Monday, January 11, 2010

Sharing in His Glory

Times of suffering and pain can do one of two things. They can discourage, deflate, and destroy us, OR, they can bring hope, strength, and new possibilities.

Last Friday, I was able to spend a few hours with a dear friend who is allowing God to love and heal her from a devastating time of loss and pain. The number of times Courtney Tipping and I have spent together could be counted without using all of my fingers, yet she and I have what I would call a "soul connection". She was a young college girl when I first met her almost a decade ago, and her quiet spirit was full of the hope and the promise of God even then. Since that time, she has married, embarked on a career, and has become a mother. Some of you may even remember my sharing their blog site last year, Yes, Courtney and her husband, Allen, were the ones who were expecting SIX babies!

In March of 2009, just as the Tippings were sharing the excitement and joy of a house soon-to-be overflowing with children, the unimaginable happened. In a matter of days, Courtney and Allen lost all 6 of their precious babies. From the highest hopes and expectations to the lowest depths of grief and mourning, their world was rocked to it's core. Courtney's response in the hospital delivery room after they lost the last one? "I hope all of this can be used for God's glory. I still love Him."

At her deepest point of suffering, when all seemed to be lost, Courtney chose to hold on to the very thing that mattered most: Jesus. And even though the months since then have been filled with the sadness, difficulties, and the challenges of moving ahead with a totally different "normal" than they had ever expected, she and Allen still love Jesus.

When we sat together on Friday, I saw the light of Christ in her, even as we shed tears together. Those precious 6 babies may have only lived a short time on this earth, but their lives will have an eternal impact that will affect all those who come in contact with Courtney and Allen. Could it be that their lives will be used more for the Kingdom than they may have even been had they lived full, long lives on this earth? Only God knows that, but in His perfect plan, that is what I believe will happen. Jacob, Evan, David, Jonathan, Hope, and Faith will forever be part of all their mom and dad do for the Lord. I wait with anticipation to see all that God will continue to do in Courtney and Allen's lives!

From Romans 8:17, we know "Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory." His glory is shining through you, Courtney. Hang on, sweetheart, because the Lord is going to use you and this story of your faithfulness to Him for great and wonderful things you have never asked or imagined!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

God's amazing ways!

Many of you have encouraged me to post my messages to my Facebook prayer team on my blog as well. Here are a few excerpts from past messages:

From Pleasant Grove Baptist Holiday for Her Event, Night 1

Our Lord will never cease to amaze me, and what a humbling privilege it is to be part of the work He does!

Last night and tonight, I shared my testimony at Pleasant Grove Baptist's "Holiday for Her" event in Fountain Inn, SC. Their event has grown to the point that they offer it two nights in a row to accomodate the number of women who attend.

This was indeed a special planning team, and there were many times over the past year we were able to pray together for the Lord to move among the attendees. In unmistakable ways, our Lord definitely did just that!
From last night's event, TWELVE women trusted Christ as their Savior! Can you believe that??? WOW!!! I just love it when that happens!! The great thing is, the leadership team at Pleasant Grove has already followed up with each of these new sisters in Christ, and they are ensuring that they are plugging in to a family of faith and will be discipled.

Tonight, I was able to pray with and talk with many women before leaving, and as I left, there were still some in the prayer room with counselors. I can't wait to hear what the Lord did tonight!

Resounding in my heart is the fact that I had absolutely NOTHING to do with what happened last night or tonight, other than simply being WILLING to open my mouth and tell about the Lord's redemption in my life. What a beautiful, humbling thing to watch Him change lives! I pray we will ALL be willing to open our mouths to share our stories, whenever and wherever we may be.

Second update from Pleasant Grove, Night 2
Just wanted to let you all know that at final count, there were FIFTEEN women who chose to trust Christ this past weekend at Pleasant Grove, and over TWENTY who made recommitments in their faith!!!! Isn't our Lord just wonderful????

Without your prayers, God may not have chosen to work in the way that He did, so I thank you from the bottom of my heart for being part of the Lord's work through this ministry.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Worth the Wait

Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give to you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will do this. Psalm 37:4-5

Last weekend, I had the privilege of hearing Beth Moore's teaching via simulcast on Psalm 37, focusing on verses 1-9, and especially on verse 4. The words we studied were familiar and well-known to me, yet God spoke them freshly into my heart. As I've reflected on her teachings, the Lord has repeatedly brought two beautiful examples of the living out of these verses to my mind. They are totally unrelated, yet both of them speak profoundly of God's faithfulness in bringing about His best for us.

