I Can Trust God with My Children

My oldest son, Cole, is in Marine boot camp right now.  Actually he is in the middle of the Crucible, and my mind is going crazy.  I am trying to remember him in prayer at all hours of the day and night without letting my thoughts lead to worry…

and the worry lead to impatience…

and the impatience lead to “what ifs”…

and the “what ifs” lead to panic.

I thought back to October of last year when he first told me that he wanted to join the Marines.  He didn’t talk about the benefits or the pay.  He said he wanted the brotherhood, the character development, the challenge.  At first I wasn’t sure I wanted my son in the military, so I asked God about it.  He gave me peace and the impression that this would be the very best thing for Cole.  Pretty soon I was feeling that joining the Marines would be the most important step for him to take after High School.  I had been praying for a long time that Cole would find a positive focus for all of his teenage energy.  Finally he had found it!

As a mom, I can worry about absolutely anything!  So my son had made the very wise choice to pursue a career in the Marines.  But what if his enthusiasm waned?  What if he got in trouble and became disqualified?  Boot camp was a year away.  What if he didn’t make it there?!

On October 28, 2017 the worries were getting the better of me. It was the Saturday morning of his very first Marine work-out.  One of the stipulations of the delayed entry program was that Cole had go to the recruiting office once a week to prepare physically and mentally.  A recruiter was going to pick him up early that morning to take him to the work-out.  I had to leave even earlier to make a trip to the farm. There was dew on all the blades of grass and all the colorful leaves.  The sunlight peaking over the horizon was like white gold glittering on every water droplet.

I wanted to enjoy the beautiful drive and the peaceful time alone…but I was feeling guilty and worried.  Cole was NOT a morning person. What if he didn’t get up in time for the workout?  I should have stayed at home to make sure that he did! What if he wasn’t serious about this Marine thing? What if all God’s plans for his future got derailed?

A song on the radio washed over my mind with the power of the Holy Spirit.

                “Death could not hold you, the veil tore before you.

                You silenced the boast of sin and grave.

                The heavens are roaring, the praise of your glory.

                Yours is the name above all names.”

The worries were replace by a picture of Jesus on the cross, conquering death and sin, then rising again victorious, becoming the Savior of the world.  I saw the Good Father allowing His beloved son to come into this world that did not love or receive Him.  All of hell was working against Jesus and much of the earth and mankind as well.  A million different things could have gone wrong. Countless roadblocks stood in the path for Jesus to become all He was destined to be, to accomplish all He was meant to accomplish.

Yet the Good Father was able to keep Jesus and guide Him perfectly.  He could do the same with my children.

“You mean I really don’t have to feel responsible for making sure my children achieve their purpose here on the earth?  That I could really just trust you to do it?” I asked God, trying to let go of years of ingrained thought patterns that always led to worry.

                “You know that you never could, no matter how hard you tried. That is why you worry. That burden is not for you to carry. Just trust me,” came the whispered answer.

When I arrived back home, Cole had already left for his workout.  I didn’t need to worry!

IMG_0508

Cole and I a year ago after he swore in to the Marine delayed entry program.

Now he is almost done with boot camp, just hours away from becoming a Marine.  I didn’t need to worry. But I still did.  About EVERY little thing over the past year. I decided that I had to remind myself of all God had spoken to me.

When I went back and read my journal entry for October 28, 2017, this is what I had written.

                “You are the Good Father who puts his children in this world and then brings them through the crucible victorious.”

I had written that before I knew anything about the Marines.  Long before I understood that they had the toughest and longest boot camp out there.  Before I had any idea that the culminating event of Marine boot camp was called The Crucible; 54 hours packed with missions to accomplish, obstacles to overcome, 45 miles to be hiked, and very little sleep or food to be had.

                I had been prophesying and I didn’t even know it!

So as I am imagining every possible thing that could go wrong with Cole out there in the rain and the cold and dark of The Crucible, I chose to remember;

I can trust the Good Father with Cole and his destiny.

God will bring him through The Crucible Victorious!

 

 

Oh Nards!

You know when something unexpectedly horrible happens and your immediate response is to let out a loud expletive?  Well, mine is, “Holy CRAP!”

I don’t mean to say it.  It just comes out.  My teenage son is quite offended by it and constantly reminds me that, “crap is NOT holy, Mom!”  I heard Bill Johnson say that if we really understood the holiness of God, we would never pair the word “holy” with the word, “crap.”

My young children sometimes exclaim, “Holy Crap!” when they are upset about something, and I admit that it sounds very uncouth and disrespectful…and they learned it from listening to me!

Ok, point taken!  This is not what should be slipping out of my mouth at inopportune times.  I should have better sentiments in my heart to express.

That same teenage son began to say, “Oh nards!” He would say it very loudly with a smile on his face because it is such a humorous phrase.

I adopted “nards!” as my “swear” word of choice.  Whenever something annoying or dreadful happened, I would exclaim, “OH NARDS!”  It was so fun to say and so funny to hear that I would burst out laughing.  I would amuse myself to the point that the disaster no longer seemed so disastrous.  (As Joseph Garlington says, “If it’s going to be funny later, it’s funny now.”) The children would begin laughing as well.  My husband would chuckle at me and shake his head, wondering what had gotten in to me.

I continued this, “Oh nards!” business for months before I thought, “Perhaps there is some significance to this word that God would want to speak to me about.”

I looked up “nards” on Google and found that it is short for spikenard, a plant used for medicinal purposes.  It is antibacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-inflammatory.

capture

It is also the star of that beautiful Bible story in John 12 when Mary pours the pure nard on the feet of Jesus and the entire house was filled the fragrance of the perfume. The story (or perhaps a very similar but separate story) is also told in Matt 26.

Now while Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment, and she poured it on his head as he sat at the table.  But when the disciples saw it, they were angry and said, “Why this waste?  For this ointment could have been sold for a large sum, and the money given to the poor.” But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? She has performed a good service for me.  For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me.  By pouring this ointment on my body she has prepared me for burial.  Truly I tell you, wherever this good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.”

It was clear that Mary loved Jesus deeply and wanted to demonstrate her gratitude and worship.  Perhaps she had planned this act, weighing what it would cost her to do so and judging that the cost was worth it.  Or perhaps she was so overcome with emotion that she impulsively grabbed her most precious possession and poured it out.  Either way, she deeply touched Jesus and ministered to Him just days before His crucifixion.  She had made a choice to lavish her love on Him despite what it cost her.

When the unexpected happens in my life and I shout out, “OH NARDS!” it is not quite the same as Mary.  When the child drops dinner on the floor or the teenager leaves the bathroom a mess or UPS has Chris work his 3rd 14 hour day, this is not my choice.  These circumstances have been forced upon me, and I have the right to be angry!

Don’t I?

What if I would make the choice to accept the circumstances with joy and worship God anyway?  Then perhaps my, “OH NARDS!” could be turned into the alabaster jar of Mary, ministering to Jesus with my love.

I read one article on the internet that spoke about the extravagant amount of nard that was poured out, probably 11 oz.  Anyone who uses essential oils knows how strong they are.  A few drops is all you need.  The fragrance of 11 oz. would have been enough to be noticed for quite a distance around the house.  If Jesus was to wash in a pool right afterwards, a thousand people could wash after him and leave with the expensive aroma.

Imagine all of that nard being absorbed into Jesus’ skin.  He must have smelled like spikenard for days!  Jesus did say that Mary was preparing him for his burial.  I always thought he was just speaking about the symbolic of the use of herbs in burial customs.  Days later when he was betrayed, arrested, abandoned, beaten, put on trial, ridiculed, whipped, and crucified…

I bet Jesus still carried the aroma of spikenard!  In His darkness hours, He smelled like perfume.  All who came in contact with this simple, poor man from Nazareth would catch a whiff of this very expensive oil.  As the people watched Him take the accusations without fear or anger, they could smell Him.  As they watched Him patiently endure suffering, they noticed the unusual aroma.  It was the fragrance of a King, not a common man.  It was a heavenly smell in the midst of tragic circumstances.

This smell of pure nard would forever be imprinted on their brains as the smell of the most unusual trial and execution they had ever seen.  For the rest of their lives, whenever they would catch a whiff of it, they would remember.  Maybe God could even bring them to the place of faith, recognizing the King and Savior Jesus in the form of a beaten and bloodied criminal.

