Suffering Obedience and Freedom

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Have you ever waited all week for results to come back to tell you whether or not you have cancer again? The doctor who removed the troublesome skin humbly admitted that she had never been in that position.
I’ve never once walked into a week hoping for suffering, hoping to have to wait on more lab results. Never once.
Jesus didn’t hope for suffering. He didn’t delight in the great agony He faced as he awaited probable pain and death. He cried out to God. He asked to be delivered. He asked if there was any other way.
But then He chose obedience. Perfect obedience which led to suffering. Suffering which led to freedom.
As I walk this road of suffering, complete with twists and turns which seem to lead away from what I desire, I am being trained in obedience. My ways are being stripped away. My flesh pierced. My mind and will transformed.
This week the transformation came in allowing Jesus to partner with me. The enemy loves to tell me I am alone. He loves to feed me lies about no one else understanding my pain. And, I seem to have a sick way of clinging to those lies.
But my suffering is bringing about transformation, when I obey. When I listen to that prompting to stop the Facebook scrolling and instead read the Word, I read the promises of Jesus. I read about His faithful love for me. I read about His pain and suffering. I read about the anguish He expressed during His most intense trial.

I read about freedom. Freedom the believers received as they opened their hearts to His Spirit and were then released from past bondage.

Just as Jesus didn’t desire the suffering that was coming to Him, I do not desire more suffering. But nowadays, I can walk into it with much less fear and much more peace, knowing suffering, coupled with obedience, always results in freedom. Thank you, Jesus!

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,  and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5

Walking with Jesus Through Suffering

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16

Studying Hebrews this morning, thinking about the significance and greatness of Jesus. Jesus, greater than the angels. Jesus, worthy of my praise. Jesus, the one who sympathizes with my weakness.

My mind flashes to the ache in my foot where the doctor skillfully and so carefully used the scalpel to remove the worrisome skin. My foot, pierced. My flesh, wounded. My blood, exposed.

I walk with the reminder of my suffering. Each step sends an ache through my pierced foot.

My Jesus takes each painful step with me. Tempted, tried, suffered. His own feet pierced through. His hands nailed to the cross. His side pierced through allowing the blood to drain out.

My Jesus, pierced.

His pain, His suffering, His sacrifice, so that I can read the words, “that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” and know that He walks with me in all of my suffering.

I walk with confidence in His love for me. I walk with confidence in His purpose for my pain. I walk with confidence in knowing that I do not walk alone.

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Remembering Marital Advice 15 Years Later

I was wrong. I was so wrong and I had no idea.

The selfishness. The complete self-centeredness. Who did he think he was anyway? Putting himself first. Me, just an afterthought. Our family, just an afterthought.

In one little conversation that belief was shattered.

“Oh, just a minute, I want to sit there,” he gestured to the seat my bottom half was hovering over.

Here we go again. “What? I was just about to sit there. Did you ever think that I might want to sit there?”

“I know, but I’d like to sit there.”

Wow, just, wow, I am thinking to myself. But, being the more mature one, I will be the one to sacrifice the desired seat at the restaurant. I will put my self aside and move to the other side.

But, I couldn’t just let it go.

“Can I just ask you, why you want to sit there?”

“I just want to be able to see out,” he says.

“Did it ever occur to you, that I also want to be able to see out?” I snark out.

“Yes, but I want to be able to see what’s going on,” he says so nonchalantly.

“Yes, and I ALSO want to be able to see out,” I retort.

“But, I want to make sure you are safe,” he says while opening the menu.

My ears heard the words but my brain was stunned.

“What?”

“I want to see what’s coming, so I can keep you safe.”

Scanning the restaurant, as my brain processes the words I am hearing, I ask, “You mean, like safe from a bad guy or something?”

“Yes,” he shyly replies.

My mind races as I begin to entertain the thought that I was wrong. He wasn’t being selfish? He wasn’t trying to steal the seat I wanted? He wasn’t thinking of himself first? All the times we sat down in restaurants and I had to move from my seat so he could have the seat he wanted, he was actually doing it for my benefit. While I was feeling wronged and unjustly treated, I was actually being cherished and protected by my husband denying himself and putting me first.

It may seem like a small thing. I resisted writing about this for weeks. But it just kept creeping back into my mind. Almost 15 years of marriage and I was so wrong about my husband’s motives, about his heart in just this one situation.

