Sunday, October 15, 2017

Goodness, Mercy and Coming Home

Life is like a puzzle - each piece fitting together perfectly to form a beautiful picture. And when we trust God with our journey through life, He fits each piece of the puzzle together to form something more beautiful than we could ever imagine.
The problem, though, is that each piece of the puzzle in itself does not make sense. Some pieces are blank - just a solid color (representing seasons of emptiness and loneliness - wondering where God is); some pieces are full of beautiful colors (representing seasons of experiencing the blessing of God, joy, and fruitfulness); some pieces are ugly (representing seasons of chaos, questioning, and confusion). But each piece is necessary, though, to make the puzzle complete.
And when it comes to the puzzle of life, we need to have faith that the God who created us will sustain us. He is good, all the time, and His mercy is with us continually - helping us and guiding us through each stage. Even when it's confusing, He can be trusted. 
Today, I'd like to share with you some of the puzzle pieces in my life's journey. Trust me, it has definitely been a faith walk. Hang with me.
For the first 15 years of my adult life, I was a stay-at-home mom. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of loving, caring for, and teaching my 5 children (4 sons and a daughter). Then, 24 years ago, my world crumbled and I found myself as a single mama needing to provide for children ranging in age from 15 years old to a baby girl. I needed a job. 
I knew that I would enjoy retail, so I went to work for Foley's (later to become Macy's) in Arlington, TX. I worked there for 3 years.
This was my first job outside of the home, and I worked for minimum wage. The days were long and exhausting, but I enjoyed it. This is where I learned how to provide exceptional customer service. And even though my heart longed to be home with my children, God helped me. His goodness and mercy helped me each and every day.
One day a customer recognized my heart and compassion for people. (God gave her insight into my soul that day, and I believe He sent her into the store to encourage me in my next career steps.) She suggested that I go to nursing school. My heart leapt as that had been a heart desire from childhood. I knew that with 5 children at home, though, going to school for 4 years was impossible. But becoming a medical assistant was not.
So I enrolled in Bryan Institute as a full time student to make the dream come true and continued working at Foley's part time.
I truly loved going to school. And I knew that God could not only use my heart in the medical field, but working a job in the medical field would help provide a better income to take care of my family. I was 38 years old with 5 children at home, and I was in class with 18, 19 and 20 year olds. I asked God to help me graduate as valedictorian, and He honored that request. What a miracle! Between being a mom, working, going to school, and studying, I slept about 2-3 hours a night. But God helped me, and His goodness and mercy sustained me.
This is a picture of what my children looked like when I graduated.

Danny-18; Jason-15; David-12; Chris-6; Heidi-3. Adorable, right?

After graduating, I worked in a family practice clinic with both front and back office responsibilities as well as working part time in an ob/gyn office. During that time, I also learned medical transcription as I thought doing so would help provide additional income working from home. I worked in both clinics for 2 years. Although I loved working in the medical field, I still longed to be with my children, especially my 2 youngest.
So, I birthed a lower elementary school under the umbrella of Gateway Institute, an advanced school of grades 7-12. (It seems that I've been a dreamer and a visionary for quite some time!)

