Tuesday, April 12, 2016

My Good.



I was just reading Psalm 73 again tonight, and this verse jumped out at me:

"But as for me, the nearness of God is my good;
I have made the Lord God my refuge,
That I may tell of all your works."
Psalm 73:28

I remember a good friend of mine, Sharon Thomas, preaching about this entire psalm last year at our church, so as I revisited it again tonight, her sermon buzzed in my ears.

What really got me tonight was the NASB's (New American Standard Bible) way of translating this verse.  "The nearness of God is my good."

"My good."

Good.

My Good.

The original Hebrew word that was used for "good" in this verse is"towb" (pronounced like "tove").  Its definition means a good thing, welfare, prosperity, benefit, pleasure...

It's the same word used in Genesis when God created the earth and "saw that it was good."

It's also used to describe good and fertile land.  If any of you know me even a little bit, or have read previous blogs of mine, God is always using anything having to do with fields and land in the Bible to speak to me. So this particular definition intrigued me the most.

In this Psalm, Asaph (the writer) goes through a period where he was not near to God, and all he could see in front of him was the "prosperity of the wicked." 

Indeed, it is hard to see the goodness of God in this world when you are not walking a life that is near to Him.  Tempers are shorter, relationships are tested and seem to be disappearing, undone chores seem like someone else's job to blame, the debt you're in seems like an endless pit you're drowning in, you're scared to try new things, your world becomes smaller and smaller... life is lonely... you ask yourself, "who really cares about me"?  Everything that could go wrong, does.  And anything that might be a glimpse of light and hope, you are afraid to cling to because you know that too, will disappoint or disappear. 

Maybe you can utter these same word's of Asaph's yourself....

"When my heart was embittered
And I was pierced within,
Then I was senseless and ignorant;
I was like a beast before You." (v. 21-22)
Life. Is. Hopeless.

Without God.

But Asaph learns that when he enters the sanctuary of God, his private time and space with his Creator, new glasses are set on his face.  God speaks Truth to him there.  He realizes that God is ALWAYS with him, and has never left his side... even when he didn't feel like looking up.  God wants to redeem him.  God desires a relationship with him.  God can pull him out of the pit of despair.  God intends to give him good things on this earth, a heaven now. 

Our hearts are weak, friends.  Without God.  Our attitudes are weak at best, people.  Without God.  Our situations really are hopeless.  Without God.

Even King Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes that everything is meaningless without God.

So where are you putting "your good"?  Where is your wealth? Where is your heart really invested?  Is it in the temporary things of this earth? Is it focused on the success of others, therefore reflects envy in your heart?  Are your eyes fixed on chasing after bigger and better, but bigger and better seem like they can never be reached?

Asaph understood that his earthly heart and his earthly body would eventually fail him (v.26), but his relationship with God is forever!  Now that's something worth investing in!

The nearness of God in my life is my good.  My life is so much more fertile (if you will), abundant, joyful, peaceful, and gentle with God in my life.  Is it perfect? Far from it... because I am made of flesh that is weak and sinful and temporary.  But God through his Son Jesus Christ redeems my flesh, draws me near, and becomes my refuge.  He gives me hope that this temporary life on earth is not where my journey will end, but where it begins. 

I seek refuge in my God who delivers me from the darkness and gives me hope.

And because He is good,  I (like Asaph) am compelled to sing of His works forever! 

What about you?



Wednesday, August 26, 2015

"I have found myself..."


“I have found myself…”

These past three weeks have been nothing short of the most difficult days of my life.  After years of praying for a child to come, I never thought we would have this sweet baby and I would be on my own to raise her for the first few months of her life.

I have found myself calling on the Lord in desperation lately.  Sheer desperation.  When my daughter is screaming inconsolably in the car seat, I shout to the Lord for wisdom in what I should do!  When she is so exhausted and fussy she can’t calm herself down enough to eat, and the hours keep passing by, perpetuating the problem… I have been singing songs of invitation for the Holy Spirit to JUST COME and bring my daughter peace.  And while He’s at it, bring me some peace, too!

I have found myself relying on the Word of God like it’s the air I breathe.  I take any spare moment she is sleeping to open my Bible and try to catch up on my reading plan.  This morning, I even sacrificed going back to sleep so I could eat (yeah, I gotta do that too) and read my Bible.  I knew I’d have a better day if I started it off praising God for getting me through another night.

I have found myself standing on a watchtower, waiting for God to move.  This morning I read the book of Habakkuk (if you think I’m making up this name, get familiar with your Bible! The prophets are good stuff!).  OH SWEET JESUS… it was exactly what I needed to read this morning.

