When Troubles Are Many

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There were (and still are) so many times when these words felt impossible to carry out.

It’s hard to find joy when all hope seems lost.

It’s hard to be patient when afflictions overtake you.

It’s hard to remain faithful when prayer feels pointless.

I was tempted to walk away from God multiple times, blaming Him for our struggles and finding nothing but despair in a faith that had let me down. Wasn’t it supposed to make life easier, this walk with a mighty King who is ruler over everything? Wasn’t I supposed to be prospering in my role as a wife and mother, instead of mourning the loss of the babies I would never hold in my arms?

Empty arms. It seemed a cruel and unusual punishment for a good girl like me.

It’s not about being a “good person,” though. And this preconceived notion we have, that the Christian life should somehow be easier? That is nothing more than a lie. In fact, the Bible tells us that affliction is INEVITABLE for Christians! In John 16:33, Jesus warns of such troubles:

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” {John 16:33}

Did you catch that last part? It’s all too easy to focus on the promise of trouble, but what we should really be doing–what Christ came for us to do–is to set our eyes on His promise of hope. He overcame the troubles of this world! Every single bad thing that we will ever experience, the perfect Son of God also endured. And He found victory over it all.

Even now, as I sit here and aim to write a message that I thought I knew so well, God is revealing to me how unsure I continue to live of this truth. Christ found victory over all the world’s troubles, and although He was pierced on the cross in a death He did not deserve, the grave could not hold Him. God had a purpose for His life and a plan for his afflictions. The troubles which Jesus found in this world? He walked through them all, Holy and blameless, opening the way between God and His beloved children.

Beloved.

The God of the universe–the mighty King of Kings who holds all things in His hands–hears our cries for help and works in all things for our good. He loves us! The evil we endure? That only comes from the fallen world in which we live. But joy in hope? Patience in affliction? Faithfulness in prayer? These are the things we will find in our Heavenly Father. God did not cause our miscarriages anymore than He put Jesus on that cross. We, sinful man, tortured God’s only Son. It was God the Father who raised him from the grave and gave him victory over death. It was God the Father who redeemed His beloved Son.

And it is God, your Father, who will redeem you.

Whatever storm you are walking through–whether it be miscarriage after miscarriage or something far different–God will redeem it. Of this you can be absolutely certain. I can’t tell you when, and I can’t tell you how, because those details are known to Him and Him alone. But have faith that at just the right time, God will make these things known to you, as well.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” {John 3:16}

Love.

God loves you. He sent His Son to die for you. Perish? No. Nothing God has for you will cause you to perish. And because of God’s great love for you, nothing this world has for you will cause you to perish, either.

God loves you. He has good for you. Hold on to this truth in joy, patience and faithfulness.

To See Their Faces

That is what I’m longing for tonight. To see the faces of our five babies, who were all taken from us much too soon. I want to know them. Kiss them. Hug them. Call them by name and tell them how much I love them. 

Honestly, this is the first time I’ve ever really felt this longing in such a deep and desperate way. I think it’s been easier these last few years to just compartmentalize my pain, accepting that those babies were never meant for this world. Their sweet little personalities shall forever remain faceless, and no good can come from my questions of “what if.”

Tonight, though… tonight my Emma asked questions that tugged at my heart strings and ripped the lid right off of my past. As I laid next to her, tickling her back and listening to her quietly singing scriptures I thought she had long forgotten, this sweetly innocent conversation took place:

 

“Was I in your belly, Mommy?”

“Yes, baby, you were.”

“Was Chloe in your belly?”

“Yes, Chloe was, too.”

“Who else was in your belly, Mommy?”

 

If only I knew how to tell a three-year-old the answer to that deeply heart-wrenching question. If only I could show her pictures of those faces, the faces of her brothers and sisters she has yet to meet until we see them one day in Heaven. If only I could cry and hold her and fully express how much she and her sister mean to me… just how happy and full and unbroken their beautiful faces make my heart.

If only I could hold all of our babies and tell them the same thing. If only. 

