When Hope Is Lost

Do you ever find yourself wondering Where is God? Does He hear me? Does He care? Will things ever go the way I want them to?

About 10 years ago, I was there. After suffering from a concussion, I had a headache that wouldn’t go away. My “severe minor head injury” went under-diagnosed for weeks and months, partially because in addition to the constant headache, my mind was cloudy. I didn’t realize that I was slow in responding to easy questions, I was tired all the time, I couldn’t walk a straight line – these were things I started to understand once I started getting better. In the meantime, I prayed.

But my prayer was mostly “God, why me? Will I ever get better? Will this headache go away?” I wanted my circumstances to change and I wanted a reason for why I was suffering. The months dragged on, while I was still in pain and doctors had few answers.

One night I couldn’t sleep because of the pain and finally got up around 5am, drove to the lake, and watched the sunrise. Even though I felt like God had been silent for months of my asking, I still read the Bible everyday. I happened to be in Job. If you’re familiar with Job’s story, you know that he lost everything – his children, his business, his house, his health. But still he praised the Lord. “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, naked I will return. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).

Throughout the book of Job, his friends come to sit with him but tell him his loss is his fault. Job’s wife tells him to curse God and die. But Job did not sin. At the end of Job, God finally answers… but His answer isn’t what you think. God didn’t tell Job why his children died, or why Job was suffering from an illness.

“Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm: … ‘Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations? … Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb? …Have you ever given orders to the morning or shown the dawn its place?… Do you send the lightening bolts on their way? Do they report to you?'” (Job 38).

The Lord continues speaking for two chapters, asking Job these questions, and showing that God takes care of the whole earth and every person and every animal, even that he knows when mountain goats give birth. Then God tells Job to answer Him. And Job is like “nevermind” (I’m paraphrasing).

When I read this in the midst of my concussion, I felt like Job – suffering, with God silent, and no answers. But I took God’s “answer” to Job as His answer to me – He knows what He’s doing. He is Creator and Sustainer of everything on earth and He loves me. He says I am valuable. Surely He cares for me. He has a plan for my life and if He wants me to go through this suffering then He will help me along the way.

My circumstances didn’t change after that. The severe headaches remained, but my attitude got better. My hope was renewed because my hope is in the Lord.

If you find yourself losing hope, keep hanging on. Keep praying, keep reading the Bible, and trust that God will help you find hope again. If you seek Him, you will find Him. Faith is more than feelings. Keep hanging on.

After about 9 months of a constant migraine, God healed me. The pain went away and the part of my brain that was affected got better. No explanation. But finally relief. Learning to trust God through the concussion laid a foundation for me to know I can trust God – through losing Caleb, through bedrest with Jack, and through whatever else may lie ahead.

Forced To Rest

Rest. Why is it so hard? I like to be active, doing things, checking things off my list. In fact, when I do something that wasn’t on my list, I usually add it to the list just so I can check it off. Despite the fact that I know prayer and reading the Bible are so important in life and vital to a growing walk with Christ, I feel like those things don’t count as “things I’ve done today.” If Jeff came home and asked what I did, and my response was “pray and read the Bible…” I’d feel like I hadn’t accomplished anything.

Imagine my surprise when I was forced to rest.

It was really cold in surgery so afterward they put warm towels and blankets on me.

It was really cold in surgery so afterward they put warm towels and blankets on me.

When I was 21 weeks pregnant with Jack, a routine doctor’s appointment revealed that my cervix had shortened and labor was imminent, unless I underwent an emergency surgery. A few short hours later I was in surgery getting a cerclage (a stitch around the cervix to keep it closed), followed by four months of bed rest. I waited in my hospital room to see my doctor and ask what “bed rest” really meant.

Can I do laundry or make dinner? The horrified look on my doctor’s face was my answer. “No. And you’re sitting up too much right now,” the doctor said as she lowered my hospital bed to nearly flat. Strict bed rest meant laying flat in bed. The success of the cerclage relied on gravity: the weight of the baby couldn’t rest on that stitch anymore than absolutely necessary.

I knew the baby’s life depended on my ability to lay flat for four months. I took bed rest very seriously, because I knew the outcome if I didn’t. Before Jack, we had our son Caleb, who was born prematurely, just halfway through the pregnancy. While some women take bed rest lightly and still manage to do normal every day things, I knew that wasn’t a risk I could take. I turned bed rest into my job.

