Seeing God’s Goodness in our Suffering

Editor’s Note: During the month of January, we will be reposting some of the top posts from 2019. I hope these encourage you. We have some great series planned for 2020. Stay tuned for all new posts coming in February!!

It’s been a little over a year since my husband and I lost the last two of our precious embryos with a failed IVF cycle. Our first IVF cycle, 6 years ago, was successful and gave us the two most amazing gifts we’ve ever received: Elliott and Sam. And because of that success, we never imagined our second try failing, but it did, and we were left heartbroken and disillusioned. All of our dreams of adding to our family were crushed by a 30 second phone call with news of a negative pregnancy test. 

As much as I wish it weren’t so, we will all find ourselves in seasons of suffering.

The Bible promises us that we will suffer and yet it’s here where we wrestle with what we know to be true about who God is and what our feelings try to manipulate us into believing.

I can remember being so angry with God and questioning how he could ever allow us to walk through such devastation. I withdrew from Him, my husband, and my friends. I could actually feel my heart growing hard. 

I think it’s natural to withdraw or retreat when we’re in pain but I know now that God never meant for us to retreat and then isolate ourselves. His Word tells us to retreat and find refuge in Him.  (Psalm 46:1, Psalm 27:5, Psalm 71:3, and more)

I’m so grateful God reached down to pull me out of my pit of grief and I’m even more grateful that I chose to grab His hand. I was so blinded by everything I was feeling that I had forgotten His goodness. He’s been good to me all of my days. 

There were three things that I’d like to share with you that helped me to see God’s goodness in the middle of my suffering. Three things that I know will help you to see His goodness too. 

1) Gratefulness

One of the first things that popped into my mind after we lost our babies was how grateful I was for Elliott and Sam. I always knew they were miracles, but even more so after our second IVF cycle wasn’t successful. 

Psalm 50:23 says that giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors the Lord. Gratefulness to God when you’re angry with Him or when you don’t understand what He’s up to or when you’re hurting so deeply you can barely breathe…oh yes, that’s a sacrifice. But gratefulness has a way of helping change our perspective. It keeps our eyes focused on Jesus. There is always something to be grateful for. 

2) Other Believers

Matthew 18:20 says that God shows up when two or more gather in his name. If you’re suffering right now and feel like God has abandoned you, find a friend or family member and start praying in agreement over your situation and God promises He will show up on the scene. 

3) Standing on the Promises in God’s Word

Here’s where I have been standing and it has been solid ground for me:

  • Psalm 73:21-26 – God holds me, God is the strength of my heart
  • Psalm 23:1-4 – He refreshes my soul, he gives me His presence and His comfort
  • Romans 8:28 – He works all things for my good

And the list goes on and on….

Can you imagine the impact our lives would collectively have if we as women would rise up in the midst of being deeply hurt and make the beautiful choice to still walk out biblical truth? To stand on the promises of God for us? Can we make the choice today to say, “God I believe your Word is true and I will not let my circumstances change that belief.” 

No matter what we’re suffering through, there is good news for each one of us: God has created a beautiful path for us through our suffering, a journey that’s redemptive, healing, and life-giving. 

I love this prayer from one of my favorite authors, Lysa Terkeurst. I hope you will pray this with me today. 

God, even though my circumstances don’t feel good right now, I know that you are still good. So, I’m choosing to praise You. I praise You for being trustworthy. I praise You that You are with me in this moment and You stand in all of my tomorrows as well. I praise You for being the wisdom I can lean on when I have none of my own. I praise You for being my strength when I reach the end of my own. And I praise You that even though my circumstances change, You never do. You are forever faithful, forever loving, forever my good and gracious God.

We would like thank Amber Curry for writing this blog post.

Ungrateful Vs. Grateful

Editor’s Note: This fall we will be doing a 10-part series on Flesh vs. Spirit. We hope these ladies’ testimonies will encourage and inspire you to keep pushing through, to keep battling, to keep believing in God’s truth that says you are an OVERCOMER. Though it sometimes feels like we are losing the battle, we have overwhelming victory though Christ and His blood shed on the cross. Be encouraged today!

