It’s Not Your Fault He’s Not A Dad

You saw the way he was beaming at her–as she carried his baby carefully against her chest. She didn’t even catch his glance, her husband’s proud gaze. But you did.

And something shifted in your heart.

And you wish you could give this gift to your husband. The gift of children.

The gift of being a dad.

Because you’ve seen the way he makes kids laugh. You’ve seen the the boyish grin on his face, and the delight in his eyes.

And you know, he’d be good at it.

But there’s a chasm. It feels as wide as the ocean. Between what you want to give him–and what you can give him.

You wish you could give him the world.

Or just, one child.

“He deserves to be a dad,” your heart whispers.

“If it wasn’t for me..”

“If he had married someone else…”

“If my body could carry a child…”

“If I were different…”

Maybe he would be a dad.

Oh, sweet sister. These whispers are not from God. They are not from the Holy One. Who formed you and created you in your mother’s womb.

These whispers are from Satan.

Know this.

It’s not your fault he’s not a dad. 

It’s not. Okay?

You can’t give your husband children. 

Do you know why? Because…

Only God can. 

The pressure is not on you sweet girl. It is not your burden to carry.

It never was.

God is the giver of life.

He gives life.

“The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it.

The world and all its people belong to him.

For he laid the earth’s foundation on the seas

and built it on the ocean depths.” Psalm 24:1-2 NLT

Your friend with the kids–she didn’t give those kids to her husband.

God did.

No one has the power to give children anyone. We are not given this ability.

Every baby born is only born because God has created this life. And anyone who has the incredible gift of children, the incredible gift of being a mom, or a dad, is only because God has given it.

I know, because I have been there. Where you are. I have cried into my husband’s chest. I have said those words through tears, “I’m sorry I can’t give you children.”

But I see now, that I never could.

Today, we have two beautiful children. Selah, who is 4, and Jesse, who is 6 months. They are precious, precious gifts. And my husband is a tremendous father today.

But I didn’t give him those babies.

God did.

He is the Giver. The only one.

“Children are a gift from the Lord;
    they are a reward from him.” Psalm 127:3 (NLT)

So look to Him. And cry out to Him. And wait on Him.

And as you wait, dear one, don’t apologize to your husband for something that isn’t your fault. Because it isn’t.

The pressure is not on you. This is not your burden to carry. Nor your husband’s.

It’s God’s. He is the burden-bearer.

And He is the giver of life. The only one.

“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.

The world and all it’s people belong to Him. ” Psalm 24:1

Even you. And even him. 

Gloria’s Testimony

As a little girl, I always knew when I grew up I wanted a big family. As I got older, I feared I wouldn’t have one! I got married at the young age of nineteen to my high-school sweetheart. After almost two years of marriage, we decided to start trying to conceive.  A whole year passed by, but I was still barren, and my biggest fear had become a reality!

We started fertility treatments and nothing.  Infertility put a strain on my marriage and me. My husband and I disconnected and separated for 3 months! We eventually worked things out with a lot of prayers. (Ten years and going strong, he has been my rock!)

We decided to try again. Fertility treatments started and continued for two years. My soul was drained, my body was drained and one day I just heard a voice whisper, “Let it go, I’ve got this.”

So that day I stopped. I stopped the treatment. Stopped the worrying, stopped the doubting , I just stopped! I gave it all to God and accepted that it was out of my hands!

Three months later, sitting at work I heard that tiny little voice in my head say, “You’re pregnant.” Of course, I brushed it off. I still had 7 days before my period was due. Oh, it kept pushing, “Gloria, you’re pregnant.” 

So, I took a test telling myself, “This is stupid, you’re not pregnant, you’re crazy!” Sure enough, 3 minutes later there were two faint lines! (After thousands of 1-lines I was shocked!)

I praise God every day for my blessing. I gave birth to my 8 lb. redheaded, blue eyed boy on 7/20/2014!

Through my journey God taught me patience, and increased my faith, he taught me how to let things go that I can not change, he taught me to rest and lay my worries at his feet!

