God’s Story ~ Kristin Weis with The Demand Project, Part 1

God's Story 2

Jason and Kristin Weis

 

Last Fall I sat down with Kristin Weis, one of the founders of The Demand Project. She explained that The Demand Project is an organization located in Tulsa, OK, whose mission is, “Fighting to eradicate sex trafficking and the sexual exploitation of children.” They do this through four areas: Prevention, Prosecution, Rescue, and Restoration.

As we talked, she shared her and her husband, Jason’s, God Story of how The Demand Project began. Their story is an amazing journey of God’s provision. Join me this month for Part 1 of their story about how God first prepared and called them to this work…

Tara Cole: Were there ways you saw God preparing you for this ministry beforehand?

Kristin Weis: I did! In the church we were going to, we got involved with Whiz Kids. We were tutors. We also started to work at the Children’s Hospital, and even if we would go in and hold babies all day, we would do that.

Then we did another mission through the church. It was called Lifeboat 14. Lifeboat 14 is named because that is the only lifeboat that came back for the Titanic victims. We had an apartment complex where our church would bring the ministry to the apartment complex.  We rented it out through the church, and we would bring the kiddos in and do Bible studies with them, teach them how to cook, play games, and pick up trash in the neighborhood.

We were trying to change the lives of the people just in that community. I think that’s where our strong sense of changing our own community versus going out and telling the whole world how to live while we’re dying right here came from. I think that’s probably where that was birthed. So in working with kids, we knew that we would do something in this, and Jason and I did all this together.

One thing that is awesome about Jason and I is you don’t always find that spouse who has the other half of your mission. The other half of your calling. It’s interesting how The Demand Project is built because we have the Prevention, Prosecution, Rescue, and Restoration.

We both do the assemblies and the prevention, but then he takes over the prosecution with legislation, the cyber investigation, and the law enforcement. Then I come in with the rescue and restoration part of it. So we’ve broken the organization out to be two-fold. It’s four titles to it, but he’s got a whole half and I’ve got a whole half, and we meet in the middle and do it together. So it’s pretty amazing how God did prepare this.

Tara: I saw where you all had heard the news report in 2004 of a little girl who was abused, and then you picked up your family and moved from Colorado to Oklahoma. Why did you all choose Oklahoma?

Kristin: I know. What a strange place to go to a training ground?

Tara: Yes!

Kristin: When we saw that story, and we believe she was two, and we heard everything that happened, we heard about the thousands of people who watched [the abuse] online. We’re fighters so that just boiled our blood and made us so angry. We didn’t know where to turn, we had no idea what to do, but we knew we needed to do something.

So I was going to see a prayer minister, and I told her that we wanted to figure all this out. She was praying for me, and she could see that there was a lot more to the calling on our lives than what we knew. Her strong, strong suggestion and I say it nice like that, but it really wasn’t a suggestion, it was God saying, “This is what you’re going to do.” She said, “You need to go to Tulsa, Oklahoma. Go to Victory Bible Institute (VBI), and you need to go and get trained up for what you’re about to do because the very thing you’re fighting can destroy you if you’re not careful.” I didn’t really know what she meant at the time because I’m thinking, “Nothing is really going to destroy us that we’re fighting.” But you don’t know how perverted it is and how emotional the fight gets.

Even just driving in today, I was having one of those mornings. I hadn’t even put on my eye makeup yet because I was having one of those mornings. Jason is overwhelmed with cases with predators, and the case doesn’t just start and end after he gets them. Then you’ve got to do all this stuff in the meantime while we’re trying to do all these events, and I’m trying to work with my rescued girls, and it’s just getting to be overwhelming.

And I don’t know why, but I passed by a house in Jenks. I had a really horrible feeling, and I imagined almost the story we had seen [on the news], and it just crushed me. All the way to work I was feeling that empathy for a child starting their day out being raped. You know most of us start our day out by eating breakfast, getting our clothes on our back, putting on our shoes, maybe we’re yelling at the kids to get in the car, “We gotta go!”  But the trauma these kids have to go through every day.

So when she said that I don’t think we quite understood the depth of it.

But then we got to VBI. It was a miracle how it happened. It was right when the housing was plummeting. No houses were selling around that time. We were in a cul-de-sac in a nice neighborhood in Castle Rock, CO, and when we put our house up for sale. Well, let me back up…

When she tells us we need to move to Tulsa, Jason says, “Absolutely, no way, are we moving from Colorado to Oklahoma!”

Tara: Right, it’s the opposite!

