Posted in authenticity, comparison, God's sovereignty and goodness, God's word, infertility, Rheumatoid Arthritis, self-absorption, thankfulness, transformation by truth, Uncategorized, waiting

Ready, Set, Go

Setting my heart, setting my hope, setting mind…These have been words and phrases that I have been fighting to dwell on in the last few days. These phrases come from 2 Corinthians 4-6 and 2 Corinthians 1:10 and 1 Timothy 1:7.
These have been some frustrating days for Greg and me. His Rheumatoid Arthritis has been relentless the last few weeks–including bringing a canceled trip to Texas to see his family this last week. I know it has been hard for him as he is exhausted and frustrated with his body. For me, I have felt stuck. With infertility and RA and being at home with little change in any of it–stuck, stuck, stuck.
In the midst of stuck, thinking on truth does not happen naturally. Self-pity happens naturally. Reaching for numb-ers happens naturally. Escapism calls to me.
I realize I am a bit bored. I know that sounds crazy–or maybe it doesn’t. I am tired of people asking me how I am and not having a different response. Saying “fine” is so much easier and makes me feel more spiritual than “stuck.” For people around me, it seems things are always changing–kids growing, adding kids, etc, etc. (I realize they face the mundane, too.) However, it feels to me that Greg and I are in our old age as empty nesters that are seeing the futility of this life. Nothing seems to be changing in our household while everyone else is speeding by.
I know that some of this is truth–because of sin’s effects, there is futility in hoping in this life. I also know that we have been rescued to think on and hope in truth. This is not the end–here or in eternity.
I am learning, however, that it is a viscious fight to think on truth. I have to be disciplined and focused, and at times, I simply feel too tired and want to escape away by buying something or watching something or eating something. However, when I do think on the truth of Christ—what a salve to my soul! My prayers from scripture have been ” help me set my heart on thanks…help me not lose heart as our outer selves are wasting away–help us be renewed in the inner self day by day…may I see these as what they are–“light and momentary troubles”–help me think on “the eternal weight of glory”…may I remember the “unshaken hope” and remember that on Him have we set our hope…training ourselves for godliness in setting our hope and heart and mind on things above. That is life-giving. That is what I fight for…
Also, I was reminded this morning–through a Bible study that I wrote through Colossians–that my suffering and troubles are used for my good but also the good of those in the kingdom. That, my friends, makes it worth it. There is some point to this. I may not grasp it or understand it–but I trust the Father who knows beyond all what the reasons are.
This morning, as I was studying, I was reminded how my heart has been shaped. I now pray differently for others who are going through pain–I pray for spiritual fruit–for them to think on truth…to gain intimacy with the Father…to know Him and seek Him above all else. I even see, gulp, suffering as a good thing to enter our lives. We are walking in the way of Christ. DO NOT READ that I enjoy it! I enjoy Him–when I fight to get past my self-pity and escapism and laziness and complaining.
I have to choose to be thankful. I even wrote the other day in my journal listing people that God has given me an opportunity to unite with and minister to and learn from in the midst of our circumstantial pain. I was amazed at how quickly I forget where He has and is working. So, my friend, wherever you are today, I encourage you to fight to think on the gospel–truth, Him. Please–that is your choice–what you think on…
Greg and I were talking yesterday, and he said–if we get pregnant, you know there will be people who say “God is so faithful–as if pregnancy and children are something we deserve.” That is not true–God is faithful and it has nothing to do with giving us children–he did not promise us that. He is good and faithful and gracious beyond what we can fathom regardless if we are childless forever. He would be blessing us beyond what we deserve if we have children–may I remember that.

Posted in eternal things, God's sovereignty and goodness, infertility, Rheumatoid Arthritis, spiritual growth, thankfulness, trusting God

