Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Marriage Advice Tip 3: Keep Dating!

This should actually be Tip 2.5 since I wasn't originally going to write about this. However, recent conversations with friends has shown me that this is more important than I realized.

People, you've got to keep dating your spouse. You must be intentional about this. The husband and I really do enjoy hanging out together, so going on dates was easy for us. However, when we had our fourth child we realized we HAD to continue dating. It could no longer be a choice. Each month we set a date on the calendar and we go on a date. It's a No Matter What on our calendar. The busier you become in your life, the more dire the need to date your spouse becomes. You have to set time to be together. To be adults. To be you.

The husband and I discuss our date nights so we can plan them in advance. The night goes on a calendar and we get a babysitter. Oftentimes, there are special events going on and we can arrange our date around that night. Other times, we find a free night and we keep it free.

Except for those emergencies like when your 2 year old swallows a battery and you have to end your date early to take him to the ER (true story), there are few things more important than the time with your spouse. Honor it.

Think about it this way: You and your spouse are going to hit hard times. Seriously hard. If you do not invest in your spouse and in growing your relationship, what do you think will happen when the bad times hit? You will be fighting your husband. The husband and I are in bad times right now. But those bad times are not affecting our relationship because we have been investing in one another. During these times I know I am going through them with my best friend. We are not blaming each other. We are not fighting. We are united and that is because we are intentional and deliberate in growing our marriage.

If you live in Atlanta, you are so incredibly lucky. There are SO many great date ideas. I am pretty sure the last dinner/movie date night we had was to see The Hunger Games and we ate at Longhorn, where we had our first date. We usually go do something different each month. Often, finances play a big role in how elaborate our date is. I've collected what I think is a very extensive list, though certainly not exhaustive. If you are not local, hopefully these ideas will help you think of other ideas in your town. A great tip: Google "Events in ______ on June 14." Remember, have fun!

Fun Dates Improv in the Park- This is on the first Wednesday of every month in Atlantic Station and it's FREE! http://wholeworldtheatre.com/improv-in-the-park-is-back/

Aquarium spend the night- Did you know you could spend the night at the Georgia Aquarium? How cool is that?! They have Family ones, and then they have Adults Only. There are only a few a year, so this is something to prepare for in advance and get your tickets early! http://www.georgiaaquarium.org/explore-the-aquarium/events-and-programs/sleepovers.aspx

Brew at the Zoo This only takes place once a year, but the zoo has other Adult nights that are lots of fun! http://www.zooatlanta.org/home/events/brew_entertainment#ff_s=aHgsy

Sometimes, you need to be creative with your time. Don't have any? No worries! You can have the sitter come over after the kids go to bed, and just go out for an hour for dessert. My favorite dessert places are Menchies (get ALL the things you want!) and Ghiredelli. Not much more decadent than that! Also, think about breakfast as an option. Head over to J Christopher's or Waffle House. If you work outside of the home, see if you can get someone to watch the kids during lunch and meet him for a lunch date. Dates do not have to be at a certain time of day- they just have to include you and your spouse!

Test drive cars- This is another freebie that is actually quite fun. Don't test drive a van!! Test drive some BMWs or that convertible you hope to get one day. One of our favorite date nights was when I surprised Larry by taking him to the Ferrari dealership. He loved it and I had a lot more fun than I had expected!

Sporting Events- We have some great teams in Atlanta! Try something different when you go to a game- did you know the Braves have All You Can Eat seats? They are amazing and gluttonness and beautiful ;) http://atlanta.braves.mlb.com/atl/ticketing/ayce.jsp

Go old school and try mini golf or bowling. It's still just as fun now as it was always was!

Brewery- Atlanta has some really cool breweries. We just went to Monday Night Brewing and had a great time! http://mondaynightbrewing.com

Concerts This link has a lot of concerts (and other things) in Atlanta listed http://www.atlantaplanit.com/outandabout/

Six Flags- Leave the kiddos at home and just go by yourself for a few hours! 

