Thursday, September 30, 2010

God is teaching me about grace right now in such a sweet and personal way. Maybe it’s just because I’m a hormonal, pregnant lady, but I find that my eyes just well up with tears when I think about the unexpected kindness that God has shown me. This past week He used the story of Elijah in 1 Kings to get my attention and soften my heart.

In 1 Kings 18 is one of the most spectacular accounts of God displaying His power in all of Scripture. I remember learning this story in Sunday School on a felt board with a cut-out character of Elijah. At that time this was kind of a smack-down, "my-dad-could-beat-your-dad-up" story…but it was what occurred after the show-down on Mount Carmel that I had missed until just this past week.

King Ahab and his wife Jezebel were the rulers over Israel at the time that God called Elijah as a prophet. They were evil. They adamantly opposed God, they made a sport of killing the prophets of the Lord, and they worshiped false gods, Baal in particular.

So, God stages the show-down on Mount Carmel. In order to end a draught that has plagued the land of Israel, He instructs Elijah to ask King Ahab to meet him on top of the mountain with hundreds of the prophets of Baal. Both parties (the Baal-worshipers and Elijah because he's the only prophet of the Lord that Ahab and Jezebel haven't killed yet) bring animals to sacrifice to their gods. Elijah basically says, 'The god who sends fire from heaven to consume the animal sacrifice is the one, true God.' So all day long the Baal-worshipers dance around the altar and call out to Baal and cut themselves and tear their clothes off and do all sorts of other disgusting things, but as 1 Kings 18:29 says, "...there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention."

Then it's Elijah's turn. (Can't you just hear the background music? I loved this part in Sunday School.) Before Elijah calls out to the Lord to send fire, he drenches the altar and the wood with gallons and gallons of water. Then Elijah prays this prayer: "Answer me, O LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again." And immediately fire falls from heaven and incinerates the entire, soaking wet sacrifice. The Baal-worshipers immediately fall to their knees in recognition that Elijah's God is the true and living God. Elijah then seizes and slaughters the prophets of Baal. And the draught ends with a heavy rain.

Now, the best part...this part wasn't on the felt board in Sunday School. :-)

So, Ahab goes back to the palace and tells Jezebel everything that happened on Mount Carmel. Jezebel becomes infuriated, and she threatens Elijah's life.

And, guess what Elijah does? He's just seen one of the most spectacular displays of God's power...God showed up when Elijah called His name in faith. And then, because of the threat of a ticked-off, middle-aged woman, Elijah acts like a complete wimp. He freaks out and runs for his life into the desert. He even asks God to end his life.

If you ask me, Elijah deserves a big spanking from the Lord...or at least a really stern talking-to. He so quickly forgot how big God awesome He the Lord listens to the cries of His people and responds.

But, instead of some harsh punishment, do you know what God does? He sends an angel to Elijah out in the middle of his faith in the almighty God is faltering and he's despairing his own life...and the angel brings him a picnic lunch. No rebuke. No ridicule of Elijah's cowardly behavior. Just some food. Just some grace for a weary servant.

And I started thinking about all the times that I've deserved that spanking from the Lord. All the times when He's provided a miracle and the next day I'm wondering whether or not He really knows what He's doing when it comes to my life. All the times I have doubted how big He is. All the times I have acted or spoken without any wisdom or consideration whatsoever. And, so many times when I've deserved discipline, He's given me gifts of pure grace instead. I have received SO MANY picnic lunches from the Lord! Because God doesn't want lip service. He's not just interested in fear-driven, rule-following obedience. He desires relationship. Why? Why would He want a relationship with a young woman whose faith falters? A young woman who spends an awful lot of time in the desert?

Because He is a God of incredible, unexpected grace.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

This past weekend I enjoyed my very first baby shower. When I was pregnant with Zachary, I planned to wait to have showers until after he was here because we didn't know if he was a boy or a girl until delivery day. So when friends initially asked if I wanted baby showers to be thrown to celebrate this little girl, I was really hesitant. But, I felt the Lord gently nudging me that this was part of preparing in hope for our baby girl's arrival. So, I said yes. And I'm so, so glad I did.

Yesterday morning I rode up with my friend, Lexie to Snoqualmie Falls where we met four other dear friends from college. We enjoyed an incredible four-course brunch overlooking the waterfall on a gorgeous fall day. And they spoiled me rotten with gifts! :-) Thanks, ladies, for your generous and thoughtful love. I can't tell you how much it means to know that you already love this little baby, too!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

I'm finding more and more just how limited my understanding of God's love is.