DSCN8810Thankfully I was surrounded by family and friends who made sure our meals were taken care of and that I was entertained during the day while Jeff worked. I was (and still am) astounded at how many people volunteered to bring us dinner, or who came over just to hang out with me. Many people came over who had never been to our house before. Thanks to the garage remote that worked from our bed room, people Photo on 2012-01-23 at 15.47would call when they arrived, I’d push the remote button to let them in and they’d find their way up to the master bedroom where I spent most of the day. Then when they left they’d honk twice and I’d close the garage. Some school kids saw the honk & close garage and were amazed. Haha! Fun trick.

God seemed to use times of rest in the Bible to show people that they could Trust Him and that He would Provide. Since I wouldn’t be going to church or Bible study on bed rest, I knew I needed to fill my mind with God’s word and prayer in order to not succumb to fear. It’d be easy to fear the “what ifs” but I knew I needed to stand firm in faith. I read the Bible every day and did Beth Moore video Bible studies for “church.” One friend even came over one Sunday morning to do church with me. Through it all, God showed me I can trust Him. He hears my prayers and answers me. He will provide for my every need.

IMG_2362If you’ve followed this blog, you’ve probably heard me tell the story or read about how Jack shocked all the doctors by arriving LATE. The cerclage was removed at 37 weeks, I was off of bed rest and allowed to do whatever I wanted, and the doctors (and me) expected Jack to come any day. Almost 4 weeks later, at 40 weeks 5 days pregnant, I was INDUCED and Jack was born. What a miracle he is! What a reminder he is of God’s faithfulness and answered prayers. From the day after the cerclage, we prayed for a full-term baby and believed that God would give him to us, according to Mark 11:24 (“whatever you ask for in prayer, believe you have received it, and it will be yours.) God answered our prayers.

The idea of rest is so foreign to our culture today. There are few people or businesses who pause and take a break on the Sabbath. But we can be different. Together we can recognize God’s command and example to rest. We can trust God to provide for our needs while we set aside a day to stop working, to enjoy our families, to worship our Lord, to be grateful for the many blessings He has provided.

In the hospital

In the hospital

By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done” Genesis 2:2-3. 

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work” Exodus 20:8-10

7 Clothes for 7 Days

Me in Junior High in the 90s

Me in Junior High in the 1990s

Another story from 7 – Week 2: Clothes
A few weeks ago an old friend was in town from California. Along with our other old best friend, the three of us made plans to go to dinner. We weren’t going anywhere fancy, but it was in Chicago and I had a doctor’s appointment beforehand and hadn’t decided if I would drive down town or take the train and walk… All of these situations were going through my mind that afternoon as I tried to figure out what to wear. Meanwhile my two year old Jack was downstairs watching tv and calling my name. Finally I realized these girls were friends with me when I was in Junior High and wore plaid shirts that were so big they wouldn’t fit if I was 9 months pregnant. Clearly the friendship runs deeper than fashion.

IMG_5235As I mentioned yesterday, this is the second time I’m going through parts of this 7 study since I did a few weeks of it with my church. My first clothes fast only lasted 4 or 5 days and then we had Easter and weather changes I wasn’t expecting. This week I stuck to 7 clothes and had my son Jack wear 7 clothes also, since we all know that children are basically another accessory to our own outfits. What I found was that it wasn’t hard. If I had planned a little better I could have easily eliminated one or two items which I had barely worn anyway. I found most often that I wanted to change because I didn’t feel clean or I thought maybe my shirt smelled. But I realized that many people don’t have the option to wash their clothes as much as I do. They go to bed at night wearing what they wore all day and it probably does smell.

photo 2I felt guilty NOT wearing all the clothes in my closet. Rotating through 3 tshirts for 7 days when I have enough tshirts to wear a different one everyday for two months, made me realize the excess I have. It had me wondering how many tshirts should I own? How many pairs of jeans should I keep when I only wear two of the 10 pairs anyway? And to be honest, I only wear that 2nd pair when my #1 favorites are being washed.

