Showing posts with label faith. Show all posts
Showing posts with label faith. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

nothing to prove {book review}



In Nothing to Prove Jennie Allen writes about the abundance of God's love and how we need to put down whatever we are carrying, whatever is slowing us down, or causing us to be numb, or making us strive, and realize that God is enough and He has us in the palm of his hand, we just need to quiet ourselves and rely on Him.

In the second half of the book Allen focuses on various chapters in the book of John and relates them to God's Streams of Enoughness. Those chapters made the book come alive for me. I often feel like I should be doing more for others. I get stuck in routine, we all do, and before I know it we're already a month into 2017 and a lot of the 2016 goals and promises I had in mind have fallen by the wayside.

I was especially convicted by Allen's exhortation to rely on God and let my life and mission flow from that dependent relationship.

Allen writes, "Consider the things that are holding you back - the things you say you don't have enough of .... Now I want you to picture the streets in heaven. I want you to picture streets as far as you can see and every street is full of warehouses as far as you can see.
I just want you to picture all that God has and all that He wants to do.
Then you land in heaven with him. He looks you in the eyes and says, 'I wanted to go crazy through you. I wanted to change your neighborhood, your city. And you kept going up to your room and watching Netflix.'"

For me it's reading a book instead of Netflix, but it's the same general idea! God wants us to be His voice and He wants to work through us, but we have to let go of our fear and anything else that is holding us back and let Him.

Lately my story, my life, my habits have been focused inward. I've been focused on me and how I am feeling and how I need to get better because I can't continue as I have been, but what I really need to do is put all of my need on God and turn my focus outwards. Because I am not the only one who feels like life is hard and overwhelming, and as I learned with my last post, being honest and reaching out leads to more connections and deeper friendships.

It was just such a relief to read Nothing to Prove and be reminded that I can put everything that is going on in my life on God's shoulders and he can use it for His purposes. My life, small though it feels sometimes, can make a kingdom difference if I rely on the power of God to transform instead of my own skills and abilities. Nothing to Prove reminded me that I can't do anything without God, but with Him I can do whatever is asked of me.

“I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.”

Sunday, November 27, 2016

bible basics board book {book review}




When I saw the page proofs for Bible Basics my first thought was, why didn't I come up with this idea?!

It is brilliant.

Teaching young children Biblical concepts is really difficult, but in their new board book primer Danielle Hitchen (author) and Jessica Blanchard (illustrator) use early learning and beautiful art to introduce fundamental Biblical principles to babies and toddlers.

Instead of counting cars, trains, animals, or other popular items the Bible Basics book cleverly uses numbers to impart Biblical truths.

For example:

The number 2 explores the 2 natures of Jesus: fully man / fully God

and 

The number 8 explains the Beatitudes:



I will be getting TWO physical copies and I will be giving one away when they arrive! If you are interested in early Bible education for your children make sure you check back here soon for the giveaway!!



Thanks go to The Blythe Daniel Agency and The Blog About Network for the opportunity to review - and give away a copy! - of Bible Basics 

Friday, October 21, 2016

in the eye of the storm


It has been a week.

Thursday morning I was writing a LONG blog post about how Bennett has been having a series of allergic reactions, but hopefully the next two days would be calm, when he had another reaction.

Here's the really fun (sarcasm) news: We're not sure what exactly he is reacting to. His doctor is fairly certain Bennett is having a massive immune response to something: either the initial food we thought caused the reaction, or a virus. Right now Bennett is on a very limited diet for 10 days - meat, vegetables, fruit - and then we'll start to reintroduce foods slowly.

Because without being on a limited diet this happened:

Bennett had a breakout - hives all over - Tuesday morning, followed by a flare up in the afternoon and evening. We thought we knew what the trigger was, but immediately after breakfast on Wednesday morning he broke out again. And this time it was worse. On Thursday I once again thought I knew what the trigger was, but in the middle of breakfast I noticed small dots breaking out on his face. I immediately took his food away and put him in a bath with apple cider vinegar and baking soda. I gave him an extra dose of the medicine and tincture given to us by our doctor as well. I don't know if it was the quick action on my part, or something else, but his reaction yesterday was not nearly as severe.

Still.

Five reactions in three days has me a little on edge.

And by a little I mean verging on hysteria much of the time. 

Despite being a nervous wreck most of the week there has been relief as well. The people who have loved us and given me grace while I fall apart have been instrumental in helping us survive the week. I am high needs in these kinds of situations. The stress has been so intense I've been sick most of the week.

And there's been the hand of God on Bennett and our family as we navigate this week.

On Tuesday as I frantically pulled out of the driveway on the way to the doctor the song playing on the radio was Eye of the Storm by Ryan Stevenson and the first lines I heard were,


In the eye of the storm
You remain in control


It was one of those moments where the desperate prayers I lifted up as I prepared for us to leave the house and go to the doctor were heard.

On Wednesday as I was driving to school/work (while Bennett is in school I work for the church in a different part of the building) this song came on




Then on Wednesday afternoon Jonathan came home from work, because my ability to carry on alone didn't seem possible. I needed someone else to be "on" for a while. It's really hard for Jonathan to leave in the middle of the day. I know he had to move patients around, and I know it wasn't easy, but I appreciate him stepping in when I was depleted.

