Not So New Resolution

It’s January. I love the New Year. Does anyone dislike the New Year? I mean who doesn’t love the idea of fresh, clean slates. New mercies. New season. I can’t explain why a simple change of date and month causes me to feel so invigorated but it does.

I don’t have a resolution…. I don’t even have a word this year (or last year apparently!) I do have scripture though. God plopped me down in Ephesians and for a little over a week has basically said, “Stay put.” It started with Ephesians 4:29 “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up, that it may benefit those who listen.” I began refreshing my mind with this passage. Asking questions like “What IS unwholesome talk?” “What would or would not benefit those who listen?” And getting tough, convicting responses from the Lord.

One of the most memorable sermons I have ever listened to is one John Piper preached entitled, Make Your Mouth a Means of Grace. That pretty much sums it up. In any and every situation I want to ask myself “Is my mouth a means of grace?” “Am I imparting grace to the people around me?” It makes perfect sense for Paul to continue in that chapter with these words, verse 31 and 32 “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Jesus taught that “what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart,….” Matthew‬ ‭15:18‬ ‭ESV‬‬ Whatever we are holding onto in our heart is going to determine whether our mouth can be an instrument of grace. So that got me thinking…. when my mouth is NOT being a means of grace, what is the sin I’m holding onto? Is it resentment, a sense of entitlement, impatience, or unforgiveness? When my words are tender, humble, and loving, it’s because my desire is to love and honor Jesus. And when my words are uplifting, beneficial, and gracious, you can trace it directly back to Who is on the throne of my heart. But when my words are ugly, negative, harsh, or sarcastic it’s not a reflection of my love for Jesus, it’s just me unyielded to the Holy Spirit. This has been a powerful time, meditating on Gods Word and doing my own heart check. God has made me keenly aware of how desensitized I can become to my own sin, justifying these “little” grievances that are detestable to him. Bitterness, greed, resentment, envy, slander, etc. can infiltrate our hearts slowly and subtly and really begin to wreak havoc on our spiritual life and relationships. As I began reading these verses, fully aware that I’m not immune against these sins, I asked God to bring it all to light. Sometimes we have to pray that so we can confess and repent and truly “rid” ourselves of it all.

Bring it to light, Lord.

This morning I honed in on the beginning of Ephesians 4, verses 2 and 3, “Be completely humble and gentle, be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

Does that not just knock you out of your chair? Thats a pretty heavy commission for us! I mean, every day I have to fight the inclination to be the antithesis of that passage. I love the people in my life but the fact is relationships are hard. If we’re honest, people we love can be annoying and hard to love sometimes. I know I can be!! My sinful knee jerk reaction to frustrating situations is anger. I get hot, physically, and my chest gets tight with angry feelings. And then if it doesn’t get dealt with properly I might just get bitter or resentful. You can usually tell this by whatever comes out of my mouth and it’s not grace. But I want to speak grace and life. In joyous times, in the mundane times, and in the uncomfortable, hard confrontations I want my heart to be right with God and my words to “build others up, so it may benefit those who listen”.

God didn’t put all this in his Word to make us despairing, feeling as though we can not possibly do this. He put it there because through Christ we are more than conquerors. I have experienced how powerful it is to pray through these passages. I have felt a complete shift in my attitude, outlook, and speech when I apply these truths to whatever is going on in my day. Be humble. Be patient. Bear with one another. According to their needs. Keep the unity. Don’t grieve the Spirit of God. Filtering my thoughts through those truths is the key. It also takes a lot of diligence! But God is faithful when we actively put our trust and heart in his hands. And it is life giving when we live according to his Word!

I’ll close with this because our heart, mind, and mouth are all connected. What we put in our mind nourishes our heart and soul. This year, as every year, I pray I would put more and more of the precious, life giving Word of God before me.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians‬ ‭4:4-8 NIV‬‬


For My Mom on Her Birthday

Today is my mother’s birthday. I haven’t written in a while but today I felt impressed to honor my mom here. Something about this year,… Maybe it’s the loss we’ve experienced and watched others experience. Maybe it’s being on the heals of Christmas when we reflect on the greatest Gift ever given. I just want to express how grateful to God I am for my mom.

