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 .

To God be the Glory!

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

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Another anniversary.

**This is a post I wrote on September 1, 2014, but have been saving it to share on my blog for nearly 5 months.  I can only hope our testimony, the story God has given us, will bless you and reassure you of His never-ending love and devotion to you specifically!

On this day, one year ago, we were driving into the parking lot of the Langley Air Force Base temporary living facility.  There are three things I remember about that night:

1. As soon as we parked, I broke out in hives (I tend to do this randomly with no rhyme or reason)
2. I whacked my head on the inside of the camper while we were trying to pull our bags out. Ouch.
3. I cried hard (like ugly cried) once my head hit the scratchy white sheets on my hotel pillow, as I realized the 33-day, 8,000 mile road trip of a lifetime was over, and now I had to "do life" again.

The following weeks and months became a blur of living temporarily at our friends' house in Newport News, trying and failing to happily adjust to the heat and humidity of the southeast, and spending way too many hours shopping at big-box stores to find things to fill our home.

And as the home filled up, my heart emptied out.

I had a very difficult season of adjustment to Virginia.  Phew.  There.  I said it. The truth is out.  Cat's outta the bag.

Some of you might be surprised by this.  "But you make friends so quickly, Amy!" "You moved in to a beautiful house!" "You live closer to family now!"...  and I can't argue with any of those things.

But there was a void in my heart... an argument I was too afraid to have with God, my Sovereign Lord... that kept me from truly accepting any of those blessings.

Moving for the third time in four years can be challenging for anybody. But I didn't care about anybody else and what they thought. I only cared about my story. Sounds selfish, but I know you have all been in that spot before.  The "woe is me" place where everyone else can just get the H-E-double-hockey-sticks OUT.

And so my pity party began.  I applied for jobs, but didn't get any replies.  Let's be honest... I didn't really want those jobs anyways.  I traveled to Portugal (an amazing experience, but probably at the wrong time in my life... and a wise friend once told me the right thing/person at the wrong time is still the wrong thing ((he was talking about relationships, but I'll adapt his message to European traveling for my purposes)) And when I got back from gallivanting across the Pond by myself, I found myself so lonely, separated from God, and honestly depressed.

I've shared this in a previous post, but in November last year, the Lord gave me this verse in Psalm 46:4-5: "A river brings joy to the city of our God, the sacred home of the Most High.  God dwells in that city; it cannot be destroyed. From the very break of day, God will protect it."  I remember reading this verse at my kitchen counter and being completely overwhelmed with God's love for me. He has promised me that He will never leave me (Matt 28:20).  He has promised to use everything, even the suffering, for good (Romans 8:28).  He has promised a double portion of prosperity and everlasting joy for those who love Him (Isaiah 61:7).  He created me (Genesis 1:27).  He sees my heart (1 Samuel 16:7).  He knows every delicate, innermost detail of my life (Psalm 139).  As empty as I felt on the inside, the Lord poured out His love, affection, and care for me into an overflowing river of joy.

This year has certainly had a lot of joy in it.  We have found a wonderful, Spirit-filled church in Newport News (shout out to City Life!) full of people who have become family.  I have been challenged to read my Bible this year, every day, every page, every verse.  And the Lord has used my obedience in this task in BIG ways to draw me closer to Him.  We have had a lot of family visits, both up north in New England and having them down as visitors.  Living on the east coast has definitely made visiting easier.

I graduated from Wayland Baptist University with my Masters in Christian Ministry with a 4.0!

I had the honor and privilege of officiating my first wedding for my dear friends, Caitlin and Paul.

Jordan and I were both baptized together at our church on June 1, 2014!

We also became members of our church this summer... something we have never been able to do because we have moved so frequently.

And on the same day we were baptized, we received the miraculous news of being pregnant.

