Monday, 8 April 2013

Grief, Healing, and Reward...The Story of Eli

Baby dedications can mean different things to different people.  For Chris and I, it is about declaring our intentions to raise our children in a way that honors God.  It is our way of saying to the world that we are committing them to God's grace and guidance, and we are praying for God's help and wisdom to help mold and shape their hearts towards God.

To some, it may seem strange that on Sunday we dedicated our youngest son, Eli to the Lord at our church in Greenville.  It's not strange that there was a baby dedication and that we would want to do this, what's strange is that Eli is two years old.  Most children at baby dedications are in fact...babies, usually quite small ones as you can see in this photo.

We had scheduled to do a baby dedication for him in Edinburgh, but there was a huge marathon that day, and we were unable to make it to church on time because a 10 minute drive took us 1 1/2 hours. Then we just had to park and walk another 30 minutes to get to church.  Of course, by the time we had arrived, we were just too late for it to work out.

After that, time just flew by, God was calling us back to the USA, and it just never happened.  I had almost decided that we'd just let this go.  God knows our heart after all.  This wee lad had been dedicated to God long before he ever made his way into our loving arms.

Then I thought of Hannah, Samuel's mom.  And I remembered how much like Hannah I felt in the year before God gave us Eli.

2009 was by far the most difficult year of my life.  The year began with us finding we were very unexpectedly pregnant followed closely by a miscarriage.  Then we returned to our home in Budapest, Hungary to find that the church we were working with was basically closing it's doors, so our world was thrown into further chaos as we began to try and figure out where God was sending us.  We moved back to the USA to await visas before moving to Scotland.  While we were waiting, my brother died suddenly from a brain aneurysm.

My brother James and his wife Beth

So I moved to Scotland in September, and all that loss hit me in a wave of grief so strong that it was hard to breathe.  Depression sank in, and I began to fight with the Almighty in a myriad of questions about how He could allow all of these things to happen to me when I had given up everything to serve Him and follow His plan for my life?  Tears burned my face almost daily, and it was all I could do to get out of bed and keep moving forward. All of this swarmed in my mind while I was also trying to learn a new culture, make new friends, and minister the love of God to the lost, and....oh my toddler around and try to be a good mom!

Somehow in the midst of all this loss, I began to believe that there was one thing that would redeem all of the hurt and all of the loss...looking back it was crazy, but at the time it seemed so logical.  In my mind, I began to believe that having a baby would heal the hurt in my soul.

Like Hannah, in deep anguish, I prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly and saying that if He would look upon me and give me a child, I would give Him to the Lord for all the days of His life.  I was deeply troubled and pouring out my soul to the Lord.  I was praying out of my great anguish and grief.

(If you don't know Hannah's story, you can read it here.)

Month after month, I waited.  Month after month, my waiting was met by disappointment.  Each month the grief intensified, and I began to realize how angry and bitter I was with the Lord.  How could he hurt me so deeply?  How could He take everything away from me?  How could he deny me the one thing that (in my mind) would redeem it all?


After months of wrestling with God in all of its ugliness, God began to show me the reason He was not allowing me to become pregnant.  I was looking for a baby to redeem all of that loss and fill the hurting places in my soul.  In retrospect, how could I have ever put so much responsibility on such a tiny wee soul.  A baby was/is never meant to carry such a great weight.  A child should not be expected to heal a mother's wounded soul....well, at least not any normal child.

But there was one child who was born for such a purpose.  Jesus, the son of God, born of a virgin, living a perfect life, dying a gruesome death, rising victoriously from the grave.  A child was my Redeemer, but the child that was meant to redeem me was not a child that I would bear.  My Redeemer was a child born 2000+ years ago to another mother who came to know grief all to well and in a deeper way than I could ever imagine.

God did not want to give me a child of my own to be my redeemer.  He did not want to give me a bandage or something to replace what I had lost.  He wanted to give me Himself.  He wanted to be my Redeemer, my Restorer.  He wanted to heal my hurt and make me whole.

That way, when He did give me a child, it would not be a replacement for the child I lost or a redeemer of the all the loss I had experienced.  He wanted to give me a child as a blessing, an addition to an already whole and fully redeemed me.

It was hard.  I spent months in anguish.  My husband encouraged me to seek help and a dear friend held my hand and prayed with me and counseled me to allow God to do a deep work of healing in my soul.  She told me that this was not His time for me to have a baby.  That in my life, this was His time.  Tough words to hear.  In fact her words made me so angry at the time, but they were so true.  God wanted my whole-hearted, undistracted devotion.  He wanted my eyes on Him.

I had to repent of all of that anger I had towards God. I had to grieve the loss of a child, a home, a ministry, and a brother. It hurt more deeply than anything I had ever experienced.  I had to let go of the hope that having a baby would heal me.  I had to let God be my healer and come to the place where I accepted that God may never give me another child, and that this would be ok because I had the promise that He was with me, and He was more than enough.

It took months before I finally surrendered and fully repented.  It took time before I could say like Job, "the Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord." (Job 1:21) I had to get to the place where I said, "God I want you more than anything."

