so you think this is hard.

many of our college students, friends, family, and even ourselves are going through some really hard things.

just today….

i visited with a friend who just said good-bye to their Ethiopian daughter they will never bring home. you can read their story HERE.

a couple from our church lost their sweet twin boys. you can read their story HERE.

my husband’s journey. you can read that HERE.

my most recent trial(s). you can read that HERE.

i received a text from someone on the verge of divorce. their last ditch effort is a conversation tonight after their kids are in bed.

a girl lost her grandmother last night and she’s grieving while comforting her mother.

various and serious medical issues for 3 men in our family.

a girl being inconvenienced by check fraud. and violated.

hospital visits and death in our family over the past 3 months.

fostering and adopting families on journeys with only unknowns, nothing predictable, and the emotional roller coaster it is

just today i prayed over all of these. these people. these journeys. these seasons. these questions.

as i was praying, the Lord pricked my heart. He reminded me of a situation…..a circumstance…….a heartache…….a shift in my journey…..a turn i wasn’t expecting…….a decision that seemed abnormal for me……….

while He flooded my memory and heart with these, i realized they were all memories NOW. at the time of their dramatic descent on my rather “perfect” (rose colored glasses are deceiving, eh?) life, these were not memories, but very real interruptions. they brought me to my knees. sanctified me. sanded and sifted in very painful, real ways. i had no choice but to walk through these moments. to experience them. to hurt through them. to ache.

when we’re faced with the tragic, aching, seemingly unfathomable….we have no choice but to walk through. He brought us to it. the moments i’m talking about are the ones we didn’t choose. we didn’t create. the deaths. the steps of obedience that seem painful. the miscarriages. the end of a dream for adoption or fostering. the call of a minister and family to a far away place that is exciting but hard all at the same time. an unexpected pregnancy. a diagnosis.

while remembering many of these in my own life, He also revealed me to myself. who i am today is a direct reflection of all the hard. the joy is there because the hard was there. the shiny exists because He has sanded….and sanded….and sanded. when the difficult comes now, i can say,

experience this season for all it’s worth because there are diamonds coming out of this rough.

it has taken a lot of hard times, trials, hurting, and sifting for me to be in a place that welcomes the hard and difficult moments of life. because i see now that those only lasted for a minute in His eternal perspective. some of them are still working on us. He sees the end. He’s working in and with me now to grasp all that i can from the difficulties of each season.

we’re all in a season. and each season has it’s own unique description and purpose. He has ordained our story. before we were born, He knew us and our story. i want to walk through each season, getting everything out of it that it’s truly worth. i want to gain everything from each sanctifying time that i can because there is something coming in the future that He will use this sifting experience to prepare me for and it will be more bearable and more intentional if i grow and ache through this now.

James 1

New King James Version (NKJV)

Greeting to the Twelve Tribes

1 James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,

To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad:

Greetings.

Profiting from Trials

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

The Perspective of Rich and Poor

Let the lowly brother glory in his exaltation, 10 but the rich in his humiliation, because as a flower of the field he will pass away. 11 For no sooner has the sun risen with a burning heat than it withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beautiful appearance perishes. So the rich man also will fade away in his pursuits.

Loving God Under Trials

12 Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.

16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. 18 Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.

Qualities Needed in Trials

19 So then,[a] my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; 20 for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

Doers—Not Hearers Only

21 Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.

26 If anyone among you[b] thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. 27 Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.

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Adventures in Healing pt 2

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Today, while we are coping with disappointment, we turned to a bit of creativity and change. He is working through the pain, and trying to deal with no answers. If this is the new normal, the pain, he wants desperately to live in freedom and in a way that allows him to be himself.

This doesn’t mean we give up or stop believing. This means we continue walking, with hope greater than our comprehension, with a God who doesn’t do things the way we want, expect, or THINK we need. We walk with a hope and plea so desperate that we are needy for Him. He is the only healer, provider, and sufficiency. Even when our miracle doesn’t come in a timely way or in a tidy wrapped up packaged testimony that seems perfect & praiseworthy.

Provision. It never comes in expected ways. Sometimes it’s spiritual healing, growth, understanding, etc. Sometimes it’s financial. Sometimes it’s emotional. Sometimes it’s interpersonal. Sometimes it’s all of the above.

Today our provision came in the form of financial blessing & interpersonal. We received a monetary blessing and were poured over with texts and Facebook messages.

The generous soul will be made rich, And he who waters will also be watered himself. (Proverbs 11:25 NKJV)

And just like Solomon, all we ask is for wisdom. Understanding is your greatest gift aside from salvation. Please pour it over us now. 1 Kings 3

I am praying daily, without ceasing, for healing. Whether it be by miracle, through modern medicine, or both. Lord give mercy in healing and grace in the wait.

