What Postpartum Feels Like

It’s April 1st, and my Christmas wreath is still hanging on our front door.

Let that be an indication of how things are “going” in our household.

My Facebook profile picture is still a maternity shot of me…and my baby boy who was born in December, is now 3 1/2 months old. So…

I’m a little (or a LOT) behind on laundry, vacuming, grocery shopping (since the ALDI incident), and pretty much every other area of life right now.

I haven’t been writing, because I feel empty inside. And have nothing to say.

I nurse my baby boy constantly, while my 4-year-old begs me to play Candy Land with her, and watch her magic tricks, and cries when I don’t look at her while she’s talking. (So, she cries a lot.) I fold laundry and cook dinner with one hand. Or not at all.

Sometimes, I forget to start dinner, and pull out the rock hard frozen chicken breast at 3:30 p.m. And it’s a frozen pizza for dinner, instead.

The Keurig light blinks, “Not Ready–Add Water…” And that’s pretty much how I feel right now. Like the canteen is dry, and blinking. And being constantly depleted.

And this is how postpartum feels, sometimes. And the jump from one to two kids is harder than I imagined it would be. It’s so good–it’s just that my weaknesses are showing through more than ever.

My Scripture reading is scant–unless an Instagram graphic counts. And I’m pretty sure just playing the “Bethel” station on my Spotify on my phone isn’t quite giving my soul the intimacy with God I need.

Our house is filled with chaos and noise–a beautiful sound in contrast with the years of quietness and crying out for children.

But now that they’re here, it’s strange how the barrenness can creep back into my soul.

And I’m reminded again–that it is God, and only God that truly satisfies the longing soul.

Sometimes my daughter leaves the caps off her markers. This week I picked up the orange marker to write down a phone number, but the cap had been off. It was bone dry. It made a mark, but just barely. I tried to press harder–and the color just barely came through.

I’ve felt a lot like that orange marker lately.

Like, the cap has been off for a while now.

I’m pressing hard–but just barely coming through.

And my soul is dry like that marker.

I’ve felt all kinds of different emotions lately. I know part of it is due to postpartum hormones, and nursing an infant, and clutter around my house, and driving my daughter to preschool while my son wails. And being so tired. All the time.

Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE being a mom. There are these beautiful moments that simply take my breath away.

But there are other moments, that simply take my sanity away.

Like when my baby is crying because he wants to be held or nursed, and I haven’t gotten to eat anything yet and it’s 10:30 a.m. And my stomach is growling. And my 4-year-old daughter is crying because I didn’t let her screw on the cap of the sippy cup, and my son poops through his outfit and needs a bath. And his poop leaked onto the shirt I’m wearing. And when I pass myself in the mirror, I look much like Miss Hanigan on Annie. (Not the new Cameron Diaz version, but the ugly one from the 80’s version.)

Sometimes, all three of us are crying at the same time.

 

Sometimes, it feels like we are at a nut house.

When my son fell asleep yesterday, I put a show on for my daughter and locked myself in my room–just so I could drink a hot cup of coffee and straighten my hair. Just to feel “normal.”

It didn’t really help. But my hair looked better than it has in a long time. 😉

And I finally realized something: my soul is parched.

I am in a season of drought. 

Even as I write this–I am in a season of drought.

But I found some hope yesterday, and I’m clinging to it, wrapping both my arms and legs around it, and not letting go.

During one of my nursing sessions on the couch–I made a very feeble attempt to read my Bible. I one-handedly flipped open my it open to Jeremiah 17.

I have always loved this Scripture–but God met me through it in a new way.

It says, “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the LORD. He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land.” Jeremiah 17:5-6

As I read, I was realizing:

Yes. That is me. Trying to make my own flesh my strength. My heart departing from the Lord. A shrub in the desert. Dwelling in the parched places of the wilderness. 

I might have walked away depressed if I stopped there. But I kept reading. And found this,

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD.  He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in a year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8

And here I find my hope.

Because even the man who trusts in the LORD—goes through times of drought.

And when he does, he does not grow anxious.