I have always gotten really choked up when I listen to Taylor Swift’s song Best Day. My secrets out, I do enjoy listening to Taylor from time to time. I was playing it this morning and even though her story and relationship with her mom is different than mine, in this song she encapsulates the mother/daughter bond in a really sweet way. She communicates how much she looks up to her mom, how her mom has always been there for her, and how beautiful and strong her mother is. I would say the same of my mom on all those points. I don’t know if Taylor’s mom knows Jesus but my mom does and that makes each of those points all the more meaningful and beautiful.

Being the only girl and the youngest my mom really doted on me. She might even say too much, but I’ve always felt loved, cherished and adored in healthy proportions. And now as an adult I’m very aware of my mother’s unconditional love for me. This year in particular, in the wake of losing our baby my mom has been there for me in all the ways I’ve needed and at times when no one else could know I was in need. The Holy Spirit works through her to lift my eyes to Him. She’s one of the very few that sees my deep, dark, ugly places and she graciously, tenderly, gets my gaze back on Christ. She doesn’t just tell me what I want to hear, or what will make me feel better. She is honest, she speaks Biblical truth when I need it,….which is all the time. Her love helps me understand Christ’s love.

I look up to my mom more than any other woman in the world. And I know that my even being able to say that is a gift from God; A great testimony of his goodness and graciousness in my life. I could probably write a book on all the ways her life has positively impacted mine but I want to hone in on one thing.

My mom loves Jesus SO much. We all know that there are, actually, a lot of people that say they love Jesus. But very few people love Jesus so much that it changes their whole life. Jesus has changed my mom’s life and she is unashamed to live it for Him and His glory alone. Her love for Christ affects her marriage. My mom has shown me that a deep, lasting, Christ exalting marriage comes from abiding in Christ. It comes from living out truths like 1 Corinthians 13 and Philippians 2:3, “Do nothing from selfish ambition….in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” She’s shown me that the best thing we can give to our children is not only the knowledge of Gods great love for us but a life lived in response to God’s great love. My parents are 62 years old. To God be the glory, my dad has a thriving ministry at a local church and my mom recently “retired” from the orthodontics field. They could easily coast through the rest of their life as empty nesters, enjoying the fruit of their early labor. But instead of slowing down in this race they are picking up the pace, running harder. Recently they have responded to the call of caring for orphans and became foster parents. And it’s not duty for them, its delight. Of course it’s hard, but my mom shows me every day that even in the hard, when we obey God’s Word, and live sacrificially for others, we “count it all joy”. My mom’s joy and her example make me want to know and love Jesus even deeper. Oh how I pray my children say the same for me one day.

And this is the thing that makes my mom’s example so powerful, so Christ exalting. She doesn’t just talk about her love for Jesus, she lives it. When she’s encouraging me and speaking the truth of His Word, I don’t just acknowledge it and quickly forget it. I hear it and I want to live it, because she is living it. I see her joy in Christ and her joy in sacrificial love for others and I want to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us” with her. My mom gets Hebrews 12….. “fixing our eyes on Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy set before him he endured the CROSS….”  She gets Philippians 3:8 “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” And I am ETERNALLY grateful for this.

Mom, your godly example to me is truly priceless. There is nothing on earth that can measure the value of the spiritual inheritance that you have passed on to me. I love you so much, I still want to be you when I grow up 😉 and wish you the happiest birthday.

He Is Enough

“I was walking blindly into a new season, a place that didn’t line up with my plans and dreams for the coming new year. A place that I never would have chosen, never wished or asked for. But God’s promise to Abraham spoke to me. God wasn’t promising me ease. He wasn’t promising that things would go as planned. He wasn’t promising a world without trouble, without heartbreak along the way. He was promising me Himself.” Katie Davis Majors, Daring to Hope

If you are looking for a good book I encourage you to read this one. It was appropriate timing that this book arrived in the mail for me today.

