4 Gifts I Gained After My Miscarriage

gifts-after-miscarriage

One year ago, I went to the hospital and lost a baby.

It wasn’t the first baby I had lost. It was the second one that never made it past the first trimester. And because I had already carried two healthy babies to full-term, I figured that God would give me some kind of get-out-of-jail-free card — a pass on suffering during the rest of my pregnancies.

I was so confident that I would be fine in this pregnancy, I barely blinked an eye when the nurse told me I was anemic and needed to get on iron supplements. I called in the prescription and decided to pick up the pills after my vacation to Seattle. I was only going to be gone for 9 days. I would eat iron-rich foods and get on iron pills when I got back.

I was more worried about flying and getting sick on the flight than my hemoglobin levels, but I discussed it with my doctor, and I felt great on the flight and during the trip. No morning sickness. No nausea. I felt more tired than I had ever felt in my life, but I figured that pregnant women with two small children should feel tired.

And then a week after I got home, I found myself on a hospital bed looking at a stomach that I knew it was way too flat to house any life. I knew my pregnancy was over.

What I didn’t know is that I wouldn’t bounce back. I wouldn’t get up a few days later and resume my life. I would have to climb out of a hell-hole of suffering.

I remember feeling so betrayed by God when it happened. How could He let it happen to me two times? Wasn’t one baby loss enough? And to add insult to injury, this second miscarriage confined me to a bed for weeks and weeks.

But it was out of that place of sadness and solitude in my bedroom that I began to write. And though I wanted to birth my Addison Grace at 40 weeks, God birthed in me instead a greater compassion and empathy for others and a call to minister to other women. I share this journey with you here on my blog with every post I write — and it is from that place of remembering and reflection that I write a guest post for Forget-Me-Not, Oh Lord! this week. I talk about how my view of what happened is different now than it was then. I talk about how I have been finding “beauty for ashes” in a life event I would not describe with any words less than “horrific” and “shocking.” I would love for you to click the link and join me there.

I hope you will find encouragement from the post if you are in the middle of something hard. Dorothy Valcárcel, author of the devotional “Transformation Garden: Where Every Woman Blooms,” includes some lovely lines in her most recent July 23 and July 24 devotions:

“There are some lives that seem to be utterly destroyed by some great and sore trial, but beyond the sorrow they move on again in calmer, fuller strength, not destroyed, not a particle of their real life wasted… Their character shines out in richer luster and rarer splendor than ever in the days when their hearts were fullest of joy and gladness.” — J.R. Miller

“(Jesus) has been where we are, and He walks with us and weeps with us. And with your tears He can water the seeds of character planted by pain.” — Stephen Arterburn and Jack Felton

“God has a bottle and a book for His (children’s) tears. What was sown as a tear will come up as a pearl.” — Matthew Henry

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to write music lyrics (that no one has ever seen) and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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What Does God Expect of Me?

What Does God Expect of Me

Earlier this week, a big Amazon package was sitting on my kitchen table when I got home. I knew exactly what it was. It was a brand new food processor I had just ordered a few days before. My plan was to start making all my own baby food, since my son was almost eight months old, and I was behind in giving him “other foods” (aka anything other than formula).

I decided that making homemade baby food would be a good idea in order to save money, and that I would be an accomplished, above-average mom. As I went to a kitchen drawer for scissors to open the package, I felt like I was supposed to be excited about it, but I wasn’t. I knew I wouldn’t be able to successfully do this. I knew I didn’t have all the time, energy, and drive in me in order to make this homemade baby food thing happen. I was defeated before I had even begun. I felt like a failure.

As I sat down for my quiet time this morning, my heart was heavy. My many perceived failures were piling up on me. I had a picture in my mind of the kind of woman, wife, and mom I was supposed to be.

I was supposed to have a perfectly clean house, a schedule of all of our meals for the next month, and all of our doctors’ appointments lined up for the year. I was supposed to be teacher-of-the-year at my school, go to the gym three times a week, and be up-to-date on all the latest fashions. I was supposed to volunteer in the community, serve in many facets at my church, and even be a leader of a handful of ministries. I was supposed to be an incredibly responsible, respectable, and put-together adult. I was supposed to have an organized purse and be able to create made-from-scratch baby foods.

