Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Day We Missed the Miracle

God is still in the miracle performing business. If you haven't experienced one, my question to you is: have you looked up lately?

Last week I witnessed a miracle and I didn't even realize it. 

If you didn't already know, I'm a nurse at the hospital on a cardiac step down unit. Our patients can crash at any minute and we're trained to handle that should it happen, but on any given day things go the way they are supposed to and all crises are avoided. However, last week, during a single shift, we almost lost three of our patients. 

On days like that you get extremely behind on your work. You most likely either miss lunch or stuff your face with the unhealthiest of meals in 5 minutes flat. You're overwhelmed, frustrated and exhausted. You wonder why you even became a nurse.

So on that particular day, I was all of the above. Overwhelmed, hangry, exhausted and questioning my career choice. I called my husband on the way home (at least an hour and a half late) to complain about how terrible my day was.

As I reflected on the day when I got home, I realized that my perspective was all wrong. 
Yes, it was awful. Yes, we were all at work way past our usual time playing catch up. No, none of us got a proper break. Yes, three people almost died, but glory to God three people LIVED! Three lives were saved and I'm close to tears as I write this because I'm just realizing what I experienced. How could I not see the miracle that happened right in front of me, the miracle that I got to be a part of?

In Mark 6, we see Jesus' disciples experiencing something similar. The disciples are on their boat heading to Bethsaida. They are in the middle of a storm and having a terrible time crossing the sea. Jesus sees that His friends are struggling so He walks out onto the water to help them. When the disciples see Him walking on the water, they are frightened and think that He is a ghost. It seems like a legit reaction, but here's the thing, the disciples had just witnessed Jesus turn five loaves of bread and two fish into a meal for 5000 +! You would think they would have realized who Jesus was and what He was capable of. But the bible says that the disciples had not yet understood what Jesus did with the fish and loaves and their hearts were hardened. 
If you go back and read the story of Jesus feeding the 5000, you'll see that the Bible doesn't tell us the disciples' reaction to the experience. I think that maybe their reaction wasn't what it should have been. 12 people feeding 5000 sounds like a lot of work so I can imagine that they were busy. I'm sure they were exhausted. They were probably starving and maybe just a little aggravated because they would have beat the storm had they not been there so late. 

I think that just like my coworkers and I, the disciples were still surprised by Jesus because they actually missed the miracle He performed that day. Sure, they knew what Jesus had done. They were there; they helped him. My coworkers and I knew that three lives were saved, but instead of experiencing the miracle, we were focused on what the miracle was costing us. 

How often do we miss the amazing things God is doing both around us and through us because our perspectives are all wrong?  We allow our emotions to cloud our circumstances until we can't even see what's right in front of us.

My pastor always says "the servants see the miracles" and I believe that, I really do, but I think sometimes we servants forget to look up. In the midst of all of our serving and busyness we get on sort of an autopilot mode. We pray, we serve, we give. God provides. We check it off the list and move on, never stopping to appreciate His power. My call to my husband that night should have been one of celebration, but my focus was on all the wrong things. So instead, I complained when I should have been rejoicing.

Last week three people could have died, but they didn't.

God is still in the miracle performing business. If you haven't witnessed one, my question to you is: have you looked up lately? It may have just passed you by.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

To the Childless Woman on Mother's Day

To the Childless Woman on Mother's Day

 I'm writing you this letter today because I know that this week of celebration may be sparking some sadness in you. There are commercials on TV and the radio, cards, flowers and balloons in every store reminding you of what you already know: Mother's Day is coming up and you still are not a mom. While most every holiday magnifies the fact that you don't have children of your own, none stings quite as badly as this one. 

I don't know why this Mother's Day finds you childless. 

Maybe you're still single even though you always thought you'd be married with at least a couple of kids by now.

Maybe you are married, but your husband isn't ready for a baby.

Maybe you've been trying to get pregnant for what seems like an eternity. 

Maybe you're recovering from a miscarriage or mourning the devastating loss of a little one.

Maybe you've been given the heartbreaking news that you'll never have children of your own. 

Maybe you're impatiently waiting for a phone call that there's a child waiting for you to adopt or foster. 

