Thursday, November 27, 2014

Give Thanks in ALL Things-Really?

As I started the trek outside of town, I gave thanks for the snowflakes on my arm..."Beautiful Run. Thank you for the snow,"  I prayed.

As I hit one of my favorite spots on my run, I stopped for a quick picture.  "Beautiful trees.  Thank you for the view,"  I prayed.
As I turned toward home, the wind hit my face, snow started covering me from head to toe.  I started getting cold.  "Thank you for the warmth of my fireplace that awaits.  Thank you for my cozy home," I prayed.

As I neared the end of my run, I came to a crossroads.  I could turn to the left, which would mean a flat, relatively easy run home.  Or, I could choose to keep running straight forward, which would mean one last hill to climb.  
I chose to turn left, but God whispered, "Don't go that way.  Go forward.  Climb the hill."  So, as I reluctantly made my way up that  hill, snow covered, cold, and water pouring out of my eyes and nose, I prayed, "For what do I give thanks in this?"  
And God answered, 
"Me.  Give thanks for Me. Give thanks that you're found in Me."

 God was continuing to teach me the lesson that goes far deeper than a snowy run.  He was deepening my understanding of what it means to  "choose His way over my own" and to "choose Him over the gifts He gives".  I was learning that  even in the hard, even in the disappointments, even in the gut-wrenching, crying, waterproof-wearing mascara days, that I can say, 
"Thank you, God, for THIS." 
 He was reminding me to  "give thanks in all things", for our hope rests in Him Alone.  
Not in circumstances:  positive or negative.  Not in People:  encouraging or critical.
But Him.

So thankful for GRACE that enables one to choose HARD.  
Would never do it on my own.
So thankful for GRACE that enables one to choose to remain under trial.  
Would never do it on my own. 
So thankful for GRACE that enables one to choose God's way over his own.  
Would always choose my own way.
So thankful that I have a Father who keeps me.  
For I cannot keep myself.
So thankful to REST in God.  
For anxiously pursuing anything outside of Him brings anxiety.
Thankful to be found in Him.  
For He saved me by grace.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

He Knows

Because God knows, even when we don't...

Journal entry~Written November 10, 2008  (written 9 months before Gabriel and Ana were born)

Dear Lord~
I didn't really think I'd be having these thoughts tonight.  What if I can't do this, Lord?!  What if I can't be a mommy to four children?  Lord, you know my limits.  I struggle being a working mom with 2 children.  The house.  My job. It's just so overwhelming right now.  I know someday I'll see.  I know you are calling me to walk by faith.  Gabriel Jonathan and Ana Grace.  Will they become real?  Lord, please help my unbelief.  Help my distrust.  I want to be at peace, Lord.  Yes, I want a baby (or babies).  Lord, grant me peace, I pray.  Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is being certain of what we hope for, certain of what we do not see.  Hope that is seen is no hope at all.
...Be strong and courageous.  Do not fear.  This battle is not yours to fight.  Be still and know that I am your Lord.

Monday, August 18, 2014


The crown of gray on her head and years and seasons of parenting have always made me want to listen.  

She has surrendered sons who have fallen off bulls, and daughters who fly overseas.  She has surrendered sons who've kept surgeons in business and received calls that yes, once again, someone was headed to the ER. 


My fear seeps out through the cracks of my words, "How do you do it? How do you let go?  How have you surrendered them, Nancy?" I've asked too many times to count.

Her response is always the same:  You start surrendering even before they're born.

You give back those you've been given because they're not really yours.  
They're His.

This surrendering and surrendering and surrendering.  

Today my first born will walk the halls of the high school as a ninth grader.  Surrender.

Today my oldest daughter will enter seventh grade.  A transitional year, for sure.  Surrender.  

Today, my little Ana, will go to kindergarten.  Surrender, heart, surrender.  

And today, letting go of Gabriel, my fourth, is proving to be tougher than I thought.  Surrender.

I am finding that only a heart fully surrendered to the Lord can freely and joyfully surrender the gifts He's given.  His asking for them always reveals this part of my heart that is not fully surrendered.  I hold them too tightly, I know, believing I can care for them better than He.  How foolish.  

