Tag Archives: grateful

Shake off pain…put on thankful

As we wind down this year at SaveOne I can’t help but reflect over 2016 and think about the things, people, and moments I am thankful for. Personally, this has been the hardest year our family has ever faced with the loss of my precious nephew in March. Our whole family is still reeling and grieving from this moment that changed all our lives forever. The only thing that keeps our momentum is knowing he is safe from harm, is happy, is with his beautiful daughter Addison, and we will see him again someday. I thank God for His assurance that He has my sweet Micheal in His arms.  Sometimes the only thing that gets a person through a loss is to be thankful for all he does have in the moment and allow God to heal the wound.

As we have traveled this year with SaveOne to places like Lewisburg, TN; Elkin, NC; Yerevan, Armenia; Vienna, Austria; Saginaw, MI; Oklahoma City, OK, and many more, we have seen and witnessed God completing the grieving process in so many lives. The loss through abortion is a weight hung around men, women, and families’ necks until a Divine interruption occurs and God is allowed to change people’s focus. Once the focus is shifted, those who suffer, stop looking at the pain of the loss and start thanking God for the freedom He offers after abortion.

Seeing people transformed around the world through SaveOne is absolutely overwhelming sometimes. The gratitude I feel for His hand being so heavy upon this ministry is more than I can put in to words. For that, I am thankful.

th-6

 

I am also thankful for the balloon release photos I received yesterday that took place at a SaveOne Night of Honor. I am thankful that I got to meet a doctor who used to be an abortionist, but after meeting Jesus, has dedicated her life to giving free medical care to pregnant moms. I am thankful for the first SaveOne Europe Summit happening this year that was a smashing success. I am thankful for the man who has donated our office space free of charge for over 10 years. I am thankful for a lady whom I have grown to love and respect so much who has donated her time as our accountant for over 10 years. I am thankful for the numerous churches who have invited us in this year who are helping us stop abortion around the world. I am thankful for every single person who has partnered with us as a monthly donor. I am thankful for the happiness I feel when I see someone wearing our SaveOne t-shirts. I am thankful for the people who have signed up for Kroger Community Rewards and named SaveOne as their charity of choice. I am thankful we started 30 new chapters of SaveOne this year. I am thankful for every encouraging email and phone call we get because each one really makes a difference. I am thankful for my friend who edits these newsletters free of charge and has for many years.

I could continue on for another page. Yes, there is much warfare surrounding this subject. Yes, we fight off all kinds of attacks that you cannot even imagine. And, yes, we get weary. But seeing this list of things for which to be thankful reminds us that our mission is always greater than any battle or pain we might experience.

As we enter in to this season of Thanksgiving and Christmas, let us not focus on the pain of the year, but rather focus on what there is to be thankful for.

Thank you for making 2016 one of the greatest years SaveOne has ever experienced.This is how we picture our partners!

Thank you for your financial giving, your prayers, and your encouragement for us. We are grateful beyond words for your involvement! You are all heroes to us!

Remember SaveOne.org is an excellent place to shop for Christmas gifts, giving our books, t-shirts, and bracelets! Your purchases help us reach more people!

 

 

Top 3 Causes of Burnout…or at least they were my top 3

I have been amazed how much the subject of burnout has resonated with so many pastors, their wives, and people in general. I’m very happy my transparency made others stop and reassess where they were. I have people who have scheduled vacations, sabbaticals, and are releasing some things from their lives. But this is my last post on burnout. I got REALLY transparent in this one. I may revisit this subject again at a later date, but I feel it’s time to move on…Enjoy!

17135984132_f694fe1ab0_zThe Christian/Church world is really no different in many ways than the world outside the church. I know we all want to believe it’s different, but it’s really not. We are just providing a central location for people who are screwed up to come and try to get themselves figured out. The difference that makes the church world really cool in my opinion is you get to do this “figuring” with others who are on the same road, going in the same direction.

I just came off a 3-week sabbatical where I removed myself from everything and everybody. Many people much smarter than myself told me 3 weeks was not long enough and I believed them. So I made the most of every moment being very intentional in my thoughts and actions. It’s amazing how much you can accomplish with no phone, no social media, no work, and no appointments. I was living in this temporary utopia and I was determined to make the most of it. I realized I needed this adult “time out” to process some things that have happened over the last 8 years since we planted a church.

Before we started the church Jack and I had experienced great success at the church before us, at the same time as building a very prosperous, successful business. I was building SaveOne and every year had been better than the last. I went into this church plant thinking it would be more of the same. Success, growth, new friends, great people, locking arms, and marching forward into this new area of success! Everything golden, everything lovely. Before we planted we talked to some dear friends of ours who had started a church about a year before us. We asked them to tell us what we didn’t know. I will never forget my friend saying these words to me, “You’ll make more enemies than you ever dreamed.”

