Grocery Doubts and the Storms of Faith

I was slogging through my grocery trip, pushing the cart and handing the cranky baby things to keep her occupied, when I turned a corner and almost ran into another shopper. I quickly apologized for my lack of shopping cart skills, and she replied with something that has pricked my heart ever since.

“It’s ok. I’m just over here drooling over your life.”

Circumstances are impossible to determine from the other side of the grocery cart. Perhaps she has lost a child. Perhaps her children are past the baby stage and she misses it. Perhaps she desperately wants to be a mom, and month after month was disappointed. I could see the doubt coming to the surface. The doubt that begins to question when life doesn’t look like we had hoped it might.

I will never be entirely sure of her intent, but under the surface, I could feel that there was a deep well of hurt. She outright stated that my life looked enviable. I was shocked, but I felt for her. That emotion wasn’t foreign to me. Did she, too, sometimes doubt that the life she had been dealt was really God’s grace and kindness to her?  I know how easily we can believe that everyone else’s life is sunshine, while our own is overcast with doubt and fear.

Doubt Holly Hawes.png

Despite the outside picture, my life was clouded with doubt that day. What she couldn’t see behind the mom pushing a baby through the grocery store, is that the sweet, yet the cranky baby was a foster child who would be moving on from us in a few days. The childrearing stage I had dreamed of living while we faced infertility had come but in an abbreviated fashion. What she could see on the outside may have been both of our biggest dreams, but it was also the biggest storm. I wonder how many of the enviable lives I measure mine against are facing doubt of God’s goodness behind the layer I can see.

For a while, I had tried to avoid doubts as much as I could. But, I think storms may be meant to push us to face the doubts head-on. The situations I was facing at that time remind me of a storm Jesus and his disciples faced that was recorded in Luke 8:23-25.  

As they sailed, he(Jesus)  fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples. In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.”

Beth Moore referenced this passage of scripture in her Quest study. She says, “Knowing a story turns out well can have a terrible way of taming it.” From where I sit, knowing that the storm was calmed for Jesus and the disciples that day, takes out the terror of their immediate situation. They didn’t know whether they would die in the storm, or if Jesus would miraculously calm it.

At times I can think the doubts I have are too big, but the disciples had some pretty big doubts to deal with that day as well. Can you relate to any of these:

Doubt of God’s goodness

Doubt that he cares.

Doubt that he hears our cries.

Doubt that he has a plan.

The disciples went straight to Jesus, but they were filled with doubt rather than faith. Our storms can leave us reeling similarly. We don’t know where this story is going, but can we trust the author of the story, even when it looks grim.

All throughout the Bible, the people we see interacting with God had no idea what would happen. If you actually sit in the tension of the situations they were faced with, the outcome would be far different from the platitudes we often hear in the midst of trials. When we face our deepest trials and hurts, it is not the  time to pretend that they don’t exist, or that they will somehow just magically be better and “turn out in the end.”

Holly Hawes Doubt

Should we begrudge Hannah, for pouring out her heart to God in agony, because, “It will all happen in God’s timing.”? Do we skip over the utter abandonment, and betrayal felt by Joseph as he suffered as a slave and later a wrongly convicted prisoner? Do we quickly run to Resurrection, and fail to reflect on the sorrow of the cross and the tomb?

As we start to see the narrative of the Bible through the lens of the struggle of human experience, we see a dance between doubt and faith, that I had been blind to. Just because everything does turn out in the end, doesn’t mean that it feels like it at the time. Instead of ignoring it, Jesus spoke directly to the storm. He can handle any doubt we face, and any trial that comes our way. Platitudes negate the storm, rather than letting the storm lead you to the only one who can calm it.

Experiencing Jesus in the middle of a storm is one of the greatest ways to turn seeds of doubt into faith.  Doubts spring up in the darkness when we cannot see what God will do; Paradoxically, faith cannot exist if we already see the end. Somehow the same circumstances that make us feel out of control can either be experienced on our own, and lead to doubt, or with Jesus and lead us to greater faith.

The only way out of their storm (and ours) is to ride it out with Jesus. The disciples went straight to him, and instead of their fears actualizing, they discovered that Jesus was good to them. He did care about their plight in the boat, he heard them cry out, and he gave them a way out.

