Thursday, November 9, 2017

Vaughn Party of 6

Monday was a big day.  We were able to see God's mighty hand put the finishing touches on His masterpiece, which we lovingly call our family.  He has been knitting together every detail of Monday, since the beginning of time.  But we have been able to see Him work through many people and circumstances since we have been in WV.

It is no secret that life in WV has had it's challenges.  Nothing, and I mean NOTHING has turned out like we thought it would.  But we are finally in a place where we can see how God has used every last story, detail, and heartache to mold us together into what He has wanted for us here.

Let me start by saying that foster care and adoption were never on our radar as a married couple.  I would read stories and meet families, and deep down want to be a part of something greater.  Rob had always said NO with a resounding exclamation point at the end.  So I honored his feelings and never pursued it any more.  Little did we know that God was working something very different for our family.

When we visited WV in November 2015, we met this sweet young lady who was living with the family we would eventually move to work with.  She was not shy.  She just ran right up and introduced herself as Zoe.  Once we moved here, we began to build a relationship with her.  My parents came to visit several times, and they grew to love her, too.  She was so talented and had a wonderful personality, but you could see she was just trapped in the pain of the past.  She stayed with us often, helping us with events we would host or just to get a pep talk to get through a tough time.  Zoe had been through a lot in her short life.  She was very open about her story, and her struggles.  But there came a time that her struggles began to overcome her.  Almost a year later, we were given opportunity for her to come live with us.  Through much prayer, and a lot of details that God orchestrated {I'll save those for another post}, she moved in December 10, 2016.

Our family was a bit more strict than she was used to.  She had a lot of work ahead of her.  Her grades were not what they should have been.  She really was just skating by in all aspects of life.  We began to really pray for her, and for our family to love her like Jesus loves us and her.  It was a big transition for all of us.  She was once the oldest growing up, then moved into a home where she was a middle child, then became the oldest again when she moved in our house.  This was not cool with our younger members.  The kids had a hard time all finding their places.

As the months went on, we saw a young lady emerge with confidence, self-worth, and amazing grades.  She has just blossomed into a wonderful young lady.  While we still struggle with teenage behaviors from both of our oldest children, and middle school madness with SaraGrace, God has brought peace and unity into a previously chaotic situation.  We give Him all the glory.

Zoe had the decision of whether she wanted to be adopted or for us to do legal guardianship.  She chose guardianship, and we were finally able to close that chapter Monday.  As we were preparing for that day, we were talking about a verse to use for her story, and our story as a family.  We all know that only GOD could bring us together in the way He did, and we wanted Him to get all of the glory.  So we chose Psalms 147:3.  "He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds." Zoe, along with all of our family, has been brokenhearted.  When I think over the past six years, and the heartache we have experienced both at home with losing a child, nearly losing a marriage, fighting God over full time ministry, and moving here with everything to lose, I am overwhelmed by His goodness.  He is faithful to work it all for our good.  And we experienced that Monday.  Zoe has experienced a broken heart through foster care and being separated from her siblings, but we have seen God binding up those wounds.  While it doesn't completely take away the hurt, or remove the memories we have, it does remind us that we have a Savior who loves us, and wants only the best for us.

Our preacher preached on walking in God's favor Sunday.  One of the points he made was that in order to walk in God's favor, we have to delight in suffering for Christ's sake.  He was preaching on Acts 9.  This hit home for me.  It seems like things have been super hard since surrendering to ministry, but it's not for nothing.  Foster Care with a teenager has been hard.  Something Pastor Steve said has helped me make sense of so many things.  He said if you want to serve Christ, you're going to suffer.  But the suffering you endure begins to make sense.  Only after Jesus was broken on the cross, could he raise from the dead and offer salvation.  Only after the grain is crushed, can it bring forth bread.  Only after Jacob's hip was broken, could he be called Israel.  Without brokenness, we get puffed up with pride, and give ourselves the glory.  It's only after the suffering can we be who God called us to be.

While we know we are NEVER immune to suffering, I believe with all my heart that suffering for all of our family, including Zoe, is working to mold us to be more like Jesus.

