Friday, April 22, 2011

One Blessing After Another

I had the opportunity to speak at the Woman's Social at the Baptist Church last night. It was an honor to get to share "my story." I will post it here as best as I can remember. I will warn you, it could be a bit lengthy. So, if you don't want to read it all, skip to the C and E of "GRACE" :)

The definition of grace has changed over the course of my life. I like to compare it to a piece of stoneware. As I share, I will refer back to this as a visual.

I am going to share my "life story," up to this point, and how the Lord has changed and molded me into who I am today.

GRACE: Undeserved favor or gift-the undeserved forgiveness, kindness and mercy that God gives us.

G-Grace introduced
R-Re-ignited Grace
A-Apportioned (allowed) Grace
C-Complicated Grace
E-Eternal Blessings

Grace Introduced~Ephesians 2:4-5

You are given a piece of stoneware to bake on, and you wonder-what do I do with this? Especially if you've never cooked with a stoneware before.

This is much like the beginning of my story. I was introduced to "Grace" at an early age. I remember sitting on the edge of my parents bed, with my mom, asking Jesus in my heart. Of course, I didn't fully understand grace at this point. But I was introduced to it. Like Ephesians 2:4-5 says-it is by grace you have been saved.

It is by God's grace that I was raised in a Godly Christian home with parents that loved the Lord and gave us opportunities to grow.

I have an older brother-whom I idolized growing up, and a younger sister that I was really good at mothering. Bless her heart-she didn't ask for two mothers, but she got it!

In Jr. High, I went to a camp and I remember at that alter call, really deciding that I was going to dedicate my life to Christ from this point forward-not because anyone told me to, but because I was choosing to.

I also had the opportunity to go on a couple of missions trips in high school with my dear friend, La Rena. We served in Canada and in Brazil, and these trips really enlarged my world as I got a much bigger picture of God's grace in other culters.

Re-Ignited Grace~1 Peter 1:13; 2 Corn 12:7-10
So, you bought that stoneware bar pan, and you had forgotten about it. As you are cleaning out your cupboards, you run across it and are re-inspired to use it!

Much like this piece of stone, was the grace in my life as I entered College and my Post-College years.

I went to the University of Idaho and studied Music Education. My major was very demanding and I spent a lot of time in the practice rooms.

Much of my free time was spent being involved in Campus Crusade for Christ.

I am very thankful for that ministry and got involved very early on in college. I played on the praise team, had lot of leadership training, and opportunities to disciple other women. I also made many life-long friends.

I was asked to give my testimony at our weekly meeting. I remember thinking, "I don't have much of a testimony, I haven't done drugs, or been sleeping around, or done any of those 'big, bad' things." But I was still a sinner, saved by grace.

Because of this grace, he had saved me from getting involved in those things. That was a testimony in itself.

I feel as if I developed a new passion and purpose in life-a re-igniting of grace. I had taken my faith and moved it from legalism, or a law-based faith, to a grace-based faith.

After college, I was given an incredible job at Fairmont Jr. High in Boise, teaching Jr. High Choir. It was a challenge, as I was following in the footsteps of someone who had been teaching there for over 30 years. I loved my students, but didn't like the stress it put on my life!

It was also during this time that Ben came along! We had gone to college together, even lived across the street from each other, and went on a couple of double dates together (not with each other!). We were interested in other people and things during those four years though, and the timing was just not right.

The fall after we graduated, he came to Boise where I was currently living, for a mutual friends' wedding. I tease him because he didn't have to work very hard at getting my phone number. I had talked with him on instant messenger a couple of weeks before the wedding, letting him know that I only lived 5 minutes from the airport, so if his ride fell through, he could give me a call. Sure enough, his friend that he was staying with had to do some wedding duties at the time he was coming in, so he gave me a call.

The rest is history. :) We dated long distance for about 8 months, and then realized that we needed to live in the same town if this was really going to work out! He is the best thing that has happened to me. He compliments me and completes me in so many ways!

Up to this point in my life, I hadn't had a lot of major struggles. Sure, the ups and downs of life, but no major trials. I was blessed beyond blessed. God had been very gracious to me. I had a healthy family, all four of my grandparents still living, and an incredible husband.

