“All that I had planned, dreamed and desired to have in a marriage had been stolen by endless doubt, harassing questions and ultimately Scott walking away from God. He had become my prodigal husband. We were now a house divided, not a home of unity…”
Words from a post I wrote a little over a year ago titled “My Prodigal Husband“.
Words that still rang true exactly one month ago today…
But MAY I SHOUT a little here at BraveGirl Community today?!! Because…
MY PRODIGAL HUSBAND HAS RETURNED HOME!!! He is REALLY HOME! Can I get an AMEN?!!!
So they began to CELEBRATE .-Luke 15:24
Friends – I would love for you to praise the Father for His goodness and His faithfulness for what HE has done! I am in awe of His relentless pursuit of my man.
God NEVER gave up on him.
And can I just say that if you are reading this and you are in the wait for your prodigal to return, you’re in the wait for that miracle, you’re in the wait for that answer to a long awaited prayer…We SERVE a GOD who is Faithful and who is ON TIME…even when we don’t understand. I wrote a post titled In The Wait as I longed for my husband to return. I hope it encourages you and reminds you of who our God is.
My “wait” has been a 10 year journey and I have experienced every kind of emotion and heartache imaginable. And I can tell you, with confidence, that I would not trade a single day. Because without each and every trial- I wouldn’t have grown or known Jesus like I do right now. The fruit I am experiencing in this moment is priceless. It’s a sweetness of the Father lavishly loving on His children…It’s a contagious laughter that had been stifled by the lack of joy in my home…It’s a feeling of UNITY where the enemy THOUGHT he divided and conquered…
JESUS is the way maker where there seems to be NO WAY.
Below is a video of my husband and I having the privilege to share a small part of our story.
I pray it will encourage you wherever you are and whatever you may be going through to remember the relentless pursuit of God and that our Hope is in Jesus ALONE. He WILL NOT stop pursuing the one…
DO. NOT. GIVE. UP.
Scott and Cheryl share a part of their journey. Click here to watch: https://vimeo.com/225758712
Your Sister In Christ,
It only took two words to rock my family to the core: brain tumor. Turns out the symptoms my feisty mother-in-law had been experiencing were more than weirdly isolated annoyances. And so on a Sunday night I held my husband as he cried and trembled with fear, imagining the worst and fervently praying for the best. The next day we made the first of multiple three-hour trips to the hospital she was in, and our reality shifted in the way it only can when you receive terrible, life-altering news. Time became suspended. The world as we knew it took a backseat.
Let me add here that we traveled with our three-year-old and three-month-old daughters. Because my mother-in-law was in the ICU, our girls couldn’t go into her room to visit. I ended up spending a lot of time in the waiting room keeping them occupied, looking out the window, and observing the other people I shared that room with. I came away from my time in the waiting room with a perspective I hadn’t thought to have before this experience began.
I’ve never been a fan of hospitals. There’s a stark coldness and a distinct smell that makes me uneasy. Not to mention people don’t usually end up in the hospital because they wanted to be there. There are so many sad stories behind each patient and family member who find themselves laying on a bed or sitting in a vinyl chair. It’s overwhelming and I try to steer clear as much as possible. Until I found myself in that neurosurgery ICU waiting room, I didn’t quite grasp just how many ways a person can experience life-threatening trauma to the brain. Each day I heard snippets of conversation around me with words like “aneurism” and “brain bleed” peppered in the way the rest of us might casually discuss what we ate for lunch. These loved ones huddled in their respective corners came from all walks of life. There were older men and women alongside children and grandchildren. Nobody was immune.
As I eavesdropped on strangers’ conversations and heard the words my own family was speaking, I found myself yearning to connect, to go deeper, to release what was on my mind and in my heart instead of tucking those raw emotions safely away. I saw my husband’s family, and especially his mom, through the lens of their mortality. It mattered that everyone in that waiting room was there for the same reason. The trivial things that usually occupy my mind suddenly lost importance. Who cared if my outfits were on trend and properly accessorized; they just had to be comfortable. Keeping up with my social media feed seemed like a chore I just couldn’t be bothered with. My diet and exercise routine had to be put on hold because I was exhausted from the energy it took to comprehend what was happening to us. Any plans I had made were cancelled. Nothing was more important than being there.
Sitting in the waiting room wasn’t all bad. Without a doubt, my favorite takeaway from the hours I spent at the hospital was realizing all the ways God displays love for His children and actually paying attention enough to notice them. Things like a rainbow, a song, or a ring tone probably won’t mean much to you unless I elaborate…
My mother-in-law saw a vibrant rainbow right outside her window just a day or two before her scheduled surgery. God was saying, “I promise I’m here and I’m not leaving.”
