A Life Unrecognizable 

Last night driving home from my parents’ home Kyle said, “I don’t even recognize our life compared to this time last year.” And oh how true that statement is. We have always known that God could lead us anywhere (just like he can everyone…not just ministry families), but the whirlwind we have been in for the past year makes our lives completely different. Unrecognizable. Bare with me. 

In June 2016, I was pregnant. I worked at Cartersville Elementary. Kyle worked part time at ATCO Baptist. We had no clue how we were going to afford a baby. We were living in a 900 square foot home with two dogs trying to make space for a baby in all of our stuff. We were overwhelmed!

Fast forward a year to June 2017. We have a healthy, beautiful 10 month old daughter who is crawling all over the house. I work for Calhoun Elementary. Kyle works full time for Trinity Baptist. We are packing our tiny home and moving to our dream home/mini-farm. We are overwhelmed!

Two different kinds of overwhelmed. I feel a bit like Jabez. Praying for guidance, blessings, provisions, ministry opportunities, protection, peace…
 “Jabez called upon the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from harm so that it might not bring me pain!” And God granted what he asked.” (1 Chronicles‬ ‭4:10‬ ‭ESV‬‬) I know Jabez didn’t use all of the words I did, but God has blessed Kyle and me in ways we didn’t even know how to pray for a year ago. Our border has been enlarged to encompass Calhoun now! We have prayed for God’s blessing and He has more than provided! God has protected us from harm. God is Good!

Years of praying brought us a healthy, happy baby girl! God is good!


Opening our eyes to where God may take our ministry led us to Trinity Baptist Church. This provided financially, spiritually, and has grown us closer together as a family. God is good!

I didn’t want to leave my job and had planned on staying unless God moved mountains. I received a phone call in April from a principal who didn’t even have a job listed as open on the website. I interviewed the next day and knew I was going to their school. They offered me a job 24 hours later. God decided to heave a mountain out of the way! God is good!

We decided to list our house even though it had little repairs that still needed to be done. We had a contract on it within 24 hours. God is good!

We had been looking for months at homes in Calhoun and nothing made us excited! Until a tiny farm came up for sale. Lots of people were looking at the home and we just knew we would never get it. Until 2 days later we got a call that said otherwise. God is good!

I could bore you with a million details that give me chills because I know they were from God. His hand has moved what feels like a mountain chain to bring us where we are. Trusting Him is one of the hardest things to practice, but has huge rewards! We are still walking through the changes, stumbling on details, and ironing out wrinkles, but God is so GOOD!

My Word Should have been Change

So much change has happened in our lives this year. My word for the year should have been CHANGE.

Kyle has CHANGED jobs.

I am CHANGING jobs.

We have CHANGED churches.

We are about to CHANGE houses.

But the amazing part is how God has orchestrated all of it! Don’t get me wrong…I have struggled with the changing. Look at this journal entry from earlier this year:

It happens every time. Every time we start over I spend hours, days, weeks, maybe even months crying. Crying because I miss people. Crying because I don’t have my friends. Crying because I hate change. Crying because I am confused on whether we did the right thing or not. When we left CFBC I cried for all of those reasons and some. It took time to adjust to ATCO. Then I fell in love with ATCO, made new friends, and found my new way of life. It was different than First Baptist, but it became my normal. Now at Trinity I don’t have a normal. I don’t have a routine. I don’t have friends yet. (I hope yet is right) It’s hard.

But God has already started to give me a peace about that struggle. The constant list of questions running through my mind these last few months has started to dwindle.

Will I get a new job? Change. Will I get a new grade level? Change. Will I move homes? Change. Will we buy a different car? Change. It’s so much to think about and handle. I dislike change so much.

But you know what is constant? My husband. Kyle is a trooper and knows my struggle with change and is supporting me the best he can right now. My daughter. She doesn’t recognize anything as being different. She just loves her mommy and daddy. Most importantly, my God. He does not change. He is a constant in my life. If I don’t feel Him it is not because He isn’t there. He is always there. My God has saved me, loves me, never leaves me, provides for me, goes before me. He is my rock, redeemer, friend. He shelters me, carries me, comforts me. He is king of my life, Lord of everything.

