Help me with my unbelief.

Over the last few years, God has been working with me on having loose hands…not holding onto things so tightly and placing all under His care & direction.

Sometimes that’s easier for me than others, to say the least.

Looking back over this past year…embryo transfers, new job for Chris, our move, making the decision to adopt traditionally {which practically requires letting go of most of the control}…2015 had loose hands written all over it.

As I move into 2016, I know loose hands will still be something He works on with me. I doubt there are many people who don’t get some attention in that area, but for control-freaks like me it’s definitely an ongoing process. But a few weeks ago, in an advent sermon I was listening to online, I heard a verse read-aloud that hasn’t left my mind since. I wouldn’t say that it’s my “resolution” for 2016, but rather it’s my prayer.

Mark 9:24b says “I do believe; help my unbelief!”

Here’s the excerpt from the sermon {transcript} by Matt Chandler…you’ll see that I’m not escaping the loose hands thing any time soon. 🙂

“Because I’ve followed Christ for 20 years, and I still have some of that in me. Hear me putting my cards on the table so I might love you well. In 90 percent of the areas of my life, I just trust the Lord has it, and I’m not worried about it. “What are you going to do aboutthis?” “I don’t know. The Lord has it. I’m not concerned about it.”

But I have 10 percent I’m nervous to loosen up on. Anybody else? I have 10 percent where I go, “Okay, I trust you. I believe you, God. I can look back and see your faithfulness, but for whatever reason, it’s hard for me to trust you with this one. It’s hard for me to fully believe you’re for my good in this. It’s hard for me to believe you’re going to do this thing in the way I’m hoping.” I cling to it a bit more tightly. Anybody else? No? All of you have such great faith. Well, praise God for you. Come on up. I’ll take it off. You got it. You finish this up.

No! Of course we do. In fact, one of my favorite stories in the Bible goes along these lines of encouraging us as we wrestle to believe what we believe. The Bible tells us of a father in Mark, chapter 9. It tells us of a father who has a son that is demonically possessed. That demonic possession has manifested itself in physical seizures. Not just physical seizures, but the demon will manifest itself by throwing the boy into fires and trying to kill the boy.

The father, who is now out of hope, has nowhere else to go. Nobody can help his son. Again, reading the Bible with detail and imagination, here’s how I want to read Mark 9. “I have a son. He is 9 years old.” Where’s my heart? Where’s my mind if this is my boy and there are no answers? You start reading the Bible likethat, and you’ll start reading the Bible. Are you tracking with me?

He takes his son to Jesus and says, “Hey, he has seizures. He throws himself in the fire. We have no hope. Can you help?” He asks the question, “Can you help?” Jesus responds, “If you believe, all things are possible.” Look at what the father says immediately. I know he says it immediately because of the first word in Mark 9:24. “Immediately the father of the child cried out and said…” Listen to what he cries out. “I believe; help my…” What? “…unbelief!”

Now that’s a life verse right there. For all are more than conquerors through Christ. Right? How about that one? “I believe; help my unbelief!” I don’t know of another verse that is more really dialed in to the reality of my pursuit of Christ than that verse. “I believe; help my unbelief!”

“I know you’re good. I know you’re right. I know you won’t betray me. I know you’re for me. I know you’ve purchased me by your blood. I trust you’re good in this, but help me because part of me is wavering. I can’t make sense of this. I don’t know what to do with this. I’m afraid. Help my unbelief!”

See, the incarnation anchors us regardless of life circumstance. He is worthy of our faith, because if this is the year that, forget presents, you’re just trying to keep the lights on, he’ll anchor your soul. If this is your first Christmas without a loved one, gosh! It’s terrible. I know. He’ll anchor your soul as we trust him. He cannot betray you. It would be betraying himself.

If this is a Christmas where things have come together and you’re really excited… You know, your kids have kind of grown out of the “eat the paper and go back to sleep” phase, and they’re like amped right now. I mean, they’re shaking boxes, and you’re having to say, “Stay away from the tree!”

You’re having to engage. You’re super excited about what’s to come. Well, that should be wind into the sails of your worship. See, the incarnation makes sense regardless of life circumstance. He is worthy of your faith. May our mantra always be, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

So as 2016 starts out, that’s where I’m at. It’s my mantra, it’s my verse for the year, it’s what echos in my mind when I start to wrap my mind around how God is going to bring a baby into our family.

I think it’s been my verse for a while now actually, I just didn’t know it. 🙂

Blessed am I.

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Just a dog.

The last day of 2015 was an emotional one for me.

Earlier in December, our dog {a 4 1/2 year old corgi} came in from the backyard in a panic & with a major limp. The vet’s diagnosis was a torn ACL {which ended up including a torn meniscus}, so we spent the better part of December on activity restriction & a pain medicine regimen…mostly in the hopes that the diagnosis was wrong, I guess.

But alas, Huxley didn’t show much improvement and was obviously not feeling like himself…so I found myself sending out 2015 with a surgery consultation, which turned into an expensive dog surgery, which resulted in weeping & gnashing of my teeth. And an early bedtime. So much for ringing in the new year… 😛

Because I write to sort out my feelings and because this is where I do that, I’m going to try to get out why I find this whole thing so stressful. Beyond the obvious parts, that is.

It’s a very invasive surgery. 

Okay, I mean…it’s surgery. For a dog. That was hard for me to stomach. But beyond that, this was a very invasive surgery that involved cutting his bone, repositioning it, and setting it in place with a plate & screws.

