A Rule of Life

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For some time, I’ve been feeling a need for a shift. 2020 has an increase of activity in store for my husband and me and I’ve been stressing about how to make everything fit. I know God’s capacity will make up the difference for the capacity I lack, but I can sabotage myself by living in a default of unhealthy rhythms. So this year I’m cultivating a rule of life—daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly rhythms of spiritual disciplines.

Because I’m entering a new normal of increased activity, a lot of these rhythms are practices of being with God over doing for God.

This isn’t something I’m entering legalistically. None of this is set in stone and I’ll periodically adjust it as my life rhythms change and as my soul and spirit needs. But for this season, here’s my rule of life:

Daily

Morning hour of solitude and quiet:

  • A time to quiet my heart, soul, and mind so God’s voice can become clearer and louder.
  • No to anything that pulls my focus away from God.
  • Yes to getting ready for work, tuning my heart to God’s through prayer, Scripture, writing, driving to work, music, and planning for the day.
  • Inspired by Jess Connolly, I ask God this question: God, what have You ordered for me today?

Wash off the day:

  • When I get home and don’t plan on going out for the rest of the day, put on some relaxing music or a fun podcast, wash my face or take a long shower, and put on pajamas. This is a moment to transition from a mindset of activity to rest.

Evening 15 minutes of quiet:

  • No to devices.
  • Yes to free thinking, journaling, and prayer.

Weekly

Sabbath: (Thursday evening to Friday evening)

  • No to striving.
  • Yes to rest, play, and worship.

Weekly Quit:

  • At the end of each week, I write in my journal something I’m going to quit. It’s a practice of repentance, turning away from something that pulls me away from God, who I’m called to be, and who I’m called to love, so I can choose something better.
  • “This week I’m quitting ___________ so I can ___________.” (Some real examples of my weekly quit: “This week I’m quitting relying on my own abilities so I can rely on God’s power and rest in His capacity.” “This week I’m quitting checking email and social media before 10 a.m. so I can cultivate a rhythm of morning quiet.”)

iPhone / social media break:

  • I’m ashamed of my addiction to my phone and social media. At the same time, these things are important tools for my work and ministry. So I need this weekly break to keep my phone and social media in their place.

Monthly

One fun thing: This is one of my goals for the year because taking time to have fun is hard for me.

  • No to anything that involves striving or productivity.
  • Yes to…well…something fun.
  • This is worship!

Yearly

Family vacation

  • “change of pace + change of PLACE = change of PERSPECTIVE” ~Mark Batterson

Monastery retreat

So how about you? What are some of the rhythms you’re cultivating this year? I’d love to hear them!

Advent

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Advent is a time of expectation and hope, but the beauty of this season gets overshadowed by busyness, rush, and consumerism. Art has a way of quieting the noise and helping us be attentive to the profound things of life.

May this piece of poetry open for you a small space when the noise of your life gets a little softer and the whisper of God gets a little louder.

 

Listen

 

I groan

—a prayer too deep for words—

as I fight to hope and believe

I will hear Your voice again.

 

The Lord hears

—the Word becomes flesh—

four hundred years of silence

broken by a Baby’s first cry.

 

The Prayers We Stopped Praying

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In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. 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, ESV

“Why is this happening? How have I sinned? What’s wrong with me?” Years of living for God and doing everything right, and still she was barren.

“Lord, please give me a child.”

How many times did this prayer escape her quivering lips? How many times did she allow her heart to hope, only to be disappointed? And with each passing year, her window of possibility got smaller and her wounds grew deeper.

She was barren, marked with shame. And her years of hoping were over.

She knew the story, the one that happened millennia ago. Sarah, the mother of the Jewish people, was 90 years old when she conceived. “But God has been silent for centuries. Could God still do things like that today? And if He could, would He?”

Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.'”

Luke 1:8-17, ESV

He was chosen by lot. What appeared to be the luck of the draw, something completely random, was divine. God was in the randomness. And as he performed his duties, something miraculous happened. Prayers he had stopped praying years ago were extravagantly answered. He was finally going to be a father.

How do I know Zechariah had stopped praying for a child? Because what he said in response were not the words of a man who still prayed to have a child, but the words of a man who had given up:

And Zechariah said to the angel, ‘How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.'”

