First 5 questions of the New Year

Happy New Year!!!

After taking a week off for the holidays I am back!! I thought there would be no better way to start the year off than with a 5 questions interview!

I have know Suzanne Timbrouck for over 2 years meeting her and her husband at a Valentines Day marriage seminar.  I knew immediately upon seeing Suzanne that she did Crossfit and walked up to her and introduced myself.  She has been a mentor and friend to me ever since.  She is a tell it like it is kind of woman and has taught me a lot about what it means to be a wife and woman of faith.  Along with her husband Brian they lead 3 to 1 Ministries to help married couples include God in their marriage.  They have helped countless couples including my husband and I bring their marriage back from the brink with the help of God.

You can find Suzanne and 3 to 1 Ministries:

Instagram: @3to1ministries

When people ask me about my testimony, I often have felt like my testimony isn’t good enough, or amazing enough, or supernatural enough.  Sometimes when I hear other people’s testimony I am in awe at the powerful life-changing moments that people speak of and sometimes that makes me a wee bit jealous.  My husband’s testimony is like that.  And thank God, because if he didn’t change, and change quick, our marriage was over.  Anyway, most days I definitely feel like I am still a ‘testimony in the making’.

I was born into a family of Jehovah’s Witnesses (JW’s).  My dad left us when I was four and my brother was one, and mom hit the bottle pretty hard.  Eventually we all had to move in with my grandparents who were kind of the ‘head’ JW family.  I grew up with a chaotic alcoholic mother, an absent father, and legalistically religious grandparents.  I got kicked out of the church (think The Scarlet Letter scenario) when I was 16 and shunned for being a sinner.  Funny thing was I was actually a really really good girl!! But once I was shunned for my ‘minor’ sin, I left home at 17 and began a life of showing everybody just how bad I really could be!  Yeah, turns out I could be pretty darned bad!  I dabbled in the illegal and the immoral, as well as the occult and other philosophies and religions.  One day, although I was no where near ready to accept God in my life – I was standing in my roach infested apartment on a sleazy and dangerous corner of one of the shadiest neighborhoods in Poughkeepsie – and I had an epiphany.  I remember the moment as if it just happened.  I was nobody and was going nowhere fast.  I was unhappy, had no direction, and my social circle couldn’t even be trusted.  Standing in my kitchen I heard almost an audible voice say:  “You are 21 years old.  You are an adult.  You can no longer blame your parents or your past for your life.  You can either create the life you want – and you, Suzanne, get to take all the credit… or you can continue on your path to nowhere – but then you, Suzanne, take all the blame. Choose.”  I never looked back.

Now, at 48 years old with the life I created, I realize it was the voice of God, and I also realize that He helped me every step of the way – from first drawing me into a relationship with Him, to then being my guiding force.  He is a gentleman.  He took his time courting me.

What motivates me to be my best self is the realization that life is just entirely too short.  I have known this for quite some time, but since the death of our daughter, that point has really been driven home.  I don’t know how much time I or those I love have left here, but I want to enjoy every minute of it, and that means taking really good care of myself so I can have the energy, vitality, and health to do it!  I also know that happiness really does come from giving, and the ministry is a way we purpose to give to others.  The only ‘down’ side of the ministry is how physically, emotionally, and spiritually draining it can be – which means we have to be vigilant to nurture and care for ourselves as individuals (my husband and I) as well as vigilant in nurturing our marriage, our relationship, and our family.  You can’t pour from an empty cup, as they say, so we must constantly fill ourselves up with that which we want to be able to pour out.

I think I am still tweaking my definition of ‘success’.  It has nothing to do with money or fame or anything like that though, that I know!  But there is a fine line with defining ‘success’ as something nebulous like “being happy”, because then you run the risk of of making people and circumstances responsible for whether you are ‘happy’ or not.  Let me help you with that one right now – nobody or nothing can create happiness in your life.  You can have moments of happiness, but it’s better to go for ‘joy’ – which is something you have on the inside regardless of people or circumstances.   In our work with couples we unfortunately find so many ‘unhappy’ couples because each partner has some sort of expectation that it is their spouse’s job is to make them or keep them happy.  That is just entirely too big a burden to place on any other human being!  You’ll actually find more joy (and as a byproduct more happiness) in your own life, if you spend more time trying to make others happy rather than requiring others to try to keep you happy.