Fast forward 8 years later and I was in a place of believing we had more people who hated us than loved us. I could have never dreamed of the amount of people we would tick off, sometimes just by our very presence. I could lay out for you story after story of the lies, the betrayal, the rejection, the anger, from people that we considered friends and would stickUntitled design by us through thick or thin. I became very disillusioned through this process to the point of fantasizing about moving to a foreign country, going off the grid, or moving to a remote cabin in Montana, growing all our own food and learning how to sew. You know it’s bad if I was thinking about domesticating.

So here I was, 8 years later. I felt finished. Depleted. Done. I had tried everything I knew to do to fix myself and nothing was working. I had watched my husband over the last year head up the construction of our new church building. It was so stressful on him I literally laid awake at night sometimes, worrying if he was going to die. Being a part of this process did not help me and where I was headed. We were both a mess and needed a break, so I had the idea of a sabbatical. The church was completely understanding and even recognized we looked tired. 🙂

Off we went into the land of burner phones and empty calendars. Even now as I write this I’m sitting in a cabin in the woods (not in Montana) soaking in the sun squeezing every last minute out of my time. And I’m seeing more clearly as to the cause of my distress. Here are the top 3 reasons my life led to burnout.

1. Stuffing. As a pastor’s wife it’s kind of an unwritten rule that we don’t step in and get in the middle of church conflicts unless they involve us. It’s hard though to sit by quietly and be the good little wife when someone is railing on the hubs unjustly. I believed I needed to be quiet, and in most cases I still should! But one thing I failed to do is deal with those unresolved feelings of anger, resentment, and betrayal I felt from these people. Many times we have made friends with people in our church. We have loved on them, visited them in the hospital, helped them out financially, loved their children, and did everything I know a church should do/could do and then the people left and talked badly about my husband, me, or my church family. I stuffed those emotions thinking I was being the good wife. Instead of pulling out how I felt and dealing with the pain before the Lord, I allowed these people into my mind and my heart to fester and become an unresolved wound. The way I have always handled conflict is, we talk and we get it worked out and we love each other again. But when the conflict isn’t with me, but rather with the church that I love, or my husband, who I love even more, I’m unable to do that. I have to find another way to deal with this pain and it is through releasing it to God. The people who leave us are not our enemies even though they may act like it. They may treat us and think of us as an enemy,  but they only become my enemy if I decide they are. The real enemy is the power behind their actions; a very real devil who wants to upset us and keep us in turmoil and distracted from the ministry He has called us to complete. Years of stuffing this type of pain led to many, many layers of hurt that finally toppled into an ugly mess. Now at the same time, not everyone who leaves does so in a negative way. There’s a way to leave a church and remain friends, confidantes, brothers and sisters, and there’s a ways to leave a church that doesn’t cause hurt, division, gossip, and betrayal. When someone you love walks out of your life, do not stuff those feelings down any longer. Pull them out, grieve the loss, forgive them, and move on to the people who God has put before you.

2. Guarding. In my mind I knew I needed to love people. But loving people, letting them into my life, getting into their lives, and working through the muck and mire together was what led to the pain I was feeling. Several of these people left me and I felt myself backing away, guarding my heart, guarding my actions, guarding my words, feeling suspicious of every move, and it led to me being guarded with God. If God called us to start this church, then why was so much pain involved in the process? The process was what I could not back away from. I had to stay engaged and love people regardless of how they love me back. Men and women have been brought into our lives for a season. If someone is standing in front of me who needs my help, I need to give it. I cannot expect their loyalty, their friendship, their commitment or anything else in return. I need to give of myself and allow God to do the rest. If God has brought them before me for this time then He trusts me to help them. He believes there is something I can give that will better their life. So instead of backing away to avoid pain and thinking only of myself, I have to dive into the process and embrace the friendship, and everything that comes along with it. Guarding myself leads to isolation and that is all the devil needs to strike; an isolated heart and mind.

3. People-pleasing. Don’t pass by this paragraph thinking this does not pertain to you. It does. Or it will. I have a tendency to remember the negative. You know that moment when I can have 999 people I just spoke to tell me what a great job I did and 1 say something negative and I go home and obsess about the negative. It’s the same with the church. People say some of the most unbelievable things to pastor’s wives and pastor’s. I mean stuff you just can’t even possibly imagine. I don’t know why the public thinks the wife is the dumping ground. The place to come and complain about the pastor, a problem they perceive with the church, critique her clothes, her weight, her money, her car, her children’s actions, well you get the gist. Remembering these hurtful words led to me altering my behavior, my clothes, my actions to please different people who had said different things. I never saw that as people-pleasing, I started out thinking I was helping the church and being a good pastor’s wife. But in the process somehow I lost myself. I ended up being this person I didn’t like very much because I was just bland, gray, non-adventurous, saintly Sheila. I allowed others to set the rules and I bent over backwards to follow everyone else’s rules for me. I’m recognizing this and I’m trying to work out of it. I’m still discovering the areas in which I have allowed others expectations to rule.

