No Valentine Left Behind Part 1

  The warmth of Jesus’ presence is so satisfying.  It is so sweet to hear Him whisper for you to come away alone with Him for a while.  In silence and in song, there is no place so loving as His embrace.  Why do we come back to our day to day lives?  Not because His love loses its comfort, but because we cannot bear to see others without this same love.

Valentine’s Day has become a special time with Jesus for me.  Previously, Anna and Tai have given us some great advice on how to keep Jesus as the center of your Valentine’s Day, even if you’re single.  When our cup begins to overflow, and we see His heart and His eyes of compassion, what can we do but share it?  Valentine’s Day has such a strong focus on love and sweetness, that it can also end up highlighting pain and loneliness in our lives and the lives around us.  What an opportunity to share the love of Jesus.

Whom do you have in your life that might need a touch of Jesus’ love?

The first people that came to mind for me are single moms.  Being single at all on Valentine’s Day can be tough.  A single mom carries a great deal of responsibility for the little hearts she holds, but it is not always easy for her to have those heart-to-heart conversations of her own.  This could be for any number of personal or practical circumstances.  Perhaps there is a single mom near you who could use a ray of Jesus’ joy in her life.
Even if you don’t know someone very well, flowers can be a sweet reminder that she is loved.  God didn’t have to finger-paint the plants in order for them to thrive, but He just loves to delight our hearts.  Can you believe how many beautiful things He has made?

In the same way, receiving the gift of flowers can bring so much light into a busy or stressful day.  They can be such precious windowsill reminders of God’s love.

It might take you out of your comfort zone to give flowers to someone if you don’t know her well, but don’t underestimate how much of a blessing a sincere smile can be.  It often touches people’s hearts more than they show it, and it certainly blesses Jesus to see His daughter sharing His heart with the ones He loves.

If you know her well, you may be in a position to take her out for coffee, lunch, or on a shopping trip.  You might even know her well enough to surprise her with a favorite latte at work, or to set up a chance for her to get a manicure.

Don’t forget the kiddos!  Every mom is different, and every phase of parenting every child is different.  Some moms might need a chance to regroup before they get back to tying shoes and giving goodnight kisses.  Maybe she might like some one-on-one adult conversation, and appreciate the offer to baby sit while she catches up with a friend.  Other moms might have the best Valentine’s Day ever taking a packed lunch to the park or sharing laughter with her kids and her friends over ice cream.  Sometimes the best way to let a friend know that Jesus loves her is to show her that He loves her kids.

Keep close to Jesus in prayer as you consider what Valentines He might call you toward.  Every situation is different, but He will lead you where He means for you to be His light, even if that means spending more time alone with Him before He tells you how His love will overflow through you.  Even so, don’t be afraid to share a smile and a loving word with those around you.  A little love can go a long way.

by Stephanie H.

Part 2 of this serial will be available next week.  In the meantime, how has the Lord blessed you when you were lonely, Valentine’s Day or otherwise?  Have you ever followed His direction to show love to someone even though you were nervous?  Send us a message or let us know in the comments.  We absolutely love hearing from you!

A Single Purpose

It hasn’t always been easy being single.  Even in learning to rely on Jesus, and truly seeing Him as my beloved, there are some times of loneliness that still come up.  I am at the point in my life where I can really resonate with what Katie Davis Majors wrote about singleness, and just really being happy (maybe a bit stubbornly so) with the thought of life being just me and Jesus, together forever.

But what is a single person supposed to do?  Each of us has an individual calling from the Lord, but it can seem like married couples have a clearer map to follow than single people.  There is so much to learn about caring for and considering another person even before children come along, and then life is a whirlwind of keeping them fed, loved, and in one piece through terrible twos and teens years, and then teaching them to be adults and parents for themselves.

That’s certainly an oversimplification of the process, but to a single person, it can be hard to figure out where to focus your energy if not on finding a way to get married and start a family.

Culture tells us that this is this is the season for self-love and self-discovery, but, as Tai and Anna have written before, that way of thinking never gets us very far. We can do all “twenty things to do while you’re in your twenties” and still come out more confused than before we started.  What is easy to overlook is that all of culture leans this way.  A focus on “me time” is more noticeable in the lives of singles because they seem to have less of an obligation to take care of others.  God’s people were not meant to live this way.

In Matthew chapter twelve, Jesus said that “whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.” (verse fifty)  And in the book of Acts, “not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them.” (Acts 4:32) 

God’s people were made to be a family: a family that extends beyond our blood relatives.  As Tai wrote, that does not mean that we have to be stay-at-home daughters until are married.  But it also doesn’t mean that our lives must be mainly focused on our own interests or on our work lives.

One profound way I have been learning to be a part of God’s family is by using the time I have to support my brothers and sisters who do have greater family commitments.  I am still at a stage of life where there are not many variables that would make it hard to change up my schedule if I need to do something.  I cannot imagine how great a responsibility it is to support a family at work, go home and make sure they are fed, loved, and doing well in school, maybe staying up with them at night when they are sick, then getting them up for school in the morning and doing it all over again.  Some of my colleagues do this sort of thing every day, and it is a huge blessing to me to know that I can help them in it by picking up odd tasks (turns our I love doing certain kinds of paperwork), or filling in if a sick family member needs care that day.  An added bonus is that I have also been learning many things that will be a huge benefit when I have a family of my own.  And that is just my own experience.  There are so many people who could use a little more family support.  The elderly might need a chat or a hand with the heavy lifting.  Maybe a single mom could use a friend stopping by for some girl time, a grocery shopping buddy, or a babysitter for the evening so she can wear jewelry again.  A dear pastor or leader might appreciate the lawn mowed so he can spend time with his family or take care of some of God’s other family members.

As a single person, I also have fewer complications if the Lord calls me to the mission field.  It might not be your call, but it is a reason to be in prayer.

If you’re not yet called to sell everything and move into the jungle, think about how you do use your resources.  If you have a good job and a family support network, you might have the opportunity to splurge on hobbies and hanging out with friends more often than others people who are supporting families. In what ways could you be supporting God’s family?  What are some of the dreams, needs, or wishes among your friends, church family, or community?  Is there a woman at church who could use some flowers today?  Is there a younger person who might need a big sister to take them for ice cream?  Has an emergency come up for a friend, making it harder to make ends meet?  Would it really make a friend’s day if someone caught the check at lunch?  This can be a tricky subject, since some people find it embarrassing when when another person meets their financial needs.  There are also cases where giving money might encourage a harmful lifestyle.  Always been in prayer about how the Lord can best use what you have, but don’t be afraid to overcome your inhibitions when He shows you how to bless His family.

Be especially generous with your prayers.  Just knowing that someone else is willing to take a few minutes out of their day to intercede for them really touches so many people’s hearts.  So many of these things can be great random acts of kindness, but take it a step forward and get to know and love the hearts of your family in Christ.   Don’t be afraid to adopt someone!  Take the love Jesus has given you and show His family how He cares for them.  He’ll use His family to take care of you too.

by Stephanie H.

The Darkness is Real

The devil is real.

We all “kind-of” know that… but, truth be told, we often aren’t really sure what that actually means… or how to deal with it.  Some of us may not really want to think about it all that much, because we’re afraid… or confused… or maybe you’re one of those who knows the devil is real, and has experienced his presence, but you don’t know what to do about it or how to get out of his grip (or help those who are).