For as long as I can remember, my mother has always taught me manners. Manners like, “yes ma’am,” “no ma’am,” “thank you,” and “you’re welcome.” Since becoming a mother a little over 9 years ago, I have tried my absolute best to pass down the trait of manners. Now, the question is…do we really mean it? Are manners just us going through the motion because that is what we are taught? 

To be completely honest with you, I have not always been so grateful or had a heart of “manners” in certain circumstances. At times, I have acted in an ungrateful manner. I’m going to have to go out on a limb and say we all may have at some point in our lives.

But the fact of the matter is, it’s pleasing to the ear and heart to hear someone say, “Thank you!” with a pure and grateful heart. 

Growing up in a household of seven with a father who worked as a full-time minister, you learn to be grateful. My father gave everything he had to pursue the calling God had placed on his life. What did that mean 25+ years ago? It meant limited income. I was raised to be thankful for every meal placed in front of me and every piece of clothing that was placed on my back, which my mother worked so hard to perfect through her sewing. Through all things, God always provided time and time again.

We often forget to be grateful for the needs for which God has provided. Instead we are caught up in being ungrateful for the things we want but don’t or can’t have. 

It is discouraging when you see children and teens acting as if they’re owed something or deserve something. Unfortunately, as adults we, too, act like this. We often act like ungrateful, unappreciative children in our relationship with God. Can we just ponder on how that must make him feel? He is the God of grace, mercy, unconditional love, and forgiveness. But yet, we forget to give Him thanks and often times we take what he has given us for granted. We can catch ourselves feeling as though he has forsaken us when we are not at the place we want to be with our job, finances, physical ability, or our health. When we do not succeed in what we want, we get upset. 

As grandparents, parents, aunts, siblings, and people of influence and authority, we need to be an example and teach our loved ones to have a grateful heart. In scripture, God teaches and commands us to give thanks in all things. Evaluate your heart and ask God to change the ways of your heart and to forgive you for any thoughts or traits of feeling ungrateful. 

“In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
– Thessalonians 5:18

Dear Heavenly Father,

We come before you and ask that you renew our minds and our hearts. That in all things and in all circumstance you would give us a heart of overflowing gratitude, not for what we have or how much we have, but for what you have given us. Let us remember to always give thanks in the calm and through the storm, on the mountain and through the valley. It is in your mighty name we pray, Amen.

Have a great Thanksgiving.

We would like to thank Jerika Longoria for writing this post!

Parenting 101: The Art of Letting Go

Editor’s Note: We have asked a few women to share their talks from our last Life Giving Saturday. If you weren’t able to attend, this is a perfect opportunity to hear these women’s hearts. We know they will encourage you!

Jeremiah 1:4-5 says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.  Before you were born I set you apart.”

Luke 2:19 says, “Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

These two verses have stuck with me for over 19 years.  They have been the truth that has sustained me as a mom:

         1.  God has known my children from the foundation of the earth.

         2. Mary, the mother of Jesus, had to treasure/ponder the destiny/purpose of Christ in her heart. 

I truly believe, to be able to parent well, our foundation of who our children’s real father is, must be established in our hearts.

The question is…how do we live out these two verses when we’re parenting our children?  I’d say the answer to that question is through PRAYER and SURRENDER.

When I was pregnant with Joshua I began asking God, praying that He would give me words to speak and pray over Joshua.  Words of truth, words of life, words of courage.  I soon had a song in my heart that I’ve sung over all my boys, nieces, and nephews, and every baby I’ve ever rocked to sleep.  The fact that God gave me a song, doesn’t make me special – it’s just a testimony to a living God who has abundant life and vision and purpose for our children.  He desires for us to position ourselves in a way to receive truth from Him so we can speak His truth over our children.  Prayer is powerful!

During different seasons of parenting I remember making conscience choices to let go of control and to trust God and His word, to surrender my fears and concerns to Him.  I started to stand on the truth of Jeremiah 1, and believe that if God knew my children before He formed them in my womb, then I could trust Him with their lives.

I have specific memories of my kids playing at 16th street park and me being over protective of the monkey bars and Jesus whispering kindly to my heart, “Let them be brave.”

Or, the 1sttime Brad took the boys hunting and my fear of harm coming to them surfaced and the Lord speaking to me, “Brad loves your boys as much as you do.  He won’t let harm come to them.”

