What I thought versus what I got- and how to handle the difference

I think we can all agree that the year 2020 was basically awful for all of us. Don’t worry though, this isn’t another article about 2020- I’m just setting the stage. Many of us felt that with the New Year, so many of our problems would fade away. For us, 2021 wasn’t off to great start either. We had a huge medical scare with Gary that we are still dealing with over a year later. Mid year we moved to a new church- which was a huge step of faith. We left a full time salary and stepped out in complete trust. The project list was huge, but so were our dreams. We saw the potential and we knew that God is always faithful. We were sure that He called us and so we just jumped right in believing that it was all going to work out. We worked really hard those first few months organizing, cleaning, adjusting, and growing.

We enjoyed the holiday season with our new church family and stepped into the new year with huge expectations and anticipation. We could just imagine how God was going to work all things out. We had spent  time adjusting  to being lead pastors.  We had spent time getting to know our new church family, and we just knew that 2022 was going to be a year of thriving. We imagined growth and outreaches and miracles and stability. We were so excited. 

Now here we are. We are eight weeks into 2022- the year that we thought was going to be a year full of blessings after 2021. Let me just give a quick recap of the past two months-

  • Gary had some tests come back with not ideal results. We thought that we would be having our final surgery and instead this journey could go on for another year since he needs physical therapy.
  • A very dear family member suffered a stroke and it scared us all.
  • We were notified that we are losing our church building. They are tearing it down to build townhomes and we are currently looking for a new place. We have about sixty days left to find something.
  • We have been to five funerals this year already.
  • The financial worries of it all. Personal and Church. There is not a place available for our church with rent less than double what we are currently paying- most cases the amount is almost triple.

I don’t mean to sound dramatic, but man- I’ve had some days with some tears.

Don’t get me wrong- there is also so much to be thankful for. I’m so glad that our surgical team had the wisdom to run these tests, so that we didn’t have the final surgery only to have Gary end up with issues again. I’m so thankful that Gary is in good spirits and doesn’t mind at all that the timeline has been pushed back.

I’m so thankful for our family member that is doing so remarkable well after the stroke. I don’t know what we would’ve done if things would’ve been different- so thankful for God’s hand on her.

I’m also so glad that God put us in touch with amazing professionals in the real estate industry to help us and guide us in finding a new place.

So how am I processing and handling all of this?

I’m choosing to rejoice(most days anyway). I’m standing on the fact that God must have some amazing plans for our family and this church for such roadblocks to be coming. I’m resting and relying on His goodness even when I feel overwhelmed or discouraged. He didn’t bring us this far to leave us. That’s not His character. He is going to use all of this – every single thing- for His good and His glory. Those big dreams – we’ve still got them. We are still praying, planning, working and trusting. His timing is perfect.

 It may not be tomorrow, next week, or next month, but I’m ecstatic about all that God is going to do in us and through us. His plans always blow anything I can come up with away, so why not just completely trust Him anyway? 

Otis preached yesterday from Joshua about being a warrior. One of his points was about how it is so important to remember all that God has done for you in the past.

“And those twelve stones which they had taken from the Jordan, Joshua set up in Gilgal. He said to the sons of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in time to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel crossed this Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you crossed over, just as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed; so that all the peoples of the earth may know [without any doubt] and acknowledge that the hand of the Lord is mighty and extraordinarily powerful…””

‭‭Joshua‬ ‭4:20-24‬ ‭

I can look back over my life and see where God has always been faithful to me. Things haven’t always been perfect according to my plans, but it’s always worked out. There have been too many times when God could’ve given up on me. If He has always been so good back then- ten years ago, last year, last month- and He is the same yesterday, today, and forever….He has shown me his love for me. He has shown His character. As I face all of these current obstacles, I can rely on Him. As long as I stay focused on Him, He is going to take care of us. I can choose to become paralyzed in worry and fear or I can continue to walk step by step as He guides.

