Purposeful Faith

Author - Abby Mcdonald

The Day God Showed Me What Casting Out Fear Means.

Blog Post by Abby McDonald

“I am going to die.”

That’s what I kept telling myself on repeat as I talked to the OBGYN nurse over the phone. I tried to catch my breath but the tightness in my chest made it difficult to breathe.

“Don’t try to come here,” the she said. “Just go straight to the E.R. Tell them you just had a c-section.”

All my symptoms pointed to a pulmonary embolism, which could be fatal. I sat there in shock, rocking my newborn while I fed him and wondering what to do. Take him with me? Finish feeding him?

My mother-in-law and husband were the only source of calm in the room. I looked at them both, searching for answers to questions I didn’t feel capable of asking.

“Finish feeding the baby and we will take him. I will send Larry out for formula,” my mother-in-law said. The evenness in her voice steadied me for a moment. She didn’t seem worried. Perhaps things were going to be okay.

A Love that Casts Out Fear

When I look back this moment when my firstborn was just days old, I see a person who was wrecked by fear. It was one of the scariest times of my life. All I could tell myself was to keep breathing in and out, from one second to the next.

I didn’t have a pulmonary embolism, but anxiety and side efforts from some medication I was taking contributed to my symptoms. Within a couple of days, the chest pains and shortness of breath passed, but the lessons I learned after those few hours in the E.R. would play out for years.

Sometimes God allows us to face our greatest fears so we see that there is no fear greater than his love.

Most of us would be afraid if someone told us we could be about to die. It’s the second most common phobia, with the first being public speaking. But what about those of us who live life scared, all the time? Scared of what people will think, scared to take that step of faith into the unknown, or scared to reach out to someone who may reject us?

For a large chapter of my life, this was my every day. I was terrified to truly live because I thought if I did, I would mess things up. What would I mess up? Anything that mattered. Relationships, career, kids, you name it. God’s grace was a gift I couldn’t fathom or recognize.

In the year following my experience at the E.R., God captured my heart in a way I can’t explain. A latticework of events that included a friend reaching out, a book I read at the right time, and many others all combined to reach my tired soul. Day by day, I realized: God’s love will drown my fear, if I let it.

For years, I read the following verse and thought I understood it, but didn’t.

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love casts out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears has not been made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:18 NIV

I thought, “Well, that sounds nice. God loves me and watches over me. I need not fear.” And this is true, but then it hit me. If I’m living as though the words of this scripture are true, I must not only accept his love, but live in it.

When I live in God’s love, I know nothing I can do will separate me from him. I know other’s rejection of me doesn’t matter because he will never reject me, once I’ve declared my devotion to him.

Living in his love means I can walk forward without fear because I know even if trials, discomfort or tragedy lies ahead, he will be with me.

The trials are not punishment, but an opportunity for me to grow in his love even more. They’re when I declare his truth over me- that his presence goes before me, beside me, and has my back.

Living in his love means I can love others even if they don’t reciprocate, because the love Christ gives me is sufficient, complete, and unconditional.

Friends, his love changes everything. But for it to take a radical effect on our lives, we must not only say we believe it, but mean it in our core. A love like this captures every aspect of existence and makes us view it differently.

Fear looks at a trial or struggle and says, “How can this be happening to me?”

Love looks at it and says, “What can God teach me through this?”

How are we going to respond today? I’m still a work in progress and am far from having this whole thing figured out. But I’m learning.

I grew up singing “Jesus Loves Me,” but it’s taken me half my life to believe it and become fully alive because it’s true. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to go back. I want to sing it with its truth in my bones.

 

Abby McDonald is the mom of three, a wife and writer whose hope is show readers their identity is found in Christ alone, not the noise of the world. When she’s not chasing their two boys or cuddling their newest sweet girl, you can find her drinking copious amounts of coffee while writing about her adventures on her blog. Abby would love to connect with you on her blog and her growing Facebook community.

