Singing In The Dark: Worship When It Hurts

I left work early that day, my world was spinning. My heart was in anguish, feeling as if it would burst at any moment. And once I arrived home, I was completely undone. Weeping. It seemed like suddenly all the light had gone out of the world. Out of my world.

Sin and death.

Like two arrows shot straight into my heart. Within one hour that morning.

First arrow, Sin. I was cut deeply by sin, the sin of someone I loved.

Second arrow, Death. A dear friend had passed away, leaving her husband, and three kids. Alone.

Sin and death. All at once, I could feel their power. Taste the bitter. And that night as it grew dark outside, it grew dark inside…me. It felt that night like Satan won.

Like he would always win.

Crushed and broken, I sat at the old piano, with no words, watching the neat black and white keys blur with my tears.

                                                            God, why?

Have you ever had one of these moments? When your world suddenly flickers black?

When tears run dry, and strength wears thin,

No hope of going on again,

When hands are fragile, thin, and weak,

No words are left to even speak?

There are nights in this life that are simply dark.

When I was a little girl, I was afraid to go upstairs in our house because…it was dark. So my mom taught me to sing. To sing in the dark.

I’d run upstairs belting out Jesus, Loves Me and flipping on light switches as I’d go…and Mom was right. It did make me feel better. Braver.

And there at the piano, that night, in the dark and death and despair, I somehow remembered. To do it again.

To sing.

The words were choked out, and awkward.

But true.

A song we sing at church, “You Are Good,” a lively, up-beat song—but that night it came out very slow. My voice cracked with pain. Stopping every few words, choked with the weight of it.

I sing, because You are good

I dance, because You are good

I shout, because You are good

You are good to me

 

And in my darkest night,

You shine as bright as day

Your love amazes me

But as I worshipped in my weakness and pain, something incredible happened. The Light began to appear. Like a soft candle in a dark room, growing steadily brighter. Jesus Christ, the Light of the whole world. In whom, there is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5)

I tremble as I write this, but it is true: God is worthy of our worship—even when the darkness comes. And before it leaves. And often, our worship of Him is the very thing that leads us out of the darkness. We take our eyes off our pain, hardship, questions, conflicts, confusion, and put them on Jesus. We do the very thing we were born to do: worship our God.

Singing is powerful. Worship is warfare between darkness and light. It’s not just emotional. It’s not about the “warm fuzzy feeling” that music can induce. We feel better when we sing because the Light of the World actually enters into the room. He enlightens the darkness. He takes us by the hand. He makes us brave.

Whatever your situation, however dark, or grim; however complicated your relationships, or frustrated your efforts—invite the Light into it. Invite Jesus to come into the picture. He will.

The Day is drawing near, when He will stand again on the earth. With a sword upon His side. You with your own eyes will see him. (Job 19:27) And ‘He will wipe every tear from [your] eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelations 21:4) He Himself will bind up and heal every wound. Every wound. And for every tear of pain, will flow ten thousand tears of joy. For He is making everything new.

And we will sing a new song that day,

“Where O death, is your victory? Where O death, is your sting?” For Death has been swallowed up in victory. (1 Corinthians 15:55, 54b)

So,

Sing, Daughter of Zion.

Sing, because of Your God.

Sing,

Even in the dark.

For your Light is coming.

Soon.

I Set The Thermostat: How A Woman’s Attitude Affects the Whole House

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“You have like this bad…aura.” Those were my husband’s actual words. Of course that annoyed me even more. He came home around 10 A.M. and by that time it was too late. It was too hot in the house. My toddler was already too crazy. Evidence of breakfast was all over the counter (…and the floor). The shopping list was only half written.  I was trying to print coupons—but she kept turning off the printer before they could come out. I was trying to save a few bucks—even if it cost my sanity. I was trying…to keep it together. (Did I mention I was extremely hot?)

When he walked in, he could see it all over my face. The irritation. The heat. My attitude was like bad perfume. He could not escape it. And as I spouted off the reasons why, his face became like a mirror. All my angst was soon reflected back at me. My ugliness was contagious. Soon we were both frustrated. And angry. And hot.

We made it, (miraculously) out of the house and down to the (air conditioned) YMCA where we just got a membership. We took turns watching our daughter. He took her to the pool, and I went to the treadmill. To blow off some steam. But as I began to run, I looked down through the glass wall that overlooked the swimming pool and saw them. She was sitting at the pool’s edge and he was encouraging her to jump into his arms. He carried her around in the water, helping her float.

