Tag Archives: fear

Why I Am Encouraged by David to Fight My Goliath


He taunts me. The Goliath that stands before me.

Oh he knows whose I am and the army that surrounds me. But he doesn’t care. He knows that one simple stone of fear cast my way could paralyze my senses.

His voice has threatened my security in days past.  I have responded by resisting his efforts to bring me down. But recently, remembering the source of my power and identity has been challenging. Repeatedly, he has crossed my path and I am tired of fighting him. My body holds the tension of stiff muscles and a cautious mind.

What if he appears again?

The size of my Goliath appears daunting. From an earthly perspective, I appear as a grasshopper to his massive size. With what resources could I possibly defeat him?

His appearance morphs. Sometimes, he is disguised as financial difficulties. Other moments, he pops up as expectations or disappointment. Illness, both physical and mental have resembled him. And then when he really wants to wield power, he looks like guilt.

But what all encounters have in common is the threat to hold me captive in fear. To keep my eyes focused on the problem and not my power. When that happens, I lose hope. My throat tightens. My chest feels heavy. My arms feel paralyzed.

How did David do it?

“The Israelites, to a man, fell back the moment they saw the giant—totally frightened. The talk among the troops was, “Have you ever seen anything like this, this man openly and defiantly challenging Israel?”

David names what he sees. ““Who does he think he is, anyway, this uncircumcised Philistine, taunting the armies of God-Alive?” (1 Samuel 17:26)

Reality check: Goliath is not as powerful as he appears. His strength lies in intimidation; from outside not within. David is reminded that God is enough.

God, who delivered me from the teeth of the lion and the claws of the bear, will deliver me from this Philistine.” (1 Samuel 17:36)

God reminds me of previous encounters with him.  He is enough

David was fit with the assumed armor and weapons that others believed would help him in the battle. However, in his complete faith, refused what was offered to him, “I can’t even move with all this stuff on me. I’m not used to this.” And he took it all off.” The weapons the world offers to me look enticing but they are not what God desires for me to use.

David looked his Goliath in the face. So must I.

“David answered, “You come at me with sword and spear and battle-ax. I come at you in the name of God-of-the-Angel-Armies, the God of Israel’s troops, whom you curse and mock. This very day God is handing you over to me.” (1 Samuel 17:45-46)

As I look my current form of Goliath in the face, I am choosing to recognize the armor I bear. It’s the same one that David chose: God’s word; living and active.

11-14 This commandment that I’m commanding you today isn’t too much for you, it’s not out of your reach. It’s not on a high mountain—you don’t have to get mountaineers to climb the peak and bring it down to your level and explain it before you can live it. And it’s not across the ocean—you don’t have to send sailors out to get it, bring it back, and then explain it before you can live it. No. The word is right here and now—as near as the tongue in your mouth, as near as the heart in your chest. Just do it!” (Deut. 30:11-14)

We are not guaranteed a battle free life. But we are assured we are not alone as we fight. When we ask for God’s help, we, like David show others where hope is found.

“…the whole earth will know that there’s an extraordinary God in Israel.” (1Samuel 17:46)
How can Goliath win?

Guest Post: I Can't Pray and That's O.K.

