Is faith enough?

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We just wrapped up studying Hebrews 11 in the Sister Study, and every month we gather in the last week to chat about what we loved, what challenges us, and what we learned about God.

This one was hard for me. I love organization and thinking through my answers in a clean and organized manner. But this month is was messy. What I loved and what challenged me is also what I learned about God. Very rarely are they ever the same thing. When the same thing that you love is the same thing that challenges you -- tension sits there. I love learning about God's character, but I don't always understand Him.

Hebrews 11 is story after story of heroes of faith (hence the title the of this study). "By faith" they endured and miracles occurred. "By faith" they got to see God's promises unfold. "By faith" they grew in their very personal relationship with Christ. I found myself in this tension where I believed that "by faith" miraculous things were possible, but I've also lived the opposite. Faith doesn't set us up for a miracle. Faith doesn't set us up for a YES from God in our here and now.

But when I read the stories of these people who "by faith" God moved mountains for them, I am tempted with a shallow hope that maybe, If I have faith in this situation, I will get my yes.

That the child will be healthy. That illness will disappear. That promotion will come. That marriage will heal. That abuser will apologize. That hardship will lighten up. That family will get their yes.

If I just have enough faith.

The problem with that is this... God's good and perfect and loving plan is not determined by our faith. It solely relies on His goodness. This is not a works based operation, "If you just had more faith maybe your marriage wouldn't be over." No. Stop that.

The same God who says yes also says no, for the good of those that love Him.

- & -

The same God who says no also says yes, for the good of those that love Him.

Sometimes we feel as though we cannot live with the NO, but we also can’t live in Christ without it. While I know that to be true, I don't understand the "no" all of the time. I've been on both sides of the fence. I've been on the faith side where I believed God would deliver and He did. I've also pleaded and petitioned Him to take away the pain, and he didn't. But hope is not meant to be woven into our circumstances (which is what we do so often on this earth), it's meant to be woven into the tapestry of Christ in who He is and what He’s done.

"And 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 11:39-40

If you need permission here it is. It’s ok to have faith and question God. The two are not mutually exclusive. But what we would be cheating our selves of is not laying that at the feet of Jesus. If He can conquer death, he can handle your big, messy questions. Just try Him.

What does it mean for God to be faithful?

Heroes of Faith bible study -  Shop Here

Heroes of Faith bible study - Shop Here

Faith has weighed heavily on my heart lately. The topic and study of it especially. I’ve wrestled with questions like… “How do I build faith?” “Where does it come from? God? Myself?” “Is it required of me period, but also to be loved by Christ?” “How do I even build it when things are going terribly wrong?” “How can I believe or have faith in a God who allows things to happen that don’t feel right?”

I needed answers. Maybe you do too.

I felt especially like in this season of life where nothing feels very solid, that I needed confirmation on the foundational principles I was proclaiming to my friends and family. I needed clarity on WHO God is and WHY I believed He was still good no matter what. Otherwise, how could I continue to carry on in conviction to teach God’s word in the spaces I feel called to, and especially in my home.

Do you wrestle with questions like that? I live in firm belief that when we are able to bring our big questions to God (that question who He is) He shows us who he is in a big way. When I allow myself to get there, bare all of my heart with him - darkness, doubt and all, He says, “Ok Jill, I see your doubt and a raise you this…” Which is usually followed up by something in His holy word. But what if we aren’t there yet? What if we are choosing to sit in our doubt and anger towards God as a power play. Maybe our anthem is, “Well, Lord, since you’ve deprived me of this so for long, I won’t give you my heart.”

Can I give you a freeing piece of advice? That’s ok. It’s ok to be angry with God. It’s ok for faith to waiver. Because we will be angry and it will waiver. God knows that. Even when we refuse to give him our hearts, he still knows us. WE ARE STILL KNOWN AND DEEPLY LOVED EVEN WHEN WE REFUSE TO GIVE GOD OUR FULL ATTENTION.

What we choose as a power play is actually a sign of the enemies power over us. We don’t actually hold the power we think we hold. Instead we’ve just given it to a drunk driver who is determined to make you believe it’s all good, until you’re lying in a ditch somewhere thinking, “How did I get here?”

