Last night I went to the "Walmarts" to pick up what I needed to make some homemade salsa. I got all the fresh ingredients except for one thing...a jalapeno. Of all things to not be stocked...1 little jalapeno. My husband really likes my salsa, so I decided to stop by Food Giant.
I did offer up a little prayer that Food Giant would have at least one jalapeno. I also prayed that I would not have to use my debit card for said purchase for if you have ever purchased 1 jalapeno you know why.
The Lord answered my little prayer.
YES, thank you, Lord that Food Giant was stocked with jalapenos!! When my 1 jalapeno was rung up, it came to a whopping $0.22. I looked in my wallet and guess what? I had exactly $0.22! YES, thank you, Lord, that I did not have to use my debit card!
I hesitate to share this because never in a million years would I take praying flippantly...I am sharing because God hears your prayers no matter if they are for the big or small things in your life, and He knows the deepest desires of your heart. When you experience the answer to the "small" things, like 1 jalapeno & the correct change in your wallet...you will know and trust that He will answer the "big" things.
When I was asked to write about my prayer journey that I have been traveling with the Lord, I quickly said “Yes!”. It is a journey that is exciting, exhilarating, expectant and mysterious. The best part of prayer is that you get to know the heart of God. It is never, ever a waste of time. Our wisest approach to prayer is waiting on the Lord and trusting in His timing and His answers.
Let’s go back to that word “time”.
I remember the days of retreating to my closet with my Bible in hand and spending hours on my knees. Scripture would permeate every fiber of my being as I personalized it and prayed it out loud. I would sit still & listen to the sound of Jesus singing over me:
“Boo, do not be afraid",
"Boo, do not worry",
"Boo, My grace is sufficient for you",
"Boo, do not let your heart be troubled",
"Boo, My peace I leave with you",
"Boo, I will never leave you nor forsake you",
"I am the Good Shepherd",
"anyone who lives & believes in Me will never die",
"Boo, before Abraham was, I AM",
"Boo, I am the Way, the Truth, the Life",
"Boo, all things are possible with God".
Now, fast forward 16 years later and add a 10-year-old, 2 dogs, work, ministry, aging parents who are in nursing facilities in opposite directions, and everything in between that goes along with taking care of their home and their dog, it is fair to say that “time” is a rare commodity these days. Oh, and may I just throw in that their little dog doesn’t like our big dogs. So, there’s that. These days I don’t know whether I am coming or going. Usually, it is the going…always the going. Sigh.
I do have my time in the early morning hours that I have set apart as my sweet time with Jesus. Just me being transparent with you, I don’t spend hours upon hours in uninterrupted prayer in my favorite, quiet secret place like I used to. My prayers have turned into breath prayers throughout the day. Sometimes when I don’t even know what to pray, I just say, “Jesus”, because the One who carried out creation is the One who prays for me.
Maybe you are like me, and your struggles are so overwhelming you find yourself praying, "Lord, I just can't do this anymore...not one more day...not one more hour...not one more second". No matter how your circumstances appear, the one certain thing is that they will eventually change. Through praying God's Word it will change how you see, and just like that, He will transform your situation in ways you could never imagine.
Whenever I find myself wondering if my prayers are really being heard and if they really make a difference, I will pull out my old prayer journals. The place where I poured out my heart and soul with true honesty and not worry about someone thinking I am crazy (ha!). As I read them my heart and my eyes are opened to the many ways they have been answered. This fuels my want to pray, not my need to pray, but my want to pray.
The "need to pray" is so radically different than the "want to pray". Needing to pray is like making a list and checking it off once I have done it. Wanting to pray comes from the desire of my heart.
I want to love Him.
I want to seek Him.
I want to get up before the sun and talk to Him.
I want to because God knows what is just around the corner on the road before me.
I want to because He knows how to prepare and strengthen me for the bumps in the road.
I want to because I am too afraid of missing something meaningful, fascinating, or fabulous that He wants to show me or tell me.
The miracle of God is that after all these years later, and even in my current journey, I still felt the same way this morning, even when time is of the essence.
How about when you were having one of those mornings when nobody was around to see your angst, despair, or sorrow?
Nobody heard you wailing.
Nobody knew how lonely you felt.
Nobody knew the doubt that filled your mind wondering if God really cares about what you are facing?
You are wondering if God really hears what you are pouring out to Him. Then your phone dings letting you know you have received a text. You grab your phone as if is your lifeline. You open it and eyes all blurry from the tears you read, "I couldn't quit praying for you this morning. I believe God really wants me to remind you that He is with you, He knows your situation from beginning to end, and He loves you very much".
Or maybe you are the one God chooses to send that text to someone. There you sit surprised by what God has done. The Creator of the Universe literally appointed someone through the leadership of the Holy Spirit and the desperate cries of your heart to reach out to you. To let you know, you are not alone and your prayers are being heard. Never take that lightly.
Here's the thing. Prayer awakens you and gives you hope! My hope is in Jesus because He always comes through for me. He has never let me down, He can change everything in the twinkling of an eye. He is the living Word of God. He does what's best for me. He is always victorious.
My prayer journey is remaining faithful no matter what. Your prayer journey is remaining faithful no matter what. Whether it is through endless hours of prayer or through the breath prayers you pray throughout the day. Make prayer your life.
"O Lord , hear me as I pray; pay attention to my groaning. Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for I pray to no one but you. Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord . Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly." ~ Psalm 5:1-3
Roberta "Boo" Sellers is a wife to her amazing husband and a mama to a blue-eyed, redheaded, and full of life boy. She is a lover of early morning sunrises and late evening sunsets seeing them as handwritten love letters from God, the Lover of her soul. Being adopted at the age of six weeks old, placing a baby for adoption when she was sixteen, and adopting her only child she vividly sees the imagery God places on being adopted into His family upon salvation. Many times in her life she has experienced that everything really does work for the good of those who love Him. Through the good and the not so good, she knows that her hope only comes from Jesus.
Spring Reed is our friend, as well as the editor of ByFaithShe. She pushes us to be better writers, but most importantly to be more like Jesus. Every fifth Friday, you'll hear her voice. But in all honesty, you hear her voice each day on the blog as she cheers us on and sharpens our skills to be writers for the glory of the Lord. Enjoy!
For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!" The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.” Romans 8:15-17
Even though we were 9 months in, it all became very real as my husband and I sat in the courtroom that day.
Just a little over a year before, after several years of infertility and what seemed like endless fertility treatments, my body was tired. I was tired, and I am sure my husband was tired of all the hormone swings. ;) For both of us though, it seemed as though God was stirring within us a different desire.
He was stirring a different desire for the time, not a plan B.
I used to lay awake at night as my husband slept and read all the biographies of the children needing a forever home and cry. I always wanted to be a part of providing a home for children who didn’t have one because I could not imagine growing up without one. My heart was heavy for those who never had a safe place to come home to, people to love them no matter what and teach them all the many big and little things we need to know growing up.
But how in our situation would this ever happen? My husband was chronically ill, and it seemed we had a million things stacked against us.
One day out of my faith that may have truly been as small as a mustard seed, I prayed that if this was God’s will for our lives to adopt, He would just lay it in our lap. I was too tired to convince someone that we would be good parents despite our situation.
All we wanted was to love on kids who needed love.
Our first step was to take a short adoption class offered at our church. This class prepared us in so many ways (thanks again Fonsie and Leslie), but it mostly prepared us spiritually in ways we didn’t anticipate.
Even though my faith may have only been the size of a mustard seed, it was just a few months later when the answer to that prayer was laid in our lap.
After getting a text message from someone we knew, we found ourselves, driving down the road on a Thursday to see our children who had just been born at the local hospital. In just five weeks, we met a birth mom, prayed about what God’s will was for us, found a lawyer, completed all the training, paperwork and home studies. Everything went so smooth as we took our children (did I mention they were twins?) home to figure out this thing called parenting.
As the adoption process was coming to an end, we headed to the courthouse 9 months after bringing them home.
The biblical promises of how God has adopted us into His family, I am not sure I had ever fully understood until that moment. As we pledged to take care of our children, for them to be ours, for our inheritance to be their inheritance it all seemed to make sense at once.
Before that day, they were our children. We clothed them, took care of them, and called them ours but in that courthouse it was forever binding. It was an incredibly beautiful moment. A moment that was one of the sweetest of my life and greatest days of our marriage. I will never forget the details of that moment.
My children are more than a delight. They are smart and funny and can make any gloomy day bright. Yes, as we are entering the 3’s there are definitely challenging days and moments but they are what has continued to propel me forward.
They are what keeps me on my knees, praying that I am who I need to be for them as only God can do.
Their story of how God redeemed us (yes, them and my husband and me) here on this earth through their adoption, is a beautiful picture to a lost world of God’s eternal redemption for those that choose Him and are adopted into His family.
It is with this very beautiful and amazing story that God gives me countless opportunities on an almost daily basis to share. These opportunities are often with those who do not know God’s love.
As we end this national adoption month this November, I pray that each of you understand that if we are God’s children, He has forever adopted us to be His. He is our Father, and because we are His we have a safe place we can go. He loves us no matter what, and He teaches us all the things we need to know if we seek Him.
This is just a few of hundreds of details of how God worked so many miracles throughout this time and since. I wish I had the time to tell you everything, but if you want to know more, please ask! I love to share all that God has done and continues to do and will do for you if we trust Him. The road may not be easy, it may be uncomfortable, full of bumps and holes, and the route and destination may be unclear, but it is beyond worth it.
It is worth it because of where the road leads.
Have you been adopted into the family of God? Do you know this love and this redemptive story for yourself? Is God calling you also to adopt here on this earth and provide a home for a child who needs one? My encouragement to you is to pray. What is God’s desire for you? And then take the leap and do it. The road may be bumpy and the destination unclear but following the Lord where He leads is always worth it.
Read Spring's love story here.
Spring is a native Texan who is the momma to 3 year old twins, Charlie and Londie and widow of her late husband, Charles. She is currently a rehab nurse in Houston, TX but has been a part of many different aspects of women’s ministry through the years. She loves meeting new people, sharing a good laugh, deep conversations and sharing stories of God’s faithfulness. She has a Master of Arts degree in Women’s Ministry from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. You can follow more of her story at charlesandspring.com
We ByFaithShe Girls love cheering on other Jesus Girls who are living fearlessly for the Lord. Therefore, we are delighted to give you a taste of a year long devotional about to be released. Below are a few days of water for the parched soul from one of the thirteen mommas who collaborated on this project. Purchase info included. Enjoy.
Devotional excerpt #1
She was deeply distressed
and prayed to the LORD and wept bitterly.
1 Samuel 1:10 ESV
“I feel like Hannah, weeping from bitterness of soul. I’m so sad and so frustrated.”
I wrote those words in my prayer journal on January 14, 2004.
We had been trying to get pregnant for about three and a half years, and we were facing our second artificial insemination. The roller coaster of infertility was wearing on me. Why did other people seem to be able to get pregnant when they weren’t even trying? (And who even says that to someone walking through infertility?) Why was God not answering our prayers for a baby? I became bitter.
Hannah wasn’t the only woman in Scripture who struggled with bitterness. In the book of Ruth, Naomi struggled so much that she changed her name to Mara, which means bitter (Ruth 1:20). At this point in our journey, I was dangerously close to needing a name change too. Hannah wept bitterly. Mara became bitter. This was not what I wanted.
I searched Scripture more diligently. I prayed more fervently. I asked others to pray with us. We sought medical help. Yet nothing seemed to change.
Thirteen years later, I can see that God’s plan is so much better. I can also see that He can handle our bitterness – even when it might be enough to change our very name for a time. He is not surprised by our reactions. He knows us better than we know ourselves. He continues to reveal Himself – through His Word, through the kind words of friends, through praise songs – slowly changing our hearts.
He grows us through those trying times, refining us even in our bitterness.
Please don’t hear me saying that God is always going to give you what you ask. He might, but He might not. What He will give is grace. Our bitterness can become sweet if we will only trust Him.
Father, thank You for giving us grace and for loving us patiently when we become bitter to our very core. Help us to trust Your plan and Your ways. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Devotional Excerpt #2
We do not know what to do,
but our eyes are on you.
2 Chronicles 20:12b ESV
You’ve been there, right? That point where you throw up your hands and exclaim, “I don’t know what to do!” There are many situations that can bring about this type of response, and adoption is one of them.
During our international adoption, we learned that our home study file was inactive. This realization was a painful reminder of how long we’d been in the process – and that we still didn’t have a child. What we’d thought would take eighteen months had stretched to four and a half years, with no immediate end in sight.
To keep our file active, we would have to update everything and come up with more fees. I hung up the phone, had a good cry, and then called my husband, exclaiming, “I don’t know what we’re supposed to do!”
In 2 Chronicles 20, Jehoshaphat faced a vast army that was seeking to dethrone him. With his kingdom in jeopardy and his heart fearful, “Jehoshaphat ... set his face to seek the LORD” (v. 3, ESV). He declared a fast, gathering the people to pray. He acknowledged that God “will hear and save” (v. 9, ESV), that they were powerless to face the enemy (v. 12a, ESV), and then voiced their complete reliance upon God.
They fixed their eyes on the only One who could give victory.
Throughout the adoption process, there will be enemies to face: discouragement, financial stress, closed programs, and naysayers, to name a few. You’ll face fear and uncertainty. Your plans will be in jeopardy. Especially in those times, set your face to seek the Lord. Acknowledge that you don’t know what to do but that your eyes are fixed firmly on Him. Sometimes God is waiting for us to express our total dependence on Him before He acts.
Our situation didn’t change immediately after reaching this point of desperation. However, a few months later we did receive a call about a little boy in a program we had not even considered. We basically started over. But in the end God prevailed, giving us victory and bringing our son home sixteen months later.
Father, when the enemy threatens with his fiery darts of discouragement and frustration, when we reach the end of our rope, help us to acknowledge our helplessness and fix our eyes on You.
Devotional Excerpt #3
Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow,
for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.
Matthew 6:34a ESV
Before becoming a mama, I was an English teacher. When I taught writing, I taught my students about the four types of sentences. One of those was the imperative, a sentence that gives a command. Matthew 6:34 is an imperative sentence, a command given by Jesus to His followers. The Apostle Paul gives the same command to the church at Philippi in Philippians 4:6. Do not be anxious.
I am a rule follower. When a command is given, I try to follow it to the best of my ability. This command though? It’s a little harder. Don’t be anxious? When the pregnancy test is negative again, when you learn that you’re too young to pursue the adoption program you just knew God was calling you to, when invoices come from the adoption agency, when a country closes its doors, when it seems like nothing is happening ... how do we avoid being anxious?
