Archive for the ‘True Beauty’ Category

A Post from Allana

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgement, but has passed from death to life.
John 5:24

“Where are you headed?” He asked.

“To Florida,” I replied.

I’m sure he was looking for a specific answer, but he let it slide.

“Is this trip for pleasure?”

The question hung in the air while I tried to find the right words.

“Um, something like that.”

He really didn’t need to know. I am sure that the look on my face told him that wasn’t completely true, but for the two minutes it took to look at my passport and check my boarding pass, he let that answer be enough.

I moved through the rest of our time in the airport, on the plane, the drive to the hotel, and even as we sat down for a late dinner much like a robot. Trust me, it was way easier to walk through that day numb than to do the type of sobbing my heart longed to do. The truth is. My dear mother-in-law was dying.

From the time of her diagnoses two months ago, her health slid downhill faster than any of us expected. Just last weekend, Sam’s brother, Paul, said that he thought Dorothy only had about two weeks left. Sam had already been down to see his parents a couple weeks ago and spent a significant amount of time with them both. “She probably has like two weeks…” came as a major surprise and yet when I asked Sam if he wanted to fly down to Florida to be with his family, who had all gathered there, he declined saying that he already had time to say, “Goodbye.” However, on Thursday, Sam came home from work and told me that he really felt that he needed to go tomorrow to Florida and he needed me to go with him.

As any mother would, my brain frantically thought through all the logistics. When did Samantha need to be at work throughout the weekend? What schoolwork needed to be focused on? When would I get groceries and do laundry? Would my mom be able to take off work to stay with my three girls? You know that kind of thing. Yet, one thing screamed louder than anything other thought – my husband needed me to be there with him, so I was going to be there with him.

Being the empath that I am, these very intense high emotion moments can be difficult for me to handle sometimes. Not only do I have my own sadness, but I can also feel the sadness that everyone else is feeling too. Yes, it can be overwhelming indeed. I have found through the years that I do better when I find a quiet-ish corner and daze out as I need to.

Throughout Saturday I watched my three beautiful sisters-in-law float easily throughout the house, caring for my father-in-law and mother-in-law. At the beginning, I have to admit, I felt like a major loser. Thoughts ran through my head like, I should have just stayed at home. Sitting in the corner barely moving wasn’t helping anyone, not even Sam. I could disappear and my missing presence wouldn’t even be noticed. You should be more like them and get off your behind and go do something helpful, and yet there I sat motionless.

Saturday evening, Dotty’s breathing became more strained and she was responding only through moans, and even that was becoming less. Sam, our son, his wife and I were getting ready to head out, but the hospice nurse came just as we were leaving and Sam wanted to hear what she was going to say, so he told Robert and Jen to go to the hotel and we would meet up with them there after the hospice nurse left. The very sweet and quick like adopted family hospice nurse moved about with much love and care carrying out her medical jobs. When she was done, she told us that our dear mom had about 24hrs left, and we should spend as much time as we could with her. My heart sank to the floor and my emotions whirled around in all different directions. Thoughts like I would never get another hug from this woman who gave such caring hugs. I would never get another of her encouraging cards in the mail. I would never see her like or love another post on Facebook. I also thought about how I just wanted Jesus to take her home as soon as possible so she didn’t need to suffer any longer. My thoughts turned to thankfulness as I thought about the great love she showed me. I also thought about all the times that I had allowed my insecurities win and I believed the lies they whispered to me often that Dotty didn’t like me.

When the hospice nurse left, I stayed in the background to let Dotty’s husband, Norm, and her children surround her. However, they quickly called me over to share this moment with them. Truth is I was scared. I was scared of being that close to this woman in her fragile state. I was scared that my emotions would flow over and I would fall into a heap and I would uncontrollably sob. Debbie told me that I could touch her, and with everyone watching me, I put the bravest face I could muster and I touched my mother-in-law’s soft arm. It was like the air was sucked out from my lungs at that moment, and yet, as I breathed in I just felt a sweet peace.

We all sat around her bed with worship music playing. There were tears, and I am pretty sure I wasn’t the only one who cried a mix of happy and sad tears. As my father-in-law held the hand of his beloved wife of 58 years, my heart broke for him. This was going to be a difficult journey of grief. None of us got much sleep through the night. But for me, there was an ‘air’ of peace.