How many Hannahs are giving their Samuels back to the Lord today?  

May we let this first day of school be a reminder that they do not belong to us.  They are His.  
May it be a reminder that they are gifts to be stewarded and pointed back to Him, not trophies to be displayed in remembrance of how great we are.
May it be a reminder that HE is our treasure, not our children.

Praying for all the Hannahs today, of littles and bigs.

Much love.


Saturday, July 12, 2014

5 Years Old!

Gabriel John Kibrom Laubach.  How in the world are you five-years-old already?!  To think you might never walk, and now well, we try and keep you from scaling walls.  Happy Birthday!  We love you.

You love...
*tow trucks
*dump trucks
*police cars
*riding bike really fast
*Curious George
*singing worship songs/pretending you're leading worship
*pretending you're preaching about God (You've gone to the backyard a few times and proclaimed loudly:  "God's not dead. NOT.dead"
*going to "group"
*your friends
*your family
*riding bike through town with Daddy
*riding bike on trail with Mommy
*sweeping, shoveling, spraying...anything involving dirt and water
*firetrucks (if they're silent)
*picking on Cole
*playing with Julia
*cool pops
*going somewhere, anywhere...every day.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Because He's a Story Writer

I curled my arms around her as her tired little body molded perfectly into mine after an exhaustingly fun day of playing in the woods.  "Tell me a story, Mama"?  she asked.  It's become one of my favorite parts of being Ana's mommy.  Getting to make up stories for her to enjoy.

I started writing words across the dark night air with my voice as she and I were engaged in the storybook of our two minds, connected by words and experiences of days past.  I told of two little ones who escaped their home, finally to be found by their mama and then another and another until Daddy said, "No.More. Stories." Daddies always seem to tire of words before Mommies.

It encourages my heart to know my Father is a storywriter.  It blesses me to know it's one way I get to reflect who He is.

He wrote the greatest story that will ever be written from the beginning of time to eternity. All other stories pale greatly in comparison.

I can speak words into the air but HE SPOKE LIGHT INTO EXISTENCE.
And HE named them.
And HE named her, too.
This little one, Ana (with one N) Grace, from half a world away, before I knew she even existed, He named her.
Her name means "gracious" Ananias, the one sent to Saul to let Him know he would carry God's name to others.
God speaks through this little one often as she reminds me that my God indeed is Gracious.
I get to be her Mommy.
I get to search for words and connect them and make stories for her enjoyment and God's glory.


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Dear Man Following Hard After Jesus

Dear Man Following Hard After Jesus~

Do you know you are a rare commodity in the world?

Do you know there are men leaving and disowning children and families everywhere in the world?

Do you know you've been placed strategically in the lives of many people to point them to Christ?

Do you know that you are invaluable to your family, to men and women in your small group, your church family, your community, the world?

Do you know there are literally thousands of men and women sitting in prisons who never got to call anyone Daddy and not once got to hear "son" or "daughter"?

Do you know that a little girl could hold on to just one word of encouragement from you for a decade?

Do you know that just one intentional hug may offer the encouragement a discouraged young husband in your small group needs to go back home and keep leading his family well?

Do you know that just one intentional smile at a boy in the church foyer has the potential to start the healing process in a hurting boy's heart?

Do you know that your steady presence means more than any amount of money or gifts or words of wisdom could ever offer?

We need you.  Please don't quit.  Please don't give up.

You are not perfect-no one expects it. There is one perfect Father.

Your Father loves you.  He sees you. He formed and fashioned you just the way He desired.  You are his beloved son.
He promises to be a father to the fatherless, no need for a superman cape.
There's probably no need to go searching out anyone to love.
They're most likely right before your eyes.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

One "N" ANA

Ana, here's the little girl you're sort of named after and just one of the little ones who captured my heart in Guatemala.  She seemed wise beyond her years and was just so so sweet.  She's grown SO much.  Her mama lived at the orphanage, too.  Go HERE to see Ana Carolina.  In Guatemala, Anna/Ana is spelled with one N.

