In This Season

Have you ever desired something so deeply, and then doubted that God desired to answer your prayer?

I grew up with an older brother, and loved every minute of it. Loved being the “baby girl” of the family, loved having a protective brother who was big and strong and incredibly annoying sometimes, one I would boss around as if I were in charge, only to be put firmly in my place with a good noogie or a kidnapped baby doll being held for ransom, followed by a hug and adventure in the backyard. It was the life I was given, and it was the best. Even as a young girl I knew that someday, when I had my own kids, I wanted to have a boy first, a big brother for all of the other siblings who would follow. And so I prayed for that, for years and years and years, always hoping that a boy would come first.

Fast forward to June 24th, 2016, as I am sitting in my bathroom at 3am staring at a surprisingly positive pregnancy test (an unplanned, but very much wanted surprise). As I sat there taking in the full meaning of those two pink lines, my immediate fear was that this baby would be a girl. Not because I have anything against girls (I am one, after all, and quite enjoy it. Girls are amazing.), but because the dream of a boy first was rooted so deeply in my soul and I feared the Lord would choose to teach me contentment and surrender through giving us a daughter first.

Over the next few weeks as I processed my fear and worked through it with the Lord, I realized that at the core my trouble was a disbelief that God wanted to answer my prayer. I had fallen into the lie of thinking that in every situation of my life God wanted me to struggle, to grow me in faith through giving me the exact opposite of what my heart desired, surrendering my own will to His and finding contentment in Him.

The truth is, God does often choose to work in that way, and He has many times in my own life over the past decade or so. There are times and seasons when we grow more fully by learning to trust God’s goodness and character in His “no” responses – surrendering our own heart’s desires to His. The problem lies in beginning to think that is the only way He works, which is what I had begun to do. A father who only says no is not a good father, and neither is one who only says yes.

For all of July, August and September, I consciously worked to give up my desire for a little boy first, convinced that because having a boy first meant so much to me, it would of course be a girl, still doubting the Lord’s desire to answer my prayer. Although I still wanted a boy, I convinced myself it was a girl so I would not be disappointed when the gender was revealed. So, when September 21st came and I laid on the table with the ultrasound wand on my womb, I fully expected and was prepared to hear “It’s a Girl!!”.

I was not in any way expecting to see clearly with my own eyes – no words spoken – that this baby is most definitely a BOY. 100% a boy, not even a question. My immediate response was shock, disbelieving it could be true. I wanted a boy so deeply, how could it not be a girl??

Oh, me of little faith.

Over this past month I have been reminded that God is a Good Father, who desires to give good gifts to His children. Just like with any earthly father, sometimes “good” is in saying no, knowing that it is for the best of the child. Other times, “good” is in a joyful yes, delighting to watch as a heart’s desire is fulfilled.

I am realizing that this season of life for me is one in which the Lord is choosing to grow me through answering many, many prayers with a joyful and resounding YES. I am also realizing that having walked through seasons of experiencing God’s goodness through his “no” answers is making this season richer, more beautiful and special than if I had only experienced his yeses. 

We are not meant to live in a world where we get everything we want. A gentle and loving “no” is a precious gift, even if it doesn’t feel like it in the moment. What a loving and generous God we serve, a good Father and faithful Friend in every season of life. Although Christian and I would have rejoiced and been thankful had our baby been a girl, we rejoice and are thankful and humbled for this boy, our son.

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An Experiment in Silence

Hello friends!

It’s been a while, I know. 365 days since my last post on this blog. The break didn’t start out as intentional, but as weeks and then months passed, I decided to take some time away to contemplate my purpose for blogging, and my intended outcome.

Have you noticed how much noise there is on the internet? There are millions of voices, speaking on hundreds of thousands of subjects of every variety and sort. It is a bit overwhelming, to be honest, and I found myself feeling the weight of my smallness as I feebly added my own voice to the void. Was I writing about things that mattered? Was I writing my own opinions, or was I writing truth? Was my voice adding anything of substance, or was it just more noise?

