Waiting: What Do I Focus On?

Waiting.  Nobody really likes to wait. It’s hard to wait for the really exciting things that are going to happen in life. But waiting can be even harder when it is for something that could be bad – waiting for the inevitable.

When I am waiting for something it’s an ever present thought that I just can’t shake. I can be seemingly fully present in what I’m doing, but that thought of what is to come is right there in the back of my mind. Over the past few weeks there were test results that I was waiting for. They were looming reminders that life might change for the worse. I could engage with people, put a smile on my face, but as soon as my mind wasn’t focused on something else it would snap back to the reality that was unknown and hanging over my head.

The truth is, I couldn’t change what the results would be by thinking them over. They became a source of anxiety and sometimes fear. One day while I was getting ready for bed, Andrew asked me, “What is God teaching you at this point in the process?” That was the moment when the Lord met my heart in a deep and profound way.

The way that the reality of bad news kept coming to mind like a continual reminder on my cell phone, was the way that Jesus wanted my heart focused on something different. The way my mind so effortlessly focused on what was to come in this life is what Jesus wants me to focus on in the next. He longs for my heart to be stayed on the Truth that He loves me. He is planning eternity with me. God will eternally dwell with His people and this life will be but a wisp of air.

I was gifted the opportunity to not think of the awful things that could be on the other side of that phone call, but instead think of the glories that are on the other side of eternity. What a treasure that is. I have a pretty great imagination, but I think even that will pale in comparison to what is to come.

I can go through anything in this life. It’s momentary. It’s hard, but it’s only for a little while. What is to come will make anything here seem so much less. In those moments when my heart begins to dwell on fear, stew in the pity of life, or just get discouraged; Jesus is reminding me that I have a greater hope. I am not defined or limited by this life. I was made for something far greater.

“He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.”

-Revelation 21:6

I have no need to fear or focus my mind of the things that I can’t control in my life. I can give them over to Jesus and set my mind of the things that I can’t control, but are certain. Life is uncertain, but I do know that Jesus is who He says He is.

No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him.  They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.  There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.”
-Revelation 22:1-5

 

 

The Unexpected Pregnancy

In early May I found out I was pregnant. I felt nervous, excited, and overwhelmed with love for a little person I had never met. Physically I felt really good. I was grateful for that. I had heard horror stories of women being so sick they were bed ridden for their entire pregnancy. I was not one of those women. If anything, I felt better than normal. I woke up feeling refreshed, ate well, still went hiking, and just enjoyed that season of life.

I went to the clinic and was met by our local nurse, Rosemary, who I love dearly. She cried when I told her the news. I went back each week with Andrew hoping to hear the heartbeat, but we knew it was too early. But we just wanted to know that our baby was healthy and growing.

Over the weeks my sense of smell heightened to Bloodhound status. I would sometimes feel slightly queasy in the late afternoon, but it would soon wear off. Andrew and I would sit and talk about what our child might be like. The qualities we hoped he or she would possess. The naming process only took a few days and I couldn’t wait to know which name it would be. Andrew was in Anchorage for an afternoon and came back with a Mother’s Day Present for me. We were looking forward to the adventure of parenthood.

One Saturday afternoon I began spotting and it was unsettling. I called the nurse and knew we just had to wait. I spent the day praying and asking the Lord to spare our baby. The year had already been so full of loss and grief. I wasn’t sure I could handle any more. There were tears shed and then peace. God sent some friends over for the afternoon and they were a wonderful distraction to the turmoil in my heart.

Monday came and I was fine.  Everything was normal. But we were told that we should get a sonogram as soon as possible just in case. We weren’t too worried and figured everything was fine. We planned to go into Anchorage on June 1st and set up an appointment for the morning after we planned to arrive just to be sure.

June 1st came and we visited some midwiferies. We drove out to Andrew’s parents’ house. They had already left for a cousin’s wedding, but Annie and Stephen (Andrew’s sister and brother-in-law) were there. I was bursting to tell them. We had shared the news with some close friends in Port Alsworth, but no one in our family knew yet.

We drove to our appointment and for some reason I felt like we would have bad news, but I had peace. The Lord continued to remind me of His presence and deep love for me. On the screen we didn’t see a baby. The technician told us that she would call the radiologist and have him expedite our results since we were from out of town. Doors shut and we were left in a waiting room. My stomach was in knots. “It has to be bad news,” I thought. Andrew prayed. We sat. Waiting.

