My Rocking Chair

My rocking chair is a time machine.
I hold your nearly toddler self, hair matted from a day of play and learning, and catch a glimpse of the tiny baby boy with a furrowed brow that I brought home; you struggling to eat, me struggling to feed you and hold myself together. I could see your little neck then, now hidden under the layer of padding that God has given you to cushion your fearless falls and to fuel your exploration. Has it really been a year since you left my womb and filled our home with your presence?
My rocking chair is a metronome.
“Cree, cree”, it says over and over until we’re done. Forward and backward it rocks, on and on until you calm and are ready for sleep. It marks the slow and blinding passage of time, good days and bad days, confident and turbulent days. No matter the day, here is where it ends. Some days I ask the Lord to grant us another good day, and some days I thank the Lord that the day is finally over. My favorite tick of the metronome is when you turn, your mind full of sleep, and bury your nose in my chest. It is then that I try to slow time down by rocking more slowly and holding my breath. One day, this metronome will stop ticking and your daddy as I won’t hold you every night; you will be too independent.
My rocking chair is a battle field, stained with tears, blood, and milk.
We’ve fought so many nights on that tiny battle field. (Forward) go to sleep, (backward) now please, (forward) go to sleep, (backward) now please, (forward) go to sleep, (backward) for the love of all that is holy and sanctified now please. We’ve fought illness and pain together in that chair, fighting snotty noses and hurting gums, twice taking you to the Emergency Department for extra help; sometimes fighting invisible enemies that leave us both frustrated and in pain. We’ve fought my insecurities as a mother when you cried out for your daddy or when the way I wanted to feed you didn’t work and I took it personally. Those nights when we still fought to breast feed, your daddy slept on the floor in your room because I was so scared of my frustration but God saw us through.
My rocking chair is an altar of prayer.
Even before you were born, I rocked in the chair and prayed for you. I prayed that the Lord would be honored by your life, even if He took you before I knew you like He took your sister. After you were born, I prayed that you would grow strong and eat well, and that I would be a mother that would honor Him first. I prayed that God would use your big voice and love of music for His glory; that He would use your strength to love others, your hands to serve, your quick mind to help, your sensitive heart to love. I pray that you would know Him as your daddy and I do.
My rocking chair is a play ground.
Your chubby hands smack the arm rests as you fight sleep in my lap, making enough noise to amuse you. All your weight pushing on the front of my rocking chair makes the blanket draped over the back billow like a ships’ sail as you stand in front of it and pull on the bar in the middle to make it rock without me. The bars underneath become a jungle gym as you crawl around, under, and between them to retrieve lost toys and evade us when we’re chasing you. We read books and escape to distant lands, going on adventure after adventure while you delay bedtime.

If my rocking chair were a rocket ship, we’d have flown to the moon and back twice in your first year with all the rocking we’ve done to fuel it. One day, when you’re too big to rock, my little wooden rocking chair will be full of memories of those flights; full of memories of my tiny boy who’s all grown up. But for now, I’ll rock you for one more minute and kiss you goodnight an extra time to store up enough memories in my rocking chair so that when you’re too big to rock, I’ll have that many more minutes of rocking and kissing to look back on. I will remember when you were just a baby and I was just starting to learn how to be your mommy.

Happy first birthday, #littleman. I am so grateful that God has allowed me to be your mommy.

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Minimal

The month of January is usually full of resolutions and thoughts about a new year and new goals. Most people want to lose weight, be a better person, read the Bible, be a better friend, write that book that we’ve always wanted to write, to exercise, the list goes on.

I love the start of a new year. The cold air whispers hope into my mind that swirls with new possibilities and ideas. I have longed for the last few months to make a new start with a right focus.

I have been so distracted. I have spent valuable time on social media that should have been spent on more meaningful pursuits. I have spent time watching random YouTube videos that both dull my mind and make me feel mildly like I’m missing out on life somewhere else while I miss out my life right here and right now. I have avoided dealing with painful emotions and stress by eating and watching Netflix instead of sitting down, studying my Bible, writing, and praying. I have muted my struggle with self-image by purchasing new, “exciting” items that give me a rush when I buy them that wears off within days.

