Monday, January 23, 2012

All That is Within Me...

In the opening verse of Psalm 103, we find these words:

Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless His holy name.


I can recall my first Sunday as worship leader after finding out that I was with child. It was Sunday, September 4, 2011. I was standing at the lectern in the pulpit, with tears welling up in my eyes as I sang, Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Unbeknownst to anyone in the congregation, except my husband and my mother, there was something new within me—someone new within me.

Fast forward twenty-odd weeks...

This Scripture, and the refrain that we sing, still moves me. When I sing it, it is an invitation to our daughter to praise God. And praise God, she does. There are times when she is still and then there are the times when she is quite active in my womb. She wakes early and goes to bed late (daytime napping is surely the cause). She gets happy about three minutes after I take a bite of food. Sometimes she plays just because. And she praises God. I know, you're wondering how I know this; On Christmas morning, during our second worship service, she had been still until one of our ministers of music began to sing Richard Smallwood's "Total Praise." As he sweetly sang, Lord, I will lift mine eyes to the hills... she began to move. By the time he got to You are the Source of my strength... I could tell I was experiencing/witnessing/feeling an all out praise party. As he sang, I lift my hand in total praise to You... I knew that she was lifting her tiny hands in praise to Almighty God. Her movement was so intense that I could not stand. And if you know me, you know that I am a worshipper and rarely do you catch me sitting down during service.  But I sat, and gave her room to praise God in her own way. Some weeks later, at a home going service for one of our former members, just before the eulogy was preached, a woman sang "Total Praise" and little lady—who had been still for at least two hours—began to worship God.

Though we have progressed, there are still thoughts that a woman's rightful place is to be barefoot and pregnant and in the kitchen. And though we have progressed, there are still those who do not believe that women are called to preach. What joy it brings me to know that I am not leading worship alone. How awesome is it that our little girl has not only informed my creative process in preaching, but also that she is present when I stand to declare, What thus saith the Lord. I count it a privilege to be barefoot and preaching and in the pulpit. More than that, I am humbled and excited and anxious to raise a daughter who knows God, loves God, and trusts God as the Source of her strength and the Strength of her life.

- Posted using BlogPress on the fiercest device ever...the iPad!!!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Gestation and Waiting...

This article was originally written for the "Women's Corner" in The Interchange—the news magazine for the Bethesda Baptist Church of New Rochelle.  In yesterday's blog post I wrote, "I am totally out of control, as it relates to my body, and not only do I feel beautiful, but I feel free." This article, written in November 2011 will give this statement some context. The image is taken from

I am writing this piece aware of the fact that motherhood—namely pregnancy—can be a sensitive issue in the lives of women. I am overjoyed for all of the women who have carried, borne, and raised children to the very best of their abilities—often counting on God to make a way out of no way. (Admittedly, I did raise my eyebrow when I heard that reality television star Michelle Duggar was expecting her 20th child.) My heart is grieved for all of those women who are unable to bear children, those who have suffered miscarriage, those who have been forced to have abortions, and those who have delivered stillborn babies—sometimes haunted by memories while relying on God’s strength and comfort to move forward. I also stand in solidarity with those women who have chosen to adopt and those who have made the decision not to have children—recognizing that there is virtue and purpose in the lives of women that stretches beyond our capability to bear children and our status as somebody’s momma. And yet, today I am writing in my current state of gestation; For in all of our experiences there are joys to be celebrated, trials to to be endured, and lessons to be learned.

I am settling into my second trimester, praise be to God! I must admit, my first trimester experience was less than desirable: my energy level plummeted leaving me unable to manage tasks that I had once breezed through; I was placed on bed rest for a short time confining me to the four walls of our bedroom which seemed to close in tighter and tighter as the days passed; I had been unable to keep any food down for eight weeks which is quite difficult for a woman, like me, who enjoys food; and my words dried up—at times I found it laborious to talk on the telephone, to write anything, and even to pray. I thought pregnancy was all about the glow, and yet all I felt was ashy and dull.  I share this not to evoke sympathy, but so that you can understand how the power of God moved in my situation.  
In all of this, it was God’s presence and the truth of His Word that carried me through. The rubber of my faith hit the road of my life when I had to remind myself that as a daughter of God, I am called to bless the Lord at all times—and that ALL is neither conditional nor situational. As I laid in bed, I was almost forced to learn how to be still and know that He is God. Time and time again, as I journeyed to the porcelain throne, I remembered that all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose. But the greatest lesson that I learned was one that God started teaching me in March of 2008.
One afternoon I was sitting in Seminary Hall at Drew University reading Scripture. I was arrested by the words of the prophet Isaiah:

