Only Human.

“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh.”- 2 Corinthians 10:3

“It’s only human to feel that way”.

Through the years, I have said this to many people. It always seemed like the best way to validate whatever they were talking about- an encouragement even. Even from the perspective of Christian to Christian, saying, “That’s normal” somehow made me think I was offering some kind of balm for a hurt, frustration, or shame for the person in front of me.

“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another…walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.”- Galatians 5:13,16-17

A couple months apart, I sat in the same position at Children’s, waiting to be told what the current EEG results would say for each of my children. The thing about epilepsy is that these results can change on any given day. If I didn’t believe that there was a God sovereign over each and every brain wave of each and every human, I would say that epilepsy is ruthless and unpredictable- changing its pattern whenever it feels like it.

But God.

Always but God.  

After sitting with Bailey Grace and hearing the news that at this time, her seizures were not only severe, but pretty constant, I had to wonder if we were going to be told the same thing about Ally. I prayed thy will, I said that I wanted what God wanted- yet, did I mean it?

“…this nation approaches me only with their words, and honors me only with their lip service.”- Isaiah 29:13

Lip service.

Is this what I was offering God?

Saying, “Thy will” while really thinking that a certain result was better than the next. It’s only human, right?

Of course it is. You know what else is human?

Lust. Selfishness. Materialism. Deception. Gossip.

As I sat there waiting to be told what felt like ‘good’ or ‘bad’ news, I realized that I was viewing the whole thing wrong. You see, when we place our determination on circumstance or season, our joy, hope, and peace lie in that particular thing staying the same. Yet, when we place our joy, hope and peace on God Himself- the Never-changing One- our roller coaster of emotions and thoughts becomes much more solid and steadfast.

Friends, we can think ,act, believe, feel, LIVE differently because of Christ. The same power that resurrected Jesus is the power that lives within each and every follower of Christ- and it is greater, bigger, more powerful than our flesh could ever attempt to be. Saying, ‘thy will’ but praising God more for what the world considers good might be human but it doesn’t come from a heart posture of belief in a God who is good in all things.

The truth, we can’t just say, ‘Thy will’ with our lips- we have to be transformed by its truth in the depths of who we truly are!

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(The Light has already overcome the darkness!)

When they came in to discuss Ally’s overnight results, they were in fact different than Bailey Grace’s. Human nature would’ve told me there was more to celebrate- that a bigger victory was gained. But God. I believe all the days of Bailey Grace and Ally’s lives were written before yet one of them came to be (Psalm 139:16). I believe His best is planned for each of them- for each of us. I also know that in any given moment, passing, fleeting, ever-changing seizure patterns can change. It might have been human to say, “Praise God!” a little bit louder; but praise God my Lord overcame my frail humanity at the cross.

Friends, I want to honor God with my heart. I want to trust that His Spirit is greater. I want to believe at the core of who I am that all His ways are good and perfect and true- and to do this, it’s going to take a lot more than just telling myself, “It’s only human”.

“This God- His way is perfect.”- 2 Samuel 22:31

At all times.

In all things.

No matter what.

“The Lord is faithful in all His words and kind in all His works. The Lord is righteous in all His ways and kind in all His works.”- Psalm 145:13, 17

Done in Love.

“Let all that you do be done in love.”- 1 Corinthians 16:14

I’m tired.

I’m emotionally and physically exhausted.

We are on Day 5 of being up day and night with coughing, wheezing, breathing treatments, seizures, vomiting, crying, suctioning, pulse ox checking, wondering if we should be at home or at the hospital.

I was hoping to wake up with a different scenario and felt the irritation set in when I realized we were still down for the count.

As I was cleaning the girls’ feeding pumps, I looked up and saw this sign:

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Let all that I do be done in love? Today, Lord? Really?

God, I can’t.

These were the thoughts that ran through my head. Watching our girls suffer during what would be a simple illness for most takes a toil on my heart. It brings out frustration in me that makes me want to hang my head in shame. The Enemy of my soul shrieks out despair-

“You call yourself a Christ-follower and you can’t even find it in yourself to be kind to other people when your kids are sick for a few days?”

“Why can’t you just get it together?”

“Are you ever going to be able to trust God with your fears?”

Over and over and over again, I hear these things- lack of sleep making it worse.

But God.

You see, this morning, when I whispered I can’t to God, He inaudibly responded back to me, “I know. But I can.”

