Upwardly Dependent » walking the delicate balance of absolute truth and overwhelming grace.

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The Post I’ve Waited Years to Write

I’ve had the pleasure of sharing some exciting news with several people over the last few weeks: Pinkston Baby #2 is on the way!

But I’m not pregnant. I have no ultrasound picture to share. And I can’t tell you when his due date is.

Gavin and I have started the adoption process and are thrilled to walk this journey with you. We’ve applied for a baby boy from Lesotho {Luh-soo-too}, a tiny country completely surrounded by the nation of South Africa.

As excited as we are, this post is so hard to write. I’m scrapping the first draft because, how exactly do I write about how God is moving in your life without sounding utterly self-righteous?

If I’m being honest, it would probably be nice if He just left us and our mushy, easily-convicted hearts alone for a while. He’s starting to make me sound like a pathological liar.

Hi. I’m a 26-year-old grad student. My husband is a family physician. We have a five-month-old daughter. We’re adopting from a country in Africa. We’re moving to a country in Asia. We think this is totally normal.

This is totally not normal.

But seriously. What is normal anyway? My white-house-picket-fence dream died long ago. Probably the day I burned my recipe for mom’s chicken and dumplins just after getting married.

Nah. It was probably the day I opened my new box of sidewalk chalk as a Kindergartener and wrote, I’m proud to be a white American all the way down my driveway.

That is totally not normal.

Kindergarteners don’t know they’re white. They definitely don’t know they’re American. Lee Greenwood can sing though, ya’ll.

———-

I joke because I don’t want to make this some sappy post that we publish and then sit anxiously awaiting the Facebook likes. I share the embarrassing sidewalk chalk story to say that God has been doing a work in us for a while.

I knew Gavin shared my burden for adoption before we married. I love this man’s heart. There’s nothing I can throw at him that he doesn’t join me in complete abandon.

We actually started the domestic adoption process this time last year. When I became pregnant with sweet little Eliza we were declined for a home study. So we accepted that we would have to wait to pursue this heartfelt calling.

Then again this fall, God was still knocking. And again, Gavin and I felt ready to begin the process. We knew that it would be difficult to find any agency that would consider working with us in light of our upcoming move.

But God is so in control.

I reached out to my friend Abby, who I knew was in the process of adopting from Africa. She told me that her agency specialized in working with expatriate families {people living in a country different from their passport nation}. Why in the round world am I so surprised every time Romans 8:28 is fulfilled in my life??

We Skyped with Small World Adoption Agency’s ex-pat coordinator, and she answered so many of our questions. She lived in China during both of her adoptions, and calmed our fears of raising children of a different race in a culture different from either of us.

After sharing our thoughts, concerns, and burdens, she directed us to apply for adoption from Lesotho. The country has recently become Hague Accredited, and only works with one agency in the US.

Besides the logistics of adoption legalities, Lesotho seems to present a pressing need for adoptions. There are 140,000 orphans in this tiny country. Lesotho has the highest rate of AIDS per capita in the world. I’m learning so much.

———-

All this talk sounds like we are swooping in to save the day. Please let me do my best to change your mind about this.

We are not adopting to “save” a child. The son that we look forward to welcoming into our family already feels like ours. When you pray and think and talk about someone multiple times a day for months, he starts to feel pretty real. We don’t have a name or a face yet, but I can feel him in my heart. This child will not be raised as a charity project…he will be raised as family.

We don’t want our son to feel “lucky.” I have read nightmare stories of adopted children who feel like they have to please their parents in order to thank them for their adoption. In our minds, an adoption is a no-strings-attached extension of love. When God adopted us as sons and daughters, He did so because He loved us. The End. That’s how we feel about our son-to-be.

We are not seeking praise. One of my greatest fears in announcing this adoption is that people will praise us. I can hear it now. What a noble thing to do! That child is so lucky! I wish I had the courage to do that! Please don’t say these things. Please point to the One who makes all of this possible. Please notice how Awesome our Maker is whose Spirit empowers us to do things beyond our ability.

We are scared. As part of our home study, Gavin and I have been reading adoption books and blogs out the wazoo. There are so many things that could go poorly with this process. We feel completely out of control not knowing the biological makeup of our next child. But God is Healer. We keep telling ourselves that. God is Healer. God is Healer. God is Healer.

