The season we are in continues to leave our hearts feeling dry and heavy. Join me today as I share encouragement from Psalm 42 about the living water our souls were made to drink, as well as the best way to apply that living water to our hearts through the tools and studies for women we have talked about the past couple of weeks.
For more encouragement throughout the week, you can find me on Instagram @baker.susannah.
I’ve been a follower of Christ for almost 40 years. My friend and neighbor, Kori Biller, began her relationship with Christ a year and a half ago. But we both use the same tools each and every day to grow in our relationship with Christ. Length of time in knowing God and being known does not matter; it’s the passion and availability of your heart. As Kori shares, when you show up consistently with a Bible in one hand and a hunger in your heart in the other, God begins to uproot, plant, and change you from the inside out.
Join Kori and I in our conversation as we talk about the habits she has formed, the tools she has used, and the studies that have shaped her the most this past year and a half to become a Woman in the Word.
To see a list of the studies and tools Kori talks about, click HERE.
If you want to know more about Kori’s story, click HERE.
For more encouragement throughout the week, you can find me on Instagram @baker.susannah.
It has been a season of both personal and national shaking, and as God’s people, we are in desperate need of God’s Word. Listen to today’s video as I share about the personal journey God has had me on over the past few months and the tools He has used to draw me deeper into His Word.
To access the books and tools I talk about in the video to help you dig deeper into God’s Word, click HERE.
To listen to the teaching series on prayer I mention in the video to help you connect with God’s Word, click HERE.
Be on the lookout over the next few weeks for more videos and tools to help your kids, family, and other people in your life dig deeper into God’s Word during a season where God is speaking, uprooting, and planting in His people’s lives.
To access this same video and lists, and for more encouragement throughout the week, you can find me on Instagram @baker.susannah.
Earlier this week I wrote about feeling uprooted during this season of life. (To read that blog post, click here).
From the responses I’ve received, it seems many of us are sharing the same feelings of being ripped, stripped, with a tangible sense of loss, without much sense of predictability for the future.
But I don’t want to leave us there – dangling – with our roots hanging and exposed, much like the roots from the trees uprooted from the tornado in our small town of Independence, Texas.
Because as many trees as I saw toppled from the tornado, I saw many more standing straight and tall, branches uplifted from the earth, stretching wide towards a bright blue sky with roots that held firm during the fierce winds of the storm.
And when I think back on those trees – the ones that were uprooted along with those left standing straight and tall – this is what I know: while God uproots, He also plants. He strips and lays bare, but He also heals. And He never undoes us or uproots us from one place without planting us in another.
I’ve thought a lot this week about those oaks trees that stayed standing.
Through the years, I have watched my husband and father-in-law carefully tend to those trees, both the ones on our property and on my in-law’s property next door. During the five years of the Texas drought from May of 2010 through July of 2015, I watched as my father-in-law labored with a hose walking from tree to tree on his property, soaking the roots with gallon after gallon of water.
Because here’s the thing about live oak trees in Texas – they are not grown overnight. They are tended to, watered, and deliberately fed. In fact, a mature live oak tree, on average, takes in fifty gallons of water a day. Fifty.
That’s a lot of water – especially during seasons of drought.
And to lose an oak tree that has been planted, nurtured, and grown in the soil for 200 years is to lose a precious thing. The shade and beauty it provides is worth the tending and care.
Throughout Scripture, mature believers in Christ are referred to as trees. And not just any old tree, but a tree “planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither” (Psalm 1:3). A tree “planted by water, that sends its roots out by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought” (Jeremiah 17:8).
Here is an interesting fact about the Hebrew word for “planted” in both Psalm 1 and Jeremiah 17 – it actually means “transplanted.”
People whose trust is in the Lord aren’t just fruit bearing trees, or green trees, or rooted trees – they are transplanted trees. They are people who have been in one place and are plucked up, uprooted, taken out of the soil of one area, and planted in another.
The act of transplanting a small bush or flower isn’t that much of a process or ordeal. But a tree? A tree whose roots have been growing in the soil for decades or 200 years? That’s more like major surgery than simple uprooting.
