… in the land of the living.

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I loved this verse I read from Psalms 27:13-14 today: “I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” Ahh, 6 simple words – “In the land of the living.” My prayers echo this, believing we will see answers to our prayers on this earth during our life. And so we wait. We pray. We remain strong by His might. We find courage in Him. On days of despair, when my heart is in shambles and the statistics shout against my hope, I will wait. I will believe. I WILL see His continued goodness. Breathe in and breathe out. Whatever you’re waiting for today, find Him first then lean into His gentle yet mighty strength.

I believe”– the definition of “believe” is to accept something as truth and be sure of something. So when we say “I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living”, we are saying “I trust, without a doubt, without question and with completely certainty, that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” The Message translation reads like this: “I’, sure now I’ll see God’s goodness in the exuberant earth. Stay with God! Take heart. Don’t quit. I’ll say it again: Stay with God.”

It can be so hard to stay with God when you feel weary. But here’s where I have been challenged in the past – when I am feeling my weariest, I realize that I have not been staying with God. I have been trying to manage it all on my own and inviting God to walk along side me, I have not met Him first or sought Him first. I tend to make it about me and my “needs”. I’ll consult Him, when I have the time. His Bible, hey, it’s great to read when I am done with my prayer list. Quiet time to listen? Shoot, well, I have to catch up on the Real Desperate Housewife of Orange County finale …. It’s only in the moments when I put Him first that I truly and completely feel the wave of peace wash over me and the weariness lifted. Because it’s in THOSE moments, when God takes over, carries the load and the invites me to walk beside Him.(And more often then not, He ends up carrying me.)

It’s so worth it and yet it can be so hard. I love the control. I love the adrenaline of the challenge, but it’s so draining. This verse today has reminded me to believe without a doubt that God will grant our prayers on this earth and has increased my confidence and trust in waiting on Him.

discouragement and expectations.

My highlighter has run dry. I recently read a chapter in the book Crash the Chatterbox by Steven Furtick that had my highlight moving at the speed of light. In fact, if you peered at my book at the moment, you would likely find more things NOT highlighted than highlighted. My underlining skills have much to be desired however there was so many great points packed in this chapter about expectations, discouragement and disappointment that I just couldn’t keep it to myself. So here’s my list of my favorite quotes – (and this won’t do the book justice so order a copy today*!):

1. “When the internal dialogue of discouragement starts in your heart, remember – the Enemy’s goal goes way beyond putting you in a bad mood temporarily. He’s trying to talk you out of trusting God’s plan for your life at a foundational level. And he’s not just trying to derail you. He aims to limit the impact God wants to make through you and beyond you.”

I know I am not alone when it comes to that internal dialogue that starts talking to me at night. You’ll never have a baby. You’ll never see an answer to these prayers. You are broken. You should just stop trying. Everyone else is meant to have a baby, look at you, being passed up again, and again, and again. You heard your calling wrong. The chatter in my head is insistent. But every word of the chatter is taking God out of the equation and causing me to doubt what I believe in the bottom of my heart that God has called me to be (a mom). When the devil starts churning that doubt in my head, it isn’t just a temporary stumble, it begins to root those lies in my heart and brain, affecting every aspect of my life. Time to put those lies aside and focus on the TRUTHS I have been given. Easier said than done, right? But like muscles, it just takes some training – continued training – and never giving up.

2. “The greatest source of discouragement for me is going through pain when I can’t see the purpose.”

Isn’t pain so much easier when you can see a domino effect of good that has come out of it? You work out every day and you see results. You give up soda and you lose a few pounds. You lose your job only to get a better job. There is a feeling of accomplishment and strength that keeps you motivated because you see the purpose, sometimes immediate and sometimes it takes a little while.

But what about when one of your parents passes away? Or you have a miscarriage? Or your son dies away shortly after he is born? Or your husband gets cancer? Then what? The pain and discouragement lingers and you don’t see a purpose, you can’t find any good in the situation and the discouragement gets heavier.

While I will never sit here and tell you that your child dying is a good thing, I do believe that good things can come from immense pain. My miscarriages were not good – they were so painful that there doesn’t seem to be accurate words to convey that pain – but out of that, good things have come. I became more relatable to many of you, forming friendships and being able to walk in faith along side of you. I have seen friends turn back to God after reading a post and I have met so many of you that I am able to pray for and with. Those are good things. The stories I hear, how you share with me about how God is working in your life despite your struggles, that gives purpose to my pain. It lessens my discouragement.