For a long time I was also defining my ‘success’ in ministry by how many couples we were able to help.  But then I realized I can’t do that either, because some people are just not ready or willing to do the work THEMSELVES that is needed to be successful in their marriage or in their lives.  I can’t carry that burden – it’s not mine to carry.  Some people think that Brian and I carry some sort of magic wand that if they come talk to us we will make everything all better.  That’s just not reality.  If you come talk with us, or ask to spend some time in counseling with us you will find that all we are able to do is point you to the one who holds all the answers – God Himself, and support you as YOU make changes and walk it out.  Our counseling is that of a life coach and mentor.  It is pastoral counseling from a Christian standpoint and a biblical world view.  We are not psychiatrists or psychologists.  We don’t do years of meeting together week after week and discussing how you ‘feel’.  We offer support and strategies for YOU to run with and make changes in your life.  If a person is not ready for that, I can’t make them be, and I can’t define my ‘success’ in ministry by how many people are ready to make a real change in their life.

So I guess ‘success” looks something like living life with purpose and carrying out the most important charge God put before us:  LOVING people for Him while we are here.

My daily faith practice in its most minimal form is getting up at 4:15 every morning to spend quiet time over a cup of coffee with God.  I pray, read scripture, meditate as I seek guidance on how the day ahead should look.  I do ask Him to let me know who I am supposed to interact with that day and to put people in my path who need me.  Although I put that time aside for structured time with God, I am really chatting with Him all throughout the day.  It’s sort of a running conversation with Him all day – some days more than others!  Then I head to the gym at 5:20 to work on myself physically.  I ain’t getting any younger!  I have had to change the way I do that being a little more gentle with my body.  I have incorporated yoga – and when I do I am spending that time with God in meditation, contemplation and prayer.  I needed to add that stretching and mobility to my routine.  I have scoliosis, and at 48 years old with heavy lifting, crossfit, and high-intensity workouts, it became a must!  But I look at this aspect of my day as part of my faith practice as well.  I remember hearing Joyce Meyer talk about taking up weight lifting and exercise in her 60’s!  God told her she is required to take care of her body in order to be physically able to keep up with ministry.  That is how I feel about it.  I am a better minister, wife, mother, teacher, and friend when I take care of myself spiritually, emotionally, and physically!

The scripture I think I have most stood on in my life is part of Romans 12:2.  “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  I am a big fan of the mind.  It took me a while to learn that being really smart and being a woman of faith were not mutually exclusive!  I have a bachelor degree in mathematics, I have a master’s degree and I teach college-level mathematics.  I love verifiable proof and data.  I am intelligent, well read, and logical.  I believe wholeheartedly that God gave us a mind to use it!  I believe to the core of my soul that the epiphany in my roach-invested kitchen was God and that He was telling me to change the way I thought – about my past, my present, and my future.  Modern neuroscience has proven the power of the mind.  It is simple:  Change your mind – change your life.  It all starts with what you are thinking.  I have a plaque in my classroom that says, ‘be careful what you believe, because you will surely become it.”  In my own life this scripture has been life-changing.  My goal is to empower as many people as I can to believe in themselves too.

One of my favorite quotes of late has been:  “The opposite of faith is not doubt – it’s certainty.”  When we are so ‘certain’ of things that we don’t ask the important questions of ourselves we will never reach our full potential.  The bible says, “without faith it is impossible to please God.”   But it says nothing about ‘blind faith’ or ‘not questioning’ or ‘believing everything someone tells you.’  God actually asks us to question Him, study Him, and seek Him.  That is when He says you will find Him.  Faith isn’t the absence of doubt… faith is ‘confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.’ (Hebrews 11:1).   I have full confidence that I am capable of living that life of purpose and reaching my full potential, even though I haven’t reached it yet.  And I am just as confident that you reading this right now can as well.  It all starts with making a decision in your mind to become who you are meant to become.  Then acting in new ways that line up with your new belief about yourself.  That is where God comes in.  When you’re stuck, unsure, or weak, He is there to guide and strengthen you.

Nothing brings my husband and I more joy than seeing a couple ‘get it’ and run with it in the right direction.  Our fondest hope is that we will find more couples who get it and run with it so they can pick up the torch that 3 to 1 Ministries carries and minister to hurting couples in their own churches and communities.  I guess that means that one definition of ‘success’ for us would be getting the ministry to the point where we spend more time mentoring other mentors as they get in the trenches mentoring other couples within their own circle of influence.  The law of duplication.  Yeah, I better add that to my prayer list.