Right now, I feel like a tree whose roots have been planted in a certain spot for years, even decades. God has used the past few months and weeks of corona and stay-at-home, a crashing economy, rioting, racism, rifts in relationships, and the fear and sin in my very own to heart to pluck me up out of wrong thoughts I have been thinking, lies I’ve been believing, and ways I have been behaving.
And can I be frank for just one minute? It hurts.
Uprooting hurts like heck.
But while God has done a lot of uprooting the past few weeks and months, He has also started the process of transplanting – He is teaching me how to think, act, behave, and believe in new ways, and put my roots down in a different place, in a new type of soil. And while I am watching this happen in my own life, I am also watching this happen in the lives of many other people as well.
I don’t think our season of uprooting is done, either personally or nationally. I think there is more to come. But I also think God wants us to pay attention not only to what He wants to uproot but what He wants to plant.
And planting takes soaking, maturing, and drinking in gallons and gallons of water on a daily basis, just like those Texas live oak trees.
While oak trees find their water through a tank, river, rain, or a hose, believers in Christ find their water in the living Word of God.
I cannot remember another season of my life where I have been this dependent on the Word of God. The irony is that I am always this dependent. My soul was not made to go without the water of God’s Spirit and God’s Word for more than a day at a time. But in times of abundance where everything around me is green, I can delude myself into thinking taking small sips every now and again is sufficient.
But not anymore. As I look around me and inside of me and see that we are in a season of drought, I am more aware of my need for water more than ever. I am aware that if I do not want to wither and shrivel in the season of uprooting I find myself in, I must soak my heart and mind in the Word of God each and every day. I need it; my kids need it; my marriage needs it; my family needs it; my friendships need it; my church and community and city and nation need it.
But this soaking and watering, transplanting and bearing fruit, even in seasons of drought, must begin with me. I cannot demand something from my spouse I am not doing myself. I cannot impart living water to my children if I am not first drinking it in myself. I cannot expect change in my nation or community if I am not first changing and uprooting, transplanting and soaking, myself. Change begins with me. And transplanting begins with the Word of God.
Over the next two weeks, I am going to post a several videos that talk about ways for us to soak in the Word of God as men, women, kids, families, and new Christians as well as seasoned believers. In these videos, I will provide specific ideas and resources to use in this season of summer, uprooting, and transplanting and easy links to access these resources. My hope is that if you are looking for a cup of cold water to drink, these resources will help to slake your thirst.
Because let me tell you something – God is speaking. He is speaking, and in His voice there is power to uproot, to plant, and to create.
But this creating will not happen in you or in me without long, intentional times of soaking in God’s Word each and every day. This planting will not happen without tapping into our water source of His Word on a daily, regular basis. But when we do, and as we do, things are going to start to grow.
Mark my words.
I just want to make sure I’m listening – and when we start listening together, there is no telling what God will do.
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
For you shall go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
shall break forth into singing,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;
instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;
and it shall make a name for the Lord,
an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.
For more encouragement throughout the week, you can find me on Instagram @baker.susannah.
It’s been a season of shaking. From a worldwide pandemic, fear of sickness and death, economic shutdown, school closings, job loss, the death of George Floyd, and the exposure of the ugly sin of racism and the response to it, everything that seemed stable in January is now standing on its head.
And it all seemed to happen in a moment.
One moment, I was sending my kids to school and sports practices, and the next moment, we were alone in our house for days. One moment, our portfolio was predictable, our projected income secure, and the next moment, everything turned downhill…fast. One moment, we all knew racism existed lurking in the shadows and the human heart was capable of deep darkness and sin, and the next moment, it leaped out of the shadows to the forefront of everyone’s conscience, heart, and mind.
It’s been a season of shaking in the natural realm as well.
A week and a half ago, a tornado blew through the town of Independence, Texas where we have a home next door to my in-laws and down the hill from my brother-in-law and sister-in-law.
One moment the skies were blue and the sun was shining, and the next moment, wind was whipping fast enough to twist the tops off of trees, break 2000 pound limbs in half, and uproot 150 year old trees.
