Thursday, December 29, 2016

From Tragedy, to Hardship, to Change, to New Beginnings - 2016 a Year in Review

As I type this, scenes from this past year flash through my mind and I can't help and say "Wow, look what God did". Each year I have a word that I ask the Lord to give me - a word that would be my focus and my center point for the year. For 2016 - the words were primarily Missional and Flexibility. God did those and so much more in the life of our family.

January was brought in by celebrating the New Year with Joel's parents in Colorado and then we traveled home to Texas. We had enjoyed having Hannah home for the Christmas break and then...we had to take her back to Dallas Baptist University for her second semester. While in Dallas, we were able to spend some special time with my sister and her family as well as with my parents who were living in the area at the time...we would later come to cherish these special few days even more.

January 29th - after a short battle with cancer, my Mom went home to be with Jesus. This hit our family hard as it truly was unexpected and shook us all up. I am forever grateful that Mom was surrounded by both of us girls, my Dad, and her sisters as she left and was welcomed by her Savior. After any loss, everyone tends to tell you cherish the ones you love, savor every moment, etc. I can honestly say - I did not have any regrets in this regard with my Mom. I loved her, she knew it. She loved me, I knew it and felt it. My kids all cherished the time they had with her and they always will have special memories!

February brought my Mom's memorial service in Texas and then a return to what the "new normal" would be. It was painful, it was hard. She was missed and it was felt - yet, through it all the Lord was GOOD. He brought many to love on all of our family and we were blessed. Of course, the Broncos winning the Super Bowl was a DEFINITE bonus to the month for this Bronco loving girl!

March would bring more unexpected and unplanned hardship as we would come face to face with deep depression affecting our family. Our oldest daughter Hannah, struggled with the stress of college, homesickness, and the added grief of losing her Mimi. She was smart enough to realize that she needed some serious help and needed her family to lean on for a time. So, at spring break Joel picked her up from DBU, she withdrew from classes and moved home with us. I have always known other people who were affected by depression but it hadn't hit our own family. This was a painful time for all of us. A time of trying to understand and help her but as parents not enable her to the point where she didn't have to work to overcome her was a time of growth and a definite balancing act. If you or someone you know is facing this - I can say, it is real, it is hard but GOD...Only through Him can we overcome. Hannah has come so far - she has some to go BUT GOD...has been there and is there and is working in her each and every moment!

April Joel and I were able to go on a MUCH needed minister and wives retreat in Arkansas. We had been planning to go since October 2015 and had asked my parents to come and stay with the kids. Graciously, my Dad agreed to still come and stay with the kids; however Satan would try to thwart that plan as well because just days before we were to leave, my Dad became ill and wasn't able to come right away as planned (he did come later). BUT GOD had a plan for even that because Hannah was home she was able to take care of the kids as was our adopted daughter who lived in Plainview - she came for a few days as well. Joel and I were able to rest, refresh, renew and pray for direction in our ministry and it was needed!!!! Also in April - Joel, Malachi, Tyler and I made a "Site Visit" to Delta Colorado in preparation to potentially move to Delta and begin a church there (more on that later).

May was crazy! We had the end of school activities and chaos and then as soon as school let out, we packed up and headed to Pagosa Springs for my Mom's Celebration of Life Service with our Colorado friends and family. Such a sweet time to celebrate and rejoice on her life and the memories we had with her. We are forever grateful for our Pagosa family who loved and continue to love on us well!

June brought new beginnings! After serving for three years at First Baptist Church Levelland as Children's Pastor - Joel resigned and became a Missionary with the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. Our placement - Delta Colorado. So after finishing up with VBS in Levelland, we packed up and Joel, Hannah, Tyler and I headed to Delta while Malachi and Kestra stayed behind to go to church camp with the youth from Levelland. Once again, Grandad helped out and was able to pick them up from camp for us!

July brought more adjustment and hardship. We began to adjust to life in our new community. Joel got a job at Wal-Mart in the stocking department. The kids and I enjoyed slow mornings, time at the local rec center and just exploring our new town. Once again we would be rocked by hardship. On July 17 Joel came home from work just not feeling well at all. He was feverish and weak. Chalking it up to fatigue and adjusting to a night job and harder duties neither one of us thought much of it. However Monday night he was still ill and missed work - by Tuesday morning, I and he, knew something major was wrong. I took him to the Urgent Care Clinic and eventually to the hospital ER where he was later admitted. He was dehydrated, had pneumonia, and had a significantly un-explainable low white blood cell count. As a friend who is also a head nurse at the hospital said...he was one sick man! After 3 days and 2 nights in the hospital on some heavy antibiotics Joel was released to come home. His blood count literally TRIPLED over night... BUT GOD! Bonus blessing was that my Dad had already planned a visit for this week and was able to come and be with the kids and I through it all. As a result of this illness, Joel could no longer physically handle his current position at Wal-Mart. After talking to the managers and because he found favor with them - he was moved to a Sales Associate position with higher pay and better hours...BUT GOD!

August would bring change. The kids would all begin school at Delta High School; which starting a new school is always an adjustment. For Tyler, it was his first time in High School and back in public school after being home schooled for 2 years. He did and continues to do very well with the change! Hannah also experienced change as she was hired at McDonald's. Toward the end of August, I would be hired at Vision Charter Academy as a paraprofessional for the Special Education Department. Such a huge blessing as I love education and special needs students!!!

September we would be able to just "settle". We were all into our new normal including having a fall softball season instead of spring season and was a much needed time to just "Be still and know that I am God".

October we were able to go to Silverton for a day and meet up with my Mom's two sisters and my Dad for lunch and exploring. My Dad then traveled back with us and enjoyed some quality time here! Kestra finished up her first softball season with Delta High School and did well! She learned and grew tremendously in her game - can't wait to see her Senior year!

November brought a time of more change and a time to reflect and be thankful. Although he enjoyed his job at Wal-Mart and God definitely used it to open ministry doors; the hours were hard in terms of family time and ministry work. We had began praying that God might open up a different position that would still be part time and enable Joel to have more time for ministry. Open up He did! Joel was hired as a part time IT Assistant at Vision Charter Academy where I work and was able to quit his position with Wal-Mart, leaving on good terms, and it was a pay increase to boot! At the same time, I was offered and accepted the opportunity to move from part-time to full-time and increased responsibility! We celebrated Thanksgiving here as a family with part of our church family joining us!

December has been a time to just breathe and reflect! With both Joel and I working at a school, we have enjoyed a full two weeks off with the kids for the first time EVER! My Dad flew in late the night of Dec. 18th and has been with us ever since - it has been a GREAT time with him. He will fly back to my sister's house in Louisiana tomorrow - we are going to miss having him around!!!

The take aways from this year - are many!

1.) Even in the sorrow, the tragedy, the unexpected, the hard - God is still moving and working! I have seen and felt Him in so many many ways! I miss my Mom each and every day and though maybe the tears aren't as frequent - the hole is still there - yet, God has been my comfort, he has blessed me with an amazing friend who is a little farther down this grief road than I am and she has been so special and sweet and insightful!

2.) Watching your child struggle with something as hard as HARD! A part of me wanted to shake her and say get over it; and a bigger part of me - wanted to shelter her and wrap her up and protect her and take away all the hardship and pain. BUT GOD...He has helped me grow in areas of compassion and tough love and He has brought her through in maturity, healing, and grace!

3.) Hardship and Change - they are part of all of our lives; you can't escape them BUT you can learn to overcome and adjust to them with Christ! As we have faced what both Joel and I have referred to as our hardest year in marriage yet; we have been so blessed to know that God has already gone before us and knows what is coming ahead and we can trust Him in that! Casting Crowns has always been one of my favorite bands - they sing a song called "Already There" that sums up this idea. God is ALREADY THERE...He knows the future, the unknown, the unexpected, the tragedy, the hard, and He is working it for HIS glory and HIS good!

4.) When the hard comes...your family can grow stronger. This has been HUGE for us as a family this year. Our kids have grown from being just siblings to truly being friends this year. They are each other's strength and encouragement and we have enjoyed so many many moments of family time the past few months - blesses this mom's heart!

As I begin to look ahead to 2017...I don't know what it will bring, I know there will be some hard moments -like sending Hannah off to Australia for 6 months to be a nanny at the end of January, I know there will be some moments of change - like my son graduating from High School in May and I know there could be tragedy and new beginnings BUT most of all....I know that GOD IS ALREADY THERE and I can rest in that!

My prayer for you is matter what curve balls life is tossing you, no matter what you think may or may not happen, no matter how hard your circumstances; there is a Savior, there is ONE who wants to carry you and hold you through it all and He is already there at the end of the journey!!!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Church Planting Wife - Journal Log: Six months in

It is hard to believe that it has been six months (well, it will be on Dec. 24) since we pulled into Delta, Colorado and began this journey of church planting. In some ways, we are overwhelmed by all that God has done and how He is moving and some ways, we find ourselves scratching our heads and wondering what's next?