I still struggle sometimes. Recently, I had a miscarriage. I was and still am so heartbroken! But I know my God has me in his arms. I long to give my son a brother or sister, but I know it’s all in God’s timing! If God would have answered my prayers at the age of 20, I would not have my sweet, sweet boy who is perfect in every way in my eyes.


We celebrate what God has done in you Gloria. And we give glory to God for what He has done! May you always hear His whispers over you, even when it seems impossible. 

If you have a testimony you would like to share here on Testimony Tuesdays at Barren to Beautiful, email me at [email protected] ! To check out the writer’s guidelines see my page, “Want To Share Your Testimony?”

When Did We Stop Taking Kissing Pictures?

when did we stop taking kissing pictures?I was walking on our treadmill last night, or rather waddling, at 20 weeks pregnant. And since I had no music or book to occupy me, as I usually do, I just stared at the wall.

And on that wall, was a shelf. And on that shelf, were three framed pictures. And one of them caught my eye, and I couldn’t help staring at it for those 20 minutes of cardio. It’s a picture of my husband and I…kissing.

I mean, really smooching.

He wasn’t my husband at the time the picture was taken, he was my boyfriend. And I remember when we took the picture, with my digital camera (yes, it was before cell phone selfies), that we were celebrating our one-year dating anniversary. (For us, it was a big deal.)

He had surprised me and took me on a private sail-boat ride on the lake. It was just the two of us, and a man who introduced himself as “Captain Dan,” who sailed us around for hours after he scarfed down a can of sun-dried tomato tuna and Snack Pack in front of us. He was nice enough to be our captain.

He sailed us around for hours, as we sat in the back of the boat,  so close, we looked like one person. The sky was orange and pink and the lake looked like glass.

And we kissed.

As I stared at the picture, above my treadmill, with no where else to look, I couldn’t help but wonder, “When did we stop taking kissing pictures?”

It must have been at least 7 years ago, when we got married. I think those were the last kissing pictures we have–on the beach, at our wedding ceremony. That our photographer took.

Hmm. I started to think. What made us stop?

Did we lose our wonder…of a simple kiss?

Now, he sleeps inches away from me. Every night. And sometimes I forget the wonder, that I once felt when he would brush against me. When he would lean in for a kiss. When his Jeep’s ignition would shut off, and we’d sit there in the dark.

And kiss.

We’ve been married seven years. And…

We still kiss. And he still tells me, with my pregnant body, and hormonal break-outs, that I’m beautiful–even though I don’t believe him. And I still think he’s so cute. Even though he just rolls his eyes when I tell him that.

I guess we both feel not-as-beautiful as we once did…

But I want to remember–what we felt then. I don’t want to let those two kids on the sail boat drift away as a memory. I would like to keep them right here, in front of me, kissing.

Kissing not just like he is leaving for work,

but kissing like he is leaving for war.

Because we’re not guaranteed one more day together. You know? And why do we treat each other like we are?

We don’t know when our last day together will be. We don’t.

And I don’t want to waste it, on stupid arguments that don’t matter. I don’t want to waste it rushing around, rushing past each other.

I want to remember the boy on the boat.

And not let him drift away. 

And kiss him again. Simply kiss him.

Like he’s just killed the ignition in his Jeep.

And we’re sitting in the dark.

Feeling our way through.

To each other.

All I See Are Blooms

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She’s supposed to be sleeping, but instead, I hear her across the hall. She’s laying in her bed, telling her “knock knock” joke to her stuffed horse. And chattering softly to herself, to her stuffed animals. And to any angels who may be listening in.

I’m sitting on the bed, typing, just to let my soul breathe for a second. Just to inhale this moment. Just to breathe in His grace. And all the love He’s lavished right here in this place. Just to pause for a moment and look around at all He has given me.

Our room is messy, with the clothes we decided not to wear tonight still scattered on the bed, the dresser drawers are pulled out unevenly of the furniture that doesn’t match. Our curtains are ones that I picked up at a yard sale in June.

