Tag Archives: waiting

A Season of Socks?

I got a lot of socks this Christmas.

Socks are one of those Christmas gifts that get a lot of attention because of their disappointing nature. With the exception of something like a plunger, socks are one of the most lackluster, practical gifts you can get. When they’re in competition with literally any other gift, socks seem to lose every time. The younger the recipient, the more likely the loss.

In fact, the only reason that my privileged self was excited about getting socks this Christmas is because, at twenty-three and living in the Midwest, I see the value of keeping my feet warm. And when you work part-time for a church, socks can quickly become a luxury item that eats away at your budget.

What do socks have to do with anything? I think, and stay with me on this, that these next two months are season of getting “socks” from the Lord.

If you know me or are following the story, you know that I submitted an application that, at least at this point, the current plan for my future is dependent on. By early November, I had confirmation, on all sides, about specific, future missions work. Not only was it confirmation from the missions organization and the city’s current team, but it seemed like consistent confirmation Lord. Believe me when I say I’m ready to go. Perhaps even more than just “going,” I’m ready for clarity. I’m ready to move forward in the plans of the Lord, regardless of what they end up looking like.

But I can’t.

My hands are tied until at least the end of January, more likely the beginning of March.

There’s nothing else to process or pray about. The search for confirmation and discernment has been called off. There’s nothing else for me to do but wait. I’m living the epitome of “it’s out of my hands and all up to Jesus.”

I was praying, admittedly from a place of impatience, the other night. I found myself a little disoriented, fumbling around my Scripture reading and worship, in light of the question-heavy nature of my relationship with Jesus these past few months. All the sudden there was nothing to ask, no specific thread that needed pressing into.

This time is a gift, Maddie.

“Okay, sure. All my time with you is a gift, Lord. Times of waiting are always a gift.” I brushed it off. Believe me when I say that I’ve done seasons of waiting with the Lord before. But then again:

This time is a gift, Maddie.

Since the summer, my prayers have revolved around questions of missions and calling.

Come March 2, regardless of the outcome of the application, the reality of my life will resurface that.

But for two months, there aren’t questions driving my spiritual life. Everything is in a rhythm (or out of my hand). And here is Jesus, saying that this time is a gift.

 

It was only after a Holy-Spirit-inspired revelation, after I heard my answer to a friend’s “how are you doing” inquisition, that I got it. That I realized that He’s giving me a season of socks – and how simple that may seem, but how necessary it really is.

My answer to a simple “how are you doing” revolved around the future, my waiting, the application, and missions. It seems innocent enough but, without realizing it, I had linked what I may be doing with how I actually am. Those are two very different things, and they are both grasping for control of my soul and identity.

The reality of who I am in Christ had become dangerously muddled with what He’s leading me into. Season that force me to ask questions about work, calling, vocation, and ability run that risk. It is so easy for my identity to get tied up in my circumstances when, realistically, those are the things that I need the Lord to speak into. I know that in March the temptation will return to sync my identity with what I’m doing and what God is calling me to.

But, for two months, He’s all but removed that temptation.

He’s giving me a gift that is practical and necessary, however lackluster it may appear. I need a season, regardless of how short, of re-learning what it means to just be Jesus’. Because He loves me, is for me, and is good. Full stop.

I need to be reminded of what God thinks of me and what it means to be with Him, irrespective of anything else.

I’m not saying that I’m 100% sold on this “gift of socks season.” It’s a hard sell that waiting is the greatest thing in the world. Like with socks, I appreciate them a little more than I might have five years ago, but there are other gifts that I think I’d prefer. But that’s why He’s the Giver, and I’m not.

Because what could be better, what could be more necessary, than the gift of just being His?

Stop complaining and put on the socks, Maddie. Enjoy this time of learning what it means to just be with me. To be loved by me. If my love for you never went beyond this, right here, knowing that I love you, it would be enough. I want this to be a time that you look back on when the demands are a lot, when you forget that I don’t see you as “faithful servant” first. There’s nothing that you can do these next two months, nothing you have answers to, no spectacular story to share, nothing that makes you look spiritual. So find me when you feel like you have little to give, when your faith feels small. I’ve wired your for things and set about my plans in your life, which you follow in costly obedience, but Maddie, what you were ultimately built for was just to be mine. I want to teach you about the consistency of my nature in a season where I’ve given you little else to hold onto. You may not know what I’m doing, but you know who I am. You may not know what you are doing, but know who you are. Let me remind you of exactly who you are. 

When Healing Isn’t What You Thought

Disclaimer: this is a little long and pretty honest, so read at your own discretion.

