A New Year: Thrive 1/28

a-new-year-thriveGrowing up in the church, I sometimes felt I did not have a testimony to share that would allow people to see God’s hand in my life. Up until a few years ago, my life was pretty easy. Ups and downs would come but I could easily manage through.

Spring Break of 2010 changed that.

During this holiday week, God added three additional children to our home. Dealing with the heartache that comes through a CPS case is hard enough for adults, but even worse on the children involved. God used this crisis to bring family devotions into our home as I tried to help my children, my niece, and my nephews make sense of this situation. A few months later in August, our world would stop in an instant.

I can clearly remember the moment Dr. Barkis told Nathan and I they found a mass on my brain. For what felt like the first time in my life, I was not in control of anything. I had no choice but to rely on God.

At the end of September, I could no longer keep up appearances. I needed a release. I spent time with God and completely gave him everything, allowing him to carry me and my family. The feeling of relief and calm was almost indescribable.

From that day on, I was free to see God’s hand at work. Many of my coworkers and friends ironically believed me to be in a state of disbelief or denial, but I was able to use those moments and give God praise for His strength.

Both of these difficult situations are not closed chapters in my journey home but God is in control of them. I may never completely understand the reason for my struggles but I know they are part of bigger plan.

I know in every situation God will be glorified.

My testimony may have a little more punch to it now, but God will use all of us, if we are willing, to better His kingdom through the word of each unique testimony. When is the last time you let go gave God complete control?

This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; He is my God, and I trust Him.

(Psalm 91:2)

Amber Franklin

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A New Year: Thrive 1/24

a-new-year-thrive“My times are in Thy Hand.”

Psalm 31:15

Eight years ago, I was brand new to the Taylor’s Valley staff by a few months, and went in for a routine women’s well check. What began as routine ended up as a full hysterectomy due to the detection of early stages of uterine cancer. The Lord was so very present in my life during this time and I experienced SO many of His blessings. The doctors told me tests do not usually pick up cancer cells in the uterus and had I waited a few months, the cancer would have been full blown.

When I got “the call” on my back porch one morning, I looked up in the blue sky and heard that still, quiet, and firm voice inside me ask, “How much are you going to trust Me?” I responded to the Lord, “I choose to trust You, Lord.” You see, I had been asking God to give me the kind of relationship my mother had with Him. Little did I know He would use a trial to strengthen my walk with Him!

He is so faithful!!!

He kept me in perfect peace through it every step of the way. There was only one time I was anxious. It was the appt. when we went to find out what stage of cancer I was in, at this point we did not know. As my sweet husband and I sat there in the doctor’s office waiting for what seemed like an eternity for Dr. Capen to come, I started to get antsy and shaking, telling my husband over and over it was taking too long. Then all of the sudden, the smoke alarm started going off! While we did not have to leave the facility, we did have to evacuate the area. It turned out to be a small electrical fire with one of their office machines…but it was EXACTLY what I needed to break the tension. After that, I was relaxed again and ready for the news!

He is so faithful!

I was flooded with flowers, calls, visitors, meals, prayers, and support from friends, family. Prayer warriors from so many churches, even across the country prayed for me. It was a humbling experience! The women of our church gave me such encouragement in those early days when we did not know what “stage” I was in. I was amazed how many cancer survivors there were in this church and words cannot express how much it meant to this “new” staff member to be supported. Our pastor came every day to the hospital and prayed with me. The nursing staff was phenomenal. It was my first surgery ever that required a hospital stay and I can’t say enough how much I appreciated the people He placed in my path.

He is so faithful!!

The end results were I was one sick girl. Not only did they find pre-cancer cells, but severe hypo-plasia, endometrial scarring in the fallopian tubes, and cysts (too many to count) on my ovaries (PCOS) (Which kept me from losing weight & having children). I didn’t love being thrown into “forced menopause”…but it’s better than the alternative. I could have had to face chemo and other horrible things cancer victims endure. I would not trade my experience for anything, because I felt His presence and it is indescribable.

My God is faithful

He has blessed me beyond measure and I am thankful to be able to live in His grace and mercy. I am SO very far from being perfect and certainly have made MANY bad decisions in my life, but that’s what living in God’s grace is about. If it were not for Christ’s sacrifice, I would not be where I am. I am thankful for the gift of my husband, my family, friends (old and new), children He has placed in my life, and our loving, supportive church!

He truly is faithful!

“Your steadfast love, O Lord, expands to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.”

Psalms 36:5

Beth Harris

ron-and-beth

A New Year: Thrive 1/10

a-new-year-thriveTaste and See

While sitting here thinking about what to write, a myriad of verses swirling through my head, the idea of trust keeps popping back up. It’s such a simple word, yet it entails a powerful meaning for those of us in Christ. After all, our lives as Christians began with the act of trusting Jesus to be our Savior.

According to Oxford Dictionaries, Trust is defined as “the firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.”

Sounds fairly straightforward, doesn’t it?

