Blog address has been changed! You can now find us at www.hishandshisfeethisheart.com .
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
Most of us have done it at some point. “I’ll pray for you,” we say, when really all we mean is that we are thinking about someone and whatever they are going through. There are probably some of you who wouldn’t even consider yourselves a “praying person”, yet you have said it from time to time simply because it felt like the right thing to do. So why don’t we just tell others, “Thinking of you”? Has it just become a coined phrase such as asking someone how they are doing and getting a quick, “good” response back? And, if we are offering sincere, intentional prayer up on others’ behalf, why? What does praying to an unseen God do for someone who needs immediate comfort or help?
There have been several incidences in friends’ lives where I have so badly wanted to “do something”; to try to cushion the blow of whatever life has thrown at them so to speak. Whether it is plan a girls’ night for a friend who is walking through a break-up, or bringing a casserole to a family who has gone through a loss, we just want to help ease others’ pain. While an ice cream sundae with an acquaintance or a walk with a peer might be temporarily helpful, it does not get to the core of the problem. It just doesn’t truly help. In fact, there are many instances in which an encouraging text or dropped off meal, however delicious, could seem like salt in the wound. I believe this is because while these things might serve our own need to reach and “do our part”, it can sometimes accentuate the truth that no one truly understands what the casserole-receiver (again, just go with it) is going through. After all, if they did, they would be able to do more…to fix things. At some point in life, we all become all too aware that this just can’t happen no matter how much we wish it could. I am not saying reaching out and offering love and support is irrelevant; not in the least. Community is vital and whether someone empathizes with our situation or not, we need the love, albeit imperfect, of those around us. I AM saying that these things are equivalent to giving a dehydrated person a sip of water- nice in the moment, but often just causes the thirsty to thirst even more. So what can we do? I believe that lifting others up to the throne of God is the only thing that truly assists.
Think about it: when you send good vibes or thoughts to another, however well intentioned, they are powerless. After all, if you had the power to help what that person was walking through, you might have prevented it all together. So doesn’t it make sense to meet with the One who allowed it to happen in the first place? It is there that we wrestle through the “why’s”. Prayer does not change God, but it does change the one who prays. In talking to God, we are reminded of His sovereignty, of His love, of His goodness. The more we get to know Him, the more we learn to trust Him with our lives and the lives of those around us. Even when it is hard. Even when things don’t make sense to our finite, human minds. In the midst of a broken and heartbreaking world, there is Hope. Prayer is simply communication with God and we cannot meet with the Creator without being changed for the good. He DOES care about our needs, both big and small. But how do we know that for sure? We must look to the cross. There, in the place where Love was made perfect. There, where the Holy died for the unholy, the unjustified given justice through God’s own flesh and blood. Oh, friends, how He loves us. How He cares for us. How He longs to be the Meeter of all our needs. Because of the cross, as a Christian, I have been given full access to God’s holy throne. Hebrews 7:25 says it best,
“Therefore He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them.”
He is constantly interceding for those that put their faith in His perfect sacrifice. After the casserole has been eaten, the night out is over, the vacation away ends, and you are once again hit smack in the heart with the reality that didn’t disappear, He remains. Always mediating. Always standing in the gap. Bearing our burdens for us and offering ourselves and those we love a healing balm whose ingredients are kept in the Secret Place but given limitless to those who will simply ask. The next time someone around you is facing a trial or tribulation, won’t you first offer them the only gift that truly keeps on giving, namely Christ? After all, we can only be the hands and feet of Him whose heart we know. In light of this truth, would you honor me with your prayer requests today? You can contact me in whatever way seems fit. If email is more appropriate, my email is firstname.lastname@example.org. It would be a privilege. In a world of tragedies, busyness, mysteries, and day to day tasks, He is our Rock. Let’s cling to Him today.
