God Remembers Our Losses

“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.”Psalm 56:8

For those of you who read my last post- Dreading Mother’s Day, you know that I was fighting to choose thankfulness on a holiday that I would rather have avoided altogether…

But on Mother’s Day, I unexpectedly received 3 sets of flowers… one for each of the 3 miscarriages I experienced this past year. I share this story because I’m amazed at the God we serve, who steps in to meet us in our pain and says, “I love you, I care about all that you are going through, and I have not forgotten your pain.”

At church, the Sunday school kids put impatiens flowers into cups to give to their moms. I was helping out with this project, and afterwards my friend gave me 2 boxes of impatiens to take home. …  When I had my first miscarriage, I was pregnant with twins.

Then while we were at a friends’ house for lunch, they surprised me with an extravagant bouquet of flowers. … My 2nd miscarriage was by far the hardest and I still carry the most grief from that time.

And later in the afternoon as my husband was standing out in our yard, a stranger drove past in a truck. He slowed to a stop, gave my husband a bottle with a single rose in it, and said, “Here, you should give this to your wife.” (We have no idea who that man is, but we do live in a small town where people are very kind.) … My 3rd miscarriage was a quieter ordeal, since it was fairly early on.

After giving me the rose in the bottle, my husband mused- “You know Julie, today on Mother’s Day, God gave you 3 sets of flowers, for each of the 3 miscarriages we had last year. And the first gift of flowers was even 2 boxes, for when we lost the twins.”

Tears came to my eyes as I felt the wounds in my soul mend little bit more.

“Never! Can a mother forget her nursing child? Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you! See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands. Always in my mind is a picture of Jerusalem’s walls in ruins.” Isaiah 49:15-16

Looking at the unexpected gifts of flowers, I marveled that not only had I received 3 gifts of flowers, but they also matched the circumstances associated with each of my miscarriages. On a day that I felt I could not celebrate being a mother, God showed up and so tenderly acknowledged my personal pain and loss.

But it’s that extravagant bouquet that really makes me choke up. Because it is almost as if, through that gift, God is saying, “I know how hard it has been, and still is, for you to lose Keturah in your 2nd miscarriage. So I’m giving you a bigger bouquet to let you know that I understand that the depth of pain you carry from that is greater than the others.”

I don’t know why God has chosen this road for me to walk. For those of you who have been praying for me- thankyou. Throughout this past year, it has been difficult to see God’s Love and tender care through my tears. And often I have felt like God was hiding or ignoring me.

But Mother’s Day this year has been healing to my soul. I have seen that even in the dark seasons when we don’t see God, He is still watching us closely, knows the details of our lives, remembers our losses, and cares immensely for us.

Dear reader, God remembers and God cares about the pain you’ve experienced. He has a purpose and a plan in all of these things, and He understands how excruciatingly hard it is to walk through grief and loss. And He offers to help us in each moment. So as we take each next breath, may we cling to Jesus and ask Him to remind us tangibly again of His Love.

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Psalm 91:1-2

Dreading Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is just around the corner. For some women, this celebratory day is another reminder of deep sorrow, broken relationships, or dreams gone awry.

For the past few months I have been dreading Mothers Day. It used to be one of my favorite holidays, because I love having the opportunity to celebrate my mom and thank her for all that she sacrifices and gives of herself. But last year, and this coming weekend… well… it’s painful to have the reminder of what I want to celebrate but cannot.

So to my own heart, and to my friends who are walking through miscarriage, singleness, infertility, death of a child or mother, broken relationships, or any of the other myriad of losses that can bring more tears than laughter on Mother’s day… I present a plea to make the right choice this coming Sunday:

I can choose bitterness, despair, avoidance, anger, or hopelessness.

Or I can choose thankfulness.

I know there are times this seems impossible. But I also know this is possible thanks to my mom, who has given me a lifetime of examples of repeatedly choosing thankfulness, prayer and memorizing scripture.

Living in the middle of the rainforest jungle of Papua New Guinea, when ants and bugs invaded half of our food supply, or rebels kidnapped other missionaries living in our village, or major plans were delayed thanks to living in a 3rd world country… I never saw my mom give up and throw in the towel because circumstances got too hard. Instead, she would continue to overflow with prayer, scripture, laughter, and perseverance. (I’m pretty sure her secret is having a deep faith in God.)

Remember those ants that invaded our food? One of my favorite memories is racing my brothers to see who could finish our bowl of ant-flavored ramen first. (I’m pretty sure this was instigated by my big brother.) But I’m thankful that instead of stopping us, my mom encouraged us to enjoy the adventures of living in the jungle, and filled our house with laughter.