Romantic Dates
First date- Replay your first date and go to the same places you went way back then. It will bring up some fun conversations as it will spark memories about getting ready, your first impressions, and your thoughts the first time you had a date with your spouse. 

Skyview This is new and super cool! I can't wait to go- it's a ferris wheel in Centennial Park. http://www.skyviewatlanta.com

Five Star Restaurants One thing is for sure, there are some good places to eat in Atlanta! You can google "Five Star Restaurants Atlanta" but I would just recommend asking some friends to let you know of some amazing places to eat. You will get LOTS of ideas! We've eaten at some of our favorite places after suggestions from friends!

Sundial When talking about great date-night restaurants in Atlanta, this is my favorite. The top floor of The Westin hotel actually turns while you eat, giving you a 360 view of Atlanta and beyond. We did one overnight date in Atlanta and ate here, then had a hotel room and went to the Aquarium together the next day. It was a lot of fun!

The Fox is always such a grand place to go on a date http://foxtheatre.org

Fernbank Science Museum has Adult Nights including Martinis and IMAX http://www.fernbankmuseum.org/visit-fernbank/events-activities/

Movies in Central Park- This takes place in Atlantic Station and the next one is tomorrow! Get a babysitter! (But they have them throughout the summer.) http://atlanticstation.com/events/?event_id=100013536

Still having a hard time? Worried about what you will say to each other? Download some Great Date Experiences. They will send you on an adventure, they have different $ options for you to choose from, and they really are fun!
http://marriedlifeonline.com/greatdate/

If you have kids, it can be stressful (and expensive) to set up a date night. But it's worth it. When Larry and I were planning our overnight visit in Atlanta, I was worried that maybe we shouldn't do it. A wise friend said: "Yes, it's going to be expensive. But it's cheaper than a divorce! GO!!" Our monthly date nights, some expensive, some cheap, are all investments. We are investing our time and our money into our marriage. My 5 year old asked me a few days ago: "Mommy, when are you and Daddy going on a date?" I told him we were going on a trip this month and we have a date planned then. "Oh, OK. When you get married you go on dates!" 

Yes, son, that's right!!

We have our picture taken at each of our date nights. Since this year we are committed to one date night a month, I'm hoping to make a cute little photo book of our date nights at the end of the year! 


Sunday, May 25, 2014

Marriage Advice: Tips 1 and 2

Tip 1: Listen!

Yes, yes, it's important to listen to your spouse, but that's actually not my first tip. Listen to ALL THE PEOPLE  is actually what I mean. Everyone loves to gives advice on everything. Thanks to Facebook and other social media, we are slammed with pieces of advice all day long. (And yes, I'm guilty of doing some of the slamming. I'm working on it. But first, listen to my marriage advice.) The difference about marriage advice, is that I have found the majority of it to actually be helpful and applicable!

When Larry and I got married, we didn't have a list of elders we could turn to in order to ask the infamous: How have you stayed married for so long? question. He actually does have some grandparents on his side of the family who have stayed married, but there were none on mine. That doesn't mean we didn't have advice! Divorce (I've been told by divorced people) is extremely painful, whether you are happy to be divorced or not. I've heard it compared to a death and you tend to go through the same grief process. People who have been divorced don't want to see their loved ones "make the same mistake." All of the pieces of advice I have for this blog series came from other people- some married, some divorced, some single. But all of the people have loved us and none of them want to see us divorced. Think about the important people in your life- if they are married, ask them for their favorite pieces of advice on marriage. If they are divorced, find out why they got divorced and more importantly, how do they intend to prevent that same thing from happening in the future? Go ahead and apply the prevention tip now before it becomes an issue.

