Sunday, August 30, 2009

One year later...

A year ago, my husband and I faced pain we never expected and never had experienced. At nearly 7 weeks in our 4th pregnancy we had a miscarriage. Though we'd only known about the baby for a short time the loss was real. This was our child - one we'd prayed for, dreamt about and had considered naming.

The walk through the valley of the shadow of death was hard, tears would fall and loneliness would consume. Though I'd never seen this little one's face or felt their touch, this baby was still a part of me.

As I reflect on the year that has passed I am amazed. God has truly been faithful. He's carried me, strengthened me and given a peace only He can provide. He has blessed me in ways I never expected. And through it all He's strengthened my faith.

By saying this in no way do I want to portray that it's been easy because the loss is still there and will forever be. As time goes by the pain isn't as raw, but it still hurts. This last week as I thought about the anniversary of the loss that changed the make-up of our family forever my mind play the what-if game quite often. And last May as our 5th pregnancy progressed I faced guilt and grief I didn't expect. As I eagerly anticipated the birth of our 4th child, I missed and grieved the one I won't see until heaven.

Those who have walked this road tell me those thoughts will remain, but in a way I guess that's OK - that way I won't ever forget our little "J." And though according to the world's standards this little one was only part of our life for a few short weeks, I know my baby will forever be a part of me.

And because of that forever aspect, this little one I never had the joy of teaching has taught me more than I ever imagined. Though in a sense God has taken away, through our loss from a year ago and the days since He has given. He has given me a wonderful reminder of how important our relationship with Him really is. Because I've accepted Christ and know Him as my Lord, one day I will see my baby and the One who saved us both!

Lord, though it hurts as my mind goes back to a year ago and the pain that was felt and the loss we endured I'm so thankful you carried me. There were times I wondered how I'd make it through, but you always provided and strengthened. Thank you Father. And Lord thank you now a year later for giving my little one such a purpose in my life, may I always hold on to the hope I find in You. In your precious name, Amen

Friday, August 28, 2009

From the mouth of my child...

About a month ago we were driving home from a weekend away. Our kids had enjoyed spending time with their aunts, uncles and cousin, not to mention lots of time at a pool and fun riding bikes. But yet at the age of 6 and 4 they had a real interesting conversation as we made our way back to the farm -

Joy, 4, says, "Vacation is fun!"

J.D., 6, agrees, "Yeah, I liked swimming and playing in Aunt Bev's woods."

Joy continues, "But sumthin else is better,"

J.D., "What?"

Joy, with all the confidence in the world says, "Vacation is not as good as dying, it's the goodest thing. Because then you get to go to heaven and that is the goodest goodest thing."

J.D. simply responded with a few words that made his homeschooling mom happy, "It's not the goodest, Joy it is the best!"

Let's just say Job and I were surprised as we sat in the front and listened to all of this unfold!

Lord, I am so thankful you speak to us through children. May we always remember that knowing you, which means someday we will see you, is the best thing! Please continue to draw my little ones to you and may they always want to know you more!!! In Jesus name, Amen

Saturday, August 22, 2009

I Wanna Be Like...

MIKE!! Do you remember the commercial from the early 90's? I believe the words went something like, "I wanna be like Mike. I dream I move, I dream I groove like Mike. If I could be like Mike..." If the memory is not returning it was an advertisement for Gatorade referring to the one and only Michael Jordan.

As a teen who was obsessed with basketball, I could relate all to well to the words. I can vividly remember afternoons on the farm when my sisters and I would back our dad's truck up near the basketball hoop so we could jump off the tailgate and practice some of MJ's dunks! Now I think back and am amazed that we never got hurt.

But the thought that strikes me even more is "Why?" I know I wanted to succeed on the basketball floor, but in reality the game is only going to take you so far. And really, what do all the records and trophies mean when it's all said and done? Believe me that question makes much more sense now at the age of 33 than it did back in high school.

During those days, it wasn't just Michael Jordan that I wanted to be like. I was also looking up to high school players when I was in junior high and college athletes and coaches during my days on varsity.

