When Prayers Aren’t Enough

healing power of musicMusic has a way of speaking straight to my heart. More specifically, lyrics set to beautiful music has a way of capturing emotions I’m incapable of expressing.

Does that make sense?

Have you ever heard a song that so clearly explained how you were feeling that you needed to play it again? Needed to google the lyrics so you could read them slowly….letting them sink deep into your heart?

My daughter endured the most difficult experience of her life earlier this year. During one of her most painful moments, I overheard her humming. It was in the wee hours of the morning, and she was high on pain killers, eyes closed, but she hummed. The sound was beautiful even as tears streamed down her face. Although the tune was familiar, I couldn’t quite place it. While she hummed, I prayed for her comfort.

Later that week, I heard the same familiar song on the radio – Oceans, by Hillsong. As I listened to the lyrics, I had one of those moments when I when I wished I could hit replay on the radio. Comparing the painful experience my daughter was living with the sentiment of the song…..well, tears streamed down my face. As a matter of fact, every time I hear the song now, my eyes still fill with tears.

To be clear, my daughter had no idea what she was singing that night. She was out of her mind with pain and painkillers and doesn’t remember humming. But, without a doubt, I believe the Holy Spirit was using that song to comfort my child. I believe He ministered to Hannah when my prayers and groanings were not enough.

Romans 8:26 says, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.”

Read the song lyrics for yourself. If you are facing circumstances that are too deep for words, may you remember that you, as a child of God, are His, and He is yours. He will keep your eyes above the waves.

Oceans, by Hillsong

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now

So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

I will call upon Your name
Keep my eyes above the waves
My soul will rest in Your embrace
I am Yours and You are mine

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A Closer Look Revealed A Different Story

exam roomMy 12-year-old daughter and I waited in the exam room. She had injured her back during an impressive, but over zealous run on an inflatable obstacle course, and she needed help for the pain. We were doing what we always do in exam rooms when we are forced to wait: spinning on the doctor’s rolling stool and blowing up latex gloves. Mature, I know.

We stashed the gloves in my purse when we heard the doctor rifling through Hannah’s chart outside the door. We suppressed our giggles and put our conversation about which Starbucks drink was our favorite on hold when he opened the door. That’s when we heard it for the first time.

“Did you know your daughter has scoliosis?”

Um, no. And, to be quite honest, I didn’t really believe his diagnosis. Surely he had made a mistake…viewed someone else’s X-ray. After all, Hannah’s back looked straight. Maybe he was a newbie to the whole “doctoring” thing. Nevertheless, tears filled my eyes as I looked at my daughter’s face. No one ever wants to hear unsettling news from their doctor, and I was watching my daughter respond with silent questions and fear. Our laughter-filled morning had taken a drastic turn as we received recommendations for specialists and a copy of the X-ray.

Over the next 3 years, Hannah visited an orthopedic surgeon every 4 months. Each visit revealed that her spine had continued to curve. Each visit began with laughter and blown up latex gloves, but ended with more tears and fear. She (and I) had so many questions. Why was this happening? Why her? Why wouldn’t the curve simply stop? Eventually, the doctor recommended a brace for Hannah to sleep in the hopes of slowing/stopping the progression of the curve, but not even a hard, plastic shell could stop it.

Here’s what was most baffling: she looked great. I mean, really great. Her back was straight. To the naked eye, she looked almost perfect. Visually, nothing was wrong. But a closer look….a look beneath the surface….revealed a much different story. X-rays showed a drastic curve that threatened to harm Hannah’s health. (There’s a brilliant parallel to our spiritual lives in those last few sentences. Looking good on the outside doesn’t always indicate health on the inside. I hope you’re paying attention.)

Eventually, surgery became our only option, and Hannah, at the age of 15, endured the most difficult, painful experience of her young life. A 4.5 hour surgery and a 4 day hospital stay – along with a 6 week recovery at home – has ended her battle with scoliosis. Now she is healthy – inside and out. The healing process has required so much from our whole family….constant medication, assistance getting up and laying down, help with school work (I now know far too much about 9th grade biology and literature), and ongoing encouragement to help her endure. Those things required all – and I mean every bit – of my time, energy, and attention. Helping my daughter recover….helping her win….was the only item on my to-do list for the past 6 weeks.

Thankfully, Hannah is doing extremely well. She has survived the worst of the pain (of which there are so many stories to tell) and is growing stronger and healthier each day. Over the course of the next 9 months, Hannah’s back will be fully healed and she will enjoy any activity she wants.

Amazing, really. Medical technology can correct a harmful condition and eliminate any lasting effects.

I know Someone else who can correct harmful conditions and eliminate any lasting effects. I know Someone who can take a person that looks good on the outside but is dying on the inside and can bring health and vitality again. I know Someone who can help a person endure. I know Someone who can heal.

My God.

He is able. Maybe you aren’t dealing with scoliosis, but you are messed up on the inside nonetheless. My God can help. No matter who you are God can make you healthy on the inside….in your soul. But, there’s a catch. You must endure the process. Healing might require a bit of pain. It might require discipline. It will certainly require support and encouragement from other Christians. But, trust me, on the other side of the process is the reward of a contented, peaceful heart.

