Elaina’s Story

In mid-2011, I moved to Virginia. I found a church but it was larger than the video and website lead on. I went week after week and met no one.

One day, I went to a church connecting event and sat across the table from this couple. “Hi, my names is Elaina. This is my husband Asquith or A.Q.” Once we started learning about each other, we became fast friends. There was also another couple in our church. We became a close group of 5. Standing outside of church well after service dismissed talking about theology, or life. Sitting at the coffee bar hashing out ideas. It was a highlight in my life for sure.

Life slowly changes for all of us. Elaina and AQ were called to another church. Then, I moved, then the other couple moved. However, Elaina will always be the type of friend anyone would wish for. She is fiercely loyal, straight to the point and eager to seek God’s will in any matter. It is truly an honor not only to have her as a friend but to be able to have you hear from her! Without any further ado, here’s Elaina’s story.

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My husband and I met in Miami while working for a community development ministry. After a year of friendship, we choose to commit our lives together before God and our families. Now if you knew me, you’d know I wasn’t the type of girl who longed for marriage or children. I never saw a healthy marriage and used my parents’ divorce as the picture of what the Lord called it to be. I was also told it would be extremely hard for me to get pregnant. I believed what the doctors said over what the Lord could do in my life. And because of all this, I made it very clear to my husband that children were not going to be in our future. I’m sure God laughed at me because He had some very different plans for us.

 

In November 2011, only 1.5 years after we’d been married, I found out I was expecting. I couldn’t believe it! Even with the fear and ‘what ifs’, I could feel the Lord working on my heart, filling me with a desire for children. I was reminded of something a dear friend said to me. She heard from one of our professors at Moody that, “Children are the best form of discipleship.” Those words rung in my head until I finally realized I was both happy and humbled that my God saw it fit to make me a mother.

 

I wish I could say the story ends here with a happily ever after, but it doesn’t. The day before Thanksgiving I felt some deep pain in my stomach, and my husband rushed me to the ER. After some testing and being able to hear the baby’s heartbeat, the doctors were convinced that I was ok and sent me home. I went home relieved and thanking God. The doctors weren’t right. The next morning, I woke up to find blood on the bed. Once again, we rushed to the ER. I remember the hours spent waiting were torture. I prayed and cried out to God in agony, begging Him to save both of our lives. The only option to stop the internal bleeding was to complete a D&C. I had lost my baby, and everything was a blur after that. People kept telling us you’ll get pregnant again. Another person asked me what sin I was in (*that was cruel*). A brother at the time encouraged my husband and I to get away, so we went to D.C. and stayed with a friend. It was a refreshing time for me and my husband to reconnect, for us to cry out to God. The thought of children was pushed to the back of my mind, AGAIN. But God had other plans.

“Meanwhile, my insides were screaming with pain and guilt. Pain from losing my daughter and guilt for feeling angry towards a loving God. I buried my feelings deep down and never talked to anyone about it.”

Our miscarriage made me numb towards children. My heart was cold towards God, other women who were pregnant or any person that mentioned they wanted children. Meanwhile, my insides were screaming with pain and guilt. Pain from losing my daughter and guilt for feeling angry towards a loving God. I buried my feelings deep down and never talked to anyone about it. We were serving in a church at the time that did not welcome showing any form of weakness. They thought Christians should bring it to God, leave it alone and NEVER speak of it again. Nobody asked me about the miscarriage, and I never brought it up.

 

Fast forward three years, and I found myself pregnant again. This time I was so careful. We didn’t tell anyone until I was about 20 weeks. It was an easy pregnancy considering I was a high risk due to my age (38), but when it came time for me to deliver, there were a few complications. Again, I found myself crying out to God to save this life He gave me. After 32 hours of labor, 3 epidurals that didn’t work, 2 rounds of Pitocin, my blood pressure continued to be too high. I was on the verge of having a stroke, and my son’s heartbeat was dangerously low. They rushed me back for an emergency cesarean. Within thirty minutes I was able to see my son and hear his first cry. I don’t know who cried more… me or him! I kept thanking God for this healthy baby boy, Asquith Malachi Thompson. In the hospital I felt good. There were nurses and doctors everywhere to help, and I had a room filled with family and friends.

