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Jen Pollock Michel

( author + writer + speaker )

Filtering by Category: Series Posts

211 East Brenner Street, Hinsdale, Illinois (Guest Post by Lara Krupicka)

Stephanie Amores

To be human is to long forIn my childhood home, the dining table, chairs tucked underneath, nestled up against a wall beneath a large Marimekko wall hanging in bright oranges, browns and reds. The table and chairs came out from the wall only when we entertained. Otherwise, we ate our meals in the kitchen at a counter-height table surrounded by swivelling Naugahyde stools. Stools from which my young legs always dangled and to which my skin stuck on hot days.

I remember many meals in that kitchen. Meals where I long sat refusing to eat, occasionally choking down bites of casserole followed by large gulps of milk. Eating for me was a chore, not a joy. I wasn’t often hungry and didn’t care for many of the standard American dinners my mother made, despite Mom being a good cook with a wide repertoire. I relished breakfast and tolerated lunch. But dinner always hit my gag reflex.

And so the day my mother cooked up a full Korean meal in honor of my adopted sister’s homeland stands out in relief against all those other dinners. A meal that grounded me in what home and feasting could mean.

Preparations began early in the day and not in the kitchen. Mom and Dad cleared as much furniture as they could from the dining room, including the table and chairs. They set up a large piece of plywood atop cinder blocks in the middle of the floor and draped it with a tablecloth. Around this low “table” they scattered cushions of various sizes.

In the kitchen my mother sliced beef, which she marinated to make Bulgogi. Earlier in the week the clay pot of Kimchi she kept in our refrigerator was filled to the rim so the cabbage could ferment to its greatest potency. Mom chopped vegetables and cooked up sticky white rice, some for Bibimbap, a mixed rice hot dish, and some to roll into dried seaweed for Korean sushi rolls. Potato noodles simmered on the stove for Japchae. And I helped stuff wonton wrappers with cooked ground beef and bean sprouts to make Mandu, a fried egg roll.

The smells, sweet and savory, foreign and familiar, wafted through the house. We ate a sparse lunch to save our appetites, and our time, to focus on the meal to come.

As the dinner hour approached our guests arrived. My aunt and uncle. Good friends of my parents. And us. My father put on a recording of Korean music and we gathered in the dining room, the makeshift table laden with steaming bowls and plates piled with Korean food.

That evening I ate without gagging. I laughed. I chatted. And I tried every one of those unusual dishes. At that table of celebration I discovered I could enjoy dinner foods. I could be adventurous and treat my taste buds to new sensations. I relished my cushioned seat on the floor among people I loved. I admired my younger sister for causing my introduction to the wonders of Korean food. The meal we shared that night became one of my favorite memories in that home.

My ideas of home and identity shifted that night, even more than they had shifted in the previous months since we adopted my sister. Around the table, at a feast of celebration, I found freedom. Freedom to eat and explore. Freedom to invite what was different and unknown further into my life. While mealtime would still sometimes be a struggle for me, it never tormented me again the way it had previously.

Now that I am older, I can see it is no wonder it took a feast to bring freedom. After all, it is a feast to which we are invited and given freedom in and through Christ. We remember His sacrifice on the Cross at a table - the table of Communion. And we look forward to the marriage supper of the Lamb in heaven, where we will know the fullness of our freedom in Christ. When we will be at last truly Home.


2012headshotfamily bucket listsLara Krupicka is a parenting journalist, mom of three, and author of Family Bucket Lists: Bring More Fun, Adventure and Camaraderie Into Every Day.  She is currently working on an essay collection about her childhood growing up along Chicago’s Burlington Northern Railroad line. Lara also serves on the board of the Redbud Writers Guild.

Breaking the Bread of Belief: Table

jenmichel@me.com

The garage door opened early Saturday morning, and the van disappeared down the driveway and around the bend. I was left to an empty house and the cavernous silence. Ryan was taking the children to Chicago for the week so I could work without interruption on a book proposal. By Sunday night, I was falling asleep with thoughts of The Shining: "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." I am not Thoreau.

An empty house is a thing of reverie for so many mothers. (And I complain?) We spend the lives of our young children wishing that the clamor of rearing them and the never-ending noise of family would play out—at least long enough for us to inspire a long breath of peace.

I have more quiet these days. The children are older. They attend school. Most days, I'm home, keeping company with my thoughts, but sometimes, the solitude isn't nearly as satisfying as I'd imagined.

Maybe for this reason—we are made for the table.

Table

 

I can't believe the prominence the meal plays in the Scriptures, and I've written enough about my fascination with God playing host, we guest. It will be, I hope, the subject of my next book.

But I wanted to draw your attention here to an article I've recently written for Desiring God that centers the table in the story of God.

"Welcome is a metaphor for Christian salvation, and this is most visible portrayed in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. A wealthy father is affronted by his youngest son who, as if wishing him dead, demands his inheritance in advance of his father’s death. The son splits town, gambles the money on guilty pleasures, and before long, is hungry enough to feed himself from the troughs of the pigs.

Not daring to imagine he’ll be restored as a son yet hoping to be received as a servant, the son returns to the father. The welcome-home is extravagant.

A robe!

A ring!

The fattened calf!

Sparing no expense, the father throws the wildest party the village has ever seen in celebration of his son’s return.

“My son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found!” (Luke 15:24).

If welcome is so fundamental to the nature of God, hospitality is one practice for growing into our likeness of and desire for him . . . [It] allows us to enter into what God has been doing from the beginning of time: loving humanity by his welcome."

God loved each of us at the table. On the night he was betrayed, Jesus broke bread in the company of friends and of betrayers. They would not outlast the night of his arrest. They would scatter, and Jesus would be left alone.

But the invitation—to the table—would stand.

This is what faith means. It means beginning to believe that you, the betrayer, have no place at the table. Like the Prodigal Son, you're estranged from the Father. But He—the One who from the beginning of time has been keeping house—invites you back. Your meal is paid, and you become an honored guest. There is celebration at your return, of course. But the real honor is reserved for the Host: the guests lift their glasses to Him and remember that His goodness and lovingkindness set—

The table.

* * * * *

Today's post is the final meditation in a series entitled, "Breaking the Bread of Belief." Read about beginning, dust, home, feast, naked, death, altar, stars, and laughter.)

All images courtesy of Joetography.

Winning essay, Sarah Torna Roberts: "I didn't want to be broken."

jenmichel@me.com

Congratulations to Sarah Torna Roberts, whose essay was voted blog readers' favorite in my guest series, Found Wanting. Sarah Torna Robers

I hope you'll check out more of Sarah's writing online. When you have the chance, pop over to her space, and leave some encouragement. You can't imagine what that does for writers who linger long inside the hollow silence of their own minds.

Congratulations also to Larry Shallenberger, for his runner-up post, "I wanted to know what I wanted." Find more of Larry's writing at larryshallenberger.com.

And finally, congratulations to Megan Hill, for her bronze-medal finish with, "I want your blessing." Megan writes frequently for Christianity Today's Her.meneutics.

And here's Sarah's post again:

* * * * *

Once upon a time, I dated a boy. He had that all-American, boy-next-door look, a wide smile and kind eyes. He had two parents and one sister, who I adored. They were the kind of family who had thousands of inside jokes, who barbecued all summer long. From the first time I walked through their door at 15-years-old, I was welcomed with warmth and loving teasing.

We dated on and off through all the hormone driven theatrics of high school, falling apart and back together, but I faithfully believed we were in it forever, through all the pitfalls of long distance, through the slow changes that happen in those hard and flashing years.

One night through tears over a crackly landline, he confessed that my life, my broken family, my daddy issues, it was all too much. He couldn’t see a way through it, not with his glasses of wholeness, of one home and two parents and Sunday barbecues.

He took it back almost as soon as he said it, said he didn’t mean it.

It cemented though. I couldn’t stop it from reframing my expectations from then on. I had once hoped that my messy childhood would be the low point in my story, that beauty would rise from its ashes. Instead, I discovered it might hold my wholeness hostage indefinitely.

I grew wary. Our relationship broke.

When I fell in love again, it was with another nice, cute boy. He had parents who were still happily married and one sister, who I adored. They were the kind of family who watched the same movies together every Christmas, who had dozens of inside jokes, and more than a decade of memories at a cabin in Northern California. They welcomed me in and I wanted to believe them, him.

But I kept waiting for the bottom to fall out, surely his history wouldn't be able to handle mine.

He was whole, a man built on the firm foundation of parental security and the same house since he was 3 years old. I'd moved 12 times. How would he deal with my broken places?

He called them beautiful. He said all I'd experienced, all I understood about a harder side of life, it added to not subtracted from who I was, from what I had to teach a man like him.

He wanted me to rock his boat.

And then he looked at my family, the one I thought would hold me back, and he told me he loved them. My mom was funny, my sister was sweet and he’d never had brothers. My dad was a blast. They weren’t a liability, but a blessing to him, to me.

“But, we’re so broken,” I reminded him. “Everyone’s broken,” he shrugged off my reminder.

All of us, in all our different places and experiences.

I didn’t want to be broken. None of us do. But, of course… “that’s how the light gets in.”

* * * * *

Sarah Torna Roberts is a writer who lives in California with her husband and four sons. She blogs at www.sarahtornaroberts.com where she digs around her in her memories, records her present, and is constantly holding her faith up to the light. She snacks at 2 AM with great regularity, is highly suspicious of anyone who doesn’t love baseball (Go Giants!), and would happily live in a tent by the sea.

Blog Giveaway: VOTE for your favorite "Found Wanting" essay

jenmichel@me.com

If you've been reading here over the past several months, you are familiar with the "Found Wanting" guest series that I began at the end of May and ended this week. If you haven't read any of the essays, this is your chance! I'm inviting you to reread essays and pick your favorite! You can either vote by emailing me (jenmichel@mac.com) or by commenting on today's post.

I'd love to give away some books today, both for commenters and those writers whose guest posts "win"!

IMG_3441

I'll chose the top three essays and send them a copy of, Teach Us to Want, as well as one of the three books pictured here: Mark Labberton's, Called; Marlena Graves's, A Beautiful Disaster; and Bonnie Gray's, Finding Spiritual Whitespace.

I'll also (randomly) choose 3 commenters to win a copy of Teach Us to Want. Just comment below, naming the essay you've chosen and say your reason for choosing it.

*Giveaway ends Monday, November 3rd at midnight (EST). Books will be mailed the following week.

To get you thinking, here are some memorable lines from each of the essays that were submitted:

Amy Chaney, "I didn't want to be a coach's wife.", I didn't want to sit on the sidelines watching someone else's dream come to fruition.

Beth Bruno, "I've wanted beauty." Our desire soared. We named the ache and set about filling it.

