My struggle with church

“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”

‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭10:24-25‬ ‭NLT‬‬

We didn’t go to church today. Actually, we haven’t been to church in a month. A series of events have played into this. First, we’re back to visiting churches, and have found ourselves in a very discouraging season. More on that in a moment. Then we got baby E, very early, on a Sunday morning. Then we went to Florida to celebrate the life of Jason’s sweet grandmother who passed away. And for the last 2 weeks we have had every intention of going and didn’t.

Most of you know I grew up in my daddy’s church. From age 4 to 25 I went to one church with my family and a congregation that became like family. I had friends, I had mentors, I had pseudo grandparents. I was involved in youth, went to camp and on mission trips. I was corrected and confronted about everything, from driving with my brother at 14 without a license, to wearing too low cut of shirts. I couldn’t get away with anything without someone seeing, which I realize now was a blessing, though it irritated me at the age of 16. But I always loved my church. Always. I never wanted to escape it. Even then as an immature adolescent. It was my second home, my extended family. As I grew up and matured as a Christian I began to appreciate First Baptist Lutz all the more. It’s not perfect but it’s seeking to take the gospel to all nations through various forms of ministry. Being apart of that church has helped me understand what the body of Christ should look like.

Moving to Georgia has rocked me in this area. We have struggled for 7 years to feel really connected to any church. And not just feel connected but witness the power of the Holy Spirit, alive and active within the congregation. Moving to the country, especially, has made it an even greater challenge. I don’t mean to knock on churches but we’ve been to too many where it feels more like a Christian version of a country club. Meeting on Sunday’s, preaching out of the Bible and singing Christian music doesn’t make the church truly alive in Christ. I have left churches in tears simply from feeling unwelcome and like an “outsider”. Feeling like these Christians, who don’t know me at all, could care less about the state of my soul. That’s a horrible, scary observation.

For awhile we attended a newer church, but after a couple years we felt it was simply stagnant. Through a lot of prayer and agonizing over what to do we left.

Once again, we were confronted with “What is the churches purpose?” In short, the purpose of the church is to come together, encourage, admonish and equip one another through the teaching of the Bible, prayer, and singing Psalms and spiritual songs. Then we effectively scatter through out the week taking the gospel into our community and beyond. Disciples making disciples. Essentially, one would think, you would start seeing growth and life change in the church as a byproduct of people being reached with the gospel of Jesus. Additionally, the church would engage in outreach together to further the gospel and love people like Christ loves us. (A few passages to support that description. Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 2:42-47, Acts 6:7, Colossians 3:16, 2 Corinthians 8:1-2)

So, we started visiting again. I was very frustrated and disappointed with our seeming unfaithfulness to a church body. That’s how it felt. I didn’t want to “church hop”. That was not my paradigm. We connected with another local church and the pastor very quickly. He was somewhat new to the area. He seemed like a strong leader, ready to pour everything he had into the community and commission us, his congregants to do the same. It seemed as though he understood the Bible and how it described the church as we did. We were excited and all in.

He was not what he seemed. We suffered a great loss under his leadership. He was let go. We were devastated. We were left with a broken, hurt, unhealthy church that we had really just started attending. We tried to hang in there. Maybe not hard enough, I don’t know. But we began visiting again.

And here we are. Visiting. With no church “home”. I’m becoming so frustrated by our situation that when Sunday rolls around it’s tempting to just want to stay home. In fact this morning I even thought “ugh, it’s raining. I don’t want to go out in that.” Never in my life has rain kept me from wanting to worship with the body of Christ. I can’t even describe how sad this makes me. Sad because I can see its effects on us spiritually. Because I’m not foolish enough to think it has no effect. It totally does. Sad because this is not what I want for my children. So yes, it pains me. Praise God it does. What a mercy from the Holy Spirit because I do not ever want to give up on the body of Christ. I do love the church. I don’t know why we’re struggling here. I’m starting to wonder if it’s us! I know we are not perfect, nor are all our desires and ideas, and I know there is no perfect church.

