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Long enough, God—you’ve ignored me long enough

Long enough, God—you’ve ignored me long enough.  I’ve looked at the back of your head long enough.  Long enough I’ve carried this ton of trouble, lived with a stomach full of pain.

Long enough.

Okay, so you are likely having one of two reactions right now: The first is, “I can’t believe she is talking to God like that!  Steer clear because she has a lightning bolt headed her way.”

Well, I didn’t actually say that. David did. You know, “the man after God’s own heart.” King David.  The man responsible for writing most of the psalms in the Bible. Yeah, that David.  And this idea of “how long is God going to ignore me?” is how he starts my favorite psalm of all time. 

So, now that you know no one is getting struck by lightning, the other reaction you might be having is: “Me, too, girl. I feel the same way.”  Because the truth is that nearly all of us have wondered where He was at some point or another.  Wondered why He wasn’t intervening on some difficult aspect of our lives.  Wondered why He wasn’t answering our prayers how we thought He should.

image2.PNGThe truth is that God feels distant to all of us at times.  The proof is scattered throughout Scripture and shows in the lives of biblical leaders today, including John Piper, who said in response to a question about God being distant in one’s life, “I and others — thousands of others — have shared seasons like that.”  So, first things first.  If you are a believer and feel, or have felt, God is distant in your life, you are not alone.

God has certainly felt distant at times in my life. Never was that more true than when I had a serious bout with obsessive compulsive disorder a couple years ago.  I remember laying facedown in my floor night after night begging God to take away the irrational, but consuming, fear that choked out any real hope for relief for several weeks of my life.  Clearly these feelings weren’t from God because He doesn’t give us a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7), so why wouldn’t he just answer my prayer and heal me?

Therein lies the anguish expressed by David in Psalm 13:1-2: 

“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?” (ESV)

You know He can fix it.  But He hasn’t yet.  And you want to know why.  So you cry out to him. Over and over and over again.  And you still don’t get an answer.  Still don’t feel relief.  Still don’t see light at the end of the tunnel.  And then you get tired.  You start to doubt your faith—doubt Him.  You don’t want to feel this way, but if He was really for you (Romans 8:31), He would have shown up and fought for you by now.  Right?

Oh, the number of times I have made these verses my prayer.

And oh, how many times I have missed the point of the psalm in its entirety!

The problem with making my prayer these first two verses is that it is all about me and what God does for me.  Seriously—read it again.

“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?” (ESV)

But if you continue reading, Psalm 13 changes at verse 5 when it says, “I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.”  You see, this is why David was a man after God’s own heart.  The focus of this psalm is not about criticizing God when He is distant in our time of need—it is instead about our response when He is distant in our time of need.  Instead of this constant focus on God moving to help him, David changes his tone by saying what he will do in response to His longing.

So I’m going to be real here—often my struggles are born out of my complete infatuation with myself.

I want to be awesome.  I want to do great things.  I want people to know me and respect me and love me.  I want my life to be comfortable, and I want all of that right now.

I am all about me, y’all.

But God says it’s not about me.  Listen, He makes it very clear that He loves me with a love so fierce I can’t even understand it.  I mean, He gave His son up to a horrific death so that I could have a relationship with Him.  He loves me, okay.  But image1.PNGit’s not about me.  It never has been, and it never will be.

And—don’t miss this—He loves me so much that my wants, my timing, my ideas, they are not His priority.  Because His way is always better.  And His timing is always perfect.

Yesterday He reminded me of this.

After my husband moved out of his parents’ home several years ago, they tried unsuccessfully to sell it two different times.  Both times, we prayed earnestly for God to help them move—the first time was for a job and the second time was to downsize, and we were devastated for them when there was zero interest in the house either time.  We believed the lack of movement on the house was a sign of distance from God.  We’ve prayed to God about this for years (literally).  Why won’t he just help them sell the house?

Well, it turns out that job they wanted to move for ended up being a disaster and downsizing would have prevented them from caring for my husband’s grandmother in the days before she moved to a nursing home. 

Well, fast forward a year or so… we recently lost my father-in-law, one of the greatest men you’ll ever know, and our family has been understandably wrecked over it. We knew my mother-in-law needed to move out, but we had little faith someone would buy her house based on its track record.

Well, you’ve probably already guessed it, but she accepted an offer on her house yesterday.

The whole time we were shaking our fist in the air wondering why God was ignoring our plans, He was thinking about this moment and His plan.  And His plan came wrapped with a big bow on top just to remind us how awesome He is because yesterday just so happened to also be my father-in-law’s birthday. He wasn’t ignoring us. He just knew when we would really need that prayer answered.

