Tag Archive | jesus

No Tresspassing Allowed

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Criticism hurts, doesn’t it? 

I think that it especially hurts when people say, “Don’t take it personally…”

Because it is personal.

Criticism is most often personal.

What do you do when you feel like you have been criticized unfairly?  What do you do when people judge your motives, your heart and your intentions?

What do you do?

There are so many times in life when I am just left reeling by what I perceive to be unfair judgment.  My mouth is dry … my heart begins to beat faster … and there is a general sinking feeling in my stomach.

Yuck.

What did I do to deserve this?!!

Now – I will be the first to admit that there have been many, many moments in life that I deserved a swift kick in the pants … a raised eyebrow … or a stern talking to. There have been times when I was thoughtless, unkind and quick to spout an unnecessary opinion when a friend or family member had the absolute right to put me in my place.

In those momentsI deserved criticism.  I deserved a reaction.  I deserved what was given.

But there are other times in life when I am left with a dropped jaw concerning the negative assessment that was aimed in my direction.

Come on … has anyone else ever felt this way?!

Don’t leave me standing here all alone as the cruel arrows of commentary fly viciously in my unsuspecting direction!!

In case you were wondering, I have decided that when I am chastised for what I believe to be an unfair reason, that there are four things I can do to speed the healing process in my soul.

Would you like to hear the miraculous treatment for the ugly wound that an improper reprimand causes?

First of all – forgive quickly and fully.

Don’t try to understand their unwarranted verbal sideswipe or try to defend the issues in your heart.  Just forgive the one who critiques.

Quickly. Fully. Completely.

Let. It. Go.

 

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Life is too short to hang onto fictitious and mistaken commentary. So, rather than lose sleep over the bad review, it would be a wise choice to send the momentary bitterness quickly away from the address of your heart. Don’t let bitterness or blame anywhere even close to the boundaries of your life.

Put up a “No Trespassing Allowed” sign at the entrance to your heart and make sure that any residual bitterness and spiteful blame walks the other direction.

Secondly – find a way to bless the person who has reprimanded you.

You might choose to say something kind to them or about them even though you would rather not do so.

Your application of this healing remedy might include sending a small gift, an encouraging card or a bouquet of flowers.

How wonderful it would be to invite the person out for coffee or for lunch and pick up the bill!

There are times in life when we just need to act like Jesus even though we don’t feel like it.

There are moments in life that call for kindness when everything within would rather give the cold shoulder.

“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.” – Colossians 3:12 & 13

It has always been so interesting to me that Paul, through the unction of the Holy Spirit in these verses, said that believers in Jesus Christ should “put on” a heart of compassion.

Kindness is always in style … it always fits … it is always appropriate for any kind of relationship weather.

So put it on.  Put on kindness.

The third thing that I do … and honestly perhaps it should be the first thing … is that I pray for the person and for the situation.  I pray for understanding and for blessing all around.

In that moment of honest human pain, I pray that the difficult event would not cause an irreparable break in our relationship.  I ask Jesus to give me His heart of love for the person who reprehended me.

And sometimes, when appropriate, I pray that the Lord would give me the opportunity to share from a loving heart concerning how perhaps we can handle these situations in the future.

 

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I humbly ask the Lord that if it is His will that He might give me the opportunity to share truth and insight from my very fallible yet honest heart with the person who has criticized me.  And then I wait.

I don’t make it happen on my own but wait for Him to open the door in His time.

And finally, would you like to know the fourth thing that I do when I feel that I have been criticized unfairly?

I resolve in my heart never to treat someone else that way.

I determine that even when people say things that I don’t understand or may not agree with me that I will be compassionate enough to give them that universal gift known as “the benefit of the doubt”.

I determine that the words that I speak will be perpetually kind and that when I find it necessary to have a heart to heart conversation with a friend over a difficult issue, that my words will still be kind.

I decide that when life is hard and that when emotions are flowing and when opinions are opposing that I will listen before I speak and that I will only respond … I will never react.

Forgive … bless … pray … be kind.

It sounds like a blueprint for life to me, how about you?!

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!

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Just One Thing…

Just One Thing blog pic 1Is it just me?  Or have you noticed a particular trend on social media?

