on pleasure, displeasure, & steadfast love…

Tonight at dinner it was one of those rare moments when I was not hurried to clean up the dishes or get Jackson to bed, but instead we were all sitting around laughing. Jackson was minicing the crazy sounds Kevin was making and giggling so hard he was spitting applesauce…it was a good time. Then he got so excited he picked up his food and threw it off his tray (which he knows has been a no-no since 6 months old!) Kevin and my smiles immediately turned stern and we said “No-no” in a very direct way. Jackson knew what he did was wrong, in fact I think he was a little surprised he threw the food to begin with! He looked at our stern faces and his eyes started to well up. His lip was quivering, shifting his gaze from Kevin, to me, and back. And then after about 10 long seconds of the saddest face you could imagine, huge, silent, alligator tears rolled down his cheeks.

My heart sunk.

I immediately wrapped my arms around him which made him full-out cry, and it took a few minutes for him to calm down again. I’ll never forget that moment.

Jackson was finding so much joy in our company tonight. He saw the pleasure in our faces and knew we were enjoying him too. All was the way it was meant to be. But when our faces turned to displeasure because of his disobedience, he was grieved to the point of tears. What a powerful picture!

Because of Christ’s death on our behalf, our sin no longer separates us from God’s steadfast love. In the same way, nothing could EVER change my love for Jack. There is nothing that he could do that would lead me to turn my back on him or disown him. However, just as life with Jack is more enjoyable when he is obedient and we are able to laugh together instead of discipline him, life with God is more enjoyable when we are living godly lives and communing with Him the way we were created to. It saddens and displeases the heart of God to discipline us, even though it is for our good, in the same way we are saddened when Jackson disobeys.

The grief that Jackson displayed tonight when our pleasure turned to displeasure was a very dramatic, emotional experience for me. I long to feel that kind of grief when I see my sin and the way it hurts my Heavenly Father. I pray that I would only long to bring pleasure to the heart of God always. However, regardless of whether I’m at my worst or my best, I have assurance that I am loved, accepted, and kept forever by God. As Jackson grows, I hope that I can always communicate to him that even though I may have to discipline him, he is never outside of my love.

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A friend for Jack & a listening, sovereign God.

Jackson has something to say!!

We’re pregnant with baby #2!!

So let me start from the beginning…

When Kevin and I started discussing family plans, we decided to make a decision once my cycle started back up again from nursing. My supply went down when Jackson was 4 months, and then unfortunately was empty at 8. All that time I waited and waited for my period. It never came. (Awesome, right?!) Kevin wanted another baby ASAP, I at least wanted Jack to be walking. But before we even had the chance to compromise, God decided for us! I found out I was pregnant in May!

I was surprised and apprehensive at first… (how was I going to do this with a nearly 9-month-old!?) but then my apprehension turned into joy! I couldn’t wait to meet this baby and I imagined all the fun Jackson would have growing up with a sibling only 16 months behind him! We had an ultrasound to see when my due date would be and discovered that on January 21st, 2014 that tiny little blob with a beating heart would enter our world!

Having had a miscarriage in 2011, we were slow to tell people, even family. Because of that sensitivity, we wanted to wait til my first OB appointment at 11 weeks. But I couldn’t very easily fool my friends by sneaking Sprite into my champagne glass at Steph’s wedding or by ordering a coke and vodka (hold the vodka) at the bachelorette party. I eventually caved and told some close friends who committed to praying for us.

Thankfully they were, because at 9 weeks I started having some bleeding. It was heavy and red at first, and I knew I was having a miscarriage. All the signs were there. I laid down and cried, asking friends to pray, and praying to God that he would stop the bleeding. I knew that prayer and God’s sovereignty were somehow intermingled, but I had never personally experienced  God changing his direction of an event in response to my prayer. But I prayed anyway. I knew God was powerful enough to stop me from having a miscarriage. Hours later, the bleeding stopped. Did God have mercy on me? Did he respond to my prayers?

