Is Your Legacy Being Crippled By Fear?

 

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A Helpful Preschool Lesson for the Frustrated Mama

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There I was again wiping away tears of frustration off my face.

How am I supposed to do this? How do I mother through different personalities and different needs all at once?

Having a two-year-old and a four-year-old can be loads of fun, and brings me tremendous joy. But, there are days when I feel unfit to parent our great rewards.

Sometimes it just feels like my “good enough” is simply not enough.

My head was spinning from the day we had.

Our four-year-old felt he needed to inform me in detail about every Star Wars Lego mini-figure ever made, and my two-year-old, well, let’s just say he’s in that terrible two stage.

As I picked up all the toys spilled throughout the living room floor, my emotions spilled out and joined in on the mess.

While muttering out a frustrated prayer unto the Lord, a children’s jingle played in my head.

Whenever our toddler inappropriately expresses his frustration, we frequently reference this song from a PBS Kids program, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.

Our two-year-old boy loves building with Lego Duplo sets, but he gets in a fit of rage when the Legos topple over. I know our little guy is not happy as soon as I see Lego pieces being thrashed and thrown across the room. And, then the crying commences. Not just any crying—at the top of your lungs crying. After correcting his behavior, we usually look at our boy and say, “Remember the Daniel Tiger song? Let’s sing the song: ‘When you’re feeling frustrated, take a step back, and ask for help.’”

After singing the song, our son usually nods his head, wipes his tears off his face, and then asks, “Mama…help?”

In the midst of his frustrations and emotional meltdowns, our son just needs a little reminder that help is readily accessible upon his request.

In my moment of frustration I realized I too get entangled in an emotional mess, and forget that help is readily accessible to me if I just ask.

You see, I’m sure you know, this mothering thing is pretty hard. I am convinced it’s the toughest job out there. There’s no on the job training. Most of the times there are no tangible rewards. Some days we deem ourselves super mom, then on other days it’s like survival of the fittest.

I work hard to create a craft activity, or plan an outing, only to have our boys react much less enthusiastically than I had predicted.

Nap times, also known as mommy’s quiet time, get interrupted and disturbed, toppling over my hope for a break.

Plans for an event we have looked forward to for weeks abruptly fall apart because of someone getting sick.

The disparity between the age differences, and personal needs of multiple children, are so great they leave you wondering, how am I supposed to meet each demand?

You design a plan, and then life happens.

And, sometimes, like our toddler, I unravel and become undone. Feelings of frustration and utter failure sweep over me causing me to feel helpless and incompetent as a mother.

So, what’s a mama to do?

In the words of Daniel Tiger, “When you’re feeling frustrated, take a step back, and ask for help.”

As daughters of The King, let’s wipe those tears from our faces, look up and ask our Father for help.

In our moment of weakness, in our moment of frustration, let’s call out to the Lord and cry out to him for assistance.

The Bible tells us that, “There is no one like the God of Israel. He rides across the heavens to help you, across the skies in majestic splendor” (Deuteronomy 33:26, NLT).

Just picture that. An Almighty, All-Powerful God riding across the heavens to help us! When we cry out to Him, He stops and rides across the skies in majestic splendor just to help us! Truly, there is no one like Him!

I desperately needed this encouragement.

I know sometimes we may not feel adequate enough to hold the title of “mom,” but God has called us and He will equip us for the job!

Let’s not give in to the lie that we are ill equipped, and unfit, thus allowing the enemy to render us ineffective! Instead let’s admit our weakness; let’s admit there’s no such thing as a perfect mother or a perfect child. You know what is perfect? God’s strength is perfect when paired with our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

God’s help is readily accessible to us. So do not fear, because God is with us; do not be dismayed, because He is our God. He will strengthen us and help us; He will uphold us with His righteous right hand (Isaiah 41:10).

So, let’s go do this mothering thing with the assurance that the Lord is with us; He is our helper (Psalm 118:7).

If, like me, you need to be reminded often about where your help comes from, I’ve compiled a few verses you can print out, cut out, and post throughout your home so you can continually remember in your moments of frustration to pause and ask God for help. With God, we can do this!

To access the Bible Verses, click on the link below:

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An Exhausted Mama Finding Grace on a Sunday Morning

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Sunday mornings can drain me.  There, I said it. Not quite something a pastor’s wife should say, I know. But, it’s the truth. On a normal Sunday, we rise up early to prepare for church, and I’m typically rushing around trying to get our boys ready to attend a service—not an easy feat when you have small children.

No matter how hard I try to prepare on Saturday evenings for the next day, it never seems to help.  I try to pick out our clothes, prep the diaper bag, etcetera, and yet, without fail, I’m still frantic come sun up.

Several times, I have asked myself: What’s the point?  Our boys are so little, why should I fuss to pack them up and lug them to church? I’m not exactly feeling peaceful and joyful. On the contrary, I feel stressed out and utterly exhausted, so why bother?

Thinking about all of this one day, I recalled a comment someone made at our baby shower.  We asked if anyone had “mommy words of wisdom” to share, and one of our precious friends began to speak about Hannah.  She unpacked the bible story we often hear.

Unable to bear children, Hannah cried out to God, and God blessed her with a son, whom she named Samuel.  Hannah made a vow to dedicate her little boy to God, and she settled that all the days of his life he would serve in God’s house.  Hannah remained true to her word.  After Samuel was weaned, Hannah took him to the temple to serve the Lord.

“Samuel ministered before the Lord, even as a child, wearing a linen ephod” (1 Sam. 2:18, NKJV). 

Not only did Samuel minister as a child, he wore priestly garments as he ministered.  The priests in those times wore linen ephods and robes.

The Bible tells us that Samuel’s mother, Hannah, “…used to make him a little robe” and she took the robe to Samuel “…year by year when she came up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice” (1 Sam. 2:18-19, NKJV).

Hannah diligently made the yearly trip to the temple to clothe Samuel in those priestly garments.  Her commute to the temple was not as easy as my convenient commute to church.  Commentators believe the trip lasted two days for Hannah and her husband.

According to the Bible, Hannah was blessed with more children.  She had three sons and two daughters (1 Samuel 2:21).

Can you imagine what a two-day journey with five children was like?!

Just think—two days of travel.  No cars.  No diapers.  No wipes.  No teethers.  No formula.  No bottles.  No conveniently-packaged baby food.  No Veggie Tales.  No Sesame Street.  No Baby Einstein.  Crankiness and temper-tantrums; several pit-stops to nurse and feed hungry children.

Fatigue, and the sense of being overwhelmed, must have been inevitable.

And, yet, Hannah faithfully made a robe for Samuel, and took the two-day journey year after year.

Hannah set an example for mothers to clothe their children with priestly garments.

The beloved lady at our baby shower gave us this reminder.  She encouraged us to be intentional about clothing our son with godliness.

God knew I would need to bring that encouragement to memory during this season as a mom.

Do I want our boys to grow up in the ways of the Lord?  ABSOLUTELY!

Then, like Hannah, I must push myself and make the journey to my modern day temple. I must push past being tired; push past the feeling of being rushed and overwhelmed.

As moms, we have to be intentional about making those trips to the “temple” and clothing our children with “priestly garments”—godliness; worship; praise; prayer.

Are you tired of the Sunday morning madness?  Trust me, I’m with you.  But, let’s ask God for the grace to push through!  We may just be outfitting our children for their calling.

“The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up…And all Israel…recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the Lord” (1 Sam. 3:19-20, NIV).

May it be the same for our kiddies as we cover them with godliness.  May God be with them as they grow, and may the calling on their lives be evident to all who come in contact with them no matter what age they are!

 

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How a Parenting Moment became a Growth Opportunity

A few months ago I read this quote by Melissa Kruger in a devotional post from Proverbs 31 Ministries and, as a stay-at-home mom, I can SO relate! Since I have been home with our boys God has been definitely parenting me!