So, I began to pray for the future. I knew trials were going to come. I Peter 1:13 says to prepare your minds for action.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 was another set of verses that came to mind. I started praying that the Lord would continue to build my faith, and make me strong so that when those trials did come, I would be able to stand firm on this faith that He had grown in me.

Apportioned (allowed) Grace~Ephesians 4:7
Back to my baking stone. :) There are some things you aren’t allowed to bake on it. You don't want to use liquids on it, as it is non-pourus.

I was now entering this stage of grace in my life. God was going to allow some things in my life that I didn't necessarily want, but He knew I needed to bring my focus back to him.

I had always wanted to be married. Ever since I was little girl-I was the one who would dress up and play wedding. I thought once I got married, life would just be that much better.

It was in many ways-I am so thankful for my incredible husband. But it isn't a "fix-all." In fact, the Lord has allowed several things in our lives to grow us in these past 3 1/2 years. In the process, it has been hard on our marriage. We have had to work through many things!

In our first year of marriage, we bought a house, I left my job (of which was very difficult for me to do), Ben got a new job, we re-modeled the home we currently live in, and moved to Pullman. I also went through a change of "careers."

After we moved, we knew we wanted to start our family. We were so excited to find out we were pregnant. At a very young age, when people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said "a mom, just like my mom." I knew this was my calling!

So when we lost our baby at almost 12 weeks, I was devastated. I felt like the ground had been ripped out from underneath me. I was angry, I was hurt, I had questions. I didn't understand why.

I questioned my calling. I knew I had been called to be a mother, so why would he take this child from me?

I did realize, though, that this was where the rubber met the road. This was my trial I had been preparing for. So I was either going to trust Him or turn my back on him.

I couldn't imagine my life without Christ, so I chose to trust him, even though I didn't know why, even though I was hurt, even thought I was angry.

1 Peter 1:6-7~In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith-of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire-may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed."

After having some time to process, I was reminded that I like to have a tight, closed fist around my life. As long as I can hold onto it, inside the palm of my hand, I can control it. If I can control it, then I know what the outcome will be.

I had to open my fist. I couldn't control this part of my life. If the Lord wanted me to have a child, then it was going to be in His time, and I needed to let Him be in control.

The Lord knows what we need more than we do-He knows and allows circumstances in our lives to bring Glory to Him.

God will not permit any troubles to come upon us unless He has a specific plan by which great blessing can come out of the difficulty.” Peter Marshall

It was hard to see what blessing could possibly come from this. As time has healed, I have realized that I have a new ministry. I can now relate to other people who have lost their babies. There is a bond, an understanding there, that you have once you have gone through that. I have some friends in my life that have and are dealing with this, and I am so thankful that I can attempt to be some sort of encouragement to them.

Complicated Grace~Psalm 37:3-7a

Back to my visual-stoneware can be complicated. There are a few rules. You can’t put it in extreme temperatures (like from your freezer straight to the oven), and you aren't supposed to use soap to clean it or put it in the dishwasher.

Much like grace-it can be complicated. We often think we know what Grace should look like.

Psalm 37 says that if we delight ourselves in the Lord he will give us the desires of our hearts. So often this verse it taken out of context. We must read the verses surrounding that one. We must trust Him, do good, and dwell in His land. Then we can delight in Him. After we are doing all this, our desires should align with His, and He will "give" us those things. So often it's not what "WE" want, but if we are seeking Him, we will want what HE wants.

Life got a little complicated. I had some health issues after my miscarriage. Some things I didn't want to come to terms with, but that I had to. Things, that as a woman, I didn't want to hear because I shouldn't be "broken down." I should be able to do what I was created to do-have babies, right?!

I forget that we live in a sinful world, and for some reason, it is harder for some woman to fulfill that command.

As we started trying again, that was also hard. It brought a lot of emotions into our marriage that we didn't know how to deal with.

Well, all we needed to do was go on vacation to Mexico! :)

When we found out we were pregnant again, we were so scared. Of course we were excited, but more scared. Again, I had to remember to let go, and let God. I had to open my fist.

I had to trust that His will was going to be done. After we passed the 12 week mark, I thought, "great, we made it!!" I started closing my fist again.

