So I will not worry or fret

Another cry-fest song for me. Lately I listen to it almost every day. The quietness of the song with the reminder spoken to my soul that He is the one who holds my days and my life is so perfect.

I know you have a lot to worry about. Will this treatment work? Will this home visit go ok? Will you finally get to take home this child? Did you miss your ovulation window? But this is the truth: The great God of all the universe is holding those things in His hands. He is in control of those outcomes and you may need to breath and pass that trust to Him a hundred times a day. He knows what you’re hoping for. He is kind. He has a plan for those things. I don’t mean you can trust Him just to give you whatever you want — I mean You can trust whatever He decides to do with those situations, even if it’s not what you were hoping. What He chooses is a good plan. Release it to Him.

“Holding My World”
And this is Your world, you made it
And all of creation is breathing because You sustain it
Jesus, by your powerful word
You spoke out the earth and the heavens
Continue reading “So I will not worry or fret”

The thing about pain

The thing about pain is, it hangs over you. You carry it with you wherever you go. Sometimes it’s right out front. You can’t get out of bed. You can’t talk about anything else. You can’t think about anything else. Nothing can make you smile. You cry without extra cause. It’s just swelling over you and out of you and consuming you, no matter how hard you try (if you can try at all).

And sometimes it’s standing in the background. The awkward guest at a party — everyone sees him standing off to the side, not really doing much, but definitely there. At any silence in the conversation, at some little moment without warning, he shouts something. “Oh, right,” you think, “You’re still here.”

ps147Grief is like that. That permanent loss leaves a permanent pain that just always sort of hangs there. In the beginning everyone sees it, everyone mentions it, everyone tries to help carry it. But later it’s just yours. Sometimes you sort of overlook it — this picture on the wall that’s been there for years that you sometimes don’t even notice is part of the decor anymore. Sometimes it jumps out at you and you realize there was a lion just standing in the corner the whole time, and you kept walking past it. Sometimes it’s so heavy,  but you pretend you’re ignoring it because you don’t want to keep bothering everyone. But it’s heavy and it’s big and it’s weighing you down, and it won’t go away.
And you don’t know the solution. That’s the true worst part. Nothing will really fix it. “Is there anything I can do for you?” People ask. You have no idea. I just want you to know. I just want you to remember a few years from now that I have this weight. I just want you to carry this with me when it’s just there and there’s nothing to be “done”.

And the thing about pain is, until you’ve had your own, you don’t know what this feels like. Why is she still stuck on that? You think. That was years ago. It’s over now. She should be moving on by now. And, maybe worst of all, This isn’t that big of a deal. And then you get your own pain, and you grieve for how unsympathetic you were. You know of others with pain and you just want to walk up and say, “I know you’re dying inside right now! I know this is killing you. I know about the pain. I know.” 

The thing about Christ is, He always knew. He knew about the guy in the corner. He knew about the lion. He knew about the weight. He knew when no one else knew. He cared before anyone else could, and cared when no one did anymore. When you were wondering How can I bear this alone? How will I bear this at all? What will carry me through this? The answer was Christ. The solution when there are no solutions, is to take comfort and peace in Christ, and take it up again every day after.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” -Psalm 34:18

You have assigned me my portion

“Oh Lord, You have assigned me my portion and my cup. In You my lot is secure.” -Psalm 16:5

Elisabeth Elliot taught me this verse. She has several key verses, I guess you could call them life verses of hers, that are frequently repeated throughout her writing, and this is one of them.

One of her strongest points of teaching, which has dramatically impacted my heart and life, is about cultivating a “quiet heart” that rests in the Lord regarding all things. I’ve been fascinated and challenged by the various areas of life she applies this to.

For our purposes, this verse is again perfect. The answer to those questions that inevitably flood the mind of anyone struggling to have a family. Why is this happening to us? Why does this have to be our problem? Why us and not them? Why can’t we just be normal? How are we going to get through this? What will we do next?

