The God of Empty Rooms

 

Our first apartment was the size of a postage stamp. And I didn’t think about it so much then. Empty rooms. Because we didn’t have any.

But when we bought our first house. There was this one room. It was painted a beautiful shade of pink and had the name “Hannah” on the wall. It was a nursery when the realtor had showed us the house.

And I hoped one day…it would be a nursery for us, too.

But after we moved in, it was just…empty.

And it stayed empty. For months, even years.

(Read my infertility story here.)

We wanted it to be filled. We prayed for a baby, we did.

Every time I would walk past that room, I would ache for a baby. Sometimes, I would keep the door shut, so I wouldn’t have to think about it. And other times, I would leave it wide open.

Sometimes I would throw junk in there when company was coming over. And other times, I would go in and clean it up. Really for no reason at all.

And then, sometimes, I would just go sit in there, by myself, and pray.

For a baby.

For God to fill this empty room.

To fill my empty womb. 

 

And, finally, one day, He did.

I say this with tears,

He did. 

(And the picture at the top of this post was taken in that empty room, after she came.)

But before she came, before she ever was breathed into my womb. God came.

He came into my emptiness.

He came like a flood. He came and saturated my barren soul with Himself.

And He showed me my womb was not empty. I was not empty. But full. Full of Him. Full of His Spirit. And therefore, I was alive.

I didn’t have a baby in my womb. But I had the Holy Spirit–who conquered Jesus’ tomb–living inside of me.

Dear Barren One,

You know that empty room in your house? The one you walk past and dream? The one you wish wasn’t an office, or a guest room, or a storage room full of junk, and so badly wish it was a nursery? You know that room?

God is there. 

Because He is the God of empty rooms. 

The God of empty wombs. 

And the God of empty tombs. 

Yes, He is God. The Giver of Life.

He is Jesus.

He defeated death. 

 

And is full of resurrection power. And life, life, life. 

So don’t stop asking. Don’t stop crying out.

Because He sees you. And He hears you. Cry.

To Him.

Go in your empty room, and worship Him there.

Because He is worthy.

And He fills.

He fills the empty space in that room.

He fills the empty place in your womb.

And your womb, dear one, may be empty, but don’t forget this one very important thing: the Spirit lives in you. The Spirit of God lives in you. He lives in you and makes you alive.

And of this you can be certain: He will fill your emptiness—with Himself.

Because He satisfies in the deepest places, and most empty spaces.

He comes. At your cry.

He comes rushing in, at the sound of your voice.

And even before.

“Before they call I will answer;
while they are still speaking I will hear.” (Isaiah 65:24)

Before you even ask Him, He hears you. Before the word is even on your tongue, He knows it completely. He hems you in, behind and before. And He knit you together in the secret place of your mother’s womb. (Psalm 39)

And He is God over your secret places. Your empty spaces.

And, “Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear…” (Isaiah 59:1)

So I just want to pray:

God,

You see her who is reading this. You know her. You formed her for Yourself and Your glory. And You are relentlessly pursuing her even now. You want all of her heart. All of it. Even this. And I pray that You come fill her. With Your Spirit. Come and fill the empty. With Yourself. 

We declare that You are God of the empty tomb, Jesus. You defeated death and sin. You made us new within. And the same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead–is living inside of her. (Romans 8:11)

So let her not walk in death, but in life. Glorious life. Come make her alive in You. By Your Spirit. 

It is her desire that You fill her empty womb. And that you fill her empty room. 

Thank You that you are there now. Even now you are working in those empty places, and making them full. 

Full of You, God. 

Fill her room (or rooms) with whom You desire. In the time that You desire. For Your will is perfect. Whether they come from her womb, or from somewhere else. Whether it’s a baby, or a toddler. Whether this child comes from her state foster system, or from an orphanage across the ocean. Wherever this child comes from, we know he or she comes from You. And maybe it’s not a child, maybe it’s a teenager, or adult. Maybe it’s a whole family, coming to stay for a while. I don’t know, but you know. Either way…

Come fill the empty space, with grace. 

Come fill the empty place, with Jesus. 

And I pray that when she sees that empty room, she will not feel sad anymore. But feel hopeful. Because You are there.

You make the empty full. And You are the God of her empty room. Her empty womb. And the empty tomb. And You will fill her with Yourself and Your everlasting life. 

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen. 

 

[P.S. I was just about to publish this post and this song just came on my Spotify. I didn’t even know this song–but I don’t think it’s coincidence. The first lyrics are, “Before I call, before I ever cry, You answer me from where the thunder hides…” (the Scripture I was just referencing from Isaiah 65:24!) I literally have chills. Oh girls, God is in this. I really believe He is pursuing you. Right now. You are on the brink of something beautiful opening up inside you. So, I want to dare you to do something. Play this song in your “empty room” wherever it may be. Worship Him in that space. (Then play more songs, if you want to.) Let yourself go, and worship Him. He is totally there with you. The song is called “Fierce” by Jesus Culture, and you can play the youtube link by clicking here. ]

The Beauty Of Right Now

One day there won’t be anymore smudges on my windows. I won’t trip over toys in the hallway. Or in the shower. Everything will be in perfect order.

I know this because when I go visit my parents house, it’s clean. Freshly vacuumed, and furniture polished. Everything is as it should be.

And I think, “Someday, my house will be clean.”

But you know what? In that day, I’m going to miss this. I’m going to miss them. Being little.

I will look out my unsmudged windows and cry for the fingerprints that once marked them. For the little girl who once stared out of them and dreamed.

For the baby boy who held me hostage to the couch, because he wanted to nurse 23 hours out of the day, and whose big blue eyes would lock with mine while he did, and nearly take my breath away.

And I will ache for a day…exactly like today. All messy and undone.

Someday I won’t wake to crying in the night. I will have eight hours of glorious, undisturbed sleep, every night. (If I want it.)

But, I won’t want it then. I’ll somehow want this.

I’ll want the nights back when the baby woke me up with his cries, and my daughter crawled in between the safety of our warm bodies to forget her nightmares. And remember her dreams.

