Shut the Door!

DoorLately, I have found myself praying fervently for open doors in my life.  I have asked for open doors that will lead to both personal and professional opportunities.  What I have failed to do is pray for closed doors.  Yes, I said closed doors.

Maybe prayer should go something like this,

God, shut that green door of envy that I’ve been walking through lately.” 

“Shut that door of my temper that tends to crack open on those I love the most.” 

“Shut the door to my yearning for things to go my way, and not Yours.”  

“Close that far too comfortable door that is always ajar to the feelings of resentment towards the actions of others…even towards Your children.”  

“Father, shut that door that leads to impulsive decisions that end up causing regret.”

“God, close the ugly door of hypocrisy that is present in my life.” 

“Hammer that door of self-doubt shut.  Seal my worries, and sense of inferiority away.”  

“God, shut the door that opens up old wounds once healed over.  Close that door to my own vision of my imperfections.”

“God, please seal that door that leads me down a road in which I lean less on my faith in You.”  

“Loving Father, please, forever close that door where the pain of the past keeps creeping through.  You, Father, You are the healer of my past, present, and future. You are more than able to put away the things that tear me down.”

“Close that door that allows my own insecurities to persuade me into believing that I do not deserve anything better; especially forgiveness.”

I wonder how my life, and maybe yours, would be changed if we all started praying for shut doors, instead of open ones.  An unbeliever might think that Christians are supposed to be perfect, or that our lives are easy, or naive, or whatever one might think.  The truth is that all of us, Christian or not, struggle with choosing to walk into situations that negatively affect our lives.

As a Christian, I still struggle with self-doubt, a quick temper, envy, resentment, selfishness, regret, hypocrisy, painful memories, lack of true reliance on the One I believe in, and insecurities.  If I were to tell anyone otherwise, it would not be the truth.

So, my hope is that instead of praying for open doors to which my will would happen, I will start praying for the closing of doors that distract me from the faith to which I stand on.  How about you?

Psalm 62:6-7 (The Message) – He’s solid rock under my feet, breathing room for my soul, An impregnable castle: I’m set for life.7 My help and glory are in God.

What are you eating?

Image:  www.latoro.com
Image: http://www.latoro.com

After feeling a little distracted by the busyness of life, and after the nudge from a friend, I decided to re-read the book of John.  I have read this particular book in the Bible before, but this time I was reading with the intent of focusing on the words of Christ.

Highlighting my way through it, I read the words:

“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” – John 4:34

I continued to read, but decided to go back and take another look at this statement. I have never noticed it before, or maybe, it has not caused me to pause like it did this time.  Several days later, I find myself thinking about these words.  At the same time, I think about the emphasis put on food in our society.

We are either complaining because we ate too much, or complaining because we are hungry.  We either choose to spend way too much on overpriced meals at restaurants, or we spend a few dollars on “non-food” food because it is quick and cheap.

We worry about our food, talk about it often, and plan our days around the meals we eat.  We question if it is organic, or even close to being organic.  What about gluten-free or dairy-free or high fructose corn syrup free?  Does it have GMO’s or additives, or whatever else mankind has introduced to our crops?  What should be fixed for dinner?  Did the kids get enough in their lunch boxes?

We celebrate with food.  We comfort with food, we grieve with food, and we show love to strangers with warm meals.  We compare recipes, plan meals, and sometimes spend all day over a hot stove.  We share news about where to find good meals in town.  We even judge each other based on the food we eat or refuse to eat.  Sometimes, we even have a love/hate relationship with it.  Yet…

“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” – John 4:34

The nutrient rich Word provides us directions and insight into life that no menu could provide.  It gives us the recipe for this faith-walk.  It possesses the ingredients of mercy, justice, love, forgiveness, humility, and accountability.

Could it be that the food of our Savior is the very same desire that we should be waking up to every day?

The fullness of a life lived with deep intention to do the will of the Lord, is far greater than one lived with the self-leading desires that often leave us empty and hungry. To emerge onto each new day enamored with the Lord, and the intensity of a life lived with the challenge to fulfill His works is enough, actually more than enough, to feed the soul.