5 Foods Never to Eat after the Age of 45

9 Things Extremely Successful People Do After Work

20 Things every Twenty-something Should Know How to do

7 Things You Totes Need to Stop Saying If You’re Over 30

5 Things Super Successful People do Before 8 AM

 Are you overwhelmed yet?  Would you read ANY of these lists and actually believe that the insight could change your life in any significant way?!

What other lists are out there with the guarantee to change some aspect of your obviously less than perfect life?  How about these …

 37 Things You’ll Regret When You’re Old

 10 Things Successful People Do on Monday Mornings

 23 Signs You Are Secretly An Introvert

 36 Things That Are Going to Make You Feel Ancient

 18 Things Everyone Should Start Making Time for Again

 It’s true … I spotted all of these condescending, brilliant, too-good-to-be true lists on Facebook in a 24-hour period.

I timed myself.

When I realized that I saw this hysterical trend developing, I decided to make my own lists of lists.

There I sat … paralyzed by the glow from my computer screen with a pen and piece of notebook paper beside me.  Every time a new list popped up, I read and documented said list.

For 24 hours I made my own list of the epidemic lists that I saw posted on social media.  And what you have read today is the kind of stuff that my desperate friends were posting.  Oh … but I’m not done yet …

 10 Reasons I Keep My House Clean

 5 Ways to Be Unsatisfied with Your Church

 10 Marriage Tips Every Wife Needs to Hear

 20 Things My Mom Was Right About

 6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You A Better Person

You are either highly frustrated right now … feel like a miserable failure knowing that you will never amount to anything at all … or … like me … you are laughing hysterically!!

Can you do it … can you read just a few more of the titles of lists that I discovered on social media?  And then I will get to my point … I promise!

Top 10 Mistakes Christian Parents of Teens Make

32 Cheap and Easy Backyard Ideas that are Borderline Genius

10 Things Successful People Do Differently To Reach Their Dreams

But I have saved the very best for last:

2014 Is Going To Be My Year Now That I Know These 89 Genius Solutions to Simple Problems

Stop gagging RIGHT NOW … because I have one significant thing to say to you!

All you really need is Jesus.  All you really need is more of Him and more of His presence. 

For me, this has never been and will never be a get-rich quick scheme or a religious platitude.  It is not a spiritual band-aid nor is it a condescending panacea.

Knowing Jesus gives me a life bigger than life.  Spending time in His dear presence is all I need to battle any giant … move any mountain … or discover any wisdom or truth.

Spending my life knowing Him … loving Him … giving to Him … talking to Him … listening to Him … is better than any diet, any idea, any worldly solution or any regret that I will encounter this side of eternity.

“One thing have I asked of the Lord and that shall I seek; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to meditate in His temple.” – Psalm 27:4

If you want me to make it practical for you … let me put it this way …

In 2014, whether you are a teen-ager or just one breath away from eternity, open your Bible and enjoy His presence, His power and His wisdom.

Whether you are the mother of 19 kids and counting … or are experiencing the lonely pain of an empty nest … or are walking through the wilderness of infertility … what you need to help you get through these days is the joy that is found in the Word of God.

Whether you make a six-figure income or are standing in line for your next unemployment check, your validation in life will come from knowing Him and not from what you do or do not earn.

In 2014, whether you are married or single … divorced or planning the wedding of your dreams … a widow or on your honeymoon … what you need to feel unconditionally loved,  is to know His love that surpasses all others.

If we are going to number anything at all, the Bible tells us to number our days and apply our hearts to wisdom.

“So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” – Psalm 90:12

What does it mean in to “number our days”?  The Hebrew word for “number” is the word “manah” and it means to “count, number assign, prepare or tell”.

Rather than reading the noxious lists on Facebook or Twitter, why don’t we spend our days numbering our days?

Buy a calendar for the new year … and begin to fill its pages with what God has shown you … what you have planned … what you long to accomplish with your life … scriptures to memorize … people who need encouragement … books to read … books to write … the lyrics of songs that have touched you.  The possibilities are endless!

When the calendar year then turns to 2015, you will have a diary of all that happened of significance in your life during 2014.  You will look back and see the hand of God and hear His voice every day of the calendar year.  You will have numbered your days in the very best way possible!

I have always loved eavesdropping on conversations that Jesus had with those He loved while He was on planet earth.  One afternoon, He had a teaching moment with 2 women by the name of Martha and Mary.  They were sisters but oh!  So completely different from one another … as sisters often are!

