PARTNERS–NOT RIVALS.

 

A column from Ann Coulter came across my news feed today, blasting a young doctor’s decision to do medical missions. CLICK THIS LINK TO READ.

 

I agree whole-hardheartedly with Ann that Christians have work to do in America. God has convicted me lately that the lost, those in slavery, the nations, those in need of spiritual growth–are my neighbors and friends. However, most of her article grieved me deeply. I think her mindset is toxic to the church (and thus my burning need to address it here on my blog).  So, with all due respect to Ann, here are some of my thoughts:

 

1) LOCAL MISSIONS AND GLOBAL MISSIONS ARE PARTNERS, NOT RIVALS.

At the start of this year, my husband was hired on as a missions minister at Long Hollow Baptist Church. His official title is “Outreach and Relief Minister”. His main focus has been local missions and community relief. Most of our weeknights and weekends revolve around how our church can reach the lost and make better “disciples” in our community.

 

We have congregation members who passionately go out to the local hotels every Wednesday night to minister to the prostitutes. Some of these same members are going to Thailand this year to work with girls caught in human trafficking. We have teachers who serve faithfully every Sunday in the daycare, and they also go to our Haiti orphanage once a year. I have close friends who are doctors who shine the light of Jesus in their hospitals here in the U.S. but they also choose to do medical missions, just as Dr. Kent Brantly chose to do. We have family and friends who served this city for years, that are now overseas. I have co-workers who spent decades overseas, who now serve in ministry here.

 

Jesus told us before he ascended to Heaven, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, AND to the ends of the earth.” Locally, nationally, AND globally.  My husband has people talk to him on a regular basis with concerns: “We should pour all of money into local missions.” or “We should be sending more money to Haiti, their living standards aren’t even close to our own,” ect.

 

But, you see, local missions and global missions are not in a boxing match, they hold hands. One is not better than the other. They are a married couple–and they inspire one another.

 

 

2) DON’T THROW THE BABY OUT WITH THE BATHWATER:

 

Honestly, missions “tourism” is a rising problem. Admittedly, some simply want to have a beautiful picture made with a cute orphan. Some just want to travel to exotic locals. We could do a better job teaching healthy missiology and sustainability within these countries. Does that mean that we should discourage these efforts and forgo any work outside America? NO! Let’s say, worst case scenario, someone leaves for a trip with wrong motives. Perhaps we should respond like the Apostle Paul, instead criticize like Ann:

 

“The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice,…” Philippians 1:17-18

 

There are many with wrong motives, however, many have answered the true call to international missions (short and long term) and seen just how hard it can be. Ann, have you ever “slinked” into a third world country to serve? Let’s say one does feel “heroic” when initially going–that tends to quickly fade. Beyond the smells, the diseases, and the dangers–the trip is also expensive, the spiritual warfare can be crushing, there is a foreignness and a loneliness that can be paralyzing and devastating. The Christians she speaks of that are simply afraid of “cultural” persecution in the States are not likely to find the mission field a welcome respite.

 

But, in many cases, people return from trips with a greater love for their country, a gratefulness for our prosperity, a greater compassion for those around them in any location, and a more selfless life–something we could all use more of in America. Most of all, they usually have a greater love for CHRIST, which spills into their everyday lives.

 

Some of the most dedicated international missionaries I know, are doing vast amounts of work for Christ in the U.S. also because *they do not love their own life* more than the gospel. (Revelation 12:11) Something they have had to, no doubt, “work out” on the mission field.

 

My husband traveled to West Africa this spring. One of the groups that is making a huge impact in my city is a group of missionaries that have also done work in Sierra Leone, an area where the Ebola virus is spreading. The work of these missionaries there (some who were murdered due to intense Muslim persecution) has sparked a church planting movement that is now so “on-fire” and so huge…that is blazing it’s way BACK the U.S. One the pastors from Sierra Leone spent a full weekend teaching US how to reach our community and pray for our country. He also thanked the Lord in prayer for American missionaries who were willing to share the gospel with his ancestors. You may not think these “disease-ridden cesspools” (as Ann calls them) have any impact on this country….but it all comes full circle. America may be our country and I love her so, but the body of Christ is a “family” that should take priority.

 

International mission trips do not distract from America, they enrich it.

 

2) OBEDIENCE (NOT REASONING) IS THE KEY:

 

In Ann’s mind– staying home + staying alive + witnessing to an influential American = more fruit from Dr. Kent for the Kingdom of God.

