Being Confident of This

Grace for the work-in-progress woman

How To Give Your Kids a Good Christmas

I woke up feeling a little sorry for myself this morning, sorry for my family, too.  It hasn’t been the Christmas season we expected or wanted, and I’m left wondering: how do you give your kids a good Christmas when nothing seems right in your world?

We’ve spent the entire month of December ill now.  Influenza spread slowly from one family member to another.  Several children ended up with sinus and ear infections. My asthmatic lungs were hit hard and our physician threatened me with hospital time.  Thankfully, it was just bronchitis and not pneumonia.

Just bronchitis, ha. 🙂

A pharmacy worth of medicines clutters our kitchen counters still – fever reducers, cough meds, antibiotics – you name it, we probably have it right now. Or at least that’s the way it feels.

How To Give Your Kids a Good Christmas, Christmas, Advent, trials, suffering, joy, salvation

Then, this weekend during our church Christmas program practice, our middle boy began complaining of stomach pain. By the time we had removed costumes and were ready to leave, he was on the floor curled up in a ball, crying. It frightened me because he is our tough cookie, the kid who rarely complains of pain.

So, when he started to scream that his stomach hurt, I left immediately for the closest ER!

We spent a day and a half at the hospital under observation, with many people praying – the world over. The surgeon mentioned appendicitis, but his symptoms didn’t fit exactly. Finally, his white blood cell count dropped, his pain subsided and we were able to go home.

We were overjoyed!  He talked about playing with his little brother and sister and how happy he was to come home in time for Christmas.  I grinned in the front seat, glad to have my funny, enthusiastic boy back. We were almost home.

All seemed right in the world again.

And then, suddenly it wasn’t.

Our oldest son woke in the middle of the night with an asthma attack. Then, I got sick and so did he.  On top of that, the only little one who didn’t get an ear infection before complained that his ear hurt.

I’ll admit, friends, my heart travelled straight from rejoicing to complaining because it’s almost Christmas and it just doesn’t seem fair, really.  Our children were back at school for a week, and already ill again!

How can you give your kids a good Christmas when everything goes wrong? How?

 

I know I’m not the only one struggling for joy right now.  In fact, I’m certain that many of you are experiencing trials much deeper and more painful than ours.  If I really knew the depth of them, I’d probably be ashamed of my own complaining.

And maybe you’re a mom like me who doesn’t really mind so much for herself, but for the kids!  Maybe you lie awake at night worrying about life circumstances.  Maybe you’re experiencing the pain of loss or separation from loved ones. Maybe you catch hold of joy for a few moments only to  quickly lose it again.

Whatever your lot might be this Christmas, know this: you can still give your kids a good Christmas.

You can give your kids a good Christmas without health, without money, without extravagance. You can give your kids a good Christmas in spite of pain, loss, broken relationships, and whatever other trials you might be experiencing.

You can because He came.

Luke 2

And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people;11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

He came!  Emmanuel, God WITH us – that’s what Christmas is really about. Christ, the Hope of the world, in human flesh, for love of our wandering hearts.

We have to let go of this expectation of holiday perfection and embrace the reality that human life is flawed, messy, painful, even at Christmas. Christ came right into the midst of that mess, born in a stable – there’s nothing clean about that.

You want to give your kids a good Christmas? Let go of the worry.

Embrace Christ.

How To Give Your Kids a Good Christmas, Christmas, Advent, Jesus, Hope, Salvation

Show them Hope, Love and Peace.

Teach them of the Savior who willingly left Heaven’s splendor to suffer alongside us here on Earth. That’s a Love like no other, my sisters in Christ. He chose us. He chose pain. He chose death, so that we might experience life in abundance. He did it for you, for me, for them. He did it “for all the people.”

The wonder of Christmas has little to do with presents and food and fun. The wonder of Christmas is the keeping of a thousands-of-years-old promise, hundreds of promises, really.  The wonder of Christmas is Christ.

Romans 8

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 23 And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves,waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. 24 For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.

