Category Archives: Struggles

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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Parenthood

No experience has made me more aware of my sinful human frailty and desperate need for a Redeemer than parenthood.  It frazzles me quicker than I’d like to admit, stretching my patience and compassion.  This is NOT a reflection on my children.  After all, they are only 1 and 3 years old!  Every struggle they face is an opportunity to learn and my responsibility to lead them in the way they should go.  Wasn’t I in their place but a few short decades ago?!  Parenthood ought be cherished as it is a gift not given to all.  It is an unmerited blessing and a privilege.  But oh, how it shows the weaknesses in myself!

When raising small children, ample opportunities abound to grow impatient, to respond out of frustration, to frazzle and fray.  Whether giving an answer for the umpteenth time or teaching a life lesson again, perspective can shift in a nanosecond off of the big picture of their developing lives to how inconvenienced I am by the whole thing.  To respond in anger gives momentary satisfaction and long-lasting regret.  I have given in to my frustrations far more often than I’d like to admit and had to ask my children’s forgiveness more than I ever dreamed necessary.  *sigh*

Yesterday was one such day.  Certainly not a mom-of-the-year worthy day…at all!  Once the kids were finally napping, I lay in bed – exhausted and reeling in regret over my responses to them.  “Come on, Patience!  You’re 30!  You’re the PARENT!  You set the example!  Good grief.  How do you expect them to learn and feel loved if you act like that?!”  The shame fell thick on my heart.

Hours later, the Lord worked through story time with the kids to speak His love and grace over my heart.  We read The Good Shepherd chapter out of The Jesus Storybook Bible and though the words were about David, it felt like the Lord was speaking straight to me.

“David was a shepherd, but when God looked at him, He saw a king.  He had a heart like God’s heart – full of love.  Now, that didn’t mean he was perfect, because he did some terrible things – he even murdered a man.  No, David made a big mess of his life.  But God can take even the biggest mess and make it work in His plan.  ‘I need a new heart, Lord,’ David prayed, ‘because mine is full of sin.  Make me clean inside.’  God heard David’s prayer.  He forgave David…”

In reading those words, the Lord spoke gently.  “Yes, you do terrible things some times.  But I can redeem those things.  You’re not perfect but I AM.  Come to me with your mess.  I love you.”  Later that same day, I was reading 1000 Gifts by Ann Voskamp.  Once again, the Lord spoke from heavens high to my fallen, weary heart as I read Ann’s words:

“The parent must always self-parent first, self-preach before child-teach, because who can bring peace unless they’ve held their own peace?  Christ incarnated in the parent is the only hope of incarnating Christ in the child….Do I really smother my own joy because I believe that anger achieves more than love?  That Satan’s way is more powerful, more practical, more fulfilling in my daily life than Jesus’ way?  Why else get angry?  Isn’t it because I think complaining, exasperation, resentment will pound me into the full life I really want?  Give THANKS to keep your gaze on heaven.”

In all this, I felt overwhelmed by God’s goodness.  After all, He is my Heavenly Father.  How often I act the part of child, tantrumed and defiant and selfish.  Yet never once has He responded in anger towards me.  Never once has He failed to show love and grace, even on my most deplorable days.  When I honor Him, His grace remains.  When I go against all He has ever taught me, His grace remains.  When conviction fills my heart and I run to Him, never once has He held His arms crossed, still too mad from my behavior to reconcile.  No.  His arms are ALWAYS open wide for the wayward child to come.  His love is ALWAYS lavishing, even when we least deserve it.  God, the ever-faithful, ever-patient, ever-enduring Father.

Parenthood.  It stretches, it tests, it can refine.  When my little ones act out, may I focus not on their indiscretions towards my inconvenienced heart, but on the One who never grows impatient with me.  May I remember His grace that is ever extended and show the same to my children.  In the moments of meltdowns, may my mind remember the many I’ve been forgiven of by my Heavenly Father and show the same kindness to Eliana and Evan.  May I be grateful for their very lives, that I even have kids to love and train.  Lord, keep me grateful and mindful of Your great love towards me.  On my own, I will surely fail as a parent.  May I rest in Him and simply pass along to my sweet ones that which He has poured out on me.

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