Wednesday, January 30, 2013

14 Love Letters

As part of the 14 Day Love Challenge, we are writing our husbands one note per day for the 14 days leading up to Valentine's. Is there anything more encouraging than specific, heartfelt admiration from someone you love? Our men are going to feel like a king by the end of these 2 weeks (at least that's the goal!). 

Don't get too overwhelmed with the length of these letters or the paper you use to write them on. Index cards are totally fine! Coming up with topics, however, can sometimes be a challenge. So I've come up with 14 different topics to help get you started! Have fun!
  1. A physical attribute that you love
  2. Something he's good at that you're not
  3. A favorite memory from dating
  4. One area where he excels in his job
  5. Something that makes him an exceptional father
  6. A favorite memory from this past year
  7. One area you've noticed growth in him
  8. Something quirky he does that makes you laugh
  9. A quality in him that you admire & hope gets passed to your children
  10. Something you're looking forward to experiencing with him
  11. Reaffirm your "till-death-do-us-part" commitment to him
  12. Praise his leadership (leadership comes in all shapes and sizes)
  13. Something he does around the house that you appreciate
  14. Thank him for his financial provision for your family (remind him that you are proud of him and content with whatever standard of living his job allows OR apologize to him that you have not always been content and you are trying to change this)
Serve him gladly. Love him well!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

14 Day Love Challenge (revisited)

This post was originally written January 2012 and was hugely popular. So as Valentine's Day 
approaches, I thought I'd repost it to spur some creativity in the Love Department. 

WARNING: This blog is a little more "X-rated" than my typical family friendly post. Therefore, my parents, in-laws, and all unmarried people should stop reading right now. And, Andy, if you read this you will spoil all of your Valentine surprises, but I guess you can just look forward to them with anticipation. Your choice.

Now that we got that out of the way, I will proceed as if only married girls are reading this post...because that is who it is intended for. :-)

OK, girls! Are you ready to take a 14 Day Love Challenge and be a HUGE blessing to your husband? This is going to be a lot of fun!

February is just around the corner, and instead of celebrating our love just on one day, let's get creative and spread it out a little. Starting on February 1st, let's begin doing things (small or big) to express to our husbands how much we love, respect, and appreciate them!

Here is a list of ideas to get you started:
  1. Write 14 Love Notes to your husband. See tomorrow's post for ideas. "Hide" one per day in a place that he is sure to find it. I promise you, by day 3 or 4 he will be hunting for them!
  2. One night after the kids are in bed, prepare a candlelight picnic in your living room. A blanket on the floor, strawberries, cheese & crackers, something chocolate, and a bottle of wine/champaign/sparkling grape juice. Bonus points if you're naked!
  3. Do something to bless him at work. Something slightly public so those he works with notice, but nothing too embarrassing. One idea I had is getting him several small gifts and having various co-workers give them to him on your behalf at appointed times throughout the day. 
  4. Choose one day to send him love texts all day long. Think of things to say that you know would encourage him or put a smile on his face. (Sexting is not recommended, but I guess that's up to you!)
  5. Make his favorite dessert for him.
  6. Spend 5 minutes per day in focused prayer just for your husband. Thank God for all of his wonderful qualities. Pray for areas in your marriage that need growth. Pray that God would help you to be the spouse that your husband needs. 
  7. Initiate intimacy every other night for two weeks...or if you're really a Superwoman, go for once (or twice!) a day. Try some new things to break up "business-as-usual". A new lotion, new lingerie, new location...
  8. Think of a little project that is on his "to-do" list that he just hasn't been able to get around to. Do it for him and leave him a little note that says, "Because I love you. From, a helper suitable for you!"
  9. Plan your Valentine's date. Arrange childcare, get reservations, plan something romantic. Don't leave all the planning up to your man and then act disappointed when the date didn't meet your expectations.
  10. Kidnap him from work for a lunch date.
  11. Download the song that you danced to at your wedding. Dance together in your living room and think of how far you've come since that day!
  12. Find a good time to ask him, "What is one thing that I could do differently to be a better helper to you?" No matter what he says, don't defend yourself or make excuses. Thank him for his honesty and tell him that you will work hard to be more attentive to that. (If he says, "Nothing", it's probably either that he can't think of something off the top of his head or he's nervous to tell you because he doesn't want to hurt your feelings or get in a fight. Give him the freedom to tell you his idea whenever it comes to him, and promise him that you will respond graciously. You want to know!)
  13. Watch a movie (one of his favorites, a "guy" movie, or something really romantic) wearing either sexy lingerie OR nothing at all! If you have kids, just keep a blanket nearby incase they wander out. :-)
  14. Make him his favorite breakfast one morning. Andy's is French Toast Casserole...pure goodness! Decorate the table (or tray if you do breakfast in bed) with candy conversation hearts.
I would LOVE to know if you're in and hear any more ideas that you have, so leave me a comment. This is going to be a lot of fun!