So He got my attention...

I woke up one morning last April with an incredible pain on my right side. It continued to get worse.

Ben took me into the ER, and the doctors were trying to figure out what was going on. I was just sure I was loosing the baby again. I was so scared, but in so much pain that I couldn't really think about how scared I was.

The next morning, they decided to take me into emergency surgery. Everything happened so fast. They couldn't find my ovary on the scans or ultrasounds, but they knew something was growing inside that wasn't supposed to.

I was only 21 weeks pregnant. I was a mess laying on that hospital bed being prepped for surgery. They had told me that they weren't going to monitor the baby during surgery because there was nothing they could do if something happend. Life could not survive outside the womb until 24 weeks.

When they got in there, they found my ovary and tube had twisted on each other, and that my ovary was the size of a softball, black and exploding. My doctor saved my life. And Kayla's. He has been an OBGYN for over 30 years, and never had to do that kind of surgery on someone who was pregnat. I am so thankful for the confidence and knowledge the Lord gave him!

I went into labor after the surgery, but thanks to the medications, they were able to stop it, and slow down my contractions.

I was in the hospital for a week, recovering from surgery, and trying to get my contractions slowed down.

The most amazing thing to me was that we had a 3D ultrasound 3 days after surgery. She looked so peaceful. She had no idea what she had been through. Except she knew she had to fight for life! (If you know her personality now, you now know where that comes from!!) It gave me so much hope.

But the journey wasn't over yet. I was on bed rest for the duration of my pregnancy. My restrictions got less and less the closer I got, but each week was a victory.

Especially at week 24. Once we were past that, I knew there was at least a chance of survival for her. Each week that passed, the survival percentage rate went up.

Bed rest was hard on me emotionally. Some people would tell me, "I would love to be confined to a couch!" Well, I would too, if it was my choice. When you are doing it because there is literally nothing else you can do to try and save your child's life, it takes on a whole new perceptive.

It was a roller coaster ride. I am so thankful for my incredible family, friends and church family who got us through that time. The prayers, meals and encouragement got us through! We were so thankful!

Eternal Blessings~John 1:16
The stoneware, over time, “seasons” and produces an incredible baked good, like this banana break I made. Through the seasoning of my life, the Lord was producing blessings.

He answered our prayers how we wanted this time. I was able to give birth to Kayla, and she is God's incredible gift. She is grace in our lives.

Grace is often used for a middle name, but it means so much to us, and this is why she is Kayla Grace.

I now understand Grace in a completely different way-She has been given to me as a gift, so that I can give her back to the Lord. The Lord doesn't bless us for our own good, He blesses us so that we can turn around and give those blessings back to him.

Am I continuing to give Her up to the Lord?

Blessings don’t always come when life is good.

We won’t always know “why” this side of eternity.

We just need to focus on glorifying Him through our character, not our circumstances

The song "blessings" by Laura Story describes this better than I can, so check out my last post with the lyrics to her song.

The price I could never pay for my sins, was paid for me at Calvary. We are remembering that this time of year. There is nothing I can do to repay Him, but I can obey. I can live in the daily, sufficient grace that He gives me. Because of this grace, we can have eternal life if we just trust and receive this gift.

I don’t have life figured out. God is still growing me in my marriage, and role as a mother. I have “those” days. Days when I don’t trust Him. Days when I wonder what in the world I am doing as a mom. Days when I fight with Ben over the same things. Days when I wonder what my purpose is. Just like that piece of stone, I will look a little rough around the edges, but the Lord can use that to produce an incredible baked good (like my banana bread I made on this stone today)

All he is calling me to do is live each day-moment by moment, in His Grace. When we do, we have this promise:

“From the fullness of His grace, we will receive one blessing after another.” John 1:16

Saturday, April 16, 2011

"Blessings" by Laura Story

I am preparing to speak at our Woman's Evening Dinner next Thursday evening at Church (come if you can!), and I have lots of random thoughts running through my head. I am trying to bring some clarity to all that the Lord has been putting on my heart.

I ran across this song by Laura Story, and it has become one of my favorites. It puts into words some of the things I have been thinking about.

