The Strong Bridge

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For the past several years I have been haunted by a strange fear. The strange thing about it is that this fear always grips me just as I’m waking up from a nap. In that short amount of time when I am waking up from sleep, starting to remember where I am but not really conscious enough to control my thoughts or actions, the truth hits me like a bucket of ice cold water: I am going to die. Someday, sooner or later, I am going to die. In that conscious moment before I fully wake up, I know that heaven is for real, but so is hell, and one day I will go to one or the other.

Now, there is another reason why this fear is strange for me. When I was a very little girl, not much older than Lydia really, I learned about heaven and hell. Afraid of going to hell when I died, I asked Jesus to save me from my sins and began in a childlike way to try to live for and please Jesus. My belief wasn’t perfect, but I do believe that even as a little girl with very little knowledge, God saved me and began to change me too.

Yet, for the past several years I’ve been haunted by this fear. It’s so intense, so very real and so very dreadful. But, what’s baffled me for so long is the question: why am I still afraid?

I have tried to respond to this fear appropriately. I’ve prayed and prayed, talked it over with Dan, and tested myself to see if I really am “in the faith” (1 Corinthians 13:5) only to conclude over and over again that, yes I am. I am led by the Spirit of God. I am becoming more like Him day by day. I am depending on Him as my hope for eternity. And yet, many days after my nap, I wake up with that terrible, sometimes nearly overwhelming fear. Why?

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When Dan and I were first married, we read a book aloud together called Justification and Regeneration. It sounds old and boring, but it really isn’t. The author writes this paragraph that has always stuck in my mind:

Imagine two bridges crossing a chasm: One is very weak and untrustworthy, the other is very strong. A man may have a very strong faith in the weak bridge and confidently step out onto it. His strong faith will not keep him from plunging to his death. On the other hand, a man may have a very weak faith in the strong bridge and only barely manage with fear and trembling to venture forth upon it. The bridge will hold him securely, regardless of his weak faith. All that is necessary is for him to have enough faith to get him onto the bridge!

I love that quote. It has stuck with me for so long, because I feel like that man. I am the fearful man slowly crawling on all fours across that bridge, though I don’t need to be fearful at all because the bridge is very strong. For a long time I thought that maybe this was why I was still afraid of death in a way that seemed to be completely out of my control.

Several weeks ago I had another one of my episodes, waking up after a nap terrified of death. I was able to get up, move on, and forget for a while. But that night as I lay in bed I prayed through everything all over again and I suddenly was given a different reason for my reoccuring fear. I cannot keep this to myself.

There is a connection between my haunting fear and God’s command for me to share His truth. I realize this blog post is anything from a lighthearted story or page full of cute pictures of my little Munchkins. I realize, though sadly, that there are some who normally read my blog who won’t even make it this far because this is not what they want to read about today…or ever. The shy, people-pleasing part of me wants to preface this post: Please don’t get angry! Please, oh please, don’t leave nasty comments or stop talking to me because of this. I really don’t even want to write about something so heavy. But love and fear and Truth compel me to share this, even though in many ways, I’d rather keep it to myself.

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I will die someday. You will too. And suddenly in that moment when your life is over you will be hit with the terrible and awesome reality that you will have to stand before an Almighty God and answer for your sins. Just think about it for a while. Just sit and think about that moment when it’s too late to change your mind, when your philosophizing will mean nothing, and you will stand before God and you will have to answer for your life. Does it scare you? Or are you ready?

The only way you can be ready at all is to trust in Jesus, that Strong Bridge, to be your goodness and your hope for salvation. No other bridge will hold your weight no matter how confidently or carelessly, or even politically…you walk across it.

And, friend, if you do believe in Jesus, I challenge you as I have been challenged many times before and now in this new way, are you telling others? It is not ok to coast through this life trusting in Jesus for yourself, posting happy pictures of your cute little family and keeping to your own happy routine within your own four walls. It is not ok for me to coast through my happy life posting pictures of my Munchkins and just keeping to myself and my own little family.

I realize that God won’t let me keep it to myself. Even if that means waking me up from my naps terrified of the reality of my coming death and judgement, God won’t let me keep Him to myself.

