For the Kingdom Building Momma

sand castle under white sky at daytime

Hey friend. Life is crazy, isn’t it?

I don’t know about you, but I often feel like my days get consumed by the seemingly meaningless tasks. It could be meal time (are your kiddos always hungry?), dishes, laundry, school work, or the general tidying of the house. It’s the navigation of emotions and wills as my children battle over who is allowed to look in which direction.

It’s the navigation of my own emotions and wills when I start to lose my patience.

Doing Kingdom work came much more simply before my little people entered the scene. I used to be available to serve at all church events at the drop of a hat. Now, I have to consider whether it works for our sleeping/eating schedule, or if the opportunity will require a babysitter.

It was easier then. My life operated on my schedule. If I didn’t get enough sleep it was because I chose to stay up too late watching a movie. My quiet times with God were guaranteed, as long as I didn’t hit the snooze button too many times in a row.

But now? With kids? Things are harder. 

Kingdom work is harder, but not impossible. In fact, I believe that God uses the stretching of our comfort zones to shape us into the women He has destined for us to become. My husband has told me, “Your greatest ministry comes from your deepest pain.”

I felt a lot of pain when my girls were babies. The lack of sleep hit me hard. I grew angry at the inconveniences this role was placing on my life. Depression drifted in after the birth of my second child, and it took me over two years to find my way out. Two years to claim joy and purpose once again.

You see, more than anything else, I wanted to be a Kingdom Builder, and these small ones (as precious as they were) made it really difficult to accomplish my purpose.

But life isn’t about my purpose, is it? It’s about His. His plan for my life. And if I have learned anything over the years, it’s the fact that His plan often looks very different from my plan.

So, Momma? If you are feeling the drudge and the weariness of the every day task, those invisible moments that will never be seen by anyone but you, remember this: God sees it. And He is using it.

He is using you to bring up the next generation of Kingdom Builders. You get the opportunity to speak life into these little people, to show them what it looks like to pursue the Lord, and to be an example of living a life of sacrifice for the sake of the One who sacrificed everything for us.

Look past the moment and see the end. It’s not about that one moment, it’s about allowing God to use all the moments combined to accomplish His great purpose.

You are a Kingdom Builder.

“And the Lord will be king over all the earth. On that day there will be one Lord – his name alone will be worshiped.” Zechariah 14:9

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He Gave Us a Sword

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Image by MollyBrett Photography

A year ago, I was a mess.

I’ve talked about this a bit in some previous posts, so I won’t go into much detail now. The truth is, it’s hard for me to believe the contrast between this year and last.

Depression to JOY.
Anxiety to CONFIDENCE.
Defeat to VICTORY.
Anger to PEACE.
Loneliness to CONNECTEDNESS.

There wasn’t one moment that changed things, but rather a collection of moments and revelations. I’ve talked about some of it here, but I want to share a specific moment with you today.

This one happened in January during the 21 days of prayer and fasting at my church. During these 21 days there was an opportunity to get together with other believers at 6am Monday-Friday for a time of worship and prayer. A season for strengthening. I don’t often get the chance to attend because I have little ones sleeping in their beds, and my husband usually has responsibilities early in the morning. He does work there after all.

But I got to go one lovely Friday morning, and in a brief instant the Lord encouraged me through a simple phrase and an image.

“I have a sword…He gave us a sword.”

In my image I saw myself cowering. My surroundings were hazy and unclear. I knew there was a battle going on, but I was clearly losing; just barely managing to miss the arrows flying toward me. There was a sense of hopelessness.

But then, it started to clear, and I came to realize I wasn’t empty-handed. I had a weapon. A Sword.

I was armed, and with that realization came a strength I had not previously known. The fog continued to clear and I saw I wasn’t by myself after all. The body of Christ was standing together, proclaiming the coming victory, wielding their Swords with power. We were going to FIGHT TOGETHER.

Friends, I share this with you because as we move forward in Christ, the enemy has to step back. The more we recognize our identity in Him and utilize the tools He has bestowed upon us, the more powerful we become.

Are you living in defeat? There is more than what you can see in this moment. Call your enemy out for what he really is and grasp onto the promises your KING has for you.

