My Birth Story, Part II: Labor and Delivery

If you missed part I, go read it first!

The best way I can describe what a natural birth without pain medications felt like to me is a marathon. If you’ve ever run a marathon, you know what a muscle cramp feels like, and that you can’t think “I can’t do this” or overthink about the numbers. You know what “the wall” is and learn to climb it. You know to rest but not to quit. And you get hooked on the finish line. It means much more to you to cross it than to the person who didn’t run the course and feel the hills themselves.

I had run exactly 3 marathons before pregnancy. I knew my body was strong and healthy. I knew the pain of a cramp and I expected that much, even though I prayed for a pain-free birth.

Contractions to me felt like very very strong cramps. Technically that’s what it is, but if you’ve ever had a running leg cramp, that. Over and over, it’d squeeze and release. After a while, I got used to it. I learned not to flinch and to relax as much as possible, and that helped.

What I didn’t expect was for my labor to start on a Sunday and end on a Wednesday. Yep. That’s one whole day, two whole days, three whole days, and some change.

Prodromal labor is the name of the game. It wasn’t false labor, but it was erratic. Contractions weren’t stronger, longer, closer together. More like 7 minutes then 3 then 5 then 2 then 14 minutes apart. Enough to mess with my head but not to get me to the birth center. Sunday night, I called the midwife line and was very gently told that my contractions didn’t sound strong enough yet, aka I’m breathing through it and still able to talk. That was the first day. I tried to sleep and managed to snooze a bit. Contractions didn’t stop.

On day two, Monday afternoon, my doula came over to work with me. We were hopeful that maybe baby just needed to move a little, and then labor would pick up the pace. By evening, we drove to the birth center to see if I was progressing. It had been almost two full days of stop and go, and I was tired.

We arrived and I was 80% effaced and 3 centimeters. Face palm. They walked me next door to get a chiropractic adjustment, just in case my pelvis was being unsportsmanlike. They decided to give me “therapeutic rest” aka a strong sleeping medicine so I could rest for a little while since my uterus was apparently dancing to jazz and techno. I barely made it to the car before passing out hard for about 4 hours.

Woke up while it was still considered Monday, proceeded to get very little sleep into Tuesday, and that’s when the real deal started.

I was IN LABOR.

I’ll tell you what I remember about laboring at home: Buddy looking shook, calling the doula and the midwife line. I was dropping into squat reps when the contractions hit, because it felt good to move down as they tightened. I started getting vocal. Loud noises and bright lights freaked me out. Buddy couldn’t touch me, but at this point our doula Mary still could. Buddy packing snacks and putting our bags in the car. Buddy trying to get me to eat and nothing sounded good at all. Me drinking at least 2 liters of coconut water, and attempting to eat apple slices. Us walking to the car, me with combs in my hands to squeeze during contractions in the car. Me basically forgetting about my phone and that I hadn’t told my Brazilian family the punchline: oh, it’s happening now.

We arrived at Atlanta Birth Center just after 4pm on Tuesday. We got the Water Room, the one I liked the most. I was the only one there in labor.

Then it all went foggy.

I went to another planet with God. I had coherent thoughts but I didn’t verbalize. I lost track of time and what day it was. I had to ask for the birth details because my eyes were shut almost the whole time.

I remember walking the halls through contractions, and it hurt. I remember telling my midwife that I felt like I was peeing but I knew I wasn’t peeing, so that was my water breaking, clear, thank God. I remember the rests between contractions were peaceful for me, there was no pain between contractions.

I remember at one point nobody could touch me. I was offered to labor in a tub but I said no (I wish I had at least tried it). I felt like this primal beast, spooked but in charge somehow. In my mind, I was praying, no longer for no pain, but for God to help me make space for this baby.