What we want is to be connected with authentic Christians that love God passionately, are rooted in his Word and with all their might want to live it out. And for some reason in this “Bible Belt” small town we haven’t quite found that. Fortunately I know this whole experience is not meaningless. I have a different perspective now. Mainly, I have compassion for people who are visiting, who have been hurt by the church and the ones who have faded out of church completely, and sadly a lot of people in this area have. All in all it’s been a very humbling season, which I can ALWAYS use humbling. 🙂

Maybe you’re like me. Can I just encourage you, don’t give up on the church!! Just keep going. Keep praying for God to lead you to the right body of Christ. Keep praying the church in America would have an awakening. But don’t give up and stay home. We were never meant to be lone Christians. And yes, I know we have our brothers and sisters in Christ all over and outside our local church and thank God for that. I have needed them so much to spur me on to not give up meeting with my local family in Christ. God means to work through the body of Christ, the local church. Your local church. My local church. Christ loves the church, it’s His bride. We’re called to love like Christ, so we too must love the church and never ever give up on her.


He Is Enough

“I was walking blindly into a new season, a place that didn’t line up with my plans and dreams for the coming new year. A place that I never would have chosen, never wished or asked for. But God’s promise to Abraham spoke to me. God wasn’t promising me ease. He wasn’t promising that things would go as planned. He wasn’t promising a world without trouble, without heartbreak along the way. He was promising me Himself.” Katie Davis Majors, Daring to Hope

If you are looking for a good book I encourage you to read this one. It was appropriate timing that this book arrived in the mail for me today.

Today I recognized that I still have some grieving to do. I told my mom that I was having a strange urge to cry that I didn’t understand. I’ve been “fine”. When my miscarriage has come up I have felt “okay.” But today it was like the flood gates unexpectedly opened back up and my heart is aching like it did the day I learned of our loss. This is still all so foreign to me. I’m starting to learn that when you experience loss, it never stops resurfacing. And sometimes you can handle it emotionally and sometimes you just can’t.

I long for another child. I long for our family to continue growing. It also doesn’t help that Caleb asks me every other day, “When will we get a baby?” He tells me he wants a brother, after all “Micaila and Ryann have a little brother. I want one, too.” I mean who can argue with that? We pray for God to grow our family (however he chooses) and right now I’m struggling to be patient as I wait on his revealed plan. Before I found out I was pregnant we thought God was leading us to adoption but that door closed. Then we were having a baby naturally,…….then we weren’t. Now we are waiting for a placement. Which isn’t meant to be permanent but I certainly wouldn’t mind lavishing all this love on someone temporarily. And yet, here we wait. And the thing God whispers over and over and over is, “In your grief, in your waiting, you have Me.” Because so often when I want something, good somethings, I tend to start thinking Jesus + said thing will make everything better, whole, satisfied. And I have certainly searched my heart wondering, “Is Jesus enough for me?” I want to say whole heartedly “yes!” I guess maybe that’s the point of this season. Maybe God keeps us in these places so we will truly understand deep down that He is in fact enough. He is enough when we have and enough when we have not. He is always enough and He is always good.

“His desire is for us- that we would know His love in these unexpected broken places and that we would know the true hope found only in His Son Jesus, the Lamb, who never, ever stops reaching out for us, who cups our pain in His nail-scarred palms and cradles our hearts close to His. He wants to be our reward.” Katie Davis Majors, Daring to Hope

The God Of All Comfort

On August 7th with great surprise and joy we found out that we were having another baby. Number 4! I was shocked and thrilled and a little bit scared all at once. The weeks that followed were filled with wonderful happiness as we gradually began sharing the news with loved ones. Over the Labor Day weekend I made a trip to Florida to tell Jason’s family and my siblings. It was wonderful having all that support and excitement.

At 10 weeks I went in for a routine appointment. I was looking forward to hearing the heart beat on the doppler this time. I had been having spotting, which was abnormal compared to my other 3 pregnancies. I also suspected I had a uti the week prior but there was no bacteria in my urine. It was strange all the symptoms and discomfort and yet no apparent reason. On my drive to the OB, as I sang “Thy will be done”, I had this strong sense that God was preparing me for sad news.

There is no heart beat.

I felt like the air was being sucked from the room. I immediately started crying. I have never lost a baby and have had 3 healthy pregnancies. But in the wake of that moment Gods presence was so near to me and Romans 8:28 just became even more personal.

Jeremiah 8:18 “You are my Comforter in sorrow, my heart is faint within me.”

