Wall of Faith: Michelle
Life is one big musical. Lyrics pop into my mind to narrate life's events on a moment by moment basis. Hang around long enough and I'll break out into song--albeit it will likely be both off key and off tune. When a headlight needs replaced, I sing "We can drive it h-ome...with one headlight". When I go to pump gas in the car, I sing"Pump, pump the jam. Pump it up a little more..." When it starts to sprinkle, I hum "Drip, drip, drop little April showers" or "Raindrops on roses..." If the skies open up in a torrential downpour, I sing"Rain, rain on my face- it hasn't stopped raining for days...". And when the rain stops and the clouds break through, "I can see clearly now, the rain is gone..". And of course when the combo of sun and rain are out, "Somewhere over the rainbow...". And anytime someone says, "You're free to go", “And I'm FREE- FREE falling..." automatically plays in my head. If I get the goosebumps, "I've got chills! They're multiplying" plays. (Props and accolades to anyone who sang all those songs while reading this!) I think in song. It's a game I've played since I was little. Ally Mcbeal used to inwardly laugh when she saw a dancing baby--likewise, I smirk when a line from a song pops into my head that perfectly fits a situation.
Lately, one song has been playing through my mind like a broken record- "Home" by Chris Thomlin. It has been playing for 48 days and counting in fact. Forty-eight days and counting- that's how long we've been in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) with our 32 week gestation preemie. He started out 3 lbs and 14 ounces. A resounding gush of thanks was prayed when he came out screaming-- you can't cry if you can't breathe. His lungs were strong, but a soft cleft palate was discovered moments after he was born via emergency Caesarian section. Due to the fact he was born before the suck and swallow reflex was developed and the cleft palate, learning to eat has been very difficult. He is using specialized bottles and slowly making progress. This little man has been out of the womb for over 7 weeks, but he hasn't left his NICU room once. All he knows are those same four walls.
Life in his NICU room is pretty good. It's warm. Germs are kept at bay. Mom sleeps there most nights and cuddles lots in the day. He is clean and thanks to a feeding tube he doesn't go hungry. The nurses are kind and helpful. He has a team of specialists (Speech Therapist, Occupational Therapist, Physical Therapist, Nutritionist, Neonatologist and more) who carefully look out for his well being. And there have been visits from dearly loved ones.
There have been plenty of things that have been less than fun. There have been heel pricks and blood draws. Feeding tubes have been yanked out and put right back in. There were biliruben lights and genetic tests. Several times a day there are blood pressure and temperature checks. Milk has flooded his sinuses over and over while he is trying to learn to eat and the suppositories are no fun at all.
Then there are all the things he missed. He didn't get to
go to Easter Sunday at church or to the family gatherings that weekend. His cousins haven't met him yet because no one under the age of 18 (besides siblings) is allowed in the NICU. He hasn't felt a drop of rain or the sun on his face. He hasn't heard a dog bark or a cat meow or a bird chirp. He hasn't seen his nursery or his home.
Home. We keep telling him about it. It's this wonderful, happy place with no more needles, feeding tubes and beeping machines. There are a lot more than 4 walls. We tell him about his stroller and the walks we're going to take and the clouds, trees, flowers and animals he will see. We tell him about the car and how he gets to ride in the back seat with his big brother and the music we'll sing together along with the radio. We tell him of the books and toys at home that are waiting for him to play with and mostly we tell him of his cousins and friends he'll get to meet when he breaks out of this joint. Right now the words of a future filled with comfort, exploration and fun are just noise to our tiny baby--but soon they will be a reality.
We have similar conversations with our four year old, but they revolve around the Happiest Place on Earth. We talk about the food he can eat, the shows to watch and describe the rides in detail and the characters he could meet. We tell him about fireworks and shops filled with souvenirs. We tell him of the music and twinkle lights. He hears about airplane rides, sunshine and hotels with swimming pools. We've shown him pictures and friends who have gone recently exuberantly speak of how much fun they had.. He believes that Disneyland is amazing even though he's never been. He trusts our word. He keeps asking when he gets to go.
