Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Be Still

When the Israelites left Egypt, the Pharaoh changed his mind about letting them go. Exodus 14:7 says that he took 600 of his best chariots and boldly chased after them.

The Israelites were in a tight spot. They had an army closing in on them from behind and a sea looming before them. They had no where to go. For all appearances, they were doomed.

But then in Exodus 14:13 Moses told them "Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the Lord which He will accomplish for you today." and in verse 14 he tells them to stand still. "The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm."

Can you imagine the fear?

The panic?

The chaos?

And what does Moses say?

Be at peace, stay calm, be still. The LORD will fight for you.

Such simple words.

Be still.

Stay calm.

Do nothing.

The LORD will fight for you.

Help me to remember there is no problem beyond your loving care. You are GOD and there is absolutely nothing you can't do.  Any attempt I would try to make would be worthless in comparison to your great power. Don't let me doubt when things feel hopeless, but instead let me put my trust in you. The enemy may come at me from every angle, but you, God, are all powerful. You split the Red Sea to save your people. You will do the same for me. The enemy may attack, but I hold fast in you. Jesus, I will stand still and let you fight this battle for me. I know you will show up and do a mighty and great thing.  Lord, I will stand still and let you fight my battles for me. Your name be ever praised.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

To Everything There is a Season

Lately, I've struggled with some changes that I felt needed to take place. I've tried, but it's still been hard to find a a balance. I wanted things to change, without any action on my part. I've gone back and forth many times. But in the end, it's been about choosing my husband and God.

It's been hard because this is something that was not only a big part of my life, but also a huge part in my journey that led me to Jesus. So to turn my back, it felt like a betrayal to me. But I guess that's the thing, I want to point my family towards Jesus and when things feel like they are trying to pull myself, or my husband away, it's time to put some distance between those things and us. 

God has done so much to help, but still I've resisted. I've prayed and cried for there to be another answer, but each time I've heard God say, "This is what is best for you and Josh right now. Trust me; it will all work out." 

Last night, as I once again prayed for a different answer, I read Ecclesiastes, chapter 3. 

I believe God is telling me it's okay to let go. It served its purpose and I will always be grateful. But sometimes the things that were once good, instead become something that holds us back. Its hard, and it hurts, but I'm trusting God that it will all work out for the best. 

Monday, April 11, 2016

Finding Peace During the Pain - Saying Goodbye to Zipper

These past few weeks, I have spent a lot of time on my knees, seeking the peace of God.

On March 26th, I took my cat Zipper to the vet because I thought he was diabetic. Instead, I was given the devastating news that his kidney's were failing, and his days were numbered. They recommend switching his diet in order to buy some time. They were optimistic he would still be with us for a few months.

Zipper joined our family right as we started our infertility journey. At first, we thought he was a girl and we named him Hope. When the vet corrected us, that he was indeed a boy, we changed his name. From the time he came into our home, he was my baby and I was his momma. We shared a bond that I have never experienced with my other pets.

The next week, his condition continued to worsen. Again, I found myself at the vet asking what else I could try. I just wanted some more time with my baby boy. We tried an IV, and experienced slight success. The next night, while saying my prayers, he started to purr. He'd hadn't purred in weeks. God honored my prayer to have just one more night where he felt like my baby boy again.

Sadly, our time with Zipper was cut short. Instead of months, we were only given 3 weeks. Saturday his condition worsened drastically and we knew the end was near. We went to bed Saturday, thinking he would leave during the night.

Sunday morning, he was still with us, but in a lot of pain. I was in near hysterics. I couldn't find the words to pray, so instead I asked my husband to pray. He tried to get out of it by saying he didn't feel comfortable praying because he feels like he doesn't do it correctly, but I told him to just speak to God.

It was the most beautiful prayer my husband has ever prayed. Immediately, I felt the peace of God wash over me and I knew everything would be okay.

