Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Good News About Dying Daily

“So, come what may, I’ll let no one take this death from me!”  Milton Vincent

Sounds weird, right?  Someone ready to fight for death?  Not exactly how we think about death right?  I normally think of avoiding death at all costs and even can fear death for my loved ones or myself.  However, for those who know and are known by Christ, death is nothing to be feared (not mortal or spiritual) but instead is something to be embraced…even pursued.  And that has been where I am lately.  Now, I am not talking about my mortal body dying.  No, I am talking about the daily dying of my flesh. 

These kinds of experiences happen periodically in my life, and I have come to see that they are for my good.   In these times I find myself constantly having to say no to myself and yes to something better and greater (though it doesn’t always feel that way).  What has brought on this experience right now you may ask?  THE MOVE!  While I can honestly say that I see so much of God’s grace to me---I have only had moments of feeling overwhelmed; it is not the over-arching feeling---there is still that battle that rages within.  I can see my SELFISHNESS completely come to the fore.  I want things done my way and in my time.  I can even see my tendency to trample on my precious husband who serves me so graciously because of a desire to want things done how I prefer them to be done.  Last night was one such instance: instead of being thankful for progress my husband was making with unpacking, I was overwhelmed with a mess.  A mess.  Ummm, Charlotte, what do you think is supposed to happen when you are unpacking boxes and having to sort through things!?!  Alas, I repented to my man and he graciously forgave me for my panicky response.  And truly, my husband has been incredible!  He has done most of the unpacking while I have taken care of our little one and myself.  And he has done it joyfully as he has desired to serve me.  I am humbled by him.  But that battle still rages.  I will feel guilty for being 8 months pregnant with a shoulder injury and not able to help him.  In my pride I don’t want to be served, I want to serve so I can feel worthwhile and useful.  I want to ignore what my husband says—that I am serving him by taking care of myself and our almost 3 year old right now who is struggling through the transition of a move.  Yes, I see my selfishness and pride come to the fore.  My daughter has had so many meltdowns in the past few days that I have not known how to help her.  I just want the easy life again (you know, when I don’t have to put forth effort in loving my little one---when it is easier).  I can even see my selfishness come out when thinking about our baby coming.  Life may be hard.  I don’t know what her needs will be.  I can feel overwhelmed.  And my thoughts will once again be yearning for the “easy life.” 

But, THANK GOD that He doesn’t want the easy life for me.  No, He requires me to die to myself daily.  He is faithfully rooting out my selfishness and pride.  He wants to slay this flesh and that, folks, is a bloody, ugly process.  It is not easy to say no to our selfish wants and desires.  And we all know these wants and desires---they are the ones that become idols.  The ones we are ready to INSIST on, to fight for, to say they are our RIGHT.  And they may not be bad in and of themselves (you know, it is not bad of me to want to help my husband unpack UNLESS it will be more harmful to me and stressful to him).  We know that any good want can become evil.  But, oh, the rewards.  Oh the sweet wonder that fills up a life bent on taking its cross up daily.  When we are willing to deny our own wants and desires for the sake of following God’s good Word.  When we are willing to TRUST that God will lovingly meet all our needs even when our wants may not be met at all or in the way we want them to.  In my case, I have seen infinite amounts of reward as God has enabled me to joyfully sit back, humbly submit to my husband’s wise counsel, and trust my Heavenly Father for all we need.  I have enjoyed the AMAZING GIFT of seeing God provide for things His word tells me to not worry over.  I have been blessed with sweet fellowship with my husband instead of strife and anger that would come from insisting on my own way.  I have seen the BLESSING of obeying my Savior and trusting Him for my every need.  Yes, this flesh produces death and to live by the flesh produces strife in our hearts and with those around us.  But to kill this flesh and look to our precious Savior produces blessing and PEACE.  Sometimes the rewards are not so immediate as they have been recently for me, but the ARE there---they will come.    

I have read some in Milton Vincent’s, A Gospel Primer, the last few days.  His words have been immeasurably helpful.  Here are a few quotes:

  For the Bible tells me that I, too, was crucified on Christ’s cross.  My old self was slain there, and my love affair with the world was crucified there too.  The cross is also the place where I crucify my flesh and all its sinful desires.  Truly, Christ’s death and my death are so intertwined as to be inseparable.  (p. 40)            

God is committed to my dying every day, and He calls me to that same commitment.  He insists that every hour be my dying hour, and He wants my death on the cross to be as central to my own life story as is Christ’s death to the Gospel story.  “Let this same attitude be in you,” He says, “which was also in Christ Jesus…who became obedient to death, even death on a cross.”  Crucifixion hurts.  In fact, its heart-wrenching brutality can numb the senses.  It is a gasping and bloody affair, and there is nothing nice, pretty, or easy about it.  It is not merely a death, but an excruciating death.  (p. 40)

I should expect every day to encounter circumstantial evidence of God’s commitment to my dying; and I must seize upon every God-given opportunity to be conformed more fully to Christ’s death, no matter the pain involved.  (p. 41)

