Snot And Suffering

There’s dog snot on my pillow, and I have to be up in a couple hours anyway. So, insomnia.

thumbnail_image1(He sleeps with his eyes open when he’s not feeling well, apparently. Isn’t that cute creepy? ;-))

Anyway, the wide awake-ness has me thinking. Or rather, trying not to think, but seeking God on the real issues underlying the stuff on the forefront of my mind.

Such as:

Do I believe God can turn it all around?
Yes.

Do I believe He will?
I don’t know.

Do I believe He always does the best thing for me?
Yes.

…Do I believe the best thing for me might be endless suffering?
I don’t know…

Truth

Quotes. Thank you, Jesus, for Holley Gerth.

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“We know what it’s like to be connected and yet feel alone. We look to our left and right, our hearts asking the question, ‘Who’s with me?’ Of course, the Sunday school answer is ‘God.’ And that’s true—God promises to be wish us. Yet it seems he also created within us a deep desire to share life with each other—flesh and blood. In the Garden of Eden he declared, “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Gen. 2:18). It’s not good for women either. We need others to speak truth to us, remind us that we’re amazing, walk alongside us, and encourage us in all God has called us to do. We may tell ourselves, ‘If only I were closer to God, I wouldn’t feel like I needed other people so much.’ But Adam lived in a perfect place. There was no sin. He had an intimacy with God we can only imagine. Yet God still said that Adam being alone wasn’t good. So that ache you feel, that longing you can’t name? You don’t need to feel guilty about it. It’s the magnet God places within you that draws you to other people. It’s part of his plan. It’s GOOD. When God says being alone is ‘not good,’ the contrast is stark. Remember the seven days of creation? After sky, water, birds, animals, light, and dark, God says, ‘It is good.’ And yet now he is announcing the opposite. A life without relationships with out human beings isn’t good—isn’t what he planned. In today’s world of going-it-alone, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps thinking, it often seems we disagree. Oh, perhaps it’s not stated directly. But even in churches it sometimes feels as if needing other people is a sign of weakness. ‘If only my relationship with God were stronger, then I wouldn’t be lonely. If only I could get my act together, then I wouldn’t care at all what other people thought.’ But wanting other people in your life isn’t weakness. Instead, it’s a reflection that you are created by a God who is inherently relational. Look at the lengths he’s gone just to have a relationship with you. Why was Adam being alone not good? Because it’s not like God. Father. Son. Holy Spirit. The kingdom we serve in is one of love, relationship and intimacy.”

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“I want to know that I am safe and secure, that someone bigger and stronger than I am is ready and willing to fight on my behalf. I need to know that love is there and that it will win. While our fears show up in various forms, ultimately they all point back to the deepest fear of all: that we won’t be loved. God says that he will take care of the fear in our lives. He promises us that fear will not win. Love chases away fear as often as we ask. Think of the moments when you feel the most loved and accepted. Those are probably also the ones when you feel the least fear. When fear comes at you, ask God to hide you in his love, to draw you deeper into it, to whisper to your heart the truth you need to hear so that his voice is louder than anything else. The more we grow in love, the more fear shrinks. That process will continue until we’re safe forever in heaven. Every time we choose to listen to love more than fear, our faith grows. We learn to trust more, to see God act in new ways in our lives, to let him take us places beyond where we could have dared to go before.”

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Throughout scripture, God places people in precarious situations and then comes through in miraculous ways. But there is always that moment when they must decide, ‘Will I choose obedience over safety?’ Yes, God promises us security, but safety and comfort are another matter. Safety is ultimately an illusion, a grasp for control that makes our minds calm down. But none of us are truly safe. A meteor could crash through my ceiling right now, and that would be the end of me in this life. The idea that we can be safe can trick us into avoiding risks that God is asking us to take. And ironically, when we risk with him it’s the safest thing we can do. Because he gives us what truly can’t be taken away–security. Security doesn’t depend on external circumstances. It’s invincible. So you may be taking more risks than ever before and feeling more fear than you think you can stand. But actually you’re more secure than when you felt safe because you’re right in the middle of God’s plan.”

