How am I a woman?

My infertility journey struggles onward.  It is painful every single day.  I don’t know what to liken it to.  It feels like such a lonely suffering, unlike any other form I can understand. Many other physical deficits can be healed by modern technology.  Even people who have completely lost their limbs are able to have a prosthetic one put in place.  Yet, there is no guaranteed operation that will allow me to produce a child.  And sure, certainly there are surgeries that may have complications; for example, a triple bypass that won’t take, or chronic conditions that leave people in forever pain.  But none of those illnesses can prevent a woman from creating life and from bringing another human into this world.

I have heard, read, and seen many accounts from women and men describing birth as a miracle.  God’s miracle.  I think God knew women would suffer in this world in a uniquely profound way that is different from men, so he gave her this gift of reproduction, and chose her, specially, for that purpose.

So where does that leave me?  What does that make me?  How am I a woman?

I have all the parts to be a woman, I have all the traits of a woman.  But I can’t participate in the one thing that signifies womanhood.  I struggle so much with the notion that I am made like a woman, but I don’t function like a woman.  It seems like an unsolvable puzzle.  I daily feel like a mathematician, staring at a chalk board, numbers and variables stretching wide, while she scratches her head trying to figure out the right formula for a solution.  I wish I were the Will Hunting of fertility.  I pray for the ingenuity.

One of the biggest challenges I have when meditating with God about my infertility is the fact that He associates fertility with blessings.  So I can’t help but think that my inability to give birth is linked to a curse or some sort of evil that has befallen me.

Aside from the beautiful descriptions of Mary’s birth of Jesus and that foretelling, the Bible is littered with references about the blessings of birth:

Psalm 127: 3 says, “Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward”;

Genesis 1:28, “God blessed them and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it…”;

Genesis 25:21, “Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was barren, and the Lord answered him, and Rebekah his wife conceived”;

1 Samuel 1:20, “It came about in due time after Hannah had conceived, and she gave birth to a son and named him Samuel, saying, ‘Because I have asked him of the Lord”;

Luke 1:13, “But the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John”.

Psalm 113:9 “He makes the barren woman abide in the house as a joyful mother of children.  Praise the Lord!”

Every day I ask God, “Why won’t you bless me?”  And then at the same time, as if it’s an instinctual tick of faith, I am reminded of the unseen and unknown, for I know God is good, omniscient and omnipotent.  Perhaps God is preventing more pain that could come from a sick childbirth.  Perhaps he has a blessing in store and I’m just being impatient.  Perhaps He made me to be the mother to others’ children.  I know He is teaching me something in the waiting.  But as a woman of this world, my lack of blessings from childbirth leaves me feeling less than.

I recently joined a Sunday morning Biblical Women Bible study.  That’s why all of this is resurfacing.  The discussion asked us to reflect on where we find our value and meaning.  Is it in what our culture and society tells us it should be, or is it in Jesus?  Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, I am in right relationship with Him as an adopted child of God.  I am also loved, and made in God’s image.  So why don’t I feel that way?  I had a brief epiphany in the Bible study that morning, recognizing that I feel so rejected as a woman because I have been rejected by important women in my life.  My mother rejects me, my sister rejects me, and I even feel rejected by some of my girlfriends.  To top it all off, the world rejects me as a barren woman, and so I link that to God’s rejection and my ultimate abandonment.

I also struggle with Jesus understanding my suffering.  Jesus was a man.  He could never know the loss associated with a miscarriage or the inability to bear children.  He made me—-full of maternal yearning and instincts, and still nothing.

I do believe.  I believe God is good.  I believe God has a good plan.  I believe He is waiting for me to make Him first in my life, not this desired pregnancy.  It is a challenge every day as my friends have babies, as I get another invitation to a baby shower, as I walk around pregnant women at work.  Every day I am reminded that I’m not quite a woman.  And that is evil at work, I’m sure of it.  So this I pray:

Dear Heavenly Father, please keep the spirit of evil away from me as I walk this treacherous, lonely walk of infertility.  Thank you for the women in my life who have partnered with me, inspiring me to not give up hope and to listen to Your will.  And, God, I do pray that Thy will be done, for I know that whatever comes from You is better than anything I could ever imagine.  Please God, wrap me in Your peace and love and lift me up when I am sad.  God, give me patience and understanding.  Send me the Holy Spirit in the waiting and provide me confidence for a future as a mother.  Thank you for my husband who accepts me for this failure to reproduce, and bless him for his faithful, loving kindness in this area of weakness and vulnerability.  Help me to feel whole, Father.  Bless me.  In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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Humility and the Deeper Message

jesus washes feetToday’s sermon touched on humility, showing the ways in which Jesus humbled himself before others, before the cross.  While that topic is a challenging (and important one) for Christians, it was what happened in the post-sermon prayer time that struck me most today.

