The Day She Stopped Hearing His Lies

  
It was just an ordinary day, she stood in the kitchen, at the sink…when he came in. The Voice of Despair. She didn’t notice at first, but soon could feel his darkness enter the room. It started with a thought, as small as a seed, he planted in her mind. And the seed took root into fear. Vivid pictures flashed through her mind, her worst nightmares playing like movie screens. It wasn’t even 8 a.m. yet, and she already felt it. The panic. The despair. The horrible feeling that things would never, could never…change. Her hope had already fallen down around her ankles. 

It was like she couldn’t take her mind off it. The fear. It just kept playing in her head over and over–like she was strapped in a chair of the movie theater. These awful images. Some real, some imagined. He kept taunting and tormenting, “You know it will never change,” he said. She tried to shake her head. “You know I will always be able to find you here.” She began to hang her head in defeat. “I know your weakness. I know I can always paralyze you…with this, however far you go, however high you climb, however much you heal…I know how to get to you. Sorry, darling, you’re mine.” 

She squinted her eyes closed, as the theater played on, trying hard not to watch, her chin tucked to her chest. And as the tears streamed down, and the mascara ran, she suddenly thought of Him: Jesus. The One who could rescue her. The dark voice tried to shake her, “Stay with me, I’m talking to you!” He threatened. “If you don’t listen to me, I will make sure it happens! Your nightmares–I’ll make them come true if you ignore me! You know if you don’t contemplate your fears–they will happen. And you won’t even see it coming. You won’t be prepared for them when they do!”

But the more she thought of Jesus, the more the dark voice began to fade into the background, and the more her strength began to return to her. She thought only of Jesus riding on His white horse, His fire in His eyes, His sword at His side, her name on His lips. The taunting continued. “No!” she said to the dark voice, “This won’t work on me anymore.” He started to laugh, a deep, terrible, patronizing laugh. “I don’t belong to you,” she said in a firm quiet voice. The dark voice continued, “I think you and I both know about the past…why would the future be any…”

But something changed in her, right then, in that moment. Because she started singing. She started singing so loud in worship to the One who would save her that she could no longer hear the taunting voice, the torment, the pain. Because she was singing too loud. She was singing so loud, and worshiping so passionately, so desperately–she drowned out every other sound. The darkness spoke on, but she could no longer hear it.  

And when she opened her eyes, those horrible, taunting images were no longer on the movie screens. They had all gone white. And now instead, they showed: the One who would rescue her. The One who would shout in the end, when at last He saw her, “Mine! Mine! Mine! This one is mine!” The One who would take her to the place where there would be no more sickness, and pain, and sin. No more heartache, and taunting fears, and betrayal, and wounds. No more perversity or darkness. But all would be right and new and holy. And this place would be the place she had been longing to go her entire life, but didn’t know it. And this place was Home. 

And there He, her Savior, would wash her with His blood, and cleanse her with pure water, and clothe her with His righteousness. And then He would sit with her, for a very long time, and with a slow and gentle hand, brush away every single tear from her eyes that she ever cried. And kiss away her pain. He would become the balm for every wound. And she would fall at His feet in worship. And she would cry out, “Worthy!” She would cry out, “Jesus!” as hot and happy tears fall. “You are so much better than they said you’d be!” And she would cry, “You are worth it! You were so worth it! You were worth every hardship I endured! You were worth every heartache I lived through. And just to see Your face is enough. Just to feel your touch has healed every wound a thousand times over, so I am like new, I’m like a child. And just to feel your embrace, and at last, to hear your laugh. You’re real, actual laugh, has reached down and warmed and thawed every part of my heart, for there is no one like You. In all the earth. And for every tear of pain I cried on earth, now flow a thousand happy tears. And laughter. For You are the Beauty I always longed for, the Voice that was always calling, the One whom I have hungered and thirsted after, and I did not know you loved me…like this.” 