I continued having light spotting, nothing that my doctor was worried about, but enough to keep me praying….

And then yesterday at 11 weeks, we went to the doctor. She put the monitor on me and immediately we heard a fast, beautiful heartbeat. It was such a sweet sound. All I can do is praise the God who saves. He saved our baby from death thus far, and he answered my prayer. I don’t know what his initial plan was, if it was miscarriage or not, but I do know that God loves me and he chose to give us a great gift! I am so excited.

And so is Jackson!

if it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come.

Habakkuk, like all prophets, knew of God’s righteous and merciful nature. He knew of the salvation and rescue that would come, but also knew that God had promised sin and wickedness to be punished first. Habakkuk specifically was the prophet who received an oracle from God that wickedness in Judah would dealt with, but when the nation continued to backslide morally and spiritually, he cried out to God. With false prophets preaching against a wrathful and judgment-bearing God, it didn’t seem like his prayers were being answers, nor God’s promises being fulfilled. This is God’s response:

“For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end-it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay. Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous will live by his faith.” (Hab. 2:3-4)

Basically, God is saying, “even if fulfillment seems slow, what I promise, I will do.”

I’ve been slowly studying Romans, and thinking about verses 1:16-17 a lot: “The gospel is the power of God for salvation…in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith and for faith…as it is written ‘the righteous will live by faith.'”

Like the Israelites, we are awaiting out salvation. Paul comforts us that the gospel is the power and the tool that seals our future salvation. In the gospel, God’s righteousness is revealed. God’s “righteousness” wraps around the entirety of who God is, what he does, and how we does it. I’ve been learning that the activity of God’s righteousness is his promise keeping: his reaching out to save people, as he said he would.

Life is hard right now. Being in a new city is hard. Being married is hard. Finding jobs is hard. Making friends is hard. BUT, this I know and God has promised, “All things work together for my good, since I love God and am called by Him according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). I don’t really see how the move to Louisville is for my good or God’s purpose yet. Everyday I question whether we should really be here, but God’s word to Habakkuk encourages me. God has brought us here and he has promised it is for his will and my joy. It seems slow now, but I will wait for it. God’s promise will be fulfilled and his comfort will surely come.

My prayer, and God’s command from Habakkuk 2:4, is that I would not respond in self-sufficiency (“puffed-up”), thinking that I can cope on my own, but that I would live by faith, waiting upon God to rescue me and open my eyes to what he is doing.

consuming my thoughts lately…

“All that is, is but the fringes of his garments.” (Job 26)

Yeah…try to wrap your head around that one. Its been blowing my mind lately. God is extremely sovereign and all-encompassing.  He is the God over ALL creation and we have yet to even fathom the pinkie finger of who He is! Yet this truth has it’s implications. Being infinitely sovereign over his creation means that he is also sovereign over us.

“He has willed you into to the places, relationships, and commitments in your life so that you would be drawn to him OR hardened towards him… but ultimately so that you would be without excuse when you stand before him.” (Matt Chandler)

In everything, we can either worship God or worship something else. We can either give glory to God or give glory to something else. We can either draw near to God or be hardened towards him. In the small moments and choices, let the gospel and the worth of Christ draw us near to God. Let us prove to be faithful, saints.

God is Patient.

As I’ve been reconnecting with friends lately, I’ve been getting a lot of the “so what are you learning?” question. Which is always funny because I always feel like I have to share something new. What if what I’m learning the same thing I was three months ago? Is that a bad thing? Does it mean I’m not growing? I don’t think so. I feel like the thing I have been learning that just blows my mind abut God is that he is patient. I often struggle with letting my emotions get the best of me, and while I pray for change everyday, I battle giving into self-pity and doubt the goodness of God and his all-satisfying nature. When I take two-seconds to step outside of myself and see just how ridiculous I am for letting a hurt feeling or a twinge of loneliness overwhelm me to the point of taking my eyes off of God, I am comforted by this truth:

5The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 16But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. (1 timothy 1)

While God has every right to scream down from heaven, “STOP BEING A BABY, BELIEVE THE GOSPEL ALREADY!” he doesn’t. The God of the universe saved me (which is amazing in itself), but the fact that he keeps me after I time and time again forget his grace and belittle his goodness by turning to find my worth in creation, THAT is what captures my heart with overwhelming and humbling power. Gosh, God is so good. While even the closest fellowship would eventually get tired of reminding me of truth or walking with me through the same struggle day in and day out, GOD DOESN’T! He proves to be perfectly patient and abounding in grace.

So how can we respond?

The answer: The Gospel propels us from self-pity, outward.

Check out 2 Corinthians 8:1-4:

And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints.

Like the Macedonians, we will face times of “poverty” or trial. But in response to God’s grace in the Gospel, we can turn from ourselves outward to others in love and generosity.  With that, Scotty Smith prays this prayer.

Jesus, is this the new math of the kingdom? Severe trial and extreme poverty + God’s grace = overflowing joy and rich generosity?  Indeed, what but the gospel of God’s grace can explain the motivation to give beyond one’s ability to give? What but your irrepressible, extravagant, and outrageous love can account for the phenomenon of believers urgently pleading for the privilege of sharing?

Jesus, of this I am freshly convinced: Gospel-generosity is the best antidote for self-pity. As toxic as the water is that we’ve been sloshing though these past days in each others’ yards and homes, it doesn’t even begin to compare with the soul-shrinking and heart-decaying toxicity and poison of self-pity.

Continue to bring more and more of your Macedonian-styled grace to us, Jesus. Bring this kind of revival and renewal. We don’t need more of us cramming into creative enthusiastic services of worship just to enjoy ourselves. We need more of us moving into the broken places of our communities and neighborhoods living as your worship servants, loving others as you love us.

Jesus make my heart secure and steadfast. You know it completely and long for it to abide in you. I am thankful for your patience, which meets me in my time of need- no need for shame in doubt or sin- I am white as snow and you are reading and willing to provide grace and restoration. Help me turn my soul from self-pity- I have ALL that I need and am divinely blessed. Let me look to you and live like I am your daughter- not tossed to and fro, but satisfied and aware of your infinite love towards me. Amen!

God loves me.

“The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers…” Deuteronomy 7:7-8

Most holy and gracious Father-

Like every day, this day begins with the bodacious promise of your steadfast love and new mercies for me. Yet I am still foolish enough, at times, to look for some generating basis… some causal motivation… some rooted explanation in me for why you love me as much as you love any and all of your people. Here my cry for mercy…

Where do these moments of temporary insanity come from? Why in the world do I have days when I think there’s something I can do to prompt you to love me and stimulate you to even greater affection?

Isn’t it because I want to manipulate and control you? Isn’t it because I want less mystery and more predictability in my walk with you? Isn’t it because I’d rather spend the Monopoly money of self-salvation than declare my real bankruptcy? Isn’t it because I’d rather work my way out of guilt than be shut up to sheer grace? Isn’t it because I want to make you responsible for my bad days and hard circumstances? Isn’t it because I want to justify my critical attitude towards other less-disciplined more-irresponsible people? Oh, how much I need the gospel, today and every day…

Indeed, Father, all day long, I will rehearse this good, humbling and liberating news. You have set… settled… secured your affection on me NOT because of anything in me… not because of anything I have done, do or ceased doing. You have chosen me not because I am choice, but simply because you have chosen to redeem and restore me for your glory. It’s only because of your covenantal faithfulness—promises you have made that you alone can keep, that I have the absolute assurance that I am loved with your everlasting unwavering love.

The only mirror I want to consistently stand in front of is the mirror of your Word, where I behold Jesus, the author and perfecter of my salvation. For Jesus is your “Yes!” to every promise you have made on my behalf. So very Amen, I pray, in His matchless and merciful name.

-Scotty Smith