20120526-114717.jpgI’m sure many of you can relate to having a variety of sizes in your wardrobe. When I was pregnant with Jack I was on bed rest for 4 months and I just got really big. After having Jack, recovering from bed rest was really challenging. It was at least a year before I was back to my normal size. Therefore I have a pre-Jack wardrobe, a maternity wardrobe, a post-Jack wardrobe, and then back to normal but with new things because it’s been years since I wore the other stuff and some is out of fashion or doesn’t fit the same. Do I hang on to it all? What if I have another baby – then I’ll need the maternity clothes, and possibly the “big” clothes …

All of this takes up 17 dresser drawers, 2 closets, and 1 crate across 2 rooms in my house. And that doesn’t include jackets.

An entire closet full of clothes I gave away.

An entire closet full of clothes I gave away.

How much is too much? Jen Hatmaker said the only people who ask “how much is too much” are the rich people. I don’t have an answer for how may tshirts or jeans I should have. But the solution comes in changing my heart. The more aware I’ve become of other’s needs, the less stuff I want to keep and the more I want to give away to help them. Why should I keep so many unworn items when someone is struggling to find enough clothes for the day.

All of this led to a Clothes Swap party last fall. After reading 7 and hearing about their Clothes Swap, I thought that’d be a great thing to do. I invited lots of friends to donate clothes to the Swap, then come to the party and “shop” from each other’s discarded items. All the leftovers would go to a shelter that gave the clothes away for free to people in need. All together I collected clothes from about 15-20 people. It was only women’s clothing, shoes and accessories – we didn’t even attempt children’s or men’s clothes. I set everything up in my dining room and barely had enough space for it all.

Dining Room turned to Clothes Swap

Dining Room turned to Clothes Swap

The actual party was a lot of fun. Everyone was friendly to each other and passed items around, “This didn’t fit me, but you try it on.” There were no fights over anything, although we debated what was still in fashion. And everyone left with something, but much less than what they brought. After cleaning out their closets no one wanted to fill up that space again. After the party I kept things out for a few days and more people who couldn’t make the party stopped by. After a week my house was starting to smell like a thrift store, so I knew it was time to pack up. After our “shopping” we donated more than 400 items! I 1467300_10152424245509676_388797311_ncompletely filled my SUV. I took everything to a church nearby which opens their “closet” for those in need each week.

This Clothes Swap was last fall and I gave away almost half of my clothes. However, all the numbers I told you of tshirts and jeans and filled drawers are from now. Clearly I still have a long way to go. In 1 Samuel the Lord says, “For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Proverbs 31 says “Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”

I know that I have this struggle of dressing for others. Dressing to be noticed, to be accepted, to be valued. But the truth is I already am noticed, accepted, and valued by the Lord. His opinion of me is the only one that matters. And the more I seek to live in a way that pleases the Lord, the more “attractive” I will be to others. In a year, or a week, or a day, people won’t remember what I wore, but they will remember my character and how I lived. I want them to see what Colossians 3 says – that I am chosen by God, holy and dearly loved, clothed in compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. That I forgive others as Christ has forgiven me. And over all of that, may they see love – that I love God and love others.

IMG_5215Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Colossians 3:12-14

Dear Caffeine, Come Home Soon

7 - nothing_to_eatYesterday’s post about the 7 Bible study by Jen Hatmaker was a little scattered. I only had one paragraph written before Jack woke up and the rest was written while watching The Cat in the Hat. As our group of 15-40 women went through the study, each week a few of us would share our stories of the fast we did and how it affected us. Here is my story from Week 1: Food.

A few months ago I did the beginning of this study at my church. When I read the book 7 over a year ago, I told everyone I knew about it because I knew if others didn’t read it and know about it, then I wouldn’t make changes in my own life. I knew I needed accountability. So when I saw that my church was doing the 7 Bible study, I signed up. It was only a group of about 8 women, none who I knew. But as we sat around the table preparing for the food fast, everyone shared what they were doing… but very negatively. They’d say “I could never give up coffee or my diet coke…. There’s no way I could go a day without sugar.” As they talked, all I could think was “Yes you can go without it! The power of the living God dwells inside you! Of course you can give things up with God’s help and for His purposes!” But since I didn’t really know these people, I decided not to go off preaching at them.

