Upcoming SGM Events and Update

I’m not sure where to even begin. There are so many happenings at SGM lately. We have been continually blessed by our supporters. Thank you to everyone who supported the SGM Golf Outing 2013 on July 13, 2013. There will be a post coming soon to chronicle those events.

We have been ministering to families saying hello and goodbye to their precious babies with “in-person” birth and bereavement support in the NW Ohio and SW Ohio area. It has been such a blessing, and a sacred privilege to meet these precious little ones, and to honor their lives alongside their amazing parents. Each one is carried in our hearts, and this work is changing us, imbedding this passion to serve grieving hearts even deeper as we wade further in to the deep side of the ocean.

Work has begun in our partnership with the amazing staff of Defiance Regional Medical Center, through grants awarded from the Defiance Area Community Foundation and the Defiance Regional Hospital Foundation Auxillary to provide specialized training for all OB, OR, ER, and physician staff as well as to implement SGM Perinatal Hospice Birth and Bereavement Services. We are thrilled to be offering this service to Defiance first, and look forward to working with other hospitals in Northwest and Southwest Ohio soon.

Monday, Kelly will be speaking to the Women’s Group at Immanual New Bavaria.

Holly and Kelly will be traveling to St. Louis Missouri from Thursday July 25 – Sunday July 28. Please keep us in prayer as we travel and prepare. We will be meeting up with newly inducted, SGM Regional Coordinator, St. Louis Area: Heather Mohr. There will be a presentation on Saturday, July 27 at 9am at the Shriner’s Hospital and in the afternoon, we will host trainings for any interested SGM/SBD Doulas and SGM Remembrance Photographers. If you are a bereaved parent, caregiver, hospital staff member, nurse, doctor, social worker, clergy member, support group leader, photographer, crochet/seamstress/crafter, mother, friend or family member touched by loss, or just interested in learning more about SGM, please consider attending this presentation. We will not be traveling this way again anytime soon, so this is a special opportunity to learn more about SGM and meet the ladies behind this amazing organization. There will be special door prizes for those who attend!

For more details about this FREE SGM Presentation in St. Louis Missouri, visit our Facebook Event Page: https://www.facebook.com/events/206106282879428/

The first Monday of each month at 7pm, we host an in person Walking With You meeting for a special group of parents touched by loss. All our welcome. Please join us. This group is for parents who have experienced the loss of a baby or child.

For our non-local friends, we have added a Closed Facebook Group where parents and family members can gather for  Walking With You support. Only those in the group can see what is posted. It is meant to be a safe haven for grieving hearts. You can ask to join here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/272912556187491/

Coming in October, to remember our precious babies/children in heaven for Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, we will be hosting a very special event: Walking With You ~ Evening of Remembrance. You can find out more details on the Facebook Event Page: https://www.facebook.com/events/288992251245688/

 Please join us the first Saturday of every month for Comfort Bear Work Day. We stuff, cut, and sew bears, glue hearts, and more…so everyone is welcome. Next one is Saturday, August 3, 2013 from 9-11am. We will also have an extra workday for anyone able to come this Wednesday July 24 beginning at 10am-? We will be making up packets and working on bears and anything else that needs done before the St. Louis trip.

One Way will be at the Corn City Festival on Sunday, August 18 at 12:30pm and St. John Lutheran Church Sunday September 15, 2013

We are in need of SGM Remembrance Photographers and SGM/SBD Birth and Bereavement Doulas in NW Ohio, SW Ohio, St. Louis Missouri, Northern Michigan, and parts of Kentucky (near Lexington, I believe). You can find out more about volunteering for these positions here: SGM/SBD birth and bereavement doula and SGM Remembrance Photographer

Please keep us in prayer. SGM is growing fast and so our the needs of this ministry and the families we serve. We continue to ship Dreams of You items to families worldwide every Friday at 1pm.

Grace to all…

One Way at St. Stephens Church and Upcoming Events

One Way led worship music at St. Stephens Church in Hamler, Ohio on November 11, 2012. We had a wonderful morning with their congregation, sharing our music and our testimony. I was going to upload a bit of video, but YouTube is giving me trouble!

 

One Way will be appearing at the Immanuel Lutheran Church Ladies’ Tea on December 2, 2012 and Harvest Fellowship’s Christmas Praise Night on December 15th. You can “Like” One Way on Facebook for more updates, pictures, and videos.