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There’s a myth in the Christian culture today that says the Promised Land is only heaven. When I look through those chapters in scripture, I just don’t see that being true. Yes, the ultimate Promised Land is ours when we step from this life to the next, but I believe God has so much for us right here and now too. If you feel numb, depressed, or even just flat-out bored, I don’t believe that’s God’s plan for you. Yes, we all have seasons when we go through grief or experience difficulties. But if we live year after year in a state of just surviving, God has more for us. He didn’t put you on this earth just so you could hold on by your fingernails until you get to heaven. He loves you and wants you to thrive. As one of my favorite verses says, ‘The Lord be exalted, who delights in the well-being of his servant” (Ps. 35:27). But we have to agree with God that not only is this possible but it’s actually what he wants for us. The Israelites wandered in the desert for forty years because they refused to believe God really could give them more. Don’t settle. Don’t give in to fear. You’re allowed to be happy. You’re allowed to be blessed. You’re allowed to live a full life. Even more than allowed–this is what God ultimately wants for you. If you believe anything else, then you have been sold a lie. Now let me be clear: all of the above doesn’t come through doing whatever we want. That’s not the way it works. But obedience is supposed to lead to joy. Don’t let the idea that suffering is part of the Christian life trick you into believing that it’s the entirety of what God has for you. It’s not even the majority. It’s only a gateway that he will use to bring you into deeper joy in the end. And just surviving is certainly not God’s plan for your life either. He didn’t put you on the earth to be mediocre. He didn’t form you with his hands, dream you up in his heart, and place you in this world for a purpose just for you to go through life being ‘fine.’ Oh no, my friends. God has more for you–so much more than you can even imagine. You are made in his image, and the more you display all he has placed within you, the more you bring him glory. And when we bring him glory, we feel joy, freedom, and purpose. Life becomes a gift rather than a chore. Spend your life being fully alive. Then spend eternity full of joy. When God said his plans for you are good, he meant it.

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Thirsty

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When I keep my eyes open, I know that there is no place God isn’t. When I look for Him, I realize He is all around. He is the air I breathe.

I am desperate for Him all of the time. Every single moment, I need Him. And no matter how much I pray or read my Bible or worship Him, no matter how near He is, IT’S NOT ENOUGH. I always, always, always feel thirsty and desperate for MORE.

More of Him.

More of something.

More love and comfort and peace and joy and acceptance and hope and family.

Less of this world with its confusions and routines and sorrows.

More of Him. More of heaven. More hugs and “I love you’s” and belonging.

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Often I pray that the Lord will give me eyes to see.

I pray simultaneously for more and I pray for His perspective.

I’m sure thirst is good because its motivating, it pushes an individual to find water, but I don’t want to live my whole life thirsty.

I feel like a toddler who is in an unfamiliar place and is scared and tired, and she is looking up at her father (or Father) and raising her arms to him and begging him to lift her up. She’ll be okay as long as she’s in his arms. But right now? Right now she’s not okay.

And she can grab her father’s leg, maybe even trying to claw her way up it with futile effort, but it’s still not enough. She needs his embrace. She needs to be held. She needs to be fully wrapped up in his arms.

That is how I feel.

But God cannot lift me up. He cannot embrace me. And so I thirst.

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But my thirst propels me to keep my eyes open. To look for signs of Father everywhere. To see His kindness in the eyes of someone I love, to feel His gentle smile when I tilt my face heavenward, to hear His voice in scripture and song and nature.

All of this that we get so bold as to call our own–this planet and our knowledge about how it works and our homes and cars and the people we love–they are all His. I couldn’t get away from Him if I tried. He is the air I breathe. He is everything. Everywhere I look, I see signs of Him. In every moment and every thing, He Is.

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I see pink sunset clouds breathed across the sky, and I hear, “I am here.”