Now I’m coming to the end of this post, one I have honestly been avoiding for quite a while, and I feel like my words just can’t express the earnestness of my desire to share this in a way that will get through to you. In love and sincerity and urgency I ask you to take some time today to think about this brief life and your position before God. Think about eternity and imagine how real it will all be, how real, in fact, it is. And ask yourself and ask God if you are really ready. And if you are, ask yourself if you will be ready on that day to see the ones you love most, and even the ones you hardly know at all. Will you be ready for some of them not to be ready, knowing that at least you did your part in sharing with them that great and wonderful good news that there is hope for a happy eternity only in Jesus Christ.

“The bridge of grace will bear your weight, brother. Thousands of big sinners have gone across that bridge, yea, tens of thousands have gone over it. Some have been the chief of sinners and some have come at the very last of their days but the arch has never yielded beneath their weight. I will go with them trusting to the same support. It will bear me over as it has for them.”

Charles Spurgeon

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The Story of Our House

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Back in August I shared the story of our housing hunt.  Today I’d like to share the story of our house.

It had been a long hunt so far when I started praying that we just wouldn’t even look at anymore until it was the “right one”. I was weary of getting my hopes up and then the crushing disappointment that usually followed: the house or neighborhood was no good, or someone else made a better offer.

There was a two-story home in a neighborhood that we liked so we went to go see it. The owners had kept it immaculate. Every inch was decorated to their style but, as they showed us around, it was hard to picture is as ours and not theirs. The price was within our range, but seemed high for the area. We prayed and talked about it. And we waited. We prayed more, talked more, asked our parents for advice. We walked around the neighborhood, talked to neighbors, and even went to look at it again.

It seemed like a good match. Everything in our minds said to go for it. I was desperate to finally end the hunt. But whenever we prayed, we felt unsure. It was confusing. Over and over we had prayed that when we found the right house we would know right away, and with this one we just weren’t sure. Again and again we tried to figure it out, but it just felt like God was giving us an unclear, “Maybe not.”

After a couple weeks with no changes and no new prospects, I started apartment hunting online. It just felt like we’d never find the right house. We still didn’t know if we should offer on the two-story, and we were waiting to see if maybe the price would come down. Then, one weekend, our Realtor took us to look at three more houses.

One was on a busy road. One was moldy-smelling and old. One was huge, but with a small yard. All were out of our price range. We prayed and again felt like God was saying, “Wait.”

At the end of the three viewings our Realtor asked me again what was wrong with the houses so far, what did I want that they didn’t have. I attempted to explain the things I wanted in a home, the most important things. Suddenly her face lit up as she said she had the home for us. We knew the owners, she told us, but she had to get their permission before telling us which house it was because it wasn’t even on the market yet.

Dan and I spent the ride home trying to guess who it could be. The next day he found out and emailed me. My first thought was, “I love that house, but Dan probably won’t want it.” To my surprise, he told me he had prayed and felt this might be our new house.

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The next day we went for a visit and our friends showed us around. We loved it and had no question we wanted it to be our new home. The next weeks were so happy. We had found a house that we loved. It was bigger and more beautiful than anything we had expected to afford. It had a huge yard and was just down the road from a park. It was better than anything we had looked at so far and anything we had hoped or planned for.

Because the house wasn’t on the market yet, we were able to offer the asking price without any competition. The inspections and appraisals went forward and, after what seemed like a very long time to us, we closed on our own house.

Dan and I truly believe that, by praying about every home and trusting the Lord’s leading, God kept us from offering on the other houses because He had something better for us. And now we are enjoying the fruit of the waiting, the prayers, and the obedience, by getting settled in a house that really feels like a home. It’s not the starter house we had in mind. It’s a home we can imagine living in for a very long time.

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I waited patiently for the Lord and He inclined to me and heard my cry.
Psalm 40:1

How Trials Have Changed Me

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During the four years that Dan and I have been married, we have gone through more trials than I ever would have imagined. I used to look up to people who went through hard times, thinking that the hard times would somehow instantly make them into patient, gentle, and incredibly godly people. I also used to rank “trials” by my understanding of their difficulty. I’ve learned, in the past years, that everyone goes through trials, and all trials are hard. It’s not up to me (or anyone else) to rank someone’s level of trials, but rather, to encourage and pray each other through them. And just because you are going through something hard doesn’t instantly make you a more godly person, although God can and often does use trials to sanctify us.