My sweet Hannah has endured the process of physical healing, and while it certainly hasn’t been easy, it has been worth it. Spiritual healing works the same way. Whatever spiritual struggle you’re facing today, take heart. The difficult process of healing with bring great, lasting rewards!

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The Secret I Kept

A few weeks ago I received a phone call from my daughter’s (Hannah) middle school.  Apparently, she was going to be given an award on May 22nd, and I was invited to attend the ceremony.  Since it was intended to be a surprise, I was asked to keep it under wraps and simply show up for the event.

Keeping it under wraps took restraint.  Discipline, I tell you.  Hannah had mentioned the awards ceremony in passing a few times, and each time she assured me she had no chance of winning anything.  Since I knew that to be false, I had to bite my lip to keep from telling her the good news.  Oh, the squirming I did!

So, yesterday was the big day.  I listened as awards were presented to students who had achieved academically and had proven to be stellar students, but the best sound was the cheers that came from the students, themselves.  They had a blast whooping and hollering and celebrating each other.  As I sat there, I thought about the significance of taking some time to celebrate the wins in our lives.  Big or small, accomplishments are important, and recognizing them is even more important.  There is something fantastic about getting a pat on the back.  It just spurs you on.

Yesterday made me want to print a few certificates of my own.  To pat a few backs.  To celebrate the accomplishments of my friends.

  • Like, my friends JJ and Brian who have hosted my Life Group in their home this year.  They’ve provided a welcoming environment for our group to enjoy.  Their hospitality makes me smile.
  • Or, my friend Meagan who is mentoring several young women.  She selflessly offers her time to love and encourage other people.  She is making a difference!
  • Or, my friend Jill who, after years of working hard, will become a stay-at-home mom next week.  She has resigned from teaching and is looking forward to being home with her family and volunteering at church at a heightened level.  She’s planned and saved for this day, and the reward will be so sweet.
  • Or, my mother-in-law, Teresa, who has battled a bewildering illness for several years now.  She keeps putting one foot in front of the other, and despite the pain no one seems to understand, she loves and cares for her family.  Inspiring.

We don’t need certificates to celebrate.  We just need our words.  Tell someone today what a good job they’re doing or how they put a smile on your face.  I assure you, your words will spur them on to greatness!  People value what is celebrated.  Celebrate the good you see and watch as good flourishes!

Oh, and by the way, Hannah earned honors for achievements in Physical Science, and she earned the Wildcat Award, which is an award to honor someone who excels academically, is involved in activities, contributes to the community, and whose character is an example for others.  Way to go, Hannah!  That’s my girl!

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The Best Video You’ll Watch Today

A few weeks ago, my oldest daughter, Hannah, and my hubby went to Tanzania on a mission trip with Compassion International.  She was stoked since she was going to have the opportunity to meet Stella, the 12 year girl our family sponsors through the Compassion project.  I could tell you more about her experience, but she does such a better job than I ever could.  Take a look:

I’m proud of Hannah for recognizing that God wants to use her to help the people around her….to be His hands and feet.  What she didn’t tell you is that she is using her own allowance money (along with her brother and sister) to sponsor another Compassion child, Peter, who will be 3 in November.  She’s allowing God to use her to help others, and I couldn’t be more proud.

So, today I wanted to brag on my daughter a little bit.  I think she’s pretty awesome.

Frapps and Jesus

On March 25, 2007, my oldest daughter, Hannah, was baptized.  It was a fabulous day in the Lovejoy home. Family came in from out of town, we cooked a big meal, presents were given, and we burned up the batteries in my camera.  Making a decision for God is a big deal to us.

To be sure, we partied that day.  But more important than celebrating the event of that day is celebrating the spiritual growth that happens afterward.  It would be kind of like planning an extravagant wedding, but then never doing the work necessary to have a solid marriage.  Or, cutting the ribbon for the grand opening of a new business, but never training the employees to do the job.  We don’t magically become more Christ-like when we give our lives to Him….it takes discipline and effort.  And, that process is always made easier if we are mentored along the way.

Every year on March 25th, I have a date with Hannah.  We usually grab Coldstone Creamery, but this year she graduated to Starbucks.  With a decaf Caramel Frapp, full whip, for her and a decaf Java Chip non-fat Frapp, light whip, for me we sat down and chatted for an hour.

We talked about the goals she set last year and whether or not she met them.  We talked about her service at Mountain Lake and the things she’s experienced with God this year.  She was so proud that she met the goals that she had set for herself, and I could see the satisfaction in her eyes when I told her how impressed I was.

She was 12 years old and these were her goals:

1. Spend time with God at least 4 mornings each week.

2.  Serve in some form of volunteerism at church each Sunday.

3.  Be involved in her small group in Evolve, the student ministry.

This year she has set some new goals:

1.  Spend time with God 5 mornings each week.

2.  Continue to serve at Mountain Lake

3.  Find ways to show love to the girls in her small group in Evolve.

4. Begin tithing out of her allowance.

We also talked about the impact in her life as she accomplishes these goals – the wisdom she’ll gain to face the tough issues of a teen’s life, the influence over the kids that she mentors in our children’s ministry, the love she can show to friends, and the blessings that come from obeying God with our finances.  Finally, we talked about focusing more on God’s love than on a set of do’s and don’ts.  God’s love, after all, is all that matters.

