Here in this Hospital Room

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I hesitate to type this, thinking, “How many blog posts am I going to have to write from a hospital room?”

I suppose the answer is:  “As many as it takes.” Because giving up is inconceivable, and letting go is synonymous with trust.

Writing these posts helps me to focus on Jesus. Looking at Him makes it possible to release the things I can’t control (the symptoms and the accompanying waves of fear that try to crash over me) into the most capable of hands.

Surrender.

It’s the theme of this blog and the often underestimated victor over fear’s taunting attack. My brother Chris recently preached a sermon over it that brought me to tears and to the feet of Jesus to ask for the grace to wholly believe. “When fear and surrender collide,” he said, “We can choose to surrender to God’s perfect love as it casts out all fear.” (At least that’s what my heart heard.)

And God’s love is perfect. His love is flawless and without error. It is a matchless love that drives out fear, leaving nothing to doubt. (I John 4:18)

His thoughts and ways and plans are perfect too. Our God is incapable of thinking anything less than infinitely beyond our highest human thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8)

God watches over His own Words to perform without fault all that He has sent them to accomplish. (Jeremiah 1:11)

He perfects, completes, and brings to an end the things that concern me. (Psalms 138:8)

Until recently, I never really understood the beattitudes (from Matthew chapter 5) and would sometimes puzzle over them.

“Blessed are those who mourn …” (vs 4)

It’s a paradox. An oxymoron.

Then I began to see the context for this, one of Jesus’ most famous sermons. With His words and His life, with parables and miracles–Jesus was announcing that the Kingdom of Heaven had come to earth.

This message of hope came to a world at its wits’ end. The physically blind, deaf, and lame. The dead and spiritually deceased. Those hurt by persecution or purposelessness or painful circumstances. People disheartened by religion and its ritualistic tradition. All of humanity grimacing under the weight of trying to reach God, to find life and meaning, by mortal methods.

If you are a blind man standing in front of Jesus, the Son of God and Word made Flesh, you are blessed. You are blessed, not because you are blind, but because the Answer to your greatest need has arrived.

The Kingdom of God is at hand.

Suddenly the mourner, shrunken under the weight of loss, glances up from her brokeness and catches the eye of the Savior. She is blessed–not because of her grief or pain–but because indescribable and uncontainable comfort has stepped onto the scene in the person of Jesus Christ.

The Kingdom of God is here. Not in the distant future, a million light years away. Here. Now.

The mother spending another night in a cold, sterile room is blessed. Not because of the disease or the struggle. She is blessed because The Kingdom of God–His rule, His reign, His sovereignty, peace, and power to work miracles–is right here in this hospital room. Right now.

I’m pretty sure the sweet girl in the crib next to me is somehow more aware of this Kingdom truth than most. I can tell by the way she smiles knowingly and laughs at things you and I can’t see.

No More Hay and Stubble

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I am supposed to be writing about pride. That’s what God has been dealing with my heart about, and that’s what I had planned.

But I don’t have any pride today. Today I just have tears and need and dependency, because there isn’t another option.

That word–dependency–has a bad connotation. Usually, it’s used in conversations about addiction or abuse, and its antonym, independence, is the silver-lined goal.

But there is no independence here, on the side of this pit with sides so steep and no hand grips or footholds in sight. There is only a single rope, hanging within my reach, and I am utterly dependent on it.

——

Olivia had a hearing test this morning. It had to be administered under sedation, because she didn’t respond well to the last test they gave her in a booth. When the audiologist came out after the procedure, she said that she had turned her machine up as loud as she could, but Olivia’s brain did not register any sound. The paper she gave us read:   “profound hearing loss.” Not mild or moderate hearing loss as before. Not even severe. Profound.

Being a person who loves language, the nuances of the word “profound” are not lost on me. It speaks to something that is extreme or overpowering; I might use the word to describe a life-changing revelation. But today, it points not to what has been gained but to yet another thing that seems to be slipping through our fingers. First it was missed developmental milestones and clear vision. Then a normal diet and schedule. Now this.

So here I am, finally alone with God after the wearisome hospital discharge process and a long car ride home. (I made that worse by my refusal to respond with more than one word to any of Robert’s attempts to take my mind off of things.) I’ve been silently begging for a thread of hope, a light at the end of this tunnel–from the only One who can offer either.

