Archive | July, 2016

The Miracle I Almost Missed

“I never wanted to walk that road again.” Tears well up in my eyes as I listen to my own shaky voice recount the story about the struggle and the miracle. It’s been quite some time since I’ve watched this four-minute version of my story. I close my eyes and remember the waiting parts, the longing parts, the heart-wrenching grieving parts.

“But, we trusted Him and took a step of faith.” My own words transport me back to a time when two people, hand in hand, took scared steps because He said so.

Watching yourself tell your own story helps you realize what you left out. I love that my story includes an unexpected miracle. But today, I want to talk about the part I’ve never shared.

I want to tell you about the other miracle I almost missed.

When God whispered to me, “I’m not finished here,” I never thought He would ask me to walk the same path I swore I’d never set foot on again. I couldn’t understand why He would ask me to return to a place that had been so painful and devastating.  He could have grown our family another way.

I never, ever wanted to be pregnant again.

It was too risky. I never wanted to experience the grief again. I didn’t think I could endure the weight of the fear caused by all the what-ifs. My husband felt the exact same way. But, God asked us to trust Him. So we went.

Something happened as we went, and I knew I’d never be the same again.

My heart’s response was “I trust you, Jesus.” It made no sense. I knew that I had little to do with what was happening on the inside. Whatever this was about, it had to be bigger than a baby. It had to be about more than just our family.

An entire year later, after many setbacks and failures, we found out that God really wasn’t finished yet. He reached down and handed us an unexpected gift that caught our entire family by surprise: a baby no one thought was possible. Not even me.

The road to pregnancy wasn’t paved with certainty. God didn’t remove all the hurt, but He guarded my heart and used each and every step to change my heart in miraculous ways. He wasn’t asking me to take a step to test my faith; He was asking me to take a step to grow my faith.

Those scared steps I took in faith led me to the sacred ground of transformation.

Our sweet baby girl is eighteen months old now. She’s the miracle everybody sees. She’s the miracle we photograph and measure each month as she grows right in front of our eyes. Every child is a miracle that points us to the Giver.

But a subtle, hidden miracle was taking place simultaneously. This miracle grew out of my absolute and undivided trust in the One who was leading us. It’s the miracle every single one of us who have trusted in Jesus will experience over and over again throughout our lifetime.

Jesus saves us once and for all, but He is never finished rescuing our hearts.

These miracles are so easy to miss. They aren’t measurable, and they’re often complicated, yet they happen every single day in the hearts of believers. These miracles happen as we walk towards Jesus.

Those scared steps I took in faith led me to the sacred ground of transformation.

There is a story about a missed miracle in the seventeenth chapter of Luke’s gospel. Ten lepers met Jesus on His way to Jerusalem. They stood at a distance and cried out to Him by name.

Leprosy was an incurable disease and was regarded as an awful punishment from God. The disease would gradually spread, taking over the entire body little by little. These ten men were begging for a miracle.

Maybe they had heard about all Jesus had done. Maybe someone had told them about another man whose leprosy immediately left when Jesus touched him. (See Luke 5:12-14)

I would have been expecting the exact same miracle that Jesus performed on that guy. For Him to touch me and heal me exactly like He had done before. My request would’ve involved something predictable and controllable.

I would’ve wanted a miracle I could measure.

When Jesus saw them, He spoke words that must have made their hearts sink. I can tell you I would not have known what to do with these six words: “Go, show yourselves to the priests.”

The priest’s role was to inspect the leper in order to determine if he was clean or unclean. If he was unclean, he had to live outside the city. A leper couldn’t communicate with anyone inside the city, and he couldn’t be touched. To be pronounced unclean was a horrible thing. (See Leviticus 13 and 14)

Jesus told these ten men to go back and stand where they once stood when a priest had pronounced an impossible verdict. He asked them to return to the same place where their reputations were painfully marred. He asked them to return to the origin of their isolation, the place where shame and hopelessness intersected.

Jesus said, “Go there.”

I wonder if they felt like I did when God asked me to return to the place I vowed I’d never again go. Did they weigh the risks involved with putting feet to that path? Did they rehearse their past heartbreak or relive the devastation?

I wonder what made them decide that this Jesus could be trusted.

These ten men went where Jesus told them to go. We don’t when or how or where exactly on that road it happened, but Scripture tells it beautifully: “And as they went, they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan.” Luke 17:14-16 (emphasis added) 

Cleansed. Healed. Two different words that might seem like synonyms, but to the Greek ear, they would have sounded very different. These words were chosen carefully to communicate a bigger story.