When I encounter trials that make me want to cry out in disgust, “Why all this waste?!!”  perhaps I should worship instead.

When my husband is suffering with an excruciating headache for a week, unable to work or participate in much of normal life, my mind starts to say;

“Why couldn’t this have been a vacation from work to enjoy camping as a family?  We won’t get to take that vacation now.  Our budget only works if Chris is working.  How long will it be before he can start working again…days, weeks, months?  We are not even sure what is causing the pain or how to get rid of it.  I hate to see him suffering! What a waste!”

I have come to know God better than that.  Nothing is wasted in His kingdom.  He can use any circumstance for our good and for our promotion.  I can trust Him and worship Him in this.

For all of us, this pure nard should remind us that in the midst of suffering, we can love and worship.  And when we worship we release the distinctive aroma of our King…and the atmosphere of heaven.

OH NARDS!

A Cure for the Negativity that is All Around

eagle-in-flight-wallpaper-hd-

Have you noticed the negativity all around us lately, with the election and the terrorist attacks and the accusations of racism?  What a silly question!  We have all noticed it.  My last article was “How I feel About Donald Trump”, and I had never written anything “political” or “controversial” before.  I was expecting to be attacked by the negativity that has been so prevalent.  I was pleasantly surprised that most of the feedback was very positive.  Thank you, those who took the time to read my thoughts!  Thank you to those who have hearts open to hear a message of hope!  Thank you to those who gave me encouragement!  One word of encouragement is stronger than a thousand of negative ones!

I am not surprised at all by the negativity of the media or of non-Christians in general.  All of these precious people were created to be in a relationship with a God.  They have not yet encountered that perfect love and have undoubtedly had their share of hurt and disappointment.  They were created for a perfect place, yet live in a world full of sorrow and suffering.  They are angry and bitter and don’t even know exactly who they should be angry with.  Many of them fight with all their strength against the very thing that could heal their anger and put their world right again.  Before we as Christian judge them too harshly, let us remember the words of Abraham Lincoln when he was criticized for wanting to treat the South with compassion, “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”  Let us be encouraged by the story of Saul of Tarsus and dare to believe that the greatest enemy of God today could be His greatest champion tomorrow!

What I have been very shocked by is the attitude of many Christians in this elections.  Christians should not be impressed by the negativity that the media is trying to feed us.  We should not look at the world the way the “world” looks at itself.  Jesus said that we shouldn’t judge unless we want to be judged.

Yet I understand why Christians have been so very judgmental.  I make judgments all the time.  Most are unconscious – I just think I am observing and then coming to a logical conclusion.  I want to understand the world around me and why things are the way they are.  My brain gathers the information it is given, processes it according to my own experiences and my unique world view and comes up with a determination that makes sense to me.  My own wisdom provides a false sense of security.

It is false because my thoughts are not like God’s thoughts.  My ways are not like His ways.  He is so much higher and has a different perspective.  He sees all things that ever were, all things that are, and all that will be.  He sees with complete clarity from a heart of perfect love.

I am so thankful when God proves me wrong!  I love it when a person who I thought was mean and grumpy turns out to be my best friend!  I love it when a situation that appeared to be hopeless gets turned around and becomes the most amazing story of redemption! My incorrect judgments have been exposed enough times for me to realize that the kingdom of God is backwards according to my wisdom.  God loves to make the first last and the last first.  He loves to use the foolish things to confound the wise.  He loves to surprise us and do the unexpected.

I think the reason that Jesus spoke to the masses in parables was that he wanted true followers.  True followers are not those who are excellent at following the rules and what seems to be logical.  True followers of Jesus are those who have an active relationship with God, who listen for His voice every day.  We need His voice to navigate through this confusing world…and GOD DESIGNED IT THAT WAY!

When Jesus told the crowd, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.”, do you think He wanted the people to come to the most logical conclusion about Him…either that he was insane or had a morbid fascination with death?  He wanted as followers only those people who were willing to seek the voice of God to reveal to them the truth and beauty of His statement that was offensive to most.  Perhaps even more than that, Jesus wanted followers that trusted Him enough to follow even if they didn’t understand.  Their love and loyalty to this “Son of Man” who had proven His character to them again and again superseded their need to understand.

God’s wondrous plan of salvation for mankind was understood by no man on this earth while it was unfolding.  Even though Jesus explained it clearly to his closest disciples, they were in despair when it all happened.

Isaiah said this about Jesus;

He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him.

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.

Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

If I had been there at the cross to see Jesus, beaten and bloodied so that he no longer looked like a man, naked and reviled so I would have to turn my eyes away; how would I have judged that scene?  How would I have judged Jesus?  I probably would have thought, “What a poor wretched man.  What did he do to deserve such a death?  This is one of the worst things I have ever witnessed.  This is one of the darkest hours in all human history.”

Yet this man was perfect, powerful, and indescribably beautiful.  He was not a lowly criminal but the King of the Universe.  He accomplished all that He had set out to do, and it was actually the most powerful moment in human history.  The moment that sin and death were defeated and all of us were set free…FOREVER!!!

We miss what God is doing because we are focused on the wrong things.  If something is despised or rejected by men…it might just be God.

Yes, we need to discern what is the Holy Spirit and what is not.  We need to understand what God is doing RIGHT NOW and join HIM in His work.  We need to seek His heart and come into unity with Him.

I am not talking about false hope or putting our faith in something that isn’t real.  I am not talking about closing our eyes to evil and pretending that it isn’t there. I hate that!  I hate believing in lies and I hate disappointment!  Yet, those who put their hope in God will not be disappointed!  I am talking about a reality that is more real than what we see around us.  I am talking about a reality that is higher.

Alaska. Bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) in flight. Wing span can reach 6.6 feet. Males can grow up to 9lbs in weight, 50,000 bald eagles live in Alaska.

Once I had to seek that reality just to survive.  How thankful I am for that time, for I will not be so easily deceived again.  You see, I was part of a church that specialized in showing people their sins.  They thought they were doing God’s work by helping to “perfect” all the people around them.  What they were really doing was speaking the words of the Accuser which only brought condemnation and despair.

They had been working to try and “fix” me for a few years.  They finally decided that I was too “broken” to remain part of the church.  They said nothing to me about this decision but discussed it among themselves.  That morning in my quiet time God gave me a scripture that I will never forget.

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.

Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her

that her hard service has been completed,

that her sin has been paid for, Is 40:1-2

 Even though God was speaking tenderly to me, the church was not. One of the church leaders called my husband to a special meeting and proceeded to tell him that our family could no longer be part of the church because of my sin.  She said that I was so deep into my iniquity (no specific sin was mentioned) that I was interfering with their prayers.  She said that I was keeping Chris from his destiny, and that it was never God’s will for him to marry me in the first place.  She believed that eventually I would leave Chris. Once that happened, he could return to the church.

When Chris told me what they had said to him, I felt as though I had been punched in the gut and had all the wind knocked out of me.  Did I believe the words of the Lord that I had received earlier in the day?  I am sorry to say that I did not.  The words of man are spoken so much louder and seem to be much clearer.  Chris and I spent many days in darkness and condemnation, trying to find a way out.

Still the voice of the Lord was whispering to me, and I sought Him like never before!  One night I was praying over our family and wondering what would happen next without our church, our friends, our support network, and our future as we had envisioned it.  I saw in my mind a picture of an eagle’s nest.  It was so high in the rocks of a mountain that you couldn’t see the earth below.  The nest was full of baby birds.  I felt God say,

That is your family.  You are meant to be eagles and you are to raise your children to be eagles.”

            My first thought was, “How dangerous to raise my children on the side of a cliff.  What if they fell and went crashing to their deaths?”

But then I realized that eagles were born to be up there.  It was their natural habitat, and they were not afraid of it.  Babies eagles were born to fly, and fly they most certainly would!  They were born to view the earth from a different perspective, a higher perspective.

flight_of_freedom_bald_eagle-normal

They can see more at one time and see for longer distances than most animals.  But what if an eagle is confined to the ground, to see only what is right in front of them.  What if they are thrown down to the dirt and are unable to rise and feel the wind carry them above the smog and the grime.  What if they are down there for so long that they forget the beauty of the clouds and the heavens above?

eagles-in-flight-09-011a

I imagine that they would get frustrated, then afraid, then angry, then bitter…just as I have in the past.  Just as many Christian have during this election.  I am so thankful that God has given me wings and lifted me up where I belong.