You’re invited! Don’t miss The Journey Together Summit. 40+ Christian Authors and Women’s Ministers will talk about their battles and how they overcame them. Learn how to stand strong, faithful and to trust in God, no matter what you face. See the full agenda here: www.journeytogethersummit.com

How Does God Respond When His People Want to Die?

Blog Post by Abby McDonald

Sometimes it’s easier to be a spectator. When there’s an event or tragedy making headlines and getting lots of attention in the media, that’s often what I am. I sit back and read other writers’ words. I nod and silently say, “Amen.”

But over the last weeks following the suicide of two well-known celebrities, I knew I needed to contribute more than hushed acknowledgement. I watched others speak up about their own experiences with depression and bravely tell their stories, and God stirred my soul.

I know what it’s like to be in that space where you dread waking up.

To look out the window and try to feel anything other than the slow nothingness engulfing you. After having my first child, there were days I couldn’t wait to crawl into bed and slip into the abyss of sleep.

Last week I read words from a courageous one who voiced a truth most of us don’t hear very often: Someone can love Jesus but still want to die. And I applaud her for it. These are the types of conversations more of us need to have.

Days after I read her story, its points still circled my mind and I found myself wondering, “Why do we so often want to remain silent about our own darkness?” The autopilot part of me knows the answer. People who love Jesus aren’t supposed to want to take their own lives, right? They’re supposed to have faith that can heal and a spirit that finds peace in his presence, right?

Yes, these things are possible. God is able. But they aren’t always the rule. And the thought in my mind days after I read another sojourner’s words was, “Even some prophets dealt with this darkness.”

Want to see for yourself? Elijah and Jonah, who were both servants of the Lord and heard directly from him, stated they wanted to die. (See 1 Kings 19 and Jonah 4)

These were men who not only thought about dying, but openly told God they wanted to.

These were men who God chose specifically to speak to and use. He trusted them and set them apart in generations filled with people who worshiped idols, bowed to Baals and turned to everything but him to find fulfillment.

They were not far from God, but vessels of his message. They transformed lives and brought hope. At the point they stated their anguish, they had seen God perform the miraculous. Fire from heaven at Elijah’s word. For Jonah, the nation of Ninevah transformed from vile acts of brutality to repentance.

And yet, they wanted to die.

Now, I’m not going to go into the details surrounding each man’s journey. But if we read their stories, we see one was afraid of a crazy king’s wife and the other was angry. Their desire to die stemmed from very different emotions.

What I want to talk about today isn’t their reasons, but God’s response. Because there are many who think God turns away from these types of feelings and cries of despair. And I’m here to tell you he doesn’t.

So how did God respond? Did he chastise them? Turn away and cast them into hell? Hide his face and let them wander in darkness?

Not even close. Here are three ways God responds when his followers want to die:

  1. He comes to them in their need and allows them to rest.

God does not turn away from his children. He doesn’t yell, “How dare you say such a thing!” or act as though he can’t believe one of his own followers is making such a bold statement. In Elijah’s distress, he sends an angel to him with food and water. He lets him sleep and prepare for the long journey ahead. Once he’s had time to regain his strength, he follows him to Mount Horeb. To Jonah he provides shade and eases his discomfort. And although he later takes the plant away to illustrate a point to Jonah, he doesn’t leave him.

  1. He gets to the heart of the matter.

God doesn’t shy away from what’s really going on in these men’s hearts. He asks questions. He sees the things they’re not saying or asking. To Elijah he asks, “What are you doing here?” (1 Kings 19:9) and to Jonah he asks, “Is it right for you to be angry?” (Jonah 4:4) God already knows the answer to these questions. He wants the men whose hearts he’s after to see what he sees.

  1. He listens.

God doesn’t interrupt these prophets or cut them off as they’re explaining how they’ve arrived at this place. Once again, he knows the answer. In Elijah’s case, he knows he mistakenly believes he’s the only follower left. But he still lets him speak. He lets him say these words he’s been holding onto as he traveled through the wilderness thinking there was no one left to serve God.