As I drove through the town of Chappell Hill towards Independence and surveyed the damage, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Entire root structures of 200 year old trees had been torn out of the earth in a moment. Limbs littered the side of the highway and broken fences sagged underneath the weight of bark, limbs, and twisted branches.
I was not at the ranch when the tornado hit, but my daughter Caroline was there, along with my niece, Abby. They had been out riding horses and had come inside to get out of the heat.
My father-in-law had driven his open-aired jeep to a shop five minutes down the road and was on his way back when the clouds, hail, and wind came in so fast he could not see five feet in front in him.
My mom was there with her childhood friend from San Antonio. They had just driven up to the house and walked their bags inside when the storm hit and a 1500 pound limb came crashing down on Jeannie’s car, splintering the windshield.The electrical box was ripped off of the side of our house, and another limb came crashing down onto our back porch, ripping out the railing.
But in the midst of all the shaking and the destruction left in its wake, there is much to be thankful for. By the grace of God and the sovereignty of God, the things that were meant to stay standing are still standing. Trees over the roofs of our homes are still firmly planted in the ground. My father in law emerged unscathed from the storm. My daughter and niece, my mom and her friend, are all in one piece when they easily might not have been.
But the things that were meant to be shaken were shaken. And while the clean up efforts have been extensive, there has been great comfort in that for me. God allowed the shaking. He was sovereign over the uprooting. And while dealing with the uprooting is hard, knowing He allowed it and is still Lord over it has helped me have peace of mind while piecing things together after the storm.
As we survey the season we are in and the damage in our church, our culture, and in the lives of people around us, it’s easy to become overwhelmed at the clean up efforts in front of us. It’s easy to become paralyzed and stay stuck in our fear and fragility.
But take comfort in this – nothing has been uprooted in our culture and in our lives that God has not allowed. We might be standing at the base of some pretty big trees and large, extensive root systems in our lives, churches, and culture that God is wanting to deal with and take out, but He has been purposeful and selective in the shaking.
So don’t miss it. Don’t race by or wish by this opportunity to do the good and necessary clean up work for what God has allowed to be shaken. Don’t just return to life as normal without making the effort to get rid of the debris God has allowed to be strewn all over the place.
Clean up effort is hard work, and it’s usually inconvenient work. But it’s good work, and it’s work that is necessary for us to do.
It’s hard work to learn how to sit still and listen.
It’s inconvenient to have to stop and listen long enough to name the sin in our own hearts so that we know how to repent and clear the debris around us.
But it’s necessary work to learn to see ourselves as we really are – not as we wish we could be. It’s hard to have to admit we have hurt others through our pride, defensiveness, fear, and even hate. It’s hard to admit that we are real sinners, not the perfect people or church we wish we could be.
But true confession is the groundwork for true change. We cannot turn our attention to the new things God wants to plant until the old things are ripped out, chopped up, and cleared.
In this season that we are in, we must remember this: God sovereignly uproots. But He also plants. He purposely tears down, but He also builds. And every season of harvest and abundance I’ve ever experienced, every shaking. Uprooting. Tearing. Clearing.
Will the good work of uprooting and clearing always feel pleasant? No. Will it require the hard work and difficult work of honesty and confession? Yes. Will it require uprooting everything that is not built on the solid ground of relationship with Jesus Christ? Yes. But the harvest we will reap, the seeds we will sow, the roots we put into place will carry us and our children for generations to come.
“Blessed is the one who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree, planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, she prospers.” Psalm 1:1-3
For more encouragement throughout the week, you can find me on Instagram @baker.susannah, and on Facebook, see link below.
Several weeks ago, I wrote a blog called “Love Wins: A Story of Adoption, Redemption, and Love,” in response to hearing Nina Hendee’s story of being reunited with the son she had surrendered to adoption over forty years ago. (To watch their story, click here.)