Habakkuk was a prophet sent by God to speak to the people of Judah.  I’ve written a lot about these people in my posts about the book of Jeremiah (refer to my “Buying Fields” posts).  He had a tough job speaking to a hopeless people about hope!  In fact, this book even starts out with his complaints to the Lord! (I’ve found myself doing a lot of that lately, too!)

But this verse just STOOD OUT to me this morning:

“I will climb up to my watchtower
            and stand at my guardpost.
There I will wait to see what the Lord says
and how he will answer my complaint.” – Hab. 2:1

It made me think about how even just a few hours ago, as I was struggling to get Natalie to sleep, I was pacing around my bedroom, bouncing bouncing bouncing this baby like I’d been doing all day.  And my tears just started to flow (I’ve found myself doing a lot of that, too).  There was no one I could call last night.  And I certainly couldn’t talk to my husband.  So I just started praying, “Lord, would you please just help me! Calm her down, or give me grace to keep going! If anything, heal my back from the pain I’m in from bouncing her all day!”
I’ve had many prayers like this these past few weeks. Like I said… prayers of desperation.  And I’ve found myself standing on my watchtower, just waiting for the Lord to move. I’ve had no other place to go!

God had pulled through in so many amazing ways when I’ve called on him like this.  He has spoken wisdom through other people to me.  He has brought relief to my back.  He has caused Natalie to latch and eat after hours of fussiness. He has provided me with an amazing church family who has certainly gone above and beyond to support me!

And I just wanted to encourage any of you reading this today, to stand on your watchtower, and wait on the Lord.  Because He WILL MOVE. 

Habakkuk ends with his praise to the Lord with this verse:

“yet I will rejoice in the Lord!
            I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
The Sovereign Lord is my strength!
            He makes me as surefooted as a deer,
            able to tread upon the heights.” – Hab. 3:18-19

If you’re finding it hard to even climb up on your watchtower this morning, just call upon God to even help you get up there… making you surefooted as a deer, able to trek up to the heights, and wait upon Him!



Monday, August 10, 2015

"Be strong and courageous."


I just gave birth to (in my unbiased opinion) the most beautiful baby girl in the entire world.  Her name is Natalie Jean, and she graced my husband and I with her presence as the sun was rising on a Monday morning, July 6th, 2015. 

Throughout my pregnancy, my husband and I prepared and planned and prayed for a completely natural childbirth.  There were many reasons for us choosing this path, but most importantly, I wanted to deliver my baby without medical intervention because I truly believed God had this experience designed and laid out for me!  He created my body to deliver my baby, so I prayed into that Truth, found a Midwifery Center that supported natural childbirth, hired a doula (a woman who serves as a birth coach), took an 8-week childbirth class, and read a lot of books about natural childbirth!

Maybe someday I’ll write about my labor and delivery experience, but that’s not why I’m writing this post today.  For now, I’ll just leave you with the short version: Natalie was delivered without intervention, IV, needle, pain reliever, or tearing of any kind!  We praise God for His faithfulness to carry us through the entire way, from first planting that desire in our hearts to fulfilling the ability to deliver her completely naturally.

The first immediate hours after delivering Natalie were a blur.  From the skin-to-skin time to getting myself showered and cleaned up, by the time the room cleared, Jordan and I were completely spent… and starving.  With Natalie all swaddled up and adorable in her new pink hat, we laid our heads down and rested while we could. 

As I was falling asleep somewhere in those first hours, I very clearly felt the Lord whisper these words into my heart: “Be strong and courageous, Amy.” 

I felt Him repeat those words over and over again to me as Jordan and I learned how to take care of our precious little gift, and not stress too much when she seemed to cry for hours without reason. 

“Be strong and courageous, Amy.” 

You see, as soon as Natalie was born, my heart started to be anxious and count down the days, hours, and minutes we had together as a family before Jordan would leave for a 3-month deployment: 29 days, 8 hours, and 15 minutes to be exact.  And every minute that passed made me more and more sad that he was going to leave us, and we would miss him more than words can describe.

“Be strong and courageous, Amy.”  

In those sleepless hours with Natalie, I began to ask the Lord why He was commanding me to be strong and courageous.  I mean, I already birthed my baby without pain medication… wasn’t that pretty courageous?  Didn’t I prove my inner strength?

God pressed back on my questions.  It became clear to me that God would not ask me to be strong and courageous if He were not about to send me into a season that would require both strength and courage. 

I am about to raise my baby without my husband or her daddy around for 90 LONG DAYS.  This is both terrifying and deeply saddening for me, as Jordan is not just an amazing husband and father, but my very best friend in the whole world.  The amount I’m going to miss him terrifies me.  There, I said it.

