Love is Patient, Therefore…

Christmas is coming. You can’t miss it. Our tree is up, we pass the bright lights on our way home from work and school, the radio stations have a playlist of about five Christmas songs going right now, and the glorious peppermint mochas are here– for a limited time only. We are waiting for Christmas in full force. Each day, we get closer and closer, and the excitement seems almost unbearably thrilling for the littles in my life. They know it’s coming. They can tell you how many days until December 25 without fail. As adults, we see it as an easy thing to wait for; we know the good that’s on the other end. But when we grow up, our waiting isn’t quite so fun.

I’ve been a witness to the waiting lately. I’ve prayed with friends waiting for a medical appointment. I’ve prayed with strangers waiting for a heart transplant. I’ve prayed with families waiting for the doctor to come out and say “she’s gonna be okay”. I’ve prayed for an end to the wait.

If I actually love God I’m patient with the story He’s writing“. I heard this on Annie Downs’ That Sounds Fun podcast yesterday. I had to listen to it again to soak it up. If we look at scripture as one connected piece, we see that “love is patient” (1 Corinthians 13:4).  Therefore, if I love God, I am patient with God. Are you uncomfortable? Because I’m uncomfortable. If I need to be patient with God to love God, then I’m not a very loving daughter. I want immediate answers. I want my prayers to come to fruition now. Fix it, Jesus!

I know I’ve written about waiting before. A lot. It just feels like Christmas is a good time to think about waiting. When Jesus was born, it was an answer to a 400 year old prayer. The people that first knew about a Messiah were long gone before His plan played out. They died not knowing. When Mary heard she would give birth to the Savior of the world, she had to wait nine months to see what this would look like. We wait, too, for our Savior to come back. We very well may die before He returns, but we need to wait well and we need to wait with hope.

God chose us for the wait. He isn’t stringing us along, He’s forming us into the favored children we are. We may wait and end up with results we didn’t want. We may wait and celebrate at the finish line. We may get our green light and feel a little underwhelmed. God won’t send us on a meaningless journey. The waiting has a purpose, and we can trust Him in that. If I don’t get an answer today, there’s a reason why. If my prayer is not answered the way I wanted, I can trust that God’s plans are better. They may be better in a heavenly sense and not through my earthly eyes, but they are better.

Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“plans for your well-being, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

There it is…what we all want while we wait– Hope.

If He is not your hope, the waiting will be excruciating. Why is waiting for Christmas not painful? Because we get Jesus at the end. How did our biblical ancestors wait for 400 years? Because they got Jesus at the end. Why can we hope that our prayers will be answered in the best possible way? Because Jesus is on the other end.

I don’t know what you’re waiting for today. You may be where you want to be. I hope you meet Jesus there.

 

 

 

If you’re needing a new Christmas song while you wait, check out this one by Ellie Holcomb. It’s a great way to start your Friday. Ellie Holcomb-Hope is Alive

 

 

 

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It’s Not Thair

One of my favorite six year olds, who has amazing vocabulary and diction, has the funniest habit of saying “It’s not thair” instead of “It’s not fair“. It makes a potentially annoying phrase endearing, and no one is correcting her anytime soon. When we were six, life did probably seem unfair, and we expressed exactly how we felt. “That’s not fair!” or “No fair!” seems to be a go-to phrase for the precious kindergarten population when things just aren’t going the way they want. When we were six, we could stomp our feet, clench our fists, make our declaration, and move on.

But then we grew up.

And instead of getting better, we got worse.

Now I’m not speaking for everyone. I have a lot of very mature people in my life who do not give the time of day to minor injustices. And I use “injustice” lightly. I’m talking about the small potatoes of life, the things we would reprimand our children for complaining about, quoting the ever popular, “You get what you get, and you don’t throw a fit”. I’m talking about things that really don’t matter in the scope of life.

Case in point: Bobby Bones won Dancing with the Stars, and the internet lost their ever loving minds. Full disclosure: I voted for Bobby every week, because I loved his heart and his passion for the show. I am not ignorant of the fact that he was not the best dancer, but I enjoyed watching him every week, so I made my calls every Monday night. So the finale came, and his name was announced as the winner. They didn’t even announce the runners-up. His name was called, credits rolled, and America sat with mouths open wide. The Dumas household may or may not have thrown a mini party after we got over the initial shock.

