LPL Albuquerque Recap!

These recap videos always make me tender to know how God moved!  Do any of you that were able to be at the conference this weekend want to testify to what God did?  Tell your story!

Albuquerque Living Proof Live 2015 from LifeWay Women on Vimeo.

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Siesta Scripture Memory Team 2015: Verse 8!

Diane 2

 

Hello, Siestas! My name is Diane Vaccaro, and I live in Fresno, CA. I’m a pastor’s wife and a mom of 3.  I’m honored to share my verse today in a more formal way than usual. Often in our family we talk about how reflecting on scripture is paramount for transforming our hearts. God’s living Word can do more than we could ever imagine if we only give it time to seep into our thoughts and heart for a moment or two… or ten. It’s in those moments of reflection that I’m open and available to consider how the verse applies to my own life and heart. A quick read often leaves me with a short memory of what I’ve read, and a missed opportunity for revelation of who God is and how he loves. Memorization isn’t the goal, but a tool to continue to mediate on the Word, wherever I am, and ponder it, repeating it in my mind and mouth so that it becomes part of me.

 

Here’s my verse:

Diane – Fresno, CA
The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17

 

What I love about this verse is that it brings together God’s attributes as a mighty warrior and as one who delights, even to the point of singing over me. Strength and tenderness. He is a God that can take on my enemies without neglecting the tender and vulnerable places of my heart. And I’ve got an enemy…I don’t know about human ones, but I’m confident that The Enemy is always on the hunt. It is part of being a believer. It’s part of my life in ministry.

 

As I reflect on this verse I wonder where I’m trying to be the warrior instead of letting God do the fighting. I wonder if I fight fights that aren’t mine, neglecting the ones God has put before me for victory if I’d only fight.

 

And I wonder if I’ve become so distracted that I miss the singing. Has God been singing over me a melody so sweet while I’ve been straining to hear the world’s approval? I really want to hear the song of God. The world’s song pales in comparison.

 

One day I was alone in my car and not listening to music (both are seldom). I was praying and pleading and at one point simply asked God, “Do you delight in me?” This verse was pulled from somewhere in my memory as if to say, “Yes, I delight in you. You bring me great joy. I’m singing over you.”

 

Mighty God, my prayer is that you would set my feet in the direction of my battles, that I would fight with courage and bravery, knowing that you will supply all I need. Show me when I try to fight battles meant for you. I want to duck when your sword comes crashing through, bowing to your will and power. Quiet my heart and soul that I would hear you – hear your direction and your joyful singing over me. I want your song to be the soundtrack of my days.

 

My prayer is that you, Siesta, will experience the Mighty Warrior and the songs of delight that he sings over you today.

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LPL Albuquerque, NM – Tickets for you and a friend!

*UPDATE: We are so happy to tell you that all of our scholarship tickets have been gifted for this weekend! We would honor your prayers on behalf of all in attendance. Glory be to God!

 

Good Monday morning to you all!

The focus around LPM this morning is laser-sighted on the upcoming Living Proof Live conference this weekend in Albuquerque, NM.  Are you planning to join us? We have heard from a handful of you already but I have the pleasure of reminding you (or maybe telling you for the first time), that we would like to help you go if you are in the area.

Here’s the deal: If you are thinking you would like to attend this weekend, and have wanted to invite a friend to join you but couldn’t quite swing it, we want to offer tickets for both of you!  Beth’s joy would be to make a way for you to bring a friend you’ve been wanting to introduce to Jesus, or maybe that friend is new to the Word, or just less-discipled in the Scriptures.  If this sounds like you, just give Kimberly a call at our office and she will set you up. She is usually the one who answers our phone:  Toll-free 1-888-700-1999 (NOT 800).

We sure love Jesus and His Word, and want you to fall more in love with Him, too!  He is our great hope and joy!

We sure hope to see you this weekend in Albuquerque!  For tickets and detailed information, visit Lifeway.com here.

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Letting Go of What’s Not Coming Back

Saturday morning I sat on my front porch steps in my pajamas drinking a cup of coffee, Queen Esther, as usual, close to my side. I stared all around me with a measure of awe at these humble woods. Humble, not because I’m being modest. Humble, because they really are. We think they’re beautiful but they’re simple. God got us good and ready to appreciate this place by not letting a single tree flourish in our in-town yard of 27 years. We transplanted a young oak from Keith’s grandmother’s woods into our front yard early on and it had grown a whopping six inches by the time we moved. We finally had the greatest-ever river birch in our backyard, birdhouses and feeders hanging from its gorgeous branches, and Hurricane Ike kindly relieved us of it.

