll lend to the imagery by saying, “In the rocky desert of my circumstances I will flourish like an olive tree because my God, He is the One who sees. He sees me exactly where I am and meets me, covering and shielding me with wings like an eagle and lending His strength, for He is El Roi.”

I want to remember this wound and the redemptive healing because this marks the point I finally quit running away and began running to Him. This is the season I had a desire to be marked by Jesus. I didn’t want it to be about me anymore. I started participating in the battle and tension of life instead of expecting someone to rescue me. I decided to actively pursue a way of life that would honor God. I would love to say its been smooth sailing from this point on, but no, life has been even more complicated. Nonetheless, God is faithful and I wouldn’t trade any moment of suffering because its interwoven with His grace. My greatest blessings have come from His Comfort. Some nights my prayers were as simple as, “If I trust You with my life, help me trust You enough to sleep”.

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust. Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him.” Psalms 91:1-2, 14-15 ESV

So I ask, what’s your story? How have you been marked by Christ? If you had to sum it up in a few paragraphs or a brief conversation could you tell another human your history? Would you be willing to share your scars and marks with others? I’m curious because it was a great challenge posed this summer at a conference I attended. We were asked to find someone we didn’t know and share our “nutshell history”. There were so many amazing women with equally incredible stories. It was a rewarding and extremely encouraging experience. How often do we compare our stories weighing them based on the severity of circumstances instead of the immeasurable grace present in all of our lives? Or equally common, do we shy away from sharing because of a fear of judgement? Is my story not real enough? Have I really changed? Can I share my story if I’m currently struggling? Do I need to wait to talk about what Jesus has done to make sure its real? So many questions centered from a self focused insecurity…these are questions that circulate within my own mind. The Lord must so often remind me to risk rejection and judgement. Vulnerability does something amazing. It removes the pretense and allows us to finally take off the mask. It has to start somewhere. Will it start with you? A spirit of community is vital if we are to live in liberty and freedom encouraging one another. Each story is a miracle.

This task of sharing our stories stemmed from Galatians 1:11-24 as Paul tells his experience of coming to know Jesus and the life change that followed. Sure, there is so much more to any relationship than a few sentences, but to succinctly discuss with another person who Christ is and what He has done is so powerful. He alone has the power to effect life change in a manner that could radically transform pain into purpose. To awaken a desire to share what once we would fight to keep hidden. It becomes less about us and much more about Him. We risk it all for the sake of another because of a man who walked this earth and sacrificed all so we might live.

Do people change irrevocably and completely overnight? I haven’t. No, it’s a process. A journey of building new habits and learning to continually surrender. May we have grace in today for one another and be thankful that God doesn’t extend the same judgement that we impose on others. Instead of policing another’s growth I would do well to plead at the throne of mercy for humility. Instead of imposing some harshness of my version of truth I ought do well by allowing the Word to prove true in my own life. Rather than demanding change from the world could we instead live in liberty & freedom by walking out the gospel of love? Let us not lose sight of the completed work of redemption provided at the cross. Not by works. He said it is finished. It is done. By Christ alone. 

“But he lifted up our illnesses, he carried our pain; even though we thought he was being punished, attacked by God, and afflicted for something he had done. He was wounded because of our rebellious deeds, crushed because of our sins; he endured punishment that made us well; because of his wounds we have been healed.” Isaiah 53:4-5 NET

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A Hope Worthy of Endurance

Over the past 10 days I’ve put in some miles. From Texas to the mountains in New Mexico, to East Texas on to Louisiana and back again to West Texas. I added up the miles, because once I started contemplating the distance, I just had to know. I’ve had 1,900 miles of windshield time to think, pray, consider and chat. Some of those miles included four kids, some only two. Some included my niece and some my brother. So many conversations and so many words poured out as the tires rolled down the road on my trek from one hot summer locale to another.

I traveled to the mountains to run my first half marathon with my dad. I drove to East Texas and Louisiana to pay tribute and bury my grandfather. So many miles gave time for words to accumulate in my soul. The build-up creates an overflow and these thoughts are my spillway. I hope you can be encouraged whatever season you are in. A season of beginnings, one of endings, maybe just a season that has yet to be named.

How often in life do we face seasons that demand endurance? Circumstances that ask everything of us and more. How many times have I fallen on my face, in the mud because I try and do it on my own? Too many. However I’ve fallen hard enough and into the pit so deep that it caught my attention that there must be another way. A much better way. The way my grandparents have lived their lives and walked in the manner worthy of the calling they have received.