Whatever the storm you are facing today, whether it blows across the water or at your local grocery store, take your doubts and fears to Jesus. He can see through peaceful facades, envy, and doubt. He is there to shepherd us through the storms of our life.


holly-squareHolly is a wife of 7 years as well as mom to a teenager (by adoption) and a child she’ll meet in heaven. She’s been a foster mom to 10 kids in the last 3 years and works part-time as a church bookkeeper. She loves interacting with people who are hungry for change and ready to see God at work in their lives. She studied Intercultural Studies at Corban University and loves to build bridges between cultures and people. She writes to tell the stories of what God has done, especially through her experiences of infertility, foster care, and adoption.
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Convicted: Let Yourself Be Known

I can still remember exactly where I was standing when it hit me. For several years, I had been fielding the same set of questions from well-meaning people, about that one painful place in my life that refused to be ignored. Each story may be different, but I’ve found we all have our own pain point.

Though I knew the people in my life meant no harm, I somehow thought that I needed to protect myself and the wounds others didn’t know their words were picking at. By now, I had figured out all the tricky ways to get out of a conversation. Most either turned the attention to someone else or ducked behind some bit of “Christianeeze” I wasn’t sure I really believed. “Well it’s all in God’s timing,” “Someday,” or “We’ll see.”

Holly Hawes Conviction

Until one day when the conversation continued down the well-traveled path once again, and I was convicted that the lies to the people who love me must cease. It was a different feeling, something liberating as opposed to the condemning whispers I had fought for years. Instead of fear, I felt peaceful and safe and clearly saw what my default had been in the hundreds of conversations that started just like this one.

In an effort to avoid conflict or awkwardness at the pain of the truth, I had been choosing to hide behind a falsehood of “it’s all ok” for too long. How strong this lie is embedded in our culture. The temptation whispered that no one would care if I told them the truth. It was better to stay alone in my struggle and keep the peace than to bring up the hard things.

What I found to be true once I began speaking truth was the absolute opposite.

The words tumbled out of my mouth, and a look of shock came across my friend’s face. “Actually, we don’t know if we’ll be able to have children. We’ve been trying for a long time and it has been really hard. Could you pray for us?”

The shock on her face was full of compassion. She hadn’t meant to step into something painful. She just didn’t know, because I hadn’t told her. I found the more I let people into this hard area of my life, the more love and compassion I received.

When I cowered behind falsehood, I felt alone and hopeless. No one in our lives could care for us, because they didn’t know we were walking wounded. No one could practice Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn,” because I had put up walls around my life and denied access to those who cared about our story. As Matt Chandler has said, “To be 99% known is to be unknown altogether.”

The land of being unknown is a desperately painful place.

I wish I hadn’t tried to be the strong one for so long. I am now convicted that God made us to need one another on purpose. Jesus told us clearly:

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another,” John 13:35.

Conviction Holly Hawes

In our weakest places, our love and vulnerability show the world a way of living that doesn’t point to how well we are doing at “being ok,” but at what a Savior we have! Jesus, who has initiated such radical love amongst people that those who would never naturally love extravagantly, compassionately, and sacrificially shine a new way in a dark world. When I began to tell the truth, people were able to love me in a way that was impossible as long as I was hunkered down in pain. I saw Jesus in them every time. Their love is a great testament to the God who comforts the broken-hearted, hears our cries, and united us together when nothing else in the world could.

Instead of letting pain make way for bitterness, lies, and envy slowly brokedown relationships I was gently taught to let pain turn to vulnerability, which led to care, compassion, and strong relationships. Though the culturally acceptable lie would keep false peace, my soul tasted Shalom peace, full of wholeness and rightness. When I took the scary step forward in conviction to tell the messy, painful truth God’s people met me faithfully on the other side.


holly-squareHolly is a wife of 6 years as well as mom to a teenager (by adoption) and a child she’ll meet in heaven. She’s been a foster mom to 10 kids in the last 3 years and works part-time as a church bookkeeper. She loves interacting with people who are hungry for change and ready to see God at work in their lives. She studied Intercultural Studies at Corban University and loves to build bridges between cultures and people. She writes to tell the stories of what God has done, especially through her experiences of infertility, foster care, and adoption. These days you’ll find her catching up on housework while listening to a podcast, trying not to have dinner be a Pinterest fail,  and sipping coffee while teaching her daughter to drive.

