Monday, November 30, 2009

Kids Say the Darndest Things

Our kids had a blast over the Thanksgiving holiday playing with their cousins, aunt (my sister-in-law), and their crazy uncle (my brother). It was so nice to have some family with us for our first Thanksgiving in our new home. And it was fun to visit the city on Friday, too. I think the highlight for them was just riding the train and the bus. Who needs tourist attractions?

I think the only disappointment from the weekend was that my 2 1/2 year old niece still doesn't know who I am. She constantly calls me by my sister's name. We were all wondering what she would do if my sister and I were both in the room...

So, here's my quick funny story. Today R came home from school telling me about a paper cut she'd gotten on her finger. "It hurt so bad, Momma." I could see the red cut, but somehow we both forgot to do anything about it after we got back to the house. So tonight after our devotion and prayer time, R said, "Momma, guess what?! Remember I had that cut on my finger? Well I prayed, and Jesus put His hands on me and He healed me! Look!" She then proceeded to very proudly display her healed middle finger, holding it up in a most offensive way. Thank You, Lord, for childlike innocence. :) I've been laughing all night long.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Church Undercover

Today I'm sharing something my husband wrote for a blog that he's participating in. This tells the story of when our son was born, which proved to be a huge spiritual milestone in our lives....

"The other day I took my 4 yr old son, Eli to get a hair cut. While he was sitting in the chair we kept looking at each other in the mirror. He was being his typical self while enduring the scissors and clippers. He was being quiet, a little shy. As his eyes caught mine in the mirror he would give me this shy little smile that I have seen 100 times now. It was like this unspoken heart language we have saying “I love you dad, I love you son”. Being a dad is an amazing thing. In fact a regular thanksgiving prayer of mine is “Lord thank you for letting me be Reagan and Eli’s dad, help me to…..” I think that one the most important things any parent will ever do for his child is pray and intercede for them constantly. If there is any hope of me preparing my children for life, I cannot do it without prayer. In fact prayer was the very foundation of my son’s life.

I never will forget what I learned about prayer the day he was born. The night before, my wife and I were resting at home. We had just put our daughter to bed and were just enjoying some quiet time alone. It was late. Then it happened. My wife started bleeding very badly. We would come to find out later that her placenta had detached, and this caused her water to break. The only problem was that it was 10 weeks early. I admit that I was scared, but under God’s grace I was able to remain focused enough to call 911. Once the paramedics came, my immediate reaction then was to call a couple of people who I knew would absolutely drop everything they were doing and start praying for us immediately. We would come to find out later that my wife lost so much blood that she was just a fraction away from a transfusion. That was almost 5 years ago. My wife and Eli are fine now and I am grateful for it. However, the first 24 hrs of Eli’s life were uncertain, and the doctors could not give us 100% guarantee that he would live. Several things were wrong; the most crucial one was that his lungs had not had time to fully develop. They were giving him all kinds of medicine, asking my permission, explaining things to me but it was all numbing. Within 24 hrs things changed so much and kept changing. Perhaps the hardest decision I had to make was when we found out that the hospital we were at, their NICU was not able to give Eli the care he needed, and he needed to be transported to Children’s Hospital in Colorado Springs. Now, on top of everything else, my wife was going to be in one hospital and my son in another across town. How could I be there for both of them? How could I leave my wife behind? But at the same time, we did not want Eli to be alone his first night, especially given all the circumstances and uncertainty. So I painfully left my wife in the hands of the nurses and we both agreed that it was best for me to be with Eli. I can’t imagine what Jess went through that night. But it did not seem right for Eli to be all alone. We both wanted him to know we were there for him. My wife was allowed to hold Eli for about 60 seconds before they took him away in an ambulance to the other hospital. It would be days before I or anyone else would be able to hold him. I was barely allowed to touch him. I will never forget going to the hospital and walking in the unit after they had transported him and got him settled in. There was so much pain and discomfort in his face. There were so many tubes and IV’s in him. If he could have made any noise you could not have heard it.

There I was, sick babies all around me. All born too early, all struggling to grow and survive. However, in my own selfishness of the moment all I could see or think about was my son. I stood there quietly praying over my son, trying to be respectful of the noise limits in the room. When Eli’s nurse walked up she interrupted me and said, “you don’t have to pray so quietly.” And then she led us both in this intercession for my son, you would have had to have been completely deaf not to hear her. Even the next nurse on night shift turned out to be a fellow sister in Christ. She also prayed with me and for me and Eli. I would come to find out later her story and how she and the other nurses would daily walk over and pray for every child there. It was their mission, their calling.

There is a lot I remember about that time. But I want to point out a couple of specific things. First, I found out that the church exists in the NICU at Children’s Hospital in Colorado Springs, not because it was in a building. It was not even in a building as our culture defines church. The church existed because 2 or more of followers of Christ were present. Prayers and thanksgivings were being made to God, in Jesus’ name. There was fellowship among us and I was greatly encouraged and lifted up in my time of need. Ministry and service for God’s Kingdom was happening. It did not happen in some building decorated by pews, pulpits and steeples. It happened right where the need and opportunities were. Second, it is important to see that there was a group of nurses and other staff there, probably from different denominational backgrounds, but united. United and focused on one common purpose. To pray, in Jesus’ name, for the children and families of those in need. I can almost bet that most of the children and families probably will never know about this. Although I am sure that some do. But I wonder how God will reward their obedience. I wonder how many have been so touched or moved that their hearts are changed by our loving God forever, because of the love these ladies showed to them and their child. I wonder what the answered prayers look like. I also am aware that there are instances, unlike my own with Eli, where the child never leaves the hospital alive. I wonder how much pain has been healed in a grieving parent’s heart, because of the unseen things done by some faithful followers of Christ.

