Dear 21 Year Old Me,

Dear 21 Year Old Me.

I just wanted to start out by saying, that you are a talented, vivacious, joyful, lovely young woman.

Scan_Pic0049_thumb.jpg{Kids I nannied for}

  I know you don’t know what your giftings are yet, and that bugs you.  You wish God would just show you already, so you could use them for His glory.  In due time, you will see them arise, and they will really surprise you!  The ministry you prayed for, will come, but not in the way you expected, God is cool like that.

21-year-old Tonya, I know you don’t like what you see in the mirror, but you are beautiful.  Someday, you will see it.  You’ll look back at photos and wonder why you didn’t appreciate it.

You see, age and babies will make the body you find flawed, even more flawed.

122019471123580202_Xj6DJl1B_c

And suddenly, you will realize it’s not important anymore.  All the things that seem SO big right now, really aren’t that big at all, not in the grand picture of your life.

I know you are dreaming of your Happily Ever After, after all, you’ve JUST married your Prince Charming.

scan_pic0107

All is right in your World.

Little family

This is IT:

  The moment you’ve been waiting for your whole life.

Your fairytale love story come true.
Dale and Tonya

 

Your reward from God for doing things HIS way, right!?

Silly little girl, that’s not the way it works.

Your rewards are not on this earth, for this is not your home.

You will overcome MUCH adversity in the years to come.

You will.

Don’t be scared.

Listen to me…..

Don’t waste a SECOND of your beautiful life with your dashing husband, worrying about what I am hinting at.

Dale and Tonya

Don’t ever stop spreading sunshine.

Don’t ever stop making life’s lemons into lemonade.

Don’t ever stop choosing Jesus.

Don’t ever stop choosing the hard “right thing”.

Listen to me, Tonya, never, EVER give up.

You are FAR stronger than you know.

You are!

You will see that in the years to come.  That shy little girl you are inside, turns into a roaring lion, when it comes time to fight for something she holds so dear.

IMG_4474

And fight you will:

When it comes to having children.

Preggo

When it comes to choosing Love.

When it comes time to stand by your Marriage in the face of adversity.
Wedding day

All of it, a battle with the devil.

182

You will win.

You know that, right!?

Victory is yours, bought and paid for by the blood of Jesus.

IMG_4421

It’s going to be hard.

The hardest things you’ve ever been through, EVER.  You will want to lay down and die.

Don’t.

You are stronger than you know. You will face adversity head on.  You will be blessed beyond measure, and your cup with run over with the goodness of it all.

Never stop smiling. 

Never stop choosing joy.

Tonya-land is a GREAT place to live!  It goes away for a season, but it comes back.  In fact, it comes back even better than before, because you’ve seen the other side.

The darkness is ugly.

You will know that full well.

But you know what, 21-year-old Tonya…..

It makes walking back into the sunshine, that much better!

Love,

The 31 Year Old You

31 year old me

Advertisements

2013 Word of the Year

  I had this post planned for Thursday, but I think it’s more fitting to post it New Years Day, don’t you?!  

Each year, I hear families praying about a “Word of the Year”.  I have never done this, but looking back, I think we have had several:

2010: Discipline

  Our year of financial discipline was difficult to say the least. You can read some of the amazing things God did during this time here, the first of a three part series.  I see now, looking back, that this was all a breaking down of Dale, so the truth could come in the summer of 2011.  There was a bigger picture at work, one we could not yet see.  It served a big purpose in my own life, to re-evaluate the important things, to re-define our former comfortable lifestyle, and to let go of the “American Dream” in my head of what our lives should look like.

2011: Broken 

   There is no doubt the word for 2011 was Broken.  Broken hearts, broken dreams, broken marriage vows.  In the end, we learned God desires our brokenness.  And we will never ever forget, that to become broken, is actually to become whole. 

2012: Transparency

  This was a HUGE part of 2012, I kept thinking “Healing” might be our word of the year, but I keep going back to the TRANSPARENCY that had to occur for Dale and I to move forward in our tragedy for God’s glory, and share it both on the world wide web, but also speaking at church events, Encounters, and sitting down with other couples.  Owning our truth was hard, and there were those that judged us harshly for it, but God is so faithful.  Obedience brings blessing!

  I am excited to say, I feel like the Lord is showing me what the 2013 word could be, when I received the SAME word, for the third time in a 2 month period:

RESTORATION.

   I was not praying for a word of the year, but I have been meditating on this verse for the past few months:

“Restore to me the joy of my salvation and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalms 51:12

  I WANT this.  I was asking God for this to happen this year. I feel like after an amazing mountain top high, I am in a Spiritual Valley.  I feel as if my prayers do not reach above the ceiling, and I no longer feel the Lord’s presence constantly, as I did in crisis mode.  I am asking Him to breathe new life into me, I miss the mountain top.  I suppose if we didn’t walk through a Valley, we never would understand the blessing of the view from the top, would we?

   In the midst of this, I was asked to speak at a Women’s event coming up this month, and the key word for the evening was Restoration

Hmm, see a pattern here? 

Then weeks later, I see the words:

RESTORATION 2013. 

My heart jumped as only it can when you are nudged by the Holy Spirit!

RESTORATION! Yes, Lord, yes!

“You crown the year with your bounty, and your carts overflow with abundance.“  Psalms 65:11

I pray our time of famine has passed, and it is my prayer for 2013, that He will abundantly lavish us with restoration of joy, restoration of our financial storehouses full and overflowing with a bountiful harvest, and a year full of blessings.  I cannot WAIT to see what He has in store. 

