How Big is Your God?

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Redwoods at Muir Woods

A week ago I wrote a post called “I Will Not Fear” that quickly became the most popular thing I’ve ever written on this blog. Seeing that this topic struck a chord with people, I then confessed my own struggles with worry and panic attacks, and also shared the story of Trust, our tiny son that I miscarried at 17 weeks. This post contains some of my final (for now) thoughts on fear, worry, and choosing to trust God and not be afraid.

“To whom will you liken Me and make Me equal, and compare Me, that we may be alike?” Isaiah 46:5

Too often, I unintentionally make God into my own image. I compare Him with things that I know, and see, and understand. I limit Him by squeezing Him into a box of my own invention. God becomes a slightly more impressive version of a human, maybe more like a superhero.

Many of us wouldn’t admit that this is how we view God, but our lives, our thoughts, our fears, all tell the truth.

I have come to believe that any idea or belief that makes God seem smaller or less powerful is wrong. It’s a pretty simple test of theology. 🙂

A limitless, all-powerful, all-knowing, crazily different Being created us, loved us, and chose to make us with the ability to know Him. After His creation, the first people, chose to disobey the one-and-only-command He gave them, The One Who Exists chose to pursue them anyway. Through the ages, He showed love and mercy, gave forgiveness and grace, and finally came as our Savior and Redeemer.

I feel like we get so used to this story, so used to church and religion, that we forget what it really means. If you are struggling to trust God, if you feel like He is in a box of your own design, and you want more, here are some suggestions.

  1. Turn off your phone and get out your Bible.
  2. Tell God you want Him to blow your mind and break out of your box.
  3. Sit quietly and think about Him, about who He is, the stories you have heard and read about Him. Ask Him to show you any lies you are believing about Him.
  4. Think about God becoming a human and choosing to be brutally murdered so that you could be His friend, His child. Why would He do that?
  5. Read Genesis 1, Isaiah 45-46, or John 1, or all of them. Ask God to speak to you.

“You will seek Me and find Me, when you seek Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD.” Jeremiah 29:13-14

We were made to know God, the real, infinitely giant, crazily amazing, Being, who calls Himself I AM. We were created to know Him. Jesus came as the exact image of God (Colossians 1:15), and died so that we could be His friends (John 15:13-15). It doesn’t really make sense! But that’s okay. It’s part of the Backwards, Inside-out Kingdom of Jesus Christ. I love it!

When you know Him, you will realize you can trust Him. And as you chose to trust Him, you will find out just how BIG He really is!

 

When There’s Nothing Left – Choosing Trust

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Looking at the ultrasound monitor, I didn’t need anyone to tell me. I knew as soon as I saw him. My baby was dead.

We sat in a small, separate waiting room with dim lighting and Kleenex boxes everywhere waiting for the doctor. Four weeks ago our baby was wiggling all over that monitor, waving to us, measuring just right, looking good. And now he was dead. Why would God do this to us again?

Seven months ago, we had lost our first baby at 18 weeks. I thought it was the hardest thing I’d ever gone through. By the time I started miscarrying, he was already absorbing into my uterus, so I had to have a D&C. We had asked so many questions, felt so much grief, and yet God had carried us. We learned and grew closer to God and to each other.

We’d been so much more careful this time, so many more ultrasounds, and things had been looking good. It seemed like God was answering our prayers. But now my heart breaking all over again. Why? Why would God let this happen?

The doctor came. He told me our baby was bigger this time. He told me it would be better if I delivered him. He wanted to know if tomorrow would work. Tomorrow was Valentine’s Day.

Valentine’s Day will never be the same for me, but I’m okay with that. I spent February 14, 2009 in the hospital laboring with my tiny baby. It was a bit surreal. To be on the maternity floor. To hear babies crying. It lasted all day until finally, at 9:34pm, we got to see our teeny, little, baby boy. He was about 15 weeks along, even though I was at 17 weeks, with tiny fingers and toes, and little ribs. You could even see his fingernails starting to form. The nurses let us spend as much time as we wanted with him. It’s hard to explain the pain I felt, kind of like my chest was ripping in two. I wanted that baby! I wanted him so much! But I wanted him to be alive. And he wasn’t.

I remember them asking if we had a name for him. I didn’t had any names for dead babies, only for alive ones! We didn’t know what to do. My husband and I talked about it. We were struggling to trust God and believe in His goodness. It felt impossible to hold on. So, we chose to take a step of faith, and we named our son, Trust. Not because we felt it, because we didn’t. But, we chose to trust in a God that we could not see and did not understand. Instantly, I felt peace flood my heart.

I know what it means in Philippians 4:7 “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Because the peace I felt didn’t make any sense. It wasn’t like anything had changed in my circumstances…but I had absolute peace.

