In the Valley Series: Our Story

July 15

Recently I’ve had multiple conversations about the trials and storms of life and it’s a conversation I love having, so much that it sparked the beginning of the “In the Valley Series.”  It’s interesting to hear how everyone looks at things differently, what they take away from their trials, and the questions they ask during the trials. One of the most common questions all people ask is “Why?”

When we’re honest, we will admit we have all asked that question when life seems like a windstorm of trials. I know my husband and I have, and God has been so gracious to give us an answer that we can’t argue with, one that directly correlates with our lives, we asked for it. I’m not saying everyone who experiences trials have asked for it, I’m simply sharing our story with you today.

Who would ask for trials, right? Did we ask God for health problems, car accidents, multiple job losses, surgeries, unexplained sicknesses that flip life upside down, a sick child who needed two lung surgeries, relationship problems or life changing information that would rock our world? Absolutely not. We didn’t ask for trials specifically, I don’t think anyone would. Trials are a natural part of a fallen world, however, I believe for us there was more to it.

So what exactly did we ask? We asked God to use us to help show others who He is. Use, I know, that word can be seen as a negative thing, but in this instance, I firmly believe it’s an honor.

Use – take, hold, or deploy (something) as a means of accomplishing a purpose or achieving a result; employ; the action of using something or the state of being used for some purpose.

Several years ago, Jesus Christ changed our lives in a major way. We encountered Him during a major trial in such a way that there was no possible way to walk away unchanged. We were so affected by His life changing power and healing that we wanted to share it with everyone we could. We wanted Christ to take hold of us and deploy us into the world around us to accomplish His purposes. We began to see our day-to-day lives differently. It was exciting, but it was scary.

We had no way of knowing what our deployment would look like when we asked for it. When our assignments came in the form of trials, heartache, disappointments, and so many other packages we didn’t expect, we didn’t understand what was happening. I suppose we had a different vision in mind, a mountain view, maybe.

A few assignments in, more specifically the second time our daughter was in the children’s hospital just after her first lung surgery, is when He spoke straight to our hearts and helped us see what we we’re going through was an assignment in response to our request.  It was a moment I will never forget.

That long night sitting in the hospital room staring at my daughter as she desperately attempted to rest in spite of all the medical equipment hooked up to her and the pain she was left with after surgery, God showed us it was in the valley He could use us more than on the mountains. We were surrounded by sick children and parents who were worried, afraid, confused, and scared. They didn’t know what life would hold for their families.

The more our daughter spoke up to every nurse, doctor and visitor who walked into her room about being a servant of God, and God being the One who was healing her, the more we realized what He was saying to us. Our walk down the halls began to take on a different view. We were in the midst of lives who needed hope, who wanted answers, who needed strength, and those things only come from one source, Jesus Christ.

Valley – a low area of land between hills or mountains, typically with a river or stream flowing through it; a low point or interval in any process, representation, or situation.

Valley’s are what come in between the mountains. The beauty of a valley is the river and streams that flow through them. When we’re in the valley, our faith is stretched along that river but the stream of God’s love and faithfulness flow through us, and He always provides all we need to navigate through them. When something flows, it moves. Our valley’s move our faith to grow, move our hearts closer to God’s, and develops compassion within us so it will move out of us.  Often, we don’t appreciate that beauty until we’re looking back from the mountain. Valley’s aren’t forever, they are an interval in the journey of life.

Without trials in life, how could we ever come to know God as our Comforter, our Healer, our Refuge, our Ever Present Help? If we don’t know God for who He is, how can we share who He is with a lost and dying world who desperately needs to know Him? These are the questions that God peaked in our minds and hearts that has helped change the way we look at trials.

Do we always remember these truths each time a trial comes our way? Not always immediately. Do we still ask why? Yes, sometimes we do,  but He is faithful to remind us it’s not about the why, but the Who. That’s been one of the greatest lessons that have come from our valley’s, knowing Who in a way we never could have any other way.

If our true desire is in fact to show people who HE is, we have to be as willing to travel the valleys as we are to stand on the mountains. They aren’t going to be easy, but we are learning they are always worth it. It’s amazing to see how God brings people into our lives who are going through the same valley’s we’ve been through and we are able to share our experiences with them of how God brought us through and we can do it with love, understanding, and compassion. If we hadn’t experienced what we had, we couldn’t help others the way He desires us to, with His attributes. He also brings people into our lives who have been through the valley’s we are going through and they share their experiences with us. Scripture says to encourage one another, build one another up, and to spur one another on to love and good works.  Sharing our hope and faith stories with one another does just that for both believers and those who don’t know Christ yet.

God is a loving and merciful Father who wants every life to experience His healing and salvation. He’s given us all a mission of making disciples, and that process starts by helping someone to come to know Christ, which means we need to know who He is first. People don’t want just a theological explanation, they want a real life transformation.

Realizing we’re a part of a mission that brings hope to a world that desperately needs it by sharing the hope we have in Christ Jesus helps us to count our trials as joy the way James talks about. Our faith could never grow without a workout and it’s a workout that has the potential to build more than muscle that can waste away, it builds God’s Kingdom that stands forever.

It’s hard to say why God allows trials in the lives of some but not others, but it all comes down to this, He’s Sovereign. He knows what each of us need in our lives to build, equip, and prepare us for the plan He has for us. Our family has learned and continues to learn there is nothing that happens in our lives that God isn’t in. Everything we face, everything that comes our way has purpose and that purpose is to help us do exactly what we asked God to do, use us to help others know who He is and lead them to Jesus. He shows us daily that He works all things together for the good. 

