{Ministry Mom} Worth More Than Diamonds

MandyWritten by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

….worth far more than diamonds. (Proverbs 31:10 MSG)

The definition of worth is: “the level at which someone or something deserves to be valued or rated.

Our culture is insistent that we find our ‘worth’ in various ways. Where do you find your worth?

Do you find worth in your education? Perhaps you have a degree or two from a prominent university, framed and boldly centered on your office wall. Do you find your worth in your job? Maybe you’ve climbed the ladder and have worked REALLY hard to earn the position you possess today. Do you find your worth in a growing platform? Maybe you have double the number of fans on Facebook or Twitter as your competitors. Do you find your worth in your family? I’ll bet you are pretty proud of the hard-working husband and beautiful children you call your own. What about a car? A boat? Your hair? Your home? Your passion? Your talent? Your ministry? (Ouch)

Now, what if the very thing in which you found your worth was stripped away. Would you still be worthy?

What if you have none of these things? Does that make you worthless?

1 Peter 1: 3-7 says this: God has something stored up for you in heaven, where it will never decay or be ruined or disappear. You have faith in God, whose power will protect you until the last day. Then he will save you, just as he has always planned to do. On that day you will be glad, even if you have to go through many hard trials for a while. Your faith will be like gold that has been tested in a fire. And these trials will prove that your faith is worth much more than gold that can be destroyed. They will show that you will be given praise and honor and glory when Jesus Christ returns. (CEV)

Worth has nothing to do with anything you can possess or obtain in the physical sense. Nothing you can buy, earn or create on this earth will increase or decrease your worth. The value you feel in any of the things I mentioned above, or anything else other than God Himself will soon fade away.

It is only when you put your hope and faith in God, without reservation, without holding back, that your worth is far greater than diamonds, my friend.

Don’t settle for anything less.

{Ministry Mom} When the Journey is Long and Wearisome.

Written by: Mandy Hill

My husband and I have been chatting often about our summer vacation. There are six of us now and while we do own a larger vehicle, our minds become unsettled and anxious about the long and wearisome journey of travel that lies before us.

We have travelled the roads to our hometown many times before. Parts of this twenty-four hour road trip are absolutely beautiful, some parts are even really exciting as we are able to show certain landmarks to our kids for the first time, while others parts just feel long and mundane.

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A few years ago we decided that rather than travel to our hometowns in two days, we would stretch it out over three days instead. At the time we only had three children, ages three, two and three months. Our three year old was motion sick multiple times along the way, our two year old never ever stopped talking and it wasn’t long before the two of us adults were whining and griping about our travel misfortunes. Our three month old was the best behaved of us all! The journey felt like it took an eternity and we have been nervous to embark on such a torturous trek ever since.

As I was thinking about these things recently The Lord spoke to my heart. There are oftentimes that God sets us on a journey in life. There may be parts of the journey that are incredibly captivating and beautiful. Other parts of the journey may stick out because of an exciting first or while experiencing something fresh and new. Still other times we may feel weary and worn down because the journey has felt like it’s lasted too long, you feel far from where you were in the beginning, and further yet from your destination.

God spoke to my spirit and gently reminded me of the importance of ‘the journey’. No matter how long, we must travel the entire journey to reach the other side. If we stall the journey or stop in the middle we are only delaying our reaching our destination. I also felt God show me the importance in embracing each moment of the journey; to take each new step with eyes-wide-open in order to see everything He would have me to see. There may be parts of the journey that become wearisome and mundane; however, my experiences have taught me that God has never stopped working. He is always faithful, always growing and shaping me even when it doesn’t feel like it. (Sometimes even in ways I’m not a fan of.)

Is there a journey that you are on, friend, or one that lies ahead of you that causes you to feel anxious and weary? Rather than worry about the unknowns can I encourage you to instead embrace every moment with eyes-wide-open. In every thing, with every step; strive to see God. Find the joy in every twist and see His faithfulness in every turn. I can’t promise your journey will be easy, I can’t even promise your journey will end the way you hope; but I do promise you WILL reach the other side because God will be with you.

