Jan 29, 2008

Hold On, Sister!

“Sweet little babies, it’s hard to understand it ‘cause we’re hurting
We are hurting
But there is healing
And we know we’re stronger people through the growing
And in knowing—
That all things work together for our good
And God works His purposes just like He said He would…
Just like He said He would…”
--“Glory Baby” by Watermark

A dear friend gave me the song above to listen to because it reminded her of our first child. Gabriela Faith is my sweet daughter who was stillborn on November 15, 2002. Although I know she is in Heaven and has escaped the pains and trials of this earth, up until very recently, that did very little to comfort me. To be honest with you, the sentiments expressed in the song above not only did not soothe me; they enraged me. I didn’t really believe that healing would come, and I wasn’t so sure God knew what He was doing when He let her slip away. His purposes seemed cruel and beyond any kind of reason.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

After Gabi passed away, I took a long journey through deep depression and fear. The darkest and scariest time in my life to date. As the months turned into years, I began to wonder if I would ever be happy. Healed. Whole. This past year marked the 5th anniversary of her death, and upon reflecting on her life, I realized that I had finally found some joy. Lots of it. My life is now characterized by passion for the Lord, for the life He has given me, and for what He is doing in the world around me. What had happened? What had changed me from a broken woman despairing of life to this gal lit aflame for the Lord?

I had hung on to Jesus for dear life. All I could see in my darkness was His hand gently pulling me forward, and I held on purely out of desperation. I tucked Psalm 119:45 deep into my heart as my promise. “I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought His precepts.” I had to believe that someday I would conquer the pain. Most of the time it wasn’t easy. Many times it was the most challenging thing I had ever done. But I had no choice. Either I hold on to Jesus or give up on life.

I suspect that I’ll never know the full extent of what God has done through Gabi’s life, but He has been so gracious as to show me the miracles that He has performed in me through her.

Chiefly, he has given me REAL joy, peace, and hope. What I had before Gabi was fake. It was what I could muster up within myself. God taught me through my new lack of self-sufficiency that He was the true Source of those qualities. Also, I did not know it, but I had become distant and somewhat unsympathetic to those around me because of my reaction to some experiences in my past. In having to let people help me, I learned to let them in and continue to learn how to love them well. By the way, this is still a work in progress! But, one of the coolest things that Gabi accomplished was God giving me my calling through her. In being stripped of all my pretenses and facades, I found freedom in simply being me. In being real. And God has ignited a passion in me to help other women find that same liberty. Simply put, He has given me all the things He has promised He would. Joy. Peace. Hope. Love. Purpose.

My life before the birth of my sweet daughter pales in comparison to the one I’m living now. Ladies, let’s hold on. Let’s trust God and His plan. It may be painful, and it may be the hardest thing we ever do, but can we hold on long enough to see God fulfill the promises He’s made to us? His word says that all His ways are faithful and loving towards us and that He’s working out everything for our good. Let’s choose to trust that and stick it out to see the miracles He performs.

“He has sent me to. . .bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.” Isaiah 61:1-3

Memory Verse: Romans 12:12 “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer.”

God, thank you that you found enough worth in me to love me out of my imprisonment. Thank you for Gabi…please give her a big hug and “thank you” for me. It warms my heart to know that she accomplished her purpose in this life. Father, help us to hold on and trust you and your goodness. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Jan 22, 2008

Intentional Living

“These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” Deut. 6:6-7

This morning I spent an hour putting together a rough daily schedule for my family and me. You see, I have been frazzled with so many things vying for my time and attention that I decided it was time to sit down and figure out exactly what I’m supposed to be doing with myself everyday. Am I supposed to be pouring into our ministry leaders? Into the high school folks? If I’m working when Cooper is in school, when am I to write? I really have a heart for women. . . what am I supposed to be doing with that? So many questions. As I began to bring my queries to God, He reminded me of what He said to us last week. Relationships. It’s all about relationships. People. And the priority people He has given me to nurture are living right underneath this roof.

As I stared down at what I had already sketched, I realized that I had our ministry days marked down, church diligently recorded, and our day of rest set aside, but there was nothing designated—preserved—for the two most important people in my life. Yes, I had our Little Gym and library days noted, but nothing planned for real family connection. There were plenty of events for us to DO, but nothing that just allowed us to BE together. It got me thinking, “Am I living my priorities or am I just saying I have some?”

