What’s Your Bent?

Quote

Hosea 11:7 “And my people are bent to backsliding from me: though they called them to the most High, none at all would exalt Him.”

When someone has a particular gifting or inclination, we say that they have a “bent” toward it.  What we really mean is that their personality leans in that direction.  As I was doing my devotions yesterday, I came across this verse, where God says that Israel has a bent. And, unfortunately, it’s one I can relate to. Ouch.

Did you know that the idea of having a “bent” was biblical? I didn’t. I’m sure I’ve read this verse before, but I don’t remember seeing it. It really stuck out to me, this time.  I’m not sure if it’s just that the term stuck out more, or if it’s because it hit home.  Of all the things for God to say about His people, He chose to say that their personality leans toward moving away from Him. And He recorded it, in the Word that He promised to preserve eternally.  Ouch again.

I used to read about the nation of Israel, in Scripture, and just shake my head. After everything that the Lord did for them, over and over again, they just walked away. They forgot the things He had done, they forgot His promises, they forgot their promises to Him, and they ran off, usually pitching a fit. And yet, even while I was shaking my head at their foolishness, I knew that I was the same.

How often have I, pitching my own little fit, accused God of not being everything He promised? How often have I run off, saying that He’d let me down? And how many times have I actually been the one who wasn’t keeping my promises?

I am SO GLAD that God did not stop there. In the next verse, He says, “How shall I give thee up…?” One more verse, and He says, “I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger,…for I am God, and not man;…” He was angry; He says as much in the text. But even in His anger, He loves His people. Even when we turn away from Him. Even when we are unfaithful to Him. Even when we don’t love Him.

In my last post, I was feeling a little sorry for myself (or a lot). To tell the truth, I was feeling like I was pretty unloveable. Partly because I know my own shortcomings, and partly because I was listening to the lies and not the truth. But here, it says that, even when we’re unloveable, unloving, disloyal, and unfaithful, He still loves us. No matter what.

That’s what unconditional love is. God’s love doesn’t care where we come from or what we’ve done. He’s going to keep on loving us anyway. It’s not that He doesn’t care what we’re doing, or who we’ve hurt; He cares about those things very much. But it doesn’t affect His love for us, or how He sees us, or what He wants for us.

We are all bent to backsliding from God. It’s human nature – we’re sinful people. The very bodies that we live in desire to rebel against Him. Add to that the constant bombardment of temptation from the broken world and the adversary who wants to destroy us, and it’s pretty much inevitable. But it doesn’t have to be the end.

Part of God’s plan for us is restoration. He wants to make us whole, and He wants to do it through a relationship with Him. He wants us to chase after Him. But, what’s even more amazing is that, when we stop chasing after Him, He starts chasing after us. Even though we have a bent to backsliding, He is not willing to give us up. He has never waited for us to get it right. He chases after us, so that He can help us make it right.

I’m still not sure what my bent is; I don’t really know what I’m good at. I don’t know, exactly, what the Lord has for me. I still have a lot of questions, and some doubts. But this passage really spoke to me. Regardless of my bent, good or bad, He’s not going to just give up on me. There is no bent that He cannot shape into something beautiful. In His time. I just need to remember that.

Jun 01

Losing My Voice…and maybe my mind

I very clearly remember the first time I lost my voice. It always comes to mind, this time of year, because it happened on Memorial Day.  My husband and I had just started dating.  I remember, mostly, because it happened very quickly, with no warning.

I sang in church, on Sunday morning.  By Sunday evening, my throat was getting a little scratchy.  When I got up Monday morning, I couldn’t speak at all.  No voice.  The next year, I was on the road; after that, I was married and living in.a different state.  When we moved back, I lost my voice every year, around Memorial Day, for 3-5 years. It hasn’t happened in the last few years, but I always watch for it, this time of year.

I’m really thinking, this year, about losing my voice.  I thought I was losing it a few weeks ago, but it was a false alarm.  I’ve had a rough week, this week, for various reasons, and I’ve been thinking about a lot of things.  Among them, I’ve been thinking a lot about this particular subject.

When I was younger, I genuinely believed that words were one of my gifts.  I’ve never been one for public speaking, but I used to sing, and write, and read… I believed, with great conviction, that the Lord was using my words – my voice – to bless people and accomplish something.  I had confidence in my voice, because I believed that God was using it, and that it mattered.

I’ve recently realized that, somewhere along the way, I’ve lost that.  I don’t have confidence in my voice anymore.  I don’t know if the Lord is using the words that come out of my mouth.  I’m struggling to find purpose, because I don’t know what I’m good at.  I don’t know what I can do that has meaning.

