there are reasons that i love it, and other parts of the holiday i could do without..
pressure. time-sensitive expectations. the whirl of it all…the churning of activity and the hope-i-didnt-miss-a-thing fear that hangs in the background..
i would much rather encounter the meaning of Christmas fresh and be reminded of the reason that Jesus came
to bring people closer and show His boundless love.
last Christmas, my favorite memory had nothing to do with gifts or capturing just the right shot…
it had to do with a conversation i had with a woman i met on Christmas Eve day
at the dog park.
Maureen didn’t have any dogs at the time, but felt the urge to stop by and watch the dogs play.
i had brought both of my children with me and of course, my one-year-old playful golden doodle
Maureen and i sat on the benches, skin bare of any makeup
without expectation of having an honest conversation until we made a genuine connection and our discussion dove deeper.
the mention of dogs evolved into an exchange about the sting of grief after losing a parent and the helplessness one feels while watching another suffer.
she did most of the talking until i told her about my children and their miraculous beginnings.
stunned at the science behind medical technology, she began to ask questions about in-vitro and freezing eggs and……
later in the conversation, her questions became more obviously linked to a personal part of her life.
her daughter was coming to town for Christmas with her partner. they had at one time, considered having children using similar medical science.
she told me how embarrassed she was when she initially found out that her daughter was gay, and how horrible she feels now that she ever judged her daughter at all.
she told me how it felt to let go of the hopes of having story book wedding photos on her wall.
i couldn’t help it. i had to tell her the beaming, glorious truth i had so humbly witnessed through the infertility process…
i had to let her know that God has loved us from the beginning, before we were eggs and cells and embryos..
He has been fighting on our behalf and His redeeming hand has been on us before we ever uttered a word or made a choice.
His love has never been conditional.
i wanted her to know that as i watched the breathtaking process of life forming in a petri dish…
as i tried to take in the tremendous amount of miraculous that has to come together to make a human being, i realized in a new and special way how much we are all wanted and loved by God.
i might want to mention that Maureen does not believe in God. she only believes in what she can see…everything that is in front of her.
she once believed in the idea of an angel when her mother was suffering in the middle of the night and they could not get her pain pump to work. an off-shift nurse responded to her call. although it was against standard protocol, the nurse asked Maureen to fetch a tranquilizer out of her purse. Maureen’s purse was our of sight, but somehow the nurse knew to ask.
She took that pill and crushed it up and placed it inside of Maureen’s mother’s cheek.
it was merciful. it was necessary. Maureen could see it.
the nurse did not sign the medical log or report the visit. she asked Maureen to forget what she had seen as she watched her mother breathe in comfort and calm. that was as close to an angel as Maureen had seen. she could not forget what she had seen. not then. not now. she will never forget what she saw.
there was one other time she thought there might be a God…when she gave birth to her own children years ago. she remembered thinking there must be another force in play as this new, perfectly-formed life came bursting out of her womb.
it was not by chance that we met at the dog park, the day before Christmas so she could see what God had done in my life
so she could see the children that might have never been had God not had His hands all over them.
we were pulled together that day so that I could build a bridge of love to her, straight from the heart of God.
lately, i have realized that real ministry is not about perfect websites, or profiles, or presentations
a special group of friends, or appearances.
real ministry happens when people are available to connect with others where they are.real ministry is a living cry for God to continue to reach people through people. Click To Tweet
just like God did thousands of year ago when He sent Jesus
to walk in real sandals that got dusty, with straps that frayed
whose hands were calloused from hard work
whose heart grew weary of people looking at Him with disbelief as He performed miracle after miracle.
Jesus was the real deal, and that’s what people need to experience.
i pray that Jesus is real to you today. that you and i begin to understand how much we are utterly loved and wanted… how much our stories need to be told and retold so that others can see God.
God doesn’t require anything fancy.
He wants us to use who we are, where we are, to change the world one person at a time.
He wants people to understand how much they are loved, and how much He wants to show up in their lives.
We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality.
i’m not sure why my
my mind has wandered back
to the many hours I spent in my bathroom as a teenager getting ready for a date.
some might say obsessively so…
i would wash my hair with several kinds of shampoos
so it would smell extra good
and layer on lotion and perfume and hairspray
the preparation of each date marked that it was going to be something worth rememboring.
it was a long time ago, but I remember, even now, the preparation…
just yesterday, it dawned on me
that this blip on the map
the one we call “life”
is about the preparation…
preparing ourselves to meet the One.
differently, but still…
i must keep in mind that it takes a lot of time to get ready to see the King
i want HIm to see a large piece of himself when he looks at me
but in order to get to that end,
i must spend. time. with. HIM.
that’s how I prepare.
i must adorn myself with the things that He deems to be beautiful
i must take the preparation seriously.
layer myself with mercy and grace and loving-kindness.
buffer my mind and body so that it yields to my will. to discipline
i must tackle hard challenges so i can show the strength that can only be found through persevering.
i must cloak myself with compassion.
when I reach the King,
i long for Him to say…
she’s a peacemaker…that’s beautiful
she has a gentle spirit…that’s beautiful
she extends forgiveness and grace…that’s beautiful
she has a soft, yielded heart….that’s beautiful
she is a woman who has stayed the course.
she always came back to me, even if she got off track…that’s beautiful.