Jesus in the Waiting

Author: Brittney Closner

I don’t know about you, but I would love for the tangible, with-flesh-on Jesus to sit across from me on the couch, cup of coffee in hand, and give me the details of my life purpose. To have the opportunity to ask questions, to hear the answer without fear of improper discernment would be so welcome. Yes, we can have a conversation with God, but there’s so many times that I sit in silence, in His presence (and sometimes struggling to find His presence), hearing nothing. My flesh takes over, my heart gets shifty, and I run with purpose — my own.

Hunger and Thirst Brittney ClosnerMy husband and I are sliding into a benchmark in our marriage — we’re closing in on the four year mark of trying to conceive. Four years of known infertility have loomed over our heads, in our hearts, and in my empty womb. Month after month of negative tests, heartache, and seemingly failed hope; in God’s grace, here we are. Still standing, together. Still hopeful. This season of waiting has us confused, excited, heartbroken — much like any season of wait can be. There is a holy anticipation for the movement of God bound so tightly around our desire.

And yet, still, we’re in the waiting. Not alone, Jesus is here, but the stillness of the wait has my heart erupting in doubt and fear. God has shut down other avenues in our hearts — IUI, IVF, adoption — beautiful tools God uses to expand, but tools God has told us to leave untouched. It’s hard to explain to those who offer well-meaning advice that God has told us we would be moving out of His will if we pursue these options at this time. Does this mean tomorrow He could change it all? Absolutely. This is exactly why with-flesh-on Jesus is always invited to my home to help me draw a map.

You see, God is faithful, He is not impatient. He has given us many stories of women working in their waiting — working their faith, fields, and hearts — to give us the map we so desperately seek.

One story He stirs often is the Woman from Shunem in 2 Kings, chapter 4. Quickly breaking the story down, this woman had extra room in her home — room she probably thought would be filled with toddler tantrums and teenagers one day, but instead it was empty. Recognizing her opportunity for hospitality, the woman built a room for Elisha. She could have left this space barren and empty; instead she filled it with the sacrifice of serving another soul. When Elisha asked how he could repay her for her kindness, she shrugged him off. We do that, don’t we? Keep our desires quiet in fear of vulnerability?

But she had been vulnerable with someone, because there was word she didn’t have children. Elisha comes back and tells her that this time next year, she will hold a son in her arms, and verse 16b is so near and dear:

“’No, my lord!’ she cried. ‘O man of God, don’t deceive me and get my hopes up like that.’”

Brittney Closner Hunger and ThirstWho can’t relate to this fear?  Someone speaks prophecy and promise over our lives and we immediately reject it, not wanting to get our hopes up. Yet, when Elisha comes back — the woman did have a son, just as prophesied.

God’s season of wait in my life doesn’t give me permission to sit, unwilling to grow, unwilling to serve, unwilling to live out His purpose for my life. If this woman had refused to open her home to Elisha, what might her life have looked like? Being obedient to the journey God asks us to walk with Him might not make sense in the thick of it, but we have no idea the ripple effects one “yes”, one act of sacrifice, one compromise will make. God will do so much with our “yes” to Him — more than we’ll ever know.

As we mark off another month of waiting, I struggle with wanting to sacrifice anything when I feel I’ve sacrificed years of my emotional tank. It’s in moments like this I am able to pull purpose. I may not be called to open a room for Elisha, but I am called to love people fiercely, in their own barrenness — whether they have no children or seven. Not one soul is immune to a season of waiting, and I can see where God is creating beauty from ashes. I may look back in a year with a child in my arms, or I may be looking at my fifth year in the wait, but no matter what, I’m waiting, anchored to Jesus.

 


FB_IMG_1520521316510Brittney is a married, 30-something, laid down lover of Jesus. She writes at www.promisetothepath.com, and is full of book recommendations, recipes, and laughter, she chases the things that bring her joy in the margin. Married for 6 years, trying to conceive for 4, Brittney has found herself passionate about encouraging women on the infertility journey through raw transparency and clinging to Jesus. Always seeking laughter and purpose in the pain, Brittney jumps at the chance to do the wild things Jesus asks her to do.  An introvert that craves deep connection, she will sit with you in messy living rooms for hours and feel rejuvenated. She loves spending time with her husband and tribe of strong women she calls friends, or with her nose in a book, and has a podcast loudly playing in the background at all times.

