Weekend Wisdom with: Beth Moore.

Oh, Beth Moore. How I have always thought so highly of you. Beth was one of the women who was very influential in the years in which God first gave me a love for His Word. She is an incredible bible teacher, and the one time I met her I got so nervous that I raised the roof and said, “Amen” to a statement she made. Yes, it was  as awkward as it sounds. The thing is, in those early years, my passion for the Lord was burning but my understanding of some pretty crucial truths was lacking. I think I assumed there was a level of spirituality; that there were the people who went to church on Sundays and then there were the Beth Moore’s of the world. While I certainly believe there is a huge difference in claiming Christ to be your Savior and choosing to make Him your Lord, I now know that God shows no favorites and while He rewards our faithfulness, my thinking of this whole level thing was skewed. Another reality that I was brought to was this: Everyone is human. Everyone is sinful. We all are saved only through grace and the more you get to know anyone, the more likely you are to see that sin in their life. That being said, this quote struck home with me today,

“You cannot amputate your history from your destiny, because that is redemption”.

There is such a tendency to cover up our imperfections; to hide the things that make us less than perfect. Between make-up, the art of selfies and all things social media, and sometimes the culture of the church if we are honest, it seems that so much around us encourages us to only display that which is good in us. Fact: the only thing that’s good in me is Jesus. Authenticity is uncomfortable and challenging to some people; it is life-giving to me because the more I get to know Jesus, the more I realize how much He has saved me from. There have been certain seasons of life where my sin might have been more on display than others, but every portion has been tainted by my flesh outside of the grace of Jesus Christ. Friends, our history might be dirty, guilt-scarred, and embarrassing, but we must never give in to the temptation of pretending it wasn’t there. Yes, as a Christian, you have handed your past over to Christ and you are a new creation. He sees us as pure and righteous and as Christ because He has chosen to do so; but while we are still on this side of heaven, let’s not spend our days trying to cover up the messes. Let’s see sin for what it is: death. Let’s not gloat in our brokenness; but let’s not shy away from allowing God to use it to bring others to Himself. Time and time again in the Bible, God used the grossness of people’s flesh to draw other people to His glory. Not everyone is called to write about their struggles, but we all have people around us who need to hear about the redemption God has brought us to. There is freedom in knowing we have an audience of One. We don’t have to cover up our past or present mistakes or misdoings because Christ covered those for us at the cross. And, you know what? We are all dysfunctional. We are all super messed up and without a Savior, we would be stuck that way. The message of the Gospel, this good news, is that we don’t have to walk around with signs on our foreheads stating our guilt. We can accept that guilt for what it is, hand it gratefully and humbly to Jesus, and continue seeking to let Him show us the way to true Life. Let’s not misunderstand this for a cop-out to not receive consequences for our sin; nor use it as an excuse to not allow the Lord to use the hard things in our life to display His glory. I am open with the sin in my life because through Christ, God gives me the freedom to do so. I pray to be more open with the fact that while the ugly in me is big, the God in me is bigger. Redemption.

So, what brokenness are you trying to hide that God wants to use to show Himself? What things in your life were you freed from that could be used to help others understand God’s love and grace all the more? What aspect of your family is painful and embarrassing, but was needed in order to allow you to understand who your true Father and family is? What is something that you continue to struggle and wrestle with but that you know God has already received victory over and you have come to know Him more through? My prayer for us this weekend is that we would not try to amputate our history from our present. That we would boast only in the Lord, but that we would be open to allowing Him to use all things and all seasons in order to show His goodness. Beauty from ashes. It is worth it. He is worth it.

                                                                            Happy Friday!

                                                                            Morgan

 

He Shows Up.

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I had a weekend alone with my girls. Because of Hugh’s schedule, we are used to him being gone some; and a night here and there or a longer than expected day are just a part of the life we have decided is God’s will for our family. That being said, a Friday-Sunday shindig is not the norm, and usually I have back-up for weekends like that. We kept ourselves busy, and it went by fairly quickly, but I was ready to hug my man and hand him a baby by the time Sunday arrived. When he got home and was obviously feeling poorly, not only was I bummed because I was ready for a break, panic set in as quickly replayed the last time (might I add only a few weeks ago) our family ended up sick. We all remember how that went.

