When Going Requires Letting Go

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Sometimes news is good. Sometimes it’s bad. Other times it’s good, but you’re scared to say it out loud.

After a year’s worth of prayer and conversations with trusted friends, I decided to stop holding monthly meetings for Graceful Wait. My ministry partner, Ashley, and I are still offering one-on-one support, and will maintain the Facebook page as a way for women to contact us.

I struggled making this decision all of 2019. It started last February, when I sensed a new nudge from the Lord, a kindling similar to the one he sparked more than a decade ago. That nudge pushed me in the direction to cofound the first Graceful Wait support group in Missouri.

The current nudge is less defined. I don’t know what the assignment is, per se. It’s pointing in a few directions, hovering between two of my passions: biblical literacy and adoption/foster care advocacy. While I’m not sure what I’ll do, when it’ll start, or how I’ll accomplish what needs to be done, I can’t deny the call to go.

To do that – whatever it is – as well as invest more time in writing projects, I knew I’d need to offload some responsibilities. Through different circumstances and a gradual heart shift, the Lord showed me that had to include the monthly support group.

If you know me and my story, you understand why it would be hard to walk away from this ministry – this baby that wasn’t a replacement for a baby, yet was something I’d still birthed and nurtured and watched grow. Giving up a group that I believe is crucial and needed, and that let me witness God perform amazing acts of connection and transformation, felt like intentionally dropping my wedding ring down the drain.

I didn’t want to quit, but I also didn’t want to continue. Filled with doubt, I unburdened my uneasiness before the Lord.

God, I know You asked me to trust You when I started this group. I was scared, but I believed. And look what happened. You took our collective tears over empty wombs and crushed dreams and babies who died before they could live, and You poured them into the most priceless jar of clay. You healed. You restored. You brought glory to Your name as the only Life Giver and Redeemer of Your daughters’ broken hearts.

Graceful Wait is Your beautiful creation. But now, unless I misheard You, You want me to stop hosting it. Why? Why let this space for grieving women wither and die? Why tell me to start something good, something needed, then ask me to let it go?

And so I wrestled. And, ironically, I had to wait. God didn’t answer my questions right away. By his wisdom, he let me stay uncomfortable in order to grow my faith. He stretched my belief in his sufficiency so I could lean harder on his strength.

But I needed help releasing my grip. He brought a friend into my life who has experience transitioning from one long-time ministry to another. When I asked her the same question I’d demanded of the Lord, she looked at me with empathetic eyes and spoke straight wisdom.

“God doesn’t always call us to serve in the same place forever.”

Ah, yes. Forever. What it felt like waiting for motherhood. What a strange place to be – feet dug in the ground, resisting the call to move forward, when for so long, all I’d wanted was to move on to the next stage.

Through my friend’s simple statement, God woke me up to reality. Going anywhere requires leaving something behind. As much as I’m passionate about helping women face infertility and loss, and as dearly as I hold it near my heart, I can’t serve in this way forever. Thank God, I don’t need to. It’s his ministry. It always has been. He hasn’t just ordered my steps; he has ordered the steps of every woman who showed up to our group desperate for hope and healing.

It’s funny, when I was talking with Ashley about whether we should continue Graceful Wait, she made a comment that echoed what my friend had said earlier.

“Maybe this group has served its purpose for now.” For now. Now vs. forever.

Graceful Wait isn’t forever. One day, there won’t be a need for it. No more barrenness, no more aching, no more losing beloved babies. I’m not forever, either, not on Earth. I’ll live out my days according to God’s plan for me. Then I’ll join my Savior in heaven – my Savior who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He holds all things together, including a small-town support group that held space for grief.

Though I came to accept the need to surrender, I delayed making the decision for a year. Then I delayed writing about the decision for several months. As I said at the beginning, I’ve been scared to write this post because I knew that once I did, it would finally feel real. I’m really done leading Graceful Wait.

While I shouldn’t need confirmation that it was a good decision to follow God’s lead, he blessed me with it, anyway. When I went to a coffee shop to write this post, I ran into a woman who had come to our group in the past. She lost her sweet baby girl a few years ago. As we chatted, she shared that she’s pregnant again. She’s excited and happy, worried and sad all at the same time.

Layers of emotion wrapped in gratitude. That’s the best way I can describe how it feels now, letting go of a treasured ministry so I can embrace the nudge toward a new ministry.

Walking alongside women facing infertility and infant loss is a sacred privilege, something I never would’ve asked for, but am deeply grateful God entrusted to me. I know I can hand over this beautiful gift and burden to Jesus because he’s worthy to carry it. It’s what he has done all along.