In the earlier verses of Matthew 6, Jesus reminds us that our Heavenly Father knows everything we need. I believe this knowledge even extends to knowing our heart’s desire for children, which we would classify as a need. But perhaps He must have us in a place where we are seeking Him first before these blessings can be added (Matthew 6:33).
Besides being a command, an imperative is also something of great importance. This command not to be anxious is necessary as we seek to live a life of obedience to our Father. We could be a great witness to others as we are walking this journey. While they may not be adopting, they may be facing other trials. If we constantly fret and stew over each hurdle, we fail to follow this important command from our Heavenly Father. And we fail to show that He is trustworthy and provides in His perfect time.
Don’t be anxious. While not easy to follow, it’s clear that these words are more than merely a suggestion. They are an imperative from the One who feeds the sparrows, clothes the lilies, and gave His Son as our ransom.
Heavenly Father, thank You that You know our every need. Help us to have hearts that seek to obey even this command not to be anxious. Amen.
Gina Bowling is a pastor’s wife and a homeschooling mama to two swim-loving girls and a superhero-loving boy. She is passionate about women’s ministry and seeking to point women to a greater desire for Truth and a better understanding of biblical womanhood. She loves listening to podcasts and audio books, reading, and chocolate.
For more information about the devotional, click here.
Ouch! Just writing the title of this post kind of stung. I hate feeling like I’m not enough, like I don’t measure up. In today’s picture perfect society, the pressure to be enough is almost crushing. To have the cutest Instagram pictures, newest shoes, the most friendships.
We let the world put so many standards on our lives, and I don’t know about you, but it leaves me feeling like I can’t keep up – like I’m a failure. It's hard to accept the fact that we as human beings can never achieve perfection, but if we could just get past the blinding wall of pride and self-reliance, life would be so much sweeter.
Let me give you some hope. JESUS IS ENOUGH! In fact, He is more than enough. He is perfection in its truest and most real form. Out of His great goodness, He wants to fill you up.
I like to think about it like this: if being enough was a cup, I could pour myself out all I wanted to, and it still would not even come close to filling up the cup. But if instead, I pour myself out at the feet of Jesus, His goodness would fill my cup to overflow.
As a recovering perfectionist, this is so comforting and so freeing to me!!! I don’t have to waste my life away trying to achieve the unobtainable. Instead, I can rest in the freedom that Jesus Christ declares me His own. I don’t have to have everything planned out, because my Father already does.
I’m able to go about each day chasing His glory instead of my own.
It no longer matters what my peers think of me because I know with absolute certainty what He feels about me. He says I am loved, redeemed, cherished, forgiven, chosen, and beautiful in His sight.
And let me tell you, loved one, He says these things about you too.
Choose to take Him at His word. Believe in the power of Christ’s sacrifice. Submit yourself to His perfect plan and let yours go.
1 John 3:1 says,
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us,
that we should be called children of God!
And that is what we are! How incredible is His love!!!! He not only gives it to us, but He LAVISHES it on us!!! He calls you His child!!!! His beloved son or daughter!!! That is who you are!!! You can place your identity in the fact that your Father loves you and will never ever stop doing so!!!!! I hope you realize how cherished and adored you are today & everyday.
Kaylee Grace Snider - Kaylee is a vivacious 16 year old who loves Jesus and all those she comes into contact. Find more of Kaylee's writing here or follow her adventures here.
As I was asked to write for By Faith She, I began praying about what direction I should go. The words no one wants to hear crept into my life almost a year ago and since October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, I knew I needed to share my story!
Back in November of last year I received a call that came with an overwhelming diagnosis that changed my life from that moment forward. “Cancer” is all I could hear on the other end of the phone. I was forty-one years old and scared to the core! From the very beginning, I heard Jesus asking, “Do you trust Me?” To be honest, that was a hard question to answer because I felt as if Jesus had walked away from me. That sounds so crazy now, but during the diagnosis I felt alone.
As my doctors created a battle plan, my daily life began to consist of tests, doctor visits, blood work, chemo and ultimately surgery. During the process, I lost my hair. We all know that back in the Bible days your hair was your glory and of course it’s still an important attribute for women still today. Yet again, the Lord kept asking, “Do you trust Me?”
Throughout this process there have been many days that it’s just been me and Jesus. I have learned now more than ever to let go of things I cannot control and let Him move in my life. It hasn’t been easy, but when I really came to understand that He was the one that created me and He knows what’s best in my life, I was able to surrender and lay it all at His feet.
I was raised in the ministry and I thought I had given every area of my life to Jesus, but I learned quickly He didn’t really have all of me. Did he cause this cancer? Nope! But, I do believe He allowed it so I could reconnect to Him and go deeper in my faith.
Placing all my trust in Jesus and giving Him all my fears has truly changed my heart and my life. I have moved from simply loving Jesus to being crazy, madly in love with Him!
My hair is slowly coming back in and I am now a blonde, which is a hair color I have never had before! This journey has taught me how to be intentional with what I fuel my body with too. I used to eat whatever my flesh desired, but have seen the benefits of feeding it with whole foods that make God’s temple thrive. In the process, I have now lost 30 pounds. I am so thankful that the Lord has changed me from the inside out!
I can relate so well to the story of the Red Sea in Exodus 14. As the Israelites saw the Egyptians approaching and then saw how vast the Red Sea was, they were frightened! But God was speaking the same thing then as He has been to me on this journey…”Do you trust Me?”. With God on our side, He stands between us and the enemy and we never fight our battles alone! I’m telling you He is crazy in love with you and when the “Red Sea” comes in your life do you turn back or do you let Jesus part the waters for you to walk through?
My journey continues. The surgeon was able to get all of the cancer…Praise Jesus, but I am still undergoing precautionary radiation. Days can be so long and hard, but I know God is my Healer and my Poppa and I must continue to “trust” Him as He has asked me to do.
So, I leave you with this...will you let Him change you from the inside out? What He can do for you, which he has done enough already on the cross, is amazing!! I am very blessed and claim healing, and will claim healing for you and your “Red Sea”.
Hello, my name is Jennifer Williams. I grew up as a child of a kids pastor. I have been in church since I was a baby, and grew to know the love of who Jesus is. I am a wife of an amazing man that God placed in my life eight years ago after going through a divorce that I never would of expected. God turned it around and placed my soul mate in my life and showed me again that He was in control. I have 3 kids...2 from my first marriage, a son that is 23, a daughter that is 21, and now a bonus daughter that is 16. Also God has blessed me with my first grandchild! His name is Landon and wow what a HUGE blessing He is!! I love being a Grammy and know that God knew I needed him at this appointed time! For fun I like to spend my time with family and travel as well. I LOVE ministry and love helping others. My desire in life is to pray with people and see transformation in their walk with Christ, and to see people be healed!
When Mama died in September 2015, my relationship with the Lord changed. I'd been a Christian since I was a kid but it wasn't until I was in a pit of depression and longing for my mother did I really come to realize why He died on the cross for me- for my sin, absolutely yes, but also for my pain. My hurt. My sorrow.
God reached right down from Heaven and lifted me up. He got me out of the bed on the days it seemed impossible. He gave me joy in mourning. Comfort in sadness. Purpose in pain. His Word and His promises spoke right to my heart. He gave me a peace that passeth all understanding.
What was I going to do with this joy? With this testimony of hope and restoration that can only be found through Him?
Well, I was going to tell others all about it. Podcasts. Blog posts. IG photos of sunsets inscribed with scriptures.
People are hurting. Lonely. Living in hell- going to hell. Bondage. Addiction. Affliction. Depression. They need to know the Way, the Truth, the Life. I was put here to tell them. I mourned a mama, a daddy, a step-daddy. I watched a positive pregnancy test turn negative. I knew heartache. Dysfunction. And it was all part of a greater plan- a testimony.
Because God was there every step of the way. Lifting. Sharpening. Comforting. Restoring. And people needed to know. They needed to know if I could get through it, they could get through it.
But one day I woke up, after being so on fire for the Lord and what He had done in my life- and nothing.
I skipped that morning in the prayer closet. I just wasn't in the mood to study that day. I skipped the next morning, too. And the next. I went for a walk down the country road with my Spaniel. I didn't talk aloud to God as I usually did. Instead, I just talked to the dog about every rock and weed he sniffed.
I went to church. I didn't take notes.
I fell asleep without praying.
The Bible stayed shut. The notepad empty from weeks before.
Oh, but great things still happened. Answered prayers. God-ordained opportunities. And I mumbled a, "Thank you, Lord." instead of lifting my hands and truly praising His name. I just didn't feel it anymore. God was still good, I knew it, but the honeymoon seemed to be over. The butterflies had flown.
Fizzle. It had all fizzled.
Why do we do this, sisters? How can we be so on fire for our God one minute and bored with it all the next? As if our spirituality is related to our feelings? Aren't we to love and praise and obey even when we don't feel like it? Action is what matters. Not feelings or emotions. Feelings and emotions are fickle.
We can't give Satan credit for everything. Lord knows I don't want to be one of those Christians casting the devil out of every doorknob- but are we too stupid to see this is what pleases him?
The fizzle tickles Satan. The fizzle and the smolder. And eventually- weak rings of smoke are all that is left of what once was a raging fire. And he loves it. He revels in it. He likes when we are indifferent. Apathetic. Stagnant. Lukewarm. Bored with the story of the greatest sacrifice of all time- the sacrifice that sets captives free.
He likes when we aren't in the mood to pull out the NIV. Or talk to our Maker. Or when we fall asleep or eat the food without praying. When we can't find the time to study, but we find the time for a Golden Girls marathon.
I don't know about you, but God has been too good to me. He deserves more than being kept in a Sunday morning box. He deserves the blog posts and the IG pictures of stars and Psalms and hands raised to Heaven and shouting His goodness from every keyboard and every stage. He deserves that and so much more.
I refuse the fizzle and the smolder and to become nothing but a pile of ashes.
Refuse it with me. Rebuke it.
Fan the flame again.
Susannah B. Lewis, follow her on Facebook here
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Our oldest, Zoë, has been talking our ears off lately. It’s both beautiful and exhausting. Sometimes all I want to do is nod and say “mmm-hmm” or just smile while I try and think through my Costco grocery list before the littlest one realizes he’s not buckled in the cart and tries some wild escapade.
This morning after our Bible reading,
Noble said, “But if you believe in Jesus you won’t die. Because heaven is our true home.”
Zoë: “Will we keep breathing in heaven?”
I responded, “Your body dies, but your soul never dies and lives forever in heaven with God. We get a new body, and every breath we breathe will be praising Jesus the King.”
Zoë: “I think that already happened to Nana.”
Later while strategically hitting up every snack sample in Costco, Zoë asked: “How do we gaze upon His beauty?”
After gathering my thoughts from such a breathtaking question, I answered, “It means that God is majestic and holy and too wonderful to comprehend and awesome and good and perfect. When we see Him as that we want to spend our lives knowing Him because there is no one else like Him.”
Zoë: “It is hard to understand why life passes through so quickly.”
My thoughts exactly, Sweet Pea. Only I was lamenting how fleeting these days are when all 3 of my babes can fit in the front of the cart, and they lean over for hugs and kisses or head butts. Alternatively, they rest their heads on my shoulder, and I feel their little arms around my neck while I try and push a heavy cart with a big ole pregnant belly.
And we’re having conversations like these.
And all three of them are talking in my ear at the same time. Or they are pestering each other by covering up the letters on the handlebar. Don’t ask. It’s maddening.
However, I was overwhelmed with gratitude this morning for this season. I love having all my babies close and the togetherness all day long (don’t hear perfect harmony) even in the midst of being at the end of my rope as Zoë so honestly and insightfully said about me on Mother’s Day: “You’re good at being slow to anger even though sometimes you’re fast to anger.”
Yup, because Mommy needs Jesus too.
You shall teach them diligently to your children,
and shall talk of them when you sit in your house,
and when you walk by the way,
and when you lie down, and when you rise.
Isn’t this what Scripture means when it says to teach God’s words to your children when:
- you sit (in the car in rush hour traffic) and
- walk (up and down the grocery aisles) and
- lie down (but not in your own bed because your 5-year-old still has too much to say at the end of the day) and
- rise (before the sun because everyone in your house is staging a coup against sleep).
Even when you think they’re not listening and you feel every thought you’re trying to share is interrupted by some catastrophe, they catch little drips at a time that become impressed on their tender hearts and will one day overflow. That’s what I’m striving for anyway in all the ordinary, mundane rhythm of life.
So here’s to keeping those babies close and entrusting their hearts to God.
Noel McKenna is a wife and a mommy who blends a pile high stack of books on CD and outdoor play with a whole lot of Jesus into her journey through motherhood. She and her husband, Nathan, have been married for 8 years and juggle this leg of their lives with grace and humor. You can find her on Facebook and Instagram for more of her beautifully honest glimpses into this life she now lives.
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Who shall teach the next generation about God, His truths, and His offer of salvation?
Psalm 145:4 says, “One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.” This current generation bears the responsibility of teaching the faith to the next generation and that means you and I have a vital role to play (Titus 2:2-5). We live in a broken world with broken homes and broken people who are desperately in need of a Savior. Our future depends on the next generation. Will the next generation choose to follow the Lord and His ways? Their morals, beliefs, and ideals will guide the course of this nation and the world in the years to come. Therefore, we must take every opportunity to invest in the future by sharing our faith and the principles found in God’s Word.
The family bears the primary responsibility of teaching the next generation God’s ways. “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7). Mom and Dad have the privilege and task of teaching the next generation about matters of faith with a determined diligence.
When are the best teachable moments? According to Deuteronomy 6:6-7, when you are in your home, when you travel from place to place, at bedtime, and in the morning. Endless opportunities exist to instruct the next generation. In fact, “… The influence of Mom and Dad ... are two to three times more influential than any church program.”1
Understanding the current generation and cultural influences can be advantageous when identifying practical life lessons. An eye-opening resource that presents generational tendencies is iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy-and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood by Jean M. Twenge, PhD. “Born in 1995 and later, they grew up with cell phones, had an Instagram page before they started high school, and do not remember a time before the Internet.”2
Twenge utilized extensive research to compile a list of ten distinctives for iGens. Three characteristics identified that are relevant to this blog include: Insecure, Irreligious, and Indefinite.3
Insecurity can be impacted by an increase in Internet time and a decrease in personal interaction.4 Social media presents perfect images and messages of the worldly success. Teaching concerning identity and security in Jesus Christ is needed to confront the mixed messages of culture.