 

But things changed when I went home. For the first two weeks I couldn’t walk because my legs were extremely swollen due to medication and the fluid I retained. I was unable to hold Malachi without my husband handing him to me. Nursing him was a struggle. Sleep was a struggle. I was tired all the time, and my son had his nights and days confused. It was overwhelming, as I battled with my own healing and taking care of my son.

 

I knew a week into being home something was wrong with me. When I looked at my son while breastfeeding, I felt nothing. No goo-goo ga-ga. No joy. Nothing. All I felt was sadness… all the time. And I couldn’t focus on anything. I went weeks and months feeling like I didn’t deserve to be where I was. I felt like a bad mother. I felt like I couldn’t care for him the way someone else could, and I couldn’t be a wife the way my husband needed. I feared if I shared my feelings with anyone, social services would take my son away, and my husband would leave me because he would think I was an awful mom. On top of everything, my grandmother was going through cancer, and I couldn’t be there to support her. I felt useless, fearful, anxious and panicky all the time. I questioned God for every emotion or lack thereof, and then felt shame for questioning Him. The cycle was endless, and it was exhausting. I remember several times sitting in the car, with my son in the backseat, thinking he’ll be ok with someone else. I’ll just drop him off with a friend and go end this pain. But the wrestle was always, “I’m a Christian. I’m in church leadership.” And even though we had changed churches and the leadership was very different, I kept telling myself I still shouldn’t be feeling this way.

“…this was going to be the day. After the appointment I was going to drop my son off with a friend and end it all. I was going to walk away from my life because I was sure everyone would be better off without me. But my good God had other plans.

One day I was headed to Malachi’s appointment and decided this was going to be the day. After the appointment I was going to drop my son off with a friend and end it all. I was going to walk away from my life because I was sure everyone would be better off without me. But my good God had other plans. As I was driving to my friend’s house after the appointment, for some reason He reminded me of a task my Pastor asked me to do. I turned around and headed back home. I’d do this final task and then go finish my plan. While I was completing my task, my husband called to check up on me. Before he hung up he said, “Babes, I love you…very much.” After we hung up I wept so hard. Face down on the floor. “Why God? Why have you given me so much pain? Why is this happening to me?” I cried myself to sleep on the floor, with my son in his swing. I woke up to my son crying, and as I breastfed him, I looked down at his face and cried some more. All I wanted to do was cry the pain away. When my husband got home from work that day, I said nothing to him. I couldn’t bare the shame of telling my husband I was set to walk away from everything and end my life.

 

A few weeks went by and my pastor called to see if I had sent an email to a couple at church. I told him yes, and he asked me to forward it to him. When I went to forward the email, I saw it sitting in my inbox… it had never been sent! I broke down sobbing. I couldn’t understand what was wrong with me! I was constantly forgetting things, unable to finish tasks on time. Afterwards, I called my pastor and told him what happened. He asked to meet with me that day, and as he came to my house, he gently asked, “Is everything ok with you?” I broke down and confessed I was struggling with postpartum depression (PPD), and I needed help.

 

At first, as the words came out of my mouth I felt like I was being a false Christian. Was I betraying God? My family? My friends? Was everything I knew to be true about God a lie? How could I even feel this way? No good Christian should feel “this way.” Christ had done so much for me… My head was a fog of lies that I had believed for almost an entire year. As my pastor listened, he suggested I step down from my role at church and focus on getting healthy again. I was open to ALL help, whether it be medical or spiritual. I met with a biblical counselor, and she told me to try the counseling for three months and if at any time I wasn’t getting better to go see my doctor for medical help as well. She also connected me with another lady who was going through PPD. Together we started reading a book called Depression: Looking up from Stubborn Darkness by Ed Welch. That book gave me categories for my depression. It gave me hope when my life seemed so dark and lost. Counseling, my local church, a community of patient sisters and, most of all, the Word of God helped me face many struggles and lies. God used a misplaced email to help bring my depression into the light. And I was brave enough to cry out for help. The grace of God kept me alive, and the grace of God keeps me fighting for my life every day. For me bravery is confessing… Confessing shame, guilt and my hearts darkest fears. Most of all, as I acknowledge my need for my Savior, my courage grows.