Am I the first woman to ever have to be alone with her newborn while her husband is on deployment? Absolutely not even close.  There are many women who even have to birth their babies without their husband present.  My heart goes out to these strong and courageous women, who have had to press through even harder seasons than mine.

But for me, this deployment is a first.  The first time Jordan’s deployed, the first time we’ve ever had a baby… the first time he’s ever deployed while we have a baby.  You see where I’m going? These firsts terrify me.  And the only things that are going to get me through this season are supernatural strength and courage that come from God alone.

The words “be strong and courageous” might be familiar to those of you who read your Bible.  God spoke them to Joshua as he was about to enter the Promised Land.  Joshua had just become to new leader over the Israelites.  Moses had led them through the wilderness for 40 years, and now Joshua had to finish the task and bring them home.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9


I noticed that God commands Joshua to be strong and courageous three times in this first chapter.  Sometimes it takes God repeating Himself a few times for us to finally grasp His message.  But I also find the power of repetition to be really encouraging!  I know the more times I am told something encouraging, the easier I will believe it!

The time leading up to this deployment has been like my wilderness period.  Like the Israelites, I have complained a lot about this upcoming separation.  I have questioned and doubted God, even when He has done nothing but provide for me!  I mean, I was pregnant with a baby I prayed and prayed and prayed about for years!  What gets more clearer than that?! God has been with me always. 
And yet, I doubted God’s plan.  Would He really give me a baby and then take my husband away for the first few months of her life?! 

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about God is that His plans are perfect.  His thought and ways are nothing like mine.  They are higher!! (Isaiah 55:8-9) So I have to believe He is sending me into this new season for a reason.  Even though it sucks… even though it is scary… God has promised to be with me every day, hour, and minute that Jordan is away from us.

It might sound crazy, but it’s hard to believe and have faith in such an amazing God without strength and courage.  Strength to endure the hard days when Natalie fusses and cries for no reason, and courage to believe that God hears me even through her loudest wails.

So onward we press… and count down the days until Jordan returns.  But I am confident God is going to teach and mold both Jordan and I in ways we never would be changed without this period of separation.  And I’m so thankful for a God who gives me strength and courage that are not of this world!




Sunday, April 26, 2015

"Buying a Field" Part II


**This is another installment of a lifelong story God is unfolding in our lives about our future children.  To catch yourself up, check out a few of my previous posts: "Another Anniversary" and "Buying a Field- Part I" !

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________

About 6 months into our journey of trying to have children, Jordan and I were driving around the streets of Anchorage (we lived there for two years), and discussing baby names.  Since the beginning of my memory, I have had a girl’s name picked out that I have loved forever: Natalie Jean.  Natalie is just a name I love, and Jean is my middle name and my mother’s.  So when Jordan and I started dating, I jokingly told him our future daughter would definitely be named Natalie and he was just going to have to get on board! 

            But on this day, Jordan suggested the name Leeland for a boy.  We first heard of the name because it’s the name of one of our favorite Christian bands.  Leeland Chase.  Chase is Jordan’s middle name.  I fell in love with it.  And then we kind of tabled that discussion for the next 15 months.

            When we found out we were pregnant for the second time, we brought up the name Leeland to our friends we were visiting in California.  They asked me what the name meant, and I was surprised I hadn’t even looked it up yet!  Sitting there on the couch, I grabbed my phone and Googled “Leeland.”  The first site that popped up said Leeland meant “pastureland.”  I thought to myself, “that can’t be right. That’s really boring!”  So I looked at another site and it said “meadowland.”  Again, I thought, “Really, Lord?  A meadow?  That’s not exciting or beautiful at all!” 

And in one split second, the Lord spoke to me.  “Amy, Leeland means field.

I dropped my phone, and started crying.  My friends stared at me, wondering what the heck just happened to me!

Leeland means field.  God asked me to buy a field this year.  I made the sacrifice.  He brought the promise.

And if I had looked up the meaning of Leeland 15 months ago when we first talked about the name, it would not have nearly the same meaning or impact.

Oh Lord, I am in awe… complete awe of the way you work in my life!  How you knit all the details together, and reveal Yourself at just the right times!  You reminded Jeremiah after his prayer to you in chapter 32, verse 27: “I am the Lord, the God of all the peoples of the world.  Is anything too hard for me?” 

