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.

Getting More Than You Can Handle

Last night, I was reading a little bit of Oswald Chambers before bed, and was struck by this quote:

“God does not ask us to do the things that are easy for us naturally; He only asks us to do the things we are perfectly fitted to do by His grace, and the cross will come along that line always.” (My Utmost for His Highest)

It reminded me of how people so often say reassuringly, “God will never give you more than you can handle!”

And then life gets harder than ever before, and it makes me think all kinds of messed up thoughts, such as “God must think I’m a lot stronger than I am, because I don’t think I can handle this, but He’s giving it to me, and He wouldn’t if I could handle it!”

So I’ve tried to handle it, swinging between bitterness towards God, and a twisted sense of empowerment because God is “telling” me that I can handle so much.

I clearly remember the day Ben informed me that this idea of God not giving us more than we can handle is not actually Scriptural.  God allows all kinds of difficult things to cross our paths, and He never promises it will be easy, or that we will be able to “handle” it, but He does promise that He will always be with us.

That’s really the only promise we truly need.

Maybe it’s not the one we want – only getting what we can handle would be a more comfortable promise! If it were true…

I love what Katie Davis writes about this in her book, Kisses From Katie:

“Remember, God will never give you more than you can handle.”

People repeat this frequently; I heard it when I was growing up and I hear it now. It is meant to be a source of encouragement, and it would be if I believed it were true.

But I don’t.

I believe that God totally, absolutely, intentionally gives us more than we can handle. Because this is when we surrender to Him and He takes over, proving Himself by doing the impossible in our lives.

….I have learned to accept it, even ask for it, this “more than I can handle”. Because in these times, God shows Himself victorious. He reminds me that all of this life requires more of Him and less of me. God does give us more than we can handle. Not maliciously, but intentionally, in love, that His glory may be displayed, that we may have no doubt of who is in control, that people may see His grace and faithfulness shining through our lives.

And as I surrender these situations to Him, watch Him take over and do the impossible, I am filled with joy and peace – so much more than I can handle. (Kisses From Katie, by Katie Davis)

Kisses from Katie

What a hard prayer – asking for more than we can handle! Franklin Graham refers to it as “leaving God-space”. In his book Rebel With a Cause, he writes about how his ministry, Samaritan’s Purse, will purposely make “impossible” plans, requiring “impossible” amounts of money. If we only do what is easy, and what we already know we can do, we don’t need God for anything.

Well, that’s uncomfortable! But maybe exciting, at the same time?!

Whenever Ben and I are praying for something that seems impossible, one of us will usually remember “God-space”. And then we pray on, and don’t worry so much about all those things which seem impossible.

Sometimes God-space can feel very similar to being unrealistic or even irresponsible! But I’m also trusting that God will move us, or stop us, or put a caution in our hearts for those times when God-space starts turning into something else.

So, do you have any impossible prayers you’re praying? Any situations that are definitely more than you can handle?

Sometimes I’m Not Ready For a Miracle

I came across this quote the other day, about the Israelites wandering around in the desert for 40 years:

Their journey was a journey of liberation. They were being liberated from slavery in Egypt, where they had been dehumanized and exploited, so that their elite Egyptian slave drivers could build their own never-enough system. It was also a journey of discipline. They were learning values on the journey that would form their national character when they finally settled down — so they wouldn’t become either slaves or slave drivers in the future. (Naked Spirituality, Brian McLaren)

That struck me in a profound way, because it describes so well the journey I’ve been on in the last year. I’ve written before about how I’ve been struggling with some health challenges for over ten years. I’ve had people pray over me many times, and I’ve begged and pleaded and cried to God many, many more times myself for a miracle.

A few years ago, I started noticing some small, slow changes, and since then, my health has improved very gradually. Sometimes I would get so impatient. I believed that God could heal me instantly, but it didn’t look as though that was going to be His chosen method, so I tried to be okay with whatever form healing took.

In this last year, things have been changing in ways I never would have imagined. I’ve always struggled with a lot of stress, fear, and anxiety in my life, and a number of different experiences started to open my eyes to the fact that what needed to change, perhaps more than my physical health, was my mental and spiritual health.

God was after my mind and my thoughts. There was much fear in me surrounding my health problems, and I struggled with trying to choose and control what kind of thoughts filled my mind.

Many of my health problems were related to stress, so as God did a new work in my mind, my body followed along.

There is still much room for improvement, but what struck me about the Israelites is this:

If God had brought them straight to the Promised Land, it would have taken 11 days, instead of 40 years. God needed to do a great work in them first.

They weren’t ready for the Promised Land.