This generation has also been described as irreligious. “… More iGen’ers are being raised in non-religious households, and more iGen teens have decided not to belong to a religion anymore.”5 The purpose and value of participating in a local church must be demonstrated and conveyed to the next generation.
Indefinite refers to the blurred lines of sexuality.6 IGens must be taught God’s plan for sexuality and the family. Being informed about generational tendencies enables us to target instruction and impact beliefs.
Finally, it is the Word of God that must be taught to the next generation. “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word … I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11). We must be aggressive and intentional in our teaching. The future depends on our faithfulness to God’s Word and to passing our faith to the next generation.
1Mark A. Holmen, Building Faith at Home: Why Faith at Home Must Be Your Church’s #1 Priority (Ventura: Regal Books, 2007), 25.
2Jean M. Twenge, PhD, iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy-and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood (New York: Atria Books, 2017), 2.
Stephanie Edge is a LifeWay Ministry Multiplier. She served in Women’s Ministry in Jackson, TN for sixteen years. Stephanie graduated from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary with a Masters of Divinity. She also completed a Masters of Theology and a Doctorate of Philosophy in Christian Education from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Stephanie currently is an Associate Professor at Union University and teaches adjunct for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. She has a passion for teaching God’s Word and is a member of Englewood Baptist Church.
Back to School Time! As each new school year approaches, I find my wishes and dreams are sky high! Yet I often find myself deflated months later in the middle of crazy schedules, overcommitments, self-inflicted sleepless nights, and longing for the next blissful season. Am I the only mom that feels like I’m failing because my checklist of draining items outweighs the life-giving details? This year I resolve to be different.
This year I will be the peace.
As we roll into this new school year and have a clean slate to start fresh, I am challenging myself to be the “Peace” to my family. Not to be the peacemaker, or the person spouting about peace, but to actually be the peace and calming influence in my home.
This will look like me
- listening to my kids work things out rather than trying to problem solve for them.
- saying “no” to good things, to allow my family to get more rest or more time together.
- setting aside stuff I want to do for myself until a later time.
- having my kids plan a day of family fun that they want to do.
- planning school supply shopping earlier, or online, so I'm not all stressed out and yelling.
- stopping myself from spewing worry and frustration from my mouth because I am nervous about my kids starting school.
Here are the top 5 ways I will be the peace in my home at the start of this school year.
1. I will be excited about the endless possibilities of this new school year.
I will not allow my fears and worries transfer onto my children. Any concerns I have over the new school year, I will take to the Lord rather than speak them out loud for my children to hear.
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear,
but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
II Timothy 1:7 NKJV
2. I will speak words of life over my children
I will speak only life-giving words about the new school year. I will encourage my children to speak to God about their own back to school butterflies.
“Don’t worry about anything,
but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving,
let your requests be made known to God.”
Philippians 4:6 HCSB
3. I will Say “No” to excess.
I will say “No” to the things that add too much to my plate. “No” to the things that don’t give me life. “No” to the invites for good things that will have me forego great family times. I will let these last weeks and days before school starts be intentional and not chaotic.
“God’s curse blights the house of the wicked,
but he blesses the home of the righteous.
He gives proud skeptics a cold shoulder,
but if you’re down on your luck,
he’s right there to help.
Wise living gets rewarded with honor;
stupid living gets the booby prize.”
Proverbs 3:33-35 MSG
4. In the words of Elsa, I will “let it go!”
If I forgot to order the personalized backpack in the perfect color, I will let it go.
If I am almost done with summer and my bucket list hasn’t even been touched, I will let the guilt go.
If I am upset that my child didn’t get in a class with their best friend, I will let it go.
I will let go of the back to school clothes shopping. I will instead turn it into a fun September activity together rather than a knockdown, drag-out stress-ball of time for back to school. (Honestly, the weather is still as hot as anything, and they won’t wear the cute fall clothes for a few months anyway!)
This is an opportunity to choose peace over being frazzled.
“And whatever you do, in word or in deed,
do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
Colossians 3:17 HCSB
5. I will be there.
Once school starts, I will just be there for my child without overloading my schedule. Those first few weeks of school can be difficult for kids. They may not know anyone in their class, get a teacher they don’t like, struggle with remembering their new schedule, or are just plain tired.
I will not be on the phone at school pick up. I will hug them. I will sit down for family dinners. I will share about my day, inviting them to share about theirs. I know they will talk when they are ready, but I will make sure I am there for them to have the opportunity to talk.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.”
Proverbs 3:5-6 NASB
My prayer is to find a way to let some things go and make a choice to be an influence of peace in my home this back to school season.
“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing,
so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Romans 15:13 NASB
Denise Slater - I’m a mom to 12 year old triplets and a wife to a college professor. We both have relocated to Tennessee by way of Michigan (Go Blue!), Missouri and Arkansas, which means we have lots of family to visit during the summer. We are blessed to travel quite often during the summer as my husband’s job during this time can be done anywhere with a modem.
I am excited to have my friend Jaclyn on the blog today! She and I went to high school together but live in different states now. Thanks to social media, I read a small part of her story when she shared a post not too long ago. I knew I wanted her to guest blog for us because she has a story women can resonate with...body image. I am thankful for her transparency and I pray it can help someone today! Please know you can always email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need prayer!
When I was little, how much I weighed or what size pants I wore was never brought up. Who cared??
I was never called fat, always an average size. Because I started tumbling at the age of five and always stayed busy with some form of athletic sport, my bottom half was always on the larger size compared to my waist. It was in high school when I started to pay more attention to my weight and size. The models in clothing ads were much thinner than me (and of course taller, too). I was 5'1" and wore a size 6. I was no where near fat but the BMI chart said I was overweight.
After high school, I was determined to not gain the "Freshman 15." I wanted the opposite. I was going to be thin like society said I should be. Being an average size 6 was not good enough, and there the obsession began. I was obsessed with looking at myself in the mirror and judging my flaws around my waist, hips and thighs. I would turn this way and that way, suck in my stomach and would wish I was a size 0 or 2. Working out and eating low fat and fat-free was not doing the trick anymore.
There had to be something else.
That's when I started purging my food. It was wrong, but I justified it because I didn't do it all the time and not every meal. The truth of the matter was I was bulimic. I became more obsessed when I started working at a local gym part-time. I would get there an hour before the gym opened to workout and then stay after my shift to workout some more. It was working. By the end of the summer, I was a size 0/2. Just what I wanted. My friends were concerned. My family wondered. I just denied anything and said I had been working out a lot, which was true, but I kept the bulimia a secret.
When I moved to Louisville, Kentucky and my workouts became less and my eating habits were lax, I had to purge even more. It happened at every meal and then eventually became everything I ate. I would be in tears in the bathroom because it hurt to purge my food. In my apartment, I would cry while looking at myself in the mirror and telling myself I needed to stop. But I couldn't. I was gaining weight. I had to keep throwing up. I was now a size 4 and extremely unhealthy.
This went on for over 6 years. It wasn't until I met the man who is now my husband that I revealed my secret. When we started dating, I told him who I really was. I was bulimic. He was a smoker so we made a pact to face the things that were taking over our lives head on. I needed more than just his help to get me out of the pit. I needed prayers and God's help. I emailed my friend and family and confessed my secret and begged them for prayers to help me. It was a slow recovery, and I went through a lot of changes. I gained more weight, and my metabolism was gone. My body was hanging onto everything in fear it was going to go without food. My teeth were ruined, my esophagus scarred and I was no longer "thin", but I was getting better. It was a very long road to recovery but I had God on my side along with friends and family who cared about me. Prayers and God's love and grace were my strength and I realized that “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).
It has taken years for my metabolism to begin to fully function like it should, which in turn caused me to struggle with my weight. Now I'm finally at a place where I no longer look at the number on the scale or my pant size. It's all about how I feel. Yes, I still look in the mirror and want to lose some inches, I'm human, but my ultimate goal is to just be healthy.
Now that I have kids, especially a daughter, I hope I can instill good healthy habits in them. I want them to see me eating whole foods and exercising because I want to be healthy, not skinny. Because of society and the pressures we put on ourselves, I can only pray that my kids don't go down the road I traveled. God made us all different, yet beautiful in His eyes. We just need to see the beauty within us.
I’m Jaclyn and from a really small town called Calvert City in Kentucky. I accepted Christ and was baptized when I was eighteen, after graduating high school. I moved to Louisville when I was twenty and never left! I married my best friend in 2006 and my last name changed for the 4th and final time. We have two amazing kiddos; Jackson who is eight and Evelyn who is four. They are full of life and keep us on our toes. I am the office manager for a local eye company called VisionFirst. Life is hard and marriage is hard but I am thankful for the love and grace that God gives us.
You ALL know our sweet friend today. In fact, she’s been here before. We know you will be encouraged by her own story of how the Lord not only saved her, but continues to walk with her today. Please welcome Susannah back as she shares about God’s goodness in her life.
In September 2015, I was 34-years-old and had just self-published my first book, “Ten Years Taken”. It was a joyous time because my childhood dreams were finally coming true! Since I was a little girl, I’d wanted to be a writer. And finally, after many years of writing and editing and ripping up manuscripts, everything was coming full circle. I was travelling around the state to speak at book clubs and libraries, appearing at book signings in community centers and churches, giving interviews to local newspapers and radio stations and recognized as a real author. People even stopped me in Target to talk about my novel and the characters I had invented! It was such a surreal time, and I was ecstatic when “Ten Years Taken” was listed among the Top 30 best-selling self-published books on Amazon.
My mother was truly my biggest fan. She was on the front row at every event, first in line at every book signing and she bought 18 copies of each newspaper or publication I was featured in. She constantly advertised my book and shared my blog posts on social media and continually told me how proud of me she was. She said she’d always known I’d be an author.
One cool Saturday night in September, my mama hung the next day’s church clothes on her closet door. She placed a cup of water on her nightstand next to my novel and climbed into her plush bed. And sometime during the night, while my mother slept, her soul went to be with Jesus.
I watched my young father die of a heart attack when I was eleven, and when my mother passed away, I suddenly felt like an orphan. I felt like a 34-year-old orphan. I was so utterly lost and alone and without any roots. I didn’t know how in the world I was expected to live a lifetime without my mother because she had been my rock, my friend, my spiritual mentor, my everything.
Of course, it is normal for a daughter to mourn her mother’s death, but I went beyond typical grieving. I spiraled down into a dark, deep pit of despair. I knew my mother was resting at our Savior’s feet, without the cares of this world, but I couldn’t even find joy or peace in that beautiful truth. I just so selfishly wanted her here with me. I needed her advice. I wanted to hear her laugh. I wanted to feel her fingers running through my hair. I wanted her by my side. I just wanted my mother.
As the months passed, I was still unable to get out of bed many days. I was unable to cook dinner for my family or attend my children’s ballgames. Not only was I devastated at the void in my life, but I was bitter and angry. While spending so much time in my bed sobbing and hiding from the world, I mourned my father’s death all over again. I didn’t foresee my joy ever being restored.
I’ve been saved since I was a little girl. My mother was a great Godly woman and raised me on the promises found in the Word of God. I knew all the Scriptures about hope and restoration and how Jesus was near to the brokenhearted, but still I was utterly broken.
And finally, worn and weary and heavy-laden, I could no longer bear the burden. I was exhausted physically, mentally and spiritually, and in a moment of sweet surrender, as tears fell from my eyes, I gave it all to the Lord. I told Him, “God, I cannot do this anymore. I cannot continue living in this dark pit of grief. I need you.”
When I finally let go of the rope ‒ when I finally surrendered the hurt, the ache, the void ‒ my Savior was so gracious to catch me. He came to me right where I was and gave rest to my weary soul. He gave me peace that passes all understanding. He gave me light in the darkness. He restored my joy.
The Lord has even revealed great purpose in my pain. I’ve been able to show the comfort that He has shown me to others, just as we are instructed to do in 2 Corinthians 1: 3-7. I’ve continually drawn closer to Him and relied on His sweet grace and mercy, and in turn, He’s called me to do things I never thought possible. He’s called me to speak His promises of life and hope to those who are grieving. He’s called me to point the hurting and the broken to Him. He’s called me to use my writing for His glory. He’s given me beauty for ashes not only concerning the deaths of my parents, but also infertility and alcohol abuse and many other trials.
Jesus was battered and beaten and bloodied. He was mocked and ridiculed, and then He hung on an old, rugged cross to die for our sins. What incredible pain and sorrow He went through! But the purpose, the beautiful purpose, was revealed three days later when that tomb proved empty.
And like Jesus’ pain, our pain has great purpose, too.
Of course, I still miss my parents every day. Lord, what I wouldn’t give to be able to pick up the phone and call my mother and ask her to make me a Mississippi Mud Cake. But if my mother was still here, I wouldn’t be commissioned to point others to the Great Comforter. I wouldn’t have experienced His agape love and been proved time and time again that He truly is near to the brokenhearted. I wouldn’t realize so fully how our Father truly works ALL things together for good.
No matter the pain or sorrow or longing we experience here in our temporary home, if it points us to Jesus, it’s worth it.
As a special treat for Father's Day, we are featuring our second male guest blogger! I have known Kevin Carson my entire life. His father was the pastor of the church (the one with the holy saltines) that I wrote about in my salvation story. I have always thought of Kevin's entire family as salt-of-the-earth type of people - so authentic, so humble, and so Christlike. While I knew him as a kid, he is now a pastor, professor, counselor, author, and speaker. And today, he is writing as a father on a subject that has touched the lives of so many of our readers. May his story fill your burdened heart with great hope.
Today is my sweet baby’s nineteenth birthday. Kayla lived for one short month. We had hoped to enjoy her for our lifetime, but in God’s plan her days were so few in number. Her impact though has far outweighed her days. In some ways it seems like yesterday and like we were kids when we had her; in other ways, it seems like an eternity ago. Although some of the feelings change, the hurt and the loss never go away. Oh to sing to her again just one more time, to hold her, to caress her head, to read to her, to tell her how pretty she is, to say, “I love you.” This many years later, it still makes me cry.
There are so many parents like me and like us. When your child dies, your world changes. Things are never the same again. Something inside of you constitutionally is different. It’s a club no parent wanted to be part of – those who have lost a child. Yes, there’s laughter. Yes, there are good days. Yes, life goes on. But don’t confuse living and going on with life as if there is no pain, no hurt, or no loss.
