Reason to Trust #37 [Beth]

Beth GreenAge: 43.8 // Favourite Food: Fried Chicken // Dream Job: Lifeguard at a retirement community in Florida. // Current Season: Empty Nest Prevention. // Met Jesus: Before I can remember. // Favourite Verse: “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, oh Lord.” Psalm 19:14 // Instagram: @bethgreenwv

It was an interesting season to say the least…a span of time that I have referred to as the year from “you know where.”  All because of a great deal of change that shook some things up for me.
 
We pastor a church in a small city of 19 thousand people, give or take, in Martinsburg, WV.
 
Our staff is humble in size, yet quite creative and productive- always striving to do our best to lead a fairly large flock of people, although none of us have ever been on a church staff before.  During the season  I mentioned earlier, many of us were wearing a variety of hats to get everything accomplished. In spite of our inexperience, we also shared this incredible excitement to serve.  It was so new and exhilarating. Then, it all began…
 
A few years in to this blissful new endeavor, several significant staff members who had served us very closely had decided to move on to other seasons in their lives which would pluck them and their families out of our church.  (I use the word “pluck” to refer to the sudden discomfort this would bring.)  If you have spent any time in church leadership, I’m sure you understand.  Goodbyes can be uncomfortable.
 
Meanwhile, outside of my church bubble, there were some other layers of change happening, in no particular order.
One involving one of my dearest friends.  She and her husband, with God-ordained purpose, moved a thousand miles away where they would transplant their family into Canadian soil, carrying in their hearts a dream to pastor a church where their family roots were.  She was someone I leaned on in many ways.  But now my dear confidant was relocating far beyond my reach.
 
Speaking of being out of my reach, did I mention that at the same time, our eldest son was away at college on the other side of the world in Sydney, Australia?  Just thought I’d mention that little detail.  Certainly, if you are a mother, you understand that having a child away at college, in another country at that, has potential to tenderize your heart. (I use the word tenderize as in… like one of those hammers you pound chicken with.)
 
Then, one brisk autumn morning, as I was approaching my 40th birthday, I heard these words from an emergency triage nurse who was treating me for a strange and sudden allergic reaction in our local emergency room- “by the way,” she said, “did you know that you were pregnant?”
 
Did you catch that part?
Yeah, it was just like that.
My life was seriously about to experience a new emergency.
 
You need to know that change and I…we don’t usually get along.  Up until this point in my life, I was the kind of person who preferred the predictable.  Change interfered with my plans and expectations.  Change messed with me.   Having another child?  Really?
 
Our other 2 children were grown – one in college and the other finishing up high school.  So, as far as parenting goes, we were SO close to reaching that place of rest where you sit back in your rocking chair, kick your feet up and look at scrapbooks while enjoying a comforting cup of tea and intelligent conversation with your ADULT family members.
 
But ALL OF THAT, including the “rest” part, (but excluding the rocking chair part) was about to c h a n g e.
 
Don’t get me wrong.  We were excited.  The next 33 weeks were filled with celebration, preparation and giggles from every well-meaning friend and family member, topped off with an occasional Abraham & Sarah joke.
 
Fast forward 8.5 months.
 
Our third and surprise child was born – a son. We celebrated him. We adored him.  We were so grateful for God’s purpose and plans for him, but this kid was larger than life, AND he was louder than loud!  He might have snuck quietly into my womb un-announced, (I’m not gonna lie.  That sounded weird), but holy moly, after he put his feet down in our home, it didn’t take us long to know, without a doubt, that this young man would make sure that he would get noticed everywhere he went every single day for the rest of his life.
 
Everything in my life at this point had drastically changed.  I was “starting over” in my 40’s.  The diapers, the night feedings, the sleep deprivation, the 24/7 call of new motherhood…I was mourning the loss of my freedom – to go to the mall, go on a date with my husband, or even take a shower whenever I wanted.  And all the moms out there just nodded your heads.
 
To be honest, I wasn’t prepared for the shock.  My other children, then 16 and 18 had personalities which were nothing like this little guy!   In comparison, they were easy, quiet children, self-entertained and spent much of their time hibernating in their rooms.  But this child – He was so active.  He was strong-willed. He required constant attention.  He was very VOCAL; The say-goodbye-to-nice restaurants-for-YEARS kind of vocal.  Now, my once peaceful house was frequently filled with crying, screaming and tantrums!
 
But then, I would calm down and go back to taking care of my baby.
 
Any parent understands that nothing has the ability to suck selfishness to the surface like a brand new baby in your home.
 