I can’t wait to write a blog post this time next year and detail all of the amazing testimonies from what started out as a trying time for us. I can’t wait to exclaim His favor and love over us and trust that our twelve stones will serve as encouragement to you as well.

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Books read in 2021

Y’all know by now that this is an annual post for me. Every year, I try to read at least twelve books- one book per month. I know as I’ve talked to people, that there are so many of you that want to read more. My suggestion would be set an achievable goal. One book per month seems very doable for me. I try to read one chapter every morning. I also take a book in the car with me if I know that I’m going to be waiting to pick up a kid somewhere. Those are two easy ways to start a a habit. This year, I had some extra time because of Gary’s stay in the hospital.

Aiming for one chapter a day is definitely going to put you over twelve books by the end of the year. This year, I read thirty three. I always list my books just in case someone reading is looking for their next read!

  1. What happens when women say yes to God By: Lysa Terkeurst
  2. Before we were yours By: Lisa Wingate
  3. Make Life Beautiful By: Syd & Shea McGee
  4. The pains of a broken wound: Relinquishing the pain to heal the soul by: Contessa Drayton
  5. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone By: JK Rowling
  6. Didn’t See It Coming: Overcoming the 7 greatest challenges that no one expects and everyone experiences By: Carey Nieuwhof
  7. Hamilton The Revolution
  8. Scrappy little nobody by: Anna Kendrick
  9. Where the lost wander by: Amy Harmon
  10. Class Mom by: Laurie Gelman
  11. Whiskey in a Teacup by: Reese Witherspoon
  12. Open Book by:Jessica Simpson
  13. The Exiles by: Christina Baker Kline
  14. Sold on a Monday by: Kristina McMorris
  15. Where The Crawdads Sing by: Delia Owens
  16. The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell by: Robert Dugoni
  17. Autopsy of a Deceased Church by: Thom S. Rainer
  18. The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by: John Mark Comer
  19. The Jane Austen Society by: Natalie Jenner
  20. Greenlights by: Matthew McConaughey
  21. Before Amen by: Mac Lucado
  22. Live by: Sadie Robertson
  23. Ordinary Grace by: William Kent Krueger
  24. When God winks at you by: Squire Rushnell
  25. Unexpected by: Christine Caine
  26. The Sacrament of Happy by: Lisa Harper
  27. That Sounds Fun by: Annie F. Downs
  28. The Masterpiece by: Francine Rivers
  29. One True Loves by: Taylor Jenkins Reid
  30. Through the eyes of a lion by: Levi Lusko
  31. Overextended… and loving most of it! by: Lisa Harper
  32. I have a new name by: Hosanna Poetry
  33. Rediscover Church by: Collin Hansen & Jonathan Leeman

Let me know what you are loving and reading right now, so that I can add it to my list for this year!!

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He can handle it

I didn’t grow up in a home where we talked about politics. I was taught that you keep that to yourself. I can’t even remember ever hearing my parents discuss it in our home as a kid. If I’m being honest, the news and politics tend to be sources of stress for me. I don’t need it in my daily life. Ninety nine percent of the time, whatever is going on is not going to affect me within the next twenty four hours. I have enough in my day to focus on and I would rather devote my mental energy and attention to homeschooling my kids, taking care of my family, and ministry.

This doesn’t mean that I am oblivious. I read the news stories so that I am aware of the things going on in our world. I just choose not to read a million articles about the same thing that are going to leave me feeling like I’m sinking or depressed. I know some people thrive on news coverage and reading every angle of every story. I don’t. I recognize that I don’t and so I protect my mental space by treading water on the surface of the news and not diving in too deep.

