On Being Proud.

I was never really great at any sports I played. I tried a lot of them; and tennis was my best effort I suppose, but I considered myself average at best at all that I attempted on the field. In elementary school, at the age of twelve, I somehow became a field day beast. My mom came to pick me up after school, and I came to the car with a huge handful of blue ribbons. Somehow, I had defeated odds and ran harder, jumped higher, and stretched farther than most all of my classmates. I am sure my parents were in disbelief at how their semi-athletic, somewhat gawky daughter had accomplished such a feat, but here I was, proud.

Fast forward a few years to the infamous date known as December 26th. I was in high school, struggling to fit in and struggling to figure out who God had called me out to be. After several lies to my parents and several vodka gatorades ingested (yuck!), I was drunk, sick, and caught in my own deceit. After arriving home, vomit covered, I will never forget the look my mom gave me. Ashamed.

The word proud can be defined as this:

“a feeling of deep pleasure or satisfaction as a result of one’s achievements, qualities, or possessions.” (Wikipedia)

The antonym is actually defined as just that, “ashamed”.

We start using this word early on in the lives of those around us, particularly our spouses, children, or grandchildren.

My Bailey Grace and Ally have been working, for the last 19 months really, at sitting unassisted. They are not mobile, and while they do a ton of kicking and attempting, it’s just not where their bodies are at in this moment. I don’t know what the Lord has in store for them mobility-wise; but I do know one thing: proud is not the word I will use to describe what they do or don’t do, regardless of the outcome.

You see, I would have been in the dark about this if God had not given us the special children that He did. In the past few months, I have found myself tensing up if anyone sees our girls do something “new” and presents with a sense of pride. I feel this same emotion whenever someone else posts their child reaching a new stage of development and tags, “I am so proud”. I believe this is a direct result of some wisdom God has given me into His heart towards His children.

Let’s go back to that suddenly athletic twelve year old prepubescent girl. While the world might say I was more important, more valuable, on that day than the day before (or the day after when I am not sure I ever won another blue ribbon); God actually saw me exactly the same throughout. Our pseudo-accomplishments do not change His unchanging love, no matter how much our culture says otherwise. This might be disappointing, until we look at that confused, broken 16 year old. You see, on that day, a day that I remember as one of mess, mistake, and pathetic decisions, God saw me just the same as the day before or the day after. Our sins, while the sins themselves are displeasing to Him, do not change the way our heavenly Father views us (thanks to Jesus). This is where I feel like “proud” becomes the wrong word all together: because these facts are not based on anything I have or haven’t done; they are based on Him and His character.

I love Bailey Grace and Ally so much. I love them exactly the way He created them, and I can honestly say I do not want them to reach a single inchstone (inches make miles after all) that is not in His plan. I do not think they are any less or more valuable according to what they do or do not “do”. This is something that I cannot really express in words; but I truly don’t feel like their quality of life is changed based on their lack or lack thereof of mobility. I know God’s plan for their life is much powerful than a developmental milestone reached or unmet. This deep seated truth in my heart has made me feel that much more loved by our Father; because it has helped me to understand His view of me as His child. You see, the Lord does not base His opinions of us on our performance. That would be conditional. That would be expectations set in accordance to our works. No. The Lord sees us, if we are in Christ, as that: as Jesus Himself. He sees us as His child, and the love that He has for us does not waver. It is not centered around anything we can muster up ourselves. Whether you are the field day winner or the drunk, deceptive teenager, He loves. He loves perfectly and He loves fully. Now, this is not to say the consequences don’t look differently. I would say that field day was ended with pizza and T.G.I.F.; while the other night puke, a pounding headache, and a moral hangover the size of the room I lay grounded in. But God’s feelings toward me? The same. Based on Him and who He is, not me or what I did or didn’t do. He is using our girls to teach me to love in this counter-cultural way; and I am so thankful that He has given me this vision. Seeing Ally and Bailey Grace through this lens as helped me to see others in this light as well. The woman posting selfie after selfie, living for a couple more likes than yesterday- loved. The kicker who missed the field goal and appeared to lose the big game- valued. The homeless drug addict living on the streets- important. The mom who seems to be “living off the government”, more concerned with paying for a new hairdo than purchasing a new coat for her baby- cherished. All a part of God’s big plan and all capable of being used if yet they would have eyes to see.

