Thursday, December 25, 2014

Our "Christmas Card" to You




Merry Christmas from the Griffins!
*There is a Christmas surprise at the end if you don't fall asleep reading this post* ;)



Last July we arrived in SoCal with the help of Stephen's parents. Bruce drove cross-country with Stephen and Linda graciously flew with me, our 6 month old, and our 2.5 yr old! We got to stay with them at a resort across from the Pacific Ocean for 2 weeks. It was so nice getting to visit with them, Uncle Karl, Aunt Dee, and see my family. Time was running out and we were getting down to the wire on needing a place to live before we were homeless! God opened the doors for us to purchase a home that was far beyond anything we expected and super close to the location where Stephen would be working. We knew that he would be working at the Air Station and one of the Chapels on base. We had no idea that the house we bought would literally be 5 mins from that Chapel. If you are not familiar with Camp Pendleton, it's ginormous! So to be able to live close to your job...is actually a miracle. :) It hard to believe this was all happening 18 months ago.



Honestly, I didn't think I was going to like being at the Chapel. My assumption of base Chapels had been that they were not very diverse, tired, and didn't have much to offer. I knew that we were going to be here for 3 years whether I liked it or not...so I determined to like it. :) Thank God, Marine Memorial Chapel had a group of motivated and loving people already committed to accepting Stephen as the new Lead Chaplain! Our predecessors, Chaplain and Mrs Hayes, had worked hard during their term before us to boldly love and give all they had to build up this sweet body of believers. They laid the ground work for us so well that we could easily fall into our new roles. Praise God for them and their faithfulness!



Stephen took on his new roles like a champ. He has been able to counsel hundreds of people between the Air Station and Chapel, preach a few times a month, teach Bible Studies and lead life groups, walk with people through their happiest moments in life, hold others up as they walk through valleys which feel like death, officiate for joyous weddings, and officiate for heart wrenching funerals, pray and honor God at ceremonies, work to build morale in the military communities, and so many other details that I could write out. Oh ya, then he comes home at the end of a day full of meetings and reports to wrestle with our two children, help around the house, and listen to my stories...all before getting out of his uniform. Stephen epitomizes a godly, hard working, loving, compassionate, bold, fearless, husband and father. I love me some of that man! ;) Plus he's real cute.






We have had such wonderful experiences this first year and a half. Last fall God laid it on our hearts to open our home (really it's God's home) to couples and their children who wanted to grow in their marriages through Bible study. We went through two married couples studies and then opened the group up to single or married individuals who are looking to go deeper in their relationship with God and other believers.



God also laid it on my heart at the beginning of this year to provide a place for female active duty marines/sailors and the spouses of male marines/sailors to meet and get real with God and one another as Sisters in Christ. Through these groups, God has surrounded us with such an encouraging group of men, women, and children! Being in the military, you don't always get to be near your immediate family, so connecting with our family in Christ has been such a privilege and joy! I feel like they would give anything for us as we would for them. Here are a couple secrets, 1) I am an introvert and don't like talking in front of people unless I have to...I'm not even sure if I like people. ;) Kidding! And 2)I was terrified to lead a group of women who I felt are strong leaders themselves. I knew that there were far more qualified people out there who could facilitate these treasured women. But the burning fire within me would not let up and so began this journey of humility and watching God do "great and wonderful things" that I could never expect. He is so good! Just as we read in the Bible, God still does ALL the work, we just get to "fall in" (as Stephen describes the word, "submit") and be used as His hands and feet to do the good works He designed for us long ago. This way only God gets the praise-as it should be. We really love these folks!








Another opportunity that I got to take on when we arrived here was Children's ministry at the Chapel. Mrs Hayes and another faithful lady had taken turns for the past 3-5 yrs teaching the Children's Church class each week. So I was happy to help and give them a break. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, but over time, awesome people started volunteering, and God directed us to lifechurch.tv where we have been able to use free/high quality Sunday school curriculum! A huge answer to prayer this year has been the Freese family coming to help and taken on this ministry. God has totally blessed us with them! They are passionate about teaching kids about God, have so many ideas and talents, and have humble hearts. They planned and helped us execute the coolest Vacation Bible School that I have ever been to (that was my 1st one, BUT it was awesome! ;) Tierzah still talks about being an agent for God as the theme was "International Spy Academy- Agents of the One True God." They asked us to pray for 40 kids to come and hear the Word and on our first night we had over 90 kids! God is awesome and I love to watch Him show off. :)









Please continue to pray for the Marine Memorial Chapel and the Air Station when you think of us! We look at our time left here as though we only have 2 years to give 110% of ourselves to this incredible opportunity. We have grown a lot personally and in our faith which has only helped us to see how much we need to learn! :) God doesn't "need" us and we know that he could choose anyone to do this job, but it has been our honor to serve Him and our country for the past 5 years as a family in the Chaplain Corps.