It hurt.  My soul felt like it was being ripped into shreds, but God was near and very real to me...more real than any other time in my life.  He took me into His arms as I wept.  He was there bringing the healing that no child could have ever given to me because what I needed only He could give.

Finally, I reconciled in my soul that we would probably never have another child.  It was well with my soul.  Then, one month after I fully surrendered all of it to Jesus, we were surprised by joy, and in November, Eli was born.

So maybe it is fitting that Eli is a bit older for his baby dedication.  If you remember, Hannah waited until Samuel was weaned before presenting him before the Lord.  Maybe he was around two years old as well, I'm not sure.  It does say that "she took the boy with her."

So this week as we presented Eli to the Lord, I was able to pray as Hannah did when she brought Samuel to the house of the Lord....

"I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him.  So now I give him to the Lord.  For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord."(1 Samuel 1:27-28)


What loss have you experienced?  Where are you going to find healing?  Are you looking for God to be your Redeemer or are you trying to fill the void with something or someone else?

Might I encourage you to go to Jesus?

I challenge you to trust His goodness even in the midst of great loss.  I don't say this because it is easy, far from it.  It may be the hardest thing you ever do.

May I also encourage you to reach out to a friend in the faith or a mentor who will stand with you and hold your hand?  Find someone who will pray for you and drive you to the foot of the cross straight into the arms of the only one who can heal you.

You can be mad at God, but it is very hard to find healing when you are separating yourself from the only one who truly knows your hurt and truly has the power to heal.

This one is hard to say, but don't forget that when you are running away from God, there is an enemy who waits to destroy you.  When you remove yourself farther from your Protector, Satan gains a foothold into your life that you do not want him to have. (This was one of the hardest parts for me to grasp.  The enemy was having his way with not only me, but also my family. This realization hurt, but it helped me find my way home.)

He is here.  He is waiting with arms wide open to envelop you in His loving arms.  He longs to pour out His healing into the deepest part of your heart.  He wants to show you that He bore all of your sin and paid the price for you to be healed, made whole, and set free.

There is a scripture that was hard for me during this season in my life, but it also gave me hope.  I share it with you because God's truth is what you need more than good advice or man's wisdom.

Hebrews 10:35-36 

Do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. (NLT)

Be confident of his unfailing, steadfast, unwavering love for you even in the midst of your pain and uncertainty.  Persevere and follow Him even if you feel He is leading you straight into the heart of the valley of death.  He will not leave you.  I promise this fight and journey has great reward. Maybe not the one you think, but the reward will always be that you will come out of the valley knowing Him in a deeper way than you could have ever imagined.  It is worth the pain to receive this promise!

Would you dare to trust Him again?  It may take time, but I promise, my dear friend, He will not disappoint. He will draw nearer to you than you could ever imagine if you will allow Him to do His work, His way...and His ways are always for your good.


Father God would you take this message and use it to minister to my friends, your children.  May those who hurt find healing in the shadow of your wings.  May those who are experiencing grief find the comfort and healing that only You can give.

God I pray that every thing that they are wanting to fill that void or loss would be stripped away.  I know that sounds harsh, but I know that those things will disappoint them, and You never will.  Father give them Yourself.  Be their Redeemer, Restorer, and Healer.

I pray that they would reach out for help and find Godly friends who will pray for them and remind them that You are good.  May there be no condemnation for any person who is walking through loss and/or questioning Your goodness.  May there only be healing and turning to You alone.

God draw near to every hurting, angry person and envelop them so strongly in Your love that they can no longer run away from You.  May these words help bring the same comfort to others that You have given to me...the comfort of Your presence and Your healing power...In Jesus name.


If I can pray for you in any way, please don't hesitate to let me know.  You can send me a personal message at  May you find God's rest, peace, and healing in your time of need!

Thursday, 14 February 2013

The God Loves Me Project

A friend of mine has been collecting encouraging scriptures and letters from women about God's love in order to send them to a teenager who is just about to graduate from high school.  This is what God gave me to share with her.  I wanted to share it here on my blog as well.  I think Valentine's Day is the perfect time!  I feel there are many people who need to hear this message. I know how much I needed to hear it again myself. Enjoy.

At the beginning of last year, I was having some trouble with my self-image.  A lot of things had happened, and I was in a pretty dark place in my soul. During that time, a friend and mentor in the Lord challenged me to begin to meditate on how God sees me.  She challenged me to stop looking to what others think of me and stop looking at all my failures, and begin to place my eyes on what Jesus thinks of me. She challenged me to search the scriptures and make a list answering the question, “How does God see me?”

There were a lot of things that I found. I am the apple of His eye (Deuteronomy 32:9-10, Zachariah 2:8, and Psalm 17:8). He delights in me (Psalm 18:19). He was pleased to make me His own (1Samuel 12:22). He chose me (Ephesians 1:11). He takes pleasure in me and has adopted me as His daughter (Ephesians 1:5). He has plans for my good and to give me a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).

But out of all the scriptures I read and all the things I learned about how God sees me, one nugget of truth resonated the most.  God began to show me that I am His treasured possession.

For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. Out of all the peoples on the face of the earth, the LORD has chosen you to be His treasured possession.

