MEET THE TABLE LEADER: CARYN

We want you to get to know the awesome leadership we have at Desert Springs at our Tuesday Morning Bible Studies. Our Table Leaders study the Word, direct discussion at the tables, and pray fervently for you…EVERY WEEK!!!

MEET THE TABLE LEADER: CARYN DOERKSEN

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TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF:

Hi! My name is Caryn and I grew up as a pastor’s kid and a missionary’s kid. Thankfully my parents’ faith was, and still is, real and very practical. It wasn’t just them doing God’s work, but all of us. Our whole family is called; therefore we all love and serve Him, wherever He takes us. So, I was born in Illinois. I grew up in California, the Philippines, Oregon and England, where I graduated from high school. I went to college at California State University Long Beach where I studied Science and Nursing while my family moved to Egypt. They also lived in Jordan and Israel without me. Fortunately, I was able to visit.

I’ve been a Labor and Delivery Nurse for 20 years now: 9+ years in California, where my oldest daughter Charlotte was born, and 10+ years in Arizona where my youngest daughter was born; both at the hospitals I was working in at the time. In a few months they will be 14 and 11, which leaves me wondering where has the time gone. My husband and I agree that life has more meaning and adventure with them in the world. Being married to Kenny for the last 18 years has been the best.

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN AT DESERT SPRINGS & HOW DID IT BECOME HOME TO YOU?

We started attending DSCC 3 1/2 years ago after helping Kenny with his brother’s church plant for 8 years. We are in love with Jesus and all that He is doing in our community and around the world. We are devoted to our church family and we love to serve Him here.

WHERE ARE YOU SERVING AT DSCC?

This September we opened our hearts up to a new adventure when we agreed to assist a refugee family from Eritrea-Ethiopia. We love seeing our girls share their lives by giving, praying, spending time and simply loving these three precious children and their mother. We don’t know the outcome or how long they will be in our lives but we sure are enjoying this time together as a family and seeing God’s hand at work.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE VERSE & WHY?

My favorite Bible verse changes with time and what’s going on in my life. When I was a child I loved Hebrews 13:11 “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” and Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” When I was in high school it was Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you…” and 2 Corinthians 4:18 ” So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” In college and when I was first married, it was the chapters Galatians 5, Romans 12, Philippians 4, Ephesians 3 – 5; verses on how to live a life pleasing to God. Over the years, God’s Word has blessed and guided me. Right now I am challenged by a simple verse, my new favorite, in 1 John 1:6 “Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.”

If you see CARYN around, be sure to say “Hi!”

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Grace for the Pastor’s Wife

In May of 2006, on our second date, Robby told me he was planning on being in full-time ministry. He wanted me to know of his plans right away, in case they were a deal-breaker. Now, if I hadn’t been completely thrilled about our growing relationship and slightly googly-eyed over this handsome guy sitting next to me, I may have run for the hills. Me? Married to a man in ministry? Maybe even a pastor’s wife? God, I think there are plenty of other girls to choose from who would be much better at this job than me, ok? Praise the Lord that these thoughts of mine were fleeting, and I responded to Robby with an, “Oh, that’s awesome!”

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(Left to Right) Greta, Robby & Kelly

Throughout our marriage, God has used my role of “pastor’s wife” to mold and shape me in ways I didn’t know I needed. Here are two of the (many) lessons I’ve learned that I believe can be of value no matter who you’re married to or even if you’re not married at all.

Lesson 1- You don’t have to be perfect, and you need to stop trying to be.

As Robby and I were engaged and our wedding was approaching, I had a picture in my mind of how I would partner alongside my husband and be the best youth pastor’s wife on Earth. I would always say the right things, look the right way, always have the perfect word of advice for a student in need, I’d never have a bad attitude, and I’d never even THINK about gossiping. Overall, my plan was to just be so super holy. Well, I can imagine you’re chuckling a bit to yourself right now (and if you know me well, I can guarantee that you are!). Because perfect execution of these ideals, however noble they may be, is UNATTAINABLE this side of heaven! Besides, who wants a perfect mentor? That is Jesus’ job anyways. The people I look up to and admire do struggle, have flaws, are honest with their shortcomings and wholeheartedly seek Jesus through it all. Being real is so much more valuable than being perfect. My goal now is to be someone who uses her life, struggles and all, to point others to God as they see Him working in me to make me more like his Son.

Lesson 2- Your contentment and joy is a huge blessing to your husband.

