Betsy’s Testimony: God’s Got It

 

As I write down my thoughts and dreams, my interactions of each day I can truly see myself as a whole person these days. But it wasn’t always this way …

I can look back into my “diary” and see the transaction from the last few years, last few months, mainly the last few weeks. Just recently I have become the person I had always led on to be.

The strong one. The one who is truly happy for you.

The one who is “OK” she is not carrying the child she has longed for, for years.

I find myself smiling at situations I once cried at.

I find myself dancing and singing in the front row at church.

I find myself carrying on more positive conversations with those who truly care.

I find myself when I look into the mirror – finally.

I once carried myself as a disappointment–rather a true daughter of the Lord. I was disappointing my husband–who wants to be a dad just as much as I want to be a mom.

Spending hours missing work to drive miles and miles because what that one doctor told me, I didn’t want to believe–and what the other doctor told me, I didn’t want to hear.

I thought maybe someone who didn’t know me from my past appointments would say something I hadn’t heard yet. But they all said the same, “We will just keep trying.” “Your next cycle will be different.” “ALL THINGS DOCTORS SAY.”

One day, I stopped listening to what those doctors were saying and listened to what my heart of hearts was saying.

It spoke so loud to me one day, and I knew what I had to do.

I had to cry and pray.

Pray and cry.

One day I woke up feeling not so sad, not so heavy hearted…I felt like me again. The person who I was before all this pressure of getting pregnant, providing my husband with a child, providing a grandchild to my parents.

I felt free.

Yes, there are some days that are easier than others. Yes, there will be days harder to come…but I know where to go on those days – and that makes it all the easier.

I prayed for comfort, for a solution, for something to change my life and the whole time it was inside right there inside of me.

This gift given to us from God, this gift to “The Grinders.”

The gift of peace.

The gift of peace that He has it.

God’s got it.


Thank you Betsy for sharing how God’s gift of peace is restoring life to your spirit and soul as you trust Him! God is surely able to saturate the thirsty soul with Himself, and He longs for each of us, whether we face infertility or some other struggle, to rest, to surrender, and to believe with all our heart: God’s got it. Because He does. 

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?”

Crystal’s Testimony: I Need To Be Enough For You

When I hear the word “barren,” I find it offensive.  Not because I view myself as barren.  I actually don’t.  If I view myself that way, I feel I’ve accepted defeat.  I’ve given up.   I’ve reserved myself to the fear that God has forgotten me and my desire to be a mother.

No, I’m not offended that my physical body is barren.  I’m offended, because I know that my barren spirit offends the Lord.   Each time I find myself feeling broken, hurt, lonely, and empty, I know it’s because I’ve tried to solve my problems on my own.  

One more supplement.  A new medication.  Another doctor visit.  A different procedure.  Surely, more information will shed light on the problem and explain why I haven’t conceived.  There must be something tangible I can do to make my body cooperate and carry a healthy baby to term.  

But over and over again I hear God saying…

“I need to be enough for you.  

When will I be enough for you?”

 

I go through the cycle month after month.  I’m filled with hope and anticipation that this will be it.  Something this time will work, and my husband and I will conceive our first child.  I wait with waning patience. And over and over, the waves come crashing down and I fall into despair.  

Not this time.  Maybe not ever.  The disappointment overwhelms me, and the depression is enough to crush my being.  Anger follows, and I want to shut myself away from the world.  It’s in that moment that I pray, through sniffles and tears, sometimes even without words.

“Lord, why does this continue to happen?  What am I supposed to do?  How do I fix this?”

And each time, the answer is the same.

“This isn’t something you can control.  It isn’t something you can fix.  I don’t need you to do anything.  I am enough.  What I need is for you to trust me.  Your faith has to be bigger than your fear.”

And in that moment, a weak laugh escapes with a shallow breath.  I’ve done it again.  I’ve taken my eyes off of Him.  But each time, He brings me back.  And I pray that His words never leave me.  

I’m listening, God.  I hear you.

I pray that he strengthens my faith and that one day I will realize the joy of being a mother.  But first, I know he must continue the work in me to repair my barren soul.  

Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. – 1 Chronicles 16:11


Thank you Crystal for boldly sharing your testimony today. This journey is long, and hard. But thankfully, God saturates the barren soul with Himself. Continue to listen for His whispers. And may He satisfy you more than you ever dreamed possible. 

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

What If The Mountains You Face Aren’t Mountains At All?

A photo by Karsten Würth. unsplash.com/photos/b_8eErngWm4

I still remember the breathtaking view as we mounted the summit of the Continental Divide in Colorado. I had never seen real mountains before. (Just the kind we have in the East.) And my husband wanted to show me real mountains. I still remember, how massive they were, or how small I was in comparison. My head spun with the vertigo.

When my daughter Selah was just 2-years-old, I realized she didn’t know what a mountain was. Not a clue, actually. So, trying to be educational mommy, I googled some mountains and sat her up on my lap, “See these, these are mountains,” I told her. We looked at as many high-resolution photos online as we could. And I whispered, “Someday honey, I’ll show you real mountains.”

Later that week, as we drove to the grocery story, Selah began shouting from the backseat, “Look Mommy! Mountains! Mountains!”

“Where??” I asked, looking around.

She pointed stiffly out her window, “Right there, Mom!! Mountains!”

Then I saw what she was seeing…

It was a gravel yard.

Assorted types of gravel sat in big heaping piles, 20 or 30 feet off the ground.

“Mountains!” she shouted, raging with excitement.

I could not help but laugh.

“Oh honey,” I said. “Those aren’t mountains.”

“They just kind of look like mountains.”

I couldn’t help but think as I passed them on the way home, how they really did look like mountains.

To her.

Because she was so small, they looked big.

***

How many times in my life have I seen the mountains in front of me and been overcome with fear? Drained of courage–to face them. To cross them.

Sometimes the mountains just seem so big. So terrifying. And so solid.

But what if, when I am seeing mountains—God is seeing little piles of gravel?

What if He’s whispering, “Oh honey, that’s not a mountain.”

“Not for Me.”

What are the mountains that you face today?

 

Often the mountains (for me) are health-related. Is that lump cancerous? Does my blood count point to something life threatening?

Is the baby’s sonogram normal? What if he has a disease?

And we wait holding our breath for test results to come back.

Maybe you are waiting to hear about the diagnosis of someone you love.

Or maybe you are facing a mountain because of an illness or injury they are going through right now.

Our mountains can be financial.

Or relational. Maybe you just don’t know if your marriage, or your own flaws, or spouses flaws can ever change–or if God can redeem your brokenness into something beautiful again.

Mountains. Sometimes everywhere we look, we feel we are surrounded by mountains.

And the mountains we face seem big.

Solid.

And unmovable. 

But what if, just what if…that mountain that you face is not a mountain at all?

What if, it’s just a heap of gravel?

Because to God, that’s what it is.

Maybe, it looks like a mountain from where you are standing.

Maybe it looks impossible to face.

Impossible to cross.

But it’s not impossible for God–nothing is impossible for God. God is ABLE.

I love this story in Mark 9 where a father comes to Jesus and is distressed over his sick son–who has a demon, and convulses, and is harmed because of it.

This son has had this problem since he was a “small boy” the story says.

And it’s still happening as he’s getting older. He’s not “out-growing” it. He’s still convulsing, foaming at the mouth, and rigid. I can’t imagine how heart-wrenching it would be as a parent to watch your own son or daughter go through this. And not be able to do anything to help.

When this desperate father meets Jesus, he is already defeated. He already feels like this “mountain” will never go away. After all, he already went to Jesus’ disciples and they could not drive the demon out.

And when Jesus sees this, he says, “You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.” (Mark 9:19)

The boy’s father says to Jesus, “But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

“‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” (Mark 9:22-23)

Some versions say, “If you are able?” Some have exclamation points, “If you can!”

Do you hear the shock in Jesus’ voice here??

If I “can”?!

If I am “able”?!

The poor boys father, probably with tears in his eyes, exclaims, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (9:24)

And He does. Jesus drives out the demon, and restores the boy.

