Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: As a mom of children with some special needs, Melissa Jarvis has learned to redefine success.

Melissa Jarvis: Sometimes that’s really hard because I want it to be perfect. I want them to be great students and go to college and make money so they can honor God. And I just pray that I let that go. That’s an area where I’m surrendering the outcome of what success can be for them.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Surrender: The Heart God Controls, for Wednesday, May 17, 2017.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: This week we’ve been hearing from Dan Jarvis. He’s on staff with Life Action Ministries, the parent organization to Revive Our Hearts. He’s also a pastor in our area.

This week we’re listening to a message he preached recently on "Faith Frontiers." So far we’ve heard three challenges that can keep us from moving forward in faith. Those were:

  • Risk: We think the journey’s too risky.
  • Resources: We don’t think we have the resources we need to step out in faith.
  • Relocation: Sometimes acting in faith requires us to make a move.

Well, today we’ll hear the next challenge, and then Dan and his wife Melissa will join us and tell us what walking in faith has looked like for their family.

Dan Jarvis: The fourth challenge, and one that I think every one of us probably has struggled with a time or two whenever we’re trying to do anything of importance, is the challenge of resolve.

You could walk out of here and you could be really excited about living by faith. Right? You say, “Wow, I’m ready! I want to say ‘yes’ to God, and I want to go do the right thing.” So you charge out of here, and you’re excited, but somewhere in the middle of this week, there’s going to be something that punctures your balloon, and you just deflate. All of a sudden you’re feeling hopeless and defeated.

I only know this about you because this is how it works for me. Even when things are going well, that still happens to me for some reason. Sometimes I’ll feel like I want to give up on everything. And I’ll just think, Now, wait a minute. Nothing’s even wrong today, and I still feel that way. What’s wrong with me?

That’s just how humans work. We have to stay steeled in our resolve. And to me as a Christian, that means holding tightly to my faith. It means that when I do feel discouraged, whether it’s legit or not, that I’m holding on and saying, “Lord, I’m not in this because I’m good at it or because I know all the answers. I’m in this for You, Lord.”

Whenever we take a step of faith for Christ, that’s how we have to operate. So we have this strong resolve in our heart that no matter what happens, we’re still following Christ.

The apostle Paul, when we read all those things that went wrong with him, it’s not like that all happened in one day. I mean, all throughout his life this was happening. They beat him up. They almost kill him. They throw him out of the city. And he says, “Well, I should probably take a year off to recooperate.” No! He gets up, and he goes back to that city. He had resolved to keep living by faith even when things were really difficult. That’s the way you and I can live if we start walking that way.

Crossing a faith frontier won’t feel safe or convenient, and just before you arrive, you will be tempted to turn back. I think that goes with the story. 

Christopher Columbus, coming across the ocean blue with his three ships after a few weeks of sailing, some of the crew wanted to turn around and go back. If he would have listened to them, they would have missed the opportunity to discover the new world.

When you’re moving into unsettled territory, when you’re doing things that have never been done before, there will be plenty of temptation to go back. There will be plenty of temptation to say, “Oh, I’m crazy. Why don’t I just do this the safer way, the easier way, the more traditional way, the way everyone else has always done it?”

Well, you could do that, but you won’t get to see what God has in store. You won’t be living a life of faith at that point.

Paul said in Philippians, “I’m focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past, looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize” (Phil. 3:13–14 paraphrased).

So you think you’re running this race of life, and some of you say, “I’m almost there. I’m almost at the finish line. This is exciting.” You look to your right or left. Maybe there’s reason to be discouraged. Maybe you trip. Maybe you slow down. Don’t stop. Keep pushing forward to the prize. Forget what lies behind and stay on track. That’s living by faith.

He said, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time, we’ll reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Gal. 6:9 NIV).

Nancy: Well, Dan, I’m so thankful that you brought up this point because it’s something that every human being, every child of God—all of us—have to deal with perpetually.

We can get excited, jazzed up about this walk of faith, and we’re going to step out, and we’re going to cross new faith frontiers, but there are walls. There are challenges, whether you’re Nehemiah, building a wall and you’ve got these enemies opposing and trying to confound your plans, or as you’ve been involved in building or pastoring a church.