It’s not easy being a pastor. No matter how much any man loves his job, there are sure to be some draining days. Many of my days are filled with taking care of our two year old daughter (while growing her baby brother inside me), trying to keep us all fed, and attempting to maintain a “clean enough” home. I, like Robby, could definitely classify many of my days as draining. On the days when I just want to be a grouch because Greta skipped her nap, slapped me in the face, her birthday fish died, and I just have the hardest life EVER, I have found it benefits my entire family immensely when I choose joy. When I align my perspective with Jesus’ and focus on what matters eternally, I’m able to find the blessings in my daily challenges. Skipped nap? I can rejoice because I get more time with my girl! Slap in the face from my daughter? I can thank God for choosing me to guide, shape and discipline this little human. Dead fish? I can seize the opportunity to talk with Greta about how Jesus rose from the dead for us (unlike her fish “Orange” and “Baby”). With my mind on the Lord and his blessings, I am then capable of creating a happy atmosphere at home. An atmosphere that makes Robby excited to come home each day and find refuge with his family.

I am so thankful that God perfectly tailors our life circumstances to shape us into who he wants us to be. His plans are always so much better than mine.

Grace for the Single Mom

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.  Isaiah 41:10

fav 2I grew up in a military family.  My father was in the Air Force, and we travelled around a bit when I was young.  We ended up moving to Arizona when I was eight years old.  I have an older sister and brother whom I have always looked up to, but they were a lot older than me.  My sister got married to a military man when I was eight and moved out of state.  My brother graduated and went off to college shortly thereafter.

In the summertime, I would visit my grandparents in California.  My grandfather was a Baptist preacher.  My grandparents taught me verses, and taught me about Jesus.  At home, my parents were believers, but did not attend church regularly. I was not involved in youth ministry and didn’t have friends that went to church, but when I spent time with my grandparents, I would go to church with them.  Because of the time I spent with them, I had an understanding that God existed and that Jesus was His Son, but I did not have a relationship with the Lord.

I considered myself to be a good kid.  I did well in school.  I was involved in sports throughout elementary school and junior high.  Like all kids I had big dreams for my future.  I wanted to be a pilot in the Navy.  However, the summer before I entered high school, my world began to change.  My father and mother separated, and my father moved out. My mother took on two jobs to help support us. I was thirteen at the time. When school started, I began to realize that high school was quite different from junior high.  I was having trouble fitting in with other kids at school and began to feel alone.  So, I started to hang around people who were much older than I was and began drinking, smoking, and experimenting with drugs.  At thirteen years old, drugs became a part of my everyday life, and I became heavily addicted to meth.  Not long after, I began several inappropriate relationships.  I was on a path of complete self-destruction.

Shortly before I turned seventeen, I was at a party with some friends.  I ended up overdosing on meth that night.  That night I lay on the floor unable to move.  I could see and hear everything going on around me but could not talk or move.  I remember crying out in my head to God to let me live.  I woke up the next morning and never touched another drug again.  Looking back, I believe He allowed me to have that experience because about a month later I because pregnant with my daughter, Megan.

When I found out I was pregnant, I was a senior in high school and had been “dating” my boyfriend, Bryan, on and off since the summer before our sophomore year.  At first we thought we would get married, but as time passed he started to see someone else.  At the time, I was five months pregnant.  We did not speak again until I had our daughter.

During my pregnancy, my mother became my biggest supporter.  My father had moved back into the house, and the two of them began rebuilding their marriage.  I continued to live at home and finished school while working a full-time job.  Being a teenaged, single mom was hard.  Once Megan was born, my mother helped with babysitting while I worked and attended college.  During this time, Bryan would come over and see Megan.  We developed a schedule, and Megan would see Bryan and his family regularly.

Even though Megan had a dad, I felt she needed to have a full-time father figure in her life and I felt I needed a husband, so I began to date.  I started dating a man in the military and moved in with him about a month or two later.  At first, I thought everything was great.  We had our own place.  We acted as if we were a family.  I always thought that we would get married, but things were never quite right.  I was looking for this man to fill a deep void in my heart.  I started to realize that I was willing to compromise myself because I didn’t feel worthy of being loved in the right way.  I needed to figure out things for myself, so I moved out on my own and ended the relationship.