One day, in the midst of all these whirling, swirling winds of unexpected change, I remember sitting alone in my office with worship music playing.  I was reflecting on the past year – in the wake of all that had moved on, and all that had moved in.  Then this powerful little song by New Life Worship started to play.
 
———–
One thing I know that I have found
Through all the troubles that surround
You are the Rock that never fails, You never fail
 
One thing I know that I believe
Through every blessing I receive
You are the only One that stays, You always stay
 
Chorus
You never change
You’re still the same
You are the Everlasting God
You will remain after the day is gone and the things of earth have passed
Everlasting God
 
———–
Sitting there in my brokenness, crying grateful tears, I remembered that even when everything around me is changing, through both blessing and loss, goodbyes and hellos, my God remains the same.  I am loved by a God in Heaven who will never, EVER change.
 
Psalm 102:27
“But you are always the same;”
 
Looking back, God has taught me some things through it all:
 
– I have learned that when I think God is taking something from me, he is most likely planning to get something to me.
 
– I have learned to take a seat once in a while, empower others to rise up and take their place, and applaud them when they surpass me.
 
– Oh yeah, and that scripture, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” is actually entirely about being content in any circumstance; NOT about having ninja powers.
 
And finally, while change isn’t always fun, change is often God’s way of guiding us, blessing us or protecting us from something.  God uses change to usher us into new levels of growth.  He loves us, and He really does know what is best.
 
So my friend, whatever season of change that you may be facing, whether expected or unexpected, I pray that the God of yesterday, today and forever will steady you and hold you close.  I pray that His generous hand and faithful heart will teach you to trust Him in the midst of it all.  In all your goodbyes and hellos, may you find peace in the promise that He will always remain your everlasting One.
 
By the way, on the other side of that season, God has continued to bless our church with faithful people who fill our world with joy and laughter.  Our staff is as strong and productive as ever.  My son is home after finishing college, and I get to see my long-distance dear friend once every year.  The baby is now four years old, and he has become the life of our party.  He is still, however, very, very loud. If that were to ever change, I don’t believe I would mind.
Standard

Reason to Trust #36 [Robyn]

Robyn HipkissAge: 74 // Favourite Food: Ice cream – all kinds // Dream Job: Humour therapist – I believe laughter is good medicine for both the soul and the body// Current Season: Retired – grandmother – and writer // Met Jesus: At 18 years of age in the Billy Graham Crusade in Adelaide in 1959 // Favourite Verse: Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”// Blog: www.robynhipkiss.wordpress.com // Website: www.inspiringstories.net.au

I was born again in the Billy Graham Crusade in Adelaide in 1959, when I was 18 years of age.  Hungry to know more, I began attending a Pentecostal church at the invitation of a friend, where I was baptized in water and filled with the Holy Spirit.

My life was transformed by the touch of God. I had always felt there should be more to life than just living from day to day. Now I had found a purpose for living. I wanted to serve God with all my heart, and enrolled to attend Bible College four nights a week, for two years.

I was thrilled to be asked to take up an appointment as Secretary to Leo Harris, the pastor of the large city church I attended, a job I loved. Working every day in the church office for a wise and godly man and a dedicated team of pastors was, to me, the dream job.

I became involved in children’s ministry and had the great joy of seeing many children touched and changed by the power of God through weekly clubs, camps and school outreaches.

In my late twenties I met and married Terry Hipkiss. We both had a deep desire to serve God, which led us to move to Canberra in 1976, to assist in ministry in a church there. After a couple of years we began our own church, known as  Shekinah Christian Centre, under the covering of the Bethesda movement. It is now known as Ginninderra Christian Church.

Most of us have a romantic dream of marriage, but for me it didn’t work out quite like I thought it would!

Terry was a sensitive and caring man. He had a keen mind, and a great knowledge and understanding of the Bible, and in particular Bible history and prophecy, and how it related to the modern world. He loved to preach and teach the Word of God, and God honoured His Word with people finding faith in Christ and growing in their faith through Terry’s ministry and those who worked with him.

But very early in our married life it became obvious that he suffered with deep emotional and psychological problems. Although we loved each other dearly, he found it very hard to cope with my invasion of his personal space. His drive for perfection caused him to be constantly disappointed by the frailty of those around him, including himself, and particularly his wife! No matter how hard I tried – and believe me, I did try – I could never meet his impossible expectations.

