of doubt, anger, and sadness.

backyardsun2

I will never understand people who say they have never doubted God–his goodness, his plan, his existence. Or, those who have said they’ve never directed even a hint of anger toward him. Are they being honest? Is it possible as a human to not feel such emotions at some point in our faith journey?

If what they say is true, perhaps their faith is greater than mine in moments of heartache.

My heart has been hurting a great deal this week as our closest friends here in Denver lost their baby boy. Two people who love Jesus and have followed him in obedience. The past several months we had with them and their baby on the way are moments I will forever cherish and celebrate.

But now we are mourning for them in a way that is almost paralyzing. I have doubted. I have been angry. I have wept for my sweet friends. I have been asking God what good could possibly come from such a devastating loss. And what good could it do for two people who have been so faithful?

I don’t suppose to understand the fullness of their pain, nor do I assume my grief mirrors theirs. As doubtful and angry as I feel, I am mostly sad for my friends. I wish we could press rewind or wake up from this dream–this nightmare.

This is not how these things are supposed to go.

But since the reality of this situation is upon us, we must decide what to do. We must decide where we will seek strength. We must decide what we will do with our doubt, anger, and sadness. Will we sit in it? Will we surrender it to the Lord? Will we trust that these emotions do not surprise him? Do we know that he can handle the spectrum of our emotions?

Do I trust that God fully meets my friends in the depth of their pain?

I have more questions–many of which may remain unanswered on this side of heaven. They are questions of the purpose, reason, and explanation of this tragedy. They are questions that scare me because some believe they aren’t appropriate. But if these questions are wrong to ask, would God be as powerful as we claim?

For the sake of my friends, I choose to believe that God can handle these questions. I choose to believe he loves my friends. I choose to believe he loves their sweet boy. I choose to believe he sees every tear they shed and anticipates how he will care for them in the weeks and months to come. I choose to have hope. Although doubt is pounding loudly in my heart, I choose to believe with my mind that we will see God’s goodness reveal itself in this tragedy. I choose to believe, along with my friends, that the verse from which they derived their son’s name is true of him today, tomorrow, and forever.

“They will be called Oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”
Isaiah 61:3

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redemption.

I hope no one ever describes me as dramatic. And friends, if I am, slap my face silly. Last thing I want is to be one cat fight shy of starring on Real World: Upland…Umm, I just found the next greatest MTV show.

But I admit I need a hefty cry fairly often. The kind that makes you feel weak, tired, and like you want to put baggy sweatpants and an ugly shirt on and call it a day. Who cares if it’s 9 in the morning? You feeling me, ladies? And gents, I suppose. Ain’t no shame in bein’ the sensitive type. This week, I’ve had my fair share of those. Some sob fests were less pleasant and healing than others, but all necessary.

I.e. this morning. I have been unbelievably blessed by truth spoken over me since my last post. Between receiving a loving message from my grandma and hearing from a woman I haven’t seen in almost 3 years about God’s amazing work in her life through similar struggles, I’ve been overwhelmed with reminders of Christ’s acceptance of me and constant presence. I am truly learning that what is hidden in darkness will be revealed in the light; and when it emerges from the shadows, the enemy’s grip weakens to hardly nothing.

An incredibly beautiful friend shared the book Abba’s Child by Brennan Manning with me a few days ago; I am psyched and, admittedly, terrified to open its binding. A book that may expose even more layers of unhealed wounds and insecurities?

Tissues will be in arm’s reach. Always.

With it, she also gave me 4 pages (homegirl is awesome) of poignant Bible verses and quotes from Manning’s book to encourage this process of identity formation and being comfortable with having an intimate, exposed relationship with God. Hence, this morning’s mini-sob fest. I’d like to leave you with one of Manning’s quotes.

“While the imposter draws his identity from past achievements and the adulation of others, the true self claims identity in its belovedness.  We encounter God in the ordinariness of life: not in the search for spiritual highs and extraordinary mystical experiences but in our scruple presence in life.”

I am so grateful for this girl’s friendship and others like her who walk with me and approach the throne with me during times of great insecurity and anxiety.

My heart is heavy but our God is redeeming it daily in small yet refreshing experiences. I pray he does the same for you.

identity crisis.

Hi, my name is Laura Armstrong and I am in the midst of a quarter-life identity crisis.

“Hi, Laura” says the ICVA (Identity Crises Victims Anonymous) crowd.

Could it be because I’m currently working a part-time job that has nothing to do with my field of study, making me feel completely incapable of achieving what I hope to do with my life? Is it the fact that I had to give up a last name that became an identification marker for years and the basis of a lot of fun nicknames? Maybe it’s that I’m a newly married, young woman who is trying to find her bearings as a new wife. Or could it be that I desperately miss and crave the community that is no longer down the road or in the same house as me?

I’ll take “All of the above” for 400, please, Alex.

Even worse, I don’t know how to make it go away. I find my interactions with others seeping with insecurity. Am I upsetting them? Did I do something to make them not want to be around me anymore? Have I lost my extroverted side?

The volume of questions that circle in my mind is deafening.

I gotta be real. I struggle with blog posts like this. The ones that are honest and vulnerable. Mainly because I think, “Save it for your journal, honey. You’re making other people uncomfortable and like they have to do something about your problems.”

This is mean and not right, I know. And for those who I know who blog like this, keep it up. I’m just jealous I can’t be that transparent. It stems from a deep cynicism which has actually improved over the years. So thank you, Jesus, for that.

And thank you, Jesus, for  shaping my identity. For telling me that regardless of where I am, my job (ESPECIALLY my job), friendships, my appearance, etc. that you are the basis of my identity. When I was in junior high, my youth leader imparted great wisdom to the gangly and awkward:

“Find your identity in what does not change. Find it in Jesus Christ”

12 years later, that phrase still pierces my heart. I am so quick to find who I am in the affirmation of my friends, the love of my husband, or an image I can portray to others. But in fact, friends and husbands make mistakes, and I do not have the strength to wear the mask of confidence and security 24/7.

So why talk about this? Why not save it for my journal where the Lord and I can duke it out. Because I need help with this. I need my friends to point me toward Christ before they point me toward their love for me. I need truth spoken to me that reminds me that whatever anxiety and insecurity I feel is but a grain of sand as compared to the vast ocean of God’s acceptance and identity of me as his daughter. I need the bind of the enemy’s hand to shrivel in the light of what God says is true.

I’m currently in the middle of a high school hallway writing this, listening to a Taylor grad teacher in the other room talk about how a kid tried to share a joint with him while he lived on campus. That’s weird. But what’s weirder is that I’m about one hug away from tears in the middle of a day of substituting. I feel a great sense of sadness underpinned with an overwhelming calm–like when I cry uncontrollably in the arms of my husband, feeling every emotion x100 but knowing that I’m safe within his grasp. In this way, he is such a physical representation of God’s embrace. I love him for that.

And today, I’m going to trust the voice of one who says this,

“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” – John 1:12

I am shamelessly a work in progress. I am wrecklessly loved by my Creator. I am eternally identified by Jesus Christ.