Reflections: The Woman God Sees

I spoke to 70 women at our church’s Women’s Day Retreat. The following is the message that I shared with them. I edited out a few details to protect the privacy of personal history of people mentioned:

Let me begin by telling you two stories… Listen for which one you relate to the most…

Once upon a time there was a girl who was raised by Christian parents who loved her and her siblings very much. She asked Jesus into her heart when she was four years old and she was baptized when she was eight years old. She had several strong Christian role models in her life; including her grandparents, who would travel halfway across the country to spend time with her family. Throughout her younger years, the girl had several close friends who she remains in contact with now that she is an adult. During elementary school years, she looked forward to going to church camp every year. During middle and high school years, she enjoyed going to youth groups every week. She loved to sing solos or with worship teams and choirs and still loves to sing as an adult. She also enjoyed going on local, short term, and overseas mission trips. As an adult, she married a Christian man in the military, went to college, traveled the world, has had several fulfilling jobs, and has several children. She served as a Women’s Ministry Director at a church she attended. She has lead and facilitated Bible Study groups at churches and at her home. Over the years, she has mentored several women and teen girls. She currently serves in various jobs, ministries, and volunteer positions within her community.

That sounds like a pretty good life right? Maybe it is similar to your story?

Maybe you don’t relate to that at all. Maybe you will relate better to the next story…

Once upon a time there was a girl who grew up in a poor household. Her father almost died of a chronic condition when she was a toddler. Fortunately, her father recovered but the problems did not end there. The family constantly struggled financially with lack of money. The girl’s mother struggled with severe depression due to an abusive childhood and a stressful marriage. As the oldest of four, the girl often cared for the kids when the parents were not able to care for them. When the girl was 13, her parents divorced and her mother got re-married a year later. During her middle school and high school years the girl always looked for love from the various boyfriends she had. She started smoking cigarettes in secret with her friends. She rebelled against her parents with a bad attitude and anger outbursts. She got married as soon as she was able to at age 20 because she wanted to get away from her dysfunctional childhood and be on her own. She quickly realized that she carried her childhood baggage into her marriage. She experienced a very bad car accident with a semi-truck resulting in chronic pain. She had several miscarriages. She and her husband worked difficult jobs on different shifts and they hardly ever saw each other. They both allowed sin to creep into their lives, and as a result they were on the verge of divorce when her husband got notice that they were moving overseas for his job. During their attempt to reconcile, they got pregnant again. They decided to stay together and moved overseas and had two children. However, they never really resolved their sin issues and their marriage hit rock bottom. She continued to allow anger and bitterness invade her life.

You would not want to be that woman right? Which story do you relate to the most?

What if I told you that both stories describe the life of same woman?

What if I told you that… I am that woman.

Before you knew my story, you may have had preconceived notions of who I was based on the persona that I put forward in public… the smile on my face, my answers in Bible study, a brief conversation in the church hallway, what I write on my blog. You may have assumed I had a decent life based on the little that you knew about me. Does it shock you now that you know the truth? Now that you know that there is more to my story? My dysfunctional childhood, the pain of loosing unborn babies, the heartache of a marriage hitting rock bottom due to sin my husband and I allowed into our lives?

It is a misconception that Christians are supposed to have a perfect life and are perfect people.

Even though we often portray our best in public, we often put forward a persona that we want other people to see while hiding the struggles, heartaches, and sins that we are dealing with in private or within our home. Maybe you really have had a great overall life! But I can guarantee that every single one of us has had to go through a valley that makes us feel completely ugly, alone, depressed, and separated from God.

The stain of sin has ruined every person on earth. If you have ever hit rock bottom, you know that it is the worst hopeless feeling in the world. You feel like there is no way out. You feel like a minute in time is an eternity. You feel like you cannot continue on your own. You feel like you are not enough. Maybe, you are in the bottom of this pit right now.

Let me tell you a little secret: You will never be able to get out of your pit on your own. You may try different things that seem to work but eventually everything that you try to do will fall short.

God never promised that we would always be happy or have perfect lives when we have Jesus as our Savior;

instead he uses Paul’s testimony to tell us that Christians can have hardships far beyond our ability to endure. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1:8-11:

“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.”

