Category Archives: Struggles

Blindsided

20140626-232500.jpgLife can jolt you sometimes. Jolt you so hard from your bearings that the world around seems spinning and you can barely catch your breath.

Perhaps its a diagnosis. A phone call. A freak accident. An unexpected complication. A conversation. A change of someone’s heart. A death.

Sometimes your journey from mountain high to valley low feels more like being blindsided with mactruck force that sends you tumbling with ferocious speed to the depths below. When the wind gets unalterablly knocked from you, when well-laid plans become nothing more than memories, when your life’s trajectory shifts forever by circumstances beyond your control, what do you do? How do you cope? How do you even breathe?

There is pain. There is heartache. At times even despair. My path has shifted unchangably multiple times throughout my life by things beyond my control. Family changes. Job changes. Deaths and diagnoses. Hopes dashed and dreams deferred. I’ve seen such shifts occur in the lives of loved ones and those known at a distance. The struggle is real! Questions, cries, tears when they can’t be held back any longer. What do we do with this?!

Breathe.

Cry with honesty and reverence to the God who is WITH YOU moment by moment of this awful, painful, terrifying mess you never asked for and prayed would never happen.

Breathe.

Beloved, even now – in the confusion, in the fear, in the pain – He holds you with love in His eyes and unfailing strength in His tender grip with desires for your good saturating His heart. God is the ultimate Author and sole Redeemer of things allowed through His sovreign hand. He is writing your story to stretch far wider and richer than anything you could have dreamed, drawing you to lean fully on Him because after all, He is the only One with strength enough to carry us through. He bestows significance on our stories.

Breathe.

I’ve seen God turn mourning into joy.
I’ve seen Him bring beauty, hope and blessing from barrenness.
I’ve seen God knit together the fractured, the demolished, the destitute into creations more beautiful and strong than anything they could have been if they had remained whole.
I’ve seen Him take diagnoses cloaked with despair and make them stories of strength and impact, taking small life plans and stretching one’s touch round the globe.
I’ve seen His love resurrect dead hearts.
I’ve seen His grace make formidable the weak.
I’ve seen His faithfulness mend the unmendable.
I’ve seen God breathe new life where all hope was lost.
I’ve seen Him turn blindsiding tragedies into awe-inspiring victories, tragectories, powerful testimonies.

Over and again since the beginning of time, God has been finding the lost things, the broken things, the dead things with a fervent, seeking love that names them precious, significant, His.

I know because I’ve not merely observed; I have tasted and seen firsthand that the Lord in fact is good.

Hang on, weary one. You are not forsaken. You are not forgotten. You are being held this very moment by the One who holds all things together. Breathe. Cry. And trust what is True: He who began a GOOD work in you WILL BE FAITHFUL to complete it.

“I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” Psalm 27:14

“As for you, you meant evil against me but God meant it for good…” Genesis 50:20

“As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” Jesus answered, ” It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” John 9:1-3

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In The Midst

Its everywhere.  With each new bend comes another story of loss and heartache, of the agonizing question “why?!”  Like the ocean’s tide so comes tragedy these days. In waves upon waves, thrashing their pain on the helpless shore.  A mother’s arms empty as she walks behind a tiny hearse.  A grandparent gone too soon from sudden cancer.  Wars waged.  Jobs lost.  Lives lost.  So many lives lost.  Whether by lack of breath or lack of hope, death’s dirge plays all around.  We are the walking wounded. We are the walking dead.

“What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?” (L. Story)

These days of overwhelming darkness shows the radiant light of Jesus all the more.  How desperately we need Him!  How our broken world needs Him!!  Nothing has assured me more of the hopeless state of our planet and the true hope, the ONLY hope, that can be found: Christ and Christ alone.

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”  Revelation 21:3-4

Come quickly, Lord!  Bring pain to its final end!  Oh for that day when mothers no longer grieve with empty arms, when bodies remain unravaged by disease.  When peace finally comes: true and eternal.  Rest assured of His coming!  The Prince of Peace, the King above every king, the Redeemer.  The Lamb of God who was slain for the sins of the world.  Jesus.

But what till then?  Until that glorious day comes when He returns for His own…oh beloved reader…do you know Him??  Jesus.  The Son of Heaven brought low in earthly form who lived a perfect life and died an undeserved death so that WE, born imperfect, slaves of sin and bound to die a deserved death, could have LIFE!  Not just in eternity before the holy and righteous Creator God but now!  In the midst of all the pain, the injustice, the sorrow.  Jesus Christ and Him alone has bought our peace for now!  Sorrow comes as surely as the tide rolls in but we can mourn as those WITH HOPE!  I speak as one who has walked death’s valley, met sorrow upon sorrow, and in EVERY instance have found Him faithful with comforting strength as sure as the dawn.

Though these may seem like hopeless times…
Though darkness creeps in…
Though the inexplicable occurs and we are simply left with asking “why”…

Because of Jesus, we need not be hopeless.  We need not be alone.

“Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.  But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him and by His scourging we are healed.”  Isaiah 53:4-5

Do you know Him?

