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Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Waters far Better


My family and I live in an area that has seven large lakes. One of them is in the town we live in. It even has a small camper’s beach for swimming. Yes, the beach is mostly covered in geese poop, but it’s sand and sun, and we love it, so we go there quite frequently in the summer. It’s also not the clearest lake. It clean, but it’s a lake so you can’t see what you’re stepping on and theirs lots of plant like substances floating around. While I’m swimming in the murky waters, I often start thinking about what’s around me and under foot. Then I start getting very jumpy. The second I feel a floating bout of weeds graze my hand, I sheik and usually jump on my husband’s back convinced that one of those crazy fresh water sharks have found their way to good ol’ Crab Orchard lake. 

Stay with me now, my analogy will eventually make sense, but first some background. Growing up I had lots of ideas of what my future would be like. What I will now describe as very specific delusions of grandeur. Yes, I would mask them behind a Christian-ese facade to make them more palpable, but let's get down to it. They were idols in my heart. Things that I wanted God to give me for no other reason than to glorify me. Then real life happened and there aren’t that many similarities between my life and those delusions. We have had seasons of very painful circumstances, loss, and heartache. This can be difficult to navigate in a world that tells you to “follow your dreams,” and “you can be anything.” However, for the Christian woman our heart beats with another cry. “It’s Jesus I follow, and I am His whatever my life may bring.” 

There is a quote by John Piper that has spoken volumes to me. 

@JohnPiper
Occasionally weep deeply over the life you hoped would be. Grieve the losses. Then wash your face. Trust God. And embrace the life you have.

Far too frequently these previous ideas have crept back into my mind reminding me of a life much different than my own. It’s on those days I can choose to fear the “what if’s” of life, panicking any time seaweed floats by me. Or I can, by God’s grace, enjoy the depth of God’s love for me that I get to swim in daily. I can fully embrace what God has given me, making the most of every opportunity, realizing I was sovereignly placed for a specific time in the place He has me. 

It’s on those ‘dark days of the soul’ that I must be reminded that my heart is unfit for following. 

Jeremiah 17:9 English Standard Version (ESV)

9 The heart is deceitful above all things,
    and desperately sick;
    who can understand it?

Apart from the Spirit, my heart will fall in line with Israel in the book of Hosea; going after lovers to give me bread, water, wool, and flax thinking those things are what I really want. I need God to come again and hedge a wall protecting me from myself. Reminding me that it’s Him, my heart’s first Love, who gives me grain, wine, silver, and gold. God continues to save me from myself; whispering to me His ways are best for me and He has better for me and that “better” for me isn’t silver and gold, but it’s Him! He offers me the best, Himself. 

What freedom there is for the Christian woman who knows God has made her, cares for her, and is sovereign over her. God knows the best for her heart. Why would He give her the soil in which an idol would flourish? He is too good of a Father for that. Instead, much better He gives. He gives us life with Himself, and a promise that He will never leave. Inviting us into waters fully satisfying, far better than we could have dreamed. Today, would you enjoy the all fulfilling waters of a life spent to the glory of God, or will we be so entangled in the idols of our heart that we miss the opportunity to swim.
Jordan Sparks 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

We're planting a church!

A Post from my amazing husband, Jared Sparks

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Ministry Wives- A Helper fit for Him.


I have asked of other ministry wives, “To what degree do you get involved in the hardships of your husband’s ministry?” I know that I have often felt the tug of the mamma bear inside of me to get the claws out when I feel that my husband is being wronged in some way. Although at times my response may be fleshly, I wonder if I indeed have some role in helping through these times. And to what extent is my helping appropriate? I feel that there are two approaches when it comes to the ministry wife’s response to difficult seasons of ministry. 

The don’t ask, don’t tell approach: This side of the coin says, “I cannot at this time shoulder the weight of, essentially, church drama. I don’t want to know, please shield me from the inner workings.” (This approach is self preservation at its core.) “If I know a church congregate has wronged my husband this week, I fear that I may act differently to this person as I greet them on Sunday morning.” Assuming that the ministry wife is not a staff member, she might feel like she shouldn’t have to deal with “church junk;” after all, she is not getting paid for this! 
The problems I see with this “stay out of it” suggestion are two-fold. First, it assumes a sinful reaction on the wife’s part. It assumes that when her husband’s woes are shared with her, she will not react biblically, but instead react out of an unrighteous anger. In reality, she should show a love and desire for sanctification for the member of her church. I can expect more from you, ministry wife. I can expect, and even implore you, be a woman of the Bible. Have a theology on sin, suffering, and sanctification. A win is more than a glossy pastor’s wife smile; a win is helping people become more like Jesus. I can hope that you would be able to identify areas of your brother and sister’s heart that Jesus may want to change and pray for them. 