I can’t even describe the deep sadness I have felt. Psalm 119:28 “My soul is weary with sorrow, strengthen me according to your word.” I have brief moments where I’m not crying but mostly I just keep crying. When I think about not seeing this babies face or holding him/her, letting that little hand wrap around my finger. Knowing that our kids will not be getting a little brother or sister. We have so much love built up for this baby and just like that, no heart beat. I’ve never known this kind of ache and grief. And yet I know my gracious Father will not waste it. I sense his strong comfort and peace, even in my ache and tears, I know with certainty “that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans‬ ‭8:28‬ ‭This promise doesn’t diminish my grief but it strengthens my hope in the midst of my grief. I can cry and rest in that promise all at the same time.

On top of finding out this very sad news we were faced with the decision of having a d&c done or waiting for my body to do what it should do. You have all these emotions and then you have to decide what’s next. It’s scary and confusing, mounted on top of trying to grieve this tremendous loss. I never knew all these details involved with having a miscarriage. I was really concerned over possibly having a d&c. I began asking for prayer that God would allow my body to do what it was designed to do in this situation. The next 2 days it all began to happen naturally. More tears, more sadness, but also gratefulness for God sparing me the decision of the d&c.

During this time we have had countless family and friends praying on our behalf and loving us in so many ways. It has been incredible knowing how many people have prayed for peace, comfort, and wisdom for us. And we have received all those things in abundance. I would say I have more of a bent towards depression and God in his great mercy has covered me with comfort and confidence during this difficult time. I didn’t know you could be so sad and at the same time be at such peace in Gods sovereign plan. I didn’t know I could have such deep grief and yet fully assured of Gods goodness in something so heartbreaking. It’s something that doesn’t even make sense to me and yet, it’s where he has me. I feel like a child crying buckets of tears while being wrapped securely in my Fathers arms while he whispers, “It’s going to be okay.”

My mom was able to fly in almost immediately. As a family we had a little burial and ceremony to honor this little life. As much as I instinctively want to shield my children from hurt, this time has deepened all of our understanding of compassion, thoughtfulness, the preciousness of life and of course love. We are closer now and I wouldn’t change how we’ve included them in our rejoicing and now in our grief.

I can’t express the comfort I have felt from the body of Christ. The cards, flowers, prayers, messages,…. there has been an outpouring of love as you have grieved with us. I haven’t had the chance to tell everyone, but others have shared for us and I have been told of ALL the prayers for us. Thank you for mourning with us and praying on our behalf. We are so blessed and grateful. I’ll end with this scripture from Habakkuk. I love the imagery of this passage and the message it’s conveying and its what I am praying over my heart. That even when I have precious things taken away, I can trust and rejoice in my Savior. Please pray with me.

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” Habakkuk‬ ‭3:17-18‬

Let Me Introduce You To My Framily

Katie (and baby due soon!!) Stephen, Addie, and Griffin.

Two years ago God brought the Sapp family into our life. I am not embellishing this story in the least. After the joys of Christmas and being with family and friends in Florida, we settled back into normal life in Lindale and I was overwhelmed with sadness. I missed my family and friends. I desired relationship specifically with my brothers and sisters in Christ. We have sacrificed that a little more each time we’ve moved, from Tampa to Dallas, and Dallas to Lindale. I believe whole heartedly that God has used isolation to draw me closer to Him and I’m grateful for it, but I also believe He absolutely desires us as Christians to live in community with the body of Christ.

On a Sunday in January of 2015 we were driving to a new church, that was very small, and I confessed to God and Jason how much I needed friendship. And SOON. “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” Philippians‬ ‭4:6‬ ‭NLT‬‬ On this same Sunday, for reasons only explained by God, the Sapps, Stephen and Katie, visited this church even though they lived 45 minutes away. When I saw this family come in I knew I had to meet them and apparently the feeling was mutual. We shook hands and made lunch plans all within the 60 seconds of greeting. To say we hit it off would be a complete understatement. There was an immediate connection on all accounts. We extended our lunch invitation to, “Hey we just had company leave and our house is a complete wreck but want to come over?!” On our second “date” Katie and Stephen came over and I had to run dinner to a friend and I left them alone in my house with my kids. It felt right and crazy all at once but I really had a high level of trust with them immediately into our friendship. As inseparable as adults with jobs and kids can possibly be, that was us for the next few weeks. Before we knew it Stephen and Jason were in business together. And it’s rare for that mixture to work but it did! Katie and I have a special bond as well, it’s always been easy, natural, like sisters. And our kids, well, they all adore each other. Even if we’ve gone a month with out seeing Addie and Griffin (which is simply dreadful!) my kids ask about them. Caleb had few things to say he was thankful for at Thanksgiving (he’s a 4 year old boy, I cut him some slack for now) but one thing he was explicit about, “I’m thankful for my best friends, Addie and Griffin.” Me too, buddy. 🙂

