Change : a Reflection

Change.  It’s a word not many people like to hear.  And it’s something I personally struggle with.  Even on a small scale.  But change is inevitable.  It’s a part of life.  And often times, I believe it’s meant to be uncomfortable.

Uncomfortable.  Another word I don’t like.  But something I am learning to appreciate.

change

You see, change and being uncomfortable, they are two things that have been a large part of my life this past year.  They are the two things the Lord is really using to grow me.

This year has been so hard for me, for us.  In fact, it may have been the hardest yet.  There has been a lot of change.  And I have been uncomfortable for a better part of the year.  We have faced overwhelming loss and sorrow.  A year ago, I never would have guessed we would be where we are today.  Different people.  Different expectations.  Different outlook.

Sometimes, when I think about where I thought we would be now, I am saddened.  I mourn the loss of relationships that should have been.  I mourn the loss of our sweet child and absently rub my belly where a glowing bump should be.

But we are not meant to focus on the loss.  We are supposed to count all trials as joy.  And I am trying.  When I refocus on the presence of Christ I see just how far we have come.  I see the joy that He wants for us.

Because of our trials, our relationship as a couple and our relationship with Christ has grown ten-fold!  I am not who I was a year ago.  And I am so thankful for that.  I’m not as judgmental.  I’m not as naïve.  I’m a bit more understanding and a teensy bit more forgiving (working on this one).  I’ve finally made my quiet time with the Lord a priority once again.  That prayer and study time is something I look forward to and something I miss on the days that I fail to prioritize correctly.  Justin is the same.  I have never seen him with the fire that he has now.  The passion he exudes is incredible.  I still see the hurt we have dealt with bubble to the surface from time to time, but I see God using it for something greater than what the enemy intended.  What the enemy intended for evil, God will use for our good!!  Hallelujah!

And we have been blessed with so much this past year!  Our niece is due any day.  My adventurous two-year old is coming into her own – and bringing me new joy in my weakest moments.  We have a new-found appreciation for our church home and have developed some pretty fantastic relationships over the past year.  And with all of that, the excitement for the next year is wonderful!!  I can’t wait to see what unfolds.

God uses the change in our lives to bring growth.  And He makes us uncomfortable on purpose.  If we aren’t changing, we can’t grow.  And if we aren’t uncomfortable, we probably aren’t growing either.  If we are comfortable than everything is the same old.  I don’t want to be comfortable anymore!  I’m ready to shake things up!  I’m ready for the change He has planned for us in the year to come!

I’m going to expect the unexpected, chase the wild goose (Holy Spirit, here I come), and run towards the roar (Lion of Judah, I am yours)!    Who’s with me?!?!

Advertisements

It Only Takes a Few…

In Nehemiah chapter 3 we get a piece by piece account of who helped to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem.  It’s like reading the genealogies throughout Scripture – you read it to get through it and then move on to the next thing.  But even within those sections of Scripture, there is so much we can learn!  Overall, this chapter  teaches us that focus and diligence can make up for lack of numbers.

It only takes a few to make a difference.  If we learn nothing else from this short chapter, let it be this.  We must be willing to put our feet to our faith and step forward in service.  How many say, ‘Let’s do it!’ but then sit back and do nothing, “Let it never be said that we left that good work to be done to-morrow which we might as well have done today” (Henry).  Nehemiah didn’t hesitate.  He saw the need, knew what needed to be done to fix it, and with the help of others, accomplished the task.  It wasn’t because he was functioning on his own strength, but rather, “it sprang from prayer and faith” (Expositor’s).  If we are in prayer, seeking His will, devoted to His will, then why are we so hesitant?

The Expositor’s commentary goes into detail about how the execution of rebuilding the wall was almost socialistic in nature.  Everyone was united in civic duty for the common good.  First and foremost, I believe this unity begins with the family unit.  From there, it branches to the church.  The church should always be a unit, united for the common good, united to further the Kingdom of God – “to be a citizen of the ‘City of God’ is to be called out of the circle of the narrow, selfish interests into the large place where great, common duties and an all-comprehensive good of the whole body are set before us as the chief aims to be pursued” (Expositor’s).  This is what God intended!!  But so often we miss the mark on this.  Church becomes just another place where I get my way.  And if I don’t, I’m going to make a fuss about it, leave, or just stop being a part of anything.  Sometimes what is good for the whole body doesn’t look like what we think it should.  And sometimes it takes time to see that.  But if we are faithful and obedient to what God calls us, if we remain united, we will see the good, just as these men (and women) saw the completion of a wall that was previously left to become ruins.

