The Greatest Gift

One Sunday morning in April of 2012, my boys and I made our way into church and found a spot to sit. There were a few minutes before the service would start so I began to read the church newsletter full of important information. My eyes immediately drew to a section that said something similar to this; “An organization called “Healing the Children” is looking for a family to host a young child from Honduras who is scheduled to have surgery at Sanford. This family will have the responsibility of caring for this child after surgery and follow-up doctor appointments until she is able to return home to her parents. If you are interested, please contact the church office.”

Sitting here 4 years later, I am having trouble finding the right words to describe how I felt immediately after reading that. All I knew is that every portion of my being WANTED that child to come into our home. You see, for several months before that, my husband and I started to devote our time to really teaching our boys about “loving our neighbor”, especially the sick, poor, and homeless, and what that looks like. We began doing what we titled “Food Pantry Friday’s” at our house where after school every Friday, we would drive down to the food pantry and drop off groceries. We wanted to not only speak to our children about how to love our neighbor but we felt strongly on teaching by example and actually doing it – most importantly with having them participate. When I read that request in the church newsletter, I felt like this was just another way God was giving us an opportunity to “love our neighbor” and the thought of being able to care for and love on this child had my heart swelling.

Now, my mind knew that this would be a huge commitment for our family, especially with the amount of time my husband was gone at work and the level of care our younger son required with his own medical cares, but my heart strings were singing a different tune. I just felt so deeply that the Holy Spirit was speaking to me and asking this of us and I was all for it. Being a mother of a child with medical needs, I kept thinking about the parents who would have to send their young child to the USA and what they must be feeling. I knew that I had the love inside of me to care for this little girl as if she was my own, giving my best for her parents.

Being a little worried that my husband would not share my enthusiasm or see this opportunity the same way as I was, I honestly did try to talk myself out of it, but I just couldn’t. Thoughts such as this raced through my mind:

“God does not always lead us to places of comfort and this is not about us; it is about being obedient and listening to the Holy Spirit and trusting that God will use us to show His glory”…

 “This would be a great way to offer our love, time, and talents other than just financially supporting something”…

 “Since we can not travel with Noah, this would be a way to be on a “mission trip” without ever leaving our city”…

“Yes, my plate is full and I know that I will be taking most of the responsibility on this, but I trust that God will fully give us all that we need to do so. What better way to go into something than to fully lean on Him”…

 “This could have a huge positive impact on my children and a wonderful way to be fully hands on”…

 “We already know and have a relationship with the doctors at Sanford who would be caring for this child, plus we have the knowledge to be able to do so.”

My husband came home from work that night just in time for our family’s bedtime devotions. During his prayer, he specifically prayed asking God to show us ways on how we could love our neighbor. He didn’t know that as soon as the boys were in bed, that I was planning on sitting him down to talk about this. I took it as a good sign.

When I brought it up to him later that night, to my wonderful surprise, he didn’t freak out and listened nicely. He didn’t say much and just smiled… I took that as a good sign also.

The next morning, I pursued looking into this further. I called the church office and spoke to the contact person letting him know that I felt we were the family for this little girl and gave him all the reasoning’s going through my mind. He gave me the number of the woman who coordinates all of this in Michigan and I immediately called her as well. We spoke for a good 30 minutes; I gathered more information and details so I could speak with my husband about it again that night. My heart was now bursting with excitement, even more so than the night before and I was so certain this was meant to be.

I got the boys to bed that night and my husband returned home from work shortly after. He was barely inside of the door when, with the excitement pouring out of me, I once again brought up the little girl and this opportunity. Standing there in the kitchen, listening to what I was saying and realizing that I was actually serious about this, a look of pure shock came across his face. Very quickly I started to realize that this was not going to go the way I had hoped.

Just as he does best, my husband was thinking of this through his wonderfully logical mind while I admit, I was thinking with my wonderfully emotional one. He continued to explain his perspective on it all. I knew our plate was already full and it was like being stuffed after a huge meal and then asking for more. Why would we do that, right?

That evening, after our conversation, it was very quiet in our house and when we went to bed that night, instead of cuddling like we normally do, we laid with our backs to each other. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep well that night. I knew that if my husband and I were not on the same page with an assignment like this, it would never go well. I started to pray and ask for wisdom because I could not figure out why God would allow the Holy Spirit to fill me so strongly on this when my husband felt the complete opposite. What lesson was there to learn? Was I to further pursue this and try to talk to him or let it go?