Someday I will have time. Time to write. Time to shop. Time to do whatever I want. Too much time. I won’t have a baby boy nursing at my breast, or a toddler trying to hug (and kiss) that baby boy while he is nursing at my breast, because, “He’s so cute, Mom,” she says over and over again. And we won’t be piled on top of each other, into that one spot on the couch. (Because everyone knows when you love someone, you should sit on top of them.)

Someday I will cook dinner in peace. I won’t be tripping over my 4-year-old who steps exactly where I step, right before I step there. And I won’t have a baby boy strapped to my chest while I try to do the dishes and bounce him to sleep at the same time.

Someday…they won’t be strapped to my chest. They’ll just be strapped to my heart. I will wash the dishes and stare out the window, hating how quiet it is. Hating how easy it is. Hating how clean it is.

And all I will have are these memories.

Of us all piled together. Of me not having an inch of personal space. Of not getting a chance to shower, and instead getting showered in spit-up, and high-arcing pee during diaper changes.

And I will miss it. I will miss them–just like this.

I will miss them being little. 

And I don’t know why my daughter pretends she’s a mermaid named Elsa in the bathtub, or why she drenches the floor with her splash-kicks–except that, she’s little. And this is her world right now.

And I don’t know why my baby boy wants me all the time, or why he screams when I put him in his car seat, or why he wakes up the moment anything remotely romantic happens between me and his dad. But he does. And he’s little. And this is our world right now.

And I’m going to miss it.

The other day my husband popped in for lunch. I was not expecting him, and the house was a disaster. Clothes were in heaps in the living room, the kitchen wasn’t tidied. My hair was in a giant messy bun, and I had no make-up on. My son was asleep in my arms (in our usual spot on the couch), and my daughter was laying on the floor looking at her books.

“Hi,” I said, with a smile.

I knew what it probably looked like. I knew it looked like I accomplished nothing. I knew it looked like I didn’t care. And…I was about to apologize to him. I was about to say, “I’m sorry…” For the house. For my hair.

But before the words came out, I noticed something.

Smudges on the windows.

Smudges because she had been standing there hoping he would come. Watching for his car. And it hit me like a ton of bricks: someday we won’t have smudges on the windows.

And in that moment, there was just something about the way her blonde hair fell into her face as she lay on the floor and looked at her books. And there was something about the way my son was laying, so comfortably in my arms, like he had melted into me–and suddenly the words, “I’m sorry,” didn’t seem to make sense any more.

And instead I said, “I have a beautiful, beautiful life.”

And I meant it.

Tears formed in my eyes. Because just for a second, I saw it. It was just a glimpse, but I saw it. The beauty of right now.

Right now.

I have a beautiful, beautiful life. 

And I’m writing this, so I remember.

And I’m writing this, so you remember. And so you don’t forget. Wherever you’re at today. Whatever you accomplished. Or didn’t accomplish. However clean or messy your house is, don’t let Satan steal this one glorious truth from you:

I have a beautiful, beautiful life. 

Right now. 

Today. 

And these days often feel long.

But someday, they will feel short.

So very short, the time that our kids were little.

And we will all long for it back. This time. With them.

It’s like a breeze. Like the wind.

You can’t take a picture of the wind. You can’t keep it. You can’t capture it. And you can’t take it with you.

You can only feel it while it is blowing.

And it’s blowing now. 

So turn towards it, and let it blow. Turn towards it and just…feel it. Let your hair fly and get tangled in it. Because someday, there won’t be any more smudges on the windows. And you’ll long just to feel it again, this wind,

their breath on your skin.

It’s blowing now. 

 


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“Am I Enough?”

To The Woman Who Saw Me At ALDI Today

I was feverishly chucking my groceries onto the conveyor belt today at ALDI, while my one-month-old son was screaming in-stereo. (If you are an ALDI shopper, you know how insanely fast the cashiers scan your items.) I felt everyone’s eyes behind me as I was holding the binky in my son’s mouth with one hand, and grasping at my groceries with the other.

My 4-year-old daughter was trying to “help” me by reaching into the shopping cart (except that she’s too short to reach the groceries, but so fiercely determined, that she was balancing on the edge of the cart on her stomach, and almost falling head first into the cart.) “Let Mommy do it!” I kept saying as she was grabbing all the glass jars of salsa and marinara sauce, and nearly dropping them onto the floor.

Meanwhile, my son continued screaming. I kept telling myself to just keep calm. This was my first grocery shopping trip with two children. And it was everything I pictured in my nightmares.

Until she saw me.

I don’t know where she came from. But she came.

I had just pulled our massive parade-float of a shopping cart over to the counter, and I was trying to bag my groceries with one hand and jamming the binky in my son’s mouth with the other. Neither was effective.

He kept on wailing. And I felt I was beginning to perspire as I was saying, “Shhhh,” and wiggling the binky into his mouth. The entire store could hear us.

As the soundtrack of baby screams continued, my daughter was upset and whining because I wasn’t letting her “beep” all the groceries before putting them into the bags. (She likes to pretend she’s the cashier. Even at the worst times.)

I looked up out the window into the parking lot to see that it was snowing…sideways. The wind was blowing hard, and it was nasty out.

But then she came. This woman.

I didn’t see her, but…

She saw me.

She saw me flustered, trying to be under control, and visibly struggling. (Audibly struggling…as the wailing continued.)

She came over to me and said, “What can I do to help you?” And something about the way she said it, I knew she meant it. 

I recognized her as the friend of one of my friend’s. I didn’t know her name, but I had seen her before maybe at a cookie exchange, or birthday party.

“I can do anything,” she said.

She quickly came over and helped me bag up the rest of my groceries. She talked sweetly to my daughter. And she said, “What else can I do?”

“Thanks so much. We’re okay,” I told her. Trying to convince myself we were, as I looked out into the parking lot and blowing snow.  And I almost left right then, but hesitated. There was something I saw in her face, something you don’t see every day:

kindness.

And I knew, I could let her help me. That she actually wanted to help me.

And I knew I could trust her. (Because she was my friend’s friend…and at that moment, it was enough.)

So I said, “Can you stay with my daughter and cart while I pull my car up?”

“Of course,” she said with a smile.

She knelt down and smiled at my daughter, and began showing her pictures of her kids on her phone. (Because she was a Mommy, too.) And I’m not sure, but I wonder if she may have had a day like this once.

