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Leaving Virginia

I thought I was ready for this adventure. After all, didn’t I convince my husband that this was the next step?

Jennifer Napier

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We packed up the last of the boxes and put them in the moving van. My heart was heavy with grief. We were leaving Virginia. Leaving all I knew and was comforted by: my church of 14 years, friends and family, and the place where my sister and nephew were buried. I had spent almost my entire life in two cities which boundary lines touched. I knew the area where I lived in and out. I knew where to shop, what grocery stores had the best prices, where to get gas, how to dress for the weather, and how to fit in with those around me.

I thought I was ready for this adventure. After all, didn’t I convince my husband that this was the next step? Didn’t I feel God leading us to Philadelphia? Didn’t I know my husband, Mike, should get his master’s degree? I knew all the way to my bones that we were supposed to go and take this step of faith and live several states away as Mike pursued a degree at seminary.

Mike and I had been living apart for several months as he commuted back and forth to school in Pennsylvania and back home to Virginia. It was time for us to move up with him. We finally had a place to live and our youngest child, Samuel, was now somewhat medically stable.

Samuel had been born prematurely and was on oxygen for the first six months of life. At seven months he had a near death experience and was hospitalized in the ICU for a few weeks. He was intubated and not doing very well. Miraculously he pulled out of it. No need for the planned cardiac surgery or a tracheotomy.

When we told people we were moving they began to pull away. Friends became distant. We had promises of help that didn’t come through. The disappointment of friends failing to show up ate away at me. I was surprised at those who did end up coming. The brave and the few who helped us pack up and load the van was a tiny fraction of those who knew us. I left Virginia feeling very discouraged and unloved.

Our two small children, Libby, who had just turned two the week prior and Samuel, now 9 months, were loaded up in the car with me. The necessary medical supplies and toys to keep them busy on the trip were packed in bags along with snacks and diapers and wipes — enough to last us a week or at least the seven-hour drive.

I was so grateful to our friends Katie and Sean for traveling with us. My friend Katie rode with me and her husband, Sean, rode with Mike in the moving van. At least I would have something familiar with me as we traveled. Katie and I talked about life. It was a great distraction. It kept the reality of what were doing at bay.

Arriving in Pennsylvania was just the beginning. There were unfamiliar faces waiting to help us unload. People from the seminary served us by helping us unloading boxes. We bought pizza to thank those who had come and served.

The next day we were given a ticket and were fined for having a moving truck at our place on Sunday. Apparently it was illegal to move on Sundays. We had moved on a Saturday but decided to return the rental truck in the morning. Whoops.

I tried to begin unpacking but was confused and disoriented not knowing where I wanted things or how to even begin getting settled. I had never made a big move like this: small children, a different state, and a whole new life awaited us — new grocery stores, gas stations, schools, and trials. I had no friends there, no family, no church, and no sense of direction. I also had no self-confidence.

Over the next year and a half we were faced with many challenges. Samuel was hospitalized ten times by his second birthday. His respiratory issues were diagnosed as asthma, reactive airway disease, and chronic lung disease. He had speech delays and physical delays that required therapy and early intervention.

I knew we were doing what God wanted, but I had never felt so alone. I didn’t have many friends and the few I made I rarely saw. Cars broke down. We had only had one vehicle to use for a long time. Money was tight. Stress mounted. Between hospitalizations and Mike’s finals, I found myself continually crying out to the Lord, “God I need you. I’m so lonely. So overwhelmed. So scared and weak and tired and confused.”

Ten months after moving to Pennsylvania, I became pregnant. And what we thought would be one more child to welcome into our home became two — we were having twins. I had pregnancy complications and was confined to bed rest. I remember staying nights at the hospital with Samuel trying to comfort and console my son in pain. Caring for a child in the hospital is not conducive to bed rest.

I felt like I was in a desert, and yet, God was there. In the midst of my exhaustion and loneliness He met me. I knew and experienced a special time. A time that was set apart. I was removed from the distractions of friends and family and familiarity. God was specifically putting me in a place where I was stripped of all that I clung to that wasn’t Him. He was all I had. He was all my hope. He was what sustained me. With His help and strength I learned how to survive. I learned how to shop at new stores. I learned how to be a friend.