An array of questions may swirl, but the answer always comes down to Jesus. He is Salvation, He is Hope, He is Healer, He is Life, He is Redeemer!

“All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:15-18 

Three Steps Beyond The Superficial To The Genuine

 

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“How are you?”

We’ve all responded to those three little words with the plastered smile and the all too familiar words “I’m good!” All while inside our hearts are yearning for relationship and community with others, for someone to really want to listen as you share the not so “good” answer and to just know that there is someone who really does care.

So often we are quick to ask someone how they are doing whether it be in formality or just small talk and expect nothing in return but a good, positive answer. But what if when we ask we don’t keep walking by, we don’t mess with our phones or look around the room for someone else, and we take the time to really listen and let someone know that we really do care what’s going on in their lives?

Now I know there are people who love to tell you everything thing that’s going wrong in their lives every time they talk to you, but I can’t help but wonder how many people they tried to tell and they didn’t really listen so they keep searching for one who will? We may have to limit our time exposed to deep negativity, but first, we may want to be sure it’s true negativity and not thirst for love, relationship, and community.

We are wired for relationship. Inside all of our hearts lies the desire to be loved, cared about, and to matter to somebody, somewhere.  We read throughout scripture the importance of building one another up and encouraging one another, spurring one another on to love and good deeds, and not to seek our own good but the good of others. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 9:22-23 that he becomes all things to all people for the sake of the gospel, shouldn’t we?

Rather those we’re talking to are believers or not, they need to be heard. I am a firm believer that there are no coincidences in life. I believe God orchestrates and divinely appoints every meeting, whether it’s a close friend passing by in church and we’re saying hello, or a stranger in the grocery store. He places people on our paths for a reason. He knows they need a listening ear, some encouragement, a reminder of who He is by how we respond, or maybe even an encounter with Him through us because they do not know Him, just yet.

Superficial – external; outward; concerned with or comprehending only what’s on the surface or obvious; shallow.

God has brought me to a point in my life where I have become very aware of superficial relationships, meetings, and encounters in more ways than one. But I want to share two of them with you in hopes of encouraging you.

The first being in our relationship with Jesus Christ. How many superficial encounters have we had with Him? Those quick prayers rather than getting on our knees and basking in His presence and really sharing our heart with Him, and allowing Him to share His heart with us through His Word. Those days where we keep pushing Him to the side while we run aimlessly down our to do list only to fall in to the bed at night with yet another quick prayer that remains on the surface or obvious. When we spend time together with Christ in true relationship we will have our greatest need for relationship fulfilled. He is always there to listen, and His love is unfailing and everlasting!  Our hearts can only be satisfied by being in an intimate relationship with Him.

The second being our relationships with others. During some trying times in my life when circumstances were difficult, I found myself needing someone to just listen. I didn’t need advice, I didn’t need to say the overused, “I’m good” with a plastered smile. I desperately needed someone to look at me and say, “are you really?” and not stop there, but really take time to listen to my heart. Sometimes we’re so quick to ask someone how they are but then not pause long enough to give them a chance to be honest. We want to keep everything on a superficial level, being only concerned with what’s on the surface. The question is why? There could be many reasons but my conversation with you today isn’t to answer that question. Rather I want to share three things that God has shown me that we can do to move past superficial to genuine relationships.

  1. Go beyond the walking Hello – Rather in our relationship with Christ or one another, let’s go beyond saying “Hello” as we keep walking by with our own agenda.
  2. We can simply engage and listen. –  We see countless times Jesus encountered individuals, engaged in conversation with them, and He simply listened. He knew it was in the listening they would speak their true need and He would have the opportunity to make His message relevant to their life and situation. Look at the story of the Woman at the Well. Yes, Jesus would ask her thought-provoking questions, but He could only do that because He genuinely engaged in conversation with her and she responded because she knew He was listening. If He would have simply said, “Hello, how are you” and moved on, think about how that story could have turned out differently. When we actively engage in conversation and listen, we could have the opportunity to make His message relevant to their life and situation. It could be a matter of a life saved and a life lost, a matter of hope for the hopeless.
  3. Worry less about what’s drained and more about what’s filled. –  Life isn’t always going to be fun, exciting, and laughs. There are times it’s going to be sad, serious, and difficult to face. We need to be there for people during both. We can get so caught up in how listening to them makes us feel that we never stop to think or imagine how they must be feeling seeing as how they are the ones in the situation. We read all through the book of Psalms how David poured His heart out to God. We see that God listens and He loves. What an example to us in how to be in relationship with one another! He never worries about me draining Him, He’s more concerned with filling me with His love, mercy, and the truth of His promises. He fills me with hope.What if we started today to simply walk in these examples and move past superficial relationships to genuine relationships? How could we make an impact for God’s Kingdom and truly show the love of Christ to everyone we meet?

If you’re one who is plastering on a smile now, I am praying for you. I want you to know that God hears every word, sees every tear and He’s sending someone in your path to genuinely listen and I’m praying they are sensitive to His calling. You are loved, valued, and heard! Be encouraged!

If you’re one who is experiencing a mountaintop, I am praying for you. I want you to know that God is using you in the lives of every life around you. He knows you know Him, you have hope, and you’ve seen the other side of the valley, and He needs you to share that with those around you who need to hear it for the first time, or be reminded of it for the hundredth time. You are loved, valued, and you’ve been heard, be an encourager!