God has woven a tapestry of blessings from our story, and if we hadn’t been through the exact set of circumstances that took place over the last five years then Emma and Chloe would not be sleeping in the next rooms. So, you see, I cannot for a single moment wish anything to be different. Our past has made our present–beauty from the ashes, in its purest form. And while that is the truth I live in every moment of every day, there will always be those times of pang when I’m reminded of the precious faces I will never know in this world. 

The backs I will never tickle.

The voices I will never hear sing.

The cheeks I will never kiss.

One day I will meet them, and the joy of that I cannot begin to imagine. But until then, I long for a snapshot to carry… something to know and remember them by.

A picture so that, the next time their sister asks me about them, I can show her who they were. And together, we can see their faces.

 

The Dirt Lurking in My Kitchen

 The Dirtiest Spots in Your Kitchen

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I stood and scanned the room, catching glimpses of dirt in hidden and not-so-hidden places. Grease, grime and dust packed itself into each little corner and crevice. I sighed, thinking about how my quick and infrequent wipe-downs simply were not cutting it anymore. The mess that had accumulated in my kitchen was growing out of control, and the sight of it was weighing me down.

Feeling the fight leave my body, I finally gave in and rolled up my sleeves. Then and there, with PJ’s on and Clorox in hand, I started to scrub. Some spots came off easily while others required a tiring amount of elbow grease. As I moved from one bit of dirt to the next, willing myself to keep going, I thought about how much easier this job would be if I hadn’t ignored it for so long. What if I turned an exhausting, uphill battle with dirt into an act of daily maintenance? What if I made it a goal, each and every day, to keep my kitchen clean and simply wipe away the intruding bits of filth before they became too much to handle?

For as long as I stay away from the truth of God’s word, I am able to turn a blind eye to the filth that is muddying up my faith. Glimpses of my dirt, my sin, reveal themselves from time to time. Yelling at my girls, mistreating my husband, harshly judging people or insecurely comparing myself to others–the list could go on and on. The bottom line is that, at the end of the day, when I stand and scan the condition of my soul, dirt reveals itself in corners and crevices that I’ve let go unseen.

Only, God has always seen them. And not only does he see them, but he convicts me of them:

“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” {Hebrews 4:12-13}

We may be able to spend a season ignoring the mess at hand, living life every day by working around the muck deep within. But sooner or later, if we are not careful, the dirt will completely take over. Relationships will crumble, marriages will fail, and we’ll be forced to look around and see what God has always seen…

… we are in desperate, daily, deep need of Him.

At some point, there is nowhere left for the dirt to go.

Every corner, every crevice, every seemingly imperceptible crack has been filled with grime that does not belong. Our bitterness, our jealousy, our pride–those things have no place in our lives once we have been made new in Christ. As I did in my kitchen that morning, we must get on our hands and knees and begin to scrub away the dirt, cleansing ourselves in the baptizing waters of Jesus:

Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the spirit.” {John 3:5}

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” {Ephesians 4:31-32}

Once we’ve done this, though, we still must do more. Just as it is not enough to clean my kitchen only once, so it goes for our souls. We must immerse ourselves in the truth of God’s word each and every day, allowing the life-changing blood of Christ to wash over us minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour, until we can no longer bear the presence of anything that is not glorifying to Him.

As we scrub away layers of dirt and reveal the beautiful surface beneath, other areas in need of cleansing will suddenly appear–areas that once found it easy to blend in. And eventually, as we wipe them away one spot at a time, the sight of even a speck of dirt will look completely and glaringly out of place.

When my kitchen–my soul–has been cleaned head to toe, the things that don’t belong become much easier to see. Against the sparkling clean backdrop of a heart made new in Christ, our brokenness and our sin have no corner or crevice to hide.

Our dirt sticks out like a sore thumb.

This, my friends… this is what I want to be said of my life. That I immersed myself so deeply, so richly, so regularly in the truth of God’s word, that the broken things of this world never stood a chance making home in my soul. Emotions colored by jealousy, relationships tangled with a lack of forgiveness… they simply have no place in my life.