On August 22, Andrew and Meagan became husband and wife. The wedding was gorgeous, the families were thrilled, and the service honored God. But as I watched Andrew waiting for his bride to walk down the aisle, I saw even more than just that moment. I saw the years of waiting and preparation all coming to fulfillment. You see, Andrew had been part of the college bible study group that Ken & I lead at our church. One summer night, about 8 or 9 years ago, we were wrapping up a study in our home on relationships. The normally quiet and reserved Andrew decided to speak up, and I'll never forget what he said. Very calmly and assuredly, he said, "I really don't understand why people get so worked up and bent out of shape about this. We don't need to be looking for relationships before we're looking for God. The way I see it, if I am following the Lord and on the path He has for me, then He will bring the right person along that path with me at the right time. I don't need to worry about it!" This handsome young man--who could've dated just about anyone he wanted--went on to basically say that he was done with dating for dating's sake, and that he was going to wait on God to bring someone to him. He said that he was confident that when God brought him the right person, he would know it. And he did!

As Meagan made her way down the aisle, I thought about her obedience to the Lord to pursue a nursing degree, even after she had already completed one 4-year degree. She followed God's leading, moved to Columbia, went to USC, and began serving the Lord at First Baptist. She, too, was simply serving the Lord and walking on the path He had laid out for her. It was there that she met Emily Ann, Andrew's sister, who in turn introduced her to Andrew. The rest, as they say, is history!

These two Christ-followers are perfect complements to one another, and beautiful people inside and out. Their marriage is truly designed and ordained by God, and they will be used by Him greatly. Andrew is now a pastor of a new church, and Meagan is fully equipped to work alongside him in this ministry as they establish their family.

What if they hadn't waited? What if they had settled for less than God's best? Instead, they each delighted in the Lord, and God himself gave them their hearts' desires. What a beautiful thing to watch unfold!

Another situation where I have had the joy of watching God's plans as they developed is with my dear friend, Ashley. Like many full-time moms, now that her children are both in school, she had begun to look for something to do with her days. She is an amazing mother, wife, friend, and homemaker, but she felt God telling her it was time for something new.

If you met Ashley, you would be impressed with her flair for decorating, style, coordinating colors, and detail. She always sends notes on the perfect card, adds just the right tag to a gift, and puts just the right touch on packages. For a long time now, she has felt God was leading her to do something with this "knack" of hers.

Several months ago, Ashley was presented wtih the opportunity to buy a business dealing with notecards, invitations, enclosure cards, and all sorts of stationery. It was right up her alley, and on the surface, seemed like the perfect thing, so she excitedly began to pursue it. As she and her husband prayed about it, though, neither of them had peace. Nothing drastic happened to tell them "NO", but in their hearts, they felt God was telling them to wait.

I clearly remember the day that Ashley told me she had passed on buying the business. She had such a desire to be in that very line of work, yet she had chosen to trust God and to let it go. I could see the mixed emotions in her eyes and hear the disappointment in her voice, but most of all, her trust in God and His timing was evident.

Over these last months, Ashley has continued to pray about what God would have her do, and she has waited and trusted. At times, she admitted to frustration and wishing she could know what God was going to do. Her honesty was refreshing, because it is how we all feel when we are waiting on those heart's desires.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, Ashley got a huge surprise! Through connections that only God Himself could have made, she literally stumbled upon a new opportunity in the same line of business, but with a far lower initial investment than the business she let pass, along with a much simpler structure and greater business support. Within the first few minutes of looking into the business, the Lord assured Ashley and her husband that this was His plan, and that He had brought it directly to her. As of next week, "Paper Treats" will be open for business!

Again, what if she hadn't waited? What if she had moved forward, knowing that God had not given her the full go-ahead? She would've spent money she didn't need to, she would've beaten herself up when this new opportunity came her way, and she wouldn't have received God's fullest blessings on her life.

Whatever it is that our hearts desire, I pray that we will commit our way to the Lord, trust in HIM, and let HIM do it!!! It will always be for our best when we do!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Eyes of Hope & Purpose

Our family of three just returned from a relaxing, fun, and memorable few days in Hilton Head and Beaufort, SC. While there was some time for surf, sand, and family fun, the real purpose for going was to spend time with and encourage the summer missionaries who are sharing these few months of their lives with Lowcountry residents and visitors.