Today I’m going to share with you an interview with a girl who is very dear to me.  A girl who has been through an incredible amount of pain, grief, and darkness in her short life.  But God has brought her out of it all safely, and she is now full of the joy of His presence.  My hope is that her testimony is both a help and an encouragement to those of you who are stuck in fear and bondage to the devil—that there IS a way out!

AND, for those of you who are still skeptical about the devil’s existence and the reality of his presence in our world and his work amongst the young people of our society today… I hope this testimony is eye-opening to you, and moves you to earnest prayer on their behalf… and I hope it stirs you to action to rescue any you can from the devil’s grip.  This is reality.  This is why there are so many suicides and kids filled with darkness and despair.  We cannot sit passively by while the devil deceives and destroys lives with impunity.  We MUST fight back.

Can you fill us in a bit on how you grew up, and what “normal life” looked like for you as a child?

I grew up without the guidance of either parent.  My dad left right away, and my mom was an alcoholic.  I was tossed between family members and my mother’s friends.  My mom dated a lot, only, she dated women, as she is a lesbian.  I saw her blaze through so many relationships, including those which sometimes involved other kids.  I saw the damage done by these relationships, and I often got the blame when they ended.  Normal life for me was never staying in one place; it was living with whoever my mom dated, and often getting left behind so she could go out drinking.  Sometimes I wouldn’t see her for months, and didn’t know if she was coming back.  I became depressed, suicidal, and got into self-harm.  I was medicated and anorexic and I began to look for comfort in all the wrong places.  Those wrong places led me to a cult and to demons.

 

When did you really start to get into dark, demonic things yourself?  What was it that drew you in?

I really started to get into dark, demonic things in my sophomore year of high school.  I liked the feeling of having the protection I thought I was being promised.  I was drawn in by the promise of never being alone and having a “spirit” to look after me; a “spirit” I could call my own and which would defend me.  I wanted to be part of something bigger than myself, and I figured I could do that if I were something more than human.  There was a “pack” of demon-bound students in my school, which I joined up with.  Each pack member got a demon which stayed with them, and was always supposedly in the form of a wolf.  These students would enter the bodies of their demons and command them to go about and to kill other demons.  I wanted to be a part of something like that because it was bigger than myself, it was adventure, and because I craved the closeness of a pack.

 

Can you summarize what it was (as far as the demonic activity) that you were drawn into?

When I got into the pack, I didn’t know it was a cult because they seemed like regular high school kids, and like they didn’t want to hurt anyone.  When I joined, I was bound to a demon that controlled fire, and was taught how to use this demonic power… BUT, by getting that close to demons, I attracted other demons to me that tried to kill me and control me.  I had voices in my head all the time.

 

How prevalent was all this in your school?  How connected through the rest of the country—or was this an isolated group?

There were at least a dozen students bound to demons in my school that I knew about, but they knew another pack in Nebraska (a state not at all close to where I lived).  This particular cult is spread all across the U.S. and Canada.  I cannot even fathom how many people are stuck in this mess.  It was definitely not an isolated incident; there are SO many kids involved in it.  There are even little kids “in training” that are relatives of those who are already bound to their demons.

When did you start to want to be free?  How easy was it to get free?  What kind of process did God have to take you through to get you free?

I was sitting behind my door one day, at home alone, and I was crying out to no one in particular.  I had been hurt, and the demons wouldn’t leave me alone.  I was so tired of cutting myself and feeling worthless.  I had grabbed a kitchen knife and wanted to slit my throat.  I had thought about overdosing so many times, but never went through with it.  I raised the knife to my throat but I hesitated, and in that moment, God called out to me.  He asked me where I was going—where I would go when I died?  Of course I knew I wouldn’t be going to Heaven—only good people went there, and I was into all things demonic.  But God told me He had plans for me.  He had found me in the darkest place and still He came for me.  God loved me so much that even with all I had done, He wanted me.  He didn’t look down on me and say I was too far gone.  He didn’t want anything from me—He wanted ME!  Even though I had nothing, even though I was bound to demons, even though I was broken and dead inside, He wanted me—even when I was so, so filthy.  THAT is when I wanted to be free.  I wanted God because He wanted me… just because He loves me.  It was a while after that that God began healing my heart and washing me clean, and He had me surrender anything related to the cult that I had.  Then, I prayed for the bonds to be broken… and… I was free!  There was a lot of healing to come, but I was free of demons, and I felt the weight of them fall off of me.

 

What would you most want to say to someone else who is stuck in a similar situation?

I want to tell the people stuck in a situation like this that it isn’t a game.  It isn’t “safe” to play around with… and there is a greater Love for you!  God won’t treat you like the demons do.  He won’t put that much pressure and weight on you.  There is no love in those kinds of cults.  God will not leave you alone, He won’t let you suffer, and He will stay with you all the days of your life and protect you for REAL.  Demons may promise protection, but they cannot deliver what they have promised.  They are liars, and their way is death.  But God is real!  He is more powerful, and He is good.  When you surrender your life to Him, He will guard you from their grip for real.

 

What do you think parents, grandparents, and church-goers who don’t know what to think of the devil or the current amount of demonic activity in the world need to know and do?

I want to tell those who don’t know what to think about the devil that he is VERY real.  Demons are very real, and they aren’t trying to help you, and they don’t actually give you power like they promise.  There is so much demonic activity in the world that Christians need to be on high alert.  It is far more common and widespread than anyone thinks it is.  Please pray for the Lord’s guidance, and be active Christians.  Remember: this is a battle.  Tell your children and grandchildren about the devil; tell them the dangers of these things while they are still growing up, and train them in battle.

 

What is the best way to help kids who are stuck in these things find their way out?

The best thing to do for kids who are in this is to pray for them, take every opportunity you can to talk about Christ with them, and show them His love.  Most of the time kids don’t even know what it is they have gotten into, and they don’t know how serious the devil is (he isn’t playing around, even if they are).  Tell these kids that the devil is real.  Take Proverbs 22:6 seriously when it says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

 

Is there a way to tell what kids are stuck in these things?

It is so hard to differentiate who is stuck in these demonic things and who isn’t.  There is no specific behavior or mark to identify them.  That is what makes this so scary; it is like a plague with no symptoms.  The devil has created a seemingly perfect trap.  There is no specific age, no specific gender or race.  However, kids stuck in this trap usually stay away from Christians and withdraw from family… but then, most teenagers do those things today anyway.

 

Now, looking back, what are the biggest differences you see between serving demons and serving God?

Serving God has brought me more joy than I ever knew I could have!  God does not endanger me.  He keeps me truly save, and promises me real and lasting love for all of my days.  Serving demons was being on edge everyday, not knowing when the next attack would come… but knowing it WOULD come.  Everything about me became different when I began serving God instead of demons.  I became happier, healthier, at peace, and I started seeing my family more often.  I became a real person again, instead of being controlled by the whims of the devil.  God doesn’t think of you as a slave like demons do.  He is a Father that only has His children’s best interests and well-being in mind.  There are no words to describe how loved you feel when you serve God.

