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
Junior high, high school, and the early teenage years are often times when teens experience loneliness. But loneliness doesn’t have to be a burden; it can be a gift when used as a tool to turn to God and get to know Him and who He has made us to be. Join me and my daughter, Lillian, in a conversation to learn how God has used this very important tool in her life.
Many teenagers and young people today struggle with overwhelming dread, fear, and anxiety. As parents, aunts, uncles, and mentors, we can often struggle with knowing how to help them fight their crippling, unseen fears. My 19 year old niece, Hannah, has battled anxiety the past five years, but she has learned how to fight her fears one step at a time. Listen and be encouraged as she shares her story and the tools that have helped her along the way.
For more encouragement throughout the week, you can find me on Instagram @baker.susannah.
I’ve known Nina Hendee a long time. I’ve known the warmth that radiates from her big, beautiful blue eyes. I’ve known the joy that emanates from every cell of her body even when, and especially when, life is hard. I’ve known the comfort of being a part of her family in some of my most difficult days. I’ve known her as a mentor, mom, role model, and friend.
But I’ve never known her as a fellow mom whose life had been touched by adoption until several months ago.
Jason and I were eating dinner at her family’s famous steakhouse restaurant, The Taste of Texas, when Nina came over to visit. As she pulled out her chair and sat down, she began to tell us a story. A story of herself as a seventeen-year-old girl who was pregnant and unmarried yet who made the courageous and inconvenient decision to carry her baby full term and surrender him to adoption.
She told us the story of holding him in her arms just once, only once, and telling him everything that was on her heart to say – all of her prayers, all of her hopes, and all of her dreams for his life. As she handed him over to the nurse, she handed him over to God with fervent, heartfelt prayers that he would be raised by a family who feared God and loved Him with all their hearts as she did.
And then she never saw him again.
Until the day a letter showed up in her mailbox forty-eight years later from the son she had surrendered long ago.
The letter was from a man named Kyle Poulson who had gone on the long, arduous, and vulnerable journey to find his birth mother, only to discover Nina Hendee at the end as his destination.
Their reunion over the past few months has been sweet and rich and redemptive – redemptive for several reasons.
One, all of Nina’s prayers for her son were realized and confirmed when Kyle walked into the room. He was adopted by parents who raised him as their beloved son with a strong and nurturing love for the Lord and for other people. They helped Kyle grow into a man any woman would be proud to call her son.
Two, I don’t know who Kyle imagined would be at the end of his journey to find the woman who gave him life, but my guess is never in his wildest dreams would he have thought that woman would be anyone as close in character and kindness and excellence as Nina Hendee. It was like he hit the jackpot of all jackpots in moms and in families.
But three, ten years ago, on February 13, 2010, Nina lost her son, Edd K. Hendee, in a tragic skiing accident. He left behind a grieving wife, children, parents, and two beautiful sisters. And I thought Nina had lost her only son.
But God has a strange and miraculous, almost incomprehensible, way of redeeming every story.
And when Kyle walked back into Nina’s life and into her family’s life forty-eight years later, Nina got back a son. No one can replace Edd, and that’s definitely not what I am suggesting.
But what I am saying is that when I watched a video this past Sunday about their story and the beauty of their reunion, my hope in a God who holds the power to redeem was renewed.
When Kyle’s face showed up on that screen and I saw Edd K’s eyes looking back at me, I wept at the ability of God to give us back here on this earth, in small part, what we have lost, with the sure promise of all He will restore and redeem one day in the future.
I was reminded anew that “no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him” (I Corinthians 2:9).
I was reminded that the worst the enemy can do in our lives, God undoes (Genesis 50:20).
I was reminded that every decision we make to honor God and choose life never goes unnoticed or forgotten. It is like precious seed that is buried in the ground, and just when we think it is dead without any hope of resurrection, God speaks, and it blooms (Psalm 126:5-6; John 12:24).
