Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Sweet Friends

"The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense." Proverbs 27:9

I used the New Living Translation for my Scripture photo today, but I also appreciate the wording in the Holman Christian Standard Bible.

"Oil and incense bring joy to the heart, and the sweetness of a friend is better than self-counsel." Proverbs 27:9

Sometimes the perspective of a friend is just what we need to get us back on track. And knowing that we can count on the godly advice of a solid Christian friend is truly something to cherish.

For more inspiring Word Filled Wednesday, visit Photobucket.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Role of a Mother

Gathering At the Well

Sherry shares At The Well today about her view on the role of a mother. To read the entire post, go here. The following is a snippet of what she had to say.

"As a mother I welcome my children into my life--I let them know that I like them, that I want to spend time with them, that I miss them when I am away--even while we are separated by sleep. They are always welcome on my lap, and are a priority far above my own needs or desires. They know that I not only tolerate them, but I delight in them. I include them in my daily life and consider them an integral and indispensable part of our family. In this way they become confident that they are loved, and their security translates into the other parts of their lives as they grow and mature."

And here is an 'incomplete list' of the practical application of these principles that she shared:

Smile at your child when he wakes up in the morning, welcome him into the new day.

Avoid "gripe groups" of other mothers who sit around and complain and run their children down.

Exclaim in a cheerful tone, "Hey--did you know that I like you a lot?"--often.

Tell the child stories of his birth/adoption and how you fell in love with him.

Allow your child to interrupt you when you are sewing or online or cooking, without conveying frustration.

Look into his eyes when he is talking to you.

Sit on the floor and play with him.

When you take him to the park, go on the slide and the swings with him.

Love his father--the man that he came from, even if that father is no longer part of your lives.

Let your arms and your heart always be open to him.

Don't postpone discipline--be consistent.

Be willing to be passionately involved--correcting him and reasoning with him.

Beware of using distractions such as media, etc. that are attempts to replace his need for your attention.

Although I just do not have much to share today, two of her discussion questions did intrigue me. I will be reading other posts to see what the other ladies At The Well have to say. If you have any creative ideas, please share them with me.

First, "What are some ways that I can turn the conversation around when other women begin to gripe and complain about their children?" I cannot recall coming face to face with this situation, but would like to be prepared when I do.

Second, "Name some creative ways we can create warmer, more inviting environments for our children." This question is probably the reason I feel I have nothing inspired to share today. After being on bedrest for two months with this pregnancy, and no specific end in sight yet, it's been hard on me as a mom. I struggle with a lot of guilt about the assistance I've needed in caring for my girls' most basic needs and the lack of quality play time and activities I can be involved with. It's extremely hard when Madeline asks me to lift her up and I have to remind her I can't right now. She excitedly says with a big grin, "Your baby in your belly grows bigger...bigger...and comes out. THEN you hold me!" Although my mind knows I am doing the "right" thing for this baby, and the girls will not be scarred by the changes of this season, it's still a struggle because it goes against all my mothering instincts.

I am looking forward to enjoying all the insights of other women today.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A Good Appointment

I just wanted to update you on my appointment, last week Thursday. It was my first appointment with my OB. He said everything looks great and we should be past the point of worrying now at 14 weeks. He also noted the placental tear may have gotten smaller, indicating some healing going on! He said the previa was not a concern in the first trimester (other than a few additional physical restrictions) because the uterus is so small, it is common for the placenta to overlap the cervix. He is confident that as it grows, it will move upwards and become a non-issue. I also found out I won't be high-risk for the first time!

When I asked about possible exercise, like walking (I'm getting way out of shape and really antsy to get back to normal), he was very specific. He said my goal between now and the next appointment is to rest a lot, sleep a bunch and keep myself from getting any colds or flu. He said to do things that will relax my body, like get my nails done (oh twist my arm!). Then in 2 weeks he will see me and set up an appointment with the perinatologist, who will do an extensive ultrasound and hopefully tell us not only the gender, but that the tear is gone and I can resume life. While I was disappointed to remain on bedrest (I'm going on 2 months!) I was encouraged by his specific instructions and the explanation of how it is helping the baby.

Unfortunately, I was unable to stay away from the infections going around lately, probably because I've had 2 unusually clingy, cheek-to-cheek-cuddly, very-sick girls for the past 10 days. It finally caught up with me and I've literally been in bed since Friday afternoon. I never knew you could have so many symptoms at once (and I'll spare you the details). But seriously, I didn't realize adults still got earaches!