Another reason for 1 N:

Also, I'm sure I've written about this before, but truly we believed God specifically gave you the name, Ana. I can't explain it, people think I'm weird...oh well, never mind.  Anyway, when I looked up the name before I even met you, I found that it meant "full of grace". Then, just the other day, I was reading in the New Testament and Ananias, the man God sent to Paul, his name means "full of grace", too.  Whenever you write your name, remember, "God is full of grace".

Rethinking When You Don't "Like" the Pastor

Sitting in different circles of women over the last few years, I've heard the same comment about various pastors.  The women often have one of two looks on their faces, either upturned nose, head-shaking disapprovingly back and forth OR a downward glance of the eyes, but their words are usually the same:

Oh, I don't like "him".

I've been both of these women, the upturned nose head shaker and the downward glancer.

Because one of my greatest sin tendencies is to fear man (caring more what people think of me than what God thinks), I rarely would say it but I thought it a few hundred times or so. Well, actually, I did say it once-in front of my pastor and a whole group of small group leaders. (Yes, I wanted to die after I said it.)  I didn't use the words, "I don't like him".  I'm not sure what I did say exactly, but the most truthful thing I could have said was:   He scares me, I don't trust him, and I know best how to protect myself from evil.

A little run down of the pastors...

First, James MacDonald.  My husband has listened to him for years and really appreciates his preaching/teaching. I was seriously afraid of him, which made it hard for me to listen and learn from him.  I would often picture myself standing in front of him while he screamed at me for doing something wrong.  And then, women around me, who I love and respect started quoting him, and I was like oh man, something is going on in this heart of mine.  I wanted to love him like everyone else did.  I wanted to listen to him and glean wisdom like they did.  Yet, there was a wall.

And then there's Mark Driscoll.  I've come to learn that one's affections for him are either love or hate, rarely an in-between.   At first, he seemed like such a jerk. He just made fun of people all.the.time.  However, as my fear of man subsided and my walls of "what's kind and nice" were broken down, I started learning so much from him.  He's taught me to laugh at the religion in my own life while killing it, sin is ridiculous, abuse is evil, my identity in Christ, God is a redeeming God, etc.  The list could go on and on.  I can see why Satan had a plan to keep me from listening to him.  As he's proclaimed the Word of God, who God is, I've continued to be set free in many areas.

Then, there's Steve Stoltzfus.  He's my pastor.  I don't think I would have ever consciously thought or said, "I'm scared of Steve," but I do recall as I look back now, always having to frame my view of him in light of how much he loved his wife and how much he loved his children because apart from that, I just wasn't sure. I've learned so much from him.  He's preached through Ephesians, Galatians, and Proverbs since we've come to Freedom Fellowship.  As he's proclaimed the Word of God boldly and apologetically, I've been set free in many areas.  Again, I can see why Satan would try and deceive me (along with my own sinful flesh) and try and make me believe I can't trust him.

God has been so faithful  to answer my prayers in this area, and now it is my absolute joy to listen to each of these pastors (still a little scared of James).  Something I wasn't sure would ever happen.  I had to humble myself, agree with God that I don't know everything (shocker!), and accept the wise counsel from those around me.


LIE:  My view of God was tainting my view of every single male in authority, especially those I didn't know very well.  I had concluded somewhere in some crevice of my mind that the abuse that happened to me as a child was from God and He just might hurt me again.  I wrongly concluded, they just might try and hurt me, too.
TRUTH: God is entirely GOOD.(ps. 119:68) Abuse is evil.  God does not ordain that his children be abused.  I don't understand how God is totally sovereign and yet grieves over the abuse of his creation (Is.61:8), but He does. I believe "What Satan intended for evil, God meant for Good" (see Joseph's conclusion of the evil done against him, Genesis 50:20)  I fully believe that God did not abuse me. I believe that one day God will set all things right. (Romans 12:19) I believe that he is a redeemer of all. That he restores that which the "locust has eaten" (Joel 2:25).   And yes, I do believe He is in total control and sovereign over all things ( Tim. 6:15).  I believe there are things about evil that I will never understand.  The sin I do and the sin done against me will never make sense.  Sin is ridiculous.

LIE:  I know better.
TRUTH:  My view that I "knew better" than God; let's call it what it is-PRIDE-inhibited me from seeing clearly.  I thought I knew how to protect MYSELF.  I thought I knew who I needed to listen to and what type of preacher I needed.

