The Body & the Bread (a birth story) 

2pm- I had just left work and texted my husband a cryptic little message, “today’s the day”. He knew what I meant. Frantically he called me, “are you serious? like right now?”I reassured him that I wasn’t in full blown labor, but I had a feeling this baby was on his way. He took that feeling seriously and spent the evening packing bags and last minute “nesting” aka cleaning. It’s funny the things you feel must be scrubbed in those hours before delivery. 

10pm – We went to bed with no real sign of labor in sight. What felt like strong Braxton Hicks had come and gone, like many nights before. I still knew we must be close. 

1am – I was awakened by a strong contraction and felt the need to use the restroom. After nestling back under the covers, I whispered this update to my husband, when suddenly another came. 

1:12am – With nearly no warning, my water broke and I was instantly in active labor. The forceful contractions seemed to pile on top of one other, giving me no room to catch my breath. Our little boy was coming and he was coming fast. 

2am – The overnight security guard managed to help me into a wheel chair. His face is but a blur amidst the blinding pain, but I could tell he understood the sense of urgency. Wheeling me past all of the lovely mommas beautifully laboring down in triage, I continued to writhe in pain. I had plans to labor down too– exercise balls, whirlpool tubs, I had even packed mood lights, essential oils and of course, a Spotify playlist. But there was no time for these diversions. 

Within moments of arriving, I was taken to the birthing suite. I was somehow, already 9cm dilated. The nurse gave up on trying to file her paperwork and check me into the system. The look on my midwife’s face said, ‘it’s go time’. 

For 2 hours and 2 minutes I experienced the most excruciating and intense pain I can ever imagine enduring. I felt everything. Each contraction moved through me with such cruelty, that I couldn’t help but weep and cry out for help. 

I had read about back labor before. It was described somewhat sweetly as, ‘intense discomfort’, but this was much more harsh. My son was faced the wrong direction, his head pushing fiercely on my tailbone. I wasn’t sure I would be able to deliver him. 

As the pain increased, my belief decreased. I wanted to give up, I wanted to be done. I was so ashamed that I wasn’t stronger than this. I am a strong person, I thought, but I never expected it would hurt this much. 

There are two things we need when our hurt outweighs our hope and our belief begins to falter– the bread and the body. 

“Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” – John 6:35
Jesus, ‘the Word made flesh’ (John 1:14), is our bread, our nourishment; and that which nourishes, sustains. 

I could hear scripture being spoken over me in prayer. I needed the bread–the Word, and I needed the body–the church, my Christian community to speak it over me when I didn’t have the strength to speak it for myself. 

My midwife, my husband, and a close friend were the encouraging voices throughout this physical battle. When I screamed I can’t, they spoke you can. When the pain was too much to bear, my husband would move in closer. Pushing my back with equal intensity wherever the pain surfaced. When I found breath enough to weep, I could hear my dear friend crying out with me in prayer. 

The battles we face in this life can be completely overwhelming, but we have the Bread to sustain us and the body to surround us; to push love where the pain lies, and cry out prayers where the sorrow lives. 

And then something beautiful happened- I reached down and felt the crown of his head. A miracle of life was but a painful push away. Touching his crown gave me the last ounce of strength I needed. Sometimes we have to reach out and touch the thorn-laced crown of Jesus and remember the suffering we endure on this earth is but a glimpse of the great suffering he endured for us. 
With the last ounce of strength I had, I pushed and pushed again and pushed once more. And that quickly, he came. At 4:02am my son was born. Isaiah Harper Gurley was here. They laid him bare on my chest and I cried in utter gratitude. 


The greatest pain in our lives can bring forth the greatest joy. The seemingly impossible, the greatest miracles. The nearly hopeless, the greatest hope.         We must simply cling to the body and the bread. 

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Prepared

The power went out yesterday. It was this crazy, unexpected storm. No rain, no thunder, just wind. Wind so strong it knocked things over, blew things away, and ultimately took out the power. A friend of mine saw a canoe blow across the main road. A canoe!?!                            As the wind rattled on, I sat in my comfortable home, but I started to feel less and less comfortable. I learned that having well water, meant having no water when the power went out. This is not a surprise you want to unveil when you go to make your screaming newborn a bottle. I went to pop a bag of popcorn, and remembered the microwave didn’t work. I wanted to work out, but couldn’t access my on demand programing, nor could I power on the blender for a post-workout shake. I thought I’d set my son in his swing because he loves how it rocks him and plays music, but it wouldn’t power on. As the house grew colder and colder and my cell battery grew smaller, I decided to leave and take a drive but my garage door wouldn’t open. How about a show on the tablet for the stir crazy toddlers? Well that would have required wi-fi. Hot shower? Not gonna happen. Wash that onesie covered in poo? Gonna have to wait!

