#12: A Portrait of Marriage

It was 1:30 in the morning and I couldn’t sleep. Not because I was in the hospital being poked and checked on every hour. Not because I just had throat surgery and was uncomfortable. I couldn’t sleep because I was in awe of God’s majesty.

He had done many miracles in the days leading up to surgery, and He’d done even more the day of surgery. And when I opened my eyes after an hour of light sleep, this is what I saw:

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My husband of 10 years sleeping at the foot of my bed. Hours earlier, he had sat there, watching me repeatedly fall asleep after surgery only to wake back up when my heart rate dipped too low and set off the alarm. He spoke up to the nurses and advocated for a system that would keep me safe while allowing me to sleep. He stood guard over me until sleep finally came.

After I woke, he was still at my side. I realized he is another miracle that God had given me, and arguably one of the most important. Matt hadn’t left me. He hadn’t decided to jump ship.

After a year of watching many of our friends divorce, it was extra special to find that my husband wasn’t going to split when we went through a fight-for-my-life challenge.

Contrary to how our society lives, marriage is a lifelong commitment. It’s a covenant, not a contract. You won’t always be happy because hard times will come. You won’t agree on everything, but you love and respect each other regardless. Your spouse will never complete you because only God can do that.

Somebody once said to be the change you want to see. I want to see a nation where divorce isn’t immaterial; it’s serious. That’s why I’m not leaving or cheating on my husband. That’s why I’ll love him for the rest of my life, even on the days when love is a decision and not an emotion. Thankfully, he’s expressed the same decision about me, and I’m not always easy to live with–so God obviously gives grace.

If your marriage is lacking–or completely bankrupt–there is hope! God saves marriages. Through prayer, communication, forgiveness, empathy, and living in a place of conducting yourself with the realization that your feelings are not your reality. Sometimes counseling is necessary, and sometimes God transforms a relationship in a miraculous way that is special and unique to each family.

The best marriages are the ones submitted to Christ. Man and woman, husband and wife, seeking God’s will for them both as individuals and as a couple.

(Please note that God allows for divorce in cases of abuse and infidelity. If your (or your child’s) life is in danger, high tail it immediately!)

#11: Ambassadors of Christ

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I saw this meme on Facebook last week. I laughed out loud (pretty hard, I’ll add,) and liked it.

Then I stopped laughing and unliked it.

Why?

Because I am an ambassador of Christ and making fun of people misrepresents the heart of my Father.

If you are a Christian, please please please remember–you are the only Bible some people will read!

Please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying: This whole bathroom (and locker room) business is absurd. I can’t believe our nation has lost its moral backbone and is allowing its women and children to be victimized. (Please watch this video for a good case in point.)

But here’s the deal: People are not their sins! We own all of our choices, and we’ll either give our sins to Jesus and believe in Him for salvation and make it to heaven, or we’ll deny Christ and go to hell.

Really stop and think about this. If we are our sins, why would God love us? He loves us because He made us and He sees us for who He intends us to be. And when we truly commit ourselves to following Christ, He refines us into that person.

Our country is becoming so polarized it is getting easier every day to make fun of the people standing on the other side of the aisle. Liberals mock my God, and conservatives (many of whom are corrupt themselves,) are poking fun of lost sheep whom God wants to come home. Both sides of the aisle have deep moral issues.

Yes, we need to protect ourselves and our families from evil. But are we protecting people by making fun of others online or in conversations? I’m afraid the only goal we’re accomplishing is alienating others from Jesus.

Let’s pray for people, witness to people, share the gospel with people, and love on people instead of wasting our short, God-given lives making fun of those who are getting the wrong picture of Jesus because we’re too hasty to point the finger and laugh. Not a single soul will be won to Christ with mockery.

Remember how the angels throw a party every time a sinner comes to repentance? It’s only possible because Jesus died for us! Let’s help Him make His death and resurrection count as best we can by sharing His gift of salvation with as many people as possible. Let’s give heaven more people to party about!