My prayer for each of us today is that we would know the truth of how God chooses to view His children. That we would see one another not through the lens of our own behavior or choices but through the lens of His great love. Whether it is a blue ribbon morning or a Tylenol, “oh no” kind of day, you are loved. Let’s bring our praises to the One who truly deserves it. He is always, always worthy.

When it is Hard to be Thankful and Easy to Compare: Some Thanksgiving Wisdom.

It has been said that the holiday season is often the hardest time of year for those who have suffered grief or are walking through trials. I believe a lot of this has to do with the fact that, in all cultures, holidays are connected with traditions. Why do we love these traditions? Because they make us feel comfortable, they bring us consistency, they enhance our memories and bring us back to times before. These traditions are amped full of expectations; and when the unexpected hits, often this time of year can be the reminder of what used to be or what we wish was reality. These situations often can magnify all that more that which feels like the missing puzzle piece in our lives. You look around the family table, and you are yet again the only one without a “better half”. That cousin who gets pregnant just by saying the word pregnant is with child yet again; and you feel all the more barren. Your child, mom, sister, brother, friend is no longer on this earth; and your mind fills of what could have been had things looked differently. Social media makes it all the more challenging. Picture after picture of people celebrating all that they are thankful for; and the more full others’ tables look often the more empty yours feels.

The thing is, it won’t stop today. Here soon, the Christmas cards will begin to come and let the comparision game begin. Whether it is babies, marriage, material blessings, beauty, accolades, whatever; our human minds often go straight to a place of looking at the pros and cons of our own lives in light of another. It happens so quickly, often in the subconscious, and the next thing we know we are doing it yet again- but this year I beg us all to lean towards something different.

I am sitting at our home in Birmingham, coffee in hand, babies sleeping, husband at work. There are so many things to be unbelievably grateful for, but it would be easy to focus on the lack thereof. My mind could quickly take me to the place of, “I wish I had a husband who was off work today” or, “I wish the girls were running around the kitchen, stealing bites of food as we discussed Thanksgiving and they became “mommy’s little helpers”. Bitter, not thankful.

I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me.” – Psalm 13:6

Friends, He has dealt bountifully with each of us. In light of who He is, we can rejoice in all that is. Today, instead of being bitter for what we do not have, let’s be thankful for what we do have. Let’s not turn this into another year of comparision. Let’s make this an opportunity to rejoice in that which others are rejoicing. As fellow human beings, as creatures made by the same God, we can celebrate each others’ joys and support each other through the hards. It doesn’t have to hurt your heart when you see someone else grasping something you wish was yours. No. You can use that as a chance to exercise your faith and trust in the God who promises that He is working all things for good. You can authentically take that straight to the throne room, lay it at His feet, and praise Him for guaranteeing You that He knows what is best for each of us. I don’t want to look at your life and try to figure out a scale for who has things easier and who has things harder. I don’t want to waste energy looking for who is “happier” who is “more successful” who has more temporary bonuses. No. I want to be grateful for what He has placed both in your life and in mine. I desire to look at our lives separate yet united and be thankful for the lot that He has granted each of us. His lines have fallen in pleasant places, friends (Psalm 16).

“But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings…”-1 Peter 4:13

Did you see that? Christ’s sufferings. These trials you are walking in, whether you have recognized it or not, are not yours. They are His. Why? Because He has already overcome them at the cross! That is something to rejoice in over and over again, day after day. In all these things, we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us and gave Himself up for us! (Romans 8:37). Friends, this life is not a competition. Read that again. This life is not a competition. The world might scream otherwise, but here is the truth: if it was a competition, Jesus already won it. He is the only One who has ever led a perfect life, and you know what? A perfect life did not include perfect circumstances from the world’s eyes. Jesus came to this earth, and His whole purpose here was to glorify God in His suffering. He did not look to the right or left wondering why His lot was different than His neighbors; because He entrusted His steps to the God He knew. He believed in the depths of who He was that God’s plans and purposes were perfect. What an example for us to live by both today and always.