A message from an angel would be nice. Or maybe the audible voice of God.

But now I remember the rope:  that life-saving offering, extended from heaven in the form of Jesus Christ.

——-

I became a born again Christian as a small child and have lived with the knowledge of the saving grace of the cross for nearly my whole life. I’ve experienced its power. But there is something very different about coming to the end of yourself–knowing not just the futility of trying to make amends for your own sin but also the absolute uselessness of attempting to fix anything at all apart from Jesus.

This is not me rambling about a second salvation experience. I’m just saying that in arriving at the place where there is literally NOTHING I can do, I am keenly aware that Jesus is the only answer. You can know that in principle with out applying it to your life. You can live a whole lifetime knowing the truth and believing it, yet constantly being swayed by lies.

I guess I’m writing about pride after all. God is the only one who has the right to control. For you and me, control basically equals pride, because it means we think our way is better than His.

What about when there is no “problem” to speak of, and life becomes all about what we can build and achieve? If the things we build are branded with the name of Jesus and labeled “for the good of others,” does that make them wholly His? What good are beautiful and noble buildings if they are patterned from plans splattered with the stains of self and constructed by hands that too often rush to orchestrate instead of being faithful to obey?

Human strength can erect some pretty amazing stuff. The tower of Babel comes to mind. My own hands have assembled some fairly tall structures, simply from the sheer determination to keep placing one brick on top of another. I have tried to maneuver my way up the ladder of success and to gain the admiration of people. I’ve strived and struggled to fix problems on my own. My fingers have fluttered busily about with little thought for either the Creator’s superior design or the possibility that His plans called for a work site across the street, a few months down the road, and with a different crew.

I built something alright! I built uneccessary obstacles to God’s perfect plan for my life, probably missing divine opportunities to love others, and likely hindering His efforts to transform me into the image of His Son.

Worse, how much glory did I steal from God when I took matters into my own hands? How much greater a thing could’ve been done if I had surrendered the process totally to Jesus?

It’s like this:

 “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have—Jesus Christ. Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials—gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value.”– 1 Corinthians 3:11-13 (NLT)

Am I following God’s plan, or mine? Am I giving the orders or is He? Whose materials am I using? Yes, everything I have and am comes from God, but does my heart see it that way? Am I acting as if this is true? If my heart truly realizes that I can do nothing apart from Him, would I be jockeying for a position of prominence and control?

God builds with gold, silver, and jewels; a quick look at His plans for the tabernacle in the book of Exodus or John’s vision of heaven found in Revelation will tell you that. Precious stones and metals come from God’s storehouse. I can only work with those enduring materials if I am following His blueprint and acting as an extention of Jesus’ own body.

Sure, there are piles of sticks laying around everywhere, and I can use them to create some pretty elaborate stuff on my own! But when fire comes, I’ll be left with nothing but a pile of ash.

Then, there are times I try to build things out of a combination of both gold and straw. I start out with strong trust in God, an ear tuned to His every direction, and hands that work diligently for His glory alone. But somewhere along the way, fear prompts me to turn to myself as I listen to the arrogant voice of conceit, devising a back up plan in my search for a sure bet.

How sad that a thing with such potential for beauty–shining with pure gold and sparkling gems–could end up marred by the ugly appearance of charred wood and stubble? What right do I have to attempt God’s will in my own way? Or worse–to use God-given gifts to carry out my own will?

This “profound hearing loss” thing … I can’t fix it. And the selfish ambition that has too often crept up in my life? It’s been shoved out of the way by things that are far more critical. This has all made me realize that:

–I want to build with gold.

–When my hands go to work, I want them in the service of the Master Builder.

–I’d rather be upheld by God’s hand than by a contraption of my own making.

–I want to trust in Jesus and Him alone.

–I DON’T want to reach heaven “barely escaping through a wall of flames” with nothing but “burned up” work to show for a life that was supposed to be lived for the glory of God (vs. 15).

If my heart must pass through fire, let there be something of value left standing on the other side. This is just not possible apart from Jesus.

————

I repeat myself often in this blog, because there is such confusion in our world about who God is:  God did not cause profound hearing loss in Olivia. He is Healer, and He is good.