All three of my boys are dreamers.  They have BIG dreams, dreams that honestly scare me.  I’ve been tempted, at times, to be the “practical mom” that puts doubts to their dreams.  Early on, while I was praying through some of my kids’ “big dreams” I felt the Lord speak these powerful words to me.  It’s helped me remember who the ultimate dream keeper is…He said, “Dreams shape us, don’t smash them.  Just keep pointing them to Me.  I can handle their dreams.”  

The words of Christ have liberated me as a mom.  It’s put motherhood in perspective for me.  I’m not in charge of their destiny, Christ is.  I can’t make them be someone, or keep them safe.  My job is to point them to Christ, to pray my guts out for them, and to ponder their destiny in my heart, just like Mary did concerning Jesus.  

I’ve learned that I can either treasure the destiny and purpose God has for my kids, or I can control and manipulate the situations that parenting bring.  I’ve done both, but I can tell you peace comes when I’m living a life of PRAYER and SURRENDER concerning my kids.  

Here are a few truths that I’ve pondered in my heart for my children:

  • God ordains their steps…Psalms 37:23
  • Every hair on their head is numbered…Luke 12:7
  • They are fearfully and wonderfully made…Psalms 139:14
  • God is intimately acquainted with all their needs…Psalms 139:3
  • They are created in the likeness of God’s image…Genesis 1:27

I spent many years not feeling like a good mom.  I compared myself to others, and often felt overwhelmed and discouraged.  I remember the day my counselor told me, “Julie you’ve never given up.  You’ve stayed, and loved, and been present.”  It liberated me.  

I don’t know where you are today on your journey of mothering, but I can promise you, when you choose to stay, when you choose to show up, when you choose to pray the hard prayers and speak the words of Christ over your kids, God does His part in our children’s lives and we will see His hand accomplish His will concerning our children.  He loves them more than we do.  He knit them together.  They are fearfully and wonderfully made in His likeness.

I’m cheering for you mom!  I’m believing in you!  And I know, when we’ve prayed and surrendered, God moves mountains for us, that we could never move on our own.

I’m praying that God would impart in you an anointing for faith and an ability to speak destiny and truth over your child.  May He bring vision that will not only keep your child from perishing, but also keep you in a place of peace.

With all my love,

Julie

We would like to thank Julie Snellgrove for writing this post!

What If… God Surrounded

Editor’s Note: We truly are surrounded by a host of women who are living lives of faith. What’s even more amazing is that we are surrounded by Christ himself who is cheering us on to victory. Our stories are as different as the characters in the “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11, yet each one of us is running a race that requires faith. This semester women have read Hebrews 12:1-2 and shared what God placed on their heart. We are cheering you on in your journey of faith in Christ!

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12: 1-2

We all have had times when we’ve asked God, “Really? Me?” while laughing in uncertainty. Sharing my experience balancing family and career is one of those times for me. Family is a blessing, but challenging with all it consists of. To top that off-career-another story in itself. I have to laugh and just go along with God’s plan for me.

I heard God speaking to me through songs I will reference. This one is by Blanca.

What If……

I don’t have what it takes

Things don’t ever change

I don’t leave room for Jesus

Then the truth of Your love shines through—

What If……

You hold me up

Your love is enough

The power in Your name can do anything

You’re making me strong

You were here all along

I’m right where You want me

You were right there fulfilling Your promises

Life’s an ever challenging and changing whirlwind, so be surrounded with God’s promise to fill our hearts with peace and thanksgiving. God’s blessings are abundant:  Love, happiness, provisions and good health shared with our wonderful husbands, beautiful children, friends and co-workers. Think of how many souls we reach just by being where God leads us. God has great plans for us as we run with perseverance the race He marked out for us.

This song by Josh Wilson is easy to relate to:

Carry me…..

Father hold on to me, You’re all I’ve got

Carry me from my sinking sand to Your solid ground

Jesus calm my heart, come near to me

Lord don’t let these worries get the best of me

Remember the ‘Spiral Art’ and how it worked well only if the pencil was kept flush leaning to the inner circle as it spun? If the rhythm changed, imperfections were created amongst the beautiful pattern immerging. In the same way, keep God and all His ways in the center of your life so that Heaven on Earth is revealed with all its beauty intended for each one of us.

