Archive for the ‘Faith’ Category

Do you feel the world is broken?

October 26th, 2019

It was sometime after Easter (which is shorthand for sometime after our miscarriage) when the church choir got up to sing a special piece.

Tears sprung into my eyes at the very first line:

“Do you feel the world is broken?”

My heart answered back with the choir: “We do”

And in the darkness and difficulty of the past six months, that line has come to mind many a time.

I hear stories of domestic abuse. I listen to the squabbling of “friends” online. I see drug abuse. I ache against the terrible realities of our foster care system, with so many problems, so many hard decisions. A friend’s baby develops an unknown, most likely life-threatening condition. Car accidents land people in the hospital. Uncertainty abounds.

“Do you feel the world is broken?” my soul whispers as I read and as I live. “We do,” I answer back.

And as I ache under the brokenness of this world, the cry rises up within my soul: “Come quickly, Lord Jesus.”

And, tears still coursing down my cheeks, I sing the rest of the song.

Do you feel the world is broken? We do
Do you feel the shadows deepen? We do
But do you know that all the dark won’t stop the light from getting through? We do
Do you wish that you could see it all made new? We do

Is all creation groaning? It is
Is a new creation coming? It is
Is the glory of the Lord to be the light within our midst? It is
Is it good that we remind ourselves of this? It is

Is anyone worthy?
Is anyone whole?
Is anyone able to break the seal and open the scroll?
The Lion of Judah who conquered the grave
He is David’s root and the Lamb who died to ransom the slave
Is He worthy? Is He worthy?
Of all blessing and honor and glory
Is He worthy of this?
He is

Does the Father truly love us? He does
Does the Spirit move among us? He does
And does Jesus, our Messiah hold forever those He loves? He does
Does our God intend to dwell again with us? He does

Is anyone worthy?
Is anyone whole?
Is anyone able to break the seal and open the scroll?
The Lion of Judah who conquered the grave
He is David’s root and the Lamb who died to ransom the slave
From every people and tribe
Every nation and tongue
He has made us a kingdom and priests to God
To reign with the Son
Is He worthy?Is He worthy?
Of all blessing and honor and glory
Is He worthy? Is He worthy?
Is He worthy of this?
He is!
Is He worthy? Is He worthy?
He is! He is!

As I groan, I wait in eager expectation for the day when Christ will return to make all things right. He will execute righteous judgment. He will gather his people from all nations. He is worthy. He is!

My baby beat me to it

May 13th, 2019

I remember being 9, maybe 10 years old, reading how Jacob wrestled with God, how he saw the face of God and lived (Genesis 32:30). I remember reading of how Moses spoke with God face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. I remember hearing the Aaronic blessing every week at the end of worship: “May the Lord bless you and keep you, may the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you, may the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” I remember getting to that part in the “Love Chapter” when Paul writes: “Now you see as in a mirror dimly, then you shall see face to face.” And I remember longing, longing for the face of God.

I remember swinging on the swings at the park while my mother and her fellow intercessors were interceding at the picnic tables a ways away. I remember pouring out my own soul in the unashamed earnestness of a rather emotional and completely socially-unaware preteen. “I want to see you, God! I want to see your face.”

My longing to see God’s face has only intensified as I’ve felt the weight of my sin, as I’ve felt how far I fall short of his image. Now, I read 1 John 3:2 and I long for the return of Christ, clinging to the promise that “when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.”

Oh, for that day. Oh, for the day when I can leave off this body of corruption and see the face of God. Oh for the day when I will be conformed into his image.

Friends, my baby beat me to it.

The kids and I had been planning to go on a homeschool field trip the week I miscarried. I had to email the organizer and let her know that we wouldn’t be coming. She, a woman I’d never met, responded with what has been to me one of the most precious thoughts as I process our miscarriage:

“I read a quote somewhere to the effect that when a baby dies in the womb, the first face he or she ever sees is the face of Jesus. That has always been such a special thought for me, and I hope it is comforting to you as well!”

Friends, my baby beat me to it.

As much as I long for my baby to still be in my womb, as much as I long to know him on this earth, how can I begrudge my baby the one thing I desire most in all the world?

My baby sees the face of God.

All I Want for Mother’s Day

May 9th, 2019

Mother’s Day approaches, which means everyone and their mother is opining about what you should give your mother.

I was scrolling past headlines when I saw “What your mother really wants for Mother’s Day” – and I suddenly knew exactly what I want.

