From the Waiting Room

From the Waiting Room

It only took two words to rock my family to the core: brain tumor. Turns out the symptoms my feisty mother-in-law had been experiencing were more than weirdly isolated annoyances. And so on a Sunday night I held my husband as he cried and trembled with fear, imagining the worst and fervently praying for the best. The next day we made the first of multiple three-hour trips to the hospital she was in, and our reality shifted in the way it only can when you receive terrible, life-altering news. Time became suspended. The world as we knew it took a backseat.

Let me add here that we traveled with our three-year-old and three-month-old daughters. Because my mother-in-law was in the ICU, our girls couldn’t go into her room to visit. I ended up spending a lot of time in the waiting room keeping them occupied, looking out the window, and observing the other people I shared that room with. I came away from my time in the waiting room with a perspective I hadn’t thought to have before this experience began.

I’ve never been a fan of hospitals. There’s a stark coldness and a distinct smell that makes me uneasy. Not to mention people don’t usually end up in the hospital because they wanted to be there. There are so many sad stories behind each patient and family member who find themselves laying on a bed or sitting in a vinyl chair. It’s overwhelming and I try to steer clear as much as possible. Until I found myself in that neurosurgery ICU waiting room, I didn’t quite grasp just how many ways a person can experience life-threatening trauma to the brain. Each day I heard snippets of conversation around me with words like “aneurism” and “brain bleed” peppered in the way the rest of us might casually discuss what we ate for lunch. These loved ones huddled in their respective corners came from all walks of life. There were older men and women alongside children and grandchildren. Nobody was immune.

As I eavesdropped on strangers’ conversations and heard the words my own family was speaking, I found myself yearning to connect, to go deeper, to release what was on my mind and in my heart instead of tucking those raw emotions safely away. I saw my husband’s family, and especially his mom, through the lens of their mortality. It mattered that everyone in that waiting room was there for the same reason. The trivial things that usually occupy my mind suddenly lost importance. Who cared if my outfits were on trend and properly accessorized; they just had to be comfortable. Keeping up with my social media feed seemed like a chore I just couldn’t be bothered with. My diet and exercise routine had to be put on hold because I was exhausted from the energy it took to comprehend what was happening to us. Any plans I had made were cancelled. Nothing was more important than being there.

Sitting in the waiting room wasn’t all bad. Without a doubt, my favorite takeaway from the hours I spent at the hospital was realizing all the ways God displays love for His children and actually paying attention enough to notice them. Things like a rainbow, a song, or a ring tone probably won’t mean much to you unless I elaborate…

My mother-in-law saw a vibrant rainbow right outside her window just a day or two before her scheduled surgery. God was saying, “I promise I’m here and I’m not leaving.”

My husband played the song, “Eye of the Storm” for his mom to comfort her during her early days in the ICU. Then we heard that song at least once a day each day we were there. The day after my “second mom” had her surgery, a lady in the waiting room had a ring tone on her phone…you guessed it…”Eye of the Storm!” When I shared with this woman the significance of her ringtone, she wrapped me in a hug and we bonded over the wonder that God uses little things when they can make the biggest impact. I was able to hear her story about why she was there, and I’m still praying for her father, Donald, and his recovery.

Speaking of prayer…the abundance of prayers and support from our friends was the biggest way God showed us He was at work. I can’t even count how many people across the country and even in other nations were praying for our family. So I shouldn’t have been surprised when my mother-in-law’s surgery went better than we had hoped, or when she was awake and talking just hours afterwards. I shouldn’t have been blown away when I saw her the next day and she was cracking jokes like always and making sure her kids were taken care of. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I realized how my faith had given way to worry more than I’d like to admit. God reminded me of His tender mercy as I sat with my daughters. He reminded me just how important prayer is – it’s everything!

I realize that our story has had a happy resolution – at least so far. The very night of my mother-in-law’s surgery, when we were in the cafeteria having a snack and taking turns saying goodnight to her, another family was pouring into the hallway, faces red and splotchy, tears streaming down cheeks. Their news wasn’t so happy, and my heart ached for them and the pain they were experiencing in that moment. But for the grace of God, that could have easily been us. And our journey with this brain tumor isn’t over yet. There’s still a lot of healing, physical therapy, and treatment to come. The future isn’t certain, not by a long shot. But as a family, we’ve changed. I can feel it. Whatever we face in the unknown future, whether it be another difficult diagnosis or struggles in the midst of healing, we’ve already come face-to-face with what we say we believe about God. Our faith has been tested, and even as we wrestled with fear, our faith didn’t falter. We could have easily given ourselves over to despair, but instead we chose to daily place our burdens and questions at the feet of Jesus.

There are two Psalms that brought me comfort over the past few weeks: Psalm 33:18-22 and Psalm 37:25-26 & 39.

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Whatever you’re facing today, your Father is right there in the thick of it with you. Let Him be your hope. Trust that He will not forsake you, but will be your strength today. Rejoice in Him, who is your Help and Shield!

With much love,

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Is Busyness Killing Your Marriage?

Is Busyness Killing Your Marriage?