Pastor Harley asked us to ponder two questions after the sermon on John 13, which is the story of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples.  The first question, “Are you receiving the love of Christ today?”, was followed up with are more probing subtext…are we trying to fulfill ourselves by seeking other things more than a relationship with Jesus?  The second question was, “Whose feet is God calling you to wash today?”  He then asked us to be still as the praise band played a song, lamenting that being still is something that our culture has a hard time doing.  Pastor Harley prayed as we asked God to come to us in that moment to bring to light what we needed to hear.

And as always, God did.

I almost didn’t write about my epiphany.  My husband and I left church feeling great after a contemplative message, filled with the Holy Spirit.  I was satisfied with God speaking to me and revealing His wisdom.  And I was in awe.  But, that feeling was fleeting as I let the familiar weekend routine set back in, continuing along with my plans, having completed my Christian duty of attending church and accepting Christ’s weekly word.  We went home, and I started weeding, and then we ran some errands, came home for lunch, played with our dog and sat on the couch watching Guy’s Grocery Games.  But God’s message was still nagging at me.  I had to do something more with it.  I’ve been praying for a long time to hear the will of God, and it hasn’t come to me with any clarity.  I have had a string of sleepless nights where I would stay up, awake in bed for hours, turning to the Bible certain that God was calling me to it for a message.  Still nothing.  But sitting in the chair in church today, I now know why.

In answer to the first question above, no, I have not been receiving the love of Christ.  I have been too busy focusing on the ways in which I want God to hear me.  I’ve been so ultra centered on looking for the signs and symbols around this one topic that has been plaguing me for years, that I have been forgetting to live in relationship with God and make that the top priority, to grow with and glorify Him.  I’ve been a fool throughout my spiritual journey.  I’ve been thinking that as long as I’m talking to God, I must be in relationship with him.  As long as I pray to him everyday, I must be growing.  But my prayers have been unilateral.  Every day I pray the same things: God, please make me pregnant.  If I’m not meant to be pregnant, please give us a sign of your intentions for the growth of our family.  If we are not meant to be parents, please take away this desire and show us Your will.  Every day my sole focus is on this one deficit in my life.  The yearning and the struggle and pain shrouds all else.

Pastor Harley used the word depravity when talking about Peter and Judas, how they both lacked humility because they both operated from a space of “without”.  And that is what the Holy Spirit spoke to me about in the silence.  The devil brings the “withoutness” to the forefront, while Jesus’s still small voice seeks to remind us of all that is with us.  In fact, I am sure that the Holy Spirit was intent on driving this point home to me today. Before my husband and I went to church this morning I turned on the TV to Oprah Winfrey’s Soul channel, and she was interviewing Paul Williams and Tracy Jackson who had written a book together called Gratitude and Trust.  The best seller is a spin-off of the addiction 12 Step Program, touting that the steps of recovery are good to live by for everyone. And that title gets to the heart of the matter, doesn’t it?  To be grateful for what we have and trust that God will make everything all right.

Michael and I pray before every meal we eat.  We take turns.  It’s one of the favorite rituals we have in our family.  In every prayer we thank God for His mercy and the blessings He has bestowed upon us.  We utter the words of thankfulness, but we don’t live a grateful life.  We don’t ooze an attitude of gratitude.  Because our hearts are broken; we are broken.  But as I sat in church today, I was given this prodding reminder that God won’t touch my needs until I get in line with His.  It wasn’t a guilt-stricken one.  It was so gentle, like an internal hush.  And I just knew.  That’s how the Holy Spirit works, at least with me.  He doesn’t bang me in the side of the head with a pot to tell me, He waits for me to swim up to it, to paddle over to it, to turn my head towards it.  And then it’s just there.

In response to the second question, whose feet is God calling me to wash?  Who does God want me to be in service to the most right now?  Lots of names scrolled through my head and then, again, a light bulb.  Actually two.  One of my coworkers who has been dabbling in Christianity came to mind,  and I have the opportunity to guide her.  And then there’s my mother.  That larger topic is for another day, but it has been a point of contention in my life for a very long time, so it makes perfect sense that God would illuminate it for me now.