Luke 1:18, ESV

He had just heard the most wonderful news of his life, but He couldn’t praise or give thanks. How many times had he prayed for a child? How many times had he consoled his crying wife? How many times did he mask his shame as other men in the community beamed with pride because of their growing families? How many years had God disappointed him before he stopped praying that one, painful prayer?

And after all those years, when his peers were enjoying the births of their grandchildren, was God really going to finally give him a son? Maybe he was numb. Maybe he still felt the sting of old wounds. Either way, the idea that God would bless him now in this way was preposterous.

But this man who had dedicated his life to God’s service had more to learn about God and His ways. Zechariah’s age, circumstances, and limitations were no match for what God could do. God could do anything. But after everything Zechariah had been through, could he believe this—really believe in a personal, non-theoretical, hope-risking kind of way?

And the angel answered him, ‘I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.’ And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. And when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he kept making signs to them and remained mute.

Luke 1:19-22, ESV

I used to think that Zechariah was being punished for his unbelief, but now I’m not so sure. Because he was suddenly unable to speak:

  • he could no longer speak words of doubt
  • other people were able to see he had a divine encounter, so they became part of the story and Zechariah wouldn’t/couldn’t walk this journey alone
  • he was constantly reminded of what God had done
  • he could spend more time listening, remembering, and reflecting on what God had done.

(How often do I think God is punishing me when really He’s blessing me and preparing me for something beautiful?)

Sometimes when God answers prayers we’ve abandoned or forgotten, He needs to break through the walls we’ve raised to protect our hearts and get our attention so we don’t miss what He’s doing. For Zechariah, he was speechless. Not in a metaphorical way, but in a literal, inconvenient, and disruptive kind of way. For nine months.

Nine months to let this glorious miracle sink in. These nine months would transform Zechariah to his core and make him the kind of father that his son would need him to be: a father who wholeheartedly believed in the God who can do anything, who hears our prayers, and who keeps His word.

When Zechariah’s week of service in the Temple was over, he returned home. Soon afterward his wife, Elizabeth, became pregnant and went into seclusion for five months. How kind the Lord is!’ she exclaimed. ‘He has taken away my disgrace of having no children.’”

Luke 1:23-25, NLT

No one could look down on Elizabeth any longer. Not only did God make Zechariah and Elizabeth a father and mother; He made them a father and mother like Abraham and Sarah. How kind the Lord is!

And this child would have a special place in history. He would be the one who would prepare the way for the Lord, the one who would baptize the long-awaited Messiah, the one of whom Jesus would one day say, “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist.”

God knew what Zechariah and Elizabeth’s story would be all along, writing their story so much more beautifully than they possibly could. However, I’m sure it didn’t feel beautiful to Zechariah and Elizabeth as they navigated the many chapters of barrenness and abandoned prayers. But God didn’t stop writing their story when others declared it to be written. When the plot seemed to be at a standstill, everything changed. Their future would not be the quiet they anticipated and their past now had purpose they had never been able to see before. For them, it was as though God rewrote the story they thought they knew.

And for us…

God remembers the prayers we prayed long ago, the ones we gave up on and stopped praying, the ones that became too difficult to pray as the years went on and left us wounded. He remembers and does something more wonderful with them than we can imagine. 

God is kind even when prayers go unanswered, even when He delays, and even when His ways make no sense.

And God writes beautiful stories. If you feel like your story isn’t beautiful, just wait; God’s not done writing yet.

God’s Presence in Our Suffering

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This past week, I was invited to speak at a monthly luncheon at Drury University where I’m a piano professor. In front of students, the university president’s wife, the school chaplain, and the dean who hired me, I stood up, took a deep breath, and shared my story…

Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to be part of something special that our university has to offer and for allowing me to share my story with you today.

Before I begin, I want to let you know that I’m 36 years old and I have a decade’s worth of experience teaching in higher education. I am not—as most freshmen believe upon seeing me the first time—their classmate. I tell you this so you’ll know that as I speak to you today, I’m not speaking from my youth; I’m speaking as one who has experienced life, had my ideals come crashing down, and come through on the other side to know that amid the darkness, there is good to be found in the world and that God truly is who He says He is.