Jesus Has Little Sisters

I don’t think I’ll ever get used to having as dear and sweet a friend as Jesus.  I don’t even know where to find the words for the love He has shown me.  The joy, the thrill, the sense of humor, all make me want to laugh and cry at the same time.  Hearing from Him and spending time with Him just makes my heart sing in a way I never knew was possible.  Even though I grew up in a Christian home, I never expected to have Jesus for an actual real best friend.

All of those thoughts made Matthew 13:55 and 56 stand out to me recently.

“Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?  And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this man get all these things?”

When the Son of God came to earth; the one who carved out the mountains, painted nebulae, and fed sea monsters; He came into a family where He would have little brothers and sisters.

It is still so easy for me to turn prayer into business meetings and memos, and time in the Word into browsing for what my next assignment is.  Like the Nazarenes in Matthew thirteen, I forget that the One who organized the functioning of the entire world and wrote all of the rules is also the Father who made petunias smell sweet, designed the family, and gave us the ability to know love.

I just imagine little girls coming to their big brother Jesus with their skinned knees, their fears, and their clumps of fresh-picked flowers.  I wonder how often they shared hugs and laughs, and how many of them He watched get married.  The One who said “let the little children come to Me” knows exactly what to do with them when they need Him.

I don’t have many memories of being a little girl.  I remember being very young, but the thoughts I remember having then were as analytical as I always seem to have been.  I don’t know if I was born an old soul, or if I just forgot those innocent joys, but Jesus doesn’t just have the little sisters He grew up with, He adopts all of the broken girls too.

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”
~John 14:18

I think one of the reasons I cannot find the words to explain what it is like to be loved by Jesus, is that I finally don’t have to.  I don’t have to think through a full ten minute oration on why I’m stressed or confused or why I need His comfort.  When I do try to explain, He often doesn’t let me.  He just sets aside the problems that I’ve handed Him, and holds me close instead.  He is gentle when I am most vulnerable, and He shows me how He loves me when I least believe it.  It’s love I’ve never known from anyone on earth, but it is never too late to be Jesus’ little girl.

And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said,“Behold My mother and My brothers!  For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.”
~Matthew 12:49, 50

When He adopts us, Jesus not only cares for the broken girls, but He heals us and teaches us how to become unshakable.  Arguments and situations that used to give me anxiety become places where I can feel His strength, and where He has taught me to love when I never could have on my own.  There are some struggles that return again in different ways as we work through them together, but they give me a chance to see a deeper part of His love I never knew before as He grows me into a sister and daughter He can be proud of.  It is a walk that so fills my heart, that I want to show everyone what it is like to have a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Jesus has little sisters, and you are one of them, precious girl.

by Stephanie H.

Following Jesus Like Crazy

 

I was speaking to my mother recently about some of the reactions I received from friends and peers when I first stopped watching television, and her observations led me to do a lot of thinking.

When I stopped watching movies and TV shows, and stopped reading books and listening to music that I knew were not honoring Jesus, my social circles didn’t take it very well.  Some of my friends really listened.  A few were even excited to see where the Lord would lead me.  I lost some friends who were very dear to me.  Most, however, turned it into a debate on theological and cultural relevance.  The arguments were generally the same; they talked about how important it is to have common ground with the rest of the world, how Jesus has called us to be very “in the world” people, and how cowardly or deceived they themselves had been when thinking the same way as I now did.  When they could see that I meant to follow Jesus without popular media and wouldn’t change my mind, the discussion would end with the promise that they would pray for me—in the way that indicated they would ask Jesus to make me normal again.

As I was recounting this to my mother, she tacked on an interesting thought.

“If you had told them that you had been reading way too much of the Bible lately, and that you were going to take a break–”

I was baffled at the truth of the thought before she even finished saying it.

They probably would have been fine with it.

Some probably would even have been curious and interested in it.  I don’t say that simply because any of them disagreed with my either.  I know there would have been some who would have at least cautioned me not to take it too far.  Others would probably give me the conversational equivalent of a tackle, or hold an intervention.  Still, most of those to whom I spoke about giving up television—knowing me to be a theology nerd—would have been at least curious, if not in full support of me cutting back on my time with Jesus.

I had to think on it for a while after that conversation.  I thought of the fact that most Christians probably wouldn’t notice the difference in a fellow believer’s life if they stopped reading their Bible.  As long as they are still involved in church, and do their best to be nice, would you or I know the difference?  Would they even seem more normal and pleasant?  Do we even know how much the Christians around us spend time with Jesus?

I don’t know when it happened, but somewhere along the path of recent Christian history, it became embarrassing for Christians (the people who name themselves after Jesus) to know Him, talk about Him, spend time with Him, obey Him, and love Him more than life, limb, family, and the world around us.  It is hardly even spoken of if a Christian is acting in a way that pulls them away from Jesus, because “we shouldn’t judge them” and “we don’t know what is in their hearts.”  So we all label ourselves as “Christians”, but we identify with sports, or characters in movies, or celebrities, our our favorite hobbies, or what school we attend.  That is why so many became offended when I stopped watching television.  In many ways, Christianity is a label, but popular culture is a lifestyle.

Does that make your heart weep?

It all reminds me of what C.S. Lewis wrote in The Last Battle.  All of the talking animals were afraid to speak up when there was a fake lion pretending to be the real Aslan.  They had always been told that Aslan was “not a tame lion,” so how could they argue if He was not the way they thought He would be?  They didn’t know Him.

The real devil has done this in the real world so long, that we are afraid to imagine that there is a true Jesus who can be seen, and heard, and touched, and known.  What if we offend Him be presuming to know Him when we do not?  Best to leave Him as a symbol, and Christianity a label, and focus on things in the “real” world, like celebrities and long novels.

So then, the very reason that Christians are offended when I give up popular culture, and when I talk too much about Jesus and read my Bible more than is natural in someone my age, is exactly why I must talk about Jesus even more and read my Bible more than anyone ever has, if I can.

Because Jesus is real.  I know Him.  True, I don’t know Him much when compared with how infinitely more I can know Him, but how can that mean that I should never try?  It would offend Him to presume that He lies when He says that He wants us to know Him more than anything else in the world.

My dear Sister, never compromise your relationship with Jesus in order to be trendy or culturally relevant.  Trust Him.  Trust Him, and when your friends, family, and peers push you to be normal again, push harder into His presence.  Push like crazy, because crazy is all that the world will see.  Pray.  Seek Him, know Him, obey Him, and watch all that He will show you along the way.  The adventure of knowing Him is without compare.  After all, He isn’t safe, but He is good.
He’s not a tame lion.  We cannot be docile Christians.
by Stephanie H.

Facing Discouragement as a True Friend of God

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I don’t have a normal life.  In fact…my life is incredibly crazy.  I don’t usually like to write much about myself, but here’s just a little peek into our lives, as just a little bit of background for what I’ve been thinking about today.

