Wednesday, November 17, 2010

7th Annual Prematurity Awareness Day

"Nov. 17 marks the 7th Annual Prematurity Awareness Day, a time when March of Dimes volunteers and parents draw attention to the crisis of premature birth (birth before 37 weeks gestation) and its toll on babies and families. Preterm birth is a serious health problem that costs the United States more than $26 billion annually. It is the leading cause of newborn death and babies who survive an early birth often face the risk of lifelong health challenges, such as breathing problems, mental retardation and others. Even babies born just a few weeks too soon (34-36 weeks gestation, also known as late preterm) have higher rates of death and disability than full-term babies." (

Below are some excerpts from a journal I was keeping for my son, Eli, when he was born premature at only 30 weeks gestation.
March 11, 2005 . . . Last night I went into preterm labor . . . It was totally unexpected, and there was really no warning whatsoever. Your dad and I had been watching TV around 9:45 p.m., and as soon as I stood up I knew something was seriously wrong. My water broke, and I was bleeding heavily. We called 911 right away . . . I was so scared, little one. I thought for sure we were going to lose you. I even thought that my life might be in danger. Once the paramedics arrived, it seemed like it took forever to get me on the stretcher and into the ambulance. They didn't want me to get up at all so they had to lift me. By the time we got to the hospital, I was starting to have mild contractions. The doctor came in to check me and did an ultrasound. When I heard your heartbeat pop up on those monitors, I was so relieved. We knew they'd have to do a c-section eventually because you were breech, but they gave me some medicine to try and slow down the labor. They also gave me a shot to help develop your lungs. As the hours went by, my contractions kept getting worse, and I knew you would be born soon. They started prepping me for the c-section around 4:00 a.m., and at 4:46 a.m. you were born. But I didn't get to see you for a long time. After I came out of the recovery room, they wheeled my bed into the NICU and let me look at you. You weighed 3 lbs and 1/2 oz, and you were 15 3/4 inches long. I couldn't hold you, but I could touch you. And I talked to you. When I said, "I love you," you opened your eyes for the very first time. It was amazing! The next time I got to see you was nearly 10 hours later when they had decided to move you to another hospital. Before they loaded your incubator up into the ambulance, they let me hold you. You were attached to all kinds of wires and machines . . . I cried when you left. When you got to the other hospital, they had to put you on a ventilator because the trip exhausted you.

Two days later . . . They have been giving you IV fluids and medicine to regulate your blood pressure. They took you off the ventilator today, and you're getting supplemental oxygen from a CPAP machine now. They have also been monitoring your heart, because there is a valve that needs to close. The nurses also give you a daily dose of caffeine to help remind your body to breathe and everything. Now that you're off the ventilator, we can finally hold you.

March 15, 2005 . . . They have put you under the photo-therapy lights for jaundice. I got to help feed you through your feeding tube today. Every day you are getting stronger. But it's hard not to watch your monitors all the time to make see if you're okay. All the numbers and beeps can be nerve-wracking.

The next week . . . I just love it when you open your eyes and look at me. We hold you constantly when we come to visit you every day in the hospital. I hate leaving you. I can't wait to bring you home.

Eli finally did get to come on April 17, 2005, after spending 5 weeks in the hospital. He remained on oxygen for 5 more weeks after that. But he overcame every problem, and today is a very healthy, strong, and extremely active 5 year old boy!

But some babies are not that fortunate. Let's remember them today, and do what we can to help all babies have the chance to be born healthy and full-term. Go to to see how you can help.

Eli on the ventilator

CPAP machine

Eli in the incubator

On oxygen, waiting to go home

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

He Did It Again

God did it again. He sent me unmerited encouragement again, at a time when I was really discouraged. Why does He continue to do this for me? It’s like the song by Casting Crowns . . . “Who am I that the Lord of all the earth would care to know my name? Would care to feel my hurt?” The irony is, I know in my heart of hearts that He has been doing this for me for a long time. But I am just now noticing. I can remember times when I was really down, and it seemed like there was nothing good going on around me -- like drowning in a sea of hopelessness. I was blinded to anything good, positive, or encouraging. But that is fortunately not the case right now! By the grace of God, I have been seeing God’s “little” blessings for what they really are … personal gifts from my heavenly Father. I say “little” because sometimes they really are just little things. But in all actuality they are beautiful love notes and personalized gifts, intentionally designed and strategically timed to encourage me just when I need it.

