Wednesday, October 3, 2018

One Year Ago

One year ago I hiked into a village singing Lauren Daigle’s, “I Am Yours,” with one of our translators. 

Let the Waters Rise

One year ago I drank coffee in a hut like I’ve done dozens of other times. 

One year ago I prayed over a possessed woman and saw the evil spirit leave her body. 

One year ago I heard gun shots when my son was in another part of the village, and I had no way of knowing where he was.

One year ago I got a phone call from a team member who was with Jax and heard the words, “We’re okay, but we’re in the middle of the angry mob.”

One year ago I sang the words, “It is Well with My Soul,” over and over again while holding hands with a few team members while waiting for the others to be brought to safety. 

One year ago I prayed the words, “Whatever the outcome Lord, I trust in You,” and I knew I meant it. 

One year ago I walked faster than I ever have - we were instructed not to run - when I received the news that Jax and the rest of the team made it safely to the bus. 

One year ago I hugged my kid tighter than I ever have in his entire life. 

One year ago my then ten year old said, “No matter what, it’s worth it for the sake of sharing the gospel.”

One year ago the words of “Christ is Enough” echoed through the hall as our team sang out the words, “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back,” more fiercely than ever before. 

One year ago was a pivotal moment in my life. There’s no turning back

So let the waters rise
I will stand as the oceans roar
Let the earth shake beneath me
Let the mountains fall
You are God over the storm
And I am Yours

I Am Yours

"No matter what, it's worth it for the sake of sharing the gospel," - Jax, age 10

*It’s important to note, the gunshots we heard were fired to warn the angry people to calm down.  We were never in serious danger.  Everybody, both Ethiopians and Americans, was safe and protected.*

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Saturday, March 10, 2018

For This Purpose

Purpose in Pain

I am very hesitant to share this post, because, well, it makes me incredibly vulnerable. I'd much prefer to share cute pictures of my kids on Facebook and Instagram than air my dirty laundry. However, if these words can help or encourage even one person, then it's worth it.

I've written several posts about my struggle with anxiety and depression. I'm going to be honest. Lately I've been mad about it. I would even go as far as to describe myself as bitter. Really what it boils down to is that I'm weary. I'm tired of dealing with the same scars and fighting the same demons.

Yet here I am.

What frustrates me the most about my depression is how people speak of it. I'm not talking about the stigma of this disorder. I'm talking about how people lump it in with poor choices. I don't doubt that depression can be the result of sin, but when people start talking like that I want to scream, "But I didn't choose this!" I was the innocent victim. My depression is a result of what happened to me. So why do I have to pay for that the rest of my life?

I've asked a few people this week, with no shortage of tears, if I'm destined to suffer from this my whole life. Don't get me wrong, I know this isn't my home. I know my future. I know I'll be spending eternity with God and that in eternity I will be completely restored, and my pain will be no more. That is the hope I cling to and will continue to cling to.

But what about right now?

What about my life here on earth?

Am I destined to suffer?

These have been the questions on my mind this week. This morning I was reading in Exodus, and this verse stood out to me:

Exodus 9:16 - But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.

The context of this verse is when Pharaoh wouldn't let the Israelites go, and God sent the plagues. The verse before it says, "For by now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with a plague that would have wiped you off the earth."

Here is where this verse hit me this morning. God could have prevented my abuse. He could have wiped my attacker off the face of the earth. He can, and maybe still will, completely remove the pain and traumatic memories from my life. I believe that.

Maybe there's a reason He hasn't. Maybe it's so people will see His power and that His name will be proclaimed.

Finding Purpose

Maybe this is the purpose of my life. Not to struggle, I don't believe God created me to suffer, but maybe my history and my life story are to bring glory to Him. The very first post I wrote when I felt God telling me to start this blog was entitled, "How Will I Measure My Life?" If I could sum up the answer in one sentence, it would be this, "I want to live a life that brings glory to God."

So I might still have a whole lot of tears ahead of me, but it is my prayer that I fight the good fight and do it with a heart willing to be used by the One who loves me and gave His life for me.
P.S.  I'd love to connect with you on social media!  Follow me on FacebookInstagramPinterest, & Twitter, or sign up to get my posts delivered to your inbox.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Finding My Calm

The Opposite of Calm

The other day the teenage cashier at Target asked about my morning.  When I told her I had done laundry, she asked, "What else?"  I responded, "Lots and lots of laundry.  Keeping up with laundry for a family of six is basically a full time job," and she stared at me blankly.  I don't blame her.  It sounds a bit crazy even to me, and it's my life.

