Diary of a Wimpy Mom

In Love with Brennan

Zachary with our son Brennan

In the week since I last posted, I gave birth to the most beautiful little boy. What a week of love it has been! For those of you who read my last post, you will know that the weeks leading up to the end of pregnancy were very difficult, but holding this little nugget in my arms has wiped away so much of that pain. His life is so worth the suffering I’ve been through and will doubtless go through; it’s just a part of life.

You also know if you read my last post that I am coming to terms with my weakness. This is the story of Brennan’s birth, and it is a story of weakness.

To start this story, you need a little background about the birth of my daughter Lily in March 2012.

To say that all of my friends who had kids before me are hippies would be a little bit of an exaggeration…we’ll call them granola. Crunchy. The I-gave-birth-naturally-with-a-midwife-and-I-only-use-cloth-diapers type. Awesome women who have turned into awesome moms.

As I yearned for my own baby to hold in my arms, I learned a lot from them—the best toys for promoting imaginative self-play, how important breastfeeding is, and how they prepared for the natural births of their children. There was never any condemnation for women who chose to have c-sections, just conversations here and there about the awesomeness of natural childbirth and how God made our bodies to do it well and how quick modern doctors are to promote surgery over nature.

When we found out we were expecting, only 1 week before moving cross-country from Texas to Florida, we were thrilled! And as you know from the last post, I quickly quit taking the antidepressant I had so long been accustomed to. We arrived in Florida from Texas and settled in. I didn’t get a job because I was honest when people asked if I would continue to work after the baby was born (the answer was no). So there was a lot of HGTV and snacking during Lily’s gestation.

And gall stones.

The. worst. pain. ever.

And there’s no baby at the end. Just relief from the worst pain you’ve ever experienced. (Don’t Google image-search ‘gallstones’ unless you have a strong stomach…)

I had particularly bad gallstones which blocked my pancreas and caused pancreatitis, which the doctors told me could be fatal. At 37 weeks, I was hospitalized for 3 days. Those stones passed but they told me that if I had another stone like that, they would do an emergency c-section and cholecystectomy (gallbladder removal).

I had another gallstone. We raced to the hospital, glad that at the other end I would have no gallbladder and we would be holding Lily in our arms.

The gallstone passed in the hospital. Alas, it didn’t block my pancreas, so no need for emergency surgery. And we came home again with no baby.

When I went in for my 39 week appointment, they told me that I was dilated .5 cm. After all those darn Braxton-Hicks contractions. That’s the tip of a finger. Baby ain’t coming anytime soon, they said. And then they did an ultrasound…which said baby measured either 8 pounds or 10 pounds. And hadn’t dropped.

“You have a medium-sized pelvis,” the midwife said, “but not a big pelvis. This is a big baby. Would you like to have a c-section tomorrow?”

It didn’t take long for a ‘heck yes’ to come out of my mouth. Or at least that’s what I felt in my heart. :o)

So my first baby never dropped, never caused me to go into labor, and never got shoved through a very small opening in my body. And consequently she had a beautifully shaped head that got lots of compliments.

I ended up having another gallstone two weeks later and had that darned cholecystectomy, so healing from a c-section was compounded by healing from the awful-gas-inducing laparoscopic gallbladder removal.

Blargh.

All this was compounded by this tiny evil voice in the back of my head that told me, “You are a wimp. A c-section? You haven’t passed the womanly test of natural childbirth. Sucks for you. Try again next time.”

And there was a twinge of guilt every time people asked me about my delivery.

“Oh, emergency c-section?”

No. It was scheduled. Because I am a wimp. I couldn’t handle being pregnant anymore.

(Never mind that I grew and carried another HUMAN inside my body for 9 months. But guilt and shame are not always logical.)

When we got pregnant with Baby #2, I wanted to try for VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarian). There were multiple reasons (it’s cheaper!), but I have to say my main motivation was to prove myself.

I am a woman. I can do this. I am captured by the eschatological impulse expressed in the groanings of child-bearing. I want this experience.

As I type that, it is so obviously about me. But it’s the truth.

We started our pregnancy with the delightful midwife all my crunchy friends had used, but we moved when I was about 20 weeks pregnant. I told my new OB/GYN that I wanted to try for a VBAC and asked what he thought.

“You had an elective c-section with your first?” (Enter feelings of shame.) “It’s possible. There’s a one in 200 chance of uterine rupture, and that could be catastrophic. But we can try.”

