Tempted to Quit

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This is not a post about weight loss, though if you must know I can now brag about my ability to play give-and-take with the same 40 pounds. I can list that under my super powers along with my ability to sausage myself into a pair of spanx like it is an olympic sport! But that is not the point of this post.

Sometimes I am tempted to quit.

Do you ever feel like just giving up?

The hard space you are in never seems to end,

The doctor calls with the news that you have cancer,

You never seem to overcome that thing that seems to be destroying you, or maybe

the pain is relentless and you are weary.

And the elixir of despair roles in, blankets you and tempts you to just quit.

I have learned that some people quit showing up for their life long before they actually die.

Unable to cope, they mope and they turn to whatever can offer some whisperings of comfort.

I have been there.

It is the space of defeat and disillusionment.

9 years and roughly 70 pounds separate the woman in these 2 photos.

But the digital numerals on the scale were never the point, the storyline and the struggle can’t be tiddly summed up in a photo. Oh, photos can be so misleading, so let me peel back the curtain of what you do not see…

The photos don’t tell of the children missing, the health battles, the parenthood struggles, the marriage counseling, the parents dying, the rejection suffered, the pain continuing, and one thousand other tear dwelling spaces.

However, the photos DO silently proclaim a woman who has not quit and will not quit.

They hint of a woman who keeps showing up for her life and fighting for her freedom.

And today, dear one, that is my message to the one who is weary…surrender but don’t ever quit. In the midst of the storm Jesus is there, offering to carry you through, giving himself, and declaring His love for you.  With Jesus, surrender feels a lot like freedom. And I am slowly but surely learning that you can find freedom in the hard spaces because God never wastes a hurt. He has you.

Focus your gaze carefully, breath deeply, surrender completely, and take the next step holding onto the One Who Has Mighty Plans For You. This too shall pass.

The question is always, will you allow God to shape you through it, or the enemy to destroy you because of it? We freely choose. And I pray today that you will always choose freedom.

Share with someone you love and remind them to keep taking the next step.

 

Suffering

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Delicately pink and offendingly small.

Small enough to hold what once was two souls in their unfinished frames, and yet big enough to bury all my hope for the future.

I stared at the coffin as the numbness ran through my flesh, the numbness felt like a protective cloak that was holding in what was left of my sanity.

How do I grieve the loss of my children, God? How can I possibly keep going?

I looked down at the ground, carefully covered in that fake plastic grass carpet that attempts to pretty up a dying scene and hide the newly hewed out hole of earth that will welcome the latest to their return to dust, and I kept picturing my flesh falling forth into the hole.

I thought, just fall into the freshly turned dirt, heavy with the dust of those who came before. Fall in and join the dead, for what is left of you now? Hope is gone.

Let me die here with them, Lord. Why did you let me live? 

The melody began in my mind, softly, tenderly declaring words of hope and truth that were not felt by even one bone of my flesh. A song of praise, of praise to the God of dust, to the one who gave and to the one who took away.  All of my spirit joined in the chorus playing in my mind as the tears poured down my cheeks in surrender. How could I be filled with a song of praise to God while I stood at my twins’ graveside?

Was that one moment any less miraculous than if He had saved them? Or was it simply not what I would have chosen?

When would I ever choose to suffer? When would I ever choose pain? No, I would choose what I could control and fix and whatever felt good, but never would I choose pain.

What if there is profound purpose in the pain? Even as I type those words my flesh is ridiculously offended. Because, really, my self indignation wants to tell God how He should write the story differently, and it begs the question of his goodness. But does God owe me anything at all? And what could He possibly give me when I am faced with suffering, apart from my cries to remove the pain?

I am sitting in this space, over 13 years after the burial of my twins, asking the same question as I sit in yet another season of suffering and pain.