Somehow meditating on this verse helped me begin to realize that I was chosen and treasured.  Even when other people did not treasure me, even when I felt my own family was treating me like rubbish, even when I felt like rubbish myself, the Maker of Heaven and Earth treasured, chose, and valued me.  He saw that I was a treasure even when I couldn’t see it. Even when others around me didn’t see it, He saw. 

And He was waiting quietly in the wings for me to come to Him and listen to Him speak words of life to me.  He wanted me to hear that everything I was looking to others to provide for me was meant to be given by Him.  He was continuously longing to poor these words of life into my soul, but I was too busy looking around and within to hear Him speak.

I learned during this time that I had to stop looking to the world and others (even Christian people, even my husband and my family) to provide what only He can. He is my source of sufficiency. He is the giver of hope and life and esteem.  I have self-esteem because God esteems me.  For me to look on what he calls treasure and say it’s rubbish is just sin.  I could write for hours to tell the whole story and all God brought me through and showed me.  There was an intense time of repentance for believing the lies that Satan was shouting at me over the truth that Jesus paid the price for me to know.  I am His treasure.  You are too.

In Exodus 19:5, God says:
If you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the Earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.

Again God is echoing that we are His treasured possession, but in these verses there seems to be more to it.  There is also the command to obey His voice and keep His covenant. Now this was the Old Testament and the covenant was a bit different, but I think the words hold true today.  We are under a new covenant, bought with the blood of Jesus shed for our sins to bring us into right standing before God.  There is grace, but grace is not an excuse to sin.  (See Romans 6:1-4)  God still wants us to obey Him, to follow Him and keep a heart of repentance that bends our heart towards Him and away from sin.  He wants us to be holy. When we fall victim to the lies of Satan that tell us we are worthless or no good…when those thoughts race through our mind that we are a failure, we have to remember that Satan roams about like a roaring lion seeking whom He may devour (1 Peter 5:8).  He comes to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10).  He wants to take us out.  He doesn’t want us believing in God’s truth about us. 

Why? Because if we truly believe we are treasured and we see that we are more than conquerors through Jesus (Romans 8:37)…if we know that Jesus has already made (past tense) us victorious (2 Corinthians 2:14), we will live our lives with purpose and passion.  Not only that, but we will also persuade others to live by the truth as well.  That makes hell shake in fear.

In Deuteronomy 26:18, the Bible states:
And the LORD has declared this day that you are His people, His treasured possession as He promised, and that you are to keep all His commands.

You are treasured, beloved, valued, esteemed!  The Lord of Heaven and Earth has declared it. The enemy does comes to steal, kill, and destroy, but Jesus came so you could have life and have it to the full (John 10:10). The greatest part is that it’s not because of how good you’ve been or what you have or haven’t done.  It’s just all because of Jesus and what he has already done on the cross.  When you fail, it’s ok.  Repent and move forward.  There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).  You don’t have to lie their wallowing in your sin or self-pity.  Jesus forgives.  That’s why He died and rose again.  He’s not surprised.  He loves infinitely and completely.  His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23).  Those are His promises.  God has declared it, so why don’t you declare it too? I dare you.

1 Peter 2:9 says…
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.

Don’t stay in the darkness of Satan’s lies.  You’ve been called out of that.  You belong to God.  You were made to declare His praise.  You are chosen royalty my friend.  You have been set apart, so live differently.  Look to Jesus. Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith (Hebrews 12:2).  When times are hard, know it’s ok.  He’s with you and still treasures you…that’s right YOU!  He cries with you and for you.  He just wants your heart…all of believe and trust His truth. 

Would you be willing to do that?  Would you take a minute and meditate on the fact that you are His treasured possession and let that change the way you think and the way you act?  

Dear God, please help those who read this find a new revelation of the truth that they are your treasured possession.  May they look to you as their source of encouragement and esteem.  May they fully trust Your love for them.  May they know that of all the people on the face of the Earth, You have chosen them to be Your treasured possession.  All of heaven and earth is Yours, but You treasure them more than anything else.  There is a saying that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. I thank you God that we are not rubbish…we are not trash…not even close…no matter what anyone might try to say…no matter how loud the devil may be screaming it at matter how hard our own soul seems to condemn us. We are worth so much that You sent Your Son to redeem us from our sins.  You paid the highest price so that we could be brought near to You.  Let us realize our true value.  Let us see ourselves as Your treasure and live our lives in such a way that others will see it too.

Friend, I truly believe that when we begin to see that we are a treasure, we will act differently.  And you know what…speaking from experience, now that my life has been changed by this truth, I have noticed that people do seem to value me more.  I’m not sure if it’s just my perspective or reality, but I truly believe that God’s transformed my life so miraculously that others around have taken notice.  My prayer is that this life changing revelation would transform them too, and I pray it will transform you!

Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)
For we are God's masterpiece.  He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

You are His treasure, His masterpiece for the world to see. Now go forth and do the good things He has planned for you. It will be an adventure, not always an easy one, but He will be with you always (Matthew 28:20). Believe His promises, rest in His truth, trust His ways.  I dare you!