Don’t Throw Yourself Away

“What’s this?” My husband said holding something at the top of the stairs. “Why was it in the trash?”
He walked down the steps holding it in his hand.

It was a picture. Of me, when I was fifteen. I remember it was taken by my friend during a sleep-over at her house. I’m just standing there with my duffle bag over my shoulder. And I have kind of an awkward smile. My clothes don’t fit right. My hair is puffy.

“I hate that picture,” I told him. That was why I threw it away when Selah ran upstairs with it the other day in her hand, when she and her dad were cleaning out the basement.

“No,” he said. “Don’t do that.”

“Do what?” I said.

“You don’t throw pictures of yourself away. We don’t do that. We keep them. These are memories, Bekah. Someday people will want to look back on pictures of us–even if we didn’t like them.”

I never knew he felt this way. Or that he had such great conviction about it. My daughter didn’t see me shove it into the trash.

But he saw it in there, the next day, in the little wastebasket in our bedroom.

And he reached down, and pulled it out.

He pulled me out of the garbage.

And isn’t this just what Jesus does?

We throw ourselves away. We bury ourselves under the garbage. We wish away some of our years. Wishing they never happened. Not even wanting to remember. Who we were, or how we looked then.

We just want to forget.

But He…

He loves us. We are precious to Him. And He carefully reaches into the garbage, and pulls out that picture of us. Looks at it with love. Cherishing the awkward smile, loving the puffy hair. Loving the girl under those ill-fitting clothes. And all the confusion of who we were. And wanted to be.

Holds us against His warm chest. And whispers, so gently, and so firmly, “Don’t do that.”

“Don’t throw yourself away. Not ever.”

The Sacred Art of Remembering

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

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

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

And felt…just that.

Blank.

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

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

“Remember when I healed his brain?”

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

Tears filled my eyes.

I remembered.

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

I wasn’t prepared for what came next.

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

My heart burned. And my hands trembled.

And I opened my journal, and began..

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

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

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

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

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

“Remember when I…”

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

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

All of these specific moments where He came through. 

Where He showed Himself faithful.

Where He showed Himself kind.

Where He showed Himself.

Close. To me.

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

But He did.

And He does.

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

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

“Take a moment…to remember.”

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

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

Remember. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Remember when I…”

Remember. 

Why I Really Need Jesus This Christmas

christmas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ve been thinking about expectation lately.

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

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

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

So I’ve decided to celebrate Advent this year.

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

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

The word “Advent” actually means “coming.”

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

The season of “coming.”

The season of “waiting for His coming.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What if the real preparations happen inwardly?

Maybe I need the light inside me this year?

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

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

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

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

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

And when He comes…

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

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

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

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

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

Emmanuel. God is with us.

His Word says,

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

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

For you.

Jesus is coming.

For you.

The night is long. But…

Your Light is coming.

Yes, He will be here soon.


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

5 Officers Killed In Dallas And Truth For Your Soul

dallas officers

I turned on the TV this morning to find a kid show to watch for my daughter. But I didn’t leave the channel. “CBS Live Report: 5 Officers Shot and Killed in Dallas.”

My heart sunk. My eyes widened and I stared, as the TV showed nightmarish scenes of these brave officers who were led into an ambush, and shot. And killed.

The screen’s red and blue lights shone, and they blurred out the officers dead bodies in between their police cars.

Then the whole screen blurred, with my tears. My heart is grieved over this. Over men trying to protect us. Over men whose lives were stolen away, in a moment. Over their wives, and kids, and friends, whose loved ones were snatched away by wicked people.

“These weren’t like other attacks,” the officer they were interviewing said, “This was a skilled, military-style ambush.”

The female newscaster then said, so accurately, “It seems like every day many Americans wake up, not sure what tragedy they are going to find, that’s even worse than the day before.”

“What do you make of it?” she asked the officer being interviewed.

“Well, to be honest, our culture is changing,” he said, “People are not satisfied with anything any more. They are impatient. Nothing is good enough for anyone. They are more callous and rude. They take matters into their own hands. And with the right kind of weapons they’re very dangerous.”

“It seems that the anger of the American people is at a tipping point,” she said.

“What can law makers do to stop this from happening?”

Law makers??

What can law makers do?!

I wanted to pick my TV off my wall and shake it.

Nothing. 

How I wish “lawmakers” could change it somehow.

The problem isn’t the laws. It’s the people.

There is no law that can stop this. You know why?

The problem is in the heart. 

In all of our hearts.

 

And that’s the truth that our culture refuses to hear.

Our culture: that believes we are all right in our own eyes. 

And we preach tolerance–because everyone is okay.”

No. I’m sick of it.

We are not okay.

I am ready to scream from the rooftops,

“We are not okay! Look around! We are not okay!”

Let God be true and every man a liar.

The words the officer said began to ring louder and louder in my ears.

“Our culture is changing.

People are angry.