As I’ve developed allergies, my actual voice has changed.  There are also some other factors, but it just isn’t the same as it used to be.  I don’t always trust it, like I used to.  I’ve also been told that I’ve said things the wrong way.  I find myself holding back from speaking, because I don’t want to be taken the wrong way.  I don’t want to offend someone, and I don’t want to be misunderstood.  I don’t write letters anymore, because letters aren’t really what people do anymore.  I don’t encourage people with a card or note (or even a text), because I’m not sure my words are worth much.

I even find it happening in my home.  I’m weary of trying to teach my children, because I feel like they don’t listen to what I’m saying.  I don’t speak to certain family members, as a general rule, because past misunderstandings have made me bitter, or afraid.  I don’t ask for help, because I don’t want to sound like one of those people who can’t do anything and turns every little molehill into some huge mountain.

I’m up, typing this, at two o’clock in the morning, because the Lord is laying it on my heart, and not letting me sleep until it’s done.  But, in my heart, I doubt that even these words matter.  I don’t think anyone has read my recent posts.  I feel compelled to keep that I’ve started posting again to myself, lest I be tooting my own horn.  I feel that the Lord will lead people to my posts, if He wants them to read.  But I don’t really believe that He is leading anyone.

I suppose, really, this is the whole problem, in a nutshell.  I just really don’t believe that He is using my voice.  It’s not that I don’t believe He can.  It’s not even that I don’t believe my voice is good enough.  I just don’t know if I believe my voice matters, anymore.  If He’s not using it, does it?

I don’t know.  I don’t really know what I’m trying to say, tonight.  I just felt led to post, and this is what’s on my heart.  I’m sorry if it’s discouraging, but I’m a little discouraged, right now.  I’m just trying to be real.

I guess, manybe, I”m trying to find my voice, again, so that He can start using it again.  But, first, I have to figure out where I lost it, and what happened to make me let go of it.  When did I stop believing that He had a plan for me, and for my voice, and why did I buy into that lie?

I’ll have to get back to you, I guess.  For tonight, this is where I am.  The questions are real, and they’re looming large, for me, without any immediate answers.  All I have, for now, is a promise, and I’ll have to take it on faith.

“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord; plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a hope and a future.”  – Jeremiah 29:11

Apr 02

Breathing

Just breathe

Be still, and know that I am God.” -Psalm 46:10a

Now it came to pass, as they went that he entered into a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, ‘Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? Bid her therefore that she help me.’ And Jesus answered and said unto her, ‘Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things; But one thing is needful; and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.'” – Luke 10:38-42

Breathing…

It’s the most natural thing in the world – literally.  We come into the world knowing how to do it, without ever being taught, and we continue to do it, until the day that we die. It is, in fact, the one thing that we cannot live without. We even have machines that can help us do it, if our bodies become inefficient at it, or can do it for us, if we forget how, altogether. It is essential to our very survival.

So, I was intrigued, this week, when I came across this: “I had read that one of God’s names is YHWH. Hebrew scholars tell us those four letters that make up His name are actually the sounds of breathing. I wonder at the generosity of a God who gives Himself a name we can’t help but speak the moment we first enter the world and in those last few moments we lie resting…” (Maggie Paulus, from Finding God at the Kitchen Sink, Moody Publishers, 2014).

Wait a minute…His NAME is the sound of BREATHING?!? Like I said, I was intrigued. I got out my Strong’s (Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible) and started doing some research. I learned, long ago, of the particular name she was referring to, and knew that it was from the Hebrew, and purposefully written without the vowels. But the sound of breathing? That was new to me. But, it turns out, the simplest form of the word that the name is rooted in IS actually a word for breathing, based on the sounds that the act creates.

I am totally blown away by this realization. Not only did He give Himself a name that we cannot help but speak as we enter and leave this world, but He gives us the very breath to speak it. All those moments, all those times when I am too overwhelmed to even pray…all those times when I don’t have the words to speak…all those instances when I don’t know which name to cry out to…all those times when I have nothing – it’s enough to just breathe.

Wow.

I keep hearing the chorus to the Johnny Diaz song Breathe: 

Breathe. Just breathe.

Come and rest at My feet.

And be…just be…

Chaos calls, but all you really need

Is to just breathe.

As I was researching, I found that breathing and being are even more closely related than they appear. Because our breathing allows our life, in order to just be, the two are inextricable. Which makes the Hebrew even more amazing, because here’s the other thing my research revealed: the same Hebrew name that represents the sound of breathing is the name that God gave Himself from the very beginning – I AM THAT IS.

It is the personal name for God that the Hebrew people knew Him by, from the very beginning.  And, because it is the very sound of our breath, His existence, and our relationship to Him, is confirmed every time we breathe. Our total inability to live without Him is embedded in our body’s natural processes. We cannot even survive without uttering His name.