Now as I mature, my perspective changes and my faith grows I realize role models continue playing an important part in life. Only now their impact no longer revolves around what they can do with a little orange ball! I no longer dream of moving and grooving like Mike, but instead appreciate the opportunity to learn from those who are a step ahead of me in the walk of faith.

God has placed some tremendous people in my life to set an example for me as a Christian, wife, mother, friend, writer...and I'm grateful for all I glean from them. And at the same time He's also blessed me with another whole group of people - those whose stories are chronicled in the Bible. With Jesus being the ultimate role model!!

And over the last year, God has really changed the words to the song in my head, "I wanna be like...Mary, the Mother of Jesus." I don't dream of doing the things she's done, but I do long for the day when I approach life the way she did.

At times I have a tendency to doubt what God has called me to do and others I feel undeserving of what He has to offer. Once as I shared thoughts along this line with my husband, he said, "What did Mary do?"

We can look at Luke 1 to find the answer. Though she was initially confused, she trusted him and eventually responded, "I am the Lord's servant, and I am willing to accept whatever he wants. May everything you have said come true."

We all know the rest of the story...everything God said through the angel did come true. Mary was blessed. But that didn't mean her life was easy. Yes, she was the mother of the Savior of the world, but she also witnessed her son die a death no Mom wants to see.

In the end she lived the life God had for her - embracing the gifts and enduring the trials, she trusted him and He blessed her. Truly results that cannot be compared to records that get broken and trophies that collect dust. I'm so thankful God has changed the commercial in my head and pray He will continue to change the desire of my heart. I wanna be like Mary, his lowly servant girl.

Who do you wanna be like? I'd love to hear...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

An Update on the Lion

Nearly a week ago I posted about a lion loose in Iowa and this morning I wanted to take a minute and update you on the situation. Saturday the lion was becoming more at home and roaring around like he owned the place - his presence was more than influencing my actions and mindset, he was controlling them.

Finally Saturday afternoon, I made mention of the problem to some friends who could help with the situation. As I let go of thoughts that I could handle this on my own, progress began. After the events of Sunday morning things really started going in the right direction...

Again to remind you this was not a real live lion prowling around our farm, but instead satan acting like one in my head. Like I said though this past weekend the battle picked up and now 4 days later, that roaring creature is no longer in control.

The first step was simply surrendering that I could fight the battle on my own and letting go of the lie that the problem wasn't real. Then on Sunday it was as though our pastor had read my mind and gave the perfect illustration.

During the children's sermon he had all the kids stand up and then proceeded to give them a little push. He asked if they were afraid of him or if they thought he could knock them down. A few yeses were heard as well as no's. Then he told them to strengthen their stance and be prepared for the gentle push. This time around they didn't move near as much.

The visual didn't end there as he went on to say how the devil roars around like a lion wanting to shake us up and push us over. The kids shook their heads like this made sense. Then pastor Tim proceeded to ask Jaylyn, our little Peanut, if she'd help him. She obliged and then took his hand and stood in front of the group.

He then asked the kids if they were afraid of her. Now picture this - she is our tiny 2 and a half year old who still wears 18 months, so naturally the kids said, "NO!" But he went on to say, "Though she is small, she can do more damage than you think!" (Oh how true that statement is!!)

So with that he invited Brian, a former college football player and one of the biggest guys in our congregation, to come up front. P Tim continued, "now I want Brian to stand in front of the kids and Jaylyn you push Brian." Our little innocent "devil" tried but had no success.

Then P Tim closed the message by explaining when the devil is roaring and trying to push us down, we don't have to fight on our own. Jesus, big, strong, unshakable Jesus will stand in front of us. He's already taken the blows and the won the victory.

Then it was time for the real sermon to begin and we focused on 1 Peter 5:8-11 - "Be careful! Watch out for attacks from the Devil, your great enemy. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for some victim to devour. Take a firm stand against him and be strong in your faith. Remember that your Christian brothers and sisters all over the world are going through the same kind of suffering you are. In his kindness God called you to his eternal glory by means of Jesus Christ. After you have suffered for a little while, he will restore, support and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation. All power is his forever and ever. Amen"

It's true the devil is roaring, but the greater truth is we are not alone and God is constantly restoring, supporting, strengthening and settling us. These battles are temporary, but His power is eternal. Stand strong behind Him today!!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Good Friend or A God Friend?

