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There are two new ways to get in touch with Barren to Beautiful!

Email: barrentobeautifulblog@gmail.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/barrentobeautiful

Due to some of the sensitive subject matter on this site, I realize some readers may prefer to comment or ask questions more privately via email. So, if this is you, I would love to hear your questions, comments, and thoughts. I will try my best to respond, although I do aim to put family first.;) I also love to hear your prayer concerns and/or praises, along with any topics you’d like to request for me to write about.

Second, I just started the new Barren to Beautiful Facebook page above, so feel free to “Like” my page, and then you will be able to receive new posts and updates right in your Facebook news-feed.

Looking forward to connecting with you more! You are dear to my heart. And I’m praying for you. Because He satisfies the weary, and restores the broken. And He makes the barren beautiful. He really does.

Much love,

Rebekah

barrentobeautifulblog@gmail.com

http://www.facebook.com/barrentobeautiful

When the Barren Sing

girl silloutte

I was looking for a parking space in a very crowded lot, when suddenly, near the front, a car pulled out in front of me. I quickly turned on my turn signal, eager to pull in, and whispered a prayer of thanks. But as I began to pull in, I read the sign nailed in front of that space: “Parking For Expectant Mothers ONLY.”

I hit the breaks. And just sat there for a moment, before shifting into reverse.

For Expectant Mothers ONLY.

Who knew a parking lot could be so cruel?

It was like I just got rejected from the Mommy Club. “No barren women allowed.”

The sign could have said: For women whose bodies work right. For women who have had their prayers answered. For women who have something to look forward to.

For women with something to expect.

I still remember it so well. That longing. That wanting to “expect” something. Or someone.

I used to walk through Barnes & Noble and see that giant “Parenting” section near the Children’s Books Department. And the rows and rows of “What To Expect” books.

And I remember the feeling that I had nothing to expect. 

“Because, I expected to be pregnant by now. I expected a lot of things. By now.”

But if you are barren today, I want you to know you have something to expect.

You have Someone to expect.

And He is Almighty God. And He’s coming for you.

My prayer for you today is that you would know His love, and know His nearness, and know His mercy. Because He just wants to pour it out on you like never before.

I know Mother’s Day is just around the corner. And the sting of infertility can become sharper than ever. But God has a message for you this Mother’s Day. He says:

“Sing, O barren, you who have not borne! Break forth into singing, and cry aloud, you who have not labored with child! For more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married woman,” says the LORD.” Isaiah 54:4

“Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed; neither be disgraced, for you will not be put to shame; for you will forget the shame of your youth, and will not remember the reproach of your widowhood anymore.” Isaiah 54:13

“For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has mercy on you.” Isaiah 54:10

“O you afflicted one, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold, I will lay your stones with colorful gems, and lay your foundations with sapphires.” Isaiah 54:11

First He tells you to sing. And then, He gives you the reasons to sing.

And they are:

1. Because you will not be ashamed.

2. You will not be disgraced.

3. You will forget the shame of your youth.

4. My kindness will not depart from you.

5. My covenant of peace will not be removed from you.

6. I’m going to comfort you and lay a foundation for you. In precious stones.

He’s saying everything you have grieved, all your sorrow, all your disappointment, all your despair—I’m going to remove it. And I’m going to redeem you. I’m going to redeem your life. I’m going to be a Husband to you. I’m going to pour out my mercy on you, and show you everlasting kindness.

Now that is something to expect.

See, God knows better than anyone, exactly how you feel in this moment. Can you hear His tender love here? “O you afflicted one, storm-tossed and not comforted, behold I will lay your stones with colorful gems, and lay your foundations with sapphires.” Isaiah 54:11

He’s saying: I am with you! I am for you! And as long as you put your trust in Me, you will NEVER be disappointed!

So, sing barren one! Break forth into singing and cry aloud!

You were not meant to be silent. You were not called to pine away in despair. You were made to sing, lift up your voice, because of God. And because of His mercy and everlasting kindness He pours out on you.

I hope that there is this sound across the land, the song of the barren women, lifting up their voices. Shouting for joy. And singing louder than anyone in their churches this Mother’s Day. And when they think of Him, when they think of His love, tears fill their eyes. Because He is closer now than ever before.

Because when the barren sing, something powerful happens. When the barren sing, the darkness trembles. When barren sing, Satan shudders. When the barren sing, the silence is broken. Despair and heaviness leave. Emptiness becomes full. Dead places become alive. Hardened hearts turn to flesh. Clenched fists, open wide in surrender with joy, joy, joy.

Laughter is restored. Like the sun warming your skin. And hope. And peace. And rest in the Holy Spirit.
When the barren sing, heaven breaks through.