I was called into the office and Rosemary was on the phone. She told me that I had been diagnosed with a Complete Molar Pregnancy and I needed to go to a hospital. It was serious if not taken care of and there was no baby. Her words were gentle and firm. I was so confused, but calm. Andrew and I went back into the waiting room. He called Annie and Stephen to tell them they should drive to Valdez without us. We called his parents and explained. I called my mom and tried to hold it together. These were not the calls we wanted to make.

I didn’t know what to do. I was so thankful for Rosemary. She set everything up for us. We went to the ER and by the time we got there they were expecting us. A specialist was on her way. We sat for several hours. There would be a flurry of activity; several people would come in, ask questions, run tests, and then leave. Every time they left I would cry. Thoughts tumbled around in my mind. “How could I love someone so much that never existed?” They kept talking about pregnancy, but doesn’t that mean there’s a baby? There is no baby. There never was. “I want to go home.” I won’t be home for weeks.

The doctor was clear. The cells needed to be removed as soon as possible. Rarely a Molar Pregnancy can lead to cancer. “How did we get from baby to cancer?” She said I need to go in for blood testing once a week until my HcG levels are back to normal. We need to watch those levels and make sure they don’t rise otherwise it could mean chemo. The only two things that raise those levels are pregnancy and cancer. We will watch them for one year.

We were discharged and an emergency procedure was et for 8:00am. We went back to my in-laws’ house. We sat on the couch and tried to wrap our minds around what we had just learned. We went for a walk and then took a nap. I was exhausted. Andrew researched.

The next morning we went back to the hospital. I was the only patient in the OR. All the staff was there for me. Saturday was set aside for emergencies only. I was an emergency. I had been told not to eat or drink anything before the procedure. My veins did not cooperate. Five attempts, three nurses, one pass out, and the IV was in. I remember going into the OR and lying on the table. Heart monitors were put on. Then I remember sitting there talking to Andrew. It was over. Was the doctor coming to see me. Andrew informed me that I had already talked to her. I didn’t remember.

“I don’t hurt, I feel fine.” I apparently sounded like a broken record. But I did feel okay. Physically anyway. We left, picked up prescriptions, went “home.” I slept and watched Anne with an E. We went for a short walk. I groomed Jubel the horse and cried. I wasn’t pregnant. There was no baby. January was just going to be another month. “Do you want to take the Mother’s Day Present back?”

Dear friends sent comforting words and are praying. I grieve, but there is peace. My hope was not in this child. My hope is not in the plan God has for me. My hope is in Christ alone. He never promised me a pain free life. He actually promised suffering. He was familiar with suffering and grief. I believe He still is. In my grief I have moved closer to the heart of my Savior. I feel as though I lost someone, but I didn’t. I lost an expectation. It somehow feels the same.

Over the weeks there have been people who have had grace on me. Their words have been full of life and comfort. Some have not been. However, the Lord has answered my prayer and put a guard over my mouth and allowed me to have grace on them. Many people have shared similar stories of heart-break.

My prayer now is that this time of waiting will not be wasted. I don’t want to despise it. My life is still a gift from the Lord. I am no more or less of a person than I was when I thought I would be a mother. My story is not one of loss and hopelessness. It’s about Christ. He gave me a gift. I got a glimpse into the heart of a mother, if only for a short time. I may get that again, but if not, I choose to see that time as a precious gift. My hope is in Christ alone and not His plan for me.

Whose Glory?

Sometimes I take away God’s glory and glorify Satan. This is not a statement that I would have ever dreamed in my wildest imagination I would write. Through several conversations over the past few weeks I have come to this deeply unsettling realization.

More often than I would like to admit I choose to focus on the hard things in life. I see everything that’s challenging and see all the spiritual defeat in my life. I even do this when it comes to ministry. I see all the hard battles and focus on wanting God to “fix” the struggles and take away the pain. In the midst of all this, I miss all the beautiful, wonderful, life-giving things God is doing. I blind myself to the good things in life and throw away a chance for joy. I forget that He’s at work while I’m busy fretting about something He clearly knows about and has under control.

My perspective needs a slight major adjustment. Instead of focusing or dwelling on “the work of the devil” I need to choose to see the life-changing, gracious work of Christ. Instead of talking about communication issues I choose to talk about Christ saving lives. Instead of seeing where I failed, I am going to praise the Lord for the small victories I have over sin in my life. Instead of moaning over lack of internet for weeks on end, I will be grateful for countless refreshing hours with the Lord.

