Apr 29 2014

Bittersweet Endings and New Beginnings

First of all, I would like to thank all of you for your encouragement, support, and prayers through the past two years. God has brought me and my family through so much in such a short time. Over and over I give glory and all thanks to God for His incredible loving and powerful care and provision through every single day. He has sprinkled in so many moments of joy through this time of intense healing and grieving and growing and recovering.

He never left me or us and never forsake us even in the worst possible moments of the accident almost two years ago and always filled me with His indescribable peace. I am so grateful to Him for who He is and in awe of his care. He has given me an amazing and humbling testimony of His faithfulness, love, and grace!

I have taken a break from blogging over the past several months. During those months, I took the time really soak in God’s healing touch on my heart. It wasn’t always easy…lots of tears were shed…but through it all I drew closer to God…and the healing that happened was incredible. I was able to put closure on the time in my life in which I had the amazing honor of being Mrs Rev. Will Pershing.

I have wonderful memories and he will always have special place in my heart. God has helped me to see that my life is not yet over. Will is celebrating for all eternity with our Savior. His longing for His Savior is over and he is savoring every moment for ever! Wow!

I am still here on earth. I survived for a reason.  For a long time I was in a cocoon of healing and recovering, but with God’s help I have done the work to work my way out and He has given me a new life. I am not the same person I was before all of this began. I have healed in so many areas of my heart and life. I healed more physically but still have a ways to go in this area.

But, in so many ways, I feel like a new person with newer and stronger wings after what God has brought me through. He is still molding me into the person He calls me to be but the adventure is filled with so much joy and so many amazing surprises! A new chapter in my life is just beginning and I enter it with a new wholeness that is purely from God’s healing grace.

Our Lord has given me the gift of a new beginning…a new Spring in my life. So many new adventures have begun, He has helped me to understand that it is time close the last chapter of blogging here at Unwrapping His Grace. The time I have had with all of you here has meant so much to me. I am so grateful to all of you who walked with me through this painful but healing journey.

Gina Marie and me when our families had blessing of spending a day together at my home in June 2012.

Gina Marie and me when our families had blessing of spending a day together at my home in June 2012.

I am especially thankful to my dear friend and sister in the Lord, Gina Marie. God put us in each other’s lives in a big way just months before the accident in 2012. He knew we would both be facing personal grief and challenges each in our own way. He blessed me more I can say with our friendship through day and nights in the hospitals and in the months and years after that.

In that time Gina Marie has come to face her own life changing health issues and God is growing her and walking her through a very difficult and painful time of change as she learns more about her own diagnosis and begins the treatments that will slowly help her to regain the strength to complete tasks that most of us take for granted.

Blogging and ministering and encouraging each other here for the past almost two years, has blessed both of us so much. We are amazed at how God designed it so that we could share our journeys and testimonies of faithfulness and grace here together.

We are closing Unwrapping His Grace but Gina Marie’s pastor and friend will be helping us move all of the content to a new, free site so that you can continue to read the stories that help and encourage you. And this part of our testimonies will continue to serve our Lord and Savior and give Him the glory.

Gina Marie will be taking break from blogging as she focuses on regaining and dealing with her health issues and our prayers go with her.

From Gina’s heart—

I’d like to thank God for giving me this unexpected opportunity to share my heart and His Grace with Mary here over the last few years.  I have been blessed and honored more than I can express for the time I have spent with Mary growing as sisters and ministers together on Unwrapping His Grace.  Having me join Mary as a co-blogger was Will’s idea, and I thank God that Will gave me such a special gift before he went to heaven in July 2012.  I will be taking that gift with me, because whether we are co-bloggers or merely fellow homeschooling mothers on the Journey, Mary and I will be sisters for life, bonded at a level few ever reach in this lifetime.  
I’d also like to thank God for all of the precious women who have joined us in this special community.  I can’t express how much YOU have all blessed me by the relationships that have grown over the past few years as we learned to live in His Grace and share our hearts with God and each other.  I consider many of you my very special friends and we know each other on a first-name basis now on Facebook! 
I started this partnership thinking I was to be the one ministering to all of you; more often than not, I have been able to see just how much God was using all of you to minister to me.  I will never be the same again after this special time on Unwrapping His Grace.  Thankfulness and deep love to all of you, to Mary and her precious family, and most of all, to My Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Who has blessed me immeasurably more than I could have ever asked or imagined.  
I pray you will stay in touch (email me: tothinebetheglory@yahoo.com) – My prayers go with you and I can’t wait to hug your necks in the Presence of God someday, here or on the other side.  To God forever be the Glory!

from Mary Joy again…

God is leading me to start blogging in a new place call “New Adventures in His Grace”…

This new blog will go live sometime in May. In it I will share the new adventure God has me on!

