525,600 Minutes

Written by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

A tribute to my husband, Nathan Hill, the amazing Daddy of our four treasures.

During the long, agonizing years we spent trying to conquer fertility issues, I often wondered what my husband would be like as a Daddy. I daydreamed about being pregnant and how he would be during the labor and delivery processes. Most of all, I wondered what he would do— how he would react, when the doctor placed a brand new baby into his arms for the very first time— our baby.

525,600 is the number of minutes that are in one year. As I mentioned above we had difficulty conceiving. It turns out our patience was tested and over two million minutes passed between the moment my hubby and I decided to start a family— and the moment that we held our firstborn in our arms. That is a lot of time when you are passionately waiting for something to happen.

I remember the day our son Ben entered the world, so vividly. Watching the nurse hand my husband our first little one, this little man that was a piece of each of us, was maybe the very best moment of my whole life.

Most certainly worth the long wait.

About six million minutes have passed since we began this journey called parenthood, and I can say without reservation that my husband has proven to be one of the best dads that I know. Not only does he care immeasurably for our four children, he loves them fiercely, and he extends more patience than most people are capable of.

My husband, my kids Daddy, embraces every moment he has with our children and makes every effort to be intentional with his time with them. Time is fleeting and is often the very thing we take most for granted.

A few years ago my husband purposed we set aside every Tuesday (for date night) and every Friday (for family night). Aside from the fact that he prioritized these weekly events in our budget, the greatest gift my husband has ever given myself or his children is the gift of his time. We never wonder about the next time we will get to spend with him because he is consistent and devoted to each one of us.

While so many of us are wishing time away in anticipation for something great to arrive or an event to take place, or while others are griping away that time stands still, I hope that you’ll be inspired by my husbands intentionality and simply enjoy every single minute that you have with your children. With your loved ones.

Time is truly an invaluable gift.

525,600 is the number of minutes that are in one year. How will you spend your minutes?

Hurts Hurt

Written by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

Relationships and hurt oftentimes go hand in hand, wouldn’t you agree? Relationships, while important and wonderful, carry with them the potential of causing us grief and pain at some point during their existence.  

We all know this to be true, however, the blessings we receive far surpass the risk we take when we choose with whom we invest our time and love. We simply can not allow the possibility of hurts to defer us from investing love into our relationships. Furthermore, we can not allow the potential of hurts or the memories from past hurts sour our spirit. Instead, let’s deal with our hurts head-on by recognizing some truths.

I believe it is safe to conclude that the hurt you experienced from that friend or family member would not be experienced had the same circumstances taken place by an acquaintance or stranger.

Think about that for a moment. Hurt is the result when an expectation you placed on someone you’ve invested both time and love in, is unmet. It could be as simple as the expectation to be kind and supportive, when instead your loved one met your need to be affirmed, with criticism and frankness. Something was said…or not said. Something was done….or not done. Whatever the case, you had an expectation that was not met and you walked away hurt because of it.

It’s so important to realize just how important our relationships are and be prepared to hear things that may hurt— but are speaking truth into our heart. Though hard words to hear, recognizing they are words that need to be said and appreciate that someone who loves us very much cares enough to speak them.

I believe it is safe to conclude that oftentimes our interpretation of a loved ones words or actions do not equal their realistic intentions. My husband and I often run into this dilemma. I have learned over our dozen + years of marriage that timing is terribly important! To exaggerate my point— if I ask my husband a question that requires thought and sensitivity while he is in the middle of processing the thoughts of a sermon, I should not be surprised when his response is quick and surface. Choosing to wait until he is better able to respond with a clear head and time to focus gives the expectation I have on my hubby’s response a more realistic platform. For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

Finally, I believe it is also safe to conclude…that God can be in the relationship to heal and restore brokennessNothing is impossible with God. (Matthew 19:26) You might be thinking that the hurt you have held onto so tightly, for so long, is unforgivable and impossible to forget. But, I want to remind you of the biblical truth that no hurt is too big for God to restore. No “I’m sorry” will be said without His comforting peace or blessing. Not one single “I forgive you” will He leave you on your own to speak. We must be prepared to say both “I’m sorry” and “I forgive you” in every one of our relationships or they are doomed to fail. God is with us always and He is rooting for our reconciliation and restoration.

Nothing is impossible with God.

