“With” vs. “For”: How One Word Changed My Perspective on Prayer and Community

“With” vs. “For”: How One Word Changed My Perspective on Prayer and Community

Lesson Learned About Prayer Through Community

As many of you know, my husband and I adopted Benjamin from birth. The entire process took over three years, but the “waiting game” was almost two years. We struggled…hard. We experienced anger, heartache, doubt, and guilt through those two years. During this time, we had a village praying for us (notice I said the word for).

One time, when I was sharing our frustrations with my friend Kayci, she said something I will never forget. She said, “I am praying with you.” It actually made me stop and think, mainly because I had never heard it before. So many times, people had said they were praying FOR us. I had never heard someone say they were praying WITH us. That was the beginning of a prayer journey for me that I never had thought I would take.

To be 100% transparent, I don’t have the best prayer life. I used to have a prayer journal and make time, but even then I would fall asleep. However, hearing Kayci use the word “WITH” slowly changed my perspective of prayer and community. I think the word “FOR” is great if you are speaking a general, broad prayer over something/someone. This new word “WITH” in my prayer life means something different. It means that my prayer for a person has to be interactive. It isn’t just going home and praying for the person before I go to bed. It means that I need to reach deeper into the lives of those in my faith community and neighborhood. It means communicating with those that are struggling and remembering to reach out to them beyond the initial contact.

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Verses that focus on prayer:

Jeremiah 29:12

”Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.”

John 17:15

”My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.”

Mark 11:24

”Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

Psalm 145:18

“The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.”

So how has this word “WITH” changed my perspective?

1. I no longer try to assume that someone is doing okay, even if that person says they are.

2. When I think about someone who I know is struggling with something, I tell them. It’s difficult to feel your support group if they are silent. This was huge during our adoption, so I want to give that back to our faith community.

3. I attempt to reach out to people I haven’t seen in a while. I know it makes me feel special when someone notices that I’m not there. Why not use that tool to connect with community and see if a “praying with someone” opportunity presents itself?

4. It made me think about who I am praying about. Am I praying for the people I should? Am I only praying for those who are in my home or around me? Something that I want to commit to this school year is praying for community leaders and church leaders. These leaders interact with those around us every day. We need to be praying for the people who pour into us and our community.

5. Literally praying WITH someone is always better than praying for them when you get home to do it.

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I hope that this blog is a blessing to you about prayer, faith, and community! Perhaps you will gain a new perspective just as I did!

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Loving Others When It’s Uncomfortable: Our Adoption Story

Loving Others When It’s Uncomfortable: Our Adoption Story

November 2012

That is when we decided to adopt.  After I prayed for peace, the next prayer was this:

God, please help me to love our birth mom, not judge her.

As a naturally critical person, I was afraid my insecurities or judgments would interfere with God’s work in our adoption.  For over two and a half years, our prayer has been to unconditionally love our birth mother and to accept her into our lives.

Fast-forward to June 2015.

All adoptive families want to receive “the call,” and finally, we received our call.  We had been selected.  We scheduled a visit to meet our birth mother in Texas and talk about the logistics of the baby’s birth.  There isn’t a rule book of how to interact with your birth mom.  You just kind of do it.  She set the tone for the interactions, but our agency made sure that we discussed the sensitive topics.  When we arrived at our meeting with the birth mother, we didn’t know what to expect.  We couldn’t have asked for a better meeting.  All she could talk about were our needs and the baby’s needs. She constantly put others ahead of herself in our discussions.

It was (1)When Benjamin was born, we had frequent reminders that he wasn’t our child.  We were connected to him but technically didn’t “have him.  Fighting the emotions of wanting to love a child who wasn’t yet “ours” was emotionally and mentally challenging.  We tried to love him in the best ways we could.  Something else we were not expecting was the truth: loving Benjamin meant loving our birth mother.

The Choice to Love

We constantly had to work out with our birth mother who was to care for Benjamin.  Our birth mother was also recovering from a c-section and needed physical assistance, encouragement to eat/drink, and someone to talk to about her emotions.  I could feel God giving us a choice.  Would we show love only to Benjamin?  Or would we also show love to our birth mother, even if that meant giving up time with Benjamin and loving her when it was uncomfortable to us?