After the appointment with the doctor I will now refer to as, “The man who deserves grace as much as I do”, I was feeling down to say the least. I had asked God for some relief, and was pleasantly surprised when He agreed that it was best for me to get some. This relief came in the form of an email from the NIH’s undiagnosed program. Insert numerous God connections and a week or so later, and we have now been accepted into their current research study. They only “accept” 50-100 families a year, and so you can imagine my excitement that our family will be included on that list. While I know that God is God and man is not, and that we could end up without a diagnosis at the end of this process, I also know that I will be much more at peace accepting that after the “best of the best” review our case. We still have a few months to wait until we know what the next steps will look like, and there will be possible travel involved, but I am over the moon that we have been given this opportunity.

I tell you this to make my tendency to forget God’s relief and goodness to me obvious. Here I was, feeling great about where God had our family, and all it took was my crazy-patient husband coming home sick to send me into a pity party once again. You see, that’s what I do. I sway from trusting God’s goodness to struggling with seeing His faithfulness on an almost daily basis. My poor husband has not exactly gotten a sweet, nurturing wife this time around either. Oh, dear reader, if you do not know me well enough to know that while I strive to submit to Hugh and be the Proverbs 31 wife I so desperately desire to be, I am quite far from that most days, I apologize for that harsh realization. Blog posts don’t exactly include videos of my snappy, nagging, “Wash your hands!” or, “Hugh, don’t cough on the babies!” (The man is not only an adult, he’s a doctor. He kind of is aware of these things). The thing is, while I do feel sorry for him that he isn’t feeling well, a bigger part of me, the sinful part of me, is more concerned with fears of the girls getting sick again or me just simply needing a break for a couple hours. Sure, I could call a friend. But, there is just something about your husband, your other half, taking care of your children that other people just can’t meet the standards of no matter the best intentions. So here I was, already forgetting God’s goodness to me. Already getting stuck on myself rather than looking to the needs of others. Throwing a flat out pity party. Then, the mailman came, and I walked out to this:

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Friends, God shows up. He shows up even when we are too consumed with ourselves to grasp the bigger plan. He shows up even when we are throwing a “poor, pitiful me” tantrum. In the mail was letters from many, many of my friends from different seasons of life, just bringing encouragement and affirmation. Some of them included little “happies” as well, others fond memories or conversations. As I read them, I cried. I cried because of the kindness of the support system in my life, cried because I needed it so badly on this very day, and I cried because it was such a representation of the grace we have in Christ. Grace we get even in the moments we blatantly aren’t aware of it; even in the moments where I track record doesn’t deserve it. Especially then.  Romans 5:8 says it this way,

“But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”.

I don’t deserve this love even on my very best days, but He chooses to lavish it on me because His love has nothing to do with me and everything to do with Him.  I am sure that someone correlated this tangible love I received today, and for that I am unbelievably thankful; but along with that was a package and a letter from a dear friend who I was able to walk with through their adoption process and who has continued to be a source of encouragement to me. I expected to receive a couple shirts that I had ordered from her in support of another friend’s adoption; but she had included an extra handful of shirts, a beautiful bracelet, and a precious letter. Friends, these things do not happen by accident. God times things perfectly and loves on us through those around us, and I believe He is up in heaven giddy thinking about all the gifts He has yet to bestow on us. I cannot wait until we sit around up in heaven and get to talk through all the things that He planned, all the intricate details involved, and even the ones that we somehow did not catch or notice. He shows up always.

So, while tonight Hugh is still sick and I still have anxiety about what this week has for our family, I also have a different perspective that came through the hands, feet, and heart of Christ through His children. I have been reminded that He is faithful and loving in all things, and that this love surpasses all unexpected, expected, happy moments, and trials to come. While not every day brings us reminders of this through letters and gifts from friends, my prayer for you today is that you would be made aware of His love that is all around you in all your life enfolds. He is working friends; and He is constantly making His love known to us. Let’s grab onto that love tonight.

 

Multiplied Steps of Faith.