I left the store carrying my son out to the car in this impromptu blizzard and pulled up as quickly as I could. Part me felt crazy, I couldn’t believe I was doing this. But I was desperate.

When I went back in the store she was still knelt down with my daughter showing her pictures on her phone. I thanked her as best as I could, and we left.

I had managed to keep my composure in the grocery store, and even when I was putting away my cart back to get my quarter back. But as I drove home, the tears came.

I began the ugly cry. Partly because of all the pent-up frustration I had felt in the store, but mostly because of what this woman  had done for me. That she just jumped in, all hands on deck, ready to do anything for me. I remembered her words,

“What can I do to help you?”

“I can do anything.”

There is an African Zulu greeting I have heard of, “Sawubona.”

It means, “I see you.”

I see you. 

She was just one woman, but she saw me. She saw me frantically juggling my groceries, and the binky bouncing out of my hand, the crying newborn, and the daughter trying to “beep” all the groceries, and nearly breaking them.

She could have closed her eyes.

But she opened them.

She could have walked on by. But she stopped.

She saw me.

She could have smiled, and said, “Been there!” (Which would have still been nice.)

But she went the extra mile. She got low, to show me kindness.

And there is a huge difference between being nice.

And being kind.

Niceness is safe, but real kindness is risky.

Kindess isn’t just a smile. But it’s words, and it’s heart, and it’s hands–when you need them.

And she was kind.

She didn’t just say it. She showed it.

She simply saw a very messy situation, and turned it into a beautiful one. With kindness.

I think she did exactly what Jesus would have done if He were standing in ALDI’s today. And the more I think about it, the more I realize He was there. In her.

She literally lived out, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:31)

I think here in the midst of suburbia, we sometimes don’t know how to be kind. We are afraid to ask someone if we can help because we are afraid of offending someone. We are afraid of creating an awkward situation.

But I don’t think Jesus intended it to be as hard as we make it.

Maybe it’s as simple as saying:

Sawubona.

I see you. 

Or, in other words:

“What can I do to help you?”

“I can do anything.”

The Sacred Art of Remembering

Can I be honest? I’ve had a hard time engaging with God lately. Maybe it’s because I’m 3 weeks post-partum and I’m a little thrown off my rocker. Or, maybe it’s because it’s the dead of winter.  Either way, I finally made some time–just to meet with Him.

My husband and daughter were out at a basketball game. And my newborn son had just fallen asleep.

I brewed some coffee, and opened my Bible and journal. I was trying. But…the words in my Bible just seemed to blur. And I stared instead at my blank journal.

And felt…just that.

Blank.

My mind was tired from the day, and I had nothing.

I looked down at my newborn son sleeping in my lap. I studied his face. When so subtly, I heard the Lord say…

“Remember when I healed his brain?”

My heart wrenched. (To read that story click here.)

Tears filled my eyes.

I remembered.

And my spirit, which has felt asleep the last few weeks…suddenly awakened.

I wasn’t prepared for what came next.

“Let’s play a game,” I felt God say, “It’s called…’Remember when I…”

My heart burned. And my hands trembled.

And I opened my journal, and began..

“Remember when I heard your cry to get pregnant?”

“Remember the day you found out you were pregnant in the upstairs bathroom, and fell on your knees by the sink?”

“Remember when I provided for you and your husband?”

“Remember when I showed you which house to rent?”

“Rembember when I provided the house you have now?”

“Remember when I…”

(I know these examples may seem flat as you read this…but to me, they are deeply meaningful experiences I had with God. And there are more. More than I could share. And some, too personal to share.)

But what I want to say is…I began to remember.

All of these specific moments where He came through. 

Where He showed Himself faithful.

Where He showed Himself kind.

Where He showed Himself.

Close. To me.

Presently involved in situations I didn’t know He cared about.

But He did.

And He does.

And He’s close. Closer than any of us dare to believe.

And as I wrote in my journal, as I took time to simply “remember,” a song called “Take A Moment” by Will Reagan came on. And no joke, the words were, “Take a moment to remember, who God is, and who I am…”

“Take a moment…to remember.”

I was pierced to the heart. God came through to me. Even in spite of my sleep deprivation. Even in spite of my many unspiritual thoughts lately. Even in spite of my lack of effort to draw near to Him.

He was simply inviting me…through some mysterious invitation from His Spirit, to “remember.”

Remember. 

We always want God to speak something new to us. We always want God to do something. To change something. And we should–after all, He is God. He invites His children to ask Him, to call upon Him day and night.

But there is something so sacred and so holy about just pausing to remember what He has already done. 

The more we remember, the more we can trust Him. The more we can rest in Him. The more we know how very near He is.

David wrote, “I shall remember the deeds of the LORD;
Surely I will remember Your wonders of old.

I will meditate on all Your work
And muse on Your deeds.” Psalm 77: 11-12

Maybe you too have had a hard time engaging with Him lately. Maybe you aren’t sure what to read, or write, or do. And it’s okay.

Because maybe you just need to look behind you for a moment. Take a breath and see how far He has taken you. Where the road has curved and bent. Where it was dark and scary. And where He brought you through the pass. Where He met you and showed you how to walk.

Maybe you just need to sit a rock, and remember. That time. And that time. And that time.

Because He is so faithful. And the things He does…are worth remembering. This is the sacred art of remembering.

And maybe He’s whispering to your spirit tonight. Maybe He’s inviting you to play a holy game called,

“Remember when I…”

Remember. 

Baby Boy Is Here

After a very long and intense 30-hour labor–our baby boy arrived on December 14th at 10:39 p.m.

We named him Jesse Michael. Jesse which means “gift.” And we are so in love.

I never knew a boy could be so beautiful, but he is.

Oh, it was the hardest day of my life. Laboring with him. Everyone told me their second labor was faster and easier…but mine was longer…and so much harder. But the Lord was with me, and my husband, Brandon. Who again proved himself to be like an angel without wings. Soothing me with his gentle voice, and persistent spirit, he did not leave my side.

By the end, I literally felt like I was at the end of myself. Like I had nothing left. I felt like he would never come. Like I could never cross that finish line. Like he was still a million miles away. So far out of reach.

But he was right there, the whole time. Just waiting for the right moment.

And I listened to that song, “Out of Hiding” by Steffany Gretzinger, and I wept in between contractions.

