Memories

memories.jpgToday, Facebook will remind me of when I went to the hospital to confirm that our daughter had passed.  Facebook will remind me of how I numbly pulled out my laptop and typed words on a screen.  Facebook will remind me of how I got back onto the familiar road of grief one year ago.

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I know that you can remove memory reminders on Facebook.  You can remove whole chunks of time if you want to.  But I don’t want to.  I want to remember the sweet nurse that kept hope for us as each medical device came back negative for a heartbeat.  I want to remember how the moment the ultrasound confirmed our worst fears, my OB turned around and created a new game plan.  If her sleeves weren’t already rolled up, I know she would have in that moment.  I want to remember my talk with Jesus, how I re-engaged my stubborn and desperate love in the middle of chaotic grief.

I thought I would be pregnant by now, though.  I hoped I would be, that maybe a new pregnancy would lessen the blow of grief that this week will bring.  But I do have my husband, God, friends, family.  And I’m so thankful that God has created these hedges of protection during one of the dark moments in my history.

God is good.  All the time.  Even in the darkened sad moments.  Especially then.

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Summer Study: Philippians 4

The final chapter of the final book of my summer study.  I can’t believe I’ve already arrived here.  This has been fun, fascinating, convicting, and amazing.  So let’s get into chapter 4 of Philippians!

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In this final chapter, Paul is saying his farewells.  In this letter, he’s covered how to remember the big picture, of the spiritual warfare that is prevalent though unseen, how to stand firm but be humble, knowing that we don’t have it all figured out.  But instead stay steadfast in Christ.  He continues along these lines pleading with specific people to stop fighting and unify for the sake of the kingdom.

But if I were to boil down the last chapter into one word, it would be “contentment”.  And there were two things that Paul felt would help the people of this church find contentment.  Praying with thanksgiving (meaning asking requests to God in the same breath as thanking him for what you have already received) and leaning on the strength of God.

He even uses himself as an example.  In whatever situation he is in, he has learned to be content.  But he also recognizes with thankfulness the generosity from this church that has enabled him to reach so many others.  But even in that gratitude, he acknowledges that his contentment comes with the help of his Heavenly Father.

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Because it’s not always easy to be content in our circumstances.  And while gratitude journals or using other ways to instill gratitude into our lives is helpful, I think it’s also helpful to acknowledge that we are weak in our humanity.  We are not going to have this all figured out.  We are not going to be perfect, even through practice.  And when we come up short, God’s grace and strength can fill in the gap.

I don’t really like thinking of myself this way.  Weak.  Failure.  Chaos.  Fumbling.  I like to think that if I follow the rules long enough, make the right choices every time, and envelope myself in the right environment, that I will have it figured out.  But if anyone could have filled out that resume, it would be Paul.  And as I learned in chapter 2, he considered all of his abilities and gifts and strength rubbish compared to what God had.

And God knows this, and he wants to use this.  He’s like “Give me your weakness and I will give you my strength.”  Because he doesn’t want people who have it all figured out because those people’s followers will just want to follow those people.  But when our weakness is exposed and God’s strength shines through, the followers and onlookers see only God.

It lifts off some of that responsibility we try to hold on to.  I thought for years that it was my job to convert the hearts of others, but instead, I’ve learned that I just need to love them.  But in order to do that, I have to get that love from God, so I need to be in a relationship with him so that he fills me up with love to the point that it overflows to others in my life.  Hence, love God, love others.

Thank you so much for following me through this summer study.  It’s amazing the little things, little reminders, that shine through the text that I’ve read so many times before. I look forward to new things and ideas this fall!

Summer Study: Philippians 2

If you didn’t read last week’s start to this particular study, you can find that here.

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I am reminded, as I read these chapters just how much I love Philippians and how much it challenges me.  If I were to put a theme to chapter 2, it would be “It’s not about you.”

Paul starts by challenging the Philippians to unify in love, spirit, and purpose.  To put each other first.  To leave behind selfish ambition and vain conceit.  To be like Christ.

