The Miscarriage Club

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[Editor’s note: Do you recognize the pretty lady in that picture? That is Devotional Diva’s one and only founder, Renee Fisher. Today she is bravely sharing about her initiation into The Miscarriage Club. I’m so glad she could do this, because I think miscarriage is a subject that needs to be talked about more openly.]

I coughed before my eyes fluttered open. I coughed again, and suddenly woke up.

“Where was I?”

A nurse quickly walked over to me and asked how I was doing. I told her how excited I was to have the surgery, and how grateful I was to find my new doctor just in time. She told me, in fact, that I had already come out of surgery and that I did great! She asked me if I was ready for some crackers and juice. Then she quickly added,

“Welcome to the club!”

“Thanks,” I said. It wasn’t until a moment later that I fully processed what she said. I quickly added an “I’m sorry.”

The nurse told me her story. I shared mine. She had a miscarriage in between her first and second child. I told her this was my first, and that we would try again.

I couldn’t help but think about the nurse’s Welcome to the Club, although I never asked to be invited.

The miscarriage had already happened.
There was nothing I could do about it now.

MY STORY

I found out on August 24th that I was pregnant. I peed on a stick because I had missed my period—not because I was having any symptoms. I had taken a few pregnancy tests before that had all came up negative.

I was 100% sure I was not pregnant. When both lines flashed across the screen right away I gasped.

I.
Was.
Pregnant.

I called and made an appointment with the OBGYN who previously called me overweight. I wasn’t sure who else to go to since we were new to Austin. I booked my first prenatal appointment, and went to Cancun days later with Marc on our vacation.

When we got back, I went to the doctors and they confirmed that I was, in fact, pregnant. I brought the sonogram home to Marc who told me it didn’t look like a baby. I had no clue what a sonogram was supposed to look like, so I didn’t give his words a second thought.

I got a call from my OBGYN’s office that I needed to retake my gestational diabetes test. Something didn’t feel right. They continued to call and harass me while adding more things I needed to do.

But.

I didn’t have time to think about it because I was flying up to Dallas to see my parents and tell them in person. I couldn’t wait to bless them with the news that they were going to be first-time grandparents!

It felt like a prophetic moment to tell them in front of their ministry partners. I knew God was there with me when I told them. I knew God had given me a vision a decade earlier that I would be married with a daughter.

When I was in Dallas the nurses at the OBGYN practice continued to call and harass me.

When I got home, I called a friend in Austin and asked for her doctors information. I called the very next morning, and made the switch. I was 11 weeks when Marc went with me for my second doctors appointment with my new doctor.

When my doctor started the sonogram, we both stared in shock at the screen. There was no baby!

My new doctor was so gracious to the both of us. We were both so shocked. She told me that I had a blighted ovum. She showed me the pregnancy sac and the umbilical chord. She was surprised that the previous doctor told me I was pregnant since there was never a viable embryo. She also said that I needed a D&C surgery right away.

That’s when it hit me.

Marc and I both knew. We knew something was wrong with how I had previously been treated. It wasn’t until I was faced with the truth that I understood. I couldn’t believe that God allowed my body to wait one more month for me to find the truth!

I wasn’t grieving the loss of a baby, but the loss of a pregnancy. God gave me a way out of my pain.

I told my friends and family that I had failed to miscarry, and that I needed surgery the next morning. I made it through the night with their prayers.

Although being welcomed to the miscarriage club certainly wasn’t the outcome Marc and I had hoped for, I am hopeful because God opened my womb. This past week, I have been welcomed to the miscarriage club over and over by friends and family members. I had no idea just how many women were part of this club.

According to Maria Durso, “Faith is a process. Nobody blesses like God the Father blesses. And the blessings of God will make up for more than any loss that you will incur.”

Through this whole unfortunate experience, my hope has grown.

My dream for a future child has not died. I look forward in faith to seeing the unseen become seen. I will one day be a mother because I am standing on God’s promises!

renee fisher on devotional divaRenee Fisher is a spirited speaker, author, coach and consultant. She is the Founding Editor of DevotionalDiva.com. A Biola University graduate, her mission in life is to spur others forward (Hebrews 10:24). She recently located from San Diego, CA to Austin, TX with her adoring husband, Marc, and their fur child named Star.

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When Can't Becomes Can

when can't becomes can devotional diva

[Guest post by Myána Chartese: We all know those times when accomplishing something seems like an insurmountable task. Here, through her son, Myána describes when can’t becomes can.]

Being a mother is one of the most precious gifts you can receive from the Lord, and I’ve learned more about the nature of God and the love of God during motherhood, than I have from anything else that I’ve been graced to do throughout my journey in life. 