At first, adjusting to being a mom was difficult. But, as our first son got into his toddler years things became a little more manageable. Then, just when I felt like I could handle this parenting thing, God sent baby #2 our way—a complete surprise! Just when I thought I knew it all, I learned I knew NOTHING. And, since our second son was born, God has been parenting me OVERTIME!

From infancy, our youngest son, Silas, has strongly disliked having his diaper changed. Each time I change Silas’ diaper it is like taking part in a wrestling match, or some kind of jiu jitsu routine. Our oldest son always gets a kick out of his brother’s “kung-fu skills.” I must confess on some days it’s humorous, but on most days it’s just downright EXHAUSTING!  A simple diaper change leaves this mama with muscle aches, soreness, and plain frustration.

One particular afternoon, I was worn out from the day and felt pretty drained, when Silas soiled his pamper.

Ugh!

I took a deep breath and tried to muster up some strength to change him hoping he would easily comply. I grabbed a little gadget thinking it may keep him distracted while I cleaned him up. It did…for about 2 seconds.

Then, his karate leg kicks began. He squirmed and twisted in all types of directions. I tried hard to pin him down just to get one last wipe in. But, the biggest challenge still lay ahead of me—securely putting a clean diaper on him.

In the middle of it all, I just let out a big huff and said, “Silas, why do you fight me so much?  I’m trying to help you out here and you’re making it difficult for me.”

As I finally sealed his diaper and picked him up, I felt God whisper to me, “Natalie, you fight me just as much.”

Ouch.

Really? I do, God?

Yes. Yes, you do.

If you’re wondering whether God can use a diaper change for a teachable moment—yes.   Yes, He can.

At the time, God had my husband and I in a place of waiting on Him, being still before Him, and simply trusting in Him.

We had been waiting on Him in a particular area where we just needed a miracle.

And, externally, I was being still. I said to myself and to others that I was trusting in Him.

If you asked me, I was doing as the bible verses state:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6, NKJV).

Or, at least, I was trying to live this out.

But, God knew—deep down—I wasn’t.

The moment I heard the words, “Be Still,” the internal kung-fu leg kicks began. I didn’t want to be still. I wanted action. I wanted something to happen!

He knew in my heart of hearts, I had a “Plan B” written out. You know – the “back-up” plan. The “this is the plan IF God DOESN’T come through for me.”

I have read Proverbs 3:5-6 hundreds of times, but after having this “parenting” moment with God, I decided to re-read it once more. I realized I had never really taken note of the verse immediately after.

Proverbs 3:7 states: “Do not be wise in your own eyes.”

Deep down, I felt like I knew what was best. Instead of waiting, and relying on God, I chose to lean on my own understanding and my own “wisdom.” I wanted to be in control of my situation instead of truly trusting God.

In my heart’s eyes I was the wise one, with everything planned out just in case God’s plans fell through.

Internally, I was fighting so hard to relinquish total control to God.

Because what if He failed?

Sounds foolish and immature, but it’s true.

As I read that one verse, I felt God whisper, “All this time I’m trying to help you out and you’re making it difficult. Don’t be wise in your own eyes. Don’t think you know what’s best. I know what’s best and I’m trying to give you MY best.”

It’s true what the author of Hebrews states about discipline:

For the time being no discipline brings joy, but seems sad and painful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness [right standing with God and a lifestyle and attitude that seeks conformity to God’s will and purpose]” (Hebrews 12:11, AMP).

It was tough hearing those things from God. But, I’m glad He took the time out to correct me.

There’s love in His discipline.

As a Father who loves His children, God—even in His rebuke—displays His affection towards us.

There’s hope even in His Discipline.

The end result far outweighs the “parenting moment”.

Have you had any moments like these?  I’d love to hear from you

What lessons has God showed you as you mother your children?

Have there been moments when He’s parented you, as you’re parenting your kids?

 

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May is for Moms!

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How to Protect Your Promise

“…Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth” (Luke 1:39).

They say facts are our friends. Being a logical girl, I’d tend to agree with that.

But, lately, facts haven’t been so friendly to me.

You see, this past November, my husband and I purchased our first home and it is a “fixer upper.”

But, God blessed us with this home, and sealed the deal with a promise of His provision for the remodeling.

With much excitement I received this promise from the Lord, but when the promise came face to face with “the facts” my excitement quickly eroded.

A general contractor came to our home to give us estimates on a few renovation projects, and let’s just say he had no inner Chip or Joanna Gaines. As he walked through our home, he fixed his perspective on all the shortcomings. He saw no potential, but only the problems.

As he went through each room, our fixer upper suddenly felt like a financial downer.

Nothing he said was exaggerated or stretched. He stated the facts.

But, oh how those facts extinguished my faith. I quickly forgot the promise God had spoken and my mind filled with catastrophic thoughts in its stead.

How will this come to pass?

This is logically impossible.

What did we get ourselves into?

The facts piled on harsh realities, and presented hard truths.

An internal battle surged between my faith and the facts. The facts wanted to smother the promise and bury it. Yet, I sensed my faith pushing back seeking to protect and promote the promise. Faith was bent on reminding my heart to consider God who is truth Himself—to consider a God whose promises are planted on the truth of His Word and His Character, which never fail or falter.

The struggle inside prompted me to ask, how can we protect our God-promises from being bullied by blaring facts?

This is where Mary comes in.

Mary, a young virgin girl, received a visitation from the angel, Gabriel, who delivered to her a glorious promise—she would conceive and give birth to a son, Jesus, the Messiah who’s kingdom will never end. She, Mary, would give birth to the promise the Jewish people awaited.

And, yet, the fact was she was a virgin. Engaged to a carpenter, she potentially could die upon the first signs of pregnancy, as others would assume she had relations with another man. The facts looming over the promise screamed discouragement and doom.

But, I love how God set Mary up to protect her promise.

The angel, Gabriel, goes on to tell Mary of her relative, Elizabeth, who, despite being old and barren, miraculously awaited a promised child of her own. And, this child would prepare the way of the Lord, the promised Messiah.

I could imagine, Elizabeth full of faith and amazement as her promise began to take shape inside of her. Though facts stacked up against her, her faith prevailed.

Upon hearing this, what does Mary do? She decides to pay Elizabeth a visit. The Bible specifically states, Mary got ready and hurried. She rushed to where faith thrived.

She ran to the place where faith resounded much louder than the facts. By doing so, she protected her promise.

What facts are screaming out at you?

Your son will never return back home. He’s too “out there.” There’s no hope.

That God-sized dream you have—you’re too young or too old to accomplish it.

Still unemployed? You’re just a statistic. No door is going to open up for you.

The doctor’s report is final. The odds are grim.

Please, let us stop allowing the facts to bully us around.

The fact is we serve a God whose truth prevails! His truth supersedes the “facts.”

How do we protect our God-promises?

Run and hurry to where faith thrives.

Do you have an “Elizabeth” you can run to?

I love how Elizabeth protected Mary’s promise.

Elizabeth proclaimed blessings over the promise. (“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!” (Luke 1:42))

She professed the prophetic promise. (“But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:43) Her profession that Mary was the mother of her Lord, the coming Messiah, confirmed the promise Mary received).

And, Elizabeth propelled Mary’s faith forward. (“Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” (Luke 1:45) Her proclamation that Mary was blessed because she believed the Lord would fulfill his promises probably infused Mary with a brave and courageous spirit).

After our encounter with the general contractor who came to our home, I remember speaking to one of my “Elizabeths” afterwards. I cried and told my dear friend, “I’m not sure if we made the right decision.”

Do you know what my friend did? She protected my promise.

She reminded me of the blessing our home has been and will be to us.

She professed the promise and caused me to remember all God had done during our search for a home; how He divinely closed other doors and opened this one.

And, my precious friend propelled my faith forward. She reminded me not to be double-minded, but to stand firm on the truth of God’s promises.

When the facts try to force you to forget what God has spoken, hurry and seek out your “Elizabeth” who will help you protect your promise!