Here’s a challenge for you: Meditation is one of the spiritual disciplines taught in Scripture. If you’ve ever practiced any yoga or guided meditation, especially for stress or anxiety, you’re no doubt familiar with the instruction to “focus on your breathing.” The next time you find yourself with a few quiet minutes, try focusing on the sound of your breathing – the name of God – and allow it to be a starting place for what He has for you. When you call out to Him, He will answer.

Mar 22

Investing

A few weeks ago, we had a conversation, in my ladies’ Bible study, that has really been weighing heavily on me.  The conversation had to do with parents, in another country.  Someone we knew had been serving there and had been shocked to find that, when told their children were likely going to die, many parents simply walked away.  Another acquaintance, someone who works with difficult family situations here, told her that it’s the only way some people know how to cope.  She conveyed the message with conviction, having been taught this over and over in her social work training, but without personal understanding.  Because of what she sees every day, she was not shocked, but was still deeply saddened by these parents’ reactions to their children’s diagnoses.  As the conversation was going on around me, I felt compelled to speak up.  I had a different point of view.

Listening to the conversation, I had been taken back to some things that I hadn’t thought about in a while.  I was overwhelmed, again, with the suddenness of remembering what has been forgotten – or at least pushed aside.  Sometimes, we work so hard to get past something that we forget it was ever there.  It’s not, necessarily, that we mean to forget.  It’s more that, sometimes, looking ahead is just more important that looking back.  And, sometimes, when we work extra hard to get around something, we get so much out of the “detour” that we forget it wasn’t the main route to begin with.  So, when we’re suddenly reminded of that giant pothole we were going around, we’re surprised to see it there.  Which was kind of what happened to me.

Before I go any further, I should probably explain something else.  In a lot of the ministries that I have been involved with, over the years, one of the ideas that has come up a lot is the concept of “investing.”  Most people think of investing as a financial concept.  It is.  But in ministry, it’s often used to refer to relationships, especially the ones that require a lot of commitment.

Think of it this way: when a person is looking to invest money, there are a lot of options.  Maybe they want to put something into the stock market.  This is somewhat risky.  They may want to invest a moderate amount, hoping to earn a little more along the way.  However, there’s no way to know how this will work out.  The stocks they invest in may crash next week, next month, or next year.  If they ride it out, they may be able to break even.  With a little luck, they may even come out ahead.  But it may take years.  Commodities, on the other hand, may be a little more stable.  Gold and silver may fluctuate in value, but they won’t cease to exist, like that start-up company might.  Then again, maybe you want to invest in art.  You purchase a mixed collection of works that you appreciate.  Maybe you find a small work by one of the masters (if you have more money than you know what to do with!).  You buy it at auction, add it to your collection, and enjoy it every day for the rest of your life.  Now that is an investment!

In ministry, relationships with other people are sometimes approached this way.  Every relationship requires you to invest something of yourself.  You know what I’m talking about.  That friend who calls you every day, to talk for five minutes about coffee?  That’s an investment of your time.  If you weren’t willing to give that five minutes a day, you wouldn’t have that friend.  Or what about the text message you send, three times a week, to check in with your co-worker who moved to another city?  That’s another investment.  How much you invest in a relationship directly correlates to how much that relationship is worth to you.  Those five minute daily calls?  If she wanted ten, you’d be out.  You get the idea.  Relationships are investments.

Some relationships are costly, but we deem them worth the commitment.  Family relationships, for example, often demand a great deal of investment, but we put in whatever we have to because, well, it’s family.  Marriage, too, requires us to put a lot in.  A good marriage takes work.  But a good marriage is worth whatever it requires of us, because it’s the kind of relationship that just doesn’t come along every day.  In ministry, we strive to invest in everyone, especially the people that most write off as “not worth the investment.”

That brings me back to why I felt I had to speak up that day.  While I was listening to the other ladies talk, expressing their shock and sadness that these parents could just walk away from their dying children, I was thinking a little differently.  I remembered.  I remembered how tempting it was to hold my daughter at arm’s length.  I remembered how hard we had to try to keep from building walls, to protect ourselves from what we knew was coming.  I remembered talking to my husband about how we needed to be intentional about “investing” in her, choosing to pour ourselves into a relationship that we knew could not last.  I remembered.  And I could understand, in that moment, how those parents could walk away.

I shared, then, with all those beautiful women, what was on my heart.  I told them about having to consciously choose to love my daughter, without allowing myself to focus on “tomorrow.” I told them about how hard it is to “invest” in someone that you know won’t be here in a year.  Someone that you know is leaving, soon, and forever.  Our only strength was in believing that we will see our Zoë again someday.  Without that hope, I told them, I can understand why someone would walk away.