But then the unsatisfied viewers took to the internet. “I’m done with this show”, “I’m never watching again”, “I have never been this disappointed in Dancing with the Stars”, “I hate Dancing with the Stars”, and it only got worse from there. People pulled out “your mom” lines, Bobby’s Twitter was hacked, celebrities bashed him online, Bobby got death threats- y’all! Death threats over a television show. You know who was silent? The other contestants in the finale. The people with a horse in the race weren’t blowing up. They were on a plane together, heading to New York to be on Good Morning America. Not physically or verbally abusing the champion. Thousands of people took offense to something that had nothing to do with their everyday lives. They reverted back to their childhood selves and threw a collective tantrum.

Now I’m sure I’m not speaking to the fit throwers, but I know I’m guilty of getting offended at really insignificant things. I get offended about things that aren’t even my business. As an adult, we know what comes after the phrase “It’s not fair!”. Life’s not fair. We won’t always win when we deserve it. We won’t always be appreciated for the work we do. We won’t always get the job we think we are most qualified for. Life isn’t fair, but it’s not rational to verbally abuse, or, more realistically, hide behind a computer screen and lash out at someone.

When Jesus told us to love our neighbors as ourselves, social media wasn’t a thing, but because He’s all-knowing, He meant for us to love our neighbors on Twitter, too. We cannot waste our time getting up in arms about insignificant things. There are too many real injustices happening every day.

It’s unfair that children go to bed hungry.

It’s unfair that there are families torn apart by politics.

It’s unfair that criminals get away with murder- literally.

It’s unfair that individuals suffering from mental illnesses aren’t getting the help they need.

I could go on. But you get my point. A reality show? Come on. Channel your energy into something you can change.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. -Ghandi

Isaiah 30:18 says “Therefore the Lord will wait, that He may be gracious to you; and therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for Him” (NKJV). God has shown us grace upon grace, mercy upon mercy. It’s not our job to show justice, but to live justly. We have a righteous Judge for that. “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8 NKJV). Nowhere in that statement does it say “lash out at someone until you get your way”. 

We are going to be disappointed. We are going to experience frustration and feelings of helplessness about the events surrounding us. At the end of the day, no matter what life throws our way, we are commanded to show mercy, do justly-even when we are surrounded by injustice- and to love one another. Maybe if we followed Jesus’ lead, we would see fewer injustices. Maybe we would start fixing what is broken. If we regress to the good parts about being six-when we shared our snacks, and gave out hugs like they were confetti, and we colored pictures for people- maybe then we could live in a world we like.

Don’t get caught up in someone else’s battle, in the things that don’t affect your life a single bit. Get out there and love your neighbors- even if they voted for Bobby Bones on Dancing with the Stars.

Dance with the Fear

I did a quick search to see if I had written on fear before, and 23 posts came up. So there’s that. It’s safe to say fear is something I struggle with on a regular basis.

My most recent bout with fear came in the form of a concert. If you have seen the news lately, you know that there are no safe places. We are living on the front lines every day, but most recently, a gunman took the lives of 12 people at a bar. It’s my understanding it was a country themed night, where music was being played. Rewind a little bit to the Las Vegas shooting, which took place during a concert, and then to Manchester, at another concert where someone used an explosive device to kill 22 people. See a trend?

So Daniel and I had been planning to see Ben Rector for months. He even surprised me with VIP meet and greet passes. I. Was. Pumped. …But then fear set in. What if something happens? Am I being reckless? Who would tell my kids? What would happen to them? What if I live, but I’m unable to cognitively function? Holy moly, welcome to my Enneagram 6 brain.  I began to pray days before the concert for safety. I prayed for the people attending, I prayed that if anyone had plans to do something bad, they would be thwarted, I prayed for the security guards to be vigilant, I prayed for metal detectors.

The knots in my stomach mostly stayed at bay all day on Thursday before the show. It wasn’t until we stopped to grab a bite to eat that it became more real. We were next door to the concert venue, and I was eying all the attendees waiting to get in. I texted my sister and asked her to pray. Daniel, knowing my concerns, prayed for safety as he prayed for our meal. Within minutes, I realized there were metal detectors. An answered prayer.

The funny thing is, Ben Rector has a song called Fear. My favorite line says “I learned to dance with the fear that I’d been running from”. It has been my mantra, amidst Bible verses claiming victory over fear. I talk myself off the ledge quite often. If I were to avoid going to all the places where mass casualties have occurred, I would have to become Boo Radley and never leave my house. I wouldn’t be able to go to church, the grocery store, drive my car, send my kids to school, or attend concerts anymore. Obviously, this isn’t an option. I refuse to live my life in fear.