And on Thursday after I completely fell apart on the phone with Jonathan, sobbing and wailing about not wanting to lose another child, a friend called and asked if she could pray over me. Jonathan letting me cry, and my friend praying truth and healing over me and Bennett, were life giving for me. I didn't feel like I could cope. My stomach hurt so much I was ready to haul Bennett and myself into the ER. But with the tears flowing out and the prayers coming in my stomach stopped hurting and I was able to calm down enough to parent effectively and handle Bennett's latest breakout.

Weeks like this I always wish I was a bit more together. Logically I know Bennett is not going to stop breathing suddenly. And if he does struggle to breathe I have medicine to give him via an Epi-Pen and there is a hospital a few minutes away. But when you've watched a child of yours stop breathing, it's extremely difficult to face emergent, or even urgent, situations without that trauma jumping forth from the back of your mind yelling and demanding to be heard. Jon thinks, Hmmm, he's having a reaction, while I think, This is it, the moment I lose him just like I lost his sister.

This evening I can look back and see how I could have handled things better. Or if not better, at least with a little more peace in my heart. But in the moment panic takes over and I just can't see straight. However, I can also see that although I was not very calm I did manage to pray a lot, ask for help, and be thankful.

Thankful for what, you ask?

That I didn't have to go through this week without my faith and my God holding me up.

For Bennett's doctor, who put up with my early morning phone calls and made time in his day twice to see us.

Medicine.

A car to take me to the doctor.

The ability to pay for the doctor and medicine.

Friends and family.

In all of that - the phone calls, the doctor, the people, the prayers - I see the hand of God and I see my prayers being answered. I've been in this season where my faith is stretching and growing through community, and to have the communities that I've found in the last six and a half years be with me during this difficult week has also been a way for me to see God at work in my life.

It is so difficult to say, this is really hard for me. I am not coping well. I don't feel like I can do this, but I am really trying to live honestly and vulnerably, and sometimes that means admitting I don't feel like I can handle what life is throwing at me.

The last three nights I've slept with Bennett's forehead pressed against mine. I forgot that he used to sleep like that as a baby; it was one of the few things that would comfort him when he was small and itchy and we didn't know why. This week I've watched him turn to art and coloring to distract and comfort him when he was in the middle of severe, uncomfortable breakouts (I'm talking head to toe hives). It's important for me to see the growth and change in him; to see the baby and the boy that are contained within every 5-year-old. It reminds me Bennett is growing, and he is here, and full of life and love.

As we drove to his doctor's appointment this afternoon he was listing all the things he saw out the window that God had made. After he worked through that list he said, "And God made me!

He sure did, buddy. And I am so glad God not only made you, but that in His infinite wisdom He chose me to be your mother. I don't feel equipped or able, but through Him I am. Isn't that amazing?

Friday, July 22, 2016

books and faith


In between the child raising and project managing, I read. In between days out and cooking dinner - sometimes while cooking dinner - I read. After I put Ainsleigh to bed, in the space before Bennett's bedtime when he is often occupied with his father, I read.

I always have a book in my hands. I carry the book I am currently reading with me throughout the day. When I wake up I pick it up from where I've dropped it by the bed the night before and deposit it on the end of the kitchen table. As I play with the kids, and tidy the house, and run errands I know there is always a book on the kitchen table waiting to be read. There are days when I don't get to it, but there are many days where I ask the kids to please give me a minute, I'm finishing a page, a chapter, a sentence, a paragraph, a book.

My first year at university I went through a rough patch. Or rather a series of rough patches. And in the middle of it all, I remember wondering what could possibly make me feel better, which led me to realize I hadn't read anything aside from school work since I began my college courses. I didn't have a car so I walked the three miles to and from the public library, immersed myself in books that were not school related, and felt a small part of my life right itself.

I've always enjoyed reading. I've been a reader for as long as I can remember. In fact, I can't recall learning to read. In my memories knowing how to read has always been there. As has my inability to sound anything out because I had taught myself to read before my mother could introduce phonics. I still don't know sounds; I am learning them along with B. He actually has a better grasp on phonics than I do now that he has a year of preschool behind him. I am constantly embarrassed by the fact that I carry a degree in literature but cannot pronounce many common words. It's one of the reasons I prefer writing over speaking; I can't mispronounce a word if I'm not saying it out loud.

For years I've thought long and hard about what I should read. I've put down books I long to read because I can't endorse what's being sold between the pages. Some time ago I gave up my subscription to the magazine Vanity Fair because it was often too far off the mark of what I think and believe, and the photos weren't always what I wanted my growing children to see. I recently went through a period of reading solely Christian based fiction and non-fiction, including the Bible, because I thought that was the path I should walk, but I burned out on the concept of a sole source of words and information quite fast.

This calendar year I've read 100 books - so far. Books that have been about all sorts of things, and that have covered all kinds of subjects. I now think the Bible as base, the Truth as background, is the place to start off, and the platform to jump from, when exploring new titles and genres. If I only read one category I'm not stretching myself, or learning anything, or asking questions about things, or people, or religions I don't understand and haven't encountered. When I attended a Quaker university I wasn't given reading lists that were only (my) faith based, so why limit myself now?