Lord, I pray our faith would silence the harsh realities we may encounter. May your truth, your promises, take root in our hearts and may faith well up inside us! I pray whatever faith has conceived in us would develop and fully mature. May what you have promised be birthed and come to life! Thank you for what you are going to do!

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Out with the Old and In with the New

 

New.

The thought of new seems exciting and exhilarating. Many of us are just dying for “new” to come knocking at our door.

For so long, I yearned for “new.”

And, then “new” came.

New home. New neighborhood. New transitions. An entirely new season for my family and me.

The breakthrough flooded in the new, and the waves of awe, joy, and sincere thanks swept over me.

But, then I realized new doesn’t necessarily mean easy. And, stepping into the new all of a sudden seemed overwhelmingly frightening.

And, then the old began to creep up inside of me.

Old is safe. But, old can also be crippling.

Old is a bit deceptive. With its familiarity, old appears to be oh so comforting, and secure.

Who ever wants to dwell in old ways? And, yet, I reluctantly raise my hand, and whisper, “I do.”

But, you see, something I have quickly come to learn about new—you cannot fully experience it unless you do away with the old.

In 2016, I felt God gave me Isaiah 43:19 as my verse for the year – “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

After praying and searching for a place of our own for almost four years, I desperately awaited a new thing.

What I failed to notice was what God says in the verse right before this passage – “Forget the former things…” (Isaiah 43:18).

We all long for the new, but are we willing and ready to forget the old?

Coming into this New Year, 2017, I felt God resound that word “new” once again. “He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’” (Revelation 21:5).

Since moving into our new home about six weeks ago, God has brought me face to face with my old tendencies that have no place in the new season He has brought us to.

I had no clue that purchasing a fixer upper would mean something much deeper than just externally taking part in renovations and updates. For me, it has also meant allowing God to remodel me.

You see, in this new season, fear no longer has any place.

Logic has to bow down to faith.

Insecurities have to give way to God-confidence.

Loneliness is unveiled as an opportunity to cultivate a God-friendship.

And, areas I have labeled as weaknesses are being turned into gateways for God’s strength to shine through.

Has this fixer upper process been easy?

Absolutely not.

The excavating of these deep places has been one of the hardest seasons I have yet to encounter.

At times, it’s much more easier to succumb to the old and raise the white flag in defeat.

But, then I’m reminded that God cannot pour new wine into old wineskins. Everything must be made new in order for me to fully receive all that God desires for me.

And so, I push onward. With legs shaking, I step out with the little faith I have—little faith, but faith nonetheless—because God is a master at using “little.”

I move forward despite not feeling all together. Despite feeling like a mess. The mess is giving way to miracle-formation.

The full verse from Revelation states, “He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’ Then he said, ‘Write this down…’” (21:5).

I have no clue what His purpose is, but I believe He has instructed me to “Write this down…”

If you are like me and you feel like a holy digging is happening, I encourage you to stick it through. God is doing a new thing! And that new thing is mainly you!

He is perfecting the miracle of you.

You may not have it all together, but don’t label yourself defeated.

Surrender instead to the grace of God to flood every weak place.

He is doing a new thing and He does all things well!

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“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Three and a half years ago, my husband and I moved into my parents’ home with our toddler in tow. After ten years of renting an apartment, we desired to purchase property of our own. My gracious parents welcomed us without hesitation.  We figured we would live with them for one year at best, giving us an opportunity to aggressively save up monies.  However, unbeknownst to any of us, our one-year goal turned into one thousand, two hundred, seventy-seven days.

What we foresaw as “easy” quickly turned into “hard.” We experienced setbacks in our health, our finances, and “our plan” just did not seem to measure up with God’s plan.

We at times thought we saw a little glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel, but we’d only encounter closed doors instead.

One morning, I remember dropping off my husband at work and then driving back to my parents’ home with our son in the back seat. And, as I drove, I pleaded with God:

God, please hear our prayer. Open up a door for us, Lord. We have been asking and seeking you for a place to dwell, a home of our own, a place of rest for our family. Please do not delay, O God.

As I ended my desperate plea, I sighed and looking in the rearview mirror, I told our then two-year-old son, “Buddy, we have to pray that God would bless us with a home.” And, without any reluctance, our boy replied, “Mama, God’s going to give us a white house.”

A bit taken aback by his response, I became silent and drove into my parents’ driveway. I unloaded the car, and the day, the weeks, the months unfolded, but our son’s words were tucked inside my heart.

Well, friend, today we closed on our WHITE house. God did it!

Reflecting on these past three and a half years, I can’t say we waited well. There were many moments when we questioned, we doubted, and we felt forgotten. But, looking back, we see His sovereignty and providence weaved all throughout. He promised and He fulfilled.

With tear-filled eyes I type these words in hopes to encourage anyone who is in the waiting; anyone who feels like they are wandering in a desert; anyone who has been holding onto a promise that seems dead. God has not forgotten!

Our church is currently in the middle of a small group series based on the life of Joseph, and his story is evidence of God’s providence working behind the scenes (Genesis 37-47). God gave Joseph a dream and it took many years before it came to pass. But, the God-appointed dream came to fruition at the God-appointed time. Despite Joseph being thrown into a pit, and prison, God did eventually position him in a palace. He promised and He fulfilled.

And, God can do the same for you! All of your circumstances, hardships, and trials are being pieced together. God is writing a story you could never even imagine!

So be encouraged and remain steadfast in the hope that God is working all things out for your good! Your God-appointed dream will come to fruition at the God-appointed time.

Now, excuse me as I break out in a praise dance.

🙂

If you’d like to read more about our journey these last three years, check out these blog posts: Punch Drunk, When God Does Not Come Through.

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When God Does NOT Come Through

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“But even if he does not, we want you to know…that we will not…” (Daniel 3:18, NIV)

Surely we were being “punk’d”. My husband and I were out looking at homes once again, and at a certain point I was positive cameramen would come jumping out from behind the nicely manicured bushes, shouting, “You’ve just been punk’d!”

I looked around searching for a filming crew but, unfortunately, a water hose was the only thing hidden in the bushes.

If you read my blog post, “Do You Not See It?”, you’re probably tilting your head asking yourself, Why are they searching for homes again?

Yes, you guessed right, the deal we thought would make us homeowners fell through.

We penned our John Hancock’s on legal contracts, and yet, for reasons beyond our control, the deal came to naught.

Along with the sale falling flat, so did our dreams of settling and creating memories in what we dubbed “The White House.”

All of my HGTV-inspired ideas went up in smoke.

Design concepts including white subway tiles, charcoal colored bathroom floor tiles, freshly stained wood flooring, and the beautiful, serene light gray paint swatches all fizzled away.

It must be a bad joke. But, sadly, it wasn’t.

There we were again on a hunt for a precious abode.

My husband, our dear realtor, and many of our friends all believed “The White House” was unquestionably ours. We had no doubt God would provide that home for us. And, yet, He chose not to.

So, what now?

What do we do when God chooses not to? When He chooses not to ____________? (You can fill in the blank).

One morning last week, as I had my quiet time with the Lord, a passage from the Bible challenged me to my core to trust God even when He chooses not to do something I am believing Him for.

In the book of Daniel, chapter three, we read of a story about three young men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who were Jews living in Babylon under the rule of King Nebuchadnezzar.

Now, the chapter opens up explaining that King Nebuchadnezzar decided to build an image of gold, and he declared that “Nations and peoples of every language” had to “…fall down and worship the image…” (v.4-5). Whoever did not fall down and worship the image would “…immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace” (v.6).

Could you imagine the severe consequence of disobeying this decree? But, because Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego were God-fearing Jews they resolved not to bow down and worship the hand made idol. The one true God, Jehovah, would be the only one to gain such adoration from them, despite their chances of facing the fiery furnace.

The Bible tells us a certain group of astrologers took note of the young men’s actions and reported back to the king.

“Furious with rage, Nebuchadnezzar summoned Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. So these men were brought before the king, and Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up? Now when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?”

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up” (Daniel 3:13-18, NIV).

Did you catch their bold response?