———-

We are so thrilled to finally share this news with those we love! There’s a long road ahead. This blog will serve as a platform for documenting the journey of our adoption, our life in Southeast Asia, social justice issues, and random God Thoughts.

Thank you to everyone who has supported us in this decision already.

To our families: Thank you for instilling in us a love for children, regardless of the age, race, or ability level. We know our next child will be blessed by the most loving grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Your willingness to walk through this with us is encouraging beyond what our words can express.

To our references, Aunt Michelle, Aunt Cheryl, Tim, Daniel, Mike and Vanessa, Michael and Kris, Jacob and Carly, and Michael and Aletha: You are so kind to say nice things about us and get those letters notarized.  We owe you!

To our friends: Thank you for putting up with our constant and excessive ridiculousness. We are blessed by your encouragement and patience. Each time you send an uplifting text, a smile of approval, or a cry of joy with us, we know that we are surrounded by the best family of believers anyone could ask for.

To Ginny Phillips: Thank you for the pictures. Thank you for your unselfishness. Thank you for caring about us enough to edit pictures in the midst of the black plague in your home.

———-

Who knows how God will breathe into your life? I don’t always feel smart enough, strong enough, or rich enough to follow where He leads me.  I just hope He’s always close enough to reveal His will for me.

SharonNovember 30, 2013 - 4:03 pm

Here to support you and Gavin in whatever way I can! Got you all in my prayers…

Lisa GoodmanNovember 30, 2013 - 4:46 pm

We love you and our new grandson !!! Feeling very blessed :) Sorry the chicken and Dumplins didn’t work out

Tina HickmanNovember 30, 2013 - 5:34 pm

Congratulations! Can’t wait to hear and see all about him. Do you have any idea how long it will be? Baby or toddler? Love y’all :)

DebbieNovember 30, 2013 - 5:55 pm

So excited to hear this wonderful news! Prayers for you, Gavin and Eliza as God’s plan unfolds. Love you bunches!

Sandra BrooksNovember 30, 2013 - 5:56 pm

From a grandmother of a gift from another country I am so happy for you and your sweet family!

Stephen KelleyNovember 30, 2013 - 6:40 pm

This is awesome news! Adoption is such a blessing to YOUR life. We prayed for 13 years about a child. God guided us through the adoption process too. Yes, children will be blessed by being adopted by Christian families. However, those Christian families are far more blessed… in my opinion. Hannah Grace was our child before we ever decided on her name and before we ever received the call from Agape to adopt… mainly because we had already received the call from God.

We are super excited for y’all. We will be praying about this process. God bless!

Susie McCarrollNovember 30, 2013 - 7:26 pm

Oh Lauren and Gavin and Eliza.. Congratulations!!! I can’t wait to hear about all the ways that God is working in your lives!!!! What a blessing!!!! Thank you so much for sharing this!!! I am so happy for you all!!! May God keep enriching your lives as you travel this new journey!!

Tony and Pauline Watson {NZ}November 30, 2013 - 10:14 pm

We ask God to bless you richly. We are proud to know some of your family..

Rebecca ThroneberryDecember 1, 2013 - 1:31 am

We are very excited for you and will be praying for your sweet family during this process!

FrancisDecember 1, 2013 - 1:39 am

So happy to hear of your soon to arrive baby boy!! Congratulations Mama!

Linda Crowe MazzaDecember 1, 2013 - 3:07 am

I’m a high school friend of Gavin’s mother, Sharon. I want to say that I enjoyed your blog and hopefully will be able to continue reading as your family begins the awesome journey. Your family will be in my prayers.

AliceDecember 1, 2013 - 3:50 am

Gavin and Lauren!

I am so happy for you and I am thrilled to get to see this. Keep us all posted. Randy and I will pray for your sweet family.

Alice

Sharon PinkstonDecember 1, 2013 - 3:54 am

God is so good and I am so thankful. Am so looking forward to another grand baby..

Emily HopkinsDecember 1, 2013 - 8:36 am

Adoption is a scary thing to go through but without it I would have never been a Mom! If you are in TN I have a GREAT candidate to help you with your home studies and if you need an attorney too. Top notch great ladies who know what they are doing!

