Jesus and the Woman at the Well

In her Lenten Reflections booklet, Ruth Haley Barton says,

During Lent we are called to enter more intentionally into prayer, self-examination and repentance for the purpose of restoration and renewal. As painful as it is to be exposed at this level, awakening is evidence of God’s Grace.

Using the story of Jesus and this Samaritan woman we’re going to explore awakening to God’s grace. I want to invite you to join me in the process of restoration and renewal of our souls and to experience the belonging Jesus offers us. 

Last Sunday we read the verses 16-17 of John 3, which say “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

In Chapter 4 of John we see Jesus putting his teaching about salvation into practice. Without using words Jesus shows his disciples that THIS is what he meant by loving the whole world, giving love and belonging to this woman, this Samaritan woman, this abandoned Samaritan woman.

Most of the sermons I’ve heard about this Samaritan woman describe the forgiveness of Jesus and the sinfulness of the woman. But there is no mention of forgiveness or promiscuity here – we have read that into the text. Perhaps this woman’s story is different than that. Perhaps her story is more like ours than we’d like to admit. Though the details may be unique to her story, I believe each one of us is longing for relationship and acceptance, just as she was. And I believe that Jesus offers the same belonging and salvation to each of us as he offered to the Samaritan woman.

This woman had been married five times and she has been abandoned five times…abandoned through death of a spouse or divorce, likely due to her barrenness. The ability to bear children in ancient times was seen as the primary purpose of a woman, carrying on a male’s lineage was the entire point of marriage. If this woman was incapable of this “basic biological function”, she would surely be rejected. Thus when she meets Jesus at the well, she is thirsty for more than water. This woman is in need of acceptance, of relationship, of belonging.

My own story is not unlike this Samaritan woman’s. As a young married woman, I wanted nothing more than to have children. I had framed my future and my sole purpose in motherhood. Thus, I was completely shaken when my body’s functioning wasn’t “normal” and healthy. I, too, was barren. I spent five years of sorrow and darkness and questioning my worth and belonging. My friends were having children, women’s retreats would gather and discuss their kids, and I was on the outside. My infertility was even used as a weapon against me when some people questioned my effectiveness in church ministry if we didn’t have children. How could we possibly connect with the community without kids? These types of statements were both cruel and untrue. Though we knew these words were not of God, the shaming from outsiders was hard to bear.

Gradually my darkness began to transform me. I turned to God with more intensity than ever before. Gently and graciously, He began to unravel the strings I had tied up in my worth as a mother. He began to reveal to me the truths: I was valuable… apart from whether I had children or not. Kids would not fulfill me, my husband could not fulfill me, a job or ministry could not fulfill me. Jesus told me I was loved and I had belonging in him, no strings attached. This is the message of salvation for each of us – love and belonging.

So back to Sychar…there’s Jesus interacting in the most unlikely places with the most unlikely people. Meeting at a well was somewhat scandalous in itself, for wells were often the place where love-matches were made. Jacob and Rachel, Moses and Zipporah, and others like them met their spouses at a well. Jesus’s Jewish heritage came with an unspoken rule to not interact with their rebel-cousins, the Samaritans. And as a man, Jesus was ignoring all sorts of social protocol by interacting with a woman, going as far as to ask her to share her drinking vessel with him. He was risking his reputation in order to share the refreshing streams of God’s love with this thirsty woman.

Even in the Exodus passage we read about how physical needs drive us to God. In chapter 17, the Israelites are complaining and arguing with Moses about how terrible their living conditions were. They were so overcome with their selfishness and their thirst that they went as far as to complain that they were no longer slaves in Egypt! Moses was afraid their rage was going to result in his stoning. (Talk about “hangry”!) In verse 6, God provides the miraculous water from the rock at Horeb and Moses commemorates the occasion by naming the location Massah and Meribah which mean “Test and Quarrel.”

