All posts by charlenemnelson

A New Year’s Hope for Spiritual Strength

Once again, it’s been a long time since I’ve written. Lately, I feel like life is moving extremely fast, and I’ve been busy- busy, which is so different for me! For such a long time it seemed like I was just surviving, exerting just enough energy to try and keep myself, and our family, and our house from falling apart. My contribution to the well being of everyone felt immensely small, yet still, so difficult.

But now, I’m busy. Shopping, cooking, cleaning, and actually going places, with my children, by myself, and even though that’s still exhausting, the fact that it’s happening means it’s possible. It’s like I’m finally getting my fingers wrapped around some kind of “normal” life, which is thrilling and frightening at the same time. Frightening, because I know what it’s like to start to hold and enjoy that “some kind of normal,” and I know that normal can fall apart on you in an instant. But I just want to hold it, and keep it, so very desperately.

Normal is its own kind of hard, because being a mom and a wife is no easy job, but it is a good challenge. It’s a gift.

Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come…” I sing Amazing Grace to the girls sometimes when I put them to sleep. Brent and I have ventured through a lot of dangers together, but I’ve found nothing is more frightening than the dangers, toils, and snares you can wade into in your own mind.

It’s been exciting, over the past six months or so since my surgery, to experience progress in my health. It’s also been confusing and at times alarming, as we found out that my stomach tumor had been low-grade cancer, when I had been told from the start by nearly everyone, that it was not cancerous. Mutation testing also revealed that I have a mutation which makes me susceptible to several types of tumors, so I will need follow up tests for life.

So, in my one hand I’m holding normal, but in my other hand there comes unpleasant reminders of a reality I would rather forget, in the form of mail from the cancer center, or phone calls, or appointments. I feel like I’m fine, until one of those reminders pops up, and then to be quite honest, my brain starts shutting down. Continue reading A New Year’s Hope for Spiritual Strength

God Incarnate: Our Every Hope

Hebrews 2:9 “But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.”

People often say around Christmas that “Jesus is the reason for the season,” and they’re right. We celebrate Christmas because of Christ’s birth. More specifically, we rejoice in the incarnation, that the eternal son of God humbled himself by taking on flesh like ours. He became man, with all the needs, weaknesses, and frailty that comes with not only infancy, but the entire length of human life on a fallen planet.

More than just being the reason for a season, the incarnation of Jesus is the reason for every shred of hope found in the Christian life. Jesus displayed perfect obedience throughout his life, as “being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross Philippians 2:8).” He was “in every respect…tempted as we are, yet without sin (Hebrew 4:15).”

We struggle to obey God, and we sin every day, but “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood (Hebrews 12:4).”

But Jesus did. Jesus bowed to the Father in the garden of Gethsemane and resisted abandoning His Father’s will, crying “Father if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done (Luke 22:42).” Jesus surrendered to the point of shedding blood, an unfathomable cost to Himself, to pay a far greater debt than we ever could pay. He purposefully surrendered Himself to wicked men, and to the cross, but ultimately to the purposes of God to save our souls.

You see, Jesus coming as a man, means we can never say “God doesn’t understand,” nor “God doesn’t care.”

He came and lived the life we never could live- a perfect, sinless life, full of trouble and abuse. “Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted (Hebrews 12:3).” He turned his cheek to those who struck him, closed his mouth to those who scorned him, gave his back to those who beat him, and resisted all urges to flee, dominate, or curse. We can’t say he doesn’t understand how hard it is to live in flesh on this sin-sick earth.

Why did he do it? “For the joy that was set before him (he) endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of God (Hebrews 12:2).”

Or as prophesied in Isaiah 53:10-11:
Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.

“For the joy that was set before him…”
“He shall see his offspring… “
“Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied…”

Out of love for His Father, and to glorify Him, Jesus also looked with love upon us. Out of the anguish of his soul he would win us. “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly (Romans 5:6).”

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” His death means we can never say he doesn’t care.

Without the incarnation we have no second Adam. There is no perfect, righteous life, lived on our behalf, as our representative. Without the incarnation there is no perfect sacrifice. No spotless lamb of God to finally bear the whole punishment for our sin, as Christ did on the cross.

