community, grace, New year, parenting, thankfulness, trusting God, Uncategorized

2018 Year-End Ebenezer Awards

My counselor often says–“take time to write that down, Jen.”

How can we so easily forget the beautiful provisions and lessons that are so life changing? We have amnesia of the moment.  Whatever is right in front of us gets our attention.

So, I am writing it down–“blogging it forth”–“setting the Ebenezer up” to remind me of moments of thankfulness this year.                                                   It has been a huge year in my heart–growth-a-palooza with a side of a long way to go.  

In NO particular order, the Ebenezers go to…

*A reentry back into writing.  My soul was missing the way that writing makes me dig and process.  For a 7 on the Enneagram (which tries to avoid all pain), you can see this is a healthy practice for me.  I can take myself WAY LESS SERIOUSLY than I did when I started this blog 11 years ago January 1.  

*517VADWLEqL._AC_UL160_514-Br1DhSL._AC_UL160_The Enneagram.  Seriously, I think in terms of these 9 numbers now.  If you are thinking…”oh yeah I took this cute little test on that,” Stop. Right. Now. and get “The Road Back to You” by Suzanne Stabile and Ian Cron.  There are several good podcasts too! A test will not suffice.  This is a helpful tool for understanding and growth!

*The growth of new and seasoned Business Partners on the Rodan + Fields journey.  It has been exciting and such a joy to encourage and grow with these women and my team all over the country.  Even more than ever, I realize that God expanded ministry opportunities through RF instead of closing me R&F(1of1)-59off to them with the disbanding of Women’s Discipleship Concepts 4 years ago.  The highlight was a retreat for some of my directs in April. It ended up, through the Spirit’s leading, to be a time of rest in the Lord, an encouragement for souls on the journey, and time of forming a deep community.

*Puzzles:  I am so thankful that I got a “hankering” for a puzzle one day, and the rest is documented in a big pile of puzzle boxes in our downstairs bedroom.   I know I am a nerd.  Yep.It is a practice that makes me set aside time to just be.  That is sooo important for our hearts, mommas.  (and, PS, I am donating some to an assisted living–in case you think I need to add “puzzle hoarder” to my profile.)


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*The freedom and financial ability to do some fun trips with the boys AND do Boat Club as a family. A little Chattanooga trip to explore for Spring Break, A full-fledged vacation to the beach for a week (first legit vacation we have paid for), some Smokey Mountain fun for Fall Break at Dollywood, Season Passes to Dollywood…  I want presence, experiences, and adventure with my boys.  Who knew that everything would be so expensive???  This has been a HUGE blessing from my continued growth in my RF business.

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*A special trip with my Mom and Sister to go to my nephew’s wedding in Spokane, Washington.  What a beautiful part of the country.  I am so Thankful for time with family.

I loved the enriching conversations that this trip brought with strangers.  I am reminded that God wants us to engage the world with His Beauty and Truth, and we get so bogged down with what’s right in front of us that we miss out.

*My oldest son’s Kindergarten and 1st-grade year…I was so scared.  Sensory Processing Disorder is no joke, and we have worked so hard to help him build resiliency and coping skills. I am beyond thankful for our school, the wonderful teachers and community, our OT, ac6646139525ea749b261b878deb0577Mrs. Kathy, the children’s ministry at our church, and family friends that have encouraged our little guy so much.  He is a different kid than when we started this journey over four years ago.  The motto around our house is “you can do hard things!”  Including the parenting part for Greg and me.  There was a HUGE marker in this journey in December as we got to reflect on how much growth has come in our buddy–HUGE thankfulness to God!

*RF Convention in New Orleans.  It was a beautiful and fun week with 30 members of our team, countless dear friends that are sideline sisters, and friends from all over the country that I have made on this journey.   It was so fun to walk the stage and go to spectacular parties.  Dressing up is fun, and I rarely do that in life! However, It was a IMG_9351monumental week in my heart for none of those reasons.  God intricately brought restoration to so many parts of me, and I straight up was overwhelmed by His Fathering, His pursuit, and His deep love for me.    Someday I might tell the bigger story, but I do not feel released to yet.  I am reminded that He can use anything anywhere to do His work in us.  Hilariously, I had a worshipful time in a city known for its darkness reminding me that His light pierces through our darkness.

