Mother’s Day: Journeying, Resting, and Looking

A Weighty Load

Twenty-four years ago, I lost my mother to breast cancer. I was fourteen. For many years, Mother’s Day was very difficult; it was a holiday each calendar year which magnified the saddest piece of my story: I was motherless. I was a young woman, a child even. When I was younger, the only way I knew how to cope with being motherless was to carry the weightiness of my grief alone. Loneliness and believing the lie that I was suffering in my motherlessness alone left me stuck in my grief and unable to move (or even inch) forward. No amount of human effort nor earthly courage could ever free me from my pain.

But God.

God radically changed me when I was twenty-one years old. This change in me was not a quick fix nor an abrupt ending to my motherless grief, but it was the beginning of a new journey. A journey of walking through my grief while being connected to Christ.

Carrying my grief alone for so long left me weary and stuck, it was only when I shared the weightiness of my grief with Christ that I could begin to find freedom from my weighty load and rest for my weary heart (Matthew 11:28-30).

Come to Him

This world is not the way it is supposed to be. Perhaps you are not motherless. Maybe you’re estranged from your mother. Maybe you have lost a child. Maybe you long to have a child. Maybe you grieve because you wish you had been a better mother. There are one thousand different ways one can know this world is broken and not the way God intended it to be.

However you may experience brokenness, worldly brokenness leads to holy anticipation.

Our worldly wounds lead us to a wonderful Savior. Jesus understands the pains of life in this world because Jesus put on flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14). Jesus wept with compassion when Lazarus died (John 11:35). Jesus was betrayed by close friends (Matthew 26:47-50). Jesus’s soul was filled with sorrow (Matthew 26:38). Jesus was beaten, mocked, and suffered on the cross (Matthew 27).

Those who are in Christ can come to Jesus with their wounds because Jesus understands pains and sorrows. Worldly brokenness is an invitation to come to Jesus.

Rest in His Power

Those who are connected to Christ possess the power of Christ in them by the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul wrote in Ephesians 3:16-17 that “God strengthens Christ-followers with power in their inner being so Christ may dwell in the hearts of those who know Him through faith.” This word for dwelling in the Greek is a permanent dwelling, meaning Jesus has settled down in the hearts of His followers permanently. If you believe in Jesus, you have the power of Christ in you—permanently! The same power that raised Christ from the dead lives in the hearts of those who know Him. This supernatural power can conquer any worldly sorrow and chip away the starkness of the most stubborn grief.

Healing from worldly sorrows and unmet longings is a journey and it’s a journey that is not on a tidy-human timeline. Transformational healing is not of this world. In 2 Corinthians 3, Paul wrote that transformation happens as we are moved from one degree of glory to another. It’s a life-long journey which requires resting in Christ’s power in you and hopefully waiting for His redemptive Work to be displayed in your life. This is a moment by moment journey of resting, hoping, and waiting.

As We Wait We Look

I am certain many of you approach Mother’s Day with a grieving heart of some sort. My suffering in this world is not identical to everyone’s suffering. But to suffer in the now and the not-yet of this lifetime is something that unites us as humans on the journey. Almost everyone on the journey is walking toward heaven limping and wounded.

What can we do as we journey together?

We can look up. We can look up and remember the God of the universe is with us on the journey.

We can look back. We can look back at our past wounds with the power of Christ in us a rightly lament that this world is not the way it is supposed to be.

We can look around. We can look around and see who is walking wounded alongside us. This helps us remember that we are not alone on the journey. We can also look around and rejoice in the redemption God is already weaving into our hearts and lives. For me, looking around means rejoicing in the blessings God has given to me on the journey and recognizing small degrees of glory as His transforming power in my heart.

We can look to the future. We can look forward with a holy anticipation that we will not always suffer the pains of this world. We can live with the long view of hope that in Christ, God is making all things new (Rev 21:5).

Mother’s Day is a mixture of beauty and brokenness—so is all of life. However you may approach this day: you are not alone. There are many with you on the journey. One day all the hurts of motherlessness and motherhood will be redeemed and restored.

Until that glorious day, find rest in Christ’s power in you and keep looking up, looking back, looking around, and looking long with hope.

The Mist of Motherhood

Today I am over on the enCourage Blog sharing about laundry and the mistiness of motherhood.

