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!

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. 

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

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!

Have you SPLASHed someone today?

We had a HUGE youth event last week called SPLASH Bartow. SPLASH stands for Show People Love And Share Him, the Him being Jesus. We had over 400 students and 300 adults volunteer to do service projects in our community with the intention of sharing Jesus with the people we served.
This year our worship band was the Brandon Stubbs Band and they played a song each night that captured my heart. It is called O Come to the Altar. As I continue to listen to it this week the Holy Spirit is showing me more and more about myself and God’s love and grace for me.

With life on this earth I constantly feel the hurt and pain, but especially with my own sinful nature. When Jesus saved me He didn’t make it to where I would never sin again, He forgave (and continues to forgive) my sin and made me aware of just how much I need His unending grace. It overwhelms me daily how sinful I am. I’m judgmental, ungrateful, self-centered,… The list goes on and on. Yet Jesus calls me to continue to try to be like Him.

I continually try to do things out of my own strength. I try to make more money, take care of the house, land, work, council students, lead the youth praise band, take care of a husband, love on youth, … Yet I never seem to be good enough, strong enough, make enough,… And it’s because I try to do it out of my human strength instead of giving it to God and letting Him take care of it. I need to let Jesus fill me up at the well of everlasting water. And He continues to call me to let Him take over.

God wants me to come to the altar and crawl into His welcoming arms. He made a way for this to happen when He sent Jesus to give His perfect life so that I could have the forgiveness that need.

I have to leave my sin behind and not dwell on the continually mistakes I make. I don’t need to carry my burdens around because Jesus has called me to cast my cares on Him because He cares for me. He cares that we struggle financially. He cares that I worry about being a new mother. He cares that I am overwhelmed with going back to work. He cares!

I can take my sorrows to God and He will trade my hurt for joy. Not happiness, but joy. He can turn the ruins of my life into a new creation. The hurt from infertility is turning into a testimony of God’s goodness. The tears over bills due into provisions coming out of nowhere. The wonder of how everything will get done into a completed to do list with an abundance of time left over. I just have to listen to Jesus calling me and trust that He will continually take care of me.

There is no magical location or specific altar to run to. I can use my couch, seat in my car, or church pew as an altar. God is waiting on me to turn over my sorrow, climb into His lap, and let Him have full control. He wants me to remember the price Jesus paid for my forgiveness and recognize that with that gift also came a new name for me, daughter to the King.

When I can remember how I have received forgiveness, then I can take my eyes off of my selfish needs and wants and focus on praising Jesus. He is my Savior! He is wonderful! He deserves my praise and honor and glory.

So today when I choose to bear the burden of the cross, I will remember that I am simply waiting for the crown the Lord has for me in heaven. I can’t wait to return my crown to the altar of God as praises sing from my heart and mouth! Until that glorious day I must tell everyone about my Savior and how they too can have a relationship with Him. They can leave their burdens at His feet and let Him take care of them.

This is the heart of SPLASH. We are to turn our lives over and serve the Lord and share His grace, mercy, love, salvation with everyone we come into contact with.

Have you shared Jesus’ story with someone today? This week? This month? Year? Ever? Let today be the start of your telling the world about the Savior they need!


Youth Pastor Super Heroes 

Think about to when you were in youth. Who was your youth pastor? I had a few (Mark Chandler and Spencer McCoy) but never realized how much they really did for me. Now, as a wife of a youth pastor, I have a behind the scenes view of all that really happens. Youth pastors are super heroes!


These men who devote themselves to leading teenagers toward God do so much more than plan trips to Six Flags and teach a bible lesson once a week (which I do believe is what 16 year old Kyle Ruff thought they did). They see a hurting student and take them fishing. They see a crisis in a young person’s family and go to the hospital to just be there. They hear a student share the gospel with a child and text the parent to encourage them. They spend a week on local mission, basically without sleep,  and then leave with the youth group on another mission trip across the country. They listen to girls cry and some lucky pastors have wives to send them to (others learn to handle girl tears). They guide boys on how to handle being turned down by the girl they like. They make crazy videos to get the group pumped for events and lessons. They love on smelly teens after long days of work, fun, or …some teens just smell. They wrangle up volunteers for summer camp. They pray for teens by name daily. They lift up other youth pastors and bear each other’s burdens. They share there hearts with their church families. They write curriculum for events which they may not even be attending. They share Jesus as much as they can work it in (which is more often than you would think). They go to sporting events, concerts, graduations, birthday parties, and other life events for students. They… I could keep going, but I think you get it. 