Here, I taught reading, writing and basic skills to children in grades K-3. I had a heart for children and had also desired to be a teacher since childhood. (Yes, I wanted to be both a nurse AND a teacher!)
I was privileged to spend the next 3 years with these babies (especially my 2 youngest children, Chris and Heidi). While teaching at Gateway, I continued doing medical transcription from home every night. (And yes, I still slept only about 2-3 hours a night.) And even though it was hard, I wouldn't trade those years for anything. God's goodness and mercy helped me each and every day.
And then the biggest surprise of my life happened.
In August, 2000, I was given the opportunity to work at the Assemblies of God National Offices in an administrative role in the National Youth Department. What an incredible dream come true, even though it was completely unexpected.
So, we packed up and left everything we had ever known as a family to follow after God's plan for us and moved from Dallas, TX to Springfield, MO.
Assemblies of God National Leadership and Resource Center (NLRC), Springfield, MO
While I had never served in an administrative capacity up to that point, God gave me an incredible supervisor who believed in me and allowed me to learn and grow - professionally, personally and spiritually. I spent 17 years working in 3 different offices. Those years were amazing. I met and served people from all over the world, and my time there was wonderful.
And, because I still needed to provide for the needs of my children, I worked part time at Macy's for 12 years after moving to Springfield.
Once again, even though the days were long and it was hard, God's goodness and mercy helped me.
And then we arrive at my journey of the past 4 months - leaving the safety and security of life as I had known it working in Springfield and moving to Chicago to be near my children and grandchildren - and then the move back to Springfield just a few short weeks later. It all seemed so crazy and confusing, but I was happy to be home. And many of you have asked what I am doing now.
I am happy to tell you that I began working for Mercy Hospital back in August.
What an incredible blessing and gift from God! God has placed me in a clinic where my compassion for people is used fully every day.  
It seems that God has taken me on a 24-year journey and has brought me full-circle. God has taken everything I've learned - customer service skills from working retail at Macy's, medical assisting skills learned from the degree earned as well as working in clinics, teaching skills learned while working at Gateway Institute, and administrative skills learned while working at the Assemblies of God National Offices - and has married those skills with my personality and heart for people into a job, a ministry, for me in this season of life. And to top it off, I've always tried to extend mercy to everyone I meet, and now I'm working for MERCY. How cool is that?
And to top it off, last weekend I shared my vision for Hearts and Pearls Ministries as I entered the contest with Chip Gaines of HGTV's "Fixer Upper." Goodness, Mercy, and Coming Home! 
While I was not selected as a finalist in the competition, I am not discouraged at all. I did the hard part of gathering up my courage, doing the video, writing it down and getting it out there for the world to see. Someone (or "someone's") will catch the vision and potential of this ministry and will latch on to it. I believe that God will provide for the birthing of this dream to become a reality. Many hearts across our world need to be mended, families healed, physical needs met, and freedom and dignity restored. I am the dreamer, the voice of the wounded - God will get the glory. God wants to show his goodness and mercy to all hurting families, especially single mamas and their children - and He wants to turn hearts toward home.
In the same way that God has healed me and my family and has done mighty miracles for us, He can do the same for multiplied hundreds of other families. I would love for you to join me in praying for, investing in, and reaching those hurting families.
In spite of all the questions that were going on in me for the past several months/years, I believe that each experience has been a piece of the puzzle for my life - for a beautiful life full of grace, hope, goodness and mercy. And even though life has zigged and zagged, has been messy and hasn't looked very beautiful, when God fits all the pieces together it looks something like this:
God's plans are to prosper us and not harm us - he wants to give us a hope and a future; to show us His love now until we are home with Him in Heaven.
And so, friends, thank you for letting me share some of the pieces of the puzzle of my life with you today. Whether we are young or old, it's encouraging to know that God truly is fitting every experience - every puzzle piece, no matter how confusing - together to make a beautiful life. I'm so thankful that in each season, God's Goodness and Mercy follows us all the days of our life until He takes us Home. If you also are in a season of confusion, wondering how all the pieces of your life are going to fit together and make sense, just hold on and trust that God who knows you best and loves you most is at work behind the scenes desiring to give you a prosperous life. He is the Master Puzzle Solver.
Thank you for your love, prayers, support and encouragement; your friendship means the world to me. And thank you for continuing to pray for Hearts and Pearls Ministries. The best is yet to come!
With a heart of love and gratitude,
May The Lord bless you and protect you.
May The Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.
May The Lord show you His favor and give you His peace.

Hearts and Pearls Ministries - Serving families with hope and love.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Hearts and Pearls

