I held my baby girl close. Almost too close.
It was that embrace that feels like you want to swallow up your precious baby into yourself because you love them so much. Like you just can’t have them too close, or close isn’t close enough. This love overwhelmed me and cascaded over me and through me and around me.
My eyes squeezed tight, pushing out a gush of wetness onto my cheeks. I held her tight against my chest, not wanting to ever let go. I was swarmed with the overwhelming thought, “I.Love.You.So.Much. I love you so much. I love you sooo much!”
How could anyone love anyone this much? Her chubby, baby cheeks were velvety soft and she waved her arm at my shoulder, pulling at my hair. Her seven months had not given her time to know and understand, comprehend the love that was washing over me.
As I looked through my glistening tears, her face was slightly distorted. She smiled a toothless smile and my chest bounced with laughter. The remaining swell of tears flooded out of my eyes and dropped onto her pudgy fingers.
“God? Do you love me this much? If you do, I want to feel your love. FEEL it. Do you care about me? Do you care about my dreams? I desperately want you to.” My thoughts brought on another wave of emotion as I laid her down.
These questions have been drifting around in my head but can never seem to settle and take root in my heart.
Does God love me? Yes, He does, I know this. I KNOW this. It’s in my head but sometimes my heart lags.
I also know that there are Christian men and women, right now as this is read, being hunted and killed because of their love of God, their devotion to Jesus.
I know that their reward will be beyond amazing in heaven and really, that’s what counts. But being an avid reader and practicing so many years of “becoming the character”, I reenact in my head their last moments: my soul cries out that it wants to live and I feel the fear that rises as I think about what will happen to my children when I’m gone, murdered.
The plight of suffering is endless, reaching everyone, everywhere.
The serpent slithers through the corner of my mind, “Why would a loving God allow so much suffering? If he loves those Christians,” the ‘s’ drawn out, said with such disdain, “why would He allow them to die such horrible deaths? And when will it happen to you? Why…” So many why’s and questions swirl around with no answers.
I’ve been involved in conversations like this: “I just didn’t feel anything during the worship service. I don’t feel the Spirit anymore at that church.”
These conversations beg the questions: Will I “feel” God? Yes, but not always, and seemingly mostly not always. But I know He is always alive and active. I know this. I KNOW this. It’s in my head but sometimes my heart lags.
I also know that there are so many who are searching for their god, in so many ways, and they don’t receive any conformation from the true God. So many feel abandoned by Him. Cynical doubt and enlightened knowledge have crept in and in their wake, the serpent doesn’t have to work nearly as hard convincing individuals that truth is relative. Slowly individuals make up the masses, and the way of life then is to do what “feels” right, not to look for the truth and do what is THE right.
I also know that there have been many Sunday’s I haven’t felt anything, I was merely being obedient, because I know that God’s Word says to go. And although over and over He has proven to me that this lack of feeling by no means proves that He is less active or less interested in my life, there are still the doubts and lingering questions.
The slithering movement catches my mind’s eye as he coils and makes himself at home. “You need to feel God to know He is working. Why hasn’t He given you the answers to your questions? Is He really listening to you? You don’t feel Him anymore, are you sure you are His? Should you be in a place where you don’t feel Him?” The questions collide and almost make sense.
I plan my days, and my days never turn out as I expect and I never get done all I need or want. My dreams are sitting right there, just out of reach, beckoning me, pulling me in.
Does He care about my dreams? Yes. He cares about me and my dreams. He does, I know this. I KNOW this. It’s in my head but sometimes my heart lags.
I also know that there are thousands of people in Haiti, still living in tents, struggling to survive. Their dream is for their tent to keep off the sun and rain for one more day, that the well a mile away will provide water and that their meager supply of eggs will sell at the market.
The dreams of the precious, bright-eyed girls in Africa and in so many places, are hoping that they can disappear one more day out of the sight of lustful men.
Women in some countries have the dream that their babies will be boys and spared. So many dreams, in so many places, are merely of food, shelter and survival.
Their dreams are real and so very different from mine. I sit in my warm and sheltered home, the smell of fresh-baked bread lingering and I write about my love of God, filled with so many questions. My dreams are of doing, accomplishing, going. Creating a heritage for my children, providing them a safe home, filled with ample opportunities to learn and love and have fun.
The serpent slithers, once again, too close for comfort, “Why can you have such lofty dreams? What makes you so important?” The hatred with each word breathed was palpable, but it almost felt normal, true. “Why would God help you with your dreams when others are merely surviving? And you! You want so much! You are filled with greed, a breeding ground for material things. You are lazy, expecting God to magically provide for all your ‘dreams’.” The twisting whirlwind of questions was beginning to spiral out of control.
Yes, why? Why to all these questions?. Why do I doubt God’s love when there is suffering? Why do I question Him when I don’t feel Him? Why do I expect so much in this life? What makes me any different or better, more deserving than those whose dreams are only of survival?
For many people, God has provided miraculously, almost mysteriously. But others in similar situations were seemingly left in their dire situation.
Peter was miraculously freed from prison by an angel and Stephen glorified Jesus in his death.