Tip 2: Pray, pray, pray
Have you ever heard the phrase: The couple who prays together stays together? Well it's actually true.  My pastor, Andy Stanley, recently did a message on this. He reported that the divorce rate among couples who pray together is about 1 in 10,000. Around the time of that sermon I saw something somewhere (which is very reliable, I know) about a couple and they would randomly pray together. As soon as something came up and they had an important discussion about to take place or they were in a fight, they would simply stop and pray. You can imagine the results. In my opinion, praying with your spouse is not just about asking God for help in a time of need, though that is important. When you pray, you you are reminding your spouse and yourself that you are working toward something much greater than yourselves. It can be so easy to get wrapped up in our own selfish desires. But when you stop and pray, it really can help clear your head and focus you.

Larry and I were terrible about praying together in the beginning. I was very shy about praying and always asked him to do it. I began to loosen up and become more comfortable, but I still wouldn't say we prayed together often. Today we don't pray together as often as I would like. I still want us to do a daily devotion together. But we are definitely praying together more often. 

Not too long ago, Larry and I were in a fight. It snuck up on us. We weren't mad at each other, but a discussion revealed that we stood on different sides of a very important issue. We stayed calm and simply talked, but eventually, hurtful things were said. I walked away for a bit, then came back and said, "I have three things to say and then I'm done with this conversation." Blah blah blah I said my 3 things and Larry didn't say a word. I'll admit, though I don't remember what I said, I do recall the feeling I had after I finished talking. I felt awful. I knew I was manipulative in some of the things I said. He looked at me and said, "OK. You said your 3 things. Now you have to listen to me." My heart sank. I didn't want to hear anything he had to say. I didn't want him to hurt me the way I was sure I had just hurt him. I found myself thinking, "Please, just say you love me. Say you love me even though I was just ugly toward you." He didn't say he loved me. Instead he looked at me and said, "We need to pray." Can we all just agree, Husband of the Year goes to the husband?? I breathed a sigh of relief and we prayed. Praying together did not make our issue go away, but it did remind us that this issue, the one we were so stubbornly fighting over, was not the Most Important Thing. Honoring God, following HIS will for our lives, was and IS the most important thing.

So, pray together. I recommend daily and as often as you can. I'm still working on that, but I can attest that our marriage is always stronger and better after we pray together. The issues aren't gone, but we are fighting together, as team, against those issues, rather than allowing the issues to tear us apart.


The husband praying for me during my labor with Katie. This will always be one of my favorite moments of her labor. Nothing says "I love you" like your spouse asking God to help you and care for you and your unborn child.


Some articles on praying together in a marriage:
http://drstoop.com/the-couple-that-prays-together/
http://thegospelcoalition.org/article/factchecker-divorce-rate-among-christians/

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Marriage- Introduction

Larry and I are about to celebrate our 7th wedding anniversary! It's been an honor to be his wife and I look forward to our ETERNITY together, which by the way, is fun to tell your spouse. That's not an "official" piece of advice, but trust me, it's fun.

I had an idea last year, when I thought we had been married for 7 years, to do a blog series offering any kind of tips and advice that I've accumulated over our years of marriage. Of course, The Husband, slightly concerned, informed me that we had actually only been married 6 years. Math is not my forte. Thankfully, you don't need a lot of it to have a happy marriage. Regardless of my math disabilities, I decided to wait until the 7th anniversary. I've heard about the "Seven Year Itch" and, ever so cautious, wanted to be sure I had the proper credentials to spew unsolicited and un-asked for advice on marriage to the Internet.