For He will restore what the locusts have eaten…. {Taken from Joel 2:25}

  So, I shared a little bit of this post on New Years Eve, on the 4 little Ferguson’s facebook page, and you will not BELIEVE the message I got:

Jessica Devine: I just wanted to let you know that my pastor received a Word from God for 2013….the word was RESTORATION!!! I am believing this!!! Amen!
 WHAT?!  Yet, another confirmation!  Praise God and Hallelujah!  She had chills when she read my status update, I had chills when I read her message.
   Listen up, we serve a God who can make beauty from the ashes of our lives, every single time, if only we let Him.  And like the back of a tapestry, we may only see a mess of strings, but He sees a beautiful big picture.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Instead of the thornbush will grow the pine tree, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the Lord’s renown, for an everlasting sign, which will not be destroyed.”
Isaiah 55:8-13

What is your word for 2013?  Want to join me in asking our Heavenly Father for RESTORATION?

Restoration for Marriages. Restoration of a quieter, less busy lifestyle. Restoration of the family unit as it is meant to be. Restoration for the lost.  Restoration for the broken.  Restoration of our Great Nation.  Restoration of the Church, so that is no longer a Museum for the good, but rather a Hospital for the Broken.  

 We cannot even begin to imagine the great things He has in store!

Hugs, T

Restoration

 

Shared with Mercy Ink: Heart Home Link Up

Born In Me

  In preparation for Christmas, I have been trying to keep my posts Holiday centered this week.  Today, I want to share with you, a very well done video of a BEAUTIFUL song called, “Born In Me” {Mary} by Francesca Battistelli.  Please take a moment to watch!

I know I have been sharing a lot from the archives for this countdown to Christmas week, and I hope that doesn’t bother you. Sometimes, you just can’t say it better than the first time! 🙂

May Jesus be real to you today, as you prepare to celebrate His birth in the coming days….

Hugs, T

From the Christmas archives:

One Family, One Journey. One Child who would change the world forever.

photo credit

Have you seen the movie: The Nativity Story?

It was so good for me to emotionally go on that journey with Mary & Joseph. It made things very real to me.

I mean, can you imagine how difficult it was for Mary, an unwed teen, to be scoffed by her friends who think she’s nuts, when she says she has never been with a man, but is pregnant anyways? Or how about having to tell her parents the big news: Did she wait until she was showing, or tell them right away?

How about feeling the threat of DEATH by stoning looming over her head, should Joseph choose to file charges against her?! I wonder, since her parents choose Joseph as her betrothed, does she even know him that well at this point?

Or love him?

Does she know enough about him to think he’ll believe her story? How scary to not know what will happen next!

Although Joseph’s initial reaction was to break the engagement, totally acceptable in that day, he treated Mary with such kindness. What a gentleman! He didn’t want to cause her further shame, so he decided to act quietly. I am so glad God chose to send an angel to Joseph in a dream, to verify Mary’s story, that way, he could be reassured that his marriage to her WAS God’s will after all.

When the angel explained that the child within Mary was indeed conceived by the Holy Spirit, that his name would be Jesus and that he was the Messiah, God with us, did he freak out!? Did he sit in wonder and awe? Don’t you think he lay awake the rest of the night, thinking of what his life with Mary was going to be like?

 Parents of THE MESSIAH?

That is some heavy thinking for the middle of the night! He willingly took Mary to be his wife, knowing they were being looked down upon in their town. Maybe this noble quality is one of the reasons God chose Joseph to be the earthly father of Jesus.

And later, as they are married and traveling to Bethlehem, I was shocked to see footage of Joseph’s bloody, calloused feet. I had never thought of this before, but why wouldn’t they be? They walked the approximately 60-90 miles to Bethlehem, where the census was taken.

Poor Mary, riding or walking that long journey, big and pregnant. I bet her baby pressed on her bladder, making them stop often, I bet the heat was unbearable at times, I bet nights were spent in discomfort, sleeping on the hard ground.

How about going into labor in a town far away from her mother and all things familiar? A newly married young woman, who had never been intimate with a man, giving birth to her first child, who also just happens to be the Savior of the world!!!!

Do you remember that feeling, as you realized you were about to give birth to your first-born? I mean actually bring them into the world.  Those emotions you felt, as you anticipated, yet dreaded the labor part. Did sweet Mary cry for her momma? Did she squeeze Joseph’s hand as hard as she could as she contracted? Was he a good coach? Did she trust him to help safely deliver this precious child in a stable, or was she afraid even though the angel said, “fear not”?

Nativity

photo credit

Oh, the joy she must have felt, as she lifted that precious child in her arms, counted his ten tiny fingers and toes, and marveled at all that had just occurred.

How overwhelmed she must have been, as she looked around their humble dwelling, wondering what she had to offer the King of Kings?

Wondering about this babe, who would grow into a toddler full of questions:When would they know, that he knew, He was the King of Kings? A look in his eye? The words from his mouth? Did she wonder what kind of challenges that would create?

And what about when all those stinky Shepherds showed up? Exhausted and emotional, what was she feeling as they came and touched her new baby? You know how protective first time moms are! Did she wish she could have them wash up first?

As the shepherds left, they were still praising and glorifying God, but sweet Mary kept quiet, treasuring their words and pondering them in her heart. Don’t you think at that moment, it must have been beyond her ability to grasp, that sleeping in her arms—the precious child she had just worked so hard to bring into the world—was the Savior of the World. Wow!