At one point, the midwives switched shifts. With this switch came a fresh energy and determination to get this baby out. Also, I’m sure I looked beyond exhausted and they knew the baby needed to come sooner than later so I could push. I was asked to crawl (yep) on all fours and when a contraction hit, to get into child’s pose. So I crawled, and this really was a turning point. I felt like the baby was really moving down. I don’t remember much in between this and starting to push, but pushing was amazing. I don’t know why movies paint it to be the worst part, it was so exciting for me!

One thing to mention before we get to the grand finale is that mentally I did not break. I didn’t say “I can’t do this” or ask for meds. I didn’t cuss out my husband. I said I was tired, and usually that meant to take a break from whatever inversion or crawl I was doing at the time haha. I did not question whether or not it would be possible, nor whether the baby was okay. This whole time her heart rate was perfect. No distress for her, no doubt for me. This, I believe, was not my mental strength but God’s kindness to help guard my thoughts. I firmly believe it was the Holy Spirit filling my mind with scriptures and positive words, like only He could do.

Pushing phase: I did some pushing on the bed, dangling off (innovative haha) and some squatting. My midwife spoke up about tearing being likely in squat position, and I decided I wanted to have the baby in a side-lying position on the bed. My doula and I had talked about this before, and it was the moment of truth: I had the choice of what position I wanted to have my baby. This should be every mother’s choice, and thankfully I chose a birth center that let this be my choice!

I was super tired and could only do about 3 pushes at a time. But I could feel her moving down! Buddy was behind me on the bed, seeing it all. I had my eyes firmly shut.

I pushed for about 2 hours, and with ever increasing cheering by the birth center staff and my doula, the baby’s head came out and… drumroll… her hand came out on her cheek!

Compound presentation baby, no wonder my labor was intense!

To top it off, her cord was around the back of her neck, so her hand kept the cord from squeezing all around. Talk about a blessing in disguise!

In a flash, the whole baby was placed on me, wet and big and mine. 10:40am on the first day of Spring.

The pain ended. There was no tearing, even with her hand making its surprising appearance. I did pray for that during the pushing haha.

The first thing my sweet angel child did was take the hugest dump on me, right on my belly. Nice to meet you too, baby girl.

They showed me my placenta and it was nasty. I could have probably gone without seeing it. My bleeding was normal, baby’s apgar was 9. She weighed 7lbs 10oz and was 20.5 inches long.

After birth, I was able to walk to the bathroom, deal with the hot mess that was all over me, and put on my pretty robe. I had a strong waddle walk and wobbly legs, and I got really wired. It lasted a few days before I could actually come off of the hormonal high that was birth.

I did feel pain but I didn’t feel abandoned by God. I knew He did what was best for me and Emília Grace, every minute of that experience. I felt like many, many parts of this labor and birth were supernatural, especially the way He guarded my mind (I did not have negative thoughts!), kept baby steady throughout the long labor, and then made recovery simple with no stitches. God is faithful!

I am so grateful to the Lord for the safe arrival of our little girl, and for entrusting Buddy and I to be her parents.

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Recommendations:

Doula: Mary Hanks (the best best best) if you want a peaceful, motherly, Godly, knowledgeable doula, she’s it. Best decision we made, she took care of Buddy as well, making sure he ate and didn’t end up too traumatized haha!

Birth Place: Atlanta Birth Center I’m confident I would have had interventions at a hospital. The way the staff at ABC had faith in me and in birth was outstanding. They never gave up on me. I’d have 1000 babies there if I had to have 1000 babies.

Book: Supernatural Childbirth by Jackie Mize- This book changed the way I saw birth altogether.

Affirmations (just have some, read through pregnancy especially!): My Pinterest board

My Birth Story, Part I: Pregnancy and War

You wouldn’t think the two would go together, pregnancy and war, but oh, they do. From the minute I started even thinking my body might be hosting a new life in the near future, I started preparing. I started taking prenatal vitamins 4 months (yes, pretty much right when we got engaged) before the wedding, because I knew we’d talked about babies and I wanted all that folic acid and all the iron and all the goodies because I’m a scientist and a planner.