That afternoon, I felt like Zipper was still hanging on, that he didn't want to leave. But watching him in pain was breaking my heart. Again, I went to God and begged Him to receive my Zipper into his loving arms. To give him peace. Again, I felt the love and peace of God wash over me. I felt like I needed to walk away so Zipper could let go.

As I sat on the couch with my husband, suddenly our newest cat, Blue, jumped up and started loving on us. I know it was at that moment God welcomed my cat home. Blue has been one of His blessing in disguises through this ordeal. When I brought him home last fall, I thought I was nuts to take on a 3rd cat. But I believe God knew I would need him at this time.

Zipper isn't a cat that will be easily replaced. We have Gaby, but she is the kind of cat that prefers to be on her own. God, in his loving kindness, knew I would need a cat that would cuddle with me over the next few lonely nights. He also knew I wouldn't be able to open my heart to a new addition after Zipper's death, so he sent us Blue before the trial.

I know to some, that a cat isn't anything special, But to me, he really was my baby. How grateful I am to God for his love and peace during this time. He truly does comfort us at all times and in all things. We just need to ask Him for his peace and then let Him do the rest.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

My Testimony at Women's Ministry

A few months ago, I was asked if I would share my testimony at Women's Ministry in April This is what I shared.

I love the story of the prodigal son found in Luke 15. Have you ever felt like the lost son? Or have you ever felt like the older son? I have felt like both, so bear with me as I tell the story in a different order.

Luke 15: 25-29

25: "Now his older son was in the field, and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 

26: And he summoned one of the servants and began inquiring what these things could be.

27: And he said to him. 'Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has received him back safe and sound.'

28: But he became angry and was not willing to go in; and his father came out and began pleading with him.

29: but he answered and said to his father, 'Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends;"

For years, I felt like the older son. I was a good kid growing up. And for the most part, I was a well behaved teenager. I got good grades. I went to church every week. I was married according to the traditions of the church I was a part of it. In my mind, I did it all right. For all appearances, I had a firm foundation, in my religion.

So when life got difficult, I couldn't understand what I had done wrong. As we started down our path of infertility, I often found myself asking why? When someone close to me found themselves with an unplanned pregnancy, I struggled. I asked God, "I did everything right. Why did she get my reward?"

Like the older son, I felt betrayed. And just like the older son, I missed out on the enjoyment of a new nephew because I was too caught up in my pride. I kept crying about how unfair it was, how I had been wronged.

Right around this time is also when we decided to pursue adoption. For years, we poured our hearts and souls into adoption. Eventually, we met a beautiful young girl and she choose us to adopt her little girl. But then, half way through her pregnancy, she decided to choose another couple.

Again, I cried out like the older son. I had waited patiently. I had continued to follow my religion. Why was I not being rewarded for my efforts? Looking back, I can now see that I was strong in my religion, but I had not built my foundation on the rock of Jesus.

After our adoption fell through, I went through the motions of church. I was there, but I wasn't. I hated Sunday because it meant putting on a smile and pretending that everything was okay. I remember the last Sunday I went. The topic was how families could be together, but only if they were sealed according to that religions teachings. I remember thinking, how can that even work? Our baby is gone forever. What about divorced families? What about families blended families? What about broken families? Over time, I would realize, God isn't like that. God is too loving. He would never separate families. We went home that Sunday and I told my husband I didn't want to go back.

This is when I became the younger son. I'm not saying I took all my wealth and started a life of drinking and loose living. But I did turn my back on my Father and I went the other way. I told myself I didn't need God. I could handle life on my own. Without the pressure of religion, I thought I was happy.

Thankfully, it didn't take me hitting rock bottom and eating with the swine to change my mind. Honestly, I'm not even sure what it was. A yearning stirred within my heart and continued to grow. I knew I could go back to the religion I had grown up in, but I wanted something more. My heart was seeking Jesus.

But also, I was scared. I had only ever known one church and I didn't know how to venture out and find another. But my yearning continued to grow until I could no longer ignore it. How grateful I am for a loving God that never stops loving his children.

Eventually, I expressed this desire to a friend. She told me to just pick a church and go. If I didn't like it, try another one. But I still hesitated. Finally, she told me she would go with me.