My husband played the song, “Eye of the Storm” for his mom to comfort her during her early days in the ICU. Then we heard that song at least once a day each day we were there. The day after my “second mom” had her surgery, a lady in the waiting room had a ring tone on her phone…you guessed it…”Eye of the Storm!” When I shared with this woman the significance of her ringtone, she wrapped me in a hug and we bonded over the wonder that God uses little things when they can make the biggest impact. I was able to hear her story about why she was there, and I’m still praying for her father, Donald, and his recovery.
Speaking of prayer…the abundance of prayers and support from our friends was the biggest way God showed us He was at work. I can’t even count how many people across the country and even in other nations were praying for our family. So I shouldn’t have been surprised when my mother-in-law’s surgery went better than we had hoped, or when she was awake and talking just hours afterwards. I shouldn’t have been blown away when I saw her the next day and she was cracking jokes like always and making sure her kids were taken care of. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I realized how my faith had given way to worry more than I’d like to admit. God reminded me of His tender mercy as I sat with my daughters. He reminded me just how important prayer is – it’s everything!
I realize that our story has had a happy resolution – at least so far. The very night of my mother-in-law’s surgery, when we were in the cafeteria having a snack and taking turns saying goodnight to her, another family was pouring into the hallway, faces red and splotchy, tears streaming down cheeks. Their news wasn’t so happy, and my heart ached for them and the pain they were experiencing in that moment. But for the grace of God, that could have easily been us. And our journey with this brain tumor isn’t over yet. There’s still a lot of healing, physical therapy, and treatment to come. The future isn’t certain, not by a long shot. But as a family, we’ve changed. I can feel it. Whatever we face in the unknown future, whether it be another difficult diagnosis or struggles in the midst of healing, we’ve already come face-to-face with what we say we believe about God. Our faith has been tested, and even as we wrestled with fear, our faith didn’t falter. We could have easily given ourselves over to despair, but instead we chose to daily place our burdens and questions at the feet of Jesus.
There are two Psalms that brought me comfort over the past few weeks: Psalm 33:18-22 and Psalm 37:25-26 & 39.
Whatever you’re facing today, your Father is right there in the thick of it with you. Let Him be your hope. Trust that He will not forsake you, but will be your strength today. Rejoice in Him, who is your Help and Shield!
With much love,
This weekend I got away with a girlfriend to a cabin on the lake, and it was a refreshing time for my soul. We did some leisurely shopping and ate a lot of yummy, bad-for-us food. It was all wonderful, but my favorite part of the whole trip was the time we spent resting. We threw on sweatshirts and enjoyed a slow morning on the deck, sipping our coffee while nestled under a quilt. We marathon watched HGTV and colored in adult coloring books. We were intentional about not being busy, and we didn’t feel guilty about it.
It got me thinking about the value of resting in the midst of a chaotic, loud, busy world. Jesus created us to work. But he also created us to need rest. Not only does he allow us to rest; he encourages it.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
I know a lot of us struggle with the concept of rest because it can sometimes carry with it a certain amount of guilt. We get used to the busy schedules, traffic jams, ringing phones, and – if we are so blessed – noise from a household that is busting at its seams. We are so conditioned to the busyness, we feel like we are wasting time or being lazy if we carve out some time for quiet.
Can I just remind you that it was God who created the Sabbath? He is Holy and perfect, and he himself rested on the seventh day after creating everything.
“By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing, so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.” (Genesis 2:2)
Resting refuels our soul. It makes us better parents, employees, spouses and friends. It extends a shortened fuse, recharges our enthusiasm, and allows us time to hear God’s voice.
Remember Mary and Martha? Martha thought she was doing right by staying busy in service to God, but Mary was the one who was praised for sitting at his feet. I think God knew we as a people would need lots of reminders that rest is not only okay, but it is very good!
“Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)
God wants more for us than constant motion, service, and completed tasks. He wants us to sit at his feet, hear his voice, and simply be still in his presence. It is a gift he has given to us as his dear children.
When is the last time you sat at His feet and let him refresh your soul? He is ready, waiting and well-equipped to lavish you with love and soothe the unrest that burdens your soul.
Breathe in his goodness. Be still and know.
“I’m praying for you!”
How many times a week do we say this? Send it in a text or email? Use it as a Facebook comment?
Do you ever avoid social media because every time you log on you have to add eight new desperate needs to your mental prayer list? It’s just too overwhelming sometimes. It might be a stranger with a missing child, a family member with a terrible illness, or an anxious friend having a hard day. If you’re like me, we want to pray for people. We know they need it. We sympathize with them. Our hearts break with them. We want to comfort them, so we reach out and use the only words we know to offer in that moment.