So these woods out here are not wasted on Keith and me. Still, we are well aware that the beauty that surrounds us is in the eye of two grateful beholders. The view in the picture you see below is tidy because it’s closest to our front door but the rest of these woods are pretty wild and viney and, when it rains, our low land is a good deal swampy. Mosquitos eat us alive if it’s wet and hot and, more often than we wish, it’s both. We can’t take a walk without snake boots since these gracious acres are prime habitat for breeding water moccasins, coral snakes, and copperheads. Each of our dogs have been snakebitten, one of them twice. That’s just life in the country. But you couldn’t budge us from these woods with a heavy bevy of bulldozers.

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What moved me Saturday morning was that all I could see was green. Every shade possible. Lime green, olive green, kelly green, emerald green, foam green, sea green, myrtle green, you-name- it green. Foliage of countless kinds and textures. Oak leaves that look like the soles of feet. Sweet gum leaves that look like the palms of hands stretched wide-open. Spiny pines, bristly red cedars, and lacy foliage of cypress trees, dreamy and ethereal, growing straight out of the waters of our tiny natural pond.

pond

Nothing dead in sight.

I put on my boots (still wearing my pajamas, otherwise, what’s the good of living out in the country?) and I went for a walk. If you’re inclined to like the color green, I’ll take you with me. But take your Claritin. You’re going to need it.

I wish you could hear the chorus of frogs, come evening, that meet for choir practice in this straw-thin creek bed.

photo 9

The white trunk you see below in the middle of the frame is a Sycamore. Not exactly the same kind Zacchaeus, a wee little man, climbed with all his might for the Lord he wanted to see. All the same, when I walk past it, I don’t mind thinking of Jesus saying, Zacchaeus, you come down from that tree, for I’m going to your house today and Zacchaeus countering, Well, it’s a long, long way to my house – I fear I’ve wandered far from home – but why don’t we just stop off at the Moores? That girlfriend can stir up a fine pot of chicken and dumplings. And they do.

sycamore

photo

You did take your Claritin like I told you to, didn’t you? Because one of us is really allergic to this right here but, still, there’s no saying it’s not pretty.

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And these. Well, these make Texas Texas. We just had a few bluebonnets the first year we moved in but every Spring God adds a a handful more because He knows good and well we’re going to brag on Him like nobody’s business. And He loves that.

Bluebonnets

Meadow

What burned in my lungs on Saturday was that, everywhere a soul could see, there was nothing but life.

Somebody might shrug and wonder what’s new about that. It’s Spring. That’s what Spring brings. But that’s not all of our story out here. Three years ago, Texas suffered the worst drought of its history. The ravages of it did not peak until a year or so later when century oaks and towering pines all over our beautiful State begged our forgiveness but they just couldn’t recover. I asked Keith this morning how many trees he estimates we lost in these few acres alone. He said the smaller trees were innumerable but the painful losses were the fine, stately trees, some of them absolutely enormous. We said a sad goodbye to somewhere around 100 of those.

We were sick at heart. We’d walk round and round them, studying them carefully, trying to decide if they’d died or gone temporarily dormant in an effort to survive. When all was said and done, we’d lost many of our very favorite ones. After both Old Moses and Isaiah gave up the ghost, Keith swore and declared (and swore again as he has a mind to do) that he’d never again name another tree. It’s too painful when you have to see them die. I never imagined wanting to cry over a tree before. I may have laid hands on Old Moses and prayed. It didn’t work but he didn’t mind. We stared at their deadness and mourned for awhile then Keith began the slow grueling process of cutting them down.

It’s taken all this time.

I thought that was all there was to it but I was wrong. Next came the process of piling them up, waiting for really wet weather, and starting to burn heaps and piles of deadness. Day after damp day, Keith and a few helpers watched over a dozen bonfires.

But, Saturday, I sat on my front porch and beheld the breathtaking sight, forgive the redundancy, of nothing but life. Because, here’s the thing:

We’d finally given up what was dead and not coming back.

I wish I were not just talking about trees. We Moores and Jones have had some hard things to let go of over the last several years. Droughts, dying, death, grief. Of course, embedded here in this soil where thorns and thistles prosper, we earthlings will always have those things nearby to remind us that this place in no permanent home. We long for a better country.

