Monday, December 10, 2012

A Crazy Two Days... A Crazy Two Months

The last 48 hours have been pretty amazing.  From the outside looking in, no one would probably notice anything different.  But there is most definitely something different... and as Jamie and I spent time together in prayer this morning, we couldn't help but marvel at what God is doing; what He is revealing; how He is changing us; why He is doing it now... and what led up to all of this.

It's been a while since I've had a moment to write on this site.  The entire month of October was, quite literally, consumed with our L.I.T.E. Challenge.  I was up at 4:30 almost every morning, typing and researching.  I was used to having 5-6 months to work on the past devotionals.  Here I had only 30 days... and these devotionals were far more difficult.  But, God was so incredibly faithful.  He taught me so much through His word and through countless others that were also spurred on by the challenges of the Gospel.  During this time, I was also approached about leading a Bible study at the re-entry house... a house for women in the jail and prison system in Maine.  After 6 weeks, I can't even begin to describe to you the love I have for these women.  They challenge me in ways that I've never been challenged before... and  I love it.  As I work to teach others about Jesus, my preparation is making me a better disciple.

Our family took a trip to Rhode Island in November.  We got a chance to connect with Jared and Rachel and the rest of the team while we made Thanksgiving baskets for members of the community.  I must admit that as wonderful as it was to see our friends and to be a part of the amazing things God is doing there... we left with heavy hearts... wanting to stay... wanting to be daily participants on this journey with them.

We've also had our share of set backs... more than our share!  We did get the septic fixed... only to have the fridge die the very next day... only to have Sandy blow through a few days later and take with her some siding off our house and shingles off our roof... only to have Jamie's car die the next week... only to find out that my mom's cancer has returned.  There have been many tears flowing from this house... stemming from frustration... and anger... and sadness.

So... what does this have to do with the past 48 hours.  Well... nothing.... and everything.  (How's that for clarity?)  Over the weekend, I had some amazing conversations with people that have played such a HUGE part in the cultivation of my faith.  I spent time talking to my "big sister" in Arkansas.  And as she spent time sharing with me where God has her right now... Jesus shook my heart like you wouldn't believe.  As soon as I hung up the phone Saturday night, I ran up to Jamie... trying to explain what happened... and doing a very poor job.  She spent time talking about the revelation of God's word... of not being able to get enough... of learning so much that her head would spin.  I began to think of her time here with us... of how much she poured into others... and how it must feel to receive the replenishing Word of God... for someone to pour into you so much that your head wants to spin.  I couldn't help but imagine how God is going to use this time... how He will use this time of preparation in her life.  And it was that word: Preparation.  A word that has been on my tongue... that I have flippantly used... that God settled on my heart.

The next day... yesterday... we went to church.  Completely normal... so I thought.  But, as we listened to the last worship song before the sermon, Jesus grabbed a hold of my heart... not in a "moved-by-emotion-isn't-Jesus-great" way.  It was a "come-to-Jesus-your-sins-revealed-isn't-Jesus-sovereign-and-most-worthy-of worship" way.  This was followed by a sermon, while focusing on the task of praying for one, dealt so precisely, so on-the-mark with the necessity of dealing with sin.  I truly don't know how to explain what happened... it was like a revelation to my heart of EVERYTHING we have been struggling with over the past few months: the "misalignment" of our priorities, the stubbornness of our pride, the senseless wrestling with God.  In one moment... in His perfect timing... God opened my eyes to the truth of my heart... truth that I've always acknowledged... but never wanted to surrender.  But, for the first time... I wanted to surrender it... and I did.  I kinda made my own alter call... now that I think about it.... a little awkward.  But here's the beauty of God's grace... Jamie told me afterward that he almost went up with me... that he understood... that what he loves most about me is that I care very little  about what others think... that my obedience to God trumps my fear of man.

God's timing is perfect.  It's no coincidence that the impending trip to visit my mom comes on the heels of this revelation.  That things are starting to move forward as we ready ourselves to leave Maine.  God has been moving us to this place... very slowly... painfully slow.  But, for a purpose... His timing perfect.  As we sat as a family last night, circled up on the floor.... Jamie, Bible in hand, we talked about the obstacles before us... the importance of being a team... not for each other, but for Jesus... Jamie and I just marveled at God's goodness and grace... in the storm. This morning as we worked on our Nehemiah study together and then spent time in prayer, we were so thankful for His faithfulness.  The video we watched (we're doing Kelly Minter's Nehemiah study) was a reminder of how God wrecked my heart yesterday morning at church.  Kelly's sister told a story of a similar occurrence... of being consumed by a repentant heart... and how only from that point could she truly understand what it means to love in the name of Jesus. To love my husband, to love my children, to love my neighbors, the women at the jail, the people in Rhode Island.

And that, my dear friends, I couldn't have said better myself.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Back to Basics

Have you ever done something for so long that you've forgotten what you're doing... or why you're doing it?  Like driving on a long, deserted road... getting lost in your thoughts... only to arrive at your destination with absolutely no idea how you got there. Sometimes, we just get stuck in cruise control... no longer intentional... no longer purposeful.  I know it happens to all of us, but lately, I seem to be a habitual offender.  While visiting North Carolina last month, Jamie and I had a really hard conversation, finally admitting, for the moment, that God doesn't want us in Providence.  An honest evaluation of my heart will reveal that I had hoped to be there by now.  (My school calendar would also reflect that same truth... my wishful thinking has COMPLETELY ruined my Fridays.)

