Monday, November 16, 2009

Tonight's Walk - Courtesy of a Bird Named Ollie.

I know, I know. "Walk" has been in the title of a high percentage of my posts lately. But really, isn't that what we all do? I'm not talking about the physical process of putting one foot in front of the other. I'm talking about living. About breathing. About seeking Him and wanting to know Him.

The focus tonight is thanksgiving. Not necessarily exuberant, can't-keep-it-inside thanksgiving. Tonight, it's more of a peaceful, moved-nearly-to-tears, amazed kind of thanksgiving. The sort that results in whispered, heartfelt hallelujahs.

God doesn't always answer our prayers the way we think He will. And when He gives us what we need - really need - it doesn't always look how we expect it to.

Several weeks ago, something came to mind as I was praying one evening. That thing? The knowledge that there was a woman, and her husband, and three kids, whom I had never actually met. And this family was (and still is) within four hours of us. After having been half way around the world. And early next year, there will once again be an entire ocean between us and them. But for now... for now, they are within reach. They are glorifying God here. Serving Him and seeking His face. And soon, they will be "back on the missions field" glorifying God, serving Him and seeking His face.

It rose up in me, with far more certainty and even a sense of urgency, that we needed to meet them. I can't really explain it, and I don't know if they had any of that urgency.

The time we spent with them seemed, in many ways, very ordinary. We hugged (something I thought wouldn't happen outside of heaven). We talked. Laughed. Shared a meal. It was a little awkward, for about fifteen minutes. And then? It was comfortable.

And it was like salve for my heart.

As I have mentioned so many times over the past year, there are some battles being waged. In me, personally. In our marriage (we are not battling each other - we are battling side by side). Physical, mental, emotional. Spiritual.

One thing I have struggled with a lot more than I let on, is the loss of every pregnancy we have had. No child of ours has lived more than twelve weeks after conception (or fourteen weeks of pregnancy). There aren't any tiny shoes in our home. No baby monitor. No barriers on the stairs. We don't have to be home for nap time, and we don't own a car seat.

Our little girl, Anna, would be turning three next month if she were still here on earth. Sometimes I feel guilty for missing her. I feel like my arms have no right to ache, like my heart has no reason to be heavy. So many have lost so much more than I. And yet... maybe it is okay.

This family that we met on Saturday... they know. We haven't shared every detail, but they have the general picture. They know that we have five children. That they are all in heaven. Most people we know are aware of this. It's obvious that they haven't forgotten. The carefully redirected conversations, the guilty looks, the whispered apologies make it painfully clear.

This weekend, it was the words of a small girl that touched my heart. Derek and I were talking with her parents, and she was happily being near the way that children of that age often times do. There was a break in conversation. She put her elbows on my knees and looked up at me. And she asked a question. A simple, innocent question that I have never before been asked.

"What are your kids' names?"

I looked at her, a little confused. I thought maybe she didn't know. I gently explained that we didn't have any kids yet. Her answer touched something deep inside, and I know that my words here can't explain it.

"No. I don't mean kids here. I mean your five kids in heaven. What are their names?"

I had to blink back tears - the first time I have even come close to crying in I don't know how long. I wonder if anyone else heard my voice crack when I answered.

"We only know one little girl's name. Her name is Anna. Annaliah."

"What about the other four?"

As she looked up at me, I was torn between wanting to cry, and wanting to shout for joy. I wasn't sure how to explain it so that a preschooler could understand.

"Well... we don't know their names yet. We'll have to wait until we get to heaven to find out."

I wondered if this would confuse her. Or if she would have more questions. I didn't know if it would be okay for me to answer them if she asked - it's the sort of thing that may be best explained by parents. But no explanation was needed.

In the way that it seems only children can, she accepted that answer and moved on. There was no struggle to believe, no analyzing, no surprise. To her, there was nothing strange about it.

And she's right, you know. There isn't anything difficult to grasp about the fact that our children are in heaven. It is sad that we don't know them, but there is nothing sad about where they are. It isn't shocking, it isn't scary.

And her calm acceptance washed over me like cool water on a hot day.

Thank you, Lord, for Emma. Thank you for her child-like faith. Help me Lord, to never lose sight of Who you are, and what you have done for me. And thank you that good-bye here on earth doesn't have to mean good-bye forever.