REMINDER: Our next big Comfort Bear Work Day is Saturday December 1, 2012 from 9am-11am. There are a variety of duties, something for everyone! This gathering is for those blessed with the gift of sewing…and for those (like me!) who are not-so-much gifted in that way! There are plenty of jobs for everyone, and the time of fellowship is always such a blessing! Please join us at the new SGM office location to help cut, stuff, sew, glue, and iron as we make the beautiful bears that will be given to comfort the aching arms of grieving mothers. We also have weekly shipping, packaging, and prayer times on Fridays from 12:30pm-2:30pm. I am at the SGM office every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 10am-2:30pm for appointments, work days, or if anyone just wants to stop in for tea, coffee, prayer, or a nice chat. We will also be adding an evening work day once or twice a month, and a support group is in the works, as well as plans to expand to offer perinatal hospice services.

COMING SOON: We will be offering a plethora of delightful giveaway items each day of the first week of December to celebrate SGM Christmas Giveaway Extravaganza 2012. Please stay tuned for details…you won’t want to miss this!!

We will be posting several updates in the coming days. Our computers have been down, so we are way behind on updates! Timothy and Tim have donated toward a new computer for SGM as a Christmas present to me (love them!). However, we are still in need of Microsoft Office Software, and we are also hoping that the important information on files from our laptop can be retrieved. Please pray for those needs! We also have many financial needs right now, with increasing shipping costs to send families materials, as well as our plans to expand to offer perinatal hospice services for families receiving a fatal diagnosis in pregnancy. Please prayerfully consider donating if you can! Thank you!

We hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. We stand in awe of the beauty of God’s provision for this ministry and for the faithfulness of His people to give. Anytime we are getting concerned about a need, it is immediately met. Thank you, for whatever your part in serving with us as we have the sacred privilege of walking with grieving hearts. Love to all…

 

One Way, Oprah-Moments, and What You Don’t See

This post is long overdue. I have been meaning to update on One Way’s visits to the Corn City Festival on August 19, 2012 and to St. John’s Lutheran Church on August 26, 2012. But, the busyness of a new school year and making a new schedule for daily SGM and home tasks has kept me from here. I must say, soaking in the gift of being able to stay home, spend time sitting at the feet of Jesus, work on the ministry full time and take care of our family has filled me with all sorts of joy. Thoughts I’d love to post some time. For now, there’s business to attend to!

I enjoy posting the pictures I like about an event, and posting about it all cleaned up and polished. It rarely happens that way in real life. Real life is messy. For this post, I thought I’d share some of what you don’t see. Worshiping with the boys from One Way is a great privilege. We all enjoy it and are blessed to do it. However, we also practice many hours before our gigs…hours that include getting tired, frustrated, discouraged. Hours with laughing and teasing, and excitement over learning a new song. Hours of harmony and occasionally discord. Hours with the occasional zinging of marital one-liner quips that I will refrain from calling bickering. Because, ahem, Tim and I don’t do that. ;)

Because, you know, we are spirit and flesh. Sometimes the flesh wins briefly. But, the Spirit always has the final say.

Because…we are not perfect. But, we are His.

I was late for practice on Sunday before we performed at the Corn City Festival. It takes some paint to cover this 37 year old face, and some thoughts as to what is appropriate to wear. Something sassy and hopefully slimming. Something stylish, but not too young. Yada-yada. The boys didn’t and don’t care. They would like me on time. Especially that Tim, the one responsible to present me without spot or blemish. I am not without, either, I’ll tell you that. Except for the blood of Jesus that covers me, of course. He was grumpy. I was defensive and sensitive. Beautiful combination. We prayed. And, practiced. I walked away from the boys to fix my make-up and hide the fact that I had cried a little while we practiced. Because, there’s no crying in worship. Oh wait…that’s not right. Still, I didn’t want them to see. I had girled things up enough with my diva-lateness. All sorts of things can ooze out of a person when preparing to stand in front of a bunch of people and sing about grace. Sometimes, we forget to extend that grace to ourselves.

I slipped on my sassy shoes, painted my nails turquoise, and fixed my mascara.

Tim rode in the back of the truck to protect the drums.

I breathed. The boys set up the stage, with the help of Allan, our friend, and the best sound guy ever.

Tim came up beside me, as we were minutes from taking the stage, and said, “Did you know your dad was coming?”

No…I didn’t. He has never seen me perform on a stage. Not a musical, not a band performance, not a solo, not a song.

I looked up and saw my father and his wife, Carol, walking toward me. He doesn’t know this, and I can’t believe I’m about to offer these most sacred pieces of my heart up for anyone to read. It’s easier, though, behind a computer screen. Easier to say the hard things. I used to wish, secretly, (only Tim and God knew) that dad would surprise me one day like that. That I would look out into the audience, and he would be there. Proud of me. I had forgotten about that wish, until I looked up, about to take the stage and saw them walking toward me. In that moment, I was 8 again, and 12 and 16 and 21…and 37.