I wanted to share with you from the perspective of a church planters wife...which, is the same and yet different from that of Joel, the official "church planter". Of course, this journey - as have all our ministry journeys - is both of ours, and even our kids. As I look back over the past 6 months - I see moments of joy and success - I see moments of discouragement and disappointment - and I see many many moments of learning!

Let's begin with a brief run down of where we were, where we have been, and where we are.

June found us finishing up our time of ministry at FBC Levelland Texas with Vacation Bible School, completing the last of the packing, and preparing for Joel, Hannah, Tyler and I to head with the moving truck to Colorado while Kestra and Malachi went with the youth from Levelland to camp. It was a whirlwind to say the least! The goodbyes were hard, the unknown lurked before us, and the excitement and anticipation kept us moving forward! We arrived in Delta on June 24th and unloaded some mattresses and the basics for the night - the following day, we would unload the remainder of the truck into our home and the journey would begin!

July found Joel beginning as a night stocker at Wal-Mart, meeting my extended family in Silverton for the fourth of July, and officially getting settled into our new home. Also, in July we would begin forming some key relationships with our now sending church, Calvary Baptist Church here in Delta. Probably the biggest thing for July would be Joel coming down with pneumonia and unexplainable severely low blood cell counts that resulted in two nights in the hospital, a week off of work, and lots of prayer from so many everywhere! This was a definite low for us - a time where we had to sit back and wonder "God, what ARE you doing here?" Yet, through it all God WAS moving and working! As a result of his illness, Joel was able to go to the management at Wal-Mart and ask for a different position that was less physically straining, had better hours and would be better all the way around - he was granted a Sales Associate position in the Sporting Goods Department! Go God!!!

With August, we found Joel beginning to build some very key relationships with the employees at Wal-Mart that would then lead to members of our new church plant! August was also when we made a presentation to Calvary Baptist Church in regards to being our sending church - that presentation would fall on the very Sunday that a single mom who had not been in church for awhile would decide to come to church - she would also become a key member of our church plant! Also in August - I, Ronnie, would be offered and accept a position at Vision Charter Academy here in Delta as a Special Education Paraprofessional - working with kids with special needs - couldn't be happier!!! The end of August would bring our three youngest beginning at Delta High School and Hannah beginning work at McDonald's. It would also ring in the beginning of softball season!!! We also would do our very first outreach project which was to provide school supplies to 35 elementary students in the community!

September found all six of us adjusting to our new "normal", building friendships and relationships, enjoying Kestra playing softball, and would also be the first "official" month of being North American Missionaries meaning that all paperwork was in and we had a sending church!!! Joel continued to build and develop relationships at Wal-Mart, I continued to adjust to going back to work, the kids acclimated to their new school and Hannah settled into working full-time! Another high point in September would be the official start of regular weekly meeting times for Church Without Walls - our church plant!!!

In October we enjoyed a week of Fall Break where we met with my mom's sisters in Silverton and my Dad came to visit for a few days! Kestra finished her softball season as a swing player between JV and Varsity! I enjoyed getting to know my co-workers and students even more resulting in the decision to pursue the possibility of an alternate teaching certificate - which I am still in the process of pursuing!

With November came several big changes. Joel was offered and accepted a part-time position with Vision Charter Academy as IT Assistant and resigned from Wal-Mart. He enjoyed the work and relationships at Wal-Mart but the hours were not conducive to ministry and made family time difficult. I was offered, and accepted, the opportunity to move from part-time with Vision to full-time bringing an increase financially and more responsibility! Hannah was able to finalize plans for going to Australia as an Au Pair/Nanny with a family and will leave January 31. In addition, our church plant did their second outreach project in providing meals to families in the area for Thanksgiving! We celebrated Thanksgiving Day with a mom and daughter from our church plant and just enjoyed the quietness of the day - which was a welcome time as it was our first without my Mom.

December finds us sitting back and reflecting on the first six months of this journey.

We have seen incredible highs: having a weekly meeting time just 2 months in when the average church plant doesn't do this for a year or more, a high attendance of 23 on one Sunday night service, the beginning of marriage mentoring meetings with a fantastic couple, the financial ability to provide Thanksgiving meals to four local families here in the area through the church plant, and more and more meaningful conversations being started with potential members of our church plant. We have seen our kids adjust and complete their first semester at a new school, our Tyler is reading more and more each week, and Hannah has overcome so much to find favor at McDonald's and even got a raise!

We have also experienced some lows or times of discouragement: families that we believed would be leaders with us in the church plant have backed out for various reasons, others have come only once and not come again, we have been working on building a team of 300 prayer and/or financial supporters and are only at approximately 40, we have had some meeting times where no one showed up, times where we desperately missed friends and the comfort of the "known" of traditional church ministry, times of sadness wishing we could share this experience with Mom/Mimi, etc.

For me personally - I have had to revisit and remind myself of the calling to this church planting journey multiple times. To be honest - it is hard. When you don't know from week to week who, if anyone will show up, when your home is also the church and so this often means cleaning on a Sunday afternoon rather than relaxing, when you don't have those friends you can call for a "night out", when you and your daughter have to plan for the child care and yet have limited resources and funds, adjusting to a different kind of church that most likely means noisy children in the middle of the floor while you meet, etc.

Yet - I wouldn't go back, I wouldn't change it, I LOVE IT!!! I love that the people that walk into my home each Sunday night are here because they WANT to be, not because it is expected, I love that they are hungry and are seeking and asking and growing, I love their GIVING hearts - when they give to others even when they don't have themselves! I love the sound of children in every part of my home because this means young families are being reached and ministered to. THIS is what makes the hard - so so worth it!!!

I have learned some important things these past six months:

1.) LOVE goes a long way! Simply by loving on people, they will come and hear and grow.

2.) FLEXIBILITY is a must! Plans change, what's normal isn't any more, the unexpected happens, and you have to learn to go with it...those little ones tromping through the middle of church - they are the source of energy and excitement!

3.) MISSIONAL MINDSET! Of course, as believers we are supposed to always live a life that reflects Christ but when you are in a community to start a church and people hear and know this - everything you do is a reflection of ministry! You begin to look at the cashier at the grocery store different and become intentional about reaching out to them, his name is Dennis by the way! That person at the gas station - could be the next person you need to share the Gospel with!

4.) JOY IN THE JOURNEY! You have to find the joy - even in the hard! The joy that you are on the ground level experiencing something NEW. The joy found when those you reached out to are now coming to you asking how to reach out to others. The joy found when no one shows up to church and you get to spend time in prayer instead.

5.) PERSEVERANCE because it is worth it! Yes - there are times that I have wanted to give up, throw in the towel and go back to that known paycheck, those guaranteed volunteers and leaders BUT when you see even just ONE person begin to grow in Christ and "get it" or you see that one person who wouldn't come to a traditional church come to your church - then you KNOW it is worth it to keep on even when it's hard!!!

So - as we look at where we have been, where I have been, where I have grown and been stretched; the most logical thing is to look ahead to where we are going!

For me personally, I am looking at being stretched in the area of evangelism! I have been reading "The Un-churched Next Door" by Thom Rainer and it has me being challenged BIG! In the next several months, I am praying and seeking opportunities to meet and invite and invest in those around me!

For the church plant, we are looking for double the growth - bringing our regular attendance to 20, we are looking for a regular meeting place outside of our home, we are looking for other leaders to join us in ministry, we continue to look for our team of 300, we are looking forward to Joel officially preaching sermons.

I believe God has BIG things in store over the next 6 months for myself personally and for Church Without Walls! I eagerly anticipate all that He will do!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

My "Tribe"

I have seen them and I am sure you have too - the posts or blogs about a woman having her "tribe" - the group of friends that she shares life with and who are there in a pinch if needed, go out for a regular girls night, etc. 

Being honest here, I have always been a tad jealous of these posts because honestly I didn't feel like I had a tribe around me. For the better part of our 21 years of marriage, we have moved and transitioned. This makes in depth meaningful relationships H.A.R.D. Yes - I have had women that I have done a ladies night out with - usually as part of women's ministry- and I have had some that are my choir parent buddies, or my Bible Study buddies, or sports parent buddies, etc. Sprinkled in through the years there have been one or two friends that really are meaningful and in depth but never a group...

Recently, as I was struggling through a friendship that has shifted and changed for numerous reasons, I found myself literally crying out to the Lord asking why I didn't have a "tribe" of my own. Where were these friends that were supposed to be there through the good, the bad, and the ugly of life? What was wrong with me that I didn't have this? I know - a tad on the overreacting side but bare with me because I want you understand where I was with this. 

