Gretchen Scruby

Discovering the beauty amid life's joy, trials, and pain. Isaiah 61:3

Embrace Strength

As I celebrate Mother’s Day this year I’m grateful for the privilege of being a mom to my three unique and wonderfully created children. I’m additionally blessed to celebrate my remarkable mom. I realize Mother’s Day isn’t easy for everyone. I know it can be a challenging day where celebrating is the last thing you want to do. Do you have a difficult Mother’s Day memory?

My most difficult Mother’s Day was in 2004. We spent the morning at my sister in-laws with my parents and my husband’s parents. My sister-in-law was pregnant with her second child, my beautiful niece. My wonderful nephew was 9-months-old at the time. I remember offering to cook breakfast, I think I took over her kitchen. After all I was the only one who wasn’t a mom, I might as well serve those that were, right? Can you hear the tension in that statement? I wasn’t serving out of a place of love to bless my family. I was serving to keep busy because I might break down at any minute! I had been seeing an infertility doctor for over a year and had finally gotten pregnant in the summer of 2003. Then we went through a miscarriage. I thought God had finally answered my prayers and when we lost the baby I was angry, sad, broken, and close to despair. This was one of my first experiences being entrenched by grief.

To say this Mother’s Day was tough would be an understatement, it felt gut-wrenching. I made it through breakfast, although those around me probably were walking on egg shells and definitely feeling the tension. I’m a wear your heart on your sleeve kinda gal and don’t do well at hiding my emotions.

beautiful-bloom-blooming-1042578“….You have collected all my tears in your bottle.” Psalm 56:8 
It was at church where I FINALLY broke, something the pastor said gripped me. I can’t remember the words, but I remember the unstoppable ugly crying that took place. And the crushing feeling of loneliness that engulfed me that day. I want to pause here and say; “I’m sorry if this Mother’s Day is a difficult one for you.” Please know, you aren’t alone and God sees every tear you cry.
On the next Mother’s Day, I was celebrating with my one-month-old baby boy. God had a plan, a miraculous and mind-blowing plan! I had been taking hormone shots daily the year before that made me super over-emotional. (My poor husband!) During that time God was planting the seeds of adoption in my husband and me. We were blessed with our second son in 2009, both born without the help of infertility doctors or medicine, truly answered prayers. I know this isn’t the answer everyone receives. I have a beautiful friend who isn’t able to have children. God called her and her husband to adopt; later in life then they would’ve planned. But His plans are good and their life is forever changed for the better. They love their princess and are amazing parents. If you’re in a place of embracing God’s plan for you and your family hang in there. Even if it’s different than you hoped your beautiful unique story is being written moment by moment.
img_6751Fast forward to Mother’s Day 2013, I was celebrating with both my boys and our foster baby girl. She became officially ours through adoption in 2015. It’s a story only God can write and I’m blessed to continue embracing His plans on this journey, the good, the bad and the ugly. The ugly comes mostly when I am struggling to embrace the challenging things and even sometimes embracing the good moments. God has been faithfully refining me, especially through being a mom. I’m growing in managing my emotions and am still a work in progress, but gradually improving, step by step.
I’ve not only watched God work and move in my life, but also in my mom’s. My brother went home to be with the Lord in 2010. My mom’s world stopped, our family’s world stopped. Grief entered like a hurricane through shock and loss. My mom wasn’t a stranger to grief at this point; she’s suffered a lot of difficult losses. After her best friend passed away from cancer I saw her embrace strength. She spoke beautifully at her memorial about the wonderful memories they’d shared. I often wondered how she was able to get up and speak that day, until I had to do the same at my brother’s memorial. It’s what you do when you love someone, you embrace strength that is far beyond your own. It’s what we do as women every day in the difficult moments we face. My mom has also been lovingly looking after her friends two grown daughters ever since. Both of whom are wonderful mothers to their boys, they exude strength as they love and care for their families while terribly missing their mom. We are certainly family by choice.

img_0060 My princess, mom-in-love, me and my mom.

My mom is an incredible mother to me and my husband and an even more remarkable Grammy! My mom has started sharing her story and it’s been a blessing for me to have a front row seat. I was privileged to interview her recently at our church’s Women’s Ministry spring picnic where she shared how God challenges her to trust in Him, even when she doesn’t understand His plans. She’s been meditating on this verse and I’ve seen her walking it out in her own life – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” Proverbs 3:5-6

Thanks mom! 

img_6825I am grateful for the many strong women in my life. My resilient mother in law has fought for her boys on her knees through prayer. She is a prayer warrior for her family and grandkids today. I have friends who are moms that have battled cancer themselves, who home school, work full-time, serve at church, encourage their husbands in their jobs, and raise respectful teenagers in this day and age. I have friends who desire restored relationships with their mom or children and still keep fighting and trusting in the Lord.  I have friends in parenting seasons ahead of me that I learn from. The list could go on and on of women in my life and their uniquely glorious stories of strength. Don’t forget you have your own unique story God is writing as you embrace more and more of the plans He has for your life.

One of my closest friends and fellow pastor’s wife is a wonderful mama to her three wonderful kids. We met each other when she was pregnant with her third child and I had just given birth to my second baby boy. We became fast friends and although we are wired differently we “get” each other most of the time. One of our first adventures was driving over an hour to a pumpkin patch with my 5-year-old, her 3-year-old, my 11-month-old, and her 3-month-old. It seemed like the busiest day ever just to visit a pumpkin patch. Yeah, we can be crazy like that and our friendship has been an adventure ever since. We’ve walked each other through some extremely difficult times. I met her about 6 months after my brother passed away and she has been there for me ever since. Little did we know about a year later she’d be walking her own grief journey. She found out her youngest son has cerebral palsy. Her and her family have been embracing strength and navigating God’s plan and for them ever since. She has recently joined the blogging community and you can check out her blog by clicking the link at the bottom.

img_4628I’d describe her as my breezy Bahamian friend. Sometimes I wish I could be more lighthearted and cheerful like her. I’m still embracing the way God made me and accepting how I’m wired, even in my 40’s! I often feel like the serious one of the group, sometimes even the Debbie Downer, but she loves me anyway. One of the things we have in common is we don’t get to enjoy a quiet morning on Mother’s Day.  We usually lightheartedly and sarcastically remind each other that some moms are enjoying breakfast in bed and being pampered on Mother’s Day. Not us!!!