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit,if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.” {Philippians 2:1-5}

Real Life Moments: The Fridge Cleaning Mission for Wisdom

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Wait…What? The Fridge?

That was my initial thoughts on a Saturday afternoon as I sat alone talking with God about life. I was pouring out my heart and soul, laying all of my brokenness and confusion down at His feet, and as I desperately pleaded for wisdom and guidance, I got still and eagerly anticipated to hear from Him. When in the stillness I heard a whisper, “Go and clean out the fridge.” Wait…What? The Fridge? “Go and clean out the fridge.” I sat there very confused for a few moments and said, okay Lord. I’m not sure why You want me to clean out the dirty, stinky fridge, but I know You always have something to teach me. Besides, it was almost the first of the month and time to go grocery shopping, so this will be good.

As I opened the refrigerator door there was a horrible smell that took over the entire room. I wasn’t sure what it was just yet, but I knew this was going to be interesting! Sure, I could gag and be a girl, or I could be a scientist digging to find the mystery in the fridge that had enough power to change the entire atmosphere before me. Okay, okay, so I gagged, but I am a girl!

As I started to pull things out from the back that looked as if it could have been a part of my 3rd grade science project, my mind started wandering. What is it God is wanting to teach me in this? How could this be the answer to my prayer for wisdom and guidance? My family will tell you I have an over analytical mind and I need to know the reasoning behind things, the answers, the facts, the truths. So I started digging and well, to be honest, I had a lot more of that gagging reflex going on than I really cared to admit.

I pulled out a garbage bag, shook it open, and got ready for the mission of guidance and wisdom before me. Garbage bags began to meet what definitely over stayed their welcome, including moldy ham and cheese from the top drawer. It seemed as if no matter how much I threw away, the smell wasn’t going with it!

Just then, I pulled out the bottom two drawers and WHAM! Mayday, Mayday, Whoa! Houston, we found the problem! There laid the stink just beneath the drawers, all hidden where no one could see it, but everyone could smell it! What was it? I have no clue! I don’t think a scientist in the world could have figured out that mystery! So I filled one of the drawers with hot, soapy water, grabbed a dish cloth and a big plastic spoon to scrape it away (yes, it was that bad). I would like to say the gagging phase of this mission was over, but…ahem, yeah, not so much.

I scrubbed and scraped and wiped clean for what seemed like forever. I thought to myself, this is good enough, that was a lot of work. But something inside of me kept saying, keep scrubbing, you have to get every speck of it out of there. The scrubbing continued until every last piece was gone.

Before I knew it, the fridge was cleaned out, it smelled good, and it shined. It was ready to receive more groceries and had plenty of room for the good stuff. The whole time I was cleaning, God was speaking to me. In spite of the commotion, I could hear His still small voice whispering right into the depths of my heart. So what did God have to say through this fridge cleaning mission?

First, in any and all situations where we’re seeking guidance and wisdom, we must start by cleaning out everything in our heart that doesn’t belong there. Over time we all let things build up in our hearts we meant to get rid of but instead pushed to the back and left sitting there. Just like the moldy cheese and ham I pulled out of the top drawer, we have things in our heart that if we let sit there one second too long, it becomes like mold that takes over.

Second, dig deep, get it all, and don’t leave a single trace or the stink will stay. Most of the time those things we leave deep in our hearts are hidden to us, but the stench fills the atmosphere around us and everyone smells it. If I would have left just one tiny piece of whatever was hidden beneath those drawers, the smell would have stayed and all that work would have been for nothing. We have to let God clean out the deep and hidden places of our hearts and not leave one single trace or the stink will stay.

Finally, when we surrender to Him and let Him scrape away everything that doesn’t belong in our hearts, it makes room for the good stuff! Our hearts are clean, prepared and ready to shine for Him. We can’t receive what He has for us if our hearts are full of attitudes, sin, bitterness, anger, deception, or any stink. We have to let God get every speck of it out of there.

The bonus reminder was we can only remove things from our own hearts, not anyone else’s! Now, if that isn’t a wisdom nugget worth millions that will save us more heartache than we could ever imagine, I’m not sure what is. God reminded me that day that I am only responsible for what’s in my heart. I can’t change any other, and it’s always best and most important to start with my own, and He will take care of the rest. After all, we have to guard our hearts because everything we do flows from it. I’m thankful that when I prayed for wisdom that day God delivered it abundantly. When we ask, He gives generously without finding fault.

God has a way of teaching us things that we may not understand when He leads us there but it’s always worth obeying. If you’re going through something today and looking for wisdom and guidance, trust Him and where He’s leading You. It’s going to be good! 

Bottom Line Truth:
“The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” {Luke 6:45}

Lord, help us to open our hearts to You and surrender what we’ve kept buried for too long. We want to be clean and ready to receive all that You have for us, the abundant life You have promised. Please don’t leave a speck of the stink! ~In Jesus Name, Amen.

All of that from an Edible Arrangement? God can!

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Once in a while in life we have moments that speak so much more to us than we could find the words to describe, this was one of those moments for me…

As we closed our bible study in group prayer, I noticed the door slowly opening and two faces looking in. Just as the door gently opened I heard my name called by one of those faces. When your boss man calls your name, your heart takes a moment, and by a moment I mean it stops as if life isn’t depending on it. It had absolutely no reason to be afraid, but being the vital organ it is, it had to show off I suppose.

Just as my Pastor and Administrative Pastor, who also happen to be my bosses, walked in they handed me this wonderful and thoughtful gift. My mind went in a million directions and took me back about five years as I stared at it. God knew exactly why my mind went where it did and it was like at that moment I could hear His whispers louder than anything going on around me, “I told you my love, it was all in my timing. I didn’t lead you wrong.”