I spoke what was on my heart, I cried a little, and then I stopped.  Later, the woman who had explained the parents’ behavior as “a coping mechanism” thanked me.  She said that, while she’d been taught the concept for years, she’d never really understood it, but that my words had given her some insight.  I was glad the Lord was able to use what I had said.

Anyway, it’s been weeks since the conversation, but I still can’t stop thinking about it.  I keep coming back to idea of investing, particularly in our children.  As parents, we assume that our children will require commitment, on our part.  We commit to bringing them up.  In many cases, we even do so before our churches, committing to bring them up in a way that honors the Lord.  We assume the commitment will consist of time, energy, emotion, finances, support, and many other facets of our resources.  We assume the investment will be long-term.  We assume the outcome will be favorable.

A financial investor always hopes to come out ahead.  Investors may even assume that they will.  But it would be downright foolish for an investor to assume that every single one of his investments was going to do well, long-term, with only minor bumps in the market.

So why do we, as parents?  We are devastated to learn that our investments, in any of our children, fall short of the projected results?  Why do we think we should have the right to back out of our investments?  Less than 18-20 years?  Forget it!  Not worth my investment.  Less than favorable outcome?  Forget it!  Not worth my investment.  What do you mean my son’s going to grow up and stop talking to me?  I’m not interested in that!  Why is it that we have no problem taking risks on financial investments, based solely on good business, but we don’t think we should have to take risks on our personal investments in human beings?  I don’t know how many women have told me that they wouldn’t carry a baby to term, if they knew that the baby wasn’t going to live to his or her first birthday.  Why do we think children should come with guarantees, when we invest in a market that doesn’t?

I’m not really sure I have the answers to these questions.  I used to assume the same projections that every other parent does.  But then I grew to understand how a parent could walk away.  It still breaks my heart, because I believe every human being is worth the investment, but I understand.  Mostly I’ve just been wondering about the investments we make in our kids.  They really aren’t any more stable or predictable than any other investment.  But, then: if that Picasso you bought at auction turns out to be a forgery, does that mean you suddenly stop enjoying the artwork, or is it still worth the investment, if only to you?  And, for those of us who understand the investment, here’s a challenge that’s been on my heart: how burdened are we for those who are so poor in spirit that they cannot afford it?

Feb 08

A Different Kind of Loss

So…it’s been a while. For those of you who have been concerned about me, I appreciate it. Mostly, I’ve been doing okay. God and I have just been working out some issues. He’s good, but I don’t always understand what He’s doing. Anyway, He’s been laying on my heart, for a while, to post something, so I’ve finally made the time. I apologize, for those of you who follow.

In the time since I last posted, God has been working in my life in some very unexpected ways. He’s been teaching me some things, showing me some things about myself, and helping me make some changes that have been long needed. I haven’t really changed, but my outlook about some things has. I read a book, over the summer, by Phil Vischer, founder of Big Idea Productions (the original creator of VeggieTales). One of the things he really emphasized was that sometimes God takes things out of our hands so that we can remember that He is always enough. I needed that.

I’m not going to try to fill you in on everything that’s happened since my last post, because it’s just been too long. But there are a couple of things, in particular, that I’ve been wanting to share. I’m going to start there. In the future, we’ll see how the Lord leads. For today, this is what I’ve got.

One of the things that has been happening, in my absence, has to do with my son. It’s been, at times, very stressful, for my husband and I. During one of the times of conflict, last summer, the Lord used the situation to open my eyes to a babyloss mom issue that I didn’t know I had. You know…you go about your life, thinking “I’m SO glad that, of all the issues that I have, THAT isn’t one of them!” Then, of course, God gently starts nudging and you realize that, “Oh…yeah…I guess that IS something I struggle with…my bad…”

I’ve read so many blogs and online posts and articles and books and (you get the idea here) about babyloss moms who become obsessive about letting their other children out of their sight, afraid of what might happen to them. It’s so easy, when you’ve lost a child, to imagine losing another. It can happen so quickly. It can be so unpredictable. It’s easy to be afraid. Some of us struggle more than others, obviously. Just like any other personal issue, it affects everyone differently. There are some babyloss moms who never have a struggle with that fear. And, of course, there are a lot of moms who’ve never lost a child that have the same fear. We all want to protect our children and hold on to them for as long as we can. Learning to let go comes in different forms for all of us, as moms.

At any rate, all those times that I’ve been reading these women’s hearts, I’ve been moved with compassion for them, but grateful that I don’t share that particular struggle. Until God gently pointed out to me that I do. As I mentioned before, the same struggle doesn’t always wear the same mask. My fear surprised me, because it didn’t look like I expected it to. As it turns out, I’m afraid of losing my children in a different way. My fear isn’t about what will happen physically. I’m afraid of losing my children in a very different way.