Martha was the type-A girl … she got the job done!  There was no mountain of laundry she couldn’t tackle, no crowd of men she couldn’t feed and no person whom she wouldn’t boss around.  She was one take-charge, intimidating glob of estrogen!

Mary was the quieter sister … perhaps an introvert … who had found great meaning and sustenance by simply sitting at the feet of Jesus.  It might not have seemed like she accomplished very much …  but perhaps, in reality, she had learned the secret of numbering her days.

But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part which shall not be taken away from her.” – Luke 10:41 & 42

My prayer for you in 2014 is that you will number your days not read lists.  I pray that you will choose the one thing that will make your life count for eternity.  I pray that you will know the One to Whom everyone and everything else will someday bow.

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It’s So Beautiful…It Makes My Heart Hurt

Post Office drawing by Olivia McLeod

Post Office drawing by Olivia McLeod

Have you ever treasured a memory so deeply in your soul that not only does your mind recall the facts of the moment but your heart also is instantly tied to the memory with intense and poignant feelings?

Such is the memory that I have of a December evening when I was only 6 years old …

I attended kindergarten that morning in the one room schoolhouse that was just around the corner and up the street from the safe haven of my home.  I lived in that century old home with my mom and dad, my older sister, a younger brother who loved to tease, a collie named Lassie and a white cat named Tinkerbell.

It was a snowy, wintery day in Western New York and I had spent the after school hours sledding with my older sister and with the “redheads” from across the street. My toes were nearly frostbitten from the time happily spent in the sub-freezing elements. My mother, after taking off all of my snow-caked outer garments at the door,  handed me a fresh nightgown that had been warmed in the dryer. She then stood me on top of our old-fashioned register where the heat came blazing up from the basement furnace.

My mom put “The King Family Christmas Album” on our record player so that I would have Christmas music to listen to while I was slowly warmed from the tiny register holes.

I revolved around in a little girl circle while the heat found its way to warm my numb toes, raw fingers and red nose. While facing one direction, I saw the piano sitting in the corner of the oversized room; in another direction, I saw the dining room table bedecked for Christmas in true 1960’s fashion; and in the third direction I looked into my parents’ bedroom and at their huge canopy bed.

The fourth view that completed my slow rotation was out the front windows of my home and at the Post Office across the street. I remember that the snow was gently falling down around the little brown building which was truly no more than a glorified shack of governmental importance. The postmaster, Mr. Hawley, had just the day before strung lights around the roof and windows of the US Post Office located directly across the street from my girlhood home.

My slow circle stopped the moment that I looked across the street at the obscure building.

As the King Family sang of city sidewalks, chestnuts roasting and finally about a Baby Boy, I stopped my circling and just stared, transfixed at the beauty of the brown building surrounded by Christmas lights.

I remember placing my hand on my chest because what I was experiencing in that moment was so wonderful and grand that it made my heart hurt.  As I wiped the tears away from my no longer frozen cheeks, my mom walked into the room.

“Why, Carol!” she exclaimed. “Why are you crying? Are you not feeling well?”

I didn’t even realize until that moment that there were tears on my cheeks. I responded, “Mom … it’s all so beautiful. It makes my heart hurt.”

The joy from my heart was leaking out of my eyes and down my innocent cheeks.  A little brown shingled building … decorated with Christmas lights … made my heart hurt.

And with repeating those words to you today … I can still feel the glorious pain all over again.

Christmas is so beautiful … so filled with wonder and glory … that it makes my heart hurt to this very day.

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When Christmas lights up the ordinariness of my feeble attempt at life, the raw marvel paints a picture of stunning impact. When viewed without the message of the manger, my life is truly just a shack of little significance and certain obscurity.

However, when I dress my life in the majesty of the manger and with the glory of the angel’s song it is then that I become who I was always made to be.  When the human hut of my life is changed by the purpose of the manger and by the star that led the way to His dear presence, I realize why my heart aches for something more than this world offers.

Even now … the joy of Christmas is leaking out of my eyes and my wizened heart hurts with the joy of it all.

Has the joy of Christmas changed you? Have you allowed the miracle of the manger to decorate the humdrum of your life?  My prayer for you this year is that you will take a moment out of the busyness … and away from the craziness… and observe with no distractions what the glory of Christmas is truly all about.

I hope that you will warm yourself with the joy of His presence.  I hope that you will hear the angels’ song and that your heart will constrict in sheer and joyous pain.

