Today is the beginning of my last week of work at the Baptist Messenger and Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. What a time of growth my time here has been!
One thing I’m exponentially grateful for is the opportunity to grow as a writer and journalist. I’ve met people whom I will call lifelong friends and experienced things I’ll fondly look back on for years to come.
I’ve written countless articles and blogs, I’ve taken thousands upon thousands of pictures, I’ve traveled many miles and learned from some of the best people in the business of storytelling.
I’ve experienced history in the making as I covered events like the 100th Anniversary of Falls Creek and historical votes at the Southern Baptist Convention.
I was able to watch as Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief provided aid to those affected by Hurricane Harvey, for weeks and months, as well as the countless other times they have served those in need.
I have met countless Oklahoma Baptists and been privileged to tell their stories of faith, perseverance, endurance, discipleship and overall how they make the world a better place.
I’ve worked alongside people who are world changers and champions for spreading the Good News of the Gospel to people in every small Oklahoma town to the ends of the earth.
I’ve had my eyes opened to different ways of thinking, some good and some not so good, and that has helped me grow as a journalist in the best way possible. A good journalist tells a story from every side, not just their side.
I’ve stood many mornings at the editing boars, with pen in hand, practicing the art of copy editing and hearing why the Messenger WILL NOT use the oxford comma, even if it goes against AP style.
I’ve laughed and I’ve held back tears. I’ve learned and
grown, not only as a journalist but as a person and professional.
For all of these experiences and the countless others, I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to work as a staff writer and digital content coordinator at the Baptist Messenger and Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.
Rest assured, I will take all that I’ve learned and apply it
to my new career, teaching—of course I will teach the Oxford Comma, that skill
I will leave where I found it, in the Baptist Building.
I’m not sure if you’ve experienced what I have lately, but after nearly a year of praying for one thing in particular, God answered my prayer.
While I am joyful and thankful, my prayer request, if answered, means a lot of life-changing things for me. Now that it’s been answered, I have admittedly wondered, “Uhh, God, can I actually do this?”
Over the past year, I have definitely wondered if God was just choosing to not answer me or if He had something so much bigger planned for me, and I just needed to be patient. Thankfully He was just asking me to be patient and trust in my period of waiting.
What I’m experiencing now, however, is that my patience and trust in Him aren’t things I need to cast to the side, now that He has answered my prayer.
In fact, I need more patience (with myself) and trust (in Him) that I will be able to do what He has called me to do to the best of my abilities.
This career change will not be one that I will be able to do in my own strength. For the first year especially I will need to rely heavily on Him as my source of strength and really, all of the above.
Yesterday at church, our guest preacher told us about an experienced evangelist and theologian who used to put “I can’t, God can” on banners all over his hotel rooms, wherever he traveled.
This was the reminder I needed as I have admittedly felt the stress of making a career change at a big time.
With my own strength, knowledge and abilities, I would stumble and not meet the mark. However, with God on my side, I’m fully confident that I am a conqueror and co-heir in Christ.
“Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” (Rom. 8:17).
I say all this to encourage you wherever you are, whether that is in a period of waiting, a period of prayers answered or even harder, a period of being told “not your will but My will be done.” Stay fervent in your prayers and have faith that God is working His Will according together for your good.
One year ago tomorrow, life as I knew it would change forever. My husband and I went to sleep with the kind of butterflies you have in your stomach when you know tomorrow you get to go on vacation, or like trying to sleep on Christmas Eve.
We woke up early, so we would for once in my life, be on time. We had a 5 a.m. check in, and while my husband was hungry, with his sister stopping to get him food on the way, to me, the thought of eating anything seemed ludicrous.
The next two hours were the fastest two hours of my life, and before we knew it, the time had come.
We walked together to a stark white, cold room, and they told my husband to robe up and wait. This is when he said things started to set in for him. The next time he would see me, it would be go-time.
It was 47 minutes later, which seemed more like five, but 47 minutes later our sweet Silas was born. Silas Dean Howsden was born at 7:47 a.m., at 7lbs 6 oz of absolute perfection. I almost couldn’t believe my eyes when the doctor held him over the surgical curtain and laid him on my chest.
For 9.5 long months, we had prepared and dreamed of what this day would be like, but nothing seemed real. It was all as if we were living the most spectacular dream.
Here we are, a year later, and our hearts burst with love for our little man. The newborn months were sweet times of bonding, with some scary sickness mixed in to keep us humble.
But on the eve of my sweet Silas’ first birthday, I can’t help but feel like raising our baby for the first whole year of his life is one of my greatest accomplishments.
I was talking with a co-worker, and we both noted how you have to go through more testing and prepare yourself much more to get a driver’s license, as opposed to the number of requirements there are to have a baby.
People always say, if you wait for everything to be perfect you’ll never have kids, or if you wait until you feel ready/prepared, you’ll never make the leap. Those things may be true, but I think the best way to approach parenthood is with an army of support behind you.
In this first year, there have been many pediatrician phone
calls, texts to my mom and sisters, conversations with close friends and a lot
of times where my husband Casey and I just look at each other like “what do we
Our lives and Silas’ life are so much sweeter because of the people that love us and have surrounded us to support our little family in this first year.