There are times when I don’t know what to do with my son. I love him deeply. And that is where my fear begins. I value the relationship I have with my children. I appreciate that I have influence in their lives, if only by sheer virtue of the fact that I am their mother and spend a great deal of time with them. I greatly value the opportunities I have to invest in them, even if I don’t always take full advantage of them. And I understand that, as they get older, these opportunities will become less frequent, and my influence will lessen (as they become better able to make their own decisions). These are things that, as a parent, I look forward to seeing. I want my children to grow up to be individuals: competent, responsible morally and financially, and capable of making good decisions (with godly counsel, of course). I want them to be able to contribute to society, without needing me to hold their hand for the rest of their lives.

I value their hearts, however. I DO fear losing my children. I fear that I will make some horrible parenting decision and lose their hearts. I fear that I will anger my son and lose his respect. I fear that he will rebel and seek out friends – other influences – with the goal of provoking me (and my husband), resulting in stronger influences that point him in another direction. I am terrified that I will lose the opportunity to influence him – and his brother – for the Lord.

Looking at the subject from a strictly intellectual standpoint, I know the fear is just as unfounded and irrational. A single bad parenting decision, if handled with care, is not going to turn my son’s heart against me forever. Every child rebels, to some degree; it does not mean the end of the parent-child relationship. I know this. I know that making him angry is not going to ruin everything that we have spent years working to develop. I also know that I would not be the first parent to lose the heart of their child. If it happens, I know the Lord can bring them back. I know that prayer is much more powerful than fear. And I know, above all else, that God is Sovereign.

Fear isn’t rational, though. That’s what makes it a struggle. It’s one of the things that the Enemy uses to distract us. If we’re too busy obsessing over what MIGHT happen, we can’t focus on what NEEDS to happen, or on what IS happening. We get so upset over things that we have no control over that we miss the blessings that God is giving. We miss the small victories of today because we’re worried about failing tomorrow. God encourages us to plan ahead, but we need to balance it with gratitude and joy, based in faith and trust in Him. Planning for tomorrow shouldn’t come at the expense of walking with Him today.

I’m always surprised when God shows me something I didn’t know. I’m not sure why; I know I’m far from done learning. But it surprises me more when it’s something about myself. I’ve been learning a lot of those things, this year, and I’m trying to learn how to balance them. One step of that is learning how to let go of fear and grab onto faith. It’s not as easy as it sounds. Battles of the mind are often the hardest ones to win. But God already has the victory. I just have to learn how to claim what He’s already given me. And I’m learning.

I know my thoughts aren’t very well organized tonight. I apologize. I hope that this is an encouragement to someone, though. God’s been doing a lot to encourage me and I wanted to pass it along. He’s always good. In a fallen world, though, I know I need a reminder, sometimes.

Apr 23

He Lives!

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“Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.”  – Isaiah 53:4

For Easter, this year, our pastor preached a series from Isaiah 53, where the prophet foretells, more than 700 years in advance, details of the crucifixion. In addition to the striking physical specifics, the passage details the spiritual and emotional ramifications of the events that happened that afternoon.  It is, at the very least, an amazing passage, worth reading for the details of the prophecy.

A few weeks ago, as I was doing the study that I like to read through during the season of Lent, I came across this verse. I haven’t read through the study in several years, mostly because life has just been busy, and Lent hasn’t been a top priority. This year, though, our boys are old enough to begin to understand some of the reasons to observe, so we decided to teach them about the season. Since I was focusing on it, I remembered to dig out the book. (Yes, that’s my confession: the last several years, I haven’t had the forethought to dig the book out at the beginning of the Lenten season.)

At any rate, as I was saying, I was reading through the study, and came across a reference to this verse. It’s a verse that I know well, part of a passage I have been familiar with for many years. I can quote most of the passage by heart. But that verse, this time, was like a slap across the face. “Surely He has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows…”

I won’t lie; I’ve been struggling, over the last few months. There have been a lot of things going on, but the long and short of it is that I’ve been struggling. So, when I read that verse, it hit a little too close to home. I was feeling my griefs and sorrows quite sharply. In fact, I was feeling a little overwhelmed by them. And there was more than a little anger blending in. It was getting pretty heavy. I was being weighed down. And I was sinking.

“Surely He has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows…” I responded in anger, when I read those words. I was sinking and here was someone saying that the weight that was pushing me down had already been taken away! How dare they!