So friend, I urge you to take an inventory of those hurts you have stock-piled within the depths of your heart. Perhaps you have a few fresh wounds, or perhaps you’re nursing aging hurts that have caused bitterness towards others. Whatever the case, can we agree today that God desires for us, if it is possible, as far as it depends on you, to live at peace with everyone? (Romans 12:18)

So what now?

How can you pursue peace with everyone? Is there a conversation or two that you need to have with your people? Is there an apology or wrong that needs to be right, that you can care for? Ask God to reveal to you (if He hasn’t already) how you can pursue peace with all and then walk in boldness and confidence to achieve it.

Yes. Hurts hurt. But, Love is greater.

The Other Side Of Sorry…..

Written by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

Has your spouse ever made you really angry? Maybe he forgot to take out the trash for the third week in a row. Maybe he broke a promise to you that you were really counting on. Perhaps he made an important decision without conferring with you first. Perhaps the reason for your anger was pretty menial….but he caught you at a bad time.

Friend, I’d be lying if I said I never get angry with my husband. I do more often than I should. Sometimes I get really angry about really stupid things.

We all get angry. Sometimes we get angry for reasons that feel legit and justified. Other times our reasoning is slightly off kilter.

There are two things that God has been working on my heart about regarding forgiveness.

1. Ask for it.
When we react in anger foolishly it is our responsibility to ask for forgiveness. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” If we simply ask for forgiveness, God will continue to be faithful in keeping no record of our wrongs and forgiving us of our sins. Forget your pride, friend. Asking for forgiveness is SO important.

2. The other side of sorry.
There is more than just that flood of satisfaction when someone who has treated you wrongly apologizes. We have just as much responsibility when someone asks for our forgiveness; we must actually forgive them. How often do we walk away from an apology with bitterness still enveloping our hearts? Our flesh is incapable of shrugging off hurt and bitter feelings. However, the Holy Spirit can and will help us with that as long as we ask Him to. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (‭Ephesians‬ ‭4‬:‭32‬ NIV)

So friend, is there an area of your heart that God has given a little nudge after reading this post today? Do you need to improve on asking for forgiveness when you find yourself reacting in anger unnecessarily or does God desire you to improve on your ability to extend forgiveness? May I pray for you? “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” (‭Mark‬ ‭11‬:‭25‬ NIV)

Father God, thank You so much for Your forgiveness and the healing, peace and joy that comes from the truth that You have indeed washed us white as snow. Jesus, I pray for my sisters who also struggle with asking for and extending forgiveness. I pray that Your Holy Spirit will encompass us with each opportunity that arises where we are able to utilize these powerful words: I am sorry or I forgive you. Bless each heart that reads this post today. In Jesus name, Amen.

 

Don’t Play Fair

Written By: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32

Of the things that our children have picked up from school, maybe our least favourite these days, is the saying; “NO FAIR!!!!” Oh, how those two little words make us crazy, because they are usually followed by the sudden outbreak of pure chaos. Graciousness.

We live in a world where justice is very important. Good is rewarded; bad is avenged. In other words, “I’ll be nice to you so long as you are nice to me; but if you treat me wrong, I’ll treat you wrong back. Justice.

Unfortunately, that is exactly the problem.

You see, Jesus calls us to be different. He says in Matthew 5:39; “But I say to you, do not resist the evildoer. But whoever strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other to him as well.”

I recently felt challenged by this verse in relation to parenting my kids. We are parenting them to seek justice….when Christ calls us to be more than that. “He has told you, [sister] what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)

God calls us to DO justice; not seek justice.

So how do we teach this to our kids?! Well I think the first thing we need to do is live it out in our own lives. If we want our kids to do justice, we have to do justice too. After that, I think we just need to take it day by day; lesson by lesson all while allowing God to lead us.

Don’t play fair anymore. Do better than that; love abundantly, even if it’s not returned.

Father God, thank You for Your love and mercy. Thank You that we do not need to seek justice, but instead we can seek You as You are just. Jesus, when it comes to our kids, let us be a living example of doer’s of justice, rather than those seeking justice. Please also guide us as we desire to raise our kids in a manner which will honour and glorify You. We ask these things in Your precious name, amen.

Spencer’s Story

Written by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

After our adventures with our preemie baby Sophia, the idea of having another baby brought many new anxieties. Would we carry to full term with another pregnancy!? Surely we would not endure another premature birth?!

Deciding to follow our dreams rather than dwell on our fears, we decided to try again. In February 2011, we learned we were expecting another baby due October 13, 2011. We were ecstatic! Our anxieties seem to melt away with our joy and excitement. God is so good to us!

