Friday, April 11, 2014

Great Grace- A Word from My Husband

**I asked my husband to write this week's blog post.  As much as I have had to say this past year, know that he is the one who not only lives it right along with me, but he is the one who carries the weight of our lives on his shoulders.  Over 10 years ago he stood before God and man and made vows to ME.  Vows I don't think he ever thought he would have to fulfill.  You see, the first 8+ years of our marriage I tried to be the best wife I could be...doing as much as I possibly could for the man I loved.  I remember after kids came along it used to be an amazing treat when Jeff would give me a morning to sleep in, or when he would send me out shopping for a couple of hours.

But now...

I could never, ever describe the things he has taken upon himself since I got sick.  Now, he is up every morning.  Now, he makes all the meals.  Now, he runs the house while putting me in bed so I can rest.  Now, he gives up his own wants, needs, desires, work options, free time, and so, so much more.  And he does it for ME.  And when he gets upset with our situation, he takes it to God- never for one moment has he blamed me, resented me, or demanded anything of me.  In fact, he miraculously seems to have fallen even more in love with me.

I didn't think it was possible to love my husband more today then yesterday, and yet that is how I feel every single morning.  My husband follows the Lord every single moment of his life and it has been an honor for me to follow him as he does that.  God has AMAZING plans for Jeff- things that we have only scratched at the surface of.  But I know my God keeps His promises- and my husband will receive his.  He will be rewarded greatly for his love and sacrifice- and simply because he walks humbly before our God.  Our children will grow with the daily example of a loving father who puts Jesus first.  I have had a hard time- a very, very hard time...but one look at the man I am married to and I realize I am the most blessed woman there ever was.  It's true.

So please- read what he wrote.  Read it and know it comes from the integrity of one who lives what he speaks and what he believes.
Here it is: my husband's perspective on living the hardest year we have ever faced.**

Its been almost exactly one year since I was asked to contribute to my wife's blog.  So much has happened in the last year and my goal here would be to reflect upon the journey and share the perspective that I bring as a husband, father, and pastor.  I would first like to say that I have been an admirer of my wife's blog since the beginning and can say without question that even though it is often very personal and a window into my life, I have on more occasions then I can count been inspired and often brought to tears by the things Ashley writes.  God has gifted her greatly as a writer and I know many have been ministered to here week after week.  I often preview the posts for her and have been challenged and blessed first before she sends it to print.  She is amazing and I am blessed to have her as my wife, best friend, and partner on this journey.  I won't match her way with words but aim to just share openly and honestly from my experience.

I have had many conversations over the last year with family, friends, and even strangers about the things we have faced as a family and how we cope with all that life has brought our way.  I don't want to give the cliche' answers because these things are worth more than a cheap, forced smile and a plastic response, but the answer to that conversation on my end has always been simple.  When people say that they couldn't face a life changing sickness in their marriage or that most people would have quit by now when they have looked at my life, my answer is simple.  What are my options?  Am I supposed to quit?   Am I supposed to give up on God?  Am I supposed to get angry at life?  You see, these don't seem like options, and the truth really is that the presence of God has been more real to me in the last year then any other time in my life.  Thirteen years ago I was still running from God, scared of the call He had placed on my life as a child.  I have run plenty in my life and I guess I have just learned that running from life, even the hard things or the intense parts of a life of faith is just not an option.  In the Bible, the book of Hebrews says that we are "not they who draw back to perdition, but those who believe to the saving of the soul." In fact, the Lord in that passage says that if your draw back, He finds no pleasure in you! That doesn't mean God is unaware of our pain and suffering- quiet the opposite is actually true.  It means that the seed He places in us is eternal, incorruptible, and can't be defiled by the troubles of this world.  There is great joy in drawing close to God when sorrow is drawing close to you.  For 2 1/2 years I worked in a warehouse and part time in a church knowing that God has more for me one day.  I hated my job- it was hard and I just hated it.  Many didn't understand why I was doing it instead of just "taking a pastorate" somewhere that I could live off of.  My only answer was and is that God called me to Amsterdam.  Those are the doors that opened so thats what I did. I didn't "make sense" to me either but it was God's place and time so we obeyed.  Last September, Ashley got too sick for me to continue working the hours I had been working outside the church, so I had to leave my job to care for her and our kids and just keep part time hours at the church.  We lost 2/3 of our income with no real warning or visible options.   Though I have been unable to take on more work since, immediately God began providing for us and though it has not been easy or without stress, I can testify that to this date we have been supplied for, our every need met.  There have been weeks at a time on more than one occasion in the last 7 months that I have wept daily over our circumstances, from Ashley's health to the trials that life and ministry bring.  I have known both a pain and a grace that I had never known before.  These are the things that you cannot predict or control, they are God's arenas of life, and we trust Him.  I know what it feels like to lay your wife, your income, your calling, and your family on the altar, placing them into God's faithful hands.  I cannot say its an easy road, because you do not enter that prayer closet lightly, it comes at a great cost because you actually have to allow part of you to die a death of surrender.  The truth is these things are not ever really ours anyway, it is all of grace.  God gives, God may take away, but just as true is that He remains worthy of all we are throughout it all.  There is a term in the Bible that jumped out at me about 8 years ago, so much so that I preached a few messages on the topic.  It is the term "great grace" and is said to be upon the early church believer in Acts 4.  You see in the Scriptures, the word grace is used many times but in Acts 4 it is called "GREAT GRACE".  It gripped my attention and I preached it with passion and shared with the people that I wanted to walk in that kind of grace.  You see I have always been drawn to those rare people you sometimes are privileged to meet who just seem to carry a weight in the things of God that is uncommon.  They are marked by great grace.  But you will seldom listen to their story without quickly finding out that they have always walked through some fires and floods in their walk with God and have come out the other side. I believe that there are many people in this life, maybe most, who will at one point in their life come to the point where their circumstances will dwarf them and they will call out for a real answer, one that is not produced out of the strength of humanity.  When those moments come they will need to have met someone who has more to offer than a shallow, untested faith.  They will need a Rock to lean on.  The only option will be the Strong Name of Jesus.  I have learned that all those sermons that got me fired up were really true, even when my whole world started shaking.  I found out that the promises of God are as true as I had hoped they would be, even preached to others that they would be.  I found out that the One I really cannot live without is Jesus Christ.  He is the One who holds all things together, even when you think they are falling apart.  Its a great grace.  Undeserved. Unearned.  But not easily forgotten.  The truth is that though I am still relatively young (34), and I have not yet finished my race or fought my last battle, I have gone through moments where I had to face the question: "If all you had was God, would it be enough?"  And I can say that the answer is YES.  He is all that I want, He is all I have ever needed, and He has let me know that He is near.  These are now not just the words of a popular Christian worship song- they matter. Because I found myself singing them all alone in my living room at 3am one agonizing night last fall with tears as I fought to give them up to God as an offering, as a sacrifice of praise.  They might one day become your song in the night.  Just know that in Him there is a greater grace than you may have ever even realized, and you can trust Him with all that you are and all that you have.

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