I once told a friend who gets it, that my father and I don’t do Oprah moments. We aren’t very good at the sap. We know that there’s been a whole lot broken over the years, and we did the best we could. In 2012, I think we’re ok with being who we are today, starting from here, giving each other grace. We don’t need to say it, or wallow in it. But, I was wrong about us not doing Oprah moments, because I completely forgot myself, and ran to them yelling out, hugging them both, eyes filling with tears, making quite a scene.

My dad grinned, pleased, and said, “Well, we were just passing through.”

It means too much for me to say the words to him. But, I’m guessing he will read them here. It’s the best I can do. I don’t know if it’s possible to say what it meant to me to have him there.

After a few minutes of proclaiming their presence as the best surprise ever, we settled down, and I pulled it together, because…after all, the show must go on.

I breathed grace. The Holy Spirit always meets me there. I smiled, as I felt His grace wash over me, taking the microphone in my hands.

It may look like we’re standing on a stage, but really, we’re sitting at His feet.

I love this man.

I love these boys.

And, I love these people, including the Irishman on the end, my father…

And, now for your listening…ahem…pleasure. Imperfect us.

The next Sunday, One Way was invited to lead the worship service at St. John’s Lutheran Church. We were looking forward to this visit, as we enjoyed the warm welcome from their congregation on our prior visit. They are very generous in their support of SGM. It was Rally Day, so the service was focused on the kids, and I was going to be giving the Children’s Sermon. Now, I’ve taught children of various ages for years, but it is a different undertaking altogether to teach them in front of adults. I was also going to share again about SGM, another thing I’ve done many times over the years.

What they didn’t see, as we prepared, was the war going on inside of me as I sat in the front pews where the choir often sits. The other boys had been wooed into getting donuts, when I felt the tears filling my eyes and the overwhelming fear grip me. Tim walked up just in time for the tears to fall as I turned my head so the congregation wouldn’t be able to see. I looked up and said, “Please pray. I’m overwhelmed and afraid. I can’t.”

He put his hand over mine and prayed words of strength and peace, asking our Father for help. And, with a gentle squeeze he looked at me and said, “You can do this. You’ve done it before. You’ll be just fine.”

I nodded and discreetly wiped the tears with the paper towel he scrounged up for me, as I wouldn’t let him go asking for a tissue, lest we reveal to everyone the truth that I’m a broken mess. It was kind of like when Doolittle gave Loretta Lynn the pep talk in Coal Miner’s Daughter. But, I didn’t pass out and he didn’t have to carry me out of the back of the sanctuary, like Doolittle carried Loretta out of the packed auditorium.

Instead, I smiled and sang, “If You’re Happy and You Know It”. I was. And, they were.

I talked a bit about God’s grace my Faith, Grace, and Thomas…and about SGM.

Using a light and a mirror, I taught the children the importance of shining the light of Jesus and being a reflection of Him to the world. We need to focus on Jesus and not let anything turn us away from Him. (Matthew 5:14-16 & John 8:12). While I don’t have a picture of this cute (borrowed from the internet!) demonstration because our camera girl was slacking, ahem, I do have this video of the children joining to sing with us.

Please disregard the mess that is my hair, and my dorkiness, and the fact that I seem to be frightening the children a bit with the microphone in their faces…

Getting my worship on. Love how He meets us there. Love how He sets us free.

Singing about Jesus…shining…

Graduation, Memorial Day…And the First Day of the Rest of My Life

I like to say, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life”. My friend Tracy hates that saying. But, I like it. It’s akin to…”His mercies are new every morning” (See Lamentations 3). A promise I heartily embrace, often needing the grace of a fresh start.

Tuesday, in the aftermath of our oldest son’s graduation celebration and our annual Memorial Day festivities, I sat in my new office (i.e., the patio Tim built just days before the party), soaking in the reality that a new beginning of monumental proportions was upon us. The birds sang, the sun shone down, and I breathed slow and easy. I didn’t feel the usual overwhelming grip as I read through the emails and looked at the upcoming schedule of events to plan, speaking engagements, interviews, and fundraising opportunities. I felt peace. I felt free. Free to serve the Lord and take care of my family’s needs. Gratefulness swept over me. Eucharisteo. Soaking in this moment. This first day of the rest of my life. (For those who may have missed the announcement, I will not be returning to my full-time school job next year, but will be working from home to devote my time to family and serving through SGM.)

