Tag Archives: patience

panic mode.

We have a 3-to-6 week window in which to have a baby.

And to put together a garage sale, and organize/clean/prettify our house and also sell it. And finish construction enough to move into the new house. And I just gave myself a heart attack thinking about all of it.

P.S. I am out of brown paper bags.

Here’s what’s been done to our middle-of-nowhere farmhouse this past week:

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Door knobs, and locks! This is a big deal.

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Actual garage doors. Also big.

It doesn’t seem like much. I am overwhelmed whenever I am out there. Piles of scrap lumber everywhere. Red dirt everywhere. Wood shavings–everywhere. I know it’s all coming together and it just takes time, but I’m losing the vision and I’m getting discouraged. There’s just so much to finish, and so many other things to do in our current house, in our church, and in our community.

Here’s what I don’t get to watch: Caleb, busting his rear end at his job during the day, and out at the property in the early morning and late night hours–mowing, drilling, wiring, hammering, sweeping, sweating…he comes home, picks the stickers out of his shoes, and rinses the sawdust out of his hair. I watch him sleeping comatose beside me, and I know how hard he is working just for us. His dedication is unreal and his energy is almost inhuman. I go back and forth between feeling incredibly grateful to distressingly guilty on a minute-to-minute basis.

This is where we knew it would get hard.

Y’all, this is soooo just…life. At times it’s tiring, overwhelming, and discouraging, especially when we don’t physically see any progress being made–but God cares about us. He is always working behind the scenes.

We sign on the dotted line, in theory knowing full good and well what it should take to actually follow Him–but the experience turns out to be more trying than we imagine. We question His techniques and His time frame, and we get impatient.

God is faithful. He stays working.

Exhaustion sets in. Our feet are sore, and it’s unbearably hot outside, and there are freaking wasps everywhere. We have so many other things on our to-do lists. People around us question. We worry. We doubt. Are we done yet, God? This is not turning out like I thought it would. Will things get any easier? Aren’t you going to help us? Are you sure this is what we were supposed to be doing?


I’ve been teaching my Sunday school class about the part of the Bible where the Israelites keep being unfaithful to God–which if you’ve read the whole Old Testament (I hadn’t), you would know that this is an ongoing theme that pretty much describes the case 97% of the time.

In preparing for the lessons I would ask this question over and over again: “Israelites, REALLY, for the love of GOD, you have your marching orders. How do you keep getting into these predicaments? How is this hard? Has God not told you? Has God not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. No, strong. And courageous. I said COURAGEOUS! Do not, I repeat, DO NOT worship other–DOH!”

After almost a year of studying this sort of business in the ancient land of God, the Israelites developed a reputation with me for sucking majorly.

But after a small season of stress in my own life, I get it.

Bad kings dictated. Invaders invaded. Wars raged. It got hot and food got scarce and there were undoubtedly wasps everywhere. (Because wasps are inherently evil and should be eradicated from the face of this planet.)

God’s people had heard. Some had even seen. They all knew.

But fragile human minds can only take so much–especially when we are not fully leaning on and listening to God during times of trial and uncertainty. We invite temptation in our attempts to do things out of our own power. We forget the basics and make things way more complicated than they need to be. We quickly become spiritually discouraged and tired, and then lazy and weak.

This part of our nature is not anything to be proud of. It’s not anything to coolly accept–but if we’re at least aware of it, we can take steps to fight it.

A wise man once said: “Knowing is half the battle.”

the battle

 

But an even wiser man said this:

philippians ch1vs6

 

 

God is working. He works in the wee small hours of the morning, and well into the scary darkness of the night. When we’re tired, He is energized and moving, sweating, and covered in sawdust, and fighting off wasps. He won’t stop–and NOT so that our little selves can have the house of our dreams for a few measly years here on Earth.

God is constantly working in us, so that many people can have an eternity of Heaven with Him. He is loving. He is faithful. He keeps His promises.

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Counting it as garbage.

From Mia’s Jesus Calling book today, assuming I’m on the right day because, let’s face it–I’m a little scatter-brained when it comes to days. And dates. Or what time it is. What holiday it is or isn’t. And where my keys are (in my hand). And where my necklace is (around my neck).

Anyways:

Nothing is as wonderful as knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have given up everything else and count it all as garbage. All I want is Christ. –Philippians 3:8

Okay, so actually that’s from the Bible. And it’s pretty straight forward. Nothing here on earth even compares to the awesomeness of knowing God’s son. I get it.