This relaxing morning we dream about is not for us in this season.

Instead we are fulfilling our normal Sunday routine – juggling to get the kids out the door and make it to church with everyone dressed and fed! All the while knowing our husbands, who left much earlier, will come home completely exhausted like most Sundays. But we have each other; we laugh and we cry and will do it all again next Sunday. Shout out to the ministry wives who make it to church on Sundays, especially on Mother’s Day! And shout out to all the mamas, sisters, aunts, grandmas, mentors, friends and women who are inspiring those around them!

Embrace your season, your weaknesses, and your insecurities.

Embrace the days when you feel like you’re not enough and the ones you feel like you’re too much!

The secret ingredient we all have to being strong women is – drumroll please – it’s NOT our strength!
imagesI couldn’t make it through my days if it weren’t for Jesus. I’m embracing His strength as a I continue to navigate working full-time, parenting our three children in their
unique seasons, and serving with my husband whenever I can.
My oldest son’s favorite verse, Philippians 4:13, rings true in my life every day. And I’m forever grateful for it!

Happy Mother’s Day.– Gretchen

Meet my friend Shona here: https://www.weare17.com/blog/we-are-seventeen

IMG_33C4B3208F85-1It hasn’t been the month I hoped it would be after sharing my word for the year, embrace. Instead of welcoming this month with open arms, I’ve been grasping for glimpses of joy. On February 14th Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School faced a horrific tragedy. You’ve probably seen or heard the heart-breaking story. This high school is nine miles from the school where I work; many students and staff members here have friends and family at this school. Broken-hearted is how I can describe these past few weeks. Broken-hearted for the families, staff, and students who suffered and are suffering the effects of this tragedy. Broken-hearted for the first responders, grief counselors, doctors and nurses doing their best to serve this community during this tough time. IMG_6359Broken-hearted for my kids living in this time and doing my best to answer the many questions they have.

“Lord, how do you embrace this?” I’ve asked this question numerous times during this past few weeks. I don’t have a clear answer but I do know I’m not alone. God is here in the pain, doubt, and sorrow. He is with those grieving the loss of loved ones and in the hospital rooms where there are still students fighting for their lives. Grief can come in waves that sweep us under. Grief can then linger like an unwelcome companion. As I’ve been swept under quite a few waves this month Jesus is there to remind me I’m not alone and in Him is the hope of heaven.

 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

Most of the time I need Jesus to help me from myself; the battle in my head not to focus on the negative and difficult. Whatever you’re facing make time to get alone with God and come clean; let Him meet you in the good, bad and ugly going on in your head. God knows all of our thoughts, fears, and insecurities and loves us through all of them. If you’re in the early stages of deep grief go slowly, God is with you and He is patient. I remember reading Psalms 18, two days after my brother was killed in a hit and run accident, it was the first time I realized God was with me in the midst and He spoke comfort through His Word. I didn’t feel immediately better and the pain of his loss still lingers with me years later. BUT it was the beginning of knowing I’m not alone and God has a plan even when I can’t understand it.  I just had to open His Word.

When I was in the beginning stages of my grief journey I prayed like never before. It was one of the first times in my life I couldn’t handle normal day-to-day tasks. For the past couple of weeks, it has been a time of praying without ceasing, mostly for others who are in the midst of this tragedy. This should be a constant thing in my life, but often times trials have a way of turning me back to the Lord and reminding me to pray more. I’ve also been praying that I don’t forget to keep praying.

It also helps when I shift my focus from my difficulties and focus on serving someone else. If you’re able to help others who are grieving do so. God takes our little and uses it, multiplies it, and blesses through it. Our women’s ministry group at church made “thinking-of-you” bags for the teachers at West Glades Middle School, the school next

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“Thinking-of-you” Bags

door to Stoneman Douglas High.West Glades Middle School was also deeply affected by this tragedy. The staff returned to work the next day trying to figure out how to process their grief while caring for their students. The staff was so appreciative of the “thinking-of-you” bags. God took our little something and used it to make a big impact. There have been other opportunities to serve too. They’ve seemed like small tasks, but trusting the Lord to use them to make a bigger impact as His church comes alongside to serve this heartbroken community.

I’ve had to remind myself God’s grace is sufficient for me during this time. IMG_6260My husband told me last week he’s been praying for me to be filled with joy. That felt more like a smack in the head then the loving encouragement and concern my husband meant it to be. Conviction started to rise, how long has it been since I’ve been joyful in our home. Definitely not the past couple of weeks. I’ve been allowing the heaviness of grief and difficulties weigh me down. I was being bumped and nudged and what was coming out wasn’t pretty! I needed to look up instead of around me. Now I’m not talking about “feeling happy” type of joy. I’m talking about the joy that only comes from faith in Jesus. The peace and joy we have, as believers in Christ, because of the hope in heaven.

This past weekend I was blessed to attend a Living Proof conference with an awesome teaching from Beth Moore. This was exactly what I needed. I had time to reminisce about how Jesus met me right in the midst of my sin and doubt twenty years ago,  just like He met the women at the well. And He still meets me today to extended His love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness. I was savoring the reminder that Jesus is the only thing that can truly satisfy. As I returned back to my day-to-day living; I was determined to relish in this beautiful reminder of grace. I felt like I could sprinkle joy all over our home like confetti!

