Give A Listen

Permission to be blunt?  I believe that there is power unseen.  I believe that God visits us in ways that cannot be touched or explained.  I believe that He comes boldly and loudly to anyone who is willing to listen.  I believe that He offers encouragement, comfort, joy, peace, and strength by the supernatural presence of His Holy Spirit.  I believe it… because I lived in it.  Swam in it and clung to dear life to it over this past year.  On the day of Gideon’s birth God’s presence was as tangible as I’ve ever seen on this earth and I can rest well at night because I now know that such power exists.

To give it a name, I believe this powerful presence is called the Holy Spirit.  I grew up in a church where we always threw around “The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost,” and even this very Sunday we talked about the three, the Trinity, the amazing ability God has to be our Father, our Savior, and our Counselor all at once.  It might just be me, but I feel like we most of the time emphasize God talk and Jesus’s role but not too often to we give heed to the Holy Spirit.  Maybe people think its weird?  Maybe its hard to tangibly grasp its meaning and purpose and so we skip over it?  Maybe, if you are like my husband, you think the Holy Spirit has been overused in some settings and so at first glance don’t trust what people say about it.  All of these completely understandable and reasonable…but …then…you go through something.  You die on the inside, your whole world around you crashes down and yet somehow you know God is there.  You can feel Him and hear Him and there, to me, is the undeniable important and life giving role of the Holy Spirit.

I mention all this today because I’ve been sad the past few weeks thinking that some people might never get to experience this power in their lifetime.  Some people because they simply don’t believe in its existence.  Maybe others because they simply didn’t know what to look for.  Others maybe because they have been scared or timid of what is unseen.  And so, at least for today, my prayer is just to give honor to the part of the trinity that took me through deep sorrow and pain.  The part of God’s character that is an everyday source of power, one whose mere existence helps me rest my head in peace every night.

The Holy Spirit is…

our advocate  

My live and breathe and die verse that I have clung to through these past trials and pains was John 14:27, one of these days I will be tattooing it on my forehead, but for now “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”  But this verse is a part of a paragraph.  Its Jesus talking to his disciples right before he was about to die and verse 25 and 26 say this, All this I have spoken while still with you.  But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”

our overwhelming joy

Every so often joy fills me up in a way that doesn’t make sense.  I credit this joy to the Holy Spirit, Jesus tells a similar story “At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.” Luke 10:21.  I love that Jesus’s joy is about how God chose to give gifts to people the world would deem small.  I love that even Jesus finds a million things to praise God for and so I seek for that joy.  Because even in the midst of tragedy, only through the power of the Holy Spirit, there is room for joy.

Pure joy regardless of circumstance

Pure joy regardless of circumstance

our teacher 

If we listen long enough to learn, He will even guide and provide words  when we need them most “When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”  Luke 12:11

our tangible hope “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

Hope that runs out fear.

Hope that runs out fear.

our power “you will receive power when the Holy Spiritcomes on you” Acts 1:8

our confidence “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.” Acts 4:31

If there is anything I pray for my children its confidence, that nothing life brings is greater in He who is in us.

If there is anything I pray for my children its confidence, that nothing life brings is greater in He who is in us.

our message of God’s love “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.” Romans 5:5-6

our guarantee of what’s to come And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.”  Ephesians 1:13-14

I think I could go on for forever and forever.

You want to know what is even better?  The Holy Spirit is not just for weirdy, touchy feely, emotional people like me.  My husband and I very much compliment each other.  He is logical, I am emotional.  He takes 15 years to make a decision, I take 15 seconds.  He doesn’t believe it ’til he sees it, I am overly gullible.  And the same differences go for how we live in our faith.   In fact, when it comes to the Holy Spirit he and I will debate for hours on its place and purpose in our lives.  However, together we stand confident and in one voice shouting to the mountain tops say…if it weren’t for the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit we would not have survived this past year.

So maybe, just maybe.  If you never have before, or maybe you just have’t lately…would you give a listen?

Ask God to show up.  Ask Him and then listen.  Watch what happens.  Hear what He says.  It might be a day, it might be a week, or a month…but He WILL show up.  When I was young in my faith I would ask God to show up in the most trivial ways.  I mean like I lost an earring will you help me find it can I see a rainbow today if you are hearing me ways.  But God knew where my heart was and He knew what I needed to hear and so He always came through.  He knew I needed all those little listens so when it came for the big time I cannot get out of bed because my tears won’t stop flowing I need you here now God are listening times came…I knew without a doubt He would be there and that I would hear His voice of hope when my bleeding heart heard nothing but sorrow.