Instead, I want my daily living to be filled with the sweet aromas, the delicious and satisfying fruit, of a life lived for Him…

… as sweet and delicious as the sight of my clean kitchen.

Silent No More

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My name is Kim.

I am a wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend.

I am also a Christian.

I believe the BIble is our instruction manual for how to live in this world, every word of it being God-breathed and meant to bring us good.

Not harm. Good.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” {Jeremiah 29:11}

I do not believe in same-sex marriage. God tells us that this sacred union was intended for one man and one woman, and this is one of many beliefs I hold to firmly. I don’t waiver and I never will.

I also believe that I am a sinner–broken, imperfect and in desperate need of God’s grace. God humbles all of us when He declares that none of us is better than the other. There is no sin that is any less sinful, no sin that is any more sinful and no scale of 1-10 when it comes to the wrongs we commit. Sin is sin, and it’s as simple as that.

Being a Christian does not make me any better than those who say their vows in the name of same-sex marriage. The couples who did this last night on our television screens, forcing their way into our homes with their values and beliefs… I am no better than them, and God loves me no more than He loves them.

That being said, I now want to speak boldly about something so that you hear me loud and clear, and to be sure there is no mistaking where our differences do lie:

This world will never change me.

Your views will never trip me.

Your intolerance for my faith will never shake me.

Your hate for my God will never silence me.

I am a wife standing up for my husband. I am a mother standing up for my children. I am a daughter and sister standing up for those who raised me.

I am a follower of Jesus, standing up for the one who died for me.

His death on the cross and victory over the grave have given me hope, a future and a promised eternity in Heaven that will bring me relief from the pain of this world. With all of these gifts freely given to me, not because I’ve done anything to deserve them but because my God loves me just that much…

… do you really think I would forsake that?

I’ve spent far too many years being silent about my beliefs. It’s no secret that I’m a Christian, and if you’ve read anything else that I’ve written then you know that it is not something I hide. Still, when it comes to speaking boldly against the evils happening in this world, I am all too quick to shy away from conflict and simply let the fight rage on around me. There will always be those Facebook statuses that I posted too hastily, and there will always be those texts and emails that should have been considered more carefully before clicking ‘send.’ But, when it comes down to it, I’ve largely subscribed to the idea that I am doing more good by staying quiet. Because God is love, and the only way to love people is to let them do what they are going to do and say what they are going to say without getting in their way.

A lie from the pit itself.

God IS love–more love than any of our immature minds will ever fathom or comprehend. And, most definitely, we as Christians are called to love even the most difficult people to love, seeing them through the eyes of God himself. It hurts, it pains us and it often goes against everything our flesh wants to do, but that’s where our faith is strengthened and we bring the most glory to God–when we love like Him, sacrifice like Him, and live like Him.

But this doesn’t mean that we are to be silent. It means the very opposite…

… to speak up for the word of God even when it hurts. 

… to stand up for our faith even when it’s not popular.

… to fight back against the darkness of this world with the truth and light of the gospel.

Our instruction manual for living in this world.

MY instruction manual for living in this world.

And so, this morning as I sat and prayed in the hours before my family’s day began, a promise was born between God and myself–a promise to turn away from the things of this world that threaten to pull my family from Him. Television shows, music, unhealthy relationships–anything at all that dares stand in the way of my own walk with God, and my husband’s walk with God, and my children growing up to walk with God–as of today it is gone. My heart, my soul, the new creation I am in Christ… it can’t stand for the ways of this world any longer.

“And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell…” {Mark 9:47}

And so, the world outside can and will continue to spiral out of control with sex, drugs, violence and ways that emphatically protest the existence of a higher power. But our home? We won’t be subject to it. We won’t put up with it.

We will not stand for it.

We choose to stand with God–the One who is first and last, alpha and omega, giver of life and maker of all things good.

“Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” {John 14:21}

Where Love and Sacrifice Collide

Sacrifice.

Love.