Father God, thank You for always being with us wherever we are. No matter what roads or journeys we face, we can rest in the assurance that You will most certainly be present for every moment. Please open our eyes to see what You would have us see along the way. In Your name, Jesus, Amen.

{Faith} Changed perspective.

By: Mandy Hill

“We know that in ALL things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

Have you ever been in the thick of saying yes to God and your world totally turns upside-down?! If you are like myself, you begin to doubt…”Am I right in thinking this is what God wants? Am I really equipped? I couldn’t possibly be the right person for this job considering these new circumstances!!!??

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Can I encourage you to change your perspective a little?

What if….what if your ‘new circumstances’ are the very things that God will use to equip you for what he has asked you to do? God does not promise that everything that happens to us will be good. No, but He does promise to be present; working in and through every situation to bring good FROM it.

The greatest thing to remember when saying yes to God is that last four words at the end of our verse: “according to His purpose.”

God promises through His word to ‘not fail you or abandon you!’ (Deut 31:6b) So, if he is asking you to say yes to a specific task for him- whether it be a small task or a life-changing task he WILL be present for every step of the journey. Instead of worrying about whether you are the appropriate person for the job, praise Him with thankfulness that He is taking special time to mould you in the likeness of Himself; to refine you through the fire (“These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” 1 Peter 1:7)

….and that every part of the journey {no matter how hard or difficult it may seem} is according to His purpose.

As I wrap up, I’d like to share some of the lyrics to a song that means more to me than I could possibly formulate into words. I heard it for the first time while resting in an ‘overnight room’ in the NICU with my very sick little 4lb baby girl just steps away on the other side of the door. A time when my world was upside-down for purposes and reasons I could not fathom at that time….a time when it took every ounce of energy in my being to hang on to the very fine thread of hope I had left.

Through the Fire – Crabb Family

So many times i’ve questioned certain circumstances
Or things I could not understand
Many times in trials, weakness blurs my vision
And my frustration gets so out of hand
Its then I am reminded I’ve never been forsaken
I’ve never had to stand the test alone
As I look at all the victories
The spirit rises up in me
And its through the fire my weakness is made strong

He never promised that the cross would not get heavy
And the hill would not be hard to climb
He never offered our victories without fighting
But He said help would always come in time
Just remember when your standing in the valley of decision
And the adversary says give in
Just hold on, our Lord will show up
And He will take you through the fire again

I know within myself that I would surely perish
But if I trust the hand of God, He’ll shield the flames again!

Heavenly Father, thank You from the depths of my soul for the promise that You give that You will never leave us or abandon us. Thank You for the many times that You have shown Yourself faithful to me by being so very present during times of trouble; times that felt hopeless. Thank You for bringing peace to those situations and for embracing me with Your wonderful presence. I pray heavenly father, for my sisters who are facing difficult circumstances. I pray that in this very moment You will cover them with a blanket of peace and wrap Your presence around them in a tangible way. Thank You for Your love, Your mercy and Your grace. Please give my sisters a new perspective so they have more strength than they know what to do with; strength to complete the journey You have before them. Thank You in advance for what You will do, Amen.

{Turning tragedy into thanksgiving} Grayson's story.

Written by: Mandy Hill

After both Sophia and Spencer’s premature deliveries and their extended stays in the NICU, our conversations about a fourth child were usually of mixed emotions and very differing opinions. My husband worked his best skills to convince me that three kids was it; but my heart still longed for a family of six.

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Shortly after my thirtieth birthday, on family day holiday, we learned that I was expecting again. From the moment I learned about this little one, The Lord filled my heart with that peace I was now becoming quite familiar with.

The Lord has been so good to me.

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My obstetrician followed my pregnancy quite closely this time because of my history. He shared with my husband and I the various measures that he had planned to take in order to prevent another preterm birth.

Around twenty-five weeks they started. Contractions, that is. I was given steroid shots in my hips and my OB prescribed two medications for me to take to keep contractions at bay. I had seven UTI’s throughout my pregnancy and these infections were likely the culprit for such frequent bouts of labour.