Everyone around me watched the TV screens on their treadmills, but my screen stayed black. I couldn’t help but watch these two. These two—that God had given me. These two—that I was born to love.

With everything.

They spotted me and began waving. I waved back through the glass, catching the eye of the short Puerto Rican man on the treadmill next to me. “She’s mine,” I said. He looked confused. “Down there!” I said, almost shouting, “That’s my daughter!”

She was mine. They were both mine. And as I watched them bobbing around in the pool together, I suddenly wanted to cry. My main job was simply: to love them. To make them feel loved. How do I get so off track? So many other goals, so many other boxes on my checklist. So many other things I want to do. Feel I need to do.

Beyond this.

Just this.

On the way home, I broke the silence, “I’m sorry…for my attitude.”

“It’s okay,” he said.

“No. It’s not. Sometimes…I just feel like—when things get really crazy, I have permission to act however I want,” I said. “Without self control.”

“Yeah,” he said. There was some silence before he spoke again. “It’s just like, when I come home—when I come home, I can’t handle walking into you in a really bad mood. I mean, we can buy some air conditioners. I don’t care how much we spend. That would be better than walking into you all…irritated and mad. I just can’t handle that.”

He was right. I wore my attitude like a big ugly sweater. As the woman of the house, my mood, my mind, my heart all play a bigger role than I than I thought.

I set the thermostat in our house. More than I realize.

My kindness and gentleness…my stress and frustration actually do something to the environment. Not the air, or the heat…but the atmosphere. The state of my heart affects everyone. For better, or for worse.

Proverbs 14:1 says, “The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.”

Am I building my house? Or tearing it down?

I may be cleaning the kitchen, whipping up dinner, vacuuming the carpets, and organizing the closets—but if I’m doing it with an obligated, irritated, frustrated attitude…am I really helping anyone? Am I creating a life-giving environment?

Last night, the three of us went out and carted home Walmart’s finest air conditioner. And while we all enjoyed the cooler temperature, I know the AC can only work so hard. I need something, Someone much more powerful to change the thermostat in our house, the thermostat in my heart.

“For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.” Romans 8:6

Oh God,

            I need more than a machine in my window,

                                                                        I need Your Spirit in my heart. 

How Beach Trips Have Changed

This season’s swimwear is skimpier than ever. I know because I searched rack after rack, and tried on enough swimsuits to dislocate my shoulder. I was just looking for some coverage and support—because, this year, I would be running on the beach. Chasing my toddler. Juking out of people’s ways. And doing sprints to grab her out of the surf. (She’s quick.)

I was disappointed to find so many zippers, strings, and strategic cuts in the fabric–all exposing as much skin as possible without being totally nude. Even some of the one-pieces seemed like something an adult store’s creepy mannequin would be wearing in the window. The sides were totally cut out, leaving no fabric but what resembled the core of an apple, along with strings, laces, and cups almost as thick as my mattress.

Yeah…not happening.

In the fitting room as I hung up suit after suit on the “Definitely Not” hook, and saw the few lone attempts at modesty hanging on the “Considering It” hook, I realized something: not too long ago the suits on those hooks would have been reversed. I used to wear “those” suits that now feel more like lingerie when I put them on.

There was a time when beach time = me time. When my #1 goal was to look good. I’d lay out all day in a bikini, basting myself with oil, basking in the sun, and working on my tan—the only souvenir I could show off, in order to get some attention from guys. This is what I loved and lived for. Then.

What changed?

I’m sure it would be safe to say: my body. But that’s not really true.

It’s something much deeper. Something in my heart.

A promise.

A promise I made on another beach, not in a bathing suit, but in a long white silk gown. Where I walked down an aisle barefoot, toward his beaming smile. Where I looked into his deep green eyes, and clasped his hands. Where the wind took away my veil. Where my name changed forever. My identity changed, merged, melted together with his.

It was a simple promise:

“My eyes only for you, my body only for you.”

The vows we wrote together. The vows we made together. The vows…we had no idea how hard it would be to keep.

My eyes

            Only for you.

My body

            Only for you.

The vows, like our hands clasped tightly together, that this world, and sin, and life, and stress and selfishness would try to rip apart.

The vow to love.

And the love that would give birth to life.

