Sunday, July 15, 2018

New Location, Same Holy Experience

living water church on the beach
This sign captured my attention every time I drove by it. I've driven by it at least 30 or more times in the last month. More than that, I read it every time I drove by telling myself I have to experience church on the beach. I purposed last week to worship with fellow believers at Sunset Park on Mexico Beach at 8 am. I anticipated a new location, same Holy experience.  Last Sunday morning I woke to rain pattering on the tin roof. I rolled over to sleep purposing to attend next Sunday. This Sunday I awakened to overcast skies that looked like impending rain. The time was 7:54 am.

The battle started. In 8.6 seconds, the devil gave me all kinds of excuses. It's too late.  You'll never make it in time. It's going to rain. I rolled over and went back to sleep for about 8.6 seconds. God woke me with a cha-ching on my phone. The cha-ching was an order from my Etsy business. That simple cha-ching reminded me God takes care of me every day! My heart desires to worship him for giving me life, not just life for today, but eternally. I threw my clothes on, my hair up, slid my prosthetics on and out the door I went to a new location, same Holy experience....
sand and church
I arrived in time to walk with two other people onto the beach and take my seat. The service had already began with about 20 to 25 people seated comfortably wearing shorts, t-shirts, sandals or flip flops and sunglasses. Shortly, I wished my sunglasses weren't safely in the glass holder in my car. New location, new sunshiny experience! The pastor played the guitar leading worship and then a gentleman read a scripture. The pastor delivered the message. Prayer requests were taken and prayed for. Then, we took communion right there on the beach in a new location, same Holy experience! The surfboard served as a table for the bread and wine. We walked up for a piece of torn bread to represent Christ's body, and was instructed to dip our bread into the wine representing Christ's blood.

Pastor Gieseking titled his message "Growing in Your Mission: Grow Team!" He spoke about spiritual gifts. I love the nuggets God always gives freely to those that seek him. I've heard spiritual gifts preached many times but the fresh idea delivered today went like this:

The pastor played sports in his youth. He was quite good. He admitted he can't play sports with 20-year-old guys now, he's approaching 60. Things he did when he was 20 are no longer within his physical abilities. Ideally, the gifts you used for God when you were 20 may not be the same ones you use when you are 60. God can develop a gift in you at any time. You are not born with spiritual gifts. Your gifts develop as you grow in grace and knowledge. His message resonated with me. Many people think they become useless when they grow older. Simply untrue.

My takeaway....Our gift may shift but the goal is still the soul! You may go from community visitation to stuffing packages for community visitation. All jobs are needful. The message encouraged me. God can always use a willing vessel no matter how many cracks are visible. Truly something to remember.

So, I'm glad I got my socks sandy in a new location, same Holy experience!
sandy socks

I loved they used a sand bucket to collect the offering. I also loved their driftwood cross.
cross
driftwood cross and offering sand bucket
To support the ministries of Living Water Church at the Beach, please click here.


Communing with Jesus 365,

Thursday, July 12, 2018

This Made My Heart Skip a Couple of Beats

lost keys

The needful key in that ignition made my heart skip a couple of beats yesterday.  That very same key was misplaced. Steve, Sydnee and I looked for the key for at least an hour. My first inclination for anything, problem or praise, is to pray and ask Jesus for help. I began my pitiful praying about five minutes into our search because honestly, I didn't want to be bothered looking for the keys. They weren't my keys. I didn't misplace them. 


Sound familiar? You may be better at this human being thing than me. I'd be up and at'em if I'd lost my keys.But, I didn't lose my key. Sydnee did.  Humans tend to be a bit accusatory, me included. We also think that the crime requires the time. I began to get worried about 30 minutes into the key search. I looked the house over. The new house is rather unobstructed with junk or furniture so the key should have been easy to find. But it wasn't. I'm concerned...
too hard for God
I've always taught my daughters to trust God, rely on God, ask God for ANYTHING and EVERYTHING! One way to increase your faith in God is to ask for help with small things. When he blows you away with help in your every day life, imagine the seemingly insurmountable things he can do that will knock you over! Come on, just try him and see that he is good.

I got serious with my prayer. I went into my bedroom alone. I began my prayer with thankfulness. I praised God for being the all-knowing, omnipotent Creator. Please, I begged, tell me where that key is. Is there anything too hard for you? I got my answer immediately. I didn't say "Are you serious? No. That key is not there." I walked directly to the washing machine, opened the door, rummaged through the unwashed clothes and there it was...one found key! The sight of that key made my heart skip a couple of beats! My heart raced with thrill and awe at the magnificence of Jesus. He speaks to me. Jesus, the son of God, talks to me.

My list of things that are too hard for God is fairly short....
Nothing
Not One Thing
is too hard for God!
Amazed 365,

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Grace is Amazing

john 1:17

Hello from Mexico Beach, Florida! We moved into our second home here May 17th. God has prospered me many things during my meager existence but I never ever imagined this. No, I've not turned into a prosperity believer but I do believe God entrusts us with things. His grace is amazing! We live in a physical world so a lot of the things God loans us is physical. The bank and Jesus owns this house. We make payments. I plan to share it with you through this newsletter in the days ahead. 