Kristin: (laughter) Yeah, totally opposite. My family was in Colorado. My mom had Sjogren’s disease, so she was dying, and we had the only grandchildren in Colorado. So this was not going to go over well.

When she said to go and Jason said, “No.” It took one year from the time she told us to go and for every door to shut on Jason to get him to the breaking point of understanding we needed to go. But in the meantime, we started to do off campus classes through VBI, and it just wasn’t enough. It was awesome to learn the power of the Lord. We were going to church. Jason had never been to church before he met me. So we knew God, but we didn’t have the revelation of the relationship with Jesus.

Tara: I understand.

Kristin: You get that. Very different. So we started to get the revelation as we were with the prayer minister. We started to change churches and go more charismatic and more Holy Spirit led.

After that year, I went back to the prayer minister, and she said, “This is the time for you to go. You need to go home and tell Jason he is to quit his job. You’re going to bear the burden of all the money until you leave. Get all your affairs in order, and you need to go.” I said, “Okay, let’s just stop this right now. That is plenty for me to do. Because now I’ve got to go home and tell him.”

So I go home and sit him down, and I say, “Here’s the deal. The kids can go to school at Victory…” He broke emotionally, and he said, “Let’s go!” So that was that moment where we put the house up for sale. Like I said, no houses were selling, ours sold within a few weeks. From the time we figured out we were going to go, it was six weeks. We had told the family. They thought we were going to ruin the kids. My mom could not believe I was leaving her. We got the house up, came to Tulsa, found a house, enrolled the kids, enrolled ourselves, and we’re here within six weeks. It was huge, and we had been in Colorado for quite some time.

So we ended up going to VBI and trying to dive into what was this trafficking thing is, and that’s where our path began.

 

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Next month we will continue with the rest of Kristin and Jason’s story about how God worked in their lives as they came to Oklahoma and learned what trafficking was.

If you’d like to learn more about trafficking today and how you can help, please visit their website: TheDemandProject.org. There you will find out more information about trafficking in the US and Oklahoma, and ways you can give and help.

The Demand Project also has a Golf Tournament coming up on Monday, June 27, that you can register for to help support this organization that is doing so much for the victims of trafficking. Here are the details about it:

When: Monday, June 27th – Registration (7:30am) 18 holes (8:30am)
Where: Golf Club of Oklahoma

Why? Proceeds from this tournament will go to fund The Demand Projects Cyber Team. A group of elite, current and retired Law Enforcement and Military Officers with vast experience in targeting, investigating and prosecuting online predators that seek to exploit children for sex. People like Sandi McGann .

Link to Register

Per Person – $225

Foursome – $900

If you register before May 30th you will receive complimentary admission to the night before PAR-TEE that includes dinner, entertainment, and a silent auction.
*Photo Credit: TheDemandProject.org/about

When Intentions Turn to Regret

 Regret

 

Today, I attended the celebration of life of a woman who left this world too soon. I never got by to tell her “bye.” I didn’t take the opportunity, even once I knew she was in hospice, to stop in. I felt I would be a nuisance. I thought she would have plenty of people around and it would be awkward for someone who thought themselves to be a stranger to see them in that state. I made many excuses, but I didn’t go. And now it’s too late. I told her husband, an old rancher I would stop in at the farm someday. I know what someday means for me. It’s not that I intend to not do these things, I have every intention. Then, it’s too late.

I intend many things. I intend to learn a language, I intend to study more, I intend to get up early, I intend to run each morning, I intend to keep up with family, I even intend to write this post which has been running through my head since I found out my acquaintance passed away. I intend, but then I don’t do.

I get caught up in the business of life, in the hustle of reaching my goals and finding my way. I don’t intend to leave relationships behind. But I do. I feel the guilt of what I don’t do, but I don’t make a change. I don’t intend to stay on the same path. But I do.

 I know that in me, that is, in my fallen human nature, there is nothing good. I can will myself to do something good, but that does not help me carry it out. I can determine that I am going to do good, but I don’t do it; instead, I end up living out the evil that I decided not to do. Romans 7:18-19 (The Voice)

Here we see Paul having the same struggle. It is comforting to know I am not the first one and likely not the last to deal with this.

As you go through your week, share your struggles with us in the OAC community here or on Facebook. Let’s pray for one another to become more of what we need to be and have busyness take less of a hold in our lives.

Let’s  Pray:

“Father I ask peace for those of us who struggle with priorities and get caught in the hustle and bustle of life. I ask you give us direction and help us focus on what is important this week. In Jesus name.”

