Dahl Summer Bucket List 2014

posted in: Summer Bucket List 2014, the Dahls | 0

My friend Casey does a summer bucket list with her kids. So we thought we’d *borrow* the idea and come up with one of our own:

The few we’ve been able to cross off are a) fix the trampoline (after the catastrophe below), b) build a cover for the sandbox (I haven’t gotten a great picture of my husband’s handiwork yet but it has made the sandbox that much easier to enjoy!), and c) build a playset (which my father-in-law and brothers-in-law graciously came and helped to do). Here are a few pictures of us enjoying the process and the final products!

target audiences {and other sources of paralysis}

posted in: on being a captive set free | 0

weddingstalking the competition

When I teach photography classes, I always tell aspiring photographers to avoid stalking their competition. It was advice I was given from a photography mentor and it changed my then-business. I would spend hours scrolling through pictures of people in my market, looking at their prices and their level of busyness, and at the end of my stalking session I would be a crumbled heap on the floor, totally unmotivated to go after my own clients and edit my own images. I could never shake the “I suck” feeling. After lamenting about my inability to live up to the competition, the mentor challenged: Why are you wasting your time doing that?? It was a great question. Her advice? Only look at photographers who leave you feeling inspired. So I did. And my business took off. Because I stopped focusing on what everyone else was doing and started to figure out what kind of photographer wanted to be. What was my style? What kind of clients did I want? The competition became irrelevant because I began to see myself as contributing something unique to the market. I trusted that as I developed my skill and my style as a photographer, clients would come, referrals would spread, and my business would succeed. And that’s how it happened.

Of course, I quit while I was ahead to become a full-time stay-at-home-mom, a decision I never regret. I have no doubt the photography market has changed quite drastically over the past few years, and the weight of photography-as-business is finally starting to wear off to the point where I can pick up my camera and enjoy photography-as-hobby once again.

But the lesson lingers.

oh, to be original

I have always been a writer. I’m sure I started blogging at a variety of times for a variety of reasons, but the primary one is that I’m a verbal processor. I think as I write. I can take in all kinds of information, but until I regurgitate it to someone in some form or another, it hasn’t sunk in.

Blogging has changed a lot since the launch of my first Xanga site. (Does Xanga even still exist??) What used to be an avenue for sharing thoughts and updates with family and friends has become a full-fledged online community. “Mom Blogs” alone probably number in the hundreds of thousands. Where being a “blogger” was once a little nerdy and under-the-radar, it is now a self-proclaimed title of many a housewife.

This is of course hard for me, because I am a) secretly competitive and b) obsessed with being original.

So imagine my dismay when I stumble across a blogger who writes like me. Or who writes the post I have been writing in my head for weeks. Or who frankly is way better at {fill in the blank} than I am.

The paralysis sinks in. The “I suck” feeling settles close and familiar. The self-doubt and the despair and the “why bother”–they make their home in my heart and mind. I become bitter and grumbly every time I read a post that could be inspiring. Instead of finding community and comfort in encountering like-minded people, I am crippled by my envy, angry that I didn’t beat them to the punch. Instead of enjoying well-written books by smart, beautiful, Jesus-loving women, I search for flaws and try to find reasons to roll my eyes.

It’s not pretty. I’m not proud.

But this blog. It’s still here. It doesn’t have to be and I’ve wondered if that’s the answer. Exchanging this public forum for private pen and paper. Emptying my blog reader, perhaps. But as I found when I tried to give up facebook, the problem isn’t the blog. The problem is me. 

So here I find myself, once again, confronted by the ugliness of my sin, running into the unflinching welcome of my sweet Savior, who reminds me, once again, that He is at work in the mess. God has sweetly granted me this outlet and this ministry, and I think he plans to use it in my heart even if in no one else’s. This blog is an avenue for me to remember what he’s doing and to celebrate his many blessings.

target audience

I went through this “blog planner” and one of the exercises was to think through your target audience. Who is my target reader? I began to ponder and make notes. My target audience sounded a lot like me. As I read on, the author explained the difference between a blog as an outlet vs. a blog for a niche market. “Each one has their place,” she remarked, “but you have to know which one you are.” I paused. A niche market makes sense if I’m ever to be one of those stay-at-home moms whose blog takes off and suddenly her husband can quit his job and the family gets to travel the world and go on all kinds of adventures. Let’s be honest, that sounds fun. Or a book deal–that’d be nice.