We travel a lot, because of my husband’s family being a musical group.  We go anywhere and everywhere we’re invited.  And that leads to some pretty…interesting…experiences.  You probably wouldn’t believe the crazies we see.  People think that traveling and sharing the gospel and playing music must be so glamorous and exciting.  WELL…it’s exciting because we’re doing it for the Lord, and we get to see real and lasting fruit from our labors.  But…it’s not glamorous.  We chuckled today as we recounted some of the places we’ve stayed — from squishing nine people into one dilapidated motel room, to camping in tents next to alligator-infested waters, to…well…basically, if you can dream it up, it’s probably happened to us…and then some. 😉  We also find ourselves presenting our shows in many different places, to many different crowds.  Sometimes we’ve had a jam-packed full theater with four hundred people all riveted throughout the show.  Other times, we’ve had churches, partially filled, but with people who had tears streaming down their faces by the end of the night because the Lord had so touched their hearts.  And other times…well…other times, it can be downright discouraging.  Like last night.  We had a miscommunication with a newspaper that was supposed to run our concert ad for two weeks in a row, and it only got run one week……the day of the show.  We had eight people come.  In a large auditorium.  Eight people is not a lot.  In fact, it’s downright awkward in many ways.  But we thanked God for those eight people, and did a show for them anyway.  But afterwards, several of our family were feeling pretty discouraged.  It’s times like these when you’ve given all your own money and time and lots of effort and sacrifice for what you think the Lord wanted you to do…and held on in faith till the last moment…and then, things don’t go the way you thought they should, that the devil slinks in and begins to fill your mind with doubts.  Suddenly, you wonder…did you really hear from God??  Do you do the wrong thing?  Did you not have enough faith?  Should you even be serving the Lord at all?  Maybe there’s someone else who is better qualified…someone who could actually have the success you had hoped for…maybe…maybe…

 

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But as I pondered the night, the only thing that came to my mind, again and again was a quiet whisper of, “But…the Kingdom of Heaven is made of such as these.”

I paused…and pondered.  Yes.  It’s true.  The Kingdom of Heaven is made of men and women who have given everything they had for Jesus…and many of them never saw any fruit for it.  The Kingdom of Heaven is made of those who have laid down their very lives for Jesus, and never lived to see the salvation of many hundreds which has come from their sacrifice.  The Kingdom of Heaven is made of those who have had many disappointments and those who have looked like complete failures to those looking on, for the sake of Christ…..and yet…..He looks down with the greatest love, tears pooling in His eyes, His heart overflowing with gratitude that He has found true friends; those who are willing to suffer with Him for the sake of some that might be rescued.  It is not an unusual thing for the children of God to encounter trials…but we must press forward, and not lose heart.  Trust…and obey.

So, may you be encouraged.  Whether you are in ministry, or whether you think God may be leading you in that direction, or whether you are simply trying to be faithful in reaching out to those God puts in your path — yes, there will be difficulties, hardships, disappointments, and much testing of our faith…but the Kingdom of Heaven is made of such as these.  God’s heart is so gladdened to have true friends, who love Him more than the comforts and success and acclaim of the world.  Friends who are willing to suffer with Him.  And God doesn’t say that if we have difficulties or what seems like failures we HAVE failed.  He just asks us to be obedient, to not lose heart, and to press forward in what He has called us to do.  We can trust Him, and entrust the fruit to Him.  He will bring forth a harvest for all that we entrust to His care…for any fruit that springs up can only come by Him and through Him anyway.  If you’ve ever tried making something happen in your own strength, you can attest to what I’m saying. 😉

 

Feel free to share what God has been teaching you lately in the comments, and what He has encouraged you with in the midst of your own difficulties and disappointments. 

 

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An Unlikely Opportunity for Discipleship

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By Anna Faith

 

“Lord, please send me someone. Someone that I can pour into. Someone I can develop a friendship with–someone I share YOU with.”

This is my continual prayer to the Lord. The Holy Spirit has so impressed upon my heart the special place that teens have in HIS heart. I may be a twenty-something, but I remember clearly what I felt at 15…and 16…and 17…and 18…and so on. I remember as if it was a moment ago. I know the unspoken pressure girls feel. I know how vicious other girls can be–even Christian girls (yes..sadly, they too can often be vicious). I know how it feels to want to be admired, and wondering when you started wanting to be admired. I know what it feels like to have your crush like your best friend. I know what it’s like to stare out the window and intentionally listen to dramatic music so it feels like a music video. I even know what it’s like to feel really ugly and want to hide under layers of sweatshirts. I’ve watched my own friends battle with self-image, “friendships” with guys (meaning they actually like those guys), and even hearing the bitterness they felt towards their parents for (wise) rules set in place.

The teen years are one of the hardest things I’ve ever walked through.

Yet, in the midst of all my emotions flailing as awkwardly as my clumsy limbs, I remember one girl named Danielle (as I shall call her). Danielle was about 5 years older than I was, already giving her the perk of being one of the older “cool kids”. We had a low-key friendship, meaning we didn’t know each other very well. But, in the middle of my awkwardness and really struggling to press after the Lord, she has left one of the largest impressions upon my heart. I remember the time she let us sharpie her hair, just because we asked. I remember the time she drove me to the funeral of a friend’s mom. She gently hugged me as I cried. She would drive me to meet my mom, and wasn’t even upset when the plans changed and we had to drive alllll the way back to our original destination. She always had a smile and quirky sense of humor. Danielle had her own problems, but she was the “cool” one who always made me feel like her close friend. Danielle was awesome.

As the years passed, I asked the Lord to make me a “Danielle” to someone else. I wanted to show younger girls how beautiful they REALLY are. How there is so much more to life than living for the opinions of others. Someone to encourage, to hug, and to love as a Sister-in-Christ. Someone to serve them…and to teach them how to serve others.

“Lord, where can I help?”

We all have our “circles”. We have our family, our school friends, our Bible Study ladies, our Co-op buddies, our online friends, our play-date group, our soccer team friends, our Church friends. We have our groups. We brush shoulders with people all the time–home-schooled or not. As I waded through my own circles through the years, I have crossed paths with several girls that I love dearly. BUT, I really was not able to connect with anyone that I “clicked” with. But then one day–about 3 years ago–I turned around…

…and I saw my little sister.

Seven years my junior, she is currently in the hardest stage of life. The teen years. *cue dramatic theme music*

OBVIOUSLY, because we are family, there is a certain showing of love that is expected within the sibling ranks. I am close with all three of my sisters. But, there’s something different about my baby sister. She is the goofiest, silliest, sweetest, quickest-witted, storytelling-est, sassy pants you will ever meet. She has the tenderest, most sensitive heart of anyone I have ever met. She’s my Spudnut (my nickname for her).

And the Lord told me to love her. Really love her. To invest in her. Spend time with her. Purposefully. Encourage her. To listen and to speak. To not just be her sister–but to be her friend.

In return, I was given one of the sweetest gifts. I was given a best friend. My little “Spudnut”. We share a room (which can be rough if you’re an introvert), but we have learned to really make it work. We stay up late talking. She asks me guy questions, I hear the rustle of pages late at night as she reads her Bible. If she needs to talk, she’ll sit quietly on the floor beside me until I give her my full attention. She asks me how my day was, even if I spent it at home. She makes me special things. She loves upbeat music, and jokingly rolls her eyes when I make her listen to classical to “stimulate her brain”. I tackle her when she’s grumpy (literally), erupting in hysterical laughter and flailing arms. I’ve had some of my deepest talks, and my most heart searching moments with my “Baby” sister.