I love my doctor. But those words “could be catastrophic” rang in my ears and in my heart. I know that many woman have done a VBAC successfully, but my heart was troubled.

So we prayed. We asked for wisdom about what to do. And one night shortly thereafter, I had a dream.

In my dream, I was wading up a shallow river in my hometown. The setting was familiar. I saw familiar faces of people from all different places as I walked, pregnant and heading for the hospital. It took me a long time to make it upstream. I arrived at the inlet that would take me to the hospital and I sat and waited. It was so peaceful. The water around me was so clear and I sat on some rocks, waist-deep in the stream. I felt like a salmon who had swum upstream to lay her eggs. It was beautiful. Pine trees overhead. The colors of East Texas fall. And then my doctor walked up to me and said, “Amanda, it’s time to have a c-section.” So we went inside the hospital, I had a c-section, and they laid my son in my arms.

When I woke up and told my husband about the dream, I realized that I had decided to have a c-section.

Fast-forward to last Monday morning. I couldn’t sleep the night before because I was so ready to meet our son. Our c-section was scheduled for 7:30 and we eagerly reported to the hospital at 5:45 a.m. The nurses were amazing. They prayed for me in the operating room…I hate anesthesia and needles. And while they were putting in the anesthesia, Jesus got my attention in all my fear and worry.

“Look at Me,” He said. “Let My beauty carry you through this.”

And in my heart I could see Him standing there before me, and all was well.

There was such joy in me as I endured the surgery. It’s not a walk in the park, but the joy set before me was my son! And when they held him up and he cried, so did I.

Ten pounds and one ounce.

Feet first.

The doctor said I would have had to have a c-section anyway.

And I was so thankful for dreams and revelation of the Father’s heart for me.

Not a wimp. Just weak. Learning to walk in relationship with the God who holds all things together.

Selah.

~Amanda

P.S. Sorry for the sentence fragments, honey. (My husband is a bit of a grammar nerd and told me after the last post, “You are a great writer. Your sentence fragments just bother me a little.”) It’s my blogging voice. :o) I promise not to use them in an academic paper.

Update:
Thank you all for reading. I have had so many responses of encouragement and love, as well as chastisement for using the terms ‘wimpy’ and ‘weak’. I believe some clarification is in order. Firstly, the title of the post was a take on _The Diary of a Wimpy Kid_, more a pop culture allusion and an attempt at humor than an indication of feeling wimpy myself. Secondly, I completely believe that a Caesarian section is a valid alternative to vaginal delivery, not lesser. It is often necessary. I did not mean to imply any judgment towards others moms for going this route, planned or emergency. This post was to process the guilt I felt at missing out on the vaginal birth experience. But I hope you could tell from reading that my delivery was full of peace and joy after I dealt with those feelings, results of lies from the devil.

Declaring in a Whisper

Ho, there. I’m less than 48 hours away from delivering our second child by c-section, early early Monday morning.

And the past two weeks have had moments that have felt soul-crushing. Hellish. Oh, wait. Maybe I’m just pregnant? No, that’s not all. There’s more to it than that…I also struggle with anxiety and depression.

It’s a battle that I have been consciously fighting since my senior year in college…so that makes it about 8 years. (I experienced the fall-out of a/d in high school and early college, too, but was unaware that it was not ‘normal’ for people to struggle like I did—hopelessness, inability to connect with people, fear of getting out of bed because I would let someone down…and many more symptoms of a/d.)

My sister used to call the depressive episodes I had my “I-hate-people” moods. Me, the extrovert. The external processor. The needer-of-relationship.

When I ‘feel like myself,’ I get lots of energy from being around people and from talking a lot. I can’t really get clarity on an issue unless I’ve talked about it with at least two people. So the times when I withdraw into myself and am unable to talk to anyone about what’s going on inside of me, it’s a sign of a deeper problem. Performance-based anxiety. Which spirals into despair and depression.

There are several strategies for dealing with the symptoms of anxiety and depression. Therapy is a good one. So is medicine. Prayer and Scripture recitation are great, too. Accountability, too. A combination of all these has largely worked for me for the past decade.

Sometimes I get cocky. Maybe over-confident is a better description. No, wait. Naive is probably the best word. I stop spending time in the Scripture for a few days and get a little out of whack. I decide that I’m doing really well and don’t need to continue the medicine that has been working for five years and I end up in bed, unable to get out of it, for no apparent reason.