Please welcome Andrea Remke to my site! I am graeteful for Andrea’s offer to share her words here. This post was previously published on her blog as well as Today Parenting and the Kathy Lee and Hoda Facebook page. Her story is both heartbreaking yet affirming that God’s eyes are always on us.
I can’t pray and that’s OK
OK, I’m not a big “feelings-y” person. I don’t like hugging all that much and I’m not great with emotions and crap. I never was. I was raised Catholic and so with that came a lot of praying and repenting and feeling guilty and kneeling and all that. My extended family is pretty big on prayers —from Indiana to the Holy Land and back— boy do they love those prayers! But to be honest, I really don’t know how to pray. Yes, I know how to lay in bed and give thanks for my kids, who are healthy and beautiful. I recite the bedtime prayer to them at night. You better believe every time the thermostat dips below freezing, I’m praising the heavens above that I have a house with heat to sleep in. But other than that, I’m not great at that thing called “Prayer.”
I go to church every Sunday, and drag the kids along even when they just want to be in their jammies playing iPads. But I persist. I’m determined to get some meaning, some purpose from this twisted ass life I’m in right now. I want to be better at mothering, at friendships, at prayer—but every Sunday I feel numb, like a person simply going through the motions inside that church. I’m standing, kneeling, sitting up—trying as hard as I can to focus. I’m doing my best to get something out of it other than the free donuts afterwards. I don’t know if any amount of holy water on this old girl will ever be enough to soften and heal this cracked and broken heart that only dwells on sadness, resentment and grief right now.
That was until I got a sign.
The past couple weeks I have been feeling so angry that I’m here doing this alone and he’s not here. I have questioned my faith a lot, wondering why my husband got this sh*t hand—what did he do to deserve death so early? Why couldn’t it have been me?
Then last night after the kids were in bed, I took the dog out. I stood in the front yard staring into my bedroom window, where my husband’s last breaths were taken. And I got angry. I started wondering maybe there’s nothing after we’re gone. Maybe everything is here in this life, and we only have this brief amount of time to live and love. How unfair and sad and crappy is that? Then I started to think that if that’s true, then my husband is just laying there in that box—being nothing anymore. I started sobbing. I kept saying over and over that it wasn’t fair. This isn’t fair. I went to bed crying and mad at the world, mad at God, mad at myself for so much time wasted in this stupid, unfair life.
This morning on the way to school, I got the usual amount of questions, but especially about dad today. They always want to know everything I don’t have answers for—where is he? what is he doing? can he see us? are dogs up there, too? One of the twins said she hopes that she will turn back into a child when she dies so that daddy will recognize her. I told her that daddy will absolutely know her no matter how old she is. I told them that maybe daddy would be able to see our baby that I miscarried several years ago. This was big news to them, and they wanted to know if it was a boy or a girl and what was its name and how old was he or she. I told them I didn’t know, but maybe daddy knows now.
It wasn’t 45 minutes later that I got a text from a friend I haven’t seen all that recently. She’s one of those praying friends. She’ll pray up a storm for everyone in Kentucky no matter who they are or what they believe. She texted me, “…I was praying for you this morning and the kids. I just saw Matthew in heaven with a child and he was so happy. Did you have a miscarriage?… I believe he is up there with that child and they are waiting on all of you.”
Like I said, I don’t like feelings and mushy crap. I’m skeptical and I’m a big ‘Negative Nelly’ most days. But my eyes welled up with tears because I don’t know how at that moment she would have known I needed to know about him. I needed to know he was OK and that I was wrong about him just being in that box six feet under. All the tears of sadness and anxiety I cried last night must have been heard.
I can’t pray to save my soul y’all, but I can sure as hell cry. After reading her text, I looked at the prayer card I taped to the fridge last week—it came in the mail from a complete stranger. It reads, “Tears are prayers too. They travel to God when there are no words to speak.”
That’s when I realized—I’m killing this sh*t called “Prayer.”
This post originally appeared Jan. 23, 2018 on the author’s blog at www.kymomtotwinsandmore.com.
Andrea Remke lives in Northern Kentucky. She has a degree in communications and journalism from Saint Mary’s College, South Bend, Ind. She is finding her way as a newly-widowed mother of an 11-year-old, twin 8-year-olds, and a 5-year-old. She is a freelance writer at www.kymomtotwinsandmore.com
Find her at Facebook www.facebook.com/andrealremke and on Twitter @andrealremke.

