When Bitterness Freezes Your Heart

Days like today I need this reminder…

It’s been almost a year since I wrote this post… in some ways not much has changed- it’s definitely frigid outside and I still haven’t successfully stayed pregnant beyond the first trimester. But in other ways a lot has changed- particularly steps forward in God healing my heart and rebuilding my faith.

Random fact- this experience of seeing the morning sun rise above the horizon and transform the landscape around me was inspiration for starting this blog.

I hope this analogy can be an encouragement to you, whatever you’re walking through.

 

The world is draped in gothic ice daggers in the pre-dawn gloom. My car inches cautiously along the icy country roads, surrounded by the frozen landscape, unmistakably changed by last night’s ice storm. Nature around me expresses a cold that pervades into the soul, and every brittle tree stands like a dark sentinel in a mass of black forest.

But not for long…

As I crested a hill, …  continue reading here.”

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Eulogy for the Sunday Grumpmonster

It didn’t make sense.

I was glad to worship God and was thirsty to learn more and meet with Him… so why did I want to run back to my car and drive out of that parking lot every time I walked up to the familiar church doors?

God has healed my heart and relationship with Him in more ways than I can express, and I’m so thankful for that. But I couldn’t figure out why I was being an extremely cranky grumpmonster every Sunday morning as we’d head to church.

So I started praying about this, and realized 2 things that have helped remove that grumpiness. I hope these can be of help to you, if you find yourself with conflicting emotions regarding church:

1) Sunday morning church (the building and interactions, as distinct from my relationship with God) does legitimately carry with it painful memories and ongoing difficult experiences related to my inability to have children. And there’s nothing wrong or broken about that, it just means it’s a real part of this life, instead of some made-up place on TV.

For example, sitting in a well-loved maroon chair during prayer meetings carries painful memories of being there after my miscarriages with deep grief and unanswered questions. And the songs, prayers and laughter heard while at church have at times brought me to tears of thankfulness through their reminder of God’s grace, but at other times to tears of frustration at my own state of grief that is incompatible with the joyful sounds around me.

But even though a memory, song, or seeing babies at church may trigger my sadness, instead of having a knee-jerk reaction, 

VBS

I can ask God to give me wisdom, peace, and healing as I walk through places or relationships that remind me of pain. And I can give myself grace if I’m emotionally tired after church. Which leads me to #2:

2) I was placing an unrealistically high expectation on my church to make me feel rejuvenated, when really God is the One I should look to for that. And yet, God often uses the truth spoken and friendship offered at church to give us much-needed comfort and healing. So we hold these things in balance: engaging in church and being vulnerable enough to receive help, while at the same time remembering that the people around us are imperfect humans who do not know exactly what we need in each moment. (That’s God’s job.)

If we are grieving a personal loss, may we give ourselves permission to experience emotions that come from experiencing that grief during interactions at church, … without feeling like anyone or anything is failing if we find ourselves sad while there. (As a side note- I know there are some who have been hurt in church by people who are not acting like Jesus. That’s a whole different topic, and I’m not referring to that here.)

God calls me to reflect and overflow with His unending Joy (Romans 15:13). But He also promises to catch all my tears in His bottle (Psalm 56:8), and He was called the “Man of Sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief” (Isaiah 53:3). We get to be, in Paul’s words: “as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing,” (2 Corinthians 6:10).

And I have to remember that I’m not the only person walking into church each Sunday with a hurting heart, or a really hard week. Whatever we’re walking through, whether at church or in the middle of the week, may we seek to remind ourselves and others of our incredible God who says:

”Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed,
yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken
    nor my covenant of peace be removed,”
    says the Lord, who has compassion on you.” Isaiah 54:10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Heartbeat of Holiness

My mind meanders on paths less trod
Into the Holiness of God.

I muse upon the Tent of Meeting-
The gold, the blood, the lamb’s last bleating.

And peer behind the embroidered wall
Into the holiest place of all.

God’s holiness in Jewish law
Conveys a sense of fear and awe…

But as I gaze, my trepidation
Is transformed into elation,

For now I see what I missed here-
How God’s Mercy is so near!

Wrapped into the Ark’s heartbeat,
God has placed His Mercy Seat.

Gazing into holiness,
Brings to light my brokenness.

