Purposeful Faith

Author - Abby Mcdonald

When Grief is Great and Your Words Are Weak

Post by Abby McDonald

Today we’re saying goodbye to one of the oldest members of our family. She doesn’t wear human skin or express herself in many syllables, but she’s loved just the same.

She’s the four-legged kind. A blondie. A dear friend named Coco.

She and our other mutt brought my husband and I together thirteen years ago with their mutual love for walks and chasing furry creatures. And as they say, well, the rest is history.

Since I’m pregnant and rather hormonal the realization that our companion is dying hit me rather hard. But I believe during those hard seasons God often speaks the loudest, sometimes in the most unexpected ways.

As my husband wrapped his arms around me and my round belly this morning, I reflected,

“It’s amazing how God speaks to us through our animals.”

I’d been observing our two girls over the past couple of days. Our other dog, Zoe, knew something was up and her disposition had changed. She’d become more affectionate, more calm, wanting to be near us often.

One day I let both of them out on our back porch while I cleaned. After about a half hour, I peeked through the window. Coco laid on the doormat, like she always does, and Zoe reclined behind her, practically spooning her with her legs.

She stayed in the same position until I let them inside, only leaving Coco’s side for an occasional drink of water. It was as though she was saying, “I’m here for you, girl. It’s okay.”

But she didn’t need words to say it. Her presence was enough.

As I thought about these mutts who started our family, I realized how often I use words to fill the empty spaces of grief. Not because they’re needed, but because I think they are. I have friends and family members who are walking through difficulties much harder than a dying pet, and the silence of sadness can be awkward.

I focus on myself and my need to fill the void rather than the grieving person’s need to simply know I’m there. To know I’m not going anywhere, and that the discomfort of grief won’t keep me from loving them.

When it comes to grief, silence always speaks louder than empty words.

Sometimes a hug goes further than a platitude and a listening ear further than a trite explanation.

“Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.” Job 2:13 NIV

When we can’t mouth the words to Jesus because of the weight of our sadness, He still hears us. He’s that good of a Savior and a friend.

Job’s friends modeled the behavior of Jesus himself when he encountered those who were grieving a deep loss. If we look into the scriptures and walk through the chapter of his life where a close friend died, we see that his words were few. And even though he foresaw the miracle, he wept. (John 11:25)

Today as I run my fingers through my companion’s soft fur for the last few times and reflect on these verses, I know my love for words won’t change. I’ll keep offering them up as praise, encouragement, and a gift at the altar of the One who gave them to me.

But I pray God will give me wisdom to know when words are weak. Because even when I have nothing to say, his healing power is still strong.

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View More: http://kimdeloachphoto.pass.us/allume2015Abby McDonald is a writer who can’t contain the lavish love of a God who relentlessly pursues here, even during her darkest times. When she’s not chasing her two little boys around, she loves hiking, photography, and consuming copious amounts of coffee with friends.

Abby would love to connect with you on her blog, Twitter, and Facebook.

The Promise Inside the Sting of Rejection

Blog Post by Abby McDonald

I remember watching my firstborn get his first taste of rejection. He was about two at the time, and he leaned in to give his older female playmate a kiss.

On the mouth.

She looked at him, wide-eyed and a little mortified, and backed away. I couldn’t help but chuckle but my sweet toddler took it in stride. He knew he was cute, and her lack of interest didn’t stifle his confidence.

We kiss in our family. We show unrestrained love. But I know that once we go outside the walls of this home, those unstated rules of conduct change. My two-year-old didn’t know these rules but at that age, who does?

As he’s gotten older, the tide has shifted. Rejection hurts. I remember the first time he cried after a spat with a friend who said, “I’m not your friend anymore.” I’ve seen kids come in and out of his life, sometimes later to return.

He’s usually able to roll with the stings and the snubs, but he’s not bulletproof. And I don’t want him to be. As much as I’d love to see him never cry, get hurt or given a cold shoulder from a friend, I know he has to experience these things to truly live.

A week ago I sat at my computer reading a rejection email from an online publisher and I realized the prick of “no” may change in nature, but the pain doesn’t.

When we see the pictures of the get-together we weren’t invited to plastered on Facebook, we may feel like we’re in our high school skin all over again.

When we extend the invite to the new acquaintance from church and are repeatedly shunned, we may wonder why we even bother.

We may feel like crawling into a hole with our popcorn and Netflix marathons so that we never have to feel the ache of another “no,” another denial, another wave of apathy and disregard.

But can I tell you something? The blessing is worth it. The “yes” is worth it. When you don’t think you can extend yourself one more time, remember this.