When I parked our truck in front of the house they are staying in right now, I had a moment of doubt. Okay, truthfully, I had several moments of doubt. What if we were in for an evening of awkward silences, broken by stilted conversations and sideways glances? What if I had misinterpreted the written words we'd exchanged, and the family I had grown to love existed only in my mind?

Those doubts persisted for about ten seconds after the door opened. I'll be honest here - I am not big on hugs. They don't come naturally for me, and I never hug people I've just met. In fact, there are people I care about very much, people I would do anything for, whom I have never once hugged.

So to put it mildly, I was shocked by my compulsion to hug this woman. I didn't know what to do with myself. Should I hug her? And if I did, how would I initiate it? Should I ask first? Should I squeeze, or just lightly drape my arms across her shoulders? What if it totally creeped her out? What if my armpits or breath smelled? What if I accidentally stepped on her feet? Seriously. I hugged my Pastor probably fifty times before I finally managed one time not to step on his toes, so it is not just an irrational fear. I seem to have a talent for toe-smashing. As for the armpits and breath, we made a pit-stop half way to their house. My dad and my Kelly took us out for pizza, and then we did a little go-cart racing. Making those fears not entirely irrational, either.

Fortunately, she didn't wait for me to make up my mind. If she had, I would probably still be standing there staring at her. Instead, she put words to my thoughts, and actions to my... well, thoughts. (That last statement didn't come together as eloquently as I had hoped).

"I feel like I should hug you."

And, at least for me, that is when it quit feeling awkward. Sure, we spent a while trying to "get the feel of things." But it wasn't an uncomfortable adjustment.

I don't remember the last person I met who was so warm, so open. I doubt I had the same impact on her. But rather than focus on that, I am going to thank God for the blessing.

I thank you, Lord, for Spring. Thank you for her openness. Thank you for using her to show Your love. Thank you for allowing our paths to cross.

Do you ever struggle with who you are? I don't mean forgetting your name, or not knowing who you are. I mean knowing who you are, and accepting that. Maybe you don't. But I sure do. I seem to have a real talent for convincing myself that I should be... different than I am. I often ask myself if I am responding to things the way I should. Am I smiling at the right time? Have I been silent to long, or do they think I talk too much? What about my hands - should I hold them still or is this one of those times when I can fidget?

More importantly... is who I am okay? Does it even matter?

Something happened on Saturday. As we talked, relaxed, ate... he watched. And listened. Every word seemed to register. Unfair as it is, I was watching his face for judgment. We arrived a little after three. We pulled away from their home almost eight hours later. And in all that time, I never did figure out what his judgment was.

The only thing I saw was interest. He and his wife wanted to get to know us. Not so they could judge, not so they could criticize, and not even so they could help us change. I kept thinking to myself, "these people just really love... people." And something occurred to me.

I need to love people that same way. God doesn't love us for what we do, and His opinion of us isn't based on the music we listen to or the color of our shoes. He loves us. And He has commanded us to love one another.

Father, thank you for loving us. For sending your Son. It is a sacrifice I can't fathom. Thank you for loving us that much, flawed and broken as we are. And thank you for Tim. Thank you for using him. Help me to show that kind of interest in the people I meet. Help me to remember that you love people, not the things that people do.

When I was little, my Gramma used to love making things for me. Breakfast (which she often brought upstairs and gave to me in bed). Snacks after school. Hot fudge sundaes, extra dumplings in the soup, green eggs and ham. Quilts for my bed, clothes for my dolls. Forts made of blankets. There wasn't much Gramma couldn't make.

I don't like to admit this, but I really was an ungrateful child. I don't remember thanking her for what she did. I do remember criticizing her. She would beam as she gave me whatever it was that she had made.

The day she died, right before she and my grandpa left, she offered to make me a snack. It was just the way that Gramma was. She made things for the people she loved. When I turned her down that day, she looked disappointed. The image of her face is burned in my memory. What I didn't understand is this: doing things, making things, for the people you love is a joy.

On Saturday, we were presented with lumpy, slightly odd-looking "treats." An eleven year old boy smiled at us as we were told that he made them. I took one, not really sure what to expect. And it was absolutely delicious.

Really, it was. I am not usually a fan of rice crispy treats. Or, I suppose I should say cheerio-life-unknown cereal treats. But these? These were really good. About half way through mine, I happened to look up at the boy who made them. He was watching us.