See the beginning of the piece below and click on the link to read the rest.

If I am being completely honest, laundry is my least favorite household chore. Like Mary Poppins, I can find an element of fun in most jobs that must be done around the house. But when it comes to laundry, I long for a fairy godmother’s power to simply swoosh away the piles of dirty clothes.

Being a mom to four means my laundry basket is always full and sock-matching seems never-ending. We have forty-two pairs of socks in a week’s worth of laundry; the odds of finding all eighty-four socks in the same week are slim. In the new heavens and the new earth, when Christ returns to redeem and restore all things, I have a holy anticipation that socks will no longer go missing. I am convinced sock causalities must have something to do with the Fall.

Read the rest on the enCourage Blog: https://women.pcacdm.org/the-mist-of-motherhood/

Twenty-Three Years, Loss, and Popcorn Trees

The first week of April is always breathtaking on my small suburban street in Southwest Ohio. Bradford Pear trees flank the sides of the road and the white blossoms are in full bloom. To some of the senses, the blooming trees are irritating—the allergy sufferers in my home have itchy eyes and sniffly noses—while breathtaking to the eye, the trees’ blooms are in juxtaposition in the way they are breathtaking to the nose.

For as long as we have lived on this street, our family refers to these first-week-of-April beauties as popcorn trees; when my babies were small one of them mentioned the blooms looked like popcorn and the name stuck . . . probably always will as they grow.

The changing of seasons is a reminder to me of God’s faithfulness and consistency. Every fall I can expect the October Glory in our front yard to be awe-strikingly orange and every April I can expect the popcorn trees to be in full bloom.

“For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven,” (Ecclesiastes 3:1).

For me, the popcorn trees come with reminders of beauty and reminders of great loss. Every year, the first week of April comes with wrestling and reminders of springs past. My mother lost her battle with breast cancer so many years ago, this year will mark twenty-three years—I was fourteen, she was forty-one.

I can hardly believe it—the time in calendar years and days feels long, but to my own heart, twenty-three years have passed quite quickly. Every April 7th comes faster than the one before it, the grief contained in an awkward package that stretches decades, but cradled in what seems like moments.

The years have changed me. Especially the recent years we have lived life among the popcorn trees on our current suburban road.

Alongside the consistency of the early April blooms, God has been consistently faithful and good. Our circumstances have not always been easy, but God has always been faithful and good. God has provided seasons of joy, seasons of healing, seasons of loss, and seasons of pain. God is changing me and His faithfulness to me remains the same.

For God’s own glory, He has foreordained whatsoever comes to pass. He foreordains the seasons and every matter under heaven. To my human mind, I can’t always know or predict what God is up to—but my theology reminds me what God is up to is for His glory, not my own glory, but His glory.

The losses experienced on earth will pale in comparison to the gains of glory in eternity. “For this light and momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,” (2 Corinthians 4:17). When I think about twenty-three years, the affliction of loss is long, but fleeting. Earthly afflictions are preparing Christ-followers for heavy glory.

Even with good theology, I admit, I stumble in the losses. I believe, but like the father who comes to Jesus to heal his son in the gospels, I believe, but I need the power of Christ to help my unbelief (Mark 9:24). When the losses on earth break my heart, I am weak—but I am confident in the power of the spirit that works within me, “the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us,” (2 Corinthians 4:7).

Though I stumble, Christ is the only thing that enables me to rise. He is my hope, my banner, my shield, and my very great reward.

After a season of recent loss, the popcorn trees are a visual reminder of God’s faithfulness to heal, redeem, and restore all things. The healing may take decades, but one day I will look back and it will feel like merely moments. On the journey, I can choose to see the beauty in the blossoms or get caught up in the stink that strives to overcome the beauty. Twenty-three years ago, I never imagined God would bring me to where I am now—and though I stumble, I know I am living a life that would bring my mother great joy.

I pray and hope in the next season—God is doing more than I could ask or think, even when I cannot see. He will be glorified in the joys, the healing, the loss, and the pain. He is near and faithful. His consistency in creation reminds me that He never stops working and His promises are true.

In moments of great loss, it is a gift to be able to find beauty among the stink. He creates beauty out of brokenness and He will be glorified because He is faithful and good. By His power we can truly heal and be restored.

