is your faith costing you anything?

my faith costing me anything

I read about a little girl sold into sex slavery.

Seven years old. Tied to a pole and raped again and again every single day by multiple men.

Then I read about another little girl who is abducted. Molested. And buried alive in a trash bag.

Her body found days later, clutching to her teddy bear.

And I’m boiling with anger, cracking at the seams, weeping into my hands because my God, this stuff is so hard to digest, hard to comprehend, and stabs so deep, and why, why, why does it have to happen!

The evil running rampant makes me feel so helpless.

It almost makes sense to just look away because what can I possibly do?

But as I observe the life around me and my so called problems, I wonder if my faith is costing me anything.

. . . . . . .

My flesh constantly wants to be comfortable.

It is constantly afraid of opposition.

My beautiful daughters. My incredible husband. My little circle.

In an instant I can lose it all, everything can come crashing down.

And I tell God I don’t want it!

I pray for everything to go well, be well.

I plead with Him.

Thing is, what my heart should really be crying out for is a steadfast spirit, a spirit that is not afraid, a spirit that is brave.

Because who are we kidding?

Even though there is power in our words and in what we believe, even though great faith pleases God, it’s not always about what we want and how we want it.

We can’t twist God’s arm.

We can declare again and again but we can’t avoid trials.

His plan involves struggle.

Genuinely following Him means walking through the fire.

Yet none of us want to.

. . . . . . .

While driving in the rain, stressed out and running late, I listen to Chris Fabry on the radio discussing the topic of faith.

“Faith without pain is what,” he asks, “what would you put in the blank?”

The calls start pouring in.

People from all over the nation share what it is to them personally.

One woman takes the words right out of my mouth.

“Faith without pain is shallow,” she says.

And ain’t that the truth!

You can say all you want about how much you trust God.

You can say all you want about how much you love Him.

You can sing and dance when everything is always flowing like honey.

But if you haven’t walked through raging flames, you have very little idea of what it means to truly worship Him.

To praise Him when no miracle or breakthrough is in sight.

To seek comfort in Him when it’s hard to hold on, hard to go on day in and day out.

I listen, I wipe my tears and nod.

Yes, yes, yes!

Faith without pain is shallow indeed.

. . . . . . .

Our desire for peaches and cream, cherry on top, blue skies and smooth sailing is completely understandable.

We are human.

We don’t want to hurt.

And there is one popular website that helps us chase the ideal life.

Pinterest.

I know it stirs creativity and inspiration.

But, it also encourages self preservation.

I scroll through all the beautiful images and within 20 minutes I am thinking about how I need to do something nicer with my hair.

I need to do my nails that color.

I really need to work on my thighs and my abs.

I need that denim vest.

I need that Chevron maxi skirt.

I need to put some festive pillows on my couch.

Actually, I probably need to redecorate my house altogether.

Soon my mind is flooded with thoughts of what I don’t have and I’m sitting there thinking about how to better my outer appearance, how to better the appearance of my home, how to dress my girls better, how to make my little world perfect because apparently it’s not perfect enough.

Make yourself comfortable, it whispers.

Focus on yourself.

Make yourself happy.

Fulfill those wants.

Seek more.

Get more.

I shut the computer off and dwell on the truth Ann Voskamp shared here.

She says it so well.

How we all want the prettiness of Pinterest but true beauty is found in wrestling with the ugliness of the world.

It’s about facing the injustices head on instead of turning a blind eye.

Being activists instead of hiding in our palaces.

Living sacrificially by disadvantaging ourselves.

This is what matters, this is the definition of beautiful.

. . . . . . .

I feel like sometimes our faith in Christ is filled with a whole lot of empty talk.

“Tell me what a man owns and I’ll tell you what he really believes in,” I read, “track a man’s time and it will show you who he really worships.”

I stare at the words, scribble them in my journal, and repeat them again because I am blown away.

This faith walk.

We make it all about us.

Our little bubble and it better not pop.

Then I watch this short film and every fiber of my being wants to scream in everyone’s face to snap out of it, to wake up.

