Thursday, July 19, 2012

A year of Growth

Many of our friends and family have been praying for us and I thought today would be a good day to share how your prayers are being answered. To some of our close friends and family the information in this blog will be a surprise (no it is not a baby or an adoption).

A year ago this month our family made the move from Lansing, Michigan to beautiful Lancaster, Pennsylvania. This was not a move that came out of the blue. No, for a couple years God had been working on our family preparing us for a change. We knew he was getting us ready for a big change, and we waited and anticipated it. An opportunity came for Jeremy to apply for a leadership position in the company he worked for, Alro Steel. He figured even if he didn't get the position that it would give him an opportunity to hear from those above him what he needed to do to prepare for such a role in the company. It was a long shot for him to get such a position. But, God had other plans and Jer was offered the job. We saw God clearly directing our path to move to Pennsylvania. So, we moved out in faith. God made an awesome thing happen in providing us with a home and a wonderful church family all in the same week. Jeremy had come to Pennsylvania to start his job and to find us a home. Each Sunday he would attend a different church to see if he could find a church family for us. Week after week he didn’t find us a home or a church. Then one Sunday he felt called to look across the river (he had been looking in York, where he works). So, he found a church online and liked the preaching he heard (a message by Pastor Jerry), and decided to try it out. He felt a peace right away and called me afterward to tell me he thought he found a church family. The very next day, he received a call from the pastor and they talked about our housing need. The pastor knew of an elder who need to rent out his home, and asked if he could give Jeremy's number to him, in a matter of minutes the elder called and made plans for looking at the house and the next thing you know we are moving in.

What a beautiful story right. Well, here is where the story takes a turn. Jeremy resigned from his position and has asked to be given an opportunity to stay with the company in a different role. For those of you who didn't know this, sorry for the shock. What does this mean? Well, this year has been the most difficult, amazing, challenging, awesome, maturing, bonding, maddening, joyous, frustrating, and miraculous in our nineteen years of marriage. So, I'll start at the beginning. When Jeremy decided to apply for the position of plant superintendent. We both new that it would be a major commitment, especially at first. We knew that this being a new plant it would take time, energy, and God for Jeremy to come in and bring in the Alro company mentality. He knew he would have to do a lot of traing, and give a ton of training to others. He knew he would need to be gone often. I knew it too. But, we prayed and sought God and felt it would be worth it. One reason being that Jer knew once he got his plant running the Alro way it would allow him a little more flexibility in the long run. So we made a one year commitment of him giving his full time and attention to the company. This was huge, because Jeremy's always been a keep work at work and home at home kind of guy. But, I was excited for him and he was excited to see how God would use him and grow him in this situation.

So, we went into it committed together. Thank God he gave us the wisdom to make that plan or I am not sure our marriage would have survived it. When the kids and I arrived in PA. I was suffering from baby blues (I had just given birth to baby Anna), and all the moving prep had put my back out again. So, I was feeling pretty poorly. To make matters worse the kids (who are very friendly and outgoing) couldn't find any friends or neighbors to connect with. We were all quickly becoming discouraged, but wanting to be an encouragement to Jeremy when he was able to be home. The problem was we never knew when he would be home.

He was working at least twelve hours a day six days a week. Sometimes working days and sometimes working nights. He was working to get the shop in order and to train others, and to learn his role. He was leaning hard on the Lord and learning to trust in Him in ways he never had to in the past. Jer has been blessed with the ability to learn quickly and to apply what he has learned effectively. Often in past jobs he has excelled with little effort. This was not the case in this new position. He love the challenge, he loved the need to depend on God, he loved growing and maturing in new areas. It was a whole new season of life, he had never experienced before. But, even though he loved it, he hated the sacrifice of his time with his family. He knew his first calling was to raise kids for God's kingdom. He didn't like that he never saw them, or me. But, he pressed on.

At the same time, the kids and I started a new school year in a state with home school laws. This was overwhelming to me. So, instead of first seeking the Lord and his plan (and not wanting to bother Jer) I made my own plans. This plan was lots of school curriculum and books that we hadn't used in the past. This plan was a complete failure. So, as the fall term started coming to an end I started praying and seeking Godly counsel from Jer and others. God called me back to the basics.

