In Her Shoes – Single Missionaries

  
     “For God is not unjust to forget
         your work and labor of love which
            you have shown toward His name,
                in that you have ministered to the
                     saints, and do minister.”  Hebrews 6:10
“I will follow God anywhere … except to Africa!”  Have you, or someone you know, ever put stipulations on following God?  I have.  Whether it has to do with bugs, snakes, family, finances, or a million other things, certain places are a “no go” for many Christians. 
Over the years I have pushed on the missionary door several times: missions trips here in the USA and to Eastern Europe, dated some fine foreign-mission-field-bound young men in college, and after college pursued full-time mission work with a mentor of mine in Africa.  And each time, God has in His almighty wisdom, closed those doors. He faithfully opened, and continues to open, other doors.  His best doors for me.  And He is always there to walk through them with me.  On a few occasions, of course, He has had to drag me through the door kicking and screaming – only for me to find out in the end that He, of course, was right!
A friend of mine who has served God faithfully for years as a foreign missionary, recently told me she felt convicted to surrender to do something she saw as more daunting than planning, packing, flying, and serving overseas: teaching children’s church.  It has been a joy to see God bless her efforts as she shares God’s love and truth with children in our church.
Wherever God leads us, and however He chooses to stretch us, we can be certain of this rock solid truth . . .    


“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you,
I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”
Isaiah 41:10


“He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.”


I Thessalonians 5:24
 

From the moment they heard God’s call, until this very hour, each of the following women on God’s mission testify to God’s faithfulness.  Their faith-in-action amazes me.  Even more incredible is the power of our wonderful God shown through each one of them.  Without further ado, let’s take a walk “In Her Shoes” . . .

Africa and North America 
My missionary journey is different than most as I had a husband and four children, and was widowed at the age of forty-four. Since I had not attended college, I needed to further my education. I was accepted on the basis of my high school transcript, attended pre-nursing in the town where I was living, and transferred to another university to get my nursing degree when my younger daughter left to go to college.

The ladies in my church had been praying for someone to go help a nurse who was working alone in Liberia. The Lord prepared me to be the one who would go. Five months after I arrived in Liberia my co-worker was called home due to her mother’s serious illness.
I had worked as a nurse in Liberia for two terms when a civil war broke out in the country. We had to be evacuated. I was due for furlough that year and the mission decided that anyone who was due for furlough should make plans to return to the United States.  So I came back home for a year. When the year was completed, it was not safe to go back to Liberia, so the Lord led me to Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast). We worked with an interpreter in both Liberia and Cote d’Ivoire as there are several African languages in each country.


There were many challenges, but God does not ask us to do anything that He does not enable us to do. Much of the time in Liberia we worked without electricity or running water. The medical emergencies were a challenge, as well as the roads we had to travel to take them to the nearest hospital which was thirty-six miles away. God gave wisdom, strength and safety for each day.
 

One of the blessings were the letters we received from those who wrote faithfully to assure us of their prayers. God answered in ways we could not have imagined.

One of the qualifications of being a missionary is to be flexible. You will be asked to do things that are not in your “job description.” He also leads one step at a time. When you take that step, He shows you the next one.

Malaria was also a challenge for me (in spite of faithfully taking the preventative medication). So when I left Cote d’Ivoire, I asked to be placed in the U.S. God led me to Great Falls, Montana to work with Native Americans.

The best way to encourage single missionaries is to write to them, and let them know you are praying for them, whether they are at home or on the field. God has also instructed us to pray the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers into His harvest. They will be encouraged to know you are doing that, too.

North America

Most of these thoughts come from my time in Alaska, but there are still times here in the Midwest when I am very busy meeting with students, and I wished that I had someone to share the problems with and the joys. Now, I do have a special “adopted Mom” who lives nearby that I can talk to about anything, and I am so thankful for that. That is something that is so needed.

I thank the Lord for the students He has given me to work with over these years. Even though I don’t have the spiritual fellowship with most of them, I have opportunities to share the Word with them, or show hospitality, or help them & this helps me also.  

Holidays can be lonely, as well as birthdays. I had a couple I worked with, but they also had their own family. People don’t even send cards very much any more. I enjoy getting cards with notes in them about what the person has been doing or about their church. Sending notes (even by email today) can be encouraging & especially if the person has told you they are praying for you. Sometimes we never even hear from supporting churches – even when there is a pastoral change.

This might sound strange and might not just be single missionaries, but single gals everywhere. It’s just that it is harder to get things done away from the Lower 48. I lived alone, and if I needed something to be fixed, I couldn’t always ask my co-worker and you can’t always just call a repairman. Sometimes you just ask the Lord for wisdom and/or strength to get it done. Digging out from three feet of snow isn’t easy, or when a tree fell on my trailer. I don’t want to sound like complaining, because God often provided help in various forms.