1 Peter 3:3-4 ESV
Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.
1 Samuel 16:7 ESV
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
//Lord, help me to remember today that I am preparing to meet You. Regardless of what I am battling today, show me how I can show your beauty in this season of my life. Help me to remember that I am in process, in the middle of preparation. Remind me that I will never reach perfection this side of Heaven. I want you to be pleased by the way I am preparing. Amen//
my answer has always been “yes.”
yes to God having His way..
yes to you
to doing all I could to place you in the best care, no matter what it cost.
yes to God’s very best.
It is hard for me to say in human words
the pull you have on my heart
before you are even born
the welling up of my entire life
the belief that I have in you
the “yes” I feel about everything you will do.
There will never be anything to separate us, really.
Our lives will be threaded with memories
woven with words and unaltered acceptance
no matter what.
You will always be my next thought.
I will remember you bouncing on my lap
singing in the front seat of my car
I will listen to you with ears that take in more than your voice
I will enter you into a secret place
the part of me you first came from
And there, my son, you can fully rest
and know beyond knowing
my answer has always been “yes.”
To Grant Hawkins Eastin
Love, Your Mother
You are I, we are meant to be lights in a dark world.
Our lives are meant to be a story of hope. One that others can bookmark and use for the sake of encouragement. But, if we are battered by fear, we will be crippled and unresponsive to some of the great needs that are in front of us. With every fear, with each new dark report, there is an opportunity to trust.
God says we are the lights in this world. Cities on a hill. The salt of the earth.
We are the ones who celebrate because we KNOW victory is coming.
I live a mile from the most recent Ebola scare in Texas. Some gal read the news report off of her cell phone while I sat in a waiting room during my son’s dentist appointment. Every eye in the room widened. Anger flared in our hearts. We shifted our eyes about in fear. Panic in our hearts, real panic. I glanced over and tried to make more sense of the lives sitting in front of me. One woman, a bible on her lap, studying for her bible study. A man who gave a complimentary “Amen” when someone said something he agreed with. There we were, the three of us, Christians… so, so scared.
Somebody made remarks about the government, another about Nigeria, and I… I just sat straight up. All of the comments seemed topical to me. Speculations that did not help at all.
Something fierce stirred within me. I am tired of Satan layering blankets of fear on God’s people. So hoping that Christians will sense the urgency to stand right where they are and be a light in a slowly dimming world. Refusing to be slapped around by all of the “what ifs” and “what might happen” in the world today.
I am not trying to dumb down the real threats in our world today. I wash my children’s hands. I pray. I watch the news. My feet are on the ground and I walk around just like you do. But, I need to remember and I want you to remember …our hearts are His.
My concern for us is this….if we are so incredibly distracted and absorbed in our fear, we will miss out on this great big opportunity to shine. To show that Jesus has ransomed us and we are free. Free to really live life in a world that is so afraid of losing it.
Something happened about a week before that I will not soon forget.
I was in the heart of North Dallas when a monstrous storm flew in. My children and I stood in the back of a small 7-11 convenience store while the sleet and hail pelted the windows and shook everything around us. Honestly..honestly… in that moment I honestly thought that the building was going to be moved, leveled. With a child on each side of me, I backed up, moved away from the windows and moved closer to the floor. I cannot say that I did not feel the fear in my humanness, that my heart did not quicken …that I did not look at both of my children with sober, solid concern. I did. I did. But what surprised me was the unconscious presence of peace. Not scared for me. Not scared for the eternity of my children. Peace in the center of my soul.
I have let this experience sit with me.
I walked away changed. Really.
What if we could come to the point where we are no longer afraid? What would happened if we could stand with each other, fully surrendered to what is coming?
What would happen to the world around us if we could REST knowing that we are held, and that God is living in us, and our eternity is accounted for?
If we could live without that FEAR, we would be dangerous. DANGEROUS for the LORD.
God has never allowed there to be darkness without calling up great big, bright lights.
You and I …we are the lights.
Please encourage another person today. You may just give them the courage they need for the next divine intersection in their lives.
Let’s remind each other that we are all going to be just fine..that God is hemming us in on all sides.
Let’s quote the Scriptures and sing a new song to the LORD…
The one that conceived us, birthed us, and has carried us all this way.