Wendy Stringer, "I didn't want to move to suburbia." On a hot summer's day, we packed boxes, and we sold house; we said goodbye to the best neighbors, and I kindly left my perennials behind.

Steve Burks, "I've wanted to produce entertainment." Deep down, in spite of my rational mind, I see God as hating everything I love, loving everything I hate.

"Faydra Stratton, "I didn't want a child with Fragile X." Heads: our child would be all we'd imagined. Tails: he could still be in diapers at ten."

Brook Seekins, "I never wanted to be a missionary in Africa." His desires became my desires. And they were fulfilled in his perfect timing.

Sarah Van Beveren, "I have always wanted to be strong." God has been working on me, not letting me ignore the gnawing feeling that surfaces, most often when things are quiet. The feeling that I am wanting.

Holly Pennington, "I didn't want to find out what I wanted." Living a desire-free life frees us from the responsibility of choosing. Once we find out what we want, we must make decisions about our desires instead of depending on God or others to make choices for us.

Larry Shallenberger, "I wanted to know what I wanted." Yes, Want is an impulsive friend who does better when he's chaperoned by Wisdom and Duty. But Want is a friend now.

Hannah Anderson, "I didn't want - because I couldn't afford to." When you're poor, there are a lot of things you can't afford; getting your hopes up is one of them.

Megan Hill, "I want your blessing." Something nice, Lord. Please? I think I might want something nice?

Bronwyn Lea, "I wanted a boyfriend, college scholarships, permission to sleep over at the popular kid's house." The timeline in which those desires would be met still needed some negotiation. But the desires themselves were good and God-given, even in the valley of the shadows.

Jennifer Tatum, "I've wanted to be a woman of faith, but . . ." My heart whispered, 'Can I live on something other than faith for a while . . . please?'

Sarah Torna Roberts, "I didn't want to be broken." I didn't want to be broken. None of us do. But of course, 'that's how the light gets in.'

Suanne Camfield, "I want a bigger house." And so I’ve had to lay this desire—like all of my desires—at the feet of my Father. I’ve had to open my heart and confess both my needs and my wants. I’ve had to listen to what his spirit teaches me about contentment and comparison and inadequacy.

Courtney Reissig, "I wanted a baby." By not giving me the desires of my heart he was changing my heart to treasure him more than anything this world (or my body) had to offer me.

Cara Meredith, "I've wanted it all." The shouts of entitlement found their way in to my life of faith – because why wouldn’t My Big Genie Above grant me the desires of my heart?

Anonymous, "I want to not want marriage anymore." The bruised desire for marriage has led me to question the goodness of God. All I know is that the bruises need to heal.

Deborah Kurtz, "I wanted a husband." It became my idol when I grew angry with God for not bringing my husband into my life. But God.

Ben Jolliffe, "I wanted nothing." What happens when all the bad things are eliminated? Purely a hypothetical question of course, but when the house is swept clean, what happens next?

Charity Singleton Craig, "I wanted to get married." Sometimes I longed from a pure heart. Other times, I didn’t care what it cost me. I wanted to get married.

Hannah Vanderpool, "I didn't want to stay in America." But God is here. Right where he promised he’d be. And that makes it good enough for me.

Dorothy Greco, "I didn't want to doubt." If I could wrap my hermeneutic around the reality that God loves me and is for me even when doubt threatens to swallow me whole, it would change everything.

Natasha Sistrunk Robinson, "I wanted security." God has always sheltered me and filled my thirsting soul, even when my flesh was striving, and selfish, and weak.

Kris Camealy, "I've wanted to be known." I wanted to be known for what I accomplished, craving both recognition for me as the accomplisher, and admiration for the mighty works of my own hands.

Alisa Luciano, "I wanted to believe God was a good Father." The desire to understand Him as a gracious Father was fulfilled on a stretcher, in a brightly lit operating room, in a NICU nursery room, in the parenting realities of each day.

Found Wanting: Alisa Luciano, "I wanted to believe God was a good Father."

jenmichel@me.com

This is the last in a series of guests posts for a blog project I've called, “Found Wanting." If you've only just arrived, I hope you'll catch up on the stories below. During Jesus’ earthly ministry, it was not uncommon for him to approach the sick and sin-sick with this question: “What do you want?” In John 5, he speaks with a man lying next to the healing waters of Bethesda, a man who has been an invalid for 38 years.

“When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be healed?’"

The man seizes an excuse. “I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up.”

Was it too much for this man to hope for healing?

What is too great a risk to invite the responsibility for walking again?

There can be fear in desire: fear that we will want what God will always refuse to give; fear that we will not want whatever God, in his sovereignty, chooses to give.

Ultimately, we are profoundly afraid of ceding into the hands of God our trust.

I’m grateful for those willing to share their stories of desire here. I'm neither applauding nor condemning their stories: rather, I am amplifying their desires - and reminding each of us that to be human is to want. In my book, Teach Us to Want, I write, “Desire takes shape in the particularities of our lives. We cannot excerpt desire from the anthology of our stories. Our desires say something about us – who we have been, who we are and who we are becoming. They tell a part of the story that God is telling through us, even the beautiful and complicated story of being human and becoming holy.”

To catch up on the series, read these featured stories: Amy Chaney, "I didn't want to be a coach's wife." Beth Bruno, "I've wanted beauty." Wendy Stringer, "I didn't want to move to suburbia." Steve Burks, "I've wanted to produce entertainment." Faydra Stratton, "I didn't want a child with Fragile X." Brook Seekins, "I never wanted to be a missionary in Africa." Sarah Van Beveren, "I have always wanted to be strong." Holly Pennington, "I didn't want to find out what I wanted." Larry Shallenberger, "I wanted to know what I wanted." Hannah Anderson, "I didn't want - because I couldn't afford to." Megan Hill, "I want your blessing." Bronwyn Lea, "I wanted a boyfriend, college scholarships, permission to sleep over at the popular kid's house." Jennifer Tatum, "I've wanted to be a woman of faith, but . . ." Sarah Torna Roberts, "I didn't want to be broken." Suanne Camfield, "I want a bigger house." Courtney Reissig, "I wanted a baby." Cara Meredith, "I've wanted it all." Anonymous, "I want to not want marriage anymore." Deborah Kurtz, "I wanted a husband." Ben Jolliffe, "I wanted nothing." Charity Singleton Craig, "I wanted to get married." Hannah Vanderpool, "I didn't want to stay in America." Dorothy Greco, "I don't want to doubt." Natasha Sistrunk Robinson, "I wanted security." Kris Camealy, "I've wanted to be known."

Today, Alisa Luciano shares her story of desire.

* * * * *

I wanted to believe God was a good Father. Unfortunately, I visualized God the Father as a harsh, exacting being, ready to hurl wrath on His creation. Even a growing trust in His sovereignty throughout history made me worry what His sovereign plans might hold. I had a healthy belief in the consuming-fire-God (Hebrews 12:29). But I wanted to hear, "Be not afraid. I am your Father and you are my child" (Isaiah 43:1)

After an unexpected bout with anxiety, an abusive church situation, a dead-end job, a bad economy that led to a temporarily unemployed husband, and a nearly complete graduate degree, I found out I was having a baby. I begged God to help me understand why He had chosen to give us a child, at this time. Having a child seemed humanly insurmountable – under-employment, a one bedroom residence, five and ten year plans gone seriously awry. I knew many Hannahs, kneeling before the altar of God, weeping and praying for a child... Was I really weeping because I was being given one I didn't want? But our Father in Heaven is the Creator of the tangible, not controlled by it.

After a turbulent existence for the next six months, I was diagnosed with mild preeclampsia at week 31. In six days, my liver became enflamed. I found myself on bed rest, delirium overhanging my head, unable to lift my phone to read incoming texts, reciting Psalm 125 in my head. I had HELLP syndrome. Suddenly, my life and the life of my baby were hovering at the gateway to the valley of the shadow of death. In God's gracious and miraculous timing, down to exact hours and minutes, I had an emergency C-section and saw a tiny 3lb baby girl being whisked away to the NICU, breathing on her own.

The circumstances careened beyond my control. When I was unable to comprehend any future beyond the current second that ticked on the clock, there was none of ME left. Life shifted so incredibly beyond my control, that I had no choice but to hope in God's good care. While enduring the agonizing process of bringing new life into the world, I had no choice but to trust the eternal Father, the Creator and Sustainer of life, whose steadfast love never wavers. My desire to believe the goodness of God was strong. The desire to understand Him as a gracious Father was fulfilled on a stretcher, in a brightly lit operating room, in a NICU nursery room, in the parenting realities of each day.

God gave me what I did not know I needed or wanted. A bouncing baby girl, arriving on Earth so astonishingly, that I have never worried about God’s care for her life. As I have learned how to parent, I have breathed in the perfect and complete the love of the Heavenly Father. I found this gracious care is the only treasure that can turn worry into peace, tumult into calm, nothing into everything. Possessing the love of the Heavenly Father endows strengthening freedom found within His shadow. And so, now, I can now truly pray, "Our Father who art in Heaven...your will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven…" knowing He is a kind and gracious Father with a good will for my life.

* * * * *

alisaAlisa Luciano lives in Southern New England with her husband Nathan and their two daughters. She is the Director of The New England Studio of Music where she also teaches piano. When she has free time, she drags her two daughters to coffee shops and takes photographs of beauty around her. She writes about God as a loving Father and Creator at Through A Glass.

Breaking the Bread of Belief: Laughter

jenmichel@me.com

(Today's post is the ninth in a series entitled, "Breaking the Bread of Belief." Read about beginning, dust, home, feast, naked, death, altar and stars.) All images courtesy of Joetography.

* * * * *

Laughter

A friend recently emailed to ask if I'd read Lila, Marilynne Robinson's recently-released novel.

"No," I wrote. "Stupidly, I've decided to reread all of Robinson's novels before starting Lila."

A month into this endeavor, and I've finished Housekeeping and have arrived halfway through Gilead, the long letter John Ames, a man well into his seventies (and terminally ill), is writing to his seven-year-old son. He pens the letter in the hopes that his son will read it many years after his death, when he's an adult—as a way to know his father.

I've always counted Gilead my least favorite of Robinson's novels, but more recently, I'm wondering if that's because I am having to work a little harder at it. As the novel is written from John Ames's point of view, I'm not sure how much to trust Ames as a narrator. To what extent can we count on the reliability of his motives? You have to read a bit suspiciously in order to find reality between his perceptions and the truth.

If John Ames is sometimes unreliable, he waxes quite eloquently on theology. (And this makes the book beautiful and instructive, worth every mustered effort.) Ames has been a pastor his entire life. His father was a pastor, his grandfather a pastor. His life has been devoted to the ministry, and because he was into his sixties before he married and had a child, he spent many solitary years in the company of great books, including great theological works. He seems particularly fond of Calvin (as Robinson herself is).

