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.

 

Paving Hope Road

Written by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

It was a rainy Tuesday evening. My hubby was working and I decided I would take a trip to the grocery story to pick up some groceries while he was gone- with our less-than-one-month-old baby boy.

Not my greatest choice.

As soon as I walked through the doors of the store my precious little one began to scream. Screams that communicated pain and discomfort. He shifted and wiggled in his carrier as he bellowed and my Mommy heart deflated quickly. Nothing I offered provided him any relief and before long I was nearly running through the aisles to get only the necessities on my long list, in order to promptly return to the comfort of our own home.

Once in the car the tears of defeat flowed freely. Why did I even bother?

As I started back home I recalled a lady who, just that previous Sunday, had offered a helping hand with the baby if I ever needed one. She encouraged me to just ask, that if she was able, she would love to help.

An answer to prayer, Renee came to our home that evening and held baby Ben while I unpacked my groceries. She never complained one time about me asking for help and before she left she encouraged me to ask her for help again! Her help that Tuesday evening brought incredible relief to my overwhelmed soul, but more than that, she became a trusted friend.

In the months and years that followed I learned Renee’s story. What I didn’t know that Tuesday night was that I would soon be entering a journey very similar to Renee’s. I learned so much from my conversations with her; her faith in God, and her ability to see His hope in all situations brought me hope.

When my daughter came along with a similar condition to Renee’s son, she offered genuine empathy. There were many- I mean many- who offered sympathy, but there is something precious about being encouraged by someone who truly knows how you feel. Renee did not always encourage me through her words, either. She also offered hope in the form of practical help; by lightening the load of our burdens which helped us focus on our priorities.

Your responses to your circumstances, both during those stormy seasons in life and after, is either paving hope road for someone who will cross your path in the future….or maybe you’re paving hope road for someone in your life right now. Will you choose to be a beacon of His light in all things (like my friend, Renee) or will you choose to drag your feet as you journey through those less-than-lovely circumstances?

The choice is yours.

Father God, thank You so much for sending people into our lives who shed light on Your hope simply in the way they walk through this life. You give bright hope for our futures and that is true even during our biggest moments of weakness and struggle. Thank You for never giving up on us, never leaving us, and never turning your back on us. Help us to live our lives, in all situations as a beacon of Your hope. We love You so much! Amen.

No One Is You-er Than You!

By: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)

Can I share a confession of mine with you? I spend a lot of unnecessary time feeling inadequate! God has called me to do some very specific things in my lifetime; complete some very specific purposes. Sometimes He blesses me with the ability to ‘see’ the fruits of my labor; sometimes it’s not for me to see, just be a part.

It’s those times when I am ‘just a part’ that I begin to doubt myself. Did I really do all I could do? Should I have done more?! Should I have done less? What if I never know if what I’ve done was good enough?! I’m sure there was someone qualified to do a better job than me!

The bible says that each one of us is God’s handiwork. He made each of us individually, with intended purposes. He has prepared you in advance for each thing He will require you to do, along your journey here on this earth.

It is true you will begin to feel inadequate when you look around at others. I know this from experience. The most important thing to remember is that God has called YOU to be you. Looking around and trying to decide who might be better off doing what God has asked you to do is like you’re telling God He’s not good at being God. (Likewise, don’t look at something God has called someone else to, and think you’d be a better choice for their calling)

“Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you!” –Dr. Seuss

Be the masterpiece that God created you to be and set your mind to do whatever it is He asks of you with excellence. Don’t try to be anyone else; just be you! Resist the temptation to feel inadequate by measuring your capabilities to someone else’s. And remember that if God asked you to do something for Him, it’s because he wants YOU to do it.

Jesus, thank You for making us who we are. I pray that we will learn to be comfortable and appreciate ourselves because it is You that has made us. I pray that You will create in us a confidence to be that person You’ve made us to be, so that we can fulfill your purposes. Help us to learn to not worry about whether we are qualified or not for what You are asking us to do; that’s for You to decide. Instead, I pray that we will simply say yes to Your assignments. I pray this in Your name, Jesus, Amen.

Too Busy To Connect

Written By: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[a] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” — Luke 10:38-42

I’ve noticed an ever-growing trend in our culture; the need to be busy, busy, busy.

Culture seems to insist that we need to have our days full; from the moment our eyes open, until we can resist closing them no longer. From a Mommy perspective, there’s school and volunteering at the school, play dates with our preschoolers, sports, clubs, lessons in this and that, church programs, and the many other things we stuff into our jam-packed schedules. Every single thing on our lists has a significant importance. Nothing ever gets cut. If anything, more gets added on.

Every morning I go through the same routine. My family and I enjoy breakfast together, my husband then ventures off to work and I clean up from said breakfast. My three school-age kids will, depending on weather, head to the bus or our van; my youngest kiddo toddling around behind me, content to wait until it gets to be his turn to get dressed for the day. I then call my grandmother- three hours away- and proceed to make all five of our beds and clean/tidy all three of our rooms, while chatting with her. Once kitchen and bedrooms are to my standard, it’s other things like writing, worship planning, blog administration, grocery shopping, cleaning and the like. Before I know it, we are all sitting down again, to have dinner.

I began to really think about these things. If someone drops into our home for a visit, why shouldn’t I be ready? What does it matter really, if the bedroom doors are closed and an unmade bed is on the other side of that door. Why should I deny a friend a morning to connect over a coffee if there are a few dishes in the sink? What’s wrong with taking a call from a friend while turning a blind eye to the chores on my list?

I find my schedule gets so filled with ‘stuff’ that I sometimes completely lose sight of the important things.

We are so busy trying to keep up with culture, that we have no time left to actually connect. We miss opportunities and divine appointments that truly matter, to keep up with the daily tasks that will soon be forgotten.

We become overwhelmed women, with underwhelmed souls. – Lysa TerKeurst, The Best Yes

What if we took a step back, and like Mary, put our priority on truly making an effort to connect with those precious people in our lives? So many of us are like Martha; too busy just trying to keep up. Jesus very gently corrected Martha in our story by saying: “Martha, dear Martha, you’re fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it—it’s the main course, and it won’t be taken from her.” (Luke 10:41-42)

Reflecting on your own life, do you relate better with Martha; often finding yourself overwhelmed with trying to keep up? Are you too busy to connect with those in your life? Are you feeling underwhelmed in your soul? What things can you shift around or cut from your week, in order to purposely make time to connect with your loved ones?