Category Archives: Faith

Day 28: Embrace the Wondering (31 Days of Simple Truths)

Copy-of-DSC_0677-1024x681Over the past two years, my spiritual journey has taken me to unexpected places—deep into the heart of my own questions, doubts, and frustrations.

It scared me. I’ve watched people “wrestle with theology,” until suddenly, they didn’t want anything to do with God or church or Christianity. I thought I’d made peace with my own questions; I didn’t expect them to re-surface. What had I missed?

I didn’t want to lose my faith, but I couldn’t stop the unraveling. I grabbed hold of familiar truths only to find them crumbling in my hands. Many things I had been taught, had wholeheartedly believed, simply didn’t hold up against the reality I faced.

Several months ago, I wept my way through worship once again. I felt incredibly lost, when I sensed the breath of the Spirit on my heart: Don’t you remember who I am? I’m the One who guides you into all truth. And how do you find truth? You ask questions. I’m guiding your questions. It’s Me.

I can’t describe the burden lifted from me in that moment.

The Holy Spirit guides our questions. Have you ever pondered that? It’s a breathtaking reality. Doubt is not always a bad thing. Sometimes He wants us to doubt that thing we’ve clung to because it’s become entangled with something He never meant for us to be anchored to. Sometimes He wants to unravel our foundations, so He can build better ones.

Today, I’m over at The Art of Fear Not with Tammy Hendricksmeyer, writing about leaning into the questions and trusting the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth. Join  me over there for the rest!

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Filed under 31 Days of Simple Truths, Change, Faith

Day 22: The Sound of Rain (31 Days of Simple Truths)

Milada Vigerova/Unsplash

Milada Vigerova/Unsplash

They said on the news something about it being 30 days or so since we’ve had rain. The dry, cracked ground and the browning grass bear witness to this.

So when the clouds started rolling in last night, it was hard to do anything beside peer up at the sky, waiting for the first drop. All through the day and into the evening, we waited.

And then it came, pouring down in a gentle cascade.

I realize then how my soul also bears witness to the dryness, to the immense thirst. I realize because of the relief that floods through my core as I stand at the window, now spattered with drops.

Sometimes I am so thirsty. I am waiting for heaven to pour out so I can open wide and drink deep. I want to gulp in the substance that will sustain life in me. I am staring at the sky.

The sound of rain is the whisper of hope that, just as the rains come in season, so my heart will be flooded with what it needs, at exactly the right time.

Now, the rain falls. Now, my heart waits. And hopes.

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Filed under 31 Days of Simple Truths, Faith, Hope

A Prayer When the Future is Uncertain

Image from Unsplash

Image from Unsplash

“You, Eternal One, are my sustenance and my life-giving cup. In that cup, You hold my future and my eternal riches.” – Psalm 16:5

You, Eternal One, my sustenance—
Carry me.

Bear the weight of my uncertainty,
the wandering and the loneliness,
the tension of being caught between worlds and places,
the swirling, shifting colors of faith
and all I ever believed mattered.

Feed my starving soul.

You—my life-giving cup—
I want to drink deep.
I want to live
wholehearted,
unafraid and unashamed,
hope-filled,
fiery.
Pour the cup You offer
into every dead and dying place in me.

You are holding my future.
I cannot see it or understand it.
I cannot grasp it or shape it.

But

if it is in Your cup,
perhaps I could taste it?
Drink it in until it flows through my veins
and into my core?
It could nourish my way of being,
seep into my blood and bones,
until the hope and unfolding of something beautiful
defines my essence and existence
more than fear of the unknown.

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Filed under Change, Faith, Poetry

Overcoming Evil With Good

*Dear readers, I’ve been doing a ton of writing for my job recently, which is making it quite challenging to keep up with this space. This is one of my recent pieces I did, and it’s a message really close to my heart so I wanted to share it here too.

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” – Romans 12:21

Before you watch the news or search the internet, or maybe just before you begin your day-to-day routines, it might be good to reflect on Paul’s words at the end of Romans 12. It is easy to be weighed down and discouraged by the struggles and very real horrors in the world. We can be paralyzed—so unsure of where to start or how to even address problems so big that we end up not doing much of anything.