In the quiet of the night I prayed, “Lord, may your will be done and not my own.”

The next morning, I felt a calming in my heart and mind. I thought more about the logical points my husband made the night before and I knew I needed to show him respect. I began to resolve with the fact that this little girl might not be coming into our home and the overwhelming desire started to fade. I reminded myself that if this was meant to be then God would indeed work this out and I placed my full trust in that. I asked God to speak through my husband and quickly realized that He already was. I was reminded in that moment that I needed to submit to his leading and let love trump any further activity between us on this matter.

Within the following week, I found out that another family was chosen to care for this child and instead of feeling disappointed, I felt happy for her and knew this was how it was meant to be.

After meditating about all that transpired and how I felt, the one thing I was sure about is that when the opportunity presented itself, my heart was open and ready. Even though this assignment was not meant for us to fully carry out, I believe the assignment of the Lord testing my heart was. While it wasn’t working out as I had hoped, I believe wholeheartedly that my response is exactly what the Lord required of me.

And then, right after I felt peace about all that had taken place, the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart again. I felt certain that He was asking me of one more task in this situation, maybe the most important one of all – to love our neighbors by lifting them up in prayer.

The greatest gift

 My eyes filled with tears when I realized that my desire to help this little girl and to impact my children would still be fulfilled. What greater teaching and example could I make than to show them to lift others, even those we have never met, up in prayer? 

 So, with great responsibility, this is exactly the task that we, as a family, choose to do.  

Such a simple, yet amazing gift and privilege we have in lifting others up in prayer.

You Have A Purpose

Esther blog post

On a cold winter day, in the early months of 2008, I got an email from my younger sister, Naomi, who was living in California. At that time in my life, my son Ethan was an active 5 year old and my son Noah had just turned 2. Due to Noah’s fragile medical condition, we were forced to live in isolation, taking him out only for doctor’s appointments or admissions to the hospital, which were frequent.

Her email explained that she had met a young single gal in her early 20’s, named Julia, who was looking for work for the upcoming summer months. She mentioned that Julia loved children and was thinking about finding a nanny position. She went on to say that she knew we were not looking for such a thing, but that God had laid it upon her heart in mentioning it to us and who knows, maybe if we would consider it, Julia could come and live with us for the summer and help me out at home.

She was right. My husband and I had never considered having someone come and live with us to help us out. Lord knows however, that as much as I didn’t want to admit it, my husbands 80+ hour workweeks and living in isolation was wearing on me. So we talked about it, prayed about it, and the more we thought about it, we started to get a real sense of peace that this would be the right thing to do and considered the benefits it could have for all of us. It would provide a job for her and it would allow me to take Noah to the doctor without having to bring Ethan along. It would allow us to train her to care for Noah so I could also have some one on one time with Ethan as well…something that was difficult to do as Noah required so much time and care.

Trusting my sisters judgment that this would be a good girl for us to have, we eventually got in touch with Julia and on a leap of faith and courage – from her and us – the arrangements were made for her to move in and live with us for 3 months that summer.

When she arrived from California to South Dakota that day in May, an immediate connection was made and I knew that God had led us to the right decision. That summer went wonderfully. I was provided with a new friend and someone to be around to talk with. We spent time teaching her and despite not having a medical background, she quickly picked up the medical knowledge in learning how to care for Noah. The boys gained a new friend as well and she loved on them in the most beautiful way. She learned sign language to help communicate with Noah and watched many “Signing Time” videos with him. I was able to spend quality time with Ethan and I was also able to take Noah to the many doctor appointments without having to haul Ethan along. My husband and I were able to spend some date nights together without worry. It was a true blessing!

I also came to find out that she was in the midst of experiencing raw grief. A little girl whom she was very close with was killed from being hit by a car while riding her bicycle and I was able to spend time listening to her and helping her process that. Also, during that particular time in her life, she was attending college and was struggling to know exactly how God was leading her and what career path to take. After seeing how well she picked up on the medical knowledge, I encouraged her by stating that I thought she would do well in the medical field, either as a nurse or working in child life services. Either way, we let her know that we would be praying for her and asking God to make her path clear.

