Quiet Time

It is 4AM on a Monday.  It is a crisp, cool October morning and I am up. I could be snuggled up beside my son and husband in bed.  I could also take advantage of the silence and get some house cleaning done. Or, I could get a head start on my to-do list for the day ( pay bills, pump breast milk, do my hair, grocery shop, etc.).  But this morning, I’m choosing to spend it with God.

What I should say is that God chose me.  Ever since I was in college, I’ve been waking up some mornings between the hours of 3AM and 5AM. At first, I didn’t know why it was happening.  I was angry because either I had gone out the night before and had an early class, or I had just ended an all-nighter trying to finish a paper, or I was too exhausted from the day-to-day extracurriculars that I would appreciate a solid night of sleep.  Then, I don’t know how it happened, but I started to write. I may have been listening to some worship music to help get me through a paper, when the inspiration to write hit me. The only way I can describe it is that I felt as though if I didn’t get these words on the computer or piece of paper that I was going to explode.  The Lord gave me words of encouragement.  I was hesitant to share it with others, but I soon found out that these words are not just meant for myself.  Other people could be inspired by this as well.  God was using me to encourage others through a gift of writing that I didn’t even believe that I had.

On the mornings when I try to ignore this overwhelming feeling, I cannot go back to sleep and end up more tired than when I began. 

When we are too busy, but God wants to speak with us, God will interrupt our routine. Sometimes we are too enthralled in our own lives, that we forget to make time for Him.  But when He has a purpose for your life, there is no getting around it. Yesterday at church, we learned how God used dreams and visions throughout the Bible to speak to people. God desires intimacy with us. Nothing is more intimate than one-on-one, uninterrupted conversation with the Lord.  Sometimes this is done through dreams and visions, and other times it is done in the wee hours of the morning/during the night.

The Word says,

Instead you thrill to God’s Word,
    you chew on Scripture day and night.
You’re a tree replanted in Eden,
    bearing fresh fruit every month,
Never dropping a leaf,
    always in blossom.”

Psalm 1: 2-3 MSG

And also, “And don’t for a minute let this Book of The Revelation be out of mind. Ponder and meditate on it day and night, making sure you practice everything written in it. Then you’ll get where you’re going; then you’ll succeed. Haven’t I commanded you? Strength! Courage! Don’t be timid; don’t get discouraged. God, your God, is with you every step you take.” Joshua 1:8-9 MSG

When I am moved by the Holy Spirit and in the presence of God, it is undeniable.  The weight of His glory is so heavy and the urgency of this task is so great.  I have to write then and there.

Today, I desire a good night’s rest even more than I did in college, especially since becoming a mother to an almost 5 month old. But, I have learned to value this time with God.  I actually look forward to our time of intimacy, and I learn something about myself and about the Lord every time.  After it is all done, I have a sense of peace and I feel spiritually full.  Without this one-on-one time, I feel off, like something is missing. I only post these words as instruction from Him. I have always prayed to be privileged enough that the Lord use me.  I can’t be picky. So, when I’m awakened suddenly and the Lord speaks to me, I pop up and get right to work, no matter how tired I am.

How has the Lord been trying to create intimate time with you lately? How willing are you to be used by Him, whatever hour that He decides to call you?

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Rich Simplicity

“A devout life does bring wealth, but it’s the rich simplicity of being yourself before God.  Since we entered the world penniless and will leave it penniless, if we have bread on the table and shoes on our feet, that’s enough.” 1 Timothy 6: 6-8

One day, while talking with my coworkers, I casually mentioned that my husband gave a sermon the previous Sunday.  There had been a bad snow storm and all of those attending that Sunday could fit on one church pew.  One coworker said, “That’s ok. One day he’ll have lots of church members and drive around in a Mercedes”. I immediately replied, “That would be nice, but we don’t NEED all that”.

I’m thankful that I’m at a place in my walk where I can be satisfied knowing that most of my treasures are being stored up in heaven.  I’m still tempted to look left and right and desire things that I do not have.  However, as a believer, I know that nothing here on Earth will satisfy any desire I might have.

I know not to reject anything that God chooses to bless me with.  These are great opportunities for God to get the glory.  But, we can’t bring any of these material things with us when we die.  It’s better to store up our treasures in heaven for eternity, rather than store up earthly treasures that can be stolen, rusted, burned, molded and destroyed (Matt 6:20).