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After multiple trips to the ER between weeks 25 and 33, I was admitted to the the high-risk unit of the hospital under close observation. The day after I was admitted I noticed our baby’s heartrate was dipping into the 80’s. After watching the monitor for several minutes I called my nurse and soon after, she the doctor. After the doctor explained to me the urgency of the situation, my nurse insisted I call my husband to come in (he was at work). When I asked why, she shared that I would be needing an ultrasound and if the ultrasound showed any complications I would need an emergency c-section. Such a section would require I be put under general anesthetic and the doctor would have the baby out in under ten minutes. This possible c-section remained a serious option for almost 48 hours until I was transferred to the floor.

Each day true contractions would register on the machines and after five days of these contractions, the nurses began administering doses of morphine via IM injection to control pain and cease labor. They generally worked, until Sunday September 14. At just 34 weeks and two days my labor was not stopping; despite their efforts.

I was moved from the floor back to the high risk delivery unit and my husband and good friend met me there. After about a half an hour of my arrival to the high risk unit, my baby’s heartrate started to taking large dips during each contraction again. We watched his heartrate dip into the 50’s from a healthy measure of 130 for several moments at a time.

My water was broken at 11:30pm and for the two hours following I endured my hardest labour yet. At 1:47am on Monday September 15, we joyfully welcomed our third son:
Grayson Lawrence-Blake, into our family!

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Grayson, while tiny, was acting as if he had reached his due date. He scored a 9 on the APGAR scale and needed no aids for breathing! I was able to hold him for a few minutes and his Daddy was able to hold him for quite a while! The fact that he was doing so well, at almost six weeks early is a miracle!

Grayson was brought to the NICU where he remained for the next two weeks. His lungs continued to excel, vitals remained stable and he began to grow.

The day after delivery, I was discharged for home. I had left the hospital with empty arms twice before that, but it certainly did not get any easier. I was incredibly emotional and so thankful for my husbands support. Also very thankful for the blessing of several praying friends. At different times I received text messages of encouragement and support, messages that I kept on my phone to reread when discouragement would creep in. Those messages became a wonderful source of encouragement and hope during those long two weeks!

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On day three of Grayson’s life, he began to show signs of infection. This source of this infection was never identified, however, I am thankful for the doctor and nurses who very diligently took every possibility into consideration. He was treated with a wide-spectrum antibiotic for seven days and improved significantly over the seven days.

At day 14, we were heading home, Grayson safely stowed in his reserved spot in our mini-van! God had seen the desires of my heart to be a family of six, and He made those dreams a reality.

My heart is filled to overflowing.

Sometimes in life we face a multitude of discouraging situations. In all of my experience with such situations I have learned two very powerful things:
1) Nothing is too big for God to handle; He ALREADY has the victory over it all.
2) Even in our most devastating moments, God can grow and mould you in His character. The key is allowing Him to do so, and trusting Him through the highs AND the lows.

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Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (‭Romans‬ ‭5‬:‭3-5‬ NIV)

{Parenting} Never give up!

By: Cindy Morrone

“Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15: 58)

I am so excited my orchid (one and only) is going to bloom again!! These, exotically colourful flowers that burst forth from a single stem are one of my favourite plants! Regrettably I was given an orchid several years ago and when the blooms fell off, I threw it away! I thought it was finished; done! Now I know differently.

While visiting my Grandma, I noticed the orchid that she was given. We admired its beautiful flowers and then visit after visit, I noticed that the flowers were gone yet, she kept the plant. After seeing this plant with only leaves and seemingly doing nothing, I finally asked her why she kept it. She explained that she held onto this plant in its dormant state because she hoped it would blossom once again. And sure enough, it faithfully grew forth another burst of petals.

I was given a second chance in another orchid, also a gift and I have held onto this one. I have tended to it (thankfully, it’s low maintenance) and kept it, despite its appearance of only waxy leaves and wiry roots, all in green. It seems like it has taken a very, long time for this little bud to climb to the heights, but it is there and soon, very soon, I will witness extreme beauty.