Trust the Holy Spirit surrounds, strengthens, guides, even carries us daily. We’re never alone.

Balancing family and career can only be done by the grace of God. Let us not forget the promises God gave us. His love endures forever. What if….we live our lives counting our blessings, keeping our eyes on Jesus and letting His light shine from within our hearts!

We would like to thank Wendy Baker for sharing this post with us!

The Blood of Jesus

School’s started back, which means we’ve gotten back into a routine. I actually make sure my kids bathe more than once a week.

Along with routines of personal hygiene come some other great routines. A spiritual hygiene routine, if you will. One of my favorites is declarative prayer over my family. Recently a friend from church encouraged me to plead the blood of Jesus over my kids.

What does that even mean?
“Pleading the blood” is a biblical reference to placing someone or something under the protection of the Lord. In the Old Testament, God told Moses to apply the blood of an unblemished lamb on the doorposts of their dwellings so the Angel of Death would see that a sacrifice had already been made, therefore he could “pass over” that home. Everyone in that home was protected from death (separation from life). In the New Testament, Jesus is our sacrificial Lamb because He was without blemish and shed His blood for us on the cross.

His blood is powerful. Here are a few of the priceless things Jesus gave us through His blood.

The blood of Jesus:
Purchased us (Acts 20:28)

Because He purchased us with His blood, He takes responsibility for us. The enemy has no legal claim on me or my kids. Whoever is under His blood is under His protection. Doesn’t that sound like a great position to place your children in?
Made peace between us and God (Col. 1:20)

Between God and me, things are good. I’m not an utter disappoint to Him. And neither are our kids.
Redeemed us and forgave our sin (Eph. 1:7)

His blood didn’t just sweep my sin under the carpet. His blood made eternal payment for sin I’ve committed or will commit. This is very good. Especially when I think about my behavior during some of those Get-The-Kids-to-School-Morning-Routine.
Cleanses our consciences from acts that lead to death (Heb. 9:14)

We’ve all done things that create gaps of separation between those we love most. Jesus’ blood cleanses our consciences and give us courage to mend those gaps, ask people for forgiveness, and do better next time.
Purifies us from all sin (1 John 1:7)

Pure. I love that word. Not only does Jesus’ blood cleanse us, but He makes a way to purify our heart to the deepest depths and makes good come from it. Illustration: not only does He cleanse the polluted river, He goes back to the source up in the mountains and purifies it to where what issues forth from the rock is good.
Gives us confidence to approach God (Heb. 10:19)

I don’t have to clean my act up before I go to God to spend time with Him or ask Him for help. Our kids need to know this too.

There are gobs more verses about the value of Jesus’ blood. It makes God happy when we take Him at His word. Pick up your sword and get busy declaring God’s truth over your loved ones.

We would like to thank Jodi LaFrance for writing this blog post.

The Table Experience

Editor’s Note: This semester we’re focusing on Titus 2 and the wisdom it offers us as women in all different seasons of our lives. It’s our prayer that as you read through these posts you’ll hear each writer’s heart as they’ve spent time connecting with God over this passage of Scripture.

How many of you grew up in a home where you sat at the dinner table as a family? This is one of my favorite memories as a child. I remember the food mom would make, the enjoyment I had antagonizing my sister (sorry Allison), and the conversations we would have.

eloisebellmarch-01The table experience growing up shaped how I view the dinner table today. One dinner, in particular, comes to mind. I had made some delicious potato soup a few days earlier (key words: “a few days earlier”). Miley was three at the time and took a bite of the left-over soup, and said, “This is the wuhst dinnuh evah!” (a.k.a. worst dinner ever: she couldn’t say her R’s). Offended, I told her to leave the table and go think about how ungrateful she was acting. I then proceeded with the “go-to speech” of how there are starving children all over the world who would LOVE this left-over soup. She came back to the table and I told her, “Miley, you have two choices. You can either finish your dinner and be grateful for it, or you can be done.” Miley looked at me, and in her sweet, innocent voice she replied, “I’ll be done,” (laughing out loud).