Lately (today especially), it feels like I’m being tossed into the deep end with no option to stay on the surface. COVID…. Vaccines…. Death…. Hospital numbers….. Haiti….. Afghanistan…..politics….
Everything feels so heavy right now. Every single day there are new articles and facts and headlines in our faces and they seem to be updating by the second. It can feel suffocating. You know that knot in your stomach, lump in your throat, kinda nauseous feeling… that’s been my evening. I cried my eyes out in the shower and just took it all to Jesus. I mean…. Honestly… what else can I possibly do?!?! He can handle it all. My fears and doubts. Every single worry and issue. I just have to remind myself of what I know to be true-Jesus is not only my peace, but JESUS IS PEACE. The Bible talks about the peace that passes all understanding. Even when it seems like the world is falling apart- believers can have peace. We know that at some point this world as we know it will come to an end, that’s why our faith is in Christ and not this world.

Some verses that have helped me through the last few hours and will certainly continue to be my guide over the next few days/ weeks are…..

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.””‭‭John‬ ‭16:33‬ ‭NLT‬‬

“Peace I leave with you; My [perfect] peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid. [Let My perfect peace calm you in every circumstance and give you courage and strength for every challenge.]”‭‭John‬ ‭14:27‬ ‭AMP‬‬

“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you his peace at all times and in every situation. The Lord be with you all.”‭‭2 Thessalonians‬ ‭3:16‬ ‭NLT‬‬

In every scary, unpredictable circumstance that we face or will ever face, God has us. He has peace for us. Take all your thoughts to Him. Pray for our country and world. Pray for hurting people. Pray for persecuted believers all over the world. Don’t lose faith. Stay focused on Jesus. Take a deep breath and rest in His perfect peace. 💜

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An Intentional Sabbath

This is a totally new concept to me. I have never been a faithful observer of “the sabbath” and what God has to say about it.
As our family entered this brand new season at a new church, I felt like it was the time to start really being mindful of a rest day. Work outside the home…. Work inside the home…. Church revitalization or any type of ministry work…. There always seems to be more to do. If you don’t make the effort to be intentional with having a sabbath, then you probably will never have one! As a family, we recognized that this season would be so rewarding and could also be so draining at the same time. We knew to protect our mental health, that we needed to really work on a balance.

The first thing I did was start a Bible plan all about rest. Sometimes when you hear the word sabbath, you automatically default to the Ten Commandments and that’s it. The Bible has so much more to say about resting. Taking a day of rest is one of the first concepts from the story of creation.

“And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation.”
‭‭Genesis‬ ‭2:3‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I’m not saying it’s easy. If your house functions like my house, there are always chores to be done. If you choose to view taking a sabbath as an act of obedience, then that hamper of laundry might be able to wait. For us, it does take a little planning. As pastors, Sunday is a busy day for us and does not work as our sabbath. My husband and I look at the calendar every weekend and choose which day of the week would work best. It varies from week to week… and that’s ok. It’s not the when, but the how. It’s all about choosing obedience to the rhythm God intended and honoring the concept of a day of rest. I’m not saying we are perfect by any means. I don’t think we ever will be. There is always some work that needs to be done. I’m not saying that I leave our dishes unwashed overnight simply because it’s our rest day. What I’m saying is I will fight the urge to do all the extra stuff like purging and organizing, etc.
I do try to plan ahead and have most of our laundry caught up. I also try to have our meals planned for the day. If budget allows, sometimes we choose to eat out so that eliminates any cooking or dishes! 🤣🤣 Sometimes I plan a crockpot meal so that I can toss it inside in the morning and not have to think about it again. I just try and be intentional with my energy on our rest day.
We make sure the kids know what day we are observing as the sabbath each week. The morning is usually slow, which can be so nice. To stay in bed and read or journal and not be rushed to my to do list feels like a luxury. The day really is set apart. Sometimes we spend our day doing something as a family, like going to the park or aquarium. Sometimes, we just lounge. I really feel like that is fine and just what is intended. Again, it’s truly my belief that it is about the rhythm and obedience.

