Saturday, May 24, 2014

My Panic Attack

     It's been a long year.  If you are unaware, I went through a divorce this year (I realize that may be a shock to some, and I apologize for being so blunt, but it is time).  I've held a lot in over the past 8 months for fear of many things, I've come to a realization that I must share...for me.  Writing is therapeutic and brings personal intimacy with the Lord,'s just time.  The words that follow are from my heart, with the utmost sincerity and love.  I pray they not bruise, offend, or provoke questions, that they somehow give life and hope to someone hurting.

     As I said, it's been a long year.  There has been a great deal of loss.  Not only was there the loss of our family unit (regardless of the health or condition),  we've lost in-laws, a ministry, a church family, and in some instances reputation.  It has not been easy.  I've had my salvation questioned, my fidelity, my honor, my sincerity, my character, my heart all doubted .  All of this, while being roughly 300 miles from my parents, my main support system.  I did well to hold it together this long.

     My friend Audra has been one of the people to brave the shadows with me.  She has spoken the truth even when it pains her and has been gracious enough to let me know that I didn't have the luxury of falling apart.  I have four children, am now a single mom with a household to run, and a job I must keep to tend all of the above.  If you have ever been through a divorce, you know the weight, the turmoil, heartache, guilt and struggle (again, regardless of the circumstances surrounding it).  It's hard.  This past week, I finally came undone.  I experienced three of the most difficult days of my life.

      Unfortunately for me, I was at school when my panic attack first came on.  I was in the middle of teaching math to my 2nd graders when something triggered a wave of fear and anxiety.  My stomach turned to knots, I was incredibly nauseated and couldn't stop crying.  It was awful.  Thankfully my principal was gracious enough to send me home, but it didn't end there.  This episode literally lasted for the next two days.

      I share all of this, not to out myself as a crazy person, but to say, "It happened, it hurt, yet God is still good."  And, I know that I am not alone in my experience.  I have been so fearful for months of really talking about my divorce, afraid of the judgment and persecution.  Afraid of people seeing me differently or thinking less of me.  The sad truth is, many people already have.  And it has been painful.

      I can't begin to describe for you the heartache my family has experienced over the past several months.  Until you walk through the mud personally, you never really understand how dirty those trenches are.  You don't truly know the grief and questions and fear that can make a home in a divorced person's heart, until you are one.  I never thought this would be part of my story, yet here I am.  And God is still good.

    So, what have I learned through this process?  A lot. I've learned that one can find strength they didn't even know they had.  I've learned that you find out who your true friends are in the most difficult times because, quite honestly, most people don't want to get your mess on their hands.  I've learned that God is gracious and puts specific people in our lives to love us when we need literal arms around us and kisses on our forehead.  I've learned there is beauty in the most simple of things, like a sunset or long drive or favorite song.  I've learned that life is REALLY hard, divorce is painful, but it's not the end.  There is more to the story because God redeems and makes beauty from ashes.  I've learned that He is near to the brokenhearted and longs to bring dancing where there was once deep sadness.  He brings life out of the death.  He brings hope out of the despair.  He is STILL good.



Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Battle

 ~ Be careful how you treat people, everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. ~

                There are battles that we all face. We are each spirit, mind, and flesh.  Each of these can work against one another or as a cohesive unit to fight our battle.  There is a war that wages on whether you are aware of it or not; a war for your soul, a war for your heart.  These are the core of our being as God’s creation.   It was by His grand design.  He made us to be a needy people, incapable of saving ourselves.  Unable to be even in our strength, what He will so willingly be in our weakness.

