When The Mother’s Day Roses Turn Black

August 28, 2017 § Leave a comment

On May 25th, we learned for certain that I had miscarried our honeymoon-baby at 9 weeks. It was 10:30 in the morning. “Happy two months of marriage, babe.” We cried, but we smiled too. It really had been a wonderful two months.

Aaron and I were house-sitting at the time, and our own home is a rented pool-house in a friend’s backyard. Where would we bury our little one? So at first, my baby was in a small container in our friend’s fridge. We’d left him in the gestational sac, undisturbed, so at least we weren’t seeing his little form every time we opened the door. But . . . having your baby in the fridge really messes with your head.

Friends and family brought meals, praying for and with us. But a few days later we had to face moving back home with that tiny Tupperware until a burial location could be found. We drove two vehicles, so I had to figure out where to put the baby while I drove. In my lap? Carefully on the front seat? It was all so wrong. Then when we got home…walk in, put him in our fridge. Oh how we wept.

We had been married only 7 weeks. (They count weeks from the first day of the woman’s last cycle, hence the apparent discrepancy.) But we had the comfort and love of God shown constantly through those who love us. And most precious, through one another.

Just the week before, Aaron had given me six beautiful red roses for my first Mother’s Day, and I had taken them along to house-sit. They sat on the coffee table all through those ten days, and after the miscarriage I couldn’t bear to throw them away. One day I noticed that, while usually the petals would begin to wilt and fall off by then, these had not done so. Six perfectly formed roses still looked up at me out of that vase; not a petal had fallen, but they had turned black. And yet, I couldn’t help but be grateful for how beautiful they still looked. Our baby was gone, but I’m still a mom. My dear young husband is still a dad.
The night we came home from the ER, Aaron was naturally struggling with the awful feeling of being unable to help. Sitting there on the floor I told him that the best way a father can help his children is to love their mother well, and because he was loving me so well he was already the best father he could possibly be.
We did bury our little one about two weeks later. We have grieved in our own way, tears coming at random sometimes or brought on by seeing pregnant friends. It’s been very important to me to make sure none of them think I don’t want to see them or share in their joy. I do!

Our hearts are still full of joy, truly. It was a difficult passage, but we are so thankful for each other and for God’s work in our lives through it. I definitely have a new level of compassion for all of you who have been through this, some of you many times. I am so very sorry for your losses.
Thank you all for praying for us during that time, and since. We truly lacked nothing.

God is good, all the time!
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The Single Thing

August 28, 2017 § Leave a comment

Since getting married I’ve thought a lot about writing something to my single friends. I suppose every single-longer-than-she-wanted-to-be Christian wife has considered doing this, and I’m willing to bet that if you’re a single woman reading the blogs out there, you feel like ALL of them have done it . . . repeatedly.

Another one, really? Is it some kind of right of passage that you married people feel like you have to go through — write the blog to the still-single demographic that you were a part of, oh I dunno, five months ago?

I get it. I’ve had that thought. So how do I know that what I might have to say would be any good? Well, I don’t. But I do know that every time I pushed past those bitter feelings and read the words of women who had at last gotten their heart’s dearest wish, it helped.

Their disillusionment helped me keep perspective.

Their joy helped me remember that disillusionment doesn’t mean disappointment.

Their charges to be content in singleness — or I wouldn’t be content married either — helped me be obedient to God, and find all satisfaction in Him.

In 2013 I wrote my own blog on that last point, The Gift of a Gift Withheld.  It was probably the single most important thing I ever internalized. No pun intended.

So I will continue to consider what, if anything, I have to say to my still-single friends from a recently-married nothing-figured-out perspective that could possibly be of encouragement.

One thing I can say right now: God’s wisdom is trustworthy!

 

Snippets

November 18, 2016 § Leave a comment

Another attempt to revive this blog. I seem to leave it dormant for months at a time. Also, it recently struck me how much of my tone here is corrective; that’s not beneficial to anyone, and although my goal is usually to exhort, the result certainly reveals my pride. I aim to correct that. 