Drinking my favorite Vanilla Chai

Drinking my favorite Vanilla Chai

Determined myself to give up caffeine, grocery shopping, junk food, fast food, and just to eat healthy, I decided to begin right away. I made it about 3 hours without caffeine and decided to start tomorrow. That next day I made it all day but my head was pounding so much from caffeine withdrawal that I couldn’t stand it anymore and decided I’d do this food fast some other time. Haha! Then 7 was picked to be our summer study so I knew I’d have another chance.

I knew this food fast was coming and I should’ve tapered off caffeine like Jen Hatmaker said in her book, but that didn’t happen. Although some of you gave up tons of things, or only ate 7 foods for the week, I determined to just give up caffeine. That would be hard enough for me.

The first day I was out for lunch and automatically got a diet pepsi, took a sip, and then realized I wasn’t supposed to have it, so I threw it out. Day two, my son Jack and I were at my parents’ house for lunch. My mom started asking what was wrong with me, and I said nothing. But she persevered, the way moms do when they think something is going on. So finally I said, “I gave up caffeine for the 7 study, ok, and I have a headache but that’s all.” My mom, ever so encouraging, “Oh why don’t you just drink caffeine already. You’re so grumpy! I’m glad I’m not doing that study!” And then a little later when we were leaving, my mom looked at Jack and said “good luck with her this afternoon Jack!” Clearly my attitude wasn’t very good. I was grumpy and tired and had a headache.

No need for adult assistance, Jack can take his own temperature.

No need for adult assistance, Jack can take his own temperature.

Day 3 the headache was gone. Day 4 also a success. But Day 5 was Jack’s 2nd birthday and we had 40 family members coming over to celebrate, and so I stopped the fast and picked up caffeine. I did feel very successful that I made it 4 full days of willingly choosing not to drink caffeine. I quit caffeine when I was pregnant and that wasn’t hard at all because I felt like there was an important purpose in it in keeping the baby safe. But these last few weeks when it just comes down to my choice – my self-discipline – it’s a lot harder.

I learned that I want what I want when I want it. I lean on caffeine in ways I should only lean on God. The last few nights Jack was up during the night sick and I was so tired at night, but my first thought was that it’d be ok because I could have caffeine in the morning, when that thought should be about the Lord sustaining me and giving me all I need.

Despite my shortcomings, and only doing a 4 day caffeine fast, I felt like the Lord blessed my obedience. A few things happened that I attribute to God blessing this fast.

  1. I was asked to lead music one week at a church I used to attend.
  2. For a couple weeks I had fluid in my ears and couldn’t hear out of my right ear. I also found out I had 3 ear infections [yes, I only have 2 ears] – one in the left ear, and an inner and outer infection in my right ear. During the fast I went back to the doctor and in only a week all the infections had cleared up. I still had fluid but that continued to dissipate and my hearing got much better. The doctor was surprised I was doing so much better in a short time.
  3. I felt like the Lord opened my eyes to seeing some things more how He sees them, especially in regards to clothing and possessions which are the next chapters in our study.
  4. I also noticed that some of the things I tend to struggle with in how I think, I didn’t struggle with at all while I was fasting from caffeine. I think my mind was too busy focusing on not drinking caffeine, but staying awake, and trying not to be grumpy.
  5. I also started a Kiva.com account and set up a couple loans and I’m looking forward to seeing how that works and learning more about how I can help others in simple ways like that.
Posing in his favorite PJs

Posing in his favorite PJs

Although I am drinking caffeine again, I am more aware of my thoughts about it and dependence on it.  God is bringing to my attention the times I reach for caffeine for comfort or strength, and how instead I should be reaching to Him. That is something I will continue to work on, and probably will be true in some of these chapters coming up – that I turn to other things instead of turning to God. While I feel like I’ve had some breakthroughs in recognizing my weaknesses, I know it will be a process in learning to turn to God first and completely depending on Him.

Chicken Coops and Gardening

Seven-by-Jen-HatmakerTwo months going through the Bible study 7 by Jen Hatmaker will change you. You will love it. But you will be different at the end. After intentionally reducing several categories in my life, I know more about how my choices affect my family, the earth, and the poor. And most importantly, that God cares about these things. The challenges I faced while fasting from caffeine were insignificant compared to the real challenges faced by countless people who face hunger on a daily basis. 16,000 children DIE of hunger every day. I’ve never known hunger like that.