“Before she was in labor, she gave birth; Before her pain came, She delivered a male child. Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Shall the earth be made to give birth in one day? Or shall a nation be born at once? For as soon as Zion was in labor, She gave birth to her children.  Shall I bring to the time of birth, and not cause delivery?” says the LORD. “ Shall I who cause delivery shut up the womb?” says your God. “ Rejoice with Jerusalem, And be glad with her, all you who love her; Rejoice for joy with her, all you who mourn for her;  That you may feed and be satisfied With the consolation of her bosom, That you may drink deeply and be delighted With the abundance of her glory.”  (66:7-13 NKJV)
In the margin of my Bible, next to this passage, I wrote the words: WAIT UNIL GOD DELIVERS. So often, especially in our instant-messaging society, we want things to happen instantly. We have dreams and visions, but grow impatient as we wait for them to come to pass. Waiting becomes more difficult when trials and tribulations, hardships and obstacles manifest themselves. However, in the Word we are repeatedly admonished to wait on God. It is in the waiting that we can find courage within that we were previously unaware of. It is in the waiting that God strengthens our hearts. It is in the waiting that God renews our strength to persevere. It is in the waiting that God works a miracle that is for an appointed time and purpose. You see, if I had my way, as soon as the despair of bed rest and the fatigue from vomiting set in, I would have opted to have the baby right then. (To think, we haven’t even started with kicks and stretch marks!) Ladies, as you know, having the child then would have been dangerous. More than wanting to feel well, I desired a healthy and fully-developed baby. This child in my womb would not have been fully developed after just two months. Even as I type this, major organs are maturing and will continue to mature for an additional six months. The normal gestation period is between 37 and 42 weeks. It takes that long for all of the organs and systems to form so that the child can sustain life outside of the womb. As much as I wanted the discomfort to be over, to do so would have been to put our child at risk. And this isn’t merely about discomfort. I’m sure that down the road, round about my eighth month, the desire to meet our child and to hold her or him in my arms will be so strong that I’ll be anxious to give birth. But even then, it will be imperative to wait until the natural time of delivery. 
In this experience, and through His word, God is showing me that our waiting, and even our travail, serves a purpose. I now recognize why it is important to wait for God to deliver. Many of us have had had visions of ministry conceived in our hearts and have attempted to give birth before experiencing labor. Many of us have had dreams of career and/or academic advancement and have moved forward to delivery out of season out of sheer excitement. Many of us have had dreams of getting married and/or starting families and have taken matters into our own hands when God seems to be taking too long. As a result, we have given birth to underdeveloped ministry and premature dreams and we wonder why things aren’t working out as God had revealed to us. Worse yet, many of us have grown impatient with waiting and have aborted our dreams. We have given up and are now living with the ghosts of what could have been.
My dear sisters, whatever vision God has placed in your heart, whatever dream God has deposited in your mind, whatever aspiration God has breathed into your soul, I encourage you to wait for it—even through pain, disappointment, travail, and difficulty. I am assured that in due time, in God’s time, that God will birth it into existence. And just as my husband and I wait for the arrival of our bundle of joy, I am confidently waiting for God to birth every dream and vision that He has placed in my heart. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Happy New Year!

Hello All! It has been a while since my last substantial writing. New, and amazing things are happening in my life and I am ready to share. God has blessed us tremendously, and in May hubby and I are expecting the arrival of our first child, a baby girl! I've been absent because it seems that everything in my life for the past five and a half months has revolved around or been viewed from my pregnant lenses. In any case, all is well and we are excited! It seems Baby Girl is excited, too! As I posted on my Facebook page earlier, I am convinced that my husband has already given our daughter a soccer ball. Either that or A Tribe Called Quest's Can I Kick It is on continuous loop in my belly. Whatever the case, movement is a sign of life so I am grateful...

This year I am not making any concrete resolutions. (I never stick to them, anyway.) At the end of this year I just hope to be the best wife, mother, minister, and follower of Christ that I can be. I'm leaning on God to work out the details of what that looks like and how that happens. As the hymn writer says, Where He leads me, I will follow. For sure, when December 31, 2012 rolls around, I'll know if I have been fruitful. I'll praise God for fruitfulness. I'll probe where I have fallen short, all the while extending myself grace. More than anything, I want to be the kind of woman my daughter admires and hopes to become. For this to happen, extending myself the same kind of mercy and loving-kindness that God grants me must become part of the fabric of my being. No more mean girl, especially not to myself.

Interestingly enough, being with child at the start of a year has been quite refreshing. For the first time in forever, I have not been bound and gagged by a resolution to lose 5lbs or 10lbs or 15lbs or 50lbs. In fact, I love my pregnant body! I feel more feminine than I've ever felt before, even as my belly continues to grow. The proliferation of Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, and Nutrisystem commercials have not caught my attention. I have not purchased any new gym equipment or DVD's. I did not restock the fridge with low-fat fare. I am totally out of control, as it relates to my body, and not only do I feel beautiful, but I feel free. (Not to worry, I haven't abused that whole notion of eating for two. Tomorrow I'll post some writing I did around Thanksgiving to give this last statement some context.) As another hymn writer says, I am free. Praise the Lord, I'm free. No longer bound. No more chains holding me. My soul is resting and its a blessing. Praise the Lord, Hallelujah, I'm free!

So that's just a few things that are new for me. What new things do you have going on in 2012?