{holy moments}

Baby’s First Christmas!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas here in Valdez, Alaska. Snow has fallen, our Alaskan spruce tree is up, decorated, and taking up way too much room in our tiny cabin’s living room. I’ve spent the last three days a slave in the kitchen baking tons of yummy goodies to give away. I’ve got lists of groceries to buy and last minute gifts to get since we’re hosting my family this year. I’ve been inspired to make this Christmas extra special because of one little reason I didn’t have last year –

Teagan Noelle.

She turned 10 months old on December 2nd and stares with wonder at the lights on the Christmas tree (before yanking down the lowest hanging ornaments).

Her middle name is appropriate for this time of year- Noelle is the female version of Noel which means Christmas in French. It’s the name of theologian and pastor John Piper’s wife. Tyler and I both thought it was beautiful. She was born in February but she’s our Christmas girl.

This time last year, December 2015, I was 8 months pregnant. I couldn’t help but think of Mary awaiting the birth of her first born son as I waited (impatiently) to meet our first born daughter.

But as much as I thought about Mary carrying baby Jesus in her womb last Christmas, it doesn’t even compare to the connection I feel to her this year. I think of her in the holy moments of motherhood, like when Teagan falls asleep in my arms. Moments like that bring a new found sense of wonder at the story of that other young mother holding her own sleeping baby over 2,000 years ago.

Mary and I. We have so much and yet so little in common.

Her baby was born in a stable or a cave and laid in a manger. Mine was born in a comfortable birth center and laid in a padded cradle.

Her baby was greeted by unknown shepherds from a field nearby. Mine was greeted by a large family who waited expectantly for her arrival.

But her baby had flesh and blood and new baby skin, and so did mine.

Her baby was fed by the breast milk of his mother, and so is mine.

Her baby had wet diapers and took first steps and said first words, and so did mine.

But Mary’s baby was born to die, so that mine might be born to live. Her baby came to take on the task that no one else could. For he was all human baby but also divine.

“Who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bondservant and being made in the likeness of men.” Philippians 2:7

While Teagan didn’t have a choice… Jesus didn’t have to be born in painful childbirth. He didn’t have to grow up in the harshness of the first century, or to parents who had to work so hard to survive. He was God. He was the king of the universe. But He gave it all up at a certain time in history, at a certain place on earth. In Bethlehem. All so that he could die at a certain time in history, at a certain place on earth. At Golgotha. Death by the cross.

“Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Philippians 2:8

Her baby was born to be obedient to God, to the point of death. So that He might rise again in victory over it and be shown as the Son of God, as Jesus Christ the Lord.

“For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:9-11

Her baby was born for a tragic purpose. He died a horrific death. Mary didn’t choose this for Him, His Father did. God had it all planned, and Mary acting in trusting obedience played her part of the story and then had to watch it all unfold. Maybe she didn’t know what it was all for, maybe she didn’t know it was God’s great love to send His son to die. She certainly couldn’t just turn to John 3:16 and read…

“For God so loved the world that he sent His only begotten Son that who so ever believes in Him will have eternal life.” John 3:16

Eternal life with God.

Mary may not have known the great purpose for her little baby’s life. She was a woman living in a pivotal time in history when God came down to dwell on the earth. But we don’t know what Mary did or didn’t know. We only know that she obeyed. When given the news of her part to play, the news of what her life would become if she said yes to God, she said,

“Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” Luke 1:38

Like Mary, I don’t know the exact purpose of my baby’s life. I don’t know exactly the hardships or tests that she will face. Like Mary, I can’t stop the pain and suffering that will inevitably effect my child. The only thing I can do, is act in obedience to God myself. To be like Mary and live obediently. That’s the best thing Mary could do for her son Jesus. Because she submitted to God’s will she got to be directly involved in God’s work, and the whole world benefitted.

I don’t expect my obedience to be that far reaching, to change the whole world. But I do think that my submission to God in obedience might at least affect my little girl’s world. I want to teach Teagan His ways by directing her to His word, so she will know the truth about Mary’s son Jesus.