Maybe you're a stepmom who never feels like you're good enough.

Maybe you don't want children at all, but you struggle with feeling like less of a woman because society tells you that motherhood is your primary purpose in life. 

Maybe you've lost all hope.

I know I could never begin to understand the pain of your circumstances, but whatever your situation, I know you're hurting while everyone else is celebrating. 

I know that you force yourself to put on a brave face even though you're dying inside. When people ask you when you're going to start a family or what you're waiting on you answer with grace although you can't stand everyone's invasive questions. I know that you lie to cover up your pain when you tell people you enjoy your freedom and your quiet, "easy" life. I know you feel like everyone is talking about you. You bet they're wondering if you're struggling with infertility or if your marriage is falling apart. 

I know what it feels like for your heart to ache as you hold someone else's baby and I know how it feels to be numb, not even wanting to be around babies anymore. I know that you sometimes roll your eyes when you see another pregnancy announcement on Facebook. I know you feel guilty for you lack of excitement for others. I know that you feel left out and like you don't fit in with your friends anymore. They seem to walk on egg shells around you as to not hurt your feelings.

I know about your Pinterest board; the one filled with nursery designs and pictures of irresistibly cute babies. I have one too. I know that sometimes you sneak over to the baby section at Target, imagining what it would be like to be shopping for your own baby while deep down feeling like you've lost your mind. 

I know that you're hurting. I know you feel empty. Lonely. Impatient. You feel hopeless. I know that sometimes you even feel angry. You ask God "why me?" But Jesus wanted me to tell you something this Mother's Day. 

He wanted me to tell you that childlessness does not define you.

Jesus wants you to know that your identity is not found in your circumstances; your identity is found in Him. You are not broken, unworthy, inadequate or less of a woman because you don't have or can't have children. The truth is, nothing in this world can dictate who we are. The only One who decides our identity is the One who created us. And the One who created you says:

You are loved

"I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you." Jeremiah 31:3

"The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing." Zephaniah 3:17

You are chosen and you are God's special possession 

"You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." 1 Peter 2:9

"For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession." Deuteronomy 7:6

You are God's masterpiece 

"For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago." Ephesians 2:10

You are valuable

"Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." Matthew 10:29-31

"What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor." Psalm 8:5

You are the dwelling place for the Holy Spirit

"Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own." 1 Corinthians 6:19

You are worth dying for

"God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16

You are redeemed

"In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace." Ephesians 1:7

You know what I realize when I read those statements about my identity in Christ? I see that God's love and His favor over my life do not require anything from me except that I believe and receive them. His promises don't say "once you are married, then you'll be redeemed" or "when you become a mom, then you'll be valuable to me." He takes us just as we are and He uses our pain for our good and His glory. 

I hope that your future is full of tiny fingers and toes, little league games and carpool lines, but until then I hope you will allow God to replace your sorrow with joy, your hopelessness with faith and your emptiness with the fullness of His love. I pray that you would come to know that your identity in Christ is unchanging and unconditional. Rest in that this Mother's Day. 

"The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." 
Psalm 34:18

Monday, May 1, 2017

How to Take Hold of a Life that's Flying By

Make the most of your time

"Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." 
Psalm 90:12

I remember riding in the car with my dad one night many years ago as he played a song for me. It was a significant song, one he wanted me to hear so that I would learn something. Neither one of us can remember what song it actually was, but I have always remembered one of the lyrics was "you can only count on time" (Google has convinced me I misheard the lyrics and that no such song exists). Anyway, wrong lyrics or not, it has stuck with me ever since. 

Aside from God, time is the one thing in our lives that is constant. It cannot be changed. You can't slow it down or speed it up. You can't rewind or fast forward it. A minute will always lasts 60 seconds, an hour 60 minutes, a day 24 hours. Time goes on. If there's nothing else that we can put our trust in, we can trust that time will go by. I have found comfort in this on hard days, but in this, I've also found great fear. The years speed by faster the older I get. A school day used to feel like an eternity, now a week comes and goes before I can catch my breath. If you let it, it will utterly terrify you. 