My Grandmother, one of my most treasured spiritual mentors, wisely knew that just because we cannot see the blooms, if we continue to tend to the plant and not discard it, new life can spring forth. She is a woman who has never given up, on any of us! We have certainly given her reason too, but she has never stopped praying and directing us to the One and only True Light! Not a single one of us has been relinquished.

It is during times like this last week, that I can become so weary of parenting. It has been a week of trying times, repeated trials and multiple fights with discouragement, and I was tempted to throw up the white flag in surrender. But just noticing this bloom has reminded me to press on and never give up! That although I may not see the bloom right away that if I don’t “… become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)

Dear Heavenly and Gracious Father,
Thank You Lord God for the precious gift of parenting! I honestly, thank You for the trying times because it is then, that I most turn to You on my knees. And You are ever so faithful and supply all that I need and provide amazing insights of Your divinity. Help us Lord, to never, ever give up hope; to become so weary that we give up, in Jesus’ Name. Instead, may we with You, ‘fight the good fight of faith…. ‘(1 Timothy 6:12)

{Parenting} Resting in the blessings.

By: Mandy Hill

He gives you what your heart desires; Accomplishing your plans. (Psalm 20:4 MSG)

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Today I got to hold not one, but two precious little miracles; straight from God! A very good friend of mine had twin babies last night!

As I held these little miracles, I recalled a gray-er time in my life, when the hope of holding my own baby seemed lost.

My husband and I went through a difficult season of infertility. There were days when I allowed the longing to hold my own baby to take over, turning into what felt like desperation. However, I also remember often experiencing a beautiful peace. It was when I opened my heart to the truth (that the desires I had to have a baby were from God), that I was able to find hope amidst this struggle.

God’s timing is spectacular, sister. Sometimes we get so caught up in making our own plans, that we forget to check-in with His. Our infertility lasted only for a season; and while a difficult season it was…new life came in God’s perfect time.

I never want to forget the longing, the prayers, or the desperation from that time in my life. With every baby’s kick, every sound of that heart beat, and every sonogram, I want to rest in my blessings. With every snuggle, every cry, every feed, and every first, I want to remember where my hope comes from. With every new challenge in parenting, every fever, every moment needing discipline, and every every tantrum, I want to praise my God for this amazing privilege He’s allowed me to experience: being a Mom.

Sister, are you in a tough season of ‘waiting’ for your blessing to come? Please cling tightly to our scripture from today: May he give you the desire of your heart, and make all your plans succeed. Psalms 20:4 (NIV)

…..And while you wait, remember to rest in the blessings along the way.

Thank You, Heavenly Father for the many blessings You have given to me. For the precious miracles You have blessed me with! Please help me to never forget the beauty in the ‘waiting’, and may I always see the blessings along every season of this journey called life! You are SO good to us, Jesus, and we praise You for Your faithfulness and goodness to us. In Your name, amen,

{Parenting} Encouraging Uniqueness.

By: Mandy Hill

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah 1:5

My children are all so different.

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My oldest, Ben, is full of life. He has abundant energy, loves adventure, and has a heart of gold. He’s tough physically, but sensitive internally. He loves to play outside, he loves sports and physical activity, and he loves superheroes of all kinds. He’s a smart guy who makes us proud every single day. When at the dinner table he will equally eat and share in the conversation.

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My daughter, Sophia, is our strong will. She’s seen a lot in her four years of life- and yet she still smiles and exudes joy. She loves quiet play; make-believe, tea parties, Barbie’s, dollies, etc. Family movie nights are her favourite event! She is a very wise little lady, loving school and excelling academically. When at the dinner table she will rarely eat, but fills our ears with the majority of the conversation.

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My baby, Spencer, is our happy little man. He smiles so often, I’m certain he smiles in his sleep as well. He’s tender-hearted, loves life and has brought us so much joy. He loves to play with cars, copy his brother and sister’s antics, or chase balls with our puppy, Max. When at the dinner table he rarely enters the conversation but usually eats entirely what he has been given.

One family, three completely different little people.