I hate profound hearing loss. I hate the enemy of my faith, who wields sickness and disease as a weapon. Even now, my mind is bombarded with thoughts about deafness being a sign of the progression of the disorder–that it only gets worse from here.

I also hate that my pride has remained intact for so long and still continues to fight for preeiminence. But I love how God can commandere a situation that Satan meant for evil and use it for my good.

Make no mistake, the God who opens blind eyes and unlocks deaf ears is still on the throne! He humbles rebel hearts, recovers missed opportunities, redeems lost time, and–if we will choose to surrender them–reclaims condemned buildings.

Pride carries with it the heavy burden of sole responsibility, but there is so much freedom in being totally at the mercy of a sovereign God. He is overflowing with mercy!

When we recognize the extended rope for what it is–the ONLY hope, found in the  death and ressurection of Jesus Christ, who made himself a substitute by taking the punishment for our sinful pride–we are lifted high, not by a self-made ladder, but by His selfless love.

Warrior’s Song

Warrior’s Song

 

 

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I am sitting in a hospital room with Olivia for the third time since she was born. She caught a virus–again–and couldn’t keep enough fluid in her little 20 pound body to avoid getting dehydrated. So, they inserted an IV, admitted her, and here we are.

As I listen to the constant cries of the patient next door, I am thankful that Olivia is sleeping peacefully and that for now, the needle-sticking, poking and prodding are over. I am also glad that this situation is not a life-threatening one, and that the doctor says we may get to go home tomorrow.

Next to all of my grateful thoughts, the less noble ones seem out of place. Still, they are there–fighting for a place in my mind and a grip on my life:

“Why do we have to be here when we should be enjoying Christmas time with family?”

“This is the way its going to be. Every time she catches a bug it will mean another hospital stay.”

Worst are the memories of the time we spent in this same hospital two months ago, when Robert’s dad passed away. I remember sitting in a room in another wing, hurting for my husband as we watched his father die, all the while fighting thoughts sent straight from hell that said, “This will be Olivia someday, and you’ll be watching her die.”

I’ve learned that having faith doesn’t make the fight disappear, it just means that I am battling from a position of victory and am guaranteed peace while the punches are being thrown.

If Jesus can win the battle of my mind in one hospital room, I know He can do it here too.

The day before we brought Olivia to the emergency room, I downloaded a book called, “Piercing the Darkness,” by Frank Peretti. I had read “This Present Darkness” but didn’t realize there was a sequel until my aunt and uncle told me about it. The books are fictional but draw from biblical truth. The stories create a picture of the spiritual warfare–the literal fight between God and Satan, angels and demons–that goes on behind the scenes of our lives.

There was nothing new to me in the books, nothing I didn’t already believe in, but reading it from the vantage point of a hospital room made me realize the very real role that human beings play in the outcome of the struggles that life brings.

If the burden of fighting was on my shoulders, I would have lost long ago. Jesus won enduring victory when He submitted to the cross and then rose from the dead. But God has created us in His own image. Like Him, we are able to feel the pain of parting with someone we love, and like Him we experience the joy of being reunited. He has given us the ability and freedom to choose for ourselves which way we will go.

As the human race, we chose disobedience and caused the onslaught of evil and pain that continues to rack the earth today. Jesus provided the only solution, and only by embracing that solution can we experience the triumph that He purchased.

I’ve never liked sitting on the sidelines, and so I appreciate the fact that my God-given role is not to watch the war from afar but to engage in hand-to-hand combat:

“A final word:  Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will be standing firm.”–Ephesians 6:10-13 (NLT)

Not only have I been called to fight, I have nothing to fear. It is easy to fight fearless when your General has never lost. In fact, He has already won, and there is no end to the resources at the disposal of His soldiers. It is as if we have been sent on a conquest that has been decided; the path to triumph is paved, and we’ve only to obey.

The Bible recognizes God as the “devouring fire” that goes before us and the “rear guard,” sheltering us from behind; “the battle is the Lord’s” and we are “more than conquerors” in Him (Duet. 9:3, Is. 52:12, I Sam.17:47, Rom 8:37).

