Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Waiting.....With No Expectations!

Matt and I started the "waiting" period of our adoption journey in mid-June.  Our homestudy is all done and approved and now we are patiently waiting with many other resource families that are adopting through Bethany Christian Services as well.  What this means is that we really have no idea when God will bring us a baby to welcome into our family.  It could be months or years, only time will tell.  What we do know is that God knows just the right baby for us to parent and we can trust in His perfect plan.

I was just thinking back to my childhood and how most of the time being the third and last child of the family, I did not have to wait for many things.  Since I had two older sisters who were both much older than me, I always got my own room and was able to do most of the activities growing up that I wanted to do, plus I was the only child left at home when I was in 7th grade.  Therefore, I had my parents attention most all of the time and they were able to come to all of my activities etc.  Let's just say....I was a very blessed child and for this I am thankful.

However, after getting married to a wonderful man, God has challenged me in many areas of my life and waiting for things that I have desired has been one of them.  At first when I found out about my infertility and the realization that there was nothing that I could change....I was angry with God.  These are natural emotions and feelings and I believe God wants us to cry out to him when we have these emotions as many of the Psalms are like this in the Bible.  Also, in my 11 years of being out of college, I have had quite a variety of jobs and workplaces....Panera and Chick-fil-A doing marketing/catering, a year in a middle school as an assistant in the library, working at our church and at a coffee shop.  Many times, especially during my first 5 years of employment, I was not always content in where God had me and I was always looking for something more.  I believe that one of the main reasons that I was discontent was because I did not find my fulfillment as a person in my savior Jesus Christ.  Even though I had been a follower of Jesus since I was ten years old, I don't think I really thought I needed him as life was pretty good already. When I am not consistently reading my Bible, everything and everyone else's life around me often looks so much better. 

Now as we wait to see what God is going to do through this adoption journey, I am excited.  That is what trials like infertility, my mom's death and so many other hurts and struggles in the past 6 years have given me.....a trust and peace in God's plan and not my own.  The brokeness that I have experienced at times have brought me that much closer to my savior Jesus Christ and I am the most content in my life as I have ever been.  I have no expectations because I know that what God's will is for our family is also my will.

I love what it says in Mark 2:17:

"On hearing this, Jesus said to them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.  I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

We are all people in need of a relationship with Jesus.  When we have lost hope....that is when we find hope in Him!   

Monday, June 1, 2015

A Tribute to My Mom

"Grief never ends...but it changes.  Its a passage, not a place to stay.  Grief is not a sign of weakness, nor a lack of faith...it is the price of love."  - Unknown

As many of you know, my mom passed on from this world to be with her Savior late on Monday, May 18th.  She died from cancer a horrible disease which was hard to see her suffer through.  It has been exactly two weeks from today and yet everything is still so raw.

Some of the hardest thoughts to work through are ones such as, "I feel so overwhelmed, who can I call?"  "My mom will never meet any other children that we will have or adopt."  "Why am I going through all of this?  First infertility and now my mom dieing.  I don't think I can handle much more."

As I sort through all the emotions and thoughts going through my head it has helped me to also really think about death.  Death is a horrible and terrifying thing as it should be because it is the final consequence of sin in this world.  It says in an article entitled, "Die Well" on the Desiring God website:

"For the Christian, death is not gain because it gives us something great, but because, even though it takes away everything else, it can’t take away Jesus. Death is gain because when all is lost, we still have all we ever really wanted, and now we have him in a deeper, richer experience that, as the apostle Paul says, is “far better” (Philippians 1:23)."

As I am grieving, I can say with all truth that this is what has been made more clearer....the only thing that matters here in this life on earth is the depth of our relationship with God and our relationships with others.  Isn't this what it says are the two commandments that God gives us, to Love Him and Love others?  One of the places it says this is in Mark 22:

 "37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself."

Life is so full of distractions, comparisons, entertainment and pride.  We are broken people in need of a relationship with God who wants to fill us up so we can be made whole.  All this requires of us is to openly admit that we cannot control our life and don't know what is best for us.  I do know this is not an easy task but such a rewarding one when finally humble our self and ask for help.  

As I was reflecting on the last few months of my mom's life here on earth on the way home this evening, I was thinking about how thankful I was to have so much time with her, serving her and taking care of her with my dad.  It was extremely hard and many times I thought....it would be easier to just stay away and try to forget this was all happening.  And yet...so many people kept telling me that this time was so special and the process of walking alongside her and ushering into heaven would be a blessing to me and that I would see God working.  They were all right!  In fact, God even had it worked out for our family to be in Des Moines the afternoon of when my mom really started to be unresponsive.  I was able to go and talk to her and hear friends of hers sing worship songs to her and pray over her during her last hours of life on this earth.  She was surrounded by so many people that loved her that evening before she passed onto glory!  