But the thing about each of us, and the Samaritan woman, and the Israelites is our thirst is so much deeper than a dry mouth. Our physical symptoms or outward actions are often an expression of an inward spiritual need.  How often do you find yourself acting out in anger or impatience when the real problem isn’t really your kids or your husband or the barista or the guy in the car next to you. The real cause of your turmoil is something inside you. The stress or selfishness or jealousy causes us to act out, and those feelings are all rooted in a need to be filled with the living waters of Jesus. When we look inside ourselves and begin to dig through the mess we’ve created – the broken relationships, the poor self-image, the fear about money or anxiety about future plans – we find that at our core we need belonging. We try desperately to fill ourselves and take away the ache of belonging…that dream job, the perfect house, that friendship, the 401K, the fairytale wedding, the marriage, those kids, that college degree…none of it works, friends. All of this can just mask the problem unless we let Jesus walk us through the process of releasing our desires and our inadequacies and to be filled with him alone. It’s terrifying, I’m not gonna lie. But what I know for certain is that Jesus wants to save us from ourselves. He wants to give us living water that wells up to eternal life. By believing in him and following him, we find the belonging and we find salvation. And we, like the Samaritan woman, can’t wait to share this truth with everyone we meet.

This woman kept asking more and more questions of Jesus. “How can you be asking me for a drink? Where do you get this living water? Are you greater than our ancestors? Will you condemn me for the life I’ve lived? Where should we worship you? Are you really the Messiah?”

And she believes him. She knows he must be the Messiah and runs to tell everyone in her city that very day. The truth sets us free, friends! And this woman was changed from a shamed barren reject of society to a missionary for the good news about Jesus.

So how does Jesus want to save you? What shame or struggle does he want to free you from? What does he want you to release to his care so he can fill up your real need, your need to belong.

This is salvation, friends: to find acceptance and belonging in Jesus.

 

Enduring Presence,
goal and guide,
you go before and await our coming.
Only our thirst compels us
beyond complaint to conversation,
beyond rejection to relationship.
Pour your love into our hearts,
that, refreshed and renewed,
we may invite others to the living water
given to us in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

source

 

Sermon given at Monroe Free Methodist Church based on the texts for the 3rd Sunday in Lent

 

The Dance of Grace & Trust

As my daughter creeps closer and closer to six months old, I get more excited and more freaked out. You see, I had a goal of having her solely breastfed for her first six months. In those early weeks I thought, “there is no way in heck I can survive this for SIX MONTHS.” But a wise friend told me (even before I had my baby girl), “It’s hard, just take it a day at a time. Don’t set up big goals, set tiny ones. I’m going to nurse her this week.” Nursing got easier and easier as I developed the procedures that worked for us and as I figured out what accessories I needed or didn’t need. And here we are….the end of full-time breastfeeding is in sight.

I can NOT wait until her daddy can feed her and I’m not her only source of sustenance and we can watch her experience new foods and sit at the table with us. I have a freezer full of pumped breastmilk and we taught her to use a bottle around 8 weeks. I kept offering to Kevin that I could share the feeding with him and a bottle. But he knew how well things were going and how much I had desired this gift. So he waited.

And I’m so stoked that we made it. But I am sad to see this special season of breastfeeding intimacy transition to something new. It’s been so sweet; most of the time I take it for granted. Lord Jesus, I am so thankful for this gift that was not a given. Thank you for bringing in my milk and allowing her the skill the nurse well and plumping her right up. I am so thankful.

Another paradox of motherhood, right? 

But here’s the real confession: I’m freaked out by what may or may not happen once I ease back on nursing.

I know my fertility will (maybe, probably, perhaps, who knows…) return once I’m not breastfeeding ’round the clock. I know I could conceivably get pregnant (…conceivably….ha. that’s punny…) in the coming months. And part of me thinks, “FOR THE LOVE, I just want to be normal again! I don’t want to be pregnant or nursing or a storehouse of uncontrollable hormones!” (I suppose that last one happens regardless…) I can’t fathom going through that whole ordeal again, so soon. Pregnancy was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Pregnancy is no joke.