Sunday, May 11, 2014
Waiting. None of us like to do it. Particularly in this American culture, we are not forced to wait on much and we are all prone to get impatient at a rapid pace if we have to do so. We live in a world of fast food, quick marts, express and go’s, and the idea of waiting on anything tends to produce anxiety and frustration in us all. So much of it falls back on the lack of control that ensues during the wait; much of it is associated with our own selfish desires and time tables. Think about it. What is the first thing we do when we find ourselves in a traffic jam on the interstate? After huffing and puffing about the fact we are going to be late to the place we are intending to go, we then frantically try and figure out what is going on and how long it is going to be until the traffic dissipates and life continues on as planned. Our schedule. Our timeline. Seemingly little incidences like this happen to us often and serve as great reminders that life does not revolve around us, but what happens when it isn’t just a detour on the highway? What happens when we are the one in the head on collision? When the cancer comes back? When death comes suddenly? When the baby prayed for isn’t? When your job is no more? When we are stopped in our tracks by the life that God chose for us that is drastically different than the life we foresaw? It is then that we can sometimes find ourselves paralyzed in the waiting. Frozen in the unknown.
I have always craved knowledge; and not just in a scholastic sense. As a child I became fixated on the connection between God and dinosaurs, and read book after book about the topic. I watched the weather channel hour after hour, and read the encyclopedias that collected dust on our bookshelves. Why? I just wanted to know. When I would try out for a sports team or play, I would spend all hours between finding out if I made it obsessing over and analyzing whether I thought that I did or not. It wasn’t necessarily about “making it” or not; it was more about just knowing.
We found out this week that the last known diagnosis we were waiting to get results from was negative. No more known options. We sent off more blood work and now will wait six months to see what rarer, rare diagnose they might discover our girls carry. The chances that they will figure something out are pretty high, but the likelihood that we will be two of a handful of people with this diagnosis, without a strong prognosis, is equally probable. Six months wait to find out blurry information? Sounds like this knowledge girl’s nightmare. But God.
As I have been praying through this new chapter in our family’s journey, the Lord has spoken to the depths of my soul concerning the unknowns. In all authenticity, I have the tendency to look at others’ life stories and question. Why do they have a diagnosis? Why did they find out so quickly? I’m not asking for you to take it all away, Lord, (although that might be nice as well!) I’m just asking for an explanation of some kind. If only I could have a support group of mom’s that are walking this same road….if only we could have a slight idea of what the future will look like for our family…if only….
Patient and merciful as He is, God brought me to the pages of His word and I have been nourished and refreshed by the truth that I am in good company. After all, the Bible is full of people that have walked moments, hours, even years of waiting for the unknown. Noah built an ark while the sun was still shining. Abraham went to a country that he didn’t know; then offered up his son without awareness that God would not make him follow through with the sacrifice. The Israelites crossed over the Red Sea without the assurance that it wouldn’t swallow them up. David and Goliath, Daniel and the lion’s den, the list goes on and on. Story after story of those that trusted without borders. How? They were comfortable with an unknown circumstance in light of a known God. The best part is this: The Lord says that, “…all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect”. (Hebrews 11:39). Apart from us. Apart from your story, my story. All things are being tied together in light of what we are truly waiting for: our Savior. The moment when, as He sees fit, He unites His children with Himself and the trials are finished for good. No more waiting; no more wandering in the desert of the unknown. One with Him forever. Because the truth is, we are all waiting on that which we cannot see. How light and momentary these seasons of waiting will seem in light of the One who is more than worth our wait. What you wait for, what I wait for, is not a diagnosis. It isn’t a husband. It isn’t more money or another job. It is not five more pounds lost. It isn’t a baby. It isn’t physical healing on this side of heaven for ourselves or our loved ones. It’s Him.
No matter what these next six months bring, my hope and expectation is that He brings me freedom from idolizing an answer. Independence of the knowledge that comes from that which fades. Whatever that looks like for you, that is my prayer for you as well. He is our Ultimate Answer. I am watching and waiting for Him and Him alone (Psalm 59:9). Let it be known that He holds us all in the palm of His hands and knowledge of that trumps any false security a diagnosis might bring. On this Mother’s Day, those of you that have been hit head on with infertility, or the loss of a child or mother, or motherhood that looks different than you anticipated, I pray He empresses this truth firmly in your heart: Your hope is not found in that which fades and changes; your hope is found in the Love that holds the keys to every chapter of the book of the life He’s given you. And with Him, the last sentence is always happily ever after. For eternity.