“I’m praying for you.”
We have great intentions, but then we keep scrolling, get distracted, and by the time we log off, we’ve forgotten what we promised we would pray for.
If you’re like me, you know our friend is in need and we genuinely intend on praying when we hear about her situation, but then life happens. By the time you pack lunches, drive your kids to soccer, fix dinner, and catch up on your DVR, you fall into bed and are asleep before your unwashed hair hits the pillow. The day has gone by and you have just forgotten.
Days later, that request for prayer crosses your mind and you beat yourself up for not following through with that reassuring promise to pray. You text or call to ask your friend how she is doing. Her storm has passed and she thanks you for praying.
Thank God for His grace, but seriously, we need to stop throwing these words around carelessly. Please hear my heart here…this post is not to judge, it’s to remind myself and all of us that prayer is powerful. It’s where the battle begins! Let’s be intentional for each other and utilize the power we have access to. Let’s not take it for granted any longer. God has called us to pray and intercede for each other. It’s serious business. He longs to hear our voice calling out to Him. He wants to answer our prayers.
What if we pulled out our smartphones and used our notes to keep track of more than our grocery lists? Or downloaded a prayer journal app or emailed ourselves a reminder? What if we wrote names down and hung them on the bathroom mirror and prayed while we get ready for the day? How about we treat ourselves to a cute new journal and a good pen just for prayer?
We are all busy, but we can find time for prayer. Let’s get up early. Let’s pray during our lunch hour or while our toddlers are taking a nap. Let’s pray in the shower or on the treadmill. Let’s call out names while we fold laundry or during our commute to work. There are pockets of time that we can use to make a difference in someone’s life.
Join me today…let’s start fresh…let’s make “I’m praying for you” a statement less about comforting others and more about intentionally going into battle and activating God’s power.
“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” 1 John 5:14
It was a Friday afternoon in February of 2000 when my life suddenly changed forever.
I’ll never forget the phone call that came after business hours. I was in my office with coworkers and picked up after the first ring. The voice at the other end of the line was my children’s father, my ex-husband.
His voice was filled with concern as he said, “Sharon, you need to sit down.” Of course I didn’t as I recall…and then he said bluntly as if he had to say it before he couldn’t, “Chris is dead.”
I remember being stunned and confused about the words before they sank in, wondering why he would say such a horrible thing. I even remember asking, “Are you sure?” which I know was my mind begging for one more moment of not knowing. My knees weakened as he finished telling me what he knew about what had happened.
He had been out of town on business and upon returning, found our oldest son alone and gone from this world. Mercifully, gratefully, he had gone home to be with Jesus and that ray of Hope would be the shred of life that would survive while my heart and mind pulled on a shroud of deep black darkness.
The next few days I lived the nightmare of my greatest fear since becoming a mother, losing one of my boys. My heart was filled with infinitely more pain than my fear of it ever had. I isolated myself most of the time as family and friends came to the house offering condolences but I wanted to be alone…in my darkness. Even though I took comfort in knowing Chris was a believer and I would be reunited with him in heaven, my mother’s heart was aching and struggling with accepting he was gone from this earth.
Since Chris was an otherwise healthy 24 year old, his father insisted on an autopsy. The following
Monday was a holiday, so in short the funeral was postponed until almost a week later. I’m not sure how, but it was arranged and attended by more than 800 people I was told.
I can recall only bleak snapshots of that miserable week of waiting…my dad sitting in my living room in the navy tapestry wingback staring blankly overcome by grief, food piled up on every countertop and bulging from the refrigerator, and our house busy with well meaning guests. Then I woke up in the emergency room after blacking out for an extended period of time. I remember hoping to see Chris one more time and for some strange reason thought he was at the hospital. In times of deep sorrow and shock, your mind takes strange pathways.
In the following month, there were many beautiful cards, (I still have every one of them), visits and frequent phone calls of consolation. I returned to work way too soon because I didn’t know what else to do. Sorrow and emptiness became my new painful normal.
Grief is exhausting…not only emotionally but physically as well.
I often tried to pray, but the prayers never seemed to make it above the ceiling. Even though Chris’s dad was very angry at God for the untimely death of our son, for some reason, I never was. But I couldn’t feel His Presence.
Weeks turned into months and months into two years. Cards and visits had long since stopped. Everyone had resumed their own lives. The cruel emotions of hurt and self pity were added to the suffering because I felt so alone in my sorrow.
Sadness. Loneliness. Fear. Dread. Pain. Despair. PURE DARKNESS…EMPTINESS.
And then one Sunday morning we were getting ready for church. I was weary and worn thin from the weight of my grief. I had prayed to die so many times, but this morning, I literally looked toward heaven and cried out loud in total desperation, “God, please replace this horrible darkness and grief with some kind of joy!”
