On Milk and Honey Blog Series: Week Six.

I had never walked through something that hurt so deeply, it took my breath away.

Sure, I had watched friends walk through some really hard things; and I myself had a handful of instances or circumstances that would have qualified as challenging.

But this.

This was something chronic; something that would never go away on this side of heaven.

‘I am feeble and crushed; I groan because of the tumult of my heart…my heart throbs; my strength fails me, and the light of my eyes- it also has gone from me.’- Psalm 38:8,10

I wanted it to be like a neatly wrapped gift.

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One which, when looked at carefully, could be untied perfectly and with much precision.

I would unwrap it in layers, and slowly but surely, this “gift” bestowed upon me would be completely open and bare.

Instead, it felt like I was the silver ball in a pin ball game.

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Constantly moving forward, only to be thrown back into the same place yet again.

Grief.

I had studied the stages, and because I could look back and see a nauseating amount of denial I had walked through in the beginning, I kept waiting for the anger to begin.

Denial.

Anger.

Bargaining.

Depression.

Acceptance.

I thought if I could just move through the stages quickly, I would arrive.

Wouldn’t life be so much easier if anytime we walked through a trial it was so neatly tied together?

Method to the madness, if you will.

So concise.

So final.

So hopeful for each of us to wake up from the bad dream that has become our life and begin actually living again.

You would walk through the stages, and then you would be done and able to move on past whatever said thing was consuming your days.

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Kind of like scrubbing that blue marker off my sweet girls’ little legs.

This has simply not been the case for me; and it doesn’t seem to be the case for most I know who have walked through their own hards.

At the beginning of this journey, I found myself pondering this question a lot,

‘What stage of grief am I in?’

A.k.a.

‘When will I hit the acceptance part so all these exhausting emotions will be over?’

While I started out in the denial stage, my specific journey jumped straight into acceptance shortly after; but the process was nowhere close to being over. These days, outside of the bargaining phase (one that, for whatever reason, has not been somewhere I have dwelled), I find myself dabbling in all of the stages from time to time; with no obvious logic in what made me jump from one into the other.

I fully believe that all the stages, all the emotions, are real in our trials. Anyone who believes being a Christian means always putting on a happy face has not read the Bible. After the Fall occurs in Genesis 3, the Scriptures are full of people walking through all kinds of things and experiencing all kinds of feelings. David is called a man after God’s own heart (by God Himself), and the Psalms (which David wrote) are full of all kinds of mourning and rejoicing, sometimes appearing to be an almost simultaneous expression.

Yet- when we fixate on the stages or emotions themselves, I believe we miss a crucial point to surviving whatever loss, tragedy, or other hard we are going through:

When you walk through life-changing suffering, it always stays with you. In some form or fashion, the baggage is permanently there. In light of that, without an eternal perspective, you will never be able to get out of the revolving door of grief.

Point blank, I would like to suggest that grieving really only involves two steps:

First, the temporary.

Then, the eternal.

The temporary includes all said stages- the denial, the anger, the bargaining, the depression, the acceptance. You may flash back and forth into various levels of these phases; yet awareness of the sixth stage- or the second stage, in this case- is the key to walking through life without constant damaged vision and blurred perspective.

Furthermore, my emotions and circumstances are never greater than my God, therefore, He can handle whatever physical or emotional toil I take to Him. I- we- can trust Him with whatever phase of grief we are in, knowing that ultimately, it is passing and fleeting.

Nothing is too heavy for the mighty arms of God.

All things, no matter how broken, can be made whole in His hands.

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Before we step from the temporary to the eternal, there is this thing called death in between.

It feels ironic that so much of our grief is caused by this very thing we will all experience.

Yet, for a Christ-follower, death will simply be a marker magnifying the victory of God; a step into the wholeness and healing that will finally occur.

You see, death is coming for all of us, and what you think about death makes all the difference in how you live.

In this journey of grief, while it may sound bizarre to some, I have found so much hope in reading what God says about death.

Grief, like death, can feel so final.

Yet God.

‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through the Lord Jesus Christ.’- 1 Corinthians 15:54b-57

The final word has always been, and will always be, His.