It was a sad day to say good-bye to her at the end of that summer, but we knew that a lifelong friendship was made and we would keep in touch.

~

This past year on a Tuesday afternoon in early October, I pulled up a chair and sat next to the desk of a young boy with Down-Syndrome whom I have the privilege of spending one on one time with in class a couple days a week. It was time for Bible and that particular day, the class was studying the book of Esther, specifically the familiar story in Esther chapters 4 & 5. Many times, I find that even though I am in the room helping out one particular child, I am the one who is blessed in some way. This specific day, I found myself smiling over the story, listening and being reminded of the truths it held, and watching the kids as they soaked it in.  I sat and thought about the many different paths that the Lord has put me on, many of which I least expected.

Later that same day after the boys and I arrived home from school, I was in the kitchen doing the usual multi-tasking of preparing supper and Noah’s evening medical cares.  My phone ringed a tone that notified me of a new text message and as I pulled it up, I smiled to see that it was from Julia as it had been awhile since we had last spoken. She had since moved from California to Kansas City, MO and had been living there for several years, working as the Children’s Ministry Director of the church she was attending. However, as God would have it, she recently felt the calling to pursue her studies to becoming a nurse and is currently attending school for that.

As I read her message, it stopped me in my tracks.

Julia's Text message for blog

Immediately, my thoughts went back to the story of Esther that I had been reminded of earlier that day as I sat in the 5th grade classroom.

“And who knows, but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14

Tears filled my eyes, as I knew without a doubt that the Lord was allowing me to see how even 8 years later, His plan from that stressful time was still being fulfilled. Only He could arrange for a young girl from California whom we had not met to move in with our family for the summer; for a lifelong friendship to be born and encouragement to take place; for the chance to teach her specific medical knowledge; for us to be there for each other in a variety of ways and to experience great joy when we both needed it most; and now knowing a young child was laying in a hospital room with a trach who experienced a life threatening crisis was saved because of it.

Friends, if you have ever once questioned it, I want to remind you today that you have a purpose! God has a specific calling on your life, whatever that may be, and you matter!

Maybe you feel stuck in life and just do not know which way to turn or what path to take. Pray for wisdom and trust that He will lead you to it.

Maybe you are a stay at home mother or father who is weary from the day-to-day life of raising your little ones. Pray for wisdom, strength, endurance, perseverance and energy and focus on raising those little ones to love the Lord. After all, that is the most important job a parent has!

Maybe you are on a busy career path and have no time to even breathe. Pray for wisdom to know which areas need to be let go of and then have the courage to do it.

Maybe you find yourself with an unexpected new opportunity and you are wondering if you should go for it. Pray for wisdom, take time to listen to His voice, and then act!

No matter where you find yourself right now, only you can be responsible for yourself before God. Only you can choose to follow God’s will. You may be one brave decision away from the most important change in your or someone else’s life. Will your faith and courage be tested? You better plan on it! But also plan on experiencing the joy that comes from knowing you are fulfilling the purpose that God has for you.

You were created for such a time as this! You just never know how God is going to use you when you least expect it.

And maybe someday, even if it is years down the road and in the most unexpected way and time, you will get the blessing of knowing without a doubt that He is still at work stemming from a time in your life where you were just doing your best to survive.

Like Esther, pray for wisdom and walk forward in courageous, trusting, obedient faith.

Who knows, you might even end up saving a life!

Linked up at #TellHisStory

Streets of Gold

On this day, October 27, 2013, it was a Sunday. As we do once a month, my extended family gathered together at my parent’s house for noon lunch.

While we were standing next to the front door, saying our good-byes for the day, my 3-year-old niece Autumn jumped up on me, put her little legs around my waist, and her arms around my neck. She looked at me with those beautiful eyes and smiled, telling me how later on in the week she was going to dress up in “all white” for October 31st. We hugged, I told her I loved her, and out the door she went.

I didn’t know it at that moment, but that would be the last time I got to hold her, hear her voice, and see her smile here on earth.

~

Around a month ago, at sunrise, I stood at my kitchen sink window to let the sunshine in. I’m not one that likes the dark; in fact, I can still get scared of it. As I opened my blinds and looked upon the clouds in the western sky, I instantly noticed they were reflecting beautiful shades of pinks and purples. I immediately went to the other side of the house, opened my front door facing east, and what I saw was one of the most glorious Autumn sunrises that I can remember. I found myself just standing there with my thoughts reflecting on my Heavenly Father, quickly realizing that this was a gift from Him, the start of a new day.