Most recently I was in the basement ironing clothes and my son came downstairs to join me, and there was a particular toy that he wanted me to take upstairs for him in the middle of my ironing.  At first I told him that I didn’t want that toy upstairs because it was kind of big, but he insisted, so I told him that if he could get it up there on his own he could play with it upstairs.  

For me to take the toy up the steps was nothing, but for a four year old it could prove to be quite difficult.  His reply to my offer was, “I’m not strong enough yet to take it upstairs.”  I reassured him that he was, so onward he trekked. 

When he came to the first set of stairs, I could hear him from the other room struggling with it.  I walked to the hallway in the basement and talked him through it, and then went back into the family room to continue ironing. 

By the time he reached the second set of steps, he started to get frustrated and didn’t want to carry the load any longer and wanted someone else to do it for him. 

As a result he started yelling, “I CAN’T DO IT!!!” 

However, I wouldn’t allow him to give up!  I talked to him from the bottom of the stairs that he had just climbed and told him, “Stop defeating yourself, you are strong enough!  Look how far you’ve come, you’re almost there.” 

I urged him to keep going and talked him through the last set of steps, and as he relied upon my voice and my instruction he made it to the top, and I of course celebrated his accomplishment. 

He had a little smirk on his face that he didn’t want me to see because he was still mad that I didn’t do it for him.  I knew that behind that smirk was a valuable lesson that my son learned and it was that he is more than able to do things that are uncomfortable, difficult, and takes more strength than he believes that he has for that moment.  His I “can’t” became “I CAN,” and it is no different with us.

This experience reminded me of Paul’s thorn in the flesh and how he had implored the Lord three times and God still didn’t remove the thorn.  He allowed Paul to go through it because he was equipped to handle it, and so are YOU!!!  2 Corinthians 12:9-10 in the Amplified Bible says,  

“But He said to me, My grace (My favor and loving-kindness and mercy) is enough for you [sufficient against any danger and enables you to bear the trouble manfully]; for My strength and power are made perfect (fulfilled and completed) and [b]show themselves most effective in [your] weakness. Therefore, I will all the more gladly glory in my weaknesses and infirmities, that the strength and power of Christ (the Messiah) may rest (yes, may [c]pitch a tent over and dwell) upon me!

1So for the sake of Christ, I am well pleased and take pleasure in infirmities, insults, hardships, persecutions, perplexities and distresses; for when I am weak [[d]in human strength], then am I [truly] strong (able, powerful [e]in divine strength).”

There is an important message found in 2 Corinthians 12 that should inspire all of us to receive the grace of God to push through challenges, and not to give up when God doesn’t answer our prayers in the way that we thought that he should, or in the timing that we insist upon. 

We learn in these moments just how resilient and powerful we are, all while God’s strength perfects our weaknesses.  When we finally get to the END of ourselves, and our need to wrestle with whatever our “thorn” is, we allow God’s glory to be seen in us, and that is what fortifies us to rely upon His voice and His instruction, so that when we get to the place that we don’t believe we are strong enough, and ready to give up we are then made able to make it through that test, accomplish that goal, and have the great privilege of saying, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). 

And we know that at the end of it all there is a crown of righteousness for our, I CAN.

Myána Chartese on devotional divaMyána Chartese, a native of Clinton, MD centers her writing on faith.  Besides her blog myanachartese.com, she loves exploring writing poetry, plays, short stories, songs and movies. She published her first book in 2012, The Memoir of a Red Bottom Shoe, and her 2nd book Super Faith (a children’s book) is set to be released shortly.  Myána has a heart for God and desires to empower, encourage, and uplift women through the ministry of writing and public speaking.

photo credit: Sunday Picnic via photopin (license)

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Father of the Year

father of the year alisha ritchie devotional diva[Guest post by Alisha Ritchie: When you think about how many children He has, God really is Father of the Year, isn’t he?]

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” 1 John 3:1 NIV

Sometimes I feel so overwhelmed.   With two kids, it seems that I am always on the go and my children are too.  When you combine school, homework, basketball practice, gymnastics, projects for school, guitar lessons, and church, it makes for a VERY FULL week.  We stay busy, busy, busy!  

I love my kids with all my heart and am tickled they want to be involved in so many activities.  I hope it helps to make them well-rounded individuals.   However, our chaotic schedule does make it difficult to keep up with everything.

It seems there are endless things to monitor such as school project deadlines, permission slips that need to be signed, and making sure everyone gets to their desired destination at the appropriate time.  I have definitely perfected my list making skills and make notes constantly to help keep me stay on track.  As difficult as it is for me to handle all these things, I realize that I only work part-time.  Honestly I couldn’t imagine keeping up with my family and working a full time job while remaining sane.  I salute all those moms who work full time and are full-time super moms as well! 

On this particular day, I was feeling stressed out and run down. There just did not seem to be enough hours in the day to get everything accomplished. In the midst of my despair, the Lord whispered comforting thoughts to me.   He reminded me of the verse from the Bible that says, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God…” 1 John 3:1.