I don’t need to buy more clothes, in fact I loved wearing only 7 clothing items for one week. My lifestyle doesn’t require dressy things, so why do I hang on to old clothes I wore for work when someone else could use those now? I’ve donated about 50% of my wardrobe. I didn’t wear it anyway, someone else might as well get some use out of it.

photo 2If I plant a garden, I can provide fresh, organic vegetables for my family and probably have enough to donate to food pantries – not to mention the money I’ll save by not buying produce at the store. I can redirect that money to buy healthier food like organic grass fed beef and organic blueberries. I’m also wondering if I can turn the second floor of the shed into a chicken coop… It’s like a pet and a project and food!

What’s the point? God cares and so should I. He created my body, it is a temple for His Holy Spirit, so I should treat it well with healthy food. Likewise, I should care about others – what they are eating, and wearing, and how they’re living and how I can help them. Can I make a difference in the world, just me? Maybe. But that’s not why I would change. I know the right things to do and I want to do them. I want to honor God with my time and money and life. I want to love others the way Jesus did.

7 - excess into justiceSo I’ve spent less time scrolling mindlessly through Facebook, and more time on adoption websites. Did you know that Christians outnumber orphans 7 to 1? If we took God’s command seriously to “look after orphans and widows in their distress” (James 1:27), then there wouldn’t be any orphans.

7 isn’t the end of a race, but just the training for what is next. What will God do with the lessons He has taught me through this study? I don’t know yet. But until something bigger pops up, I’ll garden, buy healthy food, share with the poor, read more of His word and less of facebook. I will be smarter with my consumer dollars by giving microloans through Kiva.com and shopping at places like Noonday that provide economic opportunities for vulnerable people. I will recycle more, maybe start a compost pile for my garden next year, and probably buy a rain barrel.

I hope the biggest change seen in my life is just that I live more like Jesus. That I see the poor and lonely and broken and that I help them.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8

Stop Your Whining

My car is only one month older than Jack

My car is only one month older than Jack

My car was making a weird noise and it’s less than two years old, so I brought it to the dealership. I planned on waiting the one hour for them to diagnose the problem, figuring I’d have to make another appointment for them to fix whatever is wrong. Jack and I entertained ourselves by sitting in every car in the showroom, watching every show on my iPad, and eating every snack I brought all Car4within the first 20 minutes. Now what?

After one hour 15 minutes, they still couldn’t figure out what was wrong so they put me in a loaner car. Now you need to know: 1) I drive an SUV. 2) they only had a sedan available. Ok that’s fine, it might not fit my stroller but I’ll survive. But my car guy was nice “I have kids. I know what it’s like. I’ll get your stroller to fit.”
By the time I signed the papers and got out there, Nice Car Guy had moved my stroller into the loaner AND was securing the car seat for me! How wonderful!

Car3The next day my car was “fixed” (the “quotes” are some foreshadowing for you), I returned the loaner, hoped Nice Car Guy would move the car seat for me again but he wasn’t there. I struggled to move it while keeping Jack from being run over, or running away.

One week later: noise returns. I schedule an appointment to bring my car in and immediately
get a loaner (since we’ve already sat in ever car on the showroom floor).

The loaner they gave me was pretty much a shoe box with wheels. We might as well have just put an engine on Jack’s little pull wagon. I joke, but I’m kind of serious. Kid stuff takes up space. Just fitting the car seat in the shoe box loaner was challenging.

In addition to its small size, the Shoe Box with Wheels didn’t even have bluetooth. How am I supposed to listen to music? Especially since my main radio station was doing their annual fundraiser. Also, this car did NOT fit my stroller – no way around it – and we had plans to go to the zoo. After some complicated conversations with friends, I discovered a Car1friend who had an extra stroller IN her car – imagine a double stroller and single stroller in your car at the same time, and I couldn’t even fit one stroller in this car. Oh, and Jeff didn’t really fit in the car. He had to sit in the backseat.

I drove the Shoe Box for almost a week and I complained about it for almost a week. It was a brand new car. It was safe, reliable, and got us where we needed to go. Oh, and it was free. Totally free. And I complained about it for a week.