 

“If Dr. Brantly had practiced at Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles and turned one single Hollywood power-broker to Christ, he would have done more good for the entire world than anything he could accomplish in a century spent in Liberia.”

 

Okay, good scenario but it seems rather arrogant to me that Ann believes her plans for Dr. Kent would be best. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” Proverbs 14:12

 

Perhaps Dr. Kent was trying to be a hero….OR perhaps he was a man who spent quite a lot of time on his knees, who heard from God, and used his medical gift and training to help the least of these. Perhaps he didn’t feel like leaving his family but he felt compelled to go (believe me, something we wrestle with very intimately in our immediate family.) Perhaps, his decision to “go” was based on obedience, and not to escape the current cultural struggles of being a Christian in America. We do not have the authority to make him a scapegoat for mission “tourism”. We do not know his heart or what God was speaking to him in the secret place.

 

Imagine if we assigned “Christian narcissism” to the apostle Paul because he refused to stay in his own country (which was much in need of the gospel, and much more socially hostile to Christ) and kept braving rather unfortunate shipwrecks, imprisonment, and persecution. He did BOTH! How irresponsible of Paul! (sarcasm) Check out Acts 20:20-21, one of my favorite verses from Paul.

 

“How I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, 21 testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. 22 And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by[c] the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. 24 But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. 2″

 

Who is to say that one young child that Dr. Kent treated in Liberia would not be the next Billy Graham of his country? Or, that he would reach one like my friend Manny Ohomne who is the founder of Samaritans Feet. Manny is from Nigeria and a missionary gave him a pair of shoes and share the gospel with him. One small act. He became a collegiate-level basketball player in the U.S. Today, Manny runs a national AND international ministry and has made a huge impact for Christ in just about every professional sport–a light to highly influential athletes. See his story by clicking on this link.

 

Who is to say that the media attention on the virus and Dr. Kent has not sparked thousands to seek out the gospel he was willing to die for? God doesn’t always think in terms of influence, numbers, or money…the way we do.

 

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9

 

“If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it?” Luke 15:4 

 

God asks us to be willing to lay down our (eternally-secured) lives for our brothers–even if it is just ONE brother.

 

UPDATE: DR. Kent Brantly has now been released from Emory. I love this quote from I LOVED seeing this quote from a CNN article from Dr. Bruce Ribner, director of Emory’s Infectious Disease Unit:

“We are tremendously pleased with Dr. Brantly and Mrs. Writebol’s recovery,” Ribner said at the news conference. “What we learned in caring for them will help advance the world’s understanding of how to treat Ebola infections and help, hopefully, to improve survival” in other parts of the world.

 

His decision to “GO” has now had a profound impact on Liberia, America, and countless nations….countless lives. Again, God’s ways are not like our way….and PRAISE HIM FOR THAT!

 

3) BEING A JONAH GOES BOTH WAYS:

 

In the book of Jonah in the Bible, Jonah ran from God’s call to the people of Nineveh, because he hated that particular people group. God was telling him to “go” but he wanted to stay in his comfort zone. Jonah took a ship going the opposite direction, but God sent a storm to stop his escape and a huge fish to swallow Jonah up. After 3 days, Jonah decided to be obedient and do what God was telling him to do.

 

Ann is right in that we need to witness to America. We need to pray for our country. We need to serve. We need to look for the endless opportunities to reach the lost for Christ HERE. We don’t need to be afraid of the “cultural” price we will pay. If God is calling you to stay here and you choose to “escape” to another country, you are being a Jonah. Hands down.

 

However, if God is telling you to GO, and you use Ann’s reasoning and a love for “America” above God’s call to missions— you are also being a Jonah.  Either way, God’s concern is not location–he is concerned about OBEDIENCE AND SOULS.

 

The price is not too costly and the risk is not “idiotic.”

 

 

True Rest

True rest is not found in 8 consecutive hours of sleep (though it’s nice), or a peaceful start to the day, or a flawless transition from “mommy” world to office world…. it’s not having your ducks in a row or your to-do list under control. True rest is a person…and His name is Jesus. We can totally surrender everything that strives for self-sufficiency and exchange it for the all-sufficient power of God, capable of bringing the dead to life and giving fullness of joy.

Matthew 11:28-29
28″Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29″Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.…”

 

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My younger brother Eli took this beach picture when he came to visit me in Greece. (8 years ago this month!)

I’m back!