His way was better.  His way was perfect.  Not ours.

So instead of longing for God to work on my own time, I am now trying to think like David and instead shape my response during my most trying moments. 

David ends Psalm 13 by saying, “I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me.”  And y’all, there is no denying that He has been good to me.  And to you.  So, I tell you that story of my in-laws’ home to not only remind you that He is always working for your good (Romans 8:28) even if it doesn’t feel like it, but to also shout His praise.  Yesterday, our God answered a prayer we had been asking of Him for years.  And He will answer yours, too.

Because He is good.  All the time.

Even despite my lack of faith at times (which is another story for another day…)

So, precious sister, He may seem distant.  He may seem silent.  He may seem indifferent to your struggle.  But He’s not ignoring you, and He certainly hasn’t forgotten you.

So the answer to David’s question of “how long?”…  The answer is: as long as it takes for God to work the situation out for your good and His glory.  In the meantime, stop asking God when He will work for you and instead remember all of the good things He has done.  Remember His promises.  Remember all the blessings He has given.  Trust that He will continue to be good because He loves you.  And sing to the Lord, ladies, because He has been good to us.

To the girl who feels as though she will never be good enough: listen carefully.

To the girl who feels as though she will never be good enough: listen carefully.

You are right. 

You will never be good enough.

You can pause and read that again if you need to.  It may not have been what you were expecting, but sometimes the things we need to hear are not what we had hoped to hear.

image2.PNGI mean, let’s just be honest.  Your life is far from perfect.  It is full of disappointments.  Full of weaknesses.  Full of mistakes.  Full of hurt.  You have this idea of what the perfect life would be, and you picture that girl in your mind.  Deep down you know you will never be that girl.  Sure, you try.  But you always fail.  Because you just aren’t good enough.

While this is all true, you have to understand this: you aren’t that girl because she doesn’t exist.

I know you’re probably thinking of someone right now and saying, “But she exists.  And her life is perfect.  Just look at her Facebook profile!” 

Sister, hear me say this with love: you couldn’t be more wrong.  Her life, no matter how perfect it seems to be from the outside looking in, is far from perfect. Her life is full of disappointments. Full of weaknesses.  Full of mistakes. Full of hurt. Just like yours.

She just doesn’t talk about them with you. Just like you don’t talk about yours with her.

Sisters, we are obsessed with hiding our blemishes, both inside and out.  Just look at the popularity of photo filters and makeup tutorials!  Oh, and the endless pictures of smiling babies on social media without a single glimpse of the Godzilla moments that all babies have. 

Don’t get me wrong—it is not a bad thing to desire a life that has it all together.  What’s destructive though is believing you are the only person stuck trying to fake it till you make it.  We are all eons from perfection, ladies.

How’s that for an encouraging post, huh?  You suck. I suck. We all suck. You’re welcome.

Okay, but here is something you may not have considered—Jesus was blemished, too.  Yes, Jesus. God’s own son walked the earth a perfect man but hung on the cross a blemished sinner.

The perfect man who lived free from the image1weight of sin was beaten and nailed to a cross left to die as he wore your sin as his own.  Your sin.  My sin.  Our sin.  All the sins of the world—jealousy, hypocrisy, deceit, greed, murder—they were all put on our Savior (2 Corinthians 5:21).  Stop for a second and think about the horror of this. A once perfect man who had always pleased his Father became so filthy with sin that the Father couldn’t even look at him anymore (Habbakuk 1:13; Matthew 27:46). And so Jesus took his last breath with a body that was broken and blemished by our imperfections.

But three days later, Jesus came back.  He rose from the dead.  He defeated death.  He defeated sin.  He not only took our sin, but he overcame it.  Think about the enormity of that!

So sweet sister, this is what I want you to hear.  Because Jesus returned to the earth unblemished by sin, by disappointments, by weaknesses, by mistakes, by hurt, we can also be unblemished.

Not on our own, of course.  Again, I told you from the start you weren’t good enough. 

But He is. 

And if you are a believer in Jesus and have asked him to erase the blemishes in your life, you are “holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation” (Colossians 1:22).

When you look in the mirror, you see a mess, but God sees His Son.  All of those imperfections you obsess over and work so hard to hide from the world—God doesn’t even see them.

So, no.  You aren’t good enough.  You will always fail on your own.  But in Christ, you, my beautiful sister, are unblemished.

