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What’s Your Greatest Fear?

What’s your greatest fear?

Mine is ending up alone.

For some people, the thought of ending up alone isn’t the least bit scary. But I’m not some people. I’m some person who spent her growing up years daydreaming about meeting and marrying a Brad Pitt look-alike, moving into a movie-set worthy house and raising a family complete with two boys, two girls and a dog (or two). That was my fantasy, my hope and my dream. That was my plan A and I didn’t have a plan B.

Unlike some of my female peers, I never had my sights set on a career path or any path apart from matrimony, family planning and happily ever after. But God’s sights were set on an entirely alternate route and, eight years ago, right around my twenty-first birthday, He started taking me down a path marked with chronic sickness and just as chronic singleness.

By now, one would think I’d be used to the solitary life and over my fear of ending up alone. But one would think incorrectly. Instead of my fear diminishing, it’s been increasing. With each day that brings me closer to the big 3-0, my fear intensifies.

Now I know, thirty isn’t “old” but, in Christian circles, it practically makes me a spinster. In the past eight years while I’ve been alone, the field of male prospects has been dramatically reduced (see the wedding announcements for proof). Every time I turn around, someone is getting married and every time I glance down, someone is wearing a wedding band on their left hand.

All of this holy matrimony has caused me to wonder (and, if I’m honest, fret), “is there anyone left for me?” While I’ve been battling illness and fighting for my life, did I completely miss the marriage train? And, if I did indeed miss it, will there be a later one I can catch or am I doomed to stand at this single’s station indefinitely?

It’s when I allow these questions to fester in my mind that fear starts to seize me, followed by a crippling cascade of depression and hopelessness. It’s just plain crushing to imagine a future without love, companion and a family of my own.

But when I turn my questions over to God, He always stills my fears, relieves my depression and restores my hope. He does all of that with one verse from His Holy Word. Jeremiah 29:11.

“For I know the plans I have for you…plans to give you hope and a future.”

If I take God at His Word, then I have no reason to fear the future because, come singleness or come marriage, I know that God’s ways are always and will always be good. Even when those ways are challenging and different than my own, I can take comfort in the promises of God and rest in the assurance that His way is leading to an eternal holy ever after. 

What’s more is that God’s future plans are not limited by age or what I perceive as potential “prospects.” God is able to bring me a mate at any time and any age because nothing is impossible for Him! And because nothing is impossible for Him, I have every reason to never give up hope. God has the power to change the circumstances of my status in a second – He can work that fast!

But, even if God doesn’t change my status in a second or ever, His goodness will not be diminished. Even if I do end up alone, God will still be good and His Word will still be true.

Because, you see, God doesn’t need to send me a spouse to bless me with an abundant life. When God sent His one and only Son, Jesus, to die on the cross, He gave me everything and every ONE I will ever need for a truly wonderful life. In Jesus, I have the perfect companion, friend and Savior who makes me whole.  In Jesus, I have the Lord who upholds me and the love that completes me.

Every single time I come back to the foot of the cross, bearing my lonely burden, I find that Jesus was there all along with arms wide open, ready and willing to take away all my fear and replace it with the overcoming, reassuring peace that I have never been and never will be alone.  

 

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

~ Jeremiah 29:11

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This Too Shall Pass

This too shall pass…

For far too long I held onto those words like a prayer, banking on them really. Like a wish, I cast that desperate sentiment up to the throne of heaven, imploring God to make my physical distress pass… and quickly.

When the pain in back refused to relent, I called on the name of God to make it pass… and quickly. While suffering with burning eyes and disrupted vision, I begged God to make the episode pass… and quickly. In the midst of crippling intestinal dysfunction, I cried out to God, pleading with him to make the distress pass…oh so quickly.

But God hasn’t always answered – at least not the way I asked him to. He rarely chooses to relieve, restore and rescue with the snap of a finger or blink of an eye. Most of the time, God makes me wait for deliverance.

It seems cruel, or at least it used to from my distressed perspective, but after years of waiting on God, I’ve come to realize that His delays have a divine purpose. While I’m waiting for the trouble to pass, God is teaching me how to trust and depend on Him alone.

What I find most curious about how God works is actually how He doesn’t. He doesn’t give us what we ask for the moment we ask for it. He doesn’t grant us three wishes like a genie in a bottle – and then three more when we’re in another desperate situation. He doesn’t deliver us from every painful and trying situation.

Instead, God works the way Paul said he does – in sufferings, persecutions and hardships. God shows us through our trials that when we are weak “He is strong”.

