Thursday, January 4, 2018

Bedtime Musings - Dinner #81

Bedtime Musings

-A Second Lesson In Sorrow-

Psalm 63:6 “When I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches.”

I felt God’s comfort and His love, last year, in a wonderful, amazing way . . . I wrote, then, from the very depths of my soul. But what do you write when the same sorrow hits a second time?

I didn’t want to look at another lifeless ultrasound ever again . . . But sometimes what we dread the very most, ends up coming to pass. If you read my Christmas blog post, you heard the heart of a woman who had come a full year from deep sorrow.  Only ten days later, we found ourselves experiencing such sorrow again.  Only those who have walked this road, can truly understand.  You feel like you’ve plunged beneath a frozen, icy pond, and you’re gasping for breath.  You hear the voices of your other children, playing, but you can hardly pull yourself from bed . . . It is the familiar weight and cloud of grief . . .  You’re not taking fun family photos, or planning a wonderful goal for the new year, like all the world seems to be, around you . . . You’re just trying to live through TODAY . . . Trying not to be in physical pain . . . Trying to hold back the tears every time an article of clothing makes you remember what was finally a noticeable “bump”, only a couple of weeks ago . . .

Any death can be tragic; saddening; devastating – but a miscarriage leaves a woman feeling HOLLOW, as no other grief in the world can do - especially if you are a Christian mother. Because of your belief in God’s Word, you understand how REAL it all is, right from the very beginning.  Life was growing within you, a heart was beating close to your own - and then it was gone . . . Studies in recent years have shown that when we have carried babies in our womb, their cells sometimes even leave imprints on our own, changing us forever.  Once you become a mom, you’re truly never the same. Once you have miscarried, you’re never the same, either. Such loss molds your heart in an entirely new way – a deeper way than you’ve ever known before.

They tell you that you feel grief because you have felt LOVE – Oh how true that is!  You may be wondering, “How can your heart hurt so much over a fifth baby, or a sixth?”  Because I have enjoyed the “baby stage” of motherhood so very, very much!  I have embraced it as a gift from God.  And I truly long for another wobbly little head on my shoulder, at midnight.  Perhaps you’d say with the well-meaning, “You already have 4 beautiful children . . .” But a mother’s love does not get divided amongst her children, it only multiplies!  And so, yes, a loving mother does grieve – whether it be her first or her tenth child, that she has just lost.  

Often in these sorrows, there are no answers.  Once again, everything appeared to be “going just fine”.  So what do you do when there seems to be no “why”? As the beautiful church song goes, “And there seems to be no reason for the suffering we feel; We are tempted to believe God does not know . . . And when you don’t understand the purpose of His plan, in the Presence of the King, bow the knee.”

ANYONE we love, here on earth, is only a gift for a time.  Some are with us for 11 weeks, but never held in our arms; some are by our side for 50 years or more.  We ought to love them as God would have us love them – every single day.  But we ought to love Our Savior even more. 

All to Jesus I surrender,  All to Him I freely give; I will ever love and trust Him, In His Presence daily live . . .”  One baby . . . Two babies . . . and any more of those most dear in all the world to me, that God chooses to call home.  They are really Thine, Oh Lord! 

And then, when we sorrow, we “ . . . sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.” (I Thess. 4:13)  Much in my heart has been crushed, and there have been many, many tears. But our 2017 baby was taken to a glorious Heaven, by a good and loving God. And I will see both my miscarried babies in Heaven, someday!

As my husband and I sat together in the hospital room, a week ago, I wrote these words from my heart:

When writing a status update, Facebook often asks "What is on your mind?" Heaven. Heaven is on my mind, today. The sweetest nursery you could ever hope to see . . . Every baby loved, and hoped, and wished for, but never held here on earth . . . Every baby left, neglected, now cared for by the angels . . . Every baby aborted in the womb, but now loved on by millions of mamas in a perfect land . . . Every baby who suffered from illnesses and birth defects, here below, now and forever healed . . . Perhaps there are volunteers who work "nursery" in that Heavenly Place - If so, I will certainly be one of them. 

Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

With My Lord’s help, through the sorrow and the pain, I choose to hold on to FAITH.  Faith that God is good.  Faith that “ . . . his tender mercies are over all his works.” (Psalm 145:9).  Faith that He will heal the brokenness, once again.  Faith that no matter how many times I “go down to the grave”, my Lord will bring me up (Psalm 30:3).  Faith that joy will come in the morning (Psalm 30:5).