The second part of this problem, and the part that most tugs at my heart strings, is for your husband. I have shed countless tears with my husband after difficult church meetings. Why do I do this? Why don’t I ask him to call friend in ministry? Although I do encourage him to seek counsel from godly men that we are blessed to have in our life, I want him to share these things with me because we are one flesh. I also desire this degree of intimacy with him because I love and care for him. I cannot ask the man God has given me to carry any burden on his own that God can help me to carry alongside him. No, pastor’s wife, you do not have the emotional strength or physical energy to bear this weight alone, but through God’s grace and the power of the Holy Spirit you can be a woman of steel that stands beside her husband, hearing his heart, being a safe place for him, giving godly biblical counsel, being angry but not sinning, praying, encouraging, and being the help that you are called to be as his wife. 

The second approach, a helper fit for you: Do you believe that God has created you as a helper fit for your husband? I believe that of you. Allow me to give an illustration. If your husband worked at McDonalds, being a helper fit for him might look like allowing him time to shower when he got home to be able to clean himself from the lovely grease fryer film that is McDonalds. Perhaps you would take his uniform, wash and have it ready for him the next day. Being mindful of his day, you would avoid cooking burgers and fries for dinner that night as he was surrounded by them all day. Asking about his day, you may allow him to tell you stories of people coming through the drive through with 116 pennies for their Diet Coke just to drop half of them as they handed them through the window. The next morning as he again left for work you may kiss him and thank him for again going to work over a hot fryer, dealing with hungry people, and providing for your family. But you, ministry wife, has God not equally equipped you to know how to help your husband through the hardships of ministry? Has he not left us with the Holy Spirit to comfort us as we comfort our husband? Has He not given us the gospel for our strength and endurance in ministry? May we not so bubble wrap ourselves that we are not helping our husbands in a way that is so needed by them. We don’t have to know every detail of church yuck to be able to be a shoulder for them. However, we do need to look to Jesus and His example of “help” for us. Never sheltering Himself from our depravity, He walked into our mess and said, “Let Me clean you up. Let Me take your yoke upon Me. Let me give you the promised Holy Spirit for equipment and comfort through your hardship. Let Me stand vigilant and steadfast through your storm, never shaking, never leaving, always faithful.” And if the tables were switched, what if after a long hard day mothering my son, I couldn’t wait to share with my husband what had happened, only to have him respond, “Jordan, I really don’t want to know about this. I may get mad at him and respond sinfully so please just don’t tell me. This mom stuff is your job.” We would all agree of the unfairness of this response. I trust that my husband will react in a godly manner, and even if he doesn’t, I trust that God will help him, and sanctify him to next time respond in a godly manner. Ministry wife, I beg of you, rise up and be a strong biblical woman of steel. One that can comfort her husband with her presence, the truth of the Bible, and with her words of prayer. Lastly, I would like to encourage you with this; you are a follower of Jesus and a church member, so live to the glory of God!  It seems that the pendulum has swung from the pastor’s wife who is the point woman of every church ministry, plays the piano on Sunday morning while holding her children, and simultaneously balances the communion tray on her head, to now a woman who throws up her shield when asked any question dealing with the church. 

“Ma’am, can you point me to the bathrooms?”

“You’ll need to call the church secretary for that. I do not work here! 

I say this in jest. Honestly, trust me, I have been there. In the exhaustion and desire to hold on to every last second of possible family time, I have frequently held too tightly to my own comfort. My tired and thirsty sister, Jesus has strength for you. And not only strength, but so much stinking Joy! Loosen your grip on what you think is sustaining you and allow Him to drench you in living water.   I love this paragraph from Nancy Leigh Demoss:


“Dear child of God, your heavenly Father will never lead you anywhere that His grace will not sustain you. He will never lay more upon you than He will give you grace to bear. When the path before you seems hopelessly long, take heart. Lift up your eyes. Look ahead to the day when all suffering will be over. And remember that when you stand before Him, all the tears and sorrows of a lifetime will seem dim in comparison with the beauty and glory of His face. Without a doubt, you will say, “His grace has brought me safely home.” 