Through our hardships; God wants us to fully rely on him so that he can deliver us and heal us. God wants to draw us into a closer relationship with him. He will always rescue us but sometimes it is in the midst of our hardships. He doesn’t always remove us from circumstances but allows us to go through them in order to draw us nearer to Him.

Remember when I said that you cannot get out of your pit on your own?

The good news is that JESUS can carry you out of your pit! JESUS can walk beside you through the valley. JESUS can fill the hopelessness in your life. JESUS can blot out the sins in your life.

One of my favorite Bible verses is:

Isaiah 40:29-31 “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

el-roi

Our theme for this retreat is: “Reflections: The Woman God Sees.” The name of God “El Roi” means “the God who sees me.” This name was only used in the Bible once in Genesis 16:13:

“She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”

An Egyptian slave woman named Hagar gave this name to God when she was alone in the desert. When she was completely hopeless in the circumstances that she was facing, God answered her cry for help. God saw her right where she was. Although Hagar is the only woman recorded in the Bible praying to “El Roi,” there are several other women in the Bible who also went through hardships and hopeless circumstances. God saw them too and he answered them and delivered them.

Ruth: a pagan widowed woman moved to a foreign land with her mother-in-law after her husband died. Facing famine and ruin, she chose to follow the God of the Hebrews. She was rescued and married by a kinsmen redeemer. Her son, Obed, is in the lineage of Christ.

Esther: a Jewish girl who was taken from her family to be in the king’s harem. She eventually earned the king’s favor and became a queen “for such a time as this.” She fasted and prayed for God to deliver her people who were sentenced to death. God provided a way for the people to defend themselves against those that would try to kill them.

Bathsheba: a married woman whose husband was away at war, committed adultery with King David (whether by force or by consent we do not know). After she got pregnant, the king had her husband killed and then married her. Due to their sin, they lost their baby. Due to their repentance, their second son, Solomon, later became king and is in the lineage of Christ.

New Testament Women, there are too many to mention but here are a few that stand out in my mind in no particular order:

Mary and Martha: were sisters who along with their brother Lazarus were close friends with Jesus and his disciples. They often hosted them in their home. When Lazarus was dying, they sent word to Jesus in hopes that he would make it in time to heal him. Jesus arrived after Lazarus had already been in the tomb for several days. In their grief, Mary and Martha questioned Jesus’ timing. When he raised Lazarus from the grave, he showed them that he cared for them and that there is a purpose for the difficulties that we face.

The Samaritan woman has had 5 husbands and was currently living with a man not her husband. Jesus met her at the well as she was drawing water during a time that was not typical for women to get water. She was avoiding being around other women who would gossip and shame her. Jesus not only spoke to her, which was not typical of a man or rabbi to do, but he also saw into her heart and gave her the living water of hope, forgiveness, and salvation.

The unnamed woman with the issue of blood: We know that she had a constant menstrual bleeding and hemorrhaging that lasted for 12 years. This made her “unclean” in the Jewish culture and everyone and everything that she touched would also be unclean. She would not have been allowed in the temple. People would have shunned her. As Jesus passed by, she recognized that he could heal her. She moved through the crowd and was able to touch the hem of his garment. Which means by the time she got to him, she was crawling on the ground… I wonder if it is because she was so faint from blood loss or if it is because the crowd was trying to push her away. Jesus stopped walking and turned to the woman saying that her faith had made her well. After 12 years of suffering, she was healed because she had faith enough to reach out to Jesus.

We all have to climb different mountains and walk (maybe crawl) through different valleys.

Over the years I have reconciled with my parents. God healed my mom of her depression and she is an amazing living testimony of how God can bring someone out of a pit. My husband and I will be celebrating fifteen years of marriage in a couple of weeks and we have three beautiful children. It took a long time for my husband and I to get to where we are today. God did not heal our wounds overnight and God still allowed us to suffer through additional heartaches and trials. I still have to deal with my sin stronghold of anger on almost a daily basis. I often struggle with complacency with my relationship with Jesus. However, God is continuously working on me. I can look back over past circumstances and see God’s presence in a way that I did not see him at the time. Knowing that he carried me out of my pits and through my valleys, allows me to trust in him whenever I face a new trial. It also allows me to minister to women who face similar trials that I have faced in the past.