 

Why We Can't Let Fear Keep Us Stuck


My wipers could not keep up with the fierce force of the blowing snow surrounding me.
Twenty plus years ago, I traveled to my hometown in Michigan from Chicago, where I was living.  The familiar path involved driving mostly expressway straight from point A to point B. Not too complicated, right?
Unless, it’s winter. Anyone familiar with the 80/94 stretch that leads to southwestern Michigan can attest to the paradox of it’s dangerous beauty.
Though the snow often lays a beautiful blanket upon the ground and draping the tree branches, it can become a dangerous force when combined with a harsh lake-effect wind. One could argue that avoiding the danger would be the best course of action. However, when you live in this region, it becomes a familiar presence. One that is best confronted by learning to navigate through it carefully rather than letting fear keep you stuck. Life always involves risks.
So on this particular evening, I focused on trying to stay on the road. That would eventually lead to refuge. But the whiteout conditions and the increasing darkness caused by the lack of cars on the road caused my heart to race.
How will I make it home?
And then it happened. Without warning, my car veered off the expressway and into the ditch. The absence of road markings had made it impossible to see where the side of the road ended. Suddenly, my small red CRX was tilted downward; pressed into the snow. And for a moment, fear began to take root in my head and my heart.
I had no cell phone. Truthfully, no one did then. So I prayed. And I waited. Wondering how long I would stay stuck.  Would I be rescued?
And then it happened. Two young men appeared out of nowhere.
“Can we help get you back on the road?,” they asked. Without hesitation, I let them in to my car.
Life always involves risks. For all of us.
Instantly, they initiated some “magical” force on the pedal and propelled my car onto the mostly abandoned road. And disappeared.
Would I have done the same?
Fear has a way of keeping us stuck.
But the good Samaritan refused to let it’s force paralyze. He recognized that abundant life leads to risks. Life giving risks; sometimes taking physical life in the process. But letting fear dictate our steps will always lead to “death.”
I don’t want to remain stuck. So I will grab onto every thread of God’s mercies to propel me forward on the road. And pray that my eyes and heart remain open to propel others as well.
This post was written for the Five Minute Friday community. Come join us! http://fiveminutefriday.com/
 

Do You Believe Jesus is Enough to Meet Your Hopes and Fears?

The angels’ proclamation to the shepherds packs a powerful punch.

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.” Luke 2:10

Their good news communicated the fulfillment of a long anticipated promise.

But. somewhere in the midst of hope lies fear. What if that which we expect doesn’t unfold according to our expectations?

The narratives surrounding the account of Christ’s birth reveal the common human struggle with hope and fear. 

These Jewish “chosen ones” longed for the promised Messiah. The hope had been passed down to them just as it had been through previous generations. The prophecies began to flesh out the vision. But did they understand how chosen they were? And there was a cost.

Hope became infused with fear.

Shepherds: ordinary folk from Bethlehem. As men, they were well steeped in knowledge of Jewish theology. The prophecies created a rough draft as to how the Messiah would be made manifest.

Micah 5:2-3[a] But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah,
who are one of the little clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to rule in Israel,
whose origin is from of old,

Hope grew in their hearts.

And then the angels visit. They are chosen to do a hard thing. The earthly implications are staggering. Who will believe them? How will they manage their sheep if they leave? Do they believe Jesus is enough to meet their hopes and fears?

Mary: Poor Jewish teen. Yet, from the line of David. She is aware of Isaiah’s words  “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”  (Isaiah 7:14)

Hope grows in her heart.

And then the angel visits. She is chosen to do a hard thing. The earthly implications are life threatening. She could be stoned for appearing to break her engagement vows.

Does she believe Jesus is enough to meet her hopes and fears?

Joseph: A carpenter’s son-not a significant identity in terms of social and economic status. Yet, from the line of David. He, too was schooled in the hope of a Messiah. One who would transform the status quo. Perhaps he clung to these words spoken through Isaiah:

“For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.” (Isaiah 9:6-7)

Hope grew in his heart.

And then the angel visits. He is chosen to do a hard thing. His reputation is at stake as well as his love for his fiancee. In addition, he and Mary could both be killed for their alleged violation of Jewish law. Does he believe Jesus will be enough to meet his hopes and fears?