The edible arrangement that was placed in my hands and the encouraging words that were spoken to me carried a weight that will last a lifetime. Without giving too much back story, let me share with you the beautiful way that God paints our lives.

About three and half years ago I took a full-time job that I thought for sure God laid out for me. In my mind, His name was written all over it. I felt positive this was what He wanted for me. For two solid days I cried the entire time I was on that job and felt so uneasy and restless. At the end of the second day as I sat in silence, I looked up and said, “God, you placed me here, why don’t I have peace about this? Give me peace.” Just like my moment at bible study that day, His whisper echoed through the halls of the building into the halls of my heart, “No, I didn’t place you here. I allowed you to walk through the door you thought you wanted so you could see this isn’t my plan for you.” It was like time froze and held me captive.

After I went home that night crying hysterically and talking to my husband, I left that job. The very next day as I stood at my dryer folding clothes and talking with God about everything I couldn’t understand and was having difficulty processing, I heard from Him clearly, yet again. He began to tell me exactly what He wanted me to do, and He was calling me into full-time vocational ministry. The picture He gave me then looks different today, but I believe with all that I am that He weaved my life through the different phases that He has only to prepare me for where He has me today. Not many people around me knew that where I am now was my biggest dream, but God did because He planted that dream in me long before it became a reality and it stayed in the secret places between me and Him.

Standing back in the present, God used this “Edible Arrangement” to speak a beautiful reminder to my heart. He reminded me of how far He has brought me and the faithfulness of His hands at work. What came to my mind in an instant was the fruits of the spirit and how He had to arrange them in me.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” {Galatians 5:22-23}

The dream that God had placed in my heart a few years ago wasn’t quite ready to be awakened just yet. The dream weaver knew He had some more weaving to do in my heart, mind, and soul before He would add color to the dream. For the time being it had to remain in black and white until one by one He allowed me to go through many tests and trials that would begin to color each fruit a little more.

Working full-time in ministry isn’t a five-star restaurant experience, its more of a work in the kitchen and serve experience. He knew what would be needed and required of me, what would face me head on, and how I needed to respond to each individual experience, in all areas and aspects of my life. He wasn’t even concerned with packaging yet, only the fruit on the inside. We’re all expected to live in the spirit rather than the flesh, that isn’t a selective expectation based on our occupation. But they can all be the most rewarding experiences when we submit to His hand at work in us so that He can accomplish more through us.

This week marks two years since the day that my Father decided to awaken my dreams with vivid color. I would love to say that I have those fruits of the spirit perfected, but let’s be honest, perfection will never happen here on Earth. He’s still working in me, on me, and through me. However, what I have learned over time isn’t just knowledge, its experience with application and it’s a daily walk with Him. I’ll keep walking, learning, and hopefully look more and more like Him every day.  I’m grateful for His arrangement and for seeing imperfect me as ready to deliver.

Whatever it may be that you feel God is wanting to do in your life, know this, He will complete it. He may say no for a time, He may say wait, and He may say move forward, but whatever He says, I can guarantee you He’s arranging everything in your heart and life just the way it needs to be before He gives the green light of peace to move. There is no doubt in my mind, He knows exactly what He is doing and that never changes. Even through the ups and downs of life, all the side roads, and what we think are detours, it’s the exact path He needs us to take to make us ready for where He’s delivering us.

Lord, thank You for being Sovereign Lord over our lives. Help us to remember that sometimes You will ask us to take a step forward but that doesn’t always mean it’s time to walk the block just yet, but it’s the step in obedience and each one thereafter You are looking for. Thank You for arranging the fruit in our lives and adding such beautiful vivid color to each one through all that You are teaching us.  ~In Jesus Name, Amen.

Married Life: In Sickness and In Health, Part 2

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Continued…{If you haven’t read Part 1, you can read it here.} In sickness and in health. I wonder if any of us really think about what those words mean before we vow them? I know I didn’t. I was nineteen years old when I uttered them from my lips. We were young, we were healthy, we had our whole lives ahead of us. That only happens to other people, not us…

My husband just celebrated his 40th birthday. We make jokes about how we’re getting old as we laugh about old times. Reality always finds its way back into our conversations no matter where they take place. I know he never imagined he would be unable to work and feel the way he does at his age. Those aren’t the types of things you dream about when you daydream about your life together. We used to sit and think about buying our first home together, having kids, our careers, and every fun thing we could do together as a family. Not once did the words living in pain, disability, stroke in any sense of the word, or no quality of life come up in our daydreams together. No, the picture we painted looked a lot different from the picture we’re living now.

All of this has had me thinking, do any of us really think about the vows we’re committing to before we speak them? Would I have said yes had I known every trial and every difficultly that was going to come our way was coming? Would he have purposed and committed to those vows had he known that his life would be where it was at today? Would these two young kids stand before everyone and say I do, no matter what, if they knew what it was going to mean?

Let me say once again, I know our story isn’t like so many others that I have watched before my eyes take place in the lives of friends and family. I know we are tremendously blessed and very grateful that we’re still here together and have hope. But in any case, it has still made me stir some of these thoughts around.

