The Other Side of the Storm

rainbow cloudsHave you ever gone through a trial in life and thought, “I am never going to make it through this! This is hard! Why can’t it just be over already?” Four years ago this week, I was there. I will never forget the look on the ultrasound technician’s face when she said that we would have to try the internal ultrasound to find baby’s heartbeat. She was trying to be positive, but I felt a knot in my stomach and the tears well up in my eyes. I knew what she wasn’t saying: my baby was gone!

This wasn’t supposed to happen! When I went to the doctor two weeks before because of some early difficulties, we saw a precious baby and a beating heart! The doctor dated me at 8 weeks, 1 day and started me on progesterone. My troublesome symptoms went away. For two weeks, I clung to the hope that everything was going to be fine. When it was time for the follow-up ultrasound at 10 weeks, I planned to go in, confirm that everything was normal, and then go back to our very busy schedule with little interruption! God, however, had other plans. The doctor was out of the office that Wednesday morning delivering someone else’s baby, but he called and spoke to me about my options. I honestly don’t remember anything he said past, “I’m so very sorry…” I cried and cried and cried some more. We opted to go off of the progesterone and then wait for nature to take its course without other medical intervention. The next four days seemed like normal days. My husband was busy with ministry responsibilities. Our fall revival was starting that Sunday, and the Youth Conference that our teens hosted was on the calendar for the Saturday following the revival. We were just a few weeks away from the annual school play that he had been tasked with organizing and directing shortly before the new school year started. I was busy helping finalize arrangements for the Youth Conference, preparing costumes for the play, and practicing piano music for both church and school activities. On top of ministry, we had three school age children and a lively toddler at home! I waited and waited and waited. We went about our “normal” routine. Finally, on the same Sunday morning that our revival meeting started, the physical process of losing my baby also began. I cannot count how many times during those next couple of days that I talked to the Lord, “Why me, Lord? I am busy serving you. This does not fit into my plans. I don’t have time for this. Can’t you just make it go away? Can I just wake up and realize that it was all just a horrific nightmare?” I was struggling…searching…wondering.

Have you ever been there? Maybe you are grieving the death of a spouse, child, or other loved one. Maybe you have lost your job or your home or your marriage or your ministry. Maybe you are facing an unexpected diagnosis of disease. The sky is dark and the wind is howling around you. This boat of life is being tossed around by the raging waves, and you find yourself struggling to see your hand in front of your face, searching for some glimmer of light in the darkness, and wondering if you’ll ever see the other side of the storm. I am here to tell you that you will! I cannot tell you why you are going through the storm. I cannot tell you how long it will take…BUT…I can tell you that God is already there on the other side of your storm! He knows exactly how long it will last, what lessons He is planning to teach you, and how you will be able to help others because of it!

Honestly, in the midst of my storm, there were times that I really didn’t care that God was already aware of what was on the other side for me. I thought that if He really cared, he would have taken me around the storm in the first place. (I know that’s not  a very spiritual response, but it is an honest one. Anyone who tells you that they have never struggled emotionally, even for a moment, during a time of trial is lying to you!) Even when I decided that God did know best and really did have my best interest at heart, it was still painful to talk about for a long time. As with all wounds, time has brought healing. The scars may remain, but with God’s help they have become a way for me to minister to others.

I will never be the same person I was before that day in September of 2013. I will never go to another ultrasound without a knot in my stomach and the feeling that the hammer is about to drop! I will never face the early days of September (or my due date in late March) without some sadness at the thought of the life that could have been. I will still cry when I read articles or watch commercials or movies that deal with the loss of a child. I will always, always, always miss my baby! No amount of time will ever change that! What has changed is my perspective about the storm! I will never know this side of Heaven all the reasons that God allowed those stormy days in my life, but the important thing is that He brought me through them! The storm was not the end of my story. In some ways, it was only the beginning….

God sees the storm from the other side
He knows the lessons learned
And just beyond the clouds He sees clear skies
He speaks peace to the raging storm
When peace cannot be found
He already sees the rainbow when we see only clouds

You can read more about my story and the lessons I learned from it in my five part series called “Suffering in Silence.”

Suffering in Silence: My Story 

Suffering in Silence: Did You Know?

Suffering in Silence: Ministering (Part 1) – Recognize Their Loss

Suffering in Silence: Ministering (Part 2) – Realize Their Struggle

Suffering in Silence: Ministering (Part 3) – Reach Out to Help

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Book Review #4: Slow-Roasted Hope

slow roasted hopeWhen I picture the word hope, I think of the tiniest little ray of sunshine peaking through a sky filled with dark, ominous storm clouds! Sometimes, that is what hope is in our lives. We are surrounded by stormy situations and circumstances. It appears that all is lost.