Despite what other traditions believe, Mary was just young woman. There was nothing really different about her that set her apart for the high calling of being Jesus’ mom. She simply obeyed God. So by her example as an ordinary mom I’ve learned that I too can obey God, I just have to listen to Him like she did. I can do that by reading His word . And I can pray, as Mary also prayed. Now that I am a mom, I pray. I pray every night for my baby. I count on the promise in 1 John 5:14 that if I pray according to His will, He will hear me. I pray every time it comes to mind that MY baby will kneel and bow before the one true God. I pray that once we teach her the truth, her tongue will confess that Mary’s baby is Lord. That Jesus is God. And that she will know, He alone gives purpose to her life. That by trusting in Him, confessing, and believing she will rise with Him again and live forever too.

The Christmas season is so fun and so busy. It’s full of traditions, and events, and food, and family. I’m enjoying it and looking forward to more. But this year, my first year as a mom, I’m stealing away holy moments. I’m pausing in the car on my way to the post office, in the kitchen washing cookie sheets, to let the Lord speak and remind me what it’s all for. What it’s all in celebration of- Her baby.

Mary’s baby was born to die, so that my baby might be born to live.

Thank you Lord.

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stuck in the secondary

The past few months I have been at home. Letting the Lord grow this baby inside me and taking on a more proactive role in running our household.

Just like anything this off time has it’s pros and cons. I have plenty of time  which has been used either to feel sorry for myself that I am not out living some grand adventure or to really DIG IN to scripture and learn to live in awe of this grand adventure as a daughter of the King that I actually am on…thankfully the days filled with the latter outweigh the former.

The word has come ALIVE to me in this season. Why now? Why do I suddenly hunger and thirst for more of it? Because I’m reading it.

Ironic? The more I GET by really studying and meditating and taking TIME, the more I WANT. It’s such a no brainer, and yet so profound. God really does know me and want me to know more of Him and He WILL reveal Himself through His word. The catch is I have to BE IN IT! duh.

A girlfriend I met at church here in Valdez and I would go on regular coffee dates almost since we moved here last January. We’d mostly vent to each other and then offer some encouragement for whatever crisis what currently taking over most of our brain capacity that week. We both longer for great fellowship and to get back into studying the Word. So we started meeting at her house on Tuesday mornings and decided to read through 1 Corinthians together instead of just venting:) Whoa. What a difference.

Not one week later we had grown from the two of us to 5 of us women. With each new addition our individual eagerness to glean something from these Tuesday mornings really grew. Now every Tuesday at 10, we all come on time, we all ask for prayer, we remember what the others had asked for last week and genuinely want to know how God is working in each other’s lives. We all do outside reading and studying of the agreed on chapters so our discussion can be more than just speculation and opinion based. It’s so refreshing.

And it’s hilarious that I’m so surprised by this development in my life- By this group of young women who really don’t have much in common besides the primary thing. I have had this before. I have LIVED this before. But it’s been about 5 years and it’s a much different context than a dorm full of best friends who not only read together but eat, sleep, dream, study, laugh and cry together too. I spent the first 2 years of our marriage really mourning the loss of community I had with my besties and roommates who really are my sisters in Christ. It had a lot to do with the fact that I transferred colleges to finish up at the University of Alaska and get married in the meantime. My husband was now my live in community and whoa was that a change. But it was so purposeful. Leave and cleave. It was harder for me, but now we both see the immeasurable value of literally moving away from all of our friends and family to a small Alaskan village to learn how to be married. That was such a tumultuous season, but so necessary.

Now, in our 4th year of our still imperfect but now solid (PRAISE THE LORD) marriage I have been blessed with female community again. Not the live in kind (gosh I still miss them) that knows immediately if I get a zit, that shares groceries but makes me buy my own jar of peanut butter, and knows first hand my guilty pleasure of sleeping 10 hours a night. But the adult kind that knows what I mean when I say meal planning on Monday morning has changed my life. It’s a new season and the Lord has brought along new friends for a new time.

But the POINT IS whether it is for a grade in Exodus/Deuteronomy class sitting beside my roommate in front of Dr. Yarchin, or whether it is to have something to share around the coffee table with the ladies on Tuesday morning- studying the word in community is the kind of accountability that I need.

It’s given me a renewed excitement for the text, a renewed surprise for the constant application it has for my life, a renewed JOY at the guidelines for living God’s way.

I WANT MORE.