Live in the freedom of that truth today…

That Stubborn Heart

Three nights ago, my husband received the phone call.  You know the one you always hear about but think will never happen to you.  Yes, we know life is fleeting, and we knew we would lose his father someday.  Just not that day.

“You know,” my husband said to me when he returned home from his parents’ home that night.  “I always tried to prepare myself for [my father’s passing], but there is just nothing you can do to ever prepare yourself for something like this.”  It was midnight at that point, three hours after he heard the sound of his desperate mother’s voice on the other end of the line telling him she couldn’t wake his father.  His best friend.  His sage.  His idol.

My father-in-law struggled with heart issues for years, long before I joined the family.  In fact, more than 20 years ago he underwent quadruple bypass surgery, and just a few short months ago he had received a pacemaker and defibrillator .  And really, we shouldn’t have been surprised with all the heart issues.  After all, his heart was just as stubborn as he was.  He hated going to the doctor.  In fact, up until the past few years, he had only been to the doctor for two reasons: to have the heart surgery and to have some of his fingers reattached after an accident in his wood shop. And even with the latter, he insisted he drive himself to the doctor–yes, with partially detached digits and a bucket between his legs to catch the blood.  Like I said: stubborn.

thumbnail_IMG_1751But this was the beautiful thing about Cecil.  It was never about him.

He could be hurting, but he would never let you know it.  “If I was any better, I’d be [insert some snarky, clever comment here],” he would always reply when you asked how he was feeling.  Then he would quickly turn the conversation to what mattered more to him: you.  After asking if I enjoyed my day, he would always reply, “Well, good.  It would be foolish not to.”
Cecil loved me like his own, but really that could be said about a lot of people he knew.  I have truly never met a more selfless human being.  He has opened his home to strangers, providing a bed for anyone who needed it without asking any questions and feeding literally hundreds in his home in the past several years.  And he always found ways for his passions and talents to serve others, too.  From his 40 years in education (40?!?), to his service in the church and community, to the hundreds of vegetables he gave people from his garden, to talents and skills he passed on to others through his carpentry, to the people he took hunting with him, even to the number of cans he opened while serving you at his home (he would never let anyone open their own soda–that was a job for the host)–his life truly is one that has left a lasting legacy.

So tonight, we plan to get together with Chase’s brothers and sisters and their families and talk about his heart.  Not the one that failed.  Not the broken one.  Not the one who stole him from us.  No, tonight, we will sit around a fire pit and talk about the one that really defined him.  His compassionate heart.  His servant’s heart.  His stubbornly selfless heart.

You know, it’s incredible how someone with a weak heart can have one of the strongest.  But when you think about it, maybe it makes perfect sense.  Maybe he spent his entire life sharing his heart with everyone else largeand it finally had nothing left to give.

If everything that you do flows from the heart (Proverbs 4:23), my father-in-law had the most beautiful heart there was.  Cecil dedicated his life to serving Christ by serving others.  He gave indiscriminately, and while he left this earth with nothing, he has now gained everything in Jesus.

So today, instead of mourning, I choose to celebrate my father-in-law, because, well, it would be foolish not to…

It’s Not Fair.

“But that’s not fair.”

Oh my goodness, if I hear that from my four year old one more time, I think I might cry.  Life with a new little brother has been tough on my son–especially because his little brother arrived at our home at the age of 20 months.  Everything my oldest has, my youngest wants (and will do nearly anything to get). So now, my oldest has a newfound obsession with “fairness,” and it is wearing me out!

“But this toy is mine.  He can’t just take it.  That’s not fair!” or “But he didn’t have to take three bites.  Why do I?  That’s not fair!”

I would love to chalk this up as a phase, but I know better.  It seems as if humans were born with a craving for justice, and we never quite outgrow it.  Just turn on the television and count how many court dramas will air on network stations tonight alone.  We love justice–our country was founded on it (with liberty and justice for all!).  We love to see the evildoer get what’s coming to him.

And justice is a beautiful thing.  People should be held accountable for their actions.  Our country should support and uphold a system that is fair and just, and I’m so thankful to live in a country that holds these values.

But this idea of justice can get a little scary for some when they consider how God handles justice.  After all, the Bible is very clear about these three things:

  • God is just (Deuteronomy 32:4; 2 Chronicles 19:7; Romans 9:14; 2 Thessalonians 1:6).
  • We have all sinned and fall short of God’s standard of living (Romans 3:23).
  • The punishment for sin is death (Romans 6:23).

Suddenly fair isn’t looking like such a great thing anymore.