I want you to know that God sees you.

God hears you.

God knows YOUR name.

God loves you.

Zephaniah 3:17 says: “The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”

Have faith and reach out to the God of the universe. Allow him to meet you right where you are.

Pray with me the following verse:

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” Psalm 51:10-12

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“El ROI” image found here.

“The Woman God Sees” graphic downloaded from CTA.

Love Without Limits- Free Book Giveaway!

UPDATE:

CONGRATULATIONS TO EMMA

WINNER OF THE BOOK GIVEAWAY!

PLEASE E-MAIL ME WITH YOUR MAILING ADDRESS WITHIN 5 DAYS AT:

hearttreasurescontact@yahoo.com

*****

RESULTS FROM RANDOM.ORG:

There were 2 items in your list. Here they are in random order:

1. Emma
2. Shannon

Timestamp: 2015-01-27 19:00:41 UTC

*****

This book by: Nick Vujicic with Kanae Vujicic is labeled as “A Remarkable Story of True Love Conquering All.” Many people are already familiar with Nick Vujicic’s testimony of being born without limbs. He is an inspirational and motivational speaker and is not shy about sharing his life story and how God has used him. This book shares the story of how he met his wife Kanae, about the birth of their son Kiyoshi, and the ups and downs that they have faced managing life in the public’s eye. It shares Nick and Kanae’s personal perspective, insight, and advice on a number of topics. They focus on how Christ has influenced their dating, marriage, and family life.

Although I knew about Nick Vujicic’s story from news articles and you-tube videos, I have not read any of his other books. He did a good job of sharing parts of his testimony, before meeting Kanae, that I assume were written in previous books. There were still times that I felt like I didn’t know the full story. This book is absolutely a stand alone book, I just found myself interested in knowing more about his life before meeting his wife. Both Nick and Kanae write throughout the book and the transitions from one person to the other are clear. The authors write as if they are speaking directly to the reader which makes you feel like you are having a conversation with them. I felt that this book was geared toward singles or newly married couples. I do not feel like I gained any new information or applicable advice for my personal life since I have already lived the dating life, have been married for almost 13 years, and have 2 elementary age children (as well as 2 teenaged foreign exchange students). Still their story was an interesting read and definitely inspirational. I would recommend this book for anyone who is interested in a real life love story that has overcome the odds.

In accordance with the Federal Trade Commission I am required to disclose that WaterBrook Press provided this book for free in exchange for my review. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are my own. 

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Order at Christian Book Distributors through the following link!

I get credit for all purchases made through my CBD links!

Love Without Limits: A Remarkable Story of True Love Conquering All

By Nick & Kanae Vujicic / WaterBrook Press

lgsquare

 *****

FREE BOOK GIVEAWAY

To be entered in the giveaway:

1. Post a link to my blog to your blog, facebook, etc.  

This post:  https://alysasawyer.wordpress.com/2015/01/19/love-without-limits-free-book-giveaway/

or Home Page:  https://alysasawyer.wordpress.com

2. Comment on this blog post to let me know 1. where you posted my blog link! 2. Why you want to win this book! (Only one comment per person please.)

3. Entries will be accepted until midnight Sunday, January 25, 2015. I will insert all entries into http://www.random.org and whoever randomly gets the #1 spot will win the book!

4. On Monday, January 26, 2015 the top of this post will be updated with the announcement of the winner.

5. Winner must e-mail me with mailing address within 5 days of announcement otherwise the book will be sent to a new winner. hearttreasurescontact@yahoo.com

Disclaimer: Remember this is a free giveaway at my expense, therefore, Heart Treasures Blog is not responsible for loss or damage of the giveaway item(s). Giveaway open only to residents of the United States (unless you have a US Military address such as APO, FPO, etc. -OR- I know you personally.)