Let’s be fully present in our homes and communities and live, trusting.
Let’s stand firm while all the threats in this world swirl around us knowing…
We are HIS and our eternity is secure.
“Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”
It was October 27th, 2008. Everything in my life had come to a halt. I had feared my father’s death for as long as I could remember. Sitting in my father’s study, just a room away, I knew he was breaths away from his heavenly home. My father lay still in a hospital bed in the middle of the living room. All the furniture had been rearranged to accommodate the bed, and still… the bed was too short. His 6-foot 3-inch frame so obviously cramped for more room. And though we all noticed, no one said a word about it…we hesitated to ask for something bigger or more because honestly, we could not. Pain ran through our veins and seeped into any available crevice, only to reroute and find no room to escape. Days and days of heaviness…the kind that you feel in your bones, the kind of pain that cripples you at the core…pain that compels you to move closer to the ground so you can lie on the floor and weep uncontrollably. It was THAT kind of pain. Either you know it, or you don’t.
Only 25 days before, my father had received the diagnosis. Cancer. Stage 4. Growing and changing everything inside of him, starving his organs of life. Until October 2nd, we’d known nothing of it.
Now, 25 days later, my father lay there, weaker than each day before. His eyes stayed at half-mast and his skin felt cool and clammy, but he awakened readily when addressed. Meanwhile my newborn son lay on the floor of dad’s study, cooing and lifting his sturdy new head, waking up to everything around him. The sound of sweet, new beginnings bled into the living room and caused my father to smile. My cousin, Curt, one of the only souls I could stand to be around, stopped by for what would be a timely visit. Curt is an exceptional human being. He has an unpolished shine on his soul, an ability to walk into unsettling situations and bring a sense of peace with him. Weeks before, I had asked him to learn a song – one that had played so persistently in my heart that I could not turn it down. There in the study, with a guitar resting on his lap, we began to sing…his voice interwoven with mine in harmony.
Take my heart, I Lay it down
At the feet of you whose crowned
Take my life, I’m letting go
I lift it up to You who’s throned
And I will worship You, Lord
Only You, Lord
And I will bow down before You
Only You Lord
Take my fret, take my fear
All I have, I’m leaving here
Be all my hopes, be all my dreams
Be all my delights, be my everything
And It’s just you and me here now
Only you and me here now
You should see the view
When it’s only You
Although the moment seemed utterly solemn and dark, our lives had been filled with a certain miraculous history. God had done what no man ever could. He had given me the purest gift. He had delivered my father from the consuming grip of alcohol and delivered a son into my arms after years of infertility. Oh, what a gift it was… powerful and pointed and personal. Those few hours huddled in the study were defining. Everything behind me, everything in front of me came into sharp focus. Anything that had clouded or smudged my lens would be wiped clear, clean as spotless glass. Clear and true. My season as a daughter, my purpose as a new mother became divinely apparent.
It was then, and only then, that I knew what the rest of my life would be about. Sitting in that chair in the study I realized…
I would have sunk down in utter hopelessness had I not known the Lord, personally and profoundly. Had He not revealed Himself to me in His word, walked with me through every valley and allowed me to worship with Him on the mountaintop. The scriptures I had learned as a child came back as if to remind me that God was sovereign over all of life’s moments. Choruses and praise songs flooded my heart on long days while I watched my father’s life hang on the edge of this earthly world.
Knowing God was, in and of itself, a pure gift.
And I was so sure that I was going to pass it on. As I observed that fresh, little miracle of life cooing on the floor, I knew… if my children were going to make it, they needed the gift of a great big God. One they could wrestle with in the trenches and celebrate with at each planned victory. And ultimately, they needed to be prepared to stand in my shoes so that when my life comes to a halt, they would have something more powerful and fierce than their mother’s love. They would be comforted by the eternal grip of a personal God… a God who knows how to create a life, a God who knows how to transform a life – a God who loves to give the purest gifts.
I had heard it all my life. That Satan (the enemy) was against God, and surely, he didn’t care for me much either. Because God had taught me, from an early age, that He was all I had. Everything that was beautiful, or special, or granted to me was fueled by the merciful, loving heart of God. I knew that without Him there would be no victory, no reason to hold out for a celebration. I would never have fullness of joy without Him. I have always truly believed it.
I have watched the enemy roam around in the middle of our trials and try to push our faith around. I have observed the absolute brilliance of the Lord as He accomplishes His plans. After contemplating both, I have come to this conclusion. If God has created life (the starting line) and if God has conquered death (the finish line), then the only place left for Satan to play (and possibly win) is the middle field.
Satan plays the middle field because he has no power over the beginning or the end.