Hello there!

First of all–I owe you a little apology. The blog has been neglected, no doubt! But, as the title clearly states….I’m back! Secondly, (and the reason my apology is small and not big) I MADE A HUMAN! Yep, that’s right. A living, breathing, smiling (and sometimes crying) human. My sweet Norah Grace entered the world on April 17th at 8:28am and came home from the hospital on Easter Sunday. And, she is adorable, by the way!!!

See for yourself–

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Thanks for being so patient as I adjust to this new season of life. Be looking for new blog posts VERY soon! The subject of prayer has been on my heart lately—so get those knees ready–God willing, there are several posts on prayer to come!

Love, Audra

 

Where to start if you want to “End It”!

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If you scroll Facebook or any other form of social media today, you’ll see a lot of people sporting a red X on their hands today…and it couldn’t thrill me more! Today is the “End It” Movement’s “Shine a Light on Slavery” Day for the 27 million trapped in human trafficking. I highly recommend that you visit the website for more statistics and ways to be involved.

 

In addition to sharing this movement and this ministry, I’d love to share with you some ways that God is moving in my own life and in Nashville.

 

Over the last 6 months to a year, God has really put a burden for this issue into my family. My husband and I have felt this supernatural, unexplainable call to help in this area, but we truly didn’t have any idea how to start. I feel that many people are in the same boat. How do you even begin to tackle such a huge and extremely sensitive issue?

 

For us, God started introducing us to PEOPLE that were part of the statistic. One was Tajuan McCarty. Around the same time that we were praying for specific ways to help out, I was “randomly” assigned to produce her story.

 

http://www.cbn.com/700club/features/amazing/ASH24_Tajuan_McCarty.aspx

 

I think what I learned most from Tajuan, was that this is more than a number or statistic. These are someone’s sons and daughters. These are VICTIMS, not a lower cache of society that makes the poor choice to work in the sex industry. In fact, I’ve produced somewhere around 40 stories that involve former strippers or prostitutes and almost EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. of them were sexually abused at a young age and eventually manipulated or forced into the sex industry.

 

The second big thing that happened for my husband and me was to see what was happening in human trafficking LOCALLY. Through a Nashville-based ministry called Rescue 1 Global, we discovered what human trafficking REALLY looks like and that girls, boys, women were being trafficked RIGHT IN OUR BACKYARD (I mean, literally, there are some hot spots..plural…within a 5 mile radius from our home and we live in a quiet suburban area.) We have fallen in love with this ministry because of their passionate, yet practical approach to ending trafficking here and overseas.

 

So, all this to say…we’ve come a long way in recent months. We have realized that we can’t do everything, but we can do something. If you have a burden to be a modern day abolitionist, here are some places to start that are very realistic and practical:

 

1) EDUCATE YOURSELF ON TRAFFICKING FIRST:

It doesn’t look the way you think it does! You can be much more effective if you can know whats going on in your area, identify what a victim looks like (you should be aware that a trafficked girl or boy could look as normal as you and me), how the world of trafficking operates, how to help someone trapped in trafficking. If you are in Nashville, Rescue 1 Global has some amazing training seminars. If you are not from this area, do some research and try to find one close to you. There are tons of great organizations doing this kind of training. If you can’t find one, reach out to me and I’ll do some leg work for you to get one in your area.

 

***If you are a teacher or law enforcement officer……I can not emphasize enough how effective you could be as front-line abolitionists! Training like this could give you the tools you need to RADICALLY change this industry.

 

2) SUPPORT INTERNATIONAL AND LOCAL ORGANIZATIONS:

Did you know that there is currently NOT ONE safe house in Tennessee for rescued victims? Rescue 1 is very close, I believe. (please check out their Grace Oasis if you’d like to contribute to this awesome opportunity!) But, how about your state, your region? Is there a safe house? We want to “End It” but do we have a place to house and protect these victims? Do some research to see and support those organizations making efforts to start one. If there is a safe house near you, please ask about their current needs. Some need major funding and some need things as simple as toiletries and other small donations to supply the house.

 

In addition to being aware of local trafficking, educate yourself on international trafficking. Sex tourism has become a huge trend and many countries are fueling their tourism economy with trafficking. This has to stop! Ask God for a holy discontent and for ways to support international organizations.

