Monday, April 7, 2014

The Truth About Our Church

…….is that He never once left us.

For those of you who don't know, the pastor of the church Jimmy and I attend, Living Water Church, was terminated a few weeks ago.  I have been wanting to post for some time.  Mainly about this church situation, but the thoughts in my head, translated to paper, weren't right, weren't Godly, and weren't encouraging.  But, they were real and they were tearing me up. 

I also thought, "I need to do an update" really just to justify why I have been lax in my posts, but that seemed too upsetting to go through the reasons for my absence too.  In my wanting to use my blog as an outlet of truth (concerning the situation), I kept thinking of the story angle to use but in every in-mind trial run seemed wrong….until yesterday.

Even despite the situation with our pastor, this past Friday our church had a building dedication service where our choir joined with another choir and we had the minister from Abundant Life in Charleston, WV come and give us a message.  I can't even describe for you what a release that service gave to our existing congregation.  It was like the tunnel was revealed and there truly was light at the end of it.  We needed that.  We needed vision and a healing, and Pastor Wayne Crozier gave us just that.  The service was so anointed and you just really had to be there to understand how real His presence was.  

But leading up to that service, our choir learned this song.  Yesterday morning, we sang it and it was like an awakening in me….a realization of the past and and excitement for the future was birthed. 

"Never Once" by Matt Redman

When I really listened to the lyrics I was singing, I couldn't believe how there was such truth and relevancy to our church's current situation.  Yes, we have been through it.  Well, that probably doesn't even cover it, what we have walked through for months, but now we're in the healing stage and holding on to the excitement for the future!

Standing on this mountaintop
Looking just how far we've come
Knowing that for every step
You were with us
[Praise the Lord for this statement is oh, so true for Living Water Church]

Kneeling on this battle ground
Seeing just how much You've done
Knowing every victory
Is Your power in us
[It has been a battle; a bloody one.  But through it all, He has restored excitement in our church and has made so many 'ways' where we did not see any way out or forward]

Scars and struggles on the way
But with joy our hearts can say
Yes, our hearts can say
[There are a lot of scars.  Untruthful words caused scars, truthful words caused scars, the realization of fraudulent choices caused scars.]  "But with joy our hearts can say, never once did we ever walk alone."  I truly believe that!

Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
You are faithful, God, You are faithful

Every step we are breathing in Your grace
Evermore we'll be breathing out Your praise
You are faithful, God, You are faithful
You are faithful, God, You are faithful
[Truth, truth, truth!  He is and always has been faithful!]

I saw this picture and immediately started to praise Him for the future, but also for the current faithfulness He's shown.  He is faithful in the fact that we still have our brand new building - the old Around the Farm Store - and we're not in jeopardy of losing it either.  We have still have visitors coming and who are excited to return for future services.  We still have children's church/teen church teachers intact and new ones coming on board that felt God calling them out for particular positions.  Our worship leaders are amazing and Doug has agreed to fill in as the Sunday morning pastor.  The lessons he brings are so thought-provoking and when you leave, you feel like you've been to church and have a goal for the week ahead.  He is faithful; He has never left us.  So faithful that even trudging through this whole mess, a new visitor came to church yesterday, got saved, and dedicated her life to Christ!  He works in all ways!

I am sure if you clicked on this blog you were assuming you would see the rundown of what our pastor did and why he was terminated.  That's not what my blog, life or post will be about.  I am furious over the reasons that caused his termination - and those reasons were detailed by the deacons to the church because they had the right to know, and the reasons were not going to be swept under the rug and denied -  but my blog and life will not be filled with gossip.  At the end of the day, what our pastor did and the way he chose to live his life outside of the church was shameful, disgusting, and showed no character or integrity.  Our church could not risk having someone stand in the pulpit as one person and then be another person when he left the church walls.  Sad to say, but those two statements are the whole truth.    

I guess, for me, the sadness and grief, rage and upset has encouraged me even more to be out there with my faith, showing others that being a Christian looks like "this," not "that."  I am in no way perfect and fail daily, but I get back up and re-realize the goal God has for me. 

  I know growing up, my brother was labeled a "Jesus Freak" in school, while I just hung my head low and those who knew I went to church and believed knew, but I wasn't out there with my faith like he was.  I so regret that time and complacent decision because I saw so many come to him with their problems and with the hope to truly knowing who Christ was, and the youth group in our church grew from 5 to 25 in a matter of six months, even up to 50 in attendance at times.