So, in my prayer/crying fest to the Lord mourning the loss of this particular friendship - He clearly reminded me of something that I was not seeing. I DO have a tribe! Many years ago, before Joel and I were married and when I was still in college - God blessed me with four friends with whom I have a close and tight relationship with. You see these gals - we TRULY have walked life together...let me share with you a few of the things that we have walked through together - 

*Dating and Marriage
*Pregnancy Struggles and births of children
*Depression for either ourselves or those close to us
*Loss of a parent, loss of a sibling, and loss of a spouse
*A parent with Alzheimers
*Bankruptcy and recovery from it
*Pain and success in ministry situations
*Broken friendships (other than this group)
*Struggles with our kids
*Second marriage and all that brings

You see, these four - they make up my "tribe"! When I have something exciting to share - they are my go to group, when sorrow or devastation hit they are my go to group, when I am hurting or lost they are my go to group - they are my TRIBE! While I was looking for something different - they have been there all along - we live in four different states, have kids in varying stages of life, but yet we are still as close as though we were all still sitting in one of our dorm rooms or apartments and talking in person. 

I share this with you because maybe you are looking for a tribe. Maybe, like me you think that surely this tribe needs to look like the posts or blogs you read. However, MAYBE like me you have a tribe - it just looks a little different than someone else's. 

It is my firm belief, that we were created for relationships and in person relationships that are deep and meaningful. It is still a prayer of mine that God will open up the door for a local group of friends with whom I can do life with, have fun with, be couple friends with, and be real with - yet, I know with all my being that God blessed me with the best tribe of friends who are so willing to walk through the good the bad and the ugly! 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

A Christian Parents Guide to IEP or Special Education Meetings...

If you have been around my blog long or know us at all, you know that I have a heart for kids with Special Needs and their parents. Having both a son and niece with special needs these kiddos and their families are close to my heart and I LOVE being able to encourage them, support them and help them in any way I can.

Any parent of a special needs child who is of school age and in the public school system will tell you that one of the hardest times is that of the school IEP or Individual Education Plan meeting. The basis of these meetings is for your child's educators, therapists, service providers, and you as parent to come together and discuss the needs of your child, where they are at in their academic and social progress, where they are lacking and what supports and helps can be put in place to help them.

For a parent, these meetings can bring feelings of sadness, being overwhelmed, intimidated, frustration, anger and even defensiveness. At times, you feel as though it is you vs a room full of professionals who "think" they know your child better than you but yet you know your child the best. All you have to do is google IEP meetings and images to come up with a WHOLE HOST of memes about angry parents headed to IEP meetings, derogatory remarks about teachers etc, and more. While in some ways, these can be true...I want to propose that they don't have to be true, there can be a different approach and especially as a Christian have an excellent opportunity to yes be a strong advocate for your child BUT to also be salt and light to their educational team!

In the past 11 years of working with various schools and attending countless IEP meetings, Here are some guidelines that we have discovered for Christian parents in their approach of these meetings....

1.) Prayer. Perhaps this should be the assumed approach but it took me several years before I would regularly bathe my child's IEP meetings in prayer before the throne and even longer before I would regularly reach out to my close team of prayer warriors and ask them to join me in praying over the upcoming meetings. Yet, when this became my habit - I noticed BIG changes in the overall atmosphere of our meetings and most of all in MY attitude approaching them. I pray over my child of course but also for the teachers and service providers and that I would represent Christ well in these meetings! It is also a great reminder to me that the ONE who created my child loves him so much more than me and will go before us!

2.) Open-Mindedness. I had to learn to have an open mind going into the meetings and to not automatically assume that the school is against me or my child.  It is important to not go into these meetings automatically on the defensive but to go in with the idea that you CAN work together WITH the school for your child.

3.) Gentleness. To piggy back on the previous guideline - go into each meeting with a gentle and calm spirit. Approach the team with an attitude that assumes the best not the worst of those working with your child.

4.) Firm Advocate rather than a Defensive Advocate. It has taken time but I have learned that I CAN be a firm and strong advocate for my child without being defensive, abrasive, rude or out of control. I can advocate for my child and his needs with an attitude that brings glory and honor to Christ and is a witness to those around me. Go into your child's IEP with the idea that God has placed you in THIS meeting to be His ambassador and witness. With this in mind, speak truth YES but in love. State what your child needs but in love!

5.) Should you have to change direction - do so with grace. We have found ourselves in a position where we realized that the school simply wasn't going to work with us or our son to meet his needs and for the sake of what was best for our child we had to withdraw him from that educational setting. I wish that I could say that we handled this with 100% grace and love but that wasn't the case. We withdrew him and chose to homeschool him for a time but I was angry and put out to say the least. at a follow-up meeting I did approach it with grace though and it was so much better. Again, I had to remind myself to represent Christ hard as that may be.

6.) Relationship is key. Regardless the situation, as believers we need to remember that the relationship is the key. We need to maintain the relationship even in the midst of advocating for our child. Remember that there really are times that teachers and administrators hands are tied due to resources, laws, etc. This is where we found ourselves when we withdrew our son but to maintain the relationship, we thanked the staff for their efforts and time while still taking the actions that were best for our child.

7.) Even if the previous meeting went south...follow these guidelines every time. In our humanness, sometimes we just mess up or the meeting just takes a bad turn. DO NOT take the baggage from one meeting into the next one - start again with prayer, a fresh mindset, a good attitude. You will get no where if you are carrying a grudge and in most cases, it just gets worse!

8.) If needed - take a friend or another advocate. Many times we really are too emotionally involved to approach an IEP with an open mind or calmness. We need to recognize this and if our spouse is able take them, if not find a friend or advocate that will be the voice of reason, help keep you calm and collected, and still advocate for your child!

To summarize,  as a Christian parent yes you have a responsibility to advocate for your child but you also have a responsibility to represent Christ well in these meetings and to be the hands and feet of Him! You CAN do both. Above all PRAY over your child, their teachers, the meetings, the services, service providers, etc!

Footnote: You may notice that throughout this post I don't use the term "fight for my child" or "do battle on his behalf" but rather advocate. The reason for this is simple - fight or battle automatically put me in a defensive mindset and make me go into the meeting with an us vs them mentality and that is just not correct. I honestly believe that the majority of teachers and administrators DO want to see students excel and succeed, they just have much more to consider than just my child and like I mentioned earlier they are restricted at times.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

We say "We will never forget" and yet....15 years later, WE FORGOT

This morning as I woke up, I heard my son say from the other room to his Dad:

"I think today is the day Dad."
Dad: "What day is that?"
Son: "I think today is 9/11"

As I finished preparing for church, thoughts of 9/11 came to my mind...I DO remember that day, I remember where I was, I remember watching my 4 innocent children play and laugh and wondering what their lives would hold in this now changed America....

Here we are, 15 years removed from that monumental day. A day that is to my generation that Pearl Harbor was to my Grandparents generation. A day in which the war on terrorism was no longer in a far away land but right here on our own soil. Each year I see signs and images that say "Never Forget" or "We will never forget" and yet...I am convinced that we FORGOT.

No, we didn't forget what happened - we forgot how our Nation reacted. On 9/11/2001 there wasn't a single person in America that was disrespecting or criticizing our law enforcement, we weren't a nation with political parties divided and agendas more important than people, we weren't tossing God to the wind and saying everyone believe what you want....

On 9/11/2001 and in the subsequent weeks and months - our nation was UNITED, we respected and loved on one another, we thanked those in any uniform, every kid I knew wanted to grow up and be a policeman or firefighter - bonus if it was NYPD or NYFD. More noticeable than this was the way in which the body of Christ reacted...we were extending love to those in need, being bold in the sharing of the Gospel, knowing that truly the ONLY hope for America was God! Our churches were full and people were seeking...and we as Christians were there with open arms and the Gospel message.

What do I see on 9/11/2016:

* A nation more divided than ever.
* Americans criticizing and bashing one another rather than uniting.
*Our law enforcement is under fire and scrutiny
* Our churches are actually DECLINING and closing doors rather than growing and reaching out
* Political agendas are now the news of the day - no talk of people as the priority
* Christians are more out spoken about politics and patriotism than they are about the Gospel message being shared and lives being changed for eternity.
*Believers walk around in discouragement and hopelessness forgetting that our ONLY hope is in Christ - not a politician, not government, not laws.

So....if you want to say "Never Forget" than I want to boldly challenge you to truly stand behind those words and don't just remember the event - remember the way in which we reacted! We were determined to stand united as a Nation. Christian - we were BOLD with the message of Christ and not a political agenda - we worshiped the Lord over patriotism. We reached out in love and care to one another. We thanked and honored our law enforcement. There was not one race against another - we were ALL Americans reeling with the reality that war was on our soil.