And I was reminded that in the Kingdom of God, our greatest deaths and deepest surrenders end in life when we surrender them into God’s hands. They do so not because we are so good or so wise. They do because God is so good and so wise, and He holds the promise of our full redemption in His nail-pierced hands.
Nina, thank you for choosing life. Thank you for making the hard and gutsy decision to carry a baby only to entrust him to another. Thank you for loving life and loving adoption.
Thank you for walking through all of your trials with the hope of heaven in your heart. Thank you for reminding me that with every loss, with every surrender, and with every death, there is a God behind it all who holds hope, redemption, and life in His Hands.
You have painted a beautiful picture of the goodness of God with the choices you have made in your life, even when those choices have cost you something big. As I look at that picture, you have helped me love God and know God more. And for that, I speak for many who say, “Thank you.”
I can’t wait to be in heaven and see the fullness of His redemption with you one day.
To watch Kyle and Nina’s powerful and beautiful story, click on the link below:
Happy Mother’s Day! While we are so thankful for the children God has given us, parenting can be hard on the heart. If you or your children are walking through a season of loneliness, don’t despair. Know God is using it for great good in their lives and in yours as well.
For more encouragement throughout the week, you can find me on Instagram @baker.susannah.
Last week I shared the struggle I was having in sleeping through the night (click here to read). Through the words of Psalm 63, God reminded me to make a meal of His presence in the middle of the night instead of my worry. He also reminded me that when seasons of sleeplessness come (and they will – it’s part of being human), I am to remember His faithfulness and meditate on His word. Those two things provide comfort in the midst of despair, stability in the midst of uncertainty, and courage in the midst of fear.
Over the past week, through remembering and meditating on God’s word, my sleep has been much more sound, something for which I am deeply grateful. (If you want access to the questions and guide I use at night to help settle my heart and mind, it is attached to this blog post as well.)
But I’ve noticed when I wake up from a night of sleeping more soundly, I have to brush off a sense of despair the next morning. If I wasn’t awake worrying about my problems, was God actually and actively doing anything about them? Or did He need me to be awake in the middle of the night to keep things moving along in the direction I want them to go?
(I know this sounds ridiculous, but if I’m being honest and paying attention to the narrative of my heart, this is what I’m hearing.)
So one morning this weekend, after waking up from a night of sound sleep and actually feeling rested, I paused to ask God if He had been doing anything while I was sleeping. Because everything around me still looked the same. Same kitchen sink. Same view out my window. Same birds still chirping. Same people around me waking up with the same daily needs.
In the stillness, He invited me to take another look through another lens at the view outside my window.
And instead of seeing the same, I saw different. I saw a God who had been working, and I saw a world that had been renewed all while I had been sleeping.
I saw fields wet with dew that God had watered. I saw birds building nests with twigs and feeding babies with worms God had provided. I saw green grass sprouting up beside the withered brown, carpeting the world with newness. I saw a sky that had been painted with the dawn and a sun that had been summoned peeking up over the edge of the horizon ready to light up a dark world.
I saw the evidence of a God who had been working all the night through while I was sleeping re-painting, re-newing, re-telling the world and all who live in it the narrative of our lives: at the end of every night, there is a morning. At the edge of all darkness, there is a coming light. In every death and all that is withered, there is the promise of all that is new.
A dawn that breaks with hope. A morning that comes with healing in its wings, telling those of us who will stop long enough to listen that we have a God who never stops faithfully working, watering, feeding, clearing, harvesting, and renewing.
I can sleep as deeply and as soundly as I want. He does not need my worry. He cannot help but work to renew – that is just the kind of God He is. So don’t despair. You can trust the canvas of your life to the God who paints dawn onto darkness, all while you were sleeping.
“But for you who fear My Name the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall.” Malachi 4:2
For more encouragement throughout the week, follow me on Instagram @baker.susannah.
I’ve been awake at night quite a lot lately. Tossing, turning, eyes wide open, thoughts racing.
