Sunday, September 3, 2017

CONSIDER IT ALL JOY

I have wanted to blog so many times in the last two and a half months, but the words wouldn't come. After just having a heart wrenching time of crying, and being alone in the house (a rare thing) I decided to sit down here at my computer and see what happens. So I read over my last blog post and the weekend we spent in Canada for our anniversary seems like a very long time ago.

In my last post I mentioned that we were having problems at our church, but I never imagined the amount of pain we would have to suffer in the weeks to come. Our church is an independent Bible church. It is run by the congregation with a board of deacons, trustees, and the pastors. We do not have a denomination we answer to or get help from. As a congregation we vote on everything of importance. When our pastor of 20 some years chose to retire, the deacons were the ones who searched for a new pastor and then the congregation made the decision by voting. So the pastor we have had for the past year was not appointed to us by a denomination. My husband was a deacon so he was involved in the whole process of choosing him. But soon after he came we saw his true character come to light. My husband tried to address issues we  had with him within the confines of the deacon and board meetings, but to no avail.

As the issues were never told to the congregation we increasingly felt the Lord telling us to speak up at a congregational meeting, to inform them of our concerns. So on July 2, I read a statement we had typed up, expressing our concerns and that we were thinking of leaving our "home" of forty years. It was not received well by the pastor. He verbally used Amy as a weapon against us.  He has never visited our house, has never seen her pictures, he has never asked about her life or her death, or even mentioned her name. But that night he said her name to us with malice. He knew where to thrust in the knife and turn it so it would hurt me the most. Bill and I went to the cemetery following church and I just sat on the ground beside Amy's grave and cried and cried.  I knew that night that "my" church was lost to me.

A week later Bill went to a special deacon's meeting and poured out his heart. After hearing the pastor say that he had done nothing wrong, expound on his Bible knowledge, and that Bill was not leading his family correctly by letting me speak up at a meeting, AND when all the other deacons supported the pastor, Bill knew then that we had to leave. 

We had already decided that if we would leave the church we would not leave quietly as others have in the past. We spent hours praying over and composing a letter that we sent to almost everyone in the congregation, telling them why we were leaving and when our last Sunday was to be (August 27th).  They would have received the letter a few days before that Sunday. There was a congregational meeting following the Sunday service and this is the first time in all our years that the moderator announced that there was to be no discussion during the meeting. Emily and Bill followed the Lords leading and spoke what God had laid on their hearts anyway. They had written up what they wanted to say and  spoke calmly and clearly. Others also spoke and in angry tones voiced their support of the pastor and said we were slandering him. We did not reply back and the meeting ended. A few people came to where we were sitting to tell us goodbye, but most just left. 

In an email I received from  a friend the day she received her letter, she said we had been "chosen" to bring the issues to light. I never looked at it that way before. I just knew we had to do what God was telling us to do, so I guess we did have a "calling" to do this.

It is amazing how God has led me this summer in what He has wanted me to study in my Bible. In the beginning of the summer I was in the middle of studying Jeremiah when the Beth Moore study came up and I decided to take a break and do that. I mentioned it in my last post; it was called "Entrusted" and was a study of 2 Timothy.  I was in the middle of this study when all the heartache happened at church. These are the titles of the chapters to give you an idea of how God's Words in Second Timothy encouraged me. Divine Triangulation; Purpose and Grace, Strong in the Grace, Difficult Times, Difficult People; Fulfill Your Ministry; and Face to Face. I felt like we were doing what God called us to do. We were fulfilling our ministry for this time in our lives.
Then the week before our last Sunday at church we had a family vacation at a rental house just a little over an hour away from here. It was a much needed break for us and we were able to spend time in prayer, talking about life and enjoying the family times together. I used that week to do an Instagram Study on Psalm 15. It was a short study and I knew that would be perfect for vacation time as "time" always goes by so fast! Again God used this short Psalm to speak to me about what it means to slander someone. Only He knew that in just a few days we would be accused of slander. We were not slandering as we only spoke in love and concern for our family in Christ. This past week I was back to studying Jeremiah. In chapters 42 and 43 Jeremiah was told by God to tell the remnant of the Jewish people to not flee to Egypt. They ignored him and in 43:2 the arrogant men tell Jeremiah he is lying. The words "arrogant men" sure jumped out to me! I felt like God was showing me that we were like Jeremiah in telling the truth as to what God had told us to do. We obeyed. We were hoping for a different response, but God knew what was to happen. We obeyed and that is all that matters!