I reflected on the weekend.

For months before our oldest son walked down the aisle of the high school gym robed in royal blue, to the tune of Pomp and Circumstance, the emotion poured from my heart and the tears fell freely from my eyes. The idea of this season coming to an end, even as we anticipate the new beginnings in his life, has not been easy to embrace. He has always been here, after all. Our entire marriage. Our entire adult life. Through the losses. Through the celebrations.

I dreaded what I will affectionately refer to as the “building of the shrine” and procrastinated the task until just a couple weeks before graduation day. But, it turns out, as I sat in my living room surrounded with the pictures that told a story of his life….of our lives…I smiled and laughed. Joy bubbled up, and I was able to embrace and celebrate the gifts of our family. Pictures from my own graduation were strewn in the midst. Pictures of my mother young and healthy, and alive. Pictures of  husband Tim, also wearing the blue graduation robe, looking much like his son. The tears didn’t fall until the “shrine” was complete….and his life literally unfolded before me. Eighteen years…years filled with great blessing.

 

Later that week, just a few days before graduation, I was reminded of a sweet classmate of the 2012 class that was killed by a drunk driver in the second grade. Her family would be receiving an honorary diploma, in Cassie’s name, during the ceremony. I looked again at my shrine, and the unfolding of Timothy’s life, and was humbled by my weeping over what was about to change. In that moment, I realized, we had been given all these years to tell his story. I thought of Cassie’s family, who long to be able to shed their tears over the sentimental passing of years filled with memories, instead of the ache of missing, that I also know well. I desired joy and celebration for what we had been given. And, when graduation day came, that’s exactly what filled the day. Joy and celebration. And, pride (the good kind….the kind that knows that God has been faithful when we are faithless, that somehow, despite all our inadequacies as parents, our son is filled with the character and qualities we have prayed for and more….because of His grace.). The only tears during the ceremony for me, were those shed for Cassie and her family.

The party was such busy fun. Friends and family filled our yard and garage. Corn hole was played, food was eaten, laughter rang out. I felt like I was in a blender greeting, thanking, filling, smiling, hugging, and saying goodbye to guests. It was splendid fun. And, joy abounded. We had tents with tables beneath in the yard and tables filling the garage. Children ran around happily, and bellies were filled with delicious food.

 

Have I mentioned how much I love these boys? My Tim and Ian….so proud of them.

And, love these boys, of course.  My Timothy and James….so proud of them. Cute brothers!

 

The next morning, we arose early to attend the Memorial Day services hosted in our tiny town, by the American Legion Post 316 and the Sons of the American Legion. Our band, One Way, was performing a couple songs, and I had the honor of singing the National Anthem and reading some of the names of the Veterans who are no longer with us. We were also blessed to hear the story of a local Vietnam Veteran, Steve Wing. The tears flowed freely as he spoke of his service and the sacrifice of one of his fellow servicemen, his friend. It was a beautiful time to honor those who serve our country.

 

The Saturday before, I did make a trip to the cemetery. A rare trip. Most of you who have been reading here know I don’t visit the cemetery much. I like to think of my babies and mom in heaven. The cemetery is not a comforting place to me. But, I went. It seemed they needed to be included somehow as we celebrated Timothy’s graduation and remembered those who served our country….and those we love who are no longer with us. I decided they needed red, white, and blue flowers. Sometimes I go. Sometimes I don’t. This year, I went. There aren’t any pictures of my time there, though.

As we look ahead to new beginnings and adventures, I hope you’ll continue to join our family and pray for us and for this ministry. God is working in mighty ways. I have much to share about coming events and other blessings that have already occurred. Thank you to all who support us, and stay tuned!

Today is the first day of the rest of your life…and mine. Love to all…

P.S. Thank you to those of you who offered your prayers for my friend Tracy, and her family, as we celebrated the life of her mother, Louise on Thursday. Your prayers were felt, and the Lord’s hand was evident through all the events of the day. It was a beautiful time of remembrance for a very special lady.

One Way and SGM at St. John’s Lutheran Church

Last Sunday, our band One Way was invited to lead the music at St. John’s Lutheran Church outside of Deshler, Ohio. I took some time to share about Sufficient Grace Ministries, and our family’s testimony as well.

Leading up to the morning, I experienced the usual spiritual struggle, especially considering that we would be sharing the intensely intimate story of our grief and healing after the loss of our three children with a familiar hometown audience. It is always intimidating to speak of such sacred emotion amongst those we see in the grocery store and sit beside at ball games. It is easier to bare our souls with strangers sometimes. Or, while sitting safely behind a computer screen.