Foster care and adoption are both truly a picture of the love of Christ.  To love someone with all of your heart, knowing they may not choose you or love you in return.  It's learning daily forgiveness, putting others needs before your own, and seeing people like Jesus sees them.  It's loving someone, who can be difficult to love because they are so hurt and scared.  It's being pushed away, tried in the fire, and fighting a broken system.  I've done a lot of hard things in my life, and this has been no exception.  But when I think of how Jesus loves me, and what He gave so I might live, I am just thankful He allowed us to be a part of this story. When I see Zoe become victorious over the struggles that once consumed her, I'm so grateful to God that He loves us all so much!  I'm so thankful that He gave us another daughter, and I can't wait to see how He continues to grow us all.  There is absolutely no doubt that God sent us to WV to make Zoe part of our family.  While nothing else has made sense, this does.  I will share the not so little details in an upcoming post.  You will truly be amazed at God's favor and goodness.






Sunday, October 1, 2017

Faith, Hope, and LIFE



 
October is my most favorite month, hands down.  I love the season change, the weather change, and especially the changing of the leaves here in WV.  I also am in love with all of the fall movies on the Hallmark Channel.  October brings all the feels.  October is also National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.  I know that some of you may get tired of hearing about this, but it is real.  It is hard.  It is a part of life that never goes away.  It needs to be talked about.  Many women and men carry around such hurt and grief that accompanies the loss of a child.  If you've known us long, you know all about Baby Faith. But I know we have a lot of new friends, so I would like to share a little bit about her and how she changed our lives for the better.  

Faith was our third child, who was diagnosed with a fatal birth defect originally at 10 weeks gestation, then confirmed at 12 weeks.  We were relentlessly urged to terminate the pregnancy because there was no way she would survive.  We know that God is the creator of life, and He did not make a mistake when He created her.  With much prayer, a lot of support, loving doctors, and a God who never leaves us, we continued with her pregnancy, trusting that God would have the final say.  Her life would be completely in His hands.  We had to trust Him with the outcome.  For 9 months, we lived on an unforgiving roller coaster with many ups and just as many downs.  There was no way to know exactly how her birthday would unfold, but God knew before He even created her.  On May 19, 2011, Faith was born at 39 weeks, with a much more extensive defect than previously thought.  There was nothing that could be done for her.  I held her in my arms for the 42 minutes that her heart beat.  She left my arms and met the Creator, the One who would carry us through the months that followed.  While that was the absolute hardest thing I have ever endured, it is also one of the most beautiful. We learned so much about Jesus; about his love for us and for Faith.  God taught us, through Faith's life, that every one has a purpose.  No matter how short our time might be on this earth, we are each divinely created for a purpose that was set forth by God himself.  Every one deserves a chance at life, even if it means we walk the darkest path of our lives.  God used Faith to strengthen our faith in Him, to never take a moment in this life for granted, and to live life with a love for people, that they may come to know Jesus Christ.  Life is real.  Death is real.  Jesus is real.  The story of Faith deserves so much more than a paragraph, and if you want the entire story, we wrote a book, Our Faith Renewed.  You can get it here.  I am a terrible salesman, and truthfully, if you would like a copy and the cost is an issue, please email me.  I will be happy to send one to you.  Our story is a story of Faith, Hope, Love, and LIFE.

The reason I am sharing this with you today, is that our family has a chance to walk and raise money for the Women's Care Center in Parkersburg, WV.  The walk is Sunday, October 8th.  We are walking in honor and in memory of Baby Faith.  Let me tell you why these centers are so important.  This particular center, just in the first half of this year, has  served 445 patients, given 249 pregnancy tests, performed 173 ultrasounds, shared the gospel of Jesus Christ 174 times, and has seen 4 people give their lives to Christ.  They also offer post-abortion help and counseling for those in need.  Just as Jesus offers hope, love, and salvation to all, this center is bringing hope, love and the gospel to all.  Will you help us be the hands and feet of Jesus here in WV and support our team in the walk?  You can give online here.  At the bottom of the form, you can specify which individual or team you are sponsoring.  We are the registered as Rob and SaraBeth Vaughn {Team Baby Faith}.  You also have the option to add "in honor of" or " in memory of".  

Jeremiah 29:11 - For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord.  Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  

Help give these babies a chance at life!