"Calvin says somewhere that each of us is an actor on a stage and God is the audience," writes Ames. "That metaphor has always interested me, because it makes us artists of our behavior, and the reaction of God to us might be thought of as aesthetic rather than morally judgmental in the ordinary sense."

"I like Calvin's image because it suggests how God might actually enjoy us. I believe we think about that far too little. It would be a way into understanding essential things, since presumably the world exists for God's enjoyment, not in any simple sense, of course, but as you enjoy the being of a child even when he is in every way a thorn in your heart."

God enjoying us. We think too little of that.

This is our ninth word of faith: laughter.

Laughter stands at the foreground of the Abrahamic narrative. First, there is Abraham's incredulous laughter when God insists Sarah will bear the child of promise.

“Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” Abraham speaks these words silently to himself, laughing at the sheer impossibility of what God has said. He has too little faith to believe this reality into being, so he bargains with God, “Oh, that Ishmael might live before you!” (17:17, 18)

The second laughter scene arrives on the heels of the first: Sarah is eavesdropping at the flap of the tent opening, having just prepared cakes for her and Abraham's three unexpected visitors. Different than other annunciation scenes in Scriptures, the news of impending pregnancy is delivered to the father, rather than the mother. But Sarah overhears, receiving the news just as Abraham had earlier.

“After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?” (Gen. 18:12). (Robert Alter's translation is particularly vivid: "After being shriveled, shall I have pleasure and my husband is old?")

Sarah laughs—and denies that she laughs. It is difficult for her to own how the years have desiccated her faith, disappointing her desire for child and wringing out all fertile hope.

Then, a third scene, without any intervening commentary about the movement that has obviously been made.

Isaac is born to the stooped man and woman who had, at times, laughed bitterly at the prospect of promise.

Isaac.

His name means, "He laughs."

And Sarah, as her breasts leak, speaks words that are a magnificat:

"Who would have uttered to Abraham—Sarah is suckling sons!" (21:7).

This is a tender scene. God's promise has been fulfilled, and there is laughter.

Of course. Because joy is fundamental to who God is.

And yet—

The laughter is silenced so quickly.

In chapter 22, Isaac—He laughs—is the son whom Abraham is asked to sacrifice. To read the soul-rending climb to Mount Moriah in Genesis 22 is to note the stark silence of the drama. There are so few recorded words, and certainly there is no laughter.

Only the father willing to sacrifice, He laughs.

A foreshadowing.

Laughter, crucified. The God, to whom joy is fundamental, forsaken.

Jesus is our Isaac, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. He willingly goes to his death in order to restore the world to its joyful wholeness, to return laughter to every desiccated hope and barren desire.

And what will heaven be if not laughter? "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and Death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away" (Rev. 21:4).

Laughter: a word of faith, especially when we are Sarah and Abraham, waiting, abiding disappointment, losing hope, laughing bitterly.

Our incredulity at God's goodness does not handicap his faithfulness. In all the intervening space between promise and fulfillment, God is clearing the way for laughter, birthing an Isaac, making room for his (and our) eternal joy at reconciling humanity to himself.

God enjoying us. We think too little of that.

Laughter.

Found Wanting: Kris Camealy, "I've wanted to be known."

jenmichel@me.com

I have been curating stories for a blog project called, “Found Wanting." This series will end in several weeks, and I am thankful for each person who has submitted a guest post. If you've only just arrived, I hope you'll catch up on the stories below. During Jesus’ earthly ministry, it was not uncommon for him to approach the sick and sin-sick with this question: “What do you want?” In John 5, he speaks with a man lying next to the healing waters of Bethesda, a man who has been an invalid for 38 years.

“When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be healed?’"

The man seizes an excuse. “I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up.”

Was it too much for this man to hope for healing?

What is too great a risk to invite the responsibility for walking again?

There can be fear in desire: fear that we will want what God will always refuse to give; fear that we will not want whatever God, in his sovereignty, chooses to give.

Ultimately, we are profoundly afraid of ceding into the hands of God our trust.

I’m grateful for those willing to share their stories of desire here. I'm neither applauding nor condemning their stories: rather, I am amplifying their desires - and reminding each of us that to be human is to want. In my book, Teach Us to Want, I write, “Desire takes shape in the particularities of our lives. We cannot excerpt desire from the anthology of our stories. Our desires say something about us – who we have been, who we are and who we are becoming. They tell a part of the story that God is telling through us, even the beautiful and complicated story of being human and becoming holy.”

To catch up on the series, read these featured stories: Amy Chaney, "I didn't want to be a coach's wife." Beth Bruno, "I've wanted beauty." Wendy Stringer, "I didn't want to move to suburbia." Steve Burks, "I've wanted to produce entertainment." Faydra Stratton, "I didn't want a child with Fragile X." Brook Seekins, "I never wanted to be a missionary in Africa." Sarah Van Beveren, "I have always wanted to be strong." Holly Pennington, "I didn't want to find out what I wanted." Larry Shallenberger, "I wanted to know what I wanted." Hannah Anderson, "I didn't want - because I couldn't afford to." Megan Hill, "I want your blessing." Bronwyn Lea, "I wanted a boyfriend, college scholarships, permission to sleep over at the popular kid's house." Jennifer Tatum, "I've wanted to be a woman of faith, but . . ." Sarah Torna Roberts, "I didn't want to be broken." Suanne Camfield, "I want a bigger house." Courtney Reissig, "I wanted a baby." Cara Meredith, "I've wanted it all." Anonymous, "I want to not want marriage anymore." Deborah Kurtz, "I wanted a husband." Ben Jolliffe, "I wanted nothing." Charity Singleton Craig, "I wanted to get married." Hannah Vanderpool, "I didn't want to stay in America." Dorothy Greco, "I don't want to doubt." Natasha Sistrunk Robinson, "I wanted security."

Today, Kris Camealy shares her story of desire.

* * * * *

I've wanted to be known.

I flush with embarrassment to admit my intense desire to be known, and not merely to have friends, or to be well liked (though those are part of it). Rather, the desire to be known that shames me was an ugly lust for notoriety. I wanted to be known for what I accomplished, craving both recognition for me as the accomplisher, and admiration for the mighty works of my own hands.

It is most honest to say that I fashioned an idol out of fame and worshipped heartily at its base. This admission of where I've been makes me sick with grief, but I share it now, because in this way, I can give testimony to the good mercy of God.

I believe we all have an indwelling desire to be known. We are created in the image of God, who himself desires that all of His creation would know Him. Adam and Eve walked in communion with God, fully exposed, fully known, lacking nothing. I found myself hungering for this same intimacy, this kind of pure fellowship, and believed, for a time, that the world's recognition of me, would serve to satisfy a heavenly hunger.

The redemption of this in my life came only by way of a hard humbling. When God brought me low, his gentle, persistent mercy and blatant outpouring of grace coupled with His instruction, by way of His inspired Word, redefined what this desire ought to look like in the Christian life. God passionately pursued me into a wilderness of my own making, where He himself fed and nourished my heart, broken by shame and regret. I had gotten it wrong, but God's jealousy brought my desires into their rightful place.

Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. "For My own sake, for My own sake, I will act; For how can My name be profaned? And My glory I will not give to another," (Isaiah 48:11).

It was in this desert, where God showed me that He bears intimate knowledge of who I am. This realization transformed my desires to be known. Knowing that I am deeply known by God changes everything. When a soul is matched with its Maker, and the passionate love of God fills the human heart from within, being known by man proves itself to be a shallow, vapid desire that cannot possibly fulfill with any lasting meaning or hope of satisfaction. My desire to be known has been replaced with a passion for making HIM known.

Because I know my natural bent, when I fear my desires I only need to surrender them to God. He gives wisdom and transforms my human hunger into a spiritual one. I crave the things of God, because in them I find soul-satisfaction. My delight in being known by God binds my heart to His, and in this communion with my Maker, He aligns my desires with those that are pleasing to Him.

* * * * *

kris in greyAs a sequin wearing, homeschooling mother of four, Kris Camealy is passionate about Jesus, people and words. Her heart beats to share the hard, but glorious truth about life in Christ. She's been known to take gratuitous pictures of her culinary creations, causing mouths to water all across Instagram. Once upon a time, she ran 10 miles for Compassion International, a ministry for which she serves as an advocate. Kris is the author of, Holey, Wholly, Holy: A Lenten Journey of Refinement, and the follow up, Companion Workbook. You can read more from Kris at kriscamealy.com.

Breaking the Bread of Belief: Stars

jenmichel@me.com

(Today's post is the eighth in a series entitled, "Breaking the Bread of Belief." Read about beginning, dust, home, feast, naked, death, and altar). All images courtesy of Joetography.

* * * * *

Stars

Ryan and I are reading The Meaning of Marriage by Tim and Kathy Keller with an engaged couple from our church. This quote, from Hannah Arendt, in chapter 3 was striking to me: "Without being bound to the fulfillment of our promises, we would never be able to keep our identities; we would be condemned to wander helplessly and without direction in the darkness of each person's lonely heart, caught in its contradictions and equivocalities." After eighteen years of marriage, I am realizing the power of a marriage promise. Yes, the promise binds me to Ryan, and I pray to be faithful to this good man. But in some fundamental way, as Arendt describes, our marriage promise also binds me to me: to the most loving, holy, reliable version of me I hope to one day become.

A promise can bind us to another. It can also bind us to ourselves.

God makes promises, too. And his identity is also bound up with his promises (cf. Heb. 6:13).

In Genesis 15:5, the LORD reassures Abram that his promises to him are sure. He had asked Abram to leave his home, to immigrate to Canaan, to trust him for children. But the years have worn long, and Abram, human as the rest of us, doubts. He wonders why, if God has promised him an heir, he has a household servant, not a son. "O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?" There is so little evidence for Abram to confirm God's word as true. How can Abram trust?

"This man shall not be your heir," God says. And then, for dramatic effect, he leads Abram by the elbow into the cold night air. The sky is electric with stars, luminous with promise. "Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them. So shall your offspring be."

This is magnificent scene, not least because God is patient with Abram. I think we imagine that doubt cannot be tolerated by God. (Read Dorothy Greco's terrific guest post on this.) We think God quick to judge the infirmities of our faith. But this is not the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—the God who remembers we are dust (cf. Ps. 103:14).

The scolding, disappointed God is not the God of Abraham. And he is not the God of the stars.

This is our eighth word of faith: stars.

It is difficult to believe that God is generous.

Sure, we have the hucksters on television, the health-and-wealth evangelists crooning that we can have our big house and fancy cars and Jesus, too.