Others have prayed for healing and received health and others prayed but were perfected in death.
Hannah and Sarah pleaded and life filled their wombs and other women have prayed and received no answer.
One marriage may find the miraculous healing of God and another dissolves in tears.
Some have aptly named this wisdom’s tension. But where does wisdom’s tension meet? How does wisdom’s tension reveal itself in my life, in your life? Where do I start and how do I handle all of these questions?
I’ve always thought that there is no “one” person that you “have” to marry or that “one” job that you have to take or you’ve missed God’s tracking for your life.
So going forward from this moment, let’s establish that you are exactly where God wants you to be at this very moment, with exactly the people He wants you to be with.
Let’s also establish that your dreams are God-given and that He has placed them in your heart for His specific purposes and plans.
Does that shift your focus any? Let these suggestions guide your thinking:
- Stop wishing. “I wish I were in a different place. I wish I were with someone else. I wish this or that were different”.
- Start change. Now look around you. What truly needs to change? Are you overwhelmed with stuff? Do you have a bad attitude? Do you need to rearrange your schedule? Do you need to forgive? Do you have several unfinished projects that you need to just get done and cross off the list? Define what it is that you need to change in order to move forward with your dream.
- Pray purposefully. Typing out “pray” is so easy. But to really, deeply and truly pray is so hard sometimes. Our prayers must be accompanied by belief. We must believe God heard, and that He will answer every step of the way (Yes, No, Maybe). Then it is our “job” not to waver in our belief in any way.
- Plan diligently. Move forward in responsibilities and action steps believing that God will place the people, circumstances and tools in your life that you need. There are so many options and ways to schedule days based on personalities and seasons of life. Take the time to figure out what works for you to use your time wisely and efficiently.
- Live for His glory. Every thought, word, deed, action, every part of your life and dream should be focused on fulfilling His glory. You will not be living your true purpose if this is not the focus. And living outside this purpose is a recipe for disaster in many ways.
- Let it go. And while you are making plans, the Lord is ordering your footsteps. God’s ultimate goal is not for your happiness but for your holiness. This world, your body and the life you live are not perfect, but it is the desire of Jesus to perfect you. This can only happen when you let go and allow this refining work
But what does this look like in real life? These words on paper and real life must coincide and coexist to become a reality.
The woman living in her poverty-stricken country knows that she can’t leave her country and can’t change her circumstances. She focuses her attention on her home and creating it to be clean and full of love for her children.
She prays as she is fetching water, collecting two eggs and carrying her clothes down to the water. She has a purpose that feels like it was born in her and it blossoms out of her when she tells everyone she meets that Jesus is her source, her supplier and she does not fear.
Time and again, she has met people who have been touched and encouraged by her blessings and have blessed her in return with a bucket, a piece of cloth to make a new shirt and some straw to fill her beds.
Then there came a time when God led her to give up her goal of raising enough chickens to sell and feed her family for a year. She gave each chicken away to those in need around her. It was the hardest thing she had ever had to do but she willingly let go and knew that God would not abandon her. And He didn’t. Two years later, she was blessed with two goats and now is able to support her family selling the kids and milk they produce.
She became one with her Creator, laid down her rights, sacrificed her will and put her complete trust in the Lord. Her willingness to give up her livelihood for the benefit of others did not go unnoticed in the heavenly realms.
The man sitting in his darkened prison, seemingly waiting for his death, replays the last events in his mind: his family being ripped from him in an enraged show of godlessness and hate. He knew their fate, even though he had not witnessed it. He knew his circumstances would not change unless a mighty miracle took place and he was continually in the act of forgiving his captors and those who took his family from him.
He fought through the fog of hatred each day, praying for his heart to remain pure and his hope to remain alive. He prayed for those imprisoning him and he prayed for those surrounding him.
He knew that God had not abandoned him and that he could place himself near someone new each day to share the joy he had in his heart. Each day he faced other’s utter hopelessness and anger he knew all too well. But he was able to sit and listen, and sometimes he spoke words he knew were directly from the Spirit.
Other times he sang hymns everyone knew and loved. He died of pneumonia and only judgment day will reveal the true impact of his time in prison, as he quietly lived out his last days in a strength that could only come from heaven.
He died because he laid down his rights of eating all the meager food given him and the small sheet supplied. He gave all he could to the health of those around him. He sacrificed his life, put his trust in the Lord. His sacrifice did not go unnoticed in the heavenly realms.
She had been living such a full life. The last of her kids had just graduated, she had the details of her trip to Europe planned out to the last stop. She was beyond excited and pushed through her tiredness until she couldn’t ignore the more alarming symptoms that began to appear.
Cancer. Those 6 letters have struck fear into countless lives. She cried, wailed and pleaded. And started treatment. She began to live her life with courage and purpose. She did not turn her fear and discouragement into hatred of God but instead made it a point to share her testimony and love of Jesus in her beautiful, kindhearted way.
Her routines, by force, were changed but she also implemented life changes that took place first in her kitchen and then as she implemented a workout routine as she was able.
