10/9/2020 0 Comments
Hope Over Fear | Justice K.
This has been a quote I have had to speak over myself for the last four months after losing Selah. My hope has to be greater than my fear. If it is not, life would be absolutely miserable and I would just stay in my shell of fear, anxiety and depression. I never battled with chronic anxiety before this tragedy, so this is all new to me. Most days it has been hard to believe my hope is more powerful than my fear. My fear can be paralyzing and in my human brain, fear feels safer than hope. You know why? Because when I fear then I do not have to trust God, I don’t have to worry about what people will think, and I don’t have to worry about being let down. It “feels” like fear is a way to protect me from getting my “hopes up”. I know everyone has heard that before, when things aren’t optimal, people will say “Don’t get your hopes up!” or you say it yourself. So instead of getting our hopes up, choosing to expect the worse is a better bet because at least you weren’t “let down.” I’m not saying you should always expect things to be great when obviously, terrible things happen. Sometimes when things are not going well it is wise to face the reality of the situation and not just cover it up by simply saying, “Oh, God’s got it.” I think a blanket statement like that can be sort of a false hope when you know the outcome is likely to not be in your favor.
So how do you achieve having more hope than fear when there are so many unknowns and we are obviously not in control? I believe the answer is: We can because God is. God is sovereign over everything. We can have faith in him because he has conquered death when he sent his son, Jesus, to earth. He died on the cross carrying all of our sin and then rose again proving he was indeed the son of God. So when we believe that this is truth, we are saved and will have hope that heaven is where we will have true peace. I have to remind myself that earth is not my forever home so I cannot expect that things will always go my way and I will be happy all the time. Since earth is not my true home, I will always be unsatisfied with the pain and strife I have to endure. So my hope comes from knowing that this life will never bring me the fulfillment I will receive when I’m with my heavenly father. My salvation is in Christ and that can never be taken away from me, no matter how hard life gets.
Although all of this is easier to be said than to be done, I can truthfully say I do feel this in my heart. Even though, some days I question God and feel upset, I know this is my baseline and is the simple answer for my troubles. So when I feel those anxious thoughts come up and I feel the fear stirring up inside of my heart, I have to remember this. Lamentations 3:32-33 says, “Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone.”
God’s love for me, surpasses my knowledge of love. The only love I can relate it to is the love I have for my children. And even my love is not strong enough to save them. I have the ability to protect them but not the ability to guarantee eternity. So God’s unfailing love is put in perspective. He shows compassion to his children simply because he loves us. He does not bring pain to us, the pain is brought because in the beginning, mankind chose sin over a relationship with their Creator. So here we are now, a story of a father’s relentless love for his children. Our personal stories are so powerful and so unique. I love the story in John that describes when the disciples asked, “why was a man born with disability?” The scriptures reads like this, “As he was passing by, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” Jesus answered. “This came about so that God’s works might be displayed in him.” John 9:1-3 Jesus went on to heal this man through his words and his touch. He gave that man his deep love and that was enough to heal him.
Sin is in this world so bad things happen and sometimes for no reason at all, it is not because of your father’s, your mother’s or your brother’s sin. It is human kind that always seeks someone to blame for misfortune. But that through your story God’s work can be displayed. So we can have hope that God will act on our behalf even if it takes awhile. Because of his love.
“From ancient times no one has heard, no one has listened to, no eye has seen any God except you who acts on behalf of the one who waits for him.” Isaiah 64:4
In this episode of #BeautyAndBeard, Troy and Chaka tell their story of dealing with infertility. Chaka has been a director of IronDresses Inc. since the beginning and continues to encourage and support women of all stages. Subscribe to #BeautyAndBeard Podcast on Youtube to connect and hear the rest of their story!
9/18/2020 1 Comment
Out of the Mud & Mire | Brittany R.
It all started at the 5th annual Irondresses conference. The first night was wrapping up and we had just heard Lynette Lewis share her story and how it was for God’s glory. Inspired, encouraged and just so full from hearing all the speakers that night, I headed out for the night to get some rest before the next day of the conference. However, just moments prior I felt this stirring, this nudge, that I was going to write a book. I briefly mentioned it to a friend but then I went on about my business. I thought, I’m not going to write a book, what? I vividly remember having my hand on the door and having a conversation with someone and I heard “out of the mud and mire.” They were meaningless words to me at the time but little did I know, that would become the title of the book that I said I wasn’t going to write. As I went home, I googled those words and Psalm 40 came up. I read it. “I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire.”
I was instantly captured by the Psalmist David’s words. I kid you not, I resonated so much with those words.
I kept reading, “he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.”
I don’t exactly remember what happened next in that moment but I do recall thinking, wow. This is me. This is my story!
