Recovery Testimony: Infertility

sadContinued from here.

Little did I know that life’s next storm was already brewing. I had only returned to God for a few months when I learned that I was infertile. For someone so determined to be in charge of my own life, this news was absolutely devastating. Even the Bible validates the depth of the struggle with infertility:

There are three things that are never satisfied,
four that never say, ‘Enough!’:
the grave, the barren womb,
land, which is never satisfied with water,
and fire, which never says, ‘Enough!’” ~ Prov. 30:15-16

Note that infertility is the only human experience recorded in this passage. If you have never walked the path of infertility or walked alongside someone dealing with it, you might not be able to fully appreciate the devastation, particularly for couples who are “control freaks.”

I had a choice to make – Was I going to walk away from God again? Or would I go through this with Him? I decided that grieving the loss of my father without God had not worked out very well, so I would go through the infertility process with God, even though I didn’t understand why He allowed this in my life.

Interestingly, I never perceived my infertility as being a punishment for walking away from God, just as I never perceived my father’s sudden death as being a punishment for anything. My struggle was about why God allowed these things to happen, but I never blamed Him for causing them.

Fast forward 4.5 years … I was sobbing as I drove to work. After years of infertility treatments and surgeries, we went through the process to adopt a child, and we had been waiting over 1.5 years to be matched with a birthmother. My friends’ children were already in kindergarten, and I felt every day of those 4.5 years as my arms remained empty on Mother’s Day, Christmas, etc. I asked God when would I ever be a mother, and I felt this in my Spirit: “It’s always darkest before the dawn.” And a peace washed over me that I could not explain. For the next week, when my thoughts turned to this area of my life, I would sense that again and be washed over with peace.

One week later, we received the call that a birthmother had chosen us to adopt her son. She selected us on the very day that God gave me that message, but the agency waited a week to tell us to make sure she was certain we were the right family. That baby is now my 16 years old son, and he was worth the wait.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace crying one big tear. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Recovery Testimony: Father’s Death

Cartoon of Grace on her knees, punching her fist in the air while yelling, “Noooooo.”Continued from here.

As I shared in my last blog entry, I received Jesus as my Savior and Lord when I was 8 years old. I took my faith seriously. I was mocked for bring my Bible to school to read, and I read the entire Bible cover-to-cover when I was 14-15 years old. I even did a Bible study with my peers in my high school.

Then, halfway through my senior year of high school, my father dropped dead … just like that … and my world rocked. My mother was a stay-at-home mom, so we lost all family income. My mother understandably struggled emotionally with the sudden loss of her husband, so it felt like losing both parents rather than only one. My father’s extended family had a falling out with my mother, so no matter where I looked, I saw friction and discord.

I was angry with no “safe” place to aim my anger, so I aimed it at God. My attitude at the time was that if God was going to treat me this way — one of the few teenagers on the planet who actually took the time to read every word of the Bible — then I wanted nothing to do with Him … and I walked away. I refused to go to church. I stopped praying. I decided I was going to live my life in my own way with my #1 focus on becoming fully independent as quickly as possible. I graduated high school at age 17, college at age 20, and law school at age 23. I was determined to hold the reins of my own life and never have to depend on anyone for anything ever again.

Eleven years later, God wooed me back, and He was sneaky about it. My closest colleague at work became a Christian and had numerous questions. Her church friends didn’t know much about the Bible while I had read the entire book, so I wound up teaching her the basics of her newfound faith, even though I had rejected it myself. God softened my heart through this process.

This colleague then invited me to a new Bible study starting up at work because she didn’t want to go alone. She wound up dropping out after a few weeks for personal reasons, but by then, I wanted to stay … and I returned to God.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace on her knees yelling, “Nooooo.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Recovery Testimonies

helpNext week, I will be starting my coursework toward a master’s degree in Christian Ministry. (Yes, this old dog is going to learn some new tricks.) I am already reading through my textbooks in preparation for my classes, and I learned a new term: recovery testimony.

Of course, I’m familiar with salvation testimonies (stories about how people came to invite Jesus to be their Lord and Savior), and mine is pretty simple. I was 8 years old when my mother started bringing me to a Southern Baptist church. She explained the gospel to me, and I immediately invited Jesus into my heart. I created a bit of a controversy because I was adamant about being baptized right away, and the church didn’t typically baptize children that young. I had to convince the pastor that I fully understood the significance of baptism, which I did (to his amazement). That’s pretty much it.