Here’s the deal. I’m pregnant. Have been for 9 months. And the medicine I normally take hasn’t been proven safe to take during pregnancy. It wasn’t a hard decision to make in my first pregnancy to quit cold turkey. I didn’t have a job, I didn’t have much to do during the day besides take the dog out, and I definitely didn’t have a 20-month-old running around and demanding so much of my energy and attention.

Second time around, the decision wasn’t hard to make at first. Quit the medicine. Get over the cold-turkey effects of dizziness. Give myself grace to not put clothes on until 3 p.m. Let the dishes pile up. Nap whenever Child One was napping. But then crap got real. Depressingly real. Anxiety-ridden real.

And the last two weeks I’ve found myself slipping into a state which can best be illustrated by a mom in a pool holding her child above her head, treading water but barely able to breathe. I can take care of Lily, but I am not really taking care of myself.

The darkness can seem overwhelming. And I simply have no energy to declare scripture over myself. I can’t ask for help because it sends me into a cave of “you should be able to do this, wimp” and I cry.

Finally I texted a friend to pray for me. It’s really hard to talk to people who haven’t experienced panic attacks or depression…”But what’s wrong?” they ask. “Why do you feel this way?”

I. don’t. know.

Is that okay?

It has to be okay or I’m never going to get through this.

If I have to have an explanation for the way I feel, then I will never talk to you about it. And I will go back into the cave and cry by myself. Because I don’t know why I feel this way.

Yes, pregnancy hormones.

Yes, financial struggles.

Yes, physical exhaustion.

Yes, spiritual attack from the enemy.

But I can’t articulate all of that when I feel all of nothing.

My freshman year of college, I read an essay by Parker J. Palmer which made me more of who I am today. “All the Way Down” is about his struggle through depression. And one friend he described, in particular, struck me to the core. His friend came over every day, just to massage his feet. He didn’t offer solutions, he didn’t try to empathize. He simply touched his feet and loved him in silence.

That is who Jesus has become to me in this place of anxiety and depression. Demanding no answer of me. Wanting only to be near me, to suffer with me, as I am myself before Him. There is no need for explanation or action. It is the heart of Immanuel.

So, as I mentioned before, I got up the nerve to text a friend that I was feeling abandoned and alone, anxious and depressed. She has had panic attacks before. She understands what I want to say even in a few words and demands no explanation or reason.

She responded with grace, telling me that she loved me. Also, she said this: “I feel the Lord prompting me to encourage you to turn on some worship music and declare loudly the truth that our God is near to the brokenhearted, he delights to rescue you, and the darkness will never be able to put out the light of Christ which is in you!”

I have to admit, I cringed when I read her words. So many times, so many people have encouraged me to do the same thing. And I have no energy to do any of that.

But in that same moment of wanting to reject her counsel, the eyes of my heart saw something in it that I had never seen before:

All God is inviting me to do in this place is to say ‘yes.’

I realized for the firs time that in the soul of a person in depression, a ‘yes’ does not have to be declared loudly, spoken confidently, or even uttered audibly. When a person in depression opens her heart in weakness and agrees with those words—He is near to the brokenhearted, He delights to rescue me, and He who is in me is greater than he who is in the world—simply whispering ‘yes’ is loud and bold and defiant proclamation of truth to God, myself, and the demonic world.

The ‘yes’ in my heart, from the depths of my weakness, is more powerful than an ‘affirmative!’ shouted from the rooftops in my strength.

When Gabriel came to Mary, he didn’t ask her to sign any papers of consent. He didn’t demand any loud or proclaimed answer from her. When God asked her to bear His Son into the world, she simply said, “Be it done.” Yes. Okay.

I think it was probably closer to a whisper than a shout. But the declaration of Mary to the messenger of God, to the heart of God, in front of all the angelic host, all the forces of the devil—it was not a shout. It was a consent.

So when I got that text from that dear friend, this was what came out of my heart.

“Okay. I’m Yours. I trust You. Do it. Let it be done to me as You have said.”

No loud singing, no shouting. No promises to do better. No expectation of immediate radical change.

And it was the seed of God planted in my heart for life and hope and joy, and He is ever-faithful in watering it.