I hate doing laundry.  It's my nemesis.  It's not that folding laundry is hard.  It's that it's never ending.  I folded and put away a good eight loads today, and tonight after my boys changed into their pj's their hamper was full again.  I wrote this post a little over a year ago about living with purpose even in the everyday, menial tasks, but I have to admit I've been struggling to find joy in my daily chores.  

Today a friend posted on Facebook about her rough morning and losing her cool with her kids.  After several people commented with understanding and encouragement she commented that she was going to "start some laundry and get my calm back."

For some reason the words she chose tugged at me.  I've been having trouble finding my calm lately.  I love my boys fiercely and wouldn't want any life other than the one I have, but let's be real.  Calm is not a word in our vernacular.  It's not something I experience often.  The words my friend chose made me realize that I need to take responsibility for finding my calm.

Guess what?  Of all things, when I fold laundry, I am calm.  I know I said I hate it, but I think I'm looking at it all wrong.  Instead of seeing it as an insurmountable chore I need to remember it as the place where I find my calm.  When I fold laundry I close my bedroom door and blare my favorite music, worship music.

This morning I posted an image on Instagram from the book Goliath Must Fall by Louie Giglio.  The quote read, "The antidote to fear is faith, and the soundtrack of faith is worship."

When I worship, I refocus.

When I worship, I take my eyes and mind off of myself and my own frustrations and exhaustion. 

When I worship, I find my calm.

Find Rest

Mark 6:31 - Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

Matthew 11:28-30 - Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

It might seem silly to call folding laundry rest, but this is the stage of life I'm in right now.  I'll take what I can get.  So next time I see a giant mountain of laundry (most likely it will be tomorrow), I will look forward to sneaking away to my room and folding it in peace.

How can you find your calm today?

P.S.  I'd love to connect with you on social media!  Follow me on FacebookInstagramPinterest, & Twitter, or sign up to get my posts delivered to your inbox.

Friday, August 18, 2017

My Struggle is My Joy

The Struggle

Jax and I leave for Ethiopia in a little over a month.  Like clockwork somewhere in the month or so before we go on these trips, life falls apart. When I say life, I mean everything. Family, friends, health, finances, and pretty much every aspect of life that matters. It all slips out of my hands, and I can't stop it. The first couple times I didn't know what was happening. By the third time I knew exactly what I was facing: spiritual warfare.

1 Peter 5:8 - Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

Looking through my journal writings and blog posts the timing of when my depression flares up and when my self confidence is completely crushed, it isn't coincidental. My post about depression was about six weeks before our trip last September. My post about self confidence was two weeks before our April trip this year.  When God has big plans, the enemy will do anything to stop them.  He wants to distract me or slow me down.  He will do what he can to take my focus away from where it should be.  From Who is should be on.

This time I thought I was prepared. I knew it was coming as soon as we had our first training meeting last Friday. I reached out and asked several friends to cover me in prayer during this time.

Yet somehow, it came out of nowhere. It smacked me over the head and knocked me off my feet.

I am so tired everything hurts.  I haven't been able to fall asleep before two or three in the morning every night this week.  I can't silence the voices in my head, the ones that tell me I have no purpose, I don't matter, that life isn't worth living.  I've been deeply hurt by circumstances I have no control over. I've been frustrated beyond words by situations I cannot change. It's been one thing after another with no sign of letting up.

I'm embarrassed to say that despite asking friends to cover me in prayer and despite trying to mentally prepare myself for these attacks...I've been trying to handle them on my own.   I'm so exhausted I can't think straight, and I completely forgot to arm myself with the weapons God has given me for battle.  (Ephesians 6)

Last night after the third hour of tossing and turning in bed I called my one a.m. friend. Everyone needs a one a.m. friend. If you don't have one already, call me.  I'll be that for you. What's a one a.m. friend? Someone I can call crying in the middle of the night and ask for prayer. She didn't hesitate to say yes, and not only did she pray with me, but she listened to me cry and pour out my heart. More importantly, she reminded me that in Christ I have the power to fight these attacks. I don't need to listen to the voices inside my head that were making me crazy. I needed to tell them out loud to shut up.  In the name of Jesus I can stop the noise that is pounding in my head.