The last time this happened with this much regularity was when we brought our youngest daughter home from China four and a half years ago. I spent the first six months she was home wide awake from about midnight until my alarm went off at 6am. It led to a season of anxiety and depression on a level I haven’t experienced since.
So entering into seasons of sleeplessness can freak me out a little. I grow anxious that I am headed for another season marked by anxiety and depressions. (Sounds counter-productive, I know.)
But I learned a few things during that season of sleeplessness that I dusted off and pulled back out to try to help me sleep in the current season we are in.
Because there are a lot of things to wake up in the middle of the night about right now – things like a global pandemic, people I love who are in the high-risk category of catching the virus, a crashed national economy, closed stores and restaurants, joblessness, finances – or the lack thereof, and family dynamics with everyone home seven days out of the week.
While I might not be aware during the waking hours that I am overtly anxious about anything, what I am discovering is a low-level constant thrum of anxiety that underscores everything in my day and wakes me up when I am fast asleep at night.
My body has responded to this low-level thrum with headaches as well as sleeplessness, and after my fifth headache in ten days, I realized I had to get serious about dealing with the anxiety that was settling in on my soul.
Sometimes I can beat myself up for things like sleeplessness or headaches or weariness when I know I should be sleeping soundly and trusting the Lord instead of fretting and worrying underneath the surface.
So I was comforted and surprised to open my Bible to Psalm 63 this weekend and read these words:
(5) “My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise You with joyful lips,
(6) when I remember You upon my bed,
and meditate on You in the watches of the night;
(7) for You have been my help,
and in the shadow of Your wings
I will sing for joy.
(8) My soul clings to You;
Your Right Hand upholds me.”
I was comforted to read that inserted into the Psalm 63 is the assumption that we will be up in the watches of the night. In other words, God knows there will be times, like times when there is a global pandemic, that His people will struggle to sleep.
He doesn’t berate us or beat us up for that, rather, He instructs us what to do and where to go when we find our thoughts racing at 3am. In verses five and six, David, the psalmist, implies that he is feasting on a meal in the middle of the night. But instead of feeding on worry, the psalmist implies he is feasting on God, so much so that his soul is “satisfied as with fat and rich food.” He isn’t making a meal of his worry; he is making a meal of His God. And he does that in two different ways:
Earlier on in the psalm in verses 2-3, he writes, “So I have looked upon You in the sanctuary, beholding Your power and glory. Because Your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise You.” In these verses, David is choosing to remember three specific things about God: His power – God is who He says He is and can do what He says He can do, His glory – who He is is more satisfying than anything else this world could offer, and His steadfast love – in a world where the only thing certain is uncertainty, God’s love never fails.
These are the things that hold David’s thoughts and feed David’s soul in the middle of the night.
Throughout Scripture, God’s people are commanded to remember who God is and what God does – His saving acts in history and His personal saving acts towards us.
And we are commanded to remember because we are a people prone to forget. I forget what we ate for dinner last night and the activities we did two days much less the countless ways God was faithful in my life a decade ago.
But when I wake up in the middle of the night, I have a choice: I can feed my worry by rehearsing all the ways I could fail the next day, all of the things that could go, and probably will go, wrong, or I can remember God’s power, glory, and steadfast love to His people throughout the centuries and in my very own life.
I’ll take the latter.
But it’s so very hard to do.
That’s why the second way David makes a meal of God’s character is so very helpful. Not only does he remember God’s character and God’s works, but he also meditates. He takes a passage, a verse, a phrase, or even a word or two from the Word of God and thinks through all of its implications for life (for a more complete definition of “meditate,” see Tim Keller’s book, The Songs of Jesus, January 1st). In other words, he slowly, deliberately, and methodically takes tiny morsels from the Word of God and feeds on them, chews them, and digests them by applying them to the very real needs and potential trouble spots or worries in his life.
While this sounds like a great practice, I don’t know about you, but this is very hard to do at 3:13am when my eyes pop wide open, my heart starts pounding, and my thoughts start racing. It feels like I have absolutely no control over my thoughts that are spiraling out of control.