In Hilton Head, we had the opportunity to spend some time with the SummerLink team of 30+ students. Most of them are from Clemson, so that was a bonus for us, since Ken & I are both Clemson alumnae! The best part, though, was to see and hear their obvious delight at being able to work in normal summer jobs, all the while with the clear and distinct purpose of sharing the love and hope of Jesus with those they meet on a day-to-day basis. It's really what ALL of us should be doing, but these students are learning this so much sooner than I ever did. In their eyes, it was evident that they had purpose, direction, peace, and most of all, HOPE.

I found myself wondering what people saw in my eyes when I was their age. Most likely, it was a sense of searching, of false pride, and of confusion. What an amazing thing to once again see the certainty of Christ in their just-beginning adult lives.

As we moved on to Beaufort, we had an absolutely delightful time being with 5 young women who are serving with Lowcountry Ministries. Three are with Kids' Connexion, and two are with a sports ministry. All of them are part of a larger team working with children in churches, Boys' & Girls' Clubs, and other ministries all over the Beaufort, Hilton Head, and Bluffton areas. We went with the intention of giving them a night off to rest, relax, and enjoy some good food. After a wonderful meal at a local restaurant, we took them down to the kickoff event for the Beaufort Water Festival. It was a gorgeous evening on the waterfront, with the Marine band playing some great music and the promise of fireworks as soon as it turned dark. As we wandered, every few minutes a child would run up to one of the young women and greet her with a huge smile and hug. It was unreal how many of the kids knew and loved them, after only 4 weeks of ministry so far!

We ended up near the waterfront playground, which was teeming with children. My first thought was that the girls would want to go the other way, since this was to be their night to spend time the way they wanted to. Instead, they took our son and went straight into the playground. Within minutes, they were leading games, playing with kids, and pushing them on the whirl-a-gig. So much JOY filled the faces of these young women, and their laughter was contagious. Rather than "take time off", they continued to do what came so naturally to them: to show the love of Christ through their actions. So many hugs were given to them that night, and so much of Jesus was shared with the children.

We went to the Lowcountry with the purpose of encouraging, and instead, we came back as the ones who were blessed. What a beautiful thing to see what it looks like for this next generation to LIVE OUT what they believe. They were not half-hearted or double-minded in anything they did, but instead, exuded that steady sense of love, joy, purpose, peace, and HOPE.

May those I come in contact with see the same thing in me.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Camp Time!

My guys got back this afternoon from a 3-day trip to Camp McCall. In the mountains near Rocky Bottom outside of Pickens, South Carolina Baptists have a real treasure in this camp for boys. For the past 3 summers, Ken & Matthew have looked forward to this father/son time. The cabins are rustic (to say the least), Lake Chilly Water really is, the heat can be sweltering, and the terrain is quite hilly. Yet, something special goes on up there.

Upon their return, Matthew bounded in the house & immediately told me that these were "the best 3 days of my life!" He made it clear, as he has all the summers he's gone to camp, that when he gets old enough he plans to work at Camp McCall as a counselor. He talked non-stop about all of their activities, adventures and fun, and then he told me how the camp pastor made chapel interesting and understandable for kids. As of this evening, he was scouring the remaining dates for camp this summer, and doing his very best to figure out how to talk his daddy into going back! (That might not be too hard, since Ken has as much fun as Matthew does.)

For me, our house was loudly quiet these past three days, but it was a great time of reflection and prayer. I remembered the times, growing up, that I had seen young guys from my home church go to Camp McCall and then come home somehow different. Although I was too young to truly process what was going on, I realize now that I was watching these boys begin to grow into the men God had called them to become.

So, remembering all those young men, I prayed for God to do the same thing in my son's heart. Matthew is a follower of Christ and has accepted his grace and salvation, but I prayed this week for him to hear & discern God's call on his life, and to deepen his own dependence on God. As he & Ken recounted their days at camp, it was clear to me that Matthew's love for God, His creation, and His people had deepened.

Somehow, in the middle of canoes, zip lines, swimming, campfires, & waterfalls, Godly manhood begins to be instilled in these boys at Camp McCall. In those mountains, it is as if God's voice echoes, "Rise up, O men of God!"

May the Lord continue to bless the ministry of Camp McCall, and may God continue to speak to the hearts of all the boys who set foot on that mountain.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Cleaning House---Part 2!

"God intends something gloriously grand here and is making the decisions that will bring it about." John 8:5b, The Message

Few things in life have been more dreaded for me than this past weekend's cleaning out of my childhood home. For weeks, I've had knots in my stomach as I would think about going through that special place for what would likely be the last time. I knew that my brother and sisters and I would work well together, because we always do. I knew, too, that we would find moments of fun and laughter in the middle of all the "yuck", because our parents taught us how to do that, too. And, because of so many words of encouragement, I knew we were all being prayed for and remembered by our wonderful friends.