As you can see, I am taking a new name with this new blog– Mary Susan.

I have blogged as Mary Joy since I started blogging on my late husband’s blog in 2009. He gave me the name “Mary Joy” as a special remembrance of a part of our story together. As I put closure to my life with him, it is time to put to rest “Mary Joy” as well.

Mary Susan marks my embracing who I am and the incredible story God has given me. It is the name my parents gave me. It is the name that my new sweetheart calls me…yes you heard that right. God has humbled and blessed me beyond all measure with an incredible man with a passion for our Savior who is now courting me with the intent to marry me and the boys. I am awed by God’s amazing plans as He gives me each piece of the puzzle as it comes. I will be writing about so many new beginnings including this very special one on the new blog.

I have so much to be thankful for to God and so much to thank all of you for during our time as a community here at Unwrapping His Grace Ministries. Your prayers and words of encouragement have lifted me up when I was at my lowest and your celebrating with me during the small and big victories meant more to me than I can put into words. God blessed me with all of you and I will never, ever forget the special gift of my friendships with all of you!

I hope and pray you will consider following me to my new blog home when it launches in May 2014 as I begin to share from this new season of life as God leads me.

Here is a link to the “New Adventures in His Grace” Facebook Page so you can keep up with when the launch will happen.

I look forward to continuing our relationship there and in my new bloggy home when it is up and ready.

May God continue to bless you as He writes your own unique and amazing testimony of His faithfulness.

With gratitude and joy,

Mary Susan– formerly Mary Joy and Mrs. Gina M. Weeks


Permanent link to this article: http://www.surrenderedlivingnow.com/2014/04/29/book-closing-new-life-beginning/

Mar 20 2014

Yes, it’s been a while!

Taking the time to smell the roses….


It sounds cliche, but I can’t believe how fast time is passing this year (or any year….)!

You’d be surprised to know how often I think of writing a post here: I have something to share, something to encourage or (hopefully) inspire you, and point you towards our God of hope!

Forgive me for not being able to always follow though on that desire.


Books, schooling, and grading – Oh MY!


Life has been very busy this year – schooling, medical appointments, and the usual things that easily crowd out the other things we want to do or would rather be doing.

Can anyone relate?




One of the huge changes this year from last year is that I am actually stopping and listening to God’s voice when HE tells me to do something (like stop, rest, or so something “un-productive”….).

I am letting Him set my priorities and guide every moment of each day.

I will be honest:  It’s been a hard transition transforming from an on-the-go super overachiever, able to multi-task many things at once, confident in her abilities


a person who trusts God (rather than myself!) for each task each day, taking them one at a time.



Oh boy!  I fight feeling like a failure, a lump of laziness, and a burden to my family sometimes.

(It’s hard to type that out there – - – but I am finding that such freedom comes from surrendering and allowing God to work through my weaknesses…. And, when I do, He does amazing things!)



In this time of cocooning,  I am learning that when He allows something hard, dark, and painful, it is His way of transformation: working in my life for my good and to His GLORY!

Are you in that dark place tonight?  My friend: take cheer!  You are being fashioned into His Masterpiece of Beauty, a flying testament to God’s Grace.

12 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 13 “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.

Give careful thought to the paths for your feet
and be steadfast in all your ways.

Hebrews 12:12-13 Proverbs 4:26, NIV


I am praying for you tonight – you are not alone!

To God be the Glory!

Gina Marie


*Picture Credits: All photos were found for free on Morguefile


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Permanent link to this article: http://www.surrenderedlivingnow.com/2014/03/20/yes/

Feb 12 2014

Celebrating the Gift of my Son–His 11th Birthday!

Happy 11th birthday to an amazing young man whom I am honored to call my son!

I have watched him grow from a sweet baby…to climbing everything in his path…overcoming difficult obstacles together.

I have the privilege of being his learning coach and teacher

as well as his mother each day.

I have had the honor of watching him grow into the maturing, fun, intelligent, thoughtful, determined, creative, very special young man who isn’t afraid to stand up for his faith and what he values, learns from his mistakes, and isn’t afraid to be unique.

