9.28.2015

Quote. Faith.

A faith that can't be tested can't be trusted.

Quotes.

God's delays are not God's denials,
and waiting time is not wasted time.

The steps and the stops of man are ordered by the Lord.

9.23.2015

His hand is always waiting - to take ours.

About 15 years ago a family friend sent me a tape of his favorite songs. (Yes, I said TAPE!) We are both deeply moved, encouraged, and inspired by music, so he had fun putting it together, and I enjoyed learning a collection of new songs.
Take My Hand by The Kry was one of the songs, and I fell in love with it instantly.
The sound is simple and clean.
The lyrics are simple and true.
Pain and sorrow are part of life, but we are never alone. We have a Father who lovingly, willingly and continually offers to take our hand in His ... and lead us in the way of righteousness.
The road is not smooth, the waters are not still, but He is the Rock that is never shaken. We can put our trust in Him!

I pray this song will encourage you and remind you that you belong to a God who LOVES YOU and promises to never leave you.


Take My Hand - The Kry

I know there are times
your dreams turn to dust
you wonder as you cry
why it has to hurt so much
give Me all your sadness
someday you will know the reason why
with a child-like heart
simply put your trust in Me

Take My hand and walk where I lead
keep your eyes on Me alone
don't you say why were the old days better
just because you're scared of the unknown
take My hand and walk

Don't live in the past
cause yesterday's gone
wishing memories would last
you're afraid to carry on
you don't know what's comin'
but you know the one who holds tomorrow
I will be your guide
take you through the night
if you keep your eyes on Me

Take my hand and walk where I lead
Keep your eyes on me alone
don't you say why were the old days better
just because you're afraid of the unknown
take My hand and walk where I lead
you will never be alone
faith is to be sure of what you hope for
and the evidence of things unseen
so take My hand and walk

Just like a child
holdings daddy's hand
don't let go of Mine
you know you can't stand
on your own

Take My hand and walk where I lead
keep your eyes on Me alone
don't you say why were the old days better
just because you're scared of the unknown
take My hand and walk

Listen HERE.

9.22.2015

A concert - and a lesson.

Sunday night I joined these lovely ladies for a Mercy Me concert!
Two hours spent listening to music which reflected the heart of the writer and the glory of God.
What a wonderful way to spend an evening!
Thank you, Sara and Jen, for choosing to include me in this event. I left feeling strengthened and refreshed and ready to face a new week.
How thankful I am for the gift of music and the gift of friends!

I have never done this before, but I actually took notes during the entire concert! There is a reason. Bart Millard, the lead singer of Mercy Me, shared a piece of his testimony after each set of songs. And his testimony is authentic and powerful.
He is vulnerable and transparent, and He speaks the truth of Scripture to support what he believes or to squash the lies whispered by the enemy.
His words are simply stated - and delivered with conviction.
In a room full of 1,000+ people I felt like I was sitting on Bart's couch having a personal conversation with him and his family. The ability to draw people in so quickly and so effectively - is a gift.

As I listened to him share his personal walk with the Lord, I was struck by a few thoughts.

1. EVERYONE has a story!
And we cannot assume we know or understand the entirety of anyone's life.
There are so many details, people, interactions, and events that make up who we are. Good and bad. Everything and everyone affects us in some way ... and the Lord can use each detail for His glory if we will trust Him, obey Him, and fully surrender to Him.

We cannot judge a book by its cover.
When we see anger, pettiness, insecurity, fear, pride, contempt, rudeness ... we need to take a step back and ask, "What is the cause of this ugliness?" We must seek to understand.
Sometimes it may be flat out sin ... a complete lack of desire to show self-control or treat others with respect. But often - there is a reason behind the ugliness. Abandonment, abuse, neglect, criticism, lack of affection, belittling, broken promises ... there are so many ways we hurt each other. And we carry those hurts with us, things done to us, often assuming others will treat us the same way. We either build fantastically strong walls to hide behind to protect ourselves, or we become experts at playing defense because we have decided no one will EVER hurt us again.

