Springing Forward

Therefore we do not give up; even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day. For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory. 2 Corinthians 4:16-17

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Annabelle has already reached some major milestones in her short life. From the very start, she began moving forward. Progressing. Developing. It began when she first latched on taking in the nourishment of my milk. Soon after, her little eyes caught mine and followed me as I crossed the room. Her gaze fixed upon me. Within a couple of months, she started to use her little hands, grabbing hold to whatever was placed before her. Delighting in her newfound ability. Now, she can sit up a little. And before long, she’ll be able to stand.

See, Annabelle has been exercising her legs… applying pressure to them. Testing her chunky little stumps. She slowly sways back and forth in her Johnny Jump Up only to quickly spring into action by jumping up and down as the spirit moves her. And right now, it’s easy for her. For she has the support of something. It holds her upright. But before long, it’ll be time for her to try standing on her own. Within a matter of months, Annabelle will have to move from the security of her apparatus in favor of her own shaky legs. No doubt, she’ll stumble and fall many, many times. But I know she’ll get right back up. She’ll try and try again until she gets that walking thing right. And in no time, she’ll be ready to spring forward.

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Annabelle just had her six month appointment. Coincidentally, it fell on the two year anniversary of this blog. And as always, I could not help but notice the correlation of Annabelle’s development with mine. Her progression a picture of my own. Hers depicted by a chart, mine by this blog. And though growth will continue for both of us, I believe my progress chart (the blog) has served its purpose. At least for now. Because just over a week ago, it became clear I was to put this aside. For I have work to do. It has to do with raising my kids. And my sitting here in front of this computer screen conflicts with that responsibility. So I chose the better part. My offspring. But I did mourn the loss of this blog Saturday. There were some tears. Because this blog has been a big part of me. But as for today, I give one final performance. I close with my swan song.

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We love because He first loved us… 1 John 4:19

The truth about God & me… it wasn’t love at first sight. Love did not come first. Instead, it began with a taste of His glory. I dared utter a prayer, “Please show me your glory.” And He did. He placed me in the cleft of a rock. He covered me with His hand. He walked by me. God in my midst. Or me in His. And I was astounded that the God of all creation would reveal Himself to me. And so, I wanted to share. I wanted other women to delight in His presence as I did. Thus, the formation of the blog.

And through the progression of blogging, more and more of me diminished. More and more of Him swelled. However, a piece of me remained. Held fast in the deepest recesses of my soul, the little girl I always was stood her ground. In truth, she wanted to share in God’s glory. She wanted a piece of shine for herself. And so, the purity of the writing became tarnished. And because the little girl in me stood fast on the foundation of her pride, she fell. I fell. My wobbly legs unable to sustain my weight. I crumbled under the strain of affliction.

Look, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. Isaiah 43:10

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This is where I’ve been for months now. Affliction. Minimal it may be, but affliction nonetheless. See that little girl up there? Oh, she brings me delight. Such joy. But also, there’s been some pain. Because babies are hard work. The biggest struggle? Sleepless nights. I have been sleep deprived for months and months now. She gets up more times than I can count. She wants to eat but she doesn’t need to. See, I was told at Annabelle’s six month check-up that her weight is average for a seventeen or eighteen month old. And so, in steps the hard part. I have to cut her off…

Trying to wean my baby girl from nighttime feedings is exhausting. It makes for even longer nights. I lose count of my waking moments because I’m up and down so often. They’re so frequent, I’ve been sleeping on the couch. It’s just easier to stumble into the nursery from there. Yes, sleep has been minimal. And under the strain, the clay jar that I am has begun to crack. In steps my most recent revelation. Clay.

You will not be scorched when you walk through the fire, and the flame will not burn you. Isaiah 43:2

You know, before clay can be serviceable it has to be fired. In a kiln. And today I know that’s where I’ve been. For a year now, I’ve been under fire. The furnace of affliction. It’s been a trial. A test. And for the most part, I’ve failed. But today, I see light at the end of the tunnel. I find a glimmer of hope through the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They underwent fire, too.