And I feel like a queen. Not because of anything I’ve done, or accomplished, but because of how great a thing I’ve been given. Because what I have is so good.

And I don’t always see it. The treasure that is my life. The treasure that is my husband, that is my daughter. The treasure that is my God.

But tonight, for these couple minutes of quiet, the blinders are off my eyes. I can see.

And what I see, is so good. Many people who are more successful, more wealthy, more “whatever” could look on me, and see failure. But I don’t care at all what others might see.

I care what He sees. And I care that He sees me, seeing Him. All of Him, and only Him as the One who has blessed me beyond all I could ever ask, or hope, or imagine.

And all of the best things, are coming with me to the next life. All of the best things aren’t the ones that thieves can break in and steal, or moths and rust can destroy. Because Jesus said, that where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

And my soul is free tonight. For once, even if just for it a little. I can fly. The thing I’ve dreamed of doing all my life.

And if Peter Pan was right about one thing—it was the happy thoughts.

That happy thoughts make you fly.

It’s easy to be weighed down by all the evil, all the horror. I can think even now of the terrible news I read on news feeds tonight. And it’s so easy to let my eyes grow dark with the darkness. To let my heart grow heavy with the sins of the world, and it’s aching groans.

I’ve always had a bent toward sorrow, toward grief. Almost like grief would keep me sober. Grief would keep me ready for anything. It would protect my heart from being naïve. And so, I only listened to sad music, I identified with it. It seemed most real to me. I’m not sure why, but I’ve always been more captivated by sorrow, than by joy.

Until now.

Because I feel God wants to open the floodgates of joy. Because joy is more powerful than anyone thinks it is.

Joy is the heartbeat of the other world we were all made for. The world to which we are all waiting, and longing to go. The one where all of our treasures are.

In the movie, “Luther,” there is a monk who says, “All my life, I have lived in a world that has hated evil, more than it’s loved good.”

A world that has hated evil, more than it has loved good.

I know I am guilty as charged. Perhaps many other Christians are as guilty as me. It’s just that the bad things are so…bad. Sometimes I don’t realize that the good things are so…good. Or that the good things are all…from God.

I remember one night several months ago, there was such outrage on Facebook, about a very broken man who was trying to become a woman. And there were photos of him, and there was anger, and perversity, and nasty comments going back and forth. And my heart felt so heavy, over our world, over the confusion, over it all.

But just then, as I was feeling so discouraged, an email from the other side of the world popped up in my inbox that said, “Xavier was born!” He is my nephew, born to my missionary sister-in-law and brother-in-law in Niger, Africa. And when I saw his face, his little tiny newborn face, in the photo attachment—I just cried happy tears because, he was so beautiful. And the news was so good.

He was my happy thought.

And in the week to come, I kept thinking of his little face. I kept feeling I could fly. Just because of him. The joy he was. The evidence of “good.” Of God.

And I began to learn that however large those dark clouds hang, they are not bigger than the light that bursts through these good and perfect gifts from God.
Last spring, I was weeding my flower bed and I felt sure I heard the Lord speak to me. Not in an audible voice, but in my mind. But He said, in an Irish accent, (and I know how crazy this makes me sound) but He said, “Do you hate weeds more than you love flowers?”

And right away, I knew exactly what He meant. “Do you hate weeds, more than you love flowers?”

Do you hate the bad, more than you love the good?

Do the weeds invoke more anger and irritation in you, than the joy of these blooming flowers?

Do you mourn the losses, more than you celebrate the victories?

In this life, there are always going to be weeds. There are always going to be flaws, there are always going to bad things, and people that are not perfect. There are always going to be problems, and trials, and evil. There will always be weeds.

But there will always be flowers, too.

And when I look out on my life, on other’s lives—am I going to see the weeds, or the flowers? And am I going to hate the weeds, more than I love the flowers?

I think God likes flowers. And maybe that’s why He hasn’t “rototilled” us all to pieces by now.

