If you have visited here before, you can probably see that I have changed the name of the blog again. I started blogging at 4URuthie to tell the story of our journey to adopt our 1st daughter. I changed it to Mountains for Maggie when we were praying for God to move mountains on behalf of our 2nd daughter. Well now it is no longer just Ruthie’s or Maggie’s stories. It is now our family's story, and the stories of those we share life with, as we Conquer Mountains together. Both ConqueringMountains.net and 4URuthie.blogspot will lead here.

About Me

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I am a pastor's wife, mother of 4 kids (2 adopted and 3 with special needs), physical therapist, and photography junky. This is where it all comes together for me. Feel free to join along as I process life out loud.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Sweet Restoration

I have long said that my favorite attribute of God is that of Redeemer. Heck, I even wrote that in my bio for my book. I truly love seeing God take a tragic situation and then do His work to redeem it while I cheer from the sidelines. It is a “go God” and a “take that Satan” kinda moment that I look for in times of tragedy.  My faith, how I pray for people, and the lens through which I view the world all revolve around God as Redeemer.  Then last weekend came and God rocked my understanding of how He moves.

I am still processing this but I wanted to go ahead and write my first post because I think there are people out there who will feel the same and can draw some kind of encouragement here. After Maggie’s illness, we saw God do incredible things in our family, our church, and the adoption community to redeem her illness.  I could see it, cheer for it, and find comfort in it, but yet I still felt unsettled.  God’s redemption took place quickly but it took 3 years for Him to restore my soul.

I traveled to Boerne Texas last weekend for a women’s conference at a friend’s church. On the way up,  I was praying and still trying to wrap my brain around this journey that I have been on for the last 3 years.  It was when the speaker opened her 2nd session that I knew why God had brought me there. She spoke on Redemption versus Restoration.

My mind continually jumped from our experience with Maggie, to some sweet friends who are struggling, and then to our community post Harvey. I took pages of notes and recorded my thoughts on my phone during the drive home. I am still unpacking all of that mentally but I want to share some starting points here.

* Redemption is an exchange. God exchanged and redeemed our sin for salvation. Redemption focuses on circumstance. God redeems the tragedies of our lives for His Glory. Redemption stories are the miracles that we love to testify to. They give us hope and remind us that God is in control.

Redemption is exciting. When we are on the outside looking in, we have energy for redemption and  motivation to play a role in seeing it carried out. When we are in the thick of the tragedy personally, redemption can feel like a Band-Aid. Those on the outside are cheering for what God has done but your heart is still weary, because when it is personal, restoration still needs to occur.

If we stop at redemption and miss restoration, then we are only allowing God to address our circumstances and we are missing the opportunity for Him to walk with us personally to full healing. Yes,  Christ died to redeem our souls but it is the transforming power of a personal relationship with Him that makes us more like Christ every day.   Entering into restoration is yielding to that transforming power.

*Restoration is a process. It is about returning something to its original or a better condition. The speaker at this conference used the illustration of a damaged painting that is lovingly restored over several years. Once the restoration is complete, you cannot see that it was damaged from the front but you can see the evidence of the love it took to restore it from the back. She also pointed out that a restored painting is actually worth more in the art world than a painting that was never damaged because of the love that it takes to invest in its restoration. That's cool.

Restoration is hard. It requires that we recognize our brokenness and then desire for God to play a role in the restoration of our souls.   I think this next statement is important because many might feel like entering into restoration would negate the significance of their loss. I get that. A restored soul (like a painting) still carries the scars of its affliction.  It is not in denial of what it experienced.  It is instead in a better place where it can move forward from suffering to a state of restored purpose while displaying the workmanship of love from the One who restored it.

I am not a counselor so I really can only speak from my own experience what I feel like the Bible supports. Here were the steps for me.

1. Recognize the Need- 2 Cor 13:11
I had to recognize that I needed restoration and that I was not okay with where I was spiritually and emotionally.

2. Rest- Matt 11:28
I had to rest. I cut back on my photography. I quit the job that I had worked at for 8 years in exchange for a schedule and environment that was supportive of my family and that I had more control over. This may be the biggest step for some people.

3. Catch the Lie- James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:8
I had to combat the lies of the enemy. When you are broken, the enemy comes after you with a firestorm of lies to keep you down.  For me, it was about my value as a mother and a wife.  For you it may be about what your future holds.

4. Stay in your Bible- Psalm 19:7
There is a temptation to look other places for tools of restoration but you have to stay focused on the truth and check those resources against the truth of Scripture.

