23 weeks

Pulling out of my neighborhood, I battled mid-afternoon traffic,  trying not to speed. Glancing down at the clock on the dash, my heart started to race. Tiny tears tried to make their escape from the corner of my eyes. I knew what I was about to face would not be easy.

I took a deep breath and did the only thing I could – I prayed. I pulled into the hospital parking, slung my turquoise camera bag over my shoulder and began to make the long walk to the NICU. Hospital sounds and smells inundated me the moment I walked through the doors. I walked faster, scared that I wouldn’t make it in time.

The curtain was pulled aside and I saw them for the first time. A precious couple, in their late twenties or early thirties. The mom, clad in a hospital gown was pale and looked like she passed the point of exhaustion hours before. Next to her was her husband, a rock of man, and somewhere in the folds of the blanket he held was a perfectly formed, tiny baby. She was 23 weeks old -so very small. The tubes which ran from her mouth to a loud machine in the room was keeping her lungs open – keeping her alive.

I was there to take photographs of mom and dad saying hello to their baby girl…and then saying goodbye. So I captured everything – her tiny fingers and toes, the fuzzy hair covering her head, her little chest rising and falling with each breath. She had a first name. She had a middle name. And she was beautiful.

The hands on the clock raced while I worked behind my camera, and before I knew it, it was time for them to say goodbye to their little girl after less than 24-hours of her presence. The tubes disappeared and I was able to capture this little family during the precious moments they had left together. I tried to give them privacy, but I heard as the mom whispered through tears, “Are you sure you don’t want to stay with us baby?”

I packed up my bag and they thanked me for those priceless photographs I had captured. I had never met these people before, but I knew I would never, ever forget them after this day. I have never experienced their same pain, but I do know what it feels like to hit rock bottom, as if your world has caved in. And so, one broken human being to another, I asked if I could pray for them. They agreed and I asked the Lord to cuddle this little baby in His arms.

And then I said goodbye to their little baby who had changed my life forever.

Because, the night before, I had started to believe a lie. It had been another long week and I was discouraged and tired. So I gave in. I started to believe that I would never do ministry again. That in my job, I didn’t really have the opportunity to help people. Through tears, I told my husband how much I missed making a difference in peoples lives. I believed the lie. I put ministry in the box labeled “church” and thought I couldn’t really make a difference unless I worked at a church again.

And yet, the very next day God proved me wrong. He rocked my world. I had tried to put the vast sum of His work in a box called “church”. And while the church is helping millions throughout the world, God is even bigger than that. He can accomplish His ministry to people in anyway He sees fit. And there are people hurting everywhereThere are so many people who need to be hugged or prayed with; people who need to be cared for.

God reminded me that as long as I’m walking with Him, He’ll use me, no matter where I am.

my friend

Last night we had dinner with a great family friend, Hank Hanegraaff.

Throughout this past year, I’ve been inundated with encouraging phone calls, emails and Facebook messages.

One such call came from Hank. I left the dinner table and went outside to sit on the concrete curb. He told me that I would make it through the betrayal and the divorce. That eventually, though the pain would still be there, it wouldn’t hurt as bad. He encouraged me not to make any brash or impulsive decisions. And he prayed with me.

Now, nearly a year later, I was able to thank him for that phone call. And introduce to him to my new fiance. He told me how proud he was of me. He asked me what my dreams and aspirations were. And then he told me he believed in me.

I can’t tell you what that meant to me. I want to be that persons in others’ lives. I want to tell young women that they can make it after divorce and learn to trust again. Because if I can make it through what I went through, others can too.

I’m praying for big things right now. I’m praying for God to prepare me to be a wonderful, godly, encouraging, loving wife for my future husband. I’m praying for my mortgage company to accept the offer that has been made on my house. I’m praying for God to open a door for me to do ministry again in His timing and His way. And, I’m praying for God to send me some people who believe in me more than I believe in myself; people who will help me accomplish all that God has planned for me.

I’m blessed to consider Hank one of those people…and my friend.

“So speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope…” 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Who encourages you?

no more blank screens

I was blessed to meet my very best friend, Jessie, the summer before my senior year of high school. We met at youth camp in Florida and like most girls, were consumed with jealously of one another before we discovered that in actuality we had much in common. That summer started a frienship that I believe will last a lifetime.

The best way to describe her is by stealing the words from the author of Proverbs 17:17, “a friend loves at all times“. I’ve learned that it’s an extremely rare thing to find a faithful friend – one who will love you day in, day out, no matter what decisions you make; whether life is heaven or hell. We have seen each other through rain and shine, spiritual highs and times of sin. I will never ever forget the way she dropped everything when I told her about my divorce – she drove in from Wichita and stood right next to my side as my world crumbled. I don’t remember her saying anything profound. But, I just remember her being there.

Since we both work desk jobs I have frequently emailed her this year. She has been like my unseen, invisible angel – the person I have shared every emotion with – from the day I finally received the signed divorce decree after a year of pain, the day the pipes burst in my house and destroyed everything, the day I knew Jeff was going to pick out an engagement ring, and every high and low in between.

It’s brought me tremendous peace to know that she’s literally been one click away everyday. All it takes is to hit the “send” button and I know someone will be there to share my burden and help me keep my head up.

Isn’t this a picture of God in our lives? Unfortunately, most of us forget He’s even there. And regardless, does He even care about the anxieties and burdens of our hearts? I imagine God, like Jessie, sitting in front of His gmail account, desperately awaiting to hear from me. Over and over, He presses the “refresh” button. Not only does He want to hear from me, but He desires to take away my burdens. He wants to reassure me that He’s working all things for good and yearns to overflow His peace into my soul.

How many times have I left Him staring at the screen? How many times have I told dozens of people what I’m dealing with, never considering to come to the Problem Solver Himself? Back in September, when emotionally I was doing everything I could to hold on I prayed continually – passionate, real prayers. I poured out my heart to Him. I have never felt such communion with God. I felt completely stripped before God – I hid nothing. I exchanged Him – my hurt, anger and fear – for His unmatchable peace.

Seeing as I’m about to start a new chapter in my life, I went out an purchased a new journal, which will serve as my prayer journal. Words are powerful and therapeutic in my life. I can’t wait to use this journal to tell God my every emotion and feeling about anything in my life. He truly serves as our best friend and it’s comforting to know I can go to him…with anything.