Then in the midst of life, we remember that the Bible is for life. The Bible teaches that God’s plan for each of Christ’s followers is to change into His image, to become like Christ. Additionally, the Bible itself is for life change. God gives us His Word in order for us to change in the power of the Spirit to become more like Christ. Therefore, the Bible’s verses are to be applied to life’s circumstances.
As a grieving father with my sweet girl’s grieving mother, my challenge is to apply the Bible to our daughter’s death as well. There are many passages I could consider (and maybe someday will), but two specifically stand out to me as I consider 19 years and counting.
Challenging Passage #1: James 1:2
James was written to fellow Christians who were in deep persecution. People are dying. They are running for their lives. They are disappointed Christ has not come back to earth yet like He promised. It is a rough time. In the midst of this incredibly rough time, our Pastor James, Jesus’ brother, writes, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials.”
What? How in the world are they – how in the world are we – how in the world are you supposed to count it all joy when you undergo trials of every sort? Does he include when your baby dies?
Over the years this verse has challenged me and helped me. In the midst of the simplest trials or in the throes of life’s greatest trials, the truth of this verse does not change. That’s what makes it so challenging.
How is it possible to count it all joy when you go through this kind of trial?
Let me help you first by considering two key words and then pointing to the greater context. The first key word is “count.” Here, Pastor James is using an accounting term. In other words, when you put pencil and paper to this problem, the answer to this real-life math equation is joy. As you consider the overall picture of God’s plan in this, ultimately we recognize that this fits in the positive category of joy.
So then, what’s “joy?” Joy here is a state of being, not an emotion. Joy does not mean that you just paste a smile on and pretend that nothing happened or that everything is ok. Joy is not feeling happy. Here joy refers to a deep-seated contentment in God’s plan even in the midst of pain, heartache, and pressure. It is a thankful trust in God’s character and plan.
The context highlights God’s plan. James writes further, “…knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:3-4). This trial or tough circumstance, in this case the death of our baby, as we go through the circumstance and its aftermath, is meant to produce spiritual maturity and growth. The trial helps give me pieces of my character that were formerly missing.
This is the reason why the math equation works. You and I can have joy – even in the midst of deep sadness – because we know that God even uses life’s hardest events to help grow our faith, our character, and our spiritual maturity. We trust God and His plan even in the middle of heartache because He will use this for His glory and our good. Joy – this deep-seated contentment – can rule me even when my heart aches and even in the center of this sadness.
Challenging Passage #2: Philippians 4:11
The passage in James leads me to another challenging passage by a different author in Philippians. Paul writes, “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatsoever state I am, to be content” (Phil 4:11).
How is it possible to be content with the death of a child?
First, it is only possible by the strength Christ provides. Paul writes, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13). It is impossible to be content and to count it joy as you go through this life circumstance without the power of the Christ working in you. We do not have enough strength or ability to be content on our own. We must turn toward Christ and the strength He provides. We must depend upon Him, call out to Him, and desperately turn to Him for help.
Paul continues, “I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need” (Phil 4:12). Paul does not deny the realities of suffering. The Bible does not pretend that everything is fine. The text does not say to live in a pretend world. It is even in the midst of deep suffering that we can turn to Christ who allows us to be content with God’s plan.
In the Midst of the Pain
Does this mean that the pain goes away? Do these passages suggest that I put on a happy face and pretend that everything is fine? Do I just pretend for the glory of God?
No. No. No. No.
What these passages do mean is that even in the heart of significant trouble – like our baby dying – we can trust God’s character and plan. In the middle of this circumstance, we can recognize God is using even our hurts, our tears, and heartache for His glory as we grow into Christlikeness. As days turn into years, we learn to focus on God and trust His character even as we visit a gravesite, celebrate birthdays in heaven, and miss all the opportunities of watching a baby grow up into a beautiful young lady.
For sake of space I will not rehearse all the ways that God has grown me through this trial. As today marks another birthday of our sweet little girl, I can say that God continues to grow me. I recognize I’m not the man I was back then. And with sadness I also accept the fact that possibly I would have never grown, never been humble enough, or never have paid attention to aspects of my character that have changed because of her short life and untimely death.
Can I be content in Christ? Can I consider it joy? Yes and yes. Does it mean that this day isn’t filled with hurt, tears, and a true recognition of loss? Oh no. It is. Real loss. Real tears. Real hurt. But as I type through tear-filled eyes, there is still contentment that God knows, God cares, God provides, and God continues to grow me through the trial.
In addition, I also know that the promises of heaven and eternity are sweet promises. We wait in anticipation.
Kevin Carson is the Pastor of the Sonrise Baptist Church in Ozark, Missouri. In addition to his pastoral ministry, he serves as the department chair of biblical counseling at the Baptist Bible College and Theological Seminary in Springfield, Missouri. He also serves as a counselor at Sonrise Biblical Counseling Ministry, is ACBC Certified, IABC Certified, a council member of the Biblical Counseling Coalition, author, and is a frequent speaker at conferences, retreats and seminars. He and his wife, Kelly, have four children.
You can follow him on Twitter at @pastorkevinc, on Facebook, and his blog.
Hey! It's Laura and I am so excited to have Amberly on the blog today. She is actually our first Friend Friday Vlog (that means video, in case you're technologically challenged like me)! Amberly and I met over ten years ago through our husbands and we were actually pregnant with our daughters at the same time too! I have watched as the Lord has totally turned their world upside down for His glory! Today she shares about how the Lord has called them into foster care.
You only get a six minute video today, but you MUST go follow their family at Growing Up Houser because you will want to know more about them! The Houser's let you into their crazy life with laughter, tears and complete transparency...that's what I love about them the most!
I am a mother, wife, and self-proclaimed hot mess. My husband Matt and I began our journey as foster parents in 2017. We currently parent 6 kids: 3 biological, and 3 foster siblings that we love dearly. By day, I am an elementary school teacher. By night, I drive kids to and from practices in my big blue bus while blaring Jesus music. Donuts are the way to my heart, followed closely by witty t-shirts and Bible journaling. I constantly pray that God will show me the front of the puzzle box but He just keeps handing me one piece at a time. Someday's I am thankful for that and other days I'm bitter. Jesus loves me anyway. I believe I can accomplish anything in a day with a cup of coffee, dry shampoo and fake lashes. This is the story of my life and what it's like to Grow Up Houser.
Maybe we didn’t sing the birthday song with quite as much enthusiasm as we had on other occasions, but we did sing it. Because by golly, it doesn't matter how you feel. It doesn’t matter if your work is hard or your relationship is suffering, or your kid is terrible, or if you have a migraine; in my family, we are going to sing the song.
There will be cake and a candle and the song. And not just the normal birthday song. This is a special, cajun, toe-tapping version that requires clapping and some charismatic emphasis as you spell it out H A P - P Y B- IRTHDAY. It took real effort to sing the song that day.
We sat in the living room where, for decades, we opened gifts with Granny and Papaw. Matt was sitting in Papaw’s place, and I thought how odd he looked sitting next to the fireplace where Papaw should be - close to the fire so he could stoke it and worry it to death.
My mother was now one of the older women in the room with greasy, loud boys leaning on her and playing at her feet. She looked much too young to be the grandmother.
The vaulted ceilings and wood floors multiplied our incessant talking, laughing and teasing and tossed the sound across the room. There were presents, of course. And, the song. The song that I didn't feel like singing, but I did. I was having a bad day but I knew I had to sing the song.
And in that moment looking at my boys sing the silly song, along with the adults who had taught them the silly song, I thought about heaven. We were just practicing. This was just another dress rehearsal. We were practicing the wrong song, but then again we haven’t heard the music of heaven.
We were practicing being together and eating good food and singing and loving. And the lasagna was made with zucchini because we were trying to be healthy and the chocolate cake ended up falling apart, but we had food because we were celebrating.
And we loved each other even though the kids were too loud and we didn't always agree. And we were reliving decades of singing and celebrating another year of life together, in my grandparents house where we now lived. They were gone now, but we were still singing. We were practicing for the real thing and the practicing was an important part of making it here on earth.
And my bad day felt less bad. One day there would be 10,000 years since we last stood there with the falling apart chocolate cake singing the silly song, missing the ones who had already left and we would be singing a new song and we would be together. More importantly, we would be with the One our hearts long for.
We keep practicing, because in the practicing there is an ache and longing that gets comforted. It never really goes away. It won’t go away. Because when we celebrate here its only a taste of the celebration that will never end.
Maybe it’s an overly analytical way to view birthday parties, but on my worst day I’m thankful for the hints of glory. The light that pierces through the clouds. The moments that remind me this isn't all there is.
2 Corinthians 4:17-18
17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,
18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
Ginger Williams is the managing editor of the Jackson Business Journal. She has pursued a career in journalism, marketing and sales, after several years as a homeschool mom. Ginger attended Boyce College where she received her bachelor of arts in biblical studies. She lives in Jackson Tennessee with her husband Matt and sons, Blake and Ethan.
I remember when my first baby was about two weeks old. I had been thrust into this terrifying world of trying desperately to keep a tiny human being alive. I fell into bed at night, exhausted, but I woke up at every slight noise coming from my fragile little charge. I constantly worried that she couldn’t breathe or that she was in some kind of distress that I was too ignorant to recognize. Night and day were all one big blur of feedings and diaper changes and rocking and swaying and bouncing, with no real clue what I was doing.
Yet, even in those days of my body and mind being completely invaded by this pint-sized little soul, I remember I turned to my mother one day, my eyes half closed, my shirt covered in spit up, and said, Being a mother suits me to a T. I honestly felt like I had been wandering through life up until that point, just waiting for God’s big purpose for my life to fall into my lap. I decided it was motherhood.
It’s easy to see how I could think so. After all, the soul-deep love that God puts in a mother’s heart is powerful. It is consuming in a way that we didn’t understand was possible before we were already eaten up with it. It can overshadow a lot of things in life, especially in the early years. Motherhood is hard. It’s all at once beautiful and devastating in a million different ways. It brings things out in us that we didn’t know were there, both good and bad. And, it teaches us so much about God’s love for us.
A few days ago, I was in the dollar store, searching for cool prizes for our Wednesday night program at church. I was alone, as I often am these days, getting lots of things accomplished while all three of my kids were at school. It’s a new phase for me, and I’m still learning how to deal with the quiet. Suddenly, from across the store I heard the happy voice of a baby. He had obviously just learned his first word or two, and his mother was playing peek-a-boo with him. I could hear the sheer delight in his mother’s voice as she said again and again, Where’s mama? Every time she dropped her hands and revealed the sweet face that her baby knows and loves, he squealed, Mama! as if he had just won the world’s greatest prize. And right there in the middle of the toy aisle, surrounded by plastic snakes and miniature harmonicas, I felt my heart bust wide open at those sweet sounds that felt so familiar. I understood the absolute thrill that the young mother was getting in the dollar store on an ordinary Tuesday, when her baby showed in the way that only babies can, that he adores her to no end. And it broke my heart into a million pieces.
That’s not my life anymore.
Those days are gone. I don’t have babies. Adelade has traded in sippy cups for lip gloss. Sawyer, pacifiers for braces. Emerald gave up her blankie for a backpack. If motherhood has taught me anything, it’s how quickly phases of life come and go.
The thing about hindsight is that it tends to gloss over the realities of past experiences. It doesn’t remind you about the long nights sitting up with a sick baby, frantic over a too-high temperature. It doesn’t recall how much time it took you to accomplish anything at all while a little one was clinging to you all day and night. It doesn’t bring up the fact that you felt frustrated over your lack of social life, your lack of sleep, your lack of time with your husband, your lack of personal space. No, that precious hindsight only brings to mind the sweetest moments, the epiphanies about how wonderful motherhood is, the secret, sweet times that only you remember, like peek-a-boo in the dollar store on an otherwise hectic, unproductive weekday. This rosy memory-vision is one reason that grandmothers are so quick to approach a frazzled young mother in the grocery store to tell her to appreciate every moment.
I wanted to go over to speak to the young mother, too. I wanted to say to her, somehow, that I understand the soul-crushing love that she feels for her child. I wanted her to know that the moment she was having there was as familiar to me as the little country road that leads to my childhood home. I wanted to tell her that the thrill of hearing that tiny voice holler Mama will feel just a fresh and real to her twenty years from now. I wanted her to know that she doesn’t have to dread and fear the growing up of her precious little boy because motherhood is NOT the purpose of her life. It is an indescribable blessing. It is the source of endless joy. It is one way that God shows us how much we need Him, and it is one way that we learn to lay our lives down for someone else.
But, what we call motherhood–training and raising and caring for children–is fleeting, just like everything else. It doesn’t last forever, this phase of life. Children grow and they change and you grow and you change, and then they begin a new life out in this great big world. If, as I once believed, motherhood is the reason God made me, then what use am I when this phase of life is over?
It doesn’t mean that our hearts won’t still creak and crack and melt just a little when we remember what we once had. It doesn’t mean that what we’re doing here, in the wilds of motherhood, doesn’t have eternal significance. But, God’s purposes are big. Much bigger than we can imagine. The purpose of our lives is to glorify Him in all that we do, whether we are mothers or not. Whether we are in the thick of chasing toddlers everywhere or simply remembering those days, a little misty-eyed. God’s purposes don’t have dates of expiration. They don’t apply to only one section of our lives. And they certainly aren’t wrapped up solely in the too-short phases of mothering children.
I wanted to tell her all of these things, but I knew it was too much. Instead, I just walked past and smiled at her baby. The sweet young mother watched me, and when our eyes met, I nodded. She nodded back, and then I walked out the door, my hands empty, heart filled with the truth of God’s goodness in all the phases of life.
Can you remember the friend you have had the longest? I sure can...and she is still one of my dearest friends today! We laid in cribs next to each other in the church nursery. I bet if you can remember a friend like that, you will remember her mom, too! She was like my second mom and I was at her house as much as my own. I am thankful to have Glenda, my childhood friend's mom on the blog today! I am watching as many women are walking through what she faced many years ago. So, I asked her to share her story and she did so beautifully!
Hopes and dreams of an 18 year old bride:
1. A home like my parents
2. A husband like my daddy
We married young; it wasn’t unusual in the 70s to marry right after high school. Ricky was the ripe old age of twenty and I was eighteen. It was ok because we knew everything about everything. At least, we thought we did. Enter reality…
I can’t even explain how naïve we were, me especially. I’ve always been a reader and thought my life would be like a Hallmark movie! Our first year was pretty rough because we each had our own idea of what wedded bliss looked like.
