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Heading into this week with gusto, I was hopeful that we were putting our five-week streak of sporadic sickness behind us.  I made an effort to spend part of my Sunday getting organized with a plan and a to-do list.  The past month has been a whirlwind of a new school for my older boys, Christmas, a ski trip, birthdays, and, unfortunately, intermittent sicknesses.  I was reinvigorated and ready to reset.

At 3am Sunday night, my three-year-old Benji walks into our bedroom and says his tummy hurts and throws up – somehow the sweet thing makes it to the toilet in the midst of my husband's and my half-awake, stumbling confusion.  His preschool teacher at church had told me earlier that day that he had licked the bottom of his shoes in defiance during class, so I couldn’t help but think this was payback.  Monday was a holiday, and we took it easy, thinking we were on the up-and-up headed into Tuesday.  Tuesday morning arrives, and we are all dressed, ready to go, for one of those days you’re going to leave the house at 7:30 and not return until evening – lunches are packed, everything’s organized and in the car.  As we are all getting on shoes, Benji throws up all over the kitchen.  “Ok God… I guess this is what You have for me today… again.”  I reschedule the day’s plans, some of them having already been rescheduled 3+ times before, and I get into sweats.  My oldest comes home later that day with a fever and is down and out with some other type of bug.  What?!?  Why?!?  I just want to get a few things done and get out of the house!!!

It’s now Thursday, and I’ve literally cancelled everything I had on the calendar this week.  I’ve been inside on these beautiful Colorado 50-degree days.  I’ve cleaned up every bodily fluid you can name except for blood, thank God.  As I’m getting my oldest tucked into bed for a nap, I turn on his music and an upbeat Bible verse song comes on.  I hum along to it and realize I’m singing “in everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you”.  Haha, ok God, You’re funny!  I see what You’re doing.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

When God speaks to you like that, you better think and pray on it.  So, with a third cup of coffee (why not?) and an unknown amount of time until I would get interrupted, I sat down with God.

Lord, I rejoice that You sent Your one and only Son for me.  I certainly can’t achieve the perfection You require on my own.  Hello?  I can’t even help but be frustrated that my poor kid is sick and that I have to give up what I want.  I rejoice that with Jesus as my Lord and Savior, I know where I am going (heaven-bound, baby!) and that the sufferings of this life are not compared to what is coming (Romans 8:18).  I can’t wait to see You, Jesus, face to face!  God, Your grace is sufficient for me.  What You’ve done through Your Son on the cross and through His resurrection from the dead is all I really need.  You have done so much more though.  You somehow, for some reason, want fellowship with me.  You WANT to spend time with ME!  You are here with me and I’m with You, and whatever You allow in my life, I just want to please You while I’m in it.

I can’t pray every waking moment of the day, but I can certainly talk to You and trust You all day long, knowing You are always there.  You just want me to abide with You and come to You with my rejoicing and thanksgiving but also with my heartaches and frustrations – the big ones and the small ones.

Lord, I am thankful for You and the blessings You have so abundantly poured out.  Thank You for Your Word that sustains me and leads me through the ups and downs.  Thank You that the time I spend in Your Word on good days helps prepare me for bad days like this.  Thank You for Disney+, that I can so easily entertain my kids when they are sick so I can spend time with You to get refreshed and be ready to serve them the next time bodily fluid erupts out or when they are so full of energy despite the thermometer saying 102.  Thank You that we only have tummy bugs and head colds.  Thank You for knowing exactly what I’d need, before I knew I even needed it, and for reminding me of Your love for me through my Bible studies this week.  Thank You for a husband who helps take some of the burden so I can take a bath or go to church.  Thank You for mid-week church service, solid Bible teaching, and a fellowship of believers who loves our family and provides comfort and encouragement when I need it most.  Thank You for friends that check in on me, send funny memes, and bring flowers just because.  Thank You for making me a mom  – that I can get just a glimpse of the unconditional love You have for me, and thank You for teaching me, through motherhood, to be more flexible and gracious in circumstances I can’t control that are, quite frankly, gross.  Thank You also for my mom who loved me through it all too.

Then verses 19-22 say: “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.”

Oh man!  I quench the Spirit when I’m frustrated, angry, harsh, or even when I just withdraw and am a quiet pouter.  I don’t want to do that.  Lord, fill me afresh with Your Spirit, that I may pour love, patience, and kindness on these precious children, even when they puke at 3am.