 

 

 

The Many Faces of Evangelism

Soul winner preparing the soil

I have gardened and landscaped for a long time now. Living with an unstable man for many years, we moved often. This gave me the opportunity to hone my gardening skills, as each place we moved to was another blank canvas for me to practice gardening and landscaping on.

An important lesson I learned by the sweat of my brow is that there is a part of gardening called soil preparation that is time-consuming and hard work that looks nothing like the job of seed planting or harvest. I also learned the hard way that if I did not take the time to prepare the soil properly, then I was simply wasting my time in planting – there would be no harvest, which for me meant no flowers, because I major in annuals, perennials, and bulbs with a tuber or rhizome thrown in for good measure.

So today I just completed serious repair work on a garden in a day and a half with the help of my dear husband that just ten years ago would have taken me half that time by myself. And I needed a lot more breaks!

These days when putting in a new garden or flower bed, I use the lasagna gardening method. In a nutshell, a lasagna garden is created in layers: Identify where the new garden needs to go, do not shudder because there is a healthy crop of Bermuda grass growing there, mark out your garden area and beginning with a layer of cardboard, cover the potential garden spot. Now after this, the official lasagna garden books and people have specific formulas that make for the best gardens. I diverge and bit and use some of what I have on hand, like leaves from our two large maples, some top soil, a good compost, and sometimes some peat moss. The idea is to layer, one at a time, these ingredients for your garden. Do not bother with stirring them together, simply make your layers, then plant.

A year or two ago when I originally put in the garden in question, I did not have all the cardboard needed for the bottom layer, so I substituted plastic leaf bags. Don’t do this. It is a bad idea. Whereas the cardboard breaks down and allows plant roots through, plastic does not. My tall plants had too shallow of roots and toppled over.

Now we come to this weekend. My job was to dig up and cautiously save the plants I wanted to keep, then identify and pull the plastic out from under the layers of soil, replace with cardboard, then add more layers of soil. My old body which has mostly sat doing schoolwork for the last six years or so was in shock, asking me what in the world did I think I was doing?! So I took up my fence, then rested. I pulled the plastic out of the garden, then rested. I put the layer of leaves down (do you know how heavy those bags can get from autumn to spring, being snowed and rained on?). Then I rested. At this point, my husband came to check on my progress, had mercy on me, and hoisted the bags of compost, then top soil to the proper garden spots. I opened the bags, dumped them out, and spread the layers. And so it continued through to the finish. Whew!

It took me, with my husband’s help, a day and a third to prepare the soil and less than an hour to plant the seeds and water them in.

Why do I tell you all of this? Because it is like the apostle Paul mentions in I Corinthians 3:7, 8:

“So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor.”

Paul is speaking of winning souls for Jesus here.

I tried for many years to be a seed planter/harvester for Jesus. I took my children along with me on door-knocking, soul-winning campaigns, and I still believe in those. I also believe it is excellent training for children. On rare occasions, I would actually have someone come to Jesus. I am a slow learner, but after years of trying with little to no success, it occurred to me that, just maybe, seed planting/harvesting was not one of my kingdom gifts.

I know, I know, seed planting and harvesting get most of the attention, and we are all to be harvesters, at least that is what I have heard a lot of through the yearIriss in the religious tribes I have been a part of. But what if that is not my gift? Paul says that one planted, one watered, and God gave the increase.

Like the lack of success that I had in gardening when I did not bother to prepare the soil, so it is with human hearts. If all of us are focusing on planting seed and harvesting, who is preparing the soil? And remember, soil preparation is time-consuming, hard work, and looks nothing like the job of seed planting or harvesting.

I would encourage you to explore your gifts when it comes to evangelism. Don’t let fear stop you! Try seed planting. Maybe you were given that gift. But also try harvesting, watering, and soil preparation. You may have been given a gift that looks nothing like harvesting that is vital for kingdom growth. And remember that it is God who gives the increase.

Hugs,

Cindy

God’s Story ~ Just Let God

 

Just Let God

 

There was a season in my life when everything seemed hopeless and grey.

My exteriors would have belied the hurricane of emotional turmoil swirling in my heart and mind.

I had a loving husband, three young children, a solid roof over my head, a ministry calling and worthwhile work in which I was engaged, and many people around the world who loved and cared for me.

And yet, the demands of life seemed overwhelming, pulling me down into a vortex of hopelessness.