And it literally brings me to tears what the Holy Spirit has revealed to me about that desire. That THIS is what this time off was about all along. THIS is the preparation I need before becoming a mother. The do-to lists before baby comes on Pinterest are NOTHING compared to the preparation of the heart that the Lord is working in me through this time of study.

Because more than being the mom who has all the answers, who has it all together, I want to be the mom on her knees before the living God day after day after day running the race for an imperishable crown (1 Cor. 9:25)

Because even this profound new role of mother is SECONDARY.

I am first, and foremost a child of God set on this earth to bring glory to HIM by becoming a partaker in HIS gospel (1 Cor. 23).

As Paul answers the Corinthians urgent questions of circumcision (1 Cor. 7:19), of the eating of idol meat (1 Cor. 8), and marriage (1 Cor. 7), he does have answers that helped guide them in the direction of God’s will but the overall theme is clear- these aspects of life are ALL secondary.

The SECONDARY question should be- should I get married?

The PRIMARY questions should be- how can I honor God in my earthly relationships?

The SECONDARY question- Do I buy the Chicco key fit carseat or the Graco snug ride?

The PRIMARY– Am I living as an obedient daughter of the Lord so that even from an infant my child will learn from my example?

And so my prayer in this season of life is that I would be no longer STUCK in the SECONDARY.

That I might be so in tune with the Holy Spirit in me through the spending of TIME in His Word, that I might start to live with the PRIMARY in mind. That I might care more about the spiritual growth of my child than his or her worldly performance, and on and on.

God reveal to me the areas in my life where I put primary what you put secondary so that I might live in greater communion with you…

That I might “run in such a way, as not without aim; box in such a way, as not beating the air; but (that I might) discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others (after I have lived out my life in this secondary realm with YOUR primary focus), I myself will not be disqualified.” 1 Cor. 9:26-27

There is SO much more. Take me deeper in. 

knit me together

i’m pregnant. again! going on 13 weeks. I’ve heard that little dribbling basketball heartbeat and have been promised there is now less than a 1% chance of miscarriage since we found that fluttering little organ’s beat. what a relief. 

my husband was at work, but my sister was with me to hear that amazing sound. That was at 11 weeks. But it’s really only hitting me today. this whole thing is just starting to feel real today.

i’ve been incredibly sick. throwing up sometimes more than 6 times a day. not just morning sickness but all-day-long-barely-hold-it-together-to-leave-the-house nausea. i’ve already used a lot of my sick leave from work. i think the previous miscarriage and then the non-stop puking both contributed to the lack of head/heart connection so far in my pregnancy. somedays i could only just pray “help God.” He hasn’t even really been on my radar. it really made me wonder how people in extreme and constant physical pain even have room for God in their struggle. it’s kind of a catch-22. i desperately need God in those days of severe discomfort and yet i can’t make my mind focus on a prayer longer than those two desperate words. and i guess maybe that’s the point. maybe those in severe conditions like poverty and life long physical disabilities are closest to Him in their prayers of “help God.” maybe there is MORE room for Him in that short desperate prayer than in my hour long “devotional session” where i journal pages of thoughts and read chapters of the bible and then close them and move on with my day.

i was doing the dishes just now and making lunch for my hardworking honey who works on Saturdays, and the tears just started ROLLING down my face. i’m so incredibly humbled to say that i think i’m starting to GET it. I’ve felt disconnected with what is happening to my body and disconnected from God lately, but

He met me this morning at the spot where my sponge met the pan.

Confirmation and love and confidence and a job well done is what I received. immediately praying against pride that it has anything to do with my own efforts (because I REALLY struggle with thinking i can do everything on my own), i thought about where i’m at today and where I’ve been and how i’ve gotten here and i’m just so humbled by what God has done and is doing in my life and in my heart.

they always say that you know you really know something when you can teach it well. you know you really know something when you can explain it to someone else. i got to do that this past week. my sister is dating the one. the one she met on the mission field with the same passion for life and adventure and service and the Lord. they were going to get engaged this summer but she’s panicking and saying she’s not ready for a variety of reasons (that seem to change depending on the day). as the one who she really listens to i knew i had a serious responsibility in how and what i would share with her as my opinion on the matter. I also got a talking to from my wise husband reminding me that this was my chance to really point her to God or not.