I joked (and by “joked” I mean I was actually entirely serious) with Daniel before the show, pointing out the exit I would take if we found ourselves in danger. If we’re fighting or flighting, I’m out. I truly hate that it has come to this, but here we are. I’m not going to hide. I’m not going to cower. I don’t know what the answer is, what stops this from being a reality, but I refuse to let fear win.

I told Daniel that as a child, I used to think about the children in countries riddled with war. How scared they must feel going to bed every night, knowing there were explosions and gunfire right outside. My concept of war probably wasn’t very accurate, but that’s what I imagined. I think about how far away that felt. How it wasn’t a scenario I imagined myself living in. But here we are. It puts a pit in my stomach, and I feel unsettled. But I will get back up.

I will keep praying, not just for safety, but for the hearts of the killers. For the hearts of the people who have ideas to commit such horrible acts. I will smile at people who pass me on the street and hope they recognize that they are seen. I will show love to whomever I can. I will pray for the people in charge. I will pray for my children and teach them to respect and love one another. To show them the value of a life. I may not change the world, but I’ll go down trying.

God gave me peace on Thursday. I wasn’t worried the whole time. I had fun. I clapped,  I sang, I danced (much to Daniel’s chagrin), I made friends with the security guard. I am so glad I didn’t let fear stop me. My favorite definition of courage is “being scared but doing it anyway”. That’s where I am right now.

Psalm 56:3 When I am afraid, I will trust in you

1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. So the one who fears is not complete in love.

Joshua 1:9 Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

Psalm 118:6 The Lord is for me; I will not be afraid. What can a mere mortal do to me?

It’s not a suggestion; it’s a command. Do not fear. I’m a work in progress, and I praise God for being my help and shield. He is with me, and should the worst happen, I’ll be in Heaven with Him that much sooner. I can rest in that promise. Amen.

Falling in Love with Jesus

I remember attending my first women’s retreat. I was nervous. I didn’t know what to expect. Would there be a lot of crying? Would we have to do trust falls? Was this going to be weird? My concerns vanished within minutes of our first session. I don’t remember exactly what was said, but something stuck with me: the leader’s emotional connection to Jesus Christ. She loved Him, and it was evident. I had never heard anyone speak of Jesus in that way. Sure, I sang Jesus Loves Me more times than I could even begin to count. I thought about how much He loves me plenty of times. I told people “Jesus loves you!”, but I never placed the emphasis on how much I loved Him. I realized my spiritual see-saw was stuck on the ground, unbalanced, and not going anywhere.

So what does loving Jesus look like? John 14:15 says, “If you love me, you will keep my commands” (CSB). What are His commands? “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.The second is, Love your neighbor as yourself.There is no other command greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31 CSB) We love Jesus by obeying what the Bible says, recognizing Him as our Lord and Savior, and loving His people.

I don’t really believe in love at first sight. There are a lot of people in my life that I found an instant connection with, but it would be a disservice to the word “love” if I said I loved them the moment I met them. I could love them as neighbors, in the more active form of the word. I could provide for their needs, I could encourage them, I could provide a friendly smile, but I couldn’t say I love them, not right away. It takes time to cultivate a feeling like that. Love requires some dirt, some hard work. It requires a development of trust and understanding of one another. The same is true for a relationship with Jesus.

Falling in love with Jesus is what we should be aiming for. But like an earthly relationship, it takes time. Reading His Word, praying, talking about Him, singing about and to Him, now that will get you somewhere. He has to become more than an item on a checklist or a name on a list of references. We have to learn to depend on Him, to trust Him, and to love Him. Only then will our love for Jesus “runneth over” like my retreat leader.

Since then, I’ve noticed a difference in people who truly love Jesus. There is a joy in their faces when they talk about Him. He’s personal, not just a character in a story. Their celebrations are credited to Him. Their sorrows are soothed by Him. Their decisions are based on Him. I want to love Jesus like they do.

How do we get there? How do we pursue loving Jesus? How do we begin to love Jesus in return? Here’s the thing: we will never love Him like He loved us. He gave the ultimate sacrifice; He died for us to give us eternal life (see John 3:16). We cannot return that gift, but we can obey His commands, read the Bible, and love one another. We can share the love that He first gave us. We can meditate on His goodness and His teachings–really think about these things, instead of skimming the surface.