But the other part of me thinks, “What if I can’t get pregnant? I’m not getting any younger and I have endometriosis and a whole bunch of other fertility issues and time is of the essence. And what if?” How long do we wait this next time before calling it quits?

So yeah, I want to get pregnant like right now…in the next few months. I would love to have babies close in age. And we always said that once we started a family, we wouldn’t prevent pregnancies until we’re “done.” I don’t want to live once again in the fear of monthly cycles and wondering and waiting and trying to not get all wrapped up in the hope and expectation for the future.

It’s hard to believe that I could move from one worry to another so quickly, despite the glorious answer to prayer dozing in her crib down the hall. 

And so I pray:

Holy Father, giver and sustainer of life, grant that I may know your perfect peace and trust in your infinite wisdom. Keep my mind fixed on the work of your kingdom and content with the gift of “today.”

Amen.

Writings of a New Mom

No matter how many blogs you read or books you scour, despite the advice and assistance of other mom friends, nothing can prepare you for new motherhood except new motherhood. You dive in face first, splash around in the most undignified sort of way, bob to the surface for a gasp of fresh air, and flounder a few more times. Rinse and repeat. The pattern grows a bit more graceful as the days pass…

…but if there’s one lesson I’ve learned in my four weeks of being a mom it’s that motherhood is not about mastery. Motherhood is a practice. Motherhood is a spiritual discipline. God will use this new role to transform you and sanctify you. There will be times of peace and contentment, feeling confident and mature, closer to His likeness. Through frustration and angst, sadness and tears, He will draw you nearer to himself. All of this is grace.

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As I shared my journey of infertility I learned what healing and strength could come through honest accounts of life and hearts. Friendships are formed, barriers are broken, open wounds become beautiful scars to remind us of our journey.

And so I write. I endeavor to write truth, to share honest accounts of life and transformation, to preach words my own heart needs to hear. I will post pictures and snippets of our days that may seem a little too perfect. Those are my efforts to search for God’s grace, a hunt for goodness and gifts in the everyday mundane of life. I will talk about the moments that bring me to tears or that cause me to shutter at my flesh. And I call this out in each of you, friends. Solidarity is healing.

Today our little family ventured back to our favorite date spot. Kirsten was a little star, one of the employees even got to snuggle her. #kirstengraceeccles

It is like those disciples walking the road to Emmaus (Luke 24) who chose to share the real, raw stuff of life. They were still in the middle of their grief over Christ’s crucifixion. Anger and tears and confusion flooded their minds as their words attempted to process their devastating weekend. And in the midst of this truest sort of community, the risen Jesus himself appeared. 

In the same way our own spiritual journeys are not meant to traversed alone. Community. We choose to walk the road with others, to get through the tough things in life and help one another invite Christ into our midst. I want to be a part of a transforming community – 

men and women gathered around the presence of Christ for the purpose of being transformed in Christ’s presence so they can discern and do the will of God.

(Ideas and quote from Ruth Haley Barton’s Life Together in Christ.)

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Her Name

Nearly a lifetime ago, a sauve 17 year old boy made his intentions clear. The girl was 18 and naive to the world of dating, but she was confident that this guy could be trusted. God was good to weave our stories together, teaching us how to love, how to argue, how to commit.

It was 2004 and we didn’t go on lots of fancy or “official” dates during our dating years. Neither of us had a car, and money was needed for school expenses. Thus, we spent much of our time just hanging out around campus with friends and homework and dining commons food. And we liked it just fine. After one evening walk around the “P” loop, that young boy walked me back to my dorm. Somehow the topic of children came up, and Kevin shared with me a beautiful secret that I instantly cherished.

He said, with a twinkle in his eye, “If I have a daughter one day, I am going to name her Kjiersten Sophia.” He proceeded to explain the Swedish spelling to me (with that pesky “j”) and the correct pronunciation of “keerstin.” (Kevin’s maternal lineage is Swedish.) He remembered this name from his mom’s list when she wondered if her second baby would be a girl. (Hi, Brian!)