He does not fear–when heat comes. (Not if heat comes, but when it comes.)

So, right now, in my dry, chaotic state of mind, as I am parched and weary–I put my trust in the LORD.

Indeed, my trust is the LORD. It has to be. And not my weary self.

Even in a year of drought, I am not to grow anxious.

(I really hope it’s not a full year of drought.) But, however long this drought lasts, I don’t have to be anxious and fearful.

I can’t “feel” God close right now. But He is. My mind is dull, and distracted, and I can’t engage how I would like to.

And I’m thirsty inside.

But in my thirst–I still have hope.

Because He promises to quench me. In His time.

Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” Matthew 5:6

In my unrighteousness, I thirst for His righteousness. And He will fill me. He promises this.

I hope you know, I’m not writing from the other side of this. I am in a dry place right now.

But, I have to share this, because I think someone reading this might be in a dry season, too. Maybe it’s you.

Maybe you are in a postpartum state. And maybe not. But either way, maybe you too, feel like a dried up marker.

Trying to make a mark, and pressing hard…but just barely coming through.

Who feels depleted. Who wakes up each day like the blinking Keurig. “Not ready. Add Water.”

Who wants to have it together–but doesn’t.

If you are, you’re not alone. Because I am in this place, too.

And then, there’s Jesus… I have to believe He will come for us. That He will meet us in our drought. Because…

He  calls out to the thirsty.

And thirst is good. Because it makes us realize how desperate we are–for Him.

I don’t know when the rains will come. But they will come.

He will come. He has to. 

And though I feel like it has been a long time, in this drought season. I see a cloud. It’s only as small as a man’s hand. But I see a cloud…and rain is coming.

Jesus is coming. For us.

For the dry markers. And empty Keurig’s. And the barren lands. The souls thirsting for water.

I’m not afraid to admit: I’m thirsty. I’m dry. And I need Him. 

Because He will send the rain. He promises this.

“For He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness.” Psalm 107:9

and

“Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD; His going out is sure as the dawn; He will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.” Hosea 6:3

So let it rain God. 

I am thirsty for You. 

And You alone. 

 


You may also enjoy listening to this song by Kari Jobe, “Let Your Glory Fall.”

God Did It Again: Our Second Miracle On the Way

miracle baby

Dear Friends, this is a post I never intended to write. But here I am writing it, with tears in my eyes, and a lump in my throat. And my hands feel shaky at these keys:

I’m pregnant again.

God did it.

This will be our second miracle. And I had no idea, it was even coming. But all of a sudden, it’s here. Seemingly, out of no where. The only way a miracle can come–when you know full well that you have offered nothing. When you have brought nothing to the table, and God has brought everything. God brings a feast.

And He asks you to dine with Him. And you do, because your soul is starving. 

If you don’t already know it, I encourage you to read my story of infertility. In it, you will find a very broken woman, angry and confused and barely tolerating God’s “plan.” You will find a woman who is so very barren, not only in her womb, but in her soul. And you will find how God rescues her out of that barrenness–by showing her Himself, His very beauty, and that He satisfies.

My daughter Selah is three now. She is beautiful, like music. Like her name. And she was worth every tear I cried for her. Every minute I waited for her.

The last few years have been so full–of her–just learning this other person, this other creature God has placed in my care. I’ve got to see her grow out of her tiny newborn clothes into a lengthy three year old girl that looks older every minute. She won’t hold still, or slow down enough to let me just hold her and breathe her in. Sometimes it seems like she is sprinting through childhood, and I’m chasing her, always a few steps back, yelling, “Slow down!”

I remember how I cried when we took down her crib. I cried into my husbands shirt, and sobbed, “I’m just afraid we’ll never get to put it up again.” I felt like I was saying good-bye to this baby part of her, that I wasn’t ready to part with. Or put into storage.

And I didn’t know if God would give us any more children.

We prayed God would give us more, if He wanted us to have more. Even though, we were already beyond blessed to have even one beautiful child. Many don’t even get that.