Things were tight, working to pay my rent and bills.  I was blessed to have a great job that would cover my expenses.  I began to realize that we would be alright on our own.  Bryan and I started to get together and do things with Megan.  We became friends again and eventually started dating.  When Megan was almost four, we married.  Just a few months after we married, I became pregnant with our second child, Samantha, and then just months after I delivered her, I became pregnant with our third daughter, Victoria.  When I was still pregnant with Victoria, we decided that I should quit my job and stay home with the children.

Bryan began working for a new company, and they moved our family to Tucson.  While we were there I began to be depressed.  I felt like because of all the things that I had done in my past, I could never be a good wife or mother.  I felt like trash, unable to be loved.  Megan was in kindergarten, and Sam and Victoria were still in diapers.

At one point during this tough season, I watched a show on TV, and a woman was speaking about people who believe that their sins are too great for God to forgive them.  I realized at that moment that she was talking about me.  I started to think about what my grandparents had taught me about Jesus.  I needed to ask forgiveness, and I did right then.  This began my spiritual journey.

Since I was a young girl, I was always looking to other people to validate who I was.  I did everything I could to please people, and I was incapable of using the word “no”.  As I began to read the Word, the Lord began to reveal my true identity and started to change me from the inside out.

In 2005, I became pregnant with our fourth child, Chelsea.  Bryan took on a new position with his company. It was a very stressful time for him, and our marriage began to deteriorate.  He worked long hours and came home very late every night.  He reunited with a friend from his past who introduced him back into a life of addiction.   It wasn’t long before he decided that he did not want to be married any longer.  I was in complete shock.  At six months pregnant and as a stay-at-home mom, I did not know what to do.

I decided my best shot was to move to Texas and stay with my in-laws.  Through this experience the Lord began to grow my faith.  I didn’t understand why this was happening to our family, and I had thought that this would never happen to us.  Even though I didn’t understand, I decided to trust Him.  I started looking for a job, and He provided a work environment with people who were very encouraging to me.  My mother-in-law watched the kids for me so I could work, and I learned how to support the kids and myself again.  I came to understand that no matter what happens in my life, the Lord will always provide.  The Lord began to teach me about true love and the meaning of forgiveness, not only for what I had done, but for what others had done to me.

It was a long road, and throughout it all, Bryan would talk to me about things he was going through and I would try to talk to him about the Lord.  It took a long time, but Bryan did come home.  We worked through what happened, and I forgave him.  The Lord brought other couples into our lives to walk beside us, to hold us accountable in putting Him first in our relationship.  Because we have put Him first, He has made our marriage stronger and also made our relationship with Him stronger.

I absolutely know that no matter what happens in my life, whether Bryan is taken out of my life or not, the Lord will always be there. He was a constant in my life when I lived and worked as a single mom, and I know that His grace will sustain me through anything that comes my way.

LOVE, Kellie Larkin

Grace for the Expecting Mom

1402692_10151765298827799_967165575_oOur pastor said a couple months ago, “There must be something in the water.” And since I’m not the only one whose ankles are swelling and abdomen is expanding, he may just be right about that.

It is kind of fun to be going through this process with so many other women from church. Every pregnancy is so different, and there have been ups and downs for all of us. The “ups” for me have been seeing our black and white baby flashed up on the screen, being showered with love and gifts for our growing bundle and watching the look on our families’ faces when they feel a good kick from this crazy ninja baby! And now as many of us are nearing the end of our pregnancies, the reality of motherhood is beginning to set in.

As I write this, it’s hard to believe that in a couple short months my life will be completely different. This tiny miracle is going to rock my world in big ways. And there are moments when I’m absolutely terrified. What if I seriously mess this kid’s life up? I could do that, right?

Then I remember that the same faithful God who has taken care of me my whole life is the same God who has His eye on my sweet baby and is forming him in my ever-growing tummy. His grace is enough for me and is enough for our unborn child. He will work His perfect plan out in our son’s life, and His sovereignty will reign in spite of my many parental mishaps and failures. Our God has the power to guide our boy’s every step in life, and He has the grace to draw his little heart to His own.

And so this is my prayer as an almost-mommy:

Lord, may our son love YOU more than anything else in this life.  Open his eyes to YOUR beautiful sacrifice for him at a young age. May he cling to the hope he has in YOU until he draws his last breath, whenever YOU deem it right to take him home.

…PS. And Lord, help me not to mess him up TOO bad 🙂

LOVE, Lydia Engram

To read more from Lydia, check out her blog “A Good Crisis” here.

