Why I Have the Most Amazing Friends

*This was originally posted in November 2013 by Jessica Hiltz.  Her words ring true for me this month as I’ve been the recipient of the blessings from some amazing friends.  I wanted to share this again to encourage us all to be a blessing when and how we can!   Although Jessica’s struggle was regarding infertility, I feel like this post can be applied to any struggle that we or those we know are going through.

It is a blessing to me to have my good friend, Jess, guest posting today.   I hope you are blessed (and learn how to be a blessing) through her words.

Make Me a Blessing

I was diagnosed with endometriosis at the age of 22. It has been a disease that causes me to live in pain most days of my life. I’ve been through numerous tests, procedures and surgeries to keep things under control, and unfortunately there is no cure. I’ll live with this disease for the rest of my life.

Besides the physical pain, this disease has brought me face to face with infertility. When we were first married, I felt that God would bring us a miracle and give us a child. But up to this point, His plan for us has not included children.

This has been a road filled with heartache and sorrow at times; but on the other hand, it’s been a road lined on both sides with abundant blessings.

One of the many blessings God has given me is my friends. I have some of the most amazing friends; and they have helped to bring comfort, joy and laughter to this road. They’ve been sensitive, caring and understanding of this battle that I face. I could not ask for better.

I want to share today why I have some of the most amazing friends in the world and how they’ve touched my life.

* Make time for just us.

Most of my friends are young mothers. Their social lives consist of play dates and birthday parties. I have one very special friend who’s a young mother, but every few months, she invites me to go to Wheaton’s for a Girl’s Morning Out. We go, shop, eat lunch and just chat about what is going on in our lives. She makes a conscious effort to spend time with just me apart from her children, and that means a lot to me. I know that she’s very busy with children right now, and I appreciate her taking time to do something with just me.

* Listen to my struggles.

I’m so blessed to have friends that listen to my struggles or sympathize over my latest problem with my endometriosis. They don’t minimize my struggle with infertility, but try to put themselves in my shoes. I have one very special friend who listens ALL the time. The Lord used her to help me talk through a lot of the struggles I was going through, and eventually I was able to write about them. Had I not had a friend to listen, I would never have had the courage to write about my struggles.

* Reach out to me on difficult days.

I was so blessed this past Mother’s Day when I had some friends who texted and emailed me that morning to let me know that they were praying for me and thinking of me. It meant more than they’ll ever know. Most people who see me on those difficult days would never know that anything is wrong, but I had friends who could read beyond the outward into my heart and know that I was struggling. Their encouragement meant so much to me.

* Send specific encouragement.

I remember one friend who sent me one of the sweetest letters I’ve probably ever gotten. I was facing yet another surgery and was very discouraged about what the outcome would be. I’d emailed her to let her know about the situation, and she replied to give me some of the greatest encouragement I’ve ever had. She told me that if God never gave me children, I needed to always keep in mind that her children were so much richer because I hadn’t had children. If I had children, I would never be able to spend time teaching hers in school. Talk about a blessing. Those were words that I have never forgotten, and they have gotten me through many a rough day through my struggle with infertility.

* Never pry or ask awkward questions.

Infertility is a very sensitive topic. It’s one that entails a very private part of a person’s life. I have wonderful friends that never pry or ask questions that are none of their business. They respect my privacy and leave many questions unasked. It is wonderful to be able to be comfortable enough around my friends not to have to worry what they are going to say or ask next. I never need to be on edge waiting for them to ask those awkward questions.

*Walk with me through difficult times.

The Lord has blessed me with friends who have walked with me each step of the way. There were often times when I couldn’t express my own feelings or emotions, but my friends were there. Sometimes there was nothing to say, but they were there. They’ve helped me when they probably didn’t even know they were helping me.

Maybe you know someone who is struggling with infertility, either openly or privately. The best thing you can do is to be a friend to them. Make your friendship a “safe place” for them to open up about how they’re feeling. If they choose to remain private about their struggles, respect that and just be there so that they have someone to talk to when they’re ready to open up about their struggles.

You may think that there isn’t much you can do to encourage someone who’s struggling with infertility because you don’t understand their struggles. But know that if you are a kind, compassionate friend, God will use you in their lives to be a blessing and an encouragement.

I could go on all day about how God has blessed me with wonderful people in my life, and these are just a few of the ways that they have been a blessing to me. I thank God often for them. My infertility road has been so much easier because of the wonderful blessing of godly friends.

1Samuel 23:16 says, “And Jonathan Saul’s son arose, and went to David into the wood, and strengthened his hand in God.” Truly, when my hand was weakest, God often sent a strengthening through the hand of a friend.