As I sat in the “silence” of not writing, just observing others on the internet, I realized that like I was prone to do, many of them speak or write without thinking, sharing their opinions without taking the time to seek out fact and reason to make their argument persuasive. The problem is that for every opinion, there are hundreds of people who will accept that opinion also without thinking about it, without researching or looking for truth.

In this community of humanity that lives much of our lives on the internet, I have become more convinced then ever before that believers in Christ have a responsibility to be voices of truth in the midst of darkness and lies. I want this blog to be a place of truth-speaking, of sharing things that matter, of giving hope, peace, and joy. I want to write in such a way that no longer just adds to the noise, but is a quiet whisper of truth and meaning that will help others know Jesus and understand our world.

So, this year, I am committed to writing differently than I have before. I would love for you to join me, and add your own voice to the conversation! Welcome to 2015!

Beginning the Year with Purpose

Sunrise in Nepal last April
Sunrise in Nepal last April

Let’s start at the end. Who do you want to be when 2014 is over?

Have you thought about that? I am not talking about resolutions that will be forgotten by next month – this is about constant, gradual growth that results in ending a year different from who you were when the year began. One of the most important lessons I have learned about growth is that it does not happen by accident. Very rarely does someone look up after plodding the same path year in and year out and realize that they have become a different person. Growth requires intentionality, a pursuit of knowledge, and the willingness to try life in a different way than you have done before. Change comes when we resolve in our heart to think, act, speak, and live with purpose.

As each new year begins, I sit down with the Lord and answer three questions:

  • How did I grow in the previous year?
  • In what ways did God provide for me as my Jehovah-Jireh? (We are given an example all through Scripture of taking time to remember God’s faithfulness to us, and celebrate what He has done for us. This is a beautiful way to begin a new year!)
  • How do I want to grow in the new year? 

 

Last year, I chose Proverbs 31:25-26 to serve as the theme for my growth and development. The verses say “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future. She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue”. As I stood on the brink of a year of major change, my prayer was that these two verses would be reflected in my life: that I would face each new day with strength and dignity, and my lips would speak with wisdom and kindness.

2013 was a significant year, because for the first time my trust in the Lord and in His plan was so much stronger than my own will and desires. O, Praise Him! Slowly, slowly, I am learning to trust the One who is eternally trustworthy. So often my own feeble will rises up and declares that I know better, that I can manage my own affairs; yet time and again my way fails. The gospel enters then, reminding me that even my best effort is worthless, compared to Jesus. In His grace, the past 365 days have brought me deeper intimacy with Jesus, a greater reliance on Him & insight into His will and plan, and a few steps closer to becoming like the One I have chosen to follow.

Another noteworthy area of growth over the past year was in seeing my singleness as a gift, and choosing to embrace this time in my life. Recognizing that marriage is not the holy grail – it is a gift from the Lord, full of its own challenges – but singleness is also a gift, one to be treasured and used to bring God glory, a time full of potential and hope! And whether married or single, my focus and my treasure must be in Christ alone.

This year as I prepared to work on answering the questions, I was challenged by speaker and author Tim Elmore to take it one step further and write out a plan for each month of ways to grow in the specific areas. As an almost OCD-planner type, I can’t believe I haven’t done this before. I am so excited for 2014, and to see where I am in 12 months!

2014 Growth Plan:

Theme Verses: “A new commandment I give you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:34-35.

Areas of Desired Growth:

  • Leadership
  • Writing & Photography
  • Community
  • Priorities
  • Relationship with Christ

I have written out specific ways I want to grow in these five areas, and have picked out 25 books to read during the year (two for each month, with one extra) on a wide variety of these topics, decided what conferences I am going to attend, and located areas in my life that need change in order to re-adjust my priorities.

The Lord has designed each one of us differently, and maybe all of these lists and having so specific a plan sound like torture to you. Everyone’s growth plan should look different, because we all grow in different ways. My challenge to you is to live this year with purpose. To start by asking the Lord to help you know who you are right now, and what He wants your life to look like by the time the year ends. Whether you answer the three questions above, or completely different ones, the goal is to dream big, and trust the Lord to grow you in mighty ways this year. As we grow, our impact on His kingdom most often grows along with us! What joy to experience growth brought about by the Holy Spirit, and make an eternal impact on the world.