This is where our story really begins.  We had been trying to conceive since January 2013, and after an unsuccessful year, we went through about 4 months of fertility testing and doctors appointments.  In early May, we were told it would be very difficult to become pregnant without the help of medicine.  Devastated, we took this news home and prayed about it for several weeks.  We concluded we would try the medicine, but had to wait until I got my next cycle.

My next cycle never came, and on the morning of our baptism, we decided to take a test.  Sheer, unending, overwhelming JOY flooded our hearts when we saw the TWO PINK LINES!  Tears, laughter, and much "re-checking" of the test took place as we got ourselves ready to head to church to publicly announce our commitment to the Lord through water baptism.  Oh how He loves us!  On the day we decide to be baptized, the Lord gives us the biggest blessing of all!

We spent the next couple weeks telling our closest friends and family the news, enjoying every minute of the blessing and river of joy God delivered to us.

But on June 17th, we had an appointment for an ultrasound, and the doctor could not find a heartbeat.  She concluded the pregnancy was not viable; I had miscarried.

Friends, let me tell you that car ride home was one of the most difficult 45 minutes to endure, as were the next couple weeks as I had to take medicine to fully pass the pregnancy and heal from the worst physical and emotional pain of my life.

The sleepless nights, the tears, the hugs from friends, the many meals brought to us from our church family, and their prayers were all a part of our time in the darkest valley so far in our 5 1/2 years of marriage.  We are forever grateful to the people who surrounded us with support and love this summer as we walked through this experience.

The rest of the summer was a blur of traveling, building a pergola in our backyard, attending camp with the youth from our church, and accepting my first job as an adjunct professor at a local Christian college in town.  More traveling, more visiting, lots of reading and syllabus writing...

And more waiting on the Lord for those babies I know He has promised us (more on that another time).

Another anniversary has passed, but with this past year comes so much wisdom gained, lessons learned, and a closer relationship with the Lord I could never have imagined being in.  Isaiah 55:8-9 says, "'My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,' says the Lord. 'And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.  For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.'" Ultimately, I don't have to know what the future holds because I serve a God whose thoughts are higher than my thoughts could ever be!  As I sit down to write the entry, I have become so thankful for anniversaries passing, seasons changing, and the new mercies God gives us with each day.  And I look forward to the testimony God will have me share on the next anniversary.

(Stay tuned for a future post!  As I wrote this post back in September, I was exactly two months away from finding out we were pregnant again!)

Thursday, January 15, 2015

You Make Me Brave

In 2012, Jordan and I rented a camper from the Air Force’s Outdoor Rec. department and headed to King Mountain State Park in Sutton, AK to camp with our friends, the Whitneys and Durhams, over Memorial Day Weekend (we lived in Anchorage, AK at the time for those that are just joining me).

This was the first time we had ever rented a camper, but we wanted to test the waters because buying a camper was in our near future.  It was a cute little Scamp trailer, with just enough room inside for the two of us, and of course, Layla-doo.  It was all hard-sided, and even had a little heater to keep us warm at night!

"The Rig"

The first day we arrived, we set everything up and took a walk down by the river with the kids so they could fly their new kites.  This river was fed by a glacier melting further up north, so the water was colder than you can imagine.  The river was low, but still flowing at a good pace.  However, because it was low, there was plenty of rocky open space beside it to play on.  We spent awhile down there, teaching the kids how to get their kites in the air, but we probably spent most of our time untangling strings.  We took Layla down there with us, and tested out how she would do off-leash in a wide-open space.  She did well, returning to us every time we called her.

After awhile, we all went back up and sat around the fire.  We fed Layla her dinner, and Jordan decided he would take her for a walk back down by the river to do her business.  I reminded him to keep her on her leash, even though she had her shock collar on (a remote-controlled collar we used to train her with), just in case she lost her sensibility and didn’t come when called.

As we were sitting around the campfire, I suddenly had this thought that Jordan had been gone for a long time.  I expressed my concern to my friends, and they just reassured me he took her on a long walk to tire her out.