It hasn’t been easy. Many of our struggles only we know about, well us and God. So I know as I write these words, He knows exactly where my heart is coming from. Please remember that as you read. Sickness changes people and not just the ones who are sick. It’s a heavy weight to carry when it begins to affect us in ways we never thought imaginable. It affects the whole family because we are one unit in motion together. Many sleepless nights full of tears, arguments as we wrestle with what’s going on around us, stress as we try to figure out the dreaded financial aspect of life, and frustration as we try to figure out how to navigate this new way of life together all while keeping everything in tact.

In tact…maybe God doesn’t want it to stay in tact. That’s been my thoughts on several occasions. Maybe, just maybe, He’s wanting to rebuild and reconstruct us once again. I’m not naive to think that I have it all together or that we have it all together. I live inside of me, I know the train wreck I can be. I know there’s always room for improvement and improvement means to make things better. How can I fight that? Making things better is very promising. God is a God of promises, and He’s also my God who keeps His promises! That gives me hope!

Regardless of how difficult this journey has been so far, I know my God isn’t done yet. I may be tired, okay, flat-out exhausted, but I know that rejuvenation is coming, I know that the resurrection is on the way. I’m not so worried about me, I want it for my husband. I want his pain to go away and not just because of medications but because of God’s healing power. I want him to be full of laughter and life again, I want to see him doing the things he enjoys doing again, I want to see our family as we once were again because he’s better not because of a mask.

So how do I know that I would have still said yes that day if I had known what all yes meant? I know it because I’m more concerned with him than I am myself. The easiest answers throughout all of this would have benefited me and what I wanted, the more difficult choices have been because I want what’s best for him. Even though my flesh screams one thing, my heart and soul whispers another and I desire to listen to the whispers, no matter the trial. {Thank you Holy Spirit for dwelling in me and giving me guidance and direction.}

Truth is, I can’t imagine my life without him and that includes everything we have went through together. In the 22 1/2 years we’ve been together we have been through the ringer more than a few times, but the funny thing about that ringer, it gets out of us what weighs us down and keeps us from being who God wants us to be. It sets us free to love one another in ways we could never do on our own. It makes us stronger.

We’re stronger together and I know that to be true based off of reality, not fiction. Stronger together is not what the enemy wants, weaker apart is what he’s after. He knew the day we said in sickness and in health that we meant it and though he may try to weaken us, Christ in us strengthens us to live out this life together that we treasure and enjoy.

Marriage isn’t going to be easy, difficulties will come and trials will knock us down. It’s not how fast we get up but that we get up together that makes all the difference. Vows aren’t words, they are commitments to keep and to honor.

To my Gorgeous, you’re still my boy! 😉 I’ll always be your girl, baby! I love you more today than I did the day I said yes. A love like this CAN move the mountains because it’s the love that Christ has given us for one another, in sickness and in health! 

Married Life: In Sickness and In Health…Part 1

 

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I feel it’s only fair to say upfront that this isn’t one of those well crafted blog posts that places every word perfectly in its place, but I will say it’s honest and real.

As my heart recalled a day twenty-two years ago that changed my life forever it found itself reflecting. Reflections of a day where I said yes to the boy of my dreams who has since become the man of my dreams, the only one for me.

A girl, just sixteen years old, watched as this boy, just seventeen years old, confessed his love for me after only four and a half months of dating. He asked me one question, one simple question, or so I thought. He asked me to be his wife, forever. Now, let’s be honest, what could such a young girl know about love and a life together. Truthfully, I didn’t know much, but I did know that something felt different inside of me. I knew that I loved him in every way that I could understand love at this point. This young girl said yes as he placed the ring on my finger and we knew then our lives would be perfect!

On that cloudy September day just three years after our first date we stood before God, before our family and our friends and repeated our vows to one another. Candlelight beaming through the room, melodies of our memories being sung so beautifully by voices that seemed to express our hearts so well. Even in that moment I had no idea what I had said yes to years before or how my vows would truly take on a life of their own in the years to come.

In September 2014 what seemed to be an average medical issue sent my husband to the doctor and it has awakened in sickness and in health from a slumbering sleep. We had no idea what was taking place or where it would lead us in the coming days. For seventeen months now we have walked by faith in ways we never had to before. I have watched as this man who I am so in love with changed before my very lovesick eyes. I have watched him suffer, go from a heart so full of life to a body that seems to struggle to keep living. Fear has struck our hearts many times over as we couldn’t do anything but go from doctor to doctor with the hope of finding not only answers to our questions, but help. We knew our God was faithful and sovereign but being human, we still struggled to understand why. The amount of prayers that I know have went up to the Heavens was enough to flood the earth if He hadn’t promised He wouldn’t do that again. Even when the answers weren’t coming, we trusted, we kept praying, we recalled His background and how faithful He has been.

Today, we believe we finally have some sort of answer to go by, although we still don’t know what, how, when, or why. By God’s divine orchestration and blessings, we were led to a doctor that finally listened and not with the intent to spit fancy words back at us or names of diagnoses that meant nothing more than, “I really don’t know what’s wrong with you but at the risk of admitting that, you have….and here’s some prescription drugs I’m going to give you that will mask the symptoms enough to where you’ll just accept what I have to say and live the poorest quality of life you could ever imagine.” Run on sentence? Maybe, but definitely how we have felt this past year.

Do I fault the doctors? No, they didn’t know what it was for whatever reason and I’m not here to debate the many possible reasons why. Do I fault God? Absolutely not! He is mighty, sovereign, trustworthy, all-knowing, all-powerful, and nothing is impossible for Him. Whatever took place that day, it didn’t surprise Him. He knew it was coming. Do I ever wonder why this had to happen? Yes, everyday! I am human, and I am made of flesh and blood living in a world that can’t possibly comprehend many things.