My Valley

Several years ago, I shared part of my personal testimony as a Mother’s Day post (you can see original post here). A couple of weeks ago, I had an opportunity to share a devotional with my women’s Bible study group. A few days before I had to share,  I had a pretty personal conversation with Noriko that lead to me sharing my testimony with the women (most of which had not heard it before). I did make some changes from my original post but most of it is unchanged or just rearranged. I did not share all of this with Noriko [my exchange student from Japan who was with us during the 2013/2014 school year] just the parts below that I specifically mention her. So here is what I shared with my friends:

I was saved as a young child and grew up in a Christian but very dysfunctional home. As the oldest of 4 kids I had to grow up way too quickly while we dealt with severe illnesses, divorce, remarriages, constant moves, financial insecurity, and a whole lot more. When I was young; all I wanted in life was to get married and have kids. I dated several guys throughout high school and had serious relationship my senior year and after high school another serious relationship that lead to engagement. Shane and I started dating a few months after my previous engagement ended. We got married in 2002. I jumped into a marriage expecting it to cure all of life’s problems but I carried a lot of my childhood baggage with me. I quickly found out that life’s problems didn’t go away just because I switched households and who I was accountable to. We had a great first year of marriage. After that our careers (Shane-Military & Me-Nursing) and different shifts carried us in different directions and from there our marriage went downhill on so many different levels. We also experienced several difficulties which included me being in a major car accident which God totally and graciously spared my life. In February 2005; I found out that I was pregnant. I had always wanted children and was very excited. I called and told a lot of my family and friends as soon as I found out. My excitement was soon crushed with pain and bleeding. At first the doctor didn’t say for sure that I was miscarrying. But as a nurse who had worked in the OB-GYN field, I knew what was going on. In my pain and while I was still hoping for the best; I wrote the following poem:

My Valley

As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death;

You give me strength to sing.

Only you know why I am going through this trial.

I can rest in your comforting arms.

Not knowing what the future holds for this life inside of me;

I give this child to you.

Like Hannah gave you Samuel before he was born,

Like Abraham gave you Isaac before the sacrifice,

I trust your will.

When I rest upon wings as eagles;

You will give me strength.

I shall run through this valley and not be weary.

I shall walk and not be faint.

When I found out that I was pregnant again in November of 2005; I was cautious and did not let everyone know. So when I miscarried again; I did not have to explain to a lot of people who offered their congratulations like the first time. During that time and for several months after; our marriage was in turmoil because of sin that Shane and I each individually had let into our lives. We almost got divorced but during the time we were trying to reconcile we got pregnant for a third time in May of 2006. I believe that God used that pregnancy to keep us together.

We moved to Okinawa, Japan where Kendal and later Audrey was born. For seven months after Audrey was born; I dealt with medical issues including a couple of surgeries. On top of that; our family experienced another major marriage crisis and I started to fall into depression. In 2009, we left Okinawa for about a month and went home to deal with our family situation. During that experience I started to learn what it meant to fully rely on God for comfort and strength.

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In the years since then I have been allowing God to work on me in a way that I never have before that year. The biggest continuing struggle for me has been the anger and bitterness in my life. Each time I experienced a crisis it just added to the problem. I have been able to truly forgive those who have hurt me just like Jesus forgave me on the cross. And I have been able to make time to focus on my relationship with God and my family. I journey with God regularly by praying, writing, singing, and accountability and He continues to heal me on a daily basis. I have not made it to where I need to be yet; but I am daily running the race and pressing towards the goal of being more Christlike. Through everything; God has continued to bless me, my marriage, and my family as a whole.

A few days ago, Noriko (my exchange student) and I had a conversation that inspired me to share all of this with you. Keep in mind that often when we have to explain things to her we have to continuously use her translator for words or concepts she is unfamiliar with. So it is not always a quick explanation. She was asking why Americans have middle names. This led into me explaining that we often choose names based on meaning or family connection. Audrey means Noble Woman and her middle name, Lynae, pays tribute to both my mom whose middle name is Lynn and Shane’s mom who’s first name is Lynn. I told Noriko that Kendal’s name was even more meaningful and explained to her that I had lost 2 babies through miscarriage before she was born. We chose the name Kendal back during our first miscarriage based on the poem which I wrote “as I walk through the valley of death”. In one name book; the meaning for Kendal is: “Ruler of the valley.” We thought that it would be a fitting name for a baby who overcame the valley of death and lived. Noriko seemed to be in awe over all of this.