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems as though I am challenged to practice this thing called trust on a daily basis. Whether it be as a teacher dealing with a particularly rowdy group of 9th graders, as a mom wondering if I am making the best decisions for my family, or trying to figure out how to pay for something else that’s broken on the car, my life is defined by challenges that require me to trust in my God.

So, how does one do that exactly?

This question seems to be asked many times when we discuss trusting God. Exactly, how do you really do that?

The answer I usually give: experience. We trust God’s ability and reliability because we have experienced proof of it. Psalm 34:8-9 says,

“Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints, For those who fear him have no lack!”

Taste and See!

It’s easy to recall times when I have tried to work out my problems without turning to the Lord for help. The result was a “lack” in every sense of the word; lack of peace and a lack of solution. But then I call to mind those times when I turned first to the Lord for His provision.

Maybe for you, it was something big such as bringing you through an illness or providing for a major expense you weren’t expecting.

Maybe as it so often is for me, it was something small like giving an exhausted teacher a little extra patience with that rowdy group of 9th graders. In those times, oh how good He has been!

So today, whatever size challenges come your way, will you “taste and see” how good He can be?

Erica Farmer

 

A New Year: Thrive 1/6

a-new-year-thriveIt’s a God thing!

I have heard this said many times and experienced it in my own life many times. My explanation of this is there is no other explanation. Last summer we were babysitting two of our small great-grandsons. We have a swimming pool in our backyard and Ty (two years old) loved swimming with all of us, but always wore his life jacket. This particular day my husband and son were on the patio putting together a barbeque pit, and Ty was sitting in his little chair watching them. My daughter-in-law and I were inside with his younger brother.

I knew Ty was in good hands. My husband is always overly cautious when it comes to kids and the pool so there was no reason for me to be concerned.

All of a sudden, I had a sudden urge to ask about Ty’s whereabouts.

“Can you see Ty?” I asked my daughter-in-law. She immediately jumped up and ran out the back door and saw he wasn’t sitting in his chair! “Where is Ty?” she screamed while running toward the pool.

There he was – face down in the pool. My daughter-in-law jumped in the pool, grabbed him, and handed him to my husband who had jumped in with her. Ty immediately began crying! He was scared, but other than that, he was perfectly okay. Just one more minute and…

We were all hugging him, crying, and thanking God for His mercy and perfect timing. I am so thankful for a loving God who speaks to us even when we are unaware of our need.

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Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever.

Psalm 136:1

Ann Wilson

An Easter Anthem

The mercy and grace bestowed upon us is overwhelming. Tucked deep in the book of Job is a verse revealing the magnitude of God’s mercy in light of our sinfulness.

“I sinned and perverted what was right, and it was not repaid to me. He has redeemed my soul from going down into the pit, and my life shall look upon the light” (Job 33:27–28 ESV).

In this passage, Elihu is describing a hypothetical man and his response to God’s great mercy. We relate. We see our testimony in this declaration. Our broken world reeks of sin. Our fleshly natures long to be fed with that which the world offers. We have been tempted and we have fed ourselves. We have taken the gifts of God and perverted them to fulfill our own desires. And yet we are forgiven.

“For as high as the heavens are above the earth, So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:11-12 ESV).

Paul tells us in Romans 5:8 Christ died for us while we were still sinners. We were in mid-perversion when He went to the cross to redeem us from the pit. As my husband has diligently preached through the years, we do not bathe to come to Christ…He is the bath. Glory! What an incomprehensible, amazing love! What does this man do in response?

He sings (Job 33:27).

And Can It Be

And can it be, that I should gain

An interest in the Saviour’s blood?

Died He for me, who caused His pain

For me, who Him to death pursued?

Amazing love! How can it be?

That Thou, my God, should die for me?

Amazing love! How can it be?

That Thou, my God, should die for me?

Verse 2

‘Tis mystery all! The Immortal dies:

Who can explore His strange design?

In vain the first-born seraph tries

To sound the depths of love divine.

‘Tis mercy all! let earth adore,

Let angel minds inquire no more.

‘Tis mercy all! let earth adore,

Let angel minds inquire no more.

Verse 3

He left His Father’s throne above,

So free, so infinite His grace,

Emptied Himself of all but love,

And bled for Adam’s helpless race:

‘Tis mercy all, immense and free;

For, O my God, it found out me!

‘Tis mercy all, immense and free;

For, O my God, it found out me!

Verse 4

Long my imprisoned spirit lay

Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;

Thine eye diffused a quickening ray,

I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;

My chains fell off, my heart was free,

I rose, went forth and followed Thee.

My chains fell off, my heart was free,

I rose, went forth and followed Thee.

Verse 5

No condemnation now I dread;

Jesus, and all in Him, is mine!

Alive in Him, my living Head,

And clothed in righteousness divine,

Bold I approach the eternal throne,

And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

Bold I approach the eternal throne,

And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

Amazing love! How can it be?

That Thou, my God, should die for me?