So that is the good news, right? :) I would be lying if I didn't admit that a lot of times it has...sucked (can't think of a better word). Here is some of the ugly:

I absolutely LOVE being so close to my Mum now. She such an encouraging woman and I continue to learn from her. But I think she would agree that it is very difficult to live over 2,000 miles away from family. :( Thank God I have such ridiculously awesome friends here in CA, because they are my "home away from home" when I am really missing my dad, 7 sisters, 7 brothers, mother and father-in-love, and all our extended family closer to the east and abroad! I love you ALL and hate that you are so amazing because it makes living further away so much harder! ;) ...so I guess that means you suck too. Haha! Just kidding.
















A moment that I would like to forget is when I nearly ran over not 1 but 2 Chaplains in my drive way! Lol It was definitely not on purpose, but there I was, sitting in my garage getting ready to go to the commissary on yet another busy weekend (we don't actually "rest" much on those). I was crying my eyes out to Stephen who was already late for a meeting. I usually share pictures of us smiling and having a good time but this is reality too:



I felt like I was the lowest I had been in years. This particular week we had been receiving a lot of opposition, negativity, and rejection in a situation that we were pouring our hearts and energy into. To make matters worse, I had also just found out I was having our 3rd miscarriage. Talk about feeling kicked while you are already down! I wanted to "quit"...I don't know what that even means, but I was so exhausted emotionally and physically. In April I had found out that I was pregnant:





Yay! So excited. I started progesterone and we didn't tell many people because I have miscarried twice before while in the first trimester. Even still, we were stoked and looking forward to another little blessing that would have been due on Dec 26th 2014. But God who is Sovereign had a different design for that baby and I'm sure he or she is dancing around heaven with brothers or sisters (and cousins)! That thought brings me joy...even though on the day that this picture of me was taken, joy seemed so far away from any emotion I could have. It hurt. Deeply. We were both in pain and too busy to even process it. Thank God again for sweet friends and family who held us up in prayer, brought a meal, watched our kids, and helped us in many other ways. Thank you guys! I just remember crying out to God in anger, in fury, in pain, in brokenness, in humility, and finally in a whisper just melting into His strength because I had none left. I prayed the Psalms because I couldn't have said it better myself. God is so just and good and spoke so personally to me through His Word. The Word brings comfort I cant even describe. It was the perfect ointment to heal my wounds. Also, Look at these adorable people God gave me to love every second of the day! Can I be more blessed?












Don't we always want to blame God when the world is ugly and bad things happen to "good" people. But who is really good? None of us, right? And this is not the world God designed in Genesis 1. His world was peaceful, pure, beautiful, whole, without corruption and death. The devil is the one who came to tempt Eve and Adam, it is because of man's disobedience to God that we are all sinners. The devil hates God's creation (Me and You!) and seeks to kill, steal, and destroy it. But Jesus Christ, the sweet baby we are singing about this Christmas, came as our redeemer and ransom (a ransom is money paid to release one from bondage!) He came to free us from that curse of being bound to sin so that we can be alive in Him. Think of The Gladiator and Braveheart, don't you get goose bumps during their last battles seeing how they were courageous, fearless, and willing to die for what they loved?! That's what Jesus did for the souls of ALL MANKIND. Jesus is not a fictional story, He lived a sinless life on earth to be the only Contender who could fight the greatest spiritual battle there ever was. He was crucified and God raised him from the dead. He now sits at the right hand of God pleading for US! He is "for us" and always has been. What an amazing love. I don't know how I got to writing about the Gospel but it is probably the only thing worth writing about anyway! :)

With that said, if you don't know Him or don't believe in Him but want to. Just try talking to God about it like you would to a friend. He says to come boldly before his throne where we can find grace. He already knows you, ask him for more faith to move closer to Him so that you can know Him more. You probably already know this verse, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes on Him, will not perish but have everlasting life" -John 3:16 But find rest in this one too, "So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture: They kill us in cold blood because they hate you. We’re sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one. None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us. (Romans 8:31-39 MSG)

I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas today and a sweet New Year! ...Oh Ya! ;) We are happy to announce to the world that we are officially 17 weeks pregnant with baby #3 (#6 counting the little lambs waiting for us in Heaven). Thanks, God! :) I felt like a vomiting, exhausted, zombie for the first 4 months lol but thankfully the 2nd trimester has arrived. God is so gracious and we are thankful for His blessings.