Larry W. RedmondDecember 1, 2013 - 6:17 pm

I Will Praise Two, But I Will Praise Jehovah God For Blessing You Two, And Blessing You Both For Open Hearts.

Larry W. RedmondDecember 1, 2013 - 6:19 pm

I Will Not Praise You Two (The First Segment)

Joy CrileDecember 2, 2013 - 8:37 pm

I’m so excited for you. Yes, I’m excited that you are starting the adoption process and that you will be adding another sweet child to your family. However, I’m most excited about the fact that you are following God’s leading in your life and taking one step at a time in this adoption process. Can’t wait to hear more!

RobinDecember 2, 2013 - 10:20 pm

Prayers for your precious family on this amazing journey that our awesome God has planned for you!

April VanceDecember 6, 2013 - 12:48 pm

Lauren & Gavin,
Hello friends! Since meeting you 4 months ago ya’ll have taught me so much about the term CHRISTIAN/DISCIPLE! You are two of the most AMAZING people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting! I say that with all the LOVE in my heart! This just fits ya’ll so perfectly, and you are going to be wonderful parents to this sweet little boy!

LOVE YOU BUNCHES!!
April

The Pinterest Complex {and the guilt of womanhood}

This post is dedicated to all you ladies, mommas, teenage girls, {and I guess effeminate men} who have a love-hate relationship with this logo:

  Pinterest_Logo

 

Guys, seriously. I love social media. And when my sister told me a few years ago about a new website called Pinterest, I immediately made an account.

 

A place where I can store all my favorite bookmarks in one easy-to-get-to location? And I can organize it by themes? And all of the unbelievably beautiful things from the Anthropologie and beyond are at my fingertips? Sign me up!

 

And then it happened. The lives of every tech-savvy woman with a hint of hospitality and an eagerness to impress were changed forever.

 

Tablescapes” became a real word used in party planning vocabulary. Weddings turned into massive outbursts of regurgitated creativity. Enter: Mason jars, cake pops, and miles and miles of burlap. Am I the only one that feels like Pinterest threw up on every baby shower and holiday party I now attend?

 

{Hear me out…I’m just making a point to get to a better topic. No offense if you drink out of Mason jars while serving cake pops tied with burlap bows.}

 

Every pin I have is pretty and perfect in every way. And if something is extraordinarily perfect, I “like” it instead of “pin” it so that others won’t find it on their newsfeed. I want that particular pretty all to myself. Yes, I’m a snob. And don’t ask me if I “saw that on Pinterest”…of course I fabricated the ideas for that birthday party theme all by myself!

 

Ha.

 

I think all that perfect prettiness has given me a false sense of reality.

 

I see all of these people pinning organic, paleo, gluten-free recipes and think, Wow. I eat like a Paula-Deen-Cream-of-Mushroom-Soup-and-Ritz-Cracker fanatic.

 

I watch my timeline fill with house plans and whitewashed kitchens and think, Great. I have a one-bedroom garage apartment and my daughter sleeps in a pack-n-play in our bathroom. Not winning a motherhood award any time soon.

 

There are others who post links to 7-minute ab workouts and daily cleaning calendars for their homes. I’m not EVEN going to tell you what I think when I see these. Got to keep my Christian image up, you know?

 

So, this is all veeeeeery Pinteresting (see what I did there?).

 

We are taking in all of these images of perfect homes, perfect children, perfect food, and perfect bodies. It’s like a fast track to comparing ourselves to others and feeling inferior once again.

 

I knew I had a problem today when I walked into the baby section at Target. I’m standing in the formula aisle, and see that there is an off-brand that is twice as large as the Similac container for the same price. So I read the ingredients and percentages of vitamins to compare. Yep, exactly the same.

 

And the mommy guilt set in. Because I let my wandering eyes take me to the organic formula container. That’s what good mommas who shop at baby boutiques and wear their Moby wraps buy, right?

 

Finally, my practical, third-world-conscious side kicked in and I bought the Up & Up off-brand formula. I can honestly say that I was embarrassed to put that container on the conveyer belt at the checkout counter. Was the clueless teenage guy scanning my items thinking about how I should have bought organic???

 

And what’s worse, that guilt followed me all the way to my next stop. I was taking lunch to a friend, and Eliza was hungry. I needed the formula I had just bought, but I didn’t want my dear friend to know I had bought the crazy Up & Up brand. So I refilled the formula divider out of the trunk of my car before I went inside so that I would be more confident making my baby’s bottle in front of her.

