Monday, June 24, 2013

If This House Could Talk

This week begins our all out packing week.  We are loading the moving truck next Tuesday, and heading for a storage unit in Ohio.  Sentiment and emotions are coursing through every vein in my body.  I look around our house and cry.  I weep for the memories made, I grieve for the memories not yet made, and I feel overwhelmed with God's guiding hand through it all. 

Eric and I bought our house a little over 3 years ago.  It was a short sale and needed a lot of work.  If my house could talk 3 years later, I would hope it would say, "I was loved well." 

Man, I love this dumb old 1950's house.  When Eric and I put our offer in on the house I was 8/9 weeks pregnant with baby #2, the day the bank accepted our offer we were on our way to the hospital losing baby #2.  At first this house was a milestone for us, our expanding family, growing roots here in Milwaukee, making a better life for our family.  Then this house represented loss and anger.  We weren't sure we wanted it, we walked back through and I fell in love even more.  We were prepared to raise one happy little girl there, and be a family of 3. 

The journey to make this home ours continued for months with lots of downs and a couple ups.  We shelled out more than expected and worked harder than we thought humanly possible, but in the end on April 30, 2010 that house that needed so much love became ours.

When we signed that ever mounting stack of papers saying we would be financially responsible for this house, we signed and committed a lot more than just making monthly payments.  Because see God heals, he restores, he brings beauty from hurt, I signed those papers with a growing, healthy baby in my belly.

This house helped heal us, it helped make a little sense from a senseless loss of a baby a couple months before.  It helped us learn to love and see beauty in the unexpected.  It afforded us a chance to make glorious memories as a family of 3, and now as a family of 4. 

If this house could talk I would hope it would tell you that we like to have fun, we play hide and go seek, we read lots of books, and we have movie nights with popcorn and m&m's. 

We also sometimes lose ourselves in the moment, but we forgive with hugs and kisses.  I hope this house would tell you that Eric and I are striving to do our best to show God to all who enter through our old wooden door.  That in our house you are accepted as you are, and we love you that much more for it.  I hope this house would tell you that as loud as it can get, it can also be that much more quiet.    

If this house could talk I sincerely hope it would say it was going to miss us, because I am going to miss the heck out of it. 

So this week as I pack up each room, I am praying for the good memories to overflow and flood me until I am about to burst.  I pray the dam over my mended heart doesn't break again, but if it does, this old house will help me pick the pieces back up and will mend me back together, like it has done so many times before. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Some Q & A's about Church Planting

When I find myself overwhelmed I often start singing this little diddy..."now this is a story all about how my life got flipped, turned upside, and I would like to a minute so sit right there and I will tell how I became the princess of a church plant..."  Errr, so that last part does not flow as nicely as Will Smith's did, but you get the point. 

I hate change, any type of change, I despise it.  So why on earth did I answer the call to plant a church?!  Trust me, this journey is not for the faint of heart, again, why on earth am I doing this?! 

Obedience, that's why we are doing this.  God has placed a huge calling on our lives, and we are answering that call, no matter what.  No. Matter. What.

I don't have all the answers, I don't know what the future looks like, and for someone who gets all anxious and eye twitchy about not knowing the plan, I actually feel mostly at peace.  I rest in the assurance that God has it all planned, which sometimes I roll my eyes when people tell me that, but I have come to the point of believing it now.  Or I am so delirious in denial, it's the only thing I am believing in nowadays!  We have A LOT to do in the next 2 weeks, A LOT.  We have been fielding questions for a while now, and I thought I should just put it out there for anyone that wants to know.  So here are a few questions we have been getting from friends, and I hope to provide you with a few answers.  Let me throw this disclaimer out there...anything and everything I say could change by this afternoon, or next week.  So here is what I know this morning, right at this moment...

Q. Did you sell your house?
A. Yes, we did, in one day!  Right now the process is going smoothly.

Q. When do you close on your house?
A. July 10, and the buyers receive immediate occupancy.

Q. Are you moving to OH on July 10?
A. No, we are here in Milwaukee until the end of August.  But we are moving ALL of our belongings to OH the first week of July.      

Q. So if you have to move out of your house, and you are staying until the end of August, where are you living?
A. We have some very generous friends that are allowing us to crash in their basement for July and August.

Q. Are you planting your church when you move to OH?
A. Not right away, we will mostly be fundraising and meeting with people this fall.  Come January, we will officially be in planting mode...gathering people, starting a launch team, etc.  That will happen during winter/spring/summer.  Along with outreach events, and community involvement.  Plus a whole lot of other goodness that I am not sure of the details yet.

Q. So if you aren't planning your church right away, where will you live?
A. My in-laws are also very generous, and we will be living with them in Findlay until we buy a house, which hopefully will be this fall some time. 

Q. Where will you buy a house?
A. In the city we are planting our church, Toledo, OH.  We are still narrowing down exact location, and what all that looks like in terms of our family life and where the church will call home.

