Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Further Down the Road

Do you have someone that you learn from?  Someone who is a little further down the road than you?  Someone who has walked the life of faith a bit longer?

This faith walk isn't a competition or a race, but it is just plain fact that there are those who have been there before, walked longer, learned lessons . . . and we can receive much sharpening if we are willing to be taught. 

One such person in my life is my friend, Shauna Pilgreen.  If you are Southern Baptist, that name might sound familiar.  You may even have a postcard with her picture on your fridge like me!  

Ben and Shauna are church planters in San Fransisco through the North American Mission Board and were featured in Annie Armstrong videos and publicity in the last few months.

While they may be new faces to you, I've had the pleasure of knowing Ben and Shauna for 11 years {and I can't believe it has actually been that long!}.  Ben became the associate director for the BCM at Tech at the end of my junior year.  I only had one year to get to know and learn from the Pilgreens, but they made a big impact!  

We had lost touch for years, but ahhh the beauty of facebook and blogs!  Shauna has a blog that I've been reading over the last year . . . keeping up with the adoption of their daughter from India, seeing snapshots of their life and ministry in SF, and getting a window into Shauna's faith walk.  

Shauna has been faithful to write about a lot of different aspects of her life and faith . . . parenting, marriage, spiritual disciplines, ministry, fun, adoption.  She clicks "publish" and probably has no idea how her testimony impacts me {and others} in such profound ways.

The thing I've learned and appreciated most from Shauna is her intentionality.  This is an area of my life that is often sorely lacking {tell me I'm not alone!} so God has really used her wisdom and practical insight to challenge and encourage me to be intentional in each area of my life.  

I'm reminded of Paul encouraging Timothy {1 Timothy 4:7} to "train yourself for godliness."  Godliness doesn't just happen.  It takes work.  We can't just put off the old.  We must put on the new.  And that takes intentionally being transformed, intentionally pursuing Christ, intentionally walking by faith, intentionally discipling. 

So what has Shauna written that has been so profound?  I'm glad you asked!  I'm going to share four of Shauna's posts that have most impacted how I have been or will be intentional in my faith walk.

In this post, Shauna shared a simple way that her family is daily intentional in prayer for their children.  I don't know about you, but as for me in this area . . . fail.  I do pray for my kiddos, but not often for specific aspects of their future.  

I loved this idea and had something similar hanging by our kitchen table just a few weeks later.  

 I also added the names of missionaries that we support or have sent out from Edgewater.  We eat pretty much three meals a day at the table together so it has been so good to maximize that time in interceding for our kids and for those making disciples in another context.  Ava quickly became the one to remember and ask each day who we get to pray for . . . intentionality in prayer . . . sowing seeds that we hope reap a fruitful harvest in the lives of our kids. 

Ben and Shauna live in SF and two of their boys are in public school there.  Her wisdom has offered peace to my heart as we prepare for Ava to start kindergarten in the Fall at a public school in our community. {Some NOLA public schools have the reputation of being crazy and a bad education for those of you wondering what the big deal is!}  

I loved being challenged in how I can intentionally and prayerfully fight the spiritual battle that rages for the heart and mind of my little girl even {or especially} at school.  I'm thankful for ideas in how to support and show Christ to her teachers . . . not just in word, but also very practically.  I love being reminded of the power of prayer and the power of a praying family.

We actually prayerwalked the property when Ava's school was first being built and Chad told Ava that this is where we hoped she would go one day.  Since then, she has held firm that this is her school.  Life doesn't slow down, so we are going to have to remain very intentional in covering her school and teachers in prayer!

3.  Names

I love this idea, but probably never would have thought of it.  Ben and Shauna write the name of each child in their son's class on paper and hang them on the wall in their bedroom.  Each night those classmates get prayed for.  So simple, but so brilliant!  Can you imagine the transformation of the heart of your child as they pray for the needs of their friends {or those who don't like them} each night?  Imagine the compassion that develops as you talk about those other kids and get to the heart of their needs and what should be prayed for.  I also just love that this intentionally carves out a time each day where you are talking about what is going on at school and in friendships.  The more we can keep communication open, clear and Christ-centered, the better!

