Sunday, April 22, 2018

You Are Not Alone: The Struggle of Infertility.

by Hannah Clements

It’s National Infertility Awareness Week! Did you know that 1 out of 8 couples struggle with infertility? Here’s what I wanted to make you aware of – no matter what “week” or “obstacle” you identify with – You are not alone.

Infertility can be a very private and personal journey and can feel very lonely unless we connect with others who are going through the same journey or who have been there, done that, and have seen the other side. This is why I choose to be open with my journey: for the sake of community and to bring glory to His name even in the desert. We were not meant to do life alone.

For my other 1 in 8s or waiters of any kind, here are 8 things that have helped me through the roller coaster that is infertility. Not waiting for a baby, but waiting for something else? I believe these 8 things might also apply to you.

1. Believing I will be a mom one way or another either through birth or adoption. Believing = hope. Although God’s time sure has been different than my own, I know I will one day be a mom. Dare to Hope.

2. Do the next right thing. Honestly, I wanted to have this all planned out. If this doesn’t work, we will do this, then this, then that etc. However, thinking too far in the future becomes quite overwhelming. I do not know the future. My husband reminds me to stay focused on the now vs thinking too hard in to the future. Although sometimes this point of view is frustrating because I would rather have a clear plan, it helps me to submit my future to the Sovereign God who goes before me. Just do the next right thing today and give the rest over.

3. Connect with other people who have been there done that!!! This by far is one of the most helpful things. That is it. Don’t know anyone? Connect with me or join a social media group of other people going through the same thing. This journey doesn’t have to be lonely.

4. Celebrate others pregnancies and babies. God created these lives. Don’t you forget that life is a miracle. Do not allow yourself to harbor jealousy, bitterness, or self-pity – that is what the devil wants you to do. Do not allow him to win this battle that the Lord has already fought and won for you. Go to the showers, rub the bellies, like the pregnancy announcements, and kiss the babies. Celebrate even when life does not seem fair. After all, we wouldn’t and shouldn’t wish infertility on anyone.

5. Do all of the celebrating and loving of your people, and then cry all the way home if you need to. Give yourself permission to cry, but do some constant self reflection. There is a fine line between sadness/disappointment and self-pity. Find yourself in a hole of self-pity, jealously, or anger? (see below)

6. Talk to God about it.  Don’t stop talking to God and believing He is Good. He is. Praise Him in the pit.

7. Give grace – to yourself (there comes a point where there is not really anything you can do but submit. Give yourself the grace to do so) AND give grace to well meaning individuals – you know… the ones who suggest all the things like standing on your head, eating pineapple, and taking cold medicine. If those things worked ya’ll, I would have been pregnant years ago, but I am not. Ya’ll, these people mean well. They are trying to help you. Give them grace and bless their hearts. Then be as open as you wish about your journey with them. Spread a little awareness.

8. Do some reading. I hear once you become a mom you don’t have time for things like reading. So enjoy this “free” time. Here are some book suggestions to get you started:

Wait and See: Finding Peace in God’s Pauses and Plans by Wendy Pope – so good. Weaves in the story of David, scripture, and modern day waiting periods. Wish this book would have come around sooner.

When God Doesn’t Make Sense by James Dobson – a good reminder to keep faith no matter the circumstance.

Falling Free: Rescued from the Life I always wanted by Shannan Martin – A book about how God changed Shannan’s dream life around to one that is better. Plus Shannan adopted little ones and a big one, and they are just the cutest.

and the book of Isaiah – She Reads Truth has a study of the book of Isaiah.


If you'd like to connect with Hannah she can be reached at hannah.j.clements@gmail.com.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

That Voice in Your Head? It's Lying

by Heidi Ashe


Do you hear them too?  Or is it just me?  The voices in my head that tell me someone else could do this better.  That someone else’s kids aren’t complaining about their breakfast, their lunch, their dinner.  That no one’s crying at their house.



Well it’s a sham.  Those voices are straight up lies.  No one can do you better than you.  There’s no one your family needs more than you.  Everyone’s kids are complaining and I assure you that if there’s a toddler or a teenager in that house, someone is crying.



Isn’t that just like the devil to get into our heads? He can’t have our hearts.

Jesus is there.

That space is taken.

So the devil is vying for all the other spaces. Your head, your kitchen, your car.

He’s trying to pick a fight with your husband, to take your sweet babies whiny voices to another decibel, and to turn up the volume on that colleague chewing beside you.



So how do we push past the voices, the negativity, the daily grind that more often than not tries to drag us down?  We run (or maybe crawl) to God and listen to what He says (because isn’t that all that matters?)