The look on his face was so easy to read. He had a treat in his own hand, but he wasn't eating it. He wasn't even paying attention to it. He was looking around the room, smiling as we all ate his creation.

After supper, he wore that same expression as we ate the brownies he had prepared. While we were loading dishes into the dishwasher, his mom shared a little bit more about the "desert extravaganza" that had been prepared for us. Yes, I am sure he probably had fun baking, but that wasn't his goal. His goal was to do something special.

Thank You for Nat. God, I don't know what You have in store for me, let alone this eleven year old boy. But I know this: the joy he derives from being a blessing has served as a reminder for me. A reminder that You are for me, and not against me. You want to bless me. It isn't a chore for You - it is something you want to do. I may not understand, but I am grateful.

I'm almost done with this post. I have one more person, one more blessing, to share with you.

This person stands less than three feet high. She has a round belly and an amazingly cute dimpled chin. Here eyes sparkle when she smiles, and her giggle is extremely cute. Her mom let us know that she was a shy little girl, and wouldn't be likely to let us pick her up or hold her.

And that was okay. I've been around enough toddlers to know that it isn't personal when pull away from new people. It's normal. Natural. Healthy. I heard, I understood, and I moved on.

Then her brother decided to show us what happens when you put Ivory soap in the microwave. If you haven't done this, I'd highly recommend it. But that's a different post, for a different day.

As her big brother and sister climbed on stools and counters to watch the results of the "experiment," this gift from God craned her neck, trying to get even a glimpse of what was happening. I remembered what her mom had said, but didn't want her to miss out. She looked up at me as I spoke.

"Can I pick you up, so you can see?"

She nodded. I picked her up, and she settled into my arms as we watched the soap. (Yes, I am deliberately neglecting to tell you what happens. And yes, I am doing so because I actually do want you to microwave a bar of Ivory soap.) Once the soap was removed from the microwave, I set her down so that she could play with the results. I watched the three kids enjoying themselves, and quietly thanked God for each one of them.

Then her brother decided to repeat the experiment.

I didn't even have a chance to ask permission to pick her up. Two tiny, soapy hands grabbed mine and tugged. As I picked her up, she smiled at me. And my heart melted. Figuratively, of course.

I breathed in the smell of her as I thanked God for the blessing that she is. And as tiny fingers absently played with my sweater, I closed my eyes. I opened them again when I felt her head against my chest. She was staring up at me, eyes wide and shining. She took a deep breath and relaxed against my chest.

We stayed that way for maybe five seconds. The moment seemed to pass almost before it started, and yet it seemed so long. I couldn't tell you what about this was so special. I only know that it was.

Lord, thank you for Katie. Thank you for giving her life. Thank you for giving her to Tim and Spring. She is a blessing from you, and they know it. I pray that you'd keep her safe as she grows. And thank You for that moment.

Okay. I am done, for tonight. I will leave you with one final bit of information.

You may have noticed that I said this post was "courtesy of a bird named Ollie." You see, three and a half years ago, I received an email. It started with these words: "Hi. I really need to talk to someone! I think I'm falling in love with this little bird and want to help him."

It ended with this paragraph: "Well, you may answer any or all or none of my questions. But any help you'd give would be much appreciated. I was so relieved to see an email, so I could talk to a real person. Oh, we are Americans living in Poland. Thanks in advance for your help."

You are welcome, Spring. But I should be the one thanking you.

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Monday, November 9, 2009

Walk With Me Again?

Tonight, I'm going to ask you to take another walk with me. A figurative walk, that is. I'm not actually going to move from the comfort of my couch.

Actually, it is comfort that I am going to talk about tonight. There are so many things that God can use to bring us comfort. I will warn you right now... the following paragraphs may contain more than you want to know about me. You may have this image in your head of who I am, of how I am. But tonight, as I pray... I want you to witness what God has done for me. Not so that you can say, "Wow, God... thank you for what you did for Jenn. That was really great..."

I want you to see what He has done, and say, "God... me too." I want you to come before Him, broken. I want you to lay whatever is shattered down, and turn your face toward the only One who can put you back together. My heart's cry is that my transparency here would give you a glimpse of Him. A glimpse of what He wants to do for you. And I want you to let Him comfort you.

