Friday, June 15, 2012

Ever Wonder?

Do you ever wonder if someone is a Christian? Have you ever assumed a loved one knows the Truth of salvation? How can you be sure if someone you love and care about is truly eternity ready?

These are the thoughts that have been on my mind these last couple of days. You see my husband Jeremy's grandmother suffered a serious stroke this past week, and we went and spent time with her and Jeremy's grandfather. As I sit there in the hospital, I realized that I hadn't ever really talked about salvation with either of them. They both attend church every Sunday and are involved in their church. They are quiet committed family people. In fact, I would say that their family is everything to them. At least, from my perspective it appears that way. I have had some good meaningful conversations with them over the years, and I guess I just assumed that at some point before I met them they made a decision to be a Christian.

So, what if this assumption on my part is false? What if even though these two wonderful people whom I have grown to love since marrying their grandson never made a solid choice to accept the gift of salvation and eternal life with God? What are the right words to say in such a situation?

These are the many thoughts I have been pondering since I sat and visited with them in the hospital.

Here is the answers I am coming up with:

The first thing I realize is that many people call themselves Christians, so to ask if someone is a Christian is probably not going to get me the answer I am looking for. So maybe a better question is, “Can you tell me about the day you accepted Jesus Christ as your savior from your sins?” I realize that a true Christian is someone who has admitted they are a sinner and in need of a savior. A true Christian is someone who also realizes there is only ONE God and that Jesus is the only person who lived and died a sinless life. A true Christian realizes that Jesus is and was and always will be God. That he came to earth as a man and died for all sin, but to be forgiven a true Christian must accept this gift of salvation. A true Christian acknowledges that Jesus rose from the dead and conquered death, and that because of this he is the only way to an eternal relationship with a Holy and Righteous God.

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

Romans 6:23

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 10:9-13

because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Next I realize that it is better to risk offending a love one and asking them about being a Christian than it is to risk they are not. So often we worry about what others think, but isn't it better to worry about what God thinks. He tells us to reach the lost near and far, and who better to take to heaven with us than those we love here on earth.

Romans 1:16

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

The last thing I realized is I don't want anyone to have to wonder if I am heaven bound. I want to live my life in a way that everything I do says to others I know Jesus Christ as my Lord and savior. I want to be ever ready to share the Gospel Truth with everyone and anyone. I want to live a life that leaves no question that God is the center of who I am and hope to be.

Matthew 5:13-16
You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Journey to Obedience

Journey to Obedience
(learning to live dependent on God)

Recently, several people have encouraged me to write out our family story.  My first thought was   who really wants to read our story. I have enjoyed reading so many other peoples interesting and exciting stories online and in books.  Mine is just so ordinary.  But, then my husband asked if I would write it out.  So, I am writing it for him.  It is just a story of two ordinary people trying to learn to live completely dependent on God, and His faithfulness even when they continue to fail.


As I wrote this story, I so enjoyed thinking of all the times God provided for our family in amazing ways.  I was reminded over and over, as I wrote, of how blessed we truly are, and how wonderful a gift each of my children are to me.  Many details are left out of this readers digest version of our family story, and I hope to slowly fill in these details with individual blogs (like chapters) later.  This short version focuses on God's faithfulness even in our lack of trust in Him.  I want to make it clear that this is OUR story, and it is not a message to others to choose what we have chose.  It is a message to choose to follow the LORD with all of your heart in whatever He is calling you to.   I hope you enjoy reading it, and that it is used by God to some how minister to someone.
Blessings, Katie

