The Risk of Making Room

I painted a bedroom in my house this weekend. Riveting opener, I know.

When we moved into this place in May, we knew it was with intentions of growing our family, so we left the bedroom upstairs next to ours empty. It’s acted mostly as a storage space for the last 5 months. I keep the door shut, partially because it’s a mess in there and partially because if I don’t look at it, maybe I don’t have to think about it for what it really is:

The empty space that we long for God to fill.

The whole process has been vulnerable, really — the mountains of paperwork that almost felt like they were mocking me all summer, the emotionally exposing home study, the fund raising that uproots every ounce of fear and insecurity in my being — and those are just the major ones.

The empty bedroom in my house, though — that is the thing that scares me the most.

My in-laws were in town two weeks ago, and while they were here we went to look at nursery furniture. The second I stepped into Pottery Barn Kids that day, my stomach was in my throat. I walked around somewhat in a daze, wondering what in the world I was even supposed to be feeling.

I wrestled with God in my heart that day about how I wish I could feel celebratory, but I just feel guarded. It seems like everyone else celebrates their way through growing their families, and we have done nothing but ache and question. It’s sobering, when you’ve fought some losing fights and not received the miracle you were asking for.

I wish I felt more celebratory about it at this stage of the process. I’ve had so many people walk up to me at church in the last couple of weeks since our big fund raising push to congratulate me, and my response feels so empty.

I always smile and say thank you, and tell them how excited we are, and those words are true. But sometimes what I wish I could say instead is, “Thanks. I’m really scared, and my heart still aches for my babies in Heaven, and some days I’m not even really sure I believe that God will give us a family on this side of Heaven. But we’re going to keep asking Him to, and we’re really thankful for all the people in our life that are asking Him with us.”

So as we get ready to be matched with a birth mom and eventually bring home a baby, the logical next thing to do is begin to prepare that empty room I’ve been ignoring for months.

It feels so risky to make room. Foolish, even. Yet I know no other way than to believe that the promise in Psalm 25 is true, “No one who hopes in the Lord will ever be put to shame.”

I wonder what Noah felt like, building that ark with no rain in sight. Yet if he hadn’t, there would have never been an opportunity to see the promise after the flood. Sometimes obedience is a foolish risk.

So, foolish as it feels, we decided to start making room.

We went to Home Depot (a labor of love in itself, because I kind of hate that place) and bought some white paint, and all weekend, I painted what will soon be a nursery.

I thought about how it seemed prophetic, while I was spackling parts of the walls before painting, filling holes and smoothing edges, that maybe something of this process is being mirrored in my spirit.

I prayed and I worshiped as I painted those walls over and over (because white paint on green walls equals more coats than anyone has actual patience for), sometimes crying, sometimes smiling in wonder of the little life that will grow in that room. I prayed over this baby, whoever they are, wherever they are, and the sweet woman who’s carrying a life that she will choose to entrust to us.

At one point I looked down at my paint-covered hands, and I couldn’t help remembering the way they looked on that night two months ago, covered in the blood of another lost life. Now here they were, washed in white with the risky hope of redemption, and that felt prophetic too.

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We don’t get to know when or how God’s promises for our lives will be fulfilled. And the more I grow up, the more I believe that’s probably His grace.

Our job is to hope with open hands — or in my case, and open bedroom. Knowing at the end of it all, our hope is not in an outcome. He is our hope. Firm and secure, as an anchor for our souls. Steadfast. Unshaken. Immovable.

And you know what I’ve learned about making room?

He always fills my hollow spaces with bigger Hope.

Would it have still been worth it?

Tuesday, September 6: It was a regular day. We were in a friend’s living room, worshiping and praying with our small group community from church, just like we do every week.

Noland and I were getting ready to launch this big fund raising campaign the next day for our adoption, and I was feeling THE MOST vulnerable and exposed. We’d just been singing a song called “Nothing Shall Be Impossible,” the chorus boldly proclaiming:

Nothing shall be impossible for You
Nothing shall be impossible for us
For You made all things right upon the cross
Oh, the love of Jesus Christ

At the end of that song, we all just felt like we needed to stand in faith for one another in impossible places — ours obviously being the $15,000 we were trying to raise over the next 30 days.