On this Thanksgiving morning, I am so thankful. I am mostly grateful for a God who thought it important enough to spend eternity with me that He died on a cross to make that happen. I am grateful for the grace He gives me each and every day. His power is the only thing that can uphold us, and it is through looking through His wise, loving perspective that we are given the ability to put others above ourselves and rejoice in all that is in each of our lives. I am thankful for a God-fearing, hard-working, loving (might I add, extremely good-looking) husband that is providing for our families and working overtime for a season in order to fulfill the calling God has on His life. I am thankful for two beautiful, joy- filled little toddlers that sleep peacefully in their room; for the opportunity to spend today looking at their smiles and cuddling their soft skin. I am also grateful for those things that sometimes feel like salt in a wound; for I know it is in these things that God is causing me to depend all the more on Him and focus on that which matters. I do not know what tomorrow holds, but today, I will be grateful for all that is. Dear reader, I also commit to you to try to do the same in light of your own life. I promise to attempt to feel pure joy for you when you post that picture of your child eating their first Thanksgiving meal. I promise to not take it as a personal offense when you post the video of that child taking their first steps. I promise to, instead, take those fleshy thoughts to the throne and thank God for the lines and the portions that He has chosen for you, knowing that it is His best for you as well. We all have so much to be thankful for, both today and always. He has granted us grace upon grace. Let’s choose to let the joy in our hearts overflow in all things; rejoicing in the hope to come and the gifts already bestowed. Happy Thanksgiving, friends!

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”- 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Above the Gray.

  IMG_1888

I sat down this morning, Bible in hand, heart attempting to open up and be present. So much of me feels blurry; so much of this journey seems clustered. We are in the gray. Each day this week, I have come to the Word, come to the throne, and felt somewhat numb. It’s one of those times that I am not even sure what to pray for our family. This roller coaster of “answers, no answers, answers, wrong answers, questions, testing, possible answers” has left this traveler weary. After our doctors discussed our girls with a specialist in a particular area, we are now researching a previous condition that we thought had been ruled out. Our guts have led us in this direction throughout portions of this search, and something we thought we could breathe a sigh of relief away, even though instinct felt otherwise, is back on the table. Weary.

By the grace of God, we are traveling to the NIH in Bethesda, Maryland, in the middle of December. We have been asked to participate in a research study they are doing for patients who are “medical mysteries”; the undiagnosed. The gray. I am incredibly grateful and humbled we have this opportunity, yet December 17th cannot come quickly enough. Between now and then, we simply wait. Potential answers wait at this appointment, but I am skeptical, guarded, and yes, weary.

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And He who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”- Romans 8:26-27

I am unbelievably thankful for this truth. The truth that the Spirit is interceding for me in these moments; these moments in which I am frozen and unsure and not even capable of groaning my own thoughts or questions. He is working on my behalf, on your behalf. Thankful.

But where does that leave me? When I am sitting at His Word, looking for nourishment. When I want to pray about this season but just can’t find the words. What now?

IMG_1936

See, that’s the thing. No matter what is going on in our lives, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). And, I am convinced that while God cares about all the details of our lives, that these details are just details and ultimately, this whole thing is purposed to show us more of Him. Our stories are all unique but the point is just the same: for us to see our Creator in our midst. So, when we don’t know what to pray, when we don’t know what in the world is going on, we can fix our eyes on what we do know: Him. His character. What He has done in the past. His work in our lives and the lives of others.

“From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the Lord is to be praised!”- Psalm 113:3

As we approach the week of Thanksgiving, I want to exhort each of us to take our eyes away from the junk within and around us, and instead, fix our hearts on praising Him. We can praise Him for what has been, for what He has done and is doing, and ultimately, for His sacrifice on the cross that brought us life that we would have never gotten otherwise. With every breath, I want to praise Him. There is freedom in determining that I do not have to have all the answers. When you know the One in charge, and You know He is perfectly good in all things, you can rest in all things. Even in the gray. Especially in the gray. Because in fact, the unseen gifts are the most amazing gifts of all.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.”- Ephesians 1:3

IMG_1935

The true blessings are the ones that can’t be taken away from us. I don’t know what this week will bring you. For some, abundant food and family and happy moments. For others, work, loneliness, grief, and tears. For many of us, a little bit of both. What I do know, however, is that in all things, He is worthy of praise. And, when we don’t know what else to do, we can lean on what we do know: His grace is more than enough to sustain us. Whether we are in the depths or the heights, He is able. No valley is too low that He cannot reach down and pull us up; no mountain so high that He is not there. This life is simply too unpredictable to put our efforts toward anything else.

