When the Right Thing Feels Like it Was the Wrong Thing

This last spring, I shared a post about Ben’s new job. We were excited and full of anticipation. We’d spent A LOT of time praying about our next step, and in many ways, it seemed clear that God was leading Ben to enter a partnership with a local company.

For six months, everything went really well. Ben loved the work, and it felt like a fantastic fit for him, as well as for our family. Every new opportunity was exciting, and we were full of hope for everything the future held.

But after six months, it became clear that things were moving in a different direction than expected. It was a confusing time – we’d felt peace about our decision in spring, and it had really felt right at the time. But now suddenly, everything changed. Had we made the wrong choice?

What do we do when we try to make the best choice we can, step out in faith, and then everything turns out completely differently than we thought it would? Does that mean it was a mistake?

The more we process the whole experience, the more I see how the outcome matters so much less than the fact that we were acting in faith and obedience to what we felt called to do at the time. God has taught me a lot about trust and faith in the last few months, and I’m slowly learning to have peace in the midst of great uncertainty.

And so we try again. This was all just one step, and there are many more steps to come. It wasn’t the wrong step – it just wasn’t the last one.

What’s next?

Through it all, Ben has finally gotten the courage to go after his true dream, and I’ve finally gotten the courage to support him in it. He’s always been better with taking risks than I am, but both of us are now ready to see what God is going to do. If the last six months had never happened, I don’t know if we’d have the courage to pursue this new dream. Maybe we needed to go through that season to prepare us for what’s next.Over the next couple of weeks, Ben will be getting ready to launch his new venture, and we’re very excited. I’ll share more details soon – including a fun giveaway for my blog readers to be part of, because so many of you have followed along on our journey for years, and have been lovely and supportive. (Thank you!!!)

But in the meantime, I just want to say that God is good, and He is faithful. He guides our steps, and holds our hands. What I want more than anything is to trust Him with my life, no matter what happens. Even when things turn out completely different than we thought they would, we can still trust Him.

He is not looking down from heaven, saying, “Shoot, I never saw that one coming!! How in the world am I going to provide for Ben and Kendra now???!!!”

He’s got it covered, and His ways are so much better than my own. He can redeem anything, and so we keep looking to Him for our next steps.

Trusting God’s Process

Faith quoteOur pastor shared that thought on Sunday, and it hit me so hard, I didn’t hear anything else he said for the next few minutes. I was a few years away in my memories….

During the time when we were waiting for Kaylia to be born, we were often asked why we didn’t choose to adopt a baby. I thought about it a lot, but there was this one little thing holding me back – I felt like God had told me He was going to give us a baby girl.

I had just had a miscarriage, and as I lay there sobbing after it was all over, I felt like He said to me, “That was your baby boy, but I’m going to give you a girl.” In the moment, it felt incredibly real, but the next morning, I thought I was crazy for thinking God would speak like that to me.

And then four and a half years went by. It was really easy to doubt and lose hope during those years.

Sometimes, it seemed as though it would be so much easier to go get ourselves a baby some other way. We could adopt, or we could try all kinds of intense fertility treatments. But I never had any peace about doing anything – I felt like God was holding me back. Through it all, Ben was just super patient and understanding, willing to do whatever would be best for me in our difficult situation.

But one weekend, everything reached a climax for me. I felt as though I could not handle the waiting and the grief for one moment longer. I was so tired of it all, I just wanted to do SOMETHING. Anything.

We were living at Red Rock Bible Camp at the time, and it was Family Camp weekend, so Ben was really busy for a few days After I would put Anika to bed, I had many hours to think and pray, seeking direction from God. Did He want us to keep waiting, or could we take action?

Although I prayed a lot that weekend, I didn’t feel as though God was speaking to me, and I started to get even more discouraged. I remember going to chapel near the end of the weekend, and the speaker was talking about Abraham. I can’t remember exactly what he shared about Abraham that morning, but as I had my Bible open to the passage he was speaking on, I happened to keep reading further:

The child grew and was weaned, and on the day Isaac was weaned Abraham held a great feast. But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking, and she said to Abraham, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.”

