“Joy birthed out of suffering gets richer over time.”
As we’ve just passed the 3rdanniversary, September 1st,, of my diagnosis with MS, I’ve been sitting in the depths of reflection the last few weeks. Vaneetha’s words have been sitting like a an anchor in my soul since I read them at some point in this journey. So, if you’ll indulge me, here’s my reflection on walking with a limp as the joy birthed out of suffering grows much richer over time….Because each year as the limp on my left side (foot drop) grows stronger, the adventure grows stronger too…..
We had the opportunity to do some extra traveling this summer – taking our kids back to Las Vegas, where Ryan and I met and helped plant a church, taking them hiking all over Utah, and taking them to lean over and look into the depths of the Grand Canyon (their favorite!).
If you know anything about my journey with MS, or simply MS and heat, you may be wondering, “why in the world would you try to hike when it’s 100 degrees outside!!??” Well, that’s simply the timing the Lord provided for us, so I geared up with prayer, cooling towels, an extra hiking pole, and water back packs.
I move slow and my leg drags and I have to *think* really hard about lifting it high enough not to trip and yet, in that, the beauty and wonder of God and creation has been exemplified.
For that, I am thankful.
The hard makes the good even better.
Although I won’t say it isn’t annoying…When my body literally will not do what my mind wills it to do, when it means I miss out on things I’d like to try, I can begin to spiral downward. Recently an aqauntaince who had been living with MS before I was ever born, died. As my eyes burned with tears when I found out and thought back to the conversations I was able to have with her, I was simultaneously shot through with joy as I realized that my friend was no longer bound to a wheelchair. She was no longer unable to feed herself. She was running and dancing and jumping and doing the simple things we often take for granted.
The height of my joy has been magnified by the depth of sorrow, questions, and pain.
Walking with a limp allows me to slow down. It allows me to be more thoughtful, more grateful, more aware. It reminds me that I will not be made perfect on Earth, and that’s okay. I cannot begin to imagine the grandeur that is Heaven, and what true wholeness will look like physically, not to mention spiritually, emotionally, and mentally.
But here, I walk with a limp.
Here, pain radiating through my arms shouts to me I am carrying stress and not keeping a quiet heart. My nervous system is *kind* enough to let me know it can’t function like that, so even though it is frustrating, it is a (not so) gentle reminder to let something go.
Because I am in Christ, my limp, my struggle, is for my good and His glory.
Recently, we finished reading the chronicles of Narnia, and as I cried through the book, The Last Battle, my heart also leapt within me because it painted a picture of heaven for me that answered my question of ‘why do I love hiking and beauty and mountains and Utah and the coast of Italy and laughing really hard with friends over a delicious dinner so much?’
Because it’s a shadow of heaven. I’m living in the shadowlands as Lewis puts it and every shadow of good is simply that – a shadow – it cannot compare to the mind-blowing joy and wonder and happiness of Heaven – but it points me to the Creator, who is my Savior and King. The One who has allowed me to walk with a limp on earth that I might be pointed more sharply to Him.
Slowly I come back to Risner’s idea: “Joy birthed out of suffering gets richer over time.”
There are heights of joy – literally – that I would not know if it were not for MS. I would not have hiked Angel’s Landing. I would not have asked to go on a hot desert hiking trip with my 4 kids. I would not have learned to wake board (with far more failure than success I will add). I would not have wanted to scare myself by rock climbing. But they give a thrill and a vantage point that isn’t visible otherwise. These things are a shadow. They give me a glimpse of heaven. Pointing me to a grandeur reality that this is not home. This is not all it should be. But the longing is sweet. It raises my eyes and heart and focus to that which is to come.
My limp is an opportunity to trust.
It is an invitation to long for heaven.
So, if you see me slightly limping or walking funny, don’t be afraid to ask – or just tell me to pause and slow down so my body can cool off.
We all walk with a limp in some form, but will we acknowledge it…?
My question for you is,
What are you doing with your limp?
It’s time to start discipleships groups up again at my church. My church that was birthed with blood, sweat, and tears out of our living room. My church that was birthed out of mine and Ryan’s discipleship groups, God be praised! Being in a group of women in a discipling relationship – meaning even as the leader they disciple me too – has been transformative beyond words. And it’s how Jesus called us to live and walk.
I love my group – the groups I’ve had over the years…they change a little each year, because of God’s grace, a couple of women decide most years, “I’m ready – I want to give what we have away to more women and that means I leave this group and start a new one.”