Sometimes the journey through the wilderness is what prepares us to receive the truth.

Friend, I don’t know where you are today. I don’t know if you’re fighting through darkness or if you’re standing firm in a place of victory today. But can I tell you God sees you, no matter what? He doesn’t turn away from those places you keep buried.

God doesn’t stand in disbelief at statements like the ones from Elijah and Jonah. He comes close. He reaches through the gap. When we hurt, he hurts.

Talk to him today. Even if you don’t think he hears, talk to him anyway. He’s is right there and is waiting for you to reach for him.

 

Abby McDonald is the mom of three, a wife and writer whose hope is show readers their identity is found in Christ alone, not the noise of the world. When she’s not chasing their two boys or cuddling their newest sweet girl, you can find her drinking copious amounts of coffee while writing about her adventures on her blog. Abby would love to connect with you on her blog and her growing Facebook community.

 

 

 

 

If you need to talk or you know somebody struggling, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text with someone at the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.

Trading Fear for Confidence in His Unshakeable Grip

Blog Post by Abby McDonald

If you were completely confident in God’s unchanging, irrevocable love for you, would it change how you walked? If you knew that no matter how many times you fell, he would be right there to catch you, would it change the way you lived your life?

I believe it would.

Several years ago, God showed me what confidence in a daddy’s grip can do. Our firstborn was six, and he set out to conquer a new set of monkey bars at a state park we were visiting. But after climbing the ladder and surveying the height, fear overtook him. I could tell he wanted to cross, but he convinced himself he wasn’t able to do it.

After spending a few minutes observing our boy, my husband walked over. He spoke words of encouragement and told him he would walk with him, arms out and ready to grab him if he slipped.

Our six-year-old hesitated another moment and then went for it. He made it all the way across without falling, and then there was no stopping him. He immediately went back for more.

The smile on his face spoke for itself, but for the rest of the afternoon he told everyone about his new accomplishment. Our friends. The neighbors. People he met on our hike to the waterfall.

Everyone heard, “Daddy wouldn’t let me fall, so I knew I could do it.”

It’s amazing what that kind of confidence can do for us, isn’t it?

When we know someone is walking with us and cares about every detail of our lives, we can move forward without fear. Even when circumstances look bleak, we can put one foot in front of the other because we know we aren’t doing it alone.

Can I tell you something? You have someone too.

If you’ve surrendered your life to the living God, he goes with you, behind you and before you.

“You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head.” Psalm 139:5 NLT

Even if everyone in your life has let you down or abandoned you. Even if your earthly father never gave you the love and assurance you needed.

God’s love is not fickle. It is patient and enduring. It withstands in the places where human loves fails.

This is the type of love that transforms our walk. It’s the type of love that enables us to do things we would never do before, because we know with him standing in the gap with us, we will never be alone.

Claim this truth as your own today. Speak it out loud when the lies of the enemy threaten to overtake your thoughts. I can promise when you do, you will see a change. And the change will be in you.

 

Abby McDonald is the mom of three, a wife and writer whose hope is show readers their identity is found in Christ alone, not the noise of the world. When she’s not chasing their two boys or cuddling their newest sweet girl, you can find her drinking copious amounts of coffee while writing about her adventures on her blog. Abby would love to connect with you on her blog and her growing Facebook community.

Good News for All of Us Who Feel Like Outsiders

Blog Post by Abby McDonald

Outsider.

I let this term define me for far too long. As a teenager, I always felt on the outside of the popular crowd at school. When I became a young adult, shyness and nerves prevented me from venturing out and making new friends.

When we wear a label long enough, it becomes comfortable. It’s like a thick skin of protection and we start to like it. Even when our circumstances change and our beliefs about life and eternity are rocked, those names we give ourselves are hard to get rid of. They stick like residue, not wanting to come off.