IMG_8481IMG_8484*Y’all…I did a scary thing that I dreamed about.  I got the opportunity and encouragement from my friend and business partner, Lindsey, and I pressed go LIVE on a training platform for 180,000 RF consultants. The topic in April was “Times I almost quit: Building the art of resilience,” and the topic in August was “Get Real Thursday: examining the posture you are taking toward business and life.”  I am amazed at the personal growth in public speaking I have gotten over the last year and a half, in particular.  Every time someone asked me to stretch to speak at something new, I thought 2 things:  1) that is not my strength–I don’t do this!  and 2) I don’t have anything special to say that anyone has not said (aka someone else could do it better!)          Here’s the truth…both of those statements are probably true, but we only grow when we stretch to new things.  It is uncomfortable, exhilarating, challenging, full of anxiety, and yet, if I had listened to my fears, I would have missed out in sad ways.        Note 1: Live videos always choose the greatest screenshots–eye roll here.  Note 2:  I also discovered the spray tan the 2nd time around. 

* The growth of my sweet, sassy, smart boys.  I am so thankful that Greg keeps a running list of their hilarious quotes.  Every day I think about the slipping time, and I am sobered by the responsibility and privilege of being their Momma (yep–over my dead body will they call me anything else!!).  Greg is an amazing Daddy–I need him for balance:). As I have read back over the earlier years of my blog, I remember that there was a time that I surrendered that they would not be here.  Maybe it’s my age, their preciousness, or my period of infertility, but I am so thankful for their lives and this opportunity.  

The truth is, as I reflect more, I will remember more.  Why?  I so easily forget the beauty of God’s hand in my life.  What about you?  What are your Ebenezers for the year?   

authenticity, community, comparison

Looking for a place to belong

When it comes down to it, we all want to belong.  We want to feel accepted and a part of something bigger than us.  That desire can take many different paths–from conquering teenage popularity, to acceptance into a sorority or fraternity, to finding like-minded people who share a passion of yours, to exclusive friendships, to simply finding someone who is safe and will listen.   Some of those places of belonging feel safer than others…some tide us over until we really discover who we are and find a place of acceptance and love for our true selves.

There is a satisfaction and a rest when you discover and accept who you are–giftings, personality, tendencies.  I love seeing women be thankful for how God made them instead of trying to be like someone else.  Then, true serving and living and loving and leadership has opportunity to flow from them.  They can then become a place where others feel safe to share and to belong.  We create places of belonging for others when we relax ourselves.

I am attracted to “real” people.  Real people who can laugh at themselves and know their hangups, people who are not intimidated by me and can encourage me instead of competing with me, people who listen and who share honestly about their fears, people who speak truth about situations instead of skirting around them with what seems proper.  “Real” people seem to be few and far between, but when I meet them, I already feel a kindred spirit with them.

I try to be a “real” person by disarming  all the subtleties that keep us from really knowing one another, but I fail a lot.  It is easy to be intimidated by the airs others put on (usually due to insecurities), to feel less than, or to feel unsafe to be oneself.  The truth is, one person has to choose to be one’s real self first.  If it is not your choice to do so, you may miss out on the real richness of relationships.  You may choose to do so when the other person does not and look weird or feel stupid…I have found the risk is worth it (though it does not feel good every time).

Women are…complicated.  We spend a lot of time assuming what other people think and what they are about and what they think about us.  This builds walls that are almost unconquerable.

In this day of social media where the walls can be the fortresses of perfect looking family pictures, status updates that seem better than ours and more intentional than ours, we can easily give up and choose to shut one another out because we don’t really see the real people.  Yet, we are deceived into creating unreal personas of people…whether they intend for us to or not.

We complicate relationships in public, too.  We can be intimidated by what people have or what people do or the assumed status that people create.  We can allow our fears to turn into walls that look like being “better than” others.  We find myriad ways of shutting people out to self-protect.  We find our “core” group and stick with them allowing no one else in for fear that we lose footing.  So many assumptions and so little truth going on in our head.

