First 5 From Afar

I love the First 5 app! Do you have it? It’s a free app that has amazing devotionals to do in the first five minutes of your day.

Image result for first 5 app

I have been using this app on and off since it started more than two years ago. About a week ago though I had a new idea about how this app could be used to help me minister to young ladies I do not see often anymore.

I was texting a student who was in our former youth group and realized that she wasn’t attending church the way I had hoped she would be. She admitted it and I encouraged her to attend somewhere, but I wanted a way to be able to have a spiritual conversation with her daily. I cannot see her nearly as often as I used to so I asked if she would be interested in going through a reading plan together and she was thrilled with the idea. I told her about First 5 and we chose a plan to go through together. Our deal is that each day we read before 8 PM and then we text each other something from the scripture or devotional that stuck out to us, taught us something, reminded us of something, etc.

I wasn’t sure how it would work at first. I mean, who wants a 29 year old texting you about the bible everyday, and I honestly have never had a 17 year old accountability partner before, BUT we are trying it. So far I have loved it and she has too! We are both learning about God and the Bible, but we are also learning about each other and how to be better sisters in Christ.

My hope is to be able to continue this with her and encourage her to do this with someone else too. Maybe someone her age, or younger, whom she can encourage in Christ and be there for. I definitly want to be doing this with more girls though. This has been a great way to minister to a young lady in a very comfortable setting.

How are you discipling others? Are you able to sit down face to face with someone you are discipling, or do you have to get creative like me in order to minister to someone?

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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!

A Mom to Teenagers

No, I have never given birth. No, we did not adopt. No, we do not foster. However, when one of the teenagers in our youth group needs us, we jump into action and become “parents” whenever. 

Thursday night we hosted our small group bible study. After everyone had left and I was cleaning up, Kyle tells me one of the girls in the youth group is having family problems and may need a place to stay. Well, let’s go get her. It turned out her stepdad had taken her back to her mom from a friends house that night, but last night she stayed with us.

I love the students in my class, but the teenagers in the youth group have me wrapped around their fingers, especially this young lady. 

Don’t worry. Her parents know she is with us! We had an ice cream outing last night, followed by her picking a movie (Star Wars) to watch at home. Today she will either tag along with us to a couples shower and Mother’s Day/birthday dinner or go hangout with some other girls from our youth group. 

I love that she feels safe with us, wants to stay with us, and knows she is loved by us! Being a youth pastor’s wife means so much more than going to camp, Six Flags, and church every time the door is open. It means loving teenagers and helping them the way Christ would in some of the most difficult times in their lives. 

If you can, stop for a minute and pray for this young lady and her family! She could use some comfort and peace in the storm her family is in. 

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!