I could not help but think about the contrast of all that is happening in these woods in the wake of our recent Resurrection Sunday celebration. I love Easter so much. If I believe in anything at all, I believe in God’s shameless felicity in raising to life what is dead. We Moores and Jones have experienced His resurrection power in ways no blog post could adequately boast. But I thought of a second theological principle as I stared all around me, not a dead branch in sight. I thought how sometimes we have to accept what has died or refused to come to life or produce a whit of fruit…

…and we have to let it go.

Instead of staring at it for months on end as a monument to our loss, we sometimes need to cut it down, pile it up, move it out or let it burn.

While we cry.

Because often God chooses to resurrect something that has died.

But other times He wants us to call it what it is – dead – and let it go, knowing that He is good. He cannot fail to be good.

That’s what Jesus said He does with what, over the proof of time, does not remain. It is “thrown out like a branch, and dries up; and such branches are gathered up and thrown into the fire, and are burned up.” (John 15:6 The NET) He “takes away every branch that does not bear fruit” and He “prunes every branch that bears fruit so that it will bear more fruit.” (John 15:2)

He’s all about the fruit.

What doesn’t bear fruit, what fails to resurrect Spring after disappointing Spring, finally needs to go. That doesn’t mean you forget. Some things are too big to forget. Take Old Moses, for instance. He blessed us with a lot of shade. And spectacular beauty. And he’s so big, we’re not even sure how to move out what’s left of him. But we’ve quit begging him to come back to life and we’ve pushed him back where he’s not so easy to see. Trying to resuscitate what’s not coming back to life just leaves you out of breath.

Second option on stump

But this is the miracle of the whole thing. The drought stole life from these woods that bore roots in this ground for a hundred years. It was a terrible shame. But the sun rays and showers blocked so long by their enormous branches found their way to the fertile ground and the space that was bare gave way to new life.

baby pines

 

oak

God will not leave us comfortless. He will not leave us alone. He will not leave us fruitless. He will either resurrect the dead or grow something brand new.

I say this to you with a tender heart and deep compassion and empathy. If it is gone, let it go. If it is possible to move the deadness from your sight where it has become a monument to your sadness, pile it up and carry it off.

And know with all your heart and all your faith that something new is coming. Hope preferred for your hope deferred. Give it space. Sunshine. Water. Inspect it with great expectation. And you will surely – as surely as God is faithful and Jesus is the fleshing out of life itself – live to see new trees sprout out of that soil. Something you couldn’t have expected. Something Old Moses could never have given you.

We’re here too brief a time on this finicky soil to spend days on end grieving what could have been. We’ll talk to Jesus about that when we get Home. We’ll have forever then. For now…

Let it go.

So something new can grow.

Water it with your tears if you must but release your fears that nothing but nothingness is ahead for you. Is God your God? As sure as He is, new life is coming.

All the deadness did not manage to kill you. You are stronger than you thought. Stretch out your arms like mighty branches even if, for now, they’re as thin as sticks. It is to your Father’s glory that you bear much fruit.

 

 

photo 4

 

 

 

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Dying, and Behold, We Live

Well, hello there. My name is Melissa. I used to be around here some. Forgive me for the awkward intrusion. This is less of an essay or a blog post and more like sharing some disjointed sentence-fragments I scribbled down this morning. I hope you don’t mind. Sometimes when I have the most in my heart, I am least able to write. But I guess I just wanted to write something, you know? You see, like the colors of spring, the beauty of Jesus is taking me again by surprise this Holy Week. Each Holy Week I wonder if the climactic narratives about Jesus will finally this time, this year, hit me flat. But they don’t. They seize me again.

Jesus seizes me.

I grew up in a Baptist church. My most vivid memories of the Easter season are from Palm Sunday, the big green palms and the choir decked in long white robes. And the hymns. But then I don’t remember much of anything between Palm Sunday and Resurrection Sunday. Now, that could say more about me than it does my church tradition. Memory is a funny thing, isn’t it? (Also, I wasn’t paying that much attention.)