The first stop on this walk of ours is in a dark room, when I was about six and a half. It was late - my dad was asleep in the next room. His snores were the only sound I could hear. There was no moonlight, just the shadows from the trees between the street lamp and my window. I had pulled the blankets up to just under my nose.

There was something there, in the corner of my room. Something dark. I couldn't actually see it the same way that a person sees another person standing there. It is hard to explain, hard to describe.

Have you ever seen the shadow of someone behind you? You can't see the person, and they aren't actually there for you to see. But at the same time, the evidence is there. That is sort of what this was like.

But the terror that gripped my heart as I stared? I cannot put it into words. I have never, ever, felt anything so intensely. Even the memory of that feeling is enough to make me break into a sweat. I have been terrified plenty of other times. I've been sure I was going to die. Sure that someone I loved was going to die. I've known that great harm would come to someone I cared for. I've even spent some time believing I couldn't possibly go anywhere other than hell when I died. The terror of those things? Pale, weak, can't even be compared to what was in my room that night.

The next day, I prayed. On my knees, I prayed for Jesus to come into my heart. I prayed for Him to be with me in my room. I prayed that He would help me. That night, I couldn't sleep. I was waiting for my dad to go to bed. Waiting for the darkness. For the silence. For the terror. Instead, there was peace. Sweet, amazing peace. I lay in my bed, thankful for the peace. The sting of last night's terror was still fresh, but His presence was stronger.

I asked my dad about it, several days later. Told him what I'd seen. Told him what I'd felt. Asked if he thought I was crazy. He said no. Demons were (and are) very real, and the presence of one would bring with it terror unlike anything else I'd known. But the peace that was there the next night? The peace that only He could have granted? The terror can't stand up to that.

Have you known terror? True terror? Maybe, just maybe, you are walking in it right now. Maybe tonight, you are afraid to let yourself think that there could ever be help or hope for you. Maybe you've never known anything else - maybe each day has been a fight for survival. Maybe you know, beyond any doubt, that something horrible is about to happen. If that's you, will you trust Him? Will you let Him fill you with His peace?

Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:27)

The next place we are going moves us forward in time. I was fourteen. It was early morning, and the sun was filling our tent with warmth. Mist was rising from the river, and everything looked like it was glowing. My best friend was asleep beside me. And I knew.

Beyond any doubt, as certain as I knew that I was breathing, I knew that my mom had left. I knew that when we got home, dad would be letting me know. I knew her things would mostly be gone. Knew that there would be little reminders - a hint of perfume in the bathroom, the odd article of clothing. Probably some makeup in the drawer.

I could feel the crushing weight - sorrow, grief, abandonment, anger. I knew that dad would not be okay with it. And then, like a blanket, His presence was on me. I asked why He would tell me now - why I couldn't just find out when I got home. But as He reminded me that morning... sometimes, it is better to know.

And that morning, He reminded me. He is with me, always. Even to the ends of the earth. His calm confidence filled my heart as I lay there. My friend opened her eyes, staring at me. She didn't speak - I knew she wouldn't.

"My mom left. I don't know how I know... but I do. She's gone."

And without words, she was there. Sadness on her face. Determination. Looking at her in the silence, I knew that there was something tangible in my life that would not be changing. As I contemplated her steadfast, unyielding loyalty, a gentle voice whispered in my heart.

"I am more loyal than even her."

Have you ever been abandoned? Have you ever had a part of your heart torn away? Have you fallen to your knees in desperation and despair, crying out to God for answers? Have you ever wondered how you could survive without someone? If you have, I pray that the following words would minister to you as they have to me.

I am with you always, to the very end of the days. (Matthew 28:20)

Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See? I have engraved you on the palms of my hands... (Isaiah 49:15-16a)

You see... people can forget. People can move on. They can be hard, cruel, deceptive. But God? He cannot forget. He will not leave you. He cares for you. He wants to be with you, wants you to seek Him. Always and only says what is true.

When your world is rocked by abandonment or betrayal, He is still there. He still cares. He is still faithful. Nothing can change that. Will you open yourself up to trust Him? Will you allow Him to show you His unchanging, never-ending, perfect faithfulness?

Now, we are going to continue walking forward. By the time I was 16, I was deeply entrenched in self-destruction. Most people would have said I was doing well. My grades were okay, I didn't smoke, drink, or use any illegal drugs. I had a group of friends, was active in other activities.

