Walk Forward: sleep-deprived confessions and delighting in Jesus

“No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on…”

Philippians 3:13-14


I have always loved sleep. My husband’s relationship with sleep is a struggle. He is a light sleeper and often struggles to fall asleep at night. But not me. Sleep and I have a good relationship. I sleep deeply – often within a minute or two of my head hitting the pillow. Sleep is my superpower…unless I have a new baby. 

I have found very few things as stressful as the sleep deprival I went through after the birth of both our boys. There are few things I have begged for with more passion than that the Lord would help my baby to sleep. I have been super invested in sleep training, in sleep diapers, in rice cereal, in nap schedules. And when I have done everything in my power and the baby wakes up anyway because he has an ear infection or he’s teething or he has some other mystery reason I’ll never get to the bottom of, it. is. maddening. This month, I felt the Lord gently prodding me to dig into why I was SO determined to get the good night’s sleep that seemed ever out of reach. Beneath the determination, there was fear. And so the real question surfaced: Why does being really tired scare me so badly?

Well…it’s because I hate failure. I am wired to plan, to prepare, and to arrange my life with intention. It soothes me to have anticipated a need and adjusted for it ahead of time; to have a contingency plan mapped out and everybody on the same page for what’s next. Good sleep, I realized, is one of the ways I set myself up to avoid failure. When I’m rested, I can take a lot in stride. When I’m exhausted, my anger is so much harder to control. I get irritable, forgetful, and emotional. My threshold for overwhelm drops significantly, and I tend to react, especially in my closest relationships: with Cody and our kids. Poor sleep is a great humbler; it exposes my need for mercy. 

So good sleep had become, to me, the holy grail that would make it possible to get through my day without damaging my relationships, without failure, without regret. For as hard as I tried, as much as I begged the Lord to help me walk with the Spirit, I had not found a way to just nail it after a night of poor sleep. A screw-up was inevitable. And so I grew more desperate. If only the baby would sleep! 

But any time I hear myself say the words “If only…,” I know discontentment is at work in my heart. And whatever I’m wishing I had isn’t actually the solution.

“…be satisfied with what you have. For God has said,

“I will never fail you.
    I will never abandon you.”

So we can say with confidence,

“The Lord is my helper,
    so I will have no fear.
    What can mere people do to me?”


Hebrews 13:5-6

Be satisfied with what I have. Right now. Even with the amount of sleep I’ve been given. Even when it doesn’t feel like enough. So instead of trying SO hard to get sleep so that I won’t fail and lose my temper when I’m tired and irritable, I started praying that I would grow in how I recover from failure. 

My main goal cannot be to perfectly set myself up so that I never make a mistake. That is just not real life. But maturity gets good at moving forward from mistakes, and that is a good goal. As I prayed for this growth with one of my friends, she prayed for me, and she thanked God for his mercy when we fail. 

It occurred to me that we recover well by shifting our focus from our failure to His great mercy. From our badness to His goodness. From our disappointment to excitement about the total covering we’ve been given in His perfect forgiveness. The blood of Christ is a completed shelter, and it has no leaks. 

“…But as it is, He has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.

…For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

…Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”


Hebrews 9:26, 10:14, 22

We can confess our sin and at the same time lead our kids and our own hearts to delight in Him because He has made us free. And this, more than a mom who never shows frustration, may be just what their little hearts need, because I’m not the only one who needs to learn how to recover after losing my temper.

Lord, 

I am so thankful that you forgive me each and every time that I fail. Thank you for setting your love on me and for giving your life to pay, completely, for my sin. Teach me the art of acknowledging my disobedience while I rejoice in your perfect obedience. Let the weight of my focus not be these brief and passing faceplants on my part, but your goodness, your mercy for me, your unfailing love and preference for me, the perfection of your plan that anchors me securely to the end of the race, to your lasting victory, your once-for-all sacrifice, to the day when I have overcome it all and I am completely like you. 

May my sin ever point me to my Savior so that I do not wither in discouragement, but I overflow with

“Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Jesus!

You did what I could not. You died in my place. You’ve anchored me to your new life. You’ve already forgiven me completely. Beautiful, understanding Savior. Thank you for looking on me with love and giving me your strength and your mercy to walk forward.”