Non-believers saw the hope that we as believers had in the wake of tragedy and we were ready with an answer for the hope that is within us...what do they see in us today when we are faced with a broken nation, a nation divided, uncertain times. Are we living as those with eternal hope that others want?

Christian - this is to you....Pray, Seek His face, Repent and THEN He will forgive and heal.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

When life just doesn't go as planned....

Have you ever looked at your life and thought "Well, this wasn't the way I thought it would go?"

Maybe not even in a negative sense or maybe with some disappointment...regardless, it wasn't the way you envisioned it all playing out.

This is where I have found myself over and over during the past 7 months. Looking at some things in our life and just crying out to God "This wasn't the way I intended this to go, this isn't what I planned." As I have thought about it, prayed about it, complained some about it, and most of all just worked on embracing it - God has revealed Himself in so many ways and I am learning that isn't what I had planned BUT it IS all a part of HIS PLAN!

Let me explain...

January of this year was turmoil for our family. We suffered a GREAT loss in my mom's death. I am not going to lie or mince words - it shook both our immediate family and extended family to the so many ways, we are still regrouping from this. Yes, we know where she is, yes we can rejoice in that and yes there is still a sadness and void in our family. This was NOT part of the plan. My plan was that she would recover, that she would be here when we moved to Delta, that she would see all of her grandchildren graduate and be a part of that...It didn't go as I planned.

In conjunction with the loss of mom, our oldest struggled emotionally in coping with this loss and the pressures of college and just in general. So much so that by Spring Break she made the decision to withdraw from college and come home to heal and regroup emotionally. This was NOT part of the plan or the way I envisioned it. My plan was that she would blossom and thrive at college and it would be an amazing experience. In MY plan I would be taking her back for a glorious second year....It didn't go as I planned. She is living with us and working at McDonald's.

By May we were supposed to have locked down a sending church for our church plant here in Delta, we would be moved by early June, Joel and I would both immediately find jobs and things were just going to blow wide open in regards to planting a church...We still are working on the sending church thing, Joel did find a job immediately but that was followed by becoming seriously ill and ending up in the hospital, I just now have a job and we are just now beginning to put the pieces together for the church plant...This was NOT my plan or how I envisioned it. In MY plan we would be already meeting and have a solid base and my husband would be 100% healthy.

Now, before it sounds like I am disappointed and discouraged let me say - God has shown up BIG TIME in every one of these areas! Yes, I have struggled with discouragement, disappointment, and even depression the past several months BUT I serve a REDEEMING God, a God who is MORE THAN able to turn these meeker plans of mine into GRAND plans of HIS!!!

Let me tell you how....

Yes, the loss of my mother hurts and it is a DAILY battle to not give into the sadness of it. However, through her death I have had the opportunity to talk with SO MANY women that she touched and invested in. I have had the opportunity to walk alongside others in the loss of a parent and truly say - I know what you are feeling. My kids weekly mention something Mimi taught them or a fun memory of her or see something that reminds them of her and makes them smile. See, God's plan in this was so much BIGGER than my selfish desire. He wanted to reveal to me the impact of a life well lived for Him!

Yes, Hannah IS living with us and working at McDonald's - by FAR her least favorite restaurant. However, she is healing. She is learning to step out of her comfort zone BIG time for a far greater purpose. She is slowly embracing joy in life and learning to forgive herself and to be okay again. God's plan was BIGGER than mine..He wanted to stretch her in ways I never would have imagined and His plan for her is STILL unfolding!!! Words cannot express how proud I am of her and how she is allowing God to mold her.

We ARE in the final stages of lining out a sending church and it has taken MUCH longer than I planned. Yet, the relationship with us and them will be so much sweeter having gone through this time of processing, sharing, praying.

Joel IS healed and doing great but had he not been in the hospital we would not have had the opportunity to encounter so many people and share with them about our mission here and the church plant. God wanted to expand our territory into a place we never may have gone had he not been sick.

I did just now find a job but had it been earlier I would have missed out on an environment and position that I am EXCITED and PASSIONATE about! God knew my heart and HIS plan was to place me in a position that would bless me!

Here's the deal friends...Reality is that life rarely goes as WE plan it to. The unexpected, the unthinkable, the unforseen happens and when it does we find ourselves at a crossroads. We can choose to be upset, depressed, angry, disappointed or even bitter OR...

We can choose to stop, take a breath, look to Him and ask HIM what HIS plan and purpose for it all is. We can choose to CLAIM Jeremiah 29:11 and truly embrace it over our lives...

This second choice is where I have found myself...claiming and believing that God's BIG plans for me are so much greater than any I can drum up for myself. This is where I would encourage YOU to be as well should you find yourself as I have saying - "This is not at all what I had planned." 

Cause you know what? NONE of this is what I had planned and I am SO THANKFUL that HIS PLANS are much greater and higher...I am choosing to EMBRACE HIS PLANS!!!! 

Monday, July 25, 2016

Let's get real about FEAR...

So, apparently dealing with FEAR is an ongoing theme with me...just realized that my last post had to do with fear and yet here I am again...

First of all let me begin by stating - fear is real, fear can mask itself in many ways, and fear can be well - scary! Over the past month, I have seen and experienced fear in multiple ways and in regards to multiple areas. I am not talking just about the fear of the dark, or fear of strangers, or fear of goblins in the closet - although these can be real fears. No - I am talking about fear of the future, of the unknown, of the what ifs....

Just this morning, as I opened up my Facebook and began reading posts and articles shared by various friends I sensed this overwhelming fear that we as a nation have in regards to the upcoming election, politics, etc. One post even went so far as to state that if Donald Trump isn't elected, America will no longer exist? What?? Now if that isn't designed to scare you I don't know what is!!! Another statement said that really, there isn't hope for America at all regardless who wins - it's all a conspiracy anyway. WOWZA!!!

For me personally...the fear has been a little more personal. If you have talked to me or followed my Facebook posts you know that the past 7 days have been quite the roller coaster for our family! Last Sunday night, Joel came home from work with a mild fever and just feeling blah...long story short by Tuesday morning it had progressed to a 103.8 fever, no energy etc. I took him to urgent care, which then ended up with us in the ER and eventually by Tuesday afternoon he was admitted to the hospital! Result...he had an extremely low white blood cell count (as in 68 when normal is 4000), dehydration, and pneumonia. To sum it up...there was and still is not an explanation as to what happened to his body. As I sat in that hospital room and listened to the Doctor explain the gravity of the situation, FEAR overcame me! Fear of what does this mean? What if he has cancer? What if he is in the hospital for weeks? Fear of what does this mean for our family? What does it mean for our church planting plans? Can he still even work? Yesterday, he was back in the ER due to some pain issues which again caused all this FEAR...(he's better today) You get the idea...I was AFRAID.

If that isn't enough, Satan had to go a step further and remind me of moments in the hospital with my mom throughout her last year of life. Emotionally it was draining....

Take it a step further - we are still waiting on some key beginning pieces of the church planting process to fall into place, pieces that we REALLY thought would be in place back in April or May and here we are almost to August and they are still unknown. Fear of did we miss God? What if this all falls apart? What then?

Combine ALL of this with fears of my earlier post about changing careers, etc and well...I think it is safe to say I was ALLOWING myself to be overcome with fear!

So, back to this morning...after looking at Facebook I KNEW where I needed to go...I needed to go to the one place I KNOW has an answer...The Word of God! God's Word has LOTS to say about fear and being afraid...Here are just a few that I found.

"After these events, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield; your reward will be very great." Genesis 15:1

"Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

"He is to say to them: ‘Listen, Israel: Today you are about to engage in battle with your enemies. Do not be cowardly. Do not be afraid, alarmed, or terrified because of them. 4 For the Lord your God is the One who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.’" Deuteronomy 20:3-4

"Even when I go through the darkest valley, I fear no danger, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff—they comfort me." Psalm 23:4

"When I am afraid, I will trust in You." Psalm 56:3

"There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment.So the one who fears has not reached perfection in love." I John 4:18

These are just a few of the verses on being afraid and fear...there are more. However, here is my conclusion... As believers, we CANNOT be overcome by fear, we can't let it dictate our decisions our thoughts or actions. We have to go to the ONE who is so much greater than all our fears. Believe me...I don't have this perfected, in fact I pretty much feel like I am typing this for myself more than anyone else!

I can't tell you what tomorrow will bring or even what the rest of today will bring...I can only say that MY HOPE, MY STRENGTH, MY FUTURE rests in Christ and Christ alone! This morning as I have been working and researching for this post this song has been playing in my mind...