God changes diapers when He’s good and ready

Lily in the pumpkins

Lily in the pumpkins

My sister Jennifer took this picture a few weeks ago. It’s my daughter, and those cheeks are killing me. She is such a delight. 

In fact, she was so delightful that we decided to have another baby, and the estimated arrival time for him is one week!

During my first pregnancy, I had it pretty easy–online teaching as a job, no toddler to chase around, and the convenience of Steak-N-Shake on the corner by my apartment. Things change dramatically in the second pregnancy. I. am. exhausted. Oh, and I think I have a stomach bug. After just getting over the sniffles last week.

And God is still good. But I would definitely appreciate your prayers as our little family makes it toward the finish line of this life phase (and a new starting line, too!).

When we found out we were pregnant with Baby #2 (who is currently kicking me as I write this, letting you know that he is around), I found myself a little grieved at the thought of having two kids. Don’t get me wrong—we were trying to get pregnant. It’s just that it had taken us 2 years and surgery to get pregnant the first time, so this time it was all happening rather quickly. 2 months of trying.

Only 9 months left with Lily alone.

You know how hormones make emotions fluctuate during pregnancy. Well, I was feeling like a horrible person. I wanted to get pregnant and I did. So many people do not have that blessing as easy as it came to me. I had a beautiful daughter coming up on her 1st birthday. My husband was a great dad and partner in this journey of parenthood. And here I was, bummed (and probably a little scared) that we were going to be bringing Baby #2 into the world.

I felt sorry for Lily. She had all of our attention. She was our delight and our joy.

And then the Lord spoke to my heart. He said in the gentle and tender way that only He can, “It is Lily’s portion to be an older sister.”

It took me a few minutes to wrap my mind around what He was trying to tell me.

I am an older sister. I have a beautiful and very talented younger sister (see the photo above and the linked blog for starters). But I was not happy when she arrived. This included taking all of my toys from her, even though I had long outgrown them. I sat on her and tried to make her go away forever. It was a long and rough journey to friendship with Jennifer. It mostly happened because I started driving. And she wanted to go places.

So, if it is Lily’s portion to be an older sister, does that mean it was my portion, too?

That she will be more fully herself as an older sister to one and hopefully more brothers and sisters. That I am more fully myself as an older sister. This is deep stuff. And there is joy in this place.

So I was able to pretty quickly rejoice—fully, not just in part—at welcoming Baby #2 and Lily’s little sibling into our hearts. We eagerly await welcoming him into our arms. Just a few short days.

And then come all the diapers.

Those of you who haven’t had the honor and duty of caring for a newborn may not know that they go through a lot of diapers. It has been kind of a relief as Lily has gotten older to go through fewer and fewer diapers each day. Potty-training is on the horizon. Praise. The. Lord.

But as I have been trying to enjoy my time left alone with Lily, I have learned something very valuable about the heart of God the Father.

Last week, we were at my parents’ house, mainly just to get out of our duplex and to eat all of my mom’s food. (No judgment. I’m pregnant.)

Lily LOVES going outside, and though I am exhausted, I am feeling all accommodating because it’s her last few weeks as the center of my attention, parenting-wise. So I agreed to take her into my parents’ lovely backyard. That has a big, scare-the-crap-out-of-a-mom pool. That she loves. And loves to touch and lean over and potentially fall in to.

But this day, she just wanted to sit on the gliding chair that overlooks the pool and also has a great big view of the sky over the house. We carefully navigated our way around the pool and the hot tub and eased ourselves into the glider.

“Bird!” she exclaimed as an eagle flew over our heads.

“That kind of bird is called an eagle,” I told her as we swayed back and forth in the chair. She leaned her head back and watched him fly until she couldn’t see him anymore behind the trees.

“Ee-gull. Trees.”

“Yes, you’re right. The eagle flew behind the trees.”

“Chair.”

“We’re sitting in the chair.”

“Rocking.”

“Yes, we’re rocking.”

And she looked back up at the sky.

She was still for several minutes, looking around the yard and the sky, taking it all in. My heart was so full at this time we had together that it could have burst and the floodgates of my eyes would not have stopped for several minutes—a mixture of happy and sad tears. Happy to have this time with her. Sad that these moments were not more plentiful, where both she and I were still together. I only let a few tears leak out. Quite a feat for a pregnant lady.

And then I knew why she had been so still and quiet.

Poop.