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego boldly announced they had no reason to defend themselves before the king! They did not have to defend their faith!

If that wasn’t audacious enough, they go on to proclaim that if they are in fact thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom they serve would be able to deliver them from the flames.

What they declare next infused me with unshakeable faith…

“But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold…” (emphasis mine).

These men steadfastly proclaimed: Even if our God does NOT do what we are trusting in Him to do, we want you to know King that we will NOT bow down!

They dug their heels in the sand and firmly professed that even if God did NOT come through for them, they would NOT give up and give in!

Oh how the enemy quickly began with his taunts the minute our home purchase floundered.

God did not deliver.

God did not bless.

God did not provide.

God did not come through.

God did not answer your prayers.

Etcetera. Etcetera. Etcetera.

Like Eve, I was faced with the haunting question – Did God really say?

Did God really say He was going to open up a door for you and your family?

It’s so tempting to exchange the truth of God for lies.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego could have easily traded in their TRUE God for a Lie. But planted firmly, they resolved to put their hope and trust in their God.

Their unwavering firmness has stirred faith in my heart like never before.

A faith to stand up and declare to the enemy:

Even if God does not, I will NOT bow down to hopelessness.

Even if God does not, I will NOT bow down to anxiety.

Even if God does not, I will NOT bow down to unbelief.

Even if God does not, I will NOT bow down to resentment.

Even if God does not, I will NOT bow down to depression.

So, what do you do when God chooses not to? When He chooses not to ____________? (You can fill in the blank).

Perhaps you received a cordially composed e-mail from Human Resources stating the position you interviewed for was filled.

Maybe the application response letter you anticipated from the college of your dreams arrived in a regular letter-sized envelope instead of a large manila envelope.

Or, once again, you’re staring at only one blue line on the plastic white stick instead of two blue lines.

Or, instead of an engagement ring, you get the “we’ll be better off as friends” speech.

If everything around you is contradictory to the things you have been trusting God for, I want to encourage you – Even if God does not, Do NOT Bow! Do NOT Give Up! Do NOT Give In!

Be Strong in the Lord!

Stand Firmly and See His Deliverance!

If you continue to read Daniel chapter 3, you will realize God did in fact save Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They were thrown into the blazing furnace, but their God delivered them and rescued them! The Bible says they did not even smell like smoke!

God is a good Father, and He will come through for me and for you!

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The Wilderness of Infertility

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Today, I have invited a precious friend, Crystal Morales, to share on the blog her personal story of infertility. I love the lessons of faith Crystal has picked up along her journey, and I am beyond happy at where her journey has led her. I hope this encourages and sparks hope in your heart today.


“Occasionally weep deeply over the life you hoped would be. Grieve the losses. Then wash your face. Trust God. And embrace the life you have.”

–John Piper

For as long as I can remember all I ever wanted to be was a mother. I had a plan for my life. I would get married in my early twenties, have my first baby at twenty-five, have two more kids after that – each two years apart.

My husband and I would be the best parents, raise our children in the fear of the Lord, and live happily ever after…

I am now thirty-two years old and have no children.

My husband, Elliot, and I were married eleven years ago on April 23, 2005.  A few weeks after our wedding, we moved to North Carolina so that he could attend Bible College for three years.

We weren’t on birth control, but did not have plans on getting pregnant while he was in school. We thought, “This is great. God knows we don’t want kids right now, so He’s preventing it for this season!”

Three years past, Elliot finished school and we knew we really wanted to get pregnant. But, year after year passed, and still nothing.

We had an idea that something was wrong with Elliot’s body, but we continued to pray and trust God. We visited a doctor, but there weren’t any clear answers. We continued to hope and pray for God to bring healing.

Throughout this time, many of our single friends met their mates and began to have babies. The community we were a part of was full of pregnant women EVERYWHERE!

With every pregnancy announcement came more tears and questioning God.

“Why haven’t you healed Elliot’s body?! Why won’t you bless my womb?”

 Rejoicing when others rejoiced became really difficult. Every invitation to a baby shower was a stab in my heart. Every time someone asked, “When are you two having kids?” I wanted to scream and punch them in the face. The pain of infertility was so great a burden to bear.

And yet, God used our infertility to reveal so much of what was inside of my heart—the things deep down that no one else could see.

Infertility became the wilderness in which I was tested.

My reactions were tested – was I going to murmur and complain, or trust God and continue to find things in my life to be grateful for.

Through the years I have learned what I believe to be one of the most important lessons in my walk with the Lord; and that is to run to God with my pain.

It sounds simple but I can list lots of things I ran to in order to hide or numb my pain. Some of which caused even more pain—but God. God, with His tender love and mercy met me in my pain.

He has always been there to woo me back to Himself, to whisper kindly to my heart and reassure me that He is a GOOD, GOOD Father.

The enemy will use situations in our life to try to get us to doubt God, to question His love and care for us. It started way back in the garden and continues today – “Did God REALLY say….?” 

In the wilderness I have learned to fight.

To fight with the Word of God.

To fight by worshipping.

To fight by declaring the promises of God.

To fight with my tears, weeping at His feet and bringing my pain to Him instead of running from Him.

And I have found, without fail, He is always faithful to meet me.  He might not always tell me what I want to hear, but He is always there to comfort me.

It is in the wilderness that I have felt the nearness of God.  It is in the wilderness that I have learned more about who He is and fallen more deeply in love with Him.  It is in the wilderness that my heart was laid bare before Him and He dealt tenderly with me.

Today, we are happy to say that we are in the middle of adopting a domestic newborn child 🙂 . We have just had our first home study meeting and have two more left to go before we are approved to adopt! We know that this process of adoption was not “Plan B”, but it was God’s “Plan A” for us all along and we can’t wait to see it all unfold as we walk into His season of promise.

                                                                                                                           

About the Author:

“Crystal Morales and her husband, Elliot, currently live in South Dakota and minister on the Pine Ridge reservation to the Lakota people. They are involved in discipleship, Bible study and jail ministry as well as various other things including working with the local church.”1

You can visit Crystal’s blog by clicking here.

If you would like to help Crystal & Elliot bring their baby home, you can help in more ways than one:

  • You can PRAY! Pray that the adoption process would be smooth and expedient.
  • You can GIVE! You can donate towards the adoption costs by visiting www.fire-international.org/donate.php. Enter in your donation amount (anything helps), and type Morales Adoption in the comment box.

 

1About the Author information taken from http://fire-international.org/missionaries_detail-page2.php?id=52

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Posted in Christian, Devotional, Encouragement, Faith, Hope, Infertility, Marriage, Miscarriage | Leave a comment

Do You Not See It?

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As my husband mentioned in his guest blog post, there are times when we can be spiritually nearsighted and not clearly see God working in our lives. But, nonetheless, He IS doing something. God IS working on our behalf—whether we see it or not.

In the Bible, we also read about this concept of having eyes but not being able to really see.  Jesus told his disciples he often spoke in parables because the people “Though seeing, they [could] not see…” (Matthew 13:13, NIV).  Also, after feeding the multitudes Jesus overheard his disciples speaking about bread—they had just witnessed an incredible miracle and they were stuck on bread—and Jesus responded by saying, “Do you still not SEE or understand?  Do you have eyes but fail to SEE, and ears but fail to hear?” (Mark 8:17-18).

In an earlier blog post I made this year, When Life Has You Feeling Punch Drunk, I mentioned how God had really impressed on my heart a verse to hold on to for this year – Isaiah 43:19.  And, as the months have passed, God has continually placed this verse before me.  I have seen it everywhere!  On social media, in devotionals, and in books I’ve read, etc.

One specific translation of the verse has stood out to me most.  In the Holman Christian Standard Bible translation the verse reads (emphasis mine): “LOOK, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming.  Do you not SEE it?  Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.”

“Do you not SEE it?”

When I read this translation, those words struck me—“Do you not SEE it?”  I contemplated and wrestled with this question.

I asked the Lord, What are you trying to say, God?