Other non-essential information:
No, I'm not showing yet. Since I have not fully past the point of nausea, I haven't been able to put on a pound.

Yes, I'm still sick but the doctor thinks once I go off the progesterone, I'll feel much better. 5 days and counting!

Yes, I faintly felt the baby move - just once. With the girls it was much earlier than this. I think being on bedrest has affored me the luxury of wearing comfy pants all day and the first time I felt both girls move was when my too-tight pants were pressing on my belly. I think it will be more comforting to me when I can feel the baby move each day.

Thanks again for the many prayers! It appears they are working and God has protected the baby in spite of the complications.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Perfect Peace

Last week I was driving. I had a ways to go, probably 45 minutes, and the girls were busy in the back seat with papers and purses. I could have spent my time listening to worship music, or one of the podcasts I downloaded to my phone, but I didn't. Instead I was mulling.

Here's the backstory, as they say in Hollywood (or at least how I picture them saying in Hollywood). There is a relationship in my life that I've been bringing to the Lord for some time. Not only was it often hurtful, but it started to become unhealthy to me and to my family. Or maybe it had been that way all along and I just didn't see it.

Some months ago, my husband and I determined to seek God on how we should approach the situation. We knew we had to get together in love and try to get some resolution. But our offers for conversation were rejected. Many times. After many months, we both felt a release from pursuing it any further.

After that, my life was filled with much more peace than I had known in a long time. I think by trying to always "fix" the relationship, instead of asking God what He would require of me, I kept myself unnecessarily in midst of much drama and hurt.

So, back to my car ride. A couple days prior, I ran into said person at an event. In the course of a very few minutes, they were able to offend and disrespect me, lie to me and again refuse an offer to get together to make things right. As you might suspect, this sort of played itself out over and over again in my mind. And on that particular day, I had quite a bit of uninterrupted time to stew on it.

What was making me the most upset, was that I felt like I didn't have the power to shut off the automatic playback feature that kept going off in my mind. I mean, who can just make themselves feel something different or not think about a thought that appears uninvited in their head? And I was mad that this person still seemed to have the power to hurt me.

All of the sudden, God spoke to my heart. Or maybe to my mind. Either way, I heard it loud and clear. He said to me, "Rebecca, I have released you from that relationship to bring you Peace. You can either choose to accept my gift, or you can continue to dwell on this situation. Either way, it's your choice."

And that was it. It pierced me straight to my heart. I was the one choosing to allow those thoughts to run rampant in my mind. And at the same time, choosing to reject the precious gift of Peace that God was trying to extend to my life.

I repented and spent some time thinking about how I could replace those instant replays with God's gift of peace. I decided to find a Scripture about God giving us peace, and I would memorize it. And whenever those thoughts set themselves loose in my brain, I would replace them by reciting my verse of promise over and over until they left.

You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You. Isaiah 26:3

As a bonus, I read this over at Sunny's yesterday, about reacting versus responding. I felt encouraged to not only pray my Scripture, but to add a little prayer for the offending person. At least as much I can muster up honestly. She had some great Scriptures to inspire me.

For more inspiring Word Filled Wednesday, visit Photobucket.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Family and Friendship

Gathering At the Well

I'm sure we've all heard the old wives' tale in regards to being a parent, “You can’t be friends with your child if you wish to parent them.” I've heard it many times and never really taken the time to consider it before.

I guess I probably thought it was true in light of my own childhood. My parents were either my friend, or my parent, but never both at the same time. I knew the days I was a close confidant or a buddy, and I knew the days I was just a child to be disciplined and kept in my place.

Today At the Well, we are discussing friendship within the family. We are taking a look at the phrase in Titus 2:4, "to love their husbands."

I obtained a new perspective of the verse when Amy revealed that the original word used for "love" is derived from Philos, which means to love in the sense of to be friends with. It means, “friend, to be friendly to one, wish him well.” This is different from the “love” of John 13:34, Agapao, which means "to welcome, to entertain, to be fond of, to love dearly.” The same can be said of the phrase "love their children."

The more I pondered this, the more I could picture friendship and parenting marching hand in hand. Here are just a few of the characteristics the Bible attributes to a friend.

What is a Friend?

