Why I Need a New Passport

I found my expired passport the other day.  And to be completely honest, I was HORRIFIED by what I saw.  Please, don’t comment with things like, “Erin, you’re being too hard on yourself” or “Erin, I don’t think it’s that’s bad” or “Erin, I think you look beautiful.”

Well, I guess you can make those comments, but then I’ll know which of my friends are liars.

Look.

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I heard the gasps.

Horrific, right?

And I have no excuse at all for that look.  Yes, those are straps to jean overalls on my shoulders that I am still wearing in 2000… well past their prime.  Yes, my hair… honestly, I’m speechless about that hair.  Each time I try to say something about it, vomit gets lodged in my throat.  And my eyebrows!  Why in the world are they waxed so far apart from each other?  And, the bags under my eyes!  What is that all about?  This picture was taken well before I had children.  Back in the day when I would lay my head on my pillow and not get up until I deemed so, which was usually around 10am, if I wasn’t working.  I have no reason to be looking that tired.

Thank God I’ll be getting a new passport soon.

Why are you getting a new passport, Erin?

I’m so glad you asked.  Gotta love a good segue.

I’m getting a new passport because I’m going on a missions trip to Honduras in July!

I love my kids.  I really, really do.  With all my heart!  To the moon and back.  Actually to the rock formerly known as the planet Pluto, and back.  (The moon is relatively close to us, if you think about it.)  Anyway, my heart overflows with love for my three munchkins, but the one thing I have completely missed since becoming a mother are missions trips.

I love traveling to new places and sharing the love of Jesus with more than just words.  I love providing for people’s physical needs, and running a VBS for the crazy kids, and helping to build homes and churches.  And as much as I say that I’m going down there to help the people, I know from experience that I will come home with my heart fuller than when I left.   I know that they will affect me far beyond what I can begin to imagine.  That’s how amazing God is, you know?

Honduras is just special to me.  I’m not sure if I’ll be able to explain it fully.  My first trip was in 1996 with my best friend.  We opted for a missions trip as a senior trip (crazy, wild, party animals that we were!)  And it was a hard couple of weeks of heat, humidity, and sickness.      But it was one of the first times that I was on my own experiencing people that had next to nothing, overflow with joy because of Jesus.  After I graduated from college, I was pretty much clueless as to what I was going to do with my life.  So I opted for Honduras, again.  I moved down there and worked with an amazing organization called Signs of Love.  They reach out to the deaf (who are largely ignored by society) and teach them sign language and also about the love of God.  That was when I first met my teamer, Robin.

There’s no better way to explain it than to say that she was (and still is) a sister to me.  We clicked from the beginning and she honestly modeled for me how to be completely and totally abandoned to God’s will for her life.  She gave up everything to just follow His voice.  Her reliance on Him alone and her passion to make a Kingdom difference with her life was something brand new for me. The time I spent with her represents a milestone in my life.  It marks a place where my love for God and my relationship with Him became real.  So much more than the dos and don’ts that I learned at church, or Bible verses that I memorized, or habits that I had formed.  It’s where I realized that God truly moves, and God is so alive, and that I really can live moment to moment for Him.

Last December the unthinkable happened to my friend, Robin.  Her husband (of less than three years) was killed in a car accident.  It was unimaginable, not only because the thought of anyone losing his or her spouse is unimaginable, but also because it was Robin.  She had waited and prayed for her husband for so long.  He needed to be a man unlike any other, that would give up everything he knew to follow the call put on her life.  Jeff was that amazing man.  And he was taken from her way too soon.

Unfortunately, the story doesn’t end there.  I wrote about Steve in an earlier post.  He is the father of a childhood friend of mine, and was like a brother to Robin.  Days after Jeff died, Steve traveled down to Honduras to comfort Robin and help her to recover.  But as they were traveling in a car together, men on the roadside shot and killed Steve.  As I wrote previously, Steve was an amazing person.  His love and generosity for people was unmatched.  He had a heart for Honduras and the ministry going on down there, so in some weird way, it makes sense that his last moments were spent there serving a friend in need.

While I am definitely going to be serving the Honduran people on this trip, through vacation Bible school and finishing a church building, this feels like more of a heartfelt mission than ever before.  This time it’s bigger than the physical service we will provide.  It’s that and more.  It’s bringing comfort to a friend who lost more that I can begin to imagine.  And it’s allowing the generosity of a man with a huge heart for the poor, to continue beyond his own life.

I’m putting all of this here on my blog, because I’m asking for your support.