Thursday, September 28, 2017

Undone

Have you ever experienced a time in which you were begging God for answers in a certain situation, only for Him to give you answers for something else?  I know this doesn't make sense.  It didn't make sense to me, either.  Sunday, as we were driving to church, things were rowdy in the car {Can I get an AMEN?  Certainly we aren't the only ones.} I was trying to listen to the radio, and one of my new favorite songs came on - Come to the Table by Sidewalk Prophets.  I thought about how many really good songs are currently on Christian radio, and my heart was immediately drawn to my favorite song of all time- I Got Saved by Selah.  This is one of their new ones that Rob and I have worn out on iTunes.  We had been working on it to sing in church, so we have spent a lot of time listening and processing the lyrics of this song.  The chorus goes like this:

"I'm undone by the mercy of Jesus.  I'm undone by the goodness of the Lord.  I'm restored and made right, He got a hold of my life.  I've got Jesus, how could I want more?" 

Boy, did my heart get an attitude check!  Whew!  It wasn't the direction I was looking for, but it was the direction I needed.  I was thinking about how often we feel defeated; how many times things do not turn out like we hoped or prayed.  My heart hurts for the division in our country, among friends, and among Christians.  My heart is weary from trying to seek God's will for my life with little to no direction.  It seems like everything we try to do doesn't work out like we think it should.  Then these words pierced my heart like a flaming arrow...  "I'm undone by the mercy of Jesus."  Then I got this answer...I'm always defeated because I am so focused on what God is NOT doing in my life, that I have forgotten all He HAS done in my life.  He went to the cross and paid my penalty for my wrongdoings.  He loved me so much that He gave his life for me.  That is more than enough.  "I've got Jesus, how could I want more?"  But we always want more.  We want to be more important, more significant, more successful, more happy, more at peace, more right, more wealthy, more loved, and on and on.  I know Christ has done so much for me in my life.  I even wrote a book about it.  But how quickly we forget when things don't go our way.  I had become an entitled brat. I felt like I was getting the short end of the stick.  I have been more faithful in my Bible study, prayer time, giving of my time to mission projects, and loving people.  Why wouldn't God just give us the direction we were supposed to go?   The very thing that drives me the most crazy, became the thing that was in the way of what God wants to do in my life....ENTITLEMENT. As my heart was just in pieces for the ungratefulness I had shown my Savior, we pulled in the parking lot at church.  I silently prayed that God would make me "undone" by his mercy and goodness; that my eyes would stay focused on what He did at the cross.  If he never did another thing for me, He has given far more than I deserve.

Be careful what you pray for.  Let me tell you what...when church started, I became undone.  The praise band sang a song about God's faithfulness.  It said "your promise still stands.  This is my confidence, I'm still in your hands."  God has NEVER let me down.  Not even in my darkest days.  Then came the final nail in the coffin of my entitled heart.  The preacher began his sermon titled "How to go from worried to happy." He gave so many wonderful points, but the  one that hit me the hardest was "putting an end to entitlement and cultivate contentment in Jesus Christ."  WHAT?!?!  The Lord was just dealing with me on this in the car, and now the preacher is telling me the same thing?  I get it, Lord.  I get it loud and clear. Nobody is responsible for my happiness.  God isn't even responsible for my happiness.  It is my choice, my responsibility to find my joy in Jesus Christ.  My prayer for this week is that I continue to look to Jesus.  The one who knows me best, has the best in store for me, has shown me the greatest mercy and goodness known to man.  I pray that I put off the feelings of being a victim, and cling to His promise that we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us (Romans 8:37}.  If you are feeling defeated, take some time to reflect on all God has done for you.  An attitude of gratitude goes a long way.  If you just can't think of anything He's done for you, let me help you out. 

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 


I love these words from Paul, and I pray they will bring you some encouragement as well.  May we all be UNDONE by the mercy of Jesus.

Philippians 4:1-13

1 Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved.
I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord.
And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellowlabourers, whose names are in the book of life.
Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice.
Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.
Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.
10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity.
11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

 



Saturday, September 16, 2017

Approval Ratings

If you have been alive and coherent in the past 10 years, you have heard all about approval ratings.  From major news networks to social media outlets, anyone with any importance has an approval rating.  From the President of the USA, to the college football coach, to the latest single man chosen as the newest Bachelor {and from what I've been reading, he doesn't stay single or committed for long.  Don't judge me...the Bachelor is one of my guilty pleasures}. Everyone has something to live up to.  Now I know that these ratings have been around for much longer than 10 years.  Some of you are just older than me, so you remember further back, right?