Ruin, Small, Mustard Seed, Faith, Few, United, Church, Unity, Family, Focus, Nehemiah

In the grand scheme of things, the number of those that worked to complete the wall were very few.  The record barely takes up a full page in my Bible!  But, nonetheless, they set themselves to the task and completed the vision that God had cast.  This should give us hope!  For “If a small city could once take the unique position of Jerusalem, then why should not a small church now?  And if a little knot of earnest men within the city could be the nucleus of her character and the source of her influence, why should not quite a small group of earnest people give a character to their church, and through the church, work wonders in the world as the grain of mustard seed could move a mountain?” (Expositor’s).  There’s no waiting until your numbers grow.  There’s no waiting until we’re bigger.  There’s only now.  As a mustard seed faith can move mountains, so can a few, devoted and faithful, make a great difference for the kingdom of God!!

Mustard Seed, Faith, Difference, Change, Few, Small, Church, Kingdom

Reading through the names of those that helped to build the wall, there are a couple that significantly stick out.  In verse 20, it is noted that Baruch zealously repaired a section of the wall.  He is the only one that gets this descriptor.  His passion for the work was so evident and overflowing that Nehemiah couldn’t help but mention it!  But on the other hand, in verse 5 we see that the Tekoites made repairs.  However “their nobles did not support the work of their masters.”  While Nehemiah kept track of who did the work, he also noted who did not participate in the work of the Lord.  As life moves on, will you be remembered as a Baruch, zealously serving the Lord?  Or will you be remembered as the nobles of the Tekoites, not putting your hand to service because you don’t think it worthy or you don’t have the time or ______________ (insert excuse here)?

As for me, I will stay focused on the task(s) that God has called me to.  I will approach His vision and His work zealously.  I will not allow the lack of many to destroy the hope of the few.  I will commit to my family unit and, in turn, commit to my church unit, remaining faithful and obedient to the Lord’s will…even if it doesn’t go my way.  United we stand.  Divided we fall.

Will you stand with me?

Prayers of Our Forefathers

This election has had me in knots.  I won’t go in to the details of my wavering.  Because this post doesn’t concern a “side.”  This post concerns hope.

No matter what tomorrow brings, God is still in control.  And the prayers of our forefathers are still being answered.

Mark Batterson, in Draw the Circle, included the “first official prayer.”   I read it for the second time this past week and was given a peace about tomorrow’s election.  It isn’t very brief, but I wanted to share this small portion of the book with you.  It’s worth the read:

On September 7, 1774, the Continental Congress held its first official meeting at Carpenter’s Hall in Philadelphia.  Their first official act was prayer.  And it wasn’t some perfunctory prayer that was nothing more than protocol; it was a good old-fashioned prayer meeting.  Our founding fathers prayed with fervency and intensity.  Earwitnesses heard them interceding several blocks away.  Eyewitnesses said Henry, Randolph, Rutledge, Lee, and Jay were doubled over as they bowed in reverence before God.  John Adams later recounted that it ‘has had an excellent effect upon every body here.’  And not surprisingly, General George Washington ended up on his knees.  These revolutionaries knew their cause was doomed to fail without divine intervention.  They prayed like it depended on God because they knew it did.

The pastor who led them in prayer that morning was Dr. Jacob Duche.  The Scripture he turned to?  Psalm 35.  He prayed that just as the Lord contended for David, God would contend for their cause if it were a righteous one.  Dr. Duche’s prayer is more than just a piece of our history; it’s a piece of our destiny.

O Lord, our heavenly Father, high and mighty King of kings and Lord of lords, who dost from thy throne behold all dwellers on the earth, and reignest with power supreme and uncontrolled over all the kingdoms, Empires, and Governments; look down in mercy, we beseech thee, on these our American states who fled to Thee from the rod of the oppressor and thrown themselves on Thy gracious protection, desiring to be henceforth dependent only on Thee…

Be Thou present, O God of wisdom, and direct the councils of this honorable assembly…Shower down on them and the millions they here represent, such temporal blessings as Thou seeist expedient for them in this world and crown them with everlasting glory in the world to come.  All this we ask in the name and through the merits of Jesus Christ, Thy Son, and our Savoir.  Amen.

Our prayers don’t have expiration dates.  That’s why I believe this prayer is still being answered 238 years later….It was the very first prayer uttered at the start of the revolution.  It was a prayer for every American henceforth.  And it is still being answered. 