In Galatians 5:1, He calls us FREE.  “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”



In Ephesians 1:7 & 8, He calls us REDEEMED and FORGIVEN and LAVISHED with GRACE.   “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us.”



When the voices become deafening or the pressure of the world becomes too much, crank the worship music, dig into His word or at the very least sing Jesus Loves Me when you want to scream (I promise it works!).



In a song I just recently heard by Dave Barnes there’s a line that says,



“I beg you see my brokenness  as how the light got in.”



That is my prayer friends, that my kids, my husband, my family, friends, colleagues would all see the broken in me and then the light of Jesus shining right on through.





Saturday, March 24, 2018

Whiter Than Snow

by Jamie Gunter

Psalm 51:7
“Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow”

My dear Eric grew up not understanding what a skunk smelled like. Bless his heart he was clueless until we moved to the foothills- then he got more than enough of the stench. As did our shepherd Jake- he was skunked several times. When I think back to those late nights in the cold holding a squirming, disgusting, smelly dog as we battled soaping him up and rinsing, I feel queasy and shiver. I felt like I would never be truly clean again. 

Maybe you’ve felt like this- dirty, disgusting, unclean to your core. Impure and unworthy. I know. We all know. Those amazing Christian people you know who are perfect… no. No- they are unclean, disgusting, and dirty… UNTIL. Until they realize Christ has made them clean. Spotless and pure white, like newly fallen snow. WHITER than newly fallen snow. This is the power of Jesus. He loves you so much He became dirty, disgusting, mutilated so that you and I could be whiter than snow. 

Praise God. Listen to Him whispering to you friend. He asks for your tiny seed of faith in Him and He will grow you into something beautifully amazing. You may be in the depths of stench, wretched, awful sin, decisions you know are dirty and dark. BUT He is here! He is among you, walking, whispering, loving. He hears you and sees you. Listen, Look, Reach out to Him. You do not have to walk in darkness- unknowing, questioning, feeling dirty. Be made new! You can be made clean just by asking for the grace and forgiveness Christ provides. 

There is no greater news in this season of Easter, this spring season of new growth. All of us, whether new to faith in Christ or years in, make dirty, disappointing decisions. We all must kneel before Christ and confess our uncleanness and ask for Christ to forgive us and wash us new again. I am so thankful for God’s faithfulness through His son, Jesus. That though we are unclean, impure, dirty and sinful, He is so willing to wash us new and clean so that we can be in His presence as spotless, whiter than snow. 

Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. - Isaiah 1:18




Sunday, March 18, 2018

How Do I Help a Friend Who's Hurting?

by Jennifer Smith

Bless our hearts.

As I’ve grown into adulthood God has given me the very precious gift of deep and lasting friendships. It seems He knew something I didn’t-

Friendships of youth are fun and important and beautiful, but it takes a woman-sized friendship to help tackle the grown-sized problems of being an adult.

What a gift my friends are. They have helped me navigate some seriously terrible storms in the past few years: loss, emotional trauma, fear, and uncertainty. And in turn I hope I have helped them through their wind and waves.

My friendships are valuable to me: the ridiculous laughter, important conversations, and the gift of just being well known. Yesterday my friend Jamie literally said these words to me, “You turned your head a certain way. Are you keeping a secret?” 

And, you know what? I WAS.

(For the sake of transparency I will tell you it was a boring work secret akin to the secret Phoebe told Monica when her “friend Nancy from work was being fired”. #friendsreference)

Y’all, friends are important. And we need each other. So if a friend is going through a hard time, how do we help? I’ve combined my own experiences, a conversation with a licensed counselor, and most importantly, prayer, to compile this list. I hope it helps you to help:

  1. Ask. If you feel like a friend is hurting or is a little “off” it’s okay to say, “Are you okay?” Either they’ll say yes and we’ll all move on with our day or they’ll say no and you’ve opened a door for conversation.
  2. Listen. When a friend confides, you don’t have to talk. Take in every word they’re saying without worrying what you’re supposed to say next or comparing their struggle to your own story. Most likely that’s all they need from you- a listening ear.
  3. Understand. Give validation to their struggle. Saying the words I understand or that must be hard or I can’t imagine gives your friend support in their struggle and let’s them know they are not alone.
  4. Don’t try to fix it. We are not licensed therapists. (Well, maybe some of us are, but I certainly am not.) I don’t know how to fix a broken marriage or guide in grieving a death. But I know the One who does which leads me to...
  5. Point them to Jesus. This does not mean saying things like "This was all in God’s plan" or "God never gives us what we can’t handle" or "It'll happen in God's time". (Just stay away from any generalization your great aunt Helen would say.) This does mean saying, “I will pray” and meaning it.
  6. Pray. To our human mind this sometimes feels small, but it’s the biggest one. Friends, lift your friends up to Jesus. He’s the only one who can fix or change anything. Tell Him of their sorrow and let Him do His mighty work. James 5:16 tells us the prayer of one who knows God is powerful and effective.
  7. Encourage. Remember your friend through texts, notes, and laughter. One time when I was down, a friend sent me socks. Socks! In the mail! And oh how I smiled.

