Monday, December 16, 2013

The Decline

     Last week, my family called in hospice due to my sister's declining health. On Monday we were told that Rachel probably had about 3-4 weeks left. On Wednesday, it was reduced to about 2 weeks, and Friday it was again reduced to about a week. As morbid as it sounds, we are essentially waiting for her to die. Yet, despite the grim news we received, my family has been surrounded by peace. Although we have all been sucker punched with grief at times, the Lord has been faithful. I am thankful for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ to which my sister clings. I have full confidence that Rachel will be going to be with the Lord where she will be healed completely. I have to remember that Paul says that "to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21) because when she passes away, she will open her eyes to a place of perfection where she will never suffer again. She is going to glory to be with the God she has faithfully served. While I grieve because of the loss I will soon experience, I know it is temporary. One day, I will get to go Home and join her in perfectly praising our Creator. But for now, I must continue to run my race. I must be faithful with the time the Lord has given me on this earth. God is still good, and He will forever be my Sustainer and Comforter.

For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
"Death is swallowed up in victory."
"O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?"
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
1 Corinthians 15:53-58

The Afters - Broken Hallelujah

Friday, November 29, 2013

Thankful Thoughts

     It is almost impossible to go through Thanksgiving without reflecting. Thanksgiving almost forces me to think back over the year that is almost finished and the blessings in my life. The word that keeps echoing in my mind is time. This year, I have learned to appreciate time, and I have been blessed with the gift of time. I have been given time with Rachel in which I have grown closer to her. In this year, I have been privileged to see my sister's heart. I have seen her in triumph when she had moments of independence. I have seen her struggle when she was frustrated with her progress. I have seen her discouraged and depressed. I have seen her compassion for others in spite of her own trials. I have developed a deeper love and respect for the woman she has become. In this year, our sisterly love developed into genuine friendship. She inspires me to live life with an attitude of gratitude. I am beyond grateful for the precious moments I have with her. Rather than dwell on the unknown and questions about the future, I choose to thank the Lord for time.

     This reflection on time has spilled over into other areas of my life as well. I have learned to be thankful for my own life. I was not promised a specific amount of time on this earth; so, I have truly been trying to live more purposefully. I am thankful for the time I have with my daughter. The Lord has provided me with a job that allows me to stay home and see my daughter grow daily. I am thankful for the time I have in ministry. I am thankful for the relationships that have formed and the renewed purpose I have seen in my life because of time in ministry.

     Time is a precious gift that we often disregard and take for granted. We view it as a guarantee rather than a gift. I pray that we may come to realize its value and treasure it, rather than squander it.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Checking In

     For about the past month and a half, I feel like I have been sleep walking through my life. I wake up long enough to sponsor a youth event, attend church on Sundays and Wednesdays, or be okay around my extended family. In the name of "Faking-it-till-I-made-it," I have been playing happy and doing the "right" things to keep up appearances. But the reality of my heart has been that I did not want to be okay. So while I had completed all the rituals to maintain my outward appearance, at home I had checked out. I didn't want to work on loving my husband; instead, I nitpicked at everything he did. I didn't want to parent because it is hard and emotionally draining. I didn't want to consistently do devotions because I didn't want to be convicted about the condition of my heart. I didn't want to write because that would require me to think deeply about the Biblical things I had been reading.

     I just didn't want to be okay.

     If I was truly okay, then was I forgetting about the child that I had lost? If I was truly okay, then was I willing to surrender to whatever the Lord called me to do next? If I was truly okay, then was I ready to put aside the fear of losing another child and try again?

     I still fully believe everything that I wrote in my previous post and the Lord has greatly comforted my heart in ways that I can't explain, but a large part of me has not been ready to continue on with life. I knew what I should be doing to recover from my heartbreak, but I was not ready to be obedient.

     So this is me checking back in. I'm choosing to remember that my actions have an impact on others. I'm choosing to be obedient to the call to the call of Colossians 3:17 "And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him." I am tired of living halfheartedly. I'm ready to wake back up.

Monday, October 7, 2013

One Day I Will Meet You, Precious Child of Mine

     For three days, I knew I was pregnant. With a positive pregnancy test to prove it, I rejoiced for the new life that was growing within me. For three days, I basked in the nausea that was a constant reminder of the blessing I would receive. Jacob and I prayed for our child, dreamed about our child, imagined what our child would look like, and grew ever more excited. On Thursday, I found out I was pregnant. On Sunday, I knew I no longer was.

     Naturally, we grieved and are continuing to grieve. But the Lord truly prepared my heart for this. I have never grieved like this before because in the midst of my pain and sorrow, as strange as this may sound, I am grateful. Every parent wants to protect their children, and every parent who sees their child in pain desires to carry the pain for their child.

     In a way, the Lord has allowed me to do this. I hurt and grieve and sorrow, but our child never will. For that, I rejoice.The Lord has protected my child in a way that I never could. My child will never be bullied, feel insecure or devalued, experience sorrow or heartache, feel rejected, be persecuted, or feel alone. My child will never experience my love in its current imperfect form. I will never snap at this child or accidentally hurt his or her feelings. When I meet this child, my love will have been perfected. I will never have to worry about this child's salvation because our child already knows the Lord more fully that Jacob or I do. Our child dwells in a place of eternal joy and glory. A place untainted by sin and filled with the presence of the good, creator God. So in my grief, I rejoice.

I will bless the Lord at all times;
His praise shall continually be in my mouth
Psalm 34:1

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
but the Lord delivers him out of them all
Psalm 34:18-19

Starfield - "Hiding Place"

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The God Who Uses Pain

     I have read through the book of Acts multiple times in my life, and my church just finished doing a verse-by-verse study of Acts on Sunday mornings. But apparently, I do not pay enough attention. About two weeks ago, I was reading though Acts again in my quiet time, and I was struck by a verse from the story of Paul's conversion. I have read this verse I don't know how many times, but this time it finally struck home. This time, I actually started to think through the implications of this verse.

     In Acts 9, after Paul's encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, Christ appeared to Ananias and instructed him to go and restore Paul's sight to him. Christ explains to Ananias, "For for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name" (Acts 9:15-16).

     I accepted Christ when I was about seven years old. I went to my Dad and told him that I was ready to follow Christ. We had a discussion about sin and grace because he wanted to make sure that I understood what I was doing. I wonder what my response would have been if my Dad had looked at me and said, "Becky, I want you to know that God is going to ask you to suffer to bring glory to His name."

     This is essentially the experience that Paul had. Paul knew that when he placed his faith in Christ that the result was going to be suffering. Paul still had the choice to reject the truth that he had seen in the resurrected Christ, but he chose to acknowledge the truth even though it meant he would endure suffering. Yes, Paul still experienced joy and awesome blessings from God, but the man was familiar with suffering. Yet, we never really see Paul moping about his call to suffer. Paul probably had a better understanding of the universal call to suffering for all believers as promised by Christ in John 15:18-21, John 16:33, and ultimately demonstrated by Christ in His death. But Paul chose to accept the Truth regardless of what he would suffer or what it would cost him. And Paul did suffer. He gives an account of his sufferings when he says,

"Five times I received at the hands of the Jews forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches" (2 Corinthians 24-28).