One of the things I’ve learned, over a lifetime of learning to walk by faith, that never ceases to amaze me, is that God always wants us to be real. In the Old Testament, He never rebukes the children of Israel (or anyone else, for that matter) for being angry with Him. He chastises those who offer sacrifices without sincerity, and those whose worship doesn’t include the heart, but never those who are honest with Him. And the thing is, He doesn’t have anything to hide. If we’re angry, the best thing to do is to just be honest with Him, and He’ll help us work it out. Scripture tells us to “Be angry and sin not”, so we know that it’s not wrong to have the feelings He built into us.

I get angry at God fairly often. Obviously, my life hasn’t been a series of beautiful picnics and walks in the park. It hasn’t been a living nightmare, or anything, but there have been a lot of painful experiences – just like everyone else’s lives. Anyway, I find that, when I get angry with Him, I can resist, but only for so long. The silent treatment doesn’t affect Him much (it just affects me), and it doesn’t solve anything. So, eventually, I always end up “talking” it out with Him. I find that my life tends to be smoother if I do it sooner, rather than later, but I don’t always go that route.

Anyway, when I read Isaiah’s words, I took it to God. I was angry, but it was between Him and me. I wanted to know: If He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows, why was I grieving so intensely? Why were my sorrows, this heavy weight that was burying me, still so heavy? If someone has already taken them, how could I still feel them so much? I know that God doesn’t lie, and He’s never wrong, but sometimes it just doesn’t feel like the way it is. And, sometimes, I just don’t understand.

So, He explains things to me, in a way that my heart understands. That night, when I was accusing Him of leaving me with what He was supposed to have taken, His still, small voice spoke loud and clear. And I was left with nothing to say. I was struck with one thought: how can anyone take what I haven’t let go of?

A lot of people say that Christianity is simple, but not easy. In Job 42:5, after actually speaking with God, Job says: “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee.” In John 3, Jesus spent hours talking with Nicodemus about spiritual birth. There is a very subtle difference between knowledge and understanding, but it makes all the difference. Knowing that Jesus has “borne our griefs and carried our sorrows” is not the same as understanding that I don’t have to. It’s not just about letting go, either. Just letting go implies that something is gone. My griefs and sorrows aren’t gone. I just don’t have to carry them. Someone else has them.

As many times as I have read Isaiah’s prophecy, foretelling the striking, specific details of Christ’s crucifixion, I have never taken as much comfort as this year. It is an amazing and overwhelming thing that Christ has taken my sins and my punishment on Himself – indeed, it is the very thing that my salvation is founded on. There have been times, in my life, when my sins have weighed heavily on me. But I have never felt a weight lifted like I felt this year. He took so much more than just my sin – that alone would be overwhelming; He took every consequence of my fallenness – all of my sin, my death, my corruptible body, my grief, my sorrow, my separation, my inability, my weakness, everything. And all of it died with Him. All I have to do is let it go. Someone else has it.

And then, as if all of that weren’t enough, He took it somewhere else, He left it, and He came back! When Christ died for us, it was simple: a substitution. But it was so much more than that. It was a preview. My body, my self, my life is not perfect. But it will be. It will be! And I can have confidence in that, because He gave me proof: He rose from the dead! He lives! And it will be!

Dec 04

My Heroes…

I know I’ve already posted today, but the Lord has been laying this on my heart for a while now, so…

I just want to take the opportunity to thank all of the babyloss mamas who love Jesus and want to serve Him by helping and encouraging others. It’s not an easy thing to humbly allow God to use you by inviting others into your pain, or by quietly entering into theirs. When you do not understand what He is doing, it is extremely difficult to open your heart for others to see – and judge. I am honored and extremely humbled to be joining this community of women, leaning on the strength of the Everlasting arms and constantly renewed mercies of our gracious God. I cannot say enough how grateful I am for the testimony of each and every one of you. Thank you for allowing Him to use your pain. He never wastes it. Someday we will see, even if we cannot understand here. You are my heroes and I pray that I, too, can be such an instrument of His glory. You have blessed me!

Nov 22

A Challenge…

I’m not really into the whole idea of “the Thanksgiving challenge”, as I call it. I’m sure you’re familiar with the idea: every day, from the first of November through Thanksgiving, it’s become popular to challenge one another to name something we’re thankful for. Sometimes, it doesn’t even involve other people; it’s a challenge we issue to our own hearts. Either way, it leads to a lot of Facebook posts, tweets, and other such things.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not against the heart of this kind of challenge. In fact, I think it’s great to issue a call to gratitude, especially among Christians. I just get weary of the posts of people who have decided to “accept the challenge”, because it’s the trendy thing to do, and then end up fishing, by the fourth or fifth day, for shallow “gratitude” simply because they don’t want to be the first one to give in to defeat. Personally, I try to keep a daily journal of gratitude, with 3-5 things a day. I don’t always stay on top of that, but it’s a good habit to be in. Besides that, research has found a laundry list of benefits for people who make a conscious effort to write down things that they’re thankful for. I just don’t like the idea of making it into a “holiday tradition”. I think it should be a year-round thing, even when it’s not something that everyone is sharing.

