Often life is hard, but God is always good

Posts tagged ‘compassion’

Broken Hearts and Infertility

bluebirds - infertility

Photo Credit: Miroslav Petrasko

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Psalm 34: 17, 18 (NIV)

I was twenty-six years old when I got married. My plan for kids was to work full-time for exactly two years then start a family.

Having trouble conceiving was nowhere in my frame of reference, so I was emotionally blind-sided when it happened. Add to that living far away from friends and family when we began going to specialists and taking tests.

The result of all the anxious medical effort was “undefined infertility” and no guarantee if or when we could have a baby.

My yearning for a child burned like fire. How could I feel that horrible? No one ever told me about this desperate pain! For months, I followed my inner city pastor’s wife down the aisle of the church to the prayer altar after services. She always passed my pew with streaks of tears down her face. If she – a church leader- wore her heart on her sleeve, so could I.

My inner world was one quivering cry of doubt and despair. I had no trust in the outcome. I held onto one tiny scrap of faith that God was good and wasn’t punishing me.

There is no way around any mountain of suffering. Honestly, even now, my trust in God is mostly based on what He has already done, not what He will do, but He still acts on my behalf even with that “little faith”.

Now that is a good God – one who doesn’t hold back mercy or help until we are wise, strong or filled with faith.  He leans in when we are in despair and breathes life into our lungs.

Years later, I did become pregnant and we had a beautiful baby boy. Two lovely girls followed. “He settles the barren woman in her home as a happy mother of children.” Psalm 113:9. I am overwhelmingly blessed with the gifts of my children, but they didn’t come as a reward for my faith-filled prayers, spiritual surrender, or organized plans. God just gave them to me, and I am profoundly grateful.

I don’t know why I was spared more years of infertility heartbreak.  I pray diligently for those women I know who are walking through disappointment in this area – for strength, for hope, and for their heart’s desire.

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More Grinch Lessons for Our Hearts this Christmas

Dr. Theodore Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) wrote How the Grinch Stole Christmas over fifty years ago. When it was first published, he was quoted as saying,

“I was brushing my teeth on the morning of the 26th of last December when I noted a very Grinchish countenance in the mirror. It was Seuss! Something had gone wrong with Christmas, I realized, or more likely with me. So I wrote the story about my sour friend, the Grinch to see if I could rediscover something about Christmas that obviously I’d lost.”

This classic children’s story dives deep. Here are some “pearls” I found to enrich your Christmas season:

Grinch Christmas Lesson #1: We are all “grinch-ish”

As the story opens, the Grinch stands at his cave opening, peering down on the Whos as they prepare to celebrate Christmas down in Whoville with extravagant noise, gifts, food, and singing. grinch bluebirds Like the Grinch, our human hearts are naturally tight and small – self-focused, unforgiving or unconcerned. People are just hard to love. In contrast, God our Father is tender-hearted and expresses that through the effort he made to come down to us through the birth of his Son at Christmas.  Let’s take an honest look at our own grinchy hearts as the first step in reaching out to God who has the power to soften and enlarge.

“And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32 NKJ

Grinch Christmas Lesson #2: Circumstances don’t need to steal our joy

The Grinch crafts a plan to “stop Christmas from coming” by stealing all the gifts, food, and decorations of the Whos he hates. He sneaks into the town after all the “Whos were asnooze in their beds” and strips the town bare of everything – all the toys, food, and decorations. grinch #3 bluebirds Thankfully, the Grinch made a great mistake in thinking he could kill the spirit of the Whos by taking it all away. How did the Whos react when they woke up on Christmas Day and beheld their plundered homes and wasted town square? They came out and held hands and sang together. Sometimes we, like the Whos, lack possessions or money, or perhaps are suffering emotional loss at Christmas, and we choose to still sing. On the other hand, if we are experiencing abundance and have an overflow for others this year, we have the opportunity to be generous and grateful. Whatever our circumstances, we have the high calling of singing praise to God who loves us and will be close to us – no matter what.

“Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
 his greatness no one can fathom. One generation commends your works to another;
 they tell of your mighty acts…They celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.” Psalm 145 NIV

Grinch Christmas Lesson # 3: God has the power to change the heart

This is the probably the most well known story moment. The Grinch hears the Whos singing after he has robbed them and his heart grows “three sizes that day”. God can tenderize human hearts like no other force. If we think back to the times that we had a true “Grinch heart moment”, it was simultaneously painful and pleasurable; it was not only miraculous, it was evidence of the power of God. He can do it again, if our hearts need it today. “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26

Grinch Christmas Lesson #4: We must connect to others for strength

The Whos clasped hands and sang in their circle on Christmas morning: “It came without packages, boxes, or bags”. We also need to hold someone’s hand – God’s hand first and foremost, but also trusted family members or friends. This time of year our losses sting more sharply; loved ones are not with us this year or maybe our families are not all we hoped they would be.

“By yourself you’re unprotected; with a friend you can face the worst.
 Can you round up a third? 
A three-stranded rope isn’t easily snapped.” Ecclesiastes 4: 12 (MSG)

Grinch Christmas Lesson #5: God wants to speak to us at Christmastime

The Grinch was right about one thing, all the “NOISE! NOISE! NOISE! NOISE!” can be intolerable. It can also prevent us from receiving his messages to us. The Grinch retreated to his isolated cave as a way to avoid people, but later he went to the Summit of Mt. Crumpit and there heard the singing.  God was able to touch his heart. grinch #4 bluebirds We need some respite from the busy, pushy crowds, and all the events and goals of Christmastime.  We need a quiet place to hear God.

“Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into a boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd.  After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone,…” Matthew 24: 22, 23 NIV

Grinch Christmas Lesson #6: Even a “lost cause” can be saved

We often “write someone off” as being too messed up to change (or perhaps we discount our own lives as being worthy of saving). We can all think of someone who is “Grinchy”. Old resentments and hurts we have suffered at the hands of others become painful at Christmastime. grinch 2 bluebirds But this time of year is also an opportunity for forgiving, releasing resentment, and giving second chances. Warmth of kindness can draw someone from his cave. In the story, “Cindy Lou Who who was no more than two” exerts a sweet influence on the Grinch that helped stretch his shriveled heart. Sometimes we are like Cindy Lou Who to others, so let’s keep praying and hoping for ourselves and others.

“That brought him (the prodigal son) to his senses. He said, ‘All those farmhands working for my father sit down to three meals a day, and here I am starving to death. I’m going back to my father. I’ll say to him, Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son. Take me on as a hired hand.’ He got right up and went home to his father.” Luke 15: 17-20 NIV

Merry Christmas from me…. and the Grinch!

Pain and Joy at Christmas

How_the_Grinch_Stole_Christmas_coverThe Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18 (NIV)

I am going to sing this Christmastime, with joy and thanksgiving; kind of like extending Thanksgiving into the month of December, because God loves me and He is close to me no matter what is happening in my life.

Do you remember the story of the Whos down in Whoville from How the Grinch Stole Christmas? Dr. Seuss wrote about how these little creatures held hands around their bare plundered town square and sang together as Christmas Day dawned – and that was after they had woken up to their stripped houses – not even a can of who hash left upon their shelves. The Grinch mistakenly thought he could rob them of their joy and faith by taking away their holiday possessions.

He was so wrong!

How many of us have difficult circumstances facing us? They don’t make it onto social media, and they shouldn’t. It is respectful to keep others’ confidentiality and to save our hearts from too many people knowing our business, but this Christmas season there are financial problems, broken relationships, adult kids off track, and ill health – to name just a few issues.

Like the Whos who sing in their circle, we also need to hold someone’s hand – God’s first and foremost, but also trusted family members or friends. Let’s not forget those whose losses this year will sting – loved ones not here this Christmas and families not all they hoped for and dreamed of.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss

How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss

I intend to post cute photos of the good stuff on my social media sites– the adorable grandbaby, the sweet daughter-in-law, the pretty teenager daughters, and my husband who is still sticking around, but I want you to know I will need some hand holding too for the things that are not all right.