When Theodore looks at me with sleepy, love-filled eyes? “I am here.”

Conversations with loved ones that make my heart feel hugged? “I am here.”

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Breathing in the foggy air of morning? Dew on the grass? “I am here.”

The feeling of stepping into a hot shower when you’re cold and in need of comfort? “I am here.”

That blissful moment before you fall asleep at night, when you feel safe and relaxed and small and whole in a way you don’t feel during your fully awake hours? “I am here.”

The warmth of a dog curled up at your side? A favorite blanket? A scent that reminds you of childhood? “I am here.”

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I am thirsty. I am desperate. But I am not alone.

I am somehow both held and not held, hugged and not hugged, secure and fragile.

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Lord, You know my heart. You know what I need when I cry for “more”. You know my desperation and my sorrows. You know how to make me be okay.

You know what makes me smile and laugh. You know what makes me feel relaxed and at peace and free to breathe in the goodness of You.

I will never stop crying for more, and You will never stop giving me reasons to love this awful, beautiful, painful, amazing life.

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You have a plan. You have a plan. You have a plan.

This day and the next day, they are Yours. You tell the sun to rise and the stars to come out. Everything screams that You Are and that You have a plan. Don’t let me get so familiar with life that I stop hearing You in all of it.

This is the day that You have made.

And You are in control of every single aspect of it, from the rising sun to the state of my heart.

Hallelujah.

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Lord Of Life

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Why is it so hard to stay in love with life?

I’ve been feeling a little worn out lately. Remember my tissue paper analogy? It’s like I’ve gone from being strong and resistant, like a dish towel or one of those magic squeegee towels, to having the texture and resistance of tissue paper. Please, Lord, don’t ask me to try to dry (or do or withstand) anything. I cannot take it right now.

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I know there’s no shame in that. There’s no shame in feeling a little subdued. But it’s not fun. It’s not fun to feel… I don’t know, the opposite of vivacious.

But the beauty of being a child of the Lord? My soul rejoices even while it cries. He sees me. He will use this time. Praying in my car? Crying for no reason that my head is aware of, but that my soul seems to feel perfectly validated in? That is where I’m at right now. And it’s okay.

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Lord, I will accept what You have for me right now. I will use this time to press in to You and seek Your face and love the people You bring into my life.

But I want to fall back in love with life.

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Help me breathe in my many blessings and breathe out gratitude.

Help me love the fluttering leaves and purple-black sky.

Help me love lighting candles inside while it rains outside.

Help me love small pumpkins and things flavored with nutmeg.

Help me love warm blankets and wool socks and taking walks with a scarf wrapped snugly around my neck.

Help me love people.

Help me love my best friend’s smile.

Help me love sharing a meal with that person who always occupies my heart, but less often occupies the same space as me.

Help me love getting to sit by someone’s side while they cry and unload their heart.

Help me love the first light of day.

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It’s so hard to carry grief in your heart, to know that you will spend you entire life grieving certain things, and still trust that who you are and where you are in this moment, today, is exactly where you should be.

Help me not get stuck in self-pity, Lord. Help me give my grief to You, over and over and over again.

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And Lord, the part of me deep down that still holds onto this belief that I am unlovable? Heal it, Lord. My head knows differently. My head knows I am Yours and I am treasured

But my heart is still so sensitive. My heart still feels twisted and young and deprived of love.

And Lord, knowing You are all I need, and all I ultimately could want, it just makes it so hard to have any distance at all between You and me. Help me look forward to heaven and spending eternity with You without feeling completely homesick and dissatisfied with this life You’ve given me.

Help me seek You whole-heartedly.

And overwhelm me, Lord. Overwhelm me with Your presence and love.

And use me. I don’t want to do life selfishly, just wanting You. I also want to make myself available to be used by You.

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In other news, I recently read Soul Keeping by John Ortberg. I really liked it.

“This is where grace comes in. I cannot replace an idol by turning away from it. I must turn toward something.”