We can thank Him for all the “little” things. Rejoice in Him when you find your lipstick in your suitcase of a purse. Praise Jesus when the dog made it safely across the road. Give a little “Hallelujah” when your child remembers to keep his hands to himself all day. Give Jesus the credit where credit is due. Recognize the ways you depend on Him and thank Him for that. Share your joy with others- because one sure way to feel joyful is to start praising our Lord.

Like an earthly relationship, these feelings of love won’t happen overnight. The things that hold the most worth take a while to cultivate. Learn to love Jesus. See the joy that bubbles forth and spreads to others. Make others look at your relationship and be inspired to strive for more. We may never be able to love Jesus just like He loves us, but we can begin to move with Him and let Him shape our lives for the better. Our relationship will be so much richer and immensely more meaningful.

In the words of everyone’s favorite church camp chant, I love Jesus, yes I do. I love Jesus, how about you?

Did God Really Say…

Have you ever felt called to do something, only to feel completely inadequate? You wonder if God really meant to choose you for the task at hand. Maybe you felt led to change careers, only to fail the certification exam. Or you applied for a new job, only to be rejected. Maybe you struggle to feel competent as a mom or wife. You feel like everyone is doing a better job than you. Your kids were the last ones to be picked up at day care. Your neighbor’s homemade, homegrown vegetable soup is something out of a magazine, while your frozen pizza in the oven just set off the smoke alarm. It’s a miserable feeling. One that will lead you to question what you were once certain of. Did God really say…?

It’s so easy to feel defeated and less than. It’s so easy to forget that God promised us that He will “equip [us] with everything good to do His will” (Hebrews 13:21 CSB). The fact of the matter is that we cannot do everything God asks of us without Him. Until we realize we must fully rely on God, our feelings of inadequacy will prevail. Satan will try to use those feelings to thwart our obedience, but listen carefully: don’t let fear put up a road block where God paved the way.

Our dear Adam and Eve fell into the trap of “Did God really say” in Genesis 3. They had everything. They followed God’s command to name the animals, be fruitful and multiply, and provide companionship for one another, yet the seemingly easy command to avoid one little piece of fruit in the Garden proved to be too much. We are quick to point out their lack of self-control, but any one of us would have taken their place. We fall into temptation when we have everything we need to stand firm. We ignore God’s urgings in favor of our own desires. We listen to the wrong voice, asking “Did God really say?”

We are going to fail. We are going to run hard after good things, things God has led us to, only to fall on our faces. I tell you this: laying on the ground is not the time to stop trusting in God. After a good tumble is when we need God the most. Isaiah 61:3 tells us God will “give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, festive oil instead of mourning, and splendid clothes instead of despair.” He will heal the broken hearted (Psalm 147:3).

Sometimes obedience is a process. You may feel led to go one way, but it turns out to be just a pit stop on your final destination. God may be using your brokenness to restore a relationship with Him. He uses our lowest moments to tenderly remind us of His kindness. The road may be bumpy and frustrating, but as you follow God, you can look back and see how He delivered you. He is so good.

Don’t let failure dictate your decision to follow God anyway. Some of the best heroes in the Bible couldn’t do it alone, either. Moses didn’t feel equipped, even after God called Him to be a leader, so Aaron stepped in. David didn’t use his authority in a way that honored God, yet God used his lowest point to bring him closer than ever. Mary was just a young girl when God called her to be the mother of Jesus. I’m sure she wondered, “Did God really say” more times than she cared to admit. Just like you, they were called, and they questioned if they heard Him right. They wondered how they would ever do what God asked of them. Here’s the secret: They didn’t. God did.

Philippians 4:19 tells us, “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (CSB). God will give you what you need, whether it’s a physical item or courage. His resources will never run out. He will never feel depleted. He will never be second place to anyone or anything. Your inadequacy is His moment to shine. When you say “wait”, He says “watch this”. When you say “I can’t”, He says “I did”.

Ask Him for guidance and strength. Put those blinders on when comparison starts to win. Tell Satan “Yes, God really did say…” and press on. It won’t always end up looking pretty, with a big red bow; your journey might leave you ripped to shreds. But He will carry you where you need to go, every single time.