Dear Daughters (& Sons) of God,

It’s time to push back the darkness. We were not meant to live bound, but free. And we were not given a spirit of fear. But a spirit of love, and of power, and of a sound mind. (2 Tim. 1:7) It is so easy to tremble at the darkness. It is easy to let it’s whispers take us over. It is easy to let our minds spiral down. For anxiety to come. For panic to ensue. But we were made for more.

Chances are you know by now, what Satan whispers that disarms you every time. What he says that torments your mind, and destroys your peace. But whatever that fear, however heinous or grievous, I want to tell you something: Jesus isn’t afraid of it. 

Not at all. Not even a little bit. He’s not in heaven wringing his hands, or furrowing His brow thinking, “I hope that never happens!” Because nothing happens without His permission. And nothing happens that is not for His greatest glory, and our greatest joy. And He’s got you. 

Right now, today, at this moment, the God of the universe is at total peace. Do you know why? Because He is in charge. He calls the shots. He holds the power. He holds the power to life and to death—and nothing, I mean NOTHING, can separate us from Him, and His love. (Romans 8:38-39)

Let today be the day that His perfect love CASTS OUT your fear. (1 John 4:18) Whatever it is. However big, or monstrous. Let today be the day you STOP LISTENING to Satan’s lies. Because that’s what they are, lies. He wants to steal your peace, and destroy your hope.

But I am here to tell you: Jesus Christ is your hope. You have hope and He is alive, He is powerful, He is coming, and He is a force that cannot be reckoned with. 

So trust Him.

Let His Word, and His promises play on the screens of your mind. Only think about “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable.” (Phil. 4:8) And sing to Him, worship Him, not just for what He has done, but for what He is going to do. Because you can’t hear the lies if you’re singing too loud, and you can’t feel the torment if you are lost in the joy of His Presence. 

I believe that someone reading this has forgotten they have hope. Someone feels afraid. Terrified even. Paralyzed by the same fear, again and again. Who feels like things will never change. Like God cannot push through. Like God is able to redeem every situation…except theirs. 

I want you to know: you have hope. He is coming to redeem your situation. You have the Light of the World fighting for you. And the battle isn’t over yet. Satan will be defeated underneath your feet. 

We have the power to decide what plays on the movie theaters of our minds, because we have the power to “Destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5

As John Piper says, we need to “sever the root of sin’s promise, by the power of a superior promise.” And that promise is the promise of the Living God. Who fights for us. Who lives in us. Who gives us peace. Who overcomes the world. And every stronghold. And every temptation. So that in the end you can say, “But He knows the way that I take; when He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold. My foot has held fast to His steps; I have kept His way and have not turned aside.” Job 23:10-11 

Because the power of God is greater than the power of sin. And He trembles at nothing. He only ever triumphs. “Having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” Colossians 2:15

He is coming to rescue you. He is coming to drench you with His grace like a summer downpour. He is coming to plunge you into His oceans of mercy. He is coming to silence those whispers. He is coming like a tiny spark in the darkness, growing steadier and brighter, like the breaking forth of dawn, who is coming to save you with the armies of Heaven riding behind Him. And nothing in all creation will stop Him. 

That Moment You Decide You Want to be a Mom

That moment mom

I was terrified of getting pregnant too soon. I heard horror stories of honeymoon babies. And I made sure we would not let that happen. We needed a few years to build our relationship. To grow as a couple. Just. As. A. Couple. Plus, I wanted my body to be remotely attractive for a couple more years. From the sounds of it…pregnancy was the beginning of the end. Of your body. Of your sanity. Of yourself.
But you know that moment, when you decide you want to be a mom? Maybe it happens slowly, or all at once. Either way, it just happens.

You don’t always see it coming.

I remember when it happened for me. It was after a ten-day-long babysitting stint for our three nieces while their mom and dad were on an out-of-the-country trip.

“Are they sure they want us to watch them?” I asked my husband before the girls arrived. We lived in a tiny upstairs apartment, full of breakable glass things that only newly-weds would decorate with. Nothing was for kids. Our kitchen table was one of those tall ones with metal swivel stools. We had not one plastic cup in the whole house. And the closest thing to a “toy” we owned, was a big exercise ball. Poor girls. 