You see, death-physical yes, but death in all its forms, whether sickness, or tragedy, or emotional toil- stings greatly on this side of heaven. Our flesh writhes in pain when faced with it, and it feels like the throbbing will never let up.

But- because of Jesus Christ-

God wins.

The sting, the pain, the stages- they are but a breath.

And, because they are a breath, we can withstand and move forward-

Not without pain, but without stain.

To put it bluntly, grief will never have the final word.

In this journey, I have learned to embrace grief, knowing it has no power over me. I am not fearful of any emotion, however deep, for I know that my God is holding me and carrying me through it; and that He promises to use every ounce of it for His glory and my good. I am giving myself grace for whatever stage I am in, not feeling the need to overanalyze it; prayerfully taking it to the throne in hopes that I do not allow my open wounds to rub off on those around me.

Only He has the healing balm for our souls.

We can own what we are feeling without letting it own us.

God created us; therefore only He knows how to deal with the complexities of who we are.

While people can sympathize- only Christ has walked each of our hards, no detail missed, straight to the cross. He has the power to empathize with us in all things, for He has overcome all things.

Friends, this message is a heavy one, but it is one I pray sinks deep into your souls. I would not be human if I did not admit to my own emotional turmoil in this journey; yet I have learned that God is bigger than any trial I face and that He is working always. May we never just, ‘Put on a happy face’ for the sake of pleasing men. Instead, may we look to His face, knowing the victory has been won.

An eternal perspective found in exploring and believing that Jesus Christ nailed all our junk to the cross and overcame death by His own ressurection is the only way to walk through grief; not because it takes the hard away, but because it offers a Heavenly Hand and a healing balm with limitless measure.

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If you are participating in the On Milk and Honey blog series, your Personal Growth Challenge this week is very simple:

Look up the song, “Sovereign Over Us” by Aaron Keyes and also, “Though He Slay Me” by Shane and Shane, and listen to one or both of these songs each morning as you rise. Really take in the words and what these lyrics are speaking to your heart.

For the Community Growth Challenge, I want you to talk about what it looks like to grieve with hope with a friend or family member. Use this time as an open conversation about what you both thought of this blog.

For the Pay-It-Forward Challenge, I encourage you to bring a meal, coffee, small gift, or whatever you feel led to bring, to someone who is in the early stages of grief.

Friends, God is greater.

He has the victory.

He is making beautiful things out of all of our hards; and nothing is a tragedy when viewed through His heavenly lenses.

Our grief is real yet our God is bigger.

“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed…so we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”- 2 Corinthians 4:8-9, 16-18

Faithful One

Just As.

Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive.- Colossians 3:13

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I would like to consider myself a forgiving person. When someone says, ‘I’m sorry’, I always respond with, ‘It’s okay’. Truthfully, other than with Hugh, there are not many situations I find myself in where people are apologizing.

And sometimes, that feels like the problem.

Think about it.

You are driving down the road, and someone cuts you off.

A co-worker makes a sarcastic comment that rubs you the wrong way.

A friend forgets to recognize an important event in your life.

Many of these things appear blatant. But, what about the deeper issues- those things that cut your heart and wane your spirit like a surgeon’s knife, slowly, deeply, internally?

Your parents- or even your spouse- never love you the way you feel you desperately need to be loved.

Your boss keeps offering the raise to, it seems, everyone but you; although you sense you are working harder than anyone.

The physicians are all giving you different care plans and various opinions on the disease that is ravishing the body of you or your loved one.

For all these things, there is no one apologizing; yet you are feeling more and more wounded as time passes on.

Christ died for us while we were still sinners. This demonstrates God’s love for us.- Romans 5:8

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There was no one apologizing to Jesus while He was on the cross. Even those who loved Him most were standing at a distance or too concerned with their own loss to recognize the depth of the cost that was being paid.

Yet God.

His love spanned so far beyond the imperfect emotions of humanity that in that moment, He made a choice to not need an apology in order to continue to follow through with His promise to His beloved.

Not just in action.

His whole being was filled with faithfulness to His children- their reaction irrelevant.

While we were still sinners- meaning, in the trenches of us not being able to connect with God without the mediating act that was in the process of occurring, Jesus still chose to love us.

Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must forgive.

Don’t we get it?

Our world is so infiltrated with pointing fingers and reveling and gasping at others’ mistakes that we have forgotten the very example that was given to us while Jesus was hanging, body mangled and spirit grieving at the cross.

Point blank, we have forgotten how much we have been forgiven and the crucial realization that if we have been forgiven from the very nature that would have sent us away from God forever, surely they can be forgiven- both in heart and mind- for whatever they have done.

Our mantra to the world is supposed to be very clear:

No matter what you have done- if you turn to God and put that horrible thing in His hands- His reply will always be forgiveness.

And- if that is His reply- how could it ever not be ours?

You see, when we don’t offer up forgiveness to those around us, we are implying that what Jesus did on the cross was not enough.

So many times I think we- I- have this mindset that because the other person hasn’t offered an apology, it is my place to continue to hold them in judgment.

This could not be further from the truth.

Forgive, just as I have forgiven you.

“Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven- for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”- Matthew 7:47

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The Pharisees were irate. This woman, whom the scriptures literally identify as, “A woman of the city, who was a sinner”, showed up and began taking the attention of their dinner with Jesus. She poured an expensive jar of ointment on Jesus’ feet and, while weeping, began to rub His feet with this oil. The Pharisees sneered, thinking that Jesus would not have allowed this woman to do so if He had known her extensive sin record.

The healthy don’t need a doctor; the sick do. (Matthew 9:12)

She knew her place was at the feet of the only One who could save, and she was filled with worship and awe.

“Your sins are forgiven.”- Jesus, Matthew 7:48

I place myself at that table, and I wonder if I can honestly say I would be the woman and not the Pharisees.

Am I comfortable being recognized as the sinner instead of pointing out the sins of those around me?

Do I spend more time basking at the feet of Jesus; or am I utterly concerned with how things appear externally?

Do I forgive as Jesus forgave- or do I place criteria on sins that God Himself didn’t even place?

When we look at the Lord’s Prayer, a prayer that many of us have said since we were young, one of the lines is, ‘Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors’.

Is the amount of forgiveness I am offering others today the amount of forgiveness I want to be given by God Himself?

Just as.

You see, my sins are infinitely more than I even realize.

I cut people off in traffic.

I offend my friends and neighbors, whether intentionally or unintentionally.

I forget important events.

I wound without meaning to wound.

I want those things on the forgiven list, too.

This weekend, might we dig deeper into our forgiveness pattern.

Are we quick to hold offenses or quick to give grace?

Do we hold on to bitterness, allowing it to slowly take over our spirits, or do we simply ask God to help us take those things to the cross?

Do we wait for an, ‘I’m sorry’ before we take something off someone’s record, or do we simply offer them the forgiveness God has asked us to give?

When we fixate on how we have been wronged, we carry around these hurts like a rusted anchor on our souls.

And let it be known that hurting people hurt others.

When we trust in what Christ did at the cross, recognizing how forgiving we truly are and believing all our mistakes, all our offenses, all our guilt, is nailed to the cross- we are freed to offer that same grace to others.

And- let it be known that freed people help free others.

Beloved- because Christ offered Himself up for you while you were still yet a sinner, you can trust Him with any and all wrongs done to you as well.

May we be a people quick to extend grace, and instead of pointing fingers, might we lift our hands to the sky and praise the One who has the might, the power, the love to obliterate all the sin in each of our lives.

Amen and amen.

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The Real Issue.

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“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.”- Psalm 127:3

It happened again.

I woke up this morning, thoughts racing through my mind, and the Lord impressed a message that I was hesitant to let out but assured that it must be.

Hesitant because I know that there are many who will read and not only dislike, but find absurd.

Reluctant, for there are some who have known me for years; and worse, some who do not know me at all.

So, before I continue, I want to get a few things straight:

I do not have a perfect past sin record when it comes to sexual purity.

I have both put myself in situations in which I actively chose to be impure; and also have been taken advantaged of in that setting. Each of those- whether my own doing or the other party- left me with baggage and emotional damage that not only affected me personally but also was carried into my marriage and continues to be healed.