“But I will sing of Your strength; I will sing aloud of Your steadfast love in the morning. For You have been to me a fortress and a refuge in the day of my distress. O my Strength, I will sing praises to You, for You, O God, are my fortress, the God who shows me steadfast love.”- Psalm 59:1-17
Thursday, May 1, 2014
What is our ‘Best Case Scenario’?
I am totally honored to get to share on Morgan’s blog today! I thought it might be helpful for some people to know a little bit of my story. So here are a few links to my blog in case you want to know the whole story of our little lives. Click HERE and HERE to get a glimpse at our story.
My name is Julie. I am married to the absolute love of my life, Clay, and we have a two-and-a-half year old boy named George. For the first 30 years of my life, whether or not I would have admitted it at the time, I have lived a pretty ‘blessed’ life. I, as a Christian, tend to measure how great my life (or, really, anyone’s life) is by the ‘blessings’ in my life. Oh, I wonder how often we misuse this word that the Lord puts such great emphasis on.
By definition, ‘blessing’ means ‘God’s favor or protection.’ I think I’ve lived most of my life under that assumption that a ‘blessing’ means something ‘good’ or ‘happy’. As we’ve walked through the last year of our lives in our little family, the Lord has taught me that, sometimes, and maybe even usually, God’s blessings come in the exact opposite form of something ‘good or happy’.
We have two children; but our daughter, Nan, is with the Lord. She lived for thirty minutes after being born, and Clay and I were able to hold her as she took her last breath. This moment has shown to be the greatest blessing on our marriage. This moment, as we watched our own flesh and bones leave all of the sin and anguish of this broken world has breathed new life into our marriage. It has renewed our love for each other, for our son, George, and most of all, it unearthed in us our most primitive love for our own Creator. Never in my life would I have described a situation such as this as a ‘blessing’. But we experienced so much of God’s favor, His protection, and His redeeming love in that little hospital room, and we will never be the same because of it.
I share all of this background, because Morgan and I have shared countless conversations over the past several months about the unexpected journeys the Lord is taking each of us on. I’ve asked almost every person I know to pray for the Cheek family, and I’ve had a few people ask me the question that is written on all of our hearts, for all of our individual lives.
What is their [your, my, his, her, etc.] best-case scenario?
I was sitting at lunch with my mom when she asked me this very question. And this response bubbled up from within me, and I know the Lord has planted this seed of Truth in my heart.
Their [your, my, his, her, etc.] best-case scenario is that Jesus would come back.
When I was pregnant with Nan, the doctors were very sure that her life would be hard, and therefore, gave us very little hope that we would ever be ‘normal’ again. I began to believe that anything that is not ‘good’ or ‘happy’ could not be from the Lord. Then, Hugh reminded Clay and me of the single most important thing we, as believers, can remember.
This is not our home. This world is not as good as it gets.
To an unbeliever, this world is as good as it gets. So anything that doesn’t make this life better/more enjoyable/etc., really has no place in it, and we should get rid of it, or hope for it to pass. But as a believer, this world is used to point us to the Lord, who we will spend Eternity with, and the hard things- the seasons of life that seem to split us in two- are used by the Lord to show us Who He is.
I have gone to Scripture so much throughout this season of my life, and have been overwhelmed by the examples the Lord gives us in His Word of people He loves deeply, that He showed His glory to through extraordinary circumstances. I think about Joseph being sold into slavery by his brothers, Job losing absolutely everything, Jonah being swallowed by the whale, and Paul imprisoned, just to name a few. I think about the horrific circumstances of their lives, and how the Lord used those circumstances to reveal more of Who He is with His people. It is probable that the world wouldn’t describe these men as having ‘blessed lives’, but they knew that this world was not their home. They knew that the best was yet to come, and that it is coming.