But on days where there is no laughter? I can still choose thankfulness. Or more realistically- I can choose to fight despair with thankfulness and scripture, like my mom taught me.

I will of course let sadness into my heart, and acknowledge these emotions that come with loss… But I will also recognize that despair, bitterness, and hopelessness try to creep into my heart along with sadness, and turn my thoughts to be angry at God for what I don’t have, instead of worshiping Him for who He is.

So this Sunday, I will choose to be thankful.

Because I am deeply grateful for my amazing mom who has given me such an incredible example of love, faith, and beauty. And I am so thankful for my superhero husband who prays fervently for our family and daily sacrifices to show me love and tenderness and protection. And I am thankful for the inexpressible gift of God loving me and adopting me as His daughter through Jesus.

In the midst of grief, may Mother’s Day this year have hope and thankfulness woven through it, because of the Hope we have in Jesus.

“Those who sacrifice thank offerings honor me, and to the blameless I will show my salvation.” Psalm 50:23

 

PS- If you want to know how Mother’s Day turned out this year, I actually experienced a mini-miracle and saw God’s Love in a very personal way: God Remembers Our Losses

Providence and Jubilee

It was this week a year ago that I had my first miscarriage. Allow me to share a part of my heart, a part of that story, and the names we chose to give the babies we lost. My hope in sharing this story is to encourage our hearts to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus in the storms of life.

As I recall, during those weeks before my miscarriage I was happily singing through my days, with the world full of colorful butterflies and sunshine, and ecstatic about finally being pregnant.

But then I started bleeding. No big deal, right? This happens to a lot of women who are pregnant…

A few days later I found myself curled up on my bedroom floor with more severe pain than I’d ever experienced. Google searching helped me know what to expect, as I shakily tried to pack a bag of clothes, in case I went unconscious and my husband had to call 911.

In the days following my miscarriage, my husband and I mulled over what names we wanted to give to the twins we had lost.

We named one child Jubilee.

I’m not referring to a happy, cheesy kind of jubilation that was the exact opposite of my feelings at that time. But in reference to the year of Jubilee, spoken about in the Old Testament. In that year, everyone took rest from their laboring and working, the slaves were set free, debts were forgiven, and people worshiped God for an entire year of sabbath. The year of Jubilee is a crystal clear picture of Jesus, and the way HE gives us rest, sets us free from bondage to sin, forgives our debt of rebellion against God, and provides a way for us to truly worship God. ONE DAY, when Jesus comes back again, we will experience a true year of Jubilee, when everything will be set right in this world, and the groanings of all creation that Romans 8 speaks about will finally be fully healed.

As we walk through this week, remembering personal losses that we have experienced, may we also be reminded that one day all of these pains and losses will be made right. And there will be a Day when we will no longer be living in the corruption of this broken world.

The other child we named Providence.

The day after my miscarriage, I came across this section of the Heidelburg Catechism:

What do you understand by the providence of God? 
God’s providence is his almighty and ever present power, 1 whereby, as with his hand, he still upholds heaven and earth and all creatures, 2 and so governs them that leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, food and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, 3 indeed, all things, come to us not by chance 4 but by his fatherly hand. 5
1.Jer 23:2324Acts 17:24-28.
2.Heb 1:3.
3.Jer 5:24Acts 14:15-17Jn 9:3Prov 22:2.
4.Prov 16:33.
5.Mt 10:29.

What does it benefit us to know that God has created all things and still upholds them by his providence?
We can be patient in adversity, 1 thankful in prosperity, 2 and with a view to the future we can have a firm confidence in our faithful God and Father that no creature shall separate us from his love; 3 for all creatures are so completely in his hand that without his will they cannot so much as move. 4
1.Job 1:2122Ps 39:10Jas 1:3.
2.Deut 8:101 Thess 5:18.
3.Ps 55:22Rom 5:3-58:3839.
4.Job 1:122:6Prov 21:1Acts 17:24-28.

Those are fighting words right there, my friend.

“…Fruitful and barren years… no creature shall separate us from His love…” It’s easy for me to attribute fruitful years and health to the providence of God. But my barren years and miscarriage losses? I’m not saying that these losses are good. But I am saying that God is still good and loving in the middle of these losses. And the deepest grief still cannot separate us from God’s Love.

The phrase- “all things, come to us not by chance, but by his fatherly hand” was especially precious to me in the weeks after that miscarriage. My God wasn’t asleep when I lost those babies. He was not too weak or too distracted. He knows these things, He allows loss into our lives, He weeps with us in our grief, and through it all He is our loving Father.