 

{With all the nursing and breastmilk storage tips on Pinterest, I’m already feeling guilty enough admitting to the world that I have to feed my four month old formula.}

 

Here’s the skinny: My life doesn’t look at all like my Pinterest boards. I don’t always have a cohesive meal to serve my family for dinner. The headbands I made for my daughter honestly look kind of dumb. I can’t afford half the clothes I pin as “my style.” And I definitely haven’t performed any ab workouts lately.

 

The good news is, we weren’t designed to be materialistically perfect. We’re not even expected to be good! Only God is good.  

 

But Matthew 5 tells us that we ARE supposed to be perfect at heart, just as our heavenly Father is perfect. Not with a trendy, chevron-painted outside, but with a captivating, unselfish, submissive inside.

 

I guess if Jesus had a Pinterest board, he would post things from this chapter like:

 

Blessed {perfect} are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

 

Blessed {perfect} are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

 

Blessed {perfect} are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

 

Blessed {perfect} are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

 

Blessed {perfect} are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

 

Blessed {perfect} are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

 

Blessed {perfect} are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

 

Blessed {perfect} are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

 

Stop worrying about whether your life looks perfect. It’s okay if you are wearing a skirt from the clearance rack to Bible class. It’s ok if you let your child eat half a gallon of Halloween candy. (That was meant to be extreme – Bless your heart if you did.) It’s okay if you would rather claw your eyes out than learn to run a sewing machine. IT’S OKAY.

 

But pretty please start worrying about your heart. Let’s work together towards the attributes Christ desires for us so that by His grace He will one day call us perfect.

 

 

 ————————————–

 

Am I alone in feeling the pressure to appear like I’ve got it all together with a designer handbag on top? How are you practicing the Spiritual Disciplines of Matthew 5?

 

AprilDecember 23, 2013 - 9:51 am

As soon as that baby is born it begins….the Mommy guilt. I am victim to it as well with two babies now. A good mom would have (insert whatever it is you are not doing at the time). My cousin once mailed me an article from her devotional book not long after I became a Mom. I had been talking with her on the phone about how breast-feeding was just not working with my son. She was encouraging me and yet still telling me that everything would be ok if it didn’t work out. For there record, breast-feeding didn’t work and we had much success with formula and he is a very healthy 3 year old now that is hardly ever sick. But that article she sent me was about Mommy guilt and how the evil one relishes in us having those disparaging thoughts about ourselves. The bottom line is if we are loving on our kids and teaching them how to be like all those be attitudes, then we are doing what’s right for them. But I totally get that sometimes you just have to vent on the whole pinterest thing. It’s a handy tool but it does bite us in the butt with ALL THE IDEAS!

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For When You Don’t Feel Saved

I remember sitting in a living room full of recovering addicts this time last year. We were teaching about Spiritual gifts and the ‘deeper’ things of Scripture (ha), when one woman simply looked up and said, “What is grace?

What is grace? Are you kidding me? That’s like Christianity 101. I thought every American knew about God’s grace….Has she not seen those fake billboards from God?

I left a run-down house that day smelling like second-hand smoke, shaking my head in disbelief. There was someone I had been speaking about God with for months who couldn’t even talk about grace because she didn’t know what it was.

It was then that I started to really dig into what God meant when He said I was saved by grace. In teaching these ladies, who had been to Hell and back on Earth, I started to see how much I, too, needed to be redeemed.

The world told these women that they could never be good enough. They had stolen from their parents for drugs. They had sold their bodies for money to merely buy a meal for that day. They had shot poison into their veins after vowing they would never stoop so low as to use a needle to get high. But God was telling them that He was waiting for them to stop worrying about trying to earn His favor.

He was freely giving it to them.

So how could I, a goody-two-shoes church girl on her way to save the world, have learned so much from these ladies? Well, I know exactly how it feels to think that I can never be good enough for God.

Growing up, my church taught a 5-step solution to salvation. It was well-intentioned and was meant to be measurable and easy to understand. The problem is, it was measurable and easy to understand. You either do it, or you don’t.

So I did it. I heard, I believed, I repented, I confessed, and I was baptized.

