Fruit at Your Fingertips, and Strength When You Need It

This has been my year of abiding. I’ve written about it before – about how Ben tricked me into getting up early every morning, so that I would have time to pray, journal, and read my Bible before my family got up, because I read that when we abide, we give the Holy Spirit the chance to change us in ways we can’t change ourselves. My year of abiding is coming to an end soon, and I wonder how much has changed. It becomes clear how much I need a lifetime of abiding, not just 12 months, and maybe I’m not that different than I was a year ago, except for this: I’m aware of how much I need this time each day. I’ve felt empty on the few days I missed it, because of sickness, or the couple of times when the alarm didn’t wake me up.

So if nothing more, I’ve developed a habit of making time for abiding each morning, and that’s worth a lot.

When I’m finished my quiet time on the couch, I spend half an hour stretching and exercising while I listen to a message, usually from Bridgetown Church (if we ever have to move, please let it be to Portland!). I just started a fantastic series about the Holy Spirit (which you can find here), and it fits well with this year of soaking in God’s presence. It’s a different way of looking at things for me – less doing and trying, and more just being and quietly focusing.

A strange and beautiful picture came to my mind the other day as I was praying and thinking about living my day in the presence of the Holy Spirit. It was as though I was leaning against the trunk of a huge tree, and I could see massive, leafy branches spreading out thickly about my head, loaded with fruit, hanging there ready for me to pick whenever I needed the Fruit of the Spirit (give me all the “patience” apples!!!!). And when I looked down at my feet, it was as though I could see deep roots growing far down into the ground beneath me, giving me strength and depth, securely grounding me in all the power available to me in the Spirit.

It gave me a feeling that’s hard to describe – like the strength was already there, filling me up, and the fruit was so close, right within my reach at any time I might need it. In my mind, as I saw this picture, there was such a feeling of steadiness, security, and relief – I knew I didn’t need to do this on my own, it wasn’t up to me to try to produce patience, kindness, or faithfulness, because it was all right there, ready and waiting to be picked at any moment.

I’m trying to remember this picture everyday. One of my lovely, adorable children has decided to express all anger with screaming instead of words, and there’s often bad attitudes or conflict to work through with three kids in the house all day. I try to picture that fruit right within my reach. I try to remember the feeling of leaning against a thick, strong trunk, knowing those roots are beneath me.

This was the picture I got, but maybe it can be a picture for you, too. If you close your eyes, can you imagine that beautiful fruit, already waiting for you to pick it during those tough moments? Can you feel rough bark, a strong trunk to lean against when the craziness of getting back into the routine of the week is sapping you of all your strength? Do you feel the strength that flows into you because you are rooted in Christ, and He is grounding you, holding you steady, and keeping you strong in every single moment?

Let’s not pretend for a second that this always comes easily. I weathered an hour and a half long tantrum this morning – my sweet child was exhausted by the end of it, and so was I. It’s always difficult for me to be in the middle of a tense situation, and I tend to take on the emotion of people around me. But this morning was different. I kept leaning into that strength, and continued to remind myself to be the peace and calming in the midst of the chaos. I don’t always remember, but today I did, so we celebrate the progress, and know that if things don’t go so well next time, there is still growth.

So whatever your Monday holds for you today, know that you can picture yourself with that sweet fruit of the Spirit in your hand, its juiciness dribbling down your chin, and your feet firmly planted, because you are His, and He’s got you covered.

 

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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.

 

Following the Little Urges

A few nights ago, I had a very clear dream about a friend of mine. There wasn’t anything particularly dramatic that happened in my dream – I just woke up feeling really warm and refreshed, because I’d had such a great talk with my friend. She was so kind, encouraging, gentle, and considerate, just as she is in real life, and it all felt so real, it was as if I really had just spent a couple of hours with her!

As I sat up in bed with a smile on my face, a thought popped into my head: “I should tell her about this dream!”

Then I thought, “Why?! It wasn’t like it was super important or life-changing. She might think it’s weird if I email her about a dream!”

