advent, God's sovereignty and goodness, God's word, grace, healing, Hymns, sin, the gospel, transformation by truth, Uncategorized

When blind hearts see

I hate that thing in us, in me, that thinks we know better than God.  The voice that says, “yeah, but I see another angle.”  “Just this one time I have it figured out.”  “I deserve better.” It gets us in a whole heap of trouble.

That trouble becomes the state of our heart health and our sight and our hearing.  We become blind to what reality is–we even begin seeing illusions.  We hear what we want to hear instead of actually what is said.  We become hardened to things that matter and strive to fulfill senseless passions.  We destroy ourselves and the people around us in one blow and sometimes with little blows that wrecks relationships over time.

I hate it–hate it.  Yet, why do I fall into it more often than not.  It’s subtle, but the final blows are catastrophic.  Marriages wrecked, children disillusioned and neglected, relationships destroyed, hearts jailed in bitterness.  Three little letters–SIN.  A billion consequences–for ourselves and those around us and our offspring.  Did I say I hate it?  I obviously do not hate it enough not to die more to it daily and be on guard against the enemy that is out to steal, kill and destroy me and those around me.

This morning, I remember a phrase from scripture…”Those who are walking in darkness have seen a great light.”  “And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

This sin thing is not new–it’s been around since close to the beginning.  But, so has a promise of rescue–rescue from ourselves and our own brand of “wisdom.”

This rescue comes in the most unlikely way–the God of everything condescending to us in the form of a baby–humble, helpless, feeling the arrows of the collective sin of the world.  Born in filth, cold, no fanfare.  Growing, serving, perplexing those who seem to have it down pat.  Turning conventional wisdom upside down to introduce real wisdom, real life, real hope.  Taking the blows in a horrible death meant for me, for you, for those who hated him.  Making a way to enter our hearts in relationship that was an impossibility on our part. Holding the promise of real joy and life and peace out to us saying “come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.”  Asking us to trust Him in faith that we might turn from our sin, our way and put our faith in His work on our behalf.

“O Holy Child of Bethlehem, Descend to us we pray.

Cast out our sin and enter in, Be born in us today

O Come to us, Abide with us, Our Lord Emmanuel!”

What a privilege to know Jesus–our Hope, God with Us.  My prayer is that I, you, we pray to be made new–to place our faith in the One who gives abundant life, who pardons our sin, who gives us the strength to follow Him in this dark world.  Who, in the midst of the messes we make (in ourselves, our families, our friendships), asks us to trust Him and His ways–to follow His wisdom, to be quick to be truthful about our “junk” and to love with His love.  It is not too late…

authenticity, comparison, God's word, grace, humility, prayer, spiritual growth, transformation by truth, Uncategorized

The Tyranny of Criticism

The last few weeks, I have been working with a couple of the young women I disciple to help them identify where their hearts are in the everyday.  The objective is to stop and identify where they are as they come to God–sharing their heart with God, joys, disappointments and confusion.  This is where prayer begins…with honesty and connection.

I begin honestly this morning with the fact that I am feeling defeated.  Criticism from others and myself has torn me down.  I have taken part in this process because I have listened to and ingested the poisons.  Don’t we all?  We do not live the Christian life in a vacuum from the real world.  We are learning to have hope while IN the real world.

I knew I would die today without the truth and His presence to fill me up again…to counteract the darkness that is swallowing me.  So, I fixed Jack a blanket with all kinds of toys, turned on this kid’s hymn cd my friend, Cindy, gave me and began to talk to God.

First, I identified all the things going through my heart and mind.  These are some of the phrases…defeated and anxious, broken, guarded, pointless as a leader, helpless to affect change, small, not in control.  Just the way we all like to start our day:).

Next, I identified from God’s word what He says about Himself–where and who Jesus is.  I camped in Colossians 1:15-20.  He is the Center, Creator, the Image of the invisible God, Firstborn over all creation, All things made through Him, to Him, for Him.  He is before all things–all things HOLD TOGETHER IN HIM.  He is the Head of the body/The church (in control).  He is preimminent in everything.  My body and spirit began relaxing into Him.

Then, my response to Him.  Thankful, restful–called Him my Refuge, my Hope, my Righteousness.  As I was praying and reading, “This Is My Father’s World” was playing in the background.  Jack pulled up on my stool, and I picked him up to dance and sing.

“This is my Father’s world,

O let me ne’er forget

That though the wrong seems oft so strong

God is the ruler yet.