God is so good to give us each other to care for and help. This is an actual commandment Jesus gave to us. He told us to love God and then love people. And if I am well in tune with the God-love inside me, great springs of love run out of me to those around me.

Let’s remember that being a godly friend doesn’t mean we have all the answers. We don’t need to think of the perfect thing to say. A godly friend listens, prays, and loves. A godly friend points to Jesus, the best Friend of all.


Sunday, March 11, 2018

Fighting Sleep

by Andrea Noles

I watched him wiggle and squirm, tossing his blanket from side to side. Paci in, paci out.
His eyes looked so sleepy, but his body was fighting.

There was too much to see, bottles to drink, toys to squeeze, and steps to climb.
“Why do I need sleep?” I could hear him thinking.

Then a gentle whisper settled softly in my ear.

“Andrea, you fight too.”

Now hear me loud and clear, I NEVER fight sleep. I welcome rest and tend to get more than enough. It is rare that I bat an eye until morning comes.

But I can fight.
I can question.
I can defend.
I can think I know better.

What is it today you are fighting?

A few Sundays ago our Pastor introduced a new concept of winning an agreement instead of winning an argument.

I tucked that simple thought away in my pocket and I’ve kept it close by.
I’ve been dwelling on this idea of responding like Christ and offering up words that edify and encourage.
Words that bring joy and create a canopy of grace over those we are sharing life with.

Why are we fighting anyway?

To be right, to be justified, to win?

Are we are fighting for what’s already be done?
Are we are trying to win what’s already been won?

     Once there was a man named Gideon and God sent an angel to speak to him. Gideon was working diligently when he got the message that God wanted him to lead an army against the enemy. Gideon was humbled by the personal request from God, but agreed to let God use him (Judges 6:12-16).
Gideon gathered all the men he could to go against Midian. His army numbered 32,000 men. But God said that was too many. Gideon invited all those who were afraid to go back home without any repercussions. He was probably quite disappointed when 22,000 of them turned and walked away. God said that the 10,000 were too many (Judges 7:3).
    God instructed Gideon to take the remaining men to a place to get a drink. Most fell on their stomachs to drink deeply from the water. A few scooped the water to their mouths so that they could keep their eyes open for any enemies. God told Gideon that those men who were vigilant were the men who were to go against Midian (Judges 7:5-7). While it was good that Gideon was given the best of the soldiers, they only numbered 300 men. If he was disappointed before, he was even more so now. But God assured Gideon that the battle would be won by the Lord and not by the men. God did not want anyone thinking that Gideon and his men won the battle. They were merely tools in God’s hand.

You too, dear friend, are a tool in God’s hand.
Let Him fight for you.
Let Him rejoice over you with singing.
Let Him love you.

This week I challenge you to take a step back from your war. 
Ask God why you’re fighting so hard and listen to His answer.

Rest in His story and remember to remember Him.




Sunday, March 4, 2018

My "I'm Not Pregnant" Announcement

by Hannah Clements

For about three years infertility has been the shadow that keeps me company. Sometimes it is overwhelming and dark and other times I hardly notice it. However, milestones serve as reminders. For example, the one year anniversary of surgery that was sure to do the trick, the closing of another year with empty hands, and even age milestones of other precious babies.

You see for me, I really thought 2017 would be the year - the year for my pregnancy. 2016 sure wasn’t, so surely it would be 2017, right? It wasn’t. At least 12 times, I formulated a plan to announce a long awaited pregnancy in my head. Telling no one because I wouldn’t want to ruin the surprise. I will show up at the airport when my husband arrives home from his trip(s), newly pregnant, and holding a sign awaiting the arrival of the “daddy to be”. Well, those planes have landed.

I will break the news on a birthday of any given family member and have them unwrap a frame with the words “grandparents or aunt to be”. Those birthdays all came and went.

I will let my husband know we are finally expecting on Father’s Day. What a fun surprise that will be. Another Father’s day passes. I could go on, but you get the picture.