For the last few years we’ve “tried” to conceive again. (But what is “trying” when you already have a child?) Interrupting cries during the “moment”, and a BBT thermometer that keeps disappearing from your nightstand and reappearing in your daughter’s toy box, and “charting” which was once graphed lines and fluids and temperatures, was now simply figuring out which cycle day I was on–which I was usually totally off on. Or we missed “the window” completely. Oops.

At the beginning of 2016, I felt the Lord gave me a theme for the year. Which was simply to have Open Arms.  I drew a stick figure of myself, with my arms out wide. And wrote: Open Arms: Because the posture of surrender, and the posture of worship, and the posture of receiving, is the same.

All I knew, is that God wanted me to keep my arms open. Wide open. Surrendering. Worshiping. And receiving from Him.

So in February, my husband and I felt like we needed to open our arms to fostering. This was something we talked about for a long time–and had many conversations about. My biggest hang up was, “I just don’t know if I could give the baby back.” I think most people struggle with that part of fostering, (the part that you have no control, and that your heart will probably be crushed in the process.) But, I clearly remember one day as we drove down I-79, as I told my husband all the reasons why it would be so “emotionally difficult” to foster, he gently reminded me, “It’s not about you. This is one thing in your life you get to do, that’s not about you.” Tears began to run down my face. It was that moment that it clicked for me. It’s not about me. It’s about helping someone else. At the most fragile state in their life.

The more we thought and prayed about it, the more we felt led to get certified to be foster parents. In our state, it’s only a 90 day process, and is actually very simple to do. We decided we would foster babies anywhere from newborn to under a year old, and we were really excited about it.

So in mid-April, we were nearing the end of all of our paperwork, training, and inspections. I felt so excited to lavish this baby with love. I was going to love this baby with everything, just as if he, or she was my own child. I knew my heart would probably get ripped out, but I felt that this baby deserved to be treated like they were the most long awaited, and long anticipated baby ever to be born.

So, we took down the guest room and made it into a full-blown nursery. I was happy to see the pretty white crib up again. Along with the glider and changing table. Everything looked crisp and white against the gray walls. I would walk past and wonder who the baby was that we would receive. And as I prayed, I kept seeing the words, “Precious One,” over the crib. So I ordered a pretty custom-made wall-sticker from Etsy to place over the crib. “Precious One,” is something I wanted to speak over and over this child.

And it was that week, that everything was set up in the nursery. The car seat was ready to go. And I had washed all the baby blankets in sweet-smelling Dreft–since that is what I would do for my own child–that our world would change: again.

My husband had picked up a pregnancy test on his way home from work, and I rolled my eyes when he handed it to me. “Why take a test?” I asked, “It just makes it harder!” I didn’t like taking pregnancy tests because they just played with emotions, I’d rather keep stuffed down.

And so, as he was tightening up the baby gates for the final home-inspection the next day, I went and took the test. I locked the door so that no one disturbed me. And that’s when I saw a very faint blue line cross the other: pregnant.

I fell to my knees right there on the bathroom floor.  And the lines blurred with my tears. And I thanked God, and gasped.

My husband came up, and I showed him the test, “Bekah!!” he exclaimed, hugging me, and we laughed. We could not believe it.

I was pregnant.

And in shock.

And in awe, of our very great God.

Today I am 9 weeks pregnant. So, it’s still early. I know we’re not guaranteed anything. I am not guaranteed even one more breath. But with all the breath in me, I will thank God for this miracle. And I will tell of His works.

And I will celebrate this life within me every day I have him, or her. For God knows this son or daughter. And He has already breathed out their name. His eyes see their unformed body, being knit together in the secret places of my womb. And all the days ordained for them have been written in His book, before one of them will come to be.

Dear friends, I had no idea that the child I was preparing for, was one in my womb. I had no idea the “Precious One” I had been praying for, would be living inside me. Can you fathom what God has done?

Surely, He is God. There is no one like Him. He alone can do wonders and miracles. He can even open the womb.