But because of the incarnation we have hope. We can know God. We can look at the life of Jesus and find out what love is. We can be forgiven. We can have everything. Jesus Christ, his birth, death, resurrection, and awaited return is the reason for all our life and our hope. Don’t neglect his gift of salvation this Christmas.

 

Dear Exhausted, Weary Mom

Can I just say it is extremely difficult being an exhausted mom? There are moms who are exhausted because they have done an exhausting amount of work in their day. Those are the ones I marvel at. I watch them, I see the unfathomable (to me) amount of energy they put into pushing, pulling, running with, and chasing their kids, and they do it with genuine smiles and laughter. They sing, they play patty-cake, they bake WITH their kids (which I just can’t comprehend) and they do things like (gasp)- craft time. I get tired just thinking about it.

There are moms who pour themselves out for their kids, from morning until night, and it seems to me the feeling of accomplishment must be very satisfying. I am one of those mom’s too, pouring myself out all day, yet it looks so different. Oh, for the energy to do craft time- and clean up after it, and be able to move on to another task without needing to pump yourself up like you’re playing in the Super Bowl. Oh, to exert strength playing with your children, and not feel like all the wind has been vacuumed out of your sail.

I have so much admiration for the energetic moms I know, and that well-earned exhaustion they feel at the day’s end. I hope I join their rank soon. I feel like I’ve had, here and there, too far spread out, glimpses of what that kind of normal mom life might feel like. Those are bright days in my memory bank.

But there are other moms like me. I can think of at least five that I know off the top of my head, and so I know I’m not alone. There are moms struggling through physical or mental health issues, single moms, moms of multiples waddling their way through the third trimester of another pregnancy- who are like me, and yet not so different from the energetic moms. You pour yourself out from morning until night too, but it looks small, and it seems like you are below ordinary. You get your kids dressed, and that’s hard, but you do it. You feed them, and it’s hard, but you do it. You go to the park, you smile, you make effort to be an involved momma, and it all looks so normal, but it’s costing you. It’s a sacrifice. You love it, yet, you wish the simple things weren’t just so draining. You wish the trip to the park, didn’t mean feeling paralyzed later.

Your house is far from spotless, cookies come from a box, craft time is a coloring book, learning comes from a green frog on a device, “outings” are restricted to a 2 hour time frame, and you probably need to bring along help. This is me, yet I have no doubt that I am doing my best. I am giving it my all, and sometimes it feels like more than my all.

To not be able to be the “you” that you really are inside, and that you really want to live out as a mom, can be devastating. I have had my break-down moments. These are some simple truths that have helped me. Continue reading Dear Exhausted, Weary Mom

The God who Restores You

Waking up from surgery comes slowly. At first you hear voices chit-chatting, but it seems like conversations you hear when waking from a nap on the beach. It’s just background noise, not strong enough to rouse you from your sleep. Then some jarring word catches you as your being rolled into recovery, a word like “partial gastrectomy,” in my case, and you think “Oh. I’m hearing voices. My surgery must be over. My surgery is over! What did they do to me? I think I better wake up.”

Waking up was quite alarming to be honest, but surgery was successful, and an answer to many prayers. The following three days were hard, as I was in that zone where doing something like sitting up to take a sip of water is exhausting, not just because of pain, but also because of nausea and dizziness every time I moved, or did something like- you know, look at an object. So those days were a blur. We had only intended for my husband stay the night with me the first night, but he stayed for three, and deserves a medal for keeping company with a person who couldn’t speak more than two sentences at a time for three days, in a tiny corner room with no window.

But, day four came. It had its challenges, but the worst had passed, and to my satisfaction they moved me to a room with a window. My husband could go home to see our kids, and my head was finally clear enough to look at my bible. I decided to turn to the last chapter of Job, and it was one of those moments where you think maybe your bible will start glowing or something, because every word is impacting your heart in the best possible way. Continue reading The God who Restores You

Whatever God Ordains Is Right

It’s Thursday evening, and I head in for surgery to remove a tumor from my stomach before the sun rises on Monday morning, so I’m counting down the final days, and feeling somewhat relieved. Relieved not to have this blurry mountain looming in the foreground anymore.