That morning, as I sat in the comfortable stadium seat of our church with hundreds of others, the message was entitled…
“Where Do You Turn When Life’s Not Working?”
I don’t know if there was a single other person in that congregation who needed to hear those words more than I did. I felt as if they had been eternally penned for me. I knew in the depths of my soul that it was God’s answer to my desperate plea earlier that morning, delivered by His obedient servant, a pastor I hardly even knew.
The message clearly charted the course of the healing power of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. As the words washed over me, I experienced a lifting in my soul. That day I actually felt for the first time the warmth of His Loving Arms enveloping me. I saw a beam of His Radiant Light shining from the far end of the heinous darkness in which I had hidden for the past two years. I saw Him…I felt Hope.
It’s not that I had never heard the things that were presented in that timely message. It’s that I had not chosen them as my foundational truths. I had spent a lifetime of self will ignoring the very thing that sustains us through times like this.
God loves us and is constantly pursuing His independent self willed creation.
He already knows every detail of your struggle and is patiently waiting for you to turn to Him for help.
Even though I had experienced salvation at the age of eight, and had been in church most of my life, I confess I had not invested in my relationship with my Heavenly Father and had grown very little spiritually. My quiet times were never very quiet and those spent in His Word were hurried and rushed. There is no wonder why my faith was so shallow…
I trusted Him with my eternity through my salvation experience but thought I could handle the “living on planet earth” on my own!
Simply put, when faced with the most difficult challenge of my life, I had chosen darkness instead of His Healing Light!
During those two years, many times, I had begged God to let me die, to be free of the pain. But He had chosen not to answer those misplaced prayers.
He did not send His Son to die so that we would be left in darkness!
The awakening that day was only the beginning of my healing. Over time, the hole in my heart was graciously being filled with His Truth and Promises as I spent time with Him, meditating on His Word. Leaning on Him for my strength and direction was infinitely the better choice…it was filled with hope and the blossoming of joy and new life.
One day as I was in His Word, He gently reminded me that He had also lost His Son and He knew exactly how I felt.
And there it was, the very essence of Truth that sponged up the last ounce of my self pity. How could I have ever felt alone? The Creator of the universe, my Heavenly Father, knew how I felt. He had never forsaken me. I had NEVER been alone.
The realization of His intimacy flooded over me! I finally knew in my heart that throughout every moment of the journey since that Friday afternoon phone call, He had been right by my side. I had missed the miracle of it because of my foolish self will.
I realized His desire for me to live was a blessing. He was not finished with my story. He wanted me to share it and His message of hope with the world!
Would I have ever wished my son would die? Of course not, no mother would. But I will tell you that had I not gone through the devastation of losing him, I may never have ever known the glorious riches of walking with my Lord and Savior!
Someone said, “He never wastes a hurt.”
So be encouraged no matter what you may face, THE God of the universe loves you. So much so that He sent His only Son to die for you. There is nothing too big or bad for His sacrificial Love to cover. You only have to trust and receive His beautiful Gift of Salvation.
Life is full of crossroads and choices…choose life! Let Him lead you into His Marvelous Light!
He is a good good Father and His Mercies are new every morning!
In the past fourteen years, I still grieve over Chris but I have also experienced more Joys than I could have ever imagined because I opened my heart up to Him. Please don’t miss it! He will give you joy in your mourning too. Let Him have that chance. Open your heart up to Him…and ask Him.
Dear our precious Heavenly Father,
We thank you for your love, your faithfulness, and your son Jesus who died for us. We thank you for the person who is reading this post. I pray for the one who is struggling to open her heart up to you in her time of pain and grief. Please soften her heart to want to know you. Give her a hunger for your word. Give her your peace, your rest, and your comfort as she prays and cries out to you. Give her a humble and open heart that is ready to receive your joy and blessings and lean into you every day so that as you carry her, she finds her rest in you. Amen.
Today is June 5, 2016. I remembered the significance of today while sitting in church this morning. I realized that today is going to be just another day. A day where I’ll attend church with my family. A day where my husband will rush off to work after lunch. My daughter will nap. Our small group will meet. Nothing earth-shattering will happen today. Today will not go down in history like I thought it would one year ago…
It was June 5, 2015. I was enjoying a women’s ministry event in my community. At the end of the night there was a time of prayer. My sister wasn’t there because she was attending a friend’s wedding. But she was on my mind that night. As I prayed, I found myself pouring my heart out to God and asking Him that by June 5, 2016, something would be different in Martha’s life. That she would have a baby or be pregnant within the year.