Then I woke up Monday and definitely didn’t “feel” joyous but I was ready to pursue Jesus and His joy this week. Then my mom called; through her tears she told me one of the managers at her office was killed in a car accident on his way to work the night before. The questions arise again; this broken-hearted grieving wells up AGAIN. I was blessed to work with this young man for a couple of years when I worked part-time at the office. He always had a smile on his face and a kind word to share.  “Lord, why?” Grief upon grief. Broken-hearted for my mom who personally invests in her employees, for his family whose life will never be the same, for my co-workers that are grieving the loss of their friend and co-worker. “Lord, how can I just sit here and go through these tasks?” I wanted to be at the office where I used to work to grieve and pray with the employees that were processing this, and encourage someone if I could. Not sitting here pretending like it’s another normal day.

That was Monday. By the end of the week one of my dearest friends had traveled to see her Grammy in hospice to say good-bye one last time. Another sweet friend celebrated what should’ve been her daughter in heavens 13th birthday. I learned of a woman in ministry who ended her battle of depression. Grief upon grief upon grief….

Again, I ask God, “How do I embrace this?”  What do I do with this broken heart of mine? What do you do with your broken heart?  Thankful God can shoulder my concerns, I run to Jesus, I pray, try to offer the little encouragement I can while trusting God to use it for more. The heaviness isn’t gone, neither are the tears, the pain, or the questions. What do you do when those close to you suffer loss? When these stories on the news weigh you down? When you begin your own grief journey? Take it day by day, extend grace to yourself and others, seek Jesus in His word and in prayer. Take time to acknowledge all you’re grateful for. Remember this isn’t our home, heaven is our home! UnknownMay we be ever thankful for the hope of heaven.

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own. Philippians 3:12

“Dear Jesus, meet us here in the midst of our broken hearts. You know each burden and loss we carry. Help us to pray like never before during these times we live in. Lead us by Your Spirit to comfort others with our little. May we make time to open Your Word and be comforted, convicted, and encouraged. Help us find true joy in the hope of heaven.”

IMG_5784Hello 2018! What a year it’s been so far. A year filled with fun, adventure, reminders, great memories, illness, and difficulties. Isn’t that real life – the good, bad, ugly, and amazing all wrapped into our day-to-day living. My word for 2018 is Embrace. God has placed a sense of wonder and excitement as He encourages me to courageously press on out of my comfort zone and embrace all He has this year. I’m steadily trying to embrace the challenges and joy this season brings.

At the end of 2014 my good friend challenged me to pray about a word for the new year. A word to be somewhat of a focus, challenge, and way to grow in the Lord.   This year is my fourth year with a word of the year. But this year it’s been different; the Lord is calling me in a new and bolder direction. This word can best be described as a compilation of the words I’ve had over past 3 years. I’m amazed at the things God has done in my life in these couple of decades. I’m also blessed to see what God does in those I have the privilege to do life with. This excitement dwindled a little when I got my verse for 2018. And I wasn’t sure if I was more comforted or convicted. It’s found in Jeremiah 31:22. I like the Message version: “….How long will you flit here and there, indecisive?
How long before you make up your fickle mind?
God will create a new thing in this land:
A transformed woman will embrace the transforming God!”

I’m convicted because I trust in the Lord and believe God’s Word to be true, living, and active but I don’t always embrace it for my life as I should. I am convicted not condemned, convicted to seek God and how I can truly embrace His plans for my life this year. I’ve learned I can still be guarded in this whole embracing thing. Grief has a way of doing that to a person.  Unknown

 My dad went home to be with the Lord in January 2014 after fighting a difficult battle with cancer. In 2015, that first year with “my word” it was somewhat of a new beginning. A beginning I didn’t ask for, plan for or necessarily want. It was grief piled upon grief. January 15, 2015, it had been one year without my dad and January 16, 2015 was five years since my younger brother was killed by a drunk driver. How do you process that; grief upon grief? As an over-emotional almost forty-year-old wife and mom of three children; 10, 5, 2 at the time, not well! I cried more than I’d like to admit and coasted through many days on auto pilot. Our family dynamic additionally changed in the summer of 2014. We moved into a new house with my mom. Taking care of our parents is something my husband and I thought might happen later in life. Perhaps when our kids were older, but not smack dab in the middle of discovering how to do life with three children.

But God knew what we needed and what my mom needed. She helps take care of us and our kids which allows us to serve at church and in ministry together. It’s still a challenge navigating these new roads life brings, the hills and the valleys, but God is with us through them all.

We also were foster parents at this time, we didn’t adopt our daughter officially until March of 2015. One of the most beautiful blessings that has come out of our grief journey is our amazing daughter. God does that if we pay attention. He graces us with beautiful moments of answered prayers, blessings, adventures, and glimpses of heaven right in the middle of our trials. But we have to recognize it and embrace it!

This stirring, conviction, excitement, and nervousness for something new in 2018 challenges me to embrace this life again. Our life has been filled with many incredible moments in the past eight years and I have so much to be grateful for! But, I believe there are parts of me that I’ve closed off not wanting to be hurt again.  Likewise, I’ve grown and experienced God in countless ways in the past eight years; ways that I couldn’t have without the deep reliance upon Jesus to walk me on this sorrowful road. But I still need to embrace more of God. Don’t we all? It’ll take a new surrender, funny that’s my husband’s word for this year. God has a unique way of weaving things together. Already this year I’ve watched seasons begin and seasons end. Many I welcome and some I don’t want to let go of. There’s that reminder – I’m not in control and that’s ok; Embrace the unknown!