Ive been ruminating on a few post ideas, but have yet to make the time to write. In addition to matters that interest and concern me, I would also like to take a more light, every-day tone and share little happenings and photos from my life that are less likely to interest Facebook in general, but will be here for closer friends and family who wish to see them.

If you’re reading this you probably already know about the man God has seen fit to bring into my life; naturally, he will be featured with growing prominence. 😋 He’s pretty easy on the eyes, if I may say so, but I’ll reign myself in at least a little. Were I to tell you a mere fraction of the funny and kind things he’s said and done, I’d break the internet.

So here are a few snippets from life lately!

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In the middle of October, Aaron’s parents and brother came to visit and we climbed Pinnacle Mountain. Beautiful weather!

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Sometimes I help cover the front desk at FamilyLife. You never know who will call — I’ve talked to Fox News correspondent Todd Starnes — or who’s going to walk in the door. One morning I looked up to see Paul David Tripp and his mustache two feet away from my face! I nearly jumped out of my skin. Never heard the doors open.

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Our pastor has been teaching through Matthew, so when we saw these huge bottles of lamp oil at Wal-Mart, well, we couldn’t resist!

In June we got to pop up to Niagara for a day in the middle of visiting family in Pennsylvania. Leslie Ann was able to meet us there and we had a grand time. There was also quad-riding with my Uncle David!

And a few weeks ago Aaron was awarded the service medal for his time in the Honor Guard last year. (Apologies for the sideways photo, I can’t get it to rotate.)

It’s been a wild, fantastic, hectic year!

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

Four trips to Texas, two to Oklahoma, and one to Pennsylvania and New York, I have spent a LOT of time in the car these last few months. Plus all the wonderful busyness of life in Little Rock. Like I said, it’s been a wild year. But a wonderful one! And tomorrow, our church singles group goes to Silver Dollar City for the day…

I Know Words Can Kill, ’cause Something’s Dead

August 10, 2016 § Leave a comment

“I Want to Say I’m Sorry” . . . I love this song. Andrew Peterson covers it all. This is how to apologize. Especially when we’ve sinned against one another with our words.

As someone with a history of a particularly sharp tongue, I have nothing to cling to for help but my hope in the Gospel! Because of the Gospel we can humbly seek each other’s forgiveness. Because of the Gospel we can all look forward, not only to the resurrection of what our sinful words have killed in a relationship, not only to the inner remaking that occurs in us as we are disciplined by our Father, but to the great Last Day when redeemed sinners will sit beside one another at the wedding feast. All forgiven, all spiritually and physically resurrected.

What is most lovely about these lyrics is his acknowledgment of original sin without removing personal responsibility, and the beauty of reconciliation and hope in that future Day when all tears will be wiped away.

(Lyrics and video below.)

I want to say I’m sorry but I don’t know how
But I’m sorry, I’m so sorry now
I said some words to you I wish I never said
I know words can kill ’cause something’s dead

And now my heart is like a catacomb
And I’m praying we can find a way to raise these bones
Again, oh, again

Well, I want to say I’m sorry but it’s not enough
To close the wounds I opened up
So now I’ve got this sorrow and you’ve got that hurt
And we can’t go back to who we were

Oh, but could that mean I’m someone new
Maybe I can love you better than I failed to do
Before the war

They’ll tell you everything was beautiful and pure
But there was poison in the well from years before
And now I’m cleaning up this wreckage on the shore
And I don’t want to fight with you no more

So I want to say I’m sorry that I drew the line
I built the wall, the fault is mine
And maybe now the only way to find some peace
Is just to give it time and trust in grace

So this is my communion hymn
I want to sit beside you at the feast, my friend
Again, again and again
And again

A Sword Between the Sexes

July 15, 2016 § Leave a comment

 

“There is, hidden or flaunted, a sword between the sexes, till an entire marriage reconciles them.” – C. S. Lewis

“The event of falling in love is of such a nature that we are right to reject as intolerable the idea that it should be transitory. In one high bound it has overleaped the massive of our selfhood; it has made appetite itself altruistic, tossed personal happiness aside as a triviality and planted the interests of another in the centre of our being. Spontaneously and without effort we have fulfilled the law (towards one person) by loving our neighbour as ourselves. It is an image, a foretaste, of what we must become to all if Love Himself rules in us without a rival. It is even (well used) a preparation for that.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

 

Apples of Gold

December 7, 2015 § Leave a comment

If Christians are to be known for hating anything, it should be nothing so much as our own sin.