Letting go…

This has been a particularly emotional week for me. It started last week with the preparations for my niece, Brittany’s wedding (where in the process, I began taking double the amount of hormones for infertility).
The wedding was wonderful, even though, it was an adventure with rain and relocation. Instead of outside in the rain at 7 pm, we all moved to Calvary Baptist last minute and had a beautifully simple wedding at 7:45. Not the thing you dream for as a bride, but I do not know if I have been witness to a more heartfelt, truth-oriented, Christ exalting wedding. The pomp and circumstance was stripped—and I think that people could see that Jesus is truly the most important thing to Ben and Britt. The reception was held outside–it stopped raining and was a pleasant temperature. I had a lot of fun, but it flew by.
After the wedding, we were exhausted. There was an emotional aspect I did not expect though. I feel like life had flown like the reception. Because my sisters are older, I have had a very unique experience being an aunt at a young age. In that, I have been the older fun sister type figure, the authority figure, and I have learned a lot about the joys and pains of parenting. This is the first niece or nephew to make this huge commitment into adulthood–to forge a new family where the allegiance lies there first. The nature of things change,,,and there is a sense of mourning as I see that and yet rejoicing (because it is good). I must learn to let go and let the relationship evolve. I was reminded at the rehearsal dinner of tender moments with a chubby faced 2 year old, a precocious 4 year old, an encourageable 6 year old, an independent 17 year old…I have been blessed with B and the relationship we have. Life does not stop, though. It is always changing–we cannot pause. So, I rejoice in the experiences we have had, and I look forward to the adult relationship we will continue to grow in. I look forward to encouraging her love and commitment to Ben in good and bad times.
In the line of work Greg and I are in, we see change all the time. I remember back to letting go of the first college students we invested in and loved on…Leah and Patti. It was painful and hard. Our life was rooted here, and everyone else was passing through on to the next phase. In the years following them, we have said goodbye to many, and I have gotten used to it. I realize that most relationships are for a season, and I thank God for those seasons. I also have realized that I am not as important as I thought I once was:). People get involved in their lives where they are (Just like I do). So, I have learned to invest well, and let go well.
This week marks a special letting go point for me, though. Tiffany, a young woman I have met with since she became a believer is moving with her new husband, Chris, to start a life in ministry in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. God has grown her mightily and me mightily as we have met together. In fact, I have learned a lot about forming WDC, writing curriculum, and leading through my relationship with Tiffany. I am not fearful to let go because she is ready. I am sad, though. I knew I was investing well for a season, and I have learned the urgency of doing that with others.
It is always bittersweet to let go. I know that growth will come, and that new opportunities will come for both parties. However, I also know that things will never be the same again. My friends in high school used to laugh at me as I would always say “we are never going to be together like this again…” It is true, but I know my hope does not lie in those relationships but in Christ. He teaches me that all the time.
This has been a letting go year for Greg and me in many ways. Last year at this time we let go of our small group that we had been in for seven years. At that time, I also let go of the small group I had led for 5 years. We have been learning to let go of our plans as Greg suffers with Rheumatoid Arthritis and we have been suffering with infertility. I have also seen us transitioning from young adulthood to middle adulthood. In reality, we have no control over plans. Often we put our hope in plans, and God has a totally different master plan–a relationally oriented plan instead of a mere circumstantial one.
All of these thoughts and experiences coupled with heightened hormones have brought some low times this week. There is an ache in me of grief that keeps swelling over infertility. And, in that, I am reminded to let go of my plans and expectations and have an eternal perspective. When I compare myself to others and their lives, I miss the picture of the hope and fulfillment I have in Christ–of his purpose to make me more like him, to bring deeper fellowship between me and him. This is preparing me for eternity (just as God is using motherhood to prepare hearts for eternity as well). Would I choose a child or intimacy with Christ? I choose Christ (not that having a child trades that–but to remember the perspective for now). This is an opportunity to know him and trust him that he is giving me. It is a place where the rubber meets the road—Do I really believe what I claim I believe? Is he really my treasure? Is he really the ultimate? When I look to his truth, YES. When I wallow in the treasures of this world, I forget. The balance is learning to deal with the ache and share it with him in trust. Letting go of my plan and surrendering to his good (which is the ultimate). And, taking the full opportunity today to pour into spiritual children. I am so thankful for relationships like those with Tiff, B, Mary, Laura, Liz, Kate, and Lillie that he is giving me right now. I REALLY AM THANKFUL.
The thing is, I know there will be a time that those relationships will change as well–with the addition of physical children. It will be another lesson of letting go. All of it for his purposes of making us more like him and for giving him glory. Life and circumstances here are temporary–whether the fast growth of a baby to adulthood, to the death of a loved one, to the loss of friendship and the beginning of a new one. I do not want to forget to enjoy what God has given in the now and trust him in his plans and ways for the future and rejoice and let go of the past.

Posted in random thoughts, Rheumatoid Arthritis

Happy Easter!