It has been one of the sweetest gifts God has ever given me. But it is hard. Somedays I DON’T want to talk. I DON’T feel like listening. I just want to brush by her and let her “go play for a while”. But then the Holy Spirit will quietly whisper “Be careful, Anna. She is an answer to prayer.”

As my sister is growing into a young woman, I have begun to pray again that the Lord would open up more doors of “discipleship”, but also friendship with other girls. There are SO many teen girls who are walking around in a cloud of depression, self-hatred, and starving for LOVE. I would even encourage YOU, dear friend, as you go about your daily life–in your various circles–to seek the Lord in this area. Ask the Lord if there is anyone whom YOU might be a “Danielle” to. Are there any girls at school or Co-op who could use an encouraging word? Even if you do not think you are ” qualified”, you don’t need a degree to be a friend! 🙂

We would love to hear from you! Have you ever had a discipleship relationship or had someone reach out to you in a way that really affected you? Or have you ever had an opportunity to reach out to someone? Do you have sisters, or friends who are like sisters to you that you can minister to, and pray for?

Stay-At-Home Daughters?

Beautiful blonde girl outside in a field with sunlight on her hair.

 

There has been a widespread movement in the last 10 years or so, mainly stemming from the “Patriarchy Movement”, which, summarized, is all about fathers stepping up to lead their families. That is a very noble goal, and I heartily endorse fathers taking the leading of their families in seeking the Lord more seriously. However, there were a number of things attached to this movement that were full of errors…and there is one in particular that I would like to touch on right now: The “Stay-at-Home Daughter”. 

I have an interesting angle of viewing this issue, because I am personally very glad for what the movement did for me, while, at the same time, being very aware of its faults…which can be very seriously destructive to those who might otherwise be fruitful for the Kingdom of Heaven.

A number of years ago, when I was about 16 or 17, I read a book by the Botkin sisters, called, “So Much More”. It opened up a whole new world to me, which I had previously not even considered could be possible. Through the book, the sisters were encouraging girls, instead of leaving home as soon as possible, to stay at home and learn how to be a home-maker, help their fathers with his work, be active in helping their siblings and serving at their churches, and to grow their intellect by personal study and pursuit of the arts at home. There was a lot to the book (it was about 3 inches thick), but the basis was, you stay at home until you marry, and serve your father.

Now, for my own life, this was an important book for me to read at the time, because I was being told I needed to go to college because I had so many “talents and gifts”, and was looking at getting into debt about $100,000. But I count this book to have been a mercy of God for me at the time, because I was able to present it to my parents and talk about the very real possibility of NOT going to college — something I’m not sure they really seriously considered before. And having a precedent of someone else having done it was a real help and encouragement to them that maybe I wasn’t totally crazy. And now I look back and am only thankful that I never went to college, never got into loads of debt, never wasted 4 years of my life, and never got sidetracked from seeking the Lord as so many Christian kids do when they head off to college.

However, after this is where it begins to fall apart. While, in many cases, it can be a good, and right thing for girls to stay at home, and help their family…it is NOT something that the Bible says MUST happen in order for us to be walking rightly before the Lord. Many people mistakenly hold onto these “stay-at-home-daughter” teachings as being akin to the 10 commandments. But they’re not. Not even close. In fact, there are many times that NOT staying at home until you’re married, and learning to be a home-maker can be BETTER! Here are some reasons that I personally feel this movement falls short of what Jesus’ heart is for us.

 

1.) When you have no siblings and your dad works in an office…um…what do you do??

I had one brother. My dad had a 9-5 office job. So for me to be at home “helping” my mom, and learning to be a home-maker meant…well…I was at home, spending a lot of time in my room doing whatever I wanted, and reading good books about good things that I hoped someday I would be like, but doing nothing actually really worthwhile with my time. I folded some laundry and washed our few measly little dishes. I had my checklist of meals I wanted to learn how to make. (Don’t even remember what they were now.) I vacuumed. I did most of these things only half-heartedly. I tried to think about how glad the person who married me someday would be. But you know what? I just wasted a lot of time focusing on myself. Can I just say something straight out?? Ok, here it is: You do NOT need to learn how to be a “home-maker”!! All you need for that job is a willingness to do what needs to be done, and the ability to read directions…and maybe a few basics on how not to burn water, and what to do with a hunk of raw chicken. It comes naturally after you are married. I’ve learned the most important things I know since BEING married, and having my own home. Not that I didn’t learn good habits and such from my mom…but I wasted a lot of time thinking I couldn’t do anything until I got married, when I could have been out serving the Lord…or even simply being a LOT more serious about my relationship with HIM.

 

2.) All these things keep your heart always dwelling on marriage and relationships instead of seeking the Lord and being able to selflessly seek His will and direction for your life. I know…because I was there. Everything I did was in order to make myself more “marriageable”. Every time I did something to help out it was only because I wanted to get married someday, and I wanted my parents to think I was “prepared” enough (and of course, to impress the guy too, whoever he was). It also gives you a rosy picture of what your “perfect dream” family life will be like — that thing that becomes what you seek after and look to later in life for your happiness. But…what if God calls you to be a missionary? What if you never have a place to call home? What if you never even have a proper oven? Will your heart be crushed to pieces…or will you embrace these things as being just normal acts of denying oneself in the course of duty and service to our King Jesus?

The purpose of our lives should not be to “get married”. What happens when you get there?? Does everything cease? Do you magically become a different person? No, the purpose of our lives should be to be wrapped up in seeking Christ, and proclaiming the gospel. The things you spend your time on now are what you will be 20 years from now.  You can so easily waste a lot of time “perfecting” yourself in many useless pursuits just to simply be able to say you are accomplishing just as much as someone who has gone to college, without having gone yourself. You wind up filling your time with things that really have no bearing on your spiritual state, and are of no real use to anyone else, time-fillers that are just empty fluff. But that is not the point of life! Do you really want to spend your life playing the harp or being able to read latin? We need to be careful that we do not waste our single years sitting around waiting to be married, or filling the years with the pursuit of things that seem “fun” or “praiseworthy”, but don’t last – and we need to be equally careful that we are not putting marriage and/or a relationship in such a high place in our hearts that we would jump out of the course of serving Christ in a heartbeat, simply to be “in love”. Our priority must be first and foremost to use our time wisely, saving the lost while we have opportunity! Singles — serve God TODAY. Don’t spend another day without throwing yourself at the feet of Jesus, and asking Him to use you however HE wants. Pray until God gives you the strength to say, “I want to do whatever you want, Lord. I want to go wherever you want. I want to pour out my life for others. I want to rescue the perishing. EVEN if it means that I am never married. Giving my life to YOU is more important to me.”

You do NOT have to wait until you are married before you can serve God. You do not have to wish your parents were serving God so you could too. You do not have to resign yourself to simply washing dishes and folding laundry for the rest of your life.

Now note that I am not saying that these things are bad, or aren’t necessary. They are important for keeping any household running — even if you are single forever. But there is also more to life…and God has MUCH work to be done, and is so glad for any who will lay aside seeking their own gain in order to serve Him and reach the lost. There are stories of many ladies who laid down their own pursuits in order to follow the call of the Lord…and God was able to do AMAZING things with these ladies – most of whom were single! Read about Mary Slessor, Gladys Aylward, Jackie Pullinger, Amy Carmichael, and Katie Davis, for starters! You will be SO encouraged and inspired! All it really takes for God to use you is a mustard seed of faith, and the determination to not look back or hesitate when He calls.