More importantly we tell both of them about the place that is even better than Disneyland- our true home- Heaven. We talk about being in a place with no more tears and no more sadness. We talk about the Bible characters and relatives they'll meet who have gone before. We speak of pearly gates and streets of gold. We speak of Jesus. And we tell them of the music they will help create which will be so much better than anything here on Earth. Many question the reality of life after death. They aren't sure what's to come. But we serve a God we can trust. He promised those who believe in him that he will one day take us home.
14 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
I got my baby's nursery ready just for him. Walls were painted. Pictures were hung. New floors and blinds were installed. The crib was assembled. Baskets of baby clothes were washed and sorted. Nesting officially took place. I can't wait for the day that I get to take him home for good. Likewise, Jesus feels the same about all those who know him. He's getting everything ready to welcome us home. I've been singing this song over my tiny baby for the past 48 days and counting... It's fitting in so many ways:
Home, where the streets are golden
Every chain is broken
Oh I wanna go, oh I wanna go
Home, where every fear is gone
I’m in Your open arms
Where I belong
Where I belong
Where I belong
I’m going home
I’m going home
I’m on my way home!
I’m goin' home!
Remember when you were a little kid, and you’d watch those TV shows where there were two inseparable best friends who would do anything for each other and were always seen together? Where you know if you saw one you’d see the other? Those two friends who finish each other’s SANDWICHES….I mean sentences…and sometimes you wondered if they were siblings that were separated at birth and somehow had different parents?
I remember. Some of my favorites were all from Disney Channel shows. Or Harry Potter. Or Lord of the Rings. Or really cheesy Rom-Coms where there’s always a best friend whose kind of just hanging out in the background while she watches her best friend in the entire world fall in love. Or Shawn and Gus from Psych, or Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, or the Doctor and whichever companion he’s dragging around at the time….the list goes on and on, y’all get the idea.
When I was little kid, I remember seeing all these friendships and going, “Man. I want a best friend like that. One I can’t imagine myself without, one who would be by my side at my wedding, one who would send the guy who breaks my heart to jail, one who would always stand up for me and yet pick on me relentlessly. One who keeps me strong in my faith, encourages my passions, is patient with my flaws and imperfections, who knows me inside and out and yet loves me all the same, who trusts me with their deepest darkest secrets and shares their hearts’ desires with me.”
Sounds like a pretty tall order to fill, doesn’t it?
Fast forward to 2009, where I (bubbly, neon colorful, outgoing, awkward and obnoxiously loud yet adorable little kid) am shoved in a corner with board game and told to play with Cadence (awkward, shy, emo-punk rock kid in black and red checkered skinny jeans who is looking at me like I just stepped out of Alice in Wonderland.)
Can I just take a second to mention that the creator of Quirky Faith is the one who shoved us in that corner with a board game and told us to talk? She gets all the blame for this. Maybe she knew we’d write a blog about later as adults. Who knows?
Anyway, life was never the same after that. We quickly became friends…well sort of. In reality, we really couldn’t stand each other but to some extent we knew we needed each other. My extremely bubbly happy go lucky extroverted personality severely clashed with her extremely quiet, judgmental introverted personality. But regardless, we made it work for about 4 years. We spent the night together at each other’s houses, had birthday parties together, stood next to each other caked in pounds of makeup for our Easter musical, fought hard together and laughed hard together.
That is, until boys came into the mix. Girls, let me just say…never let a guy come between you and your best friend. I know it’s said a lot in TV shows and movies, and it’s a bit cliché, but it’s true; Just, don’t.
For three years, I fell to the trap of letting a guy come between me and the person I had found myself calling my best friend. For three years, she didn’t hold that title in my mind anymore. I still regret that to this day. I am not with that guy anymore and if she hadn’t been so kind and forgiving, I would be without a best friend, too.
It took a couple years after that for our friendship to rebuild. We’ve known each other for 9 years. Four years of that, we were best friends. Three years we were mortal enemies. The last two years? We’ve both been through trials and tribulations in our personal lives. Moments where we were at our lowest. We’ve both been through great victories. Moments where we were standing all alone on top of our mountains of whatever temporarily amazing thing we had accomplished. We graduated from high school, went separate career paths, started jobs, had multiple friends come in and out of our lives. Made great friendships with others but none were quite the same. Despite the fact our personalities were basically World War III when they’re in the same room, we still never could find that same connection.