DSC_0364

Each day since, I find myself drawn to gaze up at the sky, to realize the art and beauty of it. In fact, I have caught myself looking forward to those brief moments when the morning sun kisses the earth to wake it up. On a recent drive to school, the bright shining sun was coming up over the horizon in a most beautiful scene, and my son Noah said, “Mom, I think it looks like heaven.”

The rest of the drive to school, we talked about heaven, what the Bible describes it as, and how our minds can’t even imagine how amazing it must be. I feel that God gives us glimpses of extraordinary beauty here on earth only to remind us that the best is yet to come. We talked about Uncle Rodney, Autumn, and all of the other believers who God has called to their eternal home and what they must possibly be experiencing. While it hurts our hearts because we miss those we loved dearly, the comfort knowing they are in a place where only life and love shine forth, gives us peace.

John 14:2, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” ESV

Revelation 21:4, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” ESV

Revelation 21 also tells us that the Holy City, laid out like a square, has 3 gates all made of a single pearl on each side. Each wall has twelve foundations named after the twelve apostles. The walls are made of jasper, the city streets of pure gold, as transparent as glass. The foundations are decorated with every kind of precious stone: jasper, sapphire, agate, emerald, onyx, ruby, chrysolite, beryl, topaz, turquoise, jacinth, and amethyst.

Revelation 21:23, “The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there.” ESV

~

This past Sunday, two years later, my extended family and I gathered together again, like we continue to do once a month for noon lunch. My father stood up to read out of the Bible, and before he did so, we had a moment to remember Autumn. He asked if any of us had any special memories to share and while many were running through my mind, the lump in my throat was too big to allow me to speak.

Sitting here now, this morning, that lump is still there. The beauty of writing however is that it allows us to share our voice from the heart without having to open our mouths to speak.

I just want to take this moment to share a few special memories:

One of my favorites is when she would come to my house to visit and then need to take a nap. I would take her up to my bedroom and tuck her in under the covers. She would lie on her side; knees curled up and smile at me. I would always bend down, give her a kiss, tell her I loved her, and just smile back as I noticed how little she looked in my big grown up bed.

I loved how she used grown up words at her young age and the spunkiness and feistiness that she possessed. Despite that however, when it came time for the yearly 4th of July fireworks on our driveway, she would get scared and stand inside the house with her hands over her ears and watch out of the window.

She was a little rock star and perfected the rock star hand sign. Shortly before her death, she performed for me the song, “Monster” from Skillet, getting the monster voice just right and I laughed at hearing it. She loved music as I do.

She was a joyful little girl who’s favorite color was purple and brought light with her wherever she went. She is my niece and I loved her and love her still.

~

Autumn got dressed in white clothes on October 31st, 2013, the day she entered her eternal home, but just not in the way that we realized it would be.   Revelation 3:5: “He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.”

 ~

 Friends, we live in a world with much pain, sadness, anger, frustration, injustice, fear, and so on. In recent weeks alone, I have heard of several deaths of young people, very sick children teetering between this life and the next, friends my age getting diagnosed with cancer, friends in chronic physical pain, and the list goes on.

As my boys and I continued the conversation on our drive to school, we talked about the sadness this life can bring. I reminded them that we were never promised a long life or a life free from pain or suffering. We do however have a Bible that we can go to, a Bible that holds promises of many things.

This past month, it has been the morning sunrises that bring my thoughts to the Father, that has me seeking out promise by promise and to be reminded of them. One of those is from Deuteronomy 31:8 and it says, “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” ESV

This world might feel like a battleground but that’s because it is. Carry on in comfort knowing that He goes before you, will never leave you, and we need not to fear the dark days.

Keep looking up friends. Let the light of the one and only Son shine through you each and every day to reflect the beauty of Him as the western clouds did that recent morning of the eastern sunrise.

IMG_1999

Today as my heart is reflecting upon the last time I held Autumn in my arms, it feels heavy. However, I hold comfort in knowing where she is, who she is with, and I look forward to walking along the streets of gold with her, Rodney, and all those loved ones who have went before me.