The last day we had the Shoe Box, Jack and I went to my cousin’s house and I was going to pick up McDonalds on the way. Jack was whining in the backseat about something or nothing, and my whining and complaining about the car was starting to sink in.

Jack, you are going to stop whining, and Mommy is going to stop whining.

Little Jack just 3 months old in the big stroller.

Little Jack just 3 months old in the big stroller.

And then I looked up and saw McDonalds was actually on the left and I was in the right turn lane. So much for McDonalds. I guess we’ll get a Lunchable at the gas station (don’t judge my parenting eating choices, this post is about complaining.)

“Do everything without complaining or arguing.” Do you know who said that? Do you hear this quote much? If we were friends in high school, you might recall that it was our theme verse for every youth group trip. It’s in the Bible. Philippians 2:14.

We are commanded not to complain. Which means that complaining is a sin. I knew all this even as the words were coming out of my mouth complaining about the Shoe Box, I mean Loaner Car. But we live in a culture of entitlement – I’m entitled to a loaner car equivalent to my real car. And when we don’t get it, we complain. My complaining was usually kind of funny. You probably laughed reading this post because you can sympathize. But it’s still sin. Sometimes sin is funny – to us. It’s never funny to God.

BusPhilippians 2 is one of my favorite chapters of the Bible. It admonishes us to encourage, comfort and love each other. Don’t be selfish, be humble, and think of others as better than yourself. Have the same attitude as Christ – though He was GOD, He humbled Himself to death on a cross. Don’t complain, don’t argue. Be blameless and pure. Shine your light. Hold firmly to the Word of God.

Next time you hear me complain, call me out. I don’t want to get sucked in to living like this world. I want to live like Jesus. I want my joy for Christ to shine, even in a Shoe Box With Wheels.

The Little Things

If a day comes when you think you are really a patient person, I have a challenge for you: try to find a parking spot in downtown Hinsdale at lunchtime on a weekday. I’m speaking from experience.

I’m not upset with downtown. After all, it’s because of Hinsdale that I know how to parallel park better than anyone who did not grow up in Hinsdale (imagine drivers ed class tests of parallel parking between a Mercedes and a BMW).

As I circled downtown many times, willing to park even blocks away, I started questioning my desire for Chinese food. I had already placed the order and only needed to run in and pick it up. I started looking for someone walking by that I could give $20 to get my order for me. After about 73 laps around town, I prayed out of desperation “Lord, puh-leeease give me a parking spot.”

Ta-da! A spot opened up RIGHT in front of the Chinese food store. Maybe I should’ve prayed 72 laps ago!

Does God care about parking spots? Not necessarily.

But God cares about ME. He cares so deeply about me that He provides for EVERYTHING I need. Did I need a parking spot? No. But I felt God showing me in that moment that He will always provide for me because He loves me. I am His daughter.

This is a lesson I need Jack to learn. You are my son and I love you. I will give you what you need.

And right now you do not need to watch The Cat In The Hat.

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry. (Matthew 6:26-31)

Jack, I will provide for you.
Lord, I know You will provide for me. Help me not to worry. And thanks for the parking spot!


Hello You Have Reached…

photo 1Does anyone even use a home phone anymore? We have one just in case one day we have a babysitter who doesn’t have a cell phone and needs to call 911 for an emergency… although I’m pretty sure even junior high kids have cell phones these days. Lately our home phone has been ringing a lot, even though we never answer it. The telemarketers haven’t figured that out. They have a tough job! People rarely answer the phone if they don’t recognize the number, and then if they do answer they aren’t happy to be speaking with someone trying to sell them something.

As I was doing dishes and letting the phone ring I wondered if I ever treat God like that… not answering when He calls, or answering but being upset. It seemed a strange thought. Surely I wouldn’t do that. I want to answer God and I’m happy to hear from Him.

photo 2Lately I’ve been wanting to wake up earlier (I use the word “wanting” very loosely) and spend time reading the Bible and praying. But every time my alarm goes off I hit snooze. Or Jack wakes up before my alarm goes off. Then I remembered a few days last week when Jack woke up early (around 5am) and I held him and convinced him it was still nighttime and he went back to sleep. As I was on my way back to bed, I remembered my desire to spend time with the Lord … I could just stay awake now and go read the Bible. Maybe God woke Jack up just to get me up. Maybe that was God calling … I didn’t answer. I went back to sleep.

