This is a New Season!

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There is a new season that I believe God is leading us all into. He is whispering in our ears, He is wooing us with His love, He is drawing us to follow Him out of the desert.  The desert season was full of disappointment and wounds.  It was full of waiting and hope deferred.  Yet God was saying through one of His prophets (Sue Roby), “The Delay is in your favor.”  I tried to hold on to that thought, to continue to believe that all would work out for the good…but I let some of my faith slip away.

A few months ago another prophet (Tony Brazelton) came proclaiming, “The Delay is over!”  My spirit leapt when I heard it. Could it really be time?  The time I had been praying for?  Yet the fear of disappointment almost choked this new hope to death.

In September God gave me two scriptures to read, Isaiah 65 and Psalm 144.  These same scriptures had been a source of strength during the lowest point in our lives as a family.

Is 65 had been God’s way of announcing to me that I was pregnant, back in 2010.  Verse 9 says, “I will bring forth descendants from Jacob, and from Judah those who will possess my mountains; my chosen people will inherit them, and there will my servants live.”

I was happy to be pregnant and to feel the presence of a fresh new spirit within me.  I didn’t even need to take a pregnancy test.  Yet also I was ashamed.  Ashamed that I was pregnant for the fourth time in 5 years.  Ashamed that we still lived in a two bedroom townhouse and had to go to the health clinic for lower income families in Colorado Springs.  Ashamed that we struggled to pay our bills and had to set up a nursery for our baby in our walk-in closet.

The baby girl was due in January.  Right before Christmas Chris was laid off from his job.  We didn’t know what we would do.  We tried to enjoy Christmas as the debts grew.  I had a difficult time with Ashlyn’s birth which I wrote about in Birth Story Part 3.  Yet when she was born I was filled with peace and bliss.  My perfect baby girl!  God was so good!

The very next day the doctor informed us (devoid of compassion) that something was definitely wrong with our baby, but they didn’t know what.  Then began the many tests and scans.  Problems were found in her lungs, diaphragm, and heart.  We didn’t know what was going on.  We asked our church to pray and the only word they had for us was that this was my fault, that I was being too prideful.  I asked God if they were right.

That is when God gave me Ps. 144.  I felt peace flood my soul as I read:

“Then our sons in their youth will be like well-nurtured plants, and our daughters will be like pillars carved to adorn a palace.  Our barns will be filled with every kind of provision. Our sheep will increase by thousands, by tens of thousands in our fields; our oxen will draw heavy loads. There will be no breaching of walls, no going into captivity, no cry of distress in our streets.”

Amazingly Ashlyn was cleared and was released to go home after just two days, a perfectly healthy baby girl!

ashlynA perfect baby girl…until the results of the Chromosomal analysis came back.  A part of her 6th chromosome was missing but no one knew what that meant.  No one had ever seen this before.  We began this journey of parenting a special child, one who didn’t grow and develop like the other children.  One who had to wear a brace for a dislocated hip and a patch for strabismus in her eyes.  A child who needed physical therapy to learn to sit up and occupational therapy to learn to drink from a cup.

This is when Is. 65 became even more meaningful.  God had brought her forth and had told me that she was destined to take mountains.  She was not a mistake!

By April Chris still hadn’t found a full time job.  Our church kicked us out and shunned us.  Our mortgage and second mortgage were threatening to foreclose.  Our townhome association was threatening to take us to court.  Ps 144 didn’t appear to be true for us.

Yet God worked His miracles, one at a time.  He gave Chris a new job, sold our townhouse, brought us home to Pennsylvania, led us out of debt, and blessed Ashlyn with supernatural health.  More financial struggles, hardships with the children, and failed business ventures followed.  But we were home in the land of our inheritance.  We had friends, family, and a church that loved us!

When I started reading Is. 65 and Ps. 144 again this September, I was reminded of the encouragement I had received from them years ago.  Yet, I didn’t really want to delve into them, to relive the pain we had been through.  I kinda thought, “I know these verses inside and out.  I’ve been there and done that and I DON’T want to do it again.  Can’t I read something else?”

