Hurts, Habits & Hang Ups - A ministry blog about Celebrate Recovery

My husband was asked to lead worship for CR - Celebrate Recovery.  Not knowing anything about CR, I was blessed to meet so many wonderful people and learn about this amazing ministry.  CR is a fellowship and the celebration of God’s healing power in our lives through the eight recovery principles found in the Beatitudes and in Christ-centered 12 Steps.  As one progresses through the principles and the steps, they discover our personal, loving, and forgiving Higher Power - Jesus Christ. 

Several times I heard them say CR is for people with hurts, habits and hang ups.  Who doesn’t have hurts, habits or hang ups?  I was looking for someone to share a story with me about CR.  I was immediately given Carmen’s name and she was thrilled to share her story with me.  My job is to share stories with PVUMC of how God is working in this place!  When you read this story you will see He is all over this place working on so many different things all at once.  He is the Great Multitasker!

Carmen grew up in a dysfunctional home and was exposed to a lot.  She was never exposed to church and was unsure about her faith.  At age 18 she told her mom that she was leaving the next day - she was in survival mode.  Her mom asked her to wait two days and she would go with her.  Two days later they left and never returned.

Eventually, Carmen found herself in an abusive marriage thinking she could “fix” things.  She was carrying on the cycle but to her, abuse was normal.  After her husband’s first assault arrest she tried to bail him out.  He lost multiple jobs while she supported him.  When she found out she was pregnant with their first child she knew this would fix everything!  It did change her. She decided to go to church and was baptized with her daughter.

Things were so bad at home that Carmen would encourage her husband to drink so he would pass out.  A DWI left her husband with the ultimatum to either go to rehab or go to jail.  The 28 days that he was in rehab were the best!  After 28 days, instead of going to a halfway house, he went back home and back to his old habits. 

While visiting PVUMC, Carmen saw a sign about “Celebrate Recovery.”  Because she could take her daughter, she decided to go “so she could fix her husband.” Carmen lived two different lives.  No one at church or work knew about her living situation.  Although Carmen was there to fix her husband, after five months she realized she herself had a hurt, habit and a hangup.  At this point she surrendered.  

Carmen’s mother started going to church with her and also joined.  One week after joining, Carmen’s mother died.  She went to tell her husband, who was supposedly not drinking, and he was drinking.  She was devastated because other than her children, she was alone.  While he was not there for her, the church was!  This is when she realized she had a church family!

After her son was born, Carmen stayed home for six months while looking for a job.  She knew she had to get out of this marriage - she was realizing how messed up her life was.  She started sharing with others who she could trust and they encouraged her to get help. She went to the domestic violence shelter and was told if she went back they would get social services involved because the kids were being exposed to abuse.  She felt so isolated.  She was a prisoner in her own home.  Now she says thank God that they made her make that decision or she might still be there!

Through CR and the church they found somewhere for her to stay temporarily and helped her pack her house.  After a week she got a restraining order on her husband and received sole custody of her children. After a head-on collision, her husband was arrested with his second DWI resulting in him to go to jail.  Even through all of this she could never picture life without him.

A former boss got Carmen in touch with an attorney who never charged her a penny for his services!  While this was out of Carmen’s comfort zone, she even joined a circle at church!  After her husband was served papers, she broke down and told her United Methodist Women Circle she needed prayer.  They took care of her and her kids.  She was so nervous to go to court and see her husband that her CR friend went with her.  Her ex-husband started dating and got married as soon as their divorce was final.  Carmen started going to counseling. This counseling would also help with her eating disorder.  She was now half the size she used to be. 

In September of 2018, Carmen’s house was flooded with six feet of water from Hurricane Florence!  Because she worked in the insurance industry, she stayed in town and sent her kids to a friend out of town.  The first night she slept in her car because she did not know what to do.  She had nowhere to go.  Nowhere was open.  Except church!  Volunteers were feeding the linemen every day.  She came to church every day and served.  She was told by our pastor not to worry that we would take care of her.  And he was right.  Immediately a church member offered her an apartment on their property that she and her kids could use as long as necessary.