We might even take a moment and sit at one of the Beautiful Gates. 🙂 

Linked up at: #TellHisStory

The Day My Son Said The F Word

Blog Photo %22Reaction is Everything%22

The summer day started out beautifully. It was sunny with a light breeze, a perfect day for my oldest son of 7 years old to play outside with the neighbor boys who, while each a few years older than him, had become his best friends.

As the day went on, the dark clouds slowly started to come in and before we knew it, it started to rain. The boys each ran inside to their own houses and my son, frustrated, stood looking outside the window. What he said next, I never expected.

“Those f***ing raindrops.”

What felt like a momentary freeze in time, I stopped what I was doing and looked over to him. He slowly turned his head to meet my eyes and in the most calm voice possible I said, “What did you just say?” To which he repeated this time with a little less conviction in his voice, “Those f***ing raindrops.”

Thankfully what happened in that moment is something that I feel every parent should know and be reminded of.

Reaction is everything.

While I make a lot of mistakes in my parenting, I feel that this is one thing that I tend to do OK with and have continued to keep in the forefront of my mind at all times. I made my way over to him, knelt down on his level, and looked him in the eyes. I could tell that he wasn’t quite sure if this was a word he should be using or not and explained that he learned it from the neighbors. Quite possibly right before he came inside.

While keeping a calm spirit and using a loving tone to my voice, I went on to teach him why that particular word is not one that we use and reassured him that he was not in trouble because he didn’t know. However, now that he did, the next time I heard it there would be a consequence.

If only parenting could always be that easy and there have been many times when I wish the problem I was dealing with was needing to teach them about the use of an inappropriate word. As time has gone on and the boys have gotten older, they share things, sometimes through their tears, that can break my heart and the mamma bear in me rises up and just wants to scream out.

Friends, our kids are going to do things, say things, and tell us things that will cause our insides to want to explode out of anger, frustration, or hurt. It is at those moments, when being in control of our emotions and reactions is of upmost importance.

What I have discovered over the years is that how I have reacted in the tough moments has dictated the kind of relationship that I now have with my boys. By reacting in a way that is non-threatening, a trust has formed. I have been completely shocked by what my oldest, now almost 13 years old, will share with me that I know without a doubt would never happen if he didn’t trust my reaction.

We need to let our children know that our home is a safe place to open up and share. Having that close trust and relationship with your child will also help you guide them in a way that is effective. After all, who can positively respond and learn by an out of control parent?

What about those moments when your child is sharing something with you and you want to guide them but you don’t know exactly what to say? This has been happening to me a lot lately and as much as I want to help and make it better for him, in the moment, answers escape me. So, I sit and listen and have to remind myself that it is OK to not have all the answers right away. Sometimes there is no right answer; and just last night I was reminded that the best thing we can say is what I overheard my dear husband say to my son in the most calm caring voice, “I’m sorry that happened to you buddy. I want to remind you that daddy loves you.”

When it comes down to it, isn’t that what we all have to remember? Maybe the dark clouds of life suddenly came in, took you by surprise, and ruined your bright sunny day. We may cuss, scream, get angry, and want answers, fight, make mistakes, get hurt, and cry out, but we always have a Father who continues to love us despite our circumstances and the way we react to them.

Psalm 86:15, “But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”

 While some of life’s lessons are tough, especially the ones that you learn through the hurts of your own children, I am thankful for the Word in which we can be taught and reminded on how to follow His example. He is always there in complete control of His reaction; ready to listen to whatever we might have to say.

The next time you, child of God, need a trusting place to share your feelings; you can always go to Him, your Father. After all, that is the best place to be.

Linked at: #TellHisStory

Blessed Are Those

Blog photo - Blessed are those who mourn

I had the privilege of attending college with one of my best friends. During that first year of nursing school we roomed together in the dorms. Some of my best memories of those days were the moments that we labeled as “Candle Talks”.

When one of us needed a “candle talk”, we would take it seriously and be fully present for the other. We thoughtfully put all of our other distractions away. Then, we would sit on our dorm room floor, dim the lights, light a candle or two, and just talk – typically for hours. Those moments were essential, meaningful, and needed.

We would lay it all out – sharing what was bringing us joy or sadness, knowing we could ask and give each other advice if needed or wanted, feeling free to tell each other our secrets, and also our sins. It seemed as if there was plenty of those to discuss.

