Waiting: What Do I Focus On?

Waiting.  Nobody really likes to wait. It’s hard to wait for the really exciting things that are going to happen in life. But waiting can be even harder when it is for something that could be bad – waiting for the inevitable.

When I am waiting for something it’s an ever present thought that I just can’t shake. I can be seemingly fully present in what I’m doing, but that thought of what is to come is right there in the back of my mind. Over the past few weeks there were test results that I was waiting for. They were looming reminders that life might change for the worse. I could engage with people, put a smile on my face, but as soon as my mind wasn’t focused on something else it would snap back to the reality that was unknown and hanging over my head.

The truth is, I couldn’t change what the results would be by thinking them over. They became a source of anxiety and sometimes fear. One day while I was getting ready for bed, Andrew asked me, “What is God teaching you at this point in the process?” That was the moment when the Lord met my heart in a deep and profound way.

The way that the reality of bad news kept coming to mind like a continual reminder on my cell phone, was the way that Jesus wanted my heart focused on something different. The way my mind so effortlessly focused on what was to come in this life is what Jesus wants me to focus on in the next. He longs for my heart to be stayed on the Truth that He loves me. He is planning eternity with me. God will eternally dwell with His people and this life will be but a wisp of air.

I was gifted the opportunity to not think of the awful things that could be on the other side of that phone call, but instead think of the glories that are on the other side of eternity. What a treasure that is. I have a pretty great imagination, but I think even that will pale in comparison to what is to come.

I can go through anything in this life. It’s momentary. It’s hard, but it’s only for a little while. What is to come will make anything here seem so much less. In those moments when my heart begins to dwell on fear, stew in the pity of life, or just get discouraged; Jesus is reminding me that I have a greater hope. I am not defined or limited by this life. I was made for something far greater.

“He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.”

-Revelation 21:6

I have no need to fear or focus my mind of the things that I can’t control in my life. I can give them over to Jesus and set my mind of the things that I can’t control, but are certain. Life is uncertain, but I do know that Jesus is who He says He is.

No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him.  They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.  There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.”
-Revelation 22:1-5

 

 

The Unexpected Pregnancy

In early May I found out I was pregnant. I felt nervous, excited, and overwhelmed with love for a little person I had never met. Physically I felt really good. I was grateful for that. I had heard horror stories of women being so sick they were bed ridden for their entire pregnancy. I was not one of those women. If anything, I felt better than normal. I woke up feeling refreshed, ate well, still went hiking, and just enjoyed that season of life.

I went to the clinic and was met by our local nurse, Rosemary, who I love dearly. She cried when I told her the news. I went back each week with Andrew hoping to hear the heartbeat, but we knew it was too early. But we just wanted to know that our baby was healthy and growing.

Over the weeks my sense of smell heightened to Bloodhound status. I would sometimes feel slightly queasy in the late afternoon, but it would soon wear off. Andrew and I would sit and talk about what our child might be like. The qualities we hoped he or she would possess. The naming process only took a few days and I couldn’t wait to know which name it would be. Andrew was in Anchorage for an afternoon and came back with a Mother’s Day Present for me. We were looking forward to the adventure of parenthood.

One Saturday afternoon I began spotting and it was unsettling. I called the nurse and knew we just had to wait. I spent the day praying and asking the Lord to spare our baby. The year had already been so full of loss and grief. I wasn’t sure I could handle any more. There were tears shed and then peace. God sent some friends over for the afternoon and they were a wonderful distraction to the turmoil in my heart.

Monday came and I was fine.  Everything was normal. But we were told that we should get a sonogram as soon as possible just in case. We weren’t too worried and figured everything was fine. We planned to go into Anchorage on June 1st and set up an appointment for the morning after we planned to arrive just to be sure.

June 1st came and we visited some midwiferies. We drove out to Andrew’s parents’ house. They had already left for a cousin’s wedding, but Annie and Stephen (Andrew’s sister and brother-in-law) were there. I was bursting to tell them. We had shared the news with some close friends in Port Alsworth, but no one in our family knew yet.

We drove to our appointment and for some reason I felt like we would have bad news, but I had peace. The Lord continued to remind me of His presence and deep love for me. On the screen we didn’t see a baby. The technician told us that she would call the radiologist and have him expedite our results since we were from out of town. Doors shut and we were left in a waiting room. My stomach was in knots. “It has to be bad news,” I thought. Andrew prayed. We sat. Waiting.