 

Our God is a big, big, God. Sounds obvious; but I have continued to stand back in amazement at the things He wants to do in our lives. Even in the midst of suffering; especially in the midst of suffering.

“Multiplied”, by NeedtoBreathe, speaks to my heart in so many different ways. I tend to connect to the serious things of life (my “light beach reading consists of “Walking with God through Pain and Suffering” by Timothy Keller and “Fly A Little Higher”, by Laura Sobiech). The thing I have noticed, the thing that God is teaching me, is that there is always a light-hearted note to even the most serious of stories. My initial instinct is to connect with the portion of this song that states, “I have surrendered to Your design”; to glaze past the beginning, “Your love is like radiant diamonds bursting inside us, we cannot contain. Your love will surely come find us, like blazing wildfires singing Your name”. Stop there for a minute. There is so much truth in that… His love IS like radiant diamonds, and the more of it we know the more of it we want to have and we want to share. His love always finds us, in all things. Love. As much as this season has been full of challenges and hard moments, may it be known that it has made the sweet moments that much sweeter. Like a dry fine wine is accentuated by a heavenly piece of milk chocolate, the Lord has taken the stings and gut-wrenching hurts of the past year and opened our eyes to the beauty around us and within us all the more. His promises are true and He is truly doing more than I could possibly ask for or imagine. Deep breaths.

When I initially surrendered to God’s design by writing this blog, I had no idea the things He had planned. He continues to astound me, and I have been brought back to those first blogs several times this week as I prayerfully take the next step of faith in this journey He has us on. Deep breaths.

I write the next paragraph with excitement and butterflies, with expectation that it is His desires and doings, not my own; and that He is going to continue to stun me with His mysteriously awesome plans. As the words fly across my screen, I am still in awe that this is going to be a reality. Through a long chain of events and many prayers, there will be a book coming soon. I say soon, however soon is a relative term to say the least. I let you as the reader know this now because many of you were the extra pushes I needed to bring affirmation that God wanted this to transpire. Thank you for being His hands, His feet, and His heart for me. In the meantime, I am opening myself up for speaking to however small or large of a group you see fit. If you have a small group, women’s event, etc., I would be honored to come and share my heart there. No cost, but a love offering that would go towards any of our girl’s needs or travel expenses would be humbly accepted. You can contact me via facebook, here, or by email at morganbcheek@gmail.com if this is a way that I could serve in your life.

Friends, I am so excited, so humbled, so ready to continue to watch His plans unfold. His love truly is like radiant diamonds, and I cannot believe I get to spend the rest of my days proclaiming that truth. What undeserved grace. May you recognize His presence today and always.

Weekend Wisdom with: John Henry Jowett.

John Henry Jowett. Born in 1864 in England, and spent most of his days in England, New York, and London before passing away in 1923. He was a preacher ; and while he was known as one of the best pastors of his time, he was known to bring a written version of his sermon to the pulpit and read line to line. Why was he so well thought of, you might ask. It was the fact that his preaching did not include fancy tactics or additions, he just simply preached the word of God. People are attracted to the Truth, whether they realize that or not. John Henry wrote a quote that I want us all to connect to this weekend:

“God comforts us not to make us comfortable, but to make us comforters”.

Simple, yes. Profoundly Christ-like and crucial for us to understand in the midst of the hard. The word of God says it this way,

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

He is The God of ALL comforts. He comforts us in ALL our affliction, and He does this so that we can comfort those who are walking through any affliction as well. I know that it has been amazing for me to see how my eyes have been open to the suffering of those around me because of the journey the Lord has us on personally. I do not think it is that people have suddenly started suffering more; no, I believe it is because God has brought me to a place in which I find compassion and heartfelt love for those around me who are walking through hard things. Now, I am drawn to people who are in the middle of the hards and uncomfortables of life, because I so want to help them see Christ and find His comfort in the midst.

So, what about you? Who around you needs the comfort that only God Himself can give this weekend? Who can you reach out to and encourage, who can you serve or minister to in a way that might cause them to be able to breathe in deeply the love of God that whispers, “You are not alone. You have never been alone and you never will be. I am with you in this and I am with you in all things. I’ve got this.” My exhortation to us all today is that we would step outside of our comfort zones in order to do just this. All things through the One who loves us so much that He gave it all.