God promises us that if we rely on Him, if we utterly cling to Him, He will have the victory in our lives. “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:57 NIV) But in the middle, somewhere in the middle, Satan steps up and tries to make us question if God really can get us to the end. Satan stands at every corner we turn handing out discouragement and despair, causing us to doubt and wonder. We have plenty of time to come up with all kinds of endings of our own, in the middle field. That is why the Bible tells us to be on guard in 1 Peter 5:8. “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” We need to be mindful that the enemy stalks the middle field…the middle of a trial when we cannot see our way out, the middle of work we are doing for the Lord, the middle…the middle.
Most of our lives are spent navigating “the middle field.” Very few things that we really want come easily or transpire in a short amount of time. Most of our dreams and our hopes come to fruition over the course of years, sometimes decades. Whether we are praying for someone to spend the rest of our life with, a cure to failing health, restoration in broken relationships, an end to depression and self-hatred, or a release from the bitter root of anger, it takes time for God to work out the plans of His heart. But, one thing is for sure…. He will accomplish the plans of His heart. The Bible tells us this in Jeremiah 30:24. “The fierce anger of the LORD will not turn back until He has fully accomplished the plans of His heart.” Although the enemy prowls, the Lord is fierce. He protects us. He defends us. He moves circumstances in our favor. “But I will sing of Your power; yes, I will sing aloud of Your mercy in the morning; for You have been my defense and refuge in the day of my trouble for God is my defense” (Ps. 59:16-17). The same God who delivered Jesus from the powerful grip of death to a glorious ascent is delivering us today.
If I had known what I know now, I would have expected oppression from the enemy when my husband and I decided we would like to start our own family. After buying a pair of maternity jeans on Ebay and entertaining dozens of baby names, we glistened with hopefulness and waited in joyful anticipation. A year and a half later, I found myself in the middle of an infertility specialist’s office analyzing the chance of my husband (David) and I having children at all. I never imagined that someone could deliver such a set of sobering news to me…”The chances of conception were slim to impossible.” I slid down in my seat unable to accept an answer that was so firm, so final, so devastatingly cruel.
After two rounds of in-vitro which required the maximum amount of hormone inducing medication, we had lost four viable embryos (babies). One embryo from the second in-vitro attempt was held back and stored in the bottom of a nitrogen tank in hopes of being transferred in the future. The doctors ran more tests, and one thing became clear. We would need to move forward in a hurry. My reproductive organs had aged prematurely, and I was not responding favorably to the medication that encouraged several eggs to develop during the course of one menstrual cycle. David urged me to move my medical file to another doctor and try one more round of in-vitro, in the essence of time.
I was weary. We were in the middle field. Satan knew it. I believed that God was with us, but I could not see Him. Our lives had changed the day they mixed our reproductive material in a petri dish and the cells began to grow and divide and multiply. David had become a Father, and I became a Mother. Life had begun, and then, for some unknown reason could not continue. I could barely breathe, much less entertain giving the reproductive process a third chance. Had I not utterly loved my husband and wished for him to become the Father of our children, I think I would have said that I was going to retreat…take a rest, take a bow. I would have sunk down in utter sadness. With a tired, wilted heart I moved forward and transferred all of my medical records to another doctor. When they ran a new, different set of tests, it became clear. My immune system was compromised. My body saw my own babies as a cancer and sought to destroy the developing fetus. It was thought that I would be at par with every other “normal” woman if I was given an immune regulating drip before they implanted the next set of embryos in my uterus.
After going through a third round of hormone inducing drugs, several eggs were ready to be recruited. Quietly, I told the Lord…”I cannot imagine handling another loss and I do not believe that my body can sustain a pregnancy. I feel hemmed in on every side.” When the doctor peered into my uterus to do a final check to see if my body was prepared to house the developing embryos, he saw a small polyp…a small tag of skin that had developed as a result of the medications. He knew right away that the transfer would be postponed. The embryos that had developed in the petri dish would be frozen for two years, preserved for another time. The God of the Universe intervened in the form of a small polyp, right in the middle field of infertility.
Several years later, God would point me in a different direction. After getting pregnant on my own and receiving the immune regulating drip, I miscarried a baby at six weeks. Soon after, I would begin to entertain another option for our frozen babies…surrogacy. On July 18th, 2008, God did what only God could do. He delivered a little boy into our arms after waiting for years in the middle field. The most broken part of me had produced something whole. Several years later, a baby girl would be born after spending six years in the cold, dry middle of a nitrogen tank.
David and I are the parents of seven children, two of which walk and talk and tumble around this world. We are forever grateful for the way things have ended. We are forever mindful that God did it. He is still delivering. He is still fiercely accomplishing. He is the beginning and the end and He is reason we made it through the middle field.
If you are waiting for God to move in your life, please know….God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us (Ephesians 3:20).