While Husbandman and I were on Christmas break, we watched the documentary “Minimalism” that sparked a lot of conversation. (I’m so thankful that we both work in higher education and get such generous breaks.) The movie follows two men and their associates who have dedicated their lives to sharing their journey to actively pursuing less in a quest to find satisfaction in their own lives. According to their website, “Minimalism is a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important- so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom.” (source: https://www.theminimalists.com/minimalism/). They say that they’re ultimately pursuing happiness while they work to keep their material possessions to a minimum of the most useful tools.

At first glance, that sounds perfectly sane. Happiness is nice. I like being happy. Who doesn’t want to be happy?

In her book “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing”, Marie Kondo encourages her readers to discard items that don’t “spark joy”.

Possessions “sparking joy” sounds great.

But is the root of true happiness or even joy what I possess or what I do not possess? Is it seeking my happiness?

Minimalism and decluttering to pursue happiness joy on the surface sound Biblical. Christ Himself didn’t put effort into accumulating material possessions but trusted God to provide for His daily needs. But in modern-day culture, the main impetus of minimalism seems to be on wanting less things in order to live a more personally fulfilled life. That fulfillment is still self-centered. These are not inherently bad things, but they encourage people to pursue their own happiness and satisfaction outside of Christ.

I am a Christian; I have committed to following Christ. The root of my decisions to keep an item or discard it should not be my own happiness or perceived fulfillment. I want to determine how to live my life while pursuing a right-ordered heart. When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus answered:

“37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:37-40( ESV)

My greatest calling isn’t to pursue my satisfaction, even if that comes from service to others. I am to love God with all I am, and to love my neighbor as myself. I am, however, not exempt from living a personally intentional life. As a Christian, I should be careful in my consumption of financial and material things; not dulling my senses to the emotions and needs of others and myself.

So how do I pursue a life that honors God and doesn’t fall into the trap of minimalism for self gratification?

That’s my plan. That’s what I want to pursue this year “out loud” with you all: examining the motivation of my heart in light of God’s truth as I seek to live with minimal distractions. There is so much joy in pursuing the Lord. There is so much freedom.

As John the Baptist said about Christ when discussing his role in Christ’s ministry, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30, ESV).

After the Sparkle

On December 26th, I usually find myself sorting through new and old toys, cleaning up messes, squeezing one more bag of trash into the garbage can, and feeling a little let down that the holiday has passed. This year, I spent a what felt like forever but was only really an hour feeding my son Cheerios and a bottle in the back seat of the car while holding his hand to keep him from screaming all the way home from his Grandma’s house. My primary love language is giving and receiving gifts, so the flurries of giving and receiving that surround Christmas time fill up my emotional “tank”, but social events, travel, and busyness exhaust me at the same time.

I have always struggled with a post-Christmas feeling of disappointment; of buildup to a “glorious event” and then let down after it’s passed. That struggle is rooted in improper priorities when my heart focuses on gifts, expectations, parties, services, and time with family instead of on Christ and a reluctance to withdraw from festivities when I need an emotional break. Advent preparation resources have blessed me tremendously in the past few years but I still struggle. Shouldn’t my Christmas be sparkly and perfect and not let me down? All the songs and stories I read make me think that that’s what Christmas should be. The first Christmas seems like it should have been picture perfect when I don’t think about it carefully.

In reality, Mary and Joseph had been through so much leading up to the birth which the angel foretold: angelic visitations, unplanned and unwed pregnancy in a conservative society, suspicion of infidelity and plans for divorce, marriage and abstinence from physical intimacy, and after all of that, traveling out of town to a crowded city to be counted in a census at the end of a full term pregnancy.

When Mary actually delivered Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, she was far from home and her people. After Christ was born and the shepherds left, instead of the tranquil scenes we’re given in paintings and stories where even the cows held their breath in wonder, life kept going. Animals in the stable most likely were still there after Christ was born and continued to do what they normally do: make noise, eat, and make manure. Mary had to care for a newborn in overflow housing in a crowded city and eventually travel with him all the way home. She had to figure out how to feed him and care for her spent body after delivery; how to carve out a new rhythm as the mother of her people’s Messiah who was very much a helpless baby.

