Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Count your them one by one!

Have you ever heard that cheerful upbeat children's song Count your Blessings

The chorus goes something like this: 

Count your blessings, name them one by one. Count your blessings see what God has done. Count your blessings, name them one by one  Count your many blessings see what God has done...

Well, 40 Days for Life has yielded some pretty amazing, special blessings! And I'd like to try and recount some of them here.  I'm sure I'll miss many of them and if each of you added yours we could probably write a hundred page book! God's poured them out so's nearly impossible to keep track of EVERY. SINGLE. ONE! 

First of the biggest blessings was seeing God's power, love and faithfulness displayed over and over again. Through each answered prayer, each interaction on the street, each divine appointment met, each new brother or sister stepping out in faith to love the hurting and broken; God's sovereignty and grace was displayed every single day!

Blessing #2: Meeting SO many compassionate, loving, gracious, merciful, Christ-like and courageous people. I count all of you as such dear friends and family, and was incredibly blessed to meet you all.  Many of you have shared your personal testimonies and stories with me, some heartbreaking, some amazing, some funny - but they all have inspired me and spurred me on to love and good deeds.  Each of you spoke into my life in some way; either in words or in actions.  What a blessing you all are and I love each of you so much.

Blessing #3: Seeing what gracious, cooperative unity in the body of Christ looks like. 
 Seeing the gracious efforts to work together and unite in prayer was incredible. I was BLOWN away at the celebration rally. We counted 11+ different churches/parishes - all different denominations - who participated. And I know of so many more from Lynden, to Kelso, to Woodland, to Portland to the Columbia Gorge who were praying with us. What a blessing to be able to work together in love to pray to end abortion.

Blessing #4: Growing myself, and seeing you all grow too! When I first started leading this I literally spent 10 minutes freaking out before each new phone call, and sweating and trembling as I imagined myself passing out if I had to speak in front of my church or anywhere else. Silly how your mind goes to the worst case scenario! :-)  The first week during planning at the start of February I probably had a meltdown every day with the worst one that next Sunday at church... To say the least I was stretched.
I think Paul has it right when He said, "He has said to me, 'my grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may rest on me."  God's grace is always sufficient and I experienced that firsthand over and over again.  He IS faithful!
This effort was SO new to most of you, and I know it was stretching and even terrifying in many ways. I've been so inspired by each of you and your courage and selflessness.  Thank you for stepping out of your comfortable "church bubbles" and living out your faith. You all spread so much hope to the hurting, broken and lost people in our community and I know many of you were changed in amazing ways too. Seeing God work like that can't help but leave you in awe and amazement at who He is.

Blessing #5: Experiencing hard-hitting reality. Among all the good, incredible, and uplifting things God did the painful reality of abortion hit hard. WAY harder than I was prepared for.  It's impossible to not be broken and affected when you see women, especially young teens, going into the clinic.  Everything in you wants to stop them and plead with them to turn away, but you are completely powerless to do anything except pray and trust in the Lord to work. One of the days I was standing by the exit when a young lady rolled down her window and told me she had just had an abortion that morning.  My heart broke as I grieved for her... and still do. I never felt anger like I did that morning at our enemy who has deceived so many precious young ladies.  Oh... It hurts terribly when you step on that street corner and see the line between life and death, hope and hopelessness. But, as much as it hurt, I didn't want to leave. When you see each face drive into the parking lot your heart breaks and  your prayers reach a whole new level of intensity and urgency. You come face to face with the person who needs prayer at that very moment and you can pray specifically for them... sometimes even with them like Laurie was able to with 1 woman. My presence and experience at PP has completely changed my life.

Blessing #6: Learning to respond in mercy and love to anger and vulgarity. I was definitely not prepared for the intense anger we witnessed in people driving by.  For the most part the response we got from our community was either apathy or support, but there were many who were so angry and hateful towards us too. It used to bother me personally as I felt as if we were causing that anger. But as Pastor Bill has done so many times, He made it clear to me that their anger was because the Spirit was working in and convicting their hearts as they drove by.  They recognized a higher power in us but they did not want to surrender to it.
 Their anger was mostly at themselves and the Lord as I know they struggle to forgive themselves and accept the forgiveness of the Lord in obedience to Him.
  With each new angry and broken person who would drive by we would pray for the Lord to miraculously work in their hearts and save them from enemy's chains of sin and hopelessness. I know we all learned what it's like to be persecuted for our faith, yet responding with patience, kindness and compassion. I know it wasn't always easy to respond in love or the first thing we wanted to do when treated wrongly. But thank you for growing and learning through each new experience.