Today I know that He is counting the tears I cry. I know He is preparing the way for me, whatever way that may be. I know He has a plan for my family and even though I cannot see it now I know He is working it out for our good. Today I may not like the feelings of change, but I know God is requiring me to trust Him in the change.

I don’t know all of the answers to my list of questions, but I do know that where I ended up in that journal entry is still true. God is my constant. He does not change.

Temptation

I was remembering a time about 12 years ago where I was tempted, fell into temptation, and reaped the punishment when I was caught. I was a junior in high school taking honors British literature. My parents had a rule; we could exempt finals if we had an A in the class. When I asked the teacher what my grade was she informed me it was an 89.5. Oh the temptation… take the final or not? The teacher told me if I bombed the final she wouldn’t put it in and I would keep my current grade. I don’t know what I thought would happen…maybe that the teacher would have a heart and round my grade up, but I decided to lie to my mom and tell her I had an A, not take the final, and wait to see what the report card said three weeks later. Temptation means a desire to do something, especially wrong or unwise. It was so wrong to lie to my mom. It was wrong to not take the final. Everything about this situation was wrong.

Jesus was tempted. He withstood temptation. “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ” Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “ ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’ ” Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’ ” Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.” (Matthew 4:1-11)

WWJD…did you have a bracelet with those four letters? I did. What Would Jesus Do? When Jesus was tempted he quoted scripture and clung to God’s word in order to withstand temptation. It may be hard to believe, but the Bible has scripture for everything. In my situation I probably should have considered, “You shall not give false testimony…” (Exodus 20:16) or “Honor your father and your mother…” (Exodus 20:12), and definitely “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,” (Colossians 3:23).

temptation

Whatever you do, gah that’s a lot of stuff…brushing my teeth, writing a blog post, teaching children, taking a test, playing a sport…WHATEVER YOU DO. Work at it with all your heart. I did not work at Brit. Lit. with all my heart. I just wanted to get out of that class. So many times we do things half way. God’s word calls us to do things with our whole heart. As working for the Lord. For the adults here…when your boss is around do you work harder? Imagine if God was in the room with you…😳 I would want to do my very best!

When my report card made it to my parents I had a B in Brit. Lit. and I was grounded. Not for the B but for lying to my parents and not doing my best. I guess the teacher had a heart change at some point though because on my transcripts I have an A in the class. Temptation is a tricky thing. Every time we meet temptation we should WWJD and use God’s word to help us fight it.

More Than a Teacher

Have you ever walked in to a place and felt at home? Somewhere you’ve never been or seen until then and just known that it’s the place your supposed to be? I’ve had it happen a few times in my life and a month ago I had another one of those experiences. I walked into Calhoun Elementary School and immediately felt at home. It was welcoming and almost screamed “You belong here!” The three administrators I met with were inviting and pleasant. I could picture myself working for them and alongside them. I didn’t get the sense that I shouldn’t mention my husband, daughter, or faith. I believe that it was welcomed to mention things about who I am away from school. 

So many times teachers are asked to come to work and be just a teacher. When we are at school we are not a wife, mom, Christian, or republican. We are a teacher and only that. I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t work that way. I am always a Christian. It doesn’t matter where I am. I am praying while I teach. I am shining my light for Jesus everywhere I go and I cannot put it away when I walk into work. AND… the only reason people call me Mrs. Ruff is because I am married. I cannot pretend that my husband doesn’t exist for 8 hours a day 190 days a year. I should be able to talk about him while I am at work and not be sorry for it. To top it off, I finally became a mother last year and I will not avoid any conversation about my sweet girl. I am a Christian first, wife and mother next, and teacher last. I have been able to be all of those things and so much more at Cartersville Elementary School for the past 6 years and I felt that I could be the same way when I stepped inside of Calhoun Elementary School last month. It was so nice to know that other schools allow their teachers to be so much more than just a teacher!

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. 

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!

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