He had been heavily involved in occultish practices before he became a Christian, and it seemed there were  issues which stemmed from that. These, along with other deep seated problems, were to trouble him throughout his life, resulting in depression, frustration and suicidal thoughts. He loved his family and being involved in our two daughter’s activities, but these emotional highs and lows meant that we never knew just what to expect from day to day. His zest for life and zany sense of humour were often overshadowed by the “black dog” of depression.

With the tension in the home and the strain of keeping up with the demands of the ministry, I often felt like my nerves were being stretched to breaking point.

When I had to undergo major surgery for bowel cancer in 1987, my doctor said that stress was a major factor in causing many cancers, and I should avoid it if I wanted to fully recover. He explained that the bowel is extremely sensitive to tension. This was a bit difficult in light of the challenges I faced at home. It is a testimony to God’s grace that 27 years later I am enjoying good health, for which I thank Him every day.

After more than 20 years in ministry, in 1988 Terry came to a crisis in his faith and turned away from God. He walked away from the church, saying “I am an absolute failure in every area of my life.” He lost sight of the good things God had done through his ministry and in his life, because of the turmoil within his heart, and the issues he could not deal with. He chose to walk away rather than confront those issues.

I had spent many years praying for God to bring Terry through to freedom. But now I came to a place where I knew I had to stop striving and worrying and place him by faith into God’s hands. It was a place of rest and peace. I felt God gave me a word that Terry would be away from his faith for a period of time, but that eventually he would come back into a relationship with his heavenly Father.

I had no idea how this would happen or how long it would take, but I had an assurance and peace about it.

In the meantime I continued to be involved in the church I was attending. I am so thankful for the prayerful support of friends during that time, both for Terry and for our family.

Terry went back to teaching at the Canberra Institute of Technology. He went through a very difficult time of personal stress when his integrity as a teacher was attacked by a student. This harassment went on continually for three years and took its toll on his health and his emotions.

Not long after this, in 1995, Terry became ill with prostate cancer, which gradually, over a two year period, spread to bone cancer throughout his body.

Early in 1998 he wrote the following:

“Late last year my family and I went beyond the possibility of facing cancer, to also facing death. This was not an easy thing  – especially in light of my rebellion against God. I experienced the pain of knowing that I would possibly have to leave my wife and my children and would not see my grandchildren grow up.

I had a strong conviction that I wanted to go to Adelaide to see my relatives at Christmas time, even though by then I was experiencing very severe pain. One night between Christmas and New Year I was in agony and had to be admitted to hospital to get some relief. During the early morning hours in the hospital I woke up and heard myself saying: “I don’t understand but I believe.” I was quite startled by this, and immediately checked to see if anyone else was in the room. Within seconds I heard a response. It wasn’t my voice, and there was no nurse in the room, but I heard these beautiful words: “Welcome home, son.” All I can say is that it was just as if an overwhelming blanket hit me right in the solar plexus. It just floored me that God was welcoming me home. I thank God for such a wonderful, deep and glorious re-introduction to His grace.”

Terry underwent radiotherapy for the tumours pressing on his spine. Although initially he got some relief, the tumours then affected his back and did not respond to the radiotherapy. This resulted in paralysis from his waist down, causing him to be a paraplegic. During his time in hospital, and then the hospice, he drew great comfort from listening to scripture tapes and gospel music, and the words of one particular song … “He looked beyond my faults and saw my need,” blessed and encouraged him.

He shared his faith with all who came to visit him. He said, “ I know God is able to heal me and raise me up. But if it is my time to  go and be with Him, then I am ready to go.”

In June 1998, Terry went to be with the Lord. His funeral was a celebration of his life, and in particular those last six months when he was able to restore fellowship and share his renewed faith with so many people.

Over the years I have heard many similar stories of God’s grace which have inspired and uplifted me.

I decided I wanted to share these stories with others, so I began writing and recording inspirational life stories. In 2006 I published my first book, Australian Women of Grace, telling the stories of five Christian women. In that book, I shared my story and included Terry’s testimony. Since then I have published two more books … Australian Women of Courage and Inspiring Stories of Life and Faith. I just love sharing these inspirational stories of the grace and goodness of God, and have received letters from many who have been encouraged and blessed by reading them.

If you are praying for a loved one, I would encourage you not to  give up! God is faithful to His promises, and if we trust in Him He will answer our prayers. Maybe not in the way we are expecting, or in the time frame we would like. But on the journey He teaches us many things. I like the expression “leaning into God.”

If we lean into Him He will strengthen us for the journey.

He has promised that He will never leave us nor forsake us.

Standard