The world doesn’t always put these two words together. To love someone, in a worldly sense, often means to give as much of ourselves as we can without getting in the way of our own well-being. Our society preaches love, and we wave our banners high that there’s not enough of it. But, at the end of the day, when it really comes down to it, we find it easiest to love when we are not inconveniencing ourselves.

Sacrifice.

It’s a hard word to swallow, isn’t it? The idea that, to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, requires giving things up.

Taking the time to make a meal for a friend when our own family is waiting for dinner.

Pausing to pray for the people we claim to be praying for, even when our minds are racing with self-seeking needs and desires.

Reading one more bedtime story with our children despite the cozy couch and full DVR, waiting to carry us away from the day’s troubles.

Or, where I am in this very moment… pressing onward to share my life’s experiences with others even though it makes my heart hurt.

I was so excited when I finally started writing this blog–eager to help others and anxious to see what God might do through my words. (It is all about Him and not me, after all.) But then something happened that robbed me of that anticipating and joyful heart–love and sacrifice began to collide, and I wasn’t okay with that.

As other people’s stories began trickling in, my eyes were open to the magnitude of just how broken this world truly is. I found myself struggling to find the words to speak as devastating losses were shared, the kind of pain that makes me want to hide away and cry my eyes out forever.

It simply hurt too much.

I found myself seeking less and less guidance from God and instead building walls around my heart–a heart that could bare no more suffering. A selfish desire reared its ugly head, a desire to protect myself from feeling sad and to instead step back into my “happy” little bubble where the world really isn’t that bad. Life doesn’t really hurt that much. Losses that deep don’t really happen all the time.

Only, you know what? The world really is that bad. Life really does hurt that much. Losses that deep really do happen all the time.

It doesn’t matter how much we try to run and hide because the truth will always catch up with us, and that truth is our desperate need for a savior.

For Jesus.

We don’t have to look any farther than the cross to find love and sacrifice collide, and they collided in the most beautiful way possible:

“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children, and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” {Ephesians 5:1-2}

It wasn’t easy for Jesus to hang on that cross. His pride, his fears, his flesh–it was all pierced when he died that day. But Christ did it, and he did it for us. The love he has for us was enough to make the sacrifice of his own life worth the pain:

“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” {Luke 22:42}

It would have been easy for Jesus to give into his own selfish desires and choose not to die a painful and humiliating death. Yet, he sought wisdom from above and knew God’s plan was far better than his own. God did not take that cup from his one and only son, but that is because He had plans to fill it overflowing–with goodness, purpose and meaning.

The colliding of love and sacrifice.

I’m writing these words today because I’ve been waiting, in my own way, for God to take this cup from me. If you’ve read our story then you know the heartache we walked through and the blessings that we’ve found on the other side. I’ve always felt a nudging from God to combine my love for writing and my love for Him in a way that will use our story to bring others hope.

He hasn’t taken that cup from me, though, and I don’t think He ever will. There is purpose, meaning and goodness waiting to fill this cup that once held pain. It won’t be easy, and I will always have the choice to say no and make my own way, but isn’t it much sweeter to simply let God’s will be done? If we are to be imitators of Christ then there really is no other way.

We must love like him. We must sacrifice like him. We must live like him.

“Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.” {Proverbs 3:3}

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” {Hebrews 12:2}

Where love and sacrifice collide, it is there that our cups will be filled.

Thankful, Blessed… & Still a Mess

The statuses of thankfulness are ablaze since entering into November, and while they occasionally do make me smile, I tend to quickly scroll past them in my news feed. I’ve asked myself why I feel so borderline-negative about the whole idea. It’s not that I don’t care about the things that make others happy, so why does my heart feel so hard to what my friends and family share?

Tonight God started to reveal what is possibly weighing on my heart.

While catching up on Day 1 of a Thankfulness Study (hosted by the lovely ladies at Good Morning Girls), one of the leading women stated a cold, hard fact about Facebook: it paints a picture of the best of the best.

We post pictures of meals-gone-right, our adorable children at their finest, romantic getaways with our spouses and the fleeting moments when all seems right with the world. And you know what? I am guilty as charged. So very guilty.