We pray for blessings
We pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
All the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

We pray for wisdom
Your voice to hear
And we cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt Your goodness, we doubt Your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough
All the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we'd have faith to believe

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know the pain reminds this heart
That this is not, this is not our home,
It's not our home

‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
And what if trials of this life

Thursday, April 7, 2011

PE Exam

Ben has been studying for his Professional Engineering exam for several months. The time has come! Oh, for those of you that don't know, it basically means that he can stamp, or approve, his own projects. He no longer has to take them to other PE's to get the stamp of approval. It also means he could be his own boss someday!

Tomorrow morning at 7:30 am, he begins the 8 hour test. Many have gone before him, failed, and passed, and he too, will experience those outcomes. (Hopefully just the passing on the first round!!!)

I admire my husband. He has an incredible work ethic. He has a new daughter, and yet has been so diligent about studying. It has meant sacrifices on our part, but it's for all of us in the long run.

He has been putting in close to 12 hour days at work. (So that he could study for about two hours during his lunch) I am reminded of the harvest hours my family keeps! I am so glad he doesn't have to keep those hours normally. We are so blessed that he works an 8-5 job so that he can be home and involved in our lives here!

All through these long days, he still keep some energy for home. He is still happy to see us when he walks through that door. He is still willing to change Kayla's diaper and give her a bath. Not all days, but most.

I am blessed. He is God's incredible gift to me. May I never take that for granted.

You can do it, Ben!! One problem at a time! (There are 80 of them!)

Thank you for being my best friend, better half, and provider for our family!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Each Day is a Gift

Hello blog world. Sorry I've been absent for awhile. I know I was going to do some blogging on marriage, but to be honest, I just don't feel like I'm in a good spot to be talking about that! So I was trying to figure out what was on my mind.

My mind has been a little empty lately. Well, not empty, I guess, because I'm not a guy. I can't just think about "nothing." I don't have a "nothing" box. :) I guess I have been feeling a little down lately. Hormones? Lack of sleep? Absent husband (since he's been studying so much for his Professional Engineering test)?

I couldn't figure out why, and then I did a double take at the calendar.

April. Ah, April. You have not been so kind to us the past two years!

We lost our first child on April 6, 2009. There are many thoughts out there about miscarriages. Some people choose not to share that they have lost children, some share freely. I am one that talks about it. It is a part of my life, a part that has forever changed me. It is a child of mine that I will someday meet.

My heart aches for my little one this time of year. Now, having another child, one "on the ground" makes me miss my baby more. As Kayla grows and changes, and her personality comes out, I often wonder what our first child would have been like. Would they have had the incredibly busy personality of Kayla, or would have have been more laid back like their dad?

Time does heal. Life does move on. The pain does get less. But the loss is still there.

There is still an ache, a hole in my heart that no baby will ever fill. There is a hope-a promise-that I will meet my baby someday-when all tears will be wiped away-where we will know no pain-where I will get to run to them, hug them, kiss them and tell them how much I love them.

During that time in my life-my prayers were not answered like I had hoped. Our baby was not spared this side of eternity. I wasn't able to hold him/her in my arms.

My heart hurts for the people that have gone through this once, twice, three times. My heart hurts for the people I know that still have barren wombs. Why, I cry out, why? "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord..." It is so hard to see the blessings in the valleys. But they are there. We must look harder. We must open our eyes to the beauty of life that has been given to us. We must trust and live in that hope and peace.

I was admitted into ER on April 29, last year for what would turn out to be an emergency surgery while I was 21 weeks pregnant. Another incredibly fearful time in my life. Another opportunity to either trust in the one who held my future, or turn my back on him.

That time, our prayers were answered like we prayed. My life, and Kayla's life were spared. God was not finished with us yet. Our time here on earth was not supposed to end. There is a reason for that.

Am I living with that in mind? I hope I never loose sight of the gift of life. Being so close to death, and the death of one child, and almost another, you gain a new perspective on life.

It is a gift. Each day is a gift.

An opportunity to make a difference, to share the light and love of Christ to those around me. May I never forget that. May I be thankful for each day that has been gifted to me. Not to me, but to Your name, be the Glory!