WFMW: Saying Yes to the Detours

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I’m happy to introduce you to this week’s guest poster Jessica for my Wednesday series Yes, Works For Me! Please welcome her and be encouraged by her yes to God and continue to link up what works for you.

There is a false belief that I often find myself embracing. It is the belief that is I make the right choices things will get easier and the questions will decrease. In my limited experience that is never true.

Three years ago I rolled my suitcase off of a plane in Raleigh, North Carolina, my hometown. I had the most imperceptible baby bump and my husband was 8,000 miles away in West Africa. Our plans to stay there together were cut short by a rocky first trimester and a severe lack of quality prenatal care- ironically enough an issue I was working on as a maternal health advisor.

My husband would follow me home in six weeks and then we would start the process of piecing our life in the States back together. No job. No savings. A baby on the way. Our hearts still on another continent.

Fast forward eighteen months. We ended up in the big city of Charlotte because that is where my husband was able to land a job. It wasn’t ideal, but God met us there. Let me re-state that last sentence. Charlotte was the last place in the state we wanted to be. In fact we would rather have moved out of state, but God put us in Charlotte and gave us the community we needed at that exact time. So after a year and a half of a lack-luster job in Charlotte we decided that we were going to chase another God-sized dream.

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My husband quit his job and we moved back to our beloved North Carolina mountains (where we had met, married and lived prior to our overseas adventures) to join the Stateside work of the agency that we were sent by to West Africa. Financially it was a big leap. God provided for us to house-sit for folks who were overseas for a year. It was a small place for a family of three, but we were grateful and it gave us the ability to stretch our tiny budget and make things work while we raised our financial support.

After a year of living and our ends barely meeting my husband was offered a job clear out of the blue sky. It would be a full-time gig, but it wouldn’t require us to move. We felt blind-sided by the unexpected offer and quite frankly a little weary of what it would mean for our calling and dreams. Could we jump out of the boat of full-time ministry and support raising and still be faithful to what God had called us too? Was our identity being found in what we were doing for God? Could God use us and bring our dreams full circle but in an entirely different way then we imagined? Those questions were large in our hearts. In the end my husband took the job.

It’s now been a few months since my husband took the new job. It has been good and hard and I would be lying if I said that I didn’t love a regular paycheck with a bit extra to put in the bank. But the questions remain.

Just the other day I was chatting on the phone with a friend and I was reminded of the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the grave. Do you remember the story? Jesus hears that his friend Lazarus is deathly ill, but he drags his feet a day or two in making a visit to L’s bedside. By the time he arrives Lazarus is wrapped in grave clothes and stinking. Everyone looks incredulously at Jesus and says (to paraphrase) “Dude, if you’d hurried it along Lazarus wouldn’t be dead.” The Son of God stands in front of that grave and calls his buddies name and out pops Lazarus fresh as a daisy.

The Psalmist says, “God is in heaven He does all He pleases.” and when God was here on earth in Jesus He did all He pleased which rarely ever looked like what pleased the populace. I read the Lazarus story and I find myself getting a bit angry at Jesus. Why didn’t he come? Did he really need to show-off like that? Couldn’t he spare them the questions and the heartache of it all?

I read the story and I don’t know if the people lacked faith. I am inclined to think they really, truly believed in Jesus and all He said and was, but I think they still wanted to hold on to their own vision of how life and the story should go. I’m there. Lazarus’ friends are my people. I want all that Jesus has as long as it makes sense to me.

The last few years of the journey have been winding and uncertain. We’ve had moments where we’ve thought we were about to make it to our intended destination only to have a curve thrown in that created a detour far out of the way. I’m learning to say “Yes” to the detours.

I’m learning that nothing really is a mess. A puzzle dumped on the floor still amounts to a beautiful picture even if it doesn’t seem that way in the moment. There are a million metaphors for the way all the broken bits and pieces of life amount to something more than fragments with God.

I’m living right from the middle of all the questions. I don’t know that I’ll ever not be. What I do know is that His answers are greater and more abundant than the questions and His heart for me is a well of love deeper than I know.