Who came to my rescue? The very person I had forgotten I needed…Cadence. And all it was, was a simple, perfectly timed text message asking if I wanted to hang out. And from that moment forward, we are back to being inseparable. We have learned so many lessons in our time apart, that I know this was all in God’s timing. Even though I regret pushing her away for all those years, I know God was preparing my heart for the friendship we have now. Yes, we are polar opposites. Yes, we are both stubborn, opinionated, and passionate about almost completely different things. Yes, we can’t agree on the same music to save our life. But, amidst all of that, we hold each other up. We fill in the gaps in ways the other can’t. We have the same, loud, obnoxious squeaky laugh. We can make each other laugh so hard we cry. We cry with each other, hold each other, and remind each other who we are in Christ. We’re honest with each other, we best express our love in being jerks to each other, and we know each other’s boundaries.
I don’t know where I would be without this girl. She brings out the best in me, keeps me grounded, brings me joy, and throughout the 9 year roller coaster of our friendship she has been there for me without fail. Even when I forgot she existed, or replaced her with another best friend, or disrespected her opinion or advice, she still stuck around, forgave me, and continues to be an irreplaceable human being in my life. We can go weeks without seeing each other, and yet when we’re back together you’d think we’ve never been separated. But we both make it a point to invest in each other. Checking in on each other twice daily, not taking “I’m fine” as a valid answer, and pushing each other to overcome our struggles and encouraging each other in our strengths.
I could go on and on, in fact I’m finding it extremely difficult to write a conclusion for this post. Maybe because there is no conclusion.
I don’t have any profound thoughts except for this – don’t take your friends for granted. Don’t. Invest, appreciate, sacrifice, and enjoy whatever time you have with the people in your life.
“The strong bond of friendship is not always a balanced equation; friendship is not always about giving and taking in equal shares. Instead, friendship is grounded in a feeling that you know exactly who will be there for you when you need something, no matter what or when.” ~ Simon Sinek
I would like to start my section being honest; when Amberly mentioned “a simple, well-timed text message” asking if she wanted to hang out with me, the only reason why I had texted her was because the friend I originally was going to hang out with cancelled last minute, and I had about 2 hours to kill before college small group, so I texted Amberly and asked if she wanted to go for coffee or something. This was only a few months ago. Now, we’re closer than we’ve ever been and we’re both equal amounts of effort to keep our relationship strong. I think it’s funny that we’re closer now because I used her as a back-up plan for my socialization LOL. Well, now that you got a summary of Amberly and I’s friendship, my contribution for this post will be tips and tricks Amberly and I have learned through experience on strengthening and maintaining our friendship. Granted, we’re both in our 20’s, so we’re not going to claim that we know everything about friendships. We just thought this could be somewhat helpful for others who struggled with friendships. Anyway, queue bullet list (dedicated to Amberly because she loves bullet lists)
I could have no greater joy than to hear that my children are following the truth.
III John 1:4
My husband Duane and I have been greatly blessed. God has faithfully provided for every need and has blessed and prospered our efforts. Through the years, we have found Him to be a faithful friend and loving Heavenly Father. We can, however, swap survival stories with just about anyone. Our first apartment held only a beat up bedroom set and a used refrigerator and stove ($40 each) which we paid off at $10 a month. Salesmen came to our door and left because our furniture-less living room told them that we couldn’t afford whatever it was they were selling. We have experienced both physical and financial needs, but God has uplifted us through times of plenty and want. Currently we are watching us He provides for the needs of a brand new premature infant grandson who was born at 32 weeks and weighing 3 pounds
We praise His name for His tender watch care and the gift of His Son. While we appreciate material blessings, our greatest joy and blessing lies in the fact that all our children (daughters, sons-in-law and grandchildren) have chosen to serve God and all have accepted Christ as Savior. If you asked me why they all have committed their lives to Christ, my response is filtered through great gratitude for a Godly heritage. Anyone who comes to Christ does so through His saving power alone.