I’m not saying that it’s bad to recognize or even talk about the tough stuff. In fact we need to. There is a time and place to look at evil being done and to call it what it is, grieve over it, confront it, pray over it, aggressively fight it, etc. However, it is not ultimately best to dwell on it and neglect to see the incredible things of the Lord.

I don’t know that God will do bigger, more amazing things in my life if I focus on giving Him the glory, but I do know that I will be less likely to miss out on seeing Him. I have the opportunity to do what I am truly created to do. I can glorify God and enter into deeper relationship with Him. I can receive joy and marvel at His goodness and work. I so often choose not to. My challenge to myself is to shift the focus off of how I think things should look and see what God is displaying right in front of my eyes. It’s time for my to lift my eyes and see the beautiful reality of what God is up to. By choosing to see Him for who He is brings me into a closer, joy-filled, and exhilarating relationship. Why wouldn’t I choose that?

Redefining Ministry

Life is not always what I dreamed it would be.  It’s full of surprises and often those are pleasant surprises.  They tend to be more pleasant if I don’t get uptight, and just realize that I am not the one running my life.  For most of my adult life I’ve wanted to be in ministry, but that’s such a vague goal.  I loved the idea of sharing my love for Christ and Scripture with others and I absolutely love seeing people grow.  Although these desires have not lessened (if anything they have gotten more intense) my idea of what ministry is has changed drastically.

My days in ministry are not glamorous.  I live with five ladies who are 18-21 years old.  My main responsibility is to mentor them (yet again, another somewhat vague term).  I typically get to the end of a day exhausted.  I lay awake waiting for the last girl to arrive home even though I wanted to be asleep hours before.  There are days that start off with someone bursting into my room with a personal crisis right after I get out of the shower and I’m less than fully clothed.  It seems as though the deep, life changing conversations only come after 11pm.  I play hours of Uno and SkipBo, not for the love of the game, but because those moments become beautiful and precious.  All of these moments that are not prestigious or earth-shattering are some of the most cherished moments to me.  These are the times when God chooses to teach me some of the most heart wrenching lessons.

  • I get tired, but God teaches me how to receive strength and provision from Him.
  • I lack wisdom and insight to share in those late night conversations, yet, God gives me love and speaks truth through me.
  • I get embarrassed or annoyed at those intrusive moments, and God give me joy, the ability to laugh and see the humor in daily life.
  • I feel inadequate for the responsibilities before me, but God covers me in His love and it overflows from me into the lives around me.
  • I sometimes don’t know what I need at the moment, God sends someone to meet needs I didn’t even know I had and teach me to receive.
  • The sleepless nights are worth it, because God reminds me that it’s an opportunity to pray and He deepens my love for others.
  • I want to be selfish and do something for myself, and God teaches me that sacrifice is easy when you love people.
  • When I am struggling with negative thoughts and emotions, God reminds me that I am in a spiritual battle and Jesus is the victor already.
  • When I am frustrated with immaturity and one of the girls comes to me asking for forgiveness or comfort, and God grants me love, mercy and grace beyond what I thought possible.
  • When that annoying song is playing on repeat for the 23 time that day and it makes me want to pull my hair out, and I realize that God is answering my prayer for patience. (just not how I wanted it)
  • When I decide to play that game or watch that movie (even though I don’t want to) because I was asked, and God shows me that real love is selfless – I receive joy.
  • When I realize at 4pm that I haven’t even had a chance to eat that day because I have been taking care of everyone else, the Lord sustains me and meets my needs.
  • When the truth seems blurred by the lies running through my mind, God sends me people to pour Truth into my life.
  • When I am empty and feel like I can’t give anymore, God gives me rest and refreshment.
  • I feel alone, and I am reminded that people pray for me everyday and that God never leaves my side.
  • When my heart feels broken because of the choices people I love are making, God comforts me and shows me His heart hurts for them too.  But His love remains.

In the moments that I don’t understand what I did to deserve this life I dive deeper into understanding God’s grace.  I did nothing to have the privilege of living with these girls.  I don’t deserve to be called their mentor, but it is a gift from the Lord, just as each one of them is.  I surely didn’t know it was possible to love them this much and it is an honor to get to know them.  At times it’s terrifying when they entrust wounds from their fragile hearts to me.  In those moments God gives me more love, more grace, more compassion than I knew was humanly possible.  I wouldn’t change my life with them for anything.  I love them deeply and I get to see them mature, grow, and learn.  They are becoming more like Christ and it’s incredible!  God used them to teach me and each day I see what kind of love parents have and why mothers go to such (seemingly) insane lengths for their children.  Honestly, they have become a part of my heart and my life forever.