Lately, I am so tired. Can you pray for me, that I can keep my arms open? My heart open? I want to stay in the posture of surrender, and worship, and receiving as I carry this child. I haven’t  felt physically well, so we have decided to wait to take in a foster baby until sometime after our baby is born. However, this is something we pray we get to do in the future, because the need is so very great and urgent.

I want you to know, I will pray for you as well.

If you are barren, and even if you are not, my prayer is that you can open your arms. Wide. Ready to embrace whatever and whoever God has for you. I don’t know where it will lead. But it will be wild, and free, and full of God.

If you are still waiting and praying to get pregnant, please don’t let the news of my miracle discourage you. I know, it can feel defeating when you hear of other people’s pregnancies. Especially when they seem to come so easily.

But this miracle God has done in me should give you hope. Not despair.

Because if God can do a miracle in me, who has not even the faith, but rolls her eyes at the pregnancy test, He can surely do one in you as well.

I don’t know what it will look like. Or when. Or how.

But that’s what a miracle is. It’s a mystery. 

It’s a gift. It’s something of God. 

When you find yourself with nothing to offer. 

You are in the perfect place. 

Open your empty arms. To Him.

And say,

“Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

Psalm 73:25-26

For surely He will satisfy. Surely, He will be your portion.

How Fear Robs Me of the Life God Wants Me To Live

life

They said the lump is probably nothing. But I can’t know yet.

I have to wait. And my mind—it goes there every single day. I don’t mean for it to. It just…does.

What if I’m dying and I don’t know it? What if I don’t have much time left?

I am afraid to die. I am afraid of many things.

And it shifts. Sometimes it’s ISIS. Or mass shootings. And I wonder if some gunman will start unloading while we’re in the grocery store, or at Target. Or the movie theater. Or a restaurant. Or concert hall.

Because that’s what happened in Paris, right?

And is there any safe place?

Some nights I go to bed, and wonder if some foreign enemy will attack our lands over night? And every sunrise feels like a little miracle. That we are safe another day.

When I get in the car, I whisper a prayer over my daughter in her car seat. I strap her in tight. I kiss her face all over.

I ask the angels to watch over us.

And, I try to be so safe, you know? I try to be so vigilant. But I worry we’ll get in some horrible accident.

There are so many fears that haunt me. There are so many fears that shake my inner peace.

I don’t want to die—but look at me. Look at my fears:
I spend my days dying, more than living.

Fear has this way of choking out everything good in my life.

All the joy.

And this is one of those things—I don’t really want to talk about.

But I have to.

Because it’s real. It’s this reality that is living under the surface of my skin. All the time.

Tonight, after I gave my daughter her bath, and dried her hair, and zipped her into her fleece jammies, I started worrying about the “lump” again. The one they said is probably just a lypoma. But they can’t be 100% certain.

And as I began to get lost in the fear—that I could be dying—the Holy Spirit whispered something to my heart, He said,

“Will you choose life or death?”

He was confronting me, ever so gently. “Will you spend your life living? Or dying? Because if you spend the days I’ve given you as a slave to fear and death–then you will spend your days dying and missing all the good I have for you. But if you trust Me, you will live and spend your days alive in Me.”

I remember reading a Scripture about God telling His people to choose life or death. And I left the last few dishes in the sink, and I went to find it.

I searched in the back of my husband’s big study bible—and I found it. It’s in Deuteronomy 30.

Moses is at the end of his life and he is preaching to the people of Israel. He’s telling them to choose life or death. Obedience or rebellion. Blessings or curses.

He says,
“For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off…But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.”
Deuteronomy 30:11 &14

It is not too hard for you.

It is not far off.

It is near you.

It is in your mouth and heart.

You can do it.

“See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you today, by loving the LORD your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping His commandments and his statutes and His rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish.” Deuteronomy 30:15-18

He sets before you life and death.
Good and evil.

And if you want to possess the land—and the life—then obey His voice. And live.

But if your heart turns away from Him. If you stop listening for His voice. If you are drawn away to worship other gods. (Even the god of self-preservation. And the god of fear.) And if you serve those gods—

If you serve those gods, you will surely perish.

The god of fear makes you a slave–and it will make you spend your days dying, not living.

