Facing the Emptiness

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I have baby onesies with no pudgy legs to fill them. I have space where I hung dresses for a job I didn’t get.

Having empty space in our lives, doesn’t mean we’re called to endure emptiness. Once a woman wept outside an empty tomb and was met by the hope of the world.

Remember Mary, the shamed woman whose heart was seen by Jesus? In Him, she was most likely cherished for the first time. Then she witnessed the desire of her heart mocked, beaten, and nailed to a cross.

Mary’s new identity was mercilessly pinned to a piece of wood. Her hope was in Jesus. And now it hung lifeless for the whole world to see.

Our desires may be holy and epic!  For me, wanting to adopt is that one desire I feel I’ve been watching die a gruesome death. It’s out of my hands.  All I can do is stand aside and feel the fool for believing. Have you ever felt this way; that God entrusted you with a longing but it seems it’s a no-go?

I’m guessing Mary may have felt this way. She proclaimed the hope of the world had come, and the next day they rolled a stone sealing His grave.

Still, she knelt outside the tomb, where her unmet expectations lay buried and dead.

Dying to self is a true death.  And it’s OK to treat it that way. As long as we don’t forget: We worship a God of resurrection!

Mary went to Jesus’ tomb, terrified and confused to find it hollow. She pleaded with the angels, asking where they’d taken him. (John 20:11-18). It’s not that she wanted Jesus to be dead, but it’s what she expected.

Sometimes, we’re so busy focusing on the hollowness of a situation…we miss the hallelujah!

We’re so much like Mary. If we’ve watched a desire of our heart be abused and buried, we visit the grave expecting it to stay that way forever.

We forget what hope looks like. When this happens, we can miss it staring us in the face.

Hope looks like Jesus.

Hope is Jesus.

Mary didn’t even recognize Him when he appeared to her outside the tomb. She mistakes him for the gardener!  (John 20:15) She was seized by the fact things didn’t remain irredeemable. The world was whispering, “What’s the point? What you hoped for is still dead.”

But the world lies. There’s always a resurrection!  Whatever’s  lifeless, looks different after revival.

Jesus looked different. He was glorified. (Philippians 2:20-21) I think it’s why Mary didn’t recognize Him right away.

It’s the same with the desires of our hearts. It’s not that they aren’t lovely, but God has something planned to take our breath away! Something we haven’t considered. Something impossible.

This. Is. Faith. Standing outside a graveyard and believing resurrection will come.

We’re completing our Foster Certification. Something mind you, we said we’d NEVER do. God, through the past five years of loss and frustration, has been tirelessly crafting our powdered dreams into something completely different than what we expected to see. The idea of becoming Foster Parents was our equivalent of Mary mistaking Jesus for the gardener. We initially flipped out, “Where have you taken our dead dream?!!” I just wanted to remain face down, ugly crying like Mary.

Sometimes, it’s easier to sit in disappointment then to step into the unknown. This is a big unknown for us! But I know the sweet face of hope. I refuse to mistake Him.

We’re approaching a desolate space and expecting the impossible to happen.

We’re expecting God to resurrect all that was lost.

We’re expecting desires to look different.

Standing right in front of us, could be the glorified, holy, resurrected will for our lives.

God has the tender ability to resurrect ANY situation in our life. Check out these Bible verses for inspiration:  God’s Word-Marked by Love -Resurrection

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Be Brave. Ask for Help.

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We call it, “The Dark Hole of our Marriage.” I was thirty and had birthed three kids in 2 ½ years. Everyone around me was a total jerk. Everyone. Other mammas, my mirror, the mailman, and especially that speed-walker dude on Kellogg. Trust me – but don’t trust me. I hadn’t slept and each day was a blur of diapers, feedings and potty accidents. It wasn’t until I was thirty-three that I began to feel a bit human again. Kids were sleeping more; playing in the toilet less. I finally understood; maybe everyone around me wasn’t really a jerk. Maybe the honking lady in the Sprouts parking lot truly cared my baby was rolling away with my shopping cart. Maybe.

Perhaps, they were just offering an oxygen mask to a suffocating girl.

Life’s truly a canvas of mountains and valleys. One of the greatest dangers for extreme mountain climbers is lack of oxygen to the brain. When this happens, they get disoriented and can’t think clearly (Hello, motherhood!). They become incapable of ascending or descending the mountain alone. A fellow climber must place their own oxygen mask over the climber’s mouth and physically help them down.