I read from Genesis to Revelation of some who came before, of God’s faithfulness, of His abilities to do far more than we can imagine, of His love. While something deep inside me cries out a deep and resounding, “Yes! True!,” they also feel like mere words on a page as I sit in this season right now. Should my feelings be what lead me? Only if they lead me to Him in eventual surrender of the simple realization that I am not God.

Remember.

I read of monuments they once built in the times of the Old Testament.

Monuments to remember what God had done.

Monuments that declare that God is bigger than their battle, bigger than their pain, that He always has a plan.

And I will myself to remember that scene, in that cemetery, with that small, soft pink coffin and with God pouring forth a song of praise in the darkness of death, and I remember anew how unfathomable His love really is. My mind still can’t comprehend how He was able. He became my hope without end. I did not come to my end that day, and light and beauty did dawn again.

In the suffering seasons, I have learned that His greatest gift to me has not been in the removing of my pain, but in the depth of His presence.  I have no words to express the mysteries of intimacy with God, apart from the deep certainty that He is worth everything, He is who I was created for, and He is my perfect peace in the storms. It is a gift of knowledge and intimacy with God only learned in the profoundly hard spaces, quiet possibly because that is what it takes for us to see and hear Him most clearly– the certainty that we need our Creator for our very next breath.

My feelings, while informative, are horrible drivers.

I have to fight to see the truth-

And to hunger for Him like the thirsty long for water in the desert.

God promises it will be hard. He promises it will cost us. He promises it will be worth it. But most profoundly He promises to give us Himself. In this we receive the most incredible gift, and this is the detail that changes everything, making the impossible possible.

This, my friends, not the absence of suffering, but the presence of the Savior, is the very pulse of the abundant life.

 

A Lesson

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“Mommy, whatcha doing?”

“Spending time talking with God, sweetheart.”

“Ok, Mommy, I am going to join you. Let me get my Bible.”

“Mommy, God is good, and I will write about Him.

He made me beautiful and you beautiful and every single person beautiful.

I will always worship Him because I love Him.

I am going to read my Bible.

This is how I fight the enemy.”

*begins to make up songs about her and Jesus fighting the enemy as she diligently “writes notes” and “reads.”

 

They say that little eyes are always watching and you are always teaching. I have found it to be the most humbling of spaces. I often get lost in the heavy gravity of the responsibility of parenthood. Long ago I had plans of being the “perfect mom,” though I would never have admitted that. (Who would? It sounds braggish–instead, just wear the pressure like all the others still yoked to this impossible plow). My intentions were good but irrelevant, the reality of one crazy enough to try to do the impossible. Lessons too numerous to count have stripped away the perfection illusion like removing the flesh of a stinky onion: one layer at a time.

 

I have modeled imperfect one-hundred-percent of the time, and more often than I want to recollect I have modeled behavior that will never bear life giving fruit. I am, most days, woefully aware of the failed moments I am presenting, and shame taunts me like the the blood-thirsty, fang-bearing monster that it is. But slowly I am learning that I don’t have to let it bite, nor do I need to offer up my flesh for its flagellation..that too bears no good fruit.

 

God gently reminds me in moments and spaces like this today that, while I am an imperfect vessel, He specializes in using just that very kind. I fail, I fall, but I also crawl, kneel, and seek with an unquenchable thirsty-need the God who is chiseling me through it all, and my kids are seeing that too! I do not offer up hollow lip service; I don’t pose or pretend (or at least I try not to). I model a very real sinner seeking her powerfully real Savior, and that may be the most important lesson I ever get to teach.

 

Tag a person who needs a reminder that God is bigger than our failures.

 

The Furnace

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I turned down the radio. The song seemed trite, and I have no space or grace for trite right now. The cool fall air had been hijacked by a warm front that left me feeling robbed of the one mercy I felt my postpartum body deserved: the wonderful, crisp, cool air of fall.  My annoyance over this detail beat in rhythm to the random hot flashes I had been experiencing, subject to a body that still hasn’t fully realized there is no baby left to serve. The tears that silently fell down my cheeks actually felt cool, almost refreshing. Grief and brokenness make for a garment not easily cast off; the only way out is through.