We have faced many of these areas in Revive Our Hearts ministry over the past seventeen years, where we have needed resolve to keep pressing on when it was really difficult. I’ll be sharing more about some of those challenges we have faced as a ministry at the end of this week.

I think one of the areas of frustration and difficulty that many of our listeners deal with, where they need daily resolve, has to do with the area of parenting. You and Melissa, as we have shared in the last couple of days, have fostered and then adopted six special-needs children with lots of baggage.

As we were talking just before this program, we were laughing, and we said, “Every child has special needs. Every child is a sinner. Every child requires resolve on the part of a parent.” But you guys have faced a lot of that. I’d like to hear you just share out of that journey how the Lord has helped you to develop the resolve you need to keep pressing on.

Dan: Yes. Well, that’s a big question. There are a lot of stories behind that one. I would say that that’s been the most difficult part of our journey together. A lot of the more ministry-related moves that we’ve made or choices we’ve made have, we’ve seen those come to resolve. And sometimes, even when those don’t work out, it doesn’t emotionally wreck you.

But when it’s inside your own household, in your own family, and things aren’t going the way that you want, or you face setbacks, it is tempting to give up. I would say even on a daily basis, whether it’s one child or the other, or some new situation that presents to us, there’s times when we want to give up, of course.

Melissa: I think sometimes, too, it’s just because it’s some area that we can’t control because we can’t control their behavior. We can control our response to them, but we can’t actually control what they’re doing.

Dan: Yes. Absolutely.

Nancy: Your children have faced physical challenges—still are. Your children are still young, so there’s been physical challenges. I know you shared last week in church, Dan, that one of your children came out of a background of being severely abused and came into your family with some major baggage in his story.

You guys have helped to unravel the emotional needs, the spiritual needs of these children. And I can’t imagine that there’s any day where it’s easy.

Dan: Well, when we started foster parenting, we had a lot of kids come in and then go out of our home. I don’t know how many it’s been—maybe forty kids in and out.

Nancy: And that has to have required resolve.

Dan: Yes. However, there’s a little difference. The ones that would go back, even though in the moment it was very difficult, you always had a long-term plan that would say, “Okay, I don’t have to live with this scenario forever. I’m just helping them along. We’re going to pour as much love into them as we can for some number of weeks or months, and then they’ll move on to, hopefully, back to their biological family.”

Nancy: Although sometimes you’ve had to release them back into really painful situations.

Dan: Yes, of course.

Nancy: So that hurts.

Dan: Most of the time it’s been that way.

Melissa: Sure.

Dan: But even in facing it, I’d say the emotions are a little different because you have an end point. But as we’ve adopted some kids and have been walking through some struggles with a few of them and recognizing, “There’s no way out of this one.” I know any parent would feel that on a hard day, and you just kind of have to realize, “I can’t give up.”

We’ve already resolved this issue. We know they’re a part of our family forever. So that means we have to keep plowing forward and doing the right thing day after day—even if sometimes it feels like we’re not making any forward progress.

Melissa says this often: “I get to escape and go to work.” She doesn’t always get that benefit. She might be able to testify a little bit to just sort of the day-in/day-out struggles. I know a lot of parents are feeling, whether they’re adoptive parents or however your kids came to you, that there are days when you do want to give up.

Nancy: Give up or give away your children. Right?

Dan: Yes, sure. We do offer that sometimes. We have kids to share.

Nancy: Not an option.

Dan: But for both of us, that part of our lives has tested our resolve. Because we made these faith steps to say “yes” to all these kids, now we have to live with those decisions and made the most of those decisions even though it doesn’t always work out—you know, sunshine and roses, happiness and everything. There are definitely some darker days.

Melissa: Yes. I would actually say that sometimes, for me, it’s just the hourly decision to do the right thing. It’s not just daily. Sometimes it is an hourly decision.

I can wake up in the morning resolved that today I’m going to be the best mommy I can be to the children that God has placed in our home. And sometimes that’s tested within the first hour. I’m just thinking, Oh, no. It’s going to be a terrible day.