                 The battle rages on for our spirit because it controls the rest of us. The word is faithful to remind us that our flesh is in submission to our spirit or the other way around.  It cannot be both.   This battle is inevitable.  It is true for you, it is true for me.  There is no denying it.  You may choose not to acknowledge it, but it prevails nonetheless.  It is symbolic of the darkness of Mordor and the cherished light of Rivendell from The Lord of the Rings. It is a battle of good versus evil, dark versus light, life versus death.
           No battle would exist without warriors to fight.  We all are warriors of some kind.  There are those warriors who freeze from fear that either die quickly or are severely wounded.  They shake in their boots with timidity.  They may have an attempt at victory, if they can muster up the courage to strike at all.  They feel weak and uncertain and eventually taken captive by the enemy.  There are others still who rush in with oceans of nerve and audacity and no fear of death. They are tireless and fierce, pursuing the enemy from every angle and allowing no opportunity for his advantage.  They slash and pierce with every single ounce of their might. By their very presence, their fellow soldiers feel brave. There is a third kind of warrior.  This warrior knows the battle at hand and he knows he must fight in the face of his own fear.  He chooses not to shake but to cover his flesh in armor.  He attaches it piece by piece with full certainty before picking up his sword.  With sword in hand and hellacious grip, he ties on his blindfold.  He knows that he cannot see through his eyes of flesh.  They blind him.  He understands this war has eternal consequences and that only the Keeper of the battle can ultimately carry him through.  His spirit must be quiet; he must listen for the Keeper’s voice.  He cries out for vision, for strength, and aid from the Keeper.  He charges forward with power in the face of the unknown.  One step after the other, he is able to fight.  He knows that as he moves on foot, the next step will be before him.  He does not back down.  He does not tire.  He allows his armor to be his protection and the Keeper to be his sight.  He does not know how long the battle will last, He does not know how many injuries he will sustain, he rests in knowing the Keeper will never leave him and the Keeper will have victory upon the final swing.    
           Even the most valiant warrior does not leave the battle without bruise or injury.  This is common to all men.  There are some battles though, that no one else can see, the ones that we fight privately through unknown tears and sorrow.  Some fight secret addictions they think no one will understand.  Others fall victim to behaviors they think no one would believe.  There’s bankruptcy, neglect, gluttony, alcoholism, sex, abuse, adultery, materialism, drugs, pornography, promiscuity, perversity, laziness, selfishness, vanity, an idolatrous heart.  I would wager a great amount that most of these battles do not come alone.  They sometimes intermingle, sometimes intertwine.  Why is it that we so often fight these silently?  Why do we feel such fear of judgment, rejection, and isolation?  Even the most righteous person battles a secret sin.  If they are a very mature believer, their sin may “appear” less egregious, but all sin is rooted deep within the heart. 
The Lord sees the battle that rages within us, the battle for morality and holiness.  He is the author but more importantly, the FINISHER of that battle.  I desire deeply that we would fight together.  My heart so longs that we would be brothers and sisters in arms, putting on our armor together, believing for one another, what we may not have the faith to believe for ourselves.  I pray we could tirelessly sharpen one another with words of truth, words of life.  There are a great deal of battles we could never attempt on our own even if we so desired. 

Do you know?  Do you know what your coworker walked through before arriving to work today?  Do you know what the girl who always smiles endures behind closed doors?  Do you know that man who is so consumed by pornography he has lost touch with reality and bears so much shame he can barely stand?  Do you know the person who is buried beneath layers and layers of deception hoping to be invisible?  Have you seen the man who is so entangled in such a web of lies he can no longer tell his left from his right?  Can you imagine the terror and confusion of the person whose voice has been taken by another or the nightmare the person sitting next to your will endure when they get home?

There is great comfort in the future kingdom.  One day it will be finished.  One day all will be revealed and the seemingly unconquerable will be eradicated.  Victory is certain and the ultimate purpose revealed.  Temptation will no longer overwhelm, sin no longer defeat.  Until that day, I pray for the grace to be an honorable warrior; one that will so willingly take on the blind fold to hear my Keeper’s voice.  I hope I can be a warrior that leaps in faith when I cannot see the ground beneath me. I want to trust His sovereignty, even when the pain of the unknown feels debilitating.  The gospel is a lavish mystery that is beyond comprehension.  It requires faith.  It requires surrender and sacrifice and seemingly impossible humility.  It offers the armor necessary to survive the battle.  We have a great King who has already completed it.  We have a Heavenly Father who binds up the brokenhearted and tends every wound.  We have a Holy Spirit who will gently whisper in our ear which way to step, shout if He must.  He is for us.  He equips us and goes before us and brings light to the darkest of places.  The Lord IS the light that intends to fill our soul.  He IS the salve intended to cover our wounds.  He is the WARRIOR who fights on our behalf.  Our Defender, our Protector.  The coming of His kingdom is the reason we fight at all, He IS our great Keeper, and in Him, the battle is already won.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

