Category Archives: Family & Friends

Mothers Don’t Get Sick Days

Tea ~ Lonestar Chai
In a mug and in my oatmeal this morning

[Reflecting on surgery to remove my gallbladder 2 months ago while recovering from a major lower back injury from a bike accident. Throw in the process of moving just for kicks.]

Can you call it recovering when it gets worse everyday for a month and no amount of chiropractic adjustments or painkillers, prescribed or otherwise is relieving the pain? I was in this accident to avoid seriously injuring a toddler who was where they should not have been, unsupervised on a bicycle with training wheels on the lakefront bike path in Chicago during rush hour. Did I mention that this path sees 30,000 people a day during the summer months? I thank God that Z was not with me on my bike like he was the day before. And I will never again ride my bike in Chicago. It’s just not worth it.

For 5 weeks, this injury was worse than post-op, but also at the same time as post-op. I say to you – Don’t ever take your health for granted. We say or mean “health” as nonchalantly as “food” or “water” in our culture of privilege. It was the hardest 3 months of my life when the 4-hour stomach cramp episodes started out of nowhere in May. They increased in frequency, with a traumatic instance of vomiting and nearly fainting on the CTA red line and hitting my then 5-month-old’s head into the hand rail in the process of pushing my sweet guardian angel, Katie, an off-duty OB/GYN from Evanston, out of the way so I did not throw up on her while I handed him to a complete stranger. I also handed this stranger my phone and had my husband’s phone number up and ready to go should I indeed pass out. Greg picked me up at the next el stop to take me to the hospital. The ER nearly sent me home because my symptoms were gone after 4 hours of waiting, but not before I insisted on an ultrasound thanks to the suggestion of my brother, Phil, at breakfast that morning. Katie asked me if I was ok. I deliriously replied, “I need to have my gallbladder taken out.” She thought I sounded ridiculous. She also thought I was falling asleep before she came over to my side of the train to check on my baby and I.

Thankful for my health does not even begin to express that need as a mom. Mothers do not get sick days, especially nursing ones. I could not lift Zeke for 5 weeks. I could barely stand upright. I cried…a lot. I called my mom to come 2 days early before surgery because I couldn’t even take care of myself, let alone my baby. It was an extreme emergency. She couldn’t even understand me on the phone because I was sobbing so hard that it was difficult to make out any words. I’m so thankful for my mom! She is perhaps the coolest, most selfless person I know and one of my best friends. My parents are such a blessing! My childhood best friend, Kim, also came to do the heavy lifting for a few days all the way from Baltimore. Greg tried to work from home as much as he could while transitioning to his new job in Indiana.

Looking back on it, I’m not sure how I made it through all of this. Strength and healing from the Lord sustained me through all of your prayers. I’m so thankful to be PAIN FREE. No stomach cramping, no back issues. It’s been about a month without pain. I can run, bike, lift moving boxes from room to room and wear my baby! I think I missed wearing him the most – at the grocery store, going for walks, out on adventures and hiking. It’s the easiest way to bring him contentment. But don’t ever take your health for granted; you can lose it in a second.

If nothing else, I want to stay healthy for this guy!

If nothing else, I want to stay healthy for this guy!

Be encouraged!

Zeke’s Birth Story

Photo by Jaclyn Simpson Photography
Tea ~ Pomegranate Blueberry

Happy 3 months to this guy, Charles Ezekiel! 3 months is really about what it takes to come up for air from what is most certainly the beginning of a life changing experience. The first month, you are so sleep deprived that you don’t really know what’s going on. The second month, you realize that this is your life now, for better or for worse, so you’d better get used to it. And by the 3rd month, you’ve developed some routines and at least for me, the adoration for this little person who looks just like my husband grows immensely and I’m excited for him to wake up each morning and give me that big smile and know that I’m his favorite person in the world right now. Not forever, but at least for now. I’m ok with taking pride in that for this very short and temporary stage of his life.

So how did Zeke get here? Z’s due date was on January 4th, and until a few days before, I had zero signs of labor, not even Braxton-Hicks contractions. We selfishly wanted him to come over Christmas break & before New Year’s, both because life slows down around the holidays and it would be easy for Greg to miss work and enjoy it and for insurance deductible and tax purposes, that would have been nice! But not at the expense of potentially a completely different labor and delivery experience. On the 3rd, I had 10 hours of contractions every 2-4 minutes, so I went in to the hospital to be examined. 80% effaced and 0% dilated. No one told me they should be strong contractions, just that they should be close together and consistent. I got sent home, disappointed and grieving and also feeling like I had wasted everyone’s time. No other signs of labor for another week and there was a scheduled date for testing and possible induction since I was at 41 weeks and 42 is the end of the line. 41 weeks, day 1 came and went. I even went to a Traffick Free Praxis Month event that I figured I would not be able to go to.