“Baby, you’re almost home now, 

Please don’t quit now,

Baby, you’re almost home now,

to me…”

And finally, he came. By some miracle, God opened the way. And delivered him. And me.

And when he finally came out, (facing up, so that our spines were against each other the whole time)…he was a whopping 9 lbs. 11 oz.! (Almost 3 pounds heavier than his big sister!)

And they threw him on my chest, and he wailed, and my husband and I, cried happy tears. And my fragile arms shook with this miracle, I couldn’t believe I was at last holding in my arms.

***

 

Sometimes, even when I am so beyond tired…I can’t close my eyes. I lay on the bed and just stare at him. The wonder of him.

The wonder that he is here.

How did he come to us?

How did God form this masterpiece?

This masterpiece we had no idea would be coming to us at this time last year.

But he came. 

Not because we did anything to deserve him. Not because we proved our faith to God.

But because of God.

God gives good and perfect gifts.

He came like a gift. Undeserved. Unearned.

But gladly received with great joy.

Received with open arms. And hot and happy tears. And hearts exploding with joy. Our arms and our hearts stretch to wrap around you.

Welcome to the world, Jesse. You are a perfect gift.

And we thank God for giving you to us.

For you are from Him.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17


For more on the story behind our second miracle, Jesse, read these posts:

God Did It Again: Our Second Miracle, On the Way

When God Surprises You Big Time

To the Angels Without Wings

When You Want To Give Your Child A Sibling, But You Can’t

Dear Baby Boy,

baby boy

Dear Baby Boy,

I should be sleeping now, but I can’t. It’s 5:04 a.m. and I’m wide awake–dreaming of you, here in the dark, as your Daddy sleeps next to me.

I look through our door and see your room. Your crib ready…for you.  And I miss you baby boy.

I don’t know how I can miss someone I’ve never met?

But my heart longs for you, as I lay here.

I want to see your face. I want to touch your skin.

I want to hold you in my arms, that ache for you now.

Warm tears sting my eyes as I imagine holding you. As I lay here in waiting and wonder…

How much longer, till you come?

I move from my bed to the living room couch. And it’s still dark out through the windows. And I wait for you, like a watchman waits for dawn. For those first pierces of light.

How can you be so close, and yet feel so far away?

How can you be right here, inside me–and still not close enough?

I am ready to hold you. And let you hold,

all of my heart. 

Baby Boy, what is your name?

You are like a secret wrapped within me. A mystery, yet to be unfolded. A sacred gift, still in paper.

No eye has ever truly seen you.

Except God.

God, who spoke your name while I was in the barren place.

God, who formed you inside me.

God, who breathed His life into your lungs.

God, who has done this wonder, in the secret  place.

I long to hear what He hears. When you cry.

I long to see what He sees.

To see this masterpiece He has made.

The masterpiece of you. 

Come soon, baby boy.

I’m saving you a spot, right here in my arms. Right here,

in my heart.

And I hear this song in my spirit, and I think of you,

“Baby, you’re almost home now. Please don’t quit now.

Baby, you’re almost home now, to me.”

It’s still dark out, and I wait to hold you on my chest. To feel your heart, beat against mine. To rub your smooth back with my hands, as you rest on me.

And I’ll take in, as my own oxygen, the rising and falling of your each and every breath.

Baby, you’re almost home now. Please don’t quit now.

Baby you’re almost home now, to me.

Come, be with us.

We are all waiting and longing for you.

Until you come…

I will wait here in the dark for you.

I will wait for the sun.

For my son. 

To rise. 

 

Love,

           Mom

 


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Why I Really Need Jesus This Christmas

christmas

The whole house smelled like the sharp scent of Windex and furniture polish, mixed with something delicious baking in the oven, and the vacuum was always running. Mom gave us all a job to do, to get ready for their arrival. My grandparents.

As soon as I finished my chores, I would stand at the door and wait. I stood so close, my breath would appear on the cold glass. And I would draw smooth lines with my finger. And my heart would rise and fall with the passing of each car. Until finally, it came.

Their big cream colored Cadillac stopped in front of our house. And my heart leaped.

When you’re eight years old–you don’t wait for people to ring the doorbell. (Especially when you’ve been watching out the window for a half an hour.) And you don’t give them “courtesy time” get out the car. No. You run. You race down to greet them in your socks.

You nearly climb into their car before they can even climb out. And you cover them in hugs and kisses, and cling to them like a starfish, so they can barely walk.

Have you ever had that feeling of longing? Of waiting so long…it physically hurts?

(Click here to read about infertility and longing for a baby at Christmas.)

I’ve been thinking about expectation lately.

Maybe it’s because I’m expecting a baby a boy in less than four weeks. And I’m longing to meet him and touch his skin, and look into his face.

Or, maybe it’s because we just finished a very a ugly political season. And I’m watching rioting in the streets on my TV. And the world seems dark. And in need of a Savior.

Either way…I’m feeling this longing. This expectation. This need for Jesus. To be here.

So I’ve decided to celebrate Advent this year.

(Please on’t think I’m super spiritual…because I didn’t even know what “Advent” meant until a couple of weeks ago. I thought an Advent calendar was a paper calendar with chocolates inside.) (And it is, in many grocery stores.)

But I didn’t know Advent is so much more.

The word “Advent” actually means “coming.”

And I just found out that people celebrate the “season of Advent.”

The season of “coming.”

The season of “waiting for His coming.”

You  know how the sky grows darkest before dawn? How it seems so black, and then slowly it turns blue, like that deep, glowing blue, that gradually turns pale blue…and then the dawn breaks through? The light pierces the dark?

That’s Advent. Like watching the dark sky, and waiting for those first gentle rays of light.

Because the world is dark. And we are all waiting, quietly, desperately for Him. For Jesus. To come.

In years past, I guess I have “tried” to celebrate Advent. I tried to print something off Pinterest and force my 18 month old daughter to do the readings with me each night, while she screamed and ripped up the papers. I tried to force my husband to do this “tradition” with us, that I read was supposed to be so meaningful.

But since everyone hated it. (Including me.) It only lasted about a day.

(Maybe someday, we will figure out some wonderful Advent tradition that works for our family… )

But for now, I’m realizing: I need it.

