Truth for Christians who would rather be “entertained” than HOLY

September 19, 2016 at 1:55 am (More than Mediocre) (, , , , )

be-holy

The past few times that I’ve had a minute or two to scroll through my Facebook feed, I’ve run across multiple posts by friends and acquaintances (who often openly profess Christianity) that share thoughts or activities that absolutely dishonor the Lord. I purposely did not comment directly on any of the posts so as not to single out or embarrass anyone that I truly care for. Instead, I wept. I am ASTOUNDED that somehow the “church” in America has sooooo watered down Christianity and the full gospel of Christ that the very ones who have been set free from slavery to sin…the very ones who are supposed to take on the nature and character of Jesus Christ, the perfect and sinless one…think it is absolutely acceptable to continue inputting (through tv, music, movies, internet and other media, and even relationships) and outputting (through thoughts, speech, and actions) pure SMUT.

My Christian friends, I have a HARD word for you. A word that Satan will try to use to turn you against me. But I love you too much not to speak it. So here goes. A relationship with the One who is Holy is not possible when you continually and habitually indulge in sinful activity. Yes, Jesus came to take away your sins, but that “transaction” requires repentance. And repentance by definition isn’t repentance unless you literally TURN away from those sins and go the opposite direction. You CHANGE. If you continue to welcome sin into your life, there is no turning, no change, no repentance, and therefore no forgiveness. Christianity ISN’T living the sinful life you’ve always lived with a little Jesus sprinkled on top. It is dying to self and the sinful desires of the flesh EVERY SINGLE DECISION of EVERY SINGLE DAY and giving up those things to walk in a right relationship with God. (And if anyone has led you to believe any different, well, you’ve unfortunately been MISLED by a false teacher and you need to read your Bible to find the truth.)

A relationship with Christ is a free gift yet it requires great SACRIFICE. In the world we live in today, with VERY FEW EXCEPTIONS, it will require giving up most of what we consider to be our “entertainment.” If you think you can boast the title of Christian and still choose to watch movies like “BAD MOMS,” (or the endless other titles out there with similar content) you seriously need to re-examine your decision to follow Christ and evaluate whether or not you are actually in an active relationship with Him. God’s presence cannot co-exist with sin. If you’re legitimately in a relationship with Him, He’ll let you know real quick that He is HOLY and no man can approach Holy God while holding onto sin. Sure, Jesus forgave the woman caught in adultery. Further, He did not judge her. (That’s not His job. He doesn’t judge. God does. Jesus came to save.  John 3:17) But He DID instruct her to go and SIN NO MORE. Everybody likes to point out the “no judging” part but nobody wants to discuss the part that says you have to give the sin up. You don’t get to keep holding onto it. It just doesn’t work that way.

Before you launch your argument defending how or why you welcome entertainment that dishonors God into your life, let me remind you of some of the content in the particular film I’ve randomly called out: (and keep in mind that similar content can be found in just about everything rated above PG in theaters today)

*Crude or Profane Language

About 65 f-words, nearly 30 s-words and a bake sale’s worth of doughy profanities, including “a–,” “b–ch,” “d–n,” “h—,” “d–k,” “t-ts” and “p—y.” God’s name is misused about 50 times, including at least once with “d–n.” Jesus’ name is abused five times.

If the ability to sit through that filth doesn’t make you question whether or not you and God are on the same page regarding His expectations and what is and is not acceptable for a Christian to watch, then this should.

*Sexual Content

An explicit scene involves Amy catching her husband, Mike having an affair with a woman via video chat online. There’s an implication of masturbation, and the camera shows us a completely nude woman (we see her from the front, side and rear) on his computer screen. At first, Amy thinks her husband is “just” looking at pornography, but she soon realizes it’s that the woman is performing for Mike. “This really feels like cheating,” she says.

Amy kicks Mike out of the house and, a day or two later, tells Kiki and Carla that she wants to get “laid.” They go to a bar and Amy flirts (badly) with several men before she runs into a widower she knows from their kids’ school. They kiss and quickly fall into a physical relationship: We see the two begin to have sex on Amy’s kitchen island before the scene moves to a post-coital moment in the bedroom, where they discuss how great it was. There’s also another visual reference (under the covers) to oral sex.

Verbally, this movie is just one long string of sex jokes. We hear graphic references to oral and anal sex, manual stimulation and explicit discussions of men’s anatomy. Carla uses obscene words and gestures to flirt with a bevy of men (including married fathers), passionately kisses a middle-aged grocery clerk and “encourages” other moms to attend a party by threatening to have sex with their husbands if they don’t. She locks lips with another mother there, then encourages other moms to do the same. (She later brags to Amy about how many women she kissed.) Kiki details her and her husband’s sexual habits.

We see Amy in a bra. Someone encourages her to wear a “slutty” dress. There are scads of crude references to the male and female anatomy. Amy, Carla and Kiki watch a man rip off his shirt in a movie. We hear references of lesbian moms and “moms who used to be dads.”

In a movie postscript, the real-life moms of the movie’s actresses talk about motherhood. One admits to taking her child, Christina Applegate (who plays Gwendolyn), to the movie Cruising, a film that involves the gay, S&M underworld of New York City.

**Movie content reviews found at http://www.pluggedin.com/

My Christian friend, I’m not sure exactly what path has led you so far from the ways of the Lord…or what teaching you’ve sat under that never led you to the one true God of the Bible in the first place… but THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE FOR YOU. Though sadly expected from those that are still slaves to sin, IT’S NOT AN OPTION for true followers of Christ. You’ve got to give it up. That’s all there is to it. Nobody gets to ride the fence. Christians share His death (and victory over sin) and we get to share His life in doing so. We don’t get the life without dying first. And here’s a spoiler alert: It’s a continual process. As you begin to approach God, His light illuminates the darkness that is within you. You repent, turn away from that sin, and step closer to Him into brighter light that again usually reveals more hidden sin that separates you from Holy God. The closer you draw to Him, the brighter His light to illuminate even the deepest darkest secret corners of your life. So basically, those of us a little further into this journey aren’t off the hook either. We, too, should constantly be communicating with the Lord about ANY areas of compromise or disobedience in our own lives that do not line up with the word or ways of God. If Jesus wouldn’t think it, say it, do it….then we shouldn’t either.

Colossians 3:1-10

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.  So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. Because of these sins, the anger of God is coming. You used to do these things when your life was still part of this world. But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. 10 Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.

Friend, I urge you to take a deep look into yourself and your life that is on display to your family, friends, and co-workers. Does your language honor God? Does your thought life make him proud? Could you sit through the movies you watch or surf the internet side by side with Jesus Christ and feel 100% comfortable while doing so? If it doesn’t, of if you can’t, then you have a very real problem that needs immediate attention and this hard message is a gift from God straight to you BECAUSE HE LOVES YOU and PASSIONATELY DESIRES TO HAVE A RELATIONSHIP WITH YOU.

Need help getting right with God? You can start by reading 1 John in the New Testament. It explains exactly how Christianity works. And by all means, feel free to reach out to me or another Christian for help and accountability. Being a Christian doesn’t mean you cannot sin. It means you *CAN* not sin. Your desire for sinful things will decrease as you spend time with and grow closer to the Lord… for one cannot be with the One who is Holy and remain the same.

Again, a hard TRUTH, but one spoken in love.

 

 

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I am REAL: a reality check for today’s woman

February 16, 2016 at 9:18 pm (More than Mediocre) (, , , , , , )

 

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I am not my breasts.  These two mounds of ever-changing body fat do not define who I am.  Their size does not increase my value.  Their aging condition does not decrease my worth.  I will not allow Hollywood or the media or anyone else to convince me that my body fat is not distributed properly.  No one has the right to tell me that I need more up top and less around the middle.  I’m thirty-seven.  My middle has five times now come just short of bursting at its seams to bring forth life.  It’s been nearly two decades since my top was first sacrificed to bring a nursing child into this world with the best possible start.  And the caboose of this train, though it still faithfully rides the rails of the treadmill, I’m afraid will never find its way back to the glory days of the twenties.  That’s just reality.  I am REAL.