I want to take a moment to thank God for speaking to me and answering my prayer to hear His word.  I also want to continue to pray for the strength to be obedient to His will, otherwise, why would he continue to talk to me if He knows I’ll just keep doing my own thing?  God humbled me today and for that I am very grateful.  I thought I had it mostly figured out, and had a formula towards success with His wisdom.  But of course, we never really do when God’s will isn’t paramount.

As I sit here typing right now, Thy Will by Hillary Scott is playing on my Pandora. If you haven’t heard it before, I encourage you to listen to it as the lyrics are profound.  Lord, may I continue to hear those words and weave them deeply into my heart and my intent for my continued journey towards humility and a grown relationship with you.  In Jesus’ name I pray.  Amen.

Broken Things

I feel so broken.  I am broken as a human and as a sinner.  I know that the way to being restored is in coming to God.  He is the true Healer and Redeemer.  But it’s not all that easy in the waiting.  My last blog post was about storms, and how I know that the faithful God-given rainbow will appear in the aftermath, but it’s the waiting and the trying to see the grace in the midst of the pain.

Grace is free, and though I’m not worthy I am gifted with it.  I’m broken and I fail Him every day, but I still have this beautiful, remarkable opportunity to receive love and acceptance from my Father and King.  And then beautiful things will be reaped from my change of heart that will inevitably come.

Why is there little comfort in acknowledging my brokenness? For me, personally, I grew up in a household where, even as children, we were not allowed to make mistakes. There was no crying over spilled milk, there was yelling. My father was unable to let go of demanding perfection.  He suffered from workaholism, and his own issues with his dad, but it was truly a challenge to always feel inadequate.  That feeling has inevitably followed me into adulthood and has affected me personally and in relationship with others.  I see myself with high expectations for others, and try to channel a less-demanding self.  I do this by acknowledging AND accepting my failures as an intricately woven tapestry of me.

Another way of visualizing it comes from the movie, The Shack.  There, Sarayu, the Holy Spirit, brings Mac to a garden and asks for his help tidying up to make space for something new.  He didn’t realize it at first, but then she explained that the beautiful, messy, unorganized, but colorful garden was him.  I’m not always proud of the way my garden results, but life experiences have made it what it is, and who I am.  And I accept it.

For the notion of how grace works with broken people and broken things, Matthew West sums it up best in his song, Broken Things:

broken

If grace was a kingdom, I’ve stopped at the gate.

Thinking I don’t deserve to path through after all the mistakes that I made.

Oh but I heard a whisper, as heaven bent down.

Said, child don’t you know that the first will be last and the last get a crown.

Now I’m just a beggar in the presence of a King

I wish I could bring so much more

But if it’s true, you use broken things. 

Then here I am Lord, I’m all yours!

The pages of history, they tell me it’s true.

That it’s never the perfect, it’s always the ones with the scars that you use.

It’s the rebels and the prodigals! It’s the humble and the weak!

All the misfit heroes you chose tell me there’s hope for someone like me!!

Now I’m just a beggar in the presence of a King

I wish I could bring so much more

But if it’s true, you use broken things. 

Then here I am Lord, I’m all yours!

Grace is a kingdom, with gates open wide.

There’s a seat at the table just waiting for you.

So, come on inside.

Prayer:  Dear Father and King, may we embrace our brokenness, remembering that it is in Your image that we are made.  May we allow ourselves to be human, and strive to be Your disciples in all that we do.  For we know that the closer we draw to You, the more like You we become, and the less broken we feel.  May acknowledging our own weaknesses and faults allow us to forgive and accept the shortcomings of others.  As we strive to confront our humanness, Lord, give us grace, mercy and peace, as we tend to be our own worst critics.  We know that You love us and that there’s nothing we can do to make You love us more, and there’s nothing we can do to make You love us less.  Thank you for loving us and for letting us come as we are to Your altar.

Faith in the Storms

faith in the stormAfter a long hiatus, I come back to the blog world as I continue my faith journey.  Part of why I disappeared was because of the writer in me that wouldn’t allow for imperfect posts.  I would read and re-read, edit and re-edit, and it was taking me hours to get out a single thought.  But after MUCH time off, reflection and inspiration from my amazing husband, I am back at it, understanding that the sharing is more important than the writing itself.  What’s more, NOTHING is perfect except God, so why aim for something I can never achieve?