“I, too, have known years of waiting – years of hoping and praying and dreaming of a cure no doctor could offer, years of waiting for a healing encounter with Jesus. Every new morning  was a reminder that I was promised no healing and guaranteed no end stamp on the condition I carried. . .It was in the middle of these questions and prayers and confusion that I found myself waiting for a God I couldn’t always make sense of or understand. But I met him in the waiting. And for me, that changed everything.” Ann Swindell, Still Waiting 

Every time I get my period without medication, it’s a miracle. Like a “Jesus really came through” miracle. Not the kind that is easy to talk about, but still glorious nonetheless. I want to share with you why.

I got my first period right after my thirteenth birthday.

And as you should be at thirteen, I was so excited. It meant I was less of a kid and more like my twenty-year-old babysitter who I thought was pretty much the coolest person since Hilary Duff.

This was my face after realizing my period had started up again in the airport before our trip to Europe. Shoutout to my grandma who found pads at an airport kiosk! Little did I know that my period wouldn’t stop for another 5 weeks.

I didn’t get my second period until months later. And it lasted for six weeks. Six weeks. That’s six weeks of PMS, cramps, and hormone levels, on top of my already crazy adolescent emotions. Tired, overwhelmed, and anemic, I saw the only gynecologist who would take on a thirteen year old. Pitying the poor, exhausted girl in front of her, I was put on the strongest birth control she could prescribe. It seemed like a one-stop-shop answer.

As the months went by and my birth control prescription kept changing because of insurance, it became alarmingly apparent that something wasn’t working. I had noticed a little weight gain and increased lethargy, but it was my emotions that proved to be the most concerning. I was on high levels of synthetic hormones and, at fourteen, I was self-aware enough to realize that something felt very, very wrong. When asked by my parents, I would describe myself as feeling detached, apathetic, and unaware. I felt like I was watching my life instead of living it, like I was in a daze or a dream. I didn’t seem to care about anything in a life that, months before, had been vibrant and energetic. I found myself wanting to sleep as often as possible, though often struggling with insomnia at night. There were daily headaches. Hot flashes. The need to hide my birth control from my church friends to avoid being questioned.

By fifteen, doctors were concerned enough to take an ultrasound and fifteen vials of blood. As they massaged the ultrasound machine over my abdomen, my thoughts were less about my impending diagnoses and more about how awkward it was going to be when I peed all over the examining table. I made it out of the examining room sans embarrassment and waited for answers.

“We don’t really know what is wrong. But you probably have PCOS.”

PCOS, or polycystic ovarian syndrome, is an endocrine disorder that affects 1 in 10 women. As a syndrome, the diagnosis comes from your symptoms and there is no cure. It’s categorized by cysts on your ovaries, irregular periods, weight gain, insulin resistance, anxiety, depression, insomnia, digestive issues, and infertility. I was like the poster child for genetically inherited PCOS. It varies in strength and affects every woman uniquely and individually.

It’s hard to struggle with things that aren’t visible. Most PCOS symptoms aren’t, and the ones that are, like weight gain, can always be blamed on something else. When you acting irritable, exhausted, and anxious, it’s easy for people to write it off as annoying. It’s harder for people to “get it,” to believe that something really is off, when they can’t see it. And when it’s attached to inherently female issues and hormones, it can make people a tad uncomfortable.

at a dance competition in 2009

So, silently and often alone, I tried to fix it myself. I kept a journal. I spent time with Jesus. I tried to maintain friendships. I ate healthy. I danced competitively. But despite my best efforts, I still did not feel like myself and I continued to gain weight.

And that began to cause other problems. Dance teacher’s told me that if the XL leotard didn’t fit that they would have to special order a bigger size. We would be measured for costumes and our measurements would be called out, which all the girls would later compare. We’d try on our booty shorts and, while everyone else complained that theirs were falling off, I struggled to make mine not look like they were tailor-made for a stripper. Friends would bring cupcakes for their birthday and I would feign a stomach ache. Without realizing it was happening, my world suddenly became about how I looked, what I weighed, and what I ate. Getting a solo or mastering a triple pirouette didn’t seem to matter when I heard girls snickering about how I was the biggest in the company. My crushes were exploited for laughs and my body was used as a punchline.