Praise God that He sent His Son into the thick of our mess and in the mire of our reality.

If you find yourself disappointed after the sparkle of Christmas passes, I pray that you would find relief in the fact that Christmas was just the beginning of the miraculous fulfillment of ancient prophesy to pay the price for the sin that separates us from a Holy God. This event was planned from the beginning of time, and it was far from the end of a story. You are in good company if you feel like gifts and decorations and parties fall short of expectation because they are not the point. Christmas marks the beginning of the life of Christ who lived an actual life after He was born. After the anticipation of delivering Jesus came to a halt all at once, the story had just begun to unfold.

I pray that we all approach the after Christmas period in light of the fact that Christmas happened; but was only the beginning of the fulfillment of God’s promise.

Imperfect Transitions

When I begin a journey, I have a clear picture in my mind of the destination. Sometimes this is a strength, and other times, it’s a weakness. Driving home from my parents house always approaches its end with a clear view of the foothills of the Appalachian mountains right before we exit the interstate and ends with another view of my beloved foothills as we turn into our neighborhood. I feel a sense of home when I see the mountains that watched over my journey into adulthood. When I plan out a project, I have a clear picture of the end product and often get frustrated when what I produce is less than Pinterest perfect, which is most of the time.

When I started writing this blog, I had delusions of grandeur of a book contract within six months of my first published post. The Lord has chiseled away at my imagined perfect endings over the past several years, regularly redirecting me to being present and grateful in the process instead of in the end product. More than two years ago, this blog provided an outlet to process my grief after losing my daughter Cora. Grief is a funny thing; it stays part of the very fiber of your being but eventually, it blends into who you are and doesn’t remain a healthy thing on which to focus. Over the last year and a half, I haven’t been able to share or process “out loud” for all to see. Processing things in private has been a gift to me. Grief informs my motherhood, but my son’s life isn’t about the short life of his older sister. The Lord certainly has a mighty purpose for His life, and I can’t wait to see how He moves in Littleman’s life.

My life has kept moving at an almost blistering and simultaneously slow pace since I stopped writing regularly. We walked through a healthy pregnancy closely monitored by the best medical team I could ask for, we welcomed a Littleman into our family and have started the lifelong process of parenting a baby that we get to know, and Husbandman finished his masters degree. (GLORY, HALLELUJAH, PRAISE THE LORD. Let’s not do that again.) All “big” things that take forever until all of a sudden, they’re done. I play ukulele now, sort of. More importantly, the Lord has been growing my desire to study His word and speak hope rooted in truth into other people’s lives.

I want to write again, through a new lens. As I told Husbandman the other day, the lens through which I want to write is still being incubated and sharpened. It’s too new and squishy to tell the world about yet, but I’ll share soon. While it incubates, I’m going to keep working on my PowerSheets for 2018. (More info on them here. They’re the bomb. You should do them.) If you’re in a goal-setting sort of mood too, listen to the Goal Digger Podcast interview with the creator of PowerSheets, Lara Casey.

I can’t wait to see where this process takes us, friends. I’m glad to be back. 

Two

As you live them, two years can seem both infinite and momentary.

Today is Cora’s second birthday. On her second birthday, we know better what could have been and is not. We’ve spent the past five months caring for our second child and learning just what we missed when we lost her. I see beautiful two year olds around me almost daily. A few weeks ago, one of them instructed me to put her hair back in a ponytail, twice because the first time wasn’t good enough. The cracks that I’ve gotten used to carrying in my heart started to burn again, aching for my little girl that I won’t get to know this side of heaven.