After becoming a follower of Christ, I received new names.

Daughter. Beloved. Child of the one true God. It all sounded wonderful and good and intriguing. But I still felt like an outsider. I fought to grasp something that seemed perpetually out of my reach. If I could only grab hold of it, I would truly be free.

What whatever it was, it continued to elude me. Like a drive through the heavy fog that obscures our mountaintop in the morning, my vision was obscured. I kept striving and wanting something more.

One morning I was in the thick of a women’s Bible study, and the author was talking about anger. She asked the reader to list the things she thought she was entitled to. Her rights. And I’m not talking about our rights as citizens of a country, but the things we think we deserve because we walk this planet.

At first, I struggled through it.

“I’m not an angry person,” I reasoned. I love others.

“But do you feel loved in return?”

It was a gentle question. A nudge in my spirit. If I’d rushed ahead to the next activity, I would’ve missed it.

The longer I sat in the quietness of a Father’s compassion, the more I realized what I chased.

I ran after ways I thought I deserved to be loved by others, but wasn’t. I longed to be understood and truly seen, but felt often felt lacking in both.

Friends, we can learn others’ love language and go to endless relationship experts and counselors. But in the end, there’s only One who will love us the way we truly desire.

Our feelings will change with the weather, but his love is constant and unwavering.

He’s the One who created us. The One who knows us inside and out, who can see our thoughts before we form them.

We are never outside his love. He invites us inside, to feel the closeness of his Spirit and the breath of his adoration.

“In Love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will” Ephesians‬ ‭1:4,5‬ ‭NIV‬‬

We are inside his eternal family.

We are in the depths of his unconditional love.

He drenches us with his endless, undeserved grace.

When I spend time in his presence, I realize I’m loved in ways I dare to dream about. The more I grow to know him, the more I see that I’m not an outsider.

And neither are you.

In Him we belong. In Him, we are complete.

 

Abby McDonald is the mom of three, a wife and writer whose hope is show readers their identity is found in Christ alone, not the noise of the world. When she’s not chasing their two boys or cuddling their newest sweet girl, you can find her drinking copious amounts of coffee while writing about her adventures on her blog. Abby would love to connect with you on her blog and her growing Facebook community.

 

When You’re Afraid to Take That Step of Faith

Blog post by: Abby McDonald

“Don’t look down, Mom!”

Immediately, I wish my son hadn’t said that. I can’t help myself. My eyes drift to the expanse below and my feet wobble. What was I thinking when I agreed to do this?

I try to regain my composure and remember my harness. The 4-story high ropes course stretches out before me, and I know there was only one way out: through it.

If you fall, the harness will catch you.

I tell myself this repeatedly as I inch across a rickety bridge that seems a mile long. My son moves to the other side with ease, turning around at the end to cheer me forward.

“You’ve got this! Keep going!”

When I get close enough to the next platform, I take a giant step to the safety of a solid surface. I stop and breath deeply, thankful for a minute to relax my legs. As I survey the rest of the course, I take a mental note of how much further we have to go before we can make the trek back down to the bottom. My mouth is dry and I can hear my stomach starting to rumble.

When my husband suggested I embark on this adventure with my boys, my first instinct was to say no. First, I am not a fan of heights. And second, our one-year-old daughter was the perfect excuse for me to stay on the ground.

But then I felt a little nudge.

Say yes.

My parents were with us, and they were more than happy to watch their granddaughter. So I went. With harness tightened securely around me, I made my way to the top. And with my nine-year-old as my cheerleader, I kept going even when my balance was awkward and my footing unsure.

Even though I was afraid, I moved forward.

Even though my stamina was tested, my resolved to finish was greater. And you know what? I will never forget those minutes spent amongst the trees with my family.

When my feet were firmly planted back on the ground, I realized God was teaching me a valuable lesson. Without my even realizing it, he painting a picture.