As our friends gathered around to lay hands on us and pray over our next 30 days, one friend of ours boldly said, “Guys, tomorrow is September 7. I just feel like that’s significant… seven being the Biblical number of completion, and the day that God rested because His work was already done. I feel like tomorrow, God is completing what He’s already begun in your family. You can rest. It’s done.”

So the next day at noon, we launched this campaign. The goal was $15K in 30 days. Exactly seven hours later, at 7 pm, we’d reached our goal of $15K.

It was exactly as our friends had prayed the night before. It was exactly as God had spoken. Noland and I were undone. Many of you were a part of this sweet miracle, and I wish I could hug every single one of you for fighting for our family the way that you have. We laughed and cried and cheered and celebrated like crazy, that our God is faithful. That nothing shall be impossible for Him.

Yet when the cheers calm down, I hear the whisper of the accuser: “Why should this time be any different?”

We’ve been here before. In February of 2015, when we had put belief for family on the shelf until after our move to Utah, God placed this invitation on the table. A baby boy, growing inside of the womb of an addict, in need of someone to fight for him.

We were so certain that we had heard from God loud and clear. Our friends were having dreams and visions of us adopting this boy. Strangers were walking up to us at church and praying over our growing family. We felt so sure of what God was speaking over his life and his story. And then in an instant, he was gone.

About three years ago, we had just begun trying to get pregnant. It had been a few months, and I was starting to wonder if this was going to be a long and daunting journey for us. We hadn’t told anyone we were trying yet. I felt discouraged and alone, unsure of how to walk out such a tender and uncertain thing.

We were at a worship night at church, and a girl I hardly knew walked up and asked if she could pray for me. She said she didn’t know what kind of impossible thing I was facing, but she felt led to come pray over whatever it was. As she prayed over me, she said, “I just want to submit this to you… I feel like I’m supposed to tell you ‘three years.’”

Immediately I was a little bit mad about that. It had only been like three months, and three years felt like an eternity. For years after that, I held that word really loosely, unsure of what to make of such a specific prophetic word about such a tender thing.

We had started believing God for a family on July 1, 2013. I remember the date because it was the day after our anniversary. On July 2, 2016, I stood in a hotel room in Berlin, staring in shock and disbelief at a positive pregnancy test.

Three years.

It was exactly as God said. We couldn’t believe it. I’ll never forget running down the street to a dear friend’s apartment, laughing and crying and praying together as we praised God for such a sweet miracle gift.

And then a month later, I felt my heart sink and a lump swell in my throat when the doctor couldn’t find a heart beat. Five days after that, I miscarried that little miracle gift.

How do you make sense of that kind of suffering? That kind of confusion? When you had an undeniable encounter with God, knowing He was at work, and then it just ends in death?

And how do you believe that the next one won’t end the same way?

Over Labor Day weekend, we had our discipleship school retreat, and one night as my friend Codi spoke on being ‘Faithful in the Little’ he said something that has been ringing in my ears ever since: “Would it have still been worth it if David never became king?”

He was talking about an area of his own life where he’d been working through disappointment with God, and He kept feeling like God was asking him that question. Over several months, he said he wrestled with that question, wondering what he was supposed to make of it.

Would it have still been worth it if David had never become king? If the anointing happened but the appointing never did — if he had just spent those years as a shepherd, falling deeply in love with his God, understanding and becoming a man after our Shepherd’s heart.

Would it have been worth it?

I started thinking about my life, and about all the promises I know God has spoken over our family, and I asked myself, “Would all of this be worth it, even if we never become parents on this side of Heaven?”

That is a sobering question to reconcile in your heart. But you know what I’ve learned about suffering? My suffering is not a thing that God assigned to me to teach me a lesson. My suffering is a thing God entrusted to me to draw me and others closer to Him.

Authority is a costly thing, and it is forged in the kind of fire that only leaves you with one companion: Jesus.

And yes. Of course He’s worth it.

Does that mean I stop believing for our promise fulfilled on this side of Heaven, though? Absolutely not. I have resolved two things in my heart that I will not allow:

  1. I will not turn my back on the only One who’s walked with me through the fire, regardless of whether or not I ever get “what I want” on this side of eternity.
  2. I will not allow fear to steal my hope and faith in what my God is capable of.

This is important, though: If I miss the fact that Jesus is worth my suffering, then those two “I won’t” statements are just me being a strong-willed middle child who refuses to lose. But if I’m anchored in the reality that my prize on this side of Heaven is the promise of His presence, then those two statements are a declaration of the intimacy with Him that I am unwilling to forfeit because of my pain and disappointment.