And if your marriage is struggling and all of this seems like way more work than fun, I challenge you to "fake it till you feel it". When you do what you CAN do, God will step in and do the IMPOSSIBLE. He can restore the love and intimacy that seems dead right now. So go ahead and take the 14 Day Love may be 14 days away from a miracle!

Monday, January 28, 2013

All things beautiful

Every time I hear the song “How He Loves Us” I think of Cardboard Testimonies. For South Bay’s 1 year anniversary service, Archie sang that song while over 20 people filed across the stage holding up their cardboard testimony. On one side there was a phrase that captured the brokenness of life. Pain. Disappointment. Broken dreams. On the other side were words that displayed God’s redemption of each situation. The way He pierced through their darkness with His light. His life breathed on what was thought dead. Hope among the wreckage. 
  • Turned my back on God 15 years ago - God never turned His back on me
  • Widowed with 5 young children - He is the Father to the fatherless
  • Drug dealer - pastor
I play the scene over and over in my head. He makes ALL THINGS beautiful. It’s the “Ugly Beautiful”. The “brutiful” part of life.

I feel like I’m walking across that stage again white knuckling a piece of cardboard. Only this time just one side has writing on it:

“Suffered a miscarriage after 5 1/2 years of infertility”

Pain. Disappointment. Broken dreams.

But I know that I will flip the cardboard one day. I don’t know what’s going to be written on the other side. There’s no clear vision in my mind of how God will redeem this pain and make all things beautiful. But I know He will; that’s just what He does.

Brokenness? Yes. Hopelessness? No.

There are too many people around me with their cardboard testimonies, trophies of God’s glory, for me to believe I’ll be left stranded with only a one-sided story. Plus, I’ve got a whole closet full of my own scraps of cardboard to remind me of the faithfulness of God.

Beauty is coming. For me and for you. I don't know what's written on the unfinished piece of cardboard in your hand, but there is a faithful God who is in the business of redemption. He will never leave you forsaken on the stage of life with only a one-sided story. He makes ALL THINGS beautiful in His time.

South Bay's cardboard testimonies from February 2010

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Power of a Praying Parent

This post was originally written last June to honor my father on Father's Day and my grandmother on her 95th birthday. I wanted to share it again in the wake of her death as a reminder of the legacy that she passed down to us. By the grace of God, that legacy will live on through me, my children, and my grandchildren. May this story inspire us all to live lives of prayer and intentionality.