Eye of the Storm by Ryan Stevenson

Yes, God knows that the way to speak to my heart is through music that reminds me where to place my hope..."I find my peace in Jesus Name"

My prayer this morning, is that if YOU find yourself afraid or consumed with fear for whatever reason, you will RUN to HIM!!!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Fear, Change, New Beginnings

As I look at my calendar I can hardly believe that it was just 3 weeks tomorrow since we pulled into Delta Co.! What an adventure it has been for sure!

To start off with, here is a recap of the past three weeks. Joel, Hannah, Tyler and I arrived here on June 25th. We unloaded some basics that evening (beds, clothes, etc) and then finished unloading the remainder on Sunday June 26th. We all LOVE our house, it is by far the biggest home we have ever lived in, is old and fun, and just great!

On July 4th, we met up with my Dad, Malachi and Kestra in Silverton (they had been at youth camp with Levelland church). We had a great time celebrating this amazing nation with my cousins, aunt, uncle, etc and then headed back - our entire family together - to officially begin this church planting journey!

Joel was hired at Wal-Mart and began on July 1st. It has been an adjustment in many ways for our entire family. He is working from 2:00p.m. to approximately midnight stocking shelves and unloading trucks. For him, the change from primarily an office job to manual labor has been rough but he has adjusted really well! For our family, it takes some getting used to having Dad home in the mornings but not home at night...however, we are starting to get the hang of it!

Hannah was just hired at McDonald's yesterday and will officially begin July 24th! I must say I am SUPER proud of her!!! She literally hates McDonald's food but knew she needed a job to earn money for Youth With A Mission - so she took a deep breath and went for it!!! Pray for her to have a great attitude and to shine for Jesus in her workplace.

As for me...well, that is where the title of this blog comes in. Fear. Change. New Beginnings. It pretty much sums up me emotionally the past few weeks. You wouldn't know it on the outside but really moves cause me MUCH fear! Even when I KNOW they are of God and that He has gone before us!

Let me back up a bit to Levelland. There was so much to love about our time at FBC Levelland - great people, great church, a fun and fulfilling ministry but for me PERSONALLY was the finding of my purpose, a passion and an excitement in a career. I LOVED my job at King's Kids Parents Day Out! I loved that I could combine my business degree and human resource passion with my passion for preschoolers and their families! Joel and I have commented many times that this was a defining time for me - a time where I could truly say "this is IT".

Which brings us to Delta and wondering how I would  be able to be that excited about a job again. The childcare laws in Colorado are much stricter and require a lot more to work in the childcare field. In order to do what I was doing in Texas, I need to take 9 college courses and work 12 months in a licensed day care. To just teach in a preschool/daycare I need at least 2 classes. This is one area where fear has crept its ugly head - how can I do THAT and earn money? I already have a college degree, just use it and get a pay check - you can't afford college again! Who changes careers over 40 anyway? You get the idea....
Yet - I know where my heart is, where my passion is, etc...I just tend to go back to the "safe zone" my security - get an office job and be done with it.

Listening to this fear, I sent out several resumes to some office administrative type positions. I even interviewed at one in Montrose (a 30 min commute one way). Joel encouraged me to be patient and wait for the Lord...not something I am good at. The more I began to think about it, pray about it, etc I knew that I really should/needed to wait for something here in Delta to open up. Not only do I need to meet people here (after all, we DID move here to build a church in Delta) but I just didn't have a peace at all about this interview.

Change - I KNEW I needed to overcome my fear, stop playing the "what if" game in my head (which I have banned from our home), and just take a step of faith and trust God. So...that is what I did. I got online, applied to an online community college, Joel helped me apply for Financial Aid, and now I am just waiting to see what God does with it. My Mom once told me that when you are struggling with a decision and you have truly laid it at the feet of God - let it go and let Him work. I have no idea if/when all the pieces to this puzzle will come together but I know they won't if I don't take that step of faith and start the process!

New Beginnings - in the meantime, yes I do need to eventually earn SOME money! So, after talking with a friend, my Dad, and Joel I decided to once again overcome my fear and do it. I have started the process to be a substitute teacher here in Delta County - in Colorado, you not only have to apply through the school district but also get a sub license from the state. Thankfully, I have had one before in Colorado and so other than updating my information the process was fairly easy but now I wait...I had interviewed with the school preschool director over the phone awhile back and that went well and although I didn't get the job she really wanted me to sub and spend time there for future openings - so, that is my plan!

I am choosing to overcome FEAR...embrace CHANGE...and look forward to NEW BEGINNINGS! It may seem crazy and illogical to turn away from job security in a field with my degree (ok, it DEFINITELY does) but for lack of a better way of explaining it, I am just having to trust that God's got this, He called us here, He has a purpose.

One side note: Delta has a HUGE shortage of quality childcare options. Every person we have talked to about needs in Delta County has brought this up. We believe that long term, our church plant will be able to meet this need and thus an additional reason I am pursuing the education and experience to be ready for such a time as that door may open. Pray for that!

Here are some ways you all can be joining us in prayer (be sure and join our church planting prayer team for weekly updates as well):

1.) Joel is already having meaningful spiritual conversations with the men at work. Several have expressed interest in knowing more about the church plant, why we would come here, etc. Pray for those doors to continue to be open, relationships to be built and more.

2.) Pray for the door to open for me to take these classes, financial aid to be available, to not give into the fear of going back to school (it's been 20 years!).

3.) Pray for lots of substitute opportunities in the schools that will lead to not only financial benefits but also meaningful relationships!

4.) Our family has begun the process to be a mentoring family to a local child in need. We don't have a lot of details but pray for that child, the process and our family to be ready to show the love of Christ!

5.) Pray for Hannah as she prepares to go with YWAM for 6 months - she still needs about $2500 in financial needs, she needs boldness and confidence.

6.) Pray for our other three to meet friends and have a great school year!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Heart to Heart....

So, I know that I haven't blogged about our move and our first week here in Colorado - I will I promise but for now...I want to just be open and speak from my heart to the heart of the average church member, the one who attends, helps out here and there but mostly is just in the background.

If I could sit with each of you, the average American church member, in your living room or mine - this is what I want to say to you....LOVE ON YOUR CHURCH STAFF, LOVE ON THEIR FAMILY, PRAY FOR THEM, LOVE ON THEM...this, this sums it up!

You see, just like in our American political system, often times it is the LOUD minority that is directing the goings on of the church - not the silent majority. I truly believe that the hearts of the majority of members within our churches are GOOD...they love the Lord, they love people, and they even love their church staff. The problem is that they don't speak up...mostly because honestly I don't think they know they should but also because they get busy, they are tired from just doing life. To go to that church business meeting - well that is just ONE MORE THING on the already booked calendar. Of course I think of my Pastor or his wife and I really MEAN to call them but then we are off to practice or a game or vacation etc. You know what...TAKE THE TIME! Your church staff and their families NEED to know that you are there. They NEED to HEAR you say you love them, to pray for them, to MINISTER to them!

Friends...our church staff and their families are on the front lines day in and day out. They are taking a beating from without and within the church. They are weary. They are worn, They are persecuted from all directions. They are suffering from depression, loneliness, hurt, anger, and more. They need friends. They need to know YOU CARE.

Just is what I have heard from minister's wives and families (and this is ONLY today, not what I hear on a weekly basis) - "Pray for (insert name) and his family. They just got on their feet after being discouraged by goings on in the church and now their family is the target of retaliation, bullying, etc from a family upset with the church."
"Pray for us. My husband was basically fired today - he resigned rather than get voted out. We don't have a plan."
"Pray for (insert name) our Pastor's wife. She hears daily criticism and judgement about her, her husband and kids"

THIS IS THE NORMAL! Do you hear my heart? This is happening EVERY DAY in churches all across America and it is tearing up our ministers and their families. Like I said at the beginning - I HONESTLY believe that this is NOT the majority of church members treating ministers this way - I believe that a VERY LOUD, minority is what is being heard and a VERY SILENT majority needs to speak up, love up, and ACT OUT in love to church staff.

It has been suggested to me through the years that I am bitter towards the church, that I focus on the negative, etc. Please please hear me and listen up to my heart - THIS IS NOT THE CASE! I LOVE the church, I love serving within the church but I also believe that some things (ok, maybe a lot of things) in our churches need to change and it begins with this - LOVE YOUR STAFF. This doesn't mean agree with them all the time, it doesn't mean don't ever question or challenge what they may say or suggest but it DOES MEAN LOVE!!!! Let them know that even when they are wrong - you love them. Show them you care by calling, taking them out to eat, dropping a meal by, babysitting for a date night, send them a card, etc. Joel and I have a heart for the church - if this wasn't the case, we would have walked away years ago...believe me, the money isn't great and the hours are far from convenient! However - that silent majority - THEY ARE WORTH IT!