You see, lately God’s been asking me to be brave. He’s asking me to step out of my comfort zone and do things I wouldn’t normally do. Speak more. Lead more. Trust him more. And my first instinct, like it was with my husband, is to say no.

God, I’m not qualified.

God, you have the wrong person.

God, I have no experience in this area.

But he keeps gently nudging me forward, waiting for me to take the leap. Desiring obedience, even when I stubbornly keep my feet planted in one place.

After making a lot of excuses, I said yes to one step. And then another. With each one, he shows me his presence never leaves. Even when my feet falter, he’s there.

Having a forward-moving faith doesn’t mean we’ll never fall. It means we trust a God who never fails.

So when we slip, he’s the harness that catches us and keeps us from hitting the ground. When our balance sways, he’s the secure grip that steadies us and enables us keep going.

“It is God who arms me with strength

and keeps my way secure.

He makes my feet like the feet of a deer;

He causes me to stand on the heights.”

 2 Samuel 22:33-34

Friends, we serve a God who wants us to live life to the fullest.

He wants our faith to move us to new heights so he can show us the depth and width of his love. A love that surpasses all understanding. A love that will change others’ hearts, minds, and lives. But we have to be willing. We have to get off the ground.

When we do, the view is spectacular. When we do, our image of God expands with each shaky step.

 

Abby McDonald is the mom of three, a wife and writer whose hope is show readers their identity is found in Christ alone, not the noise of the world. When she’s not chasing their two boys or cuddling their newest sweet girl, you can find her drinking copious amounts of coffee while writing about her adventures on her blog. Abby would love to connect with you on her blog and her growing Facebook community.

 

The One Acknowledgement that Truly Satisfies

Blog Post by Abby McDonald

My love for an audience began with unexpected heartbreak at nine years old.

I sat on a piano bench in auditorium filled with people who watched with anticipation. Although nerves were palpable, I played the beginning of the piece with confidence. The practiced rhythm in my fingers was instinctual.

Until it wasn’t.

In a moment of confusion, I did the unthinkable. I thought about the next phrase of music. Rather than trust my fingers to remember the notes, my mind raced ahead.

My sigh was audible to everyone sitting in the audience. Hundreds of eyes stared and after what seemed like an eternity, I proceeded the only way I knew how. I played the next section I remembered, bowed, and hurried off the stage.

At the time, I wasn’t sure how I survived, but I was sure of this: it the worst day of my life.

Isn’t it funny how even when our experiences on stage leave scars, we often desire more? Whether it’s in front of hundreds of people or in a small group, we have this innate desire to be seen. We want to know our work is valued, and when we don’t receive affirmation we often become discouraged.

That night on the stage so many decades ago, I was recognized. It may not have been in the way I desired, but the hour following the performance was filled with affirmation from total strangers.

“You handled that situation so well,” one person said.

“It could happen to anyone. You should be proud of how you responded.”

With each word of encouragement, the sting of disappointment hurt a little less. And whether the performance went the way I anticipated or not, I was sure of this: these people saw me, flaws and all, and they applauded me for it.

This audience satisfied one of our deepest human desires: to be seen and valued.

The problem is, many of us spend our entire lives looking for this acknowledgement in the wrong places. We wonder why we are never satisfied, waiting for the next “like” on social media, nod of approval from a friend, or accolade from the workplace.

This is what I spent most of my life doing. When my friends and family complimented my strengths and work, I felt like a conqueror. But when I wasn’t acknowledged for my efforts, I sank into depression and questioned my worth.

Once I got married, had my first child and stopped working, I reached a crossroads. I could either spend my entire life on an endless ride of highs and lows, or I could discover who I truly was.

What I didn’t realize at the time is that we will never fully know who we are until we know who God is. I spent years trying to “find myself,” but I didn’t know my Savior.

When we begin with God, everything else falls into place. When we begin with ourselves, we roam in circles.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.”

