5 Questions About…Disappointment with God

Conrad family-40Emily and her husband Steve are dear friends of ours. I had the delight of working with Steve in ministry and traveling with him in Congo before he knew Emily.  Then, John and I had the privilege of performing their wedding ceremony together!  This remarkable young couple inspire me with their faith and authenticity.  It’s an honor to walk alongside them on their journey!  I asked Emily 5 Questionsbecause I knew she’d be honest and reflect from a heart seeking God.

1.  Over the past year and a half you’ve had an experience that has been deeply painful and disappointing.  Can you describe what happened?

In early 2013, my husband and I got the green light to travel to Congo to meet and pick up the little girl and little boy that we were in the process of adopting. We had spent 13 months previously preparing our home and our family for the addition of 2 more little ones, a little girl 18 months old and a boy 2 ½ years old. Although we knew it would be crazy to have 4 little kids in our home, we felt that adoption was always supposed to be a part of our family’s story and felt that it was a desire that God had placed in our hearts.

We had been prepared for the fact that the little boy we were adopting might be a little older than what we had originally been told, perhaps 6-9 months, however, when we met him in Congo he was clearly at least 6 ½ and was a very angry, emotionally fraught child, quite prone to physically aggressive outbursts. Continue reading

5 Questions About…Infertility

IMG_0002Happy 4th of July!  As you read this, chances are I’ll be with my friend Cathy Wood, watching the parade, or fireworks or laughing about how we both could have been great spies.  There is so much I admire about Cathy.  Her ability to forgive hard things.  Her indomitable positive spirit. Her kindness, and listening ear.  We’ve been in a couples small group for about 25 years and she’s also one of the “7” girls, so I’ve been privileged to walk through a lot of life with her!  All of us either know someone or are someone who has wrestled with a dream to have kids, but an inability to make it happen.  I always benefit from her wisdom, so I’m thankful she agreed to share today!

1. What has been your experience with infertility?
We struggled with infertility and trying to create a family over about a decade.  Although this time is in the rearview mirror of my life, I can readily recall the cycle of doctor appointments, shots, temperature taking and miscarriages…periods of great hope and equally great despair. Thankfully, by the grace of God He brought us thru it all.  He has graciously put our family together thru primary/secondary infertility, adoption and natural birth.

2. What was the hardest thing for you while you struggled with infertility?
I think for me the hardest thing was believing that God was trustworthy and that I could trust him with the outcome. I could pray “ah yes this is a light and momentary trouble” but my heart was breaking. My borders defining God needed to be blown wide open. What did it mean to follow him? My current view wasn’t holding up. I kept thinking that God wanted me to do that “one thing” and then I’d get pregnant. Not sure what that one thing was but I kept trying to guess.

I spent lots of time staring at what I thought was a road block with blinking lights, razor wire and a sign that said ”keep out”. I could see others beyond the gate with children but I couldn’t get there. A turn away from this road to another path was dark and unknown. I had no idea what it would mean or require. I DIDN’T WANT TO GO! The decision really became do I go alone or with God? Slowly and gently (as I am stubborn), God turned my heart towards Him and then the road He had for us.

3. You have had children now, but what would you say to women who maybe are never able to conceive?                                                                                                  “I am so sorry” feels like the only one for me because no feeble attempt by me could make sense this side of heaven. God needs to handle that one. My sincere hope for them would be that they come to know and believe that God loves them and has not lost sight of them.

4. What advice would you give to those who are walking alongside women experiencing infertility?                                                                                                   It is a privilege and holy ground to be let into a person’s life at any time but especially when it is a painful season. Being a safe place to share deep emotions and process is a gift to another. I think it’s a way God redeems our own experiences. Pray, trust God and show up. He’ll do the rest.

5. What did you learn about God and yourself during your season of infertility?
Ha!  Well I would love to say I never doubted… that I have the gift of unshakeable faith but I don’t want to be struck by lightning! I tend to be a bit more of a rebel. What I learned was that God is gracious and merciful. When I began to seek Him, stumble after him and look for Him in the everyday, not just answering this big prayer, I discovered He was there and had been there all the time with small surprises of Himself, the love of friends, reminders of His grace and answered prayer in his time.

Additional Resources Cathy found helpful:

Disappointment With God by Phillip Yancey

If you liked this post, you might also like The Spiritual Discipline of Plan B.

Continue reading

One Thing I Want to Know When Life is Hard

It’s summertime, and if you’re anything like me you’re drinking deeply from the cup o’ awesome.  The smoky smell of barbecue and friends gathered on the patio, an icy drink after a sweaty bike ride, boating on the lake as the sun sets (EVERY lake in Minnesota is THE lake), the smell of fresh cut grass, and kids running through the sprinkler… This is my neighborhood.  This is my summer.IMG_2316IMG_4309

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But this Norman Rockwell and Mayberry picture exists in stark contrast to the conversations I’ve been part of the past few weeks.  Conversations permeated by the aroma of despair and disappointment, a thirst for redemption and healing in hard situations where spouses aren’t showing up, and parents grieve over the choices their kids are making and people can be just plain mean.  And we want to fix it all, using our plans, our timeline with a little bit of God sprinkled on top.

Isn’t that THE story of all of us, starting way back with Adam and Eve?  We want to be God.  Period.  We want control, but we’re not capable. And so God brings us to the end of ourselves time after time  And we once again bow down, draw close, seek Him…and submit to a plan better than ours – a plan that we may not see clearly this side of heaven.