And she prayed. She prayed for her healing. She prayed for all the nurses and staff who looked after her as she was in treatment. She reconnected with all of her family as consistently as possible. She prayed for anyone who was near.
She realized that as she planned her days it gave her peace to feel like she might accomplish something but she also knew that some days she would just have to rest. And when she rested, she read and listened to her Bible. Her life was turned upside down but she refused to let it defeat her.
She lived each day knowing that it may be her last. So she made it a point that she would lay it down gladly if she knew that she had spent it talking about and praising His name. She sacrificed her right to live and put her complete trust in the Lord, whether she was healed or not and became one with Him as she prayed and read her Bible. Her attitude and love did not go unnoticed in the heavenly realms.
And this girl. This strong-willed, independent girl, desires so much to know. To understand. Why?
I dream of a self-sustaining farm and a beautiful horse facility. A simple life. I desire that my kids see Jesus at a young age (even at age 3!) and are willing to talk to Him and put their complete trust and faith in Him and that this will carry through the rest of their lives.
But I gotta tell you, it’s been a tough couple of years. Nothing has worked like we hoped. Everything has gone almost completely in the opposite direction than we had planned and we seemingly are farther from our “dreams” than we ever have been. And I want to know why. But as I struggle through not receiving answers, I’ve realized that I need to take responsibility and action for my life as it is right now.
I am the one that needs to realize that I am exactly in the place I need to be, with what I need to have, with the people I need to be around.
I realized recently that I was spending a lot of time with the “I wishes”. I wish this were easier. I wish this were different. I wish we had the money to do that, to fix this. I wish…
Wishing is so easy to do, isn’t it?
I started to look around me and realized that I also had a lot of unfinished projects that needed to be completed. They were half-finished and causing disorder.
I also have been harboring bitterness and anger towards my husband. That absolutely needs to change. To stop immediately for the health of my family.
And having a 3-year-old and 7 month old requires that I have a schedule that is entirely and completely flexible but allows me to also get things done.
I’ve set a plan in place to begin working through accomplishing one project a day, or at least working on a project until it is completed. And every day I need to be choosing to bless my husband at least once in a very specific and concerted way. And I have to become organized in my house, to feel order in my spirit. I have the “this must be completed each day list” that I work through and it has helped me feel more accomplished.
And as I do all of these, I need to be reminded to pray through all of them. There are times that my prayers are more like pleadings. Having a three-year old continually coming to you with scrapes and bruises and crying, “Mommy, pray to Jesus to fix me” helps foster a life of prayer. 🙂 Praying through my plans will give me clarity and the mind of Christ.
In this season of my life, my mission field are my children. My prayers and efforts and planning go into their lives and spirits. They are how and who I will show forth the glory of God. But when I am around my friends at play group, or when I go to the grocery store, my spiritual ears and eyes must be attune to the people and situations that need my attention and prayers.
Knowing that most people desire a listening ear and someone who cares, makes it easy to listen to the people around me and very quickly, see their needs. My eyes can then turn to God to see if and I should step in.
And then I must, I must, let it go. All of it. Absolutely the hardest of these 6 suggestions. I know that I must sacrifice my dreams and lay them down. I must lay the physical and spiritual lives of my children in the Father’s hands. As I bite my tongue and bless my husband, I will let go of any expectations of anything in return. I will let go of the control I deem necessary in my daily tasks and let the Lord order my footsteps.
For my dreams are His dreams.
I may never see our property completed. I may never have the marriage of my dreams. My children may choose some hard roads (oh, this makes my heart hurt already!) and I may never progress in my achievements as I think I should.
And as I lay down my rights, my dreams, my hopes, I pick up the mantel that Christ truly wants me to hold: that of a desire to be holy despite my circumstances, joyful in the midst of turmoil, loving in the face of hate. Jesus’ clothing of mercy, humility and love hanging off my shoulders.
That truly is living the dream. This dream will not fade, or burn, but will remain and stand the test of judgment.
And if my earthly dreams work their way out of the cracks of His dream for my life, I will be ready to accept it and gladly live in it.
I peered over the crib as my eyes slowly adjusted to the darkness and saw my precious baby girl smiling and waving her arms and kicking her legs wildly upon her sight of me.
Her protests from the crib were a call for mommy. And seeing me brought to her a simple and pure joy. She had called and I answered.
I didn’t say anything but I matched her smile in depth and strength and I picked her up and held her close. Almost too close. As if I wanted to swallow her into myself because I couldn’t seem to hold her close enough.
Oh, I loved her so much. So very, very much.
“You love me this much, don’t you God? You love me more than this much. You look down at me and smile. When I plead and cry out for you, you come, many times in silence, but you come. Your silence by no means says you are absent. You see my heart, yet love me. You reach for me when I cry out in pain, ‘Fix me, Jesus.'”
Please, Jesus, let my dreams be Your dreams. Change my heart to reflect all of You. When I ask in Your name, let it be given to me because I am asking in Your will and not mine. In everything I do and say, let it be a surrender to You, a complete trust in You by turning everything, all my hopes and dreams over to You. When the serpent lies in the corners of my mind, take it captive and make it obedient to You. May my heart know Your voice and only respond to You in love.
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