Each day a tiny reminder that I hoped it would happen, months before trying.

Then the wedding came and those long conversations took place that were so exciting: we were on board for a baby, so help us God.

Even though I’d never tried for a baby before, and never had the experience of something going wrong, a part of me was still afraid. Maybe because so many close to me had struggled with their fertility, waited months or years, I was trying to be logical and excuse any possible delays. But God answered on our first plea with the faintest pink line. I was pregnant!

And then immediately, I was a secret-keeper! Boo!

They forget to tell you this part, it’s the unwritten instruction after “two lines means positive” on the pregnancy test, it goes “tell only the people who will be your support system in case of the M word.”

The M word. Literally the first grenade chunked at a mama who just learned there’s a tiny, tiny human in her womb.

Everything can just end, Helena. Those first weeks. We don’t schedule appointments til you’re 8 to 10 weeks. Oh okay.

Let’s do math: baby count starts at first day of last period aka 2 weeks before conception ish, then you have to wait till about 4 days before the next period is due to get a positive with those overpromising fancy sticks, so that’s “3.5 weeks” when I knew I was pregnant.

You mean to tell me that the next 4.5 to 6.5 weeks are just a blind waiting game? Bring in Google, what can I eat? What shouldn’t I eat? Is it okay to exercise? No rollercoasters. No hot tubs. Just be very careful in general, there’s no recipe for how to keep a baby in there, just know all their organs are forming so be the healthiest you can be, ever. Good God, okay. God help me.

Meanwhile, there are negative symptoms everyone says will happen, like a one-size-fits-all misery poncho I was supposed to wear. But I felt okay. I was extra sleepy but not nauseous. I was picky with what sounded good to eat, but I could eat smaller meals and I felt fine. I was excited in my secret, giggling with family and my best friends. I decided I wasn’t going to believe everything they told me, because I was already experiencing something different, answered prayers for no nausea, no sickness.

I began at this point to stop thinking of the M word and just to pray. I was referred by two Godly mamas to a book called Supernatural Childbirth by Jackie Mize. It’s not for the faint of heart, but if you’ve seen God do miracles in front of your eyes, you can handle this book. Basically if you’re been scuba diving with Jesus and you’ve read the book of Acts and thought “I believe it,” then Supernatural Childbirth won’t sound crazy.

I began to pray for a pain free childbirth with no complications, no tearing, no prematurity, no hemorrhage. I prayed for 100%. Not 90, or 85, but the full birth miracle package. Why not, right?! It’s Jesus, for Christ’s sake. By the time we announced the pregnancy, both Buddy and I were sold out on a supernatural birth. I got really quiet about this, because it sounded crazy banana sandwich. Also, I didn’t want people who didn’t have that experience to feel like I thought I deserved something they didn’t have. I didn’t want to invalidate their trauma, especially if part of their healing was to share their story. Even if it was a terrifying, unique story that would clearly cause fear to a first time mom! I learned to listen with a filter.

Every time I got “advice” about pain or complications, I rebuked it in my head haha, like someone had just spoken death over me. I thought “that’s not my story.” My thoughts stayed the course, believe it or not. I trained my mind for war. Birth was gonna be my victory, my Jericho, my Valley of Berakah. I recited and memorized birth affirmations. I told my body it knew how to birth, and that birth was a normal thing, a common rite of passage designed by God, who is kind. He designed sex and birth. I signed up for both and thanked Him.

We decided that the birth would be very private, and chose a Godly, wonderful doula to be with us (Buddy and I only, aside from birth staff). We chose Atlanta Birth Center as our birth location and prenatal care provider. We chose a midwifery model of care. We did minimal testing, aside from gender DNA (I was way too curious). We only had one ultrasound at 20 weeks, and no cervical checks before labor began. No family in the waiting room, no immediate visits. We safeguarded that space for rest and recovery.