Nina’s story is a miraculous and courageous one. Courageous because she made the decision to carry her baby as a 17-year-old unwed mother and then place her baby in the care of a family who could love him well. And miraculous because God reunited Nina and her son decades later and allowed them to see a glimpse, this side of heaven, of the power of faithful and persistent prayer.
When I wrote the piece, I knew it would bless people deeply to read about Nina’s courageous decision and God’s faithful redemption.
But I didn’t know it would also hurt hearts who had walked through the same circumstances as Nina yet chose abortion instead of adoption. Abortion and those who suffer under its weight is the side of the coin of unplanned pregnancy I do not think about as often as I should, and for that thoughtlessness, I am deeply sorry.
And it is to you, to the women who suffer under the hurt and pain that abortion brings, that I want to write today’s blog.
Several weeks ago, I had a quiet conversation with a friend that I cannot recall without tears.
In slow and quiet words, my friend shared the emotions she experienced as she read Nina’s story.
She too had been a young, single woman who found herself pregnant by a man she knew she did not want to marry or start a family with. She felt alone, overwhelmed and backed into a corner, squeezed into a tight space, with no option but this one: to end the life of her baby. So she did. And she stuffed that decision, buried it down deep, and moved on, living her life, until she heard Nina’s story several weeks ago.
And that’s when the pain and the shame and the hurt of her decision began to come up and out of the places where she had stuffed it.
As we went back and talked through the moments leading up to her decision to abort, we talked through the pain and loneliness she felt, and the grief she had buried.
We were able to go back through those moments and see the Presence of God with her in the doctor’s office when she felt so alone. We were able to see, through prayer, that her good Shepherd was with her in the valley of the shadow of death all along. And while it grieved Him deeply the decision she made, it grieved Him just as much that she was separated from Him, far off in her grief and pain. And the same God who was there to comfort Nina as she surrendered her son was there to comfort my friend as she surrendered her grief.
What we both remembered and experienced firsthand in those moments together was this – God did not come to comfort perfect people. He did not come to die for and forgive the righteous – for those who make good, right, and perfect decisions. He came to comfort and cover the UN-righteous. Those who made and make bad decisions, hurtful decisions, decisions that end in death and grief and in separation from God instead of loving union with Him (Romans 5:6).
And what we discovered and remembered together is that the same God who redeemed Nina’s story was there to redeem my friend’s story and every single woman’s story who wrestles with similar pain from her past.
Yes, Nina took the opportunity to make a courageous decision when she chose to carry her baby to full term and to give him life. And yes, that decision reaped immense blessing and redemption in her life. But if you chose abortion instead of adoption, it does not mean that you are excluded from the goodness of God’s blessing and redemptive purposes at work in your story and in your life. Your road will look differently than Nina’s, but the goodness of God and the power of God behind you, walking with you on your road, is the same. And if you chose abortion, you now, like my friend, have the opportunity to make a courageous decision as well, one that will have lasting impact just as Nina’s did.
You can choose to stay hidden in the pain and grief of the choice you made, or you can choose to bring it out into the open, into the light, just as my friend did, and choose to believe God can heal and redeem even this. Just as with Nina, the worst the enemy can do in your life, God can undo. He can redeem.
And every day, just as Nina had a choice to trust God, to close her eyes so that she could see His goodness and believe that God did not love her or her son because Nina was so great; He loved her because He was so great. And it was on God’s greatness and goodness that Nina’s choice to be courageous rested.
And it is the same choice you and I have as well.
I think one of the biggest lies we must learn to overcome as believers in Christ is that God’s goodness is for those who make the fewest messes. Nothing could be further from the truth. Not only does He draw near to those who make messes time and time and time again, He does not leave us on our own to clean those messes up. Instead, He gets down on His hands and knees and cleans up our messes for us and with us with His broken body and poured out blood.
If we believe anything else, or if we believe the goodness of God and the redemption of God is only for people like Nina who make good or courageous decisions, then we are not believing the true Gospel. The true Gospel is this: Christ came to die for sinners. Not when we were good and loved God but when we hated Him and were far off and made horrible, terrible, selfish decisions (I Peter 3:18).
