Our Big Change

My family has a big change taking place in 2017.

In order to make this as undramatic as possible, I’ll just come out and say it: we’re moving.

Long story short: my husband, Jonathan is going to be an assistant pastor at my Dad’s church in Virginia.

Short story long:

well, how long do you want?

The semi-novel-length version is this:

My husband has been working on his PhD for a couple years. Most of you already know this story. Our tentative plan has been for him to finish his degree and then pursue a senior pastorate position. But a while ago as we were praying and talking through our next steps, we started talking about what a great experience it would be to learn from another ministry before setting out in a senior leadership position. The idea seemed a bit far-fetched, though, as we were only looking to be at a ministry short-term (2ish years) – and we couldn’t imagine that a ministry would be interested in an assistant pastor for that length of time.

Enter God.

I mean, He’s always in the picture, of course. But sometimes we see Him in a clearer way, especially when He blows our idea of what could never happen out of the water.

Soon after Karis was born, my Dad contacted Jonathan and asked if he would consider serving as his assistant pastor for a couple years until our PhD journey is complete.

Enter many hours of prayer, thinking, talking, and advice-seeking. Through this time, we were conscious that this was the exact type of opportunity that we had talked and prayed about a year earlier. After many conversations with God and each other, a skype “interview/getting-to-know-us-session” with the church in Virginia, and a unanimous church vote, we knew this was God’s next step for our family.

I am not exaggerating even the tiniest bit when I say that I felt incredibly sick to my stomach the night Jonathan told our dear church family here in Charlotte that we would be moving to Virginia. Oh, the many precious relationships God has given us here! Although we don’t have any actual family nearby, God has so knit our hearts with the hearts of our church family that the idea of breaking those day to day relationships is just plain old painful.

But through it all, God is kind, isn’t He? And He shows His kindnesses through daily feeding of His Word, hundreds of blessings throughout the day, and love from those around us.

Our family is in transition now. Our home has been invaded by a gazillion and two boxes. My kids are excited to live near family (my parents and oldest sister’s family live in Virginia), but also speak tearfully of leaving sweet friends here in Charlotte. And while my Mama heart aches to think of their sadness, I can’t help thinking how much this is preparing them (not to mention their parents) to live a life of obedience and faith. Faith doesn’t make decisions based on the ins and outs of every future detail because faith isn’t living by what you can see.

Faith-filled decisions are concerned with one thing: Am I obeying God? If the answer is yes, then your decision has been made. Nothing else matters compared to pleasing and obeying God. So cling to the One Who has put these changes in your life. In every change, He faithful will remain.

 


Because of our current stage, I am developing a new hobby called packing. Therefore, my writing time has been even more scarce than I imagined when I wrote this post stating I would not be blogging regularly. But considering writing is cheaper than therapy and oh so much easier to come by, I have great goals of continuing with more frequency. At least more frequent than once a month. Which means that even if I only write 2 posts this month, I’ve just doubled my frequency. Way to make high goals, Christa. #fistbump
I still haven’t shown you the seating for our table, so there’s that. I’ll see what I can do.

Thank you, friends, for following along on our journey.
I’m thankful that the internet world isn’t limited by things like location, aren’t you?

The Most Generous Thing God Can Do For You

Last week, my parents blessed me in a huge way. It was as if they sat back and thought, “What’s the most loving and generous thing we could do for Christa right now?” And then they did it.

As that came into my mind, I thought, “What if God always did the most loving and generous thing for me? That sounds like a pretty great deal.”

And then I thought:

Well, what is the most generous and loving thing God can do for me?

While that comes across as a very selfish question, hang with me for a minute or five. After all, we happen to be quite concerned with ourselves, so let’s just ride this thought train out.

Certainly, God has already done the most generous thing for us in giving us Jesus. And once a person believes in Jesus, God’s desire is to change that individual to be holy – just like He is holy. Here are a few Scripture passages on this transformation:

Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
Ephesians 4:22-24

Be imitators of God, as beloved children.
And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Ephesians 5:1-2

Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.