4. Know Who You Are- Psalm 139:13-15;  Luke 12:6-7
I had to see my value in Christ and who He created me to be apart from all of the places where I felt like I was failing. The statement “I am enough” became very powerful for me.

5. Its Really Not About You- Col 3:12
I had to recognize that most people who I saw as not accepting of me were struggling with their own demons and that it really wasn’t about me at all.  What if they were doing the best that they could?  That realization changed my lens of how I viewed others from one of fear and hurt to one of compassion. That was HUGE for me.

6. Don't Walk Alone- Gal 6:2
God gave me someone, who was completely safe, to walk along beside me in my restoration. She was a gift and she gave me a place to capture the lies that I chose to believe so I could exchange them for truth.

7. Take Action Steps Forward- Eph 3:12; Rom 8:15; 2 Tim 1:7
I stepped back into those vulnerable “places” that I add avoided with a new sense of purpose and value.

8. Rejoice in your Restoration- Psalm 138:3; Psalm 5:11; Phil 4:4-7; Rom 5:3-4
I knew my restoration was complete when I saw my value again, could relate with health and compassion to those around me, and had regained my boldness for life and ministry.  It is a wonderful place to be.

I pray these steps resonate with someone who is in need of restoration.  I was visiting with a friend this week and she referred to wanting to learn how to exist in the “white space” of her life.  I loved that mental picture.  Sometimes the first step of restoration is to step away from the craziness and enter into the white space. Yes! Sign me up!

For those of us who are fortunate enough to not be thick in the need of restoration, this final statement is big.  How many times have we looked at someone who has experienced God’s redemption in their circumstance and judged them for not being okay now?  How many times have we wondered why they haven’t moved on?  It is either because we don’t appreciate their need for restoration or we are uncomfortable with the vulnerability that it takes to stand with them in their brokenness.  I am flipping my lens on that now too.

That really leads me into the next blog and what it looks like for us as a church to not just play a role in redemption but also in restoration. I pray this has been as encouraging to you to read as it was for me to process and write.  I still love to celebrate God as redeemer but I am finding that walking with Him through restoration is even sweeter.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

When God Says "Not Yet"

He is not necessarily saying “not ever”.

I have struggled with what to write to kick off this moment because I desperately wanted it to NOT be about me but instead about HOPE.   My prayer for Conquering Mountains (the book) is that it would be an agent of hope and so it is fitting that I testify to what God did to bring it to completion.   If you find yourself in a circumstance where God is telling you “not now” then you can find hope in my experience that it doesn’t necessarily mean “not ever.”

I completed (or at least I thought I had) Conquering Mountains in October of 2014.  Maggie was home from the hospital and we were putting our lives back together.  Conquering Mountains was God’s gift to me as I sat alone in her hospital room and tried to understand what we were experiencing, walk authentically in that with the Lord, and find an avenue of healing for my exhausted heart.  While the words are mine, they flowed like water out of my heart to my fingertips and I felt like I was sharing them both for myself and for the next person who might walk this road.

When we got home, I read a publishing guide for Christian authors and reached out to a few publishers.  The feedback that I was given was that publishers wanted to invest in someone with a platform or in someone who would continue writing.  I knew neither of those were where my heart was for this book nor my future.  After all, the book was written in the center of my tragedy and I certainly wasn’t signing up for that again in order to win a book deal.  I also had no desire to be the next name in Christian writing.  That wasn’t my calling.  Encouraging others through this story was my calling.  

I looked into self-publishing and learned that it would cost several thousand dollars to move forward.  My other reality in those months was that we were drowning in medical bills so the expense of self-publishing was not an option either.  As doors seemed to close around me, I felt an extreme peace about shelving it until God told me otherwise, and perhaps forever.   After all, it was His work in me, not my effort to put forth a product during my darkest days that brought this about.  He gave me this desire and the ability to bring it to pass, He could take it to completion if it was His will. 

Three years passed by, we walked through heart surgery and another four agonizing months in the hospital.  When the book would cross my mind, I would pray and hear “not now” so I left it in my Dropbox untouched.  Then this summer God brought my healing to completion. You see he had redeemed Maggie’s story but restoring my soul would take longer.    During that time, I read Rising Strong and Daring Greatly by BrenĂ© Brown and they rocked my world.  In the midst of Rising Strong, I heard God say very clearly, “Now is the time.”  So I pulled Conquering Mountains back out and re-read it from cover to cover and reflected on God’s faithfulness in the midst of that storm.  Trent and I had many great conversations about what God did and how He carried us through the unimaginable. 