And yet instead of legalism,
Or expected criticism,

I find that every failing place
Is a vessel for His grace.

So let me drown within this wonder
That the veil was torn asunder,

And the blood of Jesus Christ
Has fulfilled the sacrifice.

 

“So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” Hebrews 4:16

“But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy.” 1 Peter 1:15

 

About this poem: My husband shared this thought about the Mercy seat a few days ago in a conversation with a friend, and I continue to be captivated by its stunning implications.

As a recovering perfectionist-addict, I too often find myself striving to achieve and perform. But when faced with my current inability to have children, along with ever-perplexing health concerns, and the recognition of how little control I actually have over these things, it’s easy to let my feelings of failure overflow into how I think God sees me.

And yet, I find peace (and truth to counter this lie) in remembering that the closer I get to the center of the essence of the holiness of God, it only brings me closer to His Mercy Seat. And instead of seeing my failures as cracks and flaws that push me away from God’s holiness and perfection, the reality is that these places of imperfection are where I see more clearly that God’s Mercy is sustaining and filling me.

“Bezalel made the ark of acacia wood. … And he made a mercy seat of pure gold. … The cherubim spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, with their faces one to another; toward the mercy seat were the faces of the cherubim.” Exodus 37:1,6,9

How Infertility Affected Women in the Bible: Hannah

“And her rival used to provoke her grievously to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb. So it went on year by year. As often as she went up to the house of the Lord, she used to provoke her.” 1 Samuel 1:6-7

Hannah’s story pierces to the core of what it means to be faithful to God in the midst of loss.

Hannah’s husband had a 2nd wife, named Peninnah. This lady had children, and would cruelly taunt Hannah over the fact that she could have no children. But the above 2 verses grabbed my attention because their words echo the lies of a much older enemy…

“Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8

Does anyone else find it intriguing that Scripture mentions Hannah was provoked as often as she went up to the house of the Lord?

We all have an adversary who would like nothing better than to keep us from running to God in our pain. The devil seeks to destroy our delight in prayer and worshiping God. And sometimes he uses our great loss to try to provoke us when we want to draw near to God.

Can you hear the taunt in Peninnah’s voice? “The Lord has closed your womb, Hannah. Who are you to even bother coming back to the house of the Lord?”

Oh, my heart bleeds as I write this, because this lie- that we should stop running to God because we experience pain or do not yet see the answer to our prayer, is so deadly and contrary to God’s Love and the truth in the Bible. God willingly died to reconcile us back to Himself. Romans 8:31-34Romans 5:8 And in running to Him, we can count ourselves in good company with men and women from the Bible who faithfully trusted God in the midst of the pain they endured- Paul, Daniel, JosephPeter, Ruth, Abigail… the list goes on.

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:15-16

But how many of us, holding deep hurt in our hands, think about reading the Bible or worshiping Jesus, and hear that lie- “God didn’t answer your prayer in the past. Why bother going to Him again?

Sisters- can we wake up to realize that this is a lie straight from hell? It is meant to keep us from our only true source of hope and comfort in the midst of pain and loss! May we cry out to God to help us draw a line in the sand and refuse to let our enemy triumph over us in this regard!

A truth I have been using lately to fight this lie comes from Jesus’ prayer for everyone who would believe in Him: I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” John 17:26

Jesus says He will continue to help me know the God of the universe, so that the same love that God has for Jesus  (which is the essence and fullness of perfect Love and unity, being the Triune God from eternity past) will be in me. That’s a lot of love, living in us and poured out for us who are God’s children. I can run to God because I know He loves me unfathomably more than I can comprehend.

The Bible says that Hannah was deeply distressed, wept bitterly, and would not eat. The depth of Hannah’s pain is not minimized or dismissed. But after they ate, she got up and went to the house of the Lord to pray. (1 Samuel 1:9She refused to let her adversary keep her from going to God.

So the crux of the question of faith is this- in the midst of our loss, who will we listen to? If we find ourselves disheartened about drawing near to God, perhaps it’s because we are listening too much to the wrong voice.

May we instead listen to Jesus who earnestly and lovingly calls to us- “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” John 10:10-11

 

 

Also in this series: Elizabeth- Loving God

How Infertility Affected Women In the Bible: Elizabeth

“And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.” Luke 1:5-7

My earnest prayer for myself and my friends who walk daily with barrenness or other significant loss is this: that our lives in the midst of deep loss, would reflect the great worth of Jesus Christ through our actions, thoughts, and words.