But aside from those flatteries, what do we really believe about God? Do we see him as generous? I'm apt to think we've more convinced that he's miserly. Yes, maybe there's goodness to expect from him, but we imagine it's distributed judiciously, sparingly.

We see God's goodness like the bag of chips my friend describes sharing with her two brothers after swimming lessons. They grew up poor. Treats were scarce. But if the three of them swam well, after their lesson, their mother toweled them off and marched them up to the vending machine. She would insert her handful of change, and one bag of chips would drop.

One.

The bag was mostly air. There were few chips to enjoy. But my friend and her brothers would dutifully pass the chips back and forth between them in the back seat of the car, thankful for what they had.

Never expecting—

Stars.

God made a promise to Abram, and he made good on it. He gave him a son and a line of descendants marching all the way to and beyond the birth of a little boy in the town of Bethlehem, Jesus of Nazareth. And now the God-Man is bringing all kinds of people into Abraham's family, His Father adopting them as his own. It's a family spanning continent and race, language and era.

These children are stars. And material proof that when God makes a promise, it is bound up with his identity.

Of goodness. And generosity. And faithfulness.

Found Wanting: Natasha Sistrunk Robinson, "I wanted security."

jenmichel@me.com

I have been curating stories for a blog project called, “Found Wanting." This series will end in several weeks, and I am thankful for each person who has submitted a guest post. If you've only now arrived here, I hope you'll catch up on the stories below. During Jesus’ earthly ministry, it was not uncommon for him to approach the sick and sin-sick with this question: “What do you want?” In John 5, he speaks with a man lying next to the healing waters of Bethesda, a man who has been an invalid for 38 years.

“When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be healed?’"

The man seizes an excuse. “I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up.”

Was it too much for this man to hope for healing?

What is too great a risk to invite the responsibility for walking again?

There can be fear in desire: fear that we will want what God will always refuse to give; fear that we will not want whatever God, in his sovereignty, chooses to give.

Ultimately, we are profoundly afraid of ceding into the hands of God our trust.

I’m grateful for those willing to share their stories of desire here. I'm neither applauding nor condemning their stories: rather, I am amplifying their desires - and reminding each of us that to be human is to want. In my book, Teach Us to Want, I write, “Desire takes shape in the particularities of our lives. We cannot excerpt desire from the anthology of our stories. Our desires say something about us – who we have been, who we are and who we are becoming. They tell a part of the story that God is telling through us, even the beautiful and complicated story of being human and becoming holy.”

To catch up on the series, read these featured stories: Amy Chaney, "I didn't want to be a coach's wife." Beth Bruno, "I've wanted beauty." Wendy Stringer, "I didn't want to move to suburbia." Steve Burks, "I've wanted to produce entertainment." Faydra Stratton, "I didn't want a child with Fragile X." Brook Seekins, "I never wanted to be a missionary in Africa." Sarah Van Beveren, "I have always wanted to be strong." Holly Pennington, "I didn't want to find out what I wanted." Larry Shallenberger, "I wanted to know what I wanted." Hannah Anderson, "I didn't want - because I couldn't afford to." Megan Hill, "I want your blessing." Bronwyn Lea, "I wanted a boyfriend, college scholarships, permission to sleep over at the popular kid's house." Jennifer Tatum, "I've wanted to be a woman of faith, but . . ." Sarah Torna Roberts, "I didn't want to be broken." Suanne Camfield, "I want a bigger house." Courtney Reissig, "I wanted a baby." Cara Meredith, "I've wanted it all." Anonymous, "I want to not want marriage anymore." Deborah Kurtz, "I wanted a husband." Ben Jolliffe, "I wanted nothing." Charity Singleton Craig, "I wanted to get married." Hannah Vanderpool, "I didn't want to stay in America." Dorothy Greco, "I don't want to doubt."

Today, Natasha Sistrunk Robinson shares her story of desire.

* * * * *

I wanted security. I don’t know if the conclusion that every woman wants this same thing is in order, and I don’t know when this desire crosses from a simple and honest need to an idol and desperate cry. I just understand in the very core of my being what it is like to have a divorced mother do her best to care for her two daughters on her own. I have welcomed large tin jars of peanut butter and cereal purchased with food stamps. I understand the sense of anxiety of begging the car to start every morning, and wondering what the humiliation would be like if it didn’t.

Then my dad came to marry her and father us, and he was a hard worker in a hard profession. In spite of his hard work, he didn’t always get paid on time. We knew what it was like to live in the suburbs in comfort with the willingness and fortitude to carry on when the payments did not come on time. There was calls from bill collectors and bounced checks. No one said a word but I knew there was a financial struggle.

So when I left home for college, I made a simple commitment to myself. My parents would no longer have to take care of me. They did all they could to give us their best, and with two other children now remaining in their home, I wanted to relieve them of any unnecessary burden. I wanted security.

I wanted security, and I thought it would come from hard work, minimizing or managing debt, getting a good job, paying bills on time, having a great credit score, and making investments. Once upon a time, I did all of those things. I’ve also lost money and a home, have transitioned from great jobs, been worried about the ability to pay bills, minimized investments, loss a lot of savings, and now have a wrecked credit score. Not so financially secure now.

In all of my longing and wanting, I am reminded that, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty (Phil 4:12a).” My only hope is to learn, like Paul, the secret of being content in any and every situation. My desire and idol has been turned into thanksgiving, for I have always been well fed and never hungry. God has always sheltered me and filled my thirsting soul, even when my flesh was striving, and selfish, and weak.

I have learned that my security cannot be in a job or income, but I continuously must put my trust in Christ, for He alone cares for me. My longing, whether in surplus or when there seems to be a drought is to remember the One who keeps me yesterday, today, and forever, and to be thankful.

* * * * *

Natasha RobinsonNatasha Sistrunk Robinson blogs at www.asistasjourney.com. She can also be found on Twitter and Facebook. She is the author of a forthcoming book on mentoring published by Zondervan.

Breaking the Bread of Belief: Altar

jenmichel@me.com

(Today's post is the seventh in a series entitled, "Breaking the Bread of Belief." Read about beginning, dust, home, feast, naked, and death). All images courtesy of Joetography.

* * * * *

Altar

I'm fascinated by all the leaving in the book of Genesis. For all the settled-ness of the first two chapters, the rest of the narrative is on pilgrimage, and even at its conclusion (granted, not really the conclusion as Genesis is one-fifth of a larger whole), the people of God are not yet settled into the land of Promise.

That story feels like my everyday. The unmistakability of God's promises doesn't undo the muddled quality of life as it moves forward.

In Genesis 12, God gives Abram both a command and a promise. Leave your familiarities, and go to the land that I will show you.

And I will bless you.

"So Abram went," (v. 4)

In verse 6, they arrive in Canaan, the destination of promise. More specifically, Abram, his family, and his flocks and herds pass through the land, arriving at the town of Shechem, which is regionally centralized.

"Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. . . So be built an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him."

Today's word is altar.

I've always wondered about the oak of Moreh in this passage. It seems strange that a solitary tree would merit mention, but in reading from Craig Bartholemew's book, Where Mortals Dwell, he explains that this tree is no ordinary oak.

"The accompanying reference to the Canaanites still being in the land (12:6) makes it likely that the tree is a sacred one associated with Canaanite worship. Abraham faces a choice of adopting local worship or worshiping the LORD; he chooses the latter."

In this passage then, an altar is a symbol, not just of worship but resistance.

And maybe that's a principle more broadly applied. To worship the God and Father of Jesus Christ—and declare him to be the one true God—is to resist other claims on our allegiance. Jesus notes this in his teaching on money. You can't serve two masters, he insisted. You will hate the one and love the other, despise this one and be devoted to the other (cf. Matthew 6:24).

Altar.

I think this is a good word for breaking the bread of belief.

First, altar reminds us that God will not settle for the parts of us we think ourselves generous to offer him. He wants all of us. He is a jealous God and does not abide our divided affections.

But altar also reminds me of the very little that we have to give to God. In the Genesis story, God's giving Abraham the land, and Abraham is going to build a small outdoor grill on which to sacrifice a few burnt animals? The altar—and its gifts—are preposterously small by comparison.

So then this:

If the promise of blessing, given to Abraham and fulfilled most fully in Jesus Christ, is ours through God's death, what altar can be built to express gratitude tantamount to that?

Of course none. So altar-building is a limited enterprise. No gift repays God's eternal kindnesses to us.

Christ is the high priest who presides at the altar. But because there is no worthy sacrifice we can offer, he brought one of our behalf: himself.

Altar.

Worship. Resistance. And ultimately, grace.

Breaking the Bread of Belief: Death

jenmichel@me.com

Death (Today's post is the sixth in a series entitled, "Breaking the Bread of Belief." Read about beginning, dust, home, feast and naked.)

All images courtesy of Joetography.

* * * * *

In anticipation of the release of her fourth novel, Lila, I've been rereading all of Marilynne Robinson's novels.

Housekeeping, published in 1980, is the story of two sisters, who have been serially abandoned. Ruthie, the older sister, narrates the tragedies they've suffered and how they've eventually come under the care (if it can be called 'care') of their mother's mentally-ill sister, Sylvie.

The central focus in the novel's scenery is the lake on the banks of which the town of Fingerbone sits. It's the lake into which Ruthie and Lucille's maternal grandfather plunged by train many years earlier, killing about but two of the passengers on board. It's also the lake into which their mother has driven her car over a cliff, ending her life.

At one point, Ruthie thinks of all the dead people who would be brought to the surface if the lake were dredged. "In such a crowd my mother would hardly seem remarkable."

She continues.

"There would be a general reclaiming of fallen buttons and misplaced spectacles, of neighbors and kin, till time and error and accident were undone, and the world become comprehensible and whole."

"Everything must finally be made comprehensible."

To peer into the lake is to see death. And there is nothing more incomprehensible than that.

Today's word is death.

It has been too much with me, death. I was eighteen when my father died unexpectedly, and the world shifted inalterably, disabusing me of ideas of permanence. We do not last. And even the young can die.

I was twenty-three when my brother died, and there's no sense to be made of suicide. Can a human being die without hope? A cruel and terrible question, one I do not answer.

Death is too much with us.

I see it out the car window, watching them stroll by. First, I notice the elderly woman, managing ably with her wheeled walker. In the basket, there's a tied-up plastic bag from the local pharmacy. I notice the care in the knot.

And then I see he's catching up, slower for his cane. He reaches her, sliding his gnarled, mottled hand over hers. Is it a gesture is to steady himself? A habit of affection he's long practiced?

They smile and talk, lowering their faces as if sharing secrets.

I think of death.

And wonder of my own eventual loneliness, should Ryan oblige himself to statistics. What would it be like to grow old without him? To outlive our marriage? The thought sears, and I pray to be spared.

The foolishness of that.

It is too much with us.