I encourage you with this… Where ever you are in your belief in God, we all know one thing to be true. Faith does not leave us because of our feelings. Faith is a foundation. It’s the belief that we know God can do anything, even though sometimes he chooses not to. It’s the belief that when something good happens, we know who gets the credit - To God be the glory! Even if/when things go south, and we shout “Lord, how can this be apart of your plan?” our faith can still be active and alive in us. We have the power to choose if we allow our feelings to dictate our faith. When we choose to remain rooted in belief that He is still good even though our situations may not feel good, We are giving the keys of our life to the one who has plans that work together for the good of those that love him. But if we think we might choose the other route, losing faith in Him, we don’t actually hold the keys there either, we are passing them on to the one who’s determined to tempt and distract us from our freedom.

In the Sister Study right now we are talking about faith. And the more I study it the more I wonder, what does it mean for GOD to be faithful to us?

We are tempted to think of a fluffy faith when we think of God’s faithfulness. As humans, we set our mind on what we desire. Healthy children, a YES to the job you wanted, getting a raise that you prayed for, the stars aligning for an easy life transition, a weekend of rest, and so many other things that we long for and look forward to and desire to be true in our life. God is faithful in all things, so please don’t hear me wrong… He is faithful in those things. But He is also ever so faithful in the hard things that aren’t what we desire, like: illness that forces you to be still, an unexpected diagnosis, a big fat NO, the loss of a job, a child, a dream, the delay of a promise, a new season of life or a path you did not ask for or not getting to see it come to fruition. He is faithful there too.

In our study specifically I think of these verses in Hebrews 11: 39-40:

“And 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.”

And then following in chapter 12:1-3, the pep talk and encouragement we’ve been needing.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.

One of the things I love most about the Sister Study is being able to toss around questions like this and see where everyones head and heart are at in it.

One sister said this, “ When I think about God’s faithfulness I almost always think about Romans 8:28, that no matter the circumstance or outcome “all things work together for good”. I try to remind myself of this promise whether we see it in this life or in heaven.

Jennifer, another member, said, “Faithfulness is God’s commitment, His patience and His everlasting ability to do any and all things and yes, for good!”

Natalie said, “ Giving me peace and full guidance to lean on Him. To remind me daily He has it all under control.”

I love this! Tell me below, I’d love to know how you view God’s faithfulness.

I’m in this with you,

Jillian

Just as good.

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We made a really joyful announcement yesterday on our person social media channels. Six month after our loss, God decided to bless us with a new gift. The more people find out, they would say, “WOW that was fast” in a “good for you!” tone. Maybe it was. All I know is the past 8 months have felt like a million years. We have never conceived quickly (TMI?) and we waited and prayed for both of our boys for forever it felt like. I have a few wrinkles (AND A GRAY HAIR THAT I PROMPTLY TOLD TO GO TO H - E - double hockey sticks ) to prove it. I feel heavy about sharing our joyous news about our sweet girl on the way. Not because I’m not completely blown away in the BEST WAY by God in this (I am so grateful I could burst), but because I just think about you and what you’re going through too.

Because this community is made up of women who have children, are trying for children, long for children, have lost children or choose to love others kids instead of having their own- I want to be sensitive in speaking on this. 

Where ever each of us is, we know that God is good and life is messy. It doesn’t always feel good, but it always feels messy. Let’s be honest about that. And I hope that we can all stand right where we are and know that even here, each of our stories has a purpose. Each of us is seen and loved and deeply known by God. No matter how far we try to push Him away. And I pray for grace for all of us that we can share our stories with a level of vulnerability that surpasses the differences in where we are in our different season.

Suffering is sacred. And it does things (good things) that I’m not sure joy can do. There is purpose for it and if we’re in it, it’s because we’re loved and wanted and desired and our Father wants us closer- not the opposite. If you’re hurting you’re not alone. And if you’re celebrating you’re not alone. We can do both together.

My point is even in the darkest and brightest moments and the many different seasons, let’s still do life together. Because even in our joy, we can grieve with together. Even in our grief, we can be joyous together. And if you’re not there yet, that’s ok too. You are not discounted because you are not where you want to be. You’re still chosen, seen and loved, even here.

Our sweet girl will be here in 2020. We are overjoyed. Terrified. At the end of the day though, If we want you to know anything about us, our story, how we’re doing or processing it all, we want you to know this. God is just as good in the loss as he is in the gift. And it’s our greatest privilege to get to share that. 

We would love your prayers as we continue to grieve and celebrate our newest gift. This is messy, but God’s got this. Always know I am praying for you too.