I was called into the office and Rosemary was on the phone. She told me that I had been diagnosed with a Complete Molar Pregnancy and I needed to go to a hospital. It was serious if not taken care of and there was no baby. Her words were gentle and firm. I was so confused, but calm. Andrew and I went back into the waiting room. He called Annie and Stephen to tell them they should drive to Valdez without us. We called his parents and explained. I called my mom and tried to hold it together. These were not the calls we wanted to make.

I didn’t know what to do. I was so thankful for Rosemary. She set everything up for us. We went to the ER and by the time we got there they were expecting us. A specialist was on her way. We sat for several hours. There would be a flurry of activity; several people would come in, ask questions, run tests, and then leave. Every time they left I would cry. Thoughts tumbled around in my mind. “How could I love someone so much that never existed?” They kept talking about pregnancy, but doesn’t that mean there’s a baby? There is no baby. There never was. “I want to go home.” I won’t be home for weeks.

The doctor was clear. The cells needed to be removed as soon as possible. Rarely a Molar Pregnancy can lead to cancer. “How did we get from baby to cancer?” She said I need to go in for blood testing once a week until my HcG levels are back to normal. We need to watch those levels and make sure they don’t rise otherwise it could mean chemo. The only two things that raise those levels are pregnancy and cancer. We will watch them for one year.

We were discharged and an emergency procedure was et for 8:00am. We went back to my in-laws’ house. We sat on the couch and tried to wrap our minds around what we had just learned. We went for a walk and then took a nap. I was exhausted. Andrew researched.

The next morning we went back to the hospital. I was the only patient in the OR. All the staff was there for me. Saturday was set aside for emergencies only. I was an emergency. I had been told not to eat or drink anything before the procedure. My veins did not cooperate. Five attempts, three nurses, one pass out, and the IV was in. I remember going into the OR and lying on the table. Heart monitors were put on. Then I remember sitting there talking to Andrew. It was over. Was the doctor coming to see me. Andrew informed me that I had already talked to her. I didn’t remember.

“I don’t hurt, I feel fine.” I apparently sounded like a broken record. But I did feel okay. Physically anyway. We left, picked up prescriptions, went “home.” I slept and watched Anne with an E. We went for a short walk. I groomed Jubel the horse and cried. I wasn’t pregnant. There was no baby. January was just going to be another month. “Do you want to take the Mother’s Day Present back?”

Dear friends sent comforting words and are praying. I grieve, but there is peace. My hope was not in this child. My hope is not in the plan God has for me. My hope is in Christ alone. He never promised me a pain free life. He actually promised suffering. He was familiar with suffering and grief. I believe He still is. In my grief I have moved closer to the heart of my Savior. I feel as though I lost someone, but I didn’t. I lost an expectation. It somehow feels the same.

Over the weeks there have been people who have had grace on me. Their words have been full of life and comfort. Some have not been. However, the Lord has answered my prayer and put a guard over my mouth and allowed me to have grace on them. Many people have shared similar stories of heart-break.

My prayer now is that this time of waiting will not be wasted. I don’t want to despise it. My life is still a gift from the Lord. I am no more or less of a person than I was when I thought I would be a mother. My story is not one of loss and hopelessness. It’s about Christ. He gave me a gift. I got a glimpse into the heart of a mother, if only for a short time. I may get that again, but if not, I choose to see that time as a precious gift. My hope is in Christ alone and not His plan for me.

Home

August 13.  A pretty momentous date in my mind. It marks one year since I moved in my little house in the woods. It may seem insignificant to have lived somewhere for only a year. Since moving to Alaska in 2012 I have moved 10 times and never spent more than 8 months in any dwelling. It’s hard to make roots, settle in, and make a place my own when I know I’ll be packing up again shortly.

Rewind to 2012. I had packed up all my belongings, gotten rid of anything that couldn’t fit into an 18-gallon tote, sold my car, said goodbye, and purchased a one-way ticket. It was an adventure, but I didn’t feel like I was going somewhere I might spend the rest of my life. One year full of tears, laughter, friendship, growth, and challenges…. I felt like I had a place here. But at the end of each season I would pack up, move out and put things in storage. Then I would move in with someone new at the beginning of each new season. There were always unknowns. Where will I go? Who will I live with? What will the dynamics be? Will this feel like home? Can I make it more inviting and comfortable than the year before? In so many wonderful ways I loved the unknowns. I could walk hand-in-hand with the Lord into those situations. I had to relentlessly trust that He would navigate through all the questions I had, excited to lead me since He already knew.