 As I sit behind my computer after work in the quiet library, waiting for my oldest to finish basketball practice, I’m reminded to embrace the still moments, albeit few and far between during this season. Embrace the time with my kids, it might be less now with my now full-time job and their increasing activities, but it can be sweet and celebrated when it happens. Embrace the times with my husband when we get a moment to just be. Embrace the gift of life God gives us out of His loving kindness.

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#purejoycreative

I don’t know what your 2018 has been thus far, but I do know God has good plans for you. He wants you to embrace all He has for you this year. Jesus desires you to let go and lean on Him. Bring Him those areas you might’ve closed off after a difficult time in your life. Maybe it’s a dream you gave up on that He wants to reawaken. Whatever “it” is bring it to the Lord and let’s embrace all He has for us in 2018.

Taste and see that the LORD is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in Him! Psalm 34:8
IMG_2066I was at the deli counter on my weekly grocery shopping trip. I ordered the usual items and out of the corner of my eye I noticed a new type of cheese. I immediately knew I wanted to try it. I basically talked myself into asking the nice gentleman behind the counter if I could try a piece. Confession time – I don’t like small talk! It makes me anxious. My mind turns to mush, and words just don’t form. I began this awkward conversation with myself:
“Why was it so hard for you to ask about the cheese?”
“It’s his job.”
“It’s only cheese!”
After some time contemplating the cheese, I realized I didn’t want to inconvenience him. What if I tasted the cheese and didn’t like it? Then I’d have to say “No, thank you. I’ve decided not to buy any.” All this after putting him to the trouble of cutting me a piece of cheese in the first place!
I’d love to say this comes from my consideration of others. But that’s completely false! It usually comes from me not liking to be bothered. So I assume no one else does either. There’s another reason. It’s also the anxiety of making small talk, the insecurity of having nothing to say, and the fear of looking like a fool. This time around, it had nothing to do with me bothering the kind gentleman doing his job. Instead, it had everything to do with my anxiety issues!
What’s it for you? Maybe small talk comes easy and if you want to try something at the deli, you just ask with no thought. If it’s not something as simple as this, I’m pretty sure there’s something else that makes you anxious, fearful, or insecure. We are made of flesh and bones and all lack confidence in certain areas of life. What’s that “thing” that keeps you from enjoying life deeper? Maybe you have an uncontrollable fear that even keeps you from leaving the house. Or perhaps its fear of people seeing the real you – instead of avoiding small talk, you fill every conversation with some type of surface talk. Whatever “it” is, God wants to walk you through it. I know because He’s walking me through my issues, and believe me this is only one! Also, His word tells us:
“The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows].”  John 10:10 AMP
I want this live life to the fullest approach….. which is pretty cool, because my key word for 2017 is Abundantly!
So guess what? I actually did ask that nice gentleman at the deli counter for a sample of cheese. I can hardly believe I set aside my anxieties and tasted the Italian herb cheese. And do you know what? I loved it! I ended up ordering that cheese, picked up some fresh tomatoes, basil, and bread. What a yummy lunch those sandwiches made, complete with balsamic drizzle. Would my day have been horrible if I didn’t try the cheese? Probably not. But I would’ve beat myself up a little for chickening out on asking for something I really wanted to try – AGAIN! It takes work to conquer these little things that can keep us from enjoying this life in the day-to-day. It also takes work to enjoy life during the really tough days.
On January 4, 2017, my dad

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#daddysgirl

would’ve turned 63. This particular birthday was very difficult. On that morning, my husband and I didn’t have a lot on our “to do” list. The only thing on our plate was to take our daughter to school. And then we were going to walk before he left for work. But our youngest son left his lunch at home. We couldn’t even call and make arrangements for him to buy lunch that day. His class was having a picnic, and if he didn’t have a bag lunch, he wouldn’t be able to go. We don’t live close to the boys’ school and driving up there meant no time for our walk. IMG_0831

 

I already mentioned how much I love interruptions – NOT! This took my gloomy day and made it worse. We drove pretty much in silence. About half way to the school my husband pointed out a rainbow. I saw it beautifully peeking out from the clouds. I don’t think we would’ve seen it had we gone on our walk. I knew the Lord had placed it there just for me. My husband knew I needed to see that rainbow too. And of course, he knew the next thing I’d want is a picture. I LOVE taking pictures. The problem was I couldn’t see it without looking out his window. He carefully took my phone, steadied it, and drove as slow as he could to grab the shot. Did that moment take all the sadness and grief away? Nope. But it did give me the choice to see what God had done. It reminded me to focus on the good things I have. The rainbow prompted me to be thankful that my dad’s not suffering any longer, to remember him whole now, and the cancer is gone! It brought new perspective into my day and helped me be grateful for the memories I have of and with my dad.

He was a remarkable man – a wonderful husband, incredible dad to me and my husband, and a terrific grandfather to our kids. On January 15th, the 3rd anniversary of my dad going to be with Jesus, my mom and I took the kids to Disney Springs in Orlando. It’s a perk of living a few hours away we can just drive up and enjoy a brief trip. We filled the day with fun things Grandpa would’ve loved.

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#choosingjoy

We went bowling, toured the coca-cola factory, and had lunch at a down home fresh cooking place. My dad was from Illinois and loved home cooking meals.  That day we chose joy! We have a choice each day to taste and see God’s goodness, it’s there for us to reach out and grab. Most days I really believe I just miss a lot of it. I live in my bubble, behind my to-do list, and often am onto the next task before I’ve completed the current one. This year I desire to savor more moments. A dear friend of mine’s focus word for this year is “Savor.” Although it’s not my word for the year, I am grateful for the reminder to Savor more Jesus moments! This year has been BUSY and I haven’t had as much time to savor the beautiful messy everyday moments as I’d like. With Spring upon us, it’s time for me to stop and smell the flowers. I know all to well life is short and I still manage to get up in the craziness that’s called life.