The list was long and my strength was weak. Why couldn’t I be and do all of those things? Why didn’t God put the ability to accomplish these tasks more readily inside of me? I mean, a woman able to do it all is what would please Him and mean success, right?

With all of my weaknesses glaring, I cried out to God and realized something. I have been pressuring myself to be someone that I may NEVER be. And that is OK. Even better than that, it’s very possible that I have been wasting time and energy trying to be someone that I was NEVER SUPPOSED to be.

You see, as I got caught up in such a long list of to do’s, it was almost as if I was focused on being more like Martha instead of more like Mary. Let’s take a look at the passage to remind ourselves of these two sisters.

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.’ ” (Luke 10:38-42 –ESV)

Martha was focused on many things. She was distracted by them and trying to do, do, do for Jesus. Maybe, in a way, she was trying to be good enough for him. This is the trap that I have found myself in. I long to be a daughter that God is pleased with, and while that is a great thing, I had created all these things in my mind that He must expect from me. Things I thought I must do in order to be worthy of his presence. Like Martha, I was focusing on my to-do list rather than simply enjoying the company of the One in my heart.

Like Martha

There are a couple problems with this works-based mentality. The first is that my works will never make me good enough for him. Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV) says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

The second problem with me trying to do more for Jesus is that it takes me away from the real truth and beauty of Christianity — to be in a close and personal relationship with God because of what Christ did for me, not what I do for Him. To simply be in awe of who He is and to rest in and enjoy His presence, hear His teaching, and get to know Him more. And the funny thing is, time spent with Him is where I get the strength to do the things that He has called me to.

The world teaches us to accomplish as much as we possibly can and to earn our worth and acceptance. To be more like Martha. To work hard, and then we might be “good enough.” But that’s not what Jesus tells us to do. Jesus says for us to pause from our busyness and learn from Him. To believe that “in repentance and rest is our salvation” (Isaiah 30:15).

Yes, God has planned things for me to do, and I certainly want to do them. I want to glorify Him with my life, and I don’t want to miss what He has for me. But my hope is that I don’t get caught up in works. That I would not “be anxious and troubled about many things.” That I would be more like Mary and sit at the feet of Jesus.

Because resting in His presence will then allow me to clearly see the difference between the works He has called me to and the ones He hasn’t.

What about you? Have you become so caught up in trying to please others or meet your own impossible expectations that you haven’t been able to listen to Jesus lately? What is one way you can make time for Him today?

Rachel Howard

Rachel Howard

With a degree in music education, Rachel Howard is a middle grades chorus instructor who has a passion for teaching students about her love for music. In addition to inspiring adolescents in the public school system, Rachel is currently taking piano lessons and also enjoys photography, scrapbooking and Francine Rivers novels. A small-group leader at her church, Rachel also leads worship on occasion. In addition to these roles, Rachel is a wife and mom to two kids, Isaac and Evelyn. Rachel currently resides in Georgia with her husband and kids.

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4 Reasons Why You Should Forgive Yourself

forgive yourself

I watched a “Dateline” episode recently where a woman had previously had an affair with the man convicted of killing his own wife. The wife was the woman’s friend. Though she had been cleared of any involvement in the crime, she still felt immense guilt for her involvement with her friend’s husband.

She had this to say: “I will never forgive myself for what I’ve done.”

At one time I would have thought her statement noble. Why should a person forgive herself for getting involved with a friend’s spouse? Like the woman in the “Dateline” episode, I, too, used to hold the belief that I should punish myself for wrongdoing when I didn’t measure up to my own standards. I didn’t think there was anything wrong with being angry at myself. I thought Jesus would want me to be mad at myself when I did something wrong.

But that is actually not what Jesus wants from me or the woman in the “Dateline” episode. Although Scripture talks about a godly sorrow that can lead to repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10) — this is not a continual unhealthy beating up of oneself over wrongdoing.

It wasn’t until a few years ago that I even realized I had a problem with unforgiveness of self. I was sitting in a counselor’s office, and she had me write a list of everyone I was angry at that I needed to forgive.

