by Dani Catherine

About a month ago, my friends and I went on an adventure to see Jimmy Fallon at Universal. We got there a little bit early because we didn’t know the process of checking in and getting our tickets, and of course we wanted to ride the rides, and scream our heads off!

The first roller coaster we went on, Rip Ride Rockit, was an hour wait- which was perfect because we had to check in to get our tickets in about an hour. We waited in line, and I was getting antsy. Time was ticking, and I wanted to make sure we checked in on time. Well, of course, the roller coaster was having some technical difficulties, which caused us to wait a little longer. We finally got on the roller coaster, and…we started to get stuck. All I could think about was how we were going to be late for Jimmy Fallon…(why was that my worry?) The roller coaster eventually got unstuck and we were on the ground in no time and made a dash to check in for our tickets. We were pretty much the first people in line. It was a day of surprises and unexpected twists and turns. My worries seemed to subside through it all, and all I heard was “See, Dani, I got you. Be patient!” 

Ohhh, here we go again with this “patience” word. I truly have had enough of that word. But it’s something I have been trying to practice better, and God has been doing such a work in me regarding it. I have fully grasped that I have no control over anything and God is never outside His timing. Believe me, it’s a struggle everyday to practice patience, but I am getting there!

It’s funny how this time, my patience was tested on a roller coaster. But, isn’t life like that? Full of surprises and unexpected twists and turns. Just as I waited in the line to get on the roller coaster, I am waiting for the next season of life. Just as I got on the roller coaster and it went up, down, around, and got stuck, so does life with it’s twists and turns-and sometimes, I get stuck. And just as the roller coaster stopped, so does life; life goes up and down and eventually it stops and then it goes up and down again. Life isn’t always going to be a smooth ride, it’s going to have twists and turns and even some surprises- and we (speaking for myself!) have to practice patience along the way and fully trust that Gods timing is perfect.

When life hands you unexpected twists, turns, and surprises, remember to enjoy the ride…it’s going to be worth it!

 

Dani Catherine

 

Dani Catherine works at GFC as the Ministry Assistant to the Beautiful Ministry. Dani loves to bake, scream her head off at hockey games, drink tea, paint, snap photos and spend time with her dog Jeter!

By Kristin Bonham

Have you ever thought about what you love most about God?  I have to admit that my answer probably changes depending on my circumstances.  I think about God’s character and what I know about Him but not really what my favorite thing about Him is.

I love to worship.  I connect best with God when I’m in worship and have come to crave it.  It could be in a church service, on a walk or in a quiet empty sanctuary.  I hear God most when I take a moment to listen during worship.  He has encouraged me, challenged me, strengthened me and reminded me of the Truth.

if-god-is-for-us-who-can-be-against-us-romans-8_31During a worship service in April, Trevor asked us to take a few minutes and tell God what our favorite thing about Him is.  Instead of rehearsing my list of what I know about God, I prayed, “God, what is my favorite thing about you?”  The answer took my breath away.  “You love that I’m your biggest fan.”

I almost fell over or laughed out loud.  I would have never thought that on my own.  But you know what, He knows me better than I know myself and it’s true!  He is my biggest fan and in that moment when He spoke that into me, I knew it!  It’s kind of funny to me… It doesn’t really sound like it’s about God, it sounds like it’s about me.

Think about when you have been someone’s biggest fan or when people have been behind you cheering you on and keeping you focused.  It’s hard to imagine that God is a fan of ours without making it about us.  It’s not really about us at all though.  It’s about His character and knowing that His love doesn’t depend on us.  We don’t deserve it, we mess up, break promises, repeat sin, etc and He is still our fan.  He loves us unconditionally.  That’s challenging for me to wrap my head around.

When God spoke that into my heart “You love that I’m your biggest fan”, I knew that at some point, I had made a major shift in everything I believed.  I believe in His love for me.  I am at peace when things are good and when I’m struggling.

 

What shall we say about such wonderful things as these?
If God is for us, who can ever be against us?
Romans 8:31

 

What do you love most about God?

 

Kristin Bonham

 

Kristin Bonham is a pastor’s wife and the Women’s Ministry Director at Grace Family Church. She and Chris have been married for 25 years and have three children; Taylor, Abby and Casey.  She loves the beach, New York City and traveling with Chris. She collects books and reads some of them. Her favorite part of the week is Sunday lunch with her family and friends around the table.  