 

Weekend Wisdom with: John Henry Jowett.

John Henry Jowett. Born in 1864 in England, and spent most of his days in England, New York, and London before passing away in 1923. He was a preacher ; and while he was known as one of the best pastors of his time, he was known to bring a written version of his sermon to the pulpit and read line to line. Why was he so well thought of, you might ask. It was the fact that his preaching did not include fancy tactics or additions, he just simply preached the word of God. People are attracted to the Truth, whether they realize that or not. John Henry wrote a quote that I want us all to connect to this weekend:

“God comforts us not to make us comfortable, but to make us comforters”.

Simple, yes. Profoundly Christ-like and crucial for us to understand in the midst of the hard. The word of God says it this way,

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

He is The God of ALL comforts. He comforts us in ALL our affliction, and He does this so that we can comfort those who are walking through any affliction as well. I know that it has been amazing for me to see how my eyes have been open to the suffering of those around me because of the journey the Lord has us on personally. I do not think it is that people have suddenly started suffering more; no, I believe it is because God has brought me to a place in which I find compassion and heartfelt love for those around me who are walking through hard things. Now, I am drawn to people who are in the middle of the hards and uncomfortables of life, because I so want to help them see Christ and find His comfort in the midst.

So, what about you? Who around you needs the comfort that only God Himself can give this weekend? Who can you reach out to and encourage, who can you serve or minister to in a way that might cause them to be able to breathe in deeply the love of God that whispers, “You are not alone. You have never been alone and you never will be. I am with you in this and I am with you in all things. I’ve got this.” My exhortation to us all today is that we would step outside of our comfort zones in order to do just this. All things through the One who loves us so much that He gave it all.

 

His Best.

I have a new pet peeve; something that pains my heart to the core. I wasn’t able to verbalize it until this weekend when a light bulb went off. I am tired of comments, both from myself and others, that imply we are waiting on our girls to “get better”; as if whatever is going on with them is some kind of illness. It’s not. There are moments where I feel like so much of our life, both personal and in the various therapies the girls attend, is focused on their performance; the areas of their life that seem to be getting more “normal”. I am as guilty as the next, but recently it is a mindset that has become exhausting. There is a question in the back of some of your minds, a question those closest to me have asked, and I would like to address it: “Morgan, if you could wake up tomorrow morning and all of the girls’ struggles could be gone, would you choose that?” This is something I have thought a lot about in recent weeks. In my finite human mind, I will always have the tendency to choose the comfortable; to choose what the world considers normal. However, as I look back on the past 14 and a half months and see all that God has done both in my heart and the hearts of those around us, my soul cannot proclaim that I would change a single bit of it. Watching God get glory is addictive; and I am slowly learning that whatever He places in our hands is absolutely best. There was a time in my life where I might have said I believed this, but it wasn’t stuck to the core of who I am. Praise God, He is giving me the grace to have eyes that see through His lenses, and very truthfully, I am comfortable with this as His Plan A. This is a truth that I want us to explore today.

I quote the devotional, “Streams in the Desert”, by L.B. Cowman, often. It is a book that God has used to change my perspective on suffering altogether (thanks for the recommendation, Julie!). One of my favorite quotes is as follows,

“Faith does not say, ‘I see this is good for me, therefore God must have sent it. Instead, faith declares, ‘God sent it, therefore it must be good for me’”. (emphasis mine)