And He is doing this for you, too! The Bible talks about God giving good gifts to His children (Matt. 7 and Luke 11). It also reminds us that every good and perfect gift is from God (James 1:17). But since I know everybody loves to hear people’s personal stories, I’ll share some of the specific things that have happened to me lately.

Within the last month or so, I have invited some ladies into our home on Friday mornings for a prayer meeting. We are also trying to encourage one another to serve others in practical ways, loving them in the name of Christ. There were a few newfound friends that I wanted to invite, but I wasn’t sure whether they would feel comfortable joining a group like this. But after praying about it, I invited them anyway. They graciously said thanks but no thanks, but one of them opened up and shared some personal struggles with me. I felt the Lord leading me to respond, so I did. What got me down was the fact that she never really responded back. So after about a week, I was really starting to wonder if I had completely repelled her. I was so discouraged, feeling like a failure. But on my lowest day, God sent me a gift. It came in the form of another friend who is really going through a low time herself right now – dealing with such sadness that I couldn’t believe how sorry I had been feeling for myself. And this is a friend who has been slow to get to know, since I don’t get to see her very much. By letting me reach out to this woman, God reminded me that I need to trust in His timing and in His leading. Through this woman’s hug and tears, God showed me that I can’t discount my experience with the other friend either. When we reach out to love someone in His name, it is never in vain.

Another struggle we’ve had lately is my husband’s search for a job. Since moving to Chicagoland, both of us have been able to pick up little part-time jobs here and there, but nothing with any real stability or sufficient income. Being bi-vocational missionaries, we need to create our own sources of income. Recently, Jeromy had an interview for a great full-time position nearby, and we’ve spent a couple of weeks waiting for a decision. I think we both really had our hopes up for this one, since the timing seemed so perfect for our suddenly increasing need. But today we found out that he didn’t get it. I can’t deny my disappointment or the words ringing in my head, “What are we going to do?” But then, God did it again. On the way home from picking up my son from kindergarten, we stopped to talk with a neighbor. This older gentleman and my son have become good buddies. Before we left, he offered us some frozen pizzas that came from a family member’s place of employment. What a gift! It seems small, and may be insignificant to that man… but what a blessing for our family. As we walked to the house with our pizzas in tow, my mind was suddenly flooded with memories of other unrequested gifts like this one that God had given us recently -- clothes for our kids, fresh tomatoes, gift cards, homemade spaghetti sauce, a trip for the kids to Chuck E Cheese, furniture, bedding, and even outdoor fall decorations. And all given by the hands of friends and neighbors that we came here to minister to! Perhaps unbeknownst to them, God is ministering to us through them.

And on top of all that, God has laid it upon certain people’s hearts to give financially to our ministry efforts here. We even recently received a beautiful care package from a church “back home” that included several gift cards and other goodies. What an awesome reminder that God not only provides for our most basic needs, but He also takes the time to send us personalized gifts that go above and beyond mere provision. And because of this, I can rest – I can trust Him to make a way for those most basic needs to be met.

The God of Heaven and earth, the one and only true God, is full of love and mercy and grace. He is continually sending us a never-ending shower of blessings every day, if we will just look around and take notice. Praise Him!

Thank You, Father.

Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the Lord. (Ps. 102:18)

Monday, September 6, 2010

Call to Battle

War has been declared. The battle lines have been drawn. That ancient serpent has transformed into a prowling lion, disguised as an angel of light. And although we know and believe with faith that the Lord of hosts has the victory already in-hand . . . we cannot see it yet. We are still constricted to the here-and-now of flesh and earth, with the war raging around us in the spiritual realm.

Some of us are fighting hard on the front-lines, right in the middle of the action, receiving fire from all sides. Some of us have been wounded and left for dead, possibly even by the hand of a brother or sister. Some of us have fought for a while, off and on – but when the battle requires too much effort, we shrink back and retreat to hide. Some of us are sitting on the sidelines in our recliners, eating popcorn and just watching. Unity and purpose elude us.

