Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Nothing is Impossible

She’s here!!! We watched my due date come and go and after 26 hours of labor she finally has made her appearance.

Elizabeth “Ellie” Anne Vogel was born on at 5:19pm on May 9th, just in time for Mother’s Day! She weighed 8 lbs 7oz and was 21.5 inches long.
I will have to write another post soon about her birth because I don’t want to forget it, but I wanted to explain the meaning behind the name we chose for her.
Coming up with her name was a bit challenging!  We wanted to choose something that was meaningful and relevant to her story. We wanted her to have a name that reminded people of all that God had done to bring about her sweet little life. 

Her middle name, Anne, is one that has been passed down in my family. It belongs to me, my sister, my mom, my grandmother and great great aunt. It means “full of grace.” 

The Hebrew meaning of the name Elizabeth is “God is my oath.” We really chose this name though because of the person Elizabeth in the bible. If you read in Luke chapter 1, you will find a familiar story of a woman who is older in age that is barren. Elizabeth and Zechariah were unable to have children. Zechariah was a priest and scripture says they were both, “righteous before God walking blamelessly in all commandments and statutes of the Lord.” However, they did not have any children and Elizabeth was advanced in years. The bible doesn’t tell us everything that Elizabeth faced because of her barrenness or the feelings she might have had, but I along with many others can relate to her. She had probably resigned herself to a life without an heir, without children to raise. She watched those around her bear children and felt she would never have that joy. Her and everyone around her knew it was impossible for them to conceive a child. But God had other plans.
He told Zechariah through an angel that Elizabeth would conceive and they would have a son. This child would grow up to be John the Baptist and he would do great things for the Kingdom. The angel says that they would have “joy and gladness” at his birth and many would rejoice!
Continuing on in the chapter we see the story of Mary finding out that she will miraculously carry Jesus in her womb.  When she questions how it can be, the proof given to her is that her relative Elizabeth is also carrying a child.
The angel says:
“And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren.
For NOTHING will be impossible with God.”
Reading this passage of scripture is what solidified this name for us, because I too was barren. I too faced impossible odds when it came to conceiving a child. We were told that we would most likely never be able to have children naturally because of the extensive cancer treatments I had undergone. In those dark days when we didn’t know if I ‘d live to see my next birthday, becoming parents definitely seemed impossible to us! 
But we serve a God who does the impossible! He loves redemption and restoration and shows us over and over again throughout scripture how he makes things new. He brings light to the darkness. He literally brings life from death! These miraculous acts remind us that just as we are dead in our sin, God can bring us new life through His Son Jesus. He was dead on the cross, pierced for our transgressions and on the third day he rose again! 

God is so faithful and can do the impossible! That is what He did for us with our little miracle baby. I pray that her life continues to bring much joy and gladness to all who know her. I pray that her name would be a precious reminder to her and all those around her that God did the impossible when He died for our sins and rose from the dead.  I pray she would grow up knowing that there is always hope and that her life is a precious reminder of that truth.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

A Mustard Seed in 2016

It’s hard to believe that 2016 is coming to an end and we are heading into 2017. As I reflect on this past year and all that God has done, I am overwhelmed.

A little over a year ago David and I traveled on Christmas day in order to spend time with family. God had done so much for us in 2015, and I was so grateful for my life. However, I still had the longing to be a mother and felt like part of our story was still unwritten. The holidays always seem to provoke us to think about the things we long for and I was honestly feeling a bit down about not having children to celebrate with. I remember sitting down at our gate and offering a familiar plea to God. I asked Him if He could possibly allow me to be a mother. He had already done so much for me, but could this one other thing be fulfilled? Was it even possible? Could we adopt? Would He provide us with a family to celebrate this renewed life with? After my prayer, I raised my head and I saw the following restaurant right in front of me, staring me in the face.
I froze for a moment and knew God was telling me something through this airport, barbeque restaurant. I looked up the following verse on the plane, and peace flooded my heart immediately with these words.
He replied, "Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you."
~ Matthew 17:20
Hadn’t God already proved the power of this verse to me over and over again? A mustard seed of faith is all it takes for God to move. I believed in that moment that 2016 would be the year that my promises would be fulfilled. Somehow, someway God would move in my life and in my family.
And God has once again stayed true to His word! We have seen Him move mountains in miraculous, amazing ways this year! Here are just a few:
He called to us and asked us to leave the safety and security of Knoxville and worship ministry to start a new church in Winston-Salem. I've seen my husband thrive in his new calling, and I know this is where God wants us to be!