My medical diagnoses swirled with the reality of my teenage life into a perfect storm of disordered eating. I would go hours without eating. I would count calories. Skip meals. I would come home from hours at dance to do more workout videos. On occasion, I’d jam a toothbrush down my throat to try and make myself throw up. Then, when I got hungry, I often found that I couldn’t stop – I’d binge on a whole jar of peanut butter or pack of cookies. And I’d beat myself up about it, crying myself to sleep and vowing to do better tomorrow.

junior year of college, hiking in Colorado, on a new medication and feeling very sick

When I lost weight, people would comment. When I gained weight, people would comment. Everyone had an opinion on my body and everybody had an opinion on PCOS: if you lose weight, it’ll go away. Everything will stabilize if you would just lose 10, 15, 20lbs. One gynecologist even suggested that I tried belly dancing, offering that maybe my weight gain was just a workout plateau. I tried every medication – ones to help stabilize my hormones, ones to help lose weight, ones to help with insulin resistance, ones to help regulate my period, ones to help with my headaches or insomnia. But none of it worked.

 

With every new doctor, every new lab result, and every worsening symptom, I kept crying out to Jesus: Why won’t you just heal me?

He healed the woman with the problem of blood and all she had to do was touch His clothes. My problem felt eerily similar and yet, month after month, the headaches, the weight gain, the mood swings, the insomnia, the irregular periods journeyed with me. Jesus, in your power and for your glory, won’t you please heal me?

That is still my prayer.

For me, full healing still hasn’t come.

But the funny thing about healing is that it doesn’t take completeness to see miracles. It doesn’t take victory on the other side to assure you of Christ’s presence with you in it. In a season that reminds us of the blessings of God in the midst of waiting (advent), I’ve come to see my journey of healing the same way.

Because while PCOS, it’s associated symptoms, and the remnants of my teenage eating disorder still creep their way into my daily life, I’ve found healing in vulnerability. I’ve found healing in people who believed me, who didn’t tell me to try not eating after 7pm to lose weight, but instead cried with me as I told them my story. Who believed that when I told them that I was experiencing gut-wrenching stomach pain or that I couldn’t fall asleep until 2am, that I wasn’t exaggerating.

I’ve found healing in giving myself freedom, in the permission to both enjoy my life and be honest about my physical pain or emotions, especially when they mean leaving a situation. I’ve found physical things that work – vitamins that help supplement low levels, always having ibuprofen on hand, watching silly TV shows when I can’t sleep, or not eating breakfast until later in the day.

I’ve found healing in clinging to Jesus when the day feels long, stress emphasizes my symptoms, I can’t fit into an old pair of jeans, or it all just feels like too much. I let Him take my tears and frustration and anger. An incomplete healing propels me closer to my Savior, as I put my hope and expectancy in Him and the empathy He demonstrated on the cross.

My story of healing isn’t over, but in reality, none of our stories of healing are over. I know, with full confidence, that all Jesus would have to do is say the word and my cystic ovaries would look shiny and smooth. My wacky hormone levels would be balanced. My sleepless nights would be peaceful and I wouldn’t need carry a sweater around in the summer. But if that never happens, it doesn’t make Him less loving or faithful.

cliff jumping in Turkey, in the summer of 2017 – living into the freedom and hope of life in Christ

For as much as I believe that the Lord can heal my PCOS, I know now that He may not. I may never have biological children. I may always get headaches, have digestive problems, struggle with insomnia, and find myself unable to regulate my weight. But you know what? That isn’t the worst thing because it, quite literally, keeps me clinging to Jesus. I recognize, everyday, that I cannot do this without Him.

My hope is in the healing and redemption of eternity, not of this life.

My hope is in my risen Christ.

I won’t be living in a redeemed body until I’m standing before my Jesus, face to face. And if that means I have to carry PCOS in my bones (or, more accurately, my reproductive organs), for the rest of my life, that’s okay. He gets to

chose the story that brings Him glory. And, as He’s proven time and time again, He is faithful.

Impatience.

This impatient heart inside me

yearning for answers . . . to know

unsatisfied with in-between,

spiteful of my need to grow.

• • •

The heart within me groans –

how I hate the call of waiting!

how I hate all that’s unknown!

• • •

He tells me His work is slow,

His process long and grinding,

but His providence will never fail

down these paths unwinding.

• • •

I have no cause for doubt,

nor reason to question His name,

yet my impatient heart is here again,

exchanging faithfulness for pain.

• • •

I do it to myself,

this wandering from grace.

“Oh my Jesus, take me back

to the place of resting in your pace.”

spring 2017 // maddie macmath

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If You Give a Maddie a Cookie

I’m sure you know the children’s book, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. It tells the story of a sweet little mouse who is hopelessly trapped in a circular tale of desire. He gets the cookie and realizes he wants milk. The milk makes him need napkin. The napkin reminds him that he wants to color. Coloring reminds him that he’s hungry. And so it goes…

A couple of months ago, I re-read this book inside Minneapolis’ Wild Rumpus Bookstore for Children. As a chicken ran around my feet and a cat nuzzled my leg, I was struck by this bedtime story’s similarity to my twenty-something life. Then again, isn’t that often how it goes with things that were meant for little ones?

