One of my most difficult days in ministry was when my husband preached soon after I miscarried our first baby. He was a youth pastor at the time and we had only been married for three years. At that point in our lives, he didn’t preach very often, but God had already preordained that time and that day.
And so, it was a difficult day, watching as my husband cried his way through a sermon, trying to hold back my own sobs, but it was also a beautiful day, because I have never forgotten that sermon and the comfort it brought me then and still brings me today.
Dave preached from John 11, specifically verse 35, “Jesus wept”. Knowing that he would raise Lazarus from the dead, Jesus wept. Aware that in just moments, he would perform a miracle and that there would be much rejoicing, Jesus wept. He was moved by the mourning of those gathered and he wept.
Losing my first baby was so unexpected. Everything was fine and then it wasn’t. I had just barely discovered that I was pregnant and then a few weeks later our doctor was handing me a box of tissues.
It was a surreal time for us. On top of our personal loss, our country was reeling from the tragedy on September 11, 2001. I wasn’t sure how I could go on breathing. The devastation was deep and while I knew that God would prove himself faithful, and while my hope and faith never wavered, I wept and I didn’t know if I would ever stop.
Dave’s words on that Sunday were exactly what God intended for me to hear. “Jesus wept” and Jesus still weeps with us in our sorrow. “See how He loved him!”, the Jews said when they saw Jesus weeping (John 11:36, BSB). See how He loves my baby! I could trust that He knew what was best for my baby. Even though I longed to hold that little life, to watch it grow, to be it’s mother, I could trust that Jesus loved my baby more than I could imagine. He mourned with me when I mourned and I knew that He would rejoice with me when I rejoiced.
For a year after I lost our baby, I had to be tested every month to ensure that I wasn’t pregnant. My miscarriage was not a typical one, but a rare partial molar pregnancy. It was a painful time for me as each month I had to schedule an appointment and tell the office workers (again and again!) why I needed to be tested. I didn’t know if I would ever have children. Imagine being in a waiting room with happy, expectant mothers all around you, harboring your heartbreak every month for a year.
It was a tough year, but Dave’s words rang true. I could feel God’s comfort, I could sense His presence and I knew His faithfulness. It was through that year that I learned to hold my family and my future with open hands. I could not control my story, but I knew I could trust the Author.
We named our first baby “Hope”. Our four beautiful children are blessings beyond what I could have imagined. There have been tears of rejoicing with each birth. With our last baby, “How Great Thou Art” was playing while I was in the final stages of delivery.
We had a work day at church today, and as we arrived there were many cars in the parking lot. It made me smile.
Several years ago, while we were serving in a different ministry, a church work day was planned by the leadership. As the day approached, my husband found out that the leaders in charge of the day would not be there. On that day, our family showed up and we were the only ones there.
Sometimes ministry is like that. It’s disheartening. You work hard, but feel like you are all alone. And sometimes you don’t just feel it; you actually are the only one working. This is one of the reasons why “burnout” in ministry occurs.
And so, on this day, I couldn’t help but smile. It’s an incredible blessing to be involved in a church where we are serving along side so many others. As I observe the faithfulness of our congregation, I see the selflessness with which everyone serves and it encourages me to work hard as well.
Twenty years in ministry. It’s a long time and there are a lot of stories to tell. Today, the story is one of gratefulness. We know what it’s like to serve alone and we know what it’s like to serve with many. I’m grateful to be where we are at today.
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. Colossians 2:23,24
My husband and I had the opportunity to share a meal with some members of our congregation recently. We had a lovely time, especially when our hostess shared her prayer binder with me. This prayer warrior has been praying with prayer partners every morning for the past 30 years.
Yes, you heard me right. Every morning for the past 3 decades, she has begun every day praying with two friends.
As she shared the scripture prayers that they pray every morning, there were tears as I realized that she prays faithfully for my husband.
This month, Dave and I are celebrating twenty years of ministry together. We have experienced both joys and struggles through the years, but there are a few things that have remained constant; God’s faithfulness, the prayers of his people on our behalf and our desire to serve him. I can only attribute our continued desire for ministry to God’s faithfulness and prayer. There is no other explanation.
Ministry is worth it, but I’m not sure that I can adequately express how painful it has been at times. We have been misunderstood, criticized, judged unfairly, betrayed, and mocked. I wish that I could say that we have always responded well. We haven’t. Especially me. It is one thing to be treated poorly. It’s another when you see the man you love disrespected.
Those are the times when the prayers of others have meant so much. To know that we are faithfully prayed for has meant the difference for us as we serve when it has been extremely difficult to do so.