This morning God poured into me verse after verse after verse.

Isaiah 26:3-4 - You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.  Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal.

He is my Rock.  He will keep me in perfect peace.

Psalm 91:1 - He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.

I get to live under the protection of the shadow of the Most High.

2 Corinthians 2:14 - But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.

He always leads me to triumph in Christ.  Always.

Psalm 37:23-24 - The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.

He makes my steps firm.

Psalm 34:18 - The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

He is close to me and saves me.

2 Corinthians 4:8-18 - We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

Right now I feel hard pressed, perplexed, and struck down.  But I am not destroyed, and He has never once abandoned me.

Where does the joy come in?

I titled this post "My Struggle is My Joy".  You may be wondering where the joy comes in.  There is nothing joyful about spiritual warfare.  I have no joy in being awake in the middle of the night.  I'd be lying if I said I could find joy in the trials I'm facing right now.

But there IS joy.  The joy comes in obedience.  The joy comes in living out the purpose God has created me for.  The joy comes in perseverance.  The joy comes in getting back up when I stumble.  The joy comes in resting in the arms of my Savior who loves me and gave His life for me.  

Why do these attacks happen?  Because God has something big planned.  Something huge.  And I can't wait to be part of it.

In the meantime, I know where I need to keep my focus:

Proverbs 4:23-27 - Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.  Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips.  Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you.  Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.  Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.

In her book Uninvited, Lysa TerKeurst writes, "The beliefs we hold should hold us up even when life feels like it's falling apart."

I know my God and His promises are true, and that is more than enough to hold me up.

P.S.  I'd love to connect with you on social media!  Follow me on FacebookInstagramPinterest, & Twitter, or sign up to get my posts delivered to your inbox.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

God's Sovereignty, My Anger, and His Grace

Trusting in the Sovereignty of God

Tonight at church we sang two songs about the sovereignty of God. During rehearsal I felt that all too familiar gut wrenching tug of conviction.

I believe the words of these songs with everything in me. I know God is sovereign. I trust Him. All my faith and confidence is in Him. At least that's what I say.

And yet...less than two weeks ago we got a phone call with scary news about someone we love dearly. My first reaction? I was angry. I was mad at God. I had words with Him that night. I am ashamed of my reaction, and tonight while singing I was wracked with guilt. All these thoughts and emotions were racing through me. How could I be up on stage singing these words when I wasn't living them?

It's like when we sing the song "You are My King (Amazing Love)".  I love the lyrics to most of that song, but I get hung up on the words, "In all I do, I honor You." I feel like I'm singing a lie when those words come out. I want to honor Him. I strive to honor Him. But I can't honestly sing that in all I do I honor Him.

Wouldn't you know the sermon tonight was on the grace of God? The whole series has been "Jesus is Enough", and tonight God showed me yet again, that He is enough. 

Romans 5:1 - Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

The word peace stood out to me. I have peace with God. I don't need to live in guilt or stand on the stage feeling hypocritical. Yes I was wrong to be angry at God, as if I have any right to question Him. But I confessed. I am reconciled with God. Our pastor worded it like this, "He doesn't see the stains on your shirt. He sees you as clean."

His Amazing Grace

God in His goodness and in His sovereignty met me right where I'm at, right where I needed Him tonight. I could sing with confidence the words, 
"In your never failing love
You work everything for good
God whatever comes my way
I will trust you."

He is sovereign, and I can rest in the peace I have in Him.

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Saturday, March 18, 2017

Who I Am

When I Forget Who I Am

There's a lie I hear whispered in my ear every single day.

Bible verses and words of encouragement to drown out the lies we are told every day.

You're.  Not.  Good.  Enough.

Is it just me?  Am I the only one?  I'm thinking no.  This voice tells many lies.

          You can't.
                      You'll fail.
                              You aren't strong enough.
                                                   Nobody likes you.
                                                                           Give up.

Do you see this rumpled and worn paper?  This is a list of verses my mom typed out and gave me to read every single day.  That voice I hear is not the voice of truth.  That voice is the enemy, and he wants me to believe his lies.

The true identity of the believer - who we are in Christ

These words on this paper, these are truth.  This is who I am in Christ.  This is my identity.  This is who I was created to be.