Recently, I was listening to Bible teacher Beth Moore speak about believing God to get us to our lives of victory. I love what she expressed. “Nobody goes to their place of promise accidentally. We must be intentional.” She planted a seed in my mind that God watered and made sprout this morning. I realized that if I was going to live according to my priorities I was going to need to be intentional. If I want to raise a godly son who knows he is cherished and loved by the Lord and his parents, I need to make sure that I’m not letting anything impede my communication of that love. If I want him to come to know and love the Word, I must teach it to him. If I desire for him to learn to pray, I should be setting that example. In Deuteronomy, God informs us that as parents, we are the primary teachers of our children. We are to be spending as much time as we can processing life through the filter of God’s commandments with our children. How can they learn to live a Christ-centered life if we have not taught and modeled it before them?

And am I being intentional with my husband? We’ve all heard 1 Cor. 13:4-8 at every wedding we’ve ever been to. “Love is patient. Love is kind…” This speaks of intention. I can’t be patient or kind, let alone all the other qualities listed in these verses, without aforethought. It doesn’t come naturally. I must work at it. It must be deliberate.

What are your priorities? Are you scheduling your life to fit them or are they being pushed aside for less crucial obligations? Maybe it starts with simply sitting down and letting God show you what needs to be on the schedule and what doesn’t. For me, it was cutting out high school sports events and adding a weekly family night and bi-weekly date night. Ask God what He wants you to be doing and then trust Him to help you rearrange your agenda. Make a plan. Stick to it. Learn to say no when you’re asked to do something that will distract you from what is most important. Live your life intentionally. Don’t let your life live you.

Father, thank you for gently rattling our cages. For waking us out of our slumber. We ask that you would show us where you want us spending our time and that you would help us to be obedient when you do. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Jan 15, 2008

The Pursuit of People

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25

As some of you know because I saw you there, I have just returned from spending an invigorating week in Florida with other Young Life staff and their spouses from around the globe. Lou and I always look forward to these trips because it gives us time away from the stress at home, an opportunity to spend time together, and a day at DISNEY WORLD! This year we couldn’t wait to experience the little slice of iconic American culture that is the land of Mickey. I’m not ashamed to say that I love that place. Yes, even the It’s a Small World ride. Side note: did you know that they’ve placed new animatronic Jack Sparrows into the Pirates of the Caribbean ride? I missed a good portion of the detailed scenes around him because I was staring at him trying to figure out if it was an actor or a machine. We had to ride it twice to catch all the minutiae I missed the first time around. Anyway…

In the days leading up to our trip, I was so focused on going to Disney and busy speculating on what I would bring home for my son, that I forgot that my favorite part of our time there, really, is catching up with friends. We encountered old buddies that we hadn’t seen since the last get-together four years ago and spent time with pals who we just aren’t able to experience day-to-day life with anymore. It was a time of connection and encouragement. And it was rich. Life-giving.

On the last day of the conference, I became somber knowing that we would be returning to real life. Don’t get me wrong, I love our life, my ministry, and am honored to stay home to mother the greatest son in the world, but I realized that we would be entering back into a world where precious few friends surround us. I would miss the constant love and uplifting that we experienced in Orlando. Reflecting on the past 5 days saddened me but made me extremely grateful for this second family God has given us, no matter how far we are from one another.

Ladies, we need our friends. You may be surrounded with a large group of like-minded gal pals, or you may be like me, struggling to make new connections. Regardless, we need to be pursuing authentic friendships. The first night of the conference a friend and I stayed up until 1:30 talking about life, love and how God plays into it all. I didn’t realize how badly I needed that sort of connection until that moment. There is a reason we want friends surrounding us during important times in our lives like birthdays, weddings, and funerals. We were made for relationship. God gave us a longing for connection. Connection with Him and connection with those around us. In the gospel of Mark, God not only instructs us to love Him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, but to love others as well. He says that these are the two greatest commandments (vs. 29-31). And they are both about relationship.

Are you pursuing people? Or are you like me, putting off relationships, falling for the world’s trappings of busyness and solitude? Girls, we need one another; it’s as simple as that. Let’s learn how to share our world with those around us and in so doing, find the support and encouragement that God longs for us to experience. In experiencing each other, we often experience God. Let’s not miss it!