Today I recognized that I still have some grieving to do. I told my mom that I was having a strange urge to cry that I didn’t understand. I’ve been “fine”. When my miscarriage has come up I have felt “okay.” But today it was like the flood gates unexpectedly opened back up and my heart is aching like it did the day I learned of our loss. This is still all so foreign to me. I’m starting to learn that when you experience loss, it never stops resurfacing. And sometimes you can handle it emotionally and sometimes you just can’t.

I long for another child. I long for our family to continue growing. It also doesn’t help that Caleb asks me every other day, “When will we get a baby?” He tells me he wants a brother, after all “Micaila and Ryann have a little brother. I want one, too.” I mean who can argue with that? We pray for God to grow our family (however he chooses) and right now I’m struggling to be patient as I wait on his revealed plan. Before I found out I was pregnant we thought God was leading us to adoption but that door closed. Then we were having a baby naturally,…….then we weren’t. Now we are waiting for a placement. Which isn’t meant to be permanent but I certainly wouldn’t mind lavishing all this love on someone temporarily. And yet, here we wait. And the thing God whispers over and over and over is, “In your grief, in your waiting, you have Me.” Because so often when I want something, good somethings, I tend to start thinking Jesus + said thing will make everything better, whole, satisfied. And I have certainly searched my heart wondering, “Is Jesus enough for me?” I want to say whole heartedly “yes!” I guess maybe that’s the point of this season. Maybe God keeps us in these places so we will truly understand deep down that He is in fact enough. He is enough when we have and enough when we have not. He is always enough and He is always good.

“His desire is for us- that we would know His love in these unexpected broken places and that we would know the true hope found only in His Son Jesus, the Lamb, who never, ever stops reaching out for us, who cups our pain in His nail-scarred palms and cradles our hearts close to His. He wants to be our reward.” Katie Davis Majors, Daring to Hope

The God Of All Comfort

On August 7th with great surprise and joy we found out that we were having another baby. Number 4! I was shocked and thrilled and a little bit scared all at once. The weeks that followed were filled with wonderful happiness as we gradually began sharing the news with loved ones. Over the Labor Day weekend I made a trip to Florida to tell Jason’s family and my siblings. It was wonderful having all that support and excitement.

At 10 weeks I went in for a routine appointment. I was looking forward to hearing the heart beat on the doppler this time. I had been having spotting, which was abnormal compared to my other 3 pregnancies. I also suspected I had a uti the week prior but there was no bacteria in my urine. It was strange all the symptoms and discomfort and yet no apparent reason. On my drive to the OB, as I sang “Thy will be done”, I had this strong sense that God was preparing me for sad news.

There is no heart beat.

I felt like the air was being sucked from the room. I immediately started crying. I have never lost a baby and have had 3 healthy pregnancies. But in the wake of that moment Gods presence was so near to me and Romans 8:28 just became even more personal.

Jeremiah 8:18 “You are my Comforter in sorrow, my heart is faint within me.”

I can’t even describe the deep sadness I have felt. Psalm 119:28 “My soul is weary with sorrow, strengthen me according to your word.” I have brief moments where I’m not crying but mostly I just keep crying. When I think about not seeing this babies face or holding him/her, letting that little hand wrap around my finger. Knowing that our kids will not be getting a little brother or sister. We have so much love built up for this baby and just like that, no heart beat. I’ve never known this kind of ache and grief. And yet I know my gracious Father will not waste it. I sense his strong comfort and peace, even in my ache and tears, I know with certainty “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 ‭This promise doesn’t diminish my grief but it strengthens my hope in the midst of my grief. I can cry and rest in that promise all at the same time.

On top of finding out this very sad news we were faced with the decision of having a d&c done or waiting for my body to do what it should do. You have all these emotions and then you have to decide what’s next. It’s scary and confusing, mounted on top of trying to grieve this tremendous loss. I never knew all these details involved with having a miscarriage. I was really concerned over possibly having a d&c. I began asking for prayer that God would allow my body to do what it was designed to do in this situation. The next 2 days it all began to happen naturally. More tears, more sadness, but also gratefulness for God sparing me the decision of the d&c.