I have a rare heritage.
In a society where at least 1/2 of marriages end in divorce and fathers are no where to be found, I come from a long line of godly men & women.
My great-great-grandfather on my dad’s side (Granddaddy Burns) was just a regular guy. He wasn’t a pastor or a missionary or a seminary graduate. But he loved Jesus and he felt compelled that he should pray for his family down to the 6th generation. I’m not exactly sure why he chose the 6th generation or what those prayers sounded like, but those prayers included me, my kids, and my grandkids. Who does that?!
One of his daughters married a man by the last name Bynum. My great-grandfather (Granddaddy Bynum) studied law and was making a fine living as a lawyer. He was actually about to be appointed as the youngest judge in the history of the state of Alabama when he felt God’s call on his life to preach. So he left his career to begin a new one as a Methodist pastor. 
Great-granddaddy Bynum, now grafted into the Burn family prayers and legacy, had five children. One of them was a daughter name Corinne. The blessings and prayers and mercy that Granddaddy Burns had faithfully stored up were being passed down to her. Granddaddy Burns could have never foreseen than Corinne’s husband would not be blessed with the same heritage from which she came. Corinne’s husband, Steve, came from a fatherless home. He had to drop out of school in the 4th grade to help provide for his family when his father left them for another woman. But it seems, in the providence of God, that Granddaddy Burns’ prayers covered Steve too.
Steve (my Granddaddy Cloud) taught himself to read, put himself through Bible College during the Great Depression, and met a beautiful young lady named Corinne who became his partner in life and ministry. Together they served churches in Kentucky, Florida, and South Carolina. Steve preached while Corinne prayed and took baked goods to every family on their street and loved people with the love of Jesus. Never did a plumber or delivery man or hospice nurse come into their home that my grandparents didn’t share with them about the love of Jesus.
Steve & Corinne had a son, who they also named Steve. Steve was born with a fiercely independent and adventurous personality. Growing through his teenage years, Steve was determined that he would be a big, bad sinner despite the countless hours his parents spent on their knees on his behalf. But what Steve didn’t realize at the time is that he had a great grandfather that had also been praying for him, and God doesn’t forget things like that. Try as he may, Steve would always be a “failure” at running from God. The sin would leave him with such emptiness that he finally reached out for God. He couldn’t escape the mercy that was stored up on his behalf. 
When Steve (my dad) gave his life to Jesus at the age of 18, he jumped in with both feet. He became a youth pastor and then a senior pastor and has served God everyday of his life since he was 18 years old. Granddaddy Burns’ prayers that God would raise up preachers to the 6th generation were now being fulfilled to the 3rd generation.
I am apart of the 4th generation.
My husband has been grafted in to the prayers of blessing that Granddaddy Burns prayed on our behalf. 
South Bay Church is here today, in part, because of the prayers of Granddaddy Burns. He played a role in the 297 salvations that we’ve seen at South Bay thus far. Those 297 people will be in heaven one day and I think that perhaps they will each receive a handshake from Granddaddy Burns, who prayed for their pastor and his wife. 
I cannot tell you the comfort it brings me to know that my children and grandchildren are apart of this legacy as well. While I can’t claim with 100% assurance that none of them will be wayward or turn their backs on God, I am confident that God won’t allow them to go down that path without throwing every roadblock in their way. They’ve been marked. They’ve got mercy stored up for them. And they will be absolutely miserable living a life of spiritual poverty when they’ve got so much blessing available to them.  
One man who loved Jesus and was committed to prayer shaped the lineage of his family.

Friday, January 25, 2013

An Uncommon Life

June 2010
She was ready.

I thought I was too.

But when that call comes, I'm not sure if any of us are ever truly ready.

The image that stung my heart was imagining my dad walking out of her room and away from her body for the final time. That body that had given him life. That body that had nourished him with milk and kissed his bloody knees. That hand that held his as they walked to his first day of school. Those arms that brought comfort and relief to his frightened heart in the middle of the night. Those knees that knelt in countless hours of prayer for him. How do you say goodbye to that body?

Today we celebrated her life. A life well-lived. We remembered that she took homemade baked goods to all of her neighbors so that she could build relationships with them. We remembered the way she never saw an ambulance without voicing a prayer for God's mercy. We remembered how she NEVER threw away food. Ever. She would save two uneaten bites in her deep freezer fully convinced that she would take it out to eat later. (Her deep freezer is quite full of food!)

We remembered the time she saw her neighbor, who she had been trying to build a relationship with, go out in their back yard. She got so excited about the prospect of talking with them that she grabbed an empty watering can and pretended to be watering flowers just to have the chance to say hello.

She loved people. I mean, truly cared about them. About their lives and their families and their struggles. And she wanted nothing more than for them to experience the great joy and peace that was hers because of her relationship with Jesus.

As I was talking with Andy about her death, I said through teary eyes, "Who's gonna pray for us like that?" I counted on her prayers and I never doubted if they were coming. The older she got, the less she could do physically. But she never lost her ability to pray...and she did it constantly.