He’s more gracious than I can comprehend. And sometimes, when I read about King David’s life, all I can see is this lying, adulterous, deceitful man, enslaved to sexual addiction, and lust.

All I see are a whole bunch of nasty weeds.

But that isn’t what God sees. God notoriously calls David, “A man after My own heart.” A man who passionately worshipped, and cried out to God from his bed, and who sang with his whole being, and knew his own brokenness, and God’s own goodness and mercy, and trusted in it, all the days of his life. That’s what God sees. The flowers. The beautiful, glorious flowers.

And I want to see how God sees. In my own life, and in other people’s lives. Because I think He sees and appreciates and rejoices in beauty more than anyone thinks He does. And when we join Him in this—we feel His pleasure.

Oh, I want to feel His pleasure!

So I’m going to love the good, more than I hate the evil. I’m going to love the flowers, more than I hate the weeds.

Because flowers are beautiful.

Last night, I fell asleep to my husband playing his guitar and singing in the other room. And there was no sweeter sound in all the world. I just lay in our bed and soak in his voice like the most soothing lullaby I’ve ever heard.

I forget the miracle he is sometimes. I forget the mystery of the way we met. I forget how precious he is. I forget the softness of his voice.

And just to lay and listen, as tears form in my eyes, and love him all the more—just because he’s mine. Just because I wouldn’t trade him for the world. Just because God gave him to me, as a gift. A good and perfect gift. Not because he is perfect, but because He is from God, and that makes him perfect for me.

Right now, Selah is sleeping across the hall. But tonight, when I put her down, I lay with her in her bed and as we lay in the dark, she held my face in her hands and smiled wide at me, looking at me like she was a proud grandma. With her hands still on my cheeks, I said, “Hey Selah, did you know that I always wanted to have a little girl named Selah?” And she just giggled. And after a few minutes I said, “Hey Selah, what do you think is in heaven?” And she said, “Toys.”

And we both laughed with the blankets pulled up to our chins.

She’s two, and the youngest miracle I know. And I don’t know what heaven holds, but when I hear her laugh, when I hear my husband sing, I feel heaven breaking through.

I feel the treasure they are. I feel my heart move into that place where no one can steal my joy away. And I see flowers breaking through the dirt.

And I love flowers because they are beautiful. Even with the weeds, they are beautiful.

And tonight, all I see are blooms.

When God Calls Your Marriage Out Upon the Waters

Our wedding day, June 13, 2009

Our wedding day, June 13, 2009

It was a hot June day, when I glowed in white all the way down the aisle. And he beamed, he beamed brighter than the sun with love, and joy, and promise. It was so easy then, as I walked barefoot through the sand, holding my Dad’s hand–and saying ‘Yes’ to all God planned. And everyone watched, and clapped, and cheered.

But that was before we knew what it would cost. Before anything was ever lost.

I knew marriage would get hard, but to be honest, I thought ours would be just a little easier than the rest. After all, we had Christ in us. How hard could it be?

I stood there at the altar, like a freshman ready to ace her first final exam, a big wad of index cards in my hands. Knowing every chapter and verse, and all the things I had rehearsed. And all the great lines I neatly highlighted from all those marriage books.

But the wind came.

The wind came and blew all those index cards away, out of my hands. Because all those books, and all those index cards were strapped to my forehead like a Pharisee wearing the Law. And it covered my eyes so I couldn’t see. I couldn’t see a man, in need of grace, and tender affection, standing right in front of me.

It’s been six years since the day I married him. And his eyes are still the same steady green they were then, and he captivates me still, without even trying. His voice, still tender smooth. And I still like to sleep in his old t-shirts. Soft and threadbare, worn with love. And they get softer in time.

And so do we.

But there have been nights, where that shoreline where we made our promises has seemed a thousand miles away. When we stood in the kitchen, exchanging red-hot words, like swords. And getting stuck in sticky webs of complicated conflict. Unsure of how to sort it out—unsure if it was even possible. And no one is watching anymore. No one is clapping, or throwing petals, or cheering us on.

But God.