As our minds this week wander to thoughts about losses we have experienced, may we also be reminded that we have a loving Father whose hand we can hold in the midst of the brokenness in this world. The hand that has the scars from when, in the Providence of God, Jesus hung on a cross to reconcile us to Himself.

This all sounds so easy, written down a year later, without the raw emotion and broken questions I carried during that season. But each day during that time I cried out to God to show me something unique that would remind me of His Love for me. And God answered that request. Some days it was a poignant Bible verse, or a fitting sermon, or a friend bringing over chocolate. One day I saw God’s love in finding this song by Casting Crowns, and it became my theme song for that season: “Just Be Held”

As we walk through this week, my prayer for us is that our hearts would understand afresh the hope we have in Christ. To know that even though His providence is allowing for loss in this world, He will not leave us there. One day He will return and bring with Him the greatest healing and year of Jubilee this world has ever known.

“We give great honor to those who endure under suffering. For instance, you know about Job, a man of great endurance. You can see how the Lord was kind to him at the end, for the Lord is full of tenderness and mercy.” James 5:11

The Master Fixer

THE MASTER FIXER

“Come this way, I’ve got the best cure.”
“Over here!” Another one waves.
“Those are all wrong, you’ll make it all worse.
Come buy my thing that actually saves.”

“Drink it right down, it’ll make you feel great.
I’ve got the right cup of mixes!”
I stand in the middle of clamor and conflict,
Surrounded by dazzling sellers of fixes.

I’m broken and lost and in need of some help,
So I fill up my stomach with healthy green stew.
But when that breaks me more, I run to another,
Consuming and grasping for anything new.

It’s really just a noble distraction-
All of these fixes with all of their clamor.
They don’t heal the root of my problem,
And just keep my eyes glued on their glamour.

But then my eyes are not fixed
on the One who has said:

I am the living one… I hold the keys to death and the grave.”
I have loved you with an everlasting love.”
I will carry the lambs in my arms, holding them close to my heart.”
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

The Master Fixer of broken lives,
The Ultimate Molder of everyday clay,
Holding galaxies safe in His hand,
The Mender of Hearts in just the right way.

The clamor around me slowly fades,
As I see the scars in His hands and His side.
I know that all of the fixes I wanted
Will never completely satisfy.

The things that I yearn for most in life,
The Fixer Himself offers to me:
Repentance, salvation, healing my soul,
These things that will last through eternity.

When the fixes run out and I’m left standing empty,
Or the fixes do work, and I’m filled to the brim,
Oh may I always desire the Giver
Far more than I want the gifts from Him.

Explanation of this poem I wrote: I feel like I’ve been on a rollercoaster these past few weeks, as I’ve tried a few different food plans and treatment options for my leaky gut, and made a million visits to my fertility doctor. (Ok, actually only like 7. But it felt like much more.)

I’m very happy to be pursuing these avenues to help my body be healthier and hopefully prevent any future miscarriages. But through my Bible reading and prayer times, I’ve been consistently seeing that I need to rest content in God as my sole sufficiency, no matter what outcome these treatments bring. 

I will still continue to search for these “fixes” for the brokenness in my body. But I know that healing and babies cannot be my idol. That would only make my spirit more broken and farther from God. So in the midst of doctor visits, bone broth, and bloodwork, the end result that I should be seeking is ultimately God Himself and a closer fellowship with Him.

When Hope Seems to Run Out

I needed to hear this encouragement right now. I’ve never considered this aspect of Jairus’ perspective before. Thankyou, Sarah.

Excerpt from Sarah’s post: “A miraculously answered prayer reveals God’s power, but a long-suffering believer, steadfastly trusting in Christ, reveals His worth.”

Set Apart

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God is still a God of miracles. Though it may look different than when Jesus walked the earth, we still hear of God’s divine intervention all around us – tumors that miraculously disappear, a hardened criminal surrenders their life to Christ and has a powerful ministry to the unsaved, an unborn child who’s been declared “unfit for life” is born perfectly healthy, and hard to reach cultures are coming to Christ through divine intervention.

Yes, God still reveals His power and supremacy through these miraculous acts. However, it’s likely that many of us haven’t experienced a life-altering miracle in our own lives (other than the miraculous regeneration of our hearts). Although there are times that we can clearly see evidence of God at work in our lives, there are also seasons when it seems as though prayers are being answered in everyone’s lives but ours.

Over the last decade or…

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He Carried the Cross…

Easter.

This weekend we contemplate Jesus’ sacrifice as He carried a cross to Golgotha and died to pay the debt of our sin against the Holy God. Any other thoughts we have, (including this blog post,) are small compared to the magnificent thought of Jesus and all that He has done for us. I hope that in the midst of your festivities this weekend, your contemplations are filled with peace, joy, and an ever-deepening knowledge of God’s Love for us shown in Jesus Christ.