Do you feel it, sisters?  The joy of Christmas is spreading right through us. It cannot be contained. The whole of creation leaps with joy – He is born! Promise fulfilled, salvation at hand, redemption nigh. Hope in human flesh.

How to Give Your Kids a Good Christmas, Christmas, Christ, trials, suffering, hope, joy, peace

Here’s how to give your kids a good Christmas: tell them the story of Jesus.

It’s the only thing that truly matters.

Clinging to hope and joy along with you this Christmas season,

Jen 🙂

Also sharing with: Monday Parenting Pin It Party, Mama Moments, Mom’s the Word, Wholehearted Home, Missional Women

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Choosing the Struggle

Yesterday was Five Minute Friday, and while I avoided it for a day, I can avoid no longer. 🙂  So, I’m joining up with Lisa-Jo Baker and the rest of the brave free-writing crew.  The word for this week: choose.  Join us if you like!

choosing the struggle, rough day, feeling defeated, struggle with discouragement, hope for the weary

“Choose you this day whom you will serve…”

It’s the first thought that runs through my head.  And the obvious choice.  Yes, I choose Jesus.  I want to serve the Father.  I want to follow hard after Him.

But some days, the choosing is a struggle, isn’t it?

The choosing is easy enough when the sun shines and the warm breeze blows and the blessings flow and joy abounds.  But those days when the fiery darts strike in quick succession? And just as you rise, the wind gets knocked out of you once more? Those days the choosing feels near impossible.

And that’s exactly what our Enemy wants, my work-in-progress sisters, for us to feel helpless! Incapable! Paralyzed! Weary! Defeated! We just want to cry, “mercy” and throw in the towel, admit defeat.

Those lies about our failings will carry us right away if we let them, won’t they?  Carry us right away into a sea of despair, a void of apathy, a pit of depression.

What if we choose the struggle instead, sisters?  In those times when we can’t find it in ourselves to choose joy, when we can’t count our blessings for the crashing waves before us, when we feel incapable of making a choice at all, maybe it’s enough just to choose the struggle.

Even though we may not be winning, we choose fighting the good fight.   We don’t give up, we don’t give in. Even though we fear defeat, even though we falter for a step or two, or even a mile or more, we choose to press on.  What if we throw off the chains of perfection and choose instead the road of imperfect progress? And maybe even some days that road looks less like progress and more like simple survival.

“And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is

and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”

Hebrews 11:6

So by faith, we wait on the Lord.

By faith, we cling to the promise of grace and we seek His face.

By faith, we choose the struggle.

And some days, that’s the best choice we can possibly make.

Let’s choose it together, sisters.

It’s the choice that leads to victory!

Jen 🙂

Sharing with #TheLoft.

You may also find me linking up with some of these lovely places.

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Cultivating Christmas: Reflect

Every morning when it’s time to “do hair” we stand in front of my mirrored dresser.  “Look in the mirror,” I tell her in an attempt to keep her still as I comb through the tangles that seem to multiply in her near-black hair overnight.  She chatters and squirms as I comb, my daughter, my mini-me.daughter, reflect

She’s the only girl in our bunch of four, but that doesn’t hold her back.  She’s spunky enough to hold her own with her brothers, tough enough to throw an elbow once in a while, and brave enough to climb the same tall pines in the backyard.  When she comes in the house smiling with dirt on her pant knees and twigs in her long, straight locks, I think – That’s my girl!  Half tom-boy, half princess!

Unlike her twin brother, she’s fiercely independent and prefers playing on her own as much as she enjoys playing with her brothers.  She’s smart and inquisitive, loving learning simply for the sake of knowing.  And when her feelings get hurt, we can expect a good twenty minute pout.  She doesn’t cry often, but when she does, big alligator tears roll down her face from her large, hazel eyes, sometimes silently.

She appreciates order, and beautiful things, and chocolate, and clothes (yes, even at the age of four!), and babies, and animals, and singing, and books, and laughing, and so many more of the same things that I do.

