By Dawn Smiling

Life is truly a journey.  Where you start out is often not where you end up.  As I write this, I must say that my life is not where I thought it would be.  I had such a different plan for myself.  Yet, without consultation, a whirlwind came and swept me into a different orbit.  At lightning speed, I was transferred and transformed simultaneously.  If I had time to think of things while it was happening, I may have lost my mind.  But there was no time to lose my mind.  I had to simply keep up with the pace of new beginnings.  There was no time for a headache or a toe ache.  There was no time to remake myself for the new roles.  I immediately went into survivor mode in order to make sense of life.  This is where Grace came in.

“When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.“ Acts 11:23

When you are going through a broken period of life, it can be difficult to see God’s purpose.  But it is also in God’s breaking that I came to understand that God knows more than I do.  Many times I was stuck in the moment of life, but God was pushing me towards my future.

God’s grace enables you to be strong enough to be broken.  By grace, God provided the flashlight I needed not to see everything, but just enough to keep trusting. The more I trusted God, the more He showed me.  God’s grace does not remove suffering, pain, disappointments, or setbacks.  God’s grace brings miracles where there would be none.  Miracles that are not based on who I am, but rather, who I am in Him.  It is grace that brought Jesus to us!  Although we did not deserve it, God loved us enough to provide grace through Jesus.

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God’s grace is visible in our lives.  It does not mean that everything will be easy.  It means that everything will have meaning.  Everything will make you wiser and move loving.  Everything will draw you nearer to God.  This is where God becomes visible in your life.  Barnabas spoke in Acts 11:23 to the church in Antioch.  He encouraged them to remain faithful and trust God’s grace.

Trust in the grace of God.  Don’t put your trust in yourself.  Don’t put your trust in money.  Don’t put your trust in the government.  Don’t put your trust in your job.  Put your trust in the grace of God.  And no matter what whirlwind comes your way, hang in there.  Don’t let anybody trick you out of the greatest gift in the world – living in the joy and power of the grace of God.

Grace opens the right doors and closes the wrong doors.  Grace is the negotiator and the closer in every deal you make.  Grace came to Bethlehem, died on the cross and rose from the grave.  Grace is in our prayer and our praise.

Dawn Smiling

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

 

 

 

 

 

by Nancy Strackany

God, I’m sorry I haven’t been praying that much lately. That’s probably why I don’t feel very close to you… I know I need to get up earlier, but I stay up too late watching TV.  It’s because I’m watching that series.  I know I shouldn’t be watching it.  It’s affecting me and it’s all Bill’s fault.  He was watching it and before long, I got sucked into it.

There is nowhere else I can go.  We need a bigger house.  One with a media room where Bill isn’t in the middle of everything I do.  Gay told me the housing market is flat right now, maybe we’ll look after Christmas.

Oh Christmas, I am always overwhelmed at Christmas.  God, I have so much shopping to do.  I have to buy something for my two grandsons but they have so much already and I have no idea what they want.  I sent them a Nativity scene last year. I can’t talk about Jesus any other time of the year to them.

I need a cup of coffee.  Where is the cream?  Oh there’s that leftover pie!  Why did I have two pieces last night?  I have no self-control. I always gain five pounds over the holidays.  Lord, give me strength to resist that pie today. I could throw it out but Bill would be upset. Why does everything make me feel guilty?

And God, I forgot Bill said he wanted to have people over on Christmas Eve.  He said he’d help but I know he won’t.  He has no clue what I go through when we have company.  I have to do all the food, plus clean the house.  He said we could buy everything, but that would be terrible.

Lord, give me strength to get through the holiday.  I know I said I would have my neighbor over for coffee, but really, I’m too busy.  Lord, I am overwhelmed and I know you hear all my prayers but Father why don’t you answer me?

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Nancy, I do hear you and I understand life can be overwhelming.   I can give you peace if you ask me.  You need to find the time to quiet and still your mind and your spirit.  You do not need to have bigger rooms or another house, or more of anything.  You just need a quiet space to come to me with no distractions.  I will give you rest from all your worries.

Remember I love you.  What you can give your husband, family and friends this holiday season is that love.  It can come in a package, a card, a phone call or a hug.  It can come as a cup of coffee and a listening ear. When you love this way, your family and friends can see me through you.

When you look to me you will know what is important and what isn’t.  Remember me as you work, being thankful for all the blessings you have.  Take time to rest.  Let others help you.  Let Bill buy the food for the party and enjoy an opportunity to share your home, as the service of hospitality is so important to me.

Don’t worry or be anxious about your children’s or grandchildren’s salvation. It is my work to call them and to know the time of that calling.  It is yours to plant those seeds, to love and nurture them and trust that your prayers are being answered.

You cannot be all things for everyone.  You can do your part each day and rest knowing that I am working.   Forgive those people who disappoint you and remember that you have also disappointed someone and I forgave you.

Ask your husband to do something fun and maybe he will turn off that TV.  Trust that I am speaking to his heart also. We both think you are wonderful and don’t want you to be too concerned about one piece of pie. If you want to talk I am always available to listen.

Nancy

Nancy has been married to Bill for 44 years, has five children and six grandchildren.  She has attended Grace Family Church for five years and is involved in Beautiful Tuesday Mornings.  She loves to read, write, paint and garden.

by KrisAnn Snow

Difficult patients are my favorite.  The crusty curmudgeon. The one who yells at the nurses. The one who, when asked about each and every meal, will say, “it sucked.” The one who hits the call light every 5 minutes asking the same question, “can I have my pain meds yet?” -knowing full well he cannot for another 3 hours. The guy who no other nurse wants to take care of. He is my favorite kind of patient, and to him I say… CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.