These three areas are what I have pinpointed as my demise a few months ago. I don’t like sounding so negative like being a pastor’s wife is all this and nothing else. The positive moments equal no other. Like when someone has been through a harrowing circumstance and they call for help because they trust you more than anyone else. That is a privilege that still to this day brings tears to my eyes. That moment never grows old. There are people who left a good, secure, church (the right way) and came with us to the unknown to plant a new church, and are still with us today. These people are our lifeline. They hold up our arms, they pray for us, they are trusted friends. I could write a novel on the moments over the last 8 years that I will treasure forever. What I know for sure is there will always be people I have to keep my mouth quiet about…there will always be people the Holy Spirit warns me to guard myself around…and there will be times I need to get over myself and please other people. This is life, and it’s not all bad.

Recognizing these things in my life, and their out of control state, has helped me pinpoint my turnaround spot. While on this 3-week adventure I read 2 books, “Leadership Pain” by Sam Chand and “When Words Hurt” by Warren Bullock. I would recommend both books, but Sam Chand says, “You’ll grow only to the threshold of your pain”. Those are incredible words of wisdom. Time after time there have been examples all through God’s Word of people who went through an incredibly hard, painful time that led to an incredible victory. Well, I know Victory is coming! I can’t say I am completely out of burnout. I don’t feel 100% myself again, but I know I’m going to get there. I’m working diligently about being in the moment. That’s just a freebie. One of the things I recognized is that I was constantly thinking about what I needed to do next, where I needed to go next, how much time I had at this stop, determining ahead of time how much time I would give a problem, etc. Right now this moment is pretty cool and I want to bask in it. It’s freezing on this porch where I’m writing, but the cold mixed with the bright sunshine feels too good on my skin to give it up. My dog is sitting at my feet, I smell the fire in the fireplace waiting for me, and as far as I can see in front of me are mountains yet to be hiked.

Sabbatical…YES PLEASE!

1“Almost everything works again if you unplug it for a few minutes. Including you.” Words by Anne Lamott

If you have kept up with my blog at all, you know my husband and I took a sabbatical this year. First. One. Ever. It was wonderful, and I’m here right now to show you why you need to take one too. Sabbaticals are not just for pastors. They’re not just for people who are stressed out. A sabbatical is for YOU reading these words and let me tell you why…

Have you ever completed a “cleanse”? There are liver cleanses, colon cleanses, etc. We know we need these cleanses when stuff starts getting backed up. Don’t make me go into detail, but you know what I mean. It can get really gross, yucky, stinky, and clogged inside. It makes us feel bad and affects other parts of our bodies. Having a dirty inside can cause everything from bad breath, to acne, to hair falling out. One of the greatest cleanses you can ever do for yourself is go on an extended fast. It releases everything inside you. WATCH OUT! It’s the ultimate cleanse! 3

Often times we go on these cleanses, or fasts because of pain. We want the pain to go away, so we take necessary steps to rid us of pain. It’s the same with a sabbatical. When a person is in leadership, whether they are leading a church of thousands, or a corporation of hundreds, or a family of 2, there is pain involved. This pain may be mental, spiritual, or emotional. Sometimes we allow this pain to pile up and we become clogged. If you’re like me you start self-medicating. This “medication” can be watching TV, spending way too much time on social media, eating comfort foods, avoiding people, or (insert your 2“medication” of choice here). Escape becomes the means in which we try to deal with this pain.

If you can relate to anything I’m saying you may just be ripe for a sabbatical. You may be thinking everything will fall apart, I have too much to do, and all the other excuses we come up with. But God needs you to be the best you can possibly be. He needs you to cleanse/detox occasionally, and we do that by shutting ourselves off from the world.

Turn off the TV.

Get rid of the junk food.

Put your phone on airplane mode.

Take yourself to the corner in time out.

What God has called you to do is way too important to complete halfway, less than excellent. When you don’t have much time, (I know a month long sabbatical is unreasonable for some) then you must be intentional. Spend every day with progress. Grab hold of God and don’t let go until He blesses you, each and every day. Feed yourself good food or fast. Don’t lie to yourself and say you will not pay attention to your phone. Back away from your phone and all social media. Airplane mode is your friend. Get a little burner phone and only give that number to a couple of people. Let your mind rest, let your soul rest, let your emotions rest, let your heart rest. You will be amazed what is released when you stop putting junk in.

You may not be able to rid yourself of all pain during a sabbatical, but you will be able to see it from a different perspective. I read a book titled, “Leadership Pain” by Sam Chand while I was away and it showed me how pain will always be in my life as long as I’m dealing with people. I have to make friends with the pain. Pain is necessary for growth. When God allows me to experience pain He is breaking me out of a plateau, readying me for victory, stretching me to live more, love more, experience more. When I try to avoid this pain, self-medicate this pain, or end the pain then I end growth. God can only take me as far and as high as the pain I can endure.

Let’s look at a sabbatical as a cleanse, or a detox. You’re cleansing your emotions, your spirit, and your mind by removing all the junk and only putting good stuff in for an extended period of time. I promise you won’t regret the results.4

 

Please let me know if you decide to go on sabbatical and I will be praying for you during the time you are away. I cannot encourage people enough to do this for themselves, their families, and the ones they lead. The world will continue to spin without you. At the same time the world will spin better if you are the best you, fully rested and ready for your task at hand.

