Do you want to get some chicken? 

“Do you want to get some chicken or something?” Yea, that is how my sweet husband asked me out the first time. He also spelled my name “Danyell” on my first birthday card and referred to me as “Dan the Whoa-man” for quite sometime. He’s special. My guy is something else. But he is mine and as he reminds me so many times…I chose him above all else. 


We have known each other for nearly 12 years and with time I forget some of the strange things about our relationship. Habits that are so much apart of us that we forget how odd they may seem to other people. Since joining Trinity Baptist Church I have been realizing all over again how unique we are. It’s fun to watch people as Kyle tells true stories that seem insanely impossible (in one summer he was bit by a tiger, a student was bit by a shark at youth camp, and we were in a volcano warning). Or see the reactions to some of Kyle’s quirky sayings (Yea right, get real, no way). It’s brought about a new playfulness that I have missed. 


So much of our relationship is joking and poking fun at one another. As new people realize our strange relationship I hope they also see our immeasurable love for one another. There is no one in this world who I would rather do life with! Kyle is my best friend, biggest fan, and greatest encourager! 

He is taken ladies! Find your own! 😜

Which way is up?

So Danielle has begged, that’s right begged, me to write on this blog for months. For absolutely no reason at all I have been hesitant to do so. I keep convincing myself that in a few years I will come back and read my work, and be incredibly embarrassed. But something changed recently. Actually it seems like everything has changed recently. Danielle and I are new parents and each day is a new adventure. I have started a new position at Trinity Baptist Church, this change has caused me to start new friendships with a new pastor, new students, new adult leaders, a new youth pastor network, seemingly a new everything. I have even turned over a new leaf, and that has me wanting to share today.

Most people are creatures of habit. They like routine and rarely look forward to change. All of the newness that I am experiencing would cause some people to have a stroke! I like to do new things but one of the things I have been in the habit of is keeping a very, ridiculously full inbox. Some of you would cringe to know that for years now I have grown accustomed to keeping thousands of emails in my inbox. Yesterday I had over 7,000 (that’s not a typo) unread emails. On a whim I decided that needed to change. I went through my old emails and deleted them, ALL OF THEM! As I type this, there are 4 emails in my inbox, I never knew there would be this kinda freedom with an empty inbox).

In the middle of deleting email after email, God opened my eyes to something.  Since the summer of 2011 my inbox has been infiltrated with ministry! As I clicked on emails I have stashed away since 2011, I was blown away by the bold request I made to people at the North American Mission Board. I was humbled by the prayer request I had sent to some of my professors at NOBTS, and encouraged by their response. I became excited about plans I was helping to make for several different camps and events. This seems crazy to even type out, but I experienced God’s faithfulness as I did the trivial (and devastatingly time-consuming) task of cleaning out my inbox. As I looked through my very own keystrokes I was overcome with joy (partially because I write much better now) looking back at the way I have grown spiritually, as a man, as a leader!

This caused me to realize that instead of looking back on my early entries on a blog and cringing, I would more likely be encouraged by the way God was working in my life at the time!

All of the “new” things in my life right now have me struggling to recognize which way is up. And while I may not have figured out the answer to that question, what I have realized is that being able to look back will always be a source of encouragement rather than embarrassment. So this is the first of what may be many blog post for me. Thanks for reading, please be gentle in the comment section. Take a moment, in the midst of all of the crazy, and reflect on how God is trying to encourage you.

 

Kyle Ruff

Encouraging Love

We, in the Ruff household, had some special visitors over the last week. One of our teenagers from Atco stopped by last weekend to share some candy with us. It was so great to see his sweet face and get a hello from him (and his mom). Then this Thursday we had two girls come over for dinner and to love on Hannah for a little bit. It was awesome to share some time with people we love. Part of me has “momma-like” love for them but most of my love for them is brotherly (or should I say sisterly?) love. It reminded me of my study on love and I wanted to share a little more from my studies.


In 1 Thessalonians 4:9 it says, “Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you,for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other.” Paul is encouraging the people of Thessalonica that they do a good job of loving one another, because they have learned how to love from God. I like how Paul recognizes something they do well and encourages them to keep going in that way. To our three visitors from this week…you have loved on us in a cool way! You have shown great love and we appreciate it. To everyone else, who can you encourage this week? Share some brotherly love and lift each other up with words of affirmation. 

