Category Archives: Bible Study

Charity: Hope Mommies

The final organization I want to talk about this month is about something that is very close to my heart. If you haven’t been reading this blog very long, mainly for my book or film/tv reviews, you may not know that I am a loss mom. Before I had my kid, I was pregnant three different times. I had one miscarriage and two stillbirths before my rainbow baby.

After my first stillbirth, the hospital presented me with a shoebox filled with sweet encouraging notes, a candle, some lotion, and a sweet letter from another loss mom. That is the main mission of Hope Mommies, to provide support to mothers and families experiencing infant loss.

Speaking specifically about the Dallas chapter, they have a private Facebook groups, meet for dinner about once a month in various parts of DFW, and come together (before COVID, mainly) to put together shoeboxes of support like the one I received at my stillbirth (I actually received another one at my second stillbirth as well. I have been blessed to be able to be a part of some of these gatherings that put together the shoeboxes, knowing how much it meant to me, personally.

And, they usually host an event in October (which is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month) to remember the precious little ones. Sometimes it is a walk, sometimes a balloon release, sometimes it’s just a small service to remember. Plus, they host Bible studies using devotional books that were written by other Hope Mommies.

1 in 4 women experience pregnancy loss at some point in their lifetime. To have organizations like Hope Mommies, a community of women who support each other in their faith in Christ, is necessary. I hope to continue supporting others and walking with them in their journey just as these beautiful women have walked with me.

For more information about this organization, you can visit their website here.

Charity: SPCA of Texas

Throughout my entire life, I have had a connection with dogs, particularly rescue dogs. My first pets were rescues. My current pets are rescues. And before I had my kid, I was pretty involved at one of the local rescue animal sites, called the SPCA of Texas.

Of course, the organization is a little different from when I volunteered, especially after COVID, but I will share my experience with the organization and some of the exciting ways to get involved as well.

I started volunteering in 2015. I was started on basic cleaning duty – washing laundry and cleaning empty cages. But I moved on pretty quickly to walking the dogs who were in the adoption kennels. Eventually, I started fostering dogs in my home, and then began working with families who came in to adopt, matching them with dogs who were ready to be adopted.

There was no doubt in my mind that everyone who worked or volunteered at this place loved animals. And there were so many departments. There was the front-end who primarily worked with adoptions. The vet clinic that would see mainly dogs who were adopted from there but also some from the community. The behavior department that worked with dogs who need some kind of training or rehabilitation. There was even a farm section at the facility where I volunteered that housed horses, sometimes goats or donkeys. And there is what I call the “Rescue Team” who go on calls to investigate possible animal cruelty or neglect, or try to help owners who may have gotten overwhelmed in the care of their animals.

I gravitated towards the behavior department. The staff behaviorists would train us to work with all kinds of situations, but my favorite were the undersocialized, overstressed dogs. Seeing a dog come out of its shell, looking for comfort and connection was the most rewarding feeling for me. And finding homes for these newly rehabilitated dogs was a close second. I fostered 11 dogs in the two years I volunteered, and all of them found forever homes. I almost adopted my first foster, but I’m glad that I didn’t (though I think of that sweet pup all the time) because I wouldn’t have had the room or energy to work with the other 10 dogs.

My first foster. Wasn’t she a doll?

My favorite thing about this organization (other than the fact that I can play with dogs and call it volunteering) is that they really support their volunteers. We were given opportunities for training, education seminars, and some staff would even take the time to answer questions and problem solve with me. I was a part of the team, and that really made the difference.

And even though the traditional volunteering is still being put on hold, as far as I know, the SPCA of Texas is still working hard for the welfare of animals. I know the fostering program is still running (I still get all the emails from that group), and I know that the staff is still working hard to care for animals ready to be adopted. I look forward to the day I can return to the facility and volunteer in whatever capacity I can.

If you are interested in more information about this organization, you can visit spca.org. Also, they are doing a virtual Strutt Your Mutt event in May to raise awareness and funds to fight animal cruelty. You can sign up for that here.

Charity: Alzheimer’s Association

As I wrote about last week, this month I am sharing some of my favorite nonprofit organizations that I have had a personal connection to. Since this is the month of love, I thought talking about the charities I loved fit into this month perfectly.