And You make this promise:

“I will certainly bring my people back again from all the countries where I will scatter them in my fury.  I will bring them back to this very city and lead them in peace and safety.  They will be my people, and I will be their God.  And I will give them one heart and one purpose: to worship me forever, for their own good and for the good of all their descendants.  And I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good for them.  I will put a desire in their hearts to worship me, and they will never leave me.  I will find joy doing good for them and will faithfully and wholeheartedly plant them in this land.
            This is what the Lord says: Just as I have brought all these calamities on them, so I will do all the good I have promised them.  Fields will again be bought and sold in this land about which you not say, ‘It has been ravaged by the Babylonians, a desolate land where people and animals have all disappeared.  Yes, fields will once again be bought and sold—deeds signed and sealed and witnessed—in the land of Benjamin and here in Jerusalem, in the towns of Judah and in the hill country, in the foothills of Judah and in the Negev, too.  For someday I will restore prosperity to them.  I, the Lord, have spoken!” (Jeremiah 32:37-44, emphases mine)

For the next three months, I prayed over the name Leeland and this testimony God was revealing to me.  Could our baby really be a boy?  For years, Jordan and I had always pictured our children as girls.  At least the first one.  Through many many dreams we both had, God had shown us we would have a daughter.  Never had we even thought of a son. 

Slowly, I began to accept that God really could be giving us a son and started boldly sharing this with friends who asked what gender I thought the baby could be.  I wasn’t afraid to admit that God told me I’d have a son.  His name would be Leeland.  He was the field God promised me.

But Jordan remained hopeful through this entire time that the baby could still be a girl.  I don’t want this to sound like he didn’t have the same faith I did… I actually think he had more faith in these moments, as he clung onto promises we heard from God long before we even got pregnant!  I would laugh every time I told someone the baby would be a boy and he would immediately chime in, “OR a girl!”

So you can imagine my shock and surprise when the ultrasound technician revealed to us that our baby was in fact a girl! 

I was SO SURPRISED.  What about this testimony, Lord?  What about the field?  Was I just totally OFF?  How did I miss the mark that bad? 

Have you ever had a moment like this when you thought you clearly heard one thing from God and it turned out to be the complete opposite?

Over the past several months, through more prayer and sanctuary time with the Lord, I have received so much peace from God and here is the message on repeat He has been giving me:

“I AM in control, Amy.  I am always in control.  Someday, there will be a son… a Leeland.  But Natalie’s little life is a testament to my faithfulness, goodness, and sovereignty in your life.  I make the decisions.  I have had this little girl ready to enter your world forever.  She is my gift to you, my child.  She is my promise to you that you will even have more than one child!”

I have been overwhelmed by God’s power and control in my life.  Praise God that I do not have to have all the answers figured out, and I am not meant to know the future!  I just have to trust that God’s plans for my future, my children’s future, and our future together as a family are amazing!  They’re already laid out… the blueprint has been drawn.  Hallelujah!

Bring on the fields, Lord.  I am ready!



Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Broken.

Last night, I asked Jordan to help me hang a new frame on the wall behind my dresser in our bedroom.

A simple task, really.
Oh how naive I am.

First, we realized our leveling tools were cozily stashed away in the camper sitting in our backyard, which was even more snugly tied up in tarps and bungee cords for the winter.

Then, on his way into the garage to collect the rest of the supplies we would need (nails and a hammer), he shouted back at me to look up how to hang a picture evenly without a level.  Something about tape or string, or??

This Google search lead me to finding an app for my phone that actually worked as a level! Score!

Ok, phew. Passed that hurdle!

So we head upstairs with our tools and phones in tow, and begin the process of hanging this frame.  I showed him where I wanted it... that I had already planned out exactly how to find the "center" and how high it should be.  All he had to do was bang in a couple nails.  Simple... right?!?

As I was craftily holding my phone with its new level tool app open, it slipped from my hand and crashed down onto the dresser, meeting its foreseen demise somewhere on the floor in that deep dark abyss I like to call the "never-look-under-there" place. You know, in between and under furniture? ((Shudder))

After fishing my phone out and dusting it off (seriously, ew), I was happy to find the pink case I had on it did it's job and the phone was okay!  Hooray!

However, in the process of dropping my phone, it sent one of our most beloved memorabilia from our honeymoon also crashing down, and breaking into three pieces.  It was a figure of a man and a woman embracing each other carved out of black polished stone.  (Insert crying emoji here).

The saddest part about this event was that this was not the first time this figurine had broken.  Some years ago, it had fallen... or was dropped... or was thrown (who really remembers the details?) and had broken in the same three places it broken last night.  I was devastated this happened again and was sure there was no way it could be repaired.  I picked up the pieces and sat on the bed as the tears started to well up.

Jordan came over and sat next to me, taking the broken pieces from my hands and started showing me how they can be glued back together.  Then he said, "See? Just like in marriage, things break, but we just take the time to put them back together again."

It would have been easy to just give up on that darn figurine and throw it in the trash.  But my dear husband lovingly took the pieces into the garage and carefully super-glued them back together... again.

What he said just got me thinking about brokenness and restoration.

