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Posted on Feb 18, 2016 in Before Marriage Blog, Devotional, Spiritual Life | 0 comments

Some Things Never Change

Some Things Never Change

I had just finished my first year of seminary, I was working as a summer intern at my church in Nashville, TN, and my supervisor asked me to share a testimony with the women’s group.

As I was going through some old notes today, I found my notes from that day and have decided to share them with you here. They are a good reminder to me of where I’ve been and what God has done in my life. I hope they’ll be an encouragement to you too.

 

~July 30, 2005~

Back in the day...

Back in the day…

After a year away at seminary, several of you have asked what motivated me to pursue this degree. The truth is that I really had no other choice. There are all the logical answers, like I wanted a master’s degree in SOMETHING, it was time for a change, my gifts and talents lie in that area… Blah, blah, blah…

The real story is that God has been calling me to ministry all of my life.

My dad tells the story that when I was barely old enough to talk, he told me about Jesus and asked me if I wanted to accept Him into my heart. I eagerly said yes and every time he shared the salvation message with me thereafter, I always wanted him to pray with me again. He says I must’ve gotten saved 100 times before I was 5 years old. At five years old, I responded in church to a call for salvation that I remember well. A deep love for the Lord was instilled in me at a very young age.

My parents were raised in the Mennonite church where, at the time, only men were able to be church leaders. I was taught that my purpose in life was to marry a godly man and assist him in his calling. My greatest dream, then, was to marry a pastor. In my fantasy world, he could preach and do weddings and funerals and I would take care of the rest!  Teaching classes, administration, discipleship, worship, and so on would all happily be my responsibility. It never crossed my mind that I had a call to ministry on my life – regardless of what a possible future husband might do.

By my mid-20’s when I found myself single and bored with my career, I began to revisit the plan I had for my life. I sought God for some direction – any direction!  I prayed for hours at a time, fasted, had other people pray for me, read books about it, took personality tests, and continued to be desperate for some direction from the Lord. And then it happened – driving in the car one day the Lord spoke to me very clearly. He said “I want you to go to seminary.”

This was completely outside of my realm of thinking and as foreign a concept as it gets!  I was shocked and scared and thrilled all at once. Me?  Seminary?  A woman?  Really, God?

“Yes. And I want you to go to Regent University.”

While the first part had thrilled me, the second part concerned me. I knew a little about Regent and that it was located in Virginia Beach, VA – and I had no intention of leaving Nashville!  When I graduated from college, I felt like the Lord had called me to Nashville and I absolutely loved it. My family had moved a lot while I was growing up and I hated moving. I’d determined I was going to find one place to live and stay there forever. For three years, I battled with the Lord over leaving. Regent has a distance education program and I tried to find a way to take classes that way while maintaining my full-time job in Nashville, but that didn’t work. It was three of the hardest years of my life, facing failure upon failure. By the time I left, I had lost nearly everything and felt like I was being spit out of Nashville.

During this time, the Lord spoke very clearly to me – and by now He had my full attention. He used a song on a songwriter named Jill Phillips to get my attention and bring me to a place of rest. Here are the lyrics from “Hanging On.”

The weight I fastened on trying to make my world run
Almost pinned me to the floor
I could not orchestrate one solitary day
The more I worked I found my efforts all in vain.

I believe that I need to let go of these things to be free
S0 help me stop this hanging on and on.

All my worry got was more of what I did not want
The love of power and control
Every hour running kept me in that starting place
When I finally rested I began to win this race.

I believe that I need to let go of these things to be free.
So help me stop this hanging on and on.

Cause you provide.

There is only so much I can do with these two hands
Precious is the freedom that I finally understand
I believe that I need to let go of these things to be free
So help me stop this hanging on and on.

That song nailed my problem down as clearly as it could be said. I had tried to run my own world – to build the life I thought I should have – and I got nowhere at all. Frustration, failure, and pain were all I had to show for my hard work.

God opened my eyes to see that no matter what I said – all the proper Christian phrases – reality was that I didn’t trust Him with my life. I loved Him and wanted His approval, but I wanted things MY way. I wanted to do it myself and expected Him to applaud my efforts. It came as quite a shock to me when He disciplined me instead!

So I threw up my hands and decided to do my best to put my full trust in Him. And when He said “Go to Regent” this time, I put aside my lack of understanding and went. I went with great fear and trembling. But I went.

God has yet to disappoint me. 

