Jazmin accepted Jesus at a young age and grew up in the church, for the most part. However, she did not fully understand the grace that came from knowing Jesus and how that would change and grow her relationship with Him. It was after college and shortly after marriage that Jazmin claims she had a “coming to Jesus moment.” Sitting at her kitchen table in Florida, she reached a breaking point when nothing felt like she thought it should even though it looked exactly like she thought it should. This moment changed the trajectory of her relationship with God and planted seeds of strength she did not know she would one day need. Jazmin remembers,
“I was searching for identity, value, and purpose everywhere, but in Christ. That moment brought me to three critical realizations. I needed to be in the Word. I needed to be in community. And I needed accountability in the transformation God was stirring in my heart. Over the course of two years, God orchestrated those things perfectly and shortly after launched me to Fort Worth, TX for my husband’s medical residency. It would mean early mornings, long days, and a lot of time alone. But, because of those seeds, I earnestly sought to be in the Word, find community, and accountability. During my husband’s first year of training, my alarm would go off at 4:15 a.m. five-days a week. My desire to wake-up with him was rooted in my desire to be a better wife, but it quickly became precious time with Jesus in the quietest morning hours. I joke that ‘I met Jesus in Texas!’ It was less than three months before we were in a community group at our local Bible Church and it was less than six months before the emotional toll of loneliness and uncertainty would start to threaten me.
Five months after our move, my sister suffered a life-altering car accident. A drunk driver barreled the passenger side of the vehicle where my sister, 8-months pregnant, was sitting. She endured incredible injury and my nephew suffered irreversible brain damage. It was the first time I realized how far from my family I was and how much that reality truly hurt. A few weeks later, I received a formal diagnosis of endometriosis and the speculation that this was the cause of nearly three years of infertility. We made the decision, at that time, to trust God as the treatment and put our hope in His plan for our family. These big emotions were hanging in the balances of my husband’s 80+hour workweeks, my own time demands as I worked and pursued a doctorate, and our desire to have a thriving marriage. Loneliness and uncertainty continued to taunt me. It was as if a constant spiral of busyness, purpose seeking, goal setting, and plan making had me feeling like life was always in fast-forward. The seasons started to feel as if they were blending together. A pause came in the spiraling and the striving when we conceived our first child, Hope. Hope was with us for 6 weeks before returning to heaven. While our hearts hurt from the loss, they filled with joy at the promise of healing. We prayed for hope and received her. It was the closest to God I’d felt in a very long time.
A couple of months later, we were pregnant again. I was pushing to finish my doctorate, we had purchased a new home, and started in on the most demanding year of my husband’s training. We were digging into community, seeking to lead and love people well, and were so thankful for a progressing pregnancy. These were good and exciting things that had us celebrating a faithful and good Father. Things we looked forward to, things we wanted for each other, others, and ourselves – answered prayers. What I didn’t know was, as I tried to selflessly pursue others (my husband, my child, my friends, etc.), purpose, or goals. I wasn’t allowing myself to be pursued or cared for. I was forgetting that His promises were for me too. I was pressing forward through the exhaustion and holding to the world’s distorted truths, not God’s ultimate truth that He’s already provided ‘once for all.’
Three years after moving to Texas, we were raising our healthy child, I was completing my doctoral degree, and we were much closer to the final steps in my husband’s training. I saw what I thought was light at the end of the tunnel. But, I wasn’t focused on God’s light. Even in my highest highs, I was spiraling into my lowest low. I was suffering from depression. In the midst of all of the good things that God had done and His unfailing provision, I fell into a desperate exhaustion.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
It was the focus verse for the first women’s bible study I had attended at our new church in Texas when we moved almost three years earlier. God was already caring for me and my depression long before I knew I was suffering from it, and certainly from the moment we landed in Texas. He had exposed my need to be in the Word and receive His truth, daily. He had planted the desire for community in my heart, which worked against depressive episodes. He put wisdom and accountability in my life, and when I needed help the most, there were people there to ensure I received it.”
Jazmin’s healing and restoration was unfolding as she shared her story and worked on the development of this very study. She is a reminder that even in the pursuit of God’s goodness, we are still prone to becoming weary. Even with rest, there is need for strength to persevere.
Hazel grew up in a Christian home and knew Jesus from a young age. She had always dreamed of life with a family of her own. After getting married, she and her husband Jesse decided they wanted to wait a bit to settle into their new roles as husband and wife. During this time, Hazel and Jesse volunteered with the college ministry, discipling student leaders. Through that, she was able to care for, teach and equip students to share the Gospel, but she continued to dream of being able to do those things with kids of her own. A year later, the two decided they were ready to start trying for a baby. After a few months passed, she could tell something was off. Hazel remembers,
“As a Physical Therapist, I have a more conservative view of medicine and interventions. I did extensive research and started taking several supplements to help my cycle. But, Jesse and I decided to take a further look into what might be preventing pregnancy. We went back to the doctor for some more testing. During the ultrasound, I could tell the sonographer was looking very seriously at her monitor and admitted to us that she was being extremely thorough. Originally, I was told I would have to come back for the results. When she finished, she told us not to go anywhere because she wanted them to squeeze us in for the results that day. As we sat in the consultation room, we could hear the muffled sound of the doctor and sonographer discussing the results.
I could tell that something was wrong. I tried to prepare Jesse and myself for not wonderful news. A few minutes later, the nurse came in and said, in a calm reassuring voice, “The sonographer found something concerning”. I had prepared myself for hearing that I could possibly have PCOS (Polycystic ovary syndrome). But there was another separate issue that I was not prepared for. The sonographer had found a septum in my uterus. She explained that it is a wall that creates two chambers. The wall can cause infertility and if we were able to get pregnant, the wall doesn’t have adequate blood flow to support a pregnancy or allow enough room for growth. We would be high risk and were likely to end in miscarriage or premature delivery. She referred us to an OBGYN, who looked at my ultrasound and agreed with the first finding. That led to a referral to a fertility specialist for further testing.