I look at my own life, and I can tell you that I would have been too scared to choose the life the Lord has chosen for me. And I don’t say this lightly, but I am thankful that He chose to give us Nan. In those thirty minutes, the Lord allowed us to experience the realness of the resurrection, and we will never again be the same.
I have no idea what you might be facing today. Whatever your life looks like at this moment- I would challenge you to pray that the Lord would remind your heart to long for your Heavenly home. I know that sounds like a heavy thing to pray, but as believers, we should long for oneness with Christ. This world, as beautiful and comfortable as it can be sometimes, is not our home. But our eternal home is coming. And this past year- as excruciatingly hard as it has been- has made my heart excited to experience it.
Saturday, April 26, 2014
We live in a world of comparisons. We compare relationships and possessions. Jobs and seasons of life. Spouses or lack thereof. Children. Bodies. Spirituality. Health. Friendships. Spirituality. Finances. Hardships. Everything. Comparison truly is the thief of joy, and it doesn’t take long for our minds to get us to a place of discontentment simply based at looking at those around us. The problem with comparison is that, from a worldly perspective, there is someone who is always going to be “better off” than us; and there is someone who will always be “worse off” as well. It is all relative. That being said, how fleeting and detrimental is this comparison game we play. But how do we find contentment in a world that constantly invites comparison? How do we get off the hamster wheel of always looking to others as the barometer for our happiness or success? I believe this can only be done when our vision is changed. When we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary but what is unseen is eternal (2. Corinthians 4:18). Beyond that, we must fix our eyes on Jesus. Why- Because He is the Author and the Perfector of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). I am forever grateful that while He was enduring the cross for us, He was not playing the comparison game. What He did for us makes our small comparisons look ridiculous. I mean, if it was me, my dialogue would have gone as follows: “Wait- You want me to carry this cross and go through this suffering for all of them? For what they did? So they can live with us forever afterwards? That doesn’t seem fair!”
Jesus, however, being fully God and fully man, did not compare because He found joy in the will of the Father. He knew if it was in God’s Master Plan that it was good. He fixed His eyes on the eternal and not the circumstances or His temporary thoughts or emotions. So, when we are in the midst of wanting to compare any portion of our lives to the lives of those around us, let’s only seek comparison in this:
“I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord”- Philippians 3:8.
Let’s set our thermometers of comparison to the one that only finds its comparison against knowing Christ. And everything-everything- is rags when compared to knowing Him. Why?- Because He’s conquered it all! He’s conquered death itself. He’s the source of everything good and above all evil. When compared, He makes all else look like nothing. The Lord offers us up a comparison that will actually bring freedom, not enslavement! It’s so easy for me to compare the challenges of our life to others. Why do our girls have such difficulty with seemingly easy movements? Why do so many people not have to spend their days in therapy and doctors’ appointments? (Although I know many also do!) And social media can make it even worse. (Why does that girl that I’m not even sure I actually know have a two month old that is doing cartwheels already!?) But you know, while I sit and play the comparison game, playing essentially in the mudpies of this earth, I know the Lord is patiently smiling, aware of the treasures that await. As I look to Him and not to those around me, He brings me joy in the here and now and changes my blurry vision to His perfect vision; my tiny perspective to His infinite perspective; the silly comparisons I choose to look at to the only comparison that matters. Friends, everything other than knowing Christ is a loss. It is not because Hugh and I are “good people” that we are able to walk through this journey with hope. Any of you who know as at all know that to be true. We are weak and sinful, and it is quite the opposite. We are at our weakest, but in our weakness, He continues to prove Himself strong and His mighty power is displayed. Compared to the hope we have in that, all other comparisons fade to dust. Let’s lean on His promises today. He is worthy.
