Love, for Goodness Sakes… (Thoughts on Faith)

I don’t want to be weak & ineffective. And I do not want to be mean-spirited. Most definitely in my faith. But I find myself caught in between two ideologies & it’s a tough line to tow. On my right, the militant & unashamed, wearing theological combat boots & bum rushing through  a person’s wounds & hurtful history in order to dominate the conversation with their own piety. But of this they aren’t aware. On my left, the blended believer whose faith is so contoured into the universe, it’s hard to know where their feet are planted. They unintentionally coax people into embracing their sickness, often giving no true remedy. 

Honestly, I can only share with others the God that I truly know. During my church’s prayer service yesterday, I heard the following, “Don’t be afraid to talk about my Love.” 

Why be fearful talking about God’s Love? And how are we missing it by dwelling in either of the two extremes: militant Christianity or passive Christianity? My guess would be we are defining Love through our own experiences, rather than through God’s explanation. 

The militant believers are afraid of using Love as the center of their evangelism and theology because it appears weak. In their eyes, it waters down the Gospel, taking away the urgency in the call to repentance. 

On the other hand, the well meaning passive Christians oversell the Love aspect as if God is not multifaceted. They take the compassion of God and dumb it down to the fickle level of human experience. And that would be doing the world a great injustice. My feelings change often. But the way God feels about me never will. It isn’t necessary to be overly emotional to help people identify with this Truth: God truly loves me. 

Romans 8:38-39 sums it up immensely:

“I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

If we have an inaccurate view of God’s Love, then we cannot fully grasp the Gospel in its totality. I can have a head knowledge of how sin entered the world or how I need a Savior, or even the difference between good and evil, but if I do not let His Love affect me, to the point that I am fully convinced of it more than anything else, then I run the risk of dwelling in the extremes of my Faith. Either I conjure a emotional counterfeit that lulls the heart into a slumber or I will push potential believers into a corner of self-righteousness. 

God is Love. And He loves you. There’s more, but it’s that simple.

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A Prayer on My Birthday

Heavenly Father, thank you for keeping me this past year. Your strength is exactly what I needed & will continue to need.

I rejoice in the fact that your faithfulness and dedication towards me still catches me off guard. I want to always be in awe of you, Lord. Thank you for taking care of my family as I battled internally. You are the One who wars for my soul and you reminded me of that. Depression and anxiety continued to pursue me, but “Mercy said no”.

I’m finally thankful that I have little control concerning the course of Life itself. People will come and go & I get to enjoy their companionship while they are here. And they can enjoy me. Thank you for that privilege.

I praise you for my mate and husband. Thank you for tightening our grip onto one another and for being our Counselor and Teacher. When we felt alone, & unsure of where to go, you gave us Counsel.

I’m growing to accept the call, Father. I understand my place here now, more than ever. So I ask for your grace and courage. Protect my heart, Lord. Guard me from callousness and a critical spirit. Pour into me joy & a peacefulness that can encourage the hopeless, oppressed, and afraid. Gird my integrity so that I will seek to serve and not be seen.

Continue the healing, Father. Dry every tear. Solidify my written testimony that others will read and find courage to seek out their own Victory.

You are beautiful, Lord. I love you with all of me. I give you all of me.

Brittney

Second Wind.

I am NOT a runner. Never have been.

Oddly enough, I hate running outside. If I must run, I’ll do it in the comfort of an air-conditioned gym with a big screen television obstructing my view of the all of the incredibly fit people. I am a poor runner because I am a bad breather.

Let me give you another, unrelated, example:

I remember the year I worked at Liberty University’s Career Center as a Career Counselor, we would go make presentations in various classes. It was a blast, but also anxiety-producing for me. There was a particular class, a freshman Communications class, that had at least a hundred students stretched across the room in theater seating. I and another colleague made a presentation on resumes. I struggled that day, because I had forgotten to breathe in between powerpoint slides.

…by the 4 slide I was completely out of breath and sounded like I’d gotten punched in the stomach. I recall seeing a couple of students in the front row looking amused.

Terrible, right? I stink at breathing (albeit, pacing myself) when under pressure.