He loves life, having fun with friends and family,

as well as learning and discovering new things every day!

I am proud to be his mom and am looking forward to what is to come

in this 11th year of his life!

Happy birthday, Josh!!!!

I love you so much!

I am SO proud of you!

Love always,


Here is a little look at some of his adventures during this past year…

Don’t miss a single post! Take a moment to sign up for the free updates through your E-Reader or in your email.  And be sure to join the Unwrapping His Grace Facebook Community where you will find daily updates, Scripture, encouragement and opportunities to share prayer requests or follow us on Twitter.

Blessed by God with this gift of my son,

Mary Joy

Permanent link to this article: http://www.surrenderedlivingnow.com/2014/02/12/celebrating-gift-son-11th-birthday/

Feb 10 2014

Let’s Celebrate Gina Marie’s Birthday!

It is time to celebrate the birthday of one of my dearest friends!!!!! Gina Marie, we would like to take this time to celebrate your 38th birthday!!!  February 11th is a very special day because it is the day we celebrate God bringing you into this world!

You are such a special woman with a heart and passion for her Savior and her family!

An inspiring writer and speaker as God leads her!

Gina Marie with her precious family.

Gina Marie with her precious family.

A wonderful homeschooling mother who encourages her children to discover a passion for learning!! (And my homeschooling mom buddy!)

A gifted musician!

A woman called to reach out to others for the Lord!

A woman who doesn’t hesitate to listen and minister to others in her own time of hurting and healing.

A woman who lives her life and her marriage in such an authentic way that we can draw encouragement as we witness how God is at work in her life.

You inspire me to keep going, every day, Gina Marie!

I love your passion for finding God’s grace in even the painful times of life. I love your never give up attitude. You an incredible encourager to me and helped me through the pain of losing my precious husband in July 2012 and the time that has followed. You never give up on me. The way you celebrate my baby steps in healing helps me keep going even when the road has unexpected twists and turns. Your words and the way you live your own life, help me to see how much God works His victories in our times of weakness as He carries us through the most difficult days…and nights.

We are so honored to have you sharing your heart stories with us here on Unwrapping His Grace as you share your pain, your healing, God’s grace in the dark and light times of your life. Your ability to focus on and DELIGHT in Him no what life brings is a gift to all who know you and read, hear, or witness your heart stories.

I ask that God gives you the gift of continued physical healing this year as you discover what is behind the physical pain and limitations you manage to live with each day and the grace to delight in His work in you through that process.

I ask God to give you encouragement as you fight your life battles and that He lift you up in the way you always lift up those around you.

May God give you new peace and joy and delight every morning!!!!!!

May God give you continued courage in the face of obstacles and use your gifts and creativity to find new ways to solve or turn them into new victories for His glory.

May God help you see and experience His grace new every morning! May He continue to work through you to touch the hearts of people around you ways yet to be revealed to you!

I pray that I can be kind of friend that you have been to me…so gracious, always ready to listen, pray, and encourage in the tough times and squeal with glee with you in your personal victories and God moments of miracles!

YOU are a delight!!!

Gina Marie and me when our families had blessing of spending a day together at my home in June 2012.

Gina Marie and me when our families had blessing of spending a day together at my home in June 2012.

Happy birthday, dear friend and sister!!!!

A woman who has become my closest friend and sister to me.

I would love for you take a moment and tell Gina Marie Happy birthday and what an encourager or how she has helped you in your journey. PLEASE take a moment to share in the comments below!!!! You have no idea what a gift your words will be for her as she celebrates this, her 38th birthday!!!

By His Grace,

Mary Joy

Don’t miss a single post! Take a moment to sign up for the free updates through your E-Reader or in your email.  And be sure to join the Unwrapping His Grace Facebook Community where you will find daily updates, Scripture, encouragement and opportunities to share prayer requests or follow us on Twitter.


Permanent link to this article: http://www.surrenderedlivingnow.com/2014/02/10/lets-celebrate-gina-maries-birthday/

Jan 22 2014

Discovering a New HOPE in Healing

Whew! The weeks since I last posted a blog article have flown by! I decided to take a bit of a break over the holidays and it grew into a bit longer than I had planned.

Although I haven’t been active here, our lives as a family have been very busy!  December was a very full month for us…as I am sure it was for most of you! But even more than activities, family traditions, homeschooling, and life…God has been doing a lot of healing in my life.