Wednesday, April 23, 2014
I woke up with tears brimming in my eyes today. Tears of joy and of gratitude for all that the next few days represent. This time last year, I was headed to what would be my last doctor’s appointment before our lives were forever changed for the good by our baby girls. For the good. I was uncomfortable, sick, exhausted (or so I thought… I didn’t quite understand what exhaustion was before I went through the newborn trenches), and mostly anxious for getting our baby girls here “happy and healthy” as we all say (That phrase now is one of my pet peeves, which will be addressed at a later time). We had been praying the Lord would bring us our girls in His perfect timing, not one day sooner or one day later. Hugh had memorized Psalm 139 which is more symbolic than I could have ever known, and we were a lot of things. We were mainly clueless. The beauty of parenthood. We all start out that way, so blissfully ignorant. We have never met our little ones, and we all prepare as best as we can for the journey to come. Girls, on April 23, 2013, there was nothing that could have prepared daddy and I for the beauty and joy that was around the corner on April 24, 2013. There are more lessons that the Lord has taught us through your sweet lives than we could recount, many that are written on the pages of this blog. I will not be able to word or express all that I want to share with the world as we await your first birthday tomorrow, but I want to give it a try because daddy and I are indebted to you and the lessons that we have learned through your little lives already. In a sense, this is a letter to You, my God; my version of a psalm of praise for giving us more than we could possibly ask for or imagine. (Ephesians 3:20).
When we first found out we were going to have twins, I reacted as gracefully as it comes: I cried profusely as the ultrasound tech attempted to find two heartbeats through my hysterics. She left the room to “give us a moment” (yes, it was awkward), and when Hugh asked me what I was crying for, I said, “I’m scared”. He responded, “Of what?” I quickly sobbed back, “The rest of our lives.” Girls, momma is no longer scared. While you have already brought more twists and turns than we could have ever anticipated, I have learned to celebrate each and every moment of each and every day because of you. I have seen that there is nothing to fear around the corner because God is already there. I never thought I could have survived a year with twins, much less a year with twins as special as you two. But you know what? God is good and He has already walked this road for us therefore with Him, I have been able to step forward with confidence that whatever comes next is for His glory and our good.
Ally Ruth and Bailey Grace, we are proud of who you are. Not only that, but we wouldn’t want you to be any different. Your beauty radiates from the inside out. Ally Ruth: your smile is absolutely contagious. Bailey Grace: your easy-going attitude is something that the rest of us would be wise to follow suit on. You both simply make people happy by your mere presence. The best part about this is: it isn’t because of anything you have done or are doing; it’s merely because of who you are as a whole. I could write a novel on all the amazing qualities you possess, but I would be amiss because that’s another lesson we have learned: it is not about you. Or me. Or any of us. It is about Him. You have reminded us that we can see Him in anything and everything, even our worst nightmares, if we just would choose to look. We are so very proud of you both for no reason other than that you are who you are.
There is so much to celebrate tomorrow, but the fact that you are here “happy and healthy” will not be one of them. Karni Liddell, a Paralympics athlete that happens to have Spinal Muscular Atrophy, has said, “What does that even mean?” We have all said it, myself included, but here is the truth: we didn’t just want you here “happy and healthy”. We wanted you here so you could live the lives that God intended you to live, which would ultimately bring eternal joy that stems beyond any temporary happiness or pseudo-healthiness. And, however long He sees fit to keep all of us on this side of heaven, we will all continue to try and live that out, albeit imperfectly. The thing is, you both already seem to be more comfortable in your own skin than most people I know… and that’s contagious. You live life above the circumstances around you, and have taught us to do the same. Sure, we might have thought your first year of life would have included more milestones and less doctor’s appointments; more careless living and less therapy appointments. But, watching you both accept each day with all it entails which such an attitude of contentment and trust has taught your daddy and me to do the same and for that, we wouldn’t change a second of it. I could go on for days, but it is time to feed you guys and I want to breathe in these moments. Bottom line is this: If I could go back and do it ALL again-the constant morning sickness that never seemed to end, the sleepless nights, the unknowns, the worries, the testing, the sheer terror that came the moment I realized that my heart was sliced in two and came out in the form of two precious, beautiful baby girls- I would do it again a hundred times fold. To call being your mommy a privilege would be an understatement. I know I don’t deserve to be. All praise, glory, and honor to the One who gives us grace upon grace in this journey. Lord, THANK YOU. Bailey Grace and Ally Ruth Cheek: we celebrate you today, tomorrow, and every day after that. Happy almost Birthday, sweet girls!