Today I heard the dreaded words spoken to me, the one sentence that can cut right through the heart, the one phrase you never ever want to hear, “and you call yourself a Christian?  You are very disappointing.”   My heart sank.  Butterflies multiplied in my belly by the thousands.  My eyes welled up and I wanted to curl up in a ball and die.  Before I could crawl away I paused, and I listened.  See even in the midst of misunderstood words and misplaced promises, I somehow found confidence.  As I listened I heard God whispering gently to me, “Maria, it doesn’t matter what they say.  It matters what I say.  My peace I give you, don’t let anyone else take it away.”  Deep breath and keep moving.  Scratched but not beaten.

I pray that for you too.  I pray that for my church.  I pray that schedules, routines, song sets, and preconceived notions stop getting in the way of just asking…then listening.

 

 

 

Trust Without Borders

As I stood there in the audience, feelings of both sadness and joy ran through me as I sang the words to the very song that immediately brings me back to…

the diagnosis

the struggle

the pain

the fear

the baby feet kicks

the wrestling to finally trust God fully in the season of suffering we found ourselves in.

It really was amazing be there.  At the Hillsong concert the entire arena sang at the top of their lungs, hands raised high, for two and a half hours straight and I couldn’t help but be reminded of how big and powerful God is.  Its a grandeur that I want to sink into, to tackle, to continue to ask questions about, and never stop pondering the things that are possible through a daily time spent with Him.  Once you get a taste its hard to ignore, but if you are like me, you have ton constantly fight to keep God at the top of your priority list.

The name of the song is Oceans.  Its a song I’m sure many of you are familiar with and its a song you probably have heard me mention, and for many of you who have walked this road with us even the first few notes can immediately ensue tears.  I’ll never forget the first time I heard it.  I was at a benefit concert for a family in our church, a family of 6 including four little girls, two of which are twins, who were about to embark on the unforgettable journey of becoming missionaries in India.  To think, what confidence it takes for a young, large family to leave everything they know behind…everything they own, all whom they love, and the life that is theirs to go serve people whom they have never met.  The presence and the power of God has always been undeniable to me when you think about what their family is doing.  There is just simply no way apart from the presence and power of a real and living God.

Here is Dan and Stephanie and their precious little ones. Please pray for them in their ministry. Right now they are training in Colorado and in September they will head to Bihar India. There they will love, empower, and engage all those whom live there. To me they are an amazing example of faithfulness without borders.

At their benefit I heard Reeve  sing Oceans for the first time.  I could do nothing but sit down and cry as I listened to the lyrics and as my heart overflowed with the prayer, “God I want you to call me out on the water too.  I want to go there too.”  Little did I know that weeks later He would ask me to do exactly that, the concert was two weeks before Gideon’s diagnosis.

In the beginning, one line in particular ran over and over again in my mind “Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me, You’ve never failed and you won’t start now.”

You’ve never failed and you won’t start now…

Was it true?  I found myself asking that question.  Looking back frantically through the pages of my entire life looking to see if I could find a time, an instance, a circumstance that I had felt God had failed me.  I couldn’t find one.  Not one.  And while I knew that did not mean that life always went painlessly, I could see God’s presence in it all.  Yes it was true, and since that was the case…shouldn’t I even trust Him now?

Reeve and Matt Glass singing "Oceans" at Gideon's Memorial Service. We video recorded it, but wouldn't you know the battery ran out right as the song started. But you know, I really wasn't that sad about it. I don't think video would have done justice to the presence of God in that room that day. I will hold in my heart forever those moments of praising God for Gideon's life.

Reeve and Matt Glass singing “Oceans” at Gideon’s Memorial Service. We video recorded it, but wouldn’t you know the battery ran out right as the song started. But you know, I really wasn’t that sad about it. I don’t think video would have done justice to the presence of God in that room that day. I will hold in my heart forever those moments of praising God for Gideon’s life.

As I sat there in Bojangles Coliseum this past weekend, a different line stood out to me, “Spirit lead me when my trust is without borders…”  Faith without borders is what happens when you survive hell on earth because God was there to carry you through.  And if He can do that then He can do anything.  If He can call and carry a young family of 6 to missions in India, if He can bring a smile to the face of a mother whose child has died, if He can bring hope to where all has been lost then lead me anywhere you go Lord because I trust in nothing more than I trust in you.