This is my Father’s world

The battle is not done

Jesus who died shall be satisfied

And earth and heav’n be One.”

Maltie Davenport Babcock

Oh, the beauty of God singing over me as I sang over my child.  Jack smiled with delight, and I smiled with delight thinking of in whom my hope resides.  See, I am broken, pointless, helpless, guarded, defeated without Jesus.  I am no different than anyone else.  I am small and not in control.  However, in Him, there is no condemnation toward me.  I rest in Him.  I delight in Him.  He holds everything together.

Oh Christ, be the center of our lives

Be the place we fix our eyes

Criticism will always be as long as we are on this earth.  As a mother, the stakes have been upped.  I am convicted of all the times I am critical in my heart and with my mouth.  Every parent out there has a way they do things…a lot of things are preferences, some are morally right and wrong.  There is a time to speak up for the welfare of a child, but mostly we need to keep our mouths shut and support one another through prayer (speaking to myself here).

There is a huge gift in the grace of Jesus…we cannot be perfect, He is.  I want to listen to the Spirit’s leading in parenting Jack.  I want Jack to know he cannot be perfect or righteous on his own.  I want him to learn that from me and Greg.  I desire that we parent with humility, with grace, with dependence on Jesus.  All of these desires are in me, but they are complicated in the “real” world when comparisons and expectations arise.

I cannot parent in this way without being parented by my Gracious Father–blanketed in His truth.  So, I come again and again defeated and needy, and again and again He reminds me that in Him all things hold together.  What a beautiful, gracious, loving Lord we serve.

discipleship, God's word, grace, humility, New year, pride, self-absorption, the gospel, transformation by truth

A humble entrance

       As I looked toward this new year, I am overwhelmed.  Yes, we are having a baby (still sounds crazy to say), but that is not until June.  I am seemingly overwhelmed by every task and relationship I face even before the new year rolls.

        This Christmas season has been busy.  We traveled for a full week to Texas, and in our time there my heart was burdened for family and friends.  There was not an extended time to focus on Christ–to be in and savor His word.  I came back feeling empty and defeated.  I began thinking through next week and next semester and the things going on in girl’s lives that I disciple.  There is a lot to prepare for for the future child, but there is so much to be faithful in NOW. 

      As I walk with these 20-something young women, I see the battle is so fierce for their affections.  A day without truth poured in breeds so much falsehood, deception–spaces where the gospel truth is robbed and they fall back into self-reliance and/or guilt.       I reflect back on this fall.  I feel like I have failed these girls because of my complete lack of energy and the intense sickness that I had with pregnancy.  I guess the balancing act begins as I see the struggle between caring for a child (whether in my womb or out) and serving others in the body of Christ!  I want  to be purposeful in planning and taking advantage of this time before the little one enters the world.  I long to run well and faithful–pouring out His truth and honoring Him above all.    Pray for me that I prepare now to help these girls as my life transitions and I lead in ministry. 

       The good thing about the way I am feeling now is that it puts me in a posture of complete need as the new year commences.  Is there ever a time where I am not in need?  Is there ever a time that I can do any of this on my own?  No.  However, there is always a time when I think I can.  There are times when I walk in self-reliance, self-preservation, self-righteousness.  Unfortunately, those times come too often, and I forget that He superintends the growth–He is in charge.  I try to give myself honor instead of Him.  Or I tend to think it is all on my shoulders.  So, yet again, I am reminded that my hope is in the Gospel.  Jesus took the punishment for my self-reliance, self-preservation, and self-righteous pride.  It is finished.  I am to repent of my rebellious ways and cling to Him yet again.  There is such peace in that–such release.   And yet, everything within me fights that truth.   If there is anything I want and need to pass on to these girls, to our children, it is this beautiful way that Christ has made–the Gospel.

       If there is anything that this season of life has taught me, it is that my hope is not in circumstance or people.  My hope is in Christ.  In this time of joy and preparation for a child, it is so easy to get side-tracked from that hope.  Having babies has become like having a wedding.  We are tempted to plan for a nursery or ceremony more than a life and marriage.   More than nurseries or diapers, I have been thinking about the overwhelming task of discipling children, of teaching them a God-entranced worldview.  How do I do that from birth?  If there is anything I want to be faithful in, it is that.  He is so faithful to teach me through these girls that I meet with–to trust and  rest in Him, in His word.