Several years ago now I got the opportunity to spend some time studying with teachers and students from other Christian denominations. I think often about words I first read those years ago from Walter Brueggemann. He said that the final three days of Passion (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday) “must not be homogenized but must be kept discreet and distinctive, each for its own weightiness” (Brueggemann reviewing Alan E. Lewis’ Between Cross and Resurrection). For the first time, I learned to slow down and carefully take my time walking through Holy Week. My friends taught me to contemplate what the cross of Christ meant on its own terms, to confront the violence in my own heart on Good Friday. To feel the utter despair of dashed hopes and dreams on Holy Saturday. They introduced me to thinkers such as Paul W. Meyer who said things like: “We need sometimes to think about the crucifixion of Jesus as if there had been no resurrection just so that we might understand what the resurrection itself meant for those early Christians” (“The This-Worldliness of the New Testament” by Paul W. Meyer). Thinkers like Meyer forced me to tarry in front of Christ’s cross before rushing to that refrain so familiar to me, “Sunday’s coming!”

I’m currently finishing a wonderful book called A Glorious Dark by A.J. Swoboda (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2014). Swoboda argues that Christian faith must enter all three days of the long weekend: “we must embrace the pain of Friday’s sunset, the awkwardness of Saturday’s silence, and the hopeful sunrise of Sunday morning.” Swoboda suggests that most of us, rather than entering the whole weekend, are selective about the one day we want to experience. Swoboda says that this picking and choosing creates three incomplete “knock-off” versions of Christianity:

“Friday Christianity is the religion of those who’ve chosen to find their identity in a spirituality of defeat, death, and loss. Their spiritual depth abides solely in the torment of the suffering on the cross . . . Sunday Christianity is equally problematic. These chipper, slick, ever-too-happy Christians see God in, and only in, victory, prosperity, and blessing . . . Sunday Christianity dismisses the realities of death and loss . . . Saturday Christianity is for those of us who’ve come to consider doubt and ambiguity as final destinations rather than conduits through which we actually enter into resurrection. When we celebrate only Holy Saturday, we believe, in our doubt and questioning, that we have permission to be cynics and deconstructionists—and that everyone should sit in our graves with us.”

I think Swoboda is right about this tendency. I can certainly see it in myself and I think I can see it in others around me too.  Even if I have learned to journey a little slower through Holy Week, to take each day on its own, at heart I have mostly just been a Holy Saturday Christian, I think. Swoboda helped me see that about myself and made me long for more.

Few Christian thinkers conceive of how the death of Jesus and the resurrected life of Jesus co-exist in the Christian as creatively as the apostle Paul. Paul writes to the Corinthians:

For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. (2 Cor. 1.8-10 ESV)

And Paul continues a few chapters later:

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. (2 Cor. 4.8-12 ESV)

Paul not only speaks of sharing in Jesus’ sufferings, he also speaks of sharing in his comfort (2 Cor. 1.3-6). Most stunning is how Paul articulates his apostolic ministry. He describes it as an experience akin to death for him but he says that it renders life in the ones whom he serves. So death is at work in us, but life in you. This absolutely takes my breath away.

Bringing someone else life can feel a lot like dying.

We love to be with people who are “life-giving,” right? We use this phrase often. But we grow weary of being the life-giving ones, because, frankly, it requires a whole lot of dying that we don’t want to do. Because it hurts a lot. Because it goes against everything in the depths of us most of the time. We quickly tire of being the ones who are pouring ourselves out. We want people to get their crap together, to stop being so draining. But if we carry Jesus’ death in our own bodies, if we pour out all we have, if we die to our own selfishness, our own agendas, we will gain everything. The life of Jesus of Nazareth will be made manifest in our mortal flesh, Paul says.

A few days ago I read a sermon by Rowan Williams called “Into Daylight” from Easter Morning, 2004 (see Choose Life; London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2013). I thought it was incredibly beautiful and worth sharing an excerpt here with you. Williams says:

“If you believe that Jesus rose from the dead, you are not just believing an odd fact from two thousand years ago; you are trusting that there is a kind of life, a kind of love and trust and joy that is the very essence of Jesus’ identity which is now coming to life in you. As it comes to life, you begin to know that no amount of pressure and stress and suffering in your life has power in itself to break the bond that has been created between you and Jesus’ life and activity. You are alive with a fuller and deeper life than just your own. Your resources are more than you could ever have imagined. Jesus rises from the dead so as to find not only his home in heaven but his home in us. He rises so that we may rise out of the prisons of guilt, anxiety, self-obsession or apathy that so constantly close around us. But for this to happen, says St Paul, we have to go on, day after day, getting used to parts of us dying, just as Jesus died: we have to get used to the beloved habits of self-serving and self-protecting being brought into the light that shines from Jesus’ face and withering away in that brightness. That’s why Paul says that Christians go around with both death and life at work in their lives—always trying to let the light of Jesus kill off these sick and deadly habits, always letting the new life that is ours but so much more than ours shine through” (Rowan Williams, Choose Life).

