Thursday, May 6, 2010

March gathering

We were thrilled to have three special guests share with us in March.  Janet, Lynn, and Leslie founded Stepping Stones many years ago - a ministry that has since been picked up and expanded by Bethany House.  They have a wealth of experience and wisdom, and we just soaked it up!!  Janet began by sharing  that suffering is never in vain if we turn around and encourage those behind us.  That doesn't mean we are done with our journey, just that we look behind and help who we can see.  Deuteronomy 8 talks about the importance of looking back and remembering what God has done for us - especially in times we are grieving or have lost hope.  Janet's journey of infertility (7 surgeries) and failed adoptions (11) lasted 4.5 years - years she looks back upon and feels were at least in part wasted because she was angry and bitter about her circumstances.  She was seeking the gift instead of the Giver.  She went through a wilderness and eventually hungered for God more than she hungered for a child.  She believes that God, in His mercy, caused her to hunger.  After all, He is the only thing that will truly satisfy.  

Janet shared with us an excerpt from Catherine Marshall's Adventures in Prayer.  Here is a portion of the chapter on relinquishment:

 Prayer of Relinquishment

I Relinquish This To You:

            “Father, for such a long time I have pleaded before You this, the deep desire of my

heart: __________________________________________.   Yet the more I've clamored 

for Your help with this, the more remote You have seemed.

            I confess my demanding spirit in this matter.  I've tried suggesting to You ways

my prayer could be answered.  To my shame, I've even bargained with You.  Yet I know

that trying to manipulate the Lord of the Universe is utter foolishness.  No wonder my

spirit is so sore and weary!

            I want to trust You, Father.  My spirit knows that these verities are forever

trustworthy even when I feel nothing...That you are there.  (You said, “Lo, I am with you

always.” Matthew 28:20)  That you love me. (You said, “I have loved you with an

everlasting love.” Jeremiah 31:3)  That You alone know what is best for me. (For in

You, Lord, “are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Colossians 2:3)

            Perhaps all along, You have been waiting for me to give up self-effort.  At last I

want You in my life even more than I want _________________________________.

So now, by an act of my will, I relinquish this to You.  I will accept Your will, whatever

that may be.  Thank You for counting this act of my will as the decision of the real

person even when my emotions protest.  I ask You to hold me true to this decision.  To

You, Lord God, who alone are worthy of worship, I bend the knee with thanksgiving 

that this too will “work together for good.”  Amen


She shared that we will never win a battle against God.  Matthew 6:33 says to seek first His kingdom, meaning His ways and His plans...and all will be added to you.  That "all" is His all, not our all.  But again, His is better.  His is best.  We must focus on the blessings He has given, not the ones He has not given.  In all things, He is faithful to carry us through.

Leslie shared some of the history of Stepping Stones.  Woven throughout the ministry was a focus on looking for the hand of God in the little things.  Each of the three ladies can tell their stories - and each story is God filled.  This is our goal, to get to a place where we see our stories as God filled.  It certainly requires having a God perspective.  

Leslie, Lynn, and Janet began talking years ago as an informal Christian support network.  They asked Focus on the Family for resources on infertility and miscarriage, but were given the suggestion to start their own ministry, as there was very little available at the time.  In time the ministry took off.  They began to receive a multitude of letters from around the country and eventually around the world, from Christians dealing with similar issues.  They created a newsletter that was sent out containing articles they either found or wrote, dealing with infertility and miscarriage from a Christian perspective.  In time, readers began sending articles about their own stories about healing, growing, and walking the journey with God.  They saw how readers began supporting one another.  They ended up on Dr. Dobson's radio show, which took the ministry to a whole new level.  They learned firsthand that in God's season/time/way He will meet our needs and desires.  Leslie said "looking back, I wouldn't want to do it all over again, but it was good."  

Lynn remembers the year that on Mother's Day the pastor acknowledged infertility and infant loss for the first time.  She finally felt like a normal segment of the church population, not an awkward outsider.  She shared with us that God gives grace as the need comes along - look back at His provision rather than wondering what trial is coming next.  We can't get stuck in the past, wishing to have changed something, nor should we be paralyzed by the potential difficulties of the future.  Rather, remember the blessings of the past, live now to the fullest, and look to the future with hope and anticipation.

For Lynn, she had to hold on to four pillars of faith.
1. God loves me unconditionally. I can't increase or decrease His love.
2. Because I'm in Christ, God sees me as totally clean. This circumstance is not a punishment.
3. God can do everything - just look at the virgin Mary and 90 yr old Sarah.
4. If God says no to this, He must have something better, and that is exciting.

Lynn chose to live with great anticipation and turn her circumstances and hopes over to God.  Three years later she conceived, and lost the baby.  Through that loss she learned that God cannot be reduced to a formula.  Giving our hopes to God does not guarantee He will turn around and give us the original desires of our hearts.  In time they had a daughter.  Three years after that, she conceived again and had a high risk pregnancy.  After many complications, she had a c-section.  Her baby, Sarah, had a very poor prognosis, and died at 3 months of age.  When they left the hospital, and later at the funeral, they saw how their testimony had affected others.  For this they can be thankful and can now view that part of their life story as good - good because of what God did through it.

Janet was still in the middle of her most difficult season when Leslie became pregnant.  She remembers not going to Leslie's baby shower because she had to set a boundary that she wouldn't go places where she would leave questioning God's love for her.  This was a personal boundary, reflecting her walk with the Lord, not her friendship with Leslie.  Too often, as Christians, we expect ourselves to handle everything perfectly, including going places we know will trip us up, saying that we "should" be able to handle it.  Sometimes not going is the best option as God continues to work on our hearts.  

Janet shared that God never works the way we think He will.  She brought out the verses from Isaiah 28 that teach us that God does not thresh all grain the same way.  Some is crushed and broken and used for finer things.  God knows how much pressure to put on the grain (us) in order to produce what He wants to produce in us.  We can trust His hand.

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