Since there was just this couple and I starting a work, the man often thinks the single gal has much more time to do things than his wife, so he gives her more things to do. They forget we still have to do laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning along with all the ministry things.

One thing I missed, is that I never got to know my nieces and nephews. Even when home on furlough I would only see them for a very short time. And now, I still don’t have a very close relationship with most of them.

During lonely times and trials, it helps to have someone to pray with me and I can pray with them about theirs. Now that I am older, it is difficult to fit in with those my age as most are married and a single person makes an uneven number. I hope to be able to attend church adult fellowships, when they don’t conflict with ministry responsibilities.
 

Africa

I grew up on the mission field as an MK (missionary kid). West Africa became my home, my love. I was very wisely advised, though, to not return to the mission field because it was more comfortable, but to be sure God was calling me there. Attending Bible college reinforced my desire to serve the Lord, and He made it clear He wanted me to teach. All through college, I was heavily involved in Student Missions Fellowship and even went on a short-term missions trip. But it wasn’t until after I taught for a few years in Colorado that God made it clear that I could teach overseas … that He could use me in the same capacity but a different location.

Being a single female missionary on deputation was just plain HARD. Making phone calls and sending out information, trying to get meetings (but not preach!), certainly required a lot of trust in the Lord and courage and strength that only He could give! I was also “accused” of not being a “real” missionary, since I was “only” teaching (and not directly involved in church planting). I was given many opportunities to display God’s grace and keep my mouth shut! God provided support through mostly individuals instead of churches and I spent seven years serving Him in Côte d’Ivoire and Niger.

Once I arrived on the mission field, the tables were turned. I lived on a compound/campus where there were as many single missionaries as there were couples! As a single person, I found I had more time for the students outside the classroom. For the first four years, I taught 5thgrade, but God also gave me a very rewarding mentoring ministry with some of the middle and high school students in the afternoons, evenings, and weekends—time I wouldn’t have had as much of if I’d had a family to take care of. 

When civil war chased me from that ministry (twice), God moved me to Niger and a very different ministry. Being a single woman in a Muslim country was a much more difficult ministry, both socially and emotionally. No longer living on a compound made it even harder, so I appreciated the families who included me in meals and social activities.
I never felt issues of single vs. married on the field. My co-workers treated me as an equal. My best friends were married women. I was always an important part of the team. It was coming back on furlough that I dreaded, facing all the extremes of church presentations.
In one of my churches, I would speak in adult Sunday school, then children’s church, show my slides/presentation in the evening service, and speak to a women’s Bible study—all in one weekend! At another church, I was in the basement with the kids and MAYBE gave my testimony in “big” church. As much as I love children’s ministries, they aren’t the ones who are sending me to the mission field! Please include your single missionaries as a vital part of your missionary team. No, we can’t preach, but we have so much to share about what God is doing around the world!
How can you best serve/minister to single missionaries? Communicate with them. Email and facebook make that sooooo much easier now! Care packages with treats from “home” are such an encouragement, too. When we’re visiting your church, give us a chance to share our hearts—with women, children, and even the whole congregation. A five minute testimony isn’t enough. Remember that we are human, too, and need friends and acceptance and prayer and encouragement. God can use ANYONE and EVERYONE! 


Africa
 

As a single missionary to Cameroon, God is teaching me much. It is true that the foremost reason missionaries leave the field is because of interpersonal problems. So, yes, I struggle with keeping the balance between depending on men to help me with various things such as car problems, home maintenance, and spiritual leadership in the villages, etc. and doing things on my own to avoid dependence.



Most often the men helping me are single Christian nationals who need work. They are dear brothers struggling to grow in the Lord. It is difficult as a single woman when the missionary men are so busy, and their wives do not lead. So, any decisions and communication usually must first go through the wife who then defers to her husband.

However, being single, for me, also means at times living with, or at least very closely to the nationals. Hence, I often know and hear things that the missionary families do not know. This has its advantages and disadvantages: advantages in that I learn much more about the people and their culture, but sometimes disadvantages in knowing of probllems in the Body of Christ and trying to help bridge the gap between the understanding of the nationals and the missionaries.


At times, I have had to teach on the home and family because the others were too busy to do so, or answer questions from national believing leaders because there were no mature Christian men around to do so.



My heart naturally yearns for a companion and leader, but these unmet desires must be met in Christ, the One Who has promised to supply all that I need. When He sees that I NEED a husband, He will provide. Until then, He is all that I need.