Ding! The angels in Heaven rejoiced! One more saved soul coming right up!

But there were days I didn’t feel saved. There were times I knew I wasn’t living good enough to earn the salvation I thought I had to work for.

And there was this constant frustration every time I heard of wonderful people doing amazing, God-filled things. I wrestled with thoughts like, Did they follow my five steps? If they didn’t, can I accept their faith?

I can honestly say that I lived for 23 years in fear that if I started to accept that God could save someone apart from my personal plan of salvation, He would snatch my own salvation, too.

Somehow, in my twisted mind, no one was good enough to earn God’s grace unless they came to Christ just like me. And what’s worse, I started to believe that I was somehow a blessing to God. Wasn’t He lucky that I was so obedient?

Guys, I was so wrong.

So, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, WRONG.

God wants to save the church girl just as much as he wants to save the heroin addict.

—————-

I stumbled upon a new passage tonight in reading more about the idea of God’s grace. Here’s how The Living Bible translation puts it, for those of you like me who struggle with fancy language:

For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn; he will never go back on his promises. Once you {Gentiles} were rebels against God, but when the Jews refused his gifts God was merciful to you instead. And now the Jews are the rebels, but some day they, too, will share in God’s mercy upon you. For God has given them all up to sin so that he could have mercy upon all alike. (Romans 11:29-32)

I thought Satan was the one that caused us to sin. I still think he does. But God made my body, and He gave me my spirit.

Hang with me here. Things are about to get crazy.

God could have chosen to design us any way He wanted. Had it been me, I would have made sure everyone that I made knew just how powerful I was, just how in-control I was, and I would have also required hourly compliments on my looks and a large Sonic sweet tea on the side.

But God didn’t do that. He made us in such a way that we could live for ourselves if we wanted. He gave us the freedom to choose righteousness or worldliness. And WE ALL CHOSE WORLDLINESS. All of us.

And what’s even crazier, maybe He’s glad we did. If we didn’t need a Savior, then how could He possibly show us how much He loves us?

Oh, what a wonderful God we have! How great are his wisdom and knowledge and riches! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his methods! (Romans 11:33)

I’m still soaking all of this up. I’ve had to read these verses again and again, and then wash some dishes and read them again.

But I am so thankful that God cared enough to let me go so that He could welcome me back with open arms.

—————-

So why did I care so much to share these thoughts? One of my best friends from college called me yesterday. We share the same faith background, and our roots run deep in our fellowship of believers. We also share the struggle to hold onto our heritage while making Jesus our end-all be-all.

So she described her bondage of perfectionism, and how it overflowed into every aspect of her life. Her marriage, her job, and specifically her walk with God.

And then she said something that I have replayed in my mind over and over.

Lauren, when you lay your head down at night, do you feel like you are saved? Like you are going to Heaven?

Because I don’t.

Oh, how I have been here. Oh, how I have longed for the freedom to admit my imperfections while thanking God for my salvation in the same breath.

And what if Jesus just happened to decide to come back right as I finished saying the words ‘bless her heart’? {That insinuated that I was gossiping about someone, if you’ve never lived below the Mason-Dixon line.}

Can I really spend eternity with Him if I haven’t prayed for forgiveness after every little sin I commit?

And my heart aches because I know there are so many who have joined me on this journey.

Some of us have done things we would never dare speak inside the walls of a church building. Some of us can’t imagine the idea of someone outside our denomination being pleasing in the sight of the Lord. Some of us may have such low self-esteem that we don’t even think God cares enough about us to extend His grace to us.

The good news is, that puts us all in the same boat. We just don’t understand what God wants to give us. Or why He wants to forgive us. Or how we can accept His gift.

—————-

I’m a firm believer that time in Scripture is incredibly transformative in molding Christ-like people.

I want to share with you a Bible study method that has completely changed my faith walk. This 3-column study is based on writing scripture, drawing discoveries, and committing to obey.

Anyone can use this strategy to study. Here’s a visual of what it looks like:

  DBS

 

If you are struggling with believing that God has saved you from yourself, or if want to quit believing that you could somehow earn God’s favor, try spending time in His word.