Friends, I wish you and all the ones you love a most meaningful and sacred weekend reflecting on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus our Lord. From him and through him and to him are all things. “For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them” (2 Cor. 5.14-15 NRSV).

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“It is Finished” – A Message that Might Be Fitting for Holy Week

Blessed Holy Week, fellow followers of Christ Jesus. We want so much to serve you as well as we know how on this most sacred week of our annual Christian calendar. As we reflected on how best to do that, we thought about this message that I had the privilege to give at Passion City Church in Atlanta, Georgia. My good friend, Louie Giglio, had asked me to speak on John 19 which records the crucifixion of Christ. Some of you have services to attend at your churches on Friday where you will gather at the Cross through the pages of Scripture and remember once more. This message is here for anyone who may not have that opportunity, who’d like to grab her Bible, turn to the most pivotal moment in human history, and set her mind afresh on what Jesus Christ accomplished on that hill that dark afternoon.

I am almost certain that you will also have a written post for Good Friday. We at Living Proof Ministries love and appreciate you so much and pray that Christ will reveal Himself astonishingly to you throughout this weekend and particularly on Sunday as we all celebrate the most beautiful words possible: “He is risen!”

 

With tremendous affection,

Beth

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Siesta Scripture Memory Team 2015: Verse 7!

Hey, you Scripture memory friends! We have made it all the way to verse 7! I felt like doing another little video for you this time around. It just feels warmer to me this way even if a written post is far more orderly and includes far less rambling. These videos are rough and unpolished but they are from the heart. I’m so proud of your hard work and your perseverance. Often when I read through your entries, I wonder if I’m getting a little clue about some of your circumstances and challenges. I don’t miss how many of you are memorizing Scriptures that encourage you to forgive someone. I am also deeply moved as I see many memorize Scriptures that remind you that YOU are forgiven and that you have been completely cleansed and that the power of Christ’s cross extends to YOU. Other times I smile seeing countless women selecting verses to help them keep their mouths shut in situations. Still other times I sense through your selections how very much you want to love people the way Christ has called you to love. AND IT’S HARD.

Maybe I’m reading too much into all of this. Maybe what’s resonating with me about your selections is that I myself am desperate for them. I have people to forgive. I need to believe and know without a doubt that I am completely forgiven and cleansed. I absolutely need to shut my mouth more often. And I want to love the way Christ has called me to love and, yes, sometimes it is the hardest thing on earth for me.

Nothing is like the Word of God. He leaves nothing out.

Ok, Girls! I am continuing a segment of Ephesians 3 so here is my entry this time around:

 

Beth Moore, Houston. “That according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being.” Ephesians 3:16 ESV

 

I sure love all of you and I am blessed beyond words to serve you! Press on and keep up your memory work!

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Our Coworker Nancy’s Story: A Faithful God, A Profusely Expensive Testimony

Hey, everybody. I so often wish you could meet the stellar women I get to serve alongside at Living Proof, especially because they serve this blog community every workday in one way or another. They are such incredible women of God and slack-jawing graces to this former pit-dweller. I want you to meet one of them today and hear her very moving story. If you’ve ever mailed a letter to Living Proof, in all likelihood, you have been touched by her. Nancy Mattingly is one of the best friends I have in this world. We have known one another for thirty years, our paths crossing often then ultimately converging in ministry. When we were very young moms, she’d come to my home once a month for a prayer breakfast with other women just like us and we’d sit cross-legged on that den floor, our Bibles wide-open, and seek Jesus with everything we had. We are both fitness junkies. She bikes and runs. I wear out an elliptical and hike. We’re both teachers by trade and by calling. We love music and we love it loud.

 

Nancy heads up correspondence at Living Proof Ministries. She heads it up because I hand-chose her. And I did so because she is wise and warm and wonderful and witty and compassionate and strong and loving. You cannot know her and miss being touched by her. The gift she has been to me is beyond estimation. My heart fell into my feet in ministry when I realized that the letters and needs filling up our LPM mailbox were more than one person could manage. I wanted to respond personally to the women who wrote in. I wanted them to know I’d heard their stories. I wanted to pray for them in response letters and give them verses that might resonate with their circumstances and challenges. I came to a point that I flat-out could not keep up with the correspondence and still write and teach Bible studies. I needed someone I could trust to the bone to head up that crucial position here at LPM.