All three of our babies share one commonality amongst their many differences: they were knit together in my womb by their Heavenly Father with a purpose and a plan of hope. God knew them, even the number of hairs on their head (Luke 12:7), before they even took their first breath of life.

Their unique personalities are what will bring forth those purposes and plans that The Lord has designed for them each; individually. I am increasingly impressed upon by The Lord to encourage each of their unique qualities. To weed out negative behaviours, yes, all the while standing behind them and supporting them as they blossom into the men and woman God created them to be. (Not who I want them to be, who God wants them to be.)

What unique qualities do your children possess that you can encourage and support today?

Heavenly Father, thank You for the blessings you have given to us in Ben, Sophia and Spencer. Thank You for their uniqueness; for their individuality. I pray that You will guide us as we parent these little souls, help us to encourage their unique qualities; giving You the glory along the way. I pray for my sisters who are also raising such different young men and women; please also guide and direct them in what to encourage and what to weed out. I pray this in Your name, Jesus; amen.

{Christmas Special} What are YOU going to do?!

By: Mandy Hill

“And his name will be the hope of all the world.” Matthew 12:21

Driving home from yet another trip to the ER with my daughter, I was struck by the self-centered people that were sharing the road with me. Just days before Christmas and everyone was in such a hurry. The only time in my life that I heard more horn-blowing was when we visited downtown NYC…..but they are in a league of their own.

You see, our lives these past couple of months have been a whirlwind. Incredibly long hospital stays, complications, critical health, separation from family, death in the family, more illness, and even more illness….it’s been nuts!! As we weaved through the busy city I was thanking and praising God that we were able to be travelling back home. Several trips to the ER did not end so happily. But, with all the ups and downs, the turmoil, the the testing of our faith- we were not ever without a hope. Even in those moments that induced the biggest share of fear and worry, we were flooded with the steadfast hope that only that small baby born two thousand years ago can bring.

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I couldn’t help but wonder how every year we make the same mistake. We get so caught up in parties, shopping, hustle and bustle that we stifle the real meaning of Christmas. Jesus Christ born to a lowly couple, frail and dependant….yet fully encompassing enough to satisfy the entire worlds hunger for hope. Not just for those moments, but for all of eternity.

Shouldn’t we be doing the same?! Shouldn’t we be taking our moments and sharing the hope we have because of Jesus Christ in our lives?!

I’m impressed by the acts of kindness that I have heard about this month. Some via social media, some on the news, some by word of mouth that have taken place right in my very home town. THIS is what this season is about, sisters. It’s about sharing the hope of the LORD! Giving from the depths of our heart, unselfishly, without second thought!

Is there a family that has entered your mind as you were reading this? How can you share the hope that you’ve been so blessed with because of the baby Jesus? Don’t hesitate, friends. There is a whole world that is desperate for a hope to hold on to. Don’t let another moment pass without giving out of the abundance that he has so lavishly poured into your heart. The time is now.

Heavenly and gracious Father, thank you for sending us such beautiful hope wrapped up in the baby Jesus. Help us to truly the embrace the magnificence and grandeur that that very hope brings. Remind us during times of hardship that nothing can steal or rob of us this hope. Let us be givers of this truth. Grant us confidence to share freely out of the abundance in which you’ve filled our hearts. I pray this in your holy name, amen.

{Parenting} What goes in, must come out.

By: Mandy Hill

“It’s the way you live, not the way you talk, that counts. Mean-spirited ambition isn’t wisdom. Boasting that you are wise isn’t wisdom.” (James 3:13-14)

Have you ever really listened to your own voice? The way you speak to your spouse, your kids, your family, your friends? Have you ever heard the way you react to the behaviours or actions of your children that you disapprove of?

How does your voice sound? Are you kind, gentle, forgiving? Or are you rude, harsh and mean?

I had a moment recently where I heard myself…clear as day…..my words; straight from my daughters mouth. My heart was convicted as the words she had spoken to her brother caused him pain; evidenced by the tears he had in his eyes. His intentions were pure and to help. Her reaction to his efforts to bring her joy, had brought him pain.