“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”
~3 John 4 (ESV)

This is what I want, but it’s not something my husband can get for me. It’s not something my children can make happen on their own.

This requires an act of God.

So instead of writing an article for the nearest mom’s blog (or sending a link to one of those articles to my husband), I’ll be lifting up my request to God, as I do each day.

Lord, let my children – my Tirzah Mae and my Louis, my Beth-Ellen and my sweet P, our precious C and darling J – let them walk in the truth. Grant that their affections would be stirred toward you, that they would desire relationship with you. Grant that they would see the desperate wickedness of their hearts and their utter helplessness to change themselves. Grant that they might fall upon the mercy of Christ and walk in the way of the One who is Truth.

And if you want to give me a Mother’s Day gift, join me in praying for these six God has given me (for short or for long), that they would walk in the truth.

Lest I Get Cocky

January 27th, 2019

Going from four children to three (in a good way) is a strange experience.

In a life that generally just gets harder and harder (as we add new children and new developmental stages), things suddenly get that much easier.

The kids all fit in one row of the Expedition, allowing me to enjoy the full back for groceries. The number of children is only one more than my number of hands. It’s that much easier to coordinate nap times.

I start to feel like I’m on top of it all, like I’ve got strength in myself to handle anything, like I don’t need anyone.

And then we do weekend respite for a two-month-old on the same weekend Daniel was volunteering for something and we were having people over and have a Sunday night meeting at church.

I’m exhausted.

And I’ve been disabused of any secret thoughts I’d been harboring of my self-sufficiency.

“I need Thee, oh, I need Thee;
Every hour I need Thee;
Oh, bless me now, my Savior!
I come to Thee.”

Unless the Lord

January 23rd, 2019

I was in church leadership somehow, so I was supposed to watch the DVD on church growth strategies – but I was also a college student on spring break.

I’d decided to take my spring break at my grandparents’ farm, so I sat on their living room floor and took notes as I watched the DVD on their television.

If I remember right, the basic gist of the DVD was that you needed to identify what your church’s greatest weaknesses were – and bring them up – and then you needed to identify what the new weaknesses were and so on and so forth. Kinda a “you’re only as strong as your weakest link” idea. Or something like that.

Honestly, I don’t really remember much at all from that far ago DVD.

What I do remember is what my grandma said after I was done.

She’d been doing little household tasks in the background while I’d been watching, and had clearly been paying attention.

And she said, “You know, what strikes me is that they didn’t mention prayer at all.”

I recognized the wisdom of her gentle rebuke then – but I realize it much more now that I’ve lived another decade or so.

There are plenty of good strategies out there. There are things we can do to make ourselves better. Things we can do to improve our communication skills or our parenting skills or our connections. There are things we can learn about how to evangelize or study the Bible or create a welcoming environment.

But ultimately, what we do isn’t even half the picture. It’s God who changes hearts – ours and those of the people around us. It’s God who heals relationships. It’s God who saves. It’s God who transforms. It’s God.

Prayer reminds me that all the strategies in the world are useless unless God is in an endeavor.

“Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.”

~Psalm 127:1 (ESV)

The Prayer I Keep Coming Back To

January 14th, 2019

Last year, in an effort to strengthen my prayer life, I searched for lists of “things to pray for your children.”

I dutifully recorded the lists in my prayer app (PrayerMate) and began praying for each of my children in each of the suggested categories.

The app would tell me to pray for Tirzah Mae’s future – and so I would. “Oh Lord, grant that my daughter would have a future among those who fear you. May she know your salvation and cling to you as her only hope.”

The app would tell me to pray for Louis’s purity – and so I would. “Oh Lord, would you grant that my son would be pure in heart – that he would have the purity of heart that can only come by being washed in the blood of Christ.”

The app would tell me to pray for Beth-Ellen’s health – and so I would. “Lord, would you bring my dead daughter to life by your Spirit.”

And on and on.

Character. “Lord, would you draw my children to yourself. Bring them to life through the work of your Spirit and cause them to grow in Christ-likeness.”

Holy Desires. “Above all, would you awaken their affection for you, that they might desire your salvation and recognize their own inability to save themselves. Grant that they might fall upon the mercy of Christ.”

Salvation.

It’s the prayer I keep coming back to. May my children desire relationship with God. May they see their sinfulness. May they see the worthlessness of their own striving. May they fall upon the mercy of Christ. May they grow in the grace of the gospel.

