Author: Guest Fruit Cove

I Understand

Do you ever have encounters that you cannot shake? You continually offer it up to the Lord, but the awkwardness of the exchange lingers, and you get stuck trying to make sense of it all.  I recently had a conversation with a youth leader that still makes my stomach turn, even months later. I had spent months wondering how my oldest son, Nolan, who struggles socially, has been adjusting to the much larger and louder culture of our church’s middle school youth group. When I had an opportunity to speak to the leader away from Nolan’s listening ears, I jumped at the chance.

I asked how he was fitting in and explained that I feared he could be easily picked on. The leader nodded agreeably and said there was no bullying in the group. In the midst of my breathing a heavy sigh of relief, he quickly followed with, “They pretty much ignore him.” It came across as though it was meant to be reassuring.

I immediately looked to the sky, to give the illusion I was in deep thought. I suppose it was not an illusion, as I did have many thoughts I desired to share. It was intentional on my part, as I feared that, even though I was literally biting my tongue, the rest of my face would convey the message I was not allowing my mouth to share. Thinking before speaking has never been a spiritual gift, so I stood there, dodging anymore eye contact.  No other words were added to the exchange, as I gathered my flock and herded them towards our passenger van. On the way home, I acknowledged that my son was not the only one awkwardly navigating interactions with the middle school leadership. It ran in the family.

Being a special needs parent really sharpens a person’s advocacy skills. If being an advocate was equivocated to knives, we would be Ginsus. We are razor sharp. It was time to put those skills to the test. But I quickly realized that there was no easy answer to this problem. What was I going to do? Make a morning announcement while the kids were all eating donuts that my son is precious and made perfectly by God and he should be treated like the coolest kid in the bunch? Who else could tell you how many pieces are in any given Lego set? He has amazing skills. Which you would know if you ever spoke to him. On second thought, this route seems the opposite of helpful. I would probably need to send him pre-wedgied to the next gathering.

And even though I can speak of some of my thoughts with humor, my heart remained grieved as the days and weeks went on. I would be going about my day, and the statement was right there in my head again. I kept placing it in God’s hands, as I had already determined it was not my battle to fight. Still it came back, almost daily.  I knew, it was time to find the joy in this horrendous comment. I started recalling how many lives Nolan had touched and how he had helped people to see Autism differently. I thought about how he had made everyone more compassionate and understanding. How being comfortable with Autism had led us to foster care. But I found a recurring theme: he made Us better, he made Us more compassionate, he made Us more comfortable. He had bettered us, but it was not a betterment for him. Tears began to flow as I shared the conclusion with God. My son being ignored by people he considered his closest friend brings me no joy.

And God said something so beautiful to my broken heart. “I understand.”

That is true. You do understand what it feels like to have your son ignored by people he thought were friends.  God knows that on a much deeper level then I could ever begin to imagine. A solution was not the answer, but rather remembering I was not alone. Jesus experienced and witnessed more sorrow than any other man who has ever existed. There is no hurt or heart break that we cannot lift to him.

As I thanked God for this reminder, I was so grateful that I am never alone in my heartbreak, or my fear, or my anxiety, or my joy. His word does not promise us that we will not ever be ignored by people we love, but we know that we are never ignored by our Heavenly Father. He will never leave us or forsake us. This we can always rejoice in.

Amen

Could it be you?

Could it be you?
Cayela Moody

Have you ever been on a mission trip? That feeling that washes over you as you do the work God intended for you, is almost indescribable. It is the great commission in action and living the new commandment: Love God, Love People. Sadly, it always comes to an end. We come home, we go back to work and the day to day grind. We know God has us where he needs us, but our hearts long to go back and crave that feeling again. So we commit to another week next year, because that is what the mission field looks like for us as Americans.

I have struggled with this way of life for years. I am not called to full-time missions, but yet I still want to live on mission. My church tells me to love my community, to bloom where God has planted me. But if I am being honest, I don’t know how. I didn’t know where to start. So we donated food to pantries so we could feed the poor. We packed Christmas boxes for children so that they could learn more about Jesus. But, my soul needed more.

So what was I missing? The answer was relationships. Because, at the heart of all of this is a relationship. I can read my bible everyday and do amazing deeds and be one of the greatest “Christians” ever known, but without a relationship with Jesus, it is only filthy rags.

