’til the wondering is gone

When the wondering finally left their eyes, I knew we were going to be alright.

For weeks and months after the little girls came to live with us, I saw their questions in every unsure, backward glance:

“Will the lady with the bedtime songs and prayers be here tomorrow night, and the next? Will she still be here when I wake up in the morning, and after school, and at the end of a long car ride?”

Their wonderings came out in tears or tantrums far more often than words, but I heard them loud and clear. I heard them, and oh, how I wanted to foster a safe place. Somewhere secure, where they’d know that I wouldn’t dream of causing them harm.

I couldn’t promise things outside of my control, so instead, I said a truthful thing that was real:

“For as long as you are here with me, I will take care of you and love you and keep you safe.”

I said it again and again. And then I did it, again and again. Robert did too, and we are far from perfect. But after awhile, I looked and the wondering was mostly gone.

When the wondering was mostly gone, I knew we were going to be alright.

*********

I look at my other babies.

The Brave One, who has been through more than my heart can hold onto without breaking. Whose 16 years mean that “mom” is a name I’m hardly old enough, yet still priveleged to be called.

Our Firstborn, who has taught me more about grace, and peace, and trusting Jesus than I learned in all the years before she came along. Whose story is painful and glorious, and full of suffering and of hope too.

Little Man, my baby boy. Sometimes, I just want to stay here in this season where I can whisk him up into my arms, away from the brokenness all around. I want time to freeze these big smile, belly laugh moments.

“Will the God with the promises and miracle stories be here tomorrow and the next day? Will He still be here when I’m not enough, and in the middle of my mess, and all the way until we win? Will we win?”

My wonderings came out in fear and frustration far more often than words, but they spoke loud and clear. He heard them, and oh, how patiently my Father drew me to a safe place. Somewhere secure, where I’d know that He wouldn’t dream of causing me harm.

I’m not sure exactly when the wondering left my eyes, but it’s gone.

Because the One who holds the whole world in His hands said a truthful thing that is real:

“Be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”–Matthew 28:20

He said it again and again. And then He did it again and again. He did it again and again, perfectly faithful, ’til one day I looked and the wondering was gone.

When the wondering was gone, I knew we were going to be alright. So much more than just alright.

Conversation of Worth

AJTwo conversations have been on repeat in my mind for weeks, like a song that won’t be forgotten. The first occurred 5 or 6 years ago between two acquaintances that didn’t know I was in the room. I don’t remember much, except that the subject of discussion was a mother who was raising a child with a genetic disorder. The mom was pregnant with another child, and the line that attached itself to my brain like a leech was this:

I don’t know why anyone in that position would allow themselves to get pregnant again!

The words burned like salt on an open wound to my heart. This heart that knows so well what it is to love a child whose been diagnosed with genetic disease. This heart that had my Aiden’s name picked out before his big sister was even born. This heart that holds the lives of ALL of her children as infinitely precious and forever worthy of space in this world—space not just to take up but to fill. And they do fill, to overflowing, all the hearts and moments and spaces that let them in.

It shouldn’t have to be said, but I will say it anyway. Every child is worthy of life and of love, and this truth cannot be torn down by the presence of disease or disability any more than it can by society elevating a mother’s “rights” over her voiceless child.

The worth of my child—and every child—is not grounded in her stage of life or the way she journeys through it but in the love and affirmation of a Father who knew her before she was conceived and will hold her securely throughout eternity with him.

The very words of the Living God shout her worth, and Aiden’s, and mine, and yours:

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you …”—Jeremiah 1:5

It is His steady and familiar hand that gives me courage to write today, to make myself vulnerable yet again, and to continue moving forward in faith.

——

I know what Peroxisomal Biogenesis Disorder looks like. I am one of a handful of people on earth who’ve personally watched as it stole eyesight and hearing from my child, hindered her ability to reach developmental milestones, and raised liver enzymes to alarming levels.

I recognize the signs of this ugly disease, and I see its mark on my baby boy. The eyes that don’t focus. Feet that struggle to take a step. Ears that don’t turn to his name.

I hate saying that. Still, saying it is like unloading a heavy burden I’ve carried far too long, because to bring a thing into the light is to entrust it to the hands of the Redeemer.

For years I was terrified of walking this path with another child. Because it’s painful and it’s hard and it hurts. For so long my mind was locked up like a maximum security prison—no thought of another baby allowed within a mile of my carefully protected heart.

