Monday, December 19, 2016

Ripple Effects

Oh, the life lessons the Lord teaches me through our Hooties is never fun...but definitely needed.  My most recent lesson is how sin doesn't just effect the person doing it.

Almost two weeks ago, two of our Hooties decided not to be very kind to another Hootie.  One of them was the mastermind behind the action while the other did the action.  Then they sat there watching their sibling be in fear and did NOTHING about it.  I heard the one crying from inside and go flying out the back door to see one being mean to their sibling while the other just sat on a swing doing nothing...the reasoning...they thought the one crying was just whining.  I was FURIOUS to see two of our kids treating their sibling this way.

I sent them both to their room with the understanding that they lost TV for two weeks...at a minimum...and when their dad got home there may be other punishments.  Chris was in Richmond when I called to tell him what had happened, so he had two hours to think about their punishment.  They stayed in their bedroom for two hours...only able to read books.  When Chris got home, he talked to each one to find out all the details of what happened. The added punishments would be no TV, Wii or iPad time.  He explained how he would put 14 lines on a piece of paper (they each had their own) and each morning he would either erase a line or add a line depending on how they treated those in our family.  Once all the lines were gone, they could have TV, Wii and iPad privileges back. 

Let me tell you...the last  couple of weeks have been HARD!!!  I didn't realize how much I depended on the TV, Wii and iPad in the afternoons while I cooked dinner or did some chores.  Within the first couple of days, the Lord revealed to me that sin doesn't just effect the person who is doing it.  There is definitely a ripple effect that happens when those closest to you sin.   I must admit it was a tad easier at the beginning of the punishment to not have screen time, but by the end of last week I was begging Chris to let us "show some grace" to our kids and let them have their electronics back.  I have to selfishly admit it wasn't because I wanted to teach them a lesson on grace, it was because I wanted to have some check-out time.  I wanted them to be entertained while I got to do things I wanted to do.  I am thankful that Chris saw my heart and encouraged me not to give in to my own selfishness. 

This morning we got up and got ready for the day to have the power go out randomly.  The neighbors across the street from us and the neighbors two doors down all had power, but not us.  When the power went out, I began to dread our morning.  I had planned to do some Christmas baking, but that obviously wasn't going to happen.  I had a little bit of Christmas shopping left to do and bring back a couple of items, so I decided we would have a change in plans and run errands this morning. 

After getting everyone bundled up in their winter jackets, we headed to Walmart to return my items and pick up a few things.  While we were waiting in the return line, I noticed that there was a hot pink duct tape line to show where people needed to stand while waiting for their turn.  A couple of the Hootie Hoos kept crossing over the line and disturbing the people who were being waited on.  In that moment, the Lord began to speak to me. 

I called the Hooties over to where the line was.  I pointed out the line on the floor.  I asked them if we were to think about God in relation to the line what might the line represent.  One of the older ones shouted out "sin!"  I told them that were absolutely correct.  I asked that if the line represented sin does God want  us to get as close to the line as possible without touching it or does He want us to stay a safe distance back.  One of them said He would want us to stay back.  I then asked if God wants us to stay away from sin because He is mean and controlling and wants us to have be miserable all of our life.  Before I could give another option one of the Hooties shouted out that He wants us to stay away from sin because He loves us and wants to keep us safe.  And from behind the counter one of the cashiers shouts, "Amen!  Preach on!"   Then on perfect cue one of the little ones jumps over the line and one of the older ones pulls them back behind the line.  I kept the conversation going.  I told them that what just happened was a perfect illustration.  When we see someone we love commit a sin, we should be there to pull them back.  I asked them what they could do to "pull" someone back away from sin.  Some of their responses were "share the gospel"..."pray for them"..."read the Bible''..."love them like Jesus."  My heart was FULL as I listened to their answers...as I listened to their hearts.  In that moment, I thanked God for random power outage and change of plans.  Part of me feels like we needed that illustration today as the Lord continues to fine tune me and reminds me that sin doesn't just effect the person doing it, but there is a ripple effect...it can very easily effect those closest to you.  And just like sin doesn't just effect the person committing the sin, the person committing the sin shouldn't have to handle their sin problem on their own. We as disciples of Jesus should be ready to walk with them in love and truth. 

As CHRISTmas approaches, I can't help but to be thankful that Jesus came to defeat our sins. He was willing to come as a baby so we don't have to handle sin on our own.  My prayer is that as I continue to walk this journey that more and more each day I will live and love like Jesus does.   



"I write this, dear children, to guide you out of sin.  But if anyone does sin, we have a Priest-Friend in the presence of the Father: Jesus Christ, righteous Jesus.  When He served as a sacrifice for our sins, he solved the sin problem for good--not only yours, but the whole world's"
(1 John 1:1-2, the Message)

Sunday, December 18, 2016

This One Guy



17 years?!?!  Yes, it has been 17 years since we started our journey.

I was a young 21 year old college student who had REALLY just started living her life for Jesus.  I was broken...I had just ended a relationship that wasn't at all centered around Jesus.  I had sworn off boys...I was finally getting serious about my relationship with Jesus and realized that He was all I really needed.  I started going to the United Methodist Student Center (UMSC) with an old high school friend.  I was making new friends and growing in my faith.  There was this one guy who had captured my eye...one who led worship each week...one who was the president of the ministry...one who loved Jesus and wasn't afraid to show it.  But I pressed on toward Jesus...vowing not to be distracted by this one guy.

After a few weeks of hanging out with this new group of friends (and this one guy), I got a phone call.  It was him!  He was calling to see if I wanted to go out...just the two of us.  The re was this excitement in me, but at the same time a nervousness...I had NEVER dated a Christian guy.  I agreed to go out with him for dinner.  I told him that I would meet him at his apartment (I lived out in the county, so it was easier for me to head his way then for him to backtrack to my house).  We got off the phone, and I started to get ready.  I was trying to find something to wear...I was nervous...there were butterflies in my stomach.  This was different...I hadn't felt this way before.  I finally pulled myself together and headed to this one guy's apartment to pick him up.  Then we headed to Pizza Hut.