God promises devout believers a type a wealth without expiration date or chance of depreciation.  The Bible doesn’t explicitly say what these treasures will be, but we can learn how to obtain them.  Every time we do something selfless with God in mind we are building up His kingdom and our treasures in Heaven.  Our “treasures” on Earth pale in comparison to those in heaven.  He will give us exactly what we need and nothing more in order to make us fully rely on Him.  Bread to eat and shoes for travel are all we need to fulfill our purposes here on Earth. Anything else is an added bonus.

It’s really hard to believe in this type of message if you are struggling.  When we struggle, we often build up a wall against God, blaming Him for our misfortune.  It’s important to let that wall down and let God in.

Think of any relationship you’ve had with a friend or significant other.  Remember how freeing it was to finally trust that person and let them in to every intimate detail of your life?  Remember discovering the true worth of that relationship when you could be yourself and not worry about judgement or abandonment?  God wants this type of intimacy, but on a much deeper level.  He wants us to trust Him with every aspect of our lives.  Humans have limited perception and require details and tangible evidence before trusting anything.  It will be hard to trust God at first because He is impossible to see on a physical level.  Once you start to read His Word and be in constant conversation with Him through prayer, bit by bit you’ll start to see that He is more real than anything else.  His presence will become so big, that He’ll fill any void that we might have.

Creative Survival

“Now here’s a surprise: The master praised the crooked manager! And why? Because he knew how to look after himself. Streetwise people are smarter in this regard than law-abiding citizens. They are on constant alert, looking for angles, surviving by their wits. I want you to be smart in the same way—but for what is right—using every adversity to stimulate you to creative survival, to concentrate your attention on the bare essentials, so you’ll live, really live, and not complacently just get by on good behavior.” Luke 16:8-9

The show Survivor forces contestants out of their comfort zone.  It is interesting to witness people who were once plump and well groomed become rail thin after being subjected to the elements.  The lack of food and everyday conveniences push people to desperation. Those determined to survive get creative.

God wants us to do the same.  Life in America gives us plenty of comforts.  Most of us can drive to get food, we have shelter, and a support system.  We read the Bible and have difficulty relating to stories of persecution and martyrdom.  Therefore, it is tempting to water-down the Gospel to “do good things and you will be ok”.  How does God get any glory in that?

When we do face adversity, it is easier to curse God because we fail to recognize His hand in the little things. Our privilege sometime prevents opportunities for God to show Himself strong.

“And then he prayed, “God, I’m asking for two things before I die; don’t refuse me…Give me enough food to live on, neither too much nor too little.  If I’m too full, I might get independent, saying, ‘God? Who needs him?’ If I’m poor, I might steal and dishonor the name of my God’.” Proverbs 30:8-9

Jesus instructs us to get creative with our survival.  We should stop relying on worldly ideas of security (wealth, education, and employment) and creatively use our gifts to know Him more intimately and bring others to the kingdom.  John the Baptist only had camel skin for clothing and honey and locusts for food while preparing others for the coming of the Messiah (Matt 3:4).

I’m not telling you to quit your job and sell all your belongings (unless you hear God telling you to do so). But, we should anticipate trials (i.e job loss) as opportunities to creatively seek God and use our talents in a manner that doesn’t glorify ourselves.  Just like the corrupt manager in the parable found ways to support himself, we should use our God-given talents to reach others.  None of this life experience is about us.  Our lives, our gifts, and our trials and triumphs should all be used to glorify God.

Tiny trophies, Magnificent love

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I came across this post on Instagram this morning and giggled to myself. This is SO me! My phone has threatened to shutdown several times in order to free up the space it needs to run properly. Can anyone else relate? Maybe it’s the fact that we realize how fast our kids are growing that we hope to pause time with our photos. I’m a sentimental person, so I love reminiscing about the old days and finding forgotten treasures or letters from the past. But, I’m also incredibly proud of every single accomplishment Coltrane achieves. These photos are like tiny trophies for each milestone.