The Greek word for cleansed is katharizō. It means “cure, purify,” indicating that the man’s skin was no longer covered with leprosy. The word translated as healed is the Greek word iaomai, which means “made whole.”

Somewhere on that path, one man recognized that his skin as well as his heart had been transformed.

Jesus said to the man, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” Luke 17:19 (emphasis added) He could have used the word cleansed or the word healed, but Jesus used a completely different word, sōzō, which means “saved.” Jesus was saying, “Faith in me is your salvation.”

The fact that this man was a Samaritan was a big deal. Jesus was declaring that salvation was not only for the Jews but for Gentiles as well. Jesus came to save the entire world.

Many Jewish people in Jesus’ day were obsessed with asking for a sign. They were wrapped up with what God could do for them. Like me, they wanted miracles they could measure. The people in Jesus’ day missed that God had given them the greatest miracle of all time. They didn’t understand that nothing else could ever compare to all we’ve been given in Jesus Christ. Sometimes, we act just like them.

That day He met the lepers, Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem. He would ride into the city on a donkey and crowds of people would hail Him King. Many of those same people would cry, “Crucify Him,” by the end of the week. He was on the way to the cross to make an impossible situation right. He was on His way to restore broken hearts and pave the way for us to be made new.

The miracle begins when a heart plagued with mistrust makes the choice to trust Him.

If a leper’s condition improved and he was pronounced clean by the priest, a sacrifice was needed to restore him to the community. When Jesus spoke to the man who returned, He was revealing His authority. Jesus is the Great High Priest as well as the sacrifice. His blood is the only thing that can cure our leprous soul.

But Jesus doesn’t stop with cleansing us. He walks along the muddy path with us. He never, ever stops miraculously healing us from the inside out.

Only one out of ten recognized the miracle. Nine missed it entirely. I don’t want to be part of this statistic. I love to share how God grew our family and did the impossible, but what I cherish most about that path He led us down is how it changed me.

Trusting Jesus changed me and will continue to change me until the day I meet Him face to face.

When I think back to those words God whispered to me more than three years ago, I sense a whole new message. “I’m not finished here,” meant He would grow our family, and He has been so faithful.  But as I stare at the words on my screen today, I realize that He also meant He wasn’t finished with me.

Let it be said of all us: They trusted Jesus, and a miracle happened as they went.

Jesus loves you,
Kelly

 

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What I’m Learning: Summer Edition

What I'm Learning: Summer Edition

I get together with a group of women every Sunday night. We laugh, we cry, we pray for one another – oh, and we stuff our faces with yummy (sometimes healthy) food. It’s a safe place where we’re free to be our real selves. It’s where healing and learning and growing happens.

My favorite part is when someone shares what she’s learning.

I love hearing things like, “This is where God has me, but I don’t know why we’re here,” or “He’s teaching me about this, but I don’t quite understand it.” It’s like looking through a well lit window right into a beautiful soul where God is just doing His thing.

There is freedom in laying these lessons out on the table long before they’re tidy and clearly articulated and understood. We learn better when we process together. We need people along the way who are willing to just sit back and listen. We need people who are willing to ask us the hard questions. We need people who are willing to say, “Yeah, me too.”

Sharing what we’re learning is a lot like handing over a really messy rough draft.

There’s a certain level of vulnerability that comes with sharing something that’s still in the works. Life is all about recognizing that we are all still a work in progress. Today I’m sharing what I’m learning in hopes that it will encourage you to do the same. After all, rough drafts eventually become beautifully polished stories.

I’ve been unpacking Jesus’ response to His followers when they asked Him who was the greatest.  Jesus’ answer reveals so much about His heart and sheds some light on my own, too. Jesus’ response isn’t a recipe for how to become great; it’s a lesson on humility.

Jesus says in Matthew 18:3, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

My kids are home for summer, so there have been endless opportunities to reflect on the phrase “like little children.” Sensing that God wants me parked here this summer, I started a list of words that describe little children. Every time a new word comes to mind, I pull out my journal and jot it down. Nothing fancy – just a simple, scribbled list. This is what I’ve written so far:

L i t t l e  c h i l d r e n :

h u m b l e

s m a l l

p r e c i o u s

h o n e s t

n e e d y

d e p e n d e n t

b e l i e v i n g

t r u s t i n g

n o t   p o w e r f u l

v u l n e r a b l e

t e a c h a b l e

It’s the last one that has caused me to look at my own heart and ask, “Am I like that? Am I teachable?” Maybe it’s because of the one hundred and one questions being hurled in my general direction on a daily basis, all of which begin with the word, “Mommy,…? Mommy,…? Mommy,…?”

