Sunday, December 26, 2010

Treasures in my heart

Luke 2:19, "And Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart."

In reading the Christmas story in Luke 2, I have always been drawn to the above passage. The fact that in the midst of the miracle of God becoming flesh, Mary took a moment to just take it all in, amazing me. In the midst of the miracle, Mary took a moment to just be a mom. There were several times when my husband and I were trying to become parents that I wondered if I was ever going to experience the pondering of the thoughts and experiences of a new mom. Then once I became pregnant with my daughter I finally realized the sweet moments that you do treasure. The first heartbeat, the first movement, the first kick and the first hiccup.

At a mere 28 weeks pregnant I had some major complications with my pregnancy that caused me to put on bedrest at the hospital. In those tense and scary moments of monitors and medicine, I treasured each heartbeat I heard, and every moment that was given to me with my daughter. After nine days in the hospital, the complications were finally settled down and I was allowed to go just happened to be Christmas day, 2008! Over 2000 years before the biggest, most amazing miracle occurred, GOd became flesh in the person of Jesus Christ! In 2008 God did another miracle in allowing me to be in my home for Christmas and for my child to still be growing and thriving in my tummy.

As I sat in front of our Christmas tree that Christmas day, I treaured the fact that God had been gracious and my daughter was still thriving and growing inside of my. Then 5 days later in the early morning of December 30th, my husband rushed me to the hospital and that visit resulted in my precious, miracle daughter being born, when I was just 30 weeks pregnant! The next eight weeks my daughter fought for her life, and over and over again God showed up in a miraculous way in my daughter's life, in my life and in my family's life. In every God moment I had, I treasured them into my heart. Eight weeks after my daughter's early arrival, she was able to come home and enjoy her baby cradle for the first time.

Fast forward two years! Yesterday on Christmas day, instead of being rolled out of the hospital with a baby inside me, I was able to celebrate Christmas 2010, with my precious miracle daughter, my husband, parents, brother, sister in love, niece and nephew, and many extended family members. I was able to testify about God's goodness, faithfulness and love that He had poured onto our family. Again yesterday, I pondered the many joys that God had given to me the last few years. I say joy and not happiness, because joy is that deep, everlasting love and enduring faith that God showed to me and confirmed to me in my heart the last few years. I accepted God into my life when I was just eight years old, with a child like faith. Now at almost 34 years old I have a faith in God that is real and has been fleshed out in both joyous and very saddening times! I love God not because of what He does or doesn't do in my life, but because of WHO HE IS!!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Suffering Stinks: Semi-Homemade

In full disclosure, this blog is semi-homemade. That means that I did not come up with all of the content of this blog by myself. The main points of this blog are from this Sunday's sermon at Cedarcrest Church given by George Wright. It was an incredible sermon and I wanted to share the main points. In sharing with you the main points of the sermon, I also wanted to expound on them what God has taught me through suffering. The passage of scripture that we looked at this Sunday was Acts 16:25-34. Paul and Silas were in prisoned for thier faith, yet they still praised the Lord and led others to salvation.

Let's all admit that suffering stinks. Whether you are suffering from your first broken heart in the 9th grade, failing a class, loss of a job, loss of a child, infertility, depression, divorce, suffering is no fun. Just because you are a Christian doesn't mean enduring suffering isn't hard. In many cases as Christians we have a distorted faith about God. We believe that if we do good things then God will give us good things but if we have bad things happen in our lives it must mean with have or are commiting some great sin. All of this untrue! For proof that this believe is untrue just look at the like of Job. (You can read about the life of Job in the Old Testament book of Job). Many times God allows suffering in our lives to happen, because God desires to deepen our faith or to get out of our lives some things that should not be there. Other times, suffering happens just because we live in a sinful, fallen world, with sinful fallen people. So how and why should you worship, serve and love God when you are suffering? That question was answered for me not only in this Sunday's sermon, but also through personal heartache.

1. Worshipping in the midst of suffering reminds us what is important.
Since 2004 my family has endured some not so fun suffering. From the death of my precious nephew at birth in 2004, to myself and some of my other family members struggle with infertility, to my own daughter being born 10 weeks premature, suffering has seemed to be the theme. But in the suffering it helps me take the focus off of what really didn't matter in life and put my focus on what really mattered. Before the suffering, I was more worried about what my clothes and my hair look liked, instead of worrying about what my faith looked like. I was more concerned about other's approval then I was about my Lord's approval. Suffering helped me refocus on what was and still is very important in my life; faith, family and friends.

2. Worshipping in suffering protects us from using suffering as an excuse for sin.
There have been many times during my times of suffering when I just said to the Lord, "I am done". I wanted to go out and do activities that I knew were wrong,I felt like I deserved to be a little bit bad because of all the "badness" that was occurring in my life. Thankfully I had a strong support system that brought me to my senses and told me that if I did those activities, I was just going to feel worse not better!

3. Worshipping in suffering takes the focus off the suffering and places the focus on Christ. It helps us forget what is wrong with ME and focuses on what is right with THEE (God).
A friend of mine gave me one of my most favorite quotes about dealing with sufffering and sadness. She said Abbey, "Life is hard, God is good, don't get the two confused!" I have come to realize that statement is so very true. Life is hard, but God is so very good. Do we as children of God, always go through good stuff and not bad, no. But through in every step we see that God is good and faithful.