"If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory and of God rests on you." 
(1 Peter 4:14)

 Blessing #7: Seeing hearts change. I know our gentleness touched a lot of lives and I saw it change at least two people. One instance of a heart change was of my new friend who I lovingly call "the pro-death lady" because of my first interaction with her. It took nearly 30 days of the Lord working on my heart to love and pray for her when I would see her nearly every day...but she changed to the point of calling me "sweetie" and stopping twice to have a normal conversation with me and a few others on the sidewalk.
The other example is of the angry man most of you read of who came back to ask forgiveness of my sister Valerie. Just two examples of the power of God that transforms lives! Read about them here: Several Hearts Changed...
God gave us many opportunities to answer so many questions and speak with so many people. I know the Lord will water those seeds that were planted in His timing.

Blessing #8: Learning how to defend the pro-life position. When I started I didn't hardly have a clue how to defend my position effectively. I didn't know how much abortion harms women and men, and
 how to respond to pro-choice objections etc. We all dove into researching and learned so much. Also seeing and sharing the interactions with pro-choice advocates between pastor Dean, Dad, Laurie, Pastor Bill, Mr. Emmerson and many others helped us think, learn and apply their wisdom to our lives and help us respond better in the future. I know we all learned along the way together and will continue to do so!

Blessing #9: Seeing the power of prayer as God answered them...sometimes within seconds. SO many times I would pray for a little encouragement or a little more strength and He would answer immediately. One day he brought a lady with a latte within 15 seconds of my somewhat desperate prayer for strength and warmth.  Another day my family and I were feeling a little attacked and I was feeling particularly tired. Kyle and I stood out on Main street praying together and I silently asked the Lord to lift my spirit and send some form of encouragement to my heart. It took all of 5 seconds before a lady stopped at the curb with the window rolled down and handed me a card. It said, "Simply grateful for people like you. Thank you for your faith and courage. Keep fighting the good fight."  Wow. Those words of encouragement spoke to my heart. I was so uplifted and amazed at How God so faithfully answered my prayer.
Not only did God answer those little prayers, He answered big ones too. He answers our prayers that He would bless His endeavors and raise up an army. I literally was hoping and praying that we could fill just 3 days a week - Mon.Wed. and Frid. I thought that would be a HUGE success and amazing for the first year. Well, turns out God did that pretty quickly!! And He also brought people to come EVERY other day too. I can safely say there was not one day that went by when no one was there for at least 1 hour.
We saw prayers answered for strength and courage for believers to come out as so many of you took that first step of faith, even when it was uncomfortable!
I also got to thinking of how He answered our prayers for safety. We didn't have anything happen that was a hazard or threatening to our safety! Praise God!

Blessing #10: Raising awareness in our community.  Prayer is always heard wherever we are, but our presence there letting our community know we were praying continued to bring the reality of abortion to the forefront, allowed the spirit to work in hearts, gave us opportunities to spread truth and encourage people to pray with us.

Blessing #11: The chance to cultivate a culture of life in our children and youth. It was such a blessing to see parents bring their children and show by example that life is precious and is our duty and sacrifice to defend. This story of two children's thoughts on abortion as their dad wisely and graciously yet truthfully explained to them was SO neat!  From the mouth's of children...
I was also so grateful to Ann Stout for being SO supportive of 40 Days for Life and arranging for me to speak at the Centralia Christian School. Thank you Ann!

Blessing #12: Learning how to love and reach out to homosexual, transgender, pro-choice and liberal friends. One of the neat blessings during 40 days was not only to be able to reach out to abortion minded and post-abortive people... we were also given the chance to meet people from a wide range of lifestyles. What a blessing it was for us to meet folks we wouldn't have met without our presence at PP. If you've heard of the book The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert you'll remember Rosaria Butterfield's conversion from an atheistic, liberal, lesbian, college professor lifestyle to coming to know the Lord, and eventually becoming a beautiful, godly Presbyterian pastors wife who home-schools her children and has adopted and fostered other kids! I love that story of God's grace that transforms lives. No one is ever beyond the reach of God and His mercy and redemption.

I know that God has brought these precious people to the PP sidewalk for a purpose and plan. Let's continue to pray that the love, hope, grace, compassion and kindness we showed to them will begin a relationship with them and help them see Truth.