Because my God, if our faith isn’t costing us anything then what do we really believe in, who are we really worshiping?

There is a world that needs us.

Us, believers, who talk so much about how blessed we are, how fortunate we are.

It needs us.

And yet we go on our merry way, filling our schedules over and over with pretty and splendid and fun, doing whatever feels good and easy.

. . . . . . .

Saturday morning I sit with my husband and we discuss taxes and bills, my next prenatal appointment, and what’s for dinner.

It’s the same ol’thing of dirty laundry and dirty dishes and the toilets need to be scrubbed and the girls are running wild in their room.

He drinks his coffee, I sip my tea and I tell him how tired I am, how the mundane sometimes drives me crazy, how I want to go on a vacation.

A long, long, long vacation where I can forget about everything.

And we dream for a bit then wander into the topic of suffering.

I tell him all the horrid stories I read about, how mind boggling big the harvest is, how the book Your Church Is Too Safe is wrecking me.

“I don’t want to live in that bubble of self worship,” I say, “I want to be brave.”

Many women out there are walking on a cloud of elegance and I want to ask them if they would be willing to get their hands dirty, if they would be willing to step out of their fancy brunch outing and into a world that is filthy and dangerous.

I think of the priest in Russia.

Father John Sergieff.

His every day thing was to go where none of us want to.

While people of privilege and status insulated themselves from that crowd of muck and misery, Pastor John did the opposite.

He would walk into the ugliest parts of the city filled with addicts, thieves, prostitutes, predators, orphans and widows.

He would lift their downcast faces with his hand and look into their eyes and tell them the most beautiful truth.

“This is beneath your dignity. You were created to house the glory of the living God.”

. . . . . . .

On my way home from a farmers market, I wait at a traffic light.

I look to my right and see a woman sitting on the edge of a sidewalk.

She’s covered in dirt, lost in thought, with no shoes and empty hands.

And I think of the words Sergieff spoke and they fill me with so much sadness.

Because I clearly see how much I have yet to learn about loving like Jesus does . . . . .

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the words spoken over me

Sara Joy

My phone alerts me that I am 20 weeks, that I have hit the halfway mark.

And I click on the app.

I read about how my baby is now the size of a banana and feel a bit queasy at the thought of my upcoming ultrasound.

There is excitement in finding out the gender but then there are also fear-stirring questions.

Because my mind tends to go there.

To that place of wondering if everything is okay.

No one ever walks into the exam room and expects to hear bad news.

Yet it happens.

Pregnant women receiving bomb dropping words that shake them to the core.

Baby’s organs not developing.

No kidneys.

Or no liver.

Or spinal cord complications.

Or no heart beat.

I hear the stories, I read the stories and they stop me dead in my tracks, they turn my stomach into knots.

. . . . . . .

It never really occurred to me that I could be pregnant.

My cycle was a few days late which was something I was accustomed to.

And it felt like I was moving into a different season in my life.

Where I was now a mother of much older children, with more time to accomplish some goals for myself.

But two nights before Christmas, as I quietly slipped into bed and made myself comfortable, I felt a leap in my stomach.

“You are going to have a girl.”

“You will name her Sara.”

“She will fill your home with joy unspeakable.”

And all of a sudden it seemed like I couldn’t catch my breath.

There were goose bumps all over me and I pulled the duvet over my chin and started to cry.

Because did the Holy Spirit really just whisper into my ear?

. . . . . . .

The following day I took the pregnancy test.

I went through a wave of emotions.

Shock. Fear. Anxiety. Doubt.

I have shared it all here and here and here.

All the while I have kept the precious moment of that one night all to myself, wondering if I heard correctly, if it actually happened and at times forgetting about the whole thing altogether.

Family and friends tell me I need boy.

Random people at the park, the deli department, the cashier line, they all tell me it’s a boy belly, that they’ve seen it countless times, and I smile and nod and tell them a healthy baby is all that matters.

Every night, my oldest clasps her hands together, shuts her eyes real tight and asks God to give her another baby sister.