I pray that you will have a moment when the joy of Christmas leaks out of your eyes and onto your face.

Your life was always meant to be more than a shack … a hovel … a hut of humanity. Your life was meant to be the showplace of Christmas every day of every year.

Merry Christmas with joy –

Carol

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What Will You Give This Christmas Season?

The men and women in the story of Christ‘s birth…gave more than they could afford…in order to be involved in the plan of God. What are you giving this year?

The Best of Times…The Worst of Times


Best of Times Worst of Times pic 1“It was the best of times … it was the worst of times …”
are the unforgettable words that begin A Tale of Two Citieswritten by Charles Dickens who also famously penned, “A Christmas Carol”.

 “It was the best of times … it was the worst of times …” are also, unfortunately, the words that many of us have used to emotionally and spiritually pen our Christmas stories and memories.

“It was the best of times …” are the 6 words jubilantly chosen to describe a holiday cup that is frothy and running over with cheer, gifts, healthy relationships and a beautifully decorated home.

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“It was the best of times …” seems to be the caption that is used to describe an iconic Rockwellian picture of a snow-decked landscape looking into the window of a red and green home that has an interesting yet functional family at its core.  The kids are throwing wrapping paper everywhere … the parents are still dressed in their robes with deep circles under their eyes yet are able to smile at the pictured noise and confusion … the holiday turkey is browning perfectly in the oven with its aroma wafting through the expectant air … and Gramma is on her way with a sleigh filled with pumpkin pies and figgy pudding!

It certainly IS the best of times!

“It was the worst of times” are often the December lyrics of choice when the bottom has fallen out of one’s shaky attempt at living.

Food stamps may be a daily reality and necessity.

The dysfunction of family relationships is a constant reminder of what is wrong with  life.

This Christmas may be spent in the terror of the ICU rather than by the warmth of a welcoming fireplace with eggnog in one hand and a Christmas cookie in the other.

Perhaps rather than torturous relationships to deal with, there is no family to gather around the sparsely bedecked caricature of Charlie Brown’s famous tree.

Money is scarce … health is questionable …  just one mortgage payment away from losing the family home … there will be no Santa Claus coming down the chimney this year to leave a memorable deposit of materialism under the lonely tree.

For you, Christmas this year, truly may be the worst of times.

However, I happen to believe, that judging the authenticity or joy of Christmas by what we have or do not have is a foolish and impulsive mistake of gargantuan proportions.

Christmas was never meant to be measured by human standards or by a glass that is gleefully half-full or agonizingly half-empty.

What one sees circumstantially is largely unable to coincide with earth’s attempt at fulfillment because of heaven’s promise of delivered joy!

See … it is not in what you do have or do not have that should determine how you are able to describe your Christmas this year or any calendar year!  It is always found … eternally found … in Who He is!

177427485He is joy when your life seems empty.

He is peace when all around you are in conflict.

He is hope when all human wells have run dry.

He is the Healer in a life that is sick, fragile and wasted.

He is Christmas!

He is what makes any day of any year the very best of times.

Don’t be so small in your expectations of a truly memorable Christmas that you boil it down to gifts, a bevy of celebratory people or how much red and green is strewn around your home.

Instead, this Christmas, remember what Christmastime is powerfully all about:

A young woman who has had her world invaded with the promise that with God … all things are possible!

The plans of a young man that were hurriedly changed because the God of the universe interrupted his human desire for happy ever after.

A manure-filled, mouse-scurrying stable that welcomed the Baby Who was born to be the King of all Kings.

Shepherds, with dirt under the fingernails, grime in their brains and sheep drool on their robes who were invited to sing with the angels!

A song so loud and so triumphant that it broke through the coldness and darkness of a world in pain to prounouce, “Let there be joy!”

Although I don’t know the pain of your past or the stark reality of the Christmas that will be remembered as 2013, this is what I do know about you and your life …

You are loved by the God Who sent His Son into the darkness and confusion of the warzone of life this side of eternity.

The angels still invite modern day shepherds to sing … to sing loudly … to sing triumphantly!

Although your desire for “happy ever after” may be marred by the mess you have made of your life … God still has the power to intervene because of Christmas!

And … the message that the angel delivered to an incredulous virgin girl is still heaven’s message to you today … nothing is impossible with God!

And so … whatever circumstances you face today … my prayer is that your life will be remembered as a lasting and genuine Christmas Carol because finally … you understand … you eternally comprehend what the best of times has always been about!