4. Worshipping in suffering is an amazing testimony to those around you.
After the death of my nephew, I will never forget my brother telling me of all the people that were calling, encouraging and praying for him and my sister in law. One of his friends from high school who had been away from the Lord for many years, in seeing the strength of my brother's faith turned back to the Lord. In my own life, I have had friends tell me that they had not prayed in years, but when they heard about my daughter being born so early and so little, they prayed. That is what it is all about! As Christians our goal is to bring glory and other people to God, even it means that we have to suffer in the process.

5. Worshipping in the midst of suffering reveals God's faithfulness.
I can definitely vouch for the fact that of God's faithfulness. When my daughter was born 10 weeks early an spend 8 weeks in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), I experienced God's amazing faithfulness. One occasion in particular energized my faith like nothing I have ever experienced. While my daughter was in the NICU the doctors did a battery of tests to get a base line for the care they would be giving her. One test they gave her was to test and see if she has Cystic Fibrosis. The test came back positive, but the doctor said they were going to redo it just to confirm. At that moment, I broke down. I went crying to my car and sent out a massive text to my friends and family and asked them to stop what they were doing an pray! The next day the doctor came back in my daughter's room and told me that they had redone the test and my daughter did not have Cystic Fibrosis. God truely did a miracle in not only in my daughter's life but in the life of many people who observed the miracle. I am so very thankful that God chose to do show me His faithfulness in such a great way.

So in closing be encouraged to worship in your suffering. As Paul states, in Romans 8:18"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us." Suffering stinks, but through it God molds and refines us, others are encouraged in their faith and through it we learn to worship God in a whole new way!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Don't give up on your dreams!

One of my most favorite things to do is watch movies. Whether they are on TV, rented from Redbox or actually going to the movie theater. One of the reasons I love movies, is that my mom and I (Ava's Grammy), love to go to movies together. I guess we started the tradition back when I was in college and we would do it as a speacial treat. Then when I moved to Georgia we would meet up several times half way at the Mall of GA for some shopping and of course catch a movie. Now when I go back to Greenville to visit, if we have time, we try to catch a movie together. All in all watching movies is my thing. So yesterday was a special moment between me and MY that is fun to say! After waking Ava up from her nap, I realized it was a little too cold and windy to go play outside. I asked Ava if she wanted to watch a show (which to her is a dvd). She pointed to her stack of DVD's and said, "beast, show" which means Beauty and the Beast. I put in the movie and then went in the kitchen to pop some popcorn. After burning one batch, I had our popcorn and we were ready to watch the movie. The movie started and Ava crawled into my lap and we watched Beauty and the Beast together...well at least half of it. While I was sitting on my den floor, with the Christmas tree lit and my precious daughter in my lap, I was almost brought to tears in thanking God for the great things He has done in my life.

Other then the fact that I was able to have a speacial moment with my daughter on a cold, blustery winter's day, what was the big deal. I guess the reason that it was such a big deal to me was that there were some times that I did not think the dreams I had of being a wife, let alone a mother would ever happen. I can remember like it was yesterday, driving back from the Shelby Mall with my then new, but now great friend Corie. We were just about 5 days into our freshman year at GWU. As we were driving I said, I bet I am going to meet the man of my dreams here. Well, I did meet the man of my dreams while I was in college....several of them! I dated several Godly, handsome, great Christian guys in college, but in 1999 when I walked across the stage at GWU it was a single woman.

Flash forward eight years and fourteen bridesmaid dresses later, and I was still not married. I prayed, fasted, read every "How to be a Godly single woman book" I could get my hands on and still no husband. Then, when my heart had been broken for the last time, and I said that was done with dating and I was just going to be a Lottie knight in shining armor came along! Adam Cooler was everything that I had evey asked or imagined for in a husband. God had created him perfectly for just me! Now after almost 5 years of marriage, I can say very confidently that he was DEFINITELY worth the wait.
Now after I met he man of my dreams (one hope and dream checked off the list), I wanted to be a mom. I have always wanted to be a mom. In Miss May's K-5 class all I wanted to do was play in the home living center. I always enjoyed being around children and even chose a career path that I would be working with them. Yet, when it came to be having my own child, it just wasn't happening the way I thought. But God was again faithful to me. After two and a half years, of crying, begging, needle pricks, medicine, procedures and heart ache, I finally was able to give birth to the most precious, spunky, miracle little girl.

So my point in all my ramblings of this blog post today is to not give up on your hopes in dreams. Though they my linger, wait and be taking a whole lot longer then you would have wanted them to, don't give up. In my period of waiting there were two verses that I would always go back to and they would give me encouragement. They were Psalms 1:6, "For the Lord watches over the way of the righteouss" and Psalms Answer me when I call to you, my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress and be merciful to me and hear my prayers." I clung to the knowlege that God loved me and wanted the very best for me, and that He knew my deepest wants, hopes and desires. So today, just be encouraged to know that we have a Lord and Savior that loves us and longs to give us everthing that we could ever ask, want or imagine!