Throughout the next day, Dotty became more and more unresponsive. Around 5pm, I saw Debbie stand up and lean over my mother-in-law. I noticed right away that her breathing was quieter than it had been since Sam and I arrived the day before. I got Sam’s attention, and others must have noticed my signal because we all got very quiet and waited for a few seconds, then we all gathered around mom’s bed. We watched while her breathing slowed but had become easy. At 5:45pm it was almost as if she smiled, her face full of peace she took her last breath. We put our arms around each other and took time to cry. After a few minutes we all went outside to call our children while dad took some time alone to say goodbye to his beautiful bride.

Robert and Jen offered to go get dinner for everyone. While they were out Jen texted saying that she could see a rainbow, so we all ran outside to see and sure enough, there was not only one rainbow, but a double rainbow right over top of the house. Then the sky changed from beauty to beauty for the next few hours. I think Heaven was rejoicing at this beautiful saint coming home.

I am going to greatly miss my mother-in-law. We didn’t talk all the time, but she was a part of my daily life on Facebook. She ‘reacted’ to just about every single one of my posts. She often made loving comments on pictures or posts about my children. Dorothy Guidry has left a great legacy. I am so thankful she was able to watch her prayers for her children be answered, as each of them came to a personal relationship with the Savior of the world. When Norm and Dotty’s pastor came by to minister to the family, he mentioned what a blessing it was that their faith has been passed down to their children. Norm looks over at Sam and said, “Yes, it took some longer than others.” It was a very funny moment.

It truly has been an absolute blessing to be accepted into this family. I will never forget the first time I met Dotty in person. I was nervous because most of Sam’s family was all gathered together in Boston after celebrating his grandmother’s 90th birthday. As soon as we pulled into the driveway, Dotty ran out the door, passed by Sam and ran over to me and gave me a huge hug. I was baffled and yet the welcome continued to be just as sweet. I was no longer just in love with Sam; I quickly fell in love with his entire family. They have always brought so many joyful moments! When I started my cancer fight, each of the Guidry’s poured out so much love out to not just Sam and I, but our children as well. I am grateful to not have any idea what friends are talking about when they complain about their in-laws. My continued experience has been so opposite. Norman and Dorothy have been such an incredible witness of Jesus’ love and that continues to trickle down through their children.

Mom, I am going to miss you! However, I am so thankful that I know without a shadow of doubt that you are free from pain and sorrow because I know that you loved Jesus with all your heart. I love the vision I had of you when you passed away from this earth into your eternal home. I saw you running with ease and leaping into the arms of your Savior. I saw your smile bigger than I ever saw it before. I saw tears of joy and awe as you marveled over the immense beauty that surrounded you. I am so thankful that you are free from pain. I am so thankful that you are being rewarded for your faithfulness to the Father. I am so thankful that I know there is a heaven and that you are there. And I rejoice that I will see you again. Yes, I will miss the loving cards that you would send. I will miss the sweet butterfly reminders that showed how much you cared about me. I will miss seeing your reactions and reading your comments on Facebook. I will miss your great genuine hugs. Thank you for lovingly accepting me into your family.

This is why death for a Christian is different. We put our faith in something that cannot be seen with human eyes, but is instead felt with spiritual ones. You have a strong knowing that when you enter heaven’s gates, there is freedom. Death didn’t win. My mother-in-law lives more deeply than she ever did here on earth. Cancer didn’t steal Dorothy from us… no… God welcomed her in to the place she belonged. Yes, it’s true, I absolutely hate cancer… but when a person dies from cancer, God doesn’t fail. He always heals, it may be a healing here on earth like I have had, or it may be a healing He chooses to give in heaven. God is good.

Allana G.

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June 18th

Another great piece by my wife and ministry partner Allana.

5 years. It’s a big deal. It’s a little surreal being here in this moment. Isn’t it funny how when you are walking through the thick mud of life that it can feel like it’s inching along, but then it seems as though you blink and you are standing on the mountain top and you just marvel at how far you’ve come.

I knew from the moment that I was diagnosed with leukemia that the road would be a difficult one to travel on. But I wasn’t the least bit ready for HOW difficult and to be very honest, how lonely this road would be.

FightThe fight inside yourself between who you used to be, who you want to be, and who you are is extremely tiring. This is real. I’m going to be totally transparent.

