Monday, March 15, 2010

Open Hands...Guest Post!!!!!!!

Back in November when I announced that we would be traveling the US on my blog I got an email saying if your ever in KY your family is welcome to Free Food at Chick-Fil-A. Did someone say free food??? Did someone say Chick-Fil-A?!?!
We're there! HA!
Chick-Fil-A is our favorite!!!

No, actually Emily and I exchanged some emails and just by reading her emails and seeing her heart, I knew we had to meet! We had so much in common and seemed to be at the same place in our walk with the Lord.

After our visit with her family, I asked if she would be willing to share her story here on my blog......

So please welcome my friend Emily!
I thank God for bringing us together and we will forever be family friends:)

Hello to all of Bridget's Blog Friends!!!

First, can I just say what a blessing Bridget is as a sister in Christ and I'm sure you will all echo my thoughts on how she honestly shares her heart and is focused on the most important thing in our lives ~ Christ!!!

So, just a little bit of background, I found Bridget's blog late one night trying to close my sister-in-laws blog after we had checked out some precious pictures of our nephew! I was blown away, I couldn't believe that someone else actually shared many of the same views I did! I was also shocked by her age, because for some reason I seem to share thoughts of women much older than I? I continued to follow her blog and was so appreciative of how humble and raw she was about how she deals with every day issues of life! I was also so disappointed when she was attacked on her blog for her opinions ~ I still don't understand that, but with that said I want to state the following upfront...

I have been invited by Bridget to do a guest post, which is so gracious, but I want to make sure you each understand what I'm not saying! My husband and I, along with our two little boys, had the opportunity to meet all of the Ryans while they were in our home state of Kentucky! I've prayed SO much about this post, because honestly I believe that if it affects one life, that God has used it for his glory, something that we should seek to bring him each and every day!

I want to be clear that each and every person who may read this blog doesn't walk away feeling like a working mother cannot raise Christian children. I want to make sure that you don't hear me saying that God will not honor a mother working outside the home, or how in some way that will affect where your child(ren) spent eternity. I would just ask that you listen with an open mind and heart, because as I've shared my story with fellow full-time working mothers I've learned that they too feel just as I did. I want to build up and encourage anyone who is at the same crossroads I stood at just a few months ago ~ it's scary and it's hard, but God is FAITHFUL and will work out all things to the good of those who love him and ultimately for his glory!

To make a long story short, our first son Tae came home from South Korea in 2004 at 8 months! What an AMAZING blessing and one that I still marvel at ~ God truly does work beyond our expectations and is truly the giver of all good gifts!! Due to our adoption process and the fact we "lost" an adoption and with it several thousands of dollars, it made me a full-time working mother. I was blessed to be with an organization that allowed me to take 26 weeks off ~ what an amazing time of my life and one I will always cherish! Life wasn't so complicated back then, my husband and I worked out a schedule so that Tae only had to go to daycare about 2 1/2 - 3 days a week! Tae enjoyed his teachers and the other children, and remember didn't even experience daycare until he was about 15 months old!

In late 2006, we began to pursue another adoption, because for some reason I simply never got pregnant? This time we were going to adopt a child from Ethiopia, and our "preference" was a girl ~ ya know, round out our family very nicely ~ boy, girl! Well, God had different plans as he usually does and the actual night before we sent our paperwork we found out I was pregnant!! So in November of 2007 along came an amazing blessing number two ~ Carter! So much for the girl and the adoption from Ethiopia, God's plans, not ours ~ but better than we could have expected or planned! I again was blessed to be working for the same organization and took another 26 weeks off. However, MANY things were turning upside down and there was this deep feeling of restlessness in the pit of my stomach every day...

My husband was still with the same company he had been with for 12 years, but unethical things were happening within the company. I began to realize how much more difficult this two children thing was ~ I also learned very quickly that Tae was VERY compliant and Carter was very strong-willed. The dynamics in our home had been changed forever, and the way we used to live life was no longer possible ~ I knew it in my gut! See, if you haven't learned this yet, God begins to change us very slowly, he knows how stubborn we all are and he also knows that we think we can work it all out without him much of the time. He knows how weak we are and slowly brings us to where he wants us ~ not always slowly, but he is a loving God and I do believe he works that way more often than getting directly in our face ~ THANK YOU LORD!