But Paul gives us our starting point: Overcome evil with good. What this looks like for each of us will be slightly different, but it is a question we can bring before God daily—what good do You want me to do today?

Practical Mercy

In Victor Hugo’s classic masterpiece, Les Misérables, he tells the story of a man named Jean Valjean, who was imprisoned for 19 years because he stole a loaf of bread. Once he is released, it is only an illusory freedom. He cannot find anywhere to work or stay because he is an ex-convict. He finally finds a compassionate bishop who takes him in, but he repays the man’s kindness by stealing his silverware and slipping away in the night.

The police arrest Valjean and bring him back to the bishop to be charged, but in a stunning display of mercy, the bishop tells the guards that the silverware was a gift and demands that they release him. He challenges Valjean to take the silver and use it to become an honest man—a moment that powerfully transforms his life.

Come on over and read the rest!

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Filed under Faith, Justice, Love

All Things New (#OneWord365)

Image by Chris Sardegna/Unsplash.com

Image by Chris Sardegna/Unsplash.com

Back in November, as I stared at the disappointing rubble of 2014 and felt mounting dread for what the final months might throw our way, everything in me wanted to disappear into a dark hole somewhere. My heart was weary and spent, my fight all used up.

But even as the taunting shadows seemed to inch ever closer, I heard the rumblings of an eternal Voice whispering to the deepest place in my spirit: Hope. Choose hope.

I raged against these words. Several years in a row, I have mustered hope for a new year. Several years in a row, I have watched that hope dashed. I did not think I had the energy for another round of that cruel game.

Still. Every time I turned around, the challenge seemed to be coming at me from all sides: Hope. Choose hope.

I grudgingly began to consider that “hope” just might be my one word for 2015. I didn’t really want it, but I know how it goes—you don’t really choose the word as much as it chooses you. Maybe hope was choosing me. And I began to try to lay down the lenses of disappointment that were tainting the image of everything I could see; I tried to see differently.

It was subtle at first, and then undeniable—a shift started taking place. First, my heart started softening. Then circumstances started changing. Surprises. New friendship. A raise. Unexpected bonuses. Clarity. Rest. I hadn’t even fully embraced hope, but it seemed as if maybe it wasn’t going to be quite as hard as I thought.

Until I heard God speak more clearly than I have heard anything in awhile: I want you to do more than hope, Adela. I want you to believe Me for redemption.

Redemption. This is a loaded word: rescue, deliverance, atoning for faults, buying back or receiving back something that was sold or lost. This is restoration. This is things that were meant for evil being turned around for good. This is all things new.

(And I thought choosing hope was going to be hard.)

As this settled in my spirit, I was equal parts thrilled and terrified. And hopeful. So, so hopeful.

Because in my bones, I do believe God can do this. (If I don’t, I’d best pick a different faith to profess.) I don’t know how He will do it, and like many other things, I imagine it won’t end up looking like I thought it would. But still, I believe He can do it.

Redeem and restore.

I am writing this post from my daughter’s hospital room as she recovers from surgery. The irony of this moment is not lost on me—believing for redemption even in the place where I’ve faced one of my biggest struggles with God. But I see His promises hovering over her, and I feel His whispers echoing around us. Here in this place, the word that has swirled around in my heart for the last few weeks finally settles and takes root.

Redemption. I choose to declare redemption over this year. I choose to hope for all things new.

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Filed under Change, Faith, Hope

The Battle for Hope (And I’m Still Here)

Image Source: CreationSwap.com

Image Source: CreationSwap.com

Oh, dear blog readers, I’m still here.

I cannot believe my last post was September 15. This might be my longest stretch of silence since I started blogging, and I certainly did not plan it.

There’s this fine line as a writer–finding the balance between not over-sharing but still offering the vulnerability and raw honesty that makes stories powerful. I struggle to walk this line because I do not believe in spewing AllTheThings over the entire internet, but I do believe in transparency and not shrinking away from the hard things.