Knowing where my help comes from, I choose to fight. Like the characters in the book I read this week, my battle doesn’t look like clashing swords or flying bullets. Instead, it looks like obedience. My most valuable weapon is prayer, and I will conquer in this way:

“And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony. And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die.”–Revelation 12:11 (NLT)

That verse could easily read “they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid for their loved ones to die.” I am not afraid when I remember that if Olivia were to be absent from my arms she would be present with Jesus. Still, I will fight for her life and for His Kingdom, because of the Word that fills my heart with faith:

“Yet I am confident I will see the LORD’S goodness while I am here in the land of living. Wait patiently for the LORD. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the LORD.”–Psalms 27:13-14 (NLT) 

That verse is one of many that God has spoken to my heart over the months since Olivia’s diagnosis. In so many ways, He has reassured me again and again that He has a plan and will bring it to completion.

Even though I realize that many of the things I have to say below will not be easily received by some people, Christian or not, I am choosing to share them here because they are part of our testimony. When viewed in light of the goodness of God, the strength of the work of the cross, and the power of the name of Jesus, I can’t help but be filled with faith by the countless encouraging words and pictures of hope that God has delivered to me through others, through His Word, or straight to my heart. This is part of the “reason for the hope that I have” (I Peter 3:15):

  • When I was pregnant with Olivia, way before any thought of a genetic disorder plagued my mind, a pastor prophesied this about the future of the baby growing in my womb:  “There will be warfare, but don’t be afraid. God has taken care of it … She will be a prophet to the nations.”
  • God gave me a scripture (Jeremiah 17:7-8) while I was pregnant with Olivia, and a friend put it up on a wall in her old room:

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  • Three people that I love and trust have had dreams about Olivia–one where she was running and kicking a soccer ball, another where she was walking circles around Gammy (she currently doesn’t walk at all), and a third that brought me to tears:

Dreaming, a friend of mine saw a row of houses all alike–each with a window box full of flowers. There were varying numbers of flowers at each of the different houses, and ours had only one. While all of the other flowers were strong and healthy, ours was withered and drooping. People came knocking at our door to offer condolences. Some wanted to press our flower or put it in a glass box. We were becoming frustrated at the well-meaning visitors when the street emptied–all except for one woman carrying two pots of flowers on a pole over her shoulders. She came to our door, saw our flower and said, “Oh, that’s easy! I can fix that!” Then the pollen from her flowers blew onto ours and caused it to bloom tall and beautiful.

  • God gave me a mental picture of Olivia as a young woman, with long blond waves flowing over her shoulders as she spoke to and audience of people. He also spoke to my heart saying, “Her healing will be gradual.”
  • Once, when I was having an especially hard time, my aunt reminded me of the legacy of healing that God has woven into my family already. My mom’s lungs collapsed several times as a child, and she stopped breathing completely. Today, she is healthy with no lung problems to speak of. I was born three months early, and doctors gave me a 50 percent chance to live; they later found a hole in my heart. The hole closed up miraculously, and I am alive to write this blog.
  • Another time, I asked God specifically for confirmation of his promise concerning Olivia’s healing. Five minutes later, a woman I’d never met and who knew nothing about my request, told me to read Romans 4:20:

“He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was also able to perform.”–Romans 4:20-21 (KJV)

This verse has double the meaning for me, because it is about Abraham–someone I have related to in learning to surrender my only child to God while still holding on to His promise. (Read more about this here.)

The telling of these moments when God has steadied my faith could go on, but for now I only want to say that God has proven to me over and over again that He is big enough, and good enough–that He CARES enough that I can trust Him with Olivia’s future.

Though I pray this post encourages someone to stand firm in believing for victory in their own battle, I am writing it for myself. It is my obedience, the word of my testimony, and my prayer of faith. Even as I write this, I can feel the courage of a warrior rising in my heart–something only God can give.

Half of me is laughing, because before we ever suspected that Olivia might be sick, I wrote and recorded something called “Warrior’s Song.” Robert played it the other day and chuckled because it has a line in it that says, “burn the white flag of surrender.” He thought that was funny, considering the title of this blog.

I thought about the irony–both in the fact that I didn’t realize the meaning of the song while I was writing it, and in using that phrase on a site called Free to Surrender.

I decided that while surrender is the key to everything that God is doing in my life right now, it means nothing if I am surrendering to the wrong side. So I will surrender to the only One who is worthy of it:  Jesus, who gave His life to give me everything. And, I will stand and fight in Jesus’ name and in His strength against the enemy of my soul–the one who would take it all if I let him.