Are you in time out?

As I’ve walked with the Lord, there have been seasons in areas of my life where I spend more time than is comfortable in the wilderness. Praise the Lord our whole being isn’t in the wilderness like the Israelites experienced. It may feel like a total wilderness sometimes, but if we’re honest, most of us have more love, friends, family, belongings, and treasures than the majority and we can think on healthier things than our “this isn’t fair” attitude that steals our joy.

I’ve had a season of wilderness in my call to ministry. Or, so I perceived. In 2009 Brady and I both switched jobs, bought a house, I had a miscarriage, and I had gallbladder surgery.

Brady went from working with his dad and commuting to seminary, to full time college pastor at FBCWF. I went from teaching 6th grade self-contained at a Title 1 school to teaching 6th and 7th grade English/Language Arts at a Christian private school.

The home we bought needed to be gutted (basically) and remodeled. Oh my word at the transformation. My husband is absolutely gifted at developing and carrying out a vision…for life, for ministry, for creative purposes, whatever it is, he’s a genius with vision. We planned, prepared, shopped, stripped wallpaper, sheetrock, stripped popcorn texture, tore down walls, poured concrete into our living room, painted, painted, painted, shopped some more, all new light fixtures, wall plugs, switch plates, brand new hard wood floors (x3 after they came up), repairs, gutted an entire bathroom and did a designer job with the tile, I have gone on and on and I could go on some more! (All of this with help from both sets of parents and college students who are long gone, having moved on with their lives…we’ve been at First long enough to have students who are married, have children, and are in a career!).

After trying to get pregnant for 6 months, we found out we were going to have a baby (or so we THOUGHT). So excited, nervous, overwhelmed. After 6 weeks we found out we were not going to have this precious baby as he/she was already dancing with Jesus. What a blessed baby! Such a sweeter place for a baby, even though I think we have a pretty sweet place, that baby is not hurting or under the weight and oppression of this world that we cannot protect him/her from no matter how we would have tried.

Gallbladder attacks are no joke. Now that I’ve delivered 2 babies, I dare to say those attacks rank right up there in excruciating pain! SO thankful for His mercy and provision to not have those attacks when I was pregnant…no pain meds or surgery for a pregnant momma with gallbladder attacks. He knows best. He has a plan.

While all of this is going on, we are not even into college ministry at FBC for full year yet. I was called to ministry in college and spend the majority of 3 years pouring into other college women. I mean, spending time with 3-4 different girls a day, talking and praying and walking through life with them. It was a joy. It was pleasure. It was sifting and sanctifying for me. It was humbling. It was accountability. Now, I’m married. Now, I’m dealing with very personal, difficult life circumstances. I’m growing leaps and bounds in my understanding of true intimacy with the Lord and growing closer and closer to my husband. But, I felt so far away from my calling.

A new year! 2010! No baby, no gallbladder, and a new beginning! February–pregnant again! Pregnant and happy, but oh so terribly sick. For 9 months. I struggled to be involved, available, and connected with our college students. I’m being vulnerable to share here, that though my heart ached to be a sweet place of support and counsel for them, I struggled with the Lord that it just wasn’t His timing. I pleaded with Him for the ability to be the college pastor’s wife that was all they needed. I even tried to make it work and tried to do and be something that just didn’t fit His timing. Smart. Praise Him that He had women and college women in place to minister to them and love on them and support them. I had to be okay with that. I had to rejoice.

But, I felt like I was in time out. Isn’t it just like our flesh to look over the priceless joys we have (HAVING A BABY!) to the season we are hungry for that is actually just a vision we’re looking at through a past experience where we’re looking through rose colored glasses? That time I had enjoyed pouring into college girls’ lives was wonderful. But it’s in the past. It was hard! My rose colored glasses deceived me. I had forgotten what it was like to bear the burdens of others. I had forgotten the anger I received when a word spoken in truth and love wasn’t taken well. I had forgotten the humility and accountability when I had to lead them in areas where I had previously failed. By His grace, though, I remembered all of that as joy because of the deep relationships I had built and the way the growth permeated my whole being. (Isn’t He wonderful to let us remember all the good from seasons that were hard at the real life moment?)