Our peace is deeply routed in this: The Lord has chosen your “lot” in life. Whatever it is. How terrible it may feel at times.How never-ending it may become. This situation is from the Lord. He is trustworthy. He is good. He is wise. He is loving. We have unmoving peace from this. When the doctor tells you gut-wrenching news. When the pregnancy tests are negative the rest of your life. When another adoption falls through. This is our truth, and we can rest in it:

Oh Lord, You have assigned me my portion and my cup. In You my lot is secure. 

Growth is in the suffering, not the joy

“Jesus learned obedience from the things which He suffered, not by the things which he enjoyed.” [p.78]

I have been learning that our spiritual maturity is more likely to come from times of difficulty (momentary things like disagreements with coworkers, as well as big things like grieving a death) than times of ease. I’ve come to see there is a biblical truth to thinking that times of peace and “all is well” are more to be seen as the exception, and times of trial and suffering and needing to believe “all is well” are to be expected as the norm for the Christian life. I need a healthy mind and heart that is ready and expecting bumps in the road and not dreading and cursing them. They are welcomed catalysts for my growth. I need them. My faith is weak without them.

I’ve been sharing quotes from Elisabeth Elliot’s book Keep a Quiet Heart. Please share your thoughts! 

Once surrendered

“If my life is once surrendered, all is well. Let me not grab it back, as though it were in peril in His hand but would be safer in mine.” [page 53]

I’ve been sharing some meaningful quotes from Elisabeth Elliot’s wonderful book Keep a Quiet Heart. Let me know what you think! 

In which it turns out I’m Rachel

“Give me children, or I shall die!”

This was Rachel’s (albeit irrational) plea to her husband Jacob after waiting nearly a decade to marry her love, and watching her sister bear him four sons while she stood by barren. Obviously, Jacob was helpless to fulfill his desperate wife’s demands. In frustration he replied, “Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of your womb?”

Like Sarah, who you may recall I have long-considered my kindred-spirit among the barren women of the Bible, Rachel takes matters into her own hands and has Jacob bear her children through her servant.

It doesn’t say the amount of time, but judging from what looks like a fairly smooth succession of Rachel’s sister Leah’s birthing several children (herself and through her own servant), I would estimate it was at least ten years of fruitlessness for Rachel before this magical verse just pops up out of no where:

“Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb.”

Rachel became pregnant and birthed Joseph. Not long after, she had Benjamin as well. What a beautiful story of waiting and hope.

But also, what’s up with that? In one verse, with no special explanation or plan like we can see more clearly for women Sarah or Elizabeth, God just decides to open Rachel’s womb. And now, apparently, she can have kids no problem. So long, infertility.

rachelThis is a verse I read right before I learned that I was pregnant with my son after years of infertility that couldn’t be explained. The lesson is unmistakeable, and one we often mention to people when we share our story — God is the One who opens and closes the womb. We trust Him with this decision. We’ve learned to stop asking “Why?” We gained so much peace and closure through this truth. I don’t know why we went through that. Everyone always tries to figure out it — to diagnose the undiagnosed and explain what is veiled. I assume this is because they want to find a way to be sure it won’t happen to them — I’m a special case, and they are probably in the clear. But I’m not a special case. Rachel wasn’t a special case. God is the God of all things — even the womb. He chooses the time when he opens it, when he closes it, and the reasons. Some of us may know these reasons now, some of us may know someday, and some never will.

It was with this peace and trust, learned after months of agony, that my husband and I read, with great astonishment, a second positive pregnancy test, just five months after our son was born. —Wait, what?!— we asked again, like we did with Rachel’s story. How can that happen? Years of toil for the first, and zero toil with the second. Could it be that I’m not just Sarah, I’m Rachel? God opened my womb in His time and for His reasons?

Yes, believe it or not (I cannot!), I am writing this post five months pregnant with our second child. This time we barely had time to pray for a child. Never in a million years did we think we would feel “surprised” by a pregnancy. We worked so hard to be content with no children, and were so overwhelmed with gratitude to just have one — we had hardly prepared our hearts for the possibility that we would have more, and with ease.

And I hope this encourages you today. I know there’s a chance it can break your heart. But I hope you can take peace in the reality that God is ultimately sovereign over your womb, and He can open it when He wants. He may not open it… but He really may. And you may never know why, but you can trust His decision, before and after.

