Posted in 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.

Posted in 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.

Posted in God's sovereignty and goodness, grace, healing, infertility, prayer, thankfulness, The body of Christ, trusting God

A thankful heart that He has given me…

      When I was in 8th grade, I went to an aerobics class where we listened to a Mylon Lefevre song “Thankful heart” while we did abdominal exercises.  An ironic lesson for choosing thanks in pain (who likes sit-ups?).  An ah-ha moment–exactly what I have been learning the last few years–learning to think on truth and choose thanks  in the midst of hard feelings and experiences.  “I have a thankful heart that You have given me and it can only come from You.”

         As Thanksgiving approaches fast, I have a full and thankful heart.  I spent time this morning reading over past blogs of our journey of infertility.  What pain, what loss of control, but what richness of God’s love and provision and character we gained in the midst.  Learning where our hope comes from, learning where our treasure is, learning the all-sufficiency of Christ.  Oh, how I have come to love Christ in deep ways and treasure Him above earthly pleasure and circumstance.  In the deepest places of pain and helplessness, He has been so good.  I’ve seen His faithfulness, His love, His truth, His purposes–o the depth and the riches of the Love of Christ–how deep His knowledge and His ways.

          About 6 -8 months ago, when we thought we were through with any kind of fertility treatments–we were really thinking about what  a life of childlessness would look like.  One day praying,  I felt a prick in my spirit that said–“Our story is not over.  He is not finished.  He has us where he wants us.  Thanks be to God.”   I wrote this on our pantry which is covered in chalkboard paint.  I also wrote  Psalm 33:20-22,  “Our soul waits for the LORD; He is our help and our shield.  For our heart is glad in Him, because we trust in His holy name.  Let Your steadfast love be upon us even as we hope in You.”  Then the words:  wait, trust, hope.  This “message” to me was about infertility but not neccessarily about a child–I know it can seem weird.  In the midst of all of this, it has always been about finding our hope in the LORD–not in what He would accomplish in circumstance.  Those are two very different concepts.     

          Today, it is with great humility that I thank the Lord for His grace–favor neither Greg nor I deserve–first in salvation–and secondly, for the growing baby in my womb. 

          In late August, we started the Invitro Fertilization process against great odds.  Our doctor gave us less than half the chances (20%) of those undergoing IVF to make it through and deliver a child.  Through prayers and prayers and prayers and God’s power, my body produced the exact eggs we would need.  Through more prayers, every one of those four eggs fertilized and became an embryo.  (We only chose four because we did not want to risk destroying embryos during the freezing process–this limited our chances, but after prayer and consideration,this was our decision).  The Doc told us that he had never seen a couple even have triplets using four eggs, inseminating them and implanting all that made it to the embryo stage.  It would be like winning the lottery.   We, of course, joked we would need to win the lottery again to pay for them:). Through more prayers, each of those 4 embryos were top rated in strength (one was just a bit behind the others).    The morning of our implantation, he came to us soberly and said we risked the chance of having quadruplets if we implanted them all–this then endangered their health and survival.  After looking at each other with the all-knowing  “how the crap we gonna raise four babies at a time with one of us with a chronic disease” look, we knew that the odds of survival of each of those babies was better if implanted in twos.  Two embryos were implanted,( two frozen to be implanted in us or donated for adoption for another couple) and we waited and prayed.

           God has gifted us with beautiful friends and family who have been prayer warriors on our behalf.  You are a part of our journey.  God has blessed us with you and hopefully you have been blessed to know Him more deeply during this process.  Thank you–you are a huge gift and part of our story.

         Two weeks later, a positive test came.  We discovered a few weeks later that we were just having one baby Pinkner.  I have been very sick since 4 1/2 weeks.  So much so that I have pretty much been at the homestead.  It has been challenging, but I know God is beginning to break me of convenience and schedule even in the now.  At 35, I have a lot to be broken of…

        Today, we got the clearance to share our news from our infertility doc after we got to see the ultrasound.  I am almost 11 weeks along, and He said that everything looked great–we now have about the same chances as everyone else for delivering a healthy baby.  We do not deserve the gift of this healthy growing child.  It seems we have a dancer on our hands with little hand and foot buds that were moving along today.  This is the first day I felt I could relax and rejoice.  For so long I have been guarding my heart over and over again against disappointment.  God did not “owe” us a baby–he never promised one.  He has been more than good in giving us Himself–the greatest gift.  It is with humility and great dependence on Him that we begin this journey.  Keep praying for us.  Pray for this child that God might call he or she to himself to serve Him and serve others. 