If you ever wonder if your prayers make a difference, they do.
Therefore, confess your sins to one another [your false steps, your offenses], and pray for one another, that you may be healed and restored. The heartfelt and persistent prayer of a righteous man (believer) can accomplish much [when put into action and made effective by God—it is dynamic and can have tremendous power]. ~James 5:16, AMP
On the first day of school last year, I gave each one of my children a ziploc bag with playdough inside. At first, they were not sure what to think. The playdough was colorless and unimpressive, but I encouraged them to start squeezing the dough while it was still in the bag. As they did this, they began to grow in excitement. They quickly discovered the secret ingredient in each lump of dough. Hidden in the middle was food coloring and as they squeezed their playdough, the color spread revealing vibrant colors, all different, all beautiful.
I thought this would be a fun activity for the kids. I didn’t expect that their playdough would be a much loved aspect of their homeschool days! Throughout the year, we used their playdough to enhance different lessons, but they would also just play with it when I was reading to them.
But now, O Lord, you are our Father;
we are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of your hand. ~Isaiah 64:8
In scripture, the Lord is compared to a potter, humanity to clay. God shapes and fashions each one of us for a unique purpose. But somewhere along the way, we have to be willing to submit to the sculptor in our lives. Many of us choose not to trust God’s work in our lives and we stay colorless and shapeless, not carrying out the purpose for which we were intended. But when we trust ourselves to the Living God who created us with intention, we begin to see His purpose for us as He lovingly bends and pushes and stretches and pulls us into the person best suited to carry out His purposes.
This bending, stretching, pushing and pulling is painful at times. It is not an easy thing to place our lives into the hands of a potter. We won’t always see the purpose in the difficulties we face, but trusting God’s plan means that we continue to submit to His authority in our lives, knowing that He is a good Father.
If my kids had never squeezed their playdough, they would not have discovered the color inside. If we are unwilling to submit to the Sculptor, we will never discover the blessings He has prepared for us.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. ~Ephesians 2:10
Submit is my “one word” for the year. It has not been easy to pray that I would submit, because releasing my perceived control is painful. But oh, it is also GOOD! I am beginning to see glimpses of the color inside, the purpose God has for me. Without a willingness to be pliable in His hands, I am not sure I would see this. Instead, I would be seeking glory for myself, not God’s glory. And so, I will choose to submit to my Sculptor!
The other night, our family watched “The Princess Bride” movie for the umpteenth time, but this time our four year old daughter was seeing it for the first time or at least the first time that she truly understood what was happening. *Spoiler*… As Buttercup pushed the man in black over the cliff, my eyes were drawn to my daughter instead of the screen. Ainsley watched with rapt attention and when she heard the words, “As you wish!”, her eyes lit up.
“Is it Wesley?”, she breathed, incredulous.
It was a beautiful moment, one that made me wish I could go back and experience the wonder of that discovery for the first time.
This summer, I picked up a book that I loved reading the first time around, but it had lost its luster and allure for me. I already knew the ending and somehow this brought disappointment rather than a desire to read the book again.
Have you ever felt this way? Like you wish you could go back and experience a beautiful moment or watch a movie or read a book again but with the same wonder you had the first time you experienced it?
A few weeks ago, I took my younger two to the beach while my older two were at a pool party. It was one of those perfect evenings when the weather is just right, the kids are perfectly happy and all is right in the world. I watched as my boy found a log drifting in the water and climbed onto it. He laughed and laughed as he was bounced around by the waves and then of course, he had to share it with his sister.
Their wonder and awe of a moment so simplistic was breath taking to me.
One of my favorite lines from “The Princess Bride” is “Get used to disappointment”. I often say this to my kids when one of us is upset and we all laugh because it lightens the mood. The truth is life IS full of disappointment. We don’t get to experience the first moments again. But what if instead of allowing ourselves to be disappointed in those moments, we were deliberate about finding the awe and wonder in each new moment, perhaps by seeing it through the eyes of a child. Or by looking for the blessings each moment holds instead of pining for the good ol’ days.
While driving around recently, we heard the song “Dear Younger Me” by Mercy Me and my oldest son shared a beautiful thought. He was sure that there were things that I would want to tell my younger self (and this is certainly true!), but that having kids was like being given the opportunity to share the things I wish I’d known, this time with my little ones.
I could be disappointed with the fact that I have regrets OR I could be deliberate in teaching my kids the lessons I wish I had learned decades ago.
I choose to live deliberately. I choose to live looking for wonder instead of always longing for things to be different.
I choose to live with arms wide open.
Disappointed or Deliberate?