“All of her belongings were in her front yard…”

“All of her belongings were in her front yard…”

She had 16 people show up to clean out her house. Some took home her grandmother’s depression glass to clean; some took home her china to clean.  Some of the people did not even know her.  All of her belongings were in her front yard.  After the insurance company paid, she had a CR friend help her find a house that had not gone on the market yet. She closed on that house on a Friday and that Sunday, March 17, her circle had a housewarming shower for her!  She showed me pictures of her beautiful new home fully decorated!  Her daughter’s room was better than anything she could imagine! 

Carmen will tell you she always wanted out of her house because it was dark and had so many bad memories!  She wanted to be in a bright and happy home.  Without the flood she probably would not have gotten out of that house.  And remember, she is half her size so she needed all new clothes and now she could get them! 

Through a major renovation in Carmen’s life, she got rid of all the old and dark stuff and has replaced it with new and bright things.  What she thought was going to be the worst thing that could happen to her, has become the best thing that could have happened to her.  Why should we be surprised?  Romans 8: 28, tells us, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  Carmen reminded me that six months prior to the closing of her new house, she was sleeping in her car.  Before we left Carmen said, “I gained a family when I went to PVUMC.  I went there to fix someone else and God fixed me.  I feel like life cannot get any better!”  Praise be to God for what He is doing through PVUMC!

If you would like Celebrate Recovery information, please contact the church office.

"It's a Process" - A Renovate Lenten Spiritual Journey series blog post

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Mike and I always wanted to move back to Wilmington.  After our first child, Sarah, was born we sold our condo and moved into an apartment to see what would happen. Mike was in engineering at UPS and was actively looking for a job.  After a year and no luck we decided to buy a house in Greensboro.

We found a neighborhood under construction and found a lot we liked.  We were thrilled to build our first home!  We could just imagine seeing Sarah with a real yard!  Twice we put contracts on lots in that neighborhood and something would happen.  In my mind that house was decorated and perfect for our little family!  I could picture our future family in that house!  Please note that I never discussed this plan with God.  After a while, we found a brick ranch in a sought after neighborhood.  It had a fenced in backyard, a screened porch, deck and Jacuzzi.  We never believed we could have all of that!

Right after my second daughter, Ivey, was born I asked Mike what they would do for fun in the summers.  I truly did not know what people did without a beach.  He told me they would have horses.  HORSES?!  I had to get home!  We started trying to move home to Wilmington.

Within two years Mike had a job offer in medical supplies!  God had opened my eyes when my girls were born but I was beginning to look to Him more!  I asked God if it was meant to be to please work it out for us to get home. I did not have any scripture to quote to Him.  I just asked Him to help us do what was right.  I told Mike I thought we should put our house on the market for sale by owner and see what happened.  Within the month our house sold for the asking price.  We were ecstatic!  God brought to my mind a big lesson.  If we would have gotten that lot and built we would not have been able to sell our home two years later.  The new neighborhood still had many lots and great deals.  Also we would not have made the money we made on this house.  That was the first time I learned to trust God with decisions.  He sees the future and knows what is best....even if we don't understand.  Proverbs 3: 5-6, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him,  and he will make your paths straight."

I knew God would "show off".  I  do not mean “show off” disrespectfully.  I am amazed at how God can always “outdo” us!  He sees the future and really does know what is best!  I understand Isaiah 55: 8-9, "for my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."

We moved home and I don't know who was happier: Mike, Mom, Dad, Sarah, Ivey, or me! I often think back to that time and am so thankful that God showed me His ways are bigger and better than anything I could ever think of!  Before I started rebuilding my life away from Greensboro, I wish I would have known that it was going to be a process.  It was going to take some time because God was going to teach me many lessons through this renovation.  As God showed me one little piece at a time I found myself trusting Him a little more with each step.