In my eyes, the home my parents built was almost perfect. I rarely saw any disagreement, any conflict or any strife at home. If it existed between my parents, I sure didn’t know it, and to this day, I believe in family life, primarily because of my parents. My daddy was my hero and still is. He was a hard-working, respected man, who put his family first. In our home, there was never any question of where we would be on Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night. I never felt rebellious about it, that was just the way it was. Ricky also came from a church-going family, but he fell out of church when he was a teenager. He would tell you he only went back after we began to date. He gave his heart to Jesus when he was nineteen, but once again, he gradually got out of church. While we were dating, he’d go with me on Sunday nights, but that was about it. Of course, I thought I could change all of that once we were married! It didn’t happen.
I have so much admiration for any person who is faithful to attend church by themselves. Church, just like anywhere else we go, is full of people who look like they have it all together. That’s just a big fat lie that Satan tells us! But, in my eyes as a young bride, I felt like all eyes were on me and everyone was wondering what was wrong with my marriage because my husband wasn’t with me at church. Another lie...perception is not truth! The truth was this: Even though Ricky wasn’t with me at church, he was still a great husband and we were building a lasting relationship.
But, my perceptions and expectations caused lots of arguments when it came to Sunday morning. I became that nagging wife that Proverbs says is like a dripping faucet. My insecurities led to trying to “make” Ricky come with me to church. I thought if he came, we’d have a perfect marriage. Little did I know at this time, God had a plan. You see, up until then, I had lived a sheltered life. I had a great home life and a great church life. No one had challenged my beliefs. For the first time in my life, it was up to me to see if my faith was real, or if I was living off of my parents’ faith.
God was growing me. I can’t express how hard this time was for me; the tearing down of my expectations was so painful. However, what was being built up was far more valuable. The lessons God taught me during this time only caused me to love Him more, to step up and be the wife He would want me to be and the mom to our daughters when they came along later in our marriage. I learned to nurture the most important relationships in my life, the one with my heavenly Father, my Husband, and those that I need at any time and in any place. He is perfect and is always with me. He loves me unconditionally; He is the lover of my soul.
Our first daughter, Jessica, was born about three years into our marriage. I felt the responsibility of leading her in the path that would lead her to faith in Christ. That responsibility was doubled when Elyssa was born. It takes a village to raise children, a village populated with folks who love Jesus, who care about people and a have a passion for sharing their love. I found that in my church. We need each other!
Fast forward about twenty-two years into our marriage….Ricky was still not attending church with me and our girls are now nineteen and sixteen. Life started throwing some heavy situations into our lives and into our girls’ lives. They were the kind of situations that only God can control, situations that became wake-up calls.
Through a series of these events, my husband was drawn back to church. Not only to church attendance, but to church service. Oh my goodness, it got to the point where he wanted to go to church more than I did!
Just because couples go to church together, doesn’t mean all is good in their home. Our marriage was great, other than the church thing. I’ve seen church-going couples split up. Just because you go to church together doesn’t mean you have a perfect marriage.
I was so frustrated! I just needed help, help getting the kids ready and out the door. I needed companionship, a companion to sit with so I wouldn’t feel alone in a crowd. I longed for “couple” fellowship. I saw other couples from church hanging out together, and I wanted that. At the time, nothing much was offered for single ladies at our church. Even though I was married, I felt like a single person at church.
I’m so very thankful for the season in my life where God strengthened my walk with Him. I would have been so tempted to “piggyback” off of my husband’s faith, instead of seeking after Christ. I’ve learned God is good in every season, that He alone is my source.
The most important lesson I learned is this: I am not the Holy Spirit. I can’t be the Holy Spirit for anyone. Only God convicts. But, His promises are true. If I seek Him and His will in my life, He will bring it to pass. I wish I had known this when I was nagging Ricky to come with me! I think all I did with my nagging was to push him away. Once I let go and let God handle it, He gave me the desire of my heart, a Godly husband, who loves the Lord with all his heart.
In 2006 I was a recent college graduate excited to begin my career as a dental hygienist in my hometown of Tallahassee, Florida. I had just moved out of my parents' house and into my first apartment, bought my first car and had even gone on a blind date and started seeing an amazing guy who seemed to be "the one". Life was great and I was healthy, happy and carefree with the world at my fingertips. I was anxious to see what God had in store for the next chapter of my journey but I never could have imagined what it turned out to be.
Though I was proud to have been raised in the church by wonderful, loving Christian parents, I always felt as though my testimony was boring. I had never known trials, tests or hard times and I certainly didn't have a profound life changing experience to share. I was practically born on a church pew and had lived in a safe, protected bubble for 24 years. In my mind, that was no testimony.
I should have been careful what I wished for because over the course of the next few months I suddenly became extremely ill and found myself facing the battle of a lifetime with a very aggressive auto-immune disease known as Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis (PSC). PSC attacks the liver and there is no known cure other than a liver transplant. After a life of picture perfect health, I was now suffering the effects of a rapidly failing liver and was suddenly thrust into a life of sickness that I had never known or even imagined. If you've ever had a chronic illness, then you know how difficult it is to carry out day to day activities and routines that most people take for granted. Even the smallest tasks like getting out of bed seemed monumental, not to mention the mental and emotional aspect of living with a fatal disease. Your mind takes you places that you don't want to go and you have to make decisions that you don't want to make. With an uncertain future on the horizon, I began to see things through a different lens. My perspective changed and suddenly the little things in life weren't so little anymore. I found myself truly savoring every single blessing God had given me, which by this point included a supportive husband and a precious, loving three-year-old daughter, both of whom I longed to grow old with.
I suffered with the effects of my disease for eight years before finally being deemed sick enough to have my name placed on the transplant list at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee. Through my time of waiting the Lord taught me great lessons in patience as well as in thanksgiving. Losing your health and facing death is one of the most humbling and helpless experiences in life. My faith was tested, refined and made new as I patiently awaited my life saving gift. My marriage vows were put to the ultimate test as that guy I met on a blind date eight years’ prior showed me exactly what it meant to lovingly serve your spouse in sickness and in health. Friends, family and strangers alike showed me what it meant to be the hands and feet of Jesus as they supported us, prayed for us and walked alongside us during some very dark and scary days. In every way possible, God made Himself known through this journey to healing.
On September 16th, 2014 after seven months of waiting, I finally received the call I had so earnestly prayed for... A perfect, healthy liver was available and ready for me. My miracle had finally come and a new life of health awaited. My surgery was a success and though my recovery even to this day has included some unexpected turns, in general I am finally healed and healthy and enjoying the benefits of a life free of sickness and pain.... A life that I certainly took for granted prior to my diagnosis.
I thank God every day for the precious gift of life I was given. Though I was most undeserving, He granted me a second chance and I am eternally grateful for that. Every single day that I get to wake up and continue my life as a wife, mom, daughter, sister, friend.... I am thankful. I am thankful for the good days AND the bad days. I am thankful for every battle over brushing tiny teeth and combing tangled hair and every exhausting minute of chauffeuring a kid from school to gymnastics to art class to cheerleading and church. I am thankful for chores and grocery shopping and preparing meals for my picky family--All things I used to resent and dread are now sweet simple reminders of this amazing second chance at life I've been given! Each day is truly a gift!
As I was laying in my hospital room recovering after my transplant I suddenly had a revelation. I needed to give a name to my new liver! I thought about it long and hard before settling on the name "Grace". As we all know, grace is something that cannot be earned or deserved but rather is freely given by God Himself and that's exactly what He did for me when he spared my life through the act of organ donation. "Grace" is now referred to by name by everyone who knows my story, including my doctors!
"My GRACE is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weakness, so that Christ's power may rest on me." 2 Corinthians 12:9
Though God orchestrated all the details, this miracle was only made possible by the selfless decision of my greatest hero whom I will never know--My organ donor. Through my joy and thankfulness, I have also struggled greatly with feelings of guilt and sadness. I am alive today only because someone else is not and that's a tough thing to accept. Every single day when I see the large scar across my belly I am reminded that someone else is living on inside of me. Though I don't know their name, age or even their gender, I am connected to them in a way that I cannot explain. This person gave me the ultimate gift when they agreed to be an organ donor. They gave me the gift of LIFE.
In looking back, I can say with complete honesty that I am thankful for every single battle, every pain and every tear that I endured on this journey. My trials have changed my life in indescribable ways, strengthened my faith beyond belief and given me a testimony I never could have dreamed of! To God be the glory!
**Every 10 minutes another name is added to the national transplant waiting list. On average, 22 people die each day waiting for a lifesaving transplant. One organ donor can save up to eight lives. April is National Donate Life Month. Please prayerfully consider signing the donor registry TODAY. Your decision today could determine someone else's tomorrow.**
Visit www.RegisterMe.org to sign up and save lives.
Ashleigh-Anne has been married to Matthew (her blind date!) for 10 years now and together they are raising their miracle baby, Kyndall, who is already seven years old. She channels her passion for organ donation by volunteering as an ambassador with Donate Life, often sharing her story at various speaking engagements. She is a former dental hygienist who is now living her true dream of being a homemaker in Dallas, Texas. She loves Jesus, sunsets, monograms, Coke Icees, the beach, sleeping late and carbohydrates.
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Hey! This is Laura and I am so excited to have our first student contributor on the blog today! I met Anna Blair in 2012 and have had the honor of watching her grow into a beautiful, Christian young lady. As a Christian, a wife and a mother, I love to hear about how the Lord is moving through the younger generation. I hope you are blessed today by Anna Blair's faith journey.
I am 14 years old and have attended church all my life. I was baptized when I was 12. As long as I can remember, I have loved Jesus, but for many of my 14 years, I never had a very good answer to the question, “How do I know God is real?” In my heart, I have always known that God is real, and I could give the “Sunday School answers” like “The Bible tells us God is the beginning and the end and created everything so He is real.” I could recite my favorite Bible verses…but I never really knew how to tell people from my life experiences that I know that God is real. My life had always been filled with the assurance that God is real in my life and that He showers me each day with His blessings.
Now, however, I have a story to tell about how God showed his realness to me time and time again! I am a dancer. I have been dancing since I was three. I love all types of dance – jazz, tap, ballet, hip-hop, lyrical, pom, kick and musical theater. While dancing is a major part of my life, the practice is rigorous. Four, sometimes five afternoons a week, are consumed with dance practice.
My story began two years ago on a regular night at dance. When I was stretching, my coach saw that something was out of line. She noticed that my right rib cage was elevated above my left one. My coach mentioned it to my dad that something might be wrong with my back. Because my dad is a Physical Therapist, when I told him what my coach had said during a routine practice, he, too, could tell that something was definitely wrong. So, the next morning I went to my doctor and had an x-ray. When I saw the image, my heart dropped. My spine was shaped like an “S.”
The x-ray was sent to another doctor for further reading, but the diagnosis was clear. I had a severe case of scoliosis. How was I going to continue to do the things that made me happy with a curved spine?
I soon found out that this was a journey that would change me forever.
As I sat in the waiting room of the orthopedic clinic, I was unsure and nervous about what was to come. My parents and I listened to our options from the doctor and concluded that bracing was the best option. A few weeks later, I was fitted with the brace that I would wear for a year. My curve seemed to decrease with the help of my brace, but it would not completely correct it. When I would take a break from wearing my brace (even though the breaks were short), my curve would increase again. Despite a long, hard year of wearing this uncomfortable, restricting brace, it was not a sufficient tool for handling my scoliosis.
Even though having a corrective surgery was my biggest fear, it was the best option for correcting my scoliosis and getting rid of my pain. My surgery was scheduled for the summer of 2017. In the meantime, I was told to have fun and not worry about this big event. However, waiting was the hardest part. I had many “what if’s” running through my mind. What if I am not able to dance again? What if I can never walk again? My nerves were comforted by surrounding myself with people who loved and supported me.
When people told me that they were praying for me, I was reassured that I am never alone and that God will take care of me always. During the days leading up to my surgery, I felt the love and prayers of so many people. Knowing that others were sharing my struggle calmed and comforted me. When I went into my surgery, I was so calm and ready for the new chapter ahead of me.
After my six-hour surgery, I felt the prayers being poured on me. In addition to the presence of my family, many of my friends came to visit me at the hospital. I am very thankful for all of those friendships and what each friend means to me. Those friends supported me and stayed with me through this whole journey and I am so blessed.
Along with the support of my friends and family, I had so many great doctors and nurses that helped me through surgery and recuperation. For me, they were the hands and feet of Jesus. They took a personal interest in me, and I have formed many good relationships with them.
As I think back on the last two years, I see the “realness” of God through the prayers and actions of so many people including the coach who first noticed the misalignment of my spine, the pediatrician who confirmed it, the orthopedic surgeon who proposed options, the family and friends who prayed for me and encouraged me, and God, who comforted me in my pain and gave me hope that I would be able to continue dancing. All of these people who ministered to me during this time gave me assurance that God is real and is present in my life and continues to lead me.
Anna Blair Jackson
Anna Blair is finishing her 8th grade year and writing has become a gifting she has discovered! She has written two poems. One that placed first in Tennessee and went on to win first place in the United States. The other placed first in Tennessee and the Southwest region. She is also an editor for her school's yearbook and has written articles for her local newspaper.
I sat in the waiting room, at moments shaking, at other moments thinking I was going to be sick at my stomach...waiting. I had to wait over an hour. I was in a room full of women, all of us waiting for the results. Silence. I read Psalm 121 over and over and over until I thought, “Ok, just memorize it.” So I began to just memorize it.
Fear. Worry. Gripped by its icy, bony fingers.
What is your deepest fear?
“Fear, you say? Christians aren’t gripped by worry or fear.” We read verses such as Isaiah 41:10 “Fear thou not, for I am with thee; be not dismayed, for I am thy God; I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness,” and we march boldly into tomorrow with no worries.
Or we could be honest.
We worry about money, death, our children, fear something happening to our children, our marriage, our job security, our aging parents...or health issues as we sit in a waiting room, gripped by fear, powerless to do anything about the impending outcome.
When the inevitable worries and fears come, and our world is shaken to the core, what do we do?
Jesus calls us to an unbelievable faith. If we are a Christ follower, then we must follow the ways of Christ. I know this sounds like a statement that would get a “Well, duh!” reaction from my middle school students, but think about it. Christ calls us to a simple life: we want to complicate it.
So here goes:
● First, I must be ok with the unknown.
As a Christ follower, I must admit and live by faith in Christ. This means that some days, most days, every day, I have no idea what will happen next. I must be ok with that.