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The verse from James 3 that says “it’s the way you live, not the way you talk that counts” came to my mind. In those moments as I watched the interaction between my two oldest children, it became so very clear to me that it doesn’t matter how many rules or guidelines my husband and I give our kids….the ones that will truly be heard are the ones that we genuinely model ourselves.

How we react to each other as husband and wife, how we react to their poor behaviours; they see it all and they take everything in. What goes in their souls, WILL come out.

Based on what comes out of your mouth and how you act in the everyday; how are you raising your children?

When your kids are feeling frustrated, have they learned it’s ok to come completely unglued?! Do they lash out under stress? Sulk when they don’t have it all? When they are facing conflict with a friend, do they seek resolution or revenge? When given a choice between extending kindness or bitterness, which is more frequently chosen?

Not easy questions to ask yourself…..but I believe it’s so important to ask them anyway. If we are not careful with what we are putting into our kids souls by ways of which we are acting; we should certainly not be surprised by what comes out.

Father God, I pray with urgency for a heart that is likened to yours. I pray for patience, perseverance, good character and a hope that I may pass onto my children. God, please stir within my soul a passion to live a life that strives to be more and more like you. I pray for Ben, Sophie and Spencer….give Nathan and I the wisdom we need daily to raise these amazing little lives to know you and serve you. I pray for my sisters, please guide them and direct them as well as they endeavour to raise their precious gifts to be followers of you. I pray for a special anointing on each family that will read this post today. In your name I ask, Amen.

{Parenting} Jesus, hold me up!

By: Mandy Hill

Don’t panic or fear. I’m with you. There’s no need to fear for I’m your God. I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you. I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you. (Isaiah 41:8-10)

As you are reading this my three year old daughter, Sophia will be undergoing a major surgery to repair an underdevelopment between her bladder and kidneys. It is an operation that’s duration is an expected five hours. I am obviously writing this post prior to this operation; my husband and I will be waiting and praying during these hours.

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This week has been one full of emotions! When I take my eyes off of Jesus even for just a moment, I am completely overwhelmed with fear and panic. There have been times that it’s been so overwhelming in fact that my palms sweat, my heart rate quickens, I feel sick to my stomach and I begin to feel lightheaded; as if i’ll pass out if I do not sit down.

Some pretty wise words were spoken to me today that brought an amazingly sweet peace to my soul. The enemy of course will use whatever he can to distract me so I WILL take my eyes off of Jesus. However, everything he will attempt to do will fail because Jesus has already won the victory. He goes before my daughter and the doctors that will work on her to bring the anatomy of her tiny body up to where it should be. He goes before myself and my husband. He goes before our little boys that will be back home being cared for by a friend. He goes before our families that live literally thousands of kilometres away from us.

He goes before us.

Jesus is stirring up hope that will conquer the enemy’s every attempt to stir up fear. Jesus is outweighing every one of my weaknesses with His strength. He is with us; holding us up with a firm grip.

I do not need to be overcome with fear because I serve a victorious God! Are you succumbing to fear? Don’t allow the enemy to distract you from keeping your eyes on the true giver-of-peace! Don’t camp out in your weaknesses or areas of fear, let our God fill you up with strength like only He can.

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Right now, in this very moment I am holding tightly to the promise that: I do not need to panic or fear. He is with me. There’s no need to fear for He is my God. He will give me strength. He will help me. He will hold me steady, he’ll keep a firm grip on me.

Heavenly Father, thank You for going before us, beside us, behind us and all around us. Thank You that we do not need to fear because You are with us. I pray for Your sweet peace to envelop my daughter as she endures this operation on Friday. Please guide the doctors hands as well as everyone that will play a role in her recovery. I pray that her pain will be minimal and that her spirits will remain bright. As her Mommy, I pray for strength to be her support and a safe haven in which she may share her burdens. I pray that through this she will grow a deeper dependence on You- a certainty that You are the great physician healing her and making her whole. Thank You in advance for the comfort and peace that You will bring to us all in the days that are before us. Thank You, Jesus! In your name, Amen!!!