As I look back on things that have happened in my life, my responses are often not what I want them to be. I fight bitterness over things that have felt like more than I can bear. I feel sadness over things that have turned out much differently then I thought they would or should. I carry a sense of mourning over things I’ve lost. I burn with anger thinking about the pain I’ve experienced and watched those I love endure. There is a place of confusion over things that simply don’t make sense to me. Sometimes when I think about the future I’m afraid of the next struggle, the next pain we will endure, the next overwhelming obstacle. Bitterness, sadness, mourning, anger, confusion, fear, what if I stopped there?
It’s a miserable place and I spend more time there than I would like. To move from there I need to understand something about that place. I create the standards there. If something doesn’t make sense to me it’s bad. If something doesn’t go my way it’s wrong. It may sound positive to define my own standards but the problem is this doesn’t work if I don’t know everything and have selfish, inconsistent motives.
Instead of attempting to create the frameworks I think life should go by, I can look to the one who truly has ultimate power and all knowledge. I believe God is all powerful, all knowing, and perfectly loving. When I let this be the umbrella I view life under my perspective changes dramatically. My pain, loss, emotions, and experiences are just as real and challenging but my responses can be different. Much of the battle for me is accepting that I can be in the midst of hardships and still encompassed by the power and love of God through Jesus. It’s not either or. When things are hard it’s easy to believe the lie that God is not present or loving. The presence of struggle doesn’t mean the absence of God. It may feel true but it’s not. I can choose to believe God is good, faithful, and always with me despite my circumstances being difficult. When I hold Jesus up as the truth I cling to and the basis on which I view everything around me, He becomes an anchor I can depend on. The storm may still rage by I am not trying to control it or explain it. Instead I am holding to Jesus, my anchor, who is in control of the storm and somehow using it for His good purposes and mine.
Believing God is perfectly loving and then looking at things that have happened in my life result in different responses than fear, bitterness, confusion etc. I still feel those things welling up and have to choose to not linger there. As I cling to Jesus, I am able to move from the miserable place of thinking I know best to a place of peace where I believe that God knows best. Often things still are confusing, painful, etc. but there is this almost indescribable feeling of underlying hope knowing God’s ways are best even when I can’t feel it or see it. I hold onto Him without trying to figure out why things happened or what I should do. Sometimes He brings clarity and I see some of the reasons things happened and sometimes I just have to believe He is good when I don’t understand.
I struggle with wanting to hold onto challenging things I’ve been through instead of acknowledging them alongside the goodness of God. I don’t want to stay in a miserable place of fear and bitterness but I have to change my perspective if I want to move to a place of hope.
During time with the Lord this past weekend He spoke these words to my heart and they were exactly what I needed to hear.
“Rest in the promise of my goodness. Praise me in all things knowing I am good and always do good. Hope and expect good things from me even when your circumstances are difficult. Cling to me in the midst of this broken world.”
God has done so many great things in my life. I decided to make a list as a reminder to myself of how great and constant He is in both times of joy and hardship. My faith and perspective ebb and flow. God never changes. One of the beautiful things about reflecting on His great works is that it reminds me he is trustworthy and never wavers as I do.
I pray this also is an encouragement to others to remember how God has moved in their lives in great ways. I pray as we all reflect on God’s hand in our stories that it pushes us to cling to Him as our only unwavering anchor of hope amidst the storms of life.
– I have innumerable, fun memories from childhood growing up with eight sisters and one brother and two loving parents. There were beach vacations, ski trips, backyard adventures, forts, sibling sleepovers, crazy carpools, swimming in our backyard pool, holiday traditions, dress up fun, sharing rooms, bed time stories, family movie nights, epic birthday parties, fun pranks and scheming and so much more.
– There hasn’t been a single day in my life that I didn’t feel and know I was loved by my parents. I believe they would give their lives for any of us kids and they already have in so many ways. I treasure this knowing many people can’t say that of their parents.
– My grandparents are so dear to me and have loved us in so many big and small ways. I love my Grandma Zena’s delicious spaghetti sauce and Peetie Pie’s jokes and laughter. They took us boating, tubing, fishing , crabbing, and filled our childhood with joy and adventure. Holidays with my Grandma Shirley and Pops were always special. They filled the candy jars that we “weren’t allowed” to eat from and decorated beautifully because they knew we loved looking around the house at everything. They wanted us to have fun and feel special. My grandma makes stockings for each grandchild, spouse, and great grandchild (that’s more stockings than your family has I can almost guarantee it). Grandma Shirley and Pops are some of the most generous people I know and they never make a big deal of giving, they just humbly give. I wish they could see the ripple effect of their impact because it’s greater than they could ever imagine.
– I grew up in a church where I heard incredible biblical teaching. Even as a young child I remember hearing my pastor teach and just wanting to soak in every word. Knowing the bible at a young age gave me a solid foundation that impacted my life choices. I had solid friendships that encouraged me deeply for years. All growing up I had many loving adults and leaders pour into me patiently again and again. I loved the worship at our church. I felt like I could meet with the Lord in the midst of the music.
– I had the privilege growing up to travel to many incredible places for short term missions trips. I went to China, Russia, Brazil, the Middl East as well as many different areas of the U.S. These trips broadened my view of the world, changed my perspective on life, and deepened my faith in God.
– My family and church encouraged me to seriously considered what I believed, to hold fast to the truth, and to be willing to lovingly share my beliefs with others.
– Experiencing health issues at a young age taught me compassion, gratitude, and to let go of my “rights”.