The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son. But God said to him, “Do not be so distressed about the boy and your slave woman. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. I will make the son of the slave into a nation also, because he is your offspring.”

Early the next morning Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He set them on her shoulders and then sent her off with the boy. She went on her way and wandered in the Desert of Beersheba. (Genesis 21:8-14)

Do you ever moments when you read something from the Bible, and it hits you so hard, it feels like it was put there just for you, for that exact moment? I read those verses about the mess they had made – Sarah wouldn’t wait for the baby God had promised, so she took things into her own hands and made Abraham sleep with the maid. But when she got the baby she’d been scheming about, everything went wrong. When God finally gave them the baby He’d actually promised, she despised the other boy, and wanted him gone.

I read about them wandering around in the desert, begging God to save them, and all I could see was one big mess, because Sarah refused to wait.

And then I felt like God said to me, “I want you to wait.”

Adoption can be a really great option, and infertility treatments have done miraculous things for some people, but for me, in our situation, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that God was saying we were supposed to do nothing. I needed to stop the scheming and the desperate planning, and just trust…and wait.

It was hard to hear that, but at the same time, it also gave peace. I knew what I needed to do, even if it was hard. We waited another whole year after that before we finally found out that Kaylia was on the way.

Waiting is HARD. But it can also be beautiful, when we do it in the right way. I wish I could have done it better. I wish I could have trusted God’s process, and been more patient and at peace until the time came for Him to fulfill His promise.

I don’t think about that time very often anymore. While we were in it, it felt like it would never end. But now, we’re so happy and busy and life is so full, it’s easy to forget how long and hard we waited for the joy we have now.

But when hard stuff comes, and I find myself growing frustrated and impatient, I remember those dark years, and the peace I missed because I didn’t trust enough. God still blessed me with the answer to my prayers, but I hurt myself during that time. I suffered spiritually, emotionally, and even physically because I wouldn’t rest in His promises. I didn’t know how to trust His process. It took awhile, even after Kaylia was born, before I felt like I had healed from that difficult time. I wish I would have done things differently.

But I don’t want to waste time now regretting what happened in the past. I want to learn from it, and move on, trusting that God provides, even while I’m waiting for Him to provide! He gives me everything I need in the process and the promise.

 

Trusting God to Make a Way, When There Seems to Be No Way

I’ve always liked the Bible story about how God leads Samuel to Jesse’s house to find the next king for Israel. My favorite verse has been the one about how man looks at the outside appearance, but God looks at the heart.

As I was reading Everett’s “Jesus Storybook Bible” to him the other night, however, a completely different part of the story caught my attention. Isn’t it awesome when that happens?! Because it’s the living Word of God, there’s always something new, something to penetrate into our hearts. His Word is so powerful, even the children’s version can capture my attention in a whole new way!

Bible Story

This is the passage that got me:

Jesse showed Samuel his next oldest, tallest, strongest son. But God didn’t choose him either. In fact, God didn’t choose any of the seven sons.

Samuel said, “Is that all?”

Jesse laughed. “Oh, well, there’s the youngest one, but he’s just the weakling of the family, he’s only teeny — ”

“Bring him,” said Samuel.

Jesse’s youngest son came running up, and God spoke quietly to Samuel, “This is the one!”

My favorite part is when Samuel says, “Is that all?” What struck me about it was that God had led Samuel there, but then it looked as though there was some mistake. Samuel passed by all seven of the sons Jesse presented before him, and not one of them was the one God had chosen as king.

Samuel could have started questioning and doubting – was he at the right place? Had he heard God correctly? Was one of the seven sons really supposed to be the next king, but he had missed God’s voice, or misunderstood?

But he didn’t do that – instead, he asked Jesse if there were any more sons. He had faith that God had led him there, and one of Jesse’s sons was supposed to be king, so there must be another son somewhere.