No, it’s not cancer and I know things could be much worse. But for us, for what we’re facing, what has been sent our way is still difficult to deal with and walk through on any given day. We count our blessings that it’s not worse, that he’s still here. Counting those blessings and recounting all that we have to be grateful for is what has kept us going and not falling into an endless pit.

The doctor said it was a TIA, transient Ischemic Attack, also known as a mini stroke. It took place in the internal capsule of his brain. Something was floating through his bloodstream and blocked blood and oxygen flow to this portion of his brain for a period of time causing damage to the nerves. This has caused his brain to have electrical misfires affecting his entire left side of his body that has led to tremors, intense nerve and muscle pain, frequent falls, tingling, numbness, difficulty concentrating and focusing and many other issues. The doctor has said he believes he can get a thirty to fifty percent improvement out of therapy treatments for the next six months. Now, I know that my God can do anything if that’s what His perfect will desires. I appreciate the doctor, but I trust in my God.

Our lives have been imprinted with an image we couldn’t have thought possible as we repeated our vows to one another, “in sickness and in health”…{to be continued}

Immerse Yourself: 3 Places to Immerse That Will Change 2016

Immerse

Here we are saying goodbye to another year and saying hello to a new year.  I will be the first to say I’m excited to say goodbye to the old and hello to the new. There’s just one thing, I may be going into a new year, but everything I was facing last year is going with me. So the question isn’t what am I going to do with a new year, but what am I going to do different with this new year.

For many of us, the things we were facing before midnight on New Years Eve are the very things we’re facing now that the new year is here. This doesn’t have to mean disappointment, discouragement or defeat. This can mean divine appointment, encouragement and victory! Life’s circumstances didn’t change when the clock struck midnight on New Years Eve, but we can!

Maybe you feel like you were dealt a difficult hand with no way out, like there are no answers to your questions, or like you are stuck in an impossible situation. The enemy tries to make us forget that our God is the Master of impossible (Matthew 19:26). There are countless stories in God’s Word that tells us how He conquered the impossible, how He healed, how He overcame, and how He gives us victory through Him! So what do we do with this new year that has rolled upon us?

As a multitude of thoughts swim in my heart and mind, one word makes its way to the top, ahead of the rest...immerse. 

Immerse: to plunge into something that surrounds or covers;  involve or engage wholly and deeply. 

Immerse yourself! Immerse in what, you may wonder. There are three places we can immerse ourselves that will change how this year looks for us even if our circumstances or situation doesn’t change.

1.  We can immerse ourselves in God. 

Psalm 91:4 says, “He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart (a protective barrier).”

Being covered by something places us in a shadow and Psalm 91:1 tells us, “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” Dwelling is making ourselves a permanent resident which means we must stay in His shelter, it’s not a temporary living place, but a moment by moment decision we must make to remain there.

There is no safer place to be than deep within God, there is no place to rest but in Him. He is faithful!

2. We can immerse ourselves in God’s Word. 

Without faith in God it’s hard to endure what this life can bring. It’s quite miserable to be honest. Romans 10:17 says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” The beginning, progress, and strength of our faith comes through hearing the Word. The Word is truth, truth that anchors us in the midst of life’s storms. There is an enemy out there and he’s waiting to devour us (1 Peter 5:8) and if we’re not anchored in the truth of God’s Word, he will devour us and every ounce of faith we have.

God’s Word is quick, powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12), it’s breathed out by God to teach, reproof, train, and equip us (2 Timothy 3:16-17), and it keeps us from sinning against Him (Psalm 119:11). I think that in the midst of life those are all things we need to help us through.

3. We can immerse ourselves in prayer.

Prayer is powerful and it changes us. Prayer can most definitely change our circumstances if God so chooses, but more important than changing our circumstances it changes us. Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” When we face various trials in this life being in prayer shows our dependence is on Him, and it’s where our peace will come from.

The time we spend in prayer is time well spent. Of all the many things that try to promise us satisfaction, help, and relief, there is nothing out there that can promise us what God promises us. He is the One who can make all things new and His words are trustworthy and true (Revelation 21:5).

One of the things to remember when we’re praying is that sometimes it’s not God’s will to remove us or change what we’re praying about immediately. When we don’t remind ourselves of this the enemy can gain a foothold in our hearts and minds rather quickly and cause us to doubt Him. Just as Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, we too must pray, nevertheless Your will be done. We must remember that there is a bigger picture that God sees and we can trust Him even when we don’t understand. That’s why the first two places to immerse ourselves are so vital.

So what am I going to do with this new year? I’m going to immerse myself! He has been my God through all of my journey in this life and that’s not going to change, no matter what. I know the only place true help will come from and “Because You are my help, I sing in the shadow of Your wings.” (Psalm 61:4). Let’s immerse ourselves and change the new year!

Lord, help me to immerse myself in You, in Your Word, and in prayer this year more than I ever have. You are all that I need no matter what life looks like around me and You are the only One who can help me through. I trust in You, wholly and deeply. ~ In Jesus Name, Amen

Unwrapping When Christmas Feels Like Any Other Day

unwrapping jesus_t_nv

What do you do when Christmas feels like any other day in your heart? I have found myself asking that question multiple times over the last twenty-four days and then once again this morning.

While commercials and conversations talk about shopping for your friends and family, what gifts have been purchased and being wrapped to give, parties that are being planned, and foods that are going to be prepared, you may find yourself in what feels like one of those movies where you wake up to live the same day over and over.