When we are letting God start a renovation in our life we need to know that it will take time and patience.  It is a rebuild which means we have to get other stuff out of the way.  But that rebuild will be worth the wait!  As Nehemiah 2: 18b says, “Let us start rebuilding!”

“Moving Earth” - a PVUMC Ministry Blog on our grounds crew

Today I had the opportunity to talk with Berry Stephens about his time working the grounds here at PVUMC!  Berry and I were friends at Hoggard High School - although he is much older than I am!  One of the many blessings of coming to PVUMC was getting reacquainted with Berry and his family. It is amazing to see what God has done with our lives since then!  What a gift to have Christian friends!

Some of the grounds crew equipment.

Some of the grounds crew equipment.

Like our long-time friendship, Berry said the best part of working the grounds at PVUMC are the friendships. Berry has shared his gift of landscaping for over 25 years!   One of the men that showed up to work years ago ended up knowing his father and uncle and Berry knew the man’s daughter.  While doing yard work, they visited every week, for years, and they have become lifelong friends.

I knew Berry probably liked working the grounds because he enjoys the outdoors.  When I asked him why he likes to be in charge of the grounds he answered quickly.  “Because I don’t have to write.”  I laughed and then he said, “because I don’t have to speak in front of people.”  His third answer was, “because it takes minimal organizational skills.” 

I laughed when Berry first said he would not have to write because that is what I love to do.  When he said he would not have to speak in front of people, I was on board with him!  Then he mentioned the organizational skills and that is one of my strengths….sometimes to a fault!  God can use us all - it takes all kinds!  We all have different strengths and gifts.  1 Peter 4: 10-11, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms….If anyone serves they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.  To Him be the glory and the power forever and ever.  Amen.” 

One of our neighbors who lives close by would speak to the people working on the PVUMC grounds.  He would offer his equipment and visit.  According to him, the church members were so nice and welcoming that a few years later when he and his wife decided to look for a church home they visited here and have since joined.  Another woman, who Berry sees walking her dog, always stops and speaks.  One day she stopped and helped him put out pine straw!  Now he sees her at church!  This is a ministry!

I also talked with Tom Nunalee who used his gift serving in our church yard from 1970 until 2016!  Tom shared memories of friends who had certain jobs for various reasons.  Some had issues walking but could ride the lawn mower, some loved flowering annuals and that was their specialty.  One man trimmed all the shrubs in one day while Tom went behind him picking up the clippings.  When the gentleman aged out Tom took over the trimming.  He intended to do all of the trimming in one day but it took him 3 days!  Everybody used their gift!  Tom also mentioned that picking up litter seems so menial but what an important job that is!  Can you imagine what our church yard would look like if we never picked up the litter? 

According to Tom, PVUMC has saved a lot of money through the years having volunteers do our yard.  This is a church being wise stewards of their money.  Serving is a great form of generosity and an awesome way to honor God!  When we serve we worship God by stewarding our time and talents for Him. Serving with others is a blessing.  When we’re working side-by-side with other people, bonds are formed.  This was part of God’s plan for how the church is supposed to work.  Hebrews 10: 24-25, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

When we see the ways God uses our service to bring glory to Him our faith grows.  Meeting people in the church yard while we are working and then seeing them visit and join the church increases our faith. Ephesians 3: 20, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us….” 

Gardening is a great source of exercise.  You can burn calories, build muscle mass, maintain bone density, reduce blood pressure and obesity, etc.  Studies show that volunteering is so good for the mind and body that it can ease stress and depression symptoms.  And you can do all of this while working outside (getting vitamin D) in God’s beautiful creation.  And make friends! 