This is the most recent life changer {and I do mean that}!  Shauna has been sharing in the last few months about spiritual disciplines . . . what she does, how she struggles, what she is learning.  I had just been confronted by the Lord over my lack of, you guessed it, intentionality in memorizing Scripture.  I knew I needed some sort of goal or system, but didn't know what.  Days later, I read Shauna's blog where she detailed her memorization system in a video . . . I knew that wasn't a coincidence!

Shauna was also doing a giveaway . . . leave a comment of a favorite verse you've memorized and one person would win all the supplies for the memorization system.  I commented of course, but I never win anything.  A week later {I just knew I wouldn't win and was so anxious to get started} I had all the supplies in my basket at Walmart, but ended up putting them all back on the shelf {you know how it is . . . it was the end of the month and there is only so much moolah in the envelope!}. 

That day, Shauna emailed me to say that I had won!  I loved God's work in all the details to get me doing a memorization system that works perfectly for me and keeps me daily intentional in hiding His Word in my heart!

So this is what my table looks like each morning as I start my time with my Savior. 

I won't explain the whole system here . . . just head over to Shauna's blog and watch the video where she explains it all!  I've only been doing it for a couple of weeks, but I can already see the fruit in my life from being intentional in knowing the Word!

So there it is.  Four glimpses into Shauna's faith and life that have blessed me and I hope will bless you.  I don't share this to put Shauna on a pedestal . . . neither of us would want that.  I share because she has passed on what she has learned and I want to do the same.  In His wisdom, God created the Church to build each other up and that those who are further down the road would freely proclaim lessons learned to those a few steps behind.  Thank You Jesus!

And what post would be complete without some pictures of my little loves?!

Grayson has been very dramatic intense OCD excited about pockets lately. :)

He even got Ava to pose for a pic with pocket excitement!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

God Speaks {4.16.13}

I wrote earlier in the month about how I'm trying to be more intentional with sharing words of Life and how God is speaking {because He is faithful to do so}. 

Here is what He's been saying to my heart recently . . .

the Spirit 

Ephesians 5:18 . . .

Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.

I think a lot of us, me included, can read this verse and think we can check it off . . . I don't even drink, so I'm definitely good on this one.  But as I meditated on this Word this morning, the Lord took it way farther than some wine.  

Getting drunk numbs you . . . to pain, to worry, to fear, to life.  I might not frequent a liquor store, but what other things do I turn to when I am tempted to numb myself?  Do I get drunk on TV?  Drunk on facebook?  Drunk on sleep?  Drunk on food?  I need to take a hard look at what I run to when life is overwhelming that ends up drawing me away from God.

But that isn't where the questioning of my heart can end.  The greater questions is "Am I being continually filled with the Spirit?"  

I can't just flee the drunkenness.  I must pursue the filling.  

And this is where my meditation will continue . . . what does it look like to pursue being continually filled by the Spirit?  Ephesians does a great job of describing a life lived in this way and how it is primarily demonstrated in how I interact and serve within the Body of Christ.  Oh Lord may my life line up with your Word!

my words

Edgewater is studying Ephesians right now and has been issued a challenge to read 1 and now 2 chapters a day each week.  I'm on my fourth time through the book now and it is good.

Today the verse that jumped off the page to me was Ephesians 4:29 . . .

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

Whew.  Did that slap you in the face get your attention like it did me?  God was speaking loud and clear with this Word . . . I've already posted the verse by my kitchen sink and bathroom mirror and added it to my new memorization system {more on that another day because I'm really excited about it!}.