And I go to bed dreaming the same scene over and over of bringing a little boy home.

Deep down in my gut I know it will be the exact opposite.

Then one evening, over dinner, my husband and I are discussing baby names and I decide to tell him the words that were spoken over me.

“Then it looks like it’s a girl for sure,” he says.

“Well . . . . lets just wait and see.” I respond.

. . . . . . .

When the ultrasound technician calls my name, I realize how tense I am.

My husband and I follow her through a long hallway into room #3 and quickly settle in.

She spreads the cold gel on my bare belly and before I know it, I see tiny legs and tiny hands at the screen in front of me and it all becomes even more real than before.

There is indeed a miracle growing inside me and I can’t help but feel all emotional and excited and anxious all at the same time.

After doing all the measurements, the technician looks at me and smiles.

“It’s a girl,” she says.

And a laugh escapes my mouth as I hear the words.

I look at my other half sitting beside me and we both laugh again.

A girl.

Another little girl!

Perfectly healthy and almost a pound.

“It sounds like you already knew. Do you have a name for her?” she asks, handing me some print outs.

“Yes,” I answer, “Sara Joy.”

Our sweet Sara Joy.

. . . . . . .

This morning, my oldest, who so fervently prayed, stuffs her mouth with cereal and looks at the profile image of her new baby sister hanging on the fridge.

“God heard me, mama,” she giggles, “He answered my prayer.”

And at that point I start to sob because I am in utter awe that God would speak to me.

That in the middle of all my plans, He came and ever so gently revealed His great plan and is beckoning me to trust Him . . . . . .

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this gospel we neatly tie with a big white bow

faith

Early morning light is spilling into my home and for a moment it feels like all is right with the world.

I pour boiling water over some lemon slices, smother butter and blackcurrant jam on Ezekiel toast and set everything near my bright coral chair by the window.

It’s peaceful. Cozy.

And I slowly take a seat, reach for the hot mug and begin to pray.

But the words kind of fade as I look around me.

Because all of it is just too lovely, too orderly.

The way my bible and journal are wide open.

The way Kingdom Come is playing in the background.

The way I’m relishing in the stillness.

My quiet time with the Father.

So neatly boxed and wrapped with a big white bow.

Yet someone, somewhere, is imprisoned in a dungeon for their faith, hungry and hurting, worshipping God on a cold, cement floor.

The thought grieves me!

How is it that I have the luxury of sitting here comfortably while many across the globe are on the run for their safety, writing scripture all over their bodies because a bible is unattainable?

. . . . . . .

There is nothing wrong with having this tidy, little space for fellowship with God.

Although, I have to add that most of us are more guilty of instagramming it than actually delving into His presence.

Not to mention, we forget how good we have it.

The honor.

The privilege.

The freedom.

To worship Him without fear of being slain to death.

We take it for granted.

We tend to squeeze Him into our schedule instead of having Him be the center of it all.

But this post isn’t about any of this.

. . . . . . .

As a parent, I find myself thinking a lot about our faith walk.

How it’s not this perfect, clear-cut system.

“Please protect me from the stomach flu,” my 5 year old prays.

After an exhausting experience of puking all night, she is scarred and terrified of ever having to go through it again.

And when we gather to pray as a family, it is her constant and desperate plea every single night.

Then one Monday morning she wakes up and vomits all over the kitchen floor and the shock on her face is heartbreaking.

“But I prayed, Mama! I asked Jesus! Why is it happening?” she screams, her eyes wild with tears.

Because Mama and Papa have told her that she can come to Him for anything, that He hears her every word, that He will protect her.

And she doesn’t understand why God didn’t.

Why didn’t He do what she asked for, what she wholeheartedly believed for?

Where do you start in explaining to a little blue-eyed wonder that it’s not always so simple?

It’s not always about whether we have enough faith or not.

Sometimes God allows us to walk through tough things.

He never promised a tear-free life.

He simply promised to never have us walk alone.