Friday night, Pastor Wayne Crozier's message to our church was "Build Anyway."  He was open and said he really knew nothing about what happened with our church, but knew that we were hurting and the direction - in all aspects - was unclear.  He says, "Build Anyway."  

He wasn't meaning build another building as we were dedicating the one we had poured six months of hard, hard work into, but never lose sight of the goal God has for his people and his church.  A church is not made up of four walls, who is pastoring, or the name on the outside of the building, but who chooses to take Jesus with them everywhere they go.  Who chooses to allow him to tap on their hearts.  Who chooses to allow him to truly convict them when they're wrong.  Who choose to walk in His will and not their own will and way. 

His message spoke volumes to me and made me start thinking about when I was working to become a Mary Kay Sales Director.  Then I was inviting anyone and everyone to our MK meetings, hoping they would find their own dream within the business.  Why does church have to be any different?  I have family members who I know are not saved and do not attend a church anywhere, and friends alike.  Have they ever even been invited to church?  Not by me; shame on me!   As Pastor Crozier spoke, names and faces kept popping into my mind that I needed to reach out to and invite.  The fields are white and the harvest is plenty.  Why are we not doing our God-given duty?  

Now, I feel like I have a duty to invite and really stand strong on who I am; a Christian who has given her life to Christ and tries daily to walk by His will and promises.  Even when I type that out, it seems weird, but there is so much hope in that statement and way of living.  

In this time of transition for all, I invite you to come and give Living Water Church a try.  It's alive and well worth the drive!  That fact, we have not lost!  I would love to have you - any reader - as my guest.  

Here are some common questions we're getting about our church.

Is your church now looking for a pastor?

Yes, but we're in no hurry.  Our deacons need to seek God as to exactly what we as a church body expect from a pastor and then search for the right man, or woman, for the job.  

Where is your church located?

We have renovated the old "Around the Farm Store" building in Ripley, WV.  It's located right behind the BB&T building and Wendy's.  There are entrances on either side.  

What time do your services start?

10:30 a.m. on Sunday mornings
7:00 p.m. Wednesday night

Do you have services for children and youth?

Yes, we have a young couple who are serving as our current youth leaders.  They are great and our teens (13-18) seem to really like them.  We also have a tots class (3-5) and a youth class (6-12).  Newborn and toddler nursery are available as well.

We are a young couple and we're looking for a place to fit in.  Is your church filled with older, or younger couples?

We have a great mixture, but there are about 16+ young couples - some have children and some do not - in our church.  This past December, Jimmy and I hosted a Ugly Sweater Party at our house for the young couples that were currently in attendance, but now we have about five new young families attending that would be added to that group.  

What kind of music do you play?

We are a praise and worship church.  Every once in awhile, you'll hear an old hymn, but we do not have hymnals and many of the songs you hear on Christian Pandora stations or Klove, you'll hear in our church.  

Does your pastor, teachers, leaders lead from a certain bible text?

No.  We use all forms of the bible - NKJ, KJV, Living Translation, The Message, etc.

Is your church aligned with a certain denomination?

No, we're non-denominational.

Even through this whole mess, I think our church is stronger than it's ever been.  Everyone is really looking out for one another, invested in each other more than we ever have been and carrying one another's burdens and prayers.  We're excited to invite others and see a new vision that isn't about one man and his dreams, but being the "church" on the outside of our four walls.  More are walking in their ministry calling, additional ministry organizations have started, and the goal is so much more realized; Be Jesus with Skin.  

This is my all-time favorite verse and I know He has huge plans for me and you.  And, huge plans for our church!  If you want to experience a on-fire, fuss-free, no dress code, no rules or regulations, contemporary music-filled, loving church, join me this Sunday at 10:30a.m.  So 'the truth about our church' is….. that we're building anyway and we would love to have you as a part!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

"Gavin Strong" has changed us all!

Yesterday marked a week since Gavin Morris received his miracle.  He was escorted to Heaven and now lives cancer-free, walking hand-in-hand with Jesus, but that smile is still lighting up the world.

[All photos were taken from Gavin's Mom's personal Facebook page]

For those of you who may be reading this and not from my amazing county - Jackson County, West Virginia - this adorable little boy is, Gavin Morris, a superhero in more hearts than X-men, Batman, Spiderman, or Power Rangers could ever touch!  