Let me tell you a little bit about the story behind our particular history. My father was raised in a loving home with no spiritual or godly training at all. He had a brilliant mind, but suffered with a severe curvature of the spine. He was the first of his family to graduate from high school but had to walk and/or hitchhike about 5 miles to attend
school. When he graduated, his desire was to become an attorney but he opted to go to Bible school because it was a more affordable option. His father agreed to the plan as long as my father “didn’t go and get religious”. It was actually at seminary that my dad was confronted with the truth of the Gospel story and where he accepted Christ as his Savior. With that decision, he made the choice to establish a Godly heritage where none had been before. He became a missionary and was a loving and committed husband and father.
What a Godly heritage!
Children are fortunate if they have a father who is honest and does what is right. Proverbs 20:7 GNB
My mother, on the other hand, was born into a Christian home but it was loveless and harsh. Her parents were hardworking German farmers who valued obedience and duty. My mother told us that no one in the family ever mentioned her birthday. Finally she determined as a child that she would walk down the stairs of the old farmhouse and remind everyone that it was her birthday and they could wish her a happy one if they wished. Even though she grew up with great negativity, she also chose to be a Christian and went to Philadelphia school of the Bible where she met my father. She determined to serve God and others with her whole heart. She faithfully served her husband, her children, and all who came her way and spoke of God’s great love.
We will not keep them from our children; we will tell the next generation about the Lord ‘s power and his great deeds and the wonderful things he has done.
(Psalms 78:4 GNB)
Duane’s parents also have powerful stories of God’s leading in their lives. They were each dramatically healed from cancer and left a legacy of faithfulness. They each showed us how to live—and die.
The Lord knows the days of the upright and blameless, and their heritage will abide forever.
(Psalm 37:18 AMP)
Men and women of the Bible and throughout history clearly demonstrate both the wisdom and reward of following and serving God and the folly and sorrow of rejecting Him. Christ has paid the price. Individuals each get to make the choice to accept or refuse to follow Him. Ultimately, every soul either enjoys a heritage of righteousness or it is up to them to create one. Without a doubt, there is nothing more important than pointing our children to the One who gives them life worth living.
And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. (Deuteronomy 6:5-7 NLT)
A friend genuinely asked the question recently on social media, "Why did you have children?" While many answered right away with altruistic answers such as "to make the world a better place" or "I always wanted to be a mother", I reflected for a long time. Babies cause us to lose sleep, children throw tantrums, teens make expensive mistakes...why go through it all?
After much thought and reflection, an answer rang true: I had children simply for relationship sake. I want to know my kids and I want them to know me.
In August, I joyfully discovered I was pregnant. From the moment I found out, I wondered who this precious little one would be. Would this baby be a she or a he? Would his favorite color be green or would her's be orange? Would he love to sing, dance, draw, read, run or swim? Would she be bold and talkative or quiet and contemplative? I wanted to know what would make this child laugh and cry and wanted to help this child through each and every one of life's events. I wanted a relationship with this new tiny person.
This pregnancy, however, proved to be difficult and expensive. It came with physical, emotional and monetary costs:
I did not want to endure nausea during the first trimester, but I threw up four or five times a day because I loved the baby growing inside.
I did not want to pee my pants when I sneezed or coughed, but I endured humiliating encounters because I cherished the child and knew it was part of the cost of growing a baby.
I did not want to get weekly progesterone shots to avoid preterm labor, but I did it because I wanted to hold a healthy baby in my arms.
I did not want to be pumped full of magnesium, steroids, fluids and shots when I went into preterm labor at 28 weeks, but I would do anything to give my baby more time to develop.
I did not want to go on bed rest for 5 weeks, but I wanted to do everything possible to ensure my baby had every chance to grow.
I did not want to prick my finger four times a day and eat an ultra restricted diet due to gestational diabetes, but I wanted to spare my baby a lifetime of health complications.
I did not want to have an emergency C-section at 32 weeks gestation, but I wanted my baby to be delivered safely. I would endure the painful, long recovery for the safety of my child.
I did not want to spend a month in the NICU, getting little sleep, but I wanted to be where my baby was so we could bond and give him the very best start possible.
Why did I endure all of this? Why did I have children? I went through it for the same reason Jesus endured the cross-- if I didn't go through the discomfort, pain and humiliation, I wouldn't have a relationship with the tiny almost 4 pound miracle whom I adore.
"When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world." John 16:21
In the New Testament book of Timothy, the story of the original sin is recounted.