To be real, we must first know ourselves.  This takes time and courage and other people to help us discover.  Usually it takes adversity…and a lot of it.  It takes facing our adversity and pain head on instead of relying on the things we turn to that can numb our pain (shopping, drinking, eating, entertainment, drugs, achievement, working out, etc).  It is not easy to be real, but it is freeing to be real.

We also must be willing to know others for who they are and enter their messy places.  Once we face our messiness, the messiness of others is less scary.  We do not have to fix those places in others, but we do need to be willing to be present with them as they sort it out.

Truthfully, the only reason I can be real is because I have come to know the One who made me.  I have faced the fact that I am so so so different from Him (in my character), and I need Him.  In my difference from Him, I only seek myself.  I am completely broken as a human, and He knows that I am bound by my rebellion against His goodness.  I have enslaved myself in greed, in lust, in trying to be better but failing, in thinking that I am the center of the universe.  He sent His son, Jesus, to rescue me from me.  He took the penalty for all my selfishness and rebellion, showed me favor I do not deserve, accepted me, made me a part of Him, gave me a new heart where I can choose to be like Him in character and goodness, and put me at peace with God.  At peace with God, I am free to rest in Him and be myself.  There is no one or nothing than can intimidate me in this freedom.  The wonderful thing, is that I am free to share that with others.  When I think on these truths and learn more about Him and what it means to trust Him instead of myself, I want to be a “real” person all the time and invite others to be real, too.

authenticity, community, discipleship, God's word, infertility, spiritual growth, suffering in joy, The body of Christ

Why I share vulnerable places…

Many people in the course of these years of blogging in infertility or teaching in the midst have come to me or commented on how my blogs have encouraged them in the weight of their journeys.  Some that I suspected might struggle, some who I had no clue were struggling…

Some of you might say, “I could not put that out there.:  It is not easy–it’s a vulnerable place and when publicized it makes it more vulnerable.  You open yourself to possibly hurtful comments made by others who mean to help but push the dagger farther.  You also open yourself to the gift of others praying for you…countless ones who may not even share it until much later. I totally believe that God brought Jack and this growing baby by the prayers of the saints who found out about our infertility through Greg and I being vulnerable and asking for help.

I have always journaled–since I became a Christian 25 years ago.  It is a tool that  helps me tackle the reality that is going on inside my heart.  It helps me share with God and hear what He shares with me.  It helps me to study His word and mark down what comfort and direction His word brings in the midst of my emotions and life.  So, why did I blog it?

2 Corinthians 1:3-7

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.  If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer.  Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.

I am not my own.  I have been given a hope and life in Christ that flows over into others.  I spend my time attempting to point others to truth and to help them to grow.  The point of my deepest growth is oftentimes the point of my deepest pain pressing into Christ and his truth.  My suffering was and is met with His comfort, and in sharing that with others, I hopefully can help them lean in to the Lord and be comforted and in turn they hopefully do that with others.

So, why do I blog this?  Because the reason I faced it is for the comfort for the Body of Christ…to share with them the depths and the treasure of Christ.  This is a tool to do that.    I want to treasure Christ more than anything I might have lost or may be losing and help others to do the same.  He is worth it.

I am not special in this…That doesn’t mean you have to blog it.  In the world of blogs where people become celebrities, that is not what the aim is.  The world does not need another mom blogger, but the world needs moms who struggle who are honest with those around them about where their hope is found–Jesus.  People around you are hurting and they need to know how you struggle to your hope–not perfectly, but in the truth of Christ.  If you struggle with perfection or an eating disorder or infidelity or singleness or jealousy or have lost a sibling or a child or a parent or suffer from depression or Pick any thing, God has a way for you to share with someone else.  We are a Body…with all different parts held together by the Head–Christ.  Where would God have you share?  Are you pressing into Him?

community, doctrine, God's sovereignty and goodness, God's word, infertility, suffering in joy, thankfulness, The body of Christ, trusting God

Lots of Thoughts…

      It has been a long while since I have posted a blog.  Many times I have thought of topics to write about that are swirling in my head and heart–I just have not. 