I am God’s child and He loves me so much.  However, I was bombarded with the awesome realization that the Lord has a huge multitude of children.

He has more children than I could ever possibly imagine, so many believers in Him.

How incredible the Lord is to be able to keep up with all the details of every one of His children’s lives, no matter how small or large.

He knows the number of hairs on my head all the way to the deepest secrets of my heart. And He doesn’t just know these things about me- He cares for each of His children in this way.

I am reminded of my weakness of struggling to keep up with just two children.   But I know I am not alone in my endeavor and He is always there for me.  God is never too busy to listen when I need to talk.  He provides me with emotional and spiritual support on those days that are especially difficult.   His love for me and His other children knows no bounds.

We are His possession and He lavishes, or pours out, His love on us.   We are blessed to be His children and He deserves the very best we can give Him.

Be inspired to gain a new perspective on your parenting.  Pray to learn to love your children completely as He does His children. Resolve to give the Lord the love, honor, and respect that He warrants.   As mothers, we should all strive to live our lives as though we are saying to God, “You deserve the ‘Father of the Year’ award this year and every year for your relentless outpouring of love on your many children.” 

No other parent can compare to that of our Heavenly Father.

alisha ritchie on devotional divaAlisha Ritchie is a wife, mother of two wonderful children, Physical Therapy Assistant by profession, and dedicated church member and Sunday School teacher.  She resides in the small town of Stanfield, North Carolina, where she enjoys writing, spending time with her children, and ministering to others through her work and small group Bible studies.  You can read some of Alisha’s other devotional writing at www.christiandevotions.us.

photo credit: Father and Son via photopin (license)

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Christian Books for Girls

scarlett gray joins the parade christian books for girls series devotional divaI know there are a lot of mamas who read Devotional Diva, and it seems like it can be quite a challenge sometimes to find appropriate books for Christian kids. I’d love to introduce you to a new series of Christian books for girls from Suzanne Stamboulieh.

Suzanne Stamboulieh on Devotional DivaSuzanne Stamboulieh is the author of the new Christian book series, Scarlett Gray. Each book in the series will be centered on a single Biblical scripture. “Scarlett Gray Joins the Parade” is the first of the series and reminds children that God has given them parents to guide them through life. Suzanne has a Masters degree in Marriage and Family Counseling. She previously worked as a therapist for her church. Suzanne lives in Mississippi with her husband Stephen, daughter Scarlett Gray, and their large, but lovable, German Shepherd.

Below is a short interview with Suzanne where she shares more about Scarlett Gray and providing good reading options for kids.

Could you tell me the basic story line of “Scarlett Gray Joins the Parade?”

“Scarlett Gray Joins the Parade” is a Christian short chapter book for young girls ages four to eight. It is centered on Ephesians 6:1 and reminds children that God has given them parents to guide them through life.

The story tells a tale of a young girl, Scarlett Gray, who can’t wait to attend this year’s Fourth of July Celebration with her parents and her best friend, Georgia. Scarlett Gray promises to follow her parents’ safety rules, but the excitement of the parade and her inattentiveness overcome her promise to obey the rules and she gets lost. She is not an actively defiant child, but her poor judgement in one instance illustrates how one bad decision can lead to another without you even knowing it. I think any child can relate to this!

How did you come up with the idea? Did you feel called to write?

As a homeschooling mother, I read countless books to our little girl. I purchase almost all of them at Goodwill for a quarter so it is nothing for me to purchase thirty at a time. I always try and scan the books as best as I can while I’m in the store (with a toddler in tow), but almost every time, when it came time to actually read them, I would realize that a good portion of them were not suitable material for our daughter. While many of these books were “best sellers” and very popular, they contained the words “dumb, “stupid,” “hate,” and other inappropriate words. As a mother, I know there will come a time when my child might say those things and need to be corrected for doing so, but I don’t want to feed it to her.

As a former therapist, I saw firsthand how outside influences greatly impact our minds, thoughts, beliefs and actions. Therefore, I think it is crucial that we as parents are vigilant in protecting our children. In today’s world, our children are inundated with negative messages and as Christian parents; I believe we have to work twice as hard to keep our children on track. I became very frustrated and disappointed with the material that was available for young readers. After expressing my frustration about the lack of Christian options for young readers to my husband, he strongly encouraged me to do something about it and write a book myself. And that is when the journey began.

I honestly don’t know if I have been “called” to write, but I will say that God has opened up doors that only He could, so I certainly feel that I am in His will and have His blessing. And although I wasn’t schooled in writing and it didn’t come naturally, I learned that with hard work and His help, it could be accomplished.

Why do you think it is important to provide faith-centered reading options for our kids?