I’m drawing a similarity with my life at the moment: lots to do, many hats to transition into and out of, but starting to struggle with pacing all the responsibilities. I won’t write out a list here, because you could probably look back on my previous blog posts and see that I am an incredibly busy woman. Duh.

And at times, I feel that if I have to think of ONE MORE obligation (merited or not), that I’m going to run away. Dramatic, I know. But, it honestly agitates my introversion. My desire to grab my favorite blanket (the one that my former college roommate made for me — thanks Jess), my cell phone, and hide in my bed. Somehow I can do that because the baby has enough milk to last her a month and my husband’s love tank is full so he won’t miss me for at least a week. And miraculously enough, I was able to clone myself to go to work FOR me so that I can continue to help support our family, meanwhile taking care of the finances and managing the home (and never feeling like a failure of a wife). That same clone will also be incredibly active and innovative in church, and call all of my family and friends to give them personal time every week so  no one feels neglected. My clone doesn’t need sleep or pampering or nutritious meals or self-care. And she battles all of the mommy guilt for me, thankfully.

She will take care of all of that, so I’ll be able to sit in my bed and take that much needed second wind.

Glorious, isn’t it?

I feel like I’ve been running for ages but rarely take time to breathe. God the Father Himself took a break after creating EVERYTHING. Why can’t I? Maybe God wasn’t tired, but rather He wanted to show me the way it’s (and by “it” I mean Kingdom building) done appropriately.

All of my efforts to rest won’t satisfy my weariness if I don’t look in the right places. I tend to look for rest externally, when I’ve been commanded to find my rest IN God. And I can free up my schedule to the bare necessities, but still not find rest.

I can have more free time. But miss having genuine rest.

Isn’t that sad? So, is it really about just “not running” or trimming back the distance?

Maybe not, because the race MUST be run. It will be. Once my life is done and over, there will be a summary of how well I ran. How far. And where I ended. Maybe the point is to learn how to breath in the midst. On the journey. Staying connected to the Source that can breathe new life; the One who first breathed into us.

Timing

I remember having a TERRIBLE sense of timing.

When to confront. When to complain. When to begin or end a relationship.

During our dating years, my husband would poke fun at me for having this major flaw. I would deny it, of course, but looking back on it I see that he was completely spot on. Lately, I’ve become obsessed at the way timing plays into my life’s circumstances. No conflict or occurrence is random to me anymore, nor are they without a smidgen of meaning attached. I swear, if I didn’t love Jesus so much, I’d be one of those folks reading the palms and the stars, and instead of Naomi, my daughter would have been named “Serendipity”.

…that does have a nice ring to it though, you think?….

I learned from certain biblical passages (try Ecclesiastes 3, for starters…) that God infuses His purposes and plan for us with both strategy and intention. He isn’t a god who loves anonymity, but He loves to place His signature, with bold strokes and lines — in ink– on our lives. He wants us to know that He’s the artist, the producer, and the author of it all.

He will even risk getting the blame for the bad stuff….because the good stuff is SO. GOOD.

So, I pay extra attention to the order of the story…the order of my story. Because I know that when I do, I will see his signature in plain sight. So plain that it can be overlooked, even.

So, I guess this post will serve as a caution/encouragement: Look up. Pay attention. God is speaking all the time, even when He isn’t talking.

Bedrest: The Comforter

There aren’t many other moments where one can feel more isolated, than laying alone in a hospital bed. It’s difficult, tiring, and almost maddening. My 3 months on bedrest gave me the opportunity to feel utterly isolated. It’s almost like every morning, Isolation & Despair both stood at either foot of my bed, offering me their company for the day. Some days, I would helplessly concede. Others, I would quickly remember that I wasn’t alone to begin with, and their company wasn’t necessary or wanted.

I consider myself to be a Christian; a believer in Jesus Christ. I believe He is 1 part of a Holy Triune God: containing God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. I also believe that God has a desire for us to know Him, each part, intimately. I have communed many times with God as my Heavenly Father; feeling His leading & care. I have also communed with Jesus as my teacher and friend. But to experience the Presence of God, the Holy Spirit, is a definitively unique experience. You rarely forget these moments. I can recall the moment I communed with the Holy Spirit for the first time as a child. I didn’t understand it completely (and still do not to this day), but I recognized it. There was no doubt what I’d experienced.