I sold nearly everything I owned before I moved, paying off debt, and God has provided replacements for EVERYTHING – including my car!  He has provided amazing jobs (including this internship), and I’ve been introduced me to some of the most influential people at Regent. He’s provided me with a student government position that I was too afraid to apply for until He confirmed it for me several times – and that position carries with it a 50% tuition scholarship. He’s provided me with wonderful friends and professors who love and encourage me. He’s even provided me with a good church.

It’s a daily struggle for me to give over control to God. There are times when I realize that I have yet again charged in on my own and attempted to make things happen. When I’m faced with failure, I look for God and find Him waiting for me somewhere other than where I’m at. I run back and take His hand again. In fact, this last year for me has been one lesson in trust after another. When I think I finally have gotten it, I mess up again!  How many of you can relate to that?

Here are a few words of encouragement from Scripture:

Psalm 127:1 (NKJV)
Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.

AND

Proverbs 3:5-8 (The Message)
Trust GOD from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for GOD’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track. Don’t assume that you know it all. Run to GOD! Run from evil! Your body will glow with health, your very bones will vibrate with life!

Sometimes I actually find myself apologizing to God because I need Him so much. In those times I can almost feel Him laughing at me and saying – I want you to need Me!  I’m trying to remember to bask in my need of Him and enjoy the fact that when I have a need, He is my knight in shining armor – He is the one who desires to rush to my rescue!  I do not have to do it on my own. I do not have to prove my capability to God or impress Him with my ability to handle a situation!  He longs for me to turn it over to Him. He wants me to ask for His advice.

Several times this last year when I have asked, God has required me to take a giant leap of faith. He has required me to quit one job before I was assured of another. He has required that I make myself very vulnerable, but every single time He has come to my rescue.

So my encouragement to you today is to trust God as your champion!  Trust Him as the one who truly longs to take care of your every need!  Believe in God as your knight in shining armor!  He is the only one that you need.

Even if you’re having a hard time with trust, step out in faith and do that thing that is tugging on your heart right now. That thing that He asked you to do and that you’ve been battling Him about. He’s not going to make your life a barren wasteland. He wants to redeem it and make your very bones vibrate with life!

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Posted on Dec 16, 2011 in Before Marriage Blog, Spiritual Life | 17 comments

You Have Multiplied

You Have Multiplied

 

$97.37.  Ninety-seven dollars and thirty-seven cents.

That is the amount of change that I’ve been able to save over the last few years.  I began saving it when I was single.  I wanted to be a bride.  When I was engaged before, I didn’t have much money to spend on a wedding dress.  I found a used one online and purchased it for next to nothing.  The dress was beautiful, but it didn’t fit.  It was not the experience I wanted for my wedding dress when I really did get married, so I decided to start saving money before I even had a boyfriend.

That was a couple years ago.  I was embarrassed to tell anyone what the money was for.   It seemed frivolous to save for something like that, but my heart longed for something beautiful.  Saving my change was so small and insignificant.  I knew it wouldn’t amount to much.  The act of faith was the point though.  Every time I put money in the jar, I whispered a prayer that God would multiply it and make it into more than I ever could.

God did multiply it too.  In May I got engaged to my Boaz (see the book of Ruth).  I received some unexpected money right around that time.  I was able to purchase the dress of my dreams and it was significantly less than I had budgeted to spend.  I continued with my small coin collection though, knowing it would be useful at some point in the future.

piggy_bankTonight I was talking to my fiance, Rick, about money.  Getting married is expensive and we are both in shock about how much it costs to have a wedding, set up a new home, and go on a honeymoon.  With two weeks until the wedding, I need to stop working so I can finalize all the wedding plans and celebrate Christmas.  Rick asked me if it was time to cash in my coin collection.  Stunned, my first thought was to tell him no.  I was saving that money!  But then I had to laugh.  I was saving that money for this!

As I gathered up my coins tonight, added up the totals, and put it all into a bag to take to the bank, it hit me hard.  God has answered my prayers.  Every whispered prayer that God would take my small contribution and multiply it has been answered.

I had small faith that I would actually get married.  In two weeks I will become a wife.

I had small faith that I would have the money I needed for the wedding dress of my dreams.  In two weeks I will wear a dress that takes my breath away and leaves me giggling like a little girl every time I put it on.

I had small faith that every bill I had would be paid, that I could continue to have my needs met even though I had lost my job.  In two weeks it will have been 18 months since I lost my salary and I have never had a bill go unpaid or a need unmet.  In fact, I’ve had more than I needed.

My God has provided for my needs.  What have I to fear? 

I waited patiently for the LORD;

he inclined to me and heard my cry.

He drew me up from the pit of destruction,

out of the miry bog,

and set my feet upon a rock,

making my steps secure.

He put a new song in my mouth,

a song of praise to our God.