No one is satisfied. 

We’re getting worse.

People are more rude than before.”

And just like that the Holy Spirit reminded me of a passage in Scripture, where God utters these very words. It’s in 2 Timothy 3:1-5:

 

“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!” 2 Timothy 3:1-5

Is this not our culture? The description here could not be more accurate.

I don’t say this as an innocent person. I say this as a sinner. Who is guilty of most of what is on this list. We all are.

But I don’t share this to shame you. I say this to encourage your spirit.

When you see what’s happening on TV, and all around you–you need something solid to stand on.

You need to find comfort. And it’s found not in how many weapons you have, so you can hunker down and build a bunker for when it all goes down.

It simply comes down to one weapon. 

You either have it, or you don’t.

But you sure as hell, better get it. Because when hell breaks loose–you are going to need it. 

Here is the weapon: the Sword of the Spirit.

God’s Word.

You can laugh. You can mock it.

But you can’t live without it. 

Hell is coming for you. Whether it’s through the hands of terrorists…or simply through the selfish desires in your own soul, that make you want to love pleasure more than God.

Do you have a weapon?

Do you know how to wield it?

You need to learn. I need to learn. 

Today, drop what you are doing. Get your sword out. Open God’s Word. And if you don’t understand it, learn from someone skilled in it. As if your life depended on it.

Because it does. 

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12

That passage in 2 Timothy, the one that says how our culture is going from bad to worse–there is an encouragement there for believers. Here is what it says,

“But evil men and imposters will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” 2 Timothy 3:13-15

It’s not a joke. The thing we are told to stand on is: God’s Word.

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16

You wan to be equipped for every good work?

I don’t care how Sunday School-ish it sounds: read God’s Word. 

Devour it. Hide it away in your heart. Soak in it. Let it penetrate your soul.

And live it.

It’s the only way.

We are a people, who are not okay. 

Every. Day. We need reproof, correction, instruction in righteousness. So that we may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

I don’t know what bombs or bullets may come against me.

But we aren’t warned in God’s word about bombs and bullets. We are warned about “principalities, against powers, against rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12-13

Maybe I will get shot in a movie theater. Or maybe I will be the victim in some terrorist invasion. Who knows? The way our culture is going, the odds are going up every day. But however I die–is not up to me. It’s up to God.

But how I live–that is up to me.

Every day it’s up to me.

And I live in a culture that is slowly, or quickly, killing itself. People have no hope, no God, and desire pleasure, always, more than God. And it pulls me down with it. Every day is like trying to crawl out of quicksand. But we are not called to simply try to “survive.” We are called to so much more in Jesus Christ. We are called to stand up. To play a part in Jesus’s rescue mission in this world. Because our lives are not about us, they are about Him.

Our lives are not about bunkering down in our little kingdoms, they are about wildly advancing His Kingdom. 

They are about letting Heaven invade earth. 

So, we don’t have to hide, we have to stand. We have to stand and not deny God’s power. 

“Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints…” Ephesians 6:14-18

It’s not that our world has too many weapons. It’s that we don’t have the right kind of weapons. 

Without the weapons of the  Spirit–we fight this battle like a naked man. 

“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” Ephesians 6:10

 

 

Put your armor on. And do not deny His power.

We don’t need more lawmakers.

We need Jesus. We need heaven to invade earth.

For His is the Kingdom,

the power, and the glory, forever and ever.

Amen.

Photo credit: CNN.com

To the Mama Fleeing Terror Tonight

mama

We were sleeping over at my parents. All three of us in the little guest room. My husband and I were in the full-size bed, and my daughter, age 3, was in the Pack n’ Play close beside.

I woke up to her crying in her sleep. I reached down and rubbed her back, hoping she wouldn’t wake the whole house, until she fell back asleep.

But a few hours later, she was crying again. Frustrated, I tried to quiet her. But this time when I reached down to touch her, I felt she was wet.

Soaked really.

I felt around, and realized: she had wet the bed. And it must have been hours ago–because it was cold.

“Oh, baby, come here,” I whispered in the dark.

I lifted her out, she wimpered. I laid her down on our bed. Peeled her wet underwear off from her body. And went to the hall closet to grab towels.

I dried her off. Found some clean, dry Minnie-Mouse underwear in her bag. And laid her on a towel between Brandon and I.

She fell instantly to sleep.

And after I did my best (3:30 A.M.) job of cleaning up the Pack n’ Play, and carrying all the pee-soaked blankets, towels, and undies to the wash–I finally crawled back in beside her.

As I lay there, all three of us cramped in this little bed–my mind began to wander. I’m not even sure why, but I began to think of  the mamas in the world fleeing terror tonight.

Just two summers ago, I wrote a post about Christians fleeing from ISIS in the Middle East. The husbands and children were being beheaded in parks. The wives and daughters were being raped and murdered.

And I remember how my heart wrenched each time I thought about their reality.

