I’m thankful for this incredible woman sharing her journey and her faith in her blog beautybeyondbones.
Excerpt from post below: “And I know that that yearning and loss my heart has wrestled with, has added to the depth and character of my own feminine qualities. It has given me a perspective that I bring to each and every encounter I have. It is a “bag” – or a jewel, rather – that I carry with me on my journey.”
*sigh* This post is going to be difficult to write.
The saying goes, never judge a person until you walk a mile in their shoes…or something like that.
And I’ve learned over the years that as much as I hate those cliched little nuggets, they actually hold a lot of truth. Stand the test of time.
I’ve been wanting to respond to my recent post on Feminism for a while now. It garnered quite the diverse feedback. And I appreciate that so much. One of the cool things about an online community like this is that people bring with them all their experiences and perspectives. We all are on different journeys, and I sincerely enjoy learning and listening to every person.
After that last post, there were numerous reflections that took offense at my statements about motherhood:
The very essence of being female is the ability to bear children…
I get nostalgic thinking about the light of kerosene lanterns, rain pinging off a tin roof, and sitting inside a thatched hut watching the smoke from a coal-fire curl upward and blacken the underside of the thatch.
These were a normal part of life growing up in the jungles of Papua New Guinea. Rainy days now remind me of watching the torrential downpours of monsoon season, with the banana and coconut tree leaves whipping wildly in the wind. And I love when the cicadas come out in force, because their shrill screeching makes me feel like I’m back in the jungle at dusk. Growing up running barefoot down jungle trails, climbing trees, eating grubs just to prove I was as brave as my brothers, and standing at the oceanside listening to the quiet lapping of the waves on the beach… all of these things shaped who I am today. And I am so extremely thankful for the beautiful memories I have of that place filled with beauty and adventure.
If you ask my parents, who served over 20 years in that jungle as Bible Translator missionaries, their picture may be a little more realistic and a little less idealistic. Life is hard in the jungle. And while a kid may love kerosene lanterns and catching fireflies at night, those same lanterns pose a problem when you have no access to get kerosene for another month, and a plague of those firefly bugs invade the house each night. All the same, my parents taught me to embrace the adventure, acknowledge the pain we encounter, and look to a loving God who is in control of everything. The foundation of faith that my parents gave me has shaped who I am, and I cannot thank them enough for not only teaching me, but also living out their faith and giving me an example to look to.
Sometimes I wish I could stop time, and leave my story there… catching fireflies under palm trees, without a care in the world. But God, in His wisdom, has carried me farther down this road that He has planned for me. In her wonderful book “Tramp for the Lord” Corrie TenBaum wrote: “God has plans, not problems, for our lives.” And while I look back down this road and see all the ups and downs, it’s easy for me to focus on the problems I’ve encountered. But I also see the ways that I have changed and my faith has been deepened in unexpected ways. And that fire-tested faith is something that God says is more precious than gold. (1 Peter 1:6-7) So I am thankful that my story does not stop when I left the jungle to return to America.
That transition to America at the start of college was extremely difficult. But that’s a story for another time. The pain of leaving “home” in the jungle was tempered a few years later by meeting the most amazing man in the world, and then marrying him 5 years after that.
Fast forward 3 years into being married, and through a variety of circumstances, I found myself suddenly dealing with severe undiagnosed autoimmune issues. 6 specialists later, I was tired of always being referred onto another doctor, with no one who could give me answers.
I finally found a doctor who specialized in treating hard-to-treat allergy issues, and for the first time I felt understood and had hope for healing. I also got a name for this disease that had taken over my world. (Currently, I’m not so sure what I have anymore, but I still think it is something akin to Leaky Gut. My self-diagnosis varies every few months, depending on which avenue of research I’m digging into.)
Unfortunately, the standard treatments by this doctor only made me worse, and around the same time I also found myself having reactions to foods that I previously was not allergic to. That season was difficult, mostly due to my lack of hope that I would ever improve. And because I already was eating such a limited diet, the thought of removing more foods from my diet seemed unbearable. As it was, I was working less hours at my physical therapy job, simply trying to deal with the fatigue, pain, food restrictions, and random new symptoms that continued to show up.
And then one evening, as my husband and I were visiting a church we had previously attended, the pastor and his wife offered to pray for me. Without knowing the full scenario (other than “I have severe food allergies… wait a moment while I break down crying…”) my pastor prayed a very Spirit-led prayer, part of which included that I would be able to eat more and more food instead of less and less food. (I was standing there wondering if he could read my mind!)
That was a turning point for me. And yes, I had dozens of people pray for me in the 2 and a half years before then. But despite waking up the following morning feeling terrible, over the course of the next 6 months my symptom improved instead of getting worse. My doctor found a treatment that helped, and I started incorporating fruit and whole grains back into my diet, ever so slowly.
It wasn’t easy, because past experience had shown me that eating more variety of foods made my symptoms worse. But I also knew that my severely restricted diet was only making me worse too. And by God’s grace, my stomach started accepting food that it previously rejected, and I found hope again for being able to have my life revolve around more than worrying over salad dressings and barbecue sauce.
As I found myself improving in health, the hope of being able to have children also gained in strength. It felt like a huge gift, knowing everything I had been through, to become pregnant 3 years after my food allergy journey started. But it was also devastating and completely unexpected when I lost that baby to miscarriage a month later. I’ll write more about my miscarriages in other blog posts, but for here I’ll say that while dealing with my food allergies grew my faith deeper in God in ways that were obvious to me, I have found that my miscarriages shook me to the core of who I am and what I believe about God. I used to think that this shaking is a bad thing. Especially because I no longer feel as emotionally close to God as I once did.