If the gospel has meant anything (and it has meant much), it has reminded me that there need now remain no fear in death. Death is no concluding chapter, no punctuated finale. It will have no last word.

"Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery," (Heb. 2:14, 15).

Death had been too much with us. And the God-Man took upon himself its incomprehensibility, senselessness, and haunting fear.

He died. And felt the god-forsakenness of being mortal. And on the third day—

Time and error and accident began to be undone, and the world started to become comprehensible and whole.

On the third day—

Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?"

On the third day—

Hope.

Breaking the Bread of Belief: Naked

jenmichel@me.com

Naked (Today's post is the fifth in a series entitled, "Breaking the Bread of Belief." Read about beginning, dust, home, and feast.)

All images courtesy of Joetography.

* * * * *

I read a lovely book this past summer, which I had picked up the Festival of Faith and Writing. Entitled Frances and Bernard, this epistolary novel written by Carlene Bauer is painfully human. It is tender and heartbreaking, realistic as much as it is romantic. Frances and Bernard meet at a writer's colony, and they begin a correspondence, which later becomes a love affair. Frances, however, decides against marrying Bernard, realizing she cannot support his mental instability (manic seasons followed by depression requiring hospitalization). Or, perhaps it's truer to say, her art cannot support it.

"It would require all of my spirit to take care of you the way you need to be taken care of," writes Frances,"—the way I wish I could take care of you, which would be the way God would require me to take care of you if I were to become your wife. There would no spirit left for my books."

At the end of the novel, Frances regrets her decision. Bernard, however, has already married another woman. Later, in a letter to his friend describing his final encounter with Frances after his marriage, he describes the way he had loved Frances.

"Looking at Frances, I had the realization that I had been both her lover and her brother. With most people, you settle into being one or the other. I feel related to her still, familial because she knew me when I was at my most Bernard and I knew her when she was at her most Frances."

I have thought this to be one of the most poignant descriptions of human intimacy. When we arrive safely at being most fully and confidently ourselves in the presence of another human being, we have achieved a rare trust and received a great gift.

This intimacy, reliant on full disclosure, is what I'll call nakedness.

Naked is the fifth word of faith that I've chosen for this series, and in the Bible, it's meant to describe, not just the physical state of being unclothed, but the emotional and spiritual condition of total transparency.

In the Garden, Adam and Eve were naked "and were not ashamed" (Gen. 2:25). Their total selves were on display before one another and God himself, and there was no need for apology.

Adam was at his most Adam. Eve was at her most Eve.

God saw them and delighted in them, just as he had his entire creation, calling it all "very good."

This prelapsarian moment is worthy of pause. It is beautiful for the vice that is absent. We humans, this side of Genesis 3, probably fail to imagine what it would be like to live without dissimulation, concealment, pretense, lies.

I know how eager I am to make sure that I am perceived in ways congruent with my best self. At church this past Sunday, as I was clarifying for children's ministry volunteers which monthly memory verse we were memorizing, I repeated several times how, "As a family, we were sure that this month's passage was John 15."

As a family. As a family.

I had become suddenly insistent with these people that we were, as a family, memorizing the Scripture passages at home. I needed them to see me as faithful, as spiritual, as worthy of being in the position of Children's Ministry Director.

It is nothing short of exhausting to spend our lives on this kind of spin, and we will reap nothing but weariness if we must, at every turn, work so tirelessly for the approval of others. It requires we be something other than we really are.

I can't help but see that the gospel promises a greater rest.

To be naked. To be at our most Adam. At our most Eve.

The greater way of Jesus is the unmerited approval of God. Grace does not require concealment, but forgiveness. When Jesus hung naked on a cross, surrounded by scoundrels, he exchanged his righteousness for our treachery.

"Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."

Forgiveness is the only thing that makes nakedness before God possible.

"It is a wonderful thing to be humans in the hand of God," Jen McNaughton recently said our church's women conference. That's a line I've been turning over in my head ever since. Jen had been sharing the nature of her own struggles and the joy of learning to depend on God, and she was reminding us that God is never surprised by our limitations and sin. As the Psalmist describes, he is a compassionate father. "He knows our frame; he remembers we are dust," (Ps. 103:14).

It is possible to walk naked with God. To be transparently human, which is to say, flawed and failing. It is possible because a sympathetic high priest has been given, and he is acquainted with grief and sorrow and the fragility of mortality (cf. Heb. 4:15).

He- A brother. A husband.

"Looking at Frances, I had the realization that I had been both her lover and her brother. With most people, you settle into being one or the other. I feel related to her still, familial because she knew me when I was at my most Bernard and I knew her when she was at her most Frances."

You at your most Adam. Me at my most Eve. And both of us loved wildly By God in all that nakedness.

Found Wanting: Dorothy Greco, "I don't want to doubt."

jenmichel@me.com

I am curating stories for a blog project called, “Found Wanting.” (If you’d like to submit a guest post, learn more here.) During Jesus’ earthly ministry, it was not uncommon for him to approach the sick and sin-sick with this question: “What do you want?” In John 5, he speaks with a man lying next to the healing waters of Bethesda, a man who has been an invalid for 38 years.

“When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be healed?’"

The man seizes an excuse. “I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up.”

Was it too much for this man to hope for healing?

What is too great a risk to invite the responsibility for walking again?

There can be fear in desire: fear that we will want what God will always refuse to give; fear that we will not want whatever God, in his sovereignty, chooses to give.

Ultimately, we are profoundly afraid of ceding into the hands of God our trust.

I’m grateful for those willing to share their stories of desire here. I'm neither applauding nor condemning their stories: rather, I am amplifying their desires - and reminding each of us that to be human is to want. In my book, Teach Us to Want, I write, “Desire takes shape in the particularities of our lives. We cannot excerpt desire from the anthology of our stories. Our desires say something about us – who we have been, who we are and who we are becoming. They tell a part of the story that God is telling through us, even the beautiful and complicated story of being human and becoming holy.”

To catch up on the series, read these featured stories: Amy Chaney, "I didn't want to be a coach's wife." Beth Bruno, "I've wanted beauty." Wendy Stringer, "I didn't want to move to suburbia." Steve Burks, "I've wanted to produce entertainment." Faydra Stratton, "I didn't want a child with Fragile X." Brook Seekins, "I never wanted to be a missionary in Africa." Sarah Van Beveren, "I have always wanted to be strong." Holly Pennington, "I didn't want to find out what I wanted." Larry Shallenberger, "I wanted to know what I wanted." Hannah Anderson, "I didn't want - because I couldn't afford to." Megan Hill, "I want your blessing." Bronwyn Lea, "I wanted a boyfriend, college scholarships, permission to sleep over at the popular kid's house." Jennifer Tatum, "I've wanted to be a woman of faith, but . . ." Sarah Torna Roberts, "I didn't want to be broken." Suanne Camfield, "I want a bigger house." Courtney Reissig, "I wanted a baby." Cara Meredith, "I've wanted it all." Anonymous, "I want to not want marriage anymore." Deborah Kurtz, "I wanted a husband." Ben Jolliffe, "I wanted nothing." Charity Singleton Craig, "I wanted to get married." Hannah Vanderpool, "I didn't want to stay in America."

Today, Dorothy Greco writes her story of desire on the blog.

* * * * *

I don’t want to doubt.

Since I started following Jesus thirty-four years ago, God has consistently spoken to me through the written word, creation, and the faint whispers of the Spirit. Our relationship is thankfully not one way—on most days, there’s a stream of thoughts and words flowing in God’s direction. I’ve never doubted that He listens or hears me, but in the past few years, I have begun to doubt the efficacy of my prayer.

Perhaps it’s a problem I’ve created since I tend to go big when I pray. I’m not simply asking God to open up a parking spot. I’m praying for the eradication of the Ebola virus in West Africa, for an overhaul of the criminal justice system, for the church to choose holiness, and for my friend’s cancer to go away. None of these situations seem to be moving in the hoped for direction. That lack of circumstantial change can sometimes deflate my faith.

When doubt is having its way in me, I hear words like whatever come out of my mouth. I justify not praying because apparently, the frequency and fierceness of my intercession is directly connected to the level of doubt coursing through my system. Doubt is the siren which beckons me to shipwreck my faith. I fear it because I am well aware of just how far I would drift if I cut the cords which bind me to Christ.

According to theologians such as Paul Tillich, such fear is misguided. He wrote, “Doubt is not the opposite of faith; it is one element of faith.” The notion that doubt could be anything other than negative is new to me. I’ve always read Jesus’s words and assumed that if I doubted, He would spit me out of his mouth like cold coffee.

In the 2008 movie Doubt, starring Meryl Streep and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, Streep plays the role of an unflinching nun who appears to live free from doubt. Her certainty compels her to make decisions which result in personal and corporate loss. Throughout the movie, she never wavers—until the final scene. There, in the presence of a tender sister, she admits between sobs, “I have such doubt.” I admired her character before, but in that moment, my dispassionate admiration transitioned to tears and affection. Radical thought—is it possible that God feels that same way toward me when I doubt?

If I could wrap my hermeneutic around the reality that God loves me and is for me even when doubt threatens to swallow me whole, it would change everything. The doubt I feel when my prayers are seemingly not answered can be like an enormous anchor that drags along the bottom, holding back the ship’s forward movement. To know that God is not displeased with me when I doubt would be like having that anchor winched up onto the deck. While the anchor would still be there, it would no longer hold the ship back.

Of late, I’ve stepped up my prayer because what more can I do when the world seems to be descending into chaos? If that descent continues, I risk having to double back thorough the deep quicksand of disappointment and doubt. But because the only real option seems to be apathy—which is not where I want to land—I continue to pray, hoping that my words will hit their mark and that doubt will no longer discourage or dissuade me from praying.

* * * * *

DLGport-Jun-0612-016-©DGrecoDorothy Littell Greco spends her days writing about faith, encouraging others as they pursue Jesus, making photographs of beautiful things, and trying to love her family well. You can find more of her Words & Images on her website, or by following her on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.

Found Wanting: Hannah Vanderpool, "I didn't want to stay in America."

jenmichel@me.com

I am curating stories for a blog project called, “Found Wanting.” (If you’d like to submit a guest post, learn more here.) During Jesus’ earthly ministry, it was not uncommon for him to approach the sick and sin-sick with this question: “What do you want?” In John 5, he speaks with a man lying next to the healing waters of Bethesda, a man who has been an invalid for 38 years.

“When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be healed?’"

The man seizes an excuse. “I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up.”

Was it too much for this man to hope for healing?

What is too great a risk to invite the responsibility for walking again?

There can be fear in desire: fear that we will want what God will always refuse to give; fear that we will not want whatever God, in his sovereignty, chooses to give.