Today, I want to speak two simple yet profound things to each of you for when you find yourself feeling as if you are unable to do all things in love:

  1. It is never you that is able to do anything in love.

What I mean by this is that only God can assist us in loving those around us in the midst of a broken and imperfect and disappointing world. We cannot muster it up within ourselves-ever- and when He says He’s strong in our weakness, He means it. If you are feeling like you can’t do all things in love- you might just be in a really good place. Only God’s Spirit within can cause us to choose love over hate, to respond in kindness versus irritation, to serve selflessly instead of throwing a pity party. Only He can make this happen- yet don’t miss this- He is fully able to do it!

2.  If you are relying on His Spirit to love through you and you still feel like you can’t do it- re-think your list.

I am learning that my expectations for what my “all things” are is a little (sometimes a lot) out of reach. God doesn’t say, “Do all the things”- He simply says, “Let all that you do be done in love”. So for me, today, that looks like making sure my girls get as much fluid as they can handle through their feeding tubes. It means I don’t worry about what we are going to eat for dinner and instead, feel at peace with throwing some food together from our half-full pantry. It means sitting Ally and Bailey Grace up when they cough and helping them clear secretions when they need it. It means feeding myself and enjoying this beautiful bowl of oatmeal while I share some encouragement with each of you.

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(Peanut butter oats and fruit? Yes, please.)

You see, if I ask the Spirit to lead me in all the above, I can take a deep breath and realize that through Him, I can do those in love. The house won’t get cleaned today. I might not get a shower. Dinner might not be the healthiest. We will probably spend a lot of time watching Disney movies and simply laying around- and that’s okay. I think God would much rather us make our lists shorter than attempt to do more in our own strength- only to find ourselves more and more frustrated.

Friends, my hope for YOU today is that you ask God to help you do all things in love- whether that list has ten things or two. And, if you find yourself anxious or irritated- give yourself the freedom to shrink that list.

He alone is able.

At all times.

In all things.

No matter what.

To Him be the glory.

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Background Noise.

“And the Light shines in the darkness.”- John 1:5

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It is 5 in the morning, and we have been up for hours. Both girls are sick and our house has gone into full infirmary mode. Currently, I’m watching Hugh love on and soothe and sit up Bailey Grace so that I can have some time in the Word and share some thoughts with each of you. I love that man so very much.

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From February til now, we have been walking through a new season with the girls’ seizures. I knew that at some point, the Lord would stir my heart to share with you what exactly has been going on- and it seems as if now is that time. About a month ago, as many of you know, we went in for an EEG to determine how to help Bailey Grace’s new seizure activity. Less than 24 hours after being there, we were sent home. After having her hooked up to the machine that measures her brain activity for less than a day, we received the news that no parent of a child with epilepsy wants to hear: Bailey Grace is now considered status, which means she is basically constantly seizing. This new label is considered subclinical, which means a lot of the activity is not visible but rather background noise. This is a significant increase from her previous EEG’s, for reasons that no one knows.

But God. Always but God.

In light of this, we have started Bailey Grace on another seizure medication. Although the background noise is not treatable, the clinical stuff is, and the hope is that we will be able to calm her brain down if even a bit in order to improve her quality of life as much as we are humanly able.

“As for God, His way is perfect.”- Psalm 18:30

Ally’s clinical seizure activity has been practically non-existent for about a year. A little over a week ago, this changed. We have now set up an EEG for her as well, and our neurology team anticipates that we will see similar results for our other precious girl. When the girls both got sick a couple days ago, their seizure activity picked up like never before. Yesterday, I watched both my daughters have more seizures than I could count. With as much as I was visibly seeing, there was no telling what was going on in the background.

“Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your minds.”- Romans 12:2a

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What is the background noise of your life?

I am not talking about the things that you cannot control- daily distractions, illness, other people’s behavior. I’m talking about the thoughts and attitudes you allow to creep into your mind, sinking into your heart. If you took a current tally on how often you ask the Spirit to control your thought life versus how often you simply let your flesh and mind wander to carnal things, where would you be? What would that look like?

Friends, I don’t know about you but so often, I get so bogged down with what’s in front of me that I forget to pause and be intentional in what I allow in and out of my mind and heart. God’s Word is clear that there is an Enemy of our souls and that our flesh is weak. If we don’t hide His Word in our hearts and make a conscious effort to seek His leading in our thoughts, the likelihood that we will fall into crowding our beings with things of this world is not just high- it’s inevitable.

The truth is, I can’t control the background noise that exists in my daughters’ brains-I can’t control what a seemingly simple illness does to their bodies- but I can control what I allow to be the background noise of my life. Today, would we choose praise as our default. Might we be a people who refuse to have an open door policy to worry, anxiety, fear, negativity, and cynicism. I cannot control circumstances- yet I know the One who is above all things and this changes everything. All glory and honor to the One who has the power to transform our minds and hearts- so much so that rejoicing in Who He is becomes the forefront of who we are. He is worthy.