The boys from One Way, one of whom is my husband, have been in my life since I was a child. They knew me when I was young, when I was a carefree teenager riding on the back of some boy’s motorcycle, and when Tim and I walked through heartache early in our marriage. They were present at the first rock concert I ever attended, and now they fold their hands and lift their voices in prayer alongside me. I’m not sure if they know what a precious blessing their friendship is to us. They are ever patient with my woman quirks and moods, often seeing me at my most vulnerable while we prepare to step on to the stage. (Even though, I’ve apparently been nicknamed Axel Rose for my diva-like behavior regarding the sound quality of our low budget monitors! Aye, aye, aye…not my best moment.)

 

The camera always captures the most interesting faces when I’m singing….yikes! Had to use this one, because most of them are blurry due to the fact that I can’t stand still during worship. =)

Despite all the upheaval that often accompanies the moments leading up to taking the stage, the Lord is always faithful to meet us there. And, in that moment, nothing else matters. His Spirit settles upon us and we worship Him. Gone is the frightened girl who once could only sing while hiding behind a costume, playing the part. With Him, I am free…I am His…and I can lift my voice in worship. Just a daughter and her Dad…a girl and her King.

Then I get to tell the story. My favorite story. The story of two young people in love, and three tiny souls whose brief lives changed the course of ours forever, teaching us the ultimate truth about the faith that clings and the grace that carries. Teaching us about the One who restores the years the locusts have eaten in more beautiful ways that a human mind could conjure.

 

I wondered how we would be received with our non-traditional versions of the hymns at a more traditional church. My answer…one of the most warm and encouraging receptions we’ve experienced in the years we’ve spent playing at various churches and venues. It was so humbling, and so beautiful. Many in the congregation approached the stage to give us hugs and words of encouragement, some with tear stained faces and hearts touched by the story we shared and the God who carried us. The pastor had tied in his message with our testimony, and his words were perfect and edifying. Mothers who have sat beside me in our small town for years, cheering our boys on at ball games embraced me that morning. Some didn’t know about our ministry…or our children in heaven. I was surprised by that. It’s such a small town. It strikes me that must be how little we as a society mention when a baby dies. High school students in Timothy’s class hugged me, and their Luther League gave a donation in addition to a very generous donation by the congregation.

I love how He always meets us there. And, He always does more than we could ask or imagine. He’s faithful like that.

Here’s a little tidbit from the morning:

Winners, Unanswered Prayers, One Way News and More SGM Christmas Extravaganza Coming Soon!

WWY Remembering at Christmas Ornament Winners Announced here. Congrats to the winners!

And, now the winner of the Reunion Necklace:

heathermohr from In this Storm

And….

The Winner of the Reunion Key Ring:

The Blue Sparrow

Please email me your address and I will get those right out to you this week!
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In other news, I have been doing some thinking about unanswered prayers….or prayers answered differently than we expected. About life’s disappointments and all of the goodbyes along the way.

These verses from Habakuk 3 mean so much to me as I reflect on the days in the past I spent waiting on the Lord…and some of the prayers of my heart currently awaiting answers.

Though the fig tree may not blossom,

Nor fruit be on the vines;
Though the labor of the olive may fail,
And the fields yield no food;
Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,
And there be no herd in the stalls—


Yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will joy in the God of my salvation.
The LORD God is my strength;
He will make my feet like deer’s feet,
And He will make me walk on my high hills.

I think of the years I saw little fruit in my marriage…the years we spent unequally yoked…the years I spent claiming these promises, allowing them to wash over me. What was the promise? Did I know all those years ago that one day I would stand on a stage beside my husband and join my voice with his in worship to our Savior? Did I know that when I sat alone in the church pew?

No….I didn’t.
The fig trees did not blossom and there appeared to be no fruit on our vines in the early years of our marriage as we muddled through the best we could. Trusting in what we couldn’t see, clinging to Him despite what we saw with our human eyes.

Did I know when I stood over the grave of my daughters on that cold November morning that one day their lives would be used to offer comfort and hope to hundreds….and soon thousands of families? Did I know that their lives would serve to create a tenderness in our hearts…that they would be part of the beautiful tapestry of this family…a piece of the puzzle that both shattered us, left us broken, and yet was essential to our healing all at the same time?

Did I know when I heard the words incompatible with life in regards to our Thomas on that rainy day? Did I know when we lept off the cliff in the fog and carried our sweet boy, praying for a miracle while planning a funeral? Did I know that His sufficient grace was carrying me those days, weeks, and months… and that He was waiting to fill me with the sweetest joy and comfort in what should have been the darkest moment of my life?