He can take away my sweet new shoes. He can take away the Kia that I love so much and replace it with my old Saturn. He can scrap plans to this new house we’re building. He can make Caleb lose his job and all the things that we own.

I talk a big game. But there has not been one day that has gone by since April that I don’t ask God why He took my baby. I struggle with it. I can’t move past it. I maybe even feel a touch angry about it.

I really feel like God gives me a little taste of heaven when I sit on the couch at night curled up with my kids reading a book. Or when I’m driving down the road and they’re singing songs together in the back seat. Or when Cheyenne keeps the jokes rolling for hours on end. Or when I’ve had a bad day and I check my phone and see a million selfies of Mia. Or when Merrick insists that I take a walk with him to see the sunset because it is so beautiful, and I do, and it really is beautiful.

I can’t count those things as garbage. I can’t count my baby as garbage.

I can’t even wrap my head around the comparison. My family is no way, shape, or form, garbage.

So I skipped ahead to tomorrow’s devotion:

The Lord gives his people strength. The Lord blesses them with peace. –Psalm 29:11

The harder things get, the more I help,” the book says. “See your challenges as chances–chances to depend on Me more than usual.

Easier said than done, I guess. Still doesn’t explain much, but it is encouraging nonetheless.

Did God give me strength? Because I feel weak. Did He bless me with peace? I am tormented. Do I depend on Him more than usual? I did for about 30 days.

Admittedly, I’ve been in “Toni’s-got-it-all-figured-out” mode for a while now. But just like my confusion and hurt, my need for God doesn’t just go away after a certain allotted time has passed. And though I learned so many lessons this past spring, maybe now–when the rest of the world has continued to turn; when no one else is crying with me–maybe now is my time to truly lean on Him and Him alone.

My kids aren’t garbage, but I know now that these moments with them are fleeting and not guaranteed. My family is precious to me but God loves them even more than I do. And He loves me, too. I may not ever understand why it happened; but this is an opportunity for me to just trust Him. And though I can’t grasp the concept, the most wonderful parts of life here on earth are nothing compared to the glory of God in heaven.


Lights.

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

–Jesus said that in Luke 4:18-19. He really did. It shocked the crap out of all the haters. Which is awesome because who doesn’t love to shock a hater?

This morning I snarfed croissants and enjoyed stimulating conversation with a friend of mine. This chica is super thoughtful and edgy and honest; she really inspired me and my brain is still churning hours later. Seriously, you can probably smell the smoke.

So here it goes:

Church.

Church and Christianity.

Church vs. Christianity.

Christians in the Church.

True faith. True love. Honest motives. Unselfish behavior.

Family. Friends. Sacrifices. Giving. Prayer.

How does it all fit together? What does it look like to really be in love with the Lord? How much of what comes out of people’s mouths is true? Why are so many “Christians” such jerks about Jesus? What’s with those people who are really “shining”–and how the hell do they do that?

Years ago I wrote a post about why church in general is awesome and why I love and need the people in it. I will not back down on the points I made.

Here’s what I am to understand:

Church is a coming together of believers, so we can spur each other on, and keep each other accountable.

And also roll up fatties of fellowship and fun.

Church is supposed to be a powerhouse, a place where we come and gather strength and encouragement and inspiration, so that we can go back out into the world proclaim good news and junk.

In theory. That’s what we’re supposed to do. And hopefully, in general, that’s what the church does do.

But I know there’s a growing number of people who are not convinced–and not impressed. They look at us “Christians” and the only things they know about us as a group are 1. That we don’t cuss or drink as much, at least not in public, 2. That we quote the Bible when it suits our purposes, and 3. We think Obama is pretty much the antichrist.

(I do not think Obama is the antichrist.)

I’ve heard people say “I love God, I love Jesus; I just hate the church. The people there are hypocrites. Church is pointless. I can watch church on TV. I can worship God on my own.”

I get it. I’ve said that myself once upon a time. And I was asked, at that time, “If you love Christ, and Christ loves the church, then how can you hate the church?”

The church was not designed to be a bunch of meanies that stand around judging everybody. The church wasn’t meant to be a place where a bunch of self-righteous rich people come to feel good about themselves once a week. It wasn’t meant to be a place where teenagers go on Wednesday night to eat pizza, listen to a rock band, and then talk about Jesus for 2 minutes in between gossip sessions.

People are not perfect. Christians are not perfect. But God’s love IS perfect.

The church is meant to be the hands and feet of Jesus here on earth. The church is meant to be good news to the poor.