LIE:  You can't trust God to put men in authority over you, to teach you.
TRUTH:  Satan hates the bold proclamation of God's Word and Godly, self-denying, gracious, loving, men in authority.  Of course, he'll do anything he can to make us mistrust God.  He started with Eve, tried it with Jesus, and continues to try it with God's children today.

May we entrust ourselves to the only one who is trustworthy.
May we be free to learn from the preachers God puts in our lives as they boldly proclaim the Word of God.
May we be free to enjoy listening to preachers. (And we may not agree with every opinion he has.  That's okay.)

You may not have been abused, I sincerely hope you weren't, but each of us have "stuff" we deal with. Each of us have lies we believe about God, which distorts our view of reality.  And none of us had perfect fathers and many of us haven't had fathers at all, which can have a profound affect on how we see men in our lives.

May the Lord reveal his GOODNESS to us. May we see Him as He is, not as we "think" He is. May we free to love, honor, respect, and listen to other preachers without fear, without pride.

May we fear the Lord and not man.  Fear Him in an "awe and reverence", knowing we are his precious daughters, kind of way.  That he delights in us and sings over us.  Because we are hidden in His Son, Jesus Christ (Col. 3:3).

Pull your sleeves down! I am totally serious.

Cole's basketball game in a neighboring town (eh hemm..Selinsgrove) had finally ended.   Things were pretty much out.of.control through most of the game.  Fans had screamed at the refs., one man literally cheered when one of our players was knocked down (Jim gave him the what-for...go Hon...although I was pretty much scared!), and it was just an overall sad situation.  I don't know that I've ever seen quite so clearly the image of a dying idol (winning/reputation?) while the worshiper (the crowd) tries to hold on with all his might, scratching and fighting to do anything to keep it...not the point.

Anyway, so we're in the hall (behind enemy lines) after the game and Cole walks out of the locker room and comes up with a smile on his face.  Now Cole is a wonderful young him to pieces.  However, he got the "my voice carries well above the rest" gift, just like his mom and he's 13, so his mouth and brain don't necessarily work in tandem all the time.

So, I call him over and tell him to  I tell him we're leaving the school and that he is not to be purposefully obnoxious (cause I'm pretty sure there were even grandmas there who would have put a whoopin' on anyone who annoyed them at this point in time) and that he is to keep his voice down.  He's like, um okay mom.  But Mom... But why did you pull my sleeves down when you called me over? What does that mean?   I'm like, "huh"?  He says, "When you started talking to me, you pulled my sleeves down. What does that mean?"

I tell him, "It means, look at me when I'm talking to you.  I am very serious."

We probably thought it was way funnier than it was, but we definitely have the same humor.  Not sure if a mom should identify with her middle-schooler's humor, but oh well.

Storybook Moments...NOT!

So, Ana decides she wants to pray for us as we tuck her into bed last night.  Jules is in the room to say goodnight, so she comes over and huddles in with us.  Jim came too, wraps his arm around all of us. It was one of those really good moments you want to freeze in time.

So, Ana starts praying..."Dear Dod, thank you for my fam-i-ly and everything you provide 'em...(it's how she always starts) and at that moment she starts hacking and coughing and before you know it, she looks up at me and says, "I frew up." I look down at her pillow, and I'm like, um yeah, Ana, you did frow up.

Not only did she frow up there, she continued "frowing up" all over her bedroom.  Gabriel sat on his bed crying, sort of a crazy scream cry.  I don't know if he was scared for Ana or horrified that puke was all over his bedroom.  Julia stood there trying not to frow up herself.  Jim was already in motion with the frowed-up upon pillow.

Ahhh...the moments of life.  It's real life.  How I often want the Pollyanna moments with out the puke...the puke has  away of  making the Pollyanna moments unforgettable.

The Bride's Song

I come here to this altar
to this place of sacrifice
I give up all of who I was
to be your friend, your love, your wife.

May it be said of me,
that your heart trusts in me
May I be the wife
that God sees me to be.

May it be said of us
it's for the glory of...
our Holy God 
and His covenant love.