Instead of trying to drag the family to do something I want to be “meaningful,” maybe I’m the one who needs to find something meaningful in this season.

I’m thirsty for it. For Him to show me who He is.

I feel Him prompting me to “behold” Him. I don’t really know how, but I feel like you can’t “behold” someone, or something in a two-minute rush (like I usually do). It takes some time.

So, I’m trying to learn how to behold Him, And His coming. And I’m celebrating the season of Advent this year. The season of darkness before the light, the season of waiting, and expectation, and longing so bad, it hurts.

And I’m celebrating by myself. Because I realize: I need Him. And until I am able to “behold” Him—I can’t help anyone else to do the same.

So I bought a book on Amazon, called “The Greatest Gift” by Ann Voskamp. And It’s a book all about Advent. A book about “His coming.”

I know Christmas will come either way. All the Black Friday Ads are coming in the mail, and the hustle and bustle will start us all racing to December 25. We will do gift exchanges, and parties, and try to make our homes warm and beautiful, and full of light.

But what if the preparations don’t need to be done so much outwardly?

What if the real preparations happen inwardly?

Maybe I need the light inside me this year?

Because there is something about preparing a place. Inside. Like the Christmas carol says, “Let every heart prepare Him room.”

When we would prepare our house for our grandparents to come, it wasn’t just about work. It was about anticipation. We could all feel it in the air. It was in the expectation of standing at the window, and watching for them.

I feel that Jesus is calling me to prepare a place for Him. Maybe I’m not the only one who is desperate for His light to pierce through?

Maybe He is calling you to prepare a place for Him this Christmas, too.

Maybe you will stand at the cold glass door, and wait for Him. And watch for Him, to come.

And when He comes…

When He comes…you won’t wait for Him to ring the door bell. Or to get out of the car.

You will run out in your socks to greet Him. You will run wildly, like the father ran to meet His prodigal son while he was still coming up the road. You will cling to him like a starfish, so he can barely walk.

When you see His light appear, you will fall down and weep before Him. You will behold Him.

And He will hold you, and He will not let you go.

And this “beholding” is what Christmas is all about.

Emmanuel. God is with us.

His Word says,

“Arise, shine; For your light has come! And the glory of the LORD is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people; But the LORD will arise over you, And His glory will be seen upon you.” Isaiah 60:1-2

If you feel the night is black right now, hold on. Christmas is coming.

For you.

Jesus is coming.

For you.

The night is long. But…

Your Light is coming.

Yes, He will be here soon.


For more encouragment about infertility, motherhood, or marriage follow Barren to Beautiful by entering your email address in the box on the right of this website. Or, “like” the Barren to Beautiful Facebook page, by clicking here. For more Christmas posts read “When All I Wanted For Christmas Was You,” or “Christmas Is For Desperate People.” 

10 Things Every Christian Will Be Tempted To Forget After The Election

usa

We will all wake up on November 9th and realize: it’s done. We will have a new president. (No matter how loved or hated.)

People will go around at night and yank up either all the Trump or Hillary signs from the cold wet dirt.

And people will freak out on Facebook. Either way. There will be rants, and memes, and hoards of nasty comments.

There may even be rioting in some places.

So what will you do, dear Christian?

The world will respond how the world will respond. But what about you?

You may not think that your response matters. You may think that the election is over, so you can wait four more years to try again.

But what you do after the election, and every day in between now and the next election—matters. 

It matters so much.

What matters now, is not who you voted for–what matters now is how you will live. 

As Christians, here are some things we will be tempted to forget. In fact, I think Satan would love us all to forget these 10 things. But they are the truth, and we can stand on them in the days and years to come:

1. God is not surprised (at all) about who “won” this election.

No one gets elected into office without permission from God. He holds the final authority over the authorities of our land.

Romans 13:1 “For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.”

2. God is not anxious, worried, or depressed about who won this election. 

He isn’t in heaven wringing his hands, and neither should we. He knew before the foundations of the earth, who would govern our country at this time in history. And He’s not afraid of it. Why? Because He is God. And His purpose will stand. 

“He will not fail nor be discouraged,
Till He has established justice in the earth;
And the coastlands shall wait for His law.” Isaiah 42:4

He will not fail nor be discouraged. God has a plan, and He will carry it out. 

3. God’s Kingdom is not of this world. 

It would have been nice if when Jesus came to earth, He set up a perfect, flawless government system to keep us all in perfect peace–but He didn’t. That’s not why He came. He didn’t come to be a political figure. The Jews would have loved to see a Messiah that looked like a king, and brought a kingdom, and enforced it here on the earth. But that is not at all what Jesus did. When Jesus was arrested and brought to Pilate, he answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.” John 18:36

He didn’t come up to set up a political power. But to unveil His Spiritual power. And to rescue us from our sin.

4. Our Savior is not (and never will be) from this world. 

No person in political power can save us. Even the best candidate will be sinful and flawed, and should not be seen as a “savior.” God’s Word specifically tells us, “Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings who cannot save.” (Psalm 146:3)

Instead it says, to hope in God. 

“Blessed are those whose help is in the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God. He is the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them—he remains faithful forever.” (Psalm 146:5-6)

No prince or president can save us from the wrath to come, only Jesus can do that.

5. Jesus is our ONLY hope. 

I don’t care who you voted for. One day, you will sit before the judgement seat of God. And in that day, only one person can stand at your defense. Only one person can cleanse you of every sin. Only one person can cover your nakedness and shame, and clothe you with His righteousness. Only one person can stand before God the Father in your defense, and and shout at the top of His lungs, “She is covered by my blood!” “She is mine!”

And that person is: Jesus Christ. 

Hope in Him. Hope only in Him. In this life, and the life to come.

6. God has specifically purposed you to be alive at this EXACT time in History. 

There is a reason you were not born a hundred years earlier, or a hundred years later. God specifically put you here on the earth, at this time in history, for His divine purpose. 

His Word says,  “All the days ordained for me have been written in His book, before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:16)

He chose you to be alive at this time in America, under this president, with these laws (or lack thereof), and these people. Why? Because He has a purpose for you right here, and right now. You can complain about our culture, or you can step into it. Because you are here for such a time as this.