In all these trying times one amazing thing was going on. God was everywhere. The kids were seeking God on their own. The church (New Song Fellowship) was so full of great teaching and Godly wisdom from the pulpit, classes, children's programs, teen programs, small group, and evangelists (Jimmy DeYoung played a huge role in our decision to go back to the Bible basics), and retreats (both marriage and youth). In the absence of my home school peers from Michigan, I began seeking new peers. An unexpected thing happened in that I found those new peers online, not here in PA. These peers became huge influences in our families life. God was surrounding us and he was taking us on a journey that leads straight to him.

About six months into this new job, Jeremy starts praying and reading his Bible like he never has before. It is a change that holds him steady through the rough days at work. As he seeks God's will for him in his whole life, work, community, family, church, etc. He continues to hear the same message over and over. It is time for you to lead your family. You need to be a good manager of your home. You need to learn from this job situation that without good leadership there is no true success. True success is being completely in the will of the Lord. Even though he hears this message he isn't sure how God wants him to apply it. So, he continues to seek the Lord, work the long hours, and try and manage his home too.

I am amazed at him. I am so proud of all the hard work he is putting in and the desire he has to make sure he stays connected to me. We talk, we pray, we struggle, we press on.

We fall in love with New Song Fellowship, we start to love Lancaster and see ourselves and the kids staying long term. The kids start making friends and finding ministries to serve in. We begin making plans to get more involved.

Then Jeremy starts coming home exhausted and defeated. He starts realizing he can't on his own bring the Alro way to this plant, and he isn't sure he knows what to do to be an encouragement to his boss, his co-workers, and his employees. But, he get's excited to head off to a leadership training. He had continued to seek the Lord for direction, and had been spending extra time specifically asking God to show him what to do about his job situation. When he arrived at the leadership training he instantly began to be encouraged. He was reminded that he worked for a good company, and that they wanted to have their employees be successful. One of the speakers continued to say that it was alro's desire that their employees succeed and especially those in leadership. He went on to say that a true leader recognized the season of life he is in and adjusted to it. Furthermore, he said that alro didn't want their leaders to stay in a position that wasn't working for that season of life they were in. That they wanted to hear from their employees and help them succeed. Jer heard those words and a peace came over him. He went from that training and began praying fervently that God would give him the words to say and let the company know he needed to step down from his position. He called me on his drive home, and I began praying with him. After he got him, we prayed together. There was a peace that we knew was from God. Jer would let them know he wanted to step down, but stay with the company. We knew that in this decision he could be let go and/or we would have to move again. We knew that he could not stay in this plant if they accepted his resignation. Jer gave his notice that very week, serving his superiors a letter of intent. The Lord went before him, and the letter was accepted and the men spoke words of praise over him. They asked that he continue in his current position and not tell others what was going on while they sought his replacement and an opportunity for him in the company. This was on May 20th. Since that time we have had many trials as we wait for the company to make the next move.

Jeremy's job continues to demand a great deal from him, and this past month his grandmother (in Indiana) suffered a serious stroke that ended in taking her home to the Lord after a month of struggle. These along with other family life struggles continue to press on us, but we continue to place our trust in the Lord.

During this year God has been ever faithfully drawing us to himself, and growing us together as husband and wife, and as a family. Today, we were given the news that in two weeks they will be presenting Jeremy with an opportunity. And now to the reason for this lengthy blog. We need your prayers to continue.

Here are our requests:

Pray with us that:

Jeremy can continue to work in his continued position for as long as God needs him to, and that he will work to bring God alone glory.

When Alro makes their offer Jer will know without a doubt if he should take it.

If it is time for Jeremy to walk away from Alro, that there will be a clear direction that we should go in, and that God's peace would abound.

When it does come time to move (we know that no matter what this time in PA is over, it the one thing we both agree on) that it we will know where, that we will find housing, and that the kids will be able to make a smooth transition.

Praise God with us:

That he gave us this year, it has been so exciting and wonderful to see God in the lives of the people here. This area is so rich with God's presence and we are so glad to have experienced it.

Perseverance really does bring growth.

These verses have been our strength this year. We hope they will encourage you too.
“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” – Hebrews 11:1 (NIV)

“(1)Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, (2)through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. (3)Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; (4)perseverance, character; and character, hope. (5)And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” – Romans 5:1-5 (NIV)

(22)Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. (23)Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. (24)Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! (25)Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? (26)Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?
(27)“Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. (28)If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! (29)And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. (30)For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. (31)But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. – Luke 12:22-31 (NIV)

“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.” – Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

A Mother's love that never ends

Additions made on 7/20/12

Got the call this morning that Jeremy's grandma finally went from this earth into the eternal presence of the Lord.  It has been a rough couple of weeks following her stroke, as her family has gently and lovingly cared for her.  Since we live so far away it has been hard for Jeremy and I to not be there to share in this tough time.  We are so grateful that we were able to go and take all the kids to visit her just at the right time.  Those first couple of days after the stroke she was able to communicate and respond to others.  It was a blessing to be able to go during those days, and be able to talk with her.  In the days to follow she began to slowly slip away.  It was so hard for us to get the reports each day of how she was doing.  But, as we recieved each report it helped us take time and remember her as she was.  Here are some of my memories of her.