However, I should be careful. From books I can learn anything I want to and explore any topic that captures my imagination, but I can also be persuaded to follow the world, to step away from my faith, to read beyond what I'm comfortable with. Earlier this summer I picked up a bestseller, read a little ways into it, and stopped. I really wanted to read the book. I was tempted to pick it back up and dive back in. But it promoted lifestyles I don't support, and there was a lot of vulgar language, and I knew it wasn't going to get better. So I put it down and picked up a different book.

By deciding to be more careful I've had to let go of the fierce determination to finish every book I start. I hate unfinished books; pages left unexplored, ideas half formed in my brain that the right author can flesh out and help me understand. But finishing a book just to finish it, just to add another book to the long list of titles I've finished isn't worth it. Especially if it pulls my focus from the core Truth I've built my life on.

What should I read? is a question I've asked myself for years. (I even put the question into Google once, hoping for a broad answer that would assuage my worry and ensure me I'm not falling into a pit of sin because I read something other than the Bible, or Christian focused fiction and non-fiction.) But lately I've learned that what I read, as with so much else, is an individual choice. Just like choosing where I spend my money, or how we raise our kids, or what we do with our spare time is an individual choice. And when I choose what to read I strive to select books that challenge me and help me retain sight of my ultimate goals: to live every aspect of my life in a way that is Truth based and God honoring. Because everything I read, and everything I see, and all of the streams of information that bombard me daily are affecting me and shaping me, even when I don't think they are.

Monday, July 4, 2016

hope heals {book review}


Katherine Wolf suffered from a devastating brain stem stroke in 2008. She was a young mother with a six month old son when the stroke occurred, and by the odds she should not have survived. But the book she and her husband, Jay Wolf, wrote about the experience is all about defying odds and coming together with the strength of Christ behind them to help Katherine live a fulfilling life. Hope Heals is an incredible story of how quickly life can change, and how to proceed with faith in the midst of extreme uncertainty.



Hope Heals is written from both Katherine and Jay's perspective, but Jay and his experiences as a father and caregiver feature more prominently than Katherine's words. They are both excellent writers though, and the narrative doesn't feel jumpy or tied together awkwardly like it sometimes can with more than one writer.

Katherine writes so honestly about how difficult it is to be a disabled mother. My heart went out to her as she wrote about hearing her son call from his crib, but being unable to pick him up or go to him. Jay's story is one of incredible compassion and a true understanding of marriage vows and what it means to care for someone who is ill. And both Katherine and Jay write about how Katherine's stroke changed their lives and focus, and led them on new unexpected paths. Katherine should have died, but she lived, and recovered better than expected, which led both Katherine and Jay to understand the deep goodness and grace of God and how His plans are far greater than ours.

Hope Heals is an honest story about love, faith, an incredible medical catastrophe, and what a life can look like if God is allowed to lead.

 I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html

Saturday, July 2, 2016

on peace


When I talk about Charlotte's life and her sudden death people usually go back to one point: you don't know why?!

Every time I tell her story that is the follow up question, even though I always include within the telling that fact.

It shocks and upsets people to hear an infant on the verge of life can suddenly go backwards and re-enter the gates of heaven it has just exited.

There has to be a reason. There has to be a concrete fact behind the death so they can use that fact to prevent it happening to them or someone they know.

I too asked why. Over and over. Desperately. Quietly. In a state of remorse and guilt. In a manner that can only be described as begging.

And then I began to seek peace. Through the Bible. Through prayer. I asked the burden of why she died to be lifted from my shoulders, because I knew I wouldn't be able to answer the question, and continuing to seek an answer that does not exist would eventually drive me mad.

I can't point to the exact moment when peace entered my life. It might have been gradual. Often that's how God works the big changes in our hearts and souls. If he dropped all of the peace we need on us all at once we would crumple under the soul change, but he does it gradually so that we may adapt to our changed hearts.

I have to admit, having peace about why Charlotte died doesn't feel like I expected it to.

I don't know what exactly I did expect, but it wasn't this complete absence of struggle. I almost feel like it's not my battle anymore. I still approach the question in my mind, but when I pull it to the forefront I instantly shrug and think, "That's not my problem anymore." It's like I literally transferred the question to God. Or more like I asked him to take the burden of constantly asking why from me and He granted it.

I'm also in a place - temporary or not - where I don't think I'll care why she died once I get to heaven. I thought that would be my first question. Off the heaven elevator, into the arms of Jesus, my baby girl by my side, and then" Why did she die, Lord? Why? Tell me, now. Before we go. Before we join the feast. I have to know."

But after the Bible and book studying I've done in the last year I no longer think that's how the conversation will go. Instead I think I will be so happy to be in heaven, so in awe at finally being in the presence of the King, I won't care why Charlotte died. That huge earthly incidence will suddenly be put into heavenly perspective, and the why won't matter so much as how it changed me and made me behave.