it’s almost funny what i ended up driving home; funny because it’s SO not of this world. it’s LAUGHABLE to this world. I said, “Sar, getting married is not that big of a deal.” She knows I don’t mean that if she doesn’t end up liking it they can get a divorce…no. We both come from the worldview that marriage is a sacred covenant between a man, woman, and God where the two become one flesh under the power of the one who created them both. So in that sense it is a VERY big deal. What I meant is that it doesn’t really matter what you do with you life. We’re simply called to wake up everyday and make the conscious decision whether we are going to live for ourselves or whether we are going to live that day for God. She could do that married or single. Living in a third world country or in the U.S. And what God brought forth in my mind this morning over that soapy pan is that the same is true for me and he’s allowing me to live that out day by day.

there was a time not long ago, at all, that i was motivated to live by what I could be, what I could accomplish, what mark I would make on this world, what I would be recognized for.  but today at the dish sink i saw that my heart cares now more about who HE is, what HE has already accomplished, what marks HE makes on this world, and what HE should be recognized for.

I see this lived out this week in a few maybe seemingly insignificant ways: by my willingness to let go of my job earlier than I expected (i’ll probably quit in 6 weeks instead of 6 months and just focus on being a wife before becoming a mama) and by giving up the grad classes I was going to use my tuition waiver form work to start my graduate transcript (a personal and selfish dream). What i want to highlight here is that this did NOT come from me. If it were left up to the me without the Lord I would maybe give up those things but not without much kicking and screaming and probably bitterness.

so PRAISE the Lord for what He is doing in me. and PRAISE Him that I am learning to find my identity in Him alone and not from my role as a sister, daughter, student, employee, wife, or now mom. That’s something that my own mother has struggled with and has always been on my radar to try and avoid. I won’t put it far from my mind, but it’s so encouraging to know the presence of the Lord in my kitchen and the comfort of his praise of me that I am learning what it means to be his daughter. Besides the choice to live for Him and not for myself today, the effort to do so isn’t something I can muster up on my own with enough caffeine and self-determination. It is simply the work of the Holy Spirit and today I got to see myself through His eyes. Thank you Jesus.

and thank you for this new life growing inside me. I now feel the weight of Glory in the phrase from Psalm 139: “For you created my inmost being, you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful I know that full well.” 

POSITIVE+

POSITIVE+

Commonly Significant

I just spontaneously decided I would give the context of my authorship on this little blog. I’m currently sitting at my built-in-table right underneath the biggest window in our tiny home. I can see the ocean, I can see snow covered mountains, and a sunny cloudless sky. I’m looking out at a small port in the Alexander Archipelago of Alaska’s Southeast. The village is Hoonah. The population less than 800. And Tyler and I are 2 of them. I’m also semi-covered in paint. I primed a section of new sheetrock my husband put up the other day to fill in a strange hole in one of our interior walls. While I wait for the primer to dry, so I can add the top coat- a lovely greige (the new beige), I’ll write.

This morning I woke up and decided I was ready. Ready to write about something deep and personal, something sad and happy, something so common yet so significant.

Pregnancy. 

We don’t have kids, yet:) But I have had the strange and AWEsome experience of being pregnant. Instead of thinking of it as a miscarriage in my mind I tend to simply think of it as ‘that one time when I was pregnant.’ Because honestly that’s what it was to me.

Here is the background: Tyler and I had been married for a year and a month.

It was JUNE 2013.

Location: Hoonah, AK

Tyler and I were living the DREAM. We were finally getting used to being married, we had our own little rental right on the water in downtown Hoonah. We had the BEST summer job you can imagine. Hoonah is a cruise ship destination from May-September and Tyler and I worked for the only stream fishing outfit on the island. The waters here provide an INCREDIBLE place for Alaska salmon stream fishing. We were the co-guides for every stream fishing trip that was booked through the cruise ships that came to Hoonah. This meant we picked up our groups of 5-8 guests, outfitted them in fishing waders, poles, and shoes, loaded them up in a 15 passenger van, drove out dirt logging roads to a highly active creek full of fish- and you guessed it- brown bears. We then taught them to fish, took loads of pictures, and brought them back after around 3 hours. And then we did it all again multiple times a day. We got to work together everyday. We got to tell our story frequently and even witness to some of our fascinated guests. Our office was the beauty of the Alaskan wilderness and to top it all off we had a RECORD summer for sunny hot weather. The dress code was chest waders and tank tops. It was a DREAM.