Blessing #13: Hearing post-abortive testimonies from courageous and precious people. 
Let me tell you these stories are what get to me so deeply, and they aren't easy to hear. But, I am truly so grateful for the precious and courageous people who have taken the time and effort to share their testimonies. Sometimes they are so personal and painful still to tell, and they're always heartbreaking to hear of the hurt, pain, regret and shame they've felt afterwards. I can't help but be angry, SO angry, at our enemy the devil who has deceived so many... and then crushes them with condemnation and shame afterwards. I don't know if that's righteous or not, but I certainly feel it in me so strongly, like I've never felt before. I've prayed through flowing tears that our enemy will be defeated in Lewis County, WA and that his lies will be exposed. That the chains he holds captives in will be broken as they experience the healing redemption of our merciful Father and savior.

Praise God that He KNOWS your pain.  He sent His Son to die. He could have stopped it,but He didn't.  His gave us His Son so that we could be forgiven.  You are not alone, dear friend.  God knows your pain and He has made a way for you to be freed from the prison Satan wants to keep you in. That shame and guilt you feel is not from the Lord and not from anyone here on earth.  It is from our enemy.

 I grieve for these precious men and women... MILLIONS of them who are hurting. Nothing spurs me on to continue to fight this battle with intensity and urgency than hearing these stories first hand. How could I ever be apathetic again?  How could I not do everything in my power to help some choose life?

Blessing #14: Experiencing the Spiritual battle firsthand. I don't know about you all but I truly felt the spiritual battle being waged on that street corner. It's hard to explain it, but you probably have felt the same way if you've been out there.
"Our battle is not against flesh and blood, against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."  
(Ephesians 6:12)

My faith was strengthened though as I felt the Lord's presence and power like I had never felt before. AMAZING.

Blessing #15: Living out our Faith
I don't think I could say it any better than Amy Larson's testimony on one of the feedback forms!
She wrote this and I wanted to share it with you all.
"I was initially worried that this was a protest. After some research, I was so glad to see it wasn't! This is a way that we can actively LIVE OUT our Faith.  I would love to see ALL Lewis County Churches participate.  We are called to stand in the gap. How can we not speak out for those who cannot speak out for themselves?  God gives the armor.  We are called to STAND."

SO true!

Blessing #16: Laughing every now and then :-)
Being out there really can take you down a rollercoaster of emotions. But there were always those times of comedic relief that helped ease the tension when I and others needed it most.

 That first week when I had my meltdown at church Pastor Dean and Mrs. Wiebracht's dog Heidi sneezed and sent a slobbery snot-rocket right onto my skirt, ;-) She knew we all needed to laugh just then and Pastor Dean made one of his kind and funny comments that made everything better. On a serious note I'm SO thankful for Pastor Dean.  He has helped, encouraged, mentored, and answered so many questions for me. I'm so thankful for Him and his amazing, sweet, cheerful wife! Love you two so much!

Carol Druckman from Love inc. made me laugh so much one day at PP.  She showed up one SUPER rainy day in her nice work clothes for her lunch break. If I remember correctly she was dressed in black slacks, black dress shoes, black jacket and was holding a black umbrella and black sign. We prayed for a while separately and then I looked over at her and immediately thought how CUTE she looked. I mean seriously...she's adorable! :-)  I walked over to encourage her and she looked up with genuine concern on her face saying, "do I look like the grim reaper or what?? I've got all this BLACK!"   Oh my, I laughed SO hard!!  Love you dear so much and you have been such a blessing, support and friend to me!

My brother-in-love Richie and sisters Lydia and Valerie and I went out to dinner one night after being out at PP and we seriously were so tickled at something we laughed the entire time at Wendy's! People were probably looking at us like we were crazy... but I guess we've gotten a little used to that by now. :)

Dr. Moreau and his sweet, beautiful daughter Celine are some of the funniest and happiest people I've met. Dr. Moreau would generously keep asking if I wanted anything. At one point he asked,"can we get you a coffee?"  I replied, "Oh no, I've had my fill... I've already had 7."  Imagine his shock thinking that I had already had 7 THAT DAY... not spread out through a few weeks. I quickly explained that I had only had 1 that day... the other 6 were from weeks past. He said,"Oh phew that's good... but I guess that would have explained your energy level!"  Then later he brought us prayer warriors some chocolate to share. Then later said, "just remember if Bowes sends the orders for Pizza, Moreau will answer!"  