 

3.) Perhaps the most fatal twist of this movement is its strong but subtle undertow which drags our hearts into seeking after all the same things of this world that every non-Christian is striving for: money, praise, power, dominion, acclaim, storing up an earthly “heritage” for future generations, and building yourself an earthly legacy. When we spend our time dreaming about marriage, preparing ourselves to be marriageable, and and trying to prove to the world that we are just as successful as the person who went to college and got $200,000 in debt, we will inevitably have our hearts drawn after the fleeting benefits of this present world. But friends, Jesus IS going to return soon! All of our 100-year plans, and storing up wealth for future generations is going to look very trivial. “Set your mind on things that are above and not on things that are on earth…”; this is where God wants our hearts to be dwelling. What are we doing to invest ourselves in ETERNITY?? What are we doing to make sure as many people as possible are going to be there with us?

“Whoever loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:37-39)

The most important thing we can do with our life is to “lose” it (meaning: it will have none of the acclaim and praise of the world for what we invest ourselves in — it will look ridiculous to those who are chasing after their “best life now”.) for the sake of the gospel, and for the sake of the call that Jesus Christ Himself has put on you. Yes, being a wife and mom are noble things indeed…but what is more noble? Laying your life at Jesus’ feet. Throwing away earthly success and praise for the sake of following the call of the Lord to reach the lost. Acknowledging and embracing the shame that will inevitably come from family and friends who had other plans for you. And yet…your obedience to the call of God, may in fact BE what God uses to alert them of His soon coming as well, and to get them to think further than just the fleeting success of this world.
Katie Davis obeyed the call of God on her life to leave everything she knew and loved in America to go to Uganda and share living water with the poor and destitute there. Her family resisted, were angry, and would not support her or give her their blessing. But God. God used her obedience to soften their hearts…and now they are partners together in this amazing work, reaching the orphans, and the destitute. Because of Katie’s obedience, now her whole family will receive an eternal reward for the work that is being done.

The thing I most desire in all the world is to hear Jesus say to me, “Well done,” when I see Him face to face. That is worth more to me than all the riches of every treasure in this world.

So daughters, please honor and respect and love your parents. Please serve them all you can, pray for them without ceasing, and keep your hearts always soft toward them. But please…please pray; earnestly seek the Lord for HIS guidance and will for your life. Parents are humans too, and even our best intentions fall short. Your parents’/family’s/friends’ plan and dreams for your life very well may not be what God has been calling you to do. God always wants the best for us…but He wants the best for everyone…and He cares about each individual who is slipping off into hell because no one reached them with the gospel. Could you be that person who will reach them? Ask God, and really take the time to seek Him until He makes it clear to you. And then, take the first step, whatever that is. Don’t hesitate, because the longer you hesitate, the harder it may be for you…and you may find yourself years down the road, with nothing changed, and no fruit in your life…and by then, the door that was once opened may be closed. Or Christ may have come back by then. So please take these things very seriously…and ask God to give you the power of His Holy Spirit to do what He sets before you to do.

You will never regret “losing” your life for Christ. Those that lose their lives for His sake WILL find them. They will find that every loss, and every surrender is their gain, both in this life, and in eternity.

What’s a Missionary?

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What does it mean to be a missionary? The general idea of a missionary – the one that is always the first thing that pops into our heads at the mention of the word – is often times something like a saintly, glowing person with a halo. Someone with superhuman abilities to do things that “normal” people would never do. Someone who always does and says the right thing, and somehow magically always knows exactly what to do when confronted with a challenge. Someone who goes into the jungles of Africa alone and fearlessly preaches to hundreds of people who all get saved. Someone with great charisma and boldness.

If some of these things are what come to your mind when you think about what a missionary is…you might be surprised to hear what I’m about to say. But I will preface it by saying that I am comforted by these verses:

“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29 ESV)

Serving the Lord isn’t just about going overseas to build houses, or doctor sick people, or preach to cannibal tribes. Sometimes God calls people to do these things…and that is always really amazing to see! But sometimes there’s no glorious title given, such as “So-and-So, a missionary to Such-and-Such exotic location”. Sometimes serving God and doing what He asks you to do means staying in your home country – or even your hometown! Sometimes it means just being faithful to go out to the streets of your city and tell people about Jesus. It can mean simply realizing that practically every person you see walking by you every day is lost and confused and hurting…and dying inside, because they have no hope; because they don’t know Jesus………and then committing yourself to follow the Lord’s direction to reach out to them, and to do whatever it takes to tell them about Jesus – to give them a chance at receiving new hearts and new lives. It’s not always glorious being a “missionary”. It’s not always fun. It doesn’t mean getting a great tan, or having lots of pictures in your scrapbook with little kids in rags, with dirty faces. These people need Jesus…but so does the kid walking down the street with his face glued to his gameboy. So does the girl you see sitting alone on the bench in the park just crying. So does the barista at the coffee shop, with the sad eyes and empty heart…who has tried buddhism, witchcraft, and mormonism…and who is still searching and empty…so empty, and so confused. You don’t have to raise thousands of dollars to go out for a week and do a building project in a third world country. You just have to wake up, and look around you each day – any day. You just have to see the needs of the people in your own town instead of pushing them aside, or assuming they’re “alright” (as I can often do myself, because my natural tendency is to generally just assume that everyone is doing fine). You might be their only chance to hear about Jesus, and how He can actually give them new hearts and take away their sins, and their guilt and shame and emptiness and fill them with joy. Pray for God to give you His eyes to see people…and pray for boldness…because you’ll need it.

Now, can I tell you that, despite the rosy picture people have of “missionaries”…we are not super-human. In fact…our weaknesses are perhaps MORE apparent in the heat of spiritual battle, lack of sleep, and general stress. We often have moments of intense fear and intimidation. There are many times that we know God has told us to do something, and we hesitate too long. There are many missed opportunities. Many times we know we just need to reach out and help someone…and yet, the words escape us. We get tired – very tired – and grumpy. Sometimes we say the wrong things; sometimes we say things out of our emotions (which are not always right) instead of from God’s Spirit’s guiding. We don’t always have victory over the devil’s attacks and discouragements the first time…or the second. We don’t always see fruit from our labors; there aren’t people continually repenting or lining the streets asking, “What must I do to be saved?” We don’t get lots of pats on the back or encouragement – in fact, anger and slander and lots of hurtful words are more common than I ever thought they would be. There are many times when we wish we just had a little bubble that we could pull out and hide in whenever we wanted to have some “alone” or “peace-and-quiet” time. There are lots of times when we’d like to just give up, or get a “real” job, or, at the very least, go on a month vacation. There are some people and places we come across that just downright creep us out. There are sleepless nights, hunger, thirst, discomforts galore…and lots of times – too many from me personally – that we grumble and complain instead of praising the Lord like we know we should.