Here's the thing about "approval ratings:" they are people's opinions of how you measure up.  Are you doing a good job?  Are people happy with you?  Does the world approve of you? Are you making a positive difference? While many of us would LOVE for the world to all love us and make us feel like we are doing a good job, we have to remember that every human's opinion and feelings are all molded and shaped through their own personal circumstances.  While circumstances do not define us, we can all agree they tend to lend focus to different areas for different people.  Which means there are absolutely no black and white parameters in which we can know how to make everyone happy.  Everyone is different, and we all hold different things close to our hearts.  What may be important to me just might be the least of your worries.  Did you know that Jesus didn't have the best approval ratings in his time?  He was not well liked.  Many people tried to make him look bad.  They called him a liar.  But did you know, He was the single, most significant thing to happen to the human race?  Even to those who hated him.


In my Bible study this morning, I had to answer some gut-wrenching questions which made me list what occupies my mind the most, what do I love, and what can ruin my day.  I really wanted to write the Sunday School answers because then I could feel a little better about myself.  No one wants to admit they can be shallow in that they seek approval or long to be significant, to make a difference, or to just be accepted.  Holy cow!  That's someone who seems pretty vain. The lesson was on worship.  As Christians, we tend to define worship by what goes on in the beginning of the church service each week.  But the true definition of worship [based on my google definition search] is the feeling or expression of adoration and reverence for a deity.  There were several other definitions which were all basically the same.  As the study went on, the author was sure to remind us that worship doesn't just happen to inside the walls of the church.  She said, "If you're breathing, you're worshiping." But the questions is...what is the object of our worship?

As I looked at my answers from the first page, it was clear that my worship isn't always directed at the one who thought I was good enough to send His son to die for me.  It was on the thoughts and approval of those who will fail me everyday, because like me, they are sinners and live in a broken, fallen world.  The trouble with trying to live up to everyone's expectations of me is that there are no clear, concise directions on what would make everyone happy.  You see, if I spent all of my energy focused on making my kids happy, it is highly likely that my husband will be left feeling very unhappy because they require completely opposite things from me.

The only way I will ever experience true joy and peace is to live in a state of worship of Jesus Christ.  The one who approved of me before I was ever created.  The one who thought enough of me to die for me while I was yet a sinner.  So on my absolute WORST, UGLY, DISAPPOINTING day, Jesus loves me.  I have surrendered my heart and life to Him, so my life must only serve to honor Him.

Now, where I go wrong sometimes is trying to do enough to make Him happy with me.  But that is a lie from the devil himself.  There is NOTHING, and I mean NOTHING I can do to earn His love.  He gave it freely.  The only requirement on my behalf is to surrender to His will, and live my life in a way that honors Him.  Sure, I screw it up everyday.  But I know His love never fails.

So how do I get away from these approval ratings?  God doesn't ask us to live a life to get amazing approval ratings from the world's perspective.  He doesn't even ask us to be significant, to make a difference, to win, to be on top, to be liked by everyone, to write the best blog, to have the most friends, and the list goes on and on.  He only asks one thing of us....to be OBEDIENT.  Obedient to accept Him as Lord and Savior over our lives, and obedient to each thing He calls us to.  No matter how big or how small.  You know how I know this?  This past week, God had laid the previous blog post on my heart to write.  I haven't written in so long, and truthfully just didn't feel up to it.  What is one stupid blog post about my own struggles going to do to make any difference?  So I finally decided to be obedient in a small step.  But let me tell you, the devil about made it impossible.  I was going to post it on Instagram and just share it.  But there wasn't enough room to write everything.  So as much as I hated to, I had to try to log on to the blog that I haven't even touched in 7 months.  I forgot the password, got locked out, only for my computer to freeze.  I may have hit the computer with a little extra pressure which then reset the battery.  I decided to quit.  It wasn't worth it.  But Rob reminded me that quitting was exactly what Satan wanted me to do.  I am not a quitter, and I often give the old devil more power and credit than he deserves.  So I continued on.  That insignificant little blog post lead several people to tell me how it encouraged them.  I had several facebook messages and such of people telling me that God had used my post to lift them up.  Listen, SaraBeth can't take any credit for that.  Because not only did I NOT want to write it, it seemed so small.  And who has time for the small things?  I want to be used in a big way.  But God took the insignificant and used it significantly in the lives of others.

So what is the point of all of this mumbling?  It is to encourage you {and me} to quit living your lives in hopes of garnering raving approval ratings.  Take all of that effort and energy, and start living a life in obedience to Jesus.  His gift of salvation is significant enough to save your life eternally.   He wants you to live life more abundantly {John 10:10 - The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.}  The world's opinion of you will quickly steal your joy.  It can destroy you.  Live that abundant life in Jesus.