Christ is not only our example but also our Savior, friend. His grace is sufficient for us, working all things together to the counsel of his will. Thank you Lord. 

xoxo, 
Jordan. 

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Woman, Wife, & Mother- Do not be afraid of what the bible says to you.




This morning as I was cleaning my house, as is my typical Saturday morning routine, I was reminded of an Instagram post that my dear friend posted the day before.


“Day to day tasks can be a bore• I'd be lying if I said I always enjoyed cleaning my sink• But things like this have to be done• So, I'm trying to find enjoyment in the little things• Besides, I'll be cleaning a sink for the rest of my life• I can hate it or try to enjoy it•”

Just a simple statement, yet such a profound notion, to be content with what is set before us. Let it being cleaning a sink, or digging a ditch, is it possible that we can be satisfied with what we have been given? I feel that so often women’s focused studies talk to women with kid gloves. “Don’t offend the working mom. Don’t offend the stay at home mom.” Can I be frank for a moment?

Mom, don’t be afraid to stay at home with your kids. Your career will never give you the fulfillment and identity that the whispering lie tells you it will. The feminist in all of us is yelling at me right now. However, if you are a wife and mother, that is your first calling. That next exciting thing to happen, that next thing to look forward to, it will come and go and give you the momentary high of importance just to again throw you to a pit of self despair. Never will a self-focused life give us anything other than disappointment.  One of my favorite podcast pastors Matt Chandler once said, “Want to live a miserable life, make it be about you.” However, this doesn’t mean the stay at home mom is fulfilled apart from the grace of Christ either. The only truly satisfying existence for man or woman is one that has their identity hid behind the cross of Christ.


Some of my saddest days have been those spent thinking on my value. We don’t need to hear that we are “princesses,” or be reminded of how valuable we are. The truth is, apart from Christ we are dirty rotten sinners, and it is a good reminder for my heart to hear that. I need Jesus, desperately and fully. I am not a pretty girl that God thought was worth saving. I deserved hell, and fail daily to love God, as he ought to be loved, but thank you Jesus that God doesn’t see my failure and inability and cast me from him. Because Christ not only died for my sin, he lived perfectly in my place, and I am hid in the righteousness of Christ. When God looks upon me he sees Christ’s perfection. This is the freedom that every woman needs. This is the reminder we need as we help, care for, and submit to our husbands. This is the fulfillment for us as we care for our children, may they be clingy, needy, and agents of our sanctification as they pull every last ounce of selfishness from us as we continually care for needs. This is the good news for us as we serve and love others. As Christians, our life is no longer about us. We now live for the greater good; the glory and praise of our Father. We can serve others, not out of our need for self-approval but knowing that we are eternally approved of by God. Out of that thankful heart we can live a joyous life being called to what he has called us to. Putting our family and home first. For freedom Christ has set us free. Sister, you are free from trying to make a name for yourself, you are free from trying to have an amazing beach bod, and you are free from seeking the approval of society. Be who God has called you to be. Don’t be afraid of what the bible says to you.
In a mission of biblical feminity, can we start to love what the bible calls us to? That will look different for each family, may it be a stay at home mom, or the mom who is able to work a job that still allows her to be “homeward focused,” let us have lives that are so wrapped in the grace of Christ that we love support, and push each other toward obedience to Jesus, and a life fully fulfilled and satisfied in following him. #cleansinkshappyhearts

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Creating your own home decor


The word eclectic could be used to describe our home. No, none of our belongings contain a lot of value or offer us prestige, but they do give us memories and stories of the times we found them on the side of the road, or the hours we spent making them into things that we found beauty in. Those, to me at least, are the most priceless items that I can own. Today, I'll show you a little project that I did over the weekend that will perhaps inspire you to create something meaningfully aesthetic for your home. 

                                           
This picture origianally caught my eye because of the ornate frame. I picked it up for $1 at a local thrift store and it sat in my back room closet until I came up with an idea for it. 
                                           
I first painted the frame with a metallic gold craft paint. Then decided I would block out everything except a heart shaped portion of the flowers. You could do this with any random picture you find. If it has a certain area of interest, leave that portion and color block out the rest. I did mine with chalk board paint so I could later use it for a message board if I chose to. 