As Isaiah says too, the children of the barren are more than the married wife. How true! I frequently have 15 to 20 kids at my door, and must deal with their sicknesses, quarrels, etc., as their parents often leave them for the whole day to work in the farms.



I have been attacked by bandits in my home, have been stranded in very remote places, and more, but God has always been and will continue to be faithful to me, and I have seen that truly, safety is of Him! Ladies, others will fail you, but God never will. We can depend on Him all of the time. He uses times of trial to draw us to Himself and learn more of Him. The waters, and rivers, and fire are ways that we come to know our Lord more intimately – Isaiah 43:2. It is the greatest joy for me to serve the Lord here in Cameroon, the place and the people to whom God has called me to minister. I would not trade it for anything.

“That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;” Philippians 3:10 (KJV)


. . . . . . . . . .

Heartfelt thanks to our sisters in Christ who contributed to this article – your beautiful hearts are a blessing! 

In Her Shoes – Single Women

Singleness.  We’ve all been there at some point. Some of you live the single life right now – for others of us, the memory of life alone begins to dim. Married at age thirty, I remember being on my own. But, recently I recognized that my memories are getting foggy. So, I asked some godly single women what they would like their married sisters, including me, to know about them.

It is my delight to introduce these lovely women of God!  They are their 30s or 40s; two are in full-time Christian service, and two are in secular professions.  Each wants to honor God in her life and in her relationships.  Their objective is not to promote comparison between married and single women.  They want to nuture unity with their sisters in Christ.

What would you like married women to know about you?

Single Sister #1 – Iowa

“What I want married women to know about me:

1) Church service: I do want to serve, but please don’t treat me like a workhorse, always expecting me to serve anytime there’s a need. Just because I’m single and have no kids, doesn’t mean that I have oodles of free time or that I don’t have other commitments.  Three years ago, I got a personal and painful reminder that I need to be better about saying the word “no.” I had just come off of a summer of constantly serving in various areas, and God showed me that I needed to slow down. 

 

2) Please don’t assume that my job is the only thing going on in my life. I may not be married or have kids, but I do lead a full and active life. I don’t mind when people ask me how work is going, but sometimes I feel like that’s ALL they ask me about. There are times when work has been trying for me that day or week, and I really don’t feel like talking about it. But sometimes I have trouble diverting the conversation in another direction because I feel like ‘well, at least they’re talking to me. I’ll take that over nothing.’ I have hopes, dreams, goals, hobbies, musical interests, etc. Please don’t be afraid to ask about my life.

3) Likewise, I want to hear about your life too. I love hearing about others’ kids and families, but I also want to get to know more about you. I think there is much we can learn from each other.

4) I do appreciate it when people ask me how they can pray for me or what I’ve been learning from God and His Word.

5) I am endeavoring to take to heart Proverbs 31:10-31, particularly verse 12 right now.

6) I aspire to keep growing closer to and loving my Lord more and more every day.”

Single Sister #2 – Pennsylvania

“Some have already mentioned my thoughts, but I’ll reiterate them. Our church has a once-a-month ladies’ Bible study and fellowship. There are some ladies that I work with who attend that I could sit with there, but I’d like to get know some other people. I’ve given up and have quit going because none of the married women will include me in their conversations. Sometimes they don’t so much as look at me. I would like married women to know that I don’t have the plague and I do have a life even though I’m not married. I want them to know that I do want to be their friend and hear about their families though other topics of conversation and interest in my life would be appreciated as well.

My parents married late, so they can very much relate to the problem we face in Christianity. “Oh, she’s single. She can do it.” Within three months of being saved my dad was made Sunday school superintendent because he was single. Mom was so stressed out with all of her responsibilities at church that the married women wouldn’t do that she actually postponed their wedding. Single people have to work full time, do all of the grocery shopping, house and lawn chores, pay all of the bills and make all of the decisions by themselves. There really isn’t that much free time.

 

                                                                           
One thing that has bugged me for many years is to hear married women complain about their husbands. I understand that some women have legitimate reasons to complain about their husbands, but that doesn’t give them a right to do so. Complaining is not honoring. Often the complaints are so petty such as how much laundry and ironing he creates. I would be so happy to have a husband to iron for, and I hate ironing! I vowed years ago that if God ever gave me a husband, I would thank God for him every time I did his laundry, and I practice that when doing my dad’s laundry.”