But, by the same token, God has still placed Providence on our hearts and CONSTANTLY confirms that we cannot remain where we are, for a myriad of reason. So we keep moving forward... even traveling to Providence this weekend to look at houses and meet with community leaders and non-profits.  Yet, through all of this, God has also pressed upon us the need to "go back to the basics."  Sometimes we get so caught up in future plans that we forget the tasks right in front of us... or, in my case, it's just an unwillingness to recognize them because... well, let's be honest.... sometimes they aren't that much fun. Starting my school day at 6:00 am with one child and not finishing until 6:00 pm with the last one is exhausting... on my best day.  I literally feel like I'm living out the movie Groundhog's Day.  Some days I don't get out of my pajamas.  I don't put make-up on... I don't even brush my hair.  (I stop short of not brushing my teeth because that's just down-right gross... but I'm sure I've even had a few days when I didn't do that either.)

In the monotony of my life, I've forgotten His presence.  I've ignored His beauty... I've made things so complicated, when really.... it's so simple.  (Not easy, mind you... SIMPLE DOES NOT MEAN EASY!) I've stopped being intentional in my relationships... putting my life on hold... waiting for something to happen... all the while, missing out on what's actually happening right in front of me.  This weekend, I almost missed out on something AMAZING.  Something our family has been praying for for years. 

From the moment our eldest daughter learned about Jesus, she has wanted to share Him with her friends.  We've always opened up the invitation to her friends... to come to church, to the Fall Carnival, to Easter or Christmas services.  And, finally, after years... literally 5 years for one of her friends... two girls accepted the invitation.  (Two girls that don't come from Christian homes.)  Initially, the excitement was palpable... until I realized that it would mean not going to Providence for the next "Team Gathering."  I'll spare you the rambling that went on in my head... and my heart... but I will tell you that EVENTUALLY... I submitted to God's will, realizing, in the bigger picture, that taking these two girls to church was where our family needed to be.  Because we didn't try to cram everything in together... foregoing the Team Gathering... we went to second service... where there was a Baptism.  I sat back as I watched these girls soak it all in.  So incredibly excited that a seed was planted... completely humbled... yet AGAIN... at how God continually works it all out...

Today is Sydney's birthday.  Jamie and I got up early to take her to breakfast... just the three of us.  And we talked about Jesus the whole time.  It's as if Jesus has... FINALLY... become a part of our family.  God has a in temporary holding pattern... we understand that now.  But, when asked last night if we still feel that God wants us to go to Providence, our answer was a unified YES.  We still have a lot to learn.  And because of that, we want to extend this invitation.  We call it the L.I.T.E. Challenge.  For 30 days, we are committing to push into Jesus by participating in a daily devotional and daily challenge to live out your faith and love for Jesus.  If you're interested in the taking on the challenge, let me know.  There's a bracelet waiting for you!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

"If I Chew on that I'll Choke!"

This was the response given to me by my husband after I emptied my heart to him yesterday morning. (Oh, I love his sense of humor!)  While, I know that his statement was only in hopes of bringing levity to a very intense conversation.... anytime I talk about my faith is a pretty intense conversation... there was also some truth nestled gently into the words he spoke.  Ever-so-slowly, God is peeling back layers and revealing more and more to us... changing us, transforming us... and it's completely wonderful. But, for me, it has also been utterly horrifying, because I can't seem to talk about it with anyone.  I've tried!  Believe me.  My inner circle is tight.  A handful of women that I love and adore... and that I usually have no problem venting my frustration to; sharing my heartache; looking to for encouragement or advice.  But, on this issue, for whatever reason, I can't. So, I've been going to God.

I've been seeking out time with Him (besides the ritualistic morning and nightly prayer.) I've been sprawling myself out on the floor, pleading with Him to do whatever He's going to do... and do it fast! (Yes, I know this doesn't work, but desperation makes you forget these things.) Plus, I'm doing all the other things: listening to podcasts every morning, listening to music that focuses me on Him, doing devotionals with the kids, reading Genesis with a fresh pair of eyes.... and it IS true that things are constantly being revealed, no matter how many times you've read the Scripture!) We're even reading Kisses from Katie every night with the kids... which is part of the reason I'm feeling so wrecked! (I should have taken my pastor's wife's advise and NOT read the book.  She knows me well enough to understand what a book like this can do to someone like me... which I'll save for another entry.)

So, yesterday, after my trip to the gym... and listening to yet another horrible (and incredibly wonderful)  sermon from Matt Chandler, I plopped myself down on the bed and was able to FINALLY pour out my heart... to my husband.  Poor guy never stood a chance. As the tears flowed and the words came tumbling out, you could see the concern on his face... not for me... for him.  God has been leading us... ever slowly... to this place where a decision has to be made: where we either TRULY pick up the cross and follow Him, or we sit on the sidelines and cheer for Jesus from afar.  A statement that might have some questioning my rationale, because I don't come across as a "sidelines-type" of person... to which I can only say this:  For me and my family, God has made it ABUNDANTLY clear that WE cannot live in suburbia and be true followers of Christ: the temptations are too big, the distractions too great, our acknowledge of Him and dependence on Him not nearly enough.  Reading a passage from Kisses from Katie struck a resounding chord, that I "fear" will resonate in my heart forever (written in her journal upon her return back to the States after a year in Uganda):

"I keep forgetting to ask God first to heal me, to fill me, to guide me, to rejoice with me.  I have to set aside 'time to pray' in the morning and at night instead of being in constant communication with Him. In Uganda, because I was so physically 'poor,' I was completely dependent on God and spiritually as wealthy as ever. As I sit here writing, I am frustrated with my own stupidity, my human willingness to step back into dependence on stuff and these places I swore I detested." p. 122