I believe that if the bitterness of grief overwhelms then one has lost their way and needs to be gently guided back to life. I believe that if staggering loss becomes the focus of a life instead of a point of change then one has missed an opportunity for growth. I believe that out of great pain incredible growth can come if we allow it.

I don't think God purposed Charlotte to die, but I do think He allowed her death to shape me and make me more Kingdom minded. I know who I was in 2010, and I know who I am now, and I attribute much of the growth in my faith and belief in God to Charlotte's death.

I would not have turned my faith inside out and examined my relationship with God if she hadn't died. I would have continued as I was, knowing the church was there, knowing God was there, but never in a state of need. Need like water, or food, or sunshine. Need like, I'm not going to get through this day, or night, or minute, if you don't sit with me. And He did, and the church did, and I refined my ideas about who I am and what I want.

Jesus.

His kingdom.

On heaven and earth.

In our home.

In my life.

When that becomes your sole focus it changes everything. How you speak, how you think, how you act.

And how you feel about the big whys.

How do you feel about the unanswered questions in your life? Are you holding onto any big whys? How would your life change if you let go of finding out the answer to your whys?

"Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4: 7 (NLT)

If you are seeking peace know that I believe it can come for you too.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

I need something to grow me


Yesterday afternoon I lifted Bennett onto the counter for a late afternoon snack.

"Would you like just jam on your bread?" I asked him as I opened the fridge.

He was squatting on the edge of the counter, peering into the depths of the fridge.

"No!" he exclaimed. Then he slowly stood up from his crouched position and pointed his finger in the air, "I need something to grow me!"

I laughed. "Yes, you do. I'll put sunflower butter on as well."

Apparantly all of my lectures on eating lots of good food because it will help him grow are making an impact! 

I too need "something to grow me."

We haven't been going to church. The kids have been sick, and on the Saturday evenings they are well we are exhausted and/or working.

I haven't been reading my devotions. I was doing really well with the She Read Truth plans, and then I tried the "Bible in a Year" plan. It was too much too fast, and instead of going back to the easier (for me) plans I gave up. I gave in to reading other things, or doing household tasks during the kids quiet time instead of reading the Bible. I know I need to go back to spending time in the Word daily, but carving that time out is difficult to do because there is always something else that needs to be done - or let's be honest - that I want to do

And I can tell. I see it in my attitude. I see it in my interactions with my family. I see it in my feelings of inadequacy, and the sense that I'm not doing anything meaningful with my days. All of the cooking, cleaning, and picking up after children can easily make life feel like the movie Groundhog Day.

It's hard to find glory in the everyday work of raising children, but trust me friends, it is there. My pastor once said that there will be consequences - that we may even be facing them now - of aborting so many infants, of ending so many lives by choice because God has a plan for every. single. life. It may feel like we are not contributing to this world because we stay home with our children, but we don't know who God has given us to raise. We do not know who they will become or what they will do with their lives. We must grow so they can grow. I must grow so they can grow.

What I need from the Bible is the following reminders:

You are enough.

Do not be afraid.

Both truths are there over and over again, but I have to seek them out every single day so I don't forget. I've been so overwhelmed by life details lately, and I feel a little guilty about that because my hard is so much easier than others, but no matter what feels like too much the Bible promises carrying the burden without help isn't necessary.

It's time to get back in the Word. It's time to go back to the cross. Easter is coming. I need to prepare my heart. And after Easter, Charlotte's season. I want to enter spring with my heart full of reminders that God has a plan, and that He is in control of my life. Starting today I'm going to go back to the Word, back to the cross and put my hands on something that grows me.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

ministry work and house problems


Life has been busy, busy, busy lately. We've had some house complications, Thanksgiving is coming up and there's a lot of planning involved in that, and the first Empty Arms Connections meeting took place last night.

First, the house complications. If you live in Salem, have a drain problem, and need a plumber call me. I can tell you who to go to, and who to avoid, so that you don't receive - and nearly accept - a crazy high bid. Plumber the first told us they couldn't clear out our pipe and we would need to pay thousands of dollars to put in a new one. Plumber the second cleared out the pipe. We had a good time hyperventilating over the cost for twenty-four hours. I tried to be cheerful and optimistic because I just started the She Reads Truth thanksgiving study and was all full of give thanks in all circumstances verses and truth, but I quickly reverted back to, "we'll never move now! I know we have the money in savings, but it's still a lot! Wah, wah, wah."

Second, the first connections meeting. You guys, people came!! Not a lot of people, but we had six (ministry team included - so four really)! That feels like a good start. It was hard to get the conversation up and running, but there was discussion and tears and some laughter and I think people felt a little lifted and encouraged at the end. There was a moment in the beginning when I was like, hey wait, I asked a question, no one is answering, what do I do now? I'm an introvert, I'm awkward, this is awkward, am I really in charge of this, was this my idea?? but I said a quick prayer for confidence, and remembered that God doesn't call us to do hard things on our own.

Last night we read a devotion from the One Year Book of Hope and then talked a bit about how much God cares for us as we mourn. The conversation wandered all over the place, but that was the starting point.