Single Sister #3 – Wisconsin
“To include everyone, not just married people. I have a lot of friends who include my daughter and I in everything, but then you meet people who act like they’re superior because they’re married. And then I hear women who are so upset because their husband doesn’t do every little thing for them. I hear women who have said they’re mad at God because they can’t have any more children and they already have 3 or 4 kids. Sigh…………I try to be compassionate toward them and understand and just love them but the reality of it is that in my heart, I’m thinking that they need to be thankful for the husband and kids that they already have. Some of us would love to trade places with them in an instant.

I agree that many are busy serving their families, but I have a friend who is a mother of 5 girls, she serves her family and husband very well, yet has always had time for my daughter and I in NUMEROUS ways. Having dinner at their house, parties at their house, game night, etc. I think that no matter where you are in life, it comes back to looking past yourself and loving people. As a single mom who runs 2 businesses, the norm for me has been to be up at 7am, to work by 8:30, back home around 8pm, and to bed around 1am. I had time to run both businesses, spend time with my daughter, keep up the house, have play dates with her friends, cook meals for people who just had babies or surgeries, watch people’s kids if they had a Dr’s appt, etc. and coordinate an entire music program (everything from practice, coordinating the calendar, teaching people how to sing, putting together cantatas, you name it.)

I’m enjoying the break I’m having right now from that busy life (just moved), but still looking for ways to serve people in this community. I’ve been buying school uniforms for kids at school who can’t afford them, and I’m planning to organize buying coats for them too. I always try to remind myself that everyone is at a different place spiritually, and even when God tells someone to do something, they might not actually do it. I have to leave it up to God to bring people to the point of looking at other people’s needs and doing something about it.

The only other thing I would add is just being sensitive, especially when you’re talking to an older person who’s single. I’ve had people ask me ‘Why aren’t you married?’  and while I really think they mean it as a compliment, it makes you feel like in some way you’ve failed because you’re not married. As if it’s a social class or something. Other times, people have told me that I ‘just need to get married,’ as if that will solve all of life’s issues and as if there’s some big line of guys that I have to choose from. Getting married just to get married never made anyone happy or solved any problems.

Understanding that God’s plan for some people is to be married, and God’s plan for other people is to be single and supporting each other in living out that plan is important.”

Single Sister #4 – Ohio

“That’s a very sensitive question to ask. Because of health problems, I’ve shared with people at church about how much stress has compromised my health. Two older married ladies have commented that I shouldn’t have any stress because I’m not married with children. I wanted to scream! But they had no personal reference point to understand the deprivations of walking through life alone, working full-time, and, in my case, having no family nearby or any Christian relatives at all.


I also wish married women would be sensitive to singles when they’re in a group setting. Many married women talk a lot about their families, and that’s like a knife in my heart, since I am past the age where I could have my own kids.

I appreciate your asking the question. There are a lot of radio programs, Bible studies or whatever that deal with the issues a person faces when married. Because of that, singles have a fairly good grasp of their struggles, but it’s not common to have information about singles, or if there is, it’s usually about dating, not about just plain living.

In my church, most married women work outside the home. In many cases, it’s because their husband makes them do it, because they feel they need to. But even if not, most of these are people who live pretty comfortable lives in large homes. This week I’ve been praying about getting involved with youth at church again. Two years ago I had to step away from all such ministries because of health issues, and I’m so hungry to offer up that nurturing side of me as a woman. But I think I’m going to have to turn down this opportunity, because my job is just too draining (I literally do the work of 3 people). I have longed and prayed that God would somehow remove the burden of having to support myself so I could be more involved in more ministries and volunteering to be a testimony for Christ in my community.


When I see married women either forced to work or choosing to work, it’s such a sadness to me. My church has suffered because so few women are available anymore for ministries. I would challenge women who have the freedom to not work to pour their energies into this very eternal investment. You are very much needed and valued in these roles.

As a final note: I want married women to know that I feel for them with the issues they face too, because raising kids can be very trying. Whether single or married, it’s good to respect each other’s differences and know that the grass is not greener on the other side of the fence. I think a forum like this, though, can help us better understand and support each other as members of the whole family of God. I always bear in mind that in heaven there will be no marriage, so if we can focus on people as people here, we’ll be set for heaven!”

. . . . .

Thank you ladiesWhat about you?  Do you have something you’d like to share?  We’d love to hear from you!  Please feel free to leave a comment below.  We are exceedingly blessed to be on God’s mission together!

“For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them . . . Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality . . . Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another.”


– Excerpts from Romans 12

 

What Are You Waiting For?

Today I read this article, and it blew me away.  It would have been most appreciated by me as a single woman, yet it ministered greatly still to this married woman’s heart, because it’s principles are biblical and universal. 

What are you waiting for?  Waiting isn’t just for single women.  I’ve spent many a day waiting for . . .