 

3) BE A PART OF LONG-TERM HEALING AND RESTORATION:

There is a huge need to rescue victims from the physical bondage of slavery, but the GREATEST need is the long-term healing. There is much restoration to be done after a victim is rescued. A great place to start would be sponsoring a victim that has been rescued. There is a financial burden to house and restore…and every little bit can help!

 

Are you a counselor, could you help with equestrian therapy, a beautician that could help cut hair for women in a safe house? Could you offer tutoring for those attempting to get their degrees? These victims have been severely abused mentally, physically, and emotionally. Chances are you have SOME talent or skill that could help restore a victim to a life of freedom and joy. Give of your time and love!

 

These are just a few places to start! Please reach out to me if you have more questions!!!

 

GO GET EM MODERN DAY ABOLITIONISTS!!! LET’S END IT!

Consecration, Prayer, and Mr. Bounds

 

Have you ever read a book or particular author…and the outcome is just unabashed LOVE? I’ve read a few great books in the last couple of years, but I must admit–a gentleman from the 1800’s has captured my undivided attention. His name is Mr. E.M. Bounds.

 

If he sounds familiar, it’s because he is probably the most quoted man on the subject of prayer. A couple of years ago, I stumbled across “The Complete Works of E.M. Bounds on Prayer.” It caught my attention initially, because this man wrote EIGHT books on prayer, making my new find a combined total of 600 pages of tiny typing. I had a desire to grow in my prayer life and thought, “Wow…if a man can write 8 books worth of insight and content on prayer….I want to read this!”

 

I would dare to say, that outside of the Bible–this book has been the most life-changing, challenging, convicting, and inspiring book on Christian growth I have EVER (….EVER, EVER…) had in my two hands. It spills over into every aspect of my Christian walk, personal life, and approach to ministry.

 

I’ll also go on to say that Mr. Bounds managed to crank out 600 pages worth of sentences so meaty and eloquent that most require a second read for adequate processing. His passion and conviction about prayer are so powerful that many a times I’ve been in a public place and wanted to stand up in my chair and shout a paragraph from the top of my lungs for all to hear.

 

So, I’m going to do that in a way today…through this blog. (If it helps, imagine me shouting at the top of my lungs, standing in a random airport chair or restaurant bench! That’s certainly how I’m going to picture myself.)

 

I was reading through a chapter last night called, “Prayer and Consecration.” Consecration is a fancy word for “full dedication and surrender of every aspect of our life to God and His purposes.” It hit me so hard that I wanted to share this section of a chapter with you today:

 

“Consecration is much more than a life of so-called service. It is a life of personal holiness, first of all. It is that which brings spiritual power into the heart and enlivens the entire inner man. It is a life which ever recognizes God, and life given up to true prayer…..

 

It is the setting apart of all we are, all we have, all we expect to have or be, to God first of all. It is not so much the giving of ourselves to the church, or the mere engaging in some one line of church work. Almighty God is in view and He is the end of all consecration.

 

Consecration is not so much the setting one’s self apart from sinful things and wicked ends, but rather it is the separation from worldly, secular and even legitimate things, if they come in conflict with God’s plans, to holy uses. It is the devoting of all we have to God, for his own specific use. It involves our whole being, all have and all that we are. Everything is definitely and voluntarily placed in God’s hands for his supreme use.

 

Prayerlessness and consecration have nothing whatever in common. A life of prayer naturally leads up to full consecration. It leads nowhere else. The prayer life and the consecrated life are intimate companions. The are Siamese twins, inseparable. A prayerless life which claims consecration is a misnomer, false, and counterfeit. 

 

Much modern consecration falls far below the scriptural standard. Much passes for consecration in the church which receives praise and plaudits of superficial, formal professors, but which is wide of tf the mark. There is much hurrying to and fro, from here to there, much fuss and feathers, much agoing about and doing many things, and those who busy themselves after this fashion are called consecrated men and women. The central trouble with all this false consecration is that there is NO PRAYER IN IT. This present-day church is filled with machinery, organizations, committees, and societies, so much that the power it has is altogether insufficient to run the machinery, or to furnish life sufficient to do all this external work.

 

People can do many excellent and commendable things in the church and be utter strangers to a life of consecration, just as they can do many things and be prayerless.

 

(PHEW! Church!!!!!!!!)

 

Prayer creates an interest in consecration, then prayer brings one into a state of heart where consecration is a subject of delight, bringing joy of the heart, satisfaction of the soul, contentment of the spirit.