With trembling hands, can I hold out my messy heart for a moment?

A few weeks ago, I had one of those epiphanies that often comes in the ethereal seconds between waking and sleeping, when your defenses are down and your mind is drifting, so your heart and spirit get a chance to speak up a little louder than usual. I had been so busy surviving, trying to keep my family encouraged and hopeful and moving forward during a hard season, that I missed how deeply my heart was grieving. Space had not been allowed for the processing of some painful losses.

I am used to living with feisty emotions, but the depth of what I was carrying and stuffing deep inside caught me off guard. The processing has been rough. It still is.

2014–a year I held very high hopes and expectations for–has turned out to be marked by four heart-shaking circumstances that have all left their own variation of chaos or hurt in their wake

A prayer we’d been waiting to see answered for five years was seemingly realized for a few weeks, only to unravel into a nightmare. And nothing in my theology or experiences with God prepared me for this. Seasons when He seems silent or distant? Yes, I can navigate that. Seasons of waiting when you’re wondering when He will come through? We’ve gotten pretty good at those too. But when it seems a promise is fulfilled and then it’s not? Ok, technically I supposed stories like Abraham & Isaac & Job should’ve prepared me, but they didn’t. They just didn’t.

How do you navigate feeling utterly betrayed by God? At least there was a point when the prophet Jeremiah cried out, “Oh God, You deceived me and I was deceived.” It’s not really comforting, but at least someone else felt tricked by God and had the guts to say so. But I have walked with God for most of my life, and this has shaken that relationship to its core. In a lot of ways, God and I are beginning again.

During all of this, another decision we had been mulling for several months became clear, and we realized we needed to step away from the church plant we’d been part of for two and a half years. And while I still know in my bones this was the best choice for our family, it has been an enormous loss for me. I loved that church. I invested my heart deeply into that church. I had huge dreams for that church. I saw myself there for many more years. I had relationships I thought would last a lifetime, and instead they are broken or unravelling.

I have grieved this like a death in many ways. It still stings. Even though my children and husband are flourishing spiritually in a way they hadn’t been able to for a long time, even though this decision was made back in June, my heart aches. It is hard to trust that what was best for my family will also somehow be best for me. I don’t see it yet.

We had every intention of moving when our lease was up at the end of September. Our current apartment isn’t horrible, but we don’t love it and only saw it as very temporary. Our kids have been asking for their own rooms and a backyard, and we were really hoping to find a house to rent, somewhere we could settle for a little while.

But the closer it got to September, the more we realized it wasn’t the most practical choice yet. Financially, we would benefit more in the long run if we stayed put another year. Another hope dashed. We’re adjusting a little better to this one, but it’s still hard, especially the closer we get to Christmas. Last year, when we packed up our decorations, the kids and I actually prayed that when we put them up again, it would be in a new house with a fireplace. I’m really hoping they don’t remember that prayer. I’m not ready to deal with those questions.

And the thread running through all these things has been an ongoing health challenge with our little girl. I’ve shared here before about her surgery as a baby and why this is so hard for me. She has a kidney abnormality, and I’ve spent a huge chunk of time over the last month and a half sitting with her through tests and waiting rooms and visits to specialists. The good news is it doesn’t seem as serious as they initially thought; the bad news is there are still a lot of question marks, things we just don’t have answers for yet. So we wait and plan for a few more doctor visits and we wait some more. I don’t know how this story ends yet.

I don’t share all this for any pity or dramatics. I share it because someone else out there needs to know they’re not alone in the unravelling of hopes, in the quaking of faith. I share it because I’ve mastered the art of smiling and looking like we have it together, and I don’t want to be that person.

I share because last Saturday found me locked in the bathroom, sobbing on the floor, everything in me just wanting to give up because it’s too hard and the strain I’m experiencing on so many levels feels too intense. I found myself on the brink of throwing hope to the wind. Do you know what a terrifying brink that is? It almost seems cruel. Because what is life without hope, yet how do you hope when you’ve been met with disappointment again and again? You feel like you can’t win.