So what is the next step? How can I develop these relationships? It seems so easy, but this part is tricky to put into action. Did you know there is a system already set in place? You don’t have to find people who need served, they are already asking for your help. It has been around since our nation was founded and was more formalized over one hundred years ago. With a heavy heart, I fear it has been neglected by the church for far too long. This mission field exists in our nation’s foster care system.

Before you stop reading because you can’t be a foster parent, let me reassure you that God may not be asking you to play that role. His word says:

But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

1 Corinthians 12:18-20

Once again, you ask. How can I help if I am not fostering? Over fifty percent of foster parents will quit within their first year alone. But ninety percent will stay with much needed support. Locally here in Jacksonville, Florida, Fostering Hope stays busy daily meeting needs. We need your help. Because, honestly, we can’t continue without you. The needs are just too great. And there are foster care ministries all over this country that feel the same. You can be the hand and feet of Jesus when someone needs you the most and build relationships where the Holy spirit leads you.

Every day, Karen and I wake up and we say, “God, where will you take me today? What are your plans?” This is the very heart of living missionally. Some days we are hoisting car seats and diapers into a dump truck, because the woman who drives it took her nephews into her home to keep them from going into the system. Can you imagine, waking up one day and going to work as usual, then getting a knock on the door with a one and two-year-old standing there needing a home?

Some days, we just cry with people on their doorstep.

Everyday, we pray… a lot. We even prayed for you today. We prayed that God would raise an army to love the marginalized and vulnerable in our society. Because in a city the size of ours, it is going to take an army. We get requests almost daily for tangible items that are needed. Can you donate gently used clothing to a foster closet? We can’t keep cribs or car seats because they go out as quickly as they come in.

What if my children are grown and I no longer have these items? When Susie Foster Mom picks a newborn up at the hospital, we can provide the diapers, formula, and some freezer meals to sustain them until they can get situated and get to the store. We need people to drop them at their door. The look of relief on her face will say it all. And, chances are, you will want to help again tomorrow. Because loving others in Jesus’s name changes everything.

Maybe you truly don’t have the time, but the Good Lord has blessed you financially. There is a grandmother across town who needs minor home repairs so that she can take her grandchildren. God designed the family. It is His heart to keep it intact. Could you help keep this family together? We can help make that connection for you.

Statistically, if ten percent of churches are involved in some sort of foster care ministry, there will be more than enough beds for foster children in your town. There will be more than enough adoptive homes for every child who needs forever. God is stirring his Bride. I can feel it in the air. If God is moving in you to start a foster care ministry in your church, we would love to share ideas and support you. Even if it starts small, God will multiply the work of those who desire to care for the orphan and the widow.

The mission field is here and the harvest is plenty. We just need some good workers.

Could it be you?

Rejoicing in the Scars

Rejoicing in the Scars

by Cayela Moody

 

He was my sixth child to master the skill of clapping and by far the most memorable. We were alone on the couch, doing our morning snuggles. The house was optimistically quiet, as if it was preparing for the noise which was inevitably coming.  He is twenty months and hasn’t spoken his first word, or blown a kiss, or waved bye bye. We have spent hours in therapy with this goal teaching to this simple goal, because if you can clap, than maybe we can get him to sign “more”, and if he can sign, he can communicate, and if he can communicate, maybe he will stop banging his head on the floor when he gets mad at us.

I have modeled clapping consistently in play. We have banged blocks together so he understands the motion. I have made him clap his hands while he pushed back more times than I could even count. So, on this unassuming morning, as he was drinking his milk and I drank coffee, equally preparing for our calendar of to-do lists for the day, I never expected it to happen. He set his milk bottle down, (judge me if you must), and he looked studyingly at one hand, then the other, almost as if to say, “So, if I slap this hand against the other one, she might  scream in my face and we will both get a good chuckle out of it.”

So he did and he was right. I screamed and I told him he was the smartest little boy I had ever met and I gave him too many kisses on the cheek to stand. I jumped up and down and danced and I praised the Lord for this simple and amazing talent. Then he did it again. Then he showed Dad when he got out of bed. We spent the rest of the weekend celebrating and I have no plans to stop partying.

I don’t remember the exact moment when any of my other babies learned this common feat. If I have learned anything over the past years of a fuller submission to his calling it is this: The greater the challenge, the greater the reward. Anything that comes easy can be easily taken for granted.