Sovereign, Wise, and Good

A long time ago I took a small group leader’s class at my church. One of the sessions focused on leading people through difficult times in life. There was a “takeaway” from that night that has always stuck with me, especially through trials in my life. It is simple, but perfect for those times when things happen that are out of your control and you don’t know how to respond. It is this truth:

God is sovereign, wise, and good, so I can trust Him.

God is sovereign: He is in control of everything.

God is wise: He knows what is best and doesn’t make mistakes.

God is good: He will not do evil things.

These three truths together give us peace and trust in God when He makes choices for our life that are hard to understand or agree with. I encourage you to repeat that truth to yourself as much as needed so that you can remind yourself to trust Him when it’s the hardest.

I thought this would be a fitting song to go with this thought today…

On Surrendering: Letting go of the lines

Something we greatly struggled with in our walk through infertility was the feeling that the trial kept pushing on past these sort of “lines” that we prayed diligently not to cross. You may have similar lines in the potential timeline ahead of you that, when you think of them, send your heart into a panic and send you to your knees begging not to get there.

To be candid, some of the big “lines” for us were:

-getting to a year of trying to conceive and having to do tests

-having to do treatments

-a big one for me was having to give myself shots; it was just an unbearable thought

-treatments that failed

-having to return overseas still childless after a hiatus and go back to life and work without a baby

Spoiler alert: we walked right through every one of these lines, and every one of them felt more painful than the one before. There were several other small “cringe” milestones, but these were the big ones we prayed about over and over. It was hard for us to understand why God would make us go through these things when we so desperately asked Him not to.trust

Midway through the above bullet points we happened to go to some counseling as a way to debrief and pre-brief (is that a thing?) our coming stint back overseas. There actually wasn’t much on our agenda to discuss; it was just something we decided to do to strengthen ourselves for our coming return to a rather stressful lifestyle.

Anyway, it was during one of these counseling sessions that we had an “a-ha moment” (to go all Oprah on you) that altered the rest of the course of our trial.

We were sharing about the struggle of having to cross each of these “lines” – one of us was openly sharing our hearts, and said something like this: “We totally trust the Lord in this situation and have a lot of peace. We feel we’ve totally given it to Him. I guess the hardest thing for us is that we feel there are these lines that we have in our hearts that we just beg Him to spare us from, and so far He hasn’t.”

After elaborating more on this pain, our counselor said the most obvious thing:

            “It sounds to me like you haven’t fully surrendered.”

We were taken aback at first. Are you kidding, lady? Of course we’ve surrendered! We’d already been going through this for a very long time. We were long past handing it over to the Lord.

But the more we discussed it, the more we realized she was right. In holding onto to these “anything-but-that” points of prayer, we were holding back some trust in God. And the worst thing was, it was kind of killing us. We were denying ourselves the full peace we desired in this valley of pain, because we kept holding on to these things we just “couldn’t” do.

Perhaps this can be a challenge to you now to take those “Please, Lord, just don’t make us ______________” lines and finally erase them. I can personally testify to the freedom and peace you are likely forfeiting by gripping on to your lines.

How sweet is His word

honey

I know you shouldn’t really advertise when you’re fasting and such, but I’m kind of excited so I have to share.

For Lent this year I decided to give up sweets and replace them with the sweetness of the Word. To kick it off, I spent time in Psalm 119, soaking in the beautiful verses and searching for some to memorize as I fend off my sweet tooth. In the process, I found some special verses for all of you! So please allow me to share!

“My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to Your word!” 119:25

“My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to Your word!” 119:28

“Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in Your ways.” 119:37  (I thought of hours of destructive googling time and time spent on forums, etc.)

“This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.” 119:50

“At midnight I rise to praise You, because of Your righteous rules.” 119:62 (I thought of hours of sleepless nights, praying instead of worrying.)

“Let Your steadfast love comfort me according to Your promise to Your servant.” 119:76

“Great peace have those who love Your law; nothing can make them stumble.” 119:165

Also, I would love to hear if you are doing anything special during this Lent season, if you don’t mind saying!