First, a little history. According to our family history, birth order, zodiac sign, and just about every Is He The One For You magazine quiz, The Husband and I are doomed to failure. Both of our families have more divorced couples than til-death-do-us-part ones, he's an oldest child and I spent my formative growing up years as an only, he's a Leo and I'm a Virgo, he's a dreamer and I'm far more practical. He's a musician and I can't even clap in beat. The one thing we have in common: He's an emotional spender and so am I!! Oh wait, that's bad. That's actually an area where you WANT the opposite- ONE of you should be a Saver. My point is, we came into our marriage KNOWING the risks. We came in KNOWING that by cultural standards and the stars, we were DOOMED. Thankfully, we are both stubborn (again, very rarely a good thing to have in common) and we set a plan before we got married. That's right- we planned for our marriage while planning the wedding.  Our first discussion about marriage was after I had seen a 3 part series by Voddie Baucham on marriage. Now anyone who knows Voddie knows that when it comes to Conservative Baptist Christians, Voddie leads the pack. As two people set for failure if we continued on our dating, marriage, kids path, we needed that no-nonsense verbiage. We decided, while sitting on my couch in my living room apartment, that IF we were to get married, we both agreed, divorce would NOT be an option. We had seen our families and loved ones go through that, we knew the risks of divorce rise if you come from a divorced family and we made it clear to one another that we could not, would not, under no circumstances, get divorced. It was quite a heavy talk and gave me much to think about as we continued dating, got engaged, and prepared for our wedding day. I often had moments of panic: But what if (insert really horrible thing here) happens? I can't divorce him then? What I realized, as I went through my list of Really Horrible Things, was that I was marrying someone who simply wouldn't DO those things. Not because he's perfect and I'm naive, but because I knew his HEART. The guy has the same friends since Elementary school. He's loyal. And his friends are loyal to him because he has a good heart, even IF he's a jacka$$ now and then. (Trust me, his friends would say that.) I knew he wouldn't beat me or cheat on me. He doesn't get in physical altercations with his buddies- physical violence is not in his personality. As far as addictions like drugs and alcohol- he had so many surgeries growing up that I have to thunk the guy on the head just to get him to take a Tylenol for a headache. He worked in a treatment center, which gave him a deeper understanding of the effects of drugs and alcohol. Is he perfect? No. Not at all. I'll never forget the fight we had when I said, "If I had known before we got married that we would be right here, in this situation, I never would have married you." Oh yes. I'll get more into that one later. But the point is, as you date, WATCH the other person. Watch them with their friends. Watch them with their mother and father. My dad always said: Watch how a boy treats his mother, it's how he will eventually treat you. And he's right, which is why I sighed with relief when I saw The Husband greet his mom the first time I met her. Getting to know your boyfriend's favorite color is fun, but it's not setting you up for a successful marriage. Learning how your boyfriend handles good news and bad news, what he does in bad traffic, how he tips his waitress- those things will teach you his heart. 

When The Husband and I got married, we didn't get married because we were in love, though we were. We got married because we knew God wanted us together. And we will stay together because our ultimate goal is to glorify God, and we honor Him through our marriage. So, without further ado, I hope you enjoy these blog posts. My plan is to do one a week for several weeks. I may write more often or less often. The point is to share tips I've learned along the way to a happy, successful marriage. 

Our dating days. I was wearing his shirt. He thought it was cute. This is an area where he did NOT think to the future, where I choose my favorite shirt to wear to bed each night and he throws a tantrum that I "always take his shirts, get your own shirts" and I threaten to purposely put breastmilk on his shirt if he keeps yelling at me. His shirts are softer than mine, I can't help that fact. This was a REALLY long caption. Bottom line: Weren't we adorable? My skin was so smooth and his hair was so brown. ;)


Sunday, May 11, 2014

Happy Mother's Day


I love this painting. I think it sums up Mother's Day quite perfectly. I asked for it when I was pregnant with Katie, excited about the connection I would have with my daughter that is special to Mothers and Daughters. As I look at it today, and I think about the women in my life, I understand that this image doesn't just capture Mothers and Daughters, but women in general. 