I can let the rest of my day be ruined by that thought, or I can just say, “I’m going to do the right thing for this hour.” Then the next hour comes along, and I do the right thing for that hour. Then by the end of the day, sometimes I think, Oh, yes! We made it through the day, and I didn’t quit, and they still love me, and I still love them.

Nancy: That’s God’s grace. Right? All through the day.

Melissa: That is just God’s grace through the whole day.

I know a lot of moms struggle. You get overwhelmed thinking, Is this going to be my whole life? I do, too, get overwhelmed with thinking, I really hope that in five years you won’t act this way. I really hope that next week you don’t act this way—or maybe tomorrow.

It’s just a journey that you’re on. It’s just taking that one step at a time. And sometimes I feel because of the special needs of our kids, it’s a really big, overload step to take just that one day, but God has my back. He’s there. I can take my burdens to Him, and He can just say, “I’m going to give you this drink to make it through today, and we’ll worry about tomorrow, tomorrow.”

Nancy: On those days where you feel overwhelmed or like you don’t have what is required to do this, what keeps you putting one foot in front of the other and taking the next step?

Melissa: I think I go back to the Bible where it talks about persevering, and that you have hope because your character is developing through perseverance. I go to Romans where it talks about that. I think for me I’m just thinking, Okay. I’m trying to develop character here.

It’s not just, “Can I make it through the day?” But the character of my kids really does matter. I just persevere and keep plugging into them that eventually they’re going to want to honor God, I hope. That’s my prayer for them, that they can leave our home with a love for God and a love for others. And if they do nothing else, then I will feel like I have accomplished my job—just to love God and love others.

Nancy: You have to be resolved, both of you as parents, to this task, this challenge, this calling, even without the assurance that your children will walk with God or will make it in the ways that you’d like them to. You pray they will, but those chapters haven’t been written yet. Yet you’re still saying, “We’re going to demonstrate the grace and the gospel of Christ to these kids. Even through our own failures, we’re going to show them how you get God’s grace without any assurance that they’re going to turn out to some certain script.”

That’s got to be tough some days.

Dan: Yes. I think it is tough day after day.

I did the calculation and found out we have 936 weeks to be parents. That’s if you start when they’re zero and you go all the way up through eighteen. Sometimes you’re seeing those weeks tick by, and it’s so sad. And you say, “Oh, my kids are growing up too fast.”

But then, on other days, when there’s temper tantrums, and the house is a disaster, you’re kind of looking at the scenario, and you’re saying, “Wait! What week is it? Are we almost done?” (Laughing) We’re not almost done yet. We’re not even halfway. Each one of those 936 weeks is an opportunity that Christ has given us to make an impact on those kids, to love them, to prepare them for life.

What helps me get through day after day is what Melissa said: It’s that larger vision of what we’re praying will happen. But it’s also what you said, Nancy: That isn’t a guarantee. Things might not work out. I think that’s true for any child. It’s true for any human being.

Nancy: It’s true for any step of faith.

Dan: Right. For some of our kids, in particular, there are some emotional challenges that come along with their background that makes it more likely that they can step into a lot of difficulty in the future. So we’re aware of that.

I think we have had to adjust our expectations as parents in thinking in our mind what the perfect household would be like and how all the kids would line up and sit in church together quietly and study their Bibles. So far our picture hasn’t really looked quite like that (laughing), and it doesn’t seem like it’s heading there very soon.

We still have the vision of having a family that honors God, but as we’re living that, it’s like we’re having to surrender more and more of our expectations and saying, “Lord, we want to do the best we can with what You’ve given us, even if it’s not what we thought we were going to get.”

Melissa: I think for me, it’s just been redefining what success looks like. I think the world teaches us that success is children who are in every sport and doing everything academically stellar, and all of that. And that’s not what our life looks like.

Success is just coming home from school and not getting in any trouble at school. Success can be, in the future, graduating from high school and actually getting a job and sticking to it.

Success could actually just be, “I’m going to be kind to my brothers today without getting angry.”

So for me as a mom of our kids with their special needs and given their backgrounds, I’m just learning to redefine success. Sometimes that’s really hard because I want it to be perfect. I want them to be great students and go to college and make money so they can honor God. I don’t know what that’s going to look like in the future because, what if they don’t do that? That’s okay. I just pray that I let that go.