I’ve always struggled, a little, with the idea of the Thanksgiving holiday. I understand that it has a lot more to do with the history of our nation than it does with a particular attitude. But there is a definite focus, during the month of November, on having an attitude of gratitude. Again, I think this is a great thing! As someone who struggles with balance, though, there is a very real temptation, for me, to slap on the “season” label and let the attitude be part of it, much like the traditions and decorations. I want to make the attitude fit into the season, instead of letting the season come out of the attitude. My natural response is to resent the traditions, which can sometimes ring hollow, and instead refuse to associate the practices I value with the actual holiday that people use.

November began, a few weeks ago, without the idea of the “challenge” really coming up much. Or so I thought. Then I went to my Wednesday night ladies’ Bible study. Our pastor’s wife, who leads the study, told us, that first week, what we would be studying for the month:Psalms, highlighting a focus on gratitude. And she offered up: The Challenge! Instead of one thing every day, we were challenged to physically write down (or at least make an electronic note) of five things from each day.

I’m not going to post everything and everyone’s buisiness here on my blog, but I wanted to share the challenge that the Lord has been laying on my heart for the last few days. It’s not my words, and it’s a simple, basic cause-and-effect observation. But David could write!

Psalm 13:6 – “I will sing unto the Lord, because He hath dealt bountifully with me.”

The idea David was trying to convey here, probably, is one of having such joy that we just can’t contain it anymore. David was so blessed by God’s lovingkindness toward him that he just had to sing! My challenge for you is a much simpler one. Just two questions, directly related to the quote. 1) Has He?  and   2) Will You?

It’s not much. But it’s one of the ways He’s been challenging me, this week. Have a blessed day tomorrow. 🙂

Nov 12

That Day…

It’s here. That day. Today is the one day of the year that I truly dread. It would be so much easier to just sleep through the entire day, as if it could simply be skipped over, somehow, or “missed.” Everyone else knows it as ‘Veteran’s Day.’ To me, it will always be ‘That Day.’ In about one hour (around 11:15 pm), I will be sitting here, knowing that this is the same couch I was sitting on, the same place, at the same time, on the same day…

If you’re a BabyLoss parent, you know what I’m talking about. Today is ‘That Day.’ At around 11:15 pm, we will mark the three year anniversary of our child’s death. Three years since I sat on my couch, surrounded by family, while my baby girl died in my arms, at only 7 1/2 weeks old. Three years since they came and took her lifeless body, strapped into an infant carrier, to prepare for burial. Three years since the worst day of my life.

Most of the time, I try to focus on the positive things. After watching her struggle, for two days, just to breathe, holding her tiny body upright, to relieve the pressure on her lungs, it was a genuine relief to know that her battle was over. And being able to tell our young sons that their sister is all better now…if you haven’t been there, nothing I can say will be a sufficient explanation. She is so much happier than I am, I know, and I genuinely believe that I will be with her again. I know she is in the only place where she can receive more love than she did here. And He’s taking much better care of her than I ever could. There is so much to be thankful for…

Still…

It’s a common thread, through all of the research that I have done, that it’s impossible to understand, unless you have been through it yourself. I’m not going to try explaining anything, tonight. I can’t do it effectively and I’m not really up to trying, right now. If you know, I am so, so sorry – in a way that only you can understand. If you don’t, I’m not sorry – I’m not sorry that you don’t know, I’m not sorry that I can’t effectively express this, and I’m not sorry that you cannot understand. I would not wish this on anyone. I pray fervently for empathy, but I regret any sympathetic knowledge on this subject. In spite of my own pain, tonight, if you understand, my heart hurts for you.

Most of the time, I try to stay focused on the positive. When I am faced with ‘That Day,’ however, I just try to survive. There are days when I am sad, because I will never throw a princess birthday party. There are times when the little, hand-knit sweater, with its intricate patterns and tiny sleeves – the one that would be perfect for wearing with a little church dress and the tights with the ruffles on the butt – is more than I can take. There are moments when I see my boys playing with their cousin – a little girl born in the same year – and it’s all I can do not to have a total break-down right there. Most times, I can fight the tears until the moment passes. Except on ‘That Day.’ On ‘That Day’ there is no such thing as a moment passing. I might be able to fight the tears, but I know I’m just buying time; they’ll be back. It’s just a matter of holding off the inevitable.