 

And that was Nancy. She has cried with you, laughed with you, written you, prayed for you, pored over every word you’ve mailed to this address, and shared many of your stories with me and with our staff. I love her so much. And you would love her, too. We have been through so much together as a ministry staff. We rejoice together and weep together, laugh till our sides split together and bawl our eyes out together. We have each had several turns being the one who needed rallying around the most. We’ve stood by one another through such a variety of things that I wouldn’t know where to stop a list of categories. But we, as a staff of very close friends, have never been through anything harder than the story you are about to hear. I can hardly type these words to you without crying. I knew that one day – and sooner than later – Nancy would share this story because I know the woman of God she is. I knew God would be outrageously glorified. I knew that this would turn back on the devil and make him sorry he messed with her and her family. And so it begins.

 

Please meet one of the dearest people on earth to me and to all of us here at Living Proof. This is our friend, Nancy. She has a story to tell you because we at this ministry have not had the luxury of naiveté. We have hurt. And we know that you have hurt. And, because of Jesus, we have hope. And we want you to have hope. We believe that our stories and journeys have been entrusted to us so that we can do what we’ve been called to do: serve women. Serve you. So, today, this is how we will do it.

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From Nancy:

Late in 2013, I was compelled to find a particular sign I’d seen a while back. I really didn’t understand why, but just knew I wanted it for our family. I needed it. It simply said “it is well with my soul”. I bought the very last one the store had, brought it home, placed it on the hearth, and announced to my people, “this is our word for 2014.”

Little did I know how much I would need that reminder.

Every day.

January 28th, 2014 was a day that we will never forget, getting the news that our beloved firstborn son had taken his own life. And just like that, he was gone. And we had so many questions that will not be answered this side of heaven.

 

I can’t even put into words what shock we were in. Disbelief. Pain. My husband and I were at home that day, while all of Houston was shut down for an “ice storm” that never really came to fruition. Our Living Proof Tuesday night Bible study was cancelled for that evening.  Otherwise, I would have been right there serving with my coworkers. Looking back on it, the cancellation was such a personal gift from Jesus because it put me home with my man where we received the news together. We had just finished some chicken and wild rice soup, and were watching a movie.

The doorbell rings, and I go to answer it.

Two policemen were at our door asking for my husband. (You would typically think something terrible immediately, seeing police at your door, however I didn’t, as we had been dealing with the police in the last month over a stolen bicycle. So, for some reason, I thought it had to do with the bike, and cheerily welcomed them in.) It was then that they told us the devastating news of Kyle.

No words.

“If Your revelation hadn’t delighted me so, I would have given up when the hard times came.” Psalm 119:92, The Message

 

Shock can begin immediately and with a vengeance. And it did. We both had such severe issues, but tried to listen to all the police were telling us. Once they left, I remember that we sat on the couch, held hands, and my very strong husband prayed. Oh, how we needed Jesus! In that moment, and in the days to come….

And He was there.

He supernaturally held us through the longest of days and nights.

Through the terrible phone calls to our other children, all living out of town.

Through arranging international travel to get our daughter home from Hong Kong where she had moved just 2 weeks earlier to nanny some children of special missionary friends.

Through the pacing and the arranging and the decisions and the deep desire to go to bed. Then we’d finally get there only to lay there, unable to sleep.

But God Was There.

Whatever kind of believer you are before tragedy happens, you get to decide again after the tragedy: do I believe? And the answer for me was absolutely yes. I had nowhere else to go but my Jesus.

“This I know: God is for me.” Psalm 56:9

People are interesting, especially in the ways they process crises. Some trickled into our home as the news spread. Even in the midst of the first few hours of our new reality, we were able to find humor. And since humor is best shared, I had a dear, beloved life-long friend with whom to share it. We got bent-over tickled over one specific incident, and I realized even then that it was just another grace gift from the Lord. It was a brief respite from the overwhelming grief.

And it set the tone of the year, where we would dance: between the waves of deepest grief, and the pockets of joy.

I also found that, throughout my grief, I had to balance my sadness and loss, my overwhelming sense of failure as a mother, and my fear and anxiety for my family

WITH

the obvious care and tending the Lord was doing, the gratitude I had in all that He had given us through our children, and especially through Kyle himself.

I thanked Him for the gift of 32 years with my son. I was grateful, so grateful, for the outlandish gifts my other children were to me. I marveled at this man I had been married to for 34 years and at his ability to articulate all that we were going through. And, I was actually able to see that my son, my beautiful son, was free from what had tormented him.

