(In)Courage Post

Please click here to read some of my thoughts on gratitude…
And have a great Thanksgiving!
(There is a new post that follows this one in case you haven’t seen it :) )
Blessings and love,
Angie

Permission to Hope

Hello all! For those of you who have loyally clicked over to check in on me, I sincerely apologize for not writing sooner. This pregnancy has really taken the wind out of me. I have always been sick when I’m pregnant, but usually it would just come over me and as soon as I threw up it would be better. This time I feel nauseous all the time and do spend a fair amount of time trying to keep things down. I started taking some medication and it has helped a lot. Hopefully it won’t last too much longer (I’m about 10 weeks).

It has been really difficult to go through this again, and I really covet your prayers as we face our fears. I know that the Lord is trustworthy and that I can believe in His goodness but it’s not easy. Yesterday I spent a long while crying on my closet floor as I processed the fact that I need to pull out my maternity clothes again. I think I am reliving things in a new way as I sort through the things I wore with Audrey, tucked away in a corner I haven’t really faced. I have the kind of memory that can smell perfume across the room and remember sitting next to my third grade piano teacher while pounding out a horrific version of the love theme from Romeo and Juliet. She said I was really good.

She lied.

Turns out she was in love with my father (yes, we let her go shortly after gifts starting arriving for him…my mom was not about to eat the cake she sent). That was my last attempt at piano, and I assure you that the human race is better for it.

I remember little things people have said, the way hospital soap fills a room with anxiety, the exact expression Todd had on his face when he told me he loved me for the first time. It’s locked away in a little vault that opens with trigger points in my life.

Unfortunately, trigonometry, driving directions, and Spanish never made it into the vault.

I honestly feel like that’s one of the reasons I love to write so much. It can get all tangled out and if I can just get it on paper it unravels a little and helps me connect the dots. The hard part about that is that I can’t run from it when it’s right in front of me. I have to dig around in my closet, past the wedding dress, past the girl’s linen dresses, and into the corner I have not wanted to face. I opened a vacuum-sealed bag of maternity clothes yesterday and I could feel her again. I screamed at God because I wanted her back so badly I ached. Todd came and found me there, face-down in my pain, clothes spilled all around me.

“This is the sweater I was wearing when we found out. This is the shirt I almost returned because we got her diagnosis and I knew I wouldn’t ever be big enough to wear it. This is a nursing gown I never got to wear, this is the dress I bought for the photography session…”

They are just clothes, I know.

But they were a part of my life with her.

I needed to have a little meltdown. I’ve been moving along as if I could get through it without feeling this, and I can’t. I’m just not going to bother to try anymore because it isn’t going away. I really want you all to know that I have struggled in my walk recently. It isn’t that I don’t believe or trust in the Lord. I do. I just haven’t been as disciplined as I should be with my quiet times and spending time in the Word. It isn’t like me to retreat so much, and I finally realized yesterday that there was a part of me that just felt like going it alone because the last time He let me down.

Is it false thinking? Absolutely. No question satan wants me to be convinced that I am better off on my own, trusting that doctors and logic will sustain me. I confessed this to the Lord, and I confess it to you all. Many times I have shared about my spiritual life, urging you all to be disciplined and faithful, and I owe it to you to tell you that I have just not been there in the last several weeks.

Truthfully, I have not felt permission from the Lord to write on the blog because I knew there was a disconnect between what I wanted to say to you and what I felt. I know He wanted me to focus on Him, and sometimes that means stepping away to get my priorities in check. I don’t want a ministry if I’m being hypocritical or false. So, all that to say, I am working to get back in my groove… :)

I want to believe that this time is different, and I do feel a peace about everything. The night before my first appointment (I even switched doctors because it was so hard to think about going back to mine) I started letting my thoughts get away from me. I pictured the room, the gel, the screen. My heart was pounding and I pleaded with the Lord to give me a sign of hope. Lord, you don’t have to tell me the baby will be fine, and I don’t expect you to. But would you just let me know You are there? That you haven’t let go of me?