7. Real “religious freedom” comes from God, not governments. 

Many Christians are terrified of losing our “religious freedom.” And I know it can be a scary thing, but when Jesus set up His Church on the earth, He said, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)

So whether we are meeting freely in the public square, or secretly in a dark corner of someone’s basement…God’s kingdom will prevail. Let’s not forget that when God’s people were prisoners in Egypt–He sent plagues and split the sea to rescue them. When Paul and Silas were bound in prison–He sent an earthquake to set them free. And how many times did He send angel armies to war on His behalf?

Has God ever been bound by the laws or threats of man?

Perilous times may come. But not our government, nor ISIS, nor even the gates of hell will prevail against His Church, His Bride.

8. Jesus didn’t leave us as orphans. The Holy Spirit is alive and active on the earth. 

The world cannot see Him or recieve Him, but “you know Him, for He dwells with you, and will be in you.” (See John 14:16-18) Jesus promised He would not leave us as orphans, but that He would come to us through His Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is here to guide us, comfort us, convict us, and fill us with supernatural power to bring glory to God.

9. Laws don’t change people’s hearts. Only Jesus does. 

I wish we had laws that kept everyone peaceful and kind. But we don’t. We can get really upset when laws change. But more laws and better laws don’t actually change people. That was what the Pharisees wanted. They kept dragging out these “sinners” in front of Jesus and wanted Jesus to tell them what the “law says.” (Like the woman caught in adultery.) They wanted Jesus to condemn these “law-breaking” sinners. But Jesus knew the law couldn’t save anyone. That’s why He always spoke to the heart of a person.

As Christians, we can wish the “laws” of our land took care of people’s morals or prevented sin. (And I’m not saying we shouldn’t fight for laws that will prevent evil or innocent lives. But we have to realize that there’s more to it than that. )

Personally, I wish we had more laws against abortion. But I can’t just hope the “law” takes care of it. If I really love babies, then I need to get involved in the lives of broken women. I can see women in difficult situations and have compassion on them. I can get involved with counseling at the Women’s Care center. I can become friends with teen girls. I can do foster care, and take in a baby whose mom decided not to abort, even when it got really hard. I can rejoice with pregnant teens, and throw them baby showers, and financially support them.

There are a thousand things we can do as Christians in between elections to make a real difference in the issues we claim to care about.

It’s easier when checking a box on a ballot takes care of it. But sometimes, most times, it doesn’t.

So, this is our moment to wake up. And step up. Which leads me to the last point..

10. Love is the most powerful weapon we have. 

The world sees Christ not in our angry political banter on Facebook. But in the loving, gentle, compassion of Christians who are willing to get low, to get dirty, to become completely humble, and listen to a world that is very much hurting.

This is so convicting for me. Because the call to love people and really see people the way Christ loves and sees people–is one of the most risky and wild businesses I could ever get involved in.

Because it means we get low with people caught in adultery, and draw in the dirt, like Jesus. And we share meals with thieves, and touch people who no one else will touch.

We aren’t called to hide from the darkness.

We are called to live in it, and be the light.

We are called to invade the darkness with light.

We are called to stand with Jesus. The One true King.

Who is coming back.

For, in just a little while, He will come. He will stand upon the earth, and all the armies of heaven will come riding in behind Him.

And when He comes, I pray He finds us bringing good news to the poor, and binding up the brokenhearted, and comforting those who mourn. I pray He finds us giving beauty, instead of ashes, to a burning world. For we are all in need of His rescue.

And He will come.

In this world we will have trouble, but He has overcome the world. So don’t grow weary, or lose heart.

The Spirit of the Lord is on you.

For such a  time as this.

How I Found Joy During Infertility

infertility

I had heard about “infertility” before I got married. But to be honest, I always kind of shrugged it off. I was sure there were people “out there” who couldn’t get pregnant–but I never imagined I would be one of them.

Why, you ask?

Because I come from a very long line of  “fertile” women. I felt sure, if anything…it would be too easy to get pregnant.

That’s why I was so adamant about taking my “pill” each night. And making sure there were no “accidents.”

But after a few years…something changed.

And I wanted to have a baby. 

I remember how excited we were, that first fragile month that I chucked the disc of pills into the garbage can, and for the first time ever, we tried. 

A few weeks later, I took a pregnancy test before work in the morning. I couldn’t wait to announce to my husband as we both got dressed for work, that we were going to have a baby!

I never expected the test to read: negative.

I never expected the next month, and the next month, and the next to be negative, too.

And I never expected those months to turn into years, years full of “negative.” But…they did.

I was completely unprepared for the emotional journey that was “infertility.”

It felt like riding a rollercoaster every month. There was the hope that, “This month could be different!” The anticipation that comes with trying, and wondering if life has formed in you? The waiting to know. And then the dissapointment when your period returns. Again.

To go through this cycle every month, never knowing when, or if, it will end can be tiring.

Infertility wears on you.

It wears on your soul.

Everyone knows that labor hurts. But no one actually tells you that infertility hurts, too.

On the inside.

In this secret place that no one else can see. Like a locked garden.

Like a mystery.

It’s not a labor of the body, it’s a labor of the soul.

You wait and wonder. You cry and pray. You long and hope. And you try…to hold it all together. You try to hold eachother together, as husband and wife.

But sometimes, you start to sort of unravel inside.

Because you desire to be a mom with all your heart. You feel ready. You wish it could just happen the normal way (as it seems to with everyone else.)

You want love-making and baby-making to go hand-in-hand. But then…sometimes it’s not so simple.

I remember it was especially hard those months when I thought I was pregnant, only to find out I wasn’t. Because some months I really did feel different. 

I was more moody, and hungry, and tired. (How many times did I Google “pregnancy symptoms”—in hopes that I was?) But, then, my period would come.

So, it was several years of this wear and tear on my soul, before I realized: I had a choice to make. 

I didn’t even know I had a choice. (Other than to feel bummed out…pretty much all the time.)

I did know that every single month when my period came back. And every single day, in between.

I had a choice between joy and despair. 

Now let me tell you, I did’t read a self-help book to come this. I didn’t even read infertility blogs (if they existed, I didn’t know about them!)

All I did was pray. And read Scripture. And sometimes, the Holy Spirit would speak to me. When I was quiet enough to hear Him.

There were a few key things the Holy Spirit showed me during that time–and these changed me. They changed the way I saw everything.

