Dear Daughter 

Dear Daughter 

 

Dear daughter,
It’s nighttime here. Early morning Tuesday where you are. The sun just rose in Addis. I love a sunrise–the cotton candy colors streaking the sky when everything feels possible. I just looked up the temperature where you are, and I’m wishing we could have your temperatures right about now. But the air conditioner just kicked on, and I’ve got your quilt right next to me. 

Yesterday, we made you a baby board book with pictures of us. I wonder if you’ll study every detail of our pictures like we’ve studied every detail of yours. I can see your chubby little fingers wrapped around the corners of your book, and it won’t be long, sweet girl, before those people in those pictures get to see you and hold you and hug you and love you forever. 

I started dreaming about your nursery today. I was weary of filling out black and white papers for days on end, and I needed some color in my eyes. I found a blanket made in Ethiopia, and I dreamed of us snuggling underneath it. A favorite piece of art for the wall. Speaking of walls, on the wall where your crib will go (after we move some shelves and furniture and paint!) I’ve taped up a few verses, and I’ll keep adding more until you are home. These are verses I’ve prayed for you for years, before you ever took your first breath. 

Sweet daughter of mine, I know there will be hard days ahead. Days of harsh transition. Family tree assignments that stir up tears. Seasons where you wonder  why your story started with pain. I don’t have the answers, and I can’t take away the pain, but I will hold your hand and walk through every scary, hard, painful day with you. And I will take you to the lap of your Redeemer, your Sustainer, your Creator. He will hold you and carry you and show you how the Author of Life can write a story. And He might start with the beauty of a sunrise. 

I love you, sweet E, more than you will ever know. I can’t wait to see what the sunrise looks like where you are. I’m going to go to sleep now, but I’ll be dreaming of the day when all my girls are asleep under the same roof. To the moon, E. 

Lessons from a Storm 

Lessons from a Storm 

One morning last week, I sat on the balcony reading my Bible and watching a storm brew over the ocean. The sky quickly turned from the coral pink of sunrise to a dark, muddy gray. Thunder rumbled in the distance, still faint like the sound of a far off airplane taking flight. The sound got closer and closer until I could feel the reverberations in my bones. Suddenly a bolt of lightning flashed, like a zipper closing the chasm between sky and sea. And then another and another until it looked like a show from Trans-Siberian Orchestra. I hurried in to grab my camera wanting to capture the majesty of what I was seeing. I played with my settings and tried to anticipate where the next bolt would come from, but I couldn’t seem to capture on my tiny camera screen the awe of what was before me. I’m sure a more skilled photographer would know how to tinker with the settings and get something stunning, but in the end it would still fall short of the real thing. So, I put my camera down on the table beside me and just watched. 

It’s raining again today, and on my way home from the grocery store I remembered that stormy morning on the beach and thought about how this big God cares so deeply about the smallest things. I think that’s one of the purposes of nature, to show us tiny glimpses of the glory of God. Just like Moses had to be hidden in the cleft, we can’t see His face right now because His glory would destroy our marred selves. But when I think about moments like that stormy morning on the beach, I can’t help but think I got to see a veiled glimpse of His glory. But to think that a God who governs the ocean’s tide and the lightning’s bolt cares enough to speak to me, to love me, to reveal Himself to me–wow.

I don’t know about you, but my finite mind struggles with His infinite being. I find myself wanting to put up boxes around things, around God. I think maybe it’s a control technique–if I can understand it, I can control it. But if I could fully understand God, wouldn’t He cease to be God? Our boxes get shattered. The enemy wages war, and we believe his lie over and over again, and we struggle to understand. I don’t have answers. But one thing I know–every morning when I come to my wooden table and crack open my Bible, every morning when I bring my weary brain that’s struggling to understand and look to His perfect truth, every morning when I ask God to speak to me, I marvel that the same God who slices the sky with a lightning bolt pierces my heart with the light of His Word. And that is nothing short of amazing. 

Let’s Get It

Let’s Get It

My parents and sister are in Colombia, South America this week. My dad goes every September with a group from their church, and he has fallen in love with the Colombian people, so much so that he listens to Spanish CDs during his commute because he wants to be less reliant on his translator. He’s even teaching Lydia a few Spanish words. During one of my cold runs early in the year, I said yes to God and yes to going to Colombia. Not long after, God used a story from the gospels to pierce my heart like little needles stuck in a pin cushion. The leader of the trip had asked me if I would be interested in leading a women’s retreat during our time in Colombia. Immediately this gospel story God had churning in my heart came to mind for those ladies.