This past year, specifically, has been the longest and most daunting faith walk I’ve ever had to take.  In my life.  My marriage has been through trials that I wish no woman would ever have to face.  My body has been through trials that I wish no woman would ever have to face.  And now I’m in Texas.  To sum it all up, God has been working in his miraculous, mysterious ways and has called my family to move from Massachusetts to Texas.  For what reason, we’re still not quite sure.  It’s only been three months, so we are confident that his purpose will be revealed soon.  But looking back, here’s how I have  often felt since my last post:

I have walked, or should I say trudged, through the storms, soaked, cold, chilled to the bone.  I have dropped to the muddy ground, sobbing in tears, begging for the tumultuous weather to stop.  I have crept up on my knees, with my arms open wide, neck stretched out to the sky, eyes straight into the tempest and screamed, “Why, God, whyyyyyyyy!?  What have I done to deserve this?!?!”

His answer?  Nothing.  It is not a punishment.  Our good God doesn’t work that way.  He provides opportunities to get our attention.  It’s all about getting our attention and re-focusing our eyes on Him and on the path He has set forth for us.  But that isn’t always the most comforting thought.  Out of habit I would sit and suffer in silence and brood over my misfortunes.  And the pain was real, and the suffering was agonizing.  But because I know God is good, I can acknowledge His presence, thank Him for the strength He has given me (and will ALWAYS give me) to weather life’s hurdles.  Because after the rains subside, there is life again.  There are lush, green pastures and oftentimes rainbows.  If we could only hold on to the hope of the rainbows, and remember in the squall that He is there providing the precipitation for a reason.  I know in heaven He will show me the reason for that suffering and that pain.  But for now, I work hard to demonstrate my faithfulness in the trials.  I am a sinner, but I have faith.  I encourage you to hold on to Hope because God has never, and will never, let you down.

In similar fashion to my previous posts, my blog will contain a prayer and a passage from Scripture.  It is my hope (and prayer) that you will be able to connect with the prayers, and Scripture regarding any storm you may be experiencing at this moment.

Sinner Share #8: It’s so hard for me to have faith in the storm.  The pain is so real and sometimes the answer and the value seem so far away and unattainable.  A pastor from my home church used to say that the opposite of faith isn’t doubt, that it’s fear.  And I’m afraid all the time.  I want to be a woman of faith and not of fear.

Prayer: Dear Father God in Heaven, You know my struggles.  You know my saddened heart.  God I’m sorry for the times I have lacked faith.  Dear God, I believe, please help my unbelief!  As a sinner, as a human I come to you for my strength for you are my Rock and my Redeemer.  All things are possible through You and You alone.  When I feel alone and abandoned, send me the Holy Spirit as a reminder of your ever present and everlasting love, mercy and grace.  I pray to you today, Father, for all of those readers who feel lost in their own personal storm.  May you bless those who are weak and weary, and send them Your peace and reminders of Your promise that the suffering will end, and that Your purpose will be revealed.  We love You and we need You.  Thank you, Father.  In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Scripture: Psalm 23: 1-6 “The Lord is My Shepherd, I shall not want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters.  He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.  Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me.  Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over.  Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

Give thanks in all circumstances…

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

be thankful

Today was one of those days at work where you forget to go to the bathroom all day. Actually, this week has been like that! I’m not complaining though…for the past four weeks, we have had a winter storm or blizzard, which has prevented us from having school either 2 or 3 days each week. I was going out of my mind with boredom. And God answered my prayers and has made me very busy at work. And I am grateful.

School counselors get a bad wrap. In fact, they don’t get a wrap at all. It’s a lot of behind the scenes work, and because a lot of what we deal with is confidential, no ones knows what it all entails. Which is fine, because I don’t do what I do for praise, but with a week like this one, I can’t help but wonder if anyone truly knows a fraction of the chaos. And again, I’m grateful.

So many people don’t have work, are afraid and scared for their families and their survival. I am blessed to have job security and flexibility. On a hard and exhausting day like today, it’s easy to feel bad for ourselves and the tiredness (and of course normal frustrations that come along with any job). However, in this moment, thanks to the Holy Spirit, I feel thanks. Thanks be to God for helping me through my Master’s Degree to get me to this position. Thank you for the staff that believed in me and still believes in me to do a good job. Thank you for giving me humility to reach out to my colleagues in difficult situations. Thank you for helping me to love my students better. Thank you for giving me the right words of wisdom for the ones who need my guidance. Thank you for giving me patience with challenging parents (One that keeps you on the phone for 45 minutes an hour after school has already gotten out! But I’m not complaining).