Using Adoption to Teach Us About Loving Others

When I look back over that time in the hospital, I am so thankful that God showed us what to do.  We had no control over what was happening and no “road map” of what to do or how to act.  God used our adoption story to teach us what loving others when it’s uncomfortable could look like.  It wasn’t until Benjamin was born that a realization hit me.  This child was not ours; it was hers.  Yes, we had waited…and waited…and prayed…and cried…and grew angry…and waited some more.  But, it was her choice to follow through with the adoption.  It was her choice to make medical decisions regarding the baby. And it was her choice to engage in sacrificial love so her child could have the life she planned but could not give.It was

Our birth mother stated that she was confident of her decision, but her pain was evident.  She loved Benjamin so much.  You could see it in how she swaddled him, fed him, changed him, and held him.  Her choice did not invalidate her sacrifice.  That sort of love made me feel guilty.  I felt unworthy of being forever connected with her.  How do I show love to a woman who is giving a part of herself to us?

Adoption Changed Our View of People

People have suggested that it’s time for us to move on.  This has been difficult for me.  I constantly think about our birth mother.  While we were together, we talked about life, family, and God’s presence in our lives.  Our time in Texas challenged us spiritually, mentally, and physically.  Beside the fact that we are now a family of three, it also provoked new thoughts of life, love, and our Christian walk.  This wasn’t something that we can move on from because it has changed the way we look at and love other people.  I can only pray that it helps us move forward in how we treat others.

This experience has led me to several questions:

  1. What would the world look like if more people chose life (adoption/parenting) over death (abortion)?
  2. If we truly treated everyone as if they were made in the image of God–put aside race, socioeconomic status, education level, worldview–what would the world look like?  What if we really treated people like we would want to be treated? We wouldn’t even need rules and regulations governing our way of life because the Spirit would lead us to live in communion with one another.
  3. What if there were fewer adoptions?  What if we were in the lives of others so much that we pooled our resources and supported all families (not just those that look, act, and talk like us) as we all try to get through life?  There would be fewer adoptions/foster care children, more family preservation, and more support.  God asks to us to give to the poor and support those in need. He asks us to stand in the gap for those who are hurting.  Isn’t this the basis of what draws biological families into turmoil and chaos?

I don’t know what the answers to these question are, or even if they are logical.  I just hope that these questions will lead our family to live out the love of Christ in everything we do.

May us all live lives where we love others even when it’s uncomfortable.

May God use us to engage others who are not like us. Help us support them with the sacrificial love of Christ.

 

 

Lori and her husband used Christian Homes and Family Services in Texas to become adoptive parents.

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How Are You Being Used?

How Are You Being Used?

I just finished reading Daniel Nehrbass’ book Who’s Using You? Making Yourself Available for God’s Use. Used can be such a negative, emotionally charged word in our society today. Nehrbass challenges the reader to broaden the definition of “used” and apply a spiritual filter to its meaning. He encourages us to become aware of how we are used daily. In the book, he addresses being used in three different ways: by others, by the Enemy (Satan), and by God.

Being Used by Others

According to Nehrbass, others can use us in positive or negative ways. He references personal and biblical accounts of how people can be used by others. In his book, the author talks about how we, as vessels of God, cannot be used appropriately if others are using us. He encourages us to think about ourselves as God would. Nehrbass says,

“Our hope in being used by God is not to overcome the disparity between how we see ourselves and how others see us but instead to know how God sees us. In every case, He sees a person He can use” (page 42).

I knew this concept before reading the book, but how many of us live into it? How many of us live our daily lives, letting ourselves be used by “things,” i.e., people, jobs, or desired objects? I know I don’t. This section of the book reminded me to be more mindful of my time and my priorities in my daily life.

Being Used by Satan

This is a big one that I believe people underestimate. Satan is constantly engaging in spiritual warfare. He knows he can’t win the war, but he fully intends to win some battles. He will use whomever and whatever he can to keep us from living into the life that God wants us to live. Nehrbass quotes John 10:10, where Jesus says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come so that they may have life, and have it in full.” He reminds us who the true enemy is, and it’s not our families, friends, or bosses. It’s Satan.