But neither of those solutions are correct. Neither are helpful. They do not build confidence, humility, or relationships.
The only way we can be FREE of our past - able to forgive those who wronged us - and walk forward with confidence and joy - is to lay every hurt, every betrayal, and every attack at the feet of Jesus, and let Him begin to put the broken pieces of our lives back together again.
That is exactly what Bart did.
He suffered cruelly at the hands of his own father, and then the Lord SAVED his father.
Bart forgave.
They were restored.
But he still had bags of pain to unpack, and burn, before he could move forward as a mature, healed, free man.
He did the work. He walked through the pain. He struggled with the injustice. And now he is healed, and he is FREE!

Everyone has a story.
And it is our job to read it.
Authors tell their story for a reason - to be heard and/or to help others.
May each of us be people who always seek to listen, encourage, and support the one who is writing her story so she too can be free to live the abundant life Christ came to give.

2. We can never, ever, EVER underestimate the affect we have on others when we encourage them with the truths of Scripture.
It does not matter how it looks.
Weekly discipleship, an evening on a friend's couch, a hand-written letter, a word, or a text.
What we say MATTERS.

Bart shared that he had a faithful friend who texted him the same thing every. single. day. for two years when he was in one of the darkest places of his life.
"You are holy. You are righteous. You are redeemed. And I am for you."
Bart declared, "One day, I started believing it!"

A text!
The same text.
730 times.
If that friend had stopped encouraging him at day 143 or day 642, would the results have been the same? We will never know. But the Lord knew what Bart needed. He pressed these words into the heart of his friend, the friend responded in obedience, and Bart is a new man because of it.
Praise God for the faithful ones who never get tired of sitting in the hole with a hurting and wounded heart, but continually speak truth and life into that heart over and over again until they BELIEVE IT and start living and breathing on their own.
Thank You, Lord, for such as these!

3. When we enjoy a song, or are touched by a particular set of lyrics, we need to search for the story behind it. 
Some songs are written for the sake of writing - there is no private story or personal testimony hidden within the words.
But often, the artist writes for a purpose. There is a WHY.
Investigate!

Bart gave the "why" behind a handful of their songs, and I can honestly say I was surprised by each one. When he sang the song after explaining the story behind it, the words became precious and meaningful because they were more than just words - they were his heart.
                                      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Music.
Lights.
Sound.
Enthusiasm.
Talent.
Worship.
Testimonies.
Praise.
Conviction.
Tears.
Sisters in Christ.
It was a precious way to spend an evening ... and I am so thankful the Lord gave me the opportunity.

9.21.2015

Quote.

Obedience is the response of TRUST.
When we trust the Savior we need not question His ways. 
Even when they don't make sense.
"Not my will, but Thine be done."

9.20.2015

Praising God for Luke Samuel's baptism!


Today Luke Samuel publicly proclaimed that he is a child of God by obeying the Biblical command to be "baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit."

There is a story behind this day, but it is not mine to tell. It is Luke's.
I pray he will share his story over and over again as a testimony of God's goodness, grace, and forgiveness so others might be encouraged and have a desire stirred up inside of them to seek the Savior and accept the free gift of eternal life that is ours if we "confess with our mouth that Jesus Christ is LORD."

Thank You, Lord, for the beauty of this day.
Our son was already forgiven and set free by the shed blood of Your Son, Jesus Christ, but today he told the world, "I am HIS. And He is MINE. For by grace I have been saved - through faith - it is a gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one can boast."
You began a work in Luke the day You called him to Yourself, and You will be faithful to complete that work until You return for Your own. Thank You, Lord!
You truly are, an amazing God.






9.17.2015

Miscarriage Ministry ... will you comfort others as you were once comforted?

My sweet sisters in the Lord who have walked through the hurt, sadness, and pain of miscarriage and stillbirth,

Do you remember the faces of those who ministered to you during the dark days surrounding the loss of your precious baby?
Do you remember the words, the letters, the visits and the gifts that brought glimpses of joy in the midst of your sorrow?
Did the Lord use a verse of Scripture or a song to comfort your heart when you thought you couldn't get through the day?
Was there someone who sat next to you, listening to you tell your story, express your pain, and your sorrow - without trying to "fix you?"
Did anyone love you with the Ministry of Presence - just "being" with you whether a word was spoken or not?
Do you remember the first day you did not wake up sad or depressed?
Do you remember feeling guilty because you didn't?
Do you remember the fear of thinking you would never have a baby?
Do you remember laughing again, looking to the future without fear, and slowly learning to trust God without knowing His plans for you?