Instead, I celebrated (and can I be completely honest? - wept for myself) births of friends’ babies and pregnancy announcements, and I even stood in the birthing room cheering on a young mama as she gave birth to her baby boy - a position I will forever be honored to have stood. 2017 was in fact the year of pregnancies - just not mine.

Anyone else there? I know I am not the only one closing out 2017 and starting 2018 empty handed. Perhaps you, like me, have seen 12 negative pregnancy tests - getting your hopes up only to have them let down again. Or maybe your ring finger is empty. You really hoped you would meet Mr. Right this year, but you didn’t. You are waiting on healing that hasn’t come despite your prayers and pleads (God hears all those and sees you, by the way. Despite the fact that your circumstances haven’t changed “yet”, please know that your prayers are not in vain.) Maybe you are waiting on a raise, promotion, a job or a loved one to come back home. I know the feeling of your heartbreak. I hurt for and with you.

While you wait, the celebrations of others cause a little sting.Their social media post goes something like - “We are pregnant! God is so good” or “I got the job I wanted! God is so good” or “Save the date - We are getting married. God is so good.”

Each time, the enemy tries to tell me “You still aren’t pregnant. God must not be good and He is certainly not good to you.” You see, the devil wants us to believe lies such as this. When circumstances aren’t good, healing doesn’t come, or prayers aren’t answered in the way we want, the enemy swoops in and whispers things in hopes of taking our focus off of God and putting our focus on ourselves and our circumstances.

Here’s my response to the enemy and here’s my social media announcement. “I am not pregnant yet. God is so good”. You see, God’s goodness is not determined by my circumstances. He is good. He can’t be anything less. God has promised to be close to the broken-hearted. That promise has certainly been fulfilled for me. He is Emmanuel, God with us. God has been so good to be with me through every disappointment and heartbreak.

Believer friends, can we make it a point to announce His Goodness even in the darkest of circumstances? May we not just wait for the celebrations and answered prayers to declare His glory to the world. Friends, the world needs to know that in the very midst of darkness and grief HE IS GOOD.

Join me in declaring His goodness. “The Word gave life to everything that was created, and His light brought life to everyone. The Light shines in the darkness and darkness can never extinguish it.” John 1:4&5


Good Father,
You are good. You are with me. I will praise you in all circumstances. I declare you glory and your goodness. You are worthy of praise.
Amen


Sunday, February 18, 2018

Dare to Hope

By Hannah Clements

The book of Lamentations has recently drawn me in. Even its name has caught my eye. To lament means to mourn, grieve, and sob. I picture laying on your face in the dust kind of mourning.

Lamentations was written during a time of great mourning. The city of Jerusalem was destroyed and in pieces. Sobs were heard through the night. The roads were mourning. Friends became enemies. Hearts were broken, and souls were in despair. (Lamentations 1)

It caught my eye because I have reason to believe that many can relate to Lamentations in our present day. Our city and circles are mourning. Some of our homes, lives, and relationships lay in ruins. People are mourning loss, betrayal, and disappointment. We are lamenting for reasons known by others and reasons hidden privately within our own walls.

Truthfully, Lamentations is hard to read. Not only were the people in great mourning, but they were violently starving. The picture isn’t pretty. Some of our pictures aren’t pretty either.

Lamentations 3:19 says, “The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words. I will never forget this awful time as I grieve over my loss."

Friends, much like the author of Lamentations, I bet you will never forget your season of despair – like that time your husband left you, the time you lost your job, the time you couldn’t get pregnant, the time you grieved the loss of your friend, or the time you faced a ugly diagnosis. You won’t forget that. You will grieve that, and you have permission to mourn.

BUT, get this next part, friends….God’s Word is good. If you look closely, right in the middle of the grief and despair you will find a little nugget of hope amongst the rubble. Lamentations picks up here in verse 20, “Yet I still dare to hope...”

Did you catch that? Dare to hope in the middle of your mourning.

"Because of this – The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies begin fresh each morning. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him.’"(Lam. 3:19-24)

No matter what is going on around us, may we be bold enough to hope and choose to start each day remembering that His mercies are new each morning; His faithful love never ends.

There you have it: a dare to hope right in the middle of despair when it seems like there is no hope to be found. “Lie face down in the dust, for there may be hope at last.” (Lam. 3:29)

DARE TO HOPE, for He is faithful.

 Jesus,

Your children are mourning for reasons you know and are not surprised by. You are near to the broken-hearted. Oh Lord, may we find hope in each new day for you are faithful and good. You work all things out for our good.

Amen.