Six years ago, I got a Master’s degree in piano performance—a huge feat considering I had been diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis in both hands and wrists before I started the program. I was also a music professor at a college and I was performing across the country. I felt like my career as a pianist was beginning to take off. On top of that, my husband and I have felt a call to one day move to Japan to start a church, and everything was happening right on schedule.

But then everything changed.

I first realized something was wrong when I was preparing for a recital and noticed my hands were stiff. “Maybe I’m practicing too much. Maybe I’m stressed,” I thought.

On July 8, 2012, I wrote in my journal:

“My shoulder keeps slipping out of place and the joints in my hands are swelling. I was planning on taking a break from the pain medications [I’ve been taking for carpal tunnel and tendonitis] this summer, but instead I’m taking more pain pills that I’ve ever taken in my whole life just to function. I have some important performances coming up this month. It will take a miracle for my hands to endure the physical requirements of my pieces and make it through from start to finish. At any moment, my hands could stop, ending my music career forever. I go into every performance with a strong awareness that this could be my last one and it will happen only because God will make it happen.”

A few weeks later, on July 25, I wrote:

“Faith isn’t a surface belief but a knowing that God is doing something. I know that God keeps His promises. I know He is my healer. I know He has not sentenced me to a life of arthritis. I know He holds my future in His hands and His plans for me are good.”

Looking back, this entry makes me want to cringe. At the time, I thought these were faith-filled words, but now I see that my faith had a lot of growing to do. I still believe God is my healer, that He holds my future in His hands, and that His plans for me are good. But the prolonged, excruciating pain made me take another look at what the Bible says and reevaluate my definition of faith. Is faith just believing for miracles or can faith be bigger and deeper than that?

Over time, the stiffness turned into pain and spread all over my body to the point that I couldn’t move on my own. My husband, Daniel, had to lift my body out of bed and walk me one step at a time through my morning routine. I couldn’t even squeeze toothpaste onto my toothbrush.

It took every ounce of my strength to make it through each day.

On September 5, 2012, I wrote:

“It’s not that I’m not trusting God to take care of me and my future. I feel secure in Him. I don’t find myself doubting Him. I am full of hope and peace. But it’s the PAIN. The pain is just so much. And the new medicine the doctor gave me makes me feel worse. It makes me feel like I don’t have full control of my mind, like I’m not completely me.”

Keep in mind that I was teaching a full load at the college and this was still the beginning of the school year. On top of that, one of the professors in my department had unexpectedly passed away a couple weeks before the school year began. So not only was I a professor to these students; I was also a counselor to them as I navigated my own grief. And it was crucial that each day I came to work, I was fully present.

And that’s why a couple days later, I wrote:

“I had to make a difficult choice this morning: function in my hands and body or function in my mind. I didn’t take any pain meds last night because it was making me sleepy, dizzy, nauseous, and unable to think clearly. This morning, I woke up in extreme pain. I needed help getting out of bed, turning on the sink, getting in the shower…I didn’t know what to do. I chose to have my mind today. I am in so much pain.”

And September 17:

“The pain is getting worse. Me and Daniel are growing more exhausted. My muscles are disappearing. The doctors still have no answers. But God is sustaining me.”

As I look back, it’s crazy to me that I was able to continue teaching. There’s no way I could have done it if God hadn’t been sustaining me day by day.

It was during this time when I truly understood the words of 2 Corinthians 12:9.

“My grace is sufficient for you,

for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

All the while, I went to numerous doctors, and they did test after test and had no answers. Weeks of waiting turned into months, and the pain was too much for me. My hair started falling out until half of it was gone. And I began to wonder, “Am I dying?”

There was one time when I was laying in bed, and I asked Daniel to come to my side so I could tell him my dying wish: “Promise me that if something happens to me, you’ll still go to Japan.”

This was a scary time. I was scared of what the doctors would say. I was scared for my future. I was scared that I might be dying.

Even though I was in horrific pain, this was a beautiful time in my relationship with God. I was acutely aware of my dependence on Him. And because every movement was excruciating, I spent a lot of time lying in bed and praying to God. Early on, I couldn’t understand why God would allow me to suffer for so long (at least, what seemed long to me at the time), but I needed the wait so God could transform my heart. Looking back, I can see clearly how God was being good and wise in allowing me to wait.