 

 

 

 

by Dawn Smiling

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud if witnesses let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us”
Hebrews 12:1

Let-GoI finally did it. I spent my 4th of July weekend clearing out the clutter.  What an experience.  One bag turned into 5 bags.  Why do I hold on to everything? It took about 5 to 6 hours to go through my stuff.  A chore that could have been completed in at least 2 hours took much longer.  I sat down and started going down memory lane.  It was exhausting and exhilarating at the same time. I began to examine myself.  I cleaned out the clutter, but what about the things taking residence on the inside of me that needs cleaning.  As women, we easily hide the clutter.  The same way we keep putting stuff in the closet can be the same way we tuck things away in our minds.  We often hide things in the crevices of our souls where it is hidden from our friends and family.  It is amazing that God sees the hidden things.  God sees the things we submerge in our subconscious mind.  God can see the things we choose not to talk about or think about.

Letting go liberates you from your past.  It empowers you to embrace the adventures God has prepared for you.

Letting go of past regrets reassures you that you are not your past.  As women, of God, you have options, choices and new experiences in God.  You are not who people say you are.  You are who God ordained you to be.

Letting go of bitterness enables you to let go of a grudge before the grudge takes hold of you.

Letting go of trying to change people will enable you to accept that God is the only one who can change someone’s life.  Instead of trying to change them, be a mentor in their life, pray for them and allow them to be who they are, believing that God will handle it in His time.

Letting go of thoughts that are not productive will prevent you from changing your world.

When you let go of the clutter in your mind, you open a door of limitless possibilities.  This is when God can show you things you never experienced before and bring new people who belong in your life.  When you finally release your grasp and clear out the old, there is room for the new to flow into your life.

I still have one more closet to go through. But I am determined to go through that closet and my soul in order to remain open to receive all my pre-ordained blessings from heaven.  The book of Jeremiah says “I know the plans I have for you”.  I don’t want to miss what God has for me because the clutter was blocking my view.  This is when I will truly be living God’s plan for my life.

Do you have stuff you need to let go of?

Dawn Smiling

Dawn Smiling enjoys volunteering at Grace Family Church as a prayer counselor, part of the soul care ministry, and as a table leader for Beautiful Monday Nights. 

by Renee Scott
Recently we had a guest pastor at church that spoke on diversity.  I was excited to hear the message because at work I handle multicultural marketing.  I didn’t expect to hear anything that I didn’t already know.

  • 1st confession: I actually went in feeling like everyone else around me needed to hear the message more than me. I mean really, what more could I learn about diversity.  I’m a Black woman with a career focused on other cultures. On top of that, I grew up in a traditionally Black church.  I felt like I knew more than most.  It felt good to relate my past to the guest minister’s past of growing up in a similar church.
  • 2nd confession: For the longest time, I wondered why God placed me at Grace Family Church. We were transplanted into the Tampa Bay area due to a career move approximately 7 years ago.  Grace Family church wasn’t the first church we visited in our quest to find a church home.  Grace represented a big difference for me in the “church” experience.  I brought with me a myriad of mindsets about worshiping with individuals different than my norm. We were invited to Grace by one of its members about a year after our move to the city.  We enjoyed the experience, however, I was fine if we kept looking.  This wasn’t what I was used to.  After praying about where God wanted us to go, He led us to join Grace. I didn’t come to the church as a “baby” in Christ.  I would consider myself a mature Christian.  I’d seen a lot, knew a lot, but had so much more to learn.  I’m grateful that I was obedient to God’s leading.  After Sunday’s message I realized more and more that we are all God’s people and we can’t judge others on past experiences or outside perceptions that aren’t reality.  I loved when the guest minister said, “God doesn’t move in our preferences.”

More confessions about my experience:

  • The music is very different: Before I came to Grace, I remember my sister telling me, “don’t miss the opportunity to worship because of the music.”  She was gently nudging me to focus on God along with the words and meaning of each song.  I needed to allow God to move in a different way.
  • My daughter didn’t understand interracial couples: The family that invited us was an interracial couple.  My daughter was only 5 years old when we met them at church.  I introduced them to her and her first words were, “Mommy, how can they be married when she’s pink and he’s brown?”  I was mortified and embarrassed.  Fortunately the couple laughed it off and explained to her that they can marry each other even though they were different colors.
  •  What in the world was a small group? In my previous church, we didn’t have small groups.  We had Wednesday night Bible study.  The minister taught, and we listened.  We weren’t sitting around the table telling others about our lives.  What happened in your house, stayed in your house.  You took your cares to the Lord in prayer (in private).