This past weekend was a good time to reflect and worship. The last few years, Greg and I keep saying we are going to watch “The Passion of the Christ” on Good Friday to no avail. However, this year, we watched it together on Saturday. It was so good to posture my heart in humility…to focus on Christ. It also brought the hope of Easter morning with a bang.
Greg preached his first official Easter sermons yesterday for 3 services. He is paying for it today as he prepares for Crossroad. Such is life since Rheumatoid Arthritis reared its ugly head a little over a year ago. The bounce back time takes longer and little things take a greater toll. With that, I learned how to use our riding lawn mower yesterday and conquered the front yard. It was beautiful outside, and I was glad to do it.
We also got to enjoy a great lunch on china at our friends Jacob and Beth’s house. Thanks, guys.
As I look toward the next few weeks, I am hopeful and feel the heaviness of a busy schedule. Next week, we go to Chicago for the Gospel Coalition conference. We will get to hang out there for a few days. I am excited about going to a city I’ve never been to, being out of town with my husband, spending time with Rick and Teresa Dunn, and going to an amazing conference on 2 Timothy. When we fly back, I will be driving to Memphis for Tiffany and Chris’s wedding. I will be singing for it–a first for me by myself at a wedding. I am honored to serve them, and I am excited for them. Then, the day after I get back, I turn 34. I don’t like the fact that I can be grouped with mid-30s, but I still make it into the 18-34 demographic!
Today, I pray that preparing for this week and next, I do not neglect the opportunities of today. I pray that I not forget Easter–the hope of new life–in the midst. Did I mention I’m excited about Chicago?

Posted in prayer, random thoughts, rest, Rheumatoid Arthritis, scripture memory, thankfulness, Uncategorized

An update

       I sit here on a rainy Saturday afternoon in my pajamas listening to the wonderful music of my dog, Bailey, playing “devil box” in the backyard.  The new wood fence is up, and I can enjoy an afternoon of Bailey playing and not escaping.  I cannot tell you the last time I have had that joy.

      The last few weeks have been particularly exhausting–not bad, but exhausting.  Greg had bursitis in his elbow that had a huge infection and made it necessary to not take his Humira (Rheumatoid Arthritis meds).  This past week has been really hard on him, and in consequence has been hard on me as I help to care for and encourage him.  He is not able to do as much to help physically.  This is just part of life for him, and, in turn, for me.  

      My usual schedule has been off (packed full), so my housekeeping, cooking, etc has been off.  Greg had the first 3 nights of this week away, and I had two of them away, so I had toast for dinner several nights:).  I also added several new young women to meet with weekly.  Greg’s good friends from college, Todd and Brian, are in town this weekend, and it has been great to hear him laugh and be silly with them in their banter.  Friends that stand the test of time are such a gift.  

     All of these things are a part of the life of which I am extremely grateful.  I am grateful for the beauty of pouring into others with the hope of the gospel.  I am grateful for the quality of relationships we have in our lives–the opportunity to be “with” people and give our lives away.  However, this afternoon, I am really grateful for my soft pajamas, the computer, warm blankets, my gracious husband, and my crazy dog.  It is time for some rest.

     The lack of blogging lately has come from the exhaustion of the mind.  I have been “present” with so many in the real world that I have not connected with the cyber one!  

      I got the opportunity to study for several hours yesterday on how Jesus and the new testament writers prayed for others.  It was such a blessing.  Reminders poured forth to remember my brothers and sisters in thanksgiving to God and to constantly pray for them.  The prayers about others were also steeped in the truth and the gospel for the strengthening and fruit in Christ.  I pray that today for you who follow this blog.  I am thankful for you–for the exact arenas God has placed you for his specific purposes.  I pray that God point you to Christ here and strengthen you to endure and serve in the hope of Christ.  I pray that your hope be in NOTHING other than his truth and the grace and love that come in Him–not your family or looks or job or finances or status or anything.  

‘But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For his sake, I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish in order that I might gain Christ, and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes from faith, the righteousness of God that depends on faith.’  Phil 3:7-9

      It is no mistake that these are the verses we have been memorizing this week.  His word is so rich, and the Spirit teaches us faithfully as we cling to it.

Posted in infertility, Rheumatoid Arthritis, spiritual growth, the gospel, trusting God, Women's Discipleship Concepts

Top 5 Most Impactful Things of 2008

This has been an interesting year to say the least…lots of unexpecteds–some good, some hard, all purposed.  

1.  The truth and the focus of the gospel EVERYDAY as our hope and purpose.  This has been the greatest theme of the year through readings, sermons, conversations, ministry, etc.  My life continues to be transformed daily as I learn to preach the gospel to myself daily instead of thinking God has saved me and now I have to prove myself to him.  It is all by the grace of his gospel–the righteous life and death of Christ and the forgiveness and freedom that I LIVE in in him.  His cross and the truth of God’s word have been elevated as I am learning to fall on his mercies everyday.  Worship has been more rich and hope continues to be fresh as he is glorified mightily.