We all agree emphatically that God has brought our families together, maybe simply for the deep Christian friendship, maybe for future ministry endeavors. Hopefully one day he intends to get us in the same neck of the woods! 🙂 Outside of Jason’s cousins we haven’t had many friendships that have sharpened us quite like the Sapp’s. Is our friendship perfect? No. Do we love each other flaws and all? No doubt about it! I’m so grateful for a couple more friends that encourage us to pursue hard after Christ. Friends that cheer us on to do tough, or what the world might consider risky, things. I’m grateful for friends to confide in, confess to, and be held accountable by. I’m grateful for the body of Christ, for the unique connection Jesus’ sacrifice established for us. I’m grateful for God expressing his love to me through answering my prayers for friendship. And every time we get together with the Sapp’s, I’m reminded of Gods goodness and love and I’m awestruck again by this deeply personal relationship we get to have with our Father in Heaven. As Stephen affectionately dubbed us, we’re framily; friends that feel like family.

“Praise the LORD! I will thank the LORD with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the LORD! All who delight in him should ponder them. Everything he does reveals his glory and majesty. His righteousness never fails. He causes us to remember his wonderful works. How gracious and merciful is our LORD!” Psalms‬ ‭111:1-4‬ ‭NLT‬‬

The In Between

So this is really our first time being in between placements. Typically during any period of waiting I am super antsy. You know how it is when something new is on the horizon and you just wonder what it’s gonna be like and you can’t wait to get there to see. I think there have been many times in my life where I didn’t really soak up where I was because I became so preoccupied with the next chapter of life. Paul’s words of learning the secret of contentedness is something I have prayed I would learn. Philippians 4:12- “… I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, “

Well, praise the Lord, I think I’m finally making some progress in this area. And truly all the credit goes to Him. Since the boys have been gone I’ve really been able to enjoy and soak up this in between. I feel rested now that I’m getting a full nights sleep. The girls and I have been enjoying school together with no interruptions. We’ve been able to get out of the house more, see friends and visit the library. I stay awake later catching up with my husband and enjoying time alone. We’ve eaten less pizza because I actually have the energy to cook. It snowed last night and we played outside till 10:00pm and then stayed up till almost midnight playing cards with the kids. With the babies, I was so tired from the physical and emotional exhaustion that I simply could not hang out as freely as normal. And though the sacrifice is totally worth it, we are very much enjoying this time in between.

I’m grateful for the time to reconnect with my family. It’s also been a good opportunity for me to have some heart checks of my own. My times with the Lord have been so sporadic and I was reminded that my communion with God can not take a backseat to ministering to people. ““Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” John‬ ‭15:5‬ ‭NLT‬‬ It’s so important to nurture our relationship with Christ because if neglected our service potentially can become about self. If I spend no time at the feet of Jesus I become preoccupied with my performance of the task, not my expression of love to Jesus and those I am ministering to in His name. I become Martha (Luke 10:40) distracted, worried, focused on what needs to be done, resenting everyone for not “helping” me. We are called into relationship with Jesus that is marked by love driven by desire, not duty. Doing ministry without spending time with Jesus is the equivalent to never spending time with your husband or children and saying that all your cooking and cleaning is for them. Does the action mean anything if there is no love and relationship backing it up? I want my actions to point to Christ. I want my love for Him to be the obvious reason for anything good I do. And loving someone requires spending time with them.

