Friday, July 31, 2015

Happy 2nd Birthday, Little Man

Yesterday was W's second birthday. Two years old?!? Probably every mother says it way too much, but I can't believe how big my baby is getting.

It was a blessing to be able to celebrate his big day with my parents. They haven't seen the kids since last Fall, and both kids have changed and developed so much since then. Fun times all around!

A little bit about W right now:

His appetite is finally slowing down. This kid has eaten everything in sight, non-stop, and out-of-control, for his entire life so far... until the past few weeks. Now he is too busy playing to stop and eat. Though he still consumes a healthy amount, it's just not as urgent of a priority as it used to be. Case in point: the kid didn't even finish a third of his birthday doughnut. Unheard of in the past for this boy.

He talks incessantly. In 3-5 word sentences.When he was a baby I worried that a kid with such a chatty older sister might never feel the need to open his mouth, but I needn't have been. The kid can speak!

He also loves to sing. Kind of the sweetest thing ever. His favorite hymn is "Trust and Obey," and he is a fan of "Rockabye Baby" when I tuck him in at night.

He is ALL BOY- full of boundless energy, loves climbing and rough-housing, anything with an engine, and dirt. Ha ha.

He is also very affectionate, super into snuggling, and a mama's boy. Melts my heart.

All in all, he is so much fun, and we are grateful that W is a member of our family!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Miscarriage and the Hope of Heaven {Interview with Jessalyn Hutto}

I am extremely delighted to welcome Jessalyn Hutto, author of Inheritance of Tears, to the blog this week. Jessalyn was gracious enough to grant me an interview after reading her book, and I hope the answers she shared will be an encouragement and blessing to you. I posed 4 different questions to Jessalyn. Because of the in-depth response and the delicate subject matter of each, I thought it best to spread the interview out over several posts. 

Inheritance of Tears: Trusting the Lord of Life When Death Enters the Womb, is a Gospel-centered, theologically rich resource for women who have undergone miscarriage and those who would like to minister to them. Jessalyn personally experienced two miscarriages, one first trimester, and her daughter Anastasia at 17 weeks. I was so blessed by reading her book, and cannot recommend it highly enough. Check the bottom of this post for an opportunity to win a copy!

Rachel: I also appreciated your theological look at the question, "Do all babies go to heaven?" So many Christians today hold to this view without having a clear Scriptural foundation for their belief. Have you always held this position? How did you come to land on your current understanding?

Jessalyn: I have always personally believed that babies who die go to heaven, but I did not always have a firm understanding in my mind as to how the Bible could support such a claim. As a reformed baptist, I hold to the doctrine of total depravity. I believe that every single human being is conceived with a sin nature and in need of Jesus' substitutionary sacrifice for salvation. Therefore, children who die in the womb would necessitate some special form of grace that isn't conditioned upon their repentance and belief in the gospel if they are to go to heaven because they never had that option. 

Before truly studying the Biblical argument for such a gracious provision, I held my belief in infant salvation loosely- genuinely hoping that our good and loving God would accept my babies into his kingdom, while at the same time wondering how that could be possible without their willful acceptance of the gospel. The arguments I had heard at that time were not completely convincing to me. 

For this reason, infant salvation was not in an of itself a source of comfort to me during my miscarriages. It was a hope I had, but not something that I was confident in. Thankfully, the Lord was gracious, and provided abounding grace and peace to me during those awful trials nonetheless through his loving Spirit.

However, after thoroughly studying the arguments for infant salvation myself and seeing that there was a strong case to be made for God's unwillingness to judge those who had never willfully committed sin, I became convinced that children who've died in the womb are at this very moment worshiping around his throne with the rest of the redeemed. 

This is truly world-altering information for every woman who has miscarried! While nothing can take away the sting of death when it visits a mother's womb, surely the confidence that her child has been instantly transported to the kingdom of our great Savior- never having experience the pain and suffering and sin that we experience in this life- can help to ease her pain, and perhaps even give her a reason to rejoice in the midst of it. 

I didn't want to breeze over this thought, as I know for many it is a strong comfort in the wake of such devastating loss. Instead, I wanted to provide a concise, but thorough argument for this hope, so that women can know that it is not just wishful thinking, but something we can truly claim as a biblical truth. There is scriptural support for believing that our children are, right now, at this very moment, with Jesus. And that is a very, very happy thought. 

Would you like to win a copy of Jessalyn's book, Inheritance of Tears? Simply leave a comment below. Winner will be selected at random one week from today. I'll post the winner's name here. I hope you win!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A Few of My Favorite Things

Counting the little blessings can truly make a difference on our overall perspective on life. With that in mind, these are a few of the "little" things that have been bringing me some sunshine lately.

1. Great hand soaps for an even greater price point. We have a discount grocery store about 15 minutes away {locals: P&R} that offers lots of great products {organic, natural, specialty etc.}at amazing prices. I don't get there very often as it is out of my way, and also I can end up spending more than I bargained on great deals not on my list. *Ahem.* 

But last week I did, and I spent more than I normally would on a few nice hand soaps. When I looked up the retail prices online and found I had saved about 50% on each of them, I did feel a lot better. And I have been loving their scents every time I use them throughout the day. Lovely!