There was a king who made this big gold stature. Of himself. You could say he was a bit of a glory hound. And he wanted everyone to bow down to it. To pay homage to him. For he was a king. But there were these three guys who refused. Reason being, it would not honor God. Despite the threat of being thrown into fire, they stood firm on their faith in God. “If the God we serve exists, then He can rescue us from the power of you, the king. But even if He does not rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.” The king was blazing hot. He ordered the furnace to be heated seven times hotter. 

And so they fell, bound, into the furnace of blazing fire. Three men in the raging flames. But then, a miracle happened. The king yelled out, “Look! I see four men, not tied, walking around in the fire unharmed; and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” And then the king said it… “Come out!” The three men who stood firm on their faith in God came out of the fire. Unharmed. Not a hair on their heads was singed, their robes were unaffected, and there was no smell of fire on them. And God received the glory for it.

Take away the dross from the silver and there shall come forth a vessel for the finer. Proverbs 25:4

And there I am… back at glory. You know, something monumental occurred on January 31, 2014. You could say it was a major milestone day. That was the day Jesus met me right where I was. In the sanctuary of my bedroom. That was the day I heard Annabelle’s heartbeat for the first time… hers beating right alongside my own revived spiritual heart. And I lost a bracelet. It was a thin silver band I had worn for the better part of twenty years. At the time, it seemed significant in that my past was over and done with. Gone just like the bracelet that disappeared from my arm. But today, the removal of that bracelet says so much more.

For you know that you were redeemed from your empty way of life inherited from the fathers, not with perishable things, like silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. 1 Peter 1:18

You see, as a young girl I didn’t have jewelry. Silver and gold was something I didn’t possess. I can count the number of pieces I received on one hand. My friend was another story, though. See, she had tons of silver. And I wanted it. I coveted her full closet and dresser strewn with perfumes and expensive make up. I wanted to adorn myself just as she… rings on my fingers and bells on my toes. But I couldn’t. And then one day, I left home. Within a year I made a new friend and she gave me the slim, silver band. A piece of shine all my own. But it was more than a bracelet to me. It stood for everything I ever wanted in life. Material possessions. Yes, I wanted silver. Glitz. Shine. I wanted glory.

When I lost that bracelet a year ago, I thought I was poised to walk forward in love. His love. But here I am. Still writing. Still staring at this computer screen. But today I know why. See, He’s been refining me. I’ve been doing time in the furnace of affliction… dross being burned from my soul. No different than the purification of silver, He’s been purifying me. Me. But see, the time has come. I faintly hear Him calling. Just as the king called to Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, my King calls me. He yells, “Come out!” And miraculously, I find I can. I’m ready. My glory becomes a passing fancy. Because it’s no longer silver and gold I desire. For you see, I find that as long as I remain in His hand, I am the silver. A band of shine. But not for my glory. No. In His hands, the jewelry that I am shines and shimmers. But this time around, I shine for Him.

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD shines over you. For look, darkness covers the earth, and total darkness the peoples; but the LORD will shine over you, and His glory will appear over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your radiance. Isaiah 60:1-3

Yep, Annabelle’s reached some major milestones in her short life. And the truth is, so have I. See, from the very start I began moving forward. Progressing. Developing. It began when I first latched on to His word, taking in the nourishment I so desperately needed. Soon after, my eyes caught sight of Him. His glory captivated me and my gaze stayed fixed on Him as He moved. I’m now discovering how to make use of my hands. I grab hold of what He places before me. Today, it’s my children. And I delight in this newfound ability. I am awash with thanksgiving. And before long, I’ll be able to stand.

See, I’ve been exercising my legs. Pressure’s been applied here and there and they’ve proven to be a bit wobbly. In truth, I’ve stumbled more times than I can count. But I get back up again. And with each rise, I gain more strength. I find I’m able to stand not by my own strength, but by His. And before long, He bids me to come forward. He holds His hands out to me like any other Daddy does with His little girl. He beckons me. And I find that I can. I spring forward, lunging toward Him. And He catches me in His embrace.