In all things.

At all times.

No matter what.

 

A Letter To Satan Concerning My Daughter’s Seizures.

To the Enemy of our Souls:

I heard your familiar voice whisper in the back of my mind and heart yesterday.

We were on the way to the Emergency Room for the second time in the past month with my precious, almost 4 year old daughter. She had already had six seizures that morning. It was 8 AM.

“Did God really say He was for you? For Bailey Grace? For your family?”

I spent a few moments contemplating this thought. Between some adoption plans that didn’t go through, questioning what God really is doing with the process of adding to our family, evolving lung developments with one of the twins, and now, a month of more seizures for the other than I know how to count- things weren’t looking so hot. Here I was, in the midst of taking our girls to school, taking a detour to a hospital where there will be more questions than answers.

I kept driving.

Whispers again.

“You know, it kind of seems like the opposite if you think about it. Haven’t you guys been through enough?”

Within a few seconds, I caught you- yes, you, Satan- in your tracks.

You see, you may be crafty but you aren’t exactly creative.

We’ve been through this before. We’ve been through the whole, “Is God actually good? Is He actually for you?” thing- more times than I can count. In fact, I can remember being 18 years old, naked- both figuratively and literally- taken advantaged of in the most vulnerable way possible- trying to pick up the pieces of what I thought my identity was based on and hearing those same thoughts running through my head.

“Can God actually be good in this?”

Let’s get something straight, Satan.

God was good when I was eighteen, hurting physically and emotionally.

He used that night to bring me to a level of intimacy with Him like I had never experienced before- my worth based no longer on my record or my slate but His.

God was good when He knit my daughters together in my womb- forming a mutation early on that would affect the rest of their and our lives in ways we could have never fathomed.

God has always, is always, will always, be good.

In fact, it says it right here in His Word- As for God, His way is perfect (Psalm 18:30).

What’s the deal, Enemy? Shrinking back at the Word of God, I see?

Let’s go over something else.

I may be weak- but my God is strongest in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9)

In this world- God promised us- we will have trouble- but He has overcome the world (John 16:33).

There are a lot of dark, hard, broken things that are going on around us- but the Light has already overcome the darkness (John 1:5).

You, Enemy, came to steal, kill, and destroy- but He came that we would have LIFE to the FULL (John 10:10).

Satan, what you intend for evil, God always intends for good. And, just like with Job (remember that whole scenario?) He is in complete control of what He allows or doesn’t allow you to do on this side of heaven. He’s got the complete authority over you (oh, how you know this).

And guess what?

Our family isn’t buying it. We aren’t buying this lie and we aren’t going to buy the next.

His plans are still to prosper and you can be sure of this- He’s going to the glory. Every day that passes is one day closer to when my daughters will experience complete freedom from pain and suffering- no more seizures, no more illness, no more pain.

This is what we live for:

Our God is faithful.

He has always been and He will always be.

You are not in control- oh, how you would love for us to believe that you are. Yet- this is God’s plans- perfect, mind you- unfolding before our very eyes- even when it doesn’t appear that way.

Satan, you already lost this game and these seizures are just another battle in the middle.

Try all you might, we’re believing God.

Good luck with attempting to thwart the plans of the God over all the universe.

Very Sincerely,

A Mom Whose Had Enough of Your Lies

Promises.

The words and promises of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in an earthen furnace, purified seven times over.- Psalm 12:6

Within twenty four hours, pieces of our worldly life have begun to feel like they are tearing.

We have been walking through a situation within the adoption world (more on this later) in which we have been cautiously yet hopefully waiting. Currently, it seems as if God is going to continue to say, “Not yet”. This has been going on for months, and, as His plans unveil, our hearts are hurting as it seems what we thought would occur just may not.

This began to come to light within the same day that we became aware two members of our village- two close ones at that- tested positive for the flu.

You know how you read about what can happen when infants, the elderly, and the medically fragile get the flu?

Yeah. That would be us.

Yesterday, I began what I call, “combination trusting”.

Combination meaning I was reading and preaching the truth of God’s Word to myself while simultaneously thinking thoughts that began with, ‘What-if’ and, ‘I wonder when’. (And googling random facts about the flu off and on).

I didn’t understand why I wasn’t experiencing the peace of God in the midst.

“I sought the Lord and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears.”- Psalm 34:4

This doesn’t say, “I sought the Lord and the internet”.

It doesn’t even boast, “I sought the Lord and also over-analyzed with my friends”.

It simply says, “I sought the Lord.”

Period.

Friends, we live in a society where promises are all essentially half-hearted.

Take this product and your entire life will change.