Youth pastors give so much of themselves and ask so little in return. My husband is just part time, but his time is not his own. It is our students’. I love how he sees a need and instantly wants to take care of it. It doesn’t matter that technically he doesn’t work today…super heroes don’t have set working hours, and neither do youth pastors. 

Today, take the time to encourage your youth pastor, or your student’s youth pastor. 

Sometimes I have to Walk Away

Today was tough. Not all day, but when I had to walk away. There are points in my life and marriage when I simply have to walk away. 
Being a youth pastor’s wife (and I’m sure, any ministerial wife) has its challenges. One of the challenges I am faced with occasionally is not know what to do, say, or think about something my husband is struggling with. Maybe it’s a message he has prepared and can’t seem to get to a good point in. Maybe it is church politics (every church has them). Maybe it is picking and choosing between church events and resting or going to family gatherings. The list could go on forever. 

So many times I wonder what he wants me to say, think, or do. Many times I try to gauge if he needs me to build him up or put him in his place. Should I point out that he is being ridiculous? Am I suppose to continue to compliment his 3 point message with its alliteration? How does he expect me to respond to this? 

Today, I didn’t know what else to tell him. I didn’t know how else to help. I simply had to walk away. I grabbed my pool bag and a book (Wonder Struck by Margaret Feinberg) and left. Not out of anger or even frustration, but because he needed a day to just sit, think, pray, contemplate, seek advice, … A day to just be. 

I hate walking away, but more than that I hate watching him struggle. I want to help him fix it. I want to be his friend, helper, soulmate. But today I couldn’t help any more than I had tried. 

It’s hard, marriage that is. 
I’m back at home now. About to eat dinner with my sweet husband. I hope and pray he is in a better place, but know that either way, God will take care of him even when I don’t know how to. 

Becoming a Youth Pastor’s Wife

As some of you may have read in a previous post (here), Kyle and I met as teenagers…so obviously he wasn’t a youth pastor when we began dating. Even when we were engaged and first married, Kyle wasn’t in the ministry. However, I knew he would be in the ministry one day. 

Let me explain.

Kyle first felt called into ministry as a 16 year old but soon realized that he did not want to be a pastor. He told me this pretty early on in our dating. I knew that God’s calling on someone’s life didn’t go away when that person didn’t want to do it. I knew that eventually God would bring Kyle into a ministry job and he would follow the calling. 

I was not one of those girls who wanted to marry a pastor or sought out guys with that calling on their lives. I am not saying it is wrong if you did, but that just wasn’t me. I was raised by an architect and an accountant. My parents are godly people, but I never would have pictured myself as a pastor’s wife. However, my Great Aunt Sonya is a school teacher and is married to a pastor. I have always loved and adored her. I enjoy hearing ministry and missions stories when they visit and look up to her. So Kyle having a calling on his life didn’t scare me away. 

When we first married, Kyle was an accounts receivable clerk for an auto auction. He made decent money and was able to support us until I found a job. After almost 6 months of marriage he was laid off. We believe this was God’s way of getting Kyle on a mission trip he felt he was supposed to be on but his boss wouldn’t give him time off. Kyle went on the mission trip and God made it very clear that Kyle was supposed to be a youth pastor. 

He came home and wanted to enroll in school for ministry. He started volunteering heavily in our church’s youth ministry. He was focused on following God’s call and becoming a full time youth pastor…eventually. 


I knew at this point that we were in this…together. I had known this was coming for years and have always had a deep conviction that Kyle’s ministry would be mine also. I want to be involved in his work, ministry, and calling. I go on the youth trips. I attend the conferences and events. I listen to and encourage our students. 

Sometimes people ask me what my reaction to Kyle taking a ministry job was. And to be honest, I tell them that I knew it was coming. No he hasn’t always been a youth pastor, but I knew that God’s calling was still there. 

So here I am, a youth pastor’s wife. And I wouldn’t have it any other way!

The Pastor’s Wife

Yes, I am a pastor’s wife. Correction—a youth pastor’s wife. With this title/description/label comes many amazing and challenging things. But today I want to talk about a book I finished reading this weekend, The Pastor’s Wife by Gloria Furman. I’m not sure what I expected when I started this book, but in my opinion, every Christian woman would benefit from reading this book. 

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There are three parts to this book:

  1. Loving the Chief Shepherd
  2. Loving an Under-Shepherd
  3. Loving the Bride of Christ

 I think every woman needs to know how to love God, love their spouse (even if he isn’t a pastor/under-shepherd), and love the church. These are essentially the three things that Gloria writes about. She slathers this book in scripture (which I adore!) and adds in humor from her own experiences of being a pastor’s wife (which you may or may not find humorous if you are not a pastor’s wife).

I hope that you will consider reading this book, pastor’s wife or not. 

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