But as you look around, you begin to notice something . . . we are not the only ones on the battlefield with the enemy! There are others all around us, those who are not among the believers. They have no armor like us, and they are taking hits as well! Some of them have been wounded and left for dead. Some of them are wandering around amidst the chaos, not knowing which way to go or what to do. They look like lost children. Some of them are angrily fighting against us, with everything that’s in them.

Another thing you may not have noticed is that your Commander is right next to you. And He is constantly speaking to you. Sometimes the battle is so loud that it’s hard to hear His voice. So turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace. Then you will hear His commands.

He is reminding you that you not only have armor on to protect you, but you also have a sword to fight with. His call is: “Do not be afraid! Because I am with you. And who am I? The Son of God, the Lord of hosts, the King of kings. I am all-powerful and all-knowing. I have strategically placed you in this very place for a purpose. I am calling you to engage in this battle with Me. And it is not you, but I who will do this work. Because I love you.”

He gestures to the fallen and wounded: “You must go to them and help them. I will show you what to do.” He gestures to those wandering like lost children: “You must guide them and show them the way to Me.” He gestures to those on the front lines, being bloodied by the heat of the battle: “You must go and fight alongside them, holding up their weary arms.” He gestures to those hiding and those on the sidelines: “You must be an example before them, so that they will see what a child of Mine is supposed to be like.” He gestures to those who are fighting against us:
“You must not fight back against them, but instead you must bless them and love them. I will give you the strength to do all these things.”

Then the Commander turns to look at you, with tears in His eyes. “Because I love them, too.”

So let’s put on our war paint and armor, grab our swords, and get out there and show Christ’s love to the world. But I say we go beyond just talking about it. Let’s LIVE it. God has already put you in a community . . . let’s be the community. Let’s put on some good walking shoes, get off our duffs, and be INTENTIONAL. Let’s show the world what the Kingdom of God really looks like. Let’s make it something tangible, not just lofty words or ideals.

If at this point you’re still not motivated, think about that one person you love who doesn’t follow Jesus. There’s got to be at least one person you really care about who needs to know Christ in a real, personal way. (If not, then you need to get out there and meet some more people!) Picture that person in your mind’s eye. Now picture Jesus there too. Think about how wonderful it would be to see that person running to Jesus and falling into His embrace. Right now, there are obstacles in the way. But the Son of God can destroy the devil’s work! Let’s pray and move toward that end.

We will arise and go to Jesus

He will embrace us in His arms
and in the arms of our dear Savior
there are ten thousand charms

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Memoirs of a Summer Missionary

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away . . . I was a summer missionary. For ten weeks during the summer between my sophomore and junior years of college, I volunteered to serve as a missionary in Topeka, Kansas. In the hopes that you won’t do the math on my age, that was twelve years ago. Twelve years may not seem like much, but a lot has changed in that amount of time!

The reason I’m writing about this is because we have had a young lady staying with us for the better part of the summer doing the same thing. Interestingly, she is my namesake, and she is from the South. But that is where the extent of our shared experiences ends. As I have watched her connecting with family and friends back home via Facebook and texting, it has made me reflect back on my own lack of communication when I was an SM.

I was only nineteen when I signed up to serve. I honestly had no idea what was in store for me that summer. I had only been on two short-term (one week) mission trips with the BCM group at my college. So ten weeks away from home sounded like a grand, somewhat intimidating adventure. Ironically, it was my husband that convinced me to apply (although we just dating at the time). Jeromy was going to be headed to Colorado for the second time as an SM. I don’t remember having a strong preference as to where I wanted to go, so I ended up in the ever-fascinating, very flat state of Kansas.

The day I left, some of my family came with Jeromy to see me off at the McDonald’s parking lot where I joined the Alabama caravan of missionaries. Approximately ten of us loaded ourselves and our belongings into a 15-passenger van and a small trailer in the back. And let me assure you, there were no laptops or cell phones in our possession. Imagine if you will, ten young people driving across the country like that, and with no supervision. I think the most memorable part of the trip was when one of the guys passed out on the side of the road while we were trying to take a picture of the group in front of a “Welcome to [insert state name here]” sign.