And as a mom, who was once a child, you have to remind yourself that it’s all about baby steps, that with time she will grasp this truth, just like you did as well.

Still, to watch it all unfold, it hurts.

Seeing your child drown in bewilderment, opening your mouth to explain yet the words won’t come.

For everything in you wants to keep it easy as pie for them.

 “Don’t be so afraid, baby, He is still here, you are not alone,” is all I can tell her.

. . . . . . .

There is a memory I think of often whenever my kids ask, “When is Jesus coming?”

I was 10 years old, going to bed every night with this belief that He would return while everyone is sleeping.

That He would lift off the roofs of every home that served Him and have us rise from our slumber and descend into heaven.

In my mind, His coming was going to be this quiet, smooth, uncomplicated fairy tale event.

But one evening shattered that innocent image.

My parents were having a dinner party.

The house was filled with aunts, uncles, cousins and friends.

After dinner, they all gathered in the living room to watch a movie about Christ’s coming while all the kids played in the basement.

I decided to steal a glimpse before running off to play again.

And my eyes watched with horror people being captured and beheaded.

I gasped and hurried to my room, terrified and in tears.

“Are you scared?” asked my aunt.

She stood in the doorway, concerned. She knew what I saw.

“Is that real?” I asked, “Is that going to happen?”

She sat beside me, pulled me in for a hug and told me that no one really knows the details, no one really knows whether believers will be spared or not, but one thing is certain, there will be suffering no one has ever known before Jesus returns.

And as I listened, I felt like I couldn’t breathe.

Shock consumed me.

My world of Ramona books and coloring and soaring through the neighborhood streets in a banana seat cruiser cracked open and I began to see that there was so much more to the gospel than just how much Jesus loves me.

There was so much I had yet to learn.

. . . . . . .

In 2007, I found myself walking through a really dark season.

There was a thick chain of fear around my neck.

I was a first time mom who became extremely aware of everything that could go wrong and family members started to worry.

At one point, my mother in law called to figure out what was going on, to offer words of encouragement.

“You are a Christian. Have you forgotten that? Because you are His, He will not allow any harm to come upon you or your child.”

As much as I wanted to believe her, deep down I knew that our faith was not always about smooth sailing.

I asked her to think about the Christian parents who were at the hospital this very moment, watching their child suffer through leukemia.

I asked her to think about the Christian father who prayed every single morning before leaving the house yet was instantly killed in a head on collision.

I asked her to think about the Christian mom who was stabbed to death along with her two little boys in her own home by a drunk neighbor while her husband was serving in Afghanistan.

And there was really nothing she could say in return.

Because there is evidence all around us of how ugly this life can get, how none of us are exempt and how it’s not about being comfortable and safe, how nothing is truly ours, how this world is not our home, and how clinging to God’s incomprehensible peace is our key to standing unshaken in the midst of a storm.

. . . . . . .

At times, when I pray, I feel like God is somewhere far away.

I look at all the cars while stuck in traffic and think about how each person has a story, some kind of battle and it makes me feel like we are all just grains of sand, seeping through the cracks, trying to survive.

I consume a good meal and think of the children eating flies in the slums of India and I come up speechless as to how it’s them and not me.

I beg for miracles to rain down but what I want more than anything is for Christ to just come already, to take every suffering soul to their real home.

And I look at my girls and ask for wisdom.

Because there is so much they have yet to discover.

When their prayers aren’t answered.

When it seems like everything is going wrong.

When they don’t feel like God is near.

I want them to know that He is still in control.

In every situation, through all the unknowns, I want them to know that He is always closer than their breath.

That this gospel we cling to, it’s simple yet complicated, brings us hope yet leaves us dumbfounded, pours in comfort yet has us walk through afflictions, and always works in the most mysterious ways . . . . .

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a connection with your pregnancy doesn’t always happen right away

photo(9)

As I looked at the calendar and counted the days til this grueling first trimester would finally be over, my girls were having a major meltdown.

Apparently I had promised to take them to the park and now I was saying no.

Just like I had said no countless times before.