I have asked myself, “Am I really desiring to do the will of God, or am I just wanting Him to fulfill His will according to my desires?”  There have been times in the recent months that I have been angry over decisions and situations, even though, I prayed for God’s will to occur.  I have had to face the realization that my will did not equate the Lord’s will.  I wanted something to happen, and when it did not, I felt starved and dissatisfied.  Yet,

“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” – John 4:34

After reading this particular verse, I have looked at the food I’ve eaten these last few days through a different set of lenses.  While I enjoy good food, (and some junk food in between), what Jesus said has played over and over again in my mind.  I have been reminded that the food I eat may sustain my body, but the only source of nutrients that will sustain me is the keeper of my soul, the weaver of my dreams, the One who quenches my desires, and the source of my substance.

The only thing that feeds my heart is waking up knowing that each day is one day closer to meeting my Father in Heaven, and one more day to choose to seek His will and His works.

My diet plan for 2014 is to engage each day with the hunger for doing the Lord’s work, and abiding by His will, not mine.  I suspect this is a life-long challenge…sort of like dieting, and eating healthy.  We may fail miserably one day, but the next, we purposefully seek out the life-sustaining energy that comes from the conscious decision to listen to the One who feeds our souls.

What diet are you on, friend?  What are you eating?

“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” – John 4:34

Hollowness to Hallelujah

HannahHannah was very bitter. She sobbed and sobbed. She prayed to the Lord.  She made a promise to him. She said, “Lord, you rule over all. Please see how I’m suffering! Show concern for me! Don’t forget about me! Please give me a son! If you do, I’ll give him back to you. Then he will serve you all the days of his life. He’ll never use a razor on his head. He’ll never cut his hair.”

As Hannah kept on praying to the Lord, Eli watched her lips. She was praying in her heart. Her lips were moving. But she wasn’t making a sound.

Eli thought Hannah was drunk. He said to her, “How long will you keep on getting drunk? Get rid of your wine.”

“That’s not true, sir,” Hannah replied. “I’m a woman who is deeply troubled. I haven’t been drinking wine or beer. I was telling the Lord all of my troubles. Don’t think of me as an evil woman. I’ve been praying here because I’m very sad. My pain is so great.”  -1 Samuel 1:10-20  

Wow.  I’ve read these words before, but tonight, they seemed to jump out at me. The words Hannah exclaimed before the Lord are ones that most of us in equal pain have exclaimed.   The pleading, begging, and deep sorrow is one that is so poignantly written about in Scripture.  The feelings that Hannah expressed are ones that have been and still are translatable for many women throughout our history.

Bitterness, sorrow, sadness, suffering, troubled hearts, and painful days are all descriptive of the walk that so many women who find themselves barren are struggling through. They are told not to be bitter, and that their sorrow will turn to joy, but many find themselves without the sweet ending to their bitterness and sorrow.  They know their heart is troubled and that they are suffering, but still, they walk each day in faith with a heaviness unlike any other.

And the pain, oh the pain…They walk each step as if their hearts are being ripped out.  It is a deep and hollowing pain that comes along with barrenness.  It is one equal to the agony of a broken heart.  It is hard to describe, yet, so obviously felt by many.

As I read the words of Hannah tonight, I thought, “I once prayed just like her.  I once felt her bitterness, and her sobering sorrow.  I once suffered.  I once was troubled, and I truly pleaded with the Lord.”  

As a matter of fact, I distinctly remember calling out and surrendering to the Lord in my anguish with the words, “Father, you know my heart’s desire.  I trust Your will, Lord, but I just want a chance at being a mother.  I just want to experience what it feels like to hold a baby in my arms as a mother, if just for a moment.  Father, I want this.  I need this.”

Soon after this prayer, we received our first foster care placement of an infant boy whom we ended up adopting nearly two years later.  It was not long after this tear-filled pleading that I held a baby in my arms and felt the all-encompassing love of being a mother.  It was not long after this surrender that my heart stepped outside of itself, and suddenly, my entire world changed.  Everything changed.

The Lord has stifled my anguish three times over through the adoption of two sons, and one daughter.

If you are a Momma-in-Waiting, a modern-day Hannah, or a soul that is in despair, I know your pain must be great.  It is one that is held within the silent walls of your beating heart.  It is a heaviness that is rarely felt, except by others who are walking the same road.  I want you to know, though, that our Father in Heaven hears you. He sees your pain.  He knows your desires, and He has already prescribed your future.