Thanks be to God that I know and believe that,

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come.”- 2 Corinthians 5:17

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Staring at the past is pointless. It gets us absolutely nowhere, and we cannot do anything about it. Yet, with God’s help, we can move forward and step into the new.

Within my profession, I also have worked with many, many women from many, many backgrounds who have either contemplated abortion or followed through on abortion. I have counseled them in the before and after stages of these decisions; and seen the affects that came after.

So, now that I have aired my own dirty laundry in order to assure that you as the reader not only know I am speaking humbly, but also know I’m not speaking from some sheltered corner, let’s move forward.

Speaking of dirty laundry….

In recent weeks, the Planned Parenthood videos have been released one by one.

No matter what your beliefs on abortion, they have been shocking and difficult to look at.

I have watched each of these, and all have saddened me to say the least.

I whole-heartedly am pro-life.

Yet, I am here to say that Planned Parenthood is not the problem; abortion isn’t even the biggest issue.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”- Proverbs 3:5-6

“But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.”- 1 Corinthians 7:2

“Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well…let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth.”- Proverbs 5:15, 18

The real issue at hand is that we have strayed from believing and obeying what our Creator set up as wise guidelines for us to live by. Point blank, we have taken the commands above, thrown them aside as old-fashioned or no fun, and done our own thing.

And suddenly, we have gone from “just having fun” or “expressing our so-called feelings” to seeing baby body parts strewn across our computer screens.

And we wonder why.

You see, this is the nature of humanity whenever we stop listening to the God of the universe and start paying more attention to our own fleshly desires or the other people around us.

God, in all His infinite and sovereign knowledge, knows.

He knows that you having sex with someone outside of a marital covenant, however faithful you think you are to one another even, is not going to lead to thriving relationships in a thriving society.

He knows that the more potent problem is not your need to fulfill a sexual want, but rather the God-hole in your heart that can only be filled by Him.

He knows that when we stray from looking to Him for satisfaction, we will find ourselves on the hamster wheel of temporal pleasure- always looking to the next thing and always leaving wanting more.

You see, sexual perversion always starts somewhere, as does misused sexual intention.

And, at the core of the issue at hand stands that very thing. No matter what you believe about the intricate details of when life begins, we can all agree that technically, it does all start at conception.

I have never heard of a woman walking into an abortion clinic that didn’t have a sexual interaction prior.

The cart always comes before the horse.

So, where does that leave us?

We live in a broken world, and you don’t have to look at the past (including God’s Word) for long to see that this turning from God and turning to self pattern has been around since way before our time.

Yet, because His Word says that our fight is not against flesh and blood but against something more (Ephesians 6:12), I think we need to remember in the midst of the shocking videos flashing through social media this simple fact:

When we are fighting for flesh and blood, our fight is not against flesh and blood.

Always.

This is not an argument against a group of people. This is a battle for the minds and hearts and souls of those who have been deceived by an enemy much greater than Planned Parenthood. This is a wrestling within the spiritual realm of spirits that desperately need God but are looking everywhere but; and until we see it as that, we will just be scratching the surface.

If you want to take up the whole, “No sex outside of marriage with one person” thing, take that up with the One who created you.

If you feel like I’m exaggerating the entire situation, watch the current hot topic videos and take note that sexuality done outside of the confines that God has set up wrote each of those stories.

Sex, when occurring in a covenant relationship between a man, woman, and God Himself is a beautiful display of the intimacy, pleasure, and fulfillment that God wants to offer us as His children. That earthly comparison will always fall short of the heavenly reality, yet it is a beautiful, healthy thing when carried out God’s way.

The effects of it outside of those boundaries is seen in lives and cultures all around us.

Sex is a glorious gift; but it’s not the Giver itself.

When we put sexuality on a pedestal, carrying it as an idol in all that we do, we are walking on unholy ground.

If you have agreed with everything I have said up until now, may we be careful to not point our fingers outward; and instead, may we begin to look upward and humbly pray that the Lord would open eyes and hearts to the deceit that is thick within the walls of the world we live in. May we pray for protection to the lies that so penetrate our society as a whole. May we not look at those who disagree in disgust, but rather, may we carry out our lives in such a manner that God’s way is so overflowing in all that we do that others would see and question. May we cry out to God for mercy infinitely more than we call out our neighbors. And, when we are tempted to simply be appalled at baby parts and individuals and organizations and politics; might we joyfully find hope in the fact that the battle has already been won at the cross and that God’s love spans vastly beyond our sins or the sins of those around us. Might we look at the deeper issues of the heart rather than the things that scratch the surface.