I love this story–because it’s so honest. On both sides.

The despair and agony of the father that his son cannot be healed.

And the unfiltered shock of Jesus, at their unbelief. As if He is saying, “Have you no clue Who I AM?”

But then, this loving exchange–where the father cries out, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

And the way Jesus just crushes the mountain in front of them. So they can walk through it, like a pile of rubble.

Sometimes as we tremble, terrified of the mountains, we forget:

God is the maker of the mountains.

And He can form them.

And He can crush them.

Like gravel.

(“‘If I can’?” replied Jesus.”)

He is not like us.

We are small. And afraid.

But He. He is big. And strong.

And mighty.

He can do things no one else can do. 

He can heal things no one else can heal. 

He can change things no one else can change. 

If you are trembling, and afraid, like I so often am, I want you to listen to what God says about Himself,

“Is My hand shortened at all that it cannot redeem?

Or have I no power to deliver?” Isaiah 50:2

 

Oh dear one, have you forgotten who God is?

Have you forgotten what God can do?

What are the mountains that you face?

I don’t doubt they look and feel impossible.

And maybe they are. For you.

But they are not for God.

 

His word says  what is impossible with men, is possible with God.

Because all things are possible with God.

Even that mountain you face today.

 

Sometimes we see mountains, and God sees little mounds of gravel.

“Oh honey, those aren’t mountains.”

“Not for Me.”

For Him it is a small thing. It is easy.

And I pray He demolishes those things you called “mountains” and shows us they were just piles of gravel.

Not because they weren’t difficult, or hard, or scary. But because He is so much bigger than those things that terrify us. So much stronger. And He is more solid than they are.

And maybe He’s asking today,

“Do you see Me as bigger than the mountains you face? Or smaller?”

“Do you see Me bigger than your fears? Or smaller?”

The answer to this question, defines the size of your mountains.

The answer to this question, either makes them appear like Everest, or like a gravel pile.

He is God. Hope in Him today.

The God who says, “‘If I can?'”

And, “Everything is possible for one who believes.”

And we cry with tears, and trembling, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

May He turn our mountains to rubble, and victoriously walk us through them. Because He is God. And He is able. And what is impossible for men, is possible with God. Who says…

image

“Is My hand shortened at all that it cannot redeem?

Or have I no power to deliver?” Isaiah 50:2

Don’t Forget The Miracle

selah

It’s 9:47 p.m. and she’s still not sleeping. Though I put her to bed over an hour ago. It’s bedtime–the never ending saga–of hugs, and kisses, and stories, and songs. And tears–because the door isn’t cracked open enough to let the light in, and cups of water. And reassuring whispers in the dark.

It’s 10:15 p.m. and I thought she was sleeping, but she’s calling for me–yet again. “Mom! Come here, I need to tell you something!”

I go up. “What?”

“I hurt my finger.”

I have no idea how you can hurt your finger while wrapped in soft blankets. But, that’s my girl. “Okay. Good-night,” I say.

Eventually, she does sleep. Eventually, we all do.

And…I forget sometimes that the little blonde-haired girl in the blue snowflake pajamas next door–is a miracle. I forget sometimes of what my life was like, before her.

And how I never expected her to come.

But she did.

She did come, because God had ordained it. And I didn’t know it. I didn’t know she was coming to us.

All I knew was this name, He dropped in my heart, before we ever conceived her, before we ever even wanted to try.

It was,

Selah.”

It’s from the Psalms and means, “pause, and reflect on this.” It’s a musical interlude, when the singers to grow silent, and reflect on what was just sung.

And I thought about Selah often. I didn’t know if Selah was really a girl, or merely a state of mind. I didn’t want to try and “name it, claim it!” I didn’t want to try to dictate to God, what He would do, or what or who He would give us. I thought maybe God just wanted to teach me how to practice, “Selah.” To be still, and listen, and reflect–on Him.

And I wasn’t sure.

And it was shadowy, like something from a dream. Like traveling through fog.

You can’t see it, but then, it’s right there.