Instead of allowing me to have the diagnosis the moment I wanted it, God waited until the moment I was ready to hear it.

On October 3, 2012, I wrote:

“Still no relief from the pain. I am very dependent on Daniel for a lot of basic things. I have lost almost 20 pounds since the end of July. I am exhausted. I saw 2 doctors today. They are close to having a diagnosis. Right now I’m waiting for test results…[and] I don’t like some of the words the doctors are saying. But I’m too tired to be stubborn.”

Then I wrote in capital letters:

“GOD IS BIGGER THAN ANY DIAGNOSIS.”

I wasn’t afraid anymore of death or bad news. I had hope because I had God.

Several days later, on October 8, I wrote:

“Still in pain. But God has given me a tremendous peace. I feel His presence and the support of His people. When I look around, I can still see God’s goodness in my life. In the midst of extraordinary pain, He has given me extraordinary strength.”

The very next day, the doctor called to tell me that I have lupus, an autoimmune disease where the immune system can’t tell the difference between a good cell and a bad cell, so it attacks anything and everything. That phone call changed my life. The months of waiting for answers were so hard, but because God waited until the perfect moment to let me have them, that phone call did not fill me with despair, but with worship. And as soon as I got off the phone, I cried happy tears and said, “Thank You, God!” I was so relieved that I finally had answers, and I could finally move forward.

That day in my journal, I wrote down a verse from Scripture:

“Because the Lord is at my right hand,

I will not be shaken.”

(Psalm 16:8)

That same day, my husband came home with a couple of trays of food from a friend with a card. On the card was written the same verse.

The past 6 years have been hard. Too often, if something is hard, we equate that with it being bad. Hard doesn’t always mean bad. Sometimes hard is bad, but sometimes hard is just hard.

I still wake up in pain every morning and I have to take medication every day just to function and survive. Every few months, I get cortisone injections in my hands so I can continue to use them and to play the piano. In October, I’ll perform a third piano recital here as a faculty member of Drury. It would be so easy to say, “This is too hard. I quit.” And to be honest, on my hardest days, that’s what’s going on in my head. But every practice session and performance is a victory and a declaration of what God has done in my life. And you know what? If the day ever comes when my hands are no longer able to play the piano, that will be hard, but God will still be good and my life will still be abundant.

The reality is my life is hard, but my life isn’t bad. Even with lupus, my life is good and God continues to be good. And with all of the struggles and obstacles I’ve faced the past six years, I can confidently say, “Because the Lord is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”

So here’s what I want you to take away from my story:

I want you to know that whatever you’re going through—no matter how dark, or hopeless, or difficult—God is bigger. He’s bigger than your circumstances, bigger than your dreams, bigger than your fears. He’s even bigger than your failures. There’s nothing and no one that is beyond what God can handle or redeem.

I want you to know that God is who He says He is. He is good, He loves you, and He is with You. What we experience in this world doesn’t change that. When we suffer, it becomes more difficult to believe those things. So do the work of theology. That’s not something that’s reserved for “theologians” and pastors; it’s something we are all called to do as Jesus followers. Over and over in Scripture, we are beckoned to know God, not just about Him, but to know Him personally and deeply. So dig into His Word and wrestle with your doubts, questions, and preconceived ideas through study, prayer, and even community. That’s what I was doing as I wrote in my journal. I was wrestling. And as I did that, God gave me what I needed to be able to face my difficult circumstances with hope and peace.

I want you to know that you don’t have to be afraid of the waiting or the silence. Just because we can’t see or hear God doesn’t mean He’s not there. There are things that God can do in the waiting and silence that are more powerful and more beautiful than we can imagine in the moment. So amidst the waiting and silence, cling to God. And when it feels impossible to cling to Him, allow Him to cling to You.

And I want you to know that it’s okay to pray ugly prayers. When I was waiting for a diagnosis, I prayed a lot of ugly prayers. They weren’t always the most reverent or refined. They were raw, and gut wrenching, and tear-soaked. And most importantly, they were honest. We are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. God wants all of us; not just the pretty, put-together parts of us. The same Jesus who cried in the Garden of Gethsemane, pleading to the Father so intensely that He sweat drops of blood—this same Jesus is not offended or shocked by our ugly prayers. In fact, he’s able to empathize with us and understand our pain. And because it’s in our ugly prayers when we’re most honest with God, those are the moments when He’s most able to speak into our hearts.