This feeling got more intense, the weeks past and I soon realized not only did I have a baby with major reflux who didn't sleep, but another little mind and body that needed to be nourished ~ oh yeah, and then there was my own body, that needed to eat and keep up with breastfeeding because Carter also had milk protein allergy! So here I am, a new Mom who hasn't ever done the first 8 months, remember Tae was 8 months when he came home! I was so tired and worn out and sat in church Sunday after Sunday listening to our Pastor asking us if we were peculiar people ~ Christians should be peculiar, they should stand out in this world and not because you're doing everything just like the rest of the world! The words were hitting my heart hard and I knew the answer ~ no, we were not peculiar in any way ~ we both worked, had our children in full-time daycare and about the only thing that separated us from the rest of the neighborhood was that we went to church on Sunday. Then one Sunday we had a sermon on what our "W-2" would look like if it arrived in our mailbox, not from our employers containing how well we did financially over the past year, but rather if it arrived in our mailbox from God! I was very ashamed inside ~ questions about how well we sought him in all that we did, how we brought him glory and how we made him our most important priority over the past year. How we brought his word into our home and how we brought / taught our children the most important thing we could while we have that chance here on earth...I had failed completely...and as ashamed as I am to say it, my real W-2 looked rather impressive.

Walking away from that sermon forever changed my life, but God wasn't finished with my heart yet, there was more to come and it wasn't going to be easy. Over the course of the last few months I was off I knew that there would be no way my husband could remain working for the company he had been. I knew it, but I didn't want to acknowledge it, it was too big to imagine! I was on maternity leave and the thought of having to provide solely for my family literally made me physically sick to think about...

I prayed and prayed and prayed, my husband and I prayed and prayed and prayed some more together...we were in a dark valley and decided that we needed to surrender EVERYTHING to God and as scary as it was we needed to open our hands to him and say wherever you want us to go Lord, whatever you want us to do, please be clear and show us the way! We want to bring you glory and honor, but we're scared and confused. Please open doors where you would want us to go and shut others where you would not want us. I'm living proof that if you do this and you hold on to nothing God will turn your world upside down, but it's OK, cling to your loving Saviour, it won't be easy but you will be blessed in the midst of it!

We put our home on the market, I returned to work full-time on May 22nd, 2008 and July 3rd, 2008 was my husband's last day!!! The only plan we had at that point was that we were doing this together and we knew we had to walk by faith and trust, which is the hardest thing to do in life ~ we had to trust God NO MATTER WHAT! My husband didn't have another job, but rather took time to pursue companies and careers that would be God honoring. I supported my family and Jason applied for a Chick-fil-A franchise. I can remember thinking he was completely CRAZY! I remember asking God why? Why fast food, why such a crazy life and schedule? Lord, seriously what is he thinking? Then I went online and discovered that 10,000-12,000 people apply every year and I thought, OK, just act as if you support him because he's never going to get it anyway. No worries, you won't be the wife of someone who has a fast food joint after all ~ Whew! OK, here comes God again ~ over the course of the next year Jason continued to breeze through every interview and actually worked 4 nights a week and every Saturday at a Chick-fil-A. God is SO much bigger than we can ever imagine and boy did he teach me a huge lesson because not only did Jason get a franchise of Chick-fil-A, but the year he applied 25,000 individuals applied and only 64 were selected! Remember, our prayers and completely submitting to God's plan ~ well, God was working his plan much different than I certainly ever expected!

Last June Jason spent six weeks away and I inherited a sales territory that required about (8) overnights a month and an average of 5,500 miles per month. I literally got in my car every day and repeated and repeated the verse ~ call upon me in the day of trouble, you will deliver me and I will honor you ~ I literally cried almost every day and just kept repeating that this was my day of trouble. Trouble because there were two people in our family loosing in a huge way and that was the two little boys stuck in daycare all day. I rarely saw them in the morning, and if I did, it was to rush them off to daycare. We would return home to hurry, get dinner, baths, homework done and to bed only to start this insanity over again the next day. What were we doing ~ wife with huge sales career, husband with new business and two little boys getting lost in the shuffle. The enemy is SO good about keeping us distracted and that's where I want to spend the rest of my story and want to offer encouragement...