I’ve thought about that a lot since reading it. Listening to God’s voice is such a tricky thing. There have been times when I felt as though He spoke to me, but it didn’t make sense, or it seemed impossible. I started to question what I heard, and tried to figure out, in my own small, very human way, how God was going to make the impossible work, and when I couldn’t see a solution, it was easy to feel doubt.

But the more God speaks, and the more He provides, the more my faith grows, so that even when things seem impossible, or don’t make sense, I’m starting to trust there will be a way. There’s another option not yet before me.

I want to be like Samuel, and have the assurance that something has yet to be revealed, rather than start to doubt, and think there’s been a mistake.

It reminds me of a great quote I once heard Andy Stanley share from his dad:

If I know God said it, I need to live like I believe it, and keep trusting that He’ll make a way. The hole will appear, another son will come forward, because somehow, the answer will become clear. God always provides.

It can be very unexpected, and look a lot different than what I might imagine, but He will be there, showing me a way through.

All Things Working Together For Good

I had a conversation with a friend a few years ago about worry, fear, and trusting God. She said something that’s stuck with me ever since:

“If we truly believe that ‘all things work together for the good of those who love Him’, then we have no need to fear.”

As I’ve thought back to this over and over, it became clear to me that I didn’t believe it with my whole heart. I wanted to believe it, and I knew I should believe it…but I couldn’t. I’ve prayed about it a lot since then – I love the story about the man in the New Testament who said, “Lord, help my unbelief!” I asked Jesus to make me believe it, right to the very core of my being.

A few weeks ago, while our family was getting sick with influenza on vacation, I started seeing strange flashes in my eye. The first day I noticed them, it happened about six times, always in the same spot of my eye. Since this has never happened before, and struck me as odd, I decided to give my eye doctor a quick call. I was hoping for reassurance that everything was fine, and I had nothing to worry about, but I got the exact opposite – she said I needed to get to an eye doctor immediately, because the flashes could mean my retina was tearing and pulling away from the back of my eye, which can result in blindness if it’s not treated right away.

Fortunately, I was able to see an eye doctor in Florida that afternoon, who checked my eyes carefully, and said everything looked perfect. But she told me to follow up with my eye doctor at home, and to call if the flashes got worse.

Over the next week, as we dealt with lots of sickness and a stressful journey home, the flashes in my eye continued, and my fear and worry grew. I’ve never had trouble with my eyes, but suddenly, my vision was all I could think about.

When we got home, I booked an appointment with my eye doctor, who also examined everything very carefully. I was really hoping she would also say everything looked fine, but when she got very quiet, and kept going back to the same spot on my eye again and again, I started to get scared. Then she said, “I’m just going to make some notes, and then we’ll talk.” For someone who struggles with worry and fear, that’s enough to completely freak out. I started praying like crazy, and immediately, that verse came back to me: “For we know that all things work together for the good of those who love Him.” All things. Could I really believe that, even in such a scary moment?

My eye doctor explained there was a spot in my retina that was very thin, but she couldn’t tell if it was tearing, so she wanted me to see a specialist right away. It was a Friday, so as I waited for them to make an appointment and give me the information, I was mentally going over my schedule for the next few weeks, hoping the appointment would be at a convenient time.

When they came back to me and said, “Be at the hospital at 9am tomorrow”, I felt another lurch of fear – on a Saturday?! What specialist makes appointments on a Saturday, unless it’s a really big deal? Fortunately, this gave me limited time to worry about it, but that night, I was not doing too well with the whole thing. Ben and I talked about it a lot, and I read a bit online about what to expect for laser eye surgeries, because I don’t like the unexpected. I wanted to have an idea what I might be getting into.

The whole time, that verse stayed with me. All things work together for good. I wanted to believe it, but I could see no good in the possibility of losing my vision.

The next morning, I met the best doctor ever, who unfortunately discovered a hole in my retina. He was so calm and reassuring, though, that he was able to make it sound like it was no big deal, and easily fixed!