With or without Photoshop, with or without plastic surgery, there will always be someone prettier.  Thinner.  Taller.  Curvier.  Younger.  More physically fit.   Though these worn out, unenhanced, forever flawed “assets” of mine immediately disqualify me as a Hollywood sex goddess, they perfectly qualify me for something much greater- reality.  Reality: The state of things as they actually exist, rather than as they may appear or might be imagined.  Much deeper than flesh and fat, far beyond makeup, hairstyles, and fashion lies reality and all that TRULY defines a woman.  And unlike the women on the magazine covers, I don’t have to sell others (or myself) on my worth.  I am a wife with a God-given purpose of being a helpmate for my man.  I cook, I clean, I wash, I dry, I fold.  I pay the bills.  I run the errands.  I do the shopping.  I taxi the children.  I care for the animals.  I do yardwork.  I grow food.  I work outside the home to make ends meet when necessary.  I’m his greatest cheerleader, his shoulder to cry on, his strongest prayer warrior, his business consultant, his very best friend.  I’m his lover and I willingly submit my body to his righteous intimate pleasure at all times (even when I truly have a headache!) If he has any need of any sort, I make it my purpose to fulfil it.  I honor him and out of love do my best not to insult or talk down to him in front of others.  I choose to adore him.  Reality.

I’m a mother with a God given purpose of training up my children in the way that they should go.  I do homework, school plays, and mid-day award ceremonies.  I make cookies for class parties and deliver forgotten lunch kits and homework assignments.  I do sports and dance practices, games, tournaments, meetings, fundraisers, recitals, doctor, dentist, and orthodontist appointments.  I comb out tangles, re-rinse missed shampoo, make last minute bows and sew on missing buttons.  I regulate sweets and soda, cologne, and spray glitters, and of course, Band-Aids.  I get up a 6 am just to make chocolate chip pancakes for that one child who won’t eat ANY other thing for breakfast.  I pour every ounce of myself leftover from my husband into my kids and then scrape the sides to give the last drop.  I’m 100% in over my head in a course learning to read, write, and speak Hebrew just to spend time with my son doing what he enjoys because he’s amazing, and I love him.  Knowing full well from past experience that the glues don’t hold much longer than a decade and that I’ll have nothing to show for the endless hours I put into the books, I scrapbook with my youngest daughter every Monday because she loves to create and she loves to see fun memories and she loves to spend time –just with mommy.  I’m learning pre-algebra again with my oldest daughter.  Sure she already took this class in school and moved on into Algebra but she’s struggling.  It takes her longer to process her thoughts than most and she falls behind.  So, we’re taking a course online with a million lessons and when we finish those million we’ll move right on to the Algebra course and do a million more until she’s confident in her abilities because she’s a champion NO MATTER WHAT THIS WORLD TELLS HER!  She CAN do this!   And even though I hated history when I was in school and I still don’t know one event or date from another, my middle daughter just likes to sit and read history books together.  So I love it now.  Because it gives me the chance to somehow connect with her in this crazy tween stage of life.  I didn’t plan 3 of 4 of my kids, but GOD DID, which automatically gives me worth in His eyes and a huge purpose in this life.  You see, he wouldn’t have created little children to watch every move I make and model their own words and actions after mine if He didn’t think I have what it takes to grow beautiful people.  Oh, it’s in there.  It’s just requires a choice.  A choice to put their needs above my own.  A choice to sacrifice my precious time to dive into the word of God with them to grow and develop their character.  A choice to teach them right from wrong (which is waaaaaayyyyy harder than it sounds!)  A choice to give up worldly forms of pleasure and entertainment in order to invest fully into their spiritual futures.  A choice to show them that a battle for their souls is raging in an unseen spiritual world around them that’s far more interesting than any app or video game any human could ever dream up.  A choice to walk into that battle hand in hand with them and teach them how to fight for their lives- because it’s just as real as they are and their enemy wants nothing more than to destroy them.  Reality.

I am a daughter of the one true king and even when I don’t feel beautiful or lovely or even worthy to walk on this planet–when I feel utterly worthless because I don’t even come close to meeting the world’s distorted standard of beauty- I’m still a princess simply because He says I am.  At my lowest point, He saw enough value in me to exchange His own perfect son’s life to pay the price for my sins.  He saw enough worth in me to turn me away from self-destruction and set me on a new path heading towards Him.  Towards freedom.  Towards peace.  Towards joy.  He still sees enough potential in me every day to gently correct me and draw me closer and closer to Him and further and further from the empty things of this world.  He moves individuals in and out of my life and trusts me to show them His love as they come and go.  He entrusts me with the hearts of my friends and family members and expects me to treat them with great care and respect.  He has plans for me and my future-big plans-simply because I love Him, obey Him, and choose to line myself up with His truths.  When He looks at me, He sees the me that I will one day become-after He’s had time to work out all the kinks.  Despite my current imperfections, (physical and spiritual) He absolutely loves me BEYOND MEASURE.  It is this love that defines me.  It is this love that leaks from my pores and defines every choice I make as a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend.

Reality: The state of things as they actually exist, rather than as they may appear or might be imagined.

Reality check ladies:  Your TRUE female assets aren’t found on your body but in your identity.  That imperfect flesh of yours is merely a shell to house your spirit in while you walk this earth.  Despite all your attempts to stay young, perky, and up to the world’s standards, your body will continue to age, degrade, and disappoint.  As it does, keep in mind that it is your relationship with Father God that determines your worth.  Not movie stars, magazines, fat distribution, or others’ opinions of you.  Let cellulite, stretch marks, and sagging skin serve only as a reminder that you are perfectly qualified to be….REAL.

God sees not as man sees,

for man looks at the outward appearance,

but the Lord looks at the heart.”

1 Samuel 16:7

Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.

1Peter 3:3-4

Description of a Worthy Woman

10 An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels. 11 The heart of her husband trusts in her, And he will have no lack of gain. 12 She does him good and not evil All the days of her life. 13 She looks for wool and flax And works with her hands in delight. 14 She is like merchant ships; She brings her food from afar. 15 She rises also while it is still night And gives food to her household And portions to her maidens. 16 She considers a field and buys it; From her earnings she plants a vineyard. 17 She girds herself with strength And makes her arms strong. 18 She senses that her gain is good; Her lamp does not go out at night. 19 She stretches out her hands to the distaff, And her hands grasp the spindle. 20 She extends her hand to the poor, And she stretches out her hands to the needy. 21 She is not afraid of the snow for her household, For all her household are clothed with scarlet. 22 She makes coverings for herself; Her clothing is fine linen and purple. 23 Her husband is known in the gates, When he sits among the elders of the land. 24 She makes linen garments and sells them, And supplies belts to the tradesmen. 25 Strength and dignity are her clothing, And she smiles at the future. 26 She opens her mouth in wisdom, And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. 27 She looks well to the ways of her household, And does not eat the bread of idleness. 28 Her children rise up and bless her; Her husband also, and he praises her, saying: 29 “Many daughters have done nobly, But you excel them all.” 30 Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. 31 Give her the product of her hands, And let her works praise her in the gates.

Proverbs 31:10-31

 

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WAKE UP! A Call to Awaken Your Conscience

September 23, 2015 at 2:00 am (More than Mediocre) (, , , , )

alarm clock

A couple of days ago my son Josiah had a life-changing dream in which he came face to face with God. Yes, you heard me right, GOD. His experiences in this dream were so vivid and “real” that he quickly composed a notebook full of questions to “take back” with him the next night as he slept.

Josiah’s dream opened with the Biblical events founds in Revelation 20:11-15.

11 And I saw a great white throne and the one sitting on it. The earth and sky fled from his presence, but they found no place to hide. 12 I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before God’s throne. And the books were opened, including the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to what they had done, as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up its dead, and death and the grave gave up their dead. And all were judged according to their deeds. 14 Then death and the grave were thrown into the lake of fire. This lake of fire is the second death. 15 And anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire.