 We serve a God who was rejected in the most brutal, public way. He did it for you. For me. He did it so we could experience life and love and yes, pain. He never rejoices in our pain but he knows it’s sometimes necessary for us to grow.

But we can’t live if we’re constantly trying to protect ourselves. We can’t live if we let fear of pain and rejection rule our lives.

For over a year of my life, I stared at what I thought was a closed door. I counted cracks in the ceiling, and our recliner and a good book became my best friends.

I was tired of trying to make friends. I was tired of the blank stares.

Since I didn’t have anyone else to talk to, I talked to God. He hears us, you know. And he’s the always the best person to talk to. The first and the last.

After months of staring at ceiling cracks, I wasn’t sure God heard me. Silly, right? But then, I made a connection. And then another and another.

I discovered community, life and purpose. I discovered friendship, yeses and open hands.

Keeping our hands open isn’t always easy, but it is always worth it. When we make those kindred connections and see those invitations extended, it’s worth the “no’s,” the stings and the heartache.

The next time you’re rejected, remember the promise of the One who was rejected most of all. He will never leave you. He will never forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5). And he’s working and listening, even when we don’t see it.

Keep your hands and your doors open, friends. You never know what God may have for you on the other side.

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View More: http://kimdeloachphoto.pass.us/allume2015Abby McDonald is a writer who can’t contain the lavish love of a God who relentlessly pursues here, even during her darkest times. When she’s not chasing her two little boys around, she loves hiking, photography, and consuming copious amounts of coffee with friends.

Abby would love to connect with you on her blog, Twitter, and Facebook.

 

How a Black and White View of the World is Ruining Our Witness

ruining our witness

Blog Post by Abby McDonald

My seven-year-old has asked questions for as long as he could string sentences together. He is a sponge learning about the world around him, and he loves figuring out how things work.

Often, he asks me a question I don’t know the answer to. And parents are supposed to have all the answers, right? But I don’t, so I simply tell him I’ll have to look into it and get back to him, or I’ll help him find the answer.

A few months ago, I discovered he was learning about storms at school. He loves engineering and science, and was repeating some of the things he’d learned about tornados, hurricanes, and floods.

Partly because he goes to a public school, I like to hear about his curriculum. I give him reminders about how God orchestrated all of this, and how nothing is out of his control.

I don’t do this so that he won’t ask questions, but so he will have a strong foundation for asking them. He continues to ask, and I am humbled because often, I have to search. I have to request wisdom from God, who generously gives it to me when I come to him.

After a recent conversation I jumped on social media and found a rather heated debate taking place about whether it was okay for Christians to drink wine. Some of the comments were downright degrading.

I wondered, when did we stop asking questions and assume we were always right?

It’s as though the age of social media has gotten rid of any knowledge that we may, in fact, be human. That we may not always hit the nail on the head the first time.

That we may still be fallen creatures.

And yet we stand loud and proud on our platform, hidden behind the screen, proclaiming we know everything.

I’m not disputing there’s right and wrong. The clash between good and evil is clearly shown in scripture. And yet there are so many issues the Bible does not address. Things where we are required to follow the Spirit’s leading and exercise judgment.

And yet all too often, we speak as though we are Jesus himself. We make assertions about right and wrong in his name, regardless of whether his word affirms any of it.

I don’t know about you, but the last time I looked in the mirror I did not see Jesus’ reflection. I don’t want that authority and I’m sure if I had even an inkling of it, I would abuse it.

His Spirit lives in me, counsels me and directs me, but I am not him. I am still very much a human tainted by sin, flesh and selfishness. I pray everyday others will see a little bit of him in me, but I still fail.

I’m afraid that many of us who call ourselves Christians live, whether knowingly or not, in a world of black and white. But friends, not everything is black and white.

And if we stand up and proclaim we know it all, is there room for growth? Is there space for us to move forward in our walk with Christ and be made into his likeness if we’ve already arrived at the pinnacle, knowing all things?

I don’t think so. There’s no space for humility either, because our pride has made us think we can’t be wrong.

When we enter into a relationship with God, he doesn’t clothe us with robes of self-righteousness. He clothes us in his righteousness.

When we think otherwise, we go down an ugly path of self-sufficiency. But his power isn’t made perfect through my self-sufficiency and arrogance. It’s made perfect through my weakness.

As we interact with others online today, things may get heated. Our nerves may get pricked and we may encounter some hurtful comments.

If this happens, let’s give ourselves space to breathe. Let’s extend the grace Christ gave to us toward others remember there is only one person who has all the answers.