This is how God designed fellowship to work. Because we all have ‘mountains’ to climb, dear ones!

On some mountains, you’ll be stronger than me. Your faith won’t falter. You’ll have a week when all the kiddos are healthy, and you’ve had bunches of quiet time with Jesus. Your oxygen tank will be 100% full with a backup in the mini-van.

On other climbs, I might be honking at your kiddo in a runaway shopping cart.

But what is our spiritual oxygen tank filled with? Encouragement? Wise words? Dinner on the doorstep?

All of  these are precious and certainly loving. But we’re talking about our sisters SUFFOCATING!!! I don’t care how epic your baked pasta dish is, it’s not going to cut it.

Two things are made from the breath of God in the Bible: Mankind (Genesis 2:7), and God’s word (1 Timothy 3:16).

This is no coincidence. When our spirits are gasping for air, we need the breath of God’s word poured into us. But what happens when we’re too worn out to lift relief to our lips? You’re not the only gal who struggles to find time to read God’s word. But you don’t need to collapse on the trail and declare it hopeless.

Look around for other climbers – other believers. Use what’s left in your lungs to cry out, “Someone, please speak the word of God over my life right now!”

This is not shameful. This is brave.

Your life, your children, your marriage, your sanity, in some way, depend on your ability to recognize, you’re too exhausted to ascend higher by yourself. Some days, we’ll need a sister to hoist us up, press the word of God upon our lips and carry us straight to Jesus.

And if this isn’t you right now, get ready for a search and rescue season! I guarantee there’s someone with an empty oxygen tank on your trail. Scoop them up, speak God’s truth into their life and take them to the King.

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My Life. My Gift.

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I have no gift to bring fit for King.  I never will.  So why even offer him anything?

This question has been playing on repeat in my mind lately.

I have been listening the song Little Drummer Boy on repeat too.( And if you must know, my Christmas tree is still up. Merry Valentine’s Day!)

We all have a drum. Question is: Are we playing it for our King? Are we playing our best for him? Or are we not even interested in dusting it off?

Lately I’ve felt that my ‘drum’ is sitting under a pile of dirty dishes, mountains of laundry, sick kiddos, an avalanche of adoption paperwork and pets I forget to feed. To be honest, trying to dig out that drum would take too much effort.  And even if I did, I guarantee, it may sound more like a War Drum then one of honor and praise.

I have no gift to bring fit for a King.

The fact that I can’t even make the effort to play a simple song of praise to him, is proof of that. But what is my ‘drum’?

My spiritual gifts? My talents? Maybe.

When we focus on the gifts God has given us, and consider using them for his Kingdom, it is easy to scrutinize the ‘gift’.  It is easy to point the finger back at God when we feel we have nothing of worth to give him. After all, HE made us. He could have given me a more beautiful voice, he could’ve given me the mind of Einstein or perhaps the leadership of Lincoln.

But no, he just gave me this drum.  This old, out of tune, imperfect drum, swallowed up by the mundane details of everyday life. It is easy to look at the ‘wise men’ around us who are bringing him their finest gifts, and feel defeated:

 I am just a Mom. I am sort of a writer. I am simply just not as ‘gifted’ as THAT person. So I’ll kind of play my drum…if it’s all God has given me.

But when we judge the drum, whatever it may look like in our life…we are judging God.

‘Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his…’ Psalm 100:3

When we think of our ability to bring a gift worthy of a King in terms of our talents, we will only half heartedly be able to play a song for him. And when we half heartedly play our drum for him, we miss Jesus.

‘As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury.  He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins.  “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” Luke 21:1-4

God will ask us to give out of our ‘poverty’ at some point in our lives. Maybe it will be sickness, a broken heart, exhaustion or literal financial strain. We will have moments where we could say to God, I’ve got nothing to offer you right now. Even if I did, it would be two small coins because that is all you have given me!.

We blame our King because we forget who our King is.

When we come to him among the rich and say, This is all I have…, our King says, That is all I want.

Are we like the widow who gives all we have?

Sometimes all we feel we have is bitterness and anger. We look at our drum of a life and think, You expect me to do wonders for your kingdom with this mess?!

No. But Jesus can do wonders for his kingdom with that mess.

We must start lifting that entire drum up to Him if we want the beat to change…’she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.’