That’s an area that I’m surrendering—the outcome of what success could be for them and redefining that for each of our children and not making it the same, like, “You have to do this because this is what is expected of you.”

That’s been a real challenge for me to say, “Today, I’m going to help you be successful in that and persevere through the challenges that you face.” And that’s different for each of our kids.

Nancy: You talked, Melissa, about how tribulations and perseverance develop proven character.

Melissa: Yes.

Nancy: You talked about wanting to see your children’s character developed. But God’s also developing your character through the persevering. Talk to me a minute about how you see God . . . I’ve watched you guys on this journey now for the last, I don’t know, fifteen years or so. How have you seen God changing, building your character as a woman through the challenges and the willingness to persevere through those?

Melissa: I actually think about my relationship with God in a whole new light since becoming a parent.

I don’t actually think that my relationship with God was bad before, but I think that becoming a parent has really shown me the grace that God gives me is very, very precious.

I think that since I’ve become a parent, I’ve learned the relationship between a child and a parent and the example that that can be with God and my relationship, it just gives me a whole new perspective.

One thing that I’m specifically learning is that when I think about the way that God interacts with me, how can I better interact with my kids?

Nancy: Yes.

Melissa: God forgives me, and I’m really bad at forgiving my kids some days. They do or say terrible things to me, or they say really mean things to each other, and I want to be righteously in there and saying, “That was wrong, and this is the consequence.” And yet, sometimes I need to have grace, and I just need to let it go. That’s the way God interacts with me. I do the wrong things. I say the wrong things.

I’m daily learning about God’s grace about that. And then I'm learning through that process that He can actually help me to be better. I can remind my kids, “Remember when you used to be that way and how we worked through that and now you’re not that way anymore?”

I can look at my own life and say, “Yes, I used to do that, but now I don’t.” God has taught me that lesson.

I really look at the way parenting special-needs kids, especially in our home, has just really helped me to see that it’s not just when it’s easy, it’s also when it’s hard that God can really work in that. It’s easy to parent a child who wants to obey.

Nancy: Sure. All the time. Right?

Melissa: That’s really easy because it’s smiles, and they just love you. But then you have a few that, every time you ask them to do something they say, “No.” Or they do the opposite. And that’s just learning to say it again, in a patient way, and not get angry and not yell, and just keep saying it again and again until they finally give in and say, “Yes.”

Nancy: I think that a lot of our listeners are going to be really encouraged today by hearing you and Dan share transparently out of your own journey. I wonder if each of you would just say something brief to a listener, whether as a parent or in some other area of their life, who is discouraged, wanting to throw in the towel, not wanting to keep pressing in to what they believe where God has put them.

Dan, your message, the part we listened to at the top of this program, you talked about when we’re moving into unsettled territory, when we’re stepping into these faith frontiers. It won’t necessarily feel safe or convenient. But then you said, if we turn back in that moment, then we won’t get to see what God had in store.

So just say a word of encouragement to somebody who’s struggling to hang on to resolve. They want to quit. They want to get out of the race. They need the word that you could give them today.

Dan: Sure. There are so many aspects of my life today and our life together as a family that, if we would have given up in the moment when it felt like . . . If where you go ahead and follow your heart and do what you feel, then that moment comes where I might give up. If we did, we would be missing so much of life.

Even in some of the really difficult fostering scenarios that we were part of where kids didn’t stay with us, even in those times . . . I remember one specifically where a child had been with us for two years, onewe loved as our own. Emotionally, we really believed that he was going to be with us forever.

We thought that was where the courts would take it, and they didn’t go that way. So from infancy through two years old, he was with us, and then he got taken out of our home. That was devastating. It was like losing a child—only without any sort of justice or finality at the end of it.

Melissa: I really wanted to give up. I just wanted to say, “We’re never doing this again. We’re never saying ‘yes’ again.” And yet, God had a plan. If we had said at that point, “We are never doing this again,” we wouldn’t have some of the children in our home today right now.