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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

My Siblings




I just came across this picture of me and my sisters and it made me laugh. We were just a tad bit younger here! I love how comfortable we look, maybe not comfortably seated on that tiny swing, but our hearts seem to be at peace and rest in a moment of closeness that only siblings share...at least every once in a while. :) I love and miss my brother and sisters (and ALL of our family that has been added by love) very much today! To Tell-Who-Never-Tells, CiCi, and Jared-McFarred, I am so very thankful for each of you and the inspiration you are to me, JuneBug/Bunyan-Head/JuBu (take your pic). ;) You all are so very gifted and are not afraid to do what has been put on your hearts to do. I know we don't get to talk as much as we would all like now that we are grown ups with children running-a-muck, but I just wanted to publicly praise you and thank you for loving me even as an annoying "baby sister", for being there whenever I need to talk, and for not selling me to the gypsies. :)

Almost 1 year as gone by since we moved back to the west coast and so much has happened with my siblings since then:


Last fall, my brother celebrated his 29th Birthday (last year in the 20's bro!), his 1st Anniversary to my lovely sis-in-love, Rachel, and in the picture above...Rachel is pregnant with their first baby at Jared's Ordination. Stephen was honored to be one of the pastors who got to pray over them at this service. It was a privilege to support them and we hope to continue to do so along their journey!


In October, Miss Chloe Jean Bowling arrived!


Pretty mama and baby came for a visit!


This year, Jared and Rachel said "Yes" to a call to lead the Altoona Rescue Mission in Altoona, Pa. I was very sad to see them leave! I know that they were designed for this work, though. They sold almost everything they owned, packed up their car by faith, and journeyed through the snow from sunny California to freezing Pennsylvania. I love getting to hear their stories about how God has been working and all the many ways He has been faithfully taking care of them. Jared preaches at many churches to share the vision of the Rescue Mission while Rachel works with several women to creatively raise support (talking with businesses, planning car washes, and bake sales). Their goal is to have the Rescue Mission fully operational by this summer. Please keep them and this organization in prayer!



My beautiful sister, Serena (CiCi), when she was pregnant last fall with her second baby girl, Taydem! Not only was she weeks away from having a baby, but she was also working a full time job, completing assignments to stay on top of her full time school work, and helping to rent out one of their homes while purchasing and moving into a new home. Serena has never been afraid of working hard for those she loves!
Her patience, dedication, and heart of faith has been blessed greatly.


The Vires~December 2013


I got to travel to Indiana with Micah and Tierzah to go visit the Vires in November last year. It was a gift to see them and see our kids play together!


Mum was there meeting her youngest grandbaby too! I know she misses all the family now living on the east coast so very much!


Paisley was a fantastic older cousin and future race car driver! Indy 500...here she comes!


Congratulations to Serena who finished her Paralegal Degree! God also just provided her with a perfect job in her field and I know she will give 110% to it...as she does every area of her life! A true inspiration...keep leaning on Him and there is no place He can't take you❤


I love this picture! God is so good. Wee Paisley also graduated from Preschool recently! Hee hee...Taydem wanted to help hold the diploma. ;)

Please lift up the Vires in prayer that God would continue to favor them!



Lastly ("cause the first shall be last" ;) but never least, my eldest eldest sister, Shantell. She is quite a woman. I'm sure all of her four beautiful children will rise up and call her "blessed!" John and Shantell moved from Tennessee to North Carolina last year where God provided a job that John loves and is being blessed at. Shantell home schools Sara, Juliana, Jasmine, and Johnny. If that doesn't keep her busy enough, she also loves teaching kids piano lessons.


She took a group of her students to Masters Club Regionals where her students competed and performed fabulously. I love her heart to see others succeed and do their best! I miss her laugh and all these beautiful faces below!


Honestly, what a gorgeous family and most gracious blessing from God! All of the kids are doing well in their Tae-Kwon-Do classes, and testing above their grade levels. If you want to keep in touch with their happenings, pop over to my sister's blog: http://bissettebrew.blogspot.com/2013/03/oh-lord-my-god-when-i-in-awesome-wonder.html?m=1

Please pray for them as well, that God would continue to rest His favor in each of their lives!