There was a time of great hope during my pregnancy with Audrey, when an ultrasound seemed to conflict with her diagnosis. A few weeks after we learned she wouldn’t survive we were surprised to see that many of her original diagnoses were not what they thought. That evening we went out to dinner for my nephew’s birthday and I photographed Kate asleep with a balloon in her hand. I posted the picture and said that when I saw her I knew that we were doing the same thing; against all odds, we were holding on to hope. I actually wrote about this event in my book because it was such a pivotal moment for me, and the picture of Kate is featured in that chapter. It was a symbol that the Lord used to remind me that He was with us and that we had permission to hope.

When the sweet technician did my scan a few weeks ago, she had the screen turned away from me. Todd could see it and he was trying to make out what was happening. We knew it might be a little early to see a heartbeat so I had prepared myself that we might not get that reassurance. Just after she started, she said “148 beats a minute!”

Oh, Jesus. Thank you. Thank you.

She continued to look at the screen while I looked at Todd. All of a sudden she giggled a little under her breath.

“Well I can’t say I’ve ever seen that before! That is so funny. Look at this, Angie.”

She started to turn the monitor as her words filled the gap in the room. She shook her head warmly and continued, having no idea how it would bless me.

“It looks like the baby is holding a balloon.”

I stared at her and then I took a look for myself and indeed, it was uncanny. I felt a peace come over me when I saw it because I knew He had done it for me. He hasn’t forgotten how much it hurt me and He knew I would understand Him. I felt my eyes get hot as I thanked Him for letting me sense Him so strongly in a moment I needed to believe He was there.

She repeated herself and I nodded.

He isn’t so big that He can’t find His way into an exam room. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face as I agreed with her.

“It does look like the baby is holding a balloon.”

I let out a 2 years-long sigh and finished the sentence in my head.

And so are we, Lord…

So are we.

With love (and great hope),
Angie

(Also, you may have noticed I added a link on the left sidebar to Amazon.com, where my book is now available for pre-order. Isn’t the cover beautiful? They did a great job :) )

El Salvador!!!!!

I have a lot to post.
Unfortunately, that is going to have to wait until tonight or tomorrow. We’re packing up to go on the big bus with Todd and it turns out that is made trickier by throwing up every few minutes.
I exaggerate.
It’s maybe once an hour.
Anyhoo, I really can’t wait to share some things with you all, but in the meantime, PLEASE be praying for the amazing Compassion team in El Salvador. Shaun Groves is there with a fun crew, including Kelly from Kelly’s Korner and her hubby Scott. Also, Shaun did a fabulous job at helping us out with his thoughts on a chapter of Crazy Love and even if you aren’t doing the book club with us (jump in, we’re going to announce our next book soon!!!!!) you will love his thoughts.
Every time I see a picture of Shaun I think about the way he and his wife have chosen to live their lives with hands open to the will of God, putting their desires on the back burner to serve, and it makes the stories in the book Crazy Love come to life. And the best part? They do it with COMPLETE joy. I have been following along as they travel through El Salvador, watching the faces of those that Compassion is helping, and I really wish I could be there.
Kelly and I would be a dangerous team in a foreign country. And she could tell me how she manages to look like a supermodel while she’s on a mission trip.
Quite frankly, that last part is a little irritating.
I exaggerate.
It’s a lot annoying.
Anyway, I just wanted to ask for you all to spend some time with them in prayer and on the computer as they serve. And if you feel led, please reach out and free these children from the circumstances they are enduring by sponsoring a child with Compassion International.
I know what it means to be getting emails and comments while you’re away…it feels like a little tether to home and it is so uplifting. Please take a minute and say hey to these folks, and please pray for the children they are doing it all for.
If you want to see them live, tune in here tonight at 9 central.
Thank you!
Much love,
Ang