We can’t do that if we’re focused solely on ourselves 95% of the time.

And I certainly need the accountability that being actively involved with a group of fellow believers brings. I need the encouragement. I need the wisdom and advice of those who are strong in the faith and more knowledgeable than me about the teachings of the Bible.

And the church needs me. It needs me to be part of “the team”. The “team” has goals: Love others. Bring the good news. Be lights in a dark place.

I can’t bring sight to the blind or freedom to the oppressed all by myself.

I can’t even make a dent.

It’s soooo not about not drinking or cussing or bible-thumping, or even Obama.

Guys–if you love Jesus, then the church is a team you want to be a part of. You gotta get in on this. It needs you and all your spunk and talents and hopes and dreams and even your heartaches and disappointments. If you think the team sucks, well by all means, please–come help make it better.

Humanity is one hot mess. We’re warm-blooded, quick-tempered, impulsive, emotional drama-queens who strive painfully for perfection but time and time again we fail epically. But Jesus loves us, and He loves His church.

And sometimes we do get it right.

It’s about reaching out, and helping people. Feeding the hungry. Clothing the naked. Taking care of the orphan and the widow. Loving the unlovable.

Even more than all that, it’s about being human and banding together to help accomplish the task of spreading hope. And I can think of no greater hope than Jesus.


welcome to the suck.

I had the *best* week ever.

It started off right with a baby-less due date. Things did take a very promising turn when my friends snagged me away for a morning of pedicures, lunch, coffee, and window shopping.

And then.

Then.

Then I pissed off my husband in such a way that it’s a wonder he acknowledges my presence.

I don’t say that because I want sympathy or I want to talk about why our fight started. I say that because married people mess up. They hurt each other sometimes. And they argue. And they don’t always see eye to eye. And they make mistakes–or in my case, failures. And they lose their tempers. And they get annoyed and upset and sad, and every other emotion that you can think of.

Being married is not always fun or romantic. It’s really, really hard to be a godly wife or husband when you’re seething mad at one another. It’s even harder when you have to put on a smiley face and go out into the world and be around people together, or worse–out into the living room and be in front of your kids together.

We’re going on day 6 of crankiness, snappy-attitudes, frowny-faces, and crossed arms. But God has a wicked sense of humor–I know for a fact that He has fun jacking with me and Caleb. Case in point: yesterday afternoon we discovered that we had lice all up in my house–specifically on me and one of my children. And also the dogs got sprayed by a skunk. Again.

Awesome.

So guess who stayed up until 2:30 a.m. greasing and de-licing my head? Through his anger, straight through his disappointment and irritation–Caleb tenderly and patiently picked nits and bugs out of my slimy hair for 3 hours. You know–kind of how Christ loves the church and stuff.

Pretty sure God is laughing so hard He shot Cherry Coke out of his nose. I’m also pretty sure God drinks Cherry Coke.

It is purely by His grace that the two of us are still married. The short version of our life together so far? 5 horrible years of an alcohol-fueled hell, followed by weight gain and weight loss, anxiety and depression, craniosynostosis and skull surgeries, medical bills and layoffs, 2 lost babies and several royal screw-ups by yours truly.

We are here.

Sometimes it feels like we are out in the deep, deep ocean and the waves are slamming us down under the surface and we’re getting saltwater shoved up our noses and our eyes sting, and whenever we’re able to come up for air, rain is coming down as hard as it can, and we can barely breathe or stay afloat.

Sometimes the waves are just choppy enough to be adventurous and fun.

And sometimes the ocean is calm and glass-like and we can see our toes underwater and enjoy the sunset.

Our marriage is always changing. We are always changing. I can’t say I don’t hope the worst is behind us. Hard times suck. But we don’t call it quits when we’re in a storm–we hold onto each other tighter.

For better or for worse.

….

So to recap, my husband is aggravated with me, my parents will be here in a week, I have lice, and my house smells like skunk. This is real life. One day, when the water is calm again, I’ll laugh my head off about it.


(More) Uncertain Times

As wars rage in faraway countries and U.S. battleships line up in foreign seas, let’s try doing something a little outside the box, a little crazy: Let’s….say…a prayer…for our president.

Take a deep breath, because that really did come out of my mouth just now.

And all I know is that, like so many other points in history, this moment in time is meaningful. The government’s decision on whether or not to step into a situation that may or may not be our business absolutely requires our most fervent prayers.