And I didn’t see her. I couldn’t see her.

But then,

she was right there.

The miracle.

Sometimes miracles are like that. They seem so far away. And then, suddenly, it’s right there.

We were just watching a movie one night, and I got up to take a pregancy test I had bought that day in the clearance section at Walmart. “Do you want me to pause it?” my husband called up the stairs.  “No!” I shouted.

I didn’t know that in two minutes everything would change for us.

I didn’t see it coming. I didn’t see her coming.

But God did.

He always saw her.

And this is something I love about God–He sees everything. He sees it far before.

And He sees us.

He sees us, even on the day we stop believing in miracles. And He loves us still.

I don’t understand it all. I don’t always understand God. But that is part of His mystery. And part of His majesty.

I don’t really know how miracles work–but I know that when God does a miracle, we should celebrate it. We should remember it. And never forget it.

That’s why when the Israelites crossed the Jordan River, they were commanded to bring up twelve stones from the bottom of the river–and take them with them. It was to remember that God had stopped the flow of water for them, so they could pass through. He saved their lives. And God wanted them to keep the twelve stones as a memorial–so that one day, when their children were grown, they would ask their fathers, “What do these twelve stones mean?”

And then, they would remember. Then, they would tell their children–what God did. The miracle God worked on their behalf.

We are prone to forget–the miracle.

So today, remember.

Remember the miracle–that God did–that time you were crying out. That time when you whispered prayers in the dark. And you couldn’t see anything in front of you. That time you thought nothing would ever change–but it did.

Remember the miracle, that God did?

Remember?

Sometimes we have to remember the miracle of the past–in order to have hope for the future.

Remember the time, He victoriously came through?

Remember the miracle?

Because when we remember–then we can celebrate. Then we can trust Him. Then we can worship. Then we can stop walking by fear, and start walking by faith. And joy. And trust.

We are taught to be good at telling people our accomplishments–about showcasing our talents. But what if we started saying, “Now, let me tell you about what God did..” “Let me tell you about what God accomplished…in me.” “Let me tell you about the time God victoriously came through.” These are the stories our kids need to hear. These are the ones they will remember. This is how we show them the twelve stones. And the God–who carried us through the river.

“We will not hide these truths from our children, we will tell these truths to the next generation, about the glorious deeds of the Lord, about His power and His mighty wonders.” Psalms 78:4

We have to remember. We have to celebrate–what God did. Even if it was last month. Even if it was last year. Even if it was ten or twenty years ago.

Remember the miracle. And the God who showed Himself through it.

“So the next generation might know them—
even the children not yet born—
and they in turn will teach their own children.
So each generation should set its hope anew on God,
not forgetting his glorious miracles
and obeying his commands.” Psalm 78:6-7

***

One day, my daughter will ask me if I believe in miracles.

And I will tell her, Yes. You are one.

Selah

FOX2015-97

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.

When the Barren Sing

girl silloutte

I was looking for a parking space in a very crowded lot, when suddenly, near the front, a car pulled out in front of me. I quickly turned on my turn signal, eager to pull in, and whispered a prayer of thanks. But as I began to pull in, I read the sign nailed in front of that space: “Parking For Expectant Mothers ONLY.”

I hit the breaks. And just sat there for a moment, before shifting into reverse.

For Expectant Mothers ONLY.

Who knew a parking lot could be so cruel?

It was like I just got rejected from the Mommy Club. “No barren women allowed.”

The sign could have said: For women whose bodies work right. For women who have had their prayers answered. For women who have something to look forward to.

For women with something to expect.

I still remember it so well. That longing. That wanting to “expect” something. Or someone.

I used to walk through Barnes & Noble and see that giant “Parenting” section near the Children’s Books Department. And the rows and rows of “What To Expect” books.

And I remember the feeling that I had nothing to expect. 

“Because, I expected to be pregnant by now. I expected a lot of things. By now.”

But if you are barren today, I want you to know you have something to expect.

You have Someone to expect.

And He is Almighty God. And He’s coming for you.