There was a point in my life - multiple points actually - where I was face to face with darkness. Stuck in a pit, crying out to God. I never knew that I could feel so hopeless and lost. I never knew that I could feel so much despair. So much pain that I just felt stuck. But you know, I also never knew that I would one day praise God for those very feelings and that same pit. I never knew that I would sing and experience a joy so great that I would want to shout about it from the mountain tops, but it is possible.
In my book, Out of the Mud & Mire, I show you just how it happened. I show you how God rescued me from my pit and gave me new life. I show you how he turned my despair and hopelessness around. Not only that but I also provide you with tools and takeaways to help you navigate your “pit” as well. You may find that you are facing the nastiest, ugliest, darkest, messiest pit in your life. Maybe you feel like you are losing hope? I get it, I do. And I want you to know that He can rescue you too. God can give you that new song of life, peace, and joy too.
I WROTE A BOOK Y’ALL!!!! Truly, I cannot wait to share my story with you!
Out of the Mud & Mire will be available for purchase soon. Please check out my public page @justbritt_nicole on Instagram for release dates, updates, platforms to purchase, and little tid bits about the book.
This Vlog is about my journey to motherhood with my first born son. I tell the hard truth about navigating through my own guilt and shame of being an unwed christian mother. My life was forever changed when they placed my son on my belly, I then knew what unconditionally love was and all the shame and guilt melted away. I hope this meets people where they are while also encouraging people to stay true to their faith and obedient to the word of God.
6/24/2020 0 Comments
In The Depths: Justice K.
“Out of the depths I call to you, Lord! Lord, listen to my voice; let your ears be attentive to my cry for help.”
If you would ask me what it feels like to lose your baby… I would say it’s like sailing on a boat, and at first the weather is nice and it is peaceful on the boat. The wind is blowing gently through your hair and you can breathe in deep of sweet aromas from all around you. Then suddenly you hit an unseen, ginormous object and it violently throws your body off the boat. You smack into the ocean water and your body is paralyzed. You start to sink and you can see the sunlight fading away. You sink until there is only darkness and you hit the bottom of the ocean. You cannot breathe, you gasp for air but there is nothing to breathe in except water. You feel the immense pressure of the water crushing you, squeezing the life out of you but for some reason you are still alive. Gasping for air that is not there. All you want is to desperately get out of the abyss but you are paralyzed from the jolt of that ginormous wreck. Sounds like a bad dream right? You want to so badly wake up from this nightmare and to get back to the sun and gentle breeze but all there is, is darkness and silence. I am living in this nightmare.
It has been two weeks of being in this uncharted territory in the depths of my soul, I feel like an outsider in my own body. My old world is falling apart…and a new one is coming up. I did not want my new world to be like this, yet this is what it is. I have so many questions, why did God allow this to happen? And why now? But those questions do not help the fact my baby is gone. So I lament in this in between space. Adriel Booker describes this “place” perfectly… “Lament invites us to a liminal space. The word liminal connotes the idea of a threshold—a space between what was and what will be. The implication is a moving forward into something new, but not without first being transformed by the in-between. Liminal spaces feel disorienting because they are.” Being in the in-between does not feel good. It is frustrating and causes me to have wait. I have to trust that this process is good for me even though it hurts terribly bad. I have to trust that God will turn all of this into something beautiful somehow. It is the only hope that I can count on.
I had told God to have his way with my life. To transform my family into the vision he has set for us but by no means did I mean this. This has rocked me to my core. I’m not saying God decided to just take our daughter to “teach” us a lesson but, the reason why she was sick in the first place is simply because sin has corrupted God’s intended perfect world. So God is indeed with us and doesn’t intend to leave us. Ever. So I carry my sorrow and pain to my Heavenly Father. I let him hold it in his arms with me as I weep and long for my little girl. I have no words to speak to him but yet he is still there listening to my cries and my thoughts before I even know how to articulate it.
He is here with me in the depths of my soul. I didn’t know how deep his love was until I learned that my love wasn’t enough to save her. But his was. He saved my little girl, my family and the entire world. An entire world carried to and on the cross and then he died the most painful death just for us to have a chance to have a relationship with him. I would give up my life to save my children in an instant but I would never want to give up my child to save the world…but I had no choice in the matter, all I had was trust. I had to trust God that he would be with us through the depths of my worst fear…and maybe having to let her go saves us?
So, I have not come up for air yet but I know I will be able to one day. I cannot let go of the One that saved me, and I know he is to my rescue and when I am ready…I will resurface. But right now I will remain in the depths, in my sorrow because of the longing to hold her again. To smell her scent and kiss her soft skin. Oh how I wish I could have spent more time with her and squeezed and held her longer…I will long for that day until my days here are numbered.