 

Holiness thrives in the place of secret prayer. It takes prayer to bring one into such a consecrated life of holiness to the Lord, and it takes prayer to maintain such a life. WITHOUT MUCH PRAYER, such a life of holiness with break down.”   E.M. Bounds, The Neccessity of Prayer, “Consecration and Prayer”

 

Mr. Bounds lived long before us, but I believe is message is even more important today. Are we are consecrated or prayerless church? Are we in the secret place of prayer or is our service a counterfeit?

 

I PRAY we resolve this issues in our heart and lives quickly so we can start seeing some real spiritual fruit from our ministries, instead of just “busy work.”

 

  “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.”  2nd Chronicles 7:14-15

 

 

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Asking the Wrong Question

Around my senior year in high school and through my early 20s, I had a particular fear. This fear would wake me up in the middle of the night, weigh heavy on me as I walked to class, loom ominously as chose my schedule for each semester. It was there with every “yes” and every “no”…regardless of how big or small the decision. With every passing year, this said fear would have a paralyzing effect on my ability to make confident choices and it often hindered my ability to move forward.

This fear came in the form of a question…a BIG question:

“What if I miss God’s ‘will’ for my life?”

I was reminded of this question (or mindset, rather) a couple of days ago when a Facebook acquaintance messaged me. She was at a crossroads with her career aspirations and she was unsure how to use her gifts and talents. Her message said something to the affect of, “I’ve been following your career. How did you find God’s Will for your life? How do I do the same?”

I must admit…I spent an embarrassing amount of time blinking at the computer in shock. Then, I just had to laugh. Just a week or two earlier, I had been sobbing on my living room couch, pouring out PLENTY of hypothetical life and career questions for my husband–who admittedly had more comfort and encouragement, than solid answers. It seemed a bit absurd, knowing myself the way I do, that this young lady would a) think I had it all together concerning ‘God’s Will’…that I had somehow deciphered a complicated code and solved a cosmic riddle….and b) think I would be able to articulate something that could actually help her in the specifics of her situation.

I felt so unqualified.

But then, I started to reflect upon the last several years of my life and how God has so faithfully directed it.

It seemed that the doors that needed to close…they closed. The doors that need to open…opened. I remembered how, even though I never had the complete blue print for my life plan or a copy of “God’s Will for Dummies,” He always directed me clearly when I was at a crucial point. I reflected upon how he hedged me in at every point with godly counsel, corrective scripture, and faithful friends when I was tempted to make a wrong choice. Those times I made a disobedient choice, the consequences were hard, but he was there to redirect me and redeem that choice when I was repentant and ran home to Him.

It dawned on me that over the years of following God, He had given me total freedom from this fear—simply because, due to His faithfulness, He helped me see: I was asking the wrong question.  

I think the question of “What if I miss God’s Will for my life” is initially birthed from good intentions. We want to serve God, we want our life to count, we want to follow Him, and most of all, we don’t want to mess it up. But, it can be problematic for a few reasons:

1) It keeps us from living in the present and being obedient now.

I know that when I was on the 24/7 search of God’s “allusive” will, I had a hard time enjoying the moments he was blessing me with in the present. It’s hard to invest in the present, because you feel you must always be reaching, hunting, and forcing things in order for your future to work out ‘just right.’ It makes EVERY decision scary, like I mentioned above. You may discount the “little” ways God is using you in the here and now.

Or, maybe you’ve leaned in the other direction. You can’t live in the present and serve God because, you’ve already “messed” it up or “missed” it. We can be so overwhelmed by our failures in the past that we think we are disposable to God and he no longer has a “plan” for us.

I look back and see that each season was a building block to where I am now–all the good and all the bad—little and small. Honestly, I’ve missed some special times in life—reaching and waiting for “more.” And, I’ve failed to move forward with confidence at times, because I was discouraged by failures.

“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin…” Zach 4:10

 

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matt. 6:34

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Romans 8:28

Maybe, in order to live more the present, we should ask—IN WHAT WAYS CAN I BE MORE OBEDIENT TO YOU…TODAY? How can you make a difference for God, right now, where you are?

2) We are looking for a bush, instead of to the Bible.

I think we spend too much time looking for burning bushes, watching for lightning from the sky, and listening for an audible voice…when we have everything we need to know “God’s Will” on our bookshelves—THE BIBLE.

It tells us how to treat our spouses, respect our bosses, love our enemies, raise our children, handle our money—and everything else we need to know about life—MOST IMPORTANTLY—How to follow, reflect, lean on, and please God on a daily basis.