We talked and talked throughout dinner...getting to know each other better...having those conversations that are kind of hard to do in a group setting.  We talked about so many different things, but the one part of our conversation that I remember to this day is when you asked me where I saw myself 5-10 years down the road.  My answer was that I could see myself being married supporting my future husband in whatever ministry the Lord called him to whether it was a doctor, trash collector or a pastor.  And if the Lord happened to bless us with children, I could picture myself being at home with them teaching them about Jesus.  This answer surprised me because prior to getting serious about my faith, I was going to school to be a neonatalogist and had plans to live a single life enjoying the money that I would make.

Sidenote:  And just to be clear, I wasn't saying this to just get the guy...the Lord had been working in me and changed my heart.  Because prior to meeting this one guy for the first time in my life, I decided to ask God what He wanted me to do with my life...what He wanted me to study in school.  I had changed my major from Premed to Early Childhood Education.  I was shocked by what He was calling me to do...but out of obedience I was going to trust Him.

We continued talking and hanging out at Pizza Hut.   I think we may have even gone back to your apartment and watched a movie.  We stayed up way later than we should have, but you were going to be leaving for your grandparents' house in Tennessee for a few days.  I was sad to see the date end, but at the same time it was good that you were leaving for a few days.  It gave us time to pray and see where the Lord was taking this relationship.

As I sit on our couch 17 years later in our home, I never would have imagined my life to be what it is.  In the last 17 years we have gone from a first date to an engagement to graduating college to getting married.  We moved into our first home as newlyweds to our second home where the Lord brought much healing to me and made our marriage stronger.  We moved into a townhouse in NC so I could teach while you went to seminary. You graduated from seminary while we waited the arrival of our first child.  We moved in with family while we waited for your first call at a church and welcomed our first son into the world.  Then we received our first call at a church outside of DC, so  moved into an apartment outside of DC and began this new journey of you having a full-time position at a church while I stayed home with our kiddo.  Then we found out we were expecting our second child and the Lord provided a bigger place to live...a townhouse that was closer to the church.  While in this home, we welcomed our second, third and fourth child. We did life together.  We loved people together.  We were together.  Then our life took a twist.  My faith was tested in a way that it had never been tested.  Once again, I found myself broken...the only difference was that I had you there walking with me...holding me...praying for me...loving me unconditionally. We packed up our things and moved in with family while the Lord brought healing to my life.  He gave us a vision.  He gave us a renewed passion for discipleship. He gave us the faith to step out and do what He was calling us to do.  A ministry was born...a faith was strengthened.  We moved back to Georgia to place we said we would never move back to when we left.  We lived with family again.  We trusted for God to provide for our every need. He provided...He allowed us to have our own home again after 14 months of living with family. He grew the ministry He called us to start.  Then just like God, He put an unbelievable opportunity before us.  He called us to move again...back to Virginia.  He was calling us back to serve in a church while growing His ministry.  He provided a home on our first day of house hunting.  A place to do ministry and to raise the precious gifts we have been given.

So, 17 years later I stand in awe of where we are and who we have become...as individuals and as a couple.  I am thankful that He brought us together and has allowed us to do life together.  I am thankful that God knew I needed this one guy in my life...to show me what it means to live and love like Jesus...to encourage me to be the follower of Jesus that He desires me to be.

ILUVM, Christopher Potter Greenwood, and I look forward to many more years of celebrating the day He started our journey together!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Zhiquan

It has been a long time since I have sat down to blog.  We have been pretty busy this fall as we started school, discipling, soccer, AWANA, leading a new Life Group, building new friendships...and sickness!  We are on our third week of being sick with two different illnesses.  There has been a definite blessing in all of this...we have slowed down.  Today as three of the Hooties are napping and one is off playing with a friend, I have a few minutes to myself.  I could be doing a thousand other things, but I am choosing to blog.  Oh, it is sweet therapy for my soul.

This morning, we were doing school.  It is a light week since Thanksgiving is a few days away.  We are reading LOTS of Thanksgiving books and doing some Thanksgiving crafts.  I decided to go pull out my Thanksgiving folder from my teaching days in NC.  And when I did, I saw this picture:


Ohh, the flood of memories that came over me when I saw this picture.  Zhiquan was a student that got transferred into my Transition First class one year.  If we are going to be honest, Zhiquan ended up in my classroom because he had behavioral issues.  When his kindergarten classroom had too many students in it, the principal told his teacher to put a few in my room.  At first, I was VERY frustrated because this teacher saw it as an opportunity to get rid of some students who had behavioral issues.  But little did I know that the Lord was going to use Zhiquan to grow me into more of who He desires me to be. 

Within the first couple of weeks as I began to learn more about who Zhiquan was, he began to have a special place in my heart.  Zhiquan at his young age, had been in and out of foster homes.  He had seen A LOT in his few years of life.  My heart broke as I learned more and more of his story.  But the Lord gave me the ability to see Zhiquan as He does...a broken child who needed to see the love of Jesus.

When he first got into my classroom, there was LOTS of testing of boundaries.  I think there was so much testing because he had lived in so many places with so many different rules.   Some days it was absolutely frustrating, but I think he was seeing if I was worth trusting.  In the end, consistency won!  A couple of months in, Zhiquan couldn't do enough for me.  He grew into being responsible.  He desired to do well for me.  He began to excel in his school work.  Now, don't get me wrong...it wasn't all peachy keen...but when he was off, I knew something was going on at home.

Today, as I write this blog, I wonder what has happened to Zhiquan.  I have tried looking on Facebook for him, but haven't been successful.  My heart wonders if he ever found his forever family. I have prayed often that he has...I have prayed that he got a mom and dad who were his BIGGEST fans and could encourage him to reach his potential.

As I reflect, I thank the Lord for allowing Zhiquan to be a part of my classroom...a part of my life.  I thank Him for using Zhiquan to grow me in compassion for those who are broken.  Reminding me that often times those who are acting out are the ones who have the deepest wounds.  I thank the Lord for using Zhiquan to grow me in seeing that wherever He places me is an opportunity to love like Jesus. I thank Him for using Zhiquan to plant the seed of one day adopting children who are in the foster system and giving them a forever home.