This Bible verse is plastered to my bathroom mirror Psalm 73:26:

My flesh and my heart may fail,

but God is the strength of my heart

and my portion forever.”

A reminder daily to live in the trust that God has fully earned in my life.  Though He never had to prove it to me, though the death and life of His Son was far more than enough, because He loves me like a good Daddy does He showed me.  May you see it too.

Just in case you didn’t see it the first time, or just needed a refresher, or wanted to shed some tears with me…

Running Towards the Difficult

Is it weird that I find myself attracted to difficult things?  Its almost as if I have gotten a taste of how powerful it is to know the presence of God in a time of trial and pain, and I wonder if a part of me is trying to grapple for more.  Like making totally sure I am in impossible situations that only God can get me through, who does that?  Apparently I do lately.

A good friend of mine Julia and I recently went through a season in our friendship of silence and hurt.  It was unlike anything I had experienced in a friendship before and a part of me shut down because I simply did not know what to do.  I knew none of the hurt was intentional and I grappled constantly with what to do.  To talk about it would be difficult, transparent and honest in a way I think we were both more comfortable with avoiding.  To not talk about it would have been terminal to our friendship, I didn’t want that either.

To be honest, in many ways I was mad at myself.  Our families have been friends for years, our oldest children were babies when we met and our kids have multiplied and grown through the years.  If only once or twice I had been brave and shared more of myself, I think the silence and hurt could have been avoided all together.  But I was chicken.  Always chicken.  Always worried about this or that, never wanting to put myself in an uncomfortable conversation or situation and so I never opened my heart much.  Stuffed it, buried it, and made my thoughts a field day of assumptions and judgements instead of truths.

I’m thankful that God was whispering to Julia too, challenging her (like me) to not shy away from something just because it is hard.  Instead sink into it.  Grab onto it with all your might, pray for God’s wisdom and then trust that He will give you what you need.  “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7.   So many times during our truth sharing I praised God because I could see that He was bringing new life and friendship out of the silence and the hurt.  That there was freedom and new confidence, not only in eachother and in our friendship, but in the power of being open and honest regardless of how uncomfortable it feels.

Yes, I think I’m starting to grow to really appreciate the difficult things in life.  With big things like friendship, but I think also with the smaller things too.  Smaller things like…puppies.

I kept on rolling this over and over in my mind.  The questions kept sounding like this…Do I love cleaning up poop and vaccuming up hair? Nope.  Do I love my moldings and socks just the way they are?  Yup.  Do you think it will be fun having to wake up in the middle of the night for little puppy potty runs?  Not really.  Are you going to get a new puppy?  Yes.  Yes we are.

I am not kidding when I say that during the entire 3 hour drive to pick up our little new addition my brain was still going “What are you thinking??”  But the fact still remained, both Dave and I were on the same page that this little family and I wanted and needed the joy that comes with a new little four legged friend.  And as the days have passed I can see it now, the hard becomes less hard when it is put in perspective.  Also puppy training is way easier when your daughter doesn’t put her down long enough to even have an accident in the house.

We proudly introduce to you Gracie.  She has brought much joy and giggles to our home and she already fits right in.  I am so thankful we didn’t run away from the difficult.

So here’s to the freedom that comes in honesty.

The joy that is birthed from surviving the difficult.

The faith in God that is solidified through seeing Him come through.

And the sweet childlike giggles that come from smelly puppy licks.

photo (16)

Gracie is a mini Australian Shepard and I have no qualms with being way over dramatic and saying that God created her especially for us. She fits right in being the baby princess Faith has always dreamed of taking care of, the snuggly lap dog mommy always envisioned, and the spunky fun furball for the boys to enjoy.

 

photo (15)

The Non-Decision

Its weird, I know its weird and TMI so I apologize in advance…but I know the date Gideon was conceived.  It was my birthday last year, August 3rd 2013.  Its another little kicker.  I haven’t the foggiest clue the day, week, or hardly month my other children were conceived in.  But of course, because the medical chart always clearly stated my birthday, it stuck in my head.

I wasn’t sad on my birthday.  I celebrated and laughed thankfully with my husband and children.  Ate some yummy funfetti cake too.  In the back of my mind though I kept creeping back to last year.  How different it was, how different I was.

This was probably my favorite place we went to last week.  I love looking out on oceans, any oceans...they remind me of how small I am and how vast God is.  Muir Beach California.