“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse.” Deuteronomy 30:19

God says, we get to choose.

Life or death.

Will we follow the way of Life,
Or the way of Death?

Every day Death haunts me—threatens to steal my peace, my joy, my life.

But tonight Life is calling me.

He’s running toward me, and beckoning. He’s shouting loudly, “Live!”

Don’t spend your life fearing you will lose your life. Or you will lose it. Slowly. Every day.

If I keep living in fear, if I keep letting anxiety rule my life, if I keep letting dread dictate my steps, and my thoughts—I won’t be living anymore. I will be dying.

Dear brothers and sisters—I don’t want to constantly think about how I might die.

I want to start thinking about how I will live.

I don’t know how I will die–and I don’t need to know. I need to know how I will live. I need to know how I will every day and every hour throw off the shackles of fear, and burdens of doubt. I need to know how I will inhale and exhale the breath of God and eat His Word like it is my only food. I need to love well, and love hard, stop being so afraid to risk this life–because it’s not my own anyway. I was bought at a price.

And I hope when I come to the end–however near or far that may be–that I show up to heaven’s gates having lived. That I will have spent my life living–and not dying. I hope I show up with my heart riveted with scars, but bursting with joy, with wrinkles in my skin, and fire in my eyes, and my arms open, and my pockets empty. Before Him who is Jesus.

The One who called me. The faithful and true. The beginning and the end. Who first whispered my name, and who I will hear whisper it again–the moment my eyes flutter open to eternity. To see Him, with my own eyes.

“Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying His voice and holding fast to Him, for He is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.” Deuteronomy 30:19-20

Choose life. (Choose Him over your fears.)

Love the Lord your God.

Obey His voice.

Hold fast to Him.

For He is your life.

And length of days.

Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy. But I have come that you may have life, and have it more abundantly.”

Have life.

And have it more abundantly.

So stop thinking about how you will die,

And start thinking about how you will live.

In Him.

For He is your life, 

and length of days. 

All I See Are Blooms

image

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.

A Morning Prayer: “Conform Me To Jesus”

morning sun chair

I’m going to let you inside for a moment. My journal. Just for this. Because I started praying something last week, and it started to change me. It started to set me free and open up joy in me. And I want to share it with you–so that you can be free. And so that you can have joy. And so that you can be full of Jesus.

When I was little, Jesus was just this little flannel-graph cartoon. He was a name I heard a lot. I saw pictures and porcelain figures of Him as a little baby at Christmas time and always wondered what He really looked like.

But that little cartoon version of Jesus you see in the little kid’s Bibles—is so false. It may be good for toddlers, but as you get older and the weight of sin and gravity of world begin to pull on you. You need more than a cartoon to save you.

And it took me about twenty-five years to stop thinking of Him that way. Like that little cartoon face with a white tunic and a blue sash. And to start actually thinking of Him as a person. Who thinks. Who breathes. Who crushes snakes under His heels. Who laughs. Who cries with loud sobs. (Hebrews 5:7)

But this Person, in the last three years, has meant more to me, has become more real to me than He ever has. And it’s not because I’m so “spiritual.” Or I have enlightened understanding. It’s not because I’ve really mastered the spiritual disciplines or pull myself up by my bootstraps each morning. It’s actually quite the opposite. It’s because I’m beginning to see my desperate need for Him.

See, for a while I thought I was strong. But trusting in my strength never brought me closer to Jesus, it only propelled me further and further away. And it only made my heart grow colder. (Much like the Pharisees.) But lately, what has brought me nearest to Jesus is my own realization of how very weak I am. It’s not about “trying harder,” it’s about complete and total surrender. It’s instead about praying, “God, have mercy on me. I’m a sinner.” And it’s been about the surrendering of my will, my methods, my dreams, my control. Or the illusion of it. It’s about letting Him carry the burden for me, morning by morning. It’s about wanting Him to come as He is, and not just who I want Him to be.