She also never lost the gratitude that shaped every word that came from her mouth. It was almost unreal. The kind of perspective on life that makes you wonder if it's fake. Surely she can't really receive all of life with that kind of praise, can she? Surely bitter words will slip out in the pain of her final days, when her mind isn't as sharp to filter them.

Nope. Never happened. And the only explanation I can come up with is that she really was that grateful. She wasn't just saying it or forcing herself to be positive. To the core of who she was, she received every moment as a gift.

She was not normal. In the very best way possible, she lived a quiet, humble, extraordinary life. You would be hard-pressed to find another person who is a better example of the Fruit of the Spirit. Her gentle spirit changed lives. I wish you had known her. She would have changed your life too.

A few weeks ago, my dad was visiting with her as she lay in her bed. She interrupted the conversation rather abruptly by sitting up and saying, "Steve, can you imagine what it would be like to go through this without the hope of eternity with Jesus?" Then she laid back down and quietly said, "I have no fear."

She had fought the good fight. She had finished the race. She had kept the faith.

And she knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that her Jesus, the One she had adored and served and built her whole life around, was just on the other side with her crown of righteousness in hand.

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his faithful servants. Psalm 116:15

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Lead with what ya got

It's been a battlefield, this mind of mine, and war has been raging the last couple months. I know I'm in an intense season whenever I find that I'm carrying full-on conversations with myself (only sometimes out loud!). Do you ever do that? Find yourself deep in thought, mid-way through a conversation and then think, "Who in the world am I talking to?!"

Yesterday I was having one of these conversations that was half-praying and half just talking to myself. The dialogue was regarding my frustration about my lack of leadership at South Bay right now. I feel like I am tapped out and don't have a lot to offer. And, possibly for the first time in my life, I feel like maybe I'll never-ever-for-as-long-as-I-live want or be ready to lead again. I know in my mind that's a lie. But I'm just being honest, right?

Then God interrupted my flow-of-consciousness by depositing this nugget of truth into my heart.
"Lead with what I've given you." 

Right now I've been given a wheelbarrow full of sorrow and loss, and I push it around with me where ever I go. On Sundays I make sure to dress it up a little so it's not quite as conspicuous, but if you look closely under the table where I stand at the Guest Center you might catch a glimpse of where I tried to hide it. It's not pretty and it smells kinda bad, so people tend to avoid it. But the reality is, there are a lot of people at South Bay who are pushing around their own wheelbarrows full of grief. And somehow, I know in my heart, that it is an encouragement to them to see someone else who is trying to praise God with one hand while using the other to keep this unstable wheelbarrow from tipping. 

Sometimes we get to lead from our strengths, blessed with wisdom or success from the hand of God.

Sometimes we get to lead from our mistakes, humbly recognizing our need for 2nd chances.

And sometimes we get to lead from our pain. 

People need to see all three. We don't need leaders who have it all figured out and their lives never get rocked. We need leaders who are authentic, humble, and willing to share lessons learned whether in the valleys or mountaintops of life. 

So, no matter what season of life you may be in today, I pray that you will receive God's challenge to lead with what you've been given. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

A Peppermint Christmas Party

This post is coming quite late, but I still wanted to share it with you...

For the past few years, it has been my joy to host a Christmas party for our South Bay staff family. Andy said it well when he told our staff, "Stacie expresses love through acts of service. So every bow that's been tied and ribbon that's been glued is an expression of how much she loves each of you." That is truly how I feel. Do not let these pictures deceive you; I am so NOT a crafty person. I don't even enjoy it and would never do it in my "free time" as a hobby. But there is ONE occasion that makes me want to bust out a hot glue gun... when I'm doing something to show love to someone else.

Words could never express how deeply I love our staff. We have been through so much together. I watch them as they dream dreams, work diligently, serve wholeheartedly, lead with integrity, and love Jesus from the core of who they are. They are each passionate about leading people to say yes to Jesus and passionate that their area of ministry will be done with excellence. We are a team. We are a family.  

