Selected to be a part of Tribe magazine’s short story compilation on The Power in Motherhood, I wanted to show my youngest daughter’s strength and tenacity through a simple metaphor. I used a flower in all its innocent beauty to highlight the raw delicacy and grace of my little firecracker. Come on over to Tribe Magazine and check it out! I am among 12 amazing writers who also talk about motherhood in their very own unique and thoughtful ways.
At my women’s Bible study this week, a word was spoken during worship to encourage the weary. It was simply this:
“God doesn’t care about your comfort, He cares about your well-being. “
As soon as I heard it, I grabbed hold of it with both hands. I knew that there was some deep truth in that phrase for me to search out. It sounded remarkably like another phrase that was spoken to me by a mentor during a dark season of my life:
“God is more concerned about your heart than your happiness.”
Both of these words were meant to encourage and challenge me. They definitely didn’t make me feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside. In fact, they stung my pride just a little bit. And I was reminded of King David from the Bible who was called a man after God’s own heart as a young boy yet had to wait about twenty more years to walk in the promise of Kingship over Israel.
He already had the promise but his heart wasn’t capable of carrying the weight of its fulfillment just yet.
That resonates with me. I feel like I’ve been stuck forever in the waiting room of my life when it comes to dream fulfillment. One step forward, two steps back, until I fall over into the chair of discomfort and discontentment.
My heart and my mind wonder: Did you really put that dream in my heart when I was 16, God?
Much like David, I have been fighting battles with lions and bears in the wilderness. Goliath’s of all shapes and sizes have come against me during this time of waiting. Saul’s have come after me with evil plans and many times I’ve just wanted to find a cave and hide away.
But I have had to believe that “Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me.” (Psalm 54:4)
I have had to trust that God is helping me fight each and every battle with the intent of preparing my heart for what He has called me to do in the future. That each time I’m blindsided by pain, my purpose is being refined through God’s sustaining love.
I now see, if given the opportunity as a young woman, I would have chosen to go after dreams based upon my personal comfort And comfort can be downright fatal to the health of one’s soul.
“For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.” (2 Chronicles 16:9)
A committed heart doesn’t come from an easy life. How can you tell if I’m committed if I’ve never had anything threaten my happiness? Commitment comes only after we have made a choice to stick with someone through all that may come our way.
A devoted heart doesn’t happen overnight.
If I had been given the opportunity to fulfill my dreams at 16, I would have wavered in my faith because my heart wasn’t strong enough to carry them yet. Years of discomfort and disappointment have come my way while I’ve been waiting. But, my heart has learned contentment and faithfulness because of the delay.
And if my dreams match the condition of my heart, I want to position myself under the waterfall of His love as much as possible. Comfort comes from Him when my faith is stagnant, but it never causes me to stop pursuing something greater than myself.
A healthy heart is my calling. And Jesus is the only doctor that can make that dream come true.
Hi friends! Today, Jamie Sumner from The Mom Gene has contributed the first guest Grace Story on Grace for the Wasted Space! I’m so excited to have a piece of her story here because she writes about something that we can all relate to: Perspective. She tells of hope found in the middle of a hard season that may not ever change this side of heaven. However, the thing she focuses on is prayer despite the circumstances that she wishes were a little bit different. And that is where the truth is not only found but where it resonates with each of our hearts. The waiting and hoping doesn’t necessarily change things, but the praying, well, it always does. Even if the only thing that it changes is the person praying. Welcome Jamie by leaving her an encouraging comment and then go check her out at her beautiful blog: The Mom Gene.
Sit and Stare
13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted they were aliens and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had the opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one.
Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob. Paul lists them all and their faithful deeds like an exemplary contact list before he gets to this aside. Whenever I read this passage, I feel it in my chest, that balloon expansion as each one performs the necessary act of faith and then receives the reward. Abel offers the best sacrifice. Noah builds the boat and sees the rainbow. Sarah waits decades and has a baby. But Cain murders Abel and Noah must start from scratch on the new boggy earth and Sarah dies before she sees substantial proof of the patriarchal branch leading to the future Israelite nation. They listen to God and receive a blessing, but it is the smaller blessing. A slice of the pie.
I could read up to verse thirteen and stop there. Put a period to the happy ending. There’s so much good there. But if I’m begrudgingly honest, the rest is the best. It’s the whole pie. It’s the land we were built for where these tiny stories fit together to make a better scene. I prayed over my infertility and was blessed with Charlie and Jonas and Cora, but we also got cerebral palsy and a wheelchair and twins who must push behind rather than run beside their big brother. Big blessings with bigger wishes yet unmet.