Friends, all is grace. In all things, He can be praised. We must praise our way through the gray, trusting that He knows exactly what He is doing. He is lavishing His love upon us in each and every moment, even the hard. Today, let’s look around us and thank the Lord for His plan and His purposes, gray and all. Let the name of the Lord be praised! He is worthy.

Eternally Met.

In the midst of searching for confirmation in diagnosis, we have had more tests than usual in the past few weeks. I say we, but yesterday, as I was walking the girls to one of the more miserable experiences thus far (more on that later), it hit me that it was really the girls who were going through it all. Yes, as their mother, I grieve watching them go through painful, sometimes bizarre, procedures; but they are the ones ultimately suffering in that moment. It had my blood pressure high and tears stinging my eyes as I watched the nurses hold Bailey Grace down, attempting to get her to swallow what tasted like poison in her mouth in order to get some simple x-rays. I, too, holding her down and reassuring her it was “okay” and it was “almost over”. But, was it okay? And, really, if I’m honest, it’s not almost over. This is the life that she didn’t sign up for but has been given. A weak moment in my flesh led me to checking out of the situation and having a heart to heart with God yet again. At those times, I tend to be comforted praying through God’s perspective versus my own understanding, but there, there in that cold, sterile radiology room, it wasn’t making sense. I pictured God, watching His Son bleed, vomit, sweat, and ultimately die. How? He could have made it end in an instance. But, He didn’t. He chose to let it continue until the final moment that He, in His wisdom, knew it was in fact, “finished”.

The difference in that moment in time where Jesus shed His blood and our current circumstances are starkly different, but the pain felt as a mom is real and at times I have to wonder what in the world we are doing. Our girls would be content playing on their mat and simply being loved on. Instead, instead, they are spending days in therapy, attempting to get their little bodies to do something that they just flat out don’t want to do. Instead of playdates and long walks, they are getting up at the crack of dawn, empty-bellied, and being held down against their own will for yet another medical procedure that will tell us yet another detail of what is “just not right”. These words are authentic and the emotions are too and God, how did You just watch Your Son suffer without going all Jerry Springer on everyone and stopping the madness?

Perspective.

Purpose.

Trust.

Love.

He knows. He is the beginning, the middle, and the end. The Alpha and the Omega. His wisdom gives Him the ability to see not only the moment but the bigger picture. As Jesus was dying on the cross, He knew the exact moment in which the sacrifice had achieved its purpose. Not an ounce of Him would ever dish out pointless suffering; and the millisecond that it was time, He pushed “stop”. All the suffering He allows is not because He loves suffering itself. All the suffering He permits is serving eternal purpose, and His perspective gives Him the supernatural ability to know all the “how’s” and all the “why’s”. It was true at the cross and it is true in our lives. The truth is, I, in my humanity, just don’t “get” it. I don’t get why I’m having to watch our daughters go through this pain, day in day out. I don’t understand why you are walking through the hards that you are walking through. But, when you know what you know what you know, those details just don’t matter. I know Him, and that is enough. I know the millisecond He wants the therapy to stop, the procedures to end, He will let us know. I believe that it is all serving some kind of purpose, and I trust the One who wrote that purpose out. Even when I don’t understand. Even when my feelings don’t line up. Even when it hurts this momma’s heart and I feel like I am bleeding from the inside out.

“O My Strength, I will watch for You, for You, O God, are my fortress. My God in His steadfast love will meet me; God will let me look in triumph on my enemies.”- Psalm 59:9-10

Trust.

Love.

Friends, He is our Strength. We are watching and waiting for Him in all things. He is our Fortress. His love is deep and wide and full and overflowing. It is never ending and beloved, He promises to meet us in all things. In the easy and the hard. In the procedures, the hurting, the blood, sweat, and tears; the dying. He meets us and He uses that same strength He used to form the foundation of the earth to hold us together when we feel like all is falling apart. This, whatever this is, is not going to last a second longer or shorter needed to fulfill His purposes according to His perspective based on the eternal wisdom of Love Himself. He can be trusted. And, our enemies are not flesh and blood. (Ephesians 6:12). No. The enemy is not the doctor, not the technician, not the messenger of the news. It’s not the one who broke your heart or the one who broke your spirits. The enemy is much less tangible but all the more real and he has already been overcome. And, in a little while, these faint memories of affliction will be banished forever where there will be no more tears, no more pain, no more imperfection. It will have all served eternal purpose and it will all be worth it.