Just These Three Things

babyChildren … there is nothing like the heart of a little person to rearrange your priorities, refine your theology and restore your hope.

“Through the praises of children and infants

 You have established a strong hold

 against Your enemies.”

Psalm 8:2 – NIV

I love to listen to children talk about God.  I love to hear their praises … to watch their heartfelt enthusiasm … and to know that they understand the love of the Father.

Children know.  They know God in a particular way that most adults do not begin to grasp.  They know that God is love and that He is powerful.

They know that God is a giant-killer … a life-giver … and a mountain-mover.

Children know.

Children are the very best prayer warriors that I know.  They pray in unabashed faith and enthusiastically expect a response from heaven!  If you have lingering doubts about life … ask a child to pray for you!  There is nothing quite like it!

“And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said,

‘Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children,

you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Whoever then humbles himself as this child,

he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 

And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me.” –

Matthew 18:3-5

 Is it because they are so fresh from heaven?  Is that why children have an insight into the heart and character of God that is sometimes missing in older, more mature and “wiser” adults?

Do babies remember what heaven smells like?  Do toddlers recall the joy around the throne of God?  Are pre-schoolers able to catch a whiff of the love of the Father while living on earth?

If nothing else, children know that God loves children.  They know.

The innocence of a child is a strong magnet to the presence of God.  Little ones are most at home in the joy of His presence.  Is it any wonder that there was a special place in the heart of Jesus for children?

One day children were brought to Jesus

 in the hope that He would lay hands on them and pray over them. 

The disciples shooed them off.

 But Jesus intervened: ‘Let the children alone,

 don’t prevent them from coming to me. 

God’s kingdom is made up of people like these.”

 – Matthew 19:13 & 14 – The Message

olivia mcleodolivia mcleod 2olivia mcleod 3olivia mcleod & marmeeOlivia is my adorable, precocious, administrative, creative and anointed little bundle of granddaughterly joy!  She was the first grandchild born into this clan and will ever hold a place of sweet delight in my Marmee’s heart.

Olivia loves to design doll clothes, write books, go to ballet lessons, take care of her little brothers and has an insatiable desire to know more about God.  Although only 5 years old, Olivia is filled with a wisdom that I long for at times!

A few weeks ago it was Kids’ Day at Faith Family Church in Victoria, TX.  All of the school age children were allowed to stay in the big service and Pastor Jim Graff had a message that he had prepared especially for them. 

These are the notes, in Olivia’s own handwriting that she wrote that day:

God is with you. 

You are special. 

You are God’s child.

Olivia got it right, didn’t she?  That is all the theology that she needs in her tender and formative years.  Maybe it is all the theology that you and I need as well.

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God is with you!  What a promise!  You serve a God Who will never leave you regardless of how you act, what you’ve done or where you are going.  He is more than a social sidekick or a nagging shadow.  He is not an obnoxious tag-along or the constant reminder of yesterday’s mistakes.  God’s presence and love are inescapable companions as you travel life this side of heaven.  He has promised never to leave you or forsake you.  When everyone else has deserted you … you have a friend that is closer than a brother.  Ah-h-h-h … you are not alone!  Thanks for the sweet reminder, Olivia.

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You are special!  What a great memo from Olivia’s 5 year old heart!  There is no one like you … you are one of a kind.  You have a destiny that has never been shared by another human being in all of history.  God has uniquely fashioned you for such a time as this.  Comparing yourself with others is a total and complete waste of energy because there is no one like you … and there is no one like them!  So get busy being you!  Be the you that God made you to be … today!  Olivia … there will never be another Olivia Mae McLeod!  You are you … and that is enough … that is more than enough!

You are God’s child.  That’s right … you belong.  You belong to Your Dad.  You are His wanted and dearly loved child.  You are part of the greatest family ever created … the family of the most-high God!  There is never any possible reason to wonder who you are … you are God’s child!  What an honor!  When others reject you or forget you … you are God’s child!  When your family ignores you and your friends avoid you … you are God’s child!  His embrace is big enough and powerful enough to calm your fears and to lead the way. 

Olivia … I hope that you always remember these 3 important sentences.

God is with you. 

You are special. 

You are God’s child.

  I hope that when you are 12 and are struggling with self-esteem that you remember.

I hope that when you are 18 and face an unknown future that you remember.