"For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing." (1 Timothy 2:12–15)
These verses about child birthing saving women always confused me until I thought about what is spilled and sacrificed during childbirth.
During childbirth a woman endures intense pain, blood is spilled and her water breaks.
Christ, on the cross, endured ultimate pain. His blood was spilled and Jesus--the Living Water--His body was broken.
Christ didn't want to be falsely accused.
Christ didn't want to be beaten.
Christ didn't want to be mocked.
Christ didn't want to be flogged.
Christ didn't want to be crucified.
Christ didn't want to die.
He prayed and begged his Heavenly Father to let the cup of pain and sacrifice to pass from him, but amazingly he chose God's will and not His own. He chose pain and suffering because he knew it would lead to forgiveness of sins and reconciliation between God and every person who calls on his name.
So Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many... Hebrews 9:28(a)
Why did Jesus do it? Same reason a woman endures a hard pregnancy-- He did it for LOVE.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
Long, long before Jesus came into the world it was proclaimed “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” which means, God with us." Matthew 1:23
Jesus came into the world through labor pains because he wanted to be with us.
"But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons." Galatians 4:4-5
Jesus came via contractions, water spilling and pushing because he wanted to engraft us into the family God. He wanted to make a place for us in his Father's heavenly mansion. He wanted to call you brother or sister. Just like I look forward to bringing my tiny premie home from the hospital, Jesus longs to bring you home one day too.
A child is born to us! A son is given to us! And he will be our ruler. He will be called, "Wonderful Counselor," "Mighty God," "Eternal Father," "Prince of Peace". Isaiah 9:6 Good News Translation
Jesus came into this world as a tiny baby because he wants a relationship with us. He wants to give us direction when we don't know what to do. He wants to advise and provide wisdom. He wants to be our source of strength when life is hard. He wants us to call him Father, Abba...Daddy. He wants to be our protector and provider. He wants to be our source of peace. No, he did not want to endure the pain of Good Friday, but he wanted the joy of Easter Sunday and the joy of a thriving relationship with you.
Photos by Arrowcreek Photography.
Ahhh…it’s February, the month of love. Everywhere we see pink and red and hearts and chocolate (let’s not look at the scale for a while!) and romance and blah blah blah.
Okay to be honest, Valentine’s Day has never been one of my favorite holidays. It’s not because I’m jealous of other relationships, or because I have unrealistic expectations. I just think it’s kind of funny to have a day where we love people extra when we’re called to love people more and more…ALWAYS. But on the other hand, Valentine’s Day is a great day to REMIND us to take a little extra time to show people how you care and to reassure them that you love them.
The Bible has a lot to say about love. And for those of you who know me, you know that my life “verse” (chapter, really) is the love chapter itself. But I discovered the other day, accidentally, while flipping through my Bible during Sunday morning service, there’s a chapter in Romans entitled “Love in Action.” This, of course, piqued my curiosity. I bookmarked said chapter and then picked it up later that night and ended up writing several pages based on, literally, the first verse.
Romans 12:1 – “Love must be sincere.”
It’s four words but, man…can those four words make all the difference in the world. For starts, we hear the word “sincere” a lot. But do we know what it means? Thanks to Google, I had the answer easily at my fingertips.
free from pretense or deceit; proceeding from genuine feelings.
(of a person) saying what they genuinely feel or believe; not dishonest or hypocritical.
So...what does this mean? It means that love cannot be a lie. It cannot be used as an excuse for personal gain. Love must be felt in order to be true and genuine.
What is love? What should I feel to know that it is truly love? (Romantic, friendship, family, anyone.) In order to find that answer, let us consult the love chapter itself…
1 Corinthians 13:4-8 – “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”
Let’s break that down a bit. What are some questions we should ask ourselves when we tell others we love them? What are some questions we should ask ourselves when others tell us they love us? (I love bullet points…)
• Love is patient (can I put up/be patient with this person? Are they patient with me?)
• Love is kind (do I feel any meanness towards this person? Are they mean towards me?
• Love is not envious (do I want what this person has? Are they consistently making comments about how they wish they had what I have?)
• Love is not boastful or proud (do I feel the need to shove my successes in this person’s face or hog the attention? Do they never let me get a word in edgewise because they’re too busy bragging about themselves?)