Ready for the Traffick Free event!

Off to the Traffick Free event! Taken about 30 hours before delivery.

3:15am on January 12th, as I was about to get out of bed to use the restroom like I usually did around that time since pregnancy started, I felt a gush and I slinked off the bed just as my water broke. Well, I guess it’s go-time, no doubt about it! My parents were already at our place waiting with us and I woke up Greg with the good news. Thankfully we had already done the “get everything together and get to the hospital” trial run, so we weren’t as anxious to forget anything. Since my water leaked every time I moved, and I had some concern for cord prolapse as that can happen when your water breaks, I stayed in the shower on my hands and knees until Greg was packed and ready and I called the hospital during that time. My contractions hadn’t started at this point, so my midwife said they may have to induce me with pitocin. I was sad to hear that because I wanted a natural childbirth experience, but I understood with the chance of infection increasing the longer we waited to deliver. But by the time we got to the hospital, the contractions started and my midwife didn’t see a need to induce and would just let it run its course. Oddly enough, the midwife who examined me 9 days prior in triage, was the same one who would deliver me.

There are 9 midwives at Swedish Covenant, so I was surprised and excited since I enjoyed Libby’s upbeat personality. Libby asked one of the nurses before coming in if I was mad that she had sent me home. Of course not! Why would I want to hang out at the hospital with no baby coming? At least this time I skipped triage and went right to my labor & delivery room! Soon after getting to my room, an announcement came over the PA, “The coffee is ready in the break room.” We all cheered!

Hair up for this event!

Hair up for this show!

I knew going in that I would have to have an IV because I was Group B Strep Positive (bacteria that everyone has in their gut at one point or another, but if there is enough of it, it can give the baby an infection when passing through the birth canal) and needed antibiotics administered every 4 hours. Not a huge deal, I would get unhooked after each round to labor freely as I needed to. Unfortunately, it became a huge deal. The antibiotics burned going in and hurt more than my contractions at that point, so they had to slow it down. It took 2 hours for the antibiotics to go in the first round. And then they made me incredibly nauseous. I was so glad when that first round was over so I could focus on laboring and moving around, going for walks, etc. And then I kept throwing up. For the next 12 hours. I couldn’t keep anything down, not even water or tea. It was really starting to wear on me. My midwife said it was rare to have nausea from IV antibiotics and that she hadn’t seen this before. I’ve heard the, “this is rare, I’ve never seen this before,” thing a lot in my life. I’m just that lucky. Having contractions is one thing, having contractions and throwing up before, during or after them is quite another. It was hard to get out of bed at all. I took a shower to maybe get some relief and it seemed to help. I broke down and cried in the bathroom after that and asked Greg to pray for me, I was just having a hard time. I was so hungry and so tired and so nauseous all at the same time while the contractions kept coming. Then a doctor walked in, looked at me mid-contraction and introduced herself. She said, “are you ready to go home now?” What?! “Why?” I whimpered. I was doing so well and progressing I thought, I didn’t want to be sent home again! Then the doctor realized she was in the wrong room and apologized profusely. Sigh of relief.

Laboring with Ashley

Laboring with Ashley

At about 3:15pm, my midwife checked my cervix and I was 90% effaced and 4 cm dilated. After 12 hours of this, that was IT?! I was this empty shell of a person from all the vomiting. It was becoming routine to ask someone to hand me the bucket in the middle or end of a contraction. They said I handled it like a champ, though. So after that check, I was seriously considering throwing in the towel on this whole natural thing because of the throwing up. I couldn’t handle exhaustion from that and labor at the same time. I looked at Greg with desparation and asked him what he thought because, after all, he is the head of our household and this was his experience too and he knew what I really wanted. Our code word for drugs was “Santa’s got a brand new bag.” I was ready to say it. He said, “4 is a heck of a lot closer to 10 than it is to 0.” I didn’t see it. The diagram on the wall that showed the size of each centimeter circle, it was not my friend right now. All I could think was that 4 rounds closer down to 0 than up to 10. But he & my mom asked if there was perhaps some sugar water and anti-nausea meds through the IV they could give me to help with relief of the symptoms. There was, yay!