His Love is in the Pumpkins

       I love fall.  Yes, it is cliche, but it is completely true.  There is something about the weather and smells and changing leaves that make me believe in hope.  There is a church nearby that sits on the main street that runs through the center of town.  I drive by it a minimum of six times a day.  For the past several weeks, this church has had a beautiful display of pumpkins.  They get pumpkins every fall and sell them to raise money for their student ministry.  I have coveted these pumpkins.  I have never really been able to decorate for fall and have wanted to since adulthood.  If I could afford it, I would have a plethora of decorations for every holiday from New Year's Day to Christmas and back again (no, I'm not joking). A gracious friend of mine supported my decorating fetish by bestowing on me the hay we used for our Halloween hayride.  It has been sitting on my porch for two weeks.  All by its lonesome.  I deeply wanted to get some mums and pumpkins and go to town turning my front stoop into a miniature fall extravaganza. Every day as I would drive by the church, I would consider stopping, yet, was hindered by my feelings of guilt.  I felt it a silly desire to invest money in something so meaningless, and something that would simply spoil within a few weeks.  Also, during this season of life, money has been incredibly tight so I did not think it wise to splurge on something so insignificant.   Every day when I would pull into my driveway, I kept thinking how lonely my hay looked and how cute it would be if it had some plump, orange company.  
       This morning I went to town to participate with a group of walkers/runners who jog 3 miles each Saturday.  The church is directly on my route and as I passed it, I once again thought of how much I still really desired some pumpkins.  I kept going, walked my miles, and got in my car to go home.  Needless to say, I passed the church-again.  I saw a lot of cars there so thought this may be my chance, but then chickened out.  Many people may not realize it, but I am incredibly shy.  I do not like to be in front of groups of adults and would much rather hug the wall in a room than the center of the floor.  It takes a great deal of courage for me to walk into a people filled space by myself, and even more to pull into a church parking lot where I don't know anyone and ask them if I may buy some of their pumpkins.  I literally circled the block three times trying to get up the nerve to pull in, and finally decided I would just do without any decorations this year.  I was mentally rationalizing how it is too close to Thanksgiving for me to decorate, and I should just move on to Christmas.  In that moment, I heard so clearly, "turn around."  I felt it in my gut.  I heard it in my heart.  I kept driving trying to dismiss it and heard it again.  I kept driving.  The feeling was stronger and my head was filled with, "Brandi Webb!  You turn this car around! You are missing out on a great blessing!"
I turned around.
       When I pulled into the parking lot, I saw people walking out of the church just as quickly as they walked in.  I wasn't sure what was going on, I was just looking for someone whom I could throw my money at so I could high-tail it outta there! During the two minutes it took me to park my car and step into the parking lot, there was no one to be found.  I was thinking about the awkwardness of approaching a complete stranger just to ask about a pumpkin. I was overcome with timidity, but chose to put one foot in front of the other and go for it.  As I walked inside, I saw a friendly face whom I asked about the pumpkins.  She told me she would go find someone who knew.  I waited for just a moment when a few more people walked in from outside.  The friendly face returned and she told me, "I was told that we are trying to get rid of the pumpkins, so please, take whatever you like for a donation of your choice."  I was ecstatic! I began looking at a basket of baby pumpkins that I was hoping to use for my classroom, and she said, "Just take the whole basket!  And pick out whatever ones you want, we really want to get rid of them!"  Inside I was jumping up and down!  I loaded up the basket and allowed my eyes to fall on the others.  I slowly and meticulously picked out five large pumpkins. I looked at every ridge, inspected every arch and picked up each one to feel its weight. One by one. I gently loaded each pumpkin into my vehicle and with every single one, could not help but feel thankful.  The whole time I was carefully selecting these fall prizes, I noticed cars entering and leaving the parking lot.  I did not recognize any of the people getting out of or into those cars, and still wasn't quite sure what they were doing there. As I walked inside to give them my donation, I received the second blessing.
      A couple of people arrived and entered the church about the time I did.  As I walked inside and down the stairs to find the friendly face, I entered the doorway to the fellowship hall.  There I found other friendly faces.  These faces had the sweetest, most genuine smiles I have ever seen.  It isn't often that one sees people smile anymore-really smile. I quickly realized that the people leaving just as quickly as they arrived were being loved on that morning as well.  Perhaps their need was not pumpkins, but one significant to them for that moment.  Food.  The church had opened their pantry and was giving to those in need.  Right before my eyes, in my community, I saw someone being Jesus' hands and feet.  It was beautiful.  It put a smile on my face as real as the friendly faces.  I was humbled.  
       Our community is one of great need. I see hungry children in my classroom every day.  Children who I'd wager money on the fact they do not eat all weekend.  Children who are ravenous by snack time at 10:30, who clean their plate at lunch and are almost begging for someone else's.  Children who come to school with no socks and the same smelly, stained t-shirt day after day.  Children who have a circle of space around them rather than people because of their stench. Children who in the "greatest country in the world" are the least of these.  Children I want so desperately to take home and care for and tell them of our Great Provider.  Children I pray for every night asking protection over them and that one day, they would be able to know the love of Jesus and a new life, free from poverty.  Children who need churches that open their pantry. 
       I got into my car and squalled like a baby.  I was overwhelmed.  Overwhelmed with my sweet Papa.  Overwhelmed that as I approach my very first Thanksgiving away from my children, He chooses to be so gentle and persistent to remind me "He's got this."  He holds me in the palm of His hand and I am His beloved.  He has dreams for me I could never imagine and is ALWAYS faithful to make beauty from ashes. He gave me something so insignificant as pumpkins to remind me that I am His pumpkin and He sees me right where I am. In Perry, Florida.  Dreaming of the day when I can really smile and all of the pieces of my heart are put back together and made new. I hurt when people say that God does not care about the little things. He could not care more. He could not love you more.  He loves you to the moon and back.  To the depths of the sea and the highest mountain.  He loves you enough to whisper in your ear and guide you into a moment where you will see His face.  He loves you enough to meet your deepest need every single moment.  Even if that need is something so simple as a basket of pumpkins.