But here’s the really interesting thing – he said the flashes I’d been seeing probably had nothing to do with the hole in my eye. Most likely, I’ve been walking around with this for a long time, and the flashes started because of the intense sinus pressure I had from being sick. He said lots of people actually have holes in their eyes and don’t know it. The problem is that at any time, liquid in the eye can start leaking through the hole, causing the retina to pull away, potentially leading to blindness. He said it needed to get fixed, probably not immediately, but he was willing to do it right then, to save us another trip in. I jumped at the opportunity, because it meant I had no time to get scared about it, so he led Ben and me through a maze of hallways. Everything was closed and locked up at the hospital, because they don’t normally do procedures on Saturdays, but he got my eye all fixed up and it only took about five minutes. Isn’t that crazy?! Five minutes was all it took to keep me from losing my vision.

I kept thinking about how all things work together for good. In this situation, it was true – I didn’t even know my eye needed fixing, and if I hadn’t gotten such a horrible cold, I wouldn’t have had flashes in my eye, the doctor wouldn’t have found the hole, and sometime in the future, I could have had worse problems with it. I can see the good.

But what about all the other things which cause me to worry and fear? We live in a world with pain and suffering and death. Can I truly believe all things will work together for good?

I chewed on this for a long time. I wanted to believe it so badly, but I kept running into the fact that I don’t want the bad things to happen at all. God might make it good in the end, but what do I do in the middle? When the bad stuff is happening, how do I trust it will all work out in the end?

I kept telling myself, “He’ll fix it in the end. It doesn’t matter what bad stuff happens, He will make it good.”

And suddenly it struck me – it’s like the story of Sleeping Beauty. I’ve never thought about the story of Sleeping Beauty as a spiritual allegory, but it made everything become clear! (I blame it on the fact that I’ve got two girls who have always loved Disney princesses!)

The king and queen are celebrating the birth of their daughter with a huge party, and all the fairies of the land come with gifts for the baby princess. But suddenly, just before the last fairy bestows her gift upon the princess, an evil fairy appears and gives a curse instead of a gift. Everyone is shocked and horrified, but the last good fairy brings hope. She says that although she cannot undo the curse, she can ensure that everything will turn out okay in the end.

The princess still has to fall into a deep sleep, the curse cannot be changed, but everyone sleeps with her, until her true love wakes her up with a kiss.

Sleeping Beauty

We live in a broken, fallen world where pain and suffering are going to happen – it cannot be avoided. But God promises to fix it. We are saved by true love in the end.

I remember watching Sleeping Beauty as a kid, and at that moment when she reaches out her hand to touch the spinning wheel, I remember cringing, and thinking, “Don’t do it! Don’t touch it!” I wished the moment could be avoided, but of course, deep down I knew it had to happen. Even so, I wasn’t afraid, because I knew everything would turn out okay in the end.

And really, if Sleeping Beauty had never slept, there wouldn’t have been much of a story. She would probably have ended up with her prince, but she wouldn’t have needed saving, and he wouldn’t have been much of a hero.

I never want to go through difficulties for the sake of a good story, but the Bible does promise hard times can produce blessing, growth, and perseverance. We fight the good fight, hang on to the end, and we are all saved.

I’m still finding it hard at times to rest in that truth, but I once read negative thought patterns are like well-worn paths in our brain. If we want to replace them with truth, it takes time to wear down a new path. So I will press on, and keep replacing those old fearful thought habits with faith, hope, and the trust that Jesus makes all things good!

He’s Got it Covered

I have such a great little story to share with you today! But it didn’t start out so great…

About a month ago, Everett had a little incident with a very tight pair of socks. By the time I rescued him the next morning, he had very intense, angry red lines on the backs of his poor, chubby legs. I didn’t think much of it, other than feeling the need to get rid of the socks.

legs

But then, the red lines didn’t go away. And didn’t go away.