If you have read my story about my barreness, or my second miracle pregnancy, you know that I didn’t stay barren forever.

Maybe the miracles of my pregnancies drew you to this blog, but I want to tell you about an earlier miracle. Perhaps, the most amazing of all.

This miracle happened in my soul–before I ever got pregnant.

Before I have had a child.

See, when you are barren, you often don’t simply have a barren womb. You also have a barren soul.

And I was truly barren, not just in my womb, but in my soul. I saw my life as this dry, barren wasteland. I saw only what I was lacking. I was thirsty, and I didn’t know how to be quenched.

I was angry and sad. I knew God had the power to heal me–but He wasn’t healing me.

I got to a point where I could “accept” or, “tolerate” the fact that I couldn’t get pregnant. I was able to “grit and bear it.” (And, I actually thought that I was doing pretty well–but I wasn’t.)

Because God didn’t want me to simply “tolerate” the life He was giving me.

He wanted me to embrace it.

He wanted me to enjoy it.

To enjoy Him–in it.

(Because He never left. He was there all along, even in every moment of the infertility.)

For some reason I thought I couldn’t be happy or fulfilled until He gave me a baby.

But He wanted to show me that He was enough–before I ever got a baby. (And, even if He never gave me a baby.)

I was looking for a baby to satisfy what only God could. 

All that time, I was clenching my fists closed in anger at what God had allowed in my life, but He wanted me to open my hands.

He wanted me to surrender my plans to His. My desires to His. And He wanted me to embrace the life and calling He had for me–even if I didn’t understand it at the time.

When someone gives you a gift, you don’t “tolerate” it.

You thank them for it.

And I remember when I realized I needed to thank Him.  For inferitility. (I know how absolutely crazy this sounds.) But I realized that if God had chosen this for me, it must be good, and He must have a purpose in it–even if I couldn’t see it yet.

So, I literally thanked Him for everything I could think of that was “good” about not being pregnant. I thanked Him that I didn’t have to stop excercising, or go through morning sickness, or endure labor and delivery. I thanked Him that I didn’t have to put on baby wieght, or have a flabby stomach, or vericose veins. (Yes, I was vain. But honest, nonetheless.)

The more I thanked God for His plan, and His timing, the more good I saw in it. And the more I was able to truly surrender.

It’s not that I was “giving up.” It’s that I was “giving over.” I was giving it over to God. The only One who could do anything about it.

I literally did not know what God would do.

I didn’t know if I would ever have a baby.

But right there, right in that place, where my arms were empty, and my womb was barren–was the place He wanted me to lift my arms and worship Him.

To say and mean with all my heart, “Even if You don’t give me what I desperately want, You are still enough. You are still everything. And You still have all of my heart.”

And you know what?

Something changed.

Joy came RUSHING back into my life.

My eyes began to stop seeing all the “lack” in my life. And I started to see all the beauty in it.

I began to realize what God had already given me.

And I began to cherish my husband, and my friends. My students, and family. All the ones He had already placed before me, to love. 

I started to stand in the roles He had already placed me in. I embraced my role as a wife, and at my job, and other opportunities I had to serve people. And I started to enjoy them. 

I no longer saw myself as a victim of infertility. But instead, as a daughter of God who was chosen and set-apart for His unique purpose for me. Maybe God has some wild plan for us, I could never even imagine? Maybe He will send us oversees? Maybe there is some child waiting in an orphanage that is our baby to adopt? Maybe something is coming around the corner–we never expected?

I didn’t know what it was. But I clung to the Scripture, “The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me.” (Psalm 138:8)

One day, as I was about to leave work, I felt God speak to me, in the form of a song. (I know, it sounds strange.) I didn’t hear the music, just the lyrics. But I remember writing them down on pink sticky notes that were on my desk. And this is what I heard,

“There’s Someone living inside you,

Though not a child tucked inside your womb,

But it’s my Holy Spirit, who conquered Jesus’ tomb.

He’s alive, He’s alive, He’s alive,

Hear Him roar?

And you’re alive, you’re alive,

More than ever before.”

My heart burned, and I went home and crashed down at my piano and stuck all the sticky notes to it. But as I began to play and sing, all I could hear, was Him singing them to me. And I say this with tears,

Something broke in me. 

In that moment, hot tears rolled down my cheeks, and I was undone.

He was living in me. 

I was no longer barren.

He was alive in me, so I was alive. 

Sure, nothing changed in my womb–but my spirit came to life that day. His Spirit came to life in me.

And the presence of God surrounded me there. And He showed me that He was living in me. 

Therefore, I was alive. 

That was the day, I literally crossed from “barren to beautiful.”

I no longer saw the barreness in my life, all I could see was His beauty. And the beauty He had filled my life with.

God came, and took away my barreness.

And I had joy again. I could breathe again. And laugh again.

But most of all, live again.

Yes, I was still infertile.

But I was His. And He would not let me go.

Yes, I was still not pregnant. 

But I was exactly where He wanted me to be. And He would fulfill His beautiful purpose for me.

Yes, I still wanted to have a baby. 

But I knew He would satisfy me. Whether or not, I had a baby. And if He wanted to give me a baby, He would do it, in His time, and in His way.

Dear Barren or Infertile One,

If God has led you here, He wants to take your barreness away.

I don’t know what He will do in your physical womb. But I know what He will do in your soul, if you ask Him. 

And I believe He is about to birth something in you, more beautiful than you could ever, possibly imagine.

Maybe it’s not that you need to “pull up your bootstraps” and have more faith that you will get pregnant. 

Dear One, He already sees you and knows you. He already hears your cries. He sees your faith, and He sees where you lack faith, too. But He will fulfill His purpose for you.

He will. 

And instead of pulling up your bootstraps of faith…maybe it’s time to take off your boots. Kick them off.

And run barefoot with Him for a while.

Surrender. 

Knowing, “The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me.” (Psalm 138:8)

Because He has an adventure waiting for you on the other side of your fears. And it’s wild, and free, and full of Him.

Chase Him, and He will take you where you never dared to go. And show you things you didn’t dream possible.

And one day, you will be running with Him, and suddenly realize you have crossed, from barren to beautiful.

And you will never go back. 