And I am telling you, I was completely and utterly at the end of my reserves to muster the ability to just keep going. I do not have it in me. But hope is a powerful force, and sometime it takes hold of you even when you can’t take hold of it. Say what you will, I know beyond the shadow of doubt it was God Himself that picked me up off that floor and gave me enough spark to finish that day. Then the next one, and the next one, and the next one . . .

I think of Jacob wrestling with God and saying “I will not let You go until You bless me.” That is pretty much my only prayer right now–to wrap myself around everything I have ever known and experienced about grace and hope and unfailing love (even if those things feel so hidden right now), to look through the tears and hang on tight and scream, “I will not let You go until You bless me. I will not!”

I realize in deeper ways than I have known before that so much of faith is truly not about feeling, but about choosing. I can choose to let go or I can choose to hold on. One day, I might choose for me. But right now, there are two precious faces that look at me every day with eyes full of wonder and hope, so for them, I choose wonder and hope too.

Can I whisper to you, friend also looking to get up from the bathroom floor and see beauty through your tears, choose hope with me? 

P.S.: I promise to not go so silent again. I have so many things I want to write and share. And later this month, I am celebrating seven years of marriage to the love of my life, and I am going to share both fun and serious things I’ve learned so far. Stick around?

P.P.S.: If you read all the way to the end of this, you deserve a prize. Have a piece of chocolate or glass of wine!

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Filed under Change, Faith, Grieving

Entering in with Trembling Faith

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My Prissy Missy at 9 months old

I cried myself to sleep last night.

Most of my day was hijacked by needing to take my daughter to the doctor, something that pushes me to the brink of my emotions every single time. I don’t handle it well even a little bit. And there’s a reason why.

***

When my baby girl was born, we didn’t get to hold her right away. The nurses had been cleaning her up, weighing her, all the usual post delivery stuff, when another nurse came over to my husband and me and said she needed to talk to us.

I will never forget the fear that gripped my heart before she said a single word.

She told us our baby had a little skin tag at the base of her spinal cord, which could be no big deal and easily removed or could be indicative of spina bifida. Which has varying degrees of severity ranging from relatively harmless to the inability to use her legs. They needed to be very cautious since spinal cords are a pretty serious thing, so they needed to take her immediately for some sonogram pictures to determine what we were dealing with.

And just like that – a huge black cloud over all the joy and anticipation. I was already nervous about becoming a mommy, completely overwhelmed by the whole delivery process and the craziness I was already feeling in my body as the post-birth adjustment began. I remember feeling something go frozen inside me. All I could hear were those words, “worst case, she would not have the use of her legs” and all I could see were all the lovely ballerina things I had set aside for decorating her room. It felt like a cruel trick.

But I mustered up some smidgen of faith, asked people to pray and waited for them to come back and say it was nothing.

We waited for forever, it seemed, before they brought my baby and I actually got to cradle her close for the first time. Apparently she’d been kicking her legs and squirming the whole time, so they were fairly certain movement wasn’t going to be a problem. For now. But still, it wasn’t nothing. My disappointment was intense, but I did my best to tuck it away, to be strong.

What followed were visits from specialists and the process of finding a pediatric neurosurgeon – a practice so specialized that there are only 5 of them within a 100-mile radius of Dallas/Fort Worth. And lots of calls to the insurance company to get it all sorted. On top of the exhaustion of dealing with a newborn who struggled so much to nurse because she did not get to eat for a long time after she was first born.

When she was one month old, we had to take her in for an MRI. And since you have to be perfectly still during an MRI and she obviously couldn’t do that, they were going to have to put her under anesthesia. I was brought a waver specifying all the risks of anesthesia, plus the extra risks of giving it to a newborn, and all I remember is not being able to see as I signed my name, my eyes blinded with tears prompted by the last line of the waver, which said something about “while not common, death is a possible outcome.” It was too much for my new mommy heart.