Today I’m thankful for the patience and love of my Mom and sister. Most of us sin against our families more than anyone else and I’m no exception. I put mine through a lot. A sharp tongue and stubborn heart have been my greatest long-term spiritual battlegrounds at home; easier to control around the office, church, and friends . . . but with family? So difficult. Improvement has certainly occurred over time, but it’s been slow.

Yet they love me enough to say the hard things I so need to hear. And I’d be a fool to ignore them. Thank the Lord, that is at least one aspect that’s beginning to improve more and more: a quickness to let their words in, and accept that they are true. That once again, my family’s right. It’s still a constant battle against pride, to not simply think them too critical, and remember that these are the people who know me best in the world, who see what my behavior is like when unchecked, and again, LOVE ME ENOUGH to say something. To recognize that this is God working through them.

May the Lord help us all to be humble, keep soft hearts, teachable spirits, prayerful attitudes, and take action to change.

Listen to those who love you. Be thankful that they are speaking up.

Mom, Becca, thank you for words fitly spoken.


A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold

In settings of silver.

Proverbs 25:11
(NKJV)
Apples of gold

 

Rated “R”

June 5, 2015 § Leave a comment

Today I’ve been thinking about the “R” words that describe what God does for our souls.

Redeems. Rescues. Regenerates. Restores. Renews. Refreshes.

Why? Why does my soul need all these things?

*Redemption*: I need it because I was subject to sin by nature and therefore “a child of wrath”, assigned to everlasting death. But instead of giving me what I deserve, He was merciful, even to the point of buying me back with His own blood. Has anyone else died for me? For you?

*Rescue*: I need it because in my sin I could not save myself! Think of any situation where a helpless person cries out, begging to be snatched away from danger. Once they realize their situation, there’s no pride or reluctance to ask. Just “please help me!” Do you see your need for rescue?

*Regeneration*: I need it because in sin my soul was dead. Like a dead physical heart, a dead spiritual heart can’t make decay begin to run backwards on its own. Nothing but supernatural power can regenerate it. God removed the dead stone of my heart and replaced it with flesh, quickening my soul for the battle against sin. He raised Jesus from the dead and said the same power that He used to raise Him is the power at work in our souls. We can’t even imagine that kind of power. Because Jesus is fully God, He essentially raised Himself from the dead. The most awe-inspiring words ever spoken, in my opinion, were Jesus’s when He said:  “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again.  No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.” (John 10:17-18a) That same power has regenerated my heart.  Do you know He offers to regenerate yours too?

*Restoration*: I need it because, well, with a dead spiritual heart, what do you think the rest my life was like? Unfit for service or function, like atrophied muscle or a rusted-out engine. He had to restore me, make me into something He can use. Did you know that no matter what you’ve done, He can restore and use you too?

*Renewal*: I needed to be turned into a new creation, from child of wrath to child of God. A relationship where there was once enmity. A new purpose, one that matters beyond our physical lives into eternity. Do you realize you can have a real reason to live?

*Refreshment*: I need it every day, because I am weak and weary in this battle against my sin. He provides His strength, His joy, His beauty. He provides respite when I spend time with Him, peace when I trust Him, joy when I seek and find Him. He refreshes my heart through His other children, my brothers and sisters who also love Christ, who also know what it is to be desperately in need of what we couldn’t provide for ourselves. Do you have a parched, tired spirit sometimes too?