Christianity teaches us to constantly be praising our God, the Greatness of Him. In storms and sad times, it’s hard to do. It is my heart’s desire to always remember to do this. As a woman who errs on the side of depressed, may I continue to acknowledge, share and be thankful for the mercy and blessings he has bestowed upon me even when I feel despair.
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Sinner Share #7 – Why is it so hard to give thanks when we have so much? Our society has us constantly wanting more. More material items, more fame, more appreciation, accolades, praises. This Lent already I have been transformed by being less focused on me, and more outwardly concerned. Two things in this short first week of Lent have made me feel better and made my marriage better…worrying more about others than my own needs and communicating more with God. It makes me feel so angry that I let myself sink to another level outside of Lent. Why can I only do it for 40 days? Where is the motivation for those things during Ordinary Time? Heavenly Father, thank you for this clarity. Thank you for this awareness that when I focus inwardly, I cause my own suffering. What a paradox, but thank you for helping me to see now. Speak to me God about continuing this awareness and thanksgiving. As my husband and I prepare to find out news about having a baby, Lord, if it is not what we have desired and brings us sadness, may we continue to turn to you, to praise and thank you and to find happiness regardless. What are you thankful for today?

Psalm 28: 6-7 “Blessed be the LORD, because He has heard the voice of my supplication. The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; therefore my heart exults, and with my song I shall thank Him.”

30-something share #7 – I’m going to contradict my post with this share. I HAVE been complaining a lot. I think back to some of the students, parents and staff that I’ve been collaborating this week and I complain about them a lot. If they cause my life to be more stressful or if I am inconvenienced or have more tasks because of them, you’ll hear about it from me. I don’t want to be so negative! I hate that about myself. May I reserve my whining for the really hard times! Can you be a Debbie Downer too??

Numbers 11:1-4 – “And [when] the people complained, it displeased the LORD: and the LORD heard [it]; and his anger was kindled; and the fire of the LORD burnt among them, and consumed [them that were] in the uttermost parts of the camp.”

Perhaps they will listen…

listen with your heart

Jeremiah 26:3-6 ‘Perhaps they will listen and everyone will turn from his evil way, that I may repent of the calamity which I am planning to do to them because of the evil of their deeds.’ “And you will say to them, ‘Thus says the LORD, “If you will not listen to Me, to walk in My law which I have set before you, to listen to the words of My servants the prophets, whom I have been sending to you again and again, but you have not listened”

Listening and hearing are two different things. One you do with your body, one you do with your mind, heart and soul. To physically hear a message means that the information was received. What you do with the message is the listening. As a female tricenarian, I find myself struggling to listen. To listen to God, to my husband and even myself sometimes when I know what’s best for me but simply can’t bring myself to follow through. Listening and obeying and connected concepts. If one does not obey it is to say that he has not listened either.

As a school counselor, the concept of listening is an important one. My full time job is to listen to my students, their parents, the teachers, the administration. As a therapist of sorts, I am expected to be a good listener. I have to stop myself from being a fixer over a listener. It’s so easy to get caught up in the need to solve problems instead of empathizing to the problems with a caring ear. Thank you God for reminding me to listen to others, and most importantly to listen to you. Thank you for coming to me through music and speaking to me through opportunities to be more like You!

Sinner share #6 – Praise God for sending the Spirit to work through me this Lent. I can’t stop with the negative thinking though. There’s something wrong—As I fall asleep and when I wake up, I lie there and let absurd thoughts run through my head about mistakes I made with the wedding or anxiety I feel about a situation I handled badly. My sin is anxiety. Heavenly Father, help me to let go of my fear and worry. Help me to know that my Savior will protect me and help my focus to be positive, and joyful in the love of my Lord. What makes you anxious?

Philippians 4: 6-7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

30-something share #6 – I need to find some more excitement in my life. I’m in my 30s, but I don’t have many hobbies besides blogging, movies, cooking and seeing friends sometimes. I need something more consistent because I’m getting really bored. It’s a bummer because so many of my friends live so far away, and I tend to be the one reaching out. We’re trying to save for a house, but I need to find some money in the budget for a hobby. I know it’s also the winter blues, but I’m feeling lazy and uninspired. Thankfully God provided Wednesday night Alpha classes for the next 10 weeks, so that’s something! Anyone else in their 30s feel the same?

Ecclesiastes 11:6 – “Plant your seed in the morning and keep busy all afternoon, for you don’t know if profit will come from one activity or another—or maybe both.”