Greg was a great coach! And my Pretty Pushers dress was amazing!

The first anti-nausea meds didn’t work. The second, Zofran, was amazing! FINALLY! The nausea subsided from the antibiotics. I still threw up on occasion from an intense contraction here and there, but not to the degree it was before. Now that I could labor without any distraction, I could even sleep! I slept on and off for about an hour. My contractions had let up and slowed down to every 5 minutes so I could rest. That was such a relief and a huge blessing to have that time. Greg even got to nap while my mom and Ashley (my doula) helped with massage, water and bucket-holding support. When I woke up from resting, I knew I could do it. That sugar water saved me! I had some energy again! I was ready to move around and get going. I thought I would bounce on the birthing ball a bit, but as soon as I sat on it, I jumped back up. Zeke was sitting SO low that it was incredibly uncomfortable. Even standing was so much pressure that it was hard to walk. I was back in bed and continued to labor on my right side where it was comfortable for me. Libby checked me again and at 5pm, I was 5 cm. By 5:30 I was at 8cm and I wanted to push, but she told me to wait a little bit longer if I could.

A little after 6pm I was at 10cm and ready to push. I had an army of people surrounding me and encouraging me, holding my legs, reminding me to breathe and make noise in low tones instead of high squeaky ones because they were more productive. Visualizing waves washing over me was not at all helpful for me because I could not get out of reality. I wish the waves worked! Massage oils and diffusing lavender were great and we had the lights turned down low and had battery candles around the room for a calming ambiance to go along with our Josh Garrels Pandora station. At one point, Libby told me to reach down and feel my baby’s head and I kept saying “My baby…my baby…my baby,” after I felt that full head of hair. Some other chants included, “Ohhhhh boy, ohhhhhh boy,” and felt that “Ring of Fire,” I had read about. I was in transition for about 20 minutes with 2-3 pushes and he was here! Greg caught him and everyone cried! Everyone but me. Even the baby cried & screamed non-stop! I wish I could cry like I always do when I watch movies and documentaries where babies are born, but I was too happy (and tired)! They put him immediately on my chest and I couldn’t believe how big he was. I was under the impression from some previous midwife appointments that he would be more my size (at 7 lbs.) than Greg’s size (at 8 lbs. 12 oz. at 3 weeks early). Zeke weighed 8 lbs. 12 oz. just like his daddy (but 8 days late)! He was bright red and received an Apgar score of 9 (no one scores a 10). We held him for about an hour and nursed within the first 20 minutes before they weighed and measured him.
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Great memories for me were how great my support team was. Seriously, who you have in that room with you will make all the difference. I was so happy and honored to have my husband, my good friend Ashley to serve as my doula with having 2 girls & a variety of labor & delivery experiences, and both of my parents present. It was really special having my mom & dad there because my mom was never able to have vaginal and natural births the way she wanted to, she had to have 3 c-sections. I was so thankful to be able to labor and deliver without pain medication. Zeke was so alert from the first moment he arrived and I was happy to avoid the risk of complications, because if they were to happen to anyone, they would happen to me. It was amazing to experience the miracle of birth as God intended it and that I had studied both Scripture and pregnancy books on the subject. [Read Part 1 & Part 2 of my previous blog posts on this based on my research, its pretty interesting]

And nursing has been really special and continues to be. I’ll write more on what I’ve learned later. But I would have to say that breastfeeding was harder (at least for me) than labor and delivery. Perhaps because it lasts a lot longer than 15 hours. 6 weeks of breastfeeding bootcamp is pretty intense with a newborn relying on your progress, but man, you come to the other side of it SO proud of yourself!

Thanks everyone for the love and support. We love our little Zeke and look forward to making many more memories together as a family! If you haven’t seen our video slideshow introducing our little cutie pie, you’re in for a treat!