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Well Worn

ImageThey fray quickly now.  Within weeks deep denim hues begin to fade towards white.  This quick progression from new to used marks every pair of jeans I own, a pattern which began four years ago when I found myself knees-to-floor daily.

In a world of lofty ambition and heads held high, nothing has brought me low like motherhood.

Diapers.  Tummy time.  Playtime.  Wiping away spills.  Diapers.  Desperately looking for that other shoe.  Cleaning up toys.  Bath time.  Diapers.  Cleaning yet another mess.  Diapers!  I’ve spent much of the past four years on my knees and have the holey jeans to prove it.  Truth be told, this has frustrated me far more than it ought.  Couldn’t just one pair of jeans not look nearly spent?!  Vain, I know.

This simmering continued until last week.  As I put on a relatively new pair of jeans, I noticed the knee wear was much less than normal and smiled in delight.  But then an unexpected sadness set in.  I’m not on my knees as often.  The floorbound days are quickly fading with my children’s growth.  Less crawling on the floor.  Fewer spills to clean.  Nearly diaper-free with everyone now playing upright.  Our home will soon be baby-free forever.  How did this happen so quickly?!  The unending days of toddlerhood seem like a wisp now as I’m beginning to feel a mother’s pangs at her child’s increasing independence.

My grieved gaze looked upon the dark denim covering my knees.  Suddenly all the fraying jeans of the past four years no longer brought frustration.  Rather than carrying the marks of a weary mother, they bore weight like an honor badge, bestowed by grace and held in high esteem.  Oh the privilege of faded knees from hours spent earthbound with the most precious gifts given this side of heaven.  Forgive me, Lord, for not seeing their significance sooner.  Please open my eyes, soften my heart to delight always the wear and tears of this life You’ve entrusted to me.  Thank You for making my knees well worn.

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Withered

I’m currently going through You Belong To The Bridegroom (seriously cannot recommend this study highly enough!  Get it!!).  This week finds me in Mark 3:1-6, a passage familiar which packed a new-found punch.  In college, I traveled to India for two weeks and while there, one of my travel companions, Cara Powers George, shared an impactful message on this passage.  Today’s time in these six verses brought her words to memory as the Lord spoke fresh revelations to my heart.

The passage tells of a man with a withered hand who has a life-changing encounter with Jesus.  We know not why the man’s hand was withered.  Was it a birth defect?  A horrible accident?  The result of intentional harm?  No matter the source of his impairment, this man carried a physical reminder of weakness, inability and shame.  Every.  Day.  But rather than hiding in life’s shadows, we find him in the synagogue, the place of worship and teaching of Scriptures.  He had come to the place of religion but that day, he met the Source of Salvation.

Jesus called the man to Himself.  “Get up and come forward!”  One of disability, I wonder if the man blushed at the attention, slowly rising from the back of the room and walked timidly to the center of the synagogue.  Did he hide his hand beneath his cloak?  How often we too hide in our shame, embarrassed of the marks we carry of life’s afflictions and poor decisions.  Even in churches, we come knowing we ought be there or hoping answers will be found, yet put on a happy face, hiding the disfigurements we all carry behind smiles and cliches.

As he reached the Savior, this man heard the words, “Stretch out your hand.”  Expose your withered hand, your inability, your source of pain.  The very hand that had defined and limited the man was precisely what Jesus desired.  Bring it out from hiding into the light.  What struck me most in this passage was not just the Lord’s desire for the disfigured, but how He chose to heal him.  Verse 5 tells us that the man stretch out his hand (comma) and it was restored.  Notice the order!  The hand was restored after he exposed it to Jesus.  The man’s willingness to stretch out his hand, to trust Jesus with his greatest shame, brought forth His healing.  The Lord honored the man’s trust and obedience in restoring his hand.  How often He calls me to bring my withered parts to Him with healing in mind, yet I remain impaired by my own pride to keep it hidden.

I love how Jesus called the broken to Himself.  He was surrounded by Pharisees in this moment.  Men of discipline, knowledge and religious perfection.  Yet it was the man of withered hand, standing in the back shadows, that drew the Lord’s attention and affection.  Jesus did not ask the cause of this man’s brokenness.  In fact, He already knew it all.  But the cause was not of concern to the Lord.  Only that he would come forward and trust the messy result into His keeping.

We all have withered places: physical, emotional, mental, spiritual.  We all carry scarred results of past decisions and harmful afflictions.  But try as we might, we cannot mend ourselves.  Jesus calls us all to get up out of our shame and hiding, to come forward into His presence and to stretch out our disfigurements to Him.  Jesus loves us.  He longs for us.  And it is in our vulnerable trusting that His healing takes place.

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When Hope Seems Lost

This week overflowed with struggle and heartache.  Friends in pain, a terminal baby boy born and lost, a life-saving transplant seeming just out of reach, a new diagnosis plaguing one who has suffered much already, a beloved teenage boy’s life ending suddenly.  My heart has been heavy for people I love whose anguish I cannot ease.

Then yesterday happened.