God also knows the future. He knows what church we will end up worshipping at. He knows what church all my children and their children will end up at. He knows whether we will all be able to worship together again as a family. He knows if I will be able to hear my girls sing and play the piano in church again. He knows if the cousins will be able to grow up going to the same church. He knows what church will be Emily's "sending" church when she becomes a missionary. He knows. This is what breaks my heart if I let it. I have made peace with the past but I feel that I have lost what I perceived my future to be. But no matter what I pictured for our future, God has so much better in store for us! I am reminded of an old song I learned when I was a child, "Because He Lives"

Because he lives
I can face tomorrow
Because he lives
All fear is gone
Because I know he holds the future
And life is worth the living
Just because he lives.

I'm also still working on memorizing the first chapter of James. I have been working on it for over a year now. I have half of it down pretty well so I just sometimes rattle it off in my brain so I can concentrate on getting to the part I'm struggling with. I was working on saying it slowly and really concentrating on the words last week when JOY jumped out to me. My word for this year, JOY!
"James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
To the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings. Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him." James 1:1-5

CONSIDER IT ALL JOY!

Update: I started this last evening. This morning we visited a church with friends. I thought there would be tears, but there was only joy. Thank you Lord.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Forty Years

This Sunday Bill and I will celebrate the fortieth anniversary of our wedding day. We were married on my daddy's  forty-seventh birthday.  As it has in the past,  this year it falls on Fathers Day also. Sunday will be a day full of memories for us. Both of our fathers are gone. Bill is now the patriarch of our family.
How could forty years have passed by so quickly? I was 18, Bill 26. So young and na├»ve. I have heard that many couples divorce when they have a special needs child as it is such a strain on the marriage. Amy did put more pressure on our marriage and we did have problems. But we worked through them and our marriage grew stronger.
I have also heard the same is true when a child dies. Amy's death has only strengthened us, though. Not because she was so precious (she was), not because our family has rallied around us and helped us grieve (they have), and not because our church family was always there for us [they were]. Those things are wonderful and good,  but only because we know Who our strength is and Who we go to in times of trials have we become stronger.
I thought that Amy's life and death would have been enough for any family to handle, but Bill and I have both had to struggle with issues in our extended family also. So we go to our Lord and He helps us through and gives us strength, comfort and wisdom on how to handle things.
This past year has brought even more challenges. Our church has always been our life. Our kids were involved in every aspect of it as they were growing up. They have made life long friends their own ages and also older ones who have been godly examples for them and they now are part of our 'family.' My kids all serve in some capacity in our church and so do Bill and I. We always have. It has been our extended family for forty years. Amy was always welcomed, always loved. This past year has been our biggest trial yet. We are trusting in God to give us wisdom, strength and to follow His leading in our lives. Right now we do not know what that will bring. But .......... God does. He knew this was going to happen. He knew the trials we would be facing, He knows what the future will bring to us. We are just called to trust and have faith in His perfect will.
This again has strengthened our marriage more so than the other trials in our life we have gone through. Is that surprising to you? It has been to me. We have been continually drawn to prayer, to study God's Word, and discuss the situations, and drawn to prayer again and again. As I have mentioned before, Bill is a man of few words. We have talked more about spiritual things in the last year than we have in the other 39 of our marriage. Trials always produce something. Even though I do not enjoy going through this time and have many questions of why, I am thankful that He has drawn Bill and I together through this.
I started a new Bible Study today. It is called, "Entrusted, a study of 2 Timothy" by Beth Moore. I have done a few  of her studies before and with each one I am amazed at what God teaches me. This verse jumped out to me today. It's from Acts 13 (the first lesson is background to 2 Timothy). So in Acts 13 Paul and Barnabas are being persecuted for preaching the Word and they have been driven out of the city. So what did they do? Verses 51 and 52, "But they shook off the dust of their feet in protest against them and went to Iconim. And the disciples were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit." They were filled with JOY! JOY? After all their trials? JOY. Yes they were filled with joy. I, too, can be filled with joy even through the trials. Especially through the trials.
So how to handle the memories that will come this weekend?
Bill and I are leaving in the morning for Niagara Falls to stay in an inn, a B&B on the shores of Lake Ontario. Our very first vacation with Amy was to Niagara Falls. She was only 3 years and Tessa was 5 years. Emily and James were yet to be born. We had a wonderful time. I have good memories of that vacation.
The next four days will, I'm sure, have some tears, but mostly I hope joy.  JOY because I know that God is in control of every detail of our lives. From the aches and pains of getting older to the stress that comes from jobs and relationships with others. God is in control. That brings joy.

The only photo I have of our time 32 years ago.

And I almost forgot, we're going to be grandparents again. That little 5 year old in the photo is going to have another baby in December. More blessings, more JOY.