“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,””
5/23/2020 1 Comment
Growing Pains | Tara Bailey
This Vlog is about an experience that I went through while cultivating a more personal relationship with Christ and venturing into my first dating relationship where Christ was at the center. My major encouragement is to stay true to yourself while growing in Christ!.
5/9/2020 1 Comment
Facing Reality | by Justice K.
Monday, April 27th, 2020 at 2:30am I was awaken by profusely sweating (because of postpartum hormones) and a need to pump. Amara had also woken up and was crying. While Gabe tended to Amara and I pumped, I got a phone call from UVA hospital, a rush of anxiety came over me as I answered. It was the NICU and the doctor there told me that Selah was not doing well. She told me Selah’s blood pressure had dropped really low and she was on 100% support already so there was not much they could do. The doctor said she did not think Selah would make it out the NICU and she might only have a couple days left. My worst fear was approaching. This was out of the blue because Selah had been doing “better” the past couple of days. We waited until about 6am for Gabe’s parents to pick up Amara so we could go to the hospital.
Fortunately, since Selah was in critical condition Gabe and I were both allowed to go into the NICU together. We went it to see our little girl and she looked the worst we had ever seen. She was so swollen, she looked like a different baby. Her conditions didn’t get any better. She still had low blood pressure, low on her oxygen intake and a low heart rate and she was on 100% support. Things were not looking good. Our care team had set up a meeting for us all to talk about the next steps for Selah’s care. I could not talk with out bawling my eyes out so Gabe did most of the talking. We had decided we wanted to fight for our baby girl’s life if it were feasible. The doctors were encouraging us to think about putting her just on comfort care because they seemed not to believe she was going to get better.
Selah had stopped making urine because of the medicines she was on for her blood pressure. Since she wasn’t making urine she was retaining all of her fluids. The doctors could not find out what was causing it but her fluids were not staying in her arteries and veins. Instead they were going outside of them under her skin making her very swollen. Since she was so swollen her organs were slowly failing as well. They didn’t have the space they needed to function properly and the fact that her blood pressure was low. Regardless of this, we still wanted to give her a chance so we waited there for her. Checking her stats continuously. At a moment her stats had jumped up after she received a dose of epinephrine, her heart rate and blood pressure was better and we could see more hope for her. But after a couple of hours she slowly started to decline again. At this point things were not going well for her. So instead of us deciding she should go on comfort care, she was deciding herself. She fought long and hard but her little body was tired and could only take so much. God knows I would have kept going, I would have never stopped fighting for my baby’s life. I didn’t care if she was going to be disabled or anything I just wanted her. So bad.
Later that night, Gabe’s parents brought Amara in so she could meet her baby sister. Our care team brought in Selah’s ventilator and other machines she was hooked up to in our room so we could spend moments with her before she passed. We finally got to hold her for the first time. She smelled like new baby. I kissed her cheeks and her forehead. I got to rub her hair and feel the warmth of her body. Amara came in and we introduced them. Amara waved “hi” to her little sister and then proceeded to point to her nose and her eyes. In an endearing way that Amara does…There was no way to explain to Amara what was happening but I’m glad she got to see her and touch her. Then Gabe and I had alone time with Selah. We cried out in anguish and despair, we wanted to so badly for our baby to make it. We wanted to have her so badly but the reality was not for us to keep her on this earth. The doctors slowly took her off her machines and Selah slowly drifted to rest with Jesus in our arms. We were able to give her a bath and dress her. At 11:07pm April 27th, 2020 our sweet girl became an angel. The hardest thing was to physically let her go, knowing we would never get to see her again on earth. We would never get to see her grow up and know her personality. We will never know what she could’ve been here on earth. Even though we are grieved beyond what words can explain, we can find comfort in knowing she is not sick or in pain anymore. She is completely healed and with Christ Jesus. We needed her but Jesus needed her more. We know her life had a purpose in ours even if it were only 9 days. Though we have to live the rest of our lives missing a piece of us, we will always have her as a daughter, she will stay in our hearts and memories. She will always be our baby girl Selah Irene. We love her more than I can express.
We have yet to scratch the surface of healing. This will be an ongoing process into us getting back to our normal lives. We will be living a new normal of losing a child. How do you go on from that? How do you let go of what you wanted so bad and it didn’t turn out the way you wanted? God only knows how, so we will continue to take this hard journey with him. Because we know weeping may endure for the night but joy comes in the morning. (Psalms 30:5) So as we process this tragedy we have something to look forward to, God’s everlasting joy and his healing power and also that we will see her again in heaven.
“But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, and the one who lifts up my head. I cry aloud to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy mountain. Selah”
Psalms 3:3-4 CSB
5/2/2020 0 Comments
Fear God | By Lera R.