  • school to start/end
  • my prince charming to come on the scene
  • my wedding day to arrive
  • babies to spring forth
  • doctors in waiting rooms
  • lab test results
  • the ache to subside following miscarriage
  • my husband to get better
  • and hoping for another positive preganancy test
  • sick children to get better
  • sons to give their hearts to Jesus
  • family members to reconcile
  • my attitude to change
  • personal growth 
  • friends spiritually blinded or hardened to truth to have their spirtual eyes opened
  • God to reveal His will for the next step of my mission . . . waiting . . .

During the waiting times I am drawn to my knees in desperation.  And there I find Him.  A painful, lonely place is suddenly warmed by His light and love.  I am no longer alone in my waiting places.  And you don’t have to be alone in yours either.

“I just didn’t want to wait anymore – didn’t want to live like I was waiting on anyone to get here.  I already have Him … and He is everything.”  – Grace 

Click the following link to read Grace’s article:

  
 “Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; On You I wait all the day.”
Psalm 25:5
 
 
“Wait on the Lord;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the Lord!”
Psalm 27:14
 
 
“For evildoers shall be cut off; But those who wait on the LORD, They shall inherit the earth.” Psalm 37:9
 
 

“Truly my soul silently waits for God;
From Him comes my salvation.”
Psalm 62:1
 
 

“For since the beginning of the world men have not heard nor perceived by the ear, nor has the eye seen any God besides You, Who acts for the one who waits for Him.”
Isaiah 64:4
 
 
“Therefore the LORD will wait, that He may be gracious to you; And therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you.  For the LORD is a God of justice; Blessed are all those who wait for Him.” Isaiah 30:18

“But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”  Isaiah 40:31

“It is good that one should hope and wait quietly, for the salvation of the LORD.”  Lamentations 3:26

Father’s Day Reflections

Tonight my breath caught in my throat as I noticed a bright rainbow just out my back door.  It was positively glowing!  I’ve never seen the violet ribbon so brilliant.  As it expanded into a double rainbow, I could hear my children ooo-ing and ahh-ing from their bedroom window, talking back and forth with their Daddy about what a rainbow means.  Hearkening back to our father in the faith Noah, God our Father keeps His promises, of course.

This spring my Dad designed a little
house for his grandsons.
Tim and our boys enjoyed helping out!


This Father’s Day weekend I am eternally grateful to God for a Dad who loves Him and loves his family.  Some of my favorite memories with my Dad include: when we went camping, going to church, walking the mall and him stopping occasionally to buy me a rope of licorice, bike riding, eating mulberries, him teaching me how to drive a tractor on the farm, horseback riding, chuckwagons in Colorado, and the countless times he listened to me practice the piano, clapping after every song! 

And now I am blessed to be married to a man who is a good husband and a great father.  I am unspeakably thankful that my husband is someone I can respect and trust with my children.  He loves playing with them, listening to them, chasing and tickling, singing with them . . . my cup overflows.

I love this old picture of Tim
and the boys!


Maybe you feel that while others enjoy rainbow memories and relationships, yours have been or are stormy.  Perhaps your dad wasn’t the loving kind.  Instead he wounded you and wrecked your childhood.  What pain and agony!  Perhaps you are single and longing for someone to build a family with, but God hasn’t brought him along, yet.  I remember the ache.  Or, you may have seen your prince charming fall off his horse and land in the kingdom of another princess.  There is no one to love you or the children you had together, and your weary heart is broken.

While human beings fall short in sympathy, God understands what we think and feel.  When His children are hurting, He hurts, too.  And He is closer to us than breathing. Just like the rainbow I saw tonight which followed scary lightening and ominous clouds,  God will help us through the storms of life – He is the safe place of eternal love and forever rainbows.

The following verses are familiar to many of us, but let’s take a few moments to soak in them once again.  Just like sinking our toes into a plush carpet, munching on a warm-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookie, coming home and smelling freshly baked bread . . . let’s come home to our Father and bask in His love today.

Our Perfect Father 

“For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.” Psalm 103:11-14

“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

“But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and You our potter; and all we are the work of Your hand.” Isaiah 64:8

“… your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.” Matthew 6:8b

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” Matthew 7:7-8,11

“Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.” Luke 6:36

“For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” Romans 8:15 

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

“I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” 2 Corinthians 6:18

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ …” Ephesians 1:3

“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!”  I John 3:1

“And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world.” I John 4:14

Push the Pause Button: Taking Time to Evaluate

At this very moment I am enjoying a rare moment of bliss.  My laptop, Bible, calendar and I are sitting at a local coffee shop, in an air conditioned room with, ironically, a cozy fireplace flickering nearby.  It is doing it’s job well, relaxing me while I sip a blueberry Italian soda, nibble an M & M cookie, and reflect on life.  Yes, I’m spoiled.  A whole pack of thank you notes wouldn’t be enough to thank my sweet husband.