           It is also with great humility that we “announce” this.  For years, facebook has been the cause of many days of heartache for me.  Seeing random announcements of yet another baby being born or milestone in pregnancy being reached can rip the heart out of one struggling in infertility.  I am torn because I want to share with others, but I so have on my heart those who want children and are unable to have them at this time.  I am still continuing to pray for friends who are hurting in infertility.  Forever I am changed by these last few years and my heart will always connect with those in that struggle. 

       My only hope through all of this is continuing to treasure God more than His gifts–my greatest prayer is to pass that on to my child(ren).  Thank you for your continued love, support and encouragement to Greg and me.  You are a gift!

Randomly, Greg wanted to make sure I get his line in here–“don’t fake the funk on a nasty dunk.”  Don’t read too deep for meaning…

Posted in authenticity, God's sovereignty and goodness, God's word, humility, idols, infertility, poverty and hunger, trusting God

A four letter word…

      Need…that’s right.  I said it.  Need is a word we do not like to say.  I mean need in the true sense.  “I need to go to the grocery store,” or “I need a pedicure.”  This is not the use of the word I am referring.  I am referring to the necessity of a condition in a time of difficulty where you lack something to grow, survive and thrive.  Poverty of situation…whether physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. 

           If you are reading this, you may have never been in need of food–real need.  You may have always had a can or 10 of something you could eat for survival in your pantry.  However, all of us are in real need of something beyond ourselves.  In a cultrue that raises us to be independant and take care of our own needs–be a good American, we are taught to scoff at being in need. 

          This morning, I meditated on one of my favorite Psalms–Psalm 25.  I began to make a list of what our response was to be to God and what His character and response is to us–from the text.  Here is ours:

  • Take refuge in Him
  • Hope in Him
  • Wait on Him
  • Fear Him
  • lift our soul toward Him
  • Put my trust in Him
  • Think on His truth
  • Pray for help
  • Keep our eyes toward Him
  • Fear Him
  • Abide in Him
  • Be honest about all of us in humble need before Him

His Action and character in Psalm 25

  • Sovereign LORD
  • Protects us from shame and enemies
  • Trustworthy, worth waiting on
  • His ways, path and truth are life-giving
  • God of my salvation
  • Leader
  • Teacher
  • Shepherd
  • He remembers
  • Mercy
  • Steadfast Love
  • Eternal (of old)
  • Goodness
  • Upright
  • Instructs sinners in His way
  • Has a Way (unlike any other)
  • Leads and teaches the humble
  • Faithful
  • Has a covenant and testimonies
  • instructs us in choices
  • Giver of inheritance/reward
  • befriends those who fear Him
  • Rescuer
  • Gracious to the lonely and afflicted
  • forgives sins
  • Considers us and our circumstances
  • Our Refuge
  • Our Redeemer

        A recap?  Um, we NEED Him.  He is ALL that we need.  HE IS.  Even in the garden before sin entered the world, Adam and Eve needed God.  He was their creator, sustainer, life organizer, companion, object of their affection, provider.  When Jesus spent his 33 or so years on this earth, He showed us the pattern of need He had with time with the Father.  Read John.  Wow, does Jesus talk about abiding in the Father, needing Him, relying on Him, listening to Him.  He pulled away to spend time with Him sharing His heart, getting directives, fellowshipping.  So, why do we treat need as a four letter word?  It is clear in His word that we are to abide and rely and come to Him in need everyday, every moment, all our lives.  We are to be as children before Him. 

         Reflecting on this before Him this morning, I realize our culture and our flesh war against this.  Needy and weak and dependent are character flaws to us.  We are coached to find ways to provide for ourselves (I am not speaking against being a viable citizen and providing for our families).  I think we take this “provision” to all areas of our lives in thought of our needs.  Independence in praised in all forms.  So, how does that bump up against what God’s word says?

         The very ways we are being responsible to provide we begin to trust in instead of God–the life-giver, the giver of our gifts.  We can easily make idols out of our providers of need.  A few years ago, I quit a job and we had a really nice savings built up.  I felt safe and secure in going into a season of exploration in ministry.  Then, I had back issues and needed a car that would sit differently (doctor encouraged this “need”).  We had a few more bumps along the way, and voila–our savings disappeared.  I was a basketcase.  I realized that I had been trusting in the savings account instead of the Father who is our provider. 

          When in need, we are always looking for a solution–a provider.  Most of the time, we make idols out of those things around us that we feel comforted in.  Job, hobby, marriage, children, escape through entertainment, drink, food, technology, shopping, beauty.  With any of these we are feeding a need in us that we think we have control of filling or numbing.