The ache is acute, and the sadness permeates me completely: it’s part of who I am now. I’ve always thought that life experiences weave into who you are like a piece of yarn in a blanket, but losing Cora felt like my whole life’s blanket got dipped in a vat of dye that has colored every part of me. When we first lost her, I was amazed that the sun kept rising and that life kept moving even though everything felt like it shouldn’t. I wanted to stop participating in my life and to retreat into silence, which I did for a time. But now, it is time to live again. I refuse to stop living my life because the Lord took her sooner than I expected. I could easily quit and dwell on what is not, but instead, today I choose to celebrate her life and her impact. Every day that my eyes open is a gift, and God has a purpose for those days. He has granted us a gift in our son Teddy, and it is my responsibility to parent him as well as I can and to be mentally present in the roles God has called me to.

I am grateful. God provides. I am grateful for the family and community that have carried us on their shoulders for the last two years: through tests and grief, another pregnancy and the uncertainty of whether or not I could carry a child who survived, the early months of pregnancy, and the anxiety that has threatened to pull me under. I am grateful for doctors and nurses and techs who held my hand and worked with me to try and find a way to get us through Cora’s delivery and tests, decisions about genetic testing and treatment, finding out that we’ll never know exactly what caused her die, and the marathon that was Teddy’s pregnancy and birth.

I’ve been pretty silent publicly about Teddy because it’s hard to know how to share his life in a responsible manner. How do you celebrate the life of a child born after a loss without making his life about her death? He is a gift from God, but God would have still been good if we had no more children than Cora. We did not deserve him because we lost Cora; there is no morbid system of entitlement built into God’s nature where a loss sustained automatically guarantees the birth of another child. I don’t know the answers to any of these questions, but I think about them.

Through it all, God is gracious. I don’t know why Cora died. But I can tell you that God is good. I am thankful that for 27 weeks I carried her. I am thankful that she is with Him in Heaven, and that I have assurance that I will see her again. I am hopeful that because of her life, God has been glorified.

I pray that in whatever trial you find yourself you cry out to God. He is near to the brokenhearted. You do not need to clean up your feelings or attitudes before you run to Him; He can and wants to be with you as you are. I have probably said everything imaginable to God, and He hasn’t left me yet and won’t leave me. He can handle your ugly, and He will turn your mourning into gladness.

Happy birthday to our little girl, Cora Lorraine.  Every day of my life, I will miss you so much, but I thank God that you lived.

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Fear/Hope

Fear used to be the thing that lived under my bed when I was a small child and threatened to grab my foot if I let it dangle over the edge of the bed too long. It would rear its head sometimes, but when I turned the lights on, found someone that I loved to be near to, and fear would retreat.

After losing my daughter last year, fear has taken on a new form. I hear bad news, from markets taking a downturn to illness spreading, and my heart begins to race. My mind whirls with “what if”s that steal my peace and my hope. And I worry that someone else that I love will be taken from me. I worry for all of those who will lose a loved one to senseless violence, illness, or accident. I worry that everything will fall apart again, and that this time, everything will be too broken for me too pick up the pieces and keep going.

Losing Cora was a trauma. It took me a a long time to recognize that. And I carry scars from that trauma, physical and mental. We’re working on the mental scars, and have been going to a therapist. (An aside: If you’re struggling, go see a professional. There is not shame in going to therapy.)

There are so many people suffering trauma now. It feels like the world is ripping itself apart. Fifty people were murdered and countless more injured last weekend.

And the truth is, I am not strong enough for this. We are not strong enough for this. I am not strong enough to pick up the pieces and keep going. But the basis of the faith that has come to mean more to me since Cora died is that God loved us all so much that He was willing to give up His only Son so that we could be saved from punishment for our sins by accepting Him. The point is not that I am supposed to be strong enough to keep going. The point is that I’m to turn to Him when I’m hurt, confused, and falling apart.

It is impossible to hope on my own after loss. To hope that God would allow me to get pregnant again and carry a baby who lives; to hope that it would be soon. To trust that although bad things happen as a result of sin, that God is still good. Hope is an easy task when you have not experienced loss or disappointment. When you know loss and disappointment, hope is an act of faith. Hope is a hard choice that becomes an act of worship and surrender to God, because you know the pain that loss can bring and know that God may choose to tell you “no”. Hope is believing that God is good  and will sustain you even when you are disappointed and hurt. Hope is trusting that God will hold you together when everything goes wrong.