Trusting God with what we can’t grasp is hard. Story after story throughout scripture bear witness to it. It’s a human problem.

Fear is mentioned in the Bible over 500 times!

The angels recognize our humanity which is why their first words are:“Do not be afraid!”

The exhortation itself was nothing new. God’s word to them and us spoken through Isaiah is this: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. “ Isaiah 41:10

But the angels’ announcement to the shepherds and to the world was different. Because this time God wasn’t just telling us no not be afraid. He was coming to earth to transform their fears.

Upon the official announcement of Jesus’ birth, something happens that the shepherds would have recognized but we may not.

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2)

A host of angels appears here. This is significant. The Greek work for “host” is a military term. These are not cute little angels playing harps. An angel army descended to earth to signify that Satan no longer rules it.  They are operating at the command of the infant Jesus.

Heaven intersected Earth.

Jesus is enough.

Enough to meet our hopes and fears: for

health, power, relationship, provision, purpose….

“The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight” (From the hymn “O little Town of Bethlehem”)

Our fears are transformed into hope when we surrender them to Jesus. 

Do you believe Jesus is enough to meet your hopes and fears? What can you leave in the manger?
*this post originated as a message given by me on Christmas Eve 2017 at Hope Covenant Church. You can listen here: https://s3.amazonaws.com/media.cloversites.com/21/215af0c3-7d17-4960-a142-642d26ec8048/documents/xmaseve.mp3

 

 