Over the past two years I have been bewildered by the challenges that God has allowed to enter our much so that I could rarely have equated those challenges with love. But time has a way of revealing the loving hand of God on our lives. At some point we can finally grasp an understanding of His perfect orchestration of our lives to make even the most harrowing moments sound beautiful.

This past weekend we were studying John 13 at church where Jesus chooses to spend the last day of His life on earth washing the feet of the disciples...the stinky, grimy feet of His closest friends...the job of the lowliest servant. The disciples were confused by it...they didn't understand why Jesus would choose to show His love in this way. Jesus knew this (of course He did, He's God), and in verse 7 He says, "You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand."

I've just been chewing on that verse over the past couple of weeks...

"You don't get it now, but someday...someday you will see my love even through the times of confusion and frustration and utter heartache."

I used to sing a song in Sunday school that went like this: "In His time, in His time...He makes all things beautiful in His time."

For all the times I have hated and even cursed the mystery of God in the past couple of years, I'm so glad that His love is without limits and beyond my understanding.

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose." - Romans 8:28

Saturday, September 11, 2010

We're entering the final stretch of pregnancy, and I'm tired...mentally more than physically.

I've answered "yes" to the question, "Is this your first?" so many times in the past few months, that I've almost convinced myself of it.

So, today I found myself at the cemetery once again. Partly because tracing the letters of my son's name etched in that gray stone with my fingers makes me feel a bit more anchored in reality, and partly because I've been really missing that little boy lately.

It's difficult for me to think back on this stage of pregnancy with Zachary...I had no idea that 9 months of a perfectly healthy, uncomplicated pregnancy could end like that. And, while I know that what happened to Zachary was really a freak accident, I also now know what horrors are possible. I trust God completely with our little girl's life, but I'm not naive enough to think that just because we've gone through tragedy once that we are exempt for the rest of our lives. So, I spend much of my mental energy these days re-affirming my trust in a God of incredible grace, reminding myself of what is real, and trying to be mindful of what a gift our daughter is. (She's so active that she makes it hard to forget. She's kicking like a wild child even now as I type.) :-)

Many people have asked me if I will have any special testing or monitoring towards the end of this pregnancy. Because I've had a full-term stillbirth and an ectopic pregnancy, I've kind of created a high-risk category of my own. However, I'm young and healthy, so the only monitoring that has been suggested is 2-3 non-stress tests (NST's) each week starting at 35 weeks. NST's are not really preventive, just reassuring to my healthcare providers that our baby girl and I are being monitored closely. It was also decided even before getting pregnant this time that I would never have to go past 39 weeks gestation with future pregnancies, so if this little girlie hasn't decided to arrive by 39 weeks, I will be induced.

Well, this has been a jumbled post, but I want to end with a verse that I learned when I was in elementary school, one that I've recalled to memory over and over again in the past few weeks.

"You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in You." -Isaiah 26:3

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Earlier this week I read the story of God leading the Israelites out of captivity in Egypt and parting the Red Sea in Exodus 14, and I was reminded of a couple of really important things for where I am right now in life.

But, first, the story:

God tells Moses what is about to happen at the beginning of the chapter. He gives Moses specific instructions of where to lead the Israelites to set up camp. And then He says this in verse 4: “And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and he will pursue them [the Israelites]. But I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD." So, He indicates that He’s going to protect the Israelites after He hardens the heart of their greatest enemy, but it’s kind of vague. I’d probably have a few questions before heading out to set up camp if I were Moses.

But Moses obeys without question, and Pharaoh and his best men, horses and chariots begin their pursuit of the Israelites. Verse 10 says, “As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the LORD. They said to Moses, "Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt?...’ Moses answered the people, "Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still."

Then, the Lord miraculously parts the Red Sea and the Israelites walk across on dry land with walls of water to their right and to their left. As soon as the Israelites are safely across, God closes the water in on the Egyptians and not one of them survives.

Exodus 15 is a song of celebration for what God has done for the Israelites, and verse 13 captured my attention this week. It says, “In your unfailing love You will lead the people You have redeemed. In Your strength You will guide them to Your holy dwelling.”

Here are a few of the things I was reminded of and have been processing all week:

- God accomplishes great things in my life for His glory. It’s not about me.

- There are so many times on our journey of redemption when God is leading us from one side of Egypt through the Red Sea to a place of freedom. God’s desire for me is freedom.

- When God gives instruction, I’m called to obey without questioning His direction every step of the way.

- I am redeemed, and God is on my side. His purposes for me are good. That reality needs to significantly affect how I live my life day to day.

Shaun and I continue to walk by faith in obedience as we await the arrival of our little girl and trust the Lord for His provision for our family. I can't believe she will be here in just 11 weeks. In the meantime, I thank God for the miracle to carrying her today and for being our Sustainer.