Feeling Overwhelmed?

overwhelmed-graphicReal Life Here: I’m so very tired. And I’m so very tired of sick kids. (Honestly, I’m just a little tired of my kids). And yet…

And yet, at the same time I feel so incredibly grateful for the many, many blessings is my
life. We suffered through 3 years of infertility and multiple miscarriages, not knowing if we would ever have a child, let alone 3 kids! And now we have been blessed with 3 amazing kids!

12472782_10101698954324820_5749570881580611229_nYes, they are exhausting. Yes, having three kids 5 years old and under consumes ALL. YOUR. TIME. And energy! But they are still such a blessing. And I love each one so very much. Just look at those adorable faces! (Just please start sleeping through the night kids! In your own beds!)

I look around our beautiful suburban home and think how quickly it goes from clean and organized to looking like a disaster zone. And yet, I’m so incredibly grateful for this house God has provided for us. Our first “real home” in our marriage where we don’t have to share walls with someone! A beautiful home with tons of space to host small groups, leadership meetings, and newcomer lunches. I’m so thankful for this home and all the ministry we get to do in it.

And then there’s the church. Being a Church Planter means going to bed every night with things left undone on your to-do list. Starting a church is a lot like starting a new business or non-profit- there are ALWAYS more things to do! But as exhausting as church planting can be…man- I am so THRILLED that I get to do it!

This is what I was put here on this earth to do!

I feel like my whole life was a training ground that prepared me to do this. And everyday, I thank God that I get to do this.

So yes, today I am tired and overwhelmed and feel like a failure as a dad and a husband, but I know that God’s got this. When I am weak, He is strong.

If you are tired and overwhelmed and feel like you are not measuring up as a spouse or parent or at your job, I want to encourage you to know that

YOU.

ARE.

ENOUGH.

Don’t strive so hard. God’s got this. God’s got YOU! Count your blessings and maybe take a nap. Or get another cup of coffee.

Get your hopes up.

Rejoice in HOPE, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12 (ESV)

Joseph, Dreams, and Getting Out of a Pit

josephI’ve been thinking a lot about Joseph this past year or so. Not Joseph, the adopted dad of Jesus. No, I’m talking about Joseph- the arrogant, young leader who had a vision from God.

You probably know the story: Joseph shared his God-given vision with those closest to him and what happened? He ended up in a pit. That’s when his dream died. Then things went from bad to worse.  He was falsely accused and he ended up in prison. I would bet all my guitars that he started questioning God’s plan and started doubting the vision that God had given him. He was in a dark place. A hopeless place.

But you know what? God was there. God was there in the pit. God was there when he was falsely accused. God was there in the dark place of that prison. And God had a plan.

You know what I think? I think Joseph wasn’t ready yet for the vision God gave him. I think Joseph was arrogant and he needed some time for God to do a work on his heart.

 So there was the birth of a dream. Then the death of a dream. Then God did what only God can do. He re-birthed that dream in Joseph.

God had a plan for Joseph’s life. His timing was just WAY different from what Joseph probably thought was going to happen! God used Joseph in a powerful way to bring salvation to people far from God. And out of those circumstances, a people of God was formed.

So if you are like me, and you’ve had the birth of a dream and then faced the death of that dream- take heart. God is there with you. God is here with me. His timing and is ways are probably just a lot different from what we expect!

God is in the business of re-birth. Of resurrection. And even now, in that pit, in whatever hopeless situation you find yourself, God is there. He gives life and hope and purpose. We just need to trust and wait on our God. Its not easy and we will struggle and doubt- but God was and is and will continue to be faithful and true to His word. And you know what? That’s great news.

 

 

EL

God’s Guidance

Things don’t always go the way that we think they will!  Isn’t life like that though?  We make plans and then life throws us a curve ball.  We don’t get into the college of our dreams.  That guy or girl you thought was “the one” laughs at you when you ask them out.  Out of nowhere, you get handed a pink slip and you are left wondering what to do next.  We wonder, where is God in all of this?

One thing you can be sure of is that there are few things you can be sure of.

So the question is: how do we have faith when we are facing a crisis, when we are looking up at those hills of life- those mountains we have to face?  What do we do when the weight is just too much and we just can’t deal with everything that is going on in our world?

ropes-on-the-tall-shipWell, the Bible has a lot to say about God’s guidance.  The Hebrew word for guidance (tachbulah) is same word for “rope”.  Back then, sailers used ropes to guide and navigate their ships.  They used ropes to raise or drop the sails and to tell the ship where to go and how fast to get there.

God’s guidance is the same way.  Here’s what I’ve been learning these last few months: God’s guidance is more something he DOES than something he GIVES. I’ve prayed and prayed- “God, show me what you want for my life!”.  That prayer has mostly been met with silence.  Silence.

BUT.

But what God does is shape and mold and guide me where to go…and how fast to get there.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the life of Joseph from the Old Testament.  He was falsely accused and thrown in prison.  And that was AFTER being thrown in a pit and then sold into slavery.  For years and years, Joseph waited on God’s plan.  But in the midst of that seeming inactivity, God was moving and shaping and molding Joseph so that he was ready to lead when the time came.

These past several months have been really tough as we’ve waited on God.  But I can see that God has been working on my heart and preparing me for whatever is next.  And for that, I can be thankful.

If life has thrown you a curve or if you are facing uncertain times- you are not alone! Your story shares a lot with many people’s stories we find in the Bible.  And in all of those stories, God was moving and shaping and molding.  Even when it seemed like he was distant or silent.  We can trust that God is good and God is great and he has good things planned for his children.

Stay strong.  Stay the course.  Trust God.