The life of this fearless little girl I now chase through the surf. Her hair so blonde, it’s almost transparent in the sunlight. She’s laughing, and screaming with delight as the waves hit her. Everyone hears. We’re getting soaked and scream together now. I scoop her up just before another wave crashes against us, knocking us off balance. Her little wet body clings tightly to mine. I look up in the foamy wake and my eyes meet my husband’s; he’s gazing at us and smiling, that same beaming smile that met me at the end of the aisle, on another beach, five years ago.

What happened to the girl I used to be?

The Tide came in,

            and swept her away.

“Because You’re Mine”

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I have experienced love-at-first-sight my life only one time: the night my daughter was born. I remember them placing her slippery little body into my frail, shaky arms. And the moment I saw her, touched her; all at once, I loved her. All of me, loved all of her. This avalanche happened in my heart and never stopped flowing. A love so violent, so powerful—I did not even know I was capable of it. Like something burst; the floodgates broke open, and would never close again. She had done nothing to win or lose my affection, to prove her ability, to show her worth. It didn’t matter. I knew her worth. And I would love her forever. Simply because: she was mine.

Having a child does something to you. It stretches you, stretches your heart so that it can never go back. I think all mothers feel this. Whether they have only been mothers for a few months or fifty years. We can apply creams and lotions to stretch marks on our bodies, but nothing can remove the stretch marks on your soul. You have been changed forever. The love you feel for them is like this mountain, it cannot be moved. Simply because: they are yours.

I struggled for a long time to know God’s love. People talked about it, I read about it in the Bible, heard songs about it—but could never really feel it. So I tried to be perfect, like a friend who always did everything so right, you would never have a reason to be mad at them. Ever. But that didn’t work. I was a sinner through and through. I failed and floundered. I would pull up my bootstraps, try so hard to prove myself, and when I didn’t—I just felt further from His love. As if His love were based on my performance, going up and down like the stock market. (But usually crashing.) I wanted to cry out to God, to ask Him how He could love me? And why? But would my cry make Him swoon with sympathy and grace, or roll His eyes with irritation? Did He really like me, or just kind of tolerate me?

As I wrestled these questions, I began to ask God the thing I really wanted to know for so long: “Why do You love me?”

Imagine your child asking you this. It would be a baffling, heart-paining question to any mother or father. “What, do you mean, ‘Why do I love you?’” But your child’s face is earnest; they really don’t know what you thought was obvious all along.

“God, why do you love me?”

And at last, He answered,

“Because you’re Mine.”

And suddenly all the doubts and fears and striving for perfection are all—gone. I am His. And for the first time, I know it. He has pledged Himself to me. He has made a way through His Son Jesus to atone me. To cleanse me with His blood. To make a way. Not because of what I have done, but because of what He has done. He has made me His own. And no one can pry me out of His hands. Ever. When He sees me in the End, seeing Him, He will look at me and shout, “Mine!”

“She is Mine.”

How my heart leaps for that day, and so should every single son and daughter of God. Because this is the truth. Scripture confirms it again and again. And the Holy Spirit makes us taste it’s reality.

A mother’s love is one of the most powerful forces in the world, but it is just a small touch of what God feels for us. The way we feel about our children, is the way God feels about His—but even more.

God says, “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, Yet I will not forget you. Behold I have engraved you on the palms of My hands; Your walls are continually before Me.” Isaiah 49:15-16

Could it be that this powerful, sovereign, maker of heaven and earth, loves and is aroused with avalanche-like compassion for me, the same way I am for my daughter?

Yes.

But even more so. His love is stronger than a mother’s love, because His love is perfect. Without the sin, or stress, or short tempers, or moods. His love is more constant, wise, knows exactly what you need, and never lacks the power to give it. His love is more intimate, so much that He counts your tears, numbers the hairs on your head, and hears the quietest whisper of your heart. He sees your dreams, hears your thoughts, and knows your words before you can even speak them. And His eyes were the first to ever see you, in that secret place; for it was His hands that formed you in your mother’s womb. His voice that spoke your name for the first time, and called you to be. He is your beginning. Where you came from. The one who gave you life. And your name is written on the palms of His hands. Yes, and there are two nail pierced scars there, for you.

Why Lord? Why do you love me?

“Because you’re Mine.”

“Am I Enough?”

This week my husband walks in the door after a long day at work to find: dishes piled in the sink, laundry all over the living room, the beef for dinner still in a frozen block, and me…looking like Frump Queen. He is gracious. And tells me to take a nap. I instantly obey. (Inwardly rejoicing.) And while I am sleeping for 45 minutes, he manages to clean the whole house…while watching our daughter. (A feat I clearly was incapable of accomplishing today. Many days.)