It goes against our human nature to wait on the almighty God. After all, he is all mighty so what’s the hold up? He could bring this too to pass with just a thought in His mind but He doesn’t because He sees and knows what we don’t. He sees when we need to deepen our dependence on Jesus. He knows when we’re banking on the miracle moment, not the Savior and Sustainer, and He loves us too much to leave us with that flawed faith, so He makes us wait in order to cleanse and perfect us.

Nearly every time I ask God to make it pass (and quickly), He responds with silence and then…“Wait for it…Wait for it to pass the way I want it to pass…Wait for deliverance to arrive according to my will…Wait while I teach you how to cultivate a garden of trust in me….Wait and be still, resting in the unshakable, unchanging truth that I AM God.”

So, what can I say? That if this takes years to pass, God is late? That if this never passed, God is not listening or, worse yet, not caring? No, I am compelled to say, write and believe what Paul said: that I rejoice in all of these things because, through them, God shows me that His strength, love and peace are enough and all I will ever need.

 

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
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A Fertile Future

“If you can’t have kids, I’m not sure I want to marry you.”

His words cut like a knife. This was my fiancé, the man I was supposed to spend the rest of my life with, questioning whether or not he could spend the rest of his life with only me, not me plus kids.

Our engagement had already been on the rocks (illness has a way of putting relationships there) but this statement was the final nail in the coffin of till death do us part. Without missing a beat or shedding a tear (in front of him, at least), I flatly stated that I couldn’t guarantee I’d ever be able to bear children and couldn’t marry someone who required me to promise that as part of our wedding vows.

A year earlier, at the age of twenty, sickness had forced my body to trade in its menstrual cycle for early menopause. I was a hot mess – literally – thanks to the added (and unwanted) bonus of hot flashes. Within a few months, the fate of my fertility (barring a miracle of God) was sealed.

Since I couldn’t guarantee future infertility reversal and my fiancé couldn’t unequivocally commit without such an assurance, I did one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I called off the engagement and cancelled all plans for our future together.

Sometimes, when I stop to consider that someone stopped loving me because of what I couldn’t physically give, it still hurts. He was supposed to be my forever friend and closest companion, but I wasn’t enough and what I could provide wasn’t enough.

Knowing that I am unable to carry a child has impacted my self-esteem, confidence and self-worth. “What man will ever want me if I can’t give him a child?” has been one of my most frequently asked inner questions. For answers and reassurance that my future is fertile (whether my cycle ever returns or not), I go to God’s word. On the pages of the Bible I discover who’s I am and that who I am is enough. God’s holy inspired love letter tells me that Jesus loves me just as I am. His affection and devotion is not dependent on what I am capable of giving because He does not derive His value from child-bearing parenthood potential. He derives value simply from personhood.

When I sink back into despair and my hope wears thin, it is the truth of who I am in Christ that restores my faith and joy again. I remember Psalm 37:4 that says those who “delight themselves in the Lord will receive the desires of their heart.” From that scripture I am assured that God is not only the fulfiller of my desires, He’s the knower of them, too. God sees what is in my heart. He knows the emptiness that comes from infertility and how I long to have Him fill it.

Over the past ten years spent in infertility God has used the time to bring me back to His all-sufficient, abundant love. In the presence of Jesus’ precious Spirit, I’ve learned that the most satisfying love does not come from a husband or developing baby. It comes from on High and dwells within.

The hope I have for future love and companionship is held in the hands of my unfailing Heavenly Father. Because Jesus loves me just as I am, I believe that, one day, I will be loved again – and not for what my body can give or do but simply for who I am in Christ.

To my infertile friends, remember that your capacity to love and be loved is not determined by your ability to procreate. You are worthy of love because God you created you in His image and sent His Son to rescue you with eternal life.
If you ever doubt that God has a fertile plan for your life, return to the pages of scripture. Read versus such as Psalm 37:4, Jeremiah 29:11, Psalm 40:5 and Isaiah 25:1. As you meditate on God’s truth your faith will be strengthened and hope renewed by the reassurance that God is good and faithful and He isn’t finished with you yet.

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Trust the Process

“Trust the process.”

It’s one of Dr. J’s favorite sayings and one I’ve heard countless times over the past two years. When I first heard about a “healing process” I thought I knew what it meant and what to expect as the process progressed. But it didn’t take long for me to find out I was clueless. Heaven knows I had a lot to learn.

In April 2017, at the beginning of my Chronic Neurological Lyme Disease healing process, I was told it would take two to three years to complete. Although in my optimistic (read: naïve) mind I believed I’d crush the doctor’s estimated time to full physical restoration by completing it in one year – two tops.

Well, two years have come and gone and my process it not over yet. I am still in route to full health, living day-to-day life with lingering ailments and stubborn symptoms. I am not 100% healed but I’m not where I once was and I’m not who I once was.