And what happened? Do I think it just stopped? Do I think it’s all better now?

Just because I don’t hear about it on the news, or see it on TV doesn’t mean this horrific reality of my sisters in Christ across the ocean has gone away.

Just because all my T.V. shows me is stupid clips of Donald Trump, and the Cavs winning the Finals, and the World Cup, and a thousand other forms of entertainment–doesn’t mean that my sisters across the ocean are suddenly okay.

It just means no one is talking about them.

But just lean in for one moment with me. And remember the least of these that no one is talking about…

Our sisters across the ocean, are running for their lives tonight.

Their homes have been invaded and destroyed.

Their husbands have been killed.

Don’t just think of the masses. Picture one woman.

Picture her olive skin. Her dark hair. Her deep brown eyes.

And her babies are hungry, and there is no consoling them.

She doesn’t have the luxury of scrolling Pinterest, and pinning ideas for DIY projects in her home. She has no home. She has no nursery for her babies. She is running every day, from place to place.

She doesn’t have the stress of a busy summer schedule, or checking things off a fun bucket list, or packing for vacation. She is living on the run–to survive.

She isn’t worried about her clothes being trendy–all she has is the clothes on her back.

She doesn’t complain about making a meal plan or grocery shopping–how she would love that luxury! She is thankful to even find any food at all. Any clean water, that will sustain her and her babies another day.

And when her child wets the bed in the night–she has no clean, dry clothes to put her in. She has no linen closet full of white, fluffy towels.

She has nothing.

She peels off the wet underwear, and hangs them to dry. She takes off her own clothes to wrap her child in. And waits for morning to come.

To the Mama Fleeing Terror Tonight,

I never think about you. But tonight when my daughter woke up soaked in pee, I did think about you.

I thought about you tonight, as I lay next to her, until a hot tear rolled into my pillow.

I thought about you as I looked over and saw my daughter and husband, sweetly sleeping in safety. Without threats, or danger, or gunshots, or bombs in the distance.

Where are you tonight?

And what are feeling right now?

I just want you to know, I’m sorry.

I’m sorry I forget about you.

I’m sorry that I don’t pray for you, or even think of you.

I’m sorry that I complain. In all my luxury, I complain. And grumble. When my internet doesn’t work. And when I have to grocery shop. And when I say, “I have nothing to wear.” I speak like a fool when I say that.

I know this isn’t much.

But here in America, I am dreaming of you tonight.

Because you are one of “the least of these,” that Jesus loved so dearly.

I wish you were here. That I could share my clothes, and my blankets, and my house, and my food. I wish I could wash your little girls pee-soaked underwear for you. And you dry clean clothes for her.

But I can’t.

But this is what I can do:

I can remember you.

I can pray for you.

I don’t know your name tonight, but God does. And He sees you running.

And I can ask Him, to show me, and convict me, and lead me in real, practical ways–that one day I can help you.

And something else I can do.

I can stop complaining and acting like I deserve all the luxuries I have. And next time I want to complain about something so “First World”, even as the words form in my mouth–may the Holy Spirit convict me, and remind me of you.

May all my foolish grumbling, over Pinterest, and Target, and H&M, be replaced with prayers for you, in your suffering, my sweet sister in Christ.

My sister, I love you tonight. Here in my safe bed.

I am praying for you. I have to believe that it effects you somehow. That it protects your babies. And helps you sleep tonight.

I don’t know if I will ever be in your shoes. But I hope if I ever am. That my sisters across the ocean, will think of me. And pray for me. And my babies.

After all, this is what God tells us to do.

“Resist him, [the devil] standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” 1 Peter 5:9

We are called to pray for each other.

Your language my be different than mine. Your skin may be different than mine.

But we have the same blood.

The precious blood of Jesus Christ, that cleanses us from all unrighteousness. That washes us. Restores us. And makes us whole.

And one day, we will sit down together at the Wedding Supper of the Lamb. As true sisters.

I am praying the angels surround you tonight. And the Spirit comes and speaks into your ears, all the words you need to hear. Because you are a beautiful, precious jewel.

You don’t deserve to live in a dump, you deserve a palace, and right now, at this moment, Jesus is preparing one for you.

You don’t deserve to wear stiff, dirty, thread-bare clothes–and one day Jesus will clothe you in robes of white.

You don’t deserve not to shower or bathe–but one day Jesus will wash you, and cleanse you, and heal you.

And on that day, when you finally get to go “home,” the real “home” you have longed for so badly and with tears, Jesus will bind up your every wound, and kiss away every tear. Until the memory of anything painful, is completely vanished.

And His face will shine like the sun. And never will you see anything so bright, or feel anything so warm–as His face smiling into yours.

And for every painful tear, will flow a thousand happy ones.

That’s where I will find you.

In the place of His rescue.

But until then, stay strong sister. Do not lose heart. Do not lose hope.

For “the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 5:10-11