This requires lots of prayer. “Lord, I cannot do this. Help me with my unbelief (Mark 9:24). You are a Sovereign God, and your ways are not my ways. Teach me to have faith that starts childlike but will grow as you lead me and I continue to trust in you and you alone. God, when I start to lean towards my understanding of things and trust in myself and my own power, please jerk me back to you. That jerking may hurt, but help me, God. I am desperate.”
● Second, I must accept that I am part of a large master plan.
“Father, I am a glorious piece of a larger plan that is beautiful. Help my issue with pride, that makes everything about me. Nothing is about me. It’s all about you. Help me to be find contentment in that.”
● Third, I must be grateful.
That’s where my waiting room story picks back up.
Ladies came and went from the waiting room, all of us waiting for our name to be called, like some ominous lottery. And then someone spoke.
Light, casual conversation began. “I am so nervous that I can’t even speak,” I thought.
But as I was reading Psalm 121 over and over, the obvious began to kick in. “Why do I even continue to read this yet not trust in it as truth? God, help me. Free me, Lord for I am in bondage.”
“It’s not about you. Speak. Open your mouth. Are these ladies believers? Do they know the hope in Christ?”
So I began to speak. Weather, flu, schools, “I am a teacher”, and then God “lobbed me a softball”, an accurate reference to this moment as stated by my pastor Rodney Alexander.
The conversation turned to deeper matters. God allowed me opportunities to speak of His goodness, that attitude of gratitude that I am compelled to have, God’s ability to heal physically at any moment, all sorts of small tidbits of peace. I always walk away from these moments feeling that I never said enough, but remember, piece of a beautiful puzzle.
Something wonderful happened in that moment, besides the obvious golden opportunity to speak life and peace: I was no longer nervous. I realized that there was no way I could control the results that were coming any minute, but I could control what I did right now.
God is calling us to follow Him in every moment, every second. Those moments add up to a lifetime of following, blindly, obediently, trusting in a Sovereign, good God. The focus is off of me and on my King. Therein is peace.
The rest of the story: I was clear. The patient right before me was not.
I am grateful, trusting in the good and the bad to an Omnipotent God Who loves me.
“What time I am afraid, I will (by His will over mine, moment by moment, second by second) trust in thee.” Psalm 56:3
Kathy McBroom is a middle school English teacher who resides in Shepherdsville, Kentucky, ten minutes south of Louisville. Her husband Robert is the Missions’ and Assimilation Pastor at Little Flock Baptist Church. She is an author, blogger, bible teacher and has recently begun “Manic Monday” a group which can be found on Facebook. She and Robert have two daughters, Rachel and Hannah, who are also teachers. You can check out more of Kathy's great writing on her blog.
I love to read. It is my escape to adventure and relaxation. Recently, I received an audio book subscription and find it truly luxurious to let someone else read to me! What indulgence!
Don’t you find your “me time” precious and maybe a little harder to come by than you would like? I do. When I think I’m going to have time to snuggle up and read (or listen to) a good book, there’s a little dance going on inside me. I like to think about what kind of drink I will put on the coaster beside me and what fuzzy socks I will wear. Will I push back the curtain and let in a flood of sunshine to light the page, or will it be a dark and stormy night when my bed and lamp or firelight are more in order?
If it sounds to you like I fantasize about my alone-time, you could not be more right! You may not be an avid reader but what do you love to do to wind down? If you had an unexpected afternoon off to spend however you wanted to, what would you do? Spa day? Shopping? Baking Day? Run in the park?
Hey, wait… are you fantasizing about your alone time!?
Let’s face it, leisure time is not filling up most of our calendars. Those moments when we can relax and recharge are a limited commodity and therefore valuable to us. That’s why when a few years ago a sweet saint gently challenged me to change how I use that leisure time, I balked at first.
Here’s the story…
As early as my teen years, the classic “who dunnit” genre captured my fancy. I particularly enjoyed the work of the British sleuth writer, Agatha Christie. I loved her ability to bring to life the human personalities in her books. She was also the master of nailing the surprise ending where all the puzzle pieces fall into place so neatly and yet you are shocked and dismayed that you never suspected the perpetrator for a second! I had read many of her works, but always looked forward to the next book, so I asked my mother-in-law who was running a used book business to keep her eyes open for any of the titles I hadn’t read.
Ladies, I highly recommend finding a man to marry whose mother loves you like a daughter. What a blessing! My mother-in-law spent the next couple of years combing her inventory and other sources and eventually acquired for me EVERY work ever written by my favorite author. I knew that the acquisition of these sometimes rare books was a labor of love, and my heart was warmed by her effort on my behalf. One day when my collection was nearly complete she was handing me a rare copy of one of Agatha Christie’s romantic novels, and she casually remarked that she had found it enriching to start reading only Christian and “uplifting” material in her leisure time.
Read only Christian and uplifting material… In my leisure time… My “me time.”
If you have been a believer long, you may already anticipate how I was feeling. Now my precious mother-in-law had not even SUGGESTED that this was something I should do. But I was feeling uncomfortable. Why? Because my flesh did not want to submit my leisure reading to God, and I immediately knew that was the crux of the issue. I did not want to entrust what I held as my own, private, valuable, treasure to God to change it however He wanted. Ugh.
So I dithered around and made excuses mentally and basically pouted for a while. I don’t remember having a particular moment when I surrendered this fight against God, but the Holy Spirit, ever so gracious, helped me to come around.
Now, I joyfully confess that my absolutely favorite genre is Biblical Fiction, a subset of Christian Fiction in which the author takes a text of the Bible and imagines personalities and details to bring the story to life. For example, I’m currently reading a series about King Hezekiah. Passages about him can be found in the Bible in 2 Kings, 2 Chronicles and Isaiah. Lynn Austin has used a vast amount of research and inspiration to make this hero of the Bible into someone who lives and breathes in my imagination. In the current chapter, the walled city of Jerusalem is surrounded by the Assyrian Army.
The general of King Hezekiah’s army has been captured, tortured and hung on a stake to taunt King Hezekiah who stands on the city wall and weeps to see one of his dearest friends tortured. But Hezekiah refuses to surrender. Why? Because within Jerusalem’s wall is God’s Holy Temple and he chooses to die rather than let pagan soldiers defile the house of God. Things are very tense and King Hezekiah is waiting to hear back from Isaiah what the Lord says about what they should do. And let me tell you, I.AM.DYING to go to the Bible and read the end of the story!!!
Some of these authors do a wonderful job of researching historical details. I can learn so much about the context of the stories God included in His Word for us to read! The sleuthing I do nowadays is to listen to a book and then go find and read the Biblical text from which the skeleton of the plot is taken and enjoy how closely the author can weave the way she imagines those people to have been to the actual Word of God.
The best authors can also write their stories to carefully illustrate God’s truth that we should glean from His Word. I’ve noticed that as I hear these stories, I remember the Bible characters better. I rejoice when they make the right choices. I grieve when they stray from God’s will. I laugh and I cry and I praise God. Seriously, I actually caught myself starting to pray for one of the characters the other day before I realized that she lived thousands of years ago and is already home with the Father!
So. My dear mother-in-law was right. Submitting my leisure time to God has been enriching. If anything, it is even more precious to me than it was before, because it brings me real joy by drawing my heart closer to His. Isn’t that just God’s way? He will ask you for things, beloved. Things that you may not want to hand over. His way is always better. More joyful. Deeper.
If you want to get your feet wet in Biblical fiction, may I recommend One of Janette Oke’s more recent works, which she co-wrote with T.Davis Bunn? These books bring to vivid life stories of the early church just after the life of Christ.
Acts of Faith series
· The Centurion's Wife, 2009
· The Hidden Flame, January 2010
· The Damascus Way, 2011
Some of my favorite Christian Fiction Authors are:
Jamie Langston Turner for modern day stories of everyday (but inspiring) faith.
Jan Karon for stories that will make you laugh and cry in a peaceful small-town setting.
Francine Rivers for gripping stories (Biblical or straight fiction) that illustrate God’s truth.
Some of my favorite Biblical Fiction Authors are:
Lynn Austin who does a broad cross section of Biblical, Historical and straight fiction that all speak to God’s faithfulness.
Jannette Oke who does both Biblical and Christian fiction with a flair for holy romance.
T.Davis Bunn who is a prolific writer of all kinds of works from the Christian worldview.
I believe on Saturday our blog hosts will reveal some of their favorite Christian authors. I can’t wait to see their list!
Andrea Harper grew up in Longview, Texas and earned degrees from Southern Nazarene University and University of Texas Health Science Center before she was transplanted to Tennessee as she pursued a medical career in Obstetrics and Gynecology. She is a partner at the Woman’s Clinic, PA in Jackson, TN. With her husband Scott and daughter Darcy, she attends Cornerstone Community Church in Jackson. In her free time, when not reading, she likes to cook with her daughter, do paper piece quilting, and travel.
Love and Loss Through Adoption - Part Two
Our pile of ashes nearly smothered us in the months after losing our four month old adopted daughter, Quinn. The month of July seems like a hazy memory as we muddled through our new normal. In early August, we were presented with another adoption opportunity that met all of our criteria so we walked through the open door still bruised. Unbelievably, this door, like so many others, slammed shut. We are so accustomed to loss and pain, that our reaction was one of acute numbness. After dinner that night, I told my husband, Josiah, “I quit. I do not want to continue this journey. It’s over for us so please can we just stop this madness.” Josiah, though with sympathy, lovingly said, “No.”
Frustrated with his answer, I pressed him and told him that I was fresh out of perseverance. He then reminded me of how far, and how invested we’ve become. He challenged me to think about what quitting would look like and feel like. I knew he was right despite my weariness. I didn’t love the idea of pressing on, and all of the scriptures instructing me to press on with joy, seemed unattainable. In early August, we pursued another adoption with an older child and thought we had finally arrived. We heard from God so clearly, and again, everything aligned with what we were praying in light of scripture. Again, God closed the door through an unexpected series of events. We were left wondering, “God, where in the world are you?” We had just chosen to press on in faith; yet, you allowed more difficulty. We were left puzzled, but burdened to keep going despite all human logic.
As my birthday approached in mid-August, we decided to go to the mountains for a long weekend. While we went to celebrate and take time for ourselves, we also went to specifically pray Psalm 4:1, which says, “Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have given me relief when I was in distress. Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!” As we prayed and focused on having fun and relaxing, I kept repeating this verse over and over in my mind. In the mountains, I told God how weak, how tired and how desperate I felt. I remember having an odd peace while we were there. It was as if my mind, body and heart took a big breath of fresh air. I felt light and easy. Just 24 hours into our adoption reprieve, my sister-in-law called with a different sound in her voice. Then, we heard an unbelievable story that involved many people being in the right place at the right time.
Let me preface the story by saying that when you’ve endured the amount of trauma we’ve endured, you’re skeptical about everything. In this case, however, when Josiah and I hung up the phone while sitting in a parking lot, we said, “Well, this is random, and I wonder what God is telling us.” In true Josiah form, he went over the pros and cons, while I marveled at how God had seemingly responded to our mountain prayers. We tried to discern the Holy Spirit, and we were both concerned that our bleeding hearts couldn’t endure another path of brokenness. Time was not on our side, and decisions had to be made quickly.
Unbeknownst to us, God had been working behind the scenes as we cried out to Him in the mountains. God used several people to weave a story so completely from His hand that we’re all left saying, “Surely this is our God Isaiah 25:9.” In this story, there are hospital workers, an artist, unknowingly mutual friends, an attorney, and the Holy Spirit who wove Himself into the fabric of all of these lives on our behalf and in response to our cries. For us to reach our son, countless things had to fall perfectly into place. Only God could orchestrate and align events and people in such a way to bring beauty from ashes and joy from mourning. The Church, as you will later read, have navigated our sails in recent days. If I told you every single detail, every twist and turn of this story, you would get lost in its coincidental complexity, but ultimately, it comes down to this: “Every good and perfect gift comes from above James 1:17.” As a proud West Tennessean who has traveled across the county countless times pursuing adoption, God floored me when a healthy baby boy was born on August 23 in West Tennessee. I remember walking in the parking lot of this West Tennessee hospital laughing to myself at the sheer irony of being home in West Tennessee instead of far away. God was present in the details.
God had us right where He wanted us. He wanted us broken, bleeding, weak, and depleted. We began our journey on September 15, 2015, and have since endured six failed adoptions, including the devastating and legally unprecedented loss of Quinn, countless times of being not chosen, enormous adoption financial losses, emotional distress, physical exhaustion, and spiritual warfare. We had a choice to make. We had to decide whether to walk through this door that had opened so randomly or to let fear and the pain of the past dictate our future. Needless to say, we walked through the open door wondering what in world God was doing.
At first, it was easy to bask in the mindset of, “Wow, God answered our prayer!” But, as our entire journey has shown, God wanted more from us. How could God possibly want more from us? We had nothing left. Had we not endured enough? Why couldn’t He just allow us to enjoy the answered prayer with finality? Due to circumstances beyond our control, this placement involved multiple delays so we had to agree to take home our potential son in the interim. The thought of this made us both uneasy. While we had so much love and attention to give, we were nervous about letting him into our heart without having security. We lived this for over two months when Quinn’s uncertainty began so a few days didn’t seem too much to ask. But, it was too much to ask. We very quickly realized that within our own strength, we couldn’t travel this familiar road again. Luckily, when we are weak, His strength is made perfect 2 Corinthians 12:9. When we came home, it became clear just how raw we still were from Quinn’s loss because we had such little time to grieve. Attachment began quickly with our son, so with each delay, Satan had his way with fear. We learned that just because Satan had a doorway to our vulnerability, didn’t mean God’s people couldn’t push their fellow brother and sister in Christ through the fearful fight.
Josiah and I have been surrounded by about fifteen Kingdom Warriors, both friends and family alike, who have pushed us through the days of doubt. Only these faithful few knew about our son because we were trying to maintain privacy to ensure we would have a successful placement. We have been covered in prayer since August 23 when our son was played in our arms the morning he was born. There have been Kingdom Warriors who have prayed and fasted faithfully on our behalf. We have literally seen the Church function as a moving Body. We made it to this point because these Warriors prayed us through it, loved us through it, and encouraged us that victory was near. When our prayers were but a whisper, theirs were shouts.
