God Sees You

Do you ever feel invisible?

Are you tempted to believe that the work, the sacrifice, the struggle you experience on a daily basis goes unnoticed?

If we feel that way when it comes to a clean house that goes unrecognized or completing a work project that goes unrecognized, imagine the thoughts swirling around in the Israelites as they suffered brutal bondage to Egypt for years. We can only imagine how confused, forgotten, and cast aside this nation—chosen by God—must have felt.

During those many days, the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel—and God knew.

-Exodus 2:23-25

I cannot get past verse 25: God saw the people of Israel—and God knew.

God saw every struggle, heartache, question, and longing. And God knows.

He knows what it feels like to be unnoticed and cast aside. He knows exactly how you feel and why you feel that way. But He also knows exactly what to do about it.

The story of Moses’ birth and rescue is told in the earlier verses of Chapter 2, showing us that He is always weaving a story we can’t see. The Israelites were groaning, crying out to God to rescue them and God’s rescue plan was already underway. Before He could save the nation of Israel, He had to save a baby boy and years down the road, that baby boy would grow up and lead Israel to freedom.

Whatever you’re going through today, however small or big your circumstance—the one that makes you feel forgotten—remember that God sees you and God knows you. He knows just what to do with your life, and He is already moving…even if you can’t see it yet.

God Is Always Working (Exodus 1)

Need a reminder that God is at work in your life? Read Exodus Chapter 1 and consider these two truths:

  1. We should never act out of fear.
  2. Growth can happen in the midst of oppression.

Exodus 1 picks up with the death of Joseph, the reign of a new King who did not know Joseph or believe in Israel’s God. Concerned about the number of Israelites that lived in Egypt, and fearful they would compromise his leadership, Pharoah enslaved the entire nation.

“Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and, if war breaks out, they join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” Therefore, they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens. They build for Pharaoh store cities, Pithom and Raamses.  -Exodus 1: 10-11

This reminds us to act from a position of faith rather than fear.

We often respond to situations in life like Pharoah. No, we don’t enslave people, but we become so afraid of a potential outcome that we manipulate the circumstances and people around us to protect ourselves.

But God is bigger than the plans and fear of man. And thank goodness He is!

But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad. -Exodus 1:12

This verse is a glimmer of hope in a paragraph of despair for the Israelites. In the middle of their pain, God was protecting them and providing for them. He reveals that growth can still happen in the midst of oppression.

A season of oppression can look different for every person. Regardless of your specific situation, this time can feel hopeless, exhausting, and lonely. These are the seasons we are tempted to give up and yet this same season is an opportunity for God to show up. He can thwart the plans of men, do the miraculous, and bring beauty from ashes—and He will.

If you find yourself in a season of physical, emotional, or spiritual oppression, God is on the move. He will bring growth, provision, and protection—you just may not be able to see it yet!

Is there a situation in your life where you are responding out of fear rather than faith that God is in control?

How might your response to uncertain situations look different if you acted out of faith instead of fear? 

What ways can you pray and anticipate growth and provision in the middle of your oppression? 

Take Note

“Therefore, we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.” -Hebrews 2:1

I am familiar with the story of Moses, the Israelites’ exodus out of Egypt, the 40 years of wandering, the manna from Heaven. But familiar doesn’t feel like enough.

The mention of these things is scattered throughout the Bible and it keeps popping up in both corporate and personal study. That typically means it’s important. So this year I’m going to pay much closer attention to it.

I shared this on Instagram in January. At the time, I was three chapters into this incredible book and was already learning new truths, challenged to dig deeper, and overwhelmed by how personal God is when speaking to me through Old Testament stories.

I realize that we’re almost five months into the year and I should be way past chapter 18, but such is life. I’m grateful for a gracious God who doesn’t wait on me with disappointment in his eyes, tapping his toe, and shaking his head when I open up to a chapter in a book I told Him I would have finished by now. Instead, he says, “Welcome back! Let’s pick up where we left off,” and he teaches me more of his faithfulness.