But I felt God saying, “Take another look.”

I discovered that these words, written thousands of years ago, were perfectly tailored for my life.  Not just my life back in 2010, but my life in 2017 and beyond.  I received revelations that I was not able to receive back then.  That our church in Colorado was not pleasing to God, but HE HAD BROUGHT US OUT OF IT to possess His Mountains.  Not because of anything we had done but because His faithfulness, He saved us from that situation and now we are taking mountains for His Kingdom.

Then I saw all the promises that God had for His servants (Is. 65, verse 13).  We will eat, drink, rejoice, and never be put to shame!  This has happened in our lives.

Then I read a verse that I had never noticed before, verse 16b.

“For the past troubles will be forgotten and hidden from my eyes.”

If God can forget the past, why couldn’t I?  I felt Him saying to me, “I am bringing you into something new, something you haven’t seen before.  You don’t have to interpret current events through your past experiences.  You don’t have to look into the future through the lens of the past.  I am going to give you a new perspective.”

I had been gaining a different perspective, an aerial view like that of an eagle.  I didn’t want my thinking to be clouded by people’s opinions, ever changing circumstances, or the dark clouds of depression.  I wanted to be seated with Christ in heavenly places, to see things from his Eternal perspective.  God was telling me that I was meant to be an eagle.   I was trying to fly, but I really needed some help.

I asked God to let me see a real eagle, and He answered my prayer just weeks later on our family vacation up north.  See my previous articles, “A Hawk, A Vulture, and an Eagle Part 1 and Part 2.”  I felt elated!  I felt inspired!  I felt ready to fly!

Of course vacation has to end and normal life has to begin again.  Could I see an eagle during the course of my daily routine? Chances were no.

I have made a weekly trek to a farm for years now.  At first I never noticed the birds flying in the sky.  Not because they were not there, but because I was not looking.  After God started speaking to me about being an eagle, I began to search the skies.  I loved watching all the birds – the swallows, the robins, the wrens, the sparrows, and even the crows.  They looked so free.  Even better that those birds were the large birds that flew high above the rest.  I felt inspired by their flight…until I realized that they were vultures.

Months I spent searching the sky for eagles only to see vultures, buzzards, and more vultures!  Ahggggggg!  At the end of October I made this trip for the 20 zillionth time.  I saw a large bird swooping down over the highway.  Another vulture, I said to myself.  Still, when I got close enough I turned my eyes away from the highway and up to the sky just long enough to see…

A bald eagle!  I saw the brilliant white head and the powerful straight wings!  I was not expecting that at all!  An eagle in my own neck of the woods!  In the midst of my normal routine!

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This seemed very significant so I asked God if there was something He wanted to tell me.  Immediately I heard this verse on my Bible CD:

“‘The One who is coming will come.  He will not be late.  The person who is right with me will have life because of his faith.  But if he turns back with fear, I will not be please with him.’

But we are not those who turn back and are lost.  We are people who have faith and are saved.” Hebrews 10:35-39 (ICB)

Fear has been my normal reaction to many things, so normal I hardly realize that I am choosing fear over faith.  But I am not one who turns back!  I am one who believes!  I will choose faith!

I heard God say to me, “I want you to be ready to see eagles where in the past only the vultures flew.”

The Death of Signarama

It would be in the cool of the evening when Chris and I would slip out to walk together, by ourselves.  This was a special treat.  It is hard to get time alone to talk and even harder to leave the house without some tag-alongs when you have 9 children.  I hadn’t been up to walking much in the past year, being pregnant and then recovering from having a C-section.  In the weeks following my surgery, Chris had encouraged me to walk with him.  It was spring and the weather was so lovely…but I wasn’t feeling up to it, and the truth was…I was afraid.  Afraid that I would be too tired to make it very far, afraid that my large incision would hurt and feel like it was busting open. The truth was, I was fighting the sorrow of having a C-section rather than the natural birth I had dreamed of, and I was still so very tired.