How I Found Gratitude After Grief


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
As I get older, I realize that life is much messier than I once anticipated.
Over twenty years ago, my husband and I felt ready to start a family. The experiences of friends as well as the narratives told through television and movies created my expectations of that season of life. How often does media tell a story involving miscarriage, infertility, stillborn, or SIDS? How many stories are shared by older women to their younger female relatives regarding their own painful moments of losing a baby?
When painful realities are hushed, we are all affected.
Although it took longer than expected, I conceived my first child in less than a year. I suppose in some ways, my naivety lessened my anxiety. I didn’t realize the likelihood that a full term, smooth pregnancy was not guaranteed. Fortunately, I gave birth to a small but healthy son six days early.
Of course those early days presented much differently than what I imagined. Sleepless nights, limited free time, juggling work and time at home created an exhausting rhythm to my days. But we cherished the life we had been given; marveling at his developmental milestones. We loved our expanded family.
When my son was eighteen months old, we began conversations of adding another child. Since conception took several months previously, we assumed that pregnancy this time would not happen quickly. However, to our surprise, I discovered baby number two was on its way after only three months.
I shared the exciting news with close friends and family. Although, I was only a few weeks pregnant, I had no reason to believe anything could could go wrong. I made an appointment to confirm it with my doctor. I went alone since I assumed the visit would proceed as planned. There was no need for my husband to take time off of work.
But, my assumptions were quickly shattered.
As my doctor spoke, I struggled to absorb his words.
“I don’t see anything here.”
This is not what I expected.
He mentioned the slight possibility that the embryo may not have developed enough to see. My mind attempted to cling to this thread of hope.
In these days before cell phones, I picked up the pay phone in the lobby and called my husband. The tears began falling. Hard. My voice, barely audible, attempted to explain what I had just been told.
“They can’t see it,” I muttered through my cries.
I don’t remember my husband’s response. But I do know that neither of us were prepared for this moment or what was to come.
Initially, thinking that it was a blighted ovum, I was scheduled for a D&C.
Thankfully, the procedure appeared uneventful physically. Emotionally, I was still trying to reconcile my hopes with reality. At least my husband and I could return home to confront our grief and seek refuge in God’s healing arms.
A few days later, as I began moving about to the familiar rhythms of my days, the phone rang. My doctor spoke on the other end; my pregnancy was not yet over. The results of the D & C indicated that my body was holding an ectopic pregnancy.
Shock. Confusion. Fear.
I had read about ectopic pregnancies. I knew their implications: in addition to the loss of a baby there was a very real threat of life to the mother.
Fortunately, my life did not appear in Jeopardy yet. Therefore, Methotrexate was chosen as the treatment. A few days later, I found myself receiving the injection on my hip via a large needle. The physical pain was secondary to the pain my hurt felt as I realized i was choosing to officially end the life of this child. It’s quite possible that the embryo had stopped developing already. But, the guilt hung on my shoulders.
That summer became a blur of twice weekly blood draws, grief, death, physical side-effects, and stress between my husband and I. Yet, I continued to try to speak life into my toddler.
Fortunately, I became pregnant again. Despite my fears surrounding the first few months, I had no difficulties while waiting for the arrival of this baby. Again, six days early, I delivered a healthy baby girl.
We enjoyed the changing dynamics of our family. We had a son and a daughter. The days were filled with finding moments of joy amidst the chaos. But I felt our family was not complete. My husband and I bantered for several months over the size of our family.
Eventually, we decided to try one more time.
In what appeared to be a cruel twist of irony, we discovered that once again an ectopic pregnancy was confirmed. How could this happen again?
Despite the familiarity with the routine involved in the treatment, our hearts broke again. Dreams and hopes dashed in an instant. Guilt resurfaced. Would a third child ever become a reality?
In response to this situation, my doctor suggested that I be tested in order to discover what may be causing the ectopic pregnancy. Dye would be inserted into my fallopian tubes while he watched it on a monitor. Any blockages would be apparent.
No one could have prepared me for the results.
Despite carrying two full-term pregnancies, I was born with a condition called Unicornuate Uterus. In common terms: half of a reproductive system. Truthfully, most women with this condition, cannot carry a baby full term. Furthermore, pregnancy itself is a long shot. Not to mention that being deaf and possessing only one kidney are often associated with it as well.
Finding out your body’s idiosyncrasies as an adult when you have had no symptoms creates a bit of a surreal feeling.
The grief of losing two children is real. The memory doesn’t disappear. In fact, sometimes, I think that my body’s memory is all too aware that there should be two other children in my sphere. Often, when I’m rounding up my children as we prepare to leave, I feel an inner sense that two are missing.
Flicks of pain surface once in a while. Yet, mixed in to the sadness, gratitude finds itself. My husband and I recognize that the three (yes, we tried again after much prayer and conversation) children we have are a gift.  We don’t deserve Seth, Lena, and Eli more than any other people longing for their own. We have no answers explaining the mystery of God’s ways.

But we are thankful for what we have been given. And that is how we find gratitude in the midst of grief.
Have you lost a child due to pregnancy loss or stillbirth? I have a fantastic book to give away. “Loved Baby” by Sarah Philpott provides a healing balm to the soul. Sarah wrote 31 devotions to “help you grieve and cherish your child after pregnancy loss.” This beautiful book will be given away  at the end of the month. Please state your interest in the comments below for a chance to win it.
 
 

Why I Find Comfort Walking in Peter's Footprints

 