This past year has been especially full of various trials for us. As we have made our way through them I have often been discouraged by how ungodly my response has been. Patient? Gentle? Try angry and frustrated. I would desperately pray that God would use the situations for some good, because I certainly couldn’t see the good happening in my life.

I have been sick with about three viruses back-to-back during the past few weeks and have often found myself lying helplessly in bed while others take care of the dishes, laundry, and my girls. During one of those helpless moments, I started to reflect on how I have changed during the past six months, and I was blessed to see that God was indeed using the trials to teach me some good things, and to change me in some good ways.

I’m sure there are some out there reading this who are going through their own difficulties. I hope that you may be encouraged by my sharing some of the ways God has used trials to change me this year.

I have been humbled.

Before Dan and I got married I was convinced that I was better. I was a better wife. I was a better mom. All of these moms that were overwhelmed or frustrated, I would not be one of those. After Lydia was born I started a schedule. I kept things clean and got things done. And I stubbornly held on to my expectation that I would always be in control.

Once Abby was born, all of that fell apart. I have learned that I don’t need to be the best. In fact, it is far better to be humbled because then you can ask others for help, encouragement, advice, and prayer. This summer I have gone to moms asking their advice or just asking for prayer (or a hug!) more often then ever before. There is no reward for those who have it together. Those who are broken and humble will be blessed.

I am at a point now where I try, but know I can’t do it all. I can’t be a perfect wife or mom. I can’t do everything I want to do. I have to sacrifice and prioritize and ask God and Dan what things to let go. Then I have to be ok with messes, ok with unfinished projects, and ok if I never learn to do all the things I want to. And I am at a point where I have no idea how other moms do it with more than two kids! But I’m also at a point where I am open to learn willing to make mistakes as long as I am doing my best to fulfill God’s calling on my life.

I have cried out to God.

I have cried out to God many times in my life, but never quite like I have in the past year. I specifically remember one evening when Abby was still in the hospital. It was dark and raining and we were riding in the car. No one was talking. I was crying, feeling completely hopeless. All I could pray was, “God, help me.” over and over again. I didn’t even know what I needed or how God could help, and I didn’t have the strength to think of anything else to pray. And it seemed like no answer came.

Sometimes in moments like that, things have felt so dark, God has felt so far away, that I haven’t wanted to tell anyone about it. It felt like God was failing. It felt like I had to make God look better than I thought He really was.

Sometimes people have commented on God’s faithfulness or answered prayers with Abby in the hospital and I have smiled and nodded and thought, “I don’t see it.” I would pray, “God, people are watching. Show Yourself strong!”, but He wouldn’t answer, wouldn’t show up in any way that I could see.

So why do I share all of this now? It turns out that I’m not the first person in history to struggle in times of trial. (Read Psalms) By faith, I know that God heard my prayers and was even carrying us along, though I couldn’t see it at the time. But, through it all, through the darkest moments, I have cried out to God. Even when I thought it was hopeless and He wasn’t listening, I cried out to Him because He was all I had to cling to.

And when all hope did seem lost and I felt I was just getting depressed and angry, I would pray, “God, keep me close to You whatever it takes. Even if You have to drag me kicking and screaming, keep me close to You. And make me more like Jesus.”

And do you know what? Through it all, He has.

I have learned to cling to scripture.

There have been plenty of times when doubts and lies have filled my mind.

“I’m suffering and no good is coming from it.”

“This is all ruining our family and making me a worse person.”

During those times I have stubbornly read and re-read various verses and clung to them desperately.

“tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

I would cling to those scriptures and others and declare to myself, “It’s true. It says that. It must be true!” And I would declare to God, “You said it God, I’m going to believe it!”

I long for heaven.

A month or so ago I memorized Revelation 21. When I was stuck in bed sick I would find my mind wandering to heaven. I would imagine the wedding banquet. I would imagine a heavenly choir welcoming the saints in with celestial music. I would imagine what the holy city would really look like. I would think about eating the fruit from the tree of life while walking on the new earth and talking to Jesus face-to-face. I know my imagination falls far short of the glory and reality of heaven, but the point is, I actually think about it now.

I actually look forward to heaven. I look forward to an end to sin and suffering. I look forward to when God will wipe away every tear. There will be no more death, no more mourning, no more crying and no more pain.