But now I see that this shaking is also part of the growing and purifying process of faith, and I can also see that my faith is is now rooted in more than my emotions and not in how close I feel to God. I don’t like this shaking, and I look forward to when I can feel like I am standing on more stable ground. But even though right now it feels as if I am walking on a tightrope of faith, wobbling along with much uncertainty, battling daily to see God and His Goodness in the pain surrounding me, I know that one day I’ll understand it all. And then I’ll see how close and lovingly my Heavenly Father has been carrying me.
That is one of the things I love about God- His unending Love and Grace toward us, especially in the midst of our brokenness and failure.
My dilemma was a major one. With one hand on the freezer door, the other slowly reached forward toward the cookie-dough… To consume or not to consume?
My hesitation was from remembering a conversation I had earlier that day about how I might actually be pregnant. And while that potential thought filled me with delight, it also made me nervous, because I really hadn’t been taking care of my health or eating healthy these last few weeks.
In the middle of that conversation about potentially being pregnant, I found myself thinking, “If only I had known there was a possibility that I’d end up pregnant this month, then I would have done things differently. The only reason I ate all that junk food was because I wasn’t aware this would happen!”
The trouble is, I was just lying to myself. If you asked me without any bias or cookie dough involved, I would have admitted that I did understand that I could end up pregnant this month. The difference is that I just didn’t think it would actually happen…
Fast forward 5 hours and I find myself standing at the freezer door, looking at that cookie dough. I know that I could be pregnant. I know that eating sugar affects my health and immune system. But somehow I still managed to convince myself that I wasn’t pregnant, and that even if I was, I would be fine and the cookie dough would not affect me in any way whatsoever. So I went ahead and consumed.
But as I stood there munching, I was struck by how much my actions are a picture of what we do with God’s words about our eternity.
“But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames.” 1 Corinthians 3:13-15
If you ask me without any bias or personal sacrifice involved, I’ll admit that I know I need to live my life in a way that shows I’m looking forward to heaven and have my treasures laid up there instead of here…
But does that transfer over to the day to day decisions of selfishness versus giving, or choosing to speak truth over complaining and grumbling against God? I know I am far better at justifying my actions instead of truly evaluating my heart attitude and surrendering to God.
My desperate prayer is that myself and you reading this will not stand before the Judgement Seat one day and think to ourselves, “if only I had known that it would make a difference how I acted on earth, I would have done things differently.”
Because we do know. I’ve seen those times that God answers prayers. Yes, He doesn’t always answer the way I want. But that shouldn’t stop me from praying more for the precious people in my life. I’ve also seen those times when I step up to help others and it makes a huge difference in their life. So why don’t I serve more?
Is it because I convince myself that it’ll be fine and not really have an impact on my world around me or my eternity?
In case you’re curious, I found out the following day that I was not pregnant. I felt like I had another chance to try to do things the right way with my health. And the same is true of each moment of life we’re given- if we haven’t stepped into eternity yet, we still have a chance to choose to follow God.
There are many hurting people around us who are silently crying for someone to be the hands and feet of Jesus. I’ve been there- crying for help, but too broken to actually say anything out loud. And I am thankful beyond words for friends who have gone out of their way to show me love and support when I’m struggling.
We need to stop convincing ourselves that it doesn’t matter how we live, and that even if it did matter in this life, it surely won’t make a difference in eternity… May we, by God’s grace, put down the cookie dough and align our actions with what we do know to be true.
2 Corinthians 4:17 “For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!
2 Corinthians 5:10 “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil”
Romans 6:1-2 “Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? 2 Of course not! Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?”
Romans 14:12 “So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.”
I think my doctor was trying to encourage me with those words. She followed that sentence with some statistics about how frequent miscarriages actually are, but I wasn’t really paying attention. I had just found out from her that I would be having another miscarriage.
Her words echoed in my brain over the next few weeks. How did I get so unlucky? IT’S NOT FAIR!
Driving one evening with my husband, I brought it up again… anger in my voice as I choked out my question of how God could allow me to experience this type of pain? Did God not love me, since he allowed me to fall on the heartache side of the miscarriage statistics? If He could do something about my pain, why wasn’t he?
My husband’s quiet response deflated my anger. He started talking about how incredible it is that our planet has billions of people living on it. And then ventured to wonder how many of us on this planet have heard of the power of Jesus to forgive our sins and save us for eternity? The Bible says in Romans 1:19-20 that everyone can clearly know about God through creation, and so have no excuse when standing before God. But there are still many places in the world where people have not heard about the saving grace offered through Jesus Christ. And of the people who know who Jesus is, how many have made a commitment to repent of their sins and follow God and will share eternity with Him?
When the highly statistical probability is to walk through one’s entire life without God…
IT’S SIMPLY NOT FAIR that God has allowed me to live in the community I do, hear the truth about Jesus, and have my soul saved for all of eternity. It really isn’t.
There’s a lot of things in life that I wish I didn’t have to deal with. Things that still threaten to twist my view of God and make me angry at Him for allowing them into my life. But when those lies start to steal in, I’m reminded that even if I have a lot of terrible stuff happen in this life that I feel I don’t deserve… there is something far greater that God has given me that I don’t deserve either– eternal life and a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this, that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Knowing this helps to answer my question of God’s love in the midst of my pain. I have to admit that God loves me more than I can imagine, because He has given me the incomprehensible gift of eternal life with Him. And dear Reader- no matter what you’ve been through or how far away God feels, please, please know that He offers you this incredible gift of Love and Forgiveness in Jesus.