He provided us with the resources and support to move as we said goodbye to our dear friends in Knoxville.
He brought Kemper and Arielle to take our place at NorthStar and it has been so sweet to see them thrive in a place we love so much!
He sold our home very quickly and gave us a beautiful place to live in North Carolina. 
He provided us with a church family and a building in which to meet.

He continues to bring hundreds of people through the doors at Two Cities and we have already seen lives changed by the Gospel!
He allowed us to see two family members get engaged. David’s sister, Kerith and my brother, Brad have found their future spouses!

He continued my healing with another clean scan in November!

And as if all of those things were not enough, God is miraculously knitting together our precious baby girl in my womb. He has moved mountains for me to be a mother and I could never fully express my gratitude! I already love her more than I could say!

God has been so incredibly gracious to us and has taken the tiny mustard seed we had to offer Him and turned it into so much more. 

This year has not been without its challenges. We have learned how hard it is to leave a home and community we love. We said many tear-filled goodbyes. We lost our sweet Bonnie pup. We experienced the craziness and difficulties of planting a church. We moved farther away from my family. But everything has been so, so sweet in the process, and God has taught us to lean on Him in ways we never have before.
As I sit here feeling the precious kicks of my baby girl, I can only imagine what all God has in store for us in 2017. I pray that 2017 will be a year of JOY.  Weddings and showers and family trips and church growth and the addition of our baby girl are all on the horizon and I couldn’t be more excited! Thank you, God for all you’ve done and continue to do in us. 
Our God is a promise-keeper and a mountain-mover. I don't know what you have faced in 2016, but hold on and trust that God can take the smallest amount of faith and turn it into something beautiful!
Happy New Year Everyone!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

He Has Done GREAT Things!!!

The Vogels have a big announcement!!! We’re having a baby!!!! 

We are due on May 2nd and couldn’t be more excited!
As many of you know, I’ve battled refractory Hodgkin’s Lymphoma from April of 2012 until I achieved remission from a clinical trial in July 2015. I have had several different types of chemo treatments, radiation, a stem cell transplant, and experimental medicines. The fact that I’m living today is itself an incredible miracle. The fact that God has given us this blessing is completely humbling and utterly overwhelming!
Over the past 4 years the days my heart would hurt and I would cry out to God and tell Him how I longed to hold a child in my arms that was mine were many. But there were also days when I would remember that I had all I ever needed in my Savior and that quieted the doubts in the back of my head.
This baby is a miracle and blessing far beyond anything we deserve. This baby shows me that there is no limit on God’s love for us.
Look at Hannah in 1 Samuel. She was barren for so many years. Her heart was so heavy and her pain was so deep. God saw her in her despair and gave her Samuel. For a barren woman, one child would be everything! One child would be more than enough to satisfy that longing. But God didn’t just give Hannah one child. He went on to bless her FIVE more times! She had five more children after Samuel. God is a giver of good gifts and He desires to bless us beyond what we deserve!
I pray that this child’s life will be nothing but a beacon of hope and a testimony of God’s faithfulness to all who meet him or her. The Lord led me to this passage of scripture in Isaiah about two years ago and it has hung in my home since then.
I will make rivers flow on barren heights,
    and springs within the valleys.
I will turn the desert into pools of water,
    and the parched ground into springs.
19 I will put in the desert
    the cedar and the acacia, the myrtle and the olive.
I will set junipers in the wasteland,
    the fir and the cypress together,
20 so that people may see and know,
    may consider and understand,
that the hand of the Lord has done this,
that the Holy One of Israel has created it.
~Isaiah 41:18-20
We believe that this little baby is a green shoot in the desert and it was absolutely the hand of God that has done this. Medically speaking it is a miracle that we were able to spontaneously conceive. The amount of chemo my body endured should have taken away any chance of life in my womb. But the Holy One has set this life in motion and we will give Him ALL the glory! There is no denying that God is the one who has done this! What a powerful testimony this little one already has!
Thank you for everyone who has cried out to God on our behalf; first for my healing, and then for a child for us. God hears us when we pray and He brings life from the most dead and barren places. He has truly brought life from death, and we are so thankful!
Dear Baby Vogel,
Your life, little one, is itself a miracle. You are so loved, so special, so wanted, and I can’t wait to meet you!
You have already brought so much joy to us and I pray you would always be a joy-bringer to those you meet. There are so many people that have already prayed for your life and already love you so immensely! I can’t wait to tell you all about the miracle that you are!
Your mom