I smelled it very strongly, a pleasure enhanced by the  super-sniffer with which I am equipped when pregnant. At first, I thought about snatching her up and going inside to change her diaper.

But I stopped myself. I knew that if I did so, this moment we were sharing would be lost. And it was so precious to me, sitting next to her, stinky as her diaper was, and it actually did not bother me. I would not let go of that moment for the world. My delight overweighed my discomfort. I didn’t mind at all. I was enjoying my daughter. Soaking up this time together that she was giving to me. It was such a precious moment.

Eventually she tired of sitting in the chair with Mommy and wanted to get down. And then we moved quickly inside to change that diaper.

It took me a few days to collect the heart of the Father from this. But it is so clear to me now. There are times that when He and I are spending time together, He lets me just be me. Yes, there is sin inside me that eventually will need to be dealt with. It’s like a poopy diaper. But for now, He is overjoyed and delighted to be with me, no matter what I’m carrying around. Because He delights in me.

Because He delights in you.

Because He delights in us.

God only changes diapers when He’s good and ready.

Take this to heart! For yourself and also for the people around you. Especially when you think that God is taking way too much time letting this person persist in some awful way of life that is so stinky to you…remember that He delights in you. That He delights in that person. And that He has the best timing of anyone who has ever existed. 

Reformation Day isn’t Happy

ReformationDayPumpkin

So, is the Christian alternative to wishing someone “Happy Halloween!” wishing them “Happy Reformation Day!”?

Okay, I haven’t read all the “why-Halloween-isn’t-anti-Christian” articles that people have been posting. I just really hate Halloween because I think spiders are creepy and large displays of arachnids are hard to avoid at this time of year. And for some reason, seeing pre-teen girls dress up as prostitutes has never been my fancy, either. I think someone could make the case that Halloween is anti-woman, but this really isn’t a Halloween-bashing post.

It’s about Reformation Day and why it is anything but happy.

I definitely am not the only one thinking about this; see (Catholic) Francis Beckwith’s post here and  (Protestant) Stanley Hauerwas’s sermon here on the subject.

But, wait. I get ahead of myself.

A little background: What is Reformation Day?

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther purportedly nailed his (in)famous 95 theses to the door of the castle church at Wittenberg, Germany. It is considered by many as the spark of the Protestant Reformation. You can read the Wikipedia article about it here. I know, really academic.

Let’s get personal. I won’t bring up politics or money now, but let’s talk about family. Let’s talk about religion.

Have you ever experienced a major division in your family? Maybe someone decided to get a divorce or someone else withdrew from family events based on ideological grounds or relationship status or something.

If you have experienced this, you know that it is a really painful time.

And when I say really painful, I mean it’s the kind of event that has pushed me into prayer and tears in a way that I haven’t been pushed before. Our family. Not unified. Broken down. Can’t say certain things to certain people. Misunderstanding and refusal to communicate.

There is no glory here.

Sometimes divisions are necessary, and that doesn’t make them less painful. But I would hope that in our family, the division is temporary and that we pray fervently and daily for restoration. That we would seek fruitful communication and hope to celebrate our own Restoration Day.

Maybe you celebrate Reformation Day because you see good come from the splintering of the Catholic Church, the birthing of Protestantism. I dunno, maybe it’s freedom in Christ, salvation preached for what it really is, a stand against corruption and bad theology.

I’ll give you that. For now.

But here’s something to think about: should we celebrate an event or the One through whom freedom comes?

We definitely celebrate the Cross–an event of incomparable importance and mourning and weight. We celebrate the Resurrection–an event of incomparable importance and glory and significance. We celebrate the person of Jesus Christ, the heart of His Father and ours who sent Him, and the Holy Spirit sent to bring us into right relationship with the Godhead, teaching us all that we need for life and godliness.

But schism? Divorce? Family brokenness? As a victory for true theology? It is only a victory if we see doctrine as more important that love.

Don’t get me wrong: correct doctrine is so important. But it is not doctrine that saves us but relationship. Salvation is relationship with the Father through Jesus as we are sealed by the Holy Spirit.

Maybe you haven’t experienced the bittersweet taste of an ideological victory that severs a relationship. It leaves both parties wounded and searching for healing, even if one or the other doesn’t realize it.