One part of my feels grateful the house is clean. I can relax now, right? But the other (bigger) part of me feels guilty and defeated. He just worked the whole day at his job, and then came home and did mine, too. Isn’t this why I am staying home? 

Every day I have this desire to accomplish something. But every day it feels I accomplish nothing. I try to clean something, but I don’t finish. I want to do a house project, make my space more beautiful, but all those gorgeous pics on Pinterest look like something from another world. Not mine. I leave to buy something, but roam aimlessly around in the store. Nothing to bring home. I try to write, but this little person cries for all of my attention when I sit at the computer. I clip coupons and price match, and still go way over on our budget. Agh. At the end of the day, there’s nothing to show for the last 9 hours of exhausting effort. Of doing what? 

When it feels I didn’t accomplish Super Tidy Housewife, or Spiritual Sage, or Fun Mommy, or Adoring Wife, or Betty Crocker, or the Likeable Friend…when I’m none of those titles, and all the opposites..

I have to wonder: “Am I enough?

I lay my head on the kitchen table, cheek against wood, and cry. I want my days to be of worth. But feel like they are all so: Unsuccessful.

As I lay, frozen, I hear a whisper, my daughter’s whisper:

Dear Momma,

Do you remember the nights you cried on the bathroom floor in the dark? When the pregnancy tests sat negative in the trash can? Remember when my nursery was just a storage room? A place for you and Daddy to throw your junk? Remember how you longed to brush my hair with your fingers, to sing me lullabies, to hold me close? And now I’m here. 

Am I enough?

When there’s dishes in the sink, and your skinny jeans sag from all the bending, and dinner’s ingredients still sit on the shelves of the supermarket, because your days are full, full of me. Am I worth your attention? Am I an accomplishment?

Am I enough?

You kept me safe today Momma, you kept me alive. You kept me fed, and rested. You played with me, and made me laugh. Does that count Momma? Am I one of your goals Momma? Just to be together? Even if no one sees it? Or knows it?

Am I enough?

Tell me Momma, did you think I’d be different? Did you hope I’d be different? Do you see me? I’m right here Momma, the answer to your sobbing prayers. But now that I’m here, is there something else you want Momma, to feel good? Do I make your day count Momma?

Am I enough?

And suddenly, the voice changes. My heart wrenches. The Spirit of God begins to whisper, making the table under my wet cheek feel more like the chest of God. And suddenly I know He’s near.

Do you remember when I said, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for Me?” (Matt. 25:40) “And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward?” (Matt. 10:42) Do you not see it here Child? 

All these days you live at home to serve this fragile girl, what you really are doing is serving Me. For whatever you do unto her, you do unto Me. So let me ask you:

Am I enough?

What is My worth to you? In the secret places, where no one sees? Look deeper Dear One.

Can you find Me in this place? In her face?

Every diaper, every clean, dry pair of clothes,

cups of water, Cheerios, all the laughter, every tear,

each soothing whisper in her ear.

In doing so, you so clothe Me, feed Me, hear My cry,

soothe Me with your lullaby.

If all you do is spend your days, your self, on Me..

Am I enough?

Motherhood: The Moments No One Sees

Today’s mothers hold a special power that no other generation of mothers quite held: the Smart Phone. And with this power (sometimes) comes the pressure to capture every moment of your darling child’s life.

(Especially if you have family out of town, who eat it up!) The least you can do is snap a picture, or post a video. Right??

It’s amazing that now 362 of your Friends can tune into Baby Girl smearing spaghetti sauce all through her hair at dinner. And by bath time, you can have 31 ‘Likes’ on it.

But this wasn’t always so. There was a time when the only people who could see your little guy run through the sprinkler in his diaper were the neighbors next door.

One part of me, (the minimalist part), wants to pull the curtains of Facebook closed for awhile and just live. I want to lose the constant camera waiting to burst out of my pocket, and the feeling of “I should be taking a video right now…” I want lose the self-consciousness, and the constant mirror my camera can become.

But, the other part of me (really) loves technology. I love that my brother-in-law in Africa can see his niece’s first steps, hear her first words, and spew out her first bite of rice cereal. I love that my sisters and parents can watch her splash in the tub after dinner, or dance like a maniac on the kitchen floor. Because in a way, they get to share it too, the moment. Moments they would otherwise miss.

But what about the moments we don’t capture? The moments no one sees?