Ultimately, we are profoundly afraid of ceding into the hands of God our trust.

I’m grateful for those willing to share their stories of desire here. I'm neither applauding nor condemning their stories: rather, I am amplifying their desires - and reminding each of us that to be human is to want. In my book, Teach Us to Want, I write, “Desire takes shape in the particularities of our lives. We cannot excerpt desire from the anthology of our stories. Our desires say something about us – who we have been, who we are and who we are becoming. They tell a part of the story that God is telling through us, even the beautiful and complicated story of being human and becoming holy.”

To catch up on the series, read these featured stories: Amy Chaney, "I didn't want to be a coach's wife." Beth Bruno, "I've wanted beauty." Wendy Stringer, "I didn't want to move to suburbia." Steve Burks, "I've wanted to produce entertainment." Faydra Stratton, "I didn't want a child with Fragile X." Brook Seekins, "I never wanted to be a missionary in Africa." Sarah Van Beveren, "I have always wanted to be strong." Holly Pennington, "I didn't want to find out what I wanted." Larry Shallenberger, "I wanted to know what I wanted." Hannah Anderson, "I didn't want - because I couldn't afford to." Megan Hill, "I want your blessing." Bronwyn Lea, "I wanted a boyfriend, college scholarships, permission to sleep over at the popular kid's house." Jennifer Tatum, "I've wanted to be a woman of faith, but . . ." Sarah Torna Roberts, "I didn't want to be broken." Suanne Camfield, "I want a bigger house." Courtney Reissig, "I wanted a baby." Cara Meredith, "I've wanted it all." Anonymous, "I want to not want marriage anymore." Deborah Kurtz, "I wanted a husband." Ben Jolliffe, "I wanted nothing." Charity Singleton Craig, "I wanted to get married."

Today, Hannah Vanderpool shares her story of desire on the blog.

* * * * *

I didn’t want to stay in America. I’d just spent three of the longest years of my life in India as a missionary, along with my husband and three children. When I returned to the States, thirty-six lifetimes later, I was exhausted. The invisible fibers of my spiritual muscles had broken down through the relentless repetition of stress and spiritual warfare. The lactic acid of depression had seeped in, demanding that I slow down.

We came back home, but I didn’t want to call it that. The old me had died in India and the person returning to America was someone else. For every ping of pleasure the new me experienced (who doesn’t love a clean highway and fountain drinks?) there were moments of darkness, of anger. I found reasons to refuse the good in my country of origin, reasons to fear I might forget everything I’d learned while away.

We knew the Lord had led us to a season of rest in the US, but we kept waiting for Him to send us back to India when we felt better. Which was strange because at times living there had felt like it might be our undoing. But God did not send us back. It’s been two years since we returned to the States and, for reasons that become clearer with each day, at least for the time being, we know need to be right where we are.

I am learning that the Lord meant what he said when he promised never to leave or forsake us. I knew he was with us when our third floor apartment swayed during an Indian earthquake in year two. I sensed him nearer than skin when a crowd formed a riot next door in year three, chanting in chorus and threatening to burn our neighbors to the ground. Every illness, every trip to the bathroom that ended with my feverish cheeks pressed against the cool tile floor, he was there.

But the thing is, he’s here, too. When we found out that my grandmother has cancer, or discovered that my husband’s new job is more taxing than he could have imagined? We have known him near. When I sense a chill in the room after using the “missionary” word I have felt his comfort.

There’s a lot to love about America, though it may never feel quite like home to me again. But the chief reason to love it, the one that outstrips ubiquitous air conditioning, public libraries and cookouts with family, is that God is here. Right where he promised he’d be. And that makes it good enough for me.

* * * * *

Hannah VanderpoolHannah Vanderpool is a writer, world-traveler, and Jesus-follower. She can’t imagine a world without sisters and books. You can find her at prayingwithoneeyeopen.wordpress.com.

Found Wanting: Charity Singleton Craig, "I wanted to get married."

jenmichel@me.com

I am curating stories for a blog project called, “Found Wanting.” (If you’d like to submit a guest post, learn more here.) During Jesus’ earthly ministry, it was not uncommon for him to approach the sick and sin-sick with this question: “What do you want?” In John 5, he speaks with a man lying next to the healing waters of Bethesda, a man who has been an invalid for 38 years.

“When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be healed?’"

The man seizes an excuse. “I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up.”

Was it too much for this man to hope for healing?

What is too great a risk to invite the responsibility for walking again?

There can be fear in desire: fear that we will want what God will always refuse to give; fear that we will not want whatever God, in his sovereignty, chooses to give.

Ultimately, we are profoundly afraid of ceding into the hands of God our trust.

I’m grateful for those willing to share their stories of desire here. I'm neither applauding nor condemning their stories: rather, I am amplifying their desires - and reminding each of us that to be human is to want. In my book, Teach Us to Want, I write, “Desire takes shape in the particularities of our lives. We cannot excerpt desire from the anthology of our stories. Our desires say something about us – who we have been, who we are and who we are becoming. They tell a part of the story that God is telling through us, even the beautiful and complicated story of being human and becoming holy.”

To catch up on the series, read these featured stories: Amy Chaney, "I didn't want to be a coach's wife." Beth Bruno, "I've wanted beauty." Wendy Stringer, "I didn't want to move to suburbia." Steve Burks, "I've wanted to produce entertainment." Faydra Stratton, "I didn't want a child with Fragile X." Brook Seekins, "I never wanted to be a missionary in Africa." Sarah Van Beveren, "I have always wanted to be strong." Holly Pennington, "I didn't want to find out what I wanted." Larry Shallenberger, "I wanted to know what I wanted." Hannah Anderson, "I didn't want - because I couldn't afford to." Megan Hill, "I want your blessing." Bronwyn Lea, "I wanted a boyfriend, college scholarships, permission to sleep over at the popular kid's house." Jennifer Tatum, "I've wanted to be a woman of faith, but . . ." Sarah Torna Roberts, "I didn't want to be broken." Suanne Camfield, "I want a bigger house." Courtney Reissig, "I wanted a baby." Cara Meredith, "I've wanted it all." Anonymous, "I want to not want marriage anymore." Deborah Kurtz, "I wanted a husband." Ben Jolliffe, "I wanted nothing."

Today, Charity Singleton Craig shares her story of desire on the blog.

* * * * *

I wanted to get married. From a very young age, I desired to be a wife and a mother. I didn’t know I would one day have those things, not the way friends of mine have known they would be a pastor’s wife or would have lots of children or would one day be a missionary. Knowing would have been easier. Instead, I wanted.

When I was in college, I met lots of other women who also wanted to get married. Many of them did get engaged and presumably became wives. I know, because every time a co-ed got a ring, we’d all gather in the lobby of our residence hall to discover the lucky girl. We cheered and clapped as a candle passed around the circle of friends. We squealed and hugged when the bride-to-be blew out the candle and placed a ring on her finger. We ached and held back tears as we filed back to our rooms. When would it be our turn?

For years after college, I wanted to get married. Though I moved a lot, in each new city I would find a church, try to get involved, and at least visit the singles group. I put myself “out there,” as others would recommend. I went on a few dates when asked. I became friends with men and accidentally fell in love a couple of times when they were just looking for someone to pass the time with.

Then, life got more complicated. Illness, death, heartache, disappointment: these were my constant companions for years. All around me, difficult circumstances actually made my singleness easier. My best friend’s journey as a widow and single mother, my dad’s heart surgery, my step-dad’s cancer: I was available for them, and I wanted to help. Then, my own cancer and infertility made marriage and motherhood seem impossible.

Yet I still wanted to get married.

At times, during all those years of singleness, I tried to give up wanting. The hope of possibility became a bad joke. I felt like an old maid in my late twenties. By the time I was 40, the flicker of desire seemed silly. I couldn’t say, as some might have wanted me to, that my desire for marriage hadn’t become an idol in my heart. Sometimes I longed from a pure heart. Other times, I didn’t care what it cost me. I wanted to get married.

Then, just like that, everything changed. I met Steve, we dated for six months, we were engaged for two, and then we were married. I became a step-mom to three sons. You got all you wanted, people will tell me. True. I love being married and having a family. But I had many great years being single, too.

At my bridal shower, surrounded by friends both married and single, I knew I had to be honest. “Getting married is not the best thing that’s ever happened to me,” I told them. (Not exactly the romance they were expecting.) I explained, “Knowing Jesus is the best thing that ever happened to me. He has been faithful to me during years of singleness, and I know he will walk with me during years of marriage.”

That’s what I’ve learned about desire. Whether we lack or whether we have, we always find our way in Him.

* * * * *

CharitySingletonCraig-squareCharity Singleton Craig is a writer, bringing words to life through essays, stories, blog posts, and books. She is a staff writer at The Curator, a contributing writer at TweetSpeak Poetry, and a content editor at The High Calling. She also is the co-author of an upcoming book on the writing life (T.S. Poetry Press, 2014). She lives with her husband and three step-sons in Indiana. You can find her online at charitysingletoncraig.com, on Twitter @charityscraig, and on Facebook.

Found Wanting: Ben Jolliffe, "I wanted nothing."

jenmichel@me.com

I am curating stories for a blog project called, “Found Wanting.” (If you’d like to submit a guest post, learn more here.) During Jesus’ earthly ministry, it was not uncommon for him to approach the sick and sin-sick with this question: “What do you want?” In John 5, he speaks with a man lying next to the healing waters of Bethesda, a man who has been an invalid for 38 years.

“When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be healed?’"

The man seizes an excuse. “I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up.”

Was it too much for this man to hope for healing?

What is too great a risk to invite the responsibility for walking again?

There can be fear in desire: fear that we will want what God will always refuse to give; fear that we will not want whatever God, in his sovereignty, chooses to give.

Ultimately, we are profoundly afraid of ceding into the hands of God our trust.

I’m grateful for those willing to share their stories of desire here. I'm neither applauding nor condemning their stories: rather, I am amplifying their desires - and reminding each of us that to be human is to want. In my book, Teach Us to Want, I claim that:

“Desire takes shape in the particularities of our lives. We cannot excerpt desire from the anthology of our stories. Our desires say something about us – who we have been, who we are and who we are becoming. They tell a part of the story that God is telling through us, even the beautiful and complicated story of being human and becoming holy.”