Hello, my dear friends. I am alive and well!
Usually when I am quiet, it means things are not going well and I've gone into hibernation as I process through whatever is going on. That is not the case, though, this time. I have been adjusting to a new job while also quietly working on a project that I'd like to tell you about today. (I promise, within the next week or so I'll update you on the events of the past several weeks. It's all good.)
Today, I entered a contest. A contest that could potentially launch my dream - my vision to help single mamas in a way that is greater than anything I could ever possibly do on my own.
Chip Gaines of Fixer Upper is sponsoring a contest where he is asking for people to share their dreams - however big or small. Video submissions as well as written plans about the dreams are to be submitted for Chip's review. He will pick the semifinalists this Tuesday, October 10, and will fly them to Waco, TX next weekend where he will choose two winners. He will make a one-time investment in the dreams of the two finalists. Just as people believed in him in his early years of goals and dreams, Chip is now passionate about believing in and investing in the dreams of others.
So today I took another bold leap of faith, completely left my comfort zone, and submitted my dream. I want to launch Hearts and Pearls Ministries - Serving families with hope and love. My prayer is that we will turn our hearts to hurting families and serve them in tangible ways by meeting their physical needs, and watch as beautiful pearls are formed as God heals the pain of broken hearts and lives.
I have hinted about this throughout my blog posts, but today I am making my vision public. Hearts and Pearls Ministries will be the parent foundation for other branches of ministry to be formed and grow. My heartbeat for this entire vision is to help single mamas and their children, especially those who are fleeing abusive relationships.
Pearls from a Mom's Heart is the blog segment of Hearts and Pearls - a place where faith stories, both past and present, can be shared to help inspire faith in God as well as encourage hurting hearts.
Hearts and Pearls Homes will help provide homes for single mamas. This has been a burning desire of mine now for many years. Initially, I'd like to provide a home for a single mama who has limited means of paying a mortgage or rent. I dream of purchasing and/or building homes scattered throughout cities across America that have been funded through Hearts and Pearls Ministries. I plan to partner with local churches, individuals and businesses in fundraising efforts, and Hearts and Pearls will have no boundaries. The long range goal is to build small communities of affordable, energy-efficient homes where single mamas will feel safe and can live lives of freedom and dignity.
While my heart is very tender toward single mamas, I also recognize the tremendous blessing we have with older individuals who may be lonely - grandparents and empty-nesters. I'd like to partner young single mamas and their children with older families who can help love and mentor these young families. The wisdom gained from experience (pearls) can be an invaluable source of healing to the hearts of families who are hurting and broken. God puts the lonely in families - what a beautiful picture this could be of pairing two generations together in communities where individual families as well as shared space could be developed. Community gardens could be planned as well as ultimately developing retail space (such as a restaurant or day care) that would provide family bonding as well as income.   
Hearts and Pearls Meals will help provide food to families, especially those who are most desperate.
Hearts and Pearls Counseling will help provide Bible-based counseling to help bring health and freedom to those suffering from the trauma of broken and abusive relationships.
And with all of these plans, the most important focus of Hearts and Pearls Ministries is to understand and recognize that relationship with Jesus is the foundation of everything we will do. God is the Healer of broken hearts and lives, and He is the Restorer of families. While my intention is to help serve physical needs, the true miracle is a life saved and changed by God.
Why is my burden so great, and why is my vision so expansive? Because I am the recipient of this kind of love and ministry. 
24 years ago as a single mama with 5 children ranging in ages from 15 yrs to a young infant, I had absolutely no idea how I was going to make it in any way - physically, financially, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. I was a mess, and it was all so overwhelming. I didn't know where to start except to simply trust that Jesus was in control. I will get into the details of my story in the coming weeks, but for now I just want to say that God did a miracle! He healed me; he healed my children. We are a walking testimony of His grace and His healing power.
But God also used people who reached out in love to help us. No matter how much I worked, especially in those early years, there was never enough money to cover all of our household expenses. But God always came through with miraculous provision! Over and over, year after year, need after need, families in my church reached out and helped us in tangible ways. They helped pay the mortgage; they remodeled our home in desperate need of repair; they brought us food; they invited us over for meals and fun; they helped provide clothing for children who outgrew their clothes continually; they listened, prayed, laughed, cried, comforted, and counseled us as often as was needed. This went on for years - until we could stand on our own. And although I could never repay these families for everything they did for us, I did make them a promise. I promised that I would help other single mamas in the same way that they helped me.
And so, it's my turn. You can view the link below to see my video submission to Chip Gaines. Please pray that God will use whatever means He chooses to launch Hearts and Pearls Ministries. May history be rewritten and the lives of multiplied hundreds of families be eternally changed forever - for generations to come.
Thank you once again for your love, support and encouragement. I don't know where my life would be without friends like you. You are my heart!
With a heart full of love and gratitude,

May The Lord bless you and protect you.
May The Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.
May The Lord show you His favor and give you His peace.
One tiny, precious pearl among many-the product of pain. Conceived through irritation, born of adversity, nursed by adjustment.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Bosom Buddies and the Gift of Grace

Colton's Steakhouse, comfort food at its finest.
"Meet me at Colton's for lunch. Get started on the peanuts, and I'll be there soon." This sweet invitation a few days ago from a dear friend, a bosom buddy, was honey to my soul.