Think about the last time you saw a friend and she asked you how you’ve been. Go ahead. Take a moment. What did you say to her? Did it sound like, “Girl, things are great – busy!” Or “Ug, I’m so busy.” Or maybe just simply a sigh followed by a weary, “Busy.” We’re killing ourselves in this crazy, gotta-keep-up age of smart phones, kids’ schedules, work schedules, expectations, and To Do lists. I’ve been there. But here’s the thing: I don’t want to wear an adjective like a badge of honor. I don’t want to be defined by something I’ve done to myself – and make no mistake, we take busyness on ourselves. We’ve grabbed onto busyness like life-support and it’s killing our marriages.

I don’t do Pinterest, but if I did, this would be the equivalent of that recipe that should be pinned over and over again. It’s a book called Crazy Busy, and thankfully, for us busy bees, it’s short. In it the author talks about how much of our busyness can be a result of the following (and these are only a few examples):

#1: You’re busy because of the Killer P’s: people pleasing, possessions, proving yourself, pity, poor planning, power, perfectionism, prestige, and posting. What does this break down to? You’re too concerned about what other people think and you’re making yourself busy trying to live up to a standard that’s unrealistic. Pride is usually at the center of this one.

#2: You’re trying to do what God does not expect you to do. Did you know Jesus was known to hop into a boat to escape people who were badgering him? Did you know he could have healed more people than he did but he sometimes said NO? Why? He needed sleep, rest, and balance. He was divine and yet we think we can do more than him – so we overfill and over-highlight our calendar.

#3: You’re losing touch with reality because you’re too engaged in technology. When you’re home from work, are you present or are you still working on your phone? How does your technology and your job follow you? The bathroom? The kids’ playroom? In bed with your spouse? All that time on our phones – in all those moments that are meant to be quiet and private – we’re losing touch with the contents of our hearts because we’re focused on the content of our newsfeed.

Now that we know we’re to blame for our chaos we like to complain about it. What’s this busyness doing to us as couples? Here’s an excerpt from the book that will move my point further in the right direction:

In the “Ask the Children” survey, researcher Ellen Galinsky interviewed more than a thousand children in grades three through twelve…One key question asked the kids what one thing they would change about the way their parents’ work was affecting them. The results were striking. The kids rarely wished for more time with their parents, but, much to the parents’ surprise, they wished their parents were less tired and stressed.

Similarly, Galinsky asked kids to grade their parents in a dozen areas…The biggest weakness, according to the kids, was anger management… (70).

Does this give you a little punch in the gut like it did me? We work so hard to make sure our kids are well rounded by putting them in a million activities that we don’t think how that stress is impacting us and tearing apart our families.

What about our marriages? Whether or not we have kids, when we’re too busy, our stress level increases, and our aptitude to be kind takes a nose dive…among other nasty side affects.

My husband told me once that I have different versions of Busy Erin: one when I’m writing (she’s quiet and moody), another when I’m focused on my business (she’s often on fire and focused), and another when I’m obsessed with the messy house (she’s usually crabby and talks to herself). He didn’t tell me any of this as a compliment. These are the different ways he perceives me, followed by reasons he tries to stay out of my way in those moments. What’s a shame is the things that keep me busy are the same things that push my husband away – because I struggle to find balance. Not only that, I’m so focused that I lose sight of the one who makes it all possible. Usually that would be God, but in this example, it’s my handsome hubby. Our marriage is a union that has made our lifestyle and my passions possible.

Does your spouse wish you were less_____________? Fill in the blank. Less stressed? Grumpy? Touchy? Tired?

Who’s getting the best of you? Your busyness or your spouse?

Because our children and other priorities demand so much of us, our spouses often receive even less – because there’s this notion that they can take care of themselves. They can BUT that’s not what God called marriage to be. God called marriage to be a unity of flesh – two conjoined into one. There’s an innate responsibility in that – on both sides. You give and you take. It’s not either or, and it doesn’t depend on your mood or your calendar. When our spouse is last on the priority list, we’re denying our own flesh. And that will hurt us in the end. And there’s no Band-Aid big enough for when we let that wound fester too long.

If our children can see a correlation between our state of mind and they don’t even have fully developed brains, why can’t we see what’s right in front of us? Why are we doing so much? Why are we allowing ourselves to be distracted by strangers on our phones when we should be connecting with our spouse? Don’t let others – and that includes you, my over-achieving friend – dictate your priorities. God has already given you a guide, and notice that busy doesn’t even make the top three: God, marriage, and your children.

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Erin

10696463_950947881586261_3679685812034055593_nErin Whitmer is a blogger and speaker at erinwhitmer.com. She loves to encourage women and remind them they’ve been created to sparkle, even in the chaos of daily life. She is the mother of two boys, a wife to an amazing man who puts up with her shoes obsession, and her daily goal is to step out in boldness in all the ways Christ guides her. Sign up for her newsletter HERE and receive her FREE 7 day devotional, Praying to Move Mountains.

You can read Erin’s previous posts from this series “Keeping Satan Out of Your Bedroom” by clicking on the following links: Are Your Ambitions Selfish?, Three Ways You’re Getting Tangled By Temptation, Whose Standard Are You Measuring Against? Is Your Marriage United?