For those who are in Christ…

…There is no condemnation! (Romans 8:1) What a comfort this passage provides. If we have Christ in our hearts, there is no disapproval. In regards to the Lenten journey, Christians may feel tempted to give up if they falter, much like a New Year’s Resolution. Upon slipping once, it’s easy to say, “Well, I gave it a fair shot, better luck next time”. And instead of committing for a year, it’s just 40 days, and the guilt may set in at our weaknesses in the face of all that Christ was able to sacrifice. Journey on the Cross, the seasonal devotional, urges us not to give up, but instead, for those who have already fallen off the Lenten wagon, so to speak, to run to the cross. I love that imagery. If then were now, how many of us would be running to the cross. I hope that if I could transport back in time, knowing what I know now, I would humble myself in the sight of the Lord.

hope found at the cross

But we don’t need a physical representation to do it. We just need to embrace this moment, this opportunity to sacrifice and to communicate with God. He knows our strengths and our weaknesses. He’s waiting for us to confess them. And if we aren’t yet aware, He has been trying to reach us, we just need to silence those distractions which overtake His still small voice (1 Kings 19:12). Wouldn’t it be great if the truth about Lenten abstaining came like a stork in the night with a baby? We could wake up in the morning, look on the front step and open our special package. Would we follow it still? If God sent a personalized note informing me that it was His intention for me to give up my car for 40 days, would I do it? That is more daunting than pasta, which is a task in itself! I think this is a faith test like many other trials God provides us. It’s about knowing that the conversations we do have in the privacy of our homes and our hearts, are God-driven, and are expected to be followed, regardless of any hand-written note of approval letting us know we were on track.

faith is doing what God has called you to do

While I have been writing this post, I had a GOd wink. I was searching for appropriate photos to add to my commentary, when I came across the InstaLent Photo Challenge . God spoke to me to do something similarly. I will search the Bible for words that inspire me to focus on every day throughout Lent. Today’s word is inspiration. Tomorrow’s word is Listen. Can you think of any others?
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Sinner share #5 – Faith IS doing what God has called me to do. I know He has called me to be a kinder, more patient person and I have a hard time doing that. Years of hurt and anger and frustration with the way the world works inhibits my ability to love my neighbor and to bask in the light of His love. Self-absorption and pride are sources of evil and we need to arm ourselves with the armor of God. This I pray.

Ephesians 6:10-17 “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

30-something share #5 – I am stuck. I want my husband to want to go through this journey with me, but he hasn’t. I know faith is personal, but I also had grandiose ideas that it would be a “we” activity that he would want to take part of daily. It doesn’t make me love him less, but it does leave me confused about how to engage in this with him enough to satisfy my, and not too much to aggravate him. I know God wants us to enjoy Him together, I just wish I could accept that whatever we have in our faith as a couple is enough. Do you have similar struggles with your partner?

Romans 14:3 – “The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him.”

Search me, oh God, and know my heart…

Day 3 of Lent and I’m searching as I invite God to search me. I look for ways in which to best honor God’s ultimate sacrifice over the next 40 days. It’s easy to take so much time choosing the right things to abstain from that time flies by. Perhaps it is a stalling technique. Perhaps it is the perfectionist in me wanting to give up the “right thing” or add the “right thing”. But as we invite God into our hearts, minds and spirits this Lent, may we be able to discern what He is telling us to look it. I suppose the process of finding the true temptations to avoid comes with meditation that must go into pre-Lenten practices (I’ll have to take note of that for next year so as to not waste so much time! It snuck up on me this year!). In a late attempt, I perused an online resource for ways to better devote myself to the Lenten journey found here:. The author asks, What habits/tendencies of self-absorption do you need to tear yourself from? Where do I begin?  For starters, I must invite God into this process: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps. 139:23-24).

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Sinner Share #4 – Self-absorption in my life comes in various forms:

Snacking
snacking
Some may think it’s a mindless, harmless hobby. For me, it’s being disobedient and ungrateful for God’s daily bread, turning it into a gluttonous, monotonous, comfort-filling habit. May I allow God’s grace to fill me more than any bag of chips ever could.

Road Rage
highway traffic
The devil certainly knows I’m vulnerable in a car. There’s something about other drivers’ and traffic that sends me to a dark place. It’s truly self-absorption in its worst form, thinking that no one can drive as I do and that everyone on the road is out to get me. It’s not about me! Help me to travel on the roads this Lent viewing every driver as a Brother or Sister and accepting it for what it is, no more, no less!