I remember the first time I went to her house to celebrate Thanksgiving (when Jeremy and I were dating).  She had a full house of all her grandchildren and it was full of fun and silliness. I remember her scolding the boys not to make a mess in the basement like they had the year before, and them all laughing and joking about how gross it was (she just shook her head, in that way grandma's do her eyes saying boys will be boys).   I remember being amazed at how much work she did each holiday meal to make it special for her family.
I remember the many hours she spent helping to prepare for my wedding.  The gorgeous flower arrangements she made with love for us.  I remember the wonderful baby shower she held when our first born was expected.  Many other family celebrations she helped plan and prepare for.  She loved to be surrounded by her family.  Each of her children and grandchildren held a special place in her heart.  She knew each and everyone by name.  It always cracked me up when grandpa would mess up one of the kids names, she would correct him with that "oh Norm" voice she used only with him. 
I remember her trying to teach me to be crafty.  She invited me over and let me make a mess of the ornaments she was painting for Christmas.  She and grandpa every year made a special Christmas gift for every family.
I remember, most, the quiet one on one talks at the lake place.  It was during those visits that I could see not only her love for her family, but her love for God and others.  She liked to hear what was going on in my life and knew how to listen.  She often shared her own opinions on issues during these visits, but always in love.  She had wisdom to share and often encouraged me in whatever was going on in my life at the time. 
One of the things I will never forget about grandma is that no matter where we lived she made a point to come visit my home.  When we went to Iowa, she not only came to visit, but actually helped us move there.  Once we got there she helped set up and decorate the house.   Again when we moved to Michigan she made the trip to come to our house.  Then when we moved again to Pennsylvania she and grandpa made the long trip out.  This spoke words of love to me in so many ways.  
Another beautiful thing about this woman was her love for all her grandchildren, no matter how they came to join the family.  It did not matter if a child was born into the family or adopted into the family, in her eyes they were all the same and she poured her love on them all the same.
That last visit we had with her in the hospital will forever be in my memory of special times.  Even though she had suffered great damage to her brain, she fought with all her might to connect with each and every visitor that came into the room to see her.  I sat at the side of her bed as many visitors came and went.  As each one spoke to her, she fought to respond to them with love.  Especially the young great grandchildren.  As each person would speak to her and hold her hand, she would struggle to open her eyes and speak a word of love to them.  Even in her slurred speech you could her her love and encouragment as she said things just for them.  Young, Tanner, came to her and she told him what a special boy he was, such a great little ball player.  When my own girls came to her, she asked them to sing to her one more time, and told them what beautiful voices they had.  When my Daniel, my cook, came in, she talked to him about cooking a meal.  It went on and on for each of those who came in to see her, she had a word of love for them to comfort them in her time of suffering. 
The greatest testimony of her life is the love that her family poured back on her in those last days.  As soon as each of her loved ones heard she was in the hospital it was a regular flow of visitors to see her.  The outpouring of love for her was evident when we came to see her, as many other family members also came and went.  When it came time to move her home, there was no shortage of volunteers to stay with her and grandpa.  This love that her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren have for her, is the same love that she gave to them returned back.  What a testimony of her life to have so many who cared for her in thos last days.
Her husband, daughters, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and even one little great-great grandchild will miss her greatly.  As well, as many other extended family members and friends.  I hope that when the day the Lord calls me home, I will be remembered with so much love by so many.

Wanted to share a cute story about grandma shared from two of her grandson's point of view.  This is a story told from Matt DeRoo and Michael Wenger.

It was the night we always "pent the night" so after school we headed over to grandma's house.  On our way there we spotted some girls playing outside, and being boys we asked grandma if we could go out and play on the street over from her house.  Grandma said we could.  Well, we had been out a short time and the next thing we see grandma out taking a walk.  We asked her what she was doing, and she said, " Oh just taking a little walk."  We continued to play and then we saw grandma riding down the street on her bike.  We asked her what she was doing, and she said, "Oh just taking a bike ride."  Well, we kept playing and it started getting dark.  What do you know we see grandma coming down the road in the car.  This time she say,"she's just taking a drive,"  and we get in the car. 