The Other Woman

The Other Woman

So I had a moment when my child’s pediatrician appointment morphed into a therapy session…for me.

Has anyone else ever been there – in that frustrating place of feeling overwhelmed and “not enough?” This is exactly where I found myself last week. My second daughter was born recently, and at this particular appointment the goal was for her to gain back enough weight to break even with what she weighed at birth. As Dr. Jackson and I discussed my daughter’s eating habits, he paused and said, “You know, the expression on your face is telling me that maybe you just need a break.”

With this astute observation from a wise and seasoned doctor, the dam broke and all the insecurities, guilt, and doubt I had been holding inside came flooding out. The gentle, non-judgmental way Dr. Jackson spoke to me made me realize that the voice I had been listening to was the complete opposite: my inner voice had been speaking harshly and critically to my heart. It had been lying to me, and I was believing the lie yet again.

I think that as women, we all have a tendency to buy into the lies our Enemy tries to sell us. Depending on our age, circumstances, and desires, the lies we believe are as unique as we are. These lies feed on comparisons, dissatisfaction, and self-absorption. As I drove home from that appointment, the Holy Spirit reminded me of a thought I had been clinging to subconsciously for days…the lie that was currently holding me captive:

“Somewhere out there, there’s a woman with a three-year-old and a newborn baby, and SHE’S handling life better than I am.”

HER house is clean.

SHE exhibits saintly patience while meeting the needs of two attention-demanding children.

SHE has managed to shower every day and looks refreshed and pulled together.

HER postpartum body is already bouncing back…abs are showing…jeans are fitting.

Do you see what I did there? It’s amazing to me how effortlessly my mind can be convinced that these statements are absolutely factual, although I personally don’t know anyone who proves the validity of even one of them! So my lie starts to look more and more like truth, unfounded in reality but propagated by the ungodly amount of pressure I put on myself to be some sort of superwoman. Then there’s the guilt I heap upon myself when I fail to be perfect. This cycle of thought is what caused me to break down in a doctor’s office. It’s what grips each of us when we allow ourselves to dwell on that other woman.

For me, the other woman is a mother and wife who has a Pinterest-worthy life complete with planned out healthy dinners, beautifully decorated, uncluttered rooms, and kids who don’t need screen time because their days are filled with art projects, play dates, and enriched learning experiences.

Who is the “other woman” for you?

Is it the newlywed who just shared glamorous wedding pics on Facebook?

Is it the co-worker who dresses impeccably and has an “in” with the boss?

Maybe your other woman is strong, fit, and dedicated to her health. You scroll past her gym selfies while indulging in your favorite fat-filled snack and instantly feel defeated.

Or, perhaps like me, your other woman is mythical, a figment of your imagination. She has everything you wish you had or think you need, and your life seems so “less than” by comparison.

While you ponder the lies you might be harboring in your own heart, consider these three truths about your other woman as well.

1. The other woman is not my competition.
2. I can learn from the other woman.
3. I am the other woman to someone else.

The Other Woman is NOT My Competition

The next time you or I find ourselves comparing our lives to others, I hope we would have enough truth hidden away in our hearts to combat the lies. Galatians 5:26 speaks volumes. “Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”

Wherever you are in life, whatever season you find yourself in, is where you are meant to be in this moment. Instead of being jealous of those who have already reached the next rung on the ladder of life, try to focus on what’s good and holy about your current situation. For me, the harrowing nights with a newborn are a true test of my character. Instead of kicking my feet tantrum-style under the covers and wishing away the multiple midnight feedings, I can choose to focus on the sweet helplessness of my baby and soak up the warmth and innocence of new life that disappears all too soon. I am right where God wants me as I care for my family, and there is joy in claiming that truth.

Envy and resentment make a convenient couple. The more you compare and find yourself coming up short, the more space you’ll find in your heart for bitterness to take up residence. That bitterness acts as a wall, keeping you from forming friendships and building a support system with other women. This is one way Satan works to keep us bound by lies. The only way to break the cycle is to bravely reach out to the women who fit into the “other” category. I’ve found in my own life that the very ones I compared myself to or judged to be too good for me have ended up being some of my closest girlfriends. It took vulnerability and authenticity. It took time. But it’s been worth the effort and my life has been enriched by the deeper relationships that formed once I gave up my tendency to compare and compete with others.

I Can Learn From the Other Woman

Sometimes God uses the other women in our lives to teach us lessons we can’t access anywhere else. I remember when I was in the throes of infertility and it seemed that everyone around me was announcing pregnancies and giving birth. These women were living my dream. It was hard to receive their good news without a twinge of self-pity. To this day I can tell you the names of celebrities who carried and delivered babies during the three years my husband and I longed for a child of our own. But guess what? As I heard stories from these “other women,” I realized many of them had been right where I was. They too had struggled to get pregnant or had lost children through miscarriages – a tragedy I cannot comprehend. Their wisdom gave me hope. They shared verses that I learned to cling to myself. I understood how to faithfully walk through infertility because I let these women in.