During this time we have had countless family and friends praying on our behalf and loving us in so many ways. It has been incredible knowing how many people have prayed for peace, comfort, and wisdom for us. And we have received all those things in abundance. I would say I have more of a bent towards depression and God in his great mercy has covered me with comfort and confidence during this difficult time. I didn’t know you could be so sad and at the same time be at such peace in Gods sovereign plan. I didn’t know I could have such deep grief and yet fully assured of Gods goodness in something so heartbreaking. It’s something that doesn’t even make sense to me and yet, it’s where he has me. I feel like a child crying buckets of tears while being wrapped securely in my Fathers arms while he whispers, “It’s going to be okay.”

My mom was able to fly in almost immediately. As a family we had a little burial and ceremony to honor this little life. As much as I instinctively want to shield my children from hurt, this time has deepened all of our understanding of compassion, thoughtfulness, the preciousness of life and of course love. We are closer now and I wouldn’t change how we’ve included them in our rejoicing and now in our grief.

I can’t express the comfort I have felt from the body of Christ. The cards, flowers, prayers, messages,…. there has been an outpouring of love as you have grieved with us. I haven’t had the chance to tell everyone, but others have shared for us and I have been told of ALL the prayers for us. Thank you for mourning with us and praying on our behalf. We are so blessed and grateful. I’ll end with this scripture from Habakkuk. I love the imagery of this passage and the message it’s conveying and its what I am praying over my heart. That even when I have precious things taken away, I can trust and rejoice in my Savior. Please pray with me.

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” Habakkuk‬ ‭3:17-18‬

The Mother In Law

NeeNee and Caleb in March. We do need to take more pictures with you Linda. 😕😉

I just spent the last week with my mother in law, Linda. Sadly, some wives cringe at that thought. I mean I get it. We’re deeply flawed human beings and the dynamics of this relationship can be complicated. But ours has never been. All praise and glory to God and many, many thanks to Linda. 🙂

When I was just shy of 16 years old and meeting Linda for the first time she warmly welcomed me into her home and life. At the time I was the only one who “knew” Jason was my future husband. 😉 To everyone else though I was just a girlfriend. As we got more and more serious Linda treated me more and more like a daughter. I have always felt loved and supported by her. I’ve never felt like we were competing for her sons affections. She was the one who helped him pick out gifts for me on special occasions and set up the best engagement surprise ever. I always, always have felt like she wanted me as her daughter in law. And when she talks about mine and Jason’s marriage, and how much love she observes that is exchanged between us… much he loves me….Or when she tells me what good parents we are…. what a good mommy I am….. and she means it….. She is proud and this means so much to me. I realize this is a rare and wonderful thing that we have.

After many long wonderful talks this week I realize that she has a special way of speaking truth and sharing wisdom and yet being affirming of not only mine and Jason’s relationship but decisions we make as a couple and for our family. She encourages us, prays for us, and trusts that we are seeking God and are “working out our salvation with fear and trembling.” She knows we aren’t perfect and that we may even have to make a few mistakes along the way but I have never felt judged or looked down on by her. And trust me, there’s plenty of opportunities there!!😂

I can’t even express how grateful I am that God has allowed her to be my mother in law and that she is the way she is with me. She is so incredibly kind, gracious, giving, genuine, patient, and loving. I am grateful for her example, her relationship with the Lord, her faithfulness in her marriage and her love for her family, even those annoying dogs! 😜 Linda is the glue in the Graham family and I know her super strength comes from our merciful Father in Heaven. I love her so much and I am thankful she has shown me what it can look like to be the mother in law.❤️

Caleb is 5 years old

Dear Caleb,

Today you turn five. This past year you graciously gave up your position of being the baby of the family. Little ones have come in and out of our home and for the most part you’ve done well with sharing. Sharing your room, your toys, your sisters, your daddy and your mommy. Since you were born you have been the center of attention. We probably definitely are guilty of over indulging you at many points. So it has been very neat to watch you become less self-centered and more others centered. You have become more aware of how you can serve and be helpful, not only to the smaller children but to the rest of us as well. You also have grown in your independence. Which is a relief because I thought you might end up taking Ryann and Micaila to college or something. In March it was your responsibility to be the sign bearer at Uncle Michael and Aunt Jessica’s wedding. You had to walk the aisle alone. Rarely do you ever do anything apart from me or your sisters but you owned this role and executed it with perfection.