So many lessons

We are love abusers. We use the word love for everything. I love your outfit! I love grilled cheese sandwiches. I love my husband. Don’t you just love my daughter? Love is one word in the English language, but it has so many meanings. 

About a month ago when I was studying “love” in the Bible I came across a verse that only said the word love once, but it was assigned two different Greek words to represent that love. “Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children,” ‭Titus‬ ‭2:4‬ ‭NIV‬‬ 


This verse led to several impactful lessons for me. 

1. Philandros and philoteknos were both used in this verse. Philandros means fond or man, affectionate (as to a wife), while philoteknos means fond of one’s children. Where we used one word, there were actually two words! Before children I don’t know that I would have thought this was important or even interesting, but now…I get it! Completely! I love Kyle and Hannah in completely different ways. And I’m not quite sure how to put it into words. I love my husband and cannot image life without him. I love him more today than I did yesterday and I hope our love continues to grow as we get older. My love for Hannah was deep from the moment I held her. It didn’t take time to grow. It was a fierce love from minute one. My love has grown, but it was always there for her. It’s just different, and completely fitting that two different words represent this in the Greek.


That’s pretty cool, but I couldn’t stop there. I needed to see what was happening around this verse because it uses a pronoun (they) which I do not know who it refers to. 

“You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance. Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.” Titus‬ ‭2:1-8‬ ‭NIV‬‬

2. This passage is directing the believers in Christ on how to live their lives. The older women should be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, or slaves to wine (vs. 3) so that they can teach the younger women how to love their husbands and children (vs. 4). This is to be done in action as well as in spoken teaching. I think about the older women who have given me advice and smile. Many of these women have spoken advice and lived it out. My mom and mother in law of course have done this for me, but so have Sarah (one of my friends who has walked me through becoming a pastor’s wife) and Carla (a sweet friend from church who sets an amazing example for my marriage). These ladies and so many more have told me how to love, but more than that they have showed me. 
3. One thing I always try to be aware of is how the teenagers watch my marriage. Because Kyle and I do ministry together the students see our marriage weekly. They observe how we respond to stress, disagreements, love, humor, and so much more. I want to be a “older woman” (you may never see me type that out again) who sets a good example for the next generation. I want to be someone that a young girl looks to for advice, but I also want to be someone who they watch working with my daughter and husband and say when I’m in that position I want to do it that way too. 
Looking into the love in this verse has taught me so much more than just the Greek word behind our English word. It has taught me about who to seek advice from and to be aware that others may be seeking advice/watching for an example from me. 

Today was it

Today was it. The end of our time at ATCO. It was a regular Sunday for us, which is exactly how I wanted it to feel. Regular. I was able to be in Sunday School with my friends. I looked around the room at one point and thought if I made eye contact with anyone of the women from my small group I would burst into tears. I love these ladies who have invited me into their hearts and covered me with pray in the hardest time of my life. But I didn’t cry. It was good. 
I didn’t sing with the choir today, but if I had there would have been very little singing from me. Tears would have been my only offering to the Lord. I joined the choir so that I would make some adult friends at ATCO and friends I definitely made. These ladies and gentlemen have been a joy to worship with and laugh with. They have prayed for my family, lifted us up in hard times, laughed with and at us when we needed it, and shown us love these last four and a half years. 
The only thing I wished would have been different today was preaching. Pastor Mike didn’t share the message this morning, although God’s word was preached and the message with good and clear. I’m going to remember for a long time just how much Pastor Mike loves his flock, preaching God’s word, and a congregation shoutin’ “Preach on!”. 
I managed to get some hugs and say “see ya later” to some teenagers with zero tears, but now in the quiet of my home I miss them. I miss how loud they can be and there crazy ideas of fun. I miss how much they love my daughter, and grab snacks out of my purse or kitchen. I miss knowing that I will see them again in a couple of days. 
I found a journal entry from December last night. We knew that we were going to have to leave ATCO in order to be obedient to God’s calling at this point and, well… it says it all:
Too Many Decisions

You know how some things in life just have a chain of decisions attached to them? You decided to have a baby and all of the sudden you have thousands of decisions to make. There are fun ones like baby names, and not so fun ones like who is going to get up at 3 am when she is upset. You get a new job and you get to decide what bulletin border you want and yet have to learn to work with a whole new group of teachers (school teacher here 😁). You graduate high school or college and have to decide where to live, work, marry, … 
I find myself faced with one of those situations. One thing has a triggered a list of questions and options running through my mind and I get overwhelmed by it all. I need to make decisions, take action, make lists and check them off…but first I need to take a step back and breath.