Miles and I are intentional about eating together as a family as much as possible. One of our favorite things to do is cooking dinner together.

Scripture is filled with illustrations of lives changed when eating around a table.

Unfortunately, the typical family no longer eats meals together at the table. The table has been replaced with fast food. The ugly truth is mealtime is no longer an opportunity for families to build relationships.

Why is eating at the table so important? Scripture is filled with illustrations of lives changed when eating around a table. In 2 Samuel 9:7, Jonathan’s crippled son Mephibosheth was invited to dine at King David’s table. It was there that Mephibosheth’s rejection and unworthy past was replaced with confidence and personal value. In Luke 15:23, the father’s decision to have a celebration feast gave his wayward son hope for a new future. In Matthew 26, Jesus and the Twelve sat down at the table to share in the Passover meal. After His resurrection (Luke 24), Jesus broke bread with two followers and gave thanks. Suddenly, their eyes were opened and they recognized Him. At both meals, Jesus demonstrated the frame of mind that we should have at the table. Remember Him and the price He paid for you as you break bread together in your homes.

There are many things you can experience around the table: love is shared, bodies are nourished, actual face-to-face conversations happen, family members serve each other, daily schedules are discussed, and the list goes on!  Most importantly, a lovingly prepared table is a place where the presence of God dwells and relationships are established. God designed the table for you and your family to share life with each other. So, I encourage you to put dinner together back on the calendar.

Eloise Bell from our Amarillo campus wrote this post. To learn more about her, please follow this link.

My Struggle with Depression–And My Healing

God has done so many wonderful things in my life, giving me many stories to tell of His goodness.  One story involves a battle that I have fought three different times in my life—chemical depression.  I have often had background skirmishes, but three times the battle has been more intense.

When I say they were major battles, I am not saying that flippantly.  Each episode had different degrees of symptoms but some overall themes were:  great anxiety, strange physical symptoms, total lack of hunger, inability to sleep, feeling hopeless (and you sure need hope in this!), and inability to concentrate.  My whole body would feel weird, and it seemed like I couldn’t remember feeling normal.

This particular story was during the worst episode which occurred after the birth of my first daughter in the form of post-partum depression.  I hardly even want to go there to explain how dark a time period that was, but that’s also when I saw God’s hand move in a miraculous way. When you have endured several months without sleeping, without much eating, and with no peace whatsoever it can wear on you in a big way, especially when caring for a baby.  We lived in Houston at the time, and my mom came to help me.

I remember crying out to God out of total desperation in my closet one day (yes, I sometimes pray in my actual closet).  The next Sunday at church I met someone during the greeting time named Sandy.  Our church was fairly large (a few thousand people), so I didn’t know everyone and I hadn’t remembered seeing her before.  I had to leave to go to the nursery to tend to my daughter which happened so often that everyone knew my number on the screen—0012 (which I still remember 20 years later).

While I was gone Sandy came to my mom and asked her if I was going through a hard time, and my mother briefly explained the situation.  Sandy replied that God had put it on her heart for several days to pray for a person named Karen who was going through great difficulty.  When we had met, she was very intrigued that my name was Karen and asked the Lord if I was the one she had been praying for which the Lord confirmed.  Through that encounter we talked more, and she relayed to me that the battle would end and it helped me get started on a different path.  It sure wasn’t immediate by any means, and many dark days were still ahead.

Yet, I cannot describe what comfort it was to me for the Lord to reach out to me in that way to let me know that He saw my pain, that He sent someone to pray for me, and He gave me hope that I would get past this battle.  He met me where I was!

God is so great and loves us so much.  God not only helped me in this supernatural way, but He revealed to me some ways in the natural to combat the depression as well.  When I say depression, that can mean anxiety or depression or a combination.  I learned that they are two sides of one coin.  They both are the result of a serotonin deficiency, and your body and personality may just manifest them in different ways.