Save my children, O Lord, I pray.

The Habit of Contentment

October 9th, 2018

It’s easy to think that contentment is a function of our circumstances.

If only I had x or y, I would be content.

But when x or y arrives, we find that something new is necessary for our contentment.

When we find ourselves in difficult circumstances, we might be tempted to think that if only we had done something differently we could have been content. I could have been content if only I’d chosen a different major in college, not taken out the loans I did, taken this job offer instead of the other. I could have been content if only I hadn’t married when I did or the person I did. I could have been content if we’d have chosen to buy a different house or to build instead of buy (or vice versa). I could have been content if I’d have had fewer children farther apart – or more closer together.

But Elinor Dashwood’s reflections upon Mr. Willoughby’s character in Sense and Sensibility should be instructive.

“‘At present,’ continued Elinor,’he regrets what he has done. And why does he regret it? Because he find it has not answered towards himself. It has not made him happy. His circumstances are now unembarrassed – he suffers from no evil of that kind; and he thinks only that he has married a woman of a less amiable temper than yourself. But does it thence follow that had he married you, he would have been happy? The inconveniences would have been different. He would then have suffered under the pecuniary distresses which, because they are removed, he now reckons as nothing. He would have had a wife of whose temper he could make no complaint, but he would have been always necessitous – always poor; and probably would soon have learned to rank the innumerable comforts of a clear estate and good income as of far more importance, even to domestic happiness, than the mere temper of a wife.'”

A discontented heart finds something with which to be discontented regardless of circumstances.

A contented heart learns to be contented in all circumstances.

I am challenged as I look at my own life, at the woes I pour out upon my husband each day when he returns from work. No matter how good a day may be, I always can find something to complain about. My heart is too often a discontented heart, considering whatever I currently lack (whether it be sleep or a clean house or quiet children or chocolate) to be of far more importance than any of the many things God has granted me.

If I get all the sleep I desire, but am not content, I will still be just as crabby as I am now. If I had a clean house, but not a contented heart, my soul would be just as shabby. If my children were quiet, but I was discontent, the clamor of my own heart would be enough to disturb the peace.

Because contentment is not a function of my circumstances. Contentment is a habit of the heart. And contentment is learned through practice.

So when the laundry overflows the hamper and I despair of ever catching up, I must turn my eyes upward and declare “With this, I am content.” When all four children want my attention at the same time and all I want is quiet, I must calm my soul and declare “With this, I am content.” When the day draws to a close and I still have thirty undone tasks on my to-do list, I must turn off the screen and declare “With this, I am content.”

And slowly, perhaps, I will begin to be able to say like Paul:

“I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
~Philippians 4:11b-13 (ESV)

In Christ’s strength, I can learn the habit of contentment.

To the mothers who called me superwoman

July 6th, 2018

You saw me juggling my four little ones at the library and you were in awe. “I could never do it,” you said. “You’re superwoman.” And when I acted embarrassed, you doubled down. “No, really.”

I’m pretty sure that you intended it as encouragement. You see how obviously hard parenting lots of littles is and you’re trying to tell me I’m doing great. (At least, I hope that’s what you’re saying.)

But to call me superwoman implies that somehow I have innate, superhuman powers that enable me to live with the circus that is our little family.

I don’t.

Far from it.

When I had one child, newly home from the NICU who screamed and screamed and screamed, that ear-splitting Nazgul scream many times larger than her body…I could never do it. When she only slept lying on top of me but never relaxed into my arms. When the sleepless nights stretched month after month throughout the whole first year…I could never do it.

Yet somehow I did, by the grace of God.

And then I had two children. Another infant fresh from the NICU, this time with a toddler as well. They tag-teamed sleeping, except when neither would sleep. I learned the definition of touched out…I could never do it. Now that I had a toddler, I couldn’t keep the infant away from colds. So we got one after another after another, stretching my body to what was surely its limit with lack of sleep…I could never do it.

Yet somehow I did, by the grace of God.

And then I had a third child and my pelvic floor collapsed. The prolapse came with unrelenting pain when I sat, stood, or lifted – tasks a mother of three cannot avoid. Therapy was long and hard and took time I didn’t have….I could never do it.

Yet somehow I did, by the grace of God.

And then child number 4 arrived with a schedule to make home-loving me flinch. And my grandpa died so we took an emergency trip to Nebraska. And then the kids got sick. And then… And then… And then… I could never do it.