I am not a special person who is naturally inclined to do any of these aforementioned things.  I realize, my parents probably aren’t either.  The people who pour into my life and give so much for me probably aren’t.  But the character and ministry that is displayed to me doesn’t reflect on them.  It is a reflection of our Savior Jesus Christ in their lives – in my life.  He’s taking people who naturally don’t have anything good in them and is allowing His Holy Spirit to work and move.  He’s allowing the world to see Him through His people.

I have been so tremendously fortunate to have a long list of people who have spoken the Truth of Scripture into my life through their words and actions.  I have people who mentor me and show me what it means to serve and love others.  I see Christ reflected and I can imitate them as they imitate Christ.  I am also blessed to have people who view me this same way (even though at times I don’t have a clue why).

My prayer for the ladies that I live with is that they will see Christ for who He is and what He’s done for them.  In turn, that they will serve Him, not to gain His love, but because they love Him with the love He has lavished on them.  I want them to know that nothing they do will qualify or disqualify them for the grace they receive.

God has loved me with an everlasting and it’s all-encompassing and insurmountable. What do I do with that love?  I choose to serve Him and give people a glimpse of that love.  It may be a dim reflection of His glory, but it’s all I have.  God has allowed me to be this reflection and because of that I am enough.

Not an Island

I am not a fan of getting up in front of people and sharing my thoughts or teaching from Scripture.  It’s not a favorite of mine.  I don’t mind sharing one on one, or writing out my thoughts and letting others read them (but I don’t want to be sit there and see their reaction).

Lately God has been teaching me some interesting truths from Scripture that are challenging me to look at my life slightly differently and be willing to share more.  Ephesians 1:16-23 (well, the entire chapter really) are amazing.  They build me up, but at the same time feel like this huge charge to live up to.  God has given His children the privilege of knowing Him and enlightened my heart to see Truth from Him.  It’s humbling and overwhelmingly wonderful all at the same time.  He gave His church a great, “inheritance in the saints.”  So the enlightening that He has given to each person ought to be shared.  I am not sure if all of this is the author’s intent or not.  I was just convicted and struck with the fact that God wants us to share with others what we know of Him. 

I need others to walk alongside me in life and tell me what God is revealing to them and I need to do the same for others.  Even when I don’t feel as though I have anything profound to share, God is at work.  The same power that raised Christ from the dead is accessible to me.  I have an intimate relationship with the greatest source of wisdom, power, and love in the universe.  How am I handling that privilege/responsibility?  Do I keep it to myself?  Do I allow others to speak truth into my life?  Do I ask them to?  Do I receive it with humility?  Do I share it with gentleness? 

I desperately need others to walk in the steps of Truth with me.  I am blessed to have that.  It’s not because it’s what I need.  It’s the way that God designed people, and how He designed His Church.

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The Fullness of the Old Testament

I was slightly caught off guard this week when I was planning on teaching a Bible passage and due to some confusion a guest speaker taught on it the day before.  I surprisingly (more to myself than anyone else), was not too worried about going back and teaching the passages that we missed.  I studied a chunk of Luke and was really struck by one of the sections.

Luke 16:19-31 were not verses that ever meant much to me.  To be completely honest I thought they were rather creepy and I didn’t really like it.  However, God gave me new insight and love for this passage and in turn for the Old Testament.

Admittedly, I always preferred the new Testament to the Old.  I liked the gracious and merciful picture of God better.  But that had nothing to do with God changing and being any different between the testaments.  It had to do with the fact that I read Scripture with a bit of a bias and missed significant truth.  I was hit as I read the passage in Luke that the Old Testament sets up everything for who the Christ is.  God was always the same in the Old Testament.  He was gracious, compassionate, merciful, and was preparing people for the coming Messiah.  He also displayed His justice, holiness, and righteousness.

A man who dies and goes to hell is talking to Abraham in heaven and says, “‘Then I beg you, father, to send him [Lazarus, a dead man who is in heaven] to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’”  This man sees that there is a need for salvation.  The response was always curious to me, but I finally think I got something powerful from it.

“But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”  The man’s family knew the Law and the Prophets – the Old Testament.  It points to Jesus.  If we can’t take what the Old Testament says about who Jesus is, then why will the resurrection change our view?

I am challenged not to miss the beauty, the Truth, the depth of the Old Testament.  I have a deeper love and view of who God is based on this year’s study.  I am so grateful for what God is teaching me about who He is.