Who can you learn from? The women who seem to have it all likely don’t. And what they do have has not come as easy as you believe or been without a high cost. What if the key you need to finally unlock contentment in your life is being held by the other woman? Are you willing to listen, ask questions, and learn from her story?

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I Am the Other Woman to Someone Else

In the journey to learn from these other women, maybe all you need to adjust your outlook is a fresh understanding that you yourself are someone else’s “other woman.” Now that I am a mother, I have dear friends and family members who are where I was all those years ago. They see my daughters and their hearts ache for the children they so desperately want. Now it’s my turn to pour into their pain and love them the way I was so tenderly loved.

So, my friend, the next time you catch yourself comparing or competing, make it a habit to identify lies and replace them with truth. Get to know the other woman in your life and learn from her. And when you begin taking precious gifts for granted, remember that you know someone who deeply desires the very thing you’ve become accustomed to.

Think about those around you and how they might view your life with a sense of longing. There are countless ways to turn your status as the “other woman” from something negative into a thing of beauty. If you allow your life to be a conduit through which God can pass blessings, truth, and love on to others, you will be the embodiment of 1 Thessalonians 5:11.

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May we be women who embrace truth, encourage each other, and enjoy the season of life we’re currently in!

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Unexpected, Finding Joy in Loss, Life, and Love

Unexpected, Finding Joy in Loss, Life, and Love

March 8, 2007-

A time when the world seemed to stand still in disbelief that she was gone.

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It was 10 years ago today that my sweet momma went to meet her Creator, the lover of her soul, her precious Jesus (as she would call him). In one month of time, my mom went from what we knew to be a healthy 62 year old, to a victim of stroke and to find cancer in various parts of her body. I was pregnant with my second daughter at the time, with just about 3 weeks out from delivery. Only one month…one month…and she was gone. Today I don’t share with you my grief or my sorrow, but the unexpected joy that I recall from the loss, the life and the love I have encountered in these past 10 years.

I lived 5 hours away from my mom and I was pregnant, sick and very much waddling around at this point of pregnancy. But I was determined to go and be by her side.  I remember walking into that hospital room, locking eyes with her eyes, only to have to remove myself before the flood of emotion and fear overtook me. She was not able to speak due to the stroke, but she had eyes and a touch of her hand that spoke volumes even in the silence. I collected myself together and went back in to spend time holding her hand…No words exchanged…and really none needed in that moment.

The hospital flooded with friends and family coming to visit and pray over my mom. We gathered to lay hands on her believing in the miraculous work of God and healing over her body. My dear sweet friends from five hours away drove to see her only to bring some laughter to the stale hospital room. RyRy, as we call him, grabbed a hospital rubber glove only to blow it up and make obscene funny noises that brought a half smile to my momma’s face. It may have seemed inappropriate at the time…but man did we need some laughter for our souls!

Nurses would comment how precious or kind my mom was-though she couldn’t say a word. They would come to change an IV, give a dosage of medicine or make her bed comfortable, and somehow, just the touch of her hand on their face brought them to tears. All I can say is they experienced the love and kindness of Jesus through my mom. Her actions spoke louder than words in those moments. She loved to laugh. She loved people. People loved her. One of my favorite memories of that month was my husband staying the night at the hospital with her. Like I said, I was pretty big and prego and the hospital chair wasn’t going to work for me. So my man said he would graciously stay in my place because I so longed to stay with her. Again, no words were exchanged. But I remember him saying, “I did what I know she would love…I read to her from her Bible.”

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I will never forget gathering with my siblings in the stairwell of the hospital to discuss my mom’s current status-and at that moment realizing things were most likely not going to get better-but we were still believing God for big things. I am the youngest of five siblings -and I am sure they would all agree -my mom spoiled me rotten. But hey, I was the baby…so of course I was! So even though my mom was in the state she was in, I selfishly wanted her to immediately get better so we could get back to “normal” life. I would stand next to her hospital bed and she would lay her hand on my belly. I would remind her that she needed to get better to help me finish all the things she was sewing for my nursery -things she had just been helping me decorate a few weeks prior. I would remind her that I needed her to stay so that she could meet sweet Payton. I reminded her that I NEEDED her…and so did this grand baby. I knew things weren’t going to change, but I wanted it so bad. Time seemed to last forever that month and yet it seemed so incredibly short all at the same time. She soon stepped from this fallen world, releasing all pain and suffering and walked into the light of Eternity.

