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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This Ugly House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hallelujah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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