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My husband taught at church last week and one of his points was – Slow Down! Oh how I needed that reminder. I don’t know where you are in this season, but if it’s a busy one, slow down and smell the roses! Find the beauty in God’s creation and those He’s placed in your life. Have a picnic, take a walk, rest, breathe, and savor!

Thank you Jesus that You love us even though we live in our own little circles, missing much of the beauty around us. May we remember in the midst of the trials, pain, and hardships this world offers, we can find beauty in You. Help us to let go of those things IMG_2070that keep us from tasting and seeing Your goodness. Let us savor more of your goodness each day. Help us slow down, sit at your feet, and open our eyes and our hearts to the
abundant living only You provide! Let us be free to embrace the messy moments around us that You make beautiful.  – Amen!

 

After a hiatus from writing this summer, I’m excited to be back! I love to write and have missed my somewhat therapeutic times sitting in front the computer pouring my heart out. I’ve found that writing my thoughts and prayers on paper help me slow down and stay focused. That being said, there have been quite a few moments I would’ve liked to write about, but nothing ever became a complete thought.  I don’t want to just write the “stuff” life throws without sharing the lesson, hope, or new thing the Lord taught me during the moment. But it’s good to be back!

We had a busy but awesome summer! We didn’t go on any grand vacations or have anything really exciting happen, but we enjoyed the little moments of fun that summer brought. The end of summer and beginning of this school year started some remarkable changes. The weekend after our boys started school was an especially exciting time. I turned forty – yes 40! Honestly, I’m still not sure how I feel about this. My thirties were filled with some of life’s biggest blessings, but also life’s most difficult moments, trials, and pain. In some ways I’m ready for the next decade.  And then it hits me that I have a four and a six-year-old and I’m forty! This wasn’t my timing, that’s for sure. And there are many things I’d like to be different.

img_8595I’d love my dad to be here and my mom not to feel so alone, even though we live together in our crazy house with my husband, three kids, and two outlandish dogs. I know she carries deep loneliness most days. I’d like to be able to call my brother and see him enjoying his niece and nephews. I’d love my sweet baby girl to not have the struggles of her emotional difficulties that make some days super hard for both of us. Most of all, I feel excited for what’s ahead.

This past year I started making time for myself to work out and get healthy. It’s something my husband and I have done together. I wanted to loose forty pounds by my birthday, I got close I lost thirty! “No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us….” Philippians #:13-15a It’s a journey I’m still on. That journey may now include melting off the few pounds I put back on during our end of summer celebrations. Nonetheless, I’m thrilled at how much better I feel and excited to keep working toward my goals.

I had a wonderful birthday! My mom, husband, and close friends pulled off an awesome surprise party for my 40th! I am very grateful for the people God has placed in my life. The celebration didn’t just stop that Friday night. My husband found a vacation rental house for us to stay in for the weekend. It was beautiful, down the street from the beach, and on the intracoastal. Sunday afternoon we concluded our weekend with a fun family day.

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However, the highlight of that weekend, for me, came Saturday night. That’s the night my husband was ordained as a pastor at our church. What an amazing gift to celebrate the same weekend. To say we were overwhelmed with emotion would be an understatement. The outpouring of support and love we received after church that Saturday night was unbelievable. What an encouraging time to be with our church family and share what God has done and is doing in our lives.

Many people have asked my husband what has changed for him since becoming a pastor. He will say, “Not much, my job is the same. But for my wife a lot has changed.” My husband is my biggest fan and is just as excited for the new doors that have opened for me in ministry. And I completely understand – As much as I enjoyed my surprise Friday night (and it was fantastic), I couldn’t wait for Saturday to share my hubby’s special night. We don’t do life perfectly and can very quickly get on each other’s nerves, but overall we try to do marriage well! We are best friends and still really enjoy spending time together. But yes, our life has changed in some ways.  It’s become busier, a little crazier (still not sure how that’s possible), and also more rewarding. We love serving together at our church. We met serving in children’s ministry 17 years ago and still look forward to serving together today.

When our first opportunity came to do a couple’s time of sharing during church service, we both had a moment where we wanted to respond – “No thank you!” Our church was doing a marriage series and we were asked to share on “Intimacy in Marriage.” On a Wednesday night we sat in front of our church and shared more then I’d like to, and I’m an over-sharer. LOL. As we both moved past the title and began to talk about intimacy in marriage, we were reminded it’s so much more than physical intimacy. And yes, sex, is a healthy, beautiful, and important part of marriage. (YES I just said sex in a Christian blog post as a very new pastor’s wife. Lord – you are making me bold.) We shared with the congregation that through almost 16 years of marriage we can keep intimacy alive by staying friends, being honest, respecting each other, and having accountability in our marriage. I love what my husband said, “If intimacy is happening in your marriage, physical intimacy will naturally happen.” Having a good marriage does require work. It takes planning to spend meaningful time together, especially with three kids, two dogs, along with a busy work and ministry load, and let’s not forget the extra demands that pop up daily.  But having a healthy marriage is completely worth it. I’m blessed and excited to share life with my best friend, and serving in ministry together is such a bonus! Especially when you get to see God’s promises come to fruition. img_8625

Over five years ago, I met a pastor’s wife who walked with me through one of my darkest seasons. She would always encourage me and say, “I see double for you.” And “Double for your trouble, hold on.” I knew the verse in the Bible, Isaiah 6:7, but I didn’t know what that meant for me personally. Sitting on my living room couch one night this summer talking with my mom, I told her that I couldn’t believe Michael was going to be ordained, and that I’d have a chance to serve more in Women’s Ministry. She looked at me and said, “It’s your double.” Insert happy crying face, I started balling!