Being a missionary means being “on call” for God to use you as His hands and feet whenever, wherever He wants to…and it generally goes waaaayyy outside of our comfort zones. Can I just say that again? It generally, almost always, goes waaaayyy outside of our comfort zones. God likes to use us in areas we aren’t comfortable in so that we cling to Him more tightly, and so His power is displayed in our weaknesses – not our skill and cleverness. Sometimes God will call us to do things in a way that we are particularly gifted and comfortable in. Sometimes. But more often than not, I have seen God’s call on my life and many others lead them outside of their realm of comfort and skill, leading them to lay aside their hobbies and many of the “gifts” they seem to have – the ones everyone is continually complimenting them on and marveling over – in order to just pursue reaching the lost with reckless abandon. There will be time for painting and knitting and playing instruments and doing trigonometry (if that’s something that floats your boat) in heaven. (Not that there is anything wrong with doing these things, but we can waste so much time pursing our own interests and dreams that we don’t even notice the hurting people around us. And all of these things take up so much time that they really leave very little for seeking the Lord ourselves, let alone trying to help others find Him. And I will also just add that I have had to lay aside many, many interests that I had in order to do the things God has set before me in this time – from art and playing instruments regularly, to dreams of being an archaeologist and a novel-writer.) But there is only a very short time we have on earth, and SO many hurting, lost people who are just blindly stumbling their way into hell! A missionary is simply someone who decides that time is too short to pursue things other than rescuing the lost, and who lays aside their other dreams and goals in order to seek those who are wandering, and to hold them back from the slaughterer of souls.

A missionary is not a perfect person, not always bold and outgoing (I’m really not!), not eloquent, doesn’t always have the whole Bible memorized, doesn’t always wake up like a chipmunk on coffee – wanting to go out and preach the gospel to anyone and everyone they see, and doesn’t always know the right things to say or do. A missionary is simply someone whose heart has been filled with love and concern for others, and has laid down their own lives in order to bring others into freedom through the gospel (John 15:13). And it is oh, so worth it. Every time I get to see that light in the eyes of someone who “gets it”, my heart overflows with gladness and thankfulness to the Lord for leading me in this way. It can be challenging at times – and made more so by my own weaknesses…but it is so worth it, and so sweet; there is nothing I would rather do. The fruit of living the life of a missionary is that which will last forever, instead of turning to dust like the treasure of this world; meaningless when your life is over. It is wonderful to see people raised up from their dead lives and given new hearts; filled with joy and light! It is beautiful to see those who were wandering aimlessly through life become like an unfolding flower; beautiful and fragrant. It is so special to be a part of a young child taking hold of the Good Shepherd’s hand for the first time. All this because Jesus chooses the foolish things of this world…..and that would be me. I am so grateful to be a part of His plan…and you can be too.

“Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.” Proverbs 24:11

“…save others by snatching them out of the fire.” Jude 23a

The Gift of a Mommy Heart in a Selfish World.

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“God is a God of hope, and He will turn any heartache that is offered to Him into beauty.”

I don’t know if any of you will ever have to face the intense battle of getting pregnant and having to choose whether you want to keep your baby or not – I hope none of you who read this ever do. But just in case…and for the sake of saving even one little life, I have written this article. I have also written it so that you can help any of your friends who may end up in this situation, because abortion is so common today, and most of us will know at least one person who ends up facing this choice – probably more than one. This is just a little bit of my own story…because I want you to really understand that there is always hope, no matter how impossible things may seem. God is a God of hope, and He will turn any heartache that is offered to Him into beauty. This is also an encouragement for any girl who, deep inside, wants to be a mommy, even though the culture will say that it’s not important, or not a “real job”, or tells you that you’re so smart that you should “do something with your gifts”, or that you need to make something of yourself first, or enjoy your life, or that kids are just a burden…..etc. It’s a lie. All of it. You don’t even have to be a mommy to have a mommy heart; there are a few courageous young women throughout history who were never married, and yet have become true mothers for many orphans and neglected children. And for those who are on their way to being mommies soon, but who haven’t been experiencing the “fairytale” pregnancy….be encouraged – you’re not alone, and it’s all worth it. And for those who are moms already, young or older, and have been struggling because they’ve been flooded with the lies of the culture…there’s still hope for you too…and I pray that this article will be a blessing and reminder to you of the beautiful thing that God created when He made us to be Mommies. But regardless of where you are in life…whether you’re 10 or 20, or 45…cultivating a Mommy’s heart can only be a blessing to you.

I stared at the changing numbers on the computer screen with horror. One second it would add one to the end of the number…the next second it would add two. Never ending, the numbers continued to count up with sickening rapidity. Tears started to pool in my eyes, and I quickly closed the screen…but not before I took note of one number – “Abortions That Have Happened While You’ve Been on This Site” – over 90, in just such a short period of time. And since 1970 worldwide? Over 1,300,000,000. That number is almost bigger than anybody knows how to read these days. And yet…numbers can be so empty to us. Our minds can’t really even grasp what a billion IS…let alone, a billion babies being murdered. But that “90-and-counting” brought it closer to home. More than one baby every single second is being mercilessly killed in the most horrific ways. And why? Because the devil hates – HATES – babies…because each new baby is a promise of someone who COULD be drawn to Jesus and live with Him in Heaven forever. And because babies are filled with the sweetest, most pure innocence…and it’s no surprise that the devil HATES innocence…and that’s why he works night and day from the time a baby is conceived to either snuff out that pure light of innocence and hope, or to corrupt them as soon as possible with the flood of sinful passions he has so carefully prepared to tantalize their senses. And yet…it is also more than that; the devil works in the hearts of the mothers as well…because, unlike China, where mothers are forced to have abortions by the government, here in North America we choose. We, the ones who SHOULD be the most fiercely protective of the little lives growing within us, are the very ones who condemn them to death row. And that is the most heartbreaking realization of all. You could almost feel a little better about that growing number of abortions worldwide if it was all forced by a wicked government. But it is us. And yes, there are real struggles…and very, very deep hurt and pain that many go through…and the devil plays with our emotions, making everything seem SO big and impossible…making it seem like our lives are over if we choose to keep this baby. But it’s not a choice. A mommy is not something you can choose to be or choose not to be. You are a mommy as soon as you get pregnant. You are THE mommy of the baby inside of you. It’s a real baby, and you’re the real mommy. It’s not some choose-your-own-adventure book where you can change your mind half way through and go back a few pages to pick a new path. It’s real life. And as soon as there is a little life growing inside of you, you were meant to be it’s mommy. That’s how God made it to be. What gives us the right to say that one child is worthy of life and one child isn’t? The father? Our jobs? Our reputation? Money? What have we become?? What has happened to our love – our compassion – our morals? We have become a society of heartless, selfish people…who care more about ourselves than sacrificing any comfort we hold so dear or facing a little difficulty to raise a child. Ok. Now that I’ve said what I needed to say in that regard (the cold, hard truth)…I will tell you what I’ve experienced…and how I can understand those who feel hopeless in a way that I never could have before.