Children of God…you were born to fly!

But those who wait on the Lord

Shall renew their strength;

They shall mount up with wings like eagles,

They shall run and not be weary,

They shall walk and not faint.

 The other voices out there will yell at you!  They will attract your attention with flashing lights and mesmerizing images.  They will pull you in and hold you captive.  But the voice of the Lord is still and it is small.  In order to hear it, we must silence all other voices, we must silence our own thoughts, and we must wait on the Lord!

yingjichangkonggaoqingxiyingxiezhenbizhi_435108_3

Wait on the Lord!  For you are a great company of eagles born to fly!

 

Am I a True Believer?

I had just struggled through the door of the orthodontist with my daughter.  Ashlyn is almost a teenager and in dire need of braces on her teeth.  Doing orthodontic work on a child who is mentally three is difficult enough.  Then there is her club foot deformity.  She can walk with braces on her feet, but she is very awkward.  Sometimes she almost pulls me down while trying to steady herself.  We took seats right inside the door.  I was feeling a bit self-conscious, expecting people to be staring at me and my special needs daughter.

I found myself in the middle of a conversation between two women.  Both were talking about how terrible their knees were.  One of the women was in her 40s and had just gotten cortisone shots in each knee which helped considerably.  The other women was in her 50s and she told about having trouble with her left knee since she was 24.  Back then, since she had some cartilage damage, the doctors decided to do surgery to remove all the cartilage.

“It has just been bone on bone ever since then.  It is awful, but I won’t let them cut me open again, no matter how bad it gets,” she said with passion.

“God could give her new cartilage,” I thought to myself. “Areli’s mission’s team in Australia has been seeing healings.  Why not here?”

I felt compelled to ask her if I could pray for her.  Suddenly I had another thought that stopped me in my tracks.

“You are sitting here with a hip that gives you trouble.  You have had prayer so many times and it is not better.  What makes you think that you can pray for this woman?  You are sitting right next to your daughter who is obviously in need of healing herself.  She is evidence that God doesn’t always answer your prayers.  It would be better for you to just keep your mouth shut than look like a fool.”

These thoughts all flashed through my mind in the span of a second, but they seemed reasonable to me, and I stayed quiet.  Yet I thought about it for the next few days.  When I shared this all with Chris, he said, “You know that was the devil.”

I hadn’t realized it, but now that I write it out, it sounds just like that liar!  Why do I fall for it almost every time?  Over the next few days as I was driving my children around town, I kept encountering God through the Word of Promise New Testament on CD, The Book of Mark.

DSC_0005

Jesus said to the father, “You said, ‘If you can!’ All things are possible for him who believes.” Immediately the father cried out, “I do believe! Help me to believe more!”

Jesus healed the boy despite the father’s doubts.

“Jesus, please heal my daughter despite all of MY doubts.  How can I obtain this healing for her that seems so mysteriously hidden and out of reach?” I prayed.

                Jesus answered “Have faith in God, I tell you the truth. You can say to this mountain, fall into the sea.’  And if you have no doubts in your mind and believe that the thing you say will happen, then God will do it for you.  So I tell you to ask for things in prayer.  And if you believe that you have received those things, then they will be yours.”

“And those who believe will be able to do these things as proof: They will use my name to force demons out of people.  They will speak in languages they never learned.  They will pick up snakes without being hurt.  And they will drink poison without being hurt.  They will touch the sick, and the sick will be healed.”

                “Wow,” I thought to myself, “I don’t think I am a believer in the way Jesus meant for me to be, because I don’t have much of that evidence in my life.  Am I even really a true believer? How can I increase my faith?”

I asked myself those questions all week long.  Finally an answer came in a most beautiful way.  The sermon on Sunday was being preached by the pastor of Christ Community Church, Dave Hess.  He spoke directly to my questioning heart, as though God had instructed him to do so. You can listen to the entire sermon on LCMI.TV.

He was talking about finding what was pleasing to the Lord.  He said that God loved it when we joined Him on His adventures, taking risks and seizing opportunities.  Our mission (found in Eph 5:8) is to take full advantage of everyday, to make the most of the time (Kairos time – a moment of opportunity that won’t last long).  When we see a chance to step out and show God’s love, fear comes from the enemy who is trying to keep us from taking an opportunity that he wanted to use.

Rev 12:12 says that a generation will arise that will make Satan furious because he has run out of Kairos time, which just means that he is getting ticked off because the opportunities that he used to take advantage of are now being overtaken by the people of God.

Then Dave shared about when he first started trying to get words of knowledge for people outside of the church in an effort to bring them healing.  He floundered around awkwardly and made many mistakes.

“You will make mistakes”, he said, “But it is worth every risk and mistake because God can use our most stupid moments and make something redemptive.”

Then he read a declaration over all of us that answered the cry of my heart for more faith.

You will live as a child with his Father, flooded with His revelation light.

You will learn to choose what is beautiful to the Lord.

His supernatural fruit will be seen in you – His goodness, His righteousness, and His truth.

You will live with true wisdom having discernment to fully understand His will.

You will take full advantage of every day, every Kairos moment, spending your life for His purposes.

You are going to maximize the opportunities that He brings to you.

I think I am going to write these out and post them on my bathroom mirror.  I can read them and build my spiritual muscles by adding faith to every word!

I Want My Life to Mean Something

photo toilet

I just had to go to the bathroom!  However, on my way there I needed to yell out the window at a boy chasing a ball into the street.

“Calvin, I told you that you are not allowed in the street.  You have to play inside now!”

Then I had to stop to referee a fight between two other children.

“If this is Courage’s toy, you have to ask him before you take it!  And Courage, do not scream and cry.  Just say, ‘This is my toy.  Give it back to me please.’  You don’t get anything you want when you scream and cry.”

I feel like I have given this little lesson about five hundred and sixty-four times.  Why don’t they remember! I still need to use the restroom (it is getting quite urgent!) yet I cannot stop myself from picking the kitchen towel off the floor which I had already done twice that morning.

“We dry our dishes with this towel, people!” I think to myself.  I notice peanut butter on the otherwise white cabinet door.  I encounter shoes and the grungiest socks known to man thrown about the living room floor.

“Cooper!  Put these in the laundry room!” I call out in desperation, knowing that I will probably have to hunt him down and ask him again later.

I pass Ashlyn’s walking track.  She is supposed to be doing her walking exercises right now; building her muscles, organizing her brain, and increasing her balance.  She is laying on the sofa, nursing some sores on her feet.  I wonder to myself if all the therapy that I have done with her was in vain.  She can’t wear her braces if the skin on her feet break down.  And she can’t walk if she doesn’t wear her braces.

I get into the bathroom and shut and lock the door.  A moment of peace.  A quiet space.  Ahhhhhh…I can sit down for a moment.  WHAT IS THIS!!!!! PEE ON THE TOILET AGAIN!! I just wiped this toilet one hour ago, and the hour before that!

In the relative quiet of my stinky, dirty bathroom I am close to tears.

“Is this my life?  Working hard to clean a house that never stays that way?  Toiling to teach my children lessons that they never seem to learn.  Worried about not doing enough therapy with Ashlyn while simultaneously worrying about doing TOO MUCH therapy with Ashlyn.  I want my life to mean something,” I pray to God. “How can I know if my life is making a difference when I see so little good fruit?”

I just love it when I have a really productive day; wrote a blog article, organized an entire room, cleaned out the attic, or created a delicious meal with an abundance of bright colors and fresh ingredients.  But what happens when day after day goes by with no real progress of any kind.  Moms deal with this phenomena all the time.  We pour ourselves out, go to bed late, get up early, work hard; and when we stop to look around…it appears as though we have gotten absolutely nothing accomplished whatsoever!

I have been feeling the frustration and discontent that thousands of women have experienced.  We feel unnoticed, unimportant, and meaningless.  This has pushed many women to abandon their high calling as a wife and mother to pour themselves into other pursuits…just to feel worthy and fulfilled.

I KNOW that I have the most important career in the world.  I KNOW that my life is making a difference in this life and in the next.