Mother, Daugher, Reflection, Jesus

She’s a reflection of me, both physically and in personality.  My only daughter, my sweet yet spunky princess.

And having experienced the separation of living halfway around the world as a missionary kid, I cannot even imagine sending her a world away (or any of her brothers, for that matter), especially knowing she would suffer pain and temptation, rejection and persecution, and even death.

But that’s exactly what our Father God did so long ago.  He sent us his only Son, His pride and joy, His very reflection, stripped of godly position to become fully human, fully feeling, fully fragile.  He did all of this, knowing what would be required of His beloved Son.  All so that we might know true life and know it abundantly.

Jesus.

He reflects real Light, real Love, real Hope and real Peace.

Because He is Emmanuel, God with us.

So that we might know Him.

How can we comprehend such a love as this, sisters?  That the Almighty God of the Universe would care enough for undeserving sinners to sacrifice the joy of His only Son’s presence in order to gift it to us, so that we might know Him.

That’s the joy of Christmas!

Jen 🙂

I’m joining in with the Five Minute Friday crew this week, albeit a day late. 🙂  We write for five minutes on a one word prompt, no planning, no editing, no stressing.  Just words.  Join in here!

I may also be linking up with any of these lovely blogs.

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It Will Be Worth It All

When we see Jesus, encouragement, hope

Last week we took our four-year-old twins to a doctor’s appointment for a check-up.  Our daughter was excited, but fairly calm.  Our son, on the other hand, demonstrated a major case of ants-in-the-pants!  He combed over every inch of that examination room, up on the table, down on the floor, inspecting every nook and cranny.

By the time the physician’s assistant arrived, I was feeling quite flustered. Then, because it was our first appointment at this office, she began to ask a battery of questions that required actual thinking, which is really hard to do when you are also trying to keep your rambunctious boy from destroying the room!

It’s not the first time I’ve felt such frustration with my sweet son.  Homeschooling for pre-K gives birth to those same feelings of frustration and inadequacy because our son is a very easily distracted learner (typical for his age)!  Even throughout the day, when I’m trying to get his attention or correct his behavior, he pulls away from me, eager for the lesson to be over so that he can move on to better things.

twins fall, hope, faith

I know he’s just being a four-year-old, caught up in his own little world of fun and furious activity.  I just didn’t realize how like him I am, until recently.

I wrote several weeks ago about waiting on the Lord in the midst of seasons of trial and about finding that light at the end of the tunnel, the hope we can only find in Him and in His purposes.  But I must admit, sisters, that I’ve been so eager for the lesson to be over, to escape the trial and get on with what I want to do, that I’ve been an impatient learner.

I keep jumping up from the Father’s feet, scurrying away from this place of discomfort in an attempt to find my own way to peace and joy and rest, thinking that I’ve learned my lesson.  But He knows, He knows the hard work isn’t finished.  He knows the lessons I still need to learn, so He patiently calls to me. And when I don’t listen, He leads me back to this place of physical and emotional trial to resume the lesson because…it’s what is best for me, even if I can’t see it in this moment.

He does this for me because He’s my Heavenly Father, perfectly loving and perfectly knowledgeable. He loves me too much to let me continue down my own path when He knows there is a better way.  Just as I attempt to reason with and teach my active four-year-old son out of love for him, so my Heavenly Father yearns to teach me.

Of course, Satan would have me believe a host of lies about this place of trial:

It’s too painful.

It’s too difficult.

It’s too long.

It’s unfair.

I’m all alone.

But this week, the Lord gave me a few verses that perfectly fit my current circumstances:

2 Cor. 4:16-18

“So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.

 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God,

you will receive what he has promised.”  Hebrews 10:35-36

We throw away our confidence, my work-in-progress sisters, when we give ear to the Enemy’s lies.  We throw our confidence when we (and I’m so guilty) wallow in self-pity.  We throw away our confidence when we tell ourselves we can endure no longer.

We forget that we serve a loving Savior.  We forget that He promises to never leave nor forsake us. We forget that our Great High Priest understands and sympathizes with our every pain!  We forget that He has plans to prosper us and not to harm us.  We forget that our hope and strength can come from Him alone and instead convince ourselves that we must somehow manufacture them within us. 