Photo by Jaclyn Simpson Photography

Photo by Jaclyn Simpson Photography

Having a Baby is Like Studying for a Test – Part 2: Pain Management

Tea ~ Orange Swirl Rooibos

This is Part 2 of 2 – Read Part 1 here
I think every woman fears being a mom at one point or another. Is it becoming a parent we fear, or is it childbirth we fear? For me, it’s the latter. Pop culture does an excellent job of exaggerating life and life events, sometimes funny and sometimes not so funny. The problem with it is that it morphs into our perception of reality. Let’s take pornography, for example. If your child’s first introduction into sexual relationships between 2 people is the porn they’ve run across on the internet or that a friend shows them at their house? It makes sense that this becomes the foundation on which they build their expectations for future intimate relationships. And no one has told them otherwise – – that IT’S NOT REAL! Setting yourself up for failure, my friend.

Our culture has made it the norm during childbirth to receive an epidural, with anywhere from 60-80% of first time moms in the US opting to receive one. But why is that? With my recent history of extreme reactions to not only drugs, but allergic reactions to foods, I question a lot of things that go into my body. We discovered in April that I have a gluten intolerance, and we’re pretty sure it was causing infertility for at least the previous 1.5 years, because I got pregnant right after giving it up after trying every non-drug method and treatment leading up to that point. We even went to a fertility clinic just to get blood tested and see what my hormone levels were. Before I had a single drop drawn (13 vials to be exact), the doctor sat us down to give us our options – we could start Clomid or move on to IUI or IVF. Whoa whoa whoa, slow down, sister! We don’t even know what’s WRONG and immediately you want to pump me with drugs to fix “something?” You’re fired. We did not return.

After having a thyroid antibodies test done to reveal an intolerance to gluten (not to be confused with having Celiac’s Disease or to be tested for that, it would be negative), it makes perfect sense that if your body & thyroid are working overtime with the digestive system to break down & process things it can’t, what’s the one body system that is the least “necessary” and may not function properly until everything else is up and running as it should? The reproductive system. We even had an MRI done because we were concerned there was something wrong with my pituitary gland in my brain, or maybe even a tumor. There wasn’t, and never once did my neurologist ask me about my diet, something that I suggested when I called to cancel my follow up appointment after discovering the gluten allergy and ruling out a neurological problem. Symptoms of gluten intolerance for me included:  migraines, fatigue (never felt rested, even after 10 hours of sleep), anxiety, constipation and infertility. Symptoms of a gluten intolerance can be anything, by the way. It’s a good place to start (or any food allergy) if you are having chronic issues of any kind. I was 10x more fatigued on gluten than I am pregnant, if you can believe it! Do I miss bread & pastries? Of course I do! But do I want to be healthy and feel well, or do I want to eat gluten? Not a hard decision to make, and I am so thankful I had a diagnosis I could do something about! How did we get so careless about what we put into our bodies? Don’t get me wrong, I still love a good dose of artificial colors every now and then – love fruity candies…hey, they ARE gluten free, after all.

Scripture is pretty clear about our curses from The Fall in Genesis. My fear comes from this as well:

“Then he said to the woman, “I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy, and in pain you will give birth. And you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you.” And to the man he said, “Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat, the ground is cursed because of you. All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it. It will grow thorns and thistles for you, though you will eat of its grains. By the sweat of your brow will you have food to eat until you return to the ground from which you were made. For you were made from dust, and to dust you will return.” – Genesis 3:16-19

I can tell you from personal experience of basically being pre-menopausal for 10 months (no period whatsoever, no real hormonal changes either) that the “desire to control your husband” is what we call PMS. That bitchy-ness we all get monthly, that is part of our curse. Someone asking if it was “your time of the month” based on my behavior used to offend me. After I did not experience those up’s and down’s, Greg & I can call it what it is. As painful as it was to be infertile, I’m so thankful for that time and for the truths of Scripture to shed light on my humanness. I encourage you to meditate on these verses in Genesis and shed light on how you handle your PMS and then call it what it is – part of your curse, and own up to it.