My Papaw, Rodney Louis Salmon, was an incredible man. Tenacity would be an appropriate term. In fact, he carried his favorite poem in his pocket entitled, “Don’t Quit”. I wasn’t even aware of this until his passing, but it doesn’t surprise me one bit. He served in the Air Force and completed graduate work at University of Texas. He was an accountant by trade and very precise, yet he had a mischievous streak that ran deep. He married Nora Beth Fuller, my Memaw in 1958 and they were an amazing complement to one another during their 59 years of marriage. I have many fond memories of his dinner table story-telling and my Memaw “assisting” him in sticking to the actual events, not the exaggerated ones, reminding him of the original story he set out to tell. She did it with such tact, always respectful, a skill I recognize much more now as an adult myself. I honestly don’t think we ever finished a story because he chased many a squirrel up multiple trees in expansive forests and by then we never remembered what the intended point was. But we enjoyed it. We enjoyed him.

Health and physical fitness were important to him. He was very competitive and loved letting us know how he beat men half his age on the racquetball court. His morning sit-up routine and exercise regimen is more than the average person does in one day and he completed half of it before getting out of bed. It is quickly becoming something of legend among his great-granddaughters and may soon morph out of proportion to a fable of sorts if we’re not careful. Family was very important to him and everything he did was driven by his love for the Lord. He relied on Jesus for his strength to push on, no matter what.

This is why the onset of his dementia was so difficult. It’s not like it would be easy in any situation, but my Papaw was a larger than life man with superhuman qualities. At first it was little things that started to go, like forgetting words and facts. But it progressed to the point of him being unable to move on his own or complete any basic task. This progression wasn’t fast. It was gradual and it lasted over a span of thirteen years before he was released from this earthly body into eternity with our Savior.

With every season and situation there are multiple facets. As we honored my grandfather’s life this past weekend, a piece of this story caused me to pause. I made a short post on Instagram and touched on this, but I must go even deeper. My Memaw has loved and served my Papaw faithfully through their life and his illness. They shared a marriage that honored Christ, showing countless generations what it means to love joyfully, “for better or for worse, in sickness and in health”. The last 13 years have required a strength that no human possesses of themselves. God is faithful and provides exactly what we need for each moment. My grandparents have had many “moments” and knew who to go to for sustenance minute by minute, day by day. When the day came that my Papaw could no longer communicate my Memaw pressed on. When the day came that he could no longer walk, she pressed on. When the time arrived that he was confined to his bed, she didn’t waiver. Her witness to countless onlookers holds value and weight beyond measure. On this side of heaven she may never know the impact of her joyful endurance and service, but Jesus knows….and I’m sure He will embrace her one day when she joins Him and whisper in her ear, “Well done, my good and faithful servant”.

Thirteen years. How easy it is to glance at another’s circumstance but not give thought to the internal battle of emotions waging each day. My Memaw never complained. She didn’t serve begrudgingly, but joyfully. She wanted to be involved. Dementia is a thief and steals everything while leaving the warm body of your loved one. Out of respect for my Memaw I don’t want to go into detail, but caring for a loved one who is sick is not glamorous. That never mattered, she served him with determination to do what was best for him. She prayed constantly. So many decisions had to be made and she didn’t take that responsibility lightly. My Memaw is a warrior, with a beautiful Alto voice, and she serves the King. She has always taken her requests to the throne begging for His wisdom, asking Him for His involvement. When she says she will pray for you she means it. What a legacy. What a bloodline. Ya’ll I’m in tears to have the privilege of knowing these people I call my grandparents.

A running theme of an overarching season in my life is focused around the Greek word hupomone which translates to our English words endurance, steadfastness, and patience. It literally means cheerful or hopeful endurance. I first became aware of the word when studying James about seven years ago and groaned.

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” ‭‭

James‬ ‭1:2-4‬ ‭ESV‬‬

It’s been such a continual lesson that I recently had some new ink applied with an equation of the Greek for “endurance + encouragement = hope” on my right arm. It’s a reminder that endurance doesn’t stand by itself. It’s not an independent external action but an internal work from God allowing us to remain under the shadow of His wing during tough, excruciating, devastating, drawn out attacks on our souls. Hupomone is strengthening through His encouragement that allows us to hold onto hope. Not hope of a person changing, situation easing, sickness leaving, loved one returning, marriage redeeming, addiction disappearing, financial burden lifting, child returning, cycle ending or any other miracle we may yearn for, but hope in Christ in whom all things are held together.