So sing. 

“My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him.” Psalm 62:5

And He’s coming to take all your shame, and fear, and sadness, and sighing, and make it flee away. Forever.

[If you need a place to start, listen to this song (it will open in YouTube in a new window): Reason to Sing

For more reading on worship during infertility, or heartache of any kind, here are some other posts that may be helpful: Singing in the Dark, Where Is God When You Can’t Get Pregnant?, About My Barrenness.]

When God Feels Far

girl alone

“Do you really want…Me?”

Sometimes I feel God ask me this question. And it’s usually after I’ve been feeling like I’m not enough, and I’m trying to do more, and be more.  And He said it to me this morning.

“Do you really want Me?”

And I tremble, because, He already knows the answer.

The thing about Jesus is that He can see straight through me. He knows when I’m fake. He knows when my motives are off. He knows when I switch from love to selfish ambition. He knows when I’m just going through the motions. He knows when I’m too preoccupied for Him.

Almost like a lover, who can tell when you’re trying to make love…but not really into it. Not really feeling it.

Just kind of pushing through.

I have a chair in my living room, where I sit and be with Him in the mornings, before the house is awake.

But lately, my time with Him has been rushed, and not because I don’t have enough time, but just because my mind is rushed, my mind is elsewhere, I’m speeding through some Scripture, but I’m not really pausing to listen. I’m already looking to the next thing. And I just can’t engage with Him. I can’t slow down enough. But..

He speaks, you know.

And this morning I just felt Him calling me…to Himself. To, “Come closer.” 

And I just sat Indian-style on a wooden dining room chair and listened to this song on repeat. It’s called, “In Over My Head,” by Jenn Johnson. (The link opens a new screen in Youtube where the lyrics are shown.) And it’s just about wanting Him. It’s about thirsting. It about longing for Him at any cost. And it says, “Take me back to the place where my heart was only about You, and all I wanted was just to be with You.”

And as I listened, it was like He just put His fist into my heart, like He was massaging it. Like the way I sometimes work out the tough knots in my husband’s back. Just this slow, continual stroking…until they finally start to loosen, and smooth out, tender.

And I don’t really have anything great to say, other than He wants all of us.

And, if you’re struggling, like me, He wants you. All of you.

Because the other thing I love about Jesus, is that when He finds us in our superficiality…He calls us out of it.

He says, “I know you. I know you. Come here. You’re mine.

You don’t have to pretend with Me. I already know.”

So, maybe listen to this song? And just worship. And let your hair fall from that tight up-do. Because He’s real. And He’s here. And He wants to see you. And hold you close. He wants to work out those knots in your heart. And He’s the only one who can.

Years ago, I wrote a song from God’ perspective called “Secret Place,” and I used to sing it and just cry at my piano, because it always called my spirit to His. It went,

“You can find Me, if you want to,

In our secret place.

I’ll tell you secrets, you can hear them,

in our secret place.

Do you remember, when You loved Me,

in our secret place?”

I don’t know about you, but I absolutely need more of Him. Right now. Today. I absolutely need to come close. I absolutely need to connect. I need to worship. I need to get the focus off of me…and onto Him. The only place it ever belonged. The only place we are set free.

And I need the Spirit to come and break into the atmosphere today. Because I don’t want to do this without Him. And I don’t have to. I wrote a note and put it by the sink where I wash dishes, it simply says,

“You don’t have to do this alone.”–God

It’s a simple reminder for me to snap out of “auto-pilot” robot mode. And connect with Him, in my spirit. And all the thoughts and chaos that is in my head, all the desires, all the disappointments, and weaknesses, and idols, and comparisons, and pressure, and feelings of “not enough-ness”,  and incompleteness,  just to scatter them out before Him, and let Him sort them out. Because He can, and He will.

And His Word really does pierce, and divide, soul and spirit, and judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12) And He sees everything. So we can just come.

“Therefore the LORD longs to be gracious to you, And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. For the LORD is a God of justice; How blessed are all those who long for Him. O people in Zion, inhabitants in Jerusalem, you will weep no longer. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry; when He hears it, He will answer you.…” Isaiah 30:18-19

We live in the Information Age, and sometimes our minds are just overloaded. Sometimes our eyes begin to blur all the news feeds together. And I love to write, and I love to read. But sometimes I just need music. I just need to worship. I need to lift up my voice, and let my spirit cry out, and be comforted. By Him. It’s what I was created to do.