Grace for a Special Needs Mom

ImageI found myself crying uncontrollably in a storage room at the high school where I was a teacher.  I had just returned to school from an appointment with my one year old son, Hunter, and his developmental pediatrician.  We had been in and out of the hospital for genetic testing for the past 8 months with no answers – we had even been told at one time when they did think they had an answer that he was dying and that we needed to make appropriate arrangements.  I had been strong.  I hadn’t broken.  But this day, I lost it.  It was the words Dr. Garrison said, “You need to understand that Hunter is profoundly mentally retarded….” and that’s all I heard.  I don’t remember anything else until I got back to my English class that I had to teach, and I couldn’t.  I was numb and couldn’t speak, so I left and went into the storage closet of my friend’s classroom, and I broke down.  It had registered – profoundly mentally retarded. I was a teacher.  I knew what profoundly mentally retarded meant.  We had those kids, those classes in our school.  I saw those kids every day.  Hunter would be one of them? Wow….

I didn’t teach the rest of that day.  I don’t remember anything else about that day, actually, other than the LORD spoke to me.  He reminded me of our conversations when I was pregnant with Hunter.  Such conversations stemmed from my experiences as a teenager and a beginning teacher.  When I was in high school I taught Special Olympics gymnastics.  I worked with “retarded” kids, teaching them their gymnastics routines for their competitions.  I loved it.  There was one boy in the program who went to my school, and I saw kids pick on him at times so I would step in and do my best to stop the bullying.  I had a heart for the “special” kids.  After college and during my first couple years of teaching, I worked as a special education aid during summer school.  I worked with two elementary school girls who had Downe Syndrome.  Again, I loved it.  So, when I was pregnant with Hunter, of course I prayed for a healthy baby.  However, I also “offered” to take a special child.  I told God that I’d be ok with that if He needed someone to take one.  I was a brand new Christian at the time, so this was an immature and somewhat arrogant prayer, obviously; but, after our appointment with Dr. Garrison, it hit me – “retarded” – I told God I would do this! I offered!  In my mind, I may not have pictured it like this, but I did say that. Immediately after that realization, God spoke to me. He told me that it wasn’t my “offer” that gave me Hunter.  That actually, my prayers were HIM speaking to ME and telling me that He was with me and that I would be fine with the special child he had given me. Right then, my spirit was calmed and I was at peace. He was preparing me for what was to come – a beautifully, wonderfully made child who would have special lifelong needs and that He would equip my husband and me to take care of him. That is grace, given straight from the LORD God Himself.  And from that moment on, through God’s grace, I have never questioned His plan.  I have continued to look for a genetic diagnosis, simply for treatment purposes, but I have never questioned “why?” because I know.  Hunter was created for a purpose, and the LORD told me before he was even born that I was meant to be his mom.

photo-1Hunter is now 15 and a half years old, has had 13 spine surgeries, has beaten death three times, and still has no diagnosis other than “mental retardation”. Some may ask, “what is his purpose?” And I could send you to about 100 people and give you 100 different examples of lives he’s touched, and he doesn’t even talk!  Our life with Hunter has been a journey, a journey colored with God’s fingerprints, and of story after story demonstrating God’s grace for this special needs mom.

Love,

Trisha Brown

Grace for Adoption: My God Has Answered

After the staggering news that our chances were one in a million of ever having a baby, God began to open our hearts and minds to the idea of adoption. We had always talked about adopting children, but it had always been the plan to have our own biological children first. We began assembling a photo album to present to potential birth parents in order to depict our lives. We met with social workers, had more physicals, filled out endless piles of paperwork, and sat through interviews to determine if we had enough sanity left after the past three years to qualify to become adoptive parents. The rigor of the process and the disclosure of such personal information often left me feeling violated and frustrated at the unfairness of it all. It seemed okay that anyone past puberty could become pregnant with no questions asked and yet I had to over and over again prove my worthiness to become a mother. My frustration ignited my pride and it glowed with hot, burning embers, demonstrating to me how much sinfulness and selfishness stilled remained within my heart even after the past several months of such an intimate time with God. Does the clay question the potter as to what He makes with the work of His hands? I struggled again with my emotions of self pity, self hatred, pride, and anger. It seemed that when I got a handle on one, another would surface, thrusting me into another emotional tailspin.