He states, “My struggle is with spiritual forces of evil. I understand that I can be used by Satan to tempt others to sin and that they can be used the same way. Once I remind myself of this truth, I see the people around me as co-strugglers, not as enemies” (page 99).

Did that last quote resonate with you?

Don’t get me wrong. I believe that people commit horrific acts and should be held accountable for them. But what if, no matter the circumstance, Satan was involved (or benefited) from the turmoil? What if we all stopped looking at others as evil and recognize that Satan might be using either of you to attack God and His kingdom. As I have grown older, I have recognized that Satan works in subtle, everyday ways to rob us of our relationship with our Father. I’ve noticed this firsthand with my anxiety and anger. The more I am consumed with either (or both) emotions, the less available I am to be used for God’s intended purpose, his vessel.

Being Used by God

I would assume that every Christian could identify with being used by God. Nehrbass explains, in detail, multiple ways in which believers can be used as vessels for His kingdom. The one trait that stuck out to me the most was forgiveness. He challenges us to forgive, even when we don’t have overwhelming feelings to forgive. He says:

If you have found it difficult to forgive, do not wait for some overwhelming feeling of forgiveness before you verbally affirm the truth that you are not perfect yourself and that you forgive the person who sinned against you. You do not need the other person to know you have forgiven him nor does he have to ask you for forgiveness. This is a private choice separate from what the other person deserves or what you feel (page 202).

Forgiving Others

WHOA. You can (and maybe should) forgive someone even if they don’t “deserve” it or even know about it? God does it to us all of the time. That is the basis of our entire relationship. We say we love Him and will try to stop sinning. But then we give into our desires once again. Then we ask for forgiveness. He gives it, and we make more promises He knows we will break. Jesus died on the cross so we could be forgiven for any sin at any time. Should we repent of those sins? Yes, I believe the Bible says we should. I think that Nehrbass encourages us to recognize the toll that bitterness and hatred has on our hearts. In Colossians 3:12-13, Paul wrote:

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

So Where Do We Go From Here?

I am sure most of us knew that we could be used by different people. Hopefully some of the information from this book provided you with another perspective on how we can be used. Nehrbass encourages his readers to ask God how we can be used today. I loved this thought, because I typically ask God to use others for myself. This might be appropriate if I am really struggling, but it shouldn’t be my daily request. I need to make enough emotional and spiritual space in my life to ask God, “How can I be your vessel today?”.

So how are you being used today?
Is it by others, or by God?

**This is not an official review for “Who’s Using You? Making Yourself Available for God’s Use

How Satan Uses Anxiety to Distract Me from my Faith

How Satan Uses Anxiety to Distract Me from my Faith

Anxiety has affected my physical, emotional, and spiritual health. It has negatively impacted relationships and interfered with my connection with God. For the longest time, I thought it was all my fault. Then the blame game started.

With some of the “well-intended” advice I’ve heard, it’s not hard to start blaming yourself. Statements like these always haunt me:

  • “Relax, don’t worry so much.”
  • “You can’t have a good relationship with God if you are anxious.”
  • “You should just trust God more.”

Misguided Efforts to Reduce Our Anxiety

In attempts to reduce anxiety, we actually combine our anxiety with guilt and shame. Anxious questions turn into doubt. Doubt turns into fear of the unknown or unexpected. This fear allows negative, emotional statements to develop that we then internalize. This twisted sense of reality can create a treacherous mindset about ourselves and the world around us.

Over the past three years, multiple changes happened in my life. Job changes, adopting our son, becoming a mother….all of these changes are blessings, but they can also invite anxiety. I’ll admit, I’m tired of fighting this battle within my mind and heart. So, I started to reflect on why anxiety is so interwoven in my life, no matter how hard I try to “get rid of it.” I realized that my anxiety, at any time, distracts me from being the woman of God that I need to be. It keeps me from pursuing the fruits of the Spirit to engage with God, my family, and my community.

Satan is Behind Anxiety

What is the best way to get to women? Get them to doubt (or question) their role. Get them to shame themselves and lose sight of who and what is really important. Here is the key reflection. Who truly benefits from my disconnection from God? Satan.