(And as a small bonus, there will be no more night. This can only lead a sleepy mommy to assume that there will be no more tiredness because there will be no more need for sleep.)

What is coming next?

Sometimes there is a cynical part of me that wonders, “What’s next?”. We are planning to close on our new house in six days and move in shortly after. Then what? What trials will God bring next? I try to correct myself and remember that God works things together for good. He’s not out to get us and make our lives miserable. And even when trial after trial comes our way, God still offers joy for His children. He is good, isn’t He?

Go, then, earthly fame and treasure!
Come, disaster, scorn, and pain!
In Thy service, pain is pleasure;
With Thy favor, loss is gain.
I have called Thee Abba, Father!
I have stayed my heart on Thee.
Storms may howl, and clouds may gather,
All must work for good to me.

Man may trouble and distress me,
’Twill but drive me to Thy breast;
Life with trials hard may press me,
Christ will bring me sweeter rest.
O ’tis not in grief to harm me,
While Thy love is left to me;
O ’twere not in joy to charm me,
Were that joy unmixed with Thee.

(From the hymn: Jesus I My Cross Have Taken)

Snuffly Quotes

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Last night, after Lydia was all tucked into bed, I heard her crying, “I don’t want to be snuffly. I don’t want to be snuffly!”. This morning she assured me that she was no longer “snuffly” because she was only snuffly when she was sleeping.

In case you don’t speak “Lydia”, allow me to translate. We’re sick. Snuffly-gooby-runny-nose-sick. So, rather than write an Abby update today, I’ll postpone that for when she’s looking a little less…snuffly. But in the meantime, I’ll share some encouraging and though-provoking quotes that I’ve read lately on the topic of difficult circumstances.

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.”
Helen Keller

“If we cannot believe God when circumstances seem to be against us, we do not believe Him at all.”
Charles Spurgeon

“God’s ways of answering His people’s prayers is not by removing the pressure, but by increasing their strength to bear it.”
DL Moody

“O Lord, by all thy dealings with us, whether of joy or pain, of light or darkness, let us be brought to thee. Let us value no treatment of thy grace simply because it makes us happy or because it makes us sad, because it gives us or denies us what we want; but may all that thou sendest us bring us to thee, that, knowing thy perfectness, we may be sure in every disappointment that thou art still loving us, and in every darkness that thou are still enlightening us, and in every enforced idleness that thou art still using us; yea, in every death that thou art still giving us life, as in his death thou didst give life to thy Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.”
Phillip Brooks

Just Ask

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This girl is a lot like her daddy. She’s very independent. “I do it” has long been one of her most used phrases. And, she’s a little bit perfectionistic. Ever since she was a three pound bundle in her NICU isolette, she’s been feisty, getting frustrated when she doesn’t get things done right, the first time, by herself.

A few days ago she was having a grand time playing by herself with her umbrella stroller. She had a baby doll in the stroller, a purse over her shoulder, and was pretending to be a “big girl Lydia” who gets to drive a car and change diapers. But the fun ended when the umbrella stroller folded up and she couldn’t get it open. I was in a different part of the basement doing some for-real grown up thing, probably folding laundry or washing dishes, when suddenly I heard her sudden outburst of tears and yelling. Abby was sleeping so I snatched up Lydia as quickly as I could, raced into her bedroom and sat her on my lap.

I’ll admit, I was frustrated too, annoyed that she had to have such an outburst that could have woken up Abby when she could have just asked me for help. But I took a deep breath and decided to make this a teachable moment.

Justine: Lydia, what happened?

Lydia (angrily): I couldn’t get the stroller open.

Justine: And did you get frustrated and yell?

Lydia (sheepishly): yes.

Justine: What should you have done?

Lydia: Obey, right away, all the way, happy way? (that’s what we’re teaching her these days)

Justine: Well, no, you should have just asked Mommy for help.

Lydia: Will you help me please?

Justine: Why, of course, I’d love too.

And that was that, we headed out, I opened the stroller, and she was happily (and quietly) playing once more.

Except, that wasn’t that. I wasn’t three lines into that conversation when the lesson hit me like a brick wall. Suddenly, even as I was talking to Lydia, I could see myself having the same conversation with God. Because I, too, have gotten frustrated in these circumstances. And I, too, have had sudden outbursts with tears and yelling. It’s hard living in a basement, after all. It’s hard moving a lot. It’s hard having two little ones. And there have been times in the past few weeks when I have responded just like Lydia. So there I was, sitting on my Heavenly Father’s lap having the same conversation.