I practically melted into a puddle of sentiment right in front of him. This boy I was learning to love already had thoughts of wanting to be a dad someday. He had thought about her name and confided in me. I was smitten.

Years later in 2008, we entered into a covenant marriage during a sacred ceremony with family and friends. And after years of grad school and six moves and new drivers’ licenses and ministry and infertility we found ourselves expecting our firstborn, a daughter.

With just 6 weeks left until we meet our long-desired little girl, the reality of her life continues to point to God’s grace. Many people said, “You deserved this” or “we knew this would happen.” But the thing is, we didn’t deserve this child. We did nothing to earn favor in God’s eyes in March 2015. We had done nothing to deserve the years of infertility either. Part of me had come so completely into contentment with our childlessness that I wanted to remain the couple that displayed the grace of God for all to see, even though we never bore the child our hearts’ desired.

But for whatever reason, beyond our control, beyond our behavior, beyond our desires, God said to us,

This. This is the moment. This. This is the child to be born into the world. You. You are to be her parents. Raise her to love me, to serve me, to serve my world.

And just as we said “yes” to the barrenness and “yes” to adoption, we said “yes” to the pregnancy.

We found out by week 11 that our child was a girl. (Thanks to Natera and their fancy new DNA tests.) Immediately I set out on a name hunt. I pulled up the lists I had been collecting over the years. I scoured the internet for meanings and pronunciations, for popularity and spellings. We both determined that the meaning of the name was of utmost importance to us. Thus, any names we loved but lacked meaning were crossed off. We narrowed down our options. And I piled on more possibilities. Finally, on a long road trip, I read through the names and had Kevin veto any he didn’t like. That left us with about 10 choices for first names and 3 for middle names.

We made our decision. And a few weeks later, I changed my mind again. And again. Kevin patiently waited as I brought up new options and waffled back and forth, back and forth. At some point I settled on our original choice and we haven’t looked back. I became so certain, I used a generous gift card from a dear friend to purchase a Lisa Leonard necklace with Baby Girl’s name stamped on it. We managed to keep our lips completely sealed for the past many months, and we’re pretty sure some of you are DYING to know.

It is with great joy that we introduce to you Kirsten Grace Eccles.

IMG_4962

Kirsten (“kur-stin”) = Follower of Christ, anointed
Grace = Free and unmerited favor of God
Eccles = English version of the Greek and Latin (ekklesia and ecclesia), meaning church or assembly. (Not that we chose her last name, but still a pretty sweet meaning.)

Her name is our prayer and our thanks. May our daughter be anointed as a follower of Christ by the grace of God. IMG_4957

And now for a few more notes of explanation. For simplicity’s sake, we opted for a variant of the Swedish spelling and pronunciation (Kjiersten) of Kirsten. Given this first name connection to Kevin’s side of the family, it’s fitting that the middle name is in my family’s lineage. My maternal Grandmother’s middle name is Grace. (Hi, Grams!) And some of you may know that one of our dear friends and former youth group member’s name is Kirsten. We thought long and hard about whether or not to choose this exact name (mostly because I don’t like being a “copy cat.”) But in all of our correspondence with Kirsten over the past two years, we have been nothing but convinced that our desire would be to have our daughter live a life much like this young woman’s. She is passionate and unashamed of her commitment to Christ. She is genuine and kind, intellectual and studious. She is proof that “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold” (Proverbs 22:1). So while our daughter is not name after Kirsten L., we would be most pleased if she grows up to live that kind of life.

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Dear Daughter of Mine,
As I write this post from the Niagara-on-the-Lake Tim Horton’s, you seem to know I’m talking about you. You are squirming and kicking and bouncing, almost as if you’re excited to say hello to me face to face. I can tell you with every assurance that I am even more eager to meet you. I pray for our journey ahead, those hours where we’ll work together to bring your life into this world. Your dad and I pray consistently that God would anoint you with his grace even now, and that we would be prepared to let you serve him however He calls. It is with great joy that I tell the world of my love for you, Kirsten Grace.