This was our second holiday season since my late husband went home to be with our Lord and for some reason, I struggled in different ways than I did last year…which really surprised me. It took quite a while for me to realize that last year I was super focused on making sure the kids had all the special traditions our family has during Thanksgiving, Advent, and the Christmas seasons even though I was struggling with grieving. I was focused on their needs more than my own last year, I realize that now. And I do not regret that in the least.

This year, things hit me that hadn’t last year…yet at the same time I was amazed at the healing that God was doing in my heart, my mind and life. God brought me through our first year with Annie, my beautiful step daughter gone off to college during the holiday season in 2013. He is faithful and helped me to create some new traditions and our days were very full…but I took the nights to stop and think and just be…unlike last year when I spent almost every night after putting the boys to bed writing or working on something.

This year, I felt God nudging me to stop and get in touch with the reality of our new life as a family…my new life and who I am now. The trials that God has brought us through have stretched and grown me in ways I never imagined possible. I spent a lot of time last year ignoring my own needs in many ways. It was just easier to focus on my kids’ and their needs. Doing that helped me to survive our first year without Will her in our lives.

I felt God leading me to begin the process of facing my fears, my self-doubts, my pain, my loneliness, in a new way. I felt Him calling me to do some self-care that I refused to stop long enough to do over the whole year of firsts following our accident. He was calling me to slowing begin working my way out of my protective cocoon…numbness…of busyness.

In the process, I learned a lot about myself and the woman God is forming me into. God gently called me to stop pushing myself so hard that I forget to stop and breathe. He called me to stop trying so hard to “make up for” the kids not having Daddy here in our lives anymore. Read the rest of this entry »

Permanent link to this article: http://www.surrenderedlivingnow.com/2014/01/22/discovering-a-new-hope-in-healing/

Dec 31 2013

One Word: My Resolution for 2014

I have always loved New Year’s Eve and Day; one of my favorite memories from my entire life happened at a New Year’s Eve party. . . .

There was fellowship, an awesome bowl of chili, and I spent a large portion of that New Year’s Eve (December 31, 2000) talking to a new friend of mine.

That’s a story for another time. :-)

Back to New Year’s Eve/Day…. I love new beginnings and stopping to take stock of the past year while dreaming ahead of the new one.

It’s no secret that this past year has been a really difficult one for me; in many ways, I am ready to turn the page on the “Calendar” to a new year and leave the old one behind.

I have been praying and asking God for Him to direct my thoughts and dreams for this new year – - - 

What does HE desire for my life?  

What are HIS priorities for me?

How can I live out HIS calling on my life to my full potential?

I asked Him, and He answered me with love and simplicity in One Word:  Delight

When I think of the word, delight, I think of:

approaching the world with innocent joy and happiness – the sound of a baby’s laughter!

the  feelings that come when you stop to smell the roses, watch a kite dance in front of the blue sky, listen to the subtle nuances of music   – - –  

Delight is the emotion you feel when you lose yourself in the senses of the moment and experience every part of it, from your head down to your toes – - - 

(photo credit)

God is drawing me to DELIGHT

in His Presence,


experience absolute joy in the path of life

that He has chosen for me.  

Psalm 16:11 (NET)

In typing that out, I actually feel a tingle running down my spine!  

What a beautiful promise from His Word and a blessed focus for my year ahead:  I will choose to pursue to delight in the Presence of the LORD and find joy in the Path of Life that He has chosen for me!


What about you? Has God impressed a certain word, verse, goal, or desire for you to pursue in 2014?  I’d love to hear about it.  Please feel free to leave a comment below and let us know.

Thank you for your continued love, support, friendship, and fellowship you extend each day in our Unwrapping His Grace Community!  Mary and I are so humbled and blessed by all of you.  We look forward to seeing how God is going to continue to bless others through this ministry; we give HIM all of the Glory!

Happy New Year *2014*!!!!

Pressing through with YOU towards what He has in store for us in this New Year!

Isaiah 43:16, 18-19  (AMP)

16 Thus says the Lord, Who makes a way through the sea and a path through the mighty waters,

18 Do not [earnestly] remember the former things; neither consider the things of old.

19 Behold, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs forth; do you not perceive and know it and will you not give heed to it? I will even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.


TO GOD be the GLORY – Always!

Gina Marie


Don’t miss a single post! Take a moment to sign up for the free updates through your E-Reader or in your email.  And be sure to join the Unwrapping His Grace Facebook Community where you will find daily updates, Scripture, encouragement and opportunities to share prayer requests or follow us on Twitter.