Go on this vacation and you will be happy again.

Get in a relationship and your problems will all go away.

Switch jobs and you will be content again.

Buy x,y, or z and life will be good.

Even the most sacred of covenants on earth- the covenant of marriage- is even up in the air. For 50% (or more depending on your family dynamic) of society, the promise dissipates. For the rest of us, we pledge, ‘for better or worse’ but often only live up to what we said we would when we are getting our way. The thing is, I think that deep down, we know that none of these things are fully true. Yet, something inside of us just keeps on searching and looking and trying.

“The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.”- Psalm 19:7

Sure.

Perfect.

Constant.

Never-changing.

These are some words used to describe our Lord and His promises- promises so OTHER than the world around us. After all, HE IS SO OTHER.

This morning, as I woke up and my mind already began racing about what exactly is going to go down in our home in the coming months, days, weeks, moments; God in His still small voice whispered to my heart, “Only Me, child; only Me.”

Beloved- we cannot expect to experience the peace of God if we are giving lip-service to His Words yet not clinging to them in our hearts.

“…My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, nor let them be afraid.”- John 14:27

Not as the world gives.

Not throwing out promises like confetti waiting to see if and when they will fall.

Not fake or unauthentic or surfacy.

Like Psalm 12 says, His promises are PURE- free from defect, faultless.

And friend- He wants us to literally allow these truths to transform us from the inside out. There is absolutely no life-change that will come from speaking something out loud in the morning and then living in anxiety throughout the day. We can’t expect to experience the beauty of the Gospel if the promises in His Word don’t literally seep in and out of us like a sponge. God wants us to fully know His promises in whatever we are walking through. No matter what people have done to you in spite of what they have said, no matter how empty the world’s words may be- His are faithful. And- please hear me on this one- this stands true to the hard ones as well. The ones that say in this world we will have trouble. The ones that point out that not all healing will occur on earth. The ones that say that His will is going to be done. The ones that remind us His ways are not ours and this world is not our home. The ones that tell us we are called to share in the sufferings of Jesus. These are true, too. Yet- don’t miss this- in it all, He makes one big, gigantic, magnificient promise: He will be with us-fully, wholly, completely, literally. He is not nor will not make you go through anything alone. When others’ ask, “Why did God allow me/my loved one to go through this?” the point is missed altogether. His response will always be, “Because this/that is where I am. This/that is where you will see me most clearly. This/that is where you will find me to be enough”.

I don’t know what you are going through today. Some of your hards are bigger than anything our house has ever faced; some of them might be small in comparison. Yet, thanks be to God He doesn’t ask us to compare He simply asks us to trust whatever details He is writing in the story. And- we can’t trust if we are solely giving lip-service to the Gospel but carrying on as if the promises aren’t real. We don’t have to know the future because we know the One who does.

Today, I invite you to cling- wholly, fully, completely- to the promises He gives. Open His Word and learn about the God that doesn’t promise no storms yet does promise His presence. The peace will come as we lean hard and fast onto the Rock that doesn’t move.

He is faithful.

At all times.

In all things.

No matter what.

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A Ruined Christmas.

“That they may know that I am the Lord.”

The phrase is said over and over and over again in the Old Testament- often in the middle of times in which people are being afflicted, broken and bruised.

“A bruised reed He will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench.”- Isaiah 42:3

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I have lit the same candle every morning this week, and let it burn until we turn the lights out and attempt to head to bed. Attempt to head because coughing and crying and breathing treatments and vomit and seizures and general discomfort have basically taken over our home.

I keep waiting for the candle to be quenched; the wick to stop lighting.

“Even the darkness will not be dark to You.”- Psalm 139:12

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I would say our family has at least a 70:30 record for game plans and itineraries. Every now and then, we make plans to go somewhere or do something and the thing actually happens. More often than not, we are either calling someone to say, “I’m sorry, but ____”

(You can fill in the blank with someone is sick, something new has come up, we are at Children’s).

I wanted this Christmas to be different- and maybe it will. But here we sit, the 21 of December, no sleep and weary selves, just waiting to see if we are going to have to make that call.

“The thrill of Hope, the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn… fall on your knees.”

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Christmas can’t be ruined.

The very nature of Christmas- the coming of Christ to this broken and sick world- says it all. When Mary received news from the angel, Gabriel, that she- a virgin- was going to carry the Savior of the world- the words she spoke but initially and thereafter should speak volumes to us:

“How will this happen since ____”- Luke 1:34

Can anyone else relate?

Does anyone else have a situation, a health issue, a disease, a financial problem, a family member, a detail in which God is saying He is going to work and you are simply saying, “How?” based on your own finite, limited lenses?