Right now there is another woman walking, crying, and groping in the same darkness where you once lived.
She is broken, afraid, confused ... and wondering if any understands her pain.
She needs you.
She needs to hear your story.
She needs to hear about God's love. His compassion. His mercy and His grace.
She needs to experience the same comfort the Lord gave you.

Your stories may not be the same, but you understand.
Your responses may not look the same, but you understand.
You may have absolutely nothing in common, but you understand.
She needs you.

Both of you walked into a hospital with a baby in the womb.
Both of you left with empty arms.

Both of you envisioned an entire life with your child.
Both of you had to let go of that dream.

Excitement. Gender reveals. Nurseries. Baby clothes. Car seats. Baby books. Showers.
And then in one single moment, all of it comes crashing down around you, and you are left sitting on the edge of a hospital bed wondering what in the world just happened?

She needs you.

Will you reach out to her?
A verse, a word, a song ... anything that calmed and comforted your heart when it was broken like hers.
Will you shed the light of HOPE in the darkness that surrounds her?
Will you speak TRUTH to remind her how wonderful and amazing God is - even in the midst of her sorrow?
Will you take time to write a note of encouragement on pretty stationery, in your own hand, with a prayer of thanksgiving for what the Lord is going to do through your kindness and compassion?

Our Miscarriage Ministry, Joy Comes in the Morning offers something unique - something personal.
A woman, or someone who loves her, can request hand-written notes of encouragement from other women who have suffered as she is suffering.
We receive a request for letters about once a month, and register hundreds of clicks from people seeking comfort and empathy in a time of deep sorrow.
We send a note each month for the next six months.
The women often respond, sharing their gratefulness for those who reached out to them - even as strangers - because they understand their pain and know exactly what they need to hear.

We have a small team of women who willingly write and I am incredibly grateful for their desire to serve in this special way.
We need more!
At least ten.
Ten women who will prayerfully and joyfully share their hearts with the one who so desperately needs words of HOPE and a reminder that joy DOES come in the morning!

She needs you.
Will you respond?

9.16.2015

Quote.

“Our wants and our real needs are not always the same. We want pleasure, plenty, and prosperity - but perhaps we need pain, self-denial, the giving up of things that we greatly prize. We shrink from suffering, from sacrifice, from struggle—perhaps these are the very experiences which will do the most for us, which will bring out in us the best possibilities of our natures, which will fit us for the largest service to God and man.”  
~ J.R. Miller

9.14.2015

My children don't have to change. I do.

Our pastor has a terrific quote about Jesus to explain the fatigue He felt as a man, even though He was God.
"Jesus was weary IN the work, but not OF the work."

This simple phrase defines the current struggle of my heart.

I have been weary IN the work of motherhood many times. It is an exhausting and demanding role. Totally worth it, with countless joys, wonders, and blessings, but exhausting nonetheless.
And to be quite honest, sometimes I am weary OF the work.

After a restless night of sleep and choppy prayers like - "Help me!" "Show me what I am missing, Lord!" "What do I need to change as a mother?" "What is the root of the problem?" - He answered.
It wasn't pretty.

He made it abundantly clear that the frustration, insecurity, and failure I feel as a mother is a direct result of my own choices.
I keep waiting for my children to 'pull it together' and do everything they are supposed to do so I can then proceed with my plans/ideas/desires/dreams for our family, our schooling, and our home.
Do you see the flaw(s) here?

Instead of waking up each morning with an attitude of, "How can I serve my children today?" I wake up hoping they will behave, be kind, show respect, do chores/school without complaining, and so on. When they don't? I get mad. "How many times have I told you this?!?" "You KNOW better! Why are we having this conversation?!?" "Seriously? THAT is your choice? You have GOT to be kidding me!"

My thoughts look like this:
If Micah would just ...
If Luke would only ...
If Caleb would stop ...
If Josiah wouldn't ...
If Isaiah would ...
If Ellie just stopped ...
THEN my days would be peaceful and our family life would be harmonious.
If they change.

