Saturday, March 21, 2009

How Great is our God

I love music, but I'm terrible at remembering names - names of songs, artists, movies, actors, etc. Since I primarily listen to the radio and not CDs or an ipod, I guess I figure there is no real reason for me to take note... However, there is one song that means a great deal to me, "How Great is our God" by Chris Tomlin.

In the fall of 2005, Bryan and I were about six months into ministry leadership. We were leading a small group for young families and it was going wonderfully well. Everyone showed up every week, engaged in conversation, we were growing and we all got along well - it was a pretty smooth operation. At that same time, I was co-leading our MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) Group. The leadership team consisted of 14 women and most of us were newborn babies in terms of our relationships with the Lord. I had (and still have) a great love for each of our MOPS leaders, but it wasn't always smooth sailing. In fact, that fall was particularly difficult as our MOPS year got underway and we began to disagree on things. Additionally, our MOPS group consisted of about 100 women and it's never easy to keep 100 women pleased at all times either. But as my co-leader and I led that group, I always had that sense that God was in the mix. It was His group, He called the leaders, He laid out the plan and He would carry us through whatever challenges we would face. I just knew that this ministry was so well worth every effort. And it was. The leaders put a lot of time and energy into the ministry, but everyday I felt that the blessings I'd received were far more than I'd given. During my two years in MOPS leadership, I personally experienced a tremendous amount of personal and spiritual growth. As the team and I met the needs of 100 women and their families, I found that my needs were always more than met by them as well. I did not set out to lead our MOPS group (I was recruited by the previous leaders and said no twice before I said yes) but God used that time to teach me, grow me, prepare me for future ministry and (perhaps more than anything) to minister to me.

Back up to 2002... Like many couples, Bryan and I devised our "big plan" before we got married. We didn't want to wait long to start our family. Nine months after we married, we became pregnant with our first child. Pregnancy was great, we were all healthy, life was wonderful. We'd begun our cycle of Bryan's annual lay-offs, but had enough money in savings that we didn't worry very much back then. Our big plan involoved having our children exactly two years apart. So, when Zach was 15 months old we were all geared up to get started on #2. What I didn't know was that trouble was brewing inside my body. On December 13, 2004, out of nowhere, these excruciating pains appeared in my abdomen. Several hours later I was practically unconscious in an ER. I had pancreatitis. I was hospitalized for five days, missing our chance to conceive that month. I was more devastated over that than the severity of my illness! After I was able to recover a little from the pancreatitis, I underwent two endoscopies to determine the cause. Nothing was discovered, so the doctors decided that it was best to remove my gallbladder in an effort to prevent more episodes since it can be fatal and one can live without their gallbladder (I'd had pancreatitis once before when I was almost 16). So, needless to say, the baby was postponed for several months. Once I was healed from surgery, we began trying again. And it took several months. After a lot of disappointing negative pregnancy tests, I woke up one Sunday morning in November and took another test. It was a few days before my missed period, but I was too impatient to wait. It was positive. Bryan was still in bed. I walked out of the bathroom, blurted out, "IT'S POSITIVE" and crawled back into bed with him, tears streaming down my face. After the 11 month delay in our plan, we were overwhelmed to see the PLUS telling us that our second child was on the way. I know that many other couples have far more devastating stories of difficulties having a baby, but this delayed answer to prayer and my "broken body" were heartbreaking and left me feeling so guilty.

I can't remember the exact date, but it was mid-Nov. 2005. That night we went to church. As we sang "How Great is our God", it hit Bryan and me like a ton of bricks. He is not just wonderful, he is all-powerful, all-knowing, purposeful and perfect. He is the creator of life. Life that was growing inside of me. We were too overwhelmed to sing. Bryan could not even stand!

I cannot hear that song now without thinking about God giving us our youngest son, and the many other ways that he has created life in me. Our small groups have been life-giving blessings - our first one is especially sweet. That is where we learned to pray and found safety discussing God's word for the first time. My years in MOPS were also enormously powerful - giving me a place to develop many meaningful and blessed friendships. And then there is the sexual abuse ministry that He has used me to create. What shattered my life is now being used to rebuild others' lives. And, in that, God has completely rebuilt mine.

Before I close, I want to say that God has not always answered yes. As a little girl, I prayed that my parents would stop hurting me. I prayed for safety. I prayed that I wouldn't be lonely anymore. I prayed that I would be deeply loved by my mother and father. I prayed that I would be someone special to them. I prayed that I could be normal. And, at times I even prayed that He would turn me into a boy. Those prayers could not be answered specifically the way I'd ask them to be. God does not force His will onto us (this includes my parents). I believe that His will was absolutely to answer each of my prayers (with the exception of the gender change), but He allows us free will in order that we will choose to love Him, which leads to truly loving one another. He did not force my parents to do the right thing, but He never left my side. He is my Heavenly Father. He has never hurt me. I am safe in His arms. I am never alone. I am deeply loved by Him (and many others). I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I am as normal as the next gal. And I no longer want to be a boy, so I'm okay with that unanswered prayer. Even when He cannot answer our prayers the way we would like, He is still God and He uses all things for His good.

The words are simple, but so powerful. How great is our God. I especially like this version. The hymn at the end takes me back to sitting in a church pew as a little girl, right beside the woman who jump-started all of this - Kitty Wright. Oh, how grateful I am for her and for all of God's perfect, intricate plans.


Anonymous said...

Tonya I love to watch as you grow in your faith. We both had a lot to learn way back then as MOPS co-leaders. I am growing too. How Great Is our God!
Love Jennifer

Joleene said...

What a great blog. You truely put your heart out there...kuddos.
Where are you doing MOPS? I love MOPS, at Grace Church. I think it is a great ministry.

Anonymous said...

I love reading that Kitty had a wonderful influence on your life. The ways she reached out to others may have seemed small at the time, but in reality, her efforts often had life-changing impact.

Marci said...

Oh, the previous comment was from Marci :)