Friday, October 18, 2013


         A friend of mine had a baby today.  Looking at the picture of her baby lying on her chest stung me deep to my core.  You can always tell when a baby is a c-section baby because they are laying on a draped chest with arms so still not even a hurricane could move them.  I have c-section babies.  Four of them.  My first c-section was over 10 years ago and it still hurts.  The trauma, the sounds, the bright and sterile room.  The agony of my sweet twin little girls being whisked away to ICU and being told I wouldn't even be able to hold them for at least 2 days because it would "be too stimulating." The long dreadful 4 days of preparing to nurse babies that I couldn't even touch.  The burning and stinging in my abdomen from being cut open and too worried over my babies to rest.  The 9 days until I was finally able to lay my sweet girls in their own crib in their own room.  It hurts.  What has been most painful to me of all these memories was the joy and gratitude I felt being stolen by someone I trusted dearly.  Someone who I allowed to make me feel like less of a woman because I did not know long hours of labor prior to all of this pain.  I did not know what it meant to expel these beautiful miracles from my body spontaneously and intentionally.  I knew six weeks of bed-rest with numerous injections and phone calls to nurses and ultrasounds. I knew scalpels and stitches and staples and a 6 inch scar.  I only knew a mountain of new words that encircled "high risk pregnancy" and the possibility of paralysis following my surgery.  I only knew the worry of my children wearing breathing monitors for 4 long months and multiple medical deliveries to my front door.  I knew the panic in my chest that came with the long loud beep that sounds like a fire alarm to inform me that one of my little baby girls may have just stopped breathing.  I knew having to be ready to perform CPR any moment on a tiny 5 pound frame.  I do not believe this friend meant harm or had any idea of how deeply her words would sting.  How many years they would last. 
         Since that time, when I was told I was less of a woman, I have struggled. I have believed it.  I have allowed myself to feel inadequate as a mother.  For some reason, looking at another precious miracle on another chest of a woman who just endured immeasurable amounts of pain to give her child life, gave breath to all of these words.  Seeing that life reminded me of how much it hurts and how many emotions I feel when a friend of mine has a baby without a caesarean or when I hear her tales of labor and hours of pushing.  I was reminded how inadequate I feel.  And then my heart began to stir.
          I began to think of my four beautiful children sleeping in the next room.  They are here because of a marvelous Creator who graciously chose me to be the vessel to bring them into this world.  He chose ME to house them while they were fearfully and wonderfully made.  I know what it is to have all day nausea and leg cramps. I endured the flu and PUPPS and heartburn that stung so badly all I could do was cry.  I know sleepless nights of discomfort from feeling a foot in my rib or constant vomiting.  I have known hours upon hours of doctors appointments and hours upon hours of prayer.  I know the worry that comes from hoping just to carry to term and visits to the emergency room when that precious little life seems for a moment to be threatened.  I have known thousands of diaper changes, giggles, and bedtime prayers.  I have known sleepless nights with sick children, wiping tears that fall on sweet baby faces, and colored walls down my hallway.  I have known endless laundry, homework, kissing boo-boo's, outgrowing shoes.   I know a love that is so vast, so unexplainable, so deep to my core it sometimes physically hurts.  
            I am a mother.  I am their mother.  I am the one to pour out love and pray and encourage and discipline.  
            It is insignificant how they arrived from womb to world.  What is remarkable, however, is how they are loved.  How they are cherished.  How they are adored.  So with these thoughts, I choose to put to rest my feelings of inadequacy.  I choose to believe I am a great woman because my Abba Father defines me.  I choose to feel grateful and not for even the slightest second take for granted this gift, this gift of motherhood, this gift of life.  I choose to no longer allow another's words to hurt or define me or tarnish my birth experience.  I choose to pray for the barren and the orphan who so desperately long for one another.  I choose to trust the Lord's plans for me and hope to be a woman of encouragement.  I pray to never squash another woman's spirit or cause her to feel like less of a person.  I praise an almighty God who brings healing to our wounds and I rejoice over scars.  Our scars are our story.  Our scars are our evidence.  Evidence of great pain. Evidence of our flesh.  Evidence that we have a great story to tell.  Evidence that we are not alone in our struggles and that someone else needs healing.  Evidence of strength and that something that may have once been dark can now be bathed in the light.  