Everything you do, do it with a heart of worship and obedience to King Jesus {Col 3:23-
And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;}.  Then and only then will you have the joy and peace you are searching for.  

Keep on keeping on.  Love Jesus, love people, and be obedient to the next step, no matter how big or small, He is calling you to take.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Waiting on the Lord

 



This young man has played football since he was four, sitting out only last season. That makes this his 10th season playing the game he loves so much.  Although his heart for football has always been bigger than life itself, he spent 9 seasons watching from the sidelines.  He always gave it his all at practices, knowing his size hindered him from an easy spot on the field.  Year after year, we went to the games, watching through tears as our boy had to watch his friends (some of whom got to start even their first year playing), live out his dream.  We would always encourage him to support his team, have a good attitude, and work even harder.  I NEVER, and I mean NEVER, heard him say a negative word about anyone getting to play.  He was always just grateful to be a part of the team.  It was like added family for him.  

When it finally seemed like it may have been his time, God called us to WV and to homeschool.  Both of which turned into a nightmare for Cade.  We watched our joyful, spunky young man turn into a slightly bitter and negative guy who was miserable with life.  Over and over, he reminded us that God may have called us to WV, but He didn't call Cade to WV.  As if things weren't hard enough, we added another sister to the family, and he was no longer the oldest.  Things couldn't get worse for him in his eyes. Zoe got to go to public school (state requirement for foster care), and Cade watched bitterly as he had to remain home.  I have only seen him in such a dark place once before...when Faith died.  My heart was broken for him.  

After much prayer, Rob and I decided to allow him to go to high school.  We felt like he and Zoe could keep an eye on one another, and he desperately wanted to play football.  He started summer workouts (6 am mornings in our house every day of summer), with an eager heart.  Mine was not so eager. I was TIRED!  I worried about him not knowing anyone, being small, and being disappointed once again.  I knew he couldn't take anymore disappointment in WV.  Every day, when we would pick him up, he was on cloud 9.  Even though he knew he wouldn't start, he was just grateful to have a chance to make friends, be a part of a team, and work towards being an active player his sophomore year.  We met the coaches, and I was immediately impressed with the care they showed Cade.  Cade never once felt like an outsider, but everyone, including the kids, made him feel a part of something he hadn't felt in a while.

As the summer plugged along, we continued to see Cade grow in confidence, work ethic, and gratefulness.  He was still continuing to deal with some bitterness about adding a sibling, which was hindering his walk with the Lord.  God allowed him to go to Snowbird with our youth group from FL.  We spoke with Tim, our youth pastor and dearest friend who has taught us so much, and he offered to spend some time with Cade.  That week, God showed him that he had to love his new sister, because Jesus loved us even when we didn't deserve it.  He came home renewed and with a different attitude.  As he returned to football, it was becoming more clear he was going to get a chance to play.  Second-string was a highlight for him.  He was ECSTATIC!  

School began, and he was too excited to start his freshman year.  He had made a ton of friends, and walked in the first day as if he had been here all of his life.  He was thriving!  He got added to the Varsity scout team, which gave him more practice time.  He shared with us that even though it was only "scout team", he saw it as an opportunity to grow, to learn, and to get better.  He was so grateful.  The JV team dresses out each Friday night for the Varsity games, and we watched as he cheered relentlessly for his new brothers on the field.  He was patiently waiting his turn on the field once JV games would start.  

The first JV game was scheduled for Labor Day.  Our family had already made plans to travel that weekend, because our schedules are so busy, we HAVE to make time to spend as a family.  However, the game interfered with our trip.  Cade made the decision to stay back with some special friends, so he could play in his game.  We made plans to leave TN early because there was no way I was missing that game!  We left Thursday morning for Pigeon Forge, only for Cade to call us late Thursday evening with news the game had been cancelled.  I was furious and heartbroken for him.  He had given up time with his family doing fun things, to reap the fruit of what he had been working so hard on.  We tried everything we could to get him to TN, but nothing was going to be possible.  I was mad...Cade was ok.  He said "Mom, it's ok.  I'll just stay here and rest."  I am so thankful for special people God has given us here who love our kids like their own.  They are a blessing!!  And his attitude spoke volumes to my bitter heart. 