On November 9th we will have elected the next president of the United States of America.  But God has not changed.  He is still on the throne.  He is still the king of this world.  And we are dependent only on Him….

I’m Worn

In the midst of all the big things happening, the enemy is still prowling. In the midst of our excitement there is still struggle.

When I first started this blog, the goal was to be transparent. To share the joys and the big stuff but also the struggles and the hard stuff. Since the loss of our sweet baby and other trials we have faced, I have been struggling. And I usually keep it all bottled up, tucked neatly away.  The grief, the hurt, the heart ache.  I let it show on occasion…but not much.  It usually just comes out in exhaustion.

And I lie to myself about it being there in the first place.

Then it surfaces in negativity and being snippy with those I’m closest too.  I lash out, get overwhelmed easily, and I want to give up (which is the point isn’t it??).

On my drive home from work today, the radio was fading in and out.  I would think it was clear and then moments later and it was all fuzz again.  I grabbed a CD out of the visor and put it into the player without really paying attention.  Tenth Avenue North.  Hmmm…good choice, I thought.  It’s been awhile since I’ve listened to them.

And then this song, Worn, came on.  And I broke.  It was like he was speaking the words that have been hiding in my heart for months.

 

“I know I need to lift my eyes up
But im too weak
Life just won’t let up…”

“Let me know the struggle ends…

Cause I’m worn
My prayers are wearing thin
And I’m worn
Even before the day begins
I’m worn
I’ve lost my will to fight
I’m worn
Heaven come and flood my eyes.”

I realize that in comparison to some, my life is rainbows and butterflies.  But, now, on the days when the enemy does his best to destroy my spirit, I am drowning.  I’m struggling.  And I’m not okay.

But I want to be okay.  I know that He can give me rest.  I know that He is the source of my joy.  I know that He will take all of my pain and use it for good, so much good.

But goodness, some days it is hard.

There is pain on this voyage.

But in the end there is victory.  A song will rise from the ashes.  This, I know.

Rise, Stand, Move Forward, Move On, Miscarriage, Struggle, Faith, Why, Grow, Growth, Stronger

When God Gives a Vision…

I always have a plan for the way things are supposed to go.  And more often than not, God tends to throw a wrench into those plans.  A lot of the time, I don’t even understand what’s happening or why there was a shift.  But sometimes God grants us a peek at what He has in store, sometimes He allows us to see a glimpse of what is to be.  Those are moments of vision.  Sometimes God gives us a vision of how He wants us to move forward in furthering His kingdom.

Glimpse, Clouds Part, Vision, Dream, God Sized, Hope, Future, Nehemiah, Furthering the Kingdom, Goal

Now, I’m not necessarily speaking of something supernatural like a dream where we see the future and know for certain exactly what it all looks like (though, with God, all things are possible).  One of the ways Merriam-Webster defines ‘vision’ is “the mode of seeing or conceiving; unusual discernment or foresight.”  God often gives us an unusual foresight to conceive what the future might hold.  For instance, God has given Justin and I a vision for our church of young adult ministry, specifically for those outside the church.  That vision certainly wasn’t expected.  And since that moment of foresight, we haven’t heard much, I believe, because God is saying ‘not yet.’  I can see as I reflect upon this past year and our current situation that He is preparing us now for something in the future (However, about half way through writing this post…that ‘wait’ became a ‘ready, set, GO!’).  He has given us a vision, of that I am certain.

So what should our response be when God does give us a vision?  Nehemiah was a man of vision.  Before there was ever a vision, he spent a lot of time in prayer (more on that here).  Prayer is vital to any vision God gives us, both before and during the implementation of that vision.  We can’t carry out God’s plans if we aren’t in daily, constant communication with Him.  If we aren’t communicating with Him then we are doing nothing more than making the plans of God the plans of man.  Prayer is essential.

Once Nehemiah is sure of God’s vision, he sets himself to plan for the task.  He has to evaluate the situation, see the reality of what needs to be done.  In the second chapter of Nehemiah, verses 12-16, he mentions twice that he doesn’t tell anyone what God has put in his mind to do.  When God gives you a vision, it isn’t to bring glory and fame to your name.  When God gives you a vision, it is still HIS vision.  If we ever use that to bring attention to ourselves, we have missed the point.  So Nehemiah quietly moved forward without attracting any attention.

