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.

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!

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

I Can Still Wear Cute Shoes

You Can Still Wear Cute Shoes by Lisa McKay was AMAZING!!! This pastor’s wife has 15 years of experience supporting her husband in ministry, an awesome testimony of how God can use the most unlikely people to impact His kingdom, and great advice for all things church and life. I would highly recommend this book to all women, not just pastors’ wives. Hear me out! She talks about raising your kids in church…and yes some of it is specifically to PKs BUT I think it is important that laypeople understand what ministry families go through. She talks about how being a Christian doesn’t mean you need to dress like your grandma. Modest is hottest, but don’t go buying a embroidered cat sweater. Consider adding this book to your must read list. She is funny and shares many stories including her testimony!

Mary Again

Our church had their Christmas cantata this past weekend and I was Mary again. This means that Kyle was Joseph of course, and for the first time we had our baby be Jesus (I’ve had the honor of holding other babies for the past few years). 


Weeks ago I was asked to sing a song while holding my baby. I listened to the song and cried. I knew if I was going to sing this song with my daughter that I would have to get over the lyrics. Give Me This Night is a beautiful song about Mary asking to just be Jesus’ mother and he be just her son for the night. Let him be just my son, not the savior, for just a night. The bridge of the song is what got me:

God you gave him to me, And I gave him life. Now with him in my arms, And me in his eyes, This is much more than I ever could wish, You can have his tomorrows, But please grant me this. Give me this night, to just be his mother. Give him this moment to just be my child. He has the rest of his life to be Savior, but so little time, to simply be mine. So give me, please give me this night.


Being a new mom I have a whole new look on Christmas (as well as other things). For the first time I identify with Mary as a mother. She carried him for 9 months, endured the pain of child birth, and has the overwhelming feeling of being the mother of the Savior. This song may seem selfish on Mary’s part, and scripture doesn’t say that she asked God for this, but singing this song with Hannah got me. Even after practicing with her several hundred times, I cried. I cried with joy! Just like Mary must of recognized she wouldn’t have much time with her son (because time flies!), I realized I don’t have much time with Hannah. I cannot slow down time and keep her longer. She will grow up, and she will move out one day (a LONG time from now), and I will look back and cherish these moments I have now. It won’t be long before she won’t want to be rocked to sleep, or want to be carried everywhere. I know if I blink she’ll be headed to school or driving. This weekend was special, and I will cherish it forever. 

Realization

This past Wednesday night our church had a Fall Family Fun Night. There were games, a cake walk, and wagon rides. We had walking tacos (Fritos with chili in a bag topped with cheese–so good!) and Kona Ice came too! Tons of people from the church and surrounding community came out. Hannah wore her Halloween costume and rolled around in her stroller for the event, and about half way through I realized something. I was surrounded by teenagers. There were people my age at the event. We said hello and all but the people I spent the evening with were the youth. To be honest I have deeper relationships with most of the teenagers than the people my own age. This may seem odd, but it’s true! And to be honest (again), I like it that way! 

Kyle’s job at the church may seem to be HIS job, but I consider it OUR ministry. His call to be a pastor doesn’t just effect him. It effects our entire family. We minister as a couple, and now that Hannah is here, we will minister as a family. So it seems fitting that I spent Wednesday night with teenage girls. It’s a realization that I love!

Giving

Give up material wealth if necessary to give spiritual wealth. One of the points in our pastor’s sermon this week was worded something similar to that (pregnancy brain 😕). It brought me to tears thinking about his point. I’m not sure I heard too much after that because I was stuck on this point. Give up material wealth if necessary to give spiritual wealth. 
We all have money issues. We either don’t have money and that is the issue, or we do have money and it becomes an issue. I’ll admit that I am in the first category. No money here, and yes it is an issue many times. But our lack of material wealth doesn’t mean that we lack in spiritual wealth. It doesn’t mean that we aren’t called to give. And honestly, if I had to pick one type of wealth over the other I would chose spiritual wealth everyday of the week. 

But how many times am I called to give material wealth in order to affect someone else’s spiritual wealth? How many times does my flesh stop me from giving as I should? I couldn’t help but think about the woman who poured perfume on Jesus’ feet. She had so little to give, but gave it all in an act of worship. Her reward? A huge spiritual wealth gain!

“A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.” Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” “Tell me, teacher,” he said. “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.” “You have judged correctly,” Jesus said. Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.””

‭‭Luke‬ ‭7:37-50‬ ‭NIV‬‬

I am a sinful woman who needs Jesus and should be willing to pour out what little I have on His feet. My sin debt is beyond anything I could pay back and Jesus has forgiven it in full. So yes, I have little to give, but I want to give it all in order to further the kingdom, in order for others to learn about having their sins forgiven. I want to give my material wealth in order to influence other’s spiritual wealth.