From my heart to yours....if you have EVER wondered how you can serve within the church or how you can support it - make it your mission in life to reach out and serve, love, minister to those who minister. Be a friend to your pastor's wife. Send them an encouraging note every month to counter act those negative ones they are getting. SHOW UP at the business meetings and smile at them - better yet SIT BY THEM in the business meeting. Pray and ask God to reveal to you how YOU can LOVE your church staff and their families....I bet He will be happy to oblige!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Reflections on the journey...

On the eve of our last day of ministry here at First Baptist Levelland, there are so many emotions, thoughts, memories, and feelings that have passed through my mind the last few days. We have just completed our final VBS here and it was a crazy busy week where I honestly didn't have much time to stop and think about what lie fact, it really wasn't until yesterday that it really "hit" me that this was our final Sunday....June 12th it's always been that date out there, several months or weeks away and BOOM here it is....

Today, I was trying to summarize my thoughts, my feelings and...well, it is all so different than ever before. It finally dawned on me...

I remember how I felt the few weeks prior to going off to college at Wayland Baptist University. Here I was, this small town Colorado girl preparing to go 8 hours away, live away from friends and family, and begin preparation for "the real world" On the one hand - I was SO excited to get started on this grand new adventure, there was so much to look forward to. On the other hand - I was trembling with fear of the unknown that this new adventure would bring, so much uncertainty! I had been on my own somewhat that summer working at a resort - but this would be different in regards to getting up for class on time, being responsible for my grades, my schedule, etc.

This journey that we are venturing out on evokes much the same feelings. In many ways, it is similar - we are still doing ministry, we will still be reaching people for the Lord and discipling families. In so many other ways it is WAY different; we have always gone to an established church, with an established congregation, an established and defined ministry plan. On a more personal note - any time over the past 20 years that we have changed jobs/ministries I have spent countless hours in conversation with my mom - expressing my fears, my concerns, my excitement, my anticipation... I am thankful that the last conversation I had in person with my mom was about our ministry opportunity in Delta but at that time, it was still in the application process and we didn't know for sure if it would happen. Now that it is here - I find myself daily wishing I could pick up the phone and chat with her, to share with her where we are at, things that we are needing prayer on - my mom was an incredible prayer warrior - and just wanting to hear her words of encouragement and wisdom.

This brings me back to my original thought - trying to summarize my feelings and here it is - nervous anticipation! I am definitely anticipating the joy of meeting new people, getting the church plant up and going, and ABSOLUTELY looking forward to returning to Colorado! However, there is  A LOT of nervousness, anxiousness, etc. As of today, we do not have a place to live, we do not have jobs (both Joel and I will need to work secular jobs to supplement until the church plant is up and going strong) and the economy in Delta is struggling to say the least. It is frightening to leave a place where you have a home, a job, friends, and things are going well to the unknown and uncertain - and yet even that is somewhat exciting!

As I have been praying through these emotions and thoughts - I was reminded of the story of Abraham in Genesis 12. God commands Abram "Go out from your land, your relatives, your father's house to the land I will show you..." At this time, God doesn't reveal to Abram where exactly he is to go, where he will live, how it will all play out - He just tells Abram to GO!
This is where we find ourselves - there are a lot of details that we thought would already be in place that just aren't. We DO know that God has called us to go. We have spent countless hours in prayer, have sought out wise counsel in regards to going, have had it confirmed in so many ways. So, even in this time of uncertainty and unknown; I am choosing to trust Him, to GO out from the land in which I am comfortable and move toward the land in which He has shown us.

Here are ways in which you can join us in prayer:

1.) Joel will have a phone interview with a possible job opportunity this week. This particular job would also be a GREAT ministry opportunity and tie in well with church planting.

2.) There are some homes opening up - pray for the house that God would have for us and the details to come together.

3.) Financial support team - we are working with individuals and churches to put together a team of financial supporters who have a heart for missions and church growth.

4.) Economy in Delta - recently the only remaining coal mine in the area laid off 80 workers, including a family who will be in our church plant, pray for jobs, provision and needs to be met.

5.) A job for myself

6.) Our kids as they adjust to a new town, school, friends, etc.

As always, we are so thankful for our many friends and family who support us in prayer and encouragement!

Monday, May 23, 2016

2015-2016 School year....the year of the OVERCOMERS

Seems like every year when May hits me "Where has this school year gone?" Weren't we JUST buying the school clothes, chatting excitedly about class schedules, making plans for road trips to sports? When did I blink and it disappear?

Why even wonder...because the end of the school year, marks one year closer to that time when I will look and realize "I am an empty nester." fact, Tyler - MY BABY - will start High School in the fall! Say WHAT?

As I look back at the school year of 2015-2016...all I can say is growth through pain. In so many ways, that is what has summed up this school year for our family. By far, it has been one of the most difficult school years for us...what started out as a year of exciting new adventures, turned into some serious pain filled moments, tears, disappointment, and wonder... It wasn't ALL hard...definitely sprinkled in were moments of joy - like making the JV softball team and being a starter, scoring a 1 on a UIL solo, and making progress in reading.

Let me just share with you some HARD things that have happened in our family...the reason is I want you to see that despite being a "ministry" family, life isn't all roses for us. Nope. Not a bit. We are a real family just like anyone else - the only thing that makes a difference - JESUS!

1.) Our oldest went to college in the fall. We were excited, she was excited, it was EXCITING! We loaded her up, we decorated the dorm room, we had some high hindsight, maybe TOO high. She struggled. She experienced some growth pains. She wanted to give in and give up. She pressed on through the first semester. It didn't look exciting any more. It wasn't exciting. It was HARD. Second semester would bring more pain, more hardship, and the need to step away and retreat for a time...It was HARD.

2.) Our second one started his Junior year with high hopes. Looking to begin a new sport. Getting a glimpse of the end.... He was excited. We were excited. It was EXCITING! He struggled. He faltered. He fell. The grades plummeted to an all time low. We lectured. We encouraged. We begged. We cried. it was HARD. Second semester would bring the chance to begin fresh with a brand new slate....It wasn't exciting. It wasn't glamorous. It looked bleak. The finish line was no longer in sight. It was HARD.

3.) My mom started off with some great medical reports in early fall. Looked like victory over cancer was on the horizon. She had some challenges, but surely they would be overcome. By wasn't great any more. It looked bleak. It wasn't looking very victorious. Second got HARD. It went downhill. It wasn't looking good any longer. It was painful. It hurt. It was HARD.

These are just the big highlights of the HARD of this school year. There were others...medical issues with Joel's Dad, ministry struggles, hardships with friends close to us.

HOWEVER....that is NOT THE END OF THE STORY. We chose not to remain in the HARD. We chose to look to the ONE WHO HAS OVERCOME THE HARD - JESUS, the NAME ABOVE ALL NAMES.

1.) Our oldest has overcome some serious amount of depression. She is getting stronger every single day. Yes - she still has some growth to go through but she is on the way! God has BIG plans for her and she is OVERCOMING through HIM!

2.) Our second one has learned the reality of choices have consequences. He is working toward recovering some grades and getting a brand new fresh start. He is OVERCOMING through HIM!

3.) My mom...she won the ULTIMATE VICTORY of healing...she's at the throne of the KING OF KINGS! It's still hard for me at times. It's still painful A LOT OF TIMES and BUT GREATER IS HE WHO IS IN ME!!! I am healing. I am growing, I am going to be VICTORIOUS and overcome through HIM!

Here's my point....Life IS HARD. It isn't all roses. It doesn't always work out the way WE want it to work out. It has times of PAIN, times of TEARS, times of  DISAPPOINTMENT....but we don't have to let that be the end of our story. That doesn't have to be what sums up our life! Through Christ...we can REJOICE and be called....