2.  Greg’s diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis in March.  Who knew that in our 30’s we would be given a diagnosis that is life-long, life changing, and challenging?  The rest of this year has been filled with learning to pace life, draw boundaries,love in new ways, and readjust our expectations.  We have seen God’s provision and faithfulness so much in the midst of this (from medicine to strength to communication to emotional strength and spiritual rest), and we know that he continues to be faithful.  Forever Greg will make the joke that he has the “woman’s disease.”  You cannot get through hard times with Greg without a joke.

3.   Jen’s starting a non-profit ministry–Women’s Discipleship Concepts.   God is always stretching and growing us, and this is definitely that.   The whole start-up has been a faith journey that was unexpected, and it continues.  Again, God has shown his faithfulness in bringing a board, finances, legal help, women with hearts for growing, learning and serving, and  opportunities for service.  What  I looked at and thought was impossible is growing to fruition.

4.  Dealing with fertility issues.  Millions of couples deal with some issue of fertility in life.  The most common question that we get asked (or rather is asked about us) right now is about children.  “Why don’t you/they  have any?”  “Are they selfish or having issues?” I have always kind of been different, but it is kind of weird for everyone around us our age (33, 38) to have started or completed their families.  We, as humans, naturally identify with people in similar circumstances or situations in life, so having no children is something that tends to isolate you from peers naturally.  Because of the medicine Greg had to take at first, we were told that it might be impossible to try to conceive (we had been trying prior).  A few months into treatment, the medicine was changed and miraculously God provided a very expensive medicine for a year.  We then went to the infertility specialist to try to conceive during the window of time we were provided with this medicine.  In the midst, we found out that I have some fertility issues.  So, we continue to be on a faith journey.  All of life is for our molding to be more like Christ (sanctification), and I am learning to trust God in the disappointment of the moment and in the temptation to compare to others.  He is good, and I am reminded (when in the truth) that this is all in his love for our good.  Our hope is found in him and not children or perfect health or circumstance.

5.  The sickness and death of my college friend, Daniel Smith.  In April, I heard that one of my favorite people from college (and let’s face it–life), was diagnosed with cancer.  In the course of the summer, through  communication over the internet on his blog, facebook, and email, we reconnected in his journey of this horrible disease.  At the end of October, Daniel was healed as he entered the courts of his Eternal Father.  The depth of emotion and thought and prayer that went through all those months for him, his family, his dear friends, aquaintances, and even strangers on the internet cannot be calculated.  He recorded his thoughts, praise and encouragement to all through his blog, and it continues to bless people and point them toward Jesus.  To say that all of his life was impactful might be an understatement.  Please pray for his family and friends in this holiday season.

(Bonus # 6 for Greg—the shafting of the Longhorns:))

Posted in discipline, learning boundaries, prayer, rest, Rheumatoid Arthritis, trusting God

Margins

This past week has been really emotionally draining for me. It is one of those times where everything catches up with you. I realize that I forgot to remain in Him, and I decided somehow that I was in charge of coordinating life. No wonder I am exhausted. How do we so quickly forget?

Greg has really been struggling with the fatigue side of RA, and the doctor told him that this is the hardest part of the disease to accept. I think I have tried to make up for the strength that he has lost. I have been trying to figure out how to solve things and power up to make life run the way it is supposed to with both of us with full gun energy. My body and the Lord have told me that this is impossible. Sometimes I need tangible ways to learn these truths…and this week the tangibles are a smoking 3 month old lawnmower and a broken 6 month old carpet cleaner. The tools in which I can control things around me that look out of control (ie my lawn and muddy carpets–all from the much needed rain) are not working. I am reminded that in EVERYTHING God is in sovereign control. He is working all of these things for my good–the conformity to Jesus Christ (Romans 8:28 )

My emotional and spiritual and physical resources have been low–and for a reason. Even though it is hard, I thank Him so much that I know Him and am loved and cared for by my gracious Heavenly Father. There is no where to go but Him. It is at times like these that I do need Him to take my chin and lift my face toward Him reminding me of who He is and reminding me of His truth. This morning and this week I have been reminded that I need to make margins for health. Sometimes my page has got writing all over it–no margins. I allow myself to be pulled here and there, and I end up completely spent with not much to show for it. In forming this new ministry non-profit ( I have a name–Women’s Discipleship Concepts), caring for Greg and picking up slack at home, meeting with women and helping with camps this summer, I have to look at how to create some margins.
Please pray for me as I spend time with the Father. Pray that I remember to remain in Him. That the truth of the gospel be at all times in my heart and mind.