For a long time I went to a support group that meets every month, but I haven't gone for a while now. It just wasn't a good fit for me anymore. I felt really guilty about that for a long time, and there's a lot of people from the support group I miss, but last night after the Empty Arms meeting I felt uplifted instead of broken and angry, which is how the other meetings left me feeling.

I've been conflicted about all of this for a long time: support groups and ministries, and where I fit, and where I want to fit, and worry about making people angry. I don't want to be a Christian who sections herself off with people who think and act like her, but in this particular time in my life I really need to be in my grief with people who believe in the hope of heaven and our great Comforter. I can't go into the grief for extended periods of time without that component in place. (I still really like that support group and highly recommend it, it's just not a good fit for me right now)

That doesn't mean if you don't believe you can't come to an Empty Arms meeting. And that doesn't mean we can't be friends if you don't believe in God. It simply means that I am giving myself permission to grieve in the way I need to without feeling guilty. I'm a people pleaser - to my very core - but in this instance I have to take care of myself and my heart.

It's been such a process to start the Empty Arms Ministry. I hope we continue to grow. I hope if people need us they ask for help. I know there isn't a cure for grief, or an end goal, or a way to be over the loss, but there is hope. I believe in Jesus and His promise that this is not our forever home. I need that truth to make it through life without Charlotte. And I want others to know that hope, and to know that God is not callous, that He cares about our broken hearts.


Psalm 34:18: The Lord is near to the brokenhearted; he rescues those who are crushed in spirit.


Psalm 56:8: You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.

Isaiah 65: 17-20:

Behold, I will create
new heavens and a new earth.
The former things will not be remembered,
nor will they come to mind.
But be glad and rejoice forever
in what I will create,
for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight
and its people a joy.
I will rejoice over Jerusalem
and take delight in my people;
the sound of weeping and of crying
will be heard in it no more.

Never again will there be in it
an infant who lives but a few days,
or an old man who does not live out his
years;
he who dies at a hundred
will be thought a mere youth;
he who fails to reach a hundred
will be considered accursed.

Monday, October 27, 2014

on building a wall


I read through the book of Nehemiah yesterday with the She Reads Truth devotion as my guide. It was so encouraging, and so applicable to where I am in my life right now, I can't stop thanking the Lord for pointing me to it.

Nehemiah is a short book about the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem, but it is far from simple. Nehemiah's faith and trust in God is evident over and over throughout the book. He doesn't make a move without talking to God first. (2:4, 4:9, 6:9).

I am in the middle of following God's call to build a ministry for parents who have lost babies at our church. It's a mess, friends. It's hard work. It's discouraging. It's frustrating. It's way harder than I thought it would be. But Nehemiah's work is a reminder to stay faithful, to be obedient to what God is asking me to do, and to take every step with faith and prayer. (4:9)


Chapter three of the book of Nehemiah lists who worked on each section of the wall. The devotion that accompanied the passage pointed to instances when specific areas appear later in the Bible. It had been hundreds of years, but the wall was still up, and was still being used! The devotion encouraged readers to look beyond the boring list of names and see how God was using these people to support a later mission. And then this passage of the devotion jumped out at me:

"Could it be that the section of the wall God has given you is important for His glory today, but that He might also have an eternal plan for the work you're doing?

What if ... your simple job is the setting for miraculous kingdom-size work for generations to come?"

Oh. I hadn't thought about that! Honestly, I've been so busy trying to make everything go my way I haven't stopped to think about the future of our ministry. I'm head down determined to make things happen, too busy to look up and pray about why God is asking us to create this ministry.

If you've read this blog for any length of time you know I sat in the "why valley" for a loooong time after Charlotte died. You can read three or so years of blog posts on the scenery in that valley. I didn't really like it down there, but I couldn't figure out how to get out. And every time I found a path and began the climb I fell and ended up on the valley floor again.

What I finally - finally!! - learned was the only way out of the valley is reliance on God and an understanding of faith. Faith in God's plan, and acceptance of the fact that His plan doesn't align with mine. His plan is so much greater! And along with faith there needs to be a willingness to put aside the need to know why and accept that there won't be answers this side of heaven.

Here too, in this ministry building time, faith is the answer to all of my questions. I don't know what we're doing. I don't know if we're reaching people. I don't know how our ministry is going to grow, or where it will be in a year. I'm just one person working on a wall because God asked me to do it. There's amazing people building next to me, and we're praying for guidance with every brick we set. It's not about me, or my comfort, or my need to know what is happening and why. It's about loving people and being where God has asked me to be. Arms open, heart open, ready to serve. (4:6)

The first Empty Arms Connections meeting is on November 17th. It's not a support group, it's a hope group. There is absolutely nothing wrong with support groups, but our vision is to give people more than support. We want to remind them to look forward to heaven and lean on the truth that this is a temporary home.

As we face opposition and frustrations, as we try to work cohesively and peacefully with everyone around us, I'm going to keep Nehemiah and his faith at the forefront of my thoughts. There were armies trying to take Nehemiah down, but he stayed focused and He continually relied on God to guide him and take care of him.

Nehemiah 6:9 - 

They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, "Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed."
But I prayed, "Now strengthen my hands."