Dwell in the “I Don’t Know”: how to tolerate unknowns with patience and great hope

“There is so much more I want to tell you, but you can’t bear it now. When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth…”

John 16:12-13

I got a letter and a care package from a close friend about a month ago. You’ll laugh at me for this, but sometimes, when I get a really good letter, I highlight it and tape it to my wall. I actually wish I could do this in conversations, too, because every once in a while someone says something, and I know I’m going to need to sit with it. 

Here’s what I highlighted this time:

“I’ve always been the one to skip ahead a few chapters so I could resolve my internal tension. And yet God invites us to stay on the current page with all of its unresolved questions and tension.”

The same week, going through Jen Wilkin’s Bible Study on the book of Hebrews, I wrote down these points from her teaching as she encouraged her readers to take their time with the challenging portions of the text:

– Dwell in the “I don’t know.”
– Feel the difference between what you know and what you hope to know. 
– Slow down. Don’t rush the application. Confusion is part of the learning process.

I started sensing a theme.

In small group at church, the author of our study challenged us to “make big, giant, hairy plans”  because God is able to do more than we can even imagine. A year ago, I would have been right with him. I’ve seen the Lord provide above and beyond and carry us over obstacles in ways I couldn’t possibly imagine. He is so worthy of our unwavering confidence and I want everyone I know to just GO for it, trusting Him with all their might, because nothing is too hard for Him.

But this year has been confusing for me! The pregnancy, the sickness, the exit, the baby’s brain, the delay, the camper crash, the transition…there are a lot of questions there that can put me in knots if I let them. Maybe you have some, too. I know our God is absolutely able to give us strength to carry out big plans. But I also know big plans can come crashing down and it turns out God was doing something else, at least for a time. It leaves me a little at a loss for how to prepare for what’s next.

If God’s going to accomplish whatever it is anyway, is there a way to plan responsibly, but skip the roller coaster of trying to guess what it is?

How do we work with all our hearts toward what He has in store for us – how do we invite it and invest in it and cooperate with it and expect it – without the whiplash and the heartbreak of getting yanked around the next unexpected corner?

We have to stop guessing what’s next and just do right now. We have to stay on the current page. We have to get comfortable in the tension. Because the relief that comes from filling in the answers early is a false peace, and it will keep letting us down.

“…Today’s trouble is enough for today.
Matthew 6:34

“Better to be patient than powerful, better to have self-control than to conquer a city.”
Proverbs 16:32

Patient people don’t rush to resolve things. They’re not in a hurry when they’re working through something with other people, when they’re teaching, or when they’re learning.

“…We are perplexed, but not driven to despair.”
2 Corinthians 4:8

Patient people can tolerate confusion without losing hope.

Oh Lord,

This is not an easy thing to learn. I would rather teach Bible Studies and do missions work and mentor young people and make presentations and sing worship songs than let it all rest and learn what you have to teach me here. But my impatience will stain all that I do. It will hurt people. It will limit how far I can take people. It will limit how long I can last. In marriage, in parenting, in healthcare, language learning, potty training, grocery shopping, housework…you name it, I am in a rush. 

But when I abide in you, you produce the fruit of patience. 

“I have told you all this so you may have peace in me.”
John 16:33

“I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”
John 14:27

The why’s and the what’s next…If you haven’t given me the answers – they are not what would have given me peace. I don’t need them and other people don’t need them either. Humble my heart to say “I don’t know and I’m content with that.” You have not chosen to reveal it yet. And you are withholding nothing good. (Psalm 84:11)

“For whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works…”
Hebrews 4:10

My work does not yet come out of rest. My heart is not yet quieted by your peace. I sit with the tension and I ache day in and day out as I move through my tasks, confronted over and over again with “I don’t know yet. I don’t get it. I’m frustrated. I see my impatience: glaring me in the face, springing to the surface, pleading for resolution.”

But the tension and the confusion serve a purpose. They are part of the learning process. They show up in the areas where God is about to produce growth. They are the highlighter that marks out where I am still striving.