The alien heart in me aches for the place where the three will run together. I want to see it with my own eyes. I want to hug them all while they stand on their own, heights not marked by braces or standers or stools. But I will try to be satisfied today knowing we will.
The thing that keeps me praying in this world is that there is another one. If this was all there is I think I might not be able to see my way past all the unfulfilled desires and the unfairness.
I might only see the wheelchair and not the boy. I might only feel the fear for my children’s future in what looks like a scarier and darker world than the fluffy one from which I hatched. But that’s not the full picture. It’s like the impressionists with their dots. You stand with your nose too close and it looks a jumbled mess. You take a few steps back and it’s a lady, a boat, a lake, a masterpiece.
I’m really trying to let these verses elicit hope rather than frustration. It does not always work. But it’s never going to work if I don’t practice. You don’t speed-walk through the museum. You sit and stare and let all that wide thinking and talent settle over you. You read every signpost steering you on to the next. You assess each piece from every angle, because each approach is different. And then you go back and visit again on another day in another mood and see even more and leave hoping that some of it rubbed off on you.
I was blessed to write a piece for The Empower Up Project yesterday. For those of you who don’t know, this amazing community/website “was created to provide ALL women with a platform where we can help each other grow, succeed and collaborate.” It was founded by the awesome Kim Albano, a leadership and development consultant doing the work of lifting women up and helping them go after their dreams. I am honored to play a little part in her vision of empowerment with a grace story that I wrote in view of my sister’s joy-filled perspective on life despite her daily struggle with the effects of breast cancer.
For those of you who are new to Grace for the Wasted Space and don’t know my sister’s story, check it out here. For those of you who need some light shed on your dark path right now, come on over to The Empower Up Project and see what I learned while watching my sister go through the greatest battle of her short life. Maybe you know someone that needs a little hope in this season. Maybe you need some?
I’ll leave you with this heartfelt quote from my piece and hope it resonates with you:
“We don’t have to say much to understand each other’s hearts. The seagulls squawking over a child’s sandy snack in the distance say what we’re both thinking: There’s just not enough to go around, is there? Or so it would seem. There are too many unfulfilled needs to be met. Too many broken hearts to be mended. Too many desperately lost to be saved. “
I remember the last conversation I had with my dad like it was yesterday. He was in the hospital for complications that arose from his long battle with brain tumors. He and I had a few moments together alone and the silence was deafening as we thought of ways to ignore the obvious. He mentioned how hard it all was and that it was only getting increasingly difficult each day. Our conversation was short and bittersweet as we held hands and focused on using words that mattered. I don’t remember everything that was said, but I do remember the Bible verse that he pointed me to as our conversation ended.
“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”- Philippians 1:21
I thought I understood this verse until I was faced with the exact representation of what it actually means. My dad, a devoted follower of Jesus, was dying too young. And I, his naïve daughter, couldn’t believe that dying could actually be better than living. Until that moment.
Over the next few days his condition worsened and word got out among my dad’s piano students, colleagues, friends, and family that he was in the hospital. To count the number of people that came to visit and tell him of his impact on their lives would be far from accurate because there were so many. His life truly had been a life set apart for Christ with a farther reach then he will ever know. He couldn’t say thank you or offer anything in return those last few hours. All he could do was receive the love being poured out on him by the lives that were forever changed because of his Jesus centered calling.
As I reflect on the six year anniversary of his death today, I am reminded of what those last words to me really meant. It’s so simple, isn’t it? We have a choice each day to live for a purpose far beyond ourselves. As my dad’s hospital bed was surrounded by people until the very end, I, too, should aim to reach as many people (if not more) for the great cause of Christ. There is no reason to live a self-centered life when there are so many that desperately need the love that only Jesus can give. God used my dad’s fun and kind personality to draw people into His one-of-a-kind love and He wants to use me too.
The thing that I’m left to ponder is the dying part. We get to represent Christ from a limited standpoint while on this earth. But we get to experience Christ in the most intimate way possible once we leave this earth. My dad understood this. And, even though it’s hard for me to live without him, I know that I, too, being a follower of Christ, will enjoy this truth one day as well. We are never without hope- even in the wake of death.
God’s grace always shows up when we aren’t looking for it. That solemn day, my dad was the chosen deliverer of grace to a broken girl who had no idea just how much she needed it. Amazing.