For me bravery is confessing… Confessing shame, guilt and my hearts darkest fears. Most of all, as I acknowledge my need for my Savior, my courage grows.”  

I still struggle with my depression, but I have been shown healthy ways to live with it. It is a temporary form of suffering I endure on earth that daily draws me nearer to Jesus. Each day I have to speak Gospel truths to myself. When I start believing lies and I begin feeling my depression, I have to reach out to others. I am grateful for our church and the security I feel within. We have a saying we live by, and it can be found here: Gospel, Safety & Time.

 

Throughout it all, depression has brought me into a deeper faith and trust in my Heavenly Father. And I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Elaina has been blessed with a wonderful, patient, loving, humble husband; Asquith (AQ) Thompson and a very vibrant, intelligent and energetic son Malachi. They are truly the best gifts her Heavenly Father has seen fit to give her. She received her Masters of Urban Ministry from Moody Theological Seminary in Chicago in 2008 and soon after moved to Florida to serve as a Community Development Missionary in Miami, where she met her husband while serving together. Their family now lives in Newport News, VA, where she is currently studying for the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors Certification. She also serves as the deacon of hospitality at Hampton Roads Fellowship. Asquith & Elaina desire to grow in the knowledge of the Gospel, church planting and the importance of the local church.  They hope to plant a church in 2021 in Barbados. To connect more with Elaina contact her through Facebook @facebook.com/elainav.

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Fighting Fear: With the Opposite of Fear

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Introduction:
This month’s theme has been Fighting Fear!  Today, my dear friend, Connie, is sharing her thoughts on fear. Connie is one of my heroes. No matter what she goes through, she strives to be more like Christ and it is evident. To be truthful, she is more like a sister to me than anything else. I know you will enjoy her thoughts today :)!
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I’ve been thinking about fear this week, and how my sin is often rooted in fear. And do you know that the Bible commands – commands – me to not fear, not be afraid, and fear not over 100 times? So, fear is a sin, and apparently, one that is common enough and serious enough that God reminds us over and over again to just NOT DO IT. And I think one reason for that is that fear has a lot of power to cut us down, cripple us, and make us forget who we are. It’s a stronghold that has a very… strong hold.

So what’s the opposite of fear? If I choose not to fear if I give my fears to God and sacrifice them on the altar of my heart, what will replace it? One of my craziest fears is that if I let go of my fear, I’ll not have anything left… but I know this is a lie because God never leaves a void in us. Emptiness is meant to be filled by him. So how does he fill the newly-vacant throne of fear? The words that He revealed to me were these: Joy, Trust, Hope, Grace, Peace, Freedom, and Love.
So this week I feel like my prayers are stronger… instead of just asking God to wrench fear from my hands, I’ve been asking him for an exchange – my fears for his hope; my fears for his joy, my fears for his peace… It seems like an unfair trade, but his resources are endless and he is so generous, I don’t think he minds. In fact, I get the feeling he is pleased… And guess what is starting to fill up my heart?!

Connie Chandler
Website: conniesbowlofcherries.blogspot.com

Read my book, Tales of the Great King: Click Here

 

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Song of the Week: Overwhelmed, by BigDaddy Weave
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Fighting Fear: The Fear of Being a Parent

Introduction:
I met Emily through a mutual friend. We used to work at the same company. If I am being completely honest, I was a little jealous that she got to work on the same floor as my friend. They were always around each other, but they never made me feel left out. As we all started hanging out, I loved how down to earth Emily is. She also is a fan of Anne of Green Gables and that always means you know how to be a kindred spirit ;). Emily is someone who I admire a lot. She is courageous, kind, thoughtful, and beautiful in every way! Emily, thank you for taking the time to share your story with us!