So let’s sing to God in our hearts, and hold someone’s hand, and enjoy the blessings we do have this Christmas season.

“The Lord is With You, Mighty Warrior” – Calling us out

might warrior bluebird

Photo Credit: Irene Nobrega

“The angel of the Lord came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites.

When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, ‘The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.’

 ‘Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, ‘but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.’

The Lord turned to him and said, ‘Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?’

‘Pardon me, my lord,’ Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family

The Lord answered, ‘I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.’” Judges 6: 12-16

God has put within us gifts and callings that we cannot see ourselves because we are not yet aware of them, or we have discounted them due to failures and negative feedback from others.

We need eyes to see and ears to hear when God shows us a vision of our purpose and speaks to us of our value as He did to Gideon. He called him “mighty warrior” when Gideon was hiding in the winepress doing the best he could to keep food for his family protected from oppressors.

In his mercy, God often gives us other people who “see” us better than we see ourselves.   In The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien weaves this theme into his story when Gandalf draws out the inner gifts and life purpose of Bilbo the Hobbit. All his life. Bilbo has seen himself as a simple hobbit in the Shire, living a safe and complacent life.  All of a sudden, Gandalf shows up and thrusts him into an adventure where Bilbo is needed for skills he didn’t know he possessed.  Throughout the story, Bilbo saves the day.

On the other hand, we are like Gandalf and the angel of the Lord because we possess the discernment to both envision and call out the unique purposes of our friends and loved ones. My cousin, Jennefer did this for me recently when she encouraged me to blog. I had disqualified myself as a writer many years ago, wrongly interpreting the average grades on college creative writing papers to mean I wasn’t a writer.

I pray that God will speak to us, we will hear our calling, and in turn offer to others the inspiration they need.

Can You See My Grinchy Heart?

“The Grinch’s Heart grew three sizes that day.”

“And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32 NKJV

I am naturally hard-hearted. Those who know me personally may take issue with this statement, but they do not see the inner workings of my soul.  Even I do not fully understand myself.  But it is true that when this hidden realm of my inner life is laid bare to God, it desperately needs His softening.

Most recently, my heart hardness was revealed to me as unconcern.  I read the indictment of the Israelites and her neighbors by the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel and saw myself reflected in this uncaring way of seeing those around me: “They were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.” (Ezekiel 16: 49 NIV)

“It is much easier to convince a human soul of its natural impurity, than to convince it of its natural hardness and utter destitution of heavenly and Divine tenderness.  The very essence of the Gospel is Divinely imparted tenderness and sweetness of spirit.  Even among intensely religious people, nothing is rarer to find than a continuous and all-pervading spirit of tenderness.” (Springs in the Valley by Mrs. Charles E. Cowman)

Ouch! That’s me! I am “intensely religious” and I need sweetness of spirit.

So God touched my heart.  I had a “Grinch “moment – it was exquisitely painful and pleasurable to have God tenderize my heart.  It was a miracle.

Do you remember the Grinch’s story?  It shows the power of heart change.

My friend Cindy and her college friends ignored a dorm fire drill because the old cartoon was airing on television and they couldn’t tear themselves away from the climactic moment:

“And what happened then…? Well… in Who-ville they say that the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day! And the minute his heart didn’t feel quite so tight, he whizzed with his load through the bright morning light and he brought back the toys! And the food for the feast! And he… HE HIMSELF…! The Grinch carved the roast beast!” (How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss)

As Mrs. Cowman writes, tenderness of spirit “is a supernatural work throughout the whole spiritual being.  It is an exquisitely interior fountain of God’s own sweetness and tenderness of nature, opened up in the inner spirit to such a degree that it completely inundates the soul.”

God is tenderhearted.

This is how He wants to make us.

That’s good.

I want more of it!

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