We throw away our confidence and sometimes the weight is so heavy, so, so heavy that we even lose heart.

But the Father, in His goodness, gave me this verse as well:

 “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying,

yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.

For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory

far beyond all comparison,

 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen;

for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

2 Cor. 4:16-18

My physical body is really frustrating me  lately.  I’m dealing with a lengthy recovery (from the injury at Buttkill Falls), and lately I’ve had other medical issues as well.  And I know many, many others who suffer daily even more so than I.  But the lesson is hard right now, sisters, so hard that I’m tempted to throw away my confidence almost daily.

But we can’t lose heart or the lesson will not be learned! (And this is one I definitely don’t want to have to repeat!) 🙂  Our bodies may fail us; our children may fail us; our marriages may fail us; our finances may fail us; our churches may fail us; even our friends may fail us….but our inner selves can be renewed day by day if only we quit looking for escape.  We cannot pull away like impatient children who are too wrapped up in self to listen.  We must learn to wait for the things that are not seen, the rewards, the promises that we stand upon.  We must persevere!

Because even if the only thing we gain as reward from such trials is a closer, sweeter walk with Him, then it’s worth it, isn’t it?  Even if we must wait until eternity to receive the reward, it’s worth it, isn’t it?  He promises, the glory will be “far beyond all comparison.”

I want it, don’t you?

It will be worth it all when we see Jesus,

Life’s trials will seem so small when we see Christ;

One glimpse of His dear face all sorrow will erase,

So bravely run the race till we see Christ. 

Let’s run bravely, sisters, not losing heart, not throwing away our confidence, persevering to the very end because it will be worth it all

…when we see Jesus.

Jen 🙂

You may find me linking up at any of these lovely blogs.

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Truth, Opposite of Lie

“If you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all,” right?  Maybe not. For Five Minute Friday, Lisa Jo asked us to write about the word truth. Honestly,I don’t have any great new truths to share with you today, just an old truth that I need to hear over and over again.  It’s part of that work-in-progress me, I guess.

I like the words on this blog to be uplifting, but this week I’m not in an uplifting place.  Instead, I find myself in a let’s-be-honest, sometimes-life-stinks place.  I know you understand because sometimes you find yourself there, too.  And I’m learning to be okay with that.

So, here’s the truth, even though it might not be very nice.

Truth.

This is the week that never ends.

The one when my husband and I cannot seem to get along. 😉

The one when I feel so worn down by life that even simple, everyday chores like laundry and caring for children seem to carry such weight.

And I feel like such a whiner for even writing those words because I know, I know, I know the truth, the truth that so many people have it so much worse, and that I… I live a blessed life in many, many ways.

It’s just that this week has left me feeling so discouraged and lonely and needy, and it’s just not me!

It’s a lie, this feeling that I’m stuck, that life will always be difficult this way, that I can’t……

That’s the biggest truth and biggest lie all wrapped up in one, isn’t it?

I can’t.

The statement is true in a sense.  On my own, I can’t.  On my own, the strength is gone, the patience is gone, the desire to do right is gone.  On my own, I want to bury my head in the sand and stay there waiting for better tomorrows.

But “I can’t” is also a lie because I’m not on my own.  I’m in Christ.  And in Christ, I am more than a conqueror.  That’s right – more, sisters!  In Christ, I am already victorious.  In Christ, I am also fully loved, fully accepted, fully provided for, fully complete.

In Christ alone, my Hope is found.

In Christ Alone, hope, encouragement

Truth.

It’s the opposite of the lies I’m tempted to listen to.

In Christ, I can.

And it comes down to my choice, and your choice. Which one will we give ear to today?

I pray it’s truth.

Jen 🙂

Love this music from Mandisa for a boost!

I’m linking up with the Five Minute Friday crew over at Lisa Jo’s place, where we free-write for five minutes on a one-word prompt – no stressing, no over-thinking, no planning, no editing.  Join us!