~ I pray you be encouraged in this moment and that you feel hope. I sincerely desire to remember that we are defined by the word. We CAN have the mind of Christ.  We CAN pursue righteousness.  We CAN have healing. Blessings over your sweet souls today!~

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Unanswered Questions

Why does it seem that some no little of heartache and some seem to suffer so much? And why do we love God? Do we love him because we do not suffer? Do we love him because our life is our own small piece of heaven on earth? Or do we love him in the storm because He is our anchor and he keeps us from drifting away? Do we love Him through our rain-soaked tears and unanswered questions?
 I do not know why We must suffer so in this life. I do not know why heartache is foreign to some, yet a constant companion in the life of others.
 I do know that we must walk by faith and not by sight. I do know that God promises NEVER to leave His beloved. I do know that the suffering we experience pales in comparison to the suffering of my Savior. I do know that He promises to be near to the brokenhearted and he binds up all wounds. I know that He has ordained our days before even one of them came to be and that His great purpose for our lives WILL be accomplished in His power. I do know that He is good and He is sovereign and He is faithful. I do know that He loves us with an everlasting love and that NO THING, No Power, no person, is capable of plucking us from his hand. I do know that He hurts when I hurt and he desperately longs to comfort my weary soul. I know that He is good and He is true and one day ALL of my questions will be answered- and so will yours. I pray over you, dear brother and sister, that while your journey may contain far more bumps than you could ever desire or have imagined, that our sweet Jesus would comfort your broken heart , carry you when you have the strength to go no further, and mend every wound. I pray for joy in your sorrow and that you would let the light in.  Let it change you. Let it heal you. Let it bring you HOPE. 

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Katie Elizabeth

Today is Katie Beth’s birthday.  It has been quite a journey.  Katie is my 4th child (yes, you read that correctly).  When I found out that I was pregnant with her, it was probably the most inopportune time to have a baby.  Our family had just left a thriving ministry just two months earlier.  If you happen to be in church ministry, you can hopefully relate to having an experience where you feel a leading to move on…a strong, in your gut conviction that God has a next step in your journey.  Desiring to be obedient to the spirit’s leading in our lives, we left.  We weren’t exactly sure what the next step would be, but we had a little savings, and at the time, a whole lot of faith.  We set out from that town with our three oldest children on an experience that would forever change us.
The very month we found out that our family would be increasing in size, just so happened to be the exact month we would no longer have health insurance.  Coupled with no “full-time” income, and the awareness that we already had THREE children, we were overwhelmed to say the least.  There was an immediate threat of miscarriage in the early weeks of pregnancy, which began a process of the enemy continually planting seeds of fear in me. These deposits of doubt were met with a constant inner battle to walk in the Spirit and believe God is who He says. The next few months included three cross-country moves and the burning of a number of relational bridges.  It was not our intention or desire to see closure come to so many friendships, I honestly grieved them as a deep loss.  There were some wounds that I felt personally that would later prove to be moments of God’s using harm for good.  I had seasons where I felt significant isolation and to say it frankly, forgotten.  I felt emotionally injured by people who I had once greatly trusted.  Many conversations and prayers later allowed me to see that some of these deep cuts were committed unknowingly by others. In the end, the Lord brought healing and drew me closer to Him. 