     When I was a young girl, my mom (a young Christian woman of simple faith in a mighty God), taught my sisters and I to pray for our future.  She said we should pray specifically for our future spouse, and she also prayed daily for that young unknown man.
Miles away, in Indiana, Jeremy was born to a young girl of seventeen.  This was a wonderful and amazing act of dependency on God.  Jeremy's mom found herself pregnant and scared as a high school girl.  She fell on her knees and prayed to God, and he came and comforted her and gave her the courage to trust in Him and to raise this child.  With the help of her parents she was able to begin the process of raising a wonderful son.  Soon, she met a young man and they married.  This man adopted Jeremy and made him his own.  This act of love would influence Jeremy's decision to adopt in the future.
As I began praying for my future spouse, I would pray for his protection and for his relationship with God.  I would pray God would prepare him to be my spouse, and I hoped with all hope that I would be able to marry right out of high school.  All I ever wanted was to be a wife and mother.  This was a dream that society seemed to think I should hold off on.  There was pressure all around to look at the future with college and career plans.  But my hope was to marry and serve the Lord.  Beyond that I wasn't sure what I wanted.
The summer before my senior year in high school my family moved.  We moved to a small town in Indiana where my dad would begin pastoring a small country church.  It is here, that I meet Jeremy for the first time.  Soon, we began dating and not long into our relationship, we began to talk about our future together.  We would go for walks and talk for hours about our plans together.  During these talks we often prayed, and soon we both realized that God was speaking to our hearts.  We both heard over and over from the Lord, that he wanted us to trust Him to number our children.  We were young and innocent, and had no idea what he was truly asking of us.  But, we thought we could do that.  I had visions of maybe six kids, Jeremy said maybe nine.  We also, both agreed God wanted us to foster other children and help other families (this was something I had been raised with, as my parents had fostered and adopted many children).  We were excited about our future and at our high school graduation in May of 1993, we got engaged, and were married that December.  In these first years of our marriage God gave us the verse Jeremiah 29:11 as our family verse.  "For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."'
I secretly hoped and prayed God would give us a couple years before we started having children, and God did.  So, we spent the first two years of our marriage growing together as a couple, and then the day came when we were expecting our first child.  There was excitement and fear.  We were both attending Bible school at the time, and working at Wal Mart.  My fears abounded that we would not be able to care for a baby and do school.  But, the time came and baby Tyler Ann was born on April 28th, 1996.  Jeremy decided to step out of school and go to work full time, and I continued to work part time and attend school part time, and be a full time mom (baby Tyler went with me everywhere).  Surely, God did not mean for us to keep having children right then, and surely he wanted us to be better able to provided security for our children.  So, we decided to take the doctors advice and use birth control.  This was not a good choice, since, I suffer from hormonal imbalance, but the doctor seemed to think it was and doctors always know best.  So, birth control and contraceptives were bought and used, but amazingly even with these precautions we soon found ourselves expecting again.  Another easy and blessed pregnancy and delivery and another beautiful baby girl.  Rachel Elizabeth was born on September 28th, 1997,  and we were living in my parents basement at the time.  Yes, that's right, I said parents basement.  So, we knew for sure God does not want us to have anymore children in these circumstance.  So again we tried another birth control and more contraceptives to assure a good space between pregnancies.  Shortly after Rachel's birth, we moved into a home and began to foster children.  We were excited to share our home with other children and work with parents to reunite these families.  A few children came and went, and we felt blessed to have been able to care for and serve these families.  But, then one day, two children came into our lives, and from day one we knew God waned us to make a long term commitment to them.  Still with no plans to adopt any of our foster children, we cared for these two, Daniel and Lydia, and our hearts were broken as they came and went from our home into troubling situations.  As this was going on, we found ourselves pregnant again, even though we had taken great precautions to not be.  This time, we were blessed with a baby boy, Brenden Joseph on May 5th, 1999.  We realized that God is going to number our children and we needed to trust in him, and stop worrying about what others think or say.  So, even though we had made some poor financial decisions and were working to get out of massive debt, we decided not to take steps to stop another pregnancy. 
Daniel and Lydia continued to come and go from our care, and we realized that God was calling us to adopt them.  Truly overwhelmed by this idea, we stepped out in faith and began the process of adoption. This process was so much more painful than pregnancy and labor.  It was during this painful time of learning to trust on the Lord's timing, that he gave us a new verse. Romans 8:28" And we know that to them that love God all things work together for good, even to them that are called according to his purpose."  As we moved forward with adoption, we soon gave birth to another baby girl, Rebekah Joy on September 28th, 2000.  Then at the end of that year Daniel Tiger(September 30th, 1995)and Lydia Lucinda(November 3rd, 1998)were officially adopted. 