One thing I love about God (among SO many) is he truly is everywhere. I'm sitting on the beach yesterday. BAM! Jesus speaks to my heart. I created this video as an illustration. Fingers crossed you can hear me in the video. Crank up your speakers!



Wow! Wow! Wow! WOW! Jesus is too cool! Did I say His grace is amazing? We are born with sin because we are human. Jesus died for us to take away our sin. The ocean changes the sand every time the waves push water to the shore. The reformation of the beach each day is amazing to watch. The reformation of an individual under Jesus' control is more astounding than the ocean. The definition of reform is to cause a person to abandon wrong or evil ways of life or conduct; put an end to. Grace is the one power causing permanent change in people; spiritual rebirth to an abundant life through Jesus.

Have you ever asked your mom and dad for something? Have you asked a friend to do something for you? Ask Jesus into your life the same way you asked anyone for anything! The words to repent are easy. Just say "Jesus, please forgive me. I accept your forgiveness". Getting yourself to say the words and really mean them in your heart is the difficult part. Let go of your pride. You have never felt relief like this before. The moment your soul is cleansed when Jesus washes over you, forgives you of your sin and makes you free of guilt and shame. Do it now! Just say the words...

Enjoy your summer. Enjoy your family. Enjoy your life enriched by the blessings of Jesus. When you visit the ocean, meditate upon his grace and goodness. The very hairs of your head are numbered as is every grain of sand. How miraculous to know the same God that controls the universe offers us his grace, mercy, forgiveness and blessings. The list of his gifts are too vast to count. The depth of his love is deeper than the sea.  Please feel free to contact me via email at tammy.stafford@hotmail.com or leave a comment.

In continual praise 365,

Thursday, June 21, 2018

The Best Trunk or Treat Idea for 2018

trunk or treat
VBS is planned or completed and your mind is dreaming about the next big church activity - Trunk or Treat! Decorating the back of a car is challenging. You definitely want something fun that the kids will love and maybe entertain adults too. Good news! I have the perfect idea for you. This idea just hit me out of nowhere last year. It was a HUGE success.

I love Disney! Kids love Disney! My 2015 theme was Alice in Wonderland. Please click the link for another cool trunk idea. My mind turned to Princesses this year. How does a princess relate to a church trunk or treat theme? Jesus is the King of Kings, therefore, being his daughter, I'm a princess. My Daddy is the King of Kings. How cool! This idea works best in an SUV type vehicle.

What you'll need for the Trunk: (All links are Amazon. I receive a small commission if you buy through my link)
princess castle

I started in my garage. Use two square cardboard boxes and two tall rectangular boxes to fashion a castle tower as pictured above. I spray painted the front and sides white and then used silver to spray paint the brick look. Do this free-handed as you want the brick to look old and imperfect. If the paint runs, it only adds character! Take one of your extra square boxes and cut out the turrets to match your box sizes. Fasten the turrets to your boxes using wire ties. I put one through the front and on each side. They were quite sturdy for transport to the church.

i am the doorjesus is the king of kings

Cut two large pieces to fit the back back of your vehicle like the pictures. Ideally, the trunk resembles a drawbridge door. I attached the chains to my hatch at the top and the "I am the Door drawbridge" at the bottom with wire ties. The drawbridge is drawn and written with black wide tip marker. I spray painted the "King of Kings" sign to resemble the inside of the castle with curtains like so. Then I wrote "Our Daddy is the King of Kings" in Elmer's glue and glittered. This sign is simply stuffed inside the hatchback, no mounting needed.

I loaded all my pieces into the car and setup at the church parking lot. The weather was perfect. I didn't have any problem with the boxes standing up without being weighted. If you expect bad weather or wind, try placing a large rock inside each box for stability. After setup, we strung the lights. Using scissors, we punctured holes in the boxes to insert the lights (see picture below). Use the car converter to power the lights once it is dark.
trunk or treat idea

castle trunk or treat
Notice the three gold dishes sitting in the trunk. Pour your candy here.
The finishing touch is the costumes. 
Princesses trunk or treat

Kids and adults had so much fun meeting the prince and princesses! Such a fun night for Jesus!
Shimmer Genie
Prince Charming

I took a stool to sit beside the trunk to greet kids and for pictures. Most of the kids want their picture with the beautiful Belle and handsome prince!

One funny thing I discovered with this trunk...this 54-year-old found out most kids don't even know who Snow White is! I still enjoyed playing the part. :)

I hope you are inspired by this trunk idea. I estimate the cost to create the trunk at $150-$175 if you buy all the items. Please feel free to ask any questions via comment about details I may have overlooked or failed to include. Have fun!