Many will see and fear,

and put their trust in the LORD.

Blessed is the man who makes

the LORD his trust,

who does not turn to the proud,

to those who go astray after a lie!

            You have multiplied, O LORD my God,

your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us;

none can compare with you!

I will proclaim and tell of them,

yet they are more than can be told.

(Psalm 40:1-5 ESV)

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Posted on Dec 2, 2011 in Before Marriage Blog, Love, Spiritual Life | 5 comments

The Countdown

The Countdown

December 2, 2011.  The date isn’t that significant.  But it’s FRIDAY, December 2, 2011.  And that means in just FOUR weeks, 28 days, I will become a married woman.  My heart races a bit just writing that.

This morning I ordered flowers that I’ll carry down the aisle, the only time in my life when it will be appropriate to carry around a beautiful bouquet of flowers.  There are final plans to be made, and so I spent several hours following that going over my schedule, sending emails, making phone calls, and trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together, wondering what I’m forgetting.  How much more money will I need?  How many people will be at this event, that event, and THE event?  When am I going to find time to hang out with my cherished friends in the final weeks of my time in Nashville?

My head is swirling with problems to solve, plans to finalize, and concerns about how it will all get done.  But earlier this week I slipped into my wedding gown and got the last few pins to make the dress fit perfectly.  With that gown on, all the difficulties of planning a huge, life-altering event faded away.  For those few moments, I remembered why I am doing all this stuff.  We are getting married.  We are each putting our best foot forward, hoping for a day that sparkles and crackles with life and joy, to stand before God and our family and friends and make a covenant to be one.  And the two shall become one.

IN FOUR WEEKS!

And then, the honeymoon…

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Posted on Nov 14, 2011 in Before Marriage Blog, Love, Spiritual Life | 21 comments

You Will Forget

You Will Forget

Throughout my single years, I’ve dreamed about this time in my life – how I’d feel, what I’d say, things I’d do.  It seemed so far from my reality that I knew I’d be the most grateful, kind, gentle, and gracious girlfriend/fiancée/wife anyone could ever imagine.  I’ve often joked around with my family that when I’m finally pregnant, they’ll find me throwing up with a smile on my face, just so joyful to be having a baby of my own.

And yet, as I’ve settled into this relationship and this new role in my life, it feels completely natural and normal.  I’m the same woman I’ve always been, just with a new set of responsibilities and relationships to nurture.  I’m very thankful for Rick, but I don’t find myself trembling in gratitude and overlooking every little frustration because I’m so happy to have that promised mate.  In fact, I may speak my mind more often than a younger bride.  I know that this relationship is IT, so I want it to be right and good.  I don’t mind sharing my thoughts on that with Rick – setting the record straight, making my feelings known, and standing up for what I have come to know is true.

The funny thing is the near offense I have caught myself feeling when well-meaning friends who prayed with me for years to be connected to the man God had for me congratulate me, or indicate that this situation is unbelievably good.  Something inside me tenses up, wondering what they thought was so wrong with me that they now have to congratulate me for finally landing A MAN.  I want to snap at them, “Hey! I’ve turned down a number of marriage proposals.”

But I know that isn’t what they mean.  They were so gracious to listen to me whine and complain about my frustration and pain, never feeling peace that the man who was interested in me was the right one, and then dealing with my fears that God didn’t want me to get married.  They prayed for me, anguished with me, and now they are thrilled for me that the time has come.  I accept their joy and am so glad to be able to share the obvious answer to our prayers with them.

Being single this long brought with it a sense of shame and a feeling that I could be married if I would just work out whatever was wrong with me.  If I could just love God more, have a better figure, wear the right clothes, say the right things to men, and so on – THEN the magical moment would come and I could be a bride.  But that didn’t make any sense.  I had single friends with near perfect figures, great relationships with God, killer fashion sense, and great personalities – yet they faced the same struggles.  I knew married women who were terrible messes and whose husbands adored them anyway.

I rejected the idea that something about me needed to be better before the time would come for the right man to love me.  Even in my rejection of the idea, the feelings came back from time to time.  How did THAT woman find a husband before me?  Why did he pick HER and reject me?  If that woman would just fix that one thing about herself, she could find a husband.   Ugh.

God’s been leading me back repeatedly to a Scripture He laid on my heart several years ago.  It’s Isaiah 54, which begins, “Sing, oh barren! You who have not borne, break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who have not labored with child!  For more are the children of the desolate than those of the married woman,’ says the Lord.”