Now, a full-time, stay at home mom of six under six(sometimes more if we have foster children) I find myself suffering from severe migraines and other health problems.  I have suffered with migraines since puberty due to the hormone imbalance, but these were much worse than any I had ever had.  They would come on so sudden and be so painful that I would literally fall to the floor in pain.  This was terrifying as they would happen and all the kids would be out in the backyard playing and I would be unable to move.  So off to the doctor I go, and it doesn't look good.  One doctor says my blood work reveals that my hormones are so off, that you would think I was pregnant with triples (I am not pregnant at all).  Another doctor says, it appears I have a tumor on my pituitary gland.  Both, agree that the best course of action is hormone therapy.  This means depo vera injections.  Being young and trusting in my doctors, we agree to this course of action.  I receive the first injection, with a warning that I could experience bleeding, spotting, or neither.  I bleed for a full three months.  I return to the doctors office, I report the bleeding, I am told this is normal and that it should correct itself after a few more injections, and that I need to do a full years course of injections to correct the hormone imbalance.  I get the next injection.  The head aches worsen, the bleeding continues, and I can't take care of my house and children at times because the pain is so severe.  Now, I return to the doctor, and again I am told that I just need to continue with the treatment and it will all work out in the end.  So, I get my third injection at this time.  I begin to get worse, my hormones are not balancing, my head aches are out of control, and the doctors are certain now that I must have a tumor.  I am scheduled for an MRI, and encouraged to continue with the injections.  I get one more injection.  Shortly, after this injection, I begin bleeding so heavily that Jeremy rushes me to the hospital.  This is when a  doctor comes and tells us that it appears I may have had a tubal pregnancy and lost the baby.  The doctor telling us this states that this is common with depovera.  NO one had told us this before we started the treatment.  We were devastated to think we could have killed our own child.  They got the bleeding slowed and I went home.  I then asked the women of my church to pray for me. In pride, I had not shared with anyone the struggle I was going through, for fear they would judge me. This is one of the areas I continue to struggle in, and God continues to teach me in.  After the women started praying, I began feeling better almost immediately, and the head aches come less and less.  When I went for the MRI and the next round of blood work everything was clear and normal. During this trial, I learned to depend on God and to trust His people.  It was a hard lesson and I continue today to struggle in it.
God gives us this verse during this season of our lives.  Proverbs 3:5-6 "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths." 
Life sort of settles into a routine of homeschooling, spending time at grandma's, and being involved in the church.  God blesses us and we are able to pay off all our debt in less than 2 years (over $28,000).  To this day, we are not sure how this was done, but God multiplied our income.  We buy our first home, and I become pregnant with our seventh child.  This is a difficult pregnancy as I become very mentally unstable.  I am extremely cruel to Jeremy and often times have terrible nightmares and fits of depression and anger.  By the end of the pregnancy I am suffering from sever insomnia and I am terrified I won't have the strength to deliver the baby.  But, on September 26th, 2003, I give birth to a baby boy, Jeremiah John, weighing 9 lbs. 13 oz.  I continue to struggle for several more months with depression and anxiety.  Jeremy decides maybe this is a sign we shouldn't have more children.  So, he schedules to have a vasectomy.  The doctor tries to talk him out of it, but Jeremy is not convinced and the surgery is scheduled.  Three times unusual circumstances interfere with the surgery, the doctor has to have emergency surgery, the hospital has a problem with the surgery room, and then the hospital has no recorded of Jeremy's scheduled appointment.  After the third conflict, Jeremy and I both realize that it is not to be done.  Soon, I become pregnant again, and it is the most beautiful, enjoyable pregnancy I have had. (note: all my pregnancy are extremely easy and without complication, even with Jeremiah's I was physically very healthy)  The day of delivery comes and it is the easiest labor and delivery thus far.  Joshua James is born on April 25th, 2005.  He brings us so much joy, and is a happy, easy going guy.  We are so grateful God brings him into our lives.
I continue to struggle with mans opinion of our choice to continue to have children and to raise them at home.  But, God blesses us and we move forward.  Each year of homeschooling is more fun than the year before.  I wonder if it is possible to be more blessed, and even wonder why God chose me for this great job of training these young ones.  I think back often to those days when Jeremy and I would walk and talk.  I remember God speaking to us that he wanted us to  raise up Kingdom Builders.  Often, feeling so unworthy of such a calling, I would pray and ask him to show me how to do such a task. 