You may also find me linked up at any of these lovely blogs.

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How to Love When You Feel Unloved

In the spirit of truth-sharing, I’ll tell you that being the wife I am called to be is my weak area, my Achilles heel. I never feel so much like Paul in Romans 7, battling with the flesh, as when marital issues arise. How can I love my husband when I myself feel so unloved? Often Satan and sin have me so ensnared that I even become confused as to what “right” really is.
How to love when you feel unloved, Christian marriage, difficult marriage, feeling unloved

Lately I’ve been reminded of this weakness as our marriage is under extra strain.  I could make excuses.  Truthfully, the pressure just brings forth what is already there, lurking beneath the surface, waiting for the perfect opportunity to rise up.  Like many married couples, we tend to get caught up in the cycle of an argument that’s been played out time and time again.  And that can be so frustrating!  Revisiting those same issues makes us feel like failures, trapped by the past, stalled in our progress.

marriage, troubled marriage, feeling unloved, encouragement for marriage

But I’m not satisfied with a marriage that’s merely okay, and I mean that in the best of ways, I really do.  I desperately want to grow ever closer to the type of intimacy God intended for us  to experience as man and wife. I don’t want to be fatalistic or resigned in my outlook, even though I may feel that way at times.  Because if I settle for “this is as good as it gets,” then where is my hope in the God who transforms souls, including my own?

Marriage is hard work, just like parenting is hard work.  If it were easy, we would not be challenged to grow!  Marriage teaches me things about myself that I loathe: how selfish I am, how easily offended, how weak and needy.  But unless I see the truth of where I stand, what chance do I have to move on from that spot?

By far the most difficult times in our marriage occur when we are both bearing unusual burdens that slowly wear us down, burdens like extended illness, or financial stress, or parenting issues, or major decisions, or unpredictable catastrophes.  We’re both weak.  We’re both worn and frayed.  We’re both longing for rest.   You’ve been there before, I’m sure – those times in life when you both feel like you need a good long vacation from reality.  🙂

As much as I’d like to blame our marital strife on my husband’s inadequacies, I know the issues at hand aren’t his alone.  We’re called to be sacrificial in our love for one another, but when I’m already at the end of my rope, I often feel there is nothing left to give.   I become selfish; I withhold kindness.  I justify.  How can I lift my husband up when I can barely lift myself up, Father?

Sacrificial Love, marriage, how to love, feeling unloved, hope

I have a feeling I’m not alone in this, this desire we wives have to be rescued by our husbands when the going gets tough.  This desire to have men of strength come charging in to save the day. This desire to let ourselves be the weak ones for once.  This desire to feel protected and cherished and cared for.  Because for all of our outward strength (and we mamas are masters of disguise), we often harbor needs that remain hidden.

The problem is that in wishing my husband would take on that role of Rescuer, I’m asking him to fill a space only our Father God can truly fill.   When I ask him to fill up that empty space, I’m asking to be disappointed.  My husband is imperfect.  Sometimes he lets me down, as I do him.  Sometimes he needs a Rescuer just as I do.  Sometimes he is weak.  He is only human after all.  My desire for him to be what even I cannot is quite unfair, isn’t it?

I’ll be honest. As a busy mom of four, I wrestle with this idea that God should be my sole supply. After all, God cannot help with the bedtime routine or sweep the kitchen or sign permissions slips or pay the bills, at least not in a physical sense.  I wrestle, too, with feelings of disappointment and unkind thoughts toward a husband whom I truly wish to respect.

So, how can I demonstrate love for my husband even when he’s not demonstrating love for me?  How do I overcome the seeming injustice so that I can be the wife after God that my heart desires to be?  How can I be so filled with the Spirit, with the Father’s love for my husband, that I have a constant and abundant supply to give?