But I have found that with God’s Word, I do. Sometimes this requires getting out of bed, taking my Bible in hand, and finding a quiet spot in the house to read and pray through Scripture until I am to fall back asleep.
But more often than that, remembering and meditating begins with the last thing I do before I fall asleep. I keep a Bible on the nightstand beside my bed, and right before I am about to turn out the light, I turn to one of a handful of psalms that speak to me about the faithfulness and goodness of God. I slowly read through the Psalm and choose one or two phrases to “meditate on,” or think specifically and deliberately about for three to five minutes.
To help me do this, I sometimes even take deep breaths – four counts in and eight counts out – and then I pray, committing my night’s sleep to the Lord, and turn out my light.
This exercise does not ensure I will sleep through the night – but what it does ensure that when my eyes pop open, my heart starts beating out of my chest, and my mind starts racing, I am more easily able to reign it in by remembering phrases from the psalm I read before I turned out my light.
I will often lie there in the dark taking deep breaths – four counts in, eight counts out – and rehearse Psalm 37:3 – “Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and feed on His faithfulness.”
Or I will slowly chew on the words from Psalm 23:4 – “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”
Or I will meditate on the character of God from Psalm 19:14 – “Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”
I have found the faster I can reign in my thoughts and focus on God, the faster I can slow down my heart, close my eyes, and reign my swirling thoughts back in. I don’t always fall back into a sound sleep, but when I make a meal out of God’s power, glory, and steadfast love rather than gorge myself on fretful thoughts about the next day, next month, or the next year, I wake up rested and able to enter into the duties of the day instead of feeling like I wrestled all night with an unseen enemy.
If you are struggling with sleeplessness during this season like me, consider putting a Bible, journal, and pen by your bed. Before turning off the light, consider picking one portion of Scripture to read, and then meditate on one or two phrases from that portion for 3-5 minutes. Take deep breaths – four counts in, eight counts out – and to close your time, write down one way God has been faithful in the past, either to you or to His people throughout history, and then write down one of His characteristics you can feed on during the night if your mind jolts you awake.
If you are not sure where to begin reading in your Bible at night, consider starting with some of my favorite places to turn: Psalm 4, Psalm 16, Psalm 23, Psalm 37, Psalm 63, Psalm 131, and Psalm 143. You can spend a whole week reading slowly and deliberately though one, or rotate through all seven, assigning a different one for each day of the week.
You can print off the image below and use it to help you create a bedtime routine, or follow the prompts and write them down in your own journal. But whatever you do, don’t feed on worry. It makes for a terrible meal and leaves you without energy for the responsibilities of the following day. But feed on God’s faithfulness. He has been there in the past and He will continue to be with us in the present and future, through every wakeful night and day.
For more encouragement throughout the week, follow me on Instagram @baker.susannah.
Learning to find comfort and peace when our normal comforts are gone requires listening to the heart and allowing God to meet our needs. But God’s Word tells us it is possible to have abundance even in seasons of leanness when we trust in Him.
To order your copy of Chip Dodd’s book The Voice of the Heart, click here.
For more encouragement throughout the week, follow me on Instagram @baker.susannah
School is cancelled. Let me say that again – school is officially cancelled. And while that may bring shouts of joy and cheer to our children, it could also bring sobs of deep anguish from parents. While stay-at-home restrictions are gradually being lifted, we still have a long road of close quarters ahead of us.
My pastor, Gregg Matte, preached a great sermon yesterday. His text was Philippians 4:1-5, and while he drew many great points from the passage, one point in particular keeps rolling around in my heart and head: during this time of corona quarantine, the number one goal isn’t knocking it out of the park on your kid’s algebra homework, and it isn’t making sure they have all A’s by the end of the semester in just a few short weeks. The number one goal by the end of this stay-at-home time, however long it lasts, is to have closer relationships – first with God, and then with one another.