Q. What about Molly and school?
A. After lots of thought, prayer, and worrying, we have decided to homeschool until we make the official move to Toledo.  I love public school, let me put that out there, I love teachers!  But we didn't feel it was very fair to Molly to move her around so much and have her attend 2 totally different schools in a couple short months.  So we are looking at maybe 2-4 months of homeschool...pray for me!

Q. Do you have a name for your church?
A. Yes, but we aren't sharing quite yet.

Q. Where will your church meet?
A. We aren't sure yet, I am guessing we will be portable, which means we will rent a facility, and set-up/tear-down every week.

Q. How can we pray for you?
A. Thanks for asking...right now we would appreciate prayers for a smooth closing on our home, prayers for making the move with all of our stuff, prayers for security for the girls in the time of major transition and living with other people, and prayers for God's direction.  We have truly seen God's hand guide all of our steps so far in the journey, and we are so excited to share this process and adventure with you all. 

And thank you all for your prayers while we were at our assessment last week.  We passed with flying colors, so that was another huge affirmation from God that we are truly being obedient to his calling. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Fruits of Your Labor

This past Sunday we had a baptism celebration at church.  It was the first time having baptisms in our new building, and it was exciting.  We had 50 or so people signed up, and then another good amount decided right there on the spot to get baptized Sunday night.  I don't know the official number but it was over 70.  Amazing! 

I love watching baptisms, it takes me back to when I decided to get baptized and what I felt and thought oh so many years ago.  Watching people take their next step in their faith journey is just incredible and humbling.  I feel overwhelmed with gratitude that I am able and allowed to be a tiny part in their journey. 

I knew most of the people on Sunday night who got baptized, some of them my family is very close to.  I tried taking some pictures but I had both girls with me, Eric was the one doing most of the baptisms, and then of course my camera battery died like 5 people in.  But I wanted to share the 2 pictures I did get.

This is Angela...
Angela and her family (her husband and 5 boys, yes 5!) have been coming to The Ridge for over 4 years.  Angela is very, very dear and near to my heart.  We are similar, yet so different, but we both share the same love for the local church and Jesus.  Angela hasn't had the easiest life, not at all.  But she has never given up on God, or praying everyday.  She inspires me with her attitude and strength.  She sets an awesome example for all her boys, and for those who are privileged to know her.  Angela and I have prayed together, laughed together, and cried together.  She is awesome, and I am so humbled I could be there to watch her get baptized.

This is Terri...  
Terri has also been coming to The Ridge for over 4 years and she is another amazing woman who we have gotten close to.  Terri has a granddaughter Molly's age, so naturally she is another grandma to Molly and Lucy, too.  Terri has a heart of gold and service.  Eric had the honor of performing Terri and her husband, Dave's, wedding.  It was sweet and simple and filled with love.  Terri just has these eyes that understand and arms that hug you with grace.  She just gets you.  Terri and Eric also went to the Dominican Republic together to serve at the feeding center our church built.  They will be forever bonded because of this experience together.  I am so happy that Eric was able to baptize Terri, and then he baptized her husband, Dave. 

Sometimes being a Christian is hard and feels defeating.  Sometimes I wonder why do I even try, and then I remember people like Angela and Terri, and the countless others, that's why I try, that's why Eric and I are committed to the church, and her people.  As easy as it would be to throw the towel in on some days, I am reminded that I would miss the other great days, and I would miss seeing the fruits of our labor and tasting the goodness that God has provided for us. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Lucy is 2.5!

On Sunday Lucy turned 2.5 and I thought it would be fun to write about what she has been up to.

Lucy you are 2.5, and you are...

-As sassy as ever, but you are also so darn cute it's hard not to laugh at you.  You furrow your eyebrows real tight, purse your lips and get all sorts of seriousness, it's so cute.  Yet you mean business. 
-You like to tell people what to do, and how to do get that from your dad, of course, ha!
-You love Molly, like love, love, love her.  Although right now you all can't stand each other, you both still love each other like only sisters could. 
-You are obsessed with Molly's old dance costume from 3 years ago.  You are constantly wanting to be a ballerina and wear this sparkly pink get up.  Any time we come home from somewhere we can find you quickly stripping down to be a ballerina.  You are obsessed!
-You are *almost potty are training yourself...poor second child.  With Molly we did a strict 3 day boot camp, and bam after day 1 she was trained.  With you, we are way more relaxed and less scheduled.  Truthfully, with everything else going on we just don't have the time to commit to really getting it done.  But right now you refuse to wear diapers and underwear, but you will wear a pull up.  And you have stayed dry in your pull up for over a week now.  You don't tell us you have to go, we just take you about every hour or so and you go.  Hopefully some day we can get you into some underwear and you will be all trained for real!
-You love to read books and if Molly is reading a book you are right there reading your own book.  You will not be outdone.
-You love to swing and don't give you a baby swing, you use the real deal.  You could swing for hours and hours. 
-You pretty much eat about anything we put in front of you but grilled cheese.  You love bread and you love cheese, just don't put those 2 things together.
-You love to color, paint, and play with sidewalk chalk.
-You also love to sing along with the songs in the car, you always tell me "make a joyful noise, make a joyful noise!"  Which is a song off a kids CD we listen to.  You know every single word.
-You love going to church and seeing your friends, I think you think they come every week just to see you.
-You sleep in a big girl bed now, that took some getting used to, but now you are okay with it.
-I thought your hair was going to be straight, but nope, you did not escape the curls.  I don't think you will be as curly as Molly, but you are pretty curly in the back.
-You are still pretty squishy for being 2.5 and you wear mostly 5's with some 6's thrown in there, too. 