But, wait a minute. If I was wrong in this one situation, in which it repeated itself over and over again, could…there…be…other…situations…in…which…I…was…*gulp*…wrong?

When we are walking in Seattle and he walks 5 feet in front of us rather than my desired place of side by side with the girls and I, could he be looking out for us? Once, again, sacrificing himself to ensure the safety of his family.

When walking through crowds, pushing himself in front of us….Yes, you guessed it…again protecting, keeping watch.

Always assume the best.

The piece of advice our pastor gave us during our premarital counseling ran through my mind taking stock of all the wrong thinking I had held onto over the years.

“When in doubt, always assume the best,” the pastor had said to us during our engagement.

I remember hearing it, taking note of it, and thinking to myself, “that will probably come in handy”. But, in the thick of things, that wise piece of simple advice got pushed so far down as my…my…my…selfishness reared its ugly head.

Thank you, Lord, for revealing my wrong thinking. Please continue to open my heart and my mind to see others the way you see them. Help me to be quicker at assuming the best and seeing the heart of others.

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“…the LORD said to Samuel, Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16:7, NLT

Complicated Contradiction

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When you are involved on any side of adoption there seems to be this complicated contradiction. The joy is unbelievable. Yet, the pain is unbearable at times. Each person involved experiences it. There can’t be adoption without loss. Yet, there can’t be adoption without gain. The biological family experiences it. The adoptive family expriences it. And the adopted child experiences it.

The contradiction between the loss and gain of adoption. The loss, the gain.
The bittersweet, the beautiful.
The loss. She lost her baby. My girl lost her connection of 9 months. I lost my chance to carry my child.
The gain. She gained the family she desired for her baby. My girls gained a family to grow in. I gained my purpose.
Both times we brought home our babies I felt caught. Caught between imagining the sorrow of their birth families and living the joy of having a precious baby in my arms to hold. Knowing my gain meant another woman’s loss. Knowing my loss meant a shattering in my child’s life. Knowing my child’s gain meant turmoil they couldn’t possibbly understand. Knowing my child’s loss leaves an emptiness I can do nothing about in my own strength.

Each time my baby cried, I wondered, I still wonder, are they crying fresh tears or are they lingering tears of the life they once knew. The first season of their life. The season their hearts remember, even though their minds do not.

The bitter with the sweet.

The trauma with the healing.

The loss with the gain.

The shattered with the reconciled.

What Satan meant for destruction, God used for His glory.

Dear One, I know Mother’s Day or any holiday for that matter can be painful. It’s supposed to be one way, yet you look at your life and it’s so far from what is “supposed to be”. Can you ask God to show you His glory? Right in the midst of messy? Right in the midst of the broken? Lord, show us your glory. Reveal to us Your sweet in our bitter. More of you, Lord, Less of me. 

What I Learned in April

Psalm 25:4-5, Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.

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What We Read This Month:

Among the Forest People by Clara Dillingham Pierson–A beautiful compilation of delightful short stories of the creatures living in the forest.

Your Fantastic Elastic Brain: Stretch It, Shape It by  JoAnn Deak and Sarah Ackerley–as we have been on a healing journey this school year, healing from past trauma, this was a wonderful, short book to solidifiy some of our learning about the parts of the brain, their function, and amazing ways in which it heals.

My Reading This Month: 

The Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman—great book with helpful exercises to strengthen any marriage.

Getting Past Your Past by Francine Shapiro—interesting book describing the principles of EMDR therapy and how you can apply those some principles to your own life.

Change Your Brain Change Your Life by Daniel Amen—I am not quite done with this book, but I have found it very interesting. I enjoy how it has practical  yet powerful ways to change your thoughts and thus improve your overall life.

My Learning This Month:

“The Yes Basket”: I learned this idea here: The Yes Jar. I love the Empowered to Connect website and podcast. I have learned many helpful tips there.

The Yes Basket has helped our family with problems such as stealing gum or treats, boredom causing “bugging behavior”, difficulty with waiting for someone to be available to play or help, and the general feeling of deprivation.

How it Works: We have a small basket on our family room coffee table labled YES. I place individually wrapped gum and Hershey Kisses. Other ideas are lollipops, small toys, fidget toys, bubbles to blow, etc. But, my kids are content with gum and Kisses. I like to keep things simple! I usually place 1 or 2 pieces of gum and 1 or 2 Kisses per kid per day.