Galatians 2:20 NIV

“I no longer live,” Paul says. His entire life was dedicated to glorifying the One who stopped him on the road to Damascus and changed his life forever. Though we are still moved by his faith today, his mission was never about his glory. It was about magnifying the name of the one who saved him from a life of aimlessness.

I’ll never forget the evening in early November when I sat on the couch reading, The Purpose Driven Life with my husband. We were reading the opening chapter, which is aptly titled, “It’s Not About You.”

I realized my entire life had not been about my Creator, but about me. And in making everything about me, I had missed my purpose entirely.

There is freedom in knowing this life is not about us.

Do you know why? What the world gives, it can also take away. All of the praise, the fame and celebration can disappear faster than we can click “like” on Facebook.

But what God gives is eternal. And they way he sees us? It is complete. He sees beyond our insecurities and into our hearts.

Once we make Him the center of our lives, we gain purpose. His Word and character do not change like the trends on Twitter. We can trust Him and know if we humble ourselves before Him, He will exalt us.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.”

1 Peter 5:6 NIV

When the Lord exalts us, he is exalting a reflection of himself and his Spirit in us. And friend, there is nothing more spectacular than that. 

 

Abby McDonald is the mom of three, a wife and writer whose hope is show readers their identity is found in Christ alone, not the noise of the world. When she’s not chasing their two boys or cuddling their newest sweet girl, you can find her drinking copious amounts of coffee while writing about her adventures on her blog. Abby would love to connect with you on her blog and her growing Facebook community.

The Danger in Letting Others Define Who We Are

Blog Post by Abby McDonald

“Don’t ever say you’re just a mom.”

I spun around, startled at the realization that my conversation wasn’t private. I was talking to the cashier at a local toy store about school and pursuing a career in writing. Both my boys were tiny at the time, and before I knew it the statement that I was “just a mom” spilled out of my mouth.

It wasn’t that I didn’t think mothering was important. It had more to do with other’s perception. Or at least, that’s what I thought.

When I turned I saw an older man standing there. He looked me square in the eye and said words I desperately needed to hear during that season.

“What you’re doing is the most important job there is.”

I nodded and thanked him, not sure what else to say. I was amazed at God’s ability to use a complete stranger to encourage me during a time of my life when I felt lost and defeated. And in an instant, I knew I was where God wanted me. My doubt and apprehension was replaced with confidence and security.

But old habits have tendency to resurface, don’t they?

Eventually, I had more time to devote to things I loved and opportunities knocked at my door. I was filled with gratitude and awe at how God was using me.

Encouragement from other strangers came. Strangers who eventually became friends and confidants. I linked arms with others who shared a passion for communicating a message and pointing others toward the hope of Christ through words and stories.

But before I realized what was happening, gratitude turned to comparison. Awe turned to impatience. My timeline and God’s were not the same, and goals I thought would take months turned into years.

I fought for affirmation and approval. Sometimes it came, but when it didn’t my security blanket was ripped off like a band-aid. Rejections stung. Silence and waiting stung even worse.

If we let others define who we are, our security will change like the rising tide.

We will constantly lower our buckets into the well of compliments and accolades until we hit the bottom. And one day, the bucket will come up empty. Our source of sustenance will be parched.

But you want to know the good news? There is Living Water. It never runs dry. And his definition of who we are? It never changes, once we’ve received Him.

Friends, we don’t have to fight for our seat at his table.

“And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.”

Ephesians 2:6 NIV

 Our status has nothing to do with our abilities, and everything to do with Christ’s finished work. It is because of his grace and love for us that he allows us to participate with him in his divine work.

Perception changes everything. So the next time we’re tempted to compare and fight for our seats at the table, let’s remember this:

Christ’s finished work = our eternal worth.

This world and the people in it do not determine who you are. The One who hung on a tree and paid a price more precious than pure gold does.

Never forget who claimed you as his. Take your seat, and remember your identity comes from him alone.