As I looked into self- publishing again, a friend told me about how Amazon had created a self-publishing company that published your book for FREE.  They just take their part off of the sell of each book.  I was overwhelmed by what I thought was the reason God had told me to wait.  He wanted to save me upfront costs (so I thought).  While that part was certainly awesome and no doubt a blessing, it wasn’t even the beginning as to why God had told me “not yet” so many years before and “now is the time” this summer.  

Here is where it gets crazy.  I decided to add one last chapter as a testimony of where we are now, and how our mountain had changed us for the long haul.  I was sitting in my favorite Ikea yellow chair, completing that chapter, when Trent informed me that the roof was leaking in the garage as this rain event called Hurricane Harvey was making landfall 200 miles south of us.  We knew it was going to be a long night of tropical storm force rains but we had no idea that God was placing our next mountain at our feet. 

I completed the book that night, went to bed, and then woke up the next morning to find our city flooded.  When I logged into Facebook to see how everyone was, a memory popped up.  It was the 3rd anniversary of the day we brought Maggie home from the hospital after her strokes.   I sat in my yellow chair again and wept because I understood God’s perfect timing in having me re-read those words in the days leading up to our next mountain and His loving reminder of His faithfulness 3 years ago to the day.  We were now fully prepared to take the first steps up our next mountain.  

Here are 3 points of direction and HOPE that I pray you take away from this:

1. It is important that we don’t take God’s plans into our own hands and move
ahead of Him in our journeys.

Perhaps the best biblical example of this is the story of Abraham, Sarai, and Hagar in
Genesis 16. Sarai took God’s promise into her own timing and the consequences of that
action played out for generations. Now taking God’s timing into your control
might not end with the creation of an entire people group but it could very well rob you
of the opportunity to see the fullness of God’s blessing in His perfect plan.

2. We have to let His voice be louder than our desire.
I write a lot about hearing God’s voice and I am confident that throws some of you for
a loop. For me, God’s voice is not an audible sound but is instead a passionate
assurance. He speaks to my heart in ways that no one else can. His voice can give me
extraordinary energy and extraordinary peace. Learning to hear and respond to that
voice was one of the greatest gifts of the Holy Spirit for me. I am also a passionate 

“getter done” type A personality so I have had to learn to discern what is God’s voice and
what is my personal desire for resolution. Anytime I am uncertain which I am hearing, I
stop and wait.

3. Trust that His timing is perfect.
Oh this part is so hard. If you are in the middle of your “not now” and your heart
longs for a different word, I want to encourage you to return your desire and your
control back to the Lord. If He truly gave you those desires, the process of bringing
them to completion will be so much more beautiful in His perfect timing. I could not
have fathomed three years ago that our experience with Maggie would play out in how
we responded to the greatest natural disaster that would ever hit our city and likely the
greatest ministry opportunity that He would ever place before us. Only God in His
sovereignty knows the reason for your “not now.”  You have to trust His timing.

As I write this, I am listening to Spotify and the song, Do It Again by Elevation Worship is playing.  The lyrics speak to God’s faithfulness to move mountains and how He never fails us.   It says, You never fail me yet.  I never will forget.  

Seriously, I can’t make this stuff up. 

I am going to post the link to the song here because if you are hearing “not yet” from God right now, I know you must be disappointed and confused.  Take these moments to remind yourself of His faithfulness.

DO IT AGAIN by Elevation Worship

Conquering Mountains is available on Amazon now.  It is Maggie’s story and lessons we learned along the way about how to prepare for and navigate your mountains.  If you know someone who might benefit from her story, please pass it along. 

You can order it HERE.

 The presence of your mountain does not define you.  Be defined by how you conquer it.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Trading Comfort for Ministry

I ran track in high school and I was terrible at it.  I would get ½ way around the first lap and basically give up (I told you I was terrible).  Consequently, my coach moved me from the 400 to the 200 because I was clearly not going to run the race beyond the point at which it became uncomfortable. 

I said in my last post that we are ½ way through our climb of Mt. Harvey and today I would like to say that we are ½ way through the race.  It feels like the theme that Trent and I have continually run into this week is one of desire to return to that which is comfortable.   That is not a shot on anyone because we are all human and I believe our tendency as humans is to pursue safety and comfort.  It is truly natural but it is not what God is calling us to in this hour.