“…Letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.” 
Romans 8:6

Yielding, not striving, produces peace and life. The flesh demands answers, explanations, and an itinerary. The Spirit says “trust me.” And trust breeds patience.

“For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”
James 1:3-4

Lord, reassure me that when difficulty tests my trust, it’s training, not punishment; and I am building valuable endurance. Teach me to sit patiently in what I do not yet know, because you have given me a sufficient guide who WILL lead me into all truth. Remind me not to rush the application, but to step back and appreciate the gaps in my understanding as places where you can enter in.

“In Him lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
Colossians 2:3

So show me where I have a gap. Quiet my heart with your peace when I’m tempted to panic over what I do not know. Build in me a maturity and humility that tolerates the unknowns with patience and great hope. May I feel the tension and be able to wait, because I know you are producing growth. May I learn and learn and learn from you, my humble and gentle teacher.

Let Me Teach You: Called to more than grand gestures

“Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Matthew 11:29 


This has been a humbling year. I came back from the mission field. I stayed in the ICU. I cancelled our plans and cared for a sick baby. Slowly, I’m laying down my version of God’s calling on my life for His. 

Cody has shifted into his role with grace and purpose. He’s meeting a clear need and they’re so thankful to have him. But my life is full of cycles. Unending dishes, diapers, bottles, interruptions, laundry, potty training, soothing fussy kids at night, grocery runs, sweaty walks, and going over letters and memory verses with a distracted pre-schooler who’d rather be playing in the mud. It’s not as easy for me to wade through the work and see what we’re accomplishing. I thought I’d be flying to the rescue and making an impact on the unreached peoples of the world. Those are good desires, but man, has it been brutal to lay them down and figure out who I am without them.

Pride says “Why would you bring us home? I’m more valuable than this! I have trained so long and so hard and I could be making a difference!”

Humility says, “Jesus is the one that makes the difference. He can position me wherever He likes and give me any job He wants.”

I’ll give you one guess which one my heart tends toward. 

Humility doesn’t grasp for significance and recognition or strive to be important. But I do. Humility doesn’t try to impress other people. But I do. Humility knows that God’s calling is not just to the grand gestures, but to the every-day choice to die to self and love the people He’s put in front of you. But I don’t want to die to self in the ways I’m being asked to right now. I want to tackle big and important work, but Jesus was happy to let his big and important work be interrupted by little children. 

I read a story by Paul David Tripp about his early days as a young pastor. He was over it. He had figured out a new plan for ministry and given his resignation. But an older man stayed after the service and challenged him: “We know you’re discouraged and we know you’re a bit immature, but we haven’t asked you to leave. Where is the church going to get mature pastors if the immature ones leave?” 

We get mature pastors when immature ones stick with it. We get mature moms, mature missionaries, mature believers, when immature ones keep at it. So here I am. Recognizing, left and right, the indicators that my heart is proud and immature. But I hear my Savior saying “Let me teach you.”

Ephesians 4:1-2 says this:
 “…Lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.”

I desperately want to live a life worthy of my calling. I just didn’t realize how often that means “Be patient with each other. Be humble and gentle,” that it’s a calling not just to do certain things, but be a certain type of person. Hard work matters. But it matters more that my work flows out of a heart that is patient with other people. Big sacrifices matter. But it matters more that I make the sacrifices because of how worthy Jesus is, not because I am trying to be worthy. It’s good to want to teach people about Jesus, but I cannot forget how badly I need to be taught by Him.

He was equal with God, but He didn’t cling to that. He was the most significant human being on the face of the Earth, but He didn’t flaunt it. How I need Him to teach me to be humble and gentle. How I need Him to teach me to value people so much that I do not turn away from the mundane, inconvenient, and tedious work of loving them and caring for them day in and day out. 

Here’s the sweet spot. Pride is the source of so much wrestling and angst. But Jesus said, “Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Not only is He ready to teach me, his teaching brings rest. 

Are you frustrated with where He has you? Are you weary and discouraged and reaching for something different and more fulfilling? Do you feel like what you really have to offer has been passed over? Are you trucking through your work, but growing impatient with your people?