After a week of wondering about it, and Ben reassuring me there was nothing to worry about, I googled it, and discovered there’s actually a name for very red sock lines that don’t go away…and it’s permanent. For whatever reason, a baby’s delicate skin can get scarred for life by wearing tight socks just one time. They’ve done studies on it, and from what I read, it can take over a year for the redness to fade, and eventually turn into a lighter scar.

I cried and cried. My poor seven-month-old baby was scarred for life already!! I was very thankful that he wasn’t in any pain or discomfort, but it was really hard for me to accept that those red lines weren’t ever going away.

I was praying about it that afternoon, trying to get a grip on the fact that this was just the way it was, when I suddenly got this really clear picture of Everett lying on his stomach, and Jesus had His hands on the backs of Everett’s legs. I felt a very strong urge to pray for healing, which I felt kind of weird about, because in a world filled with so much pain and suffering, it was just red scars. But I did pray that God would heal Everett’s legs.

I told Ben about this experience later that evening, and he asked me exactly when I had gotten this picture, because he had felt the exact same thing that afternoon, as well. We prayed together for Everett’s legs, and for the next few weeks, every time I started worrying about Everett’s legs, that picture of Jesus covering Everett’s legs came to my mind. I kept giving it back to Him, choosing not to worry about it, knowing that Jesus was holding my sweet boy.

And guess what – those marks are almost gone, one month later. Joy fills me every time I see those faint lines, because now they remind me that Jesus knows and cares, and He’s got it covered – all of it.

legs

Would the marks have faded, even if we hadn’t prayed about it? Maybe. We’ll never know. All I know is that Jesus gave me peace when I had none, and I was able to give the situation to Him.

I was sharing this with a friend, and she said, “It’s about so much more than Everett’s legs. God wanted to heal your heart – to take away the fear and worry, and show you there is nothing in this world He can’t handle. You can live in joy and freedom.”

I live with a lot of pain every day. A great amount of healing has already happened in my life, and I’m very thankful for that, but a bit of me was really wondering why all of the remaining pain in my body couldn’t fade away as quickly as those scars. But I know that what my friend says is true – regardless of the state of my body, I can truly live in joy and freedom.

And if the scars hadn’t faded, God would be just as able to cover it all. But it’s such an awesome gift to me, a constant reminder that He continues to hear us, and delights in surprising us.

When I share stories like this with people, I’ll sometimes hear them say things like, “I don’t get clear pictures like you do.” And I don’t always, either. But it’s started happening a lot more since I started asking for them. I’ll ask Jesus to help me see where He is in a situation, or reveal to me how He’s working so that I can pray along with what He is doing. When I get a clear picture in my mind, it is awesome and exciting, and I love it. When I don’t get anything, that’s okay, too – it means I need to just trust that He’s still there, still listening, still working on something amazing.

What needs covering in your life right now? I’m praying for a covering a peace, and continual confidence and assurance in His presence today!

Learning to be Still

Happy Wednesday, everyone! I’m here today to share Session #2 from the weekend with you.

I’d shared earlier how God told me to expect the unexpected for this weekend, and this definitely happened with Session 2!

I had prepared everything at home beforehand, and knew what I wanted to say on Saturday evening. I had plans to prep a bit more for it on Saturday afternoon, but first I took a two hour nap (which felt completely amazing!) It took me a long time to wake up from my deep sleep, and as I was lying there, God suddenly brought a memory so clearly to my mind which fit so perfectly with what I hoped to communicate that evening, I knew my entire session had just been changed as I was lying there.

Here’s the awesome part: My greatest fear about God promising to do the unexpected was that I’d miss it. But it came so clearly to me, I needn’t have worried at all. And rewriting my session was not a problem, either – it just fell into place, and I just knew what I was going to say.

I don’t know who needed to hear this message more – me, or the ladies! Probably me, because it’s been on my mind ever since! God is speaking to me about surrender, and learning resting in Him. He is so loving and faithful! His goodness overwhelms me.