I remember stashing our freezer with dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets and Popsicles, and furiously taking down notes as I drilled their mother with questions over the phone about how much formula, and what baby food went with what, and allergies, and car seats, and any “worst-case-scenario” I could come up with.

Our friends kept joking that this would be good “birth control” for us. “Yeah, after this, you guys won’t want kids for years!” They said.

But somehow, a week full of car seats, and bed time stories, and outings to the zoo…actually did the opposite.
Our house was wrecked, we were in high-gear-stress-mode just making sure we kept everyone alive, and we all went to bed dog-tired every night. And…

We loved it.

During our ride home from the zoo, I remember suddenly hearing a sound I hadn’t heard all week: silence. I peered back and found all three girls conked out in their car seats in the backseat. And then my husband and I broke out into this crazy spontaneous “silent cheer” like we just won “The Price is Right.” (As if we actually did something to make them all nap at the same time.) But as we drove we couldn’t help peeking back at them sleeping sweetly. And we couldn’t help smiling at each other. As we rode in the warm breezy silence, our hands found each other and clasped.

It happened so subtly, this knot loosening in my heart. Beginning to come undone in the quiet moments, as I held their toddler hands, and rocked their little, sleepy bodies, and opened up bedtime stories, and covered their bare summer skin with the softest blankets I could find. Sometimes, in those moments, I’d catch my husbands gaze on me. His smiling eyes, that would say without any words at all, “You’d be good at this.”

You were made for this.

This moment suddenly comes when you just know you want to be a mom. You want to start the adventure. You want to take care of, and think about, and love someone else beyond yourself. You want to have a child. To love a child.

I want to be a mom. 

It’s not often spoken out loud. It’s more a whisper of the heart. A daydream. A wooing. Calling you somewhere wild you have never been. A place you’ve always been afraid of, but now you want to go.

Just like when you were a kid and that big roller coaster you were always terrified of riding, begins calling you. You suddenly see it in a way you never have. What once looked like terror, now looks like a wild adventure. Like the best thing you could ever think of doing. To get on. To let go. Not knowing what it will feel like…

Just knowing it’s right. 

It’s like the opening of a door. A door that has never been opened before. A door in your heart. It’s opening wide your arms to the undoing, to the surrender of love, the laying down of self, to love someone smaller, and weaker, and a thousand times more needy, than you.
It’s the beginning of losing yourself.

And the beginning of finding yourself.

All at once.

I used to fear it so much. The undoing. The undoing of my dreams, of my plans, of our marriage. I feared the surrender of my mind, my body, my appearance. I wanted to fiercely guard it all. I wanted us to live on our little island for two for a very long time, where we could talk late into the night, and sleep in on Saturdays, and make love freely. Without interrupting cries. Without interrupting chaos.

I wanted to keep us frozen in time like those two people in our wedding photos. Tanned, and toned, and smooth. And, I wanted it to stay warm, and easy, like in the picture, there on the beach, with our hands clasped forever. No little ones prying them apart.

But I said “yes” to the undoing.

I didn’t know what it meant, or where it would lead. I just knew it was right. I didn’t know it would mean infertility, and waiting, and wrestling with God.
I just knew it was right.

To try.

And you can’t always know what will happen next. It’s just reaching a trembling hand on a door you have never tried before, and seeing where it will lead. Seeing where God will lead.

It may mean joyful celebration of a life in your womb, and new baby in nine months. It may mean doctor visits, and questions you thought you’d never have to ask. It may mean miscarriage. It may mean long nights in the NICU, roaming the hospital halls. It may mean a rescue mission of adoption for kids from an orphanage across the ocean. It may mean a rescue mission for kids across your state. You can’t know what it will mean, but it’s still the beginning of something. 

I believe Motherhood begins, not only in your womb. But long before, in your heart. In that first fragile moment you realize you want to be a mom. The moment that door, that was bolted shut for so long, quietly creaks open. And the wind blows in and a whisper, you hear from the Spirit, echo the words of Jesus,
“Let 
       the 
            little 
                  children 
                          come.”
For the opening of that door…is opening of your heart. To the possibility of life. To the surrender. To the beauty. To the undoing.