What an important ministry this is for PVUMC!  Our grounds show that we care about God’s yard.  Berry needs a lot of help with mowing, blowing, edging, raking, etc.  If Berry can get enough help, then people would only have to sign up to work once every eight weeks!  If you are interested in sharing your heart and time with this ministry, please contact the church office and we will get you in touch with Berry Stephens.

- Jill Jarrell Newsome

Crying and Building - one blog in a series on Renovate, Pine Valley's Lenten Spiritual Journey

Crying and Building

Crying and Building

Life was going well and in a moment everything fell apart.  Everything changed! My Dad, who seemed so much younger than he was, had a stroke and went to be with the Lord ten days later.  It rocked our world. Six months later my mother-in-law died of cancer. Three months later my father-in-law was diagnosed with stage four cancer.  The next month my mother had to have a major back surgery. There were other things going on also. I found myself exhausted. Maybe from grief, maybe from bad news, maybe from care giving, maybe from staying positive, maybe from stress or maybe from the whole package!  My season of tears started. And once the tears started they stayed for a while.

Shedding tears can be good for our health.  We have to let our guards down to cry which is a positive and healthy thing.  There are three types of tears but we are talking about emotional tears. Tears can regulate their own emotions.  Tears can calm the body. Tears can reduce their own distress. The Japanese are such strong believers in the benefits of crying that they have "crying clubs".  You can go there for a sobfest! To help the tears flow they watch tearjerker movies. They do this because crying releases stress which is a great way to stay mentally healthy.  Research is backing up that theory.

Society makes people think it is not ok to cry - especially males.  God said in Luke 6: 21, “Blessed are you who weep now.” When Mary fell apart at Jesus’s feet over the death of her brother, Lazarus, "He groaned in the spirit and was troubled."  A short time later "Jesus wept." John 11: 33-35. Jesus had compassion. If Jesus could cry we should all cry!

I thought it was just me but apparently most people have tears right before a renovation.  When the pain is too much to take our body is wired for humility before God. No matter what the problem or pain is we need the peace of God.  Surrendering our situations to God means surrendering our thoughts about it. Remember, what we place on the Altar is altered!

Every tear you shed is preparing for you for God's renovation.  The ability to shed tears is a gift from God. God sees our tears and hears our cries.  He knows what scares us, saddens us and what stresses us. He knows why we are crying even when we are not sure!  Maybe that is why He wants to do a renovation on us. He wants to build something better than we can imagine! 2 Corinthians 4: 17, "These troubles and sufferings of ours are, after all, quite small and won’t last very long. Yet this short time of distress will result in God’s richest blessing upon us forever and ever!"  Who doesn't want God's richest blessing upon them forever and ever?!

God's renovations can cause bitterness to turn to forgiveness.  He can help us let go of the past and embrace the future. He can turn our negative outlook to a positive outlook. What is causing your tears?  What do you need renovated? The Builder is waiting for you!

Not Too Late To Renovate

Not too late to Renovate

Not too late to Renovate

My house just turned six years old which is pretty new for a house.  Even so, there are plenty of things that we could do to our house.  There is always, always, always, something to be done. Just this morning I found my herb garden table broken and half of it on the ground.  We just had the patio and furniture pressure washed so now I notice the weeding that needs to be done and cutting back some shrubs.  Within the month the kitchen faucet was replaced due to the handle continuously falling off.  Since we have had a revolving door on our house the moving of furniture has caused some of the walls to already need painting.  Sometimes the list of things to do gets so long we become overwhelmed and do not know where to start!

Did you know that God describes us as houses in the Bible?  We are the temple for the Holy Spirit, so that makes sense.  1 Corinthians 3: 16, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?” Peter wrote in 1 Peter 2: 5, “...you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” So if we are God’s house, are there some things we need to do?  Do we need to renovate?  Is the list so long and overwhelming that we do not know where to start?