About five minutes later, Jordan and Layla show up soaking wet!


Then Jordan proceeded to share the story:

Apparently they were walking along the river, and he decided to let Layla off her leash.  Being the ADD dog she is, she saw a leaf floating in the water and decided to jump in after it.  Almost immediately, she realized she couldn’t swim in the fast current and looked at Jordan in panic as she started being carried away!  Jordan said he thought to himself, “Oh crap, Amy’s gonna kill me if I don’t bring this dog back.”  So without thinking any further, he jumped in after her, boots and clothes on, wallet, cell phone, and collar remote in his pockets.  His footing was quickly taken away from him, too and he also started floating down river! He started trying to swim over to Layla, as she was making her way towards the opposite side of the river, and about 100 yards away the river turned into rapids.  Eventually he was able to reach her and dig his feet into the riverbed to make his way back to the shore.

The whole ordeal took about 60 seconds.  In water that cold, any longer and I would have lost them both to hypothermia.  Their bodies would have given out and neither one of them would have been able to swim. 

As he is sharing this, our friends start laughing and harassing him!  But I started tearing up and getting very angry.  After all, he could have died in that water.  People die all the time in frigid water.  In one minute, I could have lost my husband and my beloved dog.  I didn’t find the humor in the story.

So why am in recounting this story almost three years later?

I guess because about four months ago, God reminded me of it while I was singing in worship at RC (our church’s youth group, Revolution Church, that I was volunteering with).   The band starting singing these new lyrics I had never heard before:

“You make me brave,
You make me brave.
You call me out beyond the shore into the waves.
You make me brave.
You make me brave.
No fear can hinder now the love that made a way.”

It was the chorus to a new Bethel Music song.  Wow.  Those words just hit me like a brick.

Then God reminded me of Jordan’s bravery to save Layla in the river that day.  He didn’t think about it.  He didn’t even hesitate long enough to leave his wallet and cell phone on shore.  He just… jumped in.

I want a faith like that. 

You see, sometimes we (Christians) get really caught up in all the fancy theology, doctrine, and Law, and forget to just trust God in everything.  Don’t get me wrong… studying God’s Word left, right, front, and back through Bible dictionaries, commentaries, and concordances is all really great.  In fact, I don’t think we do it enough to benefit our personal walk with God.  

But sometimes often we hesitate to be obedient to God’s call on our life because we can’t seem to justify the risk and the reward.  We are told following Jesus is going to cost us everything.  EVERYTHING?! 

“Everything” huh?

That’s a hefty word.  And it includes, but is not limited to this short list: your finances, family, career, home, child-raising, schooling, purchases, vacations, rest time, eating habits, addictions, entertainment choices, language, relationships… etc., etc., etc.

I once heard that true obedience is two things: immediate and joyful.

When God asks me to do something, to be something, to say something, to be somewhere, how quickly do I just jump into the task?  And even if I do, what is my heart attitude like?

I’m reminded of the verse in 1 Samuel 16:7: “The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them.  People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

God doesn’t even care about the acts of obedience, if my heart is ugly and unwilling! 

Since these song lyrics were being sung at a youth group event, I strongly felt the Lord speaking to me about students in the room that were hesitating to answer His call, His hand reaching out to them that night, because they were too afraid to jump in and give up everything.  I get it kids.  It is so scary.  But we also need to remember the rest of the promise: No fear can hinder now the love that made a way!”  When we truly follow God’s call on our lives, we allow Him to fill any void left behind by sacrificing a relationship, habit, whatever… and leave in its place unconditional love.

And that love is so worth it.  Thank you Lord for making be brave, to even face this day and all the unknowns that come with it!

King Mountain and the infamous river are behind us in this photo... you can see how low the water was at this part, but it got very fast just a short distance away!
** I have another post coming soon about a time when God asked me to be obedient recently, and the testimony He gave me through it.  So stay tuned!