Because, for as far as I’d like to imagine that I’ve come, I’m really no better than the mouse. Except we’ve swapped cookies and coloring for larger circumstances, life-related answers, and more adult-sized longings:

If the Lord gives Maddie a cookie, she’ll probably wonder where she’s going to eat the cookie.

When the Lord tells her where she can eat the cookie, she’ll probably wonder who she can share the cookie with.

When the Lord tells her that the people she will share the cookie with aren’t here yet, she’ll probably wonder when they will show up.

In waiting for them to show up, she’ll probably realize she wants some milk to go along with the cookie. So she’ll start praying for milk.

When the Lord gives her a glass of milk, she’ll drink it (probably forgetting to say “thank you”) and then ask for a napkin to wipe her face with.

Waiting for the napkin will remind her that she was also waiting on people to share her cookie with, which was the point of the milk in the first place.

One answer leads to the next, except the answers always seems to perpetuate more questions, more desires, more expectations about what’s next. Questions about today lead into questions about my future which remind me that I have questions about timing and purpose and desire and expectations, and next thing I know I’m searching for more answers than I am enjoying the cookie in front of me.

As much as I want to believe that I don’t fall into patterns like the little mouse, if I’m honest, it’s easier than I’d like to fall into this “giving a mouse her cookie” spirituality. I tell the Lord that if He’ll be clear about this one thing that I’ll be able to fully rest in trusting Him. If only I knew what internship or job to take, where I’m going to live after graduation, what my future community will look like, if I’ll get the scholarship, if I’ll ever end up overseas, who He’s asking me to serve with, etc. then I wouldn’t be so crazy, obsessive, or confused. I say that I’m not looking for answers to everything, just this one thing. Except it’s never just this one thing. As soon as the Lord gives me clarity on step 2, I’ve already begun searching for steps 3 and 4. The next thing I know, my trust in the Lord has gone out the window and I’ve convinced myself that I’ll be satisfied after the next step, but the next step never comes. The hamster wheel never flattens out and so we just keep running and spinning…fretting about what’s next, searching for the next answered prayer, all while missing what’s in the moment and being grateful for what’s passed.

The first step is realizing when we’ve fallen into patterns of running on the wheel and the second step is jumping off. Smelling the flowers. Enjoying our cookie. Sharing with the people around us. Expecting the napkin to come, sure, because God is a God who delights in providing and calls us to depend. But not worrying about the crumbs that are falling while we wait.

cookie

 

Because I’m With You

During my time in Asia, I visited this place called the Home of Hope. The name is kind of a misnomer, however, since the atmosphere seemed to suck every breath of hope out of my lungs. I remember my eyes stinging, whether from the equatorial sun radiating off the concrete slab beneath my dusty flip flops or from… Read more. . .

When God says Wait

Wait. How about now, I mutter. Wait. Now. There’s demand in my voice. I can hear the whine of a two year old In my prayer But sometimes I feel obligated To use a more mature voice when I pray As if I can hide All the vulnerable pulses of my heart. I trust you,… Read more. . .

A Prayer for Your Thursday Afternoon

Here’s why I love written prayers, poems, and stories: they often use words to explain the thoughts and emotions that we may not be able to fully articulate. As a visual, emotional, internal processor, putting how I’m doing or what I’m feeling into words is often a challenge. It’s not uncommon for me to voice something days or weeks after… Read more. . .

5 Truths I Learn When I Have a Crush

I’ve been thinking about this for awhile. Basically the past ten years. I went through middle school immersed in the “true love waits/kiss dating goodbye” Christian culture, so I spent a lot of my younger years thinking that crushing on a boy was inherently wrong. In my little twelve year old mind, I often equated crushing… Read more. . .

On Waiting, Advent, and deja vu. . .

I don’t know what it is about Advent that seems to bring me back to the idea of waiting. There must just always be something in the air, because the things the Lord was speaking during my quiet time yesterday seemed incredibly familiar. After typing “waiting” in the search bar of this blog, I realized… Read more. . .

In the Stillness of Summer, He is God

My journal is sitting on the table beside our guest bed. It’s been mostly unopened all summer. My Bible sits next to it. It’s not much better. And there’s this tension, because it’s not that I’m running away from Jesus. But am I actually running toward Him? There was something soothing about the busyness of… Read more. . .