You can’t ruin Christmas- unless what you are calling Christmas isn’t Christmas at all.

Friends, God’s promise is always found in Himself.

It’s not found in the traditions we formulate, the decorations we display, the presents we give or receive- the expectations we set up.

He is the Promise.

I read a post from a woman of God this morning who said it this way:

“Expectation can’t be based on anything that we may want, but rather what God wants for us. Exchanging my will for His and then expecting Him to accomplish and fulfill His plan” (Rhonda Weeks)

This changes everything.

When the angel reminded Mary that the, “How” wasn’t based on her own performance or humanity or vision but on God’s- game-changer.

Suddenly, Mary was able to say- with extreme confidence-

“You will fulfill Your promise to me…my soul magnifies the Lord” (Luke 1:45, 46)-

not based on her own understanding but based on Him.

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I don’t know what the rest of today, tomorrow, this week holds.

I don’t know if we will be spending time with family in Birmingham then traveling north to have a Tennessee Christmas… or camping out here or right smack in the middle of Children’s hospital…and I don’t have to know. What I do know is this:

I can’t ruin Christmas. You can’t ruin Christmas. No matter what- thanks be to God- Christ has come.

The healthy don’t need a doctor, the sick do. (Mark 2:17)

Jesus- God with us.

My soul magnifies the Lord.

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Be Still and Know.

Be still and know that I am God.

Psalm 46:10

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I spent the first three years of my daughters’ lives in a constant state of adrenaline.

We went from therapy to doctor’s appointments to working on milestones at home to attempting to give nutrition to feeding to hospital visits to surgery to more feeding to seizures to hospital stays to colds to IVs to breathing treatments to more medication to some sleep to no sleep to less medication to more conversation over and over and over again, like a hamster wheel.

Hugh was in the middle of a stringent residency schedule; and some of the above I was doing in single parent mode- just getting by. We stayed in survival mode for weeks and weeks at a time.

The past few months are the first time I think I have caught my breath since Ally and Bailey Grace were born. Not much with the girls has changed necessarily; we have simply chosen to tweak how we spend our moments with them.

Quality of life, if you will.

When someone- many someone’s, actually- who know more about the body and brain than you do, tell you that death could come at any moment for any reason not yet able to be explained, you don’t exactly forget. Every seizure, every illness is a reminder that no one really knows what in the world is going on. Because they are both so joyful and so brave, sometimes, for a split moment, I can forget how truly fragile their little lives are. It doesn’t take more than a simple cold, a choking episode, or a seizure to give me a stark reminder that things aren’t only abnormal over here- they are abnormal times two. During cold and flu season in particular, I am having to fight the thoughts that creep into my brain that take me there- there to the hospital stay where things suddenly take a turn for the worst- there for the seizure that just won’t seem to stop. Will it be one of them? Will it be both? Is there some part of The Plan that includes us preparing for a double funeral? How long do we really have? And- if this day doesn’t come in the next few years- how will my not getting any younger body ever begin to pick up not one but two not getting any lighter girls who require me for absolutely everything?

Be still.

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I feel tempted to apologize for the heaviness above, yet I wont; for it is the reality of our story and I would never expect you to apologize for yours either. It is the background music of our lives and in the midst of all the smiles and laughs and privilege of being Bailey Grace and Ally’s parents it will always be there on this side of heaven. While we have a Hope as an Anchor for our souls- we are well aware that this is not how things were meant to be or how they will eventually turn out.

In a way, aren’t we all in this place?

Don’t we all have a sneaking suspicion that we were made for something- for Someone- more?

Be still.

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As I was pushing the girls up a hill on a morning walk, I simply asked, How?

How do we learn to be still?

How, in the midst of brokenness and questions and earthly reality do we quiet our souls and simply live in the moment?

And then, it hit me.

Friends, the chaos and distractions and busyness of our lives may never slow down. The to-do lists and schedules and unpredictable interruptions might never cease. Yet, if we stay within the boundaries of this present moment, maybe-just maybe- we might begin to know the Greater Reality of God and His love for each of us. Maybe it’s not a kind of be still that takes away all of the noise around us.

Maybe it’s a stillness of the soul that only requires we remember that this moment- yes, this one- is exactly where we are meant to be.

Our God is a very-present help in trouble.

Our God is the Messiah- the nature of His name means that He is with us- right here, right now.

We are finite beings that, no matter what our minds attempt to do, are only able to live in the present. We can only truly live in the now.

We are broken- yet, we can and will be restored when Christ comes back and finally our true citizenship becomes the realest of real.

So today- in the now- can we be still and recognize that He is God and we are not?