I pray that Zhiquan saw Jesus when he was in my classroom.  I pray during our year together, he  knew that he was loved not only by me, but by God.

Today, I am saying a special prayer for Zhiquan.  I am praising the Lord for this sweet child and giving Him thanks for all the good that came out of an at first frustrating situation.  And I am praying that Zhiquan  got a glimpse of His love for him and realized that there is One who has an ending/unconditional love for him. 

"Praise the LORD. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever." 
Psalm 106:1




Thursday, July 28, 2016

My Rock

Today was another HOT and humid day (it was 113 with the heat index), so we headed to the church to run around inside to get rid of some energy.  We parked on the gravel driveway just so we wouldn't have to walk out in the heat for as long.  As I was unloading the Hooties, Tobias leaned over and started picking up a rock...and then another...and then another.  I was trying to coax him to come quickly so we could get inside where the A/C was.  But he kept stopping and admiring each rock...picking out just the right one.  This is our DAILY routine wherever we happen to go.  For some reason his rock collecting bothered me today.  But we were able to make it into the church without me losing it!  All you mommas out there know that was a miracle in itself!! We spent about 30 minutes doing obstacles and relays in the nice air-conditioned church.  The whole time, Tobias held on to his prized rock.  Just before we left the church to go get some lunch, he needed to go to the bathroom, so we stopped by the restroom.  While he was in there, he must of put his rock down because we got outside and he realized he didn't have it any more.  He got upset, but I told him that it was OK because we had plenty of rocks at home.  A part of me was secretly glad to not have one...more...rock to pick up. I could tell he was a little upset, but he didn't have a meltdown...another miracle I witnessed that day!!   But it didn't last very long because as soon as we got to the gravel driveway, he started looking again for just the right rock.  He began picking up one...and then another...and then another.  I felt myself starting to get frustrated...I just wanted to get in the van and start the A/C...not wait for him to collect all of his rocks.  And in that moment the Lord reminded me of this verse:

The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
    my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
    my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
Psalm 18:2

He reminded me that I need to be like Tobias...looking for my Rock in ever situation.  Being excited each time I encounter my Rock.  That I need to study my Rock in such a way that I am constantly learning something new about Him.  When I misplace my Rock...meaning not spending time with Him...then I need to be upset AND I need to go "looking" for Him again.  

As I was reading scripture and gathering my thoughts to write this blog, I came across this verse:

For you are my rock and my fortress;
    and for your name's sake you lead me and guide me;
Psalm 31:3 

I am so thankful in that moment today that the Lord spoke to me...that there was enough room in my frustration for Him to lead and guide me.  And now, when I walk through my front door and see this container of rocks, I will think of my Rock! 

Oh...this is one of three containers that collect rocks by our front door!

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Standing in Amazement

Today, I just stood in amazement...after I got done being REALLY upset!! 

The kids and I had gone to Sam's to pick up a few things.  We had stopped at the food court to pick up pretzels for lunch...my plan was to add some cheese and fruit when we got home.  Some days we do a VERY simple lunch and today just felt like one of those days.  After getting our pretzels, we headed to the van to load up.  As we approached the van, the spot next to us was empty...I was thankful because it would allow me to get the kids in without having to squeeze between cars.  As one of the kids was getting in, Sophie noticed this big, white suburban backing up and brought it to my attention.  I thought the person would stop and allow the kids to finish getting in, but he didn't.  He just kept backing up...not quickly...but definitely no indication that he was going to stop and let me get the kids in the van and move our cart.  He got so close to me that I couldn't even get the cart to the  back to unload it. When he realized that he was going to hit the cart, he did pull forward enough for me to get the cart around the back.  I just stood there in amazement!  There was a lady who saw all this happening, and she rolled down her window and told me she wanted to apologize for the man being so rude and to let me know that there was no reason for him to have acted that way.  I thanked her after she told me to stay safe.  After she pulled away, I noticed that there was a spot just across the way in the next row...he didn't have to drive around to the row...he just needed to pull forward.  I just stood in amazement!!!  As I was getting back in the car, Josiah asked, "Mom, why was that lady apologizing to you?"  I explained to him that she was apologizing for the way the man was acting.  He then asked me, "Why was he being so impatient and not being a gentleman?"  I stood in amazement!!

I have NEVER done this, but today I did something that is totally out of my introvert comfort zone.  I wrote a note and left it under this man's windshield wiper.  It said:

Maybe next time you could show a mom with four kids a little more compassion and allow them to get safely into their car before thinking about getting into "your" spot...it would have been the gentleman thing to do.  It is sad that my seven year old son asked me why you weren't being patient and being a gentleman.  Signed "A Very Disappointed Mom"

As I put the note on the man's car, I stood in amazement!

On the way home, I was  still upset about what had just happened.  Has our society gotten so self-centered that a mom can't even put her kids in her car without worrying if the driver is going to hit them just so they can have a parking spot that is one row closer?  Do I really have that rare of jewel in my husband being a gentleman...and teaching our sons to be gentlemen?  

 I could have gone on and on with my questions, but then the Spirit reminded me what Josiah had asked, "Why was he being so impatient and not being a gentleman?"  I realized that in my own frustration that I never really answered Josiah's question.  I didn't want to spend time focusing on why I thought the man did what he did.  Instead, I wanted to focus on Josiah realizing that what the man was doing didn't seem right to him.  So, we had a conversation about why it didn't seem right to him for the man to pull into the parking spot like he did...his answer...because it wasn't the gentleman thing to do.  I asked him what it means to him to be a gentleman...his answer...to make sure that you treat people kindly...especially girls and kids.  I then asked him what he would have done if he wanted that parking spot and he saw a mom with four kids trying to get in their car...his answer...I would have waited until they had gotten in the car safely...I would have rolled down my window to see if I could have parked my car...I could have found another parking spot. I just stood in amazement!!!