Two years ago [at the age of 2], Gavin was diagnosed with stage 4 Neuroblastoma, which is a malignant tumor that develops from nerve tissue.  Shortly after being diagnosed, the "Gavin Strong" slogan was adopted because he was just that, strong.  Gavin loved superheros and it seemed only fitting to be constantly reminded of how strong he was in this battle with cancer.

Before we knew it, not only was our small community in West Virginia spreading the message, but it was reaching nationwide recognition and below are just a few photos that show how wide-sweeping his story was.

During his fight, Gavin's dad tattooed his arms to always be reminded of "Gavin Strong."

[Photo property of Sweet Peas Photography- link here]
From the time that Gavin's family knew of his diagnosis, his parents showed the face of bravery as [I am told] they too made a huge life change by quitting their jobs and selling their home in Ripley, WV so they could be with Gavin full-time in Philadelphia at the hospital where he was receiving aggressive treatments.  Throughout his entire battle, Gavin's mother, Tosha Morris, has kept everyone up-to-date on Gavin's progress, surgery, recovery, chemo treatments, etc.

Gavin's support was always strong - especially within our community - but after Tosha posted the below information, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram blew up with hashtags of #gavinstrong, profile pictures changing immediately, and prayer chains were enacted like they never had been before.


Gavin Update:

On Thursday 2/27/14, the day after getting the great news about his medication able to be altered... Gavin awoke to go to CHOP for his chemo treatment, only to discover he suffered a major stroke sometime in the early morning.

After a CT scan, we learned that Gavin had developed a brain tumor and he had active bleeding in his brain. After an educated discussion with his doctor, we decided the best option for Gavin was to help him be as comfortable as possible, as soon as possible.

He's comfortable. He's loved. He's peaceful. He's calm. He's in my arms. He IS GAVIN STRONG.

Please appreciate mine and our families lack of updates or responses while we focus on what's most important. Gavin.
Please pray for all of us to accept God's timing and to be as strong as Gavin through all of this.

Days later, she posted this update.

Tosha Morris
Gavin update:

Quick update to let you know Gavin is very comfortable and continues his incredible fight!

WE will never give up!

Gavin Strong!


And then, the overwhelming fear was realized. 
My baby Gavin became CANCER FREE this morning at 7:03 a.m. I knew he could do it all along. He NEVER gave up... He didn't know how to- it was not in him. I want everyone to know that he DID receive his miracle, long ago.

I want Gavin remembered for his handsome smile, contagious laugh, and his witty personality. His love for video games, his iPad and movies. His passion for cooking, his positive outlook on life, his wisdom beyond his years. His compassionate soul, his willingness to forgive, his thankfulness of EVERY God given day, and the simplicity and realism he brought to so many lives.

Please join us in celebration by paying something forward in his honor. I will announce arrangement details later... They will be happening in Philadelphia.


Call me crazy, but I can't help but read that and smile [and cry.]
Throughout his entire battle, Tosha, her husband and their families never posted anything negative, anything that would stir doubt, anything that would sway someone to quit believing in a miracle.  Their reality became their driving force....soak in every moment, always. 

Truthfully, I have never met Gavin, but I would know him from a mile away because his smiling face has gone viral in a way I've never seen before.  But to know him, I don't and I won't pretend to.  Being from a small town and a few years behind his mother, Tosha, in school makes me know of  her, but aside from a real relationship with Gavin or his family members, he has taught me so many lessons.

Believe in miracles.
Never lose sight.
Live life to the fullest every day.
Speak positivity, always.
 Make your legacy count for something.

After word was out, again, social media was a buzz sending Gavin and his family well wishes, touting phrasing like, "He got his miracle, finally!  He won his battle, he didn't lose.  He's my hero!  Never the same!" and the positive remarks go on and on.  Read that again; the positive. 

Many times when we're faced with unfortunate circumstances and our life is thrown in a direction we never imagined, it's easy to say, "Why me, God?"  "This nurse doesn't know what she's doing."  "If these doctor's would listen, I know he can't handle another round of chemo today."  "I never want to see my baby puke again."  "I don't remember what my son looked like with hair."  "His smile is fading."  "We're losing the battle."

No.  There was never once that those negative statements were made about Gavin, his treatments, his team of physicians and nurses, his family, etc.  Truly, I believe he was able to live another two full years with his diagnosis because he was surrounded with positive praise. 