I’m thankful for every single person in my life who reached out to me during that time. The love and support, from so so so so many helped me through! I will be forever grateful. Even to those who never spoke to me and yet still prayed for me and my family. Each one of you made the way a little easier.

A few have continued to be an active part of my life through these years of cancer and transplant recovery. You know who you are. Thank you so much for supporting me, loving me, praying for me and endlessly cheering me on. Thank you for caring enough about the old me to press through to love the new me…. even when it took me SO long to accept and grow to love the new me too.

Thank you for seeing me as strong and courageous, even though those who are closest to me saw my very strong and very real battle against sever anxiety. You didn’t judge me. You just loved me where I was, yet continually giving me messages of God’s truth. For this I am grateful because it has helped me heal from my fear.

Thank you for understanding that it has been a very slow process for me to even want to leave my house. After being away from my home for 100 days while in Cleveland, and that doesn’t even count all the hospital visits before that and a couple afterward, as well as the monthly trips to Cleveland over the past 4 years…. when I was home, I just wanted to be home and not go anywhere. This is for sure a new me. I know for some, especially for Samantha, this was extremely difficult to get used to. We were always busy doing something and going somewhere and it was weird to have mom just want to sit on the couch and snuggle with her family.

Yes, some of these changes haven’t been awesome like I’ve been in an inward fight that has left me more exhausted than I’ve ever been in my life. There has been more times than not that we get to church, I find my seat, I sit through greeting time, once service is over, I basically run to grab Nisa from the kids’ area and out to the car, barely looking anyone in the eye. I am sorry if you have been offended by this. It isn’t personal…. I’ve been tired, I’ve been dealing with things inside, I’ve just needed my space. Thank you for those who have loved me through this very strange time in my life.
I know it’s also been difficult to deal with my chemo brain – man, it is a real thing and something I’ve struggled with so much. Forgetting everything. Like really scary bad forgetting.

But, some of my changes haven’t been all bad. In fact some very good changes have come through my cancer fight and recovery.

I am more bold. I find I say what I think. Though this has been a learning curb to try to keep my sweetness while sharing something tough with someone. I’m less afraid to give my opinion. I have more confidence. I’m even more closer to God because HE has been the only ONE who has been able to walk with me through every single moment. Every single frustrated hissy fit while trying to desperately find the old me and hating the new me. He has stayed with me speaking truth to my heart when I was feeling unlovely. I’m so thankful for a personal God who loves me even when I’m being difficult and that He still finds me precious. There are no words to describe my gratitude of God’s love. He continues to rescue me and save me and this is why I cry so much through worship. He’s such a loving God.

For Sam and I this has been a very strange and difficult journey. Yet, one we both feel so blessed to have gone through it. It’s been… well… interesting…. trying to figure out our roles with each other – where does husband and wife fit in with caregiver and patient?! We both have had to go through some freak out moments and time to heal from the whole experience. Cancer changes people. Not just the patient but everyone in the family. It’s been frustrating and scary and yet exciting and wonderful to take our commitment to each other and fall in love with who we both are today. Our marriage is held together with so much Holy Ghost Duct Tape – there’s not much that could break us apart now 😍

Yep. This sure has been a journey. A painful yet joyous roller coaster journey. 5 years. There’s so much more to share…. I’ve been pretty quiet over the last couple years….. I have a feeling, that may change. 😉 I think I’m ready to start speaking again.

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FIFM

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 2 Timothy 1:6

God spoke this verse to Allana and I back in 2003.  We had only been together a couple of years.  These were difficult years.  Allana had to adjust to being married, having two sons and caring for our little Sami.  Chayla was born in April and to top it off I was working crazy hours.  In the midst of all of that God was doing incredible things in our lives.  Fan Into Flame Ministries was born out of that crucible.  The idea would grow and be tempered over the years by moments of spirit led engagement and by intense personal suffering.  For Allana these days bore the fruit of True Beauty.  For me the focus became Hupomone (because I am a geek and Greek is cool) or Patience, Endurance, Perseverance.  Yet still, it continued to be at the core, the call to Fan Into Flame that gift, in ourselves and in others.

Let’s back track a little.

1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, according to the promise of life in Christ Jesus, 2 To Timothy, my beloved son: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. 3 I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience the way my forefathers did, as I constantly remember * you in my prayers night and day, 4 longing to see you, even as I recall your tears, so that I may be filled with joy. 5 For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well.