People ask if I am nervous for surgery, and I say that I am not really, but am more nervous about the after effects. Maybe I am too much of a literalist, but I can’t be too nervous about whatever happens while I’m knocked out; It is the waking up that is scarier to me. I had wished for a clearer picture of how my surgery would go, but I won’t really know the extent of it until it’s over. Maybe I will have a small scar, or maybe a huge scar, maybe my stomach is intact, or maybe the bottom of it is missing, and it’s been rewired back together. Maybe I’ll feel better eventually, or maybe worse. I just don’t know. I know there will be more tests, and more appointments, and potentially follow up treatments, but all that comes with another measure of haze.

It strikes me again, that this is true for everyone, but adversity tends to make you consider it. Ecclesiastes 7:14 “In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.”

I need to find contentment with not knowing the future, but trust that God knows. Not only does He know it, but He has planned it. He knows better than me what is good and right for me. His plans are higher than my plans, which He has so often halted.

As a great hymn says:

“Whatever my God ordains is right
Though now this cup in drinking
Bitter it seems to my faint heart
I take it all unshrinking
My God is true, each morn anew
Sweet comfort yet shall fill my heart
And pain and sorrow shall depart.”

Whatever God ordains is right. That truth could be a hard pill to swallow, especially if not grounded in a right understanding of the fall, God, heaven- everything. In fact, that statement could be understood harmfully without a well-rounded knowledge of the sovereignty and goodness of God. This is why Theology matters for life, for everyone- male, female, pastor, flock; Whoever lives, needs to know truth about God in order to live as He intends us too. Continue reading Whatever God Ordains Is Right

Maker of All

I had fun writing this poem this week, and thought it worked well sandwiched between these verses. Enjoy!

Hebrews 11:3 “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.”

Colossians 1:16 “For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities- all things were created through Him and for Him.

Maker of All

Satin ribbon,
starch and dye,
I could try
to replicate a rose;
But imitation only tends
to flatter the real thing.

Could I stitch
even a simple wing?
Making first the hollow frame,
criss-cross the trusses,
lend it strength for the stress
of taking flight?

Could I composite
fabrics that feel so soft,
yet shed water off,
and shape them neat
into feathers?

Could I give the wing skin,
sticking those feathers in
and angling them for flight?

We dress up in camo
but chameleon’s camouflage within.
We graft green broken branches back
but the tree accepts them in.
We propel impressive ships,
but none jump like a humpback
whale with its’ weight;
And everything we make
borrows and imitates.

My feeble hands
point to the sky,
knowing who to glorify.
An eagle soars,
seeking his pray
and knows, like I do now,
his Maker.

Job 39:26-29

“Is it by your understanding that the hawk soars
and spreads his wings toward the south?
Is it at your command that the eagle mounts up
and makes his nest on high?
 On the rock he dwells and makes his home,
on the rocky crag and stronghold.
 From there he spies out the prey;
his eyes behold it from far away.”

Suffering is Not Magic and Mountaintops

 Scripture is clear, that God uses times of trouble and pain in our lives to sanctify us- making us more like Jesus. As Romans 5:3-4 says “we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.” But sometimes that truth gets presented as if suffering is a magic pill you swallow, making you grow at rapid fire speed.

It is also clear that suffering can cause us to rely on God more wholly, and draw closer to Him. As one of my favorite psalms says: “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18).” People often experience that God’s presence seems nearer to them, and their fellowship with Him is sweetened, during times of great pain. But is that always the case? Do sufferers live on a perpetual mountaintop experience of closeness to God?

It’s not a super hard question really. I mean, have you ever had a stomach flu? Or even a bad head cold? Did you feel super close to God all day, every day, while you walked through that? When your head was hung over the toilet, were you amazed with the godly attitude that just seemed to rush over you the more you vomited? Probably not, right?

Because suffering is still suffering, and it feels like suffering. It doesn’t often feel like magic and mountaintops.

I’m sharing this because I’ve wrestled with it. Christians, myself included, talk a lot about the deep things they have learned through suffering, but sometimes our talk might leave people with a sanitized view, like suffering draws a tidy straight line towards Jesus and holiness, and those who walk the path are always glowing. During the most challenging year of my life, when I felt anything but glowing, my number one question was: Why doesn’t it feel like God is bringing anything good out of this? Continue reading Suffering is Not Magic and Mountaintops

Bracing for Impact

Monday I saw my doctor’s replacement doc (as mine was away) to request more iron infusions, and I was surprised to discover my biopsy results were in. The young doctor opened them and without any time to brace myself I adjusted my chair to view the screen.