I would encourage you that if you don’t take a sabbath each week, to pray about it and give it a try. If it seems impossible, then you probably need it the most. Start off with half a day or even a night, if a full day feels out of reach. God knows your heart. Live how He designed with a balance of work and rest. It’s life changing!

“So let us do our best to enter that rest. But if we disobey God, as the people of Israel did, we will fall.”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭4:11‬ ‭NLT‬‬

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When Hard Times Come…

The Lord can use so many different things to speak to you when you are facing tough times. I have always been a ‘clear my email inbox every single day’ type of person. When I glance at someone’s phone and see an icon showing that they have a million emails…. 😳😩😩. I have been working on unsubscribing to emails that I tend to just automatically delete as well. Some of my emails are disguised as daily devotions, but are really just ads for books or apps. I do however get a few devotional emails several times a week. One that showed up in my inbox this past week proved that God’s timing is perfect in all things.

Today is day twenty-five in the hospital for us. We brought our son, Gary, here after a week of sickness and numerous pediatrician visits. We had no idea what the next few hours would entail. Within an hour and a half of arriving, he was rushed back into emergency surgery due to a tear in his colon. He has had a second surgery since then, along with numerous procedures, scans, X-rays, and wound cleanings. He spent five days on a ventilator and fourteen days in the picu. He is recovering well now in a regular room and is continuing to impress the staff here with his stamina, manners, and pain tolerance. If you look at us now, we have a fully stocked snack area in our room from loving family and friends. Gary has plenty of toys to play with, from people sending him care packages and gifts. (He spent his twelfth birthday in the hospital). He is alert, and moving more every day. He is still very weak, but for the most part he acts like himself.

This wasn’t at all the case on the first day we arrived. We were a mess- emotionally, mentally, even physically. We didn’t post anything social media. We reached out to our inner circle to pray- family, friends, and pastors. We decided to post something the next day and the outpouring of support has been humbling. This has truly been one of the most difficult seasons of our lives and we haven’t had to walk through it alone.

One of the most difficult times that Jesus faced in His life on earth was right before His crucifixion. Earlier this week, I received an email that broke down how Jesus reacted to the stress and difficulty of that time. This story is found in Matthew chapter twenty six. Jesus is so overwhelmed with despair that He goes into the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. He spent time with God. Twenty five days in the hospital will give you plenty of time to talk to God, especially about your child’s health! The biggest take away from this passage of scripture was what Jesus did next.

In verse 38, Jesus asked his disciples to pray with Him. When He was facing one of the hardest moments of His earthly life, He asked His friends to stand with Him in prayer. That’s exactly where I feel like we have been. We have posted updates and even specific prayer requests as they have come up on this journey.

We have been so blessed by the outcome. People aren’t tired of reading the paragraph long update that we post almost daily. In fact if we miss a day, we are getting messages or texts asking us for an update. People are praying. We have heard from churches all across our city that have been praying for him. People have been sending care packages or just showing up with coffee or a meal. We have been rallied around like I have never experienced before. Otis and I are so humbled. I don’t think we would’ve been able to stand all of this on our own. We wouldn’t have made it this far without all of you holding us up!

When you find yourself facing a difficult season or situation, follow in the footsteps of Jesus. Spend some time alone with God and then don’t be afraid to ask for prayer! There is such power in community.

“Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear…”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭58:8‬ ‭

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!

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Books read in 2020

My goal every year is to read twelve books.

I love it when people post books that they are currently reading or have read, because a lot of times that is where I get my inspiration. I hear about a book or see it posted on social media and if it interests me, it goes into my Amazon saved list.

At the end of each year, I post the books that I have read just in case they might inspire someone else that is looking for their next choice!