At the end of my poem I referenced my favorite Bible verses Isaiah 40:29-31 “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

While I was Okinawa, I found a plaque that has the passage in both English and Japanese which is now hanging in our hallway. I showed it to Noriko and after she read it, I explained that when we are tired and broken and are going through things that bring us down, we put our trust in Jesus and he carries us back up so that we can fly again. In response, Noriko said that she likes Christian thinking 🙂

So in conclusion, I would like to emphasize that I give God all of the glory for continuing to work in my life through my trials. My message to all of you is God never promised that we would always be happy when we have Jesus as our Savior; instead he uses Paul’s testimony to tell us that Christians can have hardships far beyond our ability to endure.

In 2 Corinthians 1:8-11 Paul says “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.”

Through our hardships; God wants us to fully rely on him so that he can deliver us and heal us. God wants to draw us into a closer relationship with him. He will always rescue us but sometimes it is in the midst of our hardships. He doesn’t always remove us from circumstances but allows us to go through them in order to draw us nearer to Him. And he can always use our testimonies to impact other people and draw them into His kingdom.

(Eagle Photo found here)

True Beauty (Mother’s Day Series- 4)

Mother’s Day is finally here and as Pastor Brian pointed out in today’s sermon; Mother’s Day does not only celebrate moms but all women. I pray that all of you have had (or will have) a blessed day! If you missed any previous posts in my Mother’s Day Series; see the bottom of this post for links to them. Today, I would like to take some time to honor my moms (yes, I said: “moms”). Also, I have a guest writer further down that I will introduce in a couple of minutes.

There was a lot of bad things that went on throughout my childhood; but God put a strong woman in my life who got us through them all. My mom’s strength and faith kept our family moving forward even through the lowest points of life. Until recently my relationship with my mom was always rocky. As the oldest (I have 2 sisters and a brother); I had to grow up quickly and learned how to be independent at an early age. I don’t know where, when, or why my anger started to be a major oppression for me. But, I do know that a lot of it is because of the hardships our family endured as I was growing up. My mom did not have a Godly example for a mother as she grew up. When she raised us; she relied on the example of Godly women who God placed in her life at various times. She was never perfect but I know that she did the best that she knew how. She always put her children before herself; often sacrificing more than most moms do. As we have watched our mom; we have also grown to be strong and full of faith. Her example of what a Godly woman should be; will forever be the reason that all of us are serving God today. Thank you mom. I love you!

God put another strong woman in my life who became my step-mom. Because I was already an adult when she and my dad got married; she did not have the chance to actually be a mother to me. Instead she became a friend. She was unable to have children of her own; but God provided her with 4 from another family who she could call daughters and son. Even though she is no longer married to my dad; she is still a friend, a mom, and grandmother as far as we are concerned. I hope that she knows how blessed we are to have her in our lives.

We have all heard horror stories about in-laws. I never assumed that I would have a good relationship with the mother of whoever I married. But God had a different plan. He gave me another strong woman of faith who has to be the best mother-in-law in the world (I have the best father-in-law too)! I know that she loves me like she loves her own daughters. She has been supportive of me in good and bad times. I’m not sure that she has completely forgiven me for giving birth to and keeping her only granddaughters in Japan but since we have skype she doesn’t complain (too much :)). I am truly blessed to have her as another mom.

God also blessed me with a Godly heritage from my Grandma (and Grandpa) and other women in my family. Thank you for always being there and supporting me through prayer and encouragement. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention all of the other wonderful Godly women who have become my family. They will always be apart of my family no matter where they live or how often I will see them. So that I don’t offend (in case I accidently miss someone); I am not going to post names. But most of you should know who you are. If we ever had a deep emotional conversation (laughing and/or crying), if you have at some point held me accountable by asking the tough questions or confronting my sins, if you ever listened to me as I leaned on you and cried my way through a painful moment in life; then you are one of these women. Thank you!

I am going to stop tearing up now and end on a more humorous note. Remember those Kendal Bloopers that I posted last month? Well today; Shane sneakingly gave Kendal a rose to give to me (and of course, I did not notice it behind his back before he gave it to her). She handed it to me and said, “Happy Mother’s Day”. I said, “Thank you! Its so pretty! Did you get this for me?” Kendal immediately and excitedly replied with, “No Mama, it’s my pretty flower. Daddy gave it to me!”

Now I would like to introduce you to my husband Shane;

who graciously honored my request to write a message for my blog today.