Hope is knowing that even if everyone that I love is lost, even if I never carry a child who lives, even if my home remains empty of children or another sort of calamity visits my life, God is still good. I still choose to love Him because He first loved me. I deserve nothing, and yet Christ loves me.

God is still good. Even when it feels like the world is burning down around us, God is still good. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.

If you follow Christ, live your life in the light of hope in Christ, not hope is material things or family members. Even in light of the murder that was committed just this past weekend, hope audaciously. Pray without ceasing. And then go do something. Show your love to another who is hurting. Weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn. May we all take our fear and pain to the foot of the cross, and then act as Christ would have acted. May we glorify God’s name by living our lives and choosing daily to trust in Him.

If you do not follow Christ, my words won’t make much sense. If God is good, why do people die? If God is good, why do people spew hate in His name? If God is good, why did my unborn child die or why did a man murder fifty people over the weekend? I cannot sum up the whole of my faith in a blog post. I would encourage you to read scripture. To examine the life of Christ and to see what He said about Himself and how He loved and lived, and how He died to pay the price for our sins. I also encourage you to ask questions. God does not require that we become perfect before we seek Him. He came to seek and save those who are hurting and those who are sick.

And when we see pain and sickness, suffering and death, and people who claim faith who wield it like a club with which to beat others, know that Christians are not perfect and that some who claim faith in God are misled. We are a poor reflection of the Christ that we serve. I pray that you would seek Him with your whole heart, because He is waiting for you to find Him.

Don’t want to talk

These past few weeks have been dark for me.

Since losing Cora, I have had many hard days. I have learned that sometimes grief pops out of nowhere and hits you over the head with heartache that you were just starting to feel like you had come to grips with. I have learned that sometimes I feel guilty for being happy, and I have daily wrestled with the quiet that is still in my home. No tiny person to keep me up at night; no toys and supplies betraying a little human who has taken residence.

And life has gone on. I still get up and go to work every day. I’m teaching again, and I’m planning and hoping. But these past few weeks, I have struggled. I have felt hopeful and hopeless, alone and surrounded. Life as I think that it should be doesn’t exist.

And I become bitter. I compare myself to those around me whose situations I envy and I want to give up. I try to figure out God’s will with my human reason, and I feel even more bitter and upset. I focus on myself.

And I cry, and I hide. And I tell God that I don’t feel like praying right now. I don’t feel like studying my Bible. Being obedient to God and pursuing Him isn’t like shaking a magic eight ball and being told “Yes! Definitely” when I present God with the desires of my heart. He gives me more of Himself, but not exactly what I want Him to give me. And I feel such guilt for telling God that I don’t want to talk to Him.

But, that is prayer in itself, isn’t it? God is not so small as to not be able to handle my emotions. He isn’t surprised when my worn out heart looks at Him and says “I can’t do this for another day. Take it away from me.” As a dear friend listened to me whine last night, she reminded me of another person who asked for His circumstances to be changed if God willed it. The night before Jesus was betrayed and arrested, He went to God, His Father, and said:

“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” (Luke 22:42)

He knew what needed to happen. He understood. He knew that on Good Friday, He would be put to death and that in that death, He would pay for my sins and yours so that we could be untied with God upon accepting Christ’s gift.

And I, a frail human, have no idea what will be required of me tomorrow or if today’s cup will pass from me.

But I know that Christ willingly subjected Himself to death and suffering for me. He suffered. He knows my suffering. And I know that on the third day, He rose again.

Easter is coming. Redemption is at hand.

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Six Months

A lot of life can pass in the space of six months.

You can be the only teacher of your own class.

Your office can move to the other side of campus and you can gain epic window views. (Evidence below.)

You can pay off your debt except your house. Which is entirely because of the grace of God.

You can spend every minute missing a baby that you never knew outside of your stomach, too.

It’s been six months and one day since Cora died. We’ve been to grief counseling with a therapist four times. I’ve been to the doctor more times than I’ll count, and have had blood drawn more times than that. I’ve cried what feels like an infinite number of tears.