When we were in the midst of trying to start a family, Facebook was an awful place for me to be. I closed my account more times than I can remember, simply because the pictures of other people’s baby bliss only made my empty arms ache more. Many people don’t understand this feeling, especially those who have never experienced infertility or pregnancy loss. So many people would tell me how I should “just be happy” for others because, after all, my problems were not their fault.

Even now, with our precious children asleep in the next two rooms, those words of “advice” still make me cringe. Of course our trials were not anyone’s fault, and obviously I felt happiness for friends as their families grew, but I wanted someone to think about me for a moment. Just for one brief second, before entering a status update about baby kicks or adding pictures of their adorable little ones, I wanted people to consider how those Facebook updates might affect me and my mess… and if it was truly worth posting at all. Understandably, that didn’t happen often (if ever, as far as I am aware), which led me to the decision that I would NEVER shove my blessings in someone else’s face. If and when God blessed us with children one day, I would NEVER be the woman who posts hundreds of cute baby pictures and writes 99.9% of her statuses about the joys of motherhood. Being on the other side had given me a whole different perspective, and I absolutely refused to be that person.

Until it happened.

I’ve posted more pictures of our girls than I can count. Just about all of my status updates are about our children and being a mom. And do you know the sad thing? There have been so many times when I have stopped to consider how my posts might affect specific people in my life… and I decide to share them anyways. I am so very guilty as charged.

And so here and now, at 12:08 in the morning, I am making both my November post of thankfulness and my humble request for forgiveness…

I am more grateful than words will ever express for the children God has blessed us with. An old picture of Scott and I caught my eye tonight as it hung on the refrigerator, and it instantly brought me to tears. I stared into the eyes of a young woman who was carrying the weight of discovering just how broken this world is. Back then, that girl had no idea if she would ever become a mother, or if her husband would become a father. She was depressed, lonely and fighting to make it through each day in one piece…

Then the sounds of lullaby music on the baby monitor caught my attention, and a thankful smile spread across my face as I thought about our answers to prayer sleeping soundly above me. Even as I write these words, my heart is swelling with love for my Father in Heaven, who has poured out his love on me:

“He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.” {Psalm 40:2}

Now comes the hardest part of this entire post… asking the forgiveness of those I have hurt. If my hundreds of pictures and mommy-centered statuses have caused you pain–if they have kept you away from the computer screen as they once did for me–then I apologize, from the bottom of my heart. I realize now that I can’t promise to never share a picture of our children or a status about being a mom, but I CAN promise to be much more thoughtful before hitting the “enter” key. I will stop and consider if it is an update worth sharing. I will ask myself how it might affect the feelings of specific people in my life. I will be careful to stop using Facebook as a means of painting a “picture perfect life” for all to see… especially when it doesn’t even exist.

My friends, if you are reading this then I want you to know how happy it makes me that we can all partake in something positive together… something like sharing the grateful pieces of our hearts with one another. Facebook is an amazing tool for staying connected, and by now our world cannot imagine life without it. And while I can’t make anyone see things through my experiences and my personal perspective, I simply ask that we all be sensitive to the needs of loved ones in our lives.

That we choose to be real with others when we paint a picture of what our day-to-day living actually looks like.

That as we focus on being thankful and feeling blessed, we still make it okay to be a mess… ourselves included.

Praise for Today

There’s a passage of scripture that is near and dear to my heart. I read it time and time again during our season of loss, and even though it didn’t always make the pain go away, it did give me comfort in knowing that God has and will continue to remain faithful.

He is true to his word, loving us always and hearing our cries. He delivers help to the helpless, hope to the hopeless, and his mercies know no bounds.

I hope the following words will meet you where you need them most this morning. Hold on tight, whatever season or storm you are in, and wait patiently for God to move.

He always moves. If we believe in him then for this we can be excited, expectant and in eager anticipation…

I waited patiently for the Lord; he turn to me and heard my cry, He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.

Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods. Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you have planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare.” {Psalm 40:1-5}