Our God is the same God who heard the pleadings of Hannah.  He answered her prayer when she became pregnant and delivered Samuel.  The miraculous love of our Father is that He continues to answers the pleadings of His children.

He is not deaf to the misery of your heart.

I do not know what you are going through right now.  I do not know how the Lord will work it all out, but I know that faith during this difficult time is essential.  The footsteps you walk while you are facing the all-encompassing loneliness of infertility are ones that need to be taken in faith.

If you are overwhelmed in grief, lift up your heart and your hands to the Lord. Remind yourself of how the Lord answered Hannah’s prayer, and the prayers of a multitude of fellow sisters throughout history.  Remind yourself that YOU, my dear sister of an empty womb, YOU are precious in the sight of Your Father in Heaven.

May the Lord bless You.  May His glorious light rescue you from the darkness you are feeling surrounded by.  Like Hannah, may the God of all creation, answer your prayer, and create a miracle in your life.  Through the light, love, and promise of God, may the hardship of hollowness be turned to one that exclaims, “Hallelujah!”

At the Feet

IMG_2402I have been thinking about Jesus’s feet lately.  I know that sounds odd, but I keep thinking about His feet as He grew from infancy through the time of His death.  I visualize Him as a precious baby.  I see Mary as the doting mother who kisses them.  She must have washed them, played with His toes, and made sure he was wearing garments to protect them.  The pitter-patter His feet made when he was toddling around must have been sweet sounds to her ears.

Those tiny, and seemingly insignificant feet, were soft and beautiful in the sight of His Earthly parents.

They were the feet of an innocent babe.

As a young boy, His feet must have traversed mighty adventures.  They carried Him swiftly as He explored the terrain and discovered the world around Him.  Those feet were small, and seemingly insignificant, yet tough and capable of keeping up with a boy’s curious life.

They were the feet of a boy whose Earthly life was the fulfillment of a Promise.

As an adolescent and young man, those feet walked Him into places of worship. They carried Him throughout His time of learning.  Those feet were average, and seemingly insignificant, yet they carried a Savior who would soon declare Himself to the world.

They were the feet of a Sovereign and Wise young man.

As an adult, those feet; the ones who were kissed by His mother, whisked Him through times of play, and walked Him into places where His knowledge grew, were the same ones that held His tired body up as He achingly marched His way up to the hill where He bled out.

They were the feet of Sacrifice.

Those beautiful, torn, and weary feet were pierced and nailed to a tree.  They were ripped for us all.  They were witnesses to the most tragic, yet significant moment in time.

They were the feet of the Messiah.

Three days later, those same feet picked His body up, walked Him down a road, and held Him up as He fulfilled the promise of Resurrection.

Those eternal feet are the feet of the Risen Savior.

We are asked to be the feet of Jesus.  We are told to go to places where the least of these dwell.  We are directed to walk into the lands of strangers, and to carry our brothers who are fallen.  We are asked to walk in humility and service to others.

Yet, our feet will not be torn.  They will not be nailed.  They will not have redemptive blood trickling down them.  They will not witness the wail of a Savior’s cry, the tears of His mother, and the agony of pain felt.

Our feet will never leave the kind of print on the world that His did.  If we say we are the hands and feet of Jesus, what are we saying?  Do we fully understand the undertaking that is?

At the feet of Jesus, we find love that lasts, and grace that resonates deep within. Do others find that in us?

His feet.  His glorious and beautiful feet were nailed.  They were broken for us.  They paid it all.  

He paid it all.

His feet.  His weary and worn feet never lost sight of His vision.

His feet.  His glorious and broken feet walked Wisdom into this world.  They carried the breathing embodiment of  compassion that this world thirsts for.   

His feet took Him to strangers, met them where they were at, and impacted them in a miraculous way.

They were the feet of Salvation.

We are the feet of Jesus.  That is both an honor and a challenge.  Are we able to show compassion?  Do we desire to impact others in a way that feels miraculous to them?  

Will others find us at the feet of Jesus?

Related Post:  my scar, His Scars

Everything We Do Matters

photo913
Everything we do matters. This thought ran through my mind. It was one of those laundry-washing, Lysol-spraying kind of days. My daughter brought home a nasty little stomach bug from preschool. She was up nearly all night with it. Thankfully, the little critter successfully purged itself out of my daughter as it was purging everything…and I mean everything… she had eaten. (Sorry for the details, but I’m a mother, so nothing really grosses me out anymore.)