“Focus. Focus on your driving. Don’t let your mind wander.” I find myself repeating that often right now as I taxi about. The music playing softly in the background seemed to register again, just for a moment, one stanza, God being with them in the furnace or something…

Everything stilled as I sat at the stop sign and thought of Jesus standing with me in this fire.

I heard that sweet, small voice of the Holy Spirit melodiously beat through my mind with a reminder of an incredible promise.

He is with me. In every fire, in every trial, He promises I am not alone.  It can’t consume me; it won’t destroy me. Instead He will draw me ever more deeply into His presence.  I will walk out of this fire, and no smoke will hold fast to me. Instead, only his sweetness will remain.

The gift is not in seeing God say yes to all we ask. The gift is in getting Him.

The most incredible gifts aren’t on the mountain tops.

The most incredible gifts of God are found in the valleys, in the hard spaces and places that threaten to destroy us.

It is in those seasons that we are invited to press into our Creator, where we stand most aware of our weakness and our desperate need for a Savior.

And it is only then, in that sacred space, that we begin to taste and see just how incredible He truly is.

It is then that we begin to learn to trust Him.

When the fiery furnaces come, the enemy wants us to believe the lie that we won’t be ok. It is the same lie that marks the birth place of every fear.  Yet, the God who made us, invites us, provides the very breath in our lungs right now, promises He has us–He will carry us, and He can be trusted. Sometimes the miracle is watching God create and sustain life, and sometimes the miracle is experiencing Him carry you through the fire and then use it in ways unfathomable.

May I echo the words of Paul, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”

And like Job, may I finally be able to say, “Even though he slay me, yet will I trust Him.”

Of this I am certain: the words of Paul and Job are birthed out of an intimacy with God so deep and sweet that one must journey through the valley to understand their weight and their truth.

I have only just begun to learn of a trust so ruthless, so profoundly rapturous, that I will forever be able to say, “I am His.”  And I will rest right now in the sweetest of promises that this life is but a breath, and it is not the end of the story.

 

My Weakness

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My Weakness

In November 2014 we completed our one and only round of IVF, “our last try.”

The cycle was almost a bust because for reasons unknown at the time my ovaries weren’t responding to the meds. (We would later learn that we got a bad batch of meds that were virtually useless).

Of the over 24 eggs eventually harvested, only 17 were deemed mature enough to fertilize.

Of those 17 eggs, only 11 actually fertilized through forced sperm injection in a petri dish.

Of the 11 that fertilized, only 6 kept growing past day 2.

On day 3, one looked “slightly better” than the others, though none looked “perfect.”

That first embryo of just 10 cells would be our first transfer, and she would become my first ever successful pregnancy.

A few days later I got the call. Somehow, 2 more embryos had proven strong enough to freeze.

2 more chances, maybe…

I had lost over 100 pounds and was in the best shape of my life when we began in 2014.

I had planned, and I had worked hard for every inch of victory I gained.

I did the hard work of therapy and began the arduous journey of dealing with my crap that had led me to the grim prognosis I received about 2 years prior.

It was in my control to change everything, and I did.

I didn’t know it then, but while I pressed into the intense runs and long mountain treks, I had also begun an injury to my hip, a tear to the cartilage in my hip joint. The tear was completed the day I gave birth to our sweet daughter.

That day, I learned anew how little was actually in my control.

Exercise, which had become a welcome refuge and deep therapy of its own, was ripped away from me and was instead replaced by a steady and never ending pain.

It took 15 months for a correct diagnosis, 1 very painful hip surgery that I still can’t google the specifics on,and almost 3 years of rehab, learning to walk again, and countless setbacks to arrive where I am today.

And not a day went by that I didn’t think about those 2 frozen embryos and wonder if instead of “when” we would try if instead we would “ever” be able to try.

2 months before the actual frozen embryo transfer I finally got the “go ahead” to try.