Sometimes I need to come to Him, not like the Pharisee that’s trying to have it all together, but the woman who just collapses at His feet and cries, and wets His feet with her tears and dries them with her hair. And can’t stop kissing them. (Luke 7:44) How much better to have this kind of tender affection toward Jesus and be falling apart, than to have it all together outwardly, but a heart like a stone?

Oh, God, come and break me again.

Sometimes we lose desire. And we don’t long for Him like we once did. But it’s not too late. If you’re alive, it’s not too late, to stop, and turn your affections toward Him. I know today, I have to. Perhaps this song will help you, like it did me. Or perhaps there are others that will. Whatever it is, find it. He is worth it. He is worthy of our worship. And only in His presence is the fullness of joy we all long for. (Psalm 16:11)

He longs to be gracious to you.

And rises to show you compassion.

So, come closer.

When Your “Easter Best” Looks Pretty Bad

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I didn’t give my daughter an Easter basket this year. Instead, I gave her a waste-basket. Why? Because late last night, she woke up puking. Our night was filled with trips to the bathroom, loads of laundry and cleaning up puke.

Not the Easter I had imagined this year. Her pretty turquoise dress hung on her doorknob in the dark as she and I lay in her bed. I pulled her against my chest and took in the scent of throw up in her hair as we drifted off to sleep together.

This morning, as we lay tangled together on top of sheets and towels, she began to stir. My eyes fluttered open and I helped cover her again with blankets and stroked her face to help her fall back asleep. My heart ached for my poor two-year-old who would not get to wear her pretty dress today, or have any candy, or see any cousins or grandparents. But as we lie there together, my eyes met her big blue ones, and she smiled at me, the blankets half covering her face. Then she said in a groggy, tiny voice, “This is so fun.” I smiled wide at her.

This is so fun.

I’m sometimes taken aback by her innocence. How she lives without expectations or demands. How she finds joy in the most unlikely of places. And calls me into it.

Our morning was spent at home together. All of our big plans, flushed down the toilet. With the puke. Instead of a big Easter brunch at my mom’s, we feasted on Saltines and Pedialyte. Instead of getting all gussied up in our Easter best, I stayed in my sweats, and she in her footie-pajamas. Instead of attending a nice church service, we laid on the couch wrapped in a cocoon of blankets and watched cartoons.

And we looked…just terrible. She had a fro in the back that wasn’t going to calm down easily. Along with the dried puke. As I took her to the tub, and began to fill it with hot soapy water, I was halted by a glimpse of myself in the mirror. And…wow.

bad hair day

Need I say more?

Yikes.

Tonight, as I scroll through the news feeds of everyone in their Easter best, I realize how bad we look here at our house. In Easter’s past, we have tried to look pretty, and hopefully next year’s Easter, we will look slightly better than we do right now.

But if not, it’s okay. Because as I sit here, with a wild bun on my head and no make-up. I’m reminded that Easter is not about how good we look. It’s about how good our God looks. It’s about Christ.

It’s not about making much of ourselves. It’s about making much of Him. It’s not about gazing at ourselves in the mirror. It’s about gazing at Him. If our Easter best looks pretty bad, it doesn’t really matter at all. Not even a little bit.

What matters today, and every day, is that, Christ looks good. Because He is good. And He is alive. And He is here.   And He is so much bigger than Easter. Because He really did destroy the powers of darkness, and triumphed over them, making a spectacle of them. And He did pour out His blood, He did make a way, for us to obtain salvation. Even in our ugliness. Even in our wickedness. And whether in pretty Easter dresses, or rags…He came to those who were far off, and called them close. And called them His children. He rescued us from eternal death.

So He can’t just be hard-boiled and decorated the way we want. Because there’s a live chick in that egg.

And He’s alive. And He’s going to crack the sky when He comes back. And His name is Jesus.

And He is beautiful. And holy. And mighty. And He made a way for the ones covered in puke. And sin. He washes us. He restores us. And He clothes us in robes of righteousness. For His name sake.

“So, I’m sorry Lord for the thing I’ve made it, when it’s all about You. It’s all about You, Jesus.” –Heart of Worship

Like I said, our Easter best is lookin’ pretty bad this year. But it doesn’t matter. Because He is alive. And He is looking more radiant and beautiful than ever.

A Prayer for the Longing Heart

 

Show me your Glory. I want to long for you like a young lover. I want to chase you and find you. I want to hunger and thirst. To long. I want to climb, and hide away. I want you to show me the heights of the land. And the depths of the sea. Oh God, I want to know your love.

And make it known.

I want to be one with you. And not distant. I want to be fully exposed to you. I don’t want to be numb the rest of my life. I don’t want to be pushed here and there with the culture–or the the trends of social media and news feeds. I need a firm place to stand.