What made this verse so profound is that today, I read it as a mom.  I had a rough day yesterday, not gonna lie.  I've got so many crazy emotions going through me because of this surgery and everything else going on and yesterday it was just all a little too much.  I didn't want to be around anyone, which is tough when you have two kids.  And is even tougher when your buttons are super sensitive and your sweet blessings are bent on pushing them as many times as possible. :)

 {Grayson has evidently seen enough mommies with babies in a sling so he asked to carry around his buddy like this!}

So yesterday was a long day made even worse by the fact that I was foul.  I even apologized to Ava at one point for having a rough day.  She told me it was fine to have a rough day, but that I still needed to have a good attitude.  Grrrrrr . . . she was so right.  I was being rude and snippy and impatient and harsh when they didn't deserve to be spoken to like that at all.

So then I go and read Ephesians 4:29 this morning and end up in confession and repentance.  Bleh.  I can completely blow it sometimes.  But oh the grace, the kindness that leads to repentance.

I know the way I talk to my kids at times does the exact opposite of building them up.  I can tear them down with just a few words or tone of my voice.  And I can speak the exact opposite of grace.  At times I pour out words of shame and guilt and anger that only serve to push them away.  

Oh how I want to build up my children and speak life into their little hearts and minds!  I want to speak grace into their ears so that their hearts are softened to the grace of our great God.  I want to speak with the same kindness and gentleness that God uses with me when my heart needs to repent or needs tender care.  May these be the words I speak to my little loves!

My eyes have been opened to these realities before, but a reminder is always good and needed.  But what stood out most to me today was the first description of this talk . . . corrupting.  This literally made me shudder.

There will be no shortage of evil and sin and the desires of this world that will wage war to corrupt the minds and hearts of my children.  I never want my words to be on the wrong side of this battle, useful for the enemy in corruption.  

The weight of that reality is heavy, but God's grace is greater.  And it wouldn't hurt to keep my mouth closed a little more often either. :)

How has God been speaking to you?

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Living Donor

We generally have a lot going on in our life.  Well . . . things are about to get crazier!

I haven't really talked about it on the blog before, but Chad's mom has been very sick for the last year and a half.  She was diagnosed at the end of 2011 with Autoimmune Hepatitis.

Looking back, we can see that Mrs. Tina had experienced symptoms for a long time, but they had been easily explained away as from some other cause.  Chad's mom isn't much for doctors (who is?!) so the sad reality is that the disease went undiagnosed for many years when there were no symptoms.  Once the symptoms got bad enough for her to go to the doctor, the damage to her liver was already very severe.

Mrs. Tina spent a week in the hospital in January 2012, which was such a scary time for everyone.  At that point, she was officially put on the liver transplant list.  The last year has been full of ups and downs in her health.  I never realized how important the liver is in your overall health until seeing how many other issues can arise when the liver isn't functioning well.

Our hearts have been broken as we've seen Grammy suffer complications, pain, and a radical change in lifestyle during the last year.  In the midst of it all, though, her faith has remained strong.  Mrs. Tina is one of the quickest people I know to proclaim God's faithfulness, goodness, and provision.  Her faith has challenged and encouraged my heart!

Almost a month ago, Mrs. Tina was in NOLA for an appointment and ended up back in the hospital for a few days.  At that appointment, her hepatologist mentioned on option that had never been brought up before . . . a living liver donation (Ochsner has just begun their program in the last year and has only done 3 so far).

The liver is amazing.  Really, God is amazing.  Our Creator made the liver able to regenerate {in just 8 weeks!}.  This opens up the door to a living donation instead of waiting on the transplant list for an organ donor's liver {20% of people die while waiting on the transplant list}.

As soon as Chad's mom said that the doctor mentioned a living donor, Chad said, "I'll do it."  He told me that in that moment, without hesitation, he just had this overwhelming feeling that this was right.  Does this sound familiar?  Just like when I shared the HIV info with him regarding our adoption . . . when Chad senses in his spirit that the Lord is speaking, He is quick to obey.  I love this man. :)

A living donor coordinator came to Mrs. Tina's hospital room while Chad was with her to talk about the program.  He was also able to speak to a surgeon that week to get a lot of questions answered.