Sunday, May 29, 2016

A Tribute to My Husband the Pastor

Today was the last Sunday that David led NorthStar church as their worship pastor. 
It’s the last Sunday that David Vogel will be my worship pastor. 
It was an incredible morning for all of us as he passed on the torch on to his younger brother, Kemper. We are so excited to see Kemper and Arielle carry on the work that’s been done here and are looking forward to seeing what’s ahead for us. Needless to say, I have had a lot of emotions leading up to today, but I am confident as I type this that this next step is what God wants for us. So on this last day of being married to a worship pastor, I wanted to pay tribute to the work I’ve seen my husband do here and how that will equip him for our next assignment!
Ever since he was a little boy, David has been called out. I was reading about King David in the bible this week. It says that after he was anointed by Samuel, “from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon [him].” ~1 Sam 16:13
I believe this to be true of my David as well. He has led the people of NorthStar in worship for almost ten years and the Spirit of the Lord has most definitely been in our midst. He has led our church and our family well.
When I first met David I knew he was the one for me. He loved the Lord so much, and he was different than anyone I had ever met. He was clearly set apart, and he has taught me so much about worship and what it means to live a life surrendered to God.
People don’t always understand what all David’s job has entailed as a worship pastor. No he doesn’t just pick out his favorite songs. No he doesn’t just work on Sunday mornings. No he does not play an organ or conduct a choir. One time we met a young couple on vacation who had just gotten married. We exchanged small talk and they asked what we did for a living. I told the wife that my husband was the worship pastor at our church and her response was, “aw he sings songs. That’s so cute.” Yes, he is cute, but I don’t think you fully understand what my husband does! Some people may just think that the only requirement for being a worship pastor is that you are a talented musician. David is an incredible musician, one of the best I know. Being a musician requires practice and hard work and talent. David has all of those things. Being a musician would be enough to keep him occupied and make him a successful person. But on top of being a musician, he is a pastor.

The Lord allowed David to establish a team of amazing worshipers to surround him on Sunday mornings on stage. I had never before experienced the Holy Spirit in worship like I did at Northstar and so much of that is due to the amazing team that is in place. I believe one of the reasons this team is so amazing is because David is such a good leader of people. He inspires others to serve faithfully and communicates clearly the vision for the ministry. He has invested deeply in the lives of people on his worship team. They worked together and David always made sure the heart behind the music was to give glory to God.
He not only has shaped the worship that people participate in on Sunday morning, he helped shape personal worship as well. Several times through my cancer journey, I found myself in low places. Places where I doubted and questioned God’s will for my life. What do you do when you find yourself in a place like that? You turn to scripture and song. Or at least I did. There were times when I just needed to worship. I needed to sing to God. What should I sing? The songs that came to my heart are the ones I sang on Sunday mornings with my church family. That’s why David doesn’t just put any worship song on the set list that is recommended or popular. I can give you the inside scoop and tell you that each song that has been introduced on Sunday morning at NorthStar as been prayed over and carefully chosen. It has been such an awesome thing to watch.

 David has been an amazing leader in our life group as well. He is someone that walks deeply with people and truly wants what’s best for everyone in his life. He doesn’t see members at NorthStar as “another face in the crowd” he cares about each person that is a part of his church. I could go on and on about how awesome he is, but I think you get the picture. David is gifted as a pastor, and it’s time to step out on faith and continue to develop these skills.
As we walk forward and step into a new calling, these God-given gifts of leadership and shepherding will serve him well. I’m so excited to see how God uses him to impact the people at Two Cities Church. He invests deeply and loves well. He may not be my worship pastor anymore, but I believe God has prepared him over the last 10 years to become the best Executive Pastor around! Get ready Winston-Salem, the Vogels are coming for you!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Vogel Lifegroup

6 and a half years ago David and I were sitting around a fire pit with our friends Andy and Caitlin talking about life. We were just two, young dating couples talking about God and the church and how important community is. It was that night that David and Andy decided to start a life group together., and that’s when our life group was born. As we prepare to leave Tennessee, one of the hardest parts is leaving our life group because it’s been such a special group of people. The people are amazing, but the way that we’ve all stuck together through thick and thin has been so special. The presence of the Lord has truly been in our midst and left us changed.