The invisible rather than the visible.

The whole picture rather than a snapshot.

Whom the Son has set free, He is free indeed. (John 8:36)

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. (Galatians 5:13)

His blood covers all, and His glory never ends.

Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

Faithful One

On Milk and Honey Blog Series: Week Four.

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“God is our refuge; an ever-present help in trouble.”- Psalm 46:1

“It was if I was saying, ‘Okay, here’s the deal. I was totally unprepared for our reality, but if I can be prepared for any and all outcomes that are ahead, it won’t hurt as badly because I will have somewhat seen it coming’…”- p. 20, On Milk and Honey

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Have you ever been hit with something that felt like it came out of left field?

What I mean by that is, have you ever been going on with life as usual, woken up one day, and suddenly, you realize things are going to be different than you anticipated, forever?

“I am very worried about your girls. This is not benign hypotonia.”

A defining moment in our lives in which I immediately knew that this curve ball was not going straight anytime soon.

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If you think about it, this happens in little ways all throughout our days.

We get stuck in traffic.

We studied totally different questions than what the exam included.

The gas bill was much larger than usual.

The news reads a story we had not yet heard.

The blood test comes back abnormal and needs to be repeated.

Yes, it is true that, more often than not, even our smallest moments don’t always go as planned. Yet what about those pieces of the story that are seemingly defining?

The wreck that leaves us emotionally and physically scarred.

The exam failed that cannot be made up and leaves us wondering what we will do next.

The bankrupt statement.

The cancer diagnosis.

The lipstick on his shirt that you are, quite positive, is not yours.

The call that someone you love is gone from this side of heaven forever.

What then?

February 28, 2014 was one of those defining days for us. It was a day in which the reality was much larger than I had the ability to swallow. But God.

He was- is- an ever-present help in trouble.

What I mean by that is this:

If you would have told me six months prior that we were going to be told our girls had a life-long, chronic disability, I would have thought my legs would have buckled and my heart would have snapped in two. Yet, His promises to us in these curveball moments of our lives might be some of the greatest promises He has ever given us:

I am there.

I will meet you in all things.

I know each and every millisecond of the story in greater detail than you could fathom, and I am going to use it for my glory and your good.

You are going to be able to survive this because of my grace and my grace alone.

It was true for us then, and it will continue to be true for you as you seek Him to make ends meet in the places where your strength ends and you desperately need His to continue going forward.

Friends, this week, I feel unbelievably called to ask you this simple question. It is a question I posed in Chapter 5, but it is something I want you to not brush by. Really sit with it.

What is your worst-case scenario?

Oftentimes, our initial thought here isn’t our real answer. Go deeper. Wrestle with it. Search the places of your heart that feel the most tender.

 At that time, I would have told you my worst-case scenario was, quite bluntly, that we would lose Ally and Bailey Grace. As I look back on it, however, I realize that it was much more potent than that. My worst-case scenario is that I would walk through a pain so deep that I would never be able to recover.

Not met.

Not kept.

Broken.

Regardless of God’s story for Bailey Grace and Ally, this is not true for me and this is not true for you.

He is holy, and His promises stand true in ALL the details of your life.

He promises to never leave you.

Because Christ said, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ in our place on the cross; we can rest assured that it is, in fact, finished.

He is not going anywhere and He will get you through today and the rest of your tomorrows, no matter what the circumstance.

A Father is most near to the child He is carrying.

The Personal Growth Challenge this week is two-fold. First, spend some time contemplating the question of your own worst-case scenario. Secondly, go to the back of the Bible (or google if you do not have one) and find verses that speak on fear and what God has to say about our fears. Read aloud at least one of these every morning. Memorize it if you feel so called.