I have many family and friends this year that are spending Christmas for the first time without a loved one, dealing with financial struggles, health problems that seem never-ending, family issues, or something that has made Christmas not quite the same this year. Maybe this is you, maybe this is me, maybe this is someone you know.

Even when we wake up with no gifts to open, no family to spend time with, feeling the same pain, or looking at an empty chair where that loved one once sat as we experienced the joy of Christmas, we can find comfort and encouragement through these words…

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

Through Jesus we find all that we could need and long for. Any emptiness or sadness we feel, He can fill with His love and joy. It may not take away the heartache of missing someone we love or magically make all of life’s trials disappear in an instant, but He does sustain and comfort us through it all.

Through Jesus we have a hope that nothing in this world could ever take away, a hope that we will see that loved one once again, a hope that says no matter what we’re facing and how dim things may look today, light is coming again.

He is our Wonderful Counselor who when our heart is hurting, He teaches us many things like no one else can, listens like no one else ever will, and guides us in the right direction.

He is our Mighty God who is One with the Father and has more power than anything we are facing. Mighty in it’s very definition is great in amount and characterized by superior power and strength. So when our hurt is so great that it feels unbearable today, we can find joy because He is greater!

He is our Everlasting Father who is eternal. We can’t lose Him, He is our constant. Though on this earth we temporarily lose those that we love until the glorious day that we meet once again because we know Christ, we simply cannot lose Him! He has promised to never leave us and if there’s one thing I have learned, He keeps all of His promises!

He is our Prince of Peace who reconciles us to our God and the giver of peace in our hearts. Whatever hurt, loss, or questions that may be swirrling around in our hearts, He is the answer, the only answer that can bring true peace.

Those are gifts that are priceless, irreplaceable, and won’t lose their value after today passes. Gifts that tell us how much we are lovedThe only gift that truly matters is the gift of Jesus Christ, and He was given to us!

So what do we do when Christmas feels like any other day?

We dig in and unwrap the very gift that was chosen just for us, the gift of truth, the gift of love, the gift that makes every other day feel like Christmas! We get to unwrap the joy of Christmas every single day and revel in the mystery, the excitement, and the hope of a new season.

In this season of hope, joy, and peace, I am someone who has felt this way. I have struggled emotionally, I have had more questions wandering in my mind than birds wandering the skies, and I have prayed and asked God to lift me up and remind my heart of His promises. While my family slept through Christmas morning with no rush to the tree, I have felt the rush of His presence and for that I am forever thankful.

It doesn’t mean we don’t have faith or that we don’t trust, it simply means we are human and we will experience emotions. God created emotions and they can draw us closer to Him. It means that we need Him each and every day and reminds us of how faithful He is to always be there. It means that maybe, just maybe it doesn’t feel like Christmas today because we’ve been experiencing Christmas every day!

If you are someone who has been asking yourself this very question this year, I am praying with and for you. I can’t take your hurt away, I can’t answer your questions, and I can’t make things different for you, but I pray for your heart to be encouraged.

If you know someone who may be feeling this way, take time to listen to them and give them the freedom just to talk about it. Give them room to feel the way they feel and simply love them through it. Share this article with them in hopes of it being a small encouragement to their heart.

Lord, thank You for the gift of Your Son, Jesus Christ. His birth, His death, and His resurrection is by far the greatest gifts we could ever receive. Thank You that everyday is Christmas in the hearts who have received Your Son and for the hope we have in Him! ~ In Jesus Name, Amen. 

 

 

 

Love Letters: Leaning into You

dear god_wide_t_nv

 

From the moment I woke up, those are the first words I have to start with. Honestly, I’m surprised I’m sitting here at the moment. The fiery darts have been flying today for sure and so many of them have landed straight in my heart. They must have pierced something on target for all the tears that have fallen upon Your hands today. Thank You for being there to wipe away and catch every one.

The more the day progressed the more I heard You whisper the words “lean in.” It never ceases to amaze me how You are always listening to my heart without me having to speak one word. You knew exactly what I needed to hear and Your whispers reach further than any word spoken out loud to me.

I’m here, I’m leaning in. Right now more than anything I just need to breathe in more of You. When I feel like I can’t take another breath because it just hurts too bad, You are there, breathing the air in for me. When I feel like I’m drowning, it’s Your hand that’s reaching for me and pulling me up.

Without You, where would I be? In the midst of the pain, the hurt, and the uncertainty, it’s You that I see. When I look around, it’s You without fail. It doesn’t matter how dark it gets around me or within me, You are there, lighting the way. I’ve asked myself time and time again where would I be in all of this if it wasn’t for You? I can’t even take my mind there. I couldn’t see life without You. Days like today where it hurts too much to even take a breath, I know I couldn’t do it without You.

Life, it’s funny how it doesn’t feel that way now, but it’s because of You that I know it is. I know that even though it’s been one thing after another every single one of them went through Your hands first. I’m not alone in it, and for that I’m grateful. You have always made sure I knew You were lying next to me, lifting me up when I couldn’t rise on my own, and giving me the strength to stand when I feel like I’m going to fall. When I feel like I can’t take one more step, it’s You that moves my feet or carries me.

I’m leaning in and against You. There’s a peace that enters my heart and consumes it when I’m in Your presence that I can’t get any other possible way. I know it may seem crazy, but it’s like I can feel You gently moving my hair out of my face and holding me so close to You. I don’t have to explain it, I just want to bask in it.