The day came and we got the call. We had been chosen; but there was something we needed to understand. We had matched, but not been chosen. As we sat across from our attorney’s desk he explained that he presses the birth mothers to choose the adoptive family for their children. However, in our case, our birth mother had adamantly refused to choose, insisting that he do it. He said that he spread out the waiting applications on his desk, closed his eyes, shuffled them up and prayed, “Lord, show me which family this child is to become a part of”. As he opened his eyes, both of his hands were on our profile. Immediately the Holy Spirit whispered in my soul, “Behold, I am doing a new thing, do you not perceive it? I shall surely make you a mother. And when it comes to pass it will happen in such a way that you know that I, the LORD, have done it. I am the LORD, the LORD alone, and I will not share my glory with another”. I shivered knowing that this was it. The promise that God had given me six months ago was coming to pass. We were going to have a daughter!

My biggest fear in the whole adoption process was having to meet our birthmother. I was secretly glad that she did not want to meet us.This was a new type of relationship that was uncomfortable and foreign to me at every level. I didn’t really have any friends to go to for advice. I would wake up having nightmares about it. Our social worker gave us an article written by a birth mom sharing her story of meeting the adoptive parents of her child. She spoke openly of her fear of being rejected and wondering if they would even want her baby. The LORD opened my eyes that day to my own self-absorption. I was so worried about her rejecting me, that I didn’t even realize the levels of brokenness that a woman unable to care for her child would experience. I began to pray and ask God to show me how to minister to our future birth mother- to give me the words to speak to her.

That night the LORD woke me up at exactly midnight. I felt the Holy Spirit nudge me to go downstairs and open my journal. In a sleepy stupor, I fumbled my way downstairs, turned on a table lamp and opened it up. I picked up my pen and the LORD gave me the most beautiful poem. Within five minutes the entire thing was written. I woke up the next morning barely remembering what it had said and smiled at the way God has so wonderfully answered my prayer. The day came for us to meet. A friend of mine wrote it out and mounted it into a beautiful shadow box and I gave it to our birthmother. She cried, but I knew they were happy tears, because she smiled as she read it.

The next several weeks seemed to fly by as we prepared for Eliana’s arrival. We painted the nursery, ordered the crib, attended showers, and took an endless number of trips to Babies R Us. The day of her birth came like a flash. Her due date was Mother’s Day, but her doctor decided to induce her on April 28th. As I held her in my arms, the joy I felt was indescribable. I was walking on air. She seemed to fit perfectly into the crook of my arms as if she had been made just for my embrace. It was a moment of pure grace.

Our birthmother’s aunt pulled us into the hallway shortly after Eliana was born. She told us something so tender that she shook as she said it. “Twenty five years ago this month I aborted my son. I know God has forgiven me and I know he is in heaven. But until today, after helping my niece with this decision to choose adoption, I have been unable to forgive myself. Today is the day of forgiveness. Today is the day of making all things new”. Again the Holy Spirit spoke to me, “Behold I am doing a new thing, do you not perceive it?” A new thing. I had been disappointed that Eliana wasn’t going to be born on Mother’s Day, but now I understood why she had been born in April. May was to be the beginning of a new thing in our birthmother’s aunt’s life.

Several hours later after our birthmother had some time to recover, she called us all into the room so she could hold Eliana for the first time. She looked at her tenderly and told us what parts of her looked like her father, her sister, and herself. She looked up at me with the kindest expression and handed me Eliana. As she raised her up to me she said with a smile, “I really wanted to be the first one to wish you a Happy Mother’s Day”. I hugged her fiercely cradling Eliana between us. At that moment I think we could see into one another’s hearts with such clarity and compassion that a hug was the only way to communicate all that we wanted to say.

Eliana means my God has answered. We chose that name because she was an answer to a promise. A promise of hope given to me. A promise of forgiveness given to her aunt.  A promise of healing given to her birthmother. My prayer is that her life will continue to be a testimony that our God keeps His promises. Every last one of them.

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LOVE, Erica

The Backyard Carnival

Come one, come all!

Bring your entire family to Jen Silvester’s Backyard Carnival Party sponsored by MOMS Ministry. The aroma of fresh buttery popcorn, the sounds of excited giggles from the carnival games out back, and the sight of true fellowship will be sure to draw you in. This is your opportunity to make memories with your family, as well as meet new friends.

MOMS (Making Other Moms Savvy) Ministry is a way for moms to connect with other moms and share words of wisdom, pray, laugh, and fellowship. The hope is that meaningful relationships can be built as we encourage each other in the exciting role God has placed us in. And this is the very first event of many to come!!

The Backyard Carnival opens at 10am. Drinks and snacks will be served. Games will be played & new friendships formed. Check out the flier below for all the details. And make sure to RSVP!!

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