First and foremost, please PRAY!  Prayer is so incredibly powerful!  I have seen the miraculous happen all because of prayer and fasting.  Pray for God’s will to be done while we are there.  Pray for the safety of each member of our team.  Pray for traveling mercies.  Personally, I would love it if you’d pray for my family.  My heart is definitely torn about leaving my babies to go so far for so long, even though it’s only 8 days.  Pray for God’s grace to be all over us as we’re far away from each other.  Pray for protection and peace while I’m gone.  A mama is not easily replaced!

Finally, please pray about supporting me financially.  We are going to be doing a group fundraiser (more abut that later), but the cost of the entire trip is $1800.  And, actually Geric has decided to join me!  (Praise God!) So, the cost of our trip jumped up to $3600.  I know that seems like an awful lot of money but as Geric told me, “Where God guides, God provides.”  And he’s so right!  I’m not going to put God in a box and say that this is too expensive.  I’m going to have faith in my God as a mighty provider!  If you feel led to support me through your finances, you can just click the Honduras Button to the right on my blog (or at the bottom of this post) and from there find my name “Erin DeVincenzo” from the drop down menu and give whatever amount you feel led to give.

Also, you’re always welcome to give the old fashioned way, by writing a check, and then you have a couple of options.  You can either wait until the next time you see me and slip it into my pocket when I’m not paying attention.  I love finding money when I’m doing my laundry, it eases the pain.  Or, you can make it out to North Hills Communtiy Church (thus making it tax deductible), put my name in the memo (or Geric’s!) and send it to P.O. Box 398, Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91729.

Finally, I would, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it if you would leave an encouraging word or your favorite Bible verse in either the comment section of this post or in an email to me.  I know that there will be times when I’m feeling discouraged or missing home and reading a message from a friend can really bring strength.

Thanks in advance for all your support!  I’m already praising Jesus for the miracles that I will see!

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Being Intentional… Again

I already wrote a post titled Being Intentional, thus the title of this post, Being Intentional… Again.  In my first post, I started out with this sentence:

There’s a lot of things I need to be more intentional about… mothering, eating well, exercising, bible study, etc.

Then I went on to write a post about being more intentional with my writing… because we all know writing is WAY more important than any of those other things.  Not!  (Have I mentioned that I’m bringing back “Not!”?  Because I am.  Geric and I just talked about it the other day.  We’re bringing it back.)

Part of the reason I’ve been so absent from this here blog is because I’ve been being more intentional in those other areas of my life.  And I like it.  So, I thought I would share.

EATING WELL:

I was living in ignorance.  And, as the saying goes, it was bliss.  Then I watched a little movie called Food Inc.  And another one called Food Matters.  And then I read a little book called Skinny Bitch.  And you know what, they changed me.  Number one, I felt nauseous. For days.  No joke.  What really got to me was the part in Skinny Bitch that talks about the treatment of animals in slaughterhouses.  Ugh.  So sad, and so disgusting.  I’m not getting into detail, because you should read the book, and because this is a family blog and I just can’t go there.  But honestly, to think that there are people out there that treat animals like that is just demented!  (Please don’t leave me a comment how there are people out there treating people like that, because yes, I do realize that, but it’s just not the topic of conversation right now.  Mmmm… kay?)

So, anywho, I went vegan for a minute.  That was rough.  I like cheese.  So, then I went vegetarian, and that lasted awhile.  I really like fruits and veggies, but don’t give me fake meat.  I’m now back to eating chicken once a week-ish, but I need to know it wasn’t in one of those dark chicken coops where they’re so fat their little legs break underneath them.  So, only free range and organic.

And we’re in the process of eliminating processed food.  Honestly, this one is really hard with kids in tow.  They’ll go Ghandi on you if you do too much too fast.  So, we’re easing into this one.

We aren’t food Nazis (there’s an example of people treating people similarly to the way people are treating animals in slaughterhouses, but still, don’t leave me a comment about it… maybe another post in the future… don’t hold your breath), we’re just trying to make healthier choices.  And so far, we’re feeling better about it.

MOTHERING:

This one is a biggie as far as my absence from this here blog.

Does anyone else feel like someone has pushed the fast forward button on life?  I mean, it was just yesterday that Caden was going to his first day of preschool, yet I just got a letter about ordering a cap and gown for kindergarten graduation.  (Which, by the way, is ridiculous.  Yet, I did it.  Because, God forbid my kid be the only one walking across that stage without them.  Yes, I still care what strangers think about me.)

So, I’m trying to relish the moments before they are gone.  And honestly, it’s changed my perspective a little bit.  I still have my days of wanting to rip my hair out (or pull my ears off, depending on the noise level) but mostly, I really, really enjoy my kids.  We went to the aquarium the other day, and I was caught up in a moment of realizing, These are my kids.  And they are great.  They are great people.  I really like them, and not just because I’m their mom and they grew in my belly and I have to love them.  I really like them.  I think they are funny, and smart, and compassionate, and joyful.  And honestly, I really like spending my days with them.