I think our children are inundated with negative messages from every direction in life and they need to be reminded of what is right.  That is why I believe it is important to provide faith-centered reading options for our kids so that they have positive, Christian role models to look up to. Of course, they might have Christian family members in their lives that greatly influence them, but so many children emulate characters they see on TV or in books that they read, so I thought what better way to reinforce those good character qualities that parents want to teach their children and ended up writing a Christian children’s book.

My aim is to inspire young readers to seek God in their daily lives, and to honor Him with their choices. It is my hope that parents can confidently share my books with their children, knowing the message meets their high standards.

I believe this can help open the dialogue between parents and children about what might be an awkward topic for some to approach. I think many parents could use it to help open that door for discussion. And as a parent, I find that when I’m reading to my child, I recall Bible stories that I have since forgotten so I’m able to learn along with my child and other parents might also enjoy that aspect of it, too.

What could be next for the Scarlett Gray books?

The next book in the Scarlett Gray series will be on wise spending. Scarlett Gray Publishing is dedicated to publishing children’s books centered on God’s word, so it will also be centered on a Bible verse. If all goes as planned, it will be available in the early spring.

You can follow Scarlett Gray Publishing, LLC on Pinterest to keep up to date on books that are released!

“Scarlett Gray Joins the Parade” is available on Amazon.

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This is a “feature post.” It’s important to me to provide great content for Devotional Diva readers while helping to promote Christian businesses, bloggers and authors. I take who I partner with very seriously, and all opinions are truly mine. You can learn more about feature posts and sponsorship on the sponsorship page here.

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Fighting for Bud: An Update

fighting devotional diva

[Guest post by Jenee Day: About a month ago, Jenee shared with us why she was writing to distract herself. Here is an update on her son Bud’s health and how she is fighting for him.]

Some of the most difficult times in my life as a mother are when my children are sick.  The emotions that come along with nurturing our little ones are various and deep.  Helplessness, sadness, confusion, hope and determination are just a few of the feelings my husband and I have experienced recently.

As Bud was admitted to the hospital again last week, we held on to each other and to our faith.

I have a tank top that I wear to the gym that says “Lover Not a Fighter” on the front of it.  That’s me in a nutshell.  I don’t like to argue and avoid confrontation at all costs.  In fact, my dad’s nickname for me as a child was “Peacemaker.”  

In the last few months, however, I have fought like a champion boxer.

I have fought to get my son seen by a good doctor, fought for someone to believe that something was wrong, fought to get tests run.  I have fought doctors about his treatment and fought nurses over torturous procedures.  My heart has been ripped apart, watching him scream and wail in pain, then plead with anyone who would listen to “please stop it.  Please stop hurting me.” 

The “Rocky” films are some of my favorite movies of all time.  I enjoy the underdog and hero story, the man with so much heart who fights against the odds and emerges victorious.  As a matter of fact, when Bud was born, my husband gave me a card and signed it, “Yo, we did it!”

If I am Rocky in this scenario, then God is my trainer, my Mickey.  He can see the whole fight and he helps me navigate each attack.  He coaches me, teaches me, corrects my form and sometimes shouts at me to focus and keep moving forward.

Honestly, there is no other time in my life that I remember being in the ring so much.   I feel like I have gone from pacifist to competing in the World Heavyweight Championship, with no preparation or training in between.  Thankfully, God is using this battle for my good and his glory.  How do I know?  First, his word says so. [Romans 8:28]  Beyond that, I know quite simply because I am still standing. That would not be possible if not for God and his presence during all of this. 

During his five days in the hospital, Bud endured several IV insertions, countless painful blood draws (and unfortunately many failed attempts), an EKG, an MRI, and even a spinal tap. Waiting to see him after the spinal tap procedure, I fought the urge to panic, fought to have faith that God’s might hand was on my boy.

In this time of waiting and suffering, I fought with mighty effort the urge to weep.  I fought to keep Bud calm and I fought my own fears and doubts.  I fought (and lost a few times) the temptation to lash out at loved ones asking for information.  Round after round, I fought.

Most of the time I sat in Bud’s hospital bed with him, watching cartoons or napping.  My sweet husband was with us whenever his work schedule allowed it, sleeping in the uncomfortable non-reclining recliner to my right.  I took advantage of his being there, making the short drive home to shower and pick up anything Bud might need.

When I was alone in the car, I prayed.  Not with words as much as with tears, but I did the best I could.  I offered my heart to God, gave him my pain and anxiety, begged for restoration and healing.  Then I dried my eyes, drove to the hospital, and steeled myself for the next round of tests.

Currently, we do not have a solid diagnosis.  We are working with an oncologist who has done research into mitochondrial and metabolic disorders.  Right now, his best guess is something called Pyruvate Carboxylase Deficiency.  If I had to explain it, I would fail.  All we know so far are the basics: it is genetic, it is rare, and while possibly treatable, it is not curable.  (Again, this is not a firm diagnosis.)