Today I am grateful for ALL the women in my life who I have been blessed to have a relationship with. I am grateful for Andi, who was there through the darkest years of my life, and continued to love me as her own daughter. I'm grateful for both of my mother-in-laws and the love they have showered me and my children with. I'm grateful for my birth mother and the most important lesson she ever taught me-- no matter what, a mother will ALWAYS love her children. I'm grateful for my friends' moms and their models of mother-daughter relationships. I'm grateful for the female relationships I've had as an adult. The women who have modeled, loved, prayed, shared, and helped me grow as a friend, wife and mother. Today I celebrate, not just mothers, but women in general. God created us in such a unique and special way. Our relationships go beyond blood and draw us together through the heart. Happy Mother's Day to all the women who have prayed for someone, loved someone when they were unlovable, hugged someone, wiped away the tears, and made someone laugh. You are the art of a mother. 

Saturday, November 30, 2013

What If

The night Loraine went home I went to a mom's bible study that I've been attending. Every week there was a reason not to go, but every week Larry made sure I was there. He saw after the first week what an impact this study was making on me. Satan did too and so there were always reasons to stay home. That week was no exception. Psalm 139:16 "All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be" was our bible verse that night. The next morning I found myself sitting on the floor in my mother-in-law's home as she said, "You know what I read this morning? Psalm 139:16." And all I could do was smile as tears welled in my eyes. God had been at work. 

When we were in Savannah after Loraine passed, Larry and I went to the crash site. He wasn't sure why, but he knew he needed to go. For some reason, I was completely at peace with the idea. We took pictures, Larry walked the grid, and we didn't cry. I stood in the middle of the worst part of site and prayed. You know how sometimes you go somewhere and you feel the fear? You can sense the sadness or the tension in the air? That wasn't at the crash site. I felt nothing, actually. It was just a place. A random area I had never been to. 

In a weird way, Loraine's death helped me understand and receive peace about all the deaths I've dealt with. Her final conversation with her mom where she said she was following the light, and her question, "So I just pull over anywhere?" combined with that bible verse suddenly made me realize that What Ifs don't matter.

I think one of Satan's favorite, and most evil ways, to attack us is through "What if..."
What if Loraine had gone home a different way?
What if Loraine had not left her home at all that night?
What if I had a better relationship with my mother- could I have helped her?
What if I had been healthier- would my miscarriage have not happened? 

The worst, for me, was my father-in-law. I had so many What Ifs surrounding his death that I was in anger for a long time. And I wasn't mad at God, I was mad at Craig! I was so mad at him for not going to the hospital when his wife and son urged him to. I was mad that stubbornness took away a man that would have loved my kids and let me tell you, my kids would have LOVED Craig Summerlin. He's their Daddy x 10. So when he passed when Isaac was a baby and we weren't yet pregnant with Jared, I was angry. It was also the first major unexpected death Larry or I have had to deal with. It changed our perspective on life in general. I know a lot of people change when they have kids and they don't travel as much, but Larry and I tend to travel more simply because of Craig's passing. We recognize that we don't know when the last time is that we will see someone, so we don't want to miss opportunities. 

My sister-in-law's passing healed my grief over my father-in-law's passing. I will always miss him and I will forever wish that my kids could know him, but I like to think that there is one little baby up in heaven being doted and loved on by so many loved ones, including Craig, my mom, Loraine, Mema Brinson, Granddaddy Summerlin and others. I know now that stubbornness didn't take Craig away from us, God took his son home. 

Psalm 139:16 "All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be" tells me that it didn't matter where Loraine pulled her car over. In fact, she drove for awhile off the road. Her car went through a ditch and through some bushes before it hit the first tree. One of the questions Larry had was "Why was Loraine even on that road?" We ask questions like that and "Why didn't he go to the hospital?" because we wonder if they would have been with us had they done something different. What if.... But I know now that it wouldn't have mattered. Loraine's time had been determined. If she had been on a different road then it would have been a different tree. If Craig had been at the hospital then the doctors would not have been successful anyway. God's plan trumps all of ours, especially in death. 