As a result of these hardships Paul experienced, we now have some of the most powerful versed on suffering and endurance including:

Romans 5:3-5 "Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."

2 Corinthians 1:3-7 "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we  know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort."

2 Corinthians 4:7-10 "But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies."

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 "So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal."

2 Corinthians 12:10 "For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

Philippians 3:8-11 "Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith - that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead."

     This same man also wrote Philippians 4:4 "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice." Paul who was no stranger to pain, heartache, and rejection; Paul who would ultimately die for the name of Christ, tells us to rejoice! How amazing! How convicting! That is a faith worth imitating.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Don't Give Up

     As I previously mentioned, I just got back from a women's retreat with my church. This week I have been going through my notes from the sessions and through my own journal entries so that I really process everything thing that I learned. In this process, I noticed that I have been struggling with the fear that God's plan is not worth the pain that I feel. I am afraid that all I will see out of my sister's cancer is the development of my own character. While I appreciate the lessons I have learned, I would not trade my sister for character. But that's why God didn't ask me. I am scared that in years to come, I will view this pain as pointless. I still don't understand some of the struggles that Jacob and I went through a few years ago. I don't see a benefit or deep change. All I remember is pain.

     But that is how I feel. What I know is that God is good and so is His plan. His priorities and ways are higher than mine (Isaiah 55:8-9). He uses the weak things of this world to shame the strong, and the foolish things to shame the wise. And He does this so that, in the end, I will boast in the Lord (1 Corinthians 1:26-31). Even if I do not see the affect of this in anyone other than me, then I will still praise Him. If my change is all I see, then I want to change tremendously. I don't want a tiny change; I want a transformation. This will only happen through complete surrender and devotion to God. I wont change as long as I am trying to hold onto control or tell God how to solve my problems. I need surrender. I need reliance on God. I need to pursue His character, and dig deep into His Word. At the end of this struggle, I want people to see Jesus when they look at me.

I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 
Philippians 3:14

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Don't give up.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The God Who Was There

     Several months ago, it was announced that the women's ministry at my church was planning a two day retreat. Immediately, I decided that I wasn't going to go. At that time, I was exhausted, stressed, and worried. I did not want to add to that by going on a retreat where I knew that I would have to get out of my shell, meet new people from the church, and be transparent. I did not want to leave my daughter (even for that short period of time), so I just decided then and there to make up an excuse for why I couldn't go. I would make myself busy that weekend.

     But then, a few weeks later, more details about the retreat were announced. And that is when I heard that the theme of the retreat would be "Come & Enter His Rest." I instantly began to tear up. I was worn and weary. I had been praying for rest and here it was. After church, I told Jacob that I thought I needed to attend, and he agreed. From that moment on, the retreat could not come fast enough.

     It became the beacon of light that I stared at as I went through the month. I counted down the days because I knew that this would be a time of intimacy with my Lord. I knew that this would be a chance to refocus. I already respected the woman from my church who would be speaking, so I knew that I would be challenged and strengthened. I knew that it was going to be an experience that made me grow. I knew exactly what would happen.

     But I had forgotten that I was headed to meet with my God "who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us" (Ephesians 3:20). I forgot that God is bigger than me.

     For the past month, my sister's blood platelets have been too low for her to receive chemo treatments. Then hours before leaving for the retreat, Rachel received information that this week not only are her platelets low, but her white blood cell count is below normal as well. So I walked into the retreat with a nagging fear. Is this the beginning of the end? Will it be downhill from here? I cam full of fear and anxiety, but I came seeking God. And the Lord did not leave me desperately seeking. The second half of Psalm 9:10 states, "for You, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You," and I was not forsaken.

     Right now, I cannot explain everything that I learned because I am still processing some of the information. I am still working out all the application and ways these lessons need to change my heart. At the retreat, no one walked on water. A pillar of cloud did not appear to guide us through our activities. But the Lord reminded me of so many aspects of His character that I have known, but I have forgotten to trust in. Verses that I have leaned on for years were brought back to my memory. I went in full of anxiety and fear, but the Lord has encouraged my soul. At times I wept uncontrollably, but through it I was renewed.

     In the final moments of the retreat during a prayer time, a woman from my church asked if she could pray for me. She prayed that God would give me strength to minister to my family and to my sister. I began to bawl. I felt like my strength was depleted, so God sent me a reminder that He is my source of strength. As I listened to her pray, it was as though she had read my journal and seen all the areas where I had grown faint.

     During her prayer, my Mother came over and began to pray for me as soon as the previous prayer ended. My Mother prayed that I would release the burden of how I responded to my sister's illness as a child (This began a whole new fountain of tears). For years, I have been ashamed of how I reacted when I was younger. I hated that I reacted in anger, bitterness, and depression. I hated that when I met people, I always wondered how much they had heard about me. Were they meeting me? Or did they think they were meeting the mouthy, rebellious child? For years, I have carried guilt. Oh the guilt! I felt guilty for how poorly I treated my sister when I was younger. I felt guilty for purposefully fighting with my family. I felt guilty for causing tension. I just felt guilty.

     But my Mother asked God to help me lay down that burden. And in that moment, through sobs, a ten year old burden was lifted off my shoulders. I felt relief.

     This weekend I felt so much love and support. I don't know what God is going to do next. Whatever it is, I know that it probably wont be easy. But I was reminded that the Lord will not leave me disappointed.

Friday, August 30, 2013

My Mature Thoughts (Since I am Now 25)

     This week I turned 25. So I guess this is about the time where I should freak out about my age because I am half way to 50. But, honestly, I love that my age is starting to catch up with my lifestyle. I am a serious homebody. I was married a couple months before I turned 20, so I have never done the party/bar/club scene. I started helping in youth ministry before I was 21... so people have been treating me like an "old married person" for years. I am just happy that I am finally getting to the age where I should stop having to answer the question "Why do you act so old?" (Now, if only teenagers would stop asking me which high school I go to).

     But on a more serious note, I have been very conscious of how blessed I am. I have an amazing and loving family. My siblings all typically get along and my parents are godly examples. Soon my brother and his wife will be welcoming a daughter into our family. Basically, my family is just awesome.

     The blessing that I have been the most conscious of lately is that of the church. I am so thankful that God gave us the church. The congregation that Jacob and I attend has been a huge blessing to use. The people there have really ministered to our family during my sister's illness. They have prayed for and with us. They have supported us when were were struggling with the questions of "why?" We have opportunities to minister and serve others. I have known some of the people at my church since I was a child. And there are newer people who have become near and dear to my heart. I have been blessed by the solid doctrinal teaching that I have received in sermons, Sunday school, and youth group. I have been pushed to grow because the people around me are not content being stagnant in their faith. I love my local church!

     But the church is so much bigger than the number of people who worship in the same building as me. I know countless people across the country who have prayed for my sister and my family. I am encouraged on a daily basis by Facebook friends who are ministering to people through the gifts that God has given them. I am heart broken and emboldened by believers in other countries who face persecution and sacrifice because they will not compromise the message of the Gospel.

     I am so thankful that the Lord did not call us to live out the Gospel by ourselves. I am thankful that God does not ask us to fly solo. I am thankful that I am a part of a worldwide mission to bring the Truth to people. I am thankful that I have people who are more mature in their faith who show me godliness, and I am pushed to grow because there are younger people that I do not want to give a poor example.