I could certainly praise my Jesus for that.

Oh, but the loss! And the sheer gut-wrenching longing that he would have received the help so eagerly offered him instead of deciding to be finished…

“I will offer You a sacrifice of thanksgiving and will worship the Lord.” Psalm 116:17

Can I tell you a bit about my son?

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He was a delight from his first moments of breath on this planet. He was full of energy, and when I say “full”, I mean over-the-top action all the time. He took me out of my comfort zone in those first years with his outgoing personality and zest for life. He’d talk to every person we passed during our days of doing life together while I would tend to be quieter and shyer. Oh, but not Kyle. He ran hard after everything that delighted him. And made some noise doing it. He had such a generous heart and an impish grin that really did let you know trouble was coming. School became a mix of many victories and many areas to work on. Though he was definitely high maintenance, he was also highly entertaining. And the joy, oh mercy, the joy! We knew a full measure of joy with this son of ours, and at the same time, we knew our desperate need of Jesus, too.

 

That truly became our story later in his adult years. While, on the one hand, we watched God give him such beautiful opportunities to share his love of the outdoors with others, we also saw such a need for Jesus to rescue him from his depression and sadness in his last several years. Kyle was a mountain man… a very successful mountain guide, ice climber, avalanche educator, and, in the slower months and on the side, he did rope-access work on those huge windmills. He was well-respected in every capacity.

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Gosh, even today, the loss can overwhelm me…

“For He Himself is our peace.” Ephesians 2:14

Early on in the loss of Kyle, I made a deliberate decision not to hide. To be honest, I truly wanted to hide but even more so I wanted to see God glorified through some measure of this grief. So, I would post a picture or two on various social medias and share some words. I would do anything to keep some other mother from this kind of devastation but I don’t begin to know how.  What I can do, however, is just trust God to work through my willingness to share. He alone can make anything good out of this story. I realized early on in our loss, that as hard as my husband and I worked to help Kyle – to encourage him and guide him and certainly to love him – that he was an adult and made his own decisions.

 

While I never, ever would have chosen this story for my precious family, I do get to choose what I do with it. And I get to praise my Jesus. I get to believe Him, even if I’m overwhelmingly sad, grieving, or undone. Bless His holy name.

 

Thank you for understanding that many aspects of our experience, we simply think are too sacred, too private for sharing or discussing. But what I can say is this: if someone you love is isolating himself/herself, do everything in your power to reach out to the person and pull him/her back into a safe circle of loved ones. I have seen the damage done by the enemy when he draws people in crisis away from their safe place, their safe people. Of course, we did do everything we knew to do in our own circumstance. Just looking back, I so wish I could have changed this outcome.
*May I just enter a note here to those of you who are personally dealing with deep depression, mental illness, chaos in your home or a lack of hope for any reason? Please seek help. And continue to get it. Don’t isolate yourself. Believe those who love you when they tell you how valuable and wonderful you are and how much you have to offer. Listen to them and not just to your own thoughts. Trust Jesus. Make plans for tomorrow. Dare to hope.

Do. Not. Do. This. Devastation.To. Your. People.

God has a plan. For you. And it’s good.

“I say: the Lord is my portion, therefore I will put my hope in Him.” Lamentations 3:24

 

I really cannot tell my story without the obvious truth that without God, Jesus, and His Word, I would have been a literal mess. (Of course many days I was, and am, still a mess, even with Him.) And I can’t talk about my faith walk without telling you that Beth and I have been friends for 30 years, and truly, no one on this planet has helped me in my faith journey more than she has. She truly has taught me how to do life as a Christ-follower. By watching her, studying with her, living my life around her life, I have gleaned such treasures of the kingdom. And I am so grateful. (Understatement of the year) Her hard pursuit of Christ, and her lavish love of her Savior have encouraged me, and strengthened me, and I am quite sure compelled me to want the same. My love of Jesus, and people, is spurred on by hers. And if I said thank you every day for the rest of my life, it would not be enough. (I know many of you feel the same way about her and what she has meant to your faith life.) Beth, thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you! My heart beats even stronger for Jesus because of you, and I cannot imagine my life without Him, or you. Thank you for caring so deeply for our loss, and hurt. And thank you so much for letting me tell a bit of our story here. What a grace gift. We do not want this to be our story, but since it is, we want the Lord to receive all the glory for what He’s done. For Who He is. Thank you for the space to do just that.

