** Well friends and family here it is, my story, that I had the privilege of sharing at a Woman’s event at church. It is written as I wanted to say it so please forgive the form. I was humbled and bless to have this opportunity. **

I have to tell you ladies that last month 2 terrifying things happened to me- 1st I turned 30 (I know I’m not a baby anymore) and 2nd I was given the opportunity to speak to you tonight. You see I was that girl in speech class who would somehow manage to turn a 12min speech into 1min15 seconds just to get back in my seat more quickly and get the attention off of me. My friend Meredith who’s here tonight can tell you, she had to painfully yet encouragingly sit through many of my speeches senior year of high school. Thanks for being here to cheer me on again and here’s hoping that great maturity of 30 helps me out tonight. In all seriousness I am humbled and grateful to share my story with all of you.

For those of you who don’t know me my husband and best friend Kevin is the elementary director here at Lifechurch and together we have the privilege of sharing Jesus with your kids each week and Love every second of it! We have 3 kids (well I really have 4 if you count Kevin, which let’s face it I often have to) – I did choose to marry a kids pastor after all. Ryan is 8 very smart and sensitive and growing with a great heart for God, Aidan is 4 and one of those kids you know God made cute for good reason he is as much of a challenge as he is a joy to us. And girl-girl (as Aidan likes to call her) will be 2 in December she is the most strong, beautiful, sassy girl I know.

Tonight I hope to encourage you with my journey. It is a faith journey that began with me growing up in a pastor’s home. We just happened to be one of those ministry families that moved a lot and I mean a lot! In fact I attended 5 different elementary schools alone. This resulted in not only new schools, but new churches, new homes new cities and the demand to constantly make new friends. It was not easy for me.

I never got to put down roots physically (to this day I do not have a good answer for the “where did you grow up question”) I also never put down roots spiritually. To the heartbreak of my family I put my faith in many harmful things and people and rejected the faith my parents had devoted their lives to.

It was around my junior year of high school after a particularly terrifying experience that my turn around happened. I had reached a point that I was finally scared by the way I was living and realized I did not like the person I had become. I knew I could not continue down this path. God changed me and I have never looked back or wanted any part of who I once was.

Shortly after I committed to that real relationship with the Lord I also acknowledged the call into a life of ministry. A calling that I always knew was there, even in the darkest times when I didn’t want to admit it.

The years that followed were filled with great memories, Bible college and learning more about the God I spent my childhood years avoiding, making lifelong friends and finally convincing Kevin Ganiere that I was not a foreign exchange student and it was OK to talk to me. – I know I am so exotic the foreign exchange student thing is a common mistake…

College Graduation came, we got married, moved across country to our first position in Salem OR and had our first child before our 1st anniversary. (For the record I don’t recommend that many BIG life changes at once)  in hindsight I would maybe slow it down a bit.

Unfortunately we faced a lot of heartache there in our first ministry position, which brought to the surface some of my fears regarding full time ministry, from the things I had seen growing up in it.  I wasn’t sure I wanted any part in it anymore. We moved back home to WI got jobs, lived in my sister’s basement, barely made it by and were completely miserable.

After a short time of feeling sorry for ourselves God kicked us in the butt, healed our hearts and gave us a desire to serve in ministry – not just to do it as a job. That heart of service is with us to this day and I am so grateful for it.

About 2 years ago we stepped out in what I was told would be the toughest faith walk we would experience. Knowing all I had been through already I was sure that would not be the case – Well it turns out I was wrong… However the things I had already gone through have built my faith for this part of the journey.

Adopting was something we had always had a burden for and after an extended period of prayer we knew the time had come and that going through the foster care system was the avenue for us to take. I was so excited to finally be walking out this dream that God had placed on our hearts. It was all I could think about, all I wanted to talk about, and yet something so dear to me that I wanted to keep it a our own secret and almost savor it. I did not know how to verbally do justice to what God was doing in our hearts.