Paul takes Timothy down memory lane for a minute.  He reminds him that he is Paul’s son in the faith.  Why does Paul do this?  He wants Timothy to remember a very special moment in his life, the moment that he received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  The moment that God’s Gift was so graciously bestowed on a young man.  I have to wonder if Timothy didn’t tear up a little, thinking of his father in the faith facing death in Rome.  Perhaps he felt a little shame that the difficulties of ministry in Ephesus had worn him down.  Yet Paul tears all that away.  Striking to the core of Hupomone, without using the word, “Fan into flame the gift of God…”  There is nothing else that we can do to endure as children of God.

I have actually heard this verse taught as a call to utilize those very special and individual gifts that God has bestowed on each one of us.  However the context of the verses that follow this verse (not that He doesn’t desire each of us to serve him with all our gifts) make it clear that Paul is talking about one gift.  I will designate it the Gift.  The cool thing is that this Gift is the same for us all and yet manifests itself very differently in each of us.

7 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

There it is, the Gift.  It is nothing less than God Himself given to each of us that believe and confess.  It is this Gift that makes us bold endowing us with power, love and self-discipline.  It is a special power available only through Jesus Christ.  It is power not as the world gives, or recognizes power.  It is the power to testify of Jesus and to stand with our brothers and sisters in Christ.  It is power that is inextricably joined to love.  Indeed 1 Corinthians 13 tells us that power without love is vain and useless.

8 So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.

This Gift is one that empowers without limit, motivates in love and operates with self-discipline even as Christ Himself cried out in Gethsemane, “39 And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” Matthew 26:39  In a moment that the whole world around Him saw as the greatest weakness, Jesus exploded the chains of sin and death with the greatest demonstration of power, motivated by love and operating in Self-discipline as only God himself could.

9 He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

HE HAS SAVED US!  And called us by grace, a grace that is eternal.  But he did not just call us to a holy life and leave us to our own pitiful attempts.  He provided the Gift.  It is the Gift of revealed Grace.  It is the Gift of revealed Life Eternal.  It is the Gift of the Truth, the Gift of the Good News and Great Joy which shall be to all People.  It is the Gift that endows us with the same power that confounded the law and threw the world into confusion.  How foolish would we be not to fan THAT GIFT into flame in our lives.

 

 

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Good Morning!

So yes I have taken a break from writing while Allana was writing her “90 Day Faith Walk”.  I share some of the posts here but if you would like to do the whole “Walk” you can find it HERE.  Also her women’s group True Beauty is open for new members from April 26th until May 17th.  There is currently a waiting list but Allana will be adding additional members.  The group operates on Facebook and is by invitation only.  If you are interested you can email me for more information.

 

The LORD, the Psalmist’s Shepherd.
A Psalm of David.
1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. 3 He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever .

So here is the reality of The Nineteen days.  We never know when we are living them out.  The Guidry’s are not really unique in this experience.  I would guess that everyone of you has walked through their own Nineteen Days, innocent of the storm that was just over the horizon.  The fact is that this was not my first journey through the Nineteen Days, but it is my first journey through them where I truly understood David’s heart as he penned this Psalm.  How we walk out the Nineteen Days is a function of this Psalm.  Sentence by sentence it is a guide written by a man who walked through his own Nineteen Days many times over.

David knew about enemies.  He faced them in a literal way that few of us have ever (and most of us will never) experience.  Whether it was the giant Goliath or his own son Absalom David’s life was filled with the turmoil that mortal enemies brings. We are unlikely to face an armored giant or have our son plot to steal everything we have but the enemies we face are just as real as those that assaulted David’s peace. Sometimes we are our own worst enemy.  Other times ( and this phrase is a poetic restatement of the “Valley of the shadow of death”) the simple fact that we are God’s people in an ungodly world places us in the presence of our enemies.  God’s table provides sustenance and hospitality in the presence of those who hate him and us and it IS God’s table.  He does not call us to prepare our own tables in enemy territory.  He calls us to sit at his table under the covering of his hospitality.  Just as wisdom prepares a place for those who seek God in Proverbs 9, God has prepared this haven in the midst of turmoil.