We have been participating in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s Disease since 2010. I saw a commercial while watching a show on Hulu which is how I found out about this organization. My father-in-law had, at that point, been diagnosed with dementia and I knew from my own family experience the long road ahead for my husband. I thought getting involved in an event like this over the years could give him some support and encouragement to know that he wasn’t alone in his experience.

Our first Walk experience

But the Alzheimer’s Association is more than just a walk on a (hopefully) sunny day in the fall. They provide information and support for families and caretakers walking this journey with their loved ones. They lobby government officials for policy and budget lines dedicated to finding both treatment and a cure for this disease.

They host other events throughout the year that provide people with education, even entertainment. One year, they hosted a viewing of Still Alice, a film based on the 2007 novel by Lisa Genova, about a linguistics professor who contracts the disease and how she and her family journey through her inevitable decline. It included a small Q&A at the end of the movie by the organization about new policies and research happening at that time.

But, for the most part, the biggest event for us is the Walk. We have been all over the DFW metroplex for the Walks over the years. Last year, because of COVID, we did a virtual walk, using the app created by the Alzheimer’s Association that included testimonies at different points in the walk and other information and encouragement. It was a creative way to make last year special despite having to be apart.

This year, we are planning on continuing the tradition of participating in the Walk. We will be fundraising more as we get closer to the end of the year and building our team in the meantime. We are so thankful for this organization who has provided such encouragement and support for our family as well as many other families in our community.

If you are interested in participating in the walk this year or getting involved with this organization, please visit them at alz.org.

Word of the Month: Charity

February is a month for love, since our culture celebrates Valentine’s Day about halfway through the month.

1 Corinthians 13 is used a lot during weddings as an example love, here are a few of my favorite verses.

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

1 Corinthians 13:7

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:13

If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

1 Corinthians 13:3

That last verse brings me to another word that can be used as a synonym for love, which is charity. I have been really blessed to have the opportunity to work with several charities over the years, through raising donations or volunteering my time or participating in events. While a lot of events have been placed on hold or have been done virtually this last year, I look forward to a time when I can play a more active role in the charities I love once again.

So, this month, I’m going to share three nonprofit organizations that are near to my heart. Also, let me know what charities you love and why you love them. I always feel uplifted knowing all the hard, tireless work being done to make this world and our community a better place.

Gratitude: Psalms 131

Since Thanksgiving is at the end of this month, I’m sure there will be a lot of gratitude challenges on various social media platforms. I thought I would do my own challenge to share my favorite gratitude Psalms every Friday this month.

Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord;
    Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
    to my cry for mercy.

If you, Lord, kept a record of sins,
    Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
    so that we can, with reverence, serve you.

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
    and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord
    more than watchmen wait for the morning,
    more than watchmen wait for the morning.

Israel, put your hope in the Lord,
    for with the Lord is unfailing love
    and with him is full redemption.
He himself will redeem Israel
    from all their sins.

Psalm 130

I am grateful to have a God who redeems. I am grateful that I am not defined by my mistakes, even when I hold on to them longer than I should.

I’m a perfectionist in the worst sense of the word. I procrastinate on my projects, on everything really. I get very frustrated when it’s not perfect. I am my harshest critic. And this year has been filled with anxiety and depression and loneliness. My world got a lot smaller and my flaws got a lot bigger.

But this is where the beauty of redemption seeps in. Through the blood of Christ, his sacrifice, God doesn’t see that I am flawed. He sees that I am forgiven. And that freedom allows me to let go and love my neighbors. I’m not caught up in what I have or haven’t done, but what I can and will do.

Redemption isn’t just a second chance. It is a fully infusion of power and love that strengthens me to become what I was created to become. To do what I was created to do. To go where I was created to go. I am allowed to completely become the divine creature God created me to be.

Of course, that doesn’t mean the world, temptation, sin and brokenness are not still prevalent on my path going forward. If anything, they are almost guaranteed. And yet, God promises to walk the path with me, to never leave or forsake me, to press on toward the goal, to win the prize.

I am thankful for a God who walks with me, redeems the pain and hurt I have experienced and caused, whispering in my ear his love for his creation in me. And one day, redemption will be completed at the sound of trumpets and oh what a day that will be.