2. Peaches and Cream Lotion.
My mom gave this to me as a stocking stuffer a few years back, but I recently rediscovered it. It smells divine, and feels super luxurious to this very pregnant mama. What can I say? I'm a sucker for all things peach. 

3. New school supplies.
Confession: I may have indulged in new pencil boxes as crayons for my not yet school age children. As much as I loathe retailers for shoving the school year on us so early {c'mon, didn't summer just start?!?}, I cannot turn up my nose at fresh school supplies on sale. 

4. Cleaning my kitchen every night.
A recently cemented habit that has absolutely changed my quality of living for the better. I've gone through phases of success in this and phases of failure, but made a fresh commitment several weeks back and have really stuck with it this time. No going back! Home is so much more relaxing, mornings are more peaceful, and I find I'm able to keep up with my to do list more effectively. 

5. Planning for Homeschool.
While I don't plan on beginning formal education with S for at least another year, if not two, I figure it doesn't hurt to start practicing the routine of doing a little bit of "school" every day. Adding to our family is only going to make days busier, and I sure already feel like my days are full... so how am I going to fit in home school full time once the kids are ready to begin?? I feel the need to practice if we are ever going to succeed in it. S is still cementing down her alphabet {she has most of the letters, but is almost totally unfamiliar with lower case and still occasionally mixes up upper case letters}, but once she has it down pat I hope to start in on daily, five minute reading lessons. Definitely the nerd in me speaking, but I think it is fun!
What have you been loving lately? Share the goodies!!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Is Miscarriage Divine Punishment? {Interview with Jessalyn Hutto}

I am extremely delighted to welcome Jessalyn Hutto, author of Inheritance of Tears, to the blog this week. Jessalyn was gracious enough to grant me an interview after reading her book, and I hope the answers she shared will be an encouragement and blessing to you. I posed 4 different questions to Jessalyn. Because of the in-depth response and the delicate subject matter of each, I thought it best to spread the interview out over several posts. 

Inheritance of Tears: Trusting the Lord of Life When Death Enters the Womb, is a Gospel-centered, theologically rich resource for women who have undergone miscarriage and those who would like to minister to them. Jessalyn personally experienced two miscarriages, one first trimester, and her daughter Anastasia at 17 weeks. I was so blessed by reading her book, and cannot recommend it highly enough. Keep your eyes peeled- I will be giving away one copy of it to a blog reader this Thursday!

Rachel: You discuss how miscarriage is never God's punishment of our personal sin, because of our standing in Christ. While I am 100% in agreement here, I couldn't help but think of David and Bathsheba's infant dying as a result of their sin. How do you understand this story within your theological framework? How could we give Gospel hope to a woman who brings it up in concern that her miscarriage was divine punishment?

Jessalyn: My purpose in including the section you are referring to in my book was to combat our natural tendency to see miscarriage as divine punishment. When something so horrifying and so personal occurs in our lives, our minds quickly begin to wonder if we are to blame. We assume that because God allowed us to miscarry, he must be displeased with us in some way or that if we had just been better Christians, he would have blessed us with a healthy pregnancy. But this is completely anti-gospel. Our God is not a cosmic vending machine. Being "good" does not ensure blessing, and struggling with sin does not necessarily equate with greater trials in this life. 

In fact, if we have been forgiven in Christ, then all of God's wrath for us- for every sin we have ever committed and will ever commit- was swallowed up on the cross. There is no wrath left for us because it has all been spent on Jesus! As Christians, we are in Christ, and therefore clothed in his perfect holiness. This is the beauty of the gospel and why we needn't fear that the Lord will punish us each time we fail to live up to his holy standards. Jesus lived up to them for us!

Now, this does not mean that God does not see our sin and that it does not grieve him. As a father, our loving God does discipline us for our good. The Bible says that he would not be a good father if he did not. He desires for us to grow in godliness and to experience more of his love. He does not intend for us to live in unrepentant sin, which only makes us callous to his marvelous affections for us. But it is important to note that he views us as his children, whom he lovingly corrects when they falter, not as servants whom he lashes out at. 

In this way, it is certainly possible for God to use a miscarriage as a wake up call in a woman's life. Indeed, all trials that we face are used by his hand to refine us and draw us into greater godliness. This is exactly how the author of Hebrews explains the discipline of the Lord: as a sign of his love and attentiveness to us! Not as a sign of his anger and judgment. Therefore, I would make a strong distinction between punishment for sin and God's kind discipline. 