      So, with all the swirling thoughts in my head entering this new year, I pray for a continued reliance on the beautiful Gospel of Grace.  The Lord is so good, and I am in such need.  In my feeble ways, I pray that this year, each day, I point others to the beauty of Christ, the truth of His gospel, and remember it myself.

God's sovereignty and goodness, grace, healing, infertility, prayer, thankfulness, The body of Christ, trusting God

A thankful heart that He has given me…

      When I was in 8th grade, I went to an aerobics class where we listened to a Mylon Lefevre song “Thankful heart” while we did abdominal exercises.  An ironic lesson for choosing thanks in pain (who likes sit-ups?).  An ah-ha moment–exactly what I have been learning the last few years–learning to think on truth and choose thanks  in the midst of hard feelings and experiences.  “I have a thankful heart that You have given me and it can only come from You.”

         As Thanksgiving approaches fast, I have a full and thankful heart.  I spent time this morning reading over past blogs of our journey of infertility.  What pain, what loss of control, but what richness of God’s love and provision and character we gained in the midst.  Learning where our hope comes from, learning where our treasure is, learning the all-sufficiency of Christ.  Oh, how I have come to love Christ in deep ways and treasure Him above earthly pleasure and circumstance.  In the deepest places of pain and helplessness, He has been so good.  I’ve seen His faithfulness, His love, His truth, His purposes–o the depth and the riches of the Love of Christ–how deep His knowledge and His ways.

          About 6 -8 months ago, when we thought we were through with any kind of fertility treatments–we were really thinking about what  a life of childlessness would look like.  One day praying,  I felt a prick in my spirit that said–“Our story is not over.  He is not finished.  He has us where he wants us.  Thanks be to God.”   I wrote this on our pantry which is covered in chalkboard paint.  I also wrote  Psalm 33:20-22,  “Our soul waits for the LORD; He is our help and our shield.  For our heart is glad in Him, because we trust in His holy name.  Let Your steadfast love be upon us even as we hope in You.”  Then the words:  wait, trust, hope.  This “message” to me was about infertility but not neccessarily about a child–I know it can seem weird.  In the midst of all of this, it has always been about finding our hope in the LORD–not in what He would accomplish in circumstance.  Those are two very different concepts.     

          Today, it is with great humility that I thank the Lord for His grace–favor neither Greg nor I deserve–first in salvation–and secondly, for the growing baby in my womb. 

          In late August, we started the Invitro Fertilization process against great odds.  Our doctor gave us less than half the chances (20%) of those undergoing IVF to make it through and deliver a child.  Through prayers and prayers and prayers and God’s power, my body produced the exact eggs we would need.  Through more prayers, every one of those four eggs fertilized and became an embryo.  (We only chose four because we did not want to risk destroying embryos during the freezing process–this limited our chances, but after prayer and consideration,this was our decision).  The Doc told us that he had never seen a couple even have triplets using four eggs, inseminating them and implanting all that made it to the embryo stage.  It would be like winning the lottery.   We, of course, joked we would need to win the lottery again to pay for them:). Through more prayers, each of those 4 embryos were top rated in strength (one was just a bit behind the others).    The morning of our implantation, he came to us soberly and said we risked the chance of having quadruplets if we implanted them all–this then endangered their health and survival.  After looking at each other with the all-knowing  “how the crap we gonna raise four babies at a time with one of us with a chronic disease” look, we knew that the odds of survival of each of those babies was better if implanted in twos.  Two embryos were implanted,( two frozen to be implanted in us or donated for adoption for another couple) and we waited and prayed.

           God has gifted us with beautiful friends and family who have been prayer warriors on our behalf.  You are a part of our journey.  God has blessed us with you and hopefully you have been blessed to know Him more deeply during this process.  Thank you–you are a huge gift and part of our story.

         Two weeks later, a positive test came.  We discovered a few weeks later that we were just having one baby Pinkner.  I have been very sick since 4 1/2 weeks.  So much so that I have pretty much been at the homestead.  It has been challenging, but I know God is beginning to break me of convenience and schedule even in the now.  At 35, I have a lot to be broken of…

        Today, we got the clearance to share our news from our infertility doc after we got to see the ultrasound.  I am almost 11 weeks along, and He said that everything looked great–we now have about the same chances as everyone else for delivering a healthy baby.  We do not deserve the gift of this healthy growing child.  It seems we have a dancer on our hands with little hand and foot buds that were moving along today.  This is the first day I felt I could relax and rejoice.  For so long I have been guarding my heart over and over again against disappointment.  God did not “owe” us a baby–he never promised one.  He has been more than good in giving us Himself–the greatest gift.  It is with humility and great dependence on Him that we begin this journey.  Keep praying for us.  Pray for this child that God might call he or she to himself to serve Him and serve others. 