Fast forward a few weeks later and a very surprising pregnancy test, and I knew it wouldn’t work out as far as timing for me to go to Colombia this year. But this message has still been on my heart for quite some time. Today, I want to share it with you. Maybe this is for someone out there reading. Maybe this is for my girls to read one day. Maybe this is just for me to process. But I hope God’s Word pierces you like it pierced me, and I hope one day I can share it with the women in Colombia.

Mark 4 and Luke 8 both tell the parable of the sower. From Mark 8 and the mouth of Jesus, “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, multiplying thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times.”

Later, Jesus tells them, “Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop–thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown.”

In the latter passage, we get our three action steps. Hear the Word. Accept it. Produce a crop. To hear the Word, we have to be in the Word. I know how hard it is to find time. One of the ladies in my Bible study shared last week that she had decided to start getting up early so that she could have time in the Word before her kids woke up. And it worked well–for two days–until her kids started waking up early too. Isn’t that the truth for all of us? We make good plans, and we even carry out the plan, but something unexpected pops up and throws everything off. Our time in the Word might be broken up by cries of, “I want milk, Momma!” or “What’s for breakfast?” but that’s okay. Every second we spend in God’s Word feeds our hearts and souls. We might not be able to get an Instagram worthy latte and a quiet slice of time, but that’s okay. For this season, we will take what we can get and trust that God can still speak to us even in our cobbled together minutes in His Word.

Accept it. And this is where it gets a little prickly. I don’t know about you, but I am excellent at rationalizing, and I tend to get a bit defensive when I feel like my toes are being squished. God’s Word at times comforts us and at other times pierces us. Both are necessary, and both are for our good. My sister is on the trip to Colombia helping with the medical team since she’s in nursing school, and this reminds me of a Band-aid versus antiseptic. One covers a sick area. The other penetrates and kills what’s dead so healing can occur. It might be painful, but we need the latter.

Produce a crop. This is where we get to work, where we get moving. My pastor, Chris Conlee, says all the time that information plus application equals transformation. I can’t just hear it and accept it. I have to put it into action.

The first passage speaks to the different types of soil we represent. Have you ever had a season that it seemed like everything you read spoke directly to you? And another season where it felt like your heart was numb, like you couldn’t hear anything? I’ve experienced both throughout my life. Being in the Word and surrounded by others who are in the Word is crucial, but the type of soil that’s sodding our hearts also matters. Mark shows us three things that affect our soil. In verse 15, we see the seed scattered in the soil along the path. Often this soil is contaminated with runoff and chemicals from the path. Its acidity is out of whack. This happens when we listen to the lies of Satan, when we believe him when he tells us we are unworthy, defeated, destined for failure, and a lost cause. He knows exactly which lie we’ll believe, and he is ruthless in his attack with it. Our weapon, our sword, is the truth of God’s Word.

In verse 16, we see the seed sown on rocky places where the seed takes root but quickly dies. This seed starts out strong in the rocky soil, but it rides the waves of passing emotions instead of anchoring itself to the unchanging truth of God’s promises. We women can be particularly moody, the one writing these words is queen of that list. I’m a very emotional person, going from one side of the roller coaster to the other faster than most people can blink. This is why my prayer journal has become so important to me. In that journal, I don’t just have my thoughts and feelings; I have the truth, the unchanging truth, of God’s Word written out all over the pages. My thoughts and feelings are all over the place many days (especially when pregnant–yowza!) but His Word grounds me and brings me back to steady. It reminds me that my circumstances are temporary, but His faithfulness is everlasting.

Finally, in verse 19 we see the soil that’s full of thorns and the seed choked out by all the things we worry about. Mark and Luke both specifically point out money stuff. Ouch. No matter what our income, it seems we all worry about money related stuff from time to time. Just a couple weeks ago, I renamed the spreadsheet where we keep up with our budget, “Jehovah Jireh.” I realized I was feeling a little anxious every week when it came time to reconcile the budget, and I just needed the reminder that He is the One who provides. He is the One our money is for. He is the reason we make the decisions we do regarding finances. It was a small change, but it’s been the reminder I needed every Friday morning to put things in perspective. The more we try to control everything ourselves the more the thorns squeeze and tighten their grip on our heart until one day we find ourselves believing more in our paycheck than our Jehovah Jireh, more in a salary amount than the One who made everything from nothing.