     Life was not meant to be lived in isolation. It is a group effort. We encourage each other, love each other, pray for each other, correct, minister, teach, and comfort each other.

     Let us be active. Let us open our eyes to the needs around us and do something! Let us remember that life isn't really about us.

Then the righteous will answer him, saying, "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?" And the King will answer them, "Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me."
-Matthew 25:37-40

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Prayer for a Friend

     Lately, my heart has been heavy. Over the past several months, it has come to my knowledge that several young people that I care deeply about and poured my life into are no longer walking with the Lord. When I have spoken to them about their life choices, one word has continued to show up: feeling. I have heard
If I feel happy, then I think it is ok.
I just feel like the Bible doesn't apply here.
I think God just wants me to feel happy.
I feel like I don't know what is right and what is wrong. Who can say?

     It breaks my heart because they are not basing their actions and beliefs on logic or reason. They have abandoned their quest for the Truth and have settled for whatever feels good. In a search for love and value, they have forsaken The One who can truly offer those things.

     The Bible clearly states that "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9). If my heart is corrupt and deceitful, then my feelings are going to lie to me. It is only in the truth, which is constant, that we should base our decisions on.

     So I have appealed to these young people. I have reaffirmed that I love them. But I cannot make choices for them. So now I pray. I pray for protection. I pray for deliverance. I pray for them to be brought back to Christ.

Casting Crowns - A Prayer for a Friend 

Monday, August 5, 2013

Back to the Grind

     I have just returned home from a wonderful trip to Wisconsin with the majority of my family. Unfortunately, my husband and my younger brother could not make the trip with us due to their work schedules, but the rest of my family was able to view some beautiful scenery, see several tourist attractions, and eat wonderful food. Yet, even through the trip, my resolve to be thankful and grateful for God's blessings was put to the test.

     See, right now, life seems to be shrouded by a dark cloud of eminent doom. A haunting question that hangs over my family. Is this the last time? Is this the last trip I will go on with my sister? If it is, did I spend enough time with her? Why didn't I take more pictures with her? Did I show her that I love her?

     All these thoughts swirl through my head and coat my memories with a bitter-sweet feeling. Because of all this, I think I have been learning that joy is a choice. I have known this for a long time, and from and early age I was taught that "happiness is an emotion, but joy is a state of mind." However, as of late, I have really been required to put that knowledge into practice. Having joy really comes from putting life into perspective. It comes from, once again, refocusing on what is true.

1. This life is not the end. I know I have talked about this before, but it is truly one of my deepest comforts. At some point, I will lose my sister in this life. It may be a year or 30 years, but at some point we will die. But this life is not all there is. For those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ, death is the beginning of eternal life - an eternal life spent with our Lord and Savior. Paul writes,
            So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we              are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord" (2 Cor. 5:6-8). 
For the believer, death is a homecoming. It is the end of pain and suffering and the beginning of true joy and peace.

2. The pain, sorrow, and fear I feel now are temporary. Life is short. It is a momentary breath compared to eternity. At times, life seems cruel and overwhelming. It feels like it is too painful, too hard, too difficult. Life seems to kick us while we are down. At times, it feels like everything in life is attempting to break our spirit. But those moments are short. Those moments are, just that, momentary. Paul again reminds us,
     So we do not loose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being                renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal                weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to things that are seen but to the things      that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal (2 Cor. 4:16-18).
Times of suffering are moments of brevity. They are not even worth comparing to the joy of eternal life with my Redeemer.

     It is to these truths that I, once again, cling. I think this is another thing that the Lord has really been teaching me - I have a deep need for The Truth. For as long as I can remember, I have know that Jesus said "you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (John 8:32). But I have always thought of this verse in reference to being tangled in your own web of lies. However, I am now learning that in every situation, the truth is liberating. I am learning to daily fix my eyes on the truth and cling to it in times of struggle and in times of blessing. It is only in the truth that joy can be found.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Lord My Provider

     Over the past week or so, the Lord has been consistently reminding me that He is the Provider of all my needs. First, I was hired about two weeks ago as an online tutor. I had applied for the job over six months ago, and I had honestly forgotten about it until I received an email saying I had been removed from the waiting list. Since I haven't been working at all summer, this is obviously a major blessing. It feels as though a huge burden has been lifted. I can now work from home, take care of my daughter, and contribute to our family's finances.

     Second, I am going to be able to go on a short vacation with my family. I am specifically excited about this because I will be spending a few days making memories with my sister. This will also be Autumn's first vacation. I am a little concerned about how she is going to act on the trip since she is going to have to sit still for several hours in the car. But I am sure that with a little patience, everything will be fine.

     So I am working on contemplating God's goodness and trying to focus on being truly thankful. This week I am committing to thanking God for His blessings with my whole heart. I want to notice and acknowledge all of His blessings not just the big ones.

I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart;
I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.
I will be glad and exult in You;
I will sing praise to Your Name, O Most High
Psalm 9:1-2

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Who I am Hates Who I've Been

     Lately, I have been struggling with some of my old demons. Old patterns, habits, and thoughts that I thought were conquered have been creeping into my head. I hear these whispered lies in my head that crush my heart and push me toward a spiral of untruths. I hear whispers of

"You're worthless."

"You're insignificant."

"You will always be viewed as the bad kid."

"You wont make a difference."

"You don't matter."

     I thought I had overcome these lies and that I wouldn't struggle with these feelings any longer, but I haven't. I still carry around my past and my sin nature. As I have grown older, I have learned that often times my feelings do not correspond with reality. I know the truth, but these feelings slowly creep up on me. If I do not dispel these lies immediately then they grow and rise to a shriek. They remind me of who I was and scream at me that I am insignificant.

     During my teenage years, I bought into these lies and I allowed myself to be held in emotional bondage. But, in that dark time the Lord taught me one of the most beautiful and precious lessons of my life: I am valuable because the Lord has declared me to be valuable. The value of something can be determined by how much someone is willing to pay for it. 1 Peter 1:18-19 proclaims "knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot." I am valuable because the God of the universe purchased me with His blood. What an awesome thought! Christ paid for my life to free me from sin and that makes me inherently valuable.

     Galatians 5:1 reminds me that "For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery." So I have been freed from these deceptive and errant thoughts. When I allow these thoughts to occupy my mind then I am essentially binding myself up. Ii may feel like a captive to my past, but in reality, I am free. The only one holding me in bondage is my own thoughts.

     So lately I have been trying to focus on who I am in Christ. When Christ looks at me, He sses a child that He has redeemed. I must remember God's promise when He said, "For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more" (Heb. 8:12). While people may remember my childhood attitude and my rebellious spirit, God has chosen to forget my sin. In the grand scheme of things, how God views me is all that matters. That is what I must remember and the truth to which I must cling.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Learning Patience from a Poop-Slinger

     Well my daughter Autumn has officially learned how to take off her diaper. Sigh. Tuesday morning I got up, peaked into her room and saw her bare butt cheeks sticking through the bars of her crib. So I got her up, put her in a bath, stripped her bedding because she had apparently peed out a gallon during the night, and continued on with our day.