People have come in and gone out, but each one has been an important part. We have walked through engagements, weddings, babies, loss of family members, cancer, sickness, job hunts, job achievements, foster care, adoption, infertility, pool parties, cookouts, Bachelor parties, and so much more! We’ve watched people graduate and move away. We’ve watched some of those people move back and rejoin the group. We’ve sat in hospital waiting rooms together and set up meal calendars and thrown baby showers. We’ve invited new people in to the point where we got so big that we had to split into two groups, but really we are still just one group at heart. 

We’ve been through so much together. Each time we meet, we talk about Jesus and study the word and worship. We fellowship and eat yummy snacks and talk about the good things and the hard things. We’ve prayed together and cried together and Lord knows we have laughed together! Seriously, these people have been our family. We have done LIFE together. 

There is absolutely no way I could ever express how much I love and appreciate all 30 something people that have been a part of the Vogel life group. David and I don’t have biological family that lives here in Knoxville and you all have been just that for us…family. We are brothers and sisters and are aunts and uncles to each other’s children and I literally can’t imagine my life without each one of you in it. Thank you for being vulnerable and opening up your lives to us. We are trusting the Lord to provide an amazing new community for us in Winston-Salem but know that we could never replace you all in our hearts. Our hearts will just have to get bigger!
 My prayer for this group as we make our way to North Carolina:
"23Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.24And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching." ~ Hebrews 10:25

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Stepping Out

I’ve always been fascinated with the story of Abraham. God shows us His faithfulness and a picture of His love through all aspects of Abraham’s life. One of the first glimpses we get into Abraham is his willingness to go. The Lord tells him to leave his home and his country and his extended family and go to the place He will show him.
In a lot of ways David and I feel like Abraham and Sarah must have felt. God has asked us to go. After a decade of leading people in worship at Northstar Church in Knoxville, Tennessee, God has called David to pursue a new ministry opportunity. He has asked us to leave a place that we love and are comfortable and step out into the unknown.
About 6 months ago, we started praying about the possibility of planting a church with David’s lifelong friend, Kyle Mercer. Kyle was planting a church through the Summit network in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Would David be his executive pastor? It took us many months, many conversations, much prayer, and many tears to answer that question!
There have been many times when I’ve read stories in scripture about God calling people to go and I thought, “how could they say no? God told you directly to do something, How could you even question it?” But now I know it’s not that simple! We desperately sought the Father’s heart for us. We wanted to make sure this was what God wanted. Even with a clear call from the Lord, I never realized how hard it can be to say yes sometimes!
We grieved the thought of leaving our Northstar family. You see Northstar isn’t just a place where we are employed. It’s not just the place we attend church on the weekends. Northstar is home to us. Northstar is family to us. We’ve grown up here in a lot of ways. We have lived here for our entire marriage. We have experienced the true meaning of the body of Christ here. From our wedding shower over at the old campus on Carmichael Road to watching the new worship center go up piece by piece to gathering for a prayer service when my life was on the line to celebrating when I finally reached remission! David has grown so much as a leader and shepherd here. We have made lifelong friends here. Our friends have had many babies (yes many!) in the past 6 years that we love like our own! We have walked through the refining fire that was cancer and our Northstar family has walked right along side of us. They have mourned with us when it was time to mourn and rejoiced with us when it was time to rejoice. For all of this we are so grateful!
How can we leave this place? I have had dreams of starting a family here and continuing to do life with my amazing friends here, but the Lord has called us out. We are sure of it. Just as sure as God told Abraham to go to the place he would show him, I feel that God has asked us to do the same thing. I’m sure Abraham and Sarah had their share of excitement and fear, but God was faithful to walk with them.
We know that we are not Abraham and Sarah, but we are trusting him to faithfully walk with us as we journey out. We know He will be faithful to provide friends for us once again. We know He will be faithful to allow our ministry to grow. We know He will be faithful to provide for our needs. He always does!
We are excited to see where God will take us in this next chapter, but we are sad to leave our home. A lesson my sweet friend taught me is that just because God calls you to something, doesn’t mean it will always be easy! We know the journey ahead won’t necessarily be easy. I don’t want to say goodbye to this place and these people I love, but I know God has a purpose for us in North Carolina!
To our dear friends here at Northstar, know that we love and appreciate all that you have done for us and taught us. We are taking the Northstar heart with us as we go and we pray that God would use us to reach lost people in Winston-Salem and show them the same love that you have shown us. We will miss you terribly and love you always. Northstar will always be home to us!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Scar Tissue