Laying in bed, there have been moments where I’ve literally felt someone picking me up, rocking me like a mother would her small child. There have been times where I have felt something resembling a cocoon surrounding me; the temperature in the room shifted from the unrelenting chill that isn’t uncommon to a hospital room, to a completely comfortable one. Numerous nurses that I had would comment on how calm & peaceful it felt in my room.

The nights were the most difficult. I feel that it was at those times where I did warfare, and the Holy Spirit would always go before me, leading me through the late to early hours. There wasn’t one night where I felt I was going into the battle alone. Whenever I trekked across the battlefield of my mind, I could picture the Holy Spirit, holding a banner of God high above my head, and fervently running  ahead of me. The most peaceful moments I felt was during the hour when the sun rose, and light spilled into my room, across my bed, and dispelled any and all shadows from my room. Even now, an eventful moment in my day is getting up to sit in our living room to watch the sun make its first impressions on the new day. To me, it signifies Victory. Triumph. Survival from the night.

The Holy Spirit, my Comforter, has carried me my whole walk with the Lord. He has covered, defended, & encouraged me through every hurt & disappointment. And when I think back on this season, His markings are evident. Because there are traces of God’s Glory left behind with each one.

I see more of God’s Glory in my life. In my pain. In my struggle.

And it is because my God is adamant to remain true to His Word, and therefore His promises:

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them. Isaiah 42:16

Bed-rest:Intro

What am I going to look like when this is over?

This is the question currently burning inside of me. God forbid I look, act, and believe the same way as I did before. Otherwise, what’s the point of all this? Why did it matter? What was the pain, feelings of helplessness, sacrifice, and testing for?

Was God bored? Had my name been randomly drawn from a large glass bowl filled with small slips of paper? Was it was just my turn to suffer?

[…lots of people believe this, don’t they?]

I can honestly say that I will be angry. Completely pissed off if there is no purpose in what I am going through. If there isn’t anything to pick up among the ash and rubble, for me to use as both token and catalyst for change in my life. God knows that I’m sick of retelling my horror stories as if they were my glory days. I want to actually be better when this is all over.

Because it will be over soon. I saw the end of the tunnel, so to speak, and the light was quite bright and got larger by the minute. Time seems to speeding up. Once I felt trapped in an endless cycle of uncertainty and foggy circumstances; enveloping me like a tornado. But now, I’ve been able to sit and rest in my surroundings, taking inventory of where I’ve landed after such a great storm – the sky is starting to clear, the fog beginning to part away. Not much looks familiar, so there must be an adjoining purpose in being relocated to a place in life I’ve never been before.

God, I hope so…

I have faith that He knew the path, from beginning to end. He predestined the journey, and therefore knows the bottom line for this season. He has already picked out the perfect caption to go underneath the picture; he knows how to describe what others will see when they look at this snapshot of my life…and when they look at me…

I know I will need to relate this description to others when they ask. Because they will.

Those who life live with me will seek an explanation…rather, my interpretation of current events. So I pray I’ll have an answer.

This has been too great…too massive of a happening for me to be struck dumb.

I need to tell the story, plainly but with assurance of its meaning.

May I find it and know it truly for myself. May I keep it close, but display it high as a declaration.

…almost like an introduction.

29 Weeks.

3/7/14 2:04 AM

I guess I should start to write all this down…

Having a baby has always been a weighty concept for me. Starting with the delicate age when I officially became a “woman”, as they say. I’d learned in middle school health class, mixed with those awkward talks with my mom, that a woman’s monthly cycle is essential in having a baby. Of course, I wanted a baby. Most females do, right? Who among us didn’t play “house” as little girls; mimicking our own mothers’ bossy, firm mannerisms and domestic chores?

I guess it all came down to being a mother, and not just having a baby.

Beyond the biological means, I felt that bearing children served as a birthright to my gender. A privilege, even.

I now recognize the irony:

…my desire for [natural-born] children has finally taken a backseat to my biological abilities and shortcomings. No matter how much I WANT to bear my husband a baby,

I am still here.

Chained to strict bed rest and nightly medication.

Mentally prepared for my body to signal premature birth, despite how much more time would benefit my little one, kicking naively inside me.