When I was in college, I saved up to buy a set of Conga Drums. I had to save up because they were not cheap! There was a season that I played them every day…then every week…then….well, never. Sometimes I wonder if those drums were worth the cost?

The drum is not only our talents. The drum is our lives. We must recognize, they were bought at a great cost. They were bought with the blood of Christ.

‘But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.’

Was it really worth the sacrifice? Did God make a poor judgment call when he ransomed our lives?

The value of the drum is set by the price paid. We best not miss the crazy love that has been poured out for us.

When we sit on our drum, complain about it’s usefulness, and question it’s ability to make a beautiful sound, we are spitting on the cross.

God Almighty sacrificed His son because he saw enormous value in saving us for His orchestra.

If the creator of the universe sees value in the condition of our lives, we better start to change our perspective.

Will we remain silent and miss our purpose?

The drum is my life: The only gift worthy of a King. If that consists of fatigue, my marriage, my kid’s snotty noses and piles of paper work…then let me learn to put in my ‘two very small copper coins’ with a thankful heart. A THANKFUL heart…because I know my King.  My King saved me for a reason.

Let me have the courage to bring my little drum among the wise men and ask with a humble heart, Shall I play for you?

I guarantee the song I play to my King will not always be lovely.

But my King is lovely. My King is full of grace. He gave me this life.

He fashioned my drum. He is listening.

As long as I am playing my drum only for Him…

He is smiling…

Smiling at me and my drum.

 

 

 

My God: Father

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God sent his son, so I could be his daughter. I have no problem accepting that I am God’s child. This knowledge has wrapped me up in safety and peace my whole life. I belong to God.

I was reading over The Lord’s Prayer this week. It begins with, Our Father. For the first time I realized, I never began my prayers by acknowledging God was my Father. Always, my prayers have begun with Dear Lord or Dear God. Never did I pray, Dear Father. I felt God challenging me to pray this way for the first time.

That shouldn’t be hard God, no biggie!

But it was.

I couldn’t do it. It didn’t seem right to me. It almost felt disrespectful. He is my Holy God; He is the maker of all things. I felt like I couldn’t begin my prayer with such an earthy name as Father. I have an amazing earthly Father. I didn’t need to extend the term upwards to heaven. I was all good in the Daddy department.

God really went after me over this issue. This week in bible study, it referenced Romans 8:15:

‘…the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry,

“Abba, Father.”

This is what was happening. God’s spirit was relentlessly after me to testify that I should be crying out, Abba, Father’.

Abba is a very personal Hebrew term for Father. It literally means Daddy or Papa. This is what Jesus cries out as he falls to the ground in prayer in the book of Mark:

“Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you.’

Then we go to Galatians, and again:

Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ”Abba, Father”.

Why was I pressing down the spirit that wanted to call out Abba? Why was it so hard for me to call God my Daddy, my Papa?

God wants extreme intimacy with us. By calling him my Daddy, we must acknowledge God wants more of our trust.

God was casting his net a little further into my heart. He was showing me that there are parts of myself I haven’t trusted him with. I struggle a lot with this.

It is hard not to view intimacy through the eyes of my experiences here on earth. If I let someone in just a little too far, it can result in a lot of hurtful disappointment. But God isn’t someone…He is God.

God does not fail us. He finds us.

Wherever we wander, He is always our Father. If my child was lost, or struggling; I would pour every resource I had into finding them and restoring them. But my resources are limited.

God, with his unlimited resources, is pursuing me. He finds me over and over again. He is never failing.

He will never grow tired of pulling me in closer. He will never grow too old to bend down and look me in the eye. He will never be weak and unable to carry me on his shoulders. He will never be too busy to lift up my chin and ask me what is wrong.

He will never lack wisdom to point me in the way I should go. And every time, He will go with me. Every time, He will hold my hand.  He will never look away when I am attacked; He will go before me and fight. He will always win.

He will never be too poor to feed me. His love will never dry up and leave me aching for acceptance. He will never lose his voice; He will sing and shout and whisper words of love to me. He will never be sick and unable to run the race with me.

He will never be ashamed of me. I am his workmanship.

He will never leave me without shelter. He bled on two pieces of wood so he could build his dwelling in me. He will never go blind, unable to see that I have tripped and scraped up a part of my heart. He sees me.

My Daddy sees me. Every time.

My Daddy answers me. In His time.

My Daddy holds me. All the time.

My Father loves me. From Heaven, to the cross, and back again.

My Father is not just someone. He is God.