     So a few hours later I lay her down for her nap dressed in a skirt and tank top. Then I exercised, peeked in at her to make sure her diaper was still on, and then took a quick shower. And that is when it happened. I heard her talking to herself so I stuck my head in her room and saw an awful scene. Autumn had shimmied out of her skirt, pulled off her diaper, and thrown pebbles of poop around her room. Her hands were covered in poop, her blankets had poop on them, there was poop on the floor, poop on her clothes. So much poop.

     And what was the first thing that popped into my head? "I have to clean this up... There is literally no one that I can pawn this job off on. I have to clean this up... by myself. Ugh." And then I lost my patience. I pulled Autumn out of bed and started cleaning her up while yelling that poop is yucky and that she needs to leave her diaper on. Then I parked her in time out while I got another bath ready. Once she was in the bath, I tackled her room and started yet another load of Autumn's bedding. All during Autumn's bath she kept repeating "Poop ucky. No, no" over and over.

     Finally, it was time for Autumn's second nap, so I laid her down (now dressed in jeans that had a zipper and a button). Once I finally was able to sit down for a minute, I realized that I had completely lost my temper. And then defeat settled over me. I had yelled at a child that did not know that she was doing something wrong.

     Oh, my heart sunk.

     Immediately, I realized my deep need for patience and gentleness. So throughout the rest of this week I have been consciously trying to practice patience. I have been purposeful in lowering my voice and slowing down my speech when I am trying to communicate something important or disciplining Autumn. I have been focusing on the joy she brings to my life rather than the brief moments of difficulty.

      But, on bigger picture, I need to be patient with her because the Lord is patient with me. Autumn did not know that she was doing something wrong, but how often to I purposefully disobey God? How often do I act out of rebellion? Yet, God is gracious toward me. Psalm 145:8-9 states, "The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that He has made." I am so thankful that my Father in Heaven is more patient than I am.

Shane and Shane "Psalm 145"

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


     This past week I have been reminded of the goodness of my God. The past week has been insanely busy, so it has taken me a few days to process and meditate on how much the Lord has blessed my family.

     First, as I mentioned in a previous post, my husband and I celebrated our five year anniversary. It has reminded me that the Lord was not required to give him to me. My husband is a reflection of the goodness of the Lord because the Bible states that "Every good and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change" (James 1:17). Jacob is unfortunately one of the Lord's gifts that I most often take for granted so this reminder has been necessary for me.

     Second, Sunday was Father's Day which has reminded me of the immense blessing my own father has been in my life. My Dad is one of the heroes of my faith. I look at his walk with the Lord and it pushes me to grow deeper in my faith. I have been blessed beyond measure because my father is a wonderful representation of the love of God. God has chosen to reveal Himself to us through the picture of a Father. For some people this imagery conjures up feelings of abandonment or anger because their early fathers were not invested in their lives. I have never had to deal with this struggle. My Dad found unique ways to connect to my siblings and me. He somehow managed to juggle work and his ministry at the church while still making our family essential. When I was in high school, I played two sports and acted in the play; yet, my Dad and Mom rarely missed a home game and came to my performances. They even traveled to some of my away games. Even though I am one of five kids and my Dad had a lot going on in his life, my parents made sure we each knew we were important to them. As I have gotten older, I have really come to understand how much of a blessing this was and how many people do not grow up with fathers like mine. I deeply love and respect my Dad.

     Third, yesterday my sister Rachel received the results of her MRI. He doctors said that the chemo has shrunk her tumor some and they were really pleased with the results. It appears that the Lord is granting us some time with Rachel which is a huge blessing. In January, after Rachel's surgery to remove the tumor in her brain, she had several grand mal seizures and then was placed in a coma to keep the seizures from continuing. For a time, the doctors were not sure if she would wake up. I was at church when I received the news and I broke down bawling and said, "I just want some time." In that moment, I was unsure if I would ever have another conversation with my sister. The Lord has answered my prayers and generously allowed my family and me to have some precious time with Rachel.

     Sometimes I genuinely struggle with having joy and hope. Sometimes I feel like the Lord is singling me out for pain and misery. But then the Lord grants me a week of remembrance. He provides a week that reminds me at every turn of His love and enduring faithfulness.

There is none like You
No one else can touch my heart like You do
I can search for all eternity long and find
There is none like You

Your mercy flows like a river wide
And healing comes in Your Name
And helpless children are safe in Your arms
There is none like You

Shane and Shane "There is None Like You"

Friday, June 14, 2013

5 years

Us in high school
     As of today, I have been married for 5 years. And I am finding that it incredibly hard to write this post without sounding super cheesey and sappy. So hopefully I wont completely sound like a love-struck 13 year old.

      This past week, I have been reflecting on our marriage. It certainly hasn't always been roses and walks in the park, but it has always been rewarding. We have made it through times of unemployment, financial struggles, personality conflicts, and a number of other struggles. We have worked, gone to college, had a baby, and tried to serve in our church. We have fought and learned how to disagree without cutting each other down or losing our temper... most of the time. We have had times of distance and times of closeness, but we have always made our marriage a priority and worked to stay connected to each other. We have learned that we will never have marriage figured out, but it will always be a work in progress.
Engagement pic

     I feel so blessed to be married to this man. I have known Jacob for nearly half of my life, and he has walked with me through the majority of the difficulties in my life. He has listened to me rage and cry. We have laughed so hard that I have snorted... and then laughed some more. We have years of shared history. He is genuinely one of the most serving and selfless men I have ever met. He is nerdy beyond all belief (He owns the Zelda sound track and can tell you which area in the game each song belongs to and what items can be found there). He is a deep thinker. He is affectionate and kind. But most importantly, we share a pursuit of godliness and a passion to grow in our faith. When one of us is broken, the other finds the strength to guide us to the love of God. I cannot imagine going through student teaching or my sister's diagnosis without his support.
Engagement pic

     So I would like to share a few (fairly obvious) things we have learned over the past 5 years.

  • You cannot go into marriage with an exit strategy. If quitting is an option in your mind before marriage then at some point when life is kicking you while you are down then leaving will start to look awfully appealing.
  • Pride has no place is a marriage. Marriage has shown me that I am often wrong and that my selfishness hurts others. When I allow pride into my life then being "right" and "winning" the fight become my priority.
  • Love isn't only a feeling. Some days you wake up grumpy and you just don't feel it. At that point you have to choose to act in a loving manner.
  • The joys of marriage are worth working through the difficult times. I have experienced so much joy from our marriage. I love Jacob and I love the family we have together. I love spending time with him and having someone to share my life with. he  is my encouragement and my ministry partner. He is my best friend and the person I can share my heart with. I thank God that He has allowed me to have Jacob in my life.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Pity Parties and Re-dedication

     Doctrine is so inconvenient. I am angry. I am angry about feeling like God has been silent even though I have been seeking Him. I am angry because I have tried to be faithful even when I don't feel like it. I am angry because I feel like God is picking on me. I am angry because I have yet to be angry about my sister's diagnosis. I am angry because I have been trying to be content and my resolve has been tested over and over and over.