It turns out, I was on my own list. And I was surprised to discover that Jesus wants me to forgive myself. He advocates that I do — and for several important reasons:

1. Because not forgiving yourself rejects Jesus’ work on the cross.

A verse that has become my favorite is Romans 8:1: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Even though Jesus is clear that we shouldn’t live in sin, and we need to resist sin and temptation, Jesus never expected us to punish ourselves for our sin. He is very clear in Romans that we are under no condemnation for our deeds.

Earlier, in Romans 7, Paul explains that grace doesn’t give us free license to sin — however, when we do fall short and make mistakes, God tells us in His Word that we don’t have to condemn ourselves.

Condemning ourselves rejects Jesus’ work on the cross. He became a sacrifice for our sins. We can brush ourselves off when we fall, ask Jesus to forgive us (and ask forgiveness from others if we need to) and keep going. To continually think about what wrong we’ve done or the mistakes we’ve made and beat ourselves up for them isn’t biblical.

2. Unforgiveness of self leads to relationship problems.

Not being in right relationship with ourselves affects our relationships with others. Unfortunately, when we choose not to forgive ourselves and carry around this idea that we are “too bad” to forgive, we are not able to embrace or like ourselves. We see ourselves only through the filter of what we’ve done. This affects not only our relationship with self but our relationships with others as well.

Someone who can’t let go of a past wrong may feel inferior to others and feel “too bad” to be liked by another person. Satan can get his way in and convince us we are so unworthy of relationships that we become isolated — all because we won’t accept what Jesus has done for us. Sadly, not only may we begin to feel not good enough for others, we may convince ourselves that God doesn’t want us either.

However, the idea that we’re not good enough to be loved is a lie that Satan spins to get us out of relationship with others and out of a relationship with God. God is clear that He loves us in spite of what we do! He wants us no matter what we’ve done.

 3. Unforgiveness of self can cause health problems.

In a book I reference often in my posts, A More Excellent Way, Henry W. Wright details three ways that we can open the door to what he calls “spiritually rooted disease” — disease that has a root in a relationship breach with God, ourselves or others. Not forgiving ourselves can lead to feelings of shame, self-hatred and low self-worth. Even if we have made a really bad choice and there are earthly consequences for that choice, God wants us to repent and forgive ourselves.

According to Wright, continual negative emotions towards ourselves — rehearsing words of guilt or unforgiveness or shame — can lead to health problems such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and other autoimmune diseases.

Also, not forgiving one’s self can lead to mental torment — emotional instability, depression, anxiety, and negative thinking. As I was preparing to do this article, I felt that this term “mental torment” kept coming to mind as something I needed to include. The Bible is clear that anger that is not dealt with can give the devil a foothold (Ephesians 4:26, 27), and we will be handed over to tormenting spirits if we choose not to forgive (Matthew 18:23-35).

One reason we may not want to forgive ourselves is because we are so angry at ourselves for what we have done. We may not even have sinned. We may have made a careless mistake that caused great damage, and we can’t get over what happened.

I remember after a significant breakup with another person the feelings of anger I held not only towards the other person but towards myself. I felt like what happened was my fault. I kept replaying scenarios in my mind of what I could have done differently to keep the relationship. I spiraled into a dark depression that lasted for several years — and only when I let go of my unresolved anger and forgave the person and myself did I begin to feel free from the dark thoughts that had tormented me about that situation.

4. Because the Bible says to do it.

One of the reasons I haven’t really known about self-forgiveness until recently is because I didn’t know that this mandate was in the Bible. I had read all of the verses about forgiving others, but I didn’t realize that this instruction about forgiving others also extended to one’s self. Recently, I read an article on a deliverance ministry site I have frequented before, and the author pointed out that the “one another” referred to in Colossians 3:13 in the Greek also can be a reference back to one’s self. The verse is as follows:

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

I had skipped over this because I generally don’t make it a habit to study the Greek translation of words — however, “allélón” (the “one another” used in the verse) is a reciprocal pronoun that refers not only to others but yourself.

God knew that we would make mistakes and mess up. Romans 3:23 reminds us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Often, unforgiveness of self makes us feel like we’re the only ones with a problem or broken behavior. The truth is all have fallen short. Because we can’t achieve perfection, God made a plan for us, so that we can be made a new creation, by accepting Jesus’ free gift of salvation.