And he isn’t of this world.

 

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Abby McDonald is a writer who can’t contain the lavish love of a God who relentlessly pursues her, even during her darkest times. When she’s not chasing her two little boys around, she loves hiking, photography, and consuming copious amounts of coffee with friends.

Abby would love to connect with you on her blog, Twitter, and Facebook.

HGTV, Pinterest, and the Things That Matter {Link-up}

the things that matter

I have a love-hate relationship with HGTV. And Pinterest. And all of those fixer-upper shows.

My husband and I moved into a fixer-upper several years ago, and while we’ve done a lot of cosmetic upgrades, there are still things I’d like to change. But life doesn’t stop for remodels and the kids don’t stop needing new shoes, so for now we pushed the pause button.

Most days I’m perfectly happy having friends over to eat in my 70’s kitchen. But every now and then, I hear those voices saying what I have to offer isn’t good enough.

It’s a dismal truth, but it’s there.

Those voices interrupted my thoughts several weeks ago when I was having a dear friend fly in to speak at our local MOPS group. She was staying overnight, and in the weeks leading up to her arrival we made some preparations to ensure she was as comfortable as possible.

I was excited to have her visit and for the chance to connect in person, since she lives several states away. That is, until I visited her home. A couple of weeks before her visit, I joined some friends at her house for a weekend retreat.

Today the #RaRaLinkup is being hosted over at Abby McDonald’s place. Click here to join us!

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Don’t Settle for Safe

settle for safe

Blog Post by Abby McDonald

“God, take the decision out of my hands.”

I didn’t say the prayer out loud, but I may as well have. For months, I had gone back and forth over a life-altering choice that would change our family forever: whether or not to have another baby.

And every time I thought I’d decided, the endless trail of what-ifs froze me in my tracks. What if we lost the baby? I’d reached the age some doctors consider “high risk”, so what if the baby was born with a birth defect? Of course, I’d have to have another surgery and what if it didn’t go well?

So instead of making a decision, I remained in a state of inertia. The unknowns loomed over me like an unpredictable storm, and I my feet were stationary.

One day in early spring, something shifted. My mama instincts kicked in and I knew the possibility of new life was real. I could taste it. Fear and excitement overwhelmed me in alternating waves, and I spent the morning waiting to buy the test confirming my suspicions were right.

God handed us this gift of life and said, “Here. I know the desires of your heart.”

Sometimes, God knows what we need better than we do.

We try our best to protect our hearts, but he simply wants us to trust Him.

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

He wants to give us good and perfect gifts, but we’re often clenching our fists too tightly to receive them. We move around the spheres of our lives, thinking if we can hold onto the gifts we have we will be happy, but God wants to give us so much more.

We have to keep our hands open to receive what he has for us. And as I watched the colors on the stick change and the clear positive sign appear, it was as though God was saying, “I am for you, child. I am not against you.”

I know there are still a lot of ifs on the road ahead of us. Every morning when I wake up, they try to overtake my thoughts like the steam engine that courses through our town at regular intervals.

But when the darkness of the unknown hits, I repeat this truth over and over: My God is for me. He is not against me. Do you believe he is for you too?

If we live our lives stuck in a state of what if, our what ifs will become could-have-beens. And I don’t want to live my life that way.

I want to live a life fueled by the One who never settled for safe.

As this new spirit continues to grow inside of me, so does the passion to move forward into unchartered waters. It may not always be easy, but heaven knows it will be an adventure.

Will you take his hand and come with me? I’ll see you past the break tide.

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Abby McDonald is a writer who can’t contain the lavish love of a God who relentlessly pursues her, even during her darkest times. When she’s not chasing her two little boys around, she loves hiking, photography, and consuming copious amounts of coffee with friends.

Abby would love to connect with you on her blog, Twitter, and Facebook.

3 Reasons Why You Don’t Need to Conform

Blog Post by Abby McDonald

“Why are you trying to mimic his sound? Your tone is so much better than his.”

My band director’s words surprised me. For one, I wasn’t aware I was copying my fellow band member’s sound. And second, I was also amazed our leader could hear me above the other trumpets in our section.

Even though I was blending with pitch around me, he knew my ability. He didn’t want me to imitate, but to shine in my strength.

Sometimes blending is so much easier, isn’t it? Whether it’s in music or everyday life, we often find ourselves in a culture of sameness. We’re bombarded with messages on social media, billboards and ads telling us success looks this way or that way.

Whether it’s mimicking a flat pitch or jumping on the latest fashion bandwagon, we can’t escape messages about the latest trend. So what do we do? Do we simply give in to the ebb and flow of the culture around us and hope for the best?