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If you had approached me when I was a kid and had asked me, “What are you afraid of?” I would’ve responded in a snap with, “absolutely nothing.” Well, in all honesty, I might’ve said cockroaches! But that was truly about it!

Flash forward to now, and if you were to ask me again, “What are you afraid of?” I could give you a laundry list! An odd thing happened to me after my daughter was born… everything became scary. All of the questions, the potential for danger, it all started running through my head. What if she gets hurt doing this or that? What if something happens to me? What if I don’t meet all of her emotional and physical needs? The list is endless. It can be exhausting.

Recently, something happened with my daughter that really shook my core. I felt REAL FEAR. A fear of losing our bond, a fear of being inadequate, a fear of not being able to fix things. As I cried out and prayed to God, I was led to read a devotion. In this devotion was the story of Abraham and Isaac. A story that I have read and heard my entire life, one that has always been so abstract for me. However, this time it was different. God was using Abraham’s example to teach me.

Oftentimes, when people cite the story of Abraham and Isaac, they focus on the lesson of obedience and faith. Reading this story that night, I felt like I could understand Abraham for the first time in my life, I saw Abraham the man and father.  I can only imagine the fear Abraham felt, the fear of losing God’s greatest blessing to him, his treasured son. Yet despite being terrified of loss, Abraham faithfully presented Isaac to the Lord as a sacrifice. Abraham took his earthly fear, flipped it around for good and in that moment showed that the only fear a man can stand to have, is the fear of the Lord.

God moved me with this story. I’m tired of living a life of fear and limiting God. Every night now I pray to God and offer up my daughter to Him. I surrender my will for her and ask that only God’s will be done. She is His child. She is my blessing from God, but she is still His child. I don’t want to limit God’s power and provisions in our lives any longer. I’m on a crusade to eliminate fear from my parenting, reaffirming Psalm 91:1-2 every day.”

Song of the Week: 
No Longer a Slave to Fear, by Jonathan David & Melissa Helser
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A Single Challenge

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“It’s wicked to throw away all your other gifts because you can’t have one”- Little Women

On long road trips, I like to listen to audiobooks. It has become a tradition that I listen to Little Women at least once. I grew up watching the movie dozens of times. Since I have four sisters, it was like watching us (a century behind and one less sister).

As I was driving from Virginia to Florida, I heard this quote by Amy: It’s wicked to throw away all your other gifts because you can’t have one. It hit me so hard that I rewound that section of audio and listened again. Conviction set it.

How many times have I done this? As a single person, there is a tendency to throw away our other talents and gifts because we can’t have “the one”. We sit around doodling while waiting for “the one”. I am talking to myself here. I have been there and done that.

At one point in my life, all I did was work and waited for someone to come along. Call me crazy, but I thought it would only be a matter of time until he came around. Well, after about 3-4 years of “waiting”, there was no one even “on the horizon”, as my dad says.

I took a leap of faith and decided to do something else, besides work and wait. When I took that step, it was a whirlwind of an adventure. I was using gifts that I didn’t know I had. I was learning new things left and right. I was going places I never dreamed were possible. It was an exciting time and challenging time.

That time created a hunger to learn more. Life can be extremely challenging, but it also can be absolutely amazing! God is greater, kinder, more beautiful than we can imagine.

Just last week I was listening to the audio book by Steven Curtis Chapman, Between Heaven and the Real World .  After the death of his daughter, Maria, his wife asked them to remodel the house. It was too hard to live in after Maria’s passing. Steven struggled with the idea of how much money it was going to cost, and if it was a waste of money because their house was fine.

He prayed about it and felt like they should move ahead with the idea. The day came and the demolition crew started their work. Steven looked over at his wife, Mary-Beth, and saw tears running down her face. He walked over and asked her if she was okay. “I needed to see this”,  she said. “This is what happened to our family the day Maria died”. Their family took a devastating blow. Yet, through the tearing down and building back up, Steven saw God’s love. He felt the Lord told Him that sometimes His love appears extravagant and wasteful.