Though it has been a whirlwind since August 23, I am so glad God wanted more from us even when we didn’t think we had more to give. We questioned why He wasn’t allowing it to be easy after having endured so much, but we can both say we’re thankful that God wanted more. I was reminded of a quote by Corrie Ten Boom I have in one of my journals that says, “There is no pit so deep, that God’s love is not deeper still.” Though we’ve spent two years in a pit, His love has been deeper still. We’re grateful that God is a jealous God that wants no one and nothing, including a tumultuous journey, to pull us away from His arms. He loves us just that much. He wants all of you. He wants all of me. He doesn’t want one inch of us to not be wholly His. When you allow yourself to be wholly His, He will transform your life allowing you to have joy unspeakable in the midst of inevitable suffering. When you are wholly His, you realize that He wants to be wholly yours.
At this point, we feel like the survivors from the front line of war duty. We have opened wounds, bandages, scars, holes and bruises. This journey has been frustrating, maddening, ridiculous, unfair, grief-filled, devastating, and emotional…but God. But God promises to restore us. He promises to bring beauty from our ashes. His Word says that “weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning Psalms 30:5.” Our weeping has lasted two long years, and I am sure there will be more weeping ahead since all Christ followers will walk through suffering, but we’re glad that we are made like Him in our suffering. Though weeping lies ahead, we need not be afraid. He’s already there. I remember thinking awhile back that if this road ever ended that there would be no way I could still love and trust God like I have tried to in the past. I felt that there had been too much hurt for me to still have Him as the love of my life. I had seen so many unanswered prayers and moments when His protection seemed nonexistent that loving Him like I always had seemed unlikely. I proved to be right, but not in the way I expected. I love Him more now than I ever have. He has broken my heart, but His heart has broken too as He has watched our suffering. “Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him Job 13:15.”
We would like to introduce you to our forever son, Paladin Shepherd Britton. Paladin is a name from the fifteenth century meaning, “someone who fights for a cause.” We feel like our journey to Paladin has been nothing but a fight. As his parents, we vow to turn that fight into a fight of ensuring He knows and understands the transformative power of the Gospel. The kind of Gospel that brought us hope and healing when all seemed lost. We have committed ourselves to being Godly parents to Paladin, while still believing that God will use Quinn’s life for His glory and His good. We believe that Paladin will learn a lot about prayer through learning to pray for his heart sister. We look forward to what God will do by joining our family to Paladin’s birth family. Praying with his birth family at the hospital will forever be one of my most cherished moments in this life. You can never convince me that the Holy Spirit doesn’t dwell among us. He not only dwells, He engulfs and consumes. When that hospital prayer was uttered, every bone in my body felt His presence. We know that God never breaks our heart to bring us back the same.
Part 1 - "A Broken Hallelujah"
Love and Loss Through Adoption - Part One
If you aren’t prepared for a raw and vulnerable look at brokenness, do not proceed. If you aren’t ready to navigate your faith within the mess of life, do not proceed. Leaving church on a warm September Sunday morning in 2015, my husband, Josiah, and I knew the message of having radical faith was just for us. After many years of battling infertility, we were eager to begin the adoption process. As many of you know, from 2015 to 2017, brought immense difficulty. During those years, we experienced three failed adoptions. Two of those adoptions were after time was spent in the hospital holding our miracle. The third, though no less important, ended before we boarded a plane. These three adoptions were costly to us emotionally, financially, mentally, and spiritually. Then, in February of 2017, on one last leap of faith, we flew across the country to get our fourth miracle. Surely, this one would be forever. Now, four months later, our arms are empty, our hearts are bleeding, and our home is stricken with the pain of silence.
Here is where you need to stop reading if you cannot refrain from shaking your fist at God. I already know what you are thinking. Stop, take a moment, and choose to find Him in this story. We met our beloved Quinn in the wee morning hours of February 18, 2017 when she was just two days old. On February 20, she was signed into our custody and three days later we returned home to the warmest and most loving welcome that any child could possibly have.
Because of our past experiences, we, of course, had fears that would persist. When fears arose, Josiah and I would remind each other of God’s promises. Even to the unbeliever, Quinn’s story seemed to make perfect sense. On April 12, we were notified that Quinn’s birth father had decided to parent. He began doing all of the necessary legal steps in spite of his previous poor choices. Our agency and the agency’s attorney had proof that her birth father knew of Quinn’s birth and chose to do nothing.
For the remainder of April until June 20, we had to continue to parent Quinn with a heavy cloud looming above. When we think of those months of parenting with the looming cloud overhead, we can take no credit. We’d always known that God gives grace, but only until recently have we really understood just how extensive His grace is. By His grace, we were able to parent her while knowing she could easily be taken. In those months, we never thought she’d be taken so we loved harder, prayed harder, and held her a little longer. After all, she was God’s fulfilled promise to us. We felt confident so we only shared the legal battle with my brother and sister-in-law who have always been mentors to Josiah and I.
When things became more legally unsettling, we took the advice of our attorney and agency and flew across the country for the fifth time, which includes previous adoptions, to stand before a judge and plead our case. On June 20, we walked into a crowded waiting room at a courthouse far from home. In a last attempt to reach an agreement before standing in front of a judge, we sat down and talked with the birth father and his family along with our attorney and agency. Pleasantries were exchanged, and then the tough talk began. We saw a young man with three of his relatives, including his own mother. As much as we communicated, shared, poured our hearts out, the birth father wanted more. As I looked up and saw Quinn’s birth grandmother cry into tissues, I knew this was something bigger than Josiah and I. When it became clear the birth family was firm, the court session began.
As we waited in a small, stuffy room for what seemed like eternity, Josiah and I said nothing to each other. I closed my eyes and prayed claiming every promise in God’s Word that was applicable to the situation we were in. Later, our agency worker and attorney returned to the room looking ashen pale. The judge had ruled that Quinn be returned to her birth family immediately. It seemed like you could knock our attorney over with a feather. In his twenty-some years of practice, he had never witnessed a judge make such a hasty decision especially given all the evidence that was reviewed. Through tears, our agency worker, whom we’ve grown to love, explained to us again what this verdict meant. In denial, I asked, “Ok, so how long will Quinn be gone?” Both she and the attorney replied, “indefinitely.” At this moment, I was confident that death would surely be soon for me. It was too much to endure.
As the agency worker began making preparations for someone to fly Quinn back to her birth state, the heat outside weighed heavy just like our grief. Once confirmation was given that an agency worker would fly to Nashville to pick up Quinn the next day, we asked the agency to contact the birth mother to have a meeting. Legally, the birth mother had to be notified of what had occurred. Josiah and I drove away from the courthouse feeling like death. Driving down a busy freeway, I buried my face in my hands, while screaming that I didn’t know how to give my baby back. Josiah, my rock of wisdom and strength, said through his own tears, “Sarah Beth, at least we can know that we’ve tried everything, at least we can know that we’ve been faithful, that we’ve glorified God in the process. I want to lay my head down at night knowing we did everything.”
Calling my brother and sister-in-law who had been keeping Quinn during our trip was nearly impossible. They were given the impossible task of explaining to their own two children that Quinn would be going away. They were also given the impossible task of bringing Quinn to the airport. My brother, mustering all the strength he had, told his two children, who adored Quinn, and prepared for the airport the next day. After that phone call, Josiah and I met Quinn’s birth mother for the first time and met her birth grandmother for the second time. Upon seeing Quinn’s birth mom, I opened my arms and we embraced. I saw a confused and torn young person. This meeting included the agency workers and the attorney. Much was discussed, questions were asked, and information was dissected. It was quickly apparent that although the birth mother and grandmother loved us, they were sympathetic of the birth father.
The attorney discussed heavy issues concerning how things would proceed with the birth father. At the heaviest moment, I asked everyone to stop talking and give me the floor. With Josiah beside me, I explained the prayers Josiah and I had prayed all these months, I explained just how certain he and I were that all this, no matter the mess of it, was supposed to happen. Ultimately, I explained that our hope is in something greater and that the pain this situation was going to cause would be impossible to endure without our faith. After some silence, the meeting essentially ended with our attorney speaking to us privately about the little chance of fighting this successfully we had. This was especially true after hearing both sides of the birth family.
Little sleep came to Josiah and I that night as we prepared to say goodbye to Quinn the next day at the Nashville airport. What are you supposed to say to each other on a long flight home knowing your life is about to be turned upside down…again. We really said nothing other than an occasional, “Are you ok?” With the answer already known, we just stared straight ahead preparing to say goodbye to that sweet face we’d loved from the day she was born. Upon landing, we notified the agency worker where to meet us at the airport for the hand-off. When we approached my brother and sister-in-law sitting with Quinn in the waiting area, we could barely breathe. As tears hit like bullets, Josiah took Quinn from my sister-in-law’s arms and we took her into a private family bathroom and locked the door. We kissed Quinn, told her how much we loved her, and how much we would pray for her. Josiah lifted her up to play “airplane” one more time. Laughing and grinning, Quinn looked at us both. In that bathroom, agony, grief and pain were palpable. Josiah handed her to me, and I embraced her and placed her close to my chest where she laid for so many months. I wanted her to feel my heartbeat one more time.
Walking back to where we would hand her off to the agency worker was torture. I was unable to speak so my sister-in-law explained Quinn’s schedule to her, gave her enough supplies to make the trip, and packed her up. After one last kiss, we walked away. As my sister-in-law pushed an empty stroller beside me, we walked away in silence in the midst of sickening grief.
What now? Yes, we can fight this legal issue. However, we are not fighting it for two primary reasons. First, the judge reviewed most of our evidence in court on June 20. The judge was certainly unmoved by any of it. Secondly and most importantly, when Quinn grew older and began asking questions like any healthy adopted child would, we would have to explain to her that her birth father wanted her and came for her, but we wanted her too so we fought and took her away from him. As parents, Josiah and I could not do that and did not think it would be healthy for Quinn. This reason is similar to the story of King Solomon in the book of 1 Kings chapter 3 where he threatens to cut the baby in half to settle a dispute between two women arguing who the real mother was. The real mother wanted no harm to the baby. We want Quinn’s best interest to prevail.
At this point, you may have burning questions as to why the legal system did this or that, or why we did not do this or that, or why the agency did or did not do something. But, the more important burning questions to ask are those of what God is doing. All of us will experience suffering in our life. For us, it feels like suffering is unbalanced. We see others become parents so easily. We see adoptions unfold perfectly. We see others advance, gain, or receive, while we’re left picking up our shattered pieces. It is so easy to want to look up, shake your fist at heaven and question the goodness of God. We must guard our grief. We’re able to guard our grief when we remember that we have a High Priest who makes intercession for us, who sympathizes with our weaknesses, who has been through more than we’ve been through, and who can format mercy to fit our needs. Hebrews 4: 14-16 The day after losing Quinn my devotional said, “It is impossible to thank Him and curse Him at the same time.” Although difficult, we choose to thank Him.
Why this? Every night before putting Quinn to sleep, Josiah and I would lay her down on our bed as we kneeled with our hands on her and asked God to intervene on our behalf. We claimed His promises, we quoted scripture, and we refused to doubt or to fear. In fact, before walking into court on June 20, Josiah and I prayed asking the Holy Spirit to dwell among us and to intervene. Each time I kissed Quinn goodnight in her sweet slumber and uttered, “In Jesus name, allow us to parent this child,” God heard me. But, he didn’t allow us to parent her forever. We prayed all things in Jesus’ name knowing His Word tells us that if we do so, He’ll grant our request. But, He didn’t grant our request. He didn’t give us the outcome we wanted. The notebook of scriptures I read that morning out loud to the both of us in the hotel room didn’t work the way we thought they would or should. Why? Why has God removed Quinn from a home whose primary goal was to raise her to know the transformative power of the Gospel? She will have her needs met in her new home, and she will be loved. However, we don’t know if she will be exposed to the Gospel. Why has God allowed us to go through the absolutely painful period of suffering that we’ve endured since 2015 on our journey to adopt? Why did he allow years of infertility prior to 2015? Why has He allowed our financial resources for adoption to be totally depleted?
Where from? All believers know their help comes from the Lord. It is basic doctrinal knowledge. Until you are in the midst of pain and suffering, it doesn’t register completely. There is absolutely no way we could have journeyed this far without a supernatural strength from above. Although we do have a High Priest who knows our plight, we are still faced with the task to endure. All believers know God gives grace. Again, it is basic doctrinal knowledge. It is only by God’s magnificent grace that we were able to parent in such uncertainty. It was grace that allowed us to handle a courtroom. It was grace that allowed us to scoop up our child and tell her goodbye in a bathroom just to walk away and see strangers scolding or carrying a child they have no idea how fortunate they are to have. We loved Quinn with all we had. She was the joy, light and love of our lives. Walking that airport hallway to give her away was just an ounce of the pain that God experienced when His son, innocent and holy, walked up the hill of Golgotha to be crucified for you and me. Jesus lived 33 years, and Quinn lived with us for exactly four months.
Though my pain is incredibly incomparable to His, we have a new appreciation of what God did for us by giving us His son. When we arrived home, we felt a pain that I wish on no one. I went straight to her nursery and grabbed her favorite pacifier. Then, I grabbed the pajamas she had just been wearing and inhaled her sweet smell. She is gone. We are broken and shattered, but not without hope and grace. It’s grace that helped us walk into our home full of Quinn’s things. Her nursery, her clothes in the laundry room, her pictures on the wall. Though our home is empty, our hearts are not.
I know you’re thinking why would a good, loving God do this to people? God didn’t want this to happen, but we live in a fallen, broken world. He didn’t take joy in watching us walk away from our baby in an airport. He doesn’t take joy in the tears flowing as I type this. He did allow it, but we can rest assured that what He does is always for our good and for His glory. Quinn’s story is horribly painful, but her story will reach many lives. As my brother told me, “Quinn’s story will point others to the Gospel.” My human side is tired of losing so others can learn. However, it is not my place to know why or to understand. It’s just our job to trust. God doesn’t break our hearts to bring them back the same. Josiah and I are far from perfect. We’re a mess each day, but I can tell you this experience has changed our hearts, and we hope our hearts look more like His.
What we need?
First, use our story to evaluate your own life. Do you have enough grasp on God and His Word to weather the storm you will inevitably face? Let our story motivate you to be ever ready to praise Him, thank Him, and worship Him when you really want to shake your fist at heaven.
Secondly, don’t interact with us as if Quinn never existed. She isn’t a taboo topic. She has part of our heart forever and ever.
Third, share our story to whomever, whenever, or however. This is your permission to do so. We’ve vowed to speak out on all God has and will continue to do through this journey.
Fourth, please filter your questions and assumptions. Please try not to assume that a person or an agency dropped the ball. Though we’ll always speak of Quinn with love and fondness, please don’t ask questions that you really do not have to know the answer to. Some of you might think that this is the exact reason we shouldn’t have posted pictures of Quinn on social media. We disagree. We felt that by not doing so we were limiting God. We embraced her as ours for forever from moment one. We trusted Him to bring her to us, and we trusted Him to keep her with us.