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The realization hit me – that what the pastor’s wife had spoken over me years ago during one of my darkest seasons, was becoming answered prayer and a fulfilled promise. Ladies, please don’t lose heart! Hold onto what the Lord has promised you even if you don’t know what that looks like, how it’s possible, or if it seems light years away. God is always faithful and keeps His promises.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:23

We are now a couple months into the school year. We should be saying hello to fall, although in my neck of the woods there isn’t much of a physical change of season. However, my love of all things pumpkin and putting up our fall décor reminds me of the change of season. Recently our time has been filled with teacher conferences, middle school football practices and games for our oldest, ballet for our sweet girl and AWANA for our younger two kiddos. Car pooling and hours spent in my mini-van are at an all-time high! I’ve also been blessed with the opportunity to serve over our Women’s ministry at church. I’m excited and humbled to get to do what I’m passionate about each week. I’m discovering even more the importance of crock-pot meals, using my calendar, and desperately trying to be better organized. I also recognize the importance of scheduling coffee dates with friends, one-on-one dates with my kids, and date nights with my hubby.

Today it actually feels a little fallish down south where I live. As we enter this new season –  whatever that looks like for you, whether lots of changes or more of the mundane –  I pray you desire to do it well. All the while knowing you don’t have to be perfect. I hope you’re sharing what God asks you to share, with whoever He tells you to share with. And I know that might take some courage and boldness for some of us. I pray you’re seeing God open doors for you, however little or big they might be. I pray for all of us that we won’t miss what God has for us in the valley and on the mountaintops. Happy Fall Y’all – Be Blessed!  images-1

To my mom – this one’s for you!

Two Sunday’s ago I was stuck sitting on a bench, waiting, with my keys locked in my car. There as I sat I realized quite a bit. (See previous post). Fast-forward a couple of weeks. On this Sunday I sat a lot less rested, but also realizing quite a bit. These past two weeks were completely opposite from that week when I sat on that bench. Finding a moment to breathe has been extremely difficult. These few weeks have been filled with heaps of joy and also a great deal of trials. I’ve been reminded during this time to trust – trust that God’s working even when I can’t see it. image

There were really awesome moments during those past couple of weeks. One highlight was that our oldest son turned 11! We had fun surprising him and celebrating with family and friends. There have been really difficult moments too. I had a rough time at work and our daughter had a very difficult week at home. I also had a misunderstanding with someone close to me and an unintentional mistake became a bigger issue. I was left feeling hurt and misunderstood. I also was enduring the sting of intentional hurt, which is never fun! Far tougher than dealing with my wounds, was wiping the tears of my oldest son as he faced the feelings of being excluded and unwelcome. I felt much more worn out and dragged down by the “stuff” life often throws than I wanted to be. I love the account in the Bible where Jesus heals the woman who had been suffering through twelve years of continuous bleeding, and she knew that all she needed to do was just touch the hem of Jesus’ garment – “For she thought to herself, “If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.” Immediately the bleeding stopped, and she could feel in her body that she had been healed of her terrible condition.” Mark 5:28-29.

These past few weeks I knew I was barely hanging on by a thread. But I also knew my Jesus was right there with me. I just had to reach out to Him! During these few weeks I cried more then I would’ve liked and felt misjudged. But how much more was my Savior hurt and misjudged as He walked on this earth. Sometimes it takes difficult moments to remember we live in a fallen world – and we are all made of flesh and bones.
Unfortunately, I will hurt people sometimes and people also will hurt me sometimes. And so will you! I don’t know what bumps and bruises you’ve suffered these past few weeks, yet I know you aren’t alone. I also learned that sometimes it’s not our job to defend ourselves. I heard the Lord telling me to say nothing. This can be the hardest thing to do when we want to explain, correct, or voice our hurts and/or opinions. But I knew through my quiet times with the Lord that I was to continue being still in Him.

Honestly, I’m not sure if these trying moments are happening more often or if they bother me more when I’m worn out and emotional. I believe it’s a little of both! I don’t like pain so I don’t have any tattoos (my husband has enough for us both). But if I did get a tattoo, I’d want a tattoo of the words – “Pasa Chara.” I was introduced to this phrase during a small group study I was in the year following my brother’s passing. It was entitled – “Reflecting God” by Kay Smith. I learned a valuable lesson during that study that has remained with me through the years. The hard, unbearable, miserable, stressful, and difficult moments allow me to workout my faith. They are necessary and purposeful. Trials aren’t easy, and my natural reaction will not be true joy. But I know I’ll get through whatever “it” is at the moment and it’s accomplishing more than I have any idea about.
The words are defined below from the Strong’s Concordance.
pás – each, every; each “part(s) of a totality”
khä-rä’ – joy, gladness, joyful, joyous, joyfulness, joyfully, greatlyimage

The highlight of these past couple of weeks came at the end of those trying weeks. My family, friends, supporters and I walked in the MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Drivers) 5K. What a beautiful bittersweet day. I’ve walked in this fund raising and awareness walk four of the past five years. I thought it’d be easier this year, but it wasn’t. As I set all of our stuff out for our early morning adventure, the heaviness of grief hit me. I couldn’t stop thinking about getting up and putting “that” shirt on. Another year…. another event…..another moment my brother isn’t here. I couldn’t sleep. I knew the alarm was going to sound soon, but my mind refused to rest. I finally got up, read, prayed & wrote. Also had a good cry! Finally – I slept.