Permanent link to this article: http://www.surrenderedlivingnow.com/2013/12/31/standing-end-2013-looking-forward-tomorrow/

Dec 08 2013

Praying in Color: Putting our prayers into art form

I don’t consider myself a compulsive doodler or a person that is defined as an “artist” – - – from the time I turned 15 years old and started teaching in church, I have been a teacher.  If you asked me what I was or what God had called me to do, that would have been my answer (and still is).

I love being a teacher and consider that my primary calling from God.  What a gift to be able to homeschool my own children full-time now.

I love teaching little ones, young children, teens, and women; it doesn’t matter if it’s the Word of God, how to enjoy reading, or how to praise God through music, I feel such joy in being able to invest my life in the lives of other people.

I consider myself blessed to have been able to live out my dream in this calling from Him, by God’s Grace.

Even though I am a teacher at heart, I have always enjoyed being a creative person and expressing myself through artistic ways:   as a seamstress/costume designer for plays, a photographer for fun, and in other personal ways like acting, playing the piano, singing, and dabbling in many different types of creative arts.

I look forward to learning more about jewelry making and design this coming year (for fun!).



I praise God for creating Art.



Creating specific “works of art” has been a personal expression that I have saved for special times since I became an adult; it’s been a long time since I have dabbled in creating art on a regular basis.

I don’t have a lot of “free time” to spend just having fun!  Sigh – can you relate?   I miss the practice of being creative and expressing myself through art.


I had the pleasure and joy of being able to study art throughout high school – all four years, if I remember correctly.


I loved working in watercolors – - – that was my favorite part of art every year.




I *know* that I have been blessed to have had that opportunity to learn so much about art at such a young age.

I am a strong supporter of art and music education since I know just how much those two disciplines have enriched my life.




But, I digress.

I want to share with you how I have jumped back into the art world this last month after reading the book, “Praying in Color” by Sybil MacBeth.  I enjoy reading about ways to enrich our prayer life, and this book’s title just grabbed my attention.



This book proved to be a quick read – but a fun one too.  It presents the theory that by drawing our prayers and allowing our right brain to be engaged while we are praying, we engage ourselves at a deeper level.  By creating a piece of art for our requests and/or for each person, we are able to recall our “list” more easily too since we now have an image to represent each request or person on our prayer list.


*LIGHTBULB*  OK – as a visual learner and a person who has a photographic memory, I knew that this concept could be something that could help me enrich and deepen my prayer time.  (It was worth a try anyway, right?)


I have a friend named *K* who  needed to be covered in prayer this week; she is in full-time ministry and is facing a time of being needed and used by God on so many levels.  I was praying for her daily, but this was time to take things to the next level for her – - -

So, I grabbed a piece of blank printer paper, a thin black Sharpie, and a marker with a color to represent my friend (her favorite), and started drawing…


I started with her Name in the middle of the paper.  (It’s partially blanked out here for privacy.)

And then I prayed and allowed my hand to start drawing lines,

and symbols, 

and words

that represent her roles in life

and her special calling from God.


I added what I felt that I was praying for God to provide for her - 

I allowed God to lead me in choosing these words - 


All around the outside of the K design, 

God lead me to write in big, bold words, 

His Special Promise for her:

“Unlimited Reserves of HOPE”


This is the finished graphic I created when I was praying for my friend:




I know God had a Hand in putting all of this together – - – and I really enjoyed this prayer exercise.   As I prayed and drew shapes, I felt His special leading in this prayer time and in making this prayer graphic to represent His Promise(s) for my friend, K.

It was such an enriching experience that I am in the middle of making another one for another friend right now.


This time of year proves to be one of the most – if not the most  - stressful times of the year for many people.  As a result of reading this book and trying out the exercise, I feel that God leading me to create Colorful Prayers as often as I can.

Not only will I be able to express my heart in prayer to the LORD with more focus and dedication, but by creating a visual representation of that prayer (need),  I will be able to also spend time doing something that brings me joy AND lowers my stress levels too.


What do you think?  Is this something you would like to try? 

For more inspiration, you can look at these examples from the blog and give it a try for yourself.

I plan to try the Advent Calendar next.  It looks like such a fun idea.

If you decide to give it a go, share your creations with us on our Facebook page!

Ephesians 3:19-21 (NLT)


 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.  20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.
21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.

God bless you!

TO GOD be the GLORY – Always!

Gina Marie


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