#10: The Language of Heaven

Our oldest, Chloe, is learning to talk. Some days she catches us by surprise (like the day she said “water” with perfect pronunciation), but most days she struggles to make her heart known. She’s teething and it takes Mommy and Daddy a while to figure it out. She’s hungry and gets frustrated because she wants something in particular and doesn’t have the vocabulary to ask for it. She’s thirsty and misplaced her sippy cup. Sometimes she cries because she can’t find the words. (And some days she’s utterly opposed to sign language. If her 3-month-old sister gets all her needs met by crying, by golly, so will she.)

Watching her gave me an epiphany: We speak like toddlers compared to the language of heaven.

What makes me think this?

How many times have you gone through heavy emotion and couldn’t find the words to express your feelings? Husbands and wives can’t express the depth of their love for each other on their wedding night. Nobody can comprehend your grief when you lose someone close. The anxiety you feel in unemployment often goes beyond words.

Many nights I have wept over something miraculous or something tragic. I tried telling my husband what was in my heart and couldn’t. All I could do was pray because only God understood.

God placed eternity in the hearts of men (Ecclesiastes 3:11), and–like toddlers who depend on Mom and Dad to understand what they want and need when they are too young to articulate it–our lack of vocabulary illustrates our dependency on God. One day, Chloe will grow up and have the same words her daddy and I have. At first, we’ll have simple, innocent converstaions. Many years from now, she’ll mature and we’ll have adult conversations.

No matter how many languages we know, we will enter situations where words will fail miserably. But when we open our eyes in heaven, we’ll know a new language, a language that will never fail us. Imagine the conversations we’ll be able to have with our heavenly Father with our new vocabulary!

This language might be what the Bible’s referring to when it says that the Spirit intercedes for us with groanings we can’t understand (Romans 8:26).

Just one more gift to look forward to in heaven. With our new language, we can finally give Jesus the praise He deserves.

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#9: Hope Floats

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Hope can be so fleeting:
“I hope I get that job/promotion.”
“I hope he asks me out soon.”
“I hope she says yes.”
“I hope I have children of my own.”
“I hope I get an entire case of Oreos under the tree this year.”

There’s a bittersweet anxiety in the waiting that leads to a happy-dance if it happens and disappointment if it doesn’t, and the sadness can range from “bummer” (in cases of missing out on Christmas dessert) to gut-wrenching sorrow (like not being able to have children when you yearn for them).

People say, “I had my hopes up,” because their hearts were running high and crashed and hit bottom when events didn’t go as planned.

Earthly hope floats. It’s evanescent and intangible. Impossible to grab, like the wind in our hand. Hope in Christ and His promises is anchored and eternal. At times, it’s the hardest hope to have. If you’re truly following Jesus, He will ask You to do some things that don’t make sense from the perspective you’re in. You may have “professionals” telling you that you have it wrong. Your family might think you’ve lost it. Your “friends” might make fun of you. (Note: If your friends belittle you or don’t respect your choices, consider a new circle.)

But, when the time is right, God exalts you. Your faithfulness shows the world who God is. In the end, your decisions will always prove correct when you have followed the Lord’s advice to the letter. Give it time and stick with God’s plan. If you endure with Him and follow His direction, things always work out for the greater good–no matter how absurd those choices seem at the beginning. God’s promises are the only safe and sure thing to bank our hopes on.

#8: The Lazarus Pregnancy

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“I raise the dead.”

Those are the words I heard almost every day for weeks in May of 2015. God would whisper them in my ear at the most random times and always when I was busy. (Not that I’m ever not busy, but I digress.)

“I raise the dead,” He reminded me during dishes and laundry and brushing my teeth. “I raise the dead,” He affirmed before telling me to read John 11:32. I opened my Bible to the passage and read about Jesus weeping and calling Lazarus out of the tomb.

My response was always “Yes, God. I know You raise the dead. It’s in the Bible.”

But reading about it and watching God live it in your life are two entirely different things.

While putting clothes in the dryer, I looked through the window and noticed a dead bird in our backyard. It was a beautiful robin. And it was dead, lying motionless on its side with a wing bent backward. It looked like it had been mangled by a dog. Right away, I wanted to host a bird funeral, complete with a robin-sized coffin and really sad music. (Okay, maybe just proper and humane disposal.)

I ran to my husband.