There is the key phrase, “in the midst”, David says “In the presence”.  This is a concept that too many Christians just don’t get; that too many preachers and teachers ignore.  It is attractive to us, to just avoid the whole “valley of the shadow of death”.  Certainly if I pray right and have enough faith I can just stay on the mountaintop all the time!  When Allana was first diagnosed with cancer we had several very well meaning brothers and sisters in Christ who assumed that if we just prayed and had faith Allana would be instantly and miraculously healed.  Now don’t get me wrong I completely believe that God does heal!  I also believe that God intervened on many occasions throughout our journey through Cancer.  However when Allana and I prayed and sought God, especially following our first round of Chemotherapy, His answer was “I need you to walk through the valley of the shadow of death, My rod and My staff will comfort you.  I will prepare a table in the presence of your enemies.  You will dwell in My house forever.”  The fruit that has come from the walk in the valley has been truly amazing.  God has provided opportunity after opportunity for us to share Him with so many.  Here is the cool thing about the tradition of hospitality in the Old Testament times, strangers were welcome at the table.  The table that God has prepared for us “in the presence of mine enemies” is one that we are free to invite ALL to join.  It is not a table that we are supposed to wall off or cower under.  It is a place that is made for us to introduce our enemies to our most gracious (literally full of grace) host Jesus Christ our saviour and Lord.  Who will you invite to sit at God’s table?

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FIFM

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 2 Timothy 1:6

God spoke this verse to Allana and I back in 2003.  We had only been together a couple of years.  These were difficult years.  Allana had to adjust to being married, having two sons and caring for our little Sami.  Chayla was born in April and to top it off I was working crazy hours.  In the midst of all of that God was doing incredible things in our lives.  Fan Into Flame Ministries was born out of that crucible.  The idea would grow and be tempered over the years by moments of spirit led engagement and by intense personal suffering.  For Allana these days bore the fruit of True Beauty.  For me the focus became Hupomone (because I am a geek and Greek is cool) or Patience, Endurance, Perseverance.  Yet still, it continued to be at the core, the call to Fan Into Flame that gift, in ourselves and in others.

Let’s back track a little.

1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, according to the promise of life in Christ Jesus, 2 To Timothy, my beloved son: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. 3 I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience the way my forefathers did, as I constantly remember * you in my prayers night and day, 4 longing to see you, even as I recall your tears, so that I may be filled with joy. 5 For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well.

Paul takes Timothy down memory lane for a minute.  He reminds him that he is Paul’s son in the faith.  Why does Paul do this?  He wants Timothy to remember a very special moment in his life, the moment that he received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  The moment that God’s Gift was so graciously bestowed on a young man.  I have to wonder if Timothy didn’t tear up a little, thinking of his father in the faith facing death in Rome.  Perhaps he felt a little shame that the difficulties of ministry in Ephesus had worn him down.  Yet Paul tears all that away.  Striking to the core of Hupomone, without using the word, “Fan into flame the gift of God…”  There is nothing else that we can do to endure as children of God.

I have actually heard this verse taught as a call to utilize those very special and individual gifts that God has bestowed on each one of us.  However the context of the verses that follow this verse (not that He doesn’t desire each of us to serve him with all our gifts) make it clear that Paul is talking about one gift.  I will designate it the Gift.  The cool thing is that this Gift is the same for us all and yet manifests itself very differently in each of us.

7 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

There it is, the Gift.  It is nothing less than God Himself given to each of us that believe and confess.  It is this Gift that makes us bold endowing us with power, love and self-discipline.  It is a special power available only through Jesus Christ.  It is power not as the world gives, or recognizes power.  It is the power to testify of Jesus and to stand with our brothers and sisters in Christ.  It is power that is inextricably joined to love.  Indeed 1 Corinthians 13 tells us that power without love is vain and useless.

8 So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.

This Gift is one that empowers without limit, motivates in love and operates with self-discipline even as Christ Himself cried out in Gethsemane, “39 And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” Matthew 26:39  In a moment that the whole world around Him saw as the greatest weakness, Jesus exploded the chains of sin and death with the greatest demonstration of power, motivated by love and operating in Self-discipline as only God himself could.