I joined a Bible study. I talked with other women. I laughed. I cried. Being in a place of pain allowed me to recognize the pain in others. I befriended someone whose husband was dying of cancer. I was comforted by those around me. I met some wonderful people.

When it was time to leave Pennsylvania, I wasn’t ready to go. Once again I would be moving with small children. I was on bed rest with the twins and not allowed to drive. A precious friend drove me from Pennsylvania with my children back to Virginia and instead of facing the unfamiliar I would be coming back to the known.

But it wasn’t the same and I wasn’t the same. God had changed things. I would once again have to adjust; maybe not so much to new stores and traffic patterns but to different circumstances … to the “same” people made different … and a new me.

I look back at the time I had in Pennsylvania with so many mixed feelings. I dealt with loneliness and trials in a fresh way. My life was very much in “survival mode.” The time there was very intense. The bad times helped make the good things even better. The contrast was so sharp. I recognize God’s hand preparing me for my present reality.

Mike and I now have five children. Samuel’s needs have changed from respiratory issues to being diagnosed with cancer last August. One of our twins has cerebral palsy. And we added another baby, our precious Peter, to the mix.

Our trials haven’t seemed to stop but neither has our God ceased to be faithful. He sustained us then and he sustains us now. He meets us in the midst of the desert — in the midst of the pain and sorrow — and He reminds us that He is here. He is the Great I Am. And He is more than enough for me.

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Jennifer Napier is a new resident of Norfolk, VA where she and her husband are part of growing a new church. Her recent decision to throw all caution to the wind and jump into home schooling all five of her precocious but precious children has left many alternately applauding her bravery and questioning her sanity. She is an avid reader and writer and enjoys long soaks in the tub and sweet iced tea. She can often be found with her children at the zoo, a thrift store or in a doctors office as she manages the special needs of her kids. Though a Christian since she was five Jennifer has continued to grow in a deeper understanding of God’s grace and love. She continues to proclaim God’s faithfulness in the midst of many years of trial, suffering, loss and grief. Her primary goal in life is to know God and make Him known. You can follow her adventures and thoughts on God, life, and motherhood at her blog, Musings by Jennifer

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When Doing Justly, Loving Mercy, and Walking Humbly Stand at Odds

If your compassion far exceeds your capacity, here’s one way you can be sure to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.

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One of my life verses is Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

It is one of my favorite verses because my heart has been so moved by the love Jesus has for me and the sacrifice He made for me that I am grateful to have a way to express my gratitude through acts of justice and mercy while walking humbly with God.

I have found at times, however, the call to do justice and love mercy come in conflict with the call to walk humbly with God. For me, one of the ways to walk humbly with God is to recognize my limitations. I have to put skin to the fact that I am not God which means saying, “no” to ministry requests. It means going to sleep when I could be spending time advocating for the harrowed and helpless in the world. It means limited seats at my table, limited funds in my bank account, and limited energy in my body cannot be ignored but respected and adhered to.

This is hard for me at times, especially when I scroll my Facebook feed and see friends who are caring for their really sick children, spouse, or other family member all while millions of refugees flee war torn countries and babies are slaughtered by the hundreds each day in our country through the abortion industry.

As I scroll, I receive texts about one family member’s surgery gone wrong and another family member announcing a new baby is on the way. I have in mind my neighbor who has inpatient surgery scheduled this week and another neighbor who is trying to hold down a full-time job, care for twins all while battling profound “morning” sickness.

Folks at church are fighting for their lives in physical and spiritual ways, and strangers who pass me on the road are clearly battling something as demonstrated by their impatient honking because I won’t take a right turn on red. I want to meet the needs of all; I want to do justice and love mercy, but I’m daily confronted by the fact that I am so limited.

What am I to do when doing justly and/or loving mercy seem to come in conflict with walking humbly with my God?

God keeps bringing me to this answer: prayer.

God invites us to cast our cares before Him because He cares for us.
God tells us to be anxious for nothing BUT WITH PRAYER present our requests before Him.
God commands us to pray without ceasing.