To catch up on the series, read these featured stories: Amy Chaney, "I didn't want to be a coach's wife." Beth Bruno, "I've wanted beauty." Wendy Stringer, "I didn't want to move to suburbia." Steve Burks, "I've wanted to produce entertainment." Faydra Stratton, "I didn't want a child with Fragile X." Brook Seekins, "I never wanted to be a missionary in Africa." Sarah Van Beveren, "I have always wanted to be strong." Holly Pennington, "I didn't want to find out what I wanted." Larry Shallenberger, "I wanted to know what I wanted." Hannah Anderson, "I didn't want - because I couldn't afford to." Megan Hill, "I want your blessing." Bronwyn Lea, "I wanted a boyfriend, college scholarships, permission to sleep over at the popular kid's house." Jennifer Tatum, "I've wanted to be a woman of faith, but . . ." Sarah Torna Roberts, "I didn't want to be broken." Suanne Camfield, "I want a bigger house." Courtney Reissig, "I wanted a baby." Cara Meredith, "I've wanted it all." Anonymous, "I want to not want marriage anymore." Deborah Kurtz, "I wanted a husband."

Today, Ben Jolliffe shares his story of desire on the blog.

* * * * *

I wanted nothing. My whole life felt centered around denial.

As a [good] Christian kid, the son of a pastor, I focused on not doing the bad things. More than simply avoiding them, I worked at not wanting them. Sex. Porn. Money. Success.

Along with the big categories go the little, every-day things I also wanted: Doritos, another coffee, time alone. My spiritual life seemed to consist of eradicating these wants from my life and soul. It wasn’t all bad. At times it was incredibly freeing and life-giving to be free from porn and other sins.

But it felt like a zero-sum game. What happens when I get to the end? What happens when all the bad things are eliminated? Purely a hypothetical question of course, but when the house is swept clean, what happens next?

At some point, years deep into ministry, I read James K.A. Smith’s “Desiring the Kingdom” alongside Christopher Wright’s “Mission of God” and something clicked. Dealing with sinful desires (and actions!) was only part of the picture. Maybe not even half the picture. There was something bigger I was being called into, namely, the cultivation of desire to participate in the Mission of God.

The best part? The mission was bigger and broader than I imagined. It included gardening, playing tennis, eating, sleeping, sex, evangelism and social justice. It might even include Doritos once in a while.

I felt so refreshed. No longer was I aiming to be a neutered, passionless (and joyless) Christian man who simply avoided sin. I now had the chance to think about directing all of the energy, passion and testosterone at good things, things that spoke of the new Kingdom, things that brought life and vitality.

Now shaping your desires is much tougher than one might expect but it is a whole lot more interesting than a race to zero.

* * * * *

Ben Jolliffe is a church planter in Ottawa, Canada.

Found Wanting: Deborah Kurtz, "I wanted a husband."

jenmichel@me.com

I am curating stories for a blog project called, “Found Wanting.” (If you’d like to submit a guest post, learn more here.) During Jesus’ earthly ministry, it was not uncommon for him to approach the sick and sin-sick with this question: “What do you want?” In John 5, he speaks with a man lying next to the healing waters of Bethesda, a man who has been an invalid for 38 years.

“When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be healed?’"

The man seizes an excuse. “I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up.”

Was it too much for this man to hope for healing?

What is too great a risk to invite the responsibility for walking again?

There can be fear in desire: fear that we will want what God will always refuse to give; fear that we will not want whatever God, in his sovereignty, chooses to give.

Ultimately, we are profoundly afraid of ceding into the hands of God our trust.

I’m grateful for those willing to share their stories of desire here. I'm neither applauding nor condemning their stories: rather, I am amplifying their desires - and reminding each of us that to be human is to want. In my book, Teach Us to Want, I claim that:

“Desire takes shape in the particularities of our lives. We cannot excerpt desire from the anthology of our stories. Our desires say something about us – who we have been, who we are and who we are becoming. They tell a part of the story that God is telling through us, even the beautiful and complicated story of being human and becoming holy.”

To catch up on the series, read these featured stories: Amy Chaney, "I didn't want to be a coach's wife." Beth Bruno, "I've wanted beauty." Wendy Stringer, "I didn't want to move to suburbia." Steve Burks, "I've wanted to produce entertainment." Faydra Stratton, "I didn't want a child with Fragile X." Brook Seekins, "I never wanted to be a missionary in Africa." Sarah Van Beveren, "I have always wanted to be strong." Holly Pennington, "I didn't want to find out what I wanted." Larry Shallenberger, "I wanted to know what I wanted." Hannah Anderson, "I didn't want - because I couldn't afford to." Megan Hill, "I want your blessing." Bronwyn Lea, "I wanted a boyfriend, college scholarships, permission to sleep over at the popular kid's house." Jennifer Tatum, "I've wanted to be a woman of faith, but . . ." Sarah Torna Roberts, "I didn't want to be broken." Suanne Camfield, "I want a bigger house." Courtney Reissig, "I wanted a baby." Cara Meredith, "I've wanted it all." Anonymous, "I want to not want marriage anymore."

Today, Deborah Kurtz shares her story of desire on the blog.

* * * * *

I wanted a husband.

I’d wanted to be married ever since I was a little girl. My dream husband was wickedly handsome, strong, and capable of anything. I imagined that he would someday sweep me off my feet, and together we would live. Happily. Ever. After. I was very young and very naïve.

As I grew older, and after the Lord captured my heart with the good news of what He endured on the cross to secure my justification {and wholly undeserved right to be an heir of the King}, I noticed a change in my desire for a spouse. While looks were still important to me, I realized that of far greater importance was a man who possessed a certain inward attractiveness; namely, a man of God. I longed for a husband whose aim was to treasure Christ above all. This kind of desire for a spouse, I knew, was good and right. I believed that it was God’s desire for me as well. But it soon became my idol.

It became my idol when I longed to have a husband more than I longed to treasure Christ and know Him intimately. It became my idol when I grew angry with God for not bringing my husband into my life. It became my idol when I chased after young men who did not know the Lord, yet showed interest in me. But God. But God, in His inestimable love and grace toward me, reminded me of a far greater love that was already mine – His. In the middle of a relationship that was not honoring to Him, God graciously broke me in my sin. And I returned – by His grace - to the great Love of my soul, the One who was pierced for my transgressions and crushed for my iniquities; the One whose wounds healed my soul (Isaiah 53:5).

A while later, God did fulfill a great longing of my heart when He brought my husband into my life. And he is a man of God. We have been married for nearly four years, and my husband is a daily reminder to me that “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights (James 1:17)”; and that I am quite undeserving. I see glimpses of Christ in the way that my husband sacrificially loves me, and this turns my gaze heavenward and reminds me of the greatest desire of my heart – to be with the Lord forever. I am often humbled and awestruck that God has chosen to not only fulfill my desire for a godly spouse, but that He - through my spouse - reminds me of my very greatest desire which will eventually be fulfilled: the day that I will be with the Lord, my true Bridegroom. Until then, my heart cries: “soon and very soon, I will be with the One I love. With unveiled face I’ll see Him! There my soul will be satisfied, soon and very soon." ("Soon" - Hillsong United)

* * * * *

Deborah Kurtz is wife to a seriously awesome guy named Tim, who has just finished his first year of seminary studies at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. They reside in the Midwest, and are hopeful parents of two children by way of international adoption. You can read more of their story at Deborah’s blog, Journey of Faith: honeybeekurtz.wordpress.com.

Found Wanting: "I want to not want marriage anymore."

jenmichel@me.com

I am curating stories for a blog project called, “Found Wanting.” (If you’d like to submit a guest post, learn more here.) During Jesus’ earthly ministry, it was not uncommon for him to approach the sick and sin-sick with this question: “What do you want?” In John 5, he speaks with a man lying next to the healing waters of Bethesda, a man who has been an invalid for 38 years.

“When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be healed?’"

The man seizes an excuse. “I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up.”

Was it too much for this man to hope for healing?

What is too great a risk to invite the responsibility for walking again?

There can be fear in desire: fear that we will want what God will always refuse to give; fear that we will not want whatever God, in his sovereignty, chooses to give.

Ultimately, we are profoundly afraid of ceding into the hands of God our trust.

I’m grateful for those willing to share their stories of desire here. I'm neither applauding nor condemning their stories: rather, I am amplifying their desires - and reminding each of us that to be human is to want. In my book, Teach Us to Want, I claim that:

“Desire takes shape in the particularities of our lives. We cannot excerpt desire from the anthology of our stories. Our desires say something about us – who we have been, who we are and who we are becoming. They tell a part of the story that God is telling through us, even the beautiful and complicated story of being human and becoming holy.”

To catch up on the series, read these featured stories: Amy Chaney, "I didn't want to be a coach's wife." Beth Bruno, "I've wanted beauty." Wendy Stringer, "I didn't want to move to suburbia." Steve Burks, "I've wanted to produce entertainment." Faydra Stratton, "I didn't want a child with Fragile X." Brook Seekins, "I never wanted to be a missionary in Africa." Sarah Van Beveren, "I have always wanted to be strong." Holly Pennington, "I didn't want to find out what I wanted." Larry Shallenberger, "I wanted to know what I wanted." Hannah Anderson, "I didn't want - because I couldn't afford to." Megan Hill, "I want your blessing." Bronwyn Lea, "I wanted a boyfriend, college scholarships, permission to sleep over at the popular kid's house." Jennifer Tatum, "I've wanted to be a woman of faith, but . . ." Sarah Torna Roberts, "I didn't want to be broken." Suanne Camfield, "I want a bigger house." Courtney Reissig, "I wanted a baby." Cara Meredith, "I've wanted it all."

An anonymous writer shares her story of desire on the blog today.

* * * * *

I want to not want marriage anymore.

The desire to share my life and establish a home with a man has persisted through my 20s. I believe it arises from many things: witnessing my parents’ own happy marriage of 30-plus years; witnessing friends’ marriages that clearly provide support, love, companionship, and the possibility of children; living in a marriage-and-family-centered Christian subculture in which I want to more seamlessly belong; and, most bedrock, being a person made in God’s image, and thus being made for deep relationship and intimacy. In the past few years, the desire has become acute.

Acute is a fitting word here. It’s often used to describe a sharp pain or dire circumstance. At the same time that my desire for marriage has grown over the past few years, I have experienced three romantic setbacks nearly one after another. Each has confounded my heart, even as my mind has found ways to rationalize their necessity. The most significant setback was a broken engagement to a Christian man whom I loved yet couldn’t ultimately live life with. It seems that as my desire for marriage has grown, so has the pain that surrounds it. It is now a bruised desire.

There is the bruise of ending a relationship with a specific person, but there is also a bruise underneath it, in the place where the spirit resides. For the Christian—who believes that God knows us better than we can know ourselves, that he desires to give his children good gifts, that he is intimately involved in our lives—there is a spiritual wound when one feels she’s been led into situations that harm rather than heal. Of course, there is so often a chasm between what we feel and what is objectively true. But if God is for all of us, his children, then certainly we can say he is for us in the places of ourselves where we long, where we intuit, where we imagine, where we are able to give and receive love.