The Community Growth Challenge is simple yet vulnerable: spend some intentional time talking with someone else who is going through this study about your worst case scenario. Then, pray together about these fears; and agree to trust the Lord with His plans for both your life and the life of the person you are meeting with. If you are doing this study alone- let me know and I will help you figure out a way to follow through with this challenge. I promise you will never be disappointed about showing trusted friends the tender places of your heart.

The Pay-It-Forward Challenge is to use social media to encourage a friend, family member, or stranger with a verse you found during the Personal Growth Challenge that you think might encourage their heart.

God is for you, Beloved.

He is writing all the details of each of the chapters of your life, both those behind and those before.

He is not going anywhere.

May we praise Him in all His Sovereign goodness this week and always.

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“I sought the Lord, and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to Him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles.”- Psalm 34:4-6

On Milk and Honey Blog Series: Week Three.

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This picture was taken on the day of our first neurology appointment.

I had walked a handful of friends through tragedies or hard times; but most of my own personal hurts or hards up until this point were, truthfully, consequences of sins that I had committed. There were a couple things that occurred to me that were not my own doing and absolutely heart-breaking and life-changing, but nothing like this.

This felt like a rock in my throat that I just couldn’t swallow.

Sure, I had heard the verses. The ones that talked about how we would experience trouble in this life. (John 16:33)

I had always focused on that second part, the part about taking heart and Him overcoming the world.

Furthermore, this “trouble”, if you will, was different than anything I had watched anyone I knew walk through; and much more chronic than I had anticipated my tribulation to be.

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“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share in Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed.”- 1 Peter 4:12-13

Do not be surprised.

It is difficult to open the pages of my prayer journal from 2013 because the emotions are SO RAW. I can still see the tears stained onto the words; yet there is SO MUCH HOPE that He undeniably gave to me; for only God can bring hope in the midst of the hurting.

As I was attempting to flesh out the words I wanted to share for this week, I came across a simple phrase I wrote in my journal:

This is not a dead end.

At first, I had no idea what I had been trying to say, and then it hit me:

Not only was our current circumstance a part of something God was doing, something I should not be surprised at in the least (because He certainly wasn’t); it also wasn’t the end of the story.

It wasn’t a dead end.

It wasn’t even a roadblock.

It was His pathway for us and those around us to know Him more.

Sometimes, I treat God like He is my GPS- a guide to get where I’m supposed to go, that I totally trust until I start to feel like He’s taking me the wrong place. When it starts to look like I’m headed to the wilderness, I tend to want to take the wheel and head another direction.

“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness…”- Matthew 4:1

Friends, we should not be surprised that the journey God chooses for us includes some roads that look differently than we saw coming.

Because we know the destination, albiet eternity with Him, we must learn to trust Him with the direction and path He chooses to bring us there.

I believe knowing Him more deeply is the only way we can truly do this without bitterness making its way into our hearts. We must open the pages of His word and see the way He led His own through the deserts and wildernesses of their lives.

Daniel in the lion’s den.

Jonah and the whale.

Joshua as a slave.

Job.

Paul (and many others) in prison.

Jesus at the cross.

The truth of how God intentionally ordained the details of the women and men of scripture in order to accomplish His will is the same of us today.

We do not have to be surprised at the what or the how when we know the Who.

This is not a dead end.

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For this week’s Personal Growth Challenge, I want you to spend the first moments of each morning saying (aloud) the characteristics of our God that are found in His Word. I have written out some, and you are welcome to use this, but I would encourage you to add your own as well:

What is true about God and what He believes about me (about you!):

He is patient and kind. He does not hold my sins against me if I am in Christ. He stands behind and in front of me. He defends me. He desires to show mercy to all. He provides all of our needs. He has a plan for us. He is our strength and His strength is made perfect in my weakness. His love endures forever. He is the same yesterday, today, and always. He can be trusted in all things. The works of His hands are faithful and just. He redeems us. He loved us first. He adopted us as children. He is our helper and upholder of our life. He is our portion and He is enough. In His presence there is fullness of joy. He will not abandon us. He is worthy of praise. He endures all things and will not give up on us. He restores and heals us. He can be compared to none. He is Creator of all things. He does not grow weary. He is the first and the last. He calls all generations. He is Love.