If you’re reading this and still feel like you have that “hollow” Jesus in your head. I’m going to pray for you. Because He is more than capable to show Himself–in a way that is real. And in a way that is close. And in such a way that will just make you weep and long for Him. And in a way that makes you feel like your insides are on fire and you could run a thousand miles and scale a hundred walls. And in such a way where you might burst out into singing or laughing hysterically. Even in public…Because suddenly you see Him everywhere, and you can feel Him seeing you. All of you. And loving all of you at the same time. And this gives you strength and joy and peace. Even when you shouldn’t have it–by the world’s standards.

And morning by morning He waits. He waits to explode into the atmosphere at my simple invitation. He rushes in, at my first cry. But He waits for it. He waits for me to want Him.

And on a day last weak, after much battling for joy the days prior–the Holy Spirit led me in a simple prayer: Conform me to Jesus. And it may be one of the most powerful things I have ever prayed.

Scripture tells us that it is God’s will to conform us to Jesus. Romans 8:29, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…” We ask God for a lot of decision-making wisdom of where to live, who to marry, what to study, what to buy…and He leads us each in a thousand different ways. But the bottom line is, whatever He says, and wherever He leads us, the goal is the same: that we will be conformed to the image of His Son. Jesus Christ.

For some, this is a great path of pain and heartache, for others it’s filled with sweet symphonies of joy. And for many a big mix of both. But God determines that, and He determines what is best for us, by steering us in the way that will most conform us to Jesus. And He does this, (Vs. 28 says) “for the good of those who love Him, and have been called according to His purpose.” So He does this for our greatest good, and our greatest joy, and His greatest glory–all at once. Because being conformed to Jesus Christ is exactly what we all desperately need. Every day. We all need to be violently rescued from ourselves, from our flesh, from our selfish ambition, from our pride, and dependency on ourselves. Those things all lead to death and the grave and kill our spirit–no matter how pretty they look on the outside.

Instead what we need, is to be like Jesus. And I know how cliche that sounds. I’ve heard it my whole life–but when I understand who Jesus really is, and what He is really like–it doesn’t sound cliche anymore. It sounds like being parched and dying of thirst, with my throat burning and then being led to the only stream in the world, from which the purest, and coldest water flows, and lapping it up like a thirsty dog.

I began writing this prayer out in my journal one morning, and as I prayed it, I felt such intimacy with Christ. I felt loneliness flee away from me, as I invited Him in. And gave God full permission to conform my heart, my will, my desires to His. I’ve been praying this every day since, because it changes the way I see everything. I hope it does the same for you.

journal

Conform Me To Jesus Prayer:

God,

What I really need, as I open up Your Word to seek You, is really just for You to conform me to Jesus.

Conform me to His Heart.

His tender mercy.
His hell-binding compassion.

His argument-bucking grace.

The way He NEVER falls for Satan’s schemes, or tricks, or offenses. Not once.

Conform me to His Wisdom.

Conform me to His TRUST in the Father. The way He held the Father’s Word higher than any other. Even as Satan breathed out threats against him. Even as people persecuted Him.

Conform me to His power to “throw down” arguments, instead of trying to “win” them.

Conform me to His discernment and patience.

Conform me to His Love. 

His love that “suffers long and is kind.” (1 Corinthians 13:4)

That is not “irritable or resentful.” (13:5)

That “believes the best.” (13:7)

That “always hopes, always trusts, always perseveres.” (13:13) Always, always, always. The love that always wins. A love so true and powerful that it can do more than wisdom, it can do even more than faith. A love that can move mountains, loose strongholds, and cover over a multitude of sins.

Oh God, I can read and study and pray. I can evaluate my heart and interrogate others.

But without love, the love of Jesus–it is nothing.

Clanging gongs and cymbals.

I can read long, I can read short. I can wax poetic, or write for hours trying to find it. Trying to find You.

But if I don’t walk away from this time with my heart a little more conformed to Jesus…

What is the point?

I would be better off a pagan.

It would be better for me not to know Your grace, or to have tasted Your salvation—than to have tasted it, and turned and used as as some sort of ruler to measure others and cast judgement.

So conform me to Jesus.

Conform me to His Joy.