So we’re bringing back Family Nights.  Can I get a “woot, woot!”  (And not a girly “woot, woot,” more of an Arsenio “woot, woot.”  Thanks.)  The boys have been asking why we haven’t done one in so long.  So, I’m planning  Cinco de Mayo one ahora. (That means “now” in spanish.)

PRAYING:

I would LOVE to say I get up at 5am and pray and read my Bible, but then I would be perfect.  So there, you’ve found my weakness.  I like sleep.

But I am being more intentional about praying and reading my Bible.  And I’m kinda glad it’s not just a morning event for me.  It’s more of all day thing.  A moment to moment thing.  I’m getting good at listening to God’s voice and praying what He puts on my heart.  I also stumbled upon this blog called MOB Society (MOB stand for Mother of Boys.)  They are doing a 21 day prayer challenge that started May 1st, and it’s already so awesome.  Peeps, if you have boys, you must participate.  It’s that awesome.

The other thing that God has put on my heart is Honduras and my Teamer T, Robin.  I never wrote about it on the blog, but she lost her husband in a fatal car accident last December.  It was tragic and awful and all things bad.  But since then, she and Honduras have been on my heart on a daily basis, so when I was presented (that sounds so formal… it was more of a mention in an email about cakepops, but still) with the opportunity to go on a trip there with a team from North Hills Community Church, it was kind of a no brainer.  Actually, I had to make sure my babies would be taken care of while Geric works and that God really, really, for reals, not kidding, totally sure, write-it-in-the-sky, was saying to go.  And He was.  So I am.

But more about that in another post.

So, that’s what’s been going on.  Nothing big, or major, or earth shattering, but it’s good.

And just so you all know, I am planning on being more intentional about blogging, again.  And this is where I would normally say, “but don’t hold me to it.”  But you can.

And I’m not even gonna say “Not!”

The Big White Sign of Shame

It came yesterday.

It actually didn’t get hung on our door since Geric was out front fixing a sprinkler, but it got handed to him.

In case you’re lost, “the big white sign of shame” is the sign that gets hung on your door when you’re in foreclosure and they set a date of sale, the date your house gets auctioned on courthouse steps.  Our date is November 3rd.  I’ll be sure to wear my cutest outfit for our date.

Here’s the ironic thing.  Yesterday morning I woke up early (and the kids slept in… praise God!) so I had some time to do a quiet time.  I did my Bible study and read a couple of devotionals and then I felt led to Proverbs 31, so I read that, which is the chapter about the wife of noble character.  I got hung up on verse 25 which says, “She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.”  I love this image.  Here is this amazing woman who daily clothes herself in strength and dignity, holding her head up high.  I want to be like her.  Not only that, but she laughs at the days to come.  She lays her worries aside and knows that God holds her future, so why worry?  Laugh!  Be filled with His joy!

I was so touched by these verses that I actually texted them to a few of my friends.  And while I hope they were encouraged by them, I realized when the sign of shame came, those verses were for me.  I had to keep reminding myself yesterday that God is in control, not me, not the bank, not my real estate agent.  God, and God alone.  And because of that, I can relax.  Not just relax, REJOICE!  He’s not out to get me.  He loves me.  He loves my family.  He wants good for us.  I can laugh at the days to come because He is in control of those very days.

So this morning, I remembered a sermon that Pastor Glen gave one Sunday at our church.  He was talking about 2 Corinthians 4:7-9.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;  persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

We are those jars of clay.  Just a bunch of boring jars of clay.  Yes, we were shaped by the Potter’s hand, but a jar of clay is pretty mundane, pretty worthless.  What makes us special is the treasure inside.  It’s Jesus!

Those verse go on to talk about being pressed, but not crushed, which is exactly where I feel like I am today.  But here’s the amazing part.  Yes, I’m being pressed on every side (like a mafioso with his head in a vice) and I’m not being crushed, but I am a jar of clay, so there are some major cracks forming in the surface.  But you know what shines through?  The treasure inside!  Jesus will shine through today!  I choose Him!  I will not be brought down by my circumstances, but I will lift my eyes to my Maker, My Creator, My Sustainer, My Redeemer, My Restorer, who gives me hope daily and fills me to overflowing with His joy!

Today I choose His joy!

And today I choose to look into His eyes when my circumstances overwhelm me.

And today I choose to hope in Him.

And today I might get a pair of new shoes for our big date.

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Am I missing the blessing?

Do you ever fear that you’re missing the blessing?  I do.

Not that I think God withholds His blessings from us. Because I definitely don’t think that.  But do you ever think He looks down on us, shakes His head, sighs and says, “Girl, if you would just let go and trust me, if you would just ignore your fears and lean on me, if you would stop worrying about what everyone else thinks and really understand what I think, then, and only then, would you see that I have SO MUCH MORE for you!”