And now to hope:
Indeed, on the other side of each layer of dying lie experiences of a life with God that are far richer, far higher, and far more intimate than anything I would have otherwise known.  (p. 42)

The death that Christ died is the death to which I also am called, and the death to which I am called is my entry point to union with Christ and life at its fullest.  So, come what may, I’ll let no one take this death from me!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Update on Anna---Our God Provides

Hello Everyone!
I am sorry that I am just now emailing everyone about the ultrasound.  It has been a very busy day with trying to unpack.  But now I am utterly exhausted and can't unpack another thing.  So I thought I would sit, rest, and give you all an update.  :)
This was our first ultrasound with the maternal fetal medicine doctor we will be seeing here now that we have moved.  The ultrasound tech was really nice and did another LONG ultrasound.  This time the ultrasound showed slight bowing in all the long bones in Anna's arms again.  The bones in her left leg look pretty straight, but the bones in her right leg look more bowed, especially that femur bone that has always been shorter and more bowed in every ultrasound.  What this ultrasound tech was able to determine (and what we were able to visually see on the ultrasound as well) is that when you look at the bones at certain angles they do look straight, but if you look at them from a different angle they look bowed.  Once again, her brain, heart, and all other organs look great.  Her head, chest, and abdomen are all measuring great.  She really looked so precious and is getting SO BIG.  This ultrasound, the tech was moving the wand all over my belly!  Anna is head down now and has been for a while.  We also saw some precious 3-D pics of her sweet little face.  She looks like a baby! :)

Sooooooo, while we saw bowing again in her arms, I really felt better about this ultrasound.  The tech was really detailed but also very positive during the ultrasound.  She was so kind in telling us all about our girl---all the sweet things of how well she is doing.  No doom and gloom even though we saw bowed limbs.  :)  She was also great with Cara.  She even took Cara with her for a while when we were meeting with the doctor and played with her!  Cara thought it was great fun!

And the doctor was AMAZING!!!  He took so much time with us.  He actually said to us that we just wanted to answer all our questions!  Wow!  We haven't had a doctor say that yet!  He also said that he is going to be doing research to give all the information possible for the next time we visit.  Again, amazing.  No rushed 2 minute conversation.  So, from our conversation with him this is what we know about Anna thus far:  When Anna is born she will most likely look like a normal baby--maybe just a little small.  We may be able to look at her limbs and tell they are a little short, but that is really all.  She shouldn't have any major problems after she is born.  Her general prognosis at this point is that she will be shorter (as in even shorter than me :).  She will have a form of skeletal dysplasia but there is really no way to tell at this point exactly what form she will have.  They will run a few tests after she is born, but most likely it will just be watching her to see how she grows and develops over time.  The doctor did think that she would be able to do normal things like walking, etc, but it just may take her longer (I know all about that with Cara, though!).  
The doctor was really just so kind.  He took the time to write down Anna's full name on the chart.  He talked about how good she looked.  He took time to just ask about me and Josh to get to know us better.  He talked as if he is a believer.  So, even though the report was maybe not what I wanted to see or hear (complete healing---yay!), I see SO MUCH of God's hand at work.  He is PROVIDING for us and our sweet girl.  My heart really just felt so blessed by God's tender care of us.
This does not mean that I am not continuing to pray for her complete healing!  And I ask you all to do the same!  I have once again received so much comfort from Psalm 139.  God is forming Anna so perfectly---nothing about her little body is a mistake or an accident.  She still may be born with completely straight bones!  Or she may be born with bowed limbs.  God knows and He will choose what is best.  My heart finds such peace and rest in this.  HE KNOWS WHAT IS BEST FOR OUR GIRL.  So we will keep praying.  We will continue to pray for Anna's healing.  And we will continue to pray for hearts that desire God's perfect will above our own. We will yield ourselves to Him joyfully as we place our full trust and faith in Him.

Thank you all for your continued prayers and support.  I will have my next ultrasound in 3 weeks. 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