I can share more about that if you’re interested; however, my main point of this post is to talk about something that happened as we lived life together.
We re-named our group “fight club”.
Because we, together, were fighting the powers of darkness and sin and shame and hiddenness.
We, together, were standing in the light.
We, together, were praying for and building each other up.
We, together, were fighting for the light to shine and go forth into the deepest crevices of our hearts and minds and in others too.
We, together, were speaking the truth of scripture into one another’s hearts and minds and stories even when it didn’t “feel good” in the moment.
We have scars.
We are healed and we are healing.
It’s good. It’s a good that isn’t a surface level good. A goodness that transcends into pain and hard and mystery. Good birthed out of something hard…the best kind of good.
So, as we start our groups up again this year, I’ve sent two beautiful women out and brought two new women in and kept four women the same. I’ve been contemplating the name of our group this year. We don’t have one yet, but I can sense that we’re close. Maybe we will call it fight club again. I do love my fight club – made up of more than just the women I meet with in my D-group, but because of my D-group, I am enabled to fight alongside others better…..in fact, because of our longing to love and live for Jesus and be loved by Jesus well, I get to invite others into the brokenness and mess and beauty of being a disciple wherever I go and with whoever I encounter – be it my 4 year old or otherwise, someone who isn’t yet a believer, or a good friend.
It frees me to trust more.
It frees me to be broken more.
Because, really, brokenness and repentance lead to revival.
The messy leads to the beautiful.
The brokenness lets God’s treasure shine through – for we have this treasure in jars of clay (2 For. 4:7) .
I love this quote from Roy Hession from the book, The Calvary Road (get and read it now if you haven’t. it is a gem. Also? His wife’s name is Revel which is ah-mazing.) ….
“Sin always involves us in being unreal, pretending, duplicity, window dressing, excusing ourselves and blaming others–and we can do all that as much by our silence as by saying or doing something. While we are in that condition of darkness, we cannot have true fellowship with our brother either–for we are not real with him, and no one can have fellowship with an unreal person. The only basis for real fellowship with God and man is to live out in the open with both. ‘But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another’….Love will flow from one to another, when each is prepared to be known as the repentant sinner he is at the cross of Jesus. When the barriers are down and the masks are off, God has a chance of making us really one” (Roy Hession)
At the foot of the cross, the barriers are broken, the chains are removed, and the masks are taken off. We are each known as a loved and repentant sinner. And we fight with our brothers and sisters, together.
Confess your sins to each other, and as you get honest about where you really are, others are freed to do the same, and you begin to fight the darkness together. (James 5:16 1 John 1:7)
It’s not easy, but it’s essential to abiding in Christ. You are united to Him as a believer, but you can know deeper communion with Him, and part of that involves community. Our sanctification is a community endeavor. Our sanctification is discipleship.
Bring it on!
As I get into the new school year, an analogy from Sandra McCracken has been sticking with me…I heard her speak and sing at our denomination’s national gathering this summer and have been pondering and expounding upon this example ever since.
I often say to other homeschool moms, and this truth goes for all humans, “stay in your lane” or “watch your end of the pool” or “stay on your yoga mat”. Sandra, however, eloquently used the analogy of a garden plot.
I like this because gardens grow and produce something…a lot of somethings! All different and equally necessary to life whether to bring beauty, health, or cleaner air.
We’ve got a garden plot – a time, a place, a spot, a calling – it’s very real and tangible, this spot where God has placed you at this moment in time. That garden plot looks different than my neighbors, or friends, or co-workers…growing different plants or crops, the size, shape, and growth is different. God is his daily new mercies is giving me a bucket filled to the brim to water MY garden plot. Just my spot – NOT the whole field. Not someone else’s garden plot. The raw materials are different, the fertilizer is different, because what God has called me to cultivate is a different fruit or vegetable or flower than the next person. (Side note: Am I saying not to help others? No! Of course not – that may be who God has given you to help grow for the day!)
Beautifully, we’re not robots! Thankfully, we’re not all growing cabbage! But, thankfully, someone is growing cabbage, right? And hopefully, that farmer is looking to what God has called them to do to grow and cultivate what He’s given to them.