Believe me when I say I began to sing!  Every time I had an opportunity, I sang.  I sang loudly.  Sing, sing, sing!  I sang as I worked around the house, as I walked down halls at church, belting out the lyrics in services.  Judge me if you want, I thought, but my God has told me to sing and I’m not going to do it half-heartedly!  I sang and sang and sang, thinking there are more types of barrenness than just those who are physically unable to bear a child.

During my engagement, God has repeatedly drawn my heart back to this chapter.  It speaks to my heart and stirs my emotions.  It goes on to tell me not to be afraid because God will make sure I’m not ashamed.

“For you will forget the shame of your youth, and will not remember the reproach of your widowhood anymore.”

That phrase, you will forget, echoes through my mind.

God promised that I would forget the way I felt, ashamed and afraid, and He’s done it.  It’s hard to remember those feelings any longer.  I now know beyond a shadow of a doubt that there was nothing wrong with me (or Rick), but God just had some things for us to do alone before we needed to be together.  God will make sure we have the things our hearts desire.  It’s just happening later than we expected it to, later than what many other people experience.

One final thought…  I was walking on the treadmill at the gym the other night.  There aren’t many treadmills there and they were all being used.  I kept having this thought that I was just taking up space for the real athletes as I plodded along, huffing and puffing at my slow speed.  But my heart rate was at a good pace, I was sweating nicely, and I was making personal progress even if I was moving much slower than most of the others.  I finally decided to tell the voices in my head to be quiet.  I made a choice to stop comparing my speed to the speed of those around me.  I decided just to pay attention to my own body and what I needed, do the best I could, and forget everyone else.

What I can remember about my years of singleness is that it was hard for me to make that same decision then.  It was hard to stop comparing myself, my progress, my barrenness to those around me.  Dear friends had been married for 10 years already and had gorgeous homes with handsome, faithful, hard-working husbands and several kids!  If I could’ve just told those voices to be quiet and focused on doing the best I could do, those years would’ve been much more pleasant.  I don’t think I would’ve gotten connected with Rick any sooner.  I do think I would’ve had a lot more joy in the journey to him.

I don’t want to forget it all.  I want to be able to encourage others who wait.  But I am thankful to forget the shame, the fear, and to move forward with my life.  I’m looking forward to getting married and filling our home with love and joy and yes, even at times, raised voices and challenging words.  It takes all those things to make a family.  I’m happy to have my chance.

In closing, I want to also acknowledge you all, my faithful readers.  I am so thankful for you.  I can see how many people read my blog every day, but I cannot tell who you are unless you specifically subscribe to my blog.  Then I only see your email address, so if I don’t recognize it, I still don’t know who you are.  But it’s such an encouragement to my heart when I run into someone who may have never commented on a post I’ve written, but who mentions something I wrote that touched them.

It’s such an encouragement when I see a jump in the number of typical readers in a day and I know that a group of you out there who I’ve never met are reading it together and discussing it.  It makes my day.  I haven’t been writing as much recently because I’ve been so busy preparing for married life and my upcoming move, but I plan to continue to blog and hope to have a lot more time to write once I’m a farmer’s wife.  I hope you’ll continue to read.

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Posted on Sep 14, 2011 in Before Marriage Blog, Spiritual Life | 5 comments

The Inner Ring

The Inner Ring

There was a time in my life when I didn’t care about marriage.  I’m sure of it.  Really.  There MUST have been…  When I was younger I knew it wasn’t time yet, but I still looked forward to the day I would have a husband, when I would have that part of my future determined and set.  When my parents had my baby brother, I was nearly eleven years old.  I don’t think I realized he wasn’t my own son – until I wanted to go outside and play…  His baby sweetness consumed me and I knew I wanted to have children of my own.  As the years of perpetual singleness dragged on, my empty arms ached, longing to be a part of marriage, a family, that elusive world I couldn’t seem to join in spite of the ease with which nearly everyone around me seemed to be entering it.

One of my favorite writings addresses this issue.  By C.S. Lewis, it’s a 9-page article entitled, “The Inner Ring”, published in his book The Weight of Glory.  He addresses the reality of our human desire to get into the group we are excluded from.  We always want what we think we cannot have, want to be accepted by those who don’t accept us, want to climb over that fence that separates us from whatever is on the other side.  At times, we think there is no way we can be happy until we cross that line.  We strive and strain and turn ourselves inside out, trying to get into that elite group that eludes us.

The craziest part of it all, as Lewis points out, is that once we are a part of the group we wanted so badly to become a part of, it suddenly loses it’s magic.  After all, the group accepted us, so it can’t be as great as we thought it was to begin with!  We realize there is a better group that hasn’t yet accepted us, and so we begin seeking acceptance into the next group.  The rings never end because each time we get deeper into the inner ring, the same thing happens all over again.