My little sister is BraveGirl Martha. She’s a gifted writer with a hilarious and gentle soul. In my opinion, she’s one of God’s best creations. You may have read her recent BraveGirl post HERE where she talks about her struggle with infertility. For years I’ve watched her as month after month the waves of disappointment crash around her. Sometimes she stands strong against that fierce tide, but other times she gets taken under by the current. I’ve never once heard bitterness in her voice. I’ve seen nothing in her but a quiet dignity, a strengthened faith, and the spiritual growth that only occurs when you’re in the middle of a storm. She’s right in the thick of it, and she’s a beautiful testament to how God can and will work on His children when they cling to Him.
I admire the way she deals with the pain of waiting because I walked the road of infertility myself – very impatiently and with WAY less fortitude than Martha has shown over the years. One of these days I’ll write about my own infertility struggles, but today it’s not about me.
Today is June 5th. The day that God was supposed to show up, make His miraculous power known, and be praised for answering my selfless prayer. Because that’s the way He works, right?
We pray. We ask. We pass the time. Then God moves, swooping in, handing out answers to prayer the way Oprah gives away cars. And He’s also supposed to adhere to the deadlines we impose on Him…right? Am I the only one who secretly treats God as if He’s a genie in a lamp, just waiting to grant me my every wish?
It’s days like today that leave me questioning. Doubting. Wondering why, and why not? My faith feels a little shaky when I’m confronted with the idea that God didn’t come through. He failed to show up. I mean, He could have easily answered my prayer and today would have been a day of rejoicing and bragging on my Savior’s sovereign power and love. I tell myself, I would have given Him all the credit.
“God, you really missed an opportunity to be glorified,” is what my sulking heart wants to say to the One who loves me, my sister, and you beyond measure. Days like today make me feel like a toddler on the verge of a very loud and public meltdown.
Ever felt that way? Ever wanted to shake your fist at God over some unanswered prayer? Maybe you’ve already walked away because He never showed up for you when you thought He should.
Maybe today you get how I’m feeling. As I sit here writing, in the midst of my questions and hurt feelings, I know it’s decision time. It’s time for me to make a choice that perhaps you need to make as well. I’m choosing to remember my place. To remember who my God IS and who He ISN’T.
I’m choosing trust instead of a tantrum. I’m choosing what I know to be true over what I feel in this moment of doubt.
God IS NOT a magical genie. My Heavenly Father doesn’t exist to please me or you. He doesn’t sit around waiting on one of us to tell him what we want and when we want it so that He can bend His will to match ours. He doesn’t have to prove Himself because He already has.
Christ IS faithful. I’m choosing to stand on that truth today. And He isn’t faithful because of some prayer He has answered or will answer – He is faithful because HE IS FAITHFUL. It’s inherent to who He is. Even though it might seem like He didn’t show up today, He did.
He put breath in my lungs.
He surrounded me with people who care about me.
He gave me His living, breathing Word.
He chased hard after me today to remind me of the things He has promised me, Martha, and you! Promises He keeps. Promises like the one found in Proverbs 3:5-7:
So that’s what I choose to do today. If you’re mad at God, disappointed in prayers that have gone unanswered, or just doubting His existence altogether, try something with me.
Let’s send up a new and different prayer to the heavens. Let’s admit that we are small but arrogant in our view of God. Let’s honestly bring our doubts, fears, and desires to the foot of the Cross. Let’s stop treating the King of Kings and Lord of Lords as if He’s nothing more than a well-stocked but faulty vending machine for our lives. I’m in…are you?
And on the days I forget to remember just who my God is, I’m going to follow the example of Martha and others like her, who are waiting faithfully, acknowledging their Savior at every turn, and allowing Him to direct their paths in His own perfect timing.
I opened my dishwasher on a Friday afternoon and my eyes filled with tears. But not for the usual reasons. Not because it melted yet another one of my son’s favorite sippy cups. Not because I was so weary of housework that I barely had enough energy to unload it. Not because I’m a wife and mother of two small children, which meant the burden of most of the household responsibilities fell on me and I was feeling sorry for myself again.
Not this time.
No, this time things were different. This time, my tears were tears of joy…and thanksgiving.
I was emotional over a full dishwasher because it meant things had finally changed. We had one more person at the dinner table where there once was an excruciating void.
My husband had come home.
Just four months earlier, my husband of 14 happy years walked out. I was left alone and confused and betrayed. I was served divorce papers. I was left to care for our children on my own. My heart was shattered. I had been told I wasn’t loved by the one person I loved the most. I had been rejected and abandoned.
But not by my Jesus.
He held my hand and my heart. He whispered promises into my very soul. He sent his people to care for me, encourage me, and pray for me. He comforted my children. He provided our every need. He spoke life and truth to me daily through his word. He told me not to give up.
