Category Archives: Waiting

Book Review: Waiting for Wonder

Waiting & patience have never been two of my strongest character traits. I’ve spent so many hours on my knees begging God to move things along and telling him exactly how He should and could as if he needed help.

This past month has a been an extreme test in patience as I watched my oldest endure some of the most intensive pain and suffering with complete TMJ replacement surgery. God and I have had countless conversations about why he was requiring my son to put his schooling and career on hold, why God would give such an amazing musical gift and then seem to take it away with a defective jaw, why it seemed that God is playing a cat and mouse game with my son? Giving him a passion for saxophone and music only to then yank it away as soon as that passion was realized seems like a cruel joke and a terrible plan.

If it was left up to me…and then I fill in the blanks with unrelenting speed and accuracy.

Waiting for Wonder Book Review

I volunteered to be a part of a book review this month, something I haven’t done in over a year. The book is called, Waiting for Wonder by Marlo Schalesky. The subtitle is: “Learning to live on God’s timeline.” Who says the Creator of the universe doesn’t have a sense of humor?

This book is a fascinating study of the life of Abraham and Sarah. The author combines a historically accurate yet fictional account of Sarah’s waiting for the promise of a child along with actual accounts from the author’s own life. I’ve never read a book in this form before and honestly I have never studied the details of Sarah’s story either. I learned so much from walking along side this hero of the faith as she waited and waited for God to fulfill the promise he had given her.

I have so many quotes from this book highlighted and underlined, I wish I could share them all with you. There are gems in this book when the author names truth so honestly it takes your breath away. She carefully reveals God’s loving nature in a way that shows a deep and profound understanding of Him. This is not a one note book but a symphony of love and patience and acceptance. Revealing a God who is bigger than most of us ever can believe. She also puts her finger on the painful truths that most of us privately harbor in our hearts and by naming them allows the reader to examine the holes in such beliefs.

“For a moment, I see God’s truth so clearly: he is the God who calls us at the very place of our deepest shame, our deepest pain, and transforms that place into something with breathtaking beauty. No one but God-no one but Elohim-would dare do such a thing.”

 

“God does not forget. He does however, sometimes let us wait. And in that interval between promise and fulfillment, in the “not yets” of life, we typically do not lose faith in God’s omnipotence; rather we lose sight of his love.”

Waiting for Wonder has been a balm for my weary soul. It has challenged and uncovered so many questions I have for God and it also has given me hope as I see how God fulfilled his promise to Sarah.

As we head into a new year, add this book to your reading list and allow the God to speak truth and hope to your soul.

“God sees us in the shadows of our tents, in the places we hide because we are afraid to hope anymore. He sees us and he speaks.”

Click this link to order your copy from Amazon.

 

Excavating my heart

 

House 1

I have lived in my “new” house for almost 11 years now.  We built this house and when we moved in everything was brand new and it was clean and everything worked. That’s not the case any longer, my carpets are hopelessly “kid” stained, my dishwasher and stove both had to be replaced, the “new” pool needed a new liner this year and the back door now leaks.

field 1

 

Two weeks ago I watched with dread as an earth mover was delivered to the back field behind my house. One man got out and put up a silt fence and then flags and marked off property lines for another house in the field behind my “new house,” I’ve been afraid of this day since the day I moved in. Early the next morning, I was awoken to the loud sound of that earth mover firing up it’s diesel engine as it prepared to begin the process of digging the foundation for a house that was always expected but never wanted.

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This big empty field has been our backyard since we moved in. The kids have had the joy of playing baseball and football there, it’s been a source of discovery as they have searched for treasure and animals and fossils, we have used this field to fly kites, to blow off rockets, and to build snow forts. We have also used this field as our dumping ground for grass, leaves, sticks, used up jack-o-lanterns and there may even be an old pile of bricks back there, but I’ll never admit they are ours. This big empty field is part of our backyard, except it’s not and now it’s being claimed by it’s rightful owner. And I’m not at all happy about it..as if I have any right to be mad.