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One month from her departure from this earth-we welcomed our second Beautiful baby girl-Payton. And can I just tell ya-weeping may last for the night, but JOY comes in the morning. And that is what this baby represented…JOY in the midst of sorrow and grief. A tangible expression of the goodness of God wrapped in this incredible and beautiful 7lb baby girl. When I think about God’s timing of it all, how I wanted to be angry that my mom would never meet her this side of heaven, I couldn’t help but be so overcome with Joy. There was significant timing for her birth-for many reasons-but for such a time as this. It was one of the greatest distractions that kept a blanket of peace and joy in the midst of heartache. I remember feeling that the presence of my mom was in the hospital room as Payton made her way into the world. This baby girl is now about to turn ten in a few weeks and boy is she the spitting image of yours truly. My mom would defintely say I am paying for my raisin’-but Oh she would be so in love with this girl. A girl full of life and love for others…A girl who is as messy and scattered brained as her momma….A girl who jumped up on my bed at the age of five insisting that she wanted Jesus in her heart.(She had been asking at that point for almost a year). A girl, who I know, God has BIG plans for -she’s confident, she’s a warrior and she desires to see people healed everywhere. Her Gigi, my mom, would be so incredibly proud. And can I just tell you, the story only gets more beautiful from here…

Momma Sharon (or that is what we have come to know her as) a woman who is a tangible gift from the Father to my family. A woman who came into my life only a few years ago only to bring an unexpected Joy. (Do you see the theme here?) You see, the day I met Sharon was at VBS through our church. And within moments of meeting, I will never forget my words to her, “I know this may sound weird, but you look just like my mom.” I proceeded to stare and then asked her to take a selfie that I quickly sent to my siblings! I couldn’t believe the resemblance. Sharon and I formed a pretty quick relationship which turned into a bond that I can’t describe. Her mannerisms, her handwriting, the way she gets on to me like my mom and even deals with my dramatic self-it’s really quite unreal.

IMG_3344But the thing I am drawn most to about Sharon, that is most like my mom, is her absolute Love and honor for the Lord…She loves Jesus with all her heart, all her soul, all her mind, and all her strength. She pours truth into my life, into my husband, and into my children like only a momma can. She goes to battle in prayer on our behalf only like a momma can. She encourages, listens and soothes a wounded soul, only like a momma can. I am constantly in awe of the goodness of God through my relationship with Sharon. She will never replace my sweet mom but when I look at my 10 year old daughter and I say “Do you want to know what your Gigi was like-look at momma Sharon.” She gets to see a glimpse of what it would be like. The Lord truly does work in mysterious ways. His ways are higher, His ways are better and His love exceeds them all.

So in the midst of loss, new life and love, I find an unexpected Joy in all three of these stories. Stories and lives that are weaved together through the Father’s hand and His good plan. Today I celebrate the legacy of Colette, my sweet momma, a woman who taught me to love Jesus with all that I have…  A woman who I know can’t wait to greet you and me as we make our way into Eternity. (I use to tease my mom that she should have been a Wal-mart greeter-I am pretty sure thats her job in heaven). Someday, she will meet this beautiful daughter of mine and I’m sure share stories of what a rebellious child I was and how much she reminds her of me. And she will meet momma Sharon, maybe share a coffee and thank her for loving her girls on earth.

Jesus-I am overwhelmed by the unexpected. Thank you.

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Video Testimony-Marriage and Pornography

Video Testimony-Marriage and Pornography

Austin & Hanna courageously share their true story of how bringing our struggles into the light not only opens the door for God to move, it transforms us into a new creation. Watch their courageous testimony of God’s ability to redeem, restore, and create a new path replacing shame with peace, and sorrow with joy. Bravery at its’ finest.

Click the link below to watch…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dEb_dxWxCCk

Betrayal, Courage, and Faithfulness – A Marriage Worth Fighting For

Betrayal, Courage, and Faithfulness – A Marriage Worth Fighting For

BraveGirl Robyn & her husband, Donny, share their AMAZING story of Courage, Bravery, & Faith as they share their powerful testimony of how they were in the process of divorce and God stepped in…turning a hopeless situation into something worth fighting for. It doesn’t get any BRAVER than this!! Thank you Donny and Robyn for sharing your BRAVERY with us! click the video below!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gCLNuFzMxj0

 

 

 

 

 

The Trumpet Will Sound!

The Trumpet Will Sound!

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first (1 Thessalonians 4:16 NASB).

The beautiful season of fall is in the air. The smell of pumpkin spice is thick, the leaves are beginning to change, and the crisp air feels amazing! This season marks the beginning of the very special Jewish fall feasts.

img_0140 Many people around the world rested from work today and celebrated the high holy day of Rosh Hashanah, or the Jewish New Year, and memories of my beloved Jewish grandfather filled my mind.

The shofar sounded when the people gathered. In my memory I can still hear the ram’s horn ringing in my ears. I remember exactly how loud it rang when it was blown in the temple when I was a child.

Rosh Hashanah, the Feast of Trumpets, marks the beginning of a season of introspection and repentance, otherwise known as the “10 Days of Awe” which will end with the high holy day of Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement.

Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of the harvest season. During this feast in the Old Testament, the Jewish people sacrificed a burnt offering on the altar to the Lord.

Rosh Hashanah is a time to humble ourselves, lay worldliness aside, make peace with God, pray, and listen for His voice.

To those of us who believe in the final sacrifice, the Fall Feasts (Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot) anticipate Jesus’ second coming!

As a young Jewish girl, Rosh Hashanah was about what I needed to do for my name to be inscribed in the Book of Life. Today, the cross is about what has been done for each of us who calls God “Father” and believes in His precious Son.

