Due Date

Tomorrow was the due date for my most recently miscarried baby. I didn’t have the date memorized this time, but I had excitedly put it on my calendar back in December and forgot it was there until earlier this week. And each time I looked at it, I couldn’t bring myself to delete it. So it’s been just sitting there as a reminder, not really affecting me, just there. But today, as I was talking to a pregnant friend, grief hit me. I was supposed to be preparing for a hospital stay right now. I was supposed to be a glowing pregnant woman. I was supposed to have the cute baby bump.

And while I cry and grieve a little more today over the baby we lost, I also wait to meet my new adopted son or daughter, and that brings me so much joy and anticipation! While adoption was always a “some day” for us, it was this miscarriage that finally encouraged us to stop waiting and pursue it. And now, we are in the adoption waiting pool. Only 7 months after we started the process, we were approved. We have good days and we have hard days. Days of excitement and thinking about getting THE phone call, and days of tears or disappointment over no missed phone calls.

Someday soon, we will get the call that we have been waiting for. Someday soon, we will get to hold our baby and all the tears and all the uncertainty will finally be worth it. Someday soon I will get to see my amazing husband become a daddy. But for now, we claim contentment sitting in the waiting. Not having a due date on the calendar. Thankful for where we are at in this moment and what has brought us here.

If you have not seen it already or would like to see the most recent update, you can visit our Adoption Website here.

Grief

Screen Shot 2016-12-22 at 7.31.06 AMI’m sitting in an airport as I make my way back to NY for a perfect, white Christmas. Just a week ago, I was telling a co-worker how sincerely grateful I was to get to spend Christmas Day with our families. It was like a dream come true. In 7 years of marriage, the two of us have not been with our families together on Christmas morning even once. But now that the day is here, I don’t feel excitement, I feel numb. I feel incapable of being excited. I want that excitement back, but it’s been replaced with grief.

IMG_3959Four days ago, I woke up at a healthy 6 weeks pregnant. I excitedly got ready for church, took my first official pregnancy-belly picture, kissed my cold-ridden husband goodbye, and headed out the door. I remember standing in the back row during worship singing the song “Great Are You Lord”. I remember being so prompted by The Spirit and in the moment just kept singing “you give life and you take away, you create life and you know when it ends.” I just kept singing those words over my baby, feeling the Lord so near, and thinking I was singing those words to celebrate this life. But not even minutes later, I found myself in the bathroom stall starting to lose the baby. “Not again,” I thought. “This one was supposed to be it!” I rushed home to my husband, tears streaming down my face, hoping that if I just laid down for a few hours, everything would be OK. That I wouldn’t lose this baby too, two years after losing our first baby. For a little while, we both thought we were in the clear. The spotting had slowed, I didn’t feel intense cramps. But then, I lost it. Into the toilet that little baby fell, not even the size of a quarter, and yet so amazingly and perfectly formed already. I could see his little eyes starting to form, his head, his body, his limbs that didn’t quite look like limbs, but you could see where they were coming out. That amazing little life that lived for 6 weeks in my womb, had already flipped my world upside down. We were going to have a baby! And the timing was perfect, we were going to surprise both families at Christmas. But now, now I’m left with an empty heart, a confused mind, an empty womb that is still shedding it’s contents 4 days after, as if I needed the hourly reminder that my baby died. It just feels cruel.

My husband graciously sat with me on that bathroom floor and held me, a hot-mess of a grieving momma, staring at my lost baby, unable to do or say anything but ugly-cry. And now as the last few days have come and passed, I don’t know that I feel much different. I’m unpredictable. I’m hormonal. I’m grieving. In one moment I can simultaneously feel sad for the loss, angry that God didn’t protect my baby, empty with nothing to give to people, and yet not wanting to just dump this on a stranger who I feel is being ungracious to me in my hidden grief. They should just know, right? So I push through my day with a smile on my face and anger inside. All the feels. I’ll turn my back just for a moment so I can sneak in some tears, and then turn around and smile again. I feel cautious about spending the next 10 days in NY because I just don’t know what I will feel up to each day. I don’t know who I’m going to snap at next. I feel angry towards the people who haven’t been gracious with me in the last 48 hours, because they should just know better.