When I think about this aspect of my relationship with my son, I think about my relationship with the Father. I imagine Him being immensely proud of every hurdle that we jump with His help. Seeing a child struggle is never easy,  but witnessing an increase in his or her endurance and strength is worth the discomfort. If we’re able to take pride in our children and love them immensely while only being able to forsee a small part of their lives at a time, imagine the full love of our Father who sees us as we were created to be! Thinking about it brings tears to my eyes. I get overwhelmed sometimes thinking about my love for Coltrane, but it is only a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of the LOVE Christ has for us. Romans 8:38-39 MSG says, “None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.”

We are not worthy of this love, but He loves us anyway. That alone is worthy of praise!

I thank God for the opportunity to make memories with my son. I also thank Him for using this relationship to further understand my relationship with the Father. What a magnificent love!

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On Pregnancy and Being “Passionately Patient”

“So don’t lose a minute in building on what you’ve been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the others. With these qualities active and growing in your lives, no grass will grow under your feet, no day will pass without its reward as you mature in your experience of our Master Jesus. Without these qualities you can’t see what’s right before you, oblivious that your old sinful life has been wiped off the books.” 2 Peter 1:5-9 MSG

When I read the words “passionately patient” in today’s devotion I thought it was an oxymoron. Placing those two words together didn’t make sense to me. How can one be passionate and patient at the same time?

I’m not a patient person.  Thus, the process of becoming pregnant and being pregnant were especially difficult for me. I expected to become pregnant the moment we started trying, but it took 3-4 months. I also expected the 10 months of pregnancy to fly by, but it felt exactly like 10 months.

Today, we have the privilege of having an assortment of apps and tools that help educate us about pregnancy. I think I used them all. I tried about 3 different ovulation predictors and calendars and visited just about every website that detailed weekly fetal progress. I gobbled up all the information I could gather about pre-natal health, fetal health, motherhood, and anything related to pregnancy. We prayed continuously for my health, the health of the baby and for a smooth delivery. The anticipation for this child was great, and my actions reflected that.

However, waiting wasn’t the hardest part. At first, the monthly reminder that I wasn’t pregnant made me feel like a failure. Two months before I actually got pregnant, I remember being completely devastated and disappointed. I could do nothing but cry. Though we hadn’t been trying for long, I felt as though God had forgotten about me. This was something He had promised me and my husband. Why hadn’t He delivered? Even though many women go much longer before having a child (some not at all), I complained. However, I prayed for the strength to continue and for His grace to complete his promise.

I suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum, extreme morning sickness, and was sick for 23 weeks. I lost 14 pounds. When my son was born, I weighed less than when I found out I was pregnant. The pain of my lower abdomen stretching was almost unbearable. Towards the end, my amniotic fluid was low enough that they had to induce me at 38 weeks 5 days.

This whole process was not easy, but I had to remember that God always keeps His promises. Intentional prayer and continuous work to make sure I was doing my part for my health and the health of the baby helped me persevere to delivery. This is how I imagine passionate patience to be. We wait passionately for the coming of Christ. Not without difficulty, but standing firm on His promises, consuming and reflecting on His Word and drowning in His grace.

The Word says,“I see what you’ve done. Now see what I’ve done. I’ve opened a door before you that no one can slam shut. You don’t have much strength, I know that; you used what you had to keep my Word. You didn’t deny me when times were rough.” “Because you kept my Word in passionate patience, I’ll keep you safe in the time of testing that will be here soon, and all over the earth, every man, woman, and child put to the test.” Revelation 3: 8,10 MSG

Our son, Coltrane, was born in late May. We rejoiced at his birth and praised God for keeping His promises. All the heartache and physical discomfort was worth it. We have a healthy baby boy, and hope to live our lives and raise him as an ongoing act of worship and a ‘thank you’ to Christ.

I thank God for helping me to develop “passionate patience” and using the experience of pregnancy as an example for future trials and waiting periods. God’s Word never returns to Him void.


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Mouth of Babes

Our talkative little Coltrane
Our talkative little Coltrane

I must admit. Sometimes I get intimidated by people who produce lofty sounding prayers or who praise God eloquently. When I am overwhelmed by God, sometimes the weight of His glory and grace are so heavy that I cannot say a thing.

Lately, my son has been a talkative little person. At nearly 3 months old, he has seemingly mastered a variety of vocal tones and accompanying facial expressions.  My husband and I will try and slowly say simple words in an effort to try and get him to say them.

“Say ‘Hi’, Coltrane.”