So there’s my challenge for all of us, I guess. Are you willing to go there and reconcile in your heart that whatever your “David anointed as king” promise is will still be worth it, even if you never see it fulfilled?

Or put more bluntly: is the promise of Emmanuel, God with us, enough?

Fear is a Liar

Last winter, at 26 years old, I learned how to ski. Everyone says you should learn those kinds of things as a kid, before you know that falling is scary. That way your learning won’t be hindered by your fear.

Whoa. I’m going to say that last sentence again. That way your learning won’t be hindered by your fear.

Isn’t it funny that the longer we live, the more we want to avoid things that scare us? We literally hinder ourselves from learning new things when we do that. We become stagnant in our bodies, minds and spirits because we’d rather be numb than injured.

I remember thinking about this concept a lot when I was learning to ski. It almost made me angry, the thought that because I’m “old enough to fear it,” I could hold myself back from an experience. I realize everyone is not wired this way, but my response was par for the course for my fiercely competitive personality:

“Don’t tell me what I can’t do. I am about to NAIL. THIS. THING.”

I was obviously humbled as I not-so-gracefully cruised the bunny slopes with my patient and gracious professional ski instructor friend on my first day. But you know what? I caught on quickly and I was skiing blues by the fourth time I ever put on skis.

That does NOT mean I didn’t almost throw up from anxiety on the way up the lift a few times, or that I didn’t let certain four letter words come out of my mouth on the way down when the speed made me uncomfortable. It doesn’t mean that I didn’t, as the ski bums say, “biff it” (aka major wipeout), or that I made it out of the season without a few minor injuries.

But those were some of my favorite days during our first year in Utah, and I think it’s because I was living outside of my comfort zone and coming home better for it. It wasn’t without some pretty gnarly bruises on some days, but something in my spirit was being strengthened by this act of continuing to return to the mountain and choose bravery.

Back in the spring I designed a few prints that we sold as a fund raiser for our trip to Europe to engage the refugee crisis this summer. One of them said, “Fear is a Liar.” I have a copy of it framed in my house and another one above my desk at work, and I can’t decide if it feels ironic or timely that I designed it in this season of my life. I have never wrestled with fear more than I have (or still am) this year.

If I’m honest, all of my fear is wrapped up in this one area of my life: an empty longing for motherhood. Losing two babies in 14 months does not exactly make you feel encouraged about continuing to run your race.

It is the place I feel the most injured, and the place I have the most tendency to self protect. It is the area of my life that I feel the most exposed and vulnerable. It is the deepest longing of my heart and the most out of my control thing I’ve ever walked through.

As we go through the adoption process this time around, I wrestle with fear every day. Fear of whether I’m even going to be good at this mom thing when it finally happens. Fear of it never happening. Fear of feeling so exposed and vulnerable through the process of fund raising. Fear of failing at that part. Fear of missing any opportunity to feel joy on this whole journey because I’m just waiting for the bottom to fall out like it always seems to.

The list could go on.

But here is what I’ve learned: there is a difference between living through our fear and living fearful.

When we live through our fear, we choose to walk into hard things, because we know that getting “over” something is not actually helpful — it’s getting through it that bears fruit. When we live fearful, we self protect from the “getting through it” part because we know it will cost us something, and we don’t want to feel the pain and discomfort.

I think I’ve said this before, but I heard someone say at a conference earlier this year that “fearless people don’t know they’re fearless.” They live outside of their comfort and they allow hard things to sharpen and refine them. Fearless people don’t know they’re fearless because they are constantly choosing to live through their fear.

Y’all. I DO NOT FEEL FEARLESS. But I want to do this season of my life the same way I did it last winter: continuing to return to the mountain and choose bravery. Knowing that the Perfect Love who casts out fear (1 John 4:18) is going before and behind me. Believing even when I don’t feel like it that He who promised is faithful (Hebrews 10:23).

Throwing off everything that hinders and the sin (read: FEAR) that so easily entangles. Running with perseverance the race marked out for me, fixing my eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith (Hebrews 12:1-2).

. . .

Maybe you need a daily reminder like me. Including a free download of the “Fear is a Liar” print below. Enjoy. May it encourage you to live through your fear, not from it.

Download ‘Fear is a Liar’ Print