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Jessica Hiltz is an elementary and music teacher living with husband Jonathan in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley. As a freelance author, she enjoys writing on a topic that has affected her life as a Christian woman and that has brought her closer to other women concerned with the same area: infertility. Having found that life is fulfilling in full-time Christian service, Jessica can most often be found enjoying the company of children, whether it be in the classroom, at the piano, or in children’s church.

A Home Away From Home

Gathering at David Nims House in Roxbury New Hampshire

“Friends are the family we choose for ourselves . . .”

I stepped off of the plane with a stomach full of butterflies. There was excitement mixed with fear. I’d just landed in Newfoundland for my first ministry teaching job. I knew no one. I was surrounded by rock and water, miles away from family.

It was such a huge change for me. I kept busy teaching, ministering in the church and settling into my apartment. I loved this new life, but I definitely missed my family. There’s something special about family. I kept busy with my responsibilities, but began to pray for “family” in Newfoundland.

God answered my prayers in an abundant way. He blessed me with a Malachi 3:10 blessing, “…if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”

I met a very special family who became a blessing to me. They became my “Newfoundland” family. They invited me over for meals, reached out to me when I was sick and just generally looked out for me.

I began to spend many hours with this family. I was invited over every Sunday for “Sunday dinner.” If I was lonely, I could drop in and find someone to watch a movie with or chat with. When I had a rough day, I could always find one of them to talk to. They became a huge blessing in my life.

Not only was this family a blessing to me, their extended family became a blessing to me as well. They accepted me as part of their family and invited me to all family functions. The extended family got together every holiday and had a huge meal. I always knew that I was welcome and I began to spend holidays with this family when I was away from home.

Their family functions were wonderful to attend. They loved each other and had so much fun together. There were no harsh words or family drama. Every one cared about each other.

I learned so much from them and such things that I have carried with me as I started my own home. Some I’ve not been able to put into practice yet, since I live in a small mini home. I also need to work on more of them!

· People, not the meal are important.

I often fall into the trap of worrying about how good my meal will be, but really this is secondary to reaching out to people. People may not remember the meal, but they’ll remember the kindness you showed to them.

· You entertain to bless, not impress.

Another lady who I met in Newfoundland taught me this important lesson. She was so good at inviting visitors at church over for lunch immediately following the service. She didn’t have anything “special” planned, but she shared what she had. Her house may not have been just “spring-cleaned”, but no one noticed. People appreciated her friendly, down-to-earth style.

· Space isn’t that important.

I sometimes use the excuse that I don’t have enough space. Often when I was with my “Newfoundland” family, it was crowded and we didn’t have as much space as we could have used (there could be 20+ people there), but it didn’t matter. Everyone was happy to be together and made the best of the situation!

· More than one dessert takes everything to a new level.

Ok. So this one is a bit funny, but it’s so true! There’s nothing like a few good Newfoundland desserts! Google them – you won’t be disappointed!

· It doesn’t have to be fancy.

Everyone has their niche. Some people have the “touch.” Everything matches perfectly. Decorations are beautiful and you feel as if you’ve stepped into magazine pages. Others have a simpler house with more traditional decor. Regardless of how a house is decorated or a meal is presented, it’s not about the decorations or presentation! It’s about showing others that you care about them.

· Some of the best memories will be made.

As I look back to my seven years spent in Newfoundland, some of my most special memories were made with my extended “Newfoundland” family. They took me in and blessed me in a very special way.

I’ve been in Nova Scotia for the last four years, and I’ve been able to spend Christmas with my family and my husband’s family. I’m thankful to be close to family again, but every Christmas I dream of being able to go back to Newfoundland for one more Newfie Christmas.

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Jessica Hiltz is an elementary and music teacher living with husband Jonathan in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley. As a freelance author, she enjoys writing on a topic that has affected her life as a Christian woman and that has brought her closer to other women concerned with the same area: infertility. Having found that life is fulfilling in full-time Christian service, Jessica can most often be found enjoying the company of children, whether it be in the classroom, at the piano, or in children’s church.

5 Ways To Be a Blessing To Your Neighbour

 

Everyone is talking about “Random Acts of Kindness” this year, especially during this Christmas season.  I’m not sure I completely agree with the concept as it seems to include TELLING everybody what random acts of kindness you did that day.  However, I do agree that we can be doing more for others than we do now.   

In keeping with our “Make Me a Blessing” series from last month I decided to give us some practical ways to be a blessing to those around us in various aspects of our lives.  Today I’m going to give you some ideas of being a blessing to your neighbour (keep in mind that these ideas can be used for others, too, not just specifically your neighbour).

Make Me a Blessing

I had seen some posts from other bloggers of things they did during the Christmas season and I loved their ideas so much I wanted to share two of them with you.