I’d like to close with a verse you’ve heard me read a couple times already, but this time from the New Living Translation. Whatever you’re going through today, let this be your anthem:

“I know the Lord is always with me.

I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.”

(Psalm 16:8, NLT)

I’m Writing a Book!

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“You should write a book,” people said again and again. And each time, my answer was the same:

“Thanks, but I don’t think so.”

I’m not the type of person who writes books. I’m someone who sits at a piano all day to teach and perform, or someone who gets up in front of a crowd to preach. I love journaling and blogging, but write a book? Nope. Not me.

But something changed the moment the strip on the pregnancy test did not turn blue and I had to face the realization that I would never hold a child in my arms that I once carried in my belly. In that moment, the optimism people knew me for disappeared and I became broken and empty. I woke up every morning in tears, struggling to find a reason to get out of bed. My world became dark and I was desperate for even a sliver of light.

I couldn’t pray. I couldn’t read my Bible. Even though my husband—who is on staff at a church—never pressured me to go to church, I felt obligated to go. And it was a struggle; there were Sundays when I couldn’t bring myself to get out of bed. And on the days when I found the strength to drag myself to church, I couldn’t sing along to the worship songs; I just sat in my pew and wept.

I couldn’t feel God, I could no longer see His hand in my life, and His overwhelming silence made me feel rejected and unwanted. But just because I couldn’t feel God didn’t mean He wasn’t there. And what I couldn’t see during this season—but I see clearly now—is that while I did a terrible job of clinging to God, God did a wonderful job at clinging to me.

Little by little, I felt God’s comfort, slivers of light quietly invading my darkness. And one day, when my broken faith was barely a small shard of what it once was, it was enough to give me the emotional strength to open my Bible and wrestle with my Creator. God answered my disappointment with comfort, hope, and purpose. In a previous post, I wrote about this moment and shared, “God drowned my wilderness and flooded me with His comfort.” What I didn’t write in that post is what He whispered after He comforted me:

“Write a book.”

I had just experienced the miracle of God’s comfort after battling months of heartache and depression and heard His beautiful voice after He stayed silent for so long, and I was overwhelmed enough. Now he was telling me to write a book? Surely He hadn’t! Surely I heard wrong! Surely I was just getting overexcited! So I walked away from that moment basking in God’s presence and comfort and I ignored the whole silliness about writing a book.

And then Sunday came. During worship, a sweet friend come to me and said she wanted to pray for me. As she started praying, she began to prophesy over me. Now, let me explain that I’m Pentecostal, but I’ve had enough people speak ridiculous “words from the Lord” over me when I was growing up to make me super cautious and wary. But this young woman didn’t shout, “Thus says the Lord…” She began to tell me the words I had cried out to God days before—words she could not have known unless she was hearing from God. She even articulated prayers I thought in my heart but never uttered with my lips. And then she said, “There is a purpose for all your suffering. God has already begun to show you. You’ve seen the light of some of it, but there’s so much more than what you can see now.” She said it again and again: “There is purpose for your suffering.”

And as she spoke, I heard God whisper a single word into my soul: “Write.”

That word didn’t sound silly anymore; it sounded beautiful. It began sounding less like something I had to do because God said so and more like an amazing, Kingdom dream that I get to do because God birthed it in my heart. Birthed. What a funny word! Something was growing inside of me. Not the baby I expected, but something just as amazing.

And as I came to grips with this beautiful dream, I became overwhelmed with its impossibility. If I did this, it would be a gargantuan leap of faith, and I was scared. I don’t know much about getting a book published, but I know enough to know that I don’t have the right connections and I’m a nobody to the publishing world. And when I would remind God of this important information, He would remind me who He is: the Creator of the world, the One who spoke life into being, the One who works miracles. I just needed to keep my eyes on Him and walk in faith.

And in time, I began to see the steps before me. No leaps, just steps. And I took them one at a time. I journaled, then started blogging again, then started reading books about writing books. Each step has led to another. And as I take each one, this dream is looking less scary and God is looking larger.