I just came back from an amazing women's conference in Virginia Beach with the ladies from my church.  The theme for the conference was "Extravagant Love."  It came from a verse taken from Joel 2:13 in the Message Bible: "God is kind and merciful.  He takes a deep breath, puts up with a lot, this most patient God, extravagant in love."

I was overwhelmed by the messages given by the speakers.  Here are just a few key truths:
  • God is sovereign.  He has seen ALL OF TIME- and He's in CONTROL of all of it.
  • LOVE is WHO God is, NOT what He DOES.
  • GUILT tells you you've done something wrong; SHAME tells you you are something wrong.
  • God's patience is more greatly displayed in what He doesn't do- what He doesn't give us (which is what we deserve)
  • Jesus has PERFECT PATIENCE; God has MORE THAN ENOUGH patience to deal with me.
I really felt the brokenness of my humanity spotlighted this weekend.  I am so so sooooooo far from perfect.  I make so so soooooo many mistakes on a daily basis.  In my words, relationships, thoughts... what I do and don't do... it's astounding.  I am broken.  We all are, thanks to the Garden and Adam and Eve.  God really does put up with a LOT!

But God never gives up on trying to put me back together again.  No matter how many times He fixes my heart, sets me on the right path, places my gaze in the right direction... I inevitably crash down and break into pieces again.  But God's Word tells me I am lovely... He loves me enough to send His Son down to this earth, die for me on a cross to forgive the sins of all, so that He may have a relationship with ME (John 3:16)!

As Paul writes to the early church in 2 Thessalonians 2:13, he says, "We are always thankful that God chose you to be among the first to experience salvation-- a salvation that came through the Spirit who makes you holy and through your belief in the truth" (emphasis mine).  In other translations, "holy" is traded for "sanctification"- a cleansing or purification of the heart.  Ultimately, God's Spirit cleanses us and sets us apart (restores us) when we believe in the truth of the Gospel.

This salvation Christ gave us is like the superglue that holds us tight to God our Father.  And when the glue becomes dry and brittle... or life hits us with some really hard stuff... there is an unending amount of glue left to put you back together and draw you back into relationship with Jesus.

It would make sense for God to give up on me.  To see that even after a second, third, or fourth chance, I still remain broken and sinful.  But His love never runs out.  There is always enough... and He will always take the time to put me back together, and place me high on a shelf where He sees I belong.

Jordan has been able to glue the figurine back together so well that no one would notice its cracks unless they were pointed out.  Those cracks are just for us to notice, every now and again, to remind us we aren't perfect.  They're sacred.  Just for me and him.

My brokenness is sacred, too.  Many times, I am healed in moments of privacy and intimacy with my Father, who lovingly puts me back together again.  It doesn't mean I appear perfect on the outside, but I have the permission to be imperfect in front of Him.  Amazingly, this love gives me the freedom to be imperfect to the world as well.

My dear friends and readers, if you're experiencing even a shred of brokenness today, let me encourage you that there is always hope.  With God's love, there is unending patience for your situation, trial, or hardship.  There is unconditional love from a God who never gives up; He just takes a deep breath, offers you the glue to put you back together, and loves you... extravagantly.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Just keep walking.



Ever wonder if God really hears you?  Does He really care?  Why would your small plea even make it through all the other urgent requests being made of Him every minute, so that He would answer you in an unmistakable way?

James 4:1-2 says, “Where do wars and fights come from among you?  Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?  You lust and do not have.  You murder and covet and cannot obtain.  You fight and war.  Yet you do not have because you do not ask” (NKJV, emphasis mine).

            I’ve titled my blog “Revelation 12:11” because this verse talks about the power that can be found in the word of our testimony.  Chains can be broken.  People might hear or read about another’s experience, and learn that they too, are so so loved by our Great God.  I’m not writing to boast about my relationship with the Lord, or anything great on my part, but really about how amazing God is, and how He really does hear us when we ask of Him!  I have felt like God has been asking me to share my small testimonies with you, as a way of encouraging you, and bringing glory to Him!

            So let me share with you a time when I asked of the Lord in one of the darkest seasons of my spiritual walk, and He wasted no time in answering! 

            We moved to Hampton, VA from Anchorage, AK in September 2013.  After a month of temporary living, church hopping, and even a trip back to Connecticut to help my best friend with her newborn baby, I was still feeling completely at a loss for what God’s purpose for me in this new place would be.  After I returned from my CT trip, Jordan left for work one morning and told me I needed to get out of the house that day… go find a coffee shop and read… just get out.  He could see how unsettled I was about a lack of community, church, and how being alone all day while he was at work was not helping.

            So I looked up local coffee shops in my new city and visited one down by the water where the boats dock.  I grabbed my coffee to-go and walked around the area until I found the perfect bench to sit on.  I remember in my mind I had these requirements for that bench: it had to be facing the water and it had to be in the sun.  