That’s not a natural response without the power of the Holy Spirit.

And yet, the testimony of Elizabeth’s life after many years of barrenness was that she was righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord.

She did not say, “my pain is too great to deal with. How can God expect me to deal with this infertility AND live a holy life?” Nor did she say, “Once God gives me the baby I’ve been praying for, THEN I’ll follow Him.”

Elizabeth instead chose to follow God wholeheartedly even before God healed her infertility.

Ok, relax- this is not a call for all of us to become legalistic. Instead, Elizabeth’s example has challenged me to love God more deeply.

“So be very careful to love the Lord your God.” Joshua 23:11

What’s the difference between simply obeying God and loving God? Let me share a story…

My husband and I were playing guitar one afternoon with the worship leader at our church… and while I was fumbling through and ‘obeying’ the music sheet- attempting to hit the right chords at the right time… our worship leader was loving playing his guitar.

It showed in the extra flourishes and notes he added in between the chords simply for the delight of worshiping God with the beauty of music. It showed in the way he was careful to have all the chords written correctly on the music sheet. And it showed in the beautiful quality of tone that came from his guitar and from the years and hours of practice it takes to become skilled in playing any instrument.

I want to love God that way.

Not just trying to obey him because I know I should. But loving Him with all my energy, and having that love overflow into worship every minute of my life. I want my love for God to cause me to steal extra hours from my schedule to stay longer in prayer. To make me careful as I study to learn more accurately about God so that I can honor Him well. And to overflow in not only my words, but also my thoughts and emotions behind those words.

“Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.” Matthew 22:37-38

God chose Elizabeth to bear the pain of infertility most of her life, and Elizabeth turned around and loved God back. Her love for God showed in the way she followed Him wholeheartedly.

She must have seen how great and personal God’s Love is. We only love Him because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19) And Elizabeth was looking forward to the Messiah coming. But we have the greater benefit of being able to look backward in time and see Jesus’ incredible love for us- that He died to rescue us and make us God’s children. (1 John 3:1)

What is your response to the pain God has allowed in your life? Why do you have that response?

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:3-4

 

Also in this series: Hannah- Rejecting Lies

Trust God?! Why Should I?

“When you know and believe who God is and what He says about Himself, you have a rock solid foundation on which to stand when the great sea billows of life crash over you. Knowing Him well is the best and only preparation for whatever life throws at us.” I find myself returning to your blog frequently, Kim- because of the solid Christ-centered truths you share. Thankyou for your example of trusting God, and for encouraging others along the way.

You Can Trust Him

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You are hanging from a rope over a yawning chasm.  Your climbing partner has just plunged into the abyss right before your eyes and has met with a terrifying, horrible death.  And there you are, alone and afraid, twisting in the wind at the end of your rope, stunned at the loss of your friend. 

What happened?  Did my friend’s rope fail?  Will mine?   Will I end up smashed to pieces on the rocks, too?  Was I sold an inferior, defective length of rope?  How stupid we were to trust a skinny bundle of fibers with our lives.  Fear and doubt creep into your mind. 

So you cut the rope that holds you because you no longer trust it.    

In the wake of child loss, it seems many parents, even believing parents, find their trust in God has been severely shaken.  They may become angry at God.  Or…

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What Does Trust Look Like?

I felt like I was in a large room, slowly walking toward 2 doors on the opposite side of the room. I was pregnant for the 2nd time, and while one door led to having a healthy baby, the other door led to the pain of another miscarriage. I didn’t know which door I would leave through.

So in that season I held onto this analogy of the room with 2 doors: trusting God meant I could be confident that no matter which door I walked through, Jesus would meet me right there at that door.

For a while, I had been circling the issue of what it looks like to trust God. I knew that I needed to trust WHO God is and His unchangeable character, rather than basing my hope only on Him answering my prayers the way I wanted. And part of God’s character is that He promises to never leave us nor forsake us.

But when I walked out the door of miscarriage, I became angry at God, and did not feel any tangible sign of His presence or comfort. I spiraled deeper into depression as I simultaneously blamed God for not meeting me in my pain, while also refusing to talk to Him or listen to the truth spoken to me by loved ones.