If you’ve ever been cut before, you may have a scar on your body. I have a few on mine. One from when I was a child and my sister convinced me to spin around in a circle with my eyes closed and then I walked right into our fireplace! (Thanks Meg J) I have a few from my dog scratching my arms when she was a puppy and a few from different surgeries I’ve had throughout cancer. (port, infusion lines, picc lines etc.)
Scar tissue is an interesting thing. It’s a part of our body’s natural process to heal itself. When tissue is damaged, scar tissue forms and even though the cut or scratch is healed, a mark remains. The tissue has a different color or texture and just doesn’t look the same anymore.
Scar tissue not only forms on our skin, but can also form on internal tissue. For people who have fought cancer, this means that wherever their cancer was, scar tissue can form. It can show up on scans, cause the patient to feel tightness, press on nerves, and very often cause pain where tumors once were.
I was thinking about this a week or two ago in regard to my body. There are days when I feel a tightness in my chest or a moment of pain or a tingling in my arm and my stomach drops. My mind immediately goes down the very familiar road of worry and doubt and concern about whether or not I’m still in remission. My hope is that the familiar feelings and pain are simply scar tissue or some unrelated twinge, but I can’t help but worry for a moment….or more than a moment.
As many of you know, I head to New York this week for my 3 month scan. I am beyond thrilled and a little dumbfounded that it has been 3 months since I was declared in remission. Where does the time go? I have no logical reason to believe that this scan would be bad. I don’t have any symptoms. I feel great and my energy is up and I believe that this remission will be a lasting one…but my anxiety has still been present. Much more present than I would like.
You see, I definitely have some scar tissue inside my body, but I also have some scar tissue in my mind and my heart.  Up to this point we’ve had many more bad scans than good ones. I’ve been in remission before and then 6 weeks later was not. I’ve declared to the world that my cancer was gone only to be proven wrong by a scan a few weeks later. I have believed for good news when bad news came. I have been wounded by life and there is quite a bit of scar tissue there.
I was wondering why the Lord would choose to make scar tissue a thing. Why do we have to be reminded either in appearance or by feeling that a wound once occurred? If the body is going to heal itself, why can’t everything be as good as new?
And then I thought about Jesus. He had scars too you know. He was wounded. He was healed. He died and then came back to life and bore the scars on his hands and feet and side from everything He went through.
Why? If He was made perfect again and came back in a glorious body, why did His scars remain?
I don’t have all the answers, but one way he proved to his disciples that He had actually risen from the dead was to show them the scars on his hands and feet. Those marks caused the faith of His best friends to increase.  They were not used to shame them or cast them into despair over what had happened, but to remind them of the glorious thing that Jesus did for them…for all of us. The Scars on Jesus are our reminder that we get to go to Heaven, that the miraculous has happened and that we have been redeemed! Praise God!
I want my scars to be like that. I want my physical and emotional scars to not serve as negative reminders of the hard things David and I have walked through over the last three years, but as reminders of all God has done for us! The way He has carried us and how He provided a way out when we thought death was the only way. Praise God for what He has done!
Whatever this scan shows this week, pray that I will choose to trust in the God who saved me and remember how far He was brought me instead of dwelling on the hurt of the past. Please pray that this scan shows continued healing and remission and that God would use me in whatever way He sees fit to bring Him glory…scars and all.