As for supernatural means to fight it, obviously, we should first seek God to show us what we in particular need to do.  Due to your brain feeling so muddled when chemically depressed, that may require the help of Godly friends (or a counselor) who will seek God with you.  Here are some supernatural weapons that I found to be effective for me:

  • Praying God’s Word over myself, declaring that I have the mind of Christ (I Corinthians 2:16), that no weapon formed against me will prosper (Isaiah 54:17), that great is my peace (Psalm 119:165), and that God’s peace would guard my mind (Philipians 4:7).
  • Praying in tongues, especially when I didn’t know what else to pray.
  • Praising God! The Word says that you put on (like clothing) the garment of praise in exchange for the garment of heaviness (Isaiah 61:3). This could be through music or by pouring out the praise in your heart to Him in plain words.
  • Keep standing! Sometimes existing for another day is a victory and one step closer to complete victory.

As for natural weapons, medical research is making great strides in this area. (I grew up wanting to be a doctor, and I read these types of things because they are so interesting to me.)  Recently, research has pointed to inflammation in the body (or even an allergy to inflammation) as being a cause of depression, but there are many, many causes, and there are many effective natural ways to battle it:

  • In terms of drugs, in my three battles, one time I used a natural herb (St John’s Wort), once I stuck it out long enough that the depression eased on its own, and once I took a prescription anti-depressant. You have to do what’s right for YOU, receiving no condemnation for what path you feel is best in this area.
  • Cardiovascular exercise has been shown to be as effective as a prescription anti-depressant if done regularly.  (The scientist in me wants to give references for this but it is pretty prevalent anywhere you want to look this stuff up.)
  • Taking an Omega-3 oil supplement (or flaxseed or walnuts) is great for the brain.
  • Finding out what is a trigger for you can help. In the most recent battle, my doctor and I realized that the three times that have been true battles for me were all associated with a major drop in hormones.
  • Seeing a medical doctor to be tested for things like low thyroid or even food allergies/sensitivities.
  • Making sure to do everything in your power to be thinking right thoughts.
  • Having a good, loving circle of friends standing with you (or God can even provide a stranger like how He did for me in Houston—He’s limitless!).
  • Talking to a counselor. I do think that if there are any underlying physical causes then addressing those first helps the therapy to be even more effective.

One more word to the wise:  I found that everyone has an opinion about depression and anxiety.  Some will say it is only caused by hormones out of whack because that is what their experience has been.  Some will tell you that you are just not thinking right, and you just need to start thinking right.  Others may say that prescription medicine is the only way to go.

I think of it as how different blind-folded people see an elephant—the one holding the trunk think it’s hard, the one holding the tail think it is feathery, the one holding the legs think it is like a tree.  Our understanding of depression is so limited at this time and can have so many DIFFERENT causes and cures.  The good news is that God can see “the whole elephant” and knows how to deliver you!  Our victory is assured as we follow His pathway to deliverance!

This post was written by Karen Earhart. To read more about her, click here.

**Note: This is one person’s story, and not advice from a professional doctor. If you are in a place of depression, please contact the HCF offices for a list of trusted counseling resources (click here for Campus contact numbers).

The True Caregiver

I’ve always been a person to take on responsibility for things, even when they weren’t mine to carry.  In fact, I was so bad that when things went wrong I would take the blame and then murmur and complain to the Lord!  The reason I say that is because it carried on into my family after I got married.  This festered in my life for years.

Then, in 1990, at 39 years of age, I found out I was pregnant.  When Sarah was born we soon found out that she had physical obstacles.  Who do you blame?  Well, of course, you blame yourself.  That’s when I began the “blame game.” It’s all my fault, I was too old, blah, blah, blah!  In that place, I forgot to seek the Lord.  I forgot to listen to Him.  On the outside I looked like the godly wife and mother who cared for her family, but in reality I was caring only for myself.  Everything I did, I did for recognition or praise.  It was all centered on me.

In that place, though, I cried out to the Lord and He heard me!  In that place, I truly began to see that I wasn’t alone; the Lord had not forsaken me.  He was there all the time, shining His precious light on areas that I had taken over.

When I realized that I wasn’t in control and began getting my directions for the day from the Lord, my life radically changed.  1 Peter 5:7:

…casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.  Be of sober spirit, be on the alert.  Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.  After you have suffered for a little while the God of all grace…will Himself, perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.

It doesn’t matter if you are a caregiver for a husband, child or parent, you must be in Him.  Everything you do must be as unto Him! When I truly received this truth, my life and family was totally restored. Now I can’t imagine my life without my daughter.  She has brought so much joy to our lives.