At one point during the morning, I took a break from my frantic, and probably futile, attempt at cleaning my home. As soon as I sat down on the couch, my daughter came over to me, snuggled up (even though I would have preferred her to be in a bubble), hugged my leg (because I wouldn’t let her hug my face), and said, “Thank you for taking care of me, Mommy.”  

Shortly after her soft “thank you”, I loosened up my need to stay as far away from her flu-bug infested body that I could. I snuggled up to her, and said, “You are welcome, Sweetie.  I’m your Mommy, and I’m supposed to take care of you.” As the day progressed, she started feeling better, and I went about my day trying to answer work emails, and wash whatever I could get my hands on. Her thankfulness resonated within my thoughts, though.

Lately, it seems my heart and head have been in somewhat of a whirlwind. I get the required tasks of the day completed, and then I exhale. This morning during church, as I was thinking about my children and what I needed to do for them, the Lord gently reassured this to me:

“You are also a child. You are My Child. Everything that you do matters.”

Sometimes, it seems easy to forget that we are children of the Lord. We get caught up in our troubles, desires, mistakes, and ego-driven need to succeed. We negate the trivial acts of the day, and focus on what we could do with our lives if we had more time, more money, and more power. We fail to remember that the smallest of tasks, if done in love, are often some of the most significant tasks of the day.

On the flip side of this, the things we fail to do matter as well. If we fail to be present with our children, loving to our spouses, unkind to our friendships, disloyal to our parents, and unfaithful to our Lord, the ramifications are great. Ultimately, to ignore the calling on our lives to serve others through our presence, prayer, service, and sharing of testimonies, could potentially mean the difference between life and death; earthly life, and earthly death, eternal life, and eternal death.

Friends and fellow believers, please don’t doubt your significance to this world, the lives of your children, your spouse, and your Heavenly Father. Please don’t forget that your presence and love even in the lives of strangers matter.

Jesus didn’t find you insignificant when He chose the Cross.

Everything we do matters.

Thirty Years Ago

Labor Day Weekend (United States) is usually one that most look forward to. The last hurrah of summer includes an extra day off from work with family and friends. Labor Day weekend evokes another remembrance in my life though.  It is the first memory of waking up in the hospital following my hysterectomy in 1983.

I remember waking up with my dad’s hand near my arm.  I remember opening my eyes just long enough to see him staring at the television.  I remember watching him quietly watch the Jerry Lee Lewis Labor Day Telethon….and that was it.  I closed my eyes, and fell back asleep.  I don’t know if it was day or night.  I don’t know how long he had been sitting there, or how long I had been asleep.  I don’t recall if I said anything, or if he did.  All I remember is quietly watching him stare at the television.

Thirty years ago, I became a survivor.  A survivor of a deadly bacterium.  A survivor of something rarely, if ever, seen in 1983.  It is incredible how a microscopic bacteria could wreak havoc, nearly claim a life, and leave in its wake, a life forever changed.

Labor Day weekend marked the beginning of a different life story.  It was the beginning of a journey marred with confusion, loss, and silence.  My parents suffered great loss as they watched me fight to stay alive.  They knew that staying alive was only part of the struggle….the temporary part.  Infertility would stay.

Today, as I sat around our table with my parents, husband, and children eating lunch, I thought about this weekend and what it meant for my life.  As I sat with my daughter at the doctor today (she’s fine), I thought about my own parents sitting by my bedside with worry as their greatest companion.  As I watched my son playing in a creek at a local park, I thought about the first time I laid eyes on him, and exhaled.  As I put the little one to bed, I hugged on him a little longer than usual, and told I loved him a few extra times.

Thirty years ago, I was a young girl waking up to the image of my father by my hospital bed.  I fought a deadly illness, and won.  The battle was not over though.  In many ways, it had just begun.

Through the years I’ve learned that life is partly what is written or ordained to happen, and mostly what you make of it.  What I mean is that it is easy to “throw in the towel”, rely on your own crutch of victimization, wallow in self-pity, and lose faith.  It is far too easy to say, “Well, life is unfair.”