Can we trust that, as the Psalmist says, He has us hemmed in behind and before- and beyond that, His Sovereign hand gripped tightly on us?

Because maybe it’s when we are still that we are able to see the beauty of the thread He is sewing and the stroke He is painting right here, right now- not yet the quilt- not entirely the whole canvas- yet enough for the very breath within our lungs.

This Christmas season, may we remember its not just the day of His birth we desire but each and every moment of His eternal presence. Let us enjoy all the seconds of all the days leading up to THE day when we meet Him face-to-face.

Be still and KNOW.

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On Jesus and Politics.

“For while we were still weak, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person- though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die- but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”- Romans 5:6-8

When I was a kid, if I had a loose tooth, I would obsessively push on it. After pushing to a certain angle long enough, it would hurt, but the pain was oddly satisfying in some ways. I just couldn’t stop pulling on it.

I feel the same way about conversations, both face-to-face on through social media, concerning this election.

It is grieving me deeply yet I can’t stop looking at it.

I grew up in a very Republican home in the middle of a dominantly Republican small town in the South. I participated (sometimes to my own dismay) in Cotillion, spent some time at private school, and went on to join a sorority in college.

The token Conservative, right?

In the middle of college, God broke through to my heart in a big way, and I decided to make a career change. I knew I wanted to get in a helping profession, yet I couldn’t quite figure out where. In my mind at the time, Christian counseling would involve a middle-aged couple in a mini-van, wearing turtlenecks and talking about their minor disputes or rebel teen (stereotype much?) While I now know this to be ridiculous, through much prayer I found Social Work and- while most people strongly encouraged me that it was “not the profession for someone like me”- it felt like it lined up with my Christian views more than any other career path. The vision seemed to focus on helping those who were hurting, minimized, or broken. I went on to get both my bachelor’s degree and master’s in Social Work. In both groups, in ways, I was somewhat of the token Christian. Much to my confusion, this “helping profession” did not include many believers at all. In fact, many of the people who had been in the field for years were some of the most bitter, angry, cynical people I had ever come across.

I had not given these two seasons of my life much thought in many years- until this week.

I think we can all agree that this election has brought out the worst in basically all of us. As I have scrolled through my newsfeed on Facebook, I have literally been brought to tears by the anger, arrogance, fear, miscommunication that I have seen from pretty much everyone. Social media has become both a world wide web therapy room and a boxing ring.

“Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily. It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking, it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it (it pays no attention to a suffered wrong). It does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail. Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless, under all circumstances, and it endures everything (without weakening). – pieces of 1 Corinthians 13

This is not another, “this is where one side is getting it wrong”. It’s not a, “Christians get it together” or, “I’m sorry for where Christians are getting it wrong” post. This is just me, a Southern, upper class, small town white sorority girl turned hipster somewhat liberal Social Worker for a season now simply a Christ-follower- saying that while we are all getting it wrong Jesus has always gotten it right and this is what perfect Love truly is. This is why I’m a Christian. I am a Christian because of the reality that our sin is real and that in the midst of all of our junk He chose us. I am a Christian because I can never get it right but He already did at the cross. I am a Christian because- at the very moment when things seemed most hopeless and despairing- Christ died and was raised at the cross. I can’t filter my faith through the lenses of politics- it’s a faulty, fading system. I refuse to tell you that Jesus would have sided with any political party- His kingdom is so Other. I also can’t promise you that everything He says will make you feel comfortable or good in your lifestyle choices or spending habits or personal opinions- that’s not true Love. Yet, I am comforted that in spite of all the confusion and chaos and getting it wrong down here- He has promised to make all things right.

My citizenship is in heaven and this is the Kingdom I’m living for- so, in the days to come, I pray to not find myself attempting to do anything but know Him more. I want to dwell in His Word- spend time with Him and begin to understand this radical Love that was passionate about the souls of imperfect man.

In light of that, weeks like this just confirm all the more my love for the Savior of all the world. So today, I will confess the hardened, bitter parts of my heart to Him and I will try to fix my eyes on His perfection and His glory and His promise that He is making all things right.

He is faithful.

In all things.

At all times.

No matter what.

To Him be the glory forever and ever.

Jesus > Positive Pollyanna.

“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters (waters of rest). He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness (in right paths) for His name’s sake.”- Psalm 23:1-3

At one of my previous jobs, my boss (who might be reading this and who I will always love dearly!) called me Positive Pollyanna.

This was not a new name for me. Growing up and through the years, I had always held a sort of “cheery” attitude. The truth is, while life of course was never perfect, everything had pretty much gone my way up until my twenties (for the most part). This changed overnight pretty dramatically (another story for another day). Something that happened to me caused me to enter into a season of questions. My innocence was taken from me in more ways than one and suddenly, I wasn’t so positive anymore. After some time, solid counsel, and wrestling with God, I found myself feeling more like myself again- my happy, carefree self.