To the Angels Without Wings

angels without wings

“We saw two abnormalities,” the doctor said, “On your son’s anatomy scan ultrasound.” I shifted on the white sanitary paper that I sat on, making it crinkle. “One is a shiny spot on the heart, which could be a soft marker for Downs Syndrome, or, another genetic disease. And the the other abnormality is an enlarged ventricle in the brain.”

My mind started to race.

“It could mean nothing, or…it could point to something more serious,” she said. “You need to get some genetic testing done, but it will take several weeks to come back. And then we will set you up with maternal fetal medicine, to do an ultrasound and see a specialist from out of town.”

I felt like I got the wind knocked out of me.

I wish I could say I walked out of there full of faith, with my head up, and shoulders back. But I didn’t.

I was deathly quiet until we got to the car in the parking garage, where I was flooded with emotions, and tears.

What did this mean?

Was he okay?

Would he live?

Did he have some deteroriating disease?

For the next few days, I felt like death. I was grieving. Grieving news I didn’t even have yet. Grieving results that didn’t even come back yet. I know I shouldn’t have been. I know other’s have recieved much worse news, and done better than me. But that’s what I did.

I usually try to be strong for the people in my life.  But during those weeks of waiting for results, I couldn’t hide how weak I actually was. It felt like my legs just gave out from under me. I didn’t know how to walk.

Or even stand.

But then God sent the angels…

To carry me.

I didn’t expect them to come.

I didn’t even know they existed.

But they came.

Not how you would think.

They didn’t have wings. Or halos. Or harps.

They didn’t appear with a bright light.

But they came. 

One sat on the edge of my bed, while I cried into my pillow the night after my appointment. He stroked my hair and whispered into my ears, the true things. The things that God says. He reminded me that the little one in my womb was God’s, and for God’s glory–no matter what that meant. He was a constant minister of strength to me. He held me against his chest and said through the dark, “Don’t be afraid.”

“You have to trust God now.”

And this angel was my husband. 

Then more angels came.  And they came like an army. Lifting me up, refusing to let me fall.

I didn’t call them with a heavenly trumpet…I called them with my old iPhone. And you know what? They answered.

They answered even though little ones were climbing up their legs, and the grilled cheese was burning in the pan–and they listened. To me.

They listened like I was the only one in the world…as I told them about my doctor’s appointment, and to please pray for my baby boy…and they listened when my voice cracked…and I fell silent on the other end, and couldn’t speak because the words got caught in my throat.

They didn’t speak to me in the tongues of angels. Instead they listened, and they reminded me of who God is. Some prayed for me—right then, on the phone, despite the chaos and noise going on in their kitches. And when they hung up, they cried for me. But they not only cried. They also cried out for me—with prayers and intercession to God.

They went to battle for me.

One drove hours to see me. And those who couldn’t come to me, sent text messages and voicemails, and Youtube songs (I would play on repeat)—and somehow, by the Spirit of God, they came close, just as if they were right there. And,

They lifted me up. 

They carried me.

And these angels were my friends, and sisters, and parents. 

Then more angels appeared in my church.

They weren’t dressed in white robes…but in business-casual Kohl’s outfits. Their eyes were wise and kind. Because they were moms who had already weathered these storms.

One sat next to me in the church lobby and laid her warm, healing hands on my belly. She didn’t care as people walked past that Sunday morning, and she prayed for me and my baby boy. She spoke life over him. And me.

Another angel, like this, gave me a message before worship started.

It wasn’t on a gigantic scroll…but on a simple piece of loose leaf paper, written in black ink.  She handed it to me, and said, “I spent two hours praying for you last night.” Tears filled her eyes. “And I believe these Scriptures are for you.”

She hugged me and I cried. Who does that? Who spends two hours praying for someone else…and their baby? Who sits before the Lord for hours…on behalf of someone else? Not me. But, this woman had. And I could not ask for a gift more precious. 

As we embraced she told me, “God is still forming this baby boy in your womb. And he is going to be a mighty man of God.” Hot tears filled my eyes, and I was not able to find words to even thank her for what she had done–it was so precious.

And do you know what? That piece of loose leaf paper she gave me, with scriptures she wrote out for me…is almost see-through today.

Because every single morning, as we waited for results, and appointments, I would come downstairs while the house was still sleeping, and I would sit on the couch with my coffee and read those hand-written Scriptures, and cry. And I would speak them over my womb. Over my son.

All my life I have wanted to see an angel. But suddenly, during those weeks of waiting, and wondering, and praying I realized—they were all around me. 

These were the angels God sent to me.

Angels without wings. 

Right when I needed them most.

I was falling, and they caught me.

I was weak, and they carried me. 

They lifted me up in their hands. 

This week, I left the specialist’s office crying again–but this time it was tears of joy.

God healed everything.

Our baby boy’s genetic tests all came back normal. The shiny spot in his heart disappeared. And as for the enlarged ventricle in his brain,

“It actually got smaller,” the specialist told us this Monday, “It’s in totally normal range now. Your baby looks great.”

(I’d never openly cried in front of a doctor, until then.)

“That’s exactly what we, and all our friends were praying for,” I said through tears I couldn’t hold back.

“It worked,” he smiled. “Prayer works. Intercessory prayer works,” he said.

I know that God doesn’t always heal–and He is still worthy of our trust in those times. But this time, He did heal. And I know sometimes people (even Christian people) are skeptical and think that the results for our son would have been the same–no matter if anyone prayed or not.

But I couldn’t disagree more.

I believe that these people praying for him–changed something. Because prayer isn’t man’s idea. Prayer is God’s idea. 

God tells us to pray. To ask Him. To cry out.

And His word says, “Pray for each other, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16)

I don’t know what would have happened had these people not been praying. All I know, is what did happen because they had. And I am in awe of God because of it. So…

To My Angels Without Wings,

I don’t know why you came to me, but you came.

I don’t know why you prayed for me, but you prayed. 

I don’t know why you loved me so deeply, but you did. 

And because you did, something changed. 

I believe it’s because of you, that God has done a miracle in the secret places of my womb, where no eyes but God’s can truly see. 

And one day, I will tell my son about you.  I will tell him about the ones who went to battle for him, while he was yet being formed.

I will tell him, that while he was yet in the womb, he was surrounded by angels. 

Angels without wings.