I can hear the voice beckoning me forward.
By all Heavenly accounts, I have nothing to fear. Have I forgotten the miracles Jesus has performed in front of my eyes? Do I believe the testimony of wonders shared throughout scripture?
By all Earthly accounts, I have everything to fear. Voices of “reason” echo in my head. Don’t I know where I should be securing my feet?
My husband was laid off in March. Our severance package ended. And we held onto expectations for the way we would be rescued from our boat in the midst of this abyss.
But currently, we wait.
I glance down at the “water” that surrounds me. Wide and cloudy. No clear path is yet visible.
But Jesus stretches out his hand and keeps calling.
Does Jesus not realize what he is asking? How on Earth can it happen?
“Don’t be afraid. Take courage, I am here.”
I cry out, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”
Jesus replies, “Yes, come.”
So I step out of the safe confines of my “boat.” I dip a toe in. Fear holds me back from putting my whole weight on one foot.
The implications are not lost on me. I know people who have stepped into this place that is unknown; unpredictable. Didn’t some of them sink?
But this moment isn’t about them. It’s about me. There are plenty of human based reasons to refuse to walk toward Jesus’ voice.
But what will I lose if I don’t?
Ironically, I cannot walk forward if I remain balancing on one leg. So, slowly, I move the other foot in front. I can’t believe it! I am walking toward Jesus!
And then the winds begin picking up speed. Keeping my balance and my eyes focused on Jesus’ outstretched arm becomes difficult.
Another job prospect fell through. Our car broke down.
I didn’t expect this challenge. If Jesus is inviting me to come, why am I being knocked around as I make my way toward his reach?
What if I plunge downward?
Save me Lord!
Jesus grabs my attention.
A week long contract appears out of the blue. A side job appears. Our every need is provided.
Jesus calls out to me, “You have so little faith. Why did you doubt me?”
Truthfully? Because I’m human. Like Peter, who laid out the path ahead of me, I lean toward what my mind can grasp. It cannot comprehend the divinity which intersects in our Earthly moments.
Of course, I have witnessed wonders earlier in my life which can only be attributed to the works of a mighty God. Many times I have felt Jesus speaking to my heart and providing clarity. And, like Peter, I am no stranger to the accounts of miraculous activity in the lives of others. Scripture gives no shortage of those interactions. Both of us share the witnessing (he-personally; me-through scripture) of Jesus feeding a multitude with a few loaves and fishes. And what about that storm that abruptly halted upon Jesus’ command?
Still, fear lingers.
But I walk forward in faith. Because I simply can’t refuse to remain stuck in a false pretense of security. My current place of refuge may appear secure because it’s where I have found comfort. But ultimately, it only brought security because Jesus led me to it at one point.
Now, I’m being led to trust him once again. He has never let me down.
Peter, surely found security in following Jesus otherwise he would have abandoned him.
Jesus did not promise safety and predictability then and doesn’t now. But he does promise living abundantly.
So I walk to embrace it; legs wobbly but headed in a straight line toward him. And should the winds threaten to throw my balance off, I know that Jesus will grab me. Again.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Thursday Thoughts: Why We Can Let Go of Fear in the Unpredictable Moments

Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever go. Joshua 1:9

How do you feel when you are driving along certain of your location and suddenly, without warning, you find yourself forced to take a detour? Many times the detour takes you to your destination through a series of streets with which you are unfamiliar. The confidence you felt in pursuing your destination has changed to anxiety. “I don’t know where I’m going!” is the thought that takes over your mind.
The daily life for a family facing the realities of a mental illness illness or other chronic medical condition can; at times, be filled with moments of unpredictability-a loved one makes and impulsive decision with life altering consequences, a sick child takes a sudden turn for the worse, a new medication is introduced. Any pursuit of stability in your life seems to be thrown off with a detour into the unknown. Our human desire for control seems to have slipped out of our hands. Traveling into the unknown brings a sense of fear.
The Israelites were no strangers to traveling into unknown territory. The physical terrain was not always familiar. Sure, they knew they were headed to the Promised Land but how exactly do you get there? Along the journey, they made poor decisions and struggled with trusting in the promises God made to them in the beginning.
Here, the Israelites are to go forth into unfamiliar territory. The fears are real-life and death is at stake. Yet Joshua proclaims to his brood this promise.
How does this promise encourage you as you face the unknown?
Sovereign God, you have shown us through your actions in your people before us that we have nothing to fear. You are greater than any challenges we face here on earth. Please fill us with your peace as we claim your words through Joshua as our own. Amen

Do You Want to Be Made Well? Identifying With the Man in John 5


” Do you want to be made well?”
The question posed to the man in John 5:5-9 appears rhetorical. We do not know if he was born with a disability or his physical limitations are the result of an injury. Regardless, he is accustomed to his place near the pool of Bethesda. He has resided in that spot for 38 years!  He knows the perceptions of how he got there.  Surely his parents must have sinned greatly in order for God’s blessing to be withheld. Whispers and stares abound. He watches those whom wear the badge of “blessed” murmur as they pass his way daily.  His life appears anything but abundant; however, it has become his norm.