There was one morning when I came to a point where I couldn’t see any more steps in front of me. I was drowning in the bigness of this dream and exclaimed, “God, I don’t know what I’m doing! I need a writing coach!” Later that morning, I was scrolling through social media and one of my favorite authors had a bunch of videos on Instagram Stories about how she was going to open her schedule to do some coaching calls. Talk about God’s timing! He totally delivered! Oh, and that coaching call ended up being one of the most encouraging and life-giving experiences of my life. It transformed my “I can’t do this,” into, “This is going to happen! God is really going to make this happen!”

This is going to happen. I’m actually doing it. I’m writing a book!

Yet

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One of my favorite words in the Bible is “yet.”

yet

ADVERB
Up until the present or a specified or implied time; by now or then.
Still; even (used to emphasize increase or repetition)
In spite of that; nevertheless
CONJUNCTION
But at the same time; but nevertheless.
These three letters are easy to miss. We rush past “yet” to find the “good stuff,” not realizing that “yet” is the good stuff.
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
and by night, but I find no rest.
Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.”
“O you hope of Israel,
its savior in time of trouble,
why should you be like a stranger in the land,
like a traveler who turns aside to tarry for a night?
Why should you be like a man confused,
like a mighty warrior who cannot save?
Yet you, O Lord, are in the midst of us,
and we are called by your name;
do not leave us.”
“Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
God, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the deer’s;
he makes me tread on my high places.”

God doesn’t stop being who He is just because life becomes hard. Darkness and suffering don’t negate God; they provide the canvas to make His light and goodness more visible.

So let’s make “yet” part of our anthem:

  • Though what I’m going through is hard, yet God is still good.
  • Though my heart is heavy and I don’t know how I’m going to make it, yet I will live with joy because God is my hope and my strength.
  • Though God seems distant and His silence is drowning the sound of my prayers, yet He is near, He hears my cries, and He’s working in ways my eyes cannot see.
  • Though my life is hard and messy, yet I will keep praising God, holding onto Him, and trusting in Him because He is still an amazing God who loves me and is able to accomplish infinitely more than I ask or think.

“Yet” is the kind of word where the tension between theology and real life thrives. It does not deny the reality of what we’re going through, but it chooses to focus on a bigger reality that our human eyes cannot always see. This word changes our perspective, taking our gaze off ourselves and lifting our eyes to the Almighty God who holds all things together and has the power to redeem people and situations.

 


 

Weep With Me,” by Rend Collective

Weep with me. Lord, will You weep with me?

I don’t need answers. All I need is to know that You care for me.

Hear my plea. Are You even listening?

Lord, I will wrestle with Your heart, but I won’t let You go.

You know I believe. Help my unbelief.

Yet I will praise You, yet I will sing of Your name.

Here in the shadows, here I will offer my praise.

What’s true in the light is still true in the dark.

You’re good and You’re kind and You care for this heart.

Lord, I believe that You weep with me.

Part the seas, Lord, make a way for me.

Here in the midst of my lament I have faith, yes, I still believe.

You love me. Your plans are to prosper me.

You’re working everything for good even when I can’t see.

Turn my lament into a love song. From this lament raise up an anthem.

Yet I will praise You, yet I will sing of Your name.

Here in the shadows, here I will offer my praise.

What’s true in the light is still true in the dark.

You’re good and You’re kind and You care for this heart.

Lord, I believe that You weep with me.

 

A Wilderness Prayer

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During a dark, wilderness season of my life, trying to pray was a battle. But even though I struggled to verbalize prayers during this season, there was a brief moment when I was able to write one in my journal. There were numerous days when I desperately wanted to pray “better,” something with actual substance, so I would open my journal and recite my written prayer.

Throughout my life, I’ve prayed so many prayers that God didn’t answer the way I hoped He would. But this prayer is one that He answered infinitely more beautifully than I could have imagined. He always knows what is best. His way is always better than mine.

So if you find yourself in a wilderness and wanting to pray (or wanting to want to pray), but you just can’t, that’s okay. Know that God still sees you and hears the cry of your heart. His grace is sufficient when you have no words to say. And when your soul is desperately grasping for words and falling short, may these words from my journal help you get started:

Giver of Life, Redeemer of dreams, and Comforter of my soul,

Be near me.

Clothe me with dignity and strength, and help me to laugh at the time to come.