“OOowhyyyAHHH!”

“No, Say ‘Hi’.”

“AhDuhhheyy!” Gurgle, Gurgle, Smile.

We are anxious for the time when he will start to say actual words. However, just because he is not talking with words, that does not mean that he is not saying something.

After reading Proverbs, I decided to dive deep into Psalms.  The Word from this morning made me realize even babies praise God with their little voices.

“God, brilliant Lord, yours is a household name. Nursing infants gurgle choruses about you; toddlers shout the songs that drown out enemy talk, and silence atheist babble.” Psalm 8: 1-2 MSG

Though nonsensical to us, God uses even babies to sing His praises. When God has been so great to us, we are meant to worship Him, even when we don’t have the words.

“Hallelujah! Praise God in his holy house of worship, praise him under the open skies; praise him for his acts of power, praise him for his magnificent greatness; praise him with blast on the trumpet, praise by strumming soft strings; praise him with castanets and dance, praise him with banjo and flute; praise him with cymbals and a big bass drum, praise him with fiddles and mandolin. Let every living, breathing creature praise God! Hallelujah!” Psalm150:1-6 MSG

We shouldn’t feel intimidated or inadequate to give God praise. Our lives should be an ongoing worship song for Him. He gives us talents in order to worship Him.

Draw. Dance. Write. Sing. Play instruments. Play basketball. Clean. Teach. Do whatever you do best to give Him glory.

As long as we have breath, we have no excuse.

Never Say Never

“I will never live in NY! It’s dirty, there are no trees and it’s just too busy!”

I’m from the Eastern Shore of MD.  I enjoy crabbing and fishing.  I love to garden, and I love the water.  These hobbies not only make up the background of my childhood, but they allow me to debrief and meditate on God’s goodness.  How in the world was I going to be able to be my complete self in a world without green spaces and tranquil places?

When my husband and I were considering future places to live, I was not willing to compromise on his hometown.  He is originally from Brooklyn and is like a fish to water when there.  We were visiting some friends about 3 years ago.  They were all trying to convince me why Brooklyn would be a great place to live.  In order to appease them, I said, “Yes. I would live in Brooklyn. IF, I can be a stay-at-home mom, live near Prospect Park, and do ‘bourgeois’ stay-at-home mom things with Charisma (one of the friends trying to convince me to live there)”.  I was convinced that this would never happen because 1)New York is too expensive for us to live there. How was I going to be a stay-at-home mom? 2) I really didn’t have that close of a relationship with Charisma at the time and didn’t expect it to go anywhere.  Why would we be hanging out doing bourgeois mom stuff all of a sudden? and 3)If we could afford to live in NY, it wouldn’t be near Prospect Park because that would be even more expensive.  I’m realizing now how selfish it was for me to set up these parameters knowing how vital Brooklyn is to my husband’s ministry and sense of purpose.  I may not have understood it then, but setting up these “impossible” parameters was not going to get in the way of God’s plan!

Fast forward to Spring 2015.  My husband graduated seminary and accepted a job as a NYC Teaching Fellow. We constantly prayed that God would open doors and make it possible for us to live comfortably and that I could stay at home with our son (to be born early June).

Well God opened doors. He also opened people’s hearts.

Charisma knew of someone who needed a tenant.  It was an affordable place and was just a ten minute walk to Prospect Park. Parameter one and three had been met.

Charisma and I bonded over the past year because we wanted to be mothers.  My husband, Charisma, her husband, and I started a weekly prayer call to pray for our unborn children; their conception, healthy pregnancies, and healthy babies.  Our babies were born one week apart.  We have hung out with our babies numerous times since their births.  She has been an awesome friend and ambassador to the city. Parameter two had been met.

Friends and Family continued to pour out and bless us.  We have not wanted for anything since moving here in June. The part of Brooklyn we live in is not that bad. Prospect Park is my green space.  There is even a lake there where I can sit and admire God’s goodness in His creation. I may not be able to garden in my own back yard, but there is a 24 hr fruit stand and a community garden within walking distance.   This may not be my hometown, but God has placed so many things here to help me feel at home.  At the same time, the many different things will allow me to grow.

This lesson has taught me that I cannot change God’s plan.  If something is supposed to happen, it will happen for His glory. I praise Him for knowing what’s best for me better than I ever could.