I understand that there are circumstances that dictate some mothers to work outside the home, but I also am a firm believer that those situations are often few and far between. We sold our home and downsized SIGNIFICANTLY - we have no car payments and one of our vehicles has 230,000 miles on it and we literally thank God each day he allows us to drive it! I left my high paying career at the end of last year and we are living off of about 25% of what we used to make. I just want to encourage each of you to really examine whether of not you have to work and spend time away from the most precious blessing God will ever give you here on earth because you truly have to? In our case it was due to our own sin ~ we spent too much on a home if I wanted to stay home and no longer had a high paying position ~ we didn't think about how our lives might change and what kind of impact we wanted to make on where our children hopefully spend eternity! It wasn't that God hadn't blessed us, but we hadn't used those blessing the best way we could have and we weren't viewing our blessings the same way God does ~ children first and foremost, why else would he have loaned them to us? For myself, it wasn't to allow someone else to raise them, he had given them to the two of us and obviously wanted us to influence them teaching them to rely and focus on him. How could we teach our children that if we were focused on our careers first and foremost?

Then, God spoke to me like I have never experienced before ~ it was truly amazing even though it was during the hardest time of my life. This past August, my 23 year old nephew was killed in a motorcycle accident. I have never experienced the kind of pain I have over Derek's death ~ I was only in 7th grade when he was born, I can see that day like it was yesterday! I'm the youngest, my sister the oldest and I spent summer after summer in Minnesota taking care of Derek ~ so many great memories! Derek was killed on a Saturday, but we did not get to view the body until the following Tuesday ~ in that moment I realized SO much and saw things completely differently than I ever had before in my life...that was it, Derek's life was over in just 23 years!!!!!! The days and opportunities to impact his life eternally were gone...God spoke to me and I heard it loud and clear! What was I doing? I have been given these two amazing blessings and my greatest responsibility it to teach them that we are in desperate need of a Saviour and that what we do in this life matters!!! The things of this world make no difference when we stand before God and give an account some day, but what we do for the kingdom while we are here on earth MATTERS! If I'm not instilling that in my children CONSTANTLY, than I have failed and if I'm not doing it, who is???? God will care nothing about my career if I abandoned my children to be successful at it ~ God doesn't honor that. I know that seems harsh, but it's truth, truth I am SO glad he spoke to me and that I heard!!! We don't know how long our children will be with us and my nephew's death was clear evidence of that! When God decides to call his child home we have nothing to say about it, so use this time with your children to honor God first and instill his word in them!

I know it's not easy, it's the hardest job you will ever do! I can say now having been on both sides of it, that my job of a full-time Mom is much harder than it was as a full-time working Mom! I do help out my husband two days of the week with marketing, but I have the flexibility to make sure I'm the one putting Tae on the bus and getting him off. Carter can go with me much of the time and if needed we have a lady from church come to our home! If God is speaking to you, please listen, have faith and trust in him! He will not let you down and he will provide! We love what we are learning ~ everything from making homemade pizza to buying jeans at the Gap outlet for .50 and putting a new zipper in them! I love being in this place because this is where God wants all of us ~ he wants our hearts ~ the bible says to store up our treasures in heaven!! We didn't spend our money foolishly and had no debt other than our mortgage, BUT God wanted more from us, he goes after the heart! In the end I want to stand before God and hear, "Well done good and faithful servant" ~ I'm not sure I would have heard that the way I was living my life!

I want to leave you each with this thought ~ Isaiah 55:6-9 "Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."