This past year you also experimented with lying. This resulted in loss of privilege playing the playstation. Which is like dying for you because you are a serious gamer. Indeed you are becoming familiar with good and bad choices, consequences, and most importantly confession. I pray your daddy and I can lead you in the path of true repentance, pointing you to the One Who paid the penalty for our sin, and that in Him you will find life, freedom and joy.

Caleb you are still all boy. All super heros, all fight, all wrestle, all dirt and noise and big, loud trucks. You are fascinated with Luke Skywalker and love running around in your halloween costume fighting the Dark Side. When Daddy comes home from work you immediately go into wrestling mode. You maaaay need to work on your receiving of punches or water squirting or nerf dart shooting but you sure love dishing it out.

You have a sharp mind, Caleb. By memory you counted every day for 14 days how long we had till it was time to go to the beach. Without a calendar! Maybe I’m easily impresed but I can hardly keep my days straight! You remember things from years past that I have a hard time recalling. Like getting your finger stuck in the door at church when you were 3 or that bad storm at the beach last year or that time Jesus held you when you were a baby…..????? Not sure where that last memory came from but you seem to enjoy recalling it. You came home from VBS quoting the scripture and songs you learned. You LOVED VBS. That made my heart so full. And speaking of songs you are much like your sister, Ryann, and are always singing. Never stop making that joyful noise to the Lord buddy.

This coming school year we have decided to enroll you at a private Christian school. I’m so excited for you to experience learning outside of our home, making new friends and adoring your teacher. I think you are going to love it and grow in so many areas as we explore a new territory. And of course I’ll likely cry because you are growing way too fast. But growth and the passing of time with you are things I’m so thankful for. I’m grateful God has entrusted you to us and for every single second we have with you.

One of my favorite prayers is Psalm 119:33-37. I pray it’ll be your prayer throughout your life.

“Teach me, Lord, the way of your decrees, that I may follow it to the end. Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law and obey it with all my heart. Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight. Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain. Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word.”

Dear Baby C

You’ve been with us almost six months and soon you’ll be going home to your mommy. I haven’t written much about you, not because there isn’t anything worth sharing but because the last six months have been unusually eventful for us. You have gotten to be apart of many of those events and I’m so thankful that your mommy trusted us, even requested us, to travel with you. Your mommy loves you and has been so thoughtful toward what’s in your best interest.

You are a beautiful, smiley girl. Yes, at times, I think you smile out of nervousness, but still, everyone is so drawn to you. Everywhere we go people say how beautiful you are. And that baby chunk, oh my….. it looks good on you. 😉 You do have quite the set of lungs though. Maybe you’ll be a singer. You came to us screaming out of confusion and fear. You’ve grown comfortable with us now and I’m happy to say that when you scream it’s typically like any normal healthy toddler just trying to be heard. And one look from daddy J and, as they say around here, you “dry it up”. I need to learn that look. 😉 Baby C you are incredibly smart. I mean yeah you’re only one but seriously, you are sharp aaaaand you’ve got a little bit of sass. Most girls do though, right? This enables you to push the boundaries and test certain waters. I’ve already caught you, after being corrected or redirected, laying on the floor face down and peeking your eyes up to see if anyone will react. Oh boy, I hope your mommas will is stronger than yours. I think it is. She has shown great strength and determination to get you home. You have so much potential baby C. I hope you will always know that God made you and he loves you. You may not remember it but you have already been disappointed by people. Even me. People are not perfect, we make mistakes, and we all disappoint each other. But God is perfect and God not only will not disappoint us but He can redeem all that has. No matter what happens in your future, our greatest hope for you is that you will trust Jesus with everything.

Baby C you have tickled us with your laughter, dazzled us with your smile, pierced our ears a time or two, but most importantly, you’ve taught us another level of how to love. That is something I am truly grateful for. It wasn’t always easy, but it has been so worth it. We love you and will always be praying for you.