So much of what she wrote is also imprinted on my heart... without ever having been to Uganda. It's been that way for a while.  But, trying to talk about it in the past has been so difficult, especially with others.  For our family, God has made it clear that living by the standards of achievement, set by this world, is not for us.  But figuring out how to loosen the chains of this world, a tightening noose around our necks, has been a challenge... but not nearly as difficult as the choice we now face. God continues to encourage me.  He continues to reveal His power in my life.  He has restored a relationship with my eldest child that I feared would be forever crippled by my inability to surrender my heart completely to Him.  I have cried with my children and prayed, with them, that Jesus will bind their hearts from the pain they feel from living in this broken world.  I am constantly reminded that He alone has made a strong marriage stronger... that He has made a good life better.  When I look at these promises fulfilled, it makes walking away seem easier.  When I think about the moments of joy that I experience at the power of His hand... joy that I have never felt from the "comforts" of this world... it makes me want to drop everything and run... and this is what my husband felt he might choke on.  There is still so much to process and God still has so much to do in us... but we are starting to see the light.  He is so incredibly good.   


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Fighting to Believe Revelation 1:8

" I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty."  Revelation 1:8

The title of this entry isn't too encouraging, is it?  The thought of a self-professed Christian fighting to believe something so incredibly fundamental might be considered troubling to some... at times, I consider it troubling myself.  I've said it countless times within the confidence of my inner circle... and I say it here for the entire world to read... It is EASY to say I believe in Jesus... four simple words that my preschooler can say forwards and backwards... but, to REALLY believe Jesus... well... that's completely different.  And I believe this conflict... this glaring truth that is so evident in our society... is the bedrock of Matthew 25:31-46. And while I could sit here forever and postulate on the issue of dividing sheep and goats, it does nothing to help my unbelief.  

I long to believe that the God that knows the number of hairs on my head, that has me in the palm of His hands, is the same God that parted the Red Sea for Moses, that brought Lazarus back from the dead... I guess, truth be told, I long for my statement of belief to be matched by the life I live.  Because, if I'm honest, that's not always the case. I was convicted of this over and over again the past few weeks.  I struggle with living in this world.  I struggle to see others with the eyes of Jesus.  I struggle with not having enough money to pay the bills... I struggle with trusting God to provide the money to pay those bills!   I also think of those fleeting moments when God's glory was revealed.  I think of a man named Charles that we met on the street.  He asked for money and we offered him lunch.  Ten minutes later, over a quarter pounder and fries (Charles, not me!!!!), we talked about Jesus. Then the girls and I prayed with Charles, right in the middle of downtown.  One moment where what I professed with my lips and what I lived with my life... they met at a beautiful place that exemplifies His glory.  I long for more moments like that.  

Like so many things of late, this inevitably leads to thoughts of Providence.  What is our place there?  Why are we going?  (Is He really going to allow us to go!!??!!) The closer we get... the more unworthy we feel.  The closer we get... the more we realize that this is His deal, not ours.  Believe me, we've tried to make it our deal.  But, it's not.  It's just one of the many ways He's continuing to show me that He is, in fact, the Alpha and the Omega... encouraging my faith.  I'm also acutely aware of the ever present tension that I need in my walk with Jesus.  Like the links of a bicycle chain that need just the right amount of tension in order to work properly, I also need to recognize the unyielding tension in me as I walk with Jesus though this fallen world.  Like a salmon swimming up stream, always working, battling the torrents of water.  If it chooses not to swim, it is simply washed away.  

This world does not want me to believe that my God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.  That He is just as powerful now as He was when He parted the Red Sea.  This world does not want me to fight to believe.  It wants me to be washed away in the currents of self-indulgence and self-righteousness, cramped schedules and technology overload.  And for that reason... I must fight all the harder.  


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

God Shows His Hand... in the Hospital Waiting Room

This past weekend, I attended a local church here in North Carolina.  It's a huge church... at least, by my standards.  The entire sermon was thought provoking, challenging.  Honestly, I don't think I put my pen down once during the entire hour.  But of all the things I jotted down, it was this statements that struck a chord in my heart: Our prayers, so often, center around the absence of problems... but, instead, they should focus on the presence of God.  I immediately began to think about my countless prayers, wondering how many times I've actually prayed for the presence of God.  I know that I constantly ask Him to "show up" and solve my problems... but I was at a complete and total loss for the last time I simply asked for His presence to be revealed to me... not because I wanted anything from Him... but, because I simply wanted HIM. 

This has been my prayer ever since Sunday... praying for God's presence, encouragement that He is with me... and for that to be enough... for that to be MORE than enough.  I stopped praying for direction... stopped praying for "the fleece"... stopped praying for jobs or septic systems.  I've been "simply" praying for Him.  I say simple... but it really wasn't.  When you've constantly prayed... your entire life... for the gifts of God... it's anything but "simple" to pray for the presence of God (at least, for me)... because you're awash with the guilt and shame associated with your selfish motivations.   But, thankfully, God's grace and mercy covers all that... and, prasie God, He loves us enough to bless us despite our sinful ways.