Of course we pray for all of these things, but our hope doesn’t rest in a circumstance changing. Our hope is eternal. To endure whatever season or situation we are in with patient and joyful endurance we need encouragement. Paraklesis is the biblical encouragement I’m referencing. To have hope we must be encouraged to not lose hope. Thankfully God does this for us. He himself encourages us. He is the God of encouragement. He does it through scripture, the Holy Spirit and also through the community of believers.

“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus,”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭15:4-5‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Life when lived for duty without passion and purpose falls stale. It’s dangerous. To do what is right can begin with the proper motive but life will wear you down. It’s whittled me down to bare bone on many occasion. One of the most painful seasons of my life, to date, is when my steadfast pursuit of enduring lost focus. Initially “Jesus loves ME” was my “why” but my focus shifted to an indignant, “Well, I love Jesus, so why me?!” I became angry and resentful and began to make the wrong decisions. Duty for the sake of duty falls short. I believe the term legalism may ring true. It is not of God and holds no encouraging power.

Discouragement is dangerous, but so natural to our human nature. God understands and that’s why He Himself encourages us. We are also called to be there for one another. Not in giving our opinions, gossiping by way of requesting prayer, or judging how others are walking according to our perception, but by sharing our experience, strength and hope. Maybe we could start by praying for situations ourselves and seeking His Word for direction so we can be encouragers to those God places around us? An excerpt from William Barclay’s “The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians and Thessalonians” describes this relationship between hupomone and paraklesis far better than I ever could:

“Here we have two great words. Patience is in Greek hupomone, which never means simply the ability to sit down and bear things but the ability to rise up and conquer them. God is the one who gives us the power to use any experience to lend greatness and glory to life. God is the one in whom we learn to use joy and sorrow, success and failure, achievement and disappointment alike, to enrich and ennoble life, to make us more useful to others and to bring us nearer to himself. Consolation and comfort are the same Greek word – paraklesis. Paraklesis is far more than soothing sympathy; it is encouragement. It is the help which not only puts an arm round someone but sends that person out to face the world; it not only wipes away the tears but makes it possible to face the world with steady eyes. Paraklesis is comfort and strength combined. God is the one in whom any situation becomes our glory and in whom people find strength to go on gallantly when life has collapsed.”

When running the half marathon with my dad in Ruidoso we had several mountains to climb. The entire race wasn’t uphill, there were many ups and downs. Being a fellow flatlander himself he understood some of the obstacles I would face. A friend shared a tip with him years ago that he shared with me. Never look at the top of the climb, just put one foot in front of the other. Look directly in front of you, only a little ahead to see where you’re going, but never all the way up. Eventually you’ll get there without all the mental doubt of not being able to make it.

It is one foot in front of the other, one moment at a time, one day at a time. Life can become overwhelming if we try to take it all on. God never asks us to do that. He gives us our daily bread. I am not who I will be a week from today, one month from today, one year from today. Enduring our current season builds new character producing hope through the Holy Spirit. The character built enables us to face each day as it is called “today.” My Memaw pressed on a day at a time trusting Jesus and I believe she will continue doing this each day until she joins Him. It’s a way of life not just some nice tag line or cliché. Let it be the same for us, one day at a time as we trudge this road together.

 ’Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to take Him at His word;
Just to rest upon His promise;
Just to know, Thus saith the Lord.

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him,
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er,
Jesus, Jesus, Precious Jesus!
O for grace to trust Him more.

I’m so glad I learned to trust Thee,
Precious Jesus, Savior, Friend;
And I know that Thou art with me,
Wilt be with me to the end.

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him,
How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er,
Jesus, Jesus, Precious Jesus!
O for grace to trust Him more.

 

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The Time Has Come…..

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10

Blah. That’s how I’ve felt this week. It’s not all bad, I’m just worn out. Plain exhausted. Picture me with my hair in a high bun with random hair escaping, oh and add in Houston’s humidity and my normally straight hair has some curl to it…well the random fly-aways do. So annoying. I forgot my hair dryer and really don’t have a reason to dry my hair anyway so it just goes up!

