Tag Archives: Trusting God

Things I’m Learning from COVID-19

It’s been well over a month of social distancing so far. There is so much I’ve learned about myself and my family and my community, living in such an unique and unprecedented time in this generation. I’ve seen a few similarities between this experience and the experience of pregnancy loss. It makes sense because both situations contain abrupt, unexpected change and grief. But there are a couple other similarities, as well.

We are all having varied experiences. While there are cases in every state of this country, I imagine that the experience living in an urban city is very different than the experience living in a rural city. Also, different states gave shelter-in-place orders at different times, affecting social and economic communities differently. Though we are seeing more and more loss moving into all sectors, some have experienced it longer than others. Some places seem to have better access to healthcare than others, which affects both anxiety and the ability to recover from the disease

The same is true in pregnancy loss. Women experience loss at different times in their pregnancies. They may experience multiple losses. Even those losses are different from each other. And access to healthcare and support can also be different among women experiencing loss, which can lead to anxiety, depression, and a whole host of medical problems.

We are all having varied responses. Primarily, I believe, because we have such different experiences and beliefs, and a lot of fear of the unknown. We don’t know how this will all play out in the months and years ahead, how it will affect our economy and our health in the future. There are people who say we aren’t doing enough, while others say we are overreacting. And in all of the confusion, there are hurt feelings and loss on both sides.

This happens within the pregnancy loss community as well. I can’t tell you how many times people had an answer for what I was going through. Whether I wasn’t trying hard enough, or there was something I wasn’t doing right that was causing my loss. Or that I was overreacting about my loss and needed to move on. None of these responses were helpful, and I can imagine they aren’t helpful in this situation either.

How I Navigate It All

Since seeing the similarities between the two situations, I decided I would try to incorporate some of the thought processes and techniques that helped me through pregnancy loss into this experience as well. These worked for me, and they are great reminders, so I thought I would share them. But, disclaimer, they are in no way an exhaustive list, or a how-to list.

  1. I trust the opinions of my doctors over the opinions of my friends. I know this is a controversial idea. It helped that the doctors who took care of me through each pregnancy had also experienced loss and high risk in their own pregnancies. I think the same is true in this pandemic. We are all experiencing this together, and I think doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers want this to be over as quickly and safely as possible, just like we do.
  2. I also gave grace to those same doctors. They are educated and, yet, they are still humans. They don’t have all the answers, but they are making choices in an effort to save lives, whether pandemic or pregnancy. I am willing to sit in the tension and support those that have made their life’s work to take care of the sick and heal them and prevent others from being sick the best they can.
  3. I practice gratitude. I wish I could honestly say I do this intentionally every day. I do it, most definitely, when my anxiety is high. And it does come naturally to me in quiet moments when I’m making food for my family or folding clothes or interacting with my son (okay, that’s not as quiet of a moment). But gratitude has to be more than just being thankful, it has to breed generosity and kindness.
  4. I use whatever gifts or resources I can to encourage others. Again, this isn’t done perfectly. I could do this better. It’s a day-to-day struggle with my tendency to introvert myself into a hole versus keeping my eyes open to the needs of others. But I’m not too hard on myself, there are glimmers of who I want to be sprinkled throughout my day, whether that is checking in on a neighbor, sharing an encouraging word with a friend, or keeping a generous mentality over my resources. Or just providing safe space.
  5. I give space for others to grieve how and what they need to grieve. Our situation is different than other people’s situations. We all seem to be grieving just a little differently, but if I have learned anything from the pregnancy loss community, it’s that everyone has a right to their grief without others belittling it. I may not completely understand their experience, but I respect it and I honor it.

Of course, leaning on God and allowing him to guide me is interwoven into each of the above 5 things. My trust begins with knowing God is in control and sees a bigger picture than I ever will. That allows me to trust others with grace, find gratitude, generosity, and kindness in all things, and give space to others in their own journey. I don’t have it all figured out, and never will, but God is greater than my understanding, and I can rest in the hope of his promises today, and every day in the future.

No Other Gods

I’m part of a Mom Bible study group this fall, and we are studying Kelly Minter’s No Other Gods study about the false gods in our life. I’m right in the middle of the study, but man, is it convicting.

Of course, most of us don’t have actual idols in our houses, like the ones that the Israelites had in their homes in the Old Testament. But we definitely still have false gods that we turn to for the security, value and identity we are supposed to be seeking for in God. The big one that I’ve heard about before was money, how we will do anything for the security that money supposedly provides, but she also touches on good things in our life that can turn into gods.

Which is where I felt the sting of conviction.

Because you see, I like to make people happy. I like to encourage them, support them, make them smile. I like to please them.