Romans 12:1-2

We know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.
And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

1 John 3:2-3

So God is working to change believers to become like Him. And He does it, Romans 5 says, through suffering:

Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,
and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts.
Romans 5:3-5

Let’s cover one more thing. My original question has to do with God’s generosity and love. But since God is love, He is never unloving. He never does anything unloving. What follows is this: God is always acting towards me in generosity and love.

Now back to our original question:

What is the most generous and loving thing God can do for me?

If the most generous and loving thing God can do for me is to change me to be like Jesus –
and if God is always acting towards me in generosity and love –
then this is truth:

What is happening in my life right now
is the most generous and loving thing God can do for me.

 

That thing that just came to your mind? The situation you didn’t ask for and don’t want?
God is bigger than it. And if you allow, He will lovingly use it to make you like Jesus.

It’s as if God thought, “What’s the most generous and loving thing I could do for ______ right now?”
And then He gave you your day – your month – your life.

Why?
So He could use it to make you more like Jesus.

Whatever is happening in your life today is the most loving thing God can do for you. Don’t try to bear it alone. Take your struggles and sufferings back to the One Who gave them to you. He’s strong enough and loving enough to carry it all.

 

Related:
When God’s Word & Real Life Collide

I Can’t Do It All.

In August, I took time to think through the fall season of life. (I wrote about several of the steps here.) One of the most helpful parts of this planning process was when I took time to list out the things that wouldn’t happen during the fall season of my life.

saying no

Making that list was helpful as I anticipated the fall, but it has been exponentially more helpful now that I’m in that season. Do you want an example of how it’s helpful? Two of the things I decided to say no to during this season were:
1) regular blogging
2) looking like I didn’t just give birth.

Now here’s a peek inside my somewhat mush-ified mommy brain to show you how things go down:

emotional me: “I’m a terrible blogger! Look at all these people blogging five times a week and I haven’t even written once! I need to quit.”
rational me: “You knew it was going to be like this. Blogging isn’t your main priority. You’ll probably get back to writing regularly in the future. If not, that’s really okay too. Settle down and focus on what’s important.”

emotional me: “These pants don’t fit! This shirt looks horrible!!!”
rational me: “Shut up. You just had a baby.”
emotional me: “But she’s 7 weeks old!!!”
rational me: “Don’t make me slap you.”
emotional me: “……….” [looks for nearest stash of chocolate]

Sometimes rational me is literally myself and other times when there’s not a rational ounce of anything left inside, Jonathan steps in and fills that role. [Minus the slapping threat.]

While the above conversations may not have taken place verbatim inside my head, many variations of them have taken place repeatedly over the past 7 weeks. [Key word: repeatedly.] Not only with the above examples, but with my entire list of things I am saying no to during this season.

Here’s the deal:
I CAN’T DO IT ALL.

In my head, I know that. But sometimes I forget. And while I may not try to do every. last. thing. in the universe, I try to do more than I should. During these times, it’s helpful to have a list physically written down that I can reference and remind myself, “Oh hey, that’s not my priority during this season after all. I’ll save that for another season.”

Here’s another part of the deal:
I SHOULDN’T DO IT ALL.

Wanna know what happens when I focus on the wrong things? I focus on things of little importance while ignoring the most important priorities. I don’t intend to; I just get so caught up in something I want that I forget about what really needs to happen. This is where it’s so important to drench every one of these decisions in wisdom and prayer. Because we’re not smart enough to know what’s important all by ourselves. We need God to show us what belongs in our priority list for every season of our lives.

We’re about to embark on the busiest two months of the year. This season, don’t forget to say no to good things so you can say yes to the best.

What are the most important things for you to focus on this season?
Pray!
Ask God to show you through His Word, your spouse, and/or godly mentors.
The great thing is that God wants you to know His will. He wants you to have wisdom.
So if you need it (who doesn’t?!), ask for it! He promises to give to those who ask in faith.
That’s a promise worth claiming!

Our Annual Attempt at Family Pictures // 2016

For the past few years, I’ve attempted to take family pictures using our trusty camera + tripod combo.