It just doesn’t FEEL that way most of the time.

“God, help me to see things the way you do.  I need some encouragement here!”  I have prayed.

God is answering as He always does.  It may take a lifetime to understand all that He is saying and to unravel my own thoughts and ideas.  But I think I am making some progress.

I have been listening to the Bible on CD.  Listening to a cast of characters reading the Bible as though it were actually happening has helped me to see the stories in a different light.  It seems more real and more relevant.  Plus it is a different version than what I have read before, and it brings a new dimension to many verses.

As I look at the Bible as a whole; the story of God’s relationship with mankind, there is a common thread that I hadn’t noticed before.  God always had a plan.  He was always confident that this plan would work.  Very few humans actually understood His plan or knowingly helped God work out His plan.  The major events in the Bible were orchestrated and accomplished by God, not man.  Many times God worked through people and with people but most of the time He moved DESPITE people.

All the amazing events in Acts happened because of God.  The disciples didn’t get together after the resurrection and have an intensive strategic planning meeting to figure out how they would acquire the Holy Spirit or how they would add 3,000 people to their number in one day.  They didn’t go to college to learn the cutting edge strategies for converting the Jews and then the Gentiles to the Way.  (They didn’t even know that the Gentiles COULD be saved until God showed them.)

All the disciples did was wait on God and obey whatever He told them to do.  Many times they saw miracles, but more often they encountered opposition and persecution.  Often it appeared as though they were accomplishing nothing at all as the churches they planted fell into deceptions and wrong teachings.  Yet look at how their lives have affected the entire world!

When I look across all of human history, the person who had the most powerful participation in bringing God’s salvation to the earth was Mary.  This is just my opinion but you have to admit, she played a pretty big role.

But what did she actually do?

She BELIEVED what the Angel told her was true.

She SUBMITTED to God’s wonderful plan.

She MOTHERED Jesus.

Could I be as powerful in the course of human history as Mary if I just believe, submit, and mother?

If I could just BELIEVE every word God tells me.

If I could just joyfully SUBMIT, YEILD, and SURRENDER to God’s best for me.

If I could just MOTHER – love, nourish, carry, teach, serve, and protect each child God gives to me.

DSC_0080

Even Mary lost her most influential place of mothering for a while.  Maybe she didn’t agree with what Jesus was doing because it seemed too controversial or too dangerous.  Perhaps she was too weighed down with the concerns of her other children and life in general.  When she and her other sons went to see Jesus while He was teaching a large group, He didn’t go out to them.

He said, “Who is my mother?  Who are my brothers?”  He pointed to His disciples and said, “These are my mother and my brothers. Whoever hears the words of God and does them is my mother and brothers.”

If I had been Mary, I would have been devastated by His words.  Then I would have gotten really mad!  “Listen mister, I said yes to carrying you in my womb even though it sullied my reputation and messed up my life.  I gave birth to you and nursed you and took care of you during all the hard times!  None of these guys here know what the angel said to me.  They don’t know what Anna or Simeon said about you.  They didn’t see you take your first steps or nurse you through sickness.  How could you say that they are your mother!”

Yet she must have realized that Jesus was never wrong.  He was never disrespectful or vengeful or mean for meanness sake.  All His words were true…every time. Mary must have repented before God for not hearing His words and obeying them during this crucial time in Jesus’ ministry, because she was there with disciples in the upper room.

What this story tells me is that anyone, anywhere at anytime can have Mary’s impact if they simply hear God’s voice and obey.  To hear God’s voice we must love Him, wait on Him, spend time with Him, read His words over and over.  To obey Him is always to love because He is love.

In essence – to BELIEVE

TO SUBMIT

TO MOTHER

To live this kind of life takes faith to believe without seeing.

To live this kind of life is so much harder than just checking items off a to-do list.

To live this kind of life is something I am sure that I can’t do on my own.

To live this kind of life is the POWER and GLORY of my motherhood; to watch God take my little, seemingly insignificant acts of love and obedience and turn them into something

EARTH SHAKING

ETERNITY CHANGING

BEYOND MY IMAGINATION IMPORTANT

What is the Glory of Motherhood?

“Will you awaken mothers to the glory of their calling?”

I keep hearing the Holy Spirit asking me that question.  And I have to answer with a question of my own.

“What is the glory of my calling?”

Honestly, I am having trouble seeing it in the midst of one big mess after another.  Courage’s birthday was a perfect example of this.

DSC_0139 (2)

It had been a pretty peaceful day.  I had time to get the house cleaned and ready for the party celebrating our fiery three-year old.  All of his presents were wrapped.  The supper was prepared in advance.  I had gathered the ingredients for Courage’s heart’s desire; a chocolate dirt cake with gummy bears.  I had also made two additional desserts with special ingredients to accommodate the more delicate members of our family.

I was sitting on the sofa, waiting for dinner time.  “This is an important part of motherhood right here,” I thought.  Celebrating my children and creating happy birthday memories for them.  I was hoping that Courage would feel loved and special and that the entire family would have fun.

DSC_0143 (2)

I started setting the table and getting the food ready when my perfectly planned birthday celebration began to unravel.

“Chai just threw up on the carpet!!!” I heard an excited child yell.  At first I tried to ignore it and continued the dinner preparations.  Maybe they were exaggerating as children are prone to do, or maybe someone else would take care of it.  No such luck.

I went from working with food in the kitchen to scraping stinky puke off the living room carpet.  Chai had suddenly gotten sick and ended up sleeping in his bed for the entire birthday party. The smell and the germs were not what I had planned.  Thank goodness my mom was the only guest, and we didn’t have a house full of people!

As I began scrubbing the carpet with cleanser, I heard the sound of some sort of ball hitting the side of the house.  This didn’t go on for long before I heard Chris yell out the window, “Cole, stop kicking the soccer ball against the house!”

Did Cole heed his father’s wise advice?  No, the banging continued once more, twice more, and then…the sickening sound of shattering glass!  Cole had just broken our living room window.  Thankfully, it was the storm window so none of the glass came into the house.  But there was glass all over the back patio.

“Oh well, I can’t worry about that right now,” I thought to myself.  “I have to throw in some laundry, get the boys to take out this trash, scrub my hands about fifty times in hot water, and then finish putting the food on the table.”

Back into the kitchen I went.  Then Areli came to me holding the cup used to measure the laundry detergent.

“Courage just handed this to me… filled with his pee!” she told me.

“Of course he did,” I thought. I was bracing myself for the next catastrophe that was sure to come.

Amazingly, the rest of the evening went just fine.  We all sang “Happy Birthday” very loudly.  Cake was eaten.  Presents were opened and played with.

March and Courage's birthday 2016 054

We made a big mess and cleaned up a big mess.  We put all the children to bed and prayed that no one else would throw up during the night.  We got into bed late to get up early and do it all over again.  Doesn’t seem very glorious, does it?

“Will you awaken mothers to the glory of their calling?”

Rick Joyner heard a great Queen ask him this very question in a vision that he wrote about in The Torch and the Sword.  He said that she was astonishingly beautiful and seemed to be motherhood in all of its glory.  She explained that she was Jerusalem above, the mother of all who worship in Spirit and truth, the church as it was called to be.

She asked Rick, “Will you awaken mothers to the glory of their calling?  Will you give my daughters swords and torches?  They are the ones who keep the torches alive, and they will wield the sword wisely.  My daughters will stop the death and bring back the life!”

DSC_0001 (3)

Perhaps to see a bit of the glory of my calling, I should find out what these swords and torches are all about.  Here are a few excerpts from the book and I hope it is encouraging to you!

The Lord handed Rick a torch and told him, “This is the light of My presence.  If I was not close to you, you could not hold it.  If you drift from My presence, it will become heavy.  If you drift very far from Me, you will have to lay it down…It is yours to carry for as long as you stay close to Me…No power on earth can put it out if the torchbearer walks with Me in this realm. Its brightness and power depend on the life of the torch-bearer, and on how close he stays to Me.”

Then Rick met Tomas a Kempis who told him, “You can set people, cities, and even nations free with the light of this torch…The torch you carry has been the source of every true movement of the Spirit.  The leaders of these movements were all torchbearers…If you are going to endure to the end, you must stay close to the Source of this light and fire.”