Love,
Your mom IMG_4956

Christmas Newsletter 2015

For years we prayed for this moment. Our hearts ached, our minds questioned, and our spirits sought the Lord. Yet I’m not sure we ever dreamed that just days before Christmas 2015 Melanie would be 39 weeks pregnant.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love by which he loved us…showed us the immeasurable riches of his grace.
This excerpt from Ephesians 2 refers specifically to salvation, but we know that those same graces have been poured out onto our lives through the gift of this life, this little girl long-desired. She is our gift of grace, not by works so that we can’t boast. Please, friends, proclaim with us the graciousness of the Lord for bestowing on us this undeserved gift!

Let’s back up to the beginning of this year. As we look over my calendar there are dates speckled with doctor’s appointments and days to take fertility medication. We were nearing six months post-op (for endometriosis) and our chances of getting pregnant were dwindling. That crazy blizzard Sunday in February brought with it the possibility of adopting an unborn baby boy. We said yes and hit the ground running, completing a home study and securing a lawyer and buying a larger vehicle within about two week’s time. (In case you’re wondering, yes, that’s lightening-fast in the adoption world.) Despite all our efforts and the donations and support of our friends and family, the birth-mother made a different choice. The Lord picked us up from our disappointment and washed away our stunned sadness. Little did we know, just a couple weeks after that little boy was born, God had given us our own little girl.

And so, along with all of you, we wait with baited breath for the moment our grace-gift enters this world with lungs wailing praises to the Most High.

For the Mighty One has done great things for me and holy is his name. (Luke 1:49)

In case you’re wondering if we’ve done anything else other than expect our Little Girl this year…

  • Kevin was reappointed as Senior Pastor of Monroe Free Methodist Church for his 2nd year
  • Melanie became a Local Ministerial Candidate and is pursuing ordination
  • Melanie completed a 225hr program to become a Registered Holy Yoga Instructor
  • Kevin quiz mastered at Bible Quiz Finals and is Southern Michigan conference coordinator
  • We attended Family Camp at Somerset Beach and FM General Conference in Orlando, FL
  • Melanie spoke at Young Teen Camp at SBC
  • We vacationed at Niagara-on-the-Lake in November and visited our WNY friends
  • Kevin threw Melanie a 30th Birthday Party (and for the record, she’s totally cool with 30)
  • We were privileged to participate in the work God is doing in our congregation. These stories could fill pages, but suffice it to say we love Monroe FMC and praise God for calling us here.

And with that we send you all our love and prayers,

Kevin & Melanie

For updates on our life, our ministry, and our family, keep reading along here:
www.kevinandmelanie.wordpress.com

The Unspoken Club

As our little girl’s due date looms closer and closer, it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle of preparation and the questions of inquiring minds…but it’s impossible to forget where we were just months ago. In March I was truly believing that God might be calling us to childlessness. My identity was steeped in infertility, my spiritual journey rooted in that ache, my hopes dwindled. And we were ok.

For the past many years, since first sharing our story, we have been covered in prayers and support. And then there’s the unofficial club we joined – the Infertility Club. There were a few friends who confided that they, too, were unable to conceive. Together we walked through the tears, the anger, the envy, the heartbreak. We experienced tests, doctor’s appointments, artificial hormones, invasive procedures, and shared all the details because one of us was inevitably headed down the same road. We knew what to expect when we walked into the doctor’s office because good friends told their own nitty gritty stories to reassure us.

And our entire goal was to see each of us become parents.

But when you leave you that Club, it’s with mixed feelings. You get a call from your friend who lovingly shares her joyous news with you hoping you won’t be devastated by it. This is the whole point, isn’t it? Yeah, but this is a sisterhood that can’t be duplicated. And it feels a little bit like betrayal to be the “successful one.”

So as I watch my belly bubble with little movements and complain about the weight gain and the heartburn, my heart aches for the friends I’ve left behind. In my joy, they rejoice. And in their sorrow, I mourn.

To the unspoken, hush-hush sisterhood of infertility, my love abides and my prayers continue.

Woah, Baby!