How real everything becomes, as you watch in this movie, and see those precious little lives lost, as Herod in fear of the newborn King, commands all the baby boys under the age of 2 to be killed. Oh, the heartache of those mothers, screaming as their baby sons were ripped from their arms and slain, I just wept and wept.  Such mourning happened in those towns in the months to follow, as broken-hearted mothers put back the pieces of their shattered lives.

I have to wonder, as Mary and Joseph were told by the angel to flee in the night to safety, how old was Jesus at the time? A little boy full of questions? Or still a newborn babe?  Did Mary’s pumping adrenaline kick in?  Did those ‘mother bear’ instincts get her through? Or was she paralyzed with fear, and have to be prompted by Joseph to, “Stop crying and pack!” so they could get going? How did she manage? I can’t imagine what she was feeling, still in a foreign land, far from home, now fleeing to Egypt to be refugees there!!  And wait, Mary’s journey isn’t done yet, still later, another dream tells them to return back home, FINALLY!  Who knows how many years later this occurred?! What a STRONG woman!

Watching this movie was eye-opening to say the least!  It is my hope, that this Christmas, you will celebrate the humble beginnings of our Lord and King. and remember, just how real this was to a newlywed couple in Bethlehem, who experienced a life changing, WORLD changing moment…..as they held our Lord and Savior in their arms and kissed his sweet head.

 

Keeping CHRIST in Christmas

{Re-posted every year from the 4 little Ferguson’s Christmas archives}

Christmas is rapidly approaching, and with it can come a sense of panic, a need to rush into town, push through the crowd towards near empty shelves, and snag those last few items on your Christmas shopping list. Standing in long lines, being told “Happy Holidays” by the greeter as you leave, rushing around to prepare for office parties & family get-togethers, addressing Christmas cards, wrapping gifts, and on the busy-ness goes……

Somewhere along the way, the peaceful, quiet days of Christmas past were lost. Somewhere along the way, Jolly Ol’ St. Nick, stole the limelight from baby Jesus, and the madness of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, replaced the leisurely gift shopping of days gone by. Instead, it seems, we celebrate materialism, indulgence and the idea that we need more, more, more.

As a kid growing up, I recall knowing who Santa was, I think he even signed a couple of our packages under the tree a time or two, but I can’t EVER recall a time, that I didn’t know it was really my parents.

I have great memories of Christmas growing up, but you’d be surprised at the ones that stand out most.

I remember the year dad went back to college, and we couldn’t afford a Christmas tree, so we decorated the artificial fica tree that stood in our living room, instead. Tiny red apples, red velvet bows and empty mini raisin boxes hung from its branches….To my little girl eyes, it was beautiful!!!!!

There were very few presents under the tree that year, but I don’t remember thinking much of it. Mom kept us busy with special baking and craft projects, and dad kept us in hysterics on Christmas morning, sticking his new electric drill up his nose, stating it could also double as a nose hair trimmer.

As we got older and became teenagers, our finances changed, and my parents got more and more creative in their gift giving…..

One year we went on a family vacation to the Bahamas instead of getting gifts. Another time, Hawaii. One year, we got cash to spend after Christmas at the big sales, teaching us the value of the dollar, and that it could be stretched much further by waiting for a sale day after Christmas to shop. Another year, after my dad sold his trucking business, and things were incredibly tight, we did intangible gifts. We wrote letters of appreciation to each member of the family, and that Christmas morning was not spent under a pile of wrapping paper and boxes, but quietly seated around the fireplace, reading those letters of love & affirmation to each other.

But, the Christmas that stands out the most in my mind, was not the tropical vacations, not the new boom box or new car…..

No, it was the year we adopted a family in need, through a local church. We were given an address to deliver our goodies to them, in person.  So we all loaded up, driving further and further into the oldest part of town, until we arrived in front of a very humble home. Arms loaded with boxes of goodies, we walked to the front door. Once we were done with our “good deed” for the day, we could go back home and have our own Christmas.

We knocked on the door, and were welcomed in broken English. Stepping inside, the first thing I noticed was the home was sparse in furniture. Mattresses serving as beds lay on the floor, and open cupboard doors revealed they were indeed, bare. My heart softened. My “good deed” for the day, suddenly turned into so much more.

Oh, the joy on their faces as we unloaded box after box of groceries, clothing, toys and necessities. I recall tears streaming down the mothers face, as she thanked us over and over in broken English. The father reached out his work-weary hands, silently grasping ours, tears in his eyes telling us how humbled and thankful he was for this, though no words were spoken. Their children ran circles around the old sofa, the language barrier not stopping our interpretation of their squeals of excitement and joy!

Tears filled my eyes, as I looked at the space around me….thinking of the home full of stuff we had left just 10 minutes ago, the gifts waiting under the tree, the food filling 2 fridges. This families Christmas blessing, was my every day life!

I didn’t know a day without food.
I didn’t go to school without a coat, because we didn’t have the money for one.
I never walked to a cupboard to find it bare. We had so much, and they had so little.

Why did I even need the few gifts waiting for me, under the tree at home?

It was then I knew what God was showing me…….

THIS is what Christmas is about.

Giving to others in need, showing them the love of Christ, not receiving! Why, when I had such an abundance, did I need anything? I became more convinced than ever that Christmas was going to be forever different at our house!

Fast forward 15 years, I now have 4 little ones of my own, and the huge responsibility of establishing my families traditions….