I can say now that pregnancy was wonderful. I was healthy. I had a virus that made me achy for 4 days, but that was it. I had to learn how to SLOW DOWN in the end, lest I’d hurt myself trying to get up too fast. I didn’t swell, nor had back pain. I slept well, even with the frequent bathroom trips. I wore my rings until it was the day to have the baby. I gained about 17 pounds, no diabetes. Baby was head down when she needed to be, my placenta was not in the way. All those answered prayers!

I prayed for supernatural birth. God’s answer, though not exactly as I asked, was even better. Here comes part 2!

About Hope

I’ve found a thing that is most stubborn and unruly. It is irrational, yet the most logical force there’s ever been. It’s true. It squeezes in through the cracks, it passes through. It reaches the marrow of your bones and settles in, and makes its home. It flows through your veins. It’s the breath that catches when you behold beauty. It’s the word written on the door. It’s the reasoning where fear grabs on, because really, fear can only show up if there’s hope. But hope outruns it. Hope is slick, and deep, and relentless. And this is why fear is so starved, desperate, and dependent. Fear is limited.

I’ve felt the depths of grief and the pangs of anxiety. I’ve seen the darkness of depression, and endured the shame of reckless choices. Life has seldom withheld its blunt, sharp force toward me. Trauma: check. Failure: check. Abandonment: check. And yet the spirit of rejection doesn’t get to have a loud voice, because this shrill, shrill obnoxious singing is loud inside my head. Loud, like a song I can’t tune out, repetitive, catchy. Think Uptown Funk.

We are wired to hope. Even in the tempest, there’s a longing cry. My disappointments are all from a hope deferred, and every time my heart was broken, the pain was from my hope being so far up, invested and then returned to me. I could drive it in the ground, but it would rise. They say it floats. I say it sinks into the heart, tattooed, ink and blood and tears, it dares to hope within me, this hope.

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It whispers in the cold “I wish it were warm” and arrives at the thought of “it will get warm” and reasons “when will it be warm?” and it grunts and waits. It waits for warmth. Hope teaches us to wait, to wade through our circumstances unto what is yet to come.

It’s the maybe in the dark. It pauses to remind you that it may be, that it could be. The dream you have, the love you want, the answer could just be… yes. Hope is ridiculous, but it’s right. You just don’t know. How could you know what is yet to be? Nobody knows but Truth. It makes great sense, this hope.

There is not a thing more dangerous than a hopeful one. Not the dark of night, or the schemes of the enemy. Not the accuser’s voice, or the pain of heartache, much less a heavy past. It’s the thing that can’t be killed, it can’t be silenced. Fear is predictable, but hope? Ha! Hope can’t be drowned, shot, or numbed. It can’t be terrorized, much less held captive. This sweet force has found its way to you.

Can you feel it?

Now I’m a Warrior

Love has carried me a long, long way.

I noticed one day how far I’d come, because her name was on my lips but I didn’t flinch. Nothing in me felt unworthy at the thought of her. You see, it was easier to forgive him, because I pitied him. It’s easy to forgive someone who has a hard life. You can barely help it, really.

But her? I forgave her, but I related with her. Most of all, I envied the part of his heart that she had received, the part that was vowed to be mine. We spoke on the phone, believe it or not, and I loved her. Her honesty, her kindness, and the way she spoke with me as if I were a friend who could be trusted–all most unexpected. I couldn’t hate her if I tried. She didn’t know. She didn’t lie to me, even though she had been with my husband. That kind of love marked me. I wanted to be that gentle and kind, desperately, as I compared her tenderness with my heart of stone.

I used to cry when I’d hear the songs he played for her. I used to flinch when so
many women had her name around me and forced me to say it. It all made me feel so unworthy. When you lose hope, sometimes you walk away from someone, fully expecting them to surprise you and fight for you. You choose some space to try to process the confusion, to see if all your hypotheses were true. It’s a big risk that I took, and I couldn’t have foreseen the consequences: that I’d be sensitive to a woman’s name, instead of his.