     And even in the midst of my anger, I know that I am completely unjustified... which makes me angry. I know that I am throwing a HUGE pity party. While I am complaining about God being silent, I have "Be still, and know that I am God" (Ps. 46:10) running through my mind. I feel like God has not kept His promises, and "I will never leave you nor forsake you" (Heb 13:5) enters my mind. I am angry because I can't seem to be content and I am immediately reminded that Jesus promised "In this world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). As I am feeling miserable about everything wrong in my life, "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice" (Phil.4:4) springs into my mind. Doctrine is really inconvenient because it takes the pity out of this party. Truly irritating.

     I want to quit. I want to mope. I want to give up. I want to be angry and rebellious. But doctrine prevents me. Knowing that your wrong really takes the fun out of being angry. As I have been hurling empty accusations at God, I am rolling my eyes at myself because even I know that everything I am accusing God of is completely and totally wrong. As I am complaining to Jacob about how unfair God is, I am reminded of His past faithfulness and, even through tears, I know that I am wrong... sigh... I hate being wrong. Seriously, I hate being wrong.

     But, honestly, I have been truly grateful that I have a solid doctrinal foundation because I have seen the result of believing a lie. And it was not pretty. When Rachel had her first battle with cancer, I was only about 7 years old, so I had no idea how to process the fact that my 4 year old sister had brain cancer. So, at first, I thought that God was punishing me for being mean to her. But, I soon decided that was ridiculous. But I was angry and I didn't know who to be angry with. I mean, I couldn't be mad at God because "in all things God works for the good of those who love Him” (Rom. 8:28). Well, I loved Him. Cancer wasn't good so it couldn't be God’s fault. So I decided it was Rachel’s fault that her sickness changed every member of my family (it was rational in my 7 year old mind). As a result, I treated my sister awfully, damaged my relationships with my parents, and lost years to anger and bitterness. It took years to rebuild those relationships and the trust I had trampled on.

     So even when I was crying because I knew that my feelings were wrong and I know that God is good; I am thankful that I have grown in my faith. I am thankful that God can handle my anger. I am thankful that I dug deep in my faith over the past several years. And in the tears of apology for my lack of faith and perseverance, I silently started singing “I Surrender All” in my head.

     I wanted to be angry. I wanted to quit. I didn't want to see anything positive. Instead, I found surrender and then finally peace.

     My sob fest ended with this song. It is a reminder of who God really is even when my feelings don’t align with the truth.
Starfield "Cry in my Heart"

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Somewhere in the Middle

     Lately, I have felt a little lost in my life. I am putting out applications and trying to find a consistent job. Technically, I have a job as a substitute teacher, but it's summer, so I am not working. I'm not technically unemployed, but I feel like I am. I have countless applications out trying to get a more stable job so that I don't have to wake up at 5:45 every morning to find out if I am working that day or not. I am in transition, and I find that these are the most difficult time for me to be content. I feel like I am just waiting...



     I think if I just knew what I am supposed to be learning then it would be so much easier. Am I supposed to be learning patience, and I need to just keep applying for teaching/tutoring type jobs? Am I supposed to be learning perseverance, and I just need to keep petitioning God and contacting the places I have applied? Am I supposed to be learning trust, and the Lord is going to walk me through a time of rejection? Am I supposed to learn humility, and I should start applying for jobs outside of my educational background? What am I supposed to be learning? Is there even a right answer? Am I supposed to be learning all of these things? (<- Aren't these all nice, religious ways of saying that I wish God would just tell me the result?).

     Obviously, I want the Lord to work like a formula where if I do A & B then, as a result, He will give me C. Clearly, this is not how the Lord works. So rather than being completely frustrated with my life and allowing worry to rule, I am now trying to be content. I am still going to seek a job, but I wont allow my stress and in-between-ness to steal my joy.

     Today, I have been meditating on Philippians 4:11-13 which states,
          Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
Oh, how these verses convict me because I am so rarely content. So often are my prayers filled with complaints and jealousy resides in my heart. So often I am ungrateful for God's good gifts, and I refuse to acknowledge how generous the Lord is. How I wish to be rid of this ugliness in my heart!

      Lord, today I am asking that You would give me the strength to be content. When worry comes creeping into my mind, help me to dispel it by focusing on Your faithfulness and goodness. Give me patience so that I may find peace in this transition. Help me to remain obedient to the tasks You have commanded me. Help me to be faithful to Your word, loving to my family, and a good steward of my finances. Give me grace to accept Your good plan.

"Somewhere between the hot and the cold
Somewhere between the new and the old
Somewhere between who I am and who I used to be
Somewhere in the middle, You'll find me"
                         - "Somewhere in the Middle" by Casting Crowns

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Over Flow

     This weekend, I have been overwhelmed by gratitude for the body of Christ. On Friday night, several of Rachel's friends from a sister church put on a benefit concert for her. As a result, they raised over $3,000 for my parents to take Rachel on a vacation and to pay off some of her medical bills. The generosity demonstrated completely astounded me. These young people have only known my sister for about a year or so, but they cared enough about her to organize this event. It was a beautiful celebration of Rachel.

     As Rachel's older sister, I was moved to tears by the love, prayers, and time her friends put into this event. Rachel has never had friends like this before. For most of her life, Rachel has felt left out. Rarely would she complain about it, but occasionally she would express her loneliness to me. As her (overly protective and outspoken) older sister, it made my blood boil when I heard her mocked or when I saw her rejected. But within the body of Christ, she found love.

     This is why we are commanded to be a part of a church body. We need a place to serve, a place to find love, and a place to be built up. We need a place where we can see God working in other people's lives. The world tries its best to tear us a part. We need a place that is home.

     Before her surgery in January, Rachel had helped with the children's choir at our church. These kids love her. They have made cards for her and drawn pictures for her. They love her because she loves them. She is the most compassionate and caring person I know. But, unfortunately, for most of her life, her peers have failed to notice her.

     For years, the cry of my heart has been for her to not only find her value in the Lord, but that her value would be recognized by others in her peer group. I am so thankful for her friends who worked so hard to show her their love. I am thankful for all the people who came to the concert because they care about her. It was a night that I know meant more to her than anyone could imagine or express. And it was far more than a financial blessing to our family. It was a visible expression of the love of God. It was a demonstration of the abundant love of people who have know Rachel. It was a night that screamed at her that her life has made a difference and that she has impacted people in the little things she does.

     My heart is overwhelmed with gratitude.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

How Deep the Father's Love

        I have been thinking about motherhood a lot lately and about how much I adore my daughter. More specifically, I have been thinking about what I have learned about the character of God since I have become a mother.

     I delight in my daughter. I love to be her jungle-gym even when she is jumping on my stomach. I love getting smacked in the head with my brush because she is "helping" me do my hair. I love that she yells "Mommy" every time I walk into the room. I love when we are ridding in the car and she starts singing, "Mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy." It has become my favorite song. I love that I am now sharing EVERYTHING I own. My drink is hers. My jewelry is hers. She thinks my phone is hers. She is already trying to wear my shoes! I love that she is independent and strong-willed. I absolutely love this child.

     And yet my love is nothing compared to the love of God. I cannot even wrap my mind around how someone could love me more than I love her.