At the end of a boxing match, a loud bell rings, signaling to fighters and spectators that the fight has ended.  We still have not heard our bell.  The time for fighting is not over.  In this time of hardship, we are training and being taught by our creator to endure and to rely on him.

I do not feel prepared, and most days I do not want to get into the ring again.  However I am encouraged by the truth that the enemy can never knock me out, and by the promise that this will work out for my good and his glory.  I am honored to be God’s prize fighter.

Romans 8:28 [NASB] And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose.

Jenee Day on Devotional DivaJenee Day is a freelance writer and researcher and published poet. A member of the Spiritual Writer’s Association, she has written for textbroker.com and various regional publications.  She lives in Alabama with her husband and two kids, and her heart belongs to Jesus.

photo credit: Waiting via photopin (license)

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Demonstrating Your Faith (+Giveaway)

faith christian jewelry devotional divaI’m excited to share with you the first “feature post” on Devotional Diva!

FAITH Christian Jewelry is a family-owned and operated business that sells faith-promoting jewelry and gifts including Spirit and Truth, Bob Siemon, and many more.

 

Since we’re all about sharing your story on Devotional Diva, I asked Andrea from FAITH Christian Jewelry to share a little bit more about the people and story behind the business.

Who are the “faces” behind FAITH Christian jewelry?

The faces behind FAITH Christian Jewelry are just me and my husband Matt. He loves to geek out and build websites and I love to talk about religion. Therefore we thought what a great way to build a small store and have some fun. We have two kids who are the absolute joy of our life and are our inspiration for trying to build a small online store.

How did FAITH Christian jewelry get its start? How long have you been in business?

We have actually only been in business for a year. It was actually started as a hobby for my husband and I to do outside of our real jobs. As a stay-at-home-mom, I have been able to work on it a lot more and generate extra savings money we can put away every month. 🙂

faith christian jewelry on devotional diva

How has your business been a blessing to your family?

One of the biggest blessings to us has been the fact that we can continue to save for our kids’ college funds. This isn’t a business right now that will replace my husband’s job but it is nice to give us extra savings and perhaps a vacation every once in a while.

What kinds of items do you love to fill your store with?

My absolutely favorite items are the jewelry that help remind me to be strong when things aren’t going exactly to plan. Inspiring quotes and ideas are one of my absolute favorite things to look at online. One of my favorite rings to wear is my “Serenity to accept, courage to change, wisdom to know” Rom 8:28-30 ring. These are the types of pieces we love to carry!

faith christian jewelry kids heart cross
CROSS NECKLACE – CHILDREN’S KEY W/HEART

 

Why do you think it is so important to some people to be able to outwardly demonstrate their faith, like with jewelry, accessories and decor?

Not only do I think jewelry like this inspires yourself but it can also inspire those around you. When I see someone with a cross or another piece of religious jewelry, it helps me to know what they believe and that they rely on The Saviour as much as I do. But I think one of the best reasons to outwardly demonstrate your faith is to be an example to those around you. In today’s world it has never been more important to try and be an example of what it means to be a true follower of Christ.

FAITH Christian Jewelry is hosting a giveaway for Devotional Diva readers!

They’re giving away TWO $25 e-gift cards to the online store. That means there will be two winners. This giveaway is open internationally and will run for one week. I will contact the winners, but they will send the e-gift codes. All you need to do is answer the question in the Rafflecopter widget below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

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I partnered with FAITH Christian Jewelry on this post and giveaway. It’s important to me to provide great content for Devotional Diva readers while helping to promote Christian businesses, bloggers and authors. I take who I partner with very seriously. You can learn more about feature posts and sponsorship on the sponsorship page here.

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Becoming a Mom is Completely Terrifying

becoming a mom is completely terrifying maggie winterton on devotional diva motherhood anxiety christian blogBecoming a mom is completely terrifying.

Almost every night for the past few weeks, I’ve started falling asleep…and then I realize, I’M GOING TO BE A MOM.

I go into a panic, thinking about how hard it will be to take care of my new baby and trying to think of all the things I still need to do. I try to rationalize my knowledge of infant care and how I can get everything done.

In my mind, if I can make sense of something and have a reasonable plan, I start to feel better.

I’m excited for my little boy to arrive, really, I am. I want to be a mom, but at the same time, it’s just so scary.

There is no way one can really prepare themselves for becoming a parent, right? I am reading all the books on having a newborn, I’m planning on taking some classes, and I already have a lot of experience with babies. But I imagine you don’t know what you’re really in for until you’re there.

I hate that! I feel so much better when I’m prepared for things.

And it’s not just that I will have this little being completely relying on me in about two months. I still feel like I have so much that I want/need to accomplish before he gets here. Because, obviously, things we be different once he arrives!