**Awe*sniff sniff, I love you crazies! I know, I know, I may have left out the hardships you all have weathered individually, the battles, the sleepless nights, and the moments where we wanted to disown one another ;) but you are some of the dearest people to my heart--always! I thank God that each of you are followers of Christ and one day we will be able harass each other constantly again "when we all get to Heaven!"


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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

In the Middle of the Storm...

My husband, Chaps, while preaching will occasionally quote an old saying, "If this don't light yer fire...yer woods wet!" lol Well, that's how I feel about this song, "I Am," by David Crowder. I was singing it at the top of my lungs and on the way home from Coco's yesterday (I was getting a strawberry cheesecake for my super sweet friends in Life Group...I may or may not have devoured two slices). Anyway, I absolutely love the lyrics to this song which you can listen to below. We have SO much good going on in our lives right now, but we also have a lot of  hard/messy/discouraging stuff happening too. When I dwell on the latter, I lose sight of all the good. I lose sight of Jesus...like Peter, the waves start to scare me and I begin to feel overwhelmed. So Seriously, if you are like me and you need a spiritual pick-me-up right now, press play, turn it up, and let the peace of God sink in! No matter how we are feeling we can dance, clap, toe-tap, jump around or whatever you do when you get excited, because in the midst of whatever is going on right now... Jesus is right there with us. I will never leave you or forsake you...such a sweet promise. I heard Craig Groeschel say, "God never promised that the storm would not rock us, but he did promise that the storm would not sink us.You are in the storm with his presence and you are in the storm for his purposes." 1Peter 5:7 says, "Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you." And as Peter said in 2 Peter 1:2 "May God give you more and more grace and peace as you grow in your knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord." Oh how Jesus loves me and you. Be loved, loved ones!!
http://youtu.be/cH_LLGiE0f0


Saturday, March 22, 2014

First Things First




I got to chat with my brother on the phone last week and he asked me if I had written anything lately. Regrettably, I had to say, "No." I'm trying to think of some clever and wise words to start off with. Maybe a story or two that would make me appear like an incredibly busy and important woman. It's actually embarrassing to admit the pride in my heart craving to be validated and approved of by whoever might stumble across this post. I know there is nothing wrong with sharing what has been going on in our lives, but my heart needs a reminder of the only One who I need to "approve of"and that is...Jesus. I heard Elyse Fitzpatrick share that God is not impressed with [my] flawless church attendance, how many miles I've run, the hours I have logged praying, the check in my box for getting involved in Life Groups, my amazing homemaking and Pinterest skills, or how many good deeds I've done this week. What God is impressed with is His Son, Jesus, and his incarnation, resurrection, and ascension into Heaven where he LIVES making intercession for me! Jesus found me while I was covered in sin and going down a dark and empty path in life. God gave me faith to believe in His love and forgiveness waiting for me even though I didn't deserve it and could never repay Him. This crazy, foreign, supernatural, and one-way kind of love brought such freedom to my soul. "The burdens of my heart rolled away." Jesus came like a knight in shining amour to rescue his Bride [the Church] from slavery to sin. Ephesians 2:8-10 says, "God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago."

Since surrendering my plans and will to God, he has been revealing the much greater plan he has already mapped out for me before the world began. The favor he has shown me is actually unbelievable! I have a precious family that I had the privilege to be born into and they have been used to help make me who I am today. The stellar stud that God has given to me as my life-partner is just ridiculously awesome. Seriously, I don't deserve him. He loves, leads, and serves our family selflessly. I don't tell you enough, babe, but after seven years...you still rock my socks! Lol When I was single, I used to think that I was probably going to have to marry a guy who really loved God but maybe wasn't that cute. :) Then God blessed me with a man who made my heart skip beats AND we get to be apart of furthering the kingdom of God together! Whaaaat??!! So stinkin blessed. I didn't know if we were going to be able to have children after our first 2 babies went to heaven before we could meet them. But God has since then blessed us with 2 more children that we get to nurture and share with them the grace we have been given.

If you have never experienced this kind of peace that lingers long after the high or joy that is deep rooted even while sober...please talk to me, I would love to introduce you to the One who is Love and the Prince of Peace.❤

I'll share in my next post some of my updates that are currently sitting in my "Draft" file. But I was just overwhelmed with the desire to talk about Jesus first and wanted to lift him up!

I love this video: http://youtu.be/yzqTFNfeDnE

If you haven't seen it, it is a must!

Love you all!
JG




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