My pelvis was finally holding, I had regained enough strength, and the muscle spasms had subsided.

Only this time, I would be heavier, older, and in worse physical condition than ever before. How could I do this now?

I felt so weak and unable, and, to be totally honest, ashamed to be in this space with my fragile flesh.

The world will think me a fool.

My power is made perfect in weakness.

I heard it echo through my mind again and again, His still small voice.

It was time.

God moved mountains to get me to even this space, and He was once again asking me to trust Him.

We were finally able to give one of the embryos a chance at life. A chance I had thought many times might never actually come.

I have had doubts fill my mind, I have battled fear relentlessly, and I have been reminded constantly of my weakness. And He gently reminds me that I am not the author; He is.

Here I sit, wonderfully nauseated by the new life that grows within me, because God is bigger than my weakness.  He is able. He is the author and perfecter of my faith. And though I might have to lay my weakness before Him one thousand times a day, He isn’t mad, He isn’t surprised, He holds me in all my brokenness, and He loves me so much that He is willing to keep repeating, “My power is made perfect in weakness.”

His love truly is more precious than rubies.  What do you need to lay before Him right now?

 

Gearing Up For a FET

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I stand in front of the mirror and look at my body that has gone through so much. My curves aren’t quite where I wish they were, and I am fluffier than I want to be. My scars are numerous, every one a tribute to a battle fought or a privilege carried. My gray hair is boldly declaring its victory crown which resembles more of a zebra stripe down the center of my head then an actual crown. My wrinkles are a map of a road well-traveled, and the only thing really left firm after having a baby, hip surgery and 3 years of physical rehabilitation, is my resolve to keep going. This is not exactly what I had planned when finally being able to try to conceive again.

I didn’t plan my course, I didn’t see all the twists and turns coming. If I could have, I am certain I would have tried to alter the course to avoid all the hard places that would mold me into who I am today. However, that avoidance would have robbed me of the most incredible knowledge and deeply profound experience of walking with the God of Love because I would have bought the lie that I could do this life thing solo. I was never meant to walk this solo. The hard places have shown me my absolute need of Jesus, and they have unearthed a great treasure of knowledge regarding His sweetness that I dare say I will never have the ability to put into words.

I need to look in the mirror and remember today who I am. Instead, I find myself wanting to focus on the giant mountain standing before me and it tempts me to quit before I even start.

I could focus on the fact that I am fluffy, almost 40, and uncertain if I will be able to do this again.
I could focus on my 3 kids and the age gaps that I never intended and how sometimes I feel like I am already failing at parenthood.
I could focus on the money, so much money, and how we are a single income family.
I could focus on revisiting the million hard places that I have already traveled on our parenthood journey.
I could focus on all that could go wrong as we begin diving into the FET process next week.
I could focus on everything that is out of my control.
I could focus on the 2 precious embryos who have been waiting for over 4 years now.
I could focus on how I feel like I have already failed in a thousand different ways.

OR I can be thankful and remember all of the moments He has shown He is bigger than my failures. My focus is always my choice, it remains the one thing in my control.

I am so thankful that I even get the privilege to try and become a mom again. Many times over the last 4 years of physical pain and disability I have cried out to God and wondered if we would ever even get the chance to transfer our embryos, if my body would ever heal enough? It has. What once seemed impossible became possible. How quickly I forget. I am grateful that despite my faithless moments God remains faithful. It is no small miracle that I am even here, at this junction of the road.

I will hold onto gratitude, and the monuments of remembrance erected by me of God’s power in my journey with white knuckled fists right now; I have to, or I could never journey down this road again.

I would love to say I won’t fear, I really wish I could. Instead, I will humbly surrender my fears to the One who has proven that regardless of the outcome, the hugeness of the impossible mountain, He has me, He is able, and He is good. Sometimes faith is a war cry, other times it is a sweet surrender. Of this I am certain though, sometimes God moves the mountain, other times He teaches you how to climb.