 Once I found it, I settled in and began journaling.

Journal Entry from October 4, 2013

“There is so much to be thankful for right now, just as there always is.  There’s never NOT something to be thankful for.  And Lord, I am so thankful.  But do I really show my gratitude in my life?  I’ve had a really tough month emotionally.  It’s been so hard to hold on to the positives and the promises when all I can focus on is what I don’t have right now and what I’m not doing with my life.

Often I look back at my ministry in Alaska and I miss it terribly.  It just felt like I belonged there.  Great friends, great church, great pastors, great CYAK, great students, great mountains, camp… this list is endless.  Alaska was just. great.  And I’ll never have that back.  I’ll never get to live there again.

Hampton still has potential, but it doesn’t feel like home yet.  It feels like a place I’m screaming to get away from.  Sure, we are buying this beautiful house.  But what about ME Lord?  What are you doing to do with me?

I find so much comfort in the promise you give me that I don’t have to do this on my own.  That you have a plan here, but I just have to do the work to figure that out.  I am so willing to do that work, too!  I want to listen and be guided and be chiseled to become more like you.  I so desire to please you with my life.

So please, open a door for me TODAY.  Show me the church you desire us to try this weekend or a job opening, or a new friend.  Put your plan in front of my face.  Because I am not seeing your purpose and I am becoming more and more discouraged.

If I need a big dose of patience, well so be it.  I can wait.  It is hardest to ignore everyone else in my life that thinks I should have a job by now.  But I need to remember that they don’t matter.  Only You do.  Thank you for putting Jordan in my life to be my encourager and stronghold.  I love the way he loves me.  Lord, I will faithfully follow You here… but I need your guidance and encouragement TODAY.”

After I finished writing “TODAY,” I opened my Bible and began reading in Genesis.  When you don’t know where to start, start at the beginning, right?  The next thing that happened was truly a miracle.

Up to this point, I was completely alone.  I think it was a Friday morning, so most people were at work… certainly not hanging around the docks of Hampton. 

But then suddenly, as if from literally nowhere, this couple walks up from behind me.  I mean, I was completely alone for almost half an hour, and then as soon as I close my journal and open my Bible, this couple walks over!  The man sees I’m reading my Bible and asks what chapter I’m on.  I tell him I’m in Genesis and he begins to strike up a conversation with me and his wife about their church that was currently studying Genesis. 

We stood there and chatted for almost 45 minutes!  They shared with me that they lived on a boat at the docks and attended a church close to the area we were in.  I told them about just moving to Hampton with my husband.

“You’re not going to believe this,” I said.  “But I just finished praying about two minutes ago that God would send me a new friend TODAY… specifically.”

A huge smile spread across the man’s face and he asked if we could pray together, as truly this was a divine encounter!  We prayed, exchanged information, and they continued their walk towards their boat.

I immediately opened up my journal again and wrote the following:

WOW!  YOU WORK FAST, LORD! As soon as I put my pen down and opened my Bible you put someone right in my path!  This wonderful couple named… (I’ll omit their names for confidentiality)… started talking to me on the bench and they are Christians from a Presbyterian church here in downtown!

Then I jotted down this verse I must have seen while I was reading in Genesis:

“The Lord kept his word and did for Sarah exactly what he had promised.”- Genesis 21:1

I was so excited about what God had just done that I called my mother-in-law to share the story.  There was something about needing someone else to hear what just happened to help me believe it!

A few minutes later, the couple starts heading back my way with a cooler full of cold drinks.  They said they offer them to the homeless and others that are hanging around this area on hot days.  They offered me one, and asked if I would like to come with them over to their church to meet their pastor and see where it was located.  I literally could come up with no reason not to go, other than the fact that these people were complete strangers.  I think if the circumstances were different, I probably wouldn’t have gone, but given that I believed these people were sort of like angels sent to me that day, I asked the woman to come with me in my car and we’d meet her husband at the church.

I met several people hanging out around the church, and the couple took me to the pastor’s office.  The pastor was a really nice woman who listened to my story about meeting this couple and what I had prayed that day.  I shared with her that I would like to be involved with youth ministry in whatever church we are called to here.  Before we parted ways, she asked if she could pray for me.  Again, what a blessing!

Jordan and I ended up visiting that church several times before we settled into our home at City Life.  In fact, the Sunday before we closed on our house we attended the Presbyterian Church for the first time and met an elderly couple sitting behind us.  Jordan shared that we were about to close on our first house the next day, and they asked where.  As it turned out, they were going to be our new neighbors across the street!  Crazy!