The same is true for you. Whether it’s been a day or two, or a month or two, you can sit down with your Bible, talk to God, and pick up right where you left off. If you’re looking for some direction or accountability, you can join me in Exodus!

Each week I’ll summarize a chapter of Exodus, show you a Truth I discovered while reading, a fun fact I didn’t know before, or a question that I couldn’t ignore. It’s not going to be a Bible study or necessarily a form of teaching, but hopefully, it will start a conversation and give you something to think about. (And it will keep me accountable to finish this book before January 2020!)

Let’s all start this week in Exodus chapter 1 and see what God has to say!

Whatever You Think About Matters

I was having “one of those days.” It was a Tuesday. Nolan was at Mother’s Day Out and I was supposed to be writing. The morning started out promising—a steaming cup of coffee, uninterrupted time with the Lord, minimal distractions so I could start ticking items off my to-do list. Except I was bothered by everything. I was feeling anxious about nothing, yet all of life—all of it. I just couldn’t seem to shake it, so my to-do list sat there without any glorious, thick black lines marking it up. I watched the clock speed through every minute feeling more frustrated and inadequate by the second. That’s when Drew walked through the door to grab lunch.

He noticed my foul mood (I wasn’t hiding it very well), could sense my anxiety, and timidly asked me, “Have you spent time with God?” Not an accusatory question by any means. In fact, the answer to that question is usually the barometer for my emotions. He asked in such a way that would typically prompt me to drop everything and refocus. Only this time, I had. “I have spent time with God. And that’s the problem,” I shot back at him. His face could have been comical if I was receptive to funny things. It was absurd to think that spending time with God was the reason behind my anxiety and frustration. But at that moment, I genuinely believed that by spending time with God, I had put a target on my back. The enemy had opened fire and I was feeling defeated.

Does it ever feel that way to you? You do the right thing, you make the right choice, you walk in obedience, you put on the armor, but you’re still in the battle. Sometimes doing the right thing doesn’t make life easier the way we hoped it would. I wasn’t mad at God. I’ve been here before. The more closely I walk with God, the more obedient I am to Him, the greater threat I am to the enemy. In some ways, I am concerned if I don’t feel a bit under attack. The enemy doesn’t bother with complacent Christians. But he sure was bothering me on that Tuesday. And I wasn’t fighting back very diligently. Isn’t that ironic? My last post, about a week prior to this particular Tuesday, was all about pushing back against the enemy’s lies with Scripture. I knew what to do, I just wasn’t doing it.

As Drew and I talked about this, he pulled out his phone, opened his Bible app and read Philippians 4:8. And then he said, “tell me something that’s true.”

I couldn’t believe it. Because a few days before this conversation, I wrote week 2 for the Quiet Time Guide. I suggested we should build our own “whatever list.” To give specific names to the things we should think about according to Philippians 4:8. Drew did not know this.

Without saying anything about this part in the Quiet Time Guide, I took a breath and told him something that was true. (I was actually still feeling a little snarky, so I said, “Today is Tuesday.” But then I started taking it more seriously and it was amazing how my attitude began to shift.) We walked through that entire verse and Drew told me to think about those things so the enemy wouldn’t have a foothold. (I know, he’s such a good man!)

When Scripture, themes, or words of encouragement seem to repeat in our lives, we should lean in. Clearly, God is trying to get our attention, trying to teach us something. God was showing me that if I was going to suggest other people reflect on His Word in this way, I needed to, first. It was another reminder that thinking on the things of God mattered. It mattered in my spiritual walk and it also mattered to my family. 

That particular practice of giving specific names to things that are excellent, true, and praiseworthy has great value. It helps us make Scripture personal and gives us a better understanding of the things we are meant to think about. When we are dwelling on things that are lovely and pure, true and honorable, our attitude and our outlook change for the better. It can fend off the enemy, place a guard around our hearts, and refocus our minds. Those thoughts help ground us when we feel chaotic, and offer hope when we feel hopeless.

So I challenge you to build your “whatever list” today. Let it play on repeat in the corners of your mind.