My first week, I wasn't sure what I thought. It was so different from what I had grown up with. But a good different. I must have felt something, because I kept coming back. Within a few weeks, I had fallen in love. When I'm here, I can tell that this is a group of people chasing after God and He is running towards them. I no longer hated Sunday's, but looked forward to them.

Luke 15: 20 "So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him."

God never gave up on me. He never stopped looking for my return.

I've had several awe moments since then, but my Noel is my favorite. At that time, I wrote the following:

A few weeks ago, they had their ladies Christmas party. I decided it would be fun to go. I was thrilled to walk in and see an old Jr. High School friend there. She hadn't been there for a few weeks, so I hadn't seen her yet. We had dinner, played bingo, did a gift exchange and there was a message shared that night.

The pastor's wife was the one to share the message. She talked about the first Noel. She talked about how it means birthday, most importantly, Christ's birthday. But then she went on to share how we can all have a Noel in our hearts. I left that night with the realization that I did not have a Noel of Jesus in my heart.

I had been reading a book the pastor had given me, "More Than a Carpenter," by Josh D. McDowell and Sean McDowell. As a college student, Josh McDowell claimed that Jesus wasn't really a God. His friends challenged him to study it out and prove it. During his studies, he learned that he was wrong. Most of the book focuses on his research. It was good, but still, I hadn't felt what I had hoped to feel.

Sunday morning, before church, I finished the book. The last few chapters were the best part. It helped me realize its okay to let go of my pride. To admit that I can't do this on my own. I need to open my heart back up to God and let Him love me the way He wants to love me.

I finished the book just in time to head to church. As I was getting ready, I realized I was EXCITED to go. It wasn't about responsibility or guilt making me feel like I needed to go church; it was something I WANTED to do. These past few weeks, I have felt a calmness come over me. Sunday has become my favorite day. Attending this church rejuvenates my soul so I can face the next week. It has made me want to be a better person.

This Sunday, the service was amazing. I loved how one lady put it when I introduced myself. They preach Jesus: about His word, His grace and His love. In the middle of the service, the lady that has really taken me under her wing, suddenly asked me if I had a bible. When I told her I didn't, she went and got one just for me. She is one of those people that you can tell she loves Jesus and she wants to help others realize that He loves everyone. She has treated me like a dear friend from the second I met her. 

During the sermon, the pastor had us stand, close our eyes and repeat a prayer after him. It was about turning ourselves towards Jesus. By the end, I was bawling, begging God to forgive me for my stubbornness. For trying to take Him out of my life. I told Him I forgave Him for the injustice I felt had been dealt to me, but really, it was about forgiving myself. 

That was my Noel moment.

It wasn't a Heavenly chorus singing. It wasn't a trumpet going off.

It was a soft whisper of Him telling me He loves me.

Luke 15:20 "But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him." I am still in love with this moment. I can remember exactly where I was standing when I felt the love of Jesus wash over me.

I don't care what you have done in your life. All you need is Jesus. I could go on and on, but that's what it comes down to. Once you give your heart to Jesus, He takes care of everything else. Giving my heart to Him was the easiest and the hardest thing I have ever done.

When I opened my heart to God, I had to let Him clean out all the junk. All the pain. And I had a lot of pain. We tried for over 10 years to become parents. For years, I told myself I was okay; I was, to a point. But there was still some things I had pushed down into the dark places. I thought I could ignore them and they would go away. Its not like I was haunted, but I know I wasn't 100%. But God took care of that.

Sometimes trust and healing in Jesus come all at once, but sometimes it has be to handled piece by piece. Let me share a few more of my awe moments.

When we decided to no longer pursue adoption, we knew that meant the end of trying to become parents. The chances of us becoming pregnant on our own, are nearly impossible. But we made that decision because we were ready to move on with our lives. And I was okay with it. Well, for the most part.