So, where does that leave us now? Now, in the moments where we can’t catch our breath and we can’t understand why and it just plain hurts. Friends, it sets us at His feet. It sets us at the throne of the One with all the wisdom and knowledge that the world just can’t contain. It puts us in the arms of the Savior who fathoms the pain to its very core and who has overcome it all, no matter what our emotions tell us today. We keep going in faith, knowing that one day, the veil will be taken away and the only thing we will be able to do is fall to our knees, lift up our hands, and cry out praises of thanks. Friends, it was finished. It was finished. It was finished. Let’s not wait until that truth is tangible to step out in faith and praise Him today. Let’s praise Him for all He has overcome. In those moments where current reality is harder than you ever imagined it could be, praise Him that He has overcome it. In those seconds where the hurt is suffocating, praise Him that He took it all upon Himself at the cross. Praise Him, praise Him, praise Him.

“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.”- Jude 1:24-25

The Final Outcome.

Reading in Hebrews this morning, I came to this verse:

“Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”- Ch. 13, verses 7,8

I started thinking about those people that I admired, both known and only known through writings. I began to, “consider the outcome of their way of life”. It occurred to me that not a single person that I look up to in the faith has had things “easy” or “comfortable”. In fact, quite the opposite. Most of the friends that I look to for wisdom are the people that I know can relate to the road of suffering and have walked it in the unique way God required of them. Think about it. We are all intrigued by the ones who walk through the unimaginable. It’s probably one of the reasons you are reading this blog. There is something in each of us that is drawn to the hard in others’ lives. You pass a wreck, and traffic is slowed because everyone is looking at what is going on. We watch the news and television shows; and are equally horrified and interested in hearing the drama. Someone dies unexpectedly, and we want to hear the story. It’s an odd truth about humanity.

“For my own part, I have never ceased to rejoice that God has appointed me to such an office. People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa…is that a sacrifice which brings its own blest reward…and a bright hope of a glorious destiny hereafter? Away with the word in such a view, and with such a thought! It is emphatically no sacrifice. Say rather it is a privilege. Anxiety, sickness, suffering, or danger, now and then, with a foregoing of the common conveniences and charities of this life, may make us pause, and cause the spirit to waver, and the soul to sink; but let this only be for a moment. All these are nothing when compared with the glory which shall be revealed in and for us. I never made a sacrifice.”- David Livingstone, a missionary who gave his life to serve Christ in Africa

“My wheelchair was the key to seeing all this happen- especially since God’s power always shows up best in weakness. So here I sit…glad that I have not been healed on the outside, but glad that I have been healed on the inside. Healed from my own self-centered wants and wishes.”- Joni Eareckson Tada, a quadriplegic who has found true hope

“For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”- 2 Corinthians 12:10, Paul, who was ultimately martyred for Christ

As I began to consider the outcome of life of those before me, I was initially disturbed and then suddenly comforted as I realized what the word outcome truly means. You see, outcome is the final score. Outcome is, “It is finished”. How often do I look to the temporary, the humanity, and forget that the outcome is actually unseen but all the more real. David Livingstone, Joni Eareckson Tada, Paul. While different, the common theme in each of their lives is giving Jesus their all. None of them surrounded by comforts, white picket fences, or temporary ease. And, their outcome? Jesus. Eternal oneness with the God of the universe. No more tears, no more sickness, no more disease. No more persecution, trial, or disability. Him.

As you are walking through whatever suffering you may be today, I want to encourage you that God hand-picked this road for you. If that feels heartless and like the doings of a mean god, let me remind you that His very best for His only Son was the road to calvary.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”- Isaiah 55:8-9

Friends, He is so other than we are; and for that I am thankful. I do not want to serve a God that I, in my own humanity, can understand. Can the painting fathom the painter? Can the book attempt to analyze its writer? No. Neither can we, as the creation, begin to fully “get” our Creator. The more we know Him, however, the more we can learn to trust Him in all His ways at all times, no matter what our flesh cries out.