I am convinced He really likes marriage. It was His idea after all. And I think He actually likes when marriages get hard–because that is when He does some of His best work. In our hearts. The only places that really matter.

I used to think good marriages were always easy, and never hard. But I don’t think that anymore. I think good marriages are insanely hard–but when they get hard, you don’t see the struggle as a reason to quit, but as a reason to keep fighting for it. To keep fighting for each other.

It seems so fitting now, that we got married by the water. Because all along, God would call us into it. We had no idea, as we exchanged our vows, and rings, and promises, and the waves collapsed innocently behind us—that God was going to call us into them. But that’s in fact, what marriage is.

It’s going into the water together. And there is nothing safe about it.

So that moment we were pronounced “husband and wife,” and we turned and walked down the aisle, and everyone congratulated us and cheered, we should have actually headed the other direction. Into the water, and not away from it.

When God calls you into marriage, He calls you out into the water. First, it’s just ankle deep, and you tightly hold hands, and smile. And you walk a little further, until you’re knee deep. But as you go further out, the water starts to go up to your waist. And the waves begin to break around you. And sometimes, it doesn’t matter how tightly you are holding hands, a big wave comes, and knocks you over, making you lose your grip on each other. And you try to find each other, but sometimes you can’t, because those big waves keep coming. And you aren’t strong enough to withstand them. The current gets strong, and threatens to pull you under, and you’re just fighting to stay afloat.

The waves just keep coming to knock you down, again and again. And you can’t swim any further out, you’re just stuck right there, getting tossed to and fro in the waves. I think every marriage comes to this place where you get stuck in the rough surf. And it feels hopeless and humiliating. Why can’t you just do this? Why aren’t you strong enough? And everything is telling you, “Turn back! Turn back! Turn back!” And you want to, because it would be so easy to just go back and lay on the shore and just cry, with your face against the sand, and think about how awful and scary those big waves were. And what a big mistake it was, to ever try to get past them. And just when you are about to turn back. Just when you decide it isn’t fun anymore, and you can’t take one more wave to knock you over, and are about to just swim back to shore—for good. You keep swimming.

You link hands with your spouse and you keep swimming. Sink or swim, but you refuse to go back to shore—because you know, deep down, that there is some mystery waiting for you out there. In that place just beyond the surf…is this place of deeper waters. Where you learn to tread. Where you learn to swim. And that’s where the adventure is. In that place where you finally learn to love.

A love that pushes past all the waves.

Because in the midst of those waves, you hear a Voice, that sounds like a thousand rushing rivers, that screams,

“Come out here! Keep coming! Further out! Keep swimming toward My love!”

“I have something out here for you!”

“This wasn’t a mistake! This is my plan!”

“I have ordained you together in this marriage! For My purpose! For My pleasure! For My glory!”

And when you have kept going–you suddenly get to this place of calm, in this place past the surf. And your treading together, stronger now, and having learned to swim. Having learned to follow the Voice. You realize He enabled you to withstand the storm. And you clasp each other, both looking like you’ve nearly drowned. And you laugh and kiss and you cry because you are so happy you didn’t swim back to shore, and because you can’t even behold the beauty all around you. The beauty waiting for you all along.

And then you see Him out there, walking on the waters, like nothing happened at all, like you didn’t just survive a hurricane, like swimming out there was the easiest thing in all the world. And when He sees you bobbing together in the water, He just smiles and says, “You of little faith. Why did you ever doubt?”

And we see, in that moment, we can trust Him. Not only for ourselves, but for our marriage. For the One who called us out to sea, surely will not let us drown in it.

So we don’t have to be afraid of the deeper waters. We don’t have to fear when the waves come. Or stormy skies. Or strong currents threaten to take us under. “For the One who called us, is faithful, and He will surely do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:24)

So let’s keep swimming.

Because He’s out there waiting for us. Ready plunge us into the depths of His mercy and grace—and into a love so deep, your feet could never, ever touch the ground.

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.

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.