She had no idea.
Even though we had spent time talking on the phone a few days prior to our lunch date, she had no idea how much I was really hurting. She had no idea that I hadn't really eaten much for days, and that even the thought of food made me nauseous. As I stared at the bucket of peanuts on the table, I tried so hard not to let the tears fall.
And then she walked up to the table.
My dear friend of 16 years who knows me so well smiled as she gave me the warmest hug ever, and it was all over. The tears came. My thoughts and fears came bubbling up out of my heart in words that I could only say to a friend who I knew accepted me. She allowed me to voice my doubts, fears and questions about my future without judgment. She offered no easy solutions, no "this is what I think you should do, Teresa." Nope. She just listened. With warmth, love, compassion, trust, and grace. Because that's what bosom buddies do . . . they believe in us no matter what, and extend to us unconditional love and grace. By the end of the meal, I felt so much better. I was renewed and strengthened once again in my faith. Sometimes a meal with those we love does as much to feed our soul as it does to nourish our body.
How incredibly thankful I am for the wonderful friends God has blessed me with over the years. Friends who have been with me through the highs and lows of life, the joys and sorrows, the blessings and the losses, the victories and the defeats. Close friends . . . bosom buddies. Those who continually point me to Jesus in every season of life. I am reminded over and over each day that we need one another.
We need to have friends.
And we need to be a friend.
We need friends who encourage us and extend grace to us during times of testing and questioning.
And we need to be the kind of friend who encourages others and extends grace also.
Because everyone has a story, a struggle, a burden that is too heavy to carry, and everyone needs grace.
The incredible gift of grace. Where would we be without it?

Grace is the free and unmerited favor of God and is demonstrated by forgiveness and salvation.
Grace is the love and kindness of God shown to all of us.
Grace is love that cares and stoops and rescues.
Grace is extravagant demonstrations of care and favor.
Grace is most needed and best understood in the midst of suffering and brokenness.
Grace transforms our desires, motivations and behavior.
Grace brings life and strengthens the heart.
Grace is unconditional love.
How thankful I am for the love and grace of God!
God's grace has been with me and my family every day and in every circumstance over the years. His grace has always been there in every time of need. His grace has restored and strengthened each one of us in unimaginable ways. We are a picture of God's healing power and His Amazing Grace. And even when things don't make sense, we have learned to rest in the grace of God.
When I began this blog journey 2 months ago, I really had no idea the direction it would take. I had topics and titles in mind that I wanted to explore. I wanted to tell the stories of God's grace and faithfulness in our family for my children and grandchildren to read and remember. I wanted to brag on God, and I wanted to have it written down for all to see. And my hope and prayer was that anyone reading about these "pearls" - these stories of pain becoming beauty - would be encouraged and inspired in their own life situations. I truly did not expect this to become a daily/weekly journal of my current life events. And I certainly never expected to be writing about the twists and turns and questions and confusion of the past couple of months. But you know what?
I think this is exactly what the Lord had in mind. Through each season of life, we all have unexpected opportunities to experience the gift of God's grace. And the gift of friendship. We need both.
So . . . kids, grandkids, great-grandkids, family, friends near and far/old and new, please be encouraged today with this post no matter your age. Please, be a friend - a true friend. The friends that God brings into your life are gifts - they need you and you need them. You will have a few bosom buddies in your life - treasure them.
Take them to lunch.
Have fun.
Listen with your heart.
Be the world's biggest encourager. Use words.
Care and stoop and rescue.
Be honest and loyal.
Love unconditionally.
Extravagantly demonstrate your care for them.
Pray with them and for them.
Accept the grace of God for yourself.
And then extend the gift of grace to all you meet.
And so, my precious friends, because of your love, acceptance, support and encouragement, I consider myself to be one very rich lady! You are my heart. Thank you once again for your prayers.
Much love,
May The Lord bless you and protect you.
May The Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.
May The Lord show you His favor and give you His peace.
God's grace is enough, even in our weakness. Beautiful pearls are in the making.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Stuttering, Hiccups, and Swirling Waters