Until Jesus came and set me free. Without pretense or flair or explanation. He simply set my heart free, and I wasn’t afraid anymore. Then Aiden (my little AJ) came into this world and into my heart and our family. Life without his footprint is unimaginable. He is joy encapsulated.

A second conversation still plays in my mind, and this one happened a month ago between myself and a mentor that I love dearly and admire greatly. She asked me about the goodness of God and how I perceive it, given all that our family has been through. I’m not sure, but I think she was asking from a place of both experience and curiosity. Undoubtedly, she knows better than most what it is to trust in the goodness of God, though perhaps not from the context that Robert and I live in.

How do I relate to the goodness of God? The question is a significant one. I didn’t answer it well at the time but have spent a lot of time pondering it since.

From the time that I was a very little girl, I have been taught to know and love God for His goodness toward us. Upbringing is not enough.

In my 32 years on earth, very few Sundays have passed by that I was not in church, hearing and singing about God’s goodness. Church attendance is not enough.

I have read and studied the Word of God, which testifies to His goodness. Knowledge alone is not enough.

I have seen the evidence of God’s good work in my own life—His acts of mercy, healing, and blessing. But belief, if only in what God can do, is not enough.

I am so grateful for the wonderful example and testimony of my parents and others, for the blessing of getting to be part of a church family, for the opportunity to study the Bible, and for the many times that God has acted on my behalf. Yet in the most difficult moments of my life, these things alone couldn’t sustain me. I would’ve been buried under the weight of “How is this happening?” and “Why me?”

The reason my faith is intact and my hope is secure—the answer to how I still have peace and joy. It’s because I have known God. I have experienced his goodness for myself. Personally and intimately. Not only hearing and seeing, but actually tasting His goodness. In the laboratory and not just the classroom.

No human tragedy or demon of hell could convince me that God is not good, because I know Him to be good, and I know it to my core.

I’m certain of God’s goodness, and this allows me to put my faith in God Himself instead of in an outcome. I have believed that I would see Olivia healed, almost from the instant she was diagnosed. Now I believe the same for AJ. I have hope, and that has kept me moving forward. That hope is not fleeting but an anchor, and here is the reason:

I hope not in hope itself but in “the God of hope.” Not in a promise but that “He who promised is faithful (Romans 15:13, Hebrews 10:23).”

In “Experiencing the Presence of God,” A.W. Tozer wrote:

“If Christianity is reduced to a doctrine that can be explained with no intuitive knowledge, no direct knowledge of the heart of God, then where is the wonder of it? I would not give a dime to support a teaching that denied the presence of God in His universe and the fact that the human heart can know God through Jesus Christ.” 

The book also quotes a hymn by John Henry Sammis:

Trust and obey, for there’s
no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but
to trust and obey

Tozer added:

“I believe that “trust” and “obey” are two wings of a bird. A wise old writer once wrote, ‘Two wings of a dove don’t weigh her down.’ She rises by means of them.”

I have seen the truth of this in my own life. There are only two reasons to obey:  fear and love. Fearful obedience won’t last long. But obedience that is born of love and offered in trust brings lasting peace and joy.

My God is worthy of that kind of love. That depth of trust. That quality of obedience. To know Him is to realize this.

I want to know Him more.

*I wrote this post from my own perspective, using “I” instead of “we”, but the reality is that Robert and I have lived every step of this journey together. His faith is genuine, deep and sure, and he has been my rock (by pointing me to Jesus, my Rock) more times than I can count. The way that he loves our babies is just one reason why I love him so much. He would tell our story with different “flavor” but the same truth. We’ve also gained three wonderful children in the last few months through foster care, and I hope to find the words to write that story soon.

~Holly~

The Greater Tragedy

I just don’t want to listen to that song again.

The thought passed through my head after a second person brought up “More Than Anything,” by Natalie Grant.

It’s lyrics read:

Help me want the Healer
More than the healing
Help me want the Savior
More than the saving
Help me want the Giver
More than the giving
Oh help me want You Jesus
More than anything

I could find no fault with the song’s message or melody, but something about it rubbed me the wrong way. A prayer for Olivia’s healing is never far from my lips, and the lyrics prodded some of the most tender places in my heart:

You know more than anyone that my flesh is weak
And You know I’d give anything for a remedy

So often the words we don’t want to hear are the ones that we NEED to hear most.

And I’ll ask a thousand more times to set me free today
But even if You don’t, I pray
Help me want the Healer 
More than the healing

Months later, I am reading about the Exodus–how God used Moses to deliver His people from slavery in Egypt and lead them into the wilderness, headed for the land He had promised would be theirs. It’s a story replete with the miraculous and also with tragedy.