Why We Are Leaving the Church

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This last week I learned that having been born in 1980 I am right on the line, classified by some as a Gen X’er and by others as a Millennial.  It doesn’t really matter. Some say it is only the younger generations like mine that are leaving the Church, I say it isn’t limited to age at all.  Some aren’t present even as they “actively attend” and I think many are missing the point as they argue over details.

Some will dismiss what I will share here as the musings of a no-body who could not possibly understand the complicated litany of reasons this is happening.  I would counter by saying it is just like Jesus to use no-body’s like me.

I have spent the last year asking, listening, watching and learning about why people leave the Church.  I have been listening and here is what I have heard:

Hurt. Hurt. And more hurt by all sides, like a live channel with never ending streaming content.

There was a long list of other reasons given, some regarding lack of faith, some about disagreements, personal preferences, etc.

All sides seem to have a long list of reasons to answer why we are leaving the Church.  I think all of those “reasons” are just the symptoms though, they aren’t the root cause.

I think it really boils down to this: It is about people not being seen, not being held, not being heard, and not being loved.  

I simply believe this- if Jesus followers stepped up and loved in the radical way that Jesus modeled and taught we would not be able to keep people OUT of church.

There is no such thing as a perfect church, true.  However, show me a spirit-led church with solid, healthy leadership, serving the needs of the people, equipping and training the congregants, and loving people right where they are while never hiding from the messy-hard and I will show you a church that is growing.

A few churches are doing this REALLY well, most aren’t.

Distract them with their issues, their selfishness, their pride and they will be useless– I can almost hear the enemy whisper.

Blinded, we are.

To everyone, people are going to hurt you, we humans tend to do that.  We get to choose to be the walking wounded or to be free. I am deeply sorry you have been hurt, I have too.  And we have all done the hurting at some point in time. Imagine if we allowed room for God to actually use it all for our benefit, even the most ugly, like He promises?  Imagine if we deal with our issues instead of playing with masks to wear? Stop running from the hard stuff, you are a warrior.

Leaders in churches, it starts with you.  You can only lead to the level of freedom you yourself have obtained.  No one is expecting perfection, which is impossible, so cast away that lie.  Our most basic need is to be seen, to feel valuable, and to be loved. Love covers so dang much it is mind boggling.  We need you to be striving to be an example worth following. How you treat those you want to lead and those who seek to help you matters profoundly.  Stay humble and teachable. Don’t play favorites. Rely on Jesus (I know you know this but do you actually do this?). And lastly, teach everyone else how to go and do likewise.  Already know and do all of this? Awesome. Would all the people not trying to kiss up to you agree with that?

Jesus followers, what are we doing?  I can leave “a church” but I could never leave THE Church.  Why? Because I LOVE the people- imperfect, messy, broken, Jesus-died-for-each-of-them people and I deeply love Jesus.  His example is THE example, He is the goal, the Church is His beloved. As hard as it may be at times, we are meant to journey together.  You know what is great about 2019? We all have access to opening the Bible and digging deep into scripture. We have access to more information than any generation before us.  Our journey with Jesus is first our responsibility. What are we doing? Are we running after Jesus, after truth, after freedom? Or are we making it all about ourselves and whatever sounds good to us?  Time is short. It is time to grow-up, put on our big girl/boy pants and go deep with Jesus. Through Him we can do this radical love thing, instead of a judgy, I have-to-stay-in-my-comfort-zone, it-is-all-about-me thing.  Jesus didn’t say we wouldn’t get hurt. Love costs us, it cost Him. He said it would be worth it. Weary? Take a nap and then go deeper, don’t get going. We are failing a world in desperate need of us showing up and being the Church that Jesus has called us to be.

Signed,

An Observing No-body Who Has Been Changed by Jesus

 

The Death of a Son

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Jesus on the cross.

