2.13.2013

Julie Ferguson: My Beloved, Bride, and Blessing



Julie, my beloved wife, how can I even begin to describe how grateful I am that the Lord gave us one another to navigate this life together? Further, how can I begin to tell you how much I have needed you in this journey called ministry? I cannot help but think of how the Creator God “made [Adam] a helper fit for him” (Genesis 2:18b). This is exactly what the Lord did when He hand-crafted you, preparing you not only for His love and for His purposes, but also to be a helper to me as He works His loving will in me and in our family. 

I know you generally do not like the spotlight, but I could not pass up the opportunity to brag on you. About a week ago, I saw a blog post by Christine Hoover, called “We’re In This Together.” In it, she had this to say: “On Valentine’s Day, I will be posting love letters from pastors, church planters, and regular ol’ husbands to their wives, in which they express how vital their wives are to their lives and ministries.”

Thus began “Operation: Write an Epic Love Letter to My Indescribably Wonderful Wife.”

Seriously, the heart behind it was this. I read at the end of the Proverbs that the natural response to the life of a godly woman is to: “Give her the product of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates” (Proverbs 31:31). Her life is so rich in beautiful labor that news of it reached the city gates, a central hub of life and social and commercial traffic. Everyone knew about her. I am even (hopefully) inclined to think that the husband helped this process along, considering he would have spent a considerable amount of time there (Boaz in Ruth 4:1ff). I hope to do the same.

Since I lack the creativity to think in any other way than sequentially, I will attempt this by writing through each “season” we have experienced. By the grace of God, may the following words express to you how truly vital you are to the life of our family and ministry together:

For starters, I didn’t know what to expect when we got married. All I knew is that, though first-and-foremost made for God, you and I were also made for each other. I just had no idea how true this was. But, it wouldn’t take long to find out.

In Colorado, the Lord led us to a difficult context. Not only were my jobs incredibly taxing on me, so was the endeavor to teach college students. The Bible study times were difficult and often discouraging. No matter what, you were there to provide encouragement and remind me that the Lord was indeed at work. It was in this work that I also got to see you minster to other women (up close) for the first time. It was beautiful to see how much the Lord’s love poured out of you and into those students. In another realm, you were there to point me to the fact that the Lord would provide for all of our needs, despite our financial struggles, and that we had no need to fear. You helped me to remain committed to giving Him our first fruits in all things. When the Lord surprised us by calling us to pursue overseas ministry, you were ready to put your “yes” on the table. And, when Benjamin was born, I got to see the beautiful bloom of your passion to be a wife and mother.

In Texas, with our acceptance and transition into overseas service pending, your patient endurance was a testimony of trust in the Lord. I know that you enjoyed the season and all of the relational connections we made, but it was also very clear that it was a difficult time for you personally. You cried a lot. Nevertheless, in the time of silence, I watched you exhibit the courage to wait. I am often not a patient man, and this challenged me in so many ways. You allowed yourself to be stretched and disciplined by Him. You allowed the Lord to teach you that we are not truly “at home” in this life, but we are always seeking a better country. Little did we know, the sojourn was only just beginning.

In Virginia, our time was short. We were in transition. We were in training. We were also led into a valley of grief. We met and said goodbye to Jonathan that September. Together, we saw the Lord reach into the deepest places of a broken heart, and give healing. As we cried together, we knew that everything would be okay. The Lord was with us. We didn’t understand it, but we knew He wasn’t out-of-control. I saw a resolve grow in you during that short season. No matter what, Christ would be your Bedrock. That resolve would be deeply tested.