“Honey, there’s a dead bird in our yard.”

My husband, feeling a little less sympathetic than I was, responds with: “It probably just hit a window.”

“I’ve seen plenty of birds post-window-collision, and this isn’t it. It’s dead.” (The bird was at least eight feet from the window and under trees.)

Husband: “Okay. I’ll take care of it in an hour.”

I returned to the bathroom window and mourned my dead friend. The poor guy died a barbaric death and can’t even get a timely funeral.

I went back to putting clothes in the dryer when that whisper returned: “I raise the dead. Look out the window.” I shot to the window and couldn’t believe my eyes: The bird stood up and disappeared into the woods! Its wing snapped back into place without any hint of pain.

That was the last time I heard God whisper those four little but powerful words. . . for a while.

A week or so later, I found out I was pregnant with our second child. (I didn’t know it at the time, but I was pregnant every time God had said those words.)

I was expecting the child, as the Lord had told me previously about a little girl named Lydia who would join us in May. I wasn’t sure which year it would be, but I was ready in May and at the end of that month–ta-da!–we found out we had conceived her.

July came and we had a birthday party scheduled to celebrate our daughter’s first birthday. The day before, something went wrong. I called my doctor, and they said the worst: “It sounds like you’re probably having a miscarriage and you’ll lose your baby soon. Rest and take it easy. I’m sorry.” Their voice was full of compassion and sorrow, bringing tears to my eyes. I mentioned the birthday party we were having, and they suggested we cancel it because I wouldn’t want company when I hit the thick of it.

I hung up and told my husband. I could’ve swept the pieces of his heart off the floor. I rested on the couch and cried. I didn’t want to look outside, but I did and I saw a bird.

The whisper returned: “I raise the dead. You’re not losing your baby. Get up and get ready for that party!”

My husband’s jaw fell when he saw me get up and start cleaning.

“What are you doing?!!”

“Cleaning.”

“For what?”

“The party.”

“But didn’t the doctor just say? . . .”

“Yes, and then I heard from God. We’re not losing Lydia.”

His eyes filled with hope and he joined in the preparations.

The symptoms stopped and we had the party.

Three days later, I had a pregnancy checkup. They asked how I was doing with crestfallen faces.

“Good!” I said with a smile.

“The symptoms?”

“Stopped.” Still smiling and laidback, because God does this all the time. (Just read the Bible.)

“The baby?”

“Still in there.”

Confusion abounded, then–with a shake of their head–it was replaced with relief.

Later that appointment, through routine pregnancy blood testing, the doctor discovered I had a major illness–life-threatening if left undiagnosed or ignored.

If I had told God I didn’t want Lydia (my heart hurts just writing that hypothetical sentence; I can’t imagine never knowing her), there’s no telling when we would’ve found the disease.

This story is a large part of my testimony that I’ll be sharing soon, but I want it known now that God saved me and my daughter.

He is still in the business of raising the dead.

#7: Pigs or People

After calming the raging storm on the Sea of Galilee, Jesus and company encounter a naked, cut-up, demon-possessed man who lives in a graveyard. Jesus asked him “What’s your name?” It’s the only time He asked a demon its name, and you have to wonder why. He’s the Son of God, and He knew quite a bit about everyone He encountered–enough to freak some people out. The man responds, “Legion, for we are many.” The demons beg Him to allow them to enter a herd of pigs. Jesus grants their wish, and the demons enter the swine and down they go, off a cliff. (If I had to speculate, I’d guess that Jesus wanted those around to hear that many demons were in this man, then witness the proof by watching how many pigs were possessed, showing His power over the kingdom of darkness. But there’s probably more to it than that.)

The herdsmen race to the city and tell everyone what happened. Could you imagine them waking up thinking,¬† Going to tend to my pigs while hoping that crazy loon stays in the graveyard. If he comes out, I’m toast. Heard the chains don’t work on him anymore. Then, a few hours into their day, the crazy loon comes out to meet this Man they’ve never seen. Oh, nooooo . . . He’s out. The two men have a conversation and then, all of a sudden, there goes the pigs–their source of income, their source for food–off the cliff. G.O.N.E.