Um, Michelle?
What about YOU?
Have you read Scripture?
Do you know God's commands?
Let's start with this one:
Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:16-21

If I were to read no other verses in the Bible, this one passage would be enough to convict me every day in my role as a mother. (and all relationships for that matter)
Why?
Because the Lord says that I am fully responsible for my actions. My attitude. My words. My behavior. As far it depends on me - I am to live at peace with everyone. And that includes my children.
If they never obey me, respect me, appreciate me, or thank me - it doesn't matter.
God commands me to love them with patience, kindness, and without keeping a record of wrongs.

I cannot keep living in an "if-->then" world.
IF my children do xyz THEN I can do lmnop.

I have to live in an "I WILL" world, in full obedience and surrender to the Father, and trust Him to work in the hearts and minds of my children so, like an unsaved husband, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives (mothers), when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. I Peter 3 (paraphrase mine)

The past months have left me feeling as if I am drowning as a mother. Powerless and out of control.
And it is ridiculous.
The Lord has a life ring of help continually bobbing in the waters of motherhood - and I have refused to grab hold.
Well, that is about to change!
From now on, you will find me with the life ring permanently attached to my waist, and will probably witness some awkward moments when I am yanked toward The Rock that holds the rope because I am starting to drift back into selfishness, and need to be set back on the course of righteousness.

Lord, Thank You! Thank You for resolving the inner turmoil that has held me captive far too long. I love my children and I want to give them my best. I have made mistakes, but You can restore the years the locusts have eaten, and provide a fresh start for each day that lies ahead. Forgive me for waiting for my children to be 'perfect' before I obey You. If I obey first - You will take care of the rest.
Thank You for opening my eyes to the truth, Lord, and I pray You will KEEP them open so I am always seeing life through Your perspective, instead of my own.

9.13.2015

Speaking truth - instead of hiding.

Yesterday was a hard day.
I am fighting a battle within ... a battle which appears to be unending.
And I am tired.
But I cannot give in, no matter how weary and worn I may be, because if I do - I lose the war.
And losing the war is not an option.

So I sit.
In the fatigue.
In the frustration.
In the faith-building hours, days, and weeks - of waiting.
Oh, the waiting.
So many unknowns. How long must I sit here? Will I have to wait alone, or will others come to comfort me? What is the Lord doing? What are His plans? How hot will the fire have to be to purge the dross from my flesh so I can look more like Him?
Funny how God doesn't answer any of these questions while we are IN the process, but reveals details when the work is complete.

Wait.
Be still.
Have faith in the unseen.
TRUST.
Control has no place in any of these ... only surrender. Surrender to a God who sees all things, including the hearts of those who belong to Him. He does what He will, and His ways are not our ways.
There is something both satisfying and terrifying in that statement, isn't there?
I WANT to belong to a God who is powerful, perfect, and fully in control.
I also want to know who, what, when, where, why and how.
But the two cannot co-exist.
Only one of us can be God.
It's not me.

So I continue to sit.
Wait.
Be still.
Exercise faith.
Trust.

But in His goodness the Lord does not leave me sitting alone.
First, because He promises NEVER to leave me or forsake me.
Second, He has provided a family - brothers and sisters in Christ - to speak words of truth and LIFE into a tired and burdened heart.
Today He sent me five siblings to do just that.
Even though I know how my God works, and how quickly He works, I was still amazed.

Yesterday, without thinking much about it, I posted a heartfelt thought/question/emotion on social media.
The gist was this: I want to be a godly wife and a godly mother, but I cannot do it by myself. Does anyone feel the same way? Does anyone else need encouragement? Accountability? Because I DO!
And then I signed off. To be honest, I could have ended my post with, "From a sister who feels like she is drowning and really doesn't want to, Michelle."

This morning I had just stepped inside the sanctuary door when a sweet woman looked me in the eye and said, "I want to talk to you about your post."
"Post?"
"Yes, the one about motherhood and needing help."
"Oh."
She talked. She listened. She understood. She 'got it.' Then she asked me to meet her for coffee.

As I was moving toward the youth room for second service, I said hello to a close brother who asked, "How are you?" Time froze for a second as I decided whether I would speak truth to him, or tighten my mask of "fine." I spoke truth.
He asked for more, and my eyes filled with tears as I shared a very brief, and incoherent, account of my current state of being. I thanked him for listening, he said he would pray for me - and then DID. Right there at the door.