How to Help a Hurting Friend

Have you ever heard about the guy who was in the middle of a flood and told his neighbors God would save him? So before the rain got too bad, a man rode by in a car and offered to bring him to safety, but the man refused, saying God would save him. Then the waters rose, and a friend floated by in a canoe. Again, the man said he would wait it out-God was gonna save him. Finally, the waters rose so high that the man was forced up to his roof. A helicopter flew by with a ladder, but again, he refused, saying God was going to save him. Sadly, the man drowned and went to heaven. When he got there, he asked God why he didn’t save him. God replied, “I sent you a man with a car, a man with a boat, and a man with a helicopter. What else did you want me to do?”

God sends people to find us.

I want to talk about what to do once we find the lost.

There’s an amazing video of a talk by Brené Brown about the difference between empathy and sympathy. I highly recommend watching it. There are a few key points:

  • Empathy: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
  • Sympathy: feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune.
  • Empathetic statements rarely begin with “at least”.

Here’s what I’ve learned: People mean well. The “at least” speakers don’t mean to sound harsh or unsupportive. They’re doing what they think will help.

In my job, I meet a lot of grief. Whether it is the loss of a child, a parent, or normalcy, I’ve seen and shed my fair share of tears. I’ve learned about the different reactions and how to help.

Who I see:

  1. The silent sufferer- prefers to sit in silence, may or may not cry, walks away, hides in the bathroom, leans on loved ones
  2. The demonstrative- screaming, weeping, typically collective grief
  3. The bottom dwellers- their grief takes such a physical toll, they pass out or feel an immediate need to be close to the floor

How to help:

The silent sufferers: sit with them

The demonstratives: sit with them

The bottom dwellers: sit with them on the floor

In my own situations of grief, I remember who was there. When I lost my third son during pregnancy, I remember who brought food, who came to just sit and talk, who brought my kids to school, who drove me to get my hair cut, who sent texts to check in, who mailed cards. It wasn’t about what they had to offer, it was about being there. They sat in the hole with me. The moms who had literally been there told me “I had a similar situation happen to me, and I’m so sorry”. If I had questions, they answered them, they offered hugs, but they didn’t preach. You remember the supportive words, but you remember the crummy advice also.

Look at the woman at the well in John 4. Jesus sat with her. She was hurting, and He let her guide their interaction. She wasn’t necessarily in a situation of loss, but she was quite possibly grieving her sin.

When the woman at the well was having a rough day, Jesus sat with her.

The woman felt accepted and valued before she opened up to Jesus. Jesus sat with her, saw her as a person, not as Samaritan or Jew, and then provided guidance and comfort. While our hurting friends aren’t always hurting because of something they did, our hurts all stem from the fact that we live in a fallen, broken world. It is our job to model Jesus’ instruction and comfort in the brokenness. Jesus didn’t condemn her. He pointed out the issue, and she was honest, but I don’t think she was ashamed. Convicted, yes. Ready to change, yes. But not made to feel less-than. His actions had already welcomed her in.

When our friends are hurting, they don’t need preachy friends. They need someone to sit with them, rub their backs, scrub their floors, make them a casserole, and bring them a latte- with whip, and don’t you dare go skinny! Full on grief requires all the calories.

I saw a tweet the other day that said, “Sometimes when grief happens, I wish we could just say “I think God is sad about this too” instead of “He has a plan”. I get that He has a plan, but I genuinely believe His heart is grieved by a lot of what is happening.” I wholeheartedly agree.

Having a friend there to listen to the flood of emotions can help so much. You don’t have to have all the answers; you just have to listen. Let her know she is heard; she is found.

When we have friends who have been there, they become our map. They help us navigate. If you have been in the trenches, you can help those who come after you. If you read a book that really helped during your situation, pass it along. If there is a song that spoke to you or a podcast that got you through some tough days, send it her way. Those little acts of kindness become major mile markers through the grief journey.

On the other hand, sometimes you have no idea how a person is feeling. Their situation is foreign to you. People need to hear that their heartache matters. Their struggle matters. They are heard. If you can’t be a navigator, be the somebody who is around. Listen, acknowledge the crash. You may not lead the way, but you can ride shotgun.

Remind your friend that God is on our side. He loves us, and He grieves alongside us. Grief was never part of His original, perfect plan. We have made a mess of things. But He still roots for us. He still wants the best for us. Bring your burdens to Him and let His love wash over the hurts. It may sting, but He knows more than anyone how to heal the broken hearted.