Little children ask questions because they don’t know, and they’re not the slightest bit ashamed to admit it.

Discovering the answer is more important than making sure no one finds out they don’t have it. Little children aren’t afraid to say, “I don’t know.” They know that the very words mark the beginning of an adventure.

So, why do these three little words feel so uncomfortable coming out of my mouth? After all, only God is all-knowing. I will never have complete or unlimited knowledge and understanding. But, I’ve started to notice how much saying this phrase frustrates me.

This summer Jesus is asking me to get comfortable with saying, “I don’t know.”

In Women of the Word (one of the books I shared last month), Jen Wilkin talks about how patience is part of the learning process, especially when it comes to studying God’s word. She uses the word dissonance a bunch. I looked it up in the dictionary the other day just so that I could understand it a bit better.

Dissonance is defined as “a simultaneous combination of tones conventionally accepted as being in a state of unrest and needing completion; lack of harmony or agreement; tension.”

My restless soul craves completion. Engaging the dissonance between “I don’t know” and “I understand,” helps me come to terms with my limitations in light of a limitless God. Willingly entering the tension means placing myself in a position to learn.

I’m learning that humility means choosing to be teachable, and being teachable begins with saying, “I don’t know.”

What is God is teaching you this summer? Is there a phrase (like mine) that you’re learning to embrace? Leave a comment… I’d love to hear from you!

Kelly

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What I Wish I Had Known About Infertility

It didn’t take me long to figure out that I was the only one.  My husband thought the social gathering would be good for my soul.  I knew better, but agreed to go anyway.  In a crowded, boisterous circle of acquaintances and strangers, I listened from a distance, unable to contribute to the conversation.

Infertility and heartbreaking loss had taken its toll on my heart.

Two women shared their personal experiences with moldy sippy cup lids while a third offered her fool-proof solution for barring off this kind of unwanted fungal growth. All I heard was that familiar lie:

You will never belong here.

What I Wish I Had Known About Infertility

I didn’t know if my kitchen cabinets would ever hold sippy cups, and I didn’t know if my body would ever carry a baby like it was supposed to.  It had been years and hope was slipping out of my empty arms. The scars from my most recent loss were anything but healed, and there was nothing tidy about the emotions spilling out of me. I made eye contact with the hostess as I quickly mapped out my exit plan. My eyes pleaded with her, Please understand.

“Take me home,” I whispered to my husband when I found him outside with the rest of the guys. Confusion settled into the space between us.  He was still unaware that we were the only childless people at the party, and I was surprised that this made me jealous. When he realized my request was more of a plea, we said our goodbyes and left.

I needed to be heard.

On the car ride home, I tried to explain.  I expected him of all people to understand. He had experienced the same devastating loss, yet instead of uniting us, it was pulling us in opposite directions. I was terrified that the strain of it all would rip us right apart.

I quit speaking to God that week- just picked up silence and wore it like a cloak. Months passed before I realized that my anger couldn’t run Him off or push Him away.

One day in desperation, I picked up His Word, and the ground of my heart shifted as love and grace and truth seeped deep into the cracks of my dry and parched faith. It was that same day I realized what I wish I had known years before.

God is the only One who will ever truly understand.

Hannah was a girl just like me.  Her story begins in 1 Samuel chapter 1. Her husband took another wife when it became clear that she was barren.  Her name was Peninnah. This one short verse sums up the circumstances Hannah found herself in:

Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none. 1 Samuel 1:2b

Year after year, Hannah watched this other woman give birth while she secretly wondered if she was somehow disqualified. Our culture today unknowingly isolates women struggling with infertility, but in Hannah’s day, it was seen as divine judgment.

Tension began to grow in Hannah’s marriage. Elkanah, her husband, didn’t think Hannah’s childlessness was that big of a deal.  He didn’t understand why she was so miserable.  He provided for her and he loved her more than Peninnah, the mother of his children.  But all of his efforts couldn’t change the fact that Hannah’s heart was splitting in two.