EL

Trust in the LORD

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.

Proverbs 3:5-6 (ESV)

Its a Bible verse I’ve had memorized for almost 3 decades.  However, actually living out the truth of it is a whole other matter! Its an easy verse to quote to your friends who are going through a tough time.  When YOU are the one in the dark valley, when YOU are the one that is confused, frustrated, and running out of patience, it is much harder to believe that God will make your paths straight.

And yet… And yet I look back and I see God’s hand on my life and I know that He WILL make my paths straight and He WILL lead and guide me to the right place.

When Kristin and I were engaged and I didn’t know where I was going to be working or where we would live, God led us to Colorado.  And in Colorado he helped us lay the foundation for our marriage and led us to friends who will always be there for us- wherever we live or do ministry.

When we desperately wanted to be parents and we kept experiencing the pain of miscarriage, God was there with us for those 3 long, empty years.  And now we have two beautiful children!

When our daughter Rebecca was born not breathing and we heard the doctors say the words “brain damage”, God was there.  And he healed our little girl and she is perfectly healthy and a joy to all she meets!

And so, I know that God is moving and working- even in the silence.  Even in this desert season.  And someday we will look back and see how God was there with us-even when we feel so alone.  And so I will choose not to lean on my own understanding but to trust God will all of my heart.  Its not easy-not but any stretch.  But its a daily choice I will continue to make.

2012---trust

Sometimes You Just Need a Donut

I have to be honest with you: I’m not loving life right now.  It’s COLD. Oh so cold. No more football for like 260 days.  We are in this season of waiting on God to tell us what’s next.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m a very blessed man.  I have an OUTSTANDING wife and awesome kids.  We have some great friends we get to do life with.  But you know what? I’m cranky.  I’m tired of being cold and being a stay at home dad.  Blah. 

And that’s ok.  You see, we all get cranky at times.  We all get sick of the weather and where life has us in certain seasons.  We want Spring to come or we want that baby to be born NOW (so said my wife when she was 9 months pregnant) or we want God to fill us in on what he’s got planned for us.

And so I wait.  For Spring and warmer weather.  For God to lead me to the right church to be their pastor.  For whatever comes next.  But often God is doing the most work when he seems to be silent.  It is in the midst of pain and waiting and the long winter that God changes us.  We are like a seed that is buried in the cold, dark ground.  That seed needs that time in uncertain darkness before it matures and is ready to grow and bear fruit. (…or vegetables if I was really going to be true to the metaphor.  But I like fruit much more than vegetables and who talks about bearing much vegetables??)

But today? Today my OUTSTANDING wife brought me a donut.  Because, even when you are trying to be healthy and lose weight, sometimes you just need a donut to help you make it through another day.  And I will continue to trust Jesus and know that he is good.  Because he created donuts.  Oh- and also, because he loves me and he knows what I need, which is often different that what I want.  Sort of like donuts and a weight loss plan…

DD Blend 004

Excited for the Future

pastpresentfuture_525-e1349800411272

Every January, I look back to the last couple of years and I get excited about what the future might hold. Here’s some highlights from the past couple of years:

  • 2010: our son Joshua is born after 3 years of infertility!
  • 2011: we move from Colorado to Wisconsin, help start a new church, and I start a new job as a church planter with Converge/Baptist General Conference.  We also experienced our third miscarriage that summer.  Lots of ups and downs.
  • 2012: our daughter Rebecca is born– and we spend 10 days in the NICU due to her born not breathing.  But God healed her and she is doing great!  I also finished my Masters of Arts in Theological Studies and Kristin and I record an unplugged Christmas album.
  • 2013: I decide to get healthy and then lose 40 pounds.  We leave the church we helped plant and work with Converge/Baptist General Conference to try to figure out where God is leading us next.

Well, this January is no different.  In fact, with the season that Kristin and I are in, I am all the more looking ahead with great anticipation to what the future holds!  Most likely, the next 6 months will find us in a new city, a new house, and a new church and job for me!  That’s a lot of changes that we know will be happening this year!!

I know in my head that God is sovereign and that he has the whole world in his hands. But its not easy to believe with my heart. Its an intentional act of faith to trust him and to believe that he will continue to take care of us and will lead us to the right place for our family.  I pray that God will continue to lead and direct us while we are waiting in this desert place.

Building Legos, Building Children

I sat on the floor with my three year old son, surrounded my thousands and thousands of little LEGO pieces.  “Wow!”, I thought to myself, “this is a pretty daunting task!” We were attempting to rebuild my X-Wing LEGO starfighter from 1999.  The problem was that the X-Wing pieces had been mixed in with thousands and thousands of other loose pieces.  Bummer.

It requires a LOT of patience to build something like that!  You need to keep your eye on the instruction book while at the same time keep an eye on what you are building and never lose focus of the end result- that you are trying to build something special.

As we tried to put that spaceship back together, I realized something.  Raising kids takes a lot of patience too! As my wife and I parent Joshua and Rebecca, we need to keep our eyes on our instruction book (the Bible) and also keep an eye on the unique children we are raising.  We also need to remember that we are doing something special here: we aren’t just trying to raise good, moral kids.  We want to raise kids that become adults who are passionate followers of Jesus.  Adults who are empowered by the Holy Spirit to do Kingdom work.  Adults who use their gifts and talents to help make disciples who make disciples.  Adults who become godly parents themselves someday and continue this great heritage of faith that my wife and I inherited from our parents.

But today, its enough to acknowledge that raising kids takes a TON of patience!  We may not have all the pieces… but its OK.  God is helping us form and shape these little angels/monsters into beautiful works of art.

Its enough for today.

Success! We did it!

Success! We did it!