How are you learning to say “Yes!” when life takes detours?

blackandwhitejessicaJessica Leigh Hoover is a wife, mama, writer and crazy Jesus followin’ grace lover. She lives in the hills of North Carolina but deals with some serious wanderlust which has taken her all over the globe. Her greatest loves are Jesus, family, chocolate, {hot or iced and always sweet} tea, vintage dresses, thrift stores, jam making {both fruit and songs apply here},sarcasm, British TV, wordy-nerdy books and heaps of good conversation. She blogs about her belief that grace is the biggest kind of brave and how life is messy and beautiful in the living, losing and loving. She is an (in)couragers group leader and a contributing author to Velvet Ashes an online community for women serving overseas. You can also find her loitering on both facebook and twitter.

Photo Credit: Michael W. May via Compfight cc

WFMW: How I Moved From Artificial Faith to the Real Thing

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I’m happy to introduce you to this week’s guest poster Edith for my Wednesday series Yes, Works For Me! Please welcome her and be encouraged by her yes to God and continue to link up what works for you.

Twelve years of silence in our home. No children to fill the space of our hearts with laughter. So, we waited.

Little did we know that God’s plan for our marriage was a journey of many “no” answers. Test after test, the answer was “no.” No, you cannot carry a child. No, the in-vitro has failed (twice). No, you will not be biological parents – ever.

The years ahead were valleys of spiritual dryness. I stopped caring for God’s plan. I didn’t understand how a loving God would allow us to experience such pain. So, I began to say no to God and those around me. I said “no” to baby showers. I said “no” to interacting with those around me. And ultimately, I said “no” to God.

Yet, God in His grace and mercy picked me up. From the dark cave, I emerged and began to hope again. This time, God spoke clearly to me in Isaiah 55:8, “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.”

I held tight to His word, believing and trusting that He knew what was best for our marriage. The healing began, but this time things were different. My perspective shifted from what God can do for me to how I can serve God.

He reminded me of my desire to adopt. I was scared, but I shared with my husband. He resisted for a couple of years. Then, he was ready. So, we said YES to God’s plan.

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His plan was for us to become foster parents. It’s been the most rewarding, yet exhausting, experience. Saying yes hurts. Saying yes is painful. Saying yes is sacrificial. Yet, there is so much beauty in obedience. It is in the place of allowing God to lead our lives that we experience the heart of Jesus.

My heart’s true intentions began to surface. I moved from an artificial faith to the real thing. The counterfeit faith I lived for years had me plunged in a superficial way of living; living for self and others vs. living for Him. I’ve tasted both and there is no comparison. I take God’s plan – anytime.

After a couple placements in our home, we met our son, Jeremy. The adoption was finalized this May. I cannot begin to tell you, beloved, what joy I feel. God has entrusted us with this beautiful child, born from our hearts. The Lord truly knows our desires and His ways are perfect.

Today, I can honestly say that I would go back to those days of desperation – anytime – because I know that I had to be there to be able to say YES to Him today.

If you find yourself in such a place, know that He is there with you. Be still, beloved. Listen to His small voice, which is leading you to your YES. It’s going to be fabulous!

 

EdithProfilePic1Bio:

Edith is an author, speaker, and advocate for foster children. She enjoys long walks with her husband, playing with her son, and is a bobba fanatic (ok addict). Edith writes at Compassionate Healer Ministries, where she equips and empowers women of faith.

WFMW: Why I’m Saying Yes To the Small

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I’m happy to introduce you to this week’s guest poster Melanie for my Wednesday series Yes, Works For Me! Please welcome her and be encouraged by her yes to God and continue to link up what works for you.

Go big or go home. That’s seems to have been my life motto, somehow either born within me or bred throughout my years.

I’m a competitor. High-school valedictorian. Type-A-Organizer. Achiever. Hard worker. (I don’t say this proudly, for you see, these attributes have also been my weakness).

Rather than seeking God’s will, my heart is prone to wander into seeking to win. That somehow if I gain enough blog followers, or Bible study members, or friends, or a promotion… that I will somehow “prove” I am worthy to be used by God in His big picture plan.

When my heart pushes to compete, I lose sight of the fact that in Christ I am already complete.

Many times we think that God only has special plans for those who do “big things”. Bible teachers with huge audiences. Bloggers with millions of followers. Leaders who are cheered by the masses.