My mom touched many lives.  She loved kids and cared for everyone that she met.  She taught my sisters and I so much about taking care of our home, cooking, sewing, eating healthy and she and my dad were/are always our biggest cheerleaders.  Most importantly, my parents pointed us to Jesus and helped us to learn what having a relationship with God meant and for that I am forever grateful. 

As much as this grief and loss hurts...I am forever grateful for that love that I received from my mom.  All glory to God, great things he hath done.  


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Living In Constant Change

If there is one thing that seems to be a reoccurring theme in my past 33 years is the fact that I constantly struggle with change.  I don't think I am alone in this sentiment and most humans truly struggle with this too.  However, I feel as if the past 4 months of life have really made me think about this more as I process what is going on in our day to day lives at this current time. 

As Americans, we desire to be "busy" so that we have purpose.  An article today reminded me of this thought and how now as I process this even more with me being a stay at home now,  the temptation that I am "less of a person" or am not accomplishing much in this chaotic time is even easier to believe if I don't fight against those thoughts or feelings.  Here is the article.  This sentence really struck me, "I am created in the image and likeness of God, yet somehow that isn't good enough for me. So I fill my Facebook feed and my calendar with self-important busyness to avoid just being." 

What two commandments does God call us to do?  Love God and Love Your Neighbor.  Does he tell us that our children need to go to the best school and be the most successful in school, sports, and spend every waking hour at church?  No. Period. Paragraph.  Comparison is everywhere around us and we will always be sucked down into sinfulness when we start down that path.

Recently, I have seen God grow my heart for reading his word, the Bible.  This is his love story to us and how we grow closer to Him and his son Jesus so that we can know his ways.  This is where he wants us to spend our time....reading his Word, listening to him and praying to him.  When we spend time with him then we can be spend the time we share with others; our children, co-workers and neighbors/friends with a refreshed servant heart and seeing them through a God lens.

It says in Matthew 5:14-16:   “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that[a] they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven."

If our lives and hearts are truly being transformed and changed by God then people cannot help but notice.  For me personally, I need to stop "doing" so much to find purpose but instead spend time with God so I am confident in my purpose which he has already given me.  Then I can spend each day, despite the constant change in our lives, loving others as he equips me to do his will for his glory.       

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Living a Life of Gratitude and Influence

The year of 2014 was a fairly tough year for me and a year of refinement.  God brought me through some huge adjustments in my health, gave me emotional, spiritual and physical refreshment on a trip to Germany with youth from our church, took away and brought new friendships and helped me to see the path at which I was to go at this season in our life.  When I wrote our Christmas letter for 2014, I actually had a really hard time writing it because looking back at 2014 at that time, it was a struggle to be grateful for that year.

Now as 2015 is starting off, I have a whole different perspective on where I am at and our family.  I am so grateful to God and his grace and mercy as he continually guides us and gives us the peace that only he can give.

First off, I am so grateful for the opportunity to stay at home with our 3 year old son.  I have never wanted to stay at home full time but God started impressing it upon my heart that this is what I was supposed to do back in September of last year.  I absolutely love the time with him, all the fun things we can do together and just being able to be at home more to cook and take care of the house.

Another thing to be grateful for starting this year is the peace that God has given me about only having one child so far.  We are wanting more children but are not sure if that will happen biologically and also desire to possibly adopt but are not sure if that is God's plan either.  To truly be content and ok with just having one child is such a blessing.   That desire to have more has been so strong and painful at times as I hear of another person being pregnant and mourn my own loss of this not being our reality.

Today, I had the opportunity to go and volunteer in an elementary school in the office.  I did some filing and other various tasks for them for a couple of hours.  What I was reminded of while I was there was just how much we all are influencers.  Our schools are the hearts of our communities.  The teachers, administrators, secretaries, para-professionals and all the other people that work in our schools are doing a hard and important job.  The hustle and bustle of the school is the life of each and every child and family.  Pouring into these kids is an opportunity to show the love of Christ and the fruits of the spirit.....Galatians 5:22-23 reads,

"But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control."

