At This Time Last Year…

At this time last year, I had no idea.

At this time last year, I was washing crib sheets in Dreft for a foster-baby we were making room for. For a foster-baby we were prepping our home for. Our daughter for. Our hearts for.

I was having my husband set up the crib. We were just about done turning the guest room into a nursery.

At this time last year, I was praying for a baby I never met. And I saw the words over the crib as I prayed for him or her, “Precious One.”

I didn’t know who the “Precious One” was, just that whoever would fill that crib–would be precious to us. And precious to God. And I wanted to speak that over this abandoned, neglected foster-baby.

Precious One. 

At this time last year, we were just days away from getting our Foster Parent certification. We only had one day of training left…

When my husband came home with a pregnancy test. And I rolled my eyes at him.

At this time last year, I had no idea. God was working a masterpiece in the darkness. In the shadows of the unknown.

Inside me. 

At this time last year, I didn’t know the “Precious One” would be my very own son. 

But he was.

And God knew all along.

He knew all along who this nursery was being prepared for.

We didn’t. We just prepared it–trusting God would fill it with whomever He wanted to fill it.

And He did. 

 

I had no idea a miracle was right around the corner.

But it was. 

I write this for the Barren.

Not to cause you pain–or heartache. Not to remind you of a longing not yet filled.

But to remind you of something—God knows what He’s doing.

You (and me) we don’t always know what we’re doing, but God always knows what He’s doing.

You might not know where you’re going–but God does. 

You might not understand the timing–but God does. 

You might not know what’s taking so long–but God does. 

Because He’s forming a masterpiece in the darkness. 

I don’t know His plan for you. If you will have a child through your womb, or through another way. Or, at all.

But just because you don’t know something is coming, doesn’t mean it’s not coming.

And just because you can’t see Him working, doesn’t mean He’s not working.

Faith is trusting Him even when you don’t know what He’s doing.

And I am convinced He is always doing more than we could imagine or understand. In the darkness of the unknown. 

So don’t lose heart. 

Because David wrote,

“If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.” (Psalm 139:11-12)

Even the darkness is not dark to Him. 

And what does it say next?

It speaks of the womb. 

“For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.” Psalm 139:13-16

He works in secret. 

And His works are wonderful

My soul knows it very well. 

I am praying for you tonight. That you would not be overwhelmed by the darkness of the unknown. At this time last year, I had no idea. And at this time this year, maybe you have no idea. What He’s doing. But don’t be afraid of the dark. Because though it may look dark to you, and the night seems to cover you. Remember this,

The darkness is not dark to Him. 

It shines as bright as day. 

 

Redeeming Valentine’s Day: There’s Only One Shade of White

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Thousands will flock to theaters this weekend to watch the pornographic book-turned-movie Fifty Shades of Grey. And while news-feeds of both Christians and atheists light up with blog posts and articles written by lovers and haters of this movie and book series, it’s begging one big question: What is this all about?

Well, I’m not here to answer that question. (And in fact, I actually advise you not to dig too deep. “Curiosity” is what’s been drawing the masses to it, and keeping them there. “Curiosity” is also what introduces and entices people to porn. There’s a reason we’re warned to “not even speak of what the disobedient do in secret.” Ephesians 5:12)

But while I hate everything this movie stands for, the bigger question stirring in my heart is: What do I do about it?

Of course there are the faithful few who will be picketing at the movie theater. But will that really be changing anyone’s heart?

And then there are the thousands who send out social media “slams” to convict the ungodly. (Too bad, the target audience won’t be reading these.)

So what can I do that will be effective in a world that loves perverted sex?
I found two things.

1. Realize that this battle against lust starts in my own heart and marriage. (Not in shaming the masses.) Ask questions like: Am I aroused by the idea of anyone other than my spouse? And, do I want to hold anyone else’s affection or gaze other than that of my spouse? Is my marriage bed pure? Are my thoughts, and imaginations, and fantasies…all pure?

2. Realize that our nation, and much of the church is in bondage to lust and sexual sin. (And that I need to be filled with compassion, and a willingness and urgency to learn how to minister in these areas with individual people that I am in relationship with.)

God has made us to be incredibly sexual beings. And at the same time, He designed marriage as the platform for that sexuality and pleasure to be enjoyed with our spouses. “For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor…” 1 Thessalonians 4:3-4

So my first fight against the release of Fifty Shades of Grey is not to shake people by the collar going into the theater and ask, “What the hell are you thinking?!” But to simply kneel by my bedside and say, “God, search me, search me, and show me if there is any offensive way in me. I want to be pure in Your eyes.”