• Love is not dishonoring (disrespectful) (do I feel the need to put this person down? Do they make me feel disrespected?)
• Love is not self-seeking (does this person only benefit me? Do I only benefit this person? Is it mutually beneficial or are we each only seeking something for ourselves?)
• Love is not easily angered (do I have a temper with this person? Do they get mad at me often?)
• Love is not a grudge-holder (did this person do something to me that I am still holding against them? Are they holding something against me that I’ve already sought forgiveness for?)
• Love is an evil hater and is joyful in truth (does this person bring out the best in me and I in them?)
• Love is protective (am I willing to put myself on the line for this person? Would they do the same for me?)
• Love is trusting/trustworthy (am I someone this person can trust and can I trust them?)
• Love is hopeful (do I always seek the best with this person? Does this person have an optimistic outlook with me?)
• Love is perseverant (will I ever give up on this person? Will they ever give up on me?)
• Love is unfailing (will I always strive to love this person no matter what? Will they always strive to love me?)
Aren’t bullet points fun?
Now that we have a detailed list of what love is, let’s go back to Romans 12 to see what we’re supposed to do with this sincere love.
Romans 12:10a – “Be devoted to one another in love.”
How? (More bullet points, yay!)
• 12:10b – “Honor one another above yourself.”
• 12:11a – “Keep your spiritual fervor” (intense, passionate feeling)
• 12:11b - “Serve the Lord” (in serving the Lord He will provide people to whom you can show sincere love)
• 12:12a – “Be joyful in hope” (Encourage! Hebrews 3:13 says “Encourage one another daily, so long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.)
• 12:12b – “Patient in affliction” (do not be harsh to or belittle those who are struggling)
• 12:12c – “Faithful in prayer” (pray for your loved ones constantly. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says “Rejoice always. Pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”)
• 12:13 – “Share with those in need – be hospitable.” (be aware of people’s needs and meet them)
• 12:14 – “Bless those who persecute you” (repay meanness with kindness)
• 12:15 – “Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn.”
• 12:16 – “Do not be proud and unwilling to associate with people of low position.” (Be humble enough to show love to those who need it. As Jesus Himself says in Luke 5:31, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” And bear in mind… “low position” is a worldly standard. We are all God’s children. Jesus showed the ultimate display of love by sacrificing Himself for ALL of us.)
If you’re still lost… just look to Jesus Himself. The Bible says that “God is love.” (1 John 4:8) Ask the age old question; “WWJD?” What would Jesus do? How would He love this person? How does He love ME?
Sinking Deep – Hillsong Young & Free’
“Love so deep is washing over me, Your Face is all I seek, You are my everything.”
Show some sincere love in action. Today, tomorrow, Valentine’s Day, every day.
I was a born procrastinator. Much to my mother's chagrin I was born a year late. I was due in December 1981, but was born in January 1982. My mother was pregnant for 42 weeks. My parents missed the tax credit. I was expensive and caused pain from the beginning. They adored me anyway.
On more than one occasion I waited until the night before to tell my parents about a huge science fair project. I deserved a failing grade. My parents taught me mercy by pulling more than one all-nighter piecing together an acceptable project to turn in the next morning with bloodshot eyes.
Today I see God's mercy played out over and over again. We deserve to fail. We deserve punishment, but He loves, blesses and forgives.
My first born son's due date was December 29. He was born November 12. He came almost 8 weeks early. We were NOT prepared. My water broke spontaneously and he was born four hours later. Our baby showers were scheduled for later that month. We procrastinated in making any purchases for the baby until after we had a chance to inventory what we were generously gifted...which left us with little of what was needed when the little man arrived. We did not have a car seat to bring him home. There were no diapers, wipes or baby soaps in our possession. While we were given a hand-me-down crib, it was not assembled and we didn't own a mattress. I didn't have a hospital bag packed. I didn't buy any postpartum clothes or supplies. We still had two Lamaze classes left and I hadn't finished reading the third trimester pregnancy chapters in the book my doctor had given me, let alone the chapters on labor and delivery and infant care. We were caught completely unprepared.