So, there it is. I’ve been bought with a price. Redeemed and rescued! Dear friends, please forgive me when I don’t live like it. I don’t want to be a hypocrite. With God’s help I’m learning and changing, listening to instruction and accepting discipline when I disobey. You who aren’t Christians, that’s why you hear us talking about “growing” all the time.We don’t just mean growing as a person or somehow making ourselves better. We mean that God is raising us, His children. We need the difficulties and trials that make us more like Jesus, and the grace He gives us to endure and excel beyond them bring us out the other side full of even more trust that He knows what He’s doing.

From redeeming us back from His own judgement to refreshing our renewed hearts with His grace. That’s mercy folks. And He offers it to everyone! A gift. Though, there is another “R” word.

Repentance. Turning our backs on the way we used to live. Admit and reject all the selfishness, arrogance, all the ugly attitudes and actions that sin produces. That one takes humility too, and sometimes it’s so hard. But, remember that rescue I talked about? Would you let pride prevent you from letting someone pull you out of a fire, embarrassed because you started it yourself by some dumb mistake, or even maliciously? No. At that point your only thought is for your life.

I pray that you will come to that place for the life of your soul. To the critical moment where you see the desperateness of your plight without God’s intervention. He allowed Himself to be tortured, to endure the full wrath of the Father against our sin, and then to die — so that you and I wouldn’t have to endure eternal separation from Him. And the last “R” word? I mentioned it once already. He rose from the dead. He raised my soul, and He can raise yours.

Please don’t slap away the hand that reaches out to rescue you.

Dedicated to The Bible Church of Little Rock

January 23, 2015 § Leave a comment

About four years ago, during what I thought was a time of personal trial, I sat at my desk and mused, Elizabeth, what do you know about God that will help you through this?

You know all those “Attributes of God” sermons and series that churches do over the years? We sometimes give a little internal sigh when they’re announced, don’t we? I’ve certainly been guilty of that a few times. But as my pastors knew would be the case, it’s what I know about God that has gotten me through every struggle in my life.

So, that day in 2011, with thunder and lightning booming outside, the metaphor of a storm seemed to fit and I began writing as I asked myself these questions: What things about me get me into trouble? What am I tempted to do when times are hard, when I’m uncertain, or when I don’t like what God’s doing? What attributes of God answer those things? 

The answers led to a kind of give-and-take in each verse; I have to give these up to God, and in return, take of the wonderful gifts He offers in Himself.

Well, much, much harder times have followed since I wrote it, in my life and the lives of brothers and sisters in my church. God is teaching our little body to love one another well through deep pain and loss. BCLR, I could not be more grateful for what you have been to me, and what I have watched you be to one another.

With love, I would like to officially dedicate this to The Bible Church of Little Rock, specifically the Oxner and Tittle families.

Give Him the Storm

Give Him the storm of your prodigal will
Lose not your way on the steep of the hill
Give Him your failing and faltering feet
Take of His guidance and follow the Street

Give Him the storm of your thoughts in the wind
Fret not for the thundering battle within
Give Him your weary and uncertain plan
Take of His strength and then cling to His hand

Give Him the storm of your questions and cares
Sink not away into suff’ring and snares
Give Him the sorrowing sighs of your soul
Take of His joy and by it be made whole

Give Him the storm of your anger and tears
Dread not the time though it linger for years
Give Him the flood of your frustrated cries
Take of His patience and worry not why

Give Him the storm of your violent unrest
Faint not for the lightning and downpour of tests
Give Him the strain of your weakened resolve
Take of His Words and His Wisdom recall

Give Him the storm of your anguish and grief
Cast not away all your hope for relief
Give Him the depth of your darkest despair
Take of His peace and be able to bear

He holds the storms of the earth and the seas
He raises those who have sunk to their knees
He is the One who has called you His own
Take of His courage and trust in His throne

Elizabeth Howell – 8.March.2011

Walking worthy…on and offline

January 14, 2015 § Leave a comment

At long last, I have come to realize that I do not love people very well at all. In general and especially online. Naturally, some of the reasons I don’t love people well in general are ripple effects of the fact that I simply spend too much time on the web: primarily Facebook, and reading articles linked there.

There is certainly a place for those things, and you don’t need me to repeat what my betters have already blogged, posted, and shared on the subject. But I must finally admit that I have a twofold problem: too much time online, and a misuse of that time.