Those years wandering around in the desert stripped them of their old identity, and turned them into God’s people.


photo   © 2011   Moyan Brenn , Flickr


If God would have given me my miracle right away, and healed my body in an instant, I would have ended up right back in the same place. Thoughts of fear and anxiety would still have enslaved me, and my body would have continued to respond to that.

He’s taking me around the long way, because He is doing a great work in me. He’s making my mind ready for the miracle of healing that is slowly taking over my body.

I also need to be stripped of my old identity.

Oh, how wonderful that He loves us too much to leave us the way we are! He takes us on whatever path we need the most, and gets us to the Promised Land in the perfect way, at the perfect time.

I still have so much to learn, and I continue to hope for more healing in my life, both mental and physical, but I think I’m starting to enjoy the journey. I’m at peace with the fact that there’s some scenery I need to see first, as we go around the long way.

And I don’t believe it’s punishment or hardship to need to go the long way. I think it’s just life. If I can accept that, and if I can soak in each step of this process, there can be joy in God’s timing, instead of impatience.

He’ll get me there, in His perfect timing.

Are you waiting for a miracle? How is God transforming you, as you wait?

I Don’t Have Enough Faith

On Wednesday, I wrote brave words about teaching my girls strength through my weakness.

On Thursday, I broke down and wanted to take it all back, just for a minute….

Over the years since I first got sick, I’ve been prayed over many, many times for healing. I’ve been anointed with oil, and I’ve had hands laid on me, and great people of great faith have prayed boldly and confidently for me.

I’ve prayed for healing for myself far more times than I could ever count, sometimes with faith, and sometimes in pure desperation. But that miraculous healing hasn’t come yet for me.

And when I came across people who said, “Just pray with faith. If you have enough faith, then Jesus will heal you,” it always left me feeling like I wasn’t enough.

I wasn’t faithful enough, I wasn’t trusting enough, I didn’t believe enough, or maybe, just maybe… could it be that God didn’t care enough?

Other people got their miracles. Why couldn’t I get mine?

Waiting for a miracle brought me to a crisis of faith more than once along the way. But somehow, I always found my way through. I always hung on to Jesus, sometimes just enough to barely get by – but not enough to eliminate those lingering feelings of doubt that my sickness was my fault.

I didn’t have enough faith.

In the midst of my health issues, we were waiting for a baby. Two miscarriages, and it felt like no baby would ever come. But I kept begging and praying and pleading, and once again, it just seemed as though I didn’t have enough faith.

I didn’t deserve a baby, because I didn’t trust God enough.

But one day, as I knelt by our bed, begging God for a miracle, it suddenly hit me that He already was giving me a miracle – just not the one I wanted.

I was asking for the miracle of a baby, but God was giving me the strength to hang on, and somehow keep going, choosing Him even when things were hard.

Which was the greater miracle?

And so I tried to thank Him for the miracle of His presence and provision, even if it wasn’t the miraculous baby I was begging for.

But then, exactly two weeks after I was told a baby was completely, physically impossible, I stood in our bathroom holding a positive pregnancy test.

And I felt like I didn’t deserve it.

I hadn’t earned it. I hadn’t learned enough yet. I didn’t have enough faith. I hadn’t learned to trust God enough. I hadn’t found enough joy in the midst of this hardship.

But that day was the beginning of learning that I can NEVER do enough to earn it. I can never have enough faith, enough trust, enough of anything to actually deserve God’s mercy and grace and blessing.

He just gives it anyway.

So I held our miracle baby in my arms, and I wondered if maybe, just maybe…God could heal me even if I didn’t have enough faith. Or maybe…He could be enough, even if I spent the rest of my life dealing with health issues.

Yesterday, my friend reminded me of this passage in Daniel:

If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if He does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up. (Daniel 3:17-18)

Even if He does not.

That’s what I’ve learned. I think it’s the most important thing anyone can learn about faith and prayer and miracles, this side of Heaven.

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He is so far above me, I cannot begin to understand.

Am I okay with not having an answer?

Am I okay with not getting the miracle I’m asking for?

I believe He wants to give great and wonderful gifts to His precious children. But we live in a fallen world. He calls us to bring His kingdom to pass here on Earth, but it’s still all fallen.

So one day He’ll come and clean up the whole mess, and redeem our feeble attempts at “kingdom here on earth”, and Anika and I agree that we will eat ice cream every day from that day on, and I’ll ride my bike a lot.

Or maybe we won’t, and we won’t even care. Who knows.

All I know is that I trust Him. I trust Him for the miracle. I trust Him if He chooses to skip the miracle, and waits to heal me on that glorious day when He returns, and I meet our two babies I’ve never known.

He is good if He saves me, and I trust Him if He doesn’t.

Do I have “enough faith”?