After we talked, I wanted to bring today's event back to Jesus.  We opened our Bible and we read Matthew 7:12a:

“Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you." (NLT)

I am thankful that I didn't allow this event to ruin my day, but instead allowed Jesus to redeem the day.  I am thankful I paused long enough in my rantings to hear the Spirit tell me to have a follow-up conversation with Josiah.  And I am thankful that my initial standing in amazement on how this guy had acted was overtaken by standing in amazement on the young man Josiah is becoming. 


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

From Head to Heart

This past Sunday, we sang "Oceans" by Hillsong United at church.  As we were singing, I knew I was in the presence of the Lord.  The words coming out of my mouth weren't just a song to sing, but they were the prayer of my heart. 

Stepping out of the boat onto the water has always been hard for me for a number of reasons.  The two most prominent reasons are trust and control.  When we started out on  this life changing journey two years ago, I was at the lowest point I had ever been in my life.  I was in a crippling position not knowing what we needed to do next.  I didn't see a solution to the situation we were in.  I was afraid...I was panicking...I just wanted a quick fix to make our life easy and comfortable again.  When you are at that point, you have two options...walk away from your faith in Jesus or reach out to Him.  I'm thankful that He gave me enough trust to reach out to Him...enough trust in Him when He called me out on to the waters that I went.  When I took the first step, I felt like I was sinking.  I didn't understand why I was sinking. But in my own humanness, I thought stepping out onto the waters was all I needed to do.  I thought stepping out of the boat was all the faith I needed to have.  But He wanted more for me.  He didn't want me to have this weak faith. No, He wanted me to have this unwavering faith that would stand strong in the stormy waters called life.  He wanted me to be strong in Him, so the next time some uncertainty came my way I wouldn't flounder in the crashing waves.

As I started on this journey, I was learning to let go of control.  I was learning to call upon His name. I was learning to trust Jesus. I was learning to keep my eyes above the waters searching for Him instead of focusing on all the crashing waves around me.  I was learning to rest in His embrace because I knew He had me on this journey to make me into the woman of God He wanted me to be.  I was learning that even during the storms, I was His and He was mine.

As my trust in Him grew, I began to realize in a new way what it meant for God to be in control of my life. I began to realize in a new way what it meant for Him to be my guide.  I knew about these truths, but they were head knowledge instead of heart reality.  As I was learning to make that transition from head knowledge to heart reality, there were times I thought I wanted control back.  In those moments, I stopped trusting what He was doing in my life.  Telling Him that I could handle it better than He could.  And often times when I was in those moments,  I was fearful.  But He would whisper to me that I was  His and He was mine.  He would whisper to me that He had not failed me yet and He wasn't about to start now. And with those soft whispers, I would hand control back over to Him knowing that my life was better in His hands than in my hands.

As my faith continued to grow deeper,   I was continuing to grow in keeping my eyes above the waters... searching for Him instead of focusing on all the crashing waters around me.  I was growing  in resting in His embrace because I knew He was continuing me on this journey to make me into the woman of God He wanted me to be.  I was growing in the heart reality that even during the crashing waves that I was His and He was mine.

Two years into this journey, my first response is to follow the Spirit where He leads. I am trusting Him in a way that I have never trusted Him before.  I am trusting Him as I walk upon the waters and knowing that He will take me deeper in my faith.  I know that He is making me strong as I walk with Him on the waters.  As I sit here typing this blog today, I call upon His name to keep me above the waters.  I rest in Him knowing that He has my life under His control.  I can do all of this because I know I am His and He is mine. He has taken my head knowledge and turned it into heart reality.

I know some are walking through stormy waters right now.  My prayer is for you to call upon His name...for you to keep your eyes on Jesus as the waters rise...for you to sit in His embrace knowing that you are His and He is yours...for your faith to grow deeper as the ocean waters rise.

Please take a moment to listen to the video below and sing to the One who knows what storms you are walking through right now...trusting Him every step of the way.





"Oceans" 
by 
Hillsong United

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now

So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

I will call upon Your Name
Keep my eyes above the waves
My soul will rest in Your embrace
I am Yours and You are mine

(c) 2012 Hillsong Music Publishing (admin. in the U.S. and Canada at CAPITOLCMGPUBLISHING.COM) (APRA)

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Walking Humbly

Today, the Hooties and I were doing our Bible time.  We use the Virtue Training Bible.  Each day, I pick a virtue to focus on.  Today's lesson was on humility/being humble.

We started off by reading 1 Peter 5: 5b-7.

"God opposes those who are proud.  But he gives grace to those who are not. (Proverbs 3:34)  So don't be proud.  Put yourselves under God's mighty hand.  then he will honor you at the right time.  Turn all your worries over to him.  He cares about you."

Then, we read Romans 12:3.

God's grace has been given to me.  So here is what I say to every one of you.  Don't think yourself more highly than you should.   Be reasonable when you think about yourself.  Keep in mind the amount of faith God has given you." 

When I was reading these verses, I asked the Lord to help me bring the truth of walking humbly to life in a way that the Hooties could understand.  Nothing came right away, so we took a few minutes and talked about walking humbly and what that might look like.  Then we also talked about what it might look like if we walked around proudly.  The most common answer was walking around with our nose up in the air.  Then as we were getting ready to pray the Lord gave me an activity to do with them.  

We have a really long hallway that leads to all of the bedrooms.  I went and got some stuffed animals and set them down the hallway...some on the sides and some in the middle.  Then I brought the Hooties one by one with their eyes closed to the start of the hallway.  Before they opened their eyes, I had them put their nose up in the air...walking proudly.  I told them that they had to keep walking down the hallway looking up at the ceiling.  Once they got to the end of the hallway, I brought them into one of the bedrooms...they were still holding their nose in the air, so they couldn't see anything.  When we got into the bedroom, I asked them what stuffed animal they saw as they walked.  All of them said they didn't see any stuffed animals.  I then explained to them that when we walk around proudly, we often miss opportunities to minister to people that God puts in our path.  After talking about that for a little bit, we went back out to the start of the hallway.  I told the Hooties that each stuffed animal represented a person...this one was homeless, this one is a single mom, this one just had surgery, this one just had a baby.  I then had them walk back down the hallway, and we stopped at each stuffed animal and discussed how we could help a homeless person, a single mom, a person who just had surgery, a mom just having a baby.  