In Central Asia, you walked into a world where women are seen as second-class citizens. They are property. And, their value and significance is dependent entirely on their ability to perform, namely domestically and in child-bearing. This performance-based significance went against everything that Christ did in your heart to lead you out of past oppression. Ever since your adoption into God’s family, your heart has broken for women who did not understand their value and significance as: (1) creations in-the-image-of-God and (2) those for whom Christ died. This season would test that more than ever before. You struggled with the spiritual heaviness of these lands. You struggled to see women try and be “invisible,” as culture expected them to be. In the face of all of this, I saw God’s grace flow through you. As I would tell your dad a couple of years later, “To this day, I am grieved that y'all never got to see Central Asia with your own eyes. I wish you could have seen how much the women loved Julie. Some told her that she had a ‘glow’ to her. Suffice it to say, Jesus shined like the sun through her. It was beautiful.” God used you that year to be a light to women. And, this is to say nothing of your growth in hospitality, language learning, and so much more. This time overseas began to draw to a close when Abigail was born. Though it was certainly there before, it was then that I really began to see how far a wife and mother would go to love and serve her family. I know it was not easy to balance a new member of the family, while also processing the unique elements and needs involved with Abigail’s medical condition. That whole year, you were pushed to the limits.

Back in Texas, life seemed to slow down substantially. It seemed to revolve around the seminary and the hospital. That’s about it. However, it would get complicated as reverse culture-shock would set in. We both dealt with it pretty handily, especially as we were looking for a church to covenant with. To add, we continued to deal with being never-ending sojourners. [At this point, the count was: 13 cities, 3 states, and 3 countries in 4 years.] This also began a long season of personal struggle for me. Though my identity is in Christ, I began to see that I had lost a bit of my “vocational identity.” After all, the very thing we thought we were called to for the remainder of our lives was no longer an option. Being in school helped, because I certainly felt like I was preparing for the next step, but the struggle was definitely there. This began what I consider to be one of the longest and most significant ministries you have had towards me since we have been married. You encouraged me in my studies, waited patiently as I tried to maintain a healthy and God-honoring balance, and continued to hope that the Lord would show us what was next. I wasn’t so hopeful. By this point, you were no stranger to my apparently chronic faint-heartedness. Yet, you didn’t get frustrated and give up. To this day, I cannot recall a moment when you became frustrated and said, “You know what, Keith. This is getting old. Can you please snap out of it?” For years now, you have proved to be a very patient woman. And, praise God for it. The next season would require it more than any before.

Which bring us to Kansas, our newest home. It is the longest place we have ever lived. It is the longest I have ever been in one role. It is the place where we bought our first home. We welcomed our little fireball, Lillian, into the world here. [Also, now expecting our next little boy, of course.] We have been navigating the enormously odd and frustrating—though entirely rewarding—world of Western church and youth-ministry. Yeah, this is when your ministry to me as a wife would kick into a gear that can only be explained by the indelible grace and mercy of God. But, before I brag on that, one of the things that I have enjoyed most in this season is how you have embraced personal commitment in your personal devotion with the Lord. I have enjoyed watching you grow in your love for the Word of God over the past 2+ years. Now, back to my issues. I have been to some pretty dark places personally in this season, and have taken heaping amounts of encouragement from the simple fact that you have been there for me and have “believed in me,” so-to-speak; that is, the grace of God working in me. For someone who claims to hold that God is sovereign, I have been tossed and turned by the winds of my circumstances and doubt and anger towards Him. But, you have faithfully prayed for me, encouraged me, challenged me, exhorted me, and more. Needless to say, in this season, one of the things I am most grateful for is how much the friendship component of our marriage has grown. You have been a living-and-breathing example of the fact that God is my “faithful friend.” You have affirmed areas of growth in my life, when I find it hard to cease my self-depreciating ways. This has turned my heart to be mindful that the Lord is indeed at work and to thank Him for it. I have enjoyed holding your hand as we daydream and pray together about the vision the Lord has for our family. I have been blessed as you have shown patience and given me room to grow as a spiritual leader and head of our home. On and on and on it goes.  

Did I mention, yet, that I am thankful to God for you?

It is no wonder that news of the Proverbs 31 woman reaches the gate. It cannot be contained even in her own home: “Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all’” (Proverbs 31:28-29).  