Someone you trust and share with ~Psalms 41:9
Always loves you ~ Proverbs 17:17
Sticks with you ~ Proverbs 18:24
Gives you good counsel ~ Prov 27:9
Helps you up when you've failed ~ Ecc 4:10
Would give their life for you ~ John 15:13
Shares with you ~ John 15:15

When I think of my dearest friends, I know they are always available when I am in need. I am certain they will tell me when I'm out of line, as they want the best for me. They encourage me to grow. My closest friends are not afraid to be honest with me. They recognize my failures, but also encourage me to learn from them and move past them. They cheer on my victories, big and small. They even stand up for me when others attack.

Who wouldn't want a parent who does all that? If I'm being totally transparent here, then I have to tell you I would have given up my closest childhood friend to have my parents "parent me" like this. Unconditional love....someone I could trust and openly share my feelings with....not berating me, but helping me up when I fail.

I think the idea that we can't be a parent and a friend at the same time comes from a non-Biblical view of what a friend is.

Being a friend does not necessarily mean being an equal. I have friends I look up to for advice, and friends I feel more often I have something to impart. I love both kinds: the kind I can sow into and the kind I can learn from. I have some friends I can share my worst details with, and other relationships where that wouldn't be appropriate.

"As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend." Proverbs 27:17

And being a friend doesn't mean you let the person get away with wrong behavior for the sake of keeping peace in the friendship. That is not what Proverbs 27:17 is talking about when it says, "As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend." Just as you use a metal tool to sharpen a knife blade, it takes a substance of similiar strength and durability to handle the friction required to sharpen an object. A true friend is strong enough to stand up for what is right.

I love that I had the opportunity to study this today. I had always assumed I would have to choose between being a parent and a friend as my kids got older. Right now while my girls are young, it is natural to be a friend and playmate. I was dreading the day when I would have to abandon that to become "THE PARENT." I am excited to know that God has commanded us to love them with a friendship kind of love all along the way.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Everlasting Love

As Valentine's Day approaches, I thought there was something so romantic sounding about God's "Everlasting Love."

The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying:
"I have loved you with an everlasting love;

I have drawn you with loving-kindness."

Jeremiah 31:3

First, He tells us He has loved us with a love that knows not the boundaries of time. Everlasting love is an ancient love, an always love, and an evermore love. Then He tells us He draws us with loving-kindess, or His merciful favor. You can't find a better love letter than that!

For more inspiring Word Filled Wednesday, visit Amy at Photobucket.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Another Great Report!

Today was my "graduation day" ultrasound, according to the doctor. It went great, although not so much at first. The ultrasound tech asked my permission to allow an ultrasound machine representative in the room in order to teach her how to better use the new 4D machine (which is now literally no bigger than a laptop!).

I didn't have a problem with that, but I was anticipating a lot of technical mumbo-jumbo. And after what happened last time, I did have the forethought to ask if I could see the heartbeat first, so I wouldn't be watching the screen and wondering if the baby was OK. Being unfamiliar with the equipment, it took her well over a minute to get the heartbeat. At first we even got audio that sounded like a loud whooshing sound, absent of the familiar, rapid duh-dump, duh-dump I was listening for. It took so long that I finally prayed out loud, Please God not again! The doctor came in at that point, took a look at my face and asked what was the matter. I told him these ultrasounds had me so scared that we wouldn't find a heartbeat again. He found it right away and made sure I saw and heard a decent heartbeat. I was a little shook up, so he forced me to crack a smile before they would continue.

We found that the previa HAS grown upward. Praise God! What an answer to prayer. He had a hard time determining if there was still a very slight previa left or if it would now be considered a low-lying placenta (which is a step up). He finally called it low-lying, as he wants me to move on to my regular OB and that way I won't be considered high risk. So I won't need extra appointments with a perinatologist! Yay!

The placental tear is still there and is the same size. I thought that was good news until he started to lecture me about not being worried. So I asked if it was supposed to heal. And he said usually they do, but mine isn't. He assured me it is nothing to worry about, but I do have to stick with my physical limitations (ie, no lifting, bending, exercise, etc). Apparently, using abdominal muscles can strain the area and cause the tear to get bigger.

Again, the baby is measuring right on track, which means the baby is still getting enough nutrition despite my morning-day-and-night sickness and in spite of the tear.

After the doctor left, the tech and rep continued to work on the settings of the machine, and I was blessed to get to watch multiple 3D videos. (I felt like God gave me that little gift to help me get over my earlier scare.) It was so amazing to see the baby move in real time in such detail.

So all in all, a great report! I want to thank you for your many prayers and encouraging notes. The past couple months have been a struggle, learning to wait on God and trust Him in a deeper way. Even through bedrest, I feel like I have learned so much and God has been faithful to provide in every way.