As long as I can remember my mom has been my biggest fan. In good times and bad, in right, and especially in wrong. She was always in my corner. Through her love and even her discipline; she did her part to raise me and make me the man I am today.

I later got married and found myself with yet another mom in my life. I was in awe of her strength and virtue. I don’t believe that I could “do no wrong” in her eyes (because I most certainly have). But I do believe that she never turned her back on me. Even when I was at my worst.

It must have been gut wrenching for my mother to watch me grow, invest time and energy into my life, only to let me go. I can honestly say that my mother did her job well in preparing me for that next chapter in life; but I didn’t really understand forgiveness until I met my mother in-law at my darkest hours in life. When I turned my back on my family, they both loved me through it. Though probably not “my biggest fan” they were one of my biggest supporters. Through both these lady’s example; my wonderful wife has learned how to be a woman and a mother of love and virtue. A fact that holds my respect.

My life in the military has allowed me to meet all kinds of people. I’ve been “adopted” over and over again by the families of my buddies. When one of us would go home for the weekend; we would all tag along. This would and probably did overwhelm the families houses we invaded. The couches we’ve slept on and the refrigerators we’ve raided. But the “MA” would love on us and invite us in as if we were her own. What is it about a mom that makes her want to do such a ridiculous thing as to raise more children. In our case, five or six hungry Airmen. I recall one particularly special woman whose hospitality helped me in a time when I was away from the home and life on my own was very new. She brought reliability back into our lives. Because she made it ok for us to to always “come home.” Interactions with my new found brothers at her house will always remain among my fondest of memories. I was deeply pained when I learned she had passed away. Though my pain was not the same as her real family; we all can say that we were truly affected as she was mother to us all.

It would be very easy this time of year, for all of us to get carried away, with yet another “Hallmark holiday” by paying our simple lip service to these ladies. Send them a card, make our  phone call and then go about our day. I challenge you to take this time to reflect on how your mother has helped you to be who you are today. I know that not all families were as complete as mine growing up. Maybe this time of year is yet another painful reminder of this fact. But I submit to you all that whether or not we had a good mother;  she has left an imprint on us in one way or another anyway. The simple fact that she gave us life is good enough for me. It’s what we choose to do with the life she gave us is what makes us who we are today. From her example good or bad we still learn about who we are and who we want to be. I am truly blessed and thankful for all the experiences I’ve had with my mothers. Everything from the good to the not so good has helped me become the husband, the father, and the man that I am today.

My hats off to you ladies. I am your biggest fan. ~~Shane

*****

“Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:

“Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.”

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;

but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” Proverbs 31:28-30

To all of the wonderful women in our lives: HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!

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Mother’s Day Series:

My Valley (Mother’s Day Series-1)

Mommy Brain (Mother’s Day Series-2)

“The Next Survivor Series” (Mother’s Day Series- 3)

My Valley (Mother’s Day Series-1)

Today as the first installment of my Mother’s Day Series; I am going to share with you a good portion of my testimony which I have not really done yet on my blog. Before I start; I would like to emphasize that I give God all of the glory for continuing to work in my life through my trials. God never promised that we would always be happy when we have Jesus as our savior; instead he uses Paul’s testimony to tell us that Christians can have hardships far beyond our ability to endure. Through these hardships; God wants us to fully rely on him so that he can deliver us and heal us.

“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on ourbehalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.”

2 Corinthians 1:8-11

*****

I was saved as a young child and grew up in a Christian but very dysfunctional home. As the oldest of 4 kids I had to grow up way too quickly while we dealt with severe illnesses, divorce, remarriages, constant moves, financial insecurity, and a whole lot more. When I was young; all I wanted in life was to get married and have kids. I dated several guys throughout high school; the most serious relationship being my senior year with a guy that most people thought would last into marriage. When that relationship ended after graduation; a new one soon began with someone else. That guy was older and swept me off my feet into a quick engagement. During the engagement; I was having relationship problems with my parents and was told to find somewhere else to live mainly because of my attitude. I moved in with my best friend for about a week. I continued to try to mend my relationship with my parents even though I was not living at home. My fiance’ wanted me to meet him in Pennsylvania where he was visiting his family. I knew that if I did that; it would be even harder to reconcile with my parents. I felt that he was making me choose between him (who I had known for about 6 months) and my parents. When I insisted on staying in Delaware instead of meeting him in Pennsylvania; I could tell from his tone of voice that the relationship was over. By the time my fiance’ returned from his vacation; I was back in my parents home. We went out one evening and he broke off the engagement. Looking back I think that the Holy Spirit was working on my heart that week.