To the “joy set before Him.” Joy that enabled Him to endure shame. Joy that the Father would always come through. Joy that all authority in heaven and earth had been given to Him. Joy that the victory was sure. And that one day sin and darkness and perversity will be blotted out from the earth forever. And that sorrow and sighing will be no more.

Conform me to His joy. His humility. His pleasure in getting low. In the way He came not to be served, but to serve, and give His life as a ransom for many. (Matt. 20:28)

Because whatever happens today, whether my worst nightmare, or greatest pleasure. You have ordained it to conform me to Jesus. Whether my family, and friends, and spouse are pleasant and easy to love, or stubborn, arrogant, and rude–conform me to Jesus.

Whether things go my way, or absolutely nothing goes my way–conform me to Jesus. Whether my body thrives with energy, or dies away with disease–conform me to Jesus.

Because this world, and my family, and my friends, and my spouse desperately need more of Him, not more of me. So let my will, my ambitions be crucified again this morning, so that I may be rendered dead, and Christ can live in me. (Galatians 2:20) And so that I can know You. So that I can glorify You, by enjoying You forever.

I need You to break into the atmosphere this morning. Conform me to You. That there may be less of me, and more of You. More of your joy, your peace, your wisdom, your mercy and compassion. More of your power, and more of your purity. And all the things I’m not–You are. So conform me to You. The One whom I live and long for.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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This Ugly House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hallelujah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is There Ebola On My Shopping Cart?

P1010542Whose sweaty hands might have pushed this shopping cart before me? Someone with Ebola?  This was me: the face of normal suburban woman. With the mind of a panic-stricken psycho. That’s why I passed up the shopping carts that day, with my child on my hip, determined to carry all my groceries in my arms.

Hello. I’m one of “those” people with what’s been called “fear-bola.” And this is the very reason I was at the grocery store. I was  preparing for what my husband likes to call “the Zombie Apocalypse.” And by preparing I mean storing away some non-perishables and bottled water. Shampoo. Supplies. Etc. And by “Zombie Apocalypse,” I mean…well, use your imagination.

I’ve seen the movies people! I’ve seen Outbreak, and Contagion, and World War Z.  And if Ebola catches fire in America, the next thing you know is that everyone will start freaking out and looting grocery stores, and there won’t be anything left on the shelf, but a bottle of ketchup. My family can’t live on a bottle of ketchup.

This is why I was at the store: in case we have to bunker down. But because I was too freaked out about Ebola to even use a shopping cart this is what happened: I was carrying Selah on my hip, and stockpiling containers of oatmeal in my arms, like a real lunatic. But as she squirmed in my one arm, and I tried to load the oatmeal in the other—one by one, the oatmeal containers kept slipping out of my arms, and dropping onto the floor, and rolling down the aisle, picking up [I’m sure] even more viruses. Ugh!!

That’s when I realized: I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t hold both my daughter and my fear—without dropping something.

So…I abandoned my “plan” and marched to the front of the store. And I should have left right then, but I didn’t. I stopped at the front of the store and stared at the carts. This is crazy. You are acting like a crazy person, I told myself. But in my jumbled reasoning, I kept quoting from Proverb’s, “Look to the ant.” I needed to be smart. I needed to be ready. I needed to get food for my family. So, after a giant leap of faith, and a fist full of sanitary wipes, I wiped down a cart, snapped Selah in and reverted to my mission with more Mama Bear zeal than ever. ROAR!

Now with a cart, I could carry more. So, instead of going back to the oatmeal, I went for the “dog food” size bag of rice instead. More efficient, I told myself. Then I went to the water aisle. But as I’m plopping jug after jug of water into my cart, I see that Selah is licking the cart handle. Licking it, ya’ll! 

Ahh!!!??? “What are you thinking???!!!  

“Selah!” I looked in her eyes. Blue and wild with wonder. “Selah, don’t do that! Okay!?”

And at this point, I’m mad. I’m mad because I can’t control it. I can’t control her. I can’t protect her from anything..really. And there is no sanitizer for tongues. Yet.