But then my past revisited me. I had to come face to face with my infertility and come to full terms with it. I had someone close to me trying to get pregnant after taking previous medical actions to pretty much end their baby making abilities. This haunted me, day and night. Those deep things I had pushed down came roaring back up. I knew once I dealt with it, I would be fine. I just needed to face my demons. I thought I needed to do it on my own. I remember telling my friends and my husband, I needed to deal with it. How wrong I was.

Let me share again from my past writing: This was last fall when the Vernal group invited us over to join them. Mary Bondi spoke and then took time to pray with each of us that choose to come up.

Last week, I was finally able to let go. It was the hardest and easiest thing I have ever done. Standing there, before God, I was so scared to let go. I don't like giving up control. But truth is, I've never been in control.

I've spent months telling myself it doesn't matter. I've spent months stalking and trying to figure out things before they even happen. I've lost sleep over something that hadn't even happened. I couldn't take it anymore.

So I gave it to God. I gave him my doubts about the situation. I gave up the pain and the fear. I trust Him. He is in control and things will work out exactly like they are supposed to. If I keep holding on, it will just make it harder. But by giving it to God, I know I can do this.

The instant I gave it to God, I felt such peace and love. God knows me better than I know myself. The last few weeks, I would start each morning telling myself that day would be different. I wouldn't dwell on it. But by noon, I would be obsessing. Each night, I felt like I had let down not only myself, but also God. But the next day would be the same.

I was praying for strength, but I was still holding onto the pain. Once I let go of the pain, I was scared it would leave a void in my heart and soul and I would just take the pain back. So I continued to pray for God to fill that void. And He did. I have a peace inside me that I never thought I would have.

Some days, I have to turn it over to God again. But I do it before I can even let it back in. Even if I have to do it everyday, its worth it for the peace I have found.

When I gave it to God, he healed me completely. All the pain, all the ugliness, all of it. I wish there was a way to tell you how wonderful it was. But until you experience it yourself, you just can't quite understand. During that moment, I had my fist clenched as I was bawling, begging God to take my pain. I remember Mary saying, "Let it go. Its okay. Open your hands and give it to God." Even then, I still was stubborn for a few more moments and I continued to squeeze my fist. But after she urged me again, I did just that. I opened my hands and lifted them up. Immediately, I felt my pain leave and it was replaced with the love of God. His peace rushed in filled my heart, filled my soul. In that moment, I was healed.

A few weeks later, I went to the Woman's Retreat. I had actually hoped to seek God's peace over my infertility. I hadn't counted on being healed the month before. So during the worship time, I was hanging at the back of the room, just enjoying the light of Jesus that was there in that room. Its in those moments of praise that God speaks to you.

Clear as day I heard God  quote from Jeremiah 29:11. "For I know the plans that I have for you," God knew about my infertility and He knew how our adoption would end. God knew it would hurt, but He needed us to help her. In that moment, I heard God tell me our adoption had gone exactly like He had planned. It was like the last hole in my heart was healed. It wasn't something we did that made her changer her mind. God always had it planned that way. Suddenly, it was all okay. Everything went exactly as God planned it all those years ago when we tried to adopt.

I could go on and on about how Jesus has changed my life over the last year and a half. In Him I have found joy, healing, peace. I treasure these moments often. And I try to write them down, when they are fresh, so I never forget. I've started a prayer journal that I take nearly everywhere with me. Inside it I have some of my favorite scriptures, prayers that friends have sent to me and prayers for my friends and family. Even on the worst of days, I can open my book and after only reading a few pages, I am lifted up.

So here is my prayer for you ladies.

Lord, you know every heart here. You know our joys, but you also know our pains. We've tried for so long to heal on our own, but we can never seem to find that ultimate peace. God, we come to you now and ask you to give us your peace and healing. Wash over us with your love. Jesus, help us to give up the burdens we carry and give them to you so that we may find your rest. Jesus, we praise you because you are the ultimate healer from all pains and sins. We come to you now, seeking you Jesus, so that your peace, which surpasses all understanding, will guard our hearts and minds, in this we trust, Amen.