Me too. Let’s go to our teacher. Let’s run to our rest. He can teach us to be like Him. He can quiet our hearts. He can remind us that we are here on purpose, and that every second is worthwhile. He can change us so that what we do flows out of who we are in Him, and it is full of life and grace. 

“Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.”
John 15:4




Keep Knocking: He will be with us in trouble

Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

“You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.”

Matthew 7:7-11



I have really struggled with this verse. I think any believer who’s experienced chronic illness probably has. I have asked a lot of times for things I have not received.

In fact, from the first moment Benaiah’s brain scans popped up on the screen in the hospital, my thoughts were not “Oh, well I’ll just ask the Lord to heal that, He can do anything!” To my shame, my heart sank. How many thousands of parents have pleaded with God for their sick child, only to watch them keep suffering? I thought. Why would He answer me?

Instead of recalling all the times the Lord has moved into my circumstances and heard my cries for help, I let myself dwell on suspicion: How could you let this happen to my child? We’re just trying to serve you with our lives and our family is getting hit with one thing after another! You could have stopped this, and you didn’t, so how can I expect your help?

I asked absolutely everyone to pray for our son. And I kept asking. Shooting flares into the darkness. But I braced myself for no help to come.

There in the waiting, a friend wrote this to me:

“I know that that’s the place you’re sitting. Terrified of all that could be to come. I feel so deeply in that for you and even if hope is too painful to hold right now yourself, that’s ok. I’ll hold it for you. I’m praying with hope and confidence for his healing. Many people held that for me with [my daughter] because I honestly just couldn’t. So I’m here. Holding hope and holding light if ever you need it.”


I felt so known. When it was for myself, I could hold onto hope. But when it was my brand new baby? How could I face all that was ahead if I let myself hope and that hope was disappointed? My faith felt fractured. I was reeling, and kicking myself for not standing firm, especially if what my baby needed was for me to pray in faith and confidence and I couldn’t muster it. 

But I think the Lord led this mom to gently write to me: “I’ll hold it for you.”

Person by person, a community of people messaged, called, showed up at my door. They were holding hope for me. They kept asking when my voice broke. They kept knocking when my hand fell limp. 

You hold that baby. We’ll hold your hope. We’re praying for him. We’re believing for him. God can change this. Don’t lose sight of what He is able to do.

A speaker at our church retold the story of the man with a demon-possessed son who asked Jesus to heal him, if He could.

“If I can?” Jesus had asked, “Anything is possible if you believe.”

“I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” the man cried. 

Tears stung in my eyes. This had been my cry, too. The speaker lowered her voice, and gently said, “It was in this father’s crisis of faith that Jesus healed his son, not in his moment of strength.”

I sobbed. 

A few days later, I read this verse: “This is real love – not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent his son as a sacrifice to take away our sins…We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in His love.

1 John 4:10, 16

I was despairing, breaking, fearful, suspicious. But patiently, through His word and His people, God was there with me, reminding me that it is a safe thing to wait on Him. That even when I fear what is waiting for me on the other side of the door, I must keep knocking. I must keep asking. Because God may not help me in the specific way I ask, but his help will surely meet me when I ask Him. His peace is found on the other side of that conversation. And there is no shortcut to it, because He is the answer, not any of the things I’m praying for. I know He will always give me good things when I ask, because He always gives me himself.

“The Lord says, ‘I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue them and honor them.”

Psalm 91:14-15

“Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust Him, and He will help you…Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for Him to act.”

Psalm 37:5, 7

Four months later, here I am, marveling at how well my little son is doing. Rubbing my eyes and looking again, and slowly realizing that God is doing what I was afraid to hope for, in spite of how poorly I trusted Him. I wanted to stand firm with unwavering faith. But what happened is this: I went down, and God sent help. 

I am part of a body, and “all the members care for each other.” (1 Corinthians 12:25) Keep asking, keep seeking, keep knocking? It’s not just an instruction to the individual. It’s a call to a team. Pursue the Lord. Walk with Him. Plead with Him. Not just for yourselves, but for each other. Keep going after Him. And keep reminding each other how much He loves us, how faithful He is, that He’s a good Father who is worthy of our trust.