Sound pretty heady for a 13 year old girl? Not really. This is called discipleship.  Every person who follows Christ should be walking this road.

What about you? Do you have some goals for your walk with God?  Come on!  You can do this! Set some reasonable goals – ones that you can accomplish.  Don’t make them too difficult.  The goal is to grow, not to defeat yourself!

Grab a cup of coffee – or a Frapp – and spend some time with Jesus.  It will be the best part of your day.

Discipleship Starts At Home

Today is a big day in the Lovejoy family.   4 years ago today, Hannah stepped into a pool of water at MLC, and her dad had the distinct honor of baptizing her and welcoming her to the family of God.  We sent out E-vites to everyone we knew asking them to come celebrate the day with us.  School teachers were invited.  Neighbors were invited.  And, family travelled from other states to watch my daughter go public with the most important decision she will ever make.   We asked Hannah to write down her thoughts about the whole experience, and we added it to a scrapbook to help her remember the day.  And, of course, since we live in the South, we topped it all off with a yummy dinner.

Sounds like fun, huh?  It was.  We celebrated BIG.  But, the truth is that event was simply a declaration of Hannah’s decision to live for Jesus.  It’s similar to a wedding – the wedding is simply the event that declares to the world that a couple is married.  After the baptism – after the wedding – work must be done.  After the baptism, we have to learn to walk with Jesus, submit ourselves to Him, and learn His ways.  The baptism is just the beginning; it’s not the end!

So, each March 25, we celebrate Hannah’s spiritual birthday.  We go out for ice cream, and Hannah shares what she’s learned about God over the past year.  We talk about the various ways she has served God through the church, how she has loved other people, and how she is growing in her relationship with God.

Why do we have this conversation?  Because we want to help Hannah see her growth, challenge herself to become more like Jesus, and, maybe most importantly, remember the decision she originally made.  In other words, as her parents we are responsible for discipling Hannah.  We take that charge seriously.  We also make it fun by giving her gifts, leaving her encouraging notes, and celebrating the Godly choices she makes.

So, today we will celebrate.  And, because Hannah is getting older (she’s now 12), she is taking on some new responsibilities.  Today, she’s giving me her plan for her own spiritual growth for this year.  She’s never made a plan like this, but she older now, so it’s time.  Sound crazy?  Not so much.  I helped her out by giving her a list of some creative ways to spend time with God, so she can pick and choose what works for her.  She went shopping the other day and picked out a devotional that she liked.  And, she’s setting a goal for how many days each week she’ll spend time with God.  I’ve encouraged her to start slowly and not bite off more than she can chew.  The goal is to help her win!

Hannah is pumped about today.  She has already been working the plan that she’ll reveal.  She loves this stuff!  Why?  Because God captured her heart 6 years ago, and we have been stoking those fires ever since.  Discipleship starts at home.

Deuteronomy 4:9 “Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.”

One of My Favorite Celebrations

On this day 12 years ago, my first child was born.  That’s right, Hannah’s birthday is slap-dab (remember, I have Alabama roots) in the middle of the Christmas season.  I literally brought her home from the hospital on Christmas day in 1998 – in a red stocking, thanks to the sweet nurses at our hospital. 

With all the hustle and bustle of the holidays, it would be tempting to try to combine her birthday presents with all of her Christmas goodies, to forego a party since life is so busy in December, or miss out on a celebration because her friends are usually out-of-town this time of year.  But, oh no, not this mama.  There’s no way my sweet girl is getting the shaft.  So, we have always made sure our family sets aside December 23rd to be a day with no red and green, no Christmas paper, and instead, made the day all about Hannah – just like any other birthday!

Today, Shawn’s parents are coming in town to celebrate with us.  Hannah wants to go to Kani House for dinner, so I’m getting my taste buds warmed up.  In the meantime, we’ll open presents and maybe catch an early movie.  It’s her day, so she’ll choose.  And, in January when her friends are back in town, we’re all going roller skating.  Even me.  Maybe Shawn.  He sure talks like he can throw down in the rink. 

Whatever we choose to do, we will celebrate Hannah.  She’s worth it.  She’s become quite an exceptional person.  She’s given her life to the Lord, and she serves Him by leading in the Preschool area at MLC, 2BKidz.  She has an incredible work ethic and excels in school.  She loves her family with such a sincere heart – she’s like a second mom to her little brother and sister sometimes.  She’s a compassionate friend.  But, I will celebrate her most of all not for what she does, but for who she is.  She is loyal, honest, generous, kind, and soft-hearted.  God made something beautiful when He made Hannah Lovejoy.

For those of you with December birthdays, I hope you find a way to celebrate your special day, too.  God made you, He loves you, and He thinks you are worth celebrating!