          Our job?  To need Him and go to Him in our need.  Why does this seem so exhausting to us?  For one, we rebel against not being able to “meet” our need.  We want to be in control.  We feel dumb.  Also, it seems exhausting to go to His word and dig in.  Yes, it is work.  Most of the time it brings life, though.  The enemy wants us to run and find other providers.  There will be push back in your life to keep you from Him–pride, lies, laziness. 

          The crazy part is that it takes energy to need.  That is why it is easier at first to give in to idols.  At first, they do not seem to take effort or energy.  We just fall in to eating more, drinking more, buying more, spending more money to beautify ourselves to make us feel better.  We just fall in–then we begin serving our idols. 

          Like drug addicts, we structure our life around our idols–feeding it, needing it, serving it by giving our thoughts, money and resources to it.  For example, we spend whatever we have to to get comfort, ease, power, etc–whatever our fix of choice is.)   Like drug addicts, the way we fill our needs only creates an astronomical problem–usually quite evident to those around us–sometimes not.  We are affected poorly in every way, and we become blind to our problem.

        Jesus says, “Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden adn I will give you rest…for my yoke is easy and my burden light.”   He simplifies this whole need thing.  Come to Him.  Rely on Him.  Do things His way.  Know Him.  Yes, there are times I feel stupid for being in need again.  The truth is, I am His sheep and I need My Shepherd.  I will never grow out of need.  To be needy is the exact place the Shepherd wants us–depending, knowing Him, fellowshipping with Him.  We bring nothing to the table exc ept ourselves–our need.  Blessed are the poor in spirit (who know they have need), blessed are those who mourn (broken over their sin), blessed are the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…see a theme of need?

         In this time of infertility and loss and leading a ministry and being married and being a daughter, friend, sister, I am learning how much I need and how GOOD it is that I do.  I am always fighting my pride to be in control and look strong and show how independent I can be–and then I am reminded usually quite publically that I NEED HIM.   And, that is His good.  In that, He is making me more like Jesus. 

        The best gift I can give to those I lead is to be a broken dependent woman relying on the beautiful Shepherd King.  Then, I am working with His resources instead of mine.  His are life-giving and eternal–mine are the real four letter word…

Posted in Anxiety, authenticity, God's sovereignty and goodness, infertility, prayer, trusting God

today…

        Today, we go back to the doctor for the first time since January 4.  January 4th was not a good day for me–it was the day I hit the wall.  Since then, we have taken a break from counting days and ovulation and giving shots and going to the stinking doctor more times than the grocery store.  However, today, I walk back in the doors and find out what my life will look like for the next few months. 

            There is some nervousness and dread involved.  I have a talent of trying to skip to the end with my worries.  Why do we do that?  What control do we really have?  How am I aiding anyone by obsessing about things that I do not have control over?

             This is how you can pray—for surrender and trust in my most gracious Father who has everything in His hands for His distinctly good purposes.  Surrender, surrender, surrender and remembrance of His complete faithfulness that does not let me go when I am faithless. 

           Let’s just say I have a lot to surrender because the thoughts that tend to roll around in my head could offer an interesting lifetime movie—or maybe make as much sense as a lifestime movie:).  Thank you to all of you who I know and may not know who read this blog…who care…who pray.  Love to you.

Posted in Diet Coke, discipline, infertility, learning boundaries

I’m on a diet…

     So, I feel at times that I am such a drama queen with angst filled posts.  On a day where I feel particularly weak and melancholy, I am going to post about something not so deep–Diet Coke. 

       I do not remember when my love affair with Diet Coke began.  I, like many of the masses, began my foray into the diet cola world through Diet Dr. Pepper.  I, then, fell down into the hole of “no return” to hard core Diet Coke. 

         I know in my journey of infertility that I have ramped up my habit.  When the stress pours on, I think “I deserve a treat.”   It became more like an IV line.  Let’s just say, I became a junkie.  It is one of those things that you know is happening, but you turn a blind eye to it.  When you have something “wrong” goign on, you begin to think…”awe, what’s one more bad thing to add to my body when it tastes so good?” 

           A few weeks ago, as I was thinking of going toward tward one more fertility treatment, I realized–I got a big problem.  When I went through a 24 pack in record time, it was time to take control.  So, I quit.  When that pack was gone, I did not restock.  In ten days, I have had two diet cokes–I gave in a couple of times.  One for a movie.  The miraculous thing about it–I did not finish either of them.  Another miraculous thing–I have had more energy.  Funny, the thing I drank to give me more energy actually sapped it.  