I’m happy to report that the triggers lessen with time, if you suffer from similar experiences. You’ll hear the names and songs, and it will not bother you. Give it time and give it to Jesus. I promise it gets better. Why else would I be writing this blog?

Thank God that I went on a journey, long and far, after the divorce. I went around the world and out of Temple, Texas, the black hole I was living in (no offense to Temple residents, it’s a decent city, but my emotional hades). If you’re 21-35, divorced or widowed with no kids, go on the World Race. For the love of God, ask Him if He’ll take you long and far to heal you.

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God asked me to have a greater perspective and accept that there would be more to my day-to-day than flinching and shame, like say… kissing orphans. I stopped comparing my heart and surrendered it. I stopped thinking about a temporary problem and started thinking about eternal solutions to the world’s problems, to the broken hearts of women all over the nations.

Love had knocked me down and out, but Jesus gently brought me to my feet. It wasn’t what I expected, at all. He dusted off the ashes from my face, and told me that I am a Mighty Healer. He gave me a purpose. He gave me a new heart of flesh.

Though I had all the equipment to start over in love, my standards were all messy. I still didn’t fully understand my worth. I remained quiet when I should have stood up for myself. I accepted walls I should have marched around. Every time, I learned. The first time I truly stood up for myself was a hack job. I beat myself up for a long time for not knowing how to graciously call it all off. But for once, I was making mistakes in the right direction. It’s okay to make mistakes in the right direction. That is to be expected, right?

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The pain I felt has turned into trust. I share my story with women and they let their guards down. I have been entrusted with the treasure of the deepest, unedited stories. It seriously brings me tears to think back on all the times when I was the 2am phone call, or I was the shoulder someone felt safe to cry on. I know how much that means to someone who is healing. I know the great need that Jesus met through my hands, and it is the most glorious honor on earth to love the broken. Oh how I love the brokenhearted. How I long to help bind up their wounds with Jesus. I was made for this. I was made to teach others how to be healers. I was made to instill hope and joy into the hopeless with my story and the Holy Spirit. I was made to say

There is so, so, so much more for you, darling. You are a chosen beloved, and there is goodness in store for you. My heart aches in the best way, just at the thought of the tears of joy you will cry. And I will be standing there. I will be there with you to see it. We will pray and wait for it together, and see it through. 

If I can tell you what I learned, it’s that I gained nothing from being afraid. I gained nothing from selling myself short. My heart was not made to hesitate.

I was made to fall headlong, to dive deep, and to allow myself to be happy. Maybe you can relate with me in this, but don’t restrain your happiness. When you feel it rising up in you, let it. Don’t be afraid to laugh, to hope, to say bold things. Don’t be afraid to tell someone you love them, and don’t be afraid to receive their love.

When you read about a great love story, you see that they didn’t kill the spark with fear. They let it happen and it unfolded to be even more wonderful than they had imagined. I am walking in that kind of story. I am claiming the greatness of love. I have seen a Love that is Unfailing, and I have Him. My Jesus had no reservations in showing His love to me. He never hid me. He never left. He never had the heart to lie to me. He saw my worth. He waited for me. He kept me in utmost purity. He pursued me, and sat with me when I was broken. He longs to do the same for you.

I learned that if someone wants to be with me, he’s gonna have to love like Jesus, and see me like He does.

Like I said, Love has carried me a long, long way. When I look back, all I see from the struggle is that through it, God built a warrior. Brave in love and fierce in battle, bringing glory to His name. Jesus sees a world full of up-and-coming warriors, the heirs with Kingdom keys to set the captives free. From the hill I’m standing on, the hill I’m willing to die on, I can see the rising army. Their march shakes the foundations of the world, as they fall into step with the heartbeat of the King.

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The Revival Is Here

It’s already happening, you know? The revival we’ve been waiting for? It’s happening.