We all know we are privileged, we know we rely on and take for granted comforts that more than half  of the world doesn’t have access to. It’s so silly to even imagine being inconvenienced by this disruption, yet it affects us. Why was I bothered by any of this, knowing my privilege and how short-lived it would be? 

I realized it had very little to do with the storm, and more to to do with my lack of preparation. 

If I had known we were going to be without power, I would have planned ahead. I would have made sure the flashlights had batteries, borrowed a generator or made plans to spend  the night at a friend’s home. I would’ve stocked up on water, and gotten out the camping stove so I could still heat food. And I definitely would have made sure we had firewood for the fireplace and pulled all of the warm blankets out from storage. 

It would have been a whole different story. But when a storm comes and we have no light, when it gets cold and we have no heat, when we’re hungry and we can’t find nourishment, or thirsty and can’t access a drink- it can feel like weight of our suffering is too much to bear. 

But as followers of Jesus, we don’t have to be unprepared. We never have to face a storm and be completely undone. The Bible promises this, “in this world we will have trouble”. We know we will experience loss, grief, trials, hardships and heartaches of all kinds. This deep suffering will sting, will hurt, will wound, but if we’re prepared, we can make it through.  

How will we be ready? How will we be prepared? We must stock up on the light that only comes by being in the presence of Jesus, the warmth of authentic Christian community, and the hunger and thirst quenching Word of God. We must be in His presence, in His nourishing  Word, and in community with His people. So not if, but when the darkness comes, we are ready. We are prepared to face the storm.

xo, Tamara 

Remember

God pressed these words on my heart to share at the IF: Local event for the Thrive Women’s Ministry of Ada Bible Church this past weekend. It was birthed out of the sorrow in my lack of remembrance of the Lord. For all of the times I haven’t trusted him, for all of the times I haven’t “needed” him, for all of the times I haven’t desired him above all else…may I always remember.

Remember
by Tamara Gurley

Where have you been?

Where in all the world have you been?

Remember the Lord?

The great and glorious one

Remember the Lord

The one who called you by name

The one who sought you when you were just a stranger

Remember the Love

The love poured out for you through nail scared hands, wounded feet, and a spear pierced side

Remember the Days

The days spent falling in love with the one who pursued your heart

This GRAND love story between a bride and her groom

You had never felt such love, you had never felt such peace, you had never felt such joy

In this broken, beat up, fallen world

You had found the love of your life

Remember the Faithfulness

He was always there

Calling your name

Waiting for you to run into his arms

As he whispered in your ear, “when you seek me, you will find me, when you seek me with all of your heart”

Remember

But where have you been?

Have you forgotten me?

What is it that draws your heart far from me?

Is it your riches? OR your wreckage?

Is it that you have enough or that I am not enough

Why have you forsaken your first love?

What Wild Gains have caused you to run far from me

What Deep Sorrows have caused you not to trust me

And what sin and what shame have caused you to HIDE your face from me

Where have you been?

When you first became my child, I loved you, I called you my daughter, but the more I called you, the further you moved from me, worshiping the things of this world, When I taught you how to walk, and I led you by the hand, but you didn’t even know, and you don’t even care. I led you. I wrapped my ropes of kindness and love around you, I lifted the yoke from your neck, I stooped down to feed you, but you refuse to return to me. (Hosea 11)

Where have you been? Remember?

But hear me oh daughters, hear me

The love of the Lord knows no bounds

The love of the Lord knows no bounds

The faithful love the Lord never ends

His mercies are new each morning

His grace is sufficient for today

He never forgets us

Never forsakes us

So come – He cries—Come

Come and bring your riches, and bring your wreckage, and bring your too much and not enough, and bring your sin and your shame and your deep sorrows and your great pain

And lay them at the foot of the cross

Lay them at the feet of Jesus, he’s waiting for you there

And remember

Remember the Lord

Remember the Love

Remember the Days

Remember the faithfulness, Remember

So when the lord calls your name, Where have you been?

May we all reply,

Right here at your feet, lord

With my eyes fixed on you

Right here, at your feet

Harper 

The story of Isaiah’s middle name…I was 14 years old when I showed up on their doorstep. Completely broken and unsure of how to mend. My parents had just separated and I found myself spending too many nights alone in that worn, nearly empty apartment. There was barely a box of cereal in the those old, brown, flat-front cabinets. The sound of speeding cars and bright blaze of gas station lights would fill my bedroom windows. I was scared. I was hurting. I felt abandoned and alone.