From the very beginning Christmas morning has been Jesus’ birthday, nothing else. We feel Santa “waters down” what we are trying to do with Christmas. Our goal is to keep it about Christ, and His birth, and in striving towards this goal, of keeping Christ in Christmas, we chose to exclude Santa from any of our celebrations.

Don’t get me wrong, the kids know who Santa is, and that he is part of the general season of year. In fact, the older two, were playing reindeer and Santa one night!

Playing Santa

That doesn’t bother me a bit.

Neither does letting them watch the evening Christmas specials on tv, about Rudolph or Frosty. What a special treat! But there is one rule and requirement of evening TV watching……

Commercials MUST be muted.

I can’t stand how they try to grab my kids attention and stir up the “Greedy Gimmies” with the ads for the “coolest toy ever“!

But, when it actually comes to Christmas day, does Santa have a part?

Nope, not around here. We want Christmas Day to be sacred. It’s special. It’s a quiet, calm. A peaceful celebration of the birth of Jesus. It’s not wrapping paper piled knee-high on the floor. It’s not toy fire engine sirens, crying baby dolls and whirring helicopter toys, drowning out all other sounds of worship of our Lord and King, the whole reason we celebrate in the first place.

On Christmas morning, you won’t hear shouts of ”Santa came!” Instead, shouts of, “It’s Jesus birthday!” are heard. {Followed by arguments about who gets to blow out Jesus’ birthday candle after we sing Happy Birthday to Him!} 🙂

After reading the Christmas story, we give each child 3 gifts, representing the 3 gifts given to baby Jesus by the wise men. Buying only 3 gifts for each child, keeps Dale and I in check, as we are doing our Christmas shopping, and allows the focus to remain on Christ, not the need for more, more, more.

Later, as our children get older, we will deepen the significance of these gifts, by assigning a meaning to each one:

Frankincense: A gift for spiritual growth. (A new devotion book, Bible or Christian CD.)
Myrrh: A practical gift. (A new pair of jeans, a coat, a laptop for school, a car emergency kit.)
Gold: A gift that fulfills a want. (An ipad, shopping certificate, jewelry, bike, MP3 player etc.)

We celebrate Christmas based on God GIVING us His one and only son, who later GIVES His life as a living sacrifice for us! We want giving and not receiving to be the focus of Christmas. This is why we choose to adopt a family in need, or participate in filling individual shoe boxes, when our church adopts a local school.

What fun it is to stroll through the store, with each of my children clutching a paper in their sweet little hands, with a name.  A name of a special boy or girl, about their age, who we can be a blessing to.

I love to see their faces as they figure out that no, these new toys aren’t for them to keep, they have enough toys at home. These gifts are for a little boy or girl, who might otherwise have nothing new at Christmas!  Granted, sometimes its hard to pack that giant bouncy ball, or sparkly nail polish in the box, for the other child. But, it doesn’t take long for them to grasp, at their level of understanding, the kindness and love they are showing to another child. To understand that Christmas is about giving to others, not asking, begging and pleading for the latest and greatest new toys.

It is my hearts desire for our Christmases to be SO focused on Jesus Christ, from my children’s first memory of Christmas on, that they don’t know it ANY other way!


Keeping Christ in Christmas goes much farther than a “Merry Christmas” greeting to a cashier, only allowed to say “Happy Holidays”. No, it comes from you, Momma, as you set the tone of your home for each and every holiday tradition to come!

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

Romans 12:2 (NLT)

It’s all about finding a happy balance in YOUR home, for YOUR family.  This is what works for us!

~T

This post shared with:

Mercy Ink Heart & Home

Dear Jesus,

I had a different post planned for today, but instead, I’d like to take a moment acknowledge what happened over the weekend, in a small “we are like family” town in Connecticut.  My heart is deeply saddened by this tragedy, and I went through the motions of a busy weekend, with a heaviness on my shoulders.

My hearts cry is….
Oh Jesus, come quickly. ♥  Our world is such a fallen place.

My arms ache to hold my babies close and never let them leave my side, to plug their ears and shield their eyes from the ugly world they live in.  To keep them home with me forever! Tonight I kissed their sweet cheeks extra much as I tucked them in.  Hugged them a little bit longer.  Prayed over them with a little more urgency for safety, protection and a long, full life on this earth.

The Bible promises, that “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18

You know that last words and actions, that fateful morning before school, will play over and over in the minds of those left behind, daddy’s and mommy’s wishing for just a few more hugs and good-bye kisses in the chaos of a “regular” school morning.

Christmas will be quiet this year for those Sandy Hook Elementary school families who lost precious children: presents under the tree will go unopened, Christmas plays will be missing key roles.

It is my fervent prayer, that as they fall to their knees in grief, they will find Jesus there, with open arms, holding and comforting them.

Heavenly Father, be with those precious families in the days to come, we know you understand grief and loss, as you sent your one and only Son to die a slow and painful death for us.  Draw us near to you in the days to come, that we might feel your comfort.  This nation needs you, now more than ever.  I am sorry we push you away at every turn.  In God we still trust.  Amen.

Rest in the arms of Jesus, little ones.

little ones

No more sorrow, no more tears.