Honestly, I have no clear answers. I have only ideas, inklings of what it takes.  Prayer would be a good start.  Telling God where I’m really at, even if it’s ugly.  Letting Him know how unfair it feels, how hurt I am, how afraid.  Asking Him to bring light to the Enemy’s lies, lies about how it will never change, about how it never has changed, about how you’re stuck.  They are Satan’s favorite lies. You’re trapped in this loveless marriage forever! He’s unfair!  He doesn’t appreciate you!  You shouldn’t have to put up with this! (I think Satan might be the biggest drama queen of all.)

Fear versus Trust

Praying for supernatural intervention helps.  God can change my husband’s heart, as well as my own, quicker than an hours-long “discussion.”  He can give me a supernatural love for my man, something that is not naturally “in me.”  He can help me see the truth in the situation and  who my husband is in the Father’s eyes, a dearly beloved son.

The Father can melt my stubbornness, soothe my anger, hold my hurt, and forgive my sin, too.

He can remind me of how big my husband’s shoes are, how broad his shoulders.  He can help me see clearly the load that often sits there and understand why my man sometimes stumbles beneath it.

When I see that truth, who my husband really, truly is at heart, I’m overwhelmed by compassion and ashamed by my traitorous thoughts.  I may not feel any stronger.  I still desperately need rescuing.  I may even carry wounds from the wrestling.  But at last I see that we two are the same: lonely, weary hearts in search of love and acceptance and a Rescuer.

You’re tired?  Me, too.  You want to escape from life right now?  Me, too.  You feel inadequate?  Me, too. You hurt?  Me, too.

Instead of being angry with my hubby for failing to rescue me, we can turn hand in hand to the Father, the One who rescues us both.

This is how we love, sisters, by gazing into the face of Love Himself.

Greater Love has no man than this…

And so we stand, my husband and I, in the face of Perfect Love.

Side by side.

Fear washed away.

Compassion in our eyes.

Forgiveness on our faces.

Wearing our Grace-colored glasses.

Because we serve the God of all Hope!

We’re merely works in progress here on Earth.

But we are not alone.

And this is not our home.

Jen 🙂

When do you feel strain in your marriage the most?  How do you take it to the Lord?

You may find me linking up at any of these lovely places. 🙂

You can find more great posts on marriage here:

For the Wife Who Doesn’t Feel Like Celebrating Love

6 Ways to Stir Up Love in a Difficult Marriage

Life in Grace

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Bags of Hope

Image

Today we saw the fruits of months of labor for a new ministry at our church, a ministry called Bags of Hope.  These bags will be given out to parents of infants in the NICU at a nearby hospital.  The bags contain handmade blankets, bottled water, snacks, quarters, a journal, a new testament, and other encouraging materials.  They are meant to bring Hope and comfort to families who truly need it.

This ministry began in the heart of my friend, Kasandra Begley.  Kassy (as we call her) gave birth prematurely to a son, Logan, who spent 17 days in the NICU before he passed into the care of our Father God.  But that wasn’t the end of the story for Kassy.    She could have easily given up there that day, given in to the desire to die within, given in to the numbness that consumes those who are grieving monumental loss.

And perhaps she did, for a time, give up.  Goodness knows she still grieves and probably always will, who wouldn’t?  But she kept choosing to live, even if sometimes only barely, and she kept seeking something to fill that gap left behind by an infant son.

I met Kassy nearly a year ago when she began to attend our church with her boyfriend.  She was very quiet at first, yet friendly. After a time, I asked her if she would like to do a bible study with me, and to my surprise, she agreed! 🙂  We spent quite a few months going through The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus, a chronological approach to the gospel.

I sensed that Kassy yearned for a relationship with our Heavenly Father, but something was standing in the way.  At times, I felt she was but a moment away from trusting in Him, only to experience a quick withdrawal.  I knew what was bothering her.  How could a loving God allow her to become pregnant, live through difficult circumstances, carry a baby, birth a baby, and watch him suffer for seventeen endless days before losing him?  How could He?

What does one say to a question like that?  I don’t know.  I don’t always understand the ways of the Father, but I believe He wants to bring good out of even the most despicable situations. So, that’s what I told her.