And then he encounters Jesus although it wasn’t intentional. Yet, Jesus approaches the man.
Who, would not embrace the offer to be healed? After all, multitudes clamored to be healed through Jesus’ mysterious yet miraculous touch.

Simple Question, Complex Implications

Three years ago, my son became sick.  Originally struggling with a chronic upset stomach, epilepsy presented suddenly. Our lives became caught up in a whirlwind of questioning, troubleshooting and despair. Thankfully, God’s mercies held us tight during that year. However, reeling out of that trauma, my son struggled with being made well. As I walked with him in that journey, I reflected on moments in my own life when I too feared “being well,” The voices spoken both audibly and echoing in our heads, appear to hold power and keep us from breaking free.

Restoration changes our perceived identity

Is it no wonder that the man in John 5 became accustomed to his socially appointed lot in life? We develop into  creatures of habit-even if the routine subtly and deceptively keeps us from being restored-fully whole in communion with God..

My son’s visit to Mayo Clinic included a visit with a psychologist who only sees adolescents with chronic illnesses. Why? Because narrowing one’s identity to fit around the illness becomes tempting. Doctors exhorted my son to not let his epilepsy define him.

Our own identities may be informed by life changing parts of our narratives, illness, injury,sinful actions committed against us or sinful areas with which we struggle. Regardless, Jesus has promised us abundant life   Healing may or may not happen here on Earth but restoration is always possible.

How would my son recognize his purpose now? What would it take for him to break through the perception that he is no longer dependent on others for basic needs? How would he establish autonomy?

Restoration Places Us Out of our Comfort Zones.

When he returned to high school for his Junior year, following the previous year of illness, I anticipated that he would welcome the fresh start. However, anxiety filled him as he began. I felt completely blindsided. Why would apprehension fill his heart? He had become accustomed to his lot. Sympathetic teachers. A force of people supporting him. Extra time at home.

As my writer friend Emily Conrad wrote in response to one of my posts, “I finally got something I’ve been longing for for years and now I find myself on the other side of a situation I had grown comfortable with. I had accepted it. And now that Jesus spoke and I’m moving on, I feel a little wobbly on these legs.” Transitioning to a posture of empowerment demands walking forward. Even if the ground feels shaky at first.

Restoration expands our view of God’s character.

Believe it or not, grasping who God is can cause one to feel a bit unsettled. Humanity has always yearned for the predictable. Comfort is found in explanation. Uncertainty sends our hearts and minds stirring. We simply find difficulty in grasping God’s words through Isaiah”
 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the LordIsaiah 55:8-9
Doesn’t it seem easier in a chronic situation to adapt and accept that God is not capable of Forgiveness? Mercy? Delivery? Healing?

“Do you want to be made well?”

Jesus heals the man in a way that the man never expected. Not in the pool but simply out of Jesus’ authoritative word: “Rise. take up your pallet and walk.” Later, Jesus finds the man to complete the process of restoration. “Go and sin no more.”

Suddenly, his daily rhythm of life changed. Walking forward demands trusting our sovereign God in our new steps. Acknowledging that we can balance on one leg as we move the other in front in order to stride toward the longed for but unfamiliar horizon.

It’s possible. because of Jesus

Jesus, who desires my wholeness so much to encounter me when I wasn’t looking for restoration.
Jesus, who believes that I am so much more than what I think of myself.
Jesus.

What must you surrender to Jesus so that you might be “made well?”