It is a break, yes.  But, it is also a work appointment.  As a wife and mother I take my job very seriously.  And sometimes I need to get away from the workplace I love to renew my perspective.

As a stay-at-home wife, homeschooling mom, host mom, writer, daughter, friend, and growing child of God, I must take time to pray, evaluate, and plan for coming days.  When I was single I needed to do the same thing.  It was tedious to face life’s ups and downs alone, besides being responsible for everything. 

We all need TIME to REFOCUS.

Here are some questions to help us check our path as we push the pause button:

1.  God – Is God still a priority in my life?  If so, what is the evidence?  When is the last time I was truly abiding in Him?  Have I poured my heart out to Him today?  How many times a day do I think about Him?  Do people know that I am His?

2.  Myself: God’s Temple – Is my heart soft or hard?  Am I where God wants me to be?  Do I need help?  If so, am I asking for help?  Am I a thankful person?  Am I taking care of my spirit, mind, emotions, and body?  Am I doing ____ for God’s glory or mine?  Are my goals in life reasonable or am I constantly defeated by unrealistic expectations?

3.  Others: Eternal Souls – Who has God given to me as priority relationships to help?  Am I putting them first?  Am I doing my best to help them in their walk with God?  Do I pray as much for others as I pray for myself?  Do I need to change my schedule to make more time for others?  Am I using my influence for good in my home, neighborhood, church, community, and beyond?

4.  My Home: God’s Embassy – Do I have too much stuff in my home?  Is taking care of things weighing me down and sapping energy better used elsewhere?  What do I need to get rid of?  How often do I have people over?  Is my home a refuge for my family?  Is my home a God-place?  Am I clinging too tightly to things?  Is my house a place of peace and joy?

5.  My Schedule: My Soul Test –  What does my schedule say about me?  About my view of God?  Is it too packed or do I need to add some things to use my time wisely?  What is causing me the most stress?  What about it is stressful?  How much time do I spend online every day? What is the first thing I’d like to remove from my schedule?  Why?  Am I dwelling in the past or future instead of today?

Jesus told us what our priorities should be …

“Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:37-40

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” Matthew 6:33

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2

Blessings abound in us because we are daughters of the King.  Whether we are single, married, with or without kids, an empty-nester, a grandmother, or are standing at the end of life on earth, God wants to help us live with His heart.  All we need to do is ask Him! 

Be Thou My Vision

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.
Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.
Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;
Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tower:
Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.
Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.
High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heaven’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all. 
– Forgaill

The Quiet House: Ministering with the Father’s Heart to Childless Men and Women

What happens on Mother’s Day at your church? It is typical and fitting to honor the mothers who are present. In some cases moms are asked to stand, given a public blessing and a hearty applause, followed by a prayer of thanksgiving and dedication. Usually a flower or some other small gift is given to each mom. How Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are observed reveal much about the heart of a church.

The Aching Heart
One of the most painful experiences is that of women or men who desire to have children but cannot. They may be married or single, be barren, or have experienced the loss of a child (or multiple children) through miscarriage or death. It’s true that some people don’t desire to have children, but that is the exception. Most believers look forward to having little ones around, and when that can’t happen, it hurts.

The Parent Heart

Some busy parents may look at those without children and think they have it easy. Well-meaning men and women can misunderstand and even sin against those who are childless. They can be guilty of looking at them with jealousy or judgment: With jealousy a parent might think, “They have time and money to do the things they want.  They have more time to dedicate themselves to serving God.”  With judgment someone might think, “Why isn’t he married? There must be something wrong with her. Why don’t they have a baby? How strange, how selfish! Exhausted? … They don’t even know the meaning of the word!” If believers are not jealous or judgmental, they can be neglectful. Sad to say, it’s easy to get so busy that we don’t take time to think about the needs of other people.

The Single Heart

One bright Mother’s Day morning, all of the moms were invited to stand in the front of the church. The pastor spoke glowingly of how wonderful they all were and how greatly the future rests upon their shoulders. My single friend Laura felt uncomfortable, since she was about the only woman left back in the pews.  After they were dismissed to their seats, Laura breathed a sigh of relief that the ceremony was over for another year. However, the pastor had forgotten to give the women flowers, so he had some men pass them out right away. My friend was left empty-handed as she looked around at all the smiling mothers.