But while I don’t think there is anything wrong with those aspirations, I realized it wasn’t me.

I am writing for myself.

I can’t write to win you over. I can’t frame my thoughts in 140 characters or less so you can quickly tweet them with ease. And while “going viral” sounds really good for my ego, it doesn’t sound really good for my heart.

I closed the blog planner. My blog-as-outlet descriptor hanging in my mind, speaking release and hope and a big deep breath. No one to impress, no one to buy what I’m selling. Just the freedom to process as the Lord teaches; to celebrate as the Lord gives; to declare His goodness when He takes away.

It’s time to stop wallowing at the competition and instead to find the writer that I want to be. It’s time to find my voice. Time to give up on being original. Because the truth is, “original” is so loaded. Really, it turns into trying to be like what “works,” which is not actually original at all.

It’s time to be comfortable in my own skin, with my own words, with my own story.

Even if it sounds like someone else’s.

Or even if no one else gets it.

Jesus is teaching me so many lessons about all that. I didn’t know there was so much insecurity hiding in my heart. Why my sin continues to shock me is truly baffling, but God in his grace won’t let it stay undisturbed. I have much to process but had to overcome this paralysis first.

So I’ve been playing around with making my blog pretty and fresh because I can and it’s fun and I want it to reflect me. Which might change next week or next year or never.

And one of these days I’m going to stop writing about writing and just, well, write.

the truth about comparison

A good friend points out that comparison is a mirage. When we look to others and think, “I suck,” it’s because we don’t see the whole picture. I want to start looking for the whole picture, because I think that will foster compassion instead of envy. I think that’s when I’ll begin to see God’s grace at work in others instead of being bitter of the ways in which I’m certain I fall short.

I do fall short. We all do. Every last one of us. We all stand at the cross together, humbled by our need and celebrating His gracious provision.

And while I think I’ve got this figured out, I know it is probably only moments from my next battle with pride and envy and bitterness. My flesh and my heart fail.

But God.

God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

So I can take pictures and I can write and I can live to the glory of God, because I live my life before the face of God (and not the face of you, whoever you are).

This is that refresh I’ve been craving. 

Soli Deo Gloria

the refresh button

posted in: on being a captive set free | 0

That’s what I need lately. To push that little circular arrow and wait for life to refresh. I’m craving fresh starts and fresh perspective and fresh energy. I’m craving renewed hope and renewed ambition and renewed focus.

This little blog is supposed to be an outlet for me to process, but lately I stare at blank screens with fingers hovering unmoved over the keyboard. Some days it’s lack of thoughts. Most days lack of focus. Every day it’s 100% pure exhaustion, from a life of four littles talking and needing and laughing and crying.

Have I mentioned four littles? It’s been 3 months since we’ve re-embarked on our journey with foster care. It has been far less bumpy than our last encounter that left us worn and ragged, ready to call it quits for good. But it has still been bumpy. Adding an extra two year old ensures that, even without the uncertainty foster care brings. As my heart becomes more and more invested in loving this child, I become more and more filled with fear of what is to come.

I’ve pondered that woman in 1 Peter quite often as a result. The one who does good and doesn’t fear anything that is frightening (3:6). I long to be among the holy women who hoped in God (3:5), but my spirit is weak. My faith is wavering under the pressure of the ordinary. I long for meaning but I struggle to find it in the midst of the mundane. Anchor me in Your grace and goodness–my constant inhale, never without the exhale–help my unbelief!

Jesus is sweet, and a recent opportunity to prepare a workshop on being a woman of the Word renewed my mind and reminded my tired heart:

You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word. (Psalm 119:114)

So I push “refresh.” Not because I can, but because He who promised is faithful (1 Thes. 5:24).

My soul waits for the Lord, and in His Word I hope (Ps. 130:5).

I push “refresh” because I know, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning” (Lam. 3:22-23)

Inhale: soak up the truth, let it stew and do its work, penetrating down to my innermost being, rooting out sin, bringing healing and hope and fresh perspective. I want to hold my breath. Stay here awhile. The blank screen processing the refresh.

Oh Lord, make me new, I beg. I’m so tired. I don’t know if I can hold onto this truth long enough to make a difference.