When I came across the Kindle version of this book last year, I was, quite frankly, lacking hope! I had let the unexpected storms in our lives crowd out that little ray of sunshine. There were so many more questions than answers running around in my mind, and I had a hard time imagining that there would ever be much to be hopeful about again! (A bit of an over-reaction, I know, but it’s where I was at the time!) However, as I was struggling to find hope, it seemed that the Lord kept bringing that word to my attention just about every time I turned around! It popped up in my Bible reading on a daily basis! Some sweet friends sent me a birthday card and wrote a Scripture reference with their kind note. The reference belonged to a verse about hope! I went to two different ladies’ meetings at two different churches where two different speakers talked about waiting on God and hoping in Him. When I saw this book in my Amazon recommended reading list and then read the description, I decided that maybe the Lord was trying to tell me something!

Mrs. Chumley faced her own storm when doctors discovered that her almost two year old daughter was completely deaf in both ears. She was, quite understandably, shaken and faced a time of great despair and darkness. It was then that she began to search through the Scriptures to find out what God had to say about hope. This book is the result of that research. It is the story of how God used the deafness of her first daughter to prepare her for the same diagnosis with her second. It is the story of how God used His Word and His people to comfort her hurting heart and prepare her to comfort others in the future. It is story of how one little ray of hope led to another, which led to another, which led to another. It is the story of how God changed her perspective and gave her the ability to see hope in the darkness, instead of just looking for hope to get out of it! Incredibly, it is also the story of how, years later, God answered the prayers of those two little girls and surprised the family with a third daughter – who has no hearing problems at all!  You can read about her journey out of darkness and into hope by purchasing the Kindle edition of this book for $3.99 at www.amazon.com**

Maybe you are still in the darkness. Seek God! Go to His Word! Surround yourself with His people! Remember that finding healing and hope, like brewing a good cup of coffee, takes time! It is often a slow process, but one that will leave you stronger and better able to strengthen those around you who are weak. Perhaps, God will change your perspective. Instead of seeing only the threatening clouds of doubt and despair that are filling your thoughts, maybe you will find that one little ray of hope, pushing its way through the darkness and fighting to make its presence known.

“But I will hope continually, and will yet praise thee more and more.”

~~Psalm 71:14~~

 

**In the interest of complete honesty for those who may want to know ahead of time, I should note that not all of the verses quoted in the text are from the KJV.

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Book Review #3: Off Script

 Well, hello there! It has been well over a year since I have written anything on my blog. There have been plenty of events in the Ross household that may warrant future blog posts – like the birth of our precious Sarah Noel seven months ago or the unexpected job offer from a friend at church that my husband accepted two months ago. With six growing children ranging in age from baby to sophomore in high school and increasing involvement at church and school, I have spent lots of time thinking about this blog, but not much time actually writing! Here’s hoping this will not be the last post for another 15 months!

To be honest, this book review has been in the works for almost eighteen months. Along with the normal activities of life, there is a lot of soul-searching, thinking, and praying that goes on when your plans and dreams for ministry come to a crashing halt! This is just one of the reasons that I believe reading good, Bible based material is so very important. Though it can be temporarily encouraging to read from motivational speakers who tell you that God has a great (i.e., successful, prosperous) life planned for you or that you can guarantee said successful and prosperous life simply by having a positive outlook, those philosophies are not at all Scriptural. In fact, they are the very opposite of sound Biblical teaching. The Bible is overflowing with stories of men and women who were not, by the world’s standards, successful or prosperous; whose lives were filled with great pain, misfortune, and suffering; and whose only hope was that God could see what they were experiencing and would work it together for their good. (In fact, one of the items on my “bucket list” is writing a book about some of those people and the example they left for us as they waited – sometimes for years – for God to bring closure to their stories of pain, loss, suffering, testing, trial, etc.) Sound reading material is vital to Christian growth and even more necessary for those who wish to lead other Christians!

It’s been so long since I first read “Off Script” that I decided to go back and read it again before writing my review. Honestly, I think I enjoyed it even more the second time around. Though his circumstances differed greatly from ours, I appreciated Pastor Schmidt’s openness and honesty about his struggles physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I was blessed to read about his victories and was thrilled to see on his Facebook page recently that he has been given the “all clear” and has been discharged from the care of his oncologist! Knowing that God has brought him through his season of trial and has done miraculous things for him in the process (in both his personal life and ministry) has been a source of encouragement to me!

In a style that addresses serious topics and issues with both honesty and humor, Pastor Schmidt outlines the following ten principles to implement when facing times in life that expectations do not match reality:

  • Love God, Trust God, Live for God
  • Be of Good Cheer
  • Be the Clay
  • Cherish the Treasures of Darkness
  • Walk in the Spirit
  • Wait for Him, Hope in Him
  • Try Your Ways
  • Be Strong and Work
  • Love Your Own
  • Strive Together for the Faith

Your season of trial may occur in health, relationships, ministry, finances, or any number of other areas in life. The above principles, if implemented, will strengthen your faith as you face the unknown with confidence in an all-knowing God and broaden your influence as others learn from your faith-based, Spirit-led responses to the difficulties life brings.  Whether you are currently entering, enduring, or ending a stormy time in life, it is vital that you fill your heart and mind with Scripturally sound literature that will encourage you to daily place your trust in the God who knows and sees all! “Off Script” is one example of the kind of reading material every Christian should include in his library. It can be purchased for $14.95 from www.strivingtogether.com. Pastor Schmidt has more books and other helpful resources available at www.caryschmidt.com.