Recently, I have been struck by these verses in Luke 9:23-24, that speak of carrying a cross.

“Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.” Luke 9:23-24

I was listening to a sermon on the rich young ruler who came to Jesus and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to be saved?” (Mark 10:17-31) Jesus replies that this man should sell all that he has, give that money to the poor, and then follow Jesus. The passage specifically says that Jesus looked at this man and loved him.  Jesus wasn’t trying to make his life difficult. He loved this guy enough to point out the thing that was keeping him from following God wholeheartedly. The first and greatest commandment according to Jesus is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength” (Mark 12:28-31)

This ruler had to make a decision between either loving God more than anything else in this world, or loving his wealth more than God. And when a decision comes across our path that forces us to choose between following God or keeping this other thing we want, our actions will show if we truly love God with all of our being.

I’m not saying it’s wrong for me to want babies. (I’m sure the ruler used his wealth for much good.) And I’m not saying that the reason I’ve had miscarriages (or the loss you’ve experienced) is because of an idolatry of the heart that we have. I am saying that sometimes God shows up and He loves us enough to tell us what is keeping us from following Him wholeheartedly.

But I wept as I listened to the next part of the story-  “At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.” (Mark 10:22) I wept because I know the frailty and idolatry of my own heart, and am thankful that God is answering my prayer to desire Him more than anything else. What if God never gives me children? Will I still follow, obey, worship, and love Him with my whole heart? I don’t want to join the rich young ruler in walking away sad because I deem something on this earth to be of greater worth than God.  That would be a greater sorrow.

But I also know that it is impossible to walk the life of faith and daily carry our cross apart from God’s help.

“The disciples were astounded. “Then who in the world can be saved?” they asked. Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God.” Mark 10:27

And there’s the beautiful part… Jesus asks us to deny ourselves, daily take up our cross, and follow Him. He doesn’t tell us to go be miserable and blaze a new path in suffering. He calls us to follow Him. Which means He’s gone before us.

I don’t know what cross is in your life right now that God is asking you to pick up each morning. Or what idol He is asking you to surrender to Him again. But I do know that we don’t do this alone. We have a Savior who carried His cross to death in order to demonstrate His great Love for us. (Romans 5:8)

As we contemplate Jesus’ death and resurrection this weekend, may our view of Him transform our view of the difficulties we encounter in our lives. May we desire Him above everything else in our lives, because He died and rose again to redeem us.

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20

Why Pray, If God Doesn’t Answer the Way I Want?

What’s the point of continuing to pray and ask God for something, if He doesn’t always answer the way we want?

Recently, this question has been bothering me. It’s one thing to acknowledge that we don’t always get what we want. That’s life and we live in an imperfect world.

But it’s another thing when the prayer that goes unanswered is a deep longing that we desperately want God to answer. In those instances, it’s much harder for me to accept the pat answer of “that’s life. Get over it and keep praying anyways.”

And so I get tripped up and find myself struggling to pray. As in, actually talking to God, understanding that He’s carefully listening, and expect Him to answer in some way.

Part of my problem is that I shut down my heart because I’m afraid of getting my hopes up. “Why would I ask God for something so important to me, hope that He’ll give it, and then later find out He’s said no? Wouldn’t it be easier just to not ask Him and save the disappointment?” I recognize that this is a problem, and that I need to keep talking with God about these things… even more because of how significant they are to me. Philippians 4:6 tells me to present my requests to God in every situation, with thanksgiving. 1 Thessalonians 5:17  tells me to pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all circumstances.

But it’s a long distance between my head and my heart.

So this question was banging around in my brain as I walked into prayer meeting at church last Sunday. Thankfully, God was quick to show me an answer in the example that Jesus set for us.

I was “randomly” reading through Matthew 26, and came across this prayer that Jesus made in the Garden of Gethsemane:

“He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” Matthew 26:38-39

I had to read it a few times to make sure I was seeing it correctly. Prior to this, Jesus had told his disciples multiple times that it was necessary for him to die in Jerusalem and that he would be raised again on the 3rd day. (Matthew 16:21, Matthew 17:22-23, Matthew 20:17-19)

Jesus was about to die a terribly agonizing death, and He knew it. He also knew that this was God’s will for Him, in order to fulfill the scriptures that talked about the Messiah redeeming His people. And yet He STILL prayed and asked God “If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me.” He asked God for something that He knew wouldn’t be answered.

I’m not quite sure what to do  with that.