HOW TO TELL IF YOU ARE ON THE BRINK OF BURNOUT

My pastor husband and I were walking down the familiar halls of the hospital. We were visiting a lady from our church who had a non life-threatening illness and had to be put in for a couple of days. As I stood by her bed I felt an old friend surface. I was aware of what I felt, but it made no sense to me. Why in the world would I feel…jealous?

I went back to my office that day wondering what the heck was going on? Why would I feel jealousy toward a lady in the hospital? As I picked apart these feelings trying to get to the root, I realized how odd this was. Most women are jealous of Victoria’s Secret supermodels, but no, I’m jealous of a woman laying in the hospital. Suddenly it hit me why! She was stopped. She had an excuse to stop. No one expected anything from her. She didn’t have to answer as to why she wasn’t at work, why she couldn’t make an appointment, why her house wasn’t clean, why she couldn’t pick the kids up at school, why she didn’t get the newsletter written in time, why she didn’t make that bank deposit. The why’s stopped and I felt jealous of her, and a little embarrassed at myself. Okay, a lot embarrassed.

At that moment I looked at my life and wondered where my mind was. I was healthy, and instead of thanking God for my health I felt jealousy toward someone wishing for theirs.

I can’t imagine even one of you reading this blog relating to what I am saying, and that’s all right. I’m just being totally transparent here and allowing you in to the far out way my mind thinks sometimes. After telling myself I needed to slow down, get some stuff off my plate, live in the moment more, blah, blah, blah. I promised myself I would and I did for about a nano second.

Fast forward two years and my husband has me hauled into the car and on our way to the emergency room thinking I’m having a heart attack. I’m scared, he’s scared, I’m wondering if I’m really having a freakin heart attack at 48 years old! I go through a battery of tests, and as I’m laying under one of the machines I hear God clearly speak into my mind these words,

“Is this what you want?”

My tests came back great. I had a healthy heart! But I knew God was trying to get my attention. I needed to slow down. I needed to get some things off my plate. I needed to work through some of the hurts and betrayals suffered at the hands of “friends”. I needed to be more present in the moments of my life and not constantly thinking about the next meeting, the next plane to catch, the next whatever was thrown at me. I desperately needed to make some changes to get some of the stress out of my life, but what? Will the world fall apart without me? Will people be lost and wondering in the wilderness if I’m not there to lead the way? Will the world stop spinning? I was afraid to find out. I went back into my life and made a couple of changes. Those changes relieved a little pressure, but only for about a minute this time.

Those of you who know me know I’m wound pretty tightly. I’m easily excitable, I have a flair for the dramatic, and everything is larger than life. I started noticing months after the ER scare that I didn’t “feel” things like I used to. I know that sounds a little cheesy, but when you’re used to feeling things big, when you don’t, it’s noticeable. I wasn’t excited about great news. I didn’t get teary-eyed at what used to make me cry. I didn’t feel love for people I hadn’t seen in a long time. I wasn’t sad when someone was no longer in my life. I didn’t care when I saw certain injustices. I noticed that my anger level was quicker and louder than it used to be. My tears now came at moments that made no sense. I didn’t know what was happening to me. It was like someone turned the light off and I was groping in the darkness trying to find the switch to turn it back on.

I started making sure I took a day off, I started trying to get rid of stressors in my life, I started praying a whole lot more, but nothing was working. I was completely numb…scrambling. I kept trying to make the changes I had made before but this time nothing was changing. I knew it was probably just menopause. Isn’t everything menopause’s fault? I knew I would snap back eventually, but I wasn’t, and I didn’t.

Fantasizing about moving to another country, going off the grid, or retreating to a mountain hideaway in Montana seemed like a nice option. I’ve never even been to Montana, but if it was good enough for Gus and Caw it’s good enough for me.

I finally confessed to my husband through tears that I wasn’t sure ministry was for me anymore. I didn’t feel tough enough, and I was experiencing flight mode. Burnout is ugly. Trying to explain burnout to someone who has never experienced it, is like trying to explain the level of tired associated with jetlag. You think you understand it, but then when it hits it’s like a 2X4 between the eyes and you just know, yep that’s jetlag. Well burnout is the same way. I knew that’s where I was, and I needed to get healthy. I felt myself retreating. I knew I was headed in the opposite direction I was supposed to be going but I couldn’t get myself turned around. I always thought burnout was for those people who never rested. I arrogantly believed I was immune because I took a Sabbath. Burnout was for “other people”. I realized I was those other people.

There’s a line in a movie spoken when the main character, Michael, is upset because bad people had done bad things to him. Another character, Hyman, looks at Michael pointing his 80-year-old crooked finger in his face and chokes out angrily, “THIS…IS THE BUSINESS WE’VE CHOSEN!” I think of that line now as I realize ministry is not pretty, it’s not easy, and it’s not for the weak. It’s a place where bad people, myself included, rid themselves of bad things. Others get caught in the crosshairs at times and have to learn to deal with the shots taken. Yes, this is the business we’ve chosen and will continue to choose as long as God will have us.