The bruised desire for marriage has led me to question the goodness of God. This is where theologians and pastors might chime in and say, “That means it’s an idol.” I don’t know whether that is true. Perhaps it is true insofar as an unmet desire for marriage has blocked my view of the other gifts that God has given. Or perhaps, instead, it’s a desire God has given me to keep me leaning and depending on him, even while some days I don’t know if he can be fully trusted.

All I know is that the bruises need to heal. And as long as my heart is kept tender by unmet desire for a good thing, it seems it will be poised for pain and further tempted to doubt God. If it’s a desire that God wants me to let go of, I hope I can do so. Even if so that it means it can be restored again, surprising me with its bloom in the unlikeliest of springs.

* * * * *

The writer works at a Christian nonprofit in the Midwest.

Found Wanting: Cara Meredith, "I've wanted it all."

jenmichel@me.com

I am curating stories for a blog project called, “Found Wanting.” (If you’d like to submit a guest post, learn more here.) During Jesus’ earthly ministry, it was not uncommon for him to approach the sick and sin-sick with this question: “What do you want?” In John 5, he speaks with a man lying next to the healing waters of Bethesda, a man who has been an invalid for 38 years.

“When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be healed?’"

The man seizes an excuse. “I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up.”

Was it too much for this man to hope for healing?

What is too great a risk to invite the responsibility for walking again?

There can be fear in desire: fear that we will want what God will always refuse to give; fear that we will not want whatever God, in his sovereignty, chooses to give.

Ultimately, we are profoundly afraid of ceding into the hands of God our trust.

I’m grateful for those willing to share their stories of desire here. I'm neither applauding nor condemning their stories: rather, I am amplifying their desires - and reminding each of us that to be human is to want. In my book, Teach Us to Want, I claim that:

“Desire takes shape in the particularities of our lives. We cannot excerpt desire from the anthology of our stories. Our desires say something about us – who we have been, who we are and who we are becoming. They tell a part of the story that God is telling through us, even the beautiful and complicated story of being human and becoming holy.”

To catch up on the series, read these featured stories: Amy Chaney, "I didn't want to be a coach's wife." Beth Bruno, "I've wanted beauty." Wendy Stringer, "I didn't want to move to suburbia." Steve Burks, "I've wanted to produce entertainment." Faydra Stratton, "I didn't want a child with Fragile X." Brook Seekins, "I never wanted to be a missionary in Africa." Sarah Van Beveren, "I have always wanted to be strong." Holly Pennington, "I didn't want to find out what I wanted." Larry Shallenberger, "I wanted to know what I wanted." Hannah Anderson, "I didn't want - because I couldn't afford to." Megan Hill, "I want your blessing." Bronwyn Lea, "I wanted a boyfriend, college scholarships, permission to sleep over at the popular kid's house." Jennifer Tatum, "I've wanted to be a woman of faith, but . . ." Sarah Torna Roberts, "I didn't want to be broken." Suanne Camfield, "I want a bigger house." Courtney Reissig, "I wanted a baby."

Today, Cara Meredith shares her story of desire on the blog.

--

I’ve wanted it all - and I’ve felt entitled that I deserve it all.

I’ve held an inflated sense of self. Like a caged lion desperately devouring his meal of bones and blood, I’ve greedily eaten affirmations of self-promotion. Fed to me from the earliest elementary years, I’ve taken and applied these words of invincibility to heart: You can do anything you set your mind to! “Can’t” is just a four-letter word! Be all that you can be! On and on the exclamation points continued, pounding into every pore of my being, infesting every part of my soul.

While such inspirational phrases never meant harm, naturally, the shouts of entitlement found their way in to my life of faith – because why wouldn’t My Big Genie Above grant me the desires of my heart? So I’d whisper the psalmist’s words heavenward, making David’s thoughts my own: God, I delight in you – so give me the desires of my heart as you say you will. With an indulgent nod of the head, I’d punch a conclusive “Amen!” onto the end of that day’s expectant request.

Really, my directives seemed to work well for a while – until I left full-time ministry and struggled to understand my identity apart from a vocational definition of self. Until a season of wandering in the wilderness arrived, and walking through a vast, unmarked desert found me helpless to even know what to utter to the One I’d apparently known so well, only months before. Until a month of darkness clouded over me, when unheard cries were met with mute silence did I later begin to understand that Something New was perhaps emerging in me and with me.

In Everything Belongs, Franciscan author Richard Rohr likens this transformation to Jonah’s time in the innards of a whale: “We must go inside the belly of the whale for a while. Then and only then will we be spit upon a new shore and understand our call” (44). Because when we’re taken where we would rather not go, when we enter into this cycle of death and rebirth, again and again, over and over, change happens. New life enters in. Clarity is born.

And hopefully, in the sloppiness of spit-up and regurgitation, a different Jonah of a human emerges.

For me, I’m only now beginning to learn how to pray and commune and be apart from the pious certitude I leaned into for so long. But it is in this very uncertainty of not knowing that I clearly realize I’m right where I’m supposed to be. And maybe this is the answer I’ve been searching for all along.

--

Cara MeredithBio: Cara Meredith is a writer, speaker and musician from in the greater San Francisco area. She is currently writing her first book, a memoir of belief and disbelief, when she’s not on a hunt for the world’s greatest chips and guacamole. She loves people, food, reading, the great outdoors and her family. She and her husband, James, currently live in Pacifica, California, with their almost two-year old son, Canon, and a second little boy set to make his appearance in late August. Blog: www.carameredith.com FB: www.facebook.com/bemamabecarameredith Twitter: @caramac54

Found Wanting: Courtney Reissig, "I wanted a baby."

jenmichel@me.com

I am curating stories for a blog project called, “Found Wanting.” (If you’d like to submit a guest post, learn more here.) During Jesus’ earthly ministry, it was not uncommon for him to approach the sick and sin-sick with this question: “What do you want?” In John 5, he speaks with a man lying next to the healing waters of Bethesda, a man who has been an invalid for 38 years.

“When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be healed?’"

The man seizes an excuse. “I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up.”

Was it too much for this man to hope for healing?

What is too great a risk to invite the responsibility for walking again?

There can be fear in desire: fear that we will want what God will always refuse to give; fear that we will not want whatever God, in his sovereignty, chooses to give.

Ultimately, we are profoundly afraid of ceding into the hands of God our trust.

I’m grateful for those willing to share their stories of desire here. I'm neither applauding nor condemning their stories: rather, I am amplifying their desires - and reminding each of us that to be human is to want. In my book, Teach Us to Want, I claim that:

“Desire takes shape in the particularities of our lives. We cannot excerpt desire from the anthology of our stories. Our desires say something about us – who we have been, who we are and who we are becoming. They tell a part of the story that God is telling through us, even the beautiful and complicated story of being human and becoming holy.”

To catch up on the series, read these featured stories: Amy Chaney, "I didn't want to be a coach's wife." Beth Bruno, "I've wanted beauty." Wendy Stringer, "I didn't want to move to suburbia." Steve Burks, "I've wanted to produce entertainment." Faydra Stratton, "I didn't want a child with Fragile X." Brook Seekins, "I never wanted to be a missionary in Africa." Sarah Van Beveren, "I have always wanted to be strong." Holly Pennington, "I didn't want to find out what I wanted." Larry Shallenberger, "I wanted to know what I wanted." Hannah Anderson, "I didn't want - because I couldn't afford to." Megan Hill, "I want your blessing." Bronwyn Lea, "I wanted a boyfriend, college scholarships, permission to sleep over at the popular kid's house." Jennifer Tatum, "I've wanted to be a woman of faith, but . . ." Sarah Torna Roberts, "I didn't want to be broken." Suanne Camfield, "I want a bigger house."

Today, Courtney Reissig shares her story on the blog.

* * * * *

I wanted a baby. And like so many, I haven’t gotten everything I have ever wanted. I’m finally starting to appreciate that. Like the old Garth Brooks’ song croons, “Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.” I have been the recipient of said gifts.

The Bible says it is good to desire children. Children are a blessing (Ps. 127:3). Jesus went so far as to make children part of his ministry (Matt. 19:13-14, Mark 10:14). Yet so many women must daily reconcile this strong, God-given desire with the sad reality of a negative pregnancy test. If children are so good, why is it so dang hard to have them sometimes? And many times, those who have them with relative ease don’t want the brood of children that comes to them so naturally.

I remember so clearly sitting in the office of a reproductive specialist as he looked at my husband and me and said with sarcastic clarity, “If you were 16 and on drugs, you would have 10 babies by now.” But we weren’t 16 or on drugs. We were in our late twenties and seemingly infertile. It was a case of devastating irony.

Those words stung. So did the words, “There is no heartbeat” that I have heard twice now. My road to motherhood has been marked with pain and confusion. But it has also been the source of my greatest blessing.

After Joseph spent years in captivity in a land not his own, he finally saw the realization of what God revealed to him as a teenager. But it was not without great cost. Surely, in the midst of false accusations, prison time, and general loneliness over his complete abandonment from his family it was hard to see that God was still there, let alone working in his seemingly cursed life. But he was. And while we aren’t given any insight to know if Joseph knew that in the midst of it all (though we know he remained faithful to God), we do know what he believed at the end of it. What Joseph’s brothers meant for evil, God meant for good (Gen. 50:20). The very suffering that threatened to undo him was the means for God to not only bless Joseph, but bless his entire family as well.

I can relate. For me, the very thing that caused me the greatest pain to date was what God used to bring me the greatest joy in him. By not giving me the desires of my heart he was changing my heart to treasure him more than anything this world (or my body) had to offer me. He filled the void left by an empty womb with fruitfulness and contentment I never could have conjured up on my own.

Failing to receive what I thought would give me the greatest earthly happiness was a blessing in disguise. God has brought me through a journey of shifting my desires to align with him. For however well-intentioned they may have started, they ultimately must fall in line with his good purposes for me.

I’ve heard it said that there are a million details happening behind the curtain of our lives, details that show us that every missed desire, every broken dream, every dashed hope really are working for our good. There are a myriad of things that keep us from seeing this reality, but that does not change that those details still exist.

So how did my story of desire end?

I didn’t get one baby. I got two. One miscarriage, two years of uncertainty, one surgery, and a lot of treatment, led to two unexpected little baby boys. But it was more than that. In those years of waiting I saw another desire emerge, one that was met with fulfillment and blessing. I wanted a baby and I got God instead.

In the wake of a delayed desire, God was giving me a better portion.

* * * * *

Courtney Reissig is a wife, freelance writer, blogger, and teacher. She was born in California, grew up in Texas, and did a couple of stints in Michigan before finally graduating from Northwestern College (MN). After doing some graduate study at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, she met her husband and fell in love, and they now make their home in Little Rock, Arkansas. You can read more of her writing on her blog or follow her on Twitter @courtneyreissig.