That morning I watched the earth mover slowly transform a beautiful field into an ugly eye sore. While I watched, I told God all about my frustration and disappointment and fear of losing the empty field. I told him that I liked the empty field and that it was a good thing and that I didn’t want this new development encroaching on my space.  All the while, the earth mover kept moving the earth and digging deeper into the ground unaware or unconcerned that I was upset at his progress.

new construction 1

 

Sometime during my rant to God, a unwanted thought floated through my mind, “What if…what if, this house that you clearly don’t want is the home of your next best friend?  What if…this house behind you becomes the source of one of my biggest blessings in your life?” And with that thought, I started to see the earth mover, my empty field and this new hole in the ground in different light. I started to consider the possibilities, I started to wonder if it was possible that our old field could turn into a new adventure, a new beginning. I watched the earth mover move over the same spot hundreds of times, it looked like it would never accomplish it’s task of digging the new foundation. Every time it would pass by a section to move some dirt, a new section of dirt would fall into the hole that was just created. It’s slow, loud, methodical and purposeful actions were performed over and over and over again until slowly I began to see the foundation take shape.

What if our hearts, our lives, our dreams, our futures were like this empty field and God was the earth mover? I am often content with what I know. I tell my kids all the time that the “crazy you know is better than the crazy you don’t!”  There are so many times when God starts to move things around in my life and I become concerned, angry, whiny and just don’t want him to mess with me. My response to Him, my acceptance of His plan usually doesn’t have any bearing on His work. He continues to slowly and purposefully remove the old dirt from my heart until he has cleared enough away for me to begin to see the plan take shape. It’s my choice to accept his work in my life or to fight it with everything I have. One choice leads to a lot more pain and stress than the other. But even so, it’s still not easy when God is excavating our hearts and lives. The dirt still needs to be moved and shaped and lifted and dumped. Transformation needs to take place and that transformation is always loud and long and something old needs to be taken away in order for something new to take shape.

Right now construction has stopped. It was 24/7 for a few days and now, nothing. There are no workers, no cement trucks, no hammers…nothing. It’s nice to have a reprieve from the noise but I’m stuck looking at an unfinished house. No new “bestie” is moving in any time soon with the house looking like this. And so I wait…

 

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Waiting is one of the most painful and yet constant things in our lives. It requires nothing and it requires everything all at the same time. Here’s the thing I know about the builders of the house, they will be back. I know that this house will not stand like this forever, I know this beyond a shadow of a doubt. Why don’t I have that much faith in God the Almighty? Why do I doubt that God will finish what he has started in me? I use up so much energy fretting and wondering and pacing…I’m not sure what else I should be doing but telling God about how and when and why and what he should be doing probably isn’t it.

Do I trust God enough to come back? Do I believe that he values me enough to finish me? Do you?

Many times in the Bible God’s people waited on Him to answer their prayers, to save them from trials or to bless them in the face of adversity. This process of learning to trust God had to be taught over and over and over again to each new generation. We are no different than the ancient Israelites.

In Isaiah 43: 19 it says, “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland to give drink to my people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.”

Hang on my friends, God is preparing something…it says so in his Word.

 

Pray for Brussels

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Brussels, Belgium has experienced a terrible tragedy today and the rest of the world weeps with her. I just don’t understand.

I’m studying an old book called, Experiencing God, by Henry and Richard Blackaby. This study has taken off in our church community like a wildfire, catching and grabbing groups all over but with no intentional or organized plan. It’s curious to be having a conversation with someone in the halls of our church and mention what you are studying and find out that they too are reading the same book.

Today my study was about Truth.

    “Don’t evaluate your situation until you have heard from  Jesus. He is Truth.”

Oh how hard this is as I watch the coverage of the bombings that just happened today. As I watch my Facebook and Twitter feeds swirl with terrible images and hurt and pain and loss…Lord? Why?

“Never determine the truth of a situation only by looking at the circumstances.”

It’s Holy Week. The week the church remembers the last days Jesus walked this earth. The last days that he was here so that we could touch him and talk to him face to face and eat with him. The last days…

I wonder what the situation looked like to the disciples and followers of Jesus during those days. There was so much violence and pain and betrayal…the truth of the situation looked like all was lost-how could it have looked any different?

That’s how I feel today. There is so much violence, so much pain and betrayal. There is no peace, no security, no love.

Pray for Brussels.

Pray for Truth.

Pray for healing.

Pray for the Holy Spirit to reveal God’s perspective on the circumstances.

I don’t know any answers for today…I only know that while Jesus was dying on the cross all seemed lost…

And then suddenly,

everything changed.

John 14:6 “I am…the truth.”

 

 

Spiritual Incubator-God’s love as seen through the eyes of the NICU

Lucy's feetRecently I’ve spent many days inside the halls of the Rush University NICU while a little girl, who has captured my heart, fights to grow strong in a world she wasn’t meant to be in yet. She is being required to do things her little body isn’t ready for and to excel at tasks she isn’t at all qualified to accomplish.