But the Bible is also very clear about this: Jesus was the necessary sacrifice for our sin.  

Yes, the punishment for sin is death.  But instead of God calling for my death, Jesus died in my place.  And if you want to talk about fairness–that’s about as unfair as it gets.  Seriously–the fact that a perfect man paid the price for every wrong I’ve ever done is totally unfair.  But it happened.

So, yes, God loves justice.  He gives perfect people exactly what they deserve–an eternity of oneness with the one true God.  The problem is that all of us have screwed up, making us imperfect.  Blemished.  Hopeless from the start.

If Jesus hadn’t died, that would be the end of our story.  But He did, and that changes everything.

If you believe in Jesus and have asked God to forgive your sins, they are gone.  And not gone like the sock that you swear has disappeared but will inevitably return as soon as you’ve thrown its match away.  I mean gone like it never happened.

There is no evidence.

We find the defendant not guilty.

You are free to go.

So that thing that you’ve done or said that you can’t forgive yourself for…  The thing that makes you toss and turn at night.  The thing that you see as inextricably linked to your identity.  The thing that weighs on you every second of every day… Yeah, that thing doesn’t exist anymore. There is no evidence of your guilt if you are in Christ.  You are torturing yourself over something that God doesn’t even see.

Imagine this–someone in a police uniform walks up to a man, tells him he has committed a crime although the man has no record, and arrests him. The man is then taken to prison and told he has to stay there for the rest of his life–that there’s nothing he can ever do to be free again.  Despite everything he has learned about our justice system, the man willingly stays locked up in prison for the rest of his life, believing that the guy dressed in the police uniform had the authority to lock him up and hand him a life sentence.  Ridiculous, right?  No one would ever believe something as outrageous as that!  No one would ever willingly give up his freedom and believe something that goes against everything he has been taught!  Right??

Then let me ask you this.  Why are you sitting in a prison cell?

So many of us are locking ourselves up and refusing to allow ourselves the freedom that God says is ours in Christ (Galatians 5:1).  And Satan loves every minute of it.  You see, he is totally powerless against God, so he can’t take away the freedom that has been given to you through Christ.  But he can lie to you and convince you it’s not yours.  Or that you don’t deserve it.  Or that God meant every other sin, but not that one.  But that’s all those are: lies.

Here is the truth: God is love (1 John 4:8).  And love keeps no record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:5).  And because of Jesus, we can have a loving relationship with God.  Therefore, there is NO record of your sin and no punishment from God for those who are in Christ (Romans 8:1).

Hear me, sister: When He looks at you, He sees perfection and innocence (Colossians 1:22) regardless of what you see, think, or feel at the moment.

So, although you have fallen short of His commands, you are free to live in His total forgiveness and love.  In the words of Hillsong United, “It makes no sense, but this is grace.”  It may not be fair, but it is truth.

So take these keys and unlock your prison cell dear.  You’re free to go.

 

I Feel Like a Phony

My husband and I recently brought home our youngest son through international adoption, and I have to say that one of the hardest parts about this process for me has been the unexpected admiration that we have received because we chose to adopt our second son instead of having another child biologically. Please hear me say this – I appreciate every encouraging word that has been sent our way; I really do.  And it has all meant so much to us and has kept us going even through the tough days.

But I feel like such a phony every single time I hear someone say something like, “You are such great people!” or “You’ve done such a great thing!”

And it’s been especially hard lately because I’m not very happy right now.  This beautiful story of rescue looks more like a sinking ship at the moment.

I have heard of women speak of post-adoption depression, but at that point I was two years into waiting for the green light to travel and get custody of my son and I shrugged it off as being an impossibility for me.  ‘I already love this kid too much.’ I thought.  I mean, being sad during the paperwork and waiting–absolutely.  But once he’s home, what is there to be sad about?

But here I am.  Exactly one month, two weeks, and one day after gaining custody of Ryder, and I am struggling.

I know I sound like the biggest jerk on the face of the planet right now.  I have a beautiful, healthy baby boy who is finally in our arms and united with his family.  Trust me.  I know how horrible I sound.  But hear me out…

Life in our home right now is a never-ending battle.  The boys are constantly at each others’ throats, which people say biological brothers would do, as well.  But this is different.  Maddux didn’t have the “warm up” time with an infant sibling. One day Maddux had total reign over all of his toys, and the next, a toddler rolled in and started breaking all of his stuff.  And Ryder also bit, pinched, and hit his foster siblings freely in his foster home without correction, so you can only imagine how things are going here.  And even more than the broken skin from the biting, Maddux’s broken heart has been hardest for my mommy heart to deal with through all of this.  Maddux was so excited to be a brother, but now he just walks on eggshells standing guard for the next attack when Ryder doesn’t get his way.