God: Justine, what happened?

Justine (angrily): Lydia wouldn’t obey. The place is a mess. This is hard!

God: And did you get frustrated and yell?

Justine: (sheepishly): Yes.

God: What should you have done?

Justine: Obey?

God: You should have just asked me for help.

Justine: Will you help me please?

God: Of course, I would love too.

Sometimes I get so focused on trying to accept the circumstances God has placed me in, trying to just obey what He wants me to do right now, that I forget how much He really cares. Now, the past week had already gone much better, ever since my summer sausage incident. But I have been earnestly putting this lesson into practice daily sometimes hourly. And God is helping me. Every day. Every hour. And the best part is, He (unlike me) never gets impatient with my asking. He never has to stop washing dishes to wipe his hands. He’s always there, instantly, ready to help.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7

And Yet I Will Rejoice

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There has been a reoccurring pattern in the life of my family that goes something like this: Dan and I prayerfully make decisions and plans and then watch as God totally changes them. To some extent, this is true of everyone, but in the past year or so for our family it has seemed kind of extreme. Housing. Jobs. Babies. Not to mention the little things in life.

I haven’t been handling our “temporary” housing situation very well lately (I put temporary in quotes because that is another one of our plans). Maybe it really is a difficult situation, or maybe it’s just that there have been a lot of difficult situations and I’m getting burnt out. I’m not sure.

One of the agreements to our living in this basement (in the home of a family from our church) is that every Tuesday our church hosts a Bible study. Here. In our little “temporary” home. Combined with the Bible study we normally attend on Wednesdays this makes for two very late nights in a row.

Well, this week the Bible study turned out to be a very good thing. Between conversation and prayer, I was reminded (for the millionth time and I know I’ll need it again) to rejoice.

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
James 1:2-4

…we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
Romans 5:3-5

Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

So it was as the clock approached 11, the last stragglers were about to leave, and the girls were very sleepy. I was encouraged and had a new resolve to rejoice and trust that this crazy, windy road God is taking us on is not without purpose. And then, as if to test my new resolve, Lydia threw up. I had given her a couple of slices of a summer sausage during snack time and, as we don’t normally eat pork or sausage, the combination didn’t treat her very well.

We said hurried goodbyes and I cleaned up the floor while Dan cleaned up Lydia. I’d say we handled the episode relatively well and soon enough Lydia was tucked in watching an inning of baseball with Dan while she fell asleep. I set out a (literally) midnight snack for Dan and I to enjoy together so we could actually have a few moments to talk before going to sleep. Just as I was about to take my first bite, Lydia threw up again.

Well, we made it out ok. I was still rejoicing and lighthearted despite the surprise attack by that summer sausage and we finally got to go to sleep. Dan was up at least once more with Lydia during the night but I didn’t know that until morning because a couple of hours after resting my head on the pillow I found myself running to the bathroom wishing I hadn’t eaten that sausage either.

It was bad. The sort of bad where you spend an hour in the bathroom just praying your stomach would surrender and empty itself so you could go to bed in peace. But, do you know what? By God grace I kept rejoicing.

I think if you could have been there (I’m glad you weren’t) to see me and hear my thoughts, it might have been almost funny. I was sick and in pain and tired and completely convinced that God loves me and is going to use this all for good. I may have even been smiling there in the bathroom at two in the morning. It was crazy. Knowing trials have a purpose, even if you don’t know what the purpose is, makes them so much more bearable.

The next day we were well enough to eat some breakfast, at least a rather bland breakfast of plain oatmeal, bananas, and tea. By Wednesday night we were all well enough to go to our own Bible study. And so far I’m still doing well in my new resolve. I know this is a lesson I’ll have to learn again. And you’ll probably hear about it when I do. For now I will keep on rejoicing, trusting God’s good plan, and staying away from summer sausage.

Not Home Yet

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Last Thursday Dan called at around 6:00 in the evening to let me know that we’d be moving that night. I had nothing packed except for a bag of the girls’ clothes. Sometimes life feels to crazy to be for real.