Motherhood is full of these. No one gets to share some moments because you were laughing so hard, you forgot to snap a picture. Or you were too busy chasing monsters, or you were waiting to burst out of the closet, or you were ‘It’ in freeze tag. Maybe your toddler hid your phone in his toy box. Maybe you were too focused holding your breath in silence during hide-n-seek. Or you were lost in making Play-dough together, or painting, or building a fort out of cushions—so it was never recorded.

And some moments are so sacred, no camera could ever capture them. Like the tenderness of rocking your little one to sleep in a dark room, and watching her drift away in the moonlight. Staying there, with her, even after she’s long fallen asleep. Just to hold her. Or was she holding you?

Sometimes the moments no one sees, the moments you couldn’t capture, are the moments that captured you.

I don’t say this to make you self-conscious of what you post, or to bash my (incredibly gifted) photographer friends. That’s the last thing I want. By all means, take pictures, and videos, a lot of them! One day, you will be so glad you did. You will remember so many beautiful, hilarious, crazy moments you were bound to forget in the haze of your memory. And it doesn’t make you one bit vain to share them with others. It’s good to give others a window into your daily joy. It’s a part of community.

But I guess what I want to say to moms, and I want to say to myself is: It’s okay if you miss some moments because you were enjoying them too much. It’s okay if you were just too busy being there. It’s okay if while looking into those gorgeous blue eyes, or those chocolate brown ones, gazing into yours–you got lost, and didn’t even think to reach for your phone.

You were captured instead.

 

 

 

 

 

Mother’s Day and the Barren Woman

Every mother at our church had a special glow about her. Perhaps she took 10 more minutes on her hair, or saved that special new Kohl’s outfit just for today. Maybe it was the scrambled breakfast platter that two shaky hands brought to her bedside this morning, or the half-dead flower her 5-year-old tried to “hide” behind his curtain all weekend–whatever it was, the moms were just slightly more “done up” than usual this morning. And it was the first time I noticed.

Because I was not. I was not gussied up, and I had no reason to be. I was not a mom. And at our rate, there was a good chance I might never be.

Mother’s Day can be an especially hard day for the woman who could never conceive, who lost a baby through miscarriage, or who is still awaiting the adoption process. And I personally know why many barren gals play hooky on Mother’s Day: It’s just easier. For me, drawing the curtains, and hiding cuddling with my husband in bed would have been Plan A. (If he wasn’t the worship leader.) But we did go to church. And I’m glad we did, because if we skipped, I wouldn’t be able to know the feeling that can come with it.

Mother’s Day can seem to draw a line in the sand between mothers and non-mothers. Kind of how Valentines Day can feel for the single person. When I was single, I made a point to wear black every V-Day, just to show my angst at the world, and all the lovers out there. (Even though probably no one ever even noticed. Or cared.)

It can feel good to do that. To wear black. But, I want to say: don’t wear black this Mother’s Day. What I mean is, don’t spend it bitter and mourning what you don’t have.  But instead, do this, “…clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Colossians 3:12b (Read that list slowly. Maybe when you get dressed, you will remember to ask God to “clothe” you with each one of these.)

So how can you spend this Mother’s Day?

1. “Rejoice with those who rejoice…” (Romans 12:15a) It would considered socially awkward to cross your arms and let out a loud “Boooo!” during a wedding ceremony (just because you’re still single.) As it would be to sulk in the corner at your friend’s 30th birthday party because they get to open presents, (and you don’t.) But there is more to this scripture than just social etiquette–it’s quite purposeful. When you “rejoice with those who rejoice” it fills you with joy as well. (You get some cake, too.) It truly is fun to celebrate what God has done in someone’s life.

2. “Honor your… [mother]” (Exodus 20:12) Thank God for her. And thank her directly. Make her a card, write her a note, tell her some memory you have you guys together, something that would bless her. And may the childlike excitement you had when you once clambered to your mother’s bedside with a crappy-looking craft in your hand all come rushing back. (If you don’t have a mother, consider thanking, or honoring a “spiritual mother” in your life.)

3. “…And Be Thankful.” (Colossians 3:15) Thank God for what He has given you, who He has given you to love right now. And in His wisdom, who he will give you to love in the future. You are not forgotten.

And then say this: I serve a wise, loving God, who is jealous for all of my heart, all of my attention, and He has sovereignly arranged my life for a unique purpose, whether I understand it or not right now. “The LORD will fulfill His purpose for me,”(Psalm 138:8) and whether my life looks full, or empty, my life will be full of God–and I will rejoice because of the steadfast love He has shown to me!