Here’s another thing that is encouraging about all this:

“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. For we share abundantly In Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.”- 2 Corinthians 1:3-5

I can guarantee you something, beloved: if you will trust God in your trial, and believe that He is walking this road with you, you will be comforted beyond anything you could imagine. It will not take away the pain, it will not change your circumstance, but it will give you the peace that passes all understanding. And, going forward, you will have a story and a way to love on others like you have never had before.  You will be able to minister to others in ways that would have never been possible without this trial. And, dear one: You have a Savior that understands. His suffering, His affliction, was solely based on the need of others. He died so we could live; He was afflicted so we could know the Almighty in our own afflictions. Don’t ever believe the lie that you are alone in this. He is with you. He has walked it. There is purpose and He knows exactly what He is doing.

Today, as I look to the ones before me, to the outcome of their faith, may I be comforted that the outcome was ultimately Jesus Himself and that is more than enough to encourage me in whatever today holds, no matter how circumstancially dire. Friends, let’s be a people who walk through our hards with our heads held high, looking to Jesus. Let’s not shrink back from whatever suffering is at hand, but walk through it joyfully, knowing that there is eternal purpose at hand. It is a privilege to suffer for that which matters most. Without Christ, the brokenness and despair of this world is just that, broken. With Him, we can know that all things are working together for good, and that one day we will be able to see the beautiful tapestry of His grace and love that would not look the same without the trials He has allowed. It will be worth it. He that gave all is worth all.

Promises.

Have you ever been promised something that was not given to you?

I can remember being a child and ordering one of those huge pool floats. You know the kind, the ones with the detachable banana and palm tree. Against my parents’ strong discouragement, I was positive that the float was worth every penny of the money I had been rewarded from a writing contest I had won. When it came in the mail, I attempted to talk myself into the fact that it was just as fabulous as I had pictured. It was half the size the commercials had shown it as; and truthfully, it was poorly made. I was not even sure it would hold me up in the water, and so after much frustration and tears, I decided to send it back. Disappointed.

Now, this was a very small, small thing. What about those things that are not tangible that absolutely wreck our lives? Those promises unmet that attempt to change the very core of who we are.

I would never hurt you.

I will always love you.

You are safe with me.

You can trust me.

It’s in those moments that parts of us begin to become weary of this concept of promises. It’s then that we sometimes begin to doubt if anyone is capable of keeping their word. If the ones who love us the most continue to let us down, then who can ever make these unmet promises right? Who will really never let us down?

Jesus.

I know, I know. You saw that one coming, and some of you are ready to jump back, fists clinched, with the response, “No, Morgan. That’s the thing. He’s already let me down time and time again. He was not there when my tiny innocent spirit was stolen by an adult who was supposed to keep me safe; body and soul torn. He wasn’t there when the cancer hit. He did not show up when I begged him to heal my friend. He’s already let me down; this Jesus you speak of is just like everyone else.”

First off, let me offer you a sincere apology.

You see, those of us who claim the name Christian, myself included, have not done a good job of representing God’s promises. I do not mean that we are hypocrites and we have broken the own promises we have offered. Christianity is based on what God has done for us, not what we can do for God. That being said, while it is true that we are all hypocrites and we all mess up, that should not come as a surprise because that was going to happen from the beginning. While we are called to represent Christ, on this earth we are still imprisoned in this flesh and we are going to mess up and let each other down time and time again until that heavenly day. No. The apology I am offering is that we have misconstrued and misunderstood God’s promises ourselves. We have taken God’s word out of context at times, and not done a good job of explaining what God Himself DOES promise. I will tell you this: He does not always promise smooth sailing. In fact, He promises the opposite:

“In this world you will have trouble.” (John 16:33)

We will have trouble. Not, “You might have trouble” or, “You will have trouble unless you believe in me”. No. You WILL. A promise.

Yes, He goes on to encourage us that He has overcome the world, which is always something to celebrate, but don’t miss that first part.

The book of Hebrews is full of God’s promises. Hebrews 7:21, God promises that Jesus is the eternal priest, forever. Hebrews 8:2, God set up His kingdom, not man. (Can I get an Amen?) Hebrews 8:12, He will remember our sins no more as soon as we believe in Christ and accept Him as Lord. The whole chapter of Hebrews 11, He promises that we are going to have to have a whole lot of faith in this journey. He also promises in this chapter we are going to be made strong in weakness. Hebrews 12 promises that hard times are going to come, and that we are going to be tempted to give up.

Does any of this sound familiar?