Because Christ was equal to God, but he didn’t come to the earth to teach us how to be equal to God.  Instead, he came to teach us humility and obedience.  To take on a servant’s role.  And it was through subservience that God exalted him in heaven.  Because you know God loves to turn societal definitions and expectations on their head.

And here’s my motto for the week:

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It makes me want to sing that “Shine Bright Like a Diamond” song.  But as I was humming the tune, I realized how different God’s shine might be from the world.

Jesus, of course, attracted people to him.  His words, his actions, the miracles, the kindness, and forgiveness.  He definitely shined.  Even experienced a bit of a celeb status at times, but it wasn’t something he was chasing after.  He wasn’t trying to shine for the world to see him.  He was shining on the world to let them know that God saw them.  That God saw their pain and their hurt, and Jesus was sent to give them rest, to extend to them forgiveness and healing, to die so that they may be saved.

And here, Paul is saying the same thing.  Don’t do things out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.  Don’t seek the attention, the acceptance, the praise of men.  Seek to submit to the will of God.  God will see you shine, even if men remain blind.  Complaining comes with a sense of entitlement, but we see reality.  We are chosen by God, true, and we are precious in His sight.  But we have done nothing to deserve that status.  We are not actually entitled to any of it.  But it’s given to us anyway.

So whatever it is that God wants me to do to further his Kingdom, I will try to submit and obey and remember the example of Jesus.  To not complain but encourage.  To not argue but submit.  To do nothing in selfishness or vanity, but instead, seek out the overlooked and ignored and isolated, and share the love of God with them.

May we all shine this week.

Summer Study: Philippians 1

I completed the Ephesians study last week, so the plan is to finish the summer with a study in Philippians.  So, here’s what I learned from Chapter 1.

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I’ve always loved Philippians.  Finding joy in the direst of circumstances.  Plus, the love that is shared between Paul and this church.  It’s just something awesome.  Philippi was the place the Paul met Lydia, cast out the demon possessed, fortune-telling girl, and stayed put in a prison earthquake which led to the conversion of the jailer.  I can imagine that in verse 13 when he mentions the fact that the whole palace guard is aware that he is in chains for Christ, that the same jailer connected with that.

But the verse that really stood out for me, or verses, 12-18.

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What has happened to me.  This unfortunate situation has brought about great fortune.  Because of where he is, what he has experienced, doors are opening for Paul.  He speaks into the lives of those around him.  He makes a difference.  It gives purpose to his suffering.  That’s something that I realized when I wrote Scars after my first daughter died.  

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But the next few verses are really what threw me.

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It’s something that I have been learning recently, not just in my writing, but in all kinds of communication.  I have no control over how anything I say or write or do is received by others.  So much energy is used to try to edit and cultivate a message in order to control the outcome.  But the reality is I can try to be kind, try to keep in mind the feelings of others when I communicate, but in the end, they decide how to receive it and how they share it.  That is their right.

Everything I say will be filtered through other’s emotions, motives, and experiences.  If they are set on thinking I’m hateful, then what I say will be hateful.  If they were having a bad day, or if something I said was said in a way that has been hurtful to them in the past, it might not be taken well.  But if I know my motivations are true, and that I’m doing everything I can to honor God with my words, then I have to let go of the message and trust that God will work through it.

And in verse 18, Paul says, “What does it matter?  The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached.  And because of this, I rejoice.”  He knew that this wasn’t about him, that people were going to do what they were going to do, but he trusted the message.  The truth will always win in the end.  God is already on the throne.  And if I seek after Him, I cannot go astray.

Summer Study: Ephesians 4

I’m studying the book of Ephesians this summer.  Click here for Chapter 1Chapter 2, and Chapter 3.

 

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I try not to get too political on my blog.  There are definitely things I feel strongly about when it comes to politics, but I also feel like in this climate, not much is heard clearly and too much is being said.