156115_10151120380095738_748048219_n (1)

~T

From author Max Lucado:
Dear Jesus,
It’s a good thing you were born at night. This world sure seems dark. I have a good eye for silver linings. But they seem dimmer lately.
These killings, Lord. These children, Lord. Innocence violated. Raw evil demonstrated.
The whole world seems on edge. Trigger-happy. Ticked off. We hear threats of chemical weapons and nuclear bombs. Are we one button-push away from annihilation?
Your world seems a bit darker this Christmas. But you were born in the dark, right? You came at night. The shepherds were nightshift workers. The Wise Men followed a star. Your first cries were heard in the shadows. To see your face, Mary and Joseph needed a candle flame. It was dark. Dark with Herod’s jealousy. Dark with Roman oppression. Dark with poverty. Dark with violence.
Herod went on a rampage, killing babies. Joseph took you and your mom into Egypt. You were an immigrant before you were a Nazarene.
Oh, Lord Jesus, you entered the dark world of your day. Won’t you enter ours? We are weary of bloodshed. We, like the wise men, are looking for a star. We, like the shepherds, are kneeling at a manger.
This Christmas, we ask you, heal us, help us, be born anew in us.
Hopefully,
Your Children

On This Black Friday…

  Tomorrow is the day we celebrate things we are thankful for, how blessed we are to have food in our cabinets, clothes on our backs, warm beds to snuggle into at the end of the day, clean fresh water at the push of a button or twist of a handle.

How sad that the day after we are thankful, we indulge in a rat race of shoving, hitting, pushing and even biting to grab more “stuff”.  How sad that employees leave family functions early, to drive to work so you can shop.  How sad that some stores are even thinking about opening on Thanksgiving Day, as yet another day to take your money!

Black Friday may mean profit for the store, bringing them “back in the black” after a tough year,  but Black Friday is DARK to me…..

A day celebrating stuff, things, materialism, greedy gimmies and more, more, MORE.

I hate the Greedy Gimmies, and I know this time of year, commercials are specifically designed to entice children to want it, need it, gotta have it! I sent out an email this year to our family saying, NO MORE TOYS.  We have enough!  They may or may not listen, but I no longer can sit in good conscience and let the STUFF continue to pile up around here.  There has to be a better way to celebrate!

Don’t get me wrong, I am thankful 3 gifts for each child in this home, will lie under the tree next month; some from garage sales, others great bargains along the way, but I am MORE thankful, that each child will have a chance to adopt a child close to their age through our church Shoe Box project again this year.  That once again we have opportunity to teach them to be blessed by GIVING, not always receiving.

I am not saying you are wrong for planning to go at 2 am Friday morning to shop your Christmas list!  Not at ALL, I am a couponer, I LOVE a good deal just like you do.  I am simply asking you to be cautious.

I am asking you to think twice before you snatch that electronic, or Barbie Dream House, or Furby, or the last item off the shelf as you see someone else approaching it.

I am asking you to DEFINE NECESSITY.

I am asking you to be His hands and feet, and give to others less fortunate than yourself.

To limit what you spend on yourselves this year.

Do NOT go in the RED to help stores get into the black.

I hear of parents that take out $2000 loans every year for Christmas.  

WHY?

What could your child possibly need worth going into debt for?

Why do families insist on buying for Aunt Jane and Uncle Bobby and all 15 cousins?
Can’t you draw names and just give something smaller, so you can all help someone other than yourselves?

  I am asking you to DEFINE NECESSITY.

To use that money to help a local charity, to adopt a family in need, to teach your children selflessness rather than selfishness this Holiday season.  To guide your children to look outside themselves and the greedy little world they are living in.

I am asking you to look into Compassion International, or to get a catalog from Samartians Purse for gift ideas that keep on giving.

Your $25 can help towards giving a milk cow to a starving family of 9.  ONE LESS GIFT for Uncle Frank and Aunt Sue and Cousin Betty, can give a village of 1000, clean drinking water for a lifetime.

We are blind, fat and greedy as a nation.  OPEN YOUR EYES to the people hurting around you…..

DEFINE NECESSITY this Black Friday and upcoming Christmas season.

It’s a big world out there, and we are to be HIS hands and feet.

Matthew 25:40  ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these….you did for me.’

~T

A Walk in My Shoes

  I am still sorting through the rubble.


The ruined pieces of our marriage.

Pictures, dates, someone’s careless words, a joke about cheating….

All can take my breath away. Can make tears roll down my face in an INSTANT, despite my best efforts to stop them.

I live in a world that wants me to move on

Get over it.  Stop talking about it.

    I say to you,

Please, just let me catch my breath.

Let me work through the rubble piece by piece.

Let me do whatever it takes to heal in a complete, whole and healthy way, even if you don’t think it’s fast enough.

Let me go on 2 overnight trips with my husband in one summer, without judgement, because we are desperate for US time. Because the hardest part about this road we are on, is maintaining normal life with 4 kids.

 I need to be allowed to work through the layers of my hurt and healing. Stuffing down tears and hurts, only means I will have to deal with them later.

  I said to our counselors from our very first session on. I have a gaping, open wound. It is a pain I have never experienced before. I want it healed, but I want EVERY single corner cleaned out.

  I want NOTHING remaining in it, so that when it heals over completely, and it will, that I NEVER, EVER have to re-open this wound because a speck of dirt remained.  A speck of dirt, that over time, turns into a festering puss pocket of hurt or anger or fear that didn’t get scraped out.

  Scraping out all corners of the wound has been a slow and painful process, but a necessary step for the health of our relationship.

  I have pleaded with the Lord from the beginning, “Father, Don’t waste this hurt. Don’t let it be in vain. Let our tragedy be used for your glory.”

Don’t EVER mistake me talking about what we went through, our struggles as a couple trying to rebuild, as me not forgiving.