I sat with a sweet friend of mine over lunch the other day, and after listening to me cry and vent for a while, she reminded me that in every one of these awful grief situations I’ve experienced the last several years, God is giving me even more of a capacity to be gracious towards others. It’s not a bandaid to try to cover up the pain, it’s just the truth. Walking through grief and death and pain is something I will never choose. We don’t get the choice, right? But we get the choice on how to respond to it. How to respond IN it. I have to chose to see God’s goodness and mercy, even when it seems unreachable. I have to choose to speak God’s truth in my mind when all I want to do is scream at Him because I don’t understand why. And choosing that mindset isn’t because it makes us feel better. Believe me, I feel like crap. I just lost a baby, that’s going to take time to heal. But I know the importance of choosing to see God for who He is and to speak that truth over my heart. And when I don’t have the strength to do that, I have friends praying it over me. Praying that someday, God will give me understanding. That someday, when our home is filled with children, I will see His perfect timing in my story. But for now, it’s ok to let go of the expectations and just grieve. To be gracious with myself foremost, so that I can be gracious with others. It’s the only way to grow.

“For I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with the full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.”  ~Philippians 1:19-20

 

 

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Choosing Joy

Choose Joy“Choosing joy is being able to see God’s goodness even when life is hard and messy.” This was a quote that popped up in my news feed this morning. And as I read it, I had flash backs of the past few months. They have been hard. Brutal, actually. One of those seasons where life just won’t cut us a break. When one problem gets addressed, three more pop up in it’s place.

It’s tiring. Life has been draining. And God wants me to be joyful? In this? Joyful when our income doesn’t even make the bills each month? Joyful when my body is weak from months of constant sickness? Joyful as I watch my husband struggle to find a job? Joyful when I don’t know if we will be able to afford groceries this week?

And then He whispers… “But do you trust Me?”

Well, yeah…but I need you to fix these things. Fix them, God! They are keeping me from being able to worship you. From living a life whole-heartedly for you. They are distracting. All-consuming. If you would just take these things, then life could be right.

“But life is right.” He whispers again. ” You are right where I need you. Right where you have no other choice but to trust me. To stand back and watch me provide for you. To stand back and watch me be your strength when your body has none. To watch life unfold and know there is no other explanation but God.”

And then He moves in. And not only does He provide for me, He provides abundantly. He provides so lovingly, because thats who He is. In the past two weeks, there has been one provision after another. Gift cards, checks, anonymous cash, friends filling the back seat of our car with groceries. Friends filling our cabinets with food and our freezer with meat. Answered prayers for direction and unity between my husband and I. A phone call asking if I needed some part-time income, and another possible part-time job already in the works. He blesses me, even when I come to Him in my doubt and my anxiousness. He provides so lovingly, not because I have done anything to deserve his love, but because He first loved me.

And then He directed me to this verse. One of the first verses I ever memorized as a kid. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6) Life never looks the way we think it will. And there is never going to be a time on this earth that there aren’t trials. I find that when I try to rely on my own understanding, and my own direction, that’s when I get frustrated. Angry. Bitter. But when I am willing to step back and let Him lead, all of a sudden his peace floods my heart. He gives me His peace in the midst of uncertainty. He gives me His joy in the midst of constant trials. Having God’s joy doesn’t mean that life makes sense, or that it even looks the way I thought it was supposed to. It means that we choose to see his goodness even when life doesn’t make sense. That doesn’t come naturally to any of us, that’s why it’s called a choice.  A choice to trust Him and accept his joy. “May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)

A New Year’s Prayer

A New Year's PrayerAs every new year approaches, we start to analyze the past year. We want to fix what we didn’t like about the previous year and set tangible goals for a better you in the new year. I have a past of saying, “THIS is the year I am going to eat healthier and workout more frequently than I did last year.” Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. When I don’t reach those goals, I feel bad about myself and may even spiral towards depression. When I do meet those goals, I feel better about myself, but not ultimately happy. Meeting a goal or checking something off a list can’t be what brings happiness in our life. So I started taking a new approach to these new years resolutions: asking God for one word that will speak life into this next year. This next season. This next chapter.