My husband came back…in fact, he came home with a new light in his eyes and a fire in his spirit.
Jesus had been working in him just as he had been working in me.
God rescued him and made him a new creation. What I heard God whisper as I fell on my face before Him so many times was true. All things are possible through Christ who gives me strength.
It took a battle like that to open my eyes.
I have a different perspective today. God has placed His divine, unconditional love in my heart. He has restored and renewed my marriage and my family. It took the worst experience of my life to change my perspective.
I know now…
A full dishwasher means there have been meals shared on actual plates with conversations and warmth and a sense of family. It means we are blessed with food to eat and more importantly, people to share it with.
Serving my family and loving them as imperfect as they are is a joy, not a burden.
Laundry overflowing means I have a house full of people to love. People who play hard and experience much and have the wrinkles and stains to prove it.
A mess of toys all over my living room floor means I am blessed with children who won’t be children for long, but who find joy and happiness and laughter in my home.
A husband who keeps me awake with his snoring means I share my bed and my heart with someone who has chosen to be there. Someone who continues to choose to be there, no matter how much work it takes to be able to crawl into that bed night after night.
Wives. Mothers. Women. I know many of you today are battling in the trenches facing difficulties in your marriage or with your children, dealing with the busyness of life, the stresses, the fatigue, the worry. I encourage you today…Don’t Give Up! Pray for your family. Fight for them. And…
Strive for a heart like Jesus.
Strive to see and love your family and others the way He sees and loves you.
“God can raise marriages from the dead and He can restore life and purpose to those who have given up. He can forgive and purify the vilest sinner. God’s specialty is raising dead things to life and making impossible things possible. You don’t have a need that exceeds His power.” – Beth Moore
No matter what you are battling today, never give up. Let Him fight for you. He will reward you for your faithfulness because you are His child.
“Let us not be weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9
I’ve had the phrase “A Beautiful Storm” in my head for weeks now. It’s a strange oxymoron. How can something so tumultuous be considered lovely? How can something painful also contain such beauty?
My husband and I, after almost six years of battling infertility, got a phone call yesterday from the fertility clinic with the results of our first round of IUI (intrauterine insemination). We were giddy and hopeful at what the results might be. I had even taken a photo of the sunrise that morning with the plan to post it the day I announced our good news of an achieved pregnancy. I had allowed myself to imagine hearing the words, “You are pregnant” for the first time in my life.
But instead, I heard the voice on the other end of the line say, “The results are negative.” And the storm clouds rolled in right on cue, bringing along self-pity, hopelessness, and just plain sorrow.
So here I sit, cheeks tear-stung, with the intention (and determination) of telling you that even in the midst of this storm, I still see the beauty in it. Not because I’m anything special or more spiritually mature, but because I can’t deny the beauty I’ve seen transpire over the past few years. I refuse to not see it.
Please, even in the midst of your own struggle, try not to roll your eyes, close off your heart, or write me off. I know what it’s like to read a verse of encouragement quickly, not truly believing those words apply to me. I know what it’s like to feel crappy and want to make a home of it, complete with tacos, a heavy blanket, and no social contact whatsoever.
Some of the best advice I’ve ever heard is that God is big enough to handle our emotions. Whether we’re angry, hurt, or confused by our circumstances, we are allowed to cry out to him and beat our hands on his chest. I believe allowing ourselves to feel pain is healthy and keeps us from putting up so many emotional walls that make us numb. The problems arise when we give ourselves permission to camp out in the negative emotions and to stay in a place of darkness, never opening our eyes to see God’s potential plan or purpose.
Being able to see the beauty within a storm is understanding God’s presence in the midst of it. For me, I’ve grown deeper in my relationship with God over the past few years because I’ve needed him more. I’ve experienced more intimate conversations with him, spent more time in His Word, and felt his comforting arms wrapping around me when I’ve needed it the most. I can also see God using this season of infertility to work in my marriage. It’s no coincidence that my husband and I are closer than we’ve ever been because of this heartache we are walking through together. Unified in our desire to be parents, we take turns being strong for each other during the hard times. And in moments when we’re both down, God always shows up, surrounding us with friends and family to love on us, check in on us, and care for us.
Recognizing the beauty in your storm also means considering how you will be changed by the time the winds die down and the sun reappears. I’m always fascinated by the weathered, tattered, calloused hands of an older man, roughened and scarred from the labor of a hard but productive life. Those hands tell an interesting story, one worthy of admiration and respect. Those hands tell the story of a man who didn’t give up.