The Big Switch: Ethiopia to Ghana

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‘We are asking 5 families to join a pilot program that just opened up to adopt from Ghana. You are one of the families we would like to consider this…’

We had already been to Ethiopian restaurants, watched Ethiopian documentaries; we loved Ethiopia! We were going to wait 4 years to be matched with an Ethiopian orphan. So…

Where is Ghana again?!??

I Googled the map of Africa. There it was- somewhere between Nigeria and the Ivory Coast.

East Africa.  Ebola Africa.  Violent Africa?

I am going to die if I go there. I am going to get lost, or kidnapped, or murdered….AND DIE!

Please do not be offended by ignorance. I am trying to be honest.  Honestly–sometimes honesty isn’t pretty.

The fear was crippling.  The answer was no. That was that.

For full disclosure, I sent my husband the email.  He wasn’t ‘feeling’ Ghana either…at first.

Why are you so afraid, Jenna?

I knew God was asking me this. It was good question; God doesn’t ask stupid ones.  I had to dig deep and pray: Is this a check in the spirit from the Lord? Or is the enemy trying to get in the way of God’s plan?’

‘For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.’ 2 Timothy 1:7

 The truth was: I knew nothing about Ghana. ZERO. Heck, I had to Google map it! My fears were totally based on, well…nothing.  I didn’t know if it was violent. Turns out it has no case of Ebola.  It currently has legit democratic elections.

God does not give us fear. God gives us faith!

If God is asking us to enter into something that seems dangerous from an earthy perspective, he will give us a ‘sound mind’ about it: warning, discernment, caution. He will not cause us to panic and throw our hands about in fury.  He will not scare us in to submission. He calls us into submission because he has plans to prosper us.

But we have a choice; Satan knows this.

The enemy is SO very present at these pivotal moments in our faith. He brings on the fear factor.

We end up running from our fears, instead of running towards God’s will. 

We are attacked big time when God is calling us to do something awesome for His name’s sake. We can not be lazy in this spiritual battle.  We must commit to prayer; we must be in God’s word, we must cling to other believers.

All the while, lean in to God…then lean in some more. Lean in so close that you can hear his voice above the clashing of lies and the howling fears.

Do this and you will hear him. The crippling panic and unanswerable questions fall away. Then it is just you, standing in the shadow of the cross: loved, forgiven, bravely poured out.  If we believe he did this for us, we must believe that that we can trust Him with all things: sickness, parenting, jobs…even unknown  parts of Africa.

Only God can replace our fear with faith. 

The kind of faith that confirms God loves us to death.  The faith that gives confidence to go where we may die, because we know deep down: to die is to gain.

My husband and I wrestled in prayer together until 1 a.m. over the decision to switch our adoption to Ghana. I felt peace sweep over my body, like a tingly heat.  I heard the country’s name over and over in my head: Ghana, Ghana, Ghana.

No fear. No questions. Only faith remained. It was warm and peaceful. So peaceful I could hear his voice.

Yes, Ghana.

Dear Lord,

Please take away my fear and give me faith.

Amen

His signature…

freddy-castro-133326-unsplashGod is beautiful. Truly.

I was feeling far from God a few weeks ago. Every time I went to pray, it seemed there was an elephant in the room but I honestly didn’t know what species it was: pride, resentment, doubt?  Doubt. That was it.  He recently had called me to take a small step out in faith. I feel I was obedient.  Surely, my outward actions didn’t reveal doubt…but what about my heart? God was staring into my heart, and my heart finally flinched. God expose my unbelief!

I felt led to open my bible.  I offered up a, show me what to read, prayer.  I opened up to Haggai…Haggai?! Really Lord? Yes. Really.

The Lord was stirring up the spirit of Zerubbabel to begin rebuilding the Temple. The Jewish people had grown discouraged in their obedience and had stopped working on it. Haggai was sent to encourage them to take action; but they would always be building in the shadow of Solomon’s Great Temple and its entire splendor. Chapter 2:3 says:

Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you like nothing? But now be strong, Zerubbabel, declares the Lord. ‘

‘Does it not seem to you like nothing?  I read this line over and over. Compared to Solomon’s temple, this temple looked like nothing. I also felt like my small step in obedience seemed like nothing in the great scheme of God’s Kingdom. God had uprooted the seed of my doubt.

 Do little steps in obedience to God really matter? Do they really impact His Kingdom?. Continue reading