Last Sunday Chaney, Michael and I drove down with our truck loaded full of items for the next few weeks. The next time I see my home we will have Tyler with us. Chaney flew home Wednesday so it has just been me and Michael for a few days. These past several weeks are somewhat a blur with the weekly trips back and forth from Houston and the sense of urgency to accomplish and satisfy my nesting compulsion. Nesting is hard when you aren’t home very often, especially in the weeks and days leading up to delivery. I’ve done my best to prepare our home for Tyler’s arrival and have driven everyone else crazy in the process. The bummer is he won’t come directly “home” from the hospital as we will be 500 miles away! Talk about doing things completely different this time.

However, even with this impending deadline looming I’ve been able to slow down and savor time with my family. This family of mine consisting of us five, for the last time. Over the past few weeks our family has enjoyed pizza and movie nights, manicures & pedicures, fall festival at the school, breakfast dates before school, fun at Fiddlesticks Farm, lunch dates with just me and the girls. We’ve also experienced Julia’s school musical, Katelynn’s eye appointment and her first pair of glasses. We have snuggled on the couch, folded lots of laundry, cleaned rooms and picked up toys. I’ve helped with homework and listened to the girls tell me about books they are reading. Basically the mundane, but as my friend Bailey would say the magnificent mundane. We have been enjoying everyday life with a few special events mixed in, but overall my focus is on the intentionality of each moment and offering myself fully available and engaged to my family. All of the things on my “to-do list” can be tackled later, or not and it won’t be the end of the world. (I tell myself this as my OCD kicks in mid-conversation).

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Breakfast before school. Mom really needed to go to the store, buuuut the girls LOVED it!

I’m not sure why I become so sappy, aside from the obvious pregnancy hormones, but with the birth of each of our children I go through an emotional process. I am fully anticipating the joyful addition of new life, yet grieving what phase of life we are leaving behind. When Katelynn was born I had no idea what we were getting into with parenthood and was basically scared out of my mind. I was grieving the loss of independence but had no idea the joy that would come when she made me “Mommy”. With Julia’s arrival I was unsure how our family dynamic would change. I already felt I was lacking as a mother to Katelynn and didn’t see how I could love both children without taking away from the other. When Michael’s due date approached I FREAKED out because we were about to do this baby thing again, but this time with two school age children. Thoughts that cycled included….“Am I too old for this? Will this take away from my availability to my girls?” Yet without fail, the arrival of each of my children quenched any anxiety and I forgot my initial fears. We made it work, because of the overwhelming love we had for our children. For all of our children. There has never been a shortage of love but abundance. Love grows.

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Fun at Fiddlesticks Farms

With this pregnancy I haven’t gone through this process because most of my focus is directed on appointments and tasks. I haven’t thought much about what everyday life will look like with another sweet baby boy at the Vines house. Partially because I have no idea when we will actually bring him home so it just seems like an idea, but also because I haven’t taken the time to slow down and contemplate the season of life we are embarking on. Yeah, I know I’ve had months to prepare myself. Chaney laughs at me to no end because he thinks I’m a space cadet. I voice my thoughts and concerns often inquiring his opinion and am usually surprised how he has processed the same thoughts weeks prior. It takes me longer to work through the entire process in “thought-land” and I spend much of my time there. Just call me an idealist or a dreamer, but I really find this form of processing very productive and healing. I’m currently in the midst of this process. I don’t really know how I feel. I’m still working through it all, so it has been difficult writing a blog update. I’ve tried to write this for the past 5 days and I don’t want it to be solely information. I’d like to be transparent and real, but I can’t be vulnerable when I’m unsure where to go with it. That’s about as real as I’m able to be right now. I’m overwhelmed and the words aren’t coming as easily as I am used to.

We went to my appointment on Monday and based on the results of the ultrasounds, the doctors have decided to deliver sooner than we originally had planned. Basically my MCA scans were elevated and I am past 35 weeks so an IUT was not an option. Dr. Moise is confident that Tyler will be okay until delivery as there are no other signs of anemia, but he doesn’t want to keep him in the womb for the original goal of 37-38 weeks. We set the date for induction for next Wednesday and that has given us time to take several steps furthering Tyler’s development. I received 2 steroid shots aiding his lung development and a medication that will help develop his liver. Specifically this medication helps his liver have the ability to process bilirubin and lessens the likelihood of major jaundice issues. The doctors also increased monitoring of Tyler as anemia can set in extremely fast. They don’t believe this will occur, but it helped put me at ease. We found out Tyler is measuring 2 weeks ahead of his age and already weighs around 7lbs 12 oz (at 36 weeks). Although he won’t have the opportunity to grow to full term and be a monster baby like his big brother Michael, it looks like Tyler will also be a healthy size.