But I mustered up another smidgen of faith because lots of people were praying that everything would come back normal, and we could finally move past all this, no surgery required.

And so it was with a crumbling heart that I sat in the surgeon’s office for the follow up visit, clutching my husband’s hand, listening to the surgeon explain how she needed the surgery sooner rather than later, before she grew too much, because she had a tethered spinal cord which could either cause no problems or lots of problems and it wasn’t worth taking a chance. I remember my husband saying, “We were praying everything would be fine, that it would be just a skin tag.” And I remember the surgeon’s almost mocking reply: “I could have told you that wasn’t going to happen. I’ve seen plenty of these and they always require surgery.”

My smidgen of faith disintegrated. Why on earth did God not answer this prayer? Why couldn’t He have proved the smug all-knowing surgeon wrong? Why did we have to subject our tiny baby to surgery?

But we did. When she was 3 months old. They had to do the whole thing under magnifiers because she was so tiny. What was supposed to be a two hour surgery turned into a four hour surgery, partly because she was so small, partly because they also discovered a cyst on her spinal cord that they needed to remove.

When we met with the surgeon afterwards, he said the surgery had been successful, they’d managed to get “most of” the cyst, there was only a 20% chance of her spinal cord re-tethering, all we could do now was wait for her to grow.

Wait, what? It’s not over? Just a “wait and see”? They told us potty training would be an important time, that if she struggled to get the hang of it, it would be a possible indicator that all was not right.

I can’t even begin to tell you how stressful potty training was. It’s hard enough as it is – but were the problems normal or due to complications that would mean more surgeries? We managed to navigate that season, but it was not without many, many tears and lots of fear on my part.

***

Which brings me back to Monday in the doctor’s office and me crumbling. They couldn’t quite put a finger on what was going on with her and due to a recent infection she had and her medical history, they decided they’d better order a round of x-rays/tests on her kidneys and other organs. It’s probably nothing, they say, but just to be on the safe side.

And they don’t know what those words do to me. I realize many people have gone through much worse medical issues with their children, at times have even lost their precious treasures in the process. My heart aches for them with a measure of empathy. And just because there are worse situations does not make our struggle any less valid or real – something I am only just accepting and why I am only just able to fully admit my wrestling.

All I want is certainty, to know this issue is no longer an issue, no longer even a faint question mark on the horizon. I want to be able to take care of my children when they’re sick without having to lock myself in the bathroom and weep because I am so afraid.

I’ve been through all the prayer classes and read the books and learned the Scriptures and I know how I am supposed to pray over my children. Full of faith and confidence because ultimately they are God’s, not mine, and He loves them and has a plan for their lives. I try. I do. I declare the things I’m supposed to declare, I reach down deep to find that mustard seed of faith . . . and so many of my prayers for my children end up with me sobbing, pleading with God to please just take care of them, let them be all right. They are not confident prayers; they are desperate prayers.

Because He didn’t heal her before. Because the money for the insane medical expenses was not miraculously provided. Because the surgeon could not say “We got it, she’ll be fine.”

Here is my raw, vulnerable truth: I massively struggle with faith for miracles, especially healing miracles. I work for a prayer ministry, for crying out loud. I hear the voices of a lifetime in church, explaining unanswered prayers as the result of a lack of faith, and I wonder what that means for my prayers over my children.

But then I wonder if maybe, just maybe, God understands my quivering mother-heart. Maybe He sees it as faith that I am still praying at all, in spite of countless disappointments. Maybe He sees it as faith that I keep trying to trust Him with my most precious treasures again and again, even though it is so hard. Maybe He sees it as faith that I am coming to Him every time with all my tears and uncertainty, still reaching and looking for Him in the fog.

Maybe that is faith after all.  So I enter in again and again – into my own heart and into what I believe to be true about God’s heart, that He is far more gracious than we have taught Him to be, that He measures faith far differently than we think. And I wait.

 

*Linking up today with Marvia Davidson for Real Talk Tuesday.

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Filed under Faith, Miracles, Motherhood, Parenting, Uncategorized