This was probably my favorite place we went to last week. I love looking out on oceans, any oceans…they remind me of how small I am and how vast God is. Muir Beach California.  Being able to celebrate, laugh, and live with my husband for a week was a blessing beyond compare.

Planning for the future of our family used to be a very extensive process for us.  We would break out white boards, chalk boards, excel sheets, calculators and calendars and get to planning!  Okay if we try to have a baby during the front half of this year then I can avoid being pregnant in the summer, the morning sickness will be gone by Christmas, and we will finally get the spring birthdayed baby we had always wanted.  That sounds good, yup good plan ready…set…go!

Sure I prayed about it.  I always prayed for God to bless my plans.  I figured God gave me a brain and excel spreadsheets so why wouldn’t I?  And trust me, I am not condemning this method, I just know my own heart well enough to know that for me it was a complete disregard for God’s plans over my own.  I always mouthed the words “I trust you God,” but my decisions hardly ever reflected it.

So here we are now.  The doctor has given me medical clearance for our family to plan again.  We have the green light to decide to try or not to try for another child.  Many of you have asked me, others I am sure are wondering, so I feel comfortable sharing with you.  We have decided…not to decide at all.

No trying.  No preventing.  Just living.  Our decision is to try and focus less on what tomorrow will bring and more on what today has in store.  This non-decision has changed our prayer lives and has transformed our fears.  It has given us freedom from worry and a reveling in today.  Its a decision, however, that last’s years Maria was incapable of making.

Part of me wants to regret.  To wish that I had learned earlier on what it looks like to give up control and not rely so much on analysis, reason, and personal preferences.  Instead I am going to try to be thankful that I arrived at this place at all.  Thankful even wayward planning can lead to blessings.  Afterall, Faith, David, Aaron, and Gideon were the result of all those plans (well not Aaron but that is a different story for a different day).  You see for me, it was not the planning itself that was harmful, it was all the fear, worry, and stress that I allowed in when my plans seemed to be even a little bit derailed.

Tomorrow yes, its full of potential and hope of dreams come true.  I have that deep down Mommy desire to hold a baby again, kiss them to sleep, and take in big deep breaths of that sweet baby smell.  But the safest place for me to put that desire is in God’s hands and there it will stay.

I am often so thankful for you.  Honored that you follow in this journey with me and humbled that even one word would bless you.  I pray for you today, that maybe any decision you are facing today could become a non-decision.  I pray that you too would find the peace and respite that comes with relinquishing all final outcomes to a Heavenly Father and Savior who loves you very much.

sanfranbaysunset

 

 

10 Years

This week Dave and I are in California to celebrate our 10 Year Anniversary.  Our actual anniversary is October 14th, but to get away just the two of us we will take any time of the year!

wedding pic

At milestones like this one it is crazy to look back and see how far we’ve come.  To see how much life we lived and to wonder what we would have done if someone told us on our wedding day the things we would go through together.  I am thankful for so many things, but our marriage, my husband tops that list and this vacation carries immense joy for us to be able to take together.

This past year has been our best.  As a couple, these storms truly made us stronger and I can say with confidence that I love this man more today than I ever have before.  As we adventurize together this week, we are praying that each minute is a slow one.  That we can take a deep breath together and talk about all the many things we are thankful for.  To spend time seeing, with full clarity, that these past tens years, this week together, and all that will follow contain blessing beyond measure.

This was a trip we did not think we were going to get to take.  When we found out we were pregnant we thought we would have a newbie baby in tow for our 10th year, but as life unfolded we decided we would need some time together away just the two of us.  The way I look at it, its another gift our son Gideon gave to us.  As we travel these days we celebrate all of our children and I honestly feel as though Gideon will be with us.  When you see the ridiculous over abundance of blue attire, accessories, and nails in our pictures you will know why ;)

More stories of our trip to come, but for now I thought it would be fun to take a trip down memory lane and see the slideshow we played at our wedding.  Little side story, my brother is an amazing video editor.  He has been blessing our family with his gifts for years and he pours his all into these slideshows.  There is, however, always a mistake of some sort.  In Gideon’s slideshow video he put his birth date at March 21st.  It was not, it was March 31st.  In our wedding video he lovingly CongraDulated us on our marriage.  Some things you just can’t live down, ya know?

So here’s to the past ten years and, by the will of God, many more to come.  Even when the storms rage and the water rises on this life of ours, I know we will be okay because I have this man of God supporting us and leading us.  It is through Dave’s strength of faith and emphasis on the hope of heaven that this family is where it is today.

Happy 10th Year