In regard to David's sin and the discipline he received, I would say that we must be careful in drawing direct parallels in our own lives or in the lives of others to David's life. David was the king of the nation of Israel- a type of Christ in the Old Testament- and God had very specific and important purposes for his life. Equally as important is the fact that God spoke directly to the prophet Nathan, shedding light on the sin that David had committed and pinpointing the discipline he would receive. We don't have that same access to God's mind. The Lord doesn't tell us why he allows certain things to happen in our lives or in the lives of our friends. Therefore, it is unwise to immediately jump to a direct connection between a sin and a miscarriage (unless of course the particular sin was physically and obviously responsible for the miscarriage- for instance drug abuse). 

I would also add, that even in the example of David's punishment, God had his good (and not his destruction) at heart. It was for the purpose of David's repentance, that God took the child's life. That awful trial, which did bring about an intense sorrow over his sin and a genuine repentance, gave David a deeper understanding of his own depravity and God's incredible grace. It made him a better king and allowed him to minister to believers throughout the ages through the beautiful Psalms he wrote.

All of this to say, if a woman were to come to me, concerned that God was punishing her for a particular sin through her miscarriage, I would first comfort her with the knowledge that God loves her with the same unconditional love that he has for his holy and perfect Son (John 17:26; Romans 8:39). He has not brought this miscarriage into her life to condemn her, but rather, to bring about greater Christ-likeness in her life (Romans 8:1, 28). 

Has he used this miscarriage to reveal sin in her heart that she was previously unaware of or unrepentant for? Then praise God! She should repent of it and seek the Lord's forgiveness, for he is ready and willing to show her grace. But I would be careful to explain that her repentance does not therefore secure a healthy pregnancy the next time she becomes pregnant. Her repentance is a sign of the gracious work of the Spirit in her heart, not a contract requiring God's subsequent blessing. 

Our Father's love and blessings are not dependent upon his children's obedience (they are only dependent upon the finished work of Christ)! She is God's child now, whom he loves with an unwavering and unselfish love. Therefore, she should not view her current miscarriage as a sign of his displeasure, but instead, she should look for the good he is desiring to do through it: whether that be to reveal unrepentant sin, to draw her into a greater dependence upon him, to build endurance and steadfastness of faith, or to bring about one of the many other spiritual blessings he has promised to his children. He truly works all things for our good- even our miscarriages. 

For a more in depth look at this issue, be sure to read Jessalyn's book. See what she has to say about her grieving processes here, and how Christ ministers to women who have miscarried here. And stay tuned for Thursday for the last segment of this interview, and a giveaway! {affiliate links included in this post}

Friday, July 24, 2015

Being "Relate-able"

A few weeks ago we had a little gathering of friends at our house. For once {thanks entirely to my husband who hates a messy house} things looked pretty good around here. The floors were vacuumed and mopped, counter tops were tidied, and a general aura of order prevailed. I had just finished the 30 Day Minimalist Challenge, so it was also a lot easier to pick up.

One of my friends is very observant {I'm looking at you Jen}- she just notices things- what you are wearing, a recently added decoration, etc. She complimented my clean house, then said "I see those crayon marks on your wall. And that I can relate to." It made me smile, because isn't that just where we are at folks?

Both a perfectly clean house and a perfectly groomed internet image can really be discouraging to those of us who struggle. And who doesn't? So in a spirit of full disclosure, in honor of Jen and being "relate-able," here is what my life really looks like:

Try as I might, as many titles as I've gotten rid of, as many times as I've ROYGBIV'd the shelves, I cannot get our children's book collection under control. It is a sickness people.

Every day my daughter's bed looks like this {especially bad after her daily quiet time of reading while her brother naps}. And every night before tucking her in I scramble to cram as many I can back onto the shelves... giving up and dumping them on her night stand and floor instead. Truth.

This is my current laundry situation. Any given day which you step into my abode, you may be greeted by piles of clothing on my kitchen floor waiting to be sorted, washed and dried. It blocks pretty much the entire walkway.

And yes, I do have crayon marks on my walls. In multiple locations actually. While I might buy a magic eraser someday to take care of them {blue dawn on a sponge can also work nicely} it's just not on my priority list right now. Especially since my little guy spontaneously adds to them when he knows mommy isn't looking. A blank slate would just be way too much temptation for him.

The only flowers in my home were picked from a friend's garden and are sadly past their prime. They stand next to a couple piles of stuff that need to be sorted and put away, and I should probably pitch them already. Magically, they still smell divine.

This chalk hand print has been on my entryway door for probably at least two months. It makes my heart happy every time I see it, so I probably won't wipe it off until we move someday {Lord only knows when that might be}. It is a reminder of the abundant little blessings in my life and good times together.

Beyond these little issues, we have a serious ant infestation. Not the cute little sugar ones, but the big nasty black ones that make an audible crunch when you squish them. Way too gross to merit a picture.

Still? Life is so good. It may be filled with imperfections and undone tasks. It might be a little more hectic or blurring by at a swifter pace then I would like... but it is so good.

God is faithful. His mercies are new each morning. By His grace there is more love and joy here most days then not... even if accompanied by crumbs, a trail of toys, and way too many dirty diapers.

How's that for full disclosure?