I felt the first hints of this impending storm around the time when our children were 5, 3 and just under a year old. During this season our ministry colleagues retired, and we took on the full responsibility for carrying a local outreach to international college and university students.My husband and I had always been partners in this service, but he also held a full-time job as a high school teacher. In the practical day-to-day, the bulk of the demands of both kids and ministry fell squarely upon my shoulders.

My husband and I had always been partners in this service, but he also held a full-time job as a high school teacher. In the practical day-to-day, the bulk of the demands of both kids and ministry fell squarely upon my shoulders.

It all felt like too much. The little ones vied for my time and attention. I wanted so badly to do a good job being their mommy.

But email requests kept pouring in from students, some local, some soon-to-arrive. Relationships with volunteers, donors, and local churches required constant attention, too. I felt overwhelmed by expectations to carry on the ministry at the level we had experienced so far.

Too many people needed me. I had lost my sense of self.

 

Sucked Downward

 

As this sense of desperation grew, I began to feel dead to life. Dark and dangerous thoughts often popped up in my mind. “Just turn off that cliff…No one else understands…No one cares if you disappear; they will not even notice.”

I remember one particular day I was standing in front of my washing machine, transferring what seemed to be endless loads of clothes into the dryer. Inside I knew I should be thanking God for the gift of those little lives.

But what screamed in my head? Sinister messages: “Life is so useless. Everything is the same. Nothing changes.”And yet, even then, as a follower of Jesus. I knew, intellectually, the Hope of the World should dwell in me. Why was I so dark?

And yet, even then, as a follower of Jesus. I knew, intellectually, the Hope of the World should dwell in me. Why was I so dark?

In my mind, I understood that an intense, spiritual battle for my heart was being waged. But in the midst of it all, I felt so helpless to change.

Perhaps you’ve experienced this too. Your exteriors tell the world, “I am happy. Life is good.” But inside there is a raging storm.

 

How could I escape this downward spiral?

 

All I can say is God, in His mercy, rescued me from this morass. I cannot claim I followed a 12-step program or even offer some quick-and-easy solution here.

But still, I did learn a few major life lessons as I traveled through this time and moved into a new and lasting season of wholeness, purpose and vision.

 

1) The first step was recognizing the battle.

 

And admitting I needed God’s help to overcome.

Although, I had become dull to the spiritual work of our loving God during this time, my husband and I soldiered on in daily prayer. We enlisted prayer from a few others with whom we were close as well. I knew we were fighting a spiritual battle.

As the school year wound down, my school teacher husband was around more, and this seemed to lighten the load and my spirits. I felt the darkness lifting. Some.

I had been training for a triathlon in early September. It would be my third. I felt this might help break through the cycle of darkness.

But the morning before the triathlon, I woke up with the most intense neck pain I’ve ever experienced. Immobile. Healing from that took almost four months of working with a chiropractor and physical therapist.

A friend who noticed I was hurting (and not just physically) suggested I consider attending a “women’s silent retreat” his wife, much older than I, attended regularly. She found it to be a profound experience. Maybe so would I.

 

2) The next step was allowing myself time to be still and listen.

 

To listen to the right voice. To listen for what God – and He alone – was saying to me.

The retreat came at just the right time, in the heart of fall, as the days shortened and the temperatures began to dip. Although my recovery from the neck injury was not complete, I was feeling much better and decided to go.

Being still and listening was not something I had been good at. I’m usually an energetic Type A. My season of despondency only seemed to heighten a frantic worry over the checklists of my life.

The design of this retreat was brilliant. An overall framework with brief (15-20 minute) sessions, followed by one–two hours of open, “free” time, to hear how God is speaking to you. Although the leader had prepared an extensive set of materials, she advised us to use them only if God directed. She wanted us to be open to His leading.

And then, on a drizzly early November day, God spoke to my heart.

I was gazing out the window at a deciduous tree with just a few leaves hanging on.

“You are that tree. My life is still in you, but you have lost your joy.”

Whoa! It was clear and simple as day. Over ten years later, I can still remember the exact words. And they were so true.

I pondered them for a while. God was, of course, right. But what was I to do with that?

I prayed. I journaled. I searched Scripture. I called out to God from the depths of my being. I cried. Oh boy, did I cry!

The next day, He answered my question. Again, in an unmistakable way.

I was walking out in the woods on a clear “after-the-rains” morning. The crisp air filled my lungs while the sunshine filled my heart.

God directed my eyes to a particular redwood tree. Rising in front of me, this redwood tree commanded reverence.