Yes, this is our fourth move in a year. And, no, we don’t particularly enjoy the moving process. That’s not why we do it. Each and every one of our moves was for a perfectly good and logical reason, but that doesn’t necessarily make it easy. This time we had to move because our apartment building was filled with lots of smokers and the various forms of smoke were filling our apartment and making us sick. The real concern, though, was for little Abby. As an early preemie, Abby is already considered high-risk to have chronic lung problems and second-hand smoke was only adding to her risk factors. After seeking some advice from our family and doctor, we decided it wasn’t worth the risk to stay out our lease.

It took a while, but eventually our apartment management released us. We thought we had another place lined up for the move, but once we got out of our lease and gave the landlord a call we realized it wasn’t going to work out after all. With two weeks left to be out of our apartment we still didn’t have a place to go.

Sometimes I look back at the things that have happened to us in the past year and I can’t believe it. There have been so many unexpected emergencies, changes, and a lot of waiting too. I can’t help but wonder what will happen next.

So, with two weeks to homelessness, a generous family from church welcomed us into their basement for as long as we need to stay. In a flurry of an evening we packed up everything we thought we might need for the next couple of days and drove off through the night to our new temporary home.

I never did get to that laundry room.

As we’ve adjusted to our new situation and discussed where to go from here, it has struck me over and over again how not in control we are. It doesn’t matter how much planning we do, what security nets we lay out, what advice we seek, God can change our lives in an instant. It would be scary, except that we are His children.

For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God.
Romans 8:14

In church this Sunday we sang a lot of songs that were quite fitting to our current situation. One that I especially liked is called “Behold Our God”.  It makes me think of the last chapters of Job.  Job’s life had completely fallen apart but God came in and reminded Job of how small Job was and how big God is.  God is on the throne.  God created the world.  He is above all things.  Again, it would be scary if Job wasn’t God’s child too.  So, this song reminded me of those chapters in Job and the message they contain:  God is the one seated on the throne, making decisions, leading His children, doing the impossible.

Dan and I had a lot of plans last year. I think God changed all of them. And, by His grace, I’m ok with that. I know His plans our better. So now we’re pressing on, seeking His guidance again, and letting Him lead.

Who has held the oceans in His hand?
Who has numbered every grain of sand?
Kings and nations tremble at His voice
All creation rises to rejoice

Who has given counsel to the Lord?
Who can question any of His Words?
Who can teach the One who knows all things?
Who can fathom all His wondrous deeds?

Who has felt the nails upon His hands
Bearing all the guilt of sinful man?
God eternal humbled to the grave
Jesus, Savior risen now to reign!

Behold our God seated on His throne
Come let us adore Him
Behold our King nothing can compare
Come let us adore Him!

Meijer Meltdown

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A couple of days ago I decided it would be nice to get out of the house. So I packed up my girls and we headed out for a morning walk to Meijer. I’ve had a couple of small projects in mind for a while now and wanted to check out some prices. So begins my story, but first allow me to fill you in on some necessary background details.

A couple weeks ago, during another Meijer trip, I introduced Lydia to Sandy. Sandy is the brown horse ride every Meijer seems to have that only costs one penny. I told Lydia that, if we found a penny on the ground, we could use it to ride Sandy. We did not find a penny. We found a nickel. So you all know what that means, right? Five rides on Sandy. No, not all in the same day. I don’t know how it is at every Meijer, but the Sandy we know and love is in very high demand and it would be inconsiderate to take more than one ride in a row. Anyway, Sandy was a hit and has since become an almost necessary part of every Meijer trip. Lydia loves her, and for only a penny, how could we say no?

The second thing you need to know to thoroughly appreciate this story is that I have been pondering two small projects for a while now. The first is a “Bible Memory Book” for Lydia. She has done so well learning her verses (she’s up to five now), that I thought it would be fun to document her work. I was looking, on this particular trip, for a sturdy blank notebook. Whenever Lydia learns a new verse, I plan to record the verse and the date she learned it, then let her draw a picture. Just think how much fun she’ll have looking back at that ten or twenty years from now.

The second project I’ve been thinking about is a “Mommy Book”. I wanted a pretty journal to start recording special moments with my kiddos, birth pictures, inspiring notes and verses, that sort of thing. When I get stressed out or frustrated, or am just having a hard time doing my job, I can pull out the book and be reminded of how much I love my job and my munchkins. While Lydia won’t enjoy the project directly, I think she’ll benefit from its fruit.