 

My ears perked up as I heard my little daughter babbling as she woke up from her nap. I rushed into her room…because all I wanted to do was hold her and hug her and kiss her soft cheeks and tell her, “I love you,” after all the heart-breaking things I had just seen and read. As I snuggled her, and gave her eskimo kisses, my mind drifted back to the days before she had been born…
My husband and I had been praying for God to direct the timing of when we had our first child for a while, because, with lives that are as busy as ours, and being on tour for a good half of the year, there were plenty of logistical details to think about and pray about. Then, at the beginning of our 3 month tour…God decided it was time. Potentially a little sooner than we would have preferred…but God doesn’t make mistakes. I spent the first 3 months of my pregnancy touring across Canada…and can I just say that morning sickness and the smell of burgers with fried onions filling a van don’t really go together too well? But God was very gracious, and strengthened me for those 3 months. However, things got much harder once we got home in December, believe it or not. The morning sickness was starting to wane…but then came the intense emotional and spiritual battles that lasted the entire remainder of my pregnancy. I was overwhelmed with the sense of not being able to be a good mom. I was terrified of having a baby. Actually terrified. I spent hours crying nearly every day, because I wanted to be able to go back and not be pregnant any more…but I was…and I knew that I was committed…and I was scared. I also struggled with intense loneliness – despite having a dear husband and family all around me continually, overwhelming fears of the future that often caused me to just curl up in bed unable to move, and a very difficult lack of any good feelings whatsoever. Women would come up to me continually and tell me how much they LOVED being pregnant. I could only give a weak smile and nod. People asked me, “Are you excited yet?” And I had to get creative at giving answers…because I didn’t want to lie…but there wasn’t even an ounce of excitement in me – not even up to the day I went into labor. I thought, “There must be something wrong with me, because everyone who talks to me was just SO excited to be a mommy. Do I not even have to capacity to love children??” This was me for 9 months. And I really loved the Lord. I was married to an excellent husband. God had chosen the timing for us, and we’d had a whole year of marriage before our baby was conceived. The circumstances really should have been ideal; you’d think my heart would have been rejoicing! But after a few months of being so overwhelmed by the oppression and the feeling that it was just an impossible situation and that I could never be a mom…God spoke to my heart, when I cried out and asked, “Why am I feeling all of these things, Lord? I just want to be able to enjoy this pregnancy and to be excited to be a mom. What is wrong with me?” He said, “This isn’t about you. I’ve been letting you feel these things so you can understand what girls in difficult situations are going through, and have mercy in a way you could not have had otherwise.” He led me to 2 Corinthians 1:3-7, which says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.”
From that day on, my heart was filled with rejoicing, because if I went through everything for even just one life to be saved…it was totally worth it. (It’s amazing how God can simply show us His perspective of things, and all of our distress just melts away.) And maybe it was just for you. And if it was, I just want you to know that I understand your fears and how very, very real they are. I want you to know that it’s ok to cry. I want you to know that, no matter what has happened to get you into this place, Jesus is waiting to hold you close, and to comfort you, and to wipe away every tear. He is so glad for you to be able to lay your weary head on His shoulder, and to let your tears soak through his robe. He wants to lift up your head, and look into your eyes, and tell you, “You are not alone. I love you. And I will never leave you or forsake you…even if everyone else does.” And I have seen Him do the impossible. I know that He will give you the strength to do what you cannot do on your own. He can and will redeem every situation that is given to Him. And if you’ve made mistakes and sinned…just come before Him in humility and confess your sins and repent of them…and He will wash you clean and give you a new life and a new heart. For, as He said to the woman who had been caught in adultery, “….Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” (John 8:11) And covering up one sin (whether yours or someone else’s) with another (abortion), is not a fix. And though your feelings are very real, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are TRUE. The devil is truly a master at manipulating our feelings; I have seen it over and over again in my own life…and then, in the midst of my distress, when I pray and ask God to show me the truth, and when I rebuke the devil with Jesus’ authority…God will remove the distress from a situation that I felt was impossible or so overwhelming that I couldn’t even move or think…and He will fill my heart with the truth…and with hope. Hope is one of those things that you can hold onto with all your strength, in the midst of the emotions and the trials…because, “…hope does not put us to shame.” (Romans 5:5) God sees all your struggles…and He cares about every bit. He will provide for you, and uphold you, and He will help you to be a mommy to your child, whether you are ready for it or not. And chances are, you’re scared. Really scared. And really NOT ready. But you don’t have to be. God gives all mommies who want it the gift of a mommy heart, whether or not it comes naturally to you. I felt like the least likely candidate of all; I only had one brother who was just 2 years younger than me, I never liked babysitting, I struggle with selfishness every day, I am an introverted personality…and I didn’t even know if I could change diapers, let alone pouring love out onto a little person 24/7. But I asked God to change my heart. I asked Him to fill me with HIS love for this little life. I asked Him to teach me how to be a good mommy. And you know what? Even though the struggles lasted up ‘till the very day I gave birth…the moment Hope was born, God filled my heart with such a sweet and deep love for her that hasn’t gone away – it has only grown. And as I held her close to me in those first minutes after her birth, I cried because of the greatness of the love God poured into me…and I said to my husband, “I don’t think it is going to be hard to love her at all!” Don’t give up or give in to the pressure you feel inside…the devil will try to discourage you in every way he can, but it is so worth it to be a mommy! And it is the kind of beauty and sweetness that you really can’t even expect or understand until you’ve experienced looking into your child’s eyes for the first time, or you’ve had their tiny hand close around your finger – so small that it can’t even fit all the way around it, or you’ve felt their little heart beating, or seen their perfect little lips, or heard their little gurgles…and you know what? Even their crying becomes like a sweet song to your heart, because it is full of innocence and complete dependency on you to take care of their needs…and that is exactly what God created us to do! Your little person NEEDS you…and that is such an amazing reality. God has perfectly created mommies and babies for each-other. And I discovered that God made being a mommy to be the most natural thing in the world – I found that I knew all that I needed to know, and having a daughter just seemed to be the most natural thing in the world. In fact, as soon as she was born, we wondered how we had ever lived without her! God caused our “transition” from being “just us” to “parents” almost not even noticeable. And changing diapers was never a problem like I had feared it would be.

Yes, being a mommy is giving up our lives daily…hourly…but I can’t imagine trading the “freedom” to live a selfish life doing whatever I may have dreamed about doing, for the joy of being a mommy; for the heart-melting giggles, for the soft lips calling my name for the first time (or the first thousand times – it really never gets old to know your child loves you), for kissing that squishy forehead, for wiping away the tears from flushed cheeks, for getting to tell them about Jesus and how much He loves them and wants to be their best friend. And I can tell you that there are many I know of who have kept their babies even in the midst of extremely difficult situations, and they are SO glad that they did. In fact, I am one of those children…and I am so thankful that I was given the chance to live and learn and serve the Lord with my life. And I can also tell you that there are many, MANY who have gotten abortions, and never recovered, and have only ever wished they could go back and choose to let their child live. Abortion clinics will tell you it’s not really a person inside of you – it’s just “tissue”, they say. But that’s a lie. There is a real life inside…full of promise, full of beauty, full of innocence…and a real, live beating heart. A life that NEEDS a mommy…a life that needs to be hugged and snuggled and kissed and taught about Jesus and how much He LOVES children. A life that needs someone to care.

 

The “benefits” of any job on earth are fleeting; money doesn’t last, status doesn’t last, location doesn’t last, comforts and gadgets don’t last, looks don’t last….but being a mommy is the most important job on earth, because you are given charge of a little, eternal soul, to cherish and to train up in the way it should go. A little soul that, with patience and lots of prayer, can be a little disciple of Jesus, and follow in His ways…and can lead many others to know Him, and to be part of the innocence and beauty of heaven forever.