Then, the Voice. “I am making you into that tree. Let me.”

That was it! Although I’ve experienced many “God moments” before and since, His message to me has never been clearer. I had my answer.

 

3) The final step is trusting God’s promises and clinging to them.

 

Since that time, I have been letting God turn me into that evergreen redwood tree.

I cannot say the path has always been easy. Nor can I deny moments when self-doubt has entered my mind.

But really, self-doubt should be there. It is God we must trust after all.

I claim the promise He made to me to make me into the redwood if I would just let Him. This is backed by so many promises in Scripture: He is with me “even when I walk through the valley of the shadow of death” (Ps 23:4), He has a plan and purpose for my life (Jer. 29:11), He is working “all things together for [my] good” (Rom. 8:28), “He who began a good work in [me] will be faithful to complete it” (Phil. 1:6),  “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works…” (Eph. 2:10), and so many others.

I’m not yet the complete evergreen redwood tree He intends. But since that time I’ve learned to stay my mind on my Master, and He has granted me perfect peace (Is. 26:3) even in the toughest times.

I hope this will encourage you as well. He wants to make you, too, an evergreen redwood tree, healthy for others, to live out your calling and be effective as a builder of the Kingdom of God.

Just let Him!

 

 

Caroline DePalatisCaroline DePalatis is Founder and Interculturalist at Culture Weave, a new venture offering tools, training & community to help those with a heart for the world better connect across cultures. A graduate of Stanford University and the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (CA), Caroline has walked with Jesus since college, is a wife of 30 years and a mom to three awesome high school & college-aged emerging adults. She loves sharing from her life experience and over 20 years of intercultural service and work with International Students, Inc. to inspire and equip others. She also finds herself on a perpetual quest to discover the finest dark chocolate opportunities on the planet. Website URL: http://cultureweave.com/

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First Image Credit: Splitshire on Pexels, Creative Commons, no attribution required. https://www.pexels.com/photo/nature-fashion-person-woman-1002/

 

Learning How to be Fully Present

mindfulness

Image Source: Unsplash.com by Carlie Jean

Several weeks ago I took a day to myself. No internet, phone or connection to the outside world for 8 hours, and it was great. During this time, I thought about where I want my life to go in the future. I worked through creating a life plan to allow me to refocus my energies towards what I want to be doing, rather than what I feel that I have to be doing.

One of the things I thought about was a FaceBook post which was speaking of a high-level horse trainer. The writer expressed when she was in the arena with this trainer he was completely focused on her and her horse. When he answered a question from the audience, he was focused on that person. She talked about the feeling of being in the presence of someone who is completely present in each step of their life. She expressed the sense of knowing he was focused on her and only her during that time.

Completely present. What does this even mean for my life? I am not able to write this blog post without thinking about what I need to do in a few hours, how I need to work with my client in 30 minutes, what I need to do next with the business, how the house needs to be cleaned. The list goes on of what I need to be doing rather than what I am doing. Completely present.

Mindfulness is a current buzz word. Mindful living, mindful eating, mindful mindfulness. But, what does it mean to be mindful? In my life, this means slowing down and tasting the food I eat. It means being present in each conversation I have and not allowing my mind to wonder. It means organizing my days to allow for downtime. It means taking control of my life.

This is all easier said than done. I often catch myself looking at my to-do list and going over the day’s work in my mind. I often find I am eating for the sake of “it’s time” rather than enjoying my food. So my first step to being mindful is to stop my mind when I am in conversation with someone, put my phone and planner down, look at them and be present. I know it will take a while before I am completely there, but one step at a time will make a journey.

How to be FREE from the Stay-at-home vs. Working Mom Guilt

working-mom Image Credit: Chicagonow.com

What if we could be free from the guilt we feel about working or being a stay-at-home mom?

Recently, I changed from being a stay-at-home to a working mom. The funny thing is while I was a stay-at-home mom, I felt so guilty for “just” being a mom. For not making any “real” contributions to the family. Now I knew that wasn’t true, but it was the way I often felt when I saw other moms who appeared to be doing it all, or whenever someone would ask me, “What do you do?”

Now that I’m a teacher, I feel equally guilty for not seeming to place my kids first. For not giving every minute of every day to my family. For sharing the responsibility to “be there” for our kids with my husband.

This internal struggle I’ve been fighting has gotten me thinking about what it means to be a Christian and put God’s priorities first. Because that’s who standard I should really be trying to live up to, right?

