Holding Onto Hope
In a time of instant messaging, Instagram, and instant food from our microwaves we can begin to lose hope when prayers aren’t answered instantly.
Our friend and missionary colleague, Crystal Lodica, shares with us her story of holding onto the hope of God’s timing and faithfulness even when prayers and answers seem faraway.
Thank you, Crystal, for sharing with us.
When I was 8 years old my mother and father were given two options to save my life. They had to decide quickly.
I was diagnosed with Graves’ disease. This is an immune system disorder that results in the overproduction of thyroid hormones. These hormones are vital for overall health and body function but if these hormones are overproduced and left untreated, it can lead to death. With this diagnosis, my parents were faced with two options.
Option 1- Risky invasive surgery that could leave me unable to speak again.
Option 2- Radioactive iodine treatment that would destroy the thyroid, leaving me on hormone replacement therapy for the rest of my life.
After a brief 24-hours of pondering the right move, they decided the radioactive treatment was the best option. Knowing I loved to sing and being a talkative kid with a lot to say; they couldn't risk the chance of losing my voice forever.
As a young child, I didn't understand the long-term effects of undergoing radioactive treatment.
Fast forward to present-day, I am a 33-year-old woman who has recently received the news that my body has already gone through the stages of menopause, and I have Premature Ovarian Insufficiency (POI). To my surprise, a decision saving my life 25-years ago now impacts me today.
No one warned my parents that the radioactive treatment saving my life would cause reproduction damage and leave me with the inability to have biological children. I was devasted. I felt my worth as a woman was gone. My dreams of becoming a mother and carrying my own children were gone.
I knew God had a plan --- He always does. In the moment we may not see it, yet we must continue to believe in faith. I knew I had to surrender and release my life into His hands, He had bigger plans for my life. It all started to make sense when He called me to be His servant and missionary. He called and I answered.
I left my corporate job in Manhattan, moved out of my cozy Brooklyn apartment, broke off my 5-year relationship and started on a new journey. This new journey wasn’t easy, I found myself living at home again with my parents, in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania. I knew I was there for a reason and had to make the best of it.
I also knew I needed a way to make money and support myself. The Lord prompted me to create a profile on a popular nannying site. The flexibility of a being nanny while raising funds for missions was the right balance. That simple act of obedience led me to work with a family for three years. In the summer of 2018, the family welcomed a new fiery red haired baby girl into the world. Little did I know God was going to work through this little one to touch my life.
As I started caring for this young one, my health issues took a turn for the worse. The doctors couldn't figure out what was wrong hormonally, and my hypothyroid symptoms became unbearable. It became difficult to do daily activities such as getting out of bed and everyday living. Though I was weak, and my body was working against me, God was still working.
How amazing is our God? Amid our suffering, He is our living Hope.
The baby I was caring for needed a medical procedure. This required a lot of monitoring during recovery to protect her from infection. She laid on my chest for hours. I listened to her heartbeat while she slept. I prayed and held her as if she were my own. Over time I watched this once fragile child quickly become this fearless little human. Her strength was restored, and the light inside her turned on. As I prayed and watched her get better, God was also healing me and showing me how hope exists even in tough situations and how to trust in Him.
Through my time with this precious child and my journey to the mission field I’ve learned to trust God. I’ve been to many countries sharing the word of God. It hasn’t been an easy journey but He has been faithful.
For the last 8 months, I have been in Costa Rica attending language school. I have been working with doctors to find answers to the decline in my health. Fallen hair from my head has covered the bathroom floor, autoimmune flareups have pulsed through my body, and my physical strength again has become limited. I went from running seven miles a day to using what little energy I could muster to sit in class. It became a struggle to learn a new language as brain fog weighed down my concentration. Many nights went by as I begged the Lord to reveal an answer. In desperation, I cried out for His healing touch. It was exhausting, and depression slowly took over. The fear of losing mobility and the life I enjoyed became a heavy burden. My hope was slipping away.
After my most recent doctor’s consultation and news of being post-menopausal and unable to have children, I needed some hope.
How am I feeling now? Well, I’m both grieving and holding onto hope. God makes room for my human emotion, and I know His goodness goes past it. The Lord has proven before that when He gives a promise, it will come to pass. His promise says my healing is on its way.
God has shown his faithfulness repeatedly. I am incredibly grateful for the community the Lord has placed in my life for this season. People who were with me at the hospital, friends who covered me in prayer and offered to help in any way they could. There’s reassurance in knowing I am not alone. Not only does Jesus continue to be my hope while living with an autoimmune disease, He is also the One who has graced me with contentment in the unknown. The future may look completely different than I have imagined, but the testimony coming from these times will be for His glory.
The words of our sovereign, faithful Lord never fall void when He gives a promise. As these days pass, Jesus walks with me through grief, and encourages me to hold unto Him.
Be encouraged that the enemy will try to steal the vision you once saw for a future, but that doesn't influence what GOD has and is creating for your purpose. Whatever you saw as lost can be replaced by hope. So, hold on to it, sister!
Gifts of Gratitude
In the midst of our busy lives, we can miss moments of God's goodness in our lives.