So, when you see the mother’s glowing around you, perhaps you can have a glow of your own. Indeed, you barren one, can have a ‘Happy Mother’s Day,’ as well.

Can Fear Cause Barrenness?

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Fear has been like a constant shadow in my life. It seems to disappear at times, and reappear in a new guise–kind of like Alfred Hitchcock. Viewers used to make a sport of “catching” him in cameo roles in nearly all his movies.  “There he is boarding a bus!” (Or walking a dog, or sitting at a table in a photograph, or standing in a crowd.) And sometimes, you could only see him by his signature shadow or dark silhouette.

That is how fear has been in my life. Subtly (or not so subtly) appearing in moments of my childhood, teenage years, adulthood, and now motherhood.

For all the joy I felt when I discovered I was pregnant, a greater amount of fear came crashing in with it. For a while, I woke up every morning terrified my baby would die. I thought to truly rejoice would make me vulnerable. Vulnerable to pain. And I feared the more excited I got about this child within, the more devastating the pain would be if something happened to her.

I hate this; how fear is always sneaking into the picture. Always showing up somewhere new to make me a slave again. There’s no other way to describe it. Fear paralyzes me, making me more like a Kohl’s mannequin than a living person. (See how when I was at last physically pregnant, fear was turning me “barren” again?)

Fear Causes Barrenness

Can fear (really) make you barren?

Well, no. Not in a physiological way. (Though people will keep telling you if you “just relax,” you will get pregnant. I wholeheartedly disagree.) A medical study linking especially “fearful” people to being “unable to conceive” has never been proven or even done to my knowledge. Every day, both fearless and fearful women discover they are pregnant. Faithful and faithless. If fear prevented pregnancy, no market would exist for the myriad of contraceptives on every shelf, at every pharmacy across the nation.  The majority of people are fearful; so if that were true, nearly no one would be having babies! We may even go extinct.

But fear does cause barrenness—in another form. Fear causes a barrenness of the soul, which is far worse, because no doctor can give you treatment for it.

Fear is like those little suckers that grow on your tomato plants. They look like growth, but any gardener will tell you to pluck them off immediately(!) because all they do is steal the nutrients from the plant—making it fruitless. And, like fear, they keep popping up in new locations. So you must keep pinching them off, or you plant will never bear fruit.

Jesus said, “… I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last…” John 15:16a

Of course he is not talking about tomatoes. Nor is he talking about having a bunch of kids either. What makes you “fruitful” is abiding in the Vine, remaining connected with Jesus. He says, “Apart from Me, you can do nothing.” So when you disconnect from Christ, and let fear be your new master, it doesn’t matter if you can garden like Martha Stewart, or give birth to the Brady Bunch clan—you will be barren. The fear takes over and make you like a dry bush. You will not be able to see the good, even when it comes. (See Jeremiah 17:6)

Fear always does the same thing: robs you. Depletes you of all your energy. Fills you with constant dread. That dark shadow creeps up again. Maybe it changes from dread about finances, to worry about your parents, to distrust with your spouse, to anxiety over your kids (or not having kids), to being consumed with fear about your health, or being paralyzed about something God is calling you to do. Fear is crippling. And consuming.

Dismissing the Shadow

It seems like fear is always sneaking onto the set wearing some new costume. But we are not fools. We can see the shadow, and know who is casting it. Let me make this plain: Fear does not come from God; fear comes from Satan. In fact, the enemy of our soul delights in making us fearful. But is this how we should live?

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy: 1:7

I remember a phone conversation with a pregnant friend during my pregnancy-fear battle when she said, “I had no idea how much Satan would bombard me with fear once I got pregnant!” She explained how older mom’s say it’s no easier as your child gets older. There is always something to be afraid of. SIDS. Kidnapping. School-shootings. Car wrecks. Every new phase brings on new fear. But then she said something so freeing I will never forget, “That’s why my husband and I decided we have to say ‘No,’ to fear now. Right now. While our child is still in the womb, we are deciding not to let fear rule us. We don’t have any guarantees about our child. We only know he is from God, so we give him back to God and say, “God, he is yours. We offer him to You.”

It was true. Like her, I had no guarantees from God about my child’s life. I have none now. But I have a God who is bigger than my fears. Stronger than my weakness. Aware of all my needs. Faithful in all His promises. And who tells me not to fear. Ever.