Rules: They must ask to have something, but I always get to say, “Yes!” They have to keep it equal…no taking more than their share. They must throw away their wrappers. If they do not follow these rules, the Yes Basket is closed the following day.

Feel free to try the Yes Basket in your family and let me know how it goes!

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What I Learned in March

Psalm 25:4-5, Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.

March path

What We Read This Month:

Hinds’ Feet on High Places: Delightfully Illustrated and Arranged for Children by  Hannah Hurnard and JoAnn Edington (I cannot recommend this book enough! Even if you have never read the original version, both kids and adults will love this book. It is an allegory of how God transforms our fears and weaknesses when we fully surrender to him. My children and I love it and want to read more and more each day.)

Indescribable by Louie Giglio (We continue to enjoy reading this devotional each morning. My 10 and 12-year-old enjoy how Giglio combines science and Biblical truth.)

My Reading This Month:

I Can Only Imagine: A Memoir by Bart Millard and Robert Noland (This is the book version of the movie which is in theaters right now. The book is a more complete telling of Bart’s life story.)

The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman

My Learning This Month: 

Passport to Purity: My oldest daughter and I went away for a weekend, just the two of us. We brought along the Passport to Purity curriculum which includes, audio CD’s, parent guide, and a journal for the daughter to follow along in and answer questions. This curriculum includes learning about peer pressure, choosing friends, puberty, dating, love, and sex. We found it to be very well done. There were moments of awkwardness, which we needed to work through. Overall, I was so thankful to have the structure and framework the curriculum provided so that we could get through all the important information. Biblical truths were the base for the entire weekend. I would definitely recommend Passport to Purity for all famililies with kids around the ages 11-13.

1 Timothy 4:12, Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.

This is the beautiful necklace Cate Florey designed for my girl so she could always remember our special weekend together! Check out her beautiful work here:  Cate Florey Studio

Thought Journaling: A counselor taught us about this helpful process she calls Thought Journaling. This process is a way of looking at how the thoughts we think and the messages we send ourselves cause us to react in positive or negative ways. Negative self-talk seems to just sneak right in. In becoming more aware of our reactions whether internally or externally, we can begin to see how false messages are sabotaging us. Or, the reverse is also true. When we send ourselves positive messages or quiet ourselves enough to hear God’s loving voice, we react in love, peace, and compassion.

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Romans 12:2, And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

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From “Hosanna” to “Crucify Him”

God keeps taking me deeper, into deeper levels of freedom. Just over 6 months ago, I wrote this, Freedom and I was overwhelmed with that deep level of freedom.

But, God…

He’s unwrapping the blockades like an onion, layer by layer; the blockades that have been blinding me from further freedom. He shows me there’s still this wall of anxiety between us. He reveals there’s still this fence of doubt getting in the way. And then He opens my eyes to a layer of fear stumbling me on His path

Despair threatens to set in. “Oh God, I thought I had moved past anxiety, doubt, and fear.” But, His strong loving voice assures me, He has yet more for me still.

On the other side of the chains of despair, He has LIFE awaiting me. And, He has LIFE awaiting you!

Have you ever thought of the people shouting, “Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”? They shouted the term hosanna, meaning save us. I imagine them feeling sold out to Jesus, placing their hopes in him, thinking they were finding and receiving freedom. Laying down their cloaks, their cut branches. Perhaps feeling as if they were laying down their hearts in submission.

But, we know those same sold out people, the ones willing to lay down their offerings, changed their cry just days later to “crucify him”. When Pilate asked, “Why?”, they only shouted again, “Crucify him!”

It’s hard to imagine this extreme change in behavior from “save us, Oh, God!” to “kill him!” until I allow the Lord to show me what’s in my heart.

Am I much different than the hosanna shouting people? Am I really any different at all than the people I read about in Matthew 21?

Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: “Hosanna to the Son of David! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ Hosanna in the highest!” Matthew 21:9

One day I claim freedom and power and then the next day, when faced with a trial, I claim my life as my own and kill God’s voice of love. 

I, too, shout, “Save me!” and then I crucify Him by holding up my blockade once again and kill His plan for my life.

But, God…

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As He unwraps these blockades, chipping away at my attempts at crucifixion, His freedom fills my soul.

When I see Jesus for who he is and not what he can do for me, he changes my cry. He puts my life in order.

My cry becomes crucify my flesh, my will, and my desire.

Oh Lord, hosanna, save me!