So... back to the waiting room.  I was trying to catch up on email when I came across one from Becky at The Root Cellar.  They had received a negative determination letter for a grant I had written for the dental clinic.  It was one of those organizations that has a policy of not giving money to "religious programming" but, I applied anyway... because, last time I checked, dentistry didn't fall into the relm of religious programming.  Well... I guess the Trustees felt differently, because it was the fastest decline I have EVER seen in my 20 years of grant writing.  In my complete and utter frustration and (if I'm honest) disgust, I called Jamie to vent about the letter: my frustration that 20+ hours of work was tossed aside without any serious consideration for the need of our dental clinic and the people we help; the fact that the name of Jesus Christ is so offensive to some (not necessarily in this case... just a general thought that crosses my mind); that "Bridges to Nowhere" get millions of dollars in funding, but I can't get $19,000 for a digital x-ray machine! A little dramatic, but, I'm passionate about my work!

Well, I was unaware that an elderly lady, while fixing her coffee, was listening in to our conversation. As she was getting ready to leave, she slipped $20 under my coffee cup and said: "It's not $20,000, but it's a start.  Keep up the good fight."  As she walked away, I completely lost it.  All I could say was "Oh my God. I can't believe it" Over and over, through my sobs.  Poor Jamie thought I got bad news about my mom and was frantic for me to explain what was going on. Once I was able to compose myself, I was able to explain what had just happen... now constantly repeating "God is so good."  Now, obviously $20 is a far cry from $20,000... but this lady could have given me $1,000,000 and I wouldn't have been any more encouraged or excited at that exact moment.  God made His presence known... His encouragement tangible.  Without asking for a sign.  Without pleading for direction.  He gave me an incredible blessing... and I was able to understand and acknowledge that it came from Him. Again, He made me aware of the need to be obedient to the pricking of my heart in those wierd moments that involve reaching out to a complete stranger.  Realizing that He is much bigger that my insecurities, my inhibitions, my embarrassment.  That denying His prompting is, ultimately, refusing to acknowledge His presence and authority.  His presence in our lives is certain, our awareness... not so much.  I'm even more challenged by the thought of praying for His presence to be revealed... both TO me and THROUGH me! 

Saturday, July 28, 2012

A Time of Prayer and Reflection

     Well, the past few weeks have been some of the most trying for us in this journey to Providence... our journey in life.  Two weeks ago, I left Jamie and the kids here in Maine as I ventured south to spend time with my mom as she continues treatment for cervical cancer.  Needless to say, the visit was emotionally draining.  Everyday, I found myself sitting in the middle of the waiting room at Duke's Cancer Center, surrounded by countless patients and their families.  More than once, I was overcome by emotions as I thought about the battle each of those individuals was undertaking: a childhood robbed, lives forever altered in ways that many never could have imagined... constantly reminded that everyday, every moment, matters. Like a shot in the arm, I was again inspired with ideas of "intentional living" in Providence... thinking of all the things God has placed on our hearts.  But, within moments of returning home, I was, once again, reminded that this road will not be easy.

     Our hope was to have the house on the market by now...but the way things are looking, we'll be lucky to have it on the market by the fall.  Still no job prospects for Jamie (or me, for that matter).  I'd be lying if I didn't admit to my frustration (or disappointment). But, it's at these times that I truly try to push into Him all the more.  That, unfortunately, isn't a natural instinct for me... but it's getting better.  And I truly feel that it's one of the things He's teaching me on this journey. 

     Wednesday night, I met my friend, Cindi, at chuch for an hour of prayer.  It was just the two of us, praying for Providence. It was such an amazingly sweet time, praying for the people, the city, for Jared and Rachel as they move into their new place, for the rest of the team as they begin their journeys to the east, for our family.  About 45 minutes into the prayer time, I completely lost it... just overwhelmed with everything...desperately wanting encouragement from Him.  Pleading with Him for direction.  Jamie and I find ourselves in this weird situation... we have absolutely no idea where our family is going to be in 6 months.  That's a scary place for people like us... but what's scarier is that we feel as if God is choosing to be silent for the moment.  I keep going back to something Beth Moore said in the James study:  It's easy to follow God when it's obvious that He's there... but it's our choice to follow Him when He's purposefully silent that brings about spiritual growth... that deepens our faith.  This is what I was praying for.  This is what caused me to be overcome with emotion. 

     That night, when I returned home, Jamie and I did something we've never done before: we watched worship teams on Youtube.  I wanted to show Jamie a particular song.  The next thing I knew, he was picking out different songs to listen to.  I couldn't help but laugh at the situation: Someone that refuses to sing on Sunday mornings was excited about worship songs on Youtube.  It was just a sweet reminder... encouragement... that even though God is seemingly silent, He's still at work.  And just in case your're curious, here's the link that started it off. This song has ministered to me tremendously the past few months.  I LOVE how this church and worship team truly worship God.  Inspiring! Rachel introduced me to this song when we sang at the Women's Conference in Providence.  I think I've watched this video, at least, 100 times since then... so much that Brayden sings it while he's doing his school work!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

My Family IS My Ministry

***Okay... so here's my "warning" with this blog entry:  I am writing it with a heart that is heavy; emotions that are raw and a soul that is incredibly burdened... by my own pride.  I have no doubt that I will inevitably cringe at my transparency... probably sooner rather than later... but this is who I am at this exact moment.... and if I'm to learn anything from it, I must acknowledge it first... surrender it second and pray for His mercy as He works it out in me.  So, you've been warned ;)***

A few months ago, a good friend of mine made a comment that sat with me in an odd way, so to speak. She said that she envied the fact that I had a ministry.  And at the time, I was a little confused because, to be quite honest, I don't feel that way.  I'm kinda all over the board... and that's on purpose.  Whether it's The Root Cellar, or the jail, teaching preschool at church or a class at homeschool group... where there's a need, I try to fill it.  However, she soon clarified her comment... and it made me cringe: my family is my ministry. 