To say these conversations were intense for our whole family is an understatement.  The hope that this transplant could bring to Mrs. Tina is priceless.  Most recipients wake up from the transplant with 90% of their symptoms gone.  GONE.  Chad's mom sobbed (okay, we all did) when we heard that fact.  She hasn't felt well in so long, so the thought of her being done with the endless complications and this draining disease is almost too much to comprehend.

On the other hand, the donor wakes up from the transplant feeling worse than ever. :)  It is a major surgery (5-6 hours) with a long recovery (6-8 weeks).  It is one of the few times in medicine that they will take a well person and do something to bring them pain.  There are risks, like with any surgery.  The cost must be counted.

Since the moment it was mentioned, this has been the topic of discussion of our family.  Counting the cost.  Asking questions.  Gaining clarity.  Praying.  Crying.  Hoping.

After two weeks, we were all on the same page about moving forward.  Chad and his younger brother, Blake, were both willing and ready to be assessed to see if they could be a donor.  For several reasons, we decided together for Blake to be assessed first.  Blake had lab work and a CAT scan done on April 5th, but within hours the doctor called to let him know that his liver didn't have enough volume to be eligible to donate.  This is nothing Blake has control over, but the news was still crushing.  Our hopes for Mrs. Tina are so high, so this roller coaster has been so hard for everyone.

Once Blake got the news, Chad called immediately to ask to be assessed.  He spoke with the coordinator on Monday, April 8th and by that afternoon she had appointments set up for the next day.

The rest of the week is honestly a blur.  Chad had a total of 13 appointments, 8 on Tuesday and Wednesday alone.  It was important for me to be at most of these as we would be meeting with the surgeon, the coordinator, the social worker . . . and of course to give Chad someone to look at so he didn't pass out as he got lab work and IVs!  

We were so grateful to all of our friends who stepped up to watch the kids at short notice so we could make it to all these appointments!  Ava and Grayson had 6 babysitters in just 2 days . . . that is some kinda love and service from the Body right there!

Chad's CAT scan was Tuesday night so we expected to get word about his liver volume on Wednesday.  We met with the surgeon on Wednesday afternoon and he told us that everything looked good so far.  Whew . . . I think I had been holding my breath all day.  He needed to look at the CAT scan a little more, though, before he gave us the final answer, but promised to call later that night.  

We got the call while at church, but it was to tell us that something was wrong with the CAT scan disc and he would have to try again the next day.  AHHHHH!  We were exhausted (thanks to a 6 am MRI appointment) and the anxiety of waiting was taking it's toll.  

Thursday we waited. And waited. And waited.  No call back.  Chad went by the transplant office after another appointment and was told that the surgeon was off.  Now I'm fine with people having a day off.  But don't tell someone you are calling with life-changing news and forget to mention that it will be AFTER your day off!

Again, Friday morning was spent in agony.  Chad literally had his phone in his hand at all times.  It rang often, but it was usually someone in the family calling so see if we had heard anything yet.  We were all emotional wrecks.  I just wanted to KNOW.  I wasn't letting myself go down the road of surgery until I knew that we would even be walking that road.  I was absolutely sick at the thought of hearing a "no" because of our hopes being crushed.  Only 25% of people who get assessed can actually end up being a donor.  Our odds weren't good.  

Finally, at 4 pm on Friday, the doctor called to give us the YES!  Everything with Chad looks good and we are moving forward (the delay was a technical difficulty with the CAT scan results . . . get it together people!).  

Unless something changes, the surgery is scheduled for Wednesday, May 8th. 

It is better for Mrs. Tina to have the surgery as soon as possible so she doesn't chance getting too sick to be eligible.  We are also in favor of asap . . . I'm still praying we'll be in Ethiopia this year so I want Chad recovered and ready to fly!

While so thankful to have a yes, our emotions are hardly stabilized.  We are so grateful that this is even a medical possibility.  We are beyond excited about what this will mean for Mrs. Tina's health and recovery.  Hope is such a precious gift from God.  We are looking forward to Grammy getting to enjoy a full life for many years to come!