Pleasing people sounds good. What is wrong with wanting people to like you? With being kind to people? With serving other people sacrificially? Aren’t we suppose to think of others as better than ourselves?

But being a people-pleaser, to me, means being held captive by other people’s opinions. I’m not just sacrificing myself, but other relationships, especially the ultimate relationship in my life, the relationship with God. I placed the opinion of people above everything else and allow it to affect my decisions, choose my paths, and define who I am.

It has become so ingrained in my life, that when I started to see it for the idol that it was, I realized I don’t actually have that strong of an identity on my own. My confidence has been eaten away. My sense of worth is low. Frankly, I don’t have a high opinion of who I am. I’ve been relying on the opinion of others for that.

I also realized that being a people-pleaser is not just a victim mentality, but it is also quite self-centered. Other people’s actions and reactions are taken personally. I would look inward at ways I could improve or change, thinking it was to better myself as a person, but really it was to appease someone’s opinion of me.

I couldn’t look outward to helping other people because I was so dependent on their opinion. I couldn’t look inward to work on the very low self-esteem because it had been so long dependent on other people I simply couldn’t do it myself. I needed to go up.

God, the creator of the universe. The Heavenly Father who sent his son to die for a world that was deep in their own sin. I can only imagine how long he has been watching me suffer in this captivity, waiting for me to simply look up.

I need to go to him for my worth, identity, and security. He is the solid ground that I crave. As I’ve been reading through the Bible this year, I have seen a God who is desperate for his people to love him, not because he needs it but that he desires us. He created us, and he knows what we need, and he actually wants to give it to us.

We don’t need the opinion of others to drive us. But, friends, this is really hard. I’ve been doing it for so long in one way or another. I’m not sure how else to be. But I rest in the fact that God knows the way out. He separated the Red Sea for the Israelites, surely he can rescue me.

I don’t know how this will play out, what tests and trials are ahead. I’m afraid I will fail and turn back to the false gods with their false promises. Working through this study is helping, but ultimately, I know that I need to just keep trusting God, knowing that he will reveal my identity, worth, and purpose, all in his good and perfect timing.

Psalm 40: 1-3

I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.

Psalm 40:1-3 (NIV)

When I was in middle school, there was a huge storm that came through our town. I mean, thunder and lightning and heavy raindrops. When we woke up the next morning, the street in front of our house had turned into a river, and the backyard had turned into a lake. School was canceled.

My friends came over and we were exploring everything (Though we did not play in the water. That would have been nasty.). As we were walking around the side of our house, my foot got caught in some mud. This wasn’t like a little mud you might slip in, it was more like quicksand you sink in. And I started to sink. I has to cry for help and my friends pulled me to out.

I think about that day when I read these verses. Mud clings and wraps and pulls. You can’t pull yourself out, you have to be pulled out. When God pulls us out, three things happen.

When you are placed on solid ground, it gives you a different perspective than when you are sinking in the mire. From that perspective, you are given hope and faith that can be shared with the people around you (singing a new song). And by sharing that hope and faith, others can put their trust in God and find their new perspective on their own solid ground.

It’s amazing to see the power of God in the struggle. How he can equip us to do the hard stuff. God did not create you to sink, but to sing.

Psalm 37:7

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.

Psalm 37:7 (NIV)

This verse feels like the opposite of the American reaction to adversity. The “pull yourself up by your bootstraps and outwit the enemy” mentality. Instead this Psalm encourages stillness and putting trust in God, letting go of jealousy.

We want to see the bad guys lose, the underdogs win, but it doesn’t always happen that way. And we get frustrated. But we don’t understand the bigger plan the way God does.

Ultimately, there is a bigger picture. Whether we are called to be still or called to move forward, whether or not we overcome the obstacles and defeat the adversaries, may we continually wait on the Lord, be still in his presence and put our trust in him.

Summer Study: Ephesians 5

Ephesians5

The chapter starts out with a list of “dos” and “don’ts” for the people of Ephesus.  Don’t have a hint of sexual immorality or impurity.  Don’t engage in obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking.  Don’t get drunk on wine.  Do speak with Thanksgiving.  Do make the most of every opportunity.  Live wisely.  Be filled with the Holy Spirit.  Speak to others with psalms, hymns, and songs of the Spirit.  Sing and make music from your heart.

Don’t get distracted by the darkness.  Instead, live as a child of the light.

I struggle with the feeling of being left out.  It’s actually its own acronym now – FOMO, fear of missing out.  I want to be engaged in what’s going on around me.  I want to be reading the books, watching the movies, listening to the podcasts or music that are popular.  I want to know every word to every song that plays on the radio because I love to sing along.