The more I look about me, though, the more I realize God often doesn’t have one “right way” to do something. He is the God of creativity and variety! Yes, Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no one come to the Father except through me” (John 14:6, NLT), but once we’re in Christ, there is so much more variety and ways to live out the Christian life than we ever thought possible!

Think about this… All through the Bible, we learn about how Jesus is the light. At first glance, there is one sun and one light coming from it. However, as scientists have learned, there is actually a whole spectrum of light. As that spectrum hits the different flowers, plants, and trees God created, they all reflect that light back in different ways. The maple trees in Vermont reflect back brilliant reds and oranges in the fall. The Pine trees in Colorado reflect back their deep greens in the winter.

They both are reflecting God’s light, but in different and unique ways according to how he made them.

 

Tree collage

 

What if we applied the same thoughts to ourselves? I have several friends who are stay-at-home moms and homeschool their children. They do a wonderful job and brilliantly reflect God’s light through their families. I just love to be around them and learn from them.

But just because they do a great job in their God-given role, doesn’t negate the life God has called me to right now. My family can also reflect God’s light through me working and my kids attending public school.

Quite honestly, this thought process is a huge struggle for me. I grew up in churches and a culture that taught one “right” way. I was convinced if I didn’t stay at home and homeschool my kids then they wouldn’t grow up to be strong Christians. However, as I look around me at other families, especially some of my mentors who have raise Godly children, I see my kids can be strong Christians either way.

Jesus says, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32, NLT). But how can we claim that freedom? It is so easy to feel chained by the expectations of others. So easy to feel chained by our belief that there is only one right way to live for God.

It all starts with God. We can pray and ask for guidance in this area. If you’re like me and need explicit signs from God that this is what he wants of you right now, ask for those signs. He loves helping his children understand his will!

Then once you set the course, find verses and mementos to help you claim the freedom that is yours. Verse like,

“There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us.” 1 Cor. 12:4-6, NLT

Go ahead and read the rest of 1 Cor. 12. Yes, it is talking about spiritual gifts specifically, but the same thoughts can be applied to working or being a stay-at-home mom.

I also look to nature itself for reminders to claim the freedom that is mine in Christ. If you need to, find pictures like those of maple and pine trees above to post somewhere and remind you that reflecting God’s light differently than your friends is okay and natural.

Today, allow God’s truths to sink deep into your soul. Our God is a God of vast creativity and variety. The way we both reflect his light may be different, but they are both equally pleasing in his sight. {Click to tweet}

God’s Story ~ God is Still Faithful: A Young Mom’s Experience of Rare Cancer

Henley family 2011

 

“I’ll be a little disappointed if this lump isn’t cancer,” I told my husband after returning home from Bible study in October 2010. In that evening’s lesson on Isaiah 12, our teacher exhorted us to glorify God in front of a watching world by trusting him in the midst of suffering. As I scribbled notes furiously, I couldn’t help thinking of the biopsy I had scheduled for later in the week. My faithful Father was preparing me for the outcome by showing me His purpose in suffering: That His name would be glorified by my dependence on Him and continued praise of His character.

Less than a week later, I received a diagnosis of angiosarcoma, a rare and aggressive cancer with a five-year survival rate of 30%. I was a busy mom of three young kids—my boys were 6 and 4, and my baby girl was 18 months old. I had expected to grow old with my husband and see my kids grow into adulthood. And suddenly, I was fighting to see my 35th birthday.

But my story isn’t simply the story of cancer. My story is the story of God’s faithfulness, in the past, present and future.

 

God was faithful.

In the nine months following my diagnosis, I received seven rounds of high-dose chemotherapy. Five of these rounds took place 600 miles from my home, at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, as part of a clinical trial. I received five weeks of radiation treatments followed by surgery, all at MD Anderson. I spent 14 weeks away from my family, and I missed New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, and all three of my kids’ birthdays that year.

It broke my heart to be away from my young family, especially since I didn’t know how much time I had left with them. And the logistical challenges were a nightmare. Every time I was tempted to despair, God proved Himself faithful again.

He provided a wonderful nanny who left a secure job to love and serve our family. He provided a Christian couple in Houston—the in-laws of a friend-of-a-friend—who not only let me live in their home for months but treated me like I was their daughter. Six friends took time from their jobs and families, each spending a week caring for me at MD Anderson. On the days when sadness and fear overwhelmed me, the Lord comforted me in the midst of my pain.

Meanwhile, an army of friends, family members, and acquaintances kept all the plates spinning back home. They fed my family, drove my kids to school and piano lessons, decorated my home for Christmas, donated money and frequent flier miles, and never stopped praying for us.