Give me eyes to see as you do.

And make me useful for Your Kingdom.

Amen.

Trying to Pray

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As I slowly pulled my tired body out of bed, I felt it again. Overwhelming sadness. It was the same sadness I had been feeling every day for months. I remember the exact moment this sadness became a part of my life: the moment after waiting several minutes to discover that the strip did NOT turn blue. After surgery, many months of infertility treatment, and “pouring out my soul before the Lord” (1 Samuel 1:15), I was not pregnant.

It was a hard enough blow to learn that, yes, I truly am incapable of bearing children. But it was excruciating to find out when I did: the Tuesday before Mother’s Day. It was like some sort of sick, cosmic joke. Any time I turned on the television, bought groceries, or did anything, “Happy Mother’s Day” everything scraped against my fresh wounds.

I think this would be a good time to explain that I’m a Christian and I believe in a God who hears our prayers and is able to work miracles. Many months prior to the strip not turning blue, my doctor told me I had a zero percent chance of getting pregnant. But I was about to have surgery, and that meant there would be hope. We had been down this road years before. Surgery, followed by hope, followed by disappointment. But this time, we had a plan to increase the probability of getting pregnant after surgery from a “zero percent chance” to a “slight chance.” And I laid my “slight chance” before God in a series of intense prayers drowned in a thousand tears. I was full of faith and, at the same time, willing to accept what God’s will may or may not hold. I begged Him to make my longings to bear a child go away and to not let me go down this road if motherhood wasn’t at the end of it. I prayed for wisdom and guidance. I prayed for Him to help me stay obedient to His will. And after weeks of praying like this—and the longing for motherhood ever persisting—I prayed for a miracle.

And I was disappointed.

For months, I lived with a label seared into my heart. “Barren.” My body was unable to carry and nurture life. I was not dead, but I no longer felt alive. My life had become a bare wilderness. Dry and lonely. I felt broken, purposeless, useless, and like a failure as a woman and wife.

I wish I could say that in those months, I fervently sought the face of God and clung to Him. I tried to, but I just couldn’t. On a good day, I would pick up my Bible, set it back down, and pray, “I can’t today, God. I’m sorry.” Some days I could actually open my Bible and read a paragraph before whispering, “God, this is all I can read today. Thank You for your grace. Please help me.” Most days, my Bible remained untouched and no words came, only deep wailing and tears. It’s not that I didn’t want God; the pain was too overwhelming. I could barely pray even when I went to church; I mostly just sat in my pew and cried.

In the midst of all of this, God was silent. It was through this season of silence and wilderness that I learned that when we’re unable to cling to God, He clings to us. And when He clings to us, that is enough. At times, He doesn’t use words because He knows some wounds are too deep for words. He knows exactly what we need: we need Him to be there. And He is.

After a long season of silence, I began to hear God’s still, small voice again. When I prayed, “I can’t today, God. I’m sorry,” He would respond, “That’s ok.” Two words. Months of silence were followed by barely anything. But when you’re desperate, “barely anything” is just the lifeline you need. And slowly, it became easier to pray my tiny prayers.

Then one day, I was done. I was done praying badly. I was done feeling the same overwhelming sadness again and again. I was done being in this wilderness. So in the early hours of morning—so early that even the sun was still in bed—I woke up, dragged my sleepy body to the living room, and opened my Bible. When I started reading, I felt nothing. But I forced myself to engage, circling words, underlining phrases. And when I finished, I prayed. I mean, really prayed with ugly tears. I was determined to pray until…until. And after asking all my “why” and “how long” questions, I said what had been brewing in my heart for so long:

“God, You really disappointed me.”

Those words had been pent up in my heart for so long that when they came out, they kept coming out again and again. Loudly. It was like a wrestling match; and if volume and tears were points, I was winning. “God, You really disappointed me! You disappointed my husband! I told You I didn’t want to go through all of this if it didn’t end in motherhood and YOU DISAPPOINTED ME!” And I kept going until I felt like I got it all out. Then after some moments of silence, God answered. Not with condemnation or guilt, but with these words: “Read the passage you read earlier again.”

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-7)

And after I read those words, God drowned my wilderness and flooded me with His comfort.

The Father of mercies and God of all comfort turned my barren wilderness into a river.