Calvary was not Convenient, not Comfortable

Are you ready for real, vulnerable, ugliness of my heart? Well, it’s coming, and not because I’m just thrilled to show you my nitty, gritty sin. God has been talking to me a lot about convenience and comfort. Is love comfortable? Is love always convenient? The answer is pretty simple. So why do I get so frustrated when I am inconvenienced by the little people living in my home? The short answer is, sin.

In Philippians chapter two, Paul reminds us how we are to love: Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others (v. 3 & 4, ESV). Paul can confidently give us this instruction because it is how Christ loves us. As Christians, we are to imitate Him, especially in the way He loves. Being frustrated by the needs of these children due to inconvenience or discomfort is certainly not putting their needs above my own. It’s certainly not loving them like Christ.

My biological children are 8 and 13, and they are both boys. The foster children we have are 2 and 3, and they are both girls. My boys are rather independent. My girls are very dependent. I know my boys very well, I have cared for them since birth. I don’t know my girls very well, because I have only cared for them four weeks. My boys love me and are attached in a healthy way, because I am their mother. My girls like me sometimes and are not at all attached, because I am not their mother; in fact, I may seem like their enemy who keeps them away from their mother on any given day. I cannot expect to parent these girls the same way I parent my boys, nor can I expect these girls to behave in the same manner I expect from my boys. All of this makes life a little difficult, not very convenient, and sometimes uncomfortable.

I wonder if Christ was inconvenienced when the Father asked Him to surrender to His death? I wonder if Jesus was comfortable receiving the beating I deserved, or suffocating to death on the cross because of my sin? I wonder, even in Christ’s inconvenience and discomfort, did He get frustrated with me? Did He ever look upon me with anything in His eyes besides love? These questions are rhetorical and I doubt I have to answer them for you. Heavy, weighty, real – yes?

That escalated rather quickly, huh? We went from getting frustrated in the day-to-day tasks of parenting traumatized children to Christ suffering and dying for our sin. That is how we should view EVERYTHING. Through the lens of the cross, all things change. That fresh perspective will shift every minute of my day-to-day from selfishness to selflessness. Why? Because Christ owed me nothing, but gave me everything. These girls have had everything stripped from them, have nothing to offer, but deserve no less.

The picture above depicts grace. That Tech Deck ramp she is playing with was purchased for my 13 year old when he was approximately her age. When he opened that package for the first time, no one could have predicted that some ten years later a sweet blonde haired beauty, with nothing to call her own, would be enjoying the toy so very much. That’s grace. It’s not convenient to open our home and double the number children we have overnight. It’s not comfortable being mean-mugged by a traumatized 3 year old who misses her mommy. It’s not convenient to dig through years of toys, that belong to boys, trying to find something these new children would like to play with. It’s not comfortable trying to coax a 2 year old into the bathroom for a bath given by a stranger. But in those first 24hrs, God’s grace was evident beyond everything else. I didn’t feel the discomfort and inconvenience, just grief and suffering.

One month in, we are all getting a little more comfortable and establishing routines and expectations, and this is where it gets tricky. I feel as though they have always been here, but they still long for home. Things don’t always go as planned and that’s when feelings explode. As the parent, my job is to remain cool and calm – ideally. When discomfort and inconvenience rear their ugly heads, I am immediately frustrated. The reason is selfishness. I forget their needs, let alone put them first, and am blinded only by the inconvenience and discomfort. It always comes out as frustration.

But God, He is showing me the way. Through the lens of Calvary, that dramatic and necessary act of selflessness, I gain new perspective. If I continue to place the cross before me, I will look upon every circumstance in a new way. If I start each day meditating on the truth of scripture, I will set myself up for success. If I fix my eyes on Jesus, my girls will see him too.

How goes it with you? Will you let me know I’m not alone? I know I’m not; that’s why I can confidently share with you what God was so sweet to point out. Paul would not have spent so much time preaching about selfless love, and imitating Christ, if I was the only one who needed the message. I pray this blesses you in some way, as this is my only goal: obey Christ so He is glorified. His grace is sufficient, saints. Lay it down at the foot of the cross.

Only God Changes People

This is a picture of a foot. My foot, to be exact. And that hand belongs to my husband. This is a picture of far more than a foot and a hand – it’s a picture of redemption.

Thirteen years ago, my husband and I were engaged to be married and I knew I would never get a foot massage from my soon to be husband. He had made it very clear he hated feet, even my feet, because all feet are nasty. Lucky for him, that wasn’t a deal-breaker for me, so we got married anyway.

It’s no secret to most who know us that we have been through our (more than) fair share of infidelity and marital issues in this short 10 years of wedded bliss. In fact, one might say we have been through more than most in this last decade of loving each other. It also isn’t a shocker that my husband and I neither one knew Jesus for the majority of our lives, let alone when we entered into holy matrimony.