The Lord spoke about Thomas, “Men thought of Thomas as a humble laborer, one to cook, wash dishes, and weed gardens [sounds a lot like a mom’s job!], but he, too, carried this torch.  From his post of washing dishes, he became more powerful than kings or emperors.  He prophesied to millions over generations.  Even today My message goes forth from his writings to help prepare the coming ones.  You can be more powerful washing dishes and staying close to Me than you would be leading armies or nations but drifting from Me.”

I need to read that again!

“YOU CAN BE MORE POWERFUL WASHING DISHES AND STAYING CLOSE TO ME than you would be leading armies or nations but drifting from Me.”

To be torchbearers, to carry this fire that brings life rather than destroys, we must abide in Jesus.

Rick met Enoch who had so much of this life flowing through him that he never died.  Enoch said, “The Lord makes His messengers flames of fire.  You cannot walk with God, or fulfill His purpose for you on the earth, unless you keep this fire burning in your heart.  Lukewarmness is your deadly enemy.”

Lukewarmness can easily creep into the mind numbing daily grind of a mother.  It is the overwhelming hardships and challenges of motherhood that push us into his presence!  How I want to be one of the chosen torchbearers!

Jesus told Rick, “You will know these chosen ones by the fire that already burns in them.  They will never be content with religious practices, for they yearn for Me and the reality of this realm.  Because they seek Me, I will be found by them.  I will give them their heart’s desire – My fellowship.  I will be their inheritance.”

Later in the vision, Rick found himself preparing for a battle.  The only other warriors with him were a young girl and John Wesley.  Wesley told him, “The Lord called a dozen men.  He changed them and then they changed the world.  In your time He is going to do the same with the children.  It is also the time of the lioness.  Great are the company of women who will preach the gospel.  There will be many great men of God in your time – but the great marvel and great honor will be for the women and children who walk in the ways of the Lord.”

Later the Lord gave Rick a sword and said, “It will only become heavy if you wield it in your own strength.  This is my Word of redemption.  It cannot be destroyed, but will stand forever…No power on the earth is stronger than my redemption…This is the sword of the Spirit…You are holding my living Word…to receive my word into your heart must be your quest every day.  Then you will begin to see.  Then you will have understanding.

                “It was by my Word that the universe was created, and it is by My Word that it is held together.  My Word is the answer to every human problem…The sword that is being given to my messengers in the last days can break any yoke, and cut through any chain.”

“Will you awaken mothers to the glory of their calling?  Will you give my daughters swords ad torches?  They are the ones who keep the torches alive, and they will wield the sword wisely.  My daughters will stop the death and bring back the life!”

                “I am a woman.  I am a mother.  I am the keeper and sustainer of life here on earth.  Heaven stands in honor of my mission.  No one else can carry my call.  I am the daughter of Eve.  Eve has been redeemed.  I am the opposition of death.  I am a woman.” – Christianna Reed Maas

The reality is, we can carry the living fire of His presence and the powerful Word of redemption into every part of our day – the fun celebrations and the puking parties, the playtime and the hard work.  That is glorious even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time.  We don’t need any special skills or qualifications.  All that is required is that we seek Him first, abide in Him, and receive His words into our hearts every day.

How Does God Feel About Mothers?

 

bc2I never considered it a sacrifice to be a mother.  I have always thought it was a privilege and the most amazing calling.  It is powerful and world-changing to be a mother, to grow and nourish the next generation.

Yet, now that I have been a mother for 17 years, I am getting a bit weary.  I have realized that I really don’t have my own life.  My days are filled with the needs of my husband and children.  I find myself daydreaming about what it would be like to be alone in the house with nothing to do except exactly what I WANTED to do.

Most of the time, I enjoy being at home with my children.  It is my favorite place to be.  I just assumed that it was my children’s favorite place to be as well.  One night Chris was working late and I was sitting at the dinner table with all of my nine children.  A peaceful meal is so refreshing to the soul; enjoying the smells and flavors, exchanging stimulating conversation.

A meal is never a peaceful affair at my house.  That night the children were all so loud, I couldn’t follow any one conversation.  Several of the boys were discussing topics not appropriate for the table.  The three-year old kept getting up and wandering around, and the 6-year-old kept standing up on the bench.  In an attempt to regain control, I lifted my voice and shouted above the noise, “Everyone be quiet!  We are going around the table and I want each one of you to tell me your favorite part of the day.  The rest of you just listen!”

The chaos quieted to a dull roar, and the children shared with me what they most enjoyed about their day.  The elementary school boys all enjoyed playing kickball at recess.  Cadin, who is fifteen, just started Cyber School after being homeschooled.  He had to go take the PSSAs for the first time.  He had never had to sit for 7 hours in a classroom before, and I thought he would hate it.  Yet, when it was his turn to share, Cadin said, “My favorite part of the day was taking the PSSAs.”

“Really?! Why is that?”  I asked.

“Because I didn’t have to be at home,” he answered.

“You don’t like being at home?” I asked, feeling very hurt.

“Well,” Cadin started with an apologetic voice, “I got to get a break and I didn’t have to do any chores.”

“I understand how he feels,” said Areli, my 17-year-old daughter.  “My favorite part of the day is when I do school, alone in my room.”

Now the small ache in my heart was growing.  “Well, I never actually get to be alone,” I said.  “Except maybe when I am in the bathroom.”

“You do get a nap every day,” Areli countered.

“That is true, and I so appreciate that nap!  But I am still not alone.  I have to share the room with the baby and wake up when she wakes up.  I am really never alone.”  I said.

Cole, the 15-year-old cynic, chimed in, “That’s your own fault for having so many children.  You and Dad went a little crazy,” he pointed out.

I felt the wind go out of my sails.  My own children didn’t even appreciate my willingness to carry them, give birth to them; give up sleep and privacy and alone time for them.  They couldn’t see the purpose in this crazy, loud, mess that is the Brandenburg household.  Sometimes I lose sight of it too.

When I look down the corridors of history, I don’t see the stories full of mothers heroically laying their lives down for their children.  I see men who fight battles, conquer, and enslave.  I see men who fight battles, conquer, and set free.  I see stories of kings and rulers.

When I turn on the TV, I don’t see news stories about the amazing mom who changed 24 diapers in the last 24 hours with only 3 hours of sleep the night before.  I see lawmakers and lawbreakers, politicians and rebels.

When I watch an awards show, I never see a mom who looks like me get up on stage and accept a prestigious award for her amazing ability to check items off a to do list and keep 9 children clothed and feed.  That is for the talented artists who receive the praise of millions of adoring fans.

What I thought was my little fan club was now telling me that they would rather be out of the house or alone instead of spending time with me.

I turned to a book that always helps me gain an eternal perspective, The Final Quest by Rick Joyner.  He shares a prophetic experience he had when he was in the throne room of heaven. He started in the very back of the room.  On his long walk to the front where the Lord was, he passed crowds of believers who had already died.  The multitudes standing at the back were more glorious than Rick had imagined people could ever be.  He was shocked to find out that these were in the very lowest rank in heaven.

One man he had known on earth explained it to him this way, “There is an aristocracy of sorts here.  The rewards for our earthly lives are the eternal positions that we will have forever.  This great multitude are those whom the Lord called ‘foolish virgins.’ We knew the Lord and trusted in His cross for salvation, but we lived for ourselves more than we really lived for him…there is no greater folly than to know the great salvation of God, but then go on living for yourself.”

This man was still more glorious and full of joy and peace than Rick had ever imagined possible.  It was simply because even a moment in the lowest part of heaven is much greater than a thousand years in the highest life on earth, and every person there had received so much more than they actually deserved.  As Rick moved toward the throne, he learned from the mistakes of those in the lowest ranks, and discovered that those same mistakes resided in his own life.

A great Christian leader during his life on earth told him, “What looks good on earth looks very different here.  What will make you a king on earth will often be a stumbling block to keep you from being a king here.  What will make you a king here is lowly and unclaimed on earth.”

Later, a famous reformer stepped forward and Rick couldn’t believe that he was in the lowest rank. The reformer told him, “God does have a different set of history books than those on the earth.  You have had a glimpse of this but you do not yet know how different they are.  Earthly histories will pass away, but the books that are kept here will last forever.  If you can rejoice in what heaven is recording about your life, you are blessed indeed.”