As he stood amongst his friends from school awaiting judgment in this dream, Josiah came to the sad realization that his best friend’s brother’s name would not be found in the Book of Life. Later, as the books were opened up, Josiah took note that scripture verses were recorded alongside each name printed within, judging each individual. Rewarding some. Condemning others. He specifically remembered:

“Denied me before men.”

and

“Returned to me.”

Needless to say, Josiah was more than relieved to find that his name had indeed been written in the Book of Life. He went on to gain access into God’s dwelling place in the dream and to commune with him face to face as a friend. (He was so very excited to be able to have uninhibited access to Holy God through a friendship.)

So why am I sharing this? Well, simply put…in light of what today 9/23/15 represents, I can’t NOT share it with you. My message is a call to awaken your conscience. That’s right, as busy as we all are, we are walking around in a deep spiritual slumber! God has issued his warning call and just a few hours stand between each of us and judgment.

Now, before you start building up your defense about how you don’t need spirituality in your life and how you certainly don’t want any judgment coming your way, hear me out because you don’t have a choice in the matter.

For we must ALL appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. 2 Corinthians 5:10

If nothing else, stick this post out and you’ll get a little history lesson for free.  So let’s start at the beginning. Today is the “Day of Atonement.” If you aren’t familiar with the term, it’s the holiest day of the Jewish year. Now, before you ‘x’ out of my post because I used the word “Jewish,” keep in mind that all things that involve God and Jesus are closely tied to all things Jewish. Jesus was a Jew born into a Jewish family in the Jewish village of Bethlehem which is located in Israel. He grew up and lived his entire life on earth following the Jewish culture. He read Jewish scriptures, kept the Jewish Sabbath, celebrated the Jewish feasts, and followed Jewish customs. So you’ll find that much of true “Christianity” appears to be quite “Jewish” in nature (and it’s all in the Bible so you can check it out for yourself) and this particular Jewish observance affects YOU tremendously.

To understand just how this somber day affects you, a non-Jew, you have to know a little bit of Bible history. After Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating from the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they were driven out of the Garden of Eden and out of God’s holy presence. Their sin brought about a curse on all of mankind forevermore and their once immortal bodies immediately began to perish. God’s word tells us that the wages of sin is death meaning that a price has to be paid for sin and it has to be paid in blood. Not only would all of mankind now face physical death, but also spiritual death- forever separated from God. God in His infinite wisdom was not caught off guard by His creation’s decision to go against His instructions. Because of His great love for mankind and desire to fellowship with His creation, He set up a temporary system utilizing the blood of innocent substitutionary animal sacrifices to “cover” human sins. The life blood of the sacrificial animal was required in exchange for the life blood of the sinner. The innocent animal paid the price for the guilty individual’s sins and the individual came back into right standing with God until he or she sinned again. This practice was not meant to continue on forever but was a “pattern” intended to point the people to the One who would willingly give his life to not just “cover” but entirely take away their sins once and for all- Jesus.

Animal sacrifices were made daily, weekly, and monthly as the people attempted to be reconciled to God. One day a year on The Day of Atonement, special sacrifices were made in addition to the regular daily sacrifices in order to purge defilement from the people. It was on this day alone that the High Priest was allowed to enter into the very presence of God. He of course could not go before the Lord empty-handed. Bringing blood sacrifices to cover his own sins as well as those of the people of Israel, the High Priest confessed the sins of the people to the Lord and “transferred” the sins to the substitutionary animal sacrifices by leaning heavily against the animals as he took their lives. As the High Priest preformed these duties, the people would fast, eagerly anticipating whether or not the Lord would accept their sacrifices and forgive them.

According to Jewish tradition, the annual Day of Atonement (also known as Yom Kippur) was essentially a last appeal to “get right with God and others.” It was a time to demonstrate repentance, or turning away from wrong ways and towards God, and it was a time to make amends with others. The people believed that their name would either be written in The Book of Life (if they were right with God) or The Book of Death (if they were wicked.) On the Day of Atonement, God would examine their souls and pass judgment on each individual, sealing their fate for the next year. If the individual repented and made amends to any he had harmed, he would be given another year to live. If he did not, then a decree could be given that he would die in the coming year.

So here’s the part where you come in. If you’re human, you fall under the curse of sin and death passed down from Adam and Eve. Sin is so offensive to God and its debt is so immense that it took nothing less than the blood sacrifice of his perfect sinless son, Jesus, to secure mankind’s reconciliation to God. In 2 Corinthians 5:21 the Bible tells us that, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” That’s right, Jesus’ life blood was required by holy God as an exchange for YOUR life blood. The sacrifice has already been made on your behalf. It’s up to YOU to turn from your sinful ways towards God. In 1 John 1:9 the Bible tells us that “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

God is loving, but he is a JUST judge and TODAY is judgment day. If your defense is not solely based on your sins being forgiven and taken away by the blood of Jesus Christ, then your name is not in the Book of Life.

Let this message serve as a “wakeup call” to awaken your conscience before your fate is forever sealed.

alarm clock

 

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FIRE WARNINGS!

September 11, 2015 at 8:02 pm (More than Mediocre) (, , , , , , , , , )

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As most of you know, parenting can be crazy-scary at times. We often coast from undesirable incident to undesirable incident just trying to survive. Any “fight” that we had planned to bring to the parenting battle has long fizzled away…replaced with fear, doubt, and often hopelessness.   We all want our kids to turn out good…or at least okay, right? But sometimes it’s just SO. VERY. HARD to fight for them. So we drop our guard and relax a little bit. No big deal, right? Last Sunday night, BJ and I learned the lesson of a lifetime when it comes to warring for our kids….

After church let out, we spent the rest of the day celebrating family birthdays. Despite it being a school night, we let the kids stay up late to enjoy a card game with their Granna and Aunt and Uncle that were visiting from out of town. The game ended around ten o’clock and we began the nighttime routine of getting kids and teeth clean, prepared for school, and prayed over. BJ and I were exceptionally tired and soooooo ready to climb into bed when our 16 year-old son, Josiah, came to us wanting to talk. He had been prayed over by all of our church members earlier that morning and we immediately knew that the prayers and declarations over him had caused some things to begin to break off of him. After a few hours of sharing and counsel, confession and repentance, prayer and “spiritual house cleaning,” BJ stated that he felt that we needed to burn a particular reminder of Josiah’s past. Well, this is nothing out of the ordinary for our family. Any time we sense that something is not of the Lord or that something might be opening doors in our lives spiritually that do not need to be opened, we throw it out in the yard and burn it. So, sometime around 1:30 am, BJ rolled his bar-b-q grill over to the driveway, doused the object with diesel, lit it up, and Josiah spoke strongly to the enemy of God ( Satan). Josiah cried out to the Lord in repentance and prayed for God’s forgiveness. We were absolutely exhausted physically and spiritually, but it was so very worth it to see God delivering our precious son from sin. The fire began to die down after some time and BJ reached for the diesel again. I immediately “nagged” that there was no need to do any more. We had already destroyed the reminder of past sin and we needed to go to bed. (BJ gets up very early for work and I was very concerned about how late it was.) BJ responded, “It’s just DIESEL Julie. It’s fine.” (I had already been worried and uncomfortable about him using a fire accelerant-AS I ALWAYS AM- and he had already assured me many times that it was “JUST DIESEL.”) My face was turned away from the grill but I instantly knew that something had gone very wrong. I could hear a roar and I could feel that the flames and heat were much different than the first time he put the diesel on the fire. I turned my head to see that not only was the grill on fire, but also the stream of fuel pouring out of the can, and also the can in BJ’s hand. Confused, BJ cried out, “That shouldn’t have happened!” and he threw the burning can a short distance away. He then got a water hose and began to run it over the fiery areas on the ground closest to me and Josiah and then headed over to put out the flames on the actual can. The flames obliged, and we all started to breathe again! I immediately went in to “mom mode” and started lecturing Josiah (and BJ, too!) on fire safety. I think it was then that Josiah looked down and realized that there were TWO gas cans. Our normal gas can with gasoline in it had been sitting in its usual spot near the garage door. We were not even aware it was nearby due to it being pitch dark outside. BJ had brought the gas can with diesel in it from his storage building when he started the fire. Apparently, he unknowingly sat it down near the other one. In the darkness he grabbed the wrong can the second time. It finally made sense to him why the fire responded the way it did when he poured the fuel the second time and he told Josiah it was like a literal bomb that should have gone off on all of us. At that point, I still don’t think any of us were aware of how deadly that flaming gas can could have been.  We thanked the Lord, came in and prayed over the girls, and went to bed.