9 He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

HE HAS SAVED US!  And called us by grace, a grace that is eternal.  But he did not just call us to a holy life and leave us to our own pitiful attempts.  He provided the Gift.  It is the Gift of revealed Grace.  It is the Gift of revealed Life Eternal.  It is the Gift of the Truth, the Gift of the Good News and Great Joy which shall be to all People.  It is the Gift that endows us with the same power that confounded the law and threw the world into confusion.  How foolish would we be not to fan THAT GIFT into flame in our lives.

 

 

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This Update appears permanently on the “What’s up with the Guidry’s Page”

May 2016 Update

So what have the Guidry’s been up to??

This has been a year of returning to ministry!  God has blessed Allana with a relatively smooth recovery.  We are learning to work with a new “normal”.  She does get frustrated that she cannot do many of the things that she used to do, or at least at the pace and in the volume that she was used to pre-Leukemia.  Summer of 2015 Allana and Sami helped run a summer program for the children of Five Points at Calvary United Methodist church along with Pastor Elizabeth Rand.  Pastor Rand has become a wonderful partner in ministry.  We ran two more ministry sessions at Calvary for children in the YMCA daycare hosted there.  The first was a Christmas play.  It was such a blessing to watch most of children participating go from absolutely unaware of the truth of Christmas to experts on the story of the birth of the Savior of the world.  It was 10 weeks of scripture, fellowship, music and just loving on the children.  The second session was a pantomime survey of the teachings of Jesus.  Originally set in 6 vignettes of His life we doubled the number of children participating in the weekly program.  Even though many of them did not take part in the actual performance it was wonderful to expand their knowledge of Jesus Christ and repeat time after time the Gospel message right through the resurrection.  Sadly this will be our last program at Calvary United Methodist.  The church will be closing in June.  Pray for us as we pursue new partnerships to continue instilling the Gospel in the hearts and minds of the children of Toledo.

Allana’s Facebook ministry for women, True Beauty has continued to grow.  It now consists of 3 groups and 60 women.  Late in 2015 Allana led the women through a 90 day spiritual, emotional and physical challenge/devotional series.  Allana was blessed with several opportunities for face to face meetings with some of the ladies.  A new addition is a group that focuses on the greater Toledo area.  The True Beauty website launched in April and in July True Beauty is holding their first Women’s Conference, Never Alone.  It will be at the Toledo Campus of Compelled Church in Holland Ohio on McCord Rd.  We are very excited about all that God is doing in the lives of True Beauty women.

Cherry Street Mission Ministries continues to be the main focus of Sam’s time.  He moved from part-time to full-time in the summer of 2015.  His work on events has given him the opportunity to engage with people from all walks of life and all Christian faith traditions.  It has been an exciting time as Cherry Street is in a time of rapid change and development.  Keep Sam, the leadership, the staff and the guests of Cherry Street in prayer as God leads them into a new tradition of growth and discipleship.

The children are all growing like weeds.  Sami if finishing up her freshman year in high school and is the tallest in the family.  She is looking forward to a summer mission trip and to Senior High Camp.  Robert returns from Korea in August much to the relief of his fiancé and will be stationed at Fort Campbell in Kentucky.  Chayla is our quiet one.  She is a rabid reader and enjoys time online with her horse-loving friends.  We are looking forward to being grand parents for a second time as my oldest John and his wife Julie are expecting their second child in October.

Goals for this year are to incorporate and attain non-profit status for Fan Into Flame Ministries.  Under the Fan Into Flame umbrella True Beauty, a men’s ministry (potentially called Hupomone Men) and our work with children.  The common thread in all of these is that we seek to have those we serve fulfill 2 Timothy 1:6 in their lives.

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This is from Allana’s Blog.  The link is on this page but I thought I would copy it here because this content is awesome even outside of the framework of what she is doing with True Beauty.

I did want to spin it a little bit for those of you who are ministry leaders.  I think sometimes Church and Ministry leadership push people into weariness because there are spots to fill and initiatives to undertake.  Brothers and sisters in Christ who fall into one of these categories get pushed or even just “encouraged” into taking on ministry that they shouldn’t.  Are spots being filled in ministry done with a “sigh of relief” or with real prayerful consideration.  There is NO position worth filling at the cost of a person’s Spiritual Health and relationship with God!

Blessings,

Sam

Saying that you are weary in ministry almost sound taboo! But, let’s face it; I haven’t met a single person who hasn’t become weary in ministry at one time or another. If you are in ministry and this has never happened to you, I would love to know your secret, as I have also faced this weariness.