The other part of our curse as women is the pain in pregnancy & labor. If you are a Bible-believing Christian, let me ask you this:  have you ever considered being obedient to your curse? It says it right there in black and white that this WILL happen. Have you considered that by voluntarily and automatically (obviously there are exceptions to every pregnancy and birth) defaulting to pain-relieving medication, you are actually cheating yourself (and your spouse) of not only a rite of passage, but one of the most incredible God-given experiences of your life? I haven’t read a single book on this subject from a Christian perspective – I’ve read this pile of books in the photo above, none of them by Christian authors or scholars, and come to this conclusion based on both this Scripture in Genesis as well as what I read in these books and all the amazing things that God designed women’s bodies to do in response to pain during childbirth! Have you considered that we have these long labor phases (early, active, pushing, etc.) so that our brains can release pain managing hormones to ease our labor pains? If you get an epidural or other pain relief medication, you block these endorphins. And what’s worse is if it doesn’t take or work, you will be in far more pain than if you had never received them in the first place. No time for your body to catch up there! There is risk for what some women have called the worst headache they’ve ever had in their lives for hours, even days or weeks after giving birth with an epidural. Imagine the disruption in breastfeeding for you and your new baby (issues with breastfeeding is another risk, even without the headache). If you have an epidural, you cannot move around into positions that seem innate to you to labor in, you have to remain in  your bed as you will not be able to feel your legs (though you can try to move into positions in your bed to labor and deliver, but labor will most likely slow down if you are not moving around. Keep moving!).

I am really excited to not only see what I am able to do in labor and delivery and hopefully come to the other side with a new sense of empowerment and confidence in myself and what my body can do, but I am just as excited to give Greg an opportunity to take an active role in the process! He’s going to be an amazing coach and father! Why do I want to cheat him of that opportunity? One of the videos we watched in a birthing class that was going through different birthing options showed a woman laboring with an epidural. When she got her epidural, she slept and rested and her labor slowed drastically, forcing the nursing staff to give her pitocin (a drug that mimics oxytocin to increase uterine contractions). She went back and forth with her epidural and pitocin doses just to deliver her baby, and she couldn’t feel her urge to push with the epidural (Note:  This video was in no way trying to convince us that one way of labor was better than another, these were just my personal observations). I turned to Greg and said, “Are we here to work, or are we here to take a nap?!”

Ladies, let me ask you another question. Do we not expect our spouses to go out and work to provide for our families? Go back and reread that passage in Genesis. What is the man’s curse? Firstly, Adam listened to his wife and ate from the tree God commanded them not to eat from. Is that not a constant temptation for men and fathers to just let women or their wives take on the leadership role? If you’ve been asking where the “real men” are in our culture these days, this is sin manifesting itself in their lives from Chapter 3 of God’s Word. The reality is, they are fighting their curse of lazy, self-centeredness as much as we are fighting our curse of controlling them and our world around us. And if we expect our husbands to be obedient in their curse of work and toil without taking shortcuts and looking for the easy way out, should we not be obedient in our curse of increased pain in labor and childbirth? While our pains may last as little as a few hours to our entire pregnancy (or multiple pregnancies), our husbands have 30-40 years of living out their curse and even longer for taking a leadership role in their marriage and with their families.

What beautiful opportunities for obedience men and women have been given! It brings joy and pride to my heart to see my husband taking responsibility for himself, our family and his curse from The Fall as I’m sure it will bring great joy to his heart to see, support and be proud of me for taking my curse by the horns. I don’t want to be cheated of an experience and blessing like this that will most likely take our marriage and friendship to a level I never dreamed! It sounds like an exciting adventure – oh, and then there’s a baby too. BONUS!

I really invite you to do your research and to consider your options and the risks & rewards of childbirth. Birthing from Within was really empowering (I checked all our books out at the Chicago Public Library), and The Business of Being Born is a really great documentary that is on Netflix Instant that I highly recommend.

Be encouraged!

Peacemakers and Broken Relationships

Tea ~ Moroccan Mint

They say that the middle child tends to be a peacemaker. Also independent, flexible and perhaps extremely competitive. Um, yes. But as a mediator, I really value everyone getting along and that all of my relationships are in working order. If they aren’t, I’ll be vulnerable for a moment to tell you that I lose sleep over that. Yeah, probably not the healthiest personality trait of mine, but I prefer a heart of reconciliation over one of indifference. Pick your poison, because what I have learned from this overt need to have relationships with (& please) others is that it puts me in a position to get burned. A lot. Often bending over backwards to make a relationship a priority (more than my fair share of the effort) and then compromising myself or my values to make you happy because I truly care about you. And unfortunately, by putting that much weight in a relationship or person, I put our relationship in future jeopardy because I am ultimately disappointed or let down by my ridiculous expectations of that same effort in return. If I’ve done that to you. I’m sorry. That part is definitely my fault and I’m working on it.