           It is also with great humility that we “announce” this.  For years, facebook has been the cause of many days of heartache for me.  Seeing random announcements of yet another baby being born or milestone in pregnancy being reached can rip the heart out of one struggling in infertility.  I am torn because I want to share with others, but I so have on my heart those who want children and are unable to have them at this time.  I am still continuing to pray for friends who are hurting in infertility.  Forever I am changed by these last few years and my heart will always connect with those in that struggle. 

       My only hope through all of this is continuing to treasure God more than His gifts–my greatest prayer is to pass that on to my child(ren).  Thank you for your continued love, support and encouragement to Greg and me.  You are a gift!

Randomly, Greg wanted to make sure I get his line in here–“don’t fake the funk on a nasty dunk.”  Don’t read too deep for meaning…

Anxiety, God's sovereignty and goodness, grace, infertility, transformation by truth, Uncategorized

A hidden talent…

I have a hidden talent that I have honed all my life. Depending upon the season of life and circumstances, I could be called an expert. This talent is not something to be proud of. It is not healthy or truthful. It involves self-worship, and it does not produce fruit that lasts and encourages.
That talent is worry. I can tell you where all the verses are found to encourage releasing my anxiety to God–Matthew 6, Philippians 4, 1 Peter 5. I have even worried about worrying so much. It is a talent that has been passed down in my family including worrying about what others think, worrying about doing things perfectly, worrying about what happens next, worrying about how I am coming across. I am a firm believer in God’s sovereignty, but if I am a worrier, do I really believe?
In Crazy Love by Francis Chan he explains that

‘worry implies that we don’t quite trust God is big enough, powerful enough, or loving enough to take care of what’s happening in our lives.’

‘stress says that things we are involved in are important enough to merit our impatience, our lack of grace toward others, or our tight grip of control.’

This sentence got me–‘ basically, these two behaviors communicate that it’s okay to sin and not trust God because the stuff in my life in somehow exceptional.’ Gulp.
More than any sin, I think we can encourage one another to worry. There is this fine line between listening to someone vent and feeding mistrust in God.
Lately, I might be sounding like a broken record with infertility. I am given the opportunity every day to walk in my hidden talent or walk by trusting in his grace and strength. More than any situation in my life, I have been reminded that I am not in control. (I think marriage to Greg has taught me that, too) I cannot open my womb–no amount of hormones or standing on my head or old wives tales can create life. Even no amount of worrying prayer and bargaining with God will bring life to my womb. You know what I mean by worrying prayer—“God will make it happen if I pray in this way with these people and I pray enough and I try to be as good and trusting as I can.” Let me know how that works because there are 13 year old girls and drug addicts not praying who get pregnant every day. We, as believers, are not given what we “deserve” in life (good or bad)–God is a wonderfully mysterious God of grace. My greatest worry is probably Greg’s age and mine–“how will I be a good mom when I am older? what if I die and leave my children? what if it is not convenient or too hard? what if I have quadruplets?” You get the picture.
Here’s the problem, I think I am god. And, that is a huge problem–I have put another god before Him and have made an idol. In the words of Dr. Phil, “how’s that working for me?” The problem then is not the circumstance of infertility. The problem is my adulterous heart that is looking somewhere else and worshipping someone other than the amazing Lord that is my King. It is not okay to worry. Like any other sin, I must confess and repent and remember the forgiveness of the cross. I choose to remember the truth that Christ is my righteousness–he trusted the Father perfectly. I admit that I am a poor god, and I am reminded of His character–infinitely faithful (I am finitely fickle). Then, my sin is exchanged for worship and awe.
Chan expounds that worry and stress ‘declare our tendency to forget that we have been forgiven, that our lives here are brief, that we are headed to a place where we won’t be lonely, afraid, or hurt ever again, and that in the context of God’s strength, our problems are small, indeed.’
Who is God? Creator, Sustainer of life, Redeemer, Deliverer, Giver of life, Just, Merciful Father, Good, The only one worthy to be praised, Everlasting, Sovereign…and much more.
His purposes are high above ours–and better than our finite wishes, and He invites us with Him. The problem–we cling to our finite wishes and treasures instead of letting the debris go and trusting His character. These last few weeks I have been faced with the temptation for anxiety at every turn, but I can say that I have been purposefully looking to Him for TODAY and trusting Him for TODAY. I do not want to borrow worries from tomorrow, and I have enjoyed today more than worrying about tomorrow (not perfectly). This is His grace because I have been on hormones that I have made me irritable and cloudy and tired. May I remember His faithfulness and trust His ways above my own understanding! Maybe I can develop some helpful hidden talents with the time that I would have been worrying!