Lucy, you truly have brought light into our lives when it seemed to be dark forever.  You are hilarious, fun, and cute.  Everyday is an adventure with you, and your daddy and I love it.  Each morning when you get up we never know what is going to come out of your mouth, and we fight over who gets to see you first!  Stay sweet little sassy one!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Absence Makes The Heart Grow Fonder...

Or it makes your mind wonder.  I have had plenty of people ask me why I am not blogging anymore, which while I am flattered, I am also at a loss.  I eluded to something a couple months ago, I said that God was doing something in me, and well, actually, he is doing something in my whole family.

I am not one to be vague, or leave things open ended.  I am a storyteller, I share my story, I am open about everything, and I mean everything.  Why would God give me a story if I wasn't going to share it or be redeemed by it?  That's how I look at it.

So why the silence?  Well truthfully, it's just a lot to take in.  I am still taking it in and it's my life.  Now you all are thinking the worse, and it's not.  It's actually one of the most exciting adventures I have ever been on.

Here's what I can say right now...

About 2 years ago Eric and I started praying about the future of our ministry, what did it look like, what roles would we be in, should we plant a church or just stay part of a church plant {big difference there}.  So we prayed and did not actively seek anything other than God's will for our family and ministry.  A year ago we attended a conference largely known for church planters, met some people, talked to some people, prayed some more, and made a commitment to stay where we are for another year.

During this last year I had to make some tough choices and I went through a very low season in my life.  I felt wrecked and broken in many ways.  But with the awesome support of friends, family, and of course God, I made it through, and I even ran a half marathon to prove to myself that I am still strong.  I feel redeemed and more alive now than I did a year ago. 

Fast forward to Christmas 2012, Eric and I were back in Ohio with the girls.  Eric and I left for a quick 24 hour getaway.  On the way back to my in-laws Eric and I both felt something in the pits of our stomachs, something we had never felt before and we both knew it was the Holy Spirit making us discontent.  Discontent in a good, challenging way.  Like get out of your comfort zone and do something way.  We both right away were like are you feeling this?  What is this?  We both felt called back to Ohio.  I can't explain it unless you have felt this holy discontent feeling before, and it wasn't the Skyline we ate for lunch, it was straight from God.  So we knew we had to do something about it.

We came back from Christmas and we started pursuing getting back to Ohio.  Then Eric came home on a Tuesday evening in January, about 20 minutes before our small group was due to arrive for study and proclaimed "God is calling us to plant a church."  Amidst all the cleaning and trying to get supper on the table I am sure I gave him a "you are crazy look" and handed him a paper towel with instructions to clean the counter.  He stopped me and said "God is telling me it's time for us to plant a church, and we are planting one in Ohio."  Now, if you are not a follower of Jesus you may be thinking we are crazy, we drank the kool-aid.  We may be a little bit crazy, but I promise you we aren't and Eric is following God's prompting.  We tabled the discussion until after our group left and things I had been praying about for 2 years for Eric started coming out of his mouth.  Signs of affirmation that this was truly from God were so clear to me, I was ready to pack up the next day!  But as we have found out over the last 6 months, church planting is not that cut and dry.  Just because you are willing and able to go, God still tells you to stay.

So here is what I can tell you all right now...

We are still pursuing planting a church in Ohio, we actually leave June 10th to go to a church planting assessment to make sure we are qualified and not too crazy to do this.  We are working with an amazing church planting organization that wants to plant a church with us.  We knew we needed to sell our house, and we did, in one day, with 3 offers, so we will be basement dwellers in a friend's house come July.

Here is another thing I want you all to know, our church, The Ridge, has been great to us through this whole process.  Not everyone there knows we are leaving, or now you do if you are reading this, but those that do know have been nothing but supportive.  Eric and I would not be equipped to lead a church without the experience and relationships we have had at The Ridge.  We do not take one moment for granted there, and we will cherish all of our memories from The Ridge for a very long time.

So if I may ask for prayer, it would be for the next step in the church planting process...our assessment.  It's going to be tough, it's going to be mentally draining and push us to our limits.  Would you pray for us?  Once we pass the assessment then things with the church planting organization we are working with will get very serious, very fast, and we will have a lot more decisions to make in the next month.

Right now I am feeling a little anxious, a little overwhelmed, very excited, and overcome with gratitude that Eric and I get to be a part of a new church.  We will be helping people find and follow God for the first time, we will be showing Christ's love to a new city and our prayer is to impact that city in a whole new way.

So that's about it in a nutshell...