Do you ever think He thinks that? I do.

Well, at least I think He thinks that about me. Maybe not you. But definitely me.

The crazy thing, too, is that I really feel like I have witnessed God’s power firsthand. I’ve seen answers to prayers that I thought were impossible. I’ve seen Him change people I thought were unchangeable. I’ve seen Him repair situations that I thought were irrepairable.  So, wouldn’t you think that would make me someone who would do anything to be smackdab in the middle of His will for me and my family so I could experience as much of His blessing as I possibly could this side of heaven? One would think…

I’m pondering all of this because we’re kind of at a crossroads. We’re probably going to end up moving here shortly. Geric is working, but it’s definitely not his dream job. And I’m just sort of feeling like we’re in a rut. Like, there must be more to life than this. Not that I am not fully aware of the blessings that have already been bestowed upon me. I am. Believe me. I am. But some days, a lot of days, it feels like we were made for something bigger than this.

Am I making any sense?

Some days Geric will say we should just sell everything and move away and be missionaries. And I always say, “You’re crazy!” He is crazy, right? Because I’ve done the missionary thing and I don’t know if I’m cut out for that. Three months in the heat of Honduras without my family or my bestie was a very long time. A. Very. Long. Time. And now I have kids! That just seems impossible.

But my God is the God of the impossible.

I really wish God would just write things in the sky sometimes. If I was God I would do that. Why not? My people want to know what I think? Here, I’ll write it over here in cloud formation. What’s the big deal, God? Just a little hint wouldn’t kill me. Right?

Or maybe He could show me kind of like a magic 8 ball. I could ask him a question, like should we move in with my mom and dad? And then I would close my eyes and see a traffic signal with the red light lit up, signaling, no you should not, because you’ll end up hating your mom (and she you) and your husband will go crazy.

Something like that would be really helpful. Right?

That and a money tree.

But I digress.

Here’s what I have to cling to: Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing, and perfect will.” So, it’s a constant thing. Its not a one time sky writing event, its a daily immersion in God’s word and prayer. I think we are oblivious to the ways the things of this world fill our minds to the point that we cloud out God’s will for us. We could see Him so clearly if He was our one true focus.

How much time do I truly spend with my Savior? Just me and Him? Not just mealtime prayers, or prayers before school, or bedtime prayers, but one on one time, just me and my Jesus? Not nearly enough. Could that be why I can’t hear His voice so clearly?

What’s that, God? I can’t hear you over the music from Dancing with the Stars! Speak up!

That’s a joke, but it’s kinda for reals, right?

I’m tempted to write something about how I’m going to give up reality TV to hang with God. Or how I’m gonna spend my first hour of the day with God by setting my alarm clock for really early o’clock. But I don’t think God works like that. I don’t think He wants us to feel like we have to spend time with Him. I think He wants us to want Him.

So instead of setting a time limit or calling a TV fast, I’m going to start praying for more of a hunger. A true hunger that cannot be satisfied by anything but Him. A hunger that cannot be ignored.

God, make me hungry for You

And that money tree wouldn’t hurt either.

Amen.

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By the Grace of God

Everybody has their stuff… their challenges, their hard times, their mountains to climb. I’m no different over here. I just advertise mine to the whole blogosphere while everyone else keeps theirs to themselves.  All that we’ve been going through lately has had me thinking about God’s grace.

What is grace anyway?  There’s the acrostic I learned when I was in youth group: GRACE is God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.  But going a little deeper, I think God’s grace is when we get something that we don’t deserve.  It’s God’s favor.  It’s God looking down on us and saying, “I love you so much, I’m gonna cut you some slack.  I’m gonna help you out.  Why?  Because you are highly favored in my eyes.”

The funny thing about grace is this… God does not dole it out equally. He certainly doesn’t withhold it, but he just doesn’t give the same amount to everyone.  It doesn’t work like that.
No, He gives it to us as we NEED it.

I went to a Beth Moore Bible Study last year at my church and she was talking about how she had a small group of girlfriends that were really close. One of the women in the group had a sick child that ended up dying. At the funeral Beth sat in the front row with her girlfriends who were bawling their eyes out in utter devastation. I guess they were causing quite a scene. She said the mother of the child that had died got up and said them, “Ladies, you need to pull yourselves together.” Yes, she was devastated too, but she had strength that the other women did not. Why? Because God gave her the grace to walk through it.

We can also see this in the Bible with our friend, Paul. Paul went through it all… stonings, beatings, shipwrecks, imprisonment, and eventually execution. However, in one of his times in prison, he penned the following words, “Now what I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.” (Phil. 1:12) I don’t know about you, but if I was stuck in prison (simply because I wasn’t liked) I would be feeling devastated. I would be feeling sorry for myself and throwing myself the world’s biggest pity party. I probably wouldn’t feel much like praising Jesus for my chains and I certainly wouldn’t be thinking that I was there to bring glory to Him.