We continued to work through our study, right up to the suffering of Jesus, God’s one and only Son, as He willing surrendered His life for our sin.

while we were still sinners

It was then that Kassy loudly proclaimed, “Me and God have something in common!”  I was a little startled and not sure what she meant by the statement.  I prodded, “What do you mean?”  She excitedly explained that God was showing her that He had lost a Son, too, watched Him suffer physically, be beaten, scorned, and hung on a cross to die a slow and agonizing death.  God allowed His Son to die, not only for His Son’s glorification, but also for the good of all mankind.

And suddenly I realized where she was going with it.  God knew her pain, felt her loss, understood her life-draining sorrow.  He, too, lost a beloved child.  The hair on my arm stood on end as I literally felt this truth she was experiencing right before me.  It was a moment so powerful and beautiful that every fiber of my being stood at attention. I couldn’t move; I couldn’t speak.  The only thing I could do was furiously bat my lashes in an attempt to stem the floodgates.  She said, “Oh, man, I just got the chills!”  Me, too, Kassy, me, too.

That was the aha! moment for Kassy, the moment she realized God is accessible.  He’s not just some faraway deity who metes out punishment when necessary while apathetically ignoring our most desperate pleas. He knows pain is real, wounds are real. He doesn’t turn away from the raw and often ugly emotion that oozes forth from us in our most wretched moments.

No, instead He comforts us with a comfort only He can give, overwhelms us with His very presence, and lavishes love upon us even as we cry out, Why?  Why, Father, why?

I imagine Mary Magdalene felt a similar despair when she found her Savior’s tomb empty.  The words of the angels were of no comfort to her.  The Promised Messiah was dead; what hope was left?  She couldn’t even have the satisfaction of caring for his body. In her despair, she turned away.  In her despair, she failed to see Jesus before her.  In her despair, she questioned.

John 20

11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

And then He said her name.

16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).

17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.

When Mary saw it was her Messiah calling her, the questions faded away.  All that mattered was Him, standing there before her, Hope in the flesh. She left quickly to spread this comfort that she’d been given.

What it really comes down to is this: do you believe that He loves you? I don’t just mean that you say you believe it, or that you want to believe it, but do you truly believe – heart, soul, mind, and strength?  Because if you do, if I do, then we can let go of the whys and embrace the gift, the gift of total, unconditional love and acceptance for those who believe in and call on the name of  Jesus.  When we look at Him, the author and perfecter of our faith, when we truly see Him, Lord of Lords, Blessed Redeemer, those doubts, those questions, those fears, walls, wounds, and chains…..they all fade away into the background. 

So, after my friend Kassy accepted this gift, she began to grow and change.  I started to see the real Kassy, the one who isn’t shy or quiet at all,  the one who likes to laugh and often threatens others with bodily harm (but she doesn’t really mean it, ….well, most of the time). 😉  One day she approached my husband and I about this idea to crochet baby blankets for infants in the NICU.  She wanted to honor the memory of her son by doing something she enjoys, something that brings her peace.  She also knew that our twins spent some time in the NICU four years ago when they were born prematurely, so we understood the difficulty and fear many parents experience.  She thought the church might want to be involved as well.

After discussing what NICU parents might need during an extended stay, we developed a list of items to give along with the blankets.  Eventually we settled on a name – Bags of Hope!  And just like that a new ministry was born from the pain of her situation, beauty from ashes, joy from sorrow.

Isn’t He amazing? Isn’t His comfort amazing?  It is a comfort that we just can’t contain; we are compelled to share the comfort we have received with others.  We are compelled to tell them:

There.

is.

Hope.

There is Healing.  There is Joy. There is the Promise of a better tomorrow and a perfect everlasting.

What comfort have you received, my friends?  Are you still searching for it?  It’s there for the grasping – look to Jesus.  He’s waiting for you, calling for you. If you already have comfort, are you passing it along?  Our stories, our testimonies are powerful tools in the Father’s hands.

Praise be to God, for His name is Comforter.

Jen 🙂

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bags of hope button 2

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