Thankfully, we all made it to our destinations safe and sound. I ended up living with this terrific family who had three daughters, ranging in age from toddler to preteen. They really welcomed me and my giant duffle bag into their home. I don’t think I ever really wore out my welcome, unless you count the time they went out of town for a week and I accidentally let their swimming pool turn green. They even graciously accepted my lovesickness and endless letter-writing to Jeromy. You see, as I said before, these were the days before Facebook, instant messaging, and cell phone texting. We had a limited landline phone card and “snail mail.” To this day, we have saved the letters we wrote to one another during that summer, and they fill up two huge three-ring binders. I bet our parents spent a fortune on stamps that summer!

One of the first weeks I was there, I went with a youth group to a week-long camp. That was a hard week for me, because I didn’t really know anybody yet. And being at the camp, I didn’t have much access to a phone. There was only one pay phone on site, and I could only get to it maybe twice the entire week.

Being cut off from communicating with my family and friends back home was certainly difficult at times. But I honestly think it was good for me. It forced me to turn to the Lord more, and to rely on Him to be my companion. Which is the kind of relationship He desires with all of us anyway! Unfortunately, I think the technological advances made in recent years have become more of a detriment than a benefit, especially for people like our SM. Some of our co-workers here in Chicagoland also have SM’s working with them, and they have made the same observations. It’s hard to explain without sounding negative, but I think that these young people are really missing out on some special, intimate times with the Lord. If they didn’t have such easy access to friends and family back home, they’d have to do as I did just twelve years ago – find out firsthand what Jesus meant when He described Himself as our friend.

Obviously we can’t go back in time, or reverse the effects of technology. I’m not even saying that I want to do that. But perhaps there is a way we can find a balance. Perhaps we can somehow manage to teach the next generation what it truly means to be still and know that He is God. This is my goal. And something very valuable that I learned about when I was a summer missionary.

Friday, June 4, 2010

A Day in the Life

The alarm wakes me at 5:45 a.m. This is a recent development. I have never been much of a morning person, but I’ve discovered that if I want to have any type of quiet time or exercise time, I need to get it all done before the kids are awake! Afterwards I get the kids up, fed, and dressed. Then we’re out the door to walk my sweet kindergartener to school.

As we walk, we watch the airplanes fly to and from the not-so-far-away O’Hare International Airport. But we can’t look up too long, because we have to watch where we step – the geese have been here! We talk with our new neighborhood friends along the way, and it’s cool to listen in on the kids’ conversations. The school yard is a beautiful patchwork of children from different ethnicities and nationalities. So far we’ve met families who immigrated from Poland, India, Syria, Armenia, Pakistan, and the Dominican Republic.

After my little guy and I drop his sister off, we hop in the car and head for the grocery store. In the parking lot we see even more evidence of the incredible cultural diversity in Chicagoland. We see a man wearing a turban, and some women with red bindis on their foreheads. We even see seagulls that have flown out to visit the suburbs from Lake Michigan. Once inside, we hear lots of people speaking Spanish. If we’ve decided to visit the library instead of the store, the number of languages we hear is almost countless. Driving home we may pass by a Polish deli, an Indian market, a Muslim mosque, or an authentic Chicago pizzeria.

As soon as we get home we have to turn right back around and walk to pick up my little girl. For the last few months we’ve been bringing home a few extra kiddos as well, a boy and a girl from R’s kindergarten class. They run ahead of me on the sidewalk, eager to have lunch and play. At the lunch table, my real work begins. The rest of my afternoon is spent trying to get chores done around the house while not drifting too far from the kids. If the weather is nice we try to play outside. And I spend the rest of the afternoon fielding questions and hearing comments like: “Is tricking the same thing as lying?” “So-and-so’s not sharing!” “Can we go outside?” “Don’t step on the lines on the kitchen floor! They’re made of lava!” “Can we have a snack?” “Can we have some gum?” “Come on, let’s play!”