Where does that leave us? The ordinary ones? The ones that are not on a stage, or in print, or with a microphone. The ones who blend into the crowds. The ones who long to be used by God but doubt whether He could even want to use our “ordinariness”.

Sweet friends, that leaves us right where God has placed us…. where He can use us best.

God doesn’t call us to be famous. He calls us to be faithful.

Perhaps God uses us best when we spread His love in the small, private places of life. When no one sees, God sees us. When a friend needs a listening ear, God helps us whisper “cast all your cares on Him because He cares for you”. When a cashier just needs someone to ask how her day is going, God shows her that she is noticed. When a dirty little boy asks for a drink of water at soccer practice, God shows His love through our giving just a simple smile and a tiny cup of cool water.

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Are we willing to say “yes” to the small or just to the super-size?

In the Gospel of John, the first words we hear from Jesus are “What are you seeking?“. I slowly trace over each letter with my finger and read them aloud to myself. “Melanie, what are you seeking?

Am I seeking blog followers? Am I seeking pats on the back? Am I seeking to be “famous”?

… or am I seeking Him?

I hope you will join me in saying “yes” to the small. How will you do it today? Is there a child who would enjoy listening to you read them a book, a friend who needs a listening ear, or maybe a total stranger that would enjoy a random note of encouragement?

I want to seek Him. I want to see Him – really see Him – in every minute detail of my ordinary life. Today, I’m shouting out a great big, joy-filled, willing-heart, God-seeking “YES!” to the small. Will you join me?

 

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Bio:
Melanie writes at her blog, Only a Breath, and shares her real-life faith journey. Her blog’s mission is a simple one — to make you smile and to point your heart to the Giver of true joy. Melanie works as a full-time software developer and cherishes every moment she can spend with her husband and two hilarious sons. Follow Melanie on twitter at @MelanieAnneTN

WFMW: Saying Yes For His Girls

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I’m happy to introduce you to this week’s guest poster Jennifer for my Wednesday series Yes, Works For Me! Please welcome her and be encouraged by her yes to God and continue to link up what works for you.

At desks, sinks, and fields, on this floor of wood and this one of dirt, in kitchens where water pours right down from faucets, and in mud huts where water is fetched in buckets by walking miles one way each day, I know we are seen, these girls of Yours.

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Where children laugh and where tears stream down, where husbands and wives keep trying and where marriages dissolve in pain and hope lost, You smile, and cry, too.  You nurture these hearts and You bend and wipe tears.

Pain is not something that makes you not stay.

There are the flushed, pink cheeks, robust from plenty food.  And there are the sallow, sunken frames, eyes pleading for sustenance, mercy.

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You show us these children, those girls of Yours who lift up hands–those who know You and those who don’t — and we remember how much we need You to show us how to love all these girls well–how we need You to even give us eyes to see, to give us hearts to feel, before we love, before we believe.

We are all Your girls.

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And You take this girl’s hands in Yours as You reach, reminding her sweet:  here, here is the food I bring.

You were lost until you were found.  You thought and lived like you were forgotten until I reminded you that you are not.  You wondered if anyone saw you, knew you, cared about the depths of your heart — the heart you didn’t even know was there until I showed it to you.

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Remember you are the one whose life I claimed.

With My life you live.

These are my girls, for My girls to gather up.

Gather them, My dears.  I am Yours.  I have gathered you.  Don’t stop now.

Until they are all gathered I wait, I stay.

Kristen’s brave, inspiring words in Rhinestone Jesus got me thinking about my trip to Ethiopia–and how my yes to God to jump on that plane with my husband, seven years ago, leaving behind our (then) 5, 3, and 1 year old for 21 days forever changed my heart. Our yes to that trip, years ago, prompted my husband and I, living in the midst of crazy-busy-success-driven Silicon Valley, California, to start a non-profit as the means for us to love the people God is calling us to love, in the way He’s made us to do it. Last week it was official: Gather Ministries got accredited as a 501(c)(3).

What is your yes? Who are you made to love? How are you made to love them?

Kristen reminds me, in Rhinestone Jesus,

I believe we are all called to do something, just not everything. Focusing on our one thing and doing it well to His glory is both liberating and life changing.