                                    
Here is how it turned out. I love the result and it was a cheap way to fill that spot that always needed somthing on my wall. What are some other shapes that you could do the color blocking with? Arrows? Triangles? Stripes? 

xoxo, 
Jordan

Friday, January 30, 2015

Valentine Gift for Him!

If you're anything like me, sometimes Valentine's Day is a little tricky. It tends to be a holiday that lends itself more toward women. I mean all the pink and hearts and such…However, I want to show my man that he is loved and appreciated on that day as well! Just incase you were looking for the perfect gift for your manly man this February 14th, I thought I'd put your mind to rest right now and give ya the heads up. My main man is selling his handmade leather wallets.
They are all real leather. You can have them customized with words or numbers. Get your anniversary, children's birthdate, your last name, a sweet little nicknack you have just for him ;) Anything!
Oh and did I mention that every wallet comes with a metal credit card shaped bottle opener? Yeah, I think this is a gift that any dude would be pretty excited about…Slip a little picture of you in the back and you've done pretty good this Valentine's day! 

Wallets are $25 + $3 for shipping
For orders send your info to orders@lilywhitedesigns.net. I'll send you a paypal request and we will get your wallet shipped out to you! 



xoxo, 
Jordan

Monday, January 5, 2015

Ministry Wives- A Note from Katie Hastie

Since becoming a wife of a pastor in 2010, I don't know the number of times I have heard, "being a pastor's wife can be such a lonely position." At times this has been true in my life, but for the majority of the time that God has placed here I have been surrounded my godly, honest women that have not been afraid to share their lives with me. I am so incredibly thankful for this. So in an effort to further a sense of community for those who may feel a lack of it, I have been asking some of these amazing ministry wives to guest post on my blog. They share their stories, their highs and lows, wins and losses, sorrow and rejoicing. They are brave. They are awesome, and I am happy that I get the opportunity to know these people. Today my good friend Katie is sharing her story of finding THE joy of Christ in the valley. We have a Savior that is aquatinted with sorrow. That sympathizes with our grief, and pulls us from our muck to an everlasting joy. Thank you Jesus! 
xoxo, 
Jordan. 