As I glued peppermints and cut ribbon, I said prayers for each of their lives. During this season of my homeschooling-full-time-mommy life, I don't get to rub shoulders with them throughout the week as much as I'd like. But I want them each to know that I am fiercely loyal to them and so thankful for each of their families. 

I got the idea for the table decor from this website. There is even a tutorial for 
how to make the placemats and the center piece. I tried to stick with a peppermint theme.

Name flags courtesy of Sanli

Our dinner was catered by Caterman Catering and I was extremely 
pleased with their service, display, and the food! 

They even did a kids' bar of chicken nuggets and mac & cheese, much to my boys' 
delight. The adults, on the other hand, enjoyed much more sophisticated food than that!

Inspiration for the dessert table came from this website. 

Candy cane shaped brownies with peppermint patties mixed into the batter. 
These were surprisingly tedious to cut out and probably would have looked better 
if they had been iced with red and white icing (but ya gotta draw the line somewhere). 
As they were, I thought it kinda looked like a plate full of 7's. Andy assured me 
that you could tell they were supposed to be candy canes!

Now THIS was divine!!! White Chocolate Peppermint Bark Cheesecake. 
So good. I found the recipe here

These adorable cupcakes were baked by my fabulous friend, Gennie. Too cute!

Ghirardelli Peppermint Bark
(for all you non-Bay Area folk, did you know Ghirardelli chocolate originated here?)

Brad, Laura, Ella, Kendall, David, & Tim
(we included our advisory team this year as well)

Tina, Filipe, Lily, Cailyn, Mandy, (Efraim- can't see him), Archie, & Rebekah

Cindy, Alan, David, Karl, Connor, Vivian, Renan, & Juliane

Jarrin, Trevor, Tony, Sanli, Jennalene, Lucy, Liam (sleeping in the stroller!), & Jack

Sammy, Andy, Jerry, Adrienne, Teagan, Stacy, & Caedmon

This year our gift exchange had the theme of "home accessories". 

David was pretty stoked about his quesadilla maker! :-)

No, Ella was not one of the gifts we were exchanging. :-)

Highlight of the night: when Andy was sharing with the kids 
what a valuable part of the South Bay team they are... 

...and then watching them tear into their presents! Loved that.

Our big family photo! 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Beyond What's Broken

A few weeks ago I said to Andy, "Why does there seem to be so many people suffering right now?"

Several things have happened that just hit too close to home...
  • A worship pastor is hit by a car while riding his bike. He dies almost instantly, leaving behind a wife and three young children. 
  • A church planter loses his young daughter to an asthma attack (AN ASTHMA ATTACK?!). 
  • A 6 year old boy has brain cancer. 
  • A family who we dearly love is fighting to save their marriage after an affair.
  • A mom with 3 beautiful young children finds out she has cancer.
I feel like every week I'm hearing of another tragedy. Why? Why so many right now?

Andy wisely responded to my question by saying, "There's always this much suffering. You're just more aware of it right now."

So true. Whenever we're suffering a loss in our own lives, we see the whole world through that lens. We become acutely aware of all the pain and injustice that life keeps doling's some for you, and some for you, and a great big heaping portion for you too.

We look on with fear, wondering if we will be the next unwanted recipients of grief so deep that it marks our whole lives. We start holding hands in parking lots and double-checking seat belts. We tiptoe in dark bedrooms to watch our children sleep, like somehow our presence will help their chests continue to rise and fall. We go overboard to control all the things that we have just realized afresh we have absolutely no control over at all.

We pray desperate prayers... prayers for comfort, for healing, for strength... and for protection. For a shield, a wall, to keep all those horrors away from us.

I began reading a book today. A book that my dad's been telling me for a year that I should read. Today was the day, and it was just the right day. A day that my head is spinning with questions of why and how and what does this mean for the future?

The book is One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp and it opens with a story of grief. Her story. As I read her words, I understood every question that she asked and emotion she described. All of us, if we live long enough, are introduced to sorrow.