God inscribes our names in the Book of Life forever when we understand the depth of His sacrificial love on the cross. Jesus Christ, the final Sacrifice, died for our sins and one day He will come back again!

So together we eat and the apples and honey for the sweet promise of what is to come!

Even though my Jewish grandfather passed away earlier this year, I know his name was written in the Book of Life, and for that I am so grateful. I wrote about how our Christian faith connects to the Jewish roots in the book I am releasing this month called Beautiful Legacy: Our Roots Run Deep. To find out more please visit Basking in His Light.

L’Shanah Tovah! For a good year!

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Adoption: God’s Will For Your Life

Adoption: God’s Will For Your Life

Adoption has been on my mind lately. I have a few friends who are adopting, and hearing their stories has made a significant impression on me. For weeks I have been mulling over what it means to adopt, and I’ve reached the conclusion that adoption is God’s will for every Christian.

When you think of adoption, you probably imagine actresses bringing home children from third world countries. Maybe, like me, you personally know someone who is adopting or has adopted. A less common viewpoint is the adoption we experience as children of God and how the word “adopt” is a perfect picture of the Gospel in action. This is what I can’t stop thinking about.

According to the dictionary, to adopt is to choose or take as one’s own, to take and rear as one’s own child, to take or receive into any kind of new relationship. Because of what Jesus Christ did on the cross, a door was opened that allows any human being to be adopted into His eternal family. He takes us as His own when we put our trust in Him. He calls us His children. He eagerly receives each one of us into a new relationship with Him. In short, adoption is taking those who are without and bringing them in.

The Bible puts it this way:

“God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.”
‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭1:5‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

“So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:15‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

“But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.”
‭‭Galatians‬ ‭4:4-7‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

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Adoption is the Gospel lived out. What Christ set in motion with his life, death, burial and resurrection can and should be emulated among His followers. What adoption looks like in your own life depends on a few things…your place, your passions, your possessions, and your perspective.

1. Your place

Where has God located you? You live where you live for a reason. Your job is no accident. Each community, city, state and country is filled with people who are struggling – those who are outsiders to the knowledge of Jesus. The people you see on your daily commute or at the supermarket might desperately need the Light you carry in your soul. They aren’t part of God’s family – yet. There is not a place on this earth untouched by sin and therefore anywhere you happen to do life is going to be filled with people in desperate need of adoption.

2. Your passions

What stirs your heart? When God created you, He made you unique with specific talents, interests, and passions. They are not random. These gifts are an intentional part of who you are and are best displayed as you wrap adoptive arms around someone else who needs you.

Who do you love? Is your heart drawn to children? Perhaps literal adoption or foster care is perfect for you. Do you have a soft spot for the elderly? Think of the difference maker you could be just by listening to their stories or caring for them. Is your heart broken for the homeless? Restore a piece of lost dignity to these downtrodden people by making eye contact, serving a meal, or volunteering at a shelter.

There are countless groups of people who need adopting. Victims of sex trafficking and domestic violence. The physically or mentally disabled. Civilians living in the midst of war and violence. Inner city youth. Single parents. Widows. The neighbor across the street. The list is endless, really. You know where your heart is, and if you don’t, make it a point to find out. Who do you notice and then can’t stop thinking about? Just as God the Father sought you, it’s time to pursue that person or group who tugs at your heartstrings the most.

3. Your possessions

As you read this, you might be thinking to yourself, “This all sounds good, but how much can I help with my limited resources?”

It’s so easy to talk yourself out of making a difference when you believe you don’t have that much to give.

While we can’t all give millions to every cause we believe in, most of us have a few extra dollars on hand. Donate to a local non-profit. Pay for dinner. Buy groceries for a stranger. There are so many tangible ways to make a difference for the Kingdom with your money.

Time is your number one resource. Nothing else you possess will make much of an impact if you can’t or won’t sacrifice some time. Adoption takes time. Relationships take time to grow into something real. Be patient with yourself and the process – in the end it will be worth it!

4. Your perspective

What life experiences have shaped you? Good or bad, what you’ve lived through thus far is often the perfect catalyst to guide you on your adoption journey. Abuse, poverty, even affluence and celebrity can be used for good.

I’m thinking of professional football players who grew up on the streets and who now use their wealth and status to go back to their old neighborhoods and mentor young kids.

I’m thinking of abuse survivors who passionately rescue and support other victims.

I’m thinking of men and women who went to law school or medical school and who use their skills to advocate and care for the least among us.

I’m thinking of women who may seem unremarkable to strangers, but who are actively changing the lives of those around them. The world would not mourn their departure, but to the ones these women have adopted, the void left in their absence would be severe, aching, devastating.

I’m thinking of you. I’m thinking of me. Alone we seem insignificant. But each story, every talent, each heart – they all matter to the Father. They matter to someone out there who needs what only you can offer. The most significant thing about you is what you will do with this whole idea of adoption.

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Everyone who believes, who has a personal relationship with Jesus, is called to adopt. As Christians our life’s work is meant to glorify God, point others to Him, and continue to be molded into His image as our lives progress. I can think of no better way to follow Christ’s example than to adopt someone or some group into your life, and ultimately, into eternal life.