Yes, I believe every word of this scripture. It has been a lifeline of hope for me during my lifetime, especially in recent weeks.
Faith. The foundation of our walk with God begins with faith. And hope. And trust. Even when circumstances in life shake us to our very core . . . we cling to the Lord, trusting that He has everything under control.
Moses and I have become best buddies in the last couple of months. I feel like I understand him a little better than I did previously. Moses was a man who was selflessly devoted to the Lord, but he knew his weaknesses. He struggled with anger. He knew that God was going to use him to deliver the children of Israel out of bondage, but he didn't know how. He felt insecure and inadequate. He stuttered. He asked God to choose someone else.
How did Moses go from that to standing before Pharaoh and exclaiming boldly, 
"Let my people go!" No stuttering there!
And then to this at the parting of the Red Sea . . .   

"Fear not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord which He will show you today."
Again, no stuttering. Moses, knowing himself all too well and understanding his weaknesses, took hold of the mighty hand of God and trusted Him. He took God at his word and realized that God was doing the delivering. Moses did not part the waters, God did. Moses was His servant. And God strengthened him and used him.
While I don't suffer with a speech impediment, I do realize that sometimes in life there are hiccups. And it's not the end of the world. Hiccups slow down our ability to talk and interfere with us being able to communicate clearly, but - not to worry - our full voice of clarity and confidence will return.
As I tried to explain in my last post, the past 4 years have been incredibly difficult for me. As I have struggled to know the will of God in my life, I have been "hiccupping" all over the place.
"God, I miss my kids and my grandbabies."
"God, should I move to Chicago?"
"God, should I stay in Springfield?"
"God, should I get a new job?"
"God, I don't know what to do."
"God, I'm so confused."
"God, please just tell me what to do and I'll do it."
And guess what? God was silent. God was never far, but He was silent.
And I just figured it out 2 weeks ago. God was asking me what I wanted to do.
I've always had a tender heart regarding the things of the Lord, and I just wanted Him to give me clear direction as to what I was to do. And all along, God was asking me. In the same way that I want my adult children to be happy, I can't tell them what to do in life anymore. They have to figure it out for themselves. They have to hear God's voice for themselves. And many times, God gives us choices.
I went to Chicago to be near some of my children and grandchildren as well as to help my son with his new church plant. Without going into much detail, the job that I took in Chicago did not turn out exactly as it was presented to me. Working long hours, working every weekend (every weekend), and not at all the pay that I expected. So, I would never see my kids. I would not be able to help with the church. And the most practical aspect of all, there is absolutely no way I would ever be able to live on the income I most likely would earn. This was quite a shock to say the least. So, on a very real level, I need to live. Also, I simply know that I don't belong in Chicago. Staying there longer will not change this simple fact. "Teresa, what do you want to do?" God knew all along.
I belong in Springfield. And I'm not stuttering or hiccupping anymore. My voice is clear and strong for the first time in years. This is where I want to birth the dreams and plans I believe are from God. These dreams are my Promised Land.
I've learned that our journey to the Promised Land is not simply a destination, a geographical location . . . it's a destiny, a calling. God wants to fulfill His purpose in our lives no matter what turns we take in life, and He will always put us back on track. And while it may look like we're at a dead end road, a Red Sea scenario, I do believe that God is swirling the waters. He wants to part the seas and do whatever miracles need to take place in our lives to bring about deliverance. For us individually, and for our families.
Probably one of the hardest things for me during this time is that I don't feel very "courageous" or full of faith. But I'm learning that this is exactly what faith looks like - sometimes spectacular and amazing, sometimes a little messy and confusing. It's a journey. It's the "confidence in what we hope for and the assurance of what we don't see." My theme song for the past 2 weeks has been an old song by Andrae Crouch, "Through It All."
I've had many tears and sorrows,
I've had questions for tomorrow,
there's been times I didn't know right from wrong.
But in every situation,
God gave me blessed consolation,
that my trials come to only make me strong.
Through it all,
through it all,
I've learned to trust in Jesus,
I've learned to trust in God.
Through it all,
through it all,
I've learned to depend upon His Word.
I've been to lots of places,
I've seen a lot of faces,
there's been times I felt so all alone.
But in my lonely hours,
yes, those precious lonely hours,
Jesus lets me know that I was His own.
Through it all,
through it all,
I've learned to trust in Jesus,
I've learned to trust in God.