     But then I think about how often I fail her. Lately, when I tell Autumn "no," she will bend over, put her head between her ankles, and start to wail. By about the fifth time in a day that I have seen this tantrum play out, I start to loose my patience. How often do I react in frustration? How often am I selfish with my time? God never responds to me in these sinful ways. Psalm 103:8 says, "The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love." God's love is steadfast. It does not change with emotions, fatigue, or external circumstances. It is constant. When I go to the Lord in prayer with a request, how often do I respond to His answer of "no" by throwing myself on the floor and wailing (metaphorically, of course)? Yet, God never looses His patience with me. How incredible is that?!

     One of my favorite hymns is "How Deep the Father's Love" (I frequently sing this song to Autumn when I put her to bed). The lyrics to the first verse are,
How deep the Father's love for us?
How vast beyond all measure?
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure
God gave His Son as a sacrifice to pay the penalty for my sin. I was in awe of this before I became a mother but now this blows my mind! I don't care who you are, I wouldn't let my daughter suffer for you. I don't care what the circumstances are, I would always choose my daughter. But because Jesus is "abounding in steadfast love" for us, He was willing to suffer for us.

     Oh, how this encourages me to strive to be like Christ! I want to love her the way that He does. I want to be like Christ because she mimics me. I pray for her salvation. I pray that she will grow to love the Lord. And I pray that somehow she will see His love in me.

The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell
It goes beyond the highest star
And reaches to the lowest hell
The guilty pair, bowed down with care
God gave His Son to win
His erring child He reconciled
And pardoned from his sin.

"The Love of God" - MercyMe

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Magic Band-Aid

"God works in mysterious ways."
"Everything happens for a reason."

     I have really, truly come to dislike these phrases. I am sure that when people use these phrases they are genuinely trying to offer help, support, or comfort. But all I hear is "I don't know how to rationalize this situation into my view of a kind and merciful God so here is a phrase that still makes me sound religious and full of faith." I know, I know that is super harsh (see previous post about needing to work on grace and compassion). But that is my initial reaction. Why do we feel the need to provide an answer to life's pan in a short, easy to remember phrase?

     I started thinking about this for two reasons. First, I have been told these phrases numerous times over the past months by some of my work acquaintances. Second, I am reading through 1 Kings in my Bible reading plan and the events described in chapter 13 really hit me. In this chapter, a man of God (His name isn't given. He is just call a "man of God.") comes to king Jeraboam and gives a prophecy of destruction  He says he was told by God to deliver the message, return to his land a way other than the way he came, and to not eat or drink anything from the land he journeyed to. Then he sets out for Judah a different way than he came. Meanwhile, an "old prophet" (again, no name given) hears what happened and goes to find the man of God. The prophet tells the man of God that the Lord said it would be alright if he came and ate at the prophet's house. After the man of God ate, the prophet says that the man of God will die on his way home because he disobeyed the Lord. Sure enough, a lion kills the man of God on his way home and the old prophet buries and mourns him.


     The old prophet lies and goes seemingly unpunished and the man of God dies for believing him. Where is the justice? How is that fair?

     Then I have to ask myself, "Whose justice am I desiring? Mine or the Lord's?" Obviously, the answer is my own. I want life to be fair as I see it (which would mean that good things would happen to me and bad things would happen to people who wronged me). Thankfully, God's justice is perfect.

     So, again, I have to sit my heart down and remind myself of some Biblical truths.

1. Physical death is not the worst thing that can happen to an individual. The Bible clearly teaches that there is a real and eternal Hell in which those who have not placed their faith in the Messiah will suffer. For those who have placed faith in the Messiah, death is a gift. It is to be immediately present with the Lord and completely removed from sin. Are the prophet and the man of God both in Heaven? Only the Lord can judge their hearts, but physical death is not the worst thing that can happen.

2. God has the right to demand the life of a sinful individual at any point in time. All people are sinful and the payment we deserve is both physical and spiritual death (Rom. 3:23, Rom. 6:23). So God, as the righteous judge, has the right to take my life at any moment because I am sinful. Death is what I deserve. I was not guaranteed 80 years of life and a peaceful death in my sleep. I broke God's law, so I have earned death.

3. God is gracious. Not only was God gracious by providing a way to have eternal life through Jesus Christ, but any time we have on earth is because of God's grace. We don't deserve it. So can I say to God, "You haven't been gracious enough to my sister. She is only 22, so You can't take her." No, I can't.

     So, yes, "God works in mysterious ways" because "who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct Him?" (1 Cor. 2:16). Yes, "Everything happens for a reason" because "we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose" (Rom. 8:28). But I wonder how much comfort the man of God's family would have felt if they had been told one of these trite phrases after their family member had died. Would the have said, "At last!! I understand!" Doubtful. So may we all stop looking for the miraculous one-liner that will solve everything. May I stop trying to find the magic band-aid to give to my sister when she text me because she is upset that she will never get married or have children! I need to learn to genuinely "bear one another's burdens" (Gal. 6:2), to "weep with those who weep" (Rom. 12:15), and to allow myself to be vulnerable so that others can assist. Grief is uncomfortable. Grief is difficult. Grief is ugly. But God is a God of comfort. He will redeem the situations I cannot fix.

     So now I have a question for you, how have other people comforted you in the difficult times of your life?

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer.
2 Corinthians 1:3-6

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Loving Plants More Than People

     My family frequently reminds me that I am not the most compassionate person in the world. I definitely belong to the "rub some dirt in it" school of thought. Now don't get me wrong, if my daughter is hurt then I will drop everything to pick her up and hold her until she is all better. And if someone beats me to her, then I will straight up pry her out of their arms. God has also given me a significant amount of grace with teenagers. I don't know why, but teenagers rarely make me genuinely frustrated.

     But since my sister has been sick, I feel like my little bit of compassion has begun to dwindle. I see people complaining on Facebook and a part of me is tempted to say, "You think you have problems! Look at my life. Look at my sister's life!" It is almost like I have decided that no one else deserves to feel pain or stress because they aren't living with MY problems. It's like I think that I have the corner market on pain and suffering.

     How hard-hearted is that?!

     When did Jesus look at His disciples and say, "Your problems are insignificant"? Sure, He told them that they focused on the wrong things, but even in Gethsemane, He had compassion for their frailty. After finding His disciples sleeping when He had asked them to pray, He said to them, "The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is week" (Matt. 26:41). Jesus was about to die to make atonement for the world's sin (including His sleepy disciples), and yet, in this time of agony, He recognized their human frailty. It is in passages like this that I am amazed and astounded at the perfection of Jesus. The Lord know that my best response would have probably been "Father,  I will atone for the world... except for my lazy and unfaithful disciples." It is in passages like this where I am confronted with how often spite resides in my heart.

     I was recently reading through the book of Jonah in my devotional time and I was again reminded to be on guard against hard-heartedness. In children's books, the story of Jonah ends with God sparing the repentant city of Nineveh from destruction after Jonah gives them a warning. The people repent and God is merciful.