Laura cried all the way home from church, again asking God to help her be content in her singleness. Unfortunately the pastor had also forgotten to hand out special books, so in the evening service the deliverers were sent out again. A deacon started to hand a book to Laura, and just as she reached out to accept the gift, he quickly pulled his hand back and said, “Oops!” At that moment Laura felt as though she wanted to shrivel up and die.

On holidays honoring parents, some people without children feel uncomfortable, lonely, and even as if they are unimportant or sinful because they haven’t produced children. While they rejoice with their friends who are moms and dads, they can be grievously reminded of their sorrow. Does the church remember these dear sisters and brothers in Christ on these occasions and throughout the year? It is possible to bless everyone present in our churches on days of honor. To do this, believers need to cultivate the heart of the Father.

The Father’s Heart

In seeking to minister to others, believers can become overwhelmed with the variety of people and their needs. Knowing that someone needs encouragement is one thing – knowing how to do it is entirely another.  Believers can increase in wisdom by asking God (James 1:5), and by learning to offer comfort to the fainthearted.

“Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.”  I Thessalonians 5:14

Christians may not understand where other people are coming from. Yet with God’s help we can try to put ourselves in their shoes. Believers have no excuse not to do their best to encourage others.

Besides first and foremost praying for them, here are some practical ideas on how church leadership and individuals can minister to people without children:

1. Be friendly.  Don’t talk too much about your kids. If someone in the group is going on and on about their children, smile and start talking about something that they are interested in.

2. Give them opportunities to minister to children.  A precious couple who lost four babies during pregnancy and have no living children are the world’s most loving and dedicated Sunday School teachers.  And what a blessing those children are to them!

3. Include them in family activities. Invite them into your home. Have your children deliver a “just because” card or cookies. Invite them to sit with you in church. Holidays can be the hardest times; if they are not able to be with loved ones, joyfully welcome them to your celebration. You may feel uncomfortable sharing news of your pregnancy with them, but they want to hear it from you. Pray, and God will direct you to the right words and timing. 

4. Remember them on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.  Send a note, e-mail, or card reminding them how special they are and to let them know you are praying for them. In church honor the moms and dads present, but also focus on the valuable roles of being godly men and women. If the church is going to give a gift, buy enough to give to every man or woman present. Being a parent doesn’t make folks more precious or better people. Some of the best “moms” and “dads” in our churches don’t have biological children. But, oh, the spiritual children in which they’ve invested their lives!

5. Respect their privacy. In most cases it is rude to ask them when they are going to get married/have kids/adopt. And never ask them why they can’t have children. If they choose to confide in you, make sure you are a trustworthy confidant. 

6. Be considerate regarding specific events.  Use common sense. For instance, you probably wouldn’t want to ask a childless woman to be in charge of a baby shower. It may even be too painful for childless women to attend the shower. This doesn’t mean that they are not happy for the new mother. It may be that they know they can’t handle it emotionally and don’t want to cause a scene.

7. Respect and appreciate them. That they don’t have kids or are unmarried doesn’t mean that you can’t learn from them. Single people and married people without children have so much to offer. Ask them to be your prayer partners or accountability partners. On the other hand, church leadership should not assume that childless people have a lot of extra time and should not take advantage of them, always expecting them to serve.


8. Relax and listen. Don’t worry that you won’t know what to say to them. Be a sympathetic listener and pray for God’s wisdom to know what He would have you to say. 

9. Seek them out. Look for opportunities to serve and fellowship with childless friends. This especially means a lot if it’s a difficult day, like the day their miscarried baby was due or the anniversary of their child’s death.

How can we minister to people in circumstances so different from our own? A remarkable reality is that God can use the lessons we learn from going through a trial to help someone going through an entirely different situation! In 2 Corinthians 1:3 and 4 we read , “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” (emphasis added). As we learn about God’s comfort, He gives us the ability to comfort others.

After my husband and I lost a child through miscarriage, some of the greatest encouragement came from our single friends and from those who had never lost a child. One friend, who spoke with such wisdom and love, told me that she had asked God to show her what I needed to hear. Another friend prayed and wept with me. What examples these are of godly compassion. Through His Word and Spirit, God can teach us how to minister to anyone.

In this era of support groups believers need to be careful that we do not exclusively mingle with those of their “type.” God marvelously designed us as Christ’s Body, and He makes it possible and necessary for the “hand” to look after the “foot,” and the “elbow” to care for the “eye” (I Corinthians 12). There is a wealth of wisdom and friendship out there among God’s children. And the value of believers’ ministering to believers in stages of life different from their own is God’s will for His children (Titus 2). God helps believers to think of others on Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, every day. And may they prayerfully minister, as a church body and as individuals, with the Father’s heart.