It scares me that we live in a world filled with such ridiculous violence. I hate that I can sound off my half-informed opinion of it all from the comfort of this uncomfortable office chair, while real people–young, old, male, female–are literally ducking for cover from gunfire in dilapidated buildings. Gunfire, people.

I’ve never been shot at. The only times I’ve ever even heard gun shots were at my high school track meets. I’m beyond sheltered. And probably also beyond naive.

A part of me says, “No. Let’s not go to war; let’s not invade yet another country. Let’s not start this.” But another part of me says, “This is wrong. What they’re doing to their own people is wrong.” And still another part of me questions, “Was it really us that gave them the ability to hurt their own country like this?” And most of all, I think “What about our country? What about my children? What about gas prices? Food prices? What about my comfortability? When are we ever going to get a twirly cushioned office chair?”

It’s not all about the United States. It’s just not. We live in the world. The world has 99 unending problems. We can’t ignore them, and even if we try, it’ll all eventually come crashing through our front door.

I don’t say this because I think we should obliterate other countries off the face of the planet.

I don’t say this because I think the U.S. is morally and ethically superior to any other place.

I don’t know what the right answer is.

But I know who does. And I know that His plans are unstoppable. And I want on the side of Him. Because–*spoiler alert!*–Jesus wins.

Would God be on the side of our country? Let’s just say I’m hesitant to believe it. Shall we take a short look at pop culture, perhaps? Music that glorifies violence, alcohol, and drug use. Men who objectify women. Women who completely degrade themselves by grinding on teddy bears in front of a world-wide audience. Parents who let their kids get away with any fool thing at any hour of any day. Teenagers who go on random killing sprees because they’re bored. This is the stuff that scares me far more than the possibility of war on foreign soil.

But let’s keep in mind that none of this is taking God by surprise. This is not the first war in the history of mankind. Obama is not the first leader to mess up. (Can we agree that King David’s whole love-child/arranged murder scandal would’ve had Americans calling for his actual head on a stick?) Miley Cyrus is not the first girl to lose her damn mind. And this is not the first economic disaster we’ve endured (The Great Depression/Dustbowl days seemed pretty freaking bleak.)

I will admit, that although nothing is new under the sun, our current problems don’t exactly point us in a promising direction.

So now that I think about it, let’s pray for our president and our country. Let’s pray for the poor souls overseas who are in the midst of battle today. Let’s pray for the women and children who are powerless and scared to death. Let’s pray for ruined countries and countries headed toward ruin.

Let’s pray for the people across the world that don’t know Jesus. Let’s pray for those who can only think of hate and fear. Let’s pray for the people who don’t know love and kindness.

And pray for your neighbor. Pray for your neighbor’s marriage, and their children. Pray for the single mom walking in the hot sun to pick her kids up from school. Pray for the single mom at work, worrying about how her kids are getting home from school. Pray for the family in the car in front of you in rush hour traffic. Because guess what? If it’s not your problem now, it will be soon. And if it’s Jesus’s business, then it is your business.

And spread the word: You don’t have to be a slave of the world. You don’t have to give in to evil. You don’t have to be sexually depraved and addicted to drugs. You don’t have to seek negative attention. You don’t have to kill. You don’t have to fight.

There’s something so much better, and you are loved.

john 16


Brave Face.

My husband knew better than I did what would happen once all the effects of the anesthesia wore off and the mental busyness of the past week settled down.

I had my first official really bad day this weekend, during which all I wanted to do was lay in bed and sob silently, and be held, and listen through the open window to birds chirping and my kids playing. No television. No books. No phone calls.

All that talk about bible verses and Jesus holding my baby? Of course they’re still relevant, but they don’t seem to have quite the impact they did 5 days ago; my body is just bound and determined to cry it out. No more chin up.

In church I hear the words “Give it up to God; just give it to Him.”

How? I confess I don’t quite understand that phrase, at least not in this instance.

I say this because I think it’s easy for people to get the impression that God takes pain away completely; that I am strong and calm and rational even in the face of tragedy–I’m very much not. I am comforted, but I still cry and I still want my baby. It sucks and it hurts and I still ask the questions that I feel like I should already know the answers to.  It doesn’t matter if I ever have another baby or adopt more children–I wanted this one.

The medicine wears off. The fog lifts. My body heals up. My family moves on and life does not slow down. But it feels like this loss will hurt me forever.

Yesterday I cried even in my dreams. Today I only cried in the shower. Tomorrow I will go to work, make dinner, clean the house, and take Merrick to t-ball practice. Maybe I’ll paint a little bit. Maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll have another down day. Maybe it won’t happen for another month or so.