God’s word instructs us to pray for all people, to intercede on their behalf. I am grateful for those that prayed for my son that night. I am grateful for the people in my life that pray for me. I honored to pray for others. I hope you are too. I hope you have some people close to you that intercede for you on a regular basis. Prayer is a powerful tool we have in kingdom work, in being missionaries. It connects us to God. It helps us to grow close to Jesus and be able to follow His commands. It connects our hearts closer to others. It can happen any time, anywhere."

I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. 1 Tim. 2:1 (NLT)

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. Col. 4:2 (NLT)

Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere. Eph. 6:18 (NLT)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Better Than Life

I'm going to get a little personal today. There is something I struggle with that never seems to go away. Fear. Not like being afraid of spiders or heights. But the fear of bad things happening. The fear of losing my loved ones. The fear of my kids losing their parents. It's the kind of fear that really lends to the imagination. I've wasted many a night thinking about how awful it would be if these kinds of things happened. Crying and mourning over tragedies that have not come to pass. Begging God to not take me yet, because I have so much more I want to do and experience. And every time it happens, I know that I shouldn't dwell on those thoughts. I have at least learned in the last few years to immediately go before the Lord when I start down that mental path of fear and clinging to this world. And I have come to recognize that my fears are born out of love -- I love my family so much that I can't stand the thought of us being apart. But then the Holy Spirit reminds me that "perfect love CASTS OUT FEAR." (1 John 4:18) So I know that what I'm doing is completely unnecessary and really not healthy. Yet it continues to be a problem for me every once in a while.

Now, I know that I can't possibly be the only person who struggles with this viscious roller-coaster cycle. So I'd like to share with you what the Lord spoke to me last night.

Last night my husband and I went to a Christian concert to see Point of Grace and Mark Schultz. As a part of the tour, the artists were promoting the ministry World Vision. It is a ministry similar to Compassion International, where you can sign up to financially sponsor a child for a monthly amount, and that child is provided with education, physical needs, etc. Mark Schultz shared a very touching story about a recent visit he had made to another country with World Vision. He told of a group of children he had visited who were all HIV positive or had AIDS. During their time together, one of the young girls in the group wanted to get up and sing a song in her language for Mark and the other visitors. Mark was blown away by her heartfelt song, and when he asked what she was singing about, he was told that she was singing a chorus that told God "Your love is better than life."

God's love is BETTER THAN LIFE.

This really hit home with me. Especially coming from the mouth of a child who is doomed to die from a horrible illness that will not allow her to grow very old. Our life here on earth can be good, really good, at times. God has blessed me with two beautiful children who amaze me every day. And an awesome, godly husband. God is definitely the giver of ALL good things. He is the Creator of love, the Creator of happiness! But, we are not home yet. We live in a fallen world. Bad things will happen. We will be separated from loved ones by death. Of course, that separation is not forever. Death is not the end when you are a child of God. But what's even more amazing to think about is . . . as much happiness and joy that we can experience here in this life on earth, it is nothing compared to the love of God and all that it entails.

And He is a trustworthy God. I can trust Him to take care of my needs if I'm the one left behind. I can trust Him to take care of my family if I'm the first one to go Home. I can trust that being with Him is going to be way better than anything I could ever imagine. God implores us to trust Him throughout the Scriptures. And He PROVES His trustworthiness throughout the Scriptures. I can even testify to His trustworthiness from my own life experiences.

So from now on, I will choose to meditate on these truths every time my fears rise up in me. It will be a battle in my mind, to be sure. But the Truth is victorious in every battle.

David was right on when he told the Lord that "Your love is better than life." (Psalm 63:3)

I'll close with the following lyrics from a song by Trevor Morgan:

Your love is better than life
Your love is deeper than the sea
More beautiful than any of the things surrounding me
You are everything I need
More than I desire
Your love is better than life
Your love is better than life
Better than a smile
Better than a kiss
Better than any of the things I think I'll miss

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Singin' in the Rain

In Matthew 6 Jesus tells us that, "Each day has enough trouble of its own." Boy, was He right! Why am I surprised? Sheesh. My mother even often says that bad things seem to come in three's. In other words, as some would put it, "when it rains it pours." Sometimes we'll get hit with one huge awful thing that happens... but most of the time, it's just a load of little things. Things that are out of our control. Things that trip us up and cause us to lose focus. Things that cause us to fret and worry.

So what's happened to us? I know I have you all on the edge of your seat now. :)

Well, just to name a few . . . my SUV had to be put in the shop for some pretty significant repairs. (Enough said.) Then we find out that even though our daughter had already started kindergarten back in our old home, in order to fully register here she has to (again) go see a doctor, a dentist, an eye doctor, and she even has to have a blood test for lead exposure. (And as some of you may already know, she is deathly afraid of needles/shots.) Also, our heater can't seem to decide whether it's going to work or not. We sometimes have spotty Internet connections. And now today, Jeromy has a job interview (which is a good thing!), but he's feeling terrible. He'll be stopping by a MinuteClinic on his way home, to see whether he has strep throat or not.

So before you think I'm just complaining . . . let me point you to the hope that I am clinging to. After Jesus alluded to all the troubles we will most definitely encounter, He also said, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me." (John 14:1) He assured us, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." (Hebrews 13:5) I am telling myself over and over that Jesus is with us through everything. I am hearing His voice remind me over and over, "do not let your heart be troubled, Jessica."

What an awesome Savior. He cares about even the little things we go through in life. He cares enough to reach down from His throne on high and speak to me. To encourage me. And not only that, but to give me supernatural strength through His Holy Spirit so that I can actually deal with all these things.

My Jesus, I love Thee, I know Thou art mine;
For Thee all the follies of sin I resign.
My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art Thou;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.