 
(c)2009 Regular Baptist Press. Reproduced by permission.

To find out more about Regular Baptist Press or The Baptist Bulletin: http://www.baptistbulletin.org/


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God Can Be Trusted

Taking a fun train ride with Daddy at the zoo.  This picture reminds me that my family can go forward confidently with God . . . no matter what the future may bring, we can trust our Conductor.

It is pleasant to have the sun warming me through my winter window this morning. My heart feels cold after another miscarriage, and I grieve the loss of my child.  Little did I guess last week, when I posted memories of our Jewel, that the life of the newest member of our family would be so short.  Psalm 127:3 clashed head on with Job 1:20-22:

“Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, the fruit of the womb is His reward.” Psalm 127:3
“Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshipped. He said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.’ Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God.” Job 1:20-22


This morning as I tried to get breakfast around, moving my tired aching body, my tears welled up not from chopping the onions, but from my sorrow – my child has died. 

While I know this is true … there will be no need to pull out the maternity clothes, no exciting birth announcements, and no need to put “Baby Coming!” on my calendar for October … I also remind myself that his/her death is only part of the story. Our little Jade wasn’t allowed to sit in the baby swing, coo, receive hugs and kissies, say “Mama” or “Daddy,” eat a blueberry pancake, or have his or her toes tickled. These were my hope, but God had something better in mind for Jade.  And he/she is very much alive!

Centuries ago, when King David grieved the death of his child, God revealed to him that he would get to see his child again in the future:

“I will go to him but he will not return to me.”    
2 Samuel 12:23

My child was and is a real person, designed by God, known by God, with a divine purpose for his/her life:

“For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your words, and my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I as made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them. How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand.” Psalm 139:13-18


Someone innocently asked me, “How old was Jade?” With complete appreciation for their good intentions, it simply doesn’t matter how far along I was, nor how old Jade was when he/she died.  Jade was alive, inside me. Then Jade died, inside me. Death of a loved one is always painful … there is never enough time.

In my mind I had already planned where the baby bed would be, pictured my boys’ excitement in meeting a little sibling, and was seriously thinking through names.  I wondered what Jade would look like and could envision a future of getting to know this person as they grew up, praying and trusting that he/she would grow up to love and serve God.  I’m trying to thankfully reflect on the brief time we had together. Just a little while to treasure my special secret … to dream … to prayerfully dedicate this child inside me to God.


Even though God saw fit to take Jade home, it doesn’t mean I can’t trust Him. God knows all and can see everything. In comparison I’m like a blind ant scurrying around, unable to see the rock 10″ ahead of me. This God Who knows how small I am, lovingly calls me His own. He knows my grief. He promises never to leave me – He is holding me. When I am at the point of not being able to pray, utterly weighed down by sadness, He is working behind the scenes to bring the answer to my needs. He reaches out to me with . . .

His Word

Himself
My husband Tim
Caleb & Joshua (my children on earth)
Friends
Family …
and beauty in unexpected places

God  has provided!  One friend, not knowing why I wasn’t feeling well, suspected, and brought me a beautiful bouquet of flowers.  They have been a balm to my spirit.  A close friend brought a meal and took the boys for a couple hours.  A precious neighbor helped in various amazing ways, providing the support we needed at just the right moment.  Our pastor and his wife got on their knees to pray for us, asking how they can help.  My sister took our boys for a couple of days so we can rest and have time to grieve.  Friends and family have prayed and offered suppport.  They have rejoiced with us and grieved with us about Jade.

I’m not sharing my heart with you so you can feel sorry for me.  Please don’t!  I want you to know that we have a beautiful child in Heaven named Jade.  And far more importantly, I want you to know GOD CAN BE TRUSTED.  We can have joy in our hearts, and we can smile through our tears, because God is real!  Whether God gives you a husband or not.  Whether He gives you children or not.  No matter what the diagnosis, no matter how many lost dreams you experience, nothing changes Who God is.  And Jeremiah 29:11 is still in the Bible.

It’s okay to grieve. He can help me through. He has a plan. He will not waste this. There is hope!  And someday, I will look into the eyes of Jesus, and He will introduce me to my beautiful treasures – Jewel, Gem and Jade … who by God’s grace never experienced the pain of this earth – only the beauty of God in His home. I was never able to tell them about Jesus, but the first One they ever met was Jesus.  I am a very blessed mother of five.   May all my children bring Him glory, there and here.

Suggested resource for those suffering a loss of a child before or after birth:  Grieving the Child I Never Knew by Kathe Wunnenberg