The Beauty of Hidden Ministry

I count the signs in my folder: two, four, six, eight. Good. That’s all of them. Eight signs with little arrows pointing left, right, left.

I whip out the Scotch tape and stick them on the white-walled hallways of the warehouse-sized church. If I don’t put these up, people will get lost trying to find the room at the far end of the building where the support group meets.

The ministry I lead for women facing infertility and infant loss is hidden in more ways than one. While my church has been kind and supportive, many people in the community don’t know what we do, let alone that our group exists.

Like the room where we gather to talk, cry, and pray, our small assembly is tucked away in the back corner of Church. While I trust the Lord is working in the lives of the women who attend, sharing space with dust bunnies can make it hard to believe our ministry matters.

Read full article at Gospel-Centered Discipleship.

Handle Wisdom with Care

God’s Word nourishes our hearts like nothing else can. Its pages declare the good news that Christ redeemed us from sin, gave us new life through the Spirit, and renamed us as God’s beloved children. When we’re feeling discouraged or overwhelmed, we reach out and grasp our Bibles, feasting on the promises that He has kept and will fulfill.

Though we know where to find hope, we don’t always know how to use Scripture, especially when trying to comfort someone who’s suffering. Craving easy and immediate answers, we cherry-pick verses that appear to resolve the problem. As much as this approach seems helpful, it actually reaps trouble. When we pluck verses from their context and plaster them like Band-Aids over difficult situations, we risk mishandling Scripture and further injuring a wounded soul.

Read full article at Revive Our Hearts.

The Happiest Place on Earth

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Earlier this summer, our family made a pilgrimage to the ultimate summer vacation destination, Disneyland. As we navigated the crowds, I noticed a common trait among our fellow mouse-eared tourists. With the exception of a few overstimulated toddlers and stressed-out parents, everyone around us was smiling and laughing. The strangers we met waiting in line, the families schlepping around snacks and sunscreen, the teens, newlyweds, and retirees – most people appeared to be reveling in the magic of their surroundings.

Before we left on our trip, I had decided to memorize Psalm 84. Halfway through our vacation, I realized how fitting it was to meditate on the happiest place in Israel while visiting the “happiest place on Earth.” Strolling through a joy-sparking atmosphere helped me imagine what it might have felt like stepping foot inside the tabernacle courts, except surrounded by songs of praise rather than reprises of “It’s a Small World.”

What made the tabernacle such a happy place? It didn’t boast fun rides, huggable characters, or photo opps galore. No, the greatest draw for the Israelites to visit the tabernacle was to be with the One who lived there.

Read full article at Unlocking the Bible.

Ponder the Mystery of I AND

The siren song of mystery stories came calling in grade school. Once I learned how to read, I gravitated toward the whodunit shelves at the library, lured by the prospect of completing a puzzle. I matched wits with Encyclopedia Brown and Nancy Drew, Hercule Poirot and Richard Jury, tracking clues on the streets of London, at the racetrack, and in cozy little tea shops steeped with intrigue.

To some extent, I think we’re all mystery junkies. The unknown beckons us, promising the thrill of suspense. But it can also scare us. Uncertainty is intolerable; we demand answers to hard questions like, “Why does God allow suffering?” Especially in an age where information reigns and misinformation abounds, it’s easy falling prey to the sin that tripped Adam and Eve: We want to be like God, perfectly knowing everything.

In “Surprised by Paradox: The Promise of And in an Either-Or World,” author Jen Pollock Michel calls readers to behold the mystery of our faith as testament of our God. Like Moses drawn to the burning-yet-not-burned bush, Michel urges us to pause, scratch our chins, and explore the “promise in a little bit of wondering.”

Read full book review at Morning by Morning.

3 Myths That Fuel Burnout

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A strong work ethic has always been my calling card. During college and my early career, I packed my schedule from the wee hours of the morning until my head hit the pillow late at night. Though my responsibilities have shifted since then, I still take on too many to-dos, then feel stressed when I struggle to cross them off. In these moments, I hear echoes of my mom’s warning back in my college days: “Honey, don’t burn the candle at both ends.”

Many adults with driven personalities feel compelled to work nonstop. Whether we work at the office or at home, we resist clocking out from tasks or allocating time for breaks. Email inboxes demand our constant attention; school and sports activities consume our weekly schedules. This compulsion even extends to ministry. We realize the harvest is plentiful and the workers are few, so we say yes to commitment after commitment without considering if we can do the work well on top of our current obligations. Wanting to glorify God in all we do leads us to strain our arms with impossibly heavy burdens.