Death is the ultimate price of sin and I get it now. I get why God was saddened in Genesis when Adam and Eve ate from the fruit. God is relational and he loves each of us. Death is something that glorifies him- he brings someone home to him, but at the same time, he watches us hurt. We are ripped from someone we love. We are separated from their daily conversations, their laugh, their hugs and I think God hurts with us. He understands better than anyone. He created us and he loves us beyond compare, and yet we often turn our backs to him. He knows what it's like to not have someone we love around. And I know it saddens him. Satan uses this vulnerable time to attack us with lies. "What if" and "You should have" along with "Why did God" are his favorites. But the good news is, even though Satan is whispering lies, God is still there. Even though life doesn't always make sense, God is there.

Psalm 23:4  Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Effects of War

We went to church yesterday and heard a sermon that was very well done. Challenging. Motivating. 

Frustrating.

I found myself angry at the end. 

"Nobody wants to talk about what comes next," I ranted to my husband on the way home. "Everyone wants to talk about how you should give areas of your life up to God's control, but no one wants to talk about what that means. What that really means. Because I can tell you what it means. It means waking up one day and telling someone that you have 4 kids that are 5 and under and feeling just as bewildered as they are. It's feeling exhausted that every stupid decision you make is grounds for a spiritual battle. It means saying no to escaping to Disney World and wanting nothing more than your stupid bathroom to be fixed but knowing that God doesn't want you to go into debt in order to make that happen, but he also wants you home with your kids so what gives? Giving your life to God means knowing you're doing what God wants you to do, but having no freaking idea why this is what you're supposed to be doing because it sure doesn't make any sense. That's what's it's like. Living the life God has planned for you means feeling confused the majority of the time."

I'm frustrated right now. I'm depressed and angry and sullen and I'm mad. I'm mad at God and I'm frustrated that this is my reality. 

Having said that, I know that I am where God wants me. I LOVE my 4 children and they bring me the bits of joy I get to experience these days. I love watching Isaac grow and learn. I am SO grateful for my new job and I know I would be in an even worse place right now if I were still teaching. 

But.

But life is not all peaches and ponies right now. I feel strained. Stretched beyond what I can handle. I literally feel like every decision I have to make is a battle for my heart. In some ways, it makes me dig my heels in deeper in Christ. I can't see the future and I don't know what's at the end of this dark tunnel, but I know Satan is doing everything he can to keep me from clawing to the end. And that means something. I know that the harder Satan is fighting only means that God is doing great things. 

I just wish I wasn't the pawn.

Our second bathroom has been broken for a year and a half now. All of a sudden, all of my focus is on fixing the bathroom. It's silly and ridiculous. I'm willing to go into debt to get the bathroom fixed when a month ago I forgot the bathroom even existed. I was simply used to it not working. And every time I think about the bathroom I feel a tiny nudge saying, Not yet. My plan is better, and I just want to scream, I DON'T CARE ABOUT YOUR STUPID PLAN. I JUST WANT A FREAKING PRETTY BATHROOM. WHY IS THIS SUCH A BIG DEAL?

I don't want my bathroom to be a spiritual battleground. And yet it is. Satan is simply trying to distract me from something God wants me to focus on and you know what? I'm tired. I'm tired of trying to make sure I'm following God's plan and not my own. I just want to throw my hands up and say I quit. I just want to see pretty, unbroken things. 

We were challenged to find an area of our lives where we are following culture and not God. My problem with this is that you have to understand what you are signing up for. You aren't signing up for bliss and blessings for following God. You're signing up to be a warrior in a spiritual war. God is a loving God and he gives you the supplies you need, but he doesn't necessarily build in vacation time on the beach. The stronger you fight for God, the bloodier the battle will become. 