The past two weeks have been challenging. The last month has been challenging! God is moving, God is working, and that means the Enemy is working too. Pray for us. Pray for our ministry. Pray for the mothers and fathers we will work with. Pray for us to seek God every step of the way.

All the glory to Him.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

on the corner of church and madison


I put up a little piece about this soon after it happened on Instagram, but I have more thoughts on the matter so I'm writing a little more today


On Wednesday the kids and I went for a walk. We wandered a while then headed home. As we were crossing Madison I noticed someone sitting on the curb. He said something, but I couldn't hear him because I had B's ride on board attached to the stroller and that thing is noisy!

I had noticed him a few blocks over and my heart skipped for a moment when I saw him again. He was quite tall, wearing basketball shorts and a white hooded sweatshirt, hood pulled up despite the warm day.

When we reached the other side of the street he stood and held a phone out. "My phone is deactivated. Can I borrow yours to call someone?"

I hesitated. In that split second of hesitation I wondered if he was running a scam to steal my phone. That's the world we live in, right? A world of mistrust and fear. A world that overshares evil and hate in so many excessive ways one can easily believe love has stopped being the more powerful emotion.

I said, "My phone is having issues. Let me start it up, then you can make your call."

"Thank you!" his face melted a little, relief colliding with worry. I noticed that he was younger than I initially thought."My dad and I got in a fight, he left me here. I'm from a town 45 minutes away. I don't know where I am! I need to call my mom to come get me."

I asked him for the number, then I dialed it, pressed call and handed the phone over. He talked for a minute while I chatted with the kids. He wandered into the street to check the street sign and that's when I realized he literally had no idea where he was.

"I can't talk, I borrowed someone's phone," he said walking back to the sidewalk. "Okay, okay ..... yes, okay."

He hung up the phone and handed it to me. He stretched his arms over his head, which knocked his hood off. As he dropped his hands back down he ran them over his eyes. I realized he was crying, and that he was much younger than I initially thought.

You know that feeling of sheer relief that someone who loves you knows where you are and is coming to get you? The weight of that feeling crashed down on him and it released ten years from his tense body. He looked as if he hadn't drawn a full breath since his father dropped him on the side of the road.

I looked up at him, he was well over 6 feet tall, and said, "Oh honey, how old are you?"

"I'm 16," he said in a shaky voice as more tears fell.

"Oh honey!" I said again, then I warned him I was going to hug him.

We stood on the street corner, two strangers, hugging, and I said, "I'm just going to tell you it gets easier. 16 is a hard age, and parents don't always remember that. Jesus loves you, okay?"

Then I offered him the $2 I had in the diaper bag, but he wouldn't take it. I spent the rest of the afternoon worrying about him. I wondered if I should have invited him to wait at the house (we were a few blocks from it). I wondered how long he had to wait before his mama picked him up. I sent a text message to the number he called on my phone. I never got one back.

It's Sunday afternoon and I'm still thinking about him. I wonder if his home life is a mess. I wonder what possessed his father to kick him out of the car in an unfamiliar city. I wonder if he made it home. And I keep circling back to that feeling of relief that washed across his face when he heard his mama's face.

Do you have that in your life? Do you have someone you can call day or night, familiar city or not, and ask, "Can you come pick me up?" I hope you do. We all need that person - or people - to help us when life falls apart.

I want to see him again because I did such a clumsy job of expressing myself in the moment. What I was trying to convey to that boy on the corner of Church and Madison was this: you might feel all alone in the world, but Jesus is here with you on this street corner. You might feel unloved and unworthy, but Jesus loves you.

Have you ever wandered from Jesus? Have you ever cried out to Jesus, "I don't know where I am, and I don't know how I got here, but I need you to pick me up?" Have you ever felt the relief of being known by a loving Father?

Jesus will always pick you up. He will always come to you, if you ask, no matter where you've been or what you've done. Isn't that amazing?

Sunday, September 21, 2014

around the table


My parents are in Europe right now. This extended period of time without them is making me realize how much I need them, and how often my mama helps me with the kids. There are moments when thinking about cold fall mornings with my mama, a newborn baby, and hot chocolate almost makes me want another baby. Those were ideal (sleepy) times, friends. Now my kids are all over the place:



My friends have been amazing these last few weeks. I have needed a lot of help with the kids and they've volunteered/offered/said yes to every request. It's nice to have mama friends my kids know well and are comfortable with. Last week a friend sat in the lobby at church for two hours with Ainsleigh so I could participate in the church membership class. This Sunday a friend watched both kids for a few hours so J and I could attend the final class/lunch.

At the lunch event we had to share our testimonies. I was going to be calm. I had an idea of what I wanted to say. I felt really ready to talk about my faith and how Charlotte's death played into it. But then everyone at our table had a really intense testimony, and I was the second to last to go so I was a complete wreck by the time it was my turn.

I'm not even sure I made sense! After I was like, "Oh J, I'm a mess. What is wrong with me?" And he was kind and reassuring and said I really had nothing to worry about, but goodness sometimes I would like to be less of a mess - you know what I mean? But it was nice to really get to know a handful of people from the church who we haven't met before. Although if I ever have to do this again I'm just going to pass out copies of something I've written out and stay silent.