God put some dearly loved friends along the way to stand by our side, even silently at times, and walk us through some of the darkest days of our lives.  Let me stop right there and say, our baby was born completely healthy and beautiful.  The darkness I am referring to is that of inner turmoil- confusion. It was a process of refinement.  I have never felt like I walked “through the fire” as I did the months during my pregnancy with Katie.  We were divinely placed in the middle of rural Missouri, population 1,600.  This was vastly different than our previous town of 60,000.  The nearest Wal-Mart was almost 60 miles away, Target, 90.  But, somewhere in the midst of the cows and the corn fields, I found a piece of myself.

 I began my very first year of homeschooling my twin daughters who were now big first graders.  I completely loved them being home with me all day and even began to do some preschool activities with my son.  As our savings rapidly dwindled, I was so grateful to be able to order an entire homeschool kit for each of my girls, and have enough left over to do craft projects and lots of baking. My husband was working as a sort of lumberjack at the time so he was close by and always home for lunch. The few months that we lived in Missouri were filled many tears, deep reflection, and spiritual revelation.  I have such a fondness and love for our friends there that patiently intervened in our lives when God directed them and gently abstained when He did the same.  I don’t know if you have many people in your life that you feel eternally bonded to, but these are those kinds of friends.
As the months passed, we found ourselves in a new state with new challenges.  We were only 45 minutes from New York City which was exciting to say the least.  We were walking distance from a Starbucks, Wal-Mart, and most thrilling to me, the hospital! Most parents understand the desire for a professional medical center and a trustworthy physician during a pregnancy.  Because we were in yet another new state and not yet residents, we were told it would be some time before our insurance paperwork could be processed.  My pregnancy was considered high-risk due to previous complications which caused me to feel pressure for regular check-ups all the more.   I have known many women who have a faith so deep that they truly do not worry through their pregnancies; they know that God created the life inside them and completely trust Him to tend to them and their child.  These women are motivated and driven by faith. I have always struggled with fear, particularly since I first became a mother, and this was no exception.  I could go on and on about the ups and downs of doctors and forms and dates, but in a nutshell: I met my doctor three weeks before Katie was born. 

Due to the previous complications that I mentioned earlier, all involved thought it wisest that Katie be delivered via scheduled caesarian.  We originally planned this for mid-March which was when she was due.  She was born January 31. 
The day Katie was born, my husband dropped me off at the hospital just to make sure we were on schedule, because I had been contracting for two days prior.  He dropped me off, I went upstairs to the high-risk neonatal unit, and she was born an hour later.  The doctor told me to call my husband to get back there quickly, this baby needed to be delivered immediately for not only her safety, but for mine as well.  Again, I was enveloped in fear.  Thankfully, the fear I felt was accompanied by the excitement of knowing that I was about to meet my daughter and see her sweet face.  As I was waiting for Jerry in the operating room, I saw a tray of what seemed like hundreds of scissors and scalpels and other shiny objects. While I was uneducated in regards to their function, the appearance alone was terrifying.  I was flooded with emotion and concern, and a sadness that neither of our parents would be sitting in the waiting room when we got out.  A nurse, whom I believe the Lord divinely placed specifically for my delivery, held me, prayed over me, and gave me a physical representation of my Heavenly Father.  It was beautiful. 

It seemed like an hour went by before I finally heard the most breathtaking sound I believe one can hear this side of eternity.  She cried.  My baby girl was out safely.  I was safe. We were okay. 
I was moved to recovery (after they stitched me up of course), and I was able to lie in a bed with heated blankets beside the very nurse who had been praying with me only minutes before.  The next few days were difficult as we were very far away from our parents and Jerry had to be at home caring for our three big kids.  They came to see me occasionally but only for short periods of time.  I spent a lot of time by myself with a beautiful miracle, a great big incision, and some more heartache.  I felt very lonely and scared for what was to come for our family.  I prayed and cried and slept. And then I would do it all over again while looking at this physical expression of God’s faithfulness.  He kept showing me how in all of my fear, all my worry, all my doubt, He never stopped caring.  He never left me, He never failed me, He never ceased to proclaim His provision over our lives.