God parted the Red Sea so that Israel could walk between two walls of water on dry land. He guided them with a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night. This, after Israel had seen the wonders that brought about their deliverance from Egypt.

When I place myself in the shoes of people who were witness to such power, it’s hard to understand why the book of Exodus sometimes sounds like a broken tape. God performs a miracle. The people complain. God proves His faithfulness. The people fall away. And … repeat.

Israel sang God’s praises after their Egyptian enemies were drowned at the Red Sea, but days later the people were grumbling against Him when they couldn’t find water.

Bitter, undrinkable water was supernaturally made sweet, and the people marveled. But it wasn’t long before they were murmuring again–this time over a lack of food.

So, God rained down manna, the bread of Heaven, every day for forty years. He brought water from rocks and sent quail in massive numbers. Even clothes and shoes did not wear out. Deuteronomy1:31 says that God carried them “as a man carries his son.” The following verse reveals their response:

“But in spite of this you did not Trust the LORD your God, who went before you on the journey …”–Deuteronomy 1:32

An entire generation of God’s people wandered around in the wilderness for forty years and ultimately failed to receive the promise of God, because they could not–or would not–trust Him. Only Joshua and Caleb believed God and eventually entered the promised land, together with the children of those whose faith had faltered.

The men and women brought out of Egypt never received God’s promise for themselves, and that is tragic. The greater tragedy, though, is that so many of these same men and women never learned to yearn for God’s presence over His power.

Quench our thirst. Feed our hunger. Ease the burden. Smooth the way.

How many times have I prayed for things to be easier or for the answer to come more quickly? So often, I have made an idol of the promise and forgotten the Promise Keeper. Stiff-necked, I have looked only at my great need, not lifting my face to the greatness of God.

But the promise is worth nothing without the presence of the One who gave it.

“The Lord spoke to Moses: ‘Go up from here, you and the people you brought up from the land of Egypt, to the land I promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying: I will give it to your offspring … Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go up with you because you are a stiff-necked people; otherwise, I might destroy you on the way.’ When the people heard this bad news, they mourned and didn’t put on their jewelry.”–Exodus 33:1, 3

But one man hungered for God more than anything, and his passion for God’s presence changed everything. Moses set up a tent for the purpose of meeting with God. There, The LORD would speak with Moses face to face, just as a man speaks with his friend (Exodus 33:11).” You can hear the devotion in Moses’ words:

“If your presence does not go, don’t make us go up from here (vs. 15)”

The sincerity of Moses’ request changed God’s mind. His presence did go with the people, and the younger generation came into the “land flowing with milk and honey,” possessing the promise of God.

While the great promise of Moses’ time was Canaan land, the great Promise of our time is the Holy Spirit. He is God’s presence in the earth today, the Spirit of Christ living in and working through those who belong to Him.

“This promise belongs to you and to your children and to all who are far off, to all whom the Lord our God will call to Himself.”–Acts 2:39

And hasn’t that been the point all along? That God would gather to Himself people who desire His presence above all else?

My prayer for myself is this:

God, Help me me be like Joshua and Caleb, who believed Your Word, remained faithful through the wilderness and received Your promise. But even more than that, help me be like Moses, who valued Your presence over Your power.

Help me want the Healer
More than the healing
Help me want the Savior
More than the saving
Help me want the Giver
More than the giving
Oh help me want You Jesus
More than anything

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Burnt Breakfast & Spilled Lunch

Yesterday, I dumped my lunch down the side of my pants and onto the floor of the teachers’ lounge. Today, I burned a breakfast corndog. In the microwave. At school.

As I stood and watched students cough their way through the smoke pouring into the hallway, it occurred to me that:

A) There is a reason why I stay out of the kitchen whenever possible.

B) I don’t have it all together.

I feel like I need to say that again.

I don’t have it all together.

Today I forgot my keys, my jacket and the charger for Olivia’s feeding pump. I’m just getting around to returning missed phone calls (days late), and will probably end up putting off my to-do list for “just a little longer.” As a person who takes pride in competency and being on top of things, the current state of my life has me feeling pretty pride-less.

And maybe pride-less is a good thing.

As I sit here typing, words scroll through my mind like breaking news at the bottom of the television screen.

What if God has allowed the circumstances of my life to bring me here? To the point where there is nothing and no one to rely on but Him. Not even myself.

