Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Ministry Update - Winter 2013

This winter (2013/2014) has been rather slow ministry-wise.  Why you ask?  Here's why:

Snow and lots of it! I've looked online and can't seem to find a snowfall total thus far, but just from my memory I'm guessing we've had near 2 feet total for snowfall this winter.  That's a lot of snow for this Tennessee girl!  The snow caused us to have to cancel several services this winter as it simply wasn't safe to be out on the roads.

Hudson is not yet a fan of snow.

Not only have I experienced more snow this winter than in my enter life, but I also had my first experience with snow drifts.  The wind here is fierce.  It would push the snow around.  This is particularly dangerous when the snow is being pushed around on the road - many vehicles get stuck.

You remember how I can look out the kitchen window and see our church?  Well, not with freezing fog.

I'm learning that the story I heard growing up in the South that northern areas are more prepared for snow is a myth.  Perhaps it's true for those who live in a city, but not for us.  The state and county road crews are in no hurry to come blade our roads.  More often than not, by the time they arrived the area farmers had already used their tractors to remove the snow from the road.

So you can understand why we've not been out and about much this winter.  Not only has there been a ton of snow, but the bitterly cold temperatures have simply kept us inside where it was warm.  I'm ready for spring, y'all!

But all has not been lost - here's somethings the Lord in his kindness allowed us to do.

A Christmas Play!  It was very sweet and the kids (including mine) did so well sharing the story of our Lord's birth.

James rocks at nursing home visitations.  Truly, it is a gift from the Lord for him.  He's patient, caring, and listens intently to their stories.  Always prays for them and seeks to be an advocate for them for better care.

Nursing home visitations are so hard for me.  Confession - I don't enjoy them and try to avoid them like the plague.  But I know it is a vital ministry and that the Lord uses them to soften my heart so Hudson and I do go sometimes.  All of our nursing home church members absolutely love Hudson. He's such a good "therapy baby."  Mrs. Hazel especially adores him.  She had many miscarriages and never had any living children of her own but is so sweet to my boy.  We took her a Christmas present (Christmas kleenex) in December and when James went back in January, he found out that she had refused to open and use the facial tissues because they were "Hudson's."  She also saves her dessert from her meals for him.  Heart melting, I know.

 Youth Christmas Party was almost cancelled due to ... you guessed it, snow and ice.  Thankfully we were able to have them over and get them all home safely, even with a little slip and slide along the way.  We sorted Christmas cards to be delivered at church, played games, watched The Natvity Story, and just had a good time being together.  So thankful for these kids.

January was a quiet month due to snow, again.  But from the New Year through Valentine's Day we studied purity in the Sunday evening youth group.  Not just sexual purity but also purity of speech, sight, thoughts, dress, and especially heart.  I am a firm believer that one can be sexually pure but impure in heart and therefore, not pleasing to the Lord.  But that's another post for another day :)  As a culminating activity, I planned a modesty scavenger hunt at our local mall that I shamelessly stole from an AcTeen activity Mary Ann and Lora once led with dinner out at Applebees afterward.  Sadly it snowed the night before we were to go, so we had to reschedule.  But the day we finally got to go was a beautiful 40 degree day. :)

Here's Hudson anxiously waiting to pick up the kids from school in the church van.  Huge benefit of living in a small town is that all of our kids (Pre-K through 12th grade) go to the same school.

Hudson and his BFF riding the rides at the mall.

Can you stand the cuteness?

Grubbing at Applebees!

Valentine's Day, it snowed again (sigh) but later the next week we were able to deliver cookies and an adorable picture of Hudson to our church widows.  Valentine's Day is hard for many and it's amazing what a little gift can do for one's spirit.

So our winter didn't go exactly as planned due to the weather.  But the Lord is in control of the weather, so it's all good.  We have big plans for the Spring - Ladies' Spring Tea, Easter, etc...and even bigger plans for the Summer.  Bring on the warmer temps!