Fee free to comment what you are reading or a book that you would recommend!! 😁

Books read in 2020-

1) Good Faith by: David Kinnaman & Gabe Lyons
2) Standing Together by: Carlos and Rosemarie Evans
3) Rhythms of Renewal by: Rebekah Lyons
4) Not Normal by: Sue Miller & Adam Duckworth
5) Every Day I Fight by: Stuart Scott
6) City Serve : Your Guide to Church- Based Compassion by: Dave Donaldson & Wendell Vinson
7) Unplanned by: Abby Johnson
8 ) Unstoppable by: Christine Caine
9) He Chose The Nails by: Max Lucado
10) Fervent by: Priscilla Shirer
11) Leaders Eat Last by: Simon Sinek
12) Prayers on Fire by: Brian Simmons & Gretchen Rodriguez
13) Always Enough/Never too much by: Jess Connolly & Hayley Morgan
14) The Me I want to Be by: John Ortberg
15) The Road Back To You- An Enneagram Journey to self discovery by: Ian Cron & Suzanne Stabile
16) You are the girl for the job by: Jess Connolly
17) Twelve Extraordinary Women by: John MacArthur
18) Multiply by: Francis Chan
19) Dandelion Souls by: Martha Garvin
20) Fear Gone Wild by:Kayla Stoecklein
21) The Shack by: WM. Paul Young
22) Wild Goose Chase by: Mark Batterson
23) Radical Together by: David Platt
24) A woman is no man by: Etaf Rum

Happy Reading!

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A Thrill of Hope

This title has been all over my feed the past few weeks. After all that has happened in 2020, “a thrill of hope” seems to be the go-to title for Christmas services at every church. It does have a certain ring to it! Since that phrase had been on my mind, every time I hear it on the Christmas radio station that I have listed to almost exclusively (breaking only for the Hamilton soundtrack🤣🤣) since November 1st- I thought to myself that it might make a good topic for a blog post.

I wanted to take the time to dive in a little deeper.

The actual definition of the word thrill is to affect with a sudden wave of keen emotion or excitement, as to produce a tremor or tingling sensation through the body.

The definition of hope is the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best.

Isn’t a thrill of hope what we are all craving?

A wave of excitement at the thought of life returning to normal….

A tingling sensation as we consider that things are going to turn out for the best…

The desire that what is wanted can be had- family get togethers, graduations, weddings, even birthdays….

The thrill of hope that 2021 will not be like 2020.

The next line of the song says ‘….a weary world rejoices…’

Isn’t that the truth!?!? We are all weary! We might not all agree on vaccines or masks or politics or anything really, but I think we would all agree that we are simply tired. Mentally, physically, emotionally weary.

We could all use a thrill of hope.

“A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.”

Sure the New Year symbolizes a fresh start, but you don’t have to wait until then. One of my favorite Bible verses is “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”(‭‭Lamentations‬ ‭3:22-23‬ ‭NIV‬‬)
Every morning or any morning can be your fresh start. A deep breath of fresh air for your weary soul. My prayer is that this Christmas season we will remember the good and the bad of this past year. I pray that we will choose to look forward with great anticipation to this next year and rest in the fact that God has us. We might be weary, but we are not forgotten.
Merry Christmas! ❤️

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Friendships are worth the work.

A couple of years ago, I was a part of a Bible Study called Building Friendships that Fit with Elevation church. One thing that I still constantly quote from that study is the concept of having different zones of friends. I believe this is so true! How absolutely exhausting would it be if you tried to be “best friends” with all of your friends!!! Not all friends are created equal, nor should they be! When you try to make it that way, you are ruining a beautiful balance in your life and potentially sabotaging friendships by putting unnecessary pressure on them.

I don’t have a ton of friends. I have lots of acquaintances. There is a difference and that is also important to recognize. I am happy with my circle of friends. I don’t need 100 women thinking they are my best friend- that’s impossible! I have some of the best friends ever that all have different strengths, gifts, and weaknesses. It’s unfair for me and our relationships for me to project my strengths onto them. Ultimately, doing so is only going to make me feel miserable and unloved. Even though that is not true.