In the midst of that planning and preparation, the vision or the problems that arise within the vision, may seem insurmountable.  Nehemiah was surrounded by ruins and disappointment (quite literally).  He was given a vision for a problem no one else seemed to want to fix.  And in the middle of the night, as he was planning, he literally came to an impasse: “Then I passed on to the Fountain Gate and the King’s Pool, but there was no place for my mount to pass” (vs. 14).  So what did he do?  He found another way!  Nehemiah didn’t give up at the first sign of difficulty.  The vision seemed impossible from the start, but he didn’t let that stop him.  And even when it became even more difficult, Nehemiah kept moving forward.  Why?  Because this wasn’t a vision of man.  This was a God sized vision.  And only with the power of God could it be accomplished.

Finally, Nehemiah feels it is time to cast the vision (vs. 17-18).  He explains to the Jews the situation they are in, the why.  Then he gives them a solution to fix it and says, let us fix the issue, together.  He doesn’t cast the vision and say, ‘Okay, God gave me this vision, I’ll be over here working on that.  Can you guys pray for me?’  No, a God-sized vision requires that His people come together in unity to accomplish the task.  And He also explains how God has been in the mix.  It’s one thing to cast a vision of how we see things.  It is another when we are able to point to God in the process.  I love how Matthew Henry  looks at Nehemiah casting the vision: “By stirring up ourselves and one another to that which is good, we strengthen ourselves and one another for it; for the great reason we are weak in our duty is because we are cold to it, indifferent, and unresolved.”   If we are weak it is because we have become indifferent.  When God gives us a vision, it is our responsibility to stir ourselves and others up.  And no matter how crazy or impossible the task, we can’t take the time to worry about what other’s think, “The man who is in dead earnest has no time to be self-conscious, he does not indulge in sickly reflection on the effect of what he says on other people’s opinions about himself, he will not care what they think about him so long as he moves them to do the thing it is laid on his soul to urge upon them” (Expositor’s).

And lastly, when faced with opposition, Nehemiah doesn’t give up on the vision God has given him.  Instead, he clings more tightly.  We will face opposition.  When God gives us a vision, it is usually something that can’t be done by the hands of man.  In order for that vision to succeed, God will have to be in the mix or it will fail.  That way we can’t take the credit.  Because of that impossibility, there will always be naysayers.  And there will always be obstacles to overcome.  Nehemiah’s response to that opposition is this: “The God of heaven will give us success; therefore we His servants will arise and build…” (vs. 20).  In other words, we are determined to make this happen, we will not give up because God Himself will grant us success.  When you know you have a vision from the Lord, there is no need for doubt or discouragement, there is only moving forward.  If He has given you a vision, He will provide the means.  All He requires from you is faith.  I have been reading through Draw the Circle by Mark Batterson (I highly recommend it).  He notes at one point that it is “Our job is to hear [God’s] voice.  His job is to establish our steps.  And if we do our job, God will do His” (pg.25)!

our-job

So stand firm.  Push forward.  And never forget to pray – “We need to work like it depends on us and pray like it depends on God” (Batterson, Draw the Circle).

The voyage continues here.

When the Waiting Ends…

Waiting is a funny thing.  You wait and wait and it drives you crazy. Why aren’t things happening??  Why can’t we move forward yet?  It feels like someone hit the pause button on life.  And so you wait some more.

And you wait….

And you wait…

And you get comfortable waiting.

And then all the sudden, something happens, and you’re not waiting anymore.  You’re like an arrow shot straight from a bow.  No stopping, no slowing down, headed straight toward the target you’ve been waiting for.

But, wait, I’m comfortable waiting.  This…this not waiting thing, I don’t like it.  Why is this all happening so fast?  Nope, go back.  I’m okay with waiting some more.  I’m not ready yet.  Please make it stop.

God is funny like that.  His timing doesn’t always coincide with ours.  And we’ve been waiting for awhile.  And we’ve gotten comfortable again.  The first fire that started this voyage has died back quite a bit.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s still there, embers glowing, sparks flying….but the flames aren’t roaring like they were.  We got too comfortable with the way things are.

embers

So God woke us up with a free fall back into our vision.  So much of a free fall, that I’m not sure I’m ready.  Things went from 0 to 180 in two seconds flat.  And I’m still stuck against the seat back trying to catch my breath.  I don’t know what tomorrow holds.  But, like Nehemiah, I am praying day and night.  If this is His vision come to fruition, than my feeble soul will catch up eventually.  And if this is just a way to wake us up, then so be it, let’s shake up those embers and fan the flames – I want the fire to roar again!

fire-roar

Please be holding us in prayer as we aim for our target and flesh out this vision.  Thanks all!