Gratitude: Psalms 111

Since Thanksgiving is at the end of this month, I’m sure there will be a lot of gratitude challenges on various social media platforms. I thought I would do my own challenge to share my favorite gratitude Psalms every Friday this month.

Praise the Lord.

I will extol the Lord with all my heart
    in the council of the upright and in the assembly.

Great are the works of the Lord;
    they are pondered by all who delight in them.
Glorious and majestic are his deeds,
    and his righteousness endures forever.

Psalm 111:1-3

I am grateful to have a Creator God.

Mythology has always been a fascination of mine. The Greek Gods, the Norse Gods and all of the ways people explained the seemingly unexplainable. One of the fascinating threads that weaves through these stories is that the gods were awful. They would pillage and rape and seize. They were mercurial and wreaked havoc on the lives of humans.

But God, Yahweh, is god of love and creation and beauty. He wants a relationship with humankind, not to take advantage of them but to share in the perfect love that God is. And that’s beautiful.

I also love nature. My kid and I go to the park various throughout the week. It’s a time when I can just breathe, take in the trees changing with the seasons, watch animals go about their day. Recently, I watched as these ducks circled a pond two or three times before skimming the surface, waving their wings to slow themselves, and land on the water. Then just continue swimming around the pond. It was fascinating.

I’m so thankful for the ducks, the ponds, the trees. I’m thankful for the sunrises and sunsets, warm weather that seeps into the skin and cooler weather that evokes cozy cuddling. And I’m thankful for a God who gives us life and wonder and awe in the little and the big.

Gratitude: Psalms 34

Since Thanksgiving is at the end of this month, I’m sure there will be a lot of gratitude challenges on various social media platforms. I thought I would do my own challenge to share my favorite gratitude Psalms every Friday this month. This is a longer psalm, and while there is a lot of gratitude in this one, I want to focus on the first seven verses.

I will extol the Lord at all times;
    his praise will always be on my lips.
 I will glory in the Lord;
    let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
 Glorify the Lord with me;
    let us exalt his name together.

 I sought the Lord, and he answered me;
    he delivered me from all my fears.

 Those who look to him are radiant;
    their faces are never covered with shame.
 This poor man called, and the Lord heard him;
    he saved him out of all his troubles.
 The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him,
    and he delivers them.

Psalms 34:1-7

I am thankful we have a God who will deliver us from our fears. Fear is not forever. And fear is not a signifier for a lack of faith.

There are so many instances in the Bible of people who were afraid, and yet stepped out in faith even in the midst of their fear. Moses was afraid to go back to Egypt and speak to the Pharaoh. He was afraid to even go back to the Jews and tell them that God was going to deliver them. Mary, the mother of Jesus, was afraid when the angel came to tell her that she would be pregnant with the Savior. The angel says “Do not be afraid” because she was troubled. And yet, these two (and so many others) are held up as great models of faith.

This is why I get so upset when I hear someone tell a person who is anxious, who is afraid, of certain circumstances in their life that they should just have faith. Because having faith does not guarantee the outcome we hope for or deter the outcome we fear will come. Faith is not the opposite of fear, they go hand in hand. We can still be afraid of the fire as we walk into it, knowing that God is holding our hand through it. My faith is not dependent on my circumstances, on my comfort. It is dependent on an unchanging God who can take anything this world can throw at me and use it for good, which means anything in this world can be thrown at me.

Christ’s faith did not keep him off that cross. It held him to that cross. He had faith that God was going to overcome, that he was going to defeat death and rise up on that third day. Faith shines a glimmer of the hope of redemption when we are in the darkness of fear.

My faith allows me to sit in the discomfort of fear and sadness. It gives me the strength to sit with others in their own discomfort without trying to will it away with platitudes. And I am so thankful for a God who gives me that strength to keep going, even when I am afraid.

Gratitude: Psalms 100

Since Thanksgiving is at the end of this month, I’m sure there will be a lot of gratitude challenges on various social media platforms. I thought I would do my own challenge to share my favorite gratitude Psalms every Friday this month. So, let’s start with one of probably the most popular Psalms of gratitude.

Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.

Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.

Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.

For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.

Psalms 100

I’m so grateful for a God who is good, loving and faithful. Most of the gods of the Old Testament, even the gods in Greek mythology and others, were cruel to humans. Humans were slaves in the narrative, at the mercy of the whims of the gods. So many of the mythological stories include rape, kidnapping, and torture.

We see this in 1 Kings 18 when the Baal priests and Elijah compete to get the attention of their respective gods. And when Baal doesn’t respond, the priests do some pretty extreme things.

So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed.

1 Kings 18:28

As was their custom. I am grateful to a God who doesn’t require us to spill our blood to get his attention. In fact, he spilled his own blood so that we may have a relationship with him.

I am so thankful for God’s faithfulness and love shown through the life and sacrifice of Jesus. I’m grateful for the resurrection. I am grateful for the hope we have in him. What better way to kick off this month of gratitude?

Grief through the eyes of Mary

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. So in honor of that, I want to highlight some of the women in the Bible who experienced grief and loss, particularly surrounding children or family.

Mary isn’t usually one that I connect with grief and loss, though she does experience quite a bit in her lifetime. Traditionally, Mary was quite young when she was betrothed to Joseph, a much older man. Mary received the news from the angel that she was going to have a baby while still a virgin. When Joseph finds out she is pregnant, he plans to divorce her quietly. This is not what is reflected in the law. It was well within his right to stone her.

In Deuteronomy 22, if her family couldn’t prove her virginity (which would have been hard to do with a growing belly), the men of the town were supposed to stone her to death. If they found the man who was sleeping with her, they were supposed to stone him, too. But Joseph is called a righteous man in Matthew 1:19, he wanted to protect Mary even before knowing who she was carrying in her womb.

While Mary is pregnant, she says a prayer recorded in Luke 1, glorifying God and prophesying the amazing impact that this little boy will have on Israel and the world. She even knows his power pretty early on. When attending a wedding banquet, she is the one who approaches her son when they ran out of wine.

And yet later, as Jesus is teaching, she shows up with her other sons wanting Jesus to come speak to them. And Jesus replies,

Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?

For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.

Matthew 12: 48, 50

I don’t think he was disowning Mary as his mother. Mary was special to him. In fact, on the cross, Jesus asks John to care for his mother once he was gone. But Mary had to learn to let go of her son, letting him fulfill the calling God had for his life. Which brings me to her biggest grief.

Mary watched her child suffer and die. The one she knew was a gift from God, a strong, intelligent, kind boy who grew into a powerful and loving man. One that valued his mission, even when she didn’t understand it, herself. I just can’t imagine hearing voices demanding my child’s death by torture. I can’t imagine the helplessness of watching my son die.

But at the same time, I wonder at the strength of Mary. There weren’t many witnessing the death of Jesus. Most of his apostles and followers had dispersed and were even hiding. But she stayed with him until his last breath. Maybe she was expecting another miracle. Of course, she didn’t know what was coming, but in that moment at the cross, I can’t imagine that overwhelming loss.

Even though her story seemingly ends at the cross, we know it didn’t stop there. Jesus would rise and show his power over death and sin. He really would change the world with his life. And Mary got to see it from first cry to last breath, and beyond. Mary’s prophetic prayer was fulfilled. And we know that whatever grief and loss we experience isn’t the end of the story. Jesus came to fulfill scripture, to seek and save the lost, to redeem the broken. He will wipe our tears away as promised in Revelations. And just like Mary, we, too are a part of that beautiful redemption story.

Grief through the eyes of Bathsheba

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. So in honor of that, I want to highlight some of the women in the Bible who experienced grief and loss, particularly surrounding children or family.

Bathsheba is the only story in scripture that discusses the loss of an infant. Technically, there was the infanticide that was carried out by Pharaoh in Exodus and King Herod around the birth of Jesus, and the death of the firstborn of Egypt, but Bathsheba’s story is the only account of an actual infant who singularly dies.

Bathsheba had a rough year. The basic story is that David was on his rooftop one evening, saw a lady bathing on another rooftop, sent for her, made love to her, got her pregnant, then tried to cover that up by bringing her husband home. When that didn’t work, he killed the husband. Nathan the prophet confronted David and told him because of his deeds, the child that was conceived would die. And the child did.