It wasn’t until I googled gas can explosions the next day that I began to realize the miracle God did for us Sunday night. I’m including the following link to a youtube video that shows what I’m talking about. As you watch it, remember that BJ poured gasoline on OPEN flames, threw the can, went and turned on a water hose, put out a few grass fires, and then stood and put out the fire on the flaming gas can.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jS8gueTBags

We have prayed protection over ourselves, our family, friends, and countless others my entire life. And I KNOW that God answers those prayers. However, I have NEVER experienced the reality of God’s palpable hand of protection over us like I did Sunday night. It was as if He literally lowered His hand from the heavens and shielded the three of us. As I see the tragic damage to the man in the video’s body and the immense amount of pain he had to go through when his gas can exploded with NO FLAMES present, I stand in utter amazement that NOT A HAIR was singed on my BJ’s body. (He was convinced that at least his eyebrows were missing but they were all there! )

But it doesn’t end there! I went out to look at the gas can in the daylight the next day. The tip of the pouring spot that had been in flames the night before was stuffed full of earth as if dirt jammed up in it when it hit the ground in flames. The barrier of the earth between the open flames on and surrounding the can and the actual gasoline IN the can is what kept the can from exploding like a bomb next to us and two of our vehicles. The can itself appears to be untouched. No melting. No soot. No nothing. But if you look closely at the clod of dirt in the tip of the spout you will see that the flames did not even engulf the straw -like grass attached to the dirt. Yet, the very tips of the grass have the slightest bit of singe on them. Try and explain that! I SAW the fire THERE with my own eyes! The can was ablaze long before it made contact with earth to plug the spout and even then it lay on the ground in flames before BJ put the fire out. But even the grass in the blaze was singed only at its ends?!?! I cannot even find words to express how acutely aware God is of our circumstances and how intimately He is involved in our lives and how incredible undeniably perfect His timing is in all things! Even when we don’t have a clue what we’re up against, He is working behind the scenes for those that love Him and obey His commands and choose righteousness.

Satan tries to lure each and every one of us down to the fiery pits of hell by making sin enticing. His goal is to steal, kill, and destroy anyone and everyone he can. But we exposed his wicked plan for Josiah Sunday and God called Josiah out of that darkness and into the light. And it infuriated the enemy. There’s no doubt in my mind that he was throwing a big fiery fit on my driveway when he heard God’s wayward child call out to Him in the darkness, turn away from his sin, and choose to be reconciled to God. Satan sent a message to us loud and clear that night. Perhaps he intended to literally destroy our bodies in the flames since he’s not getting our souls. Maybe he simply planned to terrorize us in hopes that we’d give up in fear that the battle against him is too hard and too scary. Either way, the God of the Universe cared enough to show up and speak an even clearer, louder message:

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you. Isaiah 43:2

So what can we learn from all of this? Everything that plays out here on earth in the physical realm is a direct manifestation of what is happening in the unseen spiritual realm. Just as real as the physical destruction awaiting our family Sunday night is spiritual destruction waiting for each and every one of us at every decision before us. Though you may not realize it, a battle is being fought for YOUR soul right now. The Bible makes it very clear which side wins in the end. Which side will you align yourself with? Which side will you help your children align with?

A warning to those of you who have already chosen the winning side and are walking in a relationship with God through acceptance of Jesus Christ as your Savior: the loser can’t take you to hell but he can certainly make life on earth hell for you.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.  Ephesians 6:12

Friends, parents, it is CRUCIAL that we realize that this battle is REAL! The enemy is out to destroy us and he’s out to take our kiddos down, too. Now, more than ever, we MUST press in and spend time in the word of God to strengthen ourselves against the enemy. He is targeting our families! We must spend time in prayer warring for our spouses and our children who are forced to live in a confusing world that calls right wrong and wrong right. We must teach our children the ways of God so that the only fire they’ll ever pass through is God’s refining fire.

A warning to those of you who haven’t chosen a side yet: By being “undecided,” you automatically default to the losing side. Time is so, so short. Don’t put your eternity off. The Bible makes it clear that like a thief in the night a time will come when all of eternity is “set.” The righteous will forever remain righteous and the unrighteous forever unrighteous. No one will be able to switch sides.

If you want to be on the winning side but don’t know how, it’s really not that complicated. It all boils down to this.

Each and every one of us FALL SHORT of God’s holy standard.  Our shortcomings, or sins, separate us from God.  Romans 3:10-12, and 23

As the Scriptures say, “No one is righteous—not even one. No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. All have turned away; all have become useless. No one does good, not a single one.” … For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.

The price (or consequence) of our sin is death.

Romans 6:23

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

Jesus died on the cross to pay the price for our sins and bridge our separation from God.

Romans 5:8

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

We receive salvation and everlasting life through our faith in Jesus.  A literal heart change and a turning away from our sins is the ONLY way to escape what we truly deserve (eternal damnation separated from God)

Romans 10:9-10, 13

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved …  “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Turning from sin and receiving Jesus’ forgiveness brings us into a relationship of peace with God.  When we do this, we not only gain everlasting life with God after our physical death here on earth, but we also gain all of the “right now” earthly benefits He promises to those who are in covenant with Him.  The key is not religion but a RELATIONSHIP with the Creator.  It’s taking one day at a time, SPENDING TIME with the One who is holy, and becoming more pure, ourselves, in that process. 

Romans 5:1

Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.

Romans 8:1

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.

Romans 8:38-39

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

  • Admit that you are a sinner.
  • Understand that as a sinner, you deserve death.
  • Believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross to save you from your sin and from death.
  • Repent by turning from your old life as a slave to sin to a new life submitted to God.
  • Receive, through faith in Jesus Christ, God’s free gift of salvation.
  • Spend time reading the Bible and building a relationship with God.  Find a Bible believing church to get involved with so you can grow as a Christian.

To close, I’d like to share a portion of a letter I wrote to our church family, The Remnant Church. I’m including it to share what “the church” is truly meant to be. It’s not  “THE social place to be” or an obligation we must fulfil. It’s not a place of judgement to look down on others. It’s a group of believers that gather together not only to praise and worship God, learn His ways, and hear a relevant, timely message from Him, but also a place to lift and build each other up. It’s supposed to be a safe place. A place where everyone works together and uses the spiritual gifts God has given them to help those who are struggling. If you don’t have a church home that you can say this about, please know that you are always welcome at Remnant!

Remnant family,

BJ and I would like to express our extreme heartfelt gratitude for the prayers lifted up and agreement you gave for Josiah Sunday morning. We often take our Remnant “family” for granted but Sunday showed us just how invaluable being plugged in to the whole body of Christ truly is. Jim and Gay, thank you for loving our family unconditionally and always making yourself available for wise counsel. Shane, thank you so much for your sensitivity to the holy spirit’s leading. The prayer time that you initiated on Josiah’s behalf was no doubt God’s divine intervention in his life. It was truly life-changing. Mom, thank you for your humility and your deep desire to see Josiah set free. Donna, thank you for being a safe place for Josiah and for earning his trust. Cari, thank you for capturing a special moment in life for me as you know there is nothing I treasure more than being able to look back in time and remember. Remnant, the prayers you prayed that morning probably seemed pretty “normal” (or normal according to Remnant standards!) but know that God moved MIGHTILY at your request. You truly ARE his beloved and HAVE HIS EAR.