When our friends are all gone, we clean up, tackle homework, and have dinner. Perhaps the menu might include R’s “favorite chicken” (a knock-off chicken cordon bleu) or E’s favorite, “chicken ‘n dumplings.” Lately we’ve spent several nights a week watching our little guy play t-ball. I help out with the kids in the dugout while Jeromy mingles with the parents or helps out on the field.

If we don’t have to go anywhere in the evenings, it’s become a tradition of ours to watch something together as a family. We don’t have cable at the moment, so we usually watch DVD’s we’ve rented from Netflix. Recently we’ve started watching “The Cosby Show.” When bedtime arrives, we try to always have a family devotion together, reading the kids a Bible story and praying and singing together. After the kids are all tucked in, Jeromy and I usually turn into vegetables and either read a good book or watch a movie together. Lights are out by 10 or 11 o’clock.

On my bed I remember you [God]; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.
~ Psalm 63:6-7

Monday, May 3, 2010

God's Ways

Even from childhood I can remember hearing that old saying, “God works in mysterious ways.” But how true and profound I’ve found that to be! I don’t always understand His ways, but I have come to appreciate them.

I wanted to get the kids some new flip-flops for the summer, since they’ve outgrown the ones they wore last year. Now, I know a couple of pairs of flip-flops won’t break the bank, but I just hadn’t found the time or the money to get them yet. Well, last week God blessed the kids with 2 pairs of flip-flops each plus some new clothes and a few other things as well, by way of the mail. He laid it on a dear friend’s heart to get those things for the children. And I didn’t even ask Him for it.

Jeromy and I were just beginning to talk about what we’d like to do in our neighborhood this summer, hoping we could put together some outreach activities but wondering how much we could do by ourselves. Then suddenly, within a week’s time, we found out that we’re getting a summer missionary from Mississippi to stay with us and help us for 10 weeks. Talk about a blessing falling right into our laps!

There are times when God seems so far away, so silent. Times when we beg and plead just to hear His voice again. Even a word of discipline would be welcome, if only we could feel like He was near. Or maybe we’re angry because we feel like He’s forgotten us and let something bad happen. It seems like He’s completely abandoned us. We want to scream into the sky, “God, where are You?!”

Then there are times when He chooses to shower blessings upon us, even when we didn’t ask for them or just plain ol’ don’t deserve them. Sometimes they’re huge, life-altering blessings. And sometimes they’re just little things. Either way, we know that God in His unending goodness and unfailing love, has reached down from His glorious throne to touch our lives in a very personal way. It’s the perfect illustration of His unconditional love.

Today I am thankful for ALL of God’s ways. I am thankful for His blessings right now. And believe it or not, I can finally say that I’m thankful for the low times as well. Because looking back, I can see how coming through those low times actually made me seek Him more, which then resulted in knowing Him more. I can testify to the truth of His promise that He will never leave us or forsake us – even though sometimes it seems like He does. Our God is faithful. And the valleys don’t last forever. And sometimes, in the midst of the valley is where we find the most beautiful flowers and the greenest grass.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Love - Hate Relationship

In my effort to be transparent, today I’m sharing something personal that I struggle with. And something that I think a lot of Christians struggle with – walking daily with my Savior. Growing up in church, I was taught that you should pray and read your Bible every day. For a long time that just seemed like a set of rules to me. And honestly it didn’t seem all that appealing. That is, until I came to know Jesus Christ in a more personal way. In college I finally made a real connection with Christ, and since then I have experienced God in such ways I have no doubt that the Holy Spirit resides in me. And I have heard His still, small voice.

Sadly though, despite the indescribable awesomeness of knowing Him and knowing that I’m saved . . . I still manage to turn away from Him at times and even completely neglect Him. What’s so hard to fathom is WHY I continue to fall into this pattern. It’s a cycle of highs and lows, closeness and distance. Now, I know what some of you are thinking: you’re still human! But here’s my argument: I’m supposed to be a new creation! I have the desire to be close to my Lord, but my actions are revealing something else.