 

Abby McDonald is the mom of three, a wife and writer whose hope is show readers their identity is found in Christ alone, not the noise of the world. When she’s not chasing their two boys or cuddling their newest sweet girl, you can find her drinking copious amounts of coffee while writing about her adventures on her blog. Abby would love to connect with you on her blog and her growing Facebook community.

The Gifts We Overlook

I scroll through my phone and stare at another Christmas party post.

Smiling faces beam back at me as I rock my sleeping babe and wish mine was wedged between them. Praying she won’t wake, I dance to my daughter’s crib and put her down as softly as possible.

Immediately, she cries. Breathing deep, I stand there a moment with a small glimmer of hope that she’ll calm.

She doesn’t.

This was my life a year ago. It was my first holiday season with a baby girl I desired for years. I remember fighting tears and thinking about the irony of it all. I’d waited months for this time and now all I wanted was sleep. I’d felt her kick in my belly and longed to see her face, and then wondered how such a tiny thing could scream with such force.

Before leaving the hospital, the nurse told us not to bring her into crowds for a month.

Continue over to Abby McDonald’s place and join us for the #RaRaLinkup!

When a Door that Seemed Open Is Slammed Shut

Blog Post by Abby McDonald

Flashing lights showed in our rear-view mirror and my husband pulled right, allowing the ambulance to pass. It turned on the street leading up to our house.

“Oh, Don. What did you do now?” my husband said in an exasperated tone.

He seemed certain the ambulance was headed toward our neighbor’s house. The middle-aged man’s health was deteriorating, and those lights were appearing next door more and more often.

“It could be someone else. There’s lots of homes in that direction,” I said.

It was true, but I wasn’t confident. Silently, I prayed for our neighbor’s safety.

But the further we drove, the more fleeting my hopes became. We arrived home and the paramedics drove past our house, parking in front of our neighbor’s. As we observed them from our driveway, we could tell they were familiar with our friend’s case. Frequent caller, nuisance, guy who uses first responders as a taxi service.

There weren’t many in our area who cared about this guy. He was single with no kids, quirky and odd. But months after following the ambulance to his house, my husband took him to Bible study. Despite previous invitations that were ignored or turned down, he went several times.

After his dad passed, we invited him to dinner. To be honest, I felt uncomfortable by some of his habits. But I held my tongue and he came to our home again a few weeks later.

I was sure God was paving the way for a change in this man’s life. We sensed his heart shifting and opening. And while it was just enough to shine a tiny light through, it was something.

But then, there was another shift. Another ambulance. Another trip to the hospital.

He died on a Monday morning. My husband received a text from a caretaker while at work.

I tried to be optimistic, but neither of us knew the state of his soul.

Even as a sit here writing this, questions race through my mind. Why would God allow the door to crack open just a little and then slam shut? Did he plant a seed that was never intended to yield fruit?

I don’t have the answers. I don’t know where this person’s spirit rests. But the same God who put this neighbor next door speaks to my anxious heart.

Most of us know John the Baptist as the bold, fearless one who paved the way for Jesus. The one who decreased so Jesus could increase.

But at the opening of Matthew 11, we get a different picture of this prophet. The man who cleared the way is now questioning. He’s hurting. He’s stuck in a prison, and perhaps waiting for the Messiah who performed miracles for everyone else to extend a miracle to him.

Messengers deliver this message from John to Jesus:

“Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”

Matthew 11:3 ESV

Really? Is this even the same person? One moment he was literally shouting the name of Jesus from every platform, and now he’s not even sure he knows who Jesus is.

As much as we may like to see Jesus intervene, he doesn’t. Instead, he tells the messengers to tell John what they hear and see.

He concludes by saying,

“Blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

Matthew 11:6 ESV

Friends, our job is not to be the way or have all the answers. Our job is to point others to the way.

In his distress, John may have lost sight of this. He may have thought there was more he could do with his ministry, if given the opportunity.