After over a month of this, I remember one evening I crumpled to the kitchen floor. And in contrast to my usual screaming at the ceiling, I just choked out in a broken whisper through my tears- “You promised, God. You promised to meet me at this door. But I don’t see you.”

That very night I had a dream that felt like a taste of heaven. I was overlooking a beautiful landscape with the early morning sun reflecting golden in the mist. Around me was the song– Over all the earth, you reign on high, every mountain stream, every sunset sky.” After carrying so much bitterness and anger, in my dream I was no longer upset at God. I basked in a contented peace and joy, knowing that God always does what is right, and that I could rest in His love instead of having to fight Him.

I woke up the next morning, and knew God had just answered my cry in a very dramatic way. And that was a turning point for me- both with my depression receding, and God slowly re-aligning my heart toward Him.

Looking back from almost a year later, I realize I my expectations were that I would step through a door, and immediately be in the sunshine on the other side. But instead, that door was actually a tunnel… And I can see now that God not only met me at that door, He also walked with me through that dark tunnel, and when I couldn’t walk any further He carried me the rest of the way out.

That is amazing grace, from our God who is faithful, trustworthy, and loves us beyond comprehension.

So what does it look like to trust God? I delighted to find this verse recently:

“They cried out to God during the battle, and He answered their prayer because they trusted in Him.” 1 Chronicles 5:20

Crying out to God when I need help is an act of trust.

I don’t have the perfect words to create a fabulous prayer. But crying? Yep- I can do that. May our crying always be toward the One who hears us. May we turn our tears into an expression of trust.

“But I the Lord will answer them;
    I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.
I will make rivers flow on barren heights,
    and springs within the valleys.
I will turn the desert into pools of water,
    and the parched ground into springs.
Isaiah 41:17-18

 

Do Not Despise Prophecy

“Don’t worry. You’re going to have an 8 pound baby girl.” She gave me a hug as she told me these words. I was 6 weeks pregnant last October and had asked her to pray for me because I was afraid of another miscarriage…

… 5 weeks later I miscarried that baby.

What in the world do you do with that?

Not only was my world shattered because I had just lost a baby for the 2nd time, but for some time I also lost part of my relationship with God because I felt like God had lied to me. I wasn’t sure whether I could trust anything the Bible or other people said about God…

I get it that this woman who gave me that prophesy did not hear correctly from God about that baby. And I don’t fault her- none of us hear perfectly from God this side of heaven. But this question stayed buried like a splinter lodging itself deep in my heart.

Thankfully, I circled back around to this question. And listening to this sermon by John Piper brought a tremendous amount of healing and clarity to my heart:

The Authority and Nature of the Gift of Prophecy- by John Piper

He directly addresses how to handle when someone gives you a prophecy that does not come true.

The boiled-down short answer is that we need a category of “fallible, Spirit-prompted prophecy” that is separate from “the inerrant word of God.” In Piper’s words: “Prophecy is prompted and sustained by the Spirit and yet does not carry intrinsic, divine authority.” By “does not carry intrinsic divine authority” he means it is not the same as the Bible that we can always trust as true and to be the direct words of God.

His example that made a lot of sense to me was comparing prophets and teachers: we have teachers who are Spirit sustained and gifted, and yet we recognize that what they say is fallible and not God’s words unless they are directly quoting scripture. (And even then, it can be misapplied.) In the same way, even though prophecy seems more mysterious, as if it should be coming directly from the mouth of God, it is coming through people who are fallible.

So if we receive a prophecy from someone that does not come true, we can conclude  either that the prophet was incorrect, or we need to wait a bit longer for the prophecy to be fulfilled. We should never conclude that God is lying to us.

The Bible tells us to not despise prophecy. That’s hard for me, after my experience. But I need to follow the Bible, because it always proves to be true. We don’t have to say that all prophecy is terrible, just because there are prophets who make mistakes. Just like we don’t throw out listening to all teaching/preaching because there are bad teachers.

Instead, we should carefully pray about prophecies and compare them with scripture. (Which is also what we should do with teaching we receive or anything written on a blog.) 🙂

And for the record, my dad told me these same things shortly after that miscarriage, when I had asked him about the prophecy I was given. But I was too deep in grief to really hear or accept what he said at that time. So a word of encouragement to those who are walking with a friend who is in pain: be there for them, and keep lovingly speaking truth to your friend, even if they don’t seem to get it or accept it.