It was so neat watching the Hooties share how they would help each person.  I stopped and thanked God for giving me this illustration so we don't miss opportunities to serve others.  I thanked Him for using me to teach the Hooties this lesson.  After the lesson, we had a sweet prayer time.  The older children prayed these beautiful prayers of asking God to help them see opportunities to serve others.  And as I continue to reflect on this lesson, I seek Him knowing that He will place opportunities before us...all we have to do is walk humbly. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Never Be the Same

"We go from glory to glory to glory
We'll never be the same, never be the same
You take us higher and higher and higher
We're forever changed, forever changed"


As we sang the above chorus to the song "Glory to Glory" by William Matthews, my heart was flooded with emotion! When you go through such fine tuning and stripping away like we have over the last two years, that season will always be a part of you...you can never forget those deep valleys you walked through.  

As we sat in the pew on the eve of Chris' first day of ministry at KPC, I couldn't help but to think back on how far the Lord has brought us.  I knew a part of me was the same person when we began this journey two years ago, but I also knew that I was forever changed.  

I know that there are some who are going through a waiting season.  There is a lot of uncertainty...a lot of pain...a lot of tears...a lot of questioning God...a lot of fear.  I want to encourage you, as one who has walked through a similar season.  The circumstances may be different, but the struggles are still the same. 

During the worship service, we read Psalm 40:1-3

I waited patiently for the Lord to help me,
    and he turned to me and heard my cry. 
 He lifted me out of the pit of despair,
    out of the mud and the mire.
He set my feet on solid ground
    and steadied me as I walked along. 
 He has given me a new song to sing,
    a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see what he has done and be amazed.
    They will put their trust in the Lord.

As you walk on this journey that the Lord is bringing you on, wait patiently for Him.  He is bringing you to glory and taking you higher.  You will never be the same and will forever be changed.  Cry out to Him knowing that He hears your cry.  Remember, our God is BIG!  He can handle any and every emotion that you throw at Him.  There were times, when I would YELL at God...I would tell Him how angry I was at Him.  I know some are gasping as they read that sentence, but I would be more concerned if a person stops talking with God.  A person needs to start worrying when the conversations with God stop.  Know that the Lord will lift you from your pit...it may be a week down the road...maybe a month...six months...a year...five years.  We don't know how long it will be, but remember that He is bringing you to glory and taking you higher.  You will never be the same and will forever be changed.  And when He sets you on solid ground, be ready to share what He has done in your life...what He has taught you...what He has brought you through...how He has changed you.  Because in those moments of vulnerability, God will use your journey to minister to others.  God will be lifted to His place of glory...He will be lifted higher and higher...and we will sing praises to Him for not keeping us the same...we will sing praises to Him for changing us forever.  And when we do, people will be amazed at what He has done.  And your journey could be exactly what the person God put in your life needed to hear, so they could put their trust in Him.  

So, my prayer for you as you go through this journey is to remember:


"We go from glory to glory to glory
We'll never be the same, never be the same
You take us higher and higher and higher
We're forever changed, forever changed"

 




Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Be Still

Yesterday morning as we got up and were getting ready to drive to NC, Sophie had told my mom that her stomach hurt.  She had told me Sunday night after dinner that her stomach hurt, but I thought it was because she had three helpings of dinner.  She never eats that much, but after spending most of the afternoon in the pool, I thought she was hungry.  A little while later, she was outside running around, so I thought she was feeling better. 

When I heard that her stomach was still hurting, I just wanted to cry.  We had already delayed our trip a day because Kyrie had been running a high fever.  Her fever had come down enough and her spunky personality had come back, so I figured she was well enough to travel.  Instead of making a decision in that moment, I decided that I was going to go take a shower and just talk with God about what I should do.

As I was taking my shower, I asked God why all this was happening.  I shared that we were just trying to get to VA so we could get settled before we start the ministry He was calling us to (like He needed for me to tell Him that!! Hahaha!!) And then I asked Him for some insight because I didn't want to travel if He didn't want me to.  Then as I waited, I heard the word "personality."  I stood puzzled and asked, "Personality? What does that mean?"  And in that moment a flood of memories came back from my childhood days of moving because my dad was in the Air Force.  I remembered getting anxious before a move...I remembered getting sad leaving the few friends I had made...I remembered the stomachaches.  I thanked the Lord for revealing this information to me, and I finished getting ready so I could go talk with Sophie.

I called her into my bedroom and asked her if she thought her stomach hurt because she was sick or if something else was bothering her to make her stomach hurt.  The next thing I knew, she was cuddled next to me crying.  I just held her and rubbed her back.  After she calmed down a bit, she told me that she was sad to be leaving her Awana friends...nobody specific, but just being at Awana with her friends.  Since we are both introverts, I totally could relate to what she was feeling.  I shared with her about the difference between an extrovert and an introvert.  I explained to her that we are both introverts.  I related to her about how I felt when I was her age and had to move.  And then, we prayed.  We prayed for God to bring peace to her heart.  We prayed for safe travels.  We prayed for that special friend that God already knows about just for Sophie.

I thanked God for that moment because being an introvert I saw the amazing-ness of  the fact that she shared with me something so personal.  I was thankful because she trusted me enough to share her worries.  I was thankful because we had this opportunity to bond as mother and daughter.

I share this to ask you for prayers for Sophie...and Kyrie (largely, she is having a hard time in new situations).  To pray that God will send that special friend for them.  I also share to encourage you to go before God with anything and everything.  He STILL speaks to us.  He STILL gives us insight into situations.  He STILL wants to lead and guide our every step and decision.  He STILL wants to walk with us through each and every moment of every day.  All we have to do is BE STILL.

This morning as I was waiting for the kids to get up, I came across this verse!  How AMAZING is He?!?!

 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

There and Back Again: A Greenwood Tale

3.9.16

As I sit here typing this blog, I stand in amazement...