Now, I could expound for hours on why my familiy is my ministry AND why it isn't... just as much as I can share with you about how much I love and adore my familiy and how, at times, they drive me absolutely insane.  But the issue really isn't about ministry... it's about obedience.  It's about selfishness and pride.  It's about my need to acknowledge (and sometimes prove) that I have more to offer... talents and gifts that can  be utilized outside the relm of "family"... or maybe I just want others to realize that I spend almost every waking moment with my children....

Truth be told, I envy my friends that have careers... that have professional achievements... that have goals that include more than getting the laundry folded and put away AND cooking dinner (which, consequently, I hardly ever achieve!)  For me, motherhood is defined more by my failures than my achievements... the things I do wrong are underscored far more than the things I do right... and maybe that's really what's at the root of all this.  I don't want my family to be my ministry because I feel like as hard as I try, I just keep failing.

I constantly go back to very wise words that were once shared to me (thanks, Wendy Bland!):   My family is not for my satisfaction, but for my santification.  (And, yes, of course, they also provide me with a lot of satisfaction.) But the concept here is something we often miss.  One of the names of God is Jehovah-Mekaddishkem, the Lord who sanctifies.  He uses our families as a tool to lead us closer to Him... yet, for the longest time, I've been seeing my role more as a hinderance to my growth... (I've been using it as an excuse for not being able to do what I want to do...How's that for honesty?)

The picture attached was taken this morning.  Our family participated in the missions walk for our church.  Piper, pictured bottom right, raised $75 for the Peru missions team.  We all gathered together and walked 3.5 miles around Back Cove in Portland, stopping several times along the journey to pray for the team, the village they will be visiting and Food for the Hungry.  As Jamie and I walked hand in hand with the kids, it was hard to deny that our family IS our ministry... readily recognizing the fact that we aren't perfect and neither are they... but that our success and worth isn't measured in terms of achievement and failures, but, instead by the journey we choose to take... by the Navigator we choose to follow... through our obedience. 

(I'm still working on that part!)


Sunday, June 17, 2012

An Eventful Weekend

Last weekend marked an important milestone for the church plant... the first meeting of the core team.  (It was also the first time that all three staff members... and their wives... were in Providence together!) The picture to the left was taken at the end of our evening and I think it accurately portrays the joy all of us were feeling... okay, except for Jamie.  But  Jared's picture actually shows a smile on Jamie's face.... I promise!

We were so excited to meet everyone    that we headed down to Manchester that morning.  After attending the last service at Manchester Christian Church, Dan let us hang out at Restoration House.  We packed a picnic lunch, a football and a Frisbee... which was eaten by the resident pooch.  Things have been so hectic the past few months.  All our free time has been filled with packing and painting that we haven't really stopped and enjoyed our family... at least not for an entire day.  So, this was a HUGE blessing.  Even better, Caroline got to hang out with us... which is ALWAYS a treat.  She even got Mr. Jamie to dance... at least I think that's what he calls it!

Once everyone arrived at Restoration House, we sat down to an AMAZING dinner... but, to be honest, EVERY meal I've had there has been pretty impressive.  Afterwards, we all gathered in the living room for a time of sharing, praying and worshipping.  It was really great to sit around and hear every one's story... how God had led them to this point.  Those of you that know our story can testify to how God's hand has been revealed in so many ways... well, the same can be said for everyone else... and that's pretty amazing.  As we went around the room, sharing the testimony that God is writing in all of us, so many were overcome with emotion.  It was a constant reminder of His goodness; of His faithfulness.

After everyone shared, Jared asked each couple to take a turn sitting in the middle of the circle while the other couples placed hands on them and prayed.  Now, anyone that knows me knows that I LOVE to pray... especially like this.  You feel His presence... His power.  But, just as important, it creates an intimacy within the team.  I've prayed for my "new friends" several times since that evening.  Jamie and I, together, have prayed for them.  Even though our meeting was brief and distance divides us for the time being... interceding on their behalf has created a fondness that I am so thankful for.

As our night concluded, Jared realized our evening together was actually the first church service for the Providence plant.  That's pretty cool!  Especially for us.  Our family has been a part of Eastpoint (also a Restoration House church plant) since the very first Sunday... over eight years ago.  The journey, while rough at times, has been such an amazing blessing.  We have been stretched and encouraged; tested.  He has pruned and molded us... sometimes with gentle hands... sometimes with a pick-ax... (but that's more of a reflection of my disobedience than anything else!)  As we drove home that night, we felt so blessed to be a part of that special moment in the life of this church.  We continue to pray that He will lead us to Providence... completely resigned to the fact that He's the only one that can get us there... because if it was up to me, we would be there now!

Continue to pray for Jared and Rachel as they transition out of Manchester.  The staff and their wives head out to Boot Camp soon.  Please, pray for them during this time.  I'm so excited to see what God is going to do through these three couples.  Their enthusiasm and love for the Lord is inspiring and infectious.

 (FYI:  Angie and Carson (Worship Leader) are standing next to Jamie and Katie and Josh (Small Groups and Outreach) are next to them.)