I felt God’s comfort and His love, last year, in a wonderful, amazing way . . . I wrote, then, from the very depths of my soul.  But what do you write when the same sorrow hits a second time? The words of the timeless hymn sounds in my heart, “Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not . . . Great is Thy faithfulness.”

Bow The Knee” Song: 

Saturday, December 16, 2017

One Year Later - Dinner #80

One Year Later

     Today, I pull out the comforting purple blanket from the hospital, and I pray, thanking God for all He has brought us through.  We talk at breakfast about what this last year in Heaven might have been like for Joshua. I look through the photos and the memory box.  I remember the loving midwife, the nurses, our family, and our friends.  I recall those who told us they were praying for us; those who wrote us messages and sent us cards; those who washed our dishes, and brought over taco salad, or dinosaur chicken nuggets for our girls; those who reached out to us with precious remembrance gifts like wind chimes and necklaces . . . I praise God for His Word, and for the great hymns of others who found the comfort of the Lord in great sorrow.  I thank God for His loving care - that He “is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works.” (Ps. 145:9) Today, I think back over this past year, and I say, “Look, with me, at what God alone could have done . . .”

This Year In My Life

This year has been one of the most incredible I have ever known. 

With my heart, I have felt the grief and the pain of sorrow, and have known the peace, the comfort, and the healing of my God.

With my eyes, I have seen the waves of Lake Eerie, the mountains of West Virginia, and the rice paddies of Indonesia.

I have smelled the aroma of ginger, turmeric, and peanut sauce, as we’ve experienced the flavors of other parts of the world.

I’ve stood at the mouth of a volcano, ridden on a motor bike, and watched two of my girls place their trust in Jesus Christ. 

My mind has been filled with Bible verses, with candidate school lessons, with missions advice, and with facts regarding Southeast Asia.

My hands have planted wildflowers, built sandcastles, and packed and unpacked suitcases, dozens of times. 

I’ve had opportunities to sing God’s praises, to encourage women, and to share with children, as we’ve presented missions work in numerous churches across the Eastern United States.

I have listened to the voices of preachers and preachers’ wives – have heard their burden for the lost, their dedication to their congregations, and their love for missions all over the world.

2017 has been BLESSED in ways I never could have imagined.  I have seen God at work – in my own life, in the life of my family, and in the universe around me.

As we near the celebration of Christmas, I am thankful for the gift of EXPERIENCE.  God has given me LIFE, and it is a blessed life, indeed. 

May the Lord bless each one of you, as you celebrate the birth of His Son, and as you enter the new and coming year!

With Love in Christ,

Kristen Kelley

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Talking & Listening - Dinner #79

- A Few Thoughts For The Holidays -

     My girls and I just returned from spending two weeks, in Georgia, with my family.  We usually only get to see them once or twice a year, so every visit is special.  This one was no exception!  I always LOVE watching my parents and my sisters getting to interact with my Little Ones! This year, we combined the joys of Thanksgiving and Christmas, together, and had a very memorable time. For me, personally, one of the most amazing things about the trip, was just getting to “catch up” with my sisters – in person!  They both have long-hour jobs, and if you’re a mom, you know what trying to have a phone call with me can be like! LOL! This was SO much better than the “Oh! I’ve gotta go! Charlotte just knocked over the Christmas tree!” routine. SMILE!  It was some of the real heart-to-heart stuff.

     As I thought about how wonderful the “real heart-to-hearts” can be, I began to think about how it is very much the same with God! You can read pieces of information concerning Him; can skim His Word much like reading text messages; but it is not the same as spending time in His Presence. Talking to God – Listening to God.

Psalm 55:17 declares, “Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice.”

Psalm 1:2 “But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.”

David wanted to spend ALL DAY with God! And God DESIRES to be close to us – sinners though we be . . . He is our Creator, and if we are saved, then we are His children, as well! We are part of God’s family!

Revelation 3:20 “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”

God wants to spend quality time with US! Just like sitting down to that wonderful Thanksgiving or Christmas Day meal, where you talk, and laugh, and cry - He wants to DINE with us! Perhaps, as you’re reading this, you’re realizing that you haven’t really just sat down and DINED with the Savior, in quite some time . . . And perhaps it feels like you may never be near to God again . . . But have you ever gone a long stretch away from a family member or a good friend, and noticed how much CLOSER your heart feels to them, even after just a quiet get-together over a cup of hot tea? You may have spent far too long away from the Presence of God, but that can be remedied, Dear Friend!