Whatever is true. Whatever is Honorable. Whatever is Just. Whatever is Pure. Whatever is Lovely. Whatever is Commendable. Whatever is Excellent. Whatever is Worthy of Praise. Think about these things.

Here’s how I’m building my list today:  

What’s True? God is with me.

What’s honorable? Selflessness.

What’s just? Mosquitoes die in the cold. (If there is something more just than that, I don’t know it!)

What’s pure? God’s love.

What’s lovely? Colorful trees.

What’s commendable? Doing hard things.

What’s excellent? A hot cup of coffee.

What’s worthy of praise? Second chances.

God is with me. Acts of selflessness. Dying mosquitoes. God’s unfailing love. Brightly colored trees. Doing hard things. Hot, creamy coffee. The gift of a second chance. Those are the things I will think about today. Those are the things that make me smile, and push me gently towards Jesus.

Take that, Satan.

What’s on your list today? I’d love to hear it!

 

May 19th and the Events Leading Up To It

The Background

In September of 2017, I thought that I just might be pregnant. Still struggling from the miscarriage 5 months earlier, I was filled with excitement and excruciating anxiety. I did not want to relive the experience of waiting eight weeks before seeing a doctor, only to hear, “there is no heartbeat.” So my doctor graciously allowed me to come in at six weeks for an ultrasound. She made sure I knew that in most cases, a heartbeat cannot be determined at six weeks, but they could at least ensure that the pregnancy was viable. Tears rolled down my face as the ultrasound technician pressed a button that allowed the faint sound of a beating heart to fill the room. At that moment, I felt God promise that I would carry this baby full-term.” Such a sweet gift!

And then, after announcing and celebrating our pregnancy with friends and family, I was told I needed to read the book, Supernatural Childbirth by Jackie Mize. Intrigued, I ordered this small book and read it in one sitting. And then read it over and over again while Nolan grew inside of me. This woman talked about God’s revelation to her about the misconceptions about childbirth, Scriptures to cling to, and promises to anticipate. This book changed the way I viewed labor and delivery, but more importantly, it changed the way I viewed prayer.

In regards to labor and delivery, Mize unpacks Genesis 3 and the curse on Eve. She challenged my understanding of this Scripture by revealing that in the original language, God’s curse intended sorrow for women who must now bring children into a sinful world, not physical pain. And then she settles in Isaiah 53 and Galatians 3.

Genesis 3:16 – To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your [sorrow] in childbearing; in [sorrow] you shall bring forth children.”

Isaiah 53:4-5 – Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our [sorrows]; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and by His wounds, we are healed.

Galatians 3:13 – Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse for us.

Mize poses this thought: as Christians, we believe that Jesus’ death on the cross brings complete, immediate redemption to anyone who accepts Him. By confessing Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you receive instant and total forgiveness, immediate access to the Father, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the assurance of eternity. So why do we assume that we receive all of these things except for redemption from the original curse on mankind? Especially when Scripture clearly states that Jesus became that curse for us. He took on every grief, sorrow, and sin. Why? So that we don’t have to bear it. After much prayer, personal time in Scripture, and conversations with Drew, I began to claim that this was true for me, too. That Jesus took the sorrow and even the physical pain associated with childbirth on the cross. That His intention for the birthing process is one filled with grace, beauty, and awe.

In this book, Scriptures about prayer were also unpacked. Scriptures with which I was familiar, but had never put into practice.

Mark 11: 24 – Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

John 14:14 – If you ask me anything in my Name, I will do it.

What if I prayed big, bold prayers and actually believed that God would answer them? I honestly don’t know if I have ever prayed with such confidence. I’ve asked God of things earnestly like I’ve asked Him to allow me to carry a baby full term, to give me wisdom about what choice to make, to bless my marriage, to heal a friend. But I don’t know, until this point, if I had ever asked God of something with the faith that He would actually do it. And so, for the remaining six months of my pregnancy, I prayed boldly, specifically, and confidently every day that God would allow me to have a “fast and easy labor and delivery with no medication, free of pain and complications, in the Name of Jesus.” I believed that this would absolutely happen for us and I even had a dream that confirmed it. I was not fearful of labor and anticipated God to show up in a powerful way using Nolan’s delivery to display His goodness. And that’s what happened!