Over the next few weeks I am going to be writing about burnout and the symptoms, causes, and solutions I experienced and am still working through. I hope you will bear with me, as me and God work through this openly. I know what I am learning is not just for me. There are others reading this blog, I believe, that will see themselves in these symptoms and hopefully be able to stop burnout in its tracks.

Have you ever suffered through burnout? What was your response? What did you learn in the process? Please leave your comments below. Your response may just be what I and others are looking for. Thanks!

Big Shoes to Fill…Part 2

I felt it only appropriate to pull out this post from August 2014. Ms. Dot finished her race well, leaving a legacy behind her that we all can aspire to. So happy to have known her, so proud of the grace which flowed through her husband of 61 years yesterday at her funeral, and her daughter who has cared for her these last many months. I hope Ms. Dot knows what a profound effect her life has had on me and countless others. I hope you enjoy once again…

The text I received went something like this, “Hey I’m cleaning out my mom’s shoe closet and I was wondering if you knew of any ladies who might wear a 9 or 9 ½.” What I heard was, “Is there a lady you know who could possibly have a foot this large?” I contemplated for a moment wondering, “Do I tell her I wear that size? Will she think of me as freakishly huge? I’m 5’10” for heaven’s sake a size 6 would look strange on me. But still it’s never fun to whisper in the middle of Macy’s—could I just try a 10 in this boot? These must run small.” But my mind goes back to the text, there might possibly be really cute shoes at stake here. So I swallow my pride and reply, “YES! I wear that size.”

As I drove to her house later that day, I began to contemplate these shoes. You see, these were not just anybody’s shoes. They belonged to a woman who in 1958 boarded a cargo ship (A CARGO SHIP!!!) with her husband, said good-bye to her family, her home, and her life, and devoted the next forty years to loving, reaching, teaching, and mentoring the wonderful people of Africa. She sometimes lived in conditions too painful for us to imagine. She was pressured to put her children in boarding school hundreds of miles away. She lived a selfless life, totally and completely counter-cultural to what women are taught today. She did it all because God asked her to and she was obedient. She chose things like staying in her marriage and not ever considering divorce an option even when things got hard, and all marriages at one time or another get hard. She chose things like sacrificial service instead of promoting herself. Today she is reaping the benefits of her Godly choices.

At 87 years old, her body is reacting naturally to nearly nine decades on this earth, but her mind is intact, her marriage is happy and intact, she has a beautiful home, two children who adore her, love her, and both serve the Lord, and an army of people who seek her out for wisdom, great stories, and genuine love. Her obedience, although hard at times, has brought great blessing into her life. Her selfless love has transformed countless individuals and families not only here in America, but in Africa too through a ripple effect still going on as I write.

As I had these thoughts on the way to my friend’s house, I was getting the privilege of filling these very large shoes both figuratively and literally! To be honest I didn’t have my hopes up really high that I would walk away with any chic or trendy styles. But when I saw the Steve Madden and Sam & Libby labels I knew I had hit the jackpot, so I took four pair of the coolest shoes from this 87-year-old shoe connoisseur.

When I got home I pulled the shoes out and have them sitting in my closet. I have yet to put them on, as I feel a certain gravity about them. Call me dramatic or say I’m over-thinking but when I look at these shoes I can’t help but hope that I too can live selflessly. I pray that I may walk out my days in service to others, that I may see my boys love and serve the Lord deep into an old age. That my marriage will remain blessed and intact because of Godly choices I make, and that I may never hesitate to be obedient even when obedience is hard. This is a prayer I pray for all of us. May we strive to fill the shoes of the giants of faith who have walked before us and may we forever endeavor to fill the shoes of greatness like my 87-yr-old shoe fashionista friend, Dot Webb.

You can get the full story of Dot’s memoirs by going to Amazon.com and typing in, “A Harvest of Joy” authored by her daughter, Tammy Webb-Witholt. You will be glad you got this book and learned from this incredible woman!

Finding your Elaine

When I get bad news I usually let my emotions out and then I go straight to my journal. Writing is my outlet when I’m in shock and in pain and this is one of those times.

We got a call last Thursday that my friend Elaine had been given a really crappy prognosis. 4-6 weeks they told her. I was in Dallas but immediately knew as soon as the plane landed back in Nashville I wanted to lay my eyes on her. When I did, all I could do was cry. She ended up consoling ME instead of me going in being the comforting pastor’s wife I had planned on being.

I started making plans to visit every day with her, and my heart soared when the family allowed us to keep seeing her. We felt extremely honored and was so thankful for their generosity. I had it all pictured. I was going to show up everyday, laptop in hand, and write a letter in her own words to her husband Mike, each of her three daughters, and each of her grandkids. I wanted them all to hear her wisdom which was great, and her love for them which was vast.