Revival is happening at the hospital, at my work. My coworkers are texting Bible verses to encourage their friends. I have coworkers subscribed to my devotional.The janitor tells me about his gift of teaching, about the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Healing is taking place, people who should have been dead. I scroll through the ER boards, I pray. I may not see the end result, but I believe it! I believe that Jesus is still the same, that a grasp of the hem of His clothing can heal, and if we are clothed by Him, then we carry such a power. Peter’s shadow. I read my Bible and I believe it. Do you? You should, because it’s happening. The impossible stuff? It’s happening, for the glory of God, in the name of Jesus.

Revival is happening on my phone. Yep. It rings, people calling me for HOPE. They want a dose of HOPE. Just this week, two suicidal women called me, saying “it’s bad,” and guess what? They called ME. Me! They call me. Do you see it? That’s revival. I am a big, giant jar of HOPE OF JESUS, and these ladies have my number. I answer. I listen. I pray with them. I call them out on the lies they’ve been agreeing with. I tell them the truth, but so wrapped in love. I prophesy over them about LOVE and POWER. They call me, and then we call Jesus. Jesus answers. He’s got all the right answers. Guess who they want to talk to when they dial my number? They want to talk to Jesus! That’s revival.

Revival is happening through the devotional I’ve been writing. I’ve been at it for 9 days, got 78 subscribers, some are STRANGERS! I get feedback DAILY on how Jesus is using it! We do different things each day of the week, and it’s amazing to see the responses to prophecy, exhortation, worship, teaching, creativity, processing, and a sermon. Each of these things are edifying, and they have been impacting people in different ways, praise God! A nice cold drink on a hot desert day is the gospel presented to you in the way your heart has been craving to have it. And God keeps speaking to me, I get something new every single day. Out of this overflow sprouts A Tree of Life.

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#ATLdevo:: Fridays are out of the box.

Revival happened tonight at Waffle House. Our waitress quickly recognized us as Bethel people, and told us that THE ONLY REASON she keeps her Monday and Tuesday night shifts is that Bethel people come in. That’s Jesus, walking into the room. She’s sensing His presence, His fragrance, His love through His kids, because we look like Our Dad! That’s what revival is: Jesus walking in and being recognized, being desired.

I want to testify that the revival is here. He’s here. He’s walking into the room. He’s being called. He’s being sought after. His creation is craving time with Him. They are receiving their healing, their hope, their joy… in HIM!

You needn’t wait any longer to join in, you know. It’s happening. Listen in and follow the music, as He sings over His beloved creation, His song of love and redemption. His song is saying “I’m with you, I’m with you, I’m with you.”

Revival is Jesus and He’s walking and He’s here.

5 Baby Steps for Getting OUT of CHAOS

MY TESTIMONY

“Help me establish a routine again, Jesus! Help me function for Your glory. Help me steady myself, because I’m tired of disorder, of confusion, and of punishing myself! Help me back to my feet, Lord.”

There are clearly many HELP ME sentences in my journal entries for August. I’ve been pleading with God to help me, and waiting to write these words: He has helped me!

I was hesitant to share in the middle, because I feel like so many of you are in the middle, still waiting to utter the words that echo a completion, or at least a completed mile marker. I didn’t know if I could handle not having an answer, but just saying “yeah, me too” and stopping there. I am conquering such fears, the fear of not having anything good to say and being just like everybody else someone turns to, with nothing good for them to take away.

I did something insane. I mean it, insane. I committed to writing a DAILY devotional while my life was still pretty much in chaos. I wasn’t eating right, sleeping right, or doing anything constructive on a consistent basis {aside from work}, and yet I obeyed the nudge that said “no, do it anyway” and wham.

So I launched A Tree of Life, and I wasn’t that surprised when the first 10-20 people signed up. These are my heroes. Family, mentors, people in my parents’ generation that follow my every step. “Okay,” I thought, “if I mess up, I can just explain it to them, no big deal.”

Then more people signed up. And more people. Now there are 60-some people on there, some of whom I’ve never met, complete strangers. Okay, what? No no no no no.