We were devastated at the news. As we waited for the next appointment, our community circled around us so closely. People prayed and sat with us through the tears. I clung tightly to God in the storm and wreckage. I declared to myself, God, and others around me that He was good no matter what. Even if we didn’t get to have children, He was worthy of our worship. I truly believed it and felt His nearness. And I could see how much closer He was drawing me through this trial.
We went in for the appointment with the fertility specialist. After the test was over, the doctor showed us very confidently on the monitor that nothing was wrong with my uterus or tubes! Both looked to be in great shape. No septum or abnormality to be found. We walked away dumbfounded and completely in awe at God’s grace knowing that several people saw the septum and now it was no longer there. Praise God, He took it away! He had delivered us out of Egypt. He miraculously parted the Red Sea. Now it was time for the Promise Land. And the promised child!
But, the months continued to click by, and there continued to be only one pink line. Now what? It felt like God was going to move. He did this huge mighty thing so a baby had to be around the corner. Right?! Didn’t it? As more months passed fear and doubt settled in. I knew that He is the one true God and able to do anything, including give us a baby. But, was He ever going to? If He didn’t – would He really be good on the other side of that design? Would He really be enough to satisfy our unmet desire? I was afraid He wouldn’t.
As my true feelings bubbled up, I felt a deep sadness settle in. I felt forgotten, unloved, and insignificant to God. I didn’t understand why He felt so far away. Surely I had arrived in the place God wanted me to be, surely that was all I needed to learn and experience. I wrestled with how I felt verses what I knew to be true. I remember telling God, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore. I don’t want to walk this road where the clouds of doubt are settling in and blocking my view of You, Lord. I want to see Your glory and feel You close.’
He met me there.”
I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love,
because you have seen my affliction;
you have known the distress of my soul.
Hazel’s thanksgiving brings glory to God. Through it she remembers what He has done, how He has and continues to care for her. Almost three years later, she is still waiting. Her story reminds us that when we align our hearts with how God lavishes us with unending grace and mercy, we remember He is worthy of our praise, despite our circumstances. Even now, Hazel is unsure of how her story will turn out. But she is sure of what her heart truly longs for and that her waiting on earth is temporary.
Anna was raised in Memphis, TN the oldest of three girls and a pastor’s kid. Though she had always known about Jesus and accepted Him at 7, it was in college that His word came alive and began to take root. For as long as she could remember, she wanted to be a writer. She spent her little years, always dreaming, drawing stories, narrating in her head, and imagining something better- something more. In the third grade, when other girls wanted to be teachers, she dreamed of days living on the coast of Maine (because it must be cold there and just sounded lovely) and writing books. Throughout the time during and following her college years, Anna’s story is filled with seasons of opportunity, transition, and feeling restless. She remembers,
“While I still felt driven to write and make stories, I also felt called to ministry. Not having any idea what that looked like, I came to Fort Worth and Southwestern Seminary to learn more about the Bible. During my time in grad school and working as a youth minister, I wrote plays and curriculum and felt fulfilled in that way, but still felt the draw to something bigger.
In 2008, newly married and newly retired from youth ministry, I moved to Little Rock with my husband for his job, thinking, ‘NOW I’ll write. NOW I’ll get published.’
And then we started having children - four children between 2010 and 2014. Between endless diapers, volunteer ministry, sleep deprivation, the full-time job that is simply motherhood, and even owning a small local business, I wondered if I would ever write. Although I had always looked forward to motherhood, I wasn’t prepared for the sacrifice that it would be. I wasn’t prepared for the divided heart and the busy mind that it would bring. On the one hand, I loved it more than I could have ever dreamed. But on the other, I struggled in a way that I was ashamed to admit.
I started to doubt and started to question, ‘What is my calling? Why am I here?’ Lack of peace followed and then came comparisons to other young writers who seemed to have more hours in the day, more inspiration, or what appeared to be more drive. Wiping snot and making peanut butter sandwiches brought lack of significance and more questions, ‘Is this all I’m supposed to do? Why can’t I just discipline myself, wake up earlier, write during nap time?’ Ultimately, there was shame.
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil.
Slowly, but surely, God started to reveal to me my own arrogance and my own shortsightedness. I realized He never said, “behold, I will give you a book contract!” Like, Sarah in the Bible demanding something from God that I believed to be mine and on my own terms, I was tempted to force my own timeline at the expense of my family.
But He said, ‘not now, I have something more…something better, be patient.’ If God asked Abraham to wait, and David to wait, and Esther, and even his own Son, how am I any different? God gave me passions and talents not for my own glory, but for His. Writing is not about me. Writing is about His Kingdom. Whether it is a very small curriculum that only a handful of people see, a note of encouragement to a friend in need, or a book deal that the whole country reads. It is not about me or my version of how my life should go.
Part of my calling might be to write, but another, more important, part is to make disciples of the four small people He gave me to shepherd. And there is peace and contentment in knowing that motherhood is a worthy and high calling. Before, I lived in the future and in a career that had not yet unfolded. That behavior devalued my present and all that it holds, which is my children and my husband. These days are so fleeting, and building into my children a Kingdom focus is more important than anything I could ever achieve in my life.”
Anna is always encouraged by the stories of people that God sees in unconventional settings and timelines. Every day, she prays for words to put on a page, words that will bless others, and point them to an awesome Creator God, but she also rests in the knowledge that He holds her past, present and future. She thanks God for the little moments that seem mundane, because they are a gift. Ultimately, there is great peace in His timeline and whatever it holds.
Copyright 2019 The Gathering Well