The pride in me arose.  My response revealed the state of my heart. 

I can SEE very clearly.  

If you’ve been following the blog, you’ll know my husband and I have been searching for a place to live for over a year now, and we have only encountered one closed door after another.

So my attitude and reply to this question was: God, I can SEE that no door has opened for us.  I can SEE the dead-end sign following every attempt. 

We sought to purchase a co-op, and we did our due diligence by connecting with realtors, researching neighborhoods and school districts, and attending open houses.

God, I can SEE we are doing everything we are supposed to, and, yet, nothing.

According to our thought-process, a co-op fitted us best considering buying a home in New York nowadays seems financially out of reach.  My husband and I reasoned we were not ready to get into a home purchase.

God, I can SEE a home involves too much money, too much responsibility, too much maintenance, etc.  Would we love a home?  Absolutely!  But, I just don’t SEE how that could happen for us at this time.  

The real estate market numbers proved my point.  Our personal budget numbers proved my point even further.

Do YOU see God? 

The audacity of me to question if God can see.  If I were in God’s place, I would have wiped me out.  But, thank God He’s God and I’m not!

In His mercy, He allowed us to continue viewing co-ops.  And, in His grace and unfailing love, He protected us from getting into bad investments.

This past February, we saw a co-op in the neighborhood we wanted to settle in and we thought, This is it!

Thrilled at the idea of our search being over, we placed a bid on the apartment. The sellers accepted our bid, and we moved forward to begin the closing process.  We signed contracts with our lawyer, and then waited for the sellers to sign so we could go on to the next steps.

We thought it strange after a week passed and no response from the sellers came in. So, we called our lawyer to follow-up.  Our lawyer informed us the sellers had gone into contract with another buyer…Say WHAT?! 

God, what are you doing?!  What is going on? 

And, God continued to say, “Do You Not SEE It?” 

Though seeing, I was not really seeing.  Though having eyes, I could not see.

So, my husband and I began our search again.  We went back to viewing co-ops.  This time we broadened our scope, and thought maybe we should search in another neighborhood.  We dragged our poor boys out with us and viewed several more apartments.  Nothing.

Then, about two months later, on a Sunday while worshipping in a church service, someone slipped my husband a little handwritten note, which said, “You have been unsuccessful in locating an apartment because you were aiming too low.  You will not find one because the Lord has a house for you and your family…”

My husband was shocked and in awe.  He sent me a text with excitement letting me know about the note and asked what were my thoughts.

I got excited too.  I thought, Wow, God wants to bless us with a home!  That’s amazing.  But, that must be for the future—like five years from now.  Our budget doesn’t exactly match up right now. 

(Someone should have slapped me, I know…).  

So despite the note, we continued looking at co-ops.  We placed bids on 3 different apartments.

We placed the first bid and it fell through.

We placed another bid on a second apartment, and that fell through.

Then, we placed another bid on a third apartment (the only one left on the market in the co-op community we liked) and that fell through as well.

Do You Not SEE it? 

God in His mercy closed every door.  Now, I was starting to see it.  God was protecting us from going a way He did not want us to go.  Why?  Because He had something better planned.

So, we decided to view some homes.  Even though we didn’t SEE how God was going to work everything out, we knew He wanted us to go this way.  And, finally, I submitted.

I said, Lord, this is scary because I don’t know how everything is going to pan out, but I’m going to step out.  I’m going to do it afraid.  

The day we were scheduled to view homes with our realtor, I prayed before leaving the house – Lord, please don’t let today be in waste.  Please open a door.  

We saw three homes, and one in particular we really loved.  We didn’t know how the Lord was going to work it out for us, so we said, Lord we need a word from you—like tomorrow! 

It was a Saturday and so the following day was Sunday, the day we worship in the Lord’s house.  We said, we need to hear from you Lord tomorrow!

Sunday came and we went to church as usual.  Our kids and I came home early, and my husband stood at church for the rest of the services.  As I put the kids to nap in the afternoon, I said, Lord we still need to hear from you.

Once the kids fell asleep, I received a text with an audio recording of a prophetic message.  I was floored at how God decided to send His Word.  The message basically stated that the Lord was going to provide; He knew the cost of real estate; and He was going to provide for the remodeling as well.

Do you not SEE it? 

Yes, Lord, now I see it.  

I cried at the thought that God would desire to bless us despite my lack of faith and sight.  How merciful is He?  How faithful is He?  Even when we are unfaithful…It’s amazing.  He left me speechless.

We went forward and placed a bid on the home we loved, and it was accepted!

We are only beginning the process of paperwork, inspections, and then onto closing, but we are praying and believing that God is going to do as He said!

And, even if the deal falls through, for whatever reason, we know it’s because God has something better.  His thoughts are much higher than ours.  I have learned that the hard way!  Not because God made it hard, but because I made it hard!  A lot of tears, a lot of visits to co-ops and open houses, time we will never get back.  But, we thank God He closed those doors and kept us.

I want to encourage you – if you are face to face with a closed door know it is because God has another open door much better for you!  He is working all things out!

Put on “spectacles of faith” to see what God is doing!  “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not SEE” (Hebrews 11:1, NIV).  Let faith stir up in your heart today and be sure of what you hope for!  Be certain of what you do not YET see!!!

“Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will SEE the deliverance the Lord will bring you today” (Exodus 14:13).

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Spiritual Nearsightedness

I have a special guest post on the blog today.  I asked my husband, Ariel, to share with us a message he recently shared with me.  We pray it encourages you!


I used to get lost all the time.

While driving on the highway, my wife would ask me, “Wasn’t that our exit?”

My reply would usually be, “No, we’re taking a short cut.” Or, “Yes, but, I just wanted to spend some extra alone time with you.”  🙂

But, we both knew I was lost.

The problem was…confession time…I needed glasses.

I was nearsighted.

I could easily read a book, or type on my laptop, but the signs on the highway were a blur to me.

When I’d realize it was my exit, it was usually too late to get off.

Did I have glasses? Of course!  But…I’m vain.  So, without my glasses I would get lost.

Being nearsighted is a physical condition, but it can also be a spiritual condition.

I call it Spiritual Nearsightedness—when I see God, but His Will appears blurry.  I’m traveling along with God in this thing called life, but His purposes are not clear.  During those times, it’s difficult for me to perceive His plan.

At times, my lack of clarity usually leads me to make assumptions.  And, unfortunately, assumptions are dangerous because, when we make them, they are usually wrong. Most often, assumptions tend to lead us, lead our thoughts, and lead our emotions in the wrong direction.

It’s interesting how we never assume something positive.  Our assumptions are mostly always negative.

When we find ourselves in difficult situations in our finances, with our kids, in our marriage, on the job, with our health, it’s hard to see clearly. It’s difficult to perceive what God is doing when faced with hard circumstances.

So we make assumptions about God.

We say to ourselves:

He must not love me.

He must not hear my prayers.

How could God allow this?

We’re left traveling down a road of discouragement, or, worse, bitterness.

The problem though isn’t God.  The problem is that we have Spiritual Nearsightedness.

We believe in God. We love God. But, we don’t see Him in our situations. We can’t perceive His will or His plan for us. We’re not really clear on where we are heading; we’re not clear as to where our destination is.

We need help to see clearly.

A particular story in the Bible has helped me during my moments of Spiritual Nearsightedness.

In the book of Luke, chapter 8, we read of a synagogue leader, Jairus, who came and fell at the feet of Jesus begging that he come to his home (Luke 8:41).

Jairus was in a desperate situation. His daughter, who was twelve years old, was dying. I’m sure he was gripped with worry and fear at the thought of losing his daughter. But, despite what he may have felt or thought, Jairus seeks Jesus.

So Jesus decides to go to Jairus’ house.

En route to Jairus’ home, Jesus stops after realizing that someone had touched him, and that power had gone out from him. A woman with an issue of bleeding for twelve years had touched Jesus’ garments in the hopes of being healed. Jesus stops to address the woman and assures her that she had been healed.