God's grace showed up in the form of bags full of hand-me-down clothes, hospital visits from dear fiends and pastors, overwhelmingly generous baby gifts, a huge bag full of food and snacks to carry us through our NICU stay. His grace was seen through the expertise and gentle care of the doctors and nurses who cared for us. My dad came to the hospital every day to sit with the baby while I got a chance to shower and go to the cafeteria for food. Home cooked meals were delivered to our front door night after night. We had done nothing to deserve these gestures of love and generosity, yet they were given selflessly with joy. Grace given freely.
Procrastination doesn't pay, but mercy and grace are overwhelming. I learned my lesson. I just started the third trimester of my current pregnancy and my hospital bag is already packed. Now I buy, wrap and ship Christmas presents in July. I set goals to finish reports for work at least a week early. Our freezer is stocked with extra loaves of bread and a side of beef. Life is far more relaxing and pleasant when we prepare in advance and I'm learning to look for ways to extend Mercy and Grace to those around me.
The lesson is deeper than to-do lists and due dates. No one knows what tomorrow holds. Only God knows our individual expiration dates- when He will call us home. What is He calling us to for which we are procrastinating? Is there someone to forgive? Or perhaps we need to apologize and ask for forgiveness? Maybe we need to tell someone we love them...or more importantly, that God loves them. Maybe we need to tell someone about Jesus.
Brothers and Sisters let us put procrastination aside and pursue Grace and Mercy with everything in us. Time is fleeting!
P.S. Mom and Dad- I'm sorry it took so long for me to learn this lesson. Thank you for your patience!
Allow me to wax atrotheophilisophical for a moment. It’s six AM in the middle of January and I am currently sitting on the sand at Cannon Beach in Oregon. This isn’t the kind of beach where you go out and catch waves at the crack of dawn. The waves are far too small. This isn’t the kind of beach where you splash around in the water. The water is far too cold. This isn’t the kind of beach where you lay out and soak up rays in your bikini. Come on, it’s Oregon! No, this is the kind of beach where you stand and appreciate the wonder that is God.
I came out here by myself. I am literally the only one here as the sun is not quite up yet. It’s peaceful and quiet.
Yet amidst the peace, just a hundred feet away, waves are constantly crashing. Over and over, never stopping, even when I’m not hear to witness them. They come closer in and go farther out all day long with the tide. It’s a constant clash of water against land.
I look to my left. In the darkness, I can still make out the form of Haystack Rock rising up out of the water. That rock that the Goonies used to find One-Eyed Willie’s treasure now shows me the God doesn’t do things on a small scale. This rock towers over its surroundings, beckoning gawking eyes, curious children and thousands of selfies every day.
By even Haystack Rock seems small when I look up. On this clear morning, millions of stars greet me in a dusting of brilliance across the dark sky. The constellations are easy to spot so I took out my phones Star Map app and looked at what they all were. The ancients has some serious creativity when they thought three bright stars together looked like a man holding a sword. But then I realized, these are the same stars those ancients looked at thousands of years ago. They are ancient themselves and they were just given to us by a Creator for us to enjoy! God could have left the sky black or made the earth reflect more light or even made the stars as spots of light but he made them into their own suns with their own galaxies, each one sitting light years away from another!
The ocean, the rock and the stars are immense, spectacular, and beautiful. They did not just happen. This kind of thing takes some creativity and an overwhelming kind of genius to create it. I’m standing in literal awe of it this chilly morning.
I wonder if God does to? I wonder if God says “Hey, that came out pretty good!” or “Oh wow, that wave made a fantastic crash against Haystack Rock!” or, my favorite, “Wait until the humans discover this REALLY awesome star they haven’t even found yet!” Does God marvel at His creation like I do? It’s hard not to.
Now let this blow your mind: that same God who made the ocean that covers the globe and gives life and chaotic beauty, that same God who made Haystack Rock pop out of the ocean, that same God who made trillions of other astronomical bodies spread out so far that we may never discover them all before Jesus returns, is the same God that says “I love you and I want YOU to be my child!” I mean...WOW!! Just wow! I hate to be one of those guys that brags about what his father does for a living, but look outside... see that sky? MY Father made THAT!