You cannot give up an addictive or unhealthy behavior by willpower alone. You need to replace it with something (or Someone) else.

“The soul without a center finds its identity in externals. My temptation when my soul is not centered in God is to try to control my life. In the Bible this is spoken in terms of the lifting up of one’s soul. The prophet Habakkuk said that the opposite of living in faithful dependence on God is to lift your soul up in pride. The psalmist says that the person who can live in God’s presence is the one who has not lifted their soul up to an idol. When my soul is not centered in God, I define myself by my accomplishments, or my physical appearance, or my title, or my important friends. When I lose those, I lose my identity. A soul without a center is like a house built over a sinkhole. ‘How collapsed you are my soul, and how you sigh over me.’ On the other hand, the soul comes alive when it is centered on God. ‘Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love…for to you I lift up my soul.'”

“Your soul is a needy man, a needy woman. Thomas Aquinas wrote that this neediness of the soul is a pointer to God. We are limited in virtually every way: in our intelligence, our strength, our energy, our mortality. There is only one area where human beings are unlimited. As Kent Dunnington puts it, ‘We are limited in every way but one: we have unlimited desire.’ We always want more: more time, more wisdom, more beauty, more funny YouTube videos. This is the soul crying out. We never have enough. The truth is., the soul’s infinite capacity to desire is the mirror image of God’s infinite capacity to give. What if the real reason we feel like we never have enough is that God is not yet finished giving? The unlimited neediness of the soul matches the unlimited grace of God. Our soul’s problem, however, is not its neediness; it’s our fallenness. Our need was meant to point us to God. Instead, we fasten our minds and bodies and wills on other sources of ultimate devotion, which the bible calls idolatry. Idolatry is the most serious sin in the Old Testament, leading one scholar to conclude that the primary principal of the Old Testament is the refutation of idolatry. Idolatry, accord to author Timothy Keller, is the sin beneath the sin. Anytime I sin, I am allowing some competing desire to have higher priory than God and God’s will for my life…We all commit idolatry every day. It is the sin of the soul meeting its needs with anything that distances it from God.”

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He Is Love

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People are flawed and imperfect. They can be selfish. They can be selfless, too. All of that to say that, in spite of human failings, I believe that there is absolutely no power bigger or more transformative than love.

Love is the source of goodness in anyone.

Selflessness? Love.

Patience? Love.

Compassion? Love.

And, to further drive my argument home, God is Love. Of course there’s nothing more powerful or big than God.

I am so comforted by that. I am so comforted to know that, no matter what life brings, love wins. Always. Maybe we won’t see evidence of that in the moment, but in the end? Love gets the final word.

Last night I was driving home and I was awe-struck by the sunset. Behind me, liquid-y sunshine in a pale blue sky. Before me, pillars of fluffy pink clouds, stretching from earth up towards the moon.

And in that moment, I thought about how it is said that “they will see The Son Of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory” (Mark 13:26). I know God’s plan and timing is perfect, but I hope Jesus chooses to return when the sky looks at least as magical as it did last night.

That said, how could I, for even two seconds, doubt that God is in control, that He holds the whole world in His hands? How laughably illogical to profess that yes, last night’s sunset and tomorrow’s sunrise are courtesy of Him. But my heart? My tangled emotions? Those things are beyond His ability. In fact, they will only stand a chance of being resolved if I worry about them late into the night and sacrifice sleep and laughter and sanity and joy, trying to juggle the what-ifs. (*eye roll*)

The belief that He created the world, and me, and that my life is too complex for Him, it’s not really a theology problem. It’s not even a matter of being uncertain of God’s power. What it’s a matter of is being uncertain of God’s presence, His desire to work things together for good in my life, His LOVE for me.

I am aware that God loves me more than I can even fathom, but then I somehow think that I can take His unfathomably large love for me and say what it would “should” look like. It’s so arrogant of me to think that His love needs to look a certain way to me. To ME! To my pathetic, narrow, limited, human perspective!

“So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him” (Matthew 7:11).