Father,

Thank You for allowing me to be Olivia’s mother. I put her in Your hands–only You can save her. I believe that You are Healer and that You are good. Your Word says that You are both able and willing to heal her, and I place my faith in Your Word, which doesn’t return empty. I will not stagger in unbelief. I trust that You are able to perform Your promise. Olivia’s future is Yours, and I will trust You with it no matter what happens. I resist Satan’s plan for Olivia and rebuke the powers of darkness that would destroy her. Though the thief comes to kill, Jesus brings abundant life, and we receive it in His name. Thank You for Your awesome plan for Olivia’s life and for the assurance that You will complete what you have started in her.

In the name of Jesus,
Amen

Thanks to Robert Chapman, Chris Gilliam, Crystal Mott, Brandon Pelton and Katy Skogberg for playing on the recording of this song.

Click here to read Olivia’s Story.

 

Why Jesus Went Christmas Shopping

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Hallmark movies are like football to me. At Christmas time, they’re better than the Superbowl. I relish them even though they all use the same 5 plots:

1) New Nanny Brings Christmas Joy to Widower
2) Angel Reunites Couple in time for the Holidays
3) Ruthless Reporter has Change of Heart by Christmas Eve
4) Career Woman Finds Love and Holiday Cheer in North Pole
5) Child’s Christmas Wish Answered:  Santa Delivers New Dad

The sub-plots are the same too. There is bound to be a matchmaking mother or a misplaced missive professing one character’s love for another.

Almost always, there is a highly sought-after toy that is sold-out in stores and can’t be procured by any amount of begging or bribery.

Outside of Hallmark land, products don’t usually sell out in every store, but most of us can relate to the challenges of shopping for the perfect present.

Perhaps the intended recipient is hard to shop for, already has everything, or is just plain picky. Or, maybe they are held in such high regard that something really special is in order.

Whatever the reason, you look high and low, leaving no stone unturned–on an all-out search for a gift that is out-of-this-world. Forming a secret search party isn’t totally out of the question, and once you finally find what you’re looking for, you protect it with your life.

Jesus did much the same when He left Heaven for earth on a quest for you.

 “For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”– Luke 19:10 (NLT)

This isn’t just a salvation message (*although, if you are reading this and haven’t yet succumbed to Jesus’ unrelenting pursuit, I pray you do), it’s a “know your worth” message too.

People don’t seek out things that have no value. If we take time and care to search for missing keys, a lost wedding ring, or a special gift, how much more valuable is the object of the King of Heaven’s desire?

You are priceless. Precious. A longed-for treasure.

The worth of a prize is proved by the extent of the endeavor and the cost of the chase.

And Jesus gave everything. Absolutely EVERYTHING.

For YOU.

“For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”–  Romans 5:7-8 (NKJV)

Jesus described himself as One who would buy an entire field in an effort to find you–His pearl of great price. The Great Shepherd, He declared his passion so vast that He would leave 99 others behind to bring you back to Himself.

You are the reason for the expedition, the esteemed paragon diamond. You are greatly loved.

*To the reader who does not yet know the joy of being found by Jesus:  everything written above is true of you. If it is possible, He yearns for you even more. I know you feel unworthy, and we have all fallen short. We were born into a decaying world, separated from God by inherited sin–the gap ever-widening as we grasp at straws to build a bridge out of something we don’t have. But Jesus bridged the gap when He traded His life for ours in the greatest act of love ever displayed. He paid a price we could not afford, and in doing so, endowed us with indescribable worth.

How do you receive this gift, this Savior? Surrender your life to the One who showed us the meaning of surrender when He submitted to a cross, trusting that His Father knew best. Relinquish your own way and embrace Jesus–“the Way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).” Trust that Jesus is who He says He is and that His sacrifice was enough. Look up. In Him you will find forgiveness, healing, and more peace than you thought possible. You’ll also discover that HE is worth giving up all else to gain. The principle is reversible; Jesus is the Pearl of Great Price. It’s worth selling everything to you have to find Him. The journey begins and continues with surrender.

Find out more about following Jesus here.

And here.