As any parent would, I am sure Tosha and her husband had plans for Gavin's first day of Kindergarten, his first sports practice, his first middle school dance, or sitting at the kitchen table and planning for college.  I'm sure the words "heart wrenching" don't even cover the feeling of knowing you're now not moving back to Ripley, with your little boy who lights up a room with his smile.  I'm sure heart break doesn't even touch the realization of their dreams and plans, not being what they had hoped for and envisioned.  As tears stream down my face even just thinking these thoughts out loud, I can't even begin to imagine the hurt and heartache, but that's one of the huge things I'll hold onto for the rest of my life.....they didn't make those plans, dreams, and thoughts their focus.  Gavin, and living life to the absolute fullest, was their sole focus above anything else. 

So many times we make our failures, or faults, our focus and even in their loss, Tosha writes this:

At this time of complete numbness in our time of grief, I have found joy and pride in the stories of people paying it forward and doing random acts of kindness. Please don't feel conceited by sharing these stories. It makes me so so proud to know how Gavin continues to change the world. Thank you all for representing Gavin in such an honorable, selfless way. Gavin Strong!

Today we lay to rest a hero
One I have never met
But his legacy will live onward
For this I can bet
His smile greeted many
His laughter heard around
Short may his life have been
But happiness was abound
His bravery had no rival
His courage was on top
He faced and terrible evil
And still refused to stop
Live each day and live it well
He took in all in stride
I will live my life the exact same way
And make it a great ride
His lessons shook my soul
Like standing near a gong
And for this I will promise
To always be GAVIN STRONG!
As Drew Caldwell wrote, we'll always be Gavin Strong.  Even after he has gone onto heaven, Gavin is still changing the lives of others as he and his family ask us to "Pay it Forward."  Paying it forward could be as simple as leaving four quarters at the car wash for the next person to enjoy, as easy as donating to the Gavin Strong Fund for Neuroblastoma Research, or as large as giving of your time to become a foster parent, a Big Brother or Big Sister, or serving in your community on a continual basis.
[click here for some great ideas] 

No matter if you're from the small town of Ripley, West Virginia, or from another country or state and have been inspired by Gavin's story, the truth is, we can all do more!  I know I am not the only individual inspired by Gavin's story.  As Tosha's Facebook and the Be Gavin Strong page blew up, we all realize what a legacy he's left for us.  A legacy of honor, courage, and humbleness.  A legacy that they wish to continue to relive through others stories - send yours here.  Even when Gavin and his family were at their wits end, they were still always looking out for how they could positively impact another. 

Let that soak in and make it your priority to forever be "Gavin Strong."

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Goodwill Goddess: Black & Gold [4 outfits-n-1]

I'm a classic kind of chick.  
I love trends and do participate in most, but I am a stickler for classic staple pieces that either have a little flair, or can be dressed up with accessories.  

Black & gold were a huge staple this fall/winter season and, many times, I found myself looking at items in my closet thinking, "They just need something to complete the look."  After pinning a thrifty leg warmer idea on Pintrest, I headed to our local Goodwill to see what I could find.

It must have been my lucky day because as I was scouring the sweater section, I came across a black and gold sweater that I knew {if the sleeves were cut into leg warmers} would complete those few outfits.  

But…in this project find, I wasn't expecting to also gain a new sweater top that's oh' so cute!

Bag (old-have had for years) / similar, similar, most similar//// Boots - $34.00 from T.J. Maxx / exact, similar, similarsimilar, tall similar - limited sizes, similar (silver metal) /

**The sleeves off of the below sweater, were cut into leg warmers.**
Wear them with the synched wristband at the bottom of your ankle and then allow the fuller part to peak out of your boots.

Sweater (old - Daisy Fuentes for Kohls) // silver similar, similar

**After I cut the sleeves off to make them into leg warmers, I started looking at the sweater, and it was really cute with the sleeves removed!**

Sweater (Goodwill - $3.49) // similar, similar // Belt (came with a dress) // $10 similar, 2 for $14 similar // Skirt (Vintage Goodwill - $3.49) // Many can be found at your local Goodwill or thrift store, similar, shop vintage // Heels (Had for years - $9.99 @ Gabes) // similar - limited sizes, similar - limited sizes,   

Black & Gold Metallic Sweater Dress (Old - Daisy Fuentes for Kohl's) // similar, similar 

Sweater (Goodwill - $3.49) // similarsimilar // Necklace (old - Vintage Kathy Lee for Walmart Chain Belt) // similar, similar // Booties (old) // similar - limited sizes, similar - limited sizes // Vintage Purse ($1.00 yard sale find) // similar, similar, similar, similar - love, love, love! // Skirt (old - had for years from Cache') // similar, similar, similar //
Look at your local Goodwill or thrift store for a standard black pencil skirt.  I'm sure you'll find one!