Update, April 2017: This didn’t unfold quite the way we expected.  But God is still moving.  And, I’m excited to say that the fire is burning, steadily.  Continue the voyage here.

Response to Crisis – It Matters!

We have all experienced crisis and trouble at some point in our lives.  And we all respond a little bit differently.  It doesn’t matter if that crisis is a betrayal, a job loss, a natural disaster, or something else entirely….our response matters!   Christ followers are supposed to be different from the rest of the world.  So when we experience moments of crisis, when we experience trouble, when we are face to face with a devastating circumstance, the world is watching to see how we respond.  Our response matters!

In the first chapter of Nehemiah, within the first four verses, Nehemiah is given heartbreaking news – the walls of his home city are demolished, there is no protection for his people, for the people of God.  They are a city in crisis!  He is broken and in disbelief.  So he grieves and weeps…for days.  It is in this grief that we can learn a good deal from Nehemiah.

Crisis, Fear, Struggle, Mourn, Response, Trouble, Anguish, Sadness, Trials, Prayer

First, amidst that weeping, in his mourning, Nehemiah never neglected to pray.  In fact, he also fasted.  You see, “he eased his sorrows and unburdened his spirit by pouring out his complaint before God and leaving it with Him” (Henry).  How often do we mourn without the comfort of our Lord and Father?  How often do we turn away and forsake Him because our heartbreak must be at least partially His fault??  The Jews were the chosen people of God.  Nehemiah could have easily started cursing God, ‘Why did You let this happen?’  ‘How could this be?’  ‘Where were You?’   Instead, his first response in grief was to pray.

So how did he pray?  He first lifted praise to the Lord, “O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God….” (ch. 1 vs. 5).  That’s hard isn’t it?  In the midst of heartbreak, the last thing we want to do is praise the One person who could have prevented the heartbreak in the first place.  But praising Him during trials is an important response for our faith and His word tells us to be joyful when we meet trials (James 1:2).

He was in constant prayer, day and night.  The idea of God’s people being left unprotected bothered Nehemiah to the depth of his soul.  Instead of worrying and fretting, he prayed.  And then prayed some more.  I am a firm believer that God never tires of hearing our prayers.  In Matthew 6:7, the Lord denounces vein repetition.  However, “the prayer that is repeated simply because the worshipper is too persistent to be satisfied until it is answered” doesn’t fall into that category (Expositor’s).  We should be circling every crisis we encounter with prayer until the matter is resolved (one way or another).  If that means years of prayer, so be it!

He looked to God’s word: “Our best pleas therefore in prayer are those that are taken from the promise of God, the word on which He causes us to hope” (Henry).  We need to be praying His word, praying the promises of God, just like Nehemiah, “Remember the word which You commanded Your servant Moses…” (ch. 1 vs. 8).  Praying His word isn’t intended to remind God of what He has spoken, I don’t think He needs the reminder.  But, rather, to acknowledge that we are aware of His promises, His commandments, and His goodness.  We know that through heartbreak, through troubles, through sour lemons, God can bring goodness, mercy, joy, and triumph.  Why?  Because His word says so.

He was specific.  In order to be specific in our prayers, we must be seeking God’s will in the first place.  We must be actively doing our part.  Nehemiah didn’t just hear the news, mourn, and pray.  He began to plan a way to fix the problem, all the while praying, seeking the will of God – “He did not sit still and say, ‘Let God now do His own work, for I have no more to do,’ but set himself to forecast what he could do towards it” (Henry).  And when he felt the Lord had shown him a way, Nehemiah began to pray specifically.  Because of his position as cupbearer to the king, he knew he held a place of significance and favor.  The cupbearer had to be trusted, after all, they were the ones who could most easily kill the king!  Because of this position, he knew approaching the king was an answer to his problem.  Nehemiah, like Esther, had been placed there for such a time as this.  So he prayed for that meeting specifically, “…make your servant successful today and grant him compassion before this man” (ch. 1 vs. 11).  We do not have to be vague in our prayers!!

He waited on the Lord’s timing.  Chapter 1 of Nehemiah is set in the month of Chislev, and chapter 2, when he finally speaks to the king of the matter, is set in the month of Nisan.  There are FOUR months between the two!  Some sources believe these four months passed because Nehemiah was not in the presence of the king.  Possibly due to winter months, or possibly because he only worked one quarter out of the year.  But regardless, from the time Nehemiah heard of the crisis of Jerusalem until he was able to do anything about the matter, four months had passed!  All the while, Nehemiah kept praying and kept seeking the Lord’s will.  He was waiting for an opportunity to arise, for God to open the right door.  He recognized the need to be preparing, and while he did not sit still, he didn’t rush into anything either.  He wanted to be certain of the will of the Lord.