So, back to my story. We headed to Meijer and all was going well. The air was cool and fresh and it felt good to be outside. As soon as we got to Meijer, Abby started crying. She cried through the aisles and all the way to the notebooks. Lydia wandered off to the end of the aisle where there was a collection of children’s books, while I priced out notebooks and journals and tried to keep the stroller moving so Abby would quiet down.

Then a lady asked, “Is that your baby screaming?”

“Uh, yeah…” I started to feel uncomfortable.

After she left, more and more people began to walk by. Maybe it was just my self-conscious imagination, but I was sure they were all annoyed at the crying baby and thinking me an incompetent mother. So I decided, sadly, it was time to leave without the notebook or journal. I grabbed Lydia’s hand and moved out of the aisle only to find myself with two very upset children. Lydia didn’t want to go home. So I decided it was really time to go and turned around to return the children’s books that Lydia has snuck into my basket. Then she really lost it. She wanted those books!

We hurried through the store, me pushing crying Abby and holding screaming Lydia. Oh dear. When we got to the doors the ruckus got even louder because Lydia realized she wasn’t going to get to ride Sandy. The rest of the morning was an absolute nightmare. Lydia wouldn’t put on her coat without riding Sandy. I wasn’t going to reward her outbursts with a Sandy ride. So I tried to get Lydia’s coat on, while the girls cried in harmony. Every time I put an arm in, Lydia took the other one out. Then she tried to unbutton it. And I’m sure every one within hearing distance thought I was just a monster for refusing to let my child ride the one cent pony.

The amazing part of the story was that I never lost it. By God’s grace I made it home completely unflustered.

After we were home again and the shoes and coats were put away, I started to think a little more about that trip and God showed me a lesson for my own life.

I am Lydia. I want those children’s books and I want to ride that pony. I don’t want to walk any farther and I don’t understand why God is taking me down a boring aisle to look at notebooks. I want what I want and I certainly can’t imagine that whatever He is doing is something I could possibly appreciate any more than that pony ride and those children’s books.

Let me break it down a bit more.

Lately God has taken Dan and I through changes we never wanted. Job changes. Housing changes. NICU changes. And we follow Him and I think of all the nice things I want. A nice house that we get to live in for more than a few months. A job where Dan can be home all of the time and love working at more than he loves playing baseball. A baby that makes it to a full 40 weeks and only spends two days in the hospital. And, as God takes me where He wants me to go, I look at all these other things and think how lovely they are, and I ask God for them. Meanwhile God is elsewhere working on something else that I don’t understand at all. But, like my projects for Lydia, I know that God’s plans are better, longer lasting, and for my own good. Someday I will look back and appreciate the trip we took and the gifts He was preparing. Someday I will be grateful that He didn’t do what I wanted and just give me a kid book and a 30 second ride on a pony.

I’ve been continuing my project: one year of thankful, but I’ve realized something more. While noticing blessings along the way will make the trip more enjoyable, the thing that makes the real difference is trusting that God has something good planned, something better than my own plans. Good for me. Good for my family. Good for Him. Good for His kingdom.

Kids have meltdowns in Meijer. It happens. And I’ve totally learned not to look down on a parent when their kid is crying because he didn’t get to ride Sandy. But grown-ups have meltdowns too. Sandy will always be a reminder to me, to trust God’s plans. They are better than the 30 second pony ride I think I want.

Romans 8:28
And we know that God causes all thing to work together for good to those who love God,
to those who are called according to His purpose.

Break My Plans

I mentioned a little while ago that God has been teaching me not to depend on my own plans. He’s still teaching me. As I think back over the past year, it seems like we’ve been struck by blow after blow of changed plans with only a couple of months in between each new change. I’m naturally a reflective sort of person, but over the past week I’ve found myself reflecting more than normal.

During one such reflecting time a song burst into my mind that I hadn’t heard or thought of in years. It’s called “Break My Plans” and, while the story it tells is much more serious than our own lately, the chorus hit home.

Break my plans, shape my heart
Take my will to where You are
Move my mind through Your Word
‘Til all that I am lives to love You, Lord

Since popping into my head last week it has continued to repeat. Over and over. It has become my prayer.