But John’s job was to shine a light toward Jesus. Nothing more. Nothing less. And he achieved that goal.

When we question God’s motives, we lose sight of who he is.

Not only that, we lose sight of who we are. We are vessels he chooses to use and shine his Spirit through.

Sometimes, our opportunities only last for a moment. Others may last for years or even a lifetime. But when the vapor dissipates and an earthly life fades, let’s not lose hope. Though we mourn, let’s continue scattering those seeds.

Because we never know when that seed will burst forth and produce something beautiful.

 

Abby McDonald is the mom of three, a wife and writer whose hope is show readers their identity is found in Christ alone, not the noise of the world. When she’s not chasing their two boys or cuddling their newest sweet girl, you can find her drinking copious amounts of coffee while writing about her adventures on her blog. Abby would love to connect with you on her blog and her growing Facebook community.

Exchanging Labels and Lies for His Truth

Blog Post by Abby McDonald

I went to the N.A. meeting with one goal. To get in and get out. The last thing I expected was for someone to give me a new label. I had too many of those already.

Sure, I wanted to support my loved one. I wanted him to get healthy, find release and healing. But I hoped by staying quiet and not making direct eye contact with the group leader, I could make my exit as soon as the meeting was over.

My strategy didn’t exactly work out as planned. The leader saw me right away, as it’s hard not to notice someone new when you’re sitting in a huge circle.

Once he learned who I was, he asked a series of questions. I didn’t know where he was leading and tried to be as vague as possible with my answers. Later, I learned he was trying to see if I met all the criteria for a term commonly used to describe the loved ones of addicts: codependent.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure what the word meant. I had an idea, but I was nineteen years old at the time. Things like this didn’t enter my vocabulary. So, like any good college student, I did some research.

Codependency: (n) a type of dysfunctional helping relationship where one person supports or enables another person’s drug addiction, alcoholism, gambling addiction, poor mental health, immaturity, irresponsibility, or under-achievement.

I wasn’t willing to admit it out loud, but I knew I was a classic case. And without even realizing it, I took this label and added it to the list of other ones I allowed to define me through my college and early work years. Codependent, quiet one, underachiever, shy girl.

What’s ironic is that I hated stereotypes. When others tossed them around, I tried my best to avoid them.

“You can’t put me in a box,” I thought to myself.

What I didn’t see is that even though I wasn’t saying them aloud, I was listening. I was allowing these titles to limit me and hold me back.

When I had the opportunity to read my poetry aloud at the coffee shop, I quietly declined. When my professor told me I should enter a writing piece into the tribune, I let fear hold me back.

Staying in the shadows felt safe.

But by never venturing out and taking risks, I slowly lost little pieces of myself. I watched opportunities pass by and wondered why it was so hard for me to step out and be brave.

Years later, after graduating and acquiring my first couple of post-college jobs, I sat in a sanctuary trembling as the labels I’d adopted fell, one by one. I had new ones, and they weren’t names the world could give or take away.

Chosen. Worthy. Daughter. Beloved.

It took me years of searching and asking questions. Lord knows, I can be pretty hard-headed at times. But what I finally saw is that if I let the world define me with a finite label, I would never know who I was as an eternal being.

The world gives us labels based on appearance, but Jesus gives us names that stick.

Once we realize this, we can walk in freedom because we know that when he calls us to do something, it is his name we represent. Not our own.

So if he if he calls us to speak or share or move, what do we have to lose? Nothing but chains, dear daughters. Nothing but chains.

“My beloved spoke and said to me, “Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, come with me.” Song of Solomon 2:10 ESV

 

Abby McDonald is the mom of three, a wife and writer whose hope is show readers their identity is found in Christ alone, not the noise of the world. When she’s not chasing their two boys or cuddling their newest sweet girl, you can find her drinking copious amounts of coffee while writing about her adventures on her blog. Abby would love to connect with you on her blog and her growing Facebook community.