I wasn’t in a time out. I wasn’t being punished. I was in a wilderness in my ache to minister to college and young married women. I was in a time of growing closer to the Lord. We can all always grow closer to Him and draw nearer to Him. I was in a time of pouring into my husband. Praise the Lord for that time, because at that time, He was the only other person in our home I had to pour into…I was able to grow in that part of my life before having to learn how to pour into him while caring for and discipling children. I was in a time of practically growing. Housekeeping, time managing, planning, and creating an atmosphere specific to our home were all on His agenda for this so-called wilderness where I wasn’t getting to do what I THOUGHT was the most important task of ministry. Oh, but I was ministering. My wise husband told me my ministry was to carrying this baby and ministering to him through our home and relationship. Wow. I had no idea how true that was then and would be in the future as I would be balancing wife and mom.

If you feel like you’re in a time out, talk to Him. Was Jesus always on His throne? He came to this filthy earth and took on flesh to walk among us. We are taken out of our element and we are taken out of seasons where we are the most comfortable and even where we may feel the most successful. This life and ministry aren’t about us “feeling” successful. Tell Him you hurt and ache for whatever it is you really want to be doing. He already knows your heart, the deep longings and the bites of selfishness. In your moments of weeping to Him, listen to what He’s whispering or yelling into your Spirit. There is a place and area in your being that He is refining. Think about all those creative and upcycling ideas you’ve seen on Pinterest or HGTV. That dresser that was sanded down to nothing. It wasn’t pretty. It took a lot of sanding, which was a lot of hard work for the Sander. But, the person sanding poured them self into that hard work, maybe got callouses, got tired and dirty. That’s what the Lord is doing for us in our seasons of wilderness. He knows our heart and our longings. He loves us so much He won’t let us walk into the Promise Land unprepared and not capable. He is equipping you, even in the midst of our selfish flesh who feels as though this season of sitting on the bench feels unfair. It’s actually a time of such closeness and dependence on Him. Soak up the time He’s pouring into you and investing in you. He does have great plans and worthy moments for you coming. Jeremiah 29:11 isn’t a feel good verse just to memorize in hopes that He will make our future great. It is a specific piece spoken to a hurting, yet hopeful group of people. Look at it’s context.

A letter which Jeremiah wrote to the captives in Babylon, against their prophets that they had there (Jer. 29:1-3), in which letter, 1. He endeavours to reconcile them to their captivity, to be easy under it and to make the best of it, Jer. 29:4-7. 2. He cautions them not to give any credit to their false prophets, who fed them with hopes of a speedy release, Jer. 29:8, 9. 3. He assures them that God would restore them in mercy to their own land again, at the end of 70 years, Jer. 29:10-14. 4. He foretels the destruction of those who yet continued, and that they should be persecuted with one judgment after another, and sent at last into captivity, Jer. 29:15-19. 5. He prophesies the destruction of two of their false prophets that they had in Babylon, that both soothed them up in their sins and set them bad examples (Jer. 29:20-23), and this is the purport of Jeremiah’s letter. II. Here is a letter which Shemaiah, a false prophet in Babylon, wrote to the priests at Jerusalem, to stir them up to persecute Jeremiah (Jer. 29:24-29), and a denunciation of God’s wrath against him for writing such a letter, Jer. 29:30-32. Such struggles as these have there always been between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent.—Matthew Henry’s Commentary

I think this is true exhortation for us all. Talk to Him. Trust Him. Seek counsel. Do the next thing even it doesn’t include a glamorous action that will effect the Kingdom in visible ways. You are always effecting Eternity. With every movement and decision. Will your movements and decisions be in line with the Gospel. Choose today what your heart will exude…contentment or dissatisfaction?  You’re not in a time out. You’re called to……

Dashed dreams into reason for hope

The due date anniversary of our first baby, Baby C Sharp, is coming up. We honestly lost the baby so early that, if there was a due date established, I don’t know what it was and I’m pretty confident the Lord made is so for my peace and comfort.

The following is a note from Facebook (the only one I ever wrote back when notes were “in” on Facebook). It perfectly describes my heart to this day regarding the sweet baby we lost. I’m so grateful for a Creator who perfectly orders our lives and then graciously and mercifully walks through the ordained days with us. What divine provision.

“We are rejoicing that Baby Sharp is in Heaven already praising the God of this universe. Praise the Lord this little one did not have to enter this wretched world, but immediately entered life in Eternity with His Savior. How gracious a God to save this sweet child from the evil encountered on this earth. We do not mourn as though we’ve been slighted or cheated, but mourn for the loss we were so expecting to enjoy. His mercies are new each morning and we cling to those mercies daily. We are surrounded by a sweet group of friends and family who have faithfully supported, prayed, and encouraged us. We look forward to the blessings that will come forth from this season, as well as the refinement we are sure to experience. Thank you for loving us and praying with us.

Grace to you-
Melissa & Brady Sharp

Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23”

posted October 23, 2009 due date was May/June