About 17months ago we got the call that would change our lives and our family forever. There was a sweet 3mo old baby girl who needed someone to care for her and less than 2 hours later on a crazy Wednesday night she came home to us for the first time.  I remember holding that bald, beautiful, screaming baby in my arms for that very first time and telling her she was safe and Loved. There was an immediate bond there she became our girl-girl in a instant.

We had to wait much longer than expected for that call, it was about 7months from the time we were licensed to the time we received that call. I had naively thought God is in this with us so we will get a placement call the first week we are licensed as foster parents. When that didn’t happen it was hard to know we were waiting on child who needed to be rescued and not let our minds wonder thinking of the possible abuse and neglect she could be facing at that very moment. We did a lot of praying doing that time. That’s when it dawned on us that maybe the girl God has intended for us (and us for her) had not even been born yet. As it turns out she wasn’t – nothing like God’s timing!

We knew God had rescued this precious girl from the life she had and the life she would have and brought her to our family for a reason. A family that would not only Love and protect her, but most importantly raise her to know the Lord.

There have been many ups and downs over the past year and a half. The case that we were originally lead to believe would be cut and dry has been anything but. On more than one occasion we thought we were going to loose her. It has been in not only the downs but also in the ups that our faith has been tested. We’ve been joyful, we’ve been devastated. We’ve shared some of the best memories and cried over memories we thought we might not get to make with our girl-girl.  We have continued to pray in those times where it seems everything depends on it as well as in the good easygoing times knowing both are equally important to our faith. We have stood firm trusting that God’s timing is perfect, knowing that he has a great plan not only for our good but for her’s as well.

I would Love more than anything to stand here today and say that our sweet girl-girl is legally a forever part of our family.  She is undoubtedly forever in our hearts and forever a part of us, but legally we have no promises that she will stay. Even after living nearly her entire life as our daughter, as a sister to my boys and a granddaughter to our parents. The court could choose to move her elsewhere if or when they see fit. But we do not live in fear of this we trust in our God.

It can be so easy to be idealistic in faith and trust God only if things turn out your way. Please hear me when I say that at the end of all this if it doesn’t turn out how we’ve planned, how we’ve hoped and how we’ve prayed we will not loose our faith in God. Would we be heartbroken? Yes.  Would we mourn, absolutely but it would not cause us to question God. We know him! Faith is not just believing God will answer your prayers but also trusting him when your prayers are not answered as you had expected.

Oswald Chambers author of My Utmost for His Highest said it well. “ Faith is deliberate confidence in the character of God whose ways you may not understand at the time.

I may not understand why the journey has not been easy.  I do not always understand God’s ways but I have grown to understand his character. He is good, he is just, he is a faithful, all-powerful, all present, Loving savior!

I have learned to dig into God’s word to help me along my journey. I Love the faith chapter, chapter 11 of Hebrews, there is so much we can learn there. It says in verse 8-11  8 It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going. 9And even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith — for he was like a foreigner, living in a tent. And so did Isaac and Jacob, to whom God gave the same promise. 10Abraham did this because he was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God. 11 It was by faith that Sarah together with Abraham was able to have a child, even though they were too old and Sarah was barren. Abraham believed that God would keep his promise

I want to stand at the very end of my journey when I finally see my savior face to face having lived out a faith like Abraham.  Romans 5:20 also tells us Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise in fact his faith grew stronger and in this he brought glory to God.  – It wasn’t easy for Abraham to trust in God’s promise. He did not see the fulfillment of that promise as he expected, quickly or even entirely in his lifetime. He had to have faith that against all odds God would come through even when it meant trusting God with the life of his promised son.  We trust God with our girl-girl. We hope and pray and believe that she will grow old as a part of our family but we also know she is His first.

So I continue on this faith journey of my life where I have learned God’s character and seen far too much of his faithfulness to ever turn back now. I encourage you tonight, no matter what you are going through; (maybe you’ve been running from that real relationship with God. Maybe your heart has been broken watching your child abandon the faith you raised them in or maybe you are going through the toughest faith walk of your life) Know God, and trust his character He Loves you, He has a great plan for you and He will never leave you. He’s got this and all you have to do is have faith in him.