When Katie Beth was finally discharged, her little premie clothes swallowed her whole.  We had three outfits, four blankets, and a pack-and-play.  We had given away most of the belongings from our oldest children and the few items we did have were in storage in another state.  My sister-in-law had a basket waiting for us when we got home with bottles and all of the necessary toiletry items.  It was divine. 
My mom and only sister were able to get flights out for the next week so we had something else to look forward to and a great deal of comfort, even if it was temporary.  Our final months up north were quiet and still, full of unanswered questions, and God’s great big lessons. 

When the time was right-when we were ready, the Lord finally allowed our family to re-enter full-time church ministry.  More than a year had passed since this crazy part of our lives had begun.  We loaded up our mini-van with our four children, as many of our belongings as we could carry, and a deeper outlook on life. Our new church home was nothing like we had ever experienced but EVERYTHING we had dreamt of for years before.  As the months passed, we began to feel like our new “small town” was home.  Our church family has demonstrated love to us in ways we have never before known outside of our biological families and closest friends.

I can look back over our journey-the season of pregnancy, multiple moves, and minimum wage jobs-and see God’s sovereign grace.  He is so good. His faithfulness is never ending. He was for us all along and had life in mind always.  He gave us life in our sweet Katie Beth, and he gave us life as His children.  He walked us down some dark roads and exposed some areas in us that desperately needed to be extracted.  He showed us what it truly means to believe His promises, and what it means to be His children.
The name Katie is derived from Katherine which means “pure.” We gave her the middle name “Elizabeth” meaning “God fulfills His promises.”  We have always believed firmly in the biblical significance of a child’s name as a prayer and defining promise over their life.  We could think of nothing more fitting. We call her “Katie Beth” for short because we think that it’s adorable. She’s adorable.  And she is a walking manifestation of the faithfulness of our God-the God who met us in the middle of the corn fields, who works everything for our good.

Saturday, June 23, 2012


I love movies.  All kinds.  I have a few favorite genres like most people I guess:  comedies, action films, and definitely war movies, which I believe deserve a category all to themselves.  Like most hopeless romantics, I use to thoroughly enjoy the ideal sappy, mushy, they lived happily ever after chick flick.  There is just something about a rugged looking man who storms in to declare his endless love for a beauty who thought she was destined to be alone. Have you ever seen a Jane Eyre movie?  Inspired by her books, they are the epitome of the ultimate happily ever after love story.  They tend to sweep me away to a time of innocence and romance, arranged marriages and forbidden loves.  I could get lost in the dream of it all. 
I use to think that life was always like a fairy tale movie, complete with deep passion and unending romance.  I suppose it has been in some ways.  I mean, my husband is romantic and now as I look back over our story there are PLENTY of things that could’ve come out of a movie, especially if it were a comedy.  Somehow, it’s just different than I had expected.  I think that no matter how wonderful or hard our life is, we all get to a point where we realize that relationships hardly ever play out like they do on the TV screen and that life is nowhere close.  Over the years, my desires have certainly changed and I have had many moments where my bubble was burst so to speak.  This was not necessarily caused by any person in particular, but just by the reality of life.  I have seen that it is incredibly messy and doesn’t always have a happy ending.  In fact, I would venture to say that most of the time the ending is far different than what we had hoped or expected. I think that if we are honest, all of us could say that at some point we have felt the heartache and pain of unmet expectations.  As small children, we have these dreams about life and how wonderful and perfect ours will be.  Sure there will be ups and downs, but there will always be happy music playing in the background and everything will turn out just fine.  As the years come our way, we start to realize that our version of happiness usually doesn’t exist, and often there is pain, and sometimes extreme suffering in relationships.
  This got me thinking about something a girlfriend of mine shared with me a few weeks ago.  Audra (who is my dear friend from college) and I try to talk fairly regularly.  Recently in one of our conversations she  brought to my attention the phrase “faithfully ever after.”  I believe it was from a book she was reading and was intended to take the place of “happily ever after.”  These words got my wheels turning.  
How would things be if we weren’t waiting our whole life for some happily ever after that would never come?  How would my life be? What if I changed the anthem of this journey from happily ever after to faithfully ever after?  

I have considered this for some time and what follows is my response- actually my prayer over my life and yours for that matter.  Thank you for reading.  Blessings over your home, blessings over your marriage.