From baby showers, to people bringing us meals in the first month of parenthood, to offering to watch Silas while we take a rare night for ourselves and go on a date—I feel like all of our family and close friends also deserve a pat on the back for carrying us through this time.
It is our hope that we can instill in Silas that life here on earth is made sweeter by our God-given community through the Church and our families. The phrase from an English Premier League soccer team Liverpool FC, reigns true about the body of Christ, especially when it comes to family and community, “You’ll never walk alone.”
In the first year of a child’s life, if you are an otherwise healthy person, you will go to the doctor more times than you have gone to the doctor in YEARS.
“Well-child” checks are every month until the six month mark. Then they are every three months until the child is a year old, and then just once a year after their first birthday.
That doesn’t count, however, the “not-so-well-child” checks that come much more often, and these visits aren’t free. As the baby’s immune system strengthens and gets used to the world of germs, these visits come with mysterious rashes, crazy symptoms, and first-time parent worry.
My son was born in July 2018 and got his first sickness in October, and then again in November, in between the times that he would have visited the doctor for a well-child check-up of course. We also visited the ER one of those times, which was a whole other experience.
All of this time in waiting rooms and driving to and from the doctor gave me time to think (before I have to leave the office today for a doctor appointment for my son, go figure).
If we place such importance on visiting the doctor and immunizations and well-child check-ups in the first year of a child’s life, why don’t we emphasize the same importance when someone becomes a new believer?
Like a newborn baby, this person who has just made a profession of faith in Christ will need extra nurturing. Like a newborn baby, they are not born-again as a self-sufficient Christian who just knows what to do next.
Like a newborn baby has a parent that dotes over them and cares for them with devotion, newborn Christians need active discipleship relationships to help them grow into the healthy, well-rounded believer that they have potential to become.
Too often, we as the Church see baptisms and conversions to faith
at camp, or family events at the church, and fail to follow up with the person
who just made an extremely important life decisions.
This person needs one person to come alongside them and help build their faith in God, answering questions for them along the way and, like a baby who is learning to walk, this person will be there to catch them with they fall, and support them as they get back on their feet in their efforts to pursue Christ.
Think back to someone who made a profession of faith in Christ you may have invited to church, or someone you went to camp with, or if you helped volunteer at a church event. Now, think about the level of involvement you’ve had in their life since they made that decision.
Have you been there for them as a friend, a disciple, someone they can look to for godly nourishment and growth? If you haven’t, there is still time. Reconnect with them and begin to build relationships that last and relationships in which you both benefit from your discipleship relationship.
Jesus didn’t just pick 12 disciples and say, “Okay now go tell others about me!” No, He spent time with them, He answered their questions, dealt with their unbelief and loved them and corrected them through their mistakes. Be that person for someone in your life.
As the Fourth of July nears, something on my mind lately is the confusion of worshiping one’s country vs. worshiping the God of the universe who has given us true freedom from our sins.
I’m not here to say that we can’t be a patriot. We can be patriotic, as we respect our veterans and be thankful for earthly freedom. In fact, I myself am from a long line of veterans, and I am extremely proud of their sacrifice and the freedoms for which they fought. I would consider myself pretty patriotic.
I am here, however, to ask that we take a look into our hearts. Are we unwittingly worshiping our country more than openly worshiping our Lord and Savior?
In every Baptist church I’ve ever attended, the Fourth of July service is a bit of a production. The military songs are sung; there is recognition of veterans, and many patriotic songs are sung. However, something that I’ve noticed in my adulthood and found issue with is the outright worship of one’s country in such services.
For example, think about the song, “God Bless America.” It is not really a worship song.
The first two commandments of the 10 commandments say, “(1)You shall have no other gods before me, (2)You shall not make yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or In the waters below.” (NIV)
I’m not here to say that I haven’t ever had an earthy idol that has caused me to break either of these commandments. Admittedly, I’ve put things before the Lord in my sinful nature.
What I’m asking you is, have we mistakenly made our country your No. 1 God? Have we therefore made our country an idol?
In your loyalty to country, have you forgotten that Jesus calls us to be a friend to the widow, the orphan, the oppressed?
I want you to read this passage of Scripture closely,
For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, mighty, and awesome God, showing no partiality and accepting no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and widow, and He loves the foreigner, giving him food and clothing. So you also must love the foreigner, since you yourselves were foreigners in the land of Egypt.
Now read the rest of the passage carefully…
“You are to fear the LORD your God and serve Him. Hold fast to Him and take your oaths in His name. He is your praise and He is your God, who has done for you these great and awesome wonders your eyes have seen” (Deut. 10:17-21).
What I’m challenging you to do today and this Fourth of July, O patriot, is to examine the nature and zeal in which you celebrate and serve our country vs. the nature and zeal in which you celebrate and serve our God?
Please hear me out. I’m not saying we can’t be patriotic, or to be patriotic is a sin. What I’m saying is, where do your priorities and passions lie?
Do you pledge your allegiance to your country and flag, or as a believer in Christ do you pledge your allegiance, above anything else, to the Creator of the seas and the skies and all of his commands?