No…I didn’t.

The fields yielded no food…the sheep were cut off from the fold…and there was no herd in the stall.

But the prayer of my heart remained…

Yet I will rejoice in the LORD,

I will joy in the God of my salvation.
The LORD God is my strength;
He will make my feet like deer’s feet,
And He will make me walk on my high hills.

There were disappointments… incredible losses…prayers that weren’t answered the way I hoped. And, there still are some…in this life. But, looking back on those days…seeing what I couldn’t see then. Knowing the faithfulness of my God…sometimes, it’s good to look back and see what He has brought us through…to see how what once seemed hopeless has blossomed into hope…what once was a pile of ashes has turned to beauty.

If you are still in that place…still waiting for an answer or trying to make sense of an answer you never wanted…keep clinging…keep trusting in Him. Keep trusting…even when you don’t see. For, He is good…even when life is bad. He is faithful…even when we are faithless. He has a plan and purpose…even when we don’t understand. He is working long after we have given up.

When all you see is emptiness…

When it seems all hope is gone…

When you stand in front of the ruins broken and weary…

Remember this promise from Joel 2…

Fear not, O land;

Be glad and rejoice,
For the LORD has done marvelous things!
Do not be afraid, you beasts of the field;
For the open pastures are springing up,


And the tree bears its fruit;
The fig tree and the vine yield their strength.
Be glad then, you children of Zion,
And rejoice in the LORD your God;


For He has given you the former rain faithfully,
And He will cause the rain to come down for you—
The former rain,
And the latter rain in the first month.


The threshing floors shall be full of wheat,
And the vats shall overflow with new wine and oil.
“ So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten,
The crawling locust,
The consuming locust,
And the chewing locust,
My great army which I sent among you.

You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
And praise the name of the LORD your God,
Who has dealt wondrously with you;
And My people shall never be put to shame.


Then you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel:


I am the LORD your God
And there is no other.
My people shall never be put to shame.

Keep waiting and trusting for His restoration…for He sees all that has been stolen, all the years the locusts have eaten…He will restore them…and His restoration is a beautiful thing to behold.

——————-
Speaking of restoration, our band, One Way, had the opportunity to share worship music and our family/ministry testimony last Sunday at Holgate United Methodist Church. Thank you so much for your prayers. The day was a blessing, and we were so grateful for the kindness and welcoming spirit offered to us by Pastor Susan and the congregation.

No matter how we struggle through our days, how Satan attacks with doubt, how the locusts seem to feast on our lives, and even when the fig tree doesn’t bloom….

God is faithful to meet us there…and to carry us through…and to restore all that is broken.

Tim and I singing Days of Elijah…

Sharing our family and SGM testimony…

I didn’t know this sign was up there until I saw theses pics! Holgate UM made it, and I noticed they mentioned our church home. I probably would have said we were there to represent Sufficient Grace… although we are proud to say we are from Harvest…so  hopefully our church doesn’t mind claiming us! =)

God’s grace and faithfulness bring me to my knees. Our boys sat in the audience, as we worshipped together. And, I closed my eyes, remembering that once fruitless tree…now blossoming and growing in abundance. Sweet grace…washing over me…

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P.S. Tune in tomorrow for the BIGGEST giveaway in Sufficient Grace history!!! This is the finale of the SGM Christmas Extravaganza 2010…and it is going to be so much fun!!! It will include several of my favorite things! I hope you will join us.

Where We Come From…and Who We Are

Saturday, our Contemporary Praise and Worship band, One Way, played at the Liberty Center Fall Festival. I awoke early in the morning tossing and turning. Many times before I stand before a crowd to speak or sing, I am plagued with a spiritual battle that leaves my stomach in knots. I do all that I can, praying through it…meditating on scripture. But, often the struggle is strong. It sounds so easy to lay it all at the feet of Jesus. Sometimes, it isn’t so simple.

This time, the battle was personal. It was more than just getting up in front of people to sing about Jesus. That, as my husband says, is a privilege that we should feel honored to do…not overwhelmed by the thought. Our goal is simply to bring glory to Him. He is so right, and there are times when it is a “taking every thought captive” exercise for me to cling to that truth and resist the temptation to let my emotions get the better of me.

As we drove the once familiar path to the home town of my parents, the current home of my grandparents, and several aunts and uncles the September winds were suddenly thick with smothering memories from my childhood. It is an amazing thing how a place can hold such history that it almost feels as if the place itself has a life of it’s own…so many stories to tell.