Along this journey I’ve come to learn what Dr. J means by “healing process.” Unlike I originally thought, it is not only physical. It’s mental and spiritual, too. Healing from Lyme has changed me in body, mind and soul, restoring and renewing from the inside out.  It is a long, challenging and rewarding journey that has shaped, strengthened and sanctified me every step of the way.

The Lyme healing process is unique in its physical manifestations but it is universal in its spiritual application. Whether or not you ever journey through a physical healing process, if you give your life to Jesus and receive His gift of salvation, you will most certainly embark on a spiritual, mental and emotional healing process. Along the way you will encounter setbacks and days of utter defeat, just like I have on my Lyme journey. There will be days you’ll be tempted to give up and plenty of days you’ll struggle just to get up.

But if you keep turning back to Jesus, He will give you the strength you need to continue in the process. Carried on His wings of grace, you will experience unspeakable glory and indescribable mountaintop views. He will lift you from deep pits and set you on your feet again. By His Spirit, He will guide your journey through valleys low and lead you up hills that higher than any you ever imagined you’d climb.

During the past two years of my healing process I have learned priceless principles to healing God’s way. I’d like to share seven of them with you and hope that they bless and encourage you in your own unique healing process:

P: Practice patience. The healing process probably won’t go as fast as you like but if you remain “joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer,” you’ll discover that the slow road to healing is a rewarding one. (Romans 12:12)

R: Remain firmly planted in the foundation of facts over feelings. The healing process is a battle which is why suiting up in the full armor of God is key. Buckle the belt of truth around your waist and stand firm in the promises of God. (Ephesians 6:14)

O: Overcome by the strength of the Lord. Even when the process feels like too much for you to bear, remember that you “can do all things through Christ who gives you strength.” (Philippians 4:13)

C: Keep calm and let Christ carry you on. The process is not yours. It is God’s. Be still and let Him fight for you. (Exodus 14:14)

E: Expect a breakthrough. Even when the process feels endless, remember that God has plans and a future in store for you. Live expecting to meet Jesus and experience His grace along the journey. (Jeremiah 29:11)

S: Set your heart, mind and soul on who Jesus is. Watching the process is like watching a pot of water while waiting for it to boil. It seems to take forever. So don’t count the days of trials and troubles. Count the blessings of being loved and saved by the Author and Perfector of your faith. (Hebrews 12:2)

S: Stay the course. To enjoy the healing up ahead you cannot give up. You must give yourself fully to the process, trusting God entirely. In due time a harvest will be produced “if you do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)

Although it’s true that Jesus saves us in an instant, He sanctifies us for a lifetime. Renewal in His spirit is not a one-time event. It is an ongoing process. Healing God’s way isn’t a quick fix. It is a journey that will peel back every layer of your being and purify every crevasse of your body, mind and soul.

The process of letting Jesus heal you will try and test you but in the end, if you let it, God will use every moment of it to make you into the person He created you to be.

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A Message From a Tree Stump

Freshly cut tree stumps abound across the northern post-winter landscape and they’re delivering an unexpected message of hope.

Every year there are trees that don’t survive the winter weather. Some come crashing down under the weight of snow and ice. Others succumb to the pressure of fierce winds. Then there are trees that, although still standing at the end of the winter season, are in such a bent or cracked condition that they’re a hazard. Since it is better to be safe rather than sorry, those trees must be leveled, too.

The result of all this tree damage and destruction is a very busy season for stump grinders.

In early spring, before the surviving trees have sprouted the buds of fresh foliage, the stump-filled landscape looks desolate and depressing. The gapping holes in the ground where tree trunks once stood stand out like sore thumbs. Without new leaves to cover the bare spots, the absence of the demolished trees is too obvious to be ignored.

But, every year, I am reminded that this barren early spring scene will not last forever. The landscape never stays bleak for long. Life always returns to the earth and, when it does, the stumps aren’t so glaring. In time, the demolished trees will become a distant memory.

In the freshly cut tree stumps there is a message of hope for the brokenhearted:

God is faithful and full of grace. He never has and never will abandon His own.

Even if the landscape of your life appears barren today, look to the Tree of Life that is standing eternally victorious. Fix your eyes on the truth of Jesus’ resurrection and rejoice in God’s power to restore, redeem and renew even the most desolate of conditions.

Though stumps may abound for a season, God is always at work beneath the surface, cultivating fresh root systems and bringing forth new blessings upon the landscape. Remember that through the door of death, God ushers in new life. In the perfect timing of His providential seasons, God will transform the landscape of your life with the lush leaves of His goodness and a bounty of foliage that testifies to His redemptive power.