And that is a truth not just for people who have chosen abortion but for all of us, myself and Nina included. I have chosen murder often when I have held unforgiveness in my heart (Matthew 5:21-22). I have chosen death many times when I have deeply envied and wronged people who have gotten things I have wanted (James 3:16). At the foot of the cross, my friends, we are all on level playing ground. We are all deeply flawed, full of sin, in need of grace.
But the tragedy is not that we have sinned. The tragedy is if we stay stuck there.
Don’t stay stuck in your past. Move up and out through confession into the light.
You don’t have to trumpet the decision you made on a loud speaker on your front lawn to your whole street. You don’t have to stand up in a pulpit on a Sunday morning and confess to a whole church full of people.
But you do have to confess to God, confess to anyone who was hurt by your sin (and this happens in God’s time, God’s way as He shows you how), and it helps tremendously to confess to at least one other person who can look at you in the flesh, put their hands on you, and say, “My friend, you are forgiven. This is what the cross of Christ is for. And God is going to redeem your story. All of it. Even this, especially this.”
This is what the body of Christ is for. We are to proclaim to one another daily and often: Christ has died, Christ has risen, and Christ will come again. In others words, Christ has died – you are forgiven. Christ has risen – you are made new in the power of His Holy Spirit. Christ will come again – all of our stories will be redeemed, and we will live with Him forever.
Please know that as I write, if you are in pain over a decision from the past you have made, I am praying for you. I am praying that right now, today, your heart would be stirred to look up and out to Jesus. I am praying that you would leave your shame and pain at the foot of the cross and learn to look courageously at Him for the rest of your life, for all of your days. Like Nina, you might see the outcome of your decision to trust God here on this earth, or like many of us, you might not. But I can promise you this: you will see it one day. And you will be blown away by the power of our God to make all things new.
If you are struggling under the weight or sorrow of an abortion, here are some steps you can take:
- Confess your sin to God, and then pray about confessing it to another person who is trustworthy. Ask God to show you who that person is.
- Instead of burying your grief about the life of your child, allow it to come to the surface. Consider giving your child a name if you have not already done so. Write a letter to him or her, and say the things you wish you could say; write out the prayers, hopes, and dreams you had for his or her life.
- Trust the decision you made to end a life in death, God can redeem. Put a tangible reminder of this hope and God’s redemption in a place where you will see it often. Plant a tree or flowering bush. Pick up a rock, a stone of remembrance of the goodness of God, and put it by your bed or on your desk. But do something to remind you of God’s promise to be faithful even when you are faithless (reference).
- Guilt and shame can only hold power over us when they go unacknowledged and remain hidden, in the dark. When the enemy of your soul comes to make you feel small, ashamed, embarrassed, or dirty from the inside it, stop, and notice it. Stop and say, “That’s shame.” Say it out loud, under your breath, or make a tally mark on a card. Even something as simple as that begins to loosen and destroy the hold that shame has over you. And then actively turn towards God. Memorize and think on a Scripture that pushes you towards the goodness of God for sinners who are made righteous because of Jesus, not because of anything we do for ourselves or on our own. One verse you could use is Romans 8:31-32: “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all – how will He not also, along with Him, how will He not graciously give us all things?…If God is for us, who can be against us?” If God has forgiven you and promised to redeem you, then what can anyone else including Satan himself, do to you? Nothing.
- Consider meeting with a counselor or joining a support group with other women who have walked through abortion and actively process your story with those who can help you work towards healing. For resources on a counselor or group, please consider connecting with the amazing people here.
Know this from Nina, from my friend, from me, but most of all, from the Lord: no matter your past, or the decisions you have made, you are loved. Those who call on the Name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10:13). Forgiven. Made whole. And renewed. And no power on heaven or on earth can separate you from His love.
Whatever decision you make today, let it be this: courageously look up and out to Jesus, and like Nina, and like my friend, let your healing begin. You will never regret surrendering all that you hold in your heart and your hands to Him, to the One whose hands can safely hold it all.
For more encouragement throughout the week, you can find me on Instagram @baker.susannah