Overcoming Restlessness on Those Long Detours: Learning From Mary

Several years ago, my preschool son drew a picture of Mary and Joseph. Not just any picture, mind you. Usually, the manger scene as represented through the eyes of a child wielding a crayon finds its place on a paper canvas.  But Eli’s mind captured a different scene in the narrative. He captured what he believed to be Mary’s perspective on a long journey.

mary

 
“Are we there yet?”
Long journeys arouse restlessness in my youngest. He tends to be very organized and finds comfort in checking off lists. Oh, he loves adventure and even surprises but he’d prefer them to unfold in a brief, orderly process. His eye is fixed on a goal and arriving there according to his timeline and expectations of the journey. Imagining Mary on a long trek to anywhere brought empathy from him.
Little did he realize that traveling to Bethlehem signified a very small milestone on the road leading to God’s purposes for her.
Only nine months earlier, this teen found herself ordained to a new purpose. Unexpected, Holy. Scandalous. Sometimes new paths entice us with a sense of exciting adventure.  Although Mary offered praise to God for this new calling (Luke 1:46-55), I’m not sure even she fully understood the earthly ramifications of such a journey.
How do we respond to those seasons in our own lives when we suddenly find that the familiar path we are accustomed to trodding is closed off?
A detour sign emerges-signaling that the better route is the new, unfamiliar one. Reluctantly we begin; not knowing where it will take us. Unaware of what we may encounter along the way. Often, it seems, the detour takes way longer to arrive at the destination than had we taken the shorter, familiar one. At least that’s what we believe. But….the detour sign was there for a reason.
Are we there yet?
As the detour continues longer than anticipated, we grow weary. Surrendering ourselves to the One who plots our course can take us to places we’d rather not visit. The physical, emotional and spiritual compressing takes its toll on our earthly selves. Haven’t I walked far enough? Is there something else of which I need to let go? 
 Nearly nine months into her pregnancy, she and Joseph were required to register for the census in their hometown. Not convenient for this couple. Three grueling days is the estimated time span of traveling by foot from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Ninety miles were spent navigating a rugged terrain and daunting hills. In addition, the chilly weather, dense forests of the Jordan Valley, and hidden predators made the trip particularly dangerous.
However, it was not as dangerous as the place that exists outside of the will of God. Mary, in her praises to God, acknowledges the accounts of God’s character displayed through His people. Merciful. Strong. Provider. Creator. Sustainer. Holy.  With those narratives alive in her mind, she kept walking.
Are we there yet?
The detour continued. Did Mary wonder if her detour culminated with Jesus’ birth? Is that “there?” As she feels the baby wiggling, does she ponder where along this road, the promised King living inside her would make his debut?  “There” may have appeared as a foggy destination.
Henri Nouwen writes, “To wait open-endedly is an enormously radical attitude toward life. So is trust that something will happen to us that is far beyond our own imaginings. So, too, is giving up control over our future and letting God define our life, trusting that God molds us according to God’s love and not according to our fear. The spiritual life is a life in which we wait, actively present to the moment, trusting that new things will happen to us, new things that are far beyond our imagination, fantasy, or prediction.” (“The Spirituality of Waiting”)
Mary trusted that God was weaving a narrative far beyond her own imagining. And that is why she kept walking. To “There.”
As I ponder Mary’s journey, I am reminded of my own detours. Some I have embraced. Others have been met with protest. The new journeys took me into unfamiliar territory. Some treks I would prefer not to take again. Yet, God walked with me. And molded me. And loved me. And assured me that I had nothing to fear.
Because no matter my destination, or where I think it may be, God is with me. Always.
When I question the unexpected turns, God is with me.
When I stagger because my body is worn from fighting evil forces preying on my soul along the way, God is with me.
God is with us. Immanuel.

14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you[a] a sign: The virgin[b] will conceive and give birth to a son, and[c] will call him Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14
Because of Him we have hope. We have no need to fear wherever life takes us. Like Mary, we can keep walking.