I’m here, at the mercy of biology, and any number of unknown, random combinations of physiological shortcomings.

My intention is not to sound pessimistic. My faith is working harder than it ever has; flexing muscles I had no clue existed. My posture for prayer has changed, metaphorically and literally: I’m forced to go before God while lying in bed (on my left side, of course).

But this is real. And the ending is still covered in a thick fog, because things are still so uncertain. Kept from me for a reason.

I do feel peace more often these days. At first, I thought it was because I’m currently at the point of 95% survival if my baby is born. But it’s not that…

There is only one major truth that has been unwavering since we received the news: God will be with me. Many times, we jump ahead, filling in all the blanks that He’s intentionally left unanswered. And they are all filled with the miracles you’d expect:

…the ultrasound was actually read incorrectly, and I’ll have a perfectly normal pregnancy.

…my body is the rare, dynamic type that bounces back quickly. No medication or bed rest required, after all.

Or….Baby born at full term, completely healthy and normal.

Wouldn’t that be amazing? I know I’d shout hearing a testimony like that in church. Who wouldn’t?

But what about a not-so happy ending?

…baby born premature and needed months in NICU; receiving multiple surgeries and procedures.

…baby born early and grows up with physical or mental challenges.

…baby dies.

I’m sure those words are as hard to read, as they were to type. But what if? Is God unjust or unfair? Did He back out on His original promise?

“I will never leave you, nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)

The hardest part of waiting to hold my child in my arms is simply this:

Do I want God to give me what I want or what He wills?

My husband and I named her already: Naomi Alese. Granted, we struggled with the middle name, but whenever we refer to her, it feels like we’ve been calling her that for years. Like saying her name out loud will receive an audible response from the other room. We’ve already given her a very significant, open space in our lives. We’ve made room for her, and she fits perfectly. That’s one of the reasons why we want her with everything we have…

…and why it would be painful if God saw fit to take her sooner, rather than later.

But, I am not instructed to know every part of how it’s going to work out. I used to want to know…I remember begging God to let me in on His plan, so that I can stop being in agony. So that I can begin to prepare for what’s ahead. Whatever it is…

…but He isn’t giving me that God-like luxury. And He won’t. A couple of our close friends, family members, and spiritual leaders have spoken that Naomi will be just fine. They look us in the eyes with assuredness and complete hope that we will not endure the pain that comes with losing a child.

After hearing it, I exhale, being extremely grateful that we are surrounded with such encouragement and faith. But, I know that they are not psychic, nor can they see beyond what the hand of God has chosen to reveal. Despite their sense of “knowing”, I cannot replace their comfort with what God has spoken; no matter how collective we are in this desire. The hands of our loved ones serve us daily, and it would be hard to picture my little family making it without them….

But, as nimble and gracious as their hands are, their backs are not strong enough to handle the weight of what my husband and I are carrying. Only God can provide that level of comfort. And He reminds me often that His comfort has little to do with knowing what’s ahead, and more about us submitting totally to His Will:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. “(Proverbs 3:5-6)

Granted, I’m just one set of eyes and a spirit, but I am only able to see two things:

My desire & my biological makeup.

The Lord has shielded me from the rest.

I submit the two every day to the Lord. I pray for Him to surround my desires; protect them. I know He gave them to me for a reason, so I ask that He not allow me to abandon them because I am in pain. Because it would be easier to not connect with my child; to not allow myself to love her. Losing her wouldn’t hurt so much if I didn’t want her. So, I ask God to remove the barrier between us, so that we can enjoy one another fully; beyond our shared body.

Secondly, I pray over my body. I do believe that healing is possible, and that it’s one of the best ways for God to do His work. Consider how untraceable sudden healing can be: cancer disappearing, blood flowing to dead limbs; causing them to move…inexplicable things happen often, and I bet God thoroughly enjoys acting out His glory in this way. Because of this, I believe God’s hands are not bound by sickness and disease. And if I fully recognize that, then I know that He can keep this baby inside me, for as long as He wills, DESPITE my body’s shortcomings. He will either become my body’s strength or enable my body to become strong.

So, I pray in this manner…

Knowing that God hears me and He knows my heart.

And I will lean on Him, so that I may trust Him no matter what the outcome.