 

  • “…I am the LORD, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity. I am the LORD who does all these things.” Isaiah 45:6b-7

I had found this verse before my babies died, but afterwards it became my life verse. I had heard well-meaning people tell others who were grieving that God was sorry their pain happened. I didn’t want God to be sorry, because I didn’t want him to be weak. Like, “Oops, sorry about that!” I wanted a God who was totally in control. It comforted me to read this verse and hear God tell me, “Christy, I took your babies. I did it on purpose. It was not an accident.” Because a God who is completely in control and loves me, is safe even if I don’t understand Him. I love believing in a Being who is good and loving, but so far above me that He doesn’t owe me an explanation for His actions. It brings me peace.

Jesus carried me after my babies died. He held me five weeks later when I shared my testimony of loss and trust with a group of juvenile delinquents on a Reservation in South Dakota. He held me up so that I could still reach out to the junior high kids in our youth group. Jesus carried me through my friend’s pregnancies, and baby showers, and seeing young teen mom’s at Walmart. Oh, I cried, often! But they were not tears of hopelessness and despair, just of sorrow and somehow trust. I was a blubbering mess just writing this! Choosing to trust does not mean that we don’t feel pain.

One year after we lost Trust, despite thinking we might never have children, God miraculously provided a diagnoses, a fertility specialist who just happened to be one of the best in the nation, $8000, a surgery, and a brand new baby growing in my tummy. Our daughter Zoe’s birthday and Trust’s due date are just two days and one year a part.

Sometimes God gives us the desires of our hearts even when it seems impossible, and other times He doesn’t. I have a close friend who struggles with infertility, she has even been through IVF and God has chosen not to give her a baby. Why? Often we will never know that answer, but we can believe that God never loses control and we can choose to trust.

 

“…I the LORD, do all these things.” Isaiah 45:7

How does that make you feel? It gives me confidence knowing that nothing can come to me that hasn’t passed through the hand of my Heavenly Father. His plans and thoughts are so much larger than mine. I can trust Him.

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Trust and Panic Attacks

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I was an illogically worried child. If it was five minutes past 8pm, then I would keep myself awake being worried about not getting enough sleep. I could never sleep at other people’s houses, which then would make me worried about being exhausted the next day. I couldn’t have clocks that I could see in my bedroom because then I would worry if it got too late. I specifically remember lying in bed at night as a child, thinking about my three greatest fears: my house burning down, a tornado coming (unlikely since I lived in Michigan), and throwing up. This was a nightly occurrence for years. I had an incredibly powerful brain and I could totally convince myself that I was sick or about to be sick, especially if I woke up in the middle of the night. My poor parents!

I was in college when I started having pretty severe panic attacks. I’ve always been a strong (prideful) person, so it was hard to admit to others that I was struggling. At first I didn’t know what they were, the shortness of breath, heart palpitations, chest tightness, numbness, unreal feelings… I thought I was dying. After some research, I realized they were panic attacks. And then with some surprise, I realized that I’d struggled with a milder form of something similar for years. I used to call it “spiritual warfare” back in the “Duggar Days“. I still get occasional panic attacks, in fact I had one this morning.

Ironically, last week I wrote a quick blog post about not being afraid, which in a manner of three days became the most popular post I’ve ever written! So, how does someone write a blog post about not being afraid, truly not feel afraid of ISIS or the end of the world, and yet still struggle with panic attacks? I supposed in the same way that any of us are redeemed children of God still living in our broken human bodies. We are sinners, saved by God’s amazing grace, still dealing with our sin!

The biggest thing that has helped me to overcome worry, is recognizing how big, how huge, how incredibly enormous God really is! He is in absolute control at all times. He adores me. But God does not owe me an explanation for anything that happens. It was in one of my darkest and most troubling times that God showed me these truths with definition and clarity. I’m going to share that story next. (This is probably part 1 of 3)

For now let’s go back to daily anxiety and panic attacks. Why do they happen? What’s behind it? Everyone is different. My anxiety comes when I’m stressed, when I allow negative thought patterns, or when I am afraid of losing control. It always helps to take a quiet moment and figure out what is bothering me. Then I recognize my panic attack for what it is, speak truth to myself, and seek Jesus. Taking a minute to just breathe and focus on who Jesus is and how much He loves me usually calms me down. I’m honest with Him. I tell Him what is freaking me out and I let Him calm me and speak truth to me. It’s not like God doesn’t already know! We can’t hide anything from Him. We won’t disappoint Him.

  • “And he (Jesus) awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still (after living with him and seeing what he could do) no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” Mark 4:39-41

I’m pretty sure that if Jesus can calm a wild, raging storm on a lake, He can also calm the storm of worry inside of me! I know He can, because I’ve seen Him do it before.

I Will Not Fear

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Apparently ISIS has trained soldiers in my state ready to follow orders, ready to commit more acts of terror like what happened in Paris. This should make me nervous, right? Social Media is full of scared people worried about terrorists. Our country is full of scared people, such as the people who are now refusing to allow refuges into their states.