Everything in me aches for Newtown, Connecticut.  My mind still can’t grasp the devastation the families of Sandy Hook are experiencing.  20 CHILDREN murdered.  Tears flood my eyes every time I think about it.  While our family celebrated Eliana’s first Christmas musical performance at school and laughed at Evan’s entertaining antics, other families were being recklessly shattered.  I know the pain of loosing a child, seeing their end near over a long period of time.  I cannot begin to fathom the agony of having your child’s life stolen so violently, so senselessly, so brutally!  Final words left unspoken, last goodbyes and I love yous never exchanged.  Why?!  Picking up Eliana from school became a luxury yesterday.  Hearing breath fill Evan’s lungs as he slept on my shoulder – a freshly appreciated gift.  My mind cannot contain the evil in this world, my heart overwhelmed by the pain it causes.

As thoughts raged and fear loomed closer, the words of a cherished song began to play gently in my mind.  Throughout the night and into this morning, Holding Us has grown louder in my ears as the Lord reassured my aching heart.  Written by my friend Josh Via during a season of great trial and uncertainty, its words hit home like never before.  I hope every person in Newtown…in our country…can hear this song.  Written out of suffering and based completely in Truth that never fails, it is a melody of hope for hopeless times.  May its truth still your restless heart today, drawing your gaze from fear to faith in God who holds us.

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Perspective

Lately, I have been troubled.  Troubled with worries, inadequacies, looming fears and a burdened heart for my precious friend in the fight of her life.  Focused on the awful things I cannot control, the fretting became consuming.

Last night, our worship team at Journey Church rehearsed for this Sunday’s services.  My mind continued to wander as we ran through songs, dwelling on pain Tricia is walking through each day without knowing what the Lord’s intended outcome may be for her life.  I want so badly to take this awful struggle from her, to ease every pain afflicting her weary body, to make all things right.  Unfocused and heavy-hearted, it was honestly difficult to engage in rehearsal.

The Lord’s timing is so perfect.  In the midst of my struggle, we began to practice a simple song that shook me in the best possible way.  You Are Good written by Kari Jobe.  Simple lyrics containing profound truth.

Your kindness leads me to repentance. 
Your goodness draws me to Your side. 
Your mercy calls me to be like You. 
Your favor is my delight.
Every day I’ll awaken my praise and pour out a song from my heart.
You are good, You are good, You are good.  Your mercy is forever.
Your kindness is forever, Your goodness is forever, Your mercy is forever, Lord.
 

I had been so focused on the broken, changing elements of surrounding circumstances that I had forgotten the constant, steadfast, ever-present goodness of God.  In the midst of failing health and daunting fears, the Lord is good!  In the face of the frightening unknown, the Lord is good!  He is always good!  It is who He is!  As the Psalmist sang over and again in Psalm 136, the steadfast love of the Lord endures forever.

The facts of any circumstance will never negate the enduring goodness of the Lord nor His love towards us.  Though I am still immensely concerned for my friend and desperately praying for a divine miracle worked on her behalf, my perspective has shifted back to remembering that no matter what, she is loved by Almighty God and treasured in His heart. (Deuteronomy 31.8; Isaiah 43.1-4)  Though the cause of some worries have not changed, I am different facing them by having the proper perspective that God reigns sovereignly above them all. (Isaiah 55.8-9)

Never underestimate the importance of proper perspective.  It can mean the difference between hope and despair.  In Jesus Christ, we ALWAYS have hope.

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Caught Between

Life seems to be a journey caught between two realities: the facts of our circumstances and the Truth of God’s character.  With every situation, we are faced with the choice of which reality we will choose to cling to.  The facts surrounding our existence may not all ways be easy nor quickly change for the better, but our perspective within those seasons will determine how we walk the path ahead.  It is a lesson I continue to learn over and over and over again.  Praise be to God who never tires in loving instruction, who’s faithfulness knows no bounds.

When caught between the facts and the Truth, we must always cling to the hope of Jesus and the Truth of His Word.  Here are a few examples:

If it seems impossible to choose the correct perspective: “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse.  So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days…”  Deuteronomy 31.19-20a

A child is sick or disabled, whether in utero or after birth:  “For You formed my inward parts; You womb me in my mother’s womb.  I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are your works, and my soul knows it very well.  My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.”  Psalm 139.13-17

Someone is maligning you for doing the right thing or you’re gripped by fear of the journey ahead: “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the One who goes with you.  He will not fail you or forsake you.  The Lord is the One who goes ahead of you; He will be with you.  He will not fail you or forsake you.  Do not fear or be dismayed.”

Plans go awry and hope seems lost: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.'”  Jeremiah 29.11

You can’t make sense of what God is doing: “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord.  ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.'”  Isaiah 55.8-9

You’re under attack and everything in you wants to fight back: “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.  ‘But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  Romans 12.19-21

You’ve messed up so bad that you don’t know how you’ll make it right:  “…All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…But God demonstrates His own love towards us, tin that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us…Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  Romans 3.23; 5.8; 8.1

We all get caught between the facts and the Truth.  Choose the Truth for it will surely set you free.  (John 8.31-32)

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