Have you ever had a good friend? As a child perhaps this was the girl you played with, dressed like and always invited to your house. Maybe in the teen years you spent hours on the phone together, were there for one another during the difficult times and combined your abilities on an athletic team. Then as life went on perhaps this good friend was someone you worked with or who had children the same age as yours.

Looking back at the various stages in life, good friends through the years have some similarities. They are the ones we talk with, listen to, laugh with and even shed tears with. She's the gal we call in times of trouble and lean on when life gets tough. Those who are really good friends get to know us well, sometimes better than we know ourselves! These friends are special.

But my life experience shows that even good friends don't last forever. As times change, friendships do too. That doesn't mean these good friends don't serve a purpose, but it does prove they don't last forever.

Though I will always value my good friends and treasure those relationships from years gone by, I'm beginning to appreciate another type of friend, my God friends. These gals are good friends, but they take the next step. We do and share all the things I've done with my good friends, but yet the friendship is different.

I'm starting to realize these women care more about my relationship with God than they do about my friendship with them. And that is huge. I'm sure many of us can think back to the difficult days of junior high and recall a friendship or two that only revolved around what we had to offer. With God friends that is not the case.

With these women you can still talk and laugh, cry and listen, but these relationships are real. With a God friend you don't simply get together for a good time, you cross paths and share life. She is there to listen and rejoice, support and encourage. Since she too is walking in the truth, she also keeps you accountable, has the ability to see the mistakes you make and earned your trust and respect to confront you with it. These friends don't just build you up, they strengthen your faith as well.

I think about my good friends through the years and at time miss the things we shared, but will always value the memories. At the same time I look ahead and think about the God friends I now have. I know that though time and distance may separate us because these relationships are based on God, not good things, they will last forever. My God friends and I will always be connected; our friendship will stand strong now and forever.

"Thank you Lord for good friends and especially God friends! Like your word says they truly do love at all times. Though sometimes that love is tough, I greatly appreciate all you do through the people you've placed in my life. And Lord, thank you for being the best friend of all! In your precious name, Amen"

Friday, August 14, 2009

There's a lion loose in Iowa -

And he’s made our farm his home. His very presence has changed our actions and altered my attitude. He’s made me fearful and caused me to worry. When I feel him prowling around, I think about the damage he can do and wonder when he will attack. He even affects my life when he wonders off and hides; it’s then I worry about what will come next.

He himself hasn’t directly caused any harm, but the impact he’s made on me has created some damage. Only days before his arrival, I had taken leaps of faith, but now because of the fear he inflicts I am afraid to even take a step. Once there was confidence, but this lion prowling around has replaced that with doubt. Previously I could hear the whispers of encouragement, but now his roar has drowned that out.

Now before you google lion in Iowa and search for the latest news and most recent pictures, let me tell you, “I have yet to inform the authorities.” You see, I thought this was a situation we could handle on our own. My husband’s a hunter, so I figured he could protect us. Our dogs are here and would warn us if the lion came to close. And besides this creature really hadn’t hurt anyone yet, so why bother others when there are problems bigger than this?

First Peter 5:8 tells us, “Be careful! Watch out for attacks from the devil, your great enemy. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for some victims to devour.” The words are true and though I can’t look out my window and see a wild animal the picture I created is real. Our farm hasn’t been his home, instead it’s been my mind.

When the devil tries to move in, he can change our actions and alter our attitudes. He can take faith and replace it with fear. His roar of lies can cause you to miss God’s whispers of truth.

And as he gradually does damage, he distorts our view. We can think the problem isn't that bad and often think we can combat him on our own. Simply another lie he tells when he moves into our life. No matter how strong we are and even if we have others surrounding us to help, it’s not a battle we fight on our own.

When there’s a lion loose, the authority must be informed. Rather than grabbing the phone and dialing 911, we must hit our knees and call out to the Lord. He will strengthen us and remind us of the victory He’s already won.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Same old song...

Today our church held a potluck and extended the fellowship with a variety show. We enjoyed a similar event nearly a year and a half ago and today God blessed us once again. He truly has gifted members of the congregation - there were remarkable testimonies given by youth and hilarious skits performed by many.