What do you want to speak?

What do you want me to hear?

There is steadiness in you. You hold me right here, as the waves buffet. 

Everyone screams. Everyone calls out. The waves are wild. The wind is strong. We’re not pretending. The storm is real. 

And so are you. 

You stand out there and walk on the waves. You defy gravity. The storm we all fear–you walk with simplicity over. 

And you call me to trust. And you call me out, 

to you.

When Waiting Weakens You

 

 Have you ever thought you were finally almost out of a difficult season in your life only to find–it’s not over yet? Or, it ended briefly, only to return with more full vengence? Have you ever thought things were finally changing, or finally “good,” and then find they are even worse than before?

I was looking out the window this morning and it was just so dark and dreary. There are still remains of snow and unmelted ice. And the yard, and ground, and earth are all muddy and brown. It’s really quite ugly. There’s just so much mud and dirt and yuck outside. And the thermostat is only topping off at 40 degrees. Which means we’re all still trudging around in boots and coats. 

It’s supposed to be Spring. My calendar says so.

We’ve gotten a few tastes of it, but for the most part we’re still stuck in this winter. This awful winter, that has landed us yet again in the top 5 snowiest cities. We thought it was finally over. We thought we were finally out of it.

And then it snows again. Isn’t this supposed to be over? Isn’t this supposed to be different…by now?

That’s how it feels sometimes, when we are waiting on God to deliver us. Or deliver someone we love. Or to free us from a certain situtation. Or heal us from a certain disease. Or to restore a broken relationship. To rebuild shattered trust. To rebuild our finances. To cut us loose from a horrible job, and give us a new one. To give us the thing that we’ve been so desperately asking for. 

Sometimes the waiting feels so long. Sometimes the nights feel so desperate. Sometimes the days feel so alone. And sometimes we’re just left wondering: 

Will Spring ever come?

I’m not talking about weather. I’m talking about whatever “Spring” is for you. The “Spring” of your soul, the season of warmth, and ease, and pleasure. The comfort for your afflicted soul. 

I want to encourage you this morning. It’s coming. He is coming. For you.

As I looked today at all the mud, and yuck, I realized something today:

Sometimes things look worse, when they are actually getting better. Like the earth, it is undergoing a change right now, to transition into the next season. And while it looks ugly, and dirty, and dark outside–underneath it all–God is doing something. He’s watering the earth. He is preparing it for the next season. New life is just about to break forth.  Spring is coming.

So, don’t throw away your hope. If things in your life suddenly look worse than they ever have, perhaps it’s because God is preparing you for new life. There has to be mud, before grass. Think about how during childbirth, the last phase of labor is the most difficult. The moments of the most intense pain come right before the baby is delivered. The moments of feeling like “I cannot take this anymore,” come right before the deliverance. 

Maybe it feels like your hope has been deferred just one too many times. Maybe you aren’t sure if God is hearing you. Maybe you don’t know if God can sort through such a complicated situation. Maybe you wonder if He has any grace left for you. Maybe you wonder if God still heals. Maybe you can’t remember a time when things were good. Maybe you are so sick of the “same problem.” Maybe you haven’t seen grass in a very long time. Or new life. 

 

Sometimes the ugliest moments come before the most beautiful ones. And God is bigger than your pain, bigger than your dispair, bigger than your confusion. 

So don’t lose heart—if things just suddenly “got worse.” Don’t be afraid. God is in your midst. The ground looks the ugliest before new grass comes, before flowers can grow. You are not forgotten, your way is not lost. Your life is ever before Him. And He knows, He sees you. He hears you. 

“O you afflicted one, 

Tossed with tempest and not comforted,

Behold, I will lay your stones with colorful gems,

And lay your foundations with sapphires.” Isaiah 54:11

Here’s a prayer to pray if you can’t find the words:

Oh God, I thought it would be better by now. I thought we were done dealing with this. I thought we wouldn’t have to go through this again. And Lord, I confess, I feel I can’t go on anymore. I feel I can’t see anything. It’s so dark sometimes. I can’t see You, I can’t see the light, I can’t see anything but this awful “thing.” My hope is so fragile, and weak. But here, right here in this mess. Right here in this chaos. Right here in this death. I lift my hands to you. Like a child needing to be carried. Like someone needing to be rescued. Come, rescue me. “I will stand my watch and set myself on the rampart, and watch to see what He will say to me…” (Habakkuk 2:1) I will wait for You, like the watchman waits for the morning. I won’t fear the night. This long season of darkness. Because in the darkness, You speak. In the mud, you plant seeds of new life, that will spring up. 

“Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock may be cut off fom the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls–Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.” Habakkuk 3:17-18

He is the hope for the one whose feet fail. If you are at a point where your feet cannot go any futher, and you have no more strength–good news! He gives you new feet. Right at the place you can’t walk anymore. He makes your feet like the feet of a deer, so that you can. Praise God, because you don’t have to pull up your boot straps. You can just take off your shoes. And say, “God, I need new feet.” And He will give you new feet. He will enable you to walk in a way you never have before. He will enable you to walk upon the heights. And  you will be able to say,

“The LORD God is my strength;

He will make my feet like deer’s feet,

And He will make me walk on my high hills.” Habakkuk 3:19

My Deliverer is coming, my Deliverer is standing by. –Rich Mullins

Spring is coming. Your God is coming. For You. And all who hope in Him,

will never be put to shame. 

He makes all things new. He makes all things grow. He leads you beside quiet waters. He makes you lie down in green pastures. And however long this winter, the day is coming when you will walk in the new grass, with bare feet. 

So don’t despise the mud, life is about to break forth from it. 

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St. Patrick’s Day is for Sinners

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Last Sunday, we drove through a downtown city that was literally swarming with green. Though it was still several days before St. Patrick’s Day, crowds of people were decked out in bright green wigs, boas, leggings (yes, they come in green), and even tutus (also bright green.) It looked like Party City exploded, as many donned green beads, leprechaun hats, and blinking clover “antlers.” People were shouting, cussing, dancing, and kissing. We could barely drive down the road, as people aimlessly crossed the streets,  (and we came pretty close to taking a few of them out.) Perhaps one too many pints?

We were on our way to Sesame Street Live.  My husband was driving and my daughter was in the backseat and even though we were pretty excited to let her meet Elmo, and Big Bird, and Cookie Monster, I began to get more and more uncomfortable.

As we inched through the traffic, one girl with long blonde hair kept running up to cars and pressing herself through the open window, almost crawling inside of the vehicle. I made sure our doors were locked, and windows were rolled up tight. I for sure didn’t want her crawling in with us. Horns and breaks slammed and the “green people” flipped off cars, and screamed profanities.

I kept glancing in the backseat at Selah, whose eyes were wider than saucers. I wanted to make sure no one was flashing her, or peering in at her through the window and scaring her. But we were stuck. Wedged tightly within traffic held up by crowds. And I couldn’t speed us up at all. I couldn’t cover her eyes. Or her ears.

And I simply wanted to protect her, to shield her from…from this. From being stuck in the midst of these people.

But I can’t. Even if I don’t like it…this is our world. The drunken people screaming with too much alchohol, and way too much green.

These are the people Jesus came for. The people Jesus loved.

And this is what St. Patrick was all about. Reaching sinners. Reaching the lost. Reaching people with mistakes. Reaching people with nothing to look forward to except keg’s and eggs and to drink three days out of their remembrance. Because it hurts to much feel. And they just want to feel something, other than their pain, other than their memories, other than their shame. They just want to feel good.

Don’t we all?

That’s why Jesus came. To save us out of our sin. To save us out of our shame. To give us a way out. To take these rebel crowds, and make them into sons and daughters. To take these prostitutes, and call them His bride. To take the sick, the broken, the weak…and give them new life. I think Jesus would have loved to walk these streets. Because He was a friend of “tax collectors, and sinners.”

Sinners like you. Sinners like me. Sinners lost in crowds of green.

St. Patrick’s Day is for sinners. St. Patrick was for sinners. And he learned to love them in a way that would actually mean something to them. Just like Jesus, who said “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17).  Patrick was one of these “sinners”, who was captured by Irish raiders when he was 16. They took him to Ireland, where he was held a captive until he escaped in his early twenties. But during his captivity, God freed him. Not just of the chains of steel, but the chains of sin and shame and fear. And twenty years later, when most people are soaking up a good retirement, he returned to Ireland for one purpose only: to save sinners. [To read the full, incredible history of this holiday check out this article on Desiring God called Remember St. Patrick’s Day.]

I want to learn to love with the kind of love St. Patrick had. The love that doesn’t look down on people. Even people who are known as complete pagans, sinners, and barbarians–like the people Patrick reached. But to love without bounds. To love in a way that lowers myself, and raises others up. That lowers myself, and raises God up. I want to teach my daughter to love like this. 

I’m starting to wonder if love isn’t really even love until it hurts, or get’s a little uncomfortable. Patrick wasn’t afraid of that though. You know why he went back to Ireland? He had a dream. In the dream he heard an Irish accent plead, “We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us.” 

And he did. He walked among sinners. He walked among the lost. And when he looked at them, he loved them. He got involved in their rescue.