I know about this wisdom and unending love for her family because I made a decision a couple of years ago that afforded me precious time with Elaine. This decision stemmed from being at churches and working in offices and being told no to things I wanted to do because, “If we do it for one, then we have to do it for all.” We’ve all heard that saying and many of us have lived our lives thinking it was true. But when my friend Elaine was diagnosed with cancer a couple of years ago, I wanted to help her any way that I could. I found out she was sitting, sometimes for 4-5 hours, in her chemo appointments. I wanted to go to those with her, but I thought as a pastor’s wife if I spend that kind of time with her then others will expect me to do that for them and it could cause conflict. In other words, what I did for one I would have to do for all, and I couldn’t do that. As I was thinking through that saying I felt yucky and knew that idea was flawed. The thought came to my mind of a quote I heard years before from Andy Stanley which went,

“What I want to do for everybody, do for one.”

BOOM! That revelation made so much more sense, and totally obliterated the excuse for non-action I had been taught before. So I set out to do just that. I did for Elaine what I wanted to do for everybody. I started going to as many of those appointments as I could. And if you know me, you know I work constantly because I love my jobs. My mind rarely slows, and my phone is constantly buzzing. Those appointments became a treasured time. My phone would be put away for hours and my focus was totally on my friend Elaine. She would take me around and introduce me to people as though she was proud of me being her friend. She would send me over to other chairs of people she knew were “really suffering” and ask me to pray for them. If someone came in that looked particularly sickly I could always tell when she felt pity for them. But the minute I would try to pity her and what she was going through she would cut me off immediately. There was no time for pity in Elaine’s world. Life was too short and she was “just fine”. I can still hear her voice saying, “Just fine!”

We spent those hours talking about everything from our love of 70’s rock, to her level of Candy Crush she was on. I heard about her touring all over the world with a singing group she was in earlier, and we would end up on deep theological debates. I would usually have to act out some crazy event that had just happened to me, and more than once we got in trouble from the nurses for being too loud. We laughed a lot together.

These appointments quickly turned into not me helping her, but her helping me through the problem of the day, her helping me slow down long enough to just enjoy a few hours of talking face to face with a friend, her listening to me ramble on and on about my life, my family, my work, my travels. Elaine had that effect on people. Even though there wasn’t that much difference in our ages (she called me a young pup! haha) she just had that calming quality that seemed older, wiser, more graceful, and far more in control of things than I have ever been. I was drawn to that demeanor, that friendship, that sisterhood.

Elaine was a trusted, loyal, friend that is walking with Jesus and has been for 3 days now. I keep hearing her voice in my head remembering things she told me that actually was helping me prepare for this day, this time, of not having her anymore. Things like, “Remember now, I want a celebration when its my time. I’m going HOME!”

So yeah…I thought I had a lot more time with her and would get to live out my plan…but God knew better. I will forever be grateful I spent this time with her instead of succumbing to the old adage. My advice to you reading this blog is not to ever rob yourself because you believe what you do for one you might have to do for all. Maybe your actions won’t be fair to everyone, but life isn’t fair. Take the time to do for ONE what you want to do for ALL and you just may find your own Elaine.

I am a better person for having known her.

(The featured image on this blog is a picture of Elaine I took in January of this year. This moment was in the middle of a women’s conference I was hosting and I was sitting at the head table with all the speakers, worship leader, etc. This table was reserved for the people who were “important” to have easy access to the stage. I couldn’t think of anyone more important than her right then so I asked her to sit with me at that table. She just giggled and said, “ok!” and enjoyed her bird’s eye view. I was overwhelmed with how much I enjoyed her friendship and getting to see the conference unfold through her eyes, so I snapped this picture.)

2015!

It is this week between Christmas and New Years that I find very stressful. I don’t mean to be negative, but I’m just telling you it is stressful to me. I wonder how many of you feel the same way?

Christmas is behind you; you ate too much, spent too much, but had an awesome time with family. You have great expectations for the new year, but wait! The new year isn’t here yet. So you linger through each day, slowly taking down decorations, mulling over all the things you’re going to change in 2015, but you can’t get started on any of it yet because…well…it’s still 2014. Does anyone else have these thoughts? I feel like I’m waiting at the starting gate and no one will open the gate!

I’m writing this letter to you a few days before you’re actually going to receive it in your inbox, so rest assured by the time you are reading this someone opened the gate and I’m off and running!

One of the things I am excited about for the new year is our theme. Never in the history of SaveOne have we had a themed year. You will be hearing about this in every newsletter, in our posts on facebook and twitter, and from your coordinator. Our theme is a scripture I repeatedly keep hearing. (My husband says that is God speaking in surround sound). It’s 2 Corinthians 1:4 and it goes like this…

“He comforts us in all our troubles so we can comfort others. When
they are troubled we will be able to give them the same comfort
God has given us.”

That screams of Chapter 10 in the SaveOne book. It’s what we’re all about. God has comforted us in our affliction after abortion and we can take that same comfort and comfort others in that same affliction.

The only way we are going to end abortion in our country and around our world is by enacting this scripture right here. It’s simply taking what God has done for us and sharing it with others.