I started doing this two years ago. In 2014, the word He gave me was Sabbath. God wanted to teach me what true, deep rest looked like. What resting in Him really looks like, not resting in my circumstances. So I clung to that word. I clung to Jesus. I clung to Him when my husband was fighting in a war for a year while I was here alone. I clung to Him when my husband came home but our marriage felt like it was falling apart. I clung to Him when we finally got pregnant but immediately suffered a miscarriage. But God still gave me rest in the midst of it all. He taught me about Sabbath rest. He gave me rest, because He is good.

In 2015, the word He gave me was Hope. And again, He saw the year ahead of me and knew that was exactly what I needed. To learn to hope only in God. To learn that I can hope in God, no matter how rough life seems. He gave me Hope that He was going to restore a broken marriage and breathe new life, in ways I didn’t even dream would ever come. And He did. He then told me to Hope in a new career for my husband and a new life to come. So we started dreaming about what could be next. God released my husband from his life in the military and told him to get out and start moving towards something else. So we did. Then He told me to Hope in His perfect plan for starting a family. And while it was a hard year of infertility and unsuccessful IUI treatments, He has still given me Hope. He provided us with doctors and specialists who are doing everything they can to help us, He provided new friendships this year with couples who have walked the same journey or are currently walking through infertility and who can honestly understand what we are going through. That is Hope. Hope that God sees me right where I am. Hope for so much better to come someday. Hope because of a God who sacrificed it all so that I could live.

As we approach 2016, I have been praying and asking God for a new word for this new year. And He confirmed it to me: Joy. I was given the chance to lead our church in worship just a few weeks ago, and go figure, it was the week we light the Advent candle of Joy. God asked me to spill my guts that morning in front of hundreds of people to tell them about our infertility story. To share that even when life is hard, even when it doesn’t look the way we expect it to, God is the source of our joy. Pure joy. God has been holding my hand every single step of the way these last few years. God has seen my tears and cried with me in the pain. And yet because He is enough, because He is so much bigger than my pain, he so graciously gives me a heart that worships Him even in the trials. Even when I don’t know the outcome. He gives that joy to each one of us. A heart that can trust Him and be joyful because He is good.

So my New Year’s prayer is that I would live this next year focusing on that word He has given me. To live a year full of joy, not because of my circumstances, but in the midst of my circumstances. That it would be a contagious joy. That it would be a joy that points people right back to the Lord.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

 

Original image found here

What To Expect With IUI

What To Expect With IUIThis summer, my husband and I started the process of fertility testing and trying to find a solution to years of not being able to have a baby. To say it has been an emotional rollercoaster for me is an understatement. My husband has been an amazing support to me through it, and while he does not always feel the same attachment and hopes every month that I do, the let downs and discouragement that he feels are from watching his wife go through such a rollercoaster. He hates watching me go through it, and has been such an incredible support in it with me. I can’t imagine doing this journey without him.

Over the past 6 months, our doctor ran numerous tests on both of us, and came up with what everyone thought was a guaranteed solution: that we would do one IUI procedure and come out pregnant. Not with one baby, but with multiples. That’s how sure they were that it was going to work. Well, that procedure came and went, expectations were not met, and here we are trying procedures again in hopes that eventually it will work. Fertility Treatments fall into such unknown territory for so many of us, and yet day after day as I sit in the waiting room, I count the number of couples that are there. There are a lot of us! And this can be a scary thing to face. So in hopes of calming you, the fellow momma-at-heart, waiting for her turn to have a baby, here are some things I want you to know before starting these procedures. Some of these things I already knew, some I wish someone had told me before our first round, but all are important:

  1. DO NOT take any at home pregnancy tests. There is never a time where you can trust the results of it. Part of this procedure is that they inject you with a hormone shot to control when you ovulate, and that hormone can stay in your body for a week or two after the actual shot. No one told me this, so I learned it the hard way. I cheated and took two pregnancy tests, both came out positive. My husband and I celebrated, rejoiced, started planning what life would look like with a baby, and then the following week took two more tests that were negative. The doctors confirmed with a blood test that I was never actually pregnant, it was just reading the hormone still in my body.
  2. You may feel pregnancy symptoms almost immediately, but it does not mean you are pregnant. This was one of the hardest ones for me. As if it isn’t cruel enough to us women that PMS and pregnancy symptoms are often the same, now we have a third factor throwing “pregnancy symptoms” at us, but are really just side effects from getting a hormone shot. For that first week after my shot I had heightened smell, I was nauseous, felt dizzy, had an increased appetite, and fatigue. And yet I was never pregnant. Oh I convinced myself I was, but now I know it is most likely just side effects, not early pregnancy symptoms.
  3. Privacy? What’s privacy? I’ve been pricked and poked all over my body. There is no shame left to be had. The number of people who have seen me in my full glory is much too high for my liking, but part of their job is to be as thorough as possible and to find anything that could be preventing you from getting pregnant. It is a necessary evil, so find ways to laugh about it if it that embarrasses you at all.
  4. Ask Questions! Your doctor deals with hundreds of couples who have been doing this procedure for months or years at a time, so I found that they sometimes forget to walk us “newbies” through our emotional expectations. This whole thing is such an emotional process and a lot of times, I would go in with questions that I would completely forgot to ask! You get very wrapped up in the moment of whatever procedure you are in for that day, so my emotions became a sort of blockage to my processing capabilities. So I started writing down any questions I would think of at home and then ask them in the office.
  5. Enjoy this time of getting to learn about your body. This is a FASCINATING process! It is absolutely astounding to me how our body works, and how these professionals can examine your body to find out more information. Anytime I am in there for an ultrasound, they walk me through what they are seeing on the screen so I can watch as they they are doing it. It is absolutely amazing to me, and something that just completely solidifies my faith as I watch the miracle of our reproductive systems. Enjoy this privilege of learning about your body and the complete miracle that it really is that anyone gets pregnant at all.
  6. It is a time-consuming process, and it is a very last-minute process. Have a talk with your employer explaining that you will often have to leave the office without much notice. Work with your employer to figure out how to make it work for you. And if they cannot accommodate that request, you may need to find another job or temporarily quit working all together during this process. Yes, you may take a financial hit, but weigh that in with the stress it may be causing your body and allow your body the time and focus it requires for these procedures.
  7. Your intimate life will take a big hit. It has already been years for most of you that has brought you to this point of needing a specialist. Those years on their own are daunting and you may have found that sex became too much of a job rather than something spontaneous to enjoy with your spouse. Well, it gets worse my friend. I told my husband one night that I often feel like a science experiment. Now combine that with needing to constantly count days and knowing there are only limited days you are allowed to have sex. I have found that the days we are allowed to be intimate are the days I often don’t want to be intimate. I encourage you to push through it. It is SO important to keep that intimacy with your spouse. None of us know when this will all end, and the last person I want to be pushing away is my husband. The best thing you can do is keep very open communication about your changing needs. You may need to find new ways that work for you during these procedures. You cannot always count on a week you don’t feel sick or nauseous, because even if you’re not pregnant, you may get those side effects from the HCG shot. Communicate constantly and openly and you won’t be sorry you did.
  8. You are allowed to take a break if you need to. This process is absolutely an emotional rollercoaster. And while my body may be able to handle the pricks and pokes every month, I don’t know how many months my emotions can handle the ups and downs. This will be different for all of us. My husband and I agreed we will take it month by month and just decide together if we want to keep trying or the a break. If anything, we may need the break for the sake of our intimacy! Just communicate with each other and decide what’s best for your needs. Take a vacation and get your mind off of it for a month, and then try not to feel guilty about missing a month of procedures.
  9. It’s never guaranteed to work. Obviously, the doctor told us this. But it is easy for any of us  to get our hopes up as we get involved in the process and the excitement of it. There will never be a 100% chance of this working. That is why they aim for multiple eggs dropping to increase our chances of getting one. So even though the doctors thought we were definitely pregnant, we ended up not being pregnant, and it made me even more of an emotional mess.  Keep reminding yourself that it will happen in God’s perfect timing.
  10. God has you! There is not a single person in this world who knows your heart and your desires the way that God does. And He loves you so much! He desires for that baby right alongside with you. But He also wants what is best for you, what is going to shape you to see the world the way He does. Gratitude is the best way to take the focus off of your own circumstances and get your focus back on the big picture. Focus on Him, and your heart will be filled with joy, no matter the outcome.