Here are a few tools you can use to sharpen your sword:

Depression: “In my distress I prayed to the Lord, and the Lord answered me and SET ME FREE.” Psalm 118:5

Anxiety: “Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come BOLDLY and CONFIDENTLY into God’s presence.” Ephesians 3:12

Defeat: “The Lord is my strength and my song; he has given me VICTORY. This is my God, and I will praise him – my father’s God, and I will exalt him!” Exodus 15:2

Anger: “You will keep in PERFECT PEACE all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” Isaiah 26:3

Loneliness: “I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such PERFECT UNITY that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.” A prayer of Jesus in John 17:22-23

The art of fighting with a sword requires practice and care. Our sword is our Bible. To use it well we must read it, memorize it, study it, and dwell on it throughout the day. Left unattended, it will rust and become useless. Don’t neglect your Sword.

Brandish your weapon. Victory is ours for the taking.

Infertility: Caroline’s Story

If there is a form of etiquette concerning asking people to publicly share about their infertility experience,  I’m pretty sure it includes not bringing it up at a baby shower. But Caroline and I got to talking, and the Holy Spirit stirred it up, and out it came. I am so grateful.

I love that we end this week of stories here. No matter your own personal struggles, even if it has nothing to do with infertility, I believe you will be encouraged by Caroline’s words. It is my prayer that everyone have a chance to know this sort of sweet love from the Father.

Infertility: Caroline’s Story

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The last four years have had its share of heart ache, disappointment, financial strain, and just a complete emotional drain.  But there has also been a new awareness of God’s goodness, joy, and a spiritual wholeness than can only come from my loving Father.  I want that to be the focus of the last four years.  God’s goodness is the testimony, not the loss and pain.

Billy and I have been married for six years.  After a year of trying on our own to get pregnant and several tests to see what was wrong, we were told it was unexplained infertility (basically nothing obvious was keeping us from getting pregnant, some couples just need a little medical boost!).  We were were encouraged to try insemination, which resulted in a positive pregnancy after the first try!  We were beyond thrilled!  But around week 5 I began spotting – leading my doctor to do an early ultrasound.  I was told this was an ectopic pregnancy.  I had never heard that term before but my doctor began telling me that my baby was growing… just in the wrong place.  My baby was growing in my tubes which if left alone would kill us both.  I thought I had options.  I had none.  I had to go straight to the hospital to get a shot that would dissolve the pregnancy but save my life.  Billy and I were devastated.  I sat in that public waiting room watching mothers who already had children with them having more children.  I felt a bitterness I’d never felt.  You see, up to this point, I had been in a place spiritually that I had never been before.  Through different small groups at church and intentional days of prayer and fasting, I felt God had brought me to a place with Him I’d never been before.  So why would he do this to me?  Why would He take this good thing from me?  I was mad at Him.  I would sit through my quiet time, skipping over the prayer time and tell God I just needed to read His word in silence because I didn’t trust what I might say to Him.  I didn’t participate in worship at church, and if you know me, I LOVE to worship!  I was broken and didn’t know how to feel ok during this time or how to get back on track with God.  But God was doing something in me I couldn’t see at the time.  He was faithful to send me friends who spoke words of life over me.  He gave me songs that began to mend my heart.  I’ll touch on those specifics later but let’s get through the rest of the tough stuff.

A year later we did another insemination which also ended in an ectopic pregnancy.  This time I wasn’t mad at God but I did get lost in the “whys.”  Again, God was faithful to give me what I needed to push on.  After these two ectopic pregnancies, a laparoscopy was done and it was discovered I had endometriosis and damaged fallopian tubes.  Both tubes were removed.  We began looking into IVF.  Unfortunately, my Type I diabetes had gotten so much harder to control in my late 30’s, even with good eating habits and exercise.  My blood sugars were so out of control my doctor could not recommend me to try to get pregnant.  I was crushed.

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But then, an angel appeared.

Amy and I have been best friends since high school. One Sunday at church, I was telling her about there seemingly being no remaining options for having a baby. She grew quiet and then said she would have our baby, she would be our surrogate!   She told me God had actually put it on her heart months ago but she felt like she needed confirmation.  I’d say that conversation was it!  Billy and I talked and prayed about it.  Amy and her husband Jason prayed about it.  The church prayed with us.  This was totally a God thing!

We got started with appointments and doctor’s consultations and visits right away.  The four of us had a lot of decisions to make.  I’ll tell you, you think you know where you stand morally on pregnancy, abortion, when life begins, etc…until you’re faced with infertility and needing the help of science and medicine.  All four of us involved felt very strong in our pro life convictions, but there were SO many details and decisions that had to be made that most people never have to think twice about.  I want to get to the “God’s goodness” part so I’ll make this brief.  We had two transfers with Amy: the first ended after the second week, the second transfer ended in a miscarriage around week 10.  Through the heartbreak, God was still moving and working miraculously in me!