I think what I am most called to share with you through this story is the hope that comes out of moments like these.  They don’t happen every day.  They aren’t always glorious, surprising, or in our eyes, miraculous.  Walking with the Lord is a journey that requires patient endurance. Keep walking, even when you don’t experience a miracle.  Be faithful.  Be in the Word.  Be in fellowship with other believers that can encourage you on those “dry” days.  Because when (notice I didn’t say if) God does provide the answers/promise/encouragement/new friend, you will have the faith to recognize it, believe in it and give Him the honor, glory, and praise!

“Here me as I pray, O Lord,
Be merciful and answer me!
My heart has heard you say, ‘Come and talk with me.’
And my heart responds, ‘Lord, I am coming.’ ~Psalm 27:7-8

Sunday, January 25, 2015

"Buying a Field" Part I


Note: If you’re just joining me, reading my previous blog "Another Anniversary" will help catch you up to this point in our story.

On October 1st, 2014, Jordan and I decided to revisit our infertility doctor to make sure my body was healing properly from the miscarriage and it was safe to start trying again.  She gave us the “A-OK” and suggested we take the same ovulation medication she had suggested we use earlier that year.

When Jordan and I walked down those long halls at the Portsmouth Naval Medical Center for the umpteenth time that year, I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed with all the various emotions we had experienced on our way to and from each appointment.  From excitement to finally meet our new doctor, to nervous fear as I started some painful testing, to unspeakable joy to see our first baby on an ultrasound, to utter shock, confusion, and pain as we learned of our miscarriage… we had experienced it ALL in those hallways.  So this visit was particularly emotional for me.  It had been the first time we had been back since we were told I had miscarried.

The news that we were ok to start trying again was uplifting.  This time, Jordan and I didn’t really hesitate in our decision to want to take the medication.  We just had to wait for my next cycle.  Just like last time.

The month of October flew by. 

In the midst of busy schedules and life happening, the Lord really started to tug at me with some Scripture I read in Jeremiah 32. 

Jeremiah was a prophet sent by God to the people of Judah to warn them of God’s coming wrath and judgment.  You see, they had pretty much done everything they possibly could to live against God’s will.  And even after multiple warnings from God, they continued to live in their sinful ways.  So God promised a great exile was about to happen, and the land they loved so much would be destroyed.

This was God’s message Jeremiah had to share with the Israelites!  The phrase “don’t shoot the messenger” was probably a thought going through Jeremiah’s mind many times!

In chapter 32, Jeremiah is imprisoned by Zedekiah king of Judah for delivering his message of doom.  Jeremiah shares a message with the king that God has told him his cousin Hanamel is going to come visit him in prison and offer him a portion of his land to buy.

“6 Jeremiah said, “The word of the Lord came to me: Hanamel son of Shallum your uncle is going to come to you and say, Buy my field at Anathoth, because as nearest relative it is your right and duty to buy it.’” (emphasis mine)

The idea of buying a field in the middle of a land destined for destruction and exile was absurd for anyone witnessing Jeremiah’s transaction between his cousin that day.  Why would the very prophet who has been speaking of God’s plan to destroy the land decide to invest in a field in that land? 

Furthermore, for Jeremiah to even buy the property, it was going to cost him nearly everything he owned.  Prophets weren’t upper-class citizens and he was in jail.  So anything left to his name was spent on the field.  Not to mention, it was an even more absurd idea for Jeremiah to buy land when he had no wife or children to pass it along to.

AND, the transaction between Hanamel and Jeremiah was done in front of many witnesses, as Jeremiah was in a public jail, and it that day, nothing having to do with a sale was done in secret; everything was a public transaction.  The deed was signed, and Jeremiah asked that the documents be placed in a clay jar so they will last a long time.  He proclaims this promise from the Lord: “Houses, fields, and vineyards will again be bought in this land” (v. 15). And then… he prays.  What an example to us all!

Jeremiah’s prayer in verses 17-25 begins with his acknowledgment of how powerful and mighty God is.  He proclaims God as Creator of the Universe, and lists the many ways God has demonstrated his power over the world.  At the end of his prayer, he claims God’s plan for the people to be seized by the Babylonians.  However, Jeremiah ends his prayer with, “And though the city will be given into the hands of the Babylonians, you, Sovereign Lord, say to me, ‘Buy the field with silver and have the transaction witnessed.’” (emphasis mine)

Wow.  There are so many part of this Scripture I could expound on, but that last verse is really where the rubber meets the road. 

When we meet an “and though” situation, does our obedience to God’s will depend on what that “though” means or does our obedience to God depend on nothing else but our faith in God’s promises for our future?