More Than Just Moving

Sitting in church today I realized that I only had one Sunday left….next Sunday.  I think I am in denial.  In two weeks my family will be moving.  We will be skipping over to a neighboring state to live.  I am really excited about the move.  I see incredible ways that God has PROVIDED!  It is so clearly evident that God is leading us as we make this transition, but, alas, there are still so many unknowns. 
One of the main reasons we are moving is to do, Lord willing, a church plant/church revitalization in the not too distant future with some sweet and dear families.  I have been thinking through what this church plant or revitalization means.  We are not moving to an area where no one has heard of Jesus.  It is the exact opposite.  We are moving to part of the “Bible Belt!”  So why do a church plant there, you may ask?  Well, I think it is because I have grown up in the “Bible Belt” area.  I know that churches are filled with people who just “do church” every Sunday.  They can talk some Christian lingo.  They may go to the church that their parents and their grandparents went to.  It is just what their family does.  There are churches where tradition is LAW (when there may be no Biblical basis for that tradition what so ever).  Many churchgoers will have their certain pew that they sit in and would be in an absolute uproar if anyone dared sit in their spot.  The preacher best be done on time and not say anything to make too many people uncomfortable.  You may see churches that have a ton of programs to boost attendance, but the true Gospel of Jesus is not really taught in those programs.  So this leaves you with a bunch of people going to church because of an attraction or because it makes them feel good, but that is really no reason to go to church at all.  You also have people who do not go to church, but they feel the morals that they have been raised with will save them.  They believe in God and do good so that is good enough.  And you will also have those people who do not care one iota about God too.
So, again, why are we doing this church plant/revitalization thing?  So we can change a church and make it new and improved our way???  Because we have ALL the right answers and all these other churches are doing it wrong?  No.  Just as there are dead, dying, or deceived churches there are also those who truly strive to proclaim the gospel.  We don’t want to tell these churches they have to do things to our certain prescription.  We are moving to do a church plant/revitalization for those people who have heard a false Gospel---you have a little bit “of Jesus loves you” with a whole lot of “do good and earn your way”, with a “make sure you are at church EVERY SUNDAY and EVERY time the doors are open”, with some “make sure you stay away from these certain sins or these kinds of people”, and Wahlah!  You are saved!  You are taught that if you pray a prayer when you are 8, or 20, or 50 you are saved---it doesn’t matter if there is any evidence of Jesus changing your heart at all.  You prayed it so you have your ticket to heaven.  We are also moving for those people who are really turned off to church because of all those reasons listed above.  They see the absolute hypocrisy.  They think that is what God’s Word teaches. 
So what are we planning to DO exactly???  Well, to be honest, we are not completely sure.  I believe as, over time, all the families move down and we meet people and talk with churches, God will make it clear the exact needs and how we are to go about serving.   He will show us whether we need to plant a church or come along side a church who is asking for help.  But in the mean time, we are going to LOVE people.  We are going to seek to get into their lives and build a relationship with them.  We want to show that while we are so very far from perfect, Jesus has radically invaded and changed us.  Jesus impacts every aspect of our lives.  “Church” is not something we just “do;” rather, it is a community of people who commit to love each other in a way that points to Jesus.  We want to show that we all are SINNERS in desperate need of a SAVIOR.  We cannot save ourselves with how good we are because all our righteousness is like filthy rags.  We desire to show that the Gospel is essential to EVERY aspect of life.  And this is NOT just “religion.”  It is not just burdensome and a list of things to make sure you do so you will be saved.  The Gospel rescues, it delivers, it frees, it gives peace that surpasses all understanding, it changes lives.  My heart is for those people who, perhaps, are believers and do love Jesus, but they have never understood what true Biblical community looks like.  This is not a place where gossip reigns and you have to hide behind your mask so no one sees that you are imperfect.  True biblical community is where you take off your mask and everyone sees how yucky you are.  It is where everyone knows that everyone NEEDS Jesus because everyone is just as much a sinner as everyone else.  It is where you walk together and encourage each other in our fight against sin and in our desire to love Jesus and become like Him more and more.  It is where you have a brother or sister speak truth to you even when the truth hurts or it may be so very hard to believe.  It is where you love one another sincerely.  This is the beauty of the Gospel, of our Savior, and His church. 
Do I think everyone will want all of this?  No.  Do I think this will be easy?  No.  I am sure there will many many times when I wonder what in the world I am doing and why I am doing it.   Do I think I will perfectly love everyone around me and serve others perfectly all the time?  No.  Do I know what this will really all look like exactly?  No.  All I know is what God is calling us to and the burden He has placed on my heart.  So, I also ask for prayer.  That we will truly do what God has called us to do---to love the lost and broken in whatever ways He may call us to.
I am also so incredibly thankful for the church my family has been a part of for the past 6 years.  While this church is not perfect (because no church is), I cannot ever adequately put into words what they have meant to me.   They have become my FAMILY.  They have taught me what is means to treasure Jesus.  They have taught me how the Gospel truly does apply to every sin, every hurt, every aspect of life.  I have watched women model submission and respect and husbands model servant leadership.  I have observed so many families seek to parent their children in a way where Jesus is CENTRAL.  I have observed those who pour out their lives for the Gospel---whether it be at work, at home, in their neighborhood, in their city, or all of the above.  I have lived in sweet Biblical community (and, no, it is not perfect all the time either J).  And I have learned SO MUCH MORE than I can ever out into words through the teaching and example of those in this church body.  This church is one of the main reasons that I will cry BUCKETS when I move.  So, to this church family I will say that I love you, I am eternally thankful for you, and that you are in my prayers.  May the Lord bless you, keep you, make His face shine upon you, be gracious to you, and give you peace.

We sang the song, God of Justice today at church.  I believe it says what Christ’s mission and His mission for the church is quite well.

God of Justice, Saviour to all
Came to rescue the weak and the poor
Chose to serve and not be served

Jesus, You have called us
Freely we've received
Now freely we will give

We must go live to feed the hungry
Stand beside the broken
We must go
Stepping forward keep us from just singing
Move us into action
We must go

To act justly everyday
Loving mercy in everyway
Walking humbly before You God

You have shown us, what You require
Freely we've received
Now freely we will give

Fill us up and send us out
Fill us up and send us out
Fill us up and send us out Lord