 

 

It’s unfair.

It’s hard to watch.

It’s miraculous.

Each day she amazes her parents and her doctors as she clears hurdles and learns to be more and more independent.  How much her tiny body needs to grow before she can leave the NICU is overwhelming if you look at it as a checklist. Each day has ups and downs and sometimes, it feels safer to just live hour to hour, your heart could break with concern otherwise.

Each time this little miracle clears a developmental hurdle all of her monitors are green and the alarms attached to her are silent for awhile then a nurse or doctor comes in to change or tweak something. Inevitably they take something away from her that has allowed her to rest comfortably or adjust something that will require her to adapt and change. As soon as they do, her monitors start vacillating from green to yellow to red and back again. The alarms in her tiny hospital room beep loudly signally that she is dangerously close to needing help. This constant push by the medical staff is maddening to her young mom who wishes with all of her being to see her little one safe and content and happy. It breaks breaks her parents hearts to see their new baby girl fight and struggle, gasping for air or fighting to keep infections at bay.

Lucy and Danielle“Why?” her mom cried to me, “Why do they keep doing that to her? Why can’t they just leave her alone for awhile? I can’t watch, it feels like torture!”

As an outsider, an observer, I can clearly see that the doctors are simply doing what is required of them. I also can see that mom and dad are clearly doing their job. I can see that everyone has the same goal: to get this baby girl to graduate from the NICU. And yet, everyone has a different role to play. The medical staff has to push and push so that development will continue, even if it means pain, discomfort, risk and failure. The old adage two steps forward, one step back is very much a way of life. Our baby girl needs them to push her in order for her to grow strong and some day be independent.

However, in the midst of this pushing to develop, “kangaroo care” is so vitally important. Kangaroo care is “a method of caring for premature babies which involves holding a baby skin to skin with a parent for as many hours as is allowed.” This close hold will help regulate the baby’s temperature, heart rate, breathing and allow her to bond with her mother or father. She needs this love, this cuddling, and closeness. She needs to feel the warmth of her mother, to hear her father’s voice or rest in the rhythm of her mother’s heartbeat. There is no needle poking or prodding or pushing for a developmental milestone. There is only love and oneness and warmth and acceptance.

She needs both her doctors and nurses pushing and her mom and dad’s love in order for her to grow to the very best of her ability.

lucy incubatorWatching her makes me think about myself, listening to her mom makes me think about God and how he cares for me in my spiritual growth. As I examine both her physical growth and my spiritual growth I have come to realize that God has me in a sort of “spiritual incubator.”

Growth is never easy. It looks easy I guess, but there is a lot of effort involved, and sometimes pain. My own boy grew 6 inches in the year between freshman and sophomore year. He had tremendous pain in his legs and has stretch marks on his skin as permanent scars to remind him of that year. What kind of spiritual stretch mark scars do I have?

I sometimes feel like the alarms of my spiritual incubator are deafening as they continue to ring. There are times in my life that I have felt very close to needing to be “intubated” and I wonder out loud why God continues to push me and allow so much stress, conflict or turmoil in my life. Why is everything so hard? Why doesn’t He love me?

There are times that I long for God to pull me close and give me some “kangaroo care” and he does. I love the times when God feels so close I can hear him. The times when the words of the Bible speak directly to my heart and I rest in his close embrace. Unfortunately, it seems I can’t stay there…there is more growing to do.

This spiritual incubator is a hard place to be…it doesn’t feel safe all the time even if it is exactly the only environment that I can survive in. You see, as children of God, we are not designed to survive or excel in this sinful world. We need God’s constant touch, his constant oversight, his prodding and poking so that we can grow. We need his kangaroo care so we can survive. Let to ourselves we would not survive, we need Him. His goal for us is not to stay in this world, this time, this place…his goal is that we will graduate to someday be with him, in eternity.

This world is not our home, it’s the NICU…a period of time spent in a place that will one day be ancient history, a piece of our story. I don’t completely understand how it all works, God’s ways are mysterious to me on a lot of things. One thing I am certain of however, is that God loves me unconditionally and more than I could ever understand; just like my little fighter is loved more than she knows or understands. Her parents would give their life to save hers in a heartbeat if they could. They would trade places with her and take on all of her struggles to save her from one day of pain.

God loves us like that. In John 3:16 the Bible says, “For God so loved the world that he gave is one and only son, Jesus, to die for us, to take our place. That whoever believes in him should not perish but would have eternal life.”