For the Community Growth Challenge, I would ask for you to talk through the questions found at the end of Chapter 4 of On Milk and Honey (found on page 22) with a friend or family member. The only requirement is that you would both be open and honest.

For the Pay it Forward Challenge, think of someone you know (pray about it if no one immediately comes to mind) that might be feeling like something that God has brought into their life is a dead end. Whether it is as simple as a coffee or a meal, bring them some physical nourishment this week and offer a word of encouragement to their weary heart.

For some of us, this week might hold new turns in the road that tempt us to wonder what God is up to. My prayer is that we would cling to the God who knows no mysteries and find joy and strength as we know Him more deeply. May we encourage one another to see Him in all the roads we find ourselves on; and may we rejoice in the fact that nothing is a surprise to the Author of each of our stories.

To Him be the glory.

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.”- Revelation 22:1-5

Faithful One

The Hardest Thing.

The girls got fitted for AFO’s yesterday (a new type of bracing). From a therapeutic perspective, this will be used to help straighten out their feet and legs and put the surface of their little feet on the ground while they are in a supportive device. From a medical perspective, we hope this will strengthen their already osteopenia-prone bones. From a momma’s perspective, this is just one more thing to add to the list of an already long to-do chart. The fitting process turned out to not be for the faint of heart, and involved casting and a saw. Some screaming, crying, and resisting later, we left (all three of us) vomit covered; and the girls had blue markings up and down their feet and calves. The professional had explained to me that it would take a few days for it to go away. I was not convinced.

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We got home, I put them (one at a time of course) in a very much needed bath, and I began to scrub.

I scrubbed, and I scrubbed, and I scrubbed; and the more apparent it was that the blue markings were not going to go away anytime soon, the more frustrated I got. The girls sit in an infant bathtub still for bath time. It is something they are growing out of quickly; yet it is necessary, and the next option costs in the thousands. Hugh does a better job of holding them securely in the tub, but my hold on them feels awkward at times. As I frantically attempted to get the ink off of Ally’s foot and leg, I felt my anxiety rising and the tears building. I was sweating from trying to remove the marker from her legs, and I couldn’t quite figure out why I was so upset from it all. Try as I might, the blue was just not going away. There was nothing momma could do.

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“Ah, Lord God! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you.”- Jeremiah 32:17, emphasis mine

So many people have asked, at different points of our journey, what the hardest part has been. I can get distant, defensive even, because I never want to say these things out loud that often run through my head. I don’t want the girls, for a second, to feel like any kind of burden. They are such a joy, and outside of Jesus and Hugh, the best thing that has ever happened to me. But- so many moments- too many to count throughout the week- are emotionally and physically HARD. I realized as I was scrubbing the girls’ legs that it wasn’t in fact about the blue marker (it never is, is it?) This moment was hurting my heart because it represented the hardest piece of this God-given, blessed journey:

I can’t do anything about it.

As a momma, natural instinct tells you to see pain and dismiss it; to see a need and to quickly meet it. With Bailey Grace and Ally, there are many, many circumstances that I, point blank, cannot help. At night, when they are screaming in pain, we sometimes have absolutely no way of knowing the why. I will hold them, sometimes for thirty minutes at a time, having checked everything I know to look for and continuing to watch them writhe and scream out in pain, as if someone is stabbing them with a knife. Our physicians and we have sought out every area of their little bodies that could be the culprit, and while we have targeted some things correctly, there are nights that the hurt presents itself yet again, and we are left wanting.

Helpless.

When they look up at me, begging for momma to help, and I have nothing I know to do, I want to weep alongside them (sometimes, I quietly do).

It always passes, and they fall back to sleep shortly after, yet I often lay awake and pour out my heart to God, knowing He is not unaffected by His children’s hurt.

Between those heart-wrenching nights and our lack of knowledge on some of the neurological presentations of this particular disorder (are they seizures or are they not, are they affecting their brain or are they not, are they harming the girls’ development or are they not); there are days that I feel like I have done a disservice as a mother simply because I have not been able to grasp exactly what is going on with my sweet girls.

As the suds fell into the tub, and my tears began to well up, God opened my heart to a beautiful, healing truth:

Nothing is too hard for Him.