But it is not me that holds on–thank God–it is Him that holds Me.


Help my unbelief.

five minute Friday {on Saturday}: mess

posted in: on making a home | 4

It’s a mess everywhere I look.

The floors unswept, piles on every surface, toys underfoot as I stumble foggy to the kitchen for some coffee. The day begins with a sigh as I sink into the chair and sip my morning sanity and look for peace around me.

But I don’t find peace.

Just a mess. Signs of life? Fun? Laughter? Perhaps. But that’s not what I see.

I just see work. Work that never ends. Meaningless toil that returns day after day.

I long for peace. For order in my chaos. So I put the toys away and arrange the shelf just-so and put away the dishes once again. Stand in a clean kitchen with a satisfied breath and a feeling of accomplishment.

But then naptime is over and everyone wants a snack and dinner needs to be made and there are dishes and spills and screams and I am undone.

Is it a mess everywhere around me?

Or is it simply a mess within me?

The peace I crave will not come in the form of tidied rooms and bathed, sleeping children. The peace comes as love floods my messy, broken soul. As light shines into the darkness and the darkness does not overcome it.

Order comes when truth speaks over lies, my eyes lifted to see the Word become flesh: the One who took my mess upon Himself and speaks Peace into my tired soul.

For Five Minute Friday with Lisa Jo-Baker. I tried it a couple of weeks ago and it was a liberating boost to my writing slump. Give it a shot? No edits, just five minutes of writing. Who cares if it’s Saturday. :)

As He Said

Easter is passed, but my study of Matthew continues, until yesterday it lands in Matthew 28. It feels like saying goodbye to an old friend.

Eight months in a book,
Eight months with the Son of Man–
and here we are at the end,
Jesus in the tomb.
Dark, quiet, closed.

But then.

He is not here, for he has risen, as he said.
(Matthew 28:6 ESV, emphasis mine)

The women came looking for Jesus–
their teacher,
Maybe they believed, but now–
now He was dead.

They were probably tired, eyes swollen from tears, the light He summoned now dimly flickering in their hearts, clouded with doubt.


Did He really say?

But the angel asks that exposing question–
their hearts laid bare–
afraid to hope, yet wanting to believe–
“Why do you seek the living among the dead?” (Luke 24:5)
Don’t you remember?
“Remember how he told you…”

“And they remembered His words.” (Luke 24:8)
Suddenly flooding back–
the moments,
the light,
the words,
the Man–
the Son of Man,
the Son of God–
that name whispered by mother and father in the quiet darkness of a stable,
Emanuel. God with us.

The one who made us came to live among us.
Just as He said.

How much more has He said?

He who calls you is faithful, He will surely do it.
He who began a good work in you will carry it to completion.
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. (Isaiah 26:3)

We forget,
but He remembers.

Why do I spend so much time

Instead of

But when I am faithless, He remains faithful.
It doesn’t depend on me, it depends on Him.

And even with my messy, doubting heart I look back and hear those words–
find my anchor–
remember the grace poured out freely as blood on a splintered cross–

Why do you seek the living among the dead?
He is not here
He is risen

As He said.

Easter has passed, but these are words I need every. single. day.

What more has He said?

“And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)

Five Minute Friday: Glue

posted in: on being a mom | 4

I’ve recently stumbled across Lisa-Jo Baker. Her thoughts on motherhood are honest and refreshing and pretty much every blog post makes me weep or laugh out loud (or both). She’s been a breath of fresh air in my chaos as of late. And she does this thing Five Minute Friday, where you write about the topic she gives for 5 minutes: unfiltered, unedited, uninterrupted.

Writing is something I often long to do but usually my brain feels used up and I just stare at a blank screen or take a nap or clean something. But since it’s the thing God so often uses to help me process what He’s teaching me, often no writing means I’m a little bit of a crazy person.

So I’m going to try this Five Minute Friday thing, because, well, why not?

Are you a writer? Wanna try it with me? Tell me if you do??

The word today is GLUE. Ready, set, go.

I have the glue poured into a bowl. Fabric squares ready, we’re going to do this thing I remember from elementary school and it’s going to be great and surely she’ll want to bring her homemade Easter basket to school for show-and-tell.