We are loved by a God who can do anything. He is with us in trouble. He is steady when we falter. It’s the message of the Gospel all over again. Not that we buckled down and made our way to Him, but that He stepped down into our helplessness and offered Himself. And it will probably not be my amazing example of faith that will win the world to Jesus, but my humbled heart, again and again, moved to awe by his amazing faithfulness.

So when He says to keep knocking, I will keep pounding at the door. Both for myself and for the ones who are going under. Because He’s not only testing our faith; He’s building it. 

“…We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in Him, and He will continue to rescue us. And you are helping us by praying for us. Then many people will give thanks because God has graciously answered so many prayers for our safety.”

2 Corinthians 1:8-11


He Remains Unfailing: Puny Strength, Patient God

“But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst of sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in Him and receive eternal life.”

1 Timothy 1:16

After months of praying and holding our breath, another brain MRI is in the books for Benaiah, and it looks like slowly, very slowly, his ventricles are shrinking. No surgery at this point. It is so, so rare that a case like his can be managed with medication alone. We begged the Lord to intervene and He heard our prayers. I should be dancing for joy. I’m relieved. But it feels like the kind of relief at the end of long, tense movie where the suspense would not let up for a second and you’re exhausted from the adrenaline when it’s over. I feel absolutely drained.

He’s okay. He’s going to be okay. I’m so glad he’s going to be okay. I wonder if I will be.

We talked through some of the challenges we’ve walked through and are currently facing with our mission’s member care team and they pointed out that I use the word “should” a lot. They explained that “should” tends to describe our expectations and that constantly comparing reality to our expectations sets us up to feel guilt, anxiety, and discouragement over things we cannot and do not control. “Yes, that’s about the sum up of it,” I responded. We laughed. I cried.

Man, I am hunting for some new “should’s.”

Dancing for joy? Not so much these days. Begging for joy while I drag myself out of bed after a night of getting up with the baby to make breakfast for a high-strung toddler that will demand to have his eggs cut just a certain way? That’s happening a lot more often. Groping for joy when I feel spent after working like crazy to get ourselves set up to serve overseas only to watch all we’ve worked for get pushed further and further back on the timeline? You bet.

Is it enough, when you don’t feel joy, to bring your request before the source of joy?

Is it enough to ask for new mercies this morning when my heart is tired and teary instead of thankful?

My heart often tells me, “You should be handling this better.” But I think it would be more helpful to tell myself, “You should take this to the Lord.”

“Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust Him, and He will help you.”

Psalm 37:5

He. Will. Help. You.

I do not have the promise that I will be strong enough. I have the promise that He will help me when my strength fails. When my joy fails. When my endurance fails. When my love fails. When my heart feels drained and I fall short of all the “should’s.” He remains unfailing.

“…For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness!”

Lamentations 3:22-23

One step at a time, one morning at a time, we are going to get through this. And when we look back, we will not be impressed with how I did what I should have. We will be blown away by how God was faithful and merciful to me when my “should’s” gave out. How He crafted a story full of things I did not expect, and worked through every detail of my disappointments.

I’m still processing through having to step away from ministry in Papua New Guinea for a season, facing one health crisis after another, a car accident, the loss of our trailer, moving from house to house, feeling at a loss with my toddler, and finding myself on my knees for my baby. I want to be over it. With the good news about Benaiah, I want to dust myself off and move on full speed. But there is some brokenness that’s taking time to smooth out.

Here’s what I’m working to remember. People are not necessarily drawn to the Lord because I serve Him so flawlessly and my life is so exemplary and I move through difficulty so gracefully. My faithfulness to Him is not the point or the power of this story. It’s His faithful love to me.

Oh Lord,

Thank you for having mercy on me. May others see in me the evidence of your great kindness and patience, and so be drawn to trust in you. Remind my heart that I am not the hero of my story, you are. When I am disappointed and aching over how I fall short; over my weakness, my issues, my wrestling to believe you, my self-centeredness, pride, impatience, and anxiety – May I remember that you are patient with me.

You are steadily working transformation in my life – the things that are pleasing to you. However it looks right now, as I gaze on you, you will keep changing me. I can have hope. Not because I am performing well, but because I am your work.