And then, our girls were born.

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“My Hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly trust in Jesus’ name. On Christ the solid Rock I stand all other ground is sinking sand- all other ground is sinking sand.”- Edward Mote

Cheesy.

Fake.

Happy.

Spastic.

Naïve.

When asking non-Christians to describe Christians, these are some of the words I have heard. In the Church culture, it seems that we do a great job of saying, “We are all sinners and you can bring everything to God and to us and we will support you”- yet a poor job of modeling what that really looks like. We tend to put our positive pants on in front of others- almost if to say, “Hey, look how happy you will be if you follow Jesus!”

The world isn’t buying it- and, an even bigger issue- that simply isn’t the Gospel.

The Gospel says, “Come to me, ye who are weary and burdened- and I will give you rest” (Matthew 7:7).

Jesus says that in this world we will have trouble- yet, He has overcome the world (John 16:33).

You see, the Gospel as it really is preaches the reality that the brokenness of this world is very real- that trials and suffering and hard things are absolutely going to come- but that because of Christ, we can live for something (for Someone!) greater and bigger and eternally more than this world.

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”- Romans 8:18

Our girls have been up a lot of the night with what seems to be croup. I do not know how Ally and Bailey Grace will handle croup (currently it doesn’t seem to be well). Today is a day I have been looking forward to all week- the Fall celebration party. Hugh and I have worked hard at their costumes and I couldn’t wait to show them off.

We will be spending our day with physicians instead of friends today.

Yet- I am far from devastated. I am actually quite peaceful.

Why?

Because Jesus tells me that when my hope is placed on Him- when I am not looking to the circumstances or situations of this world to satisfy me- my Foundation is sure and my joy can be steadfast.

Not in a Positive Pollyanna way.

Not in a way that says, “Oh goody, suffering and trials and illness yet again!”

But- and hear this, dear one- also not in a way that says, “I know my God loves me enough to lift me out of this trial now. If I have the faith to believe- I know He will make them well and we will say He is good and continue on with our comfortable little life.”

No.

If my Hope is truly based on Jesus’ blood and righteousness- if I am called to look not to things that are seen but to the things that are unseen- then it is imperative for me to grasp the reality that heaven is not here, it is there.

My joy depends on it, actually.

Psalm 23 is a well-known Psalm. It comforts us in saying that God leads us beside waters of rest and in the right paths. Yet- don’t miss this- the verses beyond that go on to say that often, these right paths and waters of rest involve valleys of deep darkness and tables prepared smack next to our enemies.

The beauty and miracle of the Gospel is not that God makes our lives easy.

It’s not that everything goes our way or that the comforts of this life abound.

The miracle of the Gospel is that in the midst of hard things, in the midst of the trial not being lifted and things not going our way and suffering being present- God is still on the throne as an Anchor for our souls, He is still getting the glory, He is still bringing good, and our peace and joy and hope can be absolutely unshaken.

Friends, I have so much more to say (and a ridiculous cool story that involves God’s provision in the form of a van)- yet, for now, can we simply pray to be a people who look upward for our satisfaction. May we long to not be positive thinkers but Jesus trusters who find our freedom in knowing that whatever our lot, it is well with our souls.

He can be trusted.

At all times.

In all things.

To Him be the glory forever and ever Amen.

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“I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have perfect peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer (take courage, be confident, certain, undaunted!) for I have overcome the world (I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.”- John 16:33

Learning to Love.

“Let your love be sincere (a real thing)…Love one another with brotherly affection (as members of one family), giving precedence and showing honor to one another.” Romans 12:9-10 (parts not included)

I have mentioned before that I struggle a lot with this whole love thing. I know, I know. It’s the biggest and greatest commandment God gives in the Bible.  It’s also the very fruit He says that we can determine whether or not we know Him, since God is love and therefore love comes from Him.

Within myself, I’m just not very good at it.

Thankfully, I’m learning that is actually the point.

When we attempt to muster up fruit on our own, we will always be found lacking. It is only by God’s grace- specifically through His Spirit, that we are able to love at all. Now, I’m not talking about love the way the world would define it. The world defines love as give and take. It would tell you that love is a feeling.

This is not the love I speak of.

The kind of love that is the very nature of God is a love that knows no bounds. It is patient, it is kind, it  keeps no record of wrongs,  it is not self-seeking- and it puts genuine concern for the person in front of me, no matter who they are, over myself.