We shouldn’t abuse that gift by doing whatever we want, excusing bad behavior with, “It’s OK, Jesus will forgive me.” But when we fall into sin, we can call out to Jesus and ask for forgiveness. We were not meant to carry the burden of our guilt or shame. We can give it over to Jesus, knowing that He doesn’t expect us to self-punish or hold unforgiveness against ourselves.

He wants us to confess our sin, accept His forgiveness, forgive ourselves — and move on.

Suggested prayer for self-unforgiveness: Jesus, forgive me for the sin of unforgiveness. I forgive myself for ______________________. Help me to see myself as you see me and not hold my mistakes against myself any longer. Help me to walk freely in the freedom that I am under no condemnation for my sins because of your work on the cross. Amen.

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to write music lyrics (that no one has ever seen) and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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How Forward Motion Faith Overcomes Obstacles

forward-motion-faith
Have you ever felt that there was a wall blocking your progress?

Yep. I have felt the same way many times the last few years as I have felt walls of every kind impeding my path.

If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you know that I left my job four years ago. I exited the education field because I felt God wanted me to go a new direction into ministry; however, rather than find open doors, I’ve experienced nothing but closed doors. I have felt many times that maybe I didn’t hear God right — that I’ve been on a wild good chase with no end in sight. I’ve had successes here and there, but overall, I have doubted many times that I even heard God tell me I was going to be used in music and women’s ministry.

I’ve felt like the Israelites in the story of Exodus when they leave Egypt, but Pharoah, changing his mind on letting them go, comes chasing after them. The Israelites find themselves in a really tight spot — the Red Sea in front of them and Pharaoh’s army behind them.

Although my obstacles haven’t been Egyptian soldiers wielding weapons and an actual expanse of water in front of me, my obstacles have been the scorn of others who don’t believe me or accept my journey, the doubt of family members who have actively pulled down my dream of singing, and my own unbelief as I have struggled not to allow my own doubt to completely suffocate the small flicker of a dream I have struggled to keep alive. I’ve had doors open in women’s ministry and music — the two areas I have felt called to serve in, but God has told me distinctly not to walk through those doors.

The things I have felt Him tell me to do instead have not yielded (in my estimation) any results, and I have been confused. Just like the Israelites, when I have traveled in the way I believe God has directed me, I have felt surprised to find what has looked like a dead end.

Recently I stumbled into church feeling weighed down by my circumstances, discouraged. Our senior pastor was the speaker that Sunday, and I guessed there was a change of plans in the service when I saw him motion to the campus pastor, whisper in his ear, and then scrawl some notes on a piece of paper in his Bible.

Getting up, he announced that the Holy Spirit had directed him to go a different direction with the service. He instructed the church to open to a passage in Exodus, and, you guessed it — he began to talk about when the Israelites were facing the Red Sea. He then turned to the congregation and said, “God is going to deliver some of you out of the hands of your enemies.”

Of course, after that sermon, I was actively looking for a deliverance of some kind. My next step in my journey. I did get an answer, but it was not in a way that I was expecting.

The Holy Spirit Quickened Me to Act

Some time ago, I started a project to contact many of my former high school classes. After I left teaching and began the path into ministry, I felt God prick my conscience concerning ways I had acted while teaching that weren’t the best. I felt He wanted me to go back to students in my teaching community and tell them the changes He was doing in me. Did I want to do this? Was this a project that made me comfortable? Heck, no! But I felt very strongly that He was leading me in this direction, so I took steps to do this.

I worked on contacting classes on and off for a whole year; except recently, I had been praying God would help me to finish the project or tell me if He wanted me to stop. I didn’t know if I was to continue on with all of my classes (a logistical nightmare) or cease from my efforts at the point I was at.

That was the question I was pondering when I walked into the church service that day and my senior pastor said he felt that some people were at Red Sea points in their lives. I didn’t know why God would lead me into a strait by telling me to refuse promising opportunities without opening up new ones and allow me to be so misunderstood by those around me. I still don’t. But I did know that there was only one who could deliver me from my circumstances. If He brought me in, He could bring me out.

During the course of the particular service I mentioned, I felt that I was to email a former administrator and tell him about the project and ask for help in contacting the rest of my classes. Because I wasn’t entirely sure whether or not this was the right step for me, I prayed and asked God very specifically, “God, do you really want me to contact him?”