There went my bacon.

We don’t know if they heard the conversation between Jesus and Legion, but they likely did because the townsfolk know Who to blame when they returned.

I can see why they might’ve been scared: When they arrive, the maniac is sitting at Christ’s feet, calm and–imagine that–clothed. Someone upset the status quo. But instead of praising Jesus (or at least asking Him how He cleaned up this guy who was obviously a death sentence to approach), they kick Him out.

Why? Because they were okay with others suffering so long as they had money. They would rather this man live in the bondage of demon-possession than lose their replaceable pigs. If they had said, “Cool, Jesus! We’ve been trying to control that guy for years. He almost killed the last five dudes we sent over here to chain him. So glad we don’t have to worry about him anymore. But . . . uh . . . say, about those pigs . . . We kind of needed them for money. What are we going to do now?” Jesus would’ve helped them. He might not have given them the answer they wanted. He might’ve spoken in a riddled parable. But one thing Jesus never told those who sincerely sought answers was, “Figure it out.” He helped people in need.

What about us? Do we care more for pigs or people? Pigs can be anything: hobbies. investments, businesses, work, (cough, cough) blogging. It can also be ministry. Doing God’s work can be a pig. Hear me out: It’s holy to obey God. But we’re disobeying God when we put His callings for us ahead of spending time with Him and caring for the people He has asked us to help. Do we want God more than we want the pigs? If He took the pigs away, would we still want Him in our lives? Or would we kick him out like the town’s people did?

He has nothing against us being wealthy, but we should always judge our riches by our relationship with and obedience to God instead of our net worth. It’s good to work, but work with the awareness that you’re doing everything for God and continually search for ways to show Him to others. Perform your calling and soothe the God-given desires of your heart, but desire God more. And always, always, always, make it a priority to spend time with Him every day. Even on the days when your toddler wants to spray paint the inside of your home with silly string and your newborn is crying for sustenance while your husband is searching up and down for his phone and the clothes in the washer have to be re-washed because you forgot to put them in the dryer yesterday . . . Talk to Him throughout the day. Make time in the calm, evening hours after the kids are in bed to meet with your Father.

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#6: God Doesn’t Do Boring

People crave adventure. Do you know anyone who’s ever said: “I want to work a nine to five at a place I care nothing about, go home to kids I’m only mildly attached to, eat the bland meatloaf my wife makes every Wednesday night, and listen to her tell me about her friend’s Scentsy party while I really think about that homer Pujols shot into deep left and wonder if that’s going to pull me under on my fantasy team.”?

Me neither.

We are wired for adventure. Our adrenal glands are proof.¬† Sure, they came in handy for outrunning¬† sabre-toothed tigers and rabid hyenas, but God gave them to us so we can enjoy adventure. Ask athletes, writers, police officers, fire fighters, and medics: There’s nothing like a good adrenaline rush.

Raising godly children should be an adventure; the evil surrounding us keeps the challenge alive. Marriage should be an adventure; you go through everything together. Work should be an adventure; we thrive doing what God has called us to do.

Think about the Bible greats. Did any of them have mediocre existences? They had times of mediocrity, but it was never life-long. God called Moses out of the desert to save His people. Think about that. He could’ve spoken directly to Pharaoh and said, “Yo. This is God. Let My people go now or you are going to regret it!” He could’ve done that.

But He didn’t.

He asked Elijah to stand against Ahab and Jezebel. That was scary. At one point Elijah begged God to kill him because he was afraid of dying at the hands of Jezebel. Ahab and Jezebel were two powerful people who were puny to God; He surely could’ve handled them on His own.

But He didn’t.

The apostles spread the word, giving up their lives in the process when God could’ve supernaturally spread His Own word.

But He didn’t.

I could go on about Joshua, Jonah, Esther, and many others, but you get the point. God wants to include His creation. What do these Biblical heroes have in common? They’re people who were fully committed to God. Some of them were hesitant (Moses), or had periods of falling away (Peter). Some of them had to be disciplined (Jonah). But all of them lived lives where they went wherever God led them.

If your life feels boring, get in touch with your Creator.

He doesn’t do boring, and neither should you.

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