We started this journey almost two years ago...to the day!  The last two years, have been full of tears, laughter, healing and fine tuning.  There have been many times over the last two years when we felt like Moses wandering in the desert. One day after sharing my heart with a dear friend, she sent me the following quote.  Talk about getting a new perspective on God's timing!! So grab a cup of coffee or an ice tea...yes, this blog is a bit lengthy, but remember this is the two year journey we have been on!

  

The end of March 2014, the Lord began this two-year journey.  We found out Chris was not chosen to be the new senior pastor at the church we had been serving at for almost six years. Before finding out the search committee's decision, Chris and I spent time praying and came to the decision that if we weren't chosen to be the new senior pastor that the Lord had something different for us to do.  We both felt the Lord wanted us to leave.  As we told our former church we would be leaving, there was a lot uncertainty.  Chris had been applying and applying and applying some more to churches all over the country.  By May, we felt like we would be moving. There were two churches that we flew out to visit because we had made it to the final two.  We thought surely one of these churches would extend a call and it would be a smooth transition.  In our minds, we thought this would be an amazing testimony because churches normally don't move this fast in the search process. (The typically search process lasts anywhere from 6-24 months!)  But both churches came back with a no.  It wasn't just a no because you weren't the right fit.  It was a no, but we wanted to say yes.  We like how God has gifted you to do ministry, we like you as a person, but we just feel like we need to say no because God has something else for you.  

As the weeks passed, it was getting  harder and harder for me to continue to be at our former church. I wasn't upset that we weren't chosen, but I was hurt by the way the process was handled.  The Lord used the process of Chris not being selected as the new senior pastor to work on some areas in my life.  At the time, I didn't see it as a good thing, but today, as I see how far the Lord has brought me and see the work that He has done in my life, the only thing I can do is praise Him for using that event to continue to mold me into who He wants me to be.  But by the middle of the summer, Chris and I knew that we needed to leave...for my well being.  I was not in a good place emotionally or spiritually.  I was afraid for Chris to give up his full-time paying job with benefits as I saw four sets of eyes looking up at me, but we both knew we needed to go because my husband needed his wife and our children needed their mom.

As we were making plans to move to NC,  I was reminded of these verses in Exodus 14:13-14

Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance
 the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

We needed to step out and trust the Lord.  We needed to put fear aside and stand firm in the Lord and trust the journey He was taking us on.  We needed to trust that the Lord would fight for us by simply being still and not rushing the process...and for someone like me, not having a plan was a real struggle for me.  

At the end of July/beginning of August 2014, we let our former church know we would be moving to NC to live with his dad and (step) mom to wait for our next call.  We had no idea what we were going to do.  We were very thankful our former church gave us a monthly support to pay our regular bills, but Chris still needed a job to pay for  gas, food and all the things that come along with having four children.  Chris began searching for a job in NC.  Before we left and out of the blue, Chris was contacted by one of our good friends who had started a church in the town we were going to in NC wanting to know if he would like to come work with the youth part-part time while we waited for the Lord to show us our next call.  God had provided.  

At the end of August 2014, we began our desert wandering as we packed up the moving truck.  We needed to trust the Lord, and we had to cling to the verse, Exodus 13:21,


"And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way,
 and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night."

Shortly after moving to NC, I began meeting with a dear lady who began to counsel me.  

When we left our former church, I was broken. Again, it wasn't because we weren't chosen to be the new senior pastor, it was the process we went through that brought a lot of the hurt.  It hurt because we had spent almost six years pouring into these people only to be told at a mall food court that in three days they were going to let the church know they had picked someone else.  It hurt because before we left, we sat down with the search committee to share our hurt and were told that they didn't believe they could have done things any differently.   

As I met with this lady, we worked through the book "Total Forgiveness" by R.T. Kendall.  She poured into me knowing I needed to forgive because if I didn't Satan would have a field day with me.  I knew in my heart of hearts she was right, but I didn't want to forgive.  I wanted to be justified.  I wanted someone to say I had EVERY right to be hurt and angry.  But she didn't.  Instead she challenged me to forgive.  I am thankful she saw something inside of me I didn't see at the time...that I would be able to reach a place of forgiveness.  

Chris continued to apply for positions at churches.  He was looking at all kinds of associate pastor positions.  There was a part of me, as Chris was applying to these positions, that wasn't sure if I wanted to be a pastor's wife again.  Even though I was working through the process of forgiving, I didn't know if I was willing to put myself out there to possibly be hurt again.  Again, Chris would get down to the final two or three in the interview process to be told no.  Like before, it wasn't a no because you aren't the right person.  It was we want to say yes, but when we do the final vote we just can't say yes. The Lord is telling us to say no because we feel like He has something else for you.  So, at this point, we decided that maybe we needed to consider all kinds of options. Chris started to have conversations about going on the mission field, doing a church plant, and even looking at senior pastor positions (side note:  Chris NEVER desired to be a senior pastor, so this was a BIG stretch for him!)  After a few conversations, we felt like the mission field and church plant needed to be crossed off.  Chris then began applying to senior pastor positions.  Again, we would make it to the finals.  Again, we heard the same answers of wanting to say yes, but just felt like the Lord wanted them to say no because He had something else for Chris to do.

So, in the fall of 2014, Chris was asked three times in one week if he had thought about starting a discipleship ministry.  Chris had thought about it in the past, but always came back with a no because he didn't want to be one more ministry that created a program for the church to do.  But after the third time being asked, he came to me and said he needed 20 minutes to go sit at the computer.  When  he came back, he had typed up what a discipleship ministry would look if he started one.  When he showed it to me, it was exciting...but it also looked overwhelming AND impossible.  He asked me if I thought he was crazy, and I told him no but that it fit God perfectly....asking us to do something that seemed impossible.  At that point, we decided that we would no longer apply to churches.  We were in the process with a few churches and decided that we would see those through...just in case God wanted to call us to one of these churches.

