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!