But at night, when the world slept, I changed. Deliberately harming myself, using whatever method was convenient that night. Nobody knew the extent of what I was doing. Nobody. My dad and my grandparents had gotten me hooked up with a counselor, and even he was fooled by my insistence that everything was fine.

The day came when I had put my body through too much. I passed out at school. An ambulance was called when I began turning blue. As I came to in the emergency room, I stared at the faces around me. My thoughts were racing, not making sense. One thing kept coming up though. I believed with everything in me that I was done. I "knew" that I couldn't survive much longer. Knew I couldn't amount to anything. I lay flat on my back, watching the crazy pattern on the EKG machine. I wondered when my heart would finally stop beating - I was that convinced that I couldn't live.

A doctor came in, closing the door behind himself. Soft-spoken, gentle. He explained the heart rhythm. Explained that they were going to give me something in my IV to slow it down. Asked about the injuries that covered my body.

He prayed over me.

That evening, when I was preparing to leave, he came into the room and asked my grandparents to leave. He stood at the foot of the bed, and reminded me of what the Word of God says.

"For I know the thoughts and plans I have for you," says the Lord, "thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome." (Jeremiah 29:11)

This is why we work and struggle: We hope in the living God who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe. (1 Timothy 4:10)

May our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father encourage you and strengthen you in every good thing you do and say. God loved us, and through His grace He gave us a good hope and encouragement that continues forever. (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17)

These two things cannot change: God cannot lie when he makes a promise, and he cannot lie when he makes an oath. These things encourage us who came to God for safety. They give us strength to hold on to the hope we have been given. (Hebrews 6:18)

I asked him what he meant. Surely, he could see the marks on my body. Surely he knew where the path I was on would take me. How could he talk to me about hope, about God wanting to do good things in my life?

His answer? He simply saw what God saw. A beautiful creation. He saw a future. Saw hope. Saw possibility and potential.

Have you been where I was that night? The words spoken didn't change anything right then. But over the next weeks, they echoed in my head. I thought about them. In tears, I asked God why I couldn't see any of those things in myself.

Do you know what I found? I found that He is not asking me to have hope in my ability. He hasn't said that I myself will be responsible for this "good future." He never expected me to make any of it happen. He said it. He meant it. He will bring it to pass. My job? To trust Him. To let Him shape me. To let Him take the pieces and put them in order.

Can you do that? Can you dare to hope again? If all you see is destruction, if all you can picture is pain, sorrow, despair... can you let yourself believe Him? Will you give Him a chance to fill you with hope? Your future isn't dependent on you or your abilities. It is dependent on Him. And He can never fail.

We're going to skip some years now. I was 22 years old. My husband and I were expecting a baby. We had prayed for a girl. My stomach grew quickly. By 10 weeks, nearly everyone knew. My pants no longer fit. I threw up many times each day, but it was so worth it. There was joy. My dad, Derek's parents, my grandparents. Everyone who found out. All were so joyful. So excited. We talked about names. Listened to PraiseBaby CD's we'd been given for her. I would try to hide my smile. I wanted to cherish the secret, but couldn't seem to stop telling others.

I had my first midwife appointment. She used the Doppler to look for a heartbeat. We kept getting little blips of it, and then it would disappear. She assured me that at 10 weeks, it was early to be finding it. Explained that there was nothing to be concerned about. Offered a follow up two weeks later.

At that appointment, we once again found the heartbeat for only a moment or two. I told the midwife how I had felt tiny little flutters, and was pretty sure it was the baby. She agreed. Said it was early, but definitely not unheard of. Two weeks later I spent the night in the bathroom, unable to sleep through the pain. I called the nurse several times, and was assured that if there was no bleeding, there was nothing to be concerned about.

The next day, I called my doctor. Told him that I was worried. Said that I hadn't felt any movement during the last few days. He assured me everything was fine - 14 weeks was too early to reliably feel movement anyway. Offered to have me come in and get checked out. My husband drove with me. We were together when the only sound the Doppler made was the slow swooshing of my own pulse. Together when the ultrasound tech turned the screen away and told us the other doctor would talk with us about the results. Together when she said that there was no reason to believe I'd ever had a viable pregnancy.