Where has God placed you? Who around you is without? What are you passionate about and how can you use that to bring someone new into the family of God?

Who needs you to adopt them today?

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Joy Comes In The Mourning

Joy Comes In The Mourning

It was a Friday afternoon in February of 2000 when my life suddenly changed forever. 

I’ll never forget the phone call that came after business hours. I was in my office with coworkers and picked up after the first ring. The voice at the other end of the line was my children’s father, my ex-husband.

His voice was filled with concern as he said, “Sharon, you need to sit down.” Of course I didn’t as I recall…and then he said bluntly as if he had to say it before he couldn’t, “Chris is dead.”

I remember being stunned and confused about the words before they sank in, wondering why he would say such a horrible thing. I even remember asking, “Are you sure?” which I know was my mind begging for one more moment of not knowing. My knees weakened as he finished telling me what he knew about what had happened.

He had been out of town on business and upon returning, found our oldest son alone and gone from this world. Mercifully, gratefully, he had gone home to be with Jesus and that ray of Hope would be the shred of life that would survive while my heart and mind pulled on a shroud of deep black darkness.

The next few days I lived the nightmare of my greatest fear since becoming a mother, losing one of my boys. My heart was filled with infinitely more pain than my fear of it ever had. I isolated myself most of the time as family and friends came to the house offering condolences but I wanted to be alone…in my darkness. Even though I took comfort in knowing Chris was a believer and I would be reunited with him in heaven, my mother’s heart was aching and struggling with accepting he was gone from this earth.

Since Chris was an otherwise healthy 24 year old, his father insisted on an autopsy. The following
Monday was a holiday, so in short the funeral was postponed until almost a week later. I’m not sure how, but it was arranged and attended by more than 800 people I was told.

I can recall only bleak snapshots of that miserable week of waiting…my dad sitting in my living room in the navy tapestry wingback staring blankly overcome by grief, food piled up on every countertop and bulging from the refrigerator, and our house busy with well meaning guests. Then I woke up in the emergency room after blacking out for an extended period of time. I remember hoping to see Chris one more time and for some strange reason thought he was at the hospital. In times of deep sorrow and shock, your mind takes strange pathways.

In the following month, there were many beautiful cards, (I still have every one of them), visits and frequent phone calls of consolation. I returned to work way too soon because I didn’t know what else to do. Sorrow and emptiness became my new painful normal.

Grief is exhausting…not only emotionally but physically as well.

I often tried to pray, but the prayers never seemed to make it above the ceiling. Even though Chris’s dad was very angry at God for the untimely death of our son, for some reason, I never was. But I couldn’t feel His Presence.

Weeks turned into months and months into two years. Cards and visits had long since stopped. Everyone had resumed their own lives. The cruel emotions of hurt and self pity were added to the suffering because I felt so alone in my sorrow.

Sadness. Loneliness. Fear. Dread. Pain. Despair. PURE DARKNESS…EMPTINESS.

And then one Sunday morning we were getting ready for church. I was weary and worn thin from the weight of my grief. I had prayed to die so many times, but this morning, I literally looked toward heaven and cried out loud in total desperation, “God, please replace this horrible darkness and grief with some kind of joy!”

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That morning, as I sat in the comfortable stadium seat of our church with hundreds of others, the message was entitled…
“Where Do You Turn When Life’s Not Working?”

I don’t know if there was a single other person in that congregation who needed to hear those words more than I did. I felt as if they had been eternally penned for me. I knew in the depths of my soul that it was God’s answer to my desperate plea earlier that morning, delivered by His obedient servant, a pastor I hardly even knew.

The message clearly charted the course of the healing power of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. As the words washed over me, I experienced a lifting in my soul. That day I actually felt for the first time the warmth of His Loving Arms enveloping me. I saw a beam of His Radiant Light shining from the far end of the heinous darkness in which I had hidden for the past two years. I saw Him…I felt Hope.

It’s not that I had never heard the things that were presented in that timely message. It’s that I had not chosen them as my foundational truths. I had spent a lifetime of self will ignoring the very thing that sustains us through times like this.

God loves us and is constantly pursuing His independent self willed creation.

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He already knows every detail of your struggle and is patiently waiting for you to turn to Him for help.

Even though I had experienced salvation at the age of eight, and had been in church most of my life, I confess I had not invested in my relationship with my Heavenly Father and had grown very little spiritually. My quiet times were never very quiet and those spent in His Word were hurried and rushed. There is no wonder why my faith was so shallow…

I trusted Him with my eternity through my salvation experience but thought I could handle the “living on planet earth” on my own!

Simply put, when faced with the most difficult challenge of my life, I had chosen darkness instead of His Healing Light!

During those two years, many times, I had begged God to let me die, to be free of the pain. But He had chosen not to answer those misplaced prayers.

He did not send His Son to die so that we would be left in darkness!

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The awakening that day was only the beginning of my healing. Over time, the hole in my heart was graciously being filled with His Truth and Promises as I spent time with Him, meditating on His Word. Leaning on Him for my strength and direction was infinitely the better choice…it was filled with hope and the blossoming of joy and new life.