I picture the little treats and Target dollar-aisle toys waiting for her on Easter morning. The basket ready to be filled with colorful plastic eggs, because last year I threw two-dozen hard boiled eggs in the garbage.

We don’t care about the Easter bunny, but some things are just fun to do anyway, right?

So the glue. It’s in the bowl, waiting to be dipped and brushed, ready to seal the bright colors of fabric scraps onto a plastic ice cream pail.

I want to let her do it, but I watch in horror as it drips everywhere. As it blobs and goops and the fabric bubbles over globs of glue.

I grab the brush from her hand. What are you doing??

I regret it instantly. But hold the brush tight, wanting it to look nice. Wanting her to pay attention. She slinks a little in her chair. I see her shoulders hunch like mine so often do. My heart is heavy as I think of the weight I’ve just heaped upon her shoulders. Weight of perfection. Weight of not-good-enough. Weight of, “Look at me, mom! Will this please you? Will I please you?”

It’s just glue.

Will it be able to hold us together, this messy mom and daughter with so much pain and broken and hurt past? With so much still to come?

I think it’s grace. Grace is the glue.

the shepherd season

It’s April. These were January’s thoughts.

But, well, I didn’t write them in January, and that doesn’t mean I don’t need to process them.

Can you make New Year’s Resolutions in April? Are there resolution rules?

They’re not really New Year’s resolutions per se. Just resolutions. Resolutions made loosely, because I’m sinful and prone to wander and deeply aware that no amount of resolve will make me “all better.”

And soon it will be my 29th birthday. So maybe instead of 2014 resolutions, they’re 29 resolutions.

See, I’ve been pondering Moses. I like Moses. God spoke to him “face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.” (Exodus 33:11) Moses gives us a picture of Jesus while also pointing to a desperate need for Jesus.

So, Moses. D.A. Carson on Exodus 2:11-25:

IN THE MOST CRUCIAL EVENTS IN REDEMPTIVE HISTORY, God takes considerable pains to ensure that no one can properly conclude that these events have been brought about by human resolve or wit. They have been brought about by God himself – on his timing, according to his plan, by his means, for his glory – yet in interaction with his people. All of this falls out of Exodus 2:11-25.

The account is brief. It does not tell us how Moses’ mother managed to instill in him a profound sense of identity with his own people before he was brought up in the royal household. Perhaps he enjoyed ongoing contact with his birth mother; perhaps as a young man he delved into his past, and thoroughly investigated the status and subjugation of his own people. We are introduced to Moses when he has already so identified with the enslaved Israelites that he is prepared to murder a brutal Egyptian slave overlord. When he discovers that the murder he committed has become public knowledge, he must flee for his life.

Yet one cannot help reflecting on the place of this episode in the plotline that leads to Moses’ leadership of the Exodus some decades later. By God’s own judicial action, many Egyptians would then die. So why doesn’t God use Moses now, while he is still a young man, full of zeal and eagerness to serve and emancipate his people?

It simply isn’t God’s way. God wants Moses to learn meekness and humility, to rely on God’s powerful and spectacular intervention, to await God’s timing. He acts in such a way that no one will be able to say that the real hero is Moses, the great visionary. By the time he is eighty, Moses does not want to serve in this way, he is no longer an idealistic, fiery visionary. He is an old man whom God almost cajoles (Ex. 3) and even threatens (Ex. 4:14) into obedience. There is therefore no hero but God, and no glory for anyone other than God.

The italicized words describe what Jordan and I have {affectionately} termed, “the Shepherd Season.”

The Shepherd Season is that time in your life when you don’t get to follow your dreams–
when you aren’t doing something you feel particularly good at–
when your doing a lot of dying and it doesn’t always feel like living–
a time perhaps characterized by diaper changes and undereye circles–
the time when you have to put your head down and do the grunt-work–
where it seems more than ever that God is humbling you and shaping your character.

The shepherd season doesn’t necessarily lend itself to the promise of moving onto bigger and better things, despite what my generation hopes. We are not promised that if we put in the hard work now we will soon be given the life of our dreams. That’s not what I’m saying. Instead, I’m saying that the “in-between” times are actually the times. There is no in-between.

I’m not waiting, I’m living.

If I look at this season as merely a transition, I will miss what God wants to do in my heart now.