Prayer Requests:

  • Neighbor, L.  I was to begin a Bible Study with her at her home but due to this horrible winter weather it's hasn't gotten off the ground yet.  Pray for her heart to still be open to the study.
  • Neighbor, E.  Her daughter and son go to our church and I've somewhat befriended her.  She comes from a different-church background so there are some misconceptions to relieve.
  • A & A - our neighbors who became believers in our home back last summer are now living in Iowa.  They also recently had a baby boy!  We miss them and hope to visit them this spring.  Pray that they will get connected to a local church.
  • B, J, G, and D - all people in our community with serious illnesses (strokes, cancer, lymphoma, etc..)  Mercy is needed desperately as only B is a believer.
  • I'm newly leading a ladies' weekly Bible study at a sister church.  It's exciting though I am finding that with a toddler in the house, my time available to study is quite limited.  
  • Encouragement for James.  I think we're all suffering a bit from Seasonal Affective Disorder a bit from being stuck in the house, but I am learning just how discouraging ministry can be for a pastor.  I also encourage you to pray for your pastor.  And let him know through a note or email or even face-to-face - the encouragement will be huge!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Enter Season: He is Sovereign

I've always thought of my life in terms of seasons.

2001-2003 the Lord showed me that He is my Savior and God.  I became a believer and was baptized in 2001 and very quickly felt called to some sort of ministry.  The next two years, I was able to teach at a private-Christian school and serve with Mission Discovery in Mexico and Tennessee in the summers.  It was an exciting time of learning what it meant to follow Jesus.

2004-2008 the Lord showed me that He is faithful.  In 2004, I moved to Louisville to attend seminary.  To be completely honest, I was totally unprepared.  Unprepared theologically and financially.  Yet the Lord was so kind to be faithful to his promise to guide me if I just trust him.  During this time, he was faithful to provide jobs to support myself, provide the ability to "catch up" quickly in terms of learning theology, and eventually provided the desire of my heart to be a wife.

2008-2011 honestly were rather quiet years.  I'm not exactly sure what the Lord was trying to teach me during these years.  I was a recent seminary grad, a new wife, and returned to teaching in a classroom.  I think the sheer busyness of life was overwhelming so I'm still processing that season in some ways.

2011-2013 the Lord showed that He is my provider.  He miraculously provided the ability to conceive and deliver sweet Hudson.  He provided amazingly through the generosity of his people lovely hand-me-downs for our sweet boy.  He provided financially despite all odds.

Though we just started 2014, it seems that the Lord is somewhat (not so) gently ushering me into a period where I am to learn about his sovereignty.

Without going into too many details, I've had three rather major disappointments, for lack of a better word, in the past 2-3 months.  These things (disappointments) are completely out of my control.  No amount of my effort or the effort of others is really going to make a difference.  I've done quite a bit of praying and meditating on this and can only come to the conclusion that the Lord wants me to trust in his sovereignty.

Sovereignty, to be simple, is God's ultimate control over everything (including my disappointments).  Though the Lord can work through doctors, government agencies, friends, whatever to accomplish his will - if something is not his will no amount of efforts on the part of these forces will change anything.  God is in control, it's that simple.  And that should be a comfort.

Why is that a comfort?  Reading a sermon on Jeremiah 32, Pastor John Piper says there are many reasons why God's sovereignty is comforting.  Here are three:

1) God is God.  Jeremiah 32:38 says, "They will be my people and I will be their God."  This promise comes in the midst of a very depressing time for God's people.  But he is their (my) God so all his wisdom, power, and love are for me.

2) God promises to change my heart.  Psalm 34:4 states that if we "delight in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart."  Repeatedly throughout scripture God promises to change our hearts - make stone hearts soft.  The Lord is not "Santa" he's not going to give me what I want if I'm good.  Rather he will change my heart's desires to align with what he wants for me.  Rather, he changes my heart and its desires.

Jeremiah 32:39 says, "I will give them one heart and one way that they may fear me always...I will put the fear of me in their hearts."  This sounds like a scary verse - God will make us afraid of him.  But it's not.  During this time, the people of God were disobedient.  Rather than sit idly by and wait to see if by some free-will of their own his people would return to him, the Lord is active in changing their hearts.  Like the loving father that he is, he is going to make sure that through discipline, our hearts learn to trust and obey him.

3)  God promises not to leave us.  We are not orphans, left to navigate this world on our own.  Rather we have a heavenly father who has covenanted with us to be our God, always, despite our unfaithfulness he will be faithful to us.

This is a comfort.  My hope does not lie in anyone/thing else other than God who is in ultimate control of every situation - good, bad, and ambivalent.  This is a lesson I'm continually learning.

Not grace to bar what is not bliss
Nor flight from all distress, but this;
The grace that orders our trouble and pain
And then, in the darkness, is there to sustain.
-- Pastor John Piper