I know He loves me. And I know He is present. And I have to just trust in that and rely in that, regardless of how life looks or how I feel. Truth doesn’t change. Truth is a constant. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Always, He was and is and will be Love.

All Is Well

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Last week was sunny,

last night I got to cuddle an infant,

today has been lovely,

I still have two more days of weekend ahead of me,

and God is good. So, so good.

All is well.

🙂

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I spent today with Brittany.

After I woke up.

At 2:30 p.m.

But in my defense, I was up until 4:30 a.m. last night. I’m not sure how I wasn’t tired. Pretty sure it was supernatural. 😉 Or possibly it had something to do with the energy drink and copious quantities of candy I ate last night.

So, yes. I woke up this morning (read: afternoon), took some Peptol Bismol, and Brittany and I headed to one of my favorite places to buy books: The Goodwill.

Mom used to say, “Tamara, you have to give a book a chance. If by the fourth chapter you’re still not interested in it, then you don’t have to finish it.”

I know what Mom was trying to do, and I’m sure she thought she was giving me sound advice, but she was wrong. I can tell within the first few pages whether or not it’s a book I’m going to be able to get on board with. And so that’s what I spent a couple hours doing this afternoon, while Brittany looked at the baby clothes section. Inspired, undoubtedly, by the aforementioned newborn. ; )

We also hit up Metropolitan Market for some grapes and mushrooms. Because we have been craving both lately.

I bought four packages of mushrooms.

When the cashier was checking me out, she said, “You must be making a recipe that requires a lot of mushrooms!”

To which I responded, “…No. I just really like mushrooms.”

And then she tried to backpedal and talk about how, “…Oh. Oh! Oh, uh, well, they’re really good for you!”

It made me giggle inwardly.

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I have been reading The God Catchers lately, and I love it.

A couple nights ago, I came across this passage: “If you insist on retaining the rulership over your life, God will just evacuate and wait until something dies and dependency is re-created.”

Maybe I would’ve read that before as God being controlling or threatening in some way, but now when I read that, I find so much comfort in it.

I don’t want God to allow anything (even my own hopes, dreams, and plans for my life) to become lord over my life. I don’t want to do a single second of life without God’s hand in mine. Life apart from Him is not worth it. And life with Him? It’s beautiful. It’s magical and full of potential and anything but mundane. Every day is alive with possibility when I’m following where He leads. And no moment, not a single second, is lonely or scary when my heart belongs to Him. No matter what life brings, I know I will be okay because nothing will change the fact that I am His. And nothing matters as much as that.

I posted that quote on Instagram, and I wrote this caption for it: “And it’s because He loves us. Even when it hurts, Lord, I welcome anything that will draw me closer to You. Thank You, Jesus, that You pursue us. Unfailingly. Thank You that You are good and holy and that all You do is motivated by love. Thank You that we can trust You even when things don’t make sense. Help us to remember You are worthy of praise- always.”

I don’t know what God is doing in my life right now, but it is bigger than me and more than I could take credit for and it is amazing and beautiful. And I’m happy. Not every moment of every day is easy or good, but I am happy. I am so happy. Because God is helping me to trust and love Him more. And with a head and heart consumed with love for my Lord and with ultimate trust in His plan for my life, nothing can touch me.

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I was reading in the Bible the other night that God promises that not a single hair on our heads will be harmed (Luke 21:18).

But at the same time, people who love God suffer and die every day.

And so I have to ask myself, what truth am I going to give more power to:

What I see before me? The truth that Christians still suffer?
Or the truth that God promises to protect us and provide for us?The truth that He spoke and found significant enough to put in the Bible?

Which truth is going to be bigger in my life? And what it comes down to is this: Does God lie?

No, He doesn’t.

And so, regardless of what I perceive, I trust and know that He keeps His promises. Which must mean that there’s more to this life than we realize or understand right now.

Our suffering, while legitimate, does not look the same through heaven’s eyes. And I find so much comfort in that.

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