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Setback, Set Aside and Set Up

It's been awhile since I've set myself in front of the keyboard... that was intentional.  Not because I didn't have anything to share... on the contrary.  There's a lot to share... but I was waiting... waiting for the story to unfold.  However, this morning, He really pressed upon me the undeniable fact that the story IS unfolding... how, despite what seems to be a period of frustrating stagnation in our journey to Providence, He is giving us a chance to grow in our faith, to mature in our wisdom.  How our "set backs" are really "set ups"... opportunities to marvel at how He puts everything together... in His timing.

The picture I've posted was taken May 4th, at the Revive Women's Conference in Rhode Island.  Rachel was asked to lead worship and she asked if I would help... of course, anyone who knows Rachel and her amazing gifts will readily recognize the fact that my "help" was not needed... but, I'd be lying if I didn't admit how great it felt to be singing with my friend again... or how much I truly miss leading others into worship.

After the conference, we headed back to Manchester to hang out with Jared and Rachel, as well as our friends, Kim and John Stiver.  That night lent itself to some really good conversations... interestingly, I had very little to say.  But, this is just an amazing testimony to how God is transforming me.  He is making me a better listener.  He's keeping my "passion" (aka emotions, frustration, excitement) in check.  But, at one point, Kim brought the conversation back to me and Jamie, asking the very pointed question: So, where are you guys with moving to Providence?  (This is why I love Kim and consider her one of my dearest friends.  She's just like me: direct, blunt, to the point... and incredibly annoying!) We answered the question the best way we knew how: We want to go.  We feel confident that God wants us to go.  But we have absolutely no idea how it's going to happen... or maybe, if I'm honest, I should say that I'm not sure how it CAN happen.

We ended up leaving Manchester that following morning resolute in one thing:  We can't have a Plan B.  We've asked God to make it clear and He did (I'll have to share that experience at a later date!) So, we need to move forward, totally trusting Him... and not planning for what happens if He doesn't "come through," if you will.  So, on the ride home we decided to put the house up of sale on June 15th.  Up until that point, our plan was for Jamie to find a job first, and then we'd figure out the housing situation.  However, after looking for a job... ANY job, for six months, with not one single (viable) option, we decided that maybe we're not trusting Him... So we decided to trust.  And never in our wildest dreams could we have ever considered what He did next.

That night, while looking for jobs, Jamie found a posting: Providence area law firm looking to hire attorney certified to practice in Maine, that would be willing to relocate.  Did you get it?  Those chills that run up and down your arm?  This was almost tailored made for Jamie... except for the fact that it's foreclosure law, which he knows very little about... but the ad said that they would train the "right" person.  Never, in our wildest dreams, would we have expected anything remotely close to this.  And I wish I could say that the job is his... but it isn't.  The door isn't closed. The posting went down last week and he hasn't received a call... but he also hasn't received the courtesy "Thanks, but no thanks" letter... so we just keep praying.

But in the meantime, we suffered a few other setbacks last week in the journey: my mom was diagnosed with cervical cancer, we learned that our septic system needs to be replaced, and Jamie's income will decrease yet again next month due to rising insurance costs and no cost of living increase. I had a moment the other day, just sitting in my chair, crying my eyes out.  And while it would be easy to say that there's a lot to cry over... the truth was that I was crying about the condition of my heart.  As I sat there, sharing everything with Jamie, I had to confess the resentment that was consuming me... so much so that I physically couldn't pray.  Never in my life have I been unable to pray.  But, last week, I couldn't. Instead, I was pleading with the Holy Spirit to intercede on my behalf.  I threw myself into the Bible, I listened to at least one sermon every morning while I worked out at the gym.  I prayed with Jamie.  I prayed with the kids.  I wish I could say that all my troubles "magically" went away. They didn't.  However, something did change... me.  Somewhere, somehow... a sense of peace has taken over my heart.  I am completely and totally 100% at peace... while in the storm.  I realized that all these setbacks (my mom, the septic, the income) and the "set asides" (those things that we have to "wait on"... like this job in Providence)... they're all just SET UPS for God to reveal His hand...sometimes in the immediate outcome, sometimes in the journey itself.... sometimes in our hearts.

In the meantime, we're still painting and packing....preparing ourselves for the journey.  Please, keep praying for our family: my mom, Jamie's job (both the one he has now and the one he'll have next...whenever and wherever that is!) and my heart... that a consuming peace will continue to grow, even in the height of the storm.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Gaining Perspective...

I'm not quite sure where to begin this one... there's so much to say and not nearly enough time to say it (or, in this case, write it!).  I guess I can start with this:  As I was anxiously awaiting Jamie and Sydney's arrival in Boston, the first person I spotted from the "team" was Jane Raymo.  After a brief hug and the obvious question from me: How was the trip?  The only response Jane gave was this:  Your husband is not the same man.  Hold on... because your husband is not the same man.  I wish I could tell you what went through my mind at that moment: Joy? Relief? Confusion?  Probably a little of each. Truth be told, up until that point, I never dared to hope for anything from this missions trip.  I was afraid to be disappointed.  Jamie and I must have talked about it at least 100 times.  My trip to Nicaragua, just two years prior, had a profound effect on my walk with Christ.  I came back on fire for the Lord.  Anyone who knows me can testify to the transformation... which, unfortunately, put "pressure" on Jamie to have a similar experience... or maybe it's more accurate to say that we both feared that NOT having the same experience would be such a disappointment.  So, early on, we made the decision to not talk about expectations and to be open to whatever God was going to do... and He did a lot.