These are my words, spoken to Robert last night as we sat on the couch–both worn down and out, praying the baby would sleep just a little longer and that Olivia’s machines would stay silent. He wants his wife back, and I want myself back.

I found out recently that my thyroid hasn’t been working correctly. They say that’s the reason for the mental fog and emotional flood I’ve been wading through. It’s why I’m tired no matter how much I sleep, and my body just doesn’t feel right.

I’m too certain of God’s love to think that He would cause my thyroid to malfunction, but I do believe that our good God has a way of using the broken things in life to teach us how to find all that we need in Jesus. In Him alone there is …

–rest, though the nights are sleepless

–peace when emotions run high

–truth in the midst of confusion and chaos.

And the strength to go on. It’s something I didn’t see coming. That at the bottom of a pile of failures, I could find fortitude. How bravery can be born out of fragility. That prideless-ness creates emptiness–making room for God’s BIGNESS to show up.

“He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.”–John 3:30 (NLT)

Seasons don’t last forever, and I do ache for the day when my life doesn’t feel as if it is hanging by a thread. When the things that used to come so easily don’t feel nearly impossible. But while I’m here in this stage of diapers that far outnumber date nights, I pray I remember:

There is such a difference between stressing and stretching, between pressuring and pressing through.

So, may the capacity of my life be stretched as I give myself fully to Jesus. May I press into Him as He carries me through.

Pride demands that we shoulder a burden we weren’t built to carry, but surrender’s gift is a freedom we were created to walk in.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your cares on him, because he cares about you.”–1 Peter 5:6‭-‬7 (CSB)

Author of Life

*I feel more exposed in writing this post than I did while lying in an operating room waiting to be cut open for the birth of our second child. My dialogue with God over the past few days has been, “Do You REALLY want me to write about that?” But as vulnerable as this feels, I am also filled with peace in knowing that trust and obedience are worth it. So here goes …

Several years ago, I walked into a teachers’ lounge and overheard a friend talking about a family she knew who had a child with a genetic disorder. The mother found out she was pregnant with another baby, and my friend couldn’t understand “how they could even consider having another child,” knowing the risk of the baby being born with the same disease.

I doubt my friend knew I was in the room, and I’m certain she didn’t know the depth of my personal struggle over that very issue. The words were hurtful, because they seemed to devalue the life of my little Olivia–as if children with genetic disorders are not worthy of the gift of life. (I know she didn’t mean it that way, but it’s hard for a mama not to take things to heart.)

Even more than hurting my feelings, that conversation I wish I’d never heard fed my fear. Years passed, but fear’s familiar grip kept a hold on my heart whenever the thought of having another child crossed my mind. The memory of sitting in a cold and sterile doctor’s office would come rushing back, and I would hear the geneticist’s words again, “There is a 25 percent chance that any biological child you and your husband conceive would have the disorder.”

It is difficult for me to describe how helpless I felt when it came to escaping the fear of getting pregnant again. I knew the Bible and that “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (II Timothy 1:7),” but somehow I felt like I was always on the losing side of this battle with anxiety.

The crazy thing is, as scared as I was of having a second child, I had perfect peace when it came to Olivia. I knew that God would take care of her. I also knew that the fear I was drowning in wasn’t from Him. So, I searched scripture, prayed often, leaned on my husband, and sought help from others that I trust. Even so, I continued to struggle until a little over a year ago.

That January, my extended family had chosen to fast and pray together. I kept a prayer journal, and one of the things on my prayer list was complete freedom from fear.

I still remember how it felt when the fear left. Peace flooded my soul as my heart suddenly exploded with the realization of something my brain had known all along:

God alone is the Author of life.

This was true when Adam and Eve were created, when Isaac’s birth fulfilled the long-awaited promise to Abraham, and when my little Livi was born. He is not the cause of her pain, but God is the source of Olivia’s life. He has a good plan for her.

These simple truths–that only God can give life, that He is good and His plans are good–they lit up my life in a way that banished fear. While I have felt afraid at times, the pervasive, gripping fear from before no longer has permission to stay.

I didn’t know what God had planned for the future of our family–whether we would adopt or have another child of our own–but I did know that I could trust Him either way.

Six months later, joy was all that I felt when I found out I was pregnant. We happened to be headed to youth camp, and I got to tell Robert the good news at the place where we first met.

I prayed for a doctor who would do his job well while also respecting our point of view, and God answered. I trusted God with my worries about people and their opinions, and He surrounded us with family and friends, church family and co-workers who made the entire pregnancy one giant celebration.