What a backwards attitude from that which we tend to think! So often, our pride gets in the way and we begin to think that we are “sacrificing” by letting God place a bad thing in our life. We sing to the top of our lungs at worship the lyrics of songs, belting out the line, “You give and take away”, but forgetting the focus of that song is Him. (I am speaking of Blessed be Your Name, Matt Redman). I have been unbelievably guilty of this during this season of our lives. It is as if I am saying to God, “You should be super impressed at me for not throwing a fit about this horrible thing you have brought upon us”. Friends, don’t we believe that if He has brought it upon us, it truly is His best? Don’t we believe that the Word promises us that He works all things together for good, and that simultaneously, His ways are not our own? (Romans 8:28, Isaiah 55:8). I am not all suggesting that it is not tough, living on this side of heaven in our flesh, to comprehend some of the things He brings. It is so easy for me to think the grass is greener on the other side. It is easy for me to fall into the trap of wondering why some people seem to be able to gallop through this life with comforts abounding, and to lust after what having children who are developing typically would be like. In the first year of life, we have already been to the doctor more times than many people ever have to go. We spend our days and moments in therapy, while many frolic from play date to play date. Oh, for my biggest worry to be what discipline is going to look like in our family. Here’s some real honesty: I even can get to a place where I believe that we are being allowed this suffering because we are on some level of closeness with God that the comfortable people are not. Ugh, the grossness of my sin! This could not be farther from the truth. The truth is, what is best for me is not always best for you. That’s why God is God and I am not. Yes, there are absolutely commands and promises in His word that are given to us all, but we must never fall into the trap of thinking that the temporary things of this world are included in this. It can be played out in so many ways in all of our lives. Think about the set up of a high school basketball game. I remember that more often than not, outside of parents and friends, most people would show up right before the Varsity began to play. The Junior Varsity was somewhat of an appetizer as to what was to come. Friends, whatever God’s plan is for your life, let’s stop treating it like we are at the JV game. This is God’s best for your life. Today. And, if tomorrow your circumstances change, those are now His new best for your life. We have to stop looking for our tomorrow’s as a source of satisfaction. I will not speak on Joel Osteen, as I have never met the man and am not the judge of any, but I can speak on the title of one of his books, “God’s Best for Your Life: Seven Steps to Living at Your Full Potential”. I am here to tell you that the Bible clearly lets you know there are not seven magical steps. In fact, there is simply one: Jesus; Putting our hope and our faith in His righteousness, His provision, His love. I don’t care what is going on in your life; whatever it is, this isn’t Plan B. There is nothing that is going to change tomorrow that is going to bring any more fulfillment than what He has for you today, albeit Himself. He is enough. We must refuse to live with an attitude of “I will make the best of today knowing that when x,y,z arrives or changes, things will be better”. No. The reality is this: no relationship, no job, no title, no amount of money, no weight loss, nothing material, no child, no change in health status, NOTHING is going to bring you any more eternal joy than what is already being offered to you today in Jesus. This is true with our girls. They are not on the B team and this isn’t God’s way of making the best out of a subpar situation; this IS His best. For them and for Hugh and me. For our entire family. For our friends. For God’s kingdom. For the world. Ally and Bailey Grace, you are perfect just the way you are. Seriously. This is not a cop-out, this is the truth laid out for you in God’s word. Fearfully and wonderfully made in His image. Exactly how He wanted you to be; and we rejoice in that today and always. Your unique qualities are not burdens; they are blessings that have allowed us to see more of the Lord in each and every day and we are indebted to Him and to you for being instruments in His all-wise, all-knowing hand.

So today, I am fighting to believe this truth even with the emotions within me tell me otherwise. Even when it is tempting to look into my neighbor’s yard and wonder what it would be like to live under those terms. I am praising Him for all that is, not all that I wish could be, because the reality of who He is frees us to live joyfully in the present moment without questioning why, without wondering if there is something else out there we are missing out on. This is my prayer for each of you as well: that you would be able to look at your current circumstance with gratitude and contentment, knowing that His plans for you are good. He is working in all things a beautiful tapestry of Himself.

“I thank You, Lord, You were too wise to heed my feeble prayers and answer as I sought, since these rich gifts Your bounty has bestowed have brought me more than all I asked or thought; Giver of good, so answer each request with Your own giving, better than my best.”- Annie Johnson Flint

Even Now.

