I tiptoed down the stairs moving slowly and deliberately. Every once in awhile I’d freeze, certain I heard footsteps approaching, then resume my movement down this deviant path.
I’d laid in bed for a long time thinking about this. I’d tried to convince myself that I shouldn’t do it, but the tug of curiosity outweighed reason, so I finally gave in to the temptation.
I approached the Christmas tree, it’s piney scent strong and full in the dark room. Christmas morning was still a week away, but the urgency to know what was wrapped under the tree was more than I could handle. Reaching over to the lamp on the table, I quickly flicked it on, then swiveled my head down the hall toward my parent’s room to see if they’d noticed.
When I was certain the house was still, I made my way to the large gift under the tree – the one with my name written on it. Very, very slowly I pulled back the taped sides, and I peeked beneath the wrapping to see what it was.
All these years later, I don’t actually remember what the gift was that I peeked at in the dark. I must have been eight or nine that year, and I was certain that I couldn’t wait all the way until Christmas morning to know what was in that mystery package.
One thing I do remember, though, is the disappointment. Not in the gift – I’m sure the gift was great. No, I was disappointed on Christmas morning because the thrill of opening the gift was gone. I’d peeked under the cloak of night, and with no one around to enjoy my delight, the magic of the moment disappeared.
If only I had waited.
“Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” James 5: 7-8
I’ve been thinking a lot about waiting lately. Waiting is hard. It is as active as anything else we do in this lifetime.
Likewise, I’ve been wrestling through this idea of waiting when coupled with prayer. Both seem so easy, requiring little to no physical exertion, but paired together they can sometimes feel like an emotional marathon.
I don’t want to wait; I want to know right now. I want to see beneath the wrapping, just a tiny glimpse of the waiting gift. I want to assess if I’ll even like that gift with my name on it. I want, I want, I want…
Waiting on answered prayer makes me feel like the little girl lying in her bed, wondering and wishing she knew what was on the other side of Christmas morning. I cling tight to the hope and dream of seeing this desire of the heart answered while also wrestling fear that I will never see the other side of this waiting.
Sometimes I pray as though it is a magic potion, an incantation that will produce immediate results. Most often, these prayers that I pray are good prayers. They are in line with God’s character, and with His spoken desire for His people. I’m not praying for a new car or a better life. I’m praying for healing, for restoration, for reconciliation, for the fulfillment of His goodness here on earth.
But the waiting part? I’m afraid I’m still not very good at it.
There is a frustration that can creep up when waiting on an unanswered prayer. We speak our words of petition into the quiet sky and watch as those heart longings drift up into the void, and we wonder if it even means anything.
Maybe you, like me, are waiting for an answer to a deep, heartfelt plea. Can I offer you this encouragement?
Keep waiting. Don’t give up hope. Hope is Slow, after all, but it’s real.
And while you wait, watch for the little ways that the Lord is reminding you of His goodness. See the ways He’s showing you that He’s still at work, even if it feels so very silent.
The television droned on in the background as I prepared dinner, my eyes ever trained on the flashing screen. I was taking in the horror against the juxtaposition of my children laughing and dancing in the room next to me. The pictures of death a back drop to the sounds of life.
Like everyone else, I watched in horror at the unfolding of events in Paris on Friday night. I did not, however, feel either shock or surprise. Because evil has been lurking in the periphery for some time, and we’ve allowed it to trickle in to our vicinity.
Oh, what charitable people we long to be, but charitability combined with passivity leads to tragedy.
Don’t get me wrong. I want to extend my hands to the people of this world. I want to open my home to the hurting and the deprived, and I would give all I had to the children whose tears bleed through my computer screen. I am not an unmerciful woman, though for much of my life I’ve been painted as such.
On the contrary, I feel deeply. Mercy and compassion cut to my core. I am not one prone to hold on to anger. These are all strengths passed down to me from my parents, and nourished by God Himself, and for them I’m grateful.
I’d rather bask in the grace of forgiveness and mercy than wallow in the darkness of anger and hurt.
But there’s a measure of protectiveness that settles upon a mother’s soul when her children dance and sing, and the world burns just beyond her borders. I will call out evil for what it is, and I will condemn it, and by God I will support the fight against it. And here’s the kicker:
I am not unmerciful in my condemnation of evil.
In the wake of one more wretched attack, the world has rallied yet again. Only nowadays these rallies take shape via social media. Because what else can we do but voice our horror and our pain, and support the cry for swift retaliation?
And for those of us who cannot fight back, what more can we do but pray?
In the days following the attacks, I’ve seen more than one article calling people out for using the hashtag #prayforparis.