 

 

(Original image found here)

Is He Really Faithful?

Is God Really Faithful?I’ve been doing a Bible Study the last month called Resting in Jesus. It has been an amazing time for me to learn more about the truth’s of God and confront my beliefs of who He is and how I have skewed them. We don’t realize how badly we have skewed them until that blind spot is pointed out to us. This is why it is so important to come back frequently to the biblical truths of who God really is. He is not a God that we can create to be who we want, He already is. He’s the creator. He created you and me.

God is so many things. He is Trustworthy. Protector. Good. Just. But what this bible study has shown me these last few weeks is that there are two things in particular I do not always believe about God. Like many people, I pick and choose what parts about God I want to believe, mainly based on how I have seen Him move in my life and in lives of those close to me. I have no problem knowing that God is filled with grace or forgiveness or love because I have experienced those over and over. I clearly remember those times, and the experiences help me to remember those truths about God in moments of need.

What I struggle with believing is His Faithfulness and His Plan for me. When I feel forgotten, it’s easy to think He doesn’t have a plan. When my life hasn’t panned out the way I expected it to by now, it’s easy to think that He is unfaithful. So I sit in my self-centered little world and try to trust in His faithfulness, all the while waiting for Him to prove it. I’m like a drowning child who refuses to let go of the toy I wanted so badly when God is standing there trying to help me out of my self-centered drowning, and He will, if I just let go of that toy. That desire. That expectation. God’s plan does not revolve around me. My story is just the tiniest little piece of the Big God story. A story that is much better than what I can dream up because it’s not about getting my own selfish desires, it’s about bringing Him glory. And in that, He is always faithful!

So what’s next? Well, in the convenient way that God always works, He is now giving me plenty of chances to not just say I believe those truths, but to live in His faithfulness and in His plan. In the next week my husband and I will be starting IUI (Intrauterine Insemination) treatments in hopes of having a baby. If I believe He is faithful, that means He is faithful no matter the outcome of those treatments, baby or no baby. My husband is also at the same time transitioning out of his job in the military and we are facing all of the, “so what’s next” questions. New job, new home, new location. And we don’t know where any of it will be. No matter where we move or don’t move to, there is grief that needs to be processed with those decisions. Either leaving family behind or leaving our closest friends behind. Or both at the same time! But believing in God’s plan and acknowledging that it is His plan and not mine brings comfort in whatever decisions will be made.

God is faithful (1 Cor 1:19). God has a plan that is for my good (Jer 29:11). He has a plan for your good! We just have set our self-centered desires down so we can see Him at work and believe His truths.

 

Original image found here

God Is

God IsSometimes I get writer’s block. I have all these ideas of what to write about and as I try to play out the would-be article in my mind, it definitely doesn’t sound as cool as I initially thought it did. So then I spend hours, days, weeks, waiting for that perfect theme to strike me down so that I can blow you all away with how awesome I am. And then it hits me. Here I go trying to people-please again. Trying to use my website as a way to get people’s approval of me. And it seems that I have forgotten the very reason why I started this website – because God laid it on my heart! He showed me and affirmed that this website was a way for me to share my heart in a way that reaches more people than I can face-to-face in any given week. To be open and vulnerable with how He is moving. My life is just an example of that. When I get writer’s block, I am usually trying to manipulate the situation to get more readers, or to get great feedback on how awesome that article was…well that’s all sorts of wrong. And not my real intentions.

My true intentions, and my heart’s deepest desire, is that people would know God. That they would see Him in their everyday life and see how He is calling out to them. That He is alive and He wants a relationship with each one of us. And if sharing my every day life experiences somehow helps people see that, then God is using little old me to bring Him glory and that is a good day! I don’t want to live life dependent on my own abilities and strengths. That is just not enough. It never will be. Just like my husband can never be enough, my friends, my church, they will never be enough to fulfill me. But God alone is enough! He is everything that we need. He is MORE than we need, than what we desire. He is healer, father, friend, lover. He is wise, capable, provider, a teacher. He is glorious, worthy of praise, and He has a bigger purpose for us. He is such a big God and capable of things we can’t even wrap our minds around. And still, He loves me. He loves YOU! And the good news is that nothing can separate us from His love.