Dan: It was just a few weeks later, actually, from that time, when we were literally thinking, Okay, we’re done with this. We just can’t handle this anymore, that they called. Even they recognized they were calling us, the foster parent agency, like it wasn’t really the right thing to do because we were still grieving.

Melissa: They even apologized for calling.

Dan: Right. But this particular child’s special needs that they had just received in their care, we were the only people in their foster network that had experience with that type of thing. So they said, “Is there any way you would engage with us?” We had to step right back into the same scenario that we had just lost.

Now that child, actually, was one that we adopted. He’s one of our kids today. So we think, Wow! That was such a close call. Just in one moment of selfishness, or one moment of, “Let’s take a break from what we know God wants us to do, and we’ll just do our own thing for a while and come back to this later.” We would have missed one of the greatest joys of our life, which is that child.

So there was heartbreak, but it was followed by amazing opportunity. So I would say to the question of: How do you keep resolved if that’s where you’re at as an individual? Believe that God has something in store for you as you cross that next frontier.

Yes, you want to turn back. Yes, it looks easier back where you came from. But this is a life of faith. Your trust isn’t in what you can see. It’s not in the circumstances around you or even in your feelings. Your trust is in the fact that God is taking you somewhere that He wants you to go. You may not know how it all works out for a while. Maybe you won’t even know until eternity. But, again, this is the life of faith, to follow Christ wherever He calls us.

Melissa: I was going to say to the person who’s wanting to give up and to quit: I’ve actually been there many times. I’ll call Dan and say, “I want to quit. I just want to quit. Can you come home? I want to quit.”

I think the practical thing to do is that you just need to take a break. Take your Bible somewhere and pray and get away from the scenario for a time and just get on your knees before God and say, “I need Your help. I need Your strength. I can’t do this on my own.”

Sometimes it’s even just actually physically getting away. Like, taking an hour or two, or doing something totally away from your family. I think that’s healthy for moms to get that break and just to come back full at it afterwards.

I need to do that more in my life sometimes because I just get burned out. I need to get refilled up with God just implanting in my heart, “This is your job. This is what I’ve called you to do.”

Sometimes when that actually happens, I have more energy to keep going, and I feel a lot happier about it because I don’t want to quit. I want to keep going because I know this is making my Father’s heart happy that I’m just resolved in what I’m doing. It’s making my faith stronger so that when the next time I want to quit, I might think, I don’t need to yet because God’s on my side.

Leslie: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been talking with Dan and Melissa Jarvis.

The Lord has led them into some very specific faith frontiers right in their own home. That conversation is part of a series called, “Faith Frontiers.” The Jarvis family has been showing you how to step out into uncharted territory when the Lord calls you.

You know, Nancy, Revive Our Hearts has been like that. You obeyed the Lord to step into radio in 2001. And there have been some other markers along the way.

Nancy: Yes. I remember back in 2011 when we faced some major challenges in the faith journey of Revive Our Hearts. Because of where we were financially, we were forced to go off the radio on a number of stations.

We’re currently in the most serious financial situation that we’ve faced since that time several years ago. Humanly speaking, it appears we’re going to have to make some significant cuts in some of our core outreaches.

We rely on donations from listeners, and for the last several months, giving has been down. So to meet that budget shortfall, we’re facing a need of $830,000 here in the month of May. The most that has previously been given in any month of May is about half that amount. So this is a serious situation and one that is finding us in much prayer and faith and seeking the Lord.

But we have a powerful God who can do anything. We’re trusting Him to provide what the ministry needs, not only at this time, but as we move forward into whatever faith frontiers He may have for us in the days ahead.

So if you have a heart for the message and the mission and the ministry of Revive Our Hearts, would you ask Him how He’d want you to be a part of helping to meet this need we’re facing during the month of May?

Thanks so much for your support as we continue seeking the Lord, following His leading, and calling women to freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ.

Leslie: To get involved, call 1–800–569–5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

Dan and Melissa Jarvis have a house full of kids that they’ve adopted from the foster care system, but they say they never could have served children this way if it weren’t for other families coming alongside and helping them.

Hear how you can support the faith frontiers of others tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is a faith frontier and outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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