But I decided it couldn’t hurt, and since I’ve tried to pay more attention to funny urges like this one, I quickly typed out an email to my friend, before I could change my mind.

She emailed back a few hours later, and explained that she’d also had a vivid dream about herself that night, but it was the exact opposite of what I had dreamed. It was horrible – she was doing things in her dream which were completely out of character for her, and woke up with negative feelings weighing her down. When she got my email, it was exactly what she needed to hear, to remind her of who she is in Christ.

What are the chances that we would both have these dreams on the same night??!! Stuff like this makes me realize all over again how much God cares, and to what lengths He will go to speak to us, or provide for us.

I don’t always choose to listen to those little urges – sometimes I talk myself out of doing things that seem silly, or don’t make sense. But when something like this happens, I feel such a surge of excitement, such a growth in my faith and wonder in the ways God speaks to us – it makes me want to always be a part of this kind of stuff!!

Listen-with-Your-Life-Part-2-Pocket-Fuel-Daily-Devotional-on-1Samuel-3-9-700x700source

I’m praying for the ears to hear Him, the eyes to see what He’s really doing, and the courage to follow the little urges!!

Struggling to Life

My body hurts.

As I’ve shared before, I’m going through the painful process of strengthening my weak muscles which were injured from having babies. According to my therapist, this strengthening phase is exciting progress and I’m doing well, but unfortunately, when it comes to exercise, “doing well” can actually be really painful. These creaky muscles are being challenged to do things they’re not used to doing, and there’s no easy, fast way around that.

The good news is that I’ve been at this long enough to start experiencing some of the benefits. Although I hurt all the time, I can feel certain movements getting easier, and am noticing how my body feels stronger, which is outrageously exciting.:)

But sometimes, I just get tired of hurting. On one of those days, some dear friends were praying for me and the pain I’ve been trying to push through. One  friend said, “It’s like a butterfly trying to get out of it’s cocoon – you’re struggling to life!”

That resonated deeply with me, because years ago, I read about a man watching a butterfly struggling out of a cocoon. After a long while, he couldn’t stand watching helplessly, so he carefully cut the cocoon and instantly freed the butterfly. But what he didn’t realize was how necessary the struggle was – the butterfly lay there, unable to fly, because the fight to be free was what strengthened its wings.

The struggle is necessary and life-giving.

Our culture is all about instant gratification, but the struggle to true strength and health does not come instantly. I really wish it did. I’ve prayed for a miracle for years. I believe God could heal me instantly, and this would be convenient and awesome. But one day, as I was asking God to take all the pain away in a moment, it became clear to me that I was asking Him for something I could really do myself.

God made my body to work well. There is nothing permanently broken in my body – there’s just a lot of weakness and muscles out of balance. And while I know He could fix it all in an instant, I also know that I could get my butt off the couch, and go use my muscles the way God intended me to use them.

I still ask Him to take the pain away, but I also ask Him to give me the strength to push through this season of pain and struggle. I ask Him to help my body work the way He made it to.

I’ve lived with pain for so many years, I don’t remember what it’s like not to have it. Right now, though, the pain I’m experiencing is different – before I hurt because I was weak and my body was not working right. Now I hurt because I’m getting stronger and pushing myself to new levels. Totally different kind of pain! Can we call it “exciting pain”?! The pain of progress? A friend suggested I find a new word for “pain”, just to remind myself how this present pain is different from the old pain. I like this idea, but I’m still working on finding the right word!

For on the days when I get discouraged, and wish this was all a lot easier, I’ve been putting together a little collection of quotes. Since I’m doing a lot of squats these days, I found it fairly amusing to come across this quote: “No sweat, no beauty. No squat, no booty.” When I shared this with Ben, he said, “That’s my life  motto, really….”

Here are a few of my other favorites, in case you are also in need of a little inspiration!

Hopesource

Strugglesource

Weaknesssource

Changesource

And when I can’t make it seem pretty or inspirational anymore, and I’m just down to pure desperation, there’s always this one:

Pukesource

 Anything you’re struggling through right now? What’s your motivation to keep going?