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Remnant Church praying over Josiah Sunday morning

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repenting and calling out to the Lord for forgiveness

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so happy to finally give it up to God

(This photo was actually taken before the mixup with the gas cans.

After the fact, we see that the camera’s flash actually captured the two cans side by side.)

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flames not yet put out

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earth lodged in the pouring spout

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only singed on the ends????

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The t-shirt that Josiah happened to be wearing that night proved to be very fitting!

 

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Shades of Grey

February 21, 2015 at 9:15 pm (More than Mediocre) (, , , , , , , )

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I write today’s post knowing full well that many of you that I call friends and family will disagree with me.  And while I generally am not a confrontational person, this message is one that I must speak.  For myself.  For my three girls.  For my son and my husband.  And I must speak it for you, my reader.  May all of our eyes be opened to truth, for they have gone dim and we have lost sight of who and what we were created to be.

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.

This message began to brew in my heart after a recent workplace discussion of the movie Fifty Shades of Grey.  Back when the book was released, I was aware that some thought it to be quite a “scandalous” story, but I never looked into it and hadn’t really thought about it since.  After reading a review of the movie at http://www.pluggedin.com/movies/intheaters/fifty-shades-of-grey.aspx , I knew that I could not remain silent on the matter.  And here we are diving in to this troublesome topic.

And what a troublesome topic it is!  You, my reader, depending on your life experiences and the “filter” that you experience everything through, may grow increasingly uncomfortable as we continue.  I’ve spent a lifetime trying to hide from that discomfort, and have come to find that freedom only comes when we expose the truth, no matter how dark it may be.

Unfortunately, I am no stranger to unhealthy sexual relationships.  My destructive journey began the day a part of me died.  I was a little girl and I did not understand everything that happened to me.  But I did understand how it made me feel.  And I learned not to trust…anyone.  Encounters with pornographic magazines on the toilets of friends’ dads and those I babysat for and another poisonous relationship as a teen added to my recipe for self-destruction.  By the time I truly fell in love, my view of sex and everything related was severely…almost hopelessly…distorted.  Poor BJ!  He had no idea what he had gotten himself into the day he married me!  And we have literally spent the last seventeen years trying to repair the damage done.  Progress is slow.  We take a step forward and then two back.  Sometimes five back.  Sometimes ten.  Re-building a broken person is not easily done-as wounds this deep tear open in an instant.  Flashbacks.  Fears.  Insecurities.  That’s why I’m writing this post today.  I have no expert credentials to flash when it comes to discussing these matters.  I can only speak out from personal experience and warn those of you who think that things of this nature are “harmless” that they are in fact not.  They bring about a slow internal death that no one should ever have to experience.

So what’s the big deal about Fifty Shades of Grey?  It’s just sex, right? 

Sadly, our culture has entirely divorced sex, the physical and emotional union of a man and a woman, from true selfless love and intimacy.  The very same sex that God created for mankind’s pleasure, the very same sex that He created to make the marriage bed holy, has been  “twisted, exploited, and turned into an urgent, illicit, casual, and self-gratifying activity.  Love has turned into lust, giving into getting, and lasting commitment into ‘no strings attached.’”  The deepest expression of love and most powerful bond of commitment, once protected by the covenant of marriage, has been perverted in every way imaginable.  Yet, our culture cries out, “It’s good.  It’s different.  It’s exciting.  We like it.  We want more of it.”

The eye is the lamp of the body.  If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light.

But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness.

If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness.

Friends and family, the light within our culture is darkness.  We have become so overexposed to licentious images and pornography through the media that we have become desensitized to it.  We have ingested so much filth into our lives that we can no longer distinguish right from wrong, good from bad.  Millions of “decent” men and women are hiding out in the comfort of their own homes pouring over written and internet porn and now we are racing to the theater to watch it, unashamed amongst our friends and strangers alike.  Our daughters are growing up believing that their body, a sacred gift that should be reserved solely for the one willing to whole-heartedly commit to them for a lifetime, is their commodity to freely buy, sale, and trade with.  In this lifestyle, they will never know the security of genuine selfless love and commitment from a man.  And when their commodity eventually loses its value, they are left with nothing.  We MUST first realize ourselves (yes, ladies, we have also bought into the lies) and then TEACH OUR DAUGHTERS that a woman’s worth far exceeds any man’s sexual desires.

The media keeps our sons on sexually charged standby at all times.  They are bombarded by increasingly perverse, unrealistic, and dangerous pornographic images and videos every time they pick up an electronic device.  Every. Single. Time.  Because the desires that feed pornography only escalate, if we as parents do not intervene, it will only be a matter of time before we lose our sons to the battle.  We must TEACH OUR SONS self-discipline, the dangers of porn, and how to truly love, value, and respect a woman.

And in our own relationships, we must be careful to understand God’s original intent for sex.

Now here’s the part that most of you aren’t going to like.  A sexual union between anyone outside of a Biblical one man and one woman marriage covenant will NEVER be fulfilling.  Such a union violates God’s perfect plan for our relationships and does not carry His blessing.  Regardless of your age, if you aren’t married, and you’re having sex, stop.  Believe it or not, you do actually have the power to say no.  And you should value and respect yourself enough to not settle for someone who wants the most precious gift you can give, a bond stronger than any other on earth, before committing their life to you.

If you ARE currently in a marriage relationship, take a moment to reflect on your sexual encounters with your spouse.  Sex is a vital part of marriage and God has taken great care to provide insight into its use for our fulfillment.  He’s also given warnings about its misuse.  Like any activity, there are some do’s and don’ts to follow for maximum pleasure and safety.  While I could probably go on for days about the differences between men and women and sexual fulfillment, it all really boils down to one thing:  TRULY FULFILLING SEX is one man and one woman one hundred percent committed to fulfilling EACH OTHER’S needs.  It’s about loving someone so much that you are willing to put their feelings, their insecurities, their happiness, their comfort, their EVERY NEED above those of yourself.  Period.  When both individuals are determined to meet the needs of their partner, everybody’s needs get met!

In First Corinthians 13 Paul gives a beautiful description of what love is and what it is not.  If you truly want to make love to your spouse, try replacing the word love here with the word sex for a little bedroom advice on what loving, fulfilling sex should and should not be.

Sex is patient.  Sex is kind.  Sex does not envy, sex does not boast, sex is not proud.  Sex is not rude, sex is not self-seeking, sex is not easily angered, sex keeps no records of wrongs.  Sex does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  Sex always protects, sex always trusts, sex always hopes, sex always perseveres.

Many of you, like me, are broken people trying to survive in a broken, broken world.  Chances are that you, too, have a severely distorted view of God’s beautiful gift of sex, along with many other things.  If right and wrong are no longer black and white but a shade of gray in your life or if you aren’t experiencing true fulfillment in any area of your life, I urge you to grab a Bible.  If you don’t have one, head over to www.biblegateway.com and search the scriptures.  Like Fifty Shades of Grey, it’s a sure page-turner full of scandal of every sort.  Unlike the controversial book though, it’ll be the best read of your life.  Guaranteed.

 3It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister.  The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before.  For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.               ~1 Thessalonians 4:3-8

 NIV Study Bible Commentary

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Time to get Loud

March 9, 2014 at 8:23 pm (More than Mediocre) (, , , , )

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I have a friend with a need. It’s not a need that can be easily met. In fact, she’s in need of a miracle. And it’s not one of those situations where things in life can suddenly shift into place to work everything out. She needs a downright supernatural, mind-blowing act of God, MIRACLE.

My family prays for her every day. We have for several years now. 

Perhaps you are like us.  Desperate for a miracle for yourself or a loved one.  Still praying.  Still waiting. 

As time passes, and we don’t see what we think is the answer to our prayers, we lose heart. We get discouraged. And sometimes we give up hope. We might keep praying, but we stop expecting the supernatural. And truth be told, we’d probably be shocked if our prayers were actually answered.