And life has kept going. The moment that I found out that she was gone, I felt like time stopped. The days following when labor was induced and she was delivered were so saturated with pain and grief that they felt like years. Coming home from the hospital with only two big people in the car and no tiny people felt like it took a year.

And time has kept the same pace. God has continued to provide, despite my struggles and complaints. When you grieve, it seems like time should slow down to let you sit with your pain. But it doesn’t.

Time marches on, and our lives have continued. Today, my grief feels heavier than some days for no particular reason.

If you find yourself in grief after a significant period,  you’re not alone. God is still good, even when you feel like a tattered teddy bear being pulled along by time.

Perfect #sunrise at work. #Monday #goodmorning

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Psalm 34

1I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
2My soul makes its boast in the LORD;
let the humble hear and be glad.
3Oh, magnify the LORD with me,
and let us exalt his name together!

4I sought the LORD, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
5Those who look to him are radiant,
and their faces shall never be ashamed.
6This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him
and saved him out of all his troubles.
7The angel of the LORD encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.

8Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
9Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints,
for those who fear him have no lack!
10The young lions suffer want and hunger;
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.

11Come, O children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
12What man is there who desires life
and loves many days, that he may see good?
13Keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from speaking deceit.
14Turn away from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.

15The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous
and his ears toward their cry.
16The face of the LORD is against those who do evil,
to cut off the memory of them from the earth.
17When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears
and delivers them out of all their troubles.
18The LORD is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.

19Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
but the LORD delivers him out of them all.
20He keeps all his bones;
not one of them is broken.
21Affliction will slay the wicked,
and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
22The LORD redeems the life of his servants;
none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.

Trust

It is no small task to trust, although we usually take it for granted. You trust the chair that you’re sitting in right now. You trust the foundation of the building that you’re in or the dirt under your feet to not give way.

That trust is easy when it’s never been tested. If you sit on a chair and the chair collapses, the next time you go to sit down, you’re going to sit differently. Your heart will speed up a little as you go to sit. Your legs will be ready to catch you if you fall. You’re on high alert for a while, because something unexpected happened. Every time you go to sit down, you wonder if what you’re relying on will do what you expect it to do.

As a Christian, I believe that God has a plan for my life. I believe that He loves us so much that He uses everything in this world to draw us towards Him. I believe that He “works all things together for the good of those that love Him.” (Romans 8:28) My definition of “good” is warped, though. I see “good” through the lens of a consumer: a nice home, a family, a good job, security. But that isn’t the “good” that the Bible talks about. God wants to draw people to Himself; to make us into His image. When Christ came to the earth, He wasn’t given the best body, a rich family, or a stable political environment. He was born to a blue collar father and a teenage mother, wasn’t much to look at (Isaiah 53:2), and he was born into a tumultuous political environment that He and His family had to flee from because His political leadership wanted to kill him (Matthew 2).

Christ chose to endure all of this even though He knew the kind of pain and poverty that He would have to endure. Why? Because He loved us and loves us still and wants to see everyone turn to Him to be saved. When I became a Christian, I committed to that goal, too. I committed to adopt that goal as my own (Matthew 28:16-20). I accept the greatest gift ever given: being reconciled to God through Christ’s sacrifice by admitting that I am a sinner and that Jesus died for my sins.

A lot of people think that becoming a Christian means that things become easier. That in an instant your problems are gone and that you’re free from sin. I’m forgiven of my sin, but I struggle with it every day. My problems didn’t go away, but I don’t have to go through them alone anymore. I don’t have the same goals as God automatically and I struggle with wanting material things instead of pursuing the goals of my faith.

And when something bad happens, I struggle with trust. When Cora died, it was like the floor fell out from under my feet. The Bible says that “children are a gift from the Lord” (Psalm 127), so why was my gift taken from me?

And the truth of the matter is that I don’t know why. I can’t tell anyone that Cora died so that one specific person would come to faith. I can’t tell you that she died so that other people’s faith would grow. I don’t know why she died, and I’m not supposed to know why.

That’s where real trust comes into play. It’s not the trust of sitting in a chair, either. Chairs are made by people, and people fail. This trust is that God is good even when He lets me walk through fire. This trust is that God still works together all things for the good of those that love Him, even when what He allows to happen hurts.