Happy New Year! May the Lord richly bless you this year as you walk in obedience with Him.

Compassion vs. sacrifice

I’ve been reading through the gospels for the past few weeks, and came to this passage in Matthew:

“And it happened that as He [Jesus] was reclining in the house, behold many tax-gatherers and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “why is your Teacher eating with tax-gatherers and sinners?” But when He [Jesus] heard this, He said, ‘it is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means, ‘I desire compassion and not sacrifice,‘ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

– Matthew 9:10-13

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The burden on my heart to preach the gospel in the context of fighting for the justice of the oppressed continues to grow as I seek the Lord and study His word. Jesus made the bolded statement above to the Pharisees as they marveled in incredulity that Jesus would stoop so low as to eat with sinners and tax-gatherers. These Pharisees were zealous in their Quest for perfection as regarded the Law, and they thought that Jesus would be proud of them for disassociating themselves from the unclean, from those who failed in keeping the Law.

And yet the exact opposite is true. Christ tells this group of Pharisees to go and learn a part of the Law they had missed entirely. The phrase ‘I desire compassion and not sacrifice’ is originally written in Hosea 6:6, when God is lovingly calling the wayward tribes of Israel who refused to repent of their sin and guilt, back to Himself.

The Pharisees talking with Jesus were blind to their own sin, proud of the fact that they obeyed the Law and kept themselves clean. But the gospel will not reach the dirty and broken unless it is taken to them. God could care less about how perfectly we follow the Law if we fail to love those He created who are eternally lost and wandering in the darkness.

His gospel is centered on the fact that on our own we are helpless, broken, lost and unclean. He, and He alone, can fix our plight. Only the blood of Jesus Christ can cleanse, repair, bind-up, and heal us. Without His blood we are without hope. There is nothing we can do to make ourselves clean enough to merit His favor and enter His presence. Yet in His great compassion He made a way for us to be saved, and then in His grace and mercy He allows us to take that same compassion we were shown and pour it out on the lost around us. Oh, how much we miss when our focus in on ourselves and our own obedience, rather than giving ourselves away in compassion to the lost.

 

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All that glitters

Sometimes, and especially during award season, I find myself captivated by the lives of the rich and famous. I watch interviews, see movies, look at pictures, read stories, and get drawn in to the false belief that their life is somehow better than mine. It is easy to lose sight of reality in the midst of the glitz and glamour – that the reason we have pictures, interviews and stories is because their every move is followed, and they constantly have cameras in their faces.

And what are most of them famous for? Being good at pretending to be someone else, living scandalously, creating drama, having a good voice or body; in a word, superficial. So many people in our culture today are loved and celebrated for what they do, regardless of who they actually are on the inside. Often they display very little on the outside that is of substance, or show character qualities that are worth celebrating or emulating. 

And yet I still often find myself wanting to be known as they are, to walk the red carpet and have money to buy fancy clothes. I was reading in Proverbs the other day, though, and this verse caught my attention: “Do not let your heart envy sinners, but live in the fear of the Lord always.” (Prov . 23:17)

In light of eternity, it matters much more who we are than what we do in life. The main reason for that is because what we do stems directly from who we are. If we are people of kindness, then we will be kind to others. If we are prideful, then we will put ourselves and our own interests first. Our heart and our character are what truly matter, not what we wear or how many trophies we have won.

I still love movies, and I do still think it would be really fun to get dressed up and walk the red carpet, at least once. But my heart needs these reminders on occasion that I need to live with the end in mind. That at the end of my life I want to be known as a woman of compassion, strength, dignity, passion for the gospel, kindness, wisdom, humor and love. I want to celebrate real heroes – those who are doing things that matter, who are sacrificing their lives for others, who are living in a way that puts others first. I want to walk through life with those who care more about their character and heart than their public image. Those who, as the verse says, fear the Lord always.

This quote from Francis Chan sums this idea up well:

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