James 4:8 says, “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you . . .”

If you make even one small heart-step towards the Father, He is always right there to meet you.

Psalm 16:11 “ . . . in thy presence is fullness of joy . . .” 

It is GOOD to spend time with family and friends – especially over the holidays! But “FULNESS OF JOY”? That only comes from spending time with GOD! November and December fly by, Ladies . . . the presents, the lights, the meal preparations and the gift buying . . . May we all take the time to listen to God and to talk with Him – to dine with our Savior in blessed fellowship, once more.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Path of Surrender - Dinner #78

SURRENDER . . . Submitting to the Lord Jesus for His honor and glory.  Giving to God a little more of your life.  Learning to give Him your moments and your days.  LETTING Him be Lord.  LETTING Him direct your steps.  If you’re under conviction, it’s about going down to the altar, or lowering your head and your heart in the pew, as soon as that invitation is given.  It’s about doing that task that God impressed upon your heart to do – writing that letter, baking that meal, giving that tract.  It’s about constantly telling the Holy Spirit “yes”,
even if sometimes in your human nature, you’re inclined to say “no”. “Yes, Lord, yes, and yes, and yes, once more.”

Do we daily SURRENDER that day to Him? We have no way of knowing if that one day might be our last.  Are we seeking to glorify God with the time He has given to us?  One very overwhelmed evening, in college, I was speaking with a godly lady from India, after a church service.  I was explaining to her about how swamped I was with projects, and assignments, and upcoming tests, and she told me a valuable lesson I have never forgotten.  “Every morning, when you wake up, give to God your day.  Pray, and ask Him to help you do only what HE wants you to do in that day – what HE wants you to accomplish.” That helped me in college, it helped me in my days of teaching in a Christian school, it helps me now in motherhood  . . . “Please help me Lord to do what YOU want me to do today.  I surrender THIS DAY to you.”  Because if you turn your moments, your hours, your days, over to the Lord, in so doing, you are surrendering to God your life.  You are allowing His Holy Spirit to lead you.  You are allowing GOD to be in charge.  Because WE might think it most important that we clean our house, that we get caught up on laundry, or that we mow the lawn.  I recently saw a devotional quote on Facebook that read: “Sometimes the interruption is the assignment.”  Sometimes that unexpected, that tends to frustrate or annoy, is exactly what God wanted in your day. Are you willing to say, “Yes, Lord!” when it comes?

Ephesians 2:10 declares, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”  Are we following the daily assignments that HE has for us?  Amid the changing diapers and the washing the dishes, are we pausing to write that encouraging letter to someone, or to make that meal for someone sick, when the Holy Spirit prompts us to?  Hebrews 3:13 says “But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day . . .” Don’t put it off . . . Don’t miss out on what God could do with your life!

I think this is an area of surrender, that we don’t often consider in our lives.  As a teenager, we might feel comfortable with giving Him “our life”, in general, but do we hand over to Him the days? Or the hours, even? 

The Bible speaks much about our day – about viewing our day through Heavenly eyes. 

Ephesians 5:16 advises us to make sure that we are “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

And the book of Psalms, in particular, has one beautiful thought for us, after another:

Psalm 35:28 “And my tongue shall speak of thy righteousness and of thy praise all the day long.”

Psalm 71:8 “Let my mouth be filled with thy praise and with thy honour all the day.”

Psalm 145:2 “Every day will I bless thee; and I will praise thy name for ever and ever.”

Psalm 71:15 “My mouth shall shew forth thy righteousness and thy salvation all the day; for I know not the numbers thereof.”

Psalm 96:2 “Sing unto the LORD, bless his name; shew forth his salvation from day to day.”

Psalm 74:16 “The day is thine, the night also is thine . . .”

Psalm 90:12 “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”

     You see, it isn’t about us – it isn’t about just dishes, and dusting, and grocery shopping.  Now those things ARE important – they ARE often a big part of our God-given role as a woman and as a homemaker.  But sometimes God would use our hands to complete some blessed task, or He would use our lips to pray some sincere prayer, or He would use our mind to think some creative idea, and we miss out, because we have not allowed Him to have full control of our day or of our lives. You may have been saved for decades, but if you haven’t been allowing Christ to be Lord in your life, I want to encourage you to let the Holy Spirit be in charge.  God’s will for our days is so much better than anything we could plan for ourselves!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Not Listening - Dinner #77

     After church, today, I took a photo of myself beside our van tire. Yep! You read that right! LOL! 