One day as I was in His Word, He gently reminded me that He had also lost His Son and He knew exactly how I felt.IMG_4958 2
And there it was, the very essence of Truth that sponged up the last ounce of my self pity. How could I have ever felt alone? The Creator of the universe, my Heavenly Father, knew how I felt. He had never forsaken me. I had NEVER been alone.

The realization of His intimacy flooded over me! I finally knew in my heart that throughout every moment of the journey since that Friday afternoon phone call, He had been right by my side. I had missed the miracle of it because of my foolish self will.

I realized His desire for me to live was a blessing. He was not finished with my story. He wanted me to share it and His message of hope with the world!

Would I have ever wished my son would die? Of course not, no mother would. But I will tell you that had I not gone through the devastation of losing him, I may never have ever known the glorious riches of walking with my Lord and Savior!

Someone said, “He never wastes a hurt.”

So be encouraged no matter what you may face, THE God of the universe loves you. So much so that He sent His only Son to die for you. There is nothing too big or bad for His sacrificial Love to cover. You only have to trust and receive His beautiful Gift of Salvation.

Life is full of crossroads and choices…choose life! Let Him lead you into His Marvelous Light!

He is a good good Father and His Mercies are new every morning!

In the past fourteen years, I still grieve over Chris but I have also experienced more Joys than I could have ever imagined because I opened my heart up to Him. Please don’t miss it! He will give you joy in your mourning too. Let Him have that chance. Open your heart up to Him…and ask Him.

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Dear our precious Heavenly Father,

We thank you for your love, your faithfulness, and your son Jesus who died for us. We thank you for the person who is reading this post. I pray for the one who is struggling to open her heart up to you in her time of pain and grief. Please soften her heart to want to know you. Give her a hunger for your word. Give her your peace, your rest, and your comfort as she prays and cries out to you. Give her a humble and open heart that is ready to receive your joy and blessings and lean into you every day so that as you carry her, she finds her rest in you. Amen.

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Sharon

Blessings of a Full Dishwasher

Blessings of a Full Dishwasher

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I opened my dishwasher on a Friday afternoon and my eyes filled with tears. But not for the usual reasons. Not because it melted yet another one of my son’s favorite sippy cups. Not because I was so weary of housework that I barely had enough energy to unload it. Not because I’m a wife and mother of two small children, which meant the burden of most of the household responsibilities fell on me and I was feeling sorry for myself again.

Not this time.

No, this time things were different. This time, my tears were tears of joy…and thanksgiving.

I was emotional over a full dishwasher because it meant things had finally changed. We had one more person at the dinner table where there once was an excruciating void.

My husband had come home.

Just four months earlier, my husband of 14 happy years walked out. I was left alone and confused and betrayed. I was served divorce papers. I was left to care for our children on my own. My heart was shattered. I had been told I wasn’t loved by the one person I loved the most. I had been rejected and abandoned.

But not by my Jesus.

He held my hand and my heart. He whispered promises into my very soul. He sent his people to care for me, encourage me, and pray for me. He comforted my children. He provided our every need. He spoke life and truth to me daily through his word. He told me not to give up.

What happened?

My husband came back…in fact, he came home with a new light in his eyes and a fire in his spirit.

Jesus had been working in him just as he had been working in me.

God rescued him and made him a new creation. What I heard God whisper as I fell on my face before Him so many times was true. All things are possible through Christ who gives me strength.

It took a battle like that to open my eyes.

I have a different perspective today. God has placed His divine, unconditional love in my heart. He has restored and renewed my marriage and my family. It took the worst experience of my life to change my perspective.

I know now

A full dishwasher means there have been meals shared on actual plates with conversations and warmth and a sense of family. It means we are blessed with food to eat and more importantly, people to share it with.

Serving my family and loving them as imperfect as they are is a joy, not a burden.

Laundry overflowing means I have a house full of people to love. People who play hard and experience much and have the wrinkles and stains to prove it.

A mess of toys all over my living room floor means I am blessed with children who won’t be children for long, but who find joy and happiness and laughter in my home.

A husband who keeps me awake with his snoring means I share my bed and my heart with someone who has chosen to be there. Someone who continues to choose to be there, no matter how much work it takes to be able to crawl into that bed night after night.

Wives. Mothers. Women. I know many of you today are battling in the trenches facing difficulties in your marriage or with your children, dealing with the busyness of life, the stresses, the fatigue, the worry. I encourage you today…Don’t Give Up! Pray for your family. Fight for them. And…

Strive for a heart like Jesus.

Strive to see and love your family and others the way He sees and loves you.

“God can raise marriages from the dead and He can restore life and purpose to those who have given up. He can forgive and purify the vilest sinner. God’s specialty is raising dead things to life and making impossible things possible. You don’t have a need that exceeds His power.” – Beth Moore

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No matter what you are battling today, never give up. Let Him fight for you. He will reward you for your faithfulness because you are His child.

“Let us not be weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”  Galatians 6:9

BraveGirl Robyn

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