While I’m not saying I want calloused hands when I get older, I am saying I want to leave a legacy of someone who never gave up. I want to walk through trials remembering that I’m someone who has been promised a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). I’m never alone because I am His. (Joshua 1:9; Deuteronomy 31:6)
No beautiful statue is created without some chiseling. The more intense the chiseling, the more intricate and admirable the result. Could it be that the more time God spends chiseling us, the bigger plans He has for us? Could it be that He loves you so much He’s giving you a story worth telling some day?
I encourage you to look around and see the beauty surrounding you. How can you walk away from this storm stronger? What are you learning about yourself? About God?
Let’s pretend we’re seamen and resolve to sail our ships with strong, weathered hearts, doused in truth from God’s word, strong eyes focused ahead on Him. When the waves crash over us, let’s cling to our Solid Rock of Salvation and relentlessly trust Him.
“…But we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5
There I was, driving down the highway with all these questions in my head about life that were STILL unanswered. I get tired sometimes waiting for God to reveal answers to questions I KNOW He has the answers to.
It’s just not happening fast enough and I’m tired of waiting.
Sometimes I flat out rebel and go my own way which usually leaves me in a pity party with my friends frustration, bitterness, and resentment. They’re all really fun for awhile and then I realize they’re actually poisoning me instead of comforting me. They feed off each other and slowly but surely separate me from the voice of God. I stop caring, stop praying, stop getting into God’s word, start being rude to others, and worst of all, stop hearing from God…and He’s the one with the answers.
Do you ever find yourself there? If you’re like me, you need a game plan. You have to recognize what’s happening and then take action. I don’t know about you, but I rather hear from God than my buddies at the pity party. He’s so much wiser and when He reveals himself, it’s better than any party I’ve ever been to. And trust me, I’ve been to a lot of parties. His are the BEST! So here’s my action plan for hanging at His house and not the other one.
1) TALK TO HIM
God’s word says to pray without ceasing (1 Thess 5:1), not just when we need a favor or because it’s meal time. It’s a never-ending conversation going on between me and God. Prayers of thanksgiving and gratitude, prayers asking His will, prayers pouring out my heart to Him, prayers to guide my next step and lead me every day. He WANTS to hear from me…and YOU.
Ask yourself, “Is God an acquaintance in my life? or is He really my best friend? my “go-to”?
The answer to those questions reveals a lot about our level of intimacy with God.
2) LEARN ABOUT HIM
God’s word is His voice. It is “God breathed and is useful for teaching and training in righteousness.” (2 Tim. 3:16)
If we want to hear Him, we have to KNOW HIM…and His word is where it starts. My mom’s voice sticks in the back of my head more than most people because of the connection we have. It’s the same with God. We’ll be able to hear Him because we KNOW how and what He thinks.
3) HONEST CHECK-UP
I continuously need to check where there is sin in my life. When we are living in disobedience to God, it’s REALLY hard to hear what He wants to say to us. This is a piggy back on my first point about prayer.
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24)
When I am struggling to hear God, I get in prayer and get honest…
“Where am I messing up? Where am I wrong? What is in my life that is not of you? Show me where I am not listening. Show me where my heart is hardened.”
After a prayer like that, 9 out of 10 times, people or things pop into my head where I know I have been hurtful, stubborn, selfish, prideful, etc. (we don’t have to list all my shortcomings here ok).
I try and deal and go head to head with those areas God showed me in that honest check-up.
Then I pray for strength to change my actions in those specific areas so that they are lined up with God’s will. This is a daily need for me and a lifetime process of pruning and being renewed so that I can walk in obedience to Him.
It’s a domino effect because obedience leads to hearing His voice.
If we want to hear the spirit, we have to walk WITH the spirit. This isn’t easy, but it’s necessary.
5) BE PATIENT
We are in an instant gratification society…we don’t understand the concept of patience. We are patient..just for a little while. Ha…which isn’t patience. This is where it can get tough, but it IS possible. We have to be patiently focused on God. It’s a day by day process of living for Him. It’s a learning process which can feel really slow and even painful at times, yet then it becomes freeing, fulfilling and life changing.
At God’s party, we will be changed from the inside out and that’s where we will find Him, His voice, and ultimately ourselves. And the best part…we’re ALL invited.
There are some of you who will read this post who “get it”. You get this Love. You know this unconditional, rich, no strings attached, everlasting, never leave you, beautiful, grace-filled, sacrificial Love of Jesus. If this is you, then you know that there is NOTHING like it and you know it to your very core. And I can bet that if you know the Love of Jesus like this, You cannot wait to share it with everyone! Can I just say AMEN?!
But what about those that don’t “get it”?
Amazing, godly people, who love Jesus, are wandering aimlessly wounded, feeling unworthy, unloved and not good enough in the hopes that God “might” love them. We like to tell about His love to others, but when asked the question, “Do you believe God loves you?” overwhelmingly there is a pause and the answer is…”No.” I hear and see it ALL the time and I have personally experienced it.