For example, I enjoy snail mail. Sending cards… whether a thank you card or birthday card or just because card… that’s totally my zone. If I sit at home and wait to receive a card in the mail from my friends and try to measure them against my area of gifting, then I’m going to be sitting at home thinking that no one cares about me. And where does that lead me? To be absolutely MISERABLE!

This type of thinking can lead you to feeling lonely and sorry for yourself. When there are truly a million other ways that your circle expresses their love for you. You can be so focused on what you are not getting that you completely miss the blessings all around you that you are taking for granted.
Friendships and relationships are so important. We all need that community and this year has certainly taught us not to take that community for granted, because everything can change and you can all of a sudden be longing for hugs and random lunches! For so many people, the circle or tribe of friends is such a tight knit group that literally walk through the ups and downs of life together. To quote the wise Vin Diesel, “ I don’t have friends, I got family.”


And that family is so valuable to me. I want to make sure that I take the time to appreciate them all and all of their different personalities. I want to invest the time into nurturing those friendships and not sabotaging them.

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Praying Specifics

Hey everyone! Hope y’all are having a great week! We are almost done with school for the week and next week is our thanksgiving break… so there is absolutely some excitement in the air over here! The weather has finally cooled off and we put our Christmas trees up uncharacteristically early this year…. so my evenings have been spent curled up on the couch watching This is Us with the glow of Christmas lights. Its been heavenly! ❤️

I’m working through a new devotional and Bible plan each morning. It’s one of the top things on my to do list everyday. Even though it has been a blessing to me and has been revealing some things, God has been speaking to me about how I’m approaching my devotion and prayer time. This is nothing new here. We’ve all probably heard it many times before, but I thought I would share it just in case you needed a reminder.

The Lord was really stirring my heart about time with Him not being something that I just do to check it off. Maybe I’m the only one, but sometimes my prayers can sound a little repetitive. I’m praying for all the general things- friends,family, protection, school, health, and that we all have a great day. Nothing wrong with that. I think that’s probably how it goes for a lot of us. The problem comes in when prayer becomes something that you simply recite instead of an active conversation.

I have really been reminded that I need to pray way more specifically than I do. I tend to get very specific when I need something or when something is going wrong. But why can’t I be that specific about the good things, too?

I don’t just need to pray protection over my kids and for God’s favor in their life. That’s great, but it’s also kinda generic.

I need to pray specifically for struggles they are facing, character issues, habits, friends in their lives, future spouses, protection, doors to open in their lives, Gods guidance in their future…. see the difference. If I’m not going to take the time to pray this way over them, then who is? I know this isn’t always ideal and sometimes it may feel like we just don’t have the time to pray like this. I get it. Maybe it works better for you to write it out in a prayer journal.

My point in this post is not to shame anyone on their prayer lives, but to challenge you to think about how you pray and consider taking it to the next level. I feel like it is easy to grow stale when generalized prayer rolls off your tongue.

“Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.”
‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭6:18‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Stay alert….

Be persistent….

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Muzzle my Mouth

This verse came up in my morning devotion last week….

“I said, “I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin; I will put a muzzle on my mouth while in the presence of the wicked.””‭‭Psalms‬ ‭39:1‬ ‭NIV‬‬

It caught me so off guard with the phrase “muzzle on my mouth” that I took a screenshot and went back to that photo in my phone several times over the course of the week.

Muzzle on my mouth.

Sometimes that is exactly what I need to hear and put into practice! 🤣🤣

Just like the verse says, we can absolutely keep ourselves from sin if we muzzled our mouth a little more. Think about how many arguments could be avoided if we would spend a little more time “watching our ways” and “muzzling our mouth”. So many people love to argue for the sake of arguing. Everyone has opinions and everyone has a right to their own opinion…. but most of the time it’s not worth arguing, creating unnecessary drama, or ruining relationships over.

Help me Lord to recognize the times that I should put this verse into practice and zip it! I want to spend more time this week simply listening to others.

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