While the theme to live faithfully ever after could potentially be life changing in every respect, I am drawn to consider how it applies specifically to marriage. Marriage is absolutely the most lovely, yet painful human relationship there is.  To put it plainly, it is the ultimate call to die.  The whole concept puts the emphasis on being the one doing the loving, even if it comes at a cost.  It removes the opportunity to soak through the kleenex from the realization that you didn’t actually marry Russell Crowe or Channing Tatum’s character from Dear John (by the way I cried for three days after watching that stupid movie, it was ridiculous).  So what does it mean to intentionally focus on being faithful rather than experiencing Hollywood’s version of happy?  
 I acknowledge when we hear the term faithful when speaking about relationships, we think toward the sense of fidelity.  While this is undeniably applicable in a marriage, I would like to elaborate on how it pertains to being steadfast.  
To be steadfast means to be true, loyal, devoted or constant.  My prayer is that you may show mercy to your husband when your love tank feels empty.  May you be his loyal friend when you feel betrayed.  May you go to the altar of God and intercede on his behalf, even in times of anger.  May you release any expectations of an unrealistic fairy tale and trade them for a life of true devotion.  May you be a woman who remains gentle in times of disappointment.  A woman who willingly denies herself her own desires to be a peacemaker in times of conflict.  A woman who gives out of the depths of her inner being because the lover of her soul has filled her up in such a way that her ability to love is unstoppable.  May you be such a woman.  May I be such a woman.  
 To live faithfully ever after is a call to die to our flesh to serve a purpose that is 
beyond us, beyond this life. 

When things don’t go our way, when temptation is fierce, when our flesh cries out in anguish, the spirit of God that lives within us gives us the strength to be faithful.  When we force our flesh to be in submission to our spirit, this is a manner of being faithful to the One who gives us life.  And then He comes in and pours His mercy over us.  When we fail or when there are days that as a couple we just can’t seem to get on the same page, or somehow we just keep hurting one another over and again, our Savior allows us to redeem the day and begin anew.  
   We are able to begin again and again and again.  We do not lose sight of his goodness and his strength in us.  He is strength in our weakness.  2 Timothy 2:11-13 declares, “If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful- for he cannot deny himself.”  He is the missing piece to our faithfully ever after. 

The mysteries of God are truly glorious.  It takes faith to believe in him for our faithfulness.  We are told in the scriptures that we have the mind of Christ and the Spirit who intercedes on our behalf.  We have the power of the cross of Christ with whom nothing is impossible.  “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,” (2 Peter 1:3).  Christ is our faithfully ever after...
   Precious, loving Father, I am humbled by your goodness. I am in awe of your perfect plans for my life, by your sovereignty.  I know that you do all things well and that since the beginning of time you have intended that your children live with a steadfast perseverance.  Thank you for giving me a husband to love and serve, a man with whom I can pursue the cross, whom you have chosen to use to make me more like Jesus.
My heart overflows knowing that you give all things needed to accomplish your purposes for my life.  You sing over me with joy and give to me everything I need to serve others as if I were serving you.  Would you allow the fruits of the spirit to blossom and unfold in my life and make it one of service to my husband, my children, my family and friends.  You are my faithfully ever after which truly is the happiest of endings.
So this week while I was working on this post, something quite interesting occurred.  My husband has been on a juice cleanse which means mostly no food, and absolutely no caffeine or drink other than water.  If you spend time with him on a regular basis, you know that he is incredibly laid back and super friendly.  Because of his diet, he has been somewhat irritable (I am not judging, I am cranky if I don’t get a coke!).  As an emotionally sensitive person who never wants anyone to be upset with me, especially my husband, I have been tested.  God has this awesome way of making us put our money where our mouth is.  I have had to recognize that its not about me and not let myself take it personally.  I am thankful for the grace that has allowed me to smile, offer a hug and supportive word rather than get angry and say something unkind.  I don’t always do this well, but was challenged this week after my whole faithfully ever after epiphany.  
I share all this to exhort you to think about your own relationship and how you can pursue faithfulness to your spouse even when it hurts.  I hope there is some practical way that we can take the initiative to offer grace and some loving act rather than waiting around to receive one first. Thank you again for taking the time to read this LONG post and for pondering my thoughts.  I am so thankful that God has given me a love for writing and has used this blog as a tender outlet of His work in me.  Shalom.