And this time they weren’t having it.

Tears were coming down hard.

They were noticing the changes taking place.

Mommy always tired.

Too tired to spend time with them.

Too tired to tuck them into bed.

Never feeling good.

Always impatient and aggravated.

“You’re going to forget about us!” screams my youngest.

With that, I ask them to put on their shoes, I tell them we’ll have a picnic.

We order some food to go – smoked brisket, fries, coleslaw, jalapeno corn bread – and we head straight to the park.

All the while, I’m silently telling myself to breathe, to put one foot in front of the other.

. . . . . .

At the park with the sun on my face and the breeze in my hair, I sit on the blanket and watch the girls twirl and dance and laugh.

I pick at the remaining coleslaw and see a woman jogging across the street.

She’s sun kissed and lean from head to toe, moving forward with such fluency and focus that I am overwhelmed with longing to be her.

To be hitting the pavement with fierce energy.

Instead I am dragging day in and day out, nauseous, sleepy, and achy, watching my body slowly stretch and change, constantly kicking off fear and wishing to feel like a normal human being again.

. . . . . . .

There has been a battle in my mind.

A myriad of thoughts, all vying and pushing to be on the forefront.

I hear mothers of three or four talk of wanting to have more and a part of me envies their strength.

Yet a bigger part of me can’t relate.

Because I feel like I’ve been there, done that, and don’t want to do it again.

Then I read about women who are trying to conceive, who are desperate to see two pink lines on that pregnancy test and suddenly I feel like I have no right to express my thoughts, how I should just shut my big mouth.

More than anything, I look at the news.

I see the tragedies, the events taking place worldwide, the loss and pain happening all around, and I find myself saying, “I can’t.”

Especially when I pass a children’s cancer center every Monday as we head to my daughter’s school, I ask God why.

Why bring another child into this world?

A place filled with so much evil.

A place with babies fighting for their life.

A place on the brink of a one world order.

And that is what terrifies me the most.

I think of the things to come, the prophecies yet to be fulfilled, the suffering that is on its way.

Yes, I know, I shouldn’t live in fear.

But this reality alone is what has always caused me to dip my feet into motherhood with extreme caution.

. . . . . . .

I have been processing this pregnancy much slowly than my other two.

At 12 weeks, nausea comes at me with a vengeance and I am furious.

I want to feel normal. I beg God to feel normal.

A close friend asks me how I’m doing and we both know the question is beyond the physical symptoms.

“I don’t know. I’m not there yet.” I say.

I’ve been walking through a haze of clutter, trying to sort out everything in me; excited yet going through the motions, amazed by the miracle taking place yet annoyed by the changes, seeing my belly swell yet feeling disconnected.

One morning as I’m on my knees praying over people, over needs, I think about the baby and it hits me.

A wave of gratitude.

Where my mouth begins to pour out words of thanksgiving for the gift inside of me.

And it was there, during that prayer time, 12 weeks gestation, that I genuinely fall in love with the itty bitty peanut.

In a sense, it sounds so wrong and so awful to see it has taken me this long to connect.

But I realize it’s okay. I am not horrible.

And God is neither astonished nor bothered by it in the least bit.

He’s been at work every step of the way.

. . . . . . .

Today, split pea soup was simmering in a large pot.

Peanut butter cookies baking in the oven.

Ellie Holcomb playing in the background.

And I was carrying a stack of clean white towels into the bedroom.

It was a productive, ordinary but nonetheless blessed day where I was feeling whole.

Then I get a nice, strong punch right in the center of my belly button.

I quickly grab onto the kitchen counter, take a deep breath and it dawns on me.

The baby just kicked!

That first hey-I’m- really- here kick!

I frantically text my husband.

I stand there, laughing, hugging my belly, listening to Ellie’s lyrics.

 “There is good news, there is a promise, that no matter where you go, you will never be alone,

in the dark and in the doubting, when you can’t feel anything, his love remains the same,”

And the beauty of it all is so inconceivable that I am reduced to tears . . . . . .

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