We told our parents and a few close friends, and planned to announce our exciting news once I was a little further along.

March 5, 2011 was like any other day. We were busy enjoying a Saturday with our two children and had plans to have dinner with several friends that evening. At dinner, I began to feel unwell physically. Body aches and feeling unsettled; increasingly so. Midway through dinner I informed my hubby of this feeling unwell, and we headed for home. We were not home for very long before I realized I was bleeding; heavily. A trip to the ER and roughly eight hours later we were home trying to digest the fact that at just 11 weeks along, we had lost our precious little one.

Nothing we had been through to date had felt so empty and final. My worst nightmare had become my reality and our hearts were shattered.

We saw our OB a few days later and he encouraged our trying again, as soon as my body was able. We believed that The Lord had more children in store for our family, so we decided that we would take his advice.

In July of 2011, we discovered that we were expecting again. Again, joy and excitement were in abundance. We were feeling so very blessed.

Unfortunately, we lost this precious little one as well. On August 6, 2011 God called our second little one home to be with Him. Our world was shaken; for the second time in less than six months. We kept our eyes on The Lord through both of these losses and believed with our whole hearts that He would be faithful to bring our dreams to a place of reality.

Even through the darkest times, God gave us an abundance of peace and hope.

For the third time in just one year, we learned we were expecting; this time on our first angel baby’s due date. On October 13, 2011 (also my Dad’s birthday) we learned we were expecting another baby due to be born on June 15, 2012.

I would feel dishonest if I did not admit my apprehension. We seemed to be great at making the babies…..but my body seemed to refuse to keep them in. We prayed relentlessly for this little one, begging God to save our hearts from yet another break.

I believe I held my breath until my first ultrasound. It was there that I heard, with my own ears, that beautiful heartbeat!

This pregnancy was going wonderfully. We decided to keep the gender a surprise this time around and were enjoying watching the baby turn and kick each evening; he/she was such an active little one.

Wednesday March 21, 2012 was our family night at church. Nothing out of the ordinary happened that day. Nothing to signal any alarms or give us reason to worry. Yet, just shortly after 7pm, at just 27 weeks pregnant I found myself doubled over with labor pains. They came on suddenly; as in nothing one moment and then all-out the next.

I had mentioned my discomfort to a friend and decided to lay down in my hubby’s office at the church to catch some relief. Less than an hour later, that friend found me having contractions every 50 second lasting for 30 seconds in duration. Yikes. It was not long before 911 had an ambulance at the church to pick me up. I spent the next week in hospital.

We were so relieved that labor was able to be stopped. My obstetrician did allow me to go home on bed rest for the remainder of my pregnancy. What a humbling experience. My husband was amazing; that is even an understatement. He worked all day, took the reigns on cooking and cleaning when needed, and would often be found at the park after work hours with our two older children. We had a few friends who stopped in to care for our laundry and one very wonderful woman cleaned our house once a week for us as well. There were others who helped us care for our children, while many brought home cooked meals for us to enjoy. It’s not easy for Mom to sit back and have others do her job……but I was focused on bringing this baby to term, so I graciously and humbly found myself accepting those offers of help.

Almost seven weeks passed from the time I left the church in that ambulance and I found myself labouring again. Still premature at just 34 weeks, my husband and I were once again making that nervous ride to the hospital.

On May 4th 2012 at 5:09am Spencer Nathan-Josiah made his way into our world. He was assessed by our nurse-friend Michele from the NICU and seemed to be doing fairly well. At 5:12am, his little body was exhausted and he stopped breathing. The NICU nurses worked on him for a short time and quickly whisked him off to the NICU. If you’ve read our daughter Sophia’s story- you can imagine our fear! Spencer was placed on CPAP right away, but was taken off just less than 48 hours later.

About a week into his stay at the NICU, Spencer began showing signs of an infection. After a drastic decline in his health, and a large number of tests, it was confirmed that he was septic. Two high dose IV antibiotics were given for the infection and within a couple of days a remarkable difference was seen. Once again, God had blessed us with a miracle!

Spencer was a fabulous little eater, so once the seven days of antibiotics was complete, we were discharged and able to go home. Ben and Sophia were so excited to meet their brand new baby brother and we couldn’t wait to begin our days as a family of five.

I remember those late night feeds and how tired the days were. I can remember snuggling Spencer a little longer, after he was done feeding at night, with thankful tears that God had given us this beautiful baby boy!