How Resting in Christ Freed Me from Bitterness

Growing up in the church, I was always told God was good and that He loves us, and I didn’t question it for a second. It wasn’t until I was an adult enduring infertility when I began wrestling with those concepts.

“God, are you good?”

“Do you see me?”

“Why does everyone get to move forward and I’m stuck here confused and hurting?”

I wanted answers. Answers from doctors and from God, and I wasn’t getting any from anyone. I found myself bitter, angry, and confused. All I wanted my entire life was to be a mother, and it didn’t look promising.

I searched scriptures. I prayed. I sobbed on my living room floor, grappling to understand what God could be doing. I couldn’t find peace and was resentful. In despair I watched friends and family share pregnancy and birth announcements. I found myself constantly frustrated wanting to control anything that I could, and avoided women’s gatherings not being able to bear any more talk about child rearing. It wasn’t until I did a study about abiding (resting) in Christ that I came to a place where I understood God’s heart regarding my suffering.

Keri Nikkel BitternessIn Andrew Murray’s book “Abide in Christ” he says: “Abide in Christ! This is indeed the Father’s object in sending the trial. In the storm the tree strikes deeper roots in the soil; in the hurricane the inhabitants of the house abide within, and rejoice in its shelter. So by suffering the Father would lead us to enter more deeply into the love of Christ.”

Oh. He wasn’t being spiteful or showing me that I had upset Him. He was asking me to come to Him, like a child running to their father for protection. I had been carrying my burdens and they were weighing me down. All the while thinking I was alone, He was actually walking with me, gently inviting me to bring Him my sorrows and rest in Him. I won’t pretend that my heart changed overnight, and that magically my bitterness and frustration disappeared. But with each day choosing to trust God with my deepest desires, He drew me deeper into peace with Him.

Bitterness Keri NikkelJesus says: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

After placing my hope in Christ instead of an answer, my heart was filled with joy in what had been the most painful time of my life. Our God is a God who redeems, He did have a plan for me to be a mother although it was not the way I initially anticipated. Our whole journey was preparing us for adoption, and I am so thankful for it. Had I held onto my pain and bitterness I would not have been open to what has become my greatest blessing. Yes, at times I do still mourn not bearing a child. But, now knowing I can trust God with my deepest desires, I know that His plan is greater than my own I have found peace in His will.


7c7d0-24955437073_d41206ac70_oKeri is a wife and stay at home mom. God has, and is, using many situations to teach her to abide in Him. She believes we are all given a story that can help encourage others and hopes to offer hers as an encouragement to you.

Deeper Longing

Author: Josh Hawes

It is that time of the year again. We all know it’s coming. It’s the season where everyone thinks I’m a grinch. That’s right. I am the guy who doesn’t want to hear Christmas music before Thanksgiving. The guy who likes to question traditions, much to the discomfort of many in my family. I have even risked asking, “but why do we have a tree? Could we not celebrate the birth of Christ without having to rearrange our furniture this year?” Much to the dismay of my wife and daughter.

Josh Hawes Christmas longingRelax, we have a tree up and decorated. All that to say that I do, in fact, love Christmas. I love family time spent together, and I love the deeper look into the coming, and inference of the anticipation, of the second coming of Christ.

Yet, this year is a little bit different. I say that because my wife and I are at a new place in regards to growing our family. We have just started the process of adopting an infant. And I do mean just starting, in that it could be two years before we meet the baby that God has in mind for us. This means the child may not even be conceived yet.

As most adoptive families will be able to tell you, most adoptions begin at a place of great pain and struggle for both the parents and the childours is no different. Years of negative pregnancy tests, a miscarriage, and two adoptions, while in our hearts forever, did not come to be. Not a month goes by that I don’t think “maybe this is the month” almost 7 years into my wife and I trying.

There is a deep longing for my wife and I, and an ever increasing anticipation that has been created by these trials. We wait for the moment when we will be able to hold in our arms that which we have dreamed about for years.

