Sustaining: Keep Going

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.  – Isaiah 43:2

My faith has been built and strengthened by God’s love revealed in past situations.  I was reflecting on that this week, how one event led to another, to another, to another.

For example, when I had my first miscarriage, when I got the diagnosis that a miscarriage was inevitable, I sat with God, asking for a miracle.  But if not, that I trusted Him and that I knew He had a bigger plan.  That wasn’t out of the blue.

It was built on the experiences before that.  It was built on the “come to Jesus” conversation I had in my car right before I met Michael.  It was built on being led to a job that I enjoyed for almost 10 years helping other people.  It was built on seeing God in my life when my life felt out of control.

And when I lost my first daughter in stillbirth, the claims that I was stubbornly in love with God and that I would stay faithful no matter what, that was built on all of the things He had done after the first miscarriage.

Reflecting on this verse, I realize that God isn’t saying “if” you pass through the waters, “if” you walk through the fire.  It’s not “if,” it’s “when.”  But when it does happen, He will be there.  And looking back, I’m reminded again and again how His walk with me has strengthened my faith with every step.  Just keep going.

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Sustaining: The Lord Prepares

In my readings this week, the verse that hit me was:

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. – Ephesians 2:10

Usually, this verse takes on an evangelical slant for me.  That the people I reach out to, the community I serve, were prepared for me and I was prepared for them.

But then I think about my response to my loss.  In the years and decades leading up to that moment of no heartbeat, God had been preparing me.  The faith I exhibited wasn’t because of something I did, something I prepared for.  Who prepares for things like that?  Who knows what is to come?

But God did.  In the conversations with friends going through infertility years before we even thought about having kids.  In the classes that showed a bigger picture of God’s world.  Even in the practice of yoga that reminded me to breathe and take each moment in slowly.  Grief therapy came at the perfect moments.  A therapist who had walked my path before me.  God was preparing it all.

And he’s not done.  Through this journey, he’s preparing me to do good works for others.  To minister to women who are walking this path.  To show compassion to those hurting from the loss in their lives.  To give grace and space to others around me.

He gives purpose to pain.  And I am ever grateful for it.

Sustaining: Be Gracious

Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. – Proverbs 16:24

It has not been hard lately to be grateful.  Sun is shining.  My relationships are going pretty well.  And I have a son.  And he’s pretty spectacular, though I’m pretty bias.

I think back to the moments that weren’t so sun-shiny.  The moments when my life was turned upside down by the loss of a heartbeat.  The moments when I laid in the middle of the floor in the fetal position crying out to God.

In those moments, I still practiced gratitude.  And I had one incredible thing to be grateful for that I couldn’t forget.

I had a God to cry out to.  And he would hear me.  And he wouldn’t forsake me.

And that was healing for me.  I would name the ways God has shown up in my life, big and small, and remind myself that he would do it again and again.  And I would praise him.  I would tell him how grateful I am to have him in my life.  That he chose me.  That he loves me.

This verse in Proverbs reminded me this week how important it is to continue practicing gratitude every day.  It’s not about being optimistic and smiley.  It’s about making a habit for the hard days ahead.  Because they will come.  But God will be there in the storm, just as much as he is here today in the sunshine.

 

Sustaining: Be Refreshing

As I mentioned last week, I’m in a Sustaining season when it comes to Bible study.  That means that my life is basically hectic, and I don’t have the time to dig as deep as I would like into God’s Word.  So, right now, I’m giving myself grace and space, leaning on Bible app devotionals and a verse or two each day, and spending time at night journaling to God and starting each morning with baby worship music (Father Abraham, anyone?).

This past week in my devotional time, I came across this verse:

A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. – Proverbs 11:25

I love a good Proverb.  And this particular one defined generosity differently than I usually think of it.  Biblical generosity, to me, has always really meant our resources – time, food, and especially finances.  But when I think of someone being refreshing, I think of the kind of person who walks into a room and immediately lightens the atmosphere.  I think of someone who is encouraging and supportive.  Someone who brightens another’s day.

Am I being generous with my spirit?  Do I give people the benefit of the doubt?  Am I genuinely joyful and encouraging to those around me?  Do I show gratitude to others for what they do?