By the power of the cross
and the blood-bought gift of grace
forgiveness will be spoken here 
because of Jesus in our place

back to:  Prechorus and Chorus (and then to bridge)

This one flesh
a reflection of...
Christ and His church
A holy love (repeat and go to ending)

He died for his bride...He layed down His life.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

But Won't You Miss Him?

As we gear up for Jim to head off to Ethiopia, I've heard this question outright and implied a few times. Here's the answer:

Of course I'll miss him.  If you've been around us for any period of time, you know he's the glue that holds this place together.  He's the steady one.  The one who keeps the details, the schedules, the normalcy to it all.  My biggest fear is that Jim will return home to the 5 of us sitting on a pile of rubble, formerly known as our house, because I've forgotten some really important detail.

He is the first one to whom I've entrusted my heart.  Performing and Behaving has come easily but Trusting and Loving has taken much longer to learn.

But I love Him more:  Jesus, my Savior, my God, my King. This love is a gift from Him.

This comes as no surprise to Jim.  He's prayed it over me and even into me, that my most intimate, deepest relationship would be with the Lord, and that there would be no higher calling for me than that in His Word. Months ago, as I read, the Holy Spirit would bring back, time and time again, to Mark 8:35~For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses it for my sake and the gospel's will save it. My life bears little resemblance of what I once thought it would like at this point in my life, so at first, reading this verse seemed to be a reminder of what I had already lost for Christ's sake.  But God was lovingly beckoning me to surrender more.  To surrender to is trust more, to depend more, to be free to love him more.  I remember saying to Jim at one point, "We've done this already, right, we've given up our lives?"  But I came to a verse in Luke and was reminded that this is a daily surrendering and a believer can't merely survive on day-old grace.

I was hearing this in private, but it's easy to let daily tasks and personal fears drown out God's Word in my heart.  During this time, on a regular Sunday morning as Steve stood to preach, the Lord caught me off guard as Steve explained that we would take a 2 week break from the regular preaching series, to give a message that he believed God wanted to give. As soon as he began, I knew this message was like a sit-down in a chair across from my Father kind of talk.  The kind where you listen, don't wiggle, don't get up for a drink or to go to the bathroom.  Steve reminded us that we cannot hold onto our lives. The verses that had been running over and over in my mind about losing one's life, all at once made total sense, as the Lord lovingly spoke:   I love you, and I am asking you to surrender your reputation and your husband.  My response was what it always is when expression is too deep for words-I cried.  I just sat and cried through both sermons, knowing a renovation in my heart had begun, and with any renovation there is deconstruction, reconstruction, and new construction.

My Husband:  The Lord was showing me that I must surrender my husband.

Christ has poured grace upon our marriage, and we have had to fight in the strength God gave for the marriage we have through many obstacles, much pride, and deep wounds.  It is far from perfect, but to say joyfully that my husband is my best friend is not something I take lightly or for granted.

But God reminded me that my husband is a gift.  Marriage is a gift.  And ultimately,

this husband of mine is His son. 

This is the thought that has kept me praying for the men in my life more than any other.  These men, they're not merely husbands of friends, worship team members, children's teachers, or elders.  They are sons of my God. And He, my God, has not withheld his very Son, Jesus Christ, from me, giving me life,  how could I not joyfully surrender his son, Jim, back to Him?

So yes, I will miss him.  I will miss him praying with me and over me.  I will miss him chasing the kids and tickling.   I will miss hearing him drumming in Cole's room.  I will miss the warmth of his hugs when he comes and goes from our home.  I will miss his listening ear and the many other joys he brings me and our children.   
I couldn't surrender him for any other reason than for Christ and the Gospel.  

I do believe I can speak for both of us (and even the other husbands and wives who will be separated) when I say to be separated is not without pain or struggle but there is great joy, as we ultimately desire to lose our lives for the sake of Christ and the Gospel, to see Him proclaimed throughout all the nations.  

Because He's worth it.  He's worthy.  Because somewhere there's someone who doesn't yet know Him, love Him, or worship Him.  To know Him and be known by Him is to love and worship Him.

For God's Glory, Our deepest Joy, and
the Good of others.