The love You give me is more than I could ever ask for. The peace You give me is more than I could ever comprehend. The help is more than I could get anywhere else. Sometimes I wonder why You are so faithful to me, even when I don’t deserve it. But it’s just who You are, isn’t it. I look back on my life and every time I needed You, You were there. Faithfulness with You is something I never have to question, I never have to doubt.

There are so many things the world, the enemy, and my flesh screams at me, but Your voice always rises to where I need it most. When I feel like I can’t do what You’ve called me to, You’re there to tell me I can. When I feel like I’m not good enough, You’re there to tell me I am in You. When I question things, You are always the only answer I truly need. Everything in my life comes down to You, and I don’t want it any other way.

For all the things inside my heart that only You and I know about, thank You for reminding me that You are the only one that needs to know. You are the only one that needs to understand it’s not just one thing but several things and I know You are in control of every single one. Nothing slips by You and my soul rejoices. There’s no battle unknown to You or lost with You. Those truths today alone were enough to keep me going when my flesh screams to crawl back into bed and just sleep.

Thank You for using what comes my way in life to draw me closer to You. What it all truly comes down to is I want to be closer to You. You are good, faithful, true, and pure love. I’m crying out to You not only for deliverance and healing, but strength and endurance for what You choose not to take away right away. I’m crying out for eyes to see the value of all that You are teaching me. It’s in You and Your name that I will find all that I need and want. My heart truly desires more of You. You are more than enough.

I realize more everyday how much I am in love with You, how much I need You, and how much I fall short. You have redeemed everything in my life up to this point and none of this will be any different. I look forward to the day I can stand and look back to see how You chose to redeem it, but until that day comes, I look forward to knowing You more and going a little deeper with You. My faith in a relentless and faithful Father tells me I’ll see it soon.

Until then, I’m leaning in to You. I love You!

Faithfully Yours,

Angie

 

love letters

 

 

Love Letters: Daddy, I need to talk

tears

Daddy, I need to talk.

Your daughter is crying out to You tonight in desperation. My heart hurts. Tears are flowing from my eyes like an endless river flowing. I know You know all that is stirring within me, but Daddy I just need to talk to You about it.

I don’t understand why all of this has happened. I don’t know why life had to take a turn in this direction. Daddy, the man You sent to me twenty-two years ago is hurting, he’s struggling, and it feels like he’s fading away. I know he’s here with me physically but he hardly seems like the same person. It’s been so hard watching him the last year hurt more and more by the moment.

I miss his laugh, I miss his smiles, I miss so much about him Daddy. But more than what I miss about him, I miss him feeling like he has life within him. Daddy, it hurts to watch him hurt. I don’t know what to do for him. I don’t know how to help him. I feel like I never have the right words to say. I just want to take it all away. I just want to make things better for him. I want him to jump up like he used to and be that man full of life that You created. I want him to feel about himself the way You intend for him to.

I know You said we would become one flesh when we vowed before You to love one another, and I believe it now more than ever. I may not feel his pain the same way he does, but oh Daddy, I feel pain with him. I look into his eyes and see the desperation of just wanting the pain to leave his body and it sends my heart into a place that nothing seems to draw it back from. I know he’s scared and I’m scared with him. I know some days he feels like nothing is going to get better, and honestly some days I feel it with him. I see how tired he is, I see how hard he’s trying to fight.

But I have to say thank You Daddy. Thank You for helping me to still see that warrior that You created in him. I see him even when he doesn’t. I see all that You are filling him with no matter how much this pain seems to drain him. Every time You allow me to look at him and see who He is in You it does so much for my heart. I guess this is still a part of that whole one flesh, huh? I am grateful that You gave me the honor of being one flesh with this man. I love him, Daddy. I love him so much. I know You know that, You are the one that gave me this love for him. I refuse to let life take that from me! He’s a good man for me. He’s always taken such good care of me, and You knew he would, that’s why You chose him for me.

But Daddy, I feel like it’s my turn to take really good care of him. Can You help me with that? I feel lost. I’m not sure how to help him, how best to take care of him. In my flesh I just want to take it from him and throw it as far as I can. I know that I don’t have that power, but Daddy, You do! I’m believing for that. I haven’t lost hope in You, I can’t do that. You have saved us from so many things in our lives. You have brought us through some of the darkest of times and I know this time will be no different.

You gave me two hands Daddy, and in my right hand is Yours, and in my left hand is his. Help me to keep walking hand in hand with You so that I can be what he needs me to be as his wife. Give me eyes to see past the things I don’t need to see so that I can focus on what You need me to see.  Fill me with more of You. Everything in me knows we can’t walk through this without You, and I don’t want to try!

Keep reminding me of Your truths so for every lie the enemy tosses our way I can send it right back. Hold us close because I know that it’s so easy at times like this to get carried away and I only want to draw closer to You. Strengthen the fight in us, help us to get back up stronger every time we get knocked down.

Thank You for listening to my heart tonight Daddy, and every night when the hurt starts trying to settle. Thank You for listening when I’m alone in my office trying my best to stay focused and when the tears keep sneaking out to roll. Thank You for listening when I’m driving down the road and can barely see the road through my tears. Thank You for hearing our every cry and holding every tear in Your mighty hands. And Daddy, thank You for the healing that I know is coming His way! I feel it in my bones, I feel it in the depths of my soul. It’s coming and I am giving You praise for it! I don’t want my lips to ever stop giving You praise because You are so worthy, no matter what!

I love You Daddy! I’m so grateful I have You tonight and every moment. I trust You and that’s not going to change.

With rolling tears,

Your Daughter, Angie

 

love letters