And God sustained me with a peace that passes all undersanding–a deep sense of certainty that my life and Robert’s, Olivia’s and her new baby brother’s, are safe in His faithful and capable hands.

Five days before our new baby was scheduled to be born by c-section, Olivia was careflighted to Cook Children’s hospital. No one thought it was a good idea for me to go, so I looked on as Robert crawled into the helicopter with Olivia and immediately began to pray that God would watch over her and bring her home before the birth of her brother.

Since that moment, very little has gone as I would have planned, and there have been many opportunities for fear to move back into its old room in my heart. But every encounter with fear has been met with a stronger wave of the grace of God.

Olivia didn’t come home in time, and we brought our little AJ (Aiden Justice) into the world without her. But people that we love and trust stayed with Olivia and made it possible for Robert to come home for the birth.

AJ’s heartrate dropped right after he was delivered, and all I could do was pray and watch from across the room while they stitched me up. But he avoided a trip to the NICU and got better without any medical intervention.

My mom needed to stay in the hospital with Olivia and had to be away at a time when I badly wanted her near. But she brought my baby girl home happier than she’s been in a long time. In fact, Olivia has smiled several times in the past two weeks–something we’ve been missing for a while now.

In the end, we all came home from the hospital on the same day and got to spend our first night in our own home as a complete family. God is good!

Tomorrow I have to take AJ to the doctor, because he failed his newborn hearing test twice. It is another opportunity for fear to creep in, but something happened that has helped me fix my eyes on Jesus once again.

I was laying in the hospital bed watching the nurse conduct the hearing screening, and I could tell by the red on the screen and the look on her face that the result wasn’t good.

Mentally, I started what I can only describe as a pros and cons list–only one side could’ve been titled “Reasons to Believe” and the other “Reasons to Fear.” The fear side started to fill up with failed hearing tests and genetic probability, but then something occurred to me:

It doesn’t matter what or how much is written on the “fear” side of the list. One promise from God outweighs it all!

Abraham lived this way after he had received a promise from God about having a son:

“And Abraham’s faith did not weaken, even though, at about 100 years of age, he figured his body was as good as dead—and so was Sarah’s womb. Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises.”–Romans 4:19-21

So, fear doesn’t have a place here anymore. My childrens’ futures are secure in the hands of a God who is forever faithful.

Forever, O Lord , Your word is settled in heaven. Your faithfulness endures to all generations.”-Psalms 119:89‭-‬90

Grateful

I almost wrote this post as a “Letter to Me.” After all, hindsight is 20/20, and 31-year-old me now understands things that seemed painfully elusive in the past.

But to be honest, even if I had the power to deliver a message to my former self, I’m not sure she would’ve taken it to heart. You see, I am only just beginning to see the light of a truth that I either couldn’t or wouldn’t see before:

When you look for reasons to be discontent, you will always find them.

Thank God the opposite is also true:

When you look for reasons to be grateful, you will always find them.

Why did it take me so long to grasp this simple truth, and why do I still struggle at times to center myself in its clarity?

I’m not completely sure, but I think it has something to do with perception. And perception has everything to do with the direction our eyes take.

When I was a little girl, I spent a lot of time in gymnastics lessons. One of the first things you learn as a gymnast is that your body and all of its mometum will follow the direction of your line of sight. In other words, where the eyes turn, everything else follows.

I think this is true of life as well. Though we sometimes have no say over what happens to us, we have total control over what we decide to focus on in every situation. Life’s momentum and the way we experience it, will follow the path our eyes choose to take.

If we choose poorly, or not at all, our level of contentment will be subject to circumstances–rising and falling on a whim.

This is where I have lived for much of my life. Someone did me wrong, so I wallow in self pity. Things haven’t turned out like I hoped, so disappointment sets in and stays way too long. Hopes and dreams feel broken or far away, and I wonder if I’ll ever feel fulfilled. The waiting seems to drag on and on, and I find myself feeling restless.

Of course it hasn’t always been negative–not even nearly so. There have been many times when circumstances reminded me to be grateful.

I look around at the awesome number of people that genuinely love and support me, and my heart is overwhelmed. I get involved in something that I truly enjoy–something that draws out the best in me, and I almost explode with joy. A trip to a third world country makes me realize just how much I have to be thankful for. Tragedy hits close to home, and I’m grateful to be alive.

The thing about circumstances, whether good or bad, is that they change. Yet, the Apostle Paul wrote about a perplexing phenomenon: contentment that remains the same regardless of changing circumstances.