THE SCHOOL OF SOVEREIGNTY: HEART PREPARATION FOR AN UNCERTAIN SCHOOL YEAR

Today, I am over at the enCourage Blog, sharing about how I am preparing my heart for this back to school year. 

Honestly, when I was asked to write this post, the first thought that came to mind was, “I am an unlikely person to write an encouraging article about going back to school.”

I prefer the predictable. I am quite uncomfortable in the unknown. I still order chicken nuggets with a coke “no ice” at restaurants because chicken nuggets with a coke “no ice” was what I ordered at fast food restaurants as a child. I seldom swim in oceans, lakes, or rivers because I am not exactly certain which creatures may be swimming near my feet. I struggle when I cannot see every nook and cranny of the waters in which I am swimming.

So, now you know my secrets and why I am an unlikely author for this post. I would rather live everyday like it was Groundhog Day—again. When it comes to uncertainty in my life, there is a gospel gap between my theology and the way I live in the unknown.

Read the rest https://women.pcacdm.org/the-school-of-sovereignty-heart-preparation-for-an-uncertain-school-year/

The Unknown, Fear, and Hope

In a few days I will be asleep from 8:30am to 3:30pm in an operating room. As a mom to four children to sleep seven straight hours during the day feels like a dream come true. As a control-freak monster, laying still and unconscious for seven hours straight feels terrifying.

I have had four scheduled c-sections and even then, I would tell my OB over the curtain that it was taking him a little too long to sew me back up.

In the unknown, I feel so much fear and hope tangled up together.

There have been many seasons in my life where I have ignored fear and pushed it aside, believing that the acknowledgment of fear was connected with personal weakness or a not-good enough faith. Only pushing the fear aside in the name of faith actually gave fear more power to linger and remain tangled up in my heart.

Fear is a real thing. the Bible says “fear not” three hundred and sixty five times because fear is real and we humans need reminding when we experience fear in real life. This bilateral prophylactic mastectomy is a big-deal-real thing and I am scared, my children are scared, and my husband is scared. Fear in this situation is a part of the process we are walking in. I have had to feel fear, and I have encouraged my children to feel the fear as well. We are letting fear in, looking fear in the face, while crying and praying with one another—but at the same time we are also trying to embrace power, love, and self-control.

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

—2 Timothy 1:7 (ESV)

We are human so we fear, but we also are spiritual and connected to God through Jesus and His Spirit who lives in us so we also have hope. This is where and how fear and hope seem so tangled up together. There is a tension between the fear threads and the hope threads tangled up in human hearts.  

So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to fear, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. —Galatians 5:16-17 (NLT paraphrased)

What is hope? Hope is believing that God is good and trusting him when we cannot see in the unknown. When our human minds are fearing, weary, and cannot wrap themselves around why something is good, this is when hope takes over. Hope is believing that God is renewing us in the hard things—hope is believing that God is renewing the whole world through the hard things.

You can see fear and hope tangled up together in Lamentations 3:

Remember my affliction and my wanderings,
the wormwood and the gall (extreme bitterness).
My soul continually remembers it
and is bowed down within me
But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”

Fear not is not as easy as it sounds. Fear is real. But fear should not be ignored. Fear should be felt and shredded through the power of the gospel. Facing fear and saying “I am weak and I am scared, but I am hopeful that God is good in the hard things.” This is what my renewed view of strength looks like. I am looking fear in the face and saying “I feel you and I see you, and I am weak and scared, but God’s power—his love, his grace, his faithfulness and his mercies—is bigger than my human fear.

Currently I am shredding this human fear through the gospel on a daily, moment-by-moment basis. I’m feeling the fear, dealing with it, and unraveling it away with truth from God’s Word. Then trying to slowly walk—one step at a time—like a broken vessel—in hope of a renewal that I cannot see. This process is on-going and happens several times a day.

In the unknown, fear and hope feel so tangled up together, but in the gospel, there is great power over fear.

I am fighting to feel his hope and his peace as I unravel the fear tangled up in my heart as I walk into a big deal thing next week. Thank you for praying and for surrounding me and my family on this hard place journey.

Big deal thing is scheduled on Monday, November 5th from 8:30a-3:30p (EST). We will update when we are on the other side.

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