Whether you’re Irish, or not–this holiday is for you. For us. For me. 

This holiday is about sinners…who needed a rescue…and because one man obeyed God’s voice…they were rescued. One man paid attention to his dreams. One man followed the Holy Spirit to place full of wild, barbaric people, and by His power, He loved them, and showed them salvation. In Jesus. 

That’s better than luck. That’s better than being drunk. That’s the power for us who believe. 

Celebrate St. Patrick’s day. Because it’s about saints who lay down their lives for sinners. And it’s about sinners…who get set free. And it’s about Christ, who rescues us all. 

“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” Galatians 5:13

The girl walking down the street wearing green devil horns…she needs to know–what this holiday is about. She needs to know Christ. And I pray as we listen, and as we learn to embrace the culture God has set us in, as we follow the Holy Spirit even into the wild, barbaric, pagan places, that one day she will know that this is not about green devil horns, but the cross of Jesus Christ. She will know it’s not about luck, it’s about salvation, it’s about freedom. She will know it’s not about getting drunk on green beer, but being satisfied by rivers of living of water. So she can learn for the first time, to drink freely. 

Perhaps our culture is in need of more people like St. Patrick. Perhaps our culture is full of people who need hope. Who secretly are saying to those who are filled with the power of the Holy Spirit and gospel of Christ,

“Come, walk among us.”

 

Infertility: Where Is God When You Can’t Get Pregnant?

Where-is-God-when-you-cant-get-pregnant

We all know that labor hurts. But what most people don’t know is: infertility hurts too. It’s not the loud, screaming kind of pain. It’s long, and slow, and quiet. It’s a different kind of labor altogether. A labor of the soul.

It happens when you toss another negative pregnancy test in the trash can and sit on your bathroom floor and cry.

It happens when you lay in your bed at night, and your husband holds you as you stare into the darkness, while silent tears fall into your pillow.

It happens when you sit at a baby shower and hear all the “Ooh’s” and “Aah’s” over every little, tiny gift, and wonder if you will ever have any little, tiny gifts of your own to open?

It happens when you look in the mirror at your flat stomach, and put your hand over it, and pray for life to grow. And try to imagine what it would look like, what it would feel like, if it did?

It happens when you see teenagers pushing strollers past your house. And when the minivan full of children opens it’s doors. And when a friend says they had another “oopsies” pregnancy. And you wonder: Why is this so easy for everyone else? Except us?

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This Ugly House

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My house has problems. Does yours? First of all, I have the ugliest linoleum kitchen floor. Ever. Sometimes I feel the need to apologize to guests when they walk in. It’s yellow and brown, and looks a lot like the geometric pattern of throw up. Maybe it was all the rage in the 60’s, but today it’s retro-horror. Even the most vintage-loving hipsters out there would find it ugly. I’m pretty sure the floor’s design came straight out of one of those optical illusion books I read as a kid. So, if you happen to drop your Cheerios, don’t even bother looking for them. They are lost. To hunt for them is dizzying. You won’t find them again until you feel something crush under your feet.

Go ahead, say it: first world problem. (But just for the record, when my brother-in-law, who lives in Africa, sent pictures of their new missionary compound, I couldn’t help but notice: even their floor was nicer than ours.) Just sayin.

We are renting this house, so we don’t have the freedom to change things. And while I love the location, there are some things I would love to fix about this place. Like, there’s no dishwasher. And old siding. The bathroom is somewhat decrepit. It needs repainted. And there’s definitely something funky going on with the shower tiles. And it’s tiny. (So tiny that when my daughter is on her potty chair and I’m on the toilet at the same time, our knees almost touch. That’s fun.)

But lately, we’ve had a bigger, less trivial problem: our doors freeze shut. (As in, we can’t get out of the house frozen shut.)

We realized last Monday morning when my husband tried to leave for work—and then he couldn’t. That was the day he jumped out the bedroom window in his dress clothes, and proceeded to kick the front door open Chuck Norris style. That was the day I stood there in my pajamas, head-over-heels (or slippers) in love, as my very own ninja-warrior saved the day and drove off to work.

That was a week ago. Since then, he’s acted out this little kung-fu scenario every day. And it’s not so funny any more. It’s plain annoying.

Finally, it happened to me. Selah and I were about to leave for Target to buy her some Mini-Mouse underwear, when I realized we were stuck. The door re-froze from my husband’s morning escapade, and we couldn’t get out.