John 16:33 states:
"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Light Comes's time to speak out

Reading James 1 this morning and hit over the head, toes stepped on, light bulb pops on...
You see, for the past 3 years our family has dealt with a "trial" of sorts, or a thorn in our side. We, and I say we because it has been multiple members of our family attacked, have been the recipients of anonymous letters arriving on average every 2 months that have been down right mean, hateful, full of lies, hurtful. Although we haven't read them all, in fact many have just gone straight to file 13, we have read some and believe me they were not oozing with praise, encouragement or uplifting words...they were literally HATE mail.
Now, before you get all defensive and on the war path, STOP. I have BEEN down that fact the majority of the past 3 years in regards to these letters and the person that we are fairly certain sent them, I have been negative about, ready to tell them a piece of my mind, etc. I have heard every recommendation regarding how to handle them, as I have shared this with a select few, from reading them out loud in church, to posting them on Facebook, to not reading them and throwing them away, and more. I have had COUNTLESS conversations in my head with the author and let me tell you....they have never heard such a lecture!!!
However, my Proverbs 31 devotional this morning in my e-mail was from James, a different direction in James but there any way. I decided to just begin reading this book and was stopped in my tracks after the first 15 verses.
"Consider it a great JOY, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces ENDURANCE. But endurance MUST do its COMPLETE work, so that you may be mature and complete lacking nothing..A man who ENDURES trials is BLESSED, because when he passes the test he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him."James 1:2, 12
"You are BLESSED when they insult and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of Me. Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in Heaven." Matthew 5:11
My attitude in this situation has been one of anger, frustration, hurt, and more. I can say that I have honestly tried to pray for the author, I have prayed to have an attitude of forgiveness for a person that I can't even really go to in person, and yet I have still struggled with this entire situation.
We have encountered a lot of hard times in ministry but this one has definitely been hard. It came to a head a few weeks ago when a card was mailed and addressed to one of my children. From the outside, it looked just like any other greeting card with the exception that a return address was suspiciously missing. Thankfully, I checked the mail that day instead of Tyler, he would have handed it straight to the person it was addressed any normal person would. Yet, I had a check in my spirit that something wasn't right....I opened it to see and I am SO thankful that the Spirit gave me that prompting. It doesn't matter how old your children are, your mama bear instinct is to protect them from hurtful words, etc. I read the letter and my child never has! It was after this letter that I knew SOMETHING had to be done, it had to be dealt with.
I had honestly thought that with the announcement of our resignation these letters would stop, it would just go away. It hasn't, they didn't. Today it hit me WHY...because I needed to re-examine MY attitude towards them...I needed to see them as a BLESSING, as a growth opportunity, as a way in which I can learn ENDURANCE! Don't get me wrong, I am not sure the letters will stop...or they may...that isn't the point. The point is that I PASS THE TEST that God has allowed to come my way!
So...why be open and share about this? Why a blog post?
1.) Our journey of faith, our lives, are to be used to encourage and spur one another on. I felt so alone in this situation until I began talking with other ministers and their wives about it and realized that THEY TOO have had it happen. So, if someone reading this is experiencing a similar situation...I want them to know they are NOT alone! They have someone who gets it, who understands.
2.) I want to be open and real and transparent in what the Lord is teaching me and showing me.
3.) It is time that the person responsible for these letters know that they are HELPING me in my journey of faith because I am learning more and more about how to deal with "ugly" people in life because of THANK YOU for teaching me to bless, to endure, and to let go.
4.) We are also called to confront and call out sin within the body of Christ. Although this HAS been a learning and growth opportunity for me...I believe that 3 years of public silence in regards to it is ENOUGH! It is time that we call it out. We are not called to judge but we ARE called to confront one another's sin. Due to the fact that this is an anonymous person, I can't go to them one on one or even with a small here it is. I can say I forgive you, I can say I love you, and I can ALSO say you are sinning and wrong and it needs to stop for the sake of the body of Christ.
5.) If you have a problem or concern with a fellow need to go to them one on one in LOVE and for the purpose of building them up and encouraging them...not to hurt them or destroy them or tear them down.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Our Church Planting Back Story....

Well, like I said in my last post - God is on the move and so are we. We are beginning the full on process of moving our family to Delta, Colorado. I also mentioned that I would share more of our journey to this place of joining with the North American Mission Board (NAMB) and Colorado Baptist Convention to begin a church plant.

In 2009 while in Bayfield, Co. we met some amazing friends - the Vaughn family. That in and of itself is a testimony to an answered prayer for a friend that I have actually blogged about before but it was a beautiful answer! Anyway - moving on....James Vaughn who is the father/father-in-law of our sweet friends works with NAMB and the Colorado Baptist Convention as a Church Plant Catalyst (basically he finds, trains and supports church planters). This was our first real introduction to the church planting process or idea. Prior to this, we had only briefly heard of church planting but never knew much about it.

As our friendship with the Vaughns grew, so did our desire to somehow be involved in church planting. We prayed for church planters. We became friends with a few couples that were planting churches. We read articles and updates from church planters. We were intrigued and inquisitive about it but never really thought it would be US that would church plant.

Fast forward to about 3 and half years ago. God began to stir in MY heart that maybe, just maybe we should consider being church planters. At this time, we were in Borger serving in a very troubled situation, Joel and our Senior Pastor were the only two pastors left of seven on staff, our Senior Pastor was preparing to leave as well and yet Joel and I had no idea where or what we should do. Little did I know, that Joel had put out some feelers and had even filled out a church planting questionnaire with NAMB...he was turned down at that time. I would mention it in passing to Joel - okay, to be honest I would mention it out of frustration with our current situation - and he would just laugh it off. Then, God opened the door for our current church, we felt that this was where God was leading - and He was - so I didn't think much about it for another 2 and half years.

In October of this past year, my sweet friend Dani Vaughn, who had since moved to Delta from Bayfield, called and asked me to pray with her for a church home. She and her husband were struggling to find a church where they "fit" and so I did. A few weeks later, totally in jest (I should know God tends to do that with our conversations because that is how I went to Zim!) she said "Hey, you and Joel should just come start a church here!" I laughed it off. Delta was on the list for the need of a church plant but surely God wouldn't call US there - we were committed to Levelland at least until Kestra graduated from High School! Anyway - in passing, again, I mentioned it to Joel. He said "Let's just see what God does with it. I will call James and just see what we need to do."

That call has led us to where we are at now....we have undergone an extensive application, interview, approval process with both NAMB and the Colorado Baptist Convention. We are OFFICIALLY approved, have a start date (referred to them as a mobilization date) and beginning the process of preparing to move. I never would have dreamed that we would be church planters, I never would have dreamed that God would call us to serve in the same town where our closest friends lived, and I never would have dreamed that I would return to Colorado - when we left in 2011 I remember looking with tears in my eyes at Joel and saying "I don't think we will ever be coming back to live." Yet - our GREAT BIG GOD loves us, and I truly believe that when we lay it down and say we are willing to follow Him, serve Him, and go when He says go....He DOES give us the desires of our heart.

The road ahead, is uncertain. There are a lot of unknowns. Our family all has very mixed feelings about moving - excited and sad. We are 6 weeks away, have no house lined up, no jobs lined up, and several other details to tie up...yet, God is IN THIS and all 6 of us know that He will work it all out in His time.

So...what now? What can YOU do to be involved and join God where He is moving?

1.) Pray for us and our family as we continue the moving process. The goodbyes, the finishing ministry here, the packing, etc.

2.) Pray for jobs for Joel and I in Delta. We will both need to work part time and/or full time. Pray for jobs that are conducive to ministry life.

3.) Pray for a house that is affordable, large enough for our family, and large enough to host Bible Studies and church in to begin with.

4.) Be on the look out about how you can be involved through financial giving, supplies we will need for ministry, and even mission opportunities to come and serve in Delta.


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

God is on the Move, on the Move today....

Did you know that our World is always in motion? Obviously if you have studied Earth Science at all you know that the Earth is continually rotating on its axis and revolving around the Sun...but that's not all I am talking about here. We live in a world that is constantly moving, changing, and growing. Nothing truly stays the same forever...

God is always on the move too! He is working, changing, growing, stretching, reaching this World for His Kingdom purposes! I love to watch the eyes of little ones as they look in wonder at a butterfly, or flower, or small animal, or even an airplane going across the sky! They get SO excited and so thrilled about the movement and the change...Oh if WE would only get that excited about what God is doing all around us, if we would look in awe and wonder, and be amazed that He is moving, He is working and He has invited us - His prized creation - to join Him in His work!!!

We believe that God is moving within North America and He is calling out believers to be involved! When we think of missions or God moving we are quick to think Africa, Asia, or even South America...but NORTH AMERICA??? No way! Yet, reality is that in North America alone there are 195 MILLION un-churched, unreached people. This makes North America the FOURTH largest unreached country in the world! WOW!
The problem? While our population is growing, our churches are declining at a rapid rate. On average 3500 churches close their doors each year in North America, while only approximately 1,500 are started each year. The need is HUGE! The call is upon us to reach out to this lost people group that could very well be in your own backyard.

The argument has been made that if there are existing churches, shouldn't THEY be reaching out more? The simple answer - YES! The realistic answer - even if every church were to be actively reaching out to their communities (and many are not) we would still not even be touching the surface of the need for outreach and evangelism in North America!

It is because of this growing need that the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention has made it a top priority to equip leaders to plant NEW and MISSIONAL churches all across America! They work closely with existing churches to research and explore the need for churches in every community and then from there, recruit and equip church planters that will in many cases relocate and begin building a church in a lost community.

For the past several years, Joel and I have been actively interested in and praying about our part in church planting. We did not know what that would be - would it be to partner with a new church plant? Would it be to be involved as a Sending Church? Would it be to go and plant a church? This past fall God answered us - we were invited to join the effort of reaching the lost in North America by being church planters with the North American Mission Board.