It’s ok if our relationship (or your relationships with others) is not a priority. It really is. That’s not a snarky comment or observation. There are too many family members, friendships, job requirements, causes and hobbies to appease them all! But let’s be clear, it’s not because you don’t have the time or money or energy to do it, it’s because it is not a priority to you. We do things and pursue relationships, hobbies and causes that are important to us. If you are not sure what is important to you, simply look at how you spend your time in any given week or day or who you write your checks to or what you swipe your credit card for. Look especially at your down time or free time. Is it spent reading, serving, watching tv, exercising, cooking, shopping, working, volunteering, surfing the web, spending time with friends or family, etc. You fill in the blanks.

One of the great responsibilities and burdens of each individual is to make priorities. The real hardship with relationships is that 1 person may find your friendship or relationship more of a priority than the other person. And that can present a problem if effort or expectations are not discussed and realigned. I’ve been blessed to both salvage a couple of relationships as well as had to step back or completely disengage from others. And both really are a blessing because we serve a God that gives us all that we need in any given moment. I am thankful for that! So sometimes it’s necessary to cut out things that do not serve us in an uplifting manner or those we are in relationship with. Hopefully we can do it with a spirit of patience and compassion and not one of anger and resentment.

So what happens if a relationship is in conflict or ends in anger and resentment (even between Christians, *gasp*)? Let’s remember a few things. Here’s 10 nuggets from past experiences for ya:

  1. Conflict:  It does happen (Christian & non-Christian alike), and no one is perfect. That’s why we have grace, mercy, compassion and forgiveness.
    1a. None of us deserves grace or forgiveness.
  2. Assume the best in one another, instead of the worst.
    2a. Maybe a friend has no idea that your relationship is a high priority to you. Talk it out or lower your expectations and judgement of their priorities; they are doing the best they can.
  3. God is still moving and working in their lives and yours whether you are in each other’s lives or not.
  4. No one is beyond saving and unworthy of prayer or forgiveness.
    4a. If you think someone is beyond saving or unworthy of forgiveness, go back to 1a. Check your heart and your pride.
  5. Don’t close & lock the door completely, letting your pride get the best of you. Leave the door of reconciliation cracked a little (& give it time and a lot of prayer).
  6. Holding a grudge and withholding forgiveness only hurts you, not the other person.
  7. Always speak well of others whether they are in the room or not.
  8. Tainting someone else’s reputation just makes you look bad; altering someone’s perception of another person is not your responsibility, better left unsaid.
    8a. People can usually taint their own reputations all by themselves.
  9. Love and serve others with generosity. Generosity of time, money and resources. You’ll never get to the end of your life thinking, “Man, I wish I hadn’t given that away,” or “I wish I had spent my money and time on something else (that doesn’t matter).”
    9a. Let others love and serve you!
  10. This last one is from my dad, “All we have and are given in life is time, and we trade it for things. Money, relationships, hobbies, etc.”

What are you trading your time for? What and who are your priorities? Are your unrealistic expectations of others hurting you or are you withholding forgiveness toward another person? I pray that you seek reconciliation and receive the peace and healing of Christ.

Be encouraged!

…Then Comes the Baby in a Baby Carriage, Part 2

Tea ~ White Silk Earl Grey

I didn’t intend for there to be a part 2 to this story. At least not yet. If you remember reading our infertility story back in April, my prayer was for my body to be healed and functioning properly. Thank you for your prayers and support! We were so overwhelmingly encouraged after hesitantly revealing our struggles, but the response was a blessing in and of itself. God sure has a sense of humor and blesses us in ways that sometimes go beyond our prayers! It is clear that I was supposed to share our story with the world because we got pregnant the day I published it. And it is with great joy that we share this news with you! Baby Amidon is due January 5th, 2014!

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May God be glorified through us and our story and offer hope to those struggling with infertility stories of their own. He does have a plan for you, and a specific one. It may not be in the timing we want or the way that we want, but you can trust that you are loved by our Great God! But first, and always, we must delight in the Lord regardless of our circumstances and be content in our current season. We won’t be happy or content if we have “just this one thing.” That’s a roller coaster ride that will keep going and lead to disappointment.

Instead:

“Delight yourself in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him, and he will act.” Psalm 37:4-5

Be encouraged!

Moral Compass

Tea ~ Apricot Oolong (hot) and Strawberry Hibiscus (iced)
It’s National Iced Tea Month and 80 degrees today, but I drink hot tea year-round. Don’t hate, I am often found double-fisting my beverages and you know you want to too!