I'm holding on tightly to the hand of God, keeping my eyes on Jesus, and simply saying, "God, through it all, I trust You." I know that one day all this will make sense.
And so, dear friends, this is the update on my life as God continues to make pearls in this very difficult, emotional, and humbling time of life. I pray that if any of you are also going through similar journeys, you will be encouraged that you're not alone. God is helping all of us in each stage of life - through the stuttering and hiccupping, the swirling waters, and the parting of each Red Sea. We're on our way to the Promised Land.
Thank you so much for reading and for the outpouring of love, support and encouragement. Your prayers and friendship mean the world to me. As always, you are my heart.
With much love and a heart of gratitude,
May The Lord bless you and protect you.
May The Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.
May The Lord show you His favor and give you His peace.
One tiny, precious pearl among many-the product of pain. Conceived through irritation, born of adversity, nursed by adjustment.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Grandma Moses in Labor

Young Teresa 7 months pregnant with firstborn, Danny
Yes, dear friends, I'm alive. I apologize for my silence the past 3 weeks, but I've been in labor. 
I've been laboring to bring forth the new life, vision and purpose God has ordained for me. And it has been harder than hard.
Please journey with me as I take a little side road and tell you the story about my labor and birth of my firstborn son, Danny. Trust me, this will make sense - just stick with me for a moment.
When I first found out that I was pregnant with Danny, I cried. Not because I didn't want him - actually, quite the opposite! I dearly wanted a house full of children and I was thrilled that God had quickly answered one of the deepest desires of my heart. I cried because I was scared.  What does a 19 year old girl know about raising kids?

I soon got over my fear and began preparing for pregnancy, labor and delivery. I truly loved being pregnant. I was young, strong and healthy. As you can see from the photo above, I really only had a belly for about 2 months. Somehow I instinctively knew that I would love my child and care for him well, but I was super afraid of the actual delivery. Even back in the 1970's, there were so many birth options to consider that it made my head spin. All I knew was that I wanted the best possible start in life for my precious little baby. Long story short, we chose to have Danny in a birthing center with a midwife. No sterile environment, no bright lights, no epidural, no invasive/unnecessary procedures - just a gentle atmosphere to welcome Danny into my loving arms
But there was a hospital nearby . . . just in case.

I went into labor on a Friday night and we headed to the birthing center. After 24 hours of very hard labor with very little progress and a baby who was starting to show signs of stress, we went to the hospital. 7 hours later, with the help of Pitocin, forceps and skilled doctors and nurses, Danny was safely delivered into this world. What a joy! Danny was a tiny little baby weighing in at only 6 lbs. 12 oz. I learned then that my body did not have the ability to carry and deliver 10 pound babies. And there is no shame in that - it's how I'm built.