I use the word “attempt” because it truly is an attempt. Good thing I’m a big fan of lifestyle photography, because this is how the first 20 minutes went down…
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My boys were not all about getting their feet wet and sandy. Because clearly we can only have wet feet during playtime, not picture time. Nate got over the disappointment of wet feet rather quickly. Miles was a bit harder to convince.

Holding Karis helped distract him from his former discontent. Also, biceps.

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These kiddos are all about their baby sister.
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And here’s our resident clown in action. It also looks like someone is filling her diaper…

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Look at these precious babies!

kids

Sweet Anna Grace…

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And a little spicy to boot…

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Nate loves to wink.

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And I love his scrunchy-face smile!

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Oh my goodness, this face. So funny and freaky at the same time! He’s such a crazy boy!

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Here’s his sweet smile. Heart melter.

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And speaking of heart melters . . . yum.

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Jonathan took the camera and suggested he get some pics of me. I copped out and kept the baby with me.

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And one of me with my sweet girlies.

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Overall, it was a fairly successful picture session. I’m so thankful to have these memories captured!

family

other links of interest:
4 tips for taking your own family pictures
my camera  +  lens

Karis Faith // a natural birth story

karis
Tuesday, September 13 was my due date. The day came and went with little fanfare, although I did take my kiddos out for breakfast like I planned.

On Wednesday morning, I got a call from my doctor’s office with an appointment for my scheduled induction the following week. My kids and I continued the morning with school like usual. Over the last 5-6 weeks of this pregnancy, I could tell my body was preparing for labor. There were contractions that didn’t lead anywhere as well as just a general feeling of discomfort. This day was no different. I had some contractions in the morning – and although they weren’t regular, they were rather uncomfortable.

I decided it was a good time to paint my toenails in case it did turn out to be labor day. I always feel better going into labor with freshly painted toenails…it’s just a happy sight to look down and see a fun color on my toes during all the pain. It also provides an extra opportunity to practice flexibility as painting toenails over a 9 month pregnant belly is no small feat.

ANYWAY.

Around 11:30, I was incredibly hungry – like the shaky “must eat now” kind. I ate some leftovers from the night before (fish tacos. yum.), then sat on the couch with Nate to finish his reading lesson.

12:15ish: Nate was sounding out words and I suddenly had a HELLO-HOW-YA-DOIN contraction. A couple more came and then Jonathan stopped home for lunch. I told him I was in pain, but wasn’t sure if it was labor. When he popped in a couple minutes later and I couldn’t talk through the contraction, I decided it must be labor.

Here’s the problem. I had only been having contractions for 8 minutes. My doctor’s office told me repeatedly to track contractions for an hour before calling them. I could tell this was no time to follow protocol. I called and told the nurse, “I’m having contractions. I’ve only had them for 8 minutes, but they’re every 2-3 minutes and painful enough that I can’t talk through them. This is my 4th baby. We’re on our way.”

Bless her heart, she tried to follow protocol and told me “the doctors are on lunch break from 1-2. There aren’t any free appointments after that, but if you come and wait in the office, we can try to squeeze you in.”

Bless it.

Our sweet neighbor came over to watch my three older babies so Jonathan and I could leave right away. It was a quiet drive to the hospital area as I worked through contractions. Once we arrived, my contractions were still painful, but had tamed a bit in intensity level (like they always do when I leave for the hospital). We slowly walked to my doctor’s office and checked in. It was around 1:30 at this time. I walked in the waiting area, breathing through each contraction. A few minutes later a nurse called out to see how I was doing. I said fine – and then clarified that I was having regular contractions 2-3 minutes apart. They called me back a few minutes later. A labor and delivery nurse was on duty that day, so she decided to check me in since the doctors were still on lunch break. I LOVE YOU, LABOR AND DELIVERY NURSE.