Have I had opportunities to choose my way or God’s way? You bet! I have learned, though, when I go my way it brings exhaustion, frustration, and confusion.  Not a good place to be!  I then take a deep breath and I think on Jesus.  Philippians 4:6 tells me to be anxious for nothing. And in verse 8 –

Whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute…if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.

Jesus is the true caregiver!

This post was written by Beverly Sharp. 

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My Struggle with Depression–and My Healing

God has done so many wonderful things in my life, giving me many stories to tell of His goodness.  One story involves a battle that I have fought three different times in my life—chemical depression.  I have often had background skirmishes, but three times the battle has been more intense.

When I say they were major battles, I am not saying that flippantly.  Each episode had different degrees of symptoms but some overall themes were:  great anxiety, strange physical symptoms, total lack of hunger, inability to sleep, feeling hopeless (and you sure need hope in this!), and inability to concentrate.  My whole body would feel weird, and it seemed like I couldn’t remember feeling normal.

This particular story was during the worst episode which occurred after the birth of my first daughter in the form of post-partum depression.  I hardly even want to go there to explain how dark a time period that was, but that’s also when I saw God’s hand move in a miraculous way. When you have endured several months without sleeping, without much eating, and with no peace whatsoever it can wear on you in a big way, especially when caring for a baby.  We lived in Houston at the time, and my mom came to help me.

I remember crying out to God out of total desperation in my closet one day (yes, I sometimes pray in my actual closet).  The next Sunday at church I met someone during the greeting time named Sandy.  Our church was fairly large (a few thousand people), so I didn’t know everyone and I hadn’t remembered seeing her before.  I had to leave to go to the nursery to tend to my daughter which happened so often that everyone knew my number on the screen—0012 (which I still remember 20 years later).

While I was gone Sandy came to my mom and asked her if I was going through a hard time, and my mother briefly explained the situation.  Sandy replied that God had put it on her heart for several days to pray for a person named Karen who was going through great difficulty.  When we had met, she was very intrigued that my name was Karen and asked the Lord if I was the one she had been praying for which the Lord confirmed.  Through that encounter we talked more, and she relayed to me that the battle would end and it helped me get started on a different path.  It sure wasn’t immediate by any means, and many dark days were still ahead.

Yet, I cannot describe what comfort it was to me for the Lord to reach out to me in that way to let me know that He saw my pain, that He sent someone to pray for me, and He gave me hope that I would get past this battle.  He met me where I was!

God is so great and loves us so much.  God not only helped me in this supernatural way, but He revealed to me some ways in the natural to combat the depression as well.  When I say depression, that can mean anxiety or depression or a combination.  I learned that they are two sides of one coin.  They both are the result of a serotonin deficiency, and your body and personality may just manifest them in different ways.

As for supernatural means to fight it, obviously, we should first seek God to show us what we in particular need to do.  Due to your brain feeling so muddled when chemically depressed, that may require the help of Godly friends (or a counselor) who will seek God with you.  Here are some supernatural weapons that I found to be effective for me:

  • Praying God’s Word over myself, declaring that I have the mind of Christ (I Corinthians 2:16), that no weapon formed against me will prosper (Isaiah 54:17), that great is my peace (Psalm 119:165), and that God’s peace would guard my mind (Philipians 4:7).
  • Praying in tongues, especially when I didn’t know what else to pray.
  • Praising God! The Word says that you put on (like clothing) the garment of praise in exchange for the garment of heaviness (Isaiah 61:3). This could be through music or by pouring out the praise in your heart to Him in plain words.
  • Keep standing! Sometimes existing for another day is a victory and one step closer to complete victory.