While some of our “outsides” need renovating, all of our “insides” need renovating. God is most concerned with our insides - our souls.  Jesus wants us to make a “to do list” of ourselves.  All of our actions flow from the inside so how can we be a good witness to Him if we do not regularly do renovations?  It is time to make an examination of our heart.  Do we have anger?  Do we have bitterness?  Do we have jealousy?  Do we have lust? Do we have unforgiveness?  And the list goes on.  Do we have anxieties?  Do we have concerns?  All of us have times that we do not feel strong. That is why we all need renovations. 

Here is some good news: You have a foreman who will help you with this renovation. You will be restored!!  Peter 5: 10, “The God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”

As all renovations we will start with cleaning out and getting rid of. There are lots of things filed away in us that we need to look at and decide if we keep it or let it go. Then file it away - let go and let God have it! After all of the old dirty part has been torn away there we are buried in the mess - a child of God. When we get down to the foundation, it must be laid on Jesus. The foundation has to be right!  When we start with Jesus our foundation will be strong and steadfast! Renovations are hard work but exciting!  The finished product will be beautiful!  Ecclesiastes 3: 11, “He has made everything beautiful in its time...“

All of us need a renovation and many of us have needed one for a long time. Like houses, there will always, always, always be things to fix.  It is never too late for a renovation. Your name is already on the book, and all you have to do is just show up!

Renovations

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I continue to hear the word, “renovate” at church which is the name of the Pine Valley Lenten Spiritual Journey with a sermon series, small groups, and a study book. When I think of the word renovate I think of a very hectic time but because I can visualize things, for me, it was exciting also.

I remember riding in my Daddy’s sailboat as a little girl telling him that one day I was going to live on the waterway here. I even told him it would have a small sandy beach because I have to get in the water! God brought that dream to reality when we pulled into a yard full of old, big live oak trees with moss in them.  Inside the house, some cosmetic changes were needed.  The final walk was down to the water where there was one small sandy beach - on our property!

The kitchen consisted of an eat-in area, a galley kitchen with tiny cabinets and a formal dining room. Unless you sat in the eat-in area you could not see the view of the water.  We talked with our builder and decided we wanted to make some changes. Make things better.  Because we trusted our builder we let him guide us with his plans.  There would be more than a monetary price for this renovation - it was going to be hectic. Walls were going to have to come down.  If they were load bearing walls additional changes had to be made to get support from somewhere else.  We had to be patient and listen to our builder.  The frustrations of being under construction caused tears several times.  When we saw the finished product we were thrilled.  It was better than anything we could have imagined.  We were able to stand anywhere in our kitchen and see the water and the beautiful live oaks. That space entertained family and friends for 11 years and it was well worth the trouble. 

As I think back on that renovation I believe it is not much different than what God wants to do with us.  He wants us to be able to see and appreciate Him in everything!  Sometimes in order to have a more full and rich life we have to make changes.  God wants to renovate us.  He is our builder and He has the best plans.  We can trust Him!  Jeremiah 29: 11, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”  If we want the best life we can have it is time to submit to God.

Submitting to God is simply letting Him have His way in our life. We are choosing not to make things happen for ourselves, but letting God control our situations.  We come under God’s authority, wisdom and power.  In other words, we are giving up control.  God has to tear down walls to rebuild us.  This can be painful and difficult and there may be tears but healing will follow. We have to realize Who our load bearing wall is! God will guide us to that place where we will be filled with joy and thanksgiving in the Spirit!   Philippians 1: 6, “...being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

When the renovation is complete, it will be beautiful!  It will be better than anything we could have imagined.  We will see God all over it!  Ecclesiastes 3: 11, “He has made everything beautiful in its time.  He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” 

Are you ready for renovations? Pick up a “Renovate” book and join a small group.  We are told when two or three are gathered together, the presence of the Holy Spirit, will be there. Matthew 18: 20, “For where two or three gather in My name, there am I with them.” Make plans to meet with your Builder - He has the best plans for you!  Better than anything you can imagine!