For a long time, this is exactly how I lived my life. I was never one to enjoy the spotlight, and having an audience left me searching for the next notes to play.

I thought by hiding behind the loudness of those around me, I was being humble. After all, scripture repeatedly says humility is a strength.

But friends, humility doesn’t mean hiding. Our Creator made us wildly more distinctive than the notes on a scale, and he did so on purpose.

God never intended for us to use humility as an excuse to conform.

He created us to be unique on purpose, for a purpose. We are to be salt and light, and our light is meant to shine from the hilltops, not be shoved under a shade because it doesn’t look the same as others.

So today, I’m giving you three reasons not to conform. I’m giving you permission to shine in your distinct calling and gifts, no matter what they are.

  1. Our uniqueness is a reflection of God. By being ourselves, we are glorifying our Creator. We are putting his work on display for others to see. (1 Pet. 2:9)
  1. Filling our place in his Kingdom brings unity. Somewhere along the way, we’ve bought into the notion that unity means conformity. But it doesn’t. It means using the strengths we’re given to form one complete body, the Church. (1 Cor. 12:4)
  1. The only one who can fulfill your purpose is you. We often fall into the trap of thinking someone else will say it or do it if we don’t. But God’s calling on our lives is not the same as anyone else’s. He created us for such a place and time as this, and his plans for us are part of a grander story. (Eph. 2:10)

Friends, breaking the mold isn’t easy. Often, we will feel awkward and misunderstood when we pursue the path God has laid out for us.

But can I tell you something? It is worth it. When we fall into the unique rhythm God created us to for, there is nothing like it.

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Abby McDonald is a writer who can’t contain the lavish love of a God who relentlessly pursues her, even during her darkest times. When she’s not chasing her two little boys around, she loves hiking, photography, and consuming copious amounts of coffee with friends.

Abby would love to connect with you on her blog, Twitter, and Facebook.

Don’t Let Comparison Steal Your Purpose

comparison steal your purpose

Blog Post by Abby McDonald

The morning was full of potential. I got up on time, didn’t check social media, and made the kids breakfast.

Then, after dropping my son off at the bus stop, I checked my email. And everything went downhill.

The intent of the message was positive. My reaction to it was not.

This successful blogger wanted to let me in on all of the secrets to success. And I’m sure deep down somewhere that I craved this knowledge.

But what I saw? The numbers. How many readers visited her site. How much income she brought in each month. It was though these stats represented some invisible gate-keeper and I was stuck on the outside, pushing a door that wouldn’t budge.

Comparison turns our vision into opposition. It turns our joy into jealousy.

As I sat there that Tuesday morning basking in self-pity, and knew I needed an attitude adjustment. And do you know what’s beautiful about asking God to change your attitude?

He always answers.

Sometimes he asks us to take a good long look at ourselves. Other times he sends a word of encouragement through a friend or family member. But he never fails to deliver.

On this particular weekend in mid-winter, he drew my attention to my kids. Particularly my oldest son.

My firstborn delights in new responsibilities, no matter how small. You can give him the house key to open the side door as you labor up the steps with groceries, and he will skip to complete the task.

But more than that, he does it with love. Which is something I forgot in my moment of temporary insanity and comparison.

As my son grows older, my husband and I increase his jobs around the house. He takes care of the pets and helps clean up around the house, and we reward him for his efforts. But we don’t start him off with a huge list of chores to do. Nor do we trust him things we know are beyond his ability.

If we look at scripture, God follows the same pattern. When we first read of God’s call on David he is out in the middle of a field, tending sheep. When the angel of the Lord appears to Moses, he is tending the flock as well.

The Lord is pleased when we take the same care with the small as we do with the big. As a matter of fact, the Word tells us he “rejoices” in it.

“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin…” Zechariah 4:10 NLT

Friends, God does not see our work in the same way we do. And aren’t you glad? With each step you take to glorify his name and make him known, he is honored. He rejoices over you.

The absolute best words we could expect to hear from God on the other side of this life are, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Not, “Congrats on all the followers you had on Twitter,” or “That was a really solid platform you spent all those years building.”

It’s his platform, not ours. Let’s remember that even in the small, he is always faithful.

Even when we misstep.

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Abby McDonald is a writer who can’t contain the lavish love of a God who relentlessly pursues her, even during her darkest times. When she’s not chasing her two little boys around, she loves hiking, photography, and consuming copious amounts of coffee with friends.

Abby would love to connect with you on her blog, Twitter, and Facebook.