And, when I walk humbly with God, I see the immense kindness in His command.
He gives us a way to do justly, love mercy WHILE walking humbly with Him.
It is by praying without ceasing.

I cannot take a meal or give money to every sick person or family I know. I cannot extend kindness to all my neighbors all at the same time they’re in need nor conjure up sustainable solutions for the refugee crisis and contact all the necessary world powers to make it happen.

I cannot heal all, but I know the Healer.

I cannot provide for all the needs, but I know the Provider.

I cannot rescue everyone in need, but I know the Rescuer.

I cannot comfort all the broken, but I know the Comforter.

I cannot speak peace over every situation, but I know the Prince of Peace.

I cannot be all to all, but I can go to the Great I Am through prayer, lay all the people, problems and pleas for help before the Omniscient and Omnipresent God of all Creation.

I can do this through prayer.

Recently, via an Instagram contest of all things, I came upon A–Z prayer cards designed by blogger/author/speaker, Amelia Rhodes. It is a simple concept packed with a powerful prayer punch. It has served me personally in this tension of wanting to do far more than I practically can do. It provides prayer prompts starting with each letter of the alphabet along with a scripture that coincides with the prayer focus. It ranges from Adoption to a creative “Zero Prejudice” for the letter “Z.”

The cards are well thought out, color printed on sturdy cardstock with blank lines for the user to write in the names of people and/or organizations that are personal to them.

If, like me, your compassion far exceeds your capacity, pick up a set of these prayer cards and unload your burdens onto a God whose competence matches His kindness, both boundless.

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Facing Our Fears in Motherhood

Do you have fears tied to motherhood? If so, here’s encouragement for you.

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“Are you scared?”

I was taken aback by his question. Scared? Of what?

“Of anything,” he answered.

I had just shared my due date with a new class of trainees.

“He has three boys,” another new hire volunteered. So fear is to be expected, I reasoned. I’m just about to face the most frightening experience in my life.

Of course I was scared.

I was scared…

  • I’ll lose my temper.
  • I’ll whine about sleepless nights.
  • I’ll breastfeed too often or not often enough.
  • I’ll leave piles of unfolded onesies in the middle of the nursery floor because I’m too tired (or lazy?) to fold teeny-tiny baby clothes for the upteenth time.
  • I’ll go with disposable diapers when the better choice would be cloth.
  • I’ll work too many long hours at the office and miss precious moments with her.
  • I’ll sign her up for too many activities and push her to become Miss Achieve-It-All.
  • I’ll pass on to her my ugly pride, self-righteousness, and perfectionism like a dreadful contagious disease.
  • I’ll miss countless little joys in life while pursuing worthless dreams.

Facing Our Fears in MotherhoodIn short… I was afraid I was going to fail miserably as a parent.

And now, holding my second-born daughter in my arms, thinking back on that brief exchange just a few years ago, I realize those fears were well-founded. I’ve failed many times. I’ve lost my temper. I’ve raised my voice. I’ve worked too much and played too little. I’ve seen my own sinfulness reflected in my daughter.

Yes, I’ve failed, but over and above it all, God’s grace has covered my parenting imperfections and made me run to the cross day after day. The writer of Proverbs puts it this way:

Whoever fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge.
Proverbs 14:26

When it comes to fears, we have two choices: Will we fear the unknown or will we fear the Lord? Will we allow the uncertain to grip us in its clutch or will we turn to God’s Truth to set us free?

Scared? Oh yeah. There was so much to be scared of that day. And even now, if I’m completely honest, there are still fears nibbling at the edges of my consciousness. Fear that we won’t outgrow the temper tantrums. Fear that the two girls won’t get along. Fear that I’ll mess them up and cause them interminable hours on a psychologist’s couch.

I’m sure you have fears, too.

But rather than allow those fears to consume and paralyze us, we can take them to the Lord, acknowledging His sovereignty over our parenting, pleading His grace over our mistakes, and entrusting His provision over their futures. He is not only able to handle it all — He is far more capable to be trusted with it all.

If I say one thing to that frightened 9-month-pregnant me standing in that room years ago, I would say this: Don’t let fear rob today’s joy with tomorrow’s unknowns. Each day has enough worries of its own (Matthew 6:34).