Variety shows and all they entail have never been a strong point for me, so involving myself in them is a step out of the old comfort zone. At the first one I didn’t dive in myself, but encouraged our kids to take part and at the ages of 5 and 3 the fear of being in front of others hadn’t really set in, so they willingly obliged. They sang their favorite song, “Jesus Loves Me” and joined a cousin in singing “I’ve Got the Joy” and “Amazing Grace.”

This past week the upcoming variety show and preparing for it never made it to the top of my to-do list. And with our oldest gone the last 3 days it seemed I had an excuse to simply show up and be a spectator. Well, that strategy seemed to work until he returned home just as church was coming to a close.

My parents had taken him and another grandson on a little vacation and then we reconnected at church. After a quick hug and “hi mom,” he was ready to head home, show me his new treasures and tell of his trip. I informed him we’d be staying for dinner and having the variety show.

He quickly said, “I want to sing.” I asked him what he was going to sing and naturally he said, “Jesus Loves Me” with Joy. In my mind I thought you did that last time, but in my heart I wondered how can I discourage him from doing the very thing I’m afraid of doing? So I then asked if there was a different song and as bold as a little 6 year old can he said, “No I just want to sing ‘Jesus Loves Me.”

I told him I’d check with the gal in charge and see if he could still be put on the schedule and just left it at that. It’s always cute to see little ones sing and I figured the congregation wouldn’t mind hearing this familiar tune once again.

So the show began and eventually J.D. and Joy were called to go up front and he turns to me and says, “Mom, I want you to come with.” Now for a Mom who can’t sing those are scary words!! But I agreed and said I’d sit up front by them. That eased his fears and off we went.

When the 3 of us turned around, J.D. and Joy stepped to the stage and we were met by Jaylyn, our 2 year old Peanut. As usual she wasn’t going to be left out!! J.D. moved to the center, joined hands with his little sisters and started to sing.

Though I’ve tried to correct him numerous times, he sung the version he always sings, “Jesus loves me, YES I know…” And as I sat there, thoughts went to worries I’d had an hour earlier, J.D. don’t you want to sing a different song?

I don’t think that question will ever enter my mind again because I pray that song will always be in my children's hearts and come out of their mouths. More than that I pray they will always say with that same boldness (that sometimes drives me crazy), “Jesus loves me, YES I know.”

The song may be familiar, but the message never grows old!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Back to reality...

This past weekend I attended She Speaks – what an absolutely amazing time. Last night I was still running on adrenaline, but just this morning I told my husband, “I think I’ve come off the mountain.” He simply replied, “You knew that was going to happen.”

He’s right, but I didn’t know it would be so difficult. I don’t even know the name of the song, who sang it or really what it was about, but a line from my younger days keeps coming back, “And coming down is the hardest thing.” How true! I can’t believe the contrast in my emotions as I compare today with just one week ago.

Last Thursday I was full of worry and doubt as I tried to pack bags, practice talks and just face the facts that I was about to encounter plenty of firsts. Add that to a pregnancy that hit the 27-week mark and needless to say there were plenty of emotions.

In the time since, the emotions have just grown stronger and now a week later my mind is still full. I never expected returning to reality to be such a challenge. But as I step back and really look at what has taken place it all makes sense.

One of the first things the P31 staff shared with all of us last Friday was how we were with 600 women who really got us. And they were right. Everyone I talked with seemed to become a fast friend. The women, each and everyone, were so encouraging and full of God’s love that it truly was amazing. Their realness was a blessing as well. Other’s ability to admit mistakes and insecurities truly touched my life. It not only removed that feeling of being alone, but also reminded me that if God can use them – the broken and beautiful creation that they are, He can use me as well.

I’ve never been one to leave home too often and when I’ve attended a conference it’s never been by myself. Though that frightened me a little (OK a lot), now I know it’s the best thing that could have happened. In that real alone time, God had plenty of opportunities to speak to me and wow, was I humbled. And inspired. To say I came home on top of the world is truly an understatement.