Isn’t that true? I was pining away for a marriage when God wanted to show me more. He literally allowed me to travel around the globe. It was extravagant and sometimes it seemed wasteful. Because I had the budget information, I would often say, I can stay here. However, God allowed me to go on one trip after another. I learned so much not just on the trips but over that span of 3 years, I saw God in ways I never knew I could.

My encouragement to you who are single comes from a 10th-degree black belt: Act on life. Don’t let life act on you. You are not a victim to life or anyone.

Use your gifts. Use your time wisely. Live well. Love fervently. Give fearlessly. Life is short and we only have one life to live.

John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

Don’t let the enemy steal any more years. Don’t let him steal your joy, your affection, your devotion, your desire to grow and learn.

There is a 2nd-degree black belt I work out with in a group, who told me, “I’m trying to help you be the best you”. Sometimes it feels like he is trying to kill me, but he is pushing me to be better. Isn’t that what God does for us? He allows challenging things because He is strengthening us. Elisabeth Elliot once said, “God will not protect you from anything that makes you more like Jesus”

Life is meant to be lived, not just survived. Sometimes surviving is the only thing we can do. Other times, surviving has become our comfort zone. Living on purpose often takes us out of our comfort zones. But today, remember to thank God for all that He has already given you. Thank Him for the friends you have, the job you have, and the opportunities He has opened up for you. Instead of focusing on the one thing or person you don’t have.

Sometimes, when I wish I had someone, I remind myself that I do have someone. He is my closest friend. He says that He is my husband. So, instead of wasting time wishing I had someone else, I try to look for ways to love Him. I do not do this as much as I would like.

We are God’s children. He knows we are incapable. He wants to make us laugh, and wants to spend time with us. He wants to be close, but often times, we are so preoccupied with other things or wishing for the one thing we don’t have.

Think a friendship that may be morphing into something else. Think of the little glances shared back and both. Think of the sweet gestures: a hand to the side as he walks behind you, a gentle touch to the elbow, a goodbye hug, exchanging eye contact and a laugh over an inside joke.

I know for me, I think about each thing over and over again. I think of what they said or re-read a sweet message they sent. Imagine if I thought of God that way.

Imagine if I mulled over in my mind the MANY things He has done: The opportunity to travel, learn all kinds of new skills, learn martial arts, write, be near family, and have amazing friends. I should be on cloud nine all the time.

So, I am challenging myself to think on Him this week. To think of the ways He has blessed me. He is too good and has done too much for me to waste more time.

The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. Jeremiah 31:3

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Song of the week: King of my heart, by John Mark McMillan & Sarah McMillan 

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The Four Frightful F’s

There are “The Four F’s” for blogs, photography, life, relationships, you name it. I got to thinking of the F’s that often come to my mind: Failure, (not) Fitting in, Fear, and Feelings. I’m sure I could list more, but these are some of the F’s that I wrestle with.

Failure – When it comes to a lot of areas in my life, I feel like a failure. I feel like I am never making progress. I feel like I never will make any progress. And, I sometimes listen to that old familiar lie that says, “No one will want you” “You’re not going to get anything done”

(Not) Fitting – I have amazing friends, and a wonderful family. But, sometimes, I wrestle with knowing where I fit. I will come back to this thought.

Fear – This has been a lifelong struggle. I fight it often. I fight the fear of never measuring up. I fight the fear of being different. I fight the fear of living life in total abandonment. I fight fear of actually stepping out. I fight the fear of failure.

Feelings – I often have arguments between my logic and feelings. I find myself saying, “Christi, you’re overthinking this”, “Keep your head”, “These are just feelings”, “Get a grip”.  I am so grateful for my Dad because he is so logical. I will never forget the time I came home from work after my manager flipped out. When this particular manager left the store, to run an errand, he was fine. When he came back, he was throwing boxes around and mumbling under his breath. I could almost see the steam rising off his bald head. I came back and told my Dad:

Me: Dad, I think he’s mad at me

Dad: Did he tell you that you upset him? Or can you remember doing anything wrong that would upset him?

