Thursday, June 23, 2011

Throwing in the Towel

Despite that common saying, "Never give up," sometimes giving up is just the right thing to do.  We never know what result it will bring, but in some cases, giving up means giving up control.  Or giving up the attempt to control a situation that cannot be controlled.  Sometimes giving up means freedom, waiting it out, and hoping for the best.  Even Jesus gave up his spirit, and we all know that was the best thing He could have done for us.

Maybe we should give up a little more often.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

No, Thank You

After the last two days of lying on the couch and requiring a nap approximately every two hours, I've been thinking about all the things in life that I could do without, sickness being one of them.  Excessive drama, another.  (Of course I like some drama; it keeps things interesting.)  I could also do without name-calling, people rolling through neighborhood stop signs (don't even get me started on that one!), and pornography.  If those things just didn't exist, oh, life would be so much happier.  For me, at least.

I also thought for a while, over the past several years, that I could do life better without God.  Not without believing, but without caring much, and letting go of certain principles.  Turns out that is a horrible way to live.  I cannot express the feelings of guilt that would tag along with me wherever I went.  My psyche was fragile at best, living a life that I disagreed with in principle.  I started to wonder how I could actually still call myself a believer.  And those old verses in Revelation haunted me.  Literally.

"I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot.  I wish you were either one or the other!  So, because you are lukewarm--neither hot nor cold--I am about to spit you out of my mouth.  You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.'  But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked."  Revelation 3:15-17

Looking again at these verses, I see there was more to it than fear or guilt.  There may be bad things in life that I could do without, but clearly, by my past experiences and by these verses, I cannot do without God.  Without Him, I have no clothes, no sight, no wealth (literal or figurative).  I have no hope.  And speaking of things I cannot do without: without hope, we are all dead.

I can't believe and not act the way I'm supposed to.  I can't cling to hope if the One who gives that hope is unimportant to me.  I cannot have anything without God.  In fact, I do not want anything without God.  It's just not worth it.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Mama's Prayer

How can one not see God in a tiny, brand new baby?

So perfectly formed, with everything she needs.  Tiny little fingers, toes, ears.  Fuzzy blond hair, and the slight twinge of a smile when she sleeps.  I can't imagine looking at a newborn and thinking anything but "miracle."  From the tiniest speck, this human being formed, whether planned or unplanned.  Always wanted, by God if by no one else.  Here to accomplish a specific purpose on Earth, but for the time being, as MercyMe sang in "Joseph's Lullaby":

I believe the glory of Heaven
Is lying in my arms tonight.
Lord, I ask that he, for just this moment
Simply be my child.

God does give us those children for a time, and it feels like they belong to us.  They are half us, after all.  But God has an amazing purpose and plan for each of those children, though we can rarely guess what it could be.  It could be monumental; it could be simple.  But it is a purpose nonetheless.  I know this for my own daughter; I trust it and pray for it every day, that she will grow in grace and love and beauty, inside and out, encouraged by those around her, and loved for whomever she becomes.

For her, I pray the "prayer" of Luke 2:52, a verse I memorized long ago through my church's scouting program.  "And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man."

A parent could hope for nothing more.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

There's a Whole World Out There

"Let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy.  Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.  Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield."  Psalm 5:11-12

The number of new things my daughter has started doing over the past week is nothing short of astounding.  She has graduated from army-crawling to actual crawling.  She consistently waves when prompted.  She can feed herself with her fingers.  And she can pull herself up to standing.  All of this within one week!  It's difficult to keep up with her new accomplishments!

One time tonight, she pulled herself up to stand using her Bumbo chair.  I took her hands, and she immediately started taking steps towards me.  It's amazing that she knows just what to do, and I don't think it's going to be long before she gains enough balance to start walking along the furniture, and then start walking on her own.  She is ready to go, and as soon as she realizes that those things are going to open up a whole new world for her, she'll get the hang of them in no time.

What opens up new worlds for us?  I know a lot of people think that believing in God and obeying His principles limits human beings, but I think it's just the opposite.  I think it gives a person tremendous freedom.  Simply trusting in God vastly opens up the number of viable options or paths to take in life, just knowing that He can be counted on (keeping in mind, of course, my last post about God not existing to fix our mistakes).

I also firmly believe that the principles He sets are largely there for our own protection, be it emotional, physical, or spiritual.  And even if one does look at them as limitations, I am always reminded of the idea of boundaries.  We need them because without them, we feel unsafe.  At least I do.  I like to feel protected, sheltered, cared for.  I know that when I start testing those limits, I start to feel out of control.  Scared.  Like I want someone to come along and reign me in.  My world expands when I feel that cushion of protection.  It's ironic, isn't ?