We forget how much we need to come back to the basics. To just simply proclaim who God is, and why we worship Him. That brings such a big smile to His face! It helps us refocus on the truths of our God and what He is doing in and around us. I can go off on these tangents that turn into “look at ME” and “look what God is doing in MY life” but really miss the big picture….that GOD is the one doing it. I did nothing to deserve or earn any blessings that come my way. I simply know and have a relationship with the One who provides every good and perfect gift. And even when it is hard to see the obvious “blessings” in life, when we feel struck down by tragedy, conflict, transitions, unknowns, guess what? He is still God and He is still good! He uses the brokenness in our lives to bring Him glory and I am just dumbfounded that He would want to use me in any way as a part of His bigger story. But He does. And so I will continue to come back to the basics, proclaim who He is, and share what HE is doing in my life.

 

 

Original image found here

Dependency

DependencyThere are so many unknowns in life that can eat away at us. They can consume your every thought. They can make us anxious. Sleep-deprived. On edge. And if you’re at all like me, you like to prepare as much as possible for what’s coming next. It helps to put my mind at ease thinking that I have some control in my life.

My husband and I spent the last couple months doing all sorts of pregnancy testing, and are anxiously awaiting the results to find out what comes next. At the same time, my husband has only 5 more months until he transitions out of the Army and into the “real” world. So we daily ask ourselves questions like, where will we be living in five months? Are we going to stay here or move out of state? Will he even have a job come January? We sure hope so.

Those are two huge areas of disruption in our life, and they are things you can’t just walk away from mentally, even though we know we can’t do anything about either of them. So then what do we do when we are faced with such disruption that we can not do anything about? When we don’t have any control? Over trying to start a family? Or trying to figure out what job my husband will have, if any?

“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:31-34).

The future is not our burden to worry about! God already has a plan, and it is perfect and it will bring Him glory! Our job is to seek Him more ad more every day. Every life-disruption that throws us out of the stream like a fish out of water, should remind us of our need for a Savior. Seek Him out, depend on Him more, and trust that His plan is for His glory. God wants us to live in the moment, not live I fear or worry of what tomorrow holds. He will give us the answers we are looking for. He will provide everything we need. And guess what? We don’t need to know those answers or have those things ahead of time. Sometimes, the answers are not clear to us until the last possible moment. And friend, that is OK! God is calling each one of us to lean into our faith and our dependency on Him in the day-to-day when we feel like that fish out of water and we don’t know what’s coming next.

What is it that you are depending on? Is it security? Provision? Your future? A family? None of these things are going to fulfill your heart the way God does. These things will fail you over and over again. If these are the things that we search for to make our hearts fulfilled, we will be let down. Constantly. But learning to step into the unknown and depend on the Lord brings unfathomable peace and understanding. Dependency on Him is the only thing that get’s us back into the peace of the stream. “For this is what the Lord says: I will extend peace to her like a river, and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream” (Isaiah 66:12).

 

Idols

Untitled design-2IdolsStaying on this topic of peacemaking, let’s talk about idols. Idols are false gods that grow deep in the shadows of our hearts. They creep up on us and become the controlling factor of our life, sometimes before we even realize they exist. Rick Stein says, “an idol is anything that we must have for our happiness or contentment apart from God.”

Idols progress very quickly. They start as good desires. Desires like a good marriage, family, acceptance, provision, a good church, security, friends. Those are all good things to desire and want in our lives. But when a desire morphs into a demand or expectation, a flag shoul deb going off in our heads. That is when it has become an idol. From demand, we then move into judgment. We judge others for not meeting these expectations we have (Matthew 7:1-2). And finally comes punishment. People didn’t meet my demands, so I judged them and now they will be punished. Women, have you ever with-held sex from your husband because he didn’t meet your demands? That is punishment that came from an idol in your heart.