We drove over the narrow bridge that I’ve never been fond of. I closed my eyes and I was seven years old, riding in my dad’s red Mazda, eating McDonald’s chicken nuggets with hot mustard sauce, dreading the narrow bridge that took us to Grandma’s house. I loved visiting my Grandma, but the bridge was a different story.

I suddenly realized that going to sing in the town where my mother and father grew up may hold more emotional obstacles than my typical pre-show stomach ache. I doubled over and tried to shake the emotion. I rarely travel that way, and going back reminds me of so many childhood moments…the missing of those who are no longer here washes over me with such intensity. We drove past the house where my paternal grandparents once lived across from the Dairy Queen. I used to love their french fries. Yes, I know that Dairy Queen is known for ice cream, but I only seem to remember the fries. (Have I mentioned that I’ve never met a carbohydrate I didn’t like?) I also remember my Grandma Wanda’s love for vibrant purple and her lilac lipstick.

We stopped beside the semi-trailer that would serve as our make-shift stage, preparing to unload our plethora of gear and instruments, and I looked up at the orange and white water tower behind us. My breath caught in my throat, and I was again a little girl, holding my maternal Grandmother’s hand as we entered the grocery store. My eyes followed the path down Main Street, to the beautiful display prepared by my childhood babysitter, who now redecorates furniture (and does an amazing job I might add). I realized that this day, there would be no hiding from the memories of the September winds.

My mother walked these sidewalks before me, and for the rest of that day, I would represent her to the people of this town who remember her shining face. She would be carried with me, and they would be looking for a reflection of her as they looked into my eyes. I would not be the person I am today…the person who I am most days as I go about life: Kelly Gerken…wife to Tim, mother to Timothy, Faith, Grace, Thomas, and James, founder of Sufficient Grace Ministries, educational para to special needs children. No…that day, I would be Pat and Kathy’s daughter. My father lives in another state, and has since I was about eight or ten. My mother passed away in 2006, and prior to her death, I spent a great deal of my life exerting my stubborn independence from her. (However, I did learn to treasure and appreciate her before she died.) All that to say, I haven’t spent much time identifying myself in those terms. But in this quaint small town, much like the one where I grew up, and still reside…I would be known as Pat and Kathy’s daughter.

My father’s best friend, and the best man in my parent’s wedding walked by as we unloaded our gear. I smiled and said “hello”, realizing that the memories would be all around as the day wore on. I shook the hand of the sweet lady who invited us to perform at the event, and as I introduced myself, she said, “I would know you anywhere.” I nodded again. When I went over to talk to my childhood babysitter, she introduced me to the man beside her, and he said, “You look a lot like your mother.” It went on as the day continued. Several others saying…”You’re Pat’s daughter…or You’re Kathy’s daughter aren’t you? Does your dad still have that curly hair? Boy your mom was quite a wonderful lady.” It’s funny, growing up, people always said I looked like my dad. But, since mom passed, everyone says I look like her. I see it too, when I look in the mirror. I wonder sometimes if we don’t all just miss her so much that we want to catch a glimpse of her any way we can. I don’t really mind being that glimpse. It’s an honor, but it does stir the emotions already brewing this time of year.

I thought about that for the rest of the day…how it matters where we come from. All of our experiences make up the person we are, whether we understand how it works or not. It may be more of a small town thing. I’m not really sure. Other than visiting, I don’t really have any big city experience. I’ve always lived in a small town, and my parents came from (a different, but much the same kind of) small town. And, in a small town, it matters where you came from, and who you “belong to”. In a small town, those details somewhat define who you are.

Prior to stepping on to the stage, I was wondering how I would “put on Christ” and shake the emotions squeezing my heart. Tim knew, and gently reminded me that we were here to serve the Lord. I nodded, more full of feelings than I wanted to be. I blinked back a few tears and turned to an older gentleman with a ball cap and an almost toothless grin waving me to come over. I stepped away from the stage and walked over to him. He asked what kind of music we played and shared that he played the banjo and several other instruments, including a harmonica, which he promptly removed from his pocket and began to play for me. In the middle of Main Street. Surrounded by the Festival passerby. I did what anyone else would do. I smiled and clapped along, tapping my feet to the beat as he played proudly.

Then…he began to yodel.

You heard me.

He yodelled right there on Main Street…in the midst of the festival, and I forgot for a few minutes all the history surrounding me. I forgot everything but the sweet man, yodelling a song for me in the middle of Main Street and the God of my heart who sent him there to let me know that He always knows exactly what I need. I wasn’t sure how I would muster the courage to take that stage, with all of those emotions. God knew what I needed. And, he sent a harmonica-playing yodeller to do the job.