Ideals 365,

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Slow Lane, please

light blur
I must keep reminding myself to breathe. My body encourages me to release all my muscles and let the tension go. My life seems a blur. I know you experience the same feelings. If you don't, please share your secret.

A chapter in our lives ended in February when my daughter's divorce was final after a turbulent six years of marriage. We are so thankful for God's grace and love during life's big disappointments. We are confident it is all for good and look forward to what God has in store for Sydnee and her precious daughters. I hope I don't make this sound too easy. Their separation and divorce has been one of the most difficult, heart-shredding, agonizing and tearful times in my life. My prayer has always been for her ex-husband to accept the love and support we, I offered. He would not.

Matthew 23:37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathered her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!

Did you notice the exclamation point at the end of that verse? Yes! An exclamation point written in God's word. The next verse says "Behold, your house is left unto you desolate." Short version: If you don't accept God's love, you will be on your own. God helped me to have love, patience and continual prayer for my ex-son-in-law while watching him tear down my daughter and their children. Sydnee allowed God to gather her, his child, under his wings of protection. He has not left her desolate. I praise him for her recovery thus far. I trust him for her continued healing and happiness. Please help me pray for the ex. He is the daddy of my granddaughters and I want good things for him.
My dad suffered his fourth stroke mid-March. Hospitalization and rehabilitation kept him away from home for almost a month. He is doing well. We just celebrated his 81st birthday on June 8. My mom was a trooper! She stayed with him every single day during his recuperation. She didn't even go home. We took her clothes and she showered at the hospital. We celebrated her 78th birthday at the rehab facility with a German Chocolate Cake baked by Sloane!  We got Dad home and Mom started enjoying ER visits. She had immediate surgery for a 8.25 mm kidney stone mid-May. My daughters took off work providing care for both of my parents like champions! I was down with Flu B when my dad was in the hospital. My granddaughters, both of them, also got the flu. I was out of town when my mom went to the ER and subsequently had surgery. Thank you sweet daughters for all you do!
My husband, Steve underwent extensive testing for a double lung transplant the first of May. Two long days of testing were over. His heart cath was scheduled for Wednesday. After eight long hours of waiting, we were sent back to our hotel and asked to return on Thursday. Several emergencies during the day kept pushing his procedure back until it was closing time for the cath lab. He qualified for the transplant but opted to forego right now. It's a long story so I hope you'll continue to read on. I can guarantee you some goose bumps.

Duke University Hospital transferred Steve's case to Emory at our request. North Carolina was too far from Chatsworth to consider doing his transplant there. The condition he suffers requires rheumatalogist visits. He saw one at Emory two years ago but she dismissed him. She encouraged him to see Dr. Veeraraghagan (Dr. V). I've tried for two years to get an appointment with Dr. V..  Ain't happening! Dr. V and Steve's regular pulmonologist at Emory are in the same practice. Evidently, pulmonolgist aren't like obstetricians who want you to see all doctors at the practice. I haven't been able to break through the office personnel to get an appointment. Even if I schedule one online, the appointment is canceled and I get a call asking me if I've made a mistake with selecting a doctor. Annoying!

The transplant team asked what it would take for Steve to say okay to a transplant. His answer "I'm not sure. I've been thinking about it but just don't know." My answer "I'll have to see an accurate diagnosis AND I want him to see Dr. V." I voiced this to the psychologist and the transplant team coordinator. They promised me they'd talk to the team after Steve's test results to see what the team thought. Emily, the transplant coordinator was very interested in the conversation. I felt I was finally being heard.

Fives days after Steve's testing, Emily called to give us the good news. Steve qualified for a double lung transplant. However, with our reluctance, the team thought an appointment with Dr. V. was a good idea. An appointment was scheduled for May 17. On May 15th, Dr. V's office called. Steve's appointment was canceled. Dr. V. had a family emergency.  I called to reschedule the appointment but guess what? Couldn't break through the office staff again! Emily finally called us with another appointment scheduled for July 5.

Here comes the goose bumps. When Emily called to tell us Steve had qualified, she was so excited about the Dr. V. appointment. She said "Guys, I got to thinking about what you said about Dr. V.. I remembered a patient we had two years ago with Steve's same diagnosis. I checked the files and with Dr. Neujahr to make sure I wasn't crazy and remembered correctly.  Anyway, this patient was pending a double lung transplant. He saw Dr. V. and WE DON'T EVEN FOLLOW HIS CASE ANYMORE. We're not sure what Dr. V. did for him but it worked!"

Praise Jesus! Now, that's what I've waited six years to hear!!! This doctor, through God's grace, is going to heal my husband! I'm believing and receiving! Please help me to ask God's favor in this situation. Thank you in advance for your prayers.
I absolutely love the life God has given me! The tough days make the simple days so much sweeter. And sometimes, the simple days outnumber the tough. 2018 seems to be a double doozie so far. One day in April, I remember specifically. My daughter Sloane got a promotion at work that day. It was a simple one...

Love you guys. Thanks for listening to me
spill my heart,