Seek him now while there is time, while you still can, because we don't know what the future holds. Teach your children to seek him while there is time, because we also don't know what their future holds. Remember through all of it, as you lay your earthly trophies down, that his ways and thoughts are not ours. I promise you what he does in your life will be very different than what you expected. It will be a place however that you can live his will out for your life, and that will matter for eternity! Approach each and every day / circumstance with an eternal perspective rather than an earthly perspective and watch how God begins to soften and mold your heart!!



P.S. Listen to "Open Hands" by Matt Papa, it describes so well what we need to focus on ~ open hands!!


Braley Mama said...

Wow, that was very touching. And very encouraging. I am a stay at home mom, and we go with out a lot of things. But the blessings out way the worldly treasures. Thank you for reminding me of what truly is important.

Laura said...

What a great post from a fellow KY girl! Emily, you have truly touched me. Emily & Bridget, glad you all had the chance to meet in the Bluegrass state and enjoy yummy Chik-fil-A together! Many blessings!

Marsha said...

Dear Emily,

First, I'm so sorry for the loss of your nephew, Derek. I know that must've been devastating for your entire family.

Second, thanks for sharing from the heart. I'm sure the enemy would've liked to scare you away from sharing such a testimony.

Although I think some people will criticize you for your honesty, (some who follow Bridget's blog are prone to that) I TOTALLY SAW YOUR HEART IN YOUR MESSAGE. It's clear you do not believe all working moms aren't making God and his children a priority. You were simply confessing honestly, that for a period in your life, you weren't.

Your challenge for others to examine their circumstances is fair. I know M-A-N-Y people who THINK they work because they have to, but it's really a circumstance where they are working to support the lifestyle that they've CHOSEN. BIG DIFFERENCE! One of my favorite songs has a line that says, "Oh the differences that often are between, everything we want and what we really need."

The worldly pressures to keep up with the Jones' is just another clever manipulation by the enemy to distract us from God, His work, and His priorities for our lives. The Lord has a plan for us and the enemy does too. But the enemy's plan is the direct antithesis of the Lord's plan.

If people are honest, we all have things in our budget that could either be eliminated altogether or drastically scaled back to allow us to live on a much smaller income. Most people aren't willing to do that, unfortunately, and it's a symptom of greed and other worldly desires.

Those who are quick to criticize your post without careful consideration of its value are likely struggling with the very issues you addressed....whether they're willing to admit it or not.

Thanks for your great message!

Melissa said...

I loved reading this...especially the part when your pastor asked how peculiar your family was. I would LOVE to hear your pastor speak, he sounds amazing!! I have felt the more we have let God into our lives/let Him lead our lives, the more we look like oddballs to everyone else....including most other families in our church. And many times, I wish we could just "blend in" with the crowd, but then I am reminded that we are on this path for a reason. Its just a hard world to live in AND stick out in...thats for sure. Thank you for your inspiring guest post and reminding me the the Right path is certainly not the most popular path in today's world...but that the purpose of our life is not meant to be a popularity contest either! :)

elboyce37 said...

Emily! I have followed Bridget's blog for over a year and to check it today and see a familiar face was amazing and awesome! I was like "OMG, that is April's brother and sis-in-law!" I am April's bestfriend and have met you and Jason once when you were pregnant with Carter at April's baby shower. Your post really spoke to my heart! Thank you for sharing your story of faith and love. God has such great plans for all of us and your story is a perfect exampled of letting go and trusting God will all your heart.
-Katie Boyce

rottylover79 said...

I am so touched by this post, not only because this is my brothers family and Emily is my sister-in-law but because they are living their lives through Christ. Jason and Emily are such amazing people and I can honestly say it's because they follow the Lords will; It truly shows. I am truly blessed to have them in my life.

Dana said...

Amen Emily!

Our oldest of 11 turned 20 last year, and I can't believe he is all grown up! I was blessed to be home since he was 18 months, and I have never once regretted it. Financially or otherwise. The budget never worked on paper, but God always provided.

I am so thankful that I was able to be with him - it was so worth the downgraded vehicles, thrift store clothes, and hamburger instead of steak!
Our trip has been a little bittersweet - I think that it is probably our last 'hurrah' with our son - he is grown up now and starting to think of his own home. It makes my heart ache and soar at the same time. I am so thankful that I gave up my career for my family - 20 years later, I would do it all again without regrets!