My homeschooling/parenting example, which can be taken and shifted to your own calling is this: I didn’t choose my child’s gifting, strengths, or weaknesses, or learning style. I didn’t choose my family history or my own baggage or strengths and weakness and personality. I didn’t choose MS to be a factor in how I school and what I can physically do. And yet, it all plays a part in how I lead, love, and teach my unique kids with my unique self. And God gives grace, manna, for the day for this garden plot I’ve been given – not for someone else’s garden plot, and definitely not for the whole neighborhood’s gardens! Whew. But, I often forget, compare, and get distracted….
Gloria Furman, in writing about gifts, says this in her book, The Pastor’s Wife:
“Why did God gift us? How should we use our gifts?
‘As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace…”by the strength God supplies – in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To Him belong the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen’ (1 Peter 4:10-11)
The first thing that stands out is that gifts are something we have received. Gifts are deliberately chosen by God and given by God, and our part is to receive. This is itself inspires enough courage to stop looking sideways at the gifts or other women (or men). Their gifts were not chosen by them anymore than your gifts were chosen by you. Regretting gifts, comparing gifts, and belittling gifts are an insult to the one who has given them.”
As a child of God, your gifts and your limitations, can give you more than they can take from you, because you are FILLED with the power of God in Christ – that same power that raised Jesus from the dead! (Eph. 1:19-23, Eph 3:14-21) Even our limitations are a gift from Him. (1 Cor. 15:10). Our boundaries have fallen in for us in pleasant places – the boundaries of our garden plots, our health, our gifts, our sin. I long to say this with David in Psalm 16,
The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed I have a beautiful inheritance…Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure.”
God is faithful and He will grow us and our garden plots in the perfect timing and season (Mark 4:27). His ways are higher and better than ours so we sometimes don’t see it when we think we should (Isaiah 55:8-9) . Grace upon glorious grace is available to us in Christ! (John 1:16)
Want to see more posts like this one? Here’s some of my favorites I’ve written about this:
planting seeds, burying treasure, and waiting…
grace for the day
you are here.
I can’t save my kids.
I can’t change their hearts.
This, at first, strikes fear in me…but then, relief. As it settles down and I think upon the promises of God, my sin nature, my limits, and His omnipotence, I remember that I cannot produce lasting change. But, I know the One who CAN. And I carry my children to Him in prayer and in conversation day by day. I can’t change their hearts; which is a relief, because honestly? If it were all up to me, I would either become too all important or I would sink into a pit of despair. And probably both within the same hour.
But what I can do is sow generously.
In what has become one of my favorite passages, Mark 4:26-27, Jesus says that the farmer works hard scattering and planting seed on the ground, and as he sleeps and rises night and day, the seed eventually sprouts and grows, and he knows not how. But when the harvest comes, he is ready then too. He doesn’t cause the rain or the sun – there are more things out of his control than in his control…So, he works, he waits, he trusts.
Can y’all relate here? I know I can. There are many variables over which I have no control over – so I work. I pray. I trust.
I sow gospel seeds and treasures.
I sow in prayer. I sow in discipline and consistency. I sow in laughter and giggles and fun messes. I sow in scripture and catechism memory. I sow in one more hug and kiss at bedtime. I sow in repenting often to them, in front of them, and to my husband. I sow in receiving new morning mercies for each day for these kids God has given me.
But, the accuser of the brethren will accuse me. He will remind me how I didn’t read an extra story last night and induce guilt. He will remind me that I’m just not enough for my kids – not doing enough, not repenting enough, not fun enough… and on it goes. And yet – how often do I take on his voice in my mind? How often to I, a child of THE King, actually agree with the accuser of the saints and accuse myself, being pushed by fear and shame, rather than led by love?
I was with a group of parents recently and the conversation turned with a downward and guilty tone (as it often can) to “I should have done more of ____” or “I guess I should be doing ____ better.” And my mind started shouting, “no! stop! This doesn’t sound like Jesus, this sounds like Satan!” So, I bravely said so.
Do we need to repent often? Absolutely.
Do we need to teach our kids the Word and be consistent in discipline? Definitely.
Do we need help from parents who are farther along than us and make changes as our kids grow and as we learn too? Of course.
But, here, the question is: are we being led by love into true self-reflection and genuine repentance, OR guilted into trying to do better in and of ourselves – not trusting that God will use ALL things for our good (and our kids good) and HIS glory. No, all things are not good; we do mess up. But God IS good. And He wastes nothing – not even our mistakes or sin. He is fully and completely good and powerful beyond comparison.
And so, we keep speaking the truth as we read the bible to and with them. We keep pointing them to the truth in our conversations. We keep abiding in the Word of God ourselves that we may know and speak the truth to ourselves and to our kids.