So I want to try to get a lot of stuff out of the way, like home organization. I know that my son will not need our pantry to be reorganized when he comes home from the hospital. (Well, hopefully he is not a demanding little neat freak right out of the womb!) If it’s not reorganized by the time he gets here, oh well, I just will have to wait until things settle down and I have more time to do it. But I have still set that goal and feel I need to complete it.

The pregnancy books say that anxiety is normal, but I kind of feel bad about it. I guess I just didn’t think I would feel this way right now. It’s not like I thought I would be so ill during my pregnancy, either. Sometimes I have such silly expectations for myself.

It’s always amazing to me how, at stressful times, God will show me He’s got my back. A couple weeks ago fellow Christian blogger Kelly Crawford reached out to me to send me her eBook on motherhood entitled (get this): When Motherhood Feels Too Hard.

I think I laughed out loud when I read the email. There was no way Kelly knew I was just starting to struggle with motherhood. She only knew I was going to become a mom. Oh, but God knew, alright! God is so good.

It’s things like a devotional targeted just to what I need, that feeling of God’s love, and knowledge that He totally knows what’s going on with me that encourages me to carry on. To put down the baby care book at 1 AM and try to get some sleep; To stop looking at Pinterest to figure out how I’m going to reorganize my entire house.

And to just trust that, really, truly, everything is gonna be okay!

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Disclaimer: As I mentioned, Kelly graciously sent me her eBook for free.
photo credit: Ezra toes via photopin (license)

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Unexpected Family Bonding

Unexpected Family Bonding by Michelle Rise on Devotional Diva[Guest post by Michelle Rise: I absolutely love Michelle’s story about winter camping and the unexpected family bonding she experienced on the trip! Praise God for such a chance to connect.]

Camping was recently a new thing for our family and going in spring and summer for the occasional weekend was adventure enough for me, or so I thought. 

When we purchased sleeping bags, we chose the ones only for temperatures down to 30 degrees for the simple reason that camping in frigid weather was for mountain climbers only.  Then our kids discovered snowshoeing on a trip with their youth group to Rock-N-Water Christian Camp.  They wanted us to go camping and snowshoeing as a family. 

The idea of strapping tennis rackets to our feet and tramping around in the snow wasn’t all that appealing.  But my kids pleaded and my husband thought it was a good idea.

Psalm 37:5 says “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He shall bring it to pass.”

I definitely had to commit my way to the Lord on this one.  Obviously, snowshoes aren’t really tennis rackets.  In reality, snowshoes are expensive footwear absolutely necessary for trekking across the snowy landscapes of winter.  That reminds me, we needed trekking poles too, along with multiple layers of the right type of clothing.  As usual, time was spent researching and we bought rather than rented our supplies.  Always looking to save money, most of it was gently used.  Our supplies included a new tent and sleeping bags designed to withstand temperatures below 0.

Winter camping is so different than spring and summer.  I wasn’t prepared to like it as much by comparison because honestly, I’m more a warm weather person.  I don’t mind cool nights following a warm day but all day freezing cold plus snow simply didn’t hold much appeal.  Boy, was I was wrong. 

There is something majestic, almost otherworldly, about being surrounded by snow covered landscapes.  The very air feels different.  The conversation and laughter of our kids sounded reverent.  And talk about good sleep!  We never experienced a better night’s sleep.

I will admit it didn’t start out perfectly smooth.  On our first day, we set up and decided to take a short walk into the woods.  I simply couldn’t get warm, despite having all the right clothing and gear.  In addition, my head hurt.  In fact, we were all uncomfortable and cold. 

We went back to the tent and my husband reminded us we should stay hydrated as well as eat properly.  For city folks like us, remembering details such as that is a learned behavior.  We learned the hard way suffering cold fingers and toes and experiencing headaches.  The second day was much better.  We made a point to stay hydrated and eat proper food regularly.

As a result, we thoroughly enjoyed our day followed by sound sleep.  There is no comparison to being snuggled up in a tent with the ones you love most.

The hushed sounds of winter were like God’s voice just to us.  When the wind picked up to a howl, it wasn’t scary but more a sturdy lullaby.

Another bonus to this kind of camping, or any family camping for that matter, is that kids will open up to you in the wilds of nature much more easily than when surrounded by the comforts and distractions of home.  We treasure the opportunity to listen to their thoughts and questions.  It gives us a chance to speak wisdom into their lives without sounding like a parental lecture machine.

Psalm 127:4  Children born to a young man are like arrows in a warrior’s hands.

I’m so thankful for the memories we’ve made and I hope we continue for years to come.  I know time with our kids is short.  They grow up so fast.