 

What is Ministry?

“Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”       ~~Matthew 20:28

“…and took upon him the form of a servant…”     ~~Philippians 2:7

What does it mean to live “ministry” life? For as long as I can remember, I have equated being “in ministry” only with those who were in “full-time ministry”: the pastors, staff members, evangelists, missionaries, teachers, etc. whose livelihoods came from churches or their associated ministries.  For the past few months, I have honestly felt a little lost. When we began our life together almost 15 years ago, we surrendered our lives and our home to “full-time service” and willingly followed the Lord wherever He would have us to go in pursuit of that calling. Then, life happened, and circumstances we may never fully understand landed us in a time of transition between ministries: a season when being “full-time” was relegated only to memories of the past and hopes for the future. For two solid years, we have prayed and waited and prayed and waited and prayed and waited for the Lord to open a door to another ministry position!! As I write this, we are still praying and waiting, which has lead me to ask, “What about the present? How can I write about living ministry life when, at this point, we are not really ‘in ministry’?”  This time of transition has taught me many things (which I may write more about in the future), but one of the most important is that our entire Christian life is supposed to be about ministering to others. After all, isn’t that what ministry is about in the first place? It is not about position or prestige or programs. Though having a full-time position may bring a certain prestige and may require participation in various programs, that is not the heartbeat of ministry. In truth, ministry is about people: it is about building relationships and serving others. Indeed, the foundation of all ministry (and, therefore, of Biblical leadership) is a servant’s heart! That is what Jesus had. Jesus Christ, the only man ever truly capable of speaking with all knowledge and authority (prestige), chose to leave his Heavenly position to come to this earth and live the life of a servant!  I have determined that, as we wait for God to show us His plan regarding full-time ministry, I will ask the Lord to give me the opportunity to serve and minister to people who are hurting! When the Lord does answer our prayers and fulfill our desire to return to a full-time position, I will continue to ask Him to guide me to those who are in need of a friendly smile, a kind word, or a helping hand. Certainly, I have not conquered this necessary aspect of ministry, but I would like to believe that I have learned something over the last two years: there are hurting people everywhere. There will always be people in need; and, therefore, there will always be a chance to live “ministry” life!

Reflections

reflection

“O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.” ~ Psalm 34:8

“I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.” ~ Psalm 91:2

“It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises unto thy name, O Most High: To shew forth thy lovingkindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness every night…” ~ Psalm 92:1-2

“It is of the Lord‘s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” ~ Lamentations 3:22-23

It seems almost unreal to me, but it is now December 31, 2015. In just about 12 hours (in the Eastern Standard Time Zone), another year will be history. It has been quite a year for us! It has been a year of struggles and sorrows, but also one of blessings and joys. We have spent most of this year praying and waiting and praying and waiting and praying and…well, you get the idea. Though it has not been the year we had hoped and planned for, we have seen God answer prayers and provide in ways we never could have imagined.  Allow me to give you just a few examples: Continue reading “Reflections”

One Big, Happy Family: Making the Holiday Season Enjoyable for Your Staff

christmas-554720_640Before I offer some practical ways to make the holidays enjoyable for ministry families, allow me to say that this is written primarily to help and encourage the pastor’s wife as she seeks to develop strong bonds with the wives of the men who serve alongside her husband. These “family” ties will be vital to the success of the ministry. Though your husband bears the majority of the responsibility for leading the staff, you can play a key role in helping the wives be active, excited participants in the many ministries of the church. Continue reading “One Big, Happy Family: Making the Holiday Season Enjoyable for Your Staff”

If I Never Had a Sorrow

sun-and-rain-shannon-story-7250I am currently mulling over a few different topics for my next article, but I thought I would share a couple of blogs that have been an encouragement to me recently. My husband has begun writing a series of articles about dealing with hurt. He has posted the first two already, and I have been blessed by what he has written. You can view them at his blog, http://www.iknowwhom.com. Several weeks ago, I had the opportunity to make a quick, last minute trip up to Avon, Indiana, to see Jennifer, a college friend of mine who was in town for a pastor’s wives meeting. Though we only had a little while to chat (while we shopped at Goodwill – Who can beat that combination?!), I thoroughly enjoyed our time. She introduced me to another wonderful pastor’s wife named Leah, who blogs at http://embracingrace.com. I believe this was a God-ordained meeting, as I needed some encouragement that day! Leah, Jennifer, and the other ladies in their group were and have continued to be an answer to prayer! Last Sunday, a special speaker at church read this poem at the conclusion of his message. (It was written by his wife, Ashley Allen. You can check out her blog at http://lcid-counsel.blogspot.com) It spoke to my heart, and I thought maybe you would enjoy it, too. Continue reading “If I Never Had a Sorrow”