        Life is full of different seasons.  My thirties, to this point, have been about pain, struggle and immense growth in knowing Christ.  An overarching sadness has plagued circumstances (see the history of this blog).  Now, I am in a season of the joy of pregnancy–preparing to let go and preparing to embrace a huge new role and responsibility in life.  Soon, (3 months and coming faster) I will be a Momma and Greg a Daddy. 

        God has been unbelievably gracious to me in the last few years to lead me through heartache and struggle while providing friends around me who have prayed deeply on my behalf.  Even aquaintances and strangers have taken up the mantle of prayer.  He now has me in a season of having the privilege of doing that for others.

      I have NEVER experienced a season where so many around me are so heavy in pain and struggle–NEVER.  He has traded my personal struggles with struggling with the body.  My heart breaks for many around me who seem to be in the sadness and wrestling phase I had been in for so long.  No, it is not about infertility for most of them, but it is the same concept.  We, at one or many times in our lives, will find ourselves in situations and circumstances where we have NO CONTROL.  We are hurt by others and ourselves.  We see people moving toward utter destruction, and nothing we say can pull them back or change their hearts.  Like infertility, we cannot make new life happen.  We find ourselves at a crossroad of trusting ourselves and what we can make work of this life (good luck with that one!) or choosing to know and trust God in the midst. 

       I thank God that He is using everything I have struggled and learned in the midst of the last years to pour out to others (2 Corinthians 1).  This is not that I can give people answers–cause I cannot.  This is so that I might journey and struggle with others pointing them to the ONLY hope–Christ.  Pointing others to Him that they might taste and see that He is good no matter what the circumstantial outcome. 

         He has given me opportunity to pray and hurt with others just as friends prayed for and hurt with me.  There is nothing more comforting when you are in deep heartache than to know someone is faithfully praying for you.  Many times when we hurt, we are exhausted and do not even know how to pray (let alone feel like we have the energy to pray).  God is so gracious to give us opportunities to serve in the gracious ways we have been served.

       We do not know when times of heartache and struggle will come into our lives–we just know they will.  Though we war in every way against struggle, especially in our culture, without it, we wallow in shallow existence.  We choose the lesser things every time.  We choose to trust ourselves.  We choose to try to control our lives.  We choose worshipping the idols around us over the ONE true, beautiful, gracious, loving, just God.  When we are broken, we finally can see Him  and our need for Him clearly.  Though my heart is breaking and my knees are bruised from prayer for those around me, I do not want to take the pain away.  I know that pain and struggle are purposeful to bring us to deeper life in Him (Hebrews 12).  My prayer is that that life in Him be embraced fully–that they learn and grow in waiting on Him for their strength to be renewed. 

         I also think about this little boy growing in me.  So many times in the last month, I have already felt tugs in my heart to surrender him fully.  I do not know what his personality will be like or what struggles he will have or what decisions he will make.  I only know that he will struggle and I will not be able to protect him and heal him and shield him.  But, I know the One who has his best interest at heart every time.  My prayer is that I let the little one face struggle and adversity and know the ONE who is the only hope.  I pray that I can let go and let him wrestle with hard questions and circumstances and know God in ways that a “safe,” “disinfected life” does not bring.  It is not easy to say and pray now as I cannot imagine how hard it will be to follow through with. 

           I have to remember what has brought me true life and teach that to my child.   Greg and I want to be truthful and point to where true life comes from.    It’s a joke for me to think “I’ll deal with that when it comes.”   May I prepare to speak the same truth to Jack that I do to my friends who are hurting and girls that I disciple.  It all comes down to–do I really trust Him?  May I remember that He is trustworthy now and He will be then.  He calls me not to fear and to remember that ” He is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He does not grow faint or weary; His understanding is unsearchable.”   Isaiah 40:28

      Greg often says that the time to begin to  talk about the Sovereignty of God in all things is not at the casket…it is now.  I have been in a study of Isaiah in Precepts, and you cannot deny the complete Sovereignty of God studying that book or the Bible in general.  What comfort there is in His character!  I am wrestling with this truth over and over again as I pray for friends.  I am resting in Him over and over again as I pray for friends and think about the future when troubles come my way.  I do not have this life figured out, but I know the only place to go for Shelter and Refuge.  My prayer is that I teach that to Jack and model that for Jack.  John Benjamin is his name–meaning “God is gracious” and “son of my right hand (favor).” He is a gift that we did not earn or deserve and favor that we certainly did not deserve.  May we be faithful to preach the word to Him in and out of season–to love Him and disciple Him and let Him go.  I know I am going to royally screw up at times–may I continue to rely on God’s grace.  When I do screw up, may I go to God and model trusting Jesus to Jack. 