“God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For WE ARE God’s masterpiece. He created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”

Ephesians 2:8-10

Sufficient: grace that holds up in our hardship

“…We are perplexed, but not driven to despair.”

2 Corinthians 4:8

It’s been weeks of processing, crying, need-meeting, trying to adjust my expectations, feeling how up-in-the-air our lives are, and wondering when we will ever feel settled again. I feel absolutely spent. I have been thrust into a plot line I would never, ever choose. 

Our church had a parent commissioning for families with new babies a few weeks ago, and I sat in a room full of beaming couples with their healthy, beautiful babies – safe and sound and whole…and my broken one. My precious, tiny son with his brain cysts and spina bifida and swollen ventricles and cerebellum gaps and a shaky future full of scary possibilities. I was heartbroken for him.

For weeks, I have been crying out to the Lord for joy that overflows and peace that passes understanding and strength that overcomes this awful situation. I’ve been searching his word for guidance for how to walk through this. I’ve been reaching for a hope that touches my grief. I know there’s nowhere else to turn. I know that the Bible is precious and life-giving. But this is painful at a level that its promises don’t seem to touch. I look at them and I repeat them and I remember that God is working things for good and that, in eternity, everything will be healed and whole, but my baby hadn’t even made it 20 days from his first breath and he was back in the hospital. We’d had just 5 weeks of newborn snuggles when we started discussions on which brain surgery would be best for him. We had held on with all our might through this pregnancy. Little did we know how we would struggle on the other side of it. 

I climb into bed each night so relieved that I’ll be unconscious soon and I lay in bed each morning, trying to rally for another day in a story I don’t want to be living. I have no control here. Not over this. This is not something I can study for or work hard enough to fix. In a moment, it didn’t matter what I had wanted my life to look like. It rearranged itself around a new priority, and I watched, helpless as the pieces fell into place for a role where my training didn’t apply and my desires didn’t matter.

This is do-what-needs-to-be-done territory. This is a hold-our-whole-lives-before-the-Lord season, because we are helpless here, and all we can do is look to Him. We are discouraged, and fighting to cling to our hope. We are weary, and we are learning what hard work it is to do the good God has set before us and not lose heart – to be content with the good He has set before us in place of the good we had in mind. To trust in our disappointment that He is our helper and that He has not abandoned us. We are fighting a battle with our own hearts to entrust our baby and our story to Him.

Here is what I’m working to remember:

I have no control, but the One who has all the control is very good, and He loves Benaiah very much. He is for us. He has planned good things for us since long ago. Our lives are his masterpiece, not the jumbled, broken wreck it feels like at the moment. We are confused, but He is faithfully ordering our steps. (Ephesians 2:8-10)

Benaiah has some things that didn’t form well, but who he is was formed with great care. God not only created the temporary body, He crafted the precious, eternal soul living in it. Benaiah is more than just his body and his brokenness. With all that needs treatment, yet he is wonderfully made. (Psalm 139:14)

Peace that guards my heart and mind comes in proportion to my choice to fix my thoughts on the Lord, cast my cares on Him, and refuse to worry. His peace doesn’t fall short, but I do fall short of stepping into it. I am begging Him to help me here. To help me to fight the temptation to back away from Him in my disappointment, confusion, frustration and fear. He is ready to hold me, guard me, comfort me, and walk me through this if I will throw myself and my troubles onto Him, whole-heartedly trusting his faithfulness and his care for me. (Isaiah 26:3-4

Oh Lord, 

We are looking at this unexpected season before us and asking you for help. We don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you. 

I believe this next year can be full of your grace. Your grace for all the appointments. Your grace in the surgeons and doctors you provide to care for Benaiah. Your grace over his surgery and procedures. Your grace for parenting and marriage, even out of our brokenness. Your grace in orchestrating a way for us to serve that is a good fit, here and now. Your grace at work in our hearts to teach us to trust you, to endure, and to be satisfied in you through the waiting. Your grace to keep hoping you will make a way for Cody to fly again. Your grace in our relationships. Your grace for all we’ve lost and left behind.