We need to stop our busy lives from time to time, leave the city and electronics behind, and commune with God and family.  The result is worth every bit of effort and money spent in the process.

michelle rise on devotional divaMichelle Rise is a homemaker and Mother of 5 and travel enthusiast. With many years of experience exploring parks with her Family, Michelle has become an expert on navigating families through the wonderful adventures of life. When she’s not chasing her 5 kids, Michelle can be found chasing the family dog up rainbow mountain with her husband of over 25 years, Ben. You can follow Michelle on Twitter, @Rise7Up, for all of her latest writings.

Photo provided by Michelle Rise.

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Writing to Distract

writing to distract jenee day on devotional diva[Guest post by Jenee Day: Previously, Jenee wrote for Devotional Diva on the topic of gossip. Today, she shares why she’s writing to distract herself. We’re praying for your family, Jenee!]

 

I am writing this to distract myself.

Waiting is not something I have ever been good at, and today I wait for a phone call that may literally change my families’ lives forever.

Bud is just 5 years old now, and he is the light of our lives.  Handsome and silly, sometimes quiet and others completely rambunctious, he is generous with his kisses and with his desserts.  Bud is everything I ever hoped my child would be.

And now… my son is sick.  My perfect, sweet, smart, beautiful boy, is battling some illness that has yet to be diagnosed.  Right now I am sitting on the floor of our living room, crying and typing while he naps.

How did we get here?  In the past year, Bud has had several episodes that we have come to describe as normal for him:  Fever, paleness, vomiting, night sweats, loss of appetite, dehydration, weight loss, irritability and other vague symptoms.

Recently I brought Bud to our local Pediatric Emergency Room, suffering from one these episodes. I packed myself a bag, vowing not to leave the hospital until we got some answers about what is going on in his little body.

We were admitted immediately.  Within a couple of hours the nurses had him on IV fluids and had taken about 10 (no exaggeration) vials of his blood for testing.  We saw no less than half a dozen doctors over the next few days.  I vascillated between stoic and panic-stricken. I prayed.  I laid in the bed with Bud and endured more hours of “Spongebob Squarepants” than any parent should have to.

One phrase rolled around in my head throughout this ordeal.  It’s from the book of Matthew, chapter 8 (also found in Luke, chapter 7), the story of the Centurion who had great faith.  He had heard about Jesus’ great healing power and begged him to heal a servant in his household.  Jesus said “I will come and heal him”, to which the soldier replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and my servant will be healed.”

Lord, I am not worthy to be in your holy presence, but only SAY THE WORD and he will be healed.

As the hours went by, I answered frightening questions about family history.  I heard words like “metabolic” and “mitochondrial”. Doctors and nurses came and went, sometimes offering comfort and other times speaking in hushed tones amongst themselves.  I tried to do my own research on the internet, but that only served to magnify my fears, so I stopped.   I stared at magazines.  I held Bud close to me and I and kissed his face.

I prayed before my husband arrived.  We prayed together over our son.  We praised God for his goodness and we thanked him for the doctors and nurses working so hard to heal our precious baby.   Mostly, we waited.

Neither of the possibilities is appealing.  Mitochondrial disease means that something is not working correctly on a very basic level – inside the cells in Bud’s body.  According to the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation website, mitochondria are responsible for creating more than 90% of the energy needed by the body to sustain life and support growth. When they fail, less and less energy is generated within the cell. Cell injury and even cell death follow.

On the other hand, metabolic disease means that Bud’s little body has difficulty breaking down certain substances (carbohydrates, fat, nitrogen) to use for energy.  These types of diseases are inherited, and it’s likely that my husband or myself (or both) carry the defective gene and we passed it on to our son.  Mild forms can be treated with supplements, while others have no defined treatment.

Finally, we were released to our home awaiting test results.

We immediately went into “make it feel normal” mode, starting with a bubble bath for Bud and some cartoons in warm fuzzy pj’s.

I washed everything that smelled like hospital and cooked a big dinner.  We all sat together and loved on each other .  Once Bud was asleep, I completely dissolved into a messy, blubbering heap. I wept and I prayed and my sobs interrupted my thoughts so often that I kept starting over, trying to plead with God, trying to understand what was happening.

At first, all this waiting seemed like a nightmare.  I am not a patient person anyway, and anyone who has sat more than one night in a hospital can attest to how mind-numbing it is.  But then I began to understand the work that God is doing in my heart.  I believe he has used these times when I have no choice but to be still, to draw me closer to him.

He has shown me truths about who he is, and who I am in him.

God has reminded me that:

  1. *He is in control.  In our lives, control is an illusion, and while I struggle to figure out how to fix this for my son, God wants me to rely on HIM in times of crisis.
  2. *He is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all I ask or think (Eph. 3:20).  Or, as my husband would say, “Don’t put God in a box”.
  3. *He is growing my faith. Like the Centurion, I want to be able to approach my Savior and know confidently that if he only says the word, my son will have no more sickness.
  4. *I am not alone.  Perhaps the most important lesson I have learned in all this is that God has not left me to fend for myself.  He has been with me, listening to my prayers, speaking through friends, comforting me with recalled Scripture so that I might find rest in him.