Trust Father God as He develops the buds of His Spirit upon the branches of your soul. Submit to His pruning. Wait on Him with hopeful anticipation and full assurance. Rest in the promise that God has wonderful plans for you and a future of abundance that will bring restoration to the landscape of your post-winter life.

 

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Revelations 21:5

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When God gives you a promise…

It was one year ago today that I wrote down on a purple index card a personal promise God gave to me. “I will restore your appetite.”

Three hundred and sixty-five days have passed since I first received the assurance from God that one day food will taste good to my palate. It has been years since I have truly enjoyed food. Thanks to dysfunction in my gut there are more foods that upset my stomach and leave me feeling ill than there are foods I can comfortably eat. As a result, I’ve lost my appetite for almost every food. Even old favorites have lost their appeal.

I must have been praying over this very dilemma exactly a year ago because God stilled my appetite anxieties with a message of assurance that it will return. God made the delivery of this promise so clear that I put it in writing and even underlined the final word, “appetite,” then dated it and signed it, “GOD.”

Upon receiving the assurance of appetite restoration I anticipated God would quickly fulfill it. I imagined that in short order I would be out ordering food at restaurants and enjoying meals with family and friends. I put my faith in God’s vow and wholeheartedly believed that “He who promised is faithful.”

But a year has passed and my appetite is as lousy as ever. In fact, I can eat fewer foods than I could a year ago and even those aren’t very appealing.

Since God made a promise but has yet to change my condition, does this mean He never really gave me the promise in the first place? Was it actually the enemy whispering lies into my ear? Or, worse yet, could it be that God did make the promise but since has gone back on His promise? Or did He never intended to fulfill it at all?

Now is the time when the rubber of faith meets the road of real life.

If my belief in God comes with a specific time frame I don’t have true belief. God is not a genie in a bottle. He does not fulfill His promises at the snap of my finger or work according to my clock. God fulfills His plans according to a whole different standard of time all together – perfectly holy time.

Since God has yet to fulfill His promise to restore my appetite I have a choice to make. I can turn my back on Him in impatience and lament that He let me down.

Or I can boldly reaffirm my faith in God’s perfect timing and declare with confidence that “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)God is rarely early and never late. Just because He has yet to fulfill His promise dose not mean He will not bring it to completion.

God is most certainly going to fulfill His promise and restore my appetite! He even has the day, hour and second planned when my taste buds will turn a corner and my gut will cry out for one of its favorite foods. God knows the very first meal I will eat on that splendid day when my appetite is renewed and reborn. It will be a miraculous moment and it is coming! I know it is because God told me it is. And God never gives a word He doesn’t have plans to fulfill. He is flawless in faithfulness and always true to His vows.

Even when God’s promise tarries, keep waiting for it with hopeful expectation. God will deliver it according to His perfect timing and, when it arrives, it will bless your socks off!

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Worth the Wait

When you’re hungry, awaiting the arrival of dinner, the wait seems to go on forever. You look at the clock every few seconds. Time moves so slowly as your stomach growls. Even minutes can feel like hours.

When you’re waiting on your life to arrive the wait feels even longer. Every day feels like a month. Every year an eternity. You stare down the clock and even change its batteries (just to be sure). But nothing can speed up life’s arrival when you’re awaiting your whole entire world to change.

As one who has waited for years I can attest to how difficult it is to wait. It is certainly not always fun to wait nor is it always easy to wait. But I can assure you, it is always good to wait.

When we wait for our dinner the meal tastes better. We savor every bite when our belly is empty. When the nourishment has been long awaited and greatly anticipated we eat (and enjoy)it all, down to the very last crumb.

The same is true when we’re waiting on God’s promised life to arrive.

God’s promises are made sweeter while we wait. After a long awaited arrival, we savor the promises all the more and cherish them as sacred and special. Our appreciation and thankfulness deepens and our faith increases as we look ahead with a hungry heart, believing and trusting that, behind the kitchen door, God is cooking up something fabulous.

While we wait with great expectation our hope is established. The delay demands that if we are to remain loyal to our Lord and Savior then we must take God at His Word and believe when we cannot see. When we choose to put our trust in God’s perfect will and ways in the absence of visible proof faith is emboldened and unity with Christ is strengthened.

When we choose to rest in the assurance that God’s promised life is coming we can expect it to taste miraculous at first bite and sit eternally well in the soul, too. The long expected, greatly anticipated life delivered by God in HIs perfect timing, prepared by HIs flawless hand, comes sprinkled with peace in the present and gloriy to God forever.

Trust God and rest in Him while you await the arrival of your life. His promises are true. What He has planned to deliver you is going to be worth every single second of the wait.

“For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?”

Romans 8:24