The First Time You Paint Her Toenails

selah toenailsIt happened last week. We sat on the bathroom floor together. She squirmed in my lap, and pulled off her socks one by one. And I picked out the only color I had…for a brand-new two-year-old: light pink.

The novelty of nail-polish, Mom’s nail-polish, kept her little feet squirming. I tried to steady them in my hand, and even when I’d whisper in her ear, “Hold still,” her toes still wiggled a little bit. I carefully painted the pretty color on each tiny toenail. Amazed at how small each one was. And as I did, something happened.

Something happens the first time you paint her toenails. It only happens between mothers and daughters I am sure. I can barely name it. But as I painted her nails, I felt I was doing something much more grand, and I think she felt it, too.

It was almost too delicate to put into words. But it was as if I were showing her, her wings. Showing her the way to beauty. And soon tears filled my eyes. It was as if I realized all at once–she was going to grow up into a woman.

A beauty.

I can see her sitting before me in a white gown before the ceremony. And I’m buttoning silk buttons long all the way up her back. I’m helping her pin up long, loose wisps of curls. I’m down on the ground, painting her toenails…and remembering: this. This day, when I first painted her nails, when they were so tiny. And her feet squirmed. And her toes wiggled. And I will want to take her in my arms and whisper once more in her ear, “Hold still.”

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I push the thought away, of the day she will fly away from home forever. And who will she fly with? It pushes back. Who would ever be worthy?

I see the way she already wins attention: effortlessly. Her bright blonde hair, and big ocean eyes, her long dark eyelashes, and pixie-like features. I know she already is: a beauty.  A creature like I’ve never seen.

Yesterday, a little boy in the booth behind us, would not stop standing up and calling for her attention. She turned, and stood, too. And then they just smiled at each other six inches from one another’s face. He reached out one finger, just wanting to touch her. And she reached hers back. They both giggled when their fingertips touched. Was this toddler love?

I think mothers see it long before we ever want to admit. The grandeur of raising a daughter. Of raising up beauty, in it’s purest form. A beauty that will one day take on a life of her own, and find the comfort of another man’s arms. A man who will never seem worthy of her…

Only because you saw her, in a way he never has. You saw her at her most delicate state. You cradled her when she was just a fragile bundle on your chest. You rocked her long hours in the night, and let her tears bleed into your shirt. And you remember the first time you painted her toenails. And the way you trembled at the beauty of this little girl. And tremble still.

And you will cry, with hot tears streaming down, not because of how beautiful she looks that day. But because of how beautiful she has looked every day since the day she was born.

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The Man Who Sleeps Beside Me

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It’s early morning, when I wake and feel him next to me. I lie as still as possible, careful not to wake him. I look over through the pale blue morning light, the quiet prelude before dawn. The beeping will sound soon, and he will wake and rush with the rest of the world. But for these few quiet minutes I lay here, hearing nothing but the sound of his breath.

This man.

How did he come to me?

I remember the day I met him, I remember the way his hand greeted mine. The touch of his skin. The only skin I would ever touch or be touched by, again. I had no idea then, that we’d be lying here together, eight years later, like this.

I remember the way his fingers moved with careful fretwork up the neck of his guitar. And the way his voice soothed a part of me I never knew needed soothing.

I remember the first time he kissed me. The gentle flush in his cheeks. The steady green in his eyes, like the sea after it’s rained.

What happened to the wonder? The wonder of…

Of…him?

How did I get like…this? Love-less. And demanding. And more interested in making dinner than making…

Love?

Could I be still enough,
to take him in?
To drink deep and long of love again?

Too many words are spoken, broken, spilled. There are expectations and disappointments, and flaws and failures, and real sin, and real pain, and real…

Grace.

That word, that thing that Jesus came to show us. And poured out His blood for. So we would know what real love looks like. That it sweats, and cries, and bleeds. That it gives up self. And makes itself low.

And is gentle. And is kind.

And is not rude.

Do I see him the way God sees him?

Because: God sees him as precious.

Precious.

Fearfully and wonderfully made…by God Himself.