Four weeks ago, closer family relationships sounded really nice. It sounded comfortable and cozy and fun. Like we would all just sit around and play board games, take bike rides, and eat dinner around the table together every night. But now, closer family relationships sound downright exhausting. Can I be frank for just one moment? I don’t want to be closer to people in my family right now. I want to have a stay-at-home week by myself. With no people in it. And that’s because, at this point, we have all been in close quarters for so long, all the cozy, comfortable, niceness has worn off. We are now relating to each other out of the frayed edges of weariness and boredom with no end in sight.
Close relationship with my family members is going to require more than a board game or a nice meal around the table together. It’s going to require repentance and forgiveness.
And that’s because, in the words of my pastor, “A different set of social circumstances can both reveal and heal problems.” (To listen to his full sermon, click here.)
Many things have been healed over the past few weeks. Slowing down and staying home together has taken the edge of hurry out of my voice and enabled me to speak kindly and tenderly to my children instead of impatiently and angrily. It’s allowed me to enjoy my children instead of just managing my children and getting them out the door for the next activity.
But this time has also revealed things in me, my marriage, my children, and my extended family relationships. It’s revealed the true dynamic of our relationships, not just the pretend dynamic it’s easy to put on when you only have a few hours to be around someone. A few weeks? Now that’s a different story.
So what now? If you, like me, find yourself more argumentative and irritable than you were a few weeks ago, hit the pause button on relationships that seem to be pressing on a particular nerve. Take the advice of 17th century British pastor and poet George Herbert and “Take some time to be alone; see what thy soul doth wear.”
Maybe taking some time alone means getting up earlier than anyone else in your house. Maybe it means taking a walk by yourself where you can out think and pray. Or maybe it means escaping to a quiet corner of the driveway or backyard while everyone else is inside watching a movie (this is what movies for children are for – to help moms regain their sanity).
But whatever you do, be quiet and still enough to allow God do some searching of you instead of you doing all the searching and talking to God.
Only God has both the power and the goodness to see into the human heart and not only show us what is there but help us walk out of the habits and patterns that hinder relational intimacy with the people we love most and then lead us in a way that is everlasting and true (Psalm 139:23-24)/LINK.
What this requires from us is enough humility to sit still and listen. It requires us be willing to admit we don’t have all the answers and it requires us being willing to admit whenever there is an argument, rub, or misunderstanding, it takes two to tango. The problem usually never lies completely with the other person – we have to own our part as well.
This past week, it took me a full week to be willing to admit my part. It took a lot of wrestling, soul searching, and prayer.
But finally, once I was able to admit I had far more pride than I had dared to believe, I was able to repent, not just to the Lord but to the person I had wronged.
This stay-at-home time God has given us is to build closer relationships. But we are naive to think that closeness will come without conflict and without repentance. At some point, somebody’s going to have to give. Somebody’s going to have to say, “I’m sorry.” Somebody is going to have to take ownership for their part in a disagreement or a relational dynamic that seems entirely the other person’s fault. And then, and only then, will healing come.
Your conflict could be with your spouse or with your teenager or with your toddler. It could be with your roommate or your co-worker or your boss or your parents or your extended family.
But the fact of the matter is: this closeness is a gift and these people aren’t going away. Not for a while at least. So take the time to deal with the rut in your heart and the rut in the relationship, own your part, seek forgiveness, and move on. Or the rub can continue into the days and weeks ahead and instead of emerging from this time closer to the people you love, you will walk away with deeper ruts and higher walls. What it will cost you is your pride. But take it from a fellow traveller – pride isn’t worth holding onto. It makes for a terrible quarantine companion.
But humility lays the ground for real relationships and healed relationships instead of drawn battle lines and rifts in relationships.
So lay down your defenses, get alone with God, and get real about your pride. Pick up repentance and draw close to God and others in humility. Real, restored relationship is waiting.
Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.
I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand.
For more encouragement throughout the week, follow me on instagram @baker.susannah