The Birth

On May 18th, we spend the afternoon going on easy hikes to show an out of town guest the sights of Chattanooga. I am certainly winded, take multiple breaks on our walks, and notice that Braxton Hicks contractions become more frequent as the day goes on. We enjoy a delicious Italian dinner, run to the car in the rain, and watch a movie when we get home. By midnight the contractions are happening every 30 minutes. Nolan is not due for another week and just that morning my doctor assured me I was not any closer to labor, so I blame the contractions on hiking and try to get some sleep. I continue to wake up every half hour from midnight until 5am. At 5:15am I wake Drew up, grab my What to Expect When You’re Expecting book, flip to the chapter on labor and delivery and become confident Nolan is on his way. At 6:30am we start timing contractions. They last for a minute and a half, coming every five minutes for an hour. We load up the car and drive to the hospital.

At this point, the contractions are increasingly more intense. My body is working so hard, the muscles in my abdomen getting tighter and tighter, but it is not painful. Think about holding a plank for longer than a minute (or even 30 seconds!) Every muscle is tight, you may even be shaking, it’s extremely uncomfortable, but it doesn’t hurt. (Note: My contractions are way more intense than holding a plank for a minute, but you get the drift!) On the drive, I focus on breathing and relaxing my body. In between phone calls to our parents, I repeat the Scriptures I had memorized and claim 1 John 4:18 like my life depends on it. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” I have nothing to be afraid of. God is faithful and we are about to have this baby without any pain or any complications.

We arrive at the hospital, get checked in, and settle into a triage room about 8:30am. The nurse informs me that I am only dilated to three centimeters and since many first time moms can go several days before labor progresses, she would give me an hour before sending me home. But I know I’m not going home without a baby. So I lay down, close my eyes, focus on breathing, praying, and listening as Drew reads the Scriptures we were claiming over me.

An hour later, she comes back into the room and panic sweeps over her face as she realizes I was now dilated 8.5 cm. She picks up my bags, yells to the other nurses, and quickly ushers me into a delivery room. By the time I lay down in the delivery room, I feel the urge to push. A nurse has me lay on my side, holds down my hips, and tells me we need to wait for the doctor. I continue to breathe slow, even breaths, fight against the fear as the contractions become more and more intense, believing that there will be no pain and no complications as Nolan makes his way into the world.

By 10:34am, only two afters after arriving at the hospital, Nolan is born and placed gently in my arms. The nurses can’t believe how fast Nolan arrived. “Two hours for your first labor with no medication?” they wonder aloud. That’s what we had prayed for we tell them! We tell them we trusted that God could do something miraculous if we asked Him and believed He would do it. We tell them that for the past six months we prayed for a fast, easy, painless labor and delivery with no complications and no need for medication. They could see that God had absolutely answered every detail of our prayers!

Our little man is now almost four months old and I still cannot get over how good, how gracious, how powerful God is. In Nolan, I’m reminded of God’s faithfulness. I’m reminded that He cares 1,000% about the details of our life. I’m reminded that my prayers never go unanswered, even, or maybe especially, the big ones. My pregnancy and labor with Nolan challenge me to dive deep into Scripture, to believe that my God is more powerful than I realize, and to ask—and expect—Him to do bold things in my life. If you and I commit to believing God’s Word is true and actually pray big, specific prayers, I wonder what miracles we might witness! 

 

No Good Thing

“No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” – Psalm 84:11

It was a Monday night when I read these words, several weeks after I learned that Drew and I were pregnant with our first child.