Nope, probably not. I don’t really have enough anything, but that’s okay, because Jesus is enough, and I’m hanging on.

And so every once in a while, I come across people who suggest that all we need is enough faith. And then, all I need is a quiet corner to wrestle down those doubts that have plagued me for years. I give it all back to Jesus again. I surrender my life again.

And I say, once again, “Jesus, I believe you can heal me. But even if you don’t, I’m still choosing to trust You.

I hang on tight, and then we do it all over again.


What are you holding on for today? Is it ever hard to keep believing that Jesus is enough, even if the miracle isn’t coming?

I know that some of these things are too hard, too personal, to be able to share with the general public in the comments section, but please know that if you ever need to get it out, and want someone to listen, you can send me an email. I’ll listen and pray, and hold on with you!

Obey First, Get the Miracle Later

I’ve been thinking about acts of faith recently.

This last week, I’ve kept coming across different Bible stories in which God asked people to step out in faith before they got their miracle.

The miracle only came after they were willing to obey.

Like the widow who needed money to pay her debts. Elisha asked her to collect every jar she could find first, and then she started pouring oil. As she started pouring, God made it multiply.

I wonder how she felt as she went around asking her neighbors for all those jars, even though she had nothing to put in them…

Or the story of Elijah asking a widow for bread, and she said there was only enough flour in her house to make one more meal for herself and her son, and then they would die. Elijah asked her to first make him a loaf of bread. As she started baking, God made it multiply.

The most challenging story came to me in the form of a message. (Which you can find here. Look for the download by Steven Furtick called “Audacious Faith”. It’s a good one!) Ben came across this message, and the speaker was just amazing. (So were his pants. We think Ben needs a pair just like them, ASAP.)

He spoke about the story in which three kings came to Elisha because they had run out of water for their army and all of their animals, and they were desperate.The message God gave them through Elisha was this:

“God’s word: Dig ditches all over this valley. Here’s what will happen—you won’t hear the wind, you won’t see the rain, but this valley is going to fill up with water and your army and your animals will drink their fill. This is easy for God to do; he will also hand over Moab to you. You will ravage the country: Knock out its fortifications, level the key villages, clear-cut the orchards, clog the springs, and litter the cultivated fields with stones.” (2 Kings 3:16-19)

They had to dig the ditches first, and then God filled them up with water.

photo   © 2004   la vaca vegetariana , Flickr

In the morning—it was at the hour of morning sacrifice—the water had arrived, water pouring in from the west, from Edom, a flash flood filling the valley with water. (2 Kings 3:20)

God seems to like producing something out of nothing – after He sees His people taking that step of faith. I think we please Him when we show Him we are ready and waiting.

How am I getting ready and waiting today? What is He asking me to do in order to prepare for His provision?

Where’s my flour, or my oil? Where is my shovel?

I need to work with what I’ve got, because it doesn’t matter how small it may be – with God, it is always just enough.

Oops, I Got Sulky Again

I wonder how many posts I’ve written about prayer. Someday I will go back and count them all.

And maybe someday I’ll finally figure out how to pray and what the true purpose is.

I mean, on the one hand, I don’t believe that it’s complicated at all – I talk to my Father, He listens to me. He talks too, and I try to listen to Him.

But on the other hand, I get really muddled up when it comes to truly praying with faith, and believing in miracles, and stuff like that. I got sick 12 years ago, and all of the prayers for miraculous healing didn’t really produce any miracles. I’ve slowly been getting better over the years, but nothing dramatic.

We prayed for a baby for four years, and right now she’s sleeping in her crib. So I know that miracles happen, but not every time that I ask for one. (And really, I should say that both our girls are quite miraculous, but it was never announced that Anika’s existence was impossible, which is why I’m focusing on Kaylia as being the miraculous one in this post.)

During those four years of waiting, there were many, many nights when I cried in bed, and didn’t want to pray together with Ben anymore. I never stopped believing that God heard me, I just didn’t believe that He cared.

And then when Kaylia was born, I felt like I didn’t deserve her – like I needed to have overcome any doubt in my life before I actually received an answer to my prayers. And I started to learn all over again that it has nothing to do with what I deserve.

So I started praying with more faith, with fresh motivation because not only does God hear, but He also actually answers.

But then last year, I went through another prayer crisis. Ben and I prayed like crazy for something, and God took forever to answer, and when He finally did, I hated His answer. It made me angry. But I clearly heard what He said. There was no ignoring or arguing about it.

So I sulked about it. For a few months.

When I finally realized that I was tired of being grumpy, life became really wonderful again. I came to a point where I had experienced the miraculous answer I wanted, and the miraculous answer that I didn’t want, and I had learned to accept God’s will and be at peace with either outcome.