Fast forward to last night.  We experienced a first in all the years of being Cade's parents.  We got to see our boy start on kick return, defense, and play off and on offense.  He made numerous tackles (mostly on kids twice his size), blocked 2 passes, and even ran the ball for 5 yards.  I couldn't have been more proud.  This is what he has dreamed of since he was a toddler.  While all of that was more than exciting for us and for him,  God spoke to me and showed me something I have been struggling with myself.  Often times, we have dreams.  We work so hard to see them come to fruition.  But many times, we have to sit on the sidelines of many seasons until it is our turn.  We still have work to do, to be prepared, to get stronger and more confident.  Sometimes we have to watch others live our dreams, and it is so easy to be mad, bitter, discouraged, and angry.  We quit because it is hard.  We become ungrateful for all that God is trying to teach us, and how He is trying to prepare us.  You see, last night wasn't about the fact that Cade had the greatest night of his life.  Yes it was awesome!!  But it was more about God's timing.  After all of those years of preparing Cade for his time to shine, God was teaching him and showing him how to be the best he could be when his time came.  Rob and I are having to learn that in our own lives in this season.  It seems like we are on the sidelines, waiting for our moment, but we have to be patient, listening to the Savior as He teaches us and prepares our hearts for the big game. 

This verse was in a devotion this morning and I thought it was fitting:
“Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass. Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; Do not fret— it only causes harm.”
Psalms 37:7-8 

We are learning to rest in the Lord.  And wait patiently for Him and His timing.  He knows best, and his timing and plans are perfect.  He knows what He is doing.  

My prayer is that while we are waiting, like Cade, we will learn to be grateful in all things, see every opportunity as a chance to grow in Jesus, and become more like Him.  Then when it is our turn to hit the field, we will glorify Him and make Him proud.  


Are you sitting on the sidelines?  Seek Jesus and be willing to play with your whole heart!  Even if it doesn't look like you think it should.  God is good, all the time!  Wait on the Lord and do NOT grow weary.  Due season is coming!

Isaiah 40:31 
31 But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

Galatians 6:9
And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.

 

Saturday, February 25, 2017

365 Days

Today marks one year since we pulled out of my mom's driveway and headed into the great unknown in which we now call home...West Virginia.  With any major life event, each anniversary brings a lot of reflection.  This has been one of the most challenging, yet fulfilling years of our lives. 
I have experienced a lot of personal growth this year, and while I have grown spiritually, I have also grown in other areas.  If you know me from my Florida days, you might find some of these pretty comical.  Here is a list of things that have changed about me this year:
  • I eat sandwiches!!  As a matter of fact, one of my most favorite places to eat is the Church Street Deli in Spencer.  The owners are fellow Floridians, and we have grown to love the food almost as much as the sweet people who own it.
  • I eat leftovers.  Leftovers are a staple in our lives now.  Before moving here, I would never DREAM of eating a leftover meal.  But we have learned to like them, and like them well.
  • I actually enjoy a hot dog!  Another WV staple is hot dogs with hot dog sauce.  Definitely one of my favorites.
  • My road rage has completely disappeared.  The lifestyle is so laid back here.  You just don't get in a hurry, and you learn take the time to enjoy the simple things.  When I'm back in Florida, I am the person everyone is honking at or giving finger of fellowship to.

On a more serious note, our family as a whole has had to learn to trust in Jesus wholeheartedly as we have navigated so much change in a short amount of time.  When we were called to WV, God had given us clear direction that our calling was to build and serve at a youth camp.  So we began the building process.  As soon as that stage was nearly complete, God called us away from that ministry.  You can read my previous post here for more details on the move.   The unknown can be so scary, but I'm thankful we serve an all-knowing God who sees the entire picture. 

It is a hard place to be when you  don't have one particular niche to fit into...a daily routine to give you security.  A specific ministry to belong to and hang your hat on.  But we have had to learn to find our security in the One who created us, called us here, and is orchestrating things we cannot see.  Our life looks NOTHING like what we had imagined when we pulled out of that driveway 365 days ago.  And that is ok.  There are days that we are frustrated and discouraged, but our Heavenly Father has surrounded us by some of the best friends we could ever imagine who lift us up and encourage us daily.  Full time ministry is one of the hardest things I have ever done.  Until you are really all in, it is easy to look at it and think "Wow!  It must be so nice to love on people all day long.  To make a difference in the lives of others.  To tell people about Jesus everyday."  Those things are all wonderful, but they come at a cost.  It has cost us our everyday routines, control of our financial security, our families back home, and even close friendships.  If we dwell on those things too long, the devil tries to convince us that we gave it all up for nothing.  But our faith is stronger than that.  Though it has been difficult at times, it has been overwhelmingly fulfilling. 