Though we faced sorrow, God was faithful to bring us to a place of pure and indescribable joy!

HAPPY 6TH BIRTHDAY, miracle boy!

It Doesn’t Matter Who You’re Not

Written by: Mandy Lawrence—Hill

“Jealousy will ruin who you are because it focuses all of your attention on what you’re not, instead of who you are.” —Why Her?, Nicki Koziarz

I sat and listened as my friend shared with me how much she disliked another lady, whom we’ll call Jane, from our church. I sipped on my coffee as she shared how some of Jane’s leadership decisions made her upset and my heart broke a little bit more with each word that left her lips.

You see, from my perspective, my friend is a superstar. She is one of the most encouraging, loving, gifted, blessed women in my life, and yet, I as sat there listening to her I was keenly aware of how little she realized this truth. She too had leadership qualities that set her apart. Jealousy however, told my friend the gifts and talents that Jane had were of greater significance. Each one of Jane’s gifts and talents pierced a hole in my friend’s self-confidence paying ignorance to the many gifts and talents she herself had to offer.

As she continued talking, the Holy Spirit reminded me of Moses’ journey in Exodus. In chapter 17, it says this: “As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset.

Friends, can you imagine how different the outcome would have been for the Israelites had Aaron and/or Hur allowed feelings of jealousy to dictate their support of Moses? Israel’s victory over the battle against the Amalekites came not because of Moses alone but because of the three men combined. Yes Moses was indeed the leader of the mission but he was simply too weak and tired to carry out that mission without the supporting roles of Aaron and Hur.

The enemy is prowling around looking for ways to derail us from being victorious in the spiritual battle. We know that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this world’s darkness, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12) We need to keep this in our foresight as we approach each and every conversation, church gathering/event, and before each and every visit to a source of social media.

The truth is that God has equipped each and every one of us with special gifts, unique talents and a purely divine purpose. As an alternative to feeling challenged or belittled by the gifts and talents of the “Jane’s” in our life, we should be pressing in close with thanksgiving for our own talents and gifts and willingly offer support where we are able, to increase the force against the battle.

Let’s choose to hold each other’s arms up with a passion for victory against the battle, instead of being taken down by who we are not.

Take Courage!

Written by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

2 Chronicles 15:7 says “But you, take courage! Do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded.”

Rewinding life about nine and a half years ago, I vividly remember the feeling I had after my firstborn and I were settled into our hospital room together. Labor and delivery now behind me, nurses reassigned to new labouring moms, husband sleeping soundly in the cot beside me, my sweet friend home to catch up on the nights sleep she sacrificed to help me as I laboured—and I remember wondering if I could ever fall asleep again because life was just too good to miss.

As I stared into the bluer-than-blue eyes of my precious newborn baby boy, I was ever-aware that God had everything to do with this dream come true.

I was finally a mom.

1 Samuel 1:27 says “I asked the Lord to give me this boy, and he has granted my request.”

God answered our prayer, and gave us a beautiful family. I have many more moments like this one in my memory bank to pull out when those less-than-amazing moments arise. And they do.

There have been many moments as a mom that I wish I could go back and do differently. Pages from my mom story that I wish I could re-write. Moments that I wish I could erase, while other moments I wish I could bottle up and re-live as often as I would like.

The older my children get, the harder this mom-job gets. It is in those less-than-amazing moments, when I am elbow deep in the grit of loving and disciplining, that I desperately grasp that very first moment when I was ever-aware of the Lord’s blessing me with these miracle lives. I choose to allow the blessing of the job to outweigh the stress of it, and I press onward, holding onto the promise found in 2 Chronicles 15:7.

Are you struggling with a lack of gratefulness for a known blessing, my friend? Let’s “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Two Little Pink Lines

Written by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

Who knew two little pink lines could bring one so much happiness?! As I watched those two little pink lines grow clearer and clearer I was filled with an unforgettable happiness. Just a few years before that doctors were telling me I would never be able to have children of my own and yet, here I was, watching confirmation of a third pregnancy appear right before my eyes.

Nathan and I shared in the happiness as this was an answer to our prayers! After blood tests confirmed what those little pink lines already told us we visited the doctor and learned we were about ten weeks along! What a wonderful miracle!

The afternoon after our doctors appointment we baked a cake together and decorated it with fondant creations that resembled a pregnant belly, a bowl of ice cream, and a dill pickle along with the words “we’re expecting” written across its top. When our friends came for dinner that evening, we showed them the cake and they too shared in our happiness! Baby Hill number three would soon join our precious little tribe.