I tend to stick with the people I know. We all do that to some degree, but I'm really introverted (today was a little painful for me. I was grumpy with the kids all evening because I just wanted to be ALONE for a while) and making friends is hard for me. I have a small group of close friends and I'm quite happy with who I know and who knows me.

But sometimes the Lord stretches me and asks me to sit at a table full of strangers and tell my story. And I think it was quite the experience for everyone at that table today. It's so easy to stay in a safe place, but when we open ourselves to the possibility that we are all a mess, that we all have histories and pasts that have wrecked us, and that Jesus has rebuilt us, amazing things can happen. We can all be thankful for Jesus together instead of standing off to the side and wondering why everyone else has it all together. No one has it all together, friends. Some of us just have bigger houses to hide our messes in.

Try being real with someone this week. You don't have to tell your life story to six strangers, but you could tell a close friend you're hurting, or that your marriage is falling apart, or that you're really worried about one of your kids, or that you're really excited about what God is doing in your life. When you live in community you don't have to hold anything in. You don't have to edit your life so that people around you will be comfortable with who you are. I encourage you to find people who want the full edition of your life - footnotes and all - because in them you can find rest - and someone to watch your kids.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

the checklist: my testimony


I was raised in a Christian home. I grew up in a Baptist church. In many ways my identity was wrapped around the church. My parents were very involved - they still are - and to this day I can walk in to that church and be recognized as "one of the G___ kids. My mom founded and directed the preschool program; my dad served as an elder; and my siblings and I went to youth group, church camp, mission trips, and anything else that was on offer.

The summer between my junior and senior year of high school I served at the camp I had attended for years. It was a favorite summer. I still have great memories of that camp and the people I met there.

I spent my first year of college at a state school. It was too much for me. I wasn't really prepared for LIFE at that level. It was a rough year. My parents encouraged me to transfer out. I didn't want to at the time, but I can look back now and see that getting out was necessary and best for me.

I finished my degree at a Quaker university in a small town in Oregon. I met J at George Fox University - although he wasn't attending at the time. I was checking off boxes right and left on the "how Christians should live" form, but I wasn't really participating in my faith, and it certainly wasn't growing. I didn't attend church most of my college years, but I did (reluctantly) attend the mandatory chapel sessions.

A month after graduating from university J and I married. Once again I was checking off boxes:

- graduate from Christian university - check 

- marry Christian husband - check

- find a church - check

But my heart wasn't in it. I was going to church because that's what I was supposed to do. That's what I had always done. And that's how J was raised too. Although he was raised in a different denomination. It took a little time for us to see eye to eye on how the other worshiped. The first time I went to the church he grew up in and saw flag waving I was like, hey hold up, I'm BaptistI'm not even sure about clapping in church ...

J and I found a great church in the town we moved to after I graduated. We connected with the congregation, we joined a small group, and we started to get involved. Then we moved to Salem - which is where we live now - and the 45 minute drive to church and small group soon grew tiresome.

We spent a long time looking for a church in Salem. Well, we spent a lot of time talking about looking for one. We went to one church, but were so overwhelmed by the enthusiastic greeting we received we didn't return. When J began working at the hospital full time he connected with someone in his department who encouraged him to try his church - Salem First Baptist. I can't remember when we tried it for the first time, but that is where we've been ever since. I know we were new attendees around the time Charlotte died, because the pastor from our old home church came to the house after she passed away.

And honestly why we stayed initially was born out of sheer laziness. J wasn't sure how he felt about a Baptist church. Neither of us were sure about the size (it is, by far, the largest church we have ever attended). We talked about switching for years, but we had friends who attended and we enjoyed seeing them on Sunday mornings. We also liked the pastor and his teachings. And then we started to make more friends. And then I was asked to start a pregnancy and infant loss ministry. And now we are in the process of becoming members.

When Charlotte died my checklist faith proved insubstantial. My thoughts about God at the time went something like this:

HEY NOW! I did my part! I upheld my bargain. See this here - waves checklist in the air - I followed it! I did exactly as I was supposed to! And my "reward" is a dead baby?! I didn't sign up for this! This wasn't supposed to happen! Raise children to love the Lord is the next thing on the checklist. How am I supposed to mark the box if my baby is dead????

That was my rock bottom, friends. That was my lower than low, this has got to be as bad as it gets for a person, moment. And it was a years long moment.

Moving past that moment to where I am now was such a slow, gradual process I don't know how to write about it. I didn't wake up one morning and believe again. I'm not even sure I stopped believing. I was in between for a long time. I think that's the best way to put it. I was wary of God and I didn't know how to apply my checklist faith to a life torn by loss.

I had to hit that rock bottom so that I would start asking questions. I needed to seek Jesus, but I wasn't going to do it with a full deck of cards and a heart that believed all was in place. I had to make my faith MINE. I had to choose to believe in God because I need the hope of heaven, and I need Jesus to guide me through every day, and I need to know that I will see that baby girl of mine again someday. I had to stop going to church because it was expected of me and I am a people pleaser. Even at 31, I am seeking approval from earthly things and people, and God says, STOP.