There are so many passages that refer to God’s grace. I’ve chosen just a few that I thought would be most helpful. Pray over these scriptures. Dwell on the words. And spend a week on each passage allowing yourself to be obedient a little step at a time. Grace passages If you need an accountability partner, reach out to someone you are close to and ask them to join you on this journey. Reach out to me! I will share my “I will” for the week right alongside you.

May He bless you as you continue becoming the humbled, redeemed, sanctified person He designed you to be.

Grace and peace.

—-

Have you ever studied Scripture using this 3-column strategy? What are your favorite verses about grace?

Brittany RobinettJanuary 14, 2014 - 1:55 am

Lauren,

First I want to begin by telling you what I am sure you have heard many times… You are an absolute inspiration to young women like myself. Ever since I was a small child, I have known that I wanted to make a huge difference in the world and simply help people. As a college student trying to find a place in the world for a big helping heart like mine, I love reading your blog. Every day I open it up and even if you haven’t posted anything new, I can always read through things you have posted (over and over and over again) and be reminded of the wonderful plan God has in store for myself. Your blog makes my heart ache in so many different ways, and it is truly wonderful and refreshing to read about your passion, your heart, and your endeavors. You’re blog has become one of the largest blessings in my life.
Thank you so much for giving me so much without even knowing it.
God bless!
Brittany

Divine Silence and Unheard Prayers

If you have ever felt like your prayers weren’t being answered, this post is for you.

I had the honor of spending last weekend with an incredible group of ladies. We focused our thoughts and time together on the One who brings us unnumbered blessings: The Joymaker. As I prepared to speak about talking to this Incredible One who gives us such joy, it was blaringly obvious that joy wasn’t the consistent emotion among my faithful Sisters.

This life is such a buzzkill sometimes.

I know a teenager who is tired of school because of a nasty rumor. A friend heartbroken because her best friend’s marriage is in shambles. A servant heart who has been diagnosed with cancer. A young mother frustrated with playing church.

There’s a friend grieving over the loss of a pregnancy. A daughter disappointed in her parents’ life choices. A girl who is lonely from a lack of a relationship. A handful of people exhausted from battling depression. A wife hurting because her husband is not fulfilling his role as Spiritual leader and companion.

 

If you fit into any one of these categories and you are a believer, I know what you’ve been doing.

You’ve been praying.

You’ve been begging God to stop the madness. Asking Him to heal the hurt. Pleading with Him to relieve the weight of a tormented soul.

Seriously, God. Just give me a break!

Have you been there? Are you there now?

Sometimes it’s hard for us to get real with God in our prayers to Him. If the words we speak don’t sound just like, God is great, God is good, we’re not always confident He will hear them.

I think it’s time we took a lesson from Lamentations {I know, where all your favorite memory verses are found…}.

I’m fascinated by this book. Here’s the skinny on what’s been happening in Jerusalem.

God’s people were slaves in Egypt.
He rescued them.
He brought them to a beautiful land that He had promised.
They wanted a king.
He didn’t want them to have a king.
He gave them a king.
The kings turned wicked.
Jerusalem forgot about God.
Babylon was powerful.
Nebuchadnezzar becomes king of Babylon.

Guys, this was not a good time to be in Jerusalem. Nebuchadnezzar comes in, takes treasure from Solomon’s temple, and forces 10,000 of the richest, smartest, got-it-together men into captivity in Babylon.

After ten years of wickedness in the city, he comes back and surrounds the city for two years until everybody runs out of food. The king tries to escape, but they capture him, kill his sons in front of him, and then claw his eyes out. Not pretty stuff.

The walls of Jerusalem were destroyed, and the temple was burned down. Basically, God’s chosen people have been placed in a less-than-let’s-praise-Jesus situation.

Starting to relate?

If you can, stop and read Lamentations 3:1-18. I’m imagining an ugly cry from Jeremiah. He writes about a funeral of a city. Here’s a quick picture from verses 7-9:

He has walled me about so that I cannot escape; He has made my chains heavy. Though I call and cry for help, He shuts out my prayer;
He has blocked my ways with blocks of stones; He has made my paths crooked.

Have you ever talked this way about God?  Actually admitted that you feel like He has shut out your prayers?

It can be scary to admit you feel like your prayers aren’t being answered. We are Christians, and we of all people should be encouraging prayer and talking about its awesomeness.