 

If I may, and with Beth’s complete support and agreement, I just want to address a thought or misconception I have heard from time to time: that, if you are in ministry like Beth is, or work with someone as wonderful as my coworkers, you have no problems. Or, at least, that is what some people have suggested throughout the years. Often people ask how wonderful it is to work here. Don’t get me wrong, it truly is. These people at Living Proof Ministries are my family and I dearly love each and every one. We have had so many blasts together. However, being in full-time ministry certainly does not negate any troubles coming your way. All of us here at Living Proof have them. We have heartbreaks and disappointments and burdens just like you do. Ministry does not add a bonus protective-coating on you and your family. It does not mean that you or your loved ones won’t go through the pit of deep despair. I wish it meant that you won’t ever live out your worst nightmare, but it doesn’t. P R A Y for your Bible teachers, your church leaders, your pastors, your ministry teams, worship leaders! Honestly, when you think of them, pray for them! I know it would mean so much to them. You have no idea what they may be suffering privately.

 “On the day I called, You answered me; You increased strength within me.” Psalm 138:3

I still have so many questions, so few answers…..yet, I can rest in what I do know, what I am sure of:
*God is faithful. He has been in the past, and He will be in the future. So that must mean He is faithful today as well. With Him, I can do today.
*God has been so very near to us. (And I pray the same for you and your family, no matter what you are going through, that His presence with you will be palpable.) And, at times, when I do not feel Him near?  I know without a doubt that He’s still here with me.
*God’s Word still remains. And is for us in every circumstance. Not one Scripture fell off the page. It stands secure.
*God has never left us nor forsaken us. And I have found that, no matter what, I get to trust Him.

“Give the Lord the glory due His name; worship the Lord in the splendor of His holiness.” Psalm 29:2

 

Looking back, I can’t really believe we have survived. Truthfully, I’m not sure how we did, except Jesus. (Side note here: the Body of Christ – and community –  is a beautiful thing, especially in times of loss and devastation. Our people came from far and wide to help us, support us, and just grieve with us. Our deepest thanks to each and every person who supported us and prayed for us in these challenging times, sent cards, brought food, texted, emailed, phoned…)

 

We still miss our son every day. Every Single Day. Some days the pain is too deep for words. But our perspective now is more eternal than ever before. In our ordinary lives, we have this glimpse of eternity, with our son waiting on the other side, and we long for that. And we long for Him: our Jesus. And He is the Only One to satisfy that longing. Let Him do that for you today.

 

“for You are their magnificent strength…” Psalm 89:17

 

Thank you for listening. We at LPM care so very much for each of you and truly want to see you find full freedom and victory in Jesus. No matter what comes your way, choose Him. He is so very faithful.

 

With Love,

Nancy

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A Giveaway! A new look for “Looking Up”!

CONGRATULATIONS WINNERS!
You will be receiving a confirmation from LPM. Please reply back with your mailing address.

1. Cheryl Brownell
2. Jessica Lowe
3. Selina ? – #702
4. Chris Bradbury
5. Danielle Greenwald
6. Jenny Still
7. Felicia G.
8. Danielle Mower
9. Christina Moore
10. Linda Foust
11. Sheila (Myers?) – #3143
12. Elizabeth Schmidt
13. Olive Gaines
14. Kendra Stearman
15. Maureen (Buckley?) -#508
16. Stephanie ? – #600
17. Kim Joyce
18. Sharon (Stockham?) – #2753
19. Sharon Appel
20. Cindy Kelly

We had such a great response, we decided to pull some additional winners!!
21. Sarah Bumgardner
22. Hannah Bartlett
23. Jamie Blair
24. Josephine M. Kerley
25. Monica Hampton Cooper

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

It’s Spring Break time around here, so we thought it would be the perfect time for a giveaway!

Looking Up has an updated look, and we have 20 copies we would love to share with you.  Looking Up is a devotional book adapted from Beth’s book “Get Out Of That Pit”.

 

If you want a chance to win, just leave your comment: “Yes!” (One comment per person, please.)

Comments will close Monday, March 23rd at 9am (CST).  We’ll update the post soon after with winners’ names. We hope your name is drawn!

Lookingup_blog

 

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LPL Atlantic City Recap!

Oh, Atlantic City girls! It looks like you all had the best time in God’s Word together!  May God continue to speak His truth deep in you! #watermarked

 

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