I do not believe that the Lord wants us to be victims.  He does not want us to stifle His light because of what we have been through.  Through the past thirty years, I’ve learned to trust, hope, and to dare to envision dreams coming true through His grace.  photo

Through him we have also obtained  access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the  glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that  suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character  produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been  poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to  us.
-Romans 5:2-5

this is how I love you

It has been one of those weeks, or two with my almost 7-year-old son.  I’m not sure what it is – start of school, sudden warm weather (we’ve had a mild summer for Missouri until recently), allergies, hyperactivity….not sure.  There has been moments this past week or so that I’ve thought, “What am I going to do with him?!?!”  

I’ve been disappointed with some of his choices, concerned about some of his actions, and prayed for the Lord’s continual healing and protection of his life.  I realize as a parent that this is probably the most loving thing I can do for him.  I also recognize that I’m not alone in my concerns.  Many parents, if not all, digest their children’s actions and choices on a daily basis.

A few days ago while riding in the car, my son started singing a song on the radio. The faint, slightly off-key voice of my young boy caught my attention.  It did more than cause me to pause a while and listen.  His small voice stirred my heart a bit.  It was during this time that I became overwhelmed by the power of love.

Love forgives the past.  Love moves us away from disappointments.  Love enters our hearts, and seeps out of every pore in our bodies.  

I am overwhelmed by just how much I love him, my daughter, and my littlest one.  I may not ever be able to “fix” all of the struggles they have.  I’m not even sure if I should anyway.  I may not understand fully what it is like to live life walking in their skins.

I know I will never be able to completely fill the blank spaces in their histories, or write their stories in a way that will bring total comfort, but….I love them.  Even in my disappointments, moments of utter frustration, and moments of joy, the one thing that doesn’t change is my heart’s commitment to who they are, and who the Lord has ordained me to be in their lives.

As I continued driving and listening to his sweet little voice stumbling over words he didn’t know, I felt the Lord saying to me,

“Caroline, this is how I have heard you through the years.  I’ve heard your imperfect voice.  This is how I see you.  I’ve seen your choices.  This is what I feel for you, and all of my beloved children.  I’ve rejoiced for you, and cried with you.  This is how I love you, and always will.”

In those times when we disappoint, or we make bad choices, or maybe we reach that place of throwing our hands up and giving in, His Love – the most significant, unexplained, miraculous, life-changing, hope-sustaining, and compassionate love – has not changed, nor will it.

Through all of life’s challenges and changes, times of peace and times of war, mountain-tops and valleys, trials and talents, and sounds and silences, His love remains.  His love is the one true constant, never-changing presence of our histories.  It is the unchanging backbone of our present, and it is the eternal, life-preserver for our future.

Deuteronomy 7:9 
9 Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands.

Awesome….thank you, Father.

Dear Teacher I Barely Know

Dear Teacher I Barely Know,

I dropped my first grader off in your room yesterday.  Truth be told, I didn’t want to leave the room.  I wanted to sit with him, introduce him to some kids he didn’t know, and help him understand that first grade is different from Kindergarten.

I wanted to help him unpack his belongings, check his backpack again, remind him about his lunch, and stay with him.  I wanted to be with him on the playground during recess.  I wanted to stand up for him if I needed to, explain to the other kids how amazing he is, and fill them in on how he doesn’t worry too much about what others think about his interests, or lack there of.  I wanted to shout at the top of my lungs, “I LOVE THIS BOY!”

Dear Teacher I Barely Know, please help me understand how he learns.  Help me understand his struggles, his successes, and his potential.  In return, I’ll give you insight into his world.  I’ll share his talents, his interests, and his needs.  We need each other.  We have a lot to teach each other, but even more to learn from each other.

I need to hear from you about his time at school.  I want you to hear from me that my first grader is complicated, amazing, impulsive, creative, misunderstood at times, and deeply cherished.  I want you to know how much he has colored my world with every shade of love possible.  I need you to know that I would do anything for him, including holding him accountable for his actions.

I want you to see my son for who he is…all of him…not just the blonde-haired boy sitting in the front row of your classroom.  Do you know that there is no place he’d rather be than on the lake with his Papa?  Do you know that he really isn’t into sports, but excels at gymnastics?  Are you aware that he’d rather dig up worms, and watch fishing shows than sit in front of a video game?  Do you know that he draws pictures for me just about everyday?