Instead, let us keep seeking God, running to Him as our secure fortress and resting in the knowledge that He will care for us and our children one day at a time.

What are you scared of today? Name your fears and bring them to the Lord, allowing Him to replace them with His peace that passes all understanding.

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He Gives Shade To The Weary

If anxiety is a struggle for you right now, remember that He gives shade to the weary.

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Do you ever have those moments of fear because you don’t know what lies ahead? When do those thoughts tend to happen to you?

For me, most of those thoughts happen when I lay my head down to sleep at night. The vulnerability comes forth every time. That’s what happened the other night to me. I shut my eyes and immediately anxiety welled up inside me.

What if we don’t succeed in this new venture? What if we have to move? What if we can’t pay our bills?

I laid there with the covers drawn tight over my head (I still think that I am safer if the covers are over my head), praying scripture over my anxious heart. Assuring myself that God sees me and that He cares.

In the morning, I turned to Isaiah 41, specifically verses 10-20.

“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10, NASB)

Yesterday, the “what if’s” piled up as I anxiously looked about me. My daughter needs tutoring, however at this point in life, tutoring feels like a luxury we can’t afford. So I listed some items online to sell hoping to make just enough to cover the tutoring. I’m buying groceries on a Visa reward card. I’m holding my breath until the next paycheck comes. But what did God speak over me: Do not fear. Do not look anxiously about you.

“For I am the Lord your God, who upholds your right hand, Who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’ Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel; I will help you,” declares the Lord, “and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:13-14 NASB)

Why shouldn’t I be anxious? Because God will hold me up. God will help me. When I first read the word “worm” as a description, I took it as a slam against Israel. Like, gesh, God. What animal does He relate me to? But through further study, He calls them a worm because worms are helpless. They are viewed as insignificant, despised and weak. God will help me — seemingly insignificant, helpless me — because He is my Redeemer. He is my go’el — my next of kin. The Redeemer is the one who provides for all my needs. Rent. Car payment. Credit card bill. Gas. Food. Clothes. Debt. God will redeem.

He Gives Shade to the Weary

“Behold, I have made you a new, sharp threshing sledge with double edges; You will thresh the mountains and pulverize them, And will make the hills like chaff. You will winnow them, and the wind will carry them away, And the storm will scatter them; But you will rejoice in the Lord, You will glory in the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:15-16 NASB).

God is transforming me from a helpless one to a powerful one. The description of that type of threshing sledge is like a modern day earth mover. Powerful. Strong. Immovable.

“The afflicted and needy are seeking water, but there is none, And their tongue is parched with thirst; I, the Lord, will answer them Myself, As the God of Israel I will not forsake them.” (Isaiah 41:17, NASB)

He will come to our rescue. God, Himself, will answer you and me. Can you hear how personal that sounds? Have you ever pleaded with someone important whether your boss, public figure, or even a parent, and they responded to the need themselves? You expected for them to send their assistant, but instead they — the most important one — responded to you.

“I will open rivers on the bare heights And springs in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water And the dry land fountains of water. I will put the cedar in the wilderness, The acacia and the myrtle and the olive tree; I will place the juniper in the desert Together with the box tree and the cypress.” (Isaiah 41:18-19, NASB)

This passage describes the wilderness-like times in life. You are barren. You are thirsty. You are hot. You are in need. God will provide what you need. God will quench your thirst. He will provide shade when you are weary. During those times, God can provide in creative, innovative ways. He can provide something out of nothing. Doesn’t that give you great hope? Even when you can’t answer how He will do it, He is creative enough to figure it out even when the odds are stacked against you.

“That they may see and recognize, And consider and gain insight as well, That the hand of the Lord has done this, And the Holy One of Israel has created it.” (Isaiah 41:20 NASB).

God will do all of this so that His glory will be put on display. People — including yourself — will see that He is powerful.

So you can see how after a night of wrestling with fear and anxiety, reading this was like shade and water for my soul. God is a god who sees. And God is a god who acts on your behalf.

What do you need His help with today? What are you fearful about today? What keeps you awake at night? Where do you need some shade?

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Leaving Virginia

by Jennifer Napier time to read: 5 min
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