When I got to the register, all that filled my cart was: rice and water. I awkwardly loaded my giant bag of rice and tried not to make eye contact with the cashier, or anyone around us.

Once we arrived home, I carried Selah’s tired little body in my arms and laid her down in her crib for her nap. And, just like that, she fell asleep. So peaceful. Without a care in the world.

And the memory came back then, of them both slipping out of my arms. Her and the oatmeal. And the oatmeal dropping on the floor and rolling. And of not physically being able to do it. Of not being what I wanted to be for her. As her protector. As her mom.

And I felt angry and sad and helpless. Because she licks shopping carts. And because I can’t protect her. And if it’s not Ebola, it’s terrorists, or school shootings, or a rare disease, or a car accident, or bacteria in baby wipes.

And I’m wrestling with all these fears, and all these emotions, and all these questions. And I feel pushed down by them all.  I just want her to be safe. I just want her fragile little girl life to be beautiful and safe and not interrupted or broken by the evil in this world. Is that so much to ask?

And suddenly I’m not just wrestling with fear. I’m wrestling with God.

Himself.

I’m wrestling, and wrangling, and sweating. God, I hate it here. Why is it like this? Why is it so dangerous and ugly and risky?

And why can’t I just be her savior? 

And I’m pushing all my force, and all my anger, and all my questions into Him. Where? Where God? Where can I go to get a life that is just…safe? And without pain? Or heartache? Just give me that life God! Just give her that life! Because I don’t want her to bruise, or bleed, or die..

And after too many words, and tears, I hear Him say in a voice so still and quiet, that it hushes me completely:

“Who do you say that I am?”

And it’s moments like these where I feel like Christ comes and presses my squirming, fighting body up against the wall, like a lover would, and whispers gently in my ear.

“Who do you say that I am?”

“Do you trust Me?”

“Do you know Me?”

And I’m held like this, in breathless stillness. No longer wrangling. But still. And small. And I feel His strength locking my weak frame in his arms and all I can do is weep…because I want to be held like this forever. 

And here in the weakest place, He wants the places of my heart that I most fiercely protect. And I just…let Him hold me. And I let Him hold her. My sweet girl. For her life is in His hands. For she was always His first, and mine second. And I can entrust her to Him, the very One who made her, and calls her His own, to watch over her soul. The part of her that will live forever.

Our world is full of risk at every turn. John Piper says, “We cannot avoid risk even if we want to..whether we stay at home under the covers or ride the freeways. You don’t know if your heart will stop before you finish reading this page. You don’t know if some oncoming driver will swerve out of his lane and hit you head-on in the next week, or if the food in the restaurant may have some deadly virus in it, or if some man with a rifle will shoot you at the shopping center. We are not God. We do not know about tomorrow.” —Don’t Waste Your Life, pg. 80-81

I do not say this trouble you, but to give you hope. To help you see that God holds the power of life and death. And He may not always do what is best for our physical bodies (which are temporary), but He will always do what is best for our souls (which are eternal). Whether by life, or by death. He will care for us…forever. With perfect love. In this life and the life to come.

So we don’t have to be afraid, and we can say, “Even if the earth quakes and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea; I shall not fear. (Psalm 46) And if an army besiege me, even then I shall be confident. (Psalm 27) And I will not fear the terror by night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness. (Psalm 91) And if I perish, I perish with hope…in the Lord.”

But no matter what happens, nothing, I say this with tears, nothing shall separate us from the love of Jesus Christ. Not angels or demons. Not the present or the future. Not hunger or famine. Not ISIS or Ebola. Not fatal car accidents or cancer. Not heart failure or anthrax. Not bombs or bullets. (Romans 8) Nothing shall separate us from His love.

And whether by living, or dying, I want to know Christ. I want to proclaim Christ, for He is the treasure in this life, and the life to come. I want to say, “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid; for the Lord is my strength, and my song, and He has become my salvation.” Isaiah 12:2

For soon, and very soon,

I will stand before Him. Face to face. My own eyes will see Him. I and not another.

And He shall ask me one simple question:

 

Who do you say that I am?