There is something about extremely difficult people that gets me motivated. Like a human puzzle, they require intense observation to find the solution. Humor usually does the trick. I try to make all of my patients laugh at least once. But these people are different. Something in their past, maybe lots of things, has calcified a hard shell over their once soft heart. I have found that the most horrible person has usually experienced horrible amounts of hurt. When there is a mountain of anger or frustration to overcome, it needs to be met with the dynamite of mercy and compassion, not the jackhammer of judgment. They should be met with understanding, that no matter how nasty they are to me, I will still take care of them.  They are the ones who need the most care, for they have been shown little.

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Perhaps this what Jesus has done for me. Perhaps my care as a nurse is a mere overflow of the love poured into me by my Savior. In my darkest of moments, my hatred of Him, when I spat at his caring hand, He reached down and matched my hurt with mercy, kindness and compassion. He matched it tenfold, or if you like, seventy-times-sevenfold. He looked at my pitiful self, knowing my wretched heart and to me He said…CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.

In 1st Timothy, Paul describes it well when he says, “The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.”

I began my shift this morning getting report from the night nurse. And by report, I mean ‘a warning’. “This guy is a handful.” Bring it on. You with your prison tattoos, your sailor-like vocabulary, and your heart of stone. It took me 12 hours, but by the end of my shift, I held his hand, tears in his eyes, and I told him why I do what I do, and that there is a God in heaven who loves him. He asked me to pray for him. We prayed.

Now before you go on thinking I am some Mother Theresa who wears a cape and has angels singing around me, think again. When I started my career, I too had a heart of stone. My idea of care was “put some dirt on it” and “take a lap.”  It has taken me a while to realize just how powerful mercy can be. I once took a spiritual gifts quiz and scored lowest in mercy. HA. A nurse with zero amounts of mercy is a terrible irony. Yet the more I allowed God to soften my heart, the more I was able to have a soft heart for others. Love flows downstream.

This is why the terrible patients are my favorite. They are my divine opportunity to shine my little light into their swallowing darkness. I can show them what God first showed me.  For I know there is a God in heaven who is able to “give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26

Krisann

KrisAnn Snow is a registered nurse at Tampa General in the ICU and ER. She has been a member of Grace for 2 years and serves as a small group leader for both the 20/30s and Beautiful Tuesday morning ministries. She loves to run, eat, and spend time with friends and family.

by Sonya Skinner

I shuddered watching the news of Jerry Sandusky, a former American football coach arrested on multiple counts of sexual child abuse. There were arguments regarding his guilt, accusations, denial, covered ups and changing stories. The parallels between this story and the abuse I experienced in my own childhood were crawly.

Correlations didn’t stop with abuse. The denying, defending, looking away, and minimizing echoed down the halls of dysfunction in my life. Media continued covering the trial. Headlines blared  “Why didn’t anyone do anything?” The painful question I have asked my whole life is, “Why didn’t I do anything?”  Regret tried to overtake grace but I knew this conviction was not to bring shame or guilt. It was to increase the commission God had already given me a few years back, to turn and strengthen others.

Sadness as intended by God produces a repentance that leads to salvation, leaving no regret,but worldly sadness brings about death.”
2 Corinthians 7:10

Worldly sadness and its destruction ruled a lot of my life. I was a wounded, rebellious, untrusting, a 5 foot ticking time bomb. Drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, dui’s, and arrests, I pretty much tried everything under the sun to cope with pain. Even healthy attempts to escape became chronic and destructive, obsessively trying to be good, people pleasing and unduly serving.

All of these patterns eventually led to psychosis and admission to a psyche ward. While settling in, a letter was delivered. I swallowed a lump of shame, embarrassed that this close friend and mentor knew where I was. After reading a few sentences tears started streaming down my cheeks as the words began transforming my hardened heart. God was with me. He knew long before I was born that this was going to happen to me and he loved me anyway. The letter contained a verse replacing Peters name with mine: “Sonya, Sonya satan has asked to sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that you would not loose faith and when you turn back, strengthen others” (Luke 22:31). With my spirit crushed, Gods grace became greater then my colossal sin.

Thankful

Now sober, I started to deal with my messed up relationship with God and others and my lack of trust.  God’s Word says the truth will set us free. True forgiveness and healing came when I stopped listening to all the distorted information in my head and began replacing it with God’s truth.

The Sandusky scandal broke and, as disturbing as it was, the story empowered me to be more bold in helping others.  I began writing out my story and leading a small group for women effected by childhood abuse. I contacted some members of my family I hadn’t spoken to in years and cannot even describe my excitement to learn God is restoring others as well.

If childhood abuse or any kind of abuse has been part of your past I highly recommend talking to someone you can trust. The church has a list of qualified counselors. Join a Support Care Group like Wounded Heart or a small group such as Freedom.   The benefits of Gods healing far outweigh the risks.

“This light, temporary nature of our suffering is producing for us an everlasting weight of glory, far beyond any comparison.”
2 Corinthians 4:17

Sonya

The loves of Sonya’s life are her husband Brad of 29 years, her three adult children Adam, Bo & Laura, her daughter in-law Erin and her “state of the art” granddaughter Noveli.  As assistant to the food service director here at Grace Family Church, she knows we cannot live on Chicken Wings alone.  She is also very active in delivering spiritual nutrition, sharing her experience hope & strength in various women’s groups.