I hope that when you are raising a little girl with blonde hair and blue eyes that you remember.

I hope that when another little girl … at another moment in history … calls you “Marmee” … that you remember …

God is with you.

You are special.

You are God’s child.

Testimony of An Unanswered Prayer

In Spite OfIt’s November!  The 11th month of the year is 4 glorious weeks of  exhilarating football games, homemade pumpkin pie and jumping raucously in the leaves.  It is the month of geese flying southward, pulling out Gramma’s  well-loved recipes and going on that annual family hayride.

However, the most important aspect of this month that marks the beginning of the holiday season is the time that is set aside for sincere gratitude and thankfulness.  November reminds us of the strength of counting our benefits and not whining about our deficits.  There is no other month that carries such a strong regard for the giving of heartfelt thanks and the joyful taking stock of one’s blessings.

But what if this November, you are more aware of what you don’t have rather than what you do have?  What if Thanksgiving 2013 is a painful reminder of the prayers that have not yet been answered and the “Blessing List” that lies dormant and bare?

My friend, Monica, is one of my heroines in life.  She is a sister of the heart, a partner in ministry and a dream-builder extraordinaire.  Monica has prayed for nearly 7 years for another baby … and yet her arms and her nursery are longingly empty.  Her message and her heart challenge me to pray again … to believe again … and to give thanks “in spite of” and not only “because of.”

This is Monica’s story and Monica’s blog.  Maybe you will find yourself between the lines of this heartfelt journey.

Testimony of an Unanswered Prayer

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I thought about writing this many times over the past 7 years.  I’ve written and re-written it in my mind too many times to count.  I’ve always waited because I thought…once the deepest desire of my heart has been fulfilled…that’s when I can share the testimony.  That is when I can encourage someone else to hang in there…the promise is coming.  But here’s what I’ve learned through this journey…the testimony doesn’t necessarily come in one big bang at the end of the road.  Sometimes, it’s during the lowest of lows…during the deepest pain and despair…and even during the relentless questions of the heart…that the true testimony is birthed.

This journey began for me about 8 years ago, on a cold winter morning in February.  Paul and I had been married for just over 8 months.  We had decided early on that we would wait until we’d been married for one year before we started a family.  But after eight months of wedded bliss…I didn’t want to wait any longer!  I was ready for babies!!  That morning in February…as I was blow-drying my hair…the Lord spoke to my heart.  I heard the name “Faith”….and then “Faith Marie”.  It was so clear to me that I think I’ll never forget the feeling of hearing my Jesus whisper that name to the deepest part of my soul.

A few weeks later, I heard Him whisper the name Zachary.  Imagine hearing two names…within a couple of weeks!  My poor husband had no say in the name of our son.  There was no discussion about names…no baby name books being poured through.  I just knew that we were either going to have a “Zachary” or a “Faith”!

About a month later, we found out we were pregnant!!  I’ve wanted a little girl since I can remember.  I have a sister…and she has three daughters…and my mom was one of two girls.  And the Lord had given me the name ‘Faith’!  Never in my wildest imagination could I ever picture myself with a  boy!    So, when I found out we were pregnant with a boy…I was slightly shell shocked.  However, over the next 9 months…I fell completely, head over heels, over the moon in love with my Zachary.  And when he was born, I thought…THIS is what perfection looks like!  (And I still think that today, 7 years later)

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We were beyond blessed with our beautiful little family.  And so, when Zachary was about 10 months old…we decided this would be the perfect time to do it again!  We were pregnant with Zachary exactly one month after we decided to begin trying.  We took it for granted the second time would be so easy.

However, with each month that passed with a negative pregnancy test, I had to fight feelings of fear.  I had to fight off the nasty little “I” word (Infertility) that would creep into my thoughts.  After several months, we began fertility treatments.  And after years and years of herbs, and acupuncture, and holistic treatments, and pills, and needles, and hormones….praying and declaring…seeking God’s wisdom and guidance at every turn…I wasn’t getting pregnant.  One of the biggest blows came after several more tests and procedures and a consult with an IVF doctor.  My test results showed early menopause and no chance of IVF working.  He told us our only hope was to use an egg donor or do traditional adoption.  The news was almost more than I could bare.