Over the last 5 years we have grown much and suffered through much heartache. We were headed to divorce on two separate occasions and we’re only still married by the grace of God alone. In fact, my husband may still be alive by the grace of God alone, and I do not say that in jest. The last bought of infidelity happened just two short years ago.

The details of our trials do not need shared on this platform, just know that my husband’s choices led to us being physically separated for a period of 4 months where we didn’t share a home, or a bed. During that separation we started over, after lots of prayer and many talks; numerous tears and countless “I’m sorry”s; lots of sleepless nights and one BIG “I forgive you”, followed by many little repeats. By the grace of God alone, we started reconciliation by dating, slowly. Eventually we renewed our vows and he moved back home. What does all of this have to do with his hand on my nasty foot?

I do not say this lightly – I could not see past divorcing my husband. I love Jesus, and He loves me. I prayed and prayed and prayed for Him to let me divorce my husband. I mean truly, how much more was I expected to take? There were five years of lies; five years of catching him and forgiving him; five years of heartache; five years of sorrow, and joy. Jesus wasn’t a doormat, and He certainly has not called me to be one. Even scripture justifies my decision to divorce this man who clearly CANNOT be faithful. Right?

Remember I said Jesus loves me, yes? Well I prayed and prayed and you know what I heard? “Stay with him.” Seriously? My response was not quite as eloquent as I would have liked it to be: “Well then YOU have to do something here.” As bratty as I was, He still “did something.” We prayerfully decided to separate, as stated above, and something happened to my husband during our time apart. I will save the details for another time, but the short story is, he learned to appreciate the fact that I was NOT a doormat. He saw that I was capable of carrying on without him, and he was reminded that God was all I needed. In that reminder, he was also reminded that God was all he needed, too. With me out of the way, he was able to seek God fully and completely, because God was all he had.

Fast forward to two nights ago – I was reclining in my chair with my feet up on the ottoman after a long day of raising my children, someone else’s children, and being a wife, friend, mentor, and minister of grace. I was mindlessly scrolling on my phone, and my husband was sitting on the ottoman playing PS4 with our oldest, as it is their favorite pastime. Next thing I know, his hand is grasping my foot in the most loving way I could imagine and I was reminded of a conversation we had while separated.

Jeremy had come over one night after we started dating and we were watching TV on the couch. He was at one end, I was at the other with my feet in his lap. He started rubbing my feet and I was shocked. I asked him why he was doing that and his response was something like this: I have been apart from you for so long that I will touch any part of you right now. I can’t believe I took for granted every opportunity I had to rub your feet and I feel awful I have never done it before now. You deserve for your feet to be rubbed and I would give anything to rub them for you every night.

That all sounds like a man trying to say the right things to get what he wants, yes? I promise he wasn’t, and he didn’t. These were the words of a man God had changed. From that point on, my husband has never been the same. It would be easy for me to get on here and say that our lives are perfect, and all is well, and we have the best marriage ever, but I won’t. We are real people, with real problems, only two years removed from a very traumatic experience. We are far from perfect. We are, however, very different. Both of us. And God is the only one who changes people.

In our time apart, God taught my husband so many things. One main lesson that Jesus tends to hammer home for anyone who is willing to listen, is this: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself” Luke 10:27, ESV. Through Jeremy’s surrender to God, God showed him how to love others well, starting with me. This man dies to himself for me on a daily basis, after first dying to himself for God. I firmly believe God would have driven this lesson home at some point, regardless of our separation, but I believe God blessed our obedience and used this separation to really minister to Jeremy and change some major areas in his heart, and mine too.

God alone changes people: not time, or pain, or happiness, or money, or provision. God alone changes people. Can God use things to change people? Circumstances, situations, etc? He sure can. But the Holy Spirit Himself is the agent of change – lasting, eternal, forever change. That is the kind of change we want; the kind of change we need. When God comes in and wrecks our lives for His glory, GOOD THINGS HAPPEN. He changes our capacity to love others, our willingness to love others, and our ability to love others. His power in us accomplishes MUCH!

I don’t wish these trials on anyone – but I do pray the God of the Universe, who loves you more than you can ever imagine, would get you to a place of surrender. I pray He wrecks your life in a good way that makes you turn to Him, rely on Him, and rejoice in Him. I am not saying God makes bad things happen, so please don’t email me about that. I do believe though, the God of scripture is sovereign over ALL THINGS and because of that, NOTHING happens outside of His control. And because of that, NOTHING that happens is wasted. And because of that, we can trust Him and His provision in our lives, ALWAYS.