She was sitting in the waiting room next to me, and I noticed her daughter appeared to be about 14 in years, but much younger in mind. The girl was holding a raggedy stuffed animal, and she was not speaking a word and staring ahead, without much interaction with the world around her. I became so curious, so fixated on their story, that I had to ask. I spoke with her mom for a minute about which doctors they saw (always a way to thread your life to those around you in the waiting room), and then gently asked her what the girl’s diagnosis was. “We have just named it after her. No diagnosis after 14 years of trying”, she replied. 14 years with no diagnosis. There name was called and the mom led her daughter to wherever she needed to go. All I could feel was anger. Angry for her for having to live with such an obvious disease without knowing a name or prognosis; angry for myself at the thought of being thirteen years down this road and knowing nothing. Angry.
I tend to write from a place in which I let you in on the lesson learned after the wrestling occurs. Today, I write from a place in which I am still in the battle. My God will be victorious in it; this I know. This week has found me weary, and I am finding myself in the in-between. I am jealous. I am envious of those who have answers about their children. We had a doctor’s appointment that I had prayed for and looked forward to in the sense that I really felt like this physician was going to be able to lead us toward answers. I left the appointment feeling defeated, insecure, and beat down. After hours of discussing our girls, he told me I needed to stop living for a diagnosis because it would be likely we would not find one. This man, this man who knows nothing about me or what I desperately am fighting to live for, namely Christ, reminding me that God is greater than a diagnosis. In that moment, however, it wasn’t enough. I locked myself in an isolated place where the enemy loves to keep me; a place in which I determine that no one understands therefore no one can encourage. As I tried to reason with this man on why a diagnosis was important, he said words that still sting my heart when I replay them, “Mrs. Cheek, if your girls were to die in ten years; they would die with or without a diagnosis.” At that point, I shut down altogether and just walked through the rest of the appointment numb. A meeting which I counted as a gift was beginning to feel like a knife in my heart. Angry. I thought back to the woman in the waiting room, and while our girls mystery is much different than hers, I placed myself in her shoes. “God,” I whispered on the way home, “I don’t think I could do it. I can’t wait that long. It’s too much”. Doubt.
When I have days where the edges of our story cut too deep, I tend to check out emotionally in order to survive and take care of the girls in the way they deserve. So, I spent a day or so going through the motions and lifting up silent prayers that God would enter back in the story and help me; forgetting that He was holding the pen and writing it all Himself. Music and the outdoors both serve as therapy for me, and remind me how little I am in the midst of a bigger story. As I walked outside yesterday, trying to praise God in the hard, a song came on that resonated with my soul. Will Reagan sings “Even Now”, and the whole song is great but the part that stood out most is this, “Even now, here’s my heart Lord”. Faith. It occurred to me that this was what I was missing altogether. I have prayed for faith for so many years, and here in the in-between, this is where my faith was being grown and stretched the most. Friends, it is crucial that we proclaim faith in God and His plan, maybe even more so in the in-betweens of life where you feel most betrayed or suspicious of God’s purposes and presence. After all, isn’t this what faith really is? When we pray that God would enlarge our faith, we cannot be surprised when He does this through not allowing us to see. Faith without sight. Time and time again, the Word reminds us what this looks like through the stories of those who have gone before us. Hebrews 11 is full of people who did the hard thing without having concrete evidence that God would do that which He promised. Faith. Some of them did not even get to see the end results while they were still on this earth. Faith. 2 Corinthians 5:7 tells us in a hard and fast way: “We walk by faith, not by sight”. As I spent time walking through the hard, I found the Lord calling me to say aloud, over and over again, “You are greater than a diagnosis. You are greater than a diagnosis. You are greater than a diagnosis.” Sometimes, we have to state truths we know to be real, even when we don’t feel them. After all, He is greater than our emotions as well.
I wish I could tell you that today, I am in a place where the peace has settled and I feel joy in our story again. I cannot say that, but I can promise this: He who promises is faithful. His faithfulness does not rely on me (2 Timothy 2:13), and He is writing this story. It will bring Him glory and us good. And, I am committed to praising Him name even in the gray. Even when I don’t necessarily understand or feel like it. He is worthy, this I know. Where are you today? If He is calling you to strengthen your faith, let me encourage you to keep battling. He has already made the victory yours. He is fighting for you; you need only be still (Exodus 14:14). It is hard. It serves a purpose. It is worth it. Even now, here’s my heart, Lord.