Just to clarify, I’m not saying that I need to be legalistic about my time with Him. I’m not talking about just doing religion. The expectation I have for myself is to pray without ceasing, to hide God’s Word in my heart, to ever have my First Love on my mind and heart. I’m talking about avoiding becoming lukewarm! I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. In my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched woman I am!

So that’s where I was last night – a mindset of self-hatred. I was beating myself up for being so selfish toward my Lord. I was hating my Self. And then I remembered something I had heard one day, that self-hatred is actually a form of pride. It was then that I realized I don’t actually hate myself at all. I love myself too much. I often love my Self more than my Lord. So how do I remedy this? Lord, what do I do? How do I reconcile my feelings and human nature with Your Truth?

And then I heard that still, small voice again. “Jessica, it’s a daily thing. If anyone would come after me, he must DENY HIMSELF and take up his cross DAILY and follow me. My compassions never fail, they are new EVERY MORNING. My Holy Spirit hasn’t just changed your life . . . I can change your DAY. Don’t let yourself be overwhelmed with having a perfectly ordered spiritual walk. Just give each day to me. See each day as the perfect day to start again. Remember, I am slow to anger and abounding in love. And I will never give up on you.”

Thank You, Father. I will sing of Your mercy that leads me through valleys of sorrow to rivers of joy! Hallelujah!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Vision, Part 2

As I write this, Jeromy is meeting with a group of people to prayer walk on a college campus nearby. This week the Lord has brought at least four different mission teams to the area, that we know of. We are connected with the local leaders who are hosting the mission teams, and they have graciously scheduled some of the teams’ time to come work with us. The bulk of their time with us will be today, with one group here in the morning and one in the afternoon. It is an exciting day for us!

We met some of the groups Sunday morning, as we had been invited to join them for worship near downtown Chicago. Little did we know that the neighborhood where the church is located (which is also where the mission teams are being housed for the week) does not have the greatest reputation. After the service the teams had an orientation time where they learned about the area and all that they will be doing while here. The local leader shared about the neighborhood, and told of a recent occurrence where the church members were afraid to go into the building because a group of gang members was loitering on their front stoop. I also noticed a flyer posted on a light pole outside that said “Neighborhood Alert.” The flyer stated that people should be aware of recent assaults in the area that had taken place in broad daylight, between the hours of 3:30-6:30 p.m. The assailants were described as a group of 14-18 year olds. Of course, while we were there we didn’t see anything that looked even remotely dangerous. And the mission teams are large enough that if they travel in groups they should be fine. But please pray for their safety this week. I share all this just to give you a better understanding of the kind of spiritual warfare and obstacles there are here in Chicagoland.

But despite the obstacles, there are victories happening all the time! Last night Jeromy was privileged to help bring the message at one of the services held at the Pacific Garden Mission in downtown Chicago. He goes with a group once a month to do that. The Mission (PGM) has been in existence for over a hundred years, and primarily reaches out to the homeless of Chicago. (You can find out more about them here: ) Some students from the visiting mission teams went to help out, and Jeromy said it was amazing to watch them just dive into it. They all boldly shared with individuals, and some of them even shared in the larger group setting. By the end of the night, at least three people professed new faith in Jesus Christ! And one of them was so on fire already, that he stood up to testify about it. Praise God!

So, you may be wondering about the prayer walks happening on the college campus today. There will be groups prayer walking on other college campuses this week as well. They will also be surveying students that they meet, and possibly even witnessing as the Lord leads them. The local leader who arranged for all these mission teams to come, shares our heart for reaching students on college campuses. College is a pivotal time in most people’s lives. If you were privileged enough to attend college yourself, then you will probably agree with me wholeheartedly. As I heard someone say yesterday, college students (if they haven’t already been jaded by life) are usually very open, almost searching. It’s a time when they are thinking about the future, and making decisions about careers, marriage, who they really are, and what they believe. Many paths lay before them, and they must choose which way they will go.

In the Chicagoland area, there are over HALF A MILLION college students. And if that statistic isn’t awesome enough, over 20,000 of them are international students. Many of them will be going back to their home countries after graduating. Imagine the possible global impact for Christ if we can reach those international students with the gospel while they are here in our backyard! Imagine the possible impact on THIS COUNTRY if we can reach our own young people with the gospel!