But when we keep on praying and God is unresponsive, it makes us think that He doesn’t listen. That He doesn’t care. That our sin is blocking His blessings.

I remember my first year of marriage quite vividly. I moved from a large house and a family of six to a 600 square foot apartment with a man who talked about as much as a sedated hermit crab.

Ok it wasn’t that bad. But it felt like it.

We had no internet, no TV, and no entertainment budget. I was dying for a little excitement.

I asked Gavin for a baby, but quickly realized that was a joke. So I focused on begging for a cat. I probably brought up the subject once a day for several months, and each time he reminded me that we had no money, no space, and no time to be responsible.

So I sat in the floor and cried my eyes out, asking, Why don’t you want me to be happy?????

Yes. Totally practical.

But isn’t prayer like this sometimes? We think we know what we want or need to be happy. And God doesn’t deliver it on a silver platter. So we turn things around in our heads, believing that He just really doesn’t care.

Maybe it’s because we teach our kids to sing songs like, The blessings come down as the prayers go up! And the prayers go up but no blessings come down. And our whole belief system crashes as God remains in Divine Silence.

I’m starting to believe that God’s silence is meant to help us outgrow the inferior reasons for praying. Maybe prayer is less about getting relief, and more about coming into communion with our Joymaker.

Pain makes us incredibly honest, doesn’t it? When you stub your toe, you don’t dance around singing, Oh, my Jesus!

Well, you may say that, but it’s probably not followed with a praise song.

We can’t view prayer like a vending machine: prayer in, blessing out. Cha-ching. If we continue in this pattern, prayer can become an idol. It can become a way to manipulate God instead of simply being in conversation with Him.

If God immediately responded every time you prayed, you would begin to think the power lay within prayer, not within HIM.

Even Christ didn’t get what He asked for in the garden of Gethsemane. It’s fascinating to me that He knew this and still He told His followers, Pray that you may not enter into temptation.

I’m comforted in the fact that my conversation with God can be real. It can be questioning. It can be truthful and whiny and pitiful. But this honesty brings about a realization.

God is in control, and He can only do good.

In Lamentations 3:19-33, Jeremiah turns the tables a little. He brings joyful confidence to an otherwise bleak situation. He writes that the Lord is good to those who wait for Him. That God does not willingly grieve His children. And proclaims it is good to wait quietly for God. Here’s verse 55

I called your name, O Lord, from the depths of the pit; you heard my plea,
‘Do not close your ear to my cry for help!’
You came near when I called on you; You said, ‘Do not fear!’

I’m not saying that it’s bad to ask God for what you want. There are plenty of passages that encourage this concept. Ask, and ask in faith! Read this passage and know that God cares about what you care about, especially if you are persistent in your asking.

But if you’ve been asking for a while and you’ve not been granted your wish, maybe it’s time to lament. Drag your cries out before God and let Him hear your anguish. Soak up His silence and petition His power.

Maybe He’ll respond with, Not yet or In My time. Maybe He’ll just flat out say, No. You ask wrongly.

Have faith in the fact that He works in every dark time. My prayer is that everyone reading this will soon experience a time of relief, of joy, and of healing.

But for now, sweet friend, draw near to your Silent God. Find comfort in knowing that He understands your hurt.

Lay at His feet and experience how it feels to be completely out of control before an all-powerful God who seeks honest communion with you.

———-

Disclaimer: Many of these thoughts are a product of sitting and learning at the feet of my wise husband, who also learned at the feet of a wise Bible scholar, Dr. Kevin Youngblood.

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What does God’s silence lead you to believe about prayer? How can you practice being more honest with Him?

The Black Friday Beast + Social Injustice

The most exciting and ridiculous – yet undeniably entertaining – shopping day of the year is among us.

Black Friday. {Enter Twilight Zone theme music here.}

There were a few years where us sisters and cousins got out with our moms along with all the other crazies of society to do a little post-turkey coma shopping. And what a sight it was.

We heard there was a big sale on boots at Belk. We were laughing, cutting up, and hanging out in line with our Starbucks waiting on the store to open at 3 am. I had no idea what I had gotten myself into.

As soon as the doors flung open, you would have thought that we had all been drowning for days and Noah had kindly chosen to open up the entrance to the Ark.