Thank you for sharing your heart - I hope that all mothers out there realize the precious souls that their children are, and that time is fleeting. Those babies will turn 20 before you can blink! So, DON'T BLINK - and cherish every second with your family!

Kate @ Bliss and That said...

Awesome post, Emily! Thank you for sharing your story with us. Thank you for sharing your friend with us, Bridget! :) Blessings!

Mama D.'s Dozen said...

What a wonderful post!

Last year, we made the decision that my husband would leave his secure teaching job and move into full-time ministry. We stepped away from a secure paycheck, health insurance, retirement accts., everything that the world deems as necessary ... to follow the Lord and his leading.

We are making less than half of what we were making just a hear and a half ago. We have 6 children still at home, 2 in college, and 1 who is a missionary in Argentina. So, we are still supporting 9 of our 12 children. But ... the Lord called us to live by FAITH, not by the world's standards.

We moved out of our 3400 sq. ft. home ... and into a little borrowed home that is less than 1,000 sq. ft. Our home hasn't sold yet, so we don't know where we will be living next month (when the borrowed home owners return). What we do know ... the Lord called us and we have answered. We are willing to live whereever he calls us to live.

We have given up "security" and "comfort", but we are living in the true JOY and FAITH of walking with the Lord for our daily provision.

Yes ... there are MANY moms that say, "I have to work". However ... what they HAVE TO work for is ... the nicer house, the nice cars, the restaurant meals, the new clothes, etc... If they would give those things up, they would learn that they CAN live on MUCH less.

Thanks Bridget, for the great guest post. When we take our next road trip, I would LOVE to meet Emily.


Rebecca Lynn said...

Such truth spoken by your pastor, but it was God who opened your heart to understand those words. Sometimes people get caught up thinking they are different because of they way they dress or the many "services" of church they attend!How wrong that is!!! We are different when we stand up against the world. When we get our priorities in line with God's plan!It is not easy, but He is looking for a few good men (and women) who can stick it out!!!

Melissa said...

I give thanks to the Lord for your willingness to proclaim the truths that He gave to you.
I have not been following Bridgets blog long so I have not seen the negative comments; however, just this week, dealt with the same issue about something I said on our blog. God turned it into something good and His Glory was revealed through it. This is why I say, "Continue to speak truth while giving a reason for the hope that is within you and let God deal the critics." Your post was encouraging to me after a long week. We have seen the Glory of the Lord revealed many times when we have stepped out of our comfort zone and laid down ourselves to serve Him. Our children get to see our Faith lived out instead of just talked about. What a great legacy to leave them... I wouldn't change it at all and I inspired when I hear about others who feel the same way.

Melissa said...

Thanks for giving a reason for the Hope that is within you. Your post was a blessing and an encouragement to me.
Thanks Bridget for sharing your friend!!

Jennifer in Colorado said...

Thank you so much for sharing your story, Emily! I am all about stories ;-) My husband's company (ministry development) is called I-55 Enterprises - we know and love those verses very much! We have seen the blessing of 5 adopted children (His ways ARE higher than our ways!)... We are packing up right now to head out on the road and partner with an adoption ministry to mobilize Christians to go where the Lord is leading them....we want to be peculiar!!;-) Thanks, Bridget, for hosting Emily!

~Jenna's Baggs said...

WOW!! emily, God is using you so mightly! blessings to you and your family for sharing His work in your lives!! <3

lifeintheparentlane said...

Thank you for sharing. I was searching for mom's of large families that work outside the home and ended up at this post. I'm just happy to hear someone not criticize me for the choice I don't have. I work for insurance and 1/2 of our meager car loan only a small mortgage. But, neither of us make much and we spare little too. But, we are not as tied to the hours that you carried previously. I can't imagine that pain and not seeing my kids more than that. That would be more than I could bear and I would go on assistance just to stay home more than that if it were my only choice; which is my next step I work.

Anyways, thank you for sharing. God will provide for us and you.