How did Paul get such supernatural strength? Grace. God unloaded a dump truck full of grace right in Paul’s lap to enable him to get through his situation. Not just enough to “get through” it but to triumph through it.

Jesus gave Paul these words, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9) Paul knew that no matter what he faced; weakness, obstacle, tragedy, sickness, etc. God’s grace was sufficient. God’s grace alone would be what got him through. And he knew that God would give him enough grace to cause him to triumph and give God the glory.

I was thinking about all of this because after my post about losing my job (on top of my foreclosure post) I got a bunch of texts, emails, phone calls, and cards from several different friends.  (Which is why I said last week that I really, really love my friends.  Really.)  I started thinking, I should probably be more upset about this, judging by the amount of people who are reaching out to me.  And then I started psycho-analyzing myself… Am I stuffing feelings?  Am I shutting down?  What is going on here?

And then I realized… God’s grace!  He has given me the grace, the supernatural strength, to get through my circumstances.  Yes, I get overwhelmed at times.  Yes, there are days that I am completely frustrated and stressed out about our situation.  But, overall, I feel a peace that God is going to take care of us, as He always has.  I know with confidence that He has a plan for me and my family that is better than anything I can imagine on my own.  My job is to keep my eyes on Him.  As long as I do,  He gives me just enough grace to walk in front of it all.

All I have to do is trust Him.  He’s got the rest.  He’s told me so, “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (2 Cor. 9:8)

That’s not fair, God.

This post is dedicated to Geneva and Lauren and both of their mommies that astound me with their strength and their faith every single day.

This week I’ve been thinking about God and His sovereignty and His justice, and why things happen why they happen. Because, honestly, a lot of it just doesn’t seem fair. Things like innocent people dying in riots in London, hungry and forgotten children in Somalia, and incurable diagnoses for children.

Why does He allow this?

Its not fair.

Sure, you can Jesus Juke me and give me the easy answer: We live in a fallen world and these are the repurcussions of sin.

Knowing that doesn’t make me feel better. It doesn’t bring the dead back to life. It doesn’t feed the starving children. It doesn’t get kids out of hospitals.  And it doesn’t make my best friend’s daughter walk on her own.

I know I sound faithless right now. I’m not. Keep reading.

I read in a devotional this week about Lazarus’ death. In case you don’t know the story, Lazarus was Jesus’ good friend. They were practically besties. If they had charm necklaces back then Lazarus would’ve had “Be Fri” and Jesus would’ve had “st end.” I’m sure of it.

But what happened when Lazarus got seriously sick? Jesus got word of his best friend’s illness and waited two days before he went to go to him.

Two days??? And it wasn’t even because he had to travel across a vast and arid desert to get to his BFF. It was because He simply waited.

And what happened when He arrived? Well, besides from Lazarus being dead already, Mary and Martha (his sisters) were a little bummed that Jesus decided to take His sweet time. They even said, “Dude, if you would’ve been here, Lazarus would still be alive.” (Maybe they didn’t say “dude” but they would have if they lived in Southern California.)

But what does Jesus do next? He brings Lazarus back to life. He does the miraculous, that’s what. Mary and Martha thought they had hit a dead end (literally.)   They thought they were out of options. They thought Jesus had put them on the backburner and let the worst happen. But in reality, He LOVED them so much, that He chose to demonstrate His power and His glory through them in performing His best miracle to date, bringing the dead back to life.

Amazing.

No, seriously.  Sit with that for a sec.

Amazing.

So, that’s what I have to hold on to. When I hear bad news from a doctor, when I watch my friends daughter struggle to keep up, when I hear about children starving, I can’t lose hope. We might be in the “two days.” The two days from a miracle.

And this miracle could be one of the best.

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”  Hebrews 11:1

From Ministry to Mold… and Back Again?

If you’ve been following my blog for awhile, then you know that my husband used to be a youth pastor.  He started out volunteering at the church where we met, but then got a full time job at a smaller church.  A couple of years after that he was offered a junior high position at one of the biggest churches in our area.  Each church had it’s own pros and cons, but overall he loved doing ministry and I liked being a “pastor’s wife.”