“No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us.”- 1 John 4:12

As I have been working on another book, so much of my writing energy has gone toward those efforts. I have not intentionally been silent over here; I just know that in the wee morning hours (my early dawn time with the Lord), He has called me to focus on that above all other writing. God is absolutely rocking my world as He is teaching me a lot about the Holy Spirit and how little I understand about so many things. He is uprooting so many preconceived, cultural-induced concepts of prayer I have had- and I cannot wait to share them with you all. It has been a season of growth and learning for sure.

So, back to this whole love thing.

Our girls are such a gift. If you have ever been around them, you know that this is not just a shallow cliché. There really is something about them that just exudes joy. God is teaching me so many things through their lives- chapters and chapters of lessons- but lately, He is bringing my awareness to how caring for and parenting our girls isn’t just about our family or Ally and Bailey Grace. When God entrusted our girls to us, He was giving us some clear wisdom on how to love the people in front of and around us. As I said before, I desperately need this. Today, I wanted to just touch on a few things I feel God wants us to take away from the girls’ lives.

1. See the best in people.

We always talk about how happy the girls are, how easy they are to love- but the truth is, if I’m honest, it doesn’t always feel this way. Lack of being able to communicate can leave them frustrated at times; lack of full rest (we have been told they never enter in REM sleep-like, ever) can leave them grumpy at points. Yet, somehow, it is much easier to fixate on the joy they bring rather than the challenges that can present themselves. We could all use this mentality more.

2. Be patient with others.

We have been working on the same skills for three years. Truly. Day in and day out, we have been attempting to help the girls do seemingly simple things like sitting, babbling, clapping, waving. Sure, we have reached a level of acceptance that causes us to not fixate on performance (a whole new topic); yet, you have to spend your moments doing something. (Besides the daily and often cuddling and tickling and giggling and kicking). At one point, Ally began clapping. For whatever reason, she has lost this skill. Yet, we continue to encourage her that, “She can do it”. Think about this level of patience for your fellow human beings. Do we spend minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, YEARS patiently loving people through growth? I know that often, my patience for people to “get it together” is lacking. We must be patient with the process and trust what God is doing in the lives of those around us.

3. Accept as is- mess and all.

This sort of goes along with the patient thing. Vomit and seizures are a daily part of our life. Cleaning up throw-up and watching my child’s brain misfire has become a normal thing in our house. Do I enjoy it ? Of course not. Is it any less painful each and every time? No. Yet, it is a part of the privilege of loving our girls and so I have determined it is worth it. Each of us has our own junk. There are going to be qualities or traits or habits or just specific health issues that aren’t pleasant in each and every person we come in contact with. We could focus on the mess or we could see the soul behind it all.

4. It is okay to not smile when you are in pain.

Bailey Grace and Ally smile a lot. Like, a whole lot. Yet, when they are hurting- they are not afraid to express their pain. When the girls get “just a cold” (again, another topic), they spend hours screaming and crying and looking miserable. I do not expect them to do anything else. In the church in particular, I think we do a horrible job of equating joy with happiness. We seem to think it’s the holier option to put on a happy face. Yet, Christ wept. He mourned. And, time and time again in the Word of God, there are examples of people who not only felt pain but expressed it (think David, Job, and so many others). We have got to stop being uncomfortable with others’ pain and simply allow them to express it. You don’t have to put on a happy face! The Body of Christ is a community in which we should have the freedom to experience all the emotions this human life brings- yet, rejoice in the fact that our faith and our hope is infinitely greater than our feelings.

5. Put others WANTS before your own.

Aly and Bailey Grace love making high pitched sounds. They enjoy kicking their legs and listening to music and laughing about the same things over and over and over. I want them to like the movie theater, or birthday parties, or restaurants more- but in reality, they appreciate and like the simple things much more. Because we love them, we choose to spend a lot of time doing these things instead of doing what “typical” families are doing. Why don’t I have this same attitude with those around me? This one has been a doozy for me. My expectations and my sense of entitlement is high. I wouldn’t word it this way, but on a pretty much daily basis, I fight the desire to think the world should revolve around me. God teaches us to humble ourselves and, “Do nothing from selfish ambition…but instead, consider others more significant than yourself” (Philippians 2:3). This is HARD and can only be done by the Spirit of God within.

Time is lacking, yet I hope these have been some great tidbits to chew on today as you attempt to love (other) fellow (imperfect) human beings around you. May we see the best in one another; may we be patient with each other, accept one another as is, put others’ wants before our own, and never expect our loved ones (or ourselves) to smile in the hard. By the grace of God, may we learn to love with the fruit only God Himself provides.

He is faithful.

In all things.

At all times.

No matter what.

To Him be the glory.

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