And in the undoing of your life, your plans, and your dreams—is also the undoing of your heart. And the undoing of your chains. And in the undoing, you are set free. From yourself. And in the undoing, you find Him doing more than you ever asked, or dreamed, or imagined He could.

Because sometimes it turns out, that the thing you feared the most, is the thing that you love the most. And the thing that you were made to do. 

It’s becoming wild. Not wild as in rebellious, but wild as in untamed, and natural like a wild flower. Not seeking attention, and yet blooming with beauty, before the eyes of God and no one else in secret and remote places. Motherhood is like this.

Because there are different kinds of beauty. There’s the beauty you tried to achieve when you got ready for the high school prom, when you wore your hair in this giant intricate up-do. All pinned up and perfect. With lots of hairspray. And all your friends kept telling you how beautiful you looked. And you kept checking your compact mirror to see if it was true.

And then there’s the kind of beauty you just know is true, and you don’t need a mirror to prove it. This beauty you just kind of surrender to in motherhood.  Where these gentle hands begin to slowly pull out all the bobby pins, pin by pin. And you feel the soft tendrils of of hair start to fall, slowly across your back. Piece by piece. And you just stand there, like you did on your wedding night, when you are finally out of your dress, all undone, and wild, and beautiful.

And free.

This is the undoing.The place this other kind of beauty begins to awake for the first time.

And it all begins that first fragile moment you decide: I want to be a mom.

And then it keeps happening. It happens the first time you hear a heartbeat. And you cry. It happens when your belly starts to take shape. It happens when you meet your adoptive child for the first time, and know at once they are yours. It happens the moment you first touch your baby, and an avalanche of love gives way in your heart. It happens in the first moments of just gazing at their beauty while they sleep. It happens as you slow dance to lullabies in the dark each night. It happens as you collapse into your bed exhausted. It happens as you fill your days with Play-dough and tea-parties, and your big, important agenda gets scribbled over in Crayola crayons. And somehow, you wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Somehow you cry harder than before, but you also laugh harder than before. Because you see, the best moments in life are not the ones of pinned up perfection, but the ones where all you can say is, “Woe is me, for I am undone!…For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” Isaiah 6:5

Contact Info


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

Email: barrentobeautifulblog@gmail.com

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

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

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

Much love,

Rebekah

barrentobeautifulblog@gmail.com

http://www.facebook.com/barrentobeautiful

When the Barren Sing

girl silloutte

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

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

For Expectant Mothers ONLY.

Who knew a parking lot could be so cruel?

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

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

For women with something to expect.

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

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

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

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

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

You have Someone to expect.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And they are:

1. Because you will not be ashamed.

2. You will not be disgraced.

3. You will forget the shame of your youth.

4. My kindness will not depart from you.

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

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

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

Now that is something to expect.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So sing. 

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

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

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

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

When God Feels Far

girl alone

“Do you really want…Me?”

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

“Do you really want Me?”

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

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

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

Just kind of pushing through.

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

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

He speaks, you know.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You can find Me, if you want to,

In our secret place.

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

in our secret place.

Do you remember, when You loved Me,

in our secret place?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, God, come and break me again.

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

He longs to be gracious to you.

And rises to show you compassion.

So, come closer.

When Your “Easter Best” Looks Pretty Bad

bedhead

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

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

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

This is so fun.

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

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

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

bad hair day

Need I say more?

Yikes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Prayer for the Longing Heart

 

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

And make it known.

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

What do you want to speak?

What do you want me to hear?

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

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

And so are you. 

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

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

to you.

When Waiting Weakens You

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will Spring ever come?

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

“O you afflicted one, 

Tossed with tempest and not comforted,

Behold, I will lay your stones with colorful gems,

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

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

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

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

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

“The LORD God is my strength;

He will make my feet like deer’s feet,

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

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

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

will never be put to shame. 

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

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

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St. Patrick’s Day is for Sinners

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t we all?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Come, walk among us.”

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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