Then 2015 came along. Andrew proposed. Many more unknowns rose to the surface. Now where would we live? What would it be like to be married? How do you navigate differences when it’s a lifelong relationship? What will my role be? Will I be a good wife? Will he think I’m a good wife?  And the list could go on.

There weren’t any houses available in our town. None. Housing shortages are not something that I was accustomed to. I was trying to prepare my heart for living in a house where I would haul water, that wouldn’t be big enough to have guests, that would be sub-par in my mind, but adequate for living. But Andrew kept reminding me that God wasn’t stumped by our need. He owns it all and He knows are needs.  So regularly I would lay my need back in God’s hands and choose not to worry or fret, or even try to fix my need.

A few weeks later, I found myself walking through a house with Andrew. It was not just a house, but it was better than I could have imagined. It has two bathrooms,  guest room, storage, running water, and lots of character. It wasn’t so much the house that I loved the idea of, no, it was the idea of the things we could do with the house.

The Lord has allowed me to see dreams fulfilled in our home. We’ve been able to host guests, people in need, and small groups. We’ve had people sit on our couch and weep. We’ve laughed with people over meals, hosted game nights, and just had people here to rest.

I’ve had the honor and privilege to make our home a place of refuge. It’s a safe place for people to be real, to rest and be refreshed, a place to seek prayer and counsel, a place for quiet, or a place to come and rid yourself of loneliness. It’s a place where my husband can rest or get work done. I always dreamed of having my own home, but more than that my heart ached to mirror my Creator in being one who shapes the atmosphere of a place. I didn’t even know my heart longed for this role until I had it. It’s been one of the most fulfilling years of my life because I am doing something that I believe God instilled in my heart.

I have gotten to decorate, serve, love, give, host, cook, clean, organize, arrange, and all of it has been worship. I simply get to walk in the things that God has for me and I love it. Whether I am sweeping floor, doing laundry, getting the guest room ready, or feeding my chickens – I am the steward of this domain. My home is not my pride and joy, but it is my responsibility. I get to set the tone and I think that’s delightful.

I know that this will not be my forever home, but I do know that I will cherish the things that God taught me while living here. I will remember fondly the memories made and the opportunities it presented. I remember learning that I am a grower of things. It brings me great pleasure to grow flowers, vegetables, and my little flock of chickens.  But I also love to grow relationships and be used of God to help people grow. I believe the theme of this year has been of finding roots and of growing. I find it so beautiful how those things go together. The Lord gives good things and He takes great joy in watching us steward those things to His glory.

Moving to Marriage

This season of life has been so incredibly sweet. I think back over the last year and I can’t even begin to describe the ways God has changed my heart, answered, prayers, and just been faithful. I sit here ready to head out for a season of traveling and transition. A major chapter of my life is closing and a new one is about to be written.

I have spent the last three years at the Female Resident Mentor at Tanalian Leadership Center. It has been the most challenging, life giving, refining, hardest, best job ever. I have loved, laughed with, cried for, and prayed over each of the lovely women God has sent into my home and I can’t imagine life without that experience.

Two and a half weeks ago I packed up all my stuff and moved out of that house for the last time. I moved in with the Wardell family and it’s been a precious time being part of their family in a different way. They have been my “Alaska family” and I am so grateful for the role they have played in my life. Our motto has been, “you laugh, you cry, you hurl” and boy has that been true. We’ve been through a ton together and I love them more dearly today than ever.

I am sitting on their couch looking at to suitcases and a backpack. It’s all the earthly possessions that will be flying out of Port Alsworth with me tomorrow. Everything else is packed up and stored in the crawl space. Tomorrow I set off on a journey that sets the stage for new beginnings. I’ll be in Palmer for a few days spending some time with my future in-laws. It’s such a strange feeling to know that I will officially be a part of their family in a few short weeks. Andrew and I will meet with the pastor who will marry us, I’ll pick up my dress from the tailor, Andrew will get his suit, and then on Wednesday I fly to Illinois to do the last few things before we’re married.

I’ll spend 4 weeks with my family and friends. I get to enjoy a shower put on by some of the people who love me most in the world. It’s been a season of receiving gifts, love, encouragement, support, prayers, and blessings from people who are excited to see what God in doing in me and Andrew. Andrew will come down and meet me on June 30. Many other family members, wedding party, and friends will come and join us.