A friend of mine shared a video testimony with me today in which he was talking to the photographer and telling his Harvey recovery story.  In it he references the church and says, “I don’t even go to church there but they brought faith to me.  They brought faith to me.”   We did not bring faith to this precious man in the comfort of our Sunday school rooms and programs.  No.  We brought faith to this man in the depths of our discomfort, when our own faith was tested, and Christ’s love shown as light in a dark place. 

If we choose to return to lit places of comfort faster than God has called us, I fear we will be cutting our race in half and only performing at the capacity that we are able to perform by our own merit.   Let’s put in check all of our desires to get back to normal against the incredible call that God has placed before us.  There will be plenty of days to return to the security of our buildings (and frankly I fear those) but for now let’s run the race (the entire race) that has been set before us.  Let’s lean into our discomfort while trusting that our faithfulness will produce character in us and fruit in this community.  “They brought faith to me.  They brought faith to me”

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Harvey in Phases

I am a categorizer.  It is just how my brain is wired.  I see things in rows, stages, and pictures.  Harvey has been no different.  Like other struggles before, I have seen it as a mountain and the recovery process feels like it fits comfortably into 3 phases.    I would love to share those phases and some cheesy illustrations with you so you can see where we have been and where we are headed as a church and as a community.  
I also secretly hope that you see yourself somewhere in there too. :)

The Foot of the Mountain

The foot of the mountain is your oh crap, honey white-out the calendar our plans just changed, what are we going to do, Jesus take the wheel moment.   I say in my book (not out yet) that most of our mountains are not chosen but are given to us instead.  This was certainly true with Harvey.   No one could have possibly anticipated the challenge that was about to be handed to these individuals and this community.   It took us a few days, standing at the foot of the mountain, to recover from our shock and start making our plan for scaling it.   I am especially proud of our church for how quickly they sprang into action with a solid, organized response.  That led us to Phase 1.

Phase 1- Climbing Mt. Harvey

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The theme of Phase 1 was to meet people’s immediate needs in the most efficient way possible.  To do that, we had to recruit the help of churches, non-profits, and individuals from all over the country.  We were amazed at the compassionate response that we received as we mucked out homes and provided people with essentials like food, clothing, and toilet paper. 

If you can bear with my illustration for a moment, phase 1 is like climbing a mountain for several reasons.  It is best to consult those who have climbed it before as a preparation for what terrain lies ahead.  We did just that as we formed a list of advisors, who included pastors from Louisiana and organizations who had experience with flooding.  We also made a solid plan, packed the necessary tools, and positioned ourselves to be flexible to respond to unexpected challenges on the journey.    

At the Top of the Mountain- Where We Are Now

Last week, we completed the clean out of the last home on our list.  This weekend we have a team down handing out Bibles as we take a moment to rest and regroup.  We are truly sitting at the top of Mt. Harvey, catching our breath, reflecting on the journey so far, and preparing for Phase 2.  

Phase 2- Descending Mt. Harvey

What we realize from the top of the mountain is that descending Mt Harvey will require as much help as ascending it.  Our church cannot insulate and sheetrock 91 houses (our current list) without some serious out of town support.  Just as people donated clothes and toiletries in phase 1, we will need people to donate household essentials in phase 2.  Please don’t think this journey is over just because we finished taking people’s possessions to the curb.  Phase 2 is about rebuilding and we will need help to get there.   Phase 2 is like the redemption of Phase 1.   What we tore out in Phase 1, we get to return in Phase 2.

Phase 3- Celebration and The Good Stuff

I told someone the other day that Phase 1 is traumatic for everyone involved, Phase 2 is necessary (like the fork you get as a wedding gift), and Phase 3 is celebratory like the gift that you keep forever and pass down to your children.  Phase 3 is the other side of the mountain where you celebrate where you have come and add the finishing touches.

Let me depart from my overused illustration for a minute and give you some examples of just some of the ideas that I have for Phase 3.   What if you and a couple of friends could decorate the bedroom of a kid who was flooded?  What if we could put basketball goals in the driveways of kids who could not afford them before the storm?  What if we could deliver large potted plants for people’s front porches or wreaths for their front doors?  What if we could make wood signs for their living rooms that say “Home” or something even more meaningful?  Y’all I could come up with 20 more ideas of ways that we can help families not just live in but love their homes again. 

So that is where we have been, where we are as we catch our breath, and we are gearing up to go.  We still need your help.  God is doing incredible things through this mission field and I pray that you will get as excited as I am about joining us on it.

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Sweet Restoration

I have long said that my favorite attribute of God is that of Redeemer. Heck, I even wrote that in my bio for my book. I truly love seei...

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