In her series 21 Days of Prayer for Your Business my friend Monique McClean says, "Freedom is a process."  Yep.  It's a daily process and a daily choice to drown out the voice of the enemy, the voice of fear, the voice of insecurity, the voice of defeat.  I choose to trust in the One who created me and promised to be with me always.  He has equipped me to fight this fight.

I want to walk boldly and confidently on the path God has chosen for me.  I can't be bold or confident based on myself or my own strengths.  No, those come from Christ alone based on what He has done, what He is doing, and what He will do.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 - For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.  The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

They have "divine power to demolish strongholds".  We're not talking about moving strongholds out of the way for a short while.  The verse doesn't suggest sneaking around or crawling under strongholds.  The weapons we fight with, the full armor of God, have the "divine power to demolish strongholds".  DEMOLISH!

Believing my true identity in Christ - I am loved by Him.

Remembering where my identity comes from.

I am good enough.  Not because I'm good or strong, my righteousnesses are as filthy rags, but because I am in the One who has overcome the world.

John 16:33 - I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

He's a good, good Father, and I'm loved by Him.  That's who I am.

P.S.  I'd love to connect with you on social media!  Follow me on FacebookInstagramPinterest, & Twitter, or sign up to get my posts delivered to your inbox.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Reflections on Ten Years of Marriage

Us, Ten Years Later

This is marriage

I think it's fitting that we ended our ten year anniversary trip with a wedding.  Actually, the wedding is the whole reason we chose New Zealand and Australia as the destinations for our vacation.  We've spent three and a half weeks traveling, exploring, and cramming as many adventures as possible into our time Down Under.

Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb

Two weeks of our time here were spent cruising on Royal Caribbean's Ovation of the Seas.  Ten years ago we went on our first cruise for our honeymoon.  There were noticeable differences between that first cruise together and this one, and I'm not referring to the ship or the ports we visited.  I'm talking about us.

Bay of Islands New Zealand

On our honeymoon we spent almost every second together.  We politely listened to what each other wanted to do and took turns choosing the day's activities.  We talked and laughed nonstop, because we still had so much to learn about each other.  We were perfectly content lounging side by side next to the pool and doing nothing at all except being with one another.  It was the beginning of the rest of our lives, and the journey was barely getting started.

Fast forward to our tenth anniversary cruise.  There was no need to have a polite conversation about who took which side of the bed.  Instead of waiting to hear what each other wanted to do, we excitedly read about the ship's offerings and announced what we planned to do.  We went our separate ways on the ship for hours at a time, because we have different interests.  We aren't as careful with our words as we used to be.  We say what is on our minds. 

There's a comfort that comes with ten years.  Our guards are down.  We aren't worried what the other person might think.  We can simply

Ovation of the Seas

The first morning of our first cruise Mike woke me up at four in the morning - I'm not even kidding - and asked what I wanted to do.  Before even thinking about that question I wanted another four hours of sleep.  By now we have a routine.  Mike quietly leaves the room as soon as the gym is open, leaving me to sleep in peacefully.  He returns with a flat white in hand and quietly sets it on my nightstand before opening the curtains and letting a little sunlight inside.

I think it's fair to say that we've spend more time alone on this trip than we have in the past nine years.  We had four children within our first five years of being married.  With little ones climbing on us or running underfoot, businesses to run, commitments to honor, and day to day life to keep up with time alone isn't plentiful, as you can imagine.  Our time alone provided plenty of opportunities to rediscover what makes each other tick and to reconnect.

Hiking the Blue Mountains, Australia

This is Marriage

I'm not the person Mike married ten years ago, and he isn't the same person I married.  We've changed.  We've been stretched and molded.  We've grown together and individually, sometimes for the better and sometimes not.  Our life is nothing like what we planned in those early days of engagement.  It's not always easy or fun or exciting, but as we watched my cousin and his new bride gaze into each other's eyes our hands met and squeezed together.  The promise of forever is every bit as exhilarating now as it was on our own wedding day, not because we have some fairy tale romance but because we choose to love and honor one another.  We are ten years older, ten years more experienced, ten years wiser (hopefully), ten years more exhausted, ten years more comfortable, and ten years more invested in one another.  This is marriage.  All of it.  From walking down the aisle bright eyed and in love to being exhausted at three in morning when the baby just won't fall back to sleep to burnt dinners to the stress of buying a house together to frustrations to celebrations and everything in between.  All of it.  And I wouldn't change a thing.

North Island, New Zealand

And now, I can't wait to get home and hug my boys.  

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