Shane and I started dating a few months after my previous engagement ended. We have been married since 2002. I jumped into a marriage expecting it to cure all of life’s problems but I carried a lot of my childhood baggage with me. I quickly found out that life’s problems didn’t go away just because I switched households and who I was accountable to. Our best year of marriage was our first. After that our careers (Shane-Military & Me-Nursing) and different shifts carried us in different directions and from there our marriage went downhill on so many different levels. We also experienced several difficulties which included me being in a major car accident (God totally and graciously spared my life). In February 2005; I found out that I was pregnant. I was so excited! I had always wanted children and had begged Shane so many times to start trying since we got married. I called and told a lot of my family and friends as soon as I found out. My excitement was soon crushed with pain and bleeding. At first the doctor’s didn’t say for sure that I was miscarrying. He ran some blood work and I had to repeat the blood work at two day intervals during that week. In my pain and while I was still hoping for the best; I wrote the following poem:

My Valley

As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death;

You give me strength to sing.

Only you know why I am going through this trial.

I can rest in your comforting arms.

Not knowing what the future holds for this life inside of me;

I give this child to you.

Like Hannah gave you Samuel before he was born,

Like Abraham gave you Isaac before the sacrifice,

I trust your will.

When I rest upon wings as eagles;

You will give me strength.

I shall run through this valley and not be weary.

I shall walk and not be faint.

For a long time after my miscarriage; I was in emotional pain. I had a friend who was pregnant during that time and when I could I put my emotions into caring about her pregnancy. I held her baby shower at my house and offered support when I could. One morning I got a call from her right after I left work from an overnight shift (I think it may have been a double shift). She was in labor and asked me to come be with her and her husband in the hospital because her mom was not going to make it into town in time. As tired as I was; I excitedly told her that I would be there. That day was a day that I will always remember. Supporting her during that time was a huge blessing. And witnessing the miracle of a new life come into the world was amazing! Holding that beautiful baby somehow filled a hole in my heart. I don’t think that my friend understands how much God used her in my life.

When I found out that I was pregnant again in November of 2005; I was cautious and did not let everyone know. So when I miscarried again; I did not have to explain to a lot of people who offered their congratulations like the first time. During that time and for several months after; our marriage was in turmoil for several reasons. We almost did not make it before we got pregnant for a third time in May of 2006. I believe that God used that pregnancy to keep us together. We moved to Okinawa, Japan where Kendal was born. We chose the name Kendal back during our first miscarriage. In one name book; the meaning for Kendal is: “Ruler of the valley.” Based on my poem (above); we thought that it would be a fitting name for a baby who overcame the valley of death and lived. Since then God added Audrey to our family as well.

For seven months after Audrey was born; I dealt with medical issues including a couple of surgeries. On top of that; our family experienced another major crisis and I started to fall into depression. We left Okinawa and went home to deal with our family situation. During that experience I started to learn what it meant to fully rely on God for comfort and strength. Since then I have been allowing God to work on me in a way that I never have before. The biggest struggle for me has been the anger and bitterness in my life. Each time I experienced a crisis it just added to the problem. I did a women’s study dealing with anger; and since then I have grown tremendously. I have been able to truly forgive those who have hurt me just like Jesus forgave me on the cross. And I have been able to make time to focus on my relationship with God and my family. I journey with God regularly by praying, writing, and singing and He continues to heal me on a daily basis. I have not made it to where I need to be yet; but I am daily running the race and pressing towards the goal of being more Christlike. Through everything; God has continued to bless me and my family.

*****

My message to Mother’s who have lost children or women who have not been able to have children (or to anyone experiencing hardships):

God wants to draw us into a closer relationship with him. He will always rescue us but sometimes it is in the midst of our hardships. He doesn’t always remove us from circumstances but allows us to go through them in order to draw us nearer to Him. My prayer is that you will find comfort in the arms of Jesus.