This year we have been able to spend more time as a family since we all work together and I homeschool some of the kids.  We have traveled many places and have gotten to see so many beautiful things that we would have never gotten to do.  We found a church that we absolutely love to serve in.  We are working with the teens, I have been playing the piano, and we have been working on a lot of outreach and missions projects.  Through a relationship at church, we are going to be able to work with a local wilderness camp this summer in several different capacities.  The everyday stress is no where near what it was when we were spending as much as we were making at our jobs.  We have learned to live a more simple life, which makes us see and enjoy what is most important...our relationship with Jesus Christ and with each other.  One of the hardest things for us to do was to leave my family back home.  In a way that only God can do, He provided the most wonderful people who we call family.  It feels just as if we were home.  We eat together, go to church together, and spend time together.  A piece of my heart that was left at home has started to mend.  While no one will ever replace my family in my life, I feel doubly blessed to have two families who love us unconditionally. 

The addition of Zoe to our family has been a wonderful gift.  Even if she was the only reason God called us here, it was worth every second of it.  I'm not going to lie and say that the transition of adding another child to the family has been a breeze, but I will tell you God is knitting our family together and I couldn't be more honored to be used by Him in such a way.  Cade, SaraGrace and Emmy are amazing as always.  They are the real human heroes of our ministry.  You never realize what impact full time ministry has on the children, but I can assure you it isn't easy on them.  They often talk about how much they miss their lives in Florida, but they all understand that God has called us all to serve Him in WV in this season.  I am so incredibly proud to be the mom of all 5 of my wonderful children.  Holly is still with us here and taking classes at Glenville State College.  She is an asset to us, especially in the areas of homeschool and babysitting.

So what does our ministry look like at this moment in time?  We are still forging ahead with opportunities as they arise.  We know our calling is to the people of WV, and has taken many shapes and forms besides youth camp.  We are learning to love through hurt and disappointment.  We are learning to always point people to Jesus, instead of our own personal opinions and feelings.  We are learning that we cannot survive in ministry if we aren't on our knees in prayer asking for wisdom, direction, strength, and encouragement to do whatever He has for us to do each day.  We are learning to trust God in each day to provide opportunities to love and honor Him, and to share that love with those around us.  We find ourselves in the role of encourager more than anything.  We have had many opportunities to love on young couples and families, and encourage them through some tough seasons of their own.  We are currently working with our church in some outreach programs and the teen classes, working with the wilderness camp on some construction projects (and getting ready to help in some fundraising for them), raising our family, ministering to our new daughter who just turned 16, loving on our college student as she navigates the next steps in her adult life, and we are always available to lend a helping hand to anyone who has a need.  God has truly blessed us more than we could ever imagine.

If you know the story of our daughter, Faith, then you know that one of our favorite verses is Jeremiah 29:11.  "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future."  That verse, and many others got us through the darkest days of our lives.  His promise for us and our family hasn't changed.  He has great plans, and we are patiently trusting and obeying Him in each step.  Did you know He has great plans for you, too?  My prayer is that you know Jesus as your Savior, so that you may have the hope and the future He has planned for you.

Here are some pictures of our year in WV.  We have made so many memories, and are looking forward to many more here.



Our first day here-
 
 
Our first Sunday 

 
Easter 2016

 
The Dam

 
Ace Adventure Water Park

 
Summersville Lake

 
Flood Relief
 
 
Cade's 13th Birthday

 
 
SaraGrace's 9th Birthday
 
 
First Day of Homeschool


 
Family Pizza Night at Pizzas and Cream

 
Family Fun Day at Butcher Farms

 
Trick or Treat

 
Emmy's 4th Birthday

 
Picking out our very first real Christmas Tree

 
Christmas at home with my family
 
 
Blackwater Falls

 
Zoe's 16th Birthday



Sunday, December 18, 2016

Seasons of Change

One of the things we have grown to love about living in WV is the changing of seasons.  Being a Florida girl all my life, I have always only known one season- HOT!  When we first moved here, winter was coming to a close.  There was a slight dusting of snow on the ground, but warmer, greener days soon followed.  Spring brought so many wild animals and their babies.  That was so cool for us to see baby deer just walking along the side of the road.  Summer came and went, and then my favorite, fall, arrived.  Fall has been my favorite season here in WV by far.  The beautiful, colorful leaves transport you to a different world.  The crisp air and small town festivals create memories that will last a lifetime.  Now, we are headed straight into our first real winter.  We are all so excited, although the locals always warn our excitement will be short-lived.