I felt that cold sweat, you know? The feeling in  the stomach when you’re about to speak to a crowd, and you know you have something to say, but it’s still daunting? Yep. And I knew that it was Jesus, and I knew that I couldn’t back out.

The accountability is the most amazing and frustrating thing I’m experiencing right now.

I have to do this one thing, daily, or make extra time and prepare more in one day. And I also have to read what I’m sending, and read a lot of extra scripture as I select what to send. I have to be intentional, preemptive, and consider others before myself. Can I tell you a secret?

It’s spilling all over my life.

I’m being preemptive with food, with health. I bought chewable vitamins and I was bummed that the dose is only two gummies. I bought a robot {no but really, Jetsons status} that is a rice cooker, steamer, and slow cooker. I already used it to make rice while steaming salmon, spinach, and mushrooms. Best 20 minute meal ever, no mess.

I’m being intentional with my friends, to call, to answer the phone, and to SHOW UP for when we have meetings. I haven’t stood anybody up in 7 days, get outta here. I made goody bags for the guys who helped me move, and got flowers for the Smiths on move-out day, and for Simone on move-in day. Not to boast on my thoughtfulness, but rather to say OH MY GOSH I am doing it again, the nice things I THINK about doing but stopped doing for so many months, because I was broken broken broken. Do you relate??? Like, what do you do with all those good intentions when they just crash down for months??? Finally, they’re coming to fruition, actually realized, and that’s such a victory, guys!

I painted furniture yesterday. I lit candles, and went to my room at 8:30pm, had already eaten dinner, already washed dishes and cleaned the counters. At 8:30, I did a collage with Jesus, and wrote. I sat in the glow of lights and candles, and swayed in His love. I can’t tell you how freeing it is to have had this breakthrough. It’s here. It was September, all along!

Looking back, I have so much more compassion for people who are in the mess. I used to think they could just ‘get it together’ and stop being hot messes, but that’s not exactly how it works. Every intention is there, but it has to be just like a chemical reaction. I’m used to catalyzed reactions, but now I have compassion for uncatalyzed reactions that take more energy, more time.

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I am a scientist part-time, bear with me.

All in all, I wanted to boast in the power of Jesus, to say that He was and is sufficient for me in my times of direst need, and to encourage you if you’re in the middle:

1. ACCOUNTABILITY

Do one thing the same, every single day. I hope that it’s spending time with Jesus, just crack open your Bible or write for FIVE minutes on your journal. Listen to ONE song that’s a worship song. Do ONE thing the same, every day. Tell a friend or two that you’re doing this, and text them when you did it for that day.

 2. PICK A BED TIME & GO TO BED

Also, as you’re going to bed, PICK A BED TIME. I know that sounds silly, but it helps. Commit to it. Put your phone away. Wash your face, brush your teeth, put on your night cream (oh the greatness of night cream), and GO TO BED. Read a book if you can’t sleep, but no screens.

3. PLAN YOUR MEALS

Planning my meals was a fun journey as well. I remember committing to eating breakfast every day for a week, and only accomplishing this ONCE that week. Better than nothing. Now it’s not a dread to make food anymore, or to plan it, or to think about eating it. If you’re grieving, you need to remind your body that it likes food. It was made for food. Your appetite might be MIA but your body remembers what to do. Make double portions,save one for leftovers. Eat anyway.

4. MAKE TIME FOR JOY & ART

Listen to songs that uplift you, that are good for you. No lie, Taylor Swift’s new song, Shake It Off, is a good one to dance to in the middle of a really bad day. Paint something. Color. Draw. Light a candle. Buy flowers, pick flowers, draw flowers, anything to do with flowers. It helped my soul realign with beauty and the vibrancy of life.

5. COUNT THE LITTLE THINGS

Celebrate your milestones, even if it’s mostly a fail. I celebrated my one breakfast out of seven. Put your drawings up in your room, write about it, tell a friend. Find a way to celebrate the small moments of victory, because they are important. Jesus is rejoicing with you, and so am I. You’re not alone in your chaos, ever. And you don’t have to stay there.

