Cardboard testimonies

At YoungLives camp two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to share about some of our story with Maizie by writing a cardboard testimony.  We often end a week at Young Life camp with a visual display of the way God has transformed the lives of some of the leaders in the room.  On one side of the board the leader writes what their state was before Christ and on the other side they share a way God has transformed them.  This visual shows off God’s ability to transform death to life and to make old things new.  To a room full of teenage mothers I wanted to put our story out there because I assumed that in a room with a few hundred moms there were going to be some who had also lost children during pregnancy.

I keep wondering how big a part of my whole story and my shaping Maizie will be.  As I sat debating what to share, I tried to think about what has really been transformed by the Lord since December 6 when we were made aware of her death.  Besides sadness, what did I really live in following the loss?

Fear.  Lots of fear.

Fear that I wouldn’t have healthy children.  Fear my body wouldn’t recover.  Fear that maybe God wouldn’t be good to me.  Fear that people would continue to hurt me.  Fear that broken relationships wouldn’t be restored.  Fear of being misunderstood.  Fear this loss would cause irreconcilable damage on our marriage.  Fear that the darkness would stay this dark forever.  Fear that fear would rule my next pregnancy.  Fear that I would always be imagining worst case scenarios.

And what has God slowly replaced that fear with?  Hope.

Hope in Christ in all things.  Not hope in a healthy next baby but hope in the One who has purchased my soul.  Hope that God works all things out for eternal good.  Hope that my future is secure with Him.

Satan can completely destroy my life on earth.  If permitted, he could end it.  He gave me a good run for my money in 2016.  But he can’t eternally damn me.  There is light, even in the darkness.  Even if it is just the small glimmer of future redemption.  There is always light.  There is always hope.

I stood up to testify to the light I see even in the darkness.  Fear is replaced with hope, even if circumstances don’t change.  Hope did not come with a new pregnancy.  Hope came when Jesus paid the price for my sins on this earth and made my eternity secure.

As I stood backstage at camp, I thought about how truly dark the first six months following our loss were.  So painful.  I couldn’t find myself during that time.  I often couldn’t find God.  My heart ached.  My body went through so many changes.  Some relationships couldn’t handle the strain.  We had to fight to keep our marriage strong.  It was so much pain.

Part of me wondered if I was silly for sharing the other side of my board.  Can I really claim some victory here?  It was almost as if Stan was whispering, “Do you have hope?  Is God really good?  Are you faking healing?  Have you actually made any progress?”  Part of me debated getting out of the line.  “You’re right,” I thought, “I do still have fear.  Some of me is still hurting.  Maybe God hasn’t done much here.  Maybe He will forget me and leave me.”

I realized that God’s work in this area is not complete; but it doesn’t have to be complete for me to start sharing about His work.  In fact, it won’t be complete until I’m face to face with Him in glory.

I choose to claim victory, though I am yet to experience it fully because God has done a significant work to restore my hope.  I believe that is the work God will do in my life – to bring me to FULL hope.  Hope that will be made a reality in eternity.  2 Corinthians 2:14 came to mind, “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.”  While I go forward, I want to march triumphantly.  Even though its not over or fully complete, I want to claim the future victory that is mine.  I have seen God work in the past eight months.  I have seen Him transform my fear to hope.

I went out on the stage and I showed both sides of my sign.

Fear after losing a daughter during pregnancy.

Hope in Christ in all things.

What happened after I shared?  I was bombarded by teenage mothers.  Some who had lost babies early in pregnancy, some who had lost later like us, and one who shared about losing a twin in the delivery room.  The last one asked how I grieved and how I trusted God because she has tried to just stuff it all down.  I told her to grieve that baby and be as sad as she needs to be over the loss; but at the same time, to look to all of the promises of God and to know that she can trust His forever goodness.

Younglives camp

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Why ministry matters

I have several old Young Life girls who are now serving as Young Life leaders in Norman, Oklahoma.  Last night I received this text from one of them:

Ministry Update Text

“Big praise – one of my main girlies who is now in 9th grade and I still see like once a week accepted Christ on Saturday.  Been weeping tears of joy that I’ll see her in heaven for the past hour.”

The leader I received that text from has been faithfully loving, pursuing and sharing the Gospel with this high school student for the past three years.  She’s been showing up to her school lunches, driving her to Wyldlife and taking her out to breakfast.  Now she has the joy of rejoicing that this sweet little girl has been set free for eternity.

Here’s the thing this text reminded me that I sometime forget: ministry matters because it’s about eternity.  It’s about souls.  It’s about where people will be forever.  It’s about heaven and about the kingdom.  It matters.

Sometimes when I’m in the thick of it, I forget that we’re actually talking about souls that are at stake.  For me right now, ministry often just looks likes emails, event planning and trying to wrangle volunteer leaders.  It looks like giving my time when I have zero energy and would rather be in my bed.  It is full of coffee dates, frozen yogurt dates and long conversations about things that aren’t always significant.  For JR, it’s been a beat down of a semester.  Ministry has been the battle of motivating volunteer leaders to be all in, scrambling to find rides for all the kids involved and lots of effort to maintain control of a crowd.  It’s been smelly boys, math tutorials and lots of messes in our home.  It’s been a lot of little things and hours of work that often do not feel significant at all.