Dear brothers and sisters, let today be the day you dismiss the shadow by crying out:

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. For You are with me…” Psalm 23:4

The True Light

We can spend today afraid of what may lurk in the shadows. Or we can invite the Light of the world, and watch the darkness flee away. For, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (1 John 1 :5) We have to choose. If fear makes us barren–then faith in a loving, light-bearing God surely makes us fruitful, alive, even powerful! Let’s abide in His words today, for they are truth and they are light when fear’s dark shadow falls on us:

He says, “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32) “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:27) “Do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9b And, in [My] presence, “sorrow and sighing will flee away.” (Isaiah 51:11) So, “To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One.” (Isaiah 40:25)

So we say in confidence, “Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.” (Psalm 46:2) For, “In Your light we see light.” (Psalm 36:9)

And He says, “Be still and know that I am God, I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psalm 46:10)

So do not be afraid, for “the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining.” (1 John 2:8)

Stop Waiting To Be Happy

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When I was barren, I was constantly waiting to be pregnant. But I was also waiting to be happy. I thought that if God would give me what I desired (a baby!), I would be “complete.” And I would be the happiest girl in the world!

I remember the day I found out I was pregnant, and I was indeed: Happy! I cried and jumped up and down, and blew my nose on my husband’s shoulder. Life was at last good. God was at last good. And I was at last happy. You’d think after that I should have remained the most content person on the planet. But I did not.

I have this problem. It’s a deep problem. Not one that can be solved by a few Pinterest tips, or self-help reads, or swapping my table sugar for organic honey. It’s something dark inside me. Like hunger…but it doesn’t go away with food. Or vanity. Or accomplishment. Or relationships. Or exercise.

I call it want. It’s this thing that lives in me that is always desiring more. That always whispers there is not enough. And this is truly the heart of being barren: emptiness. For so long seeing only the empty in me. Seeing the flaws in others. And seeing God as a withholding God, and not an infinitely giving one. This feeling, this way of seeing your life as “not yet full” is not just for the unable to conceive woman though.

As people, we constantly fantasize about the next “phase” of life–as if it will trump all our prior experiences. I know this because I have done it my whole life so far. Kids can’t wait to be teens. Teens can’t wait till college. College students can’t wait to graduate. Graduates can’t wait to get a job. People with careers can’t wait to retire. (And old people just long to be young again.)  How far does it go? There is something tragic happening here!

No one is enjoying their current phase of life! Everyone wants to be somewhere else, not here. The want is taking over. We are a people who constantly look to the next thing. We want more. Better. Different. Have you ever considered that the phase you are in RIGHT NOW is the best phase simply because it is the phase God has ordained for you right now? If we constantly race ahead to the place we want to be, the goals we want to achieve, we will tragically miss the good going on right now. We will look back on this month, this year, and not remember anything. All we will see is a big blur–jumbled with frantic desires and disappointments.

So just stop. Stop. Right now, and look around you. (Be still, and know that He is God.) What has God already given you? With what responsibilities is He entrusting you right now? Who is in front of you today to love? And then thank Him. Thank Him for every single thing you can about right now. This place. 

I share this only because for way too long I have wanted the next thing. And dear brothers and sisters, I feel it working even now within me. The want. The thing that sucks the joy, and steals it from today.

But when I am thankful–the joy comes rushing back in, like noisy, laughing children stumbling in from outside bringing the smell of summer warmth all around. When I am thankful (even in spite of the mess, and the chaos, and the things I don’t have, or things I haven’t become, or achieved) I am declaring with my heart:

God is Good!

God is Wise!

God is In Control!

God satisfies!

Growing up I always heard church-people saying, “If you are faithful with the small things, God will entrust you with the big things!” So, I always thought this was some kind of transaction, or a stepping stone.”Be a good custodian, and someday you will own the company!” What those people were referring to was to a parable Jesus spoke of in Luke 16:10 and Matthew 25:21, and said, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.” While I do believe this passage is about stewardship, I think there is something more going on here than a promotion at work. The very next line is, “Come share in your Master’s happiness!”  I think what He is saying is–whether you thought I entrusted you with a little or a lot, important, or unimportant–you embraced it with both arms. I am pleased with you because by welcoming what I have sovereignly arranged for you, you have declared me wise, and good, and giving! And indeed I AM! So come share in my happiness!