I somehow missed the chaos and brokenness of my childhood home, for at least it offered a grassy hill, quiet streets, and friendly neighbors. Sometimes it’s the good you see around you that helps you endure what’s happening within.  

I rang the doorbell of that beautiful yellow brick house, and fell into Mrs. Harper’s arms. I told her about all the hurting and all the breaking my heart was feeling and she offered me a place of rest. Without hesitation she made a room for me, and spent two years nursing me back to health. 

From the moment Mr. and Mrs. Harper met my parents, they adopted our little broken family and made it part of their own. As my Godparents, they cared for me physically, emotionally and above all, spiritually. There is not a soul I admire more than my fierce and faithful Godmother, and not a man I respect more than my wise Godfather.

For 14 years they shepherded my soul, for two years they sheltered it, and for the last 17 years I’ve felt their love and influence in every part of who I’ve become. 

Without Mr. Harper, I wouldn’t have gone to the college I did or applied for that scholarship and gotten a full ride. He would often take me for ‘a drive’, just to talk, and teach me the importance of class and dignity, of education and work well done. He encouraged me to use a purse when my lip gloss and cash kept falling out of my teenage pockets, and he would never allow me to wear pajama pants in public. There was not a man in the world  who could win him over, until Joel came along. When he agreed to let him propose, to help walk me down the aisle, and to give my hand away, I knew my husband would be a good one. 

My Godmother, Mrs. Harper, is a pillar of strength. She is a warrior in both prayer and deed. Her unconditional devotion to the Lord through times of sorrow and success, in times of plenty and of need, taught me the importance of living and suffering well. She modeled what it means to be a Godly wife and mother and to serve your family well. Her hands bless all whose lives she touches with selfless generosity, compassion, and love. She lives to serve others above herself and has played a hand in not only saving my life, but the lives of so many others. I am who I am because she welcomed me in. 

Before Joel and I knew we were pregnant, I had a dream I was holding a baby named Harper. It was one of those dreams that sticks with you as if it might mean something. Though we were not trying, a few weeks later we found out a baby was on the way. We knew right away it’s name would include, Harper. 

The meaning of the name Harper is simple and yet for me, profound. Harper means harpist; and when I imagine Angels I often think of them with child-like wonder,  strumming beautiful harps of gold. I wonder if that’s because the closest I’ve come to Angels here on earth, are my dear sweet Godparents, Mr. and Mrs Harper. ❤

Related posts- Daddy’s: https://lifespilledlikewater.com/2014/03/12/dear-dad/

Unexpected  

Two unexpected surgeries, an unexpected pregnancy complete with a slight unexpected Zika scare from missions travels. An unexpected move from a home we loved, an unexpected goodbye to a child we raised, unexpected trials at work and school, in family and relationships, and on and on it goes. This year was full of the unexpected. 

But it was in these unexpected moments where God showed his great love and grace in the most unimaginable ways. While I never knew my heart could bleed so much, I have never known it to be filled with so much gratitude.  
Every year we plan and resolve to do and acquire and become. We expect our plans to shape us rather than allowing ourselves to be shaped by that which we cannot plan. As a dear friend shared, our expectations are just one possibility in an infinite number of outcomes. 

What I have realized this year, is that accepting Gods outcome as best is our greatest act of obedience and surrender. We experience the greatest level of abundant life, joy, peace and contentment, despite all circumstance, when we lay down our best for Gods.  

Because you see despite the unanticipated hardships, it was the unexpected laughter, the unexpected kisses, the unexpected acts of generosity and kindness, the unexpected bond of friends, the unexpected sound of a little heartbeat, and every unexpected moment of this broken beautiful life that shaped this year and will shape every year to come. 

May we live not fighting against the unforeseen and unpredicted, but know that in it offers our greatest opportunity to experience the power and presence of our God. To breath in the fullness of this gift of life we have, and breath out praises to Him to whom all praise is due. #lifespilledlikewater #newyear 

Christmas is about Grace 

This past weekend, our youth pastor spoke on the story of Mary and Joseph and ended by sharing this simple truth- Christmas is about Grace.
“Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God!” – Luke 1:30

I was reflecting on these words from when Mary found out she would conceive a child, and was struck by how this same favor rests upon each of us. Grace is unmerited favor. It is being given a gift we don’t deserve because the Lord in his kindness chose to give it. Mary did not deserve to be the mother of Jesus, but God chose her. We don’t deserve the very next breath we take, but God chose to give it.