At the same time . . . holy cow this is big.  I was texting someone that we got a "yes" and had this internal dilemma about using an ! at the end.  I'm so excited, but do you really use an ! when talking about your husband having a massive surgery?  :)

I'll go into details about what all this will mean for Chad and our family in another post, but here is what is important to know . . .

There are risks.  But Chad isn't being risky.

At least for us, the difference is big.

There are risks with any major surgery.  Complications can occur.  Crazy, unexpected things can happen.  Our greatest fears could be realized.  But these risks are highly unlikely.  There is a 99% chance that the surgery will go beautifully, Chad will recover well, and he will have no lasting effects {except for a huge scar, but what guy doesn't love a battle wound!}.  Those odds aren't a gamble.  It is almost a sure thing.  It is a reasonable risk.

If the statistics were different, if it was really risky, if Chad was likely to lose his life . . . we wouldn't do it.  Chad's mom and dad wouldn't let him do it.  The doctors wouldn't even let him do it. 

At the end of the day, we are walking forward in faith and trust in our great God.  We have the highest hopes of both Chad and his mom making full recoveries.  We trust that God can and will write a better story for our lives than we could ever imagine.  We pray that this whole process will be used to proclaim God's glory.

Isaiah 26:3 is the Word that I've been proclaiming over and over . . .

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

 Please pray this for us.  Remind us of God's character.  Encourage us with the Word.

We would love your prayers for our whole family as we spend the next few weeks preparing physically, emotionally, practically, and spiritually for the surgery and recovery of Chad and his mom.  

{Just a side note for anyone reading that knows Chad's family personally . . . I know you might want to jump in your car right now to go visit or pick up your phone to call.  With great love, I'm asking you to refrain.  If you know Mrs. Tina, you know that she is an incredible hostess and loves nothing more than to have friends come visit and talk for hours.  That hasn't changed!  But she is very sick and extremely exhausted.  Her heart would love to welcome every visit and phone call, but her body just isn't up to it.  Some better options for now would be to send her an encouraging letter (221 Karen Dr., Lafayette, LA 70503) and to faithfully pray.  Thank you!}

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

God Speaks

God speaks.  

He spoke the world into being.  Scripture records how He has spoken to His people since Adam and Eve were created.  He spoke to and through His prophets.  

Then the Word became flesh.  Jesus is Truth and spoke Truth.  

The Spirit of God inspired the Word of God that we are privileged to read and study.  The same One who inspired it, now teaches us, bears witness to Christ, and opens the eyes of our hearts to understand.

I've been overwhelmed with this truth lately.  All that we understand about life and God is because of His divine revelation, because He has chosen to speak to those who don't deserve to hear His voice.  Grace upon Grace.

I've also been reminded lately of how powerful it can be when we share how God is speaking.  

I can so often choose to talk about things that don't matter when spending time with friends.  I can share a common platitude when someone is struggling.  I can fan the flames of frustration or hurt when someone is venting.

What if I shared words of Life instead?  What if I encouraged dear friends with what God has been teaching me through the Word, praying it will edify their hearts?  What if I shared the only Truth that will actually bring hope to those struggling?  What if I trusted the Spirit to give me the words to bring someone to the Cross and the Empty Tomb when they are angry and hurt . . . to play a part in moving them from darkness to light and life?

Cause I'm not gonna lie . . . there are days when I just need someone to walk up to me and say "His mercies are new every morning.  Great is His faithfulness."  I need that kind of friend so I want to be that kind of friend!

Just last week Chad was on the phone with my mom.  She shared with him what she had been learning that week.  She couldn't have known it, but that testimony was a timely word for Chad, speaking right to an issue of his heart.  He got off the phone, confessed, repented, and worshiped.  All because God had spoken and His daughter had proclaimed it.