Moses grew up as a prince in Egypt, where being a shepherd was considered detestable (Gen. 46:34). And yet there he found himself, day after day wandering after sheep in the wilderness. I wonder how long it took for the resentment to subside. I wonder {if or} when he stopped beating himself up or analyzing where he took a wrong turn. I wonder when humility took root in his heart. I bet he didn’t notice. I’m guessing he didn’t have some supernatural encounter where he realized he was suddenly humble and meek and ready to be used by God. It was just the process of time, the unnoticed work of God in His heart.

That’s sanctification, I think. Not major benchmarks, but faithfulness taking root, day by day, as we remind ourselves of the truth of who we are in Christ and submit to the Spirit’s work in our hearts. Through diaper changes and dirty dishes. Through boring jobs and forgotten dreams. Through mistakes and failures and less than impressive passing moments.

Through the ordinary.

Paul writes to the Thessalonian believers, urging them to continue in brotherly love, saying, “aspire to live quietly and to mind your own affairs” (4:11). My commentary explains, “Be zealous for the honor that comes not through self-assertion or an ostentatious show of personal greatness, but through humble, industrious, and unimpeachable behavior.”

Humble, industrious, unimpeachable behavior.

Kind of makes me think of that gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious (1 Peter 3:4).

Kind of makes me think of the Prince who, “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Phil. 2:6-8)

Jesus is not simply my example, His record of obedience is mine because I am hidden in Him (Colossians 3:3).

Neither is Moses simply my example, but rather the prophet preceding The Prophet who would intercede for His people once and for all (Deut. 18:15, John 5).

But Moses is also evidence that God is at work in the mess.

And that Prince and Prophet taught that whoever saves His life will lose it, but whoever loses His life for His sake will find it. (Mark 8:35)

I think losing our lives for His sake sometimes looks like the Shepherd Season. It looks like God using all things in ways that we often don’t see or understand (Romans 8:28). It looks like walking in the good works He’s prepared for us (Ephesians 2:10).

It looks like an ordinary life, fueled by grace, because we know that even if we have not what we desire, we have more than we deserve. (I know this is a quote by someone but I’m not sure who. A puritan? Anyone?)

It might look like more than that. But for me, for this season, right now, I think it looks like being a shepherd in the wilderness.

It looks like embracing the ordinary and the hard and the permanent feeling of exhaustion.
It looks like giving up the word overwhelmed.
It looks like embracing new things, and giving some up.
It looks like spending more time serving and learning and praying.
I hope it looks like growing, in discipline and obedience, in faithfulness, in gratitude and contentment, in dependence.

It doesn’t look like mustering up enough resolve to be good enough so God will like me. Quite the opposite, actually.

I think the reason the Shepherd Season is hard for me is because I’m so used to striving. It’s my default mode: to try and try, harder and harder. To try to prove I’m good enough. I’m looking up at God like a little girl holding up her latest spelling test, begging him to notice: Am I doing a good job??

And I wonder, how can he think I’m doing a good job when it’s all dirty diapers and dirty dishes? Surely I should be doing something more meaningful, more world-changing?

No, this is to counter my efforts to be good enough.

It’s declaring unflinching trust in the God who has appointed every dirty diaper and every dirty dish.
It’s resting in the completed work of His beloved Son knowing that, united to Him, I too am a child with whom He is well-pleased.
It’s recognizing that He is God and I am not.
It’s believing that He will make good on His promise to conform me to the image of His Son.
It’s learning that life works best when it’s according to His will.
And that if I have Christ, I have all I need.

It’s preaching the truth to my weak heart and failing flesh–that God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Ps. 73:26)

It’s that time in my life when I don’t get to follow my dreams–
when I’m not doing something I feel particularly good at–
when I’m doing a lot of dying and it doesn’t always feel like living–

I pray it will become a time sweet and cherished because it’s that time when I get to learn more than ever that His power is made perfect in my weakness. (2 Cor. 12:9)

platitudes about God’s sovereignty

posted in: on being a captive set free | 3

I’ll admit it. I had to look up the word “platitude.” I’ve heard and read it in so many places lately that I finally had to own the fact that I wasn’t sure of its definition. Here it is: 

You’re welcome.