I can sometimes focus on checking off my task list boxes and forget to reflect on the good God gives in the midst of it all.
Besides missing the reflecting piece, we can overcommit.
We make commitments to ourselves, others and God yet in our zealousness to commit, we don't quite fulfill those obligations and we find ourselves overwhelmed and maybe a bit troubled.
Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High, call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me. Psalm 50:14-15 (NIV)
Today, if you feel overwhelmed by obligations and commitments. I encourage you to follow just 3 short steps:
Just stopping for a moment can redirect our thoughts and help us focus on the goodness of God.
His goodness is there. We just need to slow ourselves down enough to take notice and give thanks.
When we do, it's amazing how God meets us in those moments.
It's a simple act. Yet that's often how He works. We overcomplicate, and He simplifies.
Today, let's lean into Him, look for gratitude gifts, and move forward in grace.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and He will establish your steps ~ Proverbs 16:3 (NIV)
God's Miraculous Gravy
In our Life-Sharing Moment Rev. Camille Regholec shares with us her story of God's grace and His sweet gift of gravy in her life. Thank you, Camille, for sharing this moment with us.
As I watched the ambulance pull away with my husband on board I whispered, "Dear Lord, I know You can take Jerry at any time on any day. But I ask You to let him live. Even just one day would be gravy." That was March of 2011. God gave us eleven years.
Jerry was 6’4”, 260 pounds and unable to use his legs. His body was stiff and crippled from severe arthritis. Even though those extra eleven years were spent in a nursing home, Jerry was basically healthy. His medication was potassium and magnesium supplements and half a heart pill. Because of his inability to walk and turn while sitting or lying down, he needed continual care. Each time he became ill, he bounced back. We were thankful to God.
through zoom and phone until Covid restrictions were lifted. After thirteen months, it was wonderful to be together again.
Jerry's helplessness in moving on his own brought other health issues. Nothing anyone did could halt the onslaught. From December 2021 until March 2022, Jerry kept returning to the hospital as his health declined. Each stay was longer – the bouncing back was harder to attain. My job required the Covid vaccine and because of the vaccine I was able to visit Jerry daily in the hospital. We thanked God.
While at work on March 24, I received the phone call along with the message I hoped never to hear.
This time, there was no coming back.
"Ma’am, your husband is fading fast. Can you get here?"
"It will take me 45 minutes, but I'll be there." I grabbed my bag and ran out the door.
"Do you want us to try CPR if he goes?"
"YES!" I shouted as I hung up the phone. My coworker gave me a swift hug. I jumped into my car and tore out of the parking lot.
As I raced toward the hospital, breaking all speed limits, and passing three police cars, I cried and prayed, "Please God. PLEASE!"
Just then a song playing on my car radio broke into my consciousness. A soft, soulful voice sang, “I have to leave now for a little while - but goodbye is not the end."
"No! No! Please Lord!” I shouted as I rammed my foot down on the gas pedal. “Please keep Jerry alive until I get there! Let me tell him ‘I love you’ one more time!" I glanced at the clock on the dashboard -- 12:26pm.
When I rushed into his room, the doctor and nurse were there. They had performed CPR. The doctor took me aside. “We brought him back, but he probably won’t last long. If Jerry’s heart stops again, would you like us to repeat CPR?”
God, in His mercy, had granted my request to keep Jerry alive until I arrived. I knew in my heart Jerry’s battle was ending. With a choked voice, I answered, ‘No… thank you… but no. If God wants him, nothing you or I do will keep my husband here."
I went to Jerry’s side, kissed him, and spoke, “I love you." I watched him mouth the words, "I love you, too." As I touched his face and rested my hand on his chest, a tear fell from his eye. I whispered, “You’re alright. God’s got you. And I will be alright cause God's got me, too.” I repeated the words from the song I had just heard on the radio. "Goodbye is not the end. Now go dance with our children.” Then he took his final breath.
I watched as the numbers on the monitors dropped until there were none. The nurse offered me a chair and I sat by his bed. Even though he had already left, I was unable to leave him. Another nurse came in, put a stethoscope to Jerry’s chest, "I'm sorry, he is gone."
Choked by my tears I whispered, “I know.”
She then added these astounding words, “I'm here to tell you we started CPR at 12:26 pm."
That was the same moment those words had come across my radio. I knew instantly God had answered my frantic plea. God had giving us 30 years of marriage - the last 11 were pure gravy, --- God's Miraculous Gravy.
We don’t like to talk money, especially with others. We view it as a private matter and like to keep it that way.
Yet the mindset of keeping money matters private is not the same as being prepared.
Individuals may say, “I’m not worried about money. God takes care of us. He always has.” It is true God cares for us, yet God also advocates: Prepare, Work, and Plan. Proverbs 27:23 (NIV) tells us: “Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds; for riches do not endure forever, and a crown is not secure for all generations.”
We have all seen an unexpected loss throw future plans haywire. Those future days when we were going to plan things is now on us and we’re at a loss. Not only the loss of employment, spouse, or housing but now we’re losing emotionally, physically and financially.