The most special thing about it was that as friends, we were there for each other to listen and provide an environment that was safe. We could say anything without fear of judgment from the other. Looking back, those times were the best and I always felt blessed.

While this is not going to be a confession of all my sins post, I do want you to know that I hold my fair share of them. I suspect the same is for you.

A lot has happened in life since those college days and talks. Experience can be the best teacher and life has taught me many things. I’m older, wiser, and as a result, I try to do a better job at the choices I make in life.

However, what about the times when we mess up? What about those times when we say things, do things, think things, or react in such a way that is wrong? What about those times when we start to follow more of our own desires and push that voice of godly conscious away?

Those times happen friends. Daily. If you are Pharisee enough to think that you are better than this, I pray you take a sharper look at your inner self and re-examine.

Recently, a girlfriend and I were sitting inside of my van on her driveway. We had just attended something tough together and when I went to drop her off, instead of jumping right out and on to her next event, we sat and talked. We got deep into a conversation about life – that night mainly how hard it can be and despite how “good” we think we are, how easy it can be to stray from the path that we know we should stay on.

In the midst of that conversation, she shared with me a story that made me smile. She said that recently she went to get groceries. While in the bakery isle she picked up a container of 3 frosted brownies. Thinking she would just take a small bite of one while doing the rest of her shopping, before she knew it, all three brownies were gone. When she arrived at the checkout lane, she looked at the cashier and said, “Please don’t judge me”, handed the cashier an empty container of brownies and admitted that she ate all three while shopping. Graciously, the cashier smiled, laughed, and told her that she would probably have done the exact same thing.

Isn’t that what life can be like for all of us from time to time? What starts off as good intentions might easily turn into something that we never meant for the outcome to be?

Sometimes, that outcome might be small and just affect us – as in eating too many brownies. 🙂 Other times, it can be more serious. It extends beyond us and those we love feel the affects too.

The thing I have to remind myself, and what I want to remind you as well, is that God can use anything in our lives, even our biggest mistakes and failures, to carry out His plan and purpose. If we take them to the Lord in godly conviction, we can be rest assured that we are forgiven and that He can use it. Nothing is wasted when it is brought before our Lord and in fact, we will be blessed by it.

Matthew 5 shares with us Jesus’ longest recorded sermon. In verse 4, it says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

I think many people who read this verse think only of those who are grieving a loved one who has passed away and receive hope of given comfort. What about looking at it in a slightly different way? I believe it is also referring to someone who is mourning the sins they have committed. The moment that godly conviction causes us to bow our heads and bring our struggles and sins before the Lord, it is then that comfort will be provided. We can rise up, having confidence that we are forgiven by the power in the blood of Jesus.

The truth is, we are all going to stray from the right path in life. We will do things, think things, say things that we didn’t mean to do. We don’t need to experience the pressure to measure up in life or feel as if we have to do everything perfect because we never will. What we need to do however is to acknowledge our sins and bring them before our God.

It is written in John 15:9, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” God loves you no matter what! Abide, remain and dwell in it for that is what He desires.

If you are feeling down today over choices that you have made, words that you have said, or are having undesirable thoughts, please know that you are loved and that there is comfort waiting for you.

While this is easier to write, for me, I sometimes find it harder to take to heart, remember, and live out. That is where I feel God brings in friends. 🙂

Friends photo for blog

I am thrilled that God created us for a desire to have relationships with friends in this world. Each one brings their own special purpose and a way to bless. As I have found time and time again, when you have a trust and honesty that goes beyond the surface, one of those special purposes and blessings is to have someone to get profound and hash life over with, to speak without fear of judgment, to get advice from, to grow with, to comfort, to encourage, and to remind us of His love.

Whether you sit in a room with a candle flickering in the background, in a van on the driveway, at a coffee shop, or wherever it might be…may you feel and experience the love and comfort from Christ in this way as well.

Be blessed sweet friend.

God loves you.

So do I.

The Struggle

Free to Struggle Recently, I joined two of my girlfriends, sweet sisters of the faith, around a table one evening at a nice restaurant. We sat there drinking our decaf coffee and eating delicious dessert. As the conversation was going along, I confided with them about an internal struggle that I have been having for a while now. I told them I was finding it difficult trying to navigate through figuring out how to do the right thing even when every thing inside of me was screaming differently.

