Choosing Trust

(Re-blogged with some  tweaks from a post I originally wrote a few year ago.)

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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.

Less than an hour later, we sat silently in a small waiting room, surrounded by dim lighting and multiple Kleenex boxes, 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?

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

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

The doctor finally 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 living 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, but because we didn’t. We chose to trust in a God that we could not see and did not understand. And 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 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.

I didn’t want Him to be 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.

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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. Choosing to trust does not mean that we don’t feel pain. I was a blubbering mess just writing this!

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 (July 21) and Trust’s due date (July 23) are just two days and one year apart.

Sometimes God gives us the desires of our hearts even when it seems impossible, and other times He doesn’t. I have friends who struggle with infertility, even going through IVF and God has chosen not to give them a baby. Why? I don’t know.

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.

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.

We can trust Him.

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This experience has continued to carry me through more heartbreak, disappointment, unanswered prayers, and pain. This broken world hurts and often things don’t make any sense. But I KNOW that God is real, that He is in control, that He loves me, and that He will not leave me alone. The same is true for you too!

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A High Ropes Course Called Life…

I strongly dislike high ropes courses. But, I adore zip lines. This has been my dilemma as a youth pastor’s wife for the past five years. High ropes courses seem to go along with youth retreats and camp experiences. I hate them. They terrify me. But, I want to participate, to be a positive example to teens who are also terrified. Plus, there’s almost always a zip line at the end! Did I mention that I love zip lines?

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For those of you who have never experienced a high ropes course, let me explain the horrors. High ropes courses are called “high” for a reason. They are located in trees or atop poles that I’m sure are at least 50 feet in the air. Okay, maybe not 50 feet, but high enough so your brain is fully aware that if you fall, you will die. Even though your brain also knows you are strapped into harnesses and ropes and such, there is still a primal fear that never really leaves. All obstacles are designed to terrify you further and are concocted with tiny, wiggly, cables, moving pieces such as swings or logs, and wobbly ropes that you are supposed to use to balance.

I do not attempt high ropes courses because they are fun. I do them to get to the zip line. Until last weekend.

Last weekend, I was at a special women’s retreat and one of the optional afternoon activities was a high ropes course. There were no teens around to encourage, and I didn’t even know if there was a zip line at the end. But, I knew that I needed that high ropes course. I needed a physical example of trusting God.

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My personal life is kind of like a high ropes course right now. It’s been a hard year…full of challenges, and fears, and doubts. Things haven’t gone like I wanted. Stuff fell apart. It’s been scary. It can be easy to look at the circumstances around me and wonder if God is really real, or if He’s really powerful, or if He really cares.

So there I was, standing at the bottom of the high ropes course that no one was making me do, talking to Jesus, telling Him that I needed a visual example of trust. I had my harness on, my lobster claws attached (see the next image), and my helmet secured to my head. The guy running the ropes belayed me as I clambered up some metal spikes stuck into the tree, and soon I was connecting my lobster claws to the cables and unclipping the carabiners holding me to my belay rope. It was just me, and my equipment, and the looming course.

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The first obstacle was a single tightrope with a few short ropes to help you balance. They were too short to keep hold of across the entire tightrope, so you had to let go of one and grab another. Who puts a tightrope as the first obstacle??

I made my shaky way across, talking to Jesus, telling Him that I wanted to trust Him. Somewhere in the middle, this verse popped into my mind: “You hem me in behind and before…”

I couldn’t remember where the verse was located or what came after that, but I realized something. In the high ropes course of life, Jesus is our harness and lobster claws! He’s beneath our bum and above our heads securing us, holding us together, keeping us safe. In the same way that my equipment was protecting me up in the trees, Jesus was taking care of my crazy life.

When I teeter across a challenging obstacle and all I can see is a shaky wire under my feet and the 20 feet of air beyond that, my equipment is still holding me. I might not notice my equipment or even think about it, but that doesn’t make it less real. Isn’t that just like Jesus? When prayers don’t get answered, or we get terrible news, or things are falling apart, and all we can focus on is the scary challenge ahead…when the terror is real…when we can’t see Jesus…He is still there holding us.

People, I prayed my way through that high ropes course! I made it to the end in one piece. And guess what? There was a zip line! 🙂

Later, I looked up the phrase “You hem me in behind and before” on my phone and this is what I found:

You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.” Psalm 139:5-6

The whole first part of Psalm 139 is all about God knowing us intimately and His Presence never leaving us. So much beautiful truth! Our challenges, our circumstances, do not change who God is. Our inability to see or notice Him does not change the fact that He is with us. I love that!

No matter what terrifying or heart wrenching obstacle you are on in this high ropes course called life, Jesus is your harness and your lobster claws! He will not let go and He will not fail. You can trust Him. 

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How Big is Your God?

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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

choose to believeLooking 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 multiple Kleenex boxes 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 way more careful this time, many more ultrasounds, and things had been looking good. It seemed like God was answering our prayers. But now my heart was 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 living 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 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. I didn’t want Him to be 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.

big God

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 apart.

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.

 

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.