authenticity, God's sovereignty and goodness, grace, infertility, prayer, transformation by truth, trusting God

Lift my eyes

This morning I was awakened by circumstantial disappointment. My first thought–to be to myself and skip the time of fellowship with God. (This is my default when sad–ironically enough). However, I knew the battle would be lost there. So, I came to him truthful, disappointed in the hope I had put in circumstance, and prayed from his word. His truth lifted my eyes above circumstance. I have such small sight…I long for too little. I long for comfort and conformity to the world and self-worship. He brought me to thankfulness…to a view of him that transcends circumstantial wants and fears. I am thankful and amazed that the God of the universe has shown me such grace–and I am convicted that I trust him and hallow him very little.
So today I leave you with the prayer I prayed for myself and others from Ephesians 3:14-21

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father (Daddy), from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith–that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations, forever and ever. Amen”

Oh Daddy, may my first thought not be self (self-pity, self-preservation, self-worth) today. May my first thought be on the fullness of the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge…the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord (Phil 3:8). May I rejoice in you–in the fullness of you. May I count ALL things as loss in order to gain Christ and be found in him–without a righteousness from me but him (Phil 3:9). Forgive me for wanting too little–comfort and ease, children, a house of piddly treasures, safe finances, self-importance. Give me a vision for loving you with everything.

Anxiety, God's sovereignty and goodness, God's word, grace, rest, transformation by truth, trusting God

Give us this day…

These last few weeks and the coming one can qualify for some of the craziest I have experienced of late. All good things…just a lot of busyness in preparation for my niece’s wedding, welcoming my nephew home from semester at sea, running the business side of WDC, running the ministry side of WDC, celebrating the end of college careers for many close family members and those I have been in disciple-making relationships with, and then the regular responsibilities of life. I feel like the proverbial chicken with her head cut off…
Last week I got some time to “be with” God. I purposefully was not rushing off to the next appointment or writing my to do list. I actually took time to remember the gospel and what Jesus means to life. I remembered that he is there when I am weak and weary and heavy laden, and he promises rest and is humble and lowly in heart. I was reminded in scripture that we are to come as little children. The notes in my new ESV study Bible (which I love) said children show a childlike trust, a vulnerability, a dependency in everything knowing they cannot provide for themselves. Gulp. Oh the sweetness of being reminded that I am to be completely vulnerable and dependent upon him as a child. Oh the freedom of that. Oh the reminder that he gives us to not worry about tomorrow (a child does not), to ask for the needs of the day (a child does that in trust).
Another reminder was given to me yesterday as I read and studied in the hammock (a Sabbath tradition that I have not partaken of in a while).

Lamentations 3:22-24
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases,
his mercies never come to an end;
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
The LORD is my portion, says my soul,
therefore I will hope in him.

He is faithful beyond belief (especially beyond my belief). He is even faithful to gently remind me in his word that every morning starts with new mercy, new strength from him. In verse 25 he says “The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.” Matthew 6:33 says “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and these things will be added unto you as well.”
I stopped and recognized him instead of continuing to run around in my own self-absorption. I have to be reminded of that everyday. Life in Christ is much more simple than we try to make it…we let ourselves get engulfed by the noise of this world…internet, tv, social media outlets (facebook), busyness, task, productivity. Last week, I felt pulled in every direction…people asking me thousands of questions (it seemed), the more I checked email, facebook, blog, voicemail, texts, the more I had to respond. I was reminded of a Geoff Moore song from the early 90’s–

Simple heart beat in me until I can see a simple heart will set me free
to let extraordinary things flow through this heart of simplicity.

I took a break from Facebook. I knew I needed to simplify my schedule for this week. I cannot be all things to all people, but I know the one who is all that I need (all that we need). My prayer is to approach him as a little child in need, vulnerability, complete trust and with an eye for his glory. My prayer is to seek him first and wait upon him. He is my Daddy, my hope. May this week, even in craziness, glorify him, his purposes, his name. May I be with friends, family, strangers, new friends and have that childlike heart that loves and makes him known.