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Therefore, whoever thinks he stands must be careful not to fall. 1 Corinthians 10:12

You know, I started to write here two years ago. Simply, I wanted to help women stand. Like I thought I was. But before long, I fell. Once. Twice. Again and again. But through the writing, it all became so clear. It’s as if my heavenly Father said to me, “Little girl, if you want to talk the talk, you have to walk the walk.” But the thing is, you have to stand before you can walk. That’s step one right there. Standing on His foundation. Standing on His truth. And then, before you know it, you’ll be ready to spring forward. Walking in love. His love. At least that’s the way it happened for me. Right here at Daylight Savings Time. Springing forward along with the clocks in my home.

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And so today, as I move forward on shaky legs, I walk for them. I begin with my kids. See. Levi just said he wished I were a cook. That I knew recipes and would make desserts. And there I find my first act of love. Perhaps I’ll surprise him with a little something this afternoon. That’s what I have on my agenda today…

And so, with much adieu, I sign off for now. I leave you with my swan song. See, the blog has served its purpose and the time has come. For He said, “Come out!” And so, this venture comes to an end. And all this, the writing and thousands of words spanning two years time, well… it’s been the truth about God & me. My hope was to encourage others to stand. And walk. In His love. Instead, I find that I’m able to. I hope you can, too.

But Peter said, “I have no silver or gold, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, stand up and walk!.” Acts 3:6

Baby Girl

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Taste and see that the Lord is good. Psalm 34:8

My children. How often I see a picture of God and me through their little faces. With Levi. And most recently, with Annabelle. Look at her… drooling and happy in her rolls. This chunky little girl has been fed and fed well. For she loves to eat. Quite different than Levi, who abhorred eating new things. With him, the table was a battleground. I can’t even describe the fit he threw when I tried to get a peanut butter and jelly down his throat at the age of two. But Annabelle, well, she’s another story. See, she’s so interested in food. She watches us intently when we feed ourselves. And whatever is put to her mouth, she’ll taste it. Even if it’s a salty olive, she’ll savor the flavor. I can almost hear her, “Oh, mama, this is good.”

“Can a woman forget her nursing child,
or lack compassion for the child of her womb?
Even if these forget,
yet I will not forget you.” Isaiah 49:15

From the very beginning, Annabelle wanted to be at my breast. Our second night, she spent two or three hours at my chest suckling. Finally, I called the nurse for Annabelle outlasted me. I feared I’d fall asleep. I was told about “cluster feeding,” which was a new term to me. Perhaps because Levi didn’t. Cluster feeding. It was a time for Annabelle to spend hours on my chest… one, to stimulate milk production. But really, it was more about her feeling secure. She’d just exited her home… my womb. And her new surroundings were dark. And cold. She wanted to be where she could feel my warmth… where she could experience my heartbeat. She simply wanted to be close to me.

For us, the cluster feed went on for the first two or three weeks of her life. Me exhausted. She happy only if she were on me. If I tried to lay her down, her cries followed. Quickly, I’d pick her up. I’d hold her tight once more. And she’d quiet.

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Over time, as her appetite increased, she grew rapidly. The still infant that she was became a moving, writhing being. And what I noticed about feeding time was her hands. For as soon as she began to move them, they began to get in her way. She’d put them up to my chest only to interfere with her suckling. Sometimes, I just had to hold them tight so she could feed without interruption. But finally, after getting enough milk, she’d look up at me with a contented look.

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Yes, it’s true, Annabelle was a healthy eater. She still is. Food brings her such comfort. “Oh, Mama, is it good.” And in her extended feeding sessions, those cluster feeds, I see a picture of me. More particularly, it’s a depiction of God & me. And what took place a few years back.

See, I came home in the fall of 2010. And truth is, I thought I knew everything about anything. Honestly. I was a big know it all. No one could tell me anything. They just couldn’t. See, I knew it all already. But something happened in the fall of 2011 that caused me to look back over my life. And as I did, I began to consume voluminous amounts of God’s word. I mean for hours at a time. There were times I had to pull myself away to get to the tasks of my day. All I wanted to do was sit there. Feeding on God’s word. The more I consumed, the more I wanted. Basically, I was cluster feeding. No different from Annabelle in the early days of her infancy. Just as she wanted to feel my warmth, I wanted to feel His. I wanted to lay my head against His chest and experience His heartbeat. Simply, I wanted to be close to Him. And in truth, I just didn’t know that’s what I was doing. Only in hindsight can I see it. Me suckling at the breast of God. Me not being able to get enough. Me crying out when I was pulled away. Cluster feeding. “Oh, mama, is it good!”

Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. 1 Peter 2:2-3

You know, I recently went through a home overhaul. And my husband lovingly termed our home as a big playhouse. The Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, he called it. That’s because of all the colors. Red, orange and yellow. Blue, green and turquoise. Just about every color of the rainbow can be found as I gaze about me. I told him it was fitting. Because of Annabelle. We’ll have a toddler before we know it and she’ll love the bright colors. Funny thing is, after the project was over and I was putting everything back in its place, Annabelle’s car seat caught my eye. And there I saw it. The inspiration for my house makeover was right there in her seat. All those colors. Red and orange and yellow and green and so on…

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Today, I have to laugh at this. See, I said the colors on our walls were fitting for Annabelle. But now, I have to say they’re just as fitting for me. God’s giant toddler. I walk around on shaky legs. I’m just now finding my footing… in Him. I stumble and fall more times than I can count. It’s all right there in front of my eyes. Me and Annabelle, a picture of God & me.

You have encircled me; You have placed Your hand on me. Psalm 139:5

Just over three years ago, my life began to change dramatically. It was a time of stillness. I lay at God’s chest. As He held me in His arms, I savored the milk He offered. I drank it like my life depended on it. Oh, there were times my hands got in the way. For I became busy… the flow of milk interrupted.  But He held my arms tight until I could drink once more. And I gulped and slurped and took in as much as I could. Like Annabelle, it would run out of the sides of my mouth. My milk sliding down her chin… God’s word eking out of me. For three years now, I’ve been cluster feeding.

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These are recent photos of Annabelle. She’s just shy of 6 months and already over 20 pounds. As I said, she’s a healthy eater. Look at those rolls. Look at that chubby baby. Oh, how my heart melts every time I look at her. Again, a picture of God & Me. For He looks at me the same… and oh, how His heart melts when He sees my rolls. He knows I’ve been eating. A lot. Feasting on His word. And I’m growing… just like Annabelle. His baby girl.

Now everyone who lives on milk is inexperienced with the message about righteousness, because he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature—for those whose senses have been trained to distinguish between good and evil. Hebrews 5:13-14

You know, Annabelle’s been teething. And cutting teeth, well, it can be a little painful. But see, the time’s coming. She’ll soon be ready for something more substantial. Solids. And she’ll need her teeth to tear into something a bit more meaty. And once more, I see me. For these past few years have been painful at times. But now I know why… I’ve been cutting teeth, too. I’ve been feasting on milk but the time is coming… I’ll need my big girl teeth in order to tear into something meatier. See, like Annabelle, I’m growing up.

You know, it’s through my children. Their little faces provide a picture of God & me. For I’ve discovered their lives tell my own story. And right now, I’m like Annabelle. Fat and happy in my rolls. This chunky girl has been fed and fed well. For I love to eat. See, I’m so interested in food. In His food. And whatever He puts to my mouth, I taste it. I savor the flavor. And I bet He can hear me when my insides cry out, “Oh, mama, this is good!”

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A Natural Mother

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This is my baby girl at 7:00 this morning. And me, clad in bathrobe, slippers and bare-ankled, had just driven my son up to the bus stop in 23 degree weather. Afterward, I immediately grabbed my camera so as to catch her expression for posterity. So I’ll remember. See how intently she stares at me? Cute, huh? Or is it something else? Look closer…

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You know what I see? Accusing eyes. That’s because I’m awash with guilt this morning. It clings to me and it’s hard to shake. Guilt. It’s because of how I acted last night. God help me. Let me explain.

I’m not what one would call a natural mother. It just doesn’t come easy to me. That doesn’t mean I don’t love my children dearly… it just means I’m not as flowy as some women appear to be. I don’t always feel 100% about what I’m doing. For instance, the first week I had Annabelle at home, I panicked around 2:00 a.m. one morning. This after a two hour feeding session and her constant cries. She was a cluster-feeder (if anyone knows that term ). So, because my baby girl continued to cry after a couple of hours, she was obviously still hungry, right? So I kept pressing her into my bosom. But for some odd reason, she kept arching and pulling away. Then I remembered… skin on skin. That’s what she needed! I frantically stripped us down to our waists and tried again. Drink, baby girl! I know you’re hungry! But the arching continued. That’s when I knew. Most assuredly, Annabelle had forgotten how to suck! So I woke my husband. Lo and behold, she quieted in his arms. And 18 pounds later, it turns out she hadn’t forgotten how to suck after all.

Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping. He asked Peter, “So, couldn’t you stay awake with Me one hour? Matthew 26:40

And there are other instances. Too many to name, really. And then there’s last night. God help me! Eight years ago, I went through this with my son. And I handled it badly. VERY BADLY. But this time around, I was going to excel. I was going to not let it get to me. I was going to be flowy… like the other mothers. See, I planned to overcome sleepless nights. I was going to be happy about it. And gentle. Because I’m a mom! It’s my job. And boy, do I want to be a gentle and nurturing creature for my babies.

At first, Annabelle did great. At around 2 months in, we had one week of bliss as she pretty much slept through the night… not waking till 3 or 4 for her first feeding. Oh, happy day! And I did what any mother would do… I bragged about my child to all who would listen. My baby is so good, she sleeps all night! But that’s when things began to change. As time progressed, she began to wake more frequently. Back to two times. And most recently… three, four, five… Who knows anymore. I lose count. Two nights ago, I voiced it to Jason… “Last night was the worst night ever!” That’s because she started waking up at before Midnight! But I was wrong. Because last night was truly the worst night ever! She showed me… she got up at 11:00. She stirred before I even had time to close my eyes.

“Therefore I will not keep silent; I will speak out in the anguish of my spirit, I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.” Job 7:11

This is where the guilt sets in. I let it fly. There was a volcanic eruption from the deep pit of my soul… the most obscene word burst forth. And honestly, it was satisfying. It was the most accurate word for how I felt. And then they came more easily… as the night progressed, more and more obscene words spewed from my mouth leaving a sulfuric stench in the air. I cursed. I lamented. And worse? I felt angry at God. “You could make her sleep!” But the fact is, she didn’t sleep. Not soundly. She awoke so many times… and I handled it terribly.

Last night, I felt justified in my bitter words. I was angry. And weak. And because I was so tired, I felt I deserved to let off a little (a lot) of steam. But now, in the light of day, I simply feel guilt. I don’t want to be like this. I am a mother. I’m Annabelle’s mother. And so, when I peered into her little nut brown eyes this morning, I saw only accusation.

In the light of day, I see things more clearly. And what I see is something amiss…

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Notice anything wrong with this picture? That’s my laundry basket and it’s placed on top of my Bible. And it’s symbolic of what’s taken place in the last four and 1/2 months. See, I had a baby. And busyness set in. And there’s so much to do. And because my schedule is crammed full, some things have taken a back seat. Namely, time with God. I’ve put other stuff first. Like laundry. And so, I suffer. And not only I, but my whole family. For I’m sure my husband felt the abrupt wind of the covers being flung off of me. I’m sure he heard the ugliness I carelessly flung forth as I stomped to the nursery… and deep down, perhaps I wanted him to. Misery loves company, so they say.

But as I said, in the light of day… I see. And I don’t like what I see. For I don’t want to be that woman. I want to be flowy. A natural mother. And in order to do that, I have to make time for God. I have to put Him first again. And when I do, He will sustain me. He will help me. Because He has the power to help me soothe my baby girl on a sleepless night when I have no clue as to why she’s waking ten times. Because truth is, His grace is sufficient for me…

Funny thing about this blog. I started it because I wanted to encourage people. I wanted to help others stand. But today, it appears I’m the one who needs help in standing. This tired mama needs a bit of encouragement – and prayers – and not just for my sake, but for my family’s sake. Lord help me… if I can’t have rest, the act of sleeping, may I at least have rest in Thee. For Your grace is sufficient for me.

“Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:7-9

I close with Annabelle’s picture. Check out that face. Oh, it’s true I was covered with guilt this morning. And it may be I saw only accusation in her eyes first thing. However, just moments after I perceived condemnation, she graced me with a smile. It reaches her eyes. And you know… it’s a reflection of His eyes… Him smiling down on me. Grace for me.

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