Psalm 34:18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Remind the hurting they will be/they are found. Our Good Shepherd is here. He is on our side. Sit with them. Listen. Read the Truth over them. Pray with them and for them. Let God use you to be the light for someone. Thank Him for the opportunity to be His hands and feet.

Who can you help today?

Sing Your Song

Have you ever messed up in front of a bunch of people? Maybe not Steve Harvey at Miss Universe messed up, but embarrassed yourself enough to get that awful feeling of failure? You know, like Sally in Peanuts, when she said “hockey stick!” instead of “Hark!” Or, in high school, when a girl was giving a presentation in US History, and wrote “pubic works” instead of “public works” on the board. Her audience of 16 year olds was soooo mature.

Well, on Sunday, I was singing in church, and my voice was just shot. After cheering on the Tigers in the rain at Tiger Stadium the night before, and pushing my voice to the limit on a few songs earlier in the service, I knew the song was going to be difficult. It was just so high. So, I got close to the end, hobbling to the finish line, and I missed the mark. My first thought was “I’m never singing this song again.” I kept my eyes closed, afraid to see the looks that ensued. I could feel my neck start to sweat, and my face flush. But we finished, and moved on to the next song. My mind continued to race. This was on video.

Slowly, as we sang a new song with our congregation, I realized how silly it was to pack up a song forever because of one missed note. Ironically, the song was Great is Thy Faithfulness. “Morning by morning, new mercies I see. All I have needed Thy hand hath provided. Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.” I heard the church singing along to the last song, Is He Worthy by Andrew Peterson. It’s a call and answer song, where someone sings a line and the congregation answers with “We do” or “He does”. I took my ear monitor out, and the sound of the people confirming God’s love and worthiness was overwhelming. My stupid note did not matter.

It’s easy to get taken captive by your own thoughts. “When Satan tempts me to despair…” It was so easy for me to decide not to sing a song declaring God’s faithfulness because of my own inadequacy. Yes, I’m inadequate! That’s why I need God!!

I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise will always be on my lips.
I will boast in the Lord;
the humble will hear and be glad.
Proclaim the Lord’s greatness with me;
let us exalt his name together. -Psalm 34:1-3 (CSB)

Satan uses our shortcomings to convince us to give up. God uses our shortcomings for His glory and grace. Like Paul said in Philippians 3:14, “I press on to win the prize of God’s heavenly calling in Christ Jesus” (NIV).

One of my favorite movies is Elizabethtown. One of the main characters gets fired from his job in the first few minutes of the movie because of a recall on a shoe he designed. When he finally tells his love interest about his mishap, her response is:

So you failed. Alright you really failed. You failed. You failed. You failed. You failed. You failed. You failed. You failed. You failed. You failed. You failed. You failed. You failed. You think I care about that? I do understand. You wanna be really great? Then have the courage to fail big and stick around. Make them wonder why you’re still smiling.

Why am I still singing? Because His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23). Because He put a new song in my mouth (Psalm 40:3). Because He rejoices over me with singing, so I’m going to sing back (Zephaniah 3:17). I will rejoice in the Lord, always, even when I mess up.

Sing your new song to the Lord. Your failures and shortcomings will never be enough to separate you from His love. It won’t ever make sense to us, because we can’t love like He does. We can’t comprehend unfailing, never ending love, but we can accept it. We can come to God after every mess up, hiccup, throw up, and He will welcome us in.

Sing your song.

One in Four

Today is Infant Loss Awareness Day. It’s okay if you don’t want to keep reading. I don’t want to make you sad. It’s not for everyone, and that is okay. I sincerely mean that.

Four years ago tomorrow, I returned to work after a six week maternity leave for a baby who didn’t leave the hospital. His name was Hartley. For a while, a lot of people knew our story, they lived it with us, but as the years pass, I find it more personal. While I love saying his name, I tend to hold his memories in my heart instead. I share his story readily, but my words are usually met with sadness. I am happy to share our story if you need to hear it, but for today, as we remember the babies we never met, or only knew for a short time, I want to offer hope.

For the mamas who are wondering what to do with empty arms, I speak life. For the dads who wonder if it’s okay to grieve something they didn’t know, I speak truth. For the families needing to talk, I listen.

Confusion. Sadness. Devastation. Uncertainty. Anger. Peace…unexplainable peace. Numbness. Ache. Heartbreak. Joy.