As for natural weapons, medical research is making great strides in this area. (I grew up wanting to be a doctor, and I read these types of things because they are so interesting to me.)  Recently, research has pointed to inflammation in the body (or even an allergy to inflammation) as being a cause of depression, but there are many, many causes, and there are many effective natural ways to battle it:

  • In terms of drugs, in my three battles, one time I used a natural herb (St John’s Wort), once I stuck it out long enough that the depression eased on its own, and once I took a prescription anti-depressant. You have to do what’s right for YOU, receiving no condemnation for what path you feel is best in this area.
  • Cardiovascular exercise has been shown to be as effective as a prescription anti-depressant if done regularly.  (The scientist in me wants to give references for this but it is pretty prevalent anywhere you want to look this stuff up.)
  • Taking an Omega-3 oil supplement (or flaxseed or walnuts) is great for the brain.
  • Finding out what is a trigger for you can help. In the most recent battle, my doctor and I realized that the three times that have been true battles for me were all associated with a major drop in hormones.
  • Seeing a medical doctor to be tested for things like low thyroid or even food allergies/sensitivities.
  • Making sure to do everything in your power to be thinking right thoughts.
  • Having a good, loving circle of friends standing with you (or God can even provide a stranger like how He did for me in Houston—He’s limitless!).
  • Talking to a counselor. I do think that if there are any underlying physical causes then addressing those first helps the therapy to be even more effective.

One more word to the wise:  I found that everyone has an opinion about depression and anxiety.  Some will say it is only caused by hormones out of whack because that is what their experience has been.  Some will tell you that you are just not thinking right, and you just need to start thinking right.  Others may say that prescription medicine is the only way to go.

I think of it as how different blind-folded people see an elephant—the one holding the trunk think it’s hard, the one holding the tail think it is feathery, the one holding the legs think it is like a tree.  Our understanding of depression is so limited at this time and can have so many DIFFERENT causes and cures.  The good news is that God can see “the whole elephant” and knows how to deliver you!  Our victory is assured as we follow His pathway to deliverance!

This post was written by Karen Earhart. To read more about her, click here.

**Note: This is one person’s story, and not advice from a professional doctor. If you are in a place of depression, please contact the HCF offices for a list of trusted counseling resources (click here for Campus contact numbers).

Thoughts on Parenting from an (Near) Empty-Nester

teensThe year was 2012, and our son Logan was graduating from high school and moving away to college.  I found myself in a bit of a panic, thinking, “Yikes! Have I instilled in him every value I want him to live by?” Well…the answer is hopefully yes but probably not (As a parent, you’re encouraged by that, I’m sure).

In truth, there are lots of things I wish I had known over the years of raising my kids. I wish someone had informed me that no matter how many times you help your son clean up his room, there will be that one random Lego under his bed that you suck up in the vacuum cleaner, causing racket that will make you believe that every screw is vibrating loose and rendering said vacuum useless.  Or that junior high girls turn into oversized whiny toddlers with competing desires to wear makeup and NOT deodorant. I should have mentally prepared…

Reflecting back, though, there were principles that became pivotal to how Lyle and I raised our kids to pass along our faith. We lived with Deuteronomy 6:6-8 as our guide: Teach the Word to our children as we walk through our daily lives. I am going to assume that you already want to read the Bible with your children and pray with your kids as you parent, so I hope these additional ideas will be fresh for you:

1) Boys need to hear the voice of their father in their ear (as their father is listening to THE Father!). In John 12:49, Jesus says He only speaks what His Father commanded Him. As a wife, I have prayed for my husband to hear what the Lord tells him to do, just as Jesus did. I grew up with a Marine father and am generally about as tough as a mom can be, but all that toughness often translated to nagging in our son’s ears. The concept of respect is deeply engrained in males, however. So enter Lyle, the father, who could say LITERALLY THE SAME WORDS as I did, but Logan—because he desired his dad’s respect—would obey.  Mamas, let your man take the reins, even when it’s difficult to agree with his method of discipline.  You’ll earn your husband’s admiration and (hopefully) your son’s cooperation.

2) Show interest in your daughter’s interests so that you can remain connected and speak truth to her. We spent our time with Leah hearing about My Little Pony, reading Lemony Snickett books, talking about school friends, boys, and watching romantic comedies…and through that investment God provided unexpected opportunities to share our perspectives (and the Word).   I will admit that paying attention is not always easy, especially if you disagree with your daughter’s latest pastime, but combining that questioning with a loving community allows them to grow.

In creating an environment where sons and daughters are loved and guided, your home will be a place where faith will be taught AND caught!

This post was written by Shelli Jarvis. To read more about her, click here