But somehow I am, by the grace of God.

You see, I don’t have any innate special abilities that enable me to do this task you think you could never do. In reality, I’ve cried out in desperation with every stage. “Lord, I can’t do this.”

But this, at each stage, is the task God set before me. Refusing to do the task is not an option. My only hope is to trust God.

And that, I think is what you miss.

Unbelieving woman, you think I’m superwoman because you recognize this task requires superhuman strength. It definitely does. But that strength could never come from me.

Sister-in-Christ, you may think I’m superwoman because you are terrified that God might call you to such a task – and you want to believe that only the specially gifted or the especially patient (let me tell you what, that’s NOT me) can handle such a task. But God gives grace for the tasks he gives during the task, not before.

Sister, this task of mothering, of fostering, is not for superwomen. It’s for women who could never do it, but somehow do, only by the grace of God.

Heart outside my body

February 5th, 2018

Elizabeth Stone (whoever she is) once said that “making the decision to have a child… is to decide forever to have your heart go walking outside your body.”

Most of the time, when I read this quote on a pretty background while scrolling through Pinterest, I roll my eyes. That is everything that is wrong with parenting these days, I think. Parents are just too absorbed in their children.

And then my baby gets her first cold.

All my children

I remember it with Tirzah Mae, a few weeks after she came home from the hospital. She was snuffling and gasping and we’d been trained into terror of RSV by the NICU staff.

We took her to our doctor, who smiled indulgently at these first time parents freaking out about a simple cold. He described the warning signs of something worse than just a cold and sent us home (thankfully, he didn’t /doesn’t subscribe to the “give a baby antibiotics just to ease troubled parents’ minds” line of thought.)

Even knowing that Tirzah Mae’s cold was just a cold, I still felt with every labored breath that my heart was rattling outside my chest – and that said heart was just about to break.

Somehow, it doesn’t get easier. Beth-Ellen was a term baby. Her objective risk of serious complications of a cold is lower than the other children’s risk was. I’m a more experienced mom and have weathered dozens of colds.

But when Beth-Ellen got a cold this weekend, at just shy of six weeks old, my heart was out there coughing. And when she lost her voice and could only squeak instead of screaming? My heart, oh my heart, squeezed until it’s crushed. And when she started wheezing with every breath in and out? I was sure she was dying – and that I was dying with her.

And just as I’m about to wake my husband and tell him we need to head to the ER (but am worried because, for some reason, it seems like every time we go to the ER, the problem resolves while we’re there and I look like a fool) – anyway, just as I’m about to wake Daniel and head off to the ER, I remember where my heart actually belongs.

My heart doesn’t belong in my children’s chests. It doesn’t even belong in mine. My heart belongs to God.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5 ESV)

Sure, I’d prayed for Beth-Ellen at our evening devotions, and earlier when she’d come up in my prayer app. But during all this worrying? I hadn’t been entrusting her to the Lord.

I stopped. I confessed my lack of trust. I prayed for healing and for wisdom to know when to have Beth-Ellen seen. I entrusted my daughter to God’s care, entrusted my heart to him.

And the labored wheezing settled, the noisy breathing calmed, the restless sleep eased. My daughter slept in peace.

And I did too, my heart still walking outside my body, but this time walking with the one who holds it – and my daughter – so tenderly.

My heart and my daughter can find rest in God alone.

To paraphrase the Psalmist: Why so troubled, O my heart? Put your trust in God!

A Christmas gift

December 26th, 2017

After 55 hours of labor, we were pleased to welcome Beth-Ellen Irene Garcia into the outside world on Christmas Day.

She was born at 42 weeks, just like her mother before her, and, by the grace of God, via an unmedicated vaginal birth after 2 cesarean sections.

Welcoming Beth-Ellen into the family

She is the answer to prayer, a delightful Christmas present. But, as the reporter from our local news forced me to clarify, Beth-Ellen is not the greatest Christmas present ever.

As I told the reporter (unfortunately, the most important part got left out of the news clip), that distinction is reserved for another baby, one born over 2000 years ago. Because while Beth-Ellen came on Christmas to be a part of our family, Jesus came as “not just a member of our family but someone who came to make us a member of God’s family, and that’s truly the greatest gift. And what a treasure we have to be able to share that with our daughter, our Beth-Ellen.”

Rejoicing in the Incarnation – and in this precious gift we get to share Christ’s gift with.

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