A few years ago I was asked to contemplate and create a piece of art through photography that spoke to that scene.  At first, I was overwhelmed. What could I possibly do with photography that could speak to this profound moment?

As I prayed, I looked down at my sleeping 8 month old baby whose fingers curled tightly around mine and thought, “What about Mary?”

The one who carried Jesus in her womb, the one who nursed Him at her breast, the one who did all the late night feedings after birthing Him into the world–she was there.  She was at the cross as He died. He was first the son of God, but He was also her son, and she held all the memories of raising Him while He hung dying on that cross.

Jesus was fully God and fully man, but I would pose that Mary was simply fully human and fully a mom.  And as a mom, I sought to ponder what it might have been like for her during those hours…

She knew it was coming, but nothing could have truly prepared her for the scene, the feelings, the smells, the sounds, the helplessness she felt.  Even if she was able to grasp the importance of the sacrifice completely, it had to war with her instincts as a mother, powerful instincts to protect and defend her child, her son.

As she watched Him die, did she flash back to that baby she held in the humble manager? To the fingers that once curled around her own in total dependance on her care, now being drained of their life while He hung on the cross?  Did she think back over the thousands of memories she held of watching Him grow into a man? Did she weep bitterly knowing that while this incredibly hard thing was God’s will, it felt like it was impossible for her to bear?

Mary, you didn’t run from the hard of any of those moments.  You stayed present. You stayed steadfast even as your knees dropped to the ground, and you wept and your heart broke into what seemed like possibly irreparable pieces. We know God had you even then, especially then, because through incredible pain and with extraordinary effort Jesus spoke from the cross about you:

“‘When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!’” John 19:26-27

Ordinary Mary. God used her to do an extraordinary thing. He chose her, He loved her, He had her…even and especially in the shadow of the cross.

He has you today too. From the cradle to the crosses in your life, He has you. He loves you. In the pain he promises to bring forth great purpose. Even when we feel crushed, He has a plan. He is never surprised, and He always gets the victory.  Like Mary, may we draw near to Jesus and not only find the resurrection power but also find the power that only comes at the foot of the cross.

 

A Question About Adoption

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“Would you do it again?” she asked, curious to know my answer as she watched the tears fall down my face.  I knew what she was really wanting to know–was all the pain worth it?

I think it is easy to romanticize adoption, to paint this fairytale story where there are heros and villains, dramatic turns and plot twists that eventually lead to happy endings for the people involved.  I used to see the ads play on TV tugging at the viewers emotions with pictures of beautiful children in need of homes, sweet smiling families embracing them and words like “changing lives” echoing in the background, alluding to sweet promises of the power you hold to change everything. I used to watch them and bite my tongue, physically forcing myself to stop the words I wanted to yell at the TV screen.  I understood the point of the ads, I understood the need, I just wished it was more accurate. Real life is not a fairy tale. But would people still say yes if they knew what was coming?  That thought makes my heart sink, we are a culture who idolizes the easy, the fun, the “guarantees” that something will feel good and runs from the hard out of abject fear…or maybe that is just me?

I can still hear my dear friends words, spoken in love all those years ago, while we were fighting to adopt our first three girls through foster care, she knew well what the road ahead could hold if we insisted on saying yes, she had already been dwelling years in those trenches, “You don’t HAVE TO adopt them you know?” I did know.

I lost track of the number of people who questioned why in our twenties we would agree to adopt two teens from foster care, or the number of social workers and therapists who would try and dissuade us as well.  At the time I was irritated with them all for trying to change our minds about doing this wonderful thing, I thought kids in foster care NEEDED families after all? Looking back, I can now see that many were genuinely just trying to help us understand what they in all likelihood already knew…the road would be anything but a fairytale and the odds of us saving anyone were statistically impossible. Could they smell our naviate? Sometimes in the heartache I can still hear their words, echoing, always echoing in rhythm to the pound of my heartbeat through the stillness of my tears.