“Forgiving means forgetting” is the biggest lie out there.

  Forgiving doesn’t mean you have to forget, it doesn’t mean we are to live as people without a history. No. God USES those hurts to then help others get through. When I talk about what happened between Dale and I, it is not to “throw him under the bus”.  It is not to roll around in the muck and mire, or live it all over again.

No. I love Dale. We are ONE.

To “throw him under the bus” is to lie under there MYSELF.

   I share our story, in story form, because I am a story-teller by nature. It’s my passion. We are being asked to share with a hurting world, and we said YES, Father. We are being asked to help shine light on the secret, dark places, so satan can rule no more.

Here me loud and clear:

I WILL keep sharing our story turned HIS.

  Because, to be broken is to be made WHOLE.

 And as my mentor said, “We never know when a ‘Doubting Thomas’ will believe by touching our scars. {John 20:24-29}  Never regret or curse the very things that God will use to show His love through us. Bruised, proven and precious.”

You have not walked one step in my shoes. Not one.

Don’t judge me, please. You don’t have the right.

 Please understand, I have Dale’s full support to speak of what we went through.

   We wrote the blog series on Surviving Infidelity, together. Every time one of us is asked to speak or share at Encounter, we write those teachings and testimonies TOGETHER.

  In fact, we are speaking at a Marriage Matters night at a local church this weekend, together. Telling of our journey to healing, together.  I am terrified. I don’t like to speak in public, I’d rather hide behind my computer screen and blog, but I guess that is the whole “God’s power is made perfect in weakness” thing.

 Doing the “right” hard thing, is just that….

Hard. 

 

   Please don’t mistake the fact that I am again speaking about this moment that changed our marriage, as sign that I am a man-hater, or against Dale in any way.  We are a team. We are in this together.  We fought for our marriage, because we love each other enough to work HARD to stay together.  God is asking us to share in all kinds of ways, including taking us out of our comfort zones.

  You may sit in your cushy office chair and judge me for sharing our story, turned His. 

Maybe you roll your eyes because I am talking about this, again. 

  Try to understand, my life radically changed last summer…… I am not the same Tonya I used to be.  I am trying to figure it all out, this new life of mine.  In some ways, I am stronger.  I am braver.  I have faced my WORST NIGHTMARE and survived.  I am proud of that fact.  Empowered by it.  But I am also more exhausted, more sad, more weary than I have ever been in my life.  I work hard each day to choose forgiveness.  I work even harder, to choose joy.  A joy that used to pour out on its own, with no effort…I miss that. 

  I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t miss the sunshiny life I found wonderful.   My self-worth in my marriage.  A Tonya that oozed happy, that bubbled joy. 

And although weeping may endure the night, joy WILL come in the morning……..Psalms 30:5

Don’t you see?  

 I chose this. Willingly. Because obedience brings blessing.  I chose this when I told Dale I’d stay and fight for our marriage, rather than divorce him.
Because sometimes the right “hard thing”, is the hardest “right thing” to do.
I chose this because I am lost without him.  I don’t know how to be ME, without him by my side.
Because I pledged my life to his, for better or worse.
Because we are one.
Because this is what the Lord asked me to do.

Don’t judge my actions.

Please.

I don’t answer to you.

 I am taking direction from a God, who heard my plea to not waste this hurt.
A Father who is in the process of making a beautiful mosaic from the shattered pieces of my broken marriage.
A Holy Spirit who moves me to write and share from the heart with words that I sometimes can’t even believe I typed.

Let Him work.
Let Him use Dale and I how HE sees fit.

I answer to one, THE One.

The healer of my soul……

Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior.

~T

181347_463381957013993_1134902262_n

The Death of Something Beautiful: July 10th, 2011

  Today marks the one year Anniversary of “The Truth”. 

That’s hard to believe isn’t it?  Most likely because you guys were only told a few short months ago.  Dale and I, on the other hand, have spent every moment of all 365 days, fighting the devil for our marriage.  We won, but it did not occur without battle wounds, bruises and sheer exhaustion.  I am still surprised at how emotionally bruised and weary I feel at times.

  Today, I sit in silent pondering of the “Could-have-been’s” and “Praise the Lords”. 

  Today, I look back over the past year and weep.  I weep at the happy memories of a Beauty from Ashes ceremony, that was the biggest turning point in our healing yet.  I weep when I look further back than that, to a Tonya who couldn’t even stand on her own two feet, because she was so broken.  So she just lay there, amongst the rubble of her broken life, her whole world shattered around her, bleeding freely from a broken heart.

  Today, I remember the Tonya who died on this very day, at 6 pm this evening out in the laundry room, a yellow note clutched in her hand.  She died alongside her childhood hopes and dreams, and a new, stronger, less innocent Tonya writes you this day. 

   I am glad to be that stronger Tonya, thankful to tell you……

I DID IT. 

I MADE IT THROUGH. 

I FACED THE DEATH OF ME, AND MY DREAMS, AND ALLOWED JESUS TO BRING ME BACK TO LIFE. 

A new life, in Christ.

But, I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you, that I miss my innocent trust of a world I found wonderful, and the life I found to be a dream come true.

  There are very few things that occur, that are SO BIG, that they forever more change the way we refer to the timeline of our lives:

  For Dale and I, there will always be a “Before The Truth” and an “After The Truth” part of our timeline, our life story. 

  Our entire lives being pivoted around this ONE moment in time, not being defined by it, but being changed BECAUSE of it. 