Then the reformer gave Rick some advice, “The high calling is not out of reach for anyone that the Lord has called.  I will tell you what will keep you on the path of life – love the Savior and seek His glory alone.  Everything you do to exalt yourself will one day bring you the most terrible humiliation.  Everything you do out of genuine love for the Savior, to glorify His name, will extend the limits of His eternal kingdom and ultimately result in a much higher place for yourself.  Live for what is recorded here.  Care nothing for what is recorded on earth.”

As Rick continued walking towards the glory of Jesus, he saw that each rank was many times greater than the previous one.  He described it like this, “When I was still not even halfway to the throne, what had been the indescribable glory of the first rank now seemed to be outer darkness in comparison to the glory of those I was now passing.  The greatest beauty on earth would not qualify to be found anywhere in heaven.  And I was told that this room was just the threshold of indescribable realms of glory!”

Rick learned from those who had fallen short of their destinies and also learned from those who had overcome and remained faithful to Jesus.  “Those who stumbled did so in many different ways.  But those who prevailed all did it the same way: They did not deviate from their devotion to the first and greatest commandment – loving the Lord.  In this way, their service was done unto Him, not to men. These were the ones who worshipped the Lamb and followed him wherever He went.”

Finally after what seemed like years of traveling, Rick reached the throne.  “Near the judgement seat of Christ, those in the highest ranks were sitting on thrones that were all a part of His throne.  Even the least of these thrones was many times more glorious than any earthly throne.  Some of those on the thrones were rulers over cities on earth and would soon take their places.  Others were rulers over the affairs of heaven, and still others ruled over the affairs of the physical creation, such as star systems and galaxies.

“It was apparent that those who were given authority over cities were esteemed even above those who had been given authority over galaxies.  The value OF A SINGLE CHILD (emphasis added) surpassed that of a galaxy of stars because the Lord has chosen men as His eternal dwelling place…

“At one point the Lord looked toward the galleries of thrones around Him.  Many were occupied, but many were empty.  He then said, ‘These thrones are for the overcomers who have served Me faithfully in every generation.  My Father and I prepared them before the foundation of the world.  Are you worthy to sit on one of these?’

“…I looked at those who were now seated on the thrones.  I could recognize most of those seated had not even been well-known on earth.

“Many of those on the thrones had been missionaries who expended their lives in obscurity.  They had never cared to be remembered on earth, but wanted only to be remembered by Him.  I was a bit surprised to see some who had been wealthy, and rulers who had been faithful with what they had been given.  However, it seemed that faithful, praying women and mothers occupied more thrones than any other single group.”

I have read this passage many times and every time my eyes flood with tears and my heart swells like it will burst!  My Lord has so honored mothers that many sit with him on the highest thrones in heaven!  My Lord so honors mothers that he allowed Rick Joyner to write down the revelation so that we could read it and be encouraged.

Mothers, let’s receive His grace to walk this path like eternity depends on it.  Jesus gave Rick this wisdom, “Those empty seats could have been filled in any generation.  I gave the invitation to sit here to everyone who has called upon My name.  The seats are still available.  Now the last battle has come, and many who are last shall be first.  These seats will be filled before the battle is over.  Those who sit here will be known by two things: They will wear the mantle of humility, and they will have my likeness.”

I am right where God wants me to be.  I am in the perfect place to love Him and to serve Him.  I don’t need to be famous or acclaimed or recognized or talented.  I just need to be who He has made me to be.

Amy Devita Photography 043

I don’t need the world to understand the importance of what I am doing.  I don’t even need my children to understand and appreciate me.  I know that Jesus understands and he sees.

I don’t feel at all able to walk this path perfectly.  I am full of selfishness and I get off track so easily.  I realize that I can’t even do the basics, loving my husband and children, on my own.  I need His great grace!  But I am in the perfect place to receive His Grace…every…single…day!

She was Bald, Toothless, Covered with Scabs…and She was Indescribably Beautiful.

DSCF9893

I had developed quite an affection for my neighbor across the street, Sandy.  I had met her eight years ago when we moved into our house.  She was small and looked older than her years.  We invited her to neighborhood get-togethers, but she never came.  In her own words, she was “backwards, shy, and didn’t go out of her house much.”

Pretty soon her habit of being a hermit became a necessity.  Her heart started to fail because of years of smoking.   She had to get a pacemaker and could hardly walk across the street without becoming winded.  On those rare occasions that we saw each other outside, I was struck by the beauty and sweetness of her heart, buried beneath a wrinkled and toothless exterior.

I was amazed by how she was able to quit smoking cold turkey after 30 years of the habit.  I was touched when she called me on the phone because she had seen a rainbow outside that she thought my children would love to see.

Once I visited her in her cute little home that had been in her family for 100 years.  She showed me every Christmas card we had ever sent out, and I got the impression that she treasured them and considered us more than acquaintances.  We were good friends.  She could observe our comings and goings through her front window.   She noticed when the boys were playing outside and how much they were growing.  I realized that I should make the effort to visit her more often.

I really did try to reach out to her, but my visits were few and far between.  Every time I looked out my front window, I would imagine her alone in her home except for her faithful dog. I would pray for her.  Pray for her to not be lonely but to feel God’s presence.  Pray for her to feel his love for her.  As I prayed, day after day, my love for her grew.  She became my mission field.  I could not go out and do things with the freedom that I wanted to, having to be with my children and nurse the baby frequently, but I could pray for Sandy.

One night I felt the urgency to call her.  I had almost never called her.  In fact, I don’t call other people very often because I am afraid of bothering them and being a pest.  Maybe that is how Sandy feels, I thought.  Despite the fact that I had offered to help her time and again, she had never called me for help.  Perhaps she was afraid.

October 2015 046

It was late at night, but I knew her health was failing.  What if I missed an opportunity?  What if she was at home but in trouble?  The urge was so strong, that I just had to call.

She answered and was just fine.  But I got the chance to tell her that I had been praying for her and that God loved her so much.

A few months later, in the sticky heat of summer, I finally got over to visit her.  Her home was messy and so dustly, it was hard for me to breath.  I felt a bit sick as I sat there and chatted cheerfully.  How must she feel, with her bad heart and a chronic respiratory infection?  She had no energy to clean!  Plus she was connected to a bulky oxygen tank by a long tube in her nose.  I asked if there was anything I could do to help.  At first she said no.  Finally she told me that she had groceries in her truck that she had been unable to carry in from the morning.

I was appalled!  It had been 90 degrees that day.  Surely her groceries were ruined.  But I kept a smile on my face and said, “Sure, the boys and I would love to carry them in.”

We got all the groceries in. Thankfully the perishable items had been put into the fridge earlier.  I dumped the huge bag of dog food into the dog food dispenser and tried to help with anything else I could.  All the while Sandy was muttering, “I hate to ask people for help.”

I pleaded with her to call me the next time she went shopping.  I did not receive a call, but sometime later, Sandy’s best friend knocked on my door.  She looked terribly agitated and asked if she could sit.  I offered her a chair, but she never sat.  She stood and paced and rubbed her hands on her legs as she explained the reason for her visit.

“Did you hear the sirens last night?  Well, Sandy was back in her room using the large oxygen tank.  I don’t know why she did this, but she lit a lighter and the oxygen caught on fire.  She was burned all over her face, and her bed was burned.  She was able to call 911, but she was unresponsive when they came.  She is in the burn unit, and I don’t know what is going to happen.”

Her friend was so distressed, and now I was too!   Sandy’s health was so bad, could she possible live through this?  Had I lost my opportunity to tell her about Jesus?

I really prayed for Sandy over the next few days.  Had I shown her God’s love the way he had asked me too?  God gave me this verse.

Ezekiel 33:7-9 “I have appointed you as a watchman for the people of Israel; therefore listen to what I say and warn them for me.  When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you will die!’ and you don’t tell him what I say, so that he does not repent –that wicked person will die in his sins, but I will hold you responsible for his death.  But if you warn him to repent and he doesn’t, he will die in his sin, and you will not be responsible.”

I had always hesitated to lay out the gospel message when I thought that others couldn’t or wouldn’t receive it.  But here God was telling me that the outcome was not my responsibility.  I was simply responsible to do what he was asking me to do.