Leaving him there was terrible…he kept alternating between hiding behind my legs and just staring straight into my eyes like he was trying to figure out what was happening. I cried and cried when they came to take him, and cry now just thinking about him being away from me in a new place while he’s in pain. Because of the holiday we had to leave him there an extra day, which added to the stress.

The recovery process is no joke. 

It’s going to take him months to recover and find our “new normal.” I hate that for him because it’s going to mean major activity restriction, which will be hard for a dog that loves to play and run. He has to go on a diet, he has to be on a leash any time he’s out of his crate {even in the house}, and we’ll have to ice his leg throughout the day / do “physical therapy” with him at home. Because our house has laminate flooring, we had to create a pathway of rugs for him to move around on. Oh yes, and he’ll probably have to wear a cone throughout the day so that he doesn’t chew at his leg and tear out his stitches.

All of that will be a burden on us as well, and I’m going to struggle with worrying about him when I’m not at home. We will have spent too much and gone through too much with all of this for something to go wrong.

It’s expensive. 

So that’s obvious I guess. It feels as though this could have literally not happened at a worse time though. My parents are helping us finance the adoption, which we so appreciate; i.e. they took out the loan and we are paying them back. That had all just been finalized & we were in the process of paying off our credit card so that we could focus on taking on the loan payment {in addition to the insane student loans we pay on each month} when he first got hurt. Taking on another expense just didn’t make sense, and yet…

Because of the type of injury and the build of his body, he required the most expensive surgery out of the options presented. It literally almost sends me into a panic attack to think about the cost of the surgery.

What it really comes down to…

People know that Huxley is my baby. Those closest to us know that he’s my little shadow, that he has this big personality, that I love him more than I ever thought I could love a dog. {Seriously, I never had an indoor dog before him and never saw the appeal really. I wouldn’t describe myself as a dog person. I would describe myself as a MY-dog person.} In the same way, they know that we’ve been through alot in the last several years and that Huxley has taken on an important role in my life because of that.

And yet, I don’t think they understand the degree to which his love and loyalty has helped minister to my spirit. I tried to voice it to Chris, the person who has witnessed and participated in it himself…and could barely get the words out.

When we first chose Huxley, we were delayed in picking him up because of my Pappy’s death. He helped me in those weeks following her death, gave me a happy distraction and something to focus all of my extra summer attention on.

He kept me company on the nights I was alone until midnight or so while Chris attended night school over an hour away multiple nights a week. I liked not feeling like I was home alone; Huxley has always been a good companion. He follows me around & is just a constant, loyal presence in my life.

I love schedules, and much of my schedule revolves around Huxley as I’ve been his primary caregiver. Before his injury {and since he was big enough to take long walks}, I walked him almost every morning and evening. Because of those walks I got to know so many wonderful people in our old neighborhood. We have silly routines & I know if his barks are bossy or fake hurt or because he wants to play. He is there wagging his tail when I wake up and is always happy to see me when I get home. There is something about the unconditional love of a dog that is so encouraging.

But more than all of that, he has been there with me through all of the hard stuff of infertility and embryo adoption and transfers and loss. He’s always been very perceptive to my feelings, much more willing to snuggle when he can tell I’m upset. I can remember that dark month, right after we received our infertility diagnosis, when I just cried and cried every day. It was hard on those around me to always know what to say or do, and at times it was difficult for Chris to enter into my struggles {either because I didn’t know how to let him or he was battling his own struggles}. But Huxley was always there, snuggling up & watching me with those big, knowing eyes. I believe God can minister to us and provide comfort through his creation, including dogs, and I experienced that over and over…even in the darkest of times. I can clearly remember the day we learned that we’d lost our first two embryos…sitting there on the couch in shock, crying together as we called our parents. After a while, Chris got up to cook some dinner and put Huxley up on the couch with me. He came straight over and laid his head right down on my stomach and just sat there with me. We stayed like that for a long time, and he never moved, just kept his head there patiently. That’s not a way we usually sit, and it just felt like he knew.

Infertility…and adoption to a measure…can be a lonesome experience. I’ve struggled on and off with feeling isolated because there are so few who understand what I’m going through without me even having to try and explain it. {And I’m glad for that, it’s not something I’d wish on anyone.} Even Chris can’t fully understand my experience, just as I can’t fully understand his. In those lonely moments, Huxley helped ease the burden.

So all of that to say, I’ve realized over the last month or so just how much Huxley is tied to all of these deeply rooted feelings, how important he has been to my healing. It may seem that he’s “just a dog”…but to me, he is a loyal and important member of my family. He’s been there for me in the hardest times & for many of the happiest. And in light of that I couldn’t not do this for him.

I understand that the day is coming when a little one will enter our home, and my perspective toward Huxley will shift a bit as I love on a real baby. That is good and right and natural, although I’ll always love him and feel thankful for the role he fills in our family. {I’ve also told Chris that I hope I never love another animal to this degree again…and at this point in my life it seems like that would be difficult, given how far we’ve come through our struggles & how close we are to welcoming a child into our family.}

And that’s why all of this crying I’ve been doing for a dog is not just about the dog. It’s why I paid for an expensive surgery. And it’s why I’ll pray pray pray that his other knee stays strong and healthy.

From my lips to God’s ears.

Seriously though.

Blessed am I.