  That one solitary moment, when one bad choice lead to another.  One moment that forever shifted our reality.

One moment.

   So I sit today, in silent wondering of all the Lord has done.  I sit today, with tears in my eyes, and a sob silenced in my throat, as I think of how long the road has been.  How far we have come, how at the times we couldn’t even stand on our own two feet, we were carried by our Savior.

A Year ago today changed everything.

Nothing will ever be as it was……

And I am still not quite sure how I feel about it.  I think that’s ok.  A normal step on the road to total healing.

  What I will say is this…..

We would not be where we are today, without Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

Period.

Without faith, and the arms of Jesus, we’d have fallen and never gotten back up.

  We are where we are today, because of the blood of Jesus, who makes all things new.  And a loving God, who desires to make a beautiful mosaic from the shards of our lives, if only we will trust Him with all the pieces.

July 10th, 2011 will forever more be burned in my mind, but I don’t have to live by it…….

For I already DIED from it.

And I sure don’t have to be defined by it…..

  It is simply a shifting axis, a reference point, in a life-long road to healing.

1 year after death, together we stand: 

Dale and Tonya Ferguson. 

  Forgiven by grace, strengthened by the fiery trials, and VICTORIOUS by the blood of Jesus, July 10th, 2012, 1 Year After The Truth that set us free. 

Beauty from ashes, baby.  Beauty from ashes.

~T

 

Reaping with Shouts of Joy…

  I sometimes feel as if I will crack under the pressure of it all…..

Wife.

Broken, restored, repaired, renewed, but still hurting Wife of Dale.

Mother.

Mommy. Mom. Mo-om. MOOOOOOM. MOM!

Friend.

How could I forget our play date?

Blogger.

Oh no! It was my turn for Weekend Potluck shout outs?!

Photographer.

Oops, I had 3 photos sessions AND a big wedding this weekend.  How in the world did I quadruple book myself?

  I am not going to lie.  The “old” Tonya was never very good at a busy calendar.  She much preferred to stay home all week, leaving only occasionally for  a grocery shopping spree, quick photo session, church outing, or something as a family. She carefully juggled all the balls in the air of wife, mother, tidy house keeper, chef, friend, helper.

   This new Tonya, doesn’t do busy AT ALL.  I can’t balance it well. Yet, I am busier than EVER. 

You know what my friend taught me about BUSY?

Burdened

Under

Satan’s

Yoke

  Yup, pretty sure that’s the truth.  And that’s why we have THIS truth:

575808_414757071902378_1858556280_n

  Unless you have been through a marriage tragedy or betrayal, I think it’s hard to understand the burden of just SURVIVING the fight for your marriage each and every day.  Not the fighting like with each other, but that “tug of war” with satan for your very marriage. It is a real and prevalent battle, each and every day.

  It’s like the choosing of good thoughts, falling back in love, choosing joy, rebuilding that TEDIOUS glass house of trust again…….all take so much effort, we can barely manage to do that and be the parents God wants us to be. Those 2 factors taking the majority of our hearts and time without any “extras”. 

  I had someone write this past week and say they were glad the Infidelity Series was done, and that happier posts were here again.  That’s all fine and dandy folks, but here is the deal:

  I may be writing about Kitty Cats and Tacos, but inside, I am STILL crying tears over the loss of my marriage as I knew it.  I may smile and laugh on the outside, but joy does not reside fully on the inside.  It’s all still too raw, painful.

  We recently went to a marriage conference.  They said: “Joy is like the current underneath the ocean. Real and present and moving in our lives.  Happiness is the waves that crash on the shore, then recede at times. “

  My joy used to bubble out of me, a steady moving stream underneath the surface. My eyes used to shine and sparkle, because I was THAT joyful and happy.  I miss that.

I want that desperately. I want to be that Tonya again, but I can’t. I don’t know how to find the joy I lost last summer on that day of “TRUTH”. 

  I am thankful that happiness crashes up on my shore very regularly now, that is a nice change from the days I wondered if I’d ever laugh and smile again.  I know this all takes time, I do.  But it feels like after nearly a year, we should be better.  Remember, I am a Tonya-land, sunshine and lemonade kind of gal by nature.

  The past few days have been tough for Dale and I.  We aren’t connecting like we usually do, because the devil is really attacking us.  Causing our souls to search for each other but not connect.  A big part of this, is because I AM NOT HOME.  I am investing in lots of good things, but I am just now seeing, that everything I give to the world, steals from my energy source in a much larger way than it used to. 

  The Lord knows what we need.  I love that about Him.  He knows me better than I know myself.

  Look what showed up in the mail yesterday from an anonymous party:

IMG_7545

A necklace with “my” verse on it.

Psalms 126:5 “Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.”

The world around me quieted when I saw it slip from the package, and I gasped when I pulled the necklace out.  I knew this was my promise today.

Because JOY comes in the morning.

  I feel like He was using this to encourage me that soon…..soon my harvest of joy would come.  It’s ok that it’s not here yet.  Unrealisiticly, I had hoped after the Vow Renewal, Viola!  A new beautiful us. 

  The Vow Renewal was an amaaaaaaazing moment in the timeline of our healing journey. It was a HUGE step in the right direction, but I am seeing that we have a long ways to go.  I am also realizing that I am weary, because I am fighting for my marriage.  Forgetting I have to keep asking the Lord to help me fight.  He is standing there next to me, like the gentlemen He is, not taking from me, but asking for me to hand it over……..

To share my burden with Him.

To remember that I have planted a LARGE crop of tears and that my harvest of joy is COMING!