– Having parents that truly cared about how I lived and what I was exposed to likely preventing me from many mistakes and hurts that I would have otherwise encountered.
– The LIPS ladies, my mom’s prayer group, beautiful exemplifies what it looks like to walk with God in community. Since I was young they have prayed for and loved me, and many others, intentionally and sacrificially and still do to this day.
– Through my life the Lord has provided for my needs financially through my parents, scholarships, my jobs, Bobby, friends, strangers, and gifts straight from the Lord. I can recall so many moments where I had faith (often very little) and God provided for my physical needs exactly when I needed.
– I was able to play soccer and run growing up and loved it. What a gift to have this ability and what a joy I have found in it. Running has been a special outlet for me to process, rest, and feel rejuvenated.
– I have been surrounded by loving, not perfect, Christian community most of my life. I’ve had people to turn to when I’ve needed help in big and small ways.
– I felt called to become a nurse in high school. I loved my science courses and my health issues brought interest in the field and compassion for people. I got into a great program and met some of my best friends at JMU. After school I got a job during a hiring freeze as a pediatric nurse onto a floor I was thrilled to work. I loved the position, my coworkers, and my patients. Strangely, I clearly felt God call me to leave after having back surgeries. It was such a struggle at the time to give up what felt like was my dream but I have such a peace about it now whether or not I return to work.
– I didn’t really date until I met Bobby. I could see myself getting wrapped up in relationships and getting hurt or hurting others if I had dated more and am thankful that wasn’t the case.
– Bobby is truly a better man than I could have imagined being with. He is perfect for me in ways I didn’t know I needed. We have so much fun together doing mundane or exciting things. We can talk about the smallest things and the biggest things. Each day we have learned more about loving each other sacrificially and receiving love graciously. He is the greatest blessing I have received from the Lord.
– Our first year of marriage, Bobby and I were mentored by our friends Bruce and Donna. They met with us weekly and helped us understand ourselves, each other, and the Lord in a way that has greatly impacted our faith and our marriage. I think the Lord used that time to build such a strong foundation in our marriage that we would need to endure the great trials of the next few years. They continue to be great friends and mentors to this day.
– The Lord specifically calling Bobby and I to “set captives free” has changed the course of our lives. It has given us a specific purpose to pursue and has been a compass the Lord has used to guide us.
– I have had a number of times in my life where I was forced to be physical still through pain and surgeries. The Lord met me in the stillness in intimate ways that I wouldn’t have experienced otherwise. In my pain I have become smaller and God has become bigger which has been a humbling, beautiful thing.
– Our children, Chale and Luelle, are such sweet gifts. I loved them the moment I saw them and truly feel I get to know them more each day. The challenges that have come with being parents have been great. But knowing that Bobby and I get to love these two more than any one in the world is such a privilege.
– The Lord has used our experience with fetal surgery to change me in so many ways. I finally feel that I am letting go of being a people pleaser which has been a burden I’ve clung to much of my life. I’m learning to walk with people who are suffering in an understanding way. I felt the lowest I’ve ever felt spiritually and saw God pursue me again and again when I couldn’t pursue him. My view of God has increased, He is greater and more loving than I can comprehend. I’m learning the gifts and sacrifices of being vulnerable about my struggles and victories. I’m learning what it looks like to care for people genuinely and letting God move in them and me as he sees fit instead trying to change others and myself. I am learning to be more honest with people about big and small things. I feel less awkward and more able to speak my mind graciously in relationships.
– I have met people through our time in Philly who have become life long friends and I can’t imagine my life without them. I ache for their struggles and celebrate their victories almost as much as my own. I have learned much from them that I never would have learned on my own.
– Because of Luelle, I have entered this sphere of disability that I am learning to understand in a way that I never could have before. I see people differently, I ache for people deeper, and I want to love people that others struggle to love.
– There are many great acts of God around Luelle’s life. Bobby wasn’t going to come with me for my 18 week ultrasound because Chale was sick but we decided last minute he should. The high risk doctor, Dr. Kleeman, who only came to the area we live in once a week, was in the day we had the ultrasound that showed that Lu had a severe form of spina bifida. They thought Lu had Down syndrome, which would have disqualified us from having fetal surgery, but she didn’t. I had never heard of fetal surgery, many doctors don’t know about it and therefore don’t suggest it. Dr. Kleeman knew about it and set the process in motion for us to go to CHOP to be evaluated for fetal surgery. Because Bobby was in seminary and not working full time he was able to be with me during the months in Philly and I would have struggled so much more without him there. The doctors at CHOP said that Lu couldn’t have been in a better position for surgery which is often not the case. I had severe membrane separation at 34 weeks which usually leads to labor quickly but I made it to 36 weeks and 6 days. Lu had a high defect and we were told she may have hydrocephalus and need a shunt, she may be paralyzed from the waist down and not walk, and she may have major bowel and bladder problems. She has no shunt or neuro issues, she has great strength in her legs and is walking well with a walker and will likely not need it eventually, and she has had no bowel or bladder problems. She is a little miracle.
– Bobby and I were clearly called to seminary though it seemed ridiculous to leave great jobs, our families, our house, and our current ministry. The year we prepared for seminary was one of my favorite seasons in life. I heard God clearer than ever before and he encouraged us greatly in specific ways. He miraculously answered every need we had big and small about money, housing, bills, doctors, health issues, renters, and much more.
“As for you, O Lord, you will not restrain your mercy from me; your steadfast love and faithfulness will ever preserve me! …You have multiplied, O Lord my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts towards us; none can compare with you! I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told.” Psalm 40:11,5