Jeromy and I both have a special place in our hearts for the people who influenced us for Christ while we were in college. It was during that time that we both came to know what it truly means to have a real, authentic, growing relationship with Jesus. And we can both look back and see how our lives were changed so dramatically for the better. If we hadn’t had those experiences with the Lord in college, we would be very different people right now. Because of this, God has given us a burden for college students. Those who don’t know the Lord yet need to meet Him. And those who do know Him need to be encouraged and discipled.

So in response to this burden, we are striving to do what the Lord would have us do, and we’re taking one step at a time. The first step was to identify the first campus we want to reach. It is called Harper College. The second step we’ve taken is prayer. Jeromy has already been to visit the campus numerous times and has prayer walked on his own there, studied in the library, etc. Next, we contacted the one ministry that is already on campus, Campus Crusade for Christ. They have only been working there for a few semesters, and they are very open to having us come alongside them in an effort to reach the students for Christ. So we believe that God has already provided us with a person of peace there. Today’s visits are the next step. We aren’t sure exactly what the end result will look like, but our main goal is to find ways to plant the seeds of the gospel all over that campus, and establish an ongoing ministry there.

Please pray for this campus and all the students who attend classes there, as well as the faculty and other workers. Please pray for the teams who will be on campus today, that they will be bold, that there will be nothing hindering them, and that they might even have some opportunities to see God do something amazing today. Please also pray for the mission teams who are here this week, and for everything else they will be doing while here. Thank You, Lord, for sending workers into the field for harvest!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Oppression, Depression . . . Perseverance, Resolution

For the past 6 days my husband has been gone. So that means I’ve been like a single-parent during that time. I salute all the single parents out there, because you have an incredibly hard, taxing job. And for me, since I’m not used to doing this parenting thing on my own, it was a prime time for me to get discouraged, worn down, and beaten up by the enemy. That old “poor me” feeling started creeping back inside my heart. And when I get that way, the extrovert in me starts to shrink back and crave my miserable solitude. How pitiful, you say? You would be right. In my heart I was pathetically giving in to the temptations of self-absorption. I was wallowing in discontent and resisting the Spirit’s leading to press on. And as they say, an unsatisfied soul is a stronghold waiting to happen. Yikes.

But the silver lining in all this was that I actually recognized what was happening. In times past I would have spiraled downward so quickly that I’d be stuck in a pit, and then wondered how in the world I got there. But life (and God!) has taught me many things in the last few years, and I think I am finally beginning to learn from some of my experiences. One of the biggest lessons I have learned is that if you just sit there and “take it” from the enemy (and from yourself) . . . well, absolutely no good will come of it. The path of self-absorption, self-pity, and self-hatred is dark, and it always leads to a terrible, lonely place that is very hard to get out of. The path I should be on is that of Christ, and it always leads to Light, immeasurable blessings, and joy. However, the entrance to this path is constantly terrorized by those who do not want me to enter. Many times I have fearfully listened to the roar of the lion who prowls there, the enemy of my soul. I have shrunk back in defeat more times than I’d like to admit.

But no more.

I have learned that I don’t have to sit there and take it. I have nothing to fear from the hands of the enemy! He who is in me is greater! And He is calling me to stand, to resist, to FIGHT. This enemy is not someone I should turn the other cheek to. He is the one enemy that God actually commands me to fight against. With weapons and armor, no less.

And if I start to feel unworthy or inadequate, the sword of the Spirit quickly reminds me that God chooses the weak things of the world to shame the strong. His specialty is using weak, lowly people to accomplish great things. So I must humbly have faith that it is Him who works in me to will and to act according to His purposes.

So as I was making up the kids’ beds this morning, feeling guilty about my spiritual failures lately, but still wishing that God would use me despite myself . . . the Lord reminded me of something my old pastor in Georgia used to say. He said, “Stop asking God to use you – get yourself useable and He will wear you out.” And I am here to tell you that this word is true! Not long after I deliberately stopped my to-do list of the day and sat down with the Lord, He literally plopped an opportunity to be used right into my lap. Today I have been given the chance to minister to someone in need, and boy does it feel good. I believe it is a confirmation from God that He will definitely use a willing, repentant heart, despite my failures. As soon as I started running back towards the path of Christ, He immediately showered me with affirmation and love. And oh, what a love! The love of Christ makes me glad to lay down my own desires. Glad to crucify my “self” for the chance to show love back to Him through service.