The way these two men told the actual story was much funnier and cuter.  But, I wanted to add it here, just to show a side of grandma that I didn't share before. Since I didn't grow up knowing her as a child.  She was just that kind of woman she loved and protected the people and animals in her life.

If you would like to read more about Jeremy's family and grandparents, click here.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A Child like faith that leads to salvation

So I have been thinking on salvation as a young child? You know when a child between the ages of 3-8 prays and asks Jesus into their heart. I was one of those kind of kids. I remember at a young age asking my dad to pray with me so I could have Jesus in my heart. To be honest, I don't remember exactly how old I was or what I prayed that night. I do remember it was during revival services at the mission school where my parents worked. I know that I probably prayed about being a sinner and wanting Jesus to save me, but that is about all I can recall. Like myself, most of my children too have prayed similar prayers in these young years. Prayers of simple child like faith. Are these true prayers of salvation?

My question is since we as people can't truly understand in our human minds the concepts of relationships, death, and sacrifice until we have matured in our minds (which starts happening at puberty), can we truly understand salvation and the need for it? As I grew and developed into a young lady, I remember another time in my spiritual life when I felt called to make a commitment to God. This was at church camp when I was thirteen. This commitment wasn't just a desire to have Jesus be my savior and be able to go to heaven someday. No this was a new decision. A decision to serve and love the Lord with all of myself. This decision was made with more mental awareness of what Jesus had truly done for me, and with the understanding that I could truly have a personal relationship with God.

So, was I saved as a little girl when I prayed with my daddy, or was salvation really gained later when I truly understood the message of the Gospel?

As I have watched my own children go through this same process of praying the simple children's prayer of faith for salvation, and then later struggling through to find their own personal understanding of who Jesus is and what he has done for them, I have wondered about this salvation assurance that is preached. Recently, I have watched my son Brenden go through this process. I can tell you about the day he prayed and asked Jesus into his heart as a little boy. But in the last year or so I have watched him as he has struggles to come to terms with what he truly believes about Jesus, God and the Bible. He is thirteen and going through those normal identity issues that all teens go through. He has to question and ponder whether he believes what his parents have taught him, or if there may be a different truth. It has truly been a joy to watch this process in him. He is like his father, and is a quiet thinker. He doesn't feel the need to shout out the answers and talk through everything. Instead, he quietly listens and learns, and watches and studies. In the last couple of months, I could see that it was all starting to line up in his heart and mind. That the TRUTH of God's Word was revealing itself to him and then it happened. At just the right time, he heard the call to make a commitment to the Lord and he stood and made that choice to make GOD the Lord of His life.

So, now was he truly saved as a little boy when he prayed that simple prayer of faith, or was it not until he wrestled through his Faith that he was saved.

Well, here is my thoughts. I believe he received the wonderful gift of forgiveness and eternal salvation at the moment he in faith believed and asked for it. Ephesians 2:8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith —and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God .Was that when he was a little boy, or a teen? I truly don't know because I can not see inside his heart. But what I do know is that God knows His children and he claims them to himself. Ephesians 1:4-5 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship[c] through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—

As I read the story of Jacob in the Old Testament I see that he had a relationship with God even before he wrested with Him and found his faith in him. I also notice in this story that Jacob after wrestling with God has times when his faith is weak. But, God is ever faithful to Jacob. Genesis 27-29 So, I know that God seeks out His children and calls them to himself.

I also know that many would say that the prayer of salvation is the first step in our relationship with God, and that the act of sanctification starts in this second step of devoting our lives to Christ. But I have also seen (especially in people whom come to salvation as adults) this desire to make God the center of ones life as a direct result of salvation, immediately take place.

As I have pondered these things about salvation as a child, I have felt blessed to have been raised in a Godly home. I feel privileged to offer God's truth to my own children while they are young. Because the Truth was constantly available to me as a young girl, it was easy to grasp it and take hold of it. It allowed me to place my trust in God even as I went through those years of finding my own identity as a teen. It continues to be the foundation I stand on when doubt and insecurity come my way. You see I believe that true faith takes place daily, as we take up our cross daily. There is in this world always going to be things that come to distract us from God, and confuse us about what is true, but if we learn and follow His ways we can be assured of our eternal salvation. Luke 9:23-27 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.”