He continued to pray in the very moment he needed it:  The king out right asks Nehemiah what is bothering him at the beginning of the second chapter.  Perhaps Nehemiah didn’t hide his sadness as well as he believed, or perhaps due to fasting for four months, his physical appearance was altered to a point that the king couldn’t help but notice that Nehemiah’s countenance was not quite right.  So the king implores Nehemiah to express his anguish. And after a moment of fear, he does, then, “The king said to me, ‘What would you request?’  So I prayed to the God of heaven” (ch. 2 vs. 5).  You see, “the brief and sudden prayer reaches heaven as an arrow suddenly shot from the bow, but it goes right home because he who lets it off in his surprise is a good marksman well practiced” (Expositor’s).  Nehemiah had already been in constant prayer about this situation, so it makes sense that as he steps forward to speak with the king that he would, one last time, ask the Lord for confidence, clarity, and compassion from the king.  It would have been a natural reflex, just as it should be in our own lives.

In conclusion, our response to crisis, no matter the form, should be to pray and seek the will of God.  He knows better than we do how best to move forward.  He knows how the crisis will be fixed already.  And He knows best how to equip each one of us for the moments we find ourselves in.  Nehemiah sets a beautiful example of prayer in crisis, it would be wise to follow his lead.  The world is watching.  Our response matters.  Will you worry, curse God, and shut down?  Or will you pray, trust the Lord, seek His will, and move forward?

 

 

The Struggle with ‘Why’

Many of you who read this blog know parts of our story.  But some of this, I’m not sure that I’ve shared with anyone…

About a week or so before the 4th of July, in the midst of our crazy life, we found out that we were expecting our second child.  I remember the moment I held that positive test in my hand….something we had been hoping for.  I was ecstatic and terrified.  Yay!!  We’re having another baby!!   And, oh my….everything is about to change….again….  All of those thoughts and so much more swimming through my head.  My heart doubled in size in that moment.  So I waited an entire evening to tell Justin by leaving the positive test on his pillow before we went to bed.  His feelings were much the same – excited and stressed (his ever growing to-do list had a time frame now – we need our third bedroom finished!).

And we told our parents over that extended weekend with this adorable picture:

Baby Announcement, Miscarriage, Pregnancy Loss, Life Lost, Every Life Valued, All Lives Matter, Fourth of July, Pregnant, Expecting, Why

And life was good.  I was teaching Aelah to say “Big Sister” and talking to her about moving to the big bed.  We were discussing names and nursery themes.  We told everyone else (including Facebook) we were expecting.  I had my first appointment and everything was good.  Baby’s growth was on target and that little heart was beating at a beautiful pace.

But then something happened.   Just days before that 12 week mark, I took what I thought was just a precautionary trip to the ER only to be told that our baby no longer had a heartbeat.  I was broken.  I cried, we cried.  I don’t remember much about that visit.  But I remember Justin looking up at me, his voice choking, and asking, “Are we just being tested?”  I knew what he meant.  Our lives had already been scrambled a bit for other reasons, and now this!?!

love

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  This is worth more.  I delete pictures off of my phone pretty regularly to clear up space.  But this one remains.  This was the morning after we found out our baby had died, less than 24 hours after our lives were forever altered.  I was numb.  But life had to go on.  Certain things had to happen.  We had to eat.  We had to care for the child we did hold in our arms.  We had to move forward…even though I so desperately wanted to go back…  So we spent the morning as a family, embracing the joy God was granting us in the midst of our sorrow.  Justin taught Aelah how to cook pancakes that morning.  She was fascinated, completely oblivious to the grief surrounding her.  “Oh wow” she would say each time he flipped a pancake.  And asking him to do “more” when he took some off of the griddle.  This picture is worth a thousand words, but more than that, it holds so much emotion; bringing both a warmth at the blessings I have in my life as well as a heartbreak for those that I have lost.