There is so much I could write about... but the one thing I want to share is this: perspective.  I don't think we ever truly appreciate how much we have grown until we're reminded of how far we have come.  This was definitely the case for Jamie. During this trip, he was assigned to a group that was responsible for building an erosion canal.  He was teamed up with a few other guys and a local, Hilario, for the project.  (See photo)  As Jamie began telling me about the work detail and the men he came to know, it was clear to see that Jane was right... my husband had changed. 

Not exactly known for forging friendships... I daresay that Jamie would admit to having only one friend (Scott Furr) took me by surprise how he spoke about the men he worked with during those long days.  There was one in particular, Eric (seen standing next to Jamie in the picture), that Jamie felt a kindred connection to... because there are striking similarities between the two of them.  The irony of this is that Eric isn't a Christian... something Jamie wasn't aware of until the end of the trip.  I think it was a pretty reasonable assumption to make... especially if you're on a missions trip, but, regardless, the truth was the same.  It was then that Jamie began sharing with me some of their conversations about faith.  He told Eric that it took eight years of enduring my constant nagging for him to become a Christian... obviously, I'm kidding (but I'm sure, at times, it felt that way). What struck me the most was listening to Jamie talk about Eric.  He kept saying that he was really surprised that Eric WASN'T a Christian because he showed all the characteristic of Christ... but it's what Jamie said next that completely rocked my world:  I can't wait to see what he's like when he does become a Christian!

For me, it was one of those surreal moments.  There's no way to know how many times I said those exact words about my own husband... how many times countless others have said the same thing.  How many times Jamie and I went round and round about how being a good person is great... but being a follower of Christ is better... because it gives you purpose, truth.  When a good person places their trust in Christ, they can take the world by fire... their goodness (which also comes from Him... whether they realize it or not!), amplified by His greatness, changes lives... starting with their own.

Jamie saw himself in Eric.  He saw where his journey began, and how far God had taken him, with more clarity, with more appreciation.  He gained a whole lot of perspective!  There are no obvious markers for our spiritual growth.  Like the worn away door frame with the markings of pencil detailing every growth spirt of our younger years.  It's easy to look back and see how much we have physically grown... that's not the case with our spiritual lives... unless we look back in journals (if we keep them) or see reminders of ourselves in others... as was the case with Eric.

When we saw Eric at church the Sunday following their return, Jamie gave him a big hug.... which was also a surprise because the ONLY men that Jamie hugs are Scott and Jared!  I immediately gave Eric a hug myself... I couldn't help it.  Even though I don't know him at all, I can't help but be endeared... I pray for Eric daily.  I thank God for putting him with Jamie.  I thank God for the testimony he is writing in both of them.  I thank God for His timing... because it IS perfect.  It was for Jamie.  It is for Eric.  It's one of the few things we can count on in life... if only I could remember it!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

New Beginnings

Well, this has been an amazing week!  There's so much to share that I'm not quite sure where to begin.  But I'll start by stating the one, undeniable truth.... God is so good.  The picture I'm posting with this entry was taken this past Sunday... before Sydney and Jamie were baptized.  For those that know our story, you understand what a monumental day this was. For those that don't, please read this entry as a testimony to God's graciousness, His goodness. His providence... and how the gift of His son, Jesus, changes lives.

I could sit up all night writing about God's obvious hand in my life, as it pertains to my family... but, tonight I'm just focusing on prayer.  This is something that I have really struggled with over the years.  My  confession: The only thing I'm consistent with is NOT praying on a regular basis; while I try to focus my prayer time interceding on the behalf of others, my prayers always come back to me; it's quite remarkable if I can start and finish my prayer time without veering off track.... by making my mental shopping list for the next grocery run or constructing the "To Do" list for the following day.  But, despite all this, there is one thing I have consistently prayed for over the past 10 years... that my husband would openly accept and acknowledge the authority of Jesus in his life.  And after a decade of prayers and countless tears that prayer was answered.  And just like everything else... God's timing was perfect.

Raised Catholic, my husband was baptized as an infant.  He was raised in the church, but like many others, regardless of doctrine, he became jaded by religious tradition.  To make things "worse," my husband is simply amazing.  He is a man of integrity.  His moral compass points north.  Frankly, he's quite annoying.... but I say that with an abundance of love (and just a smig of jealousy!). Over the years, it's been particularly trying for me.  I would often read 1 Corinthians 7:14 for encouragement... but, more times than not, it led to frustration.  I didn't understand why this prayer wasn't being answered.  My intentions were good: I wanted a spiritual leader for me and our children.  Isn't that the way it's suppose to be?  Doesn't God want that for all of His children?  But, what really troubled me was "my part" in 1 Corinthians.  I was always aware of the fact that Jamie was watching me... acknowledging the fact that there is NO WAY IN THE WORLD he would want to trust Jesus with his life if it meant enduring the sometimes painful pruning process that he often saw reflected in my life.  Walking with Christ isn't easy and the past two years of my life is a strong testimony to that.  But, thankfully, I'm not responsible for my husband's salvation.  And the moment I realized that... everything changed.

Over the course of the past few months, our eldest daughter started asking questions about baptism.  It finally got to the point that she wanted to talk to "Mr. Scott" about it... which happened one Tuesday afternoon over ice cream at a local shop.  I wish I could express the simple beauty of that interaction.  Sydney has grown up in our church.  "Mr. Scott and Mrs. Beth" are considered to be more than our pastor and his wife.  They are our friends.  The people with whom we have spent Christmas morning.  The ones we call in an emergency.  One of two brave couples that have agreed to raise our children if anything should ever happen to us.  They are more than friends... they are our family.  So, I just naturally assumed that Sydney would want Scott to baptize her.  But, God had other plans... and he used Sydney as the seed.  For you see, Sydney wanted her father to baptize her... a request that no one expected... the catalyst for what was about to unfold.