What I did not know was that the last weekend there would turn out to be one of the sweetest and most precious times we've shared. You see, things didn't work out quite as we had planned...but sometimes, that is when God brings His best surprises!

We were all under the impression that a gentleman my dad knows was going to take everything left in the house and auction or dispose of it for us, and that we were simply going to have to go clean the house. Instead, on Friday morning, we found out that the man had too many estates to deal with at once, and that he didn't have room for my parents things. In a scramble, my sisters decided to have a moving sale on Saturday. Yikes! With only one day to prepare and no publicity except a few signs and some Facebook posts, we really didn't know what to expect. We were praying for at least a few folks to show up.

After working late into the night on Friday, we awoke early Saturday to a deluge of rain. We had made it clear on the posters that we would have the moving sale rain or shine, but would people even come out on a day like that?

By 8:00 a.m., the house was swarming with people! We couldn't believe it! The Pickens Flea Market had been flooded by the rain, so all the shoppers and some of the dealers came our way. On top of that, we had folks come by simply to see what was going on with our parents, or to see how all of us were doing. Since my dad had owned a hardware store on Main Street for decades, and since my mom had taught at the high school for over 20 years, there were well-known and much-loved.

In addition to selling almost everything in the house, we were blessed with story after story about how special our parents have been to the people they have known along the way. We heard stories of my dad's kindness to people at his store, of his fun-loving nature, of his knack for always having the right gardening tips, and of being able to pick out just the right fishing lure. We heard about his belief in people when they were down on their luck, and his encouragement to them to keep their faith and do the right thing. We heard stories of my mom's love for her students, of her willingness to go the extra mile for them, her great meals for those in need,and of her wonderful Bible teaching at the church. Many of the people who came through were delighted to learn where my parents are now, so that they would be able to go and visit.

Rather than being filled with tears, the day was filled with laughter, fond memories, and the living legacy of faith of Jean and Tony Farry. They may not live in that home anymore, but their love for God and His people lives on in all of their children and in the many lives they have touched through the years.

At the end of the day, we were able to give my parents not only a little extra cash from all the things that were sold, but we were able to give them the gift that really mattered: knowing that they are not forgotten and that their lives continue to be used by God to bless others.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Cleaning House

Childhood memories of Saturday mornings:
"Mama, can I go outside and play?"
"Have you cleaned your room?"
"No, but can't I play first?"
"No, honey, you know how it goes. Get your jobs done first, and then it's playtime the rest of the day!"

This coming weekend, my siblings and I will clean up at 849 Pendleton Street in Pickens for the last time. After over 56 years, my parents no longer live there. They have been fortunate enough to sell their house rather quickly, & they are scheduled to close in a couple of weeks.

As with any move, there is much to be done. We're fortunate that my parents were able to move into their new retirement apartment back in October, so we've been able to take our time in going through things, dividing up the furniture and belongings, and sifting through our memories. This coming weekend is it, though. The house will have to be empty, cleaned, and ready for it's new owners.

Without doubt, this is one of the hardest transitions I've had in my life. Being the baby of the five children, I lived there most recently, and it still seems like my parents ought to be living there. If it's this difficult for me, I can only begin to imagine how my parents feel. They are certainly keeping the right perspective, and it helps to know that it was their idea to do all of this in the first place! With my mom's declining health, their safety and well-being are priorities, and they are exactly where they need to be.

Still, just the thought of the final cleaning out leaves me feeling
empty. But at the end of all this, will there be a "playtime" waiting for my family? Oh, how I hope so! I am praying already that there will be joy in the middle of the tears as we go through the house, inch by inch, being sure it is ready. I am praying that memories will flood back, and they we will all be able to capture them. I am praying that God will be especially close to all of us this weekend. Most of all, I am praying that for my mom & dad, the rest of their days will be the best of their days. Even with my mom's condition and my dad's physical pains, I pray they find sweetness, playfulness, and JOY!

For those moving into our home, I pray that they will be blessed by the lasting legacy that was built inside of those walls. A lot of "cleaning house" went on with us children as our parents instructed us, corrected us, and helped us grow to love Christ. And as for all of us Farry children, may we be encouraged by our time together, and remember that the hours of laughter and playtime are what we will carry with us.

Cleaning house is never fun, but it is always necessary. May God be close to us and teach us as we walk through these next days together.

"If you are truly serious about coming back to God, clean house!" 1 Samuel 7:3a (the Message)