One of my faith mentors reminded me that Satan is among us, trying to intervene in our family’s walk with the Lord. Ladies, let’s stop trying to fight the internal battle of shame, anxiety, and doubt. Let’s call anxiety out for what it is: one of the best ways for Satan to distract us in our faith. I want to be clear. There are things that I know I should do to work on my anxious behaviors. I should reflect on our lives, identifying ways in which I can deflect the Enemy. For far too long, I (and other women) have owned our anxiety a little bit too much. We have made it so much about ourselves that Satan is rejoicing in our negative emotions and distractions from God.

Do you recognize these verses?

All of these verses focus on worry, anxiety, and/or trusting God. For someone who has struggled with anxiety for years, these verses always shamed me. I felt like I was living a good Christian life, then these verses hit me like a sack of bricks. They knocked me down right to the starting line again. Anyone else feel this way? No matter how much you try to connect with God, these verses shackle you in shame?

A New Way of Thinking

Let me invite you into a new way of thinking. Don’t be shackled. Be set free. Remove your current lens on your anxiety and replace it with the lens that sees anxiety in its proper focus. It’s just another way for Satan to win a battle. It’s another way for him to get you thinking more about your bills, your relationship, your children, etc. more than your relationship with God. Anxiety is another way for him to interfere with the life journey you are on with the One who gives you peace.

During our first adoptionRomans 15:13 encouraged us so much. It says,

“May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace as you trust in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

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Let’s be women who overflow with hope and be filled with joy and peace. Be set free. Connect with other sisters in Christ. Lean on them for support. Go to counseling, as your anxiety may be stemming from other unresolved adverse events and/or trauma. Talk with your significant other, as dealing with someone with anxiety is extremely challenging. And most important of all, pray for God to fill you with peace as both of you work to prevent Satan from infiltrating your life.

Prayer for Moms Across the World

Prayer for Moms Across the World

My husband and I adopted our son almost two years ago. Ever since we decided to adopt, I have had a wide range of emotions on Mother’s Day. Knowing that I will always share that day with my son’s biological mother encourages me to think of other women who may experience grief and joy on this day. This reflection helps focus my thoughts and prayers during this time. Join me in honoring these women in our thoughts and prayers this week!

A prayer for moms everywhere

Dear God, we come before your throne today, asking for your intercession in the lives of women across the world. We pray for…

  • the women who become moms today. Guide their hearts, minds, and emotions as they experience motherhood for the first time.
  • the moms who have lost children. Bring them the peace that comes only from you.
  • the mothers who work outside (or from) the home to provide for their children. Whether they work one (or three) jobs, help their work and sacrifice to be appreciated and noticed.
  • the moms who stay home with their children. Help them feel loved and appreciated by their children and spouses.

Father, we also pray for the moms who…

  • have chosen to place their children into adoptive families. Give them the peace and clarity they need in their lives. Help those around them celebrate their choice for life, but allow those moms an emotional space to grieve.
  • live in poverty. Help give them the emotional, spiritual, and financial supports they need to lead their family toward you.
  • are raising their children on their own. Remind their neighborhood or church communities to rally around them so those moms never feel alone.
  • became mothers through adoption. Bless their motherhood journey and give them the strength and clarity needed to raise their children in a new family.
  • became moms through foster care. Give them courage to fight for what they know is right and the ability to love even when it hurts.

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We pray for…

  • the moms who protect their children from violence, war, and abuse. Let them know that there is still light even in darkness.
  • the women who have lost their own moms. Encourage us to surround these women with love. Help us give them the space they need to celebrate and grieve simultaneously.
  • the women who suffer from depression, anxiety, or mental illness. Put people in their lives to encourage them and help them get the support they need.

And we lift up these women as well…

  • the moms who love their children but not their spouses. Help them realize that one of the best ways to show love to their children is to love their spouse.
  • the moms who are struggling in their relationships with their children. Let them know that you are with them. Always.
  • the women who are “mother figures” in the lives of children in our homes and communities. Equip those women to engage, mentor, and love children.

We ask you to cover these moms (and others) with your love, peace, and mercy. May we never forget the importance of what the word “mom” means. In Jesus’ name, Amen

 

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