“The world doesn’t need your hashtags!” they cry, and maybe they’re right. Maybe the world doesn’t need my post or my photo layered with blue, white, and red stripes. After all, a hashtag and a filter are nothing more than symbols. They mean nothing in the wake of disaster and death.
The carnage in the streets is not revived by mere symbols. And yet…
There is power to be found behind a symbol, if we’re willing to follow through. Will I simply post #prayforparis, or will I drop to my knees and pray for Paris? Will I pray for this world, and for the people who are grappling for security and safety in a land the explodes around them?
It feels so monumental, praying for the world. Dear God, I pray for the world?
What does that even mean?
No, I must pray for them by name. I have to pray for the city of Paris, that life, and laughter, and beauty, and love return to the weeping streets. I will also pray that God would comfort the hearts of His people.
And I can move on – each country has a name, and that name is not lost on the God who formed the land. I believe this. I believe in all the good things of this world – in the beauty of laughter and dancing, of friendships, travel, family, children, and above all things, I believe in love.
And I also believe that evil will always be lurking in the shadows, waiting to snuff out those beautiful gifts. Because evil cannot stand the light, and all those things bring light. Evil hates light – that is why it’s evil. It can only exist in the dark places.
So get up, world! Let not evil darken the doors of our hearts! Let not the darkness snuff out the beauty of laughter and love. Evil may look like it’s winning, but it cannot claim victory because light won’t be chased away. I know this for a fact.
He turned the dial and the music cranked, pulsating my (smokin’ hot) minivan as we puttered down the road. Grabbing my camera, he held it out in front of us and snapped a photo, documenting the moment…and Landon’s apparent chagrin.
When we gave Sloan his iPod for Christmas, we loaded it full of music first. We wanted to make sure he had a wide variety of classics, so we downloaded Frank Sinatra, Coldplay, Lacrae, vintage Audio Adrenaline, Michael Buble, Patty Griffin and, of course, DC Talk.
Because we are good Christian parents.
Jesus Freak now blares boldly through the speakers inside our home, and our cars. We jam our way down the road, singing at the top of our lungs:
What will people think when they hear that I’m a Jesus Freak?
What will people do when they find that it’s true?
I don’t really care if they label me a Jesus Freak.
There ain’t no disguising the truth.
We sing and play wicked air guitar, and Lee and I feel good about the theology we’re passing down to our children. I mean, c’mon man: People say I’m strange. Does it make me a stranger? My best friend was born in a manger.
DON’T PRETEND YOU’RE NOT SINGING ALONG!
And so it was that we jammed our way down the road when we passed a police car and ambulance stopped on the shoulder, reaching in to help an older man who had veered off into a side rail. Sloan immediately turned the music down and watched intently as we drove past.
“Oh man,” he said quietly. “That looked bad. What do you think happened?”
I glanced at the situation and told him I had no idea, then I waited for him to turn the music back up so we could go back to our jam. He twisted the dial and the car filled with the bass and drums and electric guitar, and I moved right past the man in his car. But not Sloan. He sat still for a minute, then turned the music back down.
“Sorry mom,” he said. “But…I just…um…can I pray for that man back there?”
I quit drumming along and nodded my head. “Of course you can!” I exclaimed.
“Okay,” he replied. “Good. I’m gonna pray. You pray with me. But don’t close your eyes, okay?! I mean, I think that you should keep them open while you drive.”
He then proceeded to pray the sweetest prayer for a stranger on the side of the road. Prayer for safety and healing. Prayer for wisdom for doctors, and for the man not to feel too badly about the accident. It was tender-hearted and generous, and it stopped me in my tracks.
On any given day, I am certain that I am failing this motherhood gig. I get frustrated with them. I nag. I yell. I overreact. I read with one kid, and let the other two down. I focus on the baby too much, and the older three feel neglected.
It’s easy to get lost in the faults, and to see every flaw in myself and the children. He loses his temper, she is stubborn as the day is long, and he can’t lose graciously.
(Nothing is wrong with Annika, yet. So far she is perfect…like a tiny Mary Poppins)
I get lost in all our shortcomings, and I miss the amazing little people that they’re growing up to be, and the good job I’m doing at being their mom. He gets angry, yes – but he’s also the first to ask forgiveness, and has a heart of mercy the size of Texas.
She’s stubborn, yes – but she’s also deeply empathetic and compassionate. She begs to buy groceries for the man living in a tent behind Target because she feels the weight of his circumstance.
He can’t lose a game without falling apart, yes – but he’s also a peacemaker, quick to smooth things over when arguments break out.