Our family will be relocating to the community of Delta, Colorado in July of this year. This was a hard decision, a decision that was bathed in MUCH prayer and much discussion. Our kids are settled here in Levelland, they have friends, have put some roots. Joel and I are settled here - we are in ministries that we LOVE dearly, have seen grow and develop - we have loved it! Yet - our policy has always been to pray over every opportunity with an open mind and heart...God has FLUNG this door open! In future blog posts I will be sharing with you our complete journey up to this point but for now - we are excited, nervous, saddened, joyful, expectant, and so many other emotions all at once!

God is on the move! We are determining to join Him in the work He has called us to do!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Mom Moments...having Courage to let them Fail

A few weeks ago, Joel and I were able to go on a retreat designed for Ministers and their spouses. So many times, those of us in ministry give, and give, and give that we don't take time to pause, be refilled and refreshed! So, when the opportunity was presented to us - I JUMPED on it! I told Joel "We need this!!!" Little did I know all that would transpire from the time we committed to go and the actual retreat earlier this month! It was CRAZY and God's timing was perfect, as always. However, there was something I needed to learn, hear, absorb going to this retreat that I really didn't even realize...

With four teens in the house, there is always something going on in their lives. Of course there are activities and sports but that isn't really what I am referring to. I am referring to struggles, challenges, obstacles they are faced with. Shortly before leaving on this retreat I realized that my oldest three were all dealing with some pretty big stuff - now, not to leave my Tyler out, but his is a separate issue because he of his special needs. Anyway, these were things that as mom everything in you says "You gotta fix it for them, you have to come up with the solutions, the way out". Some of the things - yes I had solutions and answers for....God had a different plan.

The first night we were gone, we stayed in a hotel in Oklahoma City just for an added day away. Over dinner that night, I began sharing with Joel all that I saw the kids dealing with, how it was stressing me out, the concerns I had, the solutions I had, etc. Meanwhile, he just listened and perhaps looked at me with the deer in the headlights look that said "You have ALL of that whirling through your mind and we are on this get away for US???" Yep...I know, I am a mom and my kids are almost always on my mind...oops!

Fast forward to arrival at the retreat the next day and of course, I am STILL stuck on this idea of solving all my kids struggles, challenges and problems. In fact, every morning I would just sit there and tell God what I was going to say to this kid or that kid about their particular problem...did you see that? I tried to "TELL" God...

Then, it happened one of the last days we were there - we were given an opportunity to just talk openly with our spouse about some issues that needed to be addressed about us as individuals, as a couple, etc. Leading up to this time, I  had lamented to the other moms/wives there about my specific situations with my kids and they all seemed to give me the same advice from their situations - they had to give it over to the Lord in prayer. Well, duh of course!!! Hadn't I DONE that? I TOLD the Lord...

Without going to deep or specific about what Joel and I shared - I can confidently say this...I was convicted that I  needed to let go and have LESS control of my kids and Joel was convicted that he needed to have MORE of an active role in talking to our kids about their situations. Added to this - Joel was on to something that in reality God's still small voice had been showing me for some time...It is OKAY to let your kids fail. In fact we have to let them fail. SAY WHAT??? This goes against every urge in this mom mind, against what the world says to do for your kids, etc but it was a truth that God was speaking all along to me...I was just too busy TELLING Him what I was going to do.

It was then and there that it hit me...letting my kids fail takes COURAGE! Yes, I needed to have enough COURAGE to ALLOW MY KIDS TO FAIL. Enough courage to allow them to stubble, fall, and find their way back up through Jesus and Him alone!!! I can't, nor should I try, to be their savior, their crutch, their "go to". Moms - hear me when I say this - it is NOT easy, not one bit easy! In fact, I am still working on this and taking this step of courage is HARD but it is so so worth the end reward which is children who are young adults that are SOLID in their walk with the Lord and have learned through their own failures, struggles, and challenges to stand on Christ the Solid Rock! Ultimately, I want my children to be adults who change the world for the Kingdom and Glory of God and I KNOW that from my own experiences, my own failures, my own struggles that this will only happen when I have no where else to look but up to my Savior Jesus Christ.

I like the way the Message puts Proverbs 22:6 - Point your kids in the right direction, when they are old, they won't be lost.
You see, it doesn't say carry them in the right direction, it doesn't say shove them in the right direction, and it certainly never says that they won't stumble, fall or even get says point them in the right direction ( to Christ) and when they are old (not right now, in the childhood or teen years) they won't be lost. I have to claim this promise...that IF I have pointed them, got them started, in the right path - it will not be in vain!

I hear you now saying "Yes, but my kids are the most important thing to me" "I just don't want to see them hurt or struggle like I did" "I only want what is best for them".... I hear you because I have said all those and more! Yet...what if the only way they can learn is through falling so that they can fall to Jesus? What if through the struggle, God is going to prepare them and make them strong for an incredible assignment later on in life? What if what is best - is letting them learn from their mistakes? What if what they are going through is used for the purpose of allowing them to reach someone else that may go through the same situation later in life? Why would we take that from them?

Dear Mom - can you, along with me, decide that it is okay to have courage enough to allow our kids to fail, to stumble, or even fall? Can we decide that sometimes the wounds we get in life are there for God's glory to be made known to all the world? Let's lay this burden of solving our kids problems down at the cross. Let's trust the One who created them and called them to be able to sustain them through every challenge, every struggle, every fall.

Hear my heart and know that what your child is facing is BIG and it hurts, and it isn't fun...I have one struggling to find themselves after battling depression, a couple who have struggled in relationships to make right choices, one struggling to pass school, one struggling to know where God is calling them, one that struggles just to know how the world works...and more. Yet - God's repeated, resounding call to me is this...

"Have courage to let them fail. Cast your worry and care for them upon me. Bring it to me and let me, their Creator, Sustainer, Life Giver, pour into their life. Rest at my feet weary Momma. Trust me with these children that I gave to you - I won't fail them, I won't fail you. Just bring them before Me in prayer and let Me do My work in their life for my good...I won't let them get lost."

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Life in the Fish Bowl - Part 2

My previous post was about the HARD times, the ones that cause pain, are difficult and trying...HOWEVER, there is SOOO much more to life in ministry than that and the blessings that come from living a life of vocational ministry are NUMEROUS!

Let's get started!!!! Here are 6 of the HIGHS of being in ministry!

1.) Seeing God move in BIG ways: I can't tell you how many times we have literally witnessed the hand of God move in ways that are 100% GOD!!! We have seen financial needs met both in the ministries where we have served and in our personal lives. We have seen healing come when Doctors said there was no cure. We have seen restoration of relationships that were thought to be hopeless. We have seen the Gospel taken to people groups where it was never once welcomed! We have witnessed the healing of our own son from a disease that would have been devastating!

2.) Friendships and Relationships with so many different people from many different walks of life: From single mothers who are lost, lonely and hurting; to professional athletes; to missionaries all around the world; to politicians; to millionaires and more...our paths have crossed with some of the most amazing and yet also some of the most ordinary people. We have had the opportunity to see their hearts, to listen to their passion for the Lord.

3.) Seeing seeds of change planted and at times harvested: We have had the opportunity to plant seeds of not only the Gospel but also life time commitment to ministry planted in lives of many. To work with youth for several years and then to see them graduate and enter the mission field, vocational ministry, or become a spouse of one in ministry is simply AMAZING! In addition we have seen young people take the Gospel into schools, their homes, their families and experience change!!!

4.) Various Cultural Experiences: Due to both moving and the opportunity to be on multiple mission trips - our entire family has had the privilege of living in and experiencing a vast number of cultures. From the mountains of Colorado, to the plains of Texas, to the hill country of Tennessee and Arkansas, to the bush of Zimbabwe, to the country of Romania, and across the border to Mexico we have experienced and learned so much about various people groups, regions and life!

5.) Flexibility: Our family has been able to embrace flexibility and change. Although not always without struggle, we have learned that change is GOOD and that it is okay to think outside the box and be adventurous.

6.) Freedom in time with family: We are blessed to have Joel in a profession where he is able to attend almost all of our kids school and sporting events! He is able to go to parties, games, field trips, competitions and more!

We know that many of these things can be and are experienced outside of vocational ministry and for that we are so very thankful because these are HUGE! The purpose of this series of blog posts really was to just let you all see what is sometimes missed when you are merely looking "into" the Fish Bowl rather than "swimming inside it". So many things can't be truly seen from just observing those in ministry and we wanted to share them with you!

Overall - life in this Fish Bowl called ministry is AMAZING simply because we KNOW that this is where God has called us, we are walking in obedience to Him and we can't wait to see what awaits us! Anytime you are doing what God has given you a passion for, a desire for, a love for...then the HARD is able to be endured because the BLESSING is BIGGER!!!