So the doors to Belk flung open and I realized if I didn’t break out into a full-out sprint, I would be trampled under the feet of boot-hungry women. A few minutes later I found myself all alone in a sea of people, faux leather, and tissue paper.

Women were crawling under tables to try on shoes, then yelling out to their friends that they needed a half-size larger in the Steve Madden shoe. And there I was yelling, SIZE 10! I NEED A SIZE 10 IN THESE! HEY LADY ARE THERE ANY ON THAT TABLE????

I ran out of that store exhausted from my fight to find a $19.95 pair of knee boots to make me look like a valuable contribution to society. But there is something much more sad about this situation.

I fed into the American way of self-promoting materialism, regardless of the injustices someone else suffered for my gain.

———–

Did you know that there are 27 million slaves in the world today? The horrific events of the African Slave Trade hardly touch the massive extent of humans using other humans in the modern world.

You don’t have to look far to learn about nightmares happening in our own backyard. It’s been estimated that a typical American town of about 30,000 people has at least 15 young ladies hidden in basements being used as sex slaves. These girls serve an average of 16 or more ‘clients’ per day.

Remember the garment factory that collapsed in Bangladesh this spring? Millions of people are laboring in unsafe working conditions in order to supply our demand of cheap clothing.

How’s your coffee tasting? What about the diamond on your ring finger? Love the bananas you had for breakfast? Is there a large TV you’ve spotted for your Christmas wish list?

A large part of the luxuries we consider everyday necessities were bought with a price: some man, some woman, or some child’s dignity.

This issue is multi-faceted, complicated, and too deep to even scratch the surface in one blog post. I’m not going to encourage anyone to stop buying products made in Taiwan or suggest that we revert to an agrarian society.

But I will point you in a few directions to become educated about the topic. It’s never too early or too late to start learning what goes on outside your comfortable commercial shopping experience.

Start here: Take this quiz to see how many people work to resource your lifestyle.

Then go here: You don’t have to read the fine print, but the graphics are pretty jaw-dropping. That’s right…the United States consumes 7 PLANETS worth of resources, trash, and energy each year.

Download this app: Free2Work allows you to scan barcodes of products you are interested in by using your smart phone. You can see what kind of reputation the manufacturer has in the world of human rights protocol.

Buy gifts that give to others: Here are some of the causes that make it easy to bless multiple lives by your purchases. I even found some cool man gifts to share with you!

Gold Hoop Earrings – $28 – Ruhamah Designs

iPhone 4/4S Alarm Doc – $38 – Sevenly

Hogan Duffle – $56 – Sevenly

Cozy Zip Wrap – $88 – Noonday Collection

Custom Key Fob – $10 – Better Life Bags

Blue Waters Mug – $18 – Ten Thousand Villages

Journal and Paper Collection – Assorted Prices – Raven and Lily

 

I don’t want to write some gut-wrenching post that turns everybody all anti-Wal-Mart. There is a small positive aspect of contributing to the enterprise of third-world countries.

 

Still, it’s time for me to stop knowing about things like this without doing something about it. I am writing this because I want to share a commitment with you. I will be using this Christmas to practice giving beyond my friends and family.

 

It’s going to hurt my pocketbook because this means I can’t run to TJ Maxx and pick up a $30 scarf that I buy for only $6.99. This also means that I won’t be Black Friday shopping in the department stores.

 

Please don’t hear this as a way to make myself sound like Mother Teresa. Don’t you dare say, Wow! You are so good! And I’ll vomit if you thank me for my sacrifice of spending a few extra dollars to buy fair-trade items for the people that I love.

 

If anything, you should chastise me for using the vulnerable people of society for years just to live a little more comfortably. Tell me how pitiful it is that I bring home a decent paycheck and then refuse to pay a fair price for a quality product.

 

If you wish to join me this holiday season, I would love to have some company. I’m always looking for an accountability partner. I don’t have this figured out. I continue to buy products that I am sure contribute to unethical practices.

 

Maybe you’re not ready to totally give up your favorite Folgers blend. That’s ok. But keep reading and keep learning. Seriously, this post doesn’t even touch the wealth of knowledge the Internet has on this topic.

 

Let’s just open our eyes. Let’s recognize that we are living in a culture that is disgustingly materialistic. Let’s commit to living within our means and using this season of giving to give to someone besides ourselves.