Do you know that he has already cried, and described his day at school as being “hard”?  Do you know that his three best buddies from Kindergarten moved to another school this year?  Are you aware that he doesn’t have a lot of friends outside of school, except the girl down the street, and few at the lake who visit when he sees his Papa?  Do you know that he asked me the day before school started to remind him again of the kids who might play with him?

Do you know how much that breaks a mother’s heart?  Are you aware that I leave a piece of my heart at the door each time I drop him off at school?

Dear Teacher I Barely Know, I don’t expect you to invite the Lord into your classroom, but I have.  I’ve asked Him to wrap each child with arms of protection.  I’ve prayed that He would be in the midst of your interactions, your lessons, and your set of challenges.  I’ve asked Him to show kindness, gentleness, and love through the actions of others.  I’ve prayed for you, other students, and my son.

Dear Teacher I Barely Know, you have a tough job.  I don’t envy you, and I certainly don’t know if I could spend my days like you do.  I want you to know that I don’t expect you to treat my son better than any other child.  I know how deeply each child is loved by his or her parents.  I know other parents must wonder how their children are at school.  I’m sure other parents worry about friendships, peer pressure, bullying, and loneliness.  Surely other parents pray for their children, and desire more than anything that their children will learn, grow, and pursue happiness.

I trust you.  I know you must love children.  I know you have years of experience with kids just like my son, but I do not.  I’m still learning how to be a parent.  I’m learning that my kids’ needs change with each year, and that life doesn’t get easier as they grow up.  I’m still making mistakes, needing do-overs, and learning not to sweat the small stuff.

Dear Teacher I Barely Know, we share something very special in common.  We are teachers, models, and disciplinarians to the same child.  We are both set out to understand, shape, and encourage the same child.  We may barely know each other, but are now connected through this wonderful boy.   I’m here for you.  I support you.  I will back you up when you need it, but I will also defend my son when he needs it.

Dear Teacher I Barely Know, welcome to my world.  Welcome to my son.

trust Him more

“I know God would not give me more than I can handle, I just wish He didn’t trust me so much!”  Have you ever felt this way before?  It seems to be a popular thing to say or think when facing hard times.  I sure have said it, thought it, and even cried it out during my life.

In my later teens/early twenties, I used to wonder why God allowed barrenness to enter my life the way it did.  There were many times when my search for an answer that made sense seemed to end in even more confusion.  People would tell me that God wouldn’t put anything in my life that I wasn’t strong enough to handle.  While these words were meant to be comforting, they were not.  I didn’t want to be strong enough.  I wanted to be a parent.

Who wants to be strong enough to handle infertility anyway?  

I’ve been thinking about the saying referenced above all day, and have come to the conclusion that we may have it backwards.  We may think that God needs to be able to trust us.  I don’t think He does.  I believe He desires for us to trust Him, and to step out in faith during the hardships.  The blessings and the heart-breaks we receive in life are not based on the condition of whether we are worthy of being trusted.

In 2007, while fostering our son, I was overcome by so much doubt about my role as a foster parent, the struggle with not knowing what would happen in the future, and the failure to believe that I could be strong enough to handle the potential heartbreak of losing the precious baby we had come to love so much.  I knew that there were some very important decisions that needed to be made.  I knew that the professional team involved had to carefully consider reunification with the birth parents, and possible placement with a relative; still yet, I longed for an answer that was marred by the juvenile justice system and time.  It was not black and white.  We were living in the gray.

During this time, I went to my pastor, and asked him a question that pastors may cringe when being asked.  “Why does it feel like God is always testing me? Have I not proven to be faithful?”, I asked with tears rolling down my cheeks.  There I was, slumped down in the chair, with tear-stained cheeks, and the look of longing written all over my face.  He sat back in his chair, let out a gentle sigh, put his hands together as if he was about to pray, and then said,

“Caroline, God is who created you.  He is the one who set your limits.  He would never put you in a position that would push you past the limits He has already established for you.”

I sat there for a moment, examining his face and his words.  I allowed them to soak into me.  His words were like lightning to my thoughts.  They broke through the darkness of where my mind had been taking me, and in a flash, I realized that it is not about if God trusts me during hardships, but whether or not I trusted Him.