Dear Little Girl,

The most incredible experience in my life (…in my life…? *Mel, that’s kind of dramatic* …but really it’s true…happened on Tuesday night as I crawled into bed. With head propped on two pillows and a third folded up under my legs (because all the pillows are necessary at this point in pregnancy sleep), I turned out the light. Your daddy got in bed next to me, and we chatted for a few minutes. All of sudden *bubble, bubble, bubble* you started moving. Within a moment, the bubbles became full out KICKS eliciting a “WOAH” from your mama. Kevin reached his hand over to my belly hoping to feel what I was feeling. We weren’t expecting anything, but then, “Was that you, Melanie?” Nope, that was definitely the baby!

We started giggling and our grins practically pierced the darkness in the room. The next five or ten minutes you were going to town, Daddy feeling every one of those kicks. It was incredible.

(side note: I had eaten a couple slices of cinnamon sugar toast just before bed and we’ve deduced that you love cinnamon. Your first big kick was at Taco Bell after munching on Cinnamon Twists last Thursday, August 13th.)

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Since that moment, my entire perspective seems to have shifted. I can’t describe the life changing moment in words or even telling someone with a smile broadening ear to ear. But your life is changing mine, Sweet Girl. As I learn to accept my new limitations, admit defeat, buy bigger sizes, and walk a whole lot slower, I am recognizing the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. God is using you to make me the woman He desires me to be. As much as I don’t feel ready for any of this, I can say with confidence that the five years of waiting was the Lord preparing my heart for this deep transformation. And for that I am thankful.

We can’t wait to see you, Daughter.

Love,

Your Mommy

The Soul’s Winter

It can’t stay winter forever.

At least that’s what we fervently hope every February or March as the bitter winds blow and the snow clouds roll in day after day. The first time you shovel or don a winter cap it feels exciting and new. But months into a Midwestern winter you begin praying for signs up Spring. The darkness and dreary skies, the depression of it all gets so old after a while.

And that is how it is for our souls. There are seasons for our souls, periods of falling snow and freezing temperatures that make you want to curl in on yourself. The days feel short and clouded with darkness.

But then you turn to Jesus. Those long, dark days continue, but the way the Lord meets you in your sorrow is like sun to a dying flower. He speaks to you almost audibly, you pursue new spiritual disciplines: any way to possibly connect with his goodness. 

You pray and pray for your answer to your pain. You hope and dream and cling to your plans for the future. And little by little the time and his grace chips away at your stubborn grip and you utter in a whisper

Not my will but Yours be done.

You try to convince yourself you believe those words. But your soul knows the truth. Your dream is still your priority and you’re kinda-sorta trying to manipulate the God of the universe into doing things your way. More years pass, appointments come and go, hope fades. But then that same relentless grace offers you freedom and a new hope. You lay down your desire once and for all and you mean it this time. You truly expect nothing in return, and trust the Lord to write you a beautiful new story.

When you look back over all those years of winter you see what God has done in you. He has taken you a few steps further away from your selfishness, your faithlessness. He has shown you glimpses of your gifting and your calling to ministry. He has filled you with a new confidence. He has given you a new heart for the broken people around you, a new sensitivity to the hurt in their eyes, and a new way of being their friend.

And you wouldn’t trade the winter for anything. You see that in the cold, dark, depressed days there had been glittering snow and crackling sidewalks and singing cardinals. Hope. And then the grass starts poking through the frozen earth, the snow melting into the dirty drainpipes of your soul. You embrace this prayer from Romans 15:13

May the God of green hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives, filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope!

And just when you think you’re happy to be moving on, the Lord answers your prayers in the way you least expected. He says YES. You’re thrilled, over-the-moon, and in complete disbelief. You are ashamed to admit your frustration that after all these years and after you’ve finally moved on now God is answering your prayers. Seriously?! You were going to start grad school in the fall. You were going to [fill in the blank.]

