My Journey of Desire (Part 2): Holding On

Last week I wrote about how I’m learning to take the aches of my heart to God, but what of the intense ache I have been feeling as Tenley’s birthday draws near? What do I do with this ache in my heart that makes me want to hold onto Tenley and her precious baby days for dear life? The ache that makes me want to clench my eyes shut and not watch her grow another inch.

“Lord, why am I having such a hard time with Tenley’s birthday? Why does it seem so hard to face the fact that she is turning one?” I ask on an afternoon when this struggle to embrace Tenley’s upcoming birthday is about to break my heart.

With Tenley in my arms and tears on my cheeks, I hear Him answer with a question of His own. “Are you holding onto Tenley? Or are you holding onto me?”

This question, so loving in how deeply He knows me, strikes right at my need for security and comfort and the counterfeit ways I’ve been grasping for both.

After a lot of prayer and time with Him, God is helping me realize that my desire to have a natural delivery has led me into a false sense of security, and that my tendency to turn to Tenley and her sweet baby-dependence on me, has led me into a false sense of comfort.

All my life, I have felt an inner and driving need to be seen as beautiful and strong.

When I look back to the day Tenley was born, my eyes see an attempt at something that could have profoundly affirmed my desire to be seen as a woman of beauty and strength.  To me, it looks like this attempt ended in complete and total failure due to my weakness and an ugly willingness to be defeated, to give up, and to quit.

With stunning truth, the kind that is difficult to look full in the face, God is giving me a glimpse of what this picture looks like to Him.

Through this experience, God is showing me that when He looks at me He sees a woman found in Him. He sees His precious one, full of beauty and strength, because He is beauty and He is strength. His image is placed in me. His likeness, there in me. Beauty. Strength. This is what He sees.

All this time I have been looking to an experience to affirm in me whether or not I am beautiful, whether or not I am strong, and I have allowed the outcome of this experience to have the verdict on me.

At last, I see and can begin to refocus my eyes and my heart on Him. He alone has the verdict on me. He alone is the only safe and true place for my security to be found. He sees me full of beauty and strength not because of the things I do, but because of who I am: His daughter, His creation, His beloved.

Onto comfort, and again, my failure to see.

Over the course of the past year, as I have battled with moments, sometimes days, of intense sadness and a deep-seeded sense of failure, I have often found myself going to Tenley for comfort.  In fact, there have been many times when it seemed that Tenley, with her sweet face and baby ways, was the only thing that could soothe my aching heart.

Children are a gift from God. They do bring untold joy and comfort to the lives of those who love them, but my dread of Tenley’s birthday and my fear of losing her baby days, are evidence of my need for balance. Looking to my children to play a role that only God can fill is dangerous for them and me.

Again, God is helping me to see where my gaze has fallen short and is turning the eyes of my heart back to Him. “Are you holding onto Tenley? Or are you holding onto me?”

The answer is pure and clear: It’s time to find my solace in God.  

Day by day these truths sink in. Little by little my aches drain out. I am learning to see what He sees; I am learning to hold onto to Him. And I am finding that when do, I am filled with all the security, comfort, peace, and joy a mended heart can hold.



My Journey of Desire (Part 1): Bring the Ache to Me

Last year, I experienced the joy of expecting my second daughter, Tenley. When it comes to having babies, I have always been drawn to the idea of having a natural delivery. My first daughter was breech, and thus, my first pregnancy, (and first attempt at a natural delivery), ended with a C-Section. When my husband and I discovered that baby number two was on the way, my desire to have a natural delivery returned in full-force.

I know there are kindred spirits out there who can relate, whole-heartedly to this desire. I also know that there are those, my mom and sister included, who just as whole-heartedly believe that such desires warrant a good head inspection. All I can say is this desire mattered to me, and when nine months of planning and preparation for a natural delivery ended, once again, in a C-Section I was heartbroken.

I know there are hurts, frustrations, and unmet desires out there that strike far deeper than mine, particularly in the area of having children. I have known friends and family who have struggled for many years to have a baby. I have also known one or two families who have been forced to accept a reality where having a child of their own isn’t possible.

I, in no way, mean to make light of these desires, and I feel deeply for anyone who has known this kind of struggle. I freely acknowledge that, by comparison, my hurt and unmet desire in this issue of having a natural delivery may seem like small potatoes. “Why is this, such a big deal,” I’ve wondered with large amounts of frustration. “Why can’t I just get over it?” I don’t have all the answers to these questions, but I do know that as insignificant as my desire and my hurt may seem, God is using them to do a significant work in me.

On many levels the intense ache I felt in my heart in the days that followed Tenley’s arrival seemed silly and unnatural. My baby was healthy and beautiful, physically I recovered just fine. What on earth did I have to feel sad about? Yet in my heart, where my desire for a natural delivery was harbored, it seemed I was left with a gaping whole.