This chapter in Ephesians talked about unity, something we desperately need in the church, maybe even in our country, but I want to focus on the church because that’s what Paul is talking about.  Starting in verse 14, he says:

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.  Instead speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.

I’ve seen people talk about the truth without love, and I’ve seen people talk about love without truth.  It makes me realize that this is a time for discerning, not in some legalistic way, but in a way that speaks towards growing up in Christ.  If I’m not becoming like Christ more each day, then I’m just chasing after the latest blog or podcast that makes me feel something, letting my emotions guide me instead of the Spirit.

I’m not saying that you can’t be led by the Spirit through a blog article or a podcast, but I’m saying that even these good things can become an idol.

In this same line of thought, Paul talks about the things these Ephesians needed to let go of in order to be in Christ, to “be made new in the attitude of your minds.”

The two things that stood out to me the most were the “in your anger do not sin” and “do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths.”  So I want to unpack that a bit.

He mentions anger twice in this chapter.  First, in verse 26 and 27 and then also in verse 31.  He doesn’t say that anger is a sin.  Anger is a response to injustice.  It is very much needed in our world.  But allowing anger to take hold of you, to root down deep and grow into bitterness, rage, even brawling and slander, that’s where it gets dangerous.

When I lost my daughters, I was never angry at God, but I was angry.  I have been angry at a society that doesn’t recognize the pain that pregnancy loss brings.  I have been angry at the thoughtlessness of other people’s comments or actions that heap coals on already suffering women.  And when I don’t let go of that anger, bitterness roots in deep and vomits out of my mouth in slews of judgment and pettiness.  It’s not pretty, folks.  And that kind of anger can divide.  I know why Paul mentions it twice.

Then he talked about the unwholesome talk, which I always thought was about profanity, but the second half of that verse talks about something different:

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

This isn’t about profanity.  This is about being critical without kindness, gossiping and venting to other people, talking without the expectation to listen.  It’s helping others according to their needs, not yours.  It’s a humble way of having a conversation. It isn’t about how right you are, it’s about helping a person who is already ready to listen. How many times have we seen on social media the back and forth vitriol that never seems to amount to anything more than an unfollow or unfriend?

And also, just as a side note, sharing the crazy to talk about how crazy it is to friends who already know that it’s crazy doesn’t seem to be helpful or building up anyone in particular.  It just seems to be meant to tear everyone down, and again, divide us into groups who are yelling into the ether with no real desire to listen to one another at all.

This chapter really convicted me this week, and for this week, I’m going to use the last verse as my mantra wherever I go.  I hope you will do this with me.  I have it in the picture below that you can print off and tape to your mirror, which is what I’m going to do.  Let’s be people of unity, kindness, compassion, and forgiveness this week so we can grow more into the image of our big brother, Jesus.

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Summer Study: Ephesians 3

I’m studying the book of Ephesians this summer.  Click here for Chapter 1 and Chapter 2.

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I felt like this chapter was a transitional chapter.  Up to this point, Paul has been telling the church how rich God’s grace is.  In the first half of chapter 3, he continues this topic, but then ends the chapter with a prayer of unity for Ephesus, that they experience the riches of grace from God and the love of Christ within their church.

I can’t imagine what the Gentiles of the early church must have felt when they heard Paul say things like, “This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.”  That, “In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.”

On one side, there were Jews telling them that they had a bunch of hoops to jump through, and on the other, the gods of the pagans were unreachable.  Here, Paul is telling them that they can have a closeness, an acceptance from a God through faith in a man who conquered death, without strings attached.  That this relationship was foretold by prophets and apostles.

They were being introduced to the love of God through the faith in Jesus Christ by the words of the apostle Paul. This love sparked a religious and cultural revolution, that spread to the far reaches of the earth, that eventually landed among my ancestors and was passed down from generation to generation through the church to the glory of Christ.  And Paul speaks into that at the end of this chapter.

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And that’s just simply beautiful to me.