To save the life of my child (and myself), there was a necessary change in birth plans.
So now . . . back to me. 38 years later and I am laboring to bring forth new life again.
3 weeks ago I moved to Chicago to begin this next chapter of my life. "Grandma Moses stepping out" into the unknown, trusting God to part the waters for me and to lead, guide, and provide. Mama T wanting to be near my children, grandchildren, and to help with the launch of my son's new church plant, VIVE Church Chicago next September. Well, dear friends, I have been miserable.
That's right. Miserable.
The very hardest part of labor is transition, the time when a laboring mama wants to give up. And this transition in life for me has been unbearably, excruciatingly painful. Please, just hook me up to the epidural! I have cried more tears in the past 3 weeks than I have in the past 3 years. I have doubted everything.
What have I done?
Did I just make the biggest mistake of my life?
How am I going to make it?
Where's my faith?
God, what am I going to do?
My kids are watching; what will they think?
How do I tell my friends?
People will think I'm indecisive and crazy.
I'm so embarrassed.
I'm never, ever, ever, never going to fit in here.
I want to go home.
From day one I have felt out of place in Chicago. I came here for all the wonderful reasons stated above, but I also came here to find myself. What I want out of life. To birth the next chapter in the life of Teresa. Not just MamaT/GrandMama-T, but Teresa.
I think I've been in the throws of a pretty intense, pretty serious 4-year "Mid-Life/Empty Nest" crisis. For 4 years now, I have been agonizing over the loneliness I have felt being away from my 5 children, and now my 5 grandchildren. I have just wanted to be near them again. I have questioned daily, "Should I move to Chicago?" After all, it makes sense that if I'm in Chicago living near some of my children, and work together with them in ministry, then it'll be easy to go visit the other children and grandchildren during the year. Right? So, I made the jump. And even though I have been miserable and have questioned whether or not I hear God's voice at all, I'm glad I did it. And here's why.
Because I found Teresa.
Silly me.
I want to dance again.
For the health and safety of me and my future vision, there is a change in birth plans. While God allowed me to labor for a while, I won't be having my "baby" in Chicago.
I'm going back home to Springfield, MO.
I don't feel like I made a mistake in moving to Chicago, and I have no regrets. Because now I know.
Now I know that I don't belong in Chicago. I could stay there for 100 years, and I'll never fit in. I have wrestled with this for 4 years, and now it's settled. I belong in Springfield. I would never have known this had I not tried. I figured it out, and I have my answer. And I finally have peace regarding where "home" is for Teresa. It's Springfield.
And yes, I am still laboring over this new phase, this new child, in my life, and I have many questions. But I do know this: I am not designed to give birth to one 10 pound child - I am built to give life to several 6 and 7 pound children. And there's no shame in that. It's how I'm built. 
There is a grace on my life to continue to write. My prayer is that I will make many new friends and that this will grow and give me the ability to help many people in need. I still desire to birth ministries that will help provide shelter, food, clothing, and encouragement for families and single mamas - in Springfield, Chicago, and beyond. While I may not be involved in the capacity that I thought I would be with VIVE Church, I still desire to help in any and every way available. May God take my heart and vision and use them in ways I have never dreamed possible.
So, there it is. My heart splattered all over this post. More pearls in the making. Thank you for reading and for allowing me to share my journey openly and honestly. Thank you for your friendship. And mostly, thank your for your encouragement, support and prayers. You mean the world to me. My plan is to move back to Springfield within the next 2 weeks. I appreciate your prayers as I settle back into my home and begin searching for a new job. Please pray that God will order my steps and lead me to a job that is deeply rewarding and will use my heart, gifts and talents fully. I will keep you posted.
Once again, you are my heart.
Much love,
May The Lord bless you and protect you.
May The Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.
May The Lord show you His favor and give you His peace.
One tiny, precious pearl among many-the product of pain. Conceived through irritation, born of adversity, nursed by adjustment.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Grandma Moses Steps Out