I know God has called us to do things in accordance to his will. I know he has very specific plans that require us to not use birth control. I know we are supposed to homeschool. I know he wanted me to leave the classroom and take this job with DFCS. But that's about the only comfort I get some days. Because when you do things in accordance to God's will, you do things that don't make sense to other people. They don't make sense to other people because God has called them to do different things to fulfill other purposes and plans.  To be fair, the things God has called us to do don't make sense to me, even. And that can get lonely.

But at the end of the day I know our God is a mighty God. I know he is a good God. A loving God. He didn't give me a vacation on the beach, but he did give me a 2 am moment of clarity. I find myself grateful for those late night wake up calls now. I find myself free and at peace. My brain isn't foggy and I can think clearly. I feel God's love and I bask in it. It's better than Disney. It's better than a pretty bathroom. 

I know I am not the only one feeling the effects of a war. I am not the only one going to bed at night feeling physically and mentally beaten from Satan and his army. So to all of you I say, Fight on, Warrior. Things may be broken and ugly now, but that's because this is a war and one day, the war will end. 

Revelation 21:4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.



Sunday, November 17, 2013

An Open Letter to My Church

I started attending Northpoint in late 2005, six years after I left the church I grew up in and declared myself an Agnostic. My husband and I were married in 2007 and we sporadically attended together until our first son was born in 2008. We slowly became more and more consistent in our attendance. After our second son was born in 2009, I suffered with postpartum depression. It was also the first time I truly saw God in church. It was difficult for me to get out of bed those days. The idea of getting out of bed to get two small children ready for church that was 45 minutes away was less than appealing. As a result, we were often a few minutes late. I'll never forget the usher who took us to our seats. Actually, I'll never forget his boots. I looked down at the ground, embarrassed, and followed him as he showed us to our seats. He removed the Reserved signs and waved his arm for us to sit, as though we were royalty, deserving of front row seats in a crowded church. He did not know why we were late. He did not know how my heart hurt and the crushing guilt I felt. He did not berate us for being late or tell us to find our own seats. He made eye contact, held up 2 fingers, then waved us to follow him to what felt like the best seats in the house. He seated us that way several weeks. The front row, with my hearing disability, was always my most coveted place to sit. And he took us there week after week, with no judgement, even though I didn't deserve it. In 2010 we began attending Watermarke. I became an usher in a small attempt to give back the love that was given to me by a man who did not know my name, but had seats reserved just for me and my hurting soul. 

In our years at Northpoint we have been in 3 Community Groups that have shaped us, supported us, and loved us. They were our Angels in our times of need. At the end of our second Community Group we debated whether or not to join another group. We felt it was time to lead, but knew we could not lead yet. Our fourth child was due soon, our schedules were very busy, and we considered taking a break from the weekly commitment. We attended GroupLink just in case. We figured if God had the perfect group for us, we would join. Otherwise, we would take it as a sign to take a season off. It was not God's plan for us to take a break and we found the perfect group. God knew a time was coming that we would need our small group in ways we would never anticipate.

In May our fourth child was born, whole and perfect. In August my mother passed away unexpectedly, followed by a miscarriage in September, and the unexpected deaths of my husband's grandmother and sister on the same day on November 6.

Our small groups, past and present, rallied together and have held us up in this season of grief. They have shown us what it means to Love the way Christ loves. They have celebrated with us, prayed for us, checked our mail, fed us, and babysat for us so we could have a date night. The group we serve with has prayed for us. A beautiful wreath hangs in our home along with cards of love and support. 

I am eternally grateful to belong to a church that makes it impossible for me to question God's goodness during this time. I do not know if our struggles are over; I do not know if we are entering a time of healing, or a time of preparation for more to come. But I do know one thing: We are not in it alone. God's love is bigger than my grief. I know this because the arms holding us up are many. God has blessed us abundantly and we are grateful for each and every one of you. 

Thank you for your support, your prayers, your hugs, your cards, your service, your time, your calls, your emails, your Facebook messages, your texts, your love. Thank you for proving to us that there is a God, he is big, and he is good.

Grateful,
Jenny