This morning as I came across the following scriptures, the Lord spoke to my heart.

46 Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging.

Bartimaeus was just another person in need of a major, supernatural, mind-blowing act of God, MIRACLE. Nobody could help him. His situation was not going to change on its own.

47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Bartimaeus had heard of Jesus of Nazareth and He had heard the reports of all of the lives that Jesus was changing everywhere He went. Bartimaeus knew if there was ANYONE that could change his situation, it was Jesus. So he began to yell out into the crowd, begging for Jesus to have mercy on him.

I can visualize the story as it unfolds. At first, no one notices. Then, those nearby shake their heads and roll their eyes at the hopelessly blind beggar. Eyebrows raise, and people start to snicker at the thought of Jesus taking notice of the desperate man.

48 Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

But that doesn’t stop him. Bartimaeus knows he’s got a shot to capture the attention of the One who can change his life forever. His heart pounds and his body begins to tremble as he calls out louder and louder. He doesn’t care what the others around him think because he knows that Jesus is the only one who can set him free.

49 Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”

A hush falls over the crowd. The people are stunned that the great healer has called for the blind beggar. Their minds are racing, wondering whether He will reprimand the beggar for being a nuisance or if He might have pity on the man. The air is electric with wonder and excitement. What will the great teacher do next?

So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” 50 Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.
51 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.

Now Bartimaeus knows that Jesus knows his need. After all, he’s just waded through a crowd of people bumping into some, others steering him in the right direction. His eyes are dark and empty and it is clear to all that he has no vision.

The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”

I love this part. He doesn’t give his medical history. He doesn’t launch into a 30 minute speech on why he deserves to see or why he doesn’t deserve to be blind. He simply states that he wants his eyes to function the way they were created to.

52 “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

This part fascinates me. Was it Bartimaeus’ initial faith that healed him? Was he healed the first time he cried out to the Lord? Or was it his continued display of faith that brought about Jesus’ miracle?

Had Bartimaeus stopped calling to Jesus when his first cries weren’t answered, he never would have received his sight.
Had he let embarrassment overtake him…
had he listened to or cared what the others around him thought about him desperately crying out to the Lord…
had he doubted that Jesus would act on his behalf…
had he stopped making his pleas because nothing was happening…

he would NOT have received the supernatural, mind-blowing act of God MIRACLE that he needed.

That’s a lot to think about.

If we aren’t in need of a miracle ourselves, most of us know someone who is. I, for one, choose to be like Bartimaeus. There’s no doubt in my mind what my Lord and savior is capable of. And though I’ve been crying out in the crowd for my friend for quite some time now with seemingly no response, I choose not to let anyone or anything discourage me. As I persevere and get louder and louder, I get closer and closer to the One who makes ALL things new.

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Broody Mama

March 12, 2013 at 11:29 pm (More than Mediocre) (, , , , )

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One of the first things that BJ and I did after deciding that I would serve another couple as a gestational carrier was explain the process to our children.  At the time, we were having a blast breeding rare chickens.  Our kids were very familiar with all things chicken-from feeding and care to life stages and even death.  We found that the easiest way to explain our upcoming surrogate adventure to them was to use the analogy of me being a warm and toasty “incubator” for another couple’s baby.  Since we had a professional grade incubator happily humming away right here in the house and the kids had helped me take the fertile eggs from the mother hens, incubate them for a time period, candle them to watch the baby chicks develop, grow, and move inside, and watched them hatch out adorable new babies, this concept was just as normal and natural to them as any other!

As we moved forward in our surrogate journey, we were required to meet with a licensed Psychotherapist.  Our counselor shared how important it would be for our couple’s other children to know who exactly I was, what my role in their family would be, and that sort of stuff.  I knew at that moment that I wanted to write a book for the child or children of the couple that I would be working with.  A few days later, the Lord birthed “Broody Mama” in my heart!  Creating the book was more fun than I could have imagined!  I had the opportunity to work with a professional illustrator and got to tell her exactly what I wanted for each image-color scheme and all!  Below are images of the copy we had printed for Erin and Jesse’s little boy, Michael.  He’s still really too small to understand surrogacy, or even remember me for that matter, but I pray that one day he’ll realize just how special he and his family are to me.

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This was our “Chicken Little.”  She was our best broody mama.  She hatched out several different breeds of chicks for us.

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Here in the right hand corner is “Yoshi Keiko,” a little Japanese bantam that hatched for us and also adopted any babies that were “mother-less.”

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When hens go broody, there is usually no breaking them of it.  Here, three of our Black Copper Marans hens all fought to hatch the eggs.  They ended up breaking most of them!  They were molting at the time, so pardon their nakedness!

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My beautiful rainbow of colored eggs!

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Finishing Strong

March 7, 2013 at 9:37 pm (More than Mediocre) (, , , , , )

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A letter to the little miracle I carried.

Baby Boy (Last name,)

I’m not sure whether or not you’ll ever even get to read this, but I feel compelled to write it in the event that one day you do.  My name is Julie Higgins.  I am the woman that God chose to use to help your parents bring you into this world.  I’m just about as average and ordinary as one gets.  I’m a wife and mother of four precious kiddos.  I love the simple life-raising animals and growing fruits and vegetables and just being outdoors to enjoy the beauty of nature.  I love being with my family and I love to laugh!  I love photographs and videos and the joy of being able to capture precious moments in time.  Most importantly, I love the Lord and I believe that He crossed my path with that of your parents -not by chance, but for a very special reason.  Why would He choose ME?  Why did He give ME the honor of bringing you into this world?  He certainly could have chosen someone else-even your own amazing mother-but He didn’t.  I believe that He specifically chose me because He knew in advance what an incredible plan and purpose He has for your life.  He knew in advance just how special you’d be and He knew that many specific prayers would be necessary to mold you into the amazing man you are going to be one day.  I don’t have much to give you by “worldly” standards, but I DO have the one and only thing that truly matters in life.  I know the Creator personally.  Intimately.  I have an unbreakable covenant relationship with Him.  He’s my Heavenly Father and I’m His daughter.  And that means that this “Daddy’s girl” has His ear.  So precious Baby Boy (Last name,)  know that every single day that the God of the Universe was expertly crafting you inside of my body, He was also answering prayer after prayer for YOU!  He was protecting and blessing and gifting and performing miracles.  He was preparing and equipping you and arranging your future, your destiny, your personal encounters.  Outside of time as you and I know it, He was in your present, but also in your future, AND in your past!  Mind-blowing, isn’t it?!?  As you grow up in this world, you’ll probably encounter all sorts of “empty” religions and individuals claiming to be “the way” to God.  I pray that you’ll never get mixed up in anything that is only religion without a relationship.  Let me assure you, there is only one true and living God.  He’s the one who breathed life into you and He hasn’t left your side since.  He’s holy.  And all of mankind is sinful.  Even in our very best efforts, we “miss the mark” and fall short of that holiness.  (Yes¸even you precious one!)  Our sin creates a barrier-separating us from Him.  Not only does it separate us from Holy God, it comes with a price.  That price is death-eternal separation from the one true and living God.  But God loved you too much Baby Boy (Last name)!  He made a way to redeem you from sin and death.  A way for you to spend all of eternity with Him.  He sent His one and only perfect son, Jesus, to die YOUR death.  Jesus never sinned, so He was the perfect substitutionary sacrifice for all of us.  He took my place on that cross and He took your place on that cross, giving us His place as a righteous child of God.  Because He was sinless, death and the grave couldn’t hold Him.  They had no right to.  So he rose from the dead.  You won’t find a religion or another person on this earth that has ever done or will ever be able to do what He did for you.  The best part is, He did it because of His great love for you.  All you have to do is turn away from your sinful ways, reach out, and accept His gift of salvation.  The only cost is living each day for Him.  It won’t always be easy, but it absolutely will be worth it.