Christmas longing Josh HawesThis longing has become something of which I am keenly aware. It makes me reflect on what it must have been like for those in Israel before God’s promise became flesh in the form of a baby who would deliver them from their hopelessness. Within my soul I can feel that deep longing, the ache,  they must have felt, not just for their families, but for their nation, and ultimately, the world! They held to the promise:

 

 

“For to us a child is born,

   to us a son is given;

and the government shall be upon his shoulder,

   and his name shall be called

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

   Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” -Isaiah 9:6

I too can have that longing messily entwined with hope. Not for Jesus coming to save us, for he has done that to completion, but for His Second Coming. Where it says “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” A place where the sorrow, and effects of sin on this world, such as our struggle with infertility, will be no more. That longing is my deepest longing. That is the hope this season heralds—God is with us and He will make all things right.

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!

   Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!

Behold, your king is coming to you;

   righteous and having salvation is he,” -Zechariah 9:9


476f7-dsc_5558Josh Hawes is a hard worker, husband, and father who is trying to faithfully walk through life as he is made more like Christ.

Hope Even if “When” Never Comes

Author: Holly Hawes

Years of negative pregnancy tests.

‘Nuff said.

No matter how quickly we tell others that “God loves us and has a good plan for life,” some seasons of waiting, we would never choose. “Waiting upon the Lord” is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. The soul spaces in which we wait might not be as innocuous as the physical waiting rooms decorated in muted shades, but they torture the nervous patron just as severely. These waiting spaces are built with our hopes and dreams, and those walls too, can feel like they are closing in.

Nosy questions, and unfulfilled desires left me raw and unable to really talk to anyone. Not even to God, about my deepest hopes. I felt bad for the people who happened upon my ugly cry episodes or bumped into my raw emotions. My every decision was resting on possibilities that hadn’t happened. I couldn’t look for a new job because I’d probably get pregnant and need to leave. I didn’t buy myself clothes for years because I wouldn’t be able to wear them “when”.

“When” didn’t come.

We had a plan— it didn’t happen. No one is prepared for that. It was a devastating season of waiting.


Who we want to become; those we love the most; those we hope to love in the future. When these things come, or do not come, our view of God is shaped. It is easy to see him as holding back and holding out. Why won’t he just give you that one desire? Hope is born as He draws near. He comforts as you put your desires into his loving hands, again and again, even as your heart breaks.

We often can see what God was doing—afterward. We began to subtly hear God whisper and direct us towards adoption. It was something in our plans, but after biological kids. We felt there were too many obstacles: We weren’t old enough for most adoption programs. We hadn’t been married long enough to even apply. We didn’t have the money, the energy, and is anyone’s marriage ever in a place to not need a little work?

Then, we heard of a dessert night taking place at a local church where several families would share about their adoptions. That night we uncharacteristically knelt on the floor and prayed out loud for God to move. We stood up with new direction. While we could always wait for life to reach a better place, children were waiting. They needed a family NOW. The season had come for action in response to God’s activity. We weren’t just waiting now; we needed to act.

These verses remind me of that time:

“Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant. If they watch every cloud, they never harvest.

Just as you cannot understand the path of the wind or the mystery of a tiny baby growing in its mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the activity of God, who does all things.

Plant your seed in the morning and keep busy all afternoon, for you don’t know if profit will come from one activity or another—or maybe both”.~ Ecc 11:4-6 (NLT)

The new steps we were taking, didn’t fix the hardship we had gone through, but helped us see beyond our struggle into the possibilities of God. Not only were we waiting for children, our daughter was waiting for us. Had we waited for the perfect time, until we felt completely ready, we would have missed out on the work of the God of the universe. It wasn’t what we expected; she was 12 years older than what I imagined when holding my first child.

God has brought me back to that waiting and action. Now, we are waiting for the next member of our family to join us. Instead of a pregnancy test we’re waiting on a committee of people who have the power to say whether or not I get to be his forever mom. It breaks my heart, because many of the kids who need to find their forever families have been waiting longer than I have.

They are waiting now.

I don’t know what season of waiting you may be in. But whatever it is, when God directs you, don’t wait. Act.

Want to see what children might be waiting for adoption in your state? Check out some pictures of the waiting children in your state.

Readers: We know waiting is hard. Tell us how we can pray for you in the comments, and may this verse uplift your heart.

“Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.” Psalm 126:5-6

Holly is a wife, mother of one, and foster mother to many. She seeks to glorify God in all she does, for all her life. She studied Intercultural Studies at Corban University and loves to build bridges between cultures and people. She welcomes people into her life, into her heart, and into her home with hopes of offering encouragement. You can find more from Holly here at Anchored Voices or at her blog Called to Restore.