It’s His favor, His kindness, His Grace.

This year our family has seen the gracious gift of generosity in ways we could have never imagined. There are moments when the thought of it strikes me out of the blue and I can’t help but weep and wonder, like Mary, why have you chosen me God. Why have chosen to lavish my family with such kindness and unmerited favor. What have we done to deserve this?

His response is simply this, “nothing.”

I have done nothing, but His Grace has changed everything. From the moment Christ laid his head in that wooden manager, to the moment he laid down his life on that wooden cross— it was all Grace. 

And this gift of Grace is what we celebrate this season, and every season after. For each day when we open our eyes, breathe in each breath, sip from a mug of coffee or hug a loved one tight. It’s his grace. It’s always His grace.

“God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Ephesians 2:8-9

Brick & Mortar 

There is a grace that lives in suffering that can move us to suffer well. It offers this unfathomable peace and assurance that can only come through Christ. It gives us permission to mourn and cry and know that our pain matters to God.  I can often feel guilty for calling my circumstances ‘a trial’ or naming my pain ‘suffering’. There’s always a heart whose experiencing more breaking. Yet that truth never seems to be enough to dry the tears and stitch the wounds. 

God’s Word doesn’t call us to only seek help when we believe no one needs it more, to pull up our bootstraps and simply march on. It calls us to run boldly to Him in time of need. Every time of need. It is here at the throne of God’s Grace where we find just that—grace, mercy and help. (Hebrews 4:16).            Yes, we need this. Yes, it’s ok to receive it. 

My husband and I bought a house nearly 5 years ago, we dreamed of raising our kids there. We poured our blood, sweat and tears into making it a beautiful, life-giving home. A place where neighbors, friends and family were always welcome and felt loved. It offered such a peaceful  respite, in the midst of life’s many trials. 

 I imagined all of the memories we would make over the years– my little princess walking down the curved staircase ready to greet her first prom date, I dreamed of grandkids taking first steps right where my babies did, and wondered what adventures we’d have running through our woods, those beautiful woods. I treasured this special place and the life that had been lived there. 

Three months ago, we felt called to say goodbye to the place we called home. We knew we could sell it and have enough equity to pay for the therapeutic care my youngest sister needed. God was speaking to our hearts, ‘I gave you this home and the gifts and abilities to make it worth something– and now it’s time to let it go. I gave it to you, but it was never for you.’ 

You never know how tightly you’ve been holding on to something until God tells you to let it go. To surrender brick and mortar to rescue flesh and blood. 

Through the many tears I’ve shed over saying goodbye, God has never left me in my sorrow. He’s been faithful to remind me that He recycles all of our trials for His glory and our good. He never lets anything become an idol, and fights for our freedom from the superficial chains that so easily bind us. He wants our all, surrendered to Him, to use as He so pleases.  

 It’s not easy to live in the broken and hold your hands wide open. I’d much rather clinch my fists at times. Yet these earthly sacrifices will never compare to this: the sacrifice Jesus made when his arms were nailed wide open to rescue you and me. 

“We’ve been given a glimpse of the real thing, our true home….The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what’s ahead. He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we’ll never settle for less.” 2 Corinthians‬ ‭2:15 

Moving Forward

morning-light-hasselblad
Another morning where I wanted to keep those curtains shut. I dreaded putting my weary feet down on the bedroom floor, as I really wasn’t sure how to put one foot in front of the other. I kept thinking back on the events of the last few days, since that hurried moment when we had to say goodbye, and my heart burned with grief. When we took Grace in at four years old, we could have never imagined that ten years later God would take her out of our home. Even though for just a season, even though to go to battle for healing in her heart. 
In desperation, I cried out to the Lord, “How do you experience such pain and live and move and breath as if a part of you isn’t missing?  How do you go to work and soccer games and live like all is well.”
We don’t pray just to see God take all of our pain away. We pray so we can See God in the midst of all our pain. The Lord revealed this truth to my heart when he challenged me with this:               
Live like you hope Grace is living.”
“You don’t hope she’s curled up in a corner, letting sadness and fear reign. You don’t hope she has stopped living and laughing and being who I created her to be. You hope she’s taking this journey of healing and embracing every part. You hope she’s letting me transform her and shine through all her broken parts.”