Wrapping People in Prayer

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Wrapping People In Prayer

A few weeks ago PVUMC got an email from a lady who works with hospice in New Mexico. While visiting family in Massachusetts over Christmas, she learned of our prayer shawl ministry. She was wanting to purchase one for herself because “it would be an awesome feeling knowing all the prayers would be with me as I pray with my patients.” She went on to say it would remind her that God would give her the words for her end of life patients. Often times she is the last person they see, and lots of them pass with no family or friends there, she explained. She prays for them to “accept Jesus in their heart.” She went on to say she would like to donate to the prayer shawl ministry because she would like to pray for her patients with the prayer shawl on her shoulders knowing that would be a wonderful blessing to all.

When our prayer shawl group heard of this they were thrilled! They chose three prayer shawls and 5 prayer pockets ( 4x4 square that have a cross and a card that explains we are praying for them) and sent them to New Mexico. They told their new friend to pick her favorite shawl and give the others to someone in need of God’s blessings. God is carrying these blessings over 2000 miles! What a wonderful ministry!

I do not know how to knit and I can only imagine the tangled yarn and knots that I could create! What I do know is that a pattern is picked, yarn is chosen, the correct tools are used and then the knitting is done. It is not thrown together haphazardly. This shawl is truly a labor of love. Much the same as Psalm 139: 13-14, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” We were not thrown together either. The Lord carefully thought out all of the tiny details in our lives. He knit us together just as He wanted us making us each special and unique. He gave us talents and gifts that we could use to bring glory to Him!

After the prayer shawls are made they are put on the Altar and prayed over and blessed by our pastors. Colossians 2: 2, “I want them to be encouraged and knit together by strong ties of love. I want them to have complete confidence that they understand God’s mysterious plan, which is Christ Himself.” Paul prays that the believers in Colossae will be encouraged by having their hearts knit together in love. I pray the recipients of these shawls, prayer pockets and baby blankets will be encouraged knowing these were knit together in God’s love and prayed over by believers! These shawls are given to any who are in need of comfort due to illness, grief or other times of transition.

Think through the talents the Lord has given you. For more information on the prayer shawl ministry, contact the church office.

An added bonus - it has been found that knitting provides the health benefits of lowered stress due to the rhythmic and repetitive action having a calming effect.

The IGNITE "And the Winner Is" Show

[NOTE: This blog is about the IGNITE fundraiser held March 2 and 3, 2019 to raise money for the Music in Mission Trip.]

As a newbie at PVUMC I decided to go to Ignite’s fundraiser, “And The Winner Is…”. I am so glad that I went, overwhelmed at the amount of talent our youth has.  I found myself thinking about our sermon series, “our best us.” Then I thought about my childhood and my girls growing up in the church.

Being our best takes practice and perseverance.  I look at these youth enjoying what they are doing and know they know this does not come without practice!  I found myself thinking of the parents who helped, carpooled, worked on costumes, etc. for their youth to be a part of this event. I am grateful for their sacrifice and that the youth get exposed to a variety of different activities.  This encourages their gifts and passions. Even if their passions seem unrealistic, we have no idea where God will lead them!

We are reminded in Hebrews 10: 24 - 25 that our youth need their church  “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”  They need models and mentors and what better way than working on a fundraiser together! Psalm 71: 17-18, “Since my youth, God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come.”  I believe that covered the Tutti Frutti Tots to the Gimme the Willies! [names of the groups performing in the show]

To Grammy and Oscar, I was so Happy that I saw the show I Was Over The Rainbow!  You Are The Champions!  What a wonderful fundraiser to benefit your mission trips - You will be On The Road Again spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ!  Thanks Ignite, PJ, parents, mentors, band, backdrop, sound, lights, video, AV, stagehand and all of the many talented persons involved for a wonderful afternoon!  Thank you for letting God use you and may God continue to bless you and your talents!

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IGNITE Fundraiser on March 3, 2019. All performers concluding the show with “We Are The World”