Lewis’ answer to this problem is that we should forget about getting into anyone else’s inner ring.  We should do the best we can at what we have to do and soon we will be known for our excellence and be included among those who make decisions about the thing we do.  In our spare time, we should hang out with people we actually like and do fun things with them.  Then we will form friendships and without even meaning to, we will find ourselves at the center of an inner ring of our own.

I’ve been caught up in the tasks of planning my wedding, preparing to move to another area of the country, leaving my jobs and friends and church, settling into a new house, and learning to know and understand my fiance better.  Yet today I opened my email and saw a newsletter from a website for brides that provides resources to help in the planning process, and I stopped for a moment.  I stopped because I had a flash, my heart squeezing tight, remembering how it felt to be on the outside of this inner circle – the inner circle of “bride”.  I remembered the longing, the feeling that I might never belong to the group, might never experience how it felt to be chosen, loved, and accepted, and might never get to pick out the perfect white dress.

Today I took care of some precious children I have grown to love, laughed as the little one threw her arms in the air twirling and dancing, calling for me to watch her, and then helped her older sister write a story for school.  I listened as my precious niece sang me a song and felt the joy of anticipation that I get to spend time with her in a few weeks.  Motherhood now looms before me, the next inner ring that I have not yet been welcomed into.

I have to laugh at myself.  I must be still for a few moments tonight to soak it in, appreciate the tremendous blessing I’m currently walking in.  I don’t want to rush through this beautiful time in my life without even recognizing that this is GOOD. 

Tonight I’m thankful for love, even though I understand it is not the solution to every problem.  I’m thankful for the children God has given me to love at this time, in this way.  I’m thankful for hope – finally a hope I can sink into a bit – that I will one day have children of my own.  I’m thankful for the home being prepared for me, for the family that Rick and I will create, to provide that stability and security I’ve been missing.

And I pray for all my dear friends who stand outside the circle, waiting for the day when the boundary will melt away and they will be welcomed in.  If I could pull you in myself, I would.  Instead, I will pray as so many have done for me.

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Posted on Sep 5, 2011 in Before Marriage Blog, Spiritual Life | 3 comments

Just Breathe

Just Breathe

 

“Just breathe, Kimberly.  Relax and breathe.”

These are the soothing words that my mother has been whispering to me for my entire life.  And now my sweet, wise fiancé whispers them to me as well.  They are both the kind of people who feel excited “on the inside.”  They smile slightly when they’re happy while I jump up and down, clapping and laughing loudly.  They also take things in stride  and don’t get too upset when things don’t go the way they planned.  They aren’t so sure they were the ones who were right to begin with.

So why, raised by such a calm and reasonable mother, do I find it so hard just to relax and breathe?  And why has it always been this way?  Why do I hold on to everything with such a tight grip, feeling that the world will go spinning out of control if I can’t keep it in check?

I want things RIGHT.

I want everything to go smoothly and to flow, and I want everyone happy.  But in my vain attempts to keep it all in check, I become unhappy – full of angst and fighting to keep myself from a full-blown anxiety attack.  Thank  God I haven’t had one of those in a very long time…

God has been drilling these lessons into my head for the last several years, over and over again.

I am not in control.

I cannot make anything go my way.

The sheer force of my will isn’t enough.

I do not always have the answers.  In fact, I am often very wrong.

I can relax and let God handle the things that concern me. 

So today, Labor Day, I am ceasing from my labors.  I’m taking the advice of a friend who came over to help me unravel the mess in my head and put together a priority list.  She told me I’m not allowed to worry about the lingering items on my to do list concerning the wedding, honeymoon, and new life together in a new house in a new part of the country.  She said I am only allowed to concern myself with what is on the list for today – and I now have a well-organized list to tell me just what that is.

I’m going to go sit with a friend and drink some coffee.  We’re going to laugh and talk and not worry about the fact that my wedding invitation envelopes lay un-addressed in a pile on my desk (and no one else can do them for me because they must be RIGHT).

I’m going to stop concerning myself with who will replace me at my job and trust that God has heard my prayers for just the right person at just the right time.  (Oh, how hard it will be to believe that anyone else can love and nurture and bless those children and my dear friends, their parents, as well as I can…)

As the list of concerns and things I must do grows and the time in which to do them shrinks, I am doing all I can to lay my concerns before the Lord and trust that He will work everything out.  I am doing my best to remember how incredibly joyful this time in my life is and to relish the pleasure of being a bride.  I am trying to delegate things to my friends and family, letting perfectionism slip away and sanity return.

God, help me to remember to breathe.

 

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