I have him for only such a short time. I do not even know how short. And I wasn’t chosen just to be his housemaid, or his business partner…but his wife. His bride. His friend.

To have and to…

hold. 

I look over this morning. His chestnut hair falls across his forehead. He is so still. So quiet. So handsome. It all seems so simple here…before the beeping.

But it’s a choice: Who will I rise to be today?

Today, could I bend a little lower,

speak a little softer,

wait a little longer

kiss a little slower?

To fall in love. To fall like leaves, in surrender. To fall to my knees, becoming tender.

For I am his, and he is mine. And the banner over us is Love.
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[Your turn! I am challenging you to participate in the”Fall In Love” challenge. All you have to do is to share in the comment section one thing you love about your spouse. Or, if you are blogger, you are doubly challenged to write a post endearing to your spouse and leave a link to it in the comment section.]

Don’t Waste Your Barrenness: 10 Things to Do While You Wait

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It can feel isolating. It can feel like everyone notices that your belly is flat. It can feel like everyone reads “Not Pregant” like a tattoo across your forehead. At the baby shower, questions start to surface: Why her, and not me?  Is there something wrong with me? Has God forgotten me?

The answer is:

                        No,

                                    Dear One,

                                                  He hasn’t.

Barrenness, in some ways, is like singleness. For many, it is a season, not a lifetime. For those who have a God-given desire to parent a child, whether through natural, or adoptive processes–will most likely be doing just that one day. The problem is, you don’t know when, or how long you will be waiting to do it.

You don’t know if your “infertility” will last another month, year, or decade. God knows. But He often keeps those secrets to Himself. And I think the reason He does that, is because He wants to give us something even better in the process. He wants to give us Himself.

However long the wait is, you don’t have to spend it with the posture of your head in your hands. This is the time God has given you (before parenting) to live awake, and alive. If you spend this time like you would in a doctor’s office waiting room, you will just..well, sit there. And maybe leaf through magazines waiting for your name to be called. But that is not a good use of your time. If you haven’t yet, start seeing this “waiting room” time as season of incredible adventure, possibility, and purpose.

Here are some practical things to do while you wait:

1. Recognize God May Have a Special Calling On Your Life. Instead of feeling overlooked by God, start realizing the truth: God has chosen you for a special purpose. Maybe you aren’t like everyone else. He has a unique calling on your life. He may have appointed you to do something or minister to people you couldn’t reach if you had children right now. Perhaps, through this “waiting”, He is wooing you, calling you, to step out of the norm and find Him. He may be about to show you something incredible, you would not otherwise be able to see.

2. Live Radically. Is there anything “dangerous” or “risky” you’d like to do? This could be something like going oversees for a mission trip, traveling somewhere foreign/awesome, or sky-diving. Pray about doing it now, and not then. Once you become a parent, you see everything differently. (Not that you can’t ever do anything crazy or fun ever again.) But life is a little more fluid now, and you have the capability. Don’t break your bank account, but consider that this might be a season God is calling you to adventure. (Plus, any future kids will love to hear your wild stories at bedtime.)

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I even got to climb a mountain with this stud.

3. Buddy Up with Your Husband. A chief complaint of couples who got pregnant before they married, or very shortly after is: we didn’t have enough time together! This “time” God has given you is a blessing, not a curse. Get to really be best friends with your husband. Really get intentional about listening to him, learning to love him more, and laugh with him. The stronger your relationship before you have kids, the more likely you two will be able to grow and communicate after having kids. Don’t make an idol out of him, but learn what he loves. And even be willing to participate in his hobbies that have never appealed to you. (This might mean doing things you never imagined, like: going hunting with him, watching (and cheering louder than him during) football games, go golfing, skiing, or yes…even PLAYING Fantasy Football. Whatever it is. I dare you.)