But in the midst of my pain of praying for healthy pregnancies and ending up with miscarriages, I find comfort in seeing that Jesus knows what it’s like to pray a prayer that is not answered.

So that answered the first part of my question. Yes, it is good for me to continue to pray and ask God to give me children, even if I don’t know how He’ll answer, and even if His answer has been “no” so far.

But then, because God loves me, He wouldn’t let me ignore the words Jesus gives after that request… Too often I follow my requests with, “And if you don’t give this to me, I’m going to be really, really upset.”

But Jesus? I’m challenged and convicted by His attitude that, even in the face of knowing He is heading to His death, says “yet I want Your will to be done, not mine.”

We have a God in heaven who loves us, cares for us, and wants us to bring our requests to Him. That’s an incredible privilege. Do we honor that privilege by holding our requests a little less tightly and trust that God understands how important these requests are to us?

After saying “I really want this,” do we follow that up with with “But what I really want is for Your plans to be done, God, not mine”… ?

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

 

How Can I Survive the Fire?

The crackling fire sweeping through dried grass may burn out quickly, but the smoke and ashes linger much longer. And the scarred landscape tells the tale of the fire’s destruction long after the fire has died.

The same is often true in our lives.

But to stop my musings there is only the first part of the story. Too often, I’m so consumed by the pain of the fire of difficulty going on, that I forget to look at what happens  after the fire.

Earlier this spring, I found myself scowling as I drove past a picturesque farmhouse. The graceful hill that gently sloped toward the road was scarred by 4 huge ugly squares of burned grass. Those patches of black stubble stood out like an eye-sore, where the previous summer had grown a lush flower garden.

It reminded me of seeing burnt fields after my first miscarriage. And realizing that God has woven a “life out of death” theme throughout nature.  In John 12:24, Jesus speaks about a seed that falls to the ground and dies before it can produce a harvest of new life. The beautiful flowers on a tree give way to fruit as those delicate flowers wilt and drop to the ground. The microscopic flakes of skin we shed are replaced by new healthier cells. The grass that is burned turns into nutrients for the new grass that will grow there. Even in a rotting old tree that falls to the ground, life blossoms in the form of opportunistic mushrooms, algae, and even smaller plants. It is almost as if all of creation is weeping as it says, “Everything dies. Nothing lives forever…” But then declares triumphantly through its tears, “But God has ordained that life will spring anew! Take hope. Even though death is the law of this world, new life is also a pattern in this world.”

I believe God has given us this theme in creation as a vibrant echo of Jesus and the way His death on the cross opened the opportunity for us to have eternal life Life through Him. It also reminds me that the death and loss we experience in this world is not the end. For those who trust Christ, in heaven we will get a new body- a glorified one, much better and without the pain and sickness we endure here.

Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” Hebrews 9:27-28

Just the other day I drove past that same farmhouse, and it was a healing balm to my soul to see what had become of those burned out patches of dry grass. The squares that had experienced the fire still stood out, but now it was because they were covered in lush grass far greener than the surrounding hillside. Edge of grass cropped darkened no mirror

As I look back, I see times that felt like a burning down of everything I held dear. This current season feels also like more burning, as my health recently took a turn for the worse with a severe flare of my food allergies.

I don’t see how this will end. But I do see what happened to those humble patches of grass.

Lines cropped

So my prayer is for God to bring me out of this season that feels like my heart is choking on smoldering ashes, and teach me to dance for joy again. But until He does, my plea to Him is that this experience would not be wasted. I want to be able to look back and see that I have grown more and been nourished more by God because of this current trial. I want to be that patch of grass that is greener for having gone through the burning fire.

That’s what the Bible speaks about, but it’s easy for me to forget. It’s easier for me to cling to the good things I want and say with Rachel, “give me children or else I’ll die.” Genesis 30:1  Oh Lord, let my prayer instead be, “Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him.” Job 13:15

God allows these things into our life, knowing the pain and also knowing the outcome. He’s the Perfect Gardener and He does not make mistakes. May we wait to see what He will do, instead of refusing to look beyond the ashes left by the fire.

“Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.” 1 Peter 4:12-13

Seeing RED 

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.”

BeautyBeyondBones

*sigh* This post is going to be difficult to write.

giphy-2

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.

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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…

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Jungle Life and Leaky Gut

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.

My beautiful picture
Rain in my village in Papua New Guinea

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.

My beautiful picture
My family in my village, when I was a kid

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.

wedding photo

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.

blackberries smaller

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.

I have found that my miscarriages shook me to the core of who I am and what I believe about God.

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 Father has been carrying me, even as I pound my fists against Him in my hurt.

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.