We are so beautifully reminded by Paul in Romans 5:3-4,  We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.

I have always been so puzzled by this verse. To me rejoice means a celebration. Perhaps shouting a happy hallelujah? But my heart is rarely filled with delight at the realization that my tomorrows will be heartbreaking for a time or that I am entering a period of anguish and hardship. But this I know to be true: I have always grown more from the storms than the sunshine. Maybe it isn’t the suffering we should rejoice in, but rather the scar to follow.

These battle wounds weave and build our testimony. When someone asks me how I have joy in trials or they have seen me come through a valley, I always point them to the one who fully bore my burdens during that time. It is by suffering that we come to know him on a deeper level. Day in and day out, I find more confidence that he is consistently faithful. A scar will leave us changed forever. We won’t ever be the same again. I can rejoice knowing that this trial will not only help define me, but in time refine me. Jesus bore the ultimate scars and by those wounds we are healed. How humbling to consider that God could use my heartbreak and challenges to someday help strengthen or heal another.

In my refinement and closer walk with Jesus, I still have my share of uphill battles. As I was sharing my full plate with a friend, she in her thick southern accent reminded me, “Honey,  that’s not a plate. You have a platter.”  And when that sense of being overwhelmed begins to creep back in, I remind myself to cast to Christ those fears that I was never meant to carry and focus on the simple joys and moments that I am blessed with or beautiful victories of overdue milestones that are finally achieved.

The Valley View

The Valley View

by Cayela Moody

It was 5:15 in the morning, when I heard an unfamiliar sound in our bed. Evan found something a child had left behind and was rolling it around in his hand. “What in the world is it?”

“They are marbles. Did you lose yours?”

It certainly feels like it most days. And I know from my conversations with others who are walking this similar journey, I am not alone in feeling this way.

I am embarking on another year of homeschooling and when I put together my schedule this year, I didn’t know whether I should laugh or cry. We have six children, three of which require tutoring and therapies that amount to forty hours a week. I have a route that surpasses most UberXL drivers. It seems so very impossible. When I get overwhelmed, I shrink. I make myself as small as possible. I get very quiet and I wait to hear something, anything, from a God I know is near.

In the quiet I was reassured, but not how I had hoped. The message was simple. This is a valley. Thanks. I already feel like I am losing. I have lost control. That superhero glow has long since faded in the light of foster care and adoption and the chaos that abounds in our home. I feel like I am losing myself, my sanity, even my friends.

A few weeks later, I was watching the kids swim. My oldest daughter, Margaret, came rushing inside. She was whining about a race she lost, and she got very irritated with me. “Are you even listening?”

“You didn’t lose the race. You lost the joy.”

Her eyes followed mine. We both watched as my youngest daughter, who has been deathly afraid to jump in the pool all summer, was taking gigantic leaps into my oldest son’s waiting arms. But that message wasn’t for her, it was a reminder to me. I am not losing in life; I am losing sight of what matters. I focused on the hard and lost sight of the joy.

I understood what he meant by the valley. I was wholly focused on a singular definition: a low point. I needed to reconsider the meaning. I imagined myself as a child in my grandmother’s rocking chair. She is crocheting as Elvis sings “Peace in the Valley” in the background. It was time for me to find rest and stillness in waiting for him. I was reminded to look around and find joy in the ordinary. I need to adjust my view from the valley. If I only focus on what life could be on the mountain top, I will miss the miracles in the moments of today.

Psalm 84 speaks of the Valley of Baca, which is translated as the valley of weeping. Verse 10 so beautifully reminds us: Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere. What a soul filling reminder. Better is one day in the valley with Jesus, than a thousand mountaintop experiences apart from him.

Same but different

In November of 2001, I made my last trip to Moscow, Russia before moving back to the states. Moscow is a beautiful city and I always enjoyed visiting, was grateful for those called to serve there, and content to arrive back home again.

On the last night of my visit, in the cold twilight, I walked across Red Square for what I anticipated to be the last time. It was magical. A light snow began to fall. The lights from Lenin’s tomb (btw, he’s still there, unlike Jesus) caused the snow to sparkle in the growing darkness. Walking past the Kremlin walls toward St. Basil’s Cathedral, I felt as if I was stepping into a John LeCarre or Ian Fleming spy novel – Bond, James Bond.