So during this time I want to seek and savor Jesus at every opportunity “Taste and see that the LORD is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!” Psalms‬ ‭34:8 NLT and enjoy the time and freedom with family and friends. “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.” Ecclesiastes‬ ‭3:1‬ ‭NLT‬‬

We are praying over the next little one God brings in our life and capitalizing on the opportunities to continue helping the boys grandma whenever possible. And for maybe the first time, I’m really enjoying the in between. 🙂

Faith to let go

There are a thousand ways to magnify Christ in life and death. None should be scorned. All are important. But none makes the worth of Christ shine more brightly than sacrificial love for other people in the name of Jesus.- John Piper in Risk is Right: Better to Lose Your Life Than Waste it

Today Micaila and I made a little visit to see the boys. I had run across a few items of theirs and wanted to check on grandma, make sure she didn’t need anything before we headed out of town. I’m so thankful she is close, it was so sweet getting to see them. In my last post I wrote about the strangeness of having children for six months and then one day they are gone. It was surreal and I wasn’t sure how I was going to emotionally handle it. That’s the thing a lot of people say, “I would get to attached. I wouldn’t be able to let them go.”

God has been so very gracious.

I love that about him. You guys, can I just be honest with out getting on some sort of “soap box”? Sometimes I feel we choose not to do things because it seems like it would be too hard, too sad, too risky or too painful. We are so protective of ourselves that we miss getting to love and serve others. I’m here to tell you that you can entrust your heart, your fears, and your emotions to the Lord. I’m here to tell you that He will step in in ways that you can’t possibly imagine if you will just trust Him. He is not a God that wants to leave you broken hearted. He is a God that wants to offer hope and healing. Does it always look the way we thought it would? No. But we can still trust him.

God has flooded me with peace during this time in a way I could never muster up on my own. It is 100% a work of the Lord. And I am so thankful that we get to continue a relationship with the boys and their grandparents. Because what if this isn’t just about two boys….. what if this is about several family members that need to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ?

I am praying more Christians would take the step of faith and serve these children and their family members who need Jesus in foster care.

If our single, all-embracing passion is to make much of Christ in life and death, and if the life that magnifies him most is the life of costly love, then life is risk, and risk is right. To run from it is to waste your life.- John Piper, Risk is Right.

Please please check out this video!!

Time To Go

Fostering brings about so many strange feelings. One of the strangest is how it feels when it’s time for them to go. Our very first experience with this was three years ago and we asked to have a little girl placed in another foster parents home. I felt relief and guilt and sadness all at once. It was hard even though we knew it was the right decision. Today I am packing up all the belongings that the boys have accumulated in the last six months. They are going to live with a grandmother. Last night I finished a photo album of all the memories and mile stones they both had while here. They’ve grown and changed so much. It has been a crazy season for us. Going from three children to five and the fact that the boys are so close in age, it’s been non stop. We have had moments of joy and laughter and I have felt plenty of moments of inadequacy. Even in the most overwhelming times God has been there, affirming me through his people but mostly through his Word.

“You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” Hebrews‬ ‭10:36‬ ‭

“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” 1 Corinthians‬ ‭15:58‬

So today as I packed all their things; their little clothes, their blankets, toys, presents we bought them for Christmas, and their memory book, and thought about all we’ve walked through with them…..I felt so strange. Not overwhelming sadness but not necessarily relief as we go back to “normal” for a little while. We took them to grandma and I didn’t have a complete come apart like I anticipated. I can attribute that to Gods grace. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians‬ ‭4:7‬ I am confident that grandma loves them and will care for them as we have, so that helps. Still, as we waved goodbye it’s almost like it’s not hit me yet. It feels like we will be back to get them in a few days. As I contemplated baby K’s expression as he waved at us I felt almost a sting in my heart,…. he doesn’t understand. He probably feels the same thing, “they’ll be back”. And maybe we will be. Grandma said to stay in touch. And I hope we get to. I hope this isn’t the end of our story with those boys. I hope we get to see more of Gods mercy and goodness at work in their lives. Because one thing is for certain, he loves them, his hands are on them, and he desires for them to know him. So we may not be their foster parents anymore but we certainly will never stop praying for them and we will always love them. Those boys will forever be in our hearts and I am so thankful for the opportunity to serve them.

“LORD, you will grant us peace; all we have accomplished is really from you.” Isaiah‬ ‭26:12