Don’t let chapter 10 be the end for your SaveOne class members. Have them read this scripture and then go out and enact it. Let this scripture action be the last homework they complete. Find the person they know that needs the same comfort God has given them and then give it. Lead them to the next SaveOne class and introduce them to a loving, forgiving, merciful Father who has all the comfort we need.

Please let us know how we can help you. Log on and update your web page within the SaveOne website, like us on facebook, follow us on twitter, if you live in or around the Nashville area please sign up for Kroger rewards and name SaveOne as your sponsored charity, then we make a percentage of everything you spend at Kroger!

We have much travel coming up that will take us around the world and we need to raise some serious money for that. God has given us this opportunity that is bigger than any we have ever received to take HIS message to the ends of the earth. Please consider becoming a monthly partner with SaveOne for $25. You will receive our new t-shirt and will be appreciated more than you could ever know.

I love each and every one of you to pieces!

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!!

Facts lie

I was speaking at a local church one Sunday morning, so I asked my assistant
Sarah sarah-vaughn to meet me and help work the SaveOne table after the services. As I pulled into the parking lot, she yelled at me from down the row of empty handicapped spaces. She had parked at the end of the row in the first regular spot not reserved for the handicapped.

As I stood at the front door and waited on her, she slowly made her way down the long sidewalk. An onslaught of thoughts came to my mind as I watched this beautiful girl walk toward me. Sarah was born 22 years earlier with Cerebral Palsy. When I first met her as a teenager, she was unable to walk unassisted. She had crutches that were never far from her hands. As a baby the doctors labeled her as handicapped. There was no denying the fact Sarah had CP…but handicapped?

Months earlier I had sat in the audience and cheered as I watched her walk across the stage unassisted to receive her college diploma. I knew then the word “handicapped” had never defined Sarah. The long embrace she received from her professor let me know the professor knew, just as the audience did, this girl is not handicapped. I thought about all the excuses I had given myself for not going on to get my Master’s degree. The next week I enrolled and now I am six months in to graduate school. Sarah motivated me to overcome what I believed as fact and realize that fact was lying and keeping me from furthering my much needed education.

Sarah works full-time for Mercy Ministries since she graduated college, she loves the Lord with all her heart, she volunteers her time for SaveOne just because she believes in our cause, she sponsors an orphan in Haiti, she drove herself in her own car that morning refusing to park in the handicapped spaces, and she ran my table like a boss that Sunday. What sets her apart is that she didn’t allow her challenges to define her life. She realized facts lie and this was a fact that was lying.

Watching this young girl has made me question the facts in my own life. Where and what am I accepting as truth just because I was stamped with a label early on. What do I see in others lives that I am accepting as fact in my own? What “facts” have gone unchallenged around me just because science says so, or the status quo has allowed them to remain? We should dig and find these areas in our lives and root them out. These so called “facts” could be exactly what is holding us back from our God-given destiny.

Sarah is actually in the company of some pretty cool people. It was a fact all Hebrew male babies were to be killed, but Moses mother didn’t believe it. It was a fact anyone who approached the King would be put to death, But Esther didn’t believe it. It was a fact Saul imprisoned and killed any Christians he could find, but Ananias didn’t believe it. It was a fact the prodigal was lost to the world, but his dad didn’t believe it. It was a fact David and his army were on their way to destroy Nabal and his land, but Abigail didn’t believe it. It was a fact the army couldn’t defeat Goliath, but David didn’t believe it. It was a fact Lazarus was dead, but Jesus didn’t believe it.

Have I made my point? Start today to challenge these “facts” that hold you back, release your faith in Him and see God open the doors of heaven to your actions and your faith just like He did for Moses, Esther, Ananias, and my dear friend Sarah! These people would not, could not, live in defeat accepting labels and laws as truth. They stepped out in faith and knew the God of heaven’s armies had their back!

Big Shoes to Fill

The text I received went something like this, “Hey I’m cleaning out my mom’s shoe closet and I was wondering if you knew of any ladies who might wear a 9 or 9 ½.” What I heard was, “Is there a lady you know who could possibly have a foot this large?” I contemplated for a moment wondering, “Do I tell her I wear that size? Will she think of me as freakishly huge? I’m 5’10” for heaven’s sake a size 6 would look strange on me. But still it’s never fun to whisper in the middle of Macy’s—could I just try a 10 in this boot? These must run small.” But my mind goes back to the text, there might possibly be really cute shoes at stake here. So I swallow my pride and reply, “YES! I wear that size.”

As I drove to her house later that day, I began to contemplate these shoes. You see, these were not just anybody’s shoes. They belonged to a woman who in 1958 boarded a cargo ship (A CARGO SHIP!!!) with her husband, said good-bye to her family, her home, and her life, and devoted the next forty years to loving, reaching, teaching, and mentoring the wonderful people of Africa. She sometimes lived in conditions too painful for us to imagine. She was pressured to put her children in boarding school hundreds of miles away. She lived a selfless life, totally and completely counter-cultural to what women are taught today. She did it all because God asked her to and she was obedient. She chose things like staying in her marriage and not ever considering divorce an option even when things got hard, and all marriages at one time or another get hard. She chose things like sacrificial service instead of promoting herself. Today she is reaping the benefits of her Godly choices.