You just read the first of 7 posts meant to help focus our hearts on Jesus by looking at ordinary Christmas stuff (like shopping for the perfect gift) in a new way. If you want to keep up with all 7 posts, the simplest way is to scroll down, enter your email address, then click the follow button to subscribe. OR, you can follow on Facebook. However, Facebook has changed its settings to decrease the organic/unpaid reach of its page posts. If you don’t want to miss the next post, click the drop-down arrow next to the “liked” button on Free to Surrender’s Facebook page and choose “Get Notifications.”

Surrender is a Verb and a Noun

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I created a blog called “Free to Surrender,” and that implies that I know something about surrender. The average reader might even assume that I am an expert at it. Or at least that I should be.

But if you were a fly on the wall of my mind this past week, you would’ve heard:

Doubts about whether I should be writing this blog at all, because …

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Anxiety surrounding the process of getting all new therapists for Olivia …

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Every time Olivia has a therapy session, the list of things we need to work on grows. There are new speech sounds to learn and a list of techniques that might be beneficial. There are new ideas that could help her walk sooner, or spoon feed herself sooner, or communicate her needs sooner. Some weeks I remember that God has given me everything I need to walk through this journey we’re on. Other weeks I feel completely inadequate and like the burden of her future is on my shoulders. On those weeks, I feel like a failure for all of the things I haven’t done.

God has been so good to put people in Olivia’s life that genuinely want the best for her. We miss all of the ladies that worked with her before we moved, because we knew that they didn’t just see a disorder. They really care about our baby.

In my heart, I know that what God has done before He can do again, and that I shouldn’t fret–the therapists that visited our new home this week will be just as awesome as the ones we left behind.

However nicely put, though, the standard “Tell me about Olivia” is so hard to answer. It’s hard because I know that the sweet lady sitting in my living room floor is not asking about Olivia’s infectious laugh or the adorable look she gets on her face when she knows you are talking about her. This wonderful woman–who does her job so well and probably wouldn’t be doing it at all unless she really loves kids–needs me to tell her about hearing loss, developmental delay, and a genetic disease that she’ll probably Google later.

So, I’ve recited the medical history three times this week. I watched as the entrance to our tiny house became a revolving door for strangers to come and evaluate my child–videoing or writing furiously as she babbles and plays, then throwing me a questioning glance when she puts her forehead to the carpet, her little hands by her ears.”No, she’s not tired. She just does that sometimes.”

They leave, and I want to cry. Because maybe if I tried harder, things would be different. Maybe if I was more on top of things, she would be walking or talking by now.

In that moment, Jesus whispers to my heart. Like so many times before. Just when I need to hear it most.

“I am enough.”

He is enough, and I remember that I am writing this blog because He knew it would help me let go of the things I can’t control. Jesus is enough, and the words I sat up in bed to type into my notes app late last night come to mind.

“Surrender is a verb and a noun.”

To surrender is to agree to stop resisting, to give up control. It is a choice that comes with the realization that “I cannot” but “Jesus can.”

Surrender is also a noun. It is the state of existence I find myself in after I have made the decision to let go.

So I choose. Again, and again I choose to give everything to Him. To trust in Him alone. When I’ve forgotten, and when I strive–when I take in my hands things they were never meant to hold. I choose to surrender again.

All the while, I remember that surrender is a noun. And that Jesus chose first. Before I had the capacity for reason, Jesus drew me to the choosing with His own choice. He let go of heaven and embraced humanity. He willingly traded a King’s crown for a manger and eventually surrendered to the cross.

The victory that Jesus found in surrender is mine as well. Once and for all, He won for me entrance to surrender, the place. There, I find hope for the future, peace for the present, and healing from the past.

Surrender is a verb and a noun.

 “This is a faithful saying:  For if we died with Him, We shall also live with Him. If we endure, We shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us. If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.”–II Timothy 2:11-13

Click here to read Olivia’s Story.

 

Cliff Jumping and Free Falling

Cliff jumping and Free Falling

The doctor said, “There is no treatment for this disorder. Children may survive to school-age.”

She was talking about my only child, and I felt like I was being pushed to the edge of a cliff.

Rewind the clock a few months, and I’m sitting at a keyboard, writing a song whose lyrics describe the coming day in the doctor’s office astonishingly well. Back then my only concern was learning to navigate the world of new-motherhood, and I knew nothing of the rare medical diagnosis that was in our future. Still the words flowed freely …

At the end of the road that I’ve been on
Open ahead, I’ve reached the edge
Looking down, I hold my breath.
Nothing left to do but jump or run
Every other option is long gone
My heart beats fast
I turn my head
The path behind me looks so easy
The cliff before feels so high.