Amazingly, Sandy was back home within a few weeks.  I resolved to obey Jesus the best that I could.  I felt that he loved Sandy and just wanted me to introduce her to him.  I didn’t know if she knew him, if she believed in him at all.

I visited and called a few times a week, bringing her food and handmade cards and encouragement.  I wanted to make sure that I was there to help even if she couldn’t ask me for it.  I had some lovely times sitting in her cozy home (which was now bright and clean thanks to her very energetic best friend).  Sandy’s face was black with scabs.  Her head had been shaved.  Her body couldn’t get rid of all the fluids that they had pumped into her at the hospital, and she had blown up like a very uncomfortable balloon.  Her heart had gone from working at 25% to only 10%.  I wished that there was something I could do for her!  I asked her if I could pray for her and she let me.  Maybe Jesus would heal her to show her how much he loved her.  I tried to have faith that we could see a miracle!

“Jesus loves you so much, Sandy!” I told her.  “Do you know how much he loves you?”  I asked.  Here was my chance to introduce my friend Jesus to my friend Sandy.  I could tell her about how I met Jesus and ask if she had ever met him in that way.

“I don’t know if he loves me.  Things keep going wrong for me.  I am so sick.  I just want to be able to get out of the house and drive to the store or something.”

I felt the weight of her suffering.  I felt the power of her pain.  I had been going through a season of suffering as well, carrying many unanswered prayers and unanswered questions.  I wasn’t sure how to answer her because I wasn’t sure how to appease the sorrow of my own heart.  I knew that Jesus loved us, but I didn’t know how to explain how I knew.

October 2015 002

“That’s what I am praying for.  I pray you will feel better and better.”  That was all that I could think of to say.  Perhaps Jesus would heal her through the night and she would begin to see his goodness.  I would check back with her in a few days and try again to introduce her to Jesus.

Sadly, I never got the chance.  Some days later we saw an ambulance sitting in the street between our houses.  There were police all around.  My heart was heavy.  If she was truly having an emergency, the ambulance wouldn’t be sitting there like that.  The police wouldn’t talk to us about what was going on, but later that night we found out.

Sandy had simply collapsed and died.  I couldn’t believe it.  I had no more time to develop a friendship.  No more time to pray for her.  No more time to tell her my testimony and find out if she had one of her own.  I did not know the condition of her soul, if she trusted in Jesus and he carried her to heaven, or if she never knew him and she was separated from him forever.

All I knew was that I had not done what Jesus had asked me to.  I hadn’t introduced her to him.  I was distraught.  I felt like the most horrible evangelist there had ever been.  My mission field had been one person and I had failed.  I had failed Sandy and I had failed Jesus.

I talked to God about it.  How could I go through life knowing that there was something more that I could have done to save her?  How could I enjoy eternity if Sandy was not there?  How I longed to see her again.  How I longed to see her restored and renewed and healed.  I wanted to see her in all the glory and beauty that I KNEW was in her but could never be seen in this life.  I felt the value of her soul and grieved because the precious jewel that she was might be lost forever.

“Is she with you God?”

He hasn’t given me a clear answer yet.  I needed to feel the weight of my mistake and repent.  I needed it to push me closer to Jesus and closer to his heart.

I NEED to become a better evangelist!  I NEED to practice and be uncomfortable and try and try again.

What he did remind me of was this.  He knew that evangelism hasn’t been one of my gifts, normally being very shy myself.  He knew that this was my first big assignment (that I was aware of). He had factored in my weaknesses and failure into his plan.  He wanted me to learn from this and move on with more understanding and more confidence.  He did not want me to give up in guilt and despair.  He wanted me to move forward, being open to talk to anyone and everyone about him.

He reminded me of how far I had come.  Many places I have lived, I never gotten to know my neighbors at all!  Slowly I began to become more outgoing (with help from my husband).  In this neighborhood, I have a good friendship with most everyone on my block.

Over the years I had prayed and prayed and prayed again for Sandy’s salvation, for her comfort, for her healing.  The Great God, who loves Sandy infinitely more than I do, wouldn’t let those prayers go unanswered, would he?

All it would have taken from Sandy would have been one cry!

“Jesus!”

A cry in her heart or with her mouth and he would have been there, rushing in with his glorious presence, wrapping her with his love and immortality!  I am sure of it.

Whether she ever cried out to him, I do not know.  I do know that I miss my friend.  Instead of her white car with the American flag flying from the window; there is an ugly, rusted dumpster in front of her house, gathering the discarded pieces of a life. Instead of seeing the candles in her windows, all I see is darkness. I don’t know if I will ever see her again.

October 2015 065

What I do know is that our obedience matters.  It has eternal consequences that are too heavy for me to even understand.  Yet our obedience has the potential to bring more joy and glory and reward than we can even imagine!  And we can only be obedient if we are listening and watching what our Father is doing.

Do you know Jesus?  He is my friend and he has been the best friend I have ever known.  He has never left me and he never will.  He is with you right now and will be with you forever if you want him to.  Can I introduce you to him?

How Does God Define Success?

grey truck

One day I was driving home from church and passed a big, shiny, brand new pick-up truck.  It was a beauty…and it was grey.  Oh, did I mention that it was really shiny with lots of chrome and cool lights. Did I tell you that it was impressive like the trucks on the commercials that are driving haphazardly through large mud puddles and hauling tons of important, manly looking items?  That is about all of the technical details I can recall about this truck.  If my husband had seen it, he could tell you the make, the model, the year and several important facts about it.  Then he would say with a frustrated but wistful longing, “I would love to have a truck like that!”

I would love for my husband to be able to have a truck like that!  He has owned at least 4 different pick-up trucks, all of them used.  All of them needed a lot of repairs and were more trouble than what they were worth, in my opinion.  But Chris does do a lot of hauling and hard work, and loves pick-up trucks.  As I passed this particular grey truck, I wondered to myself, “What would it feel like to be able to own a truck like that? What would it feel like to be successful enough to turn Chris’ dream into a reality?”

God used that grey truck to shine a light on the inner workings of my heart.  I realized that my definition of success was this: having enough money to buy an expensive new truck.  Then I thought about my vision for our future, a future where Chris and I had been successful.  I saw our family living in our dream house we had found on the internet.  The one that has seven bedrooms, six bathrooms and ten acres.  We were able to pay all our bills on time.  We were able to buy a new camper.  We were able to take time off from work to use that great new camper on vacations with all the children.  We had enough space and time and money to open our home to missionaries needing some R &R, and maybe we even developed a ministry to special needs children on our lovely property.

In my vision, our future was so beautiful and we were so prosperous…and comfortable.  My idea of success is the American dream: to work hard to earn a good life and then be able to enjoy that good life.  Dictionary.reference.com defines the American dream as: a life of personal happiness and material comfort as traditionally sought by individuals in the U.S.

Exactly!  That is what I wanted!  Isn’t that what we all want?

But is that what God wants for us?  Is that His best for us?  What is God’s definition of success?

Jesus said that we should seek his kingdom first.  Isn’t his kingdom all about…well, HIM??  Isn’t it all about knowing Jesus and having relationship with him and becoming like him? Anything that distracts us from knowing him is no success at all.

I realized that my definition of success was infinitely too small.  A shiny grey truck could make me happy when the most beautiful, powerful, captivating treasure was waiting in the wings…waiting to be sought out, to be discovered, to be experienced, and to be loved.  And that treasure was waiting to show me his love, to blow apart my mindsets and wreck my American dream if necessary to bring me to himself.

“You will not measure true spiritual fruit rightly while you are in the earth.  You can only measure your true success by how much more clearly you are able to behold the LORD, by how much better you know His Voice, and by how much more you love the brethren.

“You must not try to judge by the fruit that you see on earth, but do what you must because it is right.

Even so, more that bearing fruit, your call must be to know the LORD. If you seek Him you will always find Him.  He is always near to those who draw near. ..There is no higher purpose.  Your victory will be measured by your seeking.  You will always be as close to Him as you want to be. Your victory in life will be according to your desire for him” – The Call

A new idea of success was forming in my mind.  To know Jesus more each day.  To look into his eyes every moment and see his great love for me.  To live in that love.  To be able to see the face of God clearly enough to make out when he is smiling.  To desire to make him smile with my every thought and word and deed.  What joy and peace that would bring to any circumstance of life that I might find myself in.