I will delight in Your Word, Lord, and will mediate on it day and night (Psalm 1:2), and I will not despise it.  I will hold fast to Your Word as You are good, and You know what’s best for me because You know all of me – the past, present, and future – and You created me for a purpose.  I will do my best to test all things against what You say in Your Word and will try to abstain from what is evil, but You know I will screw up.  When I do, I will repent and return to You, because You are good.

In texting with mom friends this week, it’s been abundantly clear that many families are dealing with sickness, and I so wanted to share how God has comforted me in hopes it comforts some of you too (or at least makes you laugh at the "joys" of motherhood, ha!)  You are loved!

“You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.” Isaiah 26:3

“But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31

But if Not!

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I’ve been asking myself recently: what is faith?

As a missionary, I often feel like I should have a great answer to that. I can’t tell you how many people have commented something like, ‘I wish I had your kind of faith.’ There are some days where I feel like I have this faith thing figured out, where I find myself trusting the Lord. More often than not, I find myself begging for additional faith in my life.

As I’ve studied the character of God in Scripture, especially in the Law, I have come to realize the amazing juxtaposition of His character.

God is other than me in so many ways, but my favorite is in His attributes I can’t reconcile. Somehow God is love and wrath, justice and mercy, peacemaker and conqueror, forgiver and avenger.

I can usually be one thing at a time; I can have wrath, but I almost never do it with love...I can be just, but I become hard-hearted...I can be gentle, but I lose my ability to stand fast for righteousness. Yet somehow, God is all these things at once. Somehow in God’s nature these things aren’t in any sort of conflict; they are beautifully matched and intertwined. That is something I have been begging for God to bring into my life. I want that amazing balance in my own nature that so reflects God’s.

I think faith is something that is a similar conundrum. My favorite example is from Daniel chapter 3. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego have refused to worship the giant idol of the king and are facing the fiery furnace. They look to the king and answer his question of who could save them from the flames and say:

“O Nebuchandezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we service is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”

I see three levels to their faith here. First, they tell the king that God is ABLE to save them. This is the faith I see most often in my life. I can declare with confidence that God is ABLE to handle whatever is in my life. I know that in my core and believe it fully. This is the kind of faith I think most Christians are able to claim with confidence -- God is ABLE.

It is the other statements that I pray to see grow in my life. They move on to say that God WILL deliver them. Often this is where our faith is tested. Sure, God is ABLE to do something, but I often find myself doubting if He WILL. God can deliver me from this constricting sin in my life, but do I believe He will? God can heal my terminally ill father, but do I believe He will? God can save the soul of the staunchest unbeliever, but do I think He will?

Do I pray like He will?

Often I don’t, not because I doubt God’s ability, but because I doubt myself. I doubt my ability to finish the statement these three made: BUT IF NOT. Somehow, these three could say God WILL deliver us in total confidence and add BUT IF NOT in just as much confidence. I don’t know how to pray a prayer like, “God, You will heal this sick person, but if not, You are just as faithful.” I don’t have the capacity to have complete confidence in the “will” and also the “but if not.” I often pray things like, ‘If You could, would you maybe do this, but if You don’t I guess that’s ok too.’

The prayer of total faith in the "will" and the "but if not" seems as impossible to my mind as the love and wrath of God’s nature. However, many of the authors of Scripture lived their lives in the amazing balance of those things. They had such trust in God that they could approach His throne with total trust that He would do as they asked, but if not then it was the best.

Even as Paul prepares to go to Spain and Rome, we never see him accuse God as those plans aren’t fulfilled. Even as Abraham takes Isaac to the altar to kill his beloved son, we see him believing that God would save him, but if not he could raise him from the dead. We see David singing praises even as his family and kingdom are torn away from him.

As I consider these things, I’m challenged by what I’d have done if faced with a fiery furnace. Perhaps I could have walked in knowing God would save me, but could I also have truthfully said, ‘but if not I will not worship false things’? As we see God’s amazing character and goodness, we can be confident in His ability and willingness, but we can also rest safely in Him even when the ‘but if not’s’ of life come along.

As I reflect more and more on the idea of what that kind of faith would look like in my own life, I find myself begging along with a father pleading for his daughter’s life, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.” I’m thankful that God is faithful even when I am faithless. And I am thankful that He gives me opportunities and grace to grow my faith, even when I don’t know how. 

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