Memory verse: Galatians 6:2 Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

Father, thank you for the longing for people you’ve placed in our hearts. Help us to be intentional about forming and sustaining lasting, Christ-centered relationships. Knowing and investing in others allows us to experience you in a new and different way. Help us to open ourselves up to it. We love You. Amen.

Jan 6, 2008

What's On Your Mind?

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8

I’ve been watching my husband today diligently doing our laundry. Yes, you read it right. Laundry. Lou is the one in this home who cleans and folds our clothes. However, we’ve had to get new wardrobes since he’s taken over this household chore. I recently discovered that he was washing many loads in warm or hot water and drying them on high heat. He figured, the higher the heat, the cleaner the shirt and the faster the dry. Although he might have been correct, faster also means smaller. And since half-shirts haven’t been in style since the 1980’s, I’m now considering passing along many of my tops to my 6-year-old neighbors. Thankfully, after some discussion, we’ve since gotten the process figured out and Lou can now be trusted with our garments. However, our clothes paid the price. And so did he.

I am, by nature, a critical person. I can gaze at my reflection in the mirror and find every imperfection (real or imagined) in lightning speed. Unfortunately, that critical eye has also been directed at my husband for the majority of our marriage, up until very recently, in fact. Instead of seeing a man who was trying to please me and help me with home duties, all I saw was a man who ruined my clothing. I chastised him, criticizing him for not knowing that colors are washed in cold and that you don’t dry anything on hot but towels and sheets! And I’m sad to say, my critiques did not stop there, nor have they ever. I have a history of passing judgment on everything from his appearance to the way he does his job (ridiculous, I know). I’m not proud of the way I’ve behaved. And, thankfully, God has been persistent and faithful to deal with this relationship-crippling tendency in me.

This past year, God made me aware that so much of the defeat that I’ve experienced in my life, whether it be in my marriage or out of it, is seeded in the way that I think. I have a knack for picking out a flaw in myself or Lou and rehearsing it ad nauseam, most times making it into something much worse than it really is. Because of this inclination, both Lou and I were struggling to find fulfillment in this marriage. Not only that, I was finding it difficult to find true pleasure in any facet of my life. I was always seeing the negative side or thinking of all the bad that could happen. I began to ask myself, “What is wrong with me? Why can’t I love Lou the way he deserves to be loved? Why don’t I want to spend time with my husband? Why am I always fighting against being down?” And God said something along the lines of, “Because, child, you are thinking on the wrong things.”

Instead of dwelling on what is wrong with our spouses, our children, or ourselves, God instructs us to think on what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable. In the original language here, to “think about” means to reckon, count over and pass to one’s account. We are called to reckon, count over, and pass to one’s account their true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable qualities. We are called to count up ours as well. And we are not only told to count them up, but the original word also speaks of occupying ourselves with doing so. Instead of wasting our time dwelling on flaws, God wants us to expend our mental energies on recalling excellent qualities that He has implanted in every one of us.

I can choose to think about how I was faced again with an old sin yesterday, or I can choose to think about how far God has brought me in my fight against it. I can choose to think about how frustrated I am that my son is pushing boundaries, or I can choose to reflect upon how he is extremely loving, obedient most of the time, and is just in the midst of a healthy phase. I can choose to ruminate on the clothes that I’ve lost in the laundry fiasco, or I can choose to meditate on how my husband loves me deeply and is intentional in trying to share my workload.

We must choose our thoughts. I have gone so far as to make Philippians 4:8 my life verse for 2008. It is that important. I have noticed a significant difference in my life since I have begun the practice of concentrating on our gifts instead of our flaws. No longer do I walk around under a dark cloud. I am falling more in love with my husband and with this life that God has given me to live.

Are you looking for some joy? Think about what you’re thinking about.

Memory Verse: Philippians 4:8

Father, thank You, that even in the midst of flaws and imperfections, You have given us praiseworthy qualities as well. Instead of being overwhelmed with our own faults or consumed with criticizing others’, help us to be of somber judgment: to love ourselves and others in truth. In Christ’s name, amen.

Jan 1, 2008


Hello all! I hope your holidays were peaceful and rich. As for mine...I'm still recovering, so I will not be posting tonight. I'll be back on track next week. I'll actually be posting on Sunday the 6th instead of Tuesday the 8th because I will be out of state for Young Life on the 8th. I continue to be so thankful for all of you and your support. I'll "talk" to you next week.

Grateful for You,