Then. we. get. married.

Over 120 people have already said they are excited to be there on our wedding day. People are flying from all over the country and even Canada to be there with us to celebrate what God has done and will do. We are so humbled by the response.

My wonderful fiance, Andrew, has planned a surprise honeymoon. I just love surprises. I have no idea where we are going and won’t know until the morning we get to the airport. I can hardly wait! My lovely matron of honor, Heather, will help me pack 🙂

Then Andrew and I will get to say goodbye to my family, pack our truck, and drive back to Alaska. In March Andrew and I started praying very specifically that God would provide a way for us to drive back to Alaska. We didn’t care if we bought it, someone else needed us to drive something up for them, or we had to rent it, we just needed something affordable. We asked God for something 4-wheel drive, with lots of space, but that was enclosed (not an open bed truck), and about two weeks ago God provided a truck for us to buy. The title got here on Monday and we’re going to register it when we get to Anchorage. We are so excited to take a roadtrip together, camp, and just enjoy some extra time together.

We will also head up and spend some time with Andrew’s brother and sister-in-law, their two kids and new baby that will be born in July.  I am stoked to see them and keep the kiddos busy. I am pretty excited to get to be the new aunt for 3 more kids. I might have to spoil them a little.

Then we head down for Andrew’s sister’s wedding and a reception for us there. We will be in Palmer almost two weeks. Since we would be there so long we asked God to provide a place for the two of us that was a little more private.  We want to be intentional about started our marriage off right and God provided that for us. We have been blow away be His provision.

After that we get to come back to Port Alsworth for another reception and we get to move into our HOME. I am so excited to be home with Andrew. After two and a half months of living out of a suitcase it will be nice to settle for a while. God has had me in a nomadic period of life where I have moved 10 times in 3 years. I am excited to be planted in one house for a while.  And…. the house is beautiful.  It’s more than we dreamed about and prayed for.

We had another prayer request was for our support.  We are still asking God to bring us to 100% of our need by the time we get married. We asked specifically for 3 more churches to join our team. Andrew has meetings in the works and we’re only $870 short of our goal.  We know God can do huge things and we are trusting Him with that.

God has been so faithful and has lavished His love on us. My heart is so content and at peace in the midst of transition and traveling. I am so ready to be Andrew’s wife and learn (for many years) what that means. God has prepared our hearts and brought us to a place where we feel very much on the same page. We’re aware of how difficult marriage can be, but we’re excited to live in grace with each other and see what God has to teach us. We know it will be a rich time of learning and being refined. We know it will hurt at times, but the joys will outweigh those times. We would love your prayers as we move into new roles, spend time getting to know each other in a deeper way, and begin life as one. I can’t wait to see all that God has in store.

Whose Glory?

Sometimes I take away God’s glory and glorify Satan. This is not a statement that I would have ever dreamed in my wildest imagination I would write. Through several conversations over the past few weeks I have come to this deeply unsettling realization.

More often than I would like to admit I choose to focus on the hard things in life. I see everything that’s challenging and see all the spiritual defeat in my life. I even do this when it comes to ministry. I see all the hard battles and focus on wanting God to “fix” the struggles and take away the pain. In the midst of all this, I miss all the beautiful, wonderful, life-giving things God is doing. I blind myself to the good things in life and throw away a chance for joy. I forget that He’s at work while I’m busy fretting about something He clearly knows about and has under control.

My perspective needs a slight major adjustment. Instead of focusing or dwelling on “the work of the devil” I need to choose to see the life-changing, gracious work of Christ. Instead of talking about communication issues I choose to talk about Christ saving lives. Instead of seeing where I failed, I am going to praise the Lord for the small victories I have over sin in my life. Instead of moaning over lack of internet for weeks on end, I will be grateful for countless refreshing hours with the Lord.

I’m not saying that it’s bad to recognize or even talk about the tough stuff. In fact we need to. There is a time and place to look at evil being done and to call it what it is, grieve over it, confront it, pray over it, aggressively fight it, etc. However, it is not ultimately best to dwell on it and neglect to see the incredible things of the Lord.