In all of these conversations, hearing so much heaviness, I’ve been asking myself, if not to fix, what IS our role in community?

One small inkling from the Holy spirit came from an unlikely place.  We decided to host a backyard bbq for our neighborhood.  DSC00423Now, as someone who hosts a lot of gatherings in her home, let me tell you, these things are always messy and never turn out the way you plan (much like life).

It rains, or people don’t rsvp and then show up, or come at the wrong time, or you remember about their peanut-gluten-dairy-banana allergy as they walk in the door.  You can’t “fix” it, you just have to show up and welcome whatever comes. Continue reading

Three Things to Do When You’re Knocked Off Your Feet

If you have 3 minutes for a laugh, enjoy!  If not, read on! (It ties in.  Really).

Yesterday my husband had a hard conversation that left him feeling blind-sided.  Kind of like Peyton Manning getting sacked in the Super Bowl yesterday.  It was an unexpected blow and hard to absorb.  It left John, who is always steady, knocked off his feet like one of the guys slipping on that video.  For a moment he was sprawled on the ground wondering “What just happened?”

It doesn’t matter the particulars of John’s surprise. It could be like anything in your life:

  • a pink slip from your boss
  • a conversation that blind-sides you
  • a hard diagnosis
  • a break up
  • a bad grade after you studied hard

What do you do when it feels like you’ve been jogging along and all of a sudden you hit an icy patch and go toes over teakettle? Continue reading

Mind the Gap

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Ephesians 3:20 says, “To Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory…”

This past weekend I experienced the joy of Ephesians 3:20 as our daughter, Maggie, married a young man who was more than I could ask for or imagine for her.

As a mom, I’ve prayed all her life for the man she might one day marry.  And it is a sign of my small faith that Austin surprised even me.  He is a godly partner who compliments her beautifully.

Once upon a time, I thought that was how God was  – always predictable in the way I thought He should be.  “Immeasurably more than we ask or imagine” was in my way (Read: fun, exciting, and comfortable) and in my time (Read: NOW).

Immeasurably more seems…well, fantastic!  A delightful combo of Candyland and a beach on Maui.

But what do we do when God doesn’t live up to our expectations?  What do we do when we’re disappointed in God?

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A Conversation about Flour and Oil

Monday I wrote about how God has used the story of Elijah and the widow of Zarepath to teach me.  Did it sound like a piece of cake?

Not so much.

Here’s an honest conversation I had with the Lord recently.

Me: Lord, I’m ticked…really disappointed and discouraged.  I kind of want to throw my handful of flour back in your face and call it a day.

Honestly, Lord??  What I REALLY want is for You to take my flour and oil and make a ginormous fancy-shmancy cake worthy of the Cake Boss, that people will “ooh” and “aahh” over.

But instead it seems like my flour and oil concoction usually turns out looking more like an ordinary, boring tortilla.

Continue reading

What do you do when you’re disappointed in God?

Ever feel disappointed in God?

Or let down by people and situations that don’t go your way and that translates to “really God’s fault” cuz, you know, He’s God and everything, so the buck stops with Him.

Yeah, me too.

Continue reading

The Spiritual Discipline of Plan B

Ice cubes.  6 small potatoes.  A get-well card.

Sometimes in line at the grocery store don’t you feel like the check-out folks are wondering, “What’s she really up to??”

In this case, each item represented “Plan B” on a day that screamed “I live a PLAN B LIFE!” in big and small ways.

  • The ice cubes were for our broken ice maker.
  • The potatoes for a recipe gone wrong.
  • The card for a friend having a double mastectomy.

But this was just a small glimpse of bigger realities of disappointments and losses that got me asking questions like:

  • Lord, why is everyone else always in control and why do I never get my way?  (Clearly no Theresa of Avila here!)
  • Where are You in this and what are You trying to teach me?  Submission?  Humility?  Trust in your redemptive power? (Could I have Door 2 instead please?)
  • Is there anyone not living a “Plan B” life?  (Hard for me to think of anyone, but then I didn’t really want to think about anyone else cuz this was all about ME!)
  • How did Your Bible guys handle Plan B’s?  (Moses, David, Abraham, Paul…wow, a lot of Plan B’s)

Somehow, the most important Plan B discipline for the Bible guys seemed to be leaning in.  Not understanding necessarily.  Not having 1-2-3 answers.  But having the faith to say, “I choose to believe in you, God, more than this disappointment.”

Perhaps the spiritual discipline of Plan B involves giving up the illusion of control…giving up trying to write our own story and letting God write His story through us.

Or this…One line stood out in my Bible reading yesterday morning…”Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone?…How much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him?” (Mt.7)  I wonder how often God’s bread just looks like a stone to me because I think I know better than Him how my good gift should appear.  Part of the discipline of Plan B seems to be trusting in God’s goodness...His identity even when we can’t see or understand His activity.

Clearly I don’t have this figured out.  This is just me, wrestling with God after a Plan B day in a Plan B life.

I like to have a plan for everything.  And like all people, I like the plan to go my way.  Plan B is not my strong suit, but maybe it is actually my sweet spot (and yours), because it puts me where God wants me, needing to lean into Him.  For His grace.  His presence.  His power.  His understanding.

What’s your Plan B situation?  What are you learning in it about spiritual discipline?

A resource you might want to pick up if you’re struggling with this is Pete Wilson’s book titled Plan B!