(Side note: One of the most famous verses people LOVE to quote from Scripture is from Jeremiah 29:11- “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord. ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.’”   Yet, God spoke this over a people who were in agony from the exile, being separated from their loved ones and everything they knew!  Can you imagine being told such a promise in the midst of such tragedy?!)

For Jeremiah, buying the field was an act of utter obedience.  Though Jeremiah knew God’s promise to bring the people back to this land where fields and houses would be bought again, he still had to make a bold choice (and somewhat crazy choice) to invest in this field. 

·      It was going to cost him everything he had.
·      Everyone was going to know about it.
·      The purchase had to be made before the promise was realized.

I began to really pray about why God would have me pause on this Scripture.  I literally read it over and over and over again.  Then I opened up every commentary I owned, researched more commentaries online, and wrote a lot in my journal.  Ultimately, what the Lord put on my heart was to “buy a field.”  Huh?  Did I hear that right?  You want me to buy a field?!  What does that even mean!?

I found myself driving to and from places up and down I-64 asking God what field He was asking me to buy.  I was pretty clear it wasn’t a literal field.  What I started to realize what that God was asking me to make a sacrifice (“It’s going to cost you something, Amy.  Maybe everything you have.”), and I was to make this sacrifice (or purchase) before His promise was revealed to me. 

Before this time, I don’t think I had ever made a decision about a life-change, career-change, job-change, etc. without knowing for sure what the next step was going to be.  I always had the promise before the purchase.  But God was being very clear to me that this purchase was to be made before He revealed what was coming.

I decided that whatever God was going to ask me to sacrifice, I would willingly give it up.  I would obey.  And then I would faithfully wait for His promise.

Then God asked me to sacrifice being a youth leader at our church.

Again, more questions for God.  “Huh?! Are you sure? This is what I’ve been called to do!  I’ve poured my heart, time, and energy into getting to know these kids this year!  I’ve been doing youth ministry for six years!  Are. You. Sure?!?”

“Yes, Amy.  I am sure,” said God.

The next thing I did was talk to Jordan about what God was revealing to me.  I told him about Jeremiah and the field and how God was asking me to step away from being a youth leader.  He was so supportive and excited about what God was doing in my heart that he gladly gave me his blessing to step down from Revolution Church (what our church calls youth group).

I decided to talk to one more person before making this decision.  I didn’t want to involve the opinions of many friends, because I didn’t want my conviction to waiver on other’s emotions and thoughts.  So I took my “field” to my friend and mentor, and when I told her, she wasn’t surprised at all!  In fact, she said she saw this coming, and gave me her complete support!

That was all the affirmation I needed.  I set up a meeting with our youth pastor for Saturday morning after I was done teaching a discipleship class…

Jordan was extremely busy with work in the Air Force, including a week-long tour the last week of October to the Carolinas.  I remember texting with him all week that I still hadn’t gotten my cycle (we were nervous I would while he was gone, as that would mean I would start medication without him).  We agreed I could take a pregnancy test that weekend when he got home.

Dear friends, if there is one thing I have learned this year, it’s that God acts at just the right time (more on that in another chapter/post).  God’s timing is perfect, Sovereign.  He makes no mistakes.  There are no coincidences.  So what I am about to share next is all to glorify His name, His power, His plan for our lives and our future children.

The day I told Pastor Justin I was stepping down from RC, I found out I was pregnant.

Our first ultrasound.  There's really a baby in there!

I knew God had a promise waiting for me, but I didn’t want to place borders on that promise.  In other words, I didn’t want to decide for myself that the promise would be children, as badly as I wanted them.  I also didn’t want to have a “manipulative” heart in making my decision to step down from RC.  Even though I cannot manipulate God, I didn’t want the spirit of manipulation: “God, I will step down from RC if you give me a baby.”  I’ve had this attitude before, and it is not one I am proud of or want to keep! 

But just like the first pregnancy, we conceived without medication.  We conceived the same month we decided we would take medication to help us, also like the first time.  And true to God’s nature, He acted at just the right time.

This baby is the field I purchased.  Maybe it doesn’t seem like sacrificing my involvement in ministry compares to receiving a child.  But I also don’t think God works like that.  This was more about whether or not my heart was willing to be obedient to His voice, and have faith that He would provide the promise.

I have learned a big lesson these past few months about obedience… which I find extremely timely!  After all, I am about to raise my own child, I have always valued obedience and discipline and thought myself to be the kind of mom that would encourage both in my parenting.  Little did I know, I needed to learn some of that myself, first! 

Have you ever had an “obedience” calling like this before?  I’d love to hear about it! Comment below, or email me at amy.kimble1@gmail.com .

To God be the Glory!

“One of the assurances of future mercies must not be interpreted as securities from present troubles.”
- Matthew Henry commentary