1. Courtney from Women Living Well wrote:

Spread the love of Jesus while driving around looking at Christmas lights. Every year before we leave the house to go look at Christmas lights, I have the children color 5-10 pictures of baby Jesus. (click here for coloring pages to print) Then as we drive we search for homes that are displaying the nativity. Each time we find one we clap and cheer. Then we roll down the back window and allow the children to take turns putting their picture in the mail box. I write on each picture “Thank you for displaying the reason for the season.” We hope it blesses them as they have blessed us!

(click on the link above to read the whole post)

2. Ann Voskamp from A Holy Experience wrote:

Jesus is the Gift and we keep giving Him away, down the road and around the corner and the world —He is the best Christmas to give — because when we share Christ, we most have Him.

And on the backside of that little verse liner, we write a Christmas note to our neighbors and tape up the back of the little cookie envelope — and tuck The Greatest Gift cookie envelope in with a little love-something for the neighbors — a hot chocolate mix, a bag of coffee, a good book, a little candle, a loaf of bread.

(by clicking on the link you can read the whole post AND download the cookie envelope template that she used)

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I think these are some wonderful ideas for being a blessing to your neighbour.  Just think how fun it would be open your mailbox and see a coloured picture and a thank you note…or a little wrapped box of cookies.  I even like the idea that Ann had of adding a hot chocolate mix or a loaf of bread to it.  Something to make them feel special.

Here are a few more ideas:

3. Make a homemade ornament for your neighbour.  There are so many ideas on the internet now for homemade ornaments ranging from simple to hard, from costing nothing to some that are more expensive.  Do what works for you!

4. Go Christmas caroling.   I think this is becoming a lost art in our society.  It used to be a common event to have people come around your home singing carols.   Our youth group used to go every year.  We usually had specific homes that we went to, shut-ins in our church, etc.  I really enjoyed it and miss doing it.

5.  Do something “free” for them.   Brush off their car in the morning if it snowed the night before.  Offer to rake the leaves off their lawn for free.  Shovel their driveway.  Offer to babysit one night (if they have kids) so they can go out.   Mow their lawn (if you live where it doesn’t snow!).

There are so many ways we can be a blessing to our neighbours.  How can YOU show the love of Christ this Christmas AND in the months to come?

 Christ didn’t come here just for Christmas, He came for every season of the year!

What I Gained When I Lost The Panty Hose

Podcast episode remnants

Five years ago. The last time I wore panty hose, or heels, or a suit. Well, I guess the panty hose part is questionable since I was eight months pregnant. I left my HR career of 15 years to prepare for my son’s birth, and leave my familiar way of life.

I always wanted to have a family and be able to stay home with my kids. But life had taken some unexpected, painful turns and I wasn’t sure if I would ever realize that dream. Then at the age of 31, I married my wonderful husband, and at 34 I had my first son.

I finally received what I had always wanted, yet I struggled.

I loved my son beyond words, but I did not know where I fit into this new life. I had to make new friends. I had to figure out how to take care of a baby. I felt clueless. And the other moms around me seemed to be so much better at it than I was.

I turned inward, and I was afraid to share my struggles. I missed having the sense of purpose that the working world had brought to my life.

After a couple years had passed I tried to find some part-time employment opportunities, but every door was closed. I realized it was not the right timing. I poured myself into motherhood, and truly enjoyed outings with my son. I had some tough conversations with God, and I made some good friends. I started sharing my struggles with these women, and I found that a lot of them could relate. So we shared our lives, challenges, and triumphs together.

I began mentoring young moms at our local pregnancy center. My heart opened up to God, and I asked for help. I felt broken and humble, and out of control….and it was wonderful. I started feeling a sense of contribution, in a personal way.

When I had my second son, I had to step back from my volunteer activities. It was a tough process of letting go…again. But I knew I was entering a life-changing, wonderful experience in completing my family. I wanted to be present, and I wanted to take it all in.

God gives us passions, and He wires us to offer contributions this world needs. Yet there are times He asks us to let certain things go as we gain other things in life.

2 Peter 1:3 says that He calls us by His own glory and goodness. He has the ultimate, amazing dream for our lives….but it requires our willingness to surrender. Part of His goodness toward us is protecting us from the regret of missing out.

He has asked me to step back at various times in life so that I would not overlook what is quickly passing me by. The baby I quit work for is a 5 year-old boy who has a social calendar I can barely keep track of. And my 2 year-old keeps me running….literally!

Last week, after taking two years off, I began mentoring young moms again. I had a permanent smile on my face the entire time.

I gave something up, and was able to return to it later….with no regrets.