Dave and I have been in some form of public ministry for 43 years. The last ten of those, we’ve been privileged to serve pastors and congregations in financial services. We both feel it is one of the most amazing ministries we've ever done because the need is so great, and the help is real.
The following stories are true, and they are common. They are pulled from the work Dave has done at many “kitchen tables” and various conversations. In life, we can learn from the experiences of others, or we can learn in the same experiences as others. The former is preferable.
~~~I met Pastor Shadrach, age 72, after finishing a meeting. During a 10-minute conversation, I spotted a simple financial mistake he was making. This mistake put an unexpected $14,000 in his pocket shortly after. This change saved him thousands of dollars every year after that. Later, we did more planning & put a plan in place. He would later tell people that working together saved his life. Today, he & his wife are fully retired & doing well.
~~~ For weeks, Pastor Meshach & I worked to answer the question: What does retirement look like for me? As with Shadrach, the same rigors of analysis were used in our planning. Later, I met with him & his wife - it was uncomfortable. You see, Meshach was in his mid 60s & had only saved about $60,000 for his retirement. He had a serious health condition, & he lived in a home provided by his employer. In our meeting, his wife became quiet & very concerned. We worked together, yet it was late in the game for him. My counsel was “Perhaps, now that we have a clearer picture. Different & better choices can be made going forward.”
~~~ Pastor Abednego & his wife were good friends of ours for many years. He invited me into the advice process with him to gain understanding & prepare for future retirement. I did the same goal setting work, completed the analysis, & came back to meet with him & his wife. I still vividly recall the sense of excitement & anticipation as we sat down to go over my report. As he & his wife thumbed through the pages he stopped, looked up, & asked, “Is there still time to change this?” I said “Pastor, that is exactly the right question. That's why I'm here, & yes, there is time.”
As you ponder these stories, we want to pose 3 simple clarifying questions that can be helpful to you:
1. Are you anxious about money?
Money can be a stronghold in people's lives. Strongholds are generally fed by 2 things: fear & secrecy. Maybe a better way to think about your feelings toward money is this: Are there places of distress?
2. Do you feel in control of your money?
One way to identify control is to ask: Am I on track for my goals?
This is perhaps the main area of deficiency we see with ministry professionals we talk with. They have no clear goals against which savings and investment actions can be accurately measured.
Often, ministry leaders fall prey to a common temptation of – sacrificing future & financial wellbeing in the effort to serve others. At the moment, it may seem right to place the needs of others ahead of your own, but this is not wisdom.
A biblical requirement for public ministry is managing our household well. Disciplined money management is one of the places where this is lived out.
3. Are you organized & ready for the “certainty of uncertainty?”
Additional questions to consider:
There are many tools to help you evaluate your journey & achieve these goals! We hope this frames the issues and gives you some next steps for action. For more personalized help, you can easily locate a nearby Thrivent Financial Advisor to assist you at https://local.thrivent.com/
Additional (free) resources:
Cash Flow/Debt/Money Management Skills
OTHER RESOURCES FOR FINANCIAL HELP:
An Unexpected Journey
Over 15% of children in the United States live with special needs. These amazing children are in our schools, families, neighborhoods, and churches. We can grow in our understanding about their unique needs and learn how to love them well.
One of our very own ministry wives, Susie Melnick, has a wonderful daughter with special needs. Susie shares with us this week about how her and husband, Mike, have journeyed with their daughter and how the church can better serve those in similar situations. Thank you, Susie, for sharing with us.
An Unexpected Journey ~ Raising a church and child with special needs.
Written by Susie Melnick
Brooklyn was 9 months old when we got the long-awaited call from the geneticist. I remember the day so clearly, because it was also my oldest daughter’s very first day of kindergarten. Life is like that, isn’t it? Layered with joy, wonder, new experiences, disappointment, and loss – all in one breath. On that day as we celebrated with our 5-year-old and her new accomplishments, we also mourned as we discovered our third and youngest little girl would be forever impacted by a disease that, up until that moment, we had never heard of.
HOW DO YOU COPE IN MINISTRY WHILE RAISING A CHILD WITH SPECIAL NEEDS?
We don’t claim to be experts, but here are a few things my husband and I have learned over the past ten years.
way to do that! Brooklyn is non-verbal, so we encourage lots of high fives. Sometimes she returns them and sometimes she doesn’t, but it gives our church a way to interact with her in a meaningful way.
Over the years, Brooklyn has attended church:
For us personally, in this season, Brooklyns’ needs are too challenging for a volunteer to handle. So, she either stays home with a paid caregiver, or comes to church with her caregiver. Brooklyn is 100% my ministry and my life during the week. For the few hours we are at church, these creative options allow us to focus on the task at hand. This might not be the case for you but be free to find creative solutions for the season you are in with your family and church. Remember your family is important, AND your church is important. I believe God will give you the wisdom to balance both, if that’s what you are called to!
If you need a listening ear and don’t know who to turn to, I will return every text, phone call, or email I receive at firstname.lastname@example.org, 765-430-6095. You are not alone!