I don’t know that God will do bigger, more amazing things in my life if I focus on giving Him the glory, but I do know that I will be less likely to miss out on seeing Him. I have the opportunity to do what I am truly created to do. I can glorify God and enter into deeper relationship with Him. I can receive joy and marvel at His goodness and work. I so often choose not to. My challenge to myself is to shift the focus off of how I think things should look and see what God is displaying right in front of my eyes. It’s time for my to lift my eyes and see the beautiful reality of what God is up to. By choosing to see Him for who He is brings me into a closer, joy-filled, and exhilarating relationship. Why wouldn’t I choose that?

Where’s Hope?

I firmly believe that God uses themes in my life to teach me deep and meaningful truths about Himself. Over the past few years God has been gently trying to get me to look at one that frankly scared me. Hope is a word is thrown around so nonchalantly all the time, but I never really stopped to think about the depth of the word. I knew that I had a love/hate relationship with this elusive hope.

I grew up knowing that my hope was in Jesus and that I would eventually go to heaven someday to be with Him, but hope is so much deeper than that. Hope is not just a future thing, or something final. It is something that drives the depths of my heart to long for something greater than I am experiencing at the time. Hope is all about faith that there is something better for me now and in the future. It’s a walk of faithful expectancy, joy, and faith. If I am completely honest, hope scared me because there is so much risk involved in hope. What if I allow myself to hope for something and I am disappointed? What if I realize when I get what I wanted that it’s not fulfilling or satisfying and I want something else? What if God begins to see how fickle I am and He decides not to answer my prayers anymore? And the list goes on…

What I failed to realize is that my concept of hope was rather narrow. My hope was in things and in the desires themselves. My hope was not founded on anything solid and this is where the danger lies. Jesus gently moved into those wounded places in my heart the battled between wanting to hope and the paralyzing fear of letting myself hope. He used Scripture and gentle, loving friends to speak truth into those places of fear. It came to a point where I had to repent of that fear and realize the magnitude of the LOVE that Christ has for me. He was not going to allow me to stay blinded, believing that anything less than Him is going to satisfy my deepest longings. Not that I have a full understanding of what hope is, or plan to anytime soon, but it’s like I just had cataracts removed and I can see more clearly. I can truly and fully hope and desire things as long as my ultimate hope is in Christ. He fulfills every longing I have and He knows my heart far better than I do. H efully knows me, fully accepts me, fully loves me. This is a true act of grace.

The Truth is:

  • Christ can do exceedingly, abundantly more than I can even ask or imagine (and I have a pretty big imagination)
  • When I ask for things God is not a Father who gives gifts that harm. Every good and perfect gift comes from the Father.
  • My soul was bought by the precious, powerful blood of Jesus Christ and I am sealed by the Holy Spirit. What should I fear?
  • Stifling desires that Christ gives me can cause resentment to build. Present all the things I want to Christ with thankfulness, confident that He will guard my heart and mind when I trust Him with my desires.
  • When I truly delight myself in God He will either change my desires or confirm that they are good and right and He’ll give me what is best for me.
  • I am never alone in this journey of hope and faith. I am abiding in Christ and He is in me. There is no greater hope in this life.

Documenting Life

Last summer Kathryn came out to Port Alsworth to help document Tanalian Bible Camp’s ministry.  She was finishing up a photography degree at the Art Institute of Colorado.  Not only did she work on photos and video for camp, but she invested in the lives of the staff members while she was here. Here’s some of her work for TBC
  The past two weeks she came back to help do the same for the Tanalian Leadership Center.  It has been so refreshing and encouraging having her here.  God used her creative perspective on life and wonderful suggestions for books to renew my heart and mind in several ways.  Everyday we’ve had conversations that direct my heart back to the Truth of who God is in my life.  One thing I will never forget her saying many times is, “Thank you God for always providing more than enough.”  It’s so true.  He really does. Over the past few weeks I have been truly reminded the He provides for what I need even when I don’t know what that is.  He also is faithful and gives me many things that I don’t need, but want.

I plan to be pretty busy with camp this summer as well as working part time at the new General Store in Port Alsworth. Sometimes I get discouraged and just choose not to even dream up the things I’d like to do. This summer I have lots of things that I want to do.  I have laid all those things at the feet of Jesus.  I don’t know what this summer holds, but I know that God wants me to ask for the things I want.  I just can’t put my hope in those things.  He’ll provide everything that I need, but I am excited to ask for the frivolous things I want. It’s up to Him what actually happens.  This summer will be wonderful no matter what it holds because all the good and perfect things that it will hold are gifts from Jesus.