The Church of Jesus Christ is a family, Christ as the head. It is a beautiful collection of people who are called to unity and to love in the name of Jesus Christ, because He came to make us one and to set us free. We are united to Him in His death through baptism, raised to walk in newness of life!

We celebrate Him. We mourn the Cross and we rejoice in it. We celebrate the victory of the Cross and the Resurrection. We eagerly await His coming, when He will judge the living and the dead.

And we mourn at our division and earnestly pray for His Church to be one, united in love and truth in a way that only the God of all existence can bring about. In the fullness of time, at the request of Jesus and the intercession of His Church.

Make us one! Like You and the Father are One!

So let us not see this Reformation Day as happy. Let us mourn with Jesus at the brokenness within His people and pray with Him as He intercedes for us–that we would be one just like He and the Father are One.

To our knees, saints! After all, it is All Hallow’s Eve.

Potential versus Capacity: A Lesson in Humility

First off, a picture for Throwback Thursday:

TBT washingtonThat’s me in the sweater vest, there in the middle. 11 years old. 6th grade. Exploring the nation’s capital with my family. Don’t knock the sweater vest; they’re totally making a comeback. Especially the teacher-themed ones. “Maybe it was prophetic”, I think as I remember that I am actually a teacher now…Yay for prophetic sweater vests!

What does it mean to live up to your potential?

And the second question should be, Is that really even a pertinent question?

Choosing the path of the academe, this question has haunted me for a long time. I remember when I told my advisor during my Master’s program that I had gotten engaged. He congratulated me, but was I imagining a lurking disappointment behind his eyes? I had several more chapters of my thesis to write still…

And then there was that time that I got pregnant. So no Ph.D. program for me in the immediate future. Telling my mentors at work was not the moment that I relished. (I should have known there was a heart issue begging to be explored when I looked forward to telling my non-academic friends more than my academic ones.)

What did I fear, actually? Disappointing people who thought I was smart, who thought I could really do this professor thing. Not living up to the spark of genius that I thought they saw in me. And it was probably all (or mostly) in my head, this plaguing fear: I AM NOT LIVING UP TO MY POTENTIAL.

If you’re an academic, maybe you’ve felt this before.

Maybe you’re guilty of this?

I can’t do x, y, and z, though very normal things for my life stage, because it would limit my potential, and I don’t want that.

Or this?

Because I’ve already done x, y, and z because they were natural and delightful in my life stage, I have limited myself and will never reach my full potential. That sucks.

I’m not entirely sure that these feelings are relegated to the academic life, but this is just my experience.

Potential for what?

What exactly is ‘my potential’? To be a brilliant scholar, illuminating the minds of my students and readers with my insights into the nature of this piece of literature or this grammar point for years to come!

I have to recognize that what I do have is a limited capacity. I can only do so much in one day, and I just happen to have a husband, two children, a dog, a house, and a family life to run, to organize, to make it through.

So, as I am at full capacity right now (8 hours of sleep—when I really need 9— and meals that are popped into the oven straight from the freezer and a house that is begging to be cleaned when I get a chance), I can’t put a lot of energy into achieving my full potential.

My capacity has limited my potential. But I think it should be that way.

Why?

Because if we view achieving our potential as the measure of success, that’s like my 19-month-old daughter condemning herself for not being able to write a 5-page paper yet. True, she has the potential to do so, but she does not have the capacity. She will one day, most likely. But it has to be a journey or WE WILL DIE EARLY.

Number 1: I need a lesson in humility.

I am not God’s gift to the world of Spanish pedagogy. I am a regular human being with normal impulses and needs, like sleeping, eating, and reading books in my native language. But in my mind, to live up to that thing called ‘potential’, all these really take a backseat to my ambition. And since I cannot do all the things that my ambition commands, I am a failure.

Number 2: I do not have the capacity to propel myself into the fullness of ‘my potential.’

Let’s say that I really do have something to say that people might want or need to hear. Without the right word at the right time, the perfect storm of publisher-meets-aspiring-writer-and-is-impressed, I will probably never reach the audience that I need to in order to really ‘make a difference’ (a concept that really completely revolves around me, at this stage, at least).

Number 3: My husband, children, dog, and household actually INCREASE my potential.

I may not be able to see it today or tomorrow or in a month at 3 a.m. when I am feeding my newborn son. But in 20 years, there will be no doubt that I have been shaped, changed, and molded for the better—by the grace of God—into someone with a much greater potential. Because I have loved. Because I have been loved. Because I have not let a timeline or agenda for my career make decisions that go against what is best for my heart and my soul, my body and my mind.