The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
~ Galatians 6:8-9

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Brutal Honesty

Just in case anyone out there has any lofty ideas about minister’s wives . . . or about Christians for that matter -- we’re still human, and we still sin.

Today I told a lie. To a complete stranger. For no good reason. I lied to a sales lady about why I wasn’t going to buy a particular item. There were a million other truthful things I could have said in response to her question. But instead I lied. Almost immediately I felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit.

Some people might think that a little lie like that is no big deal. Especially because I’ll probably never see that woman again. But God’s purpose for believers is to be holy. Obviously that will never truly happen while I’m still on this earth. I’m already tainted with sin. I was born into it. But I’m supposed to strive for holiness. Believers in Christ have been given a new nature, born again, with the counsel of the Holy Spirit constantly accessible. We are called to repent of our sin, to turn away from it and pursue righteousness. And I failed to do that this morning.

I confessed my sin to the Lord on the way home, agreeing with Him that what I did was wrong. I actually cried about it. (Maybe that was a little basketcase-like.) And as I sat there simmering in self-hatred and beating myself up over it, feeling like a total failure as a “missionary,” the Lord reminded me that I need to accept His forgiveness. And then move forward. And that means being more conscious of my responses to people in the future. More deliberate about always being honest. Not worrying about what other people think. Not being ashamed or uncomfortable when I’m approached with a question.

Isn’t the Lord good? He doesn’t want us to let guilt weigh us down. But at the same time, He does discipline us, convict us of our sins, and command us to be different from the world. The ultimate reason for His discipline is that we will be restored into fellowship with Him. It’s His kindness that leads to repentance . . . which leads to reconciliation with God.

I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.... When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.... What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:18-19, 21, 24-25)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Just Enough

Not long ago, the furnace in our house was giving us trouble . . . again. It hadn’t seemed to be running right since we moved in, but our landlord had sent a fix-it man who made it run like new again. Things were going well for several weeks when suddenly it just wouldn’t turn on. We knew we had to get it fixed ASAP because it was going to be below freezing that night. We needed heat! So at 11pm the fix-it man came back. But the problem was very different this time. We have a gas furnace, and it turned out that a bird had fallen into the exhaust chute on the roof, and it was keeping the fan from moving. I couldn’t believe it. How strange! I was sad (and a little weirded out) at first. But almost immediately this Scripture passage came to mind: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. . . . So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:29, 31)

As if it weren’t enough that God knew about that bird dying . . . since that incident, the Lord has continually reminded me of the latter part of the above passage. I am worth more than many sparrows. And God cares about the sparrows!

This truth has been something for me to hang onto in recent days, especially when I began to sink into worry and fretting about finances. Money is tight for everyone these days. So I know I’m not the only one who frets over the numbers in the family checkbook. And the bills stacked up on the desk. Especially the unexpected ones.

But now I need to testify about the Lord. Testify to His goodness, unending love, and miraculous provision. God used several friends this Christmas to meet some of our needs. In His perfect timing, God placed it on certain people’s hearts to give us a gift. A generous gift. Even an anonymous gift. How did they know that we really needed a little something extra this month? How did they know how much to give? When to send it? I believe the answer to all of those questions is: the Lord.

The best part is, the gifts were just enough. Just enough to bless us, but not make us rich. Just enough to meet some needs, yet keep us continually depending on God. A huge thank you to those who gave. May the Lord bless you abundantly in return. For you are worth more than many sparrows!

Better a little with the fear of the Lord than great wealth with turmoil. Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf with hatred. (Prov. 15:16-17 NIV)

A simple life in the fear of God is better than a rich life with a ton of headaches. Better a bread crust shared in love than a slab of prime rib served in hate. (Prov. 15:16-17 The Message)