IMG_8806.PNGThat’s how you move forward. You take your eyes off your brokenness and put them on the one who was broken and bruised for you. And in return, He can show you how to live for someone other than yourself.

So I put my feet on the floor and I prayed for God to fill me with the peace and joy that surpasses all understanding, and he did. I opened another string of letters and notes filled with words of support from friends and total strangers, and knew He wasn’t going to let me walk through this alone. I looked at my four and five year old and couldn’t spend another day having them ask me why I was crying. I had to let them see me smile again. It didn’t matter if I felt like I could do it, I didn’t have to. He was showing me that He was going to carry me through. He was calling me to hope for Grace and live to share this hope, that only he can bring, to anyone who needs to hear. 

Some days the grief returns and I allow myself to feel it, and He reminds me that He is rebuilding, restoring and redeeming all that has been lost. He’s teaching me to live for one thing and one thing only-to be filled with His life and to let that life spill out like water. To be continually emptied even when it breaks your heart and requires painful sacrifice. The more broken, the more the light shines through. The more you let go, the more He fills you up. And this, this is when He is most glorified. 

His promise is true,  “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) So now, I  too am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.

xo,

Tamara

© Tamara Gurley 2016

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Hope for Grace 

Word fall short in times like these, but here’s our best attempt to share our hearts. Ten years ago, when we began the journey of raising Grace we never imagined the road God would have us travel. We knew it wouldn’t be easy, we knew we would make a million mistakes, we knew Grace would someday have to face the trauma of her past and find healing, we knew she would need a miracle. We hoped we could help her, we prayed we could rescue her, but only God can save and he rescues each of us in his own way. 
At this point in Grace’s journey, he has opened up a door to rescue her through taking her out of our home for a season. Her story is hers to tell, so without sharing every detail I will just say this, when our heart breaks, it breaks wide open. 

Grace knows her struggles and her heart has been broken open to receive the help and healing that only God can bring.  

Since the moment residential treatment was recommended, we have gone from feeling like we were giving up, had failed, and were turning our backs on our child, to knowing this is the best possible way we can help our Grace thrive. 

As we began searching for possible programs in January, I can’t even describe how many doors were slammed in our face before we saw a glimmer of light. 
But as soon as Grace wanted rescued and the minute she cried out for relief, God answered by providing a Christian therapeutic program/school for girls that had an opening for a 13-year-old. Within two weeks she was accepted, the deposit was secured, and we were on our way. 

This past Tuesday we endured the hardest challenge we’ve faced yet. More than all of the insurmountable behavioral and emotional trials we’ve faced. 

We had to let go. 

We had to drive 14 hours, say goodbye, turn around and drive back home with one less member of our family in the car. We had to trust that God would use the therapy, structure, prayer and counsel Grace would receive over the next 15 months to transform her life. We had to believe the funding would somehow come through. 

Heartbreaking and overwhelming are insufficient ways to describe this experience. We’re thankful for the incredible place God has provided, but devastated he’s had to. We’re thankful it’s $3,400 a month instead of $20-30k a month like most other treatment facilities, we’re thankful we were denied benefits because it forced us to trust God completely to lead us to the best place possible for Grace (there are no addicts of violent girls), we are thankful we have a home that we fixed up so we can hopefully sell and raise support, we are thankful for the peace that surpasses all understanding that has been showered over Grace, Joel and I. 
Even more than this , we are thankful for all of the friends and strangers who have reached out to offer support, prayers, donations, assistance with travel expenses (we will be traveling to see Grace / have family therapy every other month), help getting the house ready to sell, childcare and more. While hard to recieve this level of generosity, we humbly know we could not do this without the support of many. Each of you have made us want to be better people than we are- more giving, more trusting, more willing to share. 
“Your children are like arrows in the hand of a warrior”‘ psalm 127:4. While this has felt like a ten-year battle, a waging war – God has sustained us and grown our faith every step the way. This journey is for His glory and he has only begun to write Grace’s story. 
This is the hope we have for Grace “He who began a good work (in Grace) will be faithful to complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” – Philippians 1:6. 
You can learn more here or support, share with others, and please pray. We are so thankful to share that between savings, private donations and the gofundme page, 10 months of treatment has been covered in four weeks!!!! 5 months more to go but God is is faithful!

https://www.gofundme.com/2hzvs9w?utm_source=internal&utm_medium=email&utm_content=campaign_link_t&utm_campaign=welcome

https://www.gofundme.com/2hzvs9w?utm_source=internal&utm_medium=email&utm_content=campaign_link_t&utm_campaign=welcome