Do you know what I am talking about? You know, those moments you face when you want to do the right thing – when the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Maybe you can relate to one of the following:

-You desire to make the healthy food choices or to stay away from the foods that you know just make you feel ill, yet the instant desire for gratification seems more important at the moment…

-You know that your health is only going to decline if you don’t stop, but that cigarette you want to smoke is calling your name…

-You know that if you take that alcoholic drink it will only lead down a path of further destruction, yet you desire to calm your mood on this very stressful day…

-You know that your children are begging for your attention and you have given very little time to them lately, yet it just feels so much easier to let the electronics do its thing…

-You want to genuinely love this person and to take an action that you feel is pleasing to God, yet your disappointment in his or her actions are so heavy that your internal feelings are anything but loving…

-You know that gossiping is wrong and what Suzie says about Sally actually says more about Suzie than it does about Sally, yet you want to try to boost your own insecurity and jealousy so you want to speak anyways…

-You know that looking at those pictures or watching that movie puts images in your mind that are going to be hard to erase, yet the desire is so strong it seems to pull at you like a magnet…

-You know you need to step up and apologize, but your pride is so strong that it keeps you from taking that necessary step to heal the relationship…

-You know that telling the little white lie is wrong, but you feel that it would be so much easier than to just tell the truth…

-You know that you should stop working and go home to your spouse and children to spend some quality time, yet working those extra hours seems easier and less exhausting than going home…

-You know that getting outside to exercise will do the body good, yet being lazy and lying on the couch is so much more inviting…

-You know that He is waiting for you and taking even just 5 minutes to stop and pray can help mold the rest of your entire day, yet the business seems to overtake every single second…

-You know that you should spend more time reading your Bible, yet the pull of social media feels so much more interesting…

-You know that going to church on this Sunday morning would be the right thing to do, yet sleeping in, going to the sporting event, or getting caught up on work feels much more important…

The list could go on and on.

Life is hard, isn’t it? Doing the right thing can be so difficult sometimes. Yet the alternative only leads down a path of guilt and shame.

On a warm Sunday evening back in June 2005, my husband and I went to an evening church service. That night, the Pastor started his sermon with an opening line that went like this, “This summer, we will all find ourselves going on a trip. It is called a guilt trip.” Ten years later, I still remember that sermon and I knew that God was speaking directly to me through every single word. It profoundly impacted a decision I made later on that very night. While it wasn’t without pain, I realized that being stuck on the guilt trip of life is not somewhere that I had to keep going. Guilt wasn’t the lifelong companion that I thought was a consequence I had to take to my grave.

That same Pastor, during another sermon on a Sunday morning, made this comment, “If anyone of you knew the thoughts that would go through my mind, you would fire me on the spot.” Not a single person in the sanctuary moved and his honesty floored me. Yet, it was a statement that spoke such hope to my soul. It doesn’t matter who we are or where we are in life.   We are ALL sinful. We ALL struggle.

However, I believe it isn’t the struggle that makes us sinful people, but how we react to those struggles is what matters. Put guilt where guilt belongs, but don’t pack your bags and haul it with you because you find yourself struggling to seek to do the right thing.

As I told my girlfriends the other night, the only thing I have found that it really boils down to is seeking Christian council, praying to God for wisdom, and asking Him for the courage to respond when I feel the Spirit leading me to do the right thing. Left with my own strength, I am almost guaranteed to fulfill the desires of my flesh.

You know what? We are all going to fail and make mistakes, but in Christ, we are free to do that! There are days when we are going to make the wrong choices, we’ll feel the consequences, but we can stand back up and try again. We don’t have to rely on our performance in this life to earn us favor with God, for in Jesus, we already have it. That is what grace is all about.

The best part is, the Spirit that lives in us, the very same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead, we don’t have to struggle to be free from the guilt and shame that those mistakes can cause us. We are forgiven through what He has done for us.

I want to end with a song by Tenth Avenue North, “The Struggle”, and if you have a moment please listen to it. It nicely sums up what I am trying to say.

Friends, at the moment I find myself in a place of great struggle! But Hallelujah – I am free to struggle, but not struggling to be free.

Linked with #TellHisStory

Following His Will

IMG_0221

For anyone who knows me, they know that I do not believe in coincidences. I believe that there is a reason and a plan behind the events in our lives. I love nothing more than when you get small moments of affirmation from God that you are on the path of His will.