While Jesus is still speaking to this woman, the Bible states that, “…someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. ‘Your daughter is dead,’ he said. ‘Don’t bother the teacher anymore’” (Luke 8:49).

Can you imagine the thoughts rushing through Jairus’ mind?

If only Jesus would have just hurried up. Why did He delay in going to my house? What am I going to do without my little girl? Now my daughter is dead.

Why bother the master?  Why continue praying?

In our lives, we are often met by what seems like dead situations as well. Or, we assume they are dead.

Why should I continue believing for my marriage?

Why should I think God is going to rescue my wayward son or daughter?

God isn’t going to bless me. Why should I continue asking God for a child?

The situation appears dead.

May I challenge you today? With our Spiritual Nearsightedness it may be difficult to perceive what God is doing.  The situation may seem to be dead by all natural appearances, but we all know that God is in the business of resurrecting the dead.  And, if He is able to do that, why should we stop petitioning the master?

Jesus did in fact make it to Jairus’ home. Upon his arrival, he finds everyone in the house wailing and mourning for Jairus’ daughter.

Rather than join them, the Bible says that Jesus instructs them, “ ‘Stop wailing…She is not dead but asleep’” (Luke 8:52).

To their amazement, Jesus tells them that the girl was only sleeping!!

At times, we perceive our situations in the same way. We wail and mourn over things that we declare as “dead,” while they are only asleep.

Those things that seem void of any life at the moment–our marriages, our finances, our children, our dreams—they are not dead yet. Please know that the potential for life is still there, even for those areas where hope seems lost.

The Bible goes on to state that the people, “…laughed at him, knowing that she was dead” (Luke 8:53).

They all laughed at Jesus.

They probably thought Jesus was crazy.

What is He saying? What is He doing?

They filtered Jesus’ words through the state of their circumstance.

They had vision problems. They could not see clearly or understand what God was doing.

We at times have the same vision issues. We are Spiritually Nearsighted.

However, our vision condition isn’t a flaw in our eyes. No, it’s a flaw in our faith.

So what’s the cure?

We need spectacles of faith.  We need a covering of faith over our spiritual eyes that enhance our ability to see.

The only way we can receive today what God says about our tomorrows is by faith.

It is by faith that we are able to accept the word that our situation is not dead, but simply asleep.

It is by faith we can trust His plans over our fears and concerns.

It is by faith we can trust His sovereignty over our own thoughts.

It is by faith we can trust His word beyond what we see.

When my wife and I experienced a miscarriage, it was a difficult time. It was a time where things got real blurry. We could not perceive what God was doing.

Why would God rob us of this joy?

We could not understand.

Now, five years and two sons later, we see that God had a plan all along.

If we would just look at our circumstances with eyes of faith, we would be able to perceive that God IS doing something on our behalf.

My prayer has become –God, cure my Spiritual Nearsightedness by giving me lenses of faith so that I can see what you see!


About the Author: Ariel Nieves is the founder of Thrive Coaching, which helps Pastors and Church Leaders with connection strategies and discipleship. Click here to discover 10 Proven Strategies for Overcoming Obstacles.

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Posted in Christian, Devotional, Encouragement, Faith, Hope, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Choosing Hope Over Bitterness

Today I’m trying something new on the blog.  Below is a video blog, or “vlog” that I recorded earlier today.  I pray it encourages you to choose hope over bitterness.

 

Verse References from Video:

Ruth chapters 1-4

Hebrews 12:2

Romans 8:28

Romans 5:5

 

For more information on the book 5 Habits of a Woman Who Doesn’t Quit, by Nicki Koziarz click here.

 

 

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Posted in Bible, Christian, Devotional, Encouragement, Hope, Miscarriage, Women | 7 Comments

Anchoring My Hope in God’s Promises

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“Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” (Luke 1:45, NIV)

This past weekend, we celebrated our firstborn’s fourth birthday.  And, yes, this mama was quite emotional.

You see, our son is no ordinary child.  I’m sure most parents feel this way about their children, and rightfully so.

In our case, Nicholas is a promised fulfilled.  He is a living reminder to my husband and I that God certainly does keep His promises.

If you’re new to the blog, my husband and I experienced a miscarriage when we first attempted to have a child.  The months thereafter brought us face to face with different stages of grief, and I, personally, dealt with crippling anxiety like never before.

But, one day God spoke a promise.

I will never forget.  After months of anxiety and panic attacks, I felt a tug on my heart and knew God was pulling on my heartstrings.

On a Sunday afternoon, my husband pulled our car into a parking spot in front of our apartment building, and for some reason I kept feeling this tug on my heart.  I turned to my husband and said, “I think we’re going to get pregnant again, and it’s going to be soon.”  After going through our loss, speaking those words surprised me.  And, the fact I believed my words to be true shocked me even more.  To my surprise, my husband looked at me and said, “I feel the same way.”

About a month later, on the same weekend I was scheduled to deliver our miscarried baby, my husband and I found out we were expecting.  On the weekend where I assumed we’d be mourning, we were rejoicing.  I thought I was going to be afraid, nervous, or anxious at the news for fear of losing another child.  But instead joy, peace, and hope filled my heart.  Fear had lost.  Hope had won.

So, when I look at our boy, I remember God’s promise.  I remember the victory.  I remember His faithfulness.  And, hope rises within me.

There is hope in His promises.

If you’re waiting for a promise to be fulfilled, let this blog fill you with hope today.  Blessed are you who believe that the Lord would fulfill His promises to you!

I love this song by Elevation Worship called “Your Promises.”  I pray it blesses you!

 

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When Life Has You Feeling Punch Drunk

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“Punch drunk.”

Those were the words my dear friend used to describe how I felt. She called to see how I was feeling after visiting a series of doctors to no avail. Within one week I had experienced sudden swelling, bad bruising, and numbness in the center of my middle finger. After going to the ER, visiting my primary doctor, and seeing four specialists in different fields, no one could explain what was wrong.

This, unfortunately, was just one of the many “punches” our family experienced over the course of a one-year span.

During my second pregnancy, about two weeks prior to my scheduled C-section, my family and I decided to visit the local mall.  We casually walked from store to store on what was supposed to be a normal Saturday.  But, things took a turn for the worse when my husband’s tongue all of sudden became heavy and his speech became slurred. We rushed to our car; I got behind the wheel with my big belly and drove us straight to the hospital. After a two-day hospital stay, the doctors prescribed my husband medication and sent him home.

Two weeks after our mall incident, I gave birth to our second son, Silas, who was just perfect. But, I, on the other hand, faced some complications. I had developed a lot of scar tissue from my first C-section, which had to be removed. The removal lasted more than anticipated and I lost more blood than was planned. I was left with stitching on multiple organs, and so weak that I had to be placed on bed rest for three consecutive weeks.

Four days after his birth, our newborn son accidentally fell out of his baby carrier and had to be taken to the hospital for observation.

In the weeks and months to follow, my husband had two more visits to the ER, underwent special medical exams, and had several follow-up appointments.

In the midst of all that, we were in the early stages of a six-month long fight with our health insurance carrier, which denied my husband’s hospital stay – requiring us to pay 100% for the expense.

My husband’s health improved and the issues with our health insurance carrier were resolved, but then the medical bills started rolling in. Our finances experienced one major hit after another.

During a season where we thought we were going to be saving monies to purchase property of our own, we were spending thousands of dollars on medical bills.

And now, my finger was swelling.

Hundreds of dollars spent on co-pays and exams, and still no explanation.

I know there are worst things we could have been facing. And, our situations were nothing in comparison to what others face day in and day out. But, we just felt so struck down, squeezed, and stretched.

We felt Punch Drunk.

My friend described it best.

According to the urban dictionary, the boxing term is used when a boxer receives so many hits from his opponent that “his disorientation is described as and similar to being drunk.”1

There’s no breathing room. It’s one hit after another. And, there’s no opportunity for a response or a counter punch.

You’re “punch drunk.” You’re under some type of influence. You cannot focus. You cannot think soberly. You cannot see clearly.