4. Develop a Hobby or Skill. So..I took violin lessons with a man I swear was Gandalf’s twin brother. It was awesome. (Can’t say I’m the fiddler on the roof, since my violin is stuffed in the storage closet right now. But it was a lot of fun to learn!) Right now you have time to learn to do something you have always wanted to do. This might be a hobby you will enjoy (like a musical instrument, or knitting) or it might be a skill you can later turn into profit (ie. learning photography, or graphic design.) Learning a marketable skill may be more useful than you think, and may help to keep you at home with your babies once God gives them to you.

5. Exercise. When I was not able to conceive, I remember thinking, “Hey, at least I still get to exercise! Some pregnant women are not allowed!” I loved spending that time going on long two mile runs outside (it’s long for me, okay?), lap swimming, or jumping into a volleyball match. I’m not saying that becoming a mom is a death sentence for working out…it can just change it. A lot.

6. Career Time. If you want to realistically stay home with your child(ren), this time God has given you to work a job is a great time to clear away debt. Keep that at the forefront of your mind. Really pray about making big purchases now, that you could be paying for later (ie. houses, cars, exotic vacations etc.) Sock away that money into bank! Private/and international adoptions are expensive, if the Lord should lead you to do that. And if not, it never hurts to be a good steward of the finances God has given you, trusting He will teach you how and where to use them.

7. Invest in Other People’s Lives. Jesus came not to be served, but to serve. Wasting time on other people, is not a waste. Seek out ways to serve in the lives of your friends and families and church and develop the gift of nurturing people. (I had the privilege of mentoring junior high girls during my waiting time, and loved it!) But if you seek out practical ways to help or invest in people who need it for the glory of God, you will never be wasting your time. I remember telling God I was ready to have a baby because I had so much love in me, I was overflowing. I remember sensing the Spirit’s reply, “How well are you loving the people I have already given you?”

8. Turn Your Waiting into Worship. When we bought our first house, there were like three extra bedrooms. One of them was even decorated as a nursery when we moved in. Of course every time I walked past that room, a pang of longing came. When will we have a little person to fill that room? Months and months went by. And those bedrooms, though they began to fill up with odds and ends, seemed only emptier and emptier. One day, I decided to make the “nursery” a room for worship. I cleared out some of the junk and would go in there and just worship God, often on my knees, or on my face. And you know what? After worshiping my God in that empty room, He would come and fill that space with His presence. He would come fill my empty heart, as a dwelling place for His Spirit. The “waiting room” became the “worship room.” It was a time to seek the Lord like I never had before. Not so that He would give me what a I wanted (a baby), but so that He would give me Himself.

And He always did.

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Our first apartment getting wrecked by Brandon’s nieces. It was worth it.

9. Cultivate a Heart for Children. Jesus loved children. And so should we. Look for opportunities to get to know some kids. It will only soften your heart, and prepare you to love whatever children God should give you more. Baby-sit for your friends with kids, or your nieces and nephews. Their parents will really appreciate it, and though it may seem like a stretch, you will probably love it. We did this quite a bit during our waiting time. And it was a blast. Of course we had NO toys at our house, and not one plastic cup…but we got creative and made it work. It also opened our heart further for adoption (something we were seriously considering at the time) and made us willing to love and care for any child, any age, or race, that needed a home.

10. Seek His Face. I can’t say this enough. God is what makes life full and alive, whether your womb or household is empty or full. The best moments in life, are the ones that are full of God. The very title of this blog “Barren to Beautiful” is not about going from infertility to motherhood. It’s about seeing. Do you see your life as a barren wasteland, or a beautiful masterpiece? Children don’t change that perspective, God does. Because if you are stuck seeing all the “lack” around you, even if you should have a child, or ten, you will just find more reasons to be unsatisfied. Nothing and no one else but God can satisfy and transform you. Don’t let yourself be a stagnant pond, open your hands, open your arms to God, and to the people and things He has placed before you right now–then the streams of Living Water will flow to and through and from you, and pour from your soul. That is how the barren become beautiful.  “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:19

This post was inspired by John Piper’s book, “Don’t Waste Your Life.” For more info on my barrenness read my post About My Barrenness or any of the posts under the TTC (Trying To Conceive) category.

I’m praying for you this morning.