     But this leaves out the whole ending of the story! After walking through the city while preaching his one sentence sermon, Jonah goes outside the city, sits on a hill, and begins the count down to fire and brimstone. The repentance of Nineveh"displeased Jonah exceedingly and he was angry" (Jonah 4:1), so he begged God to kill him. Instead, God causes a plant to grow to provide Jonah with shade. When God allows the plant to die the next day, Jonah again tells God He is unfair and, again, asks God to kill him. The Lord responds by saying, "You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?" (Jonah 4:10-11). And the book ends. No response from Jonah. Did he remain hard-hearted and continue to whine before the Lord? What he repentant? Indifferent? I don't know. The book ends with the Lord's merciful correction hanging in the air.

    Perhaps, Jonah's response isn't important. Maybe the focus should be how do I respond when I am confronted with my own callousness. Maybe I am supposed to question how I respond when I realize that I love plants or money or comfort or my own self-pity more than other people.

May my heart break for the things that truly matter. Thank you for being gracious and compassionate even though I do not deserve it.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Your Love is Extravagant

     Today I want to take a moment to be truly grateful. I want to put aside the mess that is my life to honestly thank God for some of the unearned blessings He has given me. I think one of the hardest verses to genuinely apply to life is 1 Thessalonians 5:16 which simply says, "Rejoice always." It is a very straight forward command, but, if I'm being honest, complaining is just so much easier. So today I want to humbly thank the Lord.

  • I participated in my master's degree graduation ceremony this weekend. Technically, I graduated in December, but my school only does one graduation a year. On Saturday, I was hooded and proclaimed a graduate. I am thankful that God gave me the time and ability to complete my degree. I am thankful that it is OVER! 

  • I am thankful for the women who have shaped my life. Obviously, this weekend was Mother's Day, so I have been thinking about the impact my Mom has had on my life. My Mom is definitely one of those unearned blessings. For several years I treated my Mom with only anger and spite, yet she has continued to love me. While I don't think I will ever be able to remove the sting of words I spoke years ago, I am certainly attempting to deserve my Mom's respect and to demonstrate my love to her.

  • I am thankful for my generous and joyful Mother-in-law. Julie often expresses joy in difficult circumstances, whereas I tend toward cynicism. I am thankful for the way she raised my husband and the love she extends toward my daughter.

  • I am thankful for the other women in my life who have taken the time to walk along side me and guide me in life. There are several women in my church who have known me since childhood and have had a profound impact on the woman I have become. These women have forgiven the person I was and have taken the time to invest in my spiritual growth.

  • I am thankful for my sisters (Yes, I am thankful for my brothers too, but it was Mother's Day, so I have been thinking about women a lot). I have four wonderful sisters who mean the world to me. I have learned about compassion and empathy from my sister Rachel. Her heart truly breaks for others. From my sister Hannah, I have learned to be teachable. Hannah is the most like me in how she responds to situations except she is humble enough to admit when she needs advise and she typically follows that advise. My sister-in-law Katie has taught me about openness and sharing my heart with others. While I tend to push people away and isolate myself during difficult situations, Katie freely shares her heart. From my sister-in-law Dixie, I have learned to delight in my daughter. Each time she looks at her children, her face lights up with pure joy.

  • I am thankful that my side of the family was all together for Mother's Day. I do not know how much longer we will all be together, so I am joyful for every moment the Lord allows us to all be together.

  • I am thankful for my husband. Jacob is truly my best friend. I have known him since I was 13 years old and we were close friends before we started dating. He is the one who has seen my greatest joys and my deepest pains. He is my support because he leads me back to the cross of Christ when I am overwhelmed.

  • I am thankful for my daughter. For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to be a mother, but I never could have imagined how much it would bless my life. My heart melts every time she yells my name as I walk in the room. I cannot express the joy and pride I feel because I am her mother.

     All of these blessings ultimately point me back to my Lord and Savior. James 1:17 reminds us that "every good and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change." Though I did not deserve any of these blessings, the Lord has been generous to me. The Lord is the greatest blessing in my life. It is through Christ that I have freely received salvation. It is the Spirit of the Lord that comforts and directs me. And it is before the Father that I carry my burdens through prayer. I find rest and hope in His promises. In Him, I find my purpose and value in life. It is because of the extravagance of God's love that I have joy.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

For the Moments I Feel Faint

     It is my intention in writing this blog that I would be able to demonstrate the hope I have in Jesus Christ, but, at the same time, that is only possible if I am honest about the struggles I am battling. No one will see the true and genuine compassion of Christ if I have plastic mask over my face because I am afraid of transparency. It is a delicate balance I am seeking to walk. I desperately want to demonstrate the principle of 1 Thessalonians 4:13 when it says, "Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope." But I am also not an emotionless, stoic "super-Christian."

     There are days when exhaustion overwhelms me because I cannot remember the last time I slept through the whole night because I am plagued by nightmares. Days when no amount of Activia will calm my digestive system because I apparently carry stress in my stomach. Days when my emotions are balancing on a knife-point because of fatigue. Days when my emotions completely get the best of me and I lay my daughter down for a nap so I can "ugly cry" and weep before the Lord. Days I am overcome with pure anger and my heart desires to cry out with Naomi, "call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me" (Ruth 1:20). Days I don't want to read my Bible because I do not want to find comfort. Days I don't want to serve because I don't want to think about anyone other than myself.

     I certainly have my days and to say I didn't would be a lie.

     But it is in my response to these days that the hope of Christ is visible. It is on these days that I must recognize that "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?" (Jer. 17:9) and I must immediately run to the cross. On these days I must preach the gospel to my own heart and dwell in the truth rather than what I feel. Do I always respond correctly? Of course not! But it is an area in which I am seeking to grow. I do not always get it right but my batting average has definitely increased over the past few months. Some days I drag myself through obedience and I wait for my "want to's" to catch up.

     So I have started reminding my heart of what I know to be true.
1. God is a good and benevolent God who desires what is best for me.
2. God's definition of "what is best" is different than mine, but God's way is right.
3. This awesome and mighty God died on the cross to redeem me from sin.
4. The Lord owns my life because He created me and He purchased my life with His blood.
5. A God who was willing to die for me is not going to treat me with cruelty now.
6. I am not alone because my Lord has promised to "never leave me or forsake me" (Heb.13:5).

     In these truths, I dwell and I find my rest. In these truths, my heart finds comfort. After preaching to my heart, I return to a verse that the Lord has used so many times in my life. "Why are you cast, down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God" (Ps. 42:5). I then agree with David in saying, "But You, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head" (Ps. 3:3). On the days when I feel like I cannot even lift my head, I remember that the Lord will lift my head up for me.

Never underestimate my Jesus
You're telling me that there's no hope
I'm telling you you're wrong
Never underestimate my Jesus
When the world around you crumbles
He will be strong, He will be strong

- Relient K "For the Moments I Feel Faint"

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Don't Stop The Madness

     I cannot express how much Tenth Avenue North's latest album The Struggle has meant to me. I speak music. Music often can change my attitude and give words to the cries of my heart when my own words fail me. I cannot count the number of times I have cried out the lyrics of Tenth Avenue North's song "Worn" as a prayer of my own fatigue and a desperate plea to see my struggle redeemed. The first time I heard "Worn" was the week that my sister was given a terminal diagnosis, so after hearing that song, I quickly got the album. This whole album has comforted me immensely because the lyrics are so deeply rooted in Scripture.