My prayer for you today is that you would know His love, and know His nearness, and know His mercy. Because He just wants to pour it out on you like never before.

I know Mother’s Day is just around the corner. And the sting of infertility can become sharper than ever. But God has a message for you this Mother’s Day. He says:

“Sing, O barren, you who have not borne! Break forth into singing, and cry aloud, you who have not labored with child! For more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married woman,” says the LORD.” Isaiah 54:4

“Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed; neither be disgraced, for you will not be put to shame; for you will forget the shame of your youth, and will not remember the reproach of your widowhood anymore.” Isaiah 54:13

“For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has mercy on you.” Isaiah 54:10

“O you afflicted one, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold, I will lay your stones with colorful gems, and lay your foundations with sapphires.” Isaiah 54:11

First He tells you to sing. And then, He gives you the reasons to sing.

And they are:

1. Because you will not be ashamed.

2. You will not be disgraced.

3. You will forget the shame of your youth.

4. My kindness will not depart from you.

5. My covenant of peace will not be removed from you.

6. I’m going to comfort you and lay a foundation for you. In precious stones.

He’s saying everything you have grieved, all your sorrow, all your disappointment, all your despair—I’m going to remove it. And I’m going to redeem you. I’m going to redeem your life. I’m going to be a Husband to you. I’m going to pour out my mercy on you, and show you everlasting kindness.

Now that is something to expect.

See, God knows better than anyone, exactly how you feel in this moment. Can you hear His tender love here? “O you afflicted one, storm-tossed and not comforted, behold I will lay your stones with colorful gems, and lay your foundations with sapphires.” Isaiah 54:11

He’s saying: I am with you! I am for you! And as long as you put your trust in Me, you will NEVER be disappointed!

So, sing barren one! Break forth into singing and cry aloud!

You were not meant to be silent. You were not called to pine away in despair. You were made to sing, lift up your voice, because of God. And because of His mercy and everlasting kindness He pours out on you.

I hope that there is this sound across the land, the song of the barren women, lifting up their voices. Shouting for joy. And singing louder than anyone in their churches this Mother’s Day. And when they think of Him, when they think of His love, tears fill their eyes. Because He is closer now than ever before.

Because when the barren sing, something powerful happens. When the barren sing, the darkness trembles. When barren sing, Satan shudders. When the barren sing, the silence is broken. Despair and heaviness leave. Emptiness becomes full. Dead places become alive. Hardened hearts turn to flesh. Clenched fists, open wide in surrender with joy, joy, joy.

Laughter is restored. Like the sun warming your skin. And hope. And peace. And rest in the Holy Spirit.
When the barren sing, heaven breaks through.

So sing. 

“My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him.” Psalm 62:5

And He’s coming to take all your shame, and fear, and sadness, and sighing, and make it flee away. Forever.

[If you need a place to start, listen to this song (it will open in YouTube in a new window): Reason to Sing

For more reading on worship during infertility, or heartache of any kind, here are some other posts that may be helpful: Singing in the Dark, Where Is God When You Can’t Get Pregnant?, About My Barrenness.]

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?

Can Fear Cause Barrenness?

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Fear has been like a constant shadow in my life. It seems to disappear at times, and reappear in a new guise–kind of like Alfred Hitchcock. Viewers used to make a sport of “catching” him in cameo roles in nearly all his movies.  “There he is boarding a bus!” (Or walking a dog, or sitting at a table in a photograph, or standing in a crowd.) And sometimes, you could only see him by his signature shadow or dark silhouette.

That is how fear has been in my life. Subtly (or not so subtly) appearing in moments of my childhood, teenage years, adulthood, and now motherhood.

For all the joy I felt when I discovered I was pregnant, a greater amount of fear came crashing in with it. For a while, I woke up every morning terrified my baby would die. I thought to truly rejoice would make me vulnerable. Vulnerable to pain. And I feared the more excited I got about this child within, the more devastating the pain would be if something happened to her.

I hate this; how fear is always sneaking into the picture. Always showing up somewhere new to make me a slave again. There’s no other way to describe it. Fear paralyzes me, making me more like a Kohl’s mannequin than a living person. (See how when I was at last physically pregnant, fear was turning me “barren” again?)