Pray. 

Take each day for itself and only worry about what is in front of me. The chain of decisions and questions will be there tomorrow. Today I must just pray. 
And that is what we have done for months. Pray. We have prayed about how to tell our church family goodbye. We have prayed for and over our new church. We have prayed for strength to be able to follow God. We have prayed through my tears and Hannah’s giggles. We have prayed for ATCO as we leave and Trinity as we come. 
So today, I must pray again. My prayers are for the teenagers at ATCO to continue to love God and serve Him. They are for the men and women of ATCO to continue to pour into teenagers’ lives and point them, in love, back to Jesus. I pray that God will open the hearts of teenagers at Trinity to accept us and bring us into their church family. I’m praying for God to bless me with the opportunity to teach in Calhoun City Schools so we can both work in the community we serve the Lord in. 
My prayers go on and on… I’m so excited for our new chapter and what God is going to do in Gordon county. I’m so sad to leave my friends and kids behind in Bartow county…so today…I pray. 

Another Hauck

A Royal Christmas Wedding by Rachel Hauck was AAAAMMAAAAAAZZZINGGG!!! 

I know it’s after Christmas (someone should really tell people this fact though, Christmas lights on the house in March is really not cool) but this book was a Christmas gift and I adore Hauck books so of course I had to read it now! As always it was great! It makes me want to read the entire series again (which I may do). I think the best part about this one is how connected it was to the first book in the series! Loved it!

An Answer to Someone’s Prayer

Cool thing happened a few weeks ago! It was my planning period at work (teachers out there know how precious this 55 minutes truly is) and I was stopping in the principal’s office to go over some PBIS (schoolwide behavior management) details for the spring. Not a planned meeting, just a drop in conversation. I didn’t know it at the time but our principal was keeping her goddaughter (1 year old) for a portion of the week and apparently didn’t get much sleep. She happened to be sharing this information with another staff member when I walked in. As I listened to her crazy story about the ninja baby she was keeping for at least one more night I realized I had something in my car that could help. My time in her office was coming to an end and I asked, “Do you want to borrow my pack n play? I keep it in the car. I can go get it now.” The school bookkeeper, who stepped in during our conversation, immediately asked why I have one in the car. I keep it in the car just in case. You know, for emergencies with Hannah. My principal asked if I was kidding and I assured her I was not. She excitedly told me I was an answer to her prayer. She and her husband had prayed for a way to get more sleep that night and my pack n play was going to be apart of it. 

It’s not often that we get to be an answer to someone’s prayer. Or that we know we are an answer to their prayer. I could have minded my own business and left her office without even bringing up my possible solution to her problem. I could have thought oh they’ll figure it out. But instead I was able to be used by God to answer a prayer. I love it when God lets me be apart of His plan!

Brotherly Love

Brotherly love, or I guess in my case, sisterly love is a HUGE part of my life. Sisterly love for my little brother (who isn’t so little anymore), students at church (which feels more like mom lovin’ sometimes), students at school, co-workers, friends… the list could go on and on. In 1 Peter, Peter is writing to Christians who are being persecuted. He is encouraging them to be strong and love one another. 
“Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.” ‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭3:8‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Love one another. Love here is philadelphos in Greek. It means fond of brethren. AKA brotherly love. We are called as Christians to be united, love, and be humble. 

Peter goes on in verse 10 to say, “For, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech.” ‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭3:10‬ ‭NIV‬‬

This love is agapao which means to love. This verse is almost a quote from Psalm 34:12. “Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies.” ‭‭Psalm‬ ‭34:12 NIV‬‬

The love in Psalm 34 that is used is ahab which means to have an affection for. Peter used the Greek word while the one in the Psalm is Hebrew. Both words mean practically the same thing. 