 

Dear Father,

I declare today that You are good. I rejoice in what You have entrusted to me right now (from the biggest to the smallest task). Before I get to the next “phase” of my life..or if I ever “get there,” I want to worship You. I was made for Your glory and to be happy in You. Open my eyes to Your glory all around me. I want to share in Your happiness. Take my heart full of “want”, and replace it with a heart of deep gratitude. You promise to satisfy the hungry with good things. And for that I praise You. Satisfy me now in all that You are, that my joy may be made full. 

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen

Why Barrenness Is So..(Lonely!)

Unless you are okay with your all your relatives picturing you naked, and in the bedroom, you are probably not going to “announce” to the gang at Thanksgiving dinner, “We’re trying to get pregnant!”

Therefore, aside from your husband and OBGYN…there’s a good chance your circle of trust is pretty small. Let’s face it, the inability to conceive is not something you bring up in the break room at work, or post on your Facebook.

Privacy Please!

In many regards, barrenness remains a personal matter because..it is. And there’s a good chance you feel like, and possibly even are, the only one in your circle of friends who can’t seem to get pregnant.

It’s hard not to get offended when people (like your dentist) ask that awful reoccurring question, “So…when are YOU TWO going to have some kids?” I always responded with a forced smile and mumbled, “I dunno!” (Cue: fake laugh). It was my attempt to suppress my anger from flaring up through my throat and choking that person and screaming, “I’m working on it!! Okay?!” Maybe I was slightly hostile. But I always felt as if some stranger just started rummaging through my underwear drawer and I couldn’t shoo them out fast enough! (Meanwhile, in their minds, they’re just talking about the weather. Eventually, I had to come to grips with the fact that these people (for the most part) mean well, and are just slightly out of touch with your daily/monthly/yearly reality. And that’s okay. People say stuff. Most are innocent.)

Boundaries

There are times when someone (often a family member) will press too far, because they feel like they are entitled to information. Know what you are comfortable with and make boundaries. You don’t have to share more than you want to. It’s okay just to say, “I’d rather not talk about it.” Or, “I’m not really comfortable talking about it.” (Maybe that sounds formal..but it’s better than spilling more than you want. You can say it in a way that is gentle and kind. True friends won’t make you feel guilty about not sharing more.)

On the Flip Side…Some women may feel extremely comfortable telling the clerk at Target or the barista at Starbucks all about her baby-making escapades. If this is you, be sure your spouse feels the same way. (And please reconsider, for their sakes!)

Getting Help and Healing 

In my own experience, the longer barrenness went on, the more people knew about it. The “outsiders” just eventually figured it out after constantly asking us if we wanted kids..and then never seeing that belly pop. And the”insiders”..because we actually started telling them. As the journey waned on, it began to wear on us. And as we were worn down, we became desperate for a few close friends we trusted to water our dry, dying ground of hope. And those were the who people prayed for us, revived us, kept us alive.

Friends

Be sure you and your spouse both feel comfortable about who knows what you’re going through, and how much detail you will share. This is out of basic respect to your husband. (He has feelings too, even if he doesn’t express them the way you do.) Search out friends who will pray with you and for you, and point you to the Lord; opposed to those who are likely to gossip.

My own advice (and this goes for any personal issue) is to share only with people who are a part of your healing process. Ask the Lord to guide you to people who will point you to Him. You may not have anyone like this in your life. Going to counseling is okay too (especially if the issues are “just too personal” to be helped by a friend or relative.) I highly recommend a biblical counselor who actually opens up the Word of God with you, and prays with you.

This Blog

This blog is a great place you are invited to for comfort and support on your journey. I am sharing things with you that no one shared with me–because I simply didn’t have anyone in my life that had ever gone through this! Know you are not alone.

God 

As always, the most important. He is the foundation upon which the rest of your house stands. Go to Him. Let me leave you with a few Scriptures to remind you that He is with you..even when it doesn’t feel like it:

“…He has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5b

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” John 14:18

“For the mountains may depart
and the hills be removed,
but my steadfast love shall not depart from you,
and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,”
says the Lord, who has compassion on you.” Isaiah 54:10

Dear God,

Help this precious daughter to pour out her heart before You. And come swiftly to her. Surround her today with Your presence. Fill her heart with hope. Thank you that if she has been walking alone, she does not have to walk alone anymore. Remove all loneliness and despair and surround her with the sweet fellowship of your Holy Spirit! Reveal to her how intimately involved you are in her life, desiring her deepest good, even through this difficult time. Strengthen her heart now Lord, for You have promised, “I will never leave you, I will never forsake you.” 

In Jesus Name, Amen.