Living in the Valley, by Katie Hastie

            I want to talk about that thing…you know the one that (as ministry wives) we are not supposed to talk about it. BEING IN THE VALLEY!! I know that looks different in everyone’s life. I know that my crazy looks different than someone else’s crazy! And it’s true sometimes it makes us feel crazy! It could be anxiety, not feeling like you are enough for anyone, fear, depression; loss of loved ones, illness and the list goes on and on. It’s that thing that makes you sick to your stomach, the thing that keeps you up at night, and if you talk to just anyone about it, they might look at you like you should have it all together, because you’re a minister’s wife. Then they might question your faith or your husband’s leadership and position in the church, so you sit quietly struggling everyday by yourself wondering if you will get better on your own.
Well, I’m going to share with you about my thing! This is scary and makes me have butterflies in my stomach because it’s taboo and makes me vulnerable to anyone who reads it, but here we go. Mine is that what if… What if we (my family) are not enough for our ministry? What if they decided they (elders, parents, so on) don’t like something, I said the wrong thing and got my husband in trouble? What if I’m not making a difference in anyone’s life? What if my kids act out and it looks bad on my husband as a father? What if they can no longer afford us? What if they don’t like me? What if I’m not enough for anyone? The “what ifs” could go on for DAYS!!! And sometimes they did and do. It was the thing that kept me from getting good sleep, the thing that made me nervous during the day.
I was talking to two very dear friends of mine confessing my fears. And you’ll never believe what my dear friend said to me...”You are letting the elders in your church become idols...” My first reaction was you’re kidding me right now? How could you say that to me? I grew up in the church, I went to Bible College. I know better than to have idols (of course this reaction was all in my head). My second reaction was OH MY GOODNESS she’s right!!!! So what now? I’m an idolater. How can I help lead in the youth group when my heart is full of this sin. And being led by fear?
I had to decide to give God my sin, my fear, my worry, and my stress. And guess what? I received the gift of peace. Do you know amazing that gift is? I don't think I have had true peace since I was a child. How sad is that? I had been letting fear rule in my life and didn’t even realize it! How did that happen?  It’s simple Satan gives us one doubt and we let it sink in and then we start thinking about the next thing that could go wrong and the next. It’s a slippery slope my friends. But when I let it go and gave everything back to God, there was peace. You know the kind that passes understanding! And boy was I going to need it! What happened next was going to stretch my faith and peace beyond what I was ready for. I was working a week of camp when my husband came up for a visit. It was the first night and I had a whole week to go and I was surprised to see him because he had just left the camp that afternoon. As soon as I saw him I knew something was wrong. So I asked how was church tonight? He said ok but we need to talk.( I don't know about you but I hate the phrase we need to talk. It never goes anywhere good!) He said well, I no longer work for the church! What? (I won’t go into all the details because really they’re not important other than to say that he did not do anything wrong.)  
Now I’m a girl who needs a plan! Like a real plan! I plan for where we will be at Christmas in July. I’m also a girl who has serious anxiety. Like sit at the bottom of the bathtub with the shower running crying anxiety. So I did what any girl in duress does, I cried and was heartbroken and then there was this thing that happened in the middle of my heartbreak... “I had a peace that passed all understanding! Does that mean I stopped crying? NO! But I do mean that I knew (even in my heartbreak) that I was not alone. That God would take care of us. Then I talked to another friend who said... I know that we are all shocked by this decisions but remember that this is not a surprise to God! He knew this would happen and he knows what will happen next.” How did I get such great friends that point me back to God?
So I worked my week of camp. I cried when I needed to (not in front of campers or anything) and accepted lots of hugs, encouraging words, and prayers! But what I remember about that time is that I never needed to sit in the bottom of the shower crying. I did not have a panic attack. I had peace in the midst of my heartbreak. There is something crazy about knowing that your world is falling apart, and being hurt so deeply and still being ok! It can only be a God thing!
Jeremiah 29:11 says" For I know the plans I have for you says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future… And that's what He did. The next week I got a phone call asking me to apply to a church as the secretary. I have not worked in 12 years other than as a stay at home mom. But I got the job and guess what? It allows me to be at home before and after school so I’m not missing out on my kids’ lives. Then God provided a second car so I could get to work. And it was free!!! My husband has been able to supply preach every 2nd or 3rd Sunday and He also has a part time Job (does he love it? No but we are grateful for it). But even before his job all our bills have been paid one way or another. Even the extra things like costumes for our 4 kids and school pictures. Are we still looking for ministries? Yes, But God provides all things in His time.
This part is really important so I hope you really think about this.... Not every trial is over in a flash and some hurt us so deeply we wonder if we will be able to forgive those who say or do things we never thought they would. So when you might be thinking everything turned out great for me, I want you to know there are still days when the hurt hits me and I need a hug or to cry. I want you to remember that yes sometimes God DOES give us MORE than WE can HANDLE (this has definitely been more than my family could handle on its own) but HE NEVER GIVES US MORE THAN HE CAN HANDLE! You have to live in the valley for a season so that you can truly enjoy the mountain top. But while you’re in the valley you are never alone. NEVER! I know it feels dark and like no one will ever understand but in your weakness God is strong and he will use this valley to make something so beautiful you can’t even imagine it! It will grow your faith. It will show you God in a new light! It will help you see other people in a new light! Sometimes the valley is not just about you. Sometimes you are in the valley because God is teaching you a valuable lesson.
Sometimes you are there so that down the road you can give someone hope for the future. But no matter why you are in the valley remember that your pain is never wasted God makes everything work together for good for those who love him!
The greatest gift I received in the valley was JOY! I know I sound crazy right?  But joy is not about an emotion it is about a choice! It is about praising God in the good and in the bad times. Knowing that He keeps His promises and never leaves us! I know right now you are exhausted, and you are weary but James 1:2-4 says "Consider it pure joy whenever you face trials because the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance do its works so that you will be mature and complete not lacking anything…. I pray that you hold strong in your valley so that you can truly enjoy your mountain top.

Thank you Jordan for allowing me to share! And Thank you for taking the time to read my story! I will be praying all of you as you have your own story to live!

Sincerely

Katie Hastie


View other posts from the series, Ministry Wives

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