The daily ins and outs of ministry may look like a million different things for you right now.  Opening your home.  Cooking meals.  Showing up to hospital rooms.  Sending lots of group texts.  Planning big events.  Writing bible studies and lessons that you hope someone reads.  Continuing to invite a neighbor or friend to something even after you’ve been rejected the first several times.  Waking up early.  Staying up late.  Continuing to live with integrity even when you see everyone around you compromising.  Changing diapers and praying over little ones who can’t do anything on their own yet and wake up every two hours.

In these little things, it’s easy to lose sight of the big thing.  It’s easy to forget why ministry matters in the first place.  These little things wear us down and exhaust us when we forget what we’re working for.  It’s not about getting someone to show up where you want them.  It’s not about page views on your Christian blog.  It’s definitely not about the number of people who came to an event.

Ministry is about peoples’ souls.  It’s about where they will spend eternity.  It’s about our personal walks with our Savior and about sharing Him with other people.  It’s about helping people discover that our purpose on this earth is bigger than ourselves.  It’s about loving Jesus with everything we have and looking forward to enjoying Him forever.

So we keep doing these little things because the BIG THING matters.  I will keep showing up when I’m tired.  I will ask questions.  I will invite people into my home.  I will pray for the people I know who are not walking with the Lord because I want them to know Jesus.  I want them to be set free.  This is the one cause that is worth spending my entire life for.  And I want to be spent for something that matters.

As you are tired today, as you wonder if the little things you work for really matter, will you think about souls?  Will you think about eternity?

Sometimes when I get stuck thinking about all the little things, I consider walking away.  Right now that would look like no more volunteering with Young Life in any capacity.  I’d gain some more free time.  I wouldn’t have to plan any events.  I wouldn’t be responsible for anyone else.  For a moment, it seems like it would make life easier.  But I can see how my life would quickly become about me.  I’d lose the accountability I have now to pursue others and spend time in scripture.  I think I’d forget to pray for the lost because I wouldn’t know their names and faces.  I would get to decide for myself how to spend my time and my money.  This would be a scary road to go down because I would lose sight of the Gospel.  I’d begin to believe that my life is about me when really it’s all about God.

I’m going to keep doing the little things and praying for big things because I believe souls are at stake and this matters for eternity.  Dig your heels in.  Fight the good fight.  When you’re serving in ministry, do not get stuck in all the little things and forget about the big thing.  It’s bigger than budgets, details and attendance.  It’s about souls and where they’ll spend eternity.

Lessons on Prayer from Peggy

My new condition has me a little more exhausted and sick than I imagined.  My normal million-mile-a-minute pace has been slowed down dramatically and I’ve been having a hard time accepting that.

I’ve been too tired to spend time with others and don’t have enough energy for my normal “good works.”  When students are at our house on Monday nights, I’ve headed to the bedroom to take a nap before Young Life club.  My individual dates with my small group girls have been severely lacking.  My guilt level has been high because I haven’t been working as hard for relationships as I normally do.

Yesterday I had lunch with a sweet older woman.  When she called to invite me to lunch her voicemail started off, “Hi, I’m Peggy and I’m a Grandma.”  Who wouldn’t want to accept that invitation to lunch?

Peggy wanted to talk about the Lord, Young Life and prayer.  She wanted to hear about my heart for ministry.  As we sat at lunch, she shared several stories of the Lord’s provision in her life through ministry.  She teared up three different times.  I teared up once.  She talked a lot about answered prayers and her passion for praying.  She told me a story about starting a Young Life area after eight years of praying for ministry to begin.  “It was started on the right foundation,” she confidently said.  I asked how prayer became such a big part of her life.

“When I was forty, I took inventory of my spiritual life.  I realized that I wanted to pray more.  I asked the Lord to grow in me the desire to pray.  And He has.  I’m still learning things about prayer.  It is the true work.”  And while she said this she got teary like she was talking about the sweetest most intimate moments of her life.

Now I’ve heard that before.  But I’m not sure I’ve ever deeply believed it to be true.  I’ve always been able to do the work and the prayer.  Right now I can’t do the work, at least not at the pace I’m used to.  But I can do the prayer.

When I told my friend Julie that Peggy had invited me to lunch, this is how Julie described Peggy, “She is a woman who if she tells me she is going to pray for something, I know she is praying.”

Peggy believes in prayer.  She does the work of prayer.  She sees God answer prayer.  She is a fighter for the kingdom because of her deep intimacy with Jesus.  She is deeply passionate about the work of the Lord on this earth.  You see it in her words and in her tears.

I left that lunch fired up.  I think I’d like to become more like Peggy.

Lord would you grow in me a desire to pray?