He told me his name and shook my hand, then wrapped his arms around me in a big hug. And off he went.

We went “backstage” and Dave led us in prayer. Then we climbed the steps and just as it usually happens when I opened my mouth to sing, the peace of the Holy Spirit washed over me. For the next 52 minutes, the only thing that mattered was being a vessel of praise for Him. The only thing that mattered was singing the name of Jesus in the town of my parents. The only thing that mattered was the smile on the faces of the children dancing joyfully in front of our “stage” and my maternal grandparents sitting by James and smiling as we played/sang. For the next 52 minutes He lifted me, as He is always faithful to do. And, I was free. I was Kelly Gerken, daughter of the King, put here to serve Him, and bring Him glory. And that was all that mattered.


My harmonica-playing, yodelling friend even came back and played his harmonica in the crowd during our performance, tapping his feet and smiling with his eyes. I smiled back, wondering about our encounter.


(Thanks, Glenn and Toni for taking this pic!)

Later, I asked several people if they knew who he was. Everyone knows everyone in a small town.

No one knew him, or where he came from…but he was there. And, he blessed and encouraged me in a way that I didn’t even know I needed. Interesting, don’t you think?

Goodbye Summer…It’s Been a Great Ride

School is underway, which also means that I am back to work. Adjusting to a new schedule and routine is not one of my strengths, I’ll admit. While I most certainly enjoy and appreciate my job working with special needs students at the elementary school, it is hard to let go of the sweet freedom and light-hearted fun of summer. My boys are also lovers of the good times of summer, which leaves the three of us in serious “transition mode”. No more afternoon naps, impromptu swims at Grandmas, running barefoot with the neighbor boy (James…not me!), late morning snacks, reading on a blanket in the yard after an afternoon bike ride to the library….sigh. It’s so hard to say good-bye to three months of Saturdays and the sweetness of summer. Until next year…that is.

So…please bear with me, if it seems like I’m slacking a little right now. A couple more balls have been thrown into our juggling act, and it may take us a little bit to get our balance and rhythm!

Since I’m kind of missing summer, it seems a few summer-reminiscent pictures are in order!

James did an awesome job on his first canoe trip…

The Tims…who definitely had the upper hand in our splash fight!

My friend, Tracy and I in front of The Gerken “Cozy Cabin”…

James with Tracy’s son Aidan thoroughly enjoying the bunk bed…

Not pictured is the infamous go-kart wreck between both Tims and James. They were laughing so hard in the pics, but they are dark and somewhat blurry. So I wasn’t able to share them here. It was such a great time of refreshment and fun for our family, though. Much needed!

A taste of my favorite place…


When I step on to the golf course, I feel the peace and serenity wash over me. The beauty never fails to catch my breath as I stand atop the hill and behold the shades of green, inhaling the fresh air, feeling the breeze caress my cheek…inviting me to stay awhile. I am captivated by the pristine surroundings…drawn in to drink of the splendor as I leave behind the cares of this world for just a little while.

Golf isn’t over, of course…even though the lazy pace of summer has passed for another year. Many afternoons, you can find me here, cheering on the golf team and soaking in the serenity of my favorite place. I am enjoying watching Timothy as high school golf season is well on its way…

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We ended the summer with a performance by our band, One Way, at the Corn City Festival last weekend. Unfortunately, it rained…and rained…and rained some more. Other than a few die hard fans (consisting of mostly family and a few good friends…as well as some passerby who huddled under tents and shelter houses to listen…) our crowd was pretty small. We still had a really great time, and it seemed to be a blessing to those who did brave the conditions to come out. I really love the boys from One Way (especially the guitar player…He’s pretty cute!), and I’m so grateful for all the time they put into preparing for our little performances. It’s such a blessing, and also a lot of fun to serve the Lord with these dear friends.

Singing in the rain…



I wish I had some pictures to share of James with his friend, Clayton. They didn’t let the rain slow them down a bit. They took off their shoes and rode the blow up rides, running barefoot in the rain and sliding gleefully down the slides as if they were the only children at a water park! Never mind if it rains on your parade…just let the rain become part of the celebration! They certainly did… =)

O.K….that’s enough summer memories for now…sniff. Just wanted to leave you with a reminder that we are still featuring blogs and stories of grieving moms on Walking With You each Monday. Please take some time on Mondays to encourage and pray for these families. (The post is usually up by late in the day Monday…you know…I’m juggling!)