You see, that verse in Romans 8 that I quoted before isn’t talking about having super powers because of our faith. In context, it’s talking about suffering.

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

It was one thing to trust God when I hadn’t known suffering. But I have suffered and I still suffer today. And I can tell you that I have to choose to trust God every day and He hasn’t let me down once. So, as you walk through your day, remember that God is good, but that His goodness doesn’t hinge on you getting your way. His goodness is the truth that we cling to when the floor falls out from under us, and His faithfulness is the very thing that sustains us when we suffer.

Five Things to do Instead of the #merrychristmasstarbucks “Protest”

As a Christian, I am called to love others. The Bible says in 1 John 4:10-11: “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” I am not perfect, and I don’t do this well all of the time. But, it’s what I’m called to do. There is a lot of debate about what “love” really is. Because I’m a Christian, and because I sincerely believe that choosing to have a relationship with Christ is the single most important decision you will make, I will share my faith with you. If I did not share my faith with you, I would be condemning you to an eternity of separation from God through my silence. I will speak about how my relationship with Christ has transformed my life out of love.  

When I wish you a Merry Christmas, I am wishing that you know the freedom and joy of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I am wishing you the peace and joy that comes from knowing Christ. The name of Christ is not meant to offend you. His name is not a curse. His name and the celebration of His birth are a blessing.

I know that many of you celebrate Christmas as a holiday not rooted in Christ or His birth. As a Christian, that causes my heart grief because I know the great joy that comes with knowing Christ. I know that many don’t celebrate Christmas because they believe in other faiths. I believe that Jesus “is the way, the truth, and the life and that no man comes to the Father but by [Him]” (John 14:6). It grieves my heart when you don’t know Jesus as your savior, and when you celebrate or don’t celebrate Christmas without knowing Christ.

The #MerryChristmasStarBucks “protest” truly grieves my heart. The name of Christ is not a prank; nor is it a club with which a Christian should beat a corporation into using “Christmas” during the holiday season. Starbucks has clearly indicated that it does not celebrate Christmas as the birthday of Christ. Furthermore, do reindeer and snowflakes on your coffee cup symbolize Christmas as a celebration of Christ’s birth?

2015 11.09 MERRYCHRISTMASSTARBUCKS

As Christians, instead of protesting a corporation’s choice to not decorate their cups with Rudolf (and ignoring the fact that they make a killing off of their Christmas blend coffee annually), let’s think about using our social leverage to accomplish these five things:

  1. Spend the five dollars that you would have spent on your Starbucks drink on food for the local food bank.
  2. Practice responsible consumerism. If you find that a corporation doesn’t act ethically, don’t do business with them. Did your clothing come from a sweatshop? Was your food produced in a manner that was harmful to the environment? Your energy might be well spent making informed decisions about the companies with whom you do business based more than just an image on a cardboard cup.
  3. When it’s the Christmas season (post Thanksgiving) cheerfully wish whomever you interact with a Merry Christmas if appropriate. Do not force them or trick them into wishing you a Merry Christmas. Jesus did not go around tricking people into saying that He was the Messiah.
  4. Understand that as a Christian, your social responsibility is not to force corporations and their employees to act like you want them to while ignoring widows and orphans. Your responsibility is to know and share Christ. A five dollar cup of coffee not decorated with meaningless symbols not representative of your faith is not cause for great alarm in the light of wars, famines, droughts, an overcrowded foster care system, corrupt corporate government systems, or global warming.
  5. Act like Christ would have acted. Love your neighbor as yourself, and correct your fellow Christian in love if you see them behaving out of line of the faith. (IE- If you see them acting foolishly over a cardboard cup of bean juice because it doesn’t have a picture of a mythical red-nosed quadruped on it around the time that you celebrate the birth of your savior.)

Happy Thanksgiving, friends. May true gratefulness for all that God has blessed us with full our hearts and lead us to acts of love that reflect His willingness to come to earth as a helpless infant to die on the cross to pay for our sins even though we don’t deserve it.