I’m not afraid. In fact, I say bring it! Why? Because I’m amazing? No! Absolutely not! It’s because I believe that my God is big enough to handle it all!

But, I might die! So what? Death means life with Jesus!

But if I’m dead, who will take care of my family? Their Heavenly Father!

Loved ones might die! Yes, but nothing is certain…they also might get in a car accident tomorrow. God is still in control!

What if it’s the End Times? Awesome! That means Jesus is coming back! Let’s celebrate!!

But what if I lose my stuff and have to go through hard times and don’t get to do what I want? That’s just called real life. God does not change.

Listen, I was raised in a fear-filled environment. We were always afraid, mostly that if we didn’t do the right things God was going to punish us. This message was presented so that those in charge had more control. The real God isn’t like this! He’s not out to get us!

God has been with me and my husband through death and grief as we miscarried our first two children at 17 and 18 weeks. God held us up when my husband’s father was suddenly killed four years ago. God has walked us through moves, job changes, lack of jobs, uncertainty, stress, and tragedy. I have felt Him and seen Him and that is why I am not afraid. Jesus does not change and He has promised to take care of us. There is no reason to fear!

Fear is a powerful weapon of your enemy, the Devil. He uses it to keep you quiet, defeated, and useless.

  • “The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” Psalm 118:6
  • “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
  • “I (Jesus) have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation. But, take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

How big is your God? Maybe you have accidentally made him into your own image…too small and powerless. Come on! This is the star-breathing God of the Universe we are talking about! The God who did all the miracles in the Bible! The God who killed His own Son so that you could be His child! He’s got this! Run to Him, let Him give you peace, and stop being afraid!

 

Taking Back the Bedroom – Six Suggestions for Awesome Married Sex

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[The first thing you should know is that I am writing this as a married Christian woman who believes that God designed sexual intimacy between a husband and a wife. Secondly, I am not a counselor or therapist, but I have unofficially “counseled” many women in this area. I am incredibly passionate about fantastic sex and healthy marriages.]

We live in a hyper-sexualized culture. Sex is talked about everywhere. Except for in the church. If we as Christians believe that sexuality is part of God’s design for us as humans, and that God created intimacy as a special part of the marriage relationship, shouldn’t married Christians be having the best sex?

But we aren’t, because sex has been a taboo subject for far too long. As Christians begin to have conversations and ask questions, this is starting to change. I believe this is healthy and beneficial! God was the one who designed sex in the first place. We shouldn’t be ashamed of it. Let’s be honest and open. Let’s have amazing, God honoring sex! Let’s take back the bedroom!

I am not an expert, but I want to join the conversation with six suggestions that helped me and some of my friends.

  1. Check Your Attitude 

Do you believe that sex is a beautiful, exciting, fun experience that God designed specifically for a man and woman to enjoy in marriage? Do you struggle with the sentence I just wrote? What about it bothers you?

We all come into marriage with sexual baggage. Maybe you were raised in a family where sex was made to seem dirty or wrong, or maybe it just wasn’t talked about. You might have been exposed to or were/are involved in porn. Maybe you were sexually abused. Our experiences shape our attitude toward sex. A negative attitude can destroy our sexual intimacy. Ask God to help you to see sex like He sees it; ask Him to change your attitude and heal the broken parts inside of you. Maybe you need to talk with a counselor. That’s okay!

  1. Let Go of Guilt

Does sex make you feel guilty? Sometimes that guilt comes from a family or culture that told you sex was dirty or wrong. Sometimes it comes from sexual experiences you had before you were married either with your spouse or someone else. When we feel guilt connected to sex, especially as women, it will destroy the fun. Negative emotions ruin our drive. Even a random negative thought can kill the mood. Good news, Jesus forgave all of our sins when he died on the cross, past, present, and future! He said we are separated from our sin as far as the east is from the west. (Psalm 103:12) God has completely forgiven us, but sometimes the hardest person to forgive is ourselves. Ask God to take away your guilt, bring you peace, and show you truth. Again, seeing a counselor might be a good option if you have sexual trauma in your past.

  1. Get Educated

This is one of the biggest problems that I have found among Christian women. Fortunately there are a lot of great books available. I found a website that lists a bunch of them along with reviews. My favorite book to pass out, especially to pretty “innocent” girls is an oldy but goody, “The Act of Marriage” by Tim and Beverley LeHay. And I haven’t read it personally yet, but “The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex” by Sheila Wray Gregoire has some pretty rave reviews.

Books are good, but a real person to talk to is even better. I realize that it takes vulnerability to ask someone for help with sex, but if you can find a more experienced woman (that you think has great sex) to answer your questions, it’s worth it! And most of us are happy to talk about it.