But God’s goodness trumps all.
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And months later, you’re sitting in the first worship session of General Conference 2015. The worship team begins to read from Mark 5. You’ve heard the stories of the woman healed of her chronic bleeding and the child raised from the dead; you almost tune out. But then it’s as if Christ himself says to you,

“Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

And you weep. You weep because He said yes. You weep because he has called you faithful. You weep because He healed you. You weep for the new story the Lord Jesus is writing for you, the way the colors of summer have sprung boldly into your life, a beauty beyond imagine when you’d been reluctant to leave the winter.


 

I wrote about similar topics twice before – The New Land and Hindsight is 20/20.

Hindsight is 20/20

Early Sunday morning I was exchanging texts with a good friend. She told me about a Scripture verse from her devotions which had brought me to mind. As I left the house to take my daily walk, I began meditating on this passage.

By means of their suffering, he rescues those who suffer. For he gets their attention through adversity.

Job 36:15 (NLT)

This truth resonated with me deeply, recounting the last five years of desert barrenness in which I had lived. Though it was often dark and difficult, though I struggled to hear from the Lord and found myself floundering in prayer, I knew – even then– that this suffering was a means for my Father to refine me.

I have refined you, but not as silver is refined. Rather, I have refined you in the furnace of suffering.

Isaiah 48:10 (NLT)

I drew deeply into practices of spiritual discipline, seeking desperately for the Lord’s hand in my hardship. I longed for His nearness, His comfort, His wisdom. Those early mornings of silence and prayer, accompanied only by candlelight were the most sacred moments I’ve experienced. I’ve tried hard to replicate my dark encounters with Jesus, but they cannot be conjured.

And so I am thankful. To anyone who will listen, I boldly proclaim that I would not for a moment trade in these last five years. My infertility journey was a sacred set of steps nearer to the heart of my Lord. There was much suffering, long bouts of adversity, constant struggles to surrender – and I knew I couldn’t go on but by the Grace of God.

Hindsight reveals this goodness, this salvation through suffering. I begin to understand what James meant in the first chapter of his letter.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

James 1:2-3 (NIV)

I can’t claim to be “Mature and Complete;” I still lack much. But I am not the woman I was. God has used my trials to develop my perseverance, my faith, my understanding of Him, and my passion to follow no matter the cost.

 

And I am so thankful.


 

 

P.S.  A happy Baby Fuji update:

We discovered the gender of our little one! Click here to watch.

And I took my first “bump” photo:

Bump 11w4d

Cease Striving

My dearest friends,

In the midst of the adoption, I was starting my 3rd round of Clomid post-surgery (first week of March). We were entering our 58th month of infertility, and Kevin and I made the decision to cease our focused efforts on conceiving. We looked each other in the eye and said, “We’re done.” I told him I was so done with artificial hormones and invasive doctor’s appointments and conversations about what step we’re going to take next. Kevin said, “The doctors have had their say, it’s time for God to have his.

Another cycle came and went. I wasn’t really all that disappointed. It was expected.

Over the next few days, I began resigning myself to childlessness. I wanted to transition my focus of emotional energy and time on this desire for children, when God has many ministry opportunities for me to turn my attention.

I am so thankful for each of you. You have bolstered me every step of the way, many of you from the beginning – June 2010. You remember me, you pursue me, you pray for me. I am so blessed.

On Sunday, April 26th, Kevin went to a extra community band rehearsal at the college and on a gut feeling I took a pregnancy test. (yes, 10 days after my supposed cycle). And instantly those two little strips lit up bright pink.

A POSITIVE PREGNANCY TEST!2015-04-26 18.41.45
Monday, Apri 27th I had blood work done, confirming the pregnancy (and having super high progesterone levels to sustain the pregnancy until the placenta takes over), and on Wednesday I had an ultrasound confirming that the pregnancy is in fact in the uterus and not in the tubes.

2015-04-29 11.59.30
Look at that cute little dot!

 

I AM PREGNANT! Kevin and I are going to have a baby and the due date is December 25th!

He gives the barren woman a home,
making her the joyous mother of children.
Praise the Lord!

Psalm 113:9