IMG_5449We all made it out for the 5k event. There were tears shared, hugs given, smiles exchanged and I can truly say that I counted it all true joy!!! One of the most beautiful things about this picture of everyone who showed up that day to walk/run in memory of my brother while supporting me and my mom, is that not one person (besides my mom and children), were “family” by definition. But they are “family” in my eyes and even more importantly, in God’s eyes. This is truly a picture of God’s love, grace, provision and mercy! And as much as I would’ve loved to be enjoying Sunday morning not walking in the MADD walk because my brother’s life was taken by a drunk driver, I can’t say this group of people would have been brought together if that tragedy had not occurred. I look at this picture and was brought to tears – happy tears – because I see God’s love and kindness in action.

I am also reminded I am not the only person facing grief, trials, and pain.IMG_5414

My brother’s two best friends and their familes who have supported our family through this loss while grieving the loss of their best friend much too young. They welcome me and my mom into their family’s lives and have grown into amazing men.

imageMy oldest friend, “cousin,” who has been there for me through thick and thin! She lives each day without her parents due to cancer. She is an outstanding wife, mother, and friend. She keeps me going and is certainly family!

My best friend who sees the good, the bad, and the ugly in me but still loves me. I met her the year after my brother passed away. Little did she know that the following year she would find out her son has cerebral palsy, and that neither his nor her family’s life would be the same or go on as they’d originally hoped and planned. We’ve been walking each other through numerous trials, grief moments, and hardships ever since. But with LOTS of laughter!

My passionate friend who runs with the pain of family rejection and faces life’s unplanned and uncontrollable moments on her knees. She challenges me, encourages me, and cheers me on.

My strong (inside and out) friend and mom of two amazing adult children, who helped organize this team – inspires me, makes me brave, and is breaking generational curses in her own family.

And these kids that come out and not only walk/run but understand the best they can why we are walking. They recognize it’s a sad day, but also a happy day. They get to not only witness God’s forgiveness, love, and mercy in action, but also be a part of it.

imageMy mom’s friend who was much more like an aunt to me growing up. She lives with the loss of her parents and her brother. She is an amazing wife, mom, and friend.

And to all others pictured walking with your own sorrows…keep moving forward. There’s a plan and purpose in your pain. Thank you to everyone who supported our team through donations, walking, and prayer! We couldn’t make it without you. Thank you!

One thing all of the amazing women mentioned above have in common (besides their inspiring impact in my life), is they are all moms. They’re facing life’s struggles with little, and some not so little eyes watching them and ears listening to them. Although as moms know, the things we’d like our children to listen to they often don’t. And the things we’d rather them not hear, they don’t miss. One of the many things that make these women great moms is that they’re real. They aren’t afraid to admit a mistake or to recognize neither they nor their kids are perfect. Most importantly, they don’t take the unbearable things life has thrown at them and allow them to define their lives or debilitate them.

One of the most amazing examples I’ve witnessed of not allowing life to keep you disheartened is my mom. My mom will face another Mother’s Day without her son, and the next day she’ll face another birthday without her husband too. As I write today, the day before Mother’s Day, my mom isn’t sitting somewhere moping. No – she’s at a nursing home with women from her bible study group. They’re having a tea to bless the elderly ladies there. My mom explained after loosing my dad that “losing David left a huge hole in my heart and losing dad is like trying to function without my arm.” I’ve seen my mom grow through unbearable pain and circumstances. I’m so thankful for the amazing mom I’m blessed to have grown up with. imageBut even more, I’m thankful for the woman she’s becoming out of the ashes of life. “To all who mourn in Israel, He will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for His own glory” Isaiah 61:3.

I don’t know what you’re facing this Mother’s Day, but God does! He knows what pain you’re carrying, what trial you aren’t sure you’ll make it out of, what relationship seems unbearable right now, and every little hurt, insecurity, and difficulty you bear everyday. He knows when you should say something and when you don’t need to. He knows where you’ll be sitting next Mother’s Day and what ashes He wants to bring beauty out of in your life!

Lord I pray for each woman reading this and everything she needs to leave at Your feet, Jesus! I pray for all the daughters missing their moms, for all the daughters desiring a better relationship with their moms, and any scars they’re carrying. I pray for every woman struggling with infertility, miscarriage, and the questions left unanswered. I pray for every single mom reading this who You’ll comfort and refresh like only You can. I pray for foster moms caring for children like they are their own. I pray for all adoptive moms and the struggles they face. I pray peace for the pregnant women reading this and the new lives they’re carrying. I pray for challenging mother-in-law and daughter-in-law relationships, knowing You can bring a breakthrough. I pray for every worn out and exhausted mom who is barely hanging on – encourage and remind them Lord You love them and their children! imageHeavenly Father, I pray for any difficult situation any lady reading this is facing. I pray above all, that we’ll be transparent, forgiving, strong, and loving women in this day and time. I pray that we’ll fight for Your truth to stand, especially with this next generation. I pray that we’ll experience Your FREEDOM to continue on with bandaged hearts and shattered limbs, all for Your glory! Never missing the beauty Your revealing in the midst!

It was a beautiful Sunday morning and I was up and out early to get a start on the day. I was headed to the grocery store as soon as they opened. We had a busy day planned and I wanted to be efficient in getting everything done. I had a mental timeline planned and was excited as I checked out of the grocery store in time to stop and pick up coffee on the way home for my mom. She was at home with my three kids and our two puppies (one who is a baby and we’ve only had him a couple of weeks). Only my youngest was up and I wanted to get back in time to start breakfast and get everyone ready for church. I even sent my mom a text while walking to the car letting her know that I was on my way home. I threw my phone, wallet, and keys on the front seat and loaded the groceries in. BAM, I shut the door and my heart sank… I had reminded myself make sure the door is unlocked before I close it. I grabbed the passenger door handle and it was locked! I walked back into Publix and asked to use the phone at the service desk. I called my husband and then my mom. No answer.  And I called them again.  Still no one answered.