She ends the first chapter by saying:
That which tears open our souls, those holes that splatter our sight, may actually become the thin, open places to see through the mess of this place to the heart-aching beauty beyond. To Him. To the God whom we endlessly crave.
These losses that we face in life are ones that we may always carry with us, but it does not have to remain a bottomless pit of hopelessness. It can be the rip in our hearts through which others can see Jesus. The shattered parts of us that have been lovingly and carefully mended can provide cracks to allow His glory to seep out.

I am on that journey. The journey of reflecting Jesus in the brokenness of life. 

Monday, January 7, 2013


It's easy for me to forget what Sammy's life could have been like.

Gone are the days when Sammy would get the look of desperation in his eyes every time he saw food. Gone are the days when he would force feed himself until we finally would take his plate away for fear he may make himself throw up. Gone are the days that he would eat with one hand while guarding his food with the other so no one would steal it from him.

He has no concern for food these days. He's knows it's coming at least 3 times a day and he's beginning to realize that he can pick & choose what he likes because there's always plenty to choose from.

He has no want for clothes or toys or clean water or loving affection. He used to. But not anymore.

When Sammy first came home he would rarely cry when he got hurt. He'd scrape his little 2 year old knee or bang his head with a bump hard enough that would have sent Caedmon into hysteria. But instead Sammy would pound on the boo-boo with his fist and grimace. Every time that happened I made a point to pick him up and say, "It's okay to cry, Baby. Mommy will kiss it." He doesn't need me to say that anymore. He's learned where to come with his boo-boos.

I had some concerns for Sammy with cognitive delays not too long after bringing him home. When we started "preschool" this year as apart of homeschooling, Sammy was a lot further behind where Caedmon was at the same age. He could not put together a six piece puzzle. He could not count to 5 (or even 1!). But, today he put together a 24 piece puzzle without assistance and counted to 14. His mind is being stimulated and the intellect that he's capable of now has the opportunity to be achieved.

It's easy for me to forget that, had he stayed with his birth mother, he may have likely died before ever seeing his 5th birthday. He may have never attended school or learned to read. If he broke his leg in an accident, he may have ended up lame because of a lack of medical care. It's easy for me to forget these things...

Because today Sammy rides roller coasters and builds with legos and watches the sun set on the Pacific.  Sammy takes swimming lessons and sleeps in his own big bed in his climate controlled house. He has no need to fear water born illnesses or hyenas attacking his village at night. His life is different now. He's been adopted into a new family.

It dawned on me one day as I was watching Sammy play that his story mirrors my own. I was adopted by God into God's family when I was very young. I was raised in a Christian home and have known very little of the hardships of life apart from Jesus. It's easy for me to forget just how blessed I am. It's easy for me to forget how incredibly different my life would be had I not been adopted.

When I try to play out in my mind what my life may have ended up like if God had not rescued me, I cringe. I think of the different roads I would have travelled in my pursuit of happiness and peace and the sense of frustration and waste I would have had when I realized that they were dead ends. I think of the broken relationships and regret that would litter my trail. I think of the lack of purpose and meaning to life that would plague me.

My "normal" is so far removed from that that I tend to forget how desperate my situation would be apart from the grace of God. I subconsciously begin to think that this is the path I've chosen for myself...that I made these good choices that led me to this good place and, therefore, I must be very good.

As our reality gets further and further away from "what could have been" it's easy to lose our reverenced sense of gratitude for what Jesus has done for us. 

But the truth is, I'm not here because I'm good. I'm here because I've been rescued. Redeemed from a pit of self-destructive hopelessness and put onto solid ground.

Sammy has no clue what he's been rescued from, and I'm glad about that. It would be too much for his little 4 year old heart to bear. But one day, when we travel back to Ethiopia and play with the children there, the light will go on for him. He will see their beautiful, coffee colored, smiling faces and know that his could have been among them. He will hold children with ring worm and kiss widows dying of AIDS. He will bandage the feet of children who have no shoes to wear and offer a granola bar to a child digging through a trash heap for something to eat. And with every encounter I pray that the Holy Spirit whispers in his heart that he has been rescued.