To first address the misuse of time online: 

As I finally turn a more critical eye on the frequency and content of my Facebook posts, I have seen an unsettling pattern. I seem to be on some kind of crusade against lack of discernment in Christians, mistaken Christian teachers, and Catholicism. Always trying to make some point or harp on some cultural trend.

None of my views on these matters have changed, but it’s time I realized a few things:

1) It is not up to me to effect the growth and change of those I love through sharing just the right article that’s finally going to convince them.

2) It is not my job to make everyone aware of every issue that I deem crucial to good discernment.

Many of us love to share something we find enlightening, etc., and again, there’s nothing wrong with that. But I tend to love making truth known in the face of error in ways that possess neither winsomeness nor humility. I often take a superior tone which betrays the pride in my heart and dilutes the message.

Even worse, sometimes my motive is more akin to “I have to make sure my Facebook friends know that I’m on top of this issue theologically and haven’t been taken in. Others need to know that they’ve been taken in, and they won’t know unless I share this.”

How’s that for prideful? As if I were their only source for that material and God needed me to click “share” lest anyone miss it. And…as if I were always right.

Does that mean I don’t think God would use something I shared in the life of an unbelieving friend? No; it’s always possible that He would. My point is, I need to lay off the frequency and correct my attitude.

There must be a balance, and it may take me a while to find it. In the meantime, I plan to do much less “sharing” (with those extended excerpts you know I love) and use my Facebook time for more encouragement and less tutelage.

To address the amount of time online: 

Others have already said this better than I can, so I’ll keep it brief. I’ve allowed myself to fall prey to the smart-phone addiction, big time. Checking and re-checking to see if new  comments, notifications, messages, or texts have arrived or new photos been posted by certain pages or groups. . . it’s bad. My eyes (and brain!) tire from screens all day at work and screens for most of the evening, and on and on it goes.  Yet I notice how little certain of my friends are on Facebook and I want to follow their example. Their lives are in no way diminished by their “absence” from it and indeed, they have more time for far better things!

So, the biggest concern? You guessed it. All those things I don’t get done because of wasted time. The cooking & cleaning, laundry, letters to friends, serving others, photo album, cross-stitch, calligraphy, writing, drawing, time outside, and a half-dozen projects left unfinished. And the READING! Oh, the reading. What a list! Most of the things that lend true richness to life, right? I deprive myself of blessing others and much of what makes my walk worthy of Christ.

“Walk worthy” . . . sweet Bethany Rehrer would remind me how precious is the time we have here.

Lately I’ve begun to journal more and more, and I find that the time spent at my desk with the low lamp on, candle lit, and pen scratching across real paper (ah, my first love!) to be incredibly sweet. It is cathartic and healing; getting my thoughts out, recording events, expressing prayers and frustrations. You journaling people have known that for years. Well, I can be a very slow learner.

One big thing I did accomplish recently (this is mostly for any Heart for Home study ladies who may be reading). . . in the weeks before Christmas I buckled down and completely rearranged and reorganized my room, selling and moving various pieces of furniture (thanks Becca!) until there was actually room to maneuver in there. After the New Year a free headboard and perfect little desk from church friends made a huge difference, and now there are pictures on the walls and everything. Yay! Very close to “a place for everything and everything in its place” at last.

Please pray for me. These are big changes to make, and I’ve neglected self-discipline for too long. It’s been difficult to swallow my pride and admit this, since it spent a long time on the list of things I thought I’d never struggle with. (A word to the wise: don’t make that list.)

And now it’s time to log off.

I’m Not Right, I’m Redeemed: The Paradox of the Free Slave

November 26, 2014 § Leave a comment

I love being right. Even more, being proved right. We all do! (Am I right?) Especially when somebody thought we were wrong. Vindication is like hot cider on a snowy day, sending a shot of warmth right down to our toes and, more often, straight to our puffed-up heads.

So if we already battle this pride in being right (and known as right), how much more difficult (and dangerous) is that battle for we Christians who enjoy confidence that we are “right” in our faith and belief in the Bible? It can get ugly, can it not?