How else has God been calling me? Maybe the ideas to bring cookies to the neighbor, dinner to a friend, email a friend to see how she’s doing. But I get distracted from these good intentions. God calls and I say “hold on.” The Creator of the universe, my Maker, my Redeemer calls me. Am I really listening? Are you listening?

In Genesis 22 God calls Abraham and Abraham answers “Here I am.” God gives Abraham instructions to sacrifice his son, the one God promised to Abraham whom Abraham had waited for many, many years. Abraham is obedient and brings his son Isaac up the mountain for the offering. Isaac asks where the animal is to sacrifice and Abraham says “God will provide.” Abraham takes the knife in his hand, ready to slay his son in obedience to God, but God calls him: Abraham. “Here I am,” says Abraham. God says to him, “Do not lay a hand on the boy. Now I know you fear God because you have not withheld from me your son.”

God called Abraham and Abraham answered – twice. If Abraham didn’t hear the second time, Isaac would have died. If Abraham didn’t hear and obey the first time, he would have missed the miracle. He would have missed the testing of his faith, which produces perseverance, character, and hope. Abraham trusted God and God did not fail Him.

May we have ears, minds, and hearts that listen for when God is calling us. May we respond “Here I am” – willing, available, ready. May we answer Him joyfully, with gratitude. May we grow in our faith, trusting that God will always provide.

It’s a Love Day

I could write about the Valentine’s Day when Jeff got me a muffler for my car, or how our exciting plans tonight include possibly attending a high school indoor track meet (how romantic!) or how all of my pajama pants for at least 10 years had hearts on them because my mom always bought me some for V-day and I racked up quite a collection. But there’s a love greater than parent & child, husband & wife, me & vanilla chai.

For I am convinced that 
neither death nor life
neither angels nor demons
neither the present nor the future
nor any powers
neither height nor depth
nor anything else in all creation
will be able to separate us from the LOVE of GOD that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

Nothing can separate us from God’s love. Nothing. Not your death or the death of a loved one. Not the concerns of today or your worries about the future. Not your singleness or your marriage. Not your parenting. Not your sins, not your fears, not your desires, not your selfishness, not your faithlessness. Nothing. Nothing can separate you from God’s love for you through Jesus Christ.

God’s love is so strong for you that He sacrificed His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross and pay the penalty for all of our sins so that we can have a relationship with God. The only thing we need to do is accept such an incredible gift. “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). Say it and believe it.

Thanksgiving JD

No matter what your relationship status, today and everyday you can celebrate the incredible, unfailing love of God for you. A love that never runs out. A love that gives better gifts than mufflers.

A Bunch of Good Stuff

photo 4Friends, next time I invite you to something you better show up. Because you really missed out this time. This weekend we hosted a live simulcast of the IF: Gathering – a new conference for women with many phenomenal speakers, to challenge us If God is real, then what? I took several pages of notes – all of which could be blog posts – but I’m sitting here trying to figure out what to share with you first.

The founder of IF, Jennie Allen, shared that her biggest fear is that we would leave the conference and do a bunch of good stuff.  Good stuff doesn’t change the world or cause the world to see Jesus. What does? Repentance. Jesus often said “repent and believe.” The “good stuff” isn’t bad. But good stuff should be a natural consequence of our relationship with Jesus.

You don’t want to leave your comfort zone, you say? Wherever God takes you, you are with the Comforter – the Holy Spirit lives inside you – you’re always in the comfort zone.

The basis for IF: Gathering is Hebrews 12:1-2 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.”

What weights are holding you back? Are you looking around to see how you measure up to others? Do you compare yourself – am I as smart, pretty, or talented as her? As Ann Voskamp shared, let’s break our measuring sticks. Let’s stop holding the weight of comparison and opinions. Measuring sticks only become weapons of self-harm. They always lie.

Instead of comparing and measuring up, let’s carry each others’ burdens and prayers. Let’s stop trying to steal, earn, or buy acceptance and love from the wrong places and realize that Jesus is the only One who will – and has – loved us to death.

What is God speaking to you today? I like to make to-do lists and check things off. But I’m realizing more and more that if I fix my eyes first on Jesus, my to-do list will naturally flow from my relationship with Him.