As always, "You can always look divine on a dime, you just have to know how to shop!  And if you don't, contact me!"   

Friday, February 28, 2014

Chic of the Week: Boots, Dresses, Jackets & Jewelry

Grommets, spikes, buckles, and straps have been a staple in this year's style winter style. 

This week, there are so many chic pieces to be featured, but to me, this is the best deal of all featured this week!  While shopping in NYC with my mom this past September, I spotted these and fell in love.  I soon fell out of love when I looked at the tag, $89.99.  I mean, they're not made with Sworski grommets or anything and the leather is faux!  When shopping, I am always conscious of the price vs. wear.  Although these boots are adorable and I could 'see' multiple outfits complete with them I couldn't justify the cost vs. my wear reality.  The brand-boot is from INC, featured at Macy's, but see below for an even better bargain boot!

I featured this online retailer earlier this week in my Hunter-Hype vs. Bargain Boot blog post, and while I did find this retailer to have quality items for a bargain's price, I am had to feature these boots on this week's Chic of the Week post!

Shiekh Black & Brown Gold Grommet Short Boot
**Brown - all sizes available.  Black - sizes 5-8.5 available.**

Better buy because….
* These look so expensive and would be a statement piece for any type of outfit.  Pair them with skinny jeans and a plain black sweater, leggings, or a black sweater dress and some long necklaces.**

Go Jane Quilted Low-Rise Boots
**Almost all sizes available in each color**

Better buy because….
**Even though these are faux leather, you're fooled by the quilting which makes them look chic and expensive.  I have a pair of boots from this online retailer and I have them almost every week in the fall/winter for two years.  I paid $40.00 and have gotten much more than my investment out of them!  The Stone color is my fav because it looks so warn and rugged.**  

Remember, you may not be able to get much more wear out of the short boots during this winter season, but buy for next year!  They'll still be chic then too!

Gold Toed Leopard Flat

Better buy because….
*With the two-tone (leopard + shiny gold), you'll get a lot more wear out of these flats.  Because of the gold accent, they could be paired with anything cream, gold, chestnut, or black, and red because of the leopard.*

Tidebuy Stylish Swallow Trail Maxi Dress

Better buy because….
*I shop a lot.  From boutiques, pageant shops, discount retailers, and thrift stores, and to me, this dress looks expensive and could be paired with many things!  It looks like the train would still be long enough for the 6" woman, or the 5'4 with platform heels.  You could wear this to a wedding, out with your girlfriends, on a date, or even pair it with a jacket and boots and get multi-season wear out of it!*

Bombshell Geo Sweater Dress
**Only available in size Small.**

Better buy because…..
*This tribal, geo pattern has been huge this year and it's here to stay for this spring season too!  This dress reminds me of something Victoria Beckham would wear and if you don't follow her clothing line, it's very expensive.  If I were a size small, I would be snatching this up because it too can be worn in multiple season if you just pair it with the right sweater, blazer, boots, or pumps.*

Forever 21 Jewelry
Clear Cross Bracelet - $5.99
3 Strand Cross Necklace - $2.99

Better buy because….
*These are cool, cool items!*

Forever 21 Cape Jacket

Better buy because….
*This piece screams chic!  Can't you see it walking down the NYC runway?  I sure can!  Pair it with an outfit similar to the one pictured, or with a pencil skirt and boots!*

Pair your cape with these long gloves

Better buy because….
*They won't be this price next year when you really need them!  And, they would be great paired with the cape, or any other outerwear jacket.*

Windsor Charcol Tweed Faux Leather Bomber Jacket

Better buy because….
*This jacket could be paired with so many things.  Replicate the look above, pair it with leather pants, a pleated skirt, pencil skirt, boots, or pumps.   With the variation in color - grey & black - you'll be able to pair it with much more than if it was a solid color.  Also, the fact that it has the tweed paired with it and faux leather sleeves makes it look more expensive and chic~*

As always…..
"There are tons of deals and steals out there, you just have to know where to shop!  
And if you don't, message me!"