BUT – during all of these years…and more negative pregnancy tests than one person should ever have to endure…I knew that Jesus was with me.  I felt Him near me every time I would cry out in despair…each time I questioned whether I had really heard the name Faith…He would reassure me.  “Now FAITH is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not yet seen” (Hebrews 11:1)

My God would send me scriptures and encouragers and the deepest knowledge that He loved me….and He understood the pain…and my anger would never make Him move away from me or love me less.

Earlier this year, we adopted 2 embryos through the Snowflakes Embryo Adoption program.  We knew that my body wasn’t producing eggs…but the doctors told us that I could easily carry a baby.  And that has always been my deep desire…to be pregnant again.  To feel the life growing inside me…to feel those magical first kicks…to feel my baby move as soon as she felt her daddy’s hand on my stomach.  I loved those beautiful nine months with Zachary…and I desperately want it again.

The process of embryo adoption was daunting.  It’s treated just like a traditional adoption, so we went through the homestudy and began the process of choosing the family who’s babies we would adopt and grow inside me.  When we received word that a family had chosen us to adopt their embryos, I prayed that the Lord would give us a sign so that we knew that these were the babies He had for us.

I’ll never forget the day I received the pictures of the family.  I’ve never in my life felt more loved by the God who created this universe!  When I opened the first picture, I saw two little boys who could’ve been my son’s twins.  These were the siblings of the embryos that we were about to adopt.  When I put the picture of the one little boy next to a picture of me when I was his age…we could’ve been brother and sister.  The resemblance was uncanny.  I knew that God had answered our prayers.  The God who was so big that He created the Grand Canyon….knew the deepest desire of my heart.

We began the process of getting my body ready to accept these babies.  We flew to Kansas standing and declaring that we would come home pregnant!  Our friends sent us off with letters and cards of encouragement….declarations over these babies, who had been wanted for so many years.  We came home after the procedure…after being told by the doctor that the embryos didn’t look great…still full of hope and declaring all of the promises that God had given us.  I had called this baby by name for 7 years.  My little Faith…my vision of blonde curls and freckles on her nose…the little girl who would grow up to be my best friend.  The moment was finally here…we couldn’t wait to celebrate with all of the friends and family who had stood beside us…prayed with us for so many years.  This little girl who had lived only in my heart…

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Two weeks later, the doctor called from Kansas with words that would literally…truly…smash my heart into a million pieces.  We were not pregnant.  Those two babies that had been placed inside me were now in heaven.

The hours and even days after that phone call are a blur.  I felt like I had lost two babies.  I felt like God had broken my heart.  It hurt to talk to God…it hurt to read my Bible…it hurt to look at all of the scriptures that I had declared over this baby.  Everything just hurt.

But, He never left my side.  Slowly…and ever so gently…I could hear Him whispering to me.  I knew that God still loved me.  I knew that He had a plan for me…a great plan…to prosper me and not to harm me.  I knew that, although my heart was broken, it wasn’t Jesus who had broken it.   I needed to let Him back in…because He was the ONLY one who could truly heal my heart.

I remember asking – WHY?  Why would you send me this beautiful, perfect match – the perfect fit for our family and then take these babies to heaven?  His answer was soft, gentle, and so comforting.  He gave me that match to show me just how deeply and intimately He knows my heart…my deepest desires…the dreams inside me that no one else knows.  He knows.  He sees.

I am still working through the process of letting Him heal my heart.  I am still learning how to live with an unanswered prayer…by thanking Him for the million prayers that He HAS answered.  Jesus has been with me at every valley and every mountain top of this journey.  I am learning that the testimony isn’t really about the destination…it’s about finding God during the journey.  It’s about choosing to declare that He is a good God…He does want the best for me…He loves me…and He never has or never will leave my side.   I will be thankful for every good gift that He has so graciously poured out in my life.  That He continues to pour into my life.  It’s a choice I make everyday…to be thankful…to worship while I’m waiting…to trust Him.

That..…is my testimony.

Habakkuk 2:3 – For the vision is yet for the appointed time; it hastens toward the goal and it will not fail.  Though it tarries, wait for it; for it will certainly come, it will not delay.

1 Chronicles 16:11 – Seek the Lord and His strength; Seek His face continually.

Proverbs 16:9 – In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.

Jeremiah 17:7 – Blessed is the (wo)man who trusts in the Lord and whose trust is in the Lord.

Orzechowski-1128Monica is Mom to Zachary, Wife to Paul. and the Executive Director at Just Joy! Ministries.  Her blog is called “Faith for the Journey”