As Christians we should be united in Christ, love other Christians, and not retaliate with evil words, but with love and affection. I actually wrote 1 Peter 3:8 on the chalk board in my kitchen to remind me daily to love my brothers and sisters in Christ! 


I want to de exactly what this verse says. Be like minded with other Christians, have sympathy, sisterly love, a tender heart, and humble mind. I pray that God will teach me to be what Peter has written. I want to love life and see many days, so I need to learn to control my tongue and not speak evil. I want to love!

My Second Kingsbury

Oh my gosh! How did I just discover her this summer? Y’all should have told me sooner. Kingsbury is amazing! I loved reading Brush of Wings by Karen Kingsbury. I don’t know how angels work or if God has a team like in this book, but I do believe angels can be around us. We may encounter one at the store, in the park, or walking past us on the street. This book drew me in and caused me to stay up many nights reading way past my bedtime. Like Rachel Hauck, you can read the books as a stand alone but they have more meaning when you read the entire series. I haven’t read the other books in this series and still LOVED it!

Drained

Several years ago Gary Harris asked me to learn a new song for church. Where Joy and Sorrow Meet is a beautiful song that talks about how the heart can be torn between joy and sorrow. I haven’t sung this song since a church member lost their son suddenly but today I am reminded of that song as I feel that torn heart. I am joyful in my husband’s calling to a new church, his obedience to follow God, and the exciting new journey at Trinity. However I can’t help but feel sorrow over the goodbye we must say to ATCO. ATCO has loved me during the hardest time in my life. Although not everyone knew of our walk through infertility, many people at ATCO prayed for us, picked us up and carried us to the throne room of God daily in prayer. They praised God when we learned of Hannah and showered us with blessings as she arrived! Will another church ever love us like ATCO? This was the question I posed to my husband this afternoon. His response was perfect. No one can love us like ATCO. Each church is different. Each church loves differently. God placed us here for a time in our lives that was full of love, prayer, growth, and dependence on Him. I cannot say it better than Kyle, so I’ll leave his words with you for now. 

Dear Atco Baptist Family,

    It is with a saddened but grateful heart that I write this letter to you all in order to submit my resignation as pastor of youth ministry at Atco Baptist church. During my 4 years serving as the youth pastor here at ATCO Baptist I have come to know and love each and every child, teenager and adult at the church. The wonderful people of ATCO Baptist have become my family and the church is home to me; therefore I am extremely sad to be moving on to the next chapter of my life. 

“The steps of a righteous man are ordered of the Lord.” When I read this passage from Psalm 37:23, I’m reminded that my life is not my own. I belong to God. Danielle belongs to God. We’ve committed both our individual lives, our marriage, and our family to His calling and purpose. We’ve resolved to travel together down the path that He has set before us. We’ve entrusted our steps to Him.

    Through many months of prayer and Godly counsel we are convinced that God is calling us down a new path, a path that will lead us away from our ATCO family. This decision is one of the most difficult decisions we’ve had to make up to this point in our ministry and in our family. The difficulty comes not in saying yes to the Lord, but in saying goodbye to all of you.

    Today, January 29 2017, I am officially resigning as your youth pastor. Our last Sunday will be February 19. Danielle and I will be moving to Calhoun, where I will be the Youth Pastor at Trinity Baptist Church. We are stepping out on faith believing God to do a great work like we have felt He has used us to do here. It is my desire to continue to see youth come to Christ and be discipled to walk with Him for a lifetime. God has given me a new challenge in doing that and we have the honor to say yes to His call.

    Please hear these words from the bottom of our hearts. Though my relationship as your youth pastor will change, our love for all of you will not. That’s why this is so difficult. We’ve become family over the past few years and we’re moving away. As hard as it is to say goodbye the fact is we’re still family. As a matter of fact, maybe goodbye is the wrong word. The phrase “see you later” seems more appropriate.

    God directs our steps and promises not to leave us nor forsake us. I’m confident that if God is leading us on to something new and wonderful then the same is true for all of you. God will not take from one at the expense of another. If God is preparing to bless Danielle and I with a new work, then He’s preparing to bless all of you with a new youth pastor. We really believe that your best days are yet ahead, and though I will not always be your youth pastor, we will always be family.

Respectfully submitted with love for all of you,

Kyle Ruff