In this with you,

Jillian

Wells' Day

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This week marked the due date of our sweet Wells. If you aren’t familiar with our story, at the beginning of this year we lost a very long awaited, prayed for baby to a fatal birth defect that left him no chance to live. I’d been dreading this week for a while as I knew it would be an emotional roller coaster. This week was full of normal challenges as well as unexpected ones. And it included the birthday of our now 4 year old miracle baby. Processing great grief and great joy two days apart felt unfair. Like one wouldn’t have enough room to breathe before the emotions had to shift in the other direction to accommodate the other one. I was worried each of those days and the emotional needs of it would somehow overshadow the other, or rob the other of what it needed.

I planned this day (Wells’ day) full of fun and relaxing things to enjoy with Zack to celebrate our baby. I felt like if we celebrated our love for each other then we were celebrating the love we had that made him, and the love that made his home in heaven far sooner than we pictured. 

None of what I planned is happened that day. The stomach bug hit our house Friday and things still aren’t back to normal. Much like it did the week before we found out about Wells’ condition. I was sad thinking about how nothing is going as it should. I know God led me to live into the words Even Here because it challenges my spirit so much. It feels like a great resistance for my heart to shift from “Why God” to “Yes God”. Accepting His plan over mine.

That day (Wells’ day) I woke up (on the couch trying to avoid being the next one down with the plague), with the hymn “Holy Ground” on my heart. That song sang in acapella has such sweet memories for me. When I was young and I’d be out of school for some reason, I’d spend the day with my Nanny and Poppy. If my Nanny had an errand we’d hop into her gold Buick, pop in a hymnal CD (or Celine Dion - my favorite) and get going. Holy Ground and Trust and Obey were always my go to and favorite to sing aloud as if it were a solo performance. No mistake by any means that the words of that song and the familiar and comforting tune awakened me to a new joy that day with a fresh perspective.

Our loss/grief/suffering is holy ground. Yours is too. It’s a path set apart for us to walk closely with the Lord. It’s out of complete love that we are even offered that. We don’t always like the way it looks as we watch it wreak havoc on our bodies, our hearts, our homes, but it’s still holy. We have a hope that those things aren’t of the big picture anyways. Eternity promises wholeness and healing and walking streets of gold with Jesus where our feet never get tired. 

If walking alongside Jesus looks like this on earth, I’m more than ok with it. That’s hard to say. It’s like sandpaper on my throat to say “thy will be done” and really mean it because we know that could mean anything. Any pain. Any loss. Any unwanted path. But nothing like THIS holy ground has made me crave heaven more. I am homesick for it. A big piece of my heart is already there and thats given me a glimpse into something I cannot ignore.

His promise is to be near to us. So even though on that day, I spent it with distance from my sweet and germy husband, spraying Lysol everywhere, and lots of laundry, I will praise Him knowing he was/is near. Even here. 

Wells’ day was nothing I planned or expected, and everything I needed. Because that’s what God does.

A sweet friend told me Wells is more than just a baby gone too soon. He’s got his own ministry going on that has changed the hearts inside of our home and started conversations about God’s love and heaven that never would have happened so soon if not for his loss. To watch how that has trickled out onto those around us wrecks me in the best way. It’s so honoring of his life and honoring of our gracious Father who does all things out of love. 

If you’re going through a hard thing, and you’re wondering why God had to choose you for this specific thing to go through, please know you’re not alone. There’s hope in remembering that in all places God has brought us, we are standing in His holy ground for us. He’s gone before us (Deut. 31:8). Holy ground on earth is not streets of gold, clearly. But if we press into His presence here, then the hope of heaven gets so thick it is contagious. 


“As I walked through the door I sensed his presence and I knew this was a place where love abounds. 

For this is the temple, Jehovah God abides here. 

And we are standing in his presence on holy ground 


We are standing on holy ground

And I know that there are angels all around.

Let us praise Jesus now.

We are standing on holy ground.


In his presence there is joy beyond measure and at his feet peace of mind can still be found. 

If you have a need I know he has the answer.

Reach out and claim it for we are standing on holy ground....”

Sweet Wells, You will always be my little adventurer who found his forever home before the rest of us. You led us into uncharted and impossible territory that led us through healing and wholeness in so many ways that we never asked for or knew we needed. I miss you everyday, but what a gift of where you are and who you’re with. I cling to that hope everyday. Have fun up there. I love you.