       In all things, even in the pain of my friends, God is teaching me about His beautiful character and His redemptive hand and HOPE.  I am blessed beyond measure, and I know this is not the end.  It is certainly not the end of my learning of our Gracious Father in all circumstances–soon to be parenthood.  I know it is not the end for my friends and family who are in pain.  We have no control over His timing, but we are called to know Him in the midst.  I cannot wait to rejoice in things He does that we have no clue about that will come from the midst of this pain now in their/our lives.  Thanks be to God for who He is.

community, eternal things, God's sovereignty and goodness, infertility, prayer, thankfulness, The body of Christ

A Beautiful Symphony

         My heart is full, pondering, and noisy at times.  These last few weeks have been full of well-wishers, buzz, and a continued sickness.  I have thought often of Mary “pondering all these things in her heart.”  (I am not comparing myself to her–cannot imagine pondering the immensity of that gift of life!)   I have decided that my ponderings are best suited for a blog.  Not only do I share with others what is on my heart, but blogging and journaling helps me sort out these thoughts that tend to swish around in my head and heart. 

      Let’s rewind to the fall of ’97 through the spring of 2000.  Picture less wear on my face and body and more cluelessness.  I graduated from UT Knoxville in the spring of ’97, got a job with Delta, experienced difficulties with my heart which made it impossible to continue with Delta, lived with my parents for two months unable to drive, moved to Nashville to nanny my sister’s children, worked for Centrifuge in New Mexico the summer of ’98, met my future husband (a three year journey), waited tables, moved to Dallas, Mom got cancer, experienced deep depression,  then moved back to Knoxville for grad school in school counseling.  (Life moves much slower than that in the midst, but you get the picture.)  In the many months of loneliness in this period, I longed to be known.  I wanted a plan, and God said “wait on me.”  I wanted deep friendships and rootedness, and God said “wait on me.”  I wanted to walk into a room and be valued, and God said “wait on me.”  The word roots screamed from my journal.  I prayed for them, longed for them, thought that I wound be a roving wanderer my whole life.  I embraced each new adventurous move thinking that the answer was on the other side.  In the last months, I have seen those longings and prayers answered in very unexpected ways.  I thought I had seen the answer seven years ago, but I keep seeing God’s work roll out…I thought He was on to the next thing on my list–He simply added layers to the list. 

  Because I have been open on this blog and with friends along the way, I knew people were praying for Greg and me on this journey.  Because of Greg’s position at Fellowship,I know there are people who feel like they “know” us when we do not neccessarily “know” them.  They show a love and care and pray for us when we are unaware.  I know that God has laid people on my heart throughout the years to pray for not even knowing their struggle–just knowing the urgency to pray, and He has laid us on people’s hearts to be the object of petition in prayer. 

           These past few weeks, I have felt the culmination of all of those prayers from friends, aquaintances, church members, strangers.  There have been Facebook messages, comments, conversations, notes that individually were beautiful.  However, they have not come as individual instruments.  They have been a beautiful symphony.  The tears of women that have been praising God for his work in our lives, in my womb–I cannot fully comprehend.  The way God has taught others about Himself in the midst of this is beautiful.  The way He has been the One to call them to prayer and perseverence is another testimony of His grace.  The fact that I get to hear this is a gift.  To hear His praise on the lips of His children is beyond what I can process.  I love that they are not praising the doctor or Greg or me or modern science or circumstance–they are praising the Giver of Life, the Raiser of the Dead, God with Us–Immanuel.  Praising with a symphony–individual instruments moving together for the expressed purpose of  creating something more than they ever could on their own.  They do not play for their own glory–this glory is too big for them. 