What better way to be an imitator of Christ than to serve and have a positive influence on these children and staff?  I am excited to continue to help in our son's school when he starts school.  I challenge us all to get involved in a school in your area.  They are always in need of people to read to the kids, help provide resources for the school etc.  I also want to give a big thank you to all of my friends and family that are in education.  You are making a difference in people's lives.   

Last but not least...God has reminded me of how blessed we are to have his Word, the Bible at our fingertips.  This book gives us hope and has everything in it that we need to navigate this life here on earth and beyond.  I am hoping to memorize this one verse for the year.  It has been a verse that has always resonated with me.

Romans 15:13 says, "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."

Do you have Hope in this life?    

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Public Thank You!

As we end the month of October which is Pastor/Clergy Appreciation Month and enter November, the month of Thanksgiving, I am thankful for the staff, members and attenders at Stonebridge Church.  

This past Friday, November 7th I finished my second round of working on staff at Stonebridge.  I first started working there as an assistant for Pastor Randy, our senior pastor and part assistant for one of our adult pastors, Jason Poling.  This past year of working at Stonebridge, I have helped as a Children's assistant with our Director, Melissa Majorins.  It has been a complete joy and a hard decision to leave these great people once again.

Working at Stonebridge has so incredibly grown my faith and knowledge of God and for this I am extremely thankful and blessed.  It says in 1 Thessalonians 5:11, "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing."  The environment that is in the church office at Stonebridge is real.  If you walk in and someone asks you, 'how you are doing', they mean it.  They are not looking for a pat answer and want to encourage you if you need someone to listen or need some of God's truth's spoken to you.  Pastor Jason is the one that introduced me to Biblical Counseling while I was working as his assistant.  Taking some classes and learning how to use scripture for my own life and in others has transformed my thoughts, feelings and actions everyday to bring me closer to God!

Churches are made up of a bunch of people that are sinners and do hurtful things to each other.  So...in my time I have witnessed and experienced many happenings of this but also had the opportunity to see conflict dealt with in a manner that would imitate Jesus Christ and reconciliation.  When Christ is in us and we allow God to help us navigate life, the Gospel shines through to everyone we have contact with!

I also want to take time to thank the many people that attend Stonebridge who I have had great experiences working alongside and for their commitment to our church.  It takes many hands to minister to everyone that goes to church there, especially the children.  I am so thankful that God continues to help me love people!

As I start my journey as a full-time stay at home mom with our son, I am excited.  I am so much better equip to minister to him at home now because of the great people at Stonebridge that God has used to disciple me and will continue to use.  

If you attend Stonebridge, we have a lot to be thankful for.  God is doing amazing work in us all and through our church.  Be praying for our staff and leaders as we continue this race that has been marked out for us as we share with others about Jesus Christ!

And don't forget to "Be joyful always, pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."     1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Learning to Fear God, Not People

It says in 2 Corinthians 5:16-18,

" So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:"

This "new" person in Christ is easier said than done.  Recently, I felt as if God has been really impressing upon my heart and mind that I need to grow in the area of Fearing God and not people.  You might say, what does that mean?  A book that I have been reading called, "When People Are Big And God is Small," by Edward T. Welch says that scripture (the Bible) gives three basic reasons why we fear other people -- 

1.  We fear people because they can expose and humiliate us
2.  We fear people because they can reject, ridicule, or despise us
3.  We fear people because they can attack, oppress, or threaten us.  

Being an extreme extrovert I have always held relationships and people in general as a high priority in my life.  Around 4 to 5 years ago God started to bring this unhealthy dependency on people to light.  I was choosing to be filled up by these relationships and did not want to disappoint people.  I would try to make meeting up with people possible at all times.  I would also get frustrated with people if they did not see the value in meeting.  Now looking back this "fear of man" was controlling my life.  Today I am praying that as I continue to be changed by Jesus Christ that I will become more and more a lover of people.  This means that I will be used by God to share about how God can change them as he has changed me and also that I am holding my relationship with God higher than my relationships with all humans.  

About a month ago, I started to feel as if I was supposed to start staying home full time with our son Caleb.  For me to even consider this shows that God has changed my desires.  I have always been extremely fearful to stay home full time because parenting has been a struggle from day one for me.  When we were first married I actually thought life was pretty great and wasn't sure if I even wanted children.  Then God started to help me see through some great friends from our church that being parents is a great calling.  God has given us children to help disciple and help them learn to love and serve Him.  So...after struggling through infertility and many questions of why, God blessed us with Caleb.  The baby stage was very hard for me and I always say once he turned one years old it was much easier for me to spend time with him because he could "do" so much more.  Fast forward to 2 years old....parenting has started to be even tougher!  He continually pushes our limits and patience levels.  These past almost 3 years of his life has shown me more and more why I need to pour my life into him.  They watch everything you do and only by being with him on a consistent basis can I have the influence as a mother on him as I hope to.  With having so many other work commitments and outside interests, my patience levels grow very thin.  So...with lots of prayers and a little fear still in my heart, we decided for me to start staying home later this fall.  I am excited for this new adventure and have a true peace about it that can only come from God!  