Looking back over my life, I see a few different reasons why I became weary. I also see my flaw of giving up and what I should have done differently. Perhaps you can learn from my mistakes, or perhaps you have faced the same types of things happening in your own life and it may help you know what to do from here.


1. Drained from insecurity


October 2003, we got connected with a young couple who was planting a church in Pontiac, Michigan. After a couple weeks, Bobby approached me and asked if I would lead worship for the church. I accepted; however, we didn’t have a band, and I didn’t know how to play an instrument, so I sang with a CD. At first it was really no big deal. There were less than 10 of us in the church, so for me it was like singing at my mom’s bible studies. As the church grew, however; so did my insecurity. I had an okay voice, I could usually sing on key, but I wasn’t professionally trained. I seriously started doubting myself. A lot of it came when I sang for a little while with a woman who was a serious power house singer. She wanted and felt that she should be the worship leader, because she had been musically trained. Bobby felt that I needed to stay as the worship leader, because I had a heart for worship. I will never forgot what he said, “Having a heart for worship outshines talent any day.” I tried to take courage in his words, but when the woman left the church because of it, my heart sank. As we added more and more people to the worship team, I felt smaller and smaller. I literally cried all the way to church begging God to help me to just focus on Him through worship. But, then I would cry all the way home, because of all the flaws in myself that I could see. It was pure torture! I was a mess. I was so insecure and overly sensitive that I let everything rock my boat, and if someone else didn’t do it I would stand in my own canoe and rock it myself. I left hurt and completely empty.


I am once again singing on our worship team. My first week back I was extremely insecure, but God is showing me something: a heart of worship truly is what He wants. If God is calling you to something that challenges your insecurity, just rest at His feet. He will give you what you need. I no longer dread singing; in fact, I enjoy it and can’t wait until the next month when I get to sing again. God is good!


2. Drained because you are in ministry for the wrong reasons
There have been many times that I have gotten busy in ministry that uplifts me. I feel the rush of acceptance when people compliment what I have done or am doing. I pour my time and energy in places that I feel encouragement. I will be transparent with you, there are times that I will pour into friends and others who need me because I don’t feel needed, wanted, accepted, or appreciated at home. Why did I love to greet? Because you get to smile at someone and usually have them smile back at you. It’s rewarding. Doing laundry, doing dishes, and cleaning the bathroom are not really rewarding. They are repeat-it jobs. The result is as soon as you clean it, someone will need those jobs to be done again within moments. These house chores can make you feel weary. “Ugh, Nisa, I just put all those blocks away a second ago.” “Robert, I just mopped the floor, don’t walk in here with your muddy shoes.” Oh yeah, I’m a mom. We cannot push our family to the side because we don’t feel rewarded there. We cannot strive to do more for an away from the home type of ministry than we do at home because we get rewarded by feeling accepted and appreciated. Our ministry starts in the home. And we need to stop seeing doing the dishes, laundry, or the vacuuming as a drag, but as something God has called us to do. Last week I talked a little bit of Martha and how sometimes the dishes can wait while we need to snuggle our child instead. However, there needs to be a balance there. Those of us who are moms and wives are called to be homemakers. Snuggling with your baby is important, but you can’t just do that all day. I learned a very valuable lesson. It was about four years into our marriage and we went to a church where they were talking about marriage. I will never forget what the pastor said, “You need to hear how your partner says, ‘I love you,’ and you need to learn how to say, ‘I love you,’ in a way that your partner can hear it. One is as important as the other.” I left that message completely changed as a wife. I learned that Sam working so hard is his way of saying, “I love you,” when I use to read it as, “I can’t stand being home with you. I would rather be at work.” And I realized that Sam hears, “I love you,” when I take the time to cook a good meal and make sure the house is tidied up when he walks in the door. Do I ever get drained from pouring myself at home? Of course! I human and am, therefore, selfish! I would rather hang out on FB than make sure Nisa’s toys are picked up for the hundredth time that day. But, I am finding it easier to experience joy in what God has called me to do, and being okay with receiving HIS acceptance instead of needing it from someone else. This is huge!