When I became a wife, it marked the beginning of a new string of ‘days’ for me. Without consciously making a list, I started a list of all the days, through the calendar’s passing, that I will always be aware of. I know which day my husband proposed to me. Obviously, there is our wedding day. The list grew to include the day we learned we were expecting, the day our first child was born, our next positive pregnancy test, and the birth of our second son. I even added the day we closed on our first home. While I had no guarantees, my expectations included all of those days. The next two were not expected – the days I miscarried. We added some more blessing days – the day we had another positive test and the day we learned we were having a girl – and then a whole string of painful days: the day we learned she may not be healthy, the day we received a diagnosis, the day it was confirmed…’That Day.’ When I became a mom, I never imagined my list of “mom days” would include ‘That Day.’

I don’t, for even one second, ever regret the events that led up to what happened three years ago. I constantly thank God for my children, especially my Zoe-girl. But I know that, for as long as I live, there will be a day, every year, when my mood turns dark and the positive is obscured. I will relive that awful night, sleeping in the chair, trying to determine why she wasn’t able to breathe; I will relive the following two days, huddled on my couch, propping her fragile body upright; I will relive the uncertainty of knowing that my husband, working onsite in another state, might not make it home in time; I will relive the unbearable night that she left us… For 364 days out of every year, I will refer to November 11 as her ‘Forever Day’, the day that she flew to a world beyond time. But there will be one day, that same day, that it will be something else. For one day, every year, November 11 will simply be ‘That Day.’ And it is the only day I do not want to be part of.

Happy Forever Day, my sweet Zoe-girl. Mommy loves you so much!

Nov 10

Philippians 4:7

“And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”  – Philippians 4:7 (KJV)

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”                                                                           – 2 Timothy 1:7 (KJV)

“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him. [….] …so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”            – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14, 17b-18 (KJV)

“But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.”    – 2 Samuel 12:23 (KJV)

“O death, where is thy sting? O grace, where is thy victory?”     – 1 Corinthians 15:55 (KJV)

My prayer, as I share these words, tonight, is that you will be encouraged and that He, my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be glorified. Let it be so.

November is a very hard month for us. We look forward to Thanksgiving, grateful for all the wonderful blessings of the Lord in our lives. There is a lot more to November, though, in our home. As we celebrate our blessings and thank God for His lovingkindness, we keenly feel the pain of our fallenness. You may realize that Zoe left this world in November. On the 11th, it will be 3 years since she went home. You probably are not aware that it was also in November that we lost one of her tiny siblings, who we will never meet this side of eternity. Or that it is also the month that one of her tiny cousins, also unmet here, left this world. While we are focusing on our blessings and our merciful Father, it is hard not to be distracted by our losses.

I am writing this post because I am struggling tonight. I should be sleeping. It is well past midnight and I have church in the morning. But I find myself feeling overwhelmed, unable to sleep, and in need of some catharsis. So, here I am, tacking up my thoughts, praying that they are clear enough to bring Him glory and mean something to you.

The verses that I chose, as I began my post, are verses that I have needed immeasurably, during these last five years. The “peace of God that passeth all understanding”, mentioned in the first, is what “kept my heart and mind” during our times of miscarriage, uncertainty, and loss. I knew in my heart, from the very beginning, that He was working in our circumstance, and He provided me with everything I needed. On the days when I felt like I was losing my mind, He even reminded me that He “has not given us a spirit of fear, but…of a sound mind.” Crazy isn’t part of the bargain – even when it seems like it.

When we walked through our darkest days and seasons, the Lord used passages like 1 Thessalonians 4 to comfort me, reminding me “that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope…comfort one another with these words.” My hope in Him has been, many times, my greatest strength. David understood this when he said, “I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.”

The last verse that I’ve shared is a bit different than the others. It’s been a great help and comfort to me, as have the rest, but it’s a little bit of a struggle, too. I fully understand, doctrinally speaking, that Christ has conquered death and the grave, taking away all power and victory from these once-powerful enemies. There is much solace there. At the same time, though, we still live in a world where they run rampant, allowed to commit atrocities that seem senseless to me. I know that it is temporary, but I am still in a place where the temporal is very real. I rejoice that my foes are conquered. But those closest to me have heard me say, at times, that, while the grave has no victory, death still retains a sting. As long as I remain separated from loved ones, there will be pain and longing. That is what I struggle with.

As a human being, there will always be spiritual struggles. Until my flesh is raised immortal and incorruptible, there will be aches and pains. I sincerely hope and pray that I am growing and changing, allowing things beyond my control to be used for the glory of the Lord. I would be lying, though, if I said that I understand. Or that I “rejoice evermore”. As grateful as I am for all of the Lord’s blessings, I am most looking forward to eternal – to having a life that is unable to be touched by the pain and longing of separation. Until then, I don’t know that I will ever be able to say that death has lost its sting. By the grace of the One who has the power to take it, though, I will live in the hope that it will. Someday. Some day.