Life is really measured by the relationships you have. Friends, partners, mates, children, neighbors, students, teachers, mentors, bums on the side of the road. Don’t let potential drive you into loneliness and despair twenty years from now—let go of your potential and embrace what you can do in your present capacity! It is an act of humility that will bear fruit in time.

L’chaim! To life!

God is holy and can’t be around sin…right?

There are no good images for 'holiness,' so hear is a picture of a unicorn. by Domenico Zamperi

There are no good images for ‘holiness.’ Here is a picture of a unicorn by Domenico Zamperi.

To everything (turn, turn, turn) there is a season (turn, turn, turn)…

After a 2-week writing hiatus, I am supposed to be writing about the pitfalls of a pre-Tribulation theology or about God’s heart for Israel (of course, none of you care about my self-imposed schedule, but I like to make schedules…). But today there is something more pressing to write about.

A word in season, perhaps.

Have you ever heard someone, when explaining the story of Jesus Christ and His salvation plan for humans, say, “And since God is holy and can’t be around sin, we can’t go to heaven unless we are covered by Jesus’s blood…”?

It usually comes after the part about God being so distinctly unlike us that we have no hope for being in His presence ever.

Now, I’m not saying anything about the well-meaning and often loving people who share the Gospel this way, but I am saying that we need to reevaluate this statement. Why should we reevaluate it? Because I think it causes a misunderstanding of the nature of God, which is a HUGE deal. If we learn something even slightly wrong about the nature of God when we pray to make Jesus the Lord of our life, it can have serious implications as we grow in our walk of faith with Him.

For starters, God IS HOLY. Three times holy. Holy, holy, holy! We get the idea… or do we? What does it mean to be holy?

We learn in Sunday school that the word ‘holy’ means to be set apart. We hear as an example that God calls His people to be set apart from the rest of the people of earth, to live a different lifestyle that points to God and how holy He is.

Here’s the problem. This idea that ‘holy’ means to be set apart has resulted in isolationism and separation of followers of God from the world.

Which is the opposite of what Jesus did when He lived on earth 2 millennia ago.

Let’s look at this verse from the epistle to the Hebrews:

“[Jesus is] the brightness of [the Father's] glory and the express image of His person…”
Hebrews 1:3 NKJV

And this verse in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians:

“…Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.”
2 Corinthians 4:4

Jesus is the exact image (some versions say ‘exact representation’) of the Father. He is the image of God, like the Father put up a crazy mirror that would make His reflection into flesh and blood. Jesus shows us who the Father is——exactly.

Now, there are a lot of places I could go from here, and most of the time I think about this idea in relation to healing. For example: does God heal? Well, Jesus is the express image of God, and the 4 Gospels tell us that He walked around healing pretty much everyone who came to Him wanting healing, so YES. God heals. He wants to heal. He isn’t bothered by us asking for healing. He is willing to heal us! This is a big deal.

But that’s not what we’re talking about today.

God is perfect and can’t be around sin…right?

Wrong.

What does Jesus’ life on earth tell us about the character of the Father?

Jesus never avoided people full of sin. He embraced them, He ate with them, He partied with them, He went to their weddings, He healed them, He kissed their children, He touched their diseased hands, He met them at wells when He wasn’t supposed to talk to them. He let Himself be around sin because that’s where He found the people that He loves.

See, the reality that God is holy is that when He encounters sin, it does not change Him. He is not tempted to be like us. He is different than us! He is full and complete in Himself, confident of Who He is and how much He loves us that He can come close to the person steeped in sin.

This is a huge deal.

“Well, I know, but I’m talking about heaven. Sin can’t go into heaven,” you might reply.

Now, I’m not saying that we’re gonna carry sin into heaven with us, but let’s look at this—Job 1:6.

Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them.

Dudes. This is a big deal. Satan is before the Father in heaven. The evil one. Full of darkness. In heaven. Full of sin. And God is okay with that for now.

So, say what we might about salvation and heaven, we simply can’t use the line “God is holy and can’t be around sin, so we can’t get into heaven if we are sinful because there is no sin in heaven…”

I’m no five-star theologian, but that’s simply not good theology.