My recovery testimonies, on the other hand, are powerful, and I have several of them. In a nutshell, a recovery testimony is your story about a time in which something blew up in your life, and God worked it out for good. The concept is encapsulated in this Bible verse, in which Joseph was talking with his brothers selling him into slavery:

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” ~ Gen. 50:20

In this series, I’ll be sharing three of my recovery testimonies. As you’ll see, I was faithful to God in some and completely rebellious in others. However, God was always faithful to me, and He worked all of them out for good. That’s one of the coolest things about God – that He can work even our own sin out for good.

Let’s face it – life is hard. If it wasn’t, we wouldn’t have any need for perseverance, right? I hope that my recovery testimonies will inspire you as well as reassure you that it’s never too late to return to God. As you’ll see in my next blog entry, I returned to God after 11 years of rebellion. Even after rejecting God for over a decade, He still wanted me, and He pursued me until I came home.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace sinking in quicksand under the word, “Help!” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Obedience Problem = Love Problem

I have shared previously that I am working through Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God , authored by Henry Blackaby, Richard Blackaby, and Claude King. One concept I am pondering is the repeated assertion that…

If you have an obedience problem, you have a love problem.” ~ Experiencing God

The authors cite multiple Bible verses to support this statement, including the following:

If you love me, keep my commands.” ~ John 14:15

Throughout the Bible, obedience and love for God are intertwined. If you love God, you’ll do what He says to do. If you don’t do what God says to do, that’s evidence of a lack of love for Him. In our humanity, we try to make things more complex, but the Bible says it’s really that simple: If you love God, you’ll do what He says to do. If you don’t love God, you won’t. And that’s why the authors says that if you have a problem with obeying God, then you have an issue with loving God.

Like most people, I struggle with obedience. At the end of the day, I want to do what looks good to me. However, as I have been pondering with my series on the enormity of God, I have a limited perspective, so what I view as “good” or “bad” from my teeny tiny sliver of space and time might be very off-base from the perspective of everywhere and “everywhen.” Note that I have included no mention of love in my explanation for my desire to do things the way that look good to me.

To see the connection between obedience and love, I must believe that God’s Word is true – that my willingness to obey God reflects my love for Him while my refusal to obey Him reveals my lack of love. From my teeny tiny sliver in space and time, I don’t see that connection, but the Bible says it is true. However, I do see that doing what **I** want keeps me focused on myself rather than on God, which does point to a lack of love.

While I might not fully grasp the connection between love and obedience, I have found that it’s easier to obey God out of a motivation of love. For example, when I was in the early stages of forgiving my child abusers, I prayed, “I hate my abusers, but I love you more. Help me forgive them out of love for You.” When I focus on my love for God rather than on myself, I find it much easier to obey Him.

Cover of Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God. Courtesy Amazon.

God Knows More Than My Name

u_get_meA recurring theme in Contemporary Christian music is that God knows my name. Whenever I hear that lyric, I think, “Thank goodness that’s not all He knows!”

For people who feel disconnected from God, I’m guessing it’s reassuring to hear that God knows your name. However, I think about the many people whose names I know but who I don’t know a thing about other than what the tabloids tell me, much of which is likely untrue. And then the things that really matter about those people aren’t going to make it into the tabloids. Only their closest friends will know the information that really matters, and some of the most important information might not even be shared with them. So, yeah, I know their names, but I don’t know them.

Contrast this with the knowledge that God has of you:

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Luke 12:6-7

Even I don’t know how many hairs I have on my own head, but God does. That’s a level of caring that I don’t even have about myself!

Yes, I love that God knows my name, but I love even more that He understands the way I tick, which is something I don’t fully understand myself. Thanks to the child abuse, my brain developed differently from a “normal” brain, causing me to react differently than other people to particular stimuli. As I have healed from the child abuse, I have grown to understand some of my triggers (thanks to flashbacks), but others continue to perplex me. However, God is not perplexed. He knows exactly why I think and do what I think and do, and He loves me through it all.