House of Mercy

I have long been fascinated by the questions that the Lord asks in the Bible. It started when I was reading through Genesis (one of my favorite books of the Bible, seriously) and I came to the part where Adam and Eve had sinned and then decided it would be a brilliant idea to run from Him.
Because God isn’t really that great at finding people, you know.
So anyway, God asks, “Where are you?”
And I think that’s kind of funny because when I read it years ago I thought maybe He was serious. Maybe He was thinking He had added a little too much of the landscape and now He had gone and lost His very first man. And instead of reconsidering that, I thought that instead of asking, He should have just made it so they couldn’t hide, or better yet, just fire up his powers and hone in on them.
Or, maybe He knew where they were the whole time.
Due to the fact that He is all-knowing, all-powerful God of the universe, I’m going to stick with B.
But why would He ask if he knew the answer?
It’s the same reason I asked Kate if she had eaten her Halloween candy and watched her wide-eyed, chocolate covered face shake side to side solemnly.
She hadn’t come to me, and instead I had found her out, clumsily assuming a few fig leaves (and Snickers wrappers) could prevent me from knowing of her actions.
What you will find is that God is constantly asking us where we are, even while His eyes are fixed upon us. He wants our accountability, our recognition, our understanding of who we are compared to Him.
A couple years ago I came across a story in the New Testament that really affected both my prayer life, and over time, my view of God. If you have a Bible, look up John 5:2.
We see that Jesus is traveling through Jerusalem when He passes a pool of water called “Bethesda.” In Hebrew, the word Bethesda means, “house of mercy” or “the flowing water.” Many sick, crippled, blind, and diseased people sat beside the pool because it was believed that angels periodically came and stirred the water, causing it to cure the first person who entered.
There was one man there who had been an invalid for 38 years. The Lord saw Him and asked, “Do you want to get well?”
I would imagine he did. In fact, I would venture to guess that the Lord knew the answer to the question. That’s not why He asked. He wanted the man to hear his own answer.
Instead of saying yes, the man replies, “Sir, I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” (John 5:7)
Umm, yeah. That’s actually not what He asked. He asked if you wanted to get well.
And guess what?
He asks me (and you) too.

“Do you want to have a healthy pregnancy, Angie?”
“Well, I do. But the thing is, I don’t have a great track record, Lord. I mean, bedrest with the twins, then everything that happened with Audrey. I think the odds are against it. I mean, I want to, but…”
And gently, I hear Him whisper again.
“Do you want a healthy pregnancy?
“Yes, Lord.”
And that’s what I should have said the first time. Because by saying yes to this question, I am showing that I have a little thing called faith. And it’s kind of a big deal in the Bible. You might even say it’s a theme.
Oh, and the pool of water? Guess what? The only power it has (or doctors, or any other circumstances you are relying on) is God-given, and God-ordained.
It has nothing to do with the stirring, and everything to do with the stirrer.

Which is exactly why He asks.
And when Jesus hears my the man’s rambling, doubtful answer, He tells him to be obedient and to disregard the pool. He doesn’t need water, just a willing servant.
“Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” (John 5:8)
So he did.
Now, at this point I need to state the obvious. He may not heal you the way you want Him to.
The other night, Abby and Ellie were discussing the fact that mommy is having a baby, and the most important question they asked was, “Will we get to bring this one home?”
What I told them was that I really hoped we would. I told them that this was the Lord’s decision, but that we should pray that we are able to. In the end, though, we will love Him no matter what He chooses. Believe it or not they were satisfied with that, and in fact, so am I.
And I mean that.
I’ve been sitting by this darn pool my whole life. I’ve relied on people, science, history, and myself for most of my years. I’m sick of complaining about the stirring and the people who are faster than me, making excuses when things aren’t going the way I want them to go.
He is in our midst, and if you love Him the way I hope you do, listen for Him in the stillness of night.
“Do you want to get well?”
In my mind, I hear Him asking it a little differently…”Do you believe I can make you well?”
Well, yes. Of course I do.
I’m not relying on feeble statistics and human ability. My God is asking me a question and I will do the only thing I know how to do.
Kneel deep and nod yes, believing that He can handle the rest.
After all, it’s His house of mercy. His unending grace and love.
Whether it’s been 38 minutes or 38 years you’ve been waiting, one thing is for sure. He is the same God now as He was in Jerusalem years ago.
So get up, friend.
It’s time to walk.