During church this Sunday more stories, verses and quotes filled my mind in a sequential order that we now joke of as my own special conference featuring guest speakers: Darlene Deibler Rose, Job, and Hudson Taylor. Later, C.S. Lewis shared his two cents as well.

I was struggling to sing songs of worship when things down here were feeling hard and God felt so far away. That God knows and cares didn’t feel true.

The words of Hebrews 11:1 welled up, unbeckoned, to fill my mind: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” The evidence of things not seen. Evidence not seen – that was what I put my trust in – not in feelings or moments of ecstasy, but in the unchanging Person of Jesus Christ. Suddenly I realized I was singing:

When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace,
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.

On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.

I was assured that my faith rested not on feelings, not on moments of ecstasy, but on the Person of my matchless, changeless Savior, in Whom is no shadow caused by turning. In a measure I felt I understood what Job meant when he declared, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him” (13:15). Job knew the character of the One in Whom he had put his trust. It was faith stripped of feelings, faith without trappings. More than ever before, I knew that I could always put my trust, my faith, in my glorious Lord.

(Darlene Deibler Rose)

“Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped.”
(Job 1:20)

“But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”
(John 4:1)

“To know that ‘shall’ means shall, that ‘never’ means never, and that ‘thirst’ means any unsatisfied need, may be one of the greatest revelations God every made to our souls.”
(Hudson Taylor)

“We’re not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.”
(C.S. Lewis)


Break My Plans
by This Hope

The praise songs of a nation flowed from his hand
And in a world of dark oppression he made a stand
They told him to be silent, and led him away
Ten years was the sentence, a prisoner of faith

As he waited for God’s timing
Another winter chilled the air
And when he thought of his own family
He was filled with despair
So he cried out for justice, was there any other way
But then he gave it all to Jesus, as he began to pray

Break my plans, shape my heart
Take my will to where You are
Move my mind through Your Word
‘Til all that I am lives to love You, Lord

I know I’m called to suffer and take up my cross
But sometimes I grow so fearful when I count the cost
Still my heart wants to follow, and walk in Your ways
To be counted with the faithful, Lord guide me today

With all my heart, my strength, and my soul
I will love You, God
So use my life and take complete control.

Break my plans, shape my heart
Take my will to where You are
Move my mind through Your Word
‘Til all that I am lives to love You, Lord

Many Are the Plans

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During the past few days I have been reminded of Proverbs 19:21, which says:

Many are the plans in the mind of a man,
but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.

I had been pretty excited to begin my 5K training on the treadmill at the gym of our apartment complex. Saturday was the final run in Week Two of my nine week training program. It was a wet, slushy, cold, and snowy evening as I headed out to the gym, sloshing through puddles and trudging through freshly fallen snow. This time I even stretched before I ran, but four minutes into my workout my knee started hurting. For about thirty seconds I tried to keep running before I decided it wasn’t worth the risk. So now I’m off my training schedule and on the elliptical to give my knee a rest and learn a little more about how to run, stretch, and not injure myself.

The very same night we gave up potty training…again…for now. After a week of accidents and messes, Lydia has successfully learned to go to the potty immediately after she wets her pants. She loves it. She hasn’t gone in the toilet once. I talked to some other moms, prayed about it, solicited Dan’s opinion, and made a mental list of pros and cons. Since we recently invested in some quality cloth diapers, the only thing we lose by waiting to potty train is the extra cost of washing those diapers, which I calculated to be about three cents a day.

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I didn’t really want to write about that in a post. I didn’t really want to “give up” again. But it’s the best decision for our family right now.

After giving up the endless trips to the toilet and all the time spent reading to Lydia while she did nothing on the potty, I was excited to get some more done yesterday. Clean up the living room, wash that pile of leftover dishes from Sunday, tackle a project or two, play with the munchkins. Abby decided she wanted to be held all day instead and by eleven o’clock I had only tackled some of the dishes and Dan had thrown everything littering our living room into piles. So much for my plans to catch up.

Our list of plans goes on and on, but I have been reminded of that ever-true Proverb. The Lord’s purpose will prevail. And after a nice, quiet prayer time while the girls were sleeping, I surrendered my plans and came out feeling happy. God’s plans are much better than my own.