Tyler will have a mandatory observation in NICU when he is born and several blood tests to measure how affected he is by my antibodies. Several of these tests will continue for weeks after he is born. We don’t have any idea how long his stay will be in NICU and won’t know until he is here. There is a possibility of Tyler needing blood transfusion(s) after he is born, either immediately or over the next few months. All of these procedures are much less dangerous and intrusive once he is out in the world rather than in the womb. We are leaving these decisions to the medical team who see babies affected by antibodies on a regular basis. The problem continues after his birth if my anti-kell antibodies have attached themselves to Tyler’s red blood cells. This can cause late onset anemia and other health issues until the antibodies are cleared out and Tyler is successfully creating his own red blood cells. This is the reason for continued blood draws and monitoring for up to 12 weeks after birth. We have contacted Cook’s Children’s Hospital to be assigned a pediatric hematologist. Our local pediatrician will partner with Cook’s by writing weekly blood orders so we can have these done at home. Our hope is to prevent travel as much as possible while not sacrificing quality of care. If these tests and results are not monitored closely life long health issues can be the result. As long as we stay on top of these tests, Tyler will not have any long term health issues.

Chaney and I toured the NICU at Children’s Memorial Hermann (where we are delivering). I didn’t expect to be so emotional, but I LOST it. I’ve never been to NICU before and I realized not only how hard this will be, but also how blessed we are. This journey we are on is full of amazing medical staff and resources available to us and is something I don’t ever want to be ungrateful for. Although I have anxiety, it’s not about the care we will receive. This is just a brand new experience for us with a lot of “unknowns”. We are in great hands. On top of this, the Ronald McDonald House in NICU will be available to us if we need it. It is separate from the house we weren’t approved for.  If I’m released from the hospital before Tyler, this will be very useful in remaining close to him to nurse and getting rest myself. The RMH is on the same floor and the same wing as NICU with day rooms available for naps & showers and a separate waiting list for evening stays. Our apartment is only 1 mile away from the hospital (another blessing) but I’d rather not be that far away if not absolutely  necessary.

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Fun at the Houston Zoo

The girls will be here next weekend to meet their new baby brother. We had already planned for them to come down and celebrate Katelynn’s birthday next weekend so we are sticking with the original plan. I’m bummed that I will be unable to go around town with them, but I’m overjoyed and full of anticipation to hug their sweet necks. Who am I kidding I’ll bawl my eyes out when I get to hug and kiss them! They will just have to deal.  Michael and I were able to visit the Houston zoo with friends this week and had a blast. I know the zoo is on Katelynn’s short list along with the aquarium. More than anything, I’m so thankful we will all be together for her birthday. I can’t wait for our family to be together…all SIX of us. What?! It will take us awhile to settle in to our normal as the next weeks and months are unknown, but it will be wonderful. It will be our wonderful. It may take a while for the word mundane to apply, but soon enough the days and weeks will turn into years and it will seem like it has always been.

I’m relying on my Jesus so much through this all. I allow myself to remember all the situations in my life that have been difficult. I remember how my relationship with Him has grown stronger. When I have fears I voice them, I don’t try to hide them. I have no idea what the future holds, yet when I trust Him it all works out. When the next doubtful situation arises I remember what the Lord has walked me through. Trust has been formed. Hope is a real experience, not something merely spoken about. I still have new doubts and questions, but in my Spirit I trust my Comforter and Counselor. I just have to hold onto Him and trust the outcome to His plan.

Thank you for experiencing this pregnancy with us. I pray the Lord has blessed you abundantly as you’ve taken the time to pray for us. I don’t know how often I’ll be able to update our progress over the next few months, but know that I will do my best. It helps me to be vulnerable in the midst of it all and I’m so grateful for your support, comments and messages. I pray Tyler’s life be one the Lord continues to use to bring others to Him. I know Tyler has brought me closer to my King and I haven’t even seen his sweet face yet. We all have purpose to be used for His glory, may we not forget this highest calling.

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.”  Proverbs 19:21