That night we went to a church service.  Every time we prayed and throughout the time of worship, I prayed for my child.  I had seen God move in some mighty ways within our church in the past month.  Two people we had prayed over were healed…one with medication (far more quickly than it should have worked) and the other was unexplained – a mass that had been was now gone.  I knew that God was bigger than any doctor’s prognosis.  I knew that He could make the heart of that child beat again.  And so I prayed that He would.  The next morning as we were driving in the car, a song came on the radio: “You’re shattered like you’ve never been before.  The life you knew in a thousand pieces on the floor….Tell your heart to beat again, close your eyes and breathe it in, let the shadows fall away, step into the light of grace.  Yesterday’s a closing door, you don’t live there anymore.  Say goodbye to where you’ve been and tell your heart to beat again.”

As I stared blankly out the window, watching the fields and trees pass by in a blur, the tears ran silently down my face.  And I prayed and prayed that He would tell my baby’s heart to beat again.

But He didn’t.

And for a time after that, all I could think was “why?”

For me it wasn’t so much a question of ‘why did this happen’?  It was more a question of ‘why not me?’  Why didn’t I get a miracle too?  I struggled with that.  What made me different?  Didn’t we deserve a miracle too?  Didn’t I deserve the chance to hold my baby in my arms?  Why, God, why??  And all I heard were crickets…

I still don’t have an answer.  But the difference between today and a couple of weeks ago is that I’m okay with the struggle.

I think we’re supposed to struggle with the ‘why.’  There are a lot of things that don’t make sense in this world.  And we have all wondered at one time or another, ‘why?’  As we struggle with that question, we have two choices – turn away from God because we don’t have all the answers or turn toward God…because we don’t have all of the answers.

Faith.  The struggle grows our faith.  A few weeks ago, I felt like I was drowning in sorrow.

Drowning, Over My Head, Miscarriage, Sorrow, Struggle, Why, Faith, In Too Deep

The ‘why’ was torturing me, pushing me further under.  But God’s hand was right there, waiting for me to grab on so He could pull me to safety.  He never left me.  Not for a second.  He may not give me every answer I want or think that I need, but He is always there to set me back on my feet, to pick me up again and help me start over.  He is hope in the pit of despair.  He is light in the midst of darkness.

The struggle, though difficult, reminds me of His presence and reminds me to rely on Him completely; to rely on Him for peace, for joy, for comfort, for life.  The struggle is where I come face to face with my Creator and learn to be okay with the questions.

So for today, I will struggle with why.  But I won’t let it overtake me.  I will embrace the struggle and cling to the One hope that I have.  I will take the hand He has extended and hold for dear life.  I will not allow the sorrow of my trials to be for naught.  I will rise.  I will grow.  I will move forward.

Because of the struggle.

because-of-the-struggle

 

 

 

He’s Wild, You Know

As a child, my father often read to us at bedtime.  My favorite stories were those of The Chronicles of Narnia.  They were magical – beautifully painted imagery that captured the  vivid imagination of a child so well.  Little did I know then that those stories were teaching me so very much about my faith.

I remember a conversation between Lucy and Mr. Tumnus about Aslan, the lion who clearly represents Christ: “He’s wild, you know, not like a tame lion.”

Lion, C.S> Lewis, Narnia, Chronicles, Wild, Tame, Witch, Wardrobe, Tumnus, Lucy, Movie, Book, Wild Heart, Urban Rescue

He is wild.  The Lord we follow, the one we have given our lives to, He is wild.  He is unforeseeable and incalculable.  He never does things the same way twice.  When following the Lord, you must learn to expect the unexpected.  He is not a tame lion!

I currently work behind the scenes at a pregnancy crisis clinic.  We have been working through the devotional book, Draw the Circle by Mark Batterson.  He refers to following the Holy Spirit as chasing a wild goose.  At this point in our ministry, we are on a wild goose chase, following after the leading of a loving, anything-but-tame, highly unpredictable God.  But more on that story for another day.

The point of this is that God is wild!  No words can describe the voyage He has prepared for us, if only we would follow!  Justin and I are realizing this more and more each and every day.  In our personal lives, in our church, and in our work lives….when we follow the Lord, it will be anything but the expected.

One of our theme songs for this season of our lives is “Wild Heart” by Urban Rescue.  It is a beautiful foray into what following the Lord looks like.  When we choose to follow the Lord with our everything we head “into the great unknown…after Your wild heart.”  And we have committed, “No matter where You go, we’ll follow You!”  It is a grand adventure, a phenomenal voyage, that I cannot wait to see unfold.

But it isn’t all sunshine and butterflies, this I know.  Sometimes the adventure leads us into dark valleys where the only way out is a treacherous climb up hill.  We have been in a couple of those valleys lately, and the words of “Wild Heart” echoed in my mind,

“The cross before me, the world behind me.  No turning back, no turning back.  Though none go with me, I still will follow.  No turning back, no turning back.”