In just a few short weeks we had already loved, prayed for, and dreamed about meeting the little one growing inside of me. I wrote in my Bible next to this verse “what a great promise!” As I thought about what it would be like to feel this baby move inside of me, what it would be like to hold him or her for the first time, what it would be like the first time this precious gift smiled at me, I claimed Psalm 84:11 excitedly. God was surely not withholding anything good from me! Thank you, God for your blessing, for graciously giving me a child for whom I had prayed!

That Wednesday, Drew and I had our first appointment with the doctor. We were eight weeks along and anticipated hearing our little one’s heartbeat. I was lying down, waiting anxiously for the doctor to turn the screen around and show us the ultrasound. Her face remained emotionless as she peered at the screen. I was suddenly aware of how quiet the room was. Shouldn’t we be hearing a beating heart? “I’m sorry,” the doctor began to say. Disappointment washed over me. In the silence of the room, “no good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly” filled my mind. Did I still believe that? How could I believe that?

Two days later, on Friday, my body physically experienced the miscarriage. While I was doubled over, my abdomen cramping in a way I have never felt before, pain searing through my body, blood pouring out of me, “no good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly” replayed in my thoughts almost rhythmically. Like a song I couldn’t get out of my head. Could I claim this verse now? Now that I lost a child? A child I prayed for and longed for? A child that I dreamed of meeting, holding, teaching, loving? This did not seem like a good thing. This felt like a mean trick. This felt more like God snatching a good gift from me. The gift that He had just given me. Why would He give it if He was only going to take it away? My mind reeled with thoughts of accusation, disappointment, confusion. No good thing do you withhold, God? Then what is going on? Through the tears and the pain, I tried to trust that this verse was still mine to claim.

 

Even in the midst of loss do you still believe that God is not withholding anything good from you? Do you still believe that He is faithful? Do you still believe that He is good and loving and trustworthy?

Can I say yes to those questions? Can I say yes even in the hard times? Even on the hard days?

 

I have had many tearful conversations with God since the miscarriage. I have poured over God’s Word, the only place I seem to find true peace and hope. The more I read, the more I pray, the more I see that God is good. He is faithful. He loves me and grieves with me. His purposes – although not always clear to me – are good. If you and I can trust Him in the good moments of our life, then we can trust Him in the hard moments also. Because He is unchanging. He never viciously causes harm and heartache for His children. Like Job, we learn to pray, “God gives and takes away but blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).

Does this feel impossible sometimes? Yes.

I know you have suffered loss, too. We cannot leave this world without experiencing loss of some kind. The loss of a loved one, the loss of a dream, the loss of a job, the loss of an unborn child. It’s all painful and confusing and unimaginably difficult. But I am walking a road where God is using that loss to draw me closer to Him. This road, while not one I would have chosen for myself, is teaching me about His love, about his faithfulness, about what it looks to trust Him to heal my broken heart and bind up my wounds (Psalm 147:3).

 

What road of loss have you walked? What parts of God’s character are evident to you because of that journey?

 

In the midst of it all – the blessings, the answered prayers, the days filled with joy as well as the pain, the disappointments, and the days filled with tears – are you able to believe that God is good? In the midst of it all may we repeatedly believe, “No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.”

The Disillusioned Optimist

I walk towards my laptop that sits patiently on the small writing desk that once belonged to my grandmother. Balancing a plate of freshly roasted zucchini in one hand and my Bible and journal in the other, I sit down at the desk and attempt to set the plate carefully on the small space to the right of my laptop. When the unthinkable happens. The edge of the dinner plate bumps into the plum colored picture frame where my bridesmaids and I are smiling happily at the camera. The picture frame begins to rock backwards bumping my nearly full glass of ice water. I sit there, paralyzed with fear of how this story will end. In slow motion, I watch the frame slide along the desk, I watch my glass of water tilt closer and closer to my laptop. I watch ice cold water sling itself across my keyboard and tumble into a small puddle on the floor. I may or may not have said something that can’t be heard in a G-rated movie. I ran for a towel, wiped down my key board and then did what anyone else would do. Pretend nothing had happened. If I don’t recognize that it’s wet, then it can’t be wet. Like a small child covering his eyes and chanting, “you can’t see me!”