          My body has not consumed this much water in several years.  There have been moments I have really been jonesing for a DC, as we call them in our house.  I realize that driving more then 30 minutes somewhere makes me think of grabbing a diet coke.  However, on those times, I have withstood the temptation.  And, actually, when I did have them, they were not so delicious. 

           Addiction on any level is quite embarrassing.  I came clean–there you go.  I was, or rather am, an addict.  Funny, after I made my closet decision to quit, my friend, Elisa, shared with me about a book she was reading about artificial coloring and sweetener.  I am really lucky that I did not grow a third arm or eye from all my consumption.

           So, I am on a diet from diet coke.  Will I never have another one again?  I do not make definitive statements–because the moment I do–you will see me chugging straight from the fountain at Weigels.  Let’s just say that moderation is moving into my life.  One diet coke every few weeks beats 4 a day anytime!

Posted in authenticity, discipline, humility, infertility, prayer, spiritual growth, trusting God, Uncategorized

Nothing…really

       I have had an epiphany as of late.  I am completely clueless and powerless to run my life–marriage, ministry, fertility, relationships, leadership, etc.  You may be saying, “duh!”  However, do not all of us have this false sense of control from time to time?  We think we have it covered…oh yeah, I have done this thousands of times, and then–pow, right between the eyes we are humbled with the truth. 

          I spend my days walking with and leading young women to grow in fellowship with Christ.  You may think–“oh, hard job…what do you drink coffee and talk about relationships woes?”  Yes, but that is not the point of our time together.  My goal is to teach and shepherd and equip them with the word of Christ and the tools to grow in Him and surrender to Him and glorify Him in all things.  That is not advice or a system–it is a lifestyle and it involves the heart.  Religion says “clean this up, do this and you are good.”  The heart changed by the gospel of Christ is surrendered and examining and searching and repenting.  It is so much easier to talk religion and advice–but it is like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic–pointless. 

         This summer, I have taken a month and a half off from one on one meetings with young women.  Greg “encouraged” me to do it, and he was right.  The emotional toll that intense relational discipleship takes is hard to measure.  This has been good for me.  However, as I look toward the fall, I see that the work to be done and the growth to be cultivated is bigger than conversations and Bible study and memorizing scripture.  With each young woman, there are things screaming in opposition to her affections for Christ.  The enemy is subtle to us and we are blind–and that is dangerous.  I look toward this next season of output on my part and see that discipline and faithfulness to prayer and dependence are imperative.  I can only plant and fertilize and be faithful in loving each young woman, but I have to wait on God to water and grow.  The Spirit has to reveal sin to the person’s heart and call for repentance.  Sure, I speak the truth in love and grace, but all the while, I depend.  Apart from Him, I can do nothing.

        This makes me think of marriage.  We have NO control over our partners.  I have had several conversations in the last few weeks about other’s marital woes that feel impossible.  I have been there myself at times.  You know the “why try, it is pointless” feeling?  God then reminds me that He awakened my dead heart to love and know Him.  He is about doing the impossible.  So, I am on my knees for my friends and myself.  Apart from Him I can do nothing.

         This makes me think of children–the inability so far for me to conceive and even more so, the complete heartbrokenness of friends over their own children’s choices and hard heartedness.  The feeling that those children’s ears are closed to truth–that  there is an impossible situation–why not just give up?  And, I remember God who brought forth life out of Sarah’s womb .  She was as good as dead–just as some of the children I know–just as we all are without God’s grace.  I am on my knees for myself that God would open my dead womb.  I am especially on my knees for friends that God would break those children and bring those to repentance who are unwilling and hardhearted to wisdom and truth.  I am crying out for the hearts of those parents.  Apart from Him, we can do nothing. 

          The more I live, the more I see religion and rules and a checklist are bogus–powerless–pointless.  We are people in need of heart change–heart transplants.  We are blind to our own sin–and the Spirit who is placed within us, gives us eyes.  I cannot give another their eyes or heart, but I can be obedient to love and share truth and grace again and again ALL in dependence upon the One who brings the change.    When we look too far beyong today, it can get overwhelming.  We need our manna from Him today to love and share and depend and praise Him today. 

          All this to say–boy do I need Him.  Pray for me to be entrenched in His word and dependent upon His Spirit as I love Greg and love and shepherd my girls and encourage my firends who have pains and struggles and needs.  Apart from Him, we can do nothing.