But like I said, today it’s back to reality. Not that I’ve just arrived home, but the excitement of being home has worn off and the work I left behind needs to be done. There’s the usual laundry, dishes and cleaning. Little ones that need time with mom and a husband who needs his wife as well. Prep work for my 1st grade son’s home school year that will begin in less than 2 weeks. And thoughts of what needs to be done before our 4th child arrives in less than 3 months. If I let it, it can all be overwhelming!

Still the bigger challenge is not just returning to reality but the real world where not all 600 plus people in our small town get it. At the conference though we were all being called in different directions, every woman had the same mission – make Jesus famous and in the world today that is not the case. When I’m misunderstood or looked at as different it can be difficult to embrace that call and too easy to give into the doubt that results as I worry about what others think.

The hardest part of this coming down business though stems from the doubt. When worry and fear enter in, Satan only speaks louder. His lies can echo in my mind, “God really didn’t say that. Who do you think you are? He can’t use you. Think of what others will say.” The reality of facing him is a challenge!

As my mind thought about the words of that song from long ago another quote I heard recently came to mind. I believe it was Anne Graham Lotz I heard say, “Fruit doesn’t grow on the mountain, it grows in the valley.” So today as I continue my descend I will focus on her words rather than the lyrics and be thankful.

My mountaintop experience at She Speaks was truly a blessing, but it won’t be all it was met for until I head out to the valley and apply all I’ve learned and live as the woman He called me to be. On the mountaintop, I was close to God, but I know His light still shines in the valley and I trust He will make the fruit grow!!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

More than words...

This past Sunday evening I returned from the Proverbs 31 She Speaks conference, which was amazing!! My family and I spent the night at my sister-in-laws and when they asked how it was I simply said there were not words to describe all the weekend held, but then went on to talk for over 2 hours. But still it didn't come close to justifying all the conference held. God was obviously present and every person there was sharing His love and encouragement.

Yesterday on her blog, Lysa TerKeurst asked attendees to share about their experience and 2 days later I still feel as there will never be enough words. I was touched in so many ways by so many people. God confirmed things I've been thinking about and working on along with reminding me of what ministry is all about.

So as I've thought about what to say I've decided to share some I put on paper Saturday night. The day had been full of wonderful talks by amazing speakers, I'd survived speaker evaluations, and been touched by seeing the heart of many women called by God.

I'd went to sleep but then awoke in the early hours with much on my mind. As an individual who's always tended to compare myself to others and feel I wasn't as capable or worthy, I had been deeply touched by the lack of this very thing at the conference. It didn't matter who I spoke, they treated me the same.

Lysa had set this tone early on as she spoke about us all being on the same team and as a former athlete I connected with her words. It didn't matter who was the MVP, on the starting 5 or the last off the bench - we are all on the same team and Jesus is the star!!

Like I said the words weren't just said, but lived out by everyone there - well known speakers, attendees, volunteers, everyone! It is often said actions speak louder than words and that is true.

So Saturday night as my mind wouldn't shut off, it seemed God put these words on my heart...

"What is it about?"
It's not about me -
who I am or
what I've done,
who I've been or
the qualifications I have earned.

It's about God -
who He is and
the power He has.
The strength He supplies and
the opportunities He provides.

It's not about me -
how good I sound or
high I climb.
How well I'm known or
successful I become.

It's about God -
how great He is and
the gifts He gives.
It's about His unconditional love and
the power of His name.

What is it about?
Something I don't deserve,
but yet I have received.
It's not about me,
but all about Him.

"An Ordinary Girl"
My house can be a mess and
sometimes the kids are naughty.
My past is far from perfect and
my mind is full of doubt.
Lord, I'm not qualified and
this is nothing I deserve -
I'm just an ordinary girl.

Then I met her -
the one who has it all together
or so I thought,
but she's not perfect either.
She's had her share of falls and
even questioned her own worth -
She's an ordinary girl.

But God, then there's You -
the Maker of the heavens and the earth.
The One who moves mountains
and has counted every star.
You can use us all,
especially when we're just
an ordinary girl!!

I would like to close by saying thanks to the entire P31 staff, my wonderful roomie, Amy, Micca Campbell and my eval team, and all the attendees who touched my life.