Immediately, “Survival Mommy” sprung into action: I threw my weight into the door. Nothing happened. I tried kicking it. Nothing happened. I went to the bedroom window and tried to open it. Nothing happened. Then, I started to panic. “What are we going to do Selah!?” I kept asking her over and over again. And she just stood there all bundled in her coat, looking up at me like a little marshmallow. I had to do something.

That’s when I opted for my default weapon of choice: the blow dryer.

There I was, for about 45 minutes blow drying the door frame. And as the ice began to melt and I stood with a puddle of water forming around my feet, I kept picturing that little tag on the blow dryer. You know that one that has a red “X” over the blow dryer in the bathtub? And then I started thinking about what my obituary would say, “Mother dies of blow dryer electrocution. She was that stupid folks.” (Do you ever do that? Start writing your own obituary in your head when you’re doing something dangerous?) My next feat was chipping at the ice around the doorframe with a hammer, a screwdriver and…a grilling fork. (It was a real low point for me.) But I was determined. We were getting out of the house. We were going to Target. We were buying Mini-Mouse underwear. I would break a window if I had to.

But thankfully, by the grace of God (and perhaps some angelic intervention), the door finally opened. Which meant, we made it out of the house without breaking any bones or windows. And, I didn’t even get electrocuted in the process.

Hallelujah.

Now, this may not come as a surprise, but I’ve really been falling out of love with my house lately. I’m constantly noticing every little, and big, need for improvement. I’m constantly pointing out some new problem or failure. I’m constantly house hunting online, or browsing Pinterest to pin ideas for my dream house someday. Or, I’m researching how to spruce up a rental. How to utilize small spaces. How to make everything look nicer, and better than it does right now.

I was down on my hands and knees today, washing my kitchen floor from all the mud and ice that’s been tracked in. And as the warm water mixed with the clean scent of Murphy Oil Soap, and I scrubbed, I began to think about all the places I’ve lived. Places smaller than this, uglier than this. Places three times the size, and much more beautiful than this. But you know what I’m finally realizing? It doesn’t really matter. Our house. What it looks like. Because it’s not the house that makes me happy. It’s the people that live in it.

The more I scrubbed, the more clearly I could see it:

My kitchen floor is ugly, but the little feet that patter across it somehow make it beautiful. The feet that dance upon it, turn it into sacred ground. And the little girl who lays on it in front of the stove, makes it fade altogether in the background with her beauty.

My house is small, but it forces me to be closer to the man that I love. The man that jumps out of windows for me, and kicks in doors. The man who comes home at the end of the day and fills this place with music.

We get stuck inside sometimes, but I wouldn’t want to be stuck with anyone else on earth. We lose power, the heat goes out, but I wouldn’t want to be under blankets with anyone else.

It is bitterly cold here, but the neighbors next door begin to make it feel a little warmer. The other young moms down the road remind that spring will come. That we will take walks again. That things do grow here. When we let out our roots into one another’s lives.

This house has it’s problems, but this is exactly where God wants us to be right now. And though there are some ugly parts, this is a place where the Spirit of God dwells. This is a place where we love Him. Where we worship Him. Where we enjoy Him. This is a place where He speaks to us. And that suddenly makes this place holy. And sacred.

We could have the most beautiful house in the world. We could make the pages of the Ikea catalogue materialize all around us. We could Pinterest our way into some kind of paradise. But unless God is here, unless God is filling this place, it is just an empty space.

So God, come, come fill up this house once again with Your presence. Come dwell here with us. Because wherever we live, I want to make my home in You. And I want You to come make Your home in me. (John 14:23) Let us turn our eyes upon You. And look full in Your wonderful face. So the things on earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of Your glory and grace. 

I’m not saying I won’t still drool as I look through Pinterest, or that I won’t dream as I walk through Lowe’s. I will still really admire the beautiful houses of my friends. But as long as God has us here, I will love this ugly house. Because it’s the people that live here, that make it beautiful. And the God who dwells here, who makes it holy.

Redeeming Valentine’s Day: There’s Only One Shade of White

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Thousands will flock to theaters this weekend to watch the pornographic book-turned-movie Fifty Shades of Grey. And while news-feeds of both Christians and atheists light up with blog posts and articles written by lovers and haters of this movie and book series, it’s begging one big question: What is this all about?

Well, I’m not here to answer that question. (And in fact, I actually advise you not to dig too deep. “Curiosity” is what’s been drawing the masses to it, and keeping them there. “Curiosity” is also what introduces and entices people to porn. There’s a reason we’re warned to “not even speak of what the disobedient do in secret.” Ephesians 5:12)

But while I hate everything this movie stands for, the bigger question stirring in my heart is: What do I do about it?

Of course there are the faithful few who will be picketing at the movie theater. But will that really be changing anyone’s heart?