Me: Well, no, but …

Dad: If you can’t remember doing anything wrong, and he didn’t tell you he was upset with you, you have nothing to worry about.

But, on the days I’m not pleased with my performance, or I’m feeling super insecure, I have to fight to get back to “logical” or “sane” ground.

These four F’s often come unannounced and have a tendency to stay longer than I care for them to stay. As I was thinking on these F’s, I remembered four other F’s:

Faithful – I am inadequate, but my God is not. What He says, He will do. I need to cling to Him, because He is the essence if life. He is faithful and what He wants from me is to be faithful. I cannot be faithful in my own strength, but with Him, I can. Faithfulness isn’t about knowing everything or being perfect. It’s about showing up every day and refusing to give up. If you break this word apart it’s FAITH (which is unseen) and FUL (if we added another L it would be full). Imagine having faith and allowing God to fill us to full. I think He just wants me to trust Him and let Him fill me –daily!

Fulfillment – Jesus came to fulfill the law. He fulfilled the wrath of God for my sin. He fulfilled the requirement for me to have a relationship [access] with God. God doesn’t start something He won’t finish. Although I am still in process, when He looks at me, He sees the finished projected. Although I have bumps and times of defeat on earth, God sees me as finished. So to Him I am complete. I cannot fail because He has already taken my failure and paid for it. I don’t have to carry that around anymore.

Fearless – We can only be less fearful when we are with the one who casts out fear. He holds not only our finite world, but also the future. A.W. Tozer once said, “While it looks like things are out of control, behind the scenes there is a God who hasn’t surrendered His authority”. We have a loving heavenly Father who loves His children and cares for us. Matthew 6:33 says to seek Him and His righteousness and all these things WILL be added unto you. God is able. He can do more than we can even ask or imagine.

*** I must break here to tell you that as I am writing this, I am preaching to myself. I process things through writing them down. I feel like I need to write things down to solidify these things in my own life. I am fragile and broken and I need God’s mercy every single second of every single day…

Fitting –  “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world” C.S Lewis.

It is only when I am spending time with God that I remember where I fit. I fit. He accepts me whether or not I am having a good day or a bad one. He accepts me whether I am killing it that day or barely surviving. He accepts me when I am feeling confident or I’m falling apart. Apart from Him, I am nothing. When I haven’t spent enough time with Him I begin to feel like I’m spiraling into endless questions. I feel completely lost, out of place, and confused. When I’m with Him, He makes me at peace. I may not have all my questions answered, but I know He’s in control. My perspective gets realigned.  I remembered I’m protected and secure because He is unchanging. He is the cleft that my soul longs to hide in.  Our moments of “not fitting” might be there to create a longing to fitting in, and that’s with our Creator. He is the one who knows us better than we know ourselves. He can direct us better than we can.

I know I said Four F’s but as I was thinking on this topic I remembered this word:

Favored – Psalm 5:12 says, “For You, O LORD, will bless the righteous; With favor You will surround him as with a shield”.

I don’t understand it, but God loves us so much more than I can understand. I try to, but I can’t. He, for some reason, has favored me and you. We who are from dirt, sin daily, forget His promises and doubt His ways; Yet, He has granted us favor. He has granted us access to His thrown of GRACE to find mercy in our time of need. We have a VIP pass, but often pass on using it to “earn” our own VIP status. Again, preaching to myself! We are feeble; yet, favored. His strength and source is the one that sustains us.

So, if you’ve struggled with the first four F’s this week, forget them! Focus on the last five: Faithful, Fulfillment, Fearless, Fitting and Favored! God does not lie. He keeps His promises. He is with us on the mountains and in the valleys. He is with us in the wet seasons, and the dry seasons. He is not scared or weary of our human conditions. He welcomes us into His presence. It is there that we find help and courage to press on in this world while waiting for our final destination –Heaven!

Song of the Week:
Yes and Amen
, by Housefires III
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