Your grace will be sufficient for us. And this year, I believe we’ll see it again and again and again. Lord, give us the eyes to recognize your grace in the hardship. Help our hearts to find your peace as we gaze at who you are. Teach us to trust you when we feel perplexed, that our hearts may face each next moment with courage. When we cling to you, we will not be driven to despair. You’re worthy of our trust. Lord, help our unbelief.

The Lord Helped: the factor that cancels out all my “although’s”

“Although the Arameans attacked with only a small army, the Lord helped them conquer the much larger army of Judah…”

2 Chronicles 24:24

Although…with only…the Lord helped.

May I latch onto these words for all I’m worth.

It does not matter what I’m up against, what the odds are, or what I’m going without. If the Lord decides to help me, I will overcome. His help and His provision: they are all I need and the only factors that matter. May I never lose sight of my need for Him. May my heart always be yielded to Him. 

Oh Lord,

Help me to trust you whole-heartedly. Let no disappointment, pain, hardship, frustration or fear ever be enough that I decide to abandon you. Strengthen me to believe you, to follow you, and to obey you.

You alone. You always.

I desperately need your help for these next steps. They are intimidating and big. They hold many unknowns and it is so easy for my heart to fill with worry. But here is my prayer in the face of it:

At the end of the day, may my story say “Although….with only….the Lord helped.”

If that were so, it would be enough.

The Finisher: who is our hope when the race stretches long?

“…looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith…”
Hebrews 12:2

Who is the finisher? Is it me?

No.

As I run this race and seek to endure, am I called to look inward to find what I need to finish? 

No.

Should I worry that I will somehow miss the calling and steps He has marked for me?

No.

The work before me has been prepared from long ago (Eph 2:10), and even when it is brutal and difficult, the One on whom this depends does not yield until it is finished.

He will finish what He has started concerning me.

The race stretches out before me, and it holds difficulty, darkness, precarious footing, an unrelenting incline, obstacles, and constant distractions.

But the Finisher lights a lamp for me in my darkness, enables me to stand on mountain heights, strengthens me to endure, helps me to scale every wall, makes my way perfect, and spreads the path wide before my feet.

He shows me how to run for the joy set before me, clinging to the certain hope that we will not fall short of the finish.

Psalm 18

27 You rescue the humble,
    but you humiliate the proud.
28 You light a lamp for me.
    The Lord, my God, lights up my darkness.
29 In your strength I can crush an army;
    with my God I can scale any wall.

30 God’s way is perfect.
    All the Lord’s promises prove true.
    He is a shield for all who look to him for protection.
31 For who is God except the Lord?
    Who but our God is a solid rock?
32 God arms me with strength,
    and he makes my way perfect.
33 He makes me as surefooted as a deer,
    enabling me to stand on mountain heights.
34 He trains my hands for battle;
    he strengthens my arm to draw a bronze bow.
35 You have given me your shield of victory.
    Your right hand supports me;
    your help has made me great.
36 You have made a wide path for my feet
    to keep them from slipping.

Not My Own: lifting my eyes to his worthiness, work, and power

Peter saw his opportunity and addressed the crowd.

“People of Israel,” he said, “What is so surprising about this? And why stare at us as though we had made this man walk by our own power or godliness? For it is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob…who has brought glory to his servant Jesus by doing this.”

Acts 3:12-13

I’m going through a Bible study about parenting in the power of the Holy Spirit right now because I’m 8 weeks away from my second son entering the picture, and what I feel is: “Oh my word, there’s going to be two!!! Lord, please help me learn how to do this, quick!” 

The study has been going through examples in Scripture of the Holy Spirit working through regular, flawed people with the gentle reminder that what made their work actually work was Him, not them. And so it must be in our homes.

When we let the Holy Spirit do his work in us, we make much of Jesus to our children. But instead, we often end up trying to step into the role of Savior to our kids and then we feel absolutely overwhelmed by needs we cannot meet in our own strength. I have felt this a thousand times! In our striving, we may not even realize that we’re actually working to steal glory that belongs to Christ, to substitute our hard work for what He is able to step in and accomplish as we yield to Him and wait on Him.