We drove in silence. I was afraid to say anything. I wanted to have faith. Wanted to believe that somehow, that still, silent image on the screen was my imagination. But truthfully, I was broken. We stopped at a gas station so I could use the restroom. I finished up, and fell to my knees right there. I promised God that whatever the outcome, I would continue to serve Him. Made a resolution in my heart to draw closer to Him. As I prayed, the heartache grew.

But at the same time, the peace grew. The calm assurance that only comes from Him. The peace that surpasses all understanding.

For He Himself is our peace. (Ephesians 2:14)

Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God. And God's peace shall be yours, that tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and being content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is, that peace which transcends all understanding shall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6 & 7)

Are you desperate? Is the news not good? Are your thoughts racing? Is there no way out of the situation that you are in? If so, I have good news: you are not alone. He sees you. Knows what you're going through. Has known since the beginning of time. He may not want it, may not desire it, and may not be responsible for it. But He knows. And He has provided for you, exactly what you need. When everything else seems to be moving a million miles an hour, His word does not change. It will be there. Steady. Perfect. Immutable.

There is more, though.

It was several weeks later. My husband and I were on our way home from Denver. I had not yet started the physical process of "miscarriage." I was staring out the window, holding my still bulging stomach. I couldn't get one thought out of my mind: I am walking around with my dead child. I apologize if that's more 'graphic' than you'd like, but it was true, and it was what I kept thinking. Every time I looked down, or touched my stomach... I remembered. Remembered that the child who had been alive was now dead.

I prayed. Quietly - I didn't want to disturb Derek. So as I stared at the passing scenery, I whispered.

"God... this is so hard. Parents should never endure the death of their child. I know we haven't really gotten to "know" this child, and I know many will say it isn't really even a child. But it is. And it hurts. And now this child, my child, is dead."

I didn't hear anything from Him. No booming voice, no gentle whisper. My mind wandered for a few moments, as I continued to sit in silence. Then, slowly, it settled on the words of the song.

"You alone of Father, and You alone are good. You alone are Savior, and You alone are God."

As the words repeated, I realized that they were true. So true. He alone is God. He alone is good. I let that knowledge - that never changing, never bending truth, that He alone is God - seep into my consciousness. I was focusing so much on those words, and on Him, and His unchanging nature, that the next words completely caught my attention.

The voices of many children blended together. Exuberant. Joyful. Confident. The sound suddenly seemed... almost unreal. I saw that same face I had seen in a dream, this time surrounded by other faces. What were they singing?

"I'm alive! I'm alive! I'm alive!"

Such simple words. But the truth of those words stopped me in my tracks. I wasn't instantly "over it." I didn't suddenly stop missing her. The sadness didn't lift. But hope flooded in. Why? Because I finally got it. My child would never take a breath on earth. But she was, and is, very much alive. More alive than I have ever been.

Tears flowed freely as I whispered the next phrase. You alone, are Father. You alone are Good.

And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life. This life is in His son, Christ Jesus. He who has the Son has life; He who does not have the Son does not have eternal life. (1 John 5:11 & 12)

For now, I am done. I pray that by sharing myself with you in this way, I have given you a glimpse of my God. I don't believe for even a millisecond that He causes bad things to happen (See John 10:10 if you want proof). But I do believe that when bad things happen, He is there. He can comfort. He can turn the situation into something that works for our good.

He wants to help you. Almighty God Himself, creator of the universe, wants to help you. Will you let Him? Can you open your heart to Him tonight? Will you pray with me?

"Lord, I need you. You know my situation. You know every last detail of the hurt inside. You know how desperate I am. But Lord, I know you love me. I know that you are Holy. I know that you came, so I could have life more abundantly. So right now, this day, this very hour, I am asking You to help. I am trusting you enough to lower my guard. I am trusting you with the broken pieces, with the heartache, with the trials."

Cast all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)

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Monday, November 2, 2009

Come Walk With Me.

It's time for my nightly "God time."

God time is a new policy in our house. My husband declared it three weeks ago, after we met with our Pastor. Each night, we set aside one hour. During that hour, we separate - he has chosen the basement, and I stay upstairs. We don't answer the phone, don't read emails, don't play with the cats. We spend that hour with God. It is good. Very, very good.