Let God

Here’s surprise session #2:

How do we become still in the face of fear, uncertainty, stress, and pain? How do we surrender everything over into His care? How do we “grow our surrender muscles” until it becomes a habit? “Be still and know that I am God!”

How I Survived the Month of December

Well, my little December health challenge is over.

I wasn’t miraculously healed in December, but what I gained was worth it all! In fact, as I was thinking over the highlights of 2013, I realized that one of the biggest was this last month. I’m not sure if I can properly put into words what this month has meant to me, but I’d like to share a few things I’ve learned:

1) The end result hardly matters.

We live in a world where success is often measured by your end result, and I don’t think enough emphasis is put on the journey. Climbing the ladder may actually be the best part, instead of getting to the top….

Obviously, I would like to be sitting here, pain free, and telling you about how Jesus healed all physical difficulties for me in some kind of completely awesome, inspiring way. But that hasn’t happened yet, and I’m okay with that. I’m not even sure this December challenge was really about that – it felt like it was more about obedience.

As I’ve obeyed, and spent the month focusing on God and what He wants for my life, I can truly say that “…the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.” When I focus on Him completely, nothing else matters. I have enjoyed this journey.

Teresa of Avila summed it up well:

“Ever since I stopped obsessing about my comfort and ease, my health has radically improved.”

I think this is what I tasted, and can completely understand why it would be true.

2) Fasting from anything allows for a fresh start.

And really, this was a month of fasting. Fasting from food loosens the hold it has over us, and that’s what I feel like right now. All of the appointments, and everything I’ve been doing to pursue health in my life has lost it’s strong grip on me, and I feel as though I have a more balanced perspective of everything. I’m going to start going to some appointments, but I’m not interested in going back to the way I was living life before.

This month, I was able to see what my life can be like when I’m not focusing on a pain-free life. I had pain, and that was expected, and strangely okay. I acknowledged it, accepted it, and then went and thought about something else. Very refreshing!

And now, I get to choose what I’ll do next. I’m not controlled by the need to make my life as perfect as possible, and I will be able to go into this New Year with a stronger ability to make good choices.

3) I’ve surprised myself.

I’m tougher than I thought I was.:)

God is awesome, and can absolutely heal all, but I’m pretty sure He also wants us to do our part.

This month, I did my part.

I did stretching, exercises, and yoga every day, twice a day on most days, and it’s made a huge difference. I had no appointments to rely on, so I worked like crazy. Way back at the beginning, when I was asking God for guidance on how to handle all of this, I felt as though He said to me, “Act like a healthy person.” And that is what I tried to do. It is what I’ll keep trying to do.

Maybe I’ll have some pain, and maybe not everything feels the way I wish it did, but I’m tired of labeling myself as unhealthy, and I’m tired of carrying this weight of suffering around with me everywhere. I’ll give the weight to Jesus, and live a little lighter.

4) I’m ready for whatever comes next.

If God still chooses to heal me at some point, as I feel He’s promised, that will be awesome.

If He doesn’t heal me in this lifetime, that will still be awesome. It makes me anticipate Heaven more, and that is not a bad thing.;)

And the next time God asks me to do something that seems strange, I think I’ll be a little more ready to say yes quickly!

********************************

When I have shared my end results with others, I think some people are a bit disappointed. But once again, Teresa of Avila says it best:

I have clearly seen that He has never failed to reward me, even in this lifetime, for any of my good intentions. No matter how feeble or flawed my deeds may have been, this Beloved of mine has taken them and perfected them, polishing and giving them worth.

I offered the month of December to Jesus, and He took what I had to offer. I had weak, dark moments, but He brought me through, and it amazes me that what seemed so hard and scary just a month ago, could turn into a time of blessing, even if the blessing did not includephysical healing at this time.

Let GodAt the beginning of the month, I kept thinking about taking “a leap of faith”. It was always about jumping, and trusting God to catch me.

But about halfway through the month, I realized this wasn’t about jumping – it was about flying. It felt like soaring, to leave that cliff behind, and fly with Jesus.

Here’s to much more flying in the future.