Saying yes to what Jesus is calling us to do is the freedom we will never know unless we trust Him more than ourselves. Come on, sister, let’s say yes to Him. What happens next, after the yes, may not be easy, but we don’t want to miss all that good He has that we will otherwise never know.

As sisters, let’s root for each other. Let’s join Kristen in encouraging each other to listen for and respond to God’s invitation to say yes.

Jennifer square new blue backgroundJennifer Camp, co-founder of Gather Ministries and author of Loop, grew up in the middle of an almond orchard in Northern California. A former high school English teacher, she loves to write, but she especially loves to encourage people to seek and live out the truth of their story, their identity in Christ.

You can find her writing at her blog, You Are My Girls, and also with her husband about the redemptive mess of marriage at their blog, Holy Entanglement.

WFMW: Saying YES is Always More Than You Bargained For

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I’m happy to introduce you to this week’s guest poster Jennifer for my Wednesday series Yes, Works For Me! Please welcome her and be encouraged by her yes to God and continue to link up what works for you.

When I said “Yes!” to my younger daughter’s life, refusing to discuss termination with my doctor, I had no idea what that would mean. All indications were, despite the doctor’s fears, that our daughter was just fine. Later we realized that she does, indeed, have medical and neurodevelopmental issues, and she is a struggling learner too. All of this information has come to us little by little, although we realized at birth that she was a bit different.

I had no idea that saying yes to my daughter’s life would mean an entirely different life for our family—other than the changes that come with adding another family member to our household. I had no idea that, nine years later, therapy sessions and evaluations, behavioral therapy sessions, specialist appointments, and weekly immunoglobulin infusions would be “normal” for us.

Saying yes to our daughter’s life also meant that my dreams for my writing changed. God’s plans were entirely different from my own. He has gradually opened up an entire speaking and writing ministry to families of children with special needs. He’s very serious about 2 Corinthians 1:4. He never wastes a single hard thing in our lives.

Saying YES is Always More Than You Bargained For - wearethatfamily.com

But saying yes also brought other changes to our lives that I didn’t expect. I never dreamed that I would rejoice over my child making eye contact for longer than a few seconds at a time. I never imagined that we would all get excited about our daughter wearing a different type of clothing or trying a different type of food. I didn’t expect to smell everything I come into contact with, trying to imitate her behavior and experience the world similar to the way she does. I never dreamed I would sit next to her almost every day for years, watching her persevere at the learning that comes so hard to her, watching her struggle, and then finally hearing her read a few words fluently.

I never dreamed that I could be so in love with a child whose future is so uncertain. I never imagined that God would give me an even clearer picture of His love for me in all my struggles and imperfections through this child He blessed me with.

I didn’t expect to grow even closer to God as I dropped to my knees over and over again, asking for wisdom to raise this child, asking for help to pay for the things she needs, asking for favor with therapy facilities, specialists, and insurance companies. I didn’t expect to be so comforted in the good times and bad, knowing that He’s walking alongside me.

I didn’t expect to see His miracles in my family’s life, over and over again. I didn’t expect my daughter’s struggles to cause both of my daughters to develop character traits and a dependence on God that will serve them well for the rest of their lives—and I can’t wait to see how He uses all of this to bless others.

And while I wonder about the future and what God might do between now and then, He makes sure that we’re filled with joy, even during the hard times. My precious daughter adds so much love and laughter to our lives. Like this morning, while we were doing her math lesson, I asked her to write the numbers 35 to 100, counting by fives. She looked at me and said, “To 100? Doesn’t that seem a little extreme?” After I insisted she could do it, she proceeded to count by fives to 110. So there.

Saying YES to God is a scary but exhilarating thing to do. No matter what your YES is or where it leads you, you can be sure it will be more than you bargained for!

 

Bio:

2013 headshot (1)Jennifer Janes lives in Arkansas with her husband and two daughters. She enjoys reading, writing, speaking, drinking iced tea, crocheting, using blue ink when she writes longhand, and spending time with friends and family. She writes about faith, family, and parenting and homeschooling a child with special needs on her blog, Jennifer A. Janes.