Just one week later experiencing the high of happiness this new pregnancy brought with it, we were experiencing the opposite— complete and absolute devastation. At eleven weeks gestation our precious little one was no more. Until these circumstances, I had no idea it was even possible to feel so many emotions at one time.

My husband and I came home from spending the night at the hospital and grieved. As I laid my head on my pillow I cried tears of sadness like I never had before.

A friend sent me a message that morning, not knowing anything of our situation, that included these verses from scripture: “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” —Job 1:21; “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. Plans to prosper, not to harm, plans to give you a bright hope for the future.” —Jeremiah 29:11

I couldn’t believe it as I read these words. Knowing the story of Job and all he endured, I knew the Lord was showing me that even through these unimaginable circumstances, He was the Hope I needed to put my complete trust in. He knew all the details, and my job was simply to continue lifting up and blessing His holy name!

I don’t know what circumstances you are facing today, but I do know that God knows all things and holds the knowledge of every detail of your future in His hands. Trust Him. Bless Him. And know your only hope comes from Him and Him alone.

Party Of One

Written By: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be. (Matthew 6:19-21)

Have you ever met someone that is just truly never satisfied?! They throw ‘pity parties’ for themselves because this or that did not go the way they wanted it to….They wallow in self-pity when they don’t own the newest trend; act jealously if someone else has something that they’d like to have; and or withdraws when something really good happens to someone else?

Maybe this person is you?

Two important biblical truths come to mind when I meet or know a person like I’ve described above:

1) “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” Acts 20:35

If you are always on the receiving end of things….you are not doing what The Lord asks of you. You do not have to have everything or have bags of money laying around to be able to help someone else. Helping someone else could be as simple as sending an encouraging word, making a meal and bringing it to their home during a difficult time, or, just lending a listening ear when someone needs a friend.

2) Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18

I get it, friends, sometimes you just want to wallow. May I make a suggestion….? Don’t. It’s not healthy. No matter HOW bad your circumstances are, there are still SO many reasons to give thanks. The Lord is so good to us. It’s time to praise Him in all things, for His goodness to us.

Self pity is the act of dwelling on the misfortune of your own circumstances, rather than depending on God to meet your needs and desires His way.

If you occupy yourself with self-pity; such will be your reward.

Fashioned for a Sacred Calling

Written By: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb. I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration—what a creation! You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something. Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, The days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day. (Psalm 139:13-16)

I believe I’ve had many callings in my thirty-four years on this earth. Some of the callings have just been for a season, while others will last until I breathe my last breath. One of my most sacred callings is being a wife.

Sounds cliché, I know, but it’s the truth.

I met Nathan when I was just 18 years old. I had one other short relationship with a guy I quickly discerned I had no future with; so I ended the relationship. My relationship with Nathan however began much differently; we were friends first. As our friendship grew, so did our love for one another- and so goes our story.

Almost as quickly as I agreed to date Nathan, I knew he’d be the man I would one day marry. The Lord worked hard and fast on our hearts to bring us to the conclusion that we would begin a life of ministry together; as a married couple. We said ‘I do’ a couple months after my 20th birthday and began full-time ministry a few weeks after that.

My calling, however, is not limited to ministry for those in attendance at our local church, or in our community. My ministry begins at home; as a wife. I believe I have been fashioned for this sacred calling; specifically designed as a helpmate for Nathan.

There are many things that make up my ministry or calling as Nathan’s wife, but four stand out amongst all the rest.

1) To respect him.
….and the wife must respect her husband. (Ephesians 5:33)

2) To be his helper.
The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” (Genesis 2:18)

3) To love him.
….love their husbands…. (Titus 2:4)

4) To honour the leadership he provides for our marriage.
Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Colossians 3:18)

Being a wife to Nathan is a sacred calling. One I will treasure forever. The Lord joined us together because as a team we are so much better than we are individually. As I respect, help, love and honour his leadership, I am helping him fulfill his responsibilities, and I am helping him become the man, the husband, and the leader God intended him to be.

Are you fashioned for a sacred calling? What do your calling or callings look like?

Father God, You are so gracious to bless us with the ability to love and be loved. Thank You that You first have come before us as an example of how we are to love unconditionally and sacrificially. Please guide us as wives to make decisions that honour You. Please help us to love in a way that fulfills our calling; to love our husbands so that we are helping him to become the man, husband and leader that You intend for him to be. Thank You, for all these things, amen.