         As I reflect back, I see that the longings that I shared with God as a 22, 23, 24 year old for roots, for being known, valued,  loved, for deep friendships.  I see the evidence of HIs rooting me, His knowing me, valuing me, loving me, His deep fellowship with me have spilled out from the body.  Little did I know that pain that would come to get to this place–pain that is real but is of no comparison to Him–the richness that I can see dimly right now.  I do feel unspeakable joy, but I cannot comprehend or ponder it all.  This is a brief glimpse into eternity where the culmination of all of our prayers and longings and desires will be completely fulfilled in the richness of His overflowing kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 

         This, my friends, is so much more worthy of praise than a baby’s birth.  This is what we are created for–to know Him, to treasure Him, to love Him fully and completely, to speak His praises. 

          In the coming months, my goal is to put together a scrapbook of stories that are shared with me, comments on here, on Facebook, notes, encouraging words, so that this child may hear and know and learn of God’s character and work in his or her conception and life from a young age.  I long for them to know that He alone is good and He alone is where their help comes from…that He alone is the reason for their Momma and Daddy’s life and purpose.  I thank God that He has given me the gift to look to Him more than this child–He is where my hope comes from in whatever circumstances, tragedies, joys, triumphs, trajectories this little life will have and bring.   To Him be honor. 

           This is just a measure in the ongoing symphony.  My heart is heavy for those who have lost loved ones to suicide this week, who have lost jobs and are looking at unknown transitions, who have deep crevases in their heart from losing a loved one, who are in the throws of depression, who have loved ones who are battling and perhaps giving in to drug addiction, who are trading their birthright for a cup of the soup of the day…We continue on trusting God, asking Him, serving those alongside us.  I am thankful that He has been so gracious to call others to prayer on our behalf, and I am honored that He calls me to prayer and care on the behalf of others.

community, discipleship, rest, spiritual growth, The body of Christ

Layers

         It seems that everytime I post something I am learning or convicted with, the week following gives another chance to learn even more.  The last post was about need–and I have been driven to even more need this week.  Physically I have been in need from the way I feel on hormones.  Emotionally I have been in need as I see friends and family members grieving over loss.  Spiritually I have been in deep need as I pray for discernment in leadership with WDC.    The physical, emotional and spiritual needs have drained me mentally. 

        All of this to say, there are always deeper layers to our need.  We understand we are in need, and we feel that we then have that concept under control.  The Lord continues to show us that our need is eternal for Him. 

        We are made to need, and it is so good for us to need Him.  He is our source.  I do not think we grasp the beauty of Him being our source–that we never get to the bottom of Him.  When we need, we are always looking for the end.  For example, “when this is over…when I feel normal again…when the pain ends…when I have control again.”  He says, ” I Am–I am the it, Jennifer.  I am the answer–I am all you need.”  My flesh tells me what I need is resolution.  He tells me all I need is Him. 

         He even ordered our week and commanded our time to see this need and be refreshed in Him.  The Sabbath is time to be with Him, enjoy Him, rest in Him, be filled in Him.  The Sabbath need is continual–not something we get through to go on with our lives. 

        He tells us in His word that we need others who are filled in Him.  The picture we are given of a body that is one and connected yet each part serving different functions is a picture of our need for one another with Christ as the Head. 

       I get SO frustrated with the thought from others that they can do the Christian walk alone.  IT.  IS.  NOT.  POSSIBLE.  We were not created in that way.  We cannot function in that way.  We kill ourselves in trying to live that way. 

       For those of you who know me, you know I spend my time pouring into young women in disciple-making relationships.  I know this is an important aspect of their growth.  Do you know what is blaringly obvious to me?  If they do not have deep friendships with those who are in Christ calling out the places in them to follow Him deeper, it is practically pointless for them to be in relationship with me.  Why?  Because we NEED the body–we are fickle and weak and adulterous–and we need to be spurred on continually to truth and love and good deeds.  That doesn’t happen when those all around us are “conforming to the pattern of this world.”  We need others to spur us on to “renew our minds” in His presence and truth.  We need to be integrally  involved in a church that lifts the truth that we need Him.  We need to serve others and learn to be served as we carry one anothers burdens.  We cannot do marriage or family or singleness or business or pleasure alone.  We need Him and we need those who are in Him in order to make His name known and spread His love in the world. 