Another area that I still struggle with fear a lot is with my body.  This has been a constant struggle since college.  I have a fear of gaining weight and feel uncomfortable at times with tight fitting clothing.  I felt as if I had made huge strides with being freed of some of this fear, anxiety and lies that I was believing.  However, as I am starting to change some things to correct some of my health issues, I have had less control over some things and I quickly realized that this is still a very large stronghold in my life.  A friend of mine suggested that I memorize a Bible verse to be able to bring to mind when I am struggling with those lies in my thoughts.  Oh, yeah!  What a great idea.  Isn't it way easier to tell someone else what to do to help with their struggles than to know what to do to help yourself?  That is why we need other people in our lives that we can talk to and help keep us accountable!  I am continuing to pray that I will be comfortable in my own skin no matter what I choose to wear.  

I am so thankful that God is continuing to change me each day.  I leave you with this verse...

"Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe."  - Proverbs 29:25            

Monday, August 4, 2014

Discovering Who I Am in Jesus Christ....

It has been a while since I have blogged.  Part of this is the fact that many times I have so many thoughts in my head and I can't decide which ones to blog about. :) 

The past three months, I feel as if I have been a sponge....soaking up everything that God is teaching me and trying to process it all.  Since January 2014, I have had a lot of ups and downs with my health and in our journey of continuing our family.  The end of May, we found out that my thyroid levels were extremely low.  After addressing this discovery, I have felt so much better! 

Then in June, I was blessed to spend two weeks in Chemnitz, Germany with five teens from our church and our youth pastor.  We have a partnership with an E-free church in Chemnitz.  The time there was very refreshing to me physically, emotionally and most of all spiritually.  The slower pace of life and time for rest was absolutely wonderful.  I love the European lifestyle of public transit, buying fresh food more often and being less busy.  Being with the Christians over in Germany also helped me gain a better understanding of what it also means to listen and be guided by the Holy Spirit more.  Recently, I have re-picked up the book, Forgotten God by Francis Chan.  I think in America we are missing out on experiencing the fullness of God because we are so afraid of the Holy Spirit.  A quote from this book that spoke to me was..

"The reality is that the early church knew less about the Holy Spirit than most of us in the church today, at least in the intellectual sense.  But they came to know the Spirit intimately and powerfully as He worked in and through our their lives."

I walked away from that trip with a sense that I needed to let go of some things in my life that I have been holding on to.  I struggle a lot in my life with control and trusting God.  It is so easy for us in America to not really "need" God and yet we are depriving ourselves of the freedom and thrill it is to live for Jesus.

This past weekend we attended our church family camp at Hidden Acres Christian Center near Boone, Iowa.  Our guest speaker this year was Zach Blickens and the band White Ribbon Day.   He shared his opinion that life with Jesus should not be boring.  I completely agree!  When you read the Bible, all of the stories tell of times where things were shaken up and not "normal."  Yet what holds us back from living on the edge for Jesus?  Fear!

My husband found this blog post today and sent it my way...http://www.knoxpriest.com/scruffy-hospitality-creates-space-friendship/     I have been struggling with this idea of true community for a long time.  I value friendships so much and yet sometimes don't feel like my friendships are going very deep.  Once again....why do we not have this community, because of our pride and fear of not being "excellent." 

The Lord has been teaching me to be content with where he has me and our family.  Through these past few months he has also been helping me see that I value people's opinions far too much at times and allow fear to drive me from being the person he created me to be!  A friend of mine shared this with me....that when we turn our life over to Jesus Christ and allow him to guide our steps, he starts to work on clearing out all of the junk that is inside of our hearts and minds and slowly reveal who we were really created to be before sin came in and mucked everything up!  We are so blessed to be taken in as a child of God.

I leave you with a passage in the Bible from Ecclesiates 3: 1-14.  It has reminded me that God is in control over everything in the past, present and future and he is too be praised!

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.
What do workers gain from their toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet[a] no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. 13 That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. 14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.