Every few months or so I go through my dresser drawers. I mean well--I really do--but over time, my drawers just become disorganized. I run out of time to fix the pile of shirts that fell over when I pulled one out from underneath the stack. You know how it goes. It just becomes a heap of clothes instead of an organized stack. I pride myself in being an organized person, so this is difficult to admit to you all. While going through the clothes and reorganizing the heap to a beautiful stack, I find a shirt or a pair of pants that I don't wear too often or maybe ever. I take a long look at this item and I then I look again. "Do I REALLY need you?" I ask myself. Sometimes it's an easy answer and I throw it into the give-away pile as fast as I can blink. But every now and then, I become nostalgic. I've had so many memories with you, corduroys. We had a nice time out on the town with the ladies, black top. I cringe as I put it into the give-away pile. I leave my room and cozy into a good book--proud of myself for all the good organizing I just did. About 5 minutes into reading, I put down the book, reenter my bedroom, and I put that beautiful black top that I never wear--and don't even NEED--back into my drawer with all the others. *Sigh* just a few more months of you sitting in my drawer not needed or used, simply taking up space.
This semester, I have been interning with the college ministry we have at our church in the hopes that I will go full-time into campus ministry alongside my husband. One of my favorite things to do is sit down over coffee, or a cinnamon sugar pretzel from Auntie Anne's (can I get an Amen JMU ladies?) with the ladies in our ministry and check in with them. During this season of quarantining due to COVID-19, our chats have been moved to over the phone. It might be better with some coffee or a pretzel, but the company is just as sweet to me. As I have checked in with the ladies during this season, I have heard a common theme:
This season is uncovering things in my heart and life that I have not fully given over to Jesus.
When the distractions have been removed, we can see more clearly. What are those things that we turn to that is not Jesus? Fear, insecurity, addiction to entertainment, pornography, unhealthy eating habits, etc. As my organization of my drawers revealed clothes I had forgotten I still had, this quarantine is revealing things in our hearts and lives we didn't know were still there.
My word for this year is "Listen." My scripture verse to back that is John 10:27 which says, "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me." As I started this year, my desire was to not just listen to God's voice, but listen to His heart. To really listen to the voice of the one whose heart is to know me and have me stay close to Him. In order to really listen to God, my prayer has been to have a posture like Mary of Bethany. In my last post, I talked about how Mary was the woman who poured out the expensive jar of perfume at the feet of Jesus; and how she also sat at the feet of Jesus, fully attentive to His every word while Mary was in the kitchen distracted. I truly believe that Jesus' heart for Martha was not that she stop working, but instead to shift her perspective. He wanted her to cease striving and anxiety and change it to having an ever-attentive heart to Jesus; where we will find true rest--even in business. So that is my heart for this year. To be a woman who is taking care of my home with my eyes on Jesus. Who is thriving in ministry with my eyes on Jesus. Who is loving my husband, family, and friends with my eyes on Jesus.
As I have been in this quarantine, however, I am learning how quickly I can shift my gaze from Him. I go from starting the morning in a beautiful time of prayer and studying of the Word to then rushing through all the household chores I need to get done. I continue in a harried pursuit of my daily tasks feeling heavy. I exchange His peace for my own control. And as I have now become heavy-laden, my heart wants less of Jesus. I pick up my phone instead of my Bible. I scroll instagram instead of praying. I stop listening for the heart of God. I'm distracted. I'm heavy. I'm inattentive.
And I realize quickly that something has been in my drawer that I don't actually need. It's simply taking up space.
In Proverbs 31:10-31, we see the characteristics of a wife of noble character. In the text, we see that she is always working for her husband and family (v.15). We see that she bounces on opportunities, she is strong, and she is hard-working (v.16-18). We see that she desires to give to the poor (v. 20). This woman is busy! But in verse 25 we see that she "...can laugh at the days to come." This suggests a carefreeness and a playfulness about the Proverbs 31 woman that reminds me of Mary of Bethany. This woman has a lot going on. She is able to do many things WELL. One might ask--HOW?! How can she juggle all of these things and still be smiling let alone laughing? Verse 30 tells us: She fears the Lord.
During this time of crisis, we all need to clean out our drawers so-to-speak. We have an opportunity to purge some things in a literal sense, but we also have an opportunity to purge some things in a spiritual sense. There are some things in our lives that our distracting us from Jesus. And He is pleading to be our all--our everything. As we gaze into our hearts, let's get rid of those things that are within us that we don't have space for, in order to make more room for Him. He's it. He's enough. He's everything. Let's set our hearts on Him completely and laugh without fear of the future. How? Because we fear Him.
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