I love that I have a God who knows me intimately … who knows where I have been, am now, and where I am going … who knows exactly what I need … who completely understands my peculiarities that I don’t understand about myself … and who loves me completely exactly as I am, even knowing me that intimately. Love like that is transforming and runs far deeper than simply knowing my name.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace with her hands on her heart below the words, “U Get Me.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Servant Evangelism

I recently read the book, Servant Evangelism: Showing and Sharing Good News, and was pleasantly surprised. Let me start by making a confession – the word “evangelism” gives me the heebie jeebies. I envision people standing on street corners waving their Bibles around, asking me if I’m “saved,” and threatening me with the fires of hell if I am not. While I am sure that many of the people who do this mean well, it’s a real turnoff to me. My decision to surrender my life to Christ was a HUGE turning point that wasn’t going to happen because someone “threatened” me while I was walking down the street.

Servant evangelism is a very different form of evangelism. In a nutshell, it combines random acts of kindness with sharing God’s love. As an example, hold a free car wash and refuse to accept donations. When people ask why, say, “God has been so good to me that I want to pay it forward” … or something else that communicates that your love for God is your motivation for the random act of kindness. Another example is giving out free light bulbs with the message, “For more light, visit our church” affixed to the box.

I actually saw this in action when I was visiting the beach. I was walking for exercise past a church during worship service hours, and people were giving away free bottles of water with a verse about Jesus being the living water and the church’s name and address on a label on the bottle. There was no “sell” involved. They didn’t want money for the water bottles, and they did not try to make me feel guilty for exercising instead of being in church. If I had asked about God, I’m sure they would have been happy to share with me, but I simply said thank you and continued pushing my son in his stroller, and they did not attempt to detain me.

The beauty of this form of evangelism is that it meets people where they are. If God has already been softening someone’s heart, this provides a wonderful opportunity for that person to ask questions about your faith. However, if someone’s heart is not in a place to “hear the good news,” it simply plants a seed. Perhaps years later, when God starts drawing the person to Himself, s/he will remember receiving that free bottle of water and visit that church.

I know that the Great Commission applies to me, just as it does to all Christians, but I have always been leery about “Bible thumping” as a means to do it. I love the simplicity of the idea of servant evangelism, which meets people right where they are, shining God’s love into people’s lives without a “hard sell.”

[Graphic: Cover of the book, Servant Evangelism: Showing and Sharing Good News. Courtesy Amazon.]

God is “EveryWHEN”

whenI just completed a series on God being everywhere, which got me thinking about how God is also “everyWHEN” – that God is not limited by time. Those of you who were blessed with scientific brains might be thinking, “Duh!,” but I was not blessed with such a brain, so bear with me. I never took a Physics course. My science-challenged brain has a difficult time wrapping around the concept of God existing outside of the confines of time and space.

Rich Mullins wrote the following lyrics in his song, Nothing is Beyond You:

Time cannot contain You. You fill eternity.”

This helps me apply what I have been processing about God being everywhere to His transcendence of time. Just as God is “too big” to be contained by space, He is also “too big” to be contained by time. My linear mind has trouble grasping this concept. I’ll probably have to spend a lot of time meditating on this reality to even begin to get this. Just writing this paragraph is making my non-scientific brain cramp!

If I could truly grasp and believe that God exists outside of time, I would find it so much easier to trust Him with my future because He already sees it and is already there! He’s not just a good guesser or playing the odds that the suffering I am experiencing today is likely to produce a harvest in the future. He KNOWS this because He is already there looking at that harvest. My poor brain cannot process this!

This is one reason why God wants me living in the present. When I envision the future, it’s often without God’s presence, which is not possible because He is already there. I’ll worry that X, Y, or Z might happen and construct contingency plans for how I will deal with those issues if they arise, but my worry excludes the presence of God. I’ll never experience one second of my life without God, which makes worry a complete waste of time.

This is not a topic that I’ve been pondering yet – I’m still working on wrapping my mind around God being everywhere – so I don’t have much to say about it. At this point in my journey, I have more questions than answers, but I can see how I could much more easily rest in God’s provision by resting in the reality that God is “everyWHEN.”

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace holding a pocket watch under the word, “When?” Courtesy Bitmoji.]