I want to develop a discipline of proclaiming how God is speaking to this undeserving heart.  It isn't that I never share {some of you may be thinking that I do share . . . maybe too much!}.  But I want to be more intentional.  Ready at a moment's notice to speak words of LIFE to the dead, broken and lost, but also to my weary brothers and sisters following after Christ.

 So here are a few things that God has been speaking to me lately . . .


God has been confronting me with my pride for months, gently and consistently.  As I've prayed recently about wanting to be used by Him, but my pride getting in the way, He has spoken twice so clearly that I felt I could almost audibly hear His voice.

- Let your prayer be not that you would be exalted among those who know, but that Christ would be exalted among those who don't.

- I will use a jar of clay, but I will never raise a golden calf.

Ouch, right?!  Remember how Hebrews 4 says that the Word is living and active?  We love that.  But it also says that the Word is "sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart." That hurts.  So, so good, but painful nonetheless!


Matthew 8:5-13 shares the story of a centurion asking Jesus to heal his paralyzed servant, but also recognizing Jesus' authority and the power of a simple word spoken from the mouth of the Savior.  Verse 13 is where God leveled me ...

"And to the centurion Jesus said, "Go; let it be done for you as you have believed."

Jesus didn't say "as you have asked" as I would have expected, but the focus and healing was based on belief.

Sometimes I just don't ask.  But how often do I ask God to work without truly believing that He can and will?  Talk about changing your prayer life!

knowing God

Yesterday I was reading the Word in three different places, but God was speaking the same Truth.  I love seeing how the Word is ONE story pointing my heart to God!

- In just the first 24 chapters of Ezekiel, the phrase "then you will know that I am the Lord GOD" is used 39 times.  That repetition has obviously caught my attention . . . God is concerned that His people {and all people} would know who He is, that He is the LORD.  

Chapter 24 though took it even further.  God told Ezekiel that He was going to take his wife, "the delight of your eyes," and that Ezekiel couldn't mourn her death.  God gives the reason as He spoke to His people in verse 24, "Thus shall Ezekiel be to you a sign; according to all that he has done you shall do.  When this comes, then you will know that I am the Lord GOD."

Am I willing to be used by God so that all will know that He is the Lord?  Am I willing to sacrifice my "delight" so that others will know?

- Matthew 10 records Jesus' instructions to the 12 disciples as He sends them out to proclaim the kingdom of God to Israel.  Jesus paints a pretty rough picture for them . . . sheep among wolves, being flogged and dragged into court, being hated by all for the sake of Christ, persecution, death, their own families becoming enemies.  Verse 38 sums it up, "whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me."  

It was a call to die to self.  Die so that others may know.

Am I willing to die to self so that others may know Christ?  Do I fear nothing, not persecution, hatred, isolation, even death, but count it all a loss for the sake of knowing Christ and making Him known?

- 2 Timothy is Paul's deathbed letter to Timothy.  He encourages Timothy to persevere in the faith and follow Paul's example of a life poured out in worship to God.  Paul has been through a lot as he has followed Christ {understatement of the year!}.  

But even at the end, his focus is still on the call that has been the driving force of his life.  2 Tim. 4:17, "But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it." 

Have I given over my life to making Christ known to all nations?  Do I realize that eternal life is to know God {John 17:3} and that God desires all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth {1 Tim. 2:4}?  What am I doing about it?

Do you remember that song, "All of life comes down to just one thing.  That's to know you oh Jesus and to make You known."?  I used to be bothered because the writer says there is one thing, but he has an "and" in there, which clearly means he's talking about two things . . . 1. know Jesus. 2. make Him known.  Right? Wrong!

There is just one thing.  To know Jesus IS to make Him known.  You can't separate the two.  A disciple is a disciplemaker.  

I know this.  But I loved hearing God speak this Truth to me through three different parts of the Word yesterday.  It reminded me that the Word is One Story about One God declaring One Mission . . . to know Him and make Him known!

So what has God been speaking to you?  

Let's encourage each other!  But if you don't share it on here, be intentional to share words of LIFE with someone in your life today!