Seasons come with mixed emotions.  You find yourself excited for the new season to begin.  A new  season means new adventures, new experiences, and a fresh start.  But it also means that you leave behind the passing season with only lessons learned and memories made.  I know for me, I am always a little excited mixed with a little sadness because I know it will be several seasons more before I'm back to where I'm at. 

This is where our family is in ministry.  When we moved up here in February, we were sad to close a chapter at home in Florida, but oh so excited for a new beginning.  We had prayed for so long for God to show us where He wanted us and what He wanted us to do.  We came up here with so much confidence, with absolutely no doubt we were smack dab in the middle of His will for us.  This past year, we have worked tirelessly to build a ministry at Eagle Ranch.  We saw God move huge mountains.  We raised almost $80,000, oversaw the building of a bunk house, kitchen, and bath house, hosted mission teams, held events, and saw people come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.  These last few months, God has steered  the board at Eagle Ranch and the Vaughn family in two different directions.  After much prayer, Rob and I resigned from this ministry.  This was a tough decision, but God has been in it from the start.  If I'm being honest, it is hard to walk away from something that you have poured your heart and soul into.  Our entire family has sacrificed for us to be here and work in this ministry.  But it has not been in vain.  While our hearts are heavy, we know that we are right where God intends for us to be in this next season.  My flesh can begin to worry that people will see us as a failure.  But I know that God doesn't make mistakes, and He has a plan.  We, personally, cannot make decisions for other people, and we have to be obedient to the Lord.  For a moment, I might have felt like we made a huge mistake by coming up here.  But now I look back at the stepping stone Eagle Ranch has been for us.  Not only have we learned SOOOOOOO much, but we have gained a daughter.  Foster/adoption was not in any of our plans, but it was definitely in the Savior's plans.  We have been incredibly blessed by the addition of Zoe to our family.  It has been amazing to watch our family open their hearts to this precious young lady; to be the hands and feet of Jesus.  We have also been so blessed to have Holly as a part of our family here.  She has been a huge help to us, and there are no words to say what a blessing she is to us.  We have been blessed with a home with the most wonderful neighbors, who we call family.  God has used them to fill a huge void in our lives.  My kids walk up the hill, stay the night (several nights a week), we eat family dinners together, and most of all, they love us in all of our craziness.  God is truly soooooo incredibly good to us.

So what is next for us?  We are currently closing out the year with Eagle Ranch to help with tax forms and such.  God is opening a few doors right here in WV, and we are patiently waiting for His direction.  We had a promising meeting last week, and we hope to have more concrete details after the first of the year.  In the mean time, we have been asked to take over the teen class at our church and build a youth program.  We are so super excited about that!  We will also continue to do mission work as the opportunities arise, and love all of those around us like Jesus loves us.  For those of you who have supported us through Eagle Ranch, thank you from the bottom of our hearts.  If you would like to continue to support us in our ministry, Sardis Baptist Church is handling all of our mission support.  They are an amazing church family that is a tremendous blessing and encouragement to us.

If you are one of our FL friends and family, we will be heading home Tuesday to spend Christmas and New Years with our families.  I am looking forward to some much needed time to refresh and remember why we do what we do. 

I keep going back to this passage, and remembering that God knows this season.  He even knows what is going to happen in the next.  I am choosing to rest in His presence and His peace, and our hearts desire is that He will be honored and glorified in all that we say and do.


Ecclesiastes 3King James Version (KJV)
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

Are you in a tough season of life?  Do you know who holds your tomorrow?  This Christmas, the best gift you could give yourself is to accept the gift of salvation.  This gift was paid for, in full, on the cross by Jesus Christ.  He loves you so much that He gave His life for you.  When the seasons get tough, He is tougher.  He wants you this Christmas.  He wants you to have JOY, PEACE, and most of all, He wants to give you the gift of everlasting life in heaven with him.

1 Corinthians 15: 3-4
For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!