The concept that our time is short is nothing new. Almost every great artist has written a song about it. There are countless quotes reminding us of it. But did you know that even scripture warns us of our limited time and urges us to spend it wisely?

"Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes." 
James 4:14

"Man is like breath; his days are like a passing shadow." 
Psalm 144:4

"So be very careful how you live. Do not live like those who are not wise, but live wisely. Use every chance you have for doing good, because these are evil times. So do not be foolish but learn what the Lord wants you to do."
 Ephesians 5:15-17

“LORD, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered–how fleeting my life is. You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand. My entire lifetime is just a moment to you; at best, each of us is but a breath.” 
Psalm 39:4-5 

So what do we do with this assurance that our time is short? In a world obsessed with instant gratification and shortcuts, how do we slow down and savor the time we've been given?

Take Your Eyes Off of the Screen

We live in a society that has a need for constant stimulation. I don't know about you, but I can't wait in line or at a stoplight without pulling out my phone to mindlessly scroll through Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat. I find myself reaching for my phone to distract me in times of stress and worry or simply out of boredom. 

An hour flies by in an instant as my face is buried in my phone, consumed by the lives of others as my own happens around me.

I see my happiest days through my screen as I take a ridiculous amount of pictures in a desperate attempt to hold onto the moment forever. Pictures that will be forgotten, lost among pictures of last night's dinner and screenshots of hairstyle inspiration, until I'm forced to delete them to make room for more fabricated "memories." 

We worry so much about taking the perfect picture or crafting the most compelling status update to make our lives appear interesting that our lives actually become dull. Our attempts to impress others steal our attention and rob us of the present. Filter enhanced pictures and staged snap chat stories take the place of real life experiences. 

Now I'm not saying that our phones and social media are all bad or that we should never take pictures. We just need to be mindful of how much time we're spending on these things so that we can recognize when we are using them for good and when we're just wasting precious time. 

To really experience our lives to the fullest, we need to get more intentional about actually living in the moment instead of living to document it. 

Stop Rushing to the Future

My husband and I are very future oriented people. We're planners. We don't make decisions without considering how they may affect our lives down the road. It's good, really. There is a sense of security when you live that way, but there's also a nagging little voice inside of my head that reminds me we aren't promised the future. 

Are you living so much for the future that you're missing the present? Do you have the mindset of "when I get here, when I have this, when I meet this goal....then I'll be happy, then I'll start living, then I'll enjoy my life...?"

It's great to have goals. It's great to set yourself up for a secure future. But it's not okay to trade today for uncertain tomorrows. Proverbs 27:1 says "Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring." 

I've had patients tell me that they spent their lives working nonstop, planning to finally start living once they retired. But then they got sick and so far their retirement has been spent in and out of the hospital not feeling well enough to enjoy anything, their hard earned money being depleted by the cost of medications and doctor bills.

The thing is, we can plan, we can put money aside, we can work hard and we should, but we never know what tomorrow will bring or if tomorrow will even come at all. So if we want to be good stewards of our time, there has to be a balance. 

1 Timothy 6:6 tells us that wealth is found when we are fully content with what we have right now (my paraphrase). Today is full of so much blessing and promise, stop rushing through it to get to tomorrow. 

But Stop Wasting Time

Can you imagine how it would feel to get to the end of your life and realize all of your dreams are still just dreams? Either out of fear or procrastination, you never accomplished anything you hoped to. I'm not scared of death. I know that Heaven is going to be far better than life here could ever be, but I am scared of wasting my time, of not living to my full potential.

I love what Ecclesiastes 11:4 says: "whoever keeps staring at the wind won’t sow; whoever daydreams won’t reap." 

God doesn't honor our plans, He honors our actions. As His children we are equipped with everything we need to be successful. So that dream you've been scared to go after, chase it. That job you've always wanted, apply for it. That talent that you keep hidden, use it. Live your life confident in the favor of God instead of in surrender to fear and doubt.

Just like that old song my dad and I can't remember despite it's impact, life comes and goes so live it while you can. Dale Partridge said, "we can't do anything about the length of our life, but we can do something about its depth." 

Can you change the way you're spending your time to add depth to your life today?