  1. Have Realistic Expectations

Maybe you’ve figured this out already, but real life isn’t like the movies! Movie sex is a great example. For instance, actors that “wake up” in the “morning” and instantly make-out. Eww! I have two words: Morning Breath! It just doesn’t happen.

Realistically, it takes time to build a great sexual relationship. If you go into your wedding night as two virgins, expect your first sexual interaction to be about a C, if you’re lucky. The good news is, practice makes better! There will be times as a couple that you will have amazing sex, and other times that you will look at each other and say, “Well, that was awkward.” But when you are married, and are friends as well as lovers, the pressure to perform isn’t as strong. After all, there is always tomorrow. After eight years of marriage, my husband and I have WAY better sex than we ever had on our honeymoon, or even first year together for that matter!

  1. Communicate

Your spouse cannot read your mind. If you like something, you need to tell them. If something is weird to you, tell them. If you want something different, you got it, tell them! I realize that sex can be awkward to talk about, but if you want great married sex, you need to communicate. My husband and I have been open about talking since the very beginning thanks to some excellent pre-marital counseling. I know that this is a vital part of our, “ahem”, adventurous sex life. Which brings me to number six.

  1. Be Creative and Have Fun

I know I titled this, “Taking Back the Bedroom”, but don’t limit yourself to the bedroom. Be creative. Try new places, new positions, and new techniques. Be bold. Be adventurous. Be fun. Make time for each other. Surprise each other. Text each other suggestive messages. Nap together. Shower together. Snuggle together. You never know what might happen… Enjoy the beautiful gift that God has given you.

I’m sure you noticed that of these six suggestions, five of them had nothing to do with actual sex. Unlike what our culture tells us, I believe that healthy sex is way more than just the physical act. What do you think? What are you struggling with? Which of these six suggestions stuck out to you the most? Do you have other suggestions to make? I’d love to hear from you!

Getting to KNOW Jesus (Pt. 2)

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(Yes, I do realize that Pt 1 and Pt 2 of this post are months apart. :-))

How does someone really get to know Jesus, experience Him as a very real Being?

There is no magic formula, no three step process. But as I said in part one of this post, God wants us to know Him. He has promised throughout the Bible that if we seek Him, we will find Him! And I can promise you both from my life and lives I have seen changed, that when you really find Him, you will never be the same!

It’s like experiencing an alternate reality, think Narnia. Suddenly all the knowledge you had in your head explodes into living color, and you get it! He changes you and you realize that you never wanted anything else.

That’s great, but how do I get there?

Here are some suggestions.

  • Become familiar with the Bible, so you know who you are looking for, so you know His character and what He sounds like, the kinds of things He says. I recommend Max Lucado’s “The Story”. It’s a fantastic overview using actual portions of the NIV and some summary in between.
  • Intentionally take quiet time away from noise and electronics. While I was in college, I used to go sit in this cemetery on a bluff, overlooking a lake. It was beautiful, and quiet, and made me think about how short life is.
  • Tell Jesus you want to know Him, and wait for Him to “show up”. This is actually the best part. Because if you have trusted in Jesus as your Savior, then He already lives inside of you. So it’s not really Him showing up as much as it is you slowing down and becoming aware of His Presence.

What does is look like, sound like, feel like when Jesus becomes real? It’s different for everyone, but chances are you have already experienced Him and just didn’t recognize it. Sometimes it’s like this:

  • A song comes on the radio and it’s exactly what you needed to hear.
  • You are listening to a sermon and you start wondering if the person speaking is psychic or has been reading your journal.
  • As you read the Bible, a verse just jumps out at you in a way you never saw before.
  • Your friend calls/texts/messages you with a truth that you needed to hear right then.
  • Something really hard happens but you have a strange peace about it.

I really could go on and on. This is God, the Creator of the Universe, speaking to you, being intimately involved in your life. The more you become aware of God’s Presence, the more you will recognize Him.

I’m going to share what it feels like for me, but remember that each person is different and we can’t put God into just one box.

When I seek God, I start with just quiet. (Remember, this is more about us becoming aware of God and less about Him coming to us.) I quiet my heart and mind and remember who it is that I am seeking: my Creator, the Awesome All-Powerful One, my Savior, my Friend, etc. I think about His love for me. Then I just talk to Him. When I am aware of Jesus’ Presence, I usually feel peace, contentment, surrounded and almost held. I know I am loved and I am completely satisfied. Usually there are tears in my eyes…not sadness, but possibly because the emotions I feel are too big for my little human body. (They are here right now as I write this.)

The Kingdom of God is backwards and inside out, so it doesn’t always make logical sense. The weak are strong, foolishness is wisdom, you get everything for nothing… It’s crazy! And the key to this secret kingdom? Faith!

Will you take a chance and step out in faith and ask Jesus to make Himself real to you? Let me know what happens!