Even though I know she's going to go a mile a minute when she starts walking, I can't wait to see my daughter's world expand, right now, and five, ten, fifteen years from now.  I'm sure God enjoys watching us discover as much as I've enjoyed watching her.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


"Blessed are those you choose and bring near to live in your courts.  We are filled with the good things of your house, of your holy temple.  You answer us with awesome and righteous deeds, God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas, who formed the mountains by your power, having armed yourself with strength, who stilled the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, and the turmoil of the nations.  The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy."  Psalm 65:4-8

I made a mistake with a bottle of hair dye the other night.  It was awful.  Every time I caught a reflection of myself in the mirror, I practically shuddered.  All I could see was orange, not the "natural, sun-lightened blond" the box had promised.  I hated it so much that I marched myself right back to the store and purchased another box of dye to try and fix the mistake.  It only helped a little.  The worst part is that I had read the recommendations about which shade to choose to get the result I wanted, but I was distracted by the phrase "sun-lightened," and so I discarded those recommendations.  Bad move.

I suppose I could make a trite comment about how, in life, we need not only to read the instructions, but to follow them as well, which would be a good lesson learned.  Or I could draw some lesson about how we can't go back and fix our mistakes; we need God's help to fix them.

But that's not necessarily true, either.  God doesn't exist to fix our mistakes, or prevent us from making them.  He doesn't put out our fires, make us successful, make us happy, or make our lives easier.  But if God doesn't exist to fix our mistakes, and we can't fix them on our own, then where does that leave us?

We're not meant to fix our mistakes, and nine times out of ten, one can't go back and rectify them, anyway.  Yeah, yeah, yeah...we're meant to learn from our mistakes.  That's true, of course, and we certainly don't want to go through life making the same mistakes over and over again.  We surely won't grow as people if we do that.

But watching what God does with our mistakes, not fixing them, is perhaps one of the most amazing and humbling gifts we can experience on this earth.  I'm not sure that choosing the wrong hue for my hair is going to bring about any sort of intervention from God.  But there are plenty of other opportunities for God to take my missed opportunities and turn them into something great, and more particularly, something for His glory.  He knew when He created us that we were going to be imperfect, and consequently annoying, frustrating, and even disappointing at times.  But how excited must He have been, thinking about all the ways he was still going to meet us, through our imperfections, and show us whom He really is!  I get excited just thinking about the next time I will see my daughter smile, and I can't imagine how God looks forward to the next time He will make us smile, especially if we are in the midst of something deeply challenging, or even hopeless.

Even though it's not God's job to make me happy, it's more often than not a by-product.  Or maybe it's the deep-down joy of having someone who won't reject me for my mistakes, but who will open His arms, perhaps even wider, and say, "I still love you.  Now watch this."

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Assurance to Last a Lifetime

I love opening my Bible to Isaiah 45-46.  It's right about in the middle, so it's not difficult to "stumble" upon ...though, is there really any such thing as "stumbling" upon a Bible passage?  I'm fairly certain God is smarter than that.

The words in these chapters are beautiful and significant, but to me, they have had a deeper meaning since 2003.  I was in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, at the campground for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, and, having just finished my third year of college, I was feeling some confusion.  In a history class the previous fall semester, we had discussed the Bible as folk writing or myth, and it made me uncomfortable.  Not because I was offended that someone could be passing off my beliefs so nonchalantly, but because, for the first time in my life, I actually considered the fact that it could, I suppose, be a myth after all.

I wanted to believe in God; don't get me wrong.  And so I went in search of some sort of assurance, verification, anything I could find.  Anything I could grasp and keep a hold of.  In that search, I "randomly" (ha) opened my Bible to those chapters in Isaiah, and as I began to read, on the breezy shore of Lake Huron, I slowly started to feel more confident.

"I am the Lord, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God.  I will strengthen you, though you have not acknowledged me, so that from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting men may know there is none besides me.  I am the Lord, and there is no other."  Isaiah 45:5-6

It doesn't end there.  As I read--devoured--these words, reading on ahead and backtracking to previous chapters, the theme continued.  "I am the Lord; there is no other."  Over and over and over again.  As if someone really needed to hear it, needed it pounded in their head so they would not forget.

That day, that someone was me.

But when God really wants us to remember something, He always finds an unusual or unique way to make it stick.  And so at that moment, as I held my Bible in my hands and began to feel His love and His very real presence wrap around me, it started to rain.  Drip-drop on those thin Bible pages, but I kept reading.  Later, when the pages dried, they dried wrinkled.  They are still wrinkled today, eight years later.  I cannot open my Bible to Isaiah without being reminded that God met me that day, reassured me that day, and never wanted me to forget it.  Ever.

That was the day that I knew, without an inkling of a doubt in my mind, that God exists.  That experience will never be taken away from me, and I will always smile at those wrinkly pages in the middle of His Word.

"And there is no God apart from me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none but me."  Isaiah 45:21b

Friday, June 10, 2011


"I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty."  2 Corinthians 6:18

My biggest blessing today came in the form of two high school friends sharing lunch with me.  We'd all had weeks that had been emotional roller coasters, and we all felt left at the bottom rather than the top.  Just sharing a lunch of clean-out-the-refrigerator leftovers was pleasant, even therapeutic.  I hope they enjoyed it as much as I did.