Persecution

When I hear about persecution, I want to be like Peter and draw out my sword and chop someone’s ear off.

I want to fix the current situation, not realizing that it’s part of a bigger picture. I hear about wars, and about the genocide in Iraq, and overall persecution of Christians, and my stomach turns.

The human side of me goes “Uh hello, where is God in all this? These are His kids.

The Jesus side of me goes “Uh hello, this is prophesied. These are His kids.

Oh yeah. Prophecy.

Persecution is part of what is coming… it’s happening. Honestly, we can pray to dodge it, we can pray for those being persecuted to not get persecuted, but in a way… God told us in advance that evil and wars in this world were gonna happen. This is to be expected, fam. Prophecies are gonna come true. All of them. Not just some. As we read in our Bibles, we must brace yourselves. Jesus is coming back soon! Soon! Persecution is coming, and for some it’s already here.

In the American church we find our pastors apologizing when they go over the allotted message time. We find our congregations prone to complain about the room temperature, the volume of the worship, the lyrics on the screens… honestly, the furthest thing from a persecuted church. Gun to their heads, would they deny Him? I don’t know. I hope not. The Bible says in Mark 4 and in Matthew 13 that there are some who last just a short time in the faith, but when persecution comes, they quickly fall away.

Would you fall away?
Would you try to preserve your life at the cost of denying Jesus?

Would you be okay with being a martyr? What about your children? Your family? When I was gearing up to go on the World Race, I knew right away that my family was not okay with me being a martyr or traveling to sketchy places. But safety, true safety, is in Christ. Of all the deaths, to die for the One who died for me? Wouldn’t that be the best way to go out?

There are some mature, brave believers that are dying out in the persecuted places of the world, just as prophesied. And our first reaction is outrage, like Peter. We see pictures of their corpses, of children strewn about, and it’s extremely disturbing, but as believers in Christ, we know that the corpse does not represent the ending. Those terrorists can only kill the body, my friends.

Even so, what do we expect for each person? To live to 90, have a 401k, go fishing, and die gently like the Notebook? That’s not what usually happens. Is our outrage stemming from the brutality or the motive for persecution? I’m asking a lot of questions so we can process it together.

I think the brutality is the shock factor of persecution… an unfair death, too soon, at least for me as I see the news, that’s what makes me the most upset. But I ask God and I realize that all those saints are up with Him. All those children, all those believers are rejoicing with Him right now, rushing together into the gates of heaven. And with that many people called up at once, obviously something is going on for the Kingdom.

Think for a minute about the honor of dying for the Name of Jesus. Can you see that when persecution increases, revival stirs? That the lost see a people who are willing to die for the TRUTH, and surrender their lives for THE LIFE, and they take their first eternal breaths and step into glory?

I am by no means condoning the evil of one person taking the life of another, or trying to diminish the loss or the suffering of the saints… no… if anything, I am highlighting it and emphasizing it. This great suffering here, exchanged for surpassing glory.

The mangled bodies in those pictures are in surpassing glory with the King of Kings. Replaced with eternal bodies. Whole. Clothed in white. What you see with your eyes is not what is happening in the heavenly heights.

Train your eyes, friends.

To live is Christ and to die is gain. The more I try to line up with that, the more I start to think that a vibrant life in Christ in this day and age is not dependent on length. I believe that these martyrs, even though they’re young, lived full lives, and as they breathe right now, in heaven, they are singing to the King. As it says in Hebrews 11, ‘the world was not worthy of them.’

Would we be willing to be so brave?
I think that kind of bravery, whether persecuted or not, brings many to salvation.

My current favorite worship song played this morning at church. We sang about a God who makes us brave, who calls us out beyond the shore into the waves. “No fear can hinder now the love that made a way.” And this is so… nothing can hinder us from Him, not terrorism, not death.

As it says in Romans 8:35-39,

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.