Video: Our Miracle Baby

Today is Everett’s birthday! He is currently stuffing his face with pancakes and turkey sausage, so I think he’s enjoying the day so far.

birthday boyI’ll share his birthday favorites on Monday, but for today, here’s a video I’ve been working on – the story of how God gave us our miracle baby. If you’ve been a regular reader for awhile, you’ve probably read parts of this story before, but I wanted to tell it from the beginning. God is so good! Feeling so thankful for our sweet boy, today and every day!

The Amazing Kate

It was my second summer working on staff at Red Rock Bible camp, and it was off to a rough start. I’d had my first summer romance the year before, it had ended badly at Christmas, and now I had to spend the summer dealing with the awkwardness of working together at camp with my ex-boyfriend.

I remember being in the staff bathroom, washing my hands, when another girl came in. It was Kate, a girl I had never spoken to before, but had heard a lot about. Everyone kept talking about her, including one of my close friends, who kept saying how much she wanted to counsel together with Kate that summer, because she was sooooo amazing. I’d been watching the amazing Kate from a distance, and even though she was a few years younger than me, I felt intimidated by her. She was always surrounded by a crowd of people, usually guys, and she had this confident energy I envied. I was pretty sure I didn’t want to counsel together with her, because I was crawling into my shy self around her, ready to disguise it as snobbery.

When she came into the bathroom that day, I prepared to quietly slip out the door after mumbling a quick “hi”, but that was because I had no idea who I was dealing with….

She came right up to me and said, “I’ve been thinking about you, and wondering if it’s really hard to be on staff this summer with your ex-boyfriend. What’s that like for you?” She asked it with such kindness, compassion, and sincerity that it completely threw me off-guard.

And then, maybe because I was so caught off guard, or maybe because my natural tendency is to be really open in a one-on-one situation, or maybe because God knew I needed Kate, I ended up spilling everything out to her, and she listened like no one had ever listened before. She shared her own related experiences, made me laugh, helped to heal some wounds with all the right words.

When we came out of that bathroom 45 minutes later, Kate had my heart forever.

She’s moved far away, but every time she’s home for a visit, she faithfully messages me to arrange a coffee date, and she brings her laughter, joy, warmth, energy, and vulnerability into my life every time. She has this incredible ability to put anyone at ease, and she loves on people so hard, she’s able to convince each one that somehow, you’re making her world better just by being you, and then when she leaves, you realize she’s really the one making everything better.

And she’s still asking, “What’s that like for you?” When she came to visit this August, it came up that I’d been dealing with postpartum anxiety, and with her same old kindness and compassion, she asked, “Oh, sweetie, what’s that been like for you?” 

It’s the best question, really. There’s no judgement in it. It recognizes the fact that each of us is experiencing our own stuff, carrying our own burdens, and who can judge what that’s like, or know how it feels to walk in our shoes? Kate asks that question, and walks alongside, making the burdens seem so much more bearable.

I don’t see her nearly often enough, but whenever I do, she’s still the amazing Kate, making me laugh, always loving and caring as hard as she can.

And so it broke my heart when I was scrolling through Facebook a few weeks ago and came across this:

“Well my loves, this is not how I wanted to tell you. I need your prayers for tomorrow’s surgery. I’ve got stage four colon cancer and it’s going to be a long haul. Love you.”

I pray and cry and have hope that God will still do awesome things for and through Kate. I read tidbits about her joking around with the oncologist, and him not knowing what to make of her, or how she’s still thinking of others and loving them hard, even in the midst of all she’s going through. That sweet girl. I love her so much.

Kate

So if you think of it, pray for Kate, her husband Toban, and their little boy Zack. In the beginning, things were not looking promising, but people have been praying, God’s already doing miracles, and it’s looking much more hopeful for my dear friend. Whenever I pray for her, I keep getting the sense that God has awesome things in store for her, and the best is yet to come, no matter what happens.

Her family is doing an awesome job of keeping a blog updated – if you’d like to check it out, go here.

 

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!