There's something to be said about friends who stick by your side, even when they've seen you at your worst.  Or, in my case, when they didn't even see my worst because I'd kind of been off the map for a while.  When we come back together and I realize that they don't judge me, and they've gotten over any kind of regrets or hurts they might have experienced at my hands, it gives me a sense of security, not only in myself, but in those relationships.  And when I think about it, this is the second Friday in a row that I've had this blessing, as last Friday's dinner was spent with four other friends who are treating me the same way: with acceptance and love.  It's amazing not to have to wonder how they might treat me tomorrow.

Just like my friends, I don't have to worry about how God is going to feel about me tomorrow.  I can't even describe the confidence I have, knowing that I belong to God.  Even if my friends and family did turn away from me, I would still belong somewhere.  That's especially nice for someone like me, who hasn't even felt she's belonged in her own skin for a long time.  What more can we ask for, than to belong?

So thank you to those friends who still seem to like me, for whatever crazy reason!  And thanks be to God, who doesn't "like" at all, just loves.  And loves.  And loves.

Thursday, June 9, 2011


"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."  James 1:2-3

Tonight was a rough night for my daughter, who will turn nine months old on Saturday.  As I sat down to nurse her just before bedtime, she quickly found that while she was eating, she could not breathe due to severe nasal congestion.  She tried several times but became frustrated and turned away, finally bursting into tears, which is unusual for her once she is eating.  I knew how to help her, but I knew she wasn't going to like it.

Out came the nasal aspirator.

Several times on each nostril, I squeezed and sucked and removed more mucus that I thought was possible for an infant to have.  And each time I did this, she got angrier and angrier.  She thrashed her head from side to side, turning away from me every time I came at her.  I wished I could just tell her that once I was done, her life would be so much better.  If she could just get through the unpleasantness (and I can only imagine that having a nasal aspirator repeatedly shoved up your nose is unpleasant), she could breathe easier.  Literally.  And fill up her belly and have a good night's sleep.

Once she quieted down, and I sat there in the stillness, I realized that no matter our age, human beings continually struggle with seeing the "end result."  We often focus too much on what is happening at the moment and how it is making us feel.  Especially during difficult stretches, we rarely remember that what's more important than how we feel is whom we are becoming. 

I don't necessarily believe that God sends situations our way, or tries to test us to see how our faith will hold us up.  I'm not saying He never does, but I believe that, more often than not, life just happens.  The great part is that it happens with God by our side.  He never leaves us, though we may try to leave Him; His Spirit is always calling us back.  With each bit of life that "happens" to us, He is molding and shaping us, painful though it may be.  And even the end result isn't the end result.  As life is in constant motion, so are our beings, constantly changing, improving, steps forward, and sometimes steps back.  But whom we become is crucial, as whom we are goes with us for eternity, unlike anything else on this earth.

I hope that no matter how much I struggle, how many times I turn away, God continues to "aspirate" my life, so that I can see more clearly, and be whom I was meant to be.  My suspicion is that it will be worth the struggle.

Lightning Strikes

I've been saying for months, regarding my nine-month-old daughter, that you never know when you'll have a wonderful moment of bonding with her.  Sure, we expect to bond with our children when playing with them, or introducing them to new experiences, or watching them achieve new accomplishments.  But it could just as easily happen during a diaper change.  She might let out a random, unexpected giggle, or give you a huge smile.  Or you might even bond in the struggle to keep her on the changing table and get the diaper on well enough so that it will carry out its proper function.  Any moment could be a "moment."

And tonight, I learned that any moment can be a "life moment," too.  As I sat in the rocker, nursing my daughter to sleep tonight, God introduced the idea of this blog to me.

I will be the first to admit that I haven't really done the "God thing" in a while.  It's only been in the past several months that I've started attending church with any sort of regularity, after a hiatus that was a whole lot longer than I'd care to admit.  I've also made a number of choices over the past few years that were contrary to what I believe, which means they were contrary to who I am.  It's rough on the psyche, let me tell you, to look at your life and think, "How did I get here?"

But slowly and surely, I know I have been drifting back to the right place.  I know God never left me.  I've been struggling mightily with finding the will and the desire to be back into His Word on any sort of basis, let alone a daily basis.  But as I nursed my daughter tonight, and had one of those moments with her, God stepped in and let me know it was a moment for Him, too.  It brought me to tears.

This is going to be my own devotional journey.  I want to read the Word, and write about it, and maybe someone else will find it vaguely useful.  But it's for me more than anyone else.  If, as you read my words, I sound disjointed and spiritually simplistic, it's because that's where I am right now.  You may even read thoughts that seem shockingly unoriginal, as if you've read them in some devotional, somewhere else.  But that's okay.  I appreciate you coming along on my journey, anyway.

I just want to make sure I am looking for little pieces of God in my own life, every day.  He's always been there, but I have lately been too caught up in myself to notice, or to care.  I start caring again today.  This is just me, seeing God. 

I hope.