None of it was easy. And yet, God showed us over and over again that He was walking with us and providing for us every step of the way.

What trials has the Father walked through with you? How did you see His hand providing for and sustaining you?

 

God is faithful.

As a cancer survivor, God has called me to minister to other women with cancer. I now intentionally befriend women with a life-threatening illness, and sometimes it brings heartbreak. I have visited friends in hospice care and watched too many children walk into their parents’ funerals. My prayer list of cancer fighters, survivors, and grieving families is growing longer every month.

By nature, I am a fixer, a problem-solver, a here’s-a-book-let’s-solve-this kind of friend. As God leads me into situations I can’t fix, I’m learning to depend on Him and trust my friend’s futures and families to His faithful hands.

Often the sadness caused by cancer is more than I can bear. When my emotional well runs dry, I have nowhere else to turn but His sustaining grace. As 1 Thessalonians 5:24 promises, “He who calls you is faithful.”

The Lord who calls us to challenging assignments is faithful to provide what we need to complete them. {Tweet this!}

What hard tasks has God called you to do? How are you being stretched by the assignments He gives? How can you see His faithfulness on display in these challenges?

 

God will be faithful.

My experience of cancer didn’t end in September 2011 when my oncologist said I was cancer-free. Frequent checkups, the need to be vigilant about suspicious symptoms, and the scars that result all serve as constant reminders of my changed health status. No matter how hard I try to move on, the cloud of fear lingers overhead: “What if it comes back?”

The mind of a cancer survivor is a battlefield. Some days, I don’t think about cancer at all. And other days, a weird ache or pain can send me into a complete panic. It is a daily fight to trust the Lord when I don’t know His plans for me. I’ve spent many late nights praying over my sleeping children and begging God to let me hold their babies someday. And I’ve spent more late nights pleading with Him to give me the faith to trust Him if He says no.

In my weakness, He is faithful to pour out His grace. He meets me in my fear and gently reminds me that His faithfulness endures forever. He demonstrated the extent of His love by sending His Son to die for my sin and make my future with Him secure.

I can look at my past and know His faithfulness is real. I can look at my present and know His faithfulness is true. And I can look at the cross and know His faithfulness exceeds my finite understanding. So I can face an uncertain future, knowing I belong to a faithful Father who loves me.

What about your future frightens you? How can the truth of God’s faithfulness in your past, your present, and your salvation encourage you?

 

Marissa HenleyMarissa Henley is a follower of Christ, wife, mom, and latte addict who blogs at www.marissahenley.com. Her book, Loving Your Friend Through Cancer: Words and Actions that Communicate Compassion, is available on Amazon. You can connect with Marissa via Facebook,Instagram, and Twitter.

When God Surprised Me With His Mercy, Part 2

 

 

Timid Raccoon

Image Credit: Morguefile.com

Continuing my story from last month of how I found love after a failed marriage and vowing never to marry again…

From my perspective, I had chosen so poorly in my first marriage that I did not trust my judgment of character. Fortunately, I have a group of support people, whose judgment I do trust. My mom, who is one of them, happened to come to visit during that Fall. So Sunday morning, after early services, I spotted Danny in the church atrium by the front doors. I drug mom over to meet him and introduced her to Danny.

That afternoon Mom and I were discussing Danny. She would ask me a question about him and I would say, “I don’t know, but I can email him and ask.” This continued through the afternoon, “Well, what about this?” I would email and ask. Danny would answer back. “What about that?” I would email. Danny would answer back. And so it went. That is really how I started emailing him regularly. It occurred to me as we emailed back and forth that had I simply trusted him with my phone number, we would probably have had one conversation a couple times a week and been done with it. As it was, we tended to shoot text-type emails back and forth anytime both of us were off work/school – he was in school at the time we met.

Danny: “How was work today?”

Me: “Grueling. What about school?”

Danny: “Ah. It was okay.”

Me: “What genre of books are your favorites?”

Danny: “Religious and self-help.”

Me: “May I ask you another question?”

Danny: “You can ask me anything you want.”

Me: “But will you answer truthfully?”

Danny: “Yes. I feel like an ancient city with no walls.”

Me: “How old was your son Michael when he died?”

Danny: “He was three days from turning 18.”

Me: “I am so sorry. : ( “How did he die?”

Danny: “He was murdered.”

Me: “I’m so sorry.”

Danny: “The instrumental song on the CD I gave you is played by Michael. It is a song he wrote.”