Just as we were getting used to the fast pace, go go go routine of seasonal tourism I realized my period was late. Of course I attributed it to the recent move, job change, etc. But we were both slightly freaked out so I bought a test. It was a Tuesday morning in June. It was 6 something am. We had three fishing trips that day, the first scheduled to start in an hour. And that’s when I peed on the stick. I couldn’t wait, I couldn’t not know before the long day ahead. I sat in the bathroom until that fateful red line appeared and then brought it out to show my young husband.

We just STARED at each other.

Before we got married we decided together that we would not use the pill as our birth control method. Neither one of us is 100% morally against certain versions of the pill, but given my previous history of chemical imbalances, PMS related depression, and a mutual conviction about not wanting to be dependent on pills, we chose to use natural methods instead and ended up following a version of the Fertility Awareness Method (FAM). Looking back now it is almost comical how ignorant we were. We tracked my ovulation based on the calendar method of counting days and abstaining or using condoms during the most fertile time of the month. We knew it wasn’t fool proof whatsoever, but we trusted that God was in control of when our family would start to grow. Since the pregnancy I laugh at our ignorance of the FAM but I admire our resolve to let God lead. We just didn’t know what that would really mean.

In the time it took you to read that interlude, back in the tiny water front rental Tyler and I were still staring at each other. SHOCKED. Not that it could happen, but that it DID happen. We were pregnant. And we had NO IDEA what to do next. 22 years old, living in a random Alaskan village, working seasonal jobs with no clue about our future, we were going to have a KID?!

Needless to say the next few weeks were life changing for both of us. It’s funny- once I got over the initial shock, frustration, anger and self-pity that my life was over and finally settled into the idea that God allowed this to happen therefor he must think we can handle it (which took about 2 weeks)- I loved being pregnant. I wasn’t very sick, I was tired a lot more, but I loved having such a huge secret that only Tyler and I knew about and I loved my body. I loved how different it felt, how big my boobs got, how excited I was for a bump to start showing, and how all of a sudden my physical insecurities vanished because my body was now something vital to a little life and was somehow (in my own mind) no longer subject to the criticisms of the world.

Tyler and I grew so close that summer. It solidified so many things that were still fragmented in our marriage. We had to trust each other. So we did. We had to figure everything out together. So we did. We had to trust God. So we did.

And then I started to bleed. The midwife we had visited in Juneau said sometimes it’s normal. I went up to Anchorage for a best friends bridal shower the last week in July. I went alone without Tyler for 2 days. And that’s when it happened. I was about eleven weeks along. Almost to the second trimester. And all of a sudden after one painful night, it was over. It was gone. She was gone. We thought of her as a girl with a name already. We had bonded somehow with a tiny fetus we never even heard the heartbeat of. And then God took her home. And left me empty and confused, but mostly just tired and sad.

Unexplained miscarriages in the first trimester happen in around 1 in 4 pregnancies, according to the midwife. So common. Yet so significant. I woke up this morning ready to write it down. Ready to even share it on the internet for anyone to see. Just as I was sitting down to write at my beautiful built in table in my paint covered clothes, I realized that she would have come next week. Actually any day now. The midwife gave us not a due date, but a due week in her wisdom, which was the first week of March 2014. Today is the last day of February.

Since last summer, our life changing significant summer, I haven’t very often been sad about my miscarriage. But one good friend who also experienced a miscarriage explained that I might get sad at random times and feel the loss especially when the predicted due date came and went. And she was right.

And Tyler and I were right too. God is in control. Whether you use the birth control pill or not, He alone is the giver of life. And sometimes he gives and sometimes he takes away. And that’s good. Because He is good.

Today I’m trusting in his goodness. And I’m thankful for my pregnancy. And I’m excited for the chance to experience it again one day when He decides it’s time.

summer 2013

Since last summer my husband and I have done extensive research on the FAM and continue to use the ovulation tracking method based on an awesome smartphone app from a company called Kindara. It is THIS reliable. We highly recommend it. When I began writing this post I expected to focus mainly on the idea of natural methods for avoiding pregnancy, but that will have to come in a follow up post. Today was just my story. Thanks for reading.