Monday, April 21, 2014
I am terrified of driving in a thunderstorm. I’m not talking about a little drizzle on your windshield. I’m talking dark contrast up ahead with sudden buckets of water streaming down your car. I have been this way for as long as I can remember. Some might think it is because I have been in a couple of fairly serious wrecks, which sounds appropriate until you realize that both of those occurred on extraordinarily sunny days. It is just one of those things I suppose. We all have them. Those fears that cripple us; the ones that wake us up in the middle of the night, that cause us to stop in our tracks. They can be as big as death itself or as small as a rain cloud. Either way, it all stems from the same place. Fear.
I have watched several people I know walk through absolutely heart wrenching seasons this year. Friends who have, to put it bluntly, faced their worst nightmares as their new reality. From the outside in, many of you might see our family’s situation as just that. In many ways, you wouldn’t be far from the truth. Our girls still remain undiagnosed. We are in the midst of testing for a couple things that would be on our “worst nightmare” list, and if those come back negative, we will be on the neurologist and geneticist’s list as having something really,really rare that might leave us with a lifetime of unknowns. If we are only two of a handful of people to have a disorder, the likelihood of having a true prognosis is not high. And if I can be candid, this reality full of years of what-ifs and who-knows is almost as terrifying as some of the diagnoses we are waiting to hear back on. We just want to know what we are facing. If we just knew more about the storm ahead, things would be better. Right?
While this may sound rational, I am convinced this is not the case. Think about it. What if God wrote all the details of your story down for you to read. The different seasons that you would walk through. The highs and lows. Things as raw and real as the day you died. The day your children would die. The cause of these deaths. If you would even be able to have children at all. If you would get married at all. If your loved ones would get cancer. EVERYTHING. Talk about living in fear. This would absolutely cripple us all. Friends, I am convinced that God in His wisdom does not tell us all the details because He delights in walking us through the journey. He wrote it. He has already walked it. And, He has conquered the good, the bad, and the ugly through His death on the cross. He does not give us strength for what will occur tomorrow; but He does promise strength for today. As Psalm 84:7 more eloquently puts it, He walks us through this pilgrimage strength to strength. Grace for today. Because of Christ, we no longer have to fear tomorrow or waste moments worrying about whether or not we will be able to handle all that it may hold. Without God’s saving action in our lives, we would be absolutely powerless to walk through the brokenness and unknowns of tomorrow, much less today. With it, however, we are secure. We can be fearless. My friends Julie and Hannah and their husbands come to mind. Neither of them know the other one, however, they both are walking through similar journeys that the world would call tragic. But God intended it for good. I am watching them walk through something that even they would have said, “I could never make it through if _______happened.” In their weakness, God has made Himself known and portrayed His strength and they are not only “making it”; an incredible testimony is being left for the glory of God and His kingdom come. And I can imagine that once you have watched the Lord walk you through the unfathomable, your trust and foundation in His promises reaches a level that is unshakeable.
So what about you? The fears you have do not have to be monumental; they just have to be monumental to you. The Lord knows each of our hearts and He cares about all the details of our lives. For me, instead of living in fear of the future or fear of what it might entail, I want to live in light of the glorious news that Christ promises to carry us through every moment of every season, and that He will give us the ability to faithfully serve Him no matter what that looks like. Our hope does not rest in a diagnosis, whether it be what the world would consider good or bad. In God's kingdom, there is no such thing as a bad diagnosis because it is all in His hands and for His good. No fear. Simply resting in His promises. Whether you are stumbling through your hardest days yet or coasting by without a care in the world, I pray you know that He wants to be your Burden-Bearer. No matter what storm clouds are ahead, He has already navigated the way to the eternal sunshine that is up ahead. He’s got this! There is freedom in the fearlessness.