I could list more and more things that show what God promises His people, but I can tell you that they all revolve around the fact that He is going to meet our every need (not want, not even what we think we need, what He knows in His wisdom we need). He promises His grace is always sufficient for us, and for those around us (think about that one). He promises us victory over death. Not in the here and now, but for eternity. He promises us He is working all things together for good. (Not for what we think is good, but for the big picture good). He promises that those who believe in Jesus with their hearts and confess Him with their mouths will be saved. Not always in the here and now stuff, but for eternity.

I say this to say that while God is fully capable of healing, and He certainly can be given glory for the times He chooses to do that, it is not always His will to do so on this side of heaven. The thing is this: when we pray for something, we have to keep the promises of God in mind. We have to remember as we pray that He loves us, He has good in mind, and that if His answer to a prayer is, “No” it is for a better yes. As humans, we have to trust that He is God and that, to put it blunt, this time here on earth is, rightfully, not about us. We are a grain of sand in His big ocean, and the fact that He loves us is one of those incredible, life-changing mysteries. So, why pray? Why pray if He has the whole thing rigged anyway?

We pray, dear friends, to align ourselves with Him and His will. We pray and cry out to God, knowing that however He chooses to answer our prayers is His best. We pray, knowing that He has never once promised to answer everything according to what we will, but He has promised He has our good in mind and that He is listening. He promises He will never leave us. And, He promises healing for all eternity, no matter what He chooses on this side of heaven. Eternal yes’s.

Today, I want to encourage the person whose faith is dwindling. The person who has been misinformed about who God is and what He is about. The person who feels unheard and left alone. Friend: He loves you. He has not turned a deaf ear toward you, and He wants you to hear today of the promises He has given you in Himself. Not promises to make everything right on earth, but promises that through His Son, He has already overcome. He nailed it all to the cross and victory is His. My prayer for you today is that you would cling hard to what He does promise. That you would seek out His Word in entirety and ask Him to give you eyes to see. His love never runs out. No matter what path you are on, if you still have breath in your lungs there is time. It’s not too late. He doesn’t care what you have done in light of what He did. That’s a promise.

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”- Romans 8:37-39

Mustard Seed Faith.

“For all that has been, thanks, for all that will be, yes.”- Dag Hammarskjold

new pics march 2014 148

November 2013. This time last year, we were preparing for the first of many appointments that would be full of unknowns. November 14, 2013. It was the first neurology appointment in which we really began processing that our version of normal, our expectations for life, were potentially going to look differently. I know this specific date because this also happens to be my birthday. I remember waking up that morning and feeling somewhat sorry for myself that I would be spending my birthday in such a sterile, somber situation. I remember thinking to myself, “I can do this one year. My birthday next year will surely look different.” Almost as if we were getting a lifetime of hard out of the way in one appointment.

This week, we have several doctor’s appointments, and therapy as usual. As I sat reading God’s word this morning, I smiled and felt genuine praise rising out of my soul. It’s incredible how much God has used the blessing of our girls to undo and remold my thinking about “my” life. This year, I have no expectations for my birthday other than that God will be there; and I know that’s enough. I am not surprised by the appointments of this week simply because I know He is not. I am assured in the depths of who I am that whatever each day holds in His best for us. I have seen Him reshape this stubborn, sinful, selfish woman’s heart through the suffering He saw fit and He brought with love; and I anticipate He will do just that in the year to come in whatever ways He chooses. I have seen Him show His mighty strength in the midst of my utter weakness. I am so grateful for every detail of our family’s story, because I know it is bringing Him glory and us good. And, however He chooses to continue to write out this journey He has lended us, unknowns and all, I am not afraid because I trust He will give us the ability to walk in it. Why? Because once you take one step of faith, once you trust Him with faith the size of a mustard seed, He will give you the supernatural strength to carry on regardless of what the next step holds. Faith without eyes. Faith, not sight. This has been the story of our year; and in the midst of my stumbling, He took the mustard seed faith and has carried us faithfully. So, moving forward: for all that has been, thanks; for all that will be yes.

Friends, this is our heart’s cry solely because of Him. My prayer for you this week is that you would be able to look back, or look forward, and, with open hands, give Him your mustard seed of faith. He will never disappoint in meeting you right where you need to be met. Let’s pray for the strength to look back in thanks and look forward with confidence in the One whose love will never fail us.