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Here are the things that helped along the way.  After the first ectopic, in my season of being angry with God, a sweet friend said, “Caroline, God grieves with you.” And it clicked.  God hadn’t done this TO me, it just happened to me, but he was WITH me through it all.  This is also about the time I truly grasped the promises in Matthew 7:11 “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”  I began to trust that if it wasn’t a baby we would get, God would give us an even better gift!  It’s hard to imagine what could be better than a baby, and I’m not talking about a monetary gift or thing, but that’s why we have earthly eyes and imaginations and God does not!  After the second ectopic, I remember sitting on my bed in my room and hearing the song “Beautiful Things” by Gangor. I began weeping at these words:

“All this pain I wonder if I’ll ever find my way.  I wonder if my life could really change at all.  Could a garden come up from this ground.  You make beautiful things, you make beautiful things out of the dust.”

I wept because I believed these words – that God would make beautiful things out of my dust.  I also prayed that all this pain wouldn’t be for nothing.  God doesn’t intend for our trials to be for nothing, but we in our messiness and earthly selves, often get in the way of learning from our trials and disappointments.  Just before Amy’s first miscarriage, her dad, who has been like a spiritual dad to me since high school, reminded me not to ever let the devil steal our joy.  This was just a general conversation, Amy hadn’t miscarried yet, but that came to help me through that loss.  When I got the call from the doctor’s office, I was doing yard work and had been listening to a message on how grieving can be a way of worshipping God.  So when I got the call, I wept.  I cried and cried but in those tears I told God that Satan was NOT going to steal my joy!  I told God that I loved him and thanked him for helping me through this!  Yes, my heart throbbed, but I had such hope in Jesus!  I also heard a song from Shane and Shane called “Though You Slay Me.” There is a version that has an excerpt from John Piper’s message on 2 Corinthians 4:16-18. John Piper says, “Every millisecond of your misery in the path of obedience is producing a peculiar glory you will get because of that.  Don’t look to what is seen.  Don’t say ‘It’s meaningless!’  It’s not!  It’s working for you an eternal weight of glory.”

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Billy and I still don’t have a baby.  We have some options and a lot of praying to do.  But what we do have are God’s promises that He will never leave us nor forsake us.  He does grieve with us.  He does walk through each and every heartache with us.  My pain has not been for nothing.  I’ve been able to share the gospel through sharing the ups and downs of the last four years with unbelieving friends.   He is a good, good Father, in all circumstances, all the time!  Trust Him that He wants good things for you!

When God Laughs

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Image by Alexa’s Photography

I have long believed that God has a sense of humor. Not the sarcastic type and definitely not the crude type. More of a… laughing along with us at the silliness of our days and taking great joy in seeing the unseen gifts when we don’t understand it all just yet…type.

I’d like to provide you with two examples from my own life.

Example #1:

When I was in college I had a crush on a boy. I was convinced without a doubt that this boy did not reciprocate said crush and I did all within my power to put my girly emotions to the side and concentrate on other things. This lasted say… 2 1/2 to 3 years.

At the 2 1/2 year mark, a friend and I got together for some quality time. All was good, all was happy, until she named the aforementioned boy. I had not confessed to her my feelings (I was ignoring them), when she shared, “[Aforementioned Boy] used to like you. But don’t worry, he doesn’t any more.”

Oh goodness did those feelings of mine go haywire. I pretended to be completely normal, but on the inside my heart was elated and crushed in the same moment. When I got home that afternoon, I wrote in my journal, “God, if you think this is funny, I’m not laughing!”

I absolutely believe that God felt every bit of that was a little humorous, because said boy confessed his true feelings that August and he is now my husband.

Okay, so I don’t actually think God was watching me from above going, “har-dee-har-har!” as He gleefully toyed with my emotions. Quite the contrary. I believe He was with me in that moment, grinning from ear-to-ear just thinking about how fun it would be to watch us exchange vows on our wedding day. In my moment of uncertainty, he was in the process of excitedly wrapping up one of the best gifts He could give me.

Example #2:

I have a beef with the woman of Proverbs 31. Girlfriend has some mad skills and can accomplish more in one day than I can in a month. Okay, a year. Maybe a lifetime. She is the definition of a hard worker and has joy to boot. I mostly ignore her existence so I feel less bad about my lack of measuring up.

But one day here recently, I decided it would be in my best interest to stop ignoring her and maybe follow her leadership. I prayed in my journal that day for God to make me productive. I wanted to be a wife of noble character.

Do you know how God answered me? This is where the laughing comes in. He turned off the electricity in my house for maybe 4 hours. Umm, Lord, don’t I need electricity to be productive???