Ryder’s home country also did not encourage discipline before school age, and based on his attitude and unwillingness to be told “no,” we are pretty sure he was in charge at his foster home.  There is a constant battle here between our expectations and his extremely strong will–especially when it comes to food (which is likely the result of his impoverished background).  I just want him to realize that we have expectations for his behavior because we love him, but it seems like enforcing expectations only seems to distance him from us and cause him to reject us more.

Being unsure of whether I’m “doing it right” has also done a number on me.  Every decision I make, every word I say, every look I give–I am second guessing myself.  “Maybe I should have just ignored him and let him do it–he’s been through so much already” or “I just let him off way too easily–he can’t treat people me that.”  Finding the balance between enforcing expectations and showing grace is just about to kill me, y’all.

And so, the truth is that I am not a great person doing a great thing.  I’m a broken person trying to love a little person with a broken past, and I’m just not doing a very good job.  I want so badly to be an amazingly patient and unconditionally loving mother, but this new life has just been really hard.  Harder than I ever anticipated it to be.  And I feel so defeated.

Then I remember why we did this in the first place.

Folks, I am not the rescuer.  I am the rescued.

I am not a hero who saved a little boy’s life.  I’m a broken woman who was once dead but is now alive because I was the one rescued.

tumblr_n2ebn53Owf1sg4ssuo1_500-2.jpgSeriously, think about it.  God has shown me he is trustworthy over and over, and yet I still live in fear.  He has shown me that He loves me unconditionally, and yet I frequently doubt my worth. He has shown me that He is the only source of true joy, and yet I’m often looking for joy in every place but Him.

If I’m being honest, I’ve actually spent the majority of my life being a real pain.  Being strong willed and battling the expectations He has set before me.  Rejecting him when His plans weren’t what I had in mind.

(Oh crap.  This is all starting to sound familiar.)

No, I have never bit God or screamed at him in Thai, but I certainly have fought His love at times.  But I realize that even in my brokenness, God still loves me.  He still fights for me.  He still has unshakable patience.  He still shows me undeserving grace.  And as the rescued, I am to extend that same love and grace to my hurting son.

So the truth is, Jesus called Chase and me to adopt, and because we owe him everything, we did.  We are far from saints, and this process has only reminded me of that.  But I have an incredible God that is more than capable of seeing us through this confusing time.

As we try to navigate through these stormy waters, we have to stay focused on these truths: He equips us to succeed in our callings.  And He has a perfect plan for Ryder that will glorify Him, and we are blessed to be a small part of that.

So, yeah.  I’m down.  Call it whatever you want– maybe post-adoption depression or simply the result of living in a broken world.  But my God has never, ever failed, and my rescuer will once again prevail.

Better days are coming.  But until then, I pray… and try not to get bitten.

Unblemished.

To be unblemished.  Without fault.  Flawless.  Perfect.

It is nearly every woman’s dream.  Certainly mine.

And not just on the outside.  No, I’m talking about the inside, too.  I want to be the perfect mother.  Wife.  Friend.  Student.  Teacher.  Daughter.  The perfect person.

I want to love perfectly.  Serve perfectly.  Encourage perfectly.  And these are all noble actions, so surely striving for perfection in these things is a noble deed.  Right?

Oh, to be unblemished.  To never say something stupid.  To never miss an opportunity.  To never punish when I was simply supposed to console.  To never use sour sarcasm when all they needed was sweet encouragement.   To never speak out of anger or ignorance.  To never waste the moment I’m given by wishing I were somewhere else.  To never fear.  Oh–to never fear.

Unblemished.  To never be on the receiving end of the bitter cattiness of women in the workplace.  To never feel as if his absence was my fault.  To never feel that everyone else’s happiness is my responsibility.  To never be counted out before I even begin.  To never be left out or picked last.  To never be looked over because of my background or accent or appearance.

To be unblemished means more than just the perfect selfie.  It is to be free of painful scars inflicted by others and myself.  To be blameless and love others selflessly.  To be free of the baggage of sin that brings death.

For years, I have strived to be a woman who stands before you unblemished.

And for years I have failed.

But, God…

The two sweetest words I know, and the inspiration for this project.

Welcome, friends.  May we begin to see ourselves as God sees us.