I know there’s something to come out of this besides unbearable sadness and disappointment. I know that God has a plan and that He is with me, leading me and loving me, through this time.

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18


Emotional Ramble About Hard Stuff.

Last night I had a nightmare that Beautiful Mom came and took my baby. Just walked right into my hospital room, and whisked that little one from my arms.

Beautiful mom is taller than me. She is prettier than me. She is skinnier than me. Beautiful mom has long straight silky hair instead of the rat’s nest that lies on my head. Her hands are soft and she does not bite her nails. Beautiful mom went to college for 100 years and she’s a doctor with a side degree in business, and a booming career in modeling for toothpaste commercials. Beautiful mom never loses her temper, never burns dinner, and never forgets a load of towels in the washing machine for 3 days.

Okay, 4 days.

I know it was just a dream, but I woke up with slight feelings of guilt and inadequacy. Did I do something wrong? It’s hard to get past this; especially after I read things like “with late miscarriage, the health of the mother is most often to blame,” in popular pregnancy books. What–did I not eat enough broccoli?

I quickly talked myself down from that cliff. I trust God; and for reasons that I might never understand while I live on this earth, He called our baby up. He or she will only know happiness and joy, forever. He or she will never ever suffer, not even a little bit. I’m glad for our sweet baby, who is safe in heaven with my grandparents and my dog. (Say what you will about pets not having souls–I will call you a bold-face liar. And then I’ll probably punch you in the face.)

I am honestly okay. I am sad, and I am hurting, but I have a great peace about this whole thing–more peace than can possibly be natural during a time like this. I can only attribute that to the prayers that have been sent our way. I truly believe that God knew best in this situation. He takes what was meant for bad and uses it for God. He keeps His promises.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

–2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Months ago when I said that God was on-board with making our family more awesome: He has done that. We have pulled together and leaned on each other over the past week; we’ve talked about the hard things and we’ve laughed over the little things and I have treasured every minute of it.

Months ago when I said I would be content no matter my circumstances: I am content. I trust God. This doesn’t mean I am not sad or that this doesn’t hurt–because it does hurt, more than anything. But we have not been wronged or cheated; our lives are far from wrecked.

Months ago when I said God performed a miracle by giving us a heartbeat on a day when I had nothing but my small prayer to believe in: that miracle has not been taken away. It happened. We promised God we would be grateful and we would love the life He had trusted us with–even if we only got to keep it for another week, or several more months, or many, many years. We are grateful because it was a life and it was beautiful, and it changed us.

Our faith has grown even in this short period of time. My relationship with my husband has strengthened. We have gotten closer to our church family. I’ve been able to have meaningful conversations with Mia about Jesus and trust and salvation–all subjects that may have taken years to bubble up inside her questioning young mind.

God is fair. Even last Thursday, that terrible day, God was taking care of us: Caleb wasn’t supposed to be in town–he decided not to leave. He wasn’t supposed to accompany me to what I felt was a bullshit appointment–but he decided to come anyway. We were going to take separate cars, but at the last minute we felt like riding together. We almost refused the ultrasound because we felt it was unneccessary and expensive; the doctor’s staff talked us into it. And together we learned of our baby’s passing, by the gentle explanation of a kind doctor in the quiet darkness of a private room–and not through a traumatic bloody midnight visit to the ER.

Maybe there was something wrong. Maybe our baby was terribly sick. Maybe our baby wouldn’t have made it to September. Maybe this pregnancy was meant to teach us a valuable lesson. Maybe this experience was meant to push us in another direction.

We just do not know yet.

I’ve been reading a wonderful book called “Kisses From Katie”, by Katie Davis. It’s about a teenager that moved to Africa and ended up adopting 13 kids and staying there forever. One particular quote stands out to me and I have to share it, because it fits so perfectly not just with what I’m going through but with everyday things:

“I believe that God totally, absolutely, intentionally gives us more than we can handle. Because this is when we surrender to Him and He takes over, proving Himself by doing the impossible in our lives.”

I have never, never thought about that before, but it makes so much sense. This suck-fest that is late miscarriage is most certainly not in my power to endure, at least not with any amount of calmness. God is giving me more than I can handle, way more. But He’s also provided me with about a hundred people who have enough wisdom and enough love to see our family through it. I have to choose to thank Him for what He is doing in our lives–because I know without a doubt that our future holds something more wonderful than I could plan or imagine.


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