So then this progression, from desire to demand to judgement to punishment, would look something like this:

Progression of an idol

This whole progression of an idol really struck a chord with me, and I’ve spent the last couple weeks praying over it and asking God to show me the idols in my life. Well folks, I think I finally found one… my marriage. A good, healthy marriage is a wonderful thing to desire. God wants that for us! But when I start to demand certain behavior from my husband, that’s where the red flags should be going off in my brain. “Warning, warning, this is becoming an idol again!” So I’ll find myself demanding behavior from him, and when he doesn’t act a certain way, I get extremely irritated at his behavior. Why? Because it’s become my idol, so his behavior is a reflection on me. So then I feel justified in judging his heart and motive behind these actions because, after all, it’s a good desire. So I find myself judging him and telling him how he should be acting or words he should have said and just tearing him down because he didn’t meet my expectations. Then comes punishment. I’ve judged his heart and tried to get him to meet my unrealistic expectations, which no one can meet, so then I punish him. I give him the silent treatment, secretly holding a grudge and refusing to talk to him about it. That seems like fair punishment, right? Or with-holding sex because I don’t feel loved. I’m justified in that, right?

Aren’t these idols the reason we have conflict with others? When people don’t meet the demands of our hearts, we get irritated with them. “Why can’t they just meet my desires? These are good desires, dang it!” It’s the reason I end up in conflict with my husband, because I made an idol in my life. It’s the reason I turn to micromanaging, because his actions would be a reflection on my idol. “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:1-3). A good way to spot your idols is to look at the conflict in your life. What is it centered around? Your family? Your church? Your government? Security? There are so many good desires to have, but that desire alone can never meet your expectations. God alone can do that, and is the only one deserving of the throne in our life!

It’s always easier to see other peoples’ idols than to be able to name our own, this is why I am sharing mine with you…to hopefully help you see the idol in your life. Watch for the flags. For the conflict. For the idols in your life that God wants to free you from.

 

Original image modified from here

Peacemaking

PeacemakingMy husband and I were very grateful to have had the chance to attend a Peacemakers seminar with the Christian and Missionary Alliance this week. It was an all day seminar taught by Rick Stein about how the Gospel invites us to see conflict differently than the world teaches us to see it. The question isn’t IF conflict will come, because I can tell you right now, it will. It will keep coming. It comes in our families, in our churches, at work, and in our community. We live in a fallen world. So the question is WHEN it comes, how will you respond?

Rick explained that there are three types of responses to conflict: Peace-faking, peace-breaking, and peace-making. Our natural response is one of the first two. Eighty percent of us are peace-fakers (myself included). We will cover up our hurts and the root issues because we want to avoid confrontation, or because it’s just easier to run from the conflict than to have to face it. But we have mastered what it looks and sounds like to be a peace-faker and to convince everyone around us that we are doing great. Eighty percent! That’s a lot of us, people…The other twenty percent of us are peace-breakers (my husband falls under this category). These people are chargers and are not afraid of the conflict. They might want to “duke it out” with their words to try to get the conflict resolved, when in reality they may just be trying to get the other person to agree with their opinions, not actually resolving the conflict. Both sides of the spectrum are dangerous and unhealthy solutions. So what do we do?

The Gospel invites us to press into the conflict to be a peace-maker. Not a runner, and not a charger. Why?

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:12-27)

God invites us into unity so that the world will know Jesus! What did Jesus pray for at the last supper (John 17:20-23)? For unity! When we are so weighed down by peace-faking or peace-breaking, we are either just avoiding the conflict or creating even more disunity by not lovingly approaching the person that hurt us. God invites us to step into that space, to help point each other back to God! To, in love, help point them first to their vertical relationship with God so that we can secondly mend the horizontal relationship. Did you notice the key words there? In Love. We can not approach conflict as a charger or as a victim. It will not resolve anything. “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-7)

Our pastor started a new four-part series this past week on conflict where he covers this topic in even more depth and clarity than I did. If this blog struck a chord at all in you, I recommend listening to his sermon here. To become a peace-maker takes the strength of the Holy Spirit in you, but you can do it! Fight the worldly tendencies, and open your heart so that the world may know Jesus. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).