As we do, we plant seeds and we know not when they will produce a harvest, and so God sanctifies us in our waiting and active trusting.
We bury treasures of gospel truths and scripture memory and catechisms because when the Spirit awakens them to the truth, our children will have a treasure trove of His Word stored up within them in their minds.
Sow generously with your life; bury gospel treasure within your kids’ minds; pray, trust, and wait for the Spirit of God to open their hearts and minds, and continue the work He’s beginning in them, through you. You are His chosen vessel to work in these kiddos that He has graciously given to YOU.
May He lead you in love as you abide in Him.
Today I have an audio for you again! This is exciting for me because I know some of you prefer to listen. The audio comes from a prayer time at my church, as we paused as a congregation to quiet and examine our hearts.
I’ve been reading through the gospel of Mark with my discipleship group, and I am loving it. I’m reading slowly, with intention and re-reading chapters over and over. And as I’ve read, I’ve noticed I’m worshiping and loving Jesus in fresh ways, and am convicted freshly of my own sin…the Word does that to us right? It convicts BEFORE it can truly comfort.
A major theme I’ve noticed is the crowd that follows Jesus, literally, everywhere, day and night, constantly pressing in with their needs. I’ve noticed that Jesus responds quite differently than I tend to – He has pity, He shows compassion, and mostly, He stays at peace.
Even their constant need, and I mean constant need, check out Mark chapter 1, doesn’t disturb His inner peace, and His abiding in the Father’s love. Anybody have a posse of little kids? You can relate to the constant following and never-ending need, and even franticness when they think the need will not be met.
And yet, Jesus.
Sometimes I think it’s easy to forget that Jesus was not only fully God,but also fully man. The author of Hebrews reminds us that Jesus was made like us, in every respect:
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16; also see: Hebrews 1:10-18!)
His mighty outer works flowed from an inner place of deep and constant abiding with God.
He had to seek His Father for grace for the day, every day. He sought desolate places to pray and be alone regardless of what those around Him thought.
I’m convicted at what that means for me. If Jesus needed time and space to draw near to God, and abide with the Father – truly remain and sink His roots down deep into the Father’s love so that no outward circumstance could control him, how much more do I? Do we? As Elizabeth Elliot wisely said,
“The secret (to keeping a quiet heart) is Christ in us, not us in a different set of circumstances.”
Striving to enter His rest, like Hebrews 4:11 says, is an active endeavor. How actively do we strive to abide in the Father’s love, VERSUS our own good works, knowledge, self-sufficiency, or even fears?
I’m going to share with you a prayer that’s burned in my heart and that I prayed with our congregation, because maybe, amidst my words, you’ll find your own. After all, the Psalms are prayers that we take and pray and they become our own…So here’s mine for the taking. Maybe we can silence our hearts together, free from the distractions that are often of our own making, and confess where we don’t abide in His perfect love and peace…where we don’t believe He gives enough manna – daily bread – for today…
Jesus – thank you that you remained perfectly in loving union with God. It’s amazing to think about you becoming human as we are, being made like us, being tempted and suffering so that you could be our faithful high priest, who sympathizes with our weaknesses. Yet, sympathizing as One who remained perfectly sinless, fighting hard a battle that we often stop fighting. Thank you that you were sinless – even as the crowds pushed around giving you little rest, even as you were misunderstood and jeered at, and even rejected by some of your closest followers – you remained rooted and abiding in the Father’s love, not allowing the outward circumstances to change your inner peace and your identity. I thank you that as believers we are hidden in you and clothed in your righteousness, and even in your perfect abiding.
But I confess my lack of abiding in you – my forgetfulness to live out of my union with you. Show me where I unite myself more with my outward circumstances than with you, where I let go of your peace and enter the striving of productivity, self-righteousness, or my fears and insecurities.
I repent of not thinking you are enough. I repent of not believing your grace will be enough for the future. I repent of not making time alone with you a priority – filling my minds and hearts and souls with the Words of life – your Word that sustains life.
Thank you that your mercy is more than I could ever imagine. Thank you that your kindness leads me to repentance, and for your overwhelming grace and forgiveness for me in Christ.
I trust He is enough.
Your grace is sufficient.
May we abide well, being rooted and strengthened in your love, not striving to enter a rest of our own making, but always striving to keep a quiet heart and enter your rest that you secured for us.