Overwhelmed with such a request, Jamie was forced to make a decision.  His faith in Jesus was never in question... but an open proclamation in front of complete strangers was something completely different.  My husband is immensely private.  He shares his true self with few.  His intimate moments with even fewer.  Being baptized in front of hundreds of people, in a way, was a violation of that privacy... but it was also a "point of no return."  I honestly can think of no one that has taken this decision more seriously than my husband... and I think this is where all my struggling comes into play.   Jesus isn't limited to Sunday mornings in our house.  Accountability is HUGE... almost to the point of a liability at times.  Experiencing the freedom of Jesus got lost somewhere along the way.  My inability to experience and rest in the joy of Christ has often been the battle cry of my testimony... it has spoken louder than my love for Jesus.  And for his, my repentant heart grieves... and is thankful for the grace and mercy of Jesus.  Jamie knew that being the spiritual leader of our house would be no small task, especially in light of our plans for going to Providence.  We often use the term "being all in."  This step for Jamie was a huge proclamation that he was "all in"... and the coy wink he gave me right before Scott dunked him under the water assured me of the fact that this was always the plan... God's plan.

As I sit here right now and type, Jamie and Sydney are in Nicaragua... experiencing their first missions trip together.  God is so good.  I never in my wildest dreams could have imagined things playing out the way they have.  As Jamie stood before the congregation last Sunday, his emotion was undeniable.  You saw a man that clearly understood the decision he was making.   And as I looked around, I saw our friends also moved by what they were witnessing.  We were surrounded by people that have shared our tears in this journey.  Our dearest friends, Anna and Scott, pulled our children out of Sunday school, as well as their own kids, and sat in the front row.  Another treasured friend, Lisa, held Holden as Sydney and Jamie were baptized.  It was one of those surreal moments when you realize that God had this all planned out long, long ago.  It all made sense.  Afterwards, we had so many people come up to us, thanking us for allowing them to be a part of "our" day.  But, it's only now that I understand that it was really God's day.  The glory is His.  It always has been.  It always will be.  I'm just thankful that I'm able to recognize it... to acknowledge it... to praise it.                                                                            

Sunday, April 8, 2012

HOPE NOW... a Message for Easter

This morning, on our way home from church, we came across a man that was physically struggling to place one foot in front of the other. The thoughts flooded my head, as they so often do: We should stop and see if he's okay. Give him a ride. Offer to buy him dinner, or better yet groceries. But, I didn't speak them. I just prayed. The remainder of the car ride was quite. Almost like the gloom that covered this unknown man had infiltrated and polluted the very air we breathed... which is exactly what happened. By the time we pulled into the driveway, my husband asked me to take the kids into the house because he was going back to help the stranger. I asked him to take one of our neighbors with him... fearing his safety. But he said "No" and went on his way.

I'd be lying if I didn't admit to fearing the worst. And I could never in a million years articulate the relief I felt when my husband walked through the doors almost 30 minutes later. But, I can share with you God's divine providence. The man's name was Charles. He disclosed that he had been in some really dark places in his life... but, none as dark as the one he found himself in at this very moment. The smell of alcohol from his breath was impossible to ignore. The injuries he had somehow sustained left him almost incapacitated. From the moment he entered our car, he cried the entire way to his house... confiding to my husband that just moments earlier he was thinking of ending his life. And it was then that my husband shared the message of hope that was only shared with us an hour before. My husband presented the Gospel, the message of hope, to someone so broken that there seemed no escape except to end his own life.

By the time they reached his house, Charles seemed to be in a better place. He extended his hand to shake my husband's... and it was then that my husband saw the tattoo that ran across Charles' hand: Satan. Even now, it takes my breath away.

As Charles exited our car, he thanked my husband for his time and even contemplated the possibility of discovering a new friend. How God must smile (and Satan must scream in disgust) at the thought of someone so lost being given the Hope of Christ. This is why Jesus overcame the grave. This is what we have been commissioned to do... to spread the love of Christ to a broken world. And the fact that this opportunity... this gift... was presented to us on the day we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior is not lost on us.


In an effort of full disclosure, I have to admit some trepidation at starting a new blog. For starters, the first one (The 'Crazy Love' Experiment) almost wrecked me. The other day, I went back to read some of my entries from over a year ago... thankful for God's grace and goodness, only able to admit now that time and distance have lent themselves to wisdom and perspective. But, despite this, I readily admit that I'm no fan of the Divine Pruning Process. Yet, after a long talk with a dear friend and mentor (thanks, Amy!) I quickly became aware of how important this blog is.... not to you (I'm not so self-absorbed to think that any of you care in the slightest about my thoughts and perspective!). It's important to me and my family... my children, their heritage. Because one day I will look back over these entries with a profound appreciation for where God has lead us. Because, despite my ironclad memory at this time in my life, there will come a time when these precious moments fall away, forever lost unless remembered by pen (or in this case, computer). Because our family is about to embark on an adventure that will cause us to leave our family and friends, everything we know... for the one thing we hold dear: Jesus.

We have the great fortune of being part of a church plant in Providence, Rhode Island. Our dear friends, Jared and Rachel Cowgur are planting the church through Restoration House Ministries and we couldn't be more honored and humbled at the opportunity to share the Hope of Jesus. This blog will document our journey... and the adventure that awaits!