Marital Disputes
arguing
My husband’s #1 complaint about me is that I “get on him” too much. If I would just accept circumstances as I would a glass of spilled milk, I could shrug it off and move on. I am so self-righteous sometimes that I do get on my husband’s back constantly insisting that he gets things right more often. I’m a sinner and I fail all the time. I fail in my marriage when I don’t just love him instead of picking him apart. May I let our one true Judge take the reins and sit back and just love my husband.

TV
couch potato
It is a habit that keeps me from getting closer to God. The television steals my attention away from my devotionals, prayer time and being active in God’s name. It has a grip on me that lets me to sneak away from more pressing obligations. In small doses, almost anything is tolerable. Over indulgence leads to great sin! Take away my addiction to the viewing box and help me to use my time wisely and productively for our Christ.

James 3: 14-16 “But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.”

30-something share #4 – I often wonder how many other 30-something year olds are fretting about these issues. I’ve shared it before that in the North East, many Christians are nominal and don’t discuss these struggles, let alone blog about it! I’m in a funky age bracket in my faith where I can’t connect with moms (not having any children, of course) and those younger than me don’t share the marital piece. I have no right during Lent to ask God for anything, but I do seek Christian friends to walk with me down this reflective road.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!”

Return to me…

this lent repent

Day 2 of Lent and I’m already feeling challenged. I blogged about my TV addiction in one of my initial posts, so clearly I know that’s already something I need to be aware of as a fast throughout these forty days. As I sit here typing, the TV is silent, when it would typically offer a comforting buzz in the background. One small victory in the midst of a Christ who asks so much more.

“Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” – Joel 2:12. Return to me, come back to me, set your compass towards me, remember me, see me again. I think of all of the various ways I have turned from Christ and what it means today and for the rest of this Lenten season to turn towards Him. It’s not that hard to fathom…He asks us to put Him first in all we do. A simple yet daunting concept. Put Him before our rage, before our hunger and need to be right. Put Him before our work and savings and gossip. All of those things seem so trite as I watch the words spelled out here, but it feels like he’s asking me to give up everything.

And He is! And why can’t we? He did! The glory of redemption and His saving grace should be enough to have us throwing ourselves at His feet everyday. But that glory gets diminished in the midst of modern-day comforts, conveniences and selfishness. As I sit here, I text my husband as we argue about something stupid from the night before. All that needs to be said is, “I’m sorry, I love you, I didn’t mean it, please forgive me”. But I can’t text it for my foolish pride gets in the way – my need to be right and point out every imperfection. Part of my Lenten journey needs to be one of tolerance and acceptance as well.

This I pray:  I wish you a happy Lenten season. May the Lord lead us where we need to go through this 40 day journey. May He transform our hearts and minds to be more focused on letting go and letting God’s Spirit work through us. Help us to be real about our sins and our brokenness while we confess a true desire to be more like Him.

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Sinner share #4 – Lent is my favorite season in the Christian calendar. It forces me to take a deeper look at the ways I fall short and spend intentional time working harder to get back to my True North. As I consider the long road ahead, I am fearful and certain of failure. I hope to address my TV addiction and my swearing and to be more accepting of my husband. I pray that I may truly reject the devil and all his workings in the next 40 days.

James 4: 7-8 ” Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded…”

30-something share #4- I wish I had more 30 something year old Christian friends to go through this Lenten journey with. Pastor Brian mentioned that it’s particularly challenging to find devoted Christians in the Northeast. I wonder why that is? Are we so bitter about the cold winter –which has been particularly snowy and cold this year–or are we sure we can go it alone? I know we can’t. Help me Lord to draw nearer to those who think and believe similarly over the next 6 weeks.

Romans 8:28 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. “

Be fruitful and multiply…

In Genesis 1:28 we read, “God blessed them; and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

And we’re trying to do just that!! The journey towards conception isn’t always as easy as obeying God’s command to reproduce. My husband and I have been attempting to conceive and it has proven to be thus far fruitless. desire to trust and be patient and obedient to God’s will. If it’s meant to be, it will be. Often in my life I have struggled with the notion of “Thy will or my will” and this instance is the same. My husband and I have been trying to get pregnant for almost a year now. I must admit that some of our “tries” have been haphazard, but we certainly thought we would be pregnant by now. As Marisa Tomei said in My Cousin Vinny, “My biological clock is ticking like this!!”, which adds pressure, a lot of pressure. And that was the theme of my therapy session today: Why do you put so much pressure on yourself? There’s all this pressure to achieve, to succeed, to be accepted with my every choice and action. And we teased out my self-doubt and selfishness, wondering why I am so hard on myself and whether it is selfish to want a child. So she asked why we want one, and here was my response:

We’re trying because we both want to bring a child into this world to love and to raise well. We want to share our love with that child and teach that child how to love and be a good person. But the question that looms while we find ourselves struggling to get pregnant is, “Is it His will?” God has shown me so much good and so many truths when I listen to Him and not to my own selfish desires. But this desire is something that my husband and I believe is aligned with God’s will. Yet obviously it’s not God’s will for everyone, or it’s not the “right time” at least when other’s feel ready. So we wait and try to be patient with the hope that if it were to happen on our timeline, we would miss out on an opportunity or blessing that God has planned for a different timeline. And that when He deems the time to be right, he will bless us with a child. But what if he decides we shouldn’t bear children? What if I am barren or my husband infertile?

I consider this from Psalm 84:11: “For the LORD God is our sun and our shield. He gives us grace and glory. The LORD will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right.” So what if God does withhold this good thing of conception? Does that mean that I am not doing what is right? We know as Christian sinners that we will never be able to reach perfection, so how much right would I need to do to have that good thing bestowed upon us? My God is a loving God, and I know that. But I posed this question to my therapist in return today, “What if God wants us to hear his message and get closer to Him more so than to revel in our own earthly happiness?” Because sometimes my happiness is not what it could be, what God could offer. If I knew what God had in store and it was magnificent, but it meant not bearing my own child, would I value the potential of his gift? Through the uncertainty and the storms, it is very difficult to appreciate that he will give us gifts. But I know he wants to bestow them. If I would just trust.

But the main part of the discussion with my therapist that vexes me is about the guilt. The old Catholic in me remembers the guilt that continuously tells me that I am not good enough and I need to repent because I’m not listening to God; that I am not obedient and that my heart and my own selfish desires get in the way of my closeness with Him. So I doubt myself and I am convinced that I need to constantly be on guard about the decisions I make. Is it my will or thy will? It’s exhausting. I know the answer is to know God better through the Word, but can’t bring myself to consistently practice it. In reading His word now, I reflect on these passages in Deuteronomy 28:1-2, 4, and 11: “If you fully obey the LORD your God and carefully keep all his commands that I am giving you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the world. You will experience all these blessings if you obey the LORD your God: Your children and your crops will be blessed. The LORD will give you prosperity in the land he swore to your ancestors to give you, blessing you with many children, numerous livestock, and abundant crops.” Again, if I obey the Lord these things will happen. So if I don’t they won’t? How can that be true? There are endless non-believers who bear children and reap rewards.

What also comes into question is what to do with an obstacle to achieving a personal desire. Is the answer to accept it’s inability to happen as God’s will and declaration or find a way to make it happen with God’s grace and willpower urging me on? If God didn’t want in vitro to exist, it wouldn’t exist. Or is it a temptation to go against his previously designed plan? A woman I work with said this in response to the aforementioned question: If God wants a soul in this world, He’ll get His soul, regardless of how it comes about. (She also ordered me a beautiful St. Gerard charm and necklace to pray to Him for fertility. Thank you God for sending Paula to me!)

The uncertainty of this pregnancy may be God’s way of helping me to appreciate, respect and be humble in the sight of the Lord and the miracle of birth. Perhaps my husband and I would have otherwise taken it for granted. Or maybe the timing is everything. God may have plans for a home purchase, move and delivery that would work out better if we conceived later. Whatever the reason, may I find the right reaction to whatever our news is regarding fertility.

Sinner share #3 – Trust has always been God’s desire for me. He wants me to let go and let God more often than I am comfortable doing. May this be another way that God is trying to reaching me. And may I hear his message and act upon it in order to receive His blessing and to prove my obedience. Though I am not worthy to ask anything, I pray at this time that I accept God’s will for a baby in our life and trust that He has good plans for us.

Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

30-something share #3 – Besides God sending a message, I confess that I question what it means for me to be a 30-something year-old who may not birth a child. Our society tells us that there’s something wrong with being a mother-less 30-something year-old. What a stigma and what shame. God always walks us through the storms, but that blizzard will be a long, arduous journey if that’s what He has in mind.

Isaiah 4:6 “There will be a shelter to give shade from the heat by day, and refuge and protection from the storm and the rain.”