He was ever faithful, even when I wasn't.  We continued to have the privilege to care for other children in our home, and to help other families.  It was amazing how God would bring people into our lives for us to minister to right in our own home.  We enjoyed ministering to single mom families, as well as, offering respite care for families of severely handicapped children.  Our children seemed to have a desire early on to care for others.  The day to day, could be hard at times, but God provided even when we didn't always trust him to.
Then in 2007, on May 10th, Zachery Caleb was born.  The boys began to out number the girls ,and it was evident in the house.  Rough and tumble boys everywhere.  It is at this point we hear God calling our family to adopt again.  The call is clear, and yet both Jeremy and I secretly feel overwhelmed by the thought.  We know God wants us to consider adopting a medically fragile child with limitations.  We are excited to use the experience he has given us to offer a home to a waiting child, but at the same point we wonder if we are truly up to the call.    Stepping out in faith we start the process and again it is a more painful process than pregnancy and delivery.  But, God in his sovereignty matches us up with a child who, we will find fits into our home perfectly.  As we fly out to California to adopt Davey (Robert David, March 6, 2003) I am full of emotions.  One moment, so excited to finally meet my son, and the next so overwhelmed and feeling so unworthy of the task of being his mother.  I question God the whole way there if he is sure this is right.  We arrive at the place to meet him and he gets out of the car, and in that moment I see him and I know without a doubt this is my son.  David had been in a wonderful foster home, and they had prepared him to meet us.  So, from day one he knew us as mom and dad and felt right at home.  I am always so grateful to the family that had him and helped him become ready to be in our home.  He continues to grow and develop in independence.  He is one of the happiest most content people you will ever meet.  God has truly blessed us with him.
On the plane ride home from picking up Davey, I realize that the sickness I am feeling is not just from the rough flight, but that it is morning sickness.  So, we brought David home at the beginning of the summer of 2008, and God blessed us again in February on the 5th, of 2009, with Stephen Michael.  The boys are truly outnumbering the girls.  Some days, I think they are running things and I am not.  But, God has truly blessed us to be able to continue to keep them all home and learn and grow in him together.  We start sensing that God is planning a change for our family, and we begin praying that he will prepare us all, and that we will be obedient to whatever is next.   He begins teaches me what true submission looks like, to Him and to Jeremy.  Jeremy decides to try for a new position with his company. 
God gives us a new verse:  Joshua 24:15 "As For Me And My House We Will Serve the Lord." 
We are all excited and nervous to see what the Lord will do.  Jeremy gets the position and we are on an adventure moving to Lancaster, PA.  But, it isn't that easy.  Jeremy heads out to start his new job in April 2011 and to find us a home.  I am pregnant again, and wait trusting in God's timing (or trying to be trusting).  It takes longer than we expected to find a home, and Jeremy has to come back to Michigan for the birth of baby girl, Christianna Hesed, on June 8th, 2011.  During this time of being separated and learning to truly trust in God and Jeremy, I grow greatly.   We are blessed with an opportunity to rent a house finally, and we see the Lord's hand's all over this provision.  We finally pack up the kids and move to Lancaster.
After arriving in Pennsylvania, I begin to suffer with feeling blue.  I am not sure if it is baby blues, anxiety over the move, or something else.  But, I find the homeschooling laws overwhelming and think I need to change the way I have been teaching.  I buy all kinds of books and materials and lay out a plan for the year.  It is a complete fail , or as the kids say, epic fail.  I can see my kids struggling ,I am struggling, and Jeremy is struggling.  I begin to pray and seek God, and Jeremy and the kids do too.  God reveals to me that he wants me to return to teaching the kids from His Word.  So, I get back to work on writing my own curriculum and find others who have done great work in this area, and seek their counsel.  God blesses me with new friends and great Biblical counsel through the church we are attending and through home school connections online.  This season of our lives is like none we have been in before it.  We are all challenged to grow into a deeper dependency on God. 
God gives us a new verse:  Matthew 6:33 "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."
This is our present season of life.  We do not yet know what is next for us.  But, we do know that God wants us to depend on him every moment of everyday.  We realize when he called us to be Kingdom Builders and to let Him number our children, that what he really wanted was to teach us to trust Him with everything.  Trust Him to provide physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally all that we need,  because we realize that we are nothing without Him.  As I write this, it is baby Anna's first birthday, and we look forward to celebrating today and many days to come her life and the lives of all our children.  But, whatever God holds for our future, we choose to seek to obey Him and trust Him.