Well he didn't need to twist my arm for that one!
I sent orders to Moreau for pizza the next week for Pastor Bill, John and Richard who had been so faithful to stay for 4 hours EVERY Tuesday.  John made me laugh!  He enjoyed that pizza so much and joked that if I had pizza at PP more often he would be there no questions asked. :-)
John's the only one who smiled for the camera... and even waved too!
Pastor Dean finally got his revenge too. :-) For years I've teased him about his California blood. He would always show up to church in LAYERS of jackets and a warm wool hat during the winter months. I called him "Mr. Bundles" one day and it stuck.  Well, one Friday us girls were shivering like crazy. Pastor Dean and Mrs. Wiebracht and Linda Clements showed up and went to work getting us some tea and extra layers. I then became known as "Miss Shivers."

 Then the next Sunday at church Pastor Dean called my dad and us girls, "Papa Pete and the shiver sisters." :-)  Made the whole church crack up!

Let's see... there were so many other little things that helped lighten the difficulties through it. Little comments and funny stories.  Special smiles and hugs.  What a loving group of people it was...almost like we were family. (oh wait... I guess we are family. The family of God!)

Blessing #17: Divine appointments.
Wow. This part was SO neat to see.  So many times God would specially ordain a certain person to be at PP in the right spot at the right time when a question or comment was raised!  Read more here: Amazing Divine Appointments

Blessing #17: Being pampered with selfless gifts. During 40 days I was given 7 free coffees plus tea. (expensive ones too!)  2 free umbrellas; 1 thrown out from a driver who stopped at the red light and 1 from Jesus. ;-) Pastor Bill said it belonged to Him. I think Jesus must like Mossyrock because His umbrella is black and red. It sure will come in handy during Timmy's Mossyrock baseball games!
 We were given 2 free AMAZING dark chocolate bars, a Chinese food dinner, a pepperoni pizza and popcorn. Yum! A sweet friend gave me her scarf with a message to go with it one rainy afternoon. And I got a fancy new rain-jacket from the Kast's!
Mr Taylor gave me the  most precious gift of all though. A card with a beautiful, poem on it. Of all those things this one touched me the most.
It goes like this:
How good is the God we adore,
Our faithful, unchangeable friend.
Whose love is as great as His power,
And knows neither measure nor end.

Tis' Jesus, the first and the last,
Whose Spirit shall guide us safe home
We'll thank Him for all that is past,
And trsut Him for all that's to come.

And trust Him
And trust Him
And trust Him
And trust Him
And trust Him for all that's to come.

 (Shh...don't tell anyone but it pays to be out there on the sidewalk!)
 God is good, and I'm blown away by His special love and provision and the selflessness and giving hearts of people in our community.

Blessing #18: Seeing God provide. My expenses added up to about $1400 dollars total. Well, as of today God's provided all of that plus $120 extra to apply to the 40 Days for Life fund!  Thank you Lord and thank you all for your incredible generosity!

And Blessing #19:  I get to be an aunt soon!!!!!  My precious little peanut is due this Saturday. I hope she comes and meets her fan club soon... I don't know if we can bear the wait much longer!

In closing out 40 Days for Life I can't help but marvel at my miracle niece who was adopted at 6 days old.  It's amazing thinking back on how something so terrifying as cancer and infertility God used to grow my sister Lydia and brother-in-love Richie.  They will be the most amazing parents in the world in my very unbiased opinion. :-)  Love you three so much!!

My sister Lydia has such a gift with writing so sweetly and from her heart. She wrote more of her story and what the Lord taught her one morning at PP here: A Special Update... Have a tissue ready.
Amazing to think that peanut's  hair color, eye color , skin color, personality, what her voice and laugh will sound like and so much more are contained in that tiny little embryo.  That was my niece at 6 days old. The miracle of life is incredible; God is good! 
 Oh, and by the way, when you go shopping with your co-auntie's and soon-to-be grandma for a girls day shopping and you happen to stop at Vanity Fair and you see about 20 different baby dresses all cute, and colorful, and adorable... save yourself some grief and just buy them all.  It's too hard to choose.. trust me.

I'll keep you all updated now and then with news, thoughts, stories and testimonies. I have many stories and testimonies from the feedback forms that I will share too.  Keep checking back!

Thank you ALL for saying yes to the Lord's leading and making all of this possible. Love you all so much! 

Praise the Lord, great things he has done! 

"The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up His countenance on you and give you peace." 
(Numbers 6:24-26 NASB

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