A couple of years ago the bubble burst, he lost his job in ministry, and since then he has started his own business as a mold inspector.  At first, it was a hit to the pride for both of us.  I know men usually find their identity in what they do, but I had found my identity in being a pastor’s wife.  There was something special about it, and I liked it.  So, when people would ask what he’s doing now, I would have to take a big gulp before I replied, “He’s a mold inspector.”  Yes, it’s an honorable profession.  Yes, it pays the bills.  Yes, someone needs to do it.  Yes, it saves lives from toxic black mold.  But it doesn’t feel as world-changing as being a youth pastor did.  I would sometimes just say, “Oh, he started his own business” just to avoid the word “mold.”  I don’t know.  It’s just not attractive.  And most people don’t know how to follow the statement, “He’s a mold inspector.”  I don’t blame them.  It’s kinda gross, and not very exciting at all.  So, you usually just get an exaggerated nod with an, “Oh… wow.”

However, two years have gone by, and now I love that Geric is a mold inspector.  There’s not an ounce of embarrassment when people ask me what my husband does for a living.  I suppose I’ve gotten used to it, and it helps that most people know now, so I don’t get asked too often.  I like it that he’s his own boss.  He makes his own rules and doesn’t have to answer to someone else.  He makes his own hours.  He works from home a lot.  We see each other now more than we have ever seen each other in the span of our relationship.  And it’s nice.  We’ve become friends again.

I also really, really love living outside of the fishbowl.  If you’ve been in ministry or been married to someone who’s in ministry or are a child of someone who is ministry then you know exactly what I’m talking about.  People know you.  People you don’t even recognize know you.  And people come up and say hi like they’ve known you for years and you don’t even recognize their face.  They know the names of your children and weird little stories about your life (that were probably used as a sermon illustration) and you smile and nod and act like you know them back, but you don’t.  It’s not a horrible thing, but it does feel a little awkward at times, especially if you’re a natural introvert, like me.

The problem is, my husband is a pastor.  He’s called to be in the ministry.  I completely understand it.  I am called to be a mother.  If I had no children, but had the ability to have children, it would be sad and depressing and I would have a constant nagging to create a family.  I could go on with my life, just my husband and I, and we could make the best of it, but there would be a void.  And that would suck.

So, that’s where we’re at.  We’re making the best of our situation, but there’s a void in Geric’s heart that can only be filled if he steps into his calling.  But it makes me nervous.  For starters, I’m just not a fan of change.  I don’t want to lose my husband to the ministry.  I don’t want him to take a job at a church that we are not completely sold out to.  I don’t know if I’m ready to move back into the fishbowl.  I’m comfortable where I’m at.

But I know I need to get out of the boat.  Because if you don’t get out of the boat, then you can’t walk on water, right?  I know that if Geric goes back into ministry, God will bless us.  I’m confident that there are blessings waiting for us (for me) if we step out in faith and trust that God has our best in mind.  I know He’ll never drop us, or let us drown, but it still doesn’t make stepping out of the boat any easier.

I also know that it’s my job to support my husband, help him to fulfill his dreams and to become the best version of himself that he could possibly be.  I would never want to be the reason that he didn’t go back into ministry and in essence, let his dream die.

So, that’s where we’re at.  I don’t know what’s going to happen from here.  I don’t know if doors will open or slam shut in our faces.  But I do know that we are going to hold each other’s hand and take a leap of faith, again.  And I know, just like every time before, we won’t fall.  We’ll soar.

Keepin’ the Faith Fridays

I’ve decided to dedicate Fridays to the things that God is showing me.  It’ll probably be lighter on the humor and heavier on the personal insight.  Hopefully, it’s still your thang and you stick around.

And hopefully I stick to my word and really do this on Fridays!  Haha!

Tuesday night was tough as far as sleep was concerned.  Elijah woke up at his usual 1am and 4am wake up calls.  But Caden and Jacob decided to add some fun to my night by waking up in between because they had decided to share a bed… but then Jacob was laying on Caden… and Caden kicked him out of his bed… but wouldn’t give him any of his stuffed animals… so yeah.  I was breaking up fights in my sleep at 2am.  Awesome.  Needless to say, when everyone woke up for the day at 6:30am (nice) I was exhausted.

I had told my sister that we would meet her at the beach on Wednesday, and even though I tried to text my way out of it, she guilted me into coming.  (I’m easily guilted, by the way.)

We arrived at the beach before my sister and parked a few blocks from the sand.  After slamming my whole hand in the van door (Who does that?  Fingers, understandable.   Whole hand?  Just me.) I unloaded the entire back of the van, got Elijah in the stroller and made my way down the three blocks, baring an uncanny resemblance to a pack mule.

Once we actually hit the sand, I set out the umbrella, broke up a fight over the blue bucket, laid out towels, broke up a fight over a yellow shovel, sunscreened three kids (and my shorts and shirt because the nozzle was broken), tried to make Elijah stop eating the sand, set up my beach chair, passed out PB&J to my “starving” children, and finally sat down.  Ten minutes later I was nursing a baby.