     You see, the devil has been trying to feed me his lies, all week.  “It would be more profitable for you to get a job than to homeschool your children.  You’ll never be able to pay your bills and save enough to be on deputation full-time.  You aren’t going to have enough gas to even make it to the next church meeting.  You’ve sold 1/3 of your furniture for nothing.  Your books are in boxes and your clothes are in suitcases for nothing.  You’ll never make it to Indonesia.  You’re wasting your time.  You’re not cut out for this.  If you DO finally get there, you’ll be too old to learn the language.  Your kids will succumb to every disease known to man.  Your marriage will fall apart.  You’ll fall flat on your face, and end up coming right back to the States.” Whew!  Does he ever want to hit us hard!  The spiritual warfare is REAL, My Friends!

     And when God sends me a sweet little “smile “ from Heaven, I’m going to rejoice in it! Even if it means bending down beside our van tire, and taking a photo.  Because, you know what, My Friends?  The Lord allowed me to discover something, today.  If you pull out your magnifying glass, you’ll see it, too. That tire of ours was “Made in Indonesia”! SMILE!  We are driving around on wheels that were made on the other side of the world, as we seek the prayer and the financial support we need to go there, ourselves! SMILE!  God is good! And He will get us there – for it is He that hath called us!  Psalm 57:2 “I will cry unto God most high; unto God that performeth all things for me.”

     The devil wants to battle our minds, and leave us too discouraged to take another step forward. He wants to leave me too fearful and “weary in well doing” (Galatians 6:9), to do anything more for God.  How easy it is to believe his lies!  But oh, how grateful I am that we serve a TRUSTWORTHY God! The Bible tells me, that “God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (II Timothy 1:7) That is His promise to me.  The Bible says, “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”  (Isaiah 41:10)  That is His promise to me. 

     This morning, as we sang the hymn “Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesus”, the words reached into my soul:
“'Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to take Him at His Word
Just to rest upon His promise,
Just to know, "Thus saith the Lord!"
Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!
How I've proved Him o'er and o'er
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!
Oh, for grace to trust Him more!”

     When the devil fights us long and hard, God is there.  “And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, LORD, hast not forsaken them that seek thee.” (Psalm 9:10) “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God . . .” (Psalm 42:5) Satan is nothing but the “Father of Lies” (John 8:44), and by God’s grace, I’m not going to listen to him! I’m going to continue to place my faith and my hope in GOD! “In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God.  Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us. Selah.” (Psalm 62:7-8) Please make us strong, Dear God!  Please help us as we continue to “fight the good fight of faith” (I Timothy 6:12)!  Will you please continue praying for us, Dear Brethren In Christ?

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Gift Of Summer - Dinner #76

     I headed back towards the tree line, in our yard, after I laid the girls down for their nap, this afternoon.  We had used their sand pails from the beach, to gather items from a little “nature walk”, and my oldest daughter, Brooklyn, had discovered a pretty wildflower, we wanted to identify. Of course, there were gnats, and bees, and other undesirable insects, but the sunshine felt wonderful.  Upon my “return journey” – flower photo now successfully on my phone, for future “Google research” – I thanked the Lord, once again, for this awesome summer. 

     Sometimes my heart still sinks at the realization that I have no newborn to care for, but the gift God has handed to me this summer is a “non-nursing” summer – a summer with four little toddlers, preschoolers, and school girls. This is the gift that God has chosen to give us this year, and I have opened it – embracing it to the fullest.  The Library’s Summer Reading Program . . . Every night of VBS . . .  “Summer Lessons” on flowers, water, baseball, and birds . . . Trips to the park . . . A children’s play. . . An afternoon picking wildflowers . . . Water balloons, birthday parties, river exploration, and even a day at the beach . . .