I remembered a conversation I had with a colleague from the IMB a couple of years before. He told me that the late fall was always a wonderful time for new missionaries as they moved to Moscow. For many, snow and cold weather was a novelty. They saw the beauty of the city to which God had called them. However, the second fall was very different for many. It was difficult, as they knew, the second time around, how long, cold and dark a Russia winter can be. And snow is not nearly so beautiful in the spring thaw, revealing the mud beneath. To cope, they needed to gather together with others who had walked the journey before for encouragement and support.

I’ve reflected on this experience much in the last few days. Joan and I are approaching a season of life when our kids are again out of the house. It feels a lot like last time. There was excitement and joy as we anticipated the experiences that were to come for them. Today, we have the same excitement and joy over what is to come for them. Yet, having been here before, we realize how much time and distance will separate us. We can’t help but be a little melancholy.

This morning, we meditated on Hebrews 10:24-25: And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. We were reminded how much we need one another and how much we need a relationship with others. Meeting together habitually to be encouraged and “stirred” up and assured that regardless of what is to come, we are not alone.

I’m thinking about Easter now. The disciples had experienced the death of family and friends before. They knew the heartbreak and loneliness that is present in loss. The Bible says they had gathered together. Likely to mourn and grieve because they “knew” what to expect. But this time was going to be different. Imagine the ladies rushing into the room in excitement and joy. Imagine Jesus suddenly standing among them even though the doors were locked. Imagine their surprise when they realized the truth of the statement, He has risen! (Mark 16:6) He is not in the tomb (unlike Lenin). He is alive. And that message continues to stir us to love and good works today.

So, as you head again into an experience that feels like last time, don’t ignore the difficulty that you experienced before. But don’t get overwhelmed. Expect God to show Himself in new ways. And make surrounding yourself with others a habit.

Beach Baptism 2016

On Sunday, July 31, we gathered at Mickler’s Landing to celebrate baptism at the beach. 28 people had prepared to enter the water in testimony to their faith in Christ and one additional lady who saw us assemble chose to do the same. Here’s a video of the event and some photos to help you celebrate the joy with us!

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Matters of the Heart – Part 4

Matters of the Heart – Part 4
by Pam Maynard

Music has always been a huge part of our lives. When we first started dating, we were in a band together called Decision.  Many of you know, Tim played drums and I played the keyboards. We traveled during my whole college experience with four other guys playing at churches, college campus events and concerts.

Being children of the 70’s, Tim and I decided to have an outdoor wedding. In true hippie form I wore flowers in my hair and we had guitar music for our ceremony. The song that we had played and sung was written by an artist known as Honeytree. The song was called Treasures. In this song, it talks about two people who commit their lives to each other and to the Lord.  Even today, I can weep hearing the words of that sweet song.

The first year of our marriage we didn’t own a television so we listened to lots of contemporary Christian music. The song that we adopted as “our song” was entitled Right from the Start. This song describes the love of a couple from the beginning until the end with commitment that lasts a lifetime.

Little did we know then what trials and troubles would come into our lives. Together we’ve experienced the loss of Tim’s father, both of us have endured the diagnosis and treatments of cancer and we’ve had our share of pain. Yet our love has continued to grow. Today more than ever I realize what a treasure he has been to me.

Last summer while driving back to Kentucky/Ohio we found a new love song that we now call “our song”. Believe it or not it is an old Led Zeppelin song called Thank you. The lyrics are:

If the sun refused to shine, I would still be loving you.
When mountains crumble to the sea, there would still be you and me.
My love is strong, together we shall go until we die.
And so today, my world it smiles, your hand in mine, we walk the miles,
Thanks to you it will be done, for you to me are the only one.

Isn’t this the promise of our God? Psalm 46:1-2, 10,11 ” God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea. Be still and know that I am God. The Lord Almighty is with us. ” He promises never to leave, nor forsake and be ever present through all of life’s trials. (see Hebrews 13:5)

I also have a favorite song I like to call my heartsong to God. It is the song, In Christ Alone:

In Christ alone, my hope is found- He is my light, my strength, my song.
This Cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My comforter, my all in all – Here in the love of Christ I Stand!

 

Today I challenge you to find time not only to tell the ones in your life of your love but find extra time today to tell God of your love and desire to be committed to Him for all of your life.   And don’t forget to say “Thank You.”