Sorry for the hiatus, I pretty much was gone the entire month of May spending time with friends and family. Refreshing for the soul. This morning, Psalm 119 was refreshing for my soul:

“Oh, how I love your instructions!
I think about them all day long.
Your commands make me wiser than my enemies,
for they are my constant guide.
Yes, I have more insight than my teachers,
for I am always thinking of your laws.
I am even wiser than my elders,
for I have kept your commandments.
I have refused to walk on any evil path,
so that I may remain obedient to your word.
I haven’t turned away from your regulations,
for you have taught me well.
How sweet your words taste to me;
they are sweeter than honey.
Your commandments give me understanding;
no wonder I hate every false way of life.”
Psalm 119:97-104

Psalm 119 is a chapter of 176 verses that praise and thank God for His laws, commandments and decrees. That’s a lot of verses to be overjoyed with rules and regulations. How counter-cultural is that?! As a moody teenaged girl, I remember being grounded for probably my entire 8th grade year. Sassing my parents constantly and being rebellious at every opportunity. I even “ran away from home,” which meant walking to downtown Three Oaks, MI, and hanging out for a couple of hours until I went to a friend’s house and my parents made me come home. At the time, I was fully prepared to not go home, and over something that was probably incredibly stupid. My current “human trafficking abolitionist self” would tell my then “8th grade runaway self” as well as my parents to keep me home at all costs as I was one of those vulnerable girls who could have been another statistic picked up within the average 48-hours and potentially never heard from again, even in a small, rural, farm town in Michigan. I thank God today that He was protecting me on my day of irrational, hormonal anger and rebellion.

Why should we be thankful for instruction? What good can come from that? Without limitations, we live in chaos. If we don’t know what we can and can’t do, where do we find our hope and confidence? What is there to trust in? If our parents and even our workplace does not set boundaries, it often leads us to living in fear or anxiety of doing something wrong, but not knowing what that is. Each of us is governed by something or someone and that gives us our “moral compass,” if you will. But what is moral? Who is to say what morality is or looks like? Just take a moment to stop and think about that.

You may answer, “I decide my morals and values.” That’s great for you, but you may find it frustrating when the rest of the world is cruel to one another and wonder why people can’t be kind to one another. I go back to my question, “What is moral? Who is to say what morality is or looks like?”

You may answer (or hate this answer!), “Government decides morals and values (and turns them into laws).” Government is run by people (and imperfect people, at that), individuals with different morals, values and beliefs.

Morals and values cannot come from people. We have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Morals come from God and are outlined in His Word. His laws, decrees and instructions are perfect and Jesus lived them out as an example to all of us. And the freedom we are given in Jesus’s death and receiving the Holy Spirit to advocate for us (to defend and counsel us, not always convict and shame us) COVERS all of the insane and crazy laws you read in the Old Testament. If you haven’t read the Bible cover to cover, I’m sorry, but this may come as a little harsh:  please don’t refute something you haven’t read. I would never write a book review on literature I haven’t read or a film review on a movie I haven’t seen and it would probably be insulting to the writers, filmmakers, readers and viewers. It’s neither fair nor objective, and the word for that is fraud.

The Old Testament shows our need for a Savior because the laws were getting out of control and nearly impossible to abide by all of them. The Old Testament is a history, of where we came from and doomed to repeat itself for all eternity without a Savior. We’d probably be making blood sacrifices all the live-long day, accomplishing nothing else if not for Jesus and his sacrifice! But God is merciful!!! He daily shows us grace that we don’t deserve and can never earn. And nothing can separate us from His love and we are no longer bound to the law. “But now we have been released from the law, for we died to it and are no longer captive to its power. Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit.” Romans 7:6

We have FREEDOM in Christ and the Holy Spirit! and we can put our hope and trust in him and in God’s Word, the book that gives us our morals and values. God gave us a moral compass with this amazing book.

“So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. But if I know what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good.” Romans 7:14-16

“So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. The law of Moses (Ten Commandments) was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.” Romans 8:1-4

Some may call this religion, but for me, it’s a lifestyle choice. I choose morality, and morality is defined by God. Does that mean I always do everything right? Absolutely not! I am not, nor do I claim to be perfect. I choose freedom, and freedom is through Jesus, not always through a bunch of rules and laws. Read the book of Romans for a taste of that freedom. And with freedom comes peace, and I’ve never known more peace within myself than with Jesus, more today than yesterday. You can have confidence in that, I assure you.

Be encouraged!