We don’t hear much of Bathsheba’s side of it, though there are a few hints throughout the chapter. It says she was the daughter of Eliam. Eliam was one of David’s mighty men, along with her husband Uriah the Hittite. Eliam is a Jewish name, though it is not perfectly clear whether she was Jewish or not, she did seem to follow the law as we will talk about later. Her husband was not Jewish, but he was a pretty well-respected military man. So, she was part of a very important family in the city of Jerusalem. Something that should have given her some sense of security.

Now, there are people who believe she was being seductive, bathing on that rooftop, but there was something in the verse that was particularly interesting. After it mentions that David slept with her, it says that she was “purifying herself from her monthly uncleanness.” It is quite possible that she was bathing on the rooftop because she was separating herself from her household, which was required during menstruation. When a woman was on her period, everything she touched was unclean for seven days.

But regardless of whether she was seductive or not (which borders on victim shaming), David had the power in this relationship. He was the king. He wasn’t even supposed to be there. At the beginning of the chapter it says,

In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabba. But David remained in Jerusalem.

1 Samuel 11:1 (emphasis added)

All the men in her family were off fighting a war that the king wasn’t even at. She was taking a bath on the rooftop during the time in her cycle when she purified herself, and was summoned by the king. We don’t know her thoughts as she entered the palace gates, the worry she might have had for her husband or her father. And when David was done with her, she was sent back home.

Then, she gets pregnant, sends word to the man who used her and cast her aside, and he tries to cover it up by sending her husband home. But her husband doesn’t even go into the house. Her husband couldn’t enjoy seeing his wife when all the men were still fighting on the frontline. Contrast that with the king who was still in Jerusalem, sleeping with married women.

After two attempts, David decides to have Uriah killed in battle. Still not setting foot in the war, David tells his men to pull back so that Uriah will die. And he does. Not only was Bathsheba used, but now she has lost her husband. When she heard that he died, she mourned him (1 Samuel 11:26), and when the mourning time was over (typically it was seven days), David took her to be his wife. She had a son, though he is not named in the Bible.

At this point, the Israelite people have no idea what has happened to Bathsheba. But God knew. And he sent Nathan to set David straight. But the consequence for David’s actions was the child was going to die. The child falls ill and seven days later, he dies. In that seven days, David is in mourning, crying out to God to change his mind, realizing all the wrong and pain and hurt that his actions brought.

When the child dies, David comforts Bathsheba. I get a sense that their relationship was also healing. They get pregnant again and give birth to Solomon, the next heir to the throne. Although, towards the end of David’s life, Bathsheba has to speak up to make sure Solomon receives that inheritance, which shows how fierce she became over her lifetime.

There was a lot of grief in Bathsheba’s life. Sexual assault, the loss of a husband, and the loss of a child. But God saw her. In Matthew 1, in the genealogy, she is mentioned as Uriah’s wife. I thought maybe that was a slight to her, to not call her by name, but it almost reestablishes who she is. She was the wife of Uriah, one of the mighty men of king David. Yet through it all, she is also part of the legacy of Jesus Christ.

I want to make clear that infant loss is not the result of some terrible sin in your life. That is something I had to work through, myself. But even in the darkest moments, God is working and moving. All the hurt will be redeemed. And one of the things that brings me most promise about my little ones is something that David says after his son dies. After a period of fasting, David’s attendants tell him the son has died. He cleans himself, worships God, and begins to eat again. When asked why he says,

Can I bring him back again? [meaning the baby] I will go to him, but he will not return to me.

2 Samuel 12:23b Parenthesis added

Just like David and Bathsheba, I will reunite with my babies again someday. But for now, I know they are cradled safely in the arms of God. Like Bathsheba, I was given a son after my losses, and I am so thankful for that gift. But I know that is not always the case in pregnancy loss. Still, even before my son was born, God was working in me. He provided community and hope when I needed it. Our stories do not end at pregnancy loss, they do not end in grief. God is a god of wonders who can use dark stories to shed the light of hope into the nooks and crannies around us. My prayer is that I continue to remember God is in control and he will never leave me, no matter may come.