When she announced I was dilated to a 6, almost 7, they promptly whizzed me to labor and delivery via a wheelchair. Bless you, wheelchair whizzing lady. Once I got to my room and they got me strapped with the baby & contraction monitor, I settled in the hospital bed. During my 3 other labors, a nurse has stayed in the room with me pretty much the whole time. But on this day, my nurse got me all set up and then left Jonathan and I alone in the room. At first, it was weird. I thought, “What if this baby pops out and we’re left alone for delivery?!?!”

But then I began to enjoy the alone time. I kept working through contractions and Jonathan sat next to me. I do best in labor when I can get in a zone and intentionally prepare for and work through each contraction, so I was doing my thing while he worked on emails. I’ve never listened to music before during labor, but decided to use my earbuds and just sit in bed for a while to keep my labor from progressing too quickly. Not because I didn’t want to have the baby, but because I didn’t want to go through the pain of her coming out of my body.

I realize that sounds rather comical to put off the actual delivery – obviously I was going to give birth and there was no re-thinking that plan – so just get it over with, right? But this turned out to be one of my favorite birth experiences because of how “restful” the few hours were before Karis arrived. I write “restful” in quotation marks because I was still having regular, painful contractions. I mean, it wasn’t exactly a spa-like experience. But much more restful than any of my other labors have been.

I used those hours to listen to music, rehearse verses (this one especially), ask God for help, and thank Him for sustaining this little life inside me for 20 weeks longer than we thought she would live. It was a special – and very worshipful – time remembering God’s character and promises.

After a few hours, I decided I could either keep sitting in bed and have this baby super late, or I could get up and make things happen. Seeing as there was no way for me to escape the pain of delivery, I decided now was better than later.

As soon as I got out of bed, I felt my contractions pick up in intensity. I continued moving (using a birthing ball for support) and started feeling even more intense contractions. The doctor popped in to see how much I was dilated. 9. Almost there. My water had already broken during the contractions, but once the doctor saw I was at a 9/almost 10, she broke the other bag of water. Things just got real, my friends.

My nurse paged for “more hands and warm towels” and I was both delighted and scared to know it was time to push. The doctor told me to push several times, then said, “Almost there!” I’ve trained myself to never believe that line during labor because you don’t know what it actually means. However, in this case, we were almost there. With another big push, our little Karis Faith arrived into this world – wet, red, squealing, and absolutely perfect. 6:48 PM. 8 lbs 5.5 oz. 20 inches.

When my water broke at 20 weeks, I wouldn’t let myself think ahead to delivery. Mentally, I couldn’t handle thinking about how incredible it would be to hold Karis after wondering for so long whether she would even make it out alive. So when her little body was placed on my chest – still wet and fresh from birth – it was emotional overload. I praised God, looked at Jonathan, held Karis, and just cried. There really are no words to adequately describe those first moments in any birth, but especially in this one for me.

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We chose the name Karis Faith because of all God has taught us through this little one’s life. Karis means grace.
Grace and Faith. If you’ve been reading this site for any period during the last few months, you already know how much those two words have just exploded in meaning for me. God’s grace isn’t limited to good circumstances, as He taught me so vividly when I was in the hospital and thought Karis was going to die.  His character isn’t determined by my circumstances. He is gracious…no matter what happens. But it takes faith to believe that. Something I struggle with daily. It takes faith to believe that God is good when I don’t see it right in front of me. And that God is loving when the things happening to/around me shout otherwise. Sometimes I feel ridiculous because I have to ask God for help to even believe Him. I can’t even believe Him and His promises unless He enables me.

The beautiful thing I have learned is that God does enable me to have faith. To believe that He is in complete control and deeply loves me. To harness my emotions and thoughts that scream the opposite. And to instead rest in His good sovereignty. The fact that He is able to work in my stubborn heart is all due to His incredible grace. Grace that saved my soul and draws me near to my Savior. I trust you know Jesus and have experienced His grace at work in your life.

I cannot end this birth story without telling you how much your prayer support has meant to me. To know that people I’ve never even met have been praying so faithfully for Karis is humbling. Thank you for joining with us by your encouragement, love and prayers. I’m so grateful for God’s love displayed through YOU!

 

You might also enjoy these posts…
// Miles’ birth story //
//Nate’s birth story //