     With missionary candidate school now behind us, I realize, more than ever, that I will not always live in a house with a huge backyard at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains – but for now, we will ENJOY it!  We will love seeing the deer walking through the grass.  We will take our sand pails and fill them with items from our nature walks.  We will identify birds, and pick flowers to put in little cups of water on my kitchen counter. We will tend the little memorial garden for Joshua, and watch the seedlings burst into full bloom.  Later, we may be in a camper, or a trailer, or a hotel room, and, by God’s grace, I will ENJOY those days, too!  Determined to be thankful . . . Determined to embrace the gifts that God places in my hand . . . for He “daily loadeth us with benefits.” (Psalm 68:19).  Are we looking for them?  

     In Psalm 31, David writes “Oh how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee; which thou hast wrought for them that trust in thee before the sons of men!”  Being quite a petite woman, myself, I picture those blessings of goodness as wrapped presents on a top shelf.  God has “laid them up” for me, and I sometimes need to stand on a stool to reach them.  He has “laid up” so much goodness, and so many blessings for you, too, Dear Sister in Christ!  Are you reaching for them? Are you looking for them? Are you willing to see them, all around you, every day? When you open the “gift of summer”, in your own home, what do you find? Where has He intentionally placed YOU? May you thank Him for it, and embrace it with joy! 

     Is my life carefree? Absolutely not . . . There are more stresses and concerns now, than ever! More things to prepare, to plan, to ponder . . . I’m taking my children from a lovely little spot in the Shenandoah Valley, and headed towards 17,000 tropical islands on the other side of the world! We are changing the course of our lives forever, because GOD has changed it for us!  And there is JOY in serving Christ! There are blessings EVERY DAY! “For thy lovingkindness is before mine eyes: and I have walked in thy truth.” (Psalm 26:3) What “lovingkindness” from the Lord, do you have the eyes to see, in your own home, today? What blessings lay all around you? Healthy little ones? Food in the pantry? Air conditioning? A library, just around the corner? “I will sing unto the LORD, because he hath dealt bountifully with me.” (Psalm 13:6) My encouragement to you, this evening, is keep those blessings “before your eyes” – open those gifts – and ENJOY these blessed summer days!

Monday, May 1, 2017

This Mother's Day - Dinner #75

     Happy May 1st! Wow . . . When did that happen?!  I’ve been a pregnant Mama during so many Mays, in our marriage – but not this May.  This Mother’s Day, I won’t be feeling morning sickness, or experiencing the discomfort of Braxton Hicks, or finding myself only a week away from actual labor . . . I’ll be thanking God for my 4 little girls, and thinking fondly of my little boy in Heaven . . . I’ll be praying for God’s continued healing of my “Mommy heart”, and for more physical healing, as well . . .
     You learn so many things when you walk down the road of a 2nd. Trimester miscarriage . . . One is how very long it can take your body to “go back to normal” . . . It can be rather rough, rather painful, and rather emotional, as you face the sometimes daily reminders that your womb is empty.  Your heart may have healed SO much – you may have “come SO far” – but, physically, you’re still just “not there” yet . . .
     But God can give you grace, God can give you strength, and, sometimes, God can even take you to the other side of the world! Yes! We were ABLE to go to Indonesia! SMILE! And oh, what a blessed trip that was!  God truly “grew our heart”, and gave us His joy and His peace, in being there!  Now, here we are, back in the States, and ready to continue our training! Our week of “candidate school” is in June! And in the meantime, we’ve been working on everything from prayer card photos, to a video presentation script, and answering questions about our trip to Indonesia, in-between. SMILE!  We’ve been cuddling our girls, and making a special point about “family time”, while finishing goals for our homeschooling year, and thinking in the back of our minds about packing things up and selling certain pieces of furniture . . .  
     My heart is on “cloud 9”, and my heart is in a whirlwind, and, yet, “my heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed . . ..” Psalm 57:7
     This is certainly a time in our lives for letting Christ be all that we need, and for realizing He is enough!

Hebrews 13:5 “ . . . be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.

   In a devotional I read, recently, a missionary wife said, “Sometimes we aren’t content because we look back to see what ‘we’re missing’.” It made me think about Lot’s wife, who was more concerned for what and who she’d left behind, than in fully obeying God. 

“ . . . look not behind thee . . .” (Gen. 19:17) “But his wife looked back . . .” (Gen. 19:26)

“And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62)

     Do I worry about the future? Yes, I worry! But I pray I don’t “look back!”  By God’s grace, we keep moving forward.  By His grace, we persevere. My hope is in “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” (Hebrews 13:8)  And He is “all I need” . . .