By January 2015, we had filed for Mathetes 268 Ministries to be an official ministry.  We had LOTS of conversations with people who thought the ministry was a great idea, but who also thought it would be impossible for it to actually happen.  Shortly after we received paperwork that Mathetes 268 was official, we got a phone call from an Elder at a church in VA wanting to know if we were in the process with any churches.  (We had a relationship with this elder because Chris discipled his (step) son, and I discipled his daughter-in-law.  Chris had also preached at this church while their pastor was on vacation.)  He told us the pastor was getting ready to retire and wanted to know if Chris would consider applying for the position.  Chris and I took a couple of days and felt like we needed to apply.  In our minds, we felt like maybe the Lord would call Chris to this church so he could implement the ministry plan he had written down for Mathetes 268.  As we waited for the search committee to go through the process, Chris continued fine tuning Mathetes 268, but we didn't do anything to launch the ministry.  

There was one point in late winter, that I felt like the Lord had restored me.  Up to this point, I still had hesitations about being a pastor's wife again.  But as I sat one afternoon discipling a lady, we read Jeremiah 29:11 because she needed some encouragement.


"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, 
to give you a future and a hope."

But as I was reading, the Spirit told me to read a little further.

"Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.  You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile."
-Jeremiah 29:12-14 

As I read these verses, I began to tear up.  I felt like the Lord had brought tremendous healing to my heart.  I knew the Lord was restoring me. I realized He had driven us out of ministry so I could have a season of healing.  I knew the Lord was returning me to a place from which He had sent me into exile.  In that moment, He was giving me a desire to go back into ministry and even be a pastor's wife again.  


We continued on with life as we waited for the search committee in VA to do their thing.  Easter 2015 was a very hard day for Chris.  He was struggling with the fact that he may never be a pastor at a church again.  But as the days went on, Chris felt like he needed to surrender this area to the Lord.  He got to the point where he knew he would be OK if the Lord never called him to be a pastor at a church again.  Things were still moving along with the church in VA and in August 2015, they came to NC to hear Chris preach and to have an in-person interview.  The weekend went really well.  Again, we were in the final three.  As we waited some more, Chris and I felt like if we didn't get called to the church in VA, we needed to go ahead and move to GA and officially launch Mathetes 268. The beginning of September we got an email saying that we were not chosen.  Chris called the elder that we are friends with and found out more of what happened.  Again, going into the vote we were the strong contender. But when the search committee voted they unanimously voted for the another guy.  The elder was shocked because even though on the way to the church he felt the Lord telling him to vote for another person, he knew there were quite a few Greenwood fans, so he thought his vote wouldn't make a difference.  


Chris and I took a day to process the news that we weren't going to be called to the church in VA.  Chris asked me if we should really close the door of being a pastor/pastor's wife.  I told him if we kept applying then I felt like we would be running from what the Lord wanted us to do and at some point it would cross the line of disobedience.  We had  a day of grieving as we realized the Lord was closing the door of being a pastor and a pastor's wife for a season.  We didn't know how long the season would be, but we knew we had been called to go and start this ministry.  Within the next couple of days, we began the process of making plans to move to GA. 

Again Exodus 13:21 became a verse we clung to.  


"And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way,
 and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night."

We both knew the Lord was going to need to go before us if Mathetes 268 was going to be used to further His kingdom work.  We knew it was risky because it was asking churches to re-think the way they have been running their church.  We knew it was going to be hard for pastors to let another pastor consult them on how to do church differently.  But Chris and I were given this call, and we knew we needed to go.  We also knew that we needed the Lord to follow behind us because the spiritual warfare was very real.  We needed His protection.  One of the first things we did as we launched Mathetes 268 was start a prayer team.  I am so thankful for each person that has committed to pray for His ministry and our family because it has gotten us through some very real spiritual attacks!  

Through the month of September, I was helping a friend decorate for her wedding, so that kept me busy.  Chris continued to work hard getting things lined up for us to move.  At the end of September, we went to my friend's wedding and the next day my parents took all the Hooties with them to GA.  Chris and I took two days to pack up an initial load of stuff to take to GA to move in with my parents.  By October, we had raised a considerable amount of funds to allow us to rent our own place...it had been over a year since we had our own place.  We kept finding places that were priced well and had a safe location, but we were always the second person in line waiting for it.  I was starting to get frustrated because we would find a place and then find out that someone else had already applied for it.  Towards the end of October, we found the place that we are currently renting.  There were still people living in it, so we couldn't see it, but we let the rental company know we were interested in it.  The first day the house was available for showing, Chris was going out of town to a meeting.  I was so adamant about being the first person to see the place that I asked him to go get the key on his way out of town, so nobody else could look at it.  Being the wonderful hubby that he is, he swung by the office and got the key.  When he got home that afternoon, he picked me up so we could go look at the place.  He got a phone call on the way there, so he stayed in the car to finish his conversation while I went inside.  When I walked in, everything on our checklist was being checked off.  Chris finally comes in the front door and before even looking at the house he said, "This is where we are going to live." He told me as he was sitting in the driveway, he just felt like the Lord was saying this is where we needed to be.  So, we headed back to the rental agency and filled out the application.  Within a couple of days, we heard that we had been approved.  We were able to move into our place in November.  We quickly got settled and started life in our new home.  


We were going on with our life.  Spending time with my family, homeschooling, finding a church to get involved in, and kids were enjoying the activities they were involved in. In November, Chris was meeting with a retired pastor who mentors pastors and now works within the denominationDuring that conversation, he asked Chris if he had from any churches looking for a pastor of discipleship.  Chris thought it was an odd question, but didn't think much of it.  In December, Chris was meeting with this pastor and again he asked if Chris had heard from any churches.  Around the middle of December 2015, Chris received an email from the pastor of a church in VA. They were searching for a new Associate Pastor of Discipleship and the retired pastor friend had given him Chris' name. He wanted to know if Chris was open to considering an Associate Pastor call. Chris told him he was open to considering anything the Lord might offer and asked the pastor if he knew about the ministry the Lord had called us to start.  The pastor said he was fully aware of Mathetes 268 Ministries and had taken time to read through our website. Chris then asked for their Church Information Form (CIF). The pastor told Chris they were finalizing it and would send it as soon as it was done.  