Chris kept pushing me out of my comfort zone (like he always does) and practically forced me to start walking.

“We will just go around the block and we can always stop and go back if you get too tired,” he wisely coaxed me.

So it began.  First just a short walk up the street and back, then around the block, then to the elementary school, and the all around the neighborhood.  The children got used to our nightly outings after supper, and older ones took care of the younger ones back at the house.

Chris and I got the glorious opportunity to clear our minds in the cool evening air. We would talk about our day and the children.  We were drawing closer to each other, and I could feel the depression lifting off of me.  I also thought I saw it lifting off of Chris as well.  He had been struggling the past 3 and a half years.  Almost four years ago was when we had purchased Signarama, a small sign shop down the street from our house.

We didn’t have experience in the sign industry, and we didn’t have a lot of start-up capital, nor was anyone willing to give us a loan or a decent line of credit. This was one of Chris’ big dreams, and we were crazy enough to take the leap into the unknown, believing that God had led us.

Being a business owner had taken a toll on Chris.  I had watched him begin with excitement and work hard.  I had watched that excitement diminish as he faced challenge after challenge.  He continued to fight and work hard month after month, but many days he had to fight through depression just to keep going.

In the midst of the struggle, we saw that God was working.  He saved us from having to close the doors three times.  We would get to the point where we had no more money to continue, could see no way out, and then God would do something miraculous. Singarama would remain to make signs for another day…and Chris would keep on fighting.

All through my pregnancy, time in the hospital for the C-section, and my slow recovery; Chris and I were both worn out, battling depression, and weary of fighting.  The business was failing again.

Yet when we took our walks together, we discussed all of these things and the weariness would lift a bit.  We enjoyed walking down the tree-lined streets and looking at the beautiful older homes in our neighborhood, each one unique and full of character.  Then we would follow a path through green rolling hills and marvel at the colors that the sunset had painted onto a perfect sky.

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The fact that all this majesty was found in a cemetery didn’t diminish it, but rather added to it.  The headstones had their own sublime beauty in the light of the setting sun.  Some were old and others were very recent.  Some had statues of angels…

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others were without any embellishment at all.  But all of them represented a life that had been celebrated by those who were left behind.  They were a memorial of the death of one who was loved.

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How fitting for us to be walking among these gravestones as we discussed the death of Signarama.

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During the long days of fighting for Signarama, having to close the shop had felt like the worst possible thing that could happen.

Yet as we discussed the inevitability of shutting down the business for good, we realized that this was not the worst possible thing.  We had lived alongside others who had endured much worse.  One guy had to sell his business because he and his wife were getting a divorce.  Another man was watching his fiancé slowly die of cancer.  Three marriages close to us had been shaken because of unthinkable betrayals.  Even in these tragic circumstances, there was always the hope of Christ.

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Thankfully, all we were facing was the loss of money.  Our marriage had been strengthened through the trials.  Our children were healthy and happy.  Our baby had not died but lived because of the C-section.  We were so blessed!!!!

Of course we weren’t just discussing the loss of money and the loss of our livelihood.  We were discussing the loss of a dream.  The loss of a big dream that we were hoping would lead to the fulfillment of many other dreams.  A big dream in which we had invested everything we had for the past four years!

Admitting that this dream really was dying was also admitting that we had heard God wrong. That He really hadn’t wanted us to buy Signarama in the first place.  Perhaps we had made a huge mistake and had gone woefully off course, wasting our time and money, moving backwards rather than forwards.

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Or perhaps God really did speak to us, but we just misinterpreted what He was saying.  Wow, we had seriously misinterpreted!  In fact, we had no idea what He was doing right now, or what He was going to do!  We admitted to each other that we didn’t know much of anything anymore.

How incredibly freeing that was!  We could surrender to God’s will, even if that meant losing everything we had wanted and worked for…because we knew that He was still good and that He still loved us.  We could surrender our “knowledge” and trust in God’s superior wisdom.