Because there is only one shade of white. And it comes only through the precious blood of Jesus Christ. See, it doesn’t matter what shade of grey you are. We are all stained the deepest black apart from Him. We are all desperately wicked at our core. None of us are pure, even the best of us, is like filthy rags. Whether we are addicted to porn, or tangled in an affair, or we hide something in our closet, or on our iPhone, or we are the best, most devout Christians. We all desperately need Jesus.

And Jesus came to rescue us out of the grey, out of the bondage of sin and death. Because sin leads us to the grave. And only to the grave. You want to learn more about “bondage?” Only learn that we are all in bondage apart from Him. And He has come to set captives free, to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.

There is only one shade of white: Jesus Christ. And He “is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5) The more I see Him, the more I want Him. So let us throw off the sin that so easily entangles, and run to Him.

Next, I look at my marriage, and realize that it is part of God’s design and will and passion. The way I speak to my husband, the way I touch him, and think about him, and speak about him, is of utmost importance to God. And the same for how my husband acts, and speaks, and with towards me. Marriage is a picture of Christ and the Church. And Christ never quits on His Bride.

The way we live out our marriages speaks louder to our world than any picket sign or blog post.

You don’t like Fifty Shades? You don’t like the billion dollar porn industry? You don’t like that another one of your friends is getting divorced? Then tonight, go home and look your spouse square in the eye and tell him, “I love you. I am for you. And there is nothing in this world I want more than to love you the way God has called me to. I am committed to walk with you through the deepest valleys, and the hottest fire, and I am never quitting. You are mine, I am yours, and we are God’s. There is no one else on this earth for me. And I will do whatever it takes to make this marriage work.”

And confess. Confess if you have been lusting after someone else or something else. Confess if you have had a bitter heart. Confess if you’ve been disrespectful. Confess if you haven’t been listening well. Confess if you’ve treated your spouse like a little kid. Confess if you’ve been dishonest. Because, “The one who conceals his sin will not prosper, but the the one who confesses and forsakes it finds mercy.” Proverbs 28:13 So, step into the light.

And if God exposes something, be willing to ride out long times of darkness in your marriage. Because Jesus restores shattered marriages. And He restores shattered people. He is so serious about this.

For an excellent resource for husband and wives involved in sexual sin check out Setting Captives Free. (And check out courses A Way of Purity and A United Front.)

Marriage is so important. And that’s actually what Valentine’s Day is all about. The man this holiday was named after was actually beheaded because he believed in marriage. In a time when Christian marriage was banned for the sake of military service in Rome, Valentine would wed Christian couples in secret. And that “red heart” for Valentine’s Day was originally meant to commemorate his martyrdom. (Red as in blood. As in he would rather be imprisoned and have his head cut off and let the blood pour out, than see an end to Christian marriage, or let it be perverted.)

I hope to feel as strongly about marriage as Valentine did. Because we too live in a time when there is little or no value put on Christian marriage. We live in a time when people need to hear, and see that we believe like Valentine, with sweat, and tears, and blood, that marriage is pure and precious in the eyes of God.

It’s time to redeem Valentine’s Day. To celebrate the love, and the purity, the marriage He has called us to. And that includes passionate love-making. With our spouses. Because what God has called us to is better and more satisfying than all the whispers of darkness.

Our world loves every color of darkness. And every shade of grey. But we have been called to be washed, to be cleansed, in the saving blood of Jesus Christ.

For only He can make us white.

Singing In The Dark: Worship When It Hurts

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

Sin and death.

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

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

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

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

Like he would always win.

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

                                                            God, why?

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

When tears run dry, and strength wears thin,

No hope of going on again,

When hands are fragile, thin, and weak,

No words are left to even speak?

There are nights in this life that are simply dark.

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

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

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

To sing.

The words were choked out, and awkward.

But true.

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

I sing, because You are good

I dance, because You are good

I shout, because You are good

You are good to me

 

And in my darkest night,

You shine as bright as day

Your love amazes me

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

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

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

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

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

And we will sing a new song that day,

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

So,

Sing, Daughter of Zion.

Sing, because of Your God.

Sing,

Even in the dark.

For your Light is coming.

Soon.