And then there are the thousands who send out social media “slams” to convict the ungodly. (Too bad, the target audience won’t be reading these.)

So what can I do that will be effective in a world that loves perverted sex?
I found two things.

1. Realize that this battle against lust starts in my own heart and marriage. (Not in shaming the masses.) Ask questions like: Am I aroused by the idea of anyone other than my spouse? And, do I want to hold anyone else’s affection or gaze other than that of my spouse? Is my marriage bed pure? Are my thoughts, and imaginations, and fantasies…all pure?

2. Realize that our nation, and much of the church is in bondage to lust and sexual sin. (And that I need to be filled with compassion, and a willingness and urgency to learn how to minister in these areas with individual people that I am in relationship with.)

God has made us to be incredibly sexual beings. And at the same time, He designed marriage as the platform for that sexuality and pleasure to be enjoyed with our spouses. “For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor…” 1 Thessalonians 4:3-4

So my first fight against the release of Fifty Shades of Grey is not to shake people by the collar going into the theater and ask, “What the hell are you thinking?!” But to simply kneel by my bedside and say, “God, search me, search me, and show me if there is any offensive way in me. I want to be pure in Your eyes.”

Because there is only one shade of white. And it comes only through the precious blood of Jesus Christ. See, it doesn’t matter what shade of grey you are. We are all stained the deepest black apart from Him. We are all desperately wicked at our core. None of us are pure, even the best of us, is like filthy rags. Whether we are addicted to porn, or tangled in an affair, or we hide something in our closet, or on our iPhone, or we are the best, most devout Christians. We all desperately need Jesus.

And Jesus came to rescue us out of the grey, out of the bondage of sin and death. Because sin leads us to the grave. And only to the grave. You want to learn more about “bondage?” Only learn that we are all in bondage apart from Him. And He has come to set captives free, to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.

There is only one shade of white: Jesus Christ. And He “is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5) The more I see Him, the more I want Him. So let us throw off the sin that so easily entangles, and run to Him.

Next, I look at my marriage, and realize that it is part of God’s design and will and passion. The way I speak to my husband, the way I touch him, and think about him, and speak about him, is of utmost importance to God. And the same for how my husband acts, and speaks, and with towards me. Marriage is a picture of Christ and the Church. And Christ never quits on His Bride.

The way we live out our marriages speaks louder to our world than any picket sign or blog post.

You don’t like Fifty Shades? You don’t like the billion dollar porn industry? You don’t like that another one of your friends is getting divorced? Then tonight, go home and look your spouse square in the eye and tell him, “I love you. I am for you. And there is nothing in this world I want more than to love you the way God has called me to. I am committed to walk with you through the deepest valleys, and the hottest fire, and I am never quitting. You are mine, I am yours, and we are God’s. There is no one else on this earth for me. And I will do whatever it takes to make this marriage work.”

And confess. Confess if you have been lusting after someone else or something else. Confess if you have had a bitter heart. Confess if you’ve been disrespectful. Confess if you haven’t been listening well. Confess if you’ve treated your spouse like a little kid. Confess if you’ve been dishonest. Because, “The one who conceals his sin will not prosper, but the the one who confesses and forsakes it finds mercy.” Proverbs 28:13 So, step into the light.

And if God exposes something, be willing to ride out long times of darkness in your marriage. Because Jesus restores shattered marriages. And He restores shattered people. He is so serious about this.

For an excellent resource for husband and wives involved in sexual sin check out Setting Captives Free. (And check out courses A Way of Purity and A United Front.)

Marriage is so important. And that’s actually what Valentine’s Day is all about. The man this holiday was named after was actually beheaded because he believed in marriage. In a time when Christian marriage was banned for the sake of military service in Rome, Valentine would wed Christian couples in secret. And that “red heart” for Valentine’s Day was originally meant to commemorate his martyrdom. (Red as in blood. As in he would rather be imprisoned and have his head cut off and let the blood pour out, than see an end to Christian marriage, or let it be perverted.)

I hope to feel as strongly about marriage as Valentine did. Because we too live in a time when there is little or no value put on Christian marriage. We live in a time when people need to hear, and see that we believe like Valentine, with sweat, and tears, and blood, that marriage is pure and precious in the eyes of God.

It’s time to redeem Valentine’s Day. To celebrate the love, and the purity, the marriage He has called us to. And that includes passionate love-making. With our spouses. Because what God has called us to is better and more satisfying than all the whispers of darkness.

Our world loves every color of darkness. And every shade of grey. But we have been called to be washed, to be cleansed, in the saving blood of Jesus Christ.

For only He can make us white.