In the midst of our adoption dreams we really didn’t leave room for the messy, the broken, or just how limited we would be in this story.  We also never really considered how it would be for our families who would also go along on the ride, not because they choose this but because we did.  But more then anything we didn’t want to consider that when we signed up to say yes, when we signed on the legal line choosing them forever that would in NO way guarantee they would ever choose US.  The beauty of us doing this in our 20’s was that we were gloriously hopeful for the future, our rose colored glasses shined up and polished to such a fine degree that the glare of their reflection could blind you.  Sure, there would be hard BUT it would all be great in the end, right?

That was before the effects on our girls surfaced, like well hidden emotional bruises, from all the days before us.  They would explode in their consequences and sobering reality into our lives like a set of well placed land mines–eventually leaving us sitting in a crater that looked a lot like the explosion of what once was our dreams of what life would look like. Us, hair scorched, wounds visible, smelling like fire ravaged us, sometimes in shock, we sat.

I have lost track of how many times I have questioned God in the mess, how often I have expressed my inability to navigate this road, certain I was not the right fit.  If God is collecting tears, on this issue alone, I feel certain its volume could easily fill a corner of the ocean. I still have more questions than I have answers, even more than a decade later.  Our girls, now parents themselves, are now both older than I was when we began our story, a fact that I often find incredible and sobering.

And so, through tears, I answered her, my sight clearer and words more certain now then the day we finalized our forevers, even knowing the hard–

“I have learned so much.  I have learned that God is not looking for the perfect but for the willing.  He is not asking us to change others but for us to trust Him while he changes us. He doesn’t expect us to do it alone but instead he promises he will give us himself. And most sweetly he promises that none of it, whether we see it or not, will ever be wasted. None of it.

So, I can say without hesitation that yes, I would do it all over again.  While we can control so very little in the story, we can keep choosing love, we can keep saying yes, we can keep pressing on because the two things I now know are certain are that God is changing me, and that our girls will always be worth it.”

 

Persistence Over Perfection

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By nature I am a quitter.

Quit the hard.

Somewhere along the line I bought the lie that the dream life was one of my comfort.

Today I looked longingly at the park, blanketed in a thin layer of fog, and ached as I thought back to all the hiking I used to be able to enjoy on its crazy lava rock terrain. How I had gotten to the point where I could run its trails and hike for miles… It feels like a lifetime ago.

I had worked so hard to get there, and now, after the last 3 years, that all seems like it was really not so hard after all. Perspective.

I have lost count of the number of times I have been tempted to quit in this season, often wondering if it was a season or instead a lifetime sentence. I don’t know how many setbacks there have been–too many to count. It has been 3 years of pain, surgery, rehab, and work. It has been wanting to quit a thousand times a day and battling fear. It is hearing my littlest ask over and over again, “Mommy, are you still hurt today?” It has changed me.  And along the way I found myself desperate to quit, for God to fix it all and take away the pain, and if he wouldn’t, then to find some crutches. Crutches, the things you can lean on instead of God.

C.S. Lewis wrote, “But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

I wanted to mute the megaphone, all the while believing I was trusting God. This week God pointed out the crutches by informing me of some painful truths, and asked me to stop quitting. The crutches were costing me.

Hard seasons demand change. That I change implies my discomfort, that I grow, that I seek, that I am chiseled and that I trust Him.

The hard keeps me at the feet of Jesus, acutely aware of my need of Him. There is a profound gift there, even when we can’t see it through our tears.

This week I laid down my crutches.

I leaned on Jesus.

Persistently pursuing Him instead of trying to do any of it perfectly. Just as I am, fears, tears, and ugly bits pressing without ceasing into his arms. Persistently pressing my body forward through the squats, the lunges, the walking, the fear.  Perfection implies no mess, but my mess is exactly what he wanted me to offer over to Him. Persistent over perfect, always.

This week was my first week of victory in over 3 years.  It turned out I didn’t need those crutches after all; all they did was slow me down.  He had me. He was and is my perfect strength.