Tonight, I am having more than a little trouble focusing. Thoughts are racing, and distractions are competing for attention. I'll start a thought, and before it's finished, it's gone. I could "fight it out" alone and probably benefit. But instead, I am going to ask you something.

Will you walk with me? Tonight, I'm giving you an open invitation into my time with God. As I pray, as I read, I will write. I will share my heart here, in the hope that doing so may give you a glimpse of God's heart for you.

Lord, I love you. You are holy. You are awesome, mighty... omnipotent. You are awesome. Indescribable, uncontainable. Amazing. Wonderful. Perfect in every way. I am humbled by Your majesty, thankful for your grace. For all that You are, for all You have done, I give you praise. I come before you with thanksgiving, Lord.

Tonight, my heart hurts. Tonight, I find myself dreaming of what might have, could have... should have been. What should have been is a little girl. A little girl named Annaliah. She would have been three next month. If she had been born here on earth. If we had gotten more than 14 short weeks.

I remember being on my knees, begging God for comfort. Asking Him to help me through. Aching for something to hold onto. Something to remember. Some part of her. And I remember the dream I had that night. I believe with all my heart that it was from Him, of Him. In the dream, I saw her face. Her beautiful, sweet face. Her brown eyes. Perfect cheeks. Her daddy's mouth and her great grandma's nose. Downy soft hair. I held her in my arms. I felt her warmth, her weight. Felt her breathing. Saw her flex her tiny fingers. The image faded. It was replaced with light. Amazing, all consuming light. And in the middle of this light... was Him. The King. He held the hand of a little girl. Brown hair, dancing eyes. She was looking up at him with an expression of awe, of love, and of total trust. He smiled, and bent down a little to speak to her. He pointed at me. She broke into a grin, and ran toward me. I awoke, filled with comfort. With peace.

I have never shared that second part. I have cherished it in my heart, relished it as my own. But tonight, I'm sharing it with you. Not for judgement. Not so that you can ask God for the same thing. But so that together, we can thank God for loving us. For knowing us. For comfort that He and He alone can give.

Thank you, for comfort. For peace. Comfort. Unchanging, unyielding, and unending love.

Proverbs 2:1-15
My child, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom, and from His mouth come knowledge and understanding. He holds victory in store for the upright, He is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for He guards the course of the just and protects the way of His faithful ones.

Then you will understand what is right and just and fair - every good path. For wisdom will enter your heart and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you. Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicket men, from men whose words are perverse, who leave the straight paths to walk in dark ways, who delight in doing wrong and rejoice in the perverseness of evil, whose paths are crooked and who are devious in their ways.

One thing that I have done many times, and will continue to do... one thing that helps, that makes a tangible, immediate difference... is to confess the Word of God. I'll take a passage, or a verse, or a chapter, and speak it. Out loud. Usually, when I do that, I personalize it. For example... instead of saying "My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity," I say "I do not forget His teaching, and I keep His commands in my heart. They will prolong my life many years and bring me prosperity."

Make sense? Good. This is the final exercise I do each night. Read them with me. Out loud.

Psalm 91.
I dwell in the shelter of the Most High; I rest in the shadow of the Almighty. The Lord is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.

Surely He will save me from the fowler's snare and from the deadly pestilence. He covers me with His feathers, and under His wings I find refuge; His faithfulness is my shield and rampart. I do not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. A thousand my fall at my side, ten thousand at my right hand, but it will not come near me. I will only observe with my eyes and see the punishment of the wicked.

Because I make the Most High my dwelling - the Lord, who is my refuge - no harm will befall me, and no disaster will come near my home. He commands His angels concerning me, to guard me in all my ways; they lift me up in their hands, so that I will not so much as strike my foot against a stone. I will tread upon the lion and the cobra, and trample the great lion and the serpent.

The Lord says that because I love him, He will rescue me. He will protect me, for I acknowledge His name. I will call upon Him, and He will answer me; He will be with me in trouble, and He will deliver me and honor me. With long life will He satisfy me, and show me His salvation.

Ephesians 6:10-17
I am strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. I put on the full armor of God so that I can take my stand against the devil's schemes. My struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, the authorities, the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore I put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, I can stand my ground. And after I have done everything, I will still be standing.

I stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around my waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with my feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all of this, I take up the shield of faith, with which I can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. I take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.

I hope that in walking with me for just a short while, you have been blessed. And now may the Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace.

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