I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6

And I had to throw out the stupid checklist and realize faith is not about what you've done, or the order you've done it in. Faith is hope in things unseen (Hebrews 11:1) It's understanding that there will be unanswered questions this side of heaven. It's accepting that God numbered Charlotte's days at one, and though I can't understand that doesn't mean I can't acknowledge it as a necessary part of His greater plan.

I finally believe in Jesus because when everything in my life is stripped away and I have nothing I want to surface with the knowledge that I have everything because He loves me and died for my sins.

I believe that, friends. I believe He died on the cross and rose again. I believe the Bible is His word. I believe it is "God-breathed," and that its commandments and exhortations are to be followed (2 Timothy 3:16). I believe in a heaven, and a hell. I believe that the only way to heaven is through Jesus Christ and the incredible sacrifice of His death on the cross. And I believe that God loves me no matter what. There is absolutely nothing I can do to make Him stop loving me. And there's nothing you can do that will make him stop loving you. That's incredible, friends. I urge you to grab hold of His outstretched hand. He will sustain you in ways no human can.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

long journey home


J and I are in the process of becoming members at our church. We've been there FIVE plus years. It's definitely time. Part of the process is sharing a little bit of our testimony. For those who don't know what that means, it's just your story. How you came to believe. What shaped you as a believer. When you accepted Christ as your savior. Why you accepted Christ as your savior.

There are four lines on our membership sheet to write out our testimony and a short time at a lunch gathering to share it. I need about two hours and sixteen sheets of paper to get mine out. I have been on a long journey to Jesus.

I've shared bits and pieces of my testimony here. In some ways this blog is my testimony. If you go all the way back to the beginning you'll see me hanging out with God, but not really making him a part of my life. Then you'll see me struggling mightily with my faith. Then you'll see me start to figure bits and pieces out. Then you'll see me put it all together, claim my faith and relationship with Christ as my own, and get excited about my faith.

That's where I am right now. EXCITED. I want you to know my Jesus. And that's why I've been blogging about faith so much lately. We'll get back to home improvement projects, cooking and the kids soon, but I want to stay with this subject a little longer.

Today I thought I would throw the question to you: what's your story? Whether you believe or not, tell me why. Tell me who you are.

And then I'll take the question back and I'll share my full testimony here in a few days. If there are any questions you want me to answer about why I believe please ask them!

Let's talk honestly about who we are.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

becoming someone new


I am guilty of participating in social media because I want people to see me.

I want people to see who I have become and what I've done with my life because validation matters to me. It doesn't matter to everyone, but I am a people pleaser and I want everyone to like me.

The downside of wanting everyone to recognize me is feelings of worthlessness.

I don't have ...

I am not ...

I haven't done ...

I'll never be ...

God says I am enough.

Without Him I am nothing, but with him I am enough.

John 15:5 - I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

And while I am worrying about how useless, and worthless I am, how I haven't done much of anything with my life, or how all I do with my days is wash dishes, clean the floors, and chase the kids, God is shaking his head and holding his arms open wide.

He points out all of the good in me - daily, hourly even - but I've been so wrapped up in becoming and striving I couldn't see Him, or how much he loves me.

I alone am not amazing.

When people look at me they should think, "Wow, look at how she has been transformed by Christ!"

It is incredible that I came through the fire of extreme loss, but not because of anything I did. I walked from the flames with hope and faith intact as well as a stronger belief in God because I put my trust in Him after Charlotte died. I would not have been able to accomplish that alone. The hope of heaven is the only reason I can make it through day after day without Charlotte. When I get discouraged, or overwhelmed by grief I ask the Lord to remind me that this earth is my temporary home (2 Corinthians 4:18).

I first accepted Christ into my life when I was four years old. FOUR! That was a looong time ago. I've renewed my faith a few times, but this latest round has been more real and painful than before. The four and a half years since Charlotte died has been a long process of renewal. I had to rethink and reexamine everything I believed, but the end result has been great.

My faith is finally my own, and because of God and his love for me I am someone new (2 Corinthians 5:17).

I want to change my life and attitude so that people see Christ in me.

Why do I act the way I do?

Why do I speak the way I do?

Why do I raise my kids the way I do?

Because I have been redeemed by the one true God and he is completing a great work in me (Philippians 1:6).

This week I began writing verses on index cards and taping them around the house. B has a little memory verse too, from our Before Five in a Row series, which is what we are using for "school time" right now.

My focus right now is:

PRAYER: 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18 

EMPTY ARMS MINISTRY: 2 Corinthians 1: 3-5

SHE READS TRUTH MEMORY VERSES: Hosea 6:3, Hosea 12:6 

CONTROLLING MY ANGER: James 1: 19-21, James 1:26, Proverbs 14:29, Proverbs 15:1, Ephesians 4:31

That last one is tough. When Charlotte died I got mad - and I stayed mad - and most days that mad comes out in inappropriate ways. I'm praying -more like begging - for a heart change in that area.

What are you struggling with?

How do you feel about God?

What's on your heart tonight?

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