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.”-Philippians 4:11‭-‬12 ESV

The next verse is the key to Paul’s secret. It’s one that many know well but few put into practice consistently:

“I can do all things through HIM who strengthens me.”–Philippians 4:13 ESV (emphasis mine)

Lasting contentment will never be found in WHAT we look at, because what we look at is subject to change.

If we want contentment that endures, it must not be found in something but in SOMEONE. That someone is Jesus.

When I fixate on the negative in my life, I am handing the power over to the the originator of all that is evil: Satan–my enemy and the thief who only comes to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10).

Whatever and whoever I stare at long enough will eventually become my god.

When I look to the Father–the Author of every good gift (James 1:17)–I gain the strength that I need to endure. I am filled with His peace and joy, which transcend all circumstances.

I have so many reasons to be grateful:

–A husband who loves me

–A sweet little girl who just turned six and a little boy coming any day now

–A network of family and friends that I cherish

–Daily opportunities to serve the kingdom of God, together with a church family that is precious to me

–A job that I’m passionate about in a school that I love

–Beautiful music and good books and 280 calorie pints of low-carb Halo ice cream

There are also things that could stir up discontement if I allow it. I choose not to dwell on those here, because the truth is that even the blessings I listed above exist within the realm of a broken, suffering world.

The only safe place to fix my eyes is on the One who is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb. 13:18). I can trust Him with my blessings and with the difficult things too. So, I lift my eyes to Jesus–the only Source of real contentment.

And I am grateful.

Better than a shiny, heart-shaped balloon

Another holiday is passing us by. This time, it’s Valentine’s Day, and we’re separated again by necessity–me and our little Livi in a hospital and you working hard for us at home.

Doctor’s orders and the baby still growing inside mean no sweets for me. But heart-shaped balloons, dropped off by a volunteer, are floating around the room and I wore purple in honor of the day.

Shiny as those balloons are, I know they are not what love is made of.

Love is you on a rough night–jumping out of bed more times than I can count, making sure our Olivia is OK, and trying to let me sleep.

It’s you working so hard all day to build a company and then coming home to do more than your fair share.

It’s you–still trying to make me laugh even when my mood makes the effort seem futile.

Your unrelenting faith keeps holding on to God and His love and His Word, no matter what you see. I lean in when things get hard–me leaning on you and us leaning on Jesus.

Filled with hope, you talk about the future, and my heart is strengthened.

You pray, and fear flies away.

*****

They say St. Valentine was martyred for performing secret weddings for Christian couples during a ban on marriage.

Whether that is true, I’m not sure. But I know real love comes through sacrifice. I know it, because I’ve seen you live the truth right in front of me–the gospel of Jesus Christ in vibrant color.

I don’t know what I thought love was going to be like when I fell for you over a decade ago. It’s been a long time, and the person I am today is so different from that 19-year-old girl.

I do know this–that my heart aches to offer you even a measure of what you’ve given me. That my prayer is for God’s kind of love to multiply in me and shower you with the overflow.

With all of my heart, I also know that if time were rolled back, I would choose you again.

I do choose the man you are now, today and every day for the rest of my life.

Hope Remains

Olivia is off the ventilator now and doing well, praise God!

These last few days–after an unexpected helicopter ride and hours spent watching a ventilator breath for my child–I’ve been thinking a lot about hope. Not the fleeting sort, but God’s “anchor for the soul” kind (Heb. 6:19) .

What a gift hope can be! It’s rooted in our experience of God’s unfailing love. We know that God loves us dearly, and so we can have faith in His Word and in who He is. That produces peace that persists through the most difficult of times. Even in hardship, we can be filled with joy and expectation, knowing that God is good and faithful to His promises.

It’s amazing to me how God can use a temporary circumstance to build in us the things that are eternal. Hope. Faith. Love.

That is my prayer for me and for you–especially during a season that has always been about hope:

–Hope at the words of a prophet, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given (Is. 9:6) …”
–Hope for Israel’s coming Messiah, unquenched by hundreds of years of silence
–Hope in the promise of a Savior, spoken through an angel to a confused teenage girl
–Hope that led wise men from the East to follow a star, despite the length of their journey
–Hope that spurred a group of terrified shepherds on to Bethlehem that first Christmas night

… and hope that was answered by a baby, “wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger (Luke 2:12).”

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“I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.”–Romans 15:13

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”–Romans 5:3‭-‬5

“Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.”–1 Corinthians 13:13

“A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices. For yonder breaks, a new and glorious morn.”
–“O Holy Night”