That, my friends, is true success!

How to Let Go of the Pain

august 2015 026

Usually the weeks and months after I give birth, I am so happy!  I love caring for a newborn, nursing, snuggling, and looking into that precious little face.  That face contains all of the wonders of the world, and I bask in the glory of it.  Even in the midst of sleep deprivation, I feel the bliss of motherhood.  This time I experienced something unusual for me.  Amazing joy and deep sadness side by side. Sometimes in those rare moments of peace and quiet while nursing Annalise, I would begin to cry.  I was so happy about my little girl, yet so sad about how she had to come into the world.  The sorrowful thoughts kept coming, even though my life was so good.  I had seen many women go through a C-section with strength and grace and never complain.  Why was I having such a hard time?

My recovery was much slower than with my natural births.  When I returned home from the hospital, I couldn’t walk and hold my baby at the same time.  I would sleep any spare moment of the day and night and still feel dog tired.  Yet that was not why I was so sad.

During the difficult days of pregnancy, I would envision my lovely birth and the ecstasy that would follow.  That birth would make all the suffering worthwhile.  Yet this C-section birth had not produced that bliss.  In fact, as soon as Annalise was born and whisked away to the recovery room, I was left alone with a hollow feeling that went deep into my heart.  To read the whole birth story read, “The Heartbreak and Joy of having a C-section.”

august 2015 028

Having to give up my dream of a beautiful, natural homebirth had challenged many things that I had held to be true.  It had shaken my faith in what I thought about life, what I thought about God, what I thought about my own body.  It had challenged my ability to hear God’s voice.  I thought that God had told me that natural, easy labor was my inheritance as his daughter, yet mysteriously I was denied access this time.   I couldn’t figure out why.  Scriptures God had given me during my pregnancy told me not to fear disaster.  To me, having a C-section was a disaster.  God didn’t design my body to give birth through an incision in my abdomen.  If this thing could happen to me, this disaster that I couldn’t control or predict; what else would God allow to come into my life?  What other catastrophic events were on their way?  Maybe something could happen to steal the health and life of my precious baby.  If I had so misinterpreted God’s voice concerning this birth, how could I ever be sure of hearing him again?

These thoughts are similar to the thoughts that any person has after a trauma, whether it is small or life altering.  It occurred to me that this is a small part of what causes post-traumatic stress syndrome.  A person lives through events that destroy their assumption that life is good, safe, enjoyable, and fair.  They have to come to faith all over again.  They have to find their way back into the arms of a loving father.  It is a tragedy that once the horrible events are over and they are truly safe, they may never feel safe again.

I have lived through many such traumas.  They don’t seem like much compared to what other people have had to endure, but they were earth shattering to me at the time.  Each time I had to seek God again for the truth that would set me free and the love that would cast out my fear.  Each time God would draw so near to my broken heart and bring healing.  I would love to share what he has taught me, using my recent C-section as an example.

  1. Pain demands to be felt. Don’t shove it down or pretend it isn’t real.  Don’t deny it because you think you should be strong enough to be happy in all circumstances.  Suppressed emotions always surface in one way or another.  Feel what you feel.   Grieving is an important step to healing.  God is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  Revel in his closeness through your nights of sorrow.
  1. Don’t stay in your pain forever! What caused your pain may be the reality you are living in right now.  Seek God for a higher reality, a reality that goes beyond what you can see.  A reality that is forever.

My body was scarred and bruised from a surgery I had done everything to avoid.  God had not answered my prayers for him to move my placenta out of the way.  I felt betrayed.  I had offered him my body as a living sacrifice, and I thought he would protect me from this.

I thought about my God, and realized that he could never betray me.  It goes against his loving nature.  Jesus was betrayed, yet he would never betray.  He was scarred and bruised for my sake.  He had proven his love for me.  He COULD NOT EVER betray me.  If he didn’t answer my prayers, it was because he had something better in mind.  He would bring good out of this situation, even if I couldn’t see it.

  1. Ask Jesus to show you where he was and what he was doing before, during, and after the traumatic event. Read through your journal entries during that time or look at pictures taken during that time and ask Jesus to speak to you about them.

I read through my journal that I kept during Annalise’s pregnancy.  I saw God calming my fears again and again, promising to protect the life of my child.  He did that when I had spotting around week 15.  He did that when I was having signs of preterm labor around week 34.  He did that when the marginal placenta was diagnosed at 38 weeks.  My little girl was safe in his hands the entire time.  He told me not to FEAR disaster, not that a “disaster” would never happen.  He was simply telling me that there was no disaster that I needed to fear because he was with me.

I also had a dream toward the end of the pregnancy. Annalise came out through my belly and she looked up at me with ice blue eyes.  She was a serene as could be.  This dream turned out to be very accurate. God had been preparing me.

  1. Talk about it with trusted friends. Many times they can see things with a clarity that isn’t clouded by overpowering emotions.

A week after Annalise was born; I was able to attend a birthday dinner for a friend.  During the meal, I confided to the ladies that I still felt sad about the C-section.  I was sharing about how I love to minister to other pregnant women, to pray for them and give them peace and confidence about labor.  Now I wasn’t confident about anything anymore.

One of the women said, “Do you think you have more empathy now for women who have had a C-section?”

I most certainly did!  She continued to say, “There are so many women out there who are feeling inadequate about some part of their mothering.  Perhaps they couldn’t give birth naturally; perhaps they were unable to nurse.  You are able to understand and minister to them.”

“Yes,” another friend chimed in, “God has just extended your authority.”

I had never thought about it that way, but it was really true.  There was meaning to my suffering.

Another friend sent me a text before the procedure, because she knew I was very distraught.  She said that God was increasing my trust in him.  That has been true as well!  I trust him more because he brought Annalise and I through beautifully.  If a circumstance brings me closer to God, then it was worth it!

  1. Give Jesus the pain and receive his joy in return. He gives us the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.  He already carried the weight of all of our pain.  Let him carry your pain right now and every day. (If it was another person who caused the pain; forgive, forgive, forgive.)

I kept giving him my sorrow, every time it resurfaced, even if I didn’t totally understand why I was feeling so sad.  It became less and less. He already carried the weight of my pain so there was no reason for me to try and carry it.  One of my favorite songs remind me to “Turn my eyes Upon Jesus.”

  1. Take care of your body. Your body, soul, and spirit are so interconnected; one affects the other.  Eat good food.  Take probiotics.   Get some exercise.

Once Annalise and I were both able to sleep through the night, it was amazing how much better the whole world looked to me!  For help with that, read “How to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night.”

  1. Thank God for everything you can think of, every morning, every evening, every day, now and forever. When you realize all he has given you, all he has already done for you; gratitude begins to eclipse the sorrow.  Fill your mind with all the good things, and the disappointment doesn’t have room.

july-august 2015 003 july-august 2015 002

When I shared with my friends and family that I was going to have a C-section, I was overwhelmed by all the love and support and prayers I received.  I would think of each person and feel so thankful for their love.

My homebirth midwives spent 7 hours at the hospital with me even though they couldn’t attend the birth.

My mother-in-law drove all the way from Florida to help.

My mom was so excited about the new little girl and brought me a rose and blueberries in the hospital.

My other children were amazing and took care of each other at home.

august 2015 020

august 2015 012 august 2015 013

My husband Chris was a hero in the hospital.  After the surgery, I felt uglier, weaker, and more pitiful than I ever had before.  Yet I never felt more cherished!  My husband tenderly helped me to walk, to go to the bathroom, to take a shower.  He slept on that horrible hospital chair night after night and never complained about a thing!

Annalise has been one of my easiest, happiest babies.  She is worth any pain I had to endure.  Now when I see my scar, I don’t think about my disappointment.  I think about my little bitty pretty one and I am so THANKFUL that she is here!

Annalise 3 months July 2015 032

Looking back over my life, I can say that the worst of times were always transformed into the best of times because of God’s voice.  When I am desperate, God always meets me and shows me his love.  He always speaks words that impact me deeply.  His words and his close presence during my times of sorrow have changed the way I see the world for the better.  They have shaped the person I am today.  Even though I still have to walk through hard times, I know that amazing joy is waiting for me on the other side.  And I know that the journey is worth it!