Me: “I will listen to it again now that I know.”

And so it went. I would ask a question, he would answer. Every now and then, he would ask a question. I was very mistrustful. Honestly, how did I know he wasn’t an ax murderer? So I Googled him. I discovered he really did have a child who died – I found his name listed in an old Compassionate Friends post. Also, he really did have his flight instructor’s license. A family member ran a background check on him for me – he passed. I looked to see if he was on the Sexual Offender list – he wasn’t. But there was one more test.

I had a dear friend who had her master’s degree in Psyche nursing, and my daughter is a Licensed Professional Counselor. If they could not spot a personality disorder, who could? In late January, my daughter came to town. I invited my dear friend, her husband, and Danny to supper. Danny says that he knew it was a dog and pony show. He came anyway. He was engaging, held up his end of the conversation, and talked knowledgeably on many subjects. In short, he passed. No personality disorders identified.

It would have been a whole heap easier had he not passed, but that’s a story for next month…

Hugs and blessings,

Cindy

Learning How to Wait

This post first appeared on OverACup 4 years ago. Surprisingly, its lesson is one I recently remembered and am trying to reapply to where I am now. I’m no longer in a period of waiting, but I still want to practice keeping my hands open and holding the blessings God’s given me during this season loosely. I never again want to return to a place where I hold my blessings so tightly that when He asks for them, I refuse. I hope this post and its lesson on waiting bless you like it did me 4 years ago and today.

 

Open Hands- Waiting

Unsplash.com by Milada Vigerova

“Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul and forget not all his benefits…” ~Psalms 103:1-2 (You may also want to read Psalms 103 and 104.)

Usually, I’m writing from a place of fullness and the overflow of my writing, time, and specifically time with God. This week, to be perfectly honest, I just feel empty. But I am committed to keeping to a posting schedule, so here I am.

Right now much of my emptiness can be chalked up to being in a place of waiting. Right now I’m living in limbo. Though waiting to buy a house is not as stressful as selling one per se, it is every bit as frustrating. You think you found the perfect house and someone else’s contract is accepted. Or wait, there it is, and boom! it’s gone before you can even see it. Or you just can’t find exactly what you’re looking for.

It makes me recall other times I’ve had to wait and how exhausting they can be. Waiting for school to be over, waiting for babies to come, waiting to get pregnant with babies, waiting to find a job, these and other times of waiting just wear me down!

Why is that? Why is waiting so physically exhausting? For me, often times it is because there are repercussions for being in the waiting place. Right now on top of being two, Ethan is making it abundantly clear he is not happy living in an apartment and wants to go home. He just doesn’t understand why we don’t go back to our old house or buy one of the handful of new houses I’ve drug him through in the last few weeks.

It’s also due in part to the work going on inside us while we wait. “The testing of your faith producing patience” is not a painless process. Just like any type of growth, it often hurts and requires us to push the boundaries of what we are comfortable with. It requires us to trust when we cannot see.

This situation reminds me of the Israelites at Mt. Sinai in Exodus thirty-two. They often get a bad rap and looked down on for making the golden calf while Moses was up on the mountain. God has just brought them through so much and shown up in many big ways, and yet they lose faith, become afraid, and look for something tangible to hang on to. But don’t you and I do the same?

Don’t we find it hard to trust when we’re peering into the darkness? When God hasn’t yet revealed the path ahead? Don’t we become afraid and find ourselves ringing our hands and panicking because deep down we’re not sure he’s going to show up this time? We wonder, “he brought me this far, but maybe, this time, he will leave me hanging? Maybe this will be the time he doesn’t show up?”

Or maybe you have had great faith in the past. You just knew God was going to come through. And he didn’t. The last song was sung, the curtain closed, the audience left, and he didn’t show. Oh, later you may have seen how he did show up in a very different way, even a much better way, but the pain of perceived betrayal still hurts.

And so we wait. Hoping and praying that this will be the time God comes through. That this will be the time he comes with all the fanfare and others will see in a big way that we can give him the glory. Yet, like the Israelites we to want to reach out for something a little bit closer to home, a little realer and tangible.

So while I wait, while I’m exhausted and worn out from being in the waiting place. During this time, I’ll practice keeping my hands open. Open so that I can release any physical, tangible things that I’m putting my trust in instead of God, so I can worship him and be open to receive his best for me in whatever form it comes, especially if it’s in a way I don’t expect.

 

Casting Crowns – ‘Just Be Held’ from casting-crowns on GodTube.