And my plea to everyone… please, please, please, be extremely careful when prophesying to someone about babies, or marriage, or life/death situations.

Of course, this post is just scratching the surface on the topic of prophecy. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

“19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies, 21 but test everything; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil.23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” 1 Thessalonians 5:19-24

Chisel & Stone

Stroke by stroke,
The chisel and hammer knock off more shards of the gem.
Soon, a shape begins to emerge.

Not all at once, mind you.
But in baby steps:
One loss at a time…
One month at a time…
One more doctor visit at a time.

“No, no! This sculpture looks all wrong.
She should have a pregnant belly…
She will be prettier and perfect that way.
This carving is just confusing and full of pain.”

I jump to the conclusion
That the end result of this chiseling
Will be a sculpture that speaks
Of sickness and sadness.

And then I hear my God whisper “No
He sees that the finished carving of this gem
Will be a woman who reflects
The Most Beautiful Person in all creation-
Jesus.

The Man of Sorrows, familiar with suffering.
He let go of more than I can fathom
To step down to be made in human likeness.
Jesus-
I want to be more like Him.

The next step I take,
The next doctor’s office I walk into,
The next strike of the chisel,
I’ll remember the ultimate goal of this carving.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

What Do You See?

Lightning was a rescue horse.

She had a stubborn streak that went deep and gave her fortitude to not budge an inch while standing on my toes … despite me pushing and heaving my shoulder into her side to get her to release my boot from under her hoof.

You see, her stubbornness was surpassed by her intelligence. She knew exactly what she was doing by nonchalantly blinking in the sunshine, pretending to ignore the fact that she was crushing my vulnerable feet. She was definitely the one in charge, and training the trainer… this whole ‘training a green horse’ thing was not off to a good start for me.

And then there was her fear, which surpassed all of her other great quality traits. The sight of anything flapping in the wind would cause her to jump and bolt as if being chased by a pack of wolves…

But the fading scars etched into her bony frame gave me pause to not get upset at her for her varying degrees of faults.

I had the joy of getting to know this memorable horse a few summers back, when I worked at a Christian dude ranch in Colorado.

herding horses... really
Yup, that’s me. =)

Needless to say, Lightning wasn’t allowed to have dude guests ride her, thanks to the above-mentioned safety concerns. But I occasionally got to clamber atop this tall and spirited horse, praying for dear life that nothing around me would flap, clank or sneeze!

But as fate would have it, along came a little boy who fell in love with Lightning at first sight. I questioned his choice of horse, considering we had many other fabulous and beautiful steeds, and I thought Lightning was a rather ugly horse. But he saw something in her that I could not.

So one afternoon we arranged for this boy to pet Lightning while she stood at a hitching post eating a bowl full of grain.

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The hitching posts at Wind River Ranch

I watched amazed (and a tad jealous) as this horse that was so rude and careless toward me, turned into a gentle and sweet mare around this boy. She gave quiet nickers of thanks as she carefully nibbled grass from his hands, in between happily gulping down and drooling large mouthfuls of her grain.

And then I got choked up as I heard this boy whisper to Lightning, while gently stroking her scarred nose- “You are such a beautiful horse, Lightning. I love you so much. You’re my favorite horse in all the world.”

I hardly dared to breathe, not wanting to interrupt this pure joy and affection. It was in that moment I felt like I got a glimpse of what God’s love toward us is like.

At every turn, life lies to us that we are ugly because of our failures, or that there is something wrong with us because of the wounds that leave deep scars. And it’s easy for me to respond toward God and other people out of fear or pain or both.

eye of horse

And yet God sees us in all of these things and loves us deeply.  He whispers to His children with so much love in His voice-
“You are altogether beautiful, my love” (Song of Solomon 4:7).
“I have loved you with an everlasting love.” (Jeremiah 31:3)
“I will… transform the Valley of Trouble into a gateway of hope” (Hosea
2:15)


And even if you are rejecting God because of your pain, He still says- “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Which voice are we going to listen to today?

Will we let our hurt and loss define us and motivate our actions and responses?

Or will we be defined by God’s healing Love that flows into the deepest part of our pain and promises to never leave us?

“Surely he [Jesus] took up our pain and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53:4-6