Though my days here on earth with you were numbered from the very beginning, I am convinced that they were sufficient to accomplish God’s purposes in your life.  The greatest gift I could ever give you-even more than physical life-is spiritual life.  Just as your short time living and growing inside my womb prepared you for a much longer life outside my womb, so your life on the earth will be short compared to the eternal life you will live when your days on the earth are complete.  l pray that you will whole-heartedly pursue the God that I know-the one who masterfully created you right before my eyes.  May you come to know him early, as a small boy, and lead everyone you know to Him.  Like it or not little one, you were chosen and set apart for His purposes!  Not by your parents.  Not by me.  But by the God of the Universe.  Know that His greatest enemy has waged war on you from the very beginning-even before you were born-and he’s not going to stop anytime soon.  Don’t worry though-when God is for you, what can possibly come against you…and stand?  Nothing!   God will guide you and lead you into truth if you will give your life to Him.  Seek Him out with everything that you are.  Talk to Him.  Read the Bible.  You will never encounter anything in life that His word can’t help you through.  Trust Him-cling to Him with everything that you are and you’ll go places you never dreamed you could go.  He will never let you down.  I promise!

I pray blessings and favor over you for the rest of your days.  You will ALWAYS be in my heart and in my prayers.

All my love,

Julie

When you’re visibly pregnant, people inevitably ask about the baby.  “How far along are you?”  “Do you know what you’re having?”  “Is this your first baby?”  When they find out that you are carrying for someone else, surprise always flashes through their eyes followed by a flicker of deep concern.  And it never fails that their next question is “HOW are you going to give that baby up after carrying it and feeling it grow inside of you for nine months?”  As many of you already know, our response has always been that the baby is not ours to keep.  He is 100% the creation of God, his mother, and his father.  He’s a little package in need of delivery and I am simply the delivery person given the job of getting him to his destination safely and on time! 

I’ve spent this past year preparing my body to take on this task and the last nine months preparing my mind for the sacred moment in time in which the baby’s parents’ dream would become a reality.  My family and I have prayed for this child from the day that he was “thawed out” from a microscopic 5-day-old blastocyst embryo, to the day he entered the world as a 7 lb. 0 oz. perfectly formed masterpiece of a baby boy!  Throughout our surrogate journey, our hearts have always been more than content to remain a family of six.  Because I promised to be as transparent as possible throughout this process, I will share that in the last few weeks on various occasions my head and heart have felt one thing while my emotions expressed another.  And though I absolutely had no desire whatsoever to have another baby, to raise another child, to expand our family in any way, I did begin to worry that I might be sad that my relationship with Erin and Jesse would end upon the delivery of their child.  I worried that my emotions might not submit to my heart and mind and that if I cried at the delivery Erin and Jesse might think I wanted their baby or that I was sad that I couldn’t keep him for myself.  I worried that if they whisked the baby out of the room immediately after he was born, and I didn’t get to see those first moments-their first glimpse of him-that everything I had worked so hard for would not feel like it was worth it.  But God in His goodness gave me those few sacred moments.  I was able to see Erin and Jesse’s delight and awe as they gazed at baby Matthew for the very first time.  I got to see the joy in their faces and it was exactly how I imagined it would be.  It made the entire process, and every complication along the way, worth it!  I was in complete control of my emotions and I felt satisfied. 

As incredible as it is to feel a child move inside of you-as amazing as it is to feel him hiccup and dance to music and joyfully react to chocolate cake and other sweets you share with him, I can honestly say that handing him over to his parents was the easiest and most natural thing to do.  It was an honor and a joy to be used in such an unusual way to bless someone.  Erin and Jesse brought the baby in this afternoon so that our kids would be able to see him with his parents and get some closure from the situation.  They thanked our children for letting them “borrow” their mom.  BJ and I were able to see baby Matthew and even hold him, which we were not expecting to be able to do.  As amazing and beautiful as he truly is, holding him did not stir any desires in either of us.  It was no different from holding a friend or family member’s precious child.  Maybe that’s normal.  Maybe it isn’t and was just God’s protection over our hearts.  Whatever the case, my heart is fulfilled.  I’ve completed my job.  I delivered my little package in perfect condition and even a little early!  I finished strong.  And I can’t wait to get home and re-focus my attention back to my own four precious miracles!

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My mother was able to capture a couple of amazing pictures of Erin and Jesse seeing Matthew for the first time but out of respect for their privacy, I do not want to post them publicly.  Should they give permission, I will add them later.

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Six a.m. Surprise!

March 7, 2013 at 6:44 pm (More than Mediocre) (, , , , , )

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I can’t believe I’m actually writing this blog post of my surrogate journey!  It’s hard to imagine that our adventure with Erin and Jesse began LAST March.  On one hand, it seems like we have been waiting for this day FOREVER and on the other, it feels as if time has literally flown by!  Tomorrow would have been 39 weeks for me, the day my doctor was going to induce the baby.  While an induction was really more convenient for everyone, I couldn’t help but secretly wish for a spontaneous delivery so that BJ and I would get to make that long-awaited phone call to Erin and Jesse saying, “It’s time!”  Yesterday, Baby Matthew granted that wish, and decided that he would surprise us all!  The morning was quite chaotic trying to get the kids up, dressed, and dropped off at mom’s, knowing that my deliveries are very, very short and our time to make it to the hospital would be very limited.  Within minutes of waking up, my contractions started coming regularly and were only six minutes apart.  Needless to say, we weren’t going to waste any time getting to the hospital!  After arguing a little over our speed, BJ began to pray that the Lord would open up the traffic like He parted the Red Sea.  All of a sudden, we saw a motorcycle cop up ahead.  The other cars cleared out away from him and we couldn’t help but to think that he might just be a nice little escort to help us make it to the hospital faster.  But, out of nowhere, a state trooper pulled out after us.  He approached the vehicle on my side.  We explained that I was IN LABOR, that I have speedy deliveries, that we were driving safely but quickly or we would be delivering the baby on the side of the road.  He took BJ’s license and CHL and looked at them, noted that our flashers were on, and handed them back.  He fussed at us.  (Quite rudely I might add!)  Asked for the licenses again.  Asked if I  was actually having contractions and if I needed an ambulance.  Wrote down our info.  Fussed some more, told us that he wouldn’t keep us any longer but that we would be receiving a citation in the mail, and let us go.  We didn’t care about the ticket.  We were just relieved to be moving again!  Shortly after, we hit bumper to bumper traffic!  Everything was at a complete standstill!  Cars were to my left, right, behind me, and ahead of me as far as I could see.  BJ had become quite frustrated and I was just trying as hard as I could not to panic and to breathe.  It never once occurred to me that we might hit traffic and not get to the hospital in time for an epidural!  I began to imagine how terrible it would be for BJ to have to deliver the baby himself in the car and couldn’t help but to laugh!  As the minutes passed, BJ inched us out of the lines of cars and we finally got off onto a feeder road and turned onto a smaller road with still more traffic!  He debated whether or not to just drive down the center lane.  I begged him not to.  And then to.  And then not to.  He decided to risk it and we drove until the center lane ran out.  After another close call with a cop, we finally got to an area where the cars were moving again and we made it to the hospital.  My nurse was absolutely amazing and wasted no time getting me an IV and an epidural because I was already between 6 and 7 cm dilated.  Erin and Jesse and my mother all arrived, and everything fell into place after that.  My main concerns about having another couple in the delivery room with us were my modesty and that I would not be in pain.  Our sweet nurse went to great lengths to make sure that I didn’t feel a bit of pain and that nobody could see anything inappropriate.  Both were answers to many, many prayers I’ve prayed over the past nine months!  I know without a doubt that God hand chose her to be my nurse so that I could relax and enjoy the whole experience.  The day progressed with a little more drama than we expected, with both the baby’s and my heart rate dropping here and there, a little oxygen for me after “fading away,”  a saline infusion to put more water around him to prevent distress, and a mild temperature for us both, but he finally made his glorious entrance into this world- safe and sound- after 4 “pushes” and my longest delivery ever!  After my doctor and most of the nurses left and the chaos subsided, I rested in tingly epidural bliss.  My mom looked up and noticed that a rainbow was running across my pillow.  What an incredible reminder of God, my covenant partner who never leaves my side and is always faithful to answer my prayers no matter how trivial they might be.  He didn’t overlook one detail that was important to me, but provided exactly what I needed in each moment, and He gave me the strength I needed to accomplish His purpose for my life in this very unique situation.  For that I am truly grateful!  Today, as I continue to recover, with much less pain than I remember having with my own deliveries, I can’t help but to praise Him for being so good and for truly making this delivery an incredible experience that I’ll never forget!