I cannot say it any better myself, Julie. Though many women have truly done excellently, in my eyes, you far-and-away surpass them all. I love you. I am blessed by you. And—to the eternally gracious Creator, gift-Giver, and King—I am grateful for you. Jesus is the unquestionable first love of my life, seeing as He first loved me and gave Himself up for me. However, He has graciously given me an every-day reminder of that love in you.

Now… may news of you reach the gates.



12.01.2010

Advent

This is a tradition that has been four years in the making, so we are excited to see it finally come to fruition!

Before we were married, Keith and I read a book called "Treasuring God in Your Traditions" and it really made us stop and think about how we wanted to celebrate or if we wanted to celebrate certain holidays. The premise of the book is that every family will have traditions, and our goal as parents is to find, create, and/or maintain God-centered and God-honoring traditions. On the flip side, the goal is to ditch the ones that are not so.Christmas was one of the holidays that we knew we wanted to celebrate but we weren't entirely sure how. So, through much prayer and discussion, this is how we decided to celebrate Advent!

Since this time of year is a focus on the anticipation of the coming Christ, we decided that every day during Advent we would read a scripture that speaks of anticipating the coming Messiah. Along with this, we have decided that our Christmas tree would be a picture representation of the same thing. Instead of traditional decorations, we decided to use Isaiah 1:18 as our theme. Every year we decorate our tree with red ribbon and make snowflakes (complete with cookie decorating and hot chocolate!) to decorate our tree to represent that "Though your sins are as scarlet they will be white as snow." We put 25 snowflakes to coincide with the 25 days of advent.

Every day, starting December 1 and ending December 25, we read a scripture and sing a hymn or Christmas song. After this, we take off one of the snowflakes and put on an ornament that is a pictorial representation of the scripture we just read. We hope that by doing this our children will recall the scriptures and promises of the coming Messiah every time they look at the tree! This is the first year we have been able to get ornaments and set up a tree so we are excited to see how this works.

Here are some pictures of us setting up and decorating our tree in preparation of Advent:











During this time as we remember the amazing love that God demonstrated to us in giving us Himself, may He be our focus in all that we do. Amen.

There You Have It

Well ladies and gentlemen, apparently Abigail has been closely watching as we use our utensils to eat and has decided that she wanted to try. I thought, "Why not?" What follows is her incredible expertise using a spoon. I was amazed.


video

Mommy, I Drew A Bunny!

As I was in the kitchen the other day, Benjamin comes running in and says, "Mommy I drew a bunny!) I go to see and find a beautiful drawing of a bunny I just had to share. Enjoy!


Up Close




We had an up close and personal look at a gorilla at the Sedgewick County Zoo here in Wichita! We had so much fun as a family and enjoyed a picnic as well as the amazing zoo. I am sure there will be more pics to come as we continue to go to the zoo! Though we do miss feeding the birds... Here are a few more recent pics of the kids at the Fort Worth Zoo feeding the birds:




Standing Up



With Abigail's new braces she has been able to stand up "by herself" for the first time! She loves it and we love seeing her build strength and confidence in this area of development. She is so determined and we can't wait to see her take those first steps.

Well, That's Embarrassing!

It has been over six months since I have posted. Yikes.

Well, quick update on life since it would take forever to get up to date:

  • We are now living in Wichita, KS where Keith has a job as Student Pastor at Olivet Baptist Church. We are hoping to move into a house at the end of December (we are currently renting an apartment.
  • Keith is finishing up this semester as we speak! I am so proud of how hard he has been and continues to work and still makes so much time for us.
  • Excited about this advent season! I will hopefully have daily updates on our celebration and anticipation of the coming and birth of Christ.
  • We found out yesterday that we will be welcoming a baby GIRL this April! Well, at least 80% sure (the guarantee our doctor gave us). Not 100% but we will just have to wait and see!
That's all for now. Adding pics soon!