 3. “Let me offer a working definition of disappointment: disappointment is the gap between what I expect and what I experience. And the chatterbox (that voice in our head) looks for ways to exploit your disappointment by filling that gap with doubts about the goodness of God.”

I have continued to learn that there’s a central thread that runs through expectations and that is communication. There have been nights that I have been out for the evening and hope that Josh magically reads my mind to unload the dishwasher while I am gone. When I get home and the dishwasher is still full, I am disappointed – what I experience is not what I expected. I could be mad at him, frustrated for his lack of mind-reading capabilities or I could communicate with him what I was hoping for and let it go. Or even better, I could communicate my expectations before going out so that he knew what I hoped to experience when I returned. How many times have we been mad at God for not answering something we never prayed to Him about? Or held an unanswered request against Him, even and especially when its something we have prayed and pleaded with Him about? One question I ask myself regularly when I am disappointed is “Was his/her intentions to hurt me?” Josh would never intend to make me frustrated on purpose and God doesn’t intend to cause us pain either. He does expect us to trust in His goodness however which builds our faith as we navigate disappointments.

 4. Disappointed expectations, when full-grown, give birth to chronic discouragement. If you allow this discouragement to run rampant in your life, you’ll lose your hope.”

We can’t be people that constantly focus on what we are lacking or where our expectations have fallen short. That focus is what guts our faith and drains us of our joy, purpose and hope. I am been a victim of falling into the cycle of chronic disappointment and losing my hope – the good news is it’s possible to regain but it takes time spent with God, a commitment to seek Him above your prayer request list and the faith to say even if my request isn’t answered, You are still good.

 5. “If God always met our expectations, He’d never be able to exceed them. Sometimes God takes us to another level by building higher. Sometimes He does it by digging deeper.”

The first time I read this quote I starred it, highlighted it, underlined it, shouted a mental ‘amen’ in my head …. then a few hours later as I washed my hair in the shower, I thought about it some more. And it irritated me. God, I am not even asking you to exceed my expectations, I am perfectly fine with you just meeting them. I would be thrilled with just getting an answer, it doesn’t need to be anything fancy. Just something, anything, please …. I have to admit, I am still sorting through my thoughts on this one but I like where it is going. (But really God, I’ll take 3rd place, just let me be on the podium …)

(The story I shared of Lazarus in this blog post from September talks a lot more about failed expectations and the richness that can be found in Him exceeding what we ask.)

 6. “Don’t let what you expected keep you from what God wants you to experience.”

We are living in the present moment and as much as we hope for _________ (a baby/a new job/a bigger paycheck/a healed spouse/a repaired marriage/student loans to be paid off), we have to live in today. That means experiencing everything that God has given us right here, right now. I believe that some of the richest blessings in life come from acknowledging that what we are experiencing, as imperfect and difficult as it may be, is something that is molding us for even greater days. These are precious moments.

7. “Believing God means assuming that He is always working, even when our faith and prayers and love doesn’t seem to be working at all. Realizing this opens our hearts to accept what God has allowed in each season of our lives without being overtaken by discouragement.”

This is where faith is tested. Faith is tested in the season of silence, in the season of unanswered prayers, in the season where sorrow and disappointments swirl around us like a frigid winter snow. It’s also the time where we can be strengthened if we allow God to meet us where we are and walk with Him during the storm. Disappointment sucks, but there IS a future ahead, where disappointments fade away and peace is given. It’s exhausting but completely worth it.

Good stuff right!? Should I do a similar post on the chapter about gratitude later this month? Weigh in on the comments and let me know! Until next time …

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Oh and a random PS – you know what’s crazy – that if my first IVF cycle had not resulted in a miscarriage, today would have been our child’s 1st birthday (assuming the due date was spot on). I am not sure where time went and that makes this journey feel even longer than ever. Happy first birthday little Boone and Crockett. Sorry Dad nicknamed you such silly names – we love you!

* – I don’t get anything for recommending this book or link, it’s simply to make your purchase easier. :)