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” –Jim Elliott

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Kristin GordleyKristin writes about the things that inspire her to live a better story with the hopes of whispering wisdom to others along the way. She loves to encourage others through her blog, http://momentsinthestory.com/. You can also find Kristin on Twitter: https://twitter.com/KristinGordley or Facebook: www.facebook.com/kristingordleywriter

Innie or Outie–Which are You?

At 5 months I was done!  My body hurt, my emotions hurt, and life was just too hard, I. Was. Done!

Have you ever reached the place where you feel no one understands you?  No one feels your pain?  I have. And wallowed in it for far too long.

I had gotten pregnant with my second child and it was totally unplanned.  I had spent six months on birth control experiencing some random side effects and I thought there was no way I would conceive after being off it for one cycle.  I was just starting to feel normal again.  THIS was so not in my plans.  Oh, I wanted another child.  There was no doubt of that.  I love children, and babies especially.  But I was tired, tired before it even started.

The doctors all said I was barely pregnant but my body had been exhibiting signs for more than 8 weeks already.  I was so tired I couldn’t even hold a crochet hook to crochet.  I had a 16-month toddler to run after, I didn’t have time to feel this tired!

If only it had stayed there I may have counted my blessings.  But then the pain began.  Debilitating pain.  Unable to walk or move kind of pain.  And with it, emotional pain.

I think its our emotions that get us down the most.  Especially for us women.  Hormones play such a big part (I’m not going to blame them entirely) in how we think.  I read somewhere that pregnant women suffer depression more than we realize…and I can see the truth of that!

I felt that everyone was either laughing at me, or angry at me.  Laughing, because pregnancy is so wonderful, there’s no way pregnancy causes pain.  And angry, because I should be thankful that I’m able to even get pregnant.  “Just enjoy this time,” everyone said.  But I just could not see what there was to enjoy about it.  Every time the baby moved I thought that little foot was going to rip right through my stomach wall.  And I was depressed.  There were days I didn’t even want to get out of bed.  Days that I sat on the couch and cried my heart out while Little Man sat beside pointing at happy faces trying to get me to smile.  It was heart-breaking.  I know there were people who supported me, who tried to help me, but I just couldn’t see past my pain. My house suffered (ugh, I can’t tell you how long it has taken to get it clean again), my relationship with my husband suffered, and my time with Little Man suffered.  I was ready for it to be over and I was only 5 months pregnant!

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Then I stumbled onto a blog post from a girl I knew from college.  She described how she had suffered through a previous pregnancy and was scared about her current one being similar.  I suddenly realized I wasn’t the only one!  Other people had rough pregnancies (worse than what I was experiencing).  I mean, I knew people had bad pregnancies but it was usually associated with morning sickness – not what I was going through!

~ No one could understand what I was going through!~

But someone did understand!  More than one person, in fact.   And I realized I had totally lost my focus.  It’s so easy when we’re going through a trial to focus on ourselves.  The sad fact is that someone, somewhere is going through something worse than you are, experiencing a pain worse than you could ever experience.   I realized that even in my pain I could focus on someone else.  It was not an overnight change, let me tell you.  But little steps here and, yes, sometimes a shuffle there (not quite a step) helped me to bring my focus around to where it should be, on the Lord.

The reality of the verse, “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep” (Romans 12:15) was brought home to me.  Yes, there are many women (family, friends) who can’t have children.  Is their pain worse than what I’m experiencing?  (To my shame, some days the answer was no but it definitely was.)   People I knew went through the horrible pain of a  miscarriage during this time – was their pain worse? a thousand times yes!  I did have a lot to be thankful for!  Here I was moaning about the pain I was in and wanting someone to comfort me, when in reality if I had looked past myself I could have been a blessing to someone else during their trial.IMG_4505

It is so easy as a human being to get focused on ourselves (on the inward) when instead our focus should be outward.  If we look at the Lord’s example we can see how even when He was in the garden praying that the cup of death pass Him by (the only time we read that He prayed for Himself), He was still concerned about His disciples and those around Him (healing the centurion whose ear was cut off, etc.).

This month I want to encourage you to make yourself a blessing to someone else.  Especially if you are in the midst of a trial.  When it seems that no one cares for you, remember that the Lord cares.  When you’re busy being a blessing on someone else, focusing on the outward instead of the inward, you won’t be able to focus on your own pain.  Am I saying your pain isn’t real?  NO! I’m not saying that at. all.  Am I saying you won’t still have bad days?  Nope, they’re definitely going to come.  But you can lessen the impact they have on your life if you make a conscious decision to make yourself a blessing.  Find the joy in your life!

Will you join me this month in this challenge? Make Me a Blessing