I’ve come across the word over and over again in relation to God’s sovereignty. For example: “We offer false comfort in the form of platitudes about God’s sovereignty.” I think I made that quote up, though it’s likely pretty close to the lines I’ve read in various places. Surely you’re familiar with the concept: someone is grieving and the only thing we can think to say is the expected, “God is sovereign.” And I get why we call it a platitude. In general, it’s likely unhelpful, because what we mean is, “Your pain makes me uncomfortable. I don’t know what to say right now. Stop being all messy and broken. Your grief is clearly evidence that you don’t trust God. Trust God and everything will be all better. Or at least pretend that you trust God so that I don’t have to be so uncomfortable.” Yes, “Trust God!” is probably right up there with “God is sovereign!”

But the more I think of God’s sovereignty designated as a mere platitude, the more grieved I become.

I remember when I first encountered God’s sovereignty in Scripture in an unexpected way. Following a conversation with my then-boyfriend (now-husband), I went to the book of Job. I had never read the book in its entirety, but I had been to Sunday School enough to know the gist of the story: Job is prosperous, God allows Satan to afflict Job with all kinds of loss and turmoil, and Job’s friends prove to be miserable comforters. I’m not sure I knew the end of the story, but that’s where Jordan sent me. How does God respond to Job when he questions God in the midst of his grief? I was certain God responds in compassion. Something like, “It’s understandable you’re so angry, Job. After all, I did take a lot from you. Go ahead and let it out.” And while God is compassionate (a platitude for another day), that was not his response (Job 38):

Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:
“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
Dress for action like a man;
I will question you, and you make it known to me.
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?…

It goes on. Oh, I’m sorry, Job. I must have forgotten. Did you make the stars and the sea? Do you command the morning? Have you seen where I keep the snow and the hail?

Read about the God who is Sovereign–look at Job 38-41. Isn’t He incredible? His power, his majesty, his sovereignty–there is no doubt that He is worthy of worship. Like Isaiah we ought to fall on our faces before Him crying out, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5). We stand before Him in all His glory and we realize, like Job: “Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you?” (Job 40:4)

But all of this makes us uncomfortable, because God in His sovereignty seems so distant, so heartless. His response to Job (essentially, “I am God. You’re not.”) feels so cold. And yet we know that God isn’t cold or distant. God is love. His sovereignty offers no comfort because we don’t know how to reconcile the God of love with the God who is sovereign, especially in the midst of our suffering. And that’s why God’s sovereignty is a platitude. It is no longer thoughtful or helpful, and it certainly doesn’t make the pain go away, because in our minds, it only makes the situation that much more difficult. God purposed this suffering? I don’t like that God.

But we do have a God who purposes suffering. He purposed the suffering of His very own Son to make wretched sinners His beloved sons and daughters. The God who suffers is the God who loves. There is no other way.

You know that other “platitude,” Romans 8:28: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose”?

Because of the God who Suffers, we are connected to the God who is Sovereign.

For those who love God–those who have received the gift of faith in Christ–those of us who are connected to the God who is Sovereign because of the Christ who Suffered.

all things–not some things, not just the big things, all things–every moment of suffering, every changed diaper, every shattered dream, every unexpected encounter, every ordinary moment, every mistake, every screw up, and every intentional moment of obedience.

work together for good–Good! The Sovereign God of the universe orchestrates all things for Good. No moment is just for the hell of it. Every moment accomplishes our good and God’s glory. Only a Sovereign, Powerful, Glorious God who holds the world in the palm of His hand and loves us relentlessly can orchestrate every moment–all things–for our good.

And so, “I’m God, you’re not.” is the best news ever.

God’s sovereignty is good news!

Oh, that it could never again be a mere platitude to us, but would be the sweet news our souls would rejoice to hear. 

After my second miscarriage, I really wrestled with this. I wrote about it quite a bit here, referencing J.I. Packer’s Knowing God {more than} a few times. During that painful time, and while walking fearfully through a subsequent pregnancy, God’s sovereignty moved from a “mere platitude” to my only source of comfort. When we see how big God is, we are free to stop trying to figure everything out and instead rest in the fact that He’s got this. He’s not surprised or shaken. He’s not scrambling to react. He’s got the whole world in His hands.

As Pastor Tullian Tchividjian said at the 2014 Liberate conference, “It sets us free to know we’re small.” 

