Posted in discipline, eternal things, God's sovereignty and goodness, infertility, prayer, rest, spiritual growth, suffering in joy, thankfulness, transformation by truth, trusting God

Hope In One Thing

We use the word “hope” often.  I hope my child grows to love Jesus.  I hope my husband experiences healing here with his rheumatoid arthritis.  I hope that you have a good day.  I hope you enjoy the holiday season.  I hope that I live fully to glorify Christ.

The only place to put my hope “IN” is God–Jesus–the Holy Spirit.  Where does my help come from?–from the Lord, the Maker of Heaven and earth.  If my husband suffers the rest of this life from RA (and thus, I feel that suffering) and my child rebels and never knows Jesus and I see unspeakable tragedy–My hope is still to be found IN God.  He is the only stabliizer, the only True One.  “The grass withers and the flowers fade but the word of our God stands forever.”

It’s totally okay to hope for things…but our only hope “In” can be found in Christ.  Everything else fails and fades and disappoints.  He IS MY ROCK AND MY HOPE.

Posted in authenticity, comparison, God's word, grace, humility, prayer, spiritual growth, transformation by truth, Uncategorized

The Tyranny of Criticism

The last few weeks, I have been working with a couple of the young women I disciple to help them identify where their hearts are in the everyday.  The objective is to stop and identify where they are as they come to God–sharing their heart with God, joys, disappointments and confusion.  This is where prayer begins…with honesty and connection.

I begin honestly this morning with the fact that I am feeling defeated.  Criticism from others and myself has torn me down.  I have taken part in this process because I have listened to and ingested the poisons.  Don’t we all?  We do not live the Christian life in a vacuum from the real world.  We are learning to have hope while IN the real world.

I knew I would die today without the truth and His presence to fill me up again…to counteract the darkness that is swallowing me.  So, I fixed Jack a blanket with all kinds of toys, turned on this kid’s hymn cd my friend, Cindy, gave me and began to talk to God.

First, I identified all the things going through my heart and mind.  These are some of the phrases…defeated and anxious, broken, guarded, pointless as a leader, helpless to affect change, small, not in control.  Just the way we all like to start our day:).

Next, I identified from God’s word what He says about Himself–where and who Jesus is.  I camped in Colossians 1:15-20.  He is the Center, Creator, the Image of the invisible God, Firstborn over all creation, All things made through Him, to Him, for Him.  He is before all things–all things HOLD TOGETHER IN HIM.  He is the Head of the body/The church (in control).  He is preimminent in everything.  My body and spirit began relaxing into Him.

Then, my response to Him.  Thankful, restful–called Him my Refuge, my Hope, my Righteousness.  As I was praying and reading, “This Is My Father’s World” was playing in the background.  Jack pulled up on my stool, and I picked him up to dance and sing.

“This is my Father’s world,

O let me ne’er forget

That though the wrong seems oft so strong

God is the ruler yet.

This is my Father’s world

The battle is not done

Jesus who died shall be satisfied

And earth and heav’n be One.”

Maltie Davenport Babcock

Oh, the beauty of God singing over me as I sang over my child.  Jack smiled with delight, and I smiled with delight thinking of in whom my hope resides.  See, I am broken, pointless, helpless, guarded, defeated without Jesus.  I am no different than anyone else.  I am small and not in control.  However, in Him, there is no condemnation toward me.  I rest in Him.  I delight in Him.  He holds everything together.

Oh Christ, be the center of our lives

Be the place we fix our eyes

Criticism will always be as long as we are on this earth.  As a mother, the stakes have been upped.  I am convicted of all the times I am critical in my heart and with my mouth.  Every parent out there has a way they do things…a lot of things are preferences, some are morally right and wrong.  There is a time to speak up for the welfare of a child, but mostly we need to keep our mouths shut and support one another through prayer (speaking to myself here).

There is a huge gift in the grace of Jesus…we cannot be perfect, He is.  I want to listen to the Spirit’s leading in parenting Jack.  I want Jack to know he cannot be perfect or righteous on his own.  I want him to learn that from me and Greg.  I desire that we parent with humility, with grace, with dependence on Jesus.  All of these desires are in me, but they are complicated in the “real” world when comparisons and expectations arise.

I cannot parent in this way without being parented by my Gracious Father–blanketed in His truth.  So, I come again and again defeated and needy, and again and again He reminds me that in Him all things hold together.  What a beautiful, gracious, loving Lord we serve.

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 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 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.

Posted in authenticity, God's sovereignty and goodness, grace, infertility, prayer, transformation by truth, trusting God

Lift my eyes

This morning I was awakened by circumstantial disappointment. My first thought–to be to myself and skip the time of fellowship with God. (This is my default when sad–ironically enough). However, I knew the battle would be lost there. So, I came to him truthful, disappointed in the hope I had put in circumstance, and prayed from his word. His truth lifted my eyes above circumstance. I have such small sight…I long for too little. I long for comfort and conformity to the world and self-worship. He brought me to thankfulness…to a view of him that transcends circumstantial wants and fears. I am thankful and amazed that the God of the universe has shown me such grace–and I am convicted that I trust him and hallow him very little.
So today I leave you with the prayer I prayed for myself and others from Ephesians 3:14-21

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father (Daddy), from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith–that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations, forever and ever. Amen”

Oh Daddy, may my first thought not be self (self-pity, self-preservation, self-worth) today. May my first thought be on the fullness of the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge…the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord (Phil 3:8). May I rejoice in you–in the fullness of you. May I count ALL things as loss in order to gain Christ and be found in him–without a righteousness from me but him (Phil 3:9). Forgive me for wanting too little–comfort and ease, children, a house of piddly treasures, safe finances, self-importance. Give me a vision for loving you with everything.