I posted one of the videos here. As you can tell, the tech was working on seeing the baby from different angles. In the middle, the baby turns its bottom towards the camera and you can see the little rear end briefly. Towards the end, the baby arches it's back just like a newborn. Amazing to have a little peek into the miracle God is creating.

Monday, February 9, 2009

What's Inside?

Gathering At the Well

What is the real underlying motive for all of the good stuff that you do?

This is the discussion question At the Well today. And it's one that will get your mind going on a Monday morning.

Laurie says, "Sometimes, there is a huge difference between our impure motives and the goodness of our actions."

I have dealt with this issue, especially since adding children to our family. Slowly, the overload of multiple ministries and activities began to take a toll on me as a mother and wife. And I had a hard decision to make.

What I was doing was good. It was "for the kingdom" and produced good fruit. But it was taking the place of the primary role God gave me at this time in my life.

My husband and I both grew up in families that were well rooted in the church. We both know many close family and friends who were involved in ministry. It shocked me as I began to open up about my struggle, how many women shared with me the regrets they had over time lost with their children that they would never have back.

Those conversations forced me to reconsider why I was involved in different areas of service or ministry. As Laurie said, what was my underlying motive? I was surprised to discover sometimes the motive was a feeling of obligation, a sense of duty or even peer pressure!

At that point, I began to take a different approach. I would first ask God if He wanted me to commit to something, and ask Him to bring me a sense of peace if He did. If I felt uncertainty, then I would wait to get involved until I felt sure God was leading me in that direction. On the flip side, I also asked God to give me a sense of release when it was time to be finished with something I was involved in. I didn't want to allow myself to quit just because it was uncomfortable or hard, but again because I knew God was leading me in a different direction. That certainly put a check on my motives.

All a man's ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the LORD.

Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.

Proverbs 16:2-3

And yet, I still miss the goal sometimes. This holiday season I really, really wanted to participate in our church's annual Christmas Tea by hosting a table. I had ladies in mind that I knew I would minister to at my table, and I knew they would be blessed. I had opportunity after opportunity to commit, but I didn't feel peaceful. At the last minute one Sunday, after another announcement asking for hostesses, I signed up. Partly because I so desired to do it and partly to please people who needed help.

Immediately, I regretted it. I knew I didn't have the go-ahead from the Lord. On the drive home from church, I told my husband I knew I had made a mistake. And sure enough, by the end of the tea, I was wishing I had been a little more obedient.

In hindsight, I could see why God wouldn't give me the release I wanted. He was trying to protect me. A couple days before the tea, my husband broke both of his wrists and we spent the week in ERs and doctor's offices and surgery centers. It was all I could do to get to the tea at all. And that night, my poor husband got really sick and needed me more than ever. But I was off ministering to everyone but him.

I learned another lesson. That God will work through us, even when we are imperfect.

It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.
Phillipians 1:15-18

God still allowed me to minister to the ladies at my table, but not without a price. My family suffered that night. And I suffered. I was overwhelmed and tired. And mostly disappointed in myself because I was the one responsible.

It was a good, hard lesson. I am even more careful now to listen to the promping of the Holy Spirit and check my motives. When God asks me to move on, I don't drag it out, I just obey trusting He has my best interests in mind.

I'll end with Laurie's prayer, "I desire to give Him all of my talents, all of my time and all of my treasures, for Him to use me as He sees fit. May my motives always be pure when it comes to serving Him and serving others!"

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Thankful for God's Protection

Today's Thankful Thursday post is very specific for me. I am thankful for my daughters, Olivia and Madeline. When I say I am a mother to two miracle daughters, I don't use that word lightly.

Last night I found Cynthiaa at Confessions of a Yummy Mummy. Cynthiaa was just 2 weeks away from her due date when she learned that her beautiful baby boy had died of cord strangulation. They delivered him and she is obviously in tremendous pain. She is relying on God to help her through & I hope you will all stop by with love and encouragement, lifting her up in your prayers.

The reason this struck a chord with me is because BOTH of my girls were born with cords wrapped around their necks. Olivia's cord was wrapped around her neck - twice! Because of the cord she couldn't fully expel the fluids from her lungs. She stayed absolutely awake for 24 hours, unable to breathe well, until they pumped the fluid out of her lungs the next day.