I don’t believe He was snickering and saying, “let’s watch her be productive now!”, though he may have chuckled at the irony of it all. Nope, I think His laughter was such that He knew I would not expect that answer to that prayer. Again, He had something better in store for me.

The lack of electricity forced me to be productive in ways I hadn’t even considered. Sure, I managed to fold the mound of laundry on my couch, but He saw greater opportunities for me. The weather was unbelievably gorgeous, so the girls and I got to spend much of our morning outside running around the yard. We took advantage of the lack of power to meet my hubby/their daddy for lunch. Then we meandered around the outdoor portion of the science center on what could have quite possibly been the most perfect day of the year.

And He knew how much fun we would have. He knew how good it would be for our family to connect relationally instead of marking off our checklist. It brought Him delight to gift us extra bonding time that day.

He answered my prayer in a way that communicated I don’t have to be a clone of Proverbs 31 lady to fulfill His purpose for my life. He also whispered that maybe I should consider turning off the electronic devices sometimes so we don’t miss out on something greater.

When God laughs, I think it’s for the joy of knowing we will too.

“He will once again fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy.” Job 8:21

Out of the Fog

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I share the following with you because we all go through stuff, and sometimes we need to see that other people go through stuff too. I believe God has called me to encourage others in the art of finding Him as our source in the midst of all the stuff; no matter what that may be at any given time in our lives.

One element of my stuff is the fog I’ve been in the past couple of years.

I blamed it on sleep for the most part. Goodness, if you look back on any of my earliest posts, you are bound to see a theme of longing for some seriously good sleep. But sleep came back, and my struggles didn’t disappear.

This fact made my emotions go haywire. In my mind, sleep was going to fix it. If only I got those precious moments of rest, my exhaustion with my children would get better. I’d stop getting so angry at so many little things. I wouldn’t be so frustrated with my husband for not reading my mind. I’d get my joy back.

Joy. I missed that. Sleeping more didn’t bring it back. In the past, I had been almost obnoxiously joyful, and now I felt I was just obnoxious in the lack thereof. I wasn’t exactly very fun to be around. You might not have seen it on a Sunday morning or in a small gathering of friends, but one-on-one, I complained. A lot. About anything. Because everything felt so… off.

My heart was reeling in desperation to find clarity and life once again. Something was wrong with me and I couldn’t figure out what it was. So in my search for answers, in my search for joy, I decided to begin seeing a counselor at Restoration Place.

Yes, you read that right, I’m a pastor’s wife and I go to counseling.

In my very first appointment, I filled out paperwork, took a few surveys, and tried to explain to my counselor why I was there. She gave me some homework and asked me to write out what I was hoping to find; my “miracle” so to speak. While I listed several things, at the forefront was the concept of joy. I wrote, “I long to wake up one morning, and find that my joy has come back. Where did it go? How did it get lost? It must still be there somewhere. I want to find it, grab it, and never let go of it.”

At the beginning of this journey of counseling, I cried an awful lot. I’d talk about a mistake I’d made with my children or how my marriage wasn’t perfect and I couldn’t hold back the tears. I felt like I was clouded in darkness and couldn’t see the light no matter how hard I tried.

I believe I needed to cry those tears. One thing I’ve learned through this time, is how important it is for me to process my thoughts through the art of writing and simply talking. I have often leaned on my husband for those sorts of conversations, but men are not geared like women and sometimes I need to process in a typical female sort of way. In counseling, I’m able to sort through my heart, and now my husband can reap the benefits.

I’ve also learned that I was experiencing a taste of postpartum depression. This knowledge has explained so much of where I have been, and has also given me hope for the future. I know what I’m dealing with, so I can attack it accordingly. I also know that this season will not last forever. The fog is lifting.

Life isn’t all magically better. Unfortunately, in the midst of my cloud I formed some poor emotional habits and I need to work through those sorts of things. But, it is getting better. It is easier for me to see that all is not lost. That I’m not a terrible wife and mother, and that good things are yet to come. If I feel myself sinking, I feel more powerful in my ability to find firm ground. Emotional healing is taking place.

I am forever thankful that God, in anticipation that our hearts and minds would need sorting through at times, provided a gift to certain individuals to become counselors. I am also thankful that through it all He has continued to probe and work on my heart. Never once did He abandon me or forget me. No, instead, He is continuously teaching me and growing me in this mess so that I can step into my ultimate purpose.

“Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again – my Savior and my God!” Psalm 42:5

“You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” Isaiah 26:3