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 #5: Red Sea Rules

redsearulesHave you ever wondered what it must have been like to be the children of Israel facing the Red Sea? Think about it….

You have just watched God bring an entire country to its knees. Though you were slaves and conditions were far from optimal, it was still the place your family had called home for nearly 400 years! Now, you have had to pack up your families, your belongings, your animals – everything that you could carry with you – and follow a shepherd into the desert. You don’t know exactly where you are going or how long it’s going to take you to get there, but you know that you must follow! You are thrilled to finally be free from the clutches of a dictator who valued you only because of what you did for him; yet you are unsure of the path ahead. Immediately before you is the Red Sea. As if the water in front of you were not troubling enough, in the distance beyond you there are mountains. In the trail behind you, there is a cloud of dust beginning to rise. It is not long before word spreads that Pharaoh is coming for you! He’s angry at you, at your leader, at your God, and he wants revenge! You begin to feel an all-to-familiar knot forming in the pit of your stomach! Now what?

Do you know that feeling? I do! If you are a living, breathing human being, you will, at some point in this life, come to place where you do not know what to do. Beyond you, there will be mountains. Before you, there may be deep waters. Behind you, there are opposing forces. What do you do when you don’t see any way to escape?

In The Red Sea Rules: 10 God-given Strategies for Difficult Times, Robert Morgan reminds any Christian facing difficulties that God has a proven track record! He worked miracle after miracle for the children of Israel just to get them out of Egypt and to the Red Sea. That was not the end of their story; it was only the beginning! By applying the following ten strategies to our lives during times of difficulty, we can witness the miraculous power of the same God who led His people through deep water on DRY ground:

  1. Realize that God means for you to be where you are.
  2. Be more concerned for God’s glory than for your relief.
  3. Acknowledge your enemy, but keep your eyes on the Lord.
  4. Pray!
  5. Stay calm and confident, and give God time to work.
  6. When unsure, just take the next logical step by faith.
  7. Envision God’s enveloping presence.
  8. Trust God to deliver in His own unique way.
  9. View your current crisis as a faith builder for the future.
  10. Don’t forget to praise Him.

I could elaborate on each of these principles with specific examples from my own personal life, but that would defeat the purpose of encouraging you to read the book for yourself and apply it to your life! No matter what impossible situation or circumstance you may be currently facing, there is a God who sees your tears, hears your prayers, and stands ready to lead you through deep water! Follow Him! This could be just the beginning of your story!

The hardback copy of this book is available for $8.99 from www.amazon.com. You may also purchase the paperback or Kindle editions here. If purchasing is not an option for you, check with your local library. This is the resource I used when a friend recommended the book to me!

**As noted in a previous post, in the interest of complete honesty for those who may want to know ahead of time, 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.

 

Three Ways to Pray for Those Who Are Hurting


praying-614374_640 (1)Recently, I was asked to write a guest post about prayer for the blog of a friend’s church in South Louisiana. After the events that we have faced over the last 12-18 months, I was not sure that prayer was the best thing for me to write about. After all, we had prayed about several things that had not turned out the way we had hoped. How could I write about prayer when it seemed that the only answers we had been receiving were “no” and “wait”? Don’t most articles on prayer focus on how we can get anything and everything we pray for if we just believe that God can and will do it? How could I encourage people about prayer when we were still waiting for answers ourselves? As I reflected over our most recent journey, I began to think about all of the people who have told us that we are in their prayers. As Christians, we know that God knows best and that, in the end, His way in perfect; but sometimes that knowledge is clouded by the daily struggles and unanswered questions we face. Our aching hearts cry out to Him, “Why, Lord?” When we are hurting, there is no greater encouragement than the whisper of a friend who says, “I am praying for you.” In the darkest moments of life, those few words can help a struggling brother or sister find the strength to face another day. We have heard those words many times throughout this last year, usually just when we needed them. It was as if the Lord was saying, “I know you don’t understand. I know you are having to wait, but, while you are waiting, I will send comfort through the thoughts, words, and deeds of faithful friends.” Thank you, Lord, for giving us Christian brothers and sisters who will pray for us in our time of need! What follows is the article I wrote after much thought about prayer and those who are hurting!

Continue reading “Three Ways to Pray for Those Who Are Hurting”