You learn the power of prayer. When you aren’t able to pray, your people fill in. When you can only stand in the shower and cry, God hears that prayer, too. Eventually, the words come. A few and then some more. And then some more. Eventually, your happy moments don’t feel so awkward. You remember that it’s okay to have fun. And you remember why you can’t eat Bluebell for every meal.

You wonder if you could have done anything to stop it. You wonder if you made the right choices in the midst of the loss. Should I have held him? Should we have had a funeral? What happens now? We remember. For a moment, we were his parents, and we made the best decisions for our family in that moment.

Four years out, I can offer support to a mom in a similar situation. But I can do that because of strength and peace that can only come from God. Because kindred moms did the same for me when I was living it. I can say Hartley’s name because I know that I will SEE him in heaven one day. I have hope.

I clung to 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (CSB)

I listened to Shoulders, by For King and Country on Repeat. “My help comes from You
You’re right here, pulling me through, You carry my weakness, my sickness, my brokenness all on Your shoulders, Your shoulders”. I know God carried me through those awful months. He carries me now.

I still feel like I’m missing something, sometimes. I wish I had him here. I wish I wouldn’t have lost my ability to have more children when I lost Hartley, but I trust that God’s plans are better. I know “all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28 CSB). I don’t have to understand it, but I can trust in God. His love never fails (Psalm 136).

If this is the first October 15 since you’ve lost a child, you’ve almost made it through the day. The hurt won’t be as sharp next year. The grief, while still there, changes. It will get easier to breathe. If it’s been five or ten or twenty years, thank you for loving on those of us who came behind you. Thank you for working together to make October 15 a thing. We remember.

If you know someone who lost a child, say something. Acknowledge that today might be hard, and that you see them. Say their child’s name, if you know it. It is the sweetest sound. We remember.

“A miscarriage is a natural and common event. All told, probably more women have lost a child from this world than haven’t. Most don’t mention it, and they go on from day to day as if it hadn’t happened, so people imagine a woman in this situation never really knew or loved what she had. But ask her sometime: how old would your child be now? And she’ll know.” -Barbara Kingsolver

Thank you for reading this far. I am one in four.

She’s Doing the Best She Can

When I was younger, I used to get so frustrated when my parents’ expectations of me were different than those of my sister. I felt like I worked my tail off, and she coasted through life and received the same praise- or even more, according to my mind. My mom would say we were different kids. I didn’t like that answer. But now I’m a mom with two very different kids, and I totally get it.

My expectation of my older son is that he receives A’s in conduct, yet I celebrate B’s with my younger son. I know that a B is the very best he can do some days, and I gladly accept it. I haven’t heard any complaints yet about the seemingly off-balance parenting, but I’m sure it will come eventually.

It can still be frustrating as adults when we feel like God parents us differently. I may feel convicted of a sin I’m committing, one my friend also does all the time, yet God hasn’t placed it on her heart to stop. Why did I get called out? Because she may be doing the best she can, and I am not.

Flip the tables. When I’m in charge of getting the boys to baseball or soccer, feeding the family, teaching a lesson at church, making sure homework is done, bathing the boys, and working full time, the floors may not be swept, the laundry may be sitting in a basket, and the furniture may be dusty. But I’ve done the best I can, and I’m grateful for grace. I’m relieved that no one is going to call me out on the undone.

My mom used to get annoyed when someone would say “I gave 110%”. She would say that’s impossible. You can’t give more than you have. I think about that often when I’m not performing in the way I feel like I should. 100% is relative. Today my 100% might be awesome. I might have the energy to do everything on my checklist. I might have two boys who wake up in great moods, ready for a fantastic Friday, and I might even get to work a minute or two early. On the other hand, I might encounter a dog who eats my kid’s toaster strudel, forgotten homework, hair that just won’t cooperate, and a child who never ceases to feel the call of nature as I’m ready to walk out the door. My all might look different on a day like that. I will do the best I can.

I love listening to Annie Downs’ podcast, That Sounds Fun. Several weeks ago, Annie and her guest (and I’m so sorry I don’t remember who it was- I will edit if I find out) were talking about looking back on old versions of ourselves and being embarrassed by that person. Hiding your face when you think about words that came out of your mouth or dumb decisions that had awful ripple effects. One of the ladies said something along the lines of “You know, I don’t get embarrassed, because I know that girl was doing the best she could”. I remember driving to work, fighting back tears, because I was beating myself up about not being on top of my mom-game or my work-game or really just my self-game. But I was doing the best I could. My best for that moment was what I was doing. I was trying.