The author of this study asked the question: How does Acts 3 speak to your role as a mom? I loved this question because it helped me to put into words this thought: I am just as helpless to bring about the change and growth in my kids’ hearts as I would be to take a crippled man by the hand and tell him to walk. If it’s going to happen, it will never be because of my own power or godliness. And that’s where relief enters the picture.

I could never, by my own power or godliness, do the work God has laid out for me: not in my home, not out in the world, not even in my own heart. But just as his Spirit changed everything for ordinary Peter, He is able to lead me with certainty and work through me impressively as I yield to him.  No barrier, hurdle, or limit is too much for him.

The minute I say “not my own:”

-power
-godliness
-righteousness
-wisdom
-will

“but yours alone, Lord,”

is the minute that opens the way for His limitless and awesome work. 

“So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God perfect in their relationship to Christ. That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me.”
Colossians 1:28-29

Oh Lord,

As I yearn to walk well in this confusing season away from our ministry and displaced from our home; as I long to teach my son about you and instill in him a desire to know you; as I wrestle with my own heart to trust what you are building with my life and to be faithful in whatever work you place before me, my inadequacy becomes very clear. May it lead me again to the cross. To your worthiness, work and power, not my own. 

May these moments strengthen my heart to run hard, looking to you and believing you whole-heartedly for all you are able to do in and through a life like mine.

The Cereal Game: a glimpse of how cherished we are when hardship hits hard

“God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation…So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father…He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word.

And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession.”

James 1:12, 16-18

I have been overwhelmed lately. I am torn between hysterical tears and stuffing it all down (“this is fine, this is fine, just keep swimming!”). I am wishing with all my heart for this to be OVER already.

The nausea, the pregnancy, the many appointments, the hospital stays, the tubes and wires coming off of me, the 5 pound fanny pack of equipment I tote around everywhere, the alarms in the middle of the night, the gallon ziploc of medications. The waiting to go back to being useful. I have 13 weeks left of growing this baby. I don’t know how long sorting out the heart rhythm problems will take afterwards. I am so eager to get past this and onto the next thing.

But this transition IS my next thing.

I can’t just grit my teeth and hold on until it’s over when it lasts this long. There is a way, in the midst of the inconvenience and the discomfort, to choose thankfulness and contentment; to do this season whole-heartedly; to wait willingly; to find joy in my Savior. There has to be. Lord, help my unbelief.

Abishai asked me to play “the cereal game” with him the other day. He then proceeded to thank God for something with every bite of cereal until his bowl was gone. “Thank you, God, for the camper.” He grinned. “Thank you for my cousins,” he took another bite, “thank you for our truck,” and another, “thank you for the doors.”

The doors?,” I asked.

He kept going without explaining, “Thank you for mommy and daddy.”

I shrugged and joined in, thanking and eating spoonfuls of Trix, and I was both humored and floored. From the mouths of babes.

A few days later, I heard him at it again with each piece of an orange I had peeled for him. I think it comes from a few weeks ago, when we decorated our tree. We taught Abi to thank God for something with each ornament we added. He had to think of something before he could add another ornament, and it was exciting for him to put on each new, shiny decoration (all in one clump was his style), so he got pretty quick at it.

We had wanted to be intentional to look back at our year and see how we had been cared and provided for, to mark our Ebenezers. But I was blown away to see Abishai translate our little family tradition into something so daily – thanking God with each ornament, each bite of Trix, and each segment of orange. Step by step thank you’s. He is aware that God has been lavishly giving things to him, and oh what fun it is to him to name them!

Lord,

Thank you for this little glimpse into my son’s happy heart, into step-by-step thankfulness, into the badly needed belief that, in the midst of the hardship, I have all these good things because you cherish me. I cannot afford to be misled – to think that a single perfect and beautiful thing in my life is there by happy accident. Your word steers me, in my testing, to recognize that every single one of them is there by specific design. They are intentional pick-me-ups selected for me from a Father who is near and invested and working to remind me that, even though He is allowing difficulty, I am his most precious possession.

Redeem this waiting in my heart, Lord. Teach me to combat the unknowns, frustrations, stresses, and complaints of this season with one thank you, one bite, and one step at a time. And teach me to mark every good and perfect thing you have given as coming from your hand, for my heart, because you see my struggle and you care so deeply.