So this is where I am today.  Frightened and uncertain, yes, but more and more at peace, thanks to God.  I do not know what will happen in two weeks, or in the weeks that follow.

But I do know the one who is already there, and I continue to rely on Him.

Prayers for Bud are, of course, greatly appreciated.

Jenee Day on Devotional DivaJenee Day is a freelance writer and researcher and published poet. A member of the Spiritual Writer’s Association, she has written for textbroker.com and various regional publications.  She lives in Alabama with her husband and two kids, and her heart belongs to Jesus.

photo credit: Writing via photopin (license)

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I Must Be Perfect

i must be perfect perfectionism perfectionist rachel madden devotional diva[Guest post by Rachel Madden: I think Rachel’s story on perfectionism will really encourage some of you, especially those who struggle with being a “perfect mom.” Remember “I must be perfect” is just a lie!]

 

Psychology Today quotes, “For perfectionists, life is an endless report card on accomplishments or looks. A one-way ticket to unhappiness, perfectionism is typically accompanied by depression and eating disorders. What makes perfectionism so toxic is that while those in its grip desire success, they are most focused on avoiding failure, so theirs is a negative orientation. And love isn’t a refuge; in fact, it feels way too conditional on performance.”

Please tell me this quotation strikes a chord with one of you as well, that you come dangerously close to connecting to this quotation as much as me. We started a sermon series titled “Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire,” and the first lie uncovered was “I must be perfect.”

Thirty seconds into the sermon I knew I was in trouble.

Although I claim to be a “retired perfectionist,” it is a work in progress.

The topic of the day told me paying attention was essential and notes may be required. And if I hadn’t recognized this fact on my own, it was clear as my husband Chris continued to jab me in the side, saying, “This is you! This is you!”

Both of us had a child on our lap (11 month-old twins) and he had to take our son Miles to the cry room. That left me with the choice to take notes or continue to hold our daughter Norah. I’d like to think it’s the teacher in me (although more likely it’s the obsessive compulsion), but I chose to throw Norah to the curb, or somewhat pay attention to her on the floor, while I ferociously took notes.

Before you judge me, please know that bless her 11-month old heart she doesn’t crawl and can’t go from sitting to laying down on her own; therefore, Norah spent the service on the ground. For the church members who witnessed the borderline negligence, I told myself I was already breaking free of the “I must be a perfect” lie, specifically the “I must be a perfect mom.”

This sermon hit me so hard I specifically told the pastor after church that bullying was wrong and I didn’t appreciate being profiled.

We know human perfection isn’t real. We tell ourselves it doesn’t matter.

But for those of us who are challenged in this area, we may accept those truths for others, but not for ourselves.

For example, I don’t think Norah is any less of a person because she isn’t developmentally in the same place as Miles. Of course not; the thought doesn’t even cross my mind. And yet for most of us, especially perfectionists, the lie that we aren’t measuring up creeps in daily.  

It doesn’t matter if I ate a healthy lunch, I had a donut for breakfast. Who cares that I spent two hours playing with my kids earlier today? This afternoon I turned on the TV so I could catch up on work. Losing 10 pounds can’t be celebrated; I shouldn’t have gained weight in the first place; I’m so lazy. Or a current lie in my own life right now: So you nursed your twins 11 months? It doesn’t count if you don’t make it to the full year.

The lie that says striving for perfection means you’re hardworking and accomplished, a person worthy of love and happiness is all-consuming and paralyzing.

We put the pressure on ourselves because somehow being the best we can be at everything we do makes us…what? Good?

As Christians, we know this isn’t true. No matter how good we try to be on our own merits, it doesn’t change our need for God. If we could find perfection on our own, there would be no reason for Christ’s death and resurrection.

Sometimes I’m preoccupied attempting the “perfect life” because it somehow validates me as a person. Have your achievements ever taken precedent over what truly matters? For the perfectionists out there, it doesn’t mean you have to be okay with mediocrity. It doesn’t mean it’s time to lower your standards or become less passionate. But let’s intentionally choose not to measure our worth based on our performance and abilities.

In 2015, let’s stop carrying a validating performance record around – one that affirms us because of our achievements or accomplishments. As the Bible says in Romans, “There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

Today, let’s celebrate this freedom and bask in His perfection alone.

rachel madden on devotional divaRachel Madden is a teacher, wife and mother of twins. She experienced a bout with bulimia in college and was later diagnosed with anxiety and depression. She started a blog in 2014 at crazyMADDENINGworld.com to share her story about motherhood and living a passionate, Christian life with mental illness.  

photo credit: finger painting via photopin (license)

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