Let us not be like those of whom Jonathan Swift said “have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.”  Love need never require the sacrifice of theology, Scriptural clarity, or proper adherence to the biblical injunction to be discerning and rightly divide what is evil from what is good. But it’s imperative that we sacrifice self-righteousness and pious superiority of attitude. I definitely struggle with such pride! Jesus said the world would know His people by our love, not our religiosity nor even our fervor. If we have not love, we are merely clanging gongs, yes? (Perhaps, viewed in that way, social media can be called the loudest place in the world.)

I know a gal here in Little Rock who is part of a group of Christian women that regularly visits ladies backstage at local strip clubs; they talk, get to know them, give them little gift bags of necessities, and talk about Christ. Through simple kindness and by consistently coming back to maintain and grow these acquaintances, she and her friends have gained the trust of the club owners, and of the women, who have actually said to them, “We don’t refer to you as Christians. Christians don’t treat us very well. We call you Christ-followers.”

What a testimony.

That should tell us something about how Chstians are perceived by those who need the message with which we’ve been entrusted.

How I desire my presence to be a breath of fresh air to any unbeliever! I know that doesn’t mean they’d never be offended by the truth; the most lovingly spoken truth is always offensive to sinful pride, until the moment the Holy Spirit softens the heart hearing it.

One thing that may help is to remember that it’s NOT that we are “right” at all. I didn’t look at everything out there and decided that the best course of action was to become a Christian. It’s not that I’m right; it’s that my dead, unresponsive heart had been quickened by the Creator. We’re new creations! That means it was necessary for us to be utterly re-made. Salvation is no cosmetic makeover, but renewal from the inside out.

As we converse with unbelievers and plead with them to recognize their state as sinners before a holy God, I think we too often leave out the very important element of “I used to be exactly where you are!” You see, it doesn’t matter if we’re talking to a murderer while the worst thing we ever did was snitch an extra bite-size Milky Way from our co-worker’s desk – because our state without Christ was the same: destined for eternal separation from God in a real physical place called Hell. That point is the point at which all human lives are identical: the intersection of sin and grace. This should bring a powerful humility to our attitude with unbelievers and with each other. The Gospel isn’t about saying “look at everything that’s wrong about you and the way you live!”  It’s about “Look at what a sinner I was, and see what God’s done! See how He’s forgiven and changed me! I was condemned and I deserved it. But see something wonderful: God is not only a righteous Judge, but also a kinsman Redeemer, willing to give all of Himself to buy us back from the grave. All He requires is a simple, true-hearted repentance.”  We are not “right”. We are redeemed.

If you’re a Christian, no matter what your life has looked like, the inner core of your salvation story is the same as mine, and it goes like this:

One day as I’m thinking about the Gospel I’ve heard, the Holy Spirit arrests me, brings me into a big courtroom and stands me up before the judge . . . God. I look sideways across the aisle, and who is the prosecutor? God. The offended party? It’s Him. The jury box? God is there too. The court reporter, the witnesses, the bailiff, all of them. Every position in the courtroom is filled, but God and I are the only ones present. The massive stack of evidence against me is readily called forth, and He finds me guilty. I know there’s nothing I can do to refute the evidence. All is lost. Consistent with His perfect justice, He reads a sentence of physical and eternal spiritual death.

Then, the Gospel tells me to look and see who’s standing by my side.

God is also my lawyer.

Jesus Christ, fully God, the second member of the Trinity, is my Advocate!

His head, hands, and side are bleeding. Standing between me and the bench, He speaks. “Holy One, Your judgment of this defendant is righteous. You know also that I have lived in perfect obedience to You, and suffered scourging and death already to pay far more than this convict’s offenses are worth; to pay for the sin of the world! If she will but repent and ask Us, You can put her sin to My account, My righteousness to hers, and set her free.”

Can this offer be real?! I repent! He is my only hope.

The accounts are adjusted. I have been bought with a price, now a bondservant of Christ my Savior.

But oh, I am free!