The God who made the heavens, the earth and all that is in it. The One who placed each star intricately into the sky and knows them each by name. He can count the grains of sand. He can calm the sea at any point in time.

Nothing is too hard for Him.

That being said, those moments that I want to say, ‘God- I can’t even’; He quietly yet confidently whispers, ‘I know. But I can’. He equips us for the things He places before us; and His determinations for all things in our lives, even the pain, are perfect.

Desperately attempting to scrub away the marks He intended to exist will get us nowhere.

If anything, it will add extra to the already.

Friends, there are pieces of each of our stories that don’t just feel too hard to bear- they are. As Corrie Ten Boom once said, we were not intended to be burden-bearers- that’s God’s job. We are called to cast all our cares on Him, knowing that He can handle it.

Are you trying to wash away something He has ordained?

Are you carrying around a load that needs to be laid at the foot of the cross?

Bailey Grace and Ally will wake up shortly, and the marks will still be there. Yet, as I look at them today, may it be a reminder of His love and not His absence. He is present with us in all things, and He desires for us to know- with that intimate knowledge I talked about yesterday- that every line He has drawn in our stories are for His glory and our good.

Yada- He knows.

Friends, my prayer for you- yes you!- today, is that you would look at the marks in your current season, not in attempts to wash them away, yet in full assurance that they are gifts from His hand. And, when they feel like burdens instead of joys, may you lay them at His feet and allow Him to hold them.

The One who has scars on His hands and feet can handle the scratches, bruises, and lines drawn in each of our journeys.

May we rest in that today, giving Him the glory in ALL things.

He is worthy.

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HECW2 MUTATION.

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For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord, thought and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome.”- Jeremiah 29:11, emphasis mine

This is a surreal post. It has been months since we have had word on anything diagnosis-related. We have known that the NIH continues to study our family’s DNA; yet I wondered-truly wondered- if we would ever get close to having answers concerning our girls’ disease on this side of heaven.

Ally and Bailey Grace are 27 months old. Their smiles light up any room, their giggles so very contagious. They babble “mamama” and “bababa”; yet the only communication we receive is from staring into their deep, larger than life hazel eyes. They have moved mountains with their spirits, yet their only movement is the kick of their little legs. They are not sitting unassisted; yet they rest contentedly in whatever the day holds.

Simply put, they are angels on this earth.

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Six months to a year go, my reasons for wanting a diagnosis were not the best. I just simply wanted to know. I felt entitled to it even. God has done a work in my heart that only He could do, and now, I can honestly say that if we end up without answers, I trust Him wholeheartedly.

We received a call last week from our team at the NIH. They re-ran our girls’ biggest genetic test, and found a mutation within their DNA that appears to be leading us to answers.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/gene/57520

This is a large protein that has great affects on the brain, muscles, and nerves.

The NIH cannot find any human cases for this particular gene.

If this is the mutation God chose to give our girls, knowing would be extremely helpful moving forward.

Not only that, we could also help the future Ally and Bailey Grace’s in terms of prognosis and other medical expectations.

This is where you come in.

I have prayed about whether or not I would broadcast this information; and in the midst of this, I realized something: I truly trust that whatever God chooses to do with all this is HIS choice. I am okay with nothing coming from it even; yet in this circumstance, for reasons I cannot explain, I do feel called to step out and seek out in obedience.

I would ask that you would SHARE this post with anyone and everyone. I want this to get out to as many people as possible. My hope will never be in potential diagnosis; my hope will always be in Him. The final outcome is in His hands.

The gene that they found a mutation in is the HECW2 gene. There is a link above for other names that it could potentially be known as. You sharing this could have a LARGE affect on cutting edge genetics. If there is someone else out there with our mutation, we would love to know. There is a chance that they will begin to study the gene more thoroughly and be able to dispute this as exact cause; yet there is large suspicion that this could be it.

My hope is in Jesus.

My prayer is that this post would reach the masses.

This momma just wants to love these differently-abled, fearfully and wonderfully made girls as fully and best as I know how.

PLEASE contact me (His Hands His Feet His Heart facebook page or comment on this post) if you have any further information.

As always, to God be the glory.

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