These words buried themselves into my heart, and I carried them with me for the remainder of my foster care and adoption journey.  Even now, I am reminded of this when facing situations that appear to be pushing me towards an edge that I fear falling off of.  I think of them when exhausted, when worried, and when struggling to make hard decisions.

If you are facing infertility, or hardships right now in your life, picture yourself being molded and shaped by the most loving Hands.  Picture those Hands drawing your world around you, illustrating and scripting each step of your day; and each moment, both big and small, of your life.  Imagine glorified Breath whispering words of hope into the air you breathe in.  Imagine a Father walking in front, beside, and behind you throughout your life.

This Father…THE Father…is not in the business of setting traps.  He does not wish for you to fall off the edge.  The next time you are facing a difficult moment in life, picture God wrapping around you.  You are His blessed creation.  He knows your limits because He is the one who created them.

Maybe during difficult times, we should all practice saying,

“I know God wouldn’t give me more than I can handle, I just need to trust Him more.”

Sounds a bit different, doesn’t it?

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.  He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.  Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;  but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. -Isaiah 40:28-31

Thoughts about last Monday

I thought twice about writing this one.  I’ve thought even more about posting it.  Actually, I had convinced myself not to write or post it, but upon waking this morning,  I just could not escape the thoughts trapped in my head yearning to be released.  So, here I go….

My intention is not to hurt anyone or be offensive.  My thoughts after last Monday have been “all over the place”.  I want to come away from this post feeling that I’ve taken a tragic situation that the bombing at the Boston Marathon was, and turned my feelings of anger into introspection about where we are as Americans…not just Americans, but Christian Americans.  A part of me feels as though I do not have the right to have an opinion.  Another part of me deeply wonders if I would feel the same way if my spouse, children, mother, father, sister or friends were victims of the attack.  Honestly, I do not know, and pray I will never know what it feels like to be looking at tragedies like these from the inside out.

Like most Americans, I was angry when I saw what happened.  I was worried that there would be more attacks, and I felt sadness for the loss of life and liberty for so many people on that day.  I heard calls for prayer for the victims, the city of Boston, and for our nation.  I did not hear anyone call for prayer for the perpetrators of this act.  My thoughts, (although I did not express them out loud to others at the time), were perhaps we should pray for the perpetrators as well.  Why shouldn’t we pray for them?

Matthew 5:44 – But I say to you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which spitefully use you, and persecute you;

As the events of Friday played out on the television screen, I was shocked to hear how young both men were.  The youngest brother is only 12 & 1/2 years older than my son.  I do not know all of the details of how these two brothers came to the place where they chose hatred.  I cannot comprehend knowingly setting a bomb by anyone and walking away.  I also could not help but feel pity for them.  I pity them for being lost in the mix of hatred and confusion.

They had their whole lives ahead of them.  One was a young father, and the other, just barely an adult.  Now, one is dead, and the other might face death through the justice system.  Please hear me say this loud and clear, I definitely want justice for the victims. I definitely want a trial to be held.  I definitely love our country.  I find it a blessing to live in a country that is free.  I still cannot escape the “what if’s” of these young men’s lives.

What if the chaos they must have felt in their hearts was replaced with the love of Christ?  What if Christians in their communities and schools would have ministered to them through friendships, love, and prayer?  What if they would have been embraced by Christians in a way that left them no doubt who the Lord of love is?  What if….?

There has been a multitude of Facebook posts about the incident.  Some have been deep prayerful desires for healing, while others have been about seeking vengeance on this young man, and any other that would cause harm to our nation. If I didn’t know better, I would wonder if we (American Christians) put our country before our Lord, our patriotism before our prayers, and our flag before our faith. Again, I think of what Scripture says.

Romans 12:19 – Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.

I know it is cliché to ask it, but, “What would Jesus do?”  Sometimes this question is asked rhetorically when determining whether or not to give change to the homeless man on the corner, or to turn the other cheek when facing opposition.  I challenge myself to ask this question when faced with the seemingly unforgivable acts like the one committed nearly a week ago.

I know that my words may alienate some readers.  I hope not.  Writing my thoughts out has become my way of working through times that might cause a stumble in my  faith.  I challenge you, fellow writers and readers, to consider what the Lord would ask of us during this time, and any other.  What is our Christian response supposed to be in times like these?

Our instinct is to seek revenge, but I pray that we would seek a deeper relationship with our Lord, and with each other – friend and foe.