And this FOMO can get me distracted by the darkness.  I’m not saying that every TV show, song, book or podcast is coming from the devil.  I actually think it is a balance for each person to decide on their own.  And if I trust the Holy Spirit is working within me, then I can trust that the Holy Spirit is working in others to help make that discernment.  This is not a place of judgment, but an opportunity to tap into the gift that is the Holy Spirit to reveal to you where your distraction may be.

Because we are supposed to live differently than who we were before.

Ephesians58

Can I trust God to give me a life that is fulfilled?  Or do I try to find that fulfillment on my own?

And then, the chapter turns to submission.  I’ve heard preachers in the past say that while it does say that wives submit to their husbands, it also talks about husbands laying down their lives for their wives.  And the verse right before all of that says that we are to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.  So the question that comes to me there is…

Can I trust God with my relationships?  Or do I try to control them so I don’t get hurt?  Can I depend on God enough that I don’t depend on others too much?  We are made for relationship with each other, but God needs to be the center, the fulcrum of that relationship.

Jesus was fully present in the lives of the people around him.  He had deep relationships, healthy relationships with his friends and followers.  He is the example of a good friend.  And yet, his relationships weren’t perfect.  His closest friend, Peter, denied him when he needed him most.  But Jesus trusted God with all things, even his relationships, and after he resurrected, he was able to redeem that relationship.

Trusting God doesn’t mean that we will never miss out on opportunities or that we will have perfect relationships.  But it does mean that His promises to us will be fulfilled.  It means that we don’t have to navigate this world or this life alone.  It means that He won’t forsake us and that He will guide us every step of the way.

Unsolicited Advice

I was on the phone yesterday with an advertiser.  I handle what little phone book ads we do at my company, and this was one of the bigger company reps.  He was very nice and polite, as most reps are.  The deadline for the book in question, however, was going to be towards the beginning of next year, close to early spring, close to another particular deadline in my little family.

“Just to let you know, I’m expecting, and that deadline might conflict, so let me give you the email of one of my coworkers, just in case.”

“Oh!  Congratulations!  That’s really exciting.  I have three kids of my own, and my wife is a nurse.  We have really enjoyed them.”

“Yea, this is our first, so we are just trying to be extra careful with any plans or deadlines around that time.”

“I completely understand.  I’m sure you get lots of unsolicited advice, but if I can tell you one piece of advice….”

The advice started out pretty mild (just listen to my intuition and raise my kids the way I want to) but eventually, it got pretty specific about how breastfeeding wasn’t all it was cracked up to be and their formula fed baby is now in the gifted classes at his school.  Now, I’m not saying that everyone who has given me advice has been unsolicited.  I’m really blessed to have a loving group of people around me, and I do listen to any advice they are willing to give.  But that unsolicited advice has a way of getting under the skin and has the potential to make me second guess every decision and live in fear of what consequence may come because I chose wrong.

However, this isn’t the first time I have received unsolicited advice in my life.  I got it as I was entering college, on what I should major in or what clubs I should be a part of.  I got it preparing for my wedding, on how much time I should spend planning my wedding and what details must be included.  I got it as a newlywed, on how the right amount of fighting or sex dictated a healthy marriage.  I got it after my miscarriage, on things I should or shouldn’t do if we were ever going to try again.

The funny thing is that if you look at history, every generation thinks at some point that they have it all figured out.  They have learned from the mistakes for former generations and their generation is going to be the one with the best relationships, the smartest and healthiest kids, and the most successful lives.  But the truth is that we don’t have it all figured out.  If we live honestly, then we know that we do the best we can and let God take care of the rest.  There is not one perfect path for everyone.

In the New Testament, this was a common conversation.  Paul was constantly telling the Jews that the Gentiles did not have to live the Jewish life in order to follow Christ.  The Jews were convinced that their way of life was the right way, guaranteed to be the secret to success (even though the biggest names in Jewish history didn’t exactly have it all together).

The reality is life is not a checklist of doing this, not that.  There is no guarantee that a certain order of choices in your life will bring you a certain outcome.  It’s always been messy and chaotic.  Every generation brings challenges, but God’s promise is to be right there with you in that chaos, revealing his heart and guiding you through.

Lately, I’ve been wearing God as a shield around me, especially when the advice starts to come.  Every piece of advice, I know, is given out of love, and I receive it in love.  I know that it’s exciting to have a baby come into this world and the anticipation of everything that can mean.  There is so much to prepare for and so much to wait and see.  I played “A Shield About Me” this morning as a reminder that no matter what path we choose (or sometimes is chosen for us), God is there and He will never forsake you or leave you.  In the midst of struggle, in the midst of not knowing, in the midst of unsolicited advice, he is there, holding your hand every step of the way.