The possibility of Signarama being lifted off of Chris’ shoulders gave him a hope that he hadn’t had in a long time.  Perhaps he could finally be free of all the responsibility and the hassles and the long hours.

There was so much sorrow in the defeat and failure, yet there was so much hope as well.  The death of something always means the birth of something new, and new was exciting.

I began reading Me, Myself, and Bob by Phil Visher (the creator of Veggie Tales) during this time, and what a comfort it was to me!  Phil had a big dream like we did.  He had a huge success, and then the most colossal failure!  The grand scale of his failure sure made me feel better about our own.  But what was really striking about his book was the fact that he was actually THANKFUL for his failure because it brought him closer to God.

During some of his darkest hours, Phil was listening to a recording of a sermon and the preacher said, “What does it mean when God gives you a dream, and he shows up in it and the dream comes to life, and then without warning, the dream dies?  What does that mean?…It may mean that God wants to see what is more important to you – the dream or Him.”

This set Phil on a path to find God, to walk with Him as the men of old did.  Noah was able to fulfill the dream of building an ark after 500 years of walking with God.  Phil realized that during the frenzied years of “Veggie Tales”, his life was about working hard to meet deadlines and putting out new shows and new products.  He had spent very little time listening or seeking the voice of God.  It took failure for him to realize that, “the Christian life wasn’t about running like a maniac; it was about walking with God.  It wasn’t about impact; it was about obedience.  It wasn’t about making stuff up; it was about listening.”

Phil also said, “God has taught me to focus not on results, but on obedience.  Not on the destination but on the journey.  He loves you even when you aren’t doing anything at all.  We really shouldn’t attempt to do anything for God until we have learned to find our worth in Him alone…and God is enough for you.  But you can’t discover the truth of that statement while you’re clutching at your dreams.  You need to let them go.  Let yourself fall…and falling into God’s arms – relying solely on His power and will for your life – that’s where the fun starts.  That’s where you’ll find the ‘abundant life’ Jesus promised – the abundant life that doesn’t look anything like evangelical overload.  The impact God has planned for us doesn’t occur when we’re pursuing impact.  It occurs when we’re pursuing God.”

“Let it go.  Give it up.  Let it die.”

I heard of the voice of God speaking to me through those words.

Chris and I still prayed for a miracle for Signarama.

No miracle came.

So we let it go.

We gave it up.

We let it die.

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We gave up on all we had been working and fighting for, and decided that God was enough for us.  If all of this time and struggle had no other purpose than to bring us closer to God…than it had been worth it.

It was still hard to walk through the process and navigate through all the questions.

How will we tell our employees, our investors, our creditors?

What will Chris do for work?

What will we do for money?

How will be pay our bills?

(Here  is a beautiful song that described what we were feeling; The Unmaking by Nicole Nordeman.)

We had been stripped down to the essentials and these truths became clear –

Our lives are about knowing God.

The only dream that matters right now is knowing God more.

When we seek Him, we will find Him.

So the death of Signarama became the beginning of a new life of walking with God.

 

They are Lifting Their Brave Little Heads

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It is still winter in Central Pennsylvania despite the fact that it becomes spring today.  Spring seems to be talking much too long to catch up with the calendar.  Breakthroughs in our business and personal lives seem to be taking much too long to break through.  This baby seems to be taking much too long to grow.  It is true that I am not even to my due date yet, being 35 weeks.  Yet my body keeps complaining that surely it must time, that it cannot continue under this heavy load any longer.

A week ago I started having signs of preterm labor.  This has never happened in any of my previous eight pregnancies.  It was weird and unexpected and unsettling.  I would have loved to give birth and be done with pregnancy.  I would have loved to hold my little girl in my arms!  Yet, it just wasn’t time yet.  She wasn’t ready yet, and who knows what problems could have popped up.  I would have to forfeit my cozy homebirth for a hospital birth where every little bit of the process is monitored.  My tired and sore body feels like it cannot go on…yet it can and it must.  Just a few more weeks!
Thankfully the contractions went away and peace has settled again.  What’s a few more weeks?  It is a privilege and an honor to provide a safe place for my baby to grow until the fullness of time.  I would continue past my due date if I had to (though I sincerely wish I do NOT have to!)