When we suffer, we are tempted to lash out. Why, Lord? How could you do this to me? And when we’re met with, “God is sovereign!” we’re annoyed. We’d rather wallow in our indignation that this should never have happened to us. But the truth is, we’re deeply arrogant: we deserve far worse. And yet instead of getting what we deserve, we get Jesus.

Here is Job’s response, perhaps it ought to be ours:

“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.’ I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”
(Job 42:2-6)

Perhaps we ought to pray for faith that we could declare alongside Paul:

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
(Phil. 3:8-11)

In the words of my husband: Faith is believing in God’s definition of good. When we are anchored in the Sovereignty and Goodness of the God who suffers on our behalf, we dig in our fingernails and hold on for dear life because we don’t know why and it hurts and we wish it could be different but we know that He is working All. Things. for our good. And He is good. And so we repent and rest and we’re quiet and trust, for there is our salvation. (Isaiah 30:15)

It doesn’t mean we don’t feel sadness or grief. It doesn’t mean we don’t pound our fists on God’s chest and scream and cry and ask why. But as we do, He holds us close. He knows suffering. He knows our suffering. He is not indifferent. Not only does he grieve the effects of sin in our hearts and sin in our fallen world, but He experienced them too.

He weeps with us even when He knows He will raise the dead. (John 11:35)

But He also whispers hope in between our quiet sobs:

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

They will be comforted because the Sovereign God of the universe has already written the end of the story. And because of the God who Suffers, the end of the story is Good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

God is Sovereign.

I pray that truth becomes rich and meaningful and uttered out of a deep reverence and trust, no longer considered a mere platitude.

He’s got the whole world in His hands.

11 things I learned in February

1. Jordan should be responsible for all selfies. Case and point:

2. Costco shopping just got a lot easier. (Despite how non-thrilled Adrienne looks here, she was pretty disappointed at Target this morning when Max couldn’t sit next to her. Now if only it would stop being a million degrees below zero I could actually leave his carseat in the car.)

3. When all else fails, put Adrienne in the crib with Max. They both think it’s the greatest thing of all time. (Until Adrienne tries to climb out and steps on his head. But that’s beside the point.)

4. This was my favorite book in elementary school. I can actually picture the carpet in my second grade classroom where I sat when my teacher read it for the first time. I bought it to read to Hadley’s Kindergarden class for “I love to read” month. It reminded me of some important things: a) I used to have an imagination. b) I love books. c) My {mini-me} daughter has an imagination and a love for books. d) We should be friends.

5. I hate crafts, but when I embrace imperfection, I actually enjoy art projects. We are slowly filling our home with {imperfect} things we made.

6. I still love palm trees. I think I saw my first palm tree on a trip to Florida with my friend Evan as a freshman in high school. I am fairly certain I took a picture by every palm tree we saw. I’m also fairly certain they wanted to throw my camera out the window by the time the trip was done.

7. These smiles are the best. {Even if they’re loud.}

8. I want to be Sally Lloyd-Jones when I grow up.

9. Curious George solves a lot of problems. Judge away. Some days, you just do what you have to.

10. Packing with a 2-year-old present is futile.

11. After my last post, where I pondered the balance between resting and striving, my husband quoted someone (I think Michael Horton) saying, “God doesn’t need our good works, our neighbors do.” It was so good and profound and the explanation I was looking for! So the lesson is, when I’m pondering something, I should just ask my husband. :)

{I stumbled upon Emily Freeman’s blog recently and posted this as part of her “What We Learned” link-up.}


weekend reading 2/8/14

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It’s been awhile since I’ve shared some links. Lately I’ve been catching up on my blog reader which means lots of quality reading to pass your way. Enjoy!

For all of us who think we’re not perfectionists. Perfectionism. Something I’m thinking about lots lately. More on that from me another day.

On marriage for companionship, not just sanctification.

Hurry! When our busyness is really laziness. Guilty.

Is Jesus merely useful to you — or is He ultimately beautiful to you? Consider embarking on this Scripture memory journey with me?

Karma. The functional belief we all hold on some level.

God Threw a Stone. I always love Pastor Tchivdjian’s thoughts on grace.

I think this series looks great. Though I haven’t read past this post yet.

An Imperfect Mom is Still a Good Mom. Speaking of perfectionism…

On God’s goodness, even at 3am.

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