Madeline was a different story. She went into fetal distress after 30 hours of labor, causing the doctor to order a C-section. Fortunately, I was close enough to delivery and she was tiny enough, that we were able to push her out in a few pushes. Not only was the cord wrapped around her neck twice, but it was in a "true knot." This is a rare incident occuring 0.3% of the time and means Madeline literally swam in a circle and tied the umbilical cord in a knot. The doctor was amazed that she had made it OK through so many hours of laboring.

As I reflected on Cynthiaa's heartbreaking story, I was again amazed at God's hand of protection over both girls through difficult conceptions, pregnancies and deliveries. Please keep Cynthiaa and her family in your prayers today.

For more Thankful Thursday, go here.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Falling Headlong

The Lord has been stretching me lately. Not in those rewarding ways, where you are afraid to do something He has told you to do, so you step out in faith and afterward you feel satisfied, obedient and fulfilled.

No, lately I've been traipsing through some unfamiliar territory. I'm talking the uneven grounds of going against things you were taught as a child, the rocky paths of stirring the waters and even the jagged road called "this might ruffle someone's feathers."

If you know me, you understand that I am more of a keep-the-peace kind of girl. I love to teach, support, and encourage. The gift of godly admonishment or confronting wrongs is not in my bag of tricks.

But it has been a call I cannot ignore. The voice of the Lord asking me to go deeper, further than I've been before. I need to grow up in Him, do the right things even when they aren't easy. And then there is God's written word, confirming how a righteous man or woman behaves.

The problem is sometimes after I've obeyed, everything seems to blow up. It appears to be worse than before. And I begin to doubt if I even heard Him right to begin with.

I admit that I've worked hard throughout my life to establish an authentic grace-filled relationship with God, as opposed to one that is based on following all the rules and performing with perfection, because I so desire Him to be pleased with me.

So when I read this verse, you could almost see the relief wash over me.

Psalm 37:23-24
"Our steps are made firm by the Lord,
when he delights in our way;
though we stumble, we shall not fall headlong,
for the Lord holds us by the hand."

In my attempts to hear God correctly, and be obedient to what I think He has asked me to do, I very well may stumble. I may not get it exactly right at first. But He is not going to let me fall headlong down a flight of stairs. I might miss my step, but thankfully He is holding my hand and has promised not to drop me. I feel just like a child who is not so steady yet, but who has a loving parent saying: Trust me. Follow Me. I have planned for you to walk this way.

For more inspiring Word Filled Wednesday, visit Photobucket.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

I'm Late to the Well....

All good intentions aside, I'm late in joining the ladies "At the Well." And to make matters worse, I won a doorprize! The first prize I've won through my blog (and it was the one I was really hoping for) - and I show up a day late.

In spite of it all, At the Well is one of a handful of memes that I have consistently stayed involved in. I love the introspection and insights it makes available to me as a mother and a wife. And it always brings me deeper into the Word.

Gathering At the Well

Today's grand re-opening gives us a chance to examine the heart of At the Well, Titus 2:2-5.

When you read the Scripture found in Titus 2: 2-5, how do you see this playing out in your own life?

If you could set some sort of goal in relation to this Scripture, what would it be?

Teach the older men to exercise self-control, to be worthy of respect, and to live wisely. They must have sound faith and be filled with love and patience.

Similarly, teach the older women to live in a way that honors God. They must not slander others or be heavy drinkers. Instead, they should teach others what is good.

These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children, to live wisely and be pure, to work in their homes, to do good, and to be submissive to their husbands. Then they will not bring shame on the word of God.

When I read these verses, I get excited about the part that encourages the experienced women to pass on their wisdom to the young women. I'm a fairly new mom and wife, and I look forward to gleaning the wisdom of women who've already been where I am, and have sound, godly advice for me.

Practically, the biggest part of this playing out in my life (the non-blogging part of my life, that is), requires me to climb out of my comfort zone. I need to be open to relationships at church and in Women's Bible study, that are not just with other moms and wives my own age. I need to push myself a little, and not allow myself to be so intimitdated by more experienced moms' success and wisdom. Sometimes it's easy to stick with what we know...but the familiar rarely helps us grow and mature.

When I read these verses, I think: Yes! I want to love my husband and children more! I want to function everyday with wisdom, living a life that is pure! I want to do good and work in my home, and learn how to submit to my husband more! In essence, I want to be a better wife and a better parent.

But the main goal is to live my life in a way that honors God, especially in the context of my family life as a wife and a mother. Being fully aware that I won't always succeed, my desire is to be intentional, and focus on my everyday interactions. To take a step back at the end of the day, and take note of whether my actions toward my children and with my husband were honoring to God.