As days, weeks, then months went by, this whole filled with guilt, confusion, and regret. I felt like the outcome of Tenley’s delivery was entirely my fault. I felt like I had failed, big time. I couldn’t understand why, God, who seemingly could have intervened on my behalf, chose to let this happen. And the lies that I have struggled with my whole life, awful lies, that have told me time and again, that I am weak, helpless, and easily defeated, seemed staggeringly true.

This is my struggle. Twelve months have passed, and I am thankful that through God’s, teaching, insight, and tender mending of my heart I have, for the most part, made my way back to Jennifer. I like to say it this way because for so long I didn’t feel anything like myself. I am grateful that, through everything, God has drawn me closer to Him and has grown me in many important ways.

I praise God for all of this, but sometimes the hurt and the ache still linger.

A few weeks ago, something triggered my memory and transported me back to the day Tenley was born. Once again, my heart began to ache. “Lord, I thought we were past this,” I cried. “Why is this hurting, again?”

Always faithful, God used this ache to speak to my wounded heart. “Because your heart is ALIVE, dearest,” He gently responded. “Only DEAD hearts feel no pain.”

“Alive?” I asked.

Yes, love, alive. A heart that is willing to desire is also a heart that is going to hurt. It’s okay to feel an ache in your heart. It proves that you’re alive. What matters, my love, is that you bring the ache to me.”

“Bring the ache to me.” These words resonate with me because they give me an action, something I can do when the hurt of a broken heart or an unmet desire rises to the surface. In the midst of my questions, my doubts, my “what ifs,” I can take the aches of my heart to God and trust Him with my longing.

Psalm 147: 13 tells us that, “He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds.”

When old wounds ache and broken hearts rip open, our Savior waits to wash our wounds with His truth, bind our hearts with His peace, and soothe our aches with His love.


Journey of Desire (Introduction)

Six years ago, I read a book by John Eldredge, titled Journey of Desire. (Re-released in 2007 as Desire) At the time, I was going through a turbulent and heartbreaking relationship with my best friend, and sadly, our relationship eventually ended with a seismic break in one of the deepest friendships of my life.

For the first time in my life I needed answers, real and honest answers, on the topic of desire. I needed to know, in a practical way, how to handle my raw and unmet desires for this relationship. I needed to know how to cope with the delicate issue of desire, when what had just happened in my life was the complete opposite of what I wanted.

This book helped me tremendously throughout this difficult season of longing, hurt, and loss, and it has continued to shape and deepen my understanding of what desire is all about.

In a few short days, Tenley, my youngest daughter, my baby girl, will be turning one year old. I am a reflective sort of person, and milestones are hard for me. They always come with a mixture of joy and sorrow. Joy for what’s been given. Sorrow for what it seems, at least to me, is being lost.

As I look back on Tenley’s first year of life, from the moment I learned that she was one the way, to the first time I held her in my arms, to the all-present now, where her sweet smile and silly laugh have bewitched me body and soul, I know I have a lot to reflect upon. I feel a deep need to do this, to reflect. When I think of Tenley’s birthday, I can feel my heart clench. I’m excited for it, and I dread it at the same time.

Perhaps this sounds odd. Birthdays, after all, are supposed to be happy occasions. Nevertheless, this is how I feel.  As Tenley’s birthday inches closer and closer, I can sense my feeling of dread increasing. “Why?” I ask myself. “Why do I feel this way?” The answer, I’ve come to realize, boils down to one thing: DESIRE.

C.S. Lewis writes in The Weight of Glory, the things “in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things…are good images of what we desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself, they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers.”

For reasons I will explain over the course of the next three weeks, this quote describes what my life has looked like sense Tenley’s birth last September. On the day of Tenley’s arrival, my heart was broken when my longing to have a natural delivery did not come to fruition. In addition to this unmet desire, a misunderstanding of what my heart was truly longing for, paved the way for a long and difficult season of doubt, blame, sadness, regret and a nagging sense of failure.

Needless to say, it’s been a tough year for me. Fortunately, I haven’t faced this struggle alone. God has faithfully and patiently guided me through each phase of this journey. Piece by piece He is mending my heart and putting me back together.

In the weeks to come, I would like to share three pivotal experiences that have occurred along the way. The first relates to the ongoing ache of unmet desire, the second relates to what God is showing me about security and comfort, and finally, the third experience brings everything full circle by sharing what God is teaching me about grief, acceptance, and letting go.

This story is my own, unique to me, but broken dreams and unmet desires are written on the pages of everyone’s heart. It’s hard to put my experiences, my aches, and my longings into written words, but I hope these words will speak. I hope these words will tell the story of what God has done for me, of what God longs to do for us all. This is my journey of desire. May God use it to meet you, and speak to you, in the heart of yours.