But guess what. Last week I got grumpy again. There was something I prayed for with all the faith that was in me. I completely believed that God was going to do something. Well, not just something – He was going to answer my prayers, and I could really only see one good way for that to happen. I was pretty sure that things would go in my favor.

They didn’t. And I got sulky again. Definitely some hormonal issues mixed in there, so I’m not completely responsible. Well, maybe. Anyway. I was feeling very grumpy at God, and informed Ben that obviously, praying didn’t help anything, because I’ve been praying for years, and NEVER gotten any miracles, no matter how much faith I have.

As I said that, I was reminded of Kaylia, asleep in her crib, and knew that I couldn’t really say that I NEVER get any miracles. But it sounded more dramatic. I’m sure Ben noticed how effective that was. And was probably also thinking of Kaylia asleep in her crib.

He calmly went to bed, and I went off to the living room to cry and pray and figure the whole thing out.

What kept coming to my mind is something that Oswald Chambers wrote. I can’t remember where the exact quote is, but he writes that prayer is not for changing God as much as it’s for changing us. We pray so that our hearts slowly become more and more in line with God’s. We don’t pray so that God will miraculously answer everything that we ask for.

So as I knelt there feeling grumpy, all I could think about was the fact that I wanted my way, and my way was bringing me away from God.

It was everything that I thought I had learned last year, but it was happening all over again. I felt very disgusted with myself. I knew all that already – don’t I ever get past this level, and move on to bigger and better things? Very annoying.

But today I recognized progress – what took me a few months to get over last time only took a week this time. And maybe next time, when God doesn’t give me what I ask for, even if I have all the faith in the world, maybe next time it’ll only take a few days.

Before you know it, it’ll take no time at all. My heart will get closer and closer to Jesus.

I don’t believe that it’s wrong to pray for miracles. I think it’s actually a really good idea. But if it doesn’t happen, it’s wrong to sulk about it. God can handle it, of course, but it hurts me a lot when I do.

How I wish I could come to a place where His “yes” and His “no” bring equal amounts of peace and surrender in my life.

We’ll keep working on it.


When I Start Believing That What is “Good For Me” Is Hard and Horrible

The story of Jesus miraculously multiplying the bread and feeding four or five thousand people has been told to any child attending Sunday school enough times that it can lose its impact at a fairly young age.

Last night I flipped open my Bible to the bookmark, and there we were, at the feeding of the four thousand. I wasn’t confident that new life was going to be breathed into that one for me, which just shows my lack of faith.

However, I prayed for some fresh insight, and sure enough, it was right there waiting for me.

I started reading about how Jesus had been teaching crowds of people, but everyone was getting hungry. The disciples wanted Him to send everybody home, but Jesus said, “I can’t send them home without food – they will faint.”

I really hate to admit it, but for years, it has seemed as though my default setting in regards to prayer, and miraculous intervention from Jesus, has been to believe that He will always choose the hardest option for me to go through. I can pray for deliverance in times of trouble, but deep down, without even consciously realizing it at first, I really believe that He will do “what’s best for me”, which will, in my mind, always be the hardest option.

What is “good for me” will be the hard road, because it will develop my character, and strengthen me, and develop lovely things like perseverance.

I somehow keep falling back on seeing God as an “Oatmeal God” – while everybody else around me is having Fruit Loops for breakfast, my Father makes me eat oatmeal – without any sugar – because it’s good for me.

photo   © 2010   Terren , Flickr

So I eat oatmeal until I feel like I can’t bear waiting any longer for a miraculous change in hard circumstances, and someone is always guaranteed to come along and say, “God will never give you more than you can bear.” I am so tired of hearing people say that, for two reasons:

  1. It often feels as though God is giving me more than I can bear.
  2. Ben says that this idea is not actually Biblical. The Bible doesn’t promise that, but it does promise that God will give us the strength we need to face life’s troubles.

So I carry on with my oatmeal that’s good for me, longing for a miracle, but knowing that it’s better for me to keep plugging, even if I get very weary along the way.

But I read about Jesus standing up for his people. “We can’t send them home! They’re too hungry, and they will faint. It is too much for them to bear.” They had human limits that Jesus knew about, and cared about, and provided for….in the most unexpected way.

He can be trusted. He doesn’t just relentlessly keep pushing me until I break, all for the sake of growing my faith.

He care about my limits, provides for my needs.

He makes something out of nothing, for the deliverance of His people.

He looks down on me fainting with hunger, or sick of my oatmeal, and He doesn’t heartlessly say, “Oh, well, it’s good for you.”

At just the right time, never late and never early, He will deliver me. And it will all be worth it.

It always is. Those Fruit Loops taste so much better after all that oatmeal.