And, you begin to question.

We definitely began to question.

Does God really see? Is God really going to come through? Did I commit some kind of sin that has blocked my access to God?

Things just didn’t make sense.  Confusion and uncertainty permeated our hearts.

I mean, we maintain ourselves pretty healthy.

We give tithes and offerings unto the Lord as the Bible instructs. I can honestly say giving has never been a struggle for us.

We love God with all our hearts and we seek to put Him first in our lives.

So then, why were all these things happening? Why all the punches?

Searching for answers, I decided to take a closer look at the life of Job, who the Bible says was “…blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil” (Job 1:1). But, the bible states, for whatever reason, God allowed Satan to attack Job—Satan threw a few punches so to speak.

One day four messengers visited Job, all bearing bad news—and I mean like really, really, bad news. Devastation came upon his family, his livestock, and even upon his own body.

The bible says, “While he (the messenger) was still speaking, another messenger came…” (Job 1:17).

Job didn’t even have a chance. Bad news came one hit after another.

Though the bible states Job lived an upright life, even Job began to question if he had done anything wrong (Job 7:20). Confusion and uncertainty set in.

Job felt like his hope had been uprooted like a tree (Job 19:10).

He felt like he cried out to God, but God was not answering (Job 30:20).

Punch Drunk.

Hopeless.

Weary.

Fatigued.

What do we do when we’re Punch Drunk?

What do you do when you pray and it feels like no answer or reprieve is on the way?

Trust.

Trust in the One who holds you in the palm of His hands.

Trust in the One who fights for you when you have no more fight left.

Trust in the One who works all things out for the good.

I recently heard a sermon by Pastor Craig Groeschel of Life Church entitled, “When God Doesn’t Make Sense.” Pastor Craig encouraged listeners to trust in God’s purpose even when life doesn’t make sense. He shared, “We don’t have to understand or like the plan to trust in God’s purpose.”

Pastor Craig described a moment when even Jesus’ prayer was answered by silence—when upon the cross he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). No answer resounded from heaven while Jesus hung on the cross and died. As Pastor Craig shared, “Just because God is silent doesn’t mean that God is absent. He’s still good. He’s still doing something.”2

In Job’s case, he questioned his circumstances but never did he denounce God or his belief in Him.

And, at the end of a horrible season, the bible states, “…the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before” (Job 42:10). “The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part” (Job 42:12).

In our case, my husband and I sent our final payment for all those hospital bills last month. I guess you can say we ended the year with a bang (J). Upon paying the final bill, it felt like the word DONE was spoken over our season of punches. It’s finished. It’s over.

At the start of this New Year, I felt the Lord impress this verse on my heart:

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:19).

We’re believing God for that NEW thing this year. And, we’ve already begun to see His provision in just the first weeks of this New Year.

We’re believing that God is going to restore and bless like never before—not because we deserve it, but simply because we are His children.

And, as for a place of our own? When God does it, I’ll be sure to share the news!  🙂

 

  1. “Punch Drunk.” – http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=punch+drunk
  2. When God Doesn’t Make Sense – http://www.life.church/watch/when-god-doesnt-make-sense
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How to Get and Stay Naked in your Marriage

how-to-get-stay

I know. The title is a tad edgy, but just stick with me for a bit.

Today, I have the honor of hosting my husband, Ariel Nieves, on the blog.

A few years ago, we shared a message at a marriage event and we’ve decided to share it with you. We pray it encourages any married couple that feels their marriage is hopeless. May the God of all hope encourage you today to believe Him for your marriage!


 

“Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame” (Genesis 2:25, NIV).

In the beginning of Genesis, Adam and his wife stood before God and each other naked and without shame, exemplifying God’s original design for marriages. Isn’t that God’s intention for married couples – that as husband and wife, we would stand before God and each other naked, transparent, and without shame?

The word naked means: bare of any coverings, defenseless, exposed, or unprotected. As a result of their nakedness and transparency, shame had no place in Adam and Eve’s relationship. Nothing hindered them from being fully connected, thus truly making them one flesh fulfilling God’s intent for marriage.

But, in the same way God has a plan for marriages, so does Satan. The Bible tells us Eve engaged in a conversation with a serpent who, synonymous to Satan, made Eve doubt God’s instructions to her and her husband about not eating from a specific tree in the Garden of Eden.

The Bible states Eve ate a fruit from the tree, and shared it with her husband. Upon eating the fruit they became aware of their nakedness. So what did they do? Adam and Eve sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves (Genesis 3:7). They hid from each other.

“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden…and they hid from the Lord God…” (Genesis 3:8). The Lord comes searching for them in the garden and, again, they hide.

They hid from each other, and they hid from God.

Fear and shame settled into Adam and Eve’s union.

They became exposed, but not in the way God desired them to be.

Their indecent exposure drove them to cover themselves. Ashamed of their bareness they made their own coverings.

Isn’t that how shame works? It enters a marriage and prevents full disclosure. Shame encourages us to conceal and cover ourselves.

Hiding from our spouse, and hiding from God, the disconnection begins.

Natalie here – When my husband and I got married we had baggage. Before coming to know the Lord, I dated someone I should not have and was called “fat.” Those words put me on a journey of great struggle with anorexia and insecurities. After committing my life to the Lord, God began to work in me and helped me overcome some of those battles. A few years later, I began to date my husband and eventually we married. During our earlier marriage years, I realized I still hid behind certain insecurities. Never quite secure enough to share my feelings, I would shut down after any disagreement. My husband struggled to engage in honest conversation with me. Feelings of inadequacy were my choice coverings.

Ariel here – When I was conceived, my dad was married but, not to my mom. Being born out of an affair affected the way I thought about marriage. While dating my wife, I worried about proposing to her because I thought my marriage would end in an affair. I didn’t know how to be a husband. To make matters worse, pornography made its way into my life at the age of fourteen, and it became like gum on the bottom of my shoe. No matter how hard I tried to get rid of it, it was still there. I walked around with a lot of shame and guilt, and, when we got married, they too came along for the ride. Shame caused me to hide and disconnect.

Maybe you can relate to our stories? Perhaps shame has entered into your marriage, and has caused you and your spouse to disconnect.

Do you find yourself hiding?

In most instances, not only do we hide from our spouse, we also hide from God. We compromise our time of prayer, and the reading of His word. We go to church only when we’re scheduled to serve. And, when asked how we’re doing we respond, “We’re blessed and highly favored.” We hide. We disconnect.

Is it possible to go back to the original design of marriage?

Can we have Genesis 2:25 marriages?

YES!

James, chapter five, verse sixteen provides a roadmap to get back to the way God intended marriages to be – that naked, without shame relationship.

The verse reads: “Therefore CONFESS your sins to each other and PRAY for each other so that you might be HEALED.”

CONFESS

Confession is the total opposite of covering and hiding, which is our natural instinct. Confession brings things out into the light. Confession exposes. Confession lays everything bare, including: wrongdoings, grudges, resentment, anger, and any unforgiveness we may have towards our spouse.

A form of intimacy, the process of confessing allows you to reconnect with your spouse.

A word of advice: Confess no matter how small it may seem. Don’t allow things to fester and build up. The idea of “what your spouse doesn’t know won’t hurt them” is a LIE! Those “little things” can grow into very uncontrollable monsters.

The other component of confession is acceptance. When you’re in a relationship with someone, you take the good, the bad, and the ugly. ‘Til death do us part. When it comes to dealing with humans there’s a lot of ugly. Allow freedom for your spouse to confess. And, make sure no penance or payback follows. You may feel hurt by certain things, but choose to process those feelings together.

Changing your Facebook profile status to “single” is not an option. Confession can be difficult, but love keeps no records of wrong (1 Corinthians 13:5). The word “love” in this verse means agape love – unconditional love – a love only God can give. If you are connected to God, He is able to give you the love you need to love your spouse; the love you’ll need to overlook an offense. Remember, your spouse isn’t the enemy. We don’t battle flesh and blood. The enemy is the enemy, and his agenda is to cause division. (Note: If you are in an abusive marriage relationship, we strongly recommend counseling so a mediator can assist you and your spouse through your situation).