It matters what our soil is like, and it matters that we are sowing seed. A farmer doesn’t get to choose one or the other. It’s a both/and situation. The farmer has to cultivate the soil carefully and be diligent about putting down seed. We have to nurture our hearts by fighting the enemy’s lies with the truth of Scripture, by allowing His Word to pierce and cleanse, and by putting His Word into action. And we must have seed. The seed might come in little bursts between diaper changes and cleaning up toddler spills or it might come to the distant tune of that purple dinosaur keeping our kids quiet for a few minutes, but let’s not settle for anything less than God’s Word pouring down on our hearts. Let’s take it however and whenever we can get it. Let’s get up early and stay up late. Let’s get creative with distracting our wee ones. But let’s get it.

Swords & Flat Tires

Swords & Flat Tires

carYears ago a very wise woman taught me two things that completely changed my life. The first was how to give sacrificially and the second was how to pray the armor of God. Rarely a week goes by I don’t think of her and repeat her words over my heart. I can’t imagine what my life would look like if she had not taught me these two important lessons. Every morning, this godly woman prays Ephesians 6:10-19, the armor of God, over her life before her feet hit the floor. I am not as faithful as her to pray it every single morning, but I am learning just how crucial this armor is.

Sometimes, I have a hard time knowing when something is spiritual attack and when I’m just dealing with the consequences of my disobedience. When that happens, I stop and ask the Holy Spirit to show me if and where I’ve been disobedient (Fair warning, He will always answer that request so be ready.) Then, I begin comparing what I’m hearing with the truth of God’s Word because I know the enemy is speaking lies to me and once I see the truth of God’s Word I can recognize the lies for what they are. This isn’t easy for me because the enemy’s lies are really, really deceptive. He plays on all my insecurities, my guilt, my past, my screw-ups. He loves to parade those in front of me waiting for me to throw in the towel and choose to not be who God has made me to be and choose to not obey what He’s told me to do.

Today, the enemy has been roaring in my ears. Matt and I have an opportunity to teach a lesson on financial health to a group of couples starting off their marriages, and last night Matt was approached about teaching a similar type lesson to some other groups. Not two hours later, I am leaving the park where we had met our small group and we discover I have a flat tire. Matt and the small group guys get the spare on only to find out that the spare is flat. Awesome. Our friend Matt May uses a little air pump to get enough air in it so Matt can drive it to the nearest gas station, and this morning he took it to the tire place so they could fix the leak. Only, it isn’t fixable and we need a new tire. Actually, we need two new tires. And honestly, while it’s a bummer to have to spend several hundred dollars on a couple of new tires to replace two that weren’t even that old, my discouragement came because it’s just another thing to hit our emergency fund in a month that has not been friendly to our emergency fund. An unexpected vet bill, dental work that needs to happen, a fence that desperately needs some work, all of that stuff on its own is just stuff. It’s what happens. It’s called life, and everyone goes through it.

But then the lies started coming. I was sitting in the parent waiting room during Lydi’s ballet class and thoughts started swirling, “Who are you to teach on finances when you can’t even finish your emergency fund without something happening? . . . There are so many people who are doing a lot better with their finances than you. You should let them teach that lesson. . . . You’re a failure, and as soon as you open your mouth everyone else will know it too.”

Thankfully, I recognized the lies almost immediately for what they were, but it is still so hard not to believe them. My gracious Lord knew I was going to face this today and He had already shown me the truth in His Word earlier this morning. During my priority time a few hours before, I read 1 Corinthians 1:4-8…

I always thank my God for you because of the grace God has given you in Christ Jesus. I thank God because in Christ you have been made rich in every way, in all your speaking and in all your knowledge. Just as our witness about Christ has been guaranteed to you, so you have every gift from God while you wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to come again. Jesus will keep you strong until the end so that there will be no wrong in you on the day our Lord Jesus Christ comes again.

In Christ you have been made rich in every way, in all your speaking . . . Seriously, God? You blow me away. You knew how the enemy would attack me hours later and this morning you gave me this verse, this truth, this sword to wield today. I don’t go into battle alone, and I don’t go in unclothed. You have wrapped me in your armor and even better you have given me a weapon, my sword, Your Word.

I can’t get over the feeling someone needs to hear those words today. Someone needs to know you aren’t the only one. Someone needs to hear, “Stand firm.” Someone needs to let Ephesians 6:19-20 sink deep within her soul so she can declare the gospel fearlessly. I know one of those someones is me.