Three years ago when my husband and I decided that we were going to send our son Noah to a private school, we knew that meant I would be attending full time as well to help care for his needs and to be present in case any medical emergencies for him arose. While we considered sending him to public schooling where school nurses are part of the staff, he really wanted to go to the same school as his older brother. Up until that time in his life, Noah had zero control over the things that had happened to him. While it meant that it would be a big commitment on my part to start attending school full time with him, I also realized that this was a big desire of his heart and I just couldn’t say “No”. As his mother, I thought “Who am I to not grant him this request just so I could have some time to myself each day?” After getting approval from the school in accepting Noah to attend, the choice in sending him there was no longer difficult for us.

I will never forget the first day of Kindergarten. After the morning bell rang, I sat down in the chair in the teachers’ workroom that would become “my spot”, and I said a prayer that went like this, “Well Lord, here I am. This is not where I imagined I would ever be, but since you have placed me here, please open doors in which I can use the gifts that I have been given and let me be a blessing here.”

It didn’t take long for God to start answering that prayer. What started out as volunteering my time in helping the second grade teachers that first year, has transformed over the past three years into a regular schedule helping to meet and care for the special needs of several Elementary students. I have been able to use some of the gifts that I already had as well as learning some new skills along the way. This year I have truly felt like a part of the staff and it really makes me feel good.

Yesterday, God graced me with another affirmation that I am right where He wants me and I know this moment will stick with me for a very long time.

Soon after the morning bell rang, I was sitting next to one of the boys that I assist each week. The teacher informed me that she was going to step outside for a moment to speak with another mother. About a minute later, she called for me to come out into the hallway as well.

There stood a crying mother with her 1st grade son by her side. The teacher shared with me that the day before, the son got diagnosed with a life-altering condition and the mother’s heart was breaking. You see this same condition had just been diagnosed on her 4th grade daughter a month prior, so this was just hitting them very hard and leaving her overwhelmed. The mother was rightly concerned for her child and more so – how was she going to leave him at school without a trained person to care for him.

The teacher, knowing I had a nursing background, wondered if I could help in anyway. Knowing much about this condition – having grown up with a father with it and becoming knowledgeable in that way but also studying and caring for multiple individuals throughout my nursing career – I said “Of course” and I took the mother and her son to my desk in another room.

We sat down, facing each other, and through her tears the mother shared with me her concerns about leaving her son, being his age, and needing help caring for himself and this condition. She went on to say that just that morning her son woke up and the first thing he told them was, “I have just been praying that there would be someone to help take care of me at school.”

Now, with tears in my eyes, I looked at her and I responded, “Just this morning, I spent time praying that God would use me in a special way.”

It was in that exact moment that I knew once again that God has me here for a reason more so than just caring for my own son.

With tears now flooding both of our eyes, the mother and I held hands and she prayed a prayer of thanksgiving and I was echoing the words from inside my own heart.

1 Thessalonians 5:18, “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

From my experience of being a mother of children with medical and special needs, my heart and mind knew exactly what this mother was thinking and feeling. In response, I was able to have true compassion and empathy for her. I reassured her that I would care for her son as if he was my own at school.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”

Sometimes, we are the ones who need to be comforted, and other times, we are the ones who are able to comfort others.

I just want to take a moment to encourage you today if you are wondering what you need to do to follow God’s will. I can confidently share that all you need to do is surrender yourself to Him, be obedient to his Word, and then just go on and live your everyday life. It doesn’t matter what job you have – being in a workplace outside the home or spending your days at home caring for the children God entrusted to you – just go about it in obedience and you will be fulfilling His will for your life.

I think that often times, God will reveal His will in small pieces at a time – with each loving step of faith that we take – and by continuing to love and trust Him all the while. When those moments of affirmation come you will be filled with the greatest amount of joy and peace that only comes from Him. And between each small revelation, all we need to do is to continue to do the best that we can each and every day with the tasks laid out before us.

“May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing His will, and may He work in us what is pleasing to Him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever, Amen.” Hebrews 13:20-21

Friend, go forth today in carrying out your regular tasks, being confident that you are equipped with everything you need to do good in accordance with His will!

Linked up at: #TellHisStory