It’s easy to lose sight of the good things in our children when we get lost in the day to day, hectic living. We get swallowed up by all the hard and the long days all mold one into another, and we start missing it altogether. And then they do something that takes our breath away, and remind us that this motherly work we’re doing is a worthy and good use of our time.
You’re working so hard to teach them how to live generous lives, and it’s hard! The rough edges of their little personalities need so much refining, but don’t lose sight of the diamonds that are shining through beneath the surface. You’re polishing little gems.
You may not see the reward right now, but one day when you least expect it, you may just find yourself being reminded of the impact that you’re having on your children.
And they will also help you remember what it felt like to empathize deeply with the world around you. Untainted by life and adulthood, they see the world through innocent eyes. It’s in those moments you find them teaching you instead of the other way around. That’s what happened to me yesterday.
All it took was a dirty minivan, DC Talk, and the simple prayer of a tenderhearted twelve-year-old.
I screened NOBLE last night, and I swallowed over a lump in my throat through the entire film. Twice the lump dissolved and I let the hot tears roll down my cheeks.
I had never heard of Christina Noble before last night. I didn’t know her heartbreaking story, her raw, real faith, or her determination to make life better for the hundreds of thousands of street children living in post-war Vietnam.
I’m so glad I know her story now.
NOBLE walks the viewer through Christina’s life in flash backs, alternating between Vietnam in 1989, and her devastating childhood. We see her faith rattled as a young girl when her mom dies after she begs God to let her live.
We see her endurance under the abusive nuns of her orphanage, and the constant, gritty dialogue between her and a God she doesn’t understand, but she desperately wants to trust.
It’s a very real portrayal of faith, because haven’t we all had those moments? Perhaps not as heart wrenching as the one Christina shared with God after the nuns took her baby boy and gave him to be raised by another family without her consent. This was the baby boy conceived in a horrific gang rape.
And beneath the dim, candle-lit altar, Christina lays it all out in front of Him. “I don’t know what to say to you, except now we both know what it’s like to lose a son. I’m not being blasphemous. I’m not comparing myself to you. It’s just that if I stop believing now, I won’t be able to keep going. I won’t survive. I hope you’re gonna explain this to me very bloody soon, so until then you’re gonna have to listen to me swear and curse and shout and I won’t be asking for your forgiveness. Sorry about that.”
We follow Christina’s journey through her marriage to an abusive husband, and a dream in which she sees images of Vietnamese children.
Years later, when her own children are grown and out of the house, Christina makes her way to Vietnam, determined to follow the vivid call of her dream.
Though it looks rash and impulsive, and to an extent it was, Christina Noble’s move and passion for the street children of Vietnam makes perfect sense. It was a move she made after years of waiting, of raising her own children, of questioning and begging God for answers.
We can all relate to the frustration that comes with feeling like God is silent. “Lord, I’m asking, but I don’t hear you.”
Christina knew she needed to help the children of Vietnam, but she didn’t know how. The red tape and bureaucracy built seemingly impossible walls to scale, and it culminated with her most personal and faith filled talk with God in which she finally threw up her hands in surrender. “Tell you what,” she said. “I’ll walk. You lead.”
And that is the essence of faith. It’s the boiled down surrender of a life spent begging for answers. It’s the place that God longs for us to meet Him.
“I’ll walk. You lead.”
What a powerful prayer – a prayer where the Lord’s power can be fully unleashed. A prayer meant for worn out, exhausted mothers with messy counters and a too full schedule. A prayer for tired businessmen who long to know if there’s more to life than making money. A prayer for the young and the old, the rich and the poor.
“Also through Him, we have obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” Romans 5: 2
“I’ll walk. You lead.”
This is the essence of faith.
To this day, Christina Noble has helped over 700,000 children in Vietnam and Mongolia. And as the film closes and the words flit across the screen, we’re given one last glimpse into her beautiful, boiled down faith.
“Christina Noble still talks to God.”
NOBLE releases today, Friday, May 8, in theaters across the country.
I’ve been sitting at my computer for an hour, willing the words to come. I feel dry today, a bit discouraged, and frustrated that I cannot find the right words to convey the thoughts in my head.
Then I decided to quit trying to force something that simply wasn’t there. Sometimes it’s better to just be quiet anyway, isn’t it?
I’m praying for those of you who, like me, have walked through the fire of trials recently, and who simply need to take some time to be quiet. In your quiet, may your soul be strengthened, your vision cleared, and your ambition for the next step inspired.
This is my Wednesday prayer for you.
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