Jesus did give his life to save mine. One day he will take me home to be with him just like one day our rock star baby will go home to be with her family.

Until then…we grow.

To follow the story of the little fighter, Lucy, I have grown to love so much you can visit her CaringBridge site.

 

 

 

 

Where ever the road takes me…

storm roadI’m scared to tell you this. I don’t want to sound like a whiner and I know my circumstances could be much worse…yours might be much worse. But if we can learn together, I think the risk is worth it.

My life for the last few months or years has not been what I imagined, dreamed about or hoped for… Life has been hard. Life has been unfair. Life has been stupid. Life has been no fun. This was NOT what I had signed up for, just sayin. And I’ve been mad. Mad at the world, mad at the decision makers, mad at the people I love, mad at God. Just mad and angry and pissed off.

Not happy.

Struggling & Slugging, Crying & Cringing.

Pouting. Arguing and Yelling really loudly!

THIS IS NOT FAIR!

In the midst of this pity party, I’ve been looking for God…because I had a few things to tell him about how poorly he has been running this show, my life.

The funny thing about God is he promises, “Seek me and I will be found” Jeremiah 29:13 Jesus said it again in the New Testament, “Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:7

Believe me I have been knocking! HARD!

For a long time I’ve been living my life like a unhappy customer, stomping my foot, sighing loudly, looking around to be sure everyone knew I was mad…waiting to talk to the manager and give him a piece of my mind. Oh, and when he heard all of my substantial and very real grievances and really understood the situation then he would offer to fix everything, put it back the way it was…I’ve been certain of it.

I can hardly stand myself.

This has been going on for quite some time now…me being upset, unhappy and crabby…feeling impatient for my circumstances to change. At first glance, my circumstances haven’t changed at all…in fact, they’ve seemed to have gotten worse. But upon closer inspection things have been changing, just not the “things” I would have chosen. Upon closer inspection, quite a bit is changing actually.

For one, God has provided, and often miraculously…I’ve seen it with my own eyes. There have been times when the math of our finances doesn’t add up or I’ve seen a week’s worth of groceries last an entire month. There is no reasonable explanation for it. The only answer is God the Father has provided for us in the most amazing way.

The road our life has taken has forced me to take second job. This was not my plan. This was not my design. However, I’ve been blessed and surprised beyond my wildest dreams through this undesired plan. God has placed in my life the most amazing, generous, loving and hard working people and we never would have crossed paths if the road of my life hadn’t taken me there. I’ve also learned that I can worship just as well chopping fruit(my current new position) as I can leading worship on stage, sometimes better. This is not a lesson I would have chosen, but something I’m glad I’ve learned. I’ll never be the same again.

My pride has taken a hit, I’ve learned that no job is “beneath me.” I’m ashamed that this is a lesson I needed to be taught, but I am glad that I’ve been given the opportunity to learn. I was so impressed with myself and my abilities and my position, if you would have asked me if I was “all that” I would of course have said no, but my heart was blackened with pride.  The phrase, “I will do as the Lord commands” rings in my ears right now…what if he commands something I don’t want and don’t like, what then? Will you still obey? Who sits on the throne? Me or God? Will I humble myself…will I swallow my pride…will I still lift up my hands in worship? These are hard questions…

There is something that happens when you are completely dependent on God that makes you realize how completely dependent on God you have always been. That is another lesson on pride. Everything I have is from above. He gives and takes away. If I think I have any control over this I am simply and terribly mistaken.

I feel stuck. Stuck in the circumstances that are our life right now. Nothing is changing fast enough. If it were up to me, I’d have fixed this mess the minute I was aware of it but it’s not up to me. And the more I live with the mess, the more I realize that God has a plan. I don’t know what it is, I’m know it’s not easy and I’m actually quite exhausted by it. This plan, this difficult winding road has been changing me though. Honestly, I’m still afraid sometimes but not always anymore. Anxiety still can paralyze me for a moment but not for days anymore. I have no idea what the future holds but I’m not consumed by that any longer. There is a freedom in this being stuck…I’m slowly learning. Learning to trust. I hope.

If you’re stuck too…seek God. I can promise you He will be found. Ask, He will answer. It might not be what you want…it might be what you need.

I’ll go where ever the road takes me. What choice do I have? I can go in fear or I can go learning to look for God. Either way, it doesn’t change the fact that he is always with me…just, do I choose to see him or not.

There is an odd freedom in being stuck…

That’s so strange, isn’t it?

~Your friend, Christine