     However, one song on the album was a little difficult for me to listen to. The chorus of "Don't Stop the Madness" says,
Don't stop the madness
Don't stop the chaos
Don't stop the pain surrounding me
Don't be afraid, Lord, to break my heart
If it brings me down to my knees

When I first heard this song, my heart reviled against this message. Everything in me cries, "Stop the pain! Don't break my heart! Why is there so much chaos? Why don't You protect me?" In so many ways, this song is NOT the prayer I voice to God. But then I quietly am reminded of the saying I have heard in so many sermons, "God is more concerned with my character than my comfort." It amazes me how different God's priorities are from my own. I am often reminded of Isaiah 55:8-9 when it says,
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,"
declares the Lord
"As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts."

Hallelujah! What a promise! I hardly ever know what is going on in life. How wonderful it is that God is in control even when I am completely clueless!

     While I would prefer for God to work great and mighty works in my life while I sit comfortably surrounded by earthly happiness and success, God rarely does things the way I would prefer them. Instead of saying, "I will make you comfortable," the Lord says, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Cor. 12:9). It is grace that we are promised and the result of this promise is followed by a declaration of peace in spite of pain. Paul then says, "For the sake of Christ, then I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Cor. 12:10). It is when I am broken and I have nothing left to give that God's glory is clearly shown.

     This same theme is displayed in Hebrews 12. I don't know if I have just been completely unobservant or what, but in all the times I have read about "being surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses" (Heb. 12:1) I never noticed that those witnesses all experienced trauma and tragedy. This verse comes directly after Hebrews 11:32-40 a long list of horrible persecutions people experienced. It is because of these examples and the example of Christ's pain that we are encouraged to "run with endurance the race that is set before us" (Heb. 12:1). We run because Gods' grace is able to make us strong enough to continue.

     So on a day when I watched my youngest sister break down... "My grace is sufficient for you." When I listened to my other sister bawl through "I Surrender All" because she knows that she is dying... "My grace is sufficient for you." And my response needs to be to press on.

     In the last chorus of "Don't Stop the Madness" the last two lines of the chorus change. It says,
Do whatever it takes to give me Your heart
And bring me down to my knees, Lord

Yes, I will still pray for healing and deliverance. But, regardless of how God works, it is my deepest prayer that God will give me the grace to say "Amen" to His decision.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Desiring Heaven

     Because I grew up as a pastor's daughter, I have gone to church about three times a week for my whole life. So for as long as I can remember, I have known that this earth is not really my home. Rather, Heaven is the home that I look forward to. The Bible states that because I have placed my faith in the cross of Christ my citizenship is in Heaven (Phil. 3:20). Growing up, I knew about the promises of Heaven and I could have answered all the Sunday School questions about Heaven.

     But there is a huge difference between knowing something and it being a reality in your life. All my life I have heard people talk about "longing for Heaven," but I never really understood why. Yes, I wanted to be in the Lord's presence and I wanted the removal of suffering. However, in many ways I was completely content here on earth. There were too many things that I wanted to do and experience on earth that I really wanted Heaven to hold off.

     Since my sister's diagnosis, I have been contemplating this idea of longing for Heaven. It has only been recently that I have really come to understand how painful life is. I have been reading through a book by Kevin DeYoung called The Good News We Almost Forgot which basically overviews the essential beliefs of the Christian faith (By the way, I love DeYoung's books. I read Just Do Something and Why We Love the Church a few years ago, and I am also currently reading Freedom and Boundaries). In his book he states, "Joy is always mingled with pain. Delight is always interrupted by suffering." Sin and pain truly taint every experience. My marriage to my husband is wonderful, but we still fight. My daughter is a huge blessing in my life, but I frequently fail her as a mother. I experience great joy when she hugs me and great frustration when she can only seem to say "no."

     During my student teaching, my students were supposed to write a paper about an event that impacted their lives. As a result, I received papers that recounted horrible events and a tremendous amount of pain. I was frequently brought to tears grading these papers, and at the end my heart cried "This is not how life was intended!"

     So lately I have been thinking about what pure joy is really like. I have experienced a great deal of joy and happiness in my life, but all of that is a glimpse of what is to come. What will an eternity be like where I am not only in the presence of my Lord, but joy will finally be made complete? What will it be like to experience joy the way that God does? Joy will no longer be tainted by selfish or prideful motivations or by difficult circumstances. I cannot even imagine. So now I groan with creation (Rom. 8:22) for the removal of sin. And I am actively remembering that I am a citizen of Heaven so that I will remember to act like it. May I represent my Lord well.

Monday, April 29, 2013


Why start a blog?

     To understand my motivation in starting a blog, you must first understand a few things about my current personal life. In January, one of my younger sisters Rachel (she is 22) was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. Rachel had been cancer free for 17 years until she started experiencing some numbness and tingling. She had an MRI which showed a cancerous spot. She had a biopsy, then surgery, which all lead up to her learning that her cancer is aggressive and incurable. Now she is currently on a low dose chemo which isn't supposed to have any major side effects and will be starting radiation today. On top of all that, I just completed my graduate degree in secondary English education, but I am now wondering if I even want to teach while I have a child at home (my daughter is 15 months old). So I am currently applying for jobs while I am trying to seek God's direction.

     So why write a blog? Because I have been haunted by this question of why? Why Rachel? Why now? Why do other areas of my life feel so up-in-the air right now? Why is my family called to struggle through this? Why? Why? Why?



     I don't know the answer and I never will this side of heaven. And, honestly, the answers do not matter. They will not remove my pain. So rather than focus on the unknowable, I must "turn my eyes upon Jesus" and focus on what I do know. I know God the Father allowed His Son to die on the cross to redeem humanity from sin because He is gracious and loving. The world is fallen. Life is hard. But "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8)," so He is still gracious and loving. Rather than allowing myself to wallow and focusing on the internal, I must turn my focus outward. Who can I minister to? How can I be an example? In what ways can I serve my family? How can I lessen someone else's burden?

     Why write a blog? Because I don't want to forget. A lady at my church told me that God would teach me some precious lessons during this struggle. She said they would be "difficult but precious." I don't want to forget the good and only remember the difficult. I don't want to forget how the Jesus "bound up my broken heart" (Is. 61:1) during this time. I want to remember what happened when I stopped bottling up my sorrow and finally fell to my knees in surrender. Since January, I have been praying that God would show me how He will redeem this struggle and use it for His glory. I do not want to forget the little glimpses He gives me.

     So this is a way to keep me honest. A way to remind me to praise the Lord even when I do not feel like it. A reminder to "count my many blessing." A reminder to pray even if I do not fully understand how the Lord uses my prayers. A reminder to be in the Word so that I can grow in my faith.

     Starting tomorrow a few members of my family, some fellow followers of Christ, and myself will be beginning a three day fast to pray for my sister. We will be fasting as a reminder to pray for God's glory to be revealed in my sister's struggle regardless of how the Lord should choose to work. I will be praying that my family would remain faithful to the Lord and that we would not dishonor His name. I will pray that many (including myself) will be encouraged to be bold for the gospel because life is short. I will pray for the salvation of those who come in contact with members of my family/church family. And I will thank the Lord for being faithful. Please join with me in prayer.