 

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.” 2 Tim. 3:16

“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”  James 1:5

 

Don’t stop reading this book of the Law, but day and night think of what it says, so you can be careful to do everything written in it; then you will prosper and succeed.” Joshua 1:8

Burning bushes and amazing revelations aren’t bad or impossible, but if you won’t crack open your Bible because isn’t “spectacular” or “sensational” enough for you…then I doubt you’ll be equipped enough to handle a “burning bush” moment (and the grueling assignments that are sure to follow.)

Maybe we should ask the question, “GOD, WHAT IS YOUR WORD REVEALING TO ME TODAY AS YOUR ‘WILL’?”

 

3) We focus more on what we can DO for God, than who we can BECOME because of God.

We all want to do something “special” with our life. I honestly used to think that if I would walk a straight and narrow path for so many years and not make any wrong choices or turns, then BOOM—out of the blue, like lightening, God would drop this one specific, gigantic, important assignment in my lap.

But, you see, that’s not the point at all.

GOD’S MAIN WILL FOR YOUR LIFE—IS TO KNOW WHO HE IS AND TO HAVE A LOVE RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM.

I promise you, it’s that simple.

Everything else that needs to “happen,” will be an OVERFLOW. When you love God and receive his love for you, you want to read His Word and spend time talking to Him in prayer. When you love God and receive His love, you love the people around you and have a burning desire to serve. You don’t worry about the future, because you are walking with the creator of the Universe. When you love Him and know Him, you will know when He speaks to say “GO” or “STAY.”

“Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, “This is the way you should go,” whether to the right or to the left.” Isaiah 30:21

When you know and love God, your grace-given gifts will be employed for His glory so naturally. You’ll get a plethora of important assignments throughout life—not just one! You can be a shining light in your school, a dedicated wife or husband, a parent who raises up Godly offspring, a talented professional, a missionary, a worshipper, a local Bible teacher, an encouraging friend, and much, much more.  When you focus on what you should become BECAUSE OF GOD and His love in your life…the possibilities are endless and they last over a lifetime.

When you love God, and receive His love, your life will bring Him glory!

 “He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace which he lavished upon us. For he has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

 In him, according to the purpose of Him who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will, we who first hoped in Christ have been destined and appointed to live for the praise of his glory. “ Eph. 1:5-12

 

As a final word of encouragement, I’ll leave you with this thought:

 

God’s will for your life is *not* a destination to be achieved or a mystery to figure out—but a daily love interaction with him that involves obedience, trust, and staying in the present. It may be hard to comprehend in our human ability, but GOD WANTS YOU TO LIVE IN HIS WILL MORE THAN YOU DO!  How wonderful—I believe with God in our heart, on our side, and working it through us….

 

WE NEVER HAVE TO LIVE WITH A “MISSING IT” MINDSET AGAIN!

 

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Phil 1:6

 

 

 

 

The Weight of Nothing

The Weight of Nothing

I was checking out in the grocery store and noticed that my cashier was sporting a beautiful baby bump. It was obvious that she was pretty far along and I said four brave words (that I only suggest using when you are absolutely CERTAIN a lady is pregnant), “When are you due?”

 

“Two Weeks,” seem beamed.

 

“Congratulations!” I joyfully responded. “You look lovely.”

 

With a slight laugh she mused, “Well, I feel miserable. I’m just ready for this to be over.”

 

My heart sank.

 

It wasn’t because of what she said. I totally get it. She was very far along, it was a blazing hot outside, and this poor girl had probably been on her feet all day. She was young and working hard, while trying to carry and care for her baby. It wasn’t her words, but my own emptiness, that made the moment so painful.

 

You see, in that moment, I would have given ANYTHING to feel my child growing inside of me again…no matter how hard or how painful… because my pregnancy was over—too quickly.

 

Only just an hour before my miscarriage, my husband and I were in a paint store picking out a nursery color. Only just a couple of days before, I had special ordered a book about praying for your child’s development week by week. My husband and I had cleared out the office area the Saturday before to make room for our new addition. I had purchased my husband his first Father’s Day card and I had started a countdown for the moment when I could see my baby for the first time on an ultrasound.

 

In the few weeks that I had my baby, I felt so FULL—full of joy, full of purpose, full of life, full of expectations, full of prayers, and full of dreams. Before my pregnancy, I had always wondered if I would be a good mother, but in just a few short weeks, I could feel my heart filling to the brim, simultaneously with tenderness and courage. I somehow knew, deep within me, that God would give me the strength and wisdom, to be a great mother.