3. Drained from pouring out in too many places


All of these go hand in hand for me. When I feel insecure, I jump into any ministry that I am certain that I can get a pat on the back. I also typically throw myself into way too many places of ministry. Sometimes when I am running away from my chaos, I find that I become too busy. Seems like an oxymoron, but it’s true for me. In 2010, I was dealing with my anger with God over everything I had lost, but I was also dealing with resurfacing memories of pain and abuse that I hadn’t yet healed from. I felt overloaded inside. So, I got involved in everything. By the time that 2011 came around we were busy every single day. On Monday Nights, Sam and I were youth leaders, so we drove Emily, Robert, two other friends, and ourselves 30 minutes to church for youth group. We stayed late and helped set the church back up, causing us to not get back home until almost 10:00 p.m. On Tuesday nights, we drove almost an hour to The Lewis House to go to their prayer nights around the community. On Wednesday nights, we drove the 30 minutes for shine practice and church that night. On Thursday nights, we drove the hour to The Lewis House for their community dinner outreach. On Friday nights, we drove back to The Lewis House for their church service, where we watched the kids of those who came to the service. On Saturday nights, we drove the 30 minutes to church for their Saturday night service. At this point, I was leading children’s worship almost every Saturday night. For many Sunday mornings during 2011, I led children’s worship for two services. We were also leading the youth group Outreach program and filling in when needed. Once a month, we were greeters and I was on the adult worship team. Having my fingers in too many areas of ministry, I was beyond weary. It was a lot. By the end of 2011, we had moved into The Lewis House, and had dropped a lot of the extra ministries at church. I also gave myself time to heal during this time from what I had been through emotionally over the previous two years.


4. Drained from doing things you aren’t really called to do


I am finding it is very important to make sure you are being called to a ministry before just stepping into it. I am currently in this position. I have become very weary of where I have been placed, because I neglected to ask God if this particular ministry opportunity is for me. I wanted to be back in ministry, reaching out, to be back doing what I was doing before, or at least getting started there. I jumped back into being a “yes” person, and I really need to stop saying yes before taking time to pray about it. You know, sometimes I find that my prayer is, “Lord, if I am supposed to do this, please open the door.” Sigh, I am finding that sometimes that door opens, but I still am not supposed to walk through it. So here I am learning this lesson again. This goes with everything in life, not just ministry. I believe our society is becoming increasingly busy with life; school, work, church, kid, and family obligations. When does it end? Take a look at your calendar. Does it overwhelm you? What can you cut out? As we have been decluttering our houses, I think it is also time to start decluttering our lives. I am thankful for George and Sarah Williams, the directors of The Lewis House, (when it was still going). They made us commit to having one day off from ministry to spend with our family, and to having one date night every other week. They went so far as to giving us date night cards so that we could do that. Let’s not just be constant “yes” people. What time are we stealing from our families? Are we not protecting them by allowing them to fill up their calendars too? Do some soul searching with God.


5. Drained from fighting God’s plans


This is my recent lesson.
When The Lewis House closed April 2014, my heart was broken. I was just starting to feel better and I was ready to get back to it. I missed interacting with our neighborhood, ministering with kids at the after school program we ran, dancing with the girls that would come two days a week, and randomly inviting our neighbors to dinner. I was ready, or, at least I felt I was ready. When Sam and I prayed for months for direction and God having had lain on our hearts that we were supposed to move again, I was heartbroken. I didn’t want to close this chapter of my heartbeat. It still brings me to tears when thinking about it.


I felt guilty for being so sad. God moved us to a beautiful home that was small, but much easier to take care of, and yet my heart felt weary. I was longing for the past and becoming angry about my present. But, I realized God needs me exactly where I am right now. I’m not out of ministry, it just looks different. I thought I was becoming weary because I wasn’t doing what I wanted to, but really I was becoming weary because I was not accepting what God had called me to do.


Oh, it is a learning curve for me! I struggle with saying no to the things that I want to do. But, I am finding that as I let go of my insecurity and find my security at His feet, I am no longer weary. My weariness vanishes when: I don’t jump into anything because I need man’s approval, but thrive on what God is saying to my heart; when I keep my calendar as empty as possible and focus on what is truly important; and when I really pray about what I am supposed to be involved in, instead of just jumping into things because they sound good. I don’t grow tired. I am able to serve my family, which is my very first place of ministry. And, most importantly, when you pour yourself into God’s word, dwell in His presence, and focus on His truths you are continuously being renewed!

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