True, we can’t make it into the presence of the Father in heaven on our own. We are in desperate need of a Savior Who will take our place in judgment and Who will wash us clean with His blood. Sin is a cancer that eats us from the inside out and Jesus wants life—and life abundant—for us!

But please don’t misrepresent the character of God for the sake of convenience in sharing the beautiful story of salvation. Yes, it might be more expedient—you might not have time to go into all the nuances of atonement and propitiation and the theological riches that the history of the people of God has given to us.

We have to be consistent in the salvation narrative:

God is good and He loves us. Sin separates us from relationship with Him, so He has made a way to be done with sin through the death of Jesus Christ His Son on the cross and through His victorious resurrection and ascension. He delights in us; He is not far from us; He wants to be with us. Say ‘yes’ to His invitation to relationship and make Jesus your Lord. Don’t be afraid; He is good! He is coming again to establish His flesh-and-blood kingdom on this earth! He will shake all that can be shaken, but through that, He will set all things right.

When you are weak, then you are strong.

Feedback appreciated!

The Humility of Jesus in His Second Coming

Willing to wait for the full blossom of love’s bloom
in the darkest dark the world has ever known.
Trusting the Father that the beauty of God
will draw His Bride to Himself,
that His love will feed her and grow her love—
a free-will offering—
into a faith uncompromising.
And when the time to war
against the antichrist comes,
He and she together will go forth
in the justice and the righteousness of the Father,
the Sermon on the Mount their weapon
will utterly destroy the enemy.

The cry for Jesus to come back is not a scramble for self-preservation or protection; indeed, it is the laying down of my life to see the Bridegroom come back and as King claim the throne of earth that is by birthright His.

As we go along with the knowledge and hope that Jesus has promised to return, we walk in humility and love, praying that all will come to repentance before He comes back to judge the earth.

In the eyes of the world, it is a march of weakness—seeking, praying for, orienting our lives toward the arrival of this King, making ourselves ready—not with extra guns, ammunition, or canned goods and bottled water—but with acts of love, mercy, and obedience.

The march to the cross was also weakness to the world. And still, Jesus said, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth [on the cross], will draw all peoples to Myself” (John 12:32 NKJV).

The cry for Jesus to come back in our generation is certainly a cry for judgment, that the justice of God will crush the injustice that reigns in this world. But it is a cry for justice intermingled and inseparable from a cry of love—love foremost for Jesus the God-Man, anointed by God to rule the world of men as a Man; and a love pouring over from His heart into ours, a burning love for this created world and every single human who lives here.

In weakness and humility, He has won our hearts, drawing us with His unfailing love and forgiveness, capturing us with His beauty. We are willing prisoners to the most beautiful Man alive! Oh, the workings of His heart! the affection He has for us! the genius of His creation and His plan to win us back and take victory over the devil!

He makes all things new, from the inside out. Heaven is not Our (His and our) final home—Earth is! We can know this precisely because He is in the work of RESTORATION and RENEWAL, with all that He is!

At the Second Coming, His victory over Satan will be very real—with real blood shed, real people dying, and real kingdoms conquered.

But it will be in the perfect love and right-ness and humility that only Jesus the Anointed One can bring.

As we wait for His return, we watch, we pray, we love, we rescue, and we choose life. We do justly and love mercy as we walk humbly with Him, the Holy Spirit our Teacher and Guide and Power within (and without!).

As the darkness gets darker, the light will get brighter.

The tribulation, the 7 years foretold by the prophets of the darkest darkness before Jesus returns, will be the Church’s most glorious hour. She will stand by her Bridegroom no matter what comes, choosing His name in the utter darkness. This Bride, purified in the hardest time in history, choosing Jesus with her whole will and laying down her life for Him, will only then be ready for marriage with the Lamb, an equally-yoked partner.

This is all done by leaning on her Beloved in the time of trial—it is His strength and endurance and humility working in her by the power of the Holy Spirit, and it is the ‘yes’ in her heart that opens the door and keeps it open for constant communion with Jesus through the darkest hours.

And so, when the King does come as the Judge to tread the grapes of wrath, we will know Him because we have walked with Him. Many will be offended by His hunger for justice because they have not looked into His eyes of blazing fire, zealous for life and love, zealous to renew and restore the earth for His creation.

He’s not a tame Lion.

Please come back later this week for a post on why I am leery of a theology that proclaims a pre-Tribulation rapture.

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