Like the apostle Paul—who suffered fatigue, hunger, and pain as he poured out his life to advance God’s kingdom—we can expect to grow weary at times in our vocations and ministry work. But routinely overextending ourselves carries greater risk than merely making us tired. It can jeopardize our health and ability to serve, hinder others from stepping into roles where they can use their gifts, and captivate our hearts with working for Christ rather than with Christ himself.

Read full article at The Gospel Coalition.

[Photo courtesy Ross Sneddon on Unsplash]

The Sister on the Other Side of the Screen

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Being a cynical person has its perks. Bogus “miracle” products don’t fool me. Fads or re-hashed trends don’t sway me with their hip pressure tactics. I didn’t fall for mom jeans in the ’80s, and I’m not falling for them now.

Persistent doubt has spared me from crushed expectations and helped me view the world accurately in its fallen, fractured condition. But while I’d like to chalk it up as godly discernment, I’m learning that cynicism isn’t the most Christ-like outlook on life.

God has been showing me recently how unchecked hyper-criticism harms me, mistreats others, and, worst of all, offends Him. To expose this sin, he chose an unexpected tool, one that routinely tempts, tries, and vexes me: social media.

I’ve written before about my tension with social media, especially Insta-sham, er, gram. Even though I recognize that content is curated – that people are trying to tell a story or display their art or “find beauty in the mundane” – it’s still jarring to me. I want to know real people sharing real information about themselves, or who are teaching actual truth from Scripture.

Over time, my approach to social media degenerated from skepticism to spite, particularly toward other female Christian bloggers, writers, and speakers. I’d scroll through my feed and feel contempt rise in my throat like some vile aftertaste. As my fingers flicked the screen, my head screamed at each post: “Fake! Fake! Fake!” I judged the content they chose to share and assigned them horrible motives: “She’s just trying to drum up followers,” and “Her posts tickle ears to get more likes.”

Pretty nasty stuff. That’s what happens when you accuse others of the same temptations and sins that challenge you.

In the throes of pessimism, I forgot that people using social media are real people – with flaws and failings and masks they try to use to obscure their junk. But that’s true of anyone. Who among us can cast a stone against deception? We’re all guilty of faking goodness, whether on social media or in “real” life. But we’re also invaluable human beings made in the image of God. Those who know him are continually being refined, just as I am, and are tripping along the same path of obedience, just like I do.

Bad attitudes like this are hard to break. When you’re wired for criticism, your judgment reflex is as snappy as they come.

Honestly, I’m still trying to figure out how to consume social media as a realist, and as a Christian. Scripture urges us to “test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). God gave us brains and his Word; we should use them to pierce the inspirational façade sheltering bad theology.

But attributing impure motives to Christian writers or influencers goes beyond discernment to the point of projecting logs in others’ eyes. Assuming the worst about people doesn’t make me a better Christian; it makes me a more hypocritical one.

If you’re cynical like me, you might struggle with similar hang-ups over social media. You suspect others’ words are disingenuous, and perceive their photos as staged. The showy nature of visual platforms simultaneously intrigues and repels you, drawing you in with aesthetic appeal, yet frustrating you with lack of credibility. Or maybe I’m the only Negative Nancy in the room.

The problem before us naysayers is a matter of weight. How can we tread nimbly along the true/false tightrope of social media, steadied by equal parts wisdom and grace?

For perfect balance, we know where to turn our eyes.

Jesus knew the extent of human depravity, yet he treated others with dignity and compassion. He healed a chronically ill woman deemed unclean because of her blood. He called the most loathed member of society, a tax collector, and invited him to eat together. He held a private nighttime rendezvous with a critical, questioning Pharisee. He spoke gently and directly with a woman who had sinned, repeatedly, and remained unfaithful and restless, never quenched in her thirst for love.

Christ’s attitude toward others wasn’t glass half-empty or half-full. He was fully aware of the darkness, fully surrendered to the Lord, fully given to save lost souls and grant them abundant life through union with Him. His commission to us, as his followers, leaves no room for doubt: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12).

Sin is a given for everyone using social media. We don’t need to highlight it, and certainly don’t need to invent and ascribe it to others. Only God knows the true intentions behind what anyone posts. We can trust him to convict his children as he sees fit, not according to our assumptions.

I thank him for reminding me that the Christian woman on the other side of the screen isn’t merely a persona; she’s my sister in Christ. She hasn’t “arrived,” and neither have I. We’re both redeemed, yet still struggling; saved for eternity, yet stuck in the flesh.

For those of us who need to swap our dour shades for freshly cleaned lenses, we can learn from and apply Ephesians 4:29 as a filter for social media output and intake: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

May we see what is good, excellent, and praiseworthy about our sisters and brothers online and give grace to those who post.

[Photo courtesy Becca Tapert on Unsplash]