Friend, if you are a follower of Jesus, you have been rescued as well. Maybe your life was a total wreck and God transformed it and you know full-well what a gift you've been given. I hope you never forget it! Or maybe you're like me...rescued so long ago that it's hard to imagine anything different. If that's you, take the time to imagine it. Really let the reality of it sink down into your bones. I didn't deserve to be born into a wonderful family that taught me about Jesus. No good thing is in my life apart from the grace of God.

It's easy to forget, but let's make a point to remember. 

Friday, January 4, 2013

New Strength

It's time.

Time for me to start writing again. Not that I really feel like it. But I'm going to start writing in hopes that it will make me feel normal again. And then one day I'll want to write just like I used to. And perhaps I won't even notice the transition.

No...I think I'll notice.

I gotta tell ya, the past two months have felt like wandering around in the darkness. Sometimes I can sense the Presence of God with me there; sometimes I can't. Sometimes I crawl around on the floor cautiously trying to feel my way along so I can make it out of this dark room. And sometimes I pick up my speed only to walk head-first into the same ol' wall that I feel like I've walked into a thousand times before. So then I just sit down on the floor and cry while trying to assess how bruised my nose got this time.

To say that I am surprised by how I've responded to this season would only be scratching the surface. Surprised. Frustrated. Disappointed. I thought I'd feel "stronger" than this when pain came knocking on my door. I thought I'd face each day with courage and answer each doubt with promises from God's Word. I thought I'd choose faith over skepticism. I thought I would feel His presence more.

In some ways it feels ridiculous to me, even embarrassing, that I'm still having a hard time getting back into the swing of things. I mean, TONS of women go through miscarriages. I was only 7 1/2 weeks along, right? It's not like we knew the gender or had picked out a name or already set up the crib. There are people in this world suffering from such greater tragedy than my own. I also feel pretty sure that Andy & I will be able to have another baby in the future. So, what is the deal? Why have I been floundering around so much?

I've read two books that friends have given me over the past couple weeks. Both have been very helpful. In Angie Smith's book, I Will Carry You, she made the comment, "You can't rush grief." She shared that grief is like wandering around the woods and you keep stumbling upon uncharted territories that have to be walked through, and then sometimes you happen upon the same scene that you know you've already seen. And you think to yourself, "I'm getting no where." But grief is not linear. It doesn't happen neatly from Point A to Point B to Point C and then you're done. Your only choice is whether or not to keep walking. Are you going to just sit down and resolve that there is no way out of these woods so you might as well pitch your tent and plan to stay? Or will you keep walking? Will you keep doing the work of grief until you come upon a clearing and the road is suddenly in plain sight?

The other book, Tracks of a Fellow Struggler by John Claypool, gave a brilliant perspective on the very familiar verses from Isaiah 40:31:

Those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
They will walk and not faint.

Claypool said that he felt like soaring, running, and walking were three unique ways that we receive strength from the Lord throughout our lives. When we walk with the Lord, we will at times have moments of "soaring" where we experience mountain-top, fist-pumping, exuberant joy in our relationship with Him. These moments propel us forward with newfound strength and intimacy in our walk with Him. 

We will also experience seasons of "running" where God gives us the strength to do the work before us. He has called us to certain tasks and we can truly experience His presence and supernatural strength when we are faithful to the job at hand. 

The 3rd kind of strength is to "walk and not faint." This is the kind of strength I've had. I may not have had the strength to keep writing, but I've had the strength to keep doing laundry and wiping peanut butter off of little hands and faces. Christmas may have felt more empty and numb instead of joyful and meaningful, but I had the strength to wrap presents and put up/take down Christmas decor. I may not have the strength to invest a lot of time/thought into "ministry", but I had the strength to hand deliver a Christmas card and a few chocolates to my neighbors. 

I am not running on all cylinders. But by the grace of God I feel like I'm making progress and I am hopeful that healing is taking place. So I will keep walking.

This exert from Claypool's book says it well,
I confess to you honestly that I have no wings with which to fly or even any legs on which to run - but listen, by the grace of God, I am still on my feet! I have not fainted yet. I have not exploded in the anger of presumption, nor have I keeled over into the paralysis of despair. All I am doing is walking and not fainting, hanging in there, enduring with patience what I cannot change but have to bear.

Those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.