At 87 years old, her body is reacting naturally to nearly nine decades on this earth, but her mind is intact, her marriage is happy and intact, she has a beautiful home, two children who adore her, love her, and both serve the Lord, and an army of people who seek her out for wisdom, great stories, and genuine love. Her obedience, although hard at times, has brought great blessing into her life. Her selfless love has transformed countless individuals and families not only here in America, but in Africa too through a ripple effect still going on as I write.

As I had these thoughts on the way to my friend’s house, I was getting the privilege of filling these very large shoes both figuratively and literally! To be honest I didn’t have my hopes up really high that I would walk away with any chic or trendy styles. But when I saw the Steve Madden and Sam & Libby labels I knew I had hit the jackpot, so I took four pair of the coolest shoes from this 87-year-old shoe connoisseur.

When I got home I pulled the shoes out and have them sitting in my closet. I have yet to put them on, as I feel a certain gravity about them. Call me dramatic or say I’m over-thinking but when I look at these shoes I can’t help but hope that I too can live selflessly. I pray that I may walk out my days in service to others, that I may see my boys love and serve the Lord deep into an old age. That my marriage will remain blessed and intact because of Godly choices I make, and that I may never hesitate to be obedient even when obedience is hard. This is a prayer I pray for all of us. May we strive to fill the shoes of the giants of faith who have walked before us and may we forever endeavor to fill the shoes of greatness like my 87-yr-old shoe fashionista friend, Dot Webb.

You can get the full story of Dot’s memoirs by going to Amazon.com and typing in, “A Harvest of Joy” authored by her daughter, Tammy Webb-Witholt. You will be glad you got this book and learned from this incredible woman!

Lots of great stuff going on!

I wish so desperately each and every one of you could come and sit in our SaveOne office and read some of the emails we receive….

“I believed the abortion had to consume my life, that I had to feel guilty and forever punish myself for this sin and it’s just not true. I can live a life to be proud of, going forward as a good daughter to my mom, and a loving wife to my husband.”

“I can’t believe I used to think that God would not forgive me and that I could never talk about my abortion. But He has forgiven me and He wants me to talk about my abortion with others so that they can get the same help I did. And receive the same love and forgiveness I did from my heavenly father.”

“I don’t have a lot of anger anymore. I feel like when I exposed this, I have just become a new person. I think your secrets make you sick and angry!”

These are just recent ones. We have year’s worth of dialogue with courageous men and women who have found healing through Jesus Christ using the SaveOne study. It’s so phenomenal to be a part of what God is doing here. I’m amazed every day when I see the powerful hand of our sovereign God move. Thank you for making this possible through your financial gifts, prayers, love, and support. There are men and women eternally grateful for your sacrifice because they were one reached and restored.

RECENT TRAVELS

            We just returned from a glorious trip to Hamburg, Germany. We trained new leaders, encouraged current leaders, and educated pastors on the horrors of abortion in the lives of men and women. I am believing there will be much accomplished as chapters start in Germany.

                                                      IMG_2230

Before going to Europe, our team had speaking opportunities in Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Texas, Oregon, and Slovenia. We are working hard to make sure our message of forgiveness, grace, and restoration after abortion is being spoken loudly and clearly, overcoming the evil one through the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimonies. (Revelation 12:11)

WHAT’S HAPPENING

            SaveOne has upcoming speaking engagements in Tennessee, Arkansas, Switzerland, Austria, and many places in between. Please be in prayer for our team to go boldly forward as we continue to start chapters in churches all over the world.

We would like to welcome these new chapters to the SaveOne family!

Terre Haute, IN

Cape Coral, FL

Winnipeg Manitoba, Canada

            I hope by now you have heard of my latest book, “Is There Not a Cause?”  I’m very proud of it, as it is a culmination of many years of observation on how the local church can have a profound impact on the ending of abortion. You can order your copy today at www.saveone.org.

WAYS YOU CAN HELP SAVEONE

  • Donating financially to be able to reach more people (looking for 200 people to sponsor us monthly at $25 per month)
  • Like our SaveOne facebook page
  • Use Goodsearch as your search engine (www.goodsearch.com) and list SaveOne as your charity of choice
  • Do all your online shopping on Goodshop (a division of Goodsearch; be sure to name SaveOne as your charity of choice first)
  • Buy our books from the SaveOne store at www.saveone.org and give them as presents
  • Follow and promote my blog: sheilaharperblog.com (I know it sounds self-serving, but the more followers, the more our message gets out)
  • Deep, anointed, spiritual prayer to fight the incredible warfare that comes against our staff and chapter leaders

Thank you guys for all you do!

Sheila Harper and the entire SaveOne staff (check them out at www.saveone.org and click on “About Us”. THEY ROCK!)