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My daughter took some lovely pictures that caused me to take heart again and see the beauty of the here and now.

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This brave little robin and these courageous young crocuses have lifted their heads despite the adversity to become harbingers of a new season.

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They proclaim that nothing can hold back the sunshine and warmer temperatures!  No woman is pregnant forever!  Every promise has it’s time of fulfillment!  And it will be the perfect time and well worth the wait.

 

In Honor of Spring, New Life, and a Baby Girl

I know we are still having winter weather, but I just can’t stop day dreaming about flowers, warm breezes, Easter, and a baby girl to be born in April!

So I think it is about time that I brightened up my blog a bit and post a story about new beginnings.

 

“The Lord will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins, he will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the Lord,” Isaiah 51:3

 

It was the early spring of 2008, and I was surveying my new yard.  Our family of eight had moved into this beautiful, older home in the fall.  However, the yard hadn’t been touched in years and was overgrown.  My husband, Chris, had just finished a week of “vacation” spent clearing bushes and brush from our corner lot.  I was amazed at how much he had accomplished.  Still, I lamented over the barren patches of earth the roots had left behind.  I despised the remaining scrubby bushes that Chris didn’t have time to dig out.

“How I wish he could have finished the job!  How I long to see grass growing and flowers blooming!  One of my favorite signs of spring is the delicious smell of lilacs in air.  Lord, how can I get a hold of a lilac bush and get rid of these awful ones?”

Days passed, leaves came forth in the warm sunlight, and I surveyed my yard again.  I couldn’t believe my eyes!  Two of the ugly eyesores had been transformed into lilac bushes!  The tiny lavender buds held the promise of that glorious scent.

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“Thank you God that Chris wasn’t overzealous in his yard work after all!”  I prayed with overwhelming gratitude.  God answered in his gentle way.

“You wish that I would remove all the ugly parts of your life.  You even blame yourself that they still remain.  But you don’t judge as I judge.  Under your barren ground there are seeds that will grow!  I have allowed the “thorns” in your life to remain because I know that when the spring season comes, they will bloom and blossom.  Then you will realize that the blessings you had prayed for have been with you all the while in disguise…as a trial.”

 

God, help me to see my life as you do, full of you promise and potential.

 

I Love February!

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I have always loved February.  I know that many people would not agree with that sentiment, especially in frigid Pennsylvania, especially this year.  This could possibly be the coldest February on record with subzero temperatures, ice, and snow.  Yet, I still can say, “Isn’t February lovely?”

My birthday is in February, on the very best day, the 22nd.   That  is also George Washington’s birthday.  As a child, February was full of joyful anticipation of celebration centered around me!  My little head was filled with visions of ice cream cakes, presents, games, and friends…maybe even a pizza party.

There is also Valentine’s Day to brighten things up.  Forget about the silly relationship drama that depresses the immature around this holiday.  Think about the beautiful Victorian images of pretty ladies surrounded by flowers and chubby cherubs holding hearts.  Smell the roses that show up everywhere in February and defy the chill outside.

It is still the middle of winter.  My children don’t even want to play outside because it is too cold.  Yet I can feel spring!  I can feel it in my heart.  All of my 39 Februaries on this earth have given way to spring in March or April.  I have deep confidence that spring will come again because it always has.  Nothing can hold it back!

In fact, it is already here.  I feel it in the morning sunshine that arrives earlier each day.  I hear it in the songs of the birds twittering away as though they had green trees to play in.  Around my birthday each year, the crocus would begin to bloom.  This year I thought that surely they must be delayed.  The ground is still like the frozen tundra.  How could they possibly break through with their tender leaves?

I checked the spot in the soil where they had laid dormant for so long.  And guess what I saw!

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I saw spring!