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Dropping the kiddos off at mom’s to head to the hospital

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A little oxygen to help out

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Rainbow on my pillow-a beautiful reminder of my Covenant-keeping God who is always faithful to the end!

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Better Late Than Never…

February 1, 2013 at 12:40 am (More than Mediocre) (, , , , , )

Thought I’d start this blog post out with a little fun!  This image is from the maternity section of an online t-shirt company and for some reason it strikes me as funny.  I never minded all of the belly-touching that went on when I was pregnant with my own kiddos, but this time around…this shirt expresses my feelings perfectly!  Better watch out!  Ha! Ha!

bitey shirt

 I’ve loved this one from the beginning…

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Another fun one!

butt shirtThought this was a clever one…

the_vatican_is_against_surrogate_mothers_good_tshirt-r764f901819f9471086785842fd2f3d1b_f0czj_525

It’s true…I WASN’T using it…  🙂

shirt

And last, one that makes me feel just a little better about all of the weight gain…

human excuse shirtYIKES!   My last blog post was over four months ago!  So many things have changed since I last wrote that I can’t even remember them all.  When I was finally released from bed rest, I started living again and haven’t stopped since!  My days literally fly by and often I feel as if they are over before they even begin.  So, writing hasn’t exactly been priority…

To quickly update those of you who have been following my journey, the bleed in my uterus slowly but surely healed.  A small portion of it still remains now, but nothing big enough to worry the doctor.  About the same time we received the good news that I could go back to “normal” life outside of laying in bed all day, the radiologists discovered that the baby’s kidneys were holding a little more fluid than normal and they began to keep a watch on that.  Which basically just meant…more God-given opportunities for us to watch this incredible little masterpiece in the making.  (If I’m not forgetting any, we’ve had a total of TEN ultrasounds throughout this pregnancy!)  Last week, a radiologist came in to share great news that the kidneys are now registering “normal” amounts of fluid.  At 33 weeks, we are now officially for the first time in this pregnancy…“in the clear!”  All is well and hopefully there will be no more “surprises” before this little one makes a grand entrance into the world.  WOW!  What a fight there has been for this little life!

If you haven’t seen me lately, just imagine the Pillsbury dough boy in a too tight shirt, too tight jeans, and very loosely tied Converse tennis shoes.  That pretty much sums it up.  Depending on how you look at it, I’ve gained 30 pounds  (from weight at embryo transplant to 34 weeks pregnant) or 38 pounds if you include the 8 pounds I lost early-on when I was so, so sick from the medications necessary to sustain the pregnancy.  Of course, the excessive weight gain wasn’t part of MY “plan” going into this.  (I had planned to continue my daily exercises throughout the pregnancy in its entirety, only gain the weight of the placenta and the baby, and look fantastic!  Ha! Ha!)  When my doctor finally released me to exercise a few weeks ago, it was only a couple of days before one of my legs began to swell pretty badly and I began to have contractions and had to go in for a cervix check.  So that quickly ended that!  I try to sneak in a gentle workout now and then-as it is about the only thing that makes me feel “normal” right now, but my main goal at this point is just to hand over a healthy baby.  After that, I’ll l hit the gym full force again.

I had hoped to blog about the baby’s gender awhile back, but never had the chance.  We’ve actually known since BEFORE we officially agreed to carry this little one that he was going to be a boy.  Because his parents had so many failed attempts at IVF, their case qualified for genetic testing that most do not.  In the course of that testing, it was determined that their four strongest embryos were all male.  The strongest embryos obviously have the best chance of surviving the transfer, so Erin and Jesse opted to use two of their highest rated “little boys” for our transfer.  Because BJ and I have always chosen not to know the gender of our own children in advance, it has been different and also quite enjoyable to know the sex of the baby from the very beginning.  Incredibly, the ultrasound tech correctly “guessed” the sex of the baby at only 12-13 weeks and they confirmed it for sure by 15 weeks.  Technology never ceases to amaze me!  Unfortunately, the baby’s parents for whatever reasons of their own have chosen not to reveal his name until the birth.  Going into this process, I had expected to be able to and was looking very forward to praying for the child that I carried for someone else by name-something we could never do with our own, not knowing their gender.  So that has been a little disappointing on this end, but I still pray for him every single day and have recorded those prayers so that one day he will be able to read them himself and see the works that God has done in his life.  I know that the Lord knows who he is and will hear and answer each and every prayer lifted on his behalf.

Tomorrow I will be 34 weeks.  The baby is right at 5 pounds now and I feel MASSIVE!  Apparently I forgot how big a pregnant woman gets in the final weeks!  I feel great, but I do wear out quickly now (I have a hard time staying awake if I get still for even a few minutes!)  and my breath is short most of the time regardless of what I’m doing.  (which BJ finds quite amusing!)  Socks cut off the circulation in my ankles and just bending my leg will make it go numb!  In fact, I don’t even have to bend it anymore.  It just goes numb on its own!  The couch has become my new bed-as it is the most comfortable way for me to sleep these days.  At my appointment last week, my doctor commented that unless he comes early, this little guy will not be small like my own children were.  I won’t lie.  I’m pretty anxious about this.  Since I’ve had two spontaneous deliveries and two induced ones, I know that there is a HUGE difference in the amount of pain I can expect.  Forced contractions are much more severe than naturally onset ones.  So, I’d LOVE for my water to break spontaneously!  I’d love to call Erin up randomly and tell her to grab her bag and meet me at the hospital.  On the other hand, I also know that my body had trouble delivering both of my babies that were over 7 lbs.  So, an early induction is looking more and more appealing as the weeks pass!  And of course, it would be much more convenient to plan for, since so many people are involved this time around.

If I happen to come across your mind in the next few weeks, please say a prayer for God’s perfect timing on this birth,  that everything from this point on will go as smoothly as possible for both my family and Erin and Jesse’s, and that my body will suffer as little permanent damage as possible from the delivery.  And if you would, please throw in an extra special little request that I’d get my epidural in plenty of time for it to take effect.  My doc once told me that she wanted me to “feel” some hard contractions before I could have my epidural.  I’m thinking that since I won’t be bringing home anything but 30-40 extra pounds and a new set of stretch marks, I should have to “feel” AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE!   Perhaps I should make myself a special  “Say Yes to Drugs” shirt to wear to the hospital on delivery day to get my point across.  What do y’all think?

Much love to all who have been following our journey and lifting us and this precious baby boy up in prayer!  Next time, I hope to discuss some of the emotional battles of serving as a surrogate.

~Julie

 

Check out the pictures and videos below from the past few months of our surrogate journey.

9-26-2012

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Click the link below to view our 10-24-2012 ultrasound.  The baby was so uncooperative that they surprised us and did a 3D/4D ultrasound to try and get a better view!

http://s636.beta.photobucket.com/user/treasures_by_jewel/media/089.mp4.html

Glory and Grace praying over the baby.

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Click the link below to hear Glory singing to the baby.  This is a song we used to sing to her and our other children when they were little.  It’s still one of her favorites!

http://s636.beta.photobucket.com/user/treasures_by_jewel/media/005-4.mp4.html

Thanksgiving Day 2012

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Christmas Day 2012

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Too big for comfort!  1-11-2013

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Click the link below to view our final (we think!) ultrasound at 33 weeks.

http://s636.beta.photobucket.com/user/treasures_by_jewel/media/003-5.mp4.html

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