We received the CIF  in mid-January. Chris and I took some time to read over the CIF and felt like we had a green light to consider this position. Honestly, we weren't expecting a result any different than we had received before. The next weekend Chris went to presbytery in Florence, SC. While he was there, he spent about an hour and a half talking with the pastor. When Chris called me that night to tell me about the conversation, I could tell he was excited!  He said he wished I could have been there to listen in because I would have loved everything that the pastor had to say.  He said that I would have been amazed. Long story short it just all made sense to him...and from what he shared with me, it made sense to me, too! As we were talking, we both felt that if the Lord would call us to this church that the church would have to be very unique because we knew Mathetes 268 would need to go with us. After Chris got home, we took a few days to listen and hear if the Lord was asking us to simply say no thank you and close the door.   

We did not hear that from the Lord.  
What Chris did hear from the Lord was, "I'm not saying it will happen, but you won't be hurt."
I know that sounds like an interesting thing to hear from the Lord, but it made perfect sense to us. Going through the search process with a church is not an easy thing. Many churches don't handle hearts and lives very well in the process. We believed the pastor understood that and was committed to doing it the right way.
So, the following Tuesday, Chris spoke with the pastor and told him we were ready to explore what a call to the church might look like. He was very excited and scheduled a Face Time interview for the next Wednesday between us and the current pastors. He also told us the next step would be to fly up to VA and let us have some time to see the area, worship with the church, meet the Session, and talk to as many people as we would like.
The Face Time chat with the pastor and  the assistant pastor went really well. Chris wasn't sure about the dynamic with the assistant pastor since he had never met him, but within the first few minutes we knew they would be able to minister together. The conversation between the four of us lasted almost 2 hours! When we got off, we felt even more that this church was a very unique and fully understood our heart for discipleship and the ministry God had called us to start. The next day, Chris got an email to begin lining up a weekend trip to fly to VA. We flew up the last weekend of February while the Hooties stayed in GA with my mom and dad.  They had a blast spending a long weekend with them, getting to do all the fun things grandparents let grandchildren do.  
 
We arrived in VA on the last Friday of February around lunch time.  Our journey began by being met at the airport by the pastor, his wife, and one of his sons. After getting our luggage and rental car, we met some of the church staff for lunch. We were made to feel so welcome that it was easy to be ourselves. After lunch, we went on a tour of the church, and then we checked in to a beautiful location and prepared for dinner with a few Elders and their wives. We didn’t know what to expect but were blown away with not just great food but even greater conversation.  Once again, we were made to feel so  welcomed that it was easy to be ourselves.

The next day we had a relaxing morning before meeting with the Session and pastors. Again, we didn’t know what to expect and were wonderfully surprised to spend the morning just sharing who we are and the journey we have been on with a very kind group of people. During our time with the Session, I realized we hadn't really talked much about ministry stuff.  Towards the end of our time, the pastor informed us they hadn't asked many ministry related questions because they had all that information in Chris' resume.  They really wanted to know who we were as a couple, as parents, and as individuals.  

Saturday afternoon, we drove around trying to get a feel for the area. We were able to identify some things for possible future plans and felt much better about how to move forward...if we were called.  Later that afternoon, we were able to spend around an hour with the assistant pastor and his wife. It was great to hear some of their story and share some of ours. After our time with them, they drove us out to the pastor's house and we had dinner with all of the pastoral staff. It was a great time to just relax and be with the pastoral staff.
               
Finally, we concluded our trip by worshiping Sunday morning. Before worship, we had a chance to get to know the children's director.  We thoroughly enjoyed our time chatting with her and seeing where our children could potentially go to learn about Jesus. The worship service was a wonderful blessing!! We were encouraged by the freedom people had to worship as they were led and the faithfulness to the proclamation of the Word of God. The people were kind and friendly...once again, we felt welcomed. 

As we were saying our good-byes, we were told that the Session would be meeting on March 8th to make their decision.  Needless to say, we were on pins and needles as we waited.  BUT I must say we waited so much better this time than we had in the past.  The 8th was very hard because we had been here so many times before...everything felt really positive...we were a strong candidate...but in the end the Lord said, "No."  We wanted to be excited about possibly being in VA, but at the same time we FULLY realized that we could hear a no.  That morning as I was doing our morning devotional with the Hootie Hoos, the Lord lead me to these verses: 

"Do not worry about anything.  Instead, tell God about everything.  Ask and pray.  Give thanks to him. Then God's peace will watch over your hearts and your minds because you belong to Christ Jesus.  God's peace can never be completely understood... My God will meet all your needs.  He will meet them in keeping with his wonderful riches that come to you because you belong to Christ Jesus.
- Ephesians 4: 6-7; 19 (NIrV)

As I read these verses, I knew no matter what the decision was that we would be OK and that we would be EXACTLY where God wanted us to be...and ultimately that was our GREATEST desire.   Throughout the day, I kept coming back to these verses...sharing with God our desire to be in VA, but also praying that my greatest desire was to minister where He could use us the most.  I spent time thanking Him for all that we had learned over the last couple of years.  I kept praying and received a peace I hadn't felt while going through the search process with a church.  And just to be clear, I was still anxious while waiting for the news, but I had a peace that whatever the decision it was the BEST decision.  

The pastor had texted Chris to tell him that he would contact us on Wednesday to let us know the decision.  The Session of the church met that night to make their decision on whether or not we were a good fit for the position. Every time Chris' phone went off, we got a little anxious in hopes that the pastor decided to let us know that night.  As we were getting off Face Time with a couple we disciple, Chris' phone went off.  I honestly thought it was our friends pranking us.  Chris said it was the pastor, and I thought he was pranking me, but it really was the pastor texting Chris a quick note to let him know it was a unanimous YES vote with no red flags raised and everyone was excited 

As Chris and I read the text, there were a flood of emotions, but the most prominent emotion was thankfulness!!  We were thankful for this gift that He saw worthy of entrusting us with.  So, in the next few weeks, we will be transitioning our family to VA Beach to serve at Kempsville Presbyterian Church.  As we serve at KPC, Mathetes 268 Ministries will continue with some modifications.  We are excited to go on this journey with a church that is as excited about discipleship as we are...not to just the local church, but to His Church.  

"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. 
And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
-Matthew 28:19-20