 

But, after one terrifying evening, I could feel that life slipping through my fingers. That night I cried from a sacred place—that spiritual place where we recognize that, while death is the most natural occurrence on earth—it is also the most unnatural; that place where we grieve for Eden.

 

The next morning, the doctor made arrangements for me to have an emergency ultrasound. I had always imagined my first ultrasound…my husband holding my hand, anxious glances at the screen, and a precious little heartbeat. Only two of the three were present. There was no heartbeat, no baby, and no encouraging words from our silent and somber ultrasound tech. That night, tears of sorrow streamed down my cheeks as my heart was crushed by the weight of….nothing.

 

In the following days, I felt like an empty shell.  Instead of purpose and hope, my life was filled with painful reminders of the baby I would never hold. I had to go to the OBGYN’s office every couple of days for blood tests. I sat in the waiting room with life-bearing women and felt empty. When my husband would gently (but unknowingly) touch my abdomen, I felt empty. Several days before my original ultrasound was scheduled, the receptionist called on accident to remind me of my (no longer needed) appointment. Everywhere I looked, women were pregnant. I secretly wondered why I wasn’t able to carry the life of my child to full term.

 

But, through it all, I wasn’t alone. My husband patiently held me through the tears and whispered hopeful words in my ear. It all reminded me of what a great father he would be someday. And, I had so many women friends and mentors praying for me. They say 1 in 4 women will experience a miscarriage. I reflect and wonder how many women I brushed shoulders with in my lifetime that were, in some season, crushed by this weight of nothing. I guess I will never know, for just as precious life is hidden safely in the womb, the scars of a miscarriage are hidden deep in the heart.

 

One of the women that I do know of is my own mother. She lost two babies before me. The doctor told her to quit trying to have more children…(just weeks before she conceived me and 18 months before my handsome baby brother. Surprise!) God used the pain in her past to walk me through the pain of my present. I couldn’t have done it without her.

 

Before my emergency ultrasound my Daddy sent me this text, “I know God answers prayers, because we had you.” Of all the condolences offered, I held this most dear…because, it is true. He does answer prayers. Had my mother listened to the doctors, I wouldn’t be here. The same is true of my mother-in-law Jan. Had she believed the negative reports after losing two children, my husband wouldn’t be alive either. Their pregnancies, our lives, our marriage… are a miracle…. and I believe that He will continue His miracle of life…with more life.

 

He answered my prayers for strength, even when I had to pray them with every breath, and with every hard day, with every hard second, and every task that seems meaningless or impossible. He is answering my prayer for a trusting heart, even when my pathway seems so dark.

 

And, I believe that He will, in His perfect timing, answer the prayer to grow my family. My prayers for strength and patience will be to endure a life flurrying with sticky fingers, temper tantrums, dirty diapers, and sleepless night. No matter how difficult or how beautiful, I hope to give thanks for everyday I get to be a mom again.

 

Though my heart still breaks, I choose to rejoice. I rejoice in the thought that all our family members in Heaven were there to welcome my child. I like to imagine all the children from our family lost through miscarriage, looking down and admiring the courage of their mamas, who continue to walk out their faith in a scary and broken world. I rejoice that my mother’s father, my mother in law’s father, and my husband’s father–who we lost so young– are happy to be “Papas” in Heaven.

 

I rejoice that for every second they were here…. those children were safe and loved… and now they are in the presence of Christ. I rejoice that the only sound they heard, before their ears resonated with choirs of angels, were the prayers of their mamas and daddies, singing praise and praying prayers.

 

If there is one thing I’ve learned through the miscarriage, and if there is one thing I have come to terms with—it is this: now that I am a mother, for the rest of my life on earth, I will live with a holy ache. I will ache to see my child in Heaven and I will later ache for the children who will have to walk this foreign land…who will have to endure the inevitable pain of this world.

 

But, through the grace of God, I can embrace this ache—for I know that my children do not belong to me. They belong to one much more loving and much more powerful. They belong to One who works ALL things together for our good. They belong to One who will one day wipe away every tear. They belong to Him that gives us eternal life…to Him that restores Eden.

 

They belong to Jesus Christ….and so do I.

 

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HAPPY UPDATE: God has blessed me and my husband with another child. We will be welcoming our baby into the family in April 2014.

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