My sister showed up with a couple of her friends. And here’s how their beach day went.  They all dropped their half filled tiny beach bags on the sand, laid out their towels, took off their clothes to reveal their skinny stretch-mark-free bodies, and laid down.  The end.

I told my sisiter about my lack of sleep and she said, “Well, at least you get a ‘lounge around’ day today.”

Yah…

I was so envious.  I get envious a lot on family beach days.  I look around at all the younger girls and think back to when I spent whole summers at Laguna Beach with my best friend.  We would get there around noon and literally lounge around until sunset.  It was beautiful.  Not a real care or responsibility in the world.  Those were the days.

As I was thinking of all this on the drive home a verse came to mind, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.  It says, “Rejoice always,  pray continually,  give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  I specifically remember memorizing that Bible verse in the back of my Dad’s car during a long drive up to Northern California.  And thank God I did.

The grass is always greener on the other side and I can stand at the fence in the middle and gaze over at that luscious green grass of my sister’s, or I can turn around and be thankful for mine.  Not just be thankful, but rejoice.  Because let’s be honest, I have more than just grass.  I have a whole garden over here!  God has blessed me, indeed.

And not only should I rejoice, but I should be thankful, because this is God’s will for me.  So often we wonder, what is my purpose in life?  Or, am I truly making a difference in the world?  But I can say with confidence that if you’re in God’s will, then you are exactly where you should be.

See, God has this whole plan mapped out and all of us play a part that He has designed, and it may not feel big now, but who knows what the future holds?  Being a mother (or a father for that matter) on a day to day basis feels tedious and sacrificing and unrewarding, but think about it in the long run.  Who are you raising?  Even Billy Graham, Mother Teresa and Bono had a mom, right?  And I guarantee that somehow, their mom shaped their future.  Even though passing out juice, and cleaning up messes, and folding laundry seems so menial, my job is HUGE, and for that I am thankful.

So, my real job?  My real role?  To pray continually.  Because prayer is powerful.  Not only do I pray for these little reminders about how blessed I am (even though beach days are far from relaxing) but I pray for my children.  I pray for their futures and for their todays.  I pray that they see Jesus everyday and grow to be men that desire to make a Kingdom difference.  I pray that I am raising passionate followers of His and men that will stand on the front lines in His name.

So how about you?  Any circumstances that you should be thankful for?  Anything you should be rejoicing about?

 

Bridget’s Beach Baptism

To say my little sister has had a rough year would be an understatement.  Bottom line: it sucked.  But, one of the good things that has come out of her struggles, has been a deepening in her walk with God.

Hold on to your shorts, I’ll get to the baptism goodness in a sec.

Earlier this year I heard this song by Kristene Mueller (who I LOVE by the way.)  And as I was listening to it in my van, I started crying because a) that’s usually what I do when I have an encounter with God and b) it’s my sister’s song.  She IS a sparkle in her Father’s crown and she’s destined for divinity, but she didn’t know it.  She was the one sheep that He went out searching for, because she was always on His mind.  And now, she’s been found!  Holy love has come raining down, and come what may, she belongs to Him now.  It has been amazing to stand beside her throughout all she’s gone through during the last year and watch her find her strength in God.

It’s a bittersweet day when you realize that everyone, everyone and everything, in the world will let you down, but the one constant is Jesus.  He is the ultimate.  He is the best.  He is strength.  He is love.  He is joy.  He is peace.  He is truth. He is grace.  He is hope.

So, when she told me that she wanted to be baptized I was overjoyed, and when she told me that she actually wanted me to baptize her, I cried… just a little, but so did she!

So here’s some pictures of Bridget’s beach baptism day!

Baptism buddies and the kidlets.

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Elijah wore a super nerdy hat (that I love) and ate the sunscreen stick, and a good amount of sand. Keeps him regular.

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The big boys played in the sand.

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WARNING: Pictures of me in a swimsuit are ahead. I’ve done some cropping, but you can only crop so much. Don’t worry, this will be addressed in tomorrow’s post.

Her pastor was such a cool guy. Really genuine.  She goes to Parkcrest Christian Church, in case you’re close to the LBC and you’re lookin’ for somewhere to go.  He prayed for her.

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Then we dunked her! (It kind of looks like I plugged her nose for her, but I didn’t. That would be beyond my duties as her Baptism Buddy. That’s her hand.)

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And up she came! And I clapped and said, “Yay Sis!” And from the looks of things, that was quite comical.

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Then Maw hung out with Elijah…

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And Auntie B took Caden and Jacob to jump off a dock.

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Jacob walked back…

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Caden swam….

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cuz he’s cute like that.

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And then Elijah hung out with Daddy.

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My Dad was there too, but I didn’t get any pictures of him because he fell asleep on his shoe (like it was a pillow.) I guess I could’ve taken a picture of that, but I didn’t.