I should probably finish because the sun is coming up and hiding the stars and the tide is getting really close to my feet. Let me encourage you with this: Just take a minute to look around and realize that this is all a gift from our Creator. Take a minute and think about how much is there that we can’t even see. Take a minute and thank God that He loves you enough to give it to you expecting nothing in return. Take a minute and say thank you
I have moments when I feel like an impostor. It often comes when I’m with a large group of people, even more often with the dreaded semi-organized-group-of-women events.
I turn off my car in the driveway and sit in the gathering darkness. I’m slightly late—intentionally. I exhale a hard sigh of resolution. Why did I agree to come?
And then I’m inside, in the warmth of a close group of bodies. I’m wondering where to sit—in that solitary chair by the door, or on the end of the couch by those women I don’t know? I’m wondering if I dressed appropriately, suddenly self-conscious of my wardrobe and the ways my body is slowly changing with age.
In the crowd of people I don’t know and partially-know, I feel awkward, like I don’t belong. What if they realize I’m not that cool? Not that stylish? Not that pretty? What if they realize I’m not as well read? That I haven’t actually read that philosopher or that work of classic literature? What if my jokes aren’t funny? What if…?
I’m worried of being found a fraud. I’m worried of once again being the awkward elementary school girl, sitting with her back to a brick wall, with the latest message that her friends have moved on to others.
My insecurities make me long to be seen. They also make me fear what people will see. So much of my focus can be consumed by what I am presenting to others—am I beautiful, engaging, funny, smart-but-not-too-smart? I can spend so much energy trying to make myself seen. I fear being overlooked or invisible.
If I close my eyes, I can see myself there, sitting on a grassy hill behind the church. Winter had finally released its clutches, and the grass was vibrant in its new growth. I sat with my knees pulled to my chest, my heart full of questions. Why couldn’t I escape these insecurities? What drove them, feeding them with the rumbling of my empty stomach? What would set my mind free?
The words came then, clear, loudly inaudible: Look at Me, Diana.
My eyes shot up from the ground. And in a moment that proved that real life can have even more contrivance than fiction, my eyes, shifting from the earth, focused on a rough wooden cross that stood hitherto unseen before me.
The thoughts came like a flood. That when my eyes were focused on Him—on Christ my Savior, His love bleeding out—I could see myself rightly. I could see how loved I was, how seen I was. I was set free from my need for perfection, of the need to prove my worth. If I looked at Him—not at myself and not at the imagined gaze of my fellow students and friends—all the clamoring voices demanding I be good enough fell silent.
And that’s when the second phrase cut in—disarmingly clear: Make them seen. Make them known.
Since that afternoon, years ago, I’ve taken those words as a sense of calling. Look at Me, Diana, and make them seen and known. In my moments of clarity and obedience, I’ve turned my own desires to be seen and known by others, to be noticed and applauded, and turned that energy and concern towards making sure others are known and seen.
My Father in Heaven turns His eyes to me. He is the God who sees. He sees me—the best parts and the worst parts of who I am—and He delights in me as His child. This offers me the security to be free of people-pleasing, approval, and the desperate desire to be noticed and lauded by my fellow humans.
I’ve come to realize that most of us are secretly afraid inside—afraid of what people will think, afraid of what they’ll see, afraid of what they’ll do when they see us. Most of us are like little children, looking over our shoulders to see if someone is watching as we play and twirl and jump.
We put on a show in the hopes of being noticed. We drive ourselves to unrealistic standards of perfection. We obsess over the perception of our bodies, our brains, our achievements. And we cover up the parts of ourselves that could give any hint of our failure, weakness, or imperfection…of our humanity.
So when I find myself in those situations when my insecurities rise like floodwaters, drowning out my joy, drowning my ability to love my neighbor, I try to call myself back to the love that seeks to consider others more important than myself. I work to make them seen.
I listen to stories. I ask them of their family, their work, their play. I look for the delight on their face and chase after it. I try to set aside my pride and be more concerned with making them the most important person in the room, the star, the seen-one. I practice hospitality—the spirit of welcome that meets people as they are.
And, in God’s ironic way, I don’t have to stifle those insecurities—they simply quiet and fade away. And I’m free to be who I am. I’m freed from my introspection and navel-gazing. I’m free to love.
Find more of Diana's encouragement at her blog www.dianagruver.com
I love Jesus. I think my two daughters can change the world. I think you can too.
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