I am not talking about faking a smile or being disingenuous.  We all have bad days.  We all get cranky.  But in those moments, I can remember those who have been refreshing to me.  Those that made me smile or laugh, or put my mind at ease.  This verse has convicted me to strive to be more refreshing to everyone I meet – customer service agents, friends, neighbors, and family.  And the only way I can do this is to dwell in the Lord, the ultimate refresher, and sustainer of my soul.

What is sustaining you lately?

 

Sustaining: Finding Rest

Last week, I talked about the different types of Bible study that I have done in the last few years.  They change up as the rhythms and seasons of my life change.  Right now, I’m in a sustaining season.

This week, I’ve been using a devotional from a Bible app about finding rest.  I figured in this period of anxiety, focusing a few minutes of my day resting in God’s arms and promises could only be beneficial to me.

In this study, a particular verse has remained in my thoughts throughout my week.

You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.  – Psalm 63:1

This resonated with me because lately, I’ve been really thirsty.  Between this incredibly hot summer and breastfeeding, I’m longing for a cool drink of water just about all day.  Especially after my morning walks with the boy.  The temperatures this week are in the triple digits, and although I tend to get out early before the heat really settles in, it’s still pretty warm during those walks.  While Sam is in his cool, shaded stroller, I am walking in the direct sunlight with only the clothes on my back and the sunscreen on my skin to protect me.

When I arrive back home, the first thing I do is reach for a water bottle in the fridge.  The iced water replenishes me and cools down my inner temperature.  And while it’s nice to have a cold cloth on the neck or to stand in front of a fan, nothing compares to a glass of cold water.  Because it works from the inside out.  Just like God.  The writer of the Psalm longs to drink in God’s spirit so that it can replenish from the inside out.  And nothing compares to that renewal.

What is sustaining you lately?

 

Bible Study

In this season of my life, Bible study looks completely different than it did a year ago.

At first, I felt a little guilty.  My Bible study didn’t look like what I thought it was supposed to look like.  But then I realized that it doesn’t have to be the Instagram picture in my head of the early morning time, with a cup of tea or coffee, an open Bible along with a pen and notebook.

While it still includes some prayer journal time at night, my mornings include a verse or two of scripture on my own, and then some kids worship songs with the boy (he is loving Father Abraham).  Last year, I dug in deep on some of my favorite women of the Bible which then led to some more digging into genealogy and wherever my curiosity took me.  But right now, with the unpredictable nature of my day, that just isn’t feasible.

That’s when I realized Bible study can be all the above things, but it can also be other things.  My time in the Word has changed depending on my circumstances over the last five years, and they seem to fall into three categories.

Challenging

Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. Psalm 86:1

This is the digging deep time.  It’s diving into the stories of men and women in the Bible, allowing my curiosities to guide me.  It may lead to studying a particular book or workbook that will challenge me, not just mentally but spiritually as well.  It’s the stretching and reaching part of a study that I love to do, and when I do, I get obsessed.

Comforting

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”  Psalm 46:1

Right after I lost my daughter, I needed God.  I needed his comfort.  I spent more time journaling than I read during this time, but I did lean on verses and stories in the Bible that bring me that comfort.  When I find a verse that soothes my soul, I write it down for these particular moments.

But also, I would listen to music.  I feel like God’s Word and his promise can play out in music.  I would ball up on the floor, crying my eyes out, just playing the same songs over and over.  Songs that remind me that God hasn’t forsaken me.

Sustaining

“Behold, God is my helper. The Lord is the one who sustains my soul.” Psalm 55:4

This is where I am now.  There are times I don’t even know what day it is.  Everything is just running together as I am caring for this little boy in my arms.  I don’t have the time for challenging study, but I still need something to sustain.  So, if it’s just a verse or two, that’s okay.  And if I find an interesting curiosity, I write it down for later when I have more time to follow up.

I no longer feel guilty if I don’t have 30 minutes every day to devote to Bible study or prayer or worship.  Someday I will have that time to dig deep.  Someday I may need those moments of comfort.  But for now, I do what I need to sustain my relationship with God, even if it’s only for a few moments today.

I know that I’m not the only one who has felt this way.  And I’m also wanting a little accountability.  So, on Fridays, the plan is to share something I read or listened to that week from one of these categories (to be honest, it will probably being the sustaining category for a while).  I’m excited to try this, and I encourage you to share a verse or song that’s speaking to you as well!