It was GREAT day!  It marked the beginning of something new and something great.  I’m so excited to see what God has is store for my sis as she continues to walk with Him and trust in Him.

I love you Sis-a-roo! 

 

Lauren’s Jesus-Filled Heart

If you’re my facebook friend, then you know that little Lauren got her heart!  But just in case you aren’t my facebook friend, or you want some more deatails, here they are.

Lauren was born with a heart defect where only half her heart worked, and after several surgeries her doctors and family thought she was in the clear for awhile.  Eventually she would need a heart transplant, but not until she was older.  Unfortunately, she contracted the H1N1 virus, and her health took a turn for the worst.  In November, she was admitted into Loma Linda Children’s hospital and doctors told her parents that she needed a heart.  That was their only option.  Lauren needed a new heart.

Camille, Lauren’s mommy has been my friend for the past 3 years.  She was my leader at the weekly woman’s Bible study that I go to.  We prayed for Lauren a lot that first year because that was when she was supposed to have the last of her many surgeries as a child.  There were a few things I knew right off the bat with Camille.  #1 she is one of the the sweetest, most genuine people I know and a total giver.  #2 She LOVES her family. #3 She’s a passionate follower of Jesus Christ.

That passion for Jesus is exactly what got her and her family through this ordeal.  Remember the woman in the Bible that was bleeding and just needed to touch the hem of Jesus’ robe, because she knew that if she did she would be healed?  That’s Camille.  She kept her eyes on Jesus, and her hands on the hem of his robe and let him pull her through these last 4 months.  She never doubted, she was never swayed, she spoke with confidence knowing that God had a plan and that Lauren’s Jesus filled heart was coming.

And come it did!  A few of my friends and I were fasting and praying for Lauren’s heart.  For lack of a better word, it was intense.  I know this may sound crazy (wouldn’t be the first time I sounded like that!) but it was a battle like I had only experienced once before in my prayer life.  As soon as we started pressing in, Lauren started having some really, really bad days.  Lab results were bad.  Picc lines were blown.  She was in pain.  It sucked.  Where we were intending to usher in the glory of God, it felt like opened the gates if hell on this little girl.  It was gutwrenching.

But then God broke through in a mighty way!  Why?  Because He is our mighty Healer and He loves His people, that’s why!

I was on my way to the Discovery Science Center with my family, and I was praying for Lauren.  The only way I can describe it, is that there was some sort of shift in the universe.  Where I had been feeling sadness and defeat and anguish for this baby girl, I suddenly felt peace.  I felt victory.  I felt confidence.  I knew we would not see the sting of death, but that Lauren would get her heart.  Little did I know, but my friends were feeling the same thing!  How good is God?  Awesome, that’s what!  Two hours later I got a call that there was a heart for Lauren, and I burst into tears… in the middle of the Discovery Science Center.

After I got home I went to the hospital to pray with Lauren’s family and my friends, who are now my sisters.  The Holy Spirit was so present that night and his joy filled the hallways.  That night Lauren went into surgery with some staggering statistics, but by noon the next day, she had a heart.  The doctors were amazed at how smoothly everything went and said they felt all the prayers of Lauren’s supporters during the surgery.  When I got the text that they could hear her heart beating in the background of the operating room, I burst into tears again.  When I went to visit at the hospital, Camille had seen the echo and saw all four BEAUTIFUL chambers of Lauren’s new heart.  The surgeon looked at her and her husband and said, “Mr. and Mrs. Gentry, your daughter is going to be fine.”

There are so many more God moments that happened during the course of this whole experience, but the bottom line is that God LOVES us!  His love is so overwhelming, it’s uncontainable.  People make God into such a religious thing with so many do’s and don’ts that we forget about God’s love.  And, really, isn’t that what it’s all about anyway?  He made us in the first place, because He LOVES us.  He sent His Son to earth because He LOVES us.  He saved us because He LOVES us.  He sent the Holy Spirit because He LOVES us.  And His love is so amazing!!!  Why do so many of us push it aside or choose to not accept it at all?  I honestly have no idea.  He’s just sitting there waiting for us to wake up and realize that he just wants to love on us.  And once we realize that, we can’t help but love Him back.  I can’t stop singing the praises of my Jesus!

So, while Lauren is going to be fine (Praise Jesus!) I continue to pray.  I pray that Lauren continues to recover and will soon run in the grass with her Daddy, because God’s not finished with her yet.  I pray for the family who lost their child and gave the gift of life to Lauren, because God is a God of comfort, and God’s not done with them yet either.  And now that I have seen firsthand the mighty power of my God, I pray for the miraculous, because I know He can.

Here’s Lauren lookin’ good and getting ready to go home soon!
Lolo