It’s a song about faith vs. fear, and trust that jumps instead of retreating. You see surrender is not a symbol of weakness but a sign of courage. In His grace, God fills–literally injects–us with courage and we choose to place our confidence in Him, lest fear overtake us. “… Perfect love drives out fear,” and we can find that love both at the top of the cliff and also in the free fall (I John 4:18).

I wanna free fall, Your love catches me
Your love catches me
Your love catches me

Cliffs emerge in all of our lives, whether in the form of a crisis or an impossible dream, a trial or a bold risk. In all cases, the choice is simple:  jump or run.

Count the cost of the jump, the price is high
Everything I’d lose fills my mind
I gather courage, take a step
Turn my back on the lie
That if I lose my life, I won’t survive
Come up to the edge, I fix my eyes on You
The world behind is quickly fading
Feel the rush, I take the plunge

Jumping is trusting. Trusting that God is who He said He is–trustworthy to the core. That He is GOOD, no matter what. And that He is in control and has our ultimate good in mind.

I jumped off my cliff in a doctor’s office and spoke the first of many faith-filled words:  “I understand what you are saying, and I am not in denial of the facts. But God is bigger.”

Life since then has been far from easy yet full of peace. There is joy and strength and beauty to be found in the free fall–especially when Jesus is doing the catching.

And it’s nothing the that I thought it could be 
‘Cause the ride is full of twists and turns. 
But I know You’re always here with me. 
I’m not alone when I reach for You.

*Thank you to Robert Chapman, Chris Gilliam, Crystal Mott, Katy Skogberg, and Brandon Pelton for playing on the recording of this song. 

Click here to read Olivia’s Story.

Jesus, take Every Wheel

the car I DIDN'T wreck (Robert did) @ freetosurrender.com.

The only car I’ve ever owned that I didn’t wreck … but Robert did.

I startled out of a deep sleep, trying to remember whether it is better to turn an out-of-control car into the spin or away from it.

Anyone who knows me would not be surprised to hear that I had a dream about wrecking my car. Driving has never been a strength of mine, and my list of mishaps is a mile long:

  • The time in high school when I failed to heed my mom’s advice to always warm the car up on a cold day. Suffice it to say that the small hole I etched into the ice on my windshield was far too tiny to help me recognize and avoid the oncoming van before I turned left in front of it.
  • My run-in with the police. They sandwiched my red ford focus between their squad cars and confiscated my keys because they thought I was involved in hit-and-run. It turned out that I only “almost” hit another car and ran.
  • The golf-cart incident when I was twelve that foreshadowed the many fender benders in my future.

The list goes on. But despite my extensive defensive driving resume, I am not someone who remembers her dreams. So, when I woke up to a racing heart and the sudden revelation that I had experienced this dream MANY times before, I wondered what it all might mean.

Surrendering Control

Almost immediately the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart about surrender. It’s another thing that has never come easily to me. I’ve always been the type of person who likes to be in control. Of my life, my future, my relationships, of Olivia’s future … basically everything.
Suddenly I saw my attempts to control my life as the equivalent of a car spinning wildly on a sheet of ice. The effort I make in my own strength is slippery at best. Like black ice, it is deceptive. I don’t know that I am not really in control until it’s too late.

This blog is the fruit of my choice to surrender one more thing to Jesus. I’ve heard God asking me to write it for awhile now and have even been encouraged by a few friends, to whom I gave one flimsy reason or another about why I couldn’t. The truth is I was scared … scared to put myself out there and to become vulnerable to others. Even more scared to write about my sweet Olivia. What would people think of the way we’ve chosen to respond to her diagnosis? Would they label her or underestimate God’s plan for her life?

But if my dream showed me anything it’s that however scary faith in God may be at times, trusting in myself is scarier. I refuse to drive on black ice when I can lean on “the Rock that is higher than I.” (Psalm 61:2)

So here goes! A blog about trusting God with Olivia .. and with everything else too. May we all learn to trust Him more.

Unless the Lord builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted. Unless the Lord protects a city, guarding it with sentries will do no good.–Psalm 127:1

To read Olivia’s Story, click here.