Matters of the Heart – Part 3

Matters of the Heart – Part 3
by Pam Maynard

 

In my grade school years, the month of February was all about Valentine’s Day. We learned that Valentine’s Day was a celebration observed on February 14th where many people exchange cards, candy, gifts or flowers with their special “valentine”. Our teacher told us we were going to celebrate, too, and we were going to have a party in our classroom!Our classroom was decorated with red hearts, crepe paper chains and Cupid figures hanging from strings from the ceiling. One of my assignments was to decorate an old shoebox to serve as a “mailbox” for cards I would receive at our party.

As the party day approached, I carefully selected a card for each of my classmates making sure no one was left out. I even sent cards to some of the “stinky boys” that I didn’t like so much.

It was always really fun getting to read all the sweet Valentines from so many friends… and I got a box full!!

Tim and I still give each other Valentine gifts each year. It is great to get an expression of love confirmed on that special day. What is even sweeter, is, every day I work at Mayo Clinic, I pack my lunch in preparation for the long day ahead. Every day – yes, every day, my sweet Valentine slips a love note in my bag telling me of his love. It is something I look forward to and helps me get through some rough long hours.

John 3:16 tells us that “God so loved the world (this means He made sure that no one was left out), that He gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

I like to think about this verse as our Valentine love greeting from God.

What a gift of love He sent us!!


FOR REFLECTION: Express your love to God today. Pray thanking Him for this wonderful gift of love- the amazing gift of salvation.

Matters of the Heart – Part 2

Matters of the Heart – Part 2
by Pam Maynard

 

The Psalms are filled with accounts of praise and worship songs of thanksgiving to the Lord. I love to play songs on the organ each Sunday that make us turn our thoughts to praising God. He is our righteous, mighty Savior – indeed worthy of our praise.

We are so happy and very excited with the great news that we are going to have our first grandchild!!! We are so thankful for this wonderful blessing and praise God for this gift to our family.

When I was in nursing school, one whole semester was dedicated to obstetrics and maternal nursing care. I was able to study and learn all about the developmental stages a tiny baby goes through during those short 9 months. I studied hard and enjoyed the learning process, but nothing compared to the personal experience of having my own children and now a granddaughter on the way!

I still find it amazing and so wonderful how God is “knitting this baby together in her mother’s womb”. Psalm 139:14 describes that we are fearfully and wonderfully made!

God knows everything about us because He made us. He even knows the very number of hairs on our head! Psalm 145:17 states “The Lord is righteous in all His ways and loving toward all He has made.”

We can give thanks today for our righteous God who knows us so well and yet loves us so much.   Today, He calls us to live a righteous life. Why? Because we are constantly called to become more like Jesus.


“Search me O God and know my heart, test me to know my anxious thought and see if there is any offensive way in me-and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139: 23-24)

Pray asking God to give you the strength you need as you face another day. Thank Him for His wonderful love. Find ways to praise Him today!

Matters of the Heart – Part 1

Matters of the Heart – Part 1
by Pam Maynard

 

Matters of the heart are often confused with our emotions and feelings of love. ” I love you with all my heart! ” is one common reference I’ve use to describe my feeling of love for my husband.

Historically, the heart was thought to be the seat of all thinking, emotion and the soul. Aristotle also said that the heart was the source of intelligence, motion and sensation. Modern medicine might care to differ an opinion stating that the heart is a muscle that pumps blood to all parts of the body. The brain is the center of our emotions.

Even with all our modern medical information, the reference to loving with all our heart still persists. Somehow it still doesn’t sound as good to say “I love you with all of my brain”.

February is designated as National Heart month. This is a campaign to increase awareness of the #1 killer of American men and women.   The main risk factors in cardiovascular disease include: obesity, inactivity, diabetes and uncontrolled blood pressure.

By maintaining a healthy diet, getting regular exercise and not smoking, you can control risk factors and help protect your heart. Having a healthy heart is a great way to honor God. 1 Corinthians 10: 31 tells us “Whatever you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God”.

Matthew 22:37 sums up my thought. Jesus described the Greatest Commandment as this: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”


FOR REFLECTION: Take time today to thank God for your heart. Try to incorporate fitness habits that will improve your cardiovascular health.

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