PRAYER

The next step: prayer. Some things are only resolved through prayer and fasting (Mark 9:29), which means if you’re serious about your marriage you’re going to have to go to war in prayer.

Instead of fighting in our marriages, we must fight for our marriages.

Our weapons are not carnal; they’re mighty to bring down strongholds (2 Cor. 10:4). Intercession and prayer paves the way for peace and unity.

Natalie here – Can I be naked with you? When my husband confessed his struggle with pornography, I felt less than. I immediately thought, I am not good enough. After wrestling with his confession, I realized my husband wasn’t the enemy. The struggle with pornography was the issue and that’s what I had to fight. This shift in perspective challenged me to take an unmovable stance in prayer, and I interceded for my husband until the stronghold of porn broke. I appreciated my husband’s openness. He spoke frankly with me because he didn’t want to hide, and we fought and overcame together.

HEALING

The final step: healing. We really believe a divine exchange occurs during the healing process. An exchange where we take off our coverings—all the stuff we’ve been hiding behind—and we become exposed, and we receive God’s coverings. We must be naked so God can clothe us with His garments. He’s not going to set his garments over coverings we’ve made for ourselves. A holy unraveling must take place. As we strip each covering off, we may feel the encroaching weight of guilt, but God doesn’t judge us by our coverings. In His eyes, we are covered in His blood.

After Adam and Eve sin and hide, the Bible tells us, “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them” (Genesis 3:21).  God clothed and covered them despite what they did. And, He wants to do the same for us.

Stop hiding from your spouse. Stop hiding from God. Confess. Pray. And, then, see the healing overflow in your marriage.

You and your spouse won’t be “just making it.” You’ll be overcoming.

In closing, years later the Bible records in the book of Zechariah, a vision the prophet had of the high priest, Joshua. Zechariah envisioned Joshua dressed in filthy garments, filthy coverings, and Satan stood at his side accusing him. God then rebuked Satan and requested the removal of Joshua’s garments.

“Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel. The angel said to those who were standing before him, ‘Take off his filthy clothes.’ Then he said to Joshua, ‘See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put fine garments on you’” (Zech. 3:3-4).

Like Adam, Eve, and Joshua, you may find yourself under some coverings. Perhaps those coverings are more like filthy garments. Maybe as Joshua experienced, Satan is also accusing you—convincing you it’s best to stay covered, it’s best to stay hidden because what will others really think of you? What will your spouse think of you?

The last thing Satan wants is for us to begin confessing, and reconnecting with God and our spouse. He might be reminding us of our shameful state, but God wants us to remove our filthy garments. God wants to quiet every accusation and lie from the enemy. He wants to dress us with His fine garments, His coverings.

We want to exemplify a Genesis 2:25 marriage. No marriage is too hopeless for God’s healing. Hope still remains.

Confess. Pray. Receive God’s healing today.

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Learning How to Be Instead of Do

be

Here in New York City, our culture is very much go-go-go. We rise and shine, hustle in the daily grind, and then repeat it all over again.  It’s pretty much the way of life.

To be busy is a cultural expectation. We must be doing something right if we’re busy. We’re aspiring, succeeding, making strides. Or, at least, that’s how it appears.

At times, we find our value in doing since we’re meeting the cultural expectation.

I have struggled with this for a long time, and didn’t even realize it until I withdrew from the busyness.

During my battle with anxiety and panic attacks, my husband and I made a tough call and decided I needed to quit my job. We deemed it necessary in order for me to heal and get well.

We both worked in full-time ministry and – as true perfectionists – we lent ourselves to be the work-a-holic types.

So, I went from maintaining a busy schedule to not working at all.

It was like going cold turkey.

Despite knowing the decision would help me, it raised difficult questions for me:

What would I do with myself?

What would I do with my time?

The most daunting question of all: What will others think of me?

To me buzzing and bustling about was a good thing. I found my value in being busy. It labeled me smart, successful, and hardworking.

In my mind, extracting myself from the busyness would make me susceptible to labels like “lazy,” “idle,” “unsuccessful.”

The idea of resting and being still brought a lot of unrest to my mind and heart.

It has been over three years since I stopped working. Since then I have become a stay-at-home mom and, unfortunately, I still struggle with finding my value in being busy. As you can tell from previous blog posts, being still is not my forte.

In the Bible, Jesus’ friend Martha was much like me. Martha invited Jesus to her home and she planned a big dinner in his honor.

“As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a village where a woman named Martha welcomed them into her home. Her sister Mary sat on the floor, listening to Jesus as he talked. But Martha was the jittery type and was worrying over the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, ‘Sir, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.’ But the Lord said to her, ‘Martha, dear friend, you are so upset over all these details! There is really one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it—and I won’t take it way from her!’” (Luke 10:38-42, TLB)

In Jesus’ day, women kept busy by taking care of their home, their children, cooking meals, cleaning, drawing water, et cetera.

It was the “cultural expectation” for women to handle those responsibilities. Martha prided herself in meeting those expectations. Being busy and concerned over the dinner preparations for Jesus—those were all things she was supposed to be doing. Most likely the last things on her mind – sitting and being still.

Her sister, Mary, on the other hand, decided to sit at the feet of Jesus. She chose to be still—to rest at His feet.

In those times it wasn’t a woman’s place to listen to the teachings of a Rabbi—that was the role of a man.

Mary went against what culture said she should be doing and she sat with Jesus.

To the onlooker Martha was doing all the right things. Busy accomplishing her duties with such great care and excellence—all for her guest of honor, Jesus. Surely, He deserved her best, right?

Mary, however, chose stillness over busyness. And, yet, Jesus affirmed Mary’s decision. According to Jesus, Mary discovered something He would not take away from her. She tapped into something few people truly get.

Mary tapped into being instead of doing.

She was being still. But, in her stillness, she was being attentive. She was being fully present.

Mary could have multi-tasked and helped her sister Martha while she also listened to Jesus’ teaching. But, no – she chose to sit, cease from activity, and probably lock eyes with Jesus as if no one else was in the room. She perhaps thought to herself, I might not have this opportunity again.

At times, I find myself having the same “jittery” disposition as Martha. Worrying about so many things. Checking off items on my to-do list. Making meal preparations. Cleaning up. Paying bills. Going to doctor’s appointments. Planning out activities. Making sure the kids are learning and being stimulated.

And, unfortunately, in the hustle and bustle, I often overlook the thing that truly matters the most—being instead of doing.

Being still.

Being present.

I’m realizing this struggle not only affects my relationship with Jesus, but also affects my relationships with those closest to me.

In the busyness of doing, I forget to be a friend to my husband. I rattle off all the errands he has to run, and I forget to simply ask how he’s doing.

In the busyness of doing, I forget to simply be a mama to my boys.  Instead of taking a few minutes to hear of the latest Lego character and engage in meaningful conversation with my son, I run from room to room like a military officer picking up toys and correcting my children for their mess.

In the busyness of doing, I forget to be there for my family and friends. Rather than pick up the phone to check in on my grandmother, I scan my to-do list convincing myself I will definitely make time for that tomorrow.

But, tomorrow is not a guarantee.

I’m asking God to help me to number my days that I would gain a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:12)—wisdom in making decisions; wisdom in my relationships; and wisdom in the use of my time.

Are you like me, and Martha? Worried about so many things? Things that in the long-scope will not really matter?

I encourage you today to be still.

Be present.

Make that phone call.

Treat your child to a one-on-one date.

Sit at Jesus’ feet with no agenda other than to worship Him and hear from Him.

I promise you, you won’t regret it.

 

P.S. – One thing that has helped me intentionally be still and present with Jesus has been the First 5 app.  This app has challenged me to give the first five minutes of my day to the Lord, and devote undivided attention to His word. Check out their site! The app is free!

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