To ask him to fight FOR me, because job is to BE STILL, and that is so so so hard!

  Head on over to The Adopt Shoppe on Etsy.  Or find them on Facebook.  There are many, many beautiful necklaces to choose from, and all proceeds go to fund this precious families adoption.  Kate is selling some AMAAAAAAZING pieces! 

IMG_7543

  And I am so very blessed to wear one of them around my neck.

IMG_8644

Thank you, friend, whoever you may be, for obeying the Lord’s prompting, and sending me a promise, in necklace form, on the EXACT day I needed it.

Bless you,

~T

  IMG_8648

 

Surviving Infidelity: What Do You Tell The Kids?

  I had a blog reader write me this weekend, and say:

The one thing I have not read about yet is about your children. No doubt that they saw a change in the way you guys interacted with each other. How and did you address this with your kids at all? I know they are younger but do you have advice on this?

   I do have some advice on this!  We met this issue head on, as we have chosen to do with all life’s issues: Death, Sex, Body Parts…..all those questions that make parents cringe! 

IMG_0853

  They were all met head on with simple, truthful answers, in simple terms geared towards their level of understanding.  You know what I love about kids?  When you quench their hunger for knowledge, with these simple answers, they are done.  They accept it and move forward. 

  It’s when we gasp and squirm, avert our eyes and say, “Go ask your dad.”  that they wonder, “Wow. That was a big reaction, this must be a really big deal.” Anxiety often follows.

  Destiny, 8 at the time, picked up right away on our tears and sorrow that first weekend.  We pulled her aside, and explained to her in simple terms, that daddy had broken mommy’s heart.  That there was going to be lots of tears and hugs and healing for a while, but that we were NOT going to get a divorce. That she had nothing to be scared of.  She nodded, tears streaming down her face.  This 8-year-old child, such a little woman already.

IMG_5699  From then on, she’d watch Dale comfort me with an understanding on her face. 

  A few months later, while I am tucking her in, she says “Mommy, I can tell God is healing your heart with super God Glue, because you are smiling and happy again.” 

Precious, precious words from a very grown up little girl.

  Our youngest children, 4, 2 1/2 and 1 at the time, didn’t ask questions, only began to act out more as the year progressed.  We are sure they felt the tone of the home change, even if they couldn’t understand why.  It was only after the Vow Renewal that they began to ask why we were getting married again? 

IMG_5712-vintage

  In simple terms we said “Because God saved our marriage and we wanted to give HIM glory, and because we love each other very very much.”  That was good enough for them! 🙂  Little Avery shared she cried “Happy Tears” at our Vow Renewal because her heart was so glad.  A friend later IMG_4878told me she had seen Destiny, swiping away tears that didn’t stop flowing during our ceremony.

They get it, guys.  They do.  Don’t cast them aside during hard times, thinking “They’ll never understand, this is a grown up issue.”  It only causes them to feel insecure.  To feel FEAR of what you are keeping from them.  Fear of what they don’t understand. 

  IMG_5876It’s so important that we come alongside of our kids during these rough patches in life and help them understand. Not barf our problems all over them, but in simple terms, sum it up for them.  Watch them make their peace with your truth, and easily move forward, as kids are so great about doing!

  Jami Nato of, Hello from The Natos, says it best:

i want to model a life of repentance to my children. what i don’t want to model to my children is a life of perfection. a life of false perfection, actually. how does that help children to be repentant when they never see you owning your imperfections. when they never hear you say, i’m so sorry…mommy was angry and she should not have punished you like that.

perhaps we even feel bad and go to God and ask for forgiveness. but it stops there. we don’t go to the person we hurt, even your 5 year old, and ask for forgiveness from them. no, that’s too difficult. no, they wouldn’t understand. no, they would think i’m terrible. no, it’s not that big of a deal.
it is that big of deal.
repentance in the small things not only points your children to repentance in big things, it points them to repentance was a way of life. that we are all flawed and that we all need a savior. all the time.

it is important to continually point our children to God. to tell them of his miracles in our lives! it is something to get excited about it. we talk about proclaiming the Gospel to your neighbors and friends and we forget about those little humans in our own house.
proclaiming the Gospel through repentance is so good.
so we will not keep the affair secret. we will shout it to the world and to our children.

  Whether our kids grasp all that occurred or not, it is our prayer, that ONE DAY, they will be able to look back over their lives, our lives as their parents, and say, “Oh yeah, mom and dad went through a rough time and fought for their marriage.  They fought hard, and God worked a miracle in our home. They WON the battle,  I can do that too.”

“My mom forgave my dad, when it might have seen easier to walk away, I can forgive, too.

 IMG_6829

We want to leave a legacy of Grace for our children.

We want to leave a legacy of FORGIVENESS by the blood of Jesus, for our children.

We want our children to remember that marriage is HARD, but it is worth FIGHTING FOR!

 IMG_5754-vintage 

Our family has a history of divorce. 

It STOPS HERE.

It stops NOW. 

It will not be passed down to my children or their children.

Because we fought even when we didn’t have strength.

Because Jesus told us the Victory was OURS, if only we’d trust Him.

II Timothy 4:7 “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

  We WON the battle.  We fought the good fight.  We finished the course.

Thank you, Jesus.

~T

Deuteronomy 4:9-10

  “Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. Remember the day you stood before the Lord your God…..when he said to me, “Assemble the people before me to hear my words so that they may learn to revere me as long as they live in the land and may teach them to their children.”