From that moment, I shifted my attitude. Not to be lazy or to brush off sub-par efforts, but to truly look at my motive. If this is my best today, then I’m okay with that. And let me tell you, it’s incredibly freeing. To know that I don’t have to be everything to all people, to know that I may be killing it some days and just making it on others.

What I do have to be mindful of is that I’m doing everything for the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (ESV). If I’m doing that, I’m truly doing my best. I don’t have to be Supermom or Wonder Wife, I just have to be a child of God. And I can do that. And you can too.

Steven Curtis Chapman put that verse into a song called “Do Everything”. In the chorus, he sings,

As you do everything you do
To the glory of the One who made you,
‘Cause He made you,
To do
Every little thing that you do
To bring a smile to His face
Tell the story of grace
With every move that you make
And every little thing you do

If your actions fit these lyrics, if they pass the 1 Corinthians 10:31 test, then you’ve done what you can do. You’re doing the best you can. If your job for the day requires more, then bring it to God. We weren’t meant to do it all alone. He may give you the strength you need, or He may send just the right helper. Ask God to guide you, and your best might become better. Glorify Him in your weakness, and praise Him in your strength.

“Whatever you do, do it from the heart, as something done for the Lord and not for people.” Colossians 3:23 (CSB)

Giving Up the Glad Game

“We’re better off the sooner that we find
That life is mostly what we choose to see
‘Cause whether or not I’ve got what I want
Life keeps moving on in front of me” -Ben Rector

I used to be a fan of the Pollyanna glad game. If you’re not familiar, one, read the book, two watch the movie, and three, it’s basically looking at a bad situation and finding something to be glad about. So, say your alarm clock didn’t go off, and you are now late for work. You can be glad that you got thirty extra minutes of sleep! Or, if you forgot a major assignment at school, you can be glad that you have a school go to! See? It doesn’t really solve the problem, and it places an unrealistic expectation on you to fix it on your own.

It can be a good exercise for reframing, but it can also be frustrating. It doesn’t make the problem go away, and sometimes, when someone tells me to look on the bright side or reframe my thoughts, it makes me more annoyed.

Paul David Tripp talks about this idea in his devotional, New Morning Mercies. In the September 25 entry, he says, “It is not biblical faith to try to convince yourself that things are better than they actually are. It is not biblical faith to work to make yourself feel good about what is not good. Biblical faith looks reality in the face and does not flinch.  On the other hand, there is a crucial difference between facing hard realities and allowing those realities to dominate the meditation of your heart.”

If you’re in a situation that seems insurmountable, you will continue to feel defeated all day long if you sit and think about how insurmountable it is. However, if you take your situation for what it is, ask God to redirect your thoughts, and face it, it helps move your focus. It’s deeper than just finding something to be happy about. It’s a directional shift to God and His guardianship.

Psalm 73:1 says, “Be a rock of refuge for me, where I can always go. Give the command to save me, for you are my rock and fortress.” (CSB) We can always go to God with our troubles, and we can always be assured that He will provide a safe place for us, if not physically, emotionally and mentally. We won’t necessarily escape the situation, but we can lean on Him within it. 

Maybe you’re in a season of waiting. You don’t know how long it will take to get through your trial, and you don’t know how long you can stand it. God knows the end date. God knows the exact moment when your waiting will be over. He is already celebrating that sigh of relief, that wave of peace. When you’re tempted to focus on the hard, focus on His goodness. Look at your day ahead, and pray, “God, I don’t know how I will make it today. I don’t know how I will find the strength, but I know You are good. I know You have plans for me that I may not understand. I know You are with me. I know I can find rest in You. Help that be my focus today.”

The phrase “If God brought you to it, He’ll bring you through it” can be overused and trite, but it’s true. The hard part is acknowledging that He is the one delivering you to the other side. If God brought you to a difficult time, it’s because He wants to help you mature in your faith and bring you closer to him. He knows the situation is impossible without Him, and you can figure it out the easy way or the hard way. Psalm 63:8 says “I cling to You; Your right hand upholds me.” (NIV) In other words, without Him, we fall. We fail. We walk through the day defeated. 

I know it’s not easy. It’s hard to escape the feeling of dread in a dark situation. God won’t always take away the problem, but He will deliver you to the other side, and you’ll be better for it.

I was given a thorn in my flesh… Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” -2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (NIV)