This was Wednesday. On Thursday morning my computer seems to be fine. I am now at the church offices, working diligently when all of the sudden my computer screen goes black. I have to muster up the courage to call our IT department and confess what happened yesterday. Mr. IT is certain that I have shorted the computer and must wait weeks to determine whether or not it’s fixable. And when I hang up the phone, I cry. Not a hard, sobbing cry, just a steady stream of tears that alerts the whole office I’m either A) overly dramatic or B) extremely fond of my computer.

Probably both. Because ALL of the material I have written or taught in the past 5 years is on that computer. And no I haven’t backed it up, and no I didn’t set my computer immediately on rice, and no I didn’t power off the machine, or put a lid on my glass of water, or any of the things that responsible adults who own electronics do.

So I’m crying and laughing and praying and saying absurd things like, “this is the worst” and “I’m not gonna make it if my computer doesn’t.” And so my boss brings me a piece of chocolate.

“I’m on a cleanse,” I say. Because it’s sort of true.

“Don’t tell your husband,” he says. Because duh. If he doesn’t know, then it never happened.

This is the beginning of my disillusionment.

After work I go to the grocery store because you have to go grocery shopping when you’re on a cleanse and can’t eat the things that are staring at you from your pantry. As I reach for a cart (a buggy? I’m pretty sure I called it a buggy growing up) I think maybe this time my cart will be quiet. But guess what…it’s NOT! It never is. Like never. I think I have been cursed because I can never go to the grocery store and not pick out a cart with a janky wheel. It’s proven to be literally impossible for me. Even when I choose the double tiered small ones. Janky wheel. I think those janky wheels are designed for people who shop-lift because it announces your presence at EVERY point in the store. The wheel is clattering and clanking along while you’re choosing sweet potatoes. Then alerting the entire store that you’re headed to Dairy. Those wheels are squeaking and squealing, not allowing you to be discreet when you turn towards the chip aisle. And since the whole store probably knows that you’re on a “cleanse” the guilt causes you to turn around and pick out more veggies. It’s the worst. But at least this is the most annoying thing (after the whole computer thing) that I will experience today.

And so continues my disillusionment.

Once I get home, I’m in desperate need of breathing normally and releasing the tension in my lower back from the drama with the wheels at the grocery store. I determine that a few sun salutations will help me feel relaxed and limber. While I’m hanging out in a down-ward facing dog do you know what I see? DOG HAIR. Everywhere. We have semi-dark floors (praise the Lord!) so I don’t always notice it, but this dog sheds like it’s his job! I didn’t realize the whole shedding thing was going to be this big of a problem. When Finn was a puppy, he didn’t shed that much, so I genuinely believed that we would have a prized black Labrador that didn’t shed.

So I start vacuuming the living room, dining room, and kitchen and that shedding genius of an animal is following me. Following me! I vacuum an area that HE has made hairy and he walks right through it. I’m sure just leaving behind a few locks in his wake. I have now decided that constant shedding is way worse than janky wheels on a grocery store cart, but not as bad as ruining your laptop. It was clearly a rough Thursday.

Here’s the thing about being an optimist: things that shouldn’t upset you or frustrate you often do because you aren’t expecting them. Situations that go wrong feel harder to manage when you anticipate things will always work out. Optimism can seem awfully close to disillusionment. But I’ve decided it’s still okay. It’s okay to imagine things turning out the way you planned. It’s okay to anticipate a water-damaged computer to begin working again, or a grocery cart that will be silent, or a lab that won’t shed (that much). In a small way these things teach us to hope for the unexpected, to look for the good, and to see the glass as half-full. It just might be better next time if that glass has a lid.

So keep dreaming and believing and remaining optimistic because my computer was, in fact, salvageable and all of my documents recovered! That piece of chocolate sat on my desk for 2 days until it was eaten by a co-worker! And while I’m still working on the wheel thing, I’ve come to peace with the fact that the vacuum cleaner will be a permanent fixture in our living room. I mean he’s worth it, right?

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