That same day, I was driving to a lacrosse game and heard a woman’s story concerning faith on the local radio station. The woman asked these words: Why put off until tomorrow what you can do today?

And I knew God was telling me to send the email. So, I went home and stayed up typing the letter and sent it off.

Obedient Action Unlocks Blessing

Not too long after my desperate day at church and the contact with my former school, my husband texted me with some startling news — he had received a job offer from a school in a neighboring county. He had interviewed for the job, but when the position went to different candidate, we figured that God had sealed off the opportunity. However, not long after that, he received a different offer for another position at the same school. A position he had not applied for.

For whatever reason, something quickened in my spirit when he told me about the opportunity. We discussed the possibility all weekend. We even went down for prayer to make sure it was what God wanted for us — and we both left the altar with the distinct impression that God told him to take the job even though it would mean we would have to move.

However, I have to be honest with you. Just like the answer I felt I got from God in needing to contact my former school, the answer in my husband’s job change wasn’t what I wanted or even what I was looking for. These answers had nothing to do with music or my ministry. I wanted something to happen right where I was, but God seemed to have a different plan.

Though I don’t know for sure if my email and my husband’s job opening were somehow connected, one precipitated the other, I can’t help but think that the urgency I felt to write that email, to get moving on an assignment I would have liked to have put off for another day helped to usher in the start of the parting of the waters for me. What I do know is that obedience brings blessing.

I read once in an excerpt in Streams in the Desert about how our forward motion unlocks the “gates” we are to enter. The writer of the passage, Henry Clay Trumbull, used an example of country gates to illustrate this idea, saying:

Years ago automatic gates were sometimes used on country roads. They would securely block the road as a vehicle approached, and if the traveler stopped before coming to the gate, it would not open. But if the traveler drove straight toward it, the weight of the vehicle would compress the springs below the roadway, and the gate would swing back to let him pass. The vehicle had to keep moving forward, or the gate would remain closed. This illustrates the way to pass through every barrier that blocks the road of service for God. Whether the barrier is a river, a mountain, or a gate, all a child of Jesus must do is head directly toward it.

The Importance of Forward Motion

When you are up against a Red Sea in your life and you can’t figure out why God has brought you to that place, your forward motion may begin to move God’s hand to stir up the waves. However, the motion must be God-instructed motion for it to be forward motion. When the Israelites are up against the Red Sea and have nowhere to go, they are still and wait on God at Moses’ command. They don’t rush off and try to make up a plan that isn’t God’s. They quiet themselves to hear God’s instruction. And it comes when God says to Moses, “ ‘Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground’ ”(Exodus 14:15,16).

God’s words signal them to go. Their signal that God — not Moses, although he was the one who raised His staff — has made a way for them. God sends winds to part the waves when Moses lifts his staff up. Commentator David Guzik observes about this passage:

These were simple instructions connected to a mighty miracle. In the same manner, the greatest miracle of salvation happens with simple actions on our part. As the rod of Moses did not actually perform the miracle, so we do not save ourselves with what we do, but we connect with God’s saving miracle.

Your obedience is all God asks for — it is He who will ultimately move the waters. But your obedience plays a part. Like the country gates that only spring open when triggered by a moving vehicle, our acts of faith move God to act. Notice, Moses is instructed to raise his staff, and God does the rest. Moses doesn’t have to worry about fighting off the whole army or making a bridge to span the waterway — God fights his enemies and takes care of all the hard stuff after Moses obeys.

obedience-brings-blessing

I still don’t know how my story in ministry turns out. At this point, unless God inspires me to do more with my school project, I feel God has answered the question I had of Him some time ago about whether or not He wanted me to continue with it. My former administration was not willing to help me in finishing my task of contacting my former classes, but I felt before I sent the email that God told me I was to do it so that I could be finished. I went to the lengths I could to complete what I could.

We are working on fixing up our house to put on the market and move out where my husband Keith’s new job is. Our move is another step in the direction of fulfilling the destiny God has promised me.

In response to these small acts of faith, I feel that God is pushing back the waters on my behalf and making a path where none existed before.

What about you? Are you up against a Red Sea in your life? Ask God if there is a step of faith you can take to move forward through your circumstance. Leave a comment here. I would love to pray for you!

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to write music lyrics (that no one has ever seen) and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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