“Into the great unknown, no matter where You go, we’ll follow You….”

Why?  Because as Lucy replied to Mr. Tumnus, “but He is good.”  He is so good.  And because we have chosen to follow Him, one day we will know a world without pain or sorrow.  One day, those dark valleys will be no more.  One day, those treacherous up hill battles will have been worth it all.  One day all we will know is the presence of Jesus.

So off we go, after His wild heart, into the great unknown…

Great Unknown, Adventure, Voyage, Urban Rescue, Wild Heart, C.S. Lewis, Not Tame, Tumnus, Lucy, Good

 

 

View from a Church Pew

I was listening to a radio show on my way home from work a few months ago.  And it has impacted me in tremendous ways.  Our attitude toward certain scenarios, the way we approach things, can drastically change the outcome of the situation.  The book that was being discussed on the radio show was about forming “Mom friendships” (the author and book escape me a the moment.  *So sorry!*).  The author described how she changed her outlook from “here I am” to “there you are”….and everything changed.

What if we take the logic she applied to mom friendships (for good reason) and apply it to church congregations.  Our flesh naturally gravitates toward a “here I am” attitude, in other words, simply put, “It’s all about me.”  Here I am – what can you do for me?  But God, throughout scripture, requires a servant heart, or an others-first attitude – “There you are.”  There you are – what can I do for you?

The Church is far from perfect.  And I know that’s because we’re all still on the journey to “figuring it all out” and each one of us is at a different point in that journey.  However, I think a lot of the issues within the Church would be alleviated if everyone of us, every day (whether a worship service or board meeting), would come with a “There you are” attitude instead of “Here I am.”  Our view from the church pew could drastically change.

Church, Pew, Attitude, Hypocrisy, Left Out, Clique, Family, Servant, Others,

Let me give you a couple of examples of the difference:

Here  I am.  I walk in the room, find my place, and take a seat.  I wait for you to come talk to me.  I notice when you don’t walk over to me and say hello.  I am offended that you haven’t taken the time and made the effort to come see me.  You didn’t even ask me why I wasn’t here last week.  Why didn’t you ask me about what was going on in my life?  I feel so excluded.

There you are.  I walk in the room and look for someone to greet.  *Friendly Smile*  How are you today?  Let me get up and come over and say hello to you.  How can I help you today?  I noticed you have been really busy and wanted to let you know how appreciated you are.  I missed getting a chance to talk to you last week, I could tell you were busy…which is why I came to you this week – anything I can do for you?

Here I am.  You aren’t meeting my specific needs.  Serve me.  I don’t like the music.  I don’t like the way that program is run.  My ideas aren’t being heard.  I never have a chance to do what I think would work.  Listen to me.  This is the right way.  That plan will never work.

There you are.  How can I serve today?  What can I do to help meet the needs of those around me?  I can see your heart for this ministry, it’s overflowing.  How can I help that vision become a part of the overall mission?  What of my own agenda needs to be set aside for this to work for the greater good?   Am I getting in the way or am I letting God move?  Have I heard, really heard, the heart of where everyone else is coming from?  Am I listening?  What is it that would work best for the vision God has given us, even if it isn’t my idea?

Can you imagine if we were all “there you are” people???  Because that’s what we’re called to be!  We are called to be servants.  We are called to be love.  And offense?  That’s a tool of the enemy!  We choose to be offended.

If we were all “there you are” people, no one would feel outcast or snubbed.  We would notice when people were missing for a couple of weeks.  We would work for the good of God’s vision, not for the good of ourselves.  We would learn to set aside our own agendas and actually listen to those around us.  We would forget past biases and approach every day with a clean slate.

The difference between “Here I am” and “There you are” is the difference between someone walking in those doors and someone walking out.

Doorway Quote

When we choose to follow Christ, we are saying, “It is no longer about me, but about Christ who lives in Me.”

When I start getting frustrated in a church setting, lately, I put my attitude in check and ask myself: Am I approaching this with a “here I am” or “there you are” attitude?  A lot of the time, I have to take a couple of steps back.  God’s plans are better than mine and I am sick of letting myself get in the way.

The next time I say (or think) “Here I am” it will only be to the Lord, in this sense, “Here I am, Lord, send me.”

His response: “There you are.  Where have you been?  I’ve been waiting for you to finally figure it out!”