Gibberish. The page he had opened was full of what I can only assume was technical medical language, that may as well have been Greek. My eyes scanned the document for words I could understand, and I only found three: “GIST” (gastro-intestinal tumor)- which I already knew, “Rare”- which I also already knew, and “aggressive.”

Aggressive. Shoot. I do not like this word.

The doctor admitted this is unfamiliar territory for him and I should contact the specialist to explain.

So I did, and got an appointment for Thursday afternoon, which gave me approximately 72 hours to stew over this word “aggressive,” sandwiched between a bunch of Greek, while trying to maintain my cool and keep it quiet in case I was wrong. No need to stress people out before I had to.

As I’d imagine anyone would, I spent many of those hours bracing for impact. If this was bad news, how would I survive it? How would I get through this without being emotionally destroyed? The Lord knows I have gone about these things in both wrong and right ways before. What had I learned from darker days, that I could apply now?

Did I get ahead of myself? Probably. Yet, the Lord allowed me to have this scare, and even used these ridiculous three days for my good.

So, I will share some of the conclusions I was coming too while I waited:

1. God will do with me whatever will bring Him the most glory. This is a pretty simple, but powerful truth. I think of Philippians 1:20-24:

“As it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.”

Those are some very challenging words, and no doubt my faith would need to grow to make these claims as boldly as Paul. But there is truth here to grab onto- Jesus Christ will be honored, if I set myself to either live for Him or die for Him. He knows which is better for me. He has a plan to receive glory by either my life or death, and that thought is comforting. It gives meaning to everything. If I live, I live for Christ, and if I die, I gain Christ.

2. There is only One whom I must fear. Psalm 34:9 kept coming into my head this week: “Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack!” As I thought about that I realized that if sickness, pain, or loss made me turn away from the Lord, wouldn’t that prove that I feared those things more than I feared Him? But if I feared Him above all else, that fear of Him would help me respond in reverence instead of sin. And what did Jesus say? “But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him (Luke 12:5)!”

People, illness, or disaster can destroy your body, but not your soul. In Jesus Christ, my soul rests safe. I have a refuge in times of trouble, and atonement for the day of judgment. Sometimes, it is those ultimate, overarching truths, that settle our hearts and bring us rest. Continue reading Bracing for Impact

Being Conquered, We Conquer

I was reading Psalm 44 this week, and at verse 22 I noticed the familiar words from Romans 8:36, “Yet for your sake we are killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

In Romans 8, I knew the context was that nothing can separate us from the love of God, and that through Christ we are “more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” It is a section that stands out as victorious and triumphant. It is the kind of text that evokes praise and brings comfort.

So it really stood out to me, to find these words here in Psalm 44. You should read the Psalm, but to give you the basic content I will break it down in sections. I’m not quoting the text here, just doing summaries.

Verse 1-3 “We have seen your faithfulness of old, and how our people conquered through You.”

Verse 4-8 “We also trust God alone to give us victory over our enemies.”

Verse 9-16 “We are slaughtered, disgraced, and ashamed before our enemies.”

Verse 17-22 “We have not turned away from God or forgotten Him, yet we are still killed.”

Verse 23-25 “God please wake up and help us.”

So the context of Psalm 44 is basically being conquered, while innocent, and in addition to that, not understanding why it is happening, or where God has gone off to.

The context of Romans 8 and Psalm 44 are not as different as I thought at first. Paul asks “Shall tribulation, distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword,” be able to separate us from the love of God? That question and context sounds very familiar to Psalm 44, so no wonder it came to Paul quoted it here.

As I read these texts, a phrase came to my mind: “Being conquered, we conquer.” I started to think about how this could be possible. I asked, “So even if I’m killed for my faith, or debt sinks, cancer spreads, natural disaster strikes, or armies attack- the bible says I conquer? We conquer, even when it looks like something, or someone else overtook us and won? How does that work? Continue reading Being Conquered, We Conquer