Fear Causes Barrenness

Can fear (really) make you barren?

Well, no. Not in a physiological way. (Though people will keep telling you if you “just relax,” you will get pregnant. I wholeheartedly disagree.) A medical study linking especially “fearful” people to being “unable to conceive” has never been proven or even done to my knowledge. Every day, both fearless and fearful women discover they are pregnant. Faithful and faithless. If fear prevented pregnancy, no market would exist for the myriad of contraceptives on every shelf, at every pharmacy across the nation.  The majority of people are fearful; so if that were true, nearly no one would be having babies! We may even go extinct.

But fear does cause barrenness—in another form. Fear causes a barrenness of the soul, which is far worse, because no doctor can give you treatment for it.

Fear is like those little suckers that grow on your tomato plants. They look like growth, but any gardener will tell you to pluck them off immediately(!) because all they do is steal the nutrients from the plant—making it fruitless. And, like fear, they keep popping up in new locations. So you must keep pinching them off, or you plant will never bear fruit.

Jesus said, “… I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last…” John 15:16a

Of course he is not talking about tomatoes. Nor is he talking about having a bunch of kids either. What makes you “fruitful” is abiding in the Vine, remaining connected with Jesus. He says, “Apart from Me, you can do nothing.” So when you disconnect from Christ, and let fear be your new master, it doesn’t matter if you can garden like Martha Stewart, or give birth to the Brady Bunch clan—you will be barren. The fear takes over and make you like a dry bush. You will not be able to see the good, even when it comes. (See Jeremiah 17:6)

Fear always does the same thing: robs you. Depletes you of all your energy. Fills you with constant dread. That dark shadow creeps up again. Maybe it changes from dread about finances, to worry about your parents, to distrust with your spouse, to anxiety over your kids (or not having kids), to being consumed with fear about your health, or being paralyzed about something God is calling you to do. Fear is crippling. And consuming.

Dismissing the Shadow

It seems like fear is always sneaking onto the set wearing some new costume. But we are not fools. We can see the shadow, and know who is casting it. Let me make this plain: Fear does not come from God; fear comes from Satan. In fact, the enemy of our soul delights in making us fearful. But is this how we should live?

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy: 1:7

I remember a phone conversation with a pregnant friend during my pregnancy-fear battle when she said, “I had no idea how much Satan would bombard me with fear once I got pregnant!” She explained how older mom’s say it’s no easier as your child gets older. There is always something to be afraid of. SIDS. Kidnapping. School-shootings. Car wrecks. Every new phase brings on new fear. But then she said something so freeing I will never forget, “That’s why my husband and I decided we have to say ‘No,’ to fear now. Right now. While our child is still in the womb, we are deciding not to let fear rule us. We don’t have any guarantees about our child. We only know he is from God, so we give him back to God and say, “God, he is yours. We offer him to You.”

It was true. Like her, I had no guarantees from God about my child’s life. I have none now. But I have a God who is bigger than my fears. Stronger than my weakness. Aware of all my needs. Faithful in all His promises. And who tells me not to fear. Ever.

Dear brothers and sisters, let today be the day you dismiss the shadow by crying out:

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. For You are with me…” Psalm 23:4

The True Light

We can spend today afraid of what may lurk in the shadows. Or we can invite the Light of the world, and watch the darkness flee away. For, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (1 John 1 :5) We have to choose. If fear makes us barren–then faith in a loving, light-bearing God surely makes us fruitful, alive, even powerful! Let’s abide in His words today, for they are truth and they are light when fear’s dark shadow falls on us:

He says, “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32) “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:27) “Do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9b And, in [My] presence, “sorrow and sighing will flee away.” (Isaiah 51:11) So, “To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One.” (Isaiah 40:25)

So we say in confidence, “Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.” (Psalm 46:2) For, “In Your light we see light.” (Psalm 36:9)

And He says, “Be still and know that I am God, I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psalm 46:10)

So do not be afraid, for “the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining.” (1 John 2:8)