Fifth, use our story to encourage you to take risks. Be willing to take risks and to be hurt. If you want great things in your life, you have to be willing to get hurt.
Lastly, pray for us as we try to determine what is next for us. We know that God has called us to be parents, but at this point, we are depleted of all resources to make adoption possible. It is uncomfortable to discuss how much we’ve lost since 2015, but just know it is enormous. Pray that God will make a way. He is good and faithful.
Thank you all in advance for your thoughts and prayers. The prayers of those who have known this story before now have given us so much strength. God’s presence has been so evident and the prayers of His people have been so palpable in our lives. They have carried us, and will continue to carry us. Though Quinn isn’t near, she is part of us. Because we are children of the most high King, He is near to us in this hour of darkness and for all eternity.
TO BE CONTINUED...
Part 2 - Beauty From Ashes
Hebrews 11:1 reminds us, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” So much of our lives as Christians involves the things that are unseen; the feeling of God moving through a worship service, the silent prayer you whisper over a friend or family member in need, or the emotion you feel when a sermon truly speaks straight to your heart. However, my prayer for you in this writing is to speak openly and honestly about a way that you can display your faith that is seen; your money.
Did your heart just sink a little? If so, I totally understand your hesitation! Can’t we just focus our hearts and minds on God and worship in a way that isn’t as tangible as reaching into our wallets? As a worship pastor’s wife, I love to witness the beautiful demonstration of our faith when we offer up our worship to God through song. But as an economics professor, I also feel an awesome responsibility to apply biblical wisdom to the study of my favorite subject, and it is clear to me that offerings of money are also beautiful acts of worship.
There are many worthy ways of giving our money to God’s kingdom. For example, you can donate to a family in need, you can sponsor a child in Africa, you can pledge to support the building fund at your local church, or you can drop a twenty in the plate during the offering. However, I believe that God calls us to much more than random acts of giving; we can worship through consistent, intentional, and proportional tithes and offerings.
I’ve always known that giving money was an important part of the worship experience. Growing up in a tiny Southern Baptist church, I was the designated “penny march” leader each Sunday as I walked up and down the aisles collecting spare change from the congregation to donate to the local children’s home. (I was awarded this distinction as one of the two children who attended the church.) When I was ten years old, I competed in Bible drills at my church, diligently memorizing the following verses from Malachi 3 which address tithing: “Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’ “In tithes and offerings….Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”
As a teenager, I heard testimonies of church members who tithed faithfully, and I witnessed my own parents write checks to the church even during months where money was not as plentiful. However, only when I got married did I fully begin to appreciate the profound responsibility and blessing that comes from giving and tithing.
Tithing refers to giving a portion (often one-tenth) of one’s income or property. Abraham paid a tithe to Melchizidek (see Genesis 14) and Jacob promised God, “of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee” (see Genesis 28). A tithe of one-tenth of crops and animals was required according to Mosaic law.
We now live under the New Covenant. Even though tithing is not specifically commanded in the New Testament, Christ serves as a model of giving that we should seek to emulate: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). In addition to the sacrificial giving of Christ, the New Testament is actually filled with financial wisdom regarding giving. Jesus alludes to the principle of giving in proportion to what one has when he says, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” (Luke 12:48) In Luke 11, Jesus rebukes the Pharisees for tithing to the letter of the law (even right down to their kitchen spices!) while ignoring compassion and mercy. Mark 12 tells the story of the widow who gave generously despite her poverty. 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 reminds us that “he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
From these verses, I am compelled to believe that we should give generously and joyfully back to God. Rather than seeing tithing as a rule to be followed, we should approach it as a way of furthering God’s kingdom and as a way of acknowledging that God is the giver of every good and perfect gift. Psalm 24:1 says “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.” This verse tells us that God owns everything, including our money. Giving to His church and His kingdom is the least we can do to thank Him for His provision. Sadly, many Christian families are missing out on the blessing that is tithing. According to Christianity Today, only 10-25% of the average congregation tithes. Tithing helps to support our churches and mission work around the world, but it is also a way God involves us in His plan of redemption.
What should a tithe look like in your life? I urge you to consider tithing consistently, intentionally, and proportionally. Consistent giving implies that a portion of each paycheck is given to the church. Giving intentionally means that you give to God first, before considering other needs, rather than giving God what is left at the end of the month. You should also question whether your giving is proportional to your income. In this way, “he who has been given much” gives more.
So, am I advising that you give one-tenth of your income to the church? The amount should ultimately be determined by listening to God as He speaks to you in your unique situation. Ten percent may be too little!
If you need some practical advice on how to begin tithing, you might use a strategy that I suggest to my students. Begin your monthly budget by writing down your monthly income. Below this, write down every way that you need/choose to spend that money. The very first line of spending that you list, however, should be the amount you have chosen to give to God. If you do this, the black and white contrast of what God has given you and what you are giving to Him may cause you to adjust your giving habits.
As Malachi 3 suggests, tithing is one way that I have been able to see God richly pour out a blessing over my life. It has strengthened my marriage and given me a healthier perspective on spending than I otherwise would have. I hope you will consider worshipping God not just in the unseen places of your heart and mind, but also through tithes and offerings of your money.
Colene Trent, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Economics in the McAfee School of Business at Union University. At Union, she teaches classes in microeconomics, international economics, managerial economics, managerial finance, and personal financial management. She enjoys ministering to students through economics, and she loves encouraging them as they prepare for their future careers. Colene serves on the worship team of her church alongside her husband, David, who is the worship pastor and a singer-songwriter. Colene serves as the director of the Miss Tennessee Iris Princess Program, a mentoring program for young girls, so she loves all things that sparkle. When she isn’t teaching, you will likely find her completing a Pinterest-inspired DIY project.
I am thrilled to have Mitzi and Mike Seals from Mike and Mitzi Ministries as our Friend Friday guests. They have been married for 30 years and have experienced the highs and lows of marriage. Their transparent story of faith, forgiveness, repentance, and restoration will truly inspire you, encourage you, and challenge you. Thru their ministry, Mike and Mitzi lead with passion, authenticity, and a realness that resonates with every day people. It's with great pleasure, we warmly welcome them to our blog today.
“I quit!” “It’s over!” “We’re done!” “Get out!” “I’m leaving!” Tragically, all these phrases are spoken way too often in our marriages today, even in Christian marriages. Why is that? What causes marriages to break down? Why do husbands and wives give up on what God put together?
Before the irreconcilable differences, before the constant yelling and screaming, before the catastrophic affair, before the extreme financial pressures, there is a disease that creeps into our marriages. We have seen as a consistent pattern as we have mentored and counseled couples for nearly 20 years. And it nearly took over our very own.
It is known as the “hardened heart."
You see, before a marriage comes to a screeching and tragic halt, there is a hardening of the heart(s). It usually begins to take place years before the “final straw”. The enemy, Satan, allows this disease to creep into our marriages. It masks itself as “normal” parts of every marriage. Its subtle at first but grows with more regularity and severity. It ultimately can lead to catastrophic failure.
Just as there is with our heart that pumps blood throughout our body, there are signs and symptoms that our hearts are getting hardened. Although the list is long, here are a few that we see often:
1. A Growing “Me” Attitude
This is a selfishness, a “what’s best for me attitude” which begins to set in.
- “My needs aren’t being met.”
- “What’s in it for me?”
- “I’m going to do what’s best for me for once.”
are all attitudes that begin to show signs of a heart problem.
The heart begins to harden in selfish environments.
2. Less and Less Meaningful Conversation
Instead of conversations about
- hopes and dreams,
- how is our marriage doing,
- each other’s needs,
- the future,
- the Lord,
if and when we do converse, it can largely evolve around schedules, tasks, and kids and we miss out on what is really important.
The heart begins to harden if we don’t share our hearts.
3. Physical intimacy becomes less and less
With the rat race of life and the constant demand on our schedules, physical intimacy can take a back seat. God created physical intimacy as a need and a holy pleasure … holding hands, frequent hugs, snuggling on the couch, and sex between a husband and wife are all beautiful pictures of physical intimacy.
When the physical aspects of marriage begin to become an after thought, the heart begins to harden.
4. Not really forgiving
We say we forgive, but in our heart we harbor our ill thoughts toward the perpetrator. We really don’t let go of the act that required the forgiveness. It can also reveal itself when we do not ask for forgiveness when we have hurt our spouse. Creating pain and hurt against our spouse and not recognizing the need to address it is a sign of heart hardening.
Unforgiveness is a breeding ground for heart hardening.
What's the Cure?
So what can we do? God has a plan. Throughout Scripture, God discusses the heart and what a healthy heart looks like. However, one simple verse packs a powerful punch.
Proverbs 4:23 says
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything flows from it.” NIV.
Another translation says, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flows the springs of life.” NASB.
Man, these 15 words are so powerful and can totally remove the potential of your heart hardening. Let’s break it down.
1) Watch your heart,
Guard your heart. It is a daily, if not hourly reminder. If God says to watch and guard our heart, it implies there is a real enemy wanting to “steal, kill, and destroy” our marriage. What are we watching and guarding? We guard our
- lustful eyes (be on watch to what you are watching),
- time with God (making regular, daily worship time with Jesus),
- attitudes (have accountability partners that keep us focused),
- alone time with our spouses (we create regular opportunities for alone time, conversation and intimacy).
Guard your heart.
2) Above all else, with diligence
It’s of the utmost importance. We must
- be persistent, regular, and intense about guarding our heart.
- understand it’s a marathon and not a sprint.
- be disciplined and understand it takes work and effort.
- being in God’s word.
- in praying together as spouses.
- about corporate worship.
- be diligent about plugging into a small group of believers.
- be diligent about serving together as husband and wife in the Kingdom’s work.
3) The Springs of Life!
The blessings are that if we guard our heart with diligence, there will be an overflow of God’s love, mercy and grace pouring out to our spouse, children, friends, and community. From the heart “flows the springs of life”. A heart that is truly in tune with Jesus and God’s will for our lives will produce that which our spouses and marriages need to grow and flourish.
Growth and a life that flourishes!
God desires our marriages to thrive, not just survive. He wants our hearts to trust Him and to follow Him. He longs for us to be watchful and be diligent. When we do, He will produce a marriage that flourishes, is a blessing to each other, and is a testimony to the world that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
How about you, friend? What area spoke to you the most? What step or conversation do you want to incorporate into your marriage?
You can connect with Mike and Mitzi at www.mikeandmitzi.com and at https://www.facebook.com/Mikeandmitziministries
Mike & Mitzi have led small groups for nearly 20 years, marriage conferences for the last 5, and have mentored many couples one on one. Together, they have two grown children, Megan and Marshall, their son-in-law, Brooks, and their son's new fiance, Celene, who are a major part of their journey, story, and affections.
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Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father. There is no shadow of turning with Thee. Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not. As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.
This is the song I had been singing as a lullaby to my 18 month old for weeks. The Lord was preparing my heart and I didn’t even know he was doing it.
On January 12, 2015, only a few weeks after finding out I was pregnant with Baby #2, I had a miscarriage. My husband and I had been so excited. And even though he was too young to understand, we told Carter he was going to be a big brother. I wondered why God would let this happen, and yet at the same time, in my desperation, I asked God to help me not grow bitter towards Him. I remember singing to Carter Great is Thy Faithfulness that night through tears. I knew His word said He was faithful, but I was so hurt. And I didn’t know how I could rest in His faithfulness when I felt so hopeless.
I have not been a consistent journaler throughout my life, but I have had seasons of habitual journaling. This happened to be a time in my life where I was journaling every day. I am so glad that I have that to look back on. I can see my struggles and I can see where God rescued me from my sorrow. This is my journal entry 6 days after we lost our baby:
"I am so happy we went to church this morning. I was reminded of something very true: God is worthy to be praised no matter my situation. I will praise His name when he has delivered me from despair, but also when I am in the midst of it. I went into church expecting something to be said or sung to help me in the midst of my sadness. But, I learned to praise God for being God. And, in return, that paradigm shift helped to start heal my broken heart. I think God and I will go to deeper places together this year."
And we did. On April 12, exactly 3-months after my miscarriage, we surprisingly found out that I was pregnant again! Fear came in like a rushing wave, but God was steady. I was so afraid that I would lose that baby too, but I constantly heard the gentle whisper of the Lord…”Peace, be still.”
We had a baby boy due on December 20. But in the Lord’s perfect timing, Mason David Smith was born 8 days early, on December 12. I had my miscarriage on January 12, I found out I was pregnant again on April 12, and I delivered a healthy baby boy on December 12. I love symbolism and the meaning behind numbers. When I looked up the Hebrew meaning behind the number 12, I learned that it meant “completion.” Sometimes we joke and say that must mean we are not supposed to have any more children…but I think the Lord was teaching me something else.
The Lord always redeems and restores His people. He gave me the number 12 to show me that He brought “completion” or “restoration” into my life and He did it through a new life. He ultimately restores all of us through new life...the new life that is found in His Son. That is the greatest redemption story of all time. When it comes to our personal situations, restoration may come in different ways. But, He does restore, because that is WHO HE IS. In the Old Testament we read about the Temple being destroyed and the Israelites going into captivity. It was 70 years before they were released and able to build the temple once again. There were probably few left who even remembered the destruction. God brought restoration and he did it on His perfect timeline. When the Fall came in the Garden of Eden, it was centuries before the Messiah came to redeem not only his people, the Israelites, but the whole world.
God sees the bigger picture of our lives. We can’t see past our present circumstance. God showed me that He is a God who restores. He brings fulfillment. He brings completion. Romans 8:28 says, And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. If you are a daughter of God, then you HAVE been called according to His purpose, and He WILL RESTORE whatever hard circumstance you are in.
I felt the Lord give me the name “Selah” for the baby we lost. Selah means to “stop and reflect.” There are days that I still cry over the pain caused by losing a baby. If you have had a miscarriage, you know the pain. But, when my heart and mind are thinking about the baby, I always feel the Lord, every steady, ever sure. And I stop and reflect on the beauty of His restoration.
For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for.
2 Corinthians 13:9
Molly Smith is the Worship Arts Academy Director at Fellowship Bible Church in Jackson, TN. She has two fun-loving and active boys ages 2 (Mason) and 4 (Carter). She and her husband Chance, the master coder, will be married for 7 years this May. She is passionate about teaching kids about the Lord through music and developing in them a heart of worship.