So my post today is for the person who doesn’t know that Love, but who longs to understand. The person who doesn’t “get it”, but is desperate to know it in their heart. The person who has gone to “church” all his/her life, but doesn’t know the all encompassing LOVE of the Father. That’s who I am writing this to…YOU. Jesus’ love is FREELY given and available to you and me. Sometimes its not a matter of us not believing he loves us….but RECEIVING this unbelievable gift.
Jesus Loves you.
Let me say that again (in all caps)…JESUS LOVES YOU.
I come to you with a humble heart to say, I have been there. I have sung or talked about these three words over and over, pouring them into others, but not realizing I needed to know it for myself. I accepted Christ over 20 years ago and have had an amazing and precious journey with God. I have seen him move in ways I could never explain. I have seen him heal and breathe new life into my own wounds and hurts. I have seen his Word transform me and become alive and active… and yet… somehow I had not fully understood the simple Truth… He Loves me.
It wasn’t until after a service at church last fall that I began to see that something was missing.
We sang the lyrics “He LOVES us…oh how he loves us”. I spoke right before this song about His love, praying that you/they could “get it”. Everything I said that day was absolutely my heart and what I believe…but I didnt fully comprehend it for myself. I had a lot of head knowledge, but my heart wasn’t quite there. I didn’t need more wisdom or information on God’s Love for me, but a transforming revelation in my spirit.
I got in my car after the service with tears in my eyes and said “God, please don’t ever let me speak on your love without knowing it myself. I want to be the real deal.” It was sometime shortly after that day that I heard a sermon specifically on the love of Jesus, with scriptures on His love and how some of us don’t feel worthy to RECEIVE that love-but God gives it FREELY. The pastor spoke on the simplicity of the song we all know, “Jesus Loves me this I know..for the bible tells me so…” and he even began to sing those lyrics… I began to cry. Truth had just collided with my heart… HE LOVES ME.
“I have LOVED YOU with an everlasting LOVE; I have drawn YOU with unfailing kindness…”-Jeremiah 31:3
From that day forward, something changed. I focused the next few weeks on His Love to the point of telling God (not that he needed me to) “I receive your love.” Saying that out loud was helpful for me to declare it whether I felt it or not! And you know what, I started to “get it”…I believed it! I realized that His love has ALWAYS been there-I just didn’t see my self worthy to receive it because of my failures and my flaws. I thought if I can just do or be enough and love God enough…then maybe I will be worthy. But that’s “conditional” love….not Jesus’ Love.
The song isn’t just familiar lyrics anymore-” JESUS LOVES ME this I know”…it is truth! And I want you to know that this is TRUTH for YOU as well.
HE LOVES YOU.
HE LOVES YOU beyond anything you can comprehend.
HE LOVES YOU in the midst of every flaw, every failure, every sin.
HE LOVES YOU even as you run in the opposite direction from His open arms.
HE LOVES YOU when you silence your ears to hear his voice.
HE LOVES YOU even when you pick up that bottle, that drug or gamble that last penny.
HE LOVES YOU when you are doubled over a toilet because you feel unworthy.
HE LOVES YOU when you doubt His goodness, doubt that He is who He says He is, doubt that He can and will fulfill his promises.
HE LOVES YOU even when you don’t choose him….because HE. CHOSE. YOU.
His love was displayed on the cross before you were ever even born. He knew you would arrive on this earth one day, because He chose YOU, He planned YOU and He created YOU. His love was poured out on the cross, so that in return it could be poured in to you. His horrific death was to show you he deems you WORTHY of HIS LOVE. This kind of Love can melt the hardest hearts, restore a broken marriage, cover and heal lies that you have believed all your life, expose fear that has gripped you to no end (1 John 4:19-His perfect LOVE casts out all fear)….but even if these things never change(and I believe they can) He simply LOVES YOU and that is ENOUGH. It is unconditional, radical, incomprehesible, unfathomable, everlasting, grace filled Love. Our minds cannot grasp this kind of love, but guess what, our heart’s can and….it’s FREE!
I pray that YOU, being rooted and established in LOVE, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the LOVE of CHRIST, and to know this LOVE that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of ALL the fullness of God.-Ephesians 3: 17-19
This is my prayer for you and I today! That we know, to our core, the Love that has lavishly been poured out on us. That we come to Him with open hands and open hearts to say “I receive your LOVE.” Let’s freely receive so that we can freely give(Matthew 10:8) and overflow with the love of Christ! Let there be a rise within the church to LOVE extravagantly because we cannot contain something that is so AMAZING!