Hannah took her broken heart and laid it bare before God. But this very private prayer made in a public place brought more painful misunderstanding. Eli, the priest, witnessed her lips moving silently as she poured out her pain to God and mistakenly thought she was drunk.  As if her anguish was not enough, Eli’s accusation was piercing and misguided.

Hannah’s reaction that day in the temple grabs me every time.

“Not so, my lord,” Hannah replied, “I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the Lord. Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.” 1 Samuel 1:15-16

She didn’t use harsh words when Eli misunderstood her pain.  She didn’t shut down, and she didn’t retreat.  She simply told the truth. She knew her grief was misunderstood, and she also knew she could never expect anyone to truly hear her and she didn’t expect anyone to understand. Peninnah couldn’t, and neither could Elkanah or Eli. God is the only One who understood Hannah’s pain and longing, and she wasted none of her effort trying to pour out her pain anywhere else.

It causes more pain when we take our broken hearts to anyone other than God.

It causes more pain when we take our broken hearts to anyone other than God.

In my own struggle, I was a slave to the expectations I created for everyone around me.  I wanted others to understand how I spent sleepless nights wondering if I was being punished. I wanted them to realize that I prayed daily for God to remove my longing if He was not planning to fulfill it. I wanted them to see the guilt that plagued me when my grief prevented me from celebrating with those whose families were growing with ease. I wanted people to understand the loneliness that settled in between my husband and me as we walked the same path but experienced two very different journeys.

Over the years, God has strengthened our marriage through the struggle. After four years, two losses, and too many failed procedures to count, God gave us a son and a daughter, born just twenty minutes apart.  Four years after that, when we thought the door had closed completely, He reminded us that nothing is outside His reach. Our third child, another daughter, is a constant reminder that He is able.

But even here in this current season, I still find myself holding others to my unrealistic expectations. I want people to respect our decisions regarding medical intervention. I want others to recognize how certain dates will forever remind me of all I’ve lost. I want them to know that even though I have children, infertility is still very much a part of my life. I want people to understand that being overwhelmed some days by motherhood doesn’t imply ungratefulness.

Expectations have only harmed me and strained my relationships. But with every misunderstanding, God draws me to His heart.  He is teaching me that He is the only One who can truly hear my innermost cry. His love alone holds the power to silence all the lies that have held me captive.

We are never misunderstood in God’s embrace.

Hannah eventually conceived and gave birth to a son, Samuel, whose name means “heard by God.” Hannah could not keep her joy to herself.  She prayed silently in her sorrow, but her prayer of praise was a bold and beautiful song to the God who understands. She began by praising God for deliverance from her enemies:

My heart rejoices in the Lord; in the Lord my horn is lifted high. My mouth boasts over my enemies, for I delight in your deliverance. 1 Samuel 2:1

I have always considered Hannah’s enemies all those who misunderstood her.  But her enemy wasn’t Peninnah, and it certainly wasn’t the priest who made a bad judgment call.  Her true enemy was God’s enemy, and he is our enemy, too.  He devotes every waking moment to isolating us so we walk through life painfully alone.

Our enemy wants more than anything to destroy our relationships with each other and with God.

As Hannah continued her song, she noted the reversals only possible through the power of the Mighty One. The weak become strong and the strong become weak; the full find themselves hungry and the hungry find their full; the rich become poor and the poor become rich; and the one who was barren is barren no more! Her song ends with these powerful words:

The Most High will thunder from heaven; the Lord will judge the ends of the earth. He will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed. 1 Samuel 2:10

“Anointed” is translated Messiah. This is the very first place in scripture that this word is used. It’s how God chose to reveal the beginning of His beautiful redemption plan. Hannah’s joyful prayer gives us a glimpse of the hope found in Jesus. He came to restore our broken bodies and heal our broken hearts and mend our broken relationships. He has already defeated our enemy.

If you are walking the road that’s often misunderstood, find peace in knowing that Jesus hears you, Jesus sees you, and Jesus understands you completely. Take all of your questions and your fears and your hurt to the One who can turn your weakness into strength, your longing into satisfaction, your pain into purpose, and your tears into beautiful songs of joy.

Jesus loves you,

Kelly

 

My Story

A dear friend created this video the summer we found out we were expecting our third child. I was terrified to shoot it, because I struggled my entire pregnancy with the fear of losing this precious gift. I’m sharing it today in case you (or someone you love) need to be reminded that our God can do anything. He is limitless, and so is His love.  Over the course of those nine months, I learned that we can never lose His love.

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