       What would I have done in the past several years without dear friends in Christ lifting me up in prayer, sharing scripture with me, calling out places in me?  I would not have survived and thrived in growth.  God gives those beautiful gifts of others to show a fuller picture to me of His love.  He uses me in the same way to show His love–not for my glory, but for His. 

       I am learning that in our need, it takes effort to follow Him.  It takes effort to create friendships and be vulnerable.  It takes effort to study His word and set aside time for prayer.  It takes effort to serve others in order that they might know Him more.  That effort is not in vain–the fruit of it is exponentially multiplied by the Spirit in the growth that occurs.  There is a sense of living in Him as we were created to live–functioning as a body as we were created to be.  It is good, but it is not easy.  We are not promised ease, but we are promised rest in Him.

community, God's sovereignty and goodness, infertility, thankfulness, The body of Christ, the gospel

One

Last night, I came together as a part of our church body and participated in the Good Friday service. Greg spoke and talked about the 7 last words Jesus said on the cross. As a congregation, we sang about the gospel and participated in confession and repentance as we took the Lord’s Supper.

When I first became the wife of a pastor (which by the way I swore I would never be after growing up in a minister’s family:)), we had a pastor’s wives get-together. At this get-together, a guest who was an experienced pastor’s wife from another congregation, educated us that it was important to be seen supporting your husband. Her exact directions included sitting on the front row with him and rubbing his back gently for the congregation to see said love flowing between you. At this point, I stopped taking notes. I realized that I would not be a good pastor’s wife with this criterion because everything in me rebelled at that thought. Here we are, seven years later, and the first time I sat front row at our church with my husband was last night. With a sly smile, I threw in a gentle back rub.

Though not a front row sitter, I genuinely worshipped and enjoyed sitting front and center last night. From the first word sung, tears stung my eyes. The beauty of Jesus’ life, submission and obedience to the Father, and the heart of the gospel–my very hope was clearly articulated. I sat there thankful for the place God has us–where he has brought us. I reflected back to the time when Greg began his full role as teaching pastor, which ironically came about the time I turned 30. From 30 to 35 has been the most challenging time of my life–dad’s sickness and death, infertility, depression, Greg’s rheumatoid arthritis. From 30 to 35 has also been the most God-saturated part of my life–knowing Him clinging to Him more deeply. It hit me–this all happened around the same time Greg began teaching more. Now, I am not a spiritual warfare guru who sees demons around every corner planning my demise, but it hit me last night that not all of these things are coincidences. I have a firm faith in the Sovereignty of God–even in spiritual warfare, He has us–we are His and NOTHING is out of His control. (Read Job) But, at the beginning of the service, I realized that these things that we have experienced could be the cost of what we do. IT IS WORTH IT. Christ and His glory are worth it. This thought framed my worship as we all reflected on the death of Christ.

As we took Communion as a congregation, on the front row, we were the first to partake. After that, I watched a good portion of the congregation pass in front of me to take the bread and dip it in the cup. I cannot explain it–except for the Holy Spirit. I had such joy in seeing those brothers and sisters in Christ walk before me. Some I knew intimately in disciple-making relationships, some were dear friends, some were families that I see from afar, some were strangers, young adults, senior adults, children, singles, marrieds, widows. My heart was reminded of Jesus’ prayer in John 17 that we be one in Him–unified. With each face, I worshipped. The hope that we have in Christ flooded my heart, and I was so grateful for the exact place He has us–in this congregation.

God is so good. I have nothing and am nothing apart from Him. I celebrate in this Easter weekend the glorious death and resurrection of Jesus. I celebrate the cost of becoming like Jesus. I celebrate the family of believers that He binds together through His Spirit. I am not going to sit on the front row every week to rub Greg’s back, but I am thankful I did last night. Maybe that woman wasn’t all that crazy.