After second service, a friend asked if anyone had responded to my post - because she DOES feel as I do. We talked about what "helping each other" would look like.

At home I decided to hop back on the social media site and found a heartfelt note waiting for me. A sister who also desires to be a godly wife and mother, and is willing to meet me where I am so we can mutually encourage one another. How her words refreshed my soul!

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24, 25

My brother and sisters lived out this passage for me today.
Willingly.
Joyfully.
Because they love me.
And because I was willing - to ask for help.

How easy it would have been to go to church, slap on a smile, pretend I was fine, and say nothing about the inner turmoil of my heart.
For what purpose?
I would have left feeling just as forlorn as when I arrived.
No, no, NO!
Vulnerability.
Transparency.
Authenticity.
TRUTH.
This is what I desire from others - so this is what I must offer.
Even when it would be easier to hide.

Thank You, Lord, for providing exactly what I needed before I even knew that I did.
You are so faithful. In all things. In all ways. Day after day.
Thank You.

9.10.2015

Why I write the way I write.

I am often asked, "How can you share such personal things on your blog?" And, "WHY do you share such personal things on your blog?"

It's a funny question to me because if I was making a living as a professional writer, putting my thoughts and convictions in print, no one would think twice about it. It would be my "job."
If I was a professional women's speaker traveling from church to church sharing my personal testimony and how the Lord is working my life, no one would question my vulnerability or honesty because it is expected from a speaker. The time spent writing and searching the Scriptures for Biblical support would not be considered. It would be deemed necessary.
But these sentiments do not translate to writing on a blog, for free, for anyone to see.
Strange, isn't it? The only thing that changes is the medium, yet it makes people uncomfortable and leery.
"Why would she confess sin on a blog?"
"Why would she share something personal about her marriage in a public setting?"
"Why would she admit her weaknesses and faults as a parent, wife, and friend to the world?"
"Why does she think anyone even cares about her personal life and thoughts?"

There is a simple answer.

I confess sin, share personal struggles, admit my failings and weaknesses, and discuss my thoughts and convictions because there is always someone who is experiencing the same thing - and I want her to know she is not alone.

God created us for relationship. First with Himself, and then with others.
He does not want us isolated and alone.
He wants us to be encouraged, challenged, loved, prayed for, corrected, admonished, forgiven, understood, and accepted.
That is why He created the Body of Christ.
Scripture is filled with "one anothers" that are commands - not options.

When someone is broken, scared, or afraid ... they do not always want to confide in family or friends. They want a 'safe place' where they can pour out everything - no matter how ugly it may be - knowing the person looking them in the eye is going to listen, seek to understand, empathize, and pray for them.
Sometimes, a stranger can be your best friend when you are stuck in the deepest and darkest hole.

I am willing to be that stranger.

I know nine out of ten people couldn't care less about the things I share or write.
And that's okay. I'm not writing for them.
Every word, every Scripture, every minute spent typing is for the one person who is searching for someone who "gets it" ... someone who has trudged through the same muck in which they currently find themselves ... someone who used to run like they are running now ... someone who has experienced their loss, their pain, their fears, their sorrows ... and - someone who has experienced victory, success, and healing because of a God who is eternally faithful and never leaves or forsakes those He loves.

I never know who will read one word I write. But the Lord does.
He is a God who knows our needs before we do, is always working, and uses his children to "encourage one another" "stir one another up to love and good deeds" and "comfort others with the comfort He once gave us."
I only write when He moves my hand to do so.
I have tried to write for the sake of writing, and I cannot do it. There is literally nothing that comes forth when I try to pull from the depths of myself.
But when the Lord says, "Write!" - I obey.

I have countless books, quotes, letters, and cards filled with words, thoughts, and ideas that inspire me, challenge me, convict me, thrill me, move me, and push me to want to know, understand, and love my God more.
They speak truth when I am listening to lies. They infuse life where despondency dwells. They whisper hope when fear creeps in. They convict when sin wants to reign. They recall God's goodness when emotion drowns memory. They encourage when hope seems lost. They comfort when hurt overwhelms.
Every word, every letter, every Scripture carefully strewn across those pages pushes me toward Christ.

And my greatest desire for my writing is to do the same, for someone else.