Moses parting the Red Sea
From the beginning of his life to the end, Moses was a man of faith. God had a plan for him that was much bigger than he could have ever imagined.
Let's take a quick look at the life of Moses.
Moses was born at a time when the children of Israel were living in slavery in Egypt. Pharaoh was so threatened by the growing numbers of Israelites that he put out an order to have all the male babies killed. Moses' mother put him in a basket in the river where he was found by the daughter of Pharaoh. Pharaoh's daughter raised him as her own in Egypt. But that did not change the fact that Moses was a Hebrew.
Fast forward 40 years. Again, 40 years - a time of testing followed by a period of blessing. God heard the cries of His people under Egyptian bondage and told Moses that he would be the one to lead them out of captivity into a Promised Land - a land flowing with milk and honey. Moses felt completely inadequate and told God that he was slow of speech and tongue. God took what was in Moses' hand, his staff, and his mouth - God would use both. Moses needed to obey God and have faith - to trust Him even in his weaknesses.
Moses went to Pharaoh and asked that he set the children of Israel free. And of course, Pharaoh did not. Even after God sent 10 plagues to Egypt, Pharaoh's heart never softened. The final plague though, the death of all Egypt's firstborn, broke Pharaoh enough that he agreed to let the Israelites go. But of course, once again, Pharaoh changed his mind and pursued them with his entire army to bring them back. The Israelites were stuck at the shores of the Red Sea and had nowhere to go. If they went forward, they would drown in the Red Sea. If they went back, they would be captured by the Egyptian army. The only thing that would save them was a miracle from God.
Moses stepped up in the middle of a hopeless situation and told the Israelites to stand still and watch as God went to battle on their behalf. As Moses lifted his rod to the sky, God parted the Red Sea, and the children of Israel were able to cross on dry land. What an incredible sight that must have been! Millions of Israelites crossing the Red Sea with columns of water being held up on each side of them. God provided a miraculous way of escape for them. 430 years of slavery and bondage have now become a future of freedom.
Amazing story, right? But why am I talking about Moses today?
Because Moses is my hero. His life was spared because God wanted to use him.
I desire for God to use me. 
Even in his lack of self confidence and his inability to speak, God spoke through him.
I desire for God to speak through me.
Even though he had only a rod in his hand, God used it.
I desire that God use my gifts and talents for Him.
Even though he faced insurmountable obstacles, God miraculously delivered him.
Through every midnight, and every valley, and every Red Sea, God has delivered me.
And even though he knew that God instructed him to follow without knowing where he was going, Moses obeyed. And he trusted.
That I, like Moses, will always have the courage to follow God's leading and step into the unknown.
I feel like Grandma-Moses. Today I am announcing that I am leaving the safety and security of the life I have known for the past 17 years. I am moving to Chicago.
Millions of souls
Yes, it's true. I am following after what I believe is God's next step for me in this journey of life. I am following after my heart. God has opened a door of opportunity for me, and I feel that this is the time to walk through that door.
For more than 20 years I have worked 2-3 jobs to provide for my family. God has strengthened and sustained me through the years, but honestly, it has been exhausting to say the least. I am proud of the fact though, that all 5 of my children have followed this example and also value a job well done. My youngest child graduated from college 2 years ago, and I have remained in my home and jobs even though none of my children have lived near me for the past 5 years. I have felt isolated and alone.
Two of my adult children live in Chicago - my son David, his wife Brittanica, and 3 of my grandbabies, as well as my daughter, Heidi. I want to be near them. In addition, David and Brittanica are starting a new church plant, VIVE Church Chicago, which will launch in September, 2018. I want to be involved in this new church. I want to be close to my children as we work together in life and ministry. Plus, for the first time in forever I will only work one job. Hallelujah!
Truth is, though, I am scared. I'm nervous about leaving my comfort zone, my "cocoon." Facing a huge life change with all of its "what if's" and uncertainties and adjustments.
So I, like Moses, am pulling my self together, gathering up all of my courage, and I'm stepping into the waters of my future. My Red Sea. I will trust and obey. I know that God will part the waters for me and will do miracles on my behalf. The same God who has miraculously provided for me in the past is the same God who will provide for me now. Because in the end, it's not all about me. It's about the many, many souls out there who are hurting and who need to experience the truth of God's love. Precious souls who need deliverance from bondage. This is more important to me than my comfort and security. 
My heart is full knowing that I will be closer to family. But I am also praying that as I go into this land of the unknown, that it become a Promised Land for me, and for many others! I'm giving God what's in my hand - my rod. My prayer is as I write, and as I speak, and as I make new friends, that God will use my life to touch and encourage many. I desire to birth ministry to help provide basic needs - shelter, food, clothing - to families in need. Especially single mamas. To give them dignity, respect, safety, and encouragement. Life. To provide community to the lonely. To give people Jesus.
So, dear friends, thank you for reading today. And thank you for praying for me in the coming days and weeks of transition. Please pray that God will lead me to the perfect little home where joy will be plentiful and friends will be welcome. And if any of you are in the Chicagoland area, please visit me!
Once again, thank you for your love and support. My heart is greatly encouraged by your friendship. Let's all have the courage to have faith, trust God and "step out."
All my love,
May The Lord bless you and protect you.
May The Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.
May The Lord show you His favor and give you His peace.

Pearls of the future - Chicagoland and beyond.