  • Our Beautiful women’s retreat was different: I don’t remember every dancing in my pj’s at a women’s retreat.  I would normally leave a women’s conference/retreat, tired and without a voice from worshipping, singing, and crying out to God during the course of the weekend.  It was a unique experience to eat brownies by the pool, relax in a lounge chair on the beach, or take a cardio exercise class in the middle of the day.
I thank God for this season in my life.  I love my church and all that I’ve gained in the past six years of being here.  I needed the reminder that this journey, called life, is about relationship with Christ and others.  We were created to be in relationship.  God wants us to LOVE all people despite their differences.

Renee Scott
Renee Scott is co-founder of the popular blog, www.doubleportioninspiration.blogspot.com ,where she shares encouragement and inspiration to men and women all over the world.  She’s been a member of Grace Family Church for four years. She loves to run and recently completed her first half marathon. She is a wife of over 14 years and mother of two children.  

by Jenn Parzy

It was 2011, when I was told to get my thyroid checked out. 2 short years later, I was diagnosed with cancer.

It was 2011 and I was on my way to my annual with my OBGYN. My gynecologist felt my throat around the area of my thyroid and said I should go get blood work done because my thyroid seemed a little enlarged. So, following doctor’s orders, I went and got bloodwork done and my thyroid was fine.

365532f9f04b5510b48a620dfff4f195One short year later, once again my Doctor felt my throat. “Have you had that thyroid checked?” Yes I replied. Everything was fine. This time my doctor suggested I get an ultra sound. “Okay I’ll get to it when I get to it.” was my thought process. After all, I had a lot going on in my life and it was obvious I was fine.

A summer went by, but something kept gently tugging on me to get the ultrasound done. So, 10 months later I set up the appointment. Less than a week later, my doctor asked me to set up an appointment with an Endocrinologist.

I went in to my first appointment with the Endocrinologist and he explained to me how it works. If the nodule in my thyroid was liquid, than we didn’t have to go any further, but if it was solid, I would have to get it biopsied. As he read my ultrasound results, he told me that my nodule was solid. This is where the journey began.  He referred me to get 3 fine needle aspiration biopsies done.

Now let me first explain, that I have always been a very large baby when it comes to getting needles of any type. Usually, I get very anxious, my blood pressure shoots up, and I get light headed. I have to pray a lot before doctor’s appointments. Well, the three fine needle aspirations were not that bad after all–Praise the Lord!

A week later, I recieved a voicemail left by my Endocrinologist. “Jennifer your results are in, and I’d like you to come in to the office to go over them.” My mind raced.

For a couple of days, I tried to arrange a visit with the doctor and couldn’t seem to get the timing right. So one day after work, I just decided to drive down to the office to hear these “results”.  Unfortunately, arriving at his office he wasn’t there.

So the office and I phoned him. At the point of reaching him, he told me that he didn’t want me waiting any longer to hear the news. So here it is: “You have a nodule of cancer on our thyroid. Papillary carcinoma to be exact.”  He told me that I would have to have a Thyroidectomy (having my thyroid removed completely and be on a pill for the rest of my life to replace the hormone I would be loosing). He let me know he didn’t want me to worry and that there was an increasingly high success rate of getting rid of it.

The next few hours I spent driving around town…kind of in a daze.  For some reason, I wanted a steak at a nice steakhouse.  Weird huh?  After calling my mom and breaking down, I called my husband and told him to meet me to talk.  This is when I told him.  He told me “God has got you.”

About a week passed, and I didn’t feel worried about the surgery….in fact, I was at peace. I knew God would take care of me. I was only concerned about the needles I would soon be having put into me.  (I do NOT like needles).

Fast forward to the day of surgery.  I was blessed with having my family and husband all present with me. I did get a little anxious before surgery…but, in the blink of an eye, it was over. The operation was a true success!

My post op visit was followed by the amazing news of “Your biopsy’s that I took during your surgery came back clear and you do not need Radioactive Iodine as a further treatment.”  The best part is, I am reminded that because of my surgery’s post recovery going so well, I was able to fly out to Alabama only days after to say goodbye to my dying grandfather.  God is Great!! He was with me from the moment I was handed my prescription to get blood work done and an ultrasound, to the minute I was holding my grandfather’s hand.  He sure knows the plans for us (Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.)”