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I went outside and sat on the bench to wait a few minutes before calling again. I was thankful for the kind employee who let me use the phone, thankful for the beautiful weather and even the moment of silence just to sit. I went back in about 10 minutes later and tried both phone numbers again… STILL NO ANSWER! The sweet cashier let me use her phone to send a text and tell them I was stuck at Publix. I went back out and sat on what I now called “my bench” and waited some more. The kind cashier said she will come and get me if someone responds. This time sitting on that bench I went from thankful to anxious. What if my husband was too busy at work and didn’t have his phone?  What if all the kids were up and she was into the morning chaos that three kids and our new puppy brings? How long would I sit here? Would we make it to church? We missed the previous Sunday because my youngest was sick.  We needed to make it this week. . . I NEEDED to go. But God says….“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” Psalm 46:10

 

imageI reflected back on this previous week. It had been a good week! We started a new Tuesday night women’s bible study, titled – Breathe,  at our church. My husband encouraged me to go since it is only a five-week commitment. I had just finished up my last Wednesday morning bible study that ended for spring and summer. I even had an hour with my best friend to sit on the beach before picking up our kids from school. We’d planned it and went to that last study Wednesday morning with beach bags in tow. Usually I face coming to the weekend drained and wishing I had a moment to myself, but not that previous week.

 

I was even on the same page as my husband about our plans that night as he had a volunteer dinner planned at church for Sunday evening and needed my help. My husband and I have been walking together in the later evenings once the kids are settled for bed, which gives us time to talk and catch up. Our middle son is in a reading race in his class at school and was constantly reading in the prior week. What a joy it had been to hear him reading all week and seeing his love for books develop. Our oldest (who is the youngest on his baseball team and has struggled with confidence this year), hit a stand up double last Wednesday night in his game. Our youngest is still going through some difficulties, but I had a good meeting with her teacher and her therapist. There are some new things we are trying and my husband and I were able to talk and share some ways to better move forward in our parenting. My sweet girl and I even celebrated her with a treat after school one day before picking up the boys. I’m saying it was a good week! These are all the things I reflected on as I sat on that bench waiting.

So why was I so anxious about what this unplanned moment would do to our day? Why was I worried I would literally be stuck at Publix and no one would ever come for me? I could’ve even walked home. It would’ve taken awhile, but I could have done it. I realized without my phone I couldn’t reach anyone and was afraid if I walked and left it would make things further confusing if / when someone was coming to get me. I realized without my phone I couldn’t pass the time while chatting with a friend or scrolling other people’s Sunday plans to aimlessly pass the time. I even prayed if there was someone the Lord wanted me to talk to or share His Good News with that day. NOPE! He wanted me alone and attentive so he could to talk to me, even if that meant locking my keys in the car. It was just me and Jesus sitting on that bench. I had to accept there was nothing I could do. I had to stop chastising myself in my own head for forgetting to unlock the door before closing it. I had to stop worrying. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Phil 4:6-7 NIV

I had to realize how not checking that one thing affected the day. I thought about how many times in a day the Lord asks me to check something and I miss it. It doesn’t always have the same immediate effect because I don’t even realize I miss it. Every morning I start my day in prayer and most days in God’s Word and ask for His direction for the day. But then I get so busy doing “my” tasks I miss opportunities. Maybe there is someone at work who needs encouragement, a friend or family member who would benefit from a text during their day, or maybe you need to sit on your “bench” and hear from the Lord to be encouraged and instructed! That day as things went on it all worked out. My husband came to the rescue and called a friend from church who could try to open my car. He took me home and there was my mom cooking bacon for breakfast, my daughter was playing with the puppies, and my boys were still sleeping. Everyone survived!

lets go on an adventure free printable artisbeautyWe went on about our day with a new adventure – getting mom’s minivan open. I had to wake the boys up and we had to jump in the car for my mom to take me back to the grocery store to meet the locksmith. We did stop on the way and made sure my mom got her a much-needed coffee.  And so did I! We made it to the parking lot, met our friend. My oldest stayed with me. As I said goodbye to my daughter, she begged to stay with mommy, and I realized in that moment, she needed some more girl time. Then I promised her right there, that afternoon we would make it happen. It took my realization that Jesus had orchestrated some much need one-on-one time with me that morning, for me to recognize that she needed some one-on-one time with me. After a few unsuccessful tries, finally his metal curved tool thingy hit the unlock button on my keys and we heard it unlock! It wouldn’t unlock the button on the door. I had to giggle at that and be thankful I threw my keys on the front seat. God knew exactly what I needed that morning – for me to sit on the bench.  And He knew exactly what was needed to open the door and continue on my day…with a bit of a different plan.

imageThis week my schedule is jam-packed. Finding time to sit for a minute will be much more difficult than last week. It’s filled with juggling my work schedule, helping out more with the kids  car-pool, to chaperoning my little guy’s field trip, and then a birthday celebration for our almost 11-year-old.  But I know in the busyness of this week, it’s even more important for me to find time to sit, be still and hear from my Savior. Praying you will do the same. I hope you had a great week last week too.  But maybe it was just OK.  Or maybe it was a terrible week. Regardless of what last week looked like for you, this is a new week! Full of new opportunities to sit, be still and be open to a change of plans.

Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught.  But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.” But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:39-42

image“Heavenly Father please don’t let us miss the moments we need to just sit and hear from you this week. Protect us from the busyness, distractions and our own agendas so we don’t miss out on opportunities to share your love. Prepare us for the difficult moments this week might bring that stretch us and may they bring us closer to You. Keep our minds focused on You and not the worries that this world so often brings. Thank you for Your grace and forgiveness that we need daily! In Jesus name I pray. Amen”

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