Where God Leads

For those of you who know us personally, or for those who have followed along on this blog journey for some time – know that we were called to (and did!) start a coffee shop with the intention of building community and connection, a place to belong.

Well…not long after opening, a little less than 2 years (most of that in COVID land), we felt God calling us elsewhere. And it made no sense. In fact, 3 months later, I still can’t give a solid reason as to why He did.

I do eventually want to share how successful and amazing the coffee journey was (and yes, that coffee shop is still going strong). But, for today, I want to share the story of why we aren’t there anymore…

A few days before Easter 2021 (yep, mid pandemic), as we were prepping for our annual Egg My Yard fundraiser, Justin received a phone call that would forever change the trajectory of our lives. It was a job offer, quite honestly, out of the blue…and out of state. We didn’t ask for it, we weren’t looking. Justin sat down to tell me and was shocked when I replied, “let’s see what God is doing…” He was absolutely certain I would reply with a big, fat, non-negotiable “NO!!” We have learned over the 10+ years of our marriage that when these things happen, when one of us expects the other to respond a certain way and they don’t, that we need to lean in.

The next few weeks consisted of us telling some very trusted friends, family, and mentors so that they could be praying for discernment. My heart and gut both said to stay. I didn’t want to leave my family, I didn’t want to take my children away from their grandparents and cousins, I didn’t want to leave my friends and the amazing community we had surrounded ourselves with. Start over? Where we knew very few people? Where I literally knew no one in our phase of life? Um……no….

But we kept praying. And the more we prayed, the more God spoke to our hearts. We continued to seek wisdom from mentors in our lives, we talked through all of the things that didn’t make sense (and still couldn’t make heads or tails of it). It took months and a final decision wasn’t made until shortly before October. It was time for us to move. Literally.

Why didn’t it make sense? We had just started a ministry that God had been calling us to for the past 4 or 5 years. We had relentlessly given most, if not all, of our free time in the past 4 years to ensure that the plan God placed in our hearts would come to life. We had sacrificed much only for COVID to derail our best efforts at building community. But we kept moving forward, we kept going. And just when things seemed to be getting back on track, this bomb was dropped in our life. Not to mention the people we would let down or upset or offend in the process…. What would people think?!?!

Not only that, but we had a fantastic community of people surrounding us, pouring into us, loving us, and so much more. It was something we had longed for, for so very long. Why would we leave that?!?

I’m not sure I have ever wrestled with something so much.

But little by little, God kept nudging and confirming that moving was our next step. There weren’t neon signs or jaw-dropping moments, but it was a still small voice confirming our direction.

I struggled so much with not being able to explain why. I wanted to be able to say we had this huge ministry opportunity God was calling us toward. But Justin was taking a secular job and I would be staying home. It sounded lack-luster in the realm of God’s calling. And it sounded very much like we were taking a better opportunity and leaving for money or riches. But I can say with confidence, that had Justin’s offer been less than he was currently making, we would have still gone – we were that convinced that God had placed this all before us. Part of me still fears that people think otherwise, which I have to let go of….

What I know now is that God has confirmed continually that we are where we are meant to be. I still don’t have the big “why,” maybe we never will… But I do know, for a fact, that He is working this all for our good AND He is working this for the good in all that we left behind: the ministry, our friends, our family, etc.

I do grieve what was, especially what I thought my life was going to look like, but we are fully embracing this new season. There are certainly days I wish that we could be back in the trenches of coffee ministry – I had some incredibly amazing conversations about faith (and other things) and we made some fantastic friendships that never would have happened otherwise. It was hard to pass the baton on. It was like taking my 2-year-old and leaving them, permanently, in the care of someone else, with no say whatsoever how they would be raised. Letting go was hard. We had gone through the labor process and the trial filled land of infancy. We had survived! I was so excited to see how God was going to move now, now that we were almost on the other side of the pandemic and entering a new season. I don’t get to see that play out the way I wanted to….

BUT, I 100% believe God has used that shift to fulfill dreams we wanted but hadn’t quite reached. From the beginning we had wanted multiple churches involved (not just ours) and we had started in a space much smaller than we had hoped. While we had tried to pull others from different churches to be on the board, we just couldn’t get a firm commitment. Our volunteer base had originally been very diverse: many churches, unchurched, etc. But during the height of the pandemic that drastically changed, and we were operating mostly with a bare bones crew, all from the same church.

Now, now it looks SO different. And I can’t take any credit! The board is made up of MANY different churches as well as the volunteer base. It’s exciting to see some of the people who had been on the fringes become a part of making our that community better! AND, they are moving to a bigger space that is OWNED by the non-profit, not just rented. Because my dad is still very involved, I also know that they have had many things donated for that space and some miraculous financial situations take place in a time when everything is still so uncertain.

It’s still hard for me to hear about it sometimes. I think that’s grief. It’s so bittersweet. I am beyond excited to see God bringing visions we had 4 years ago to completion today. I’m a little sad that we aren’t a part of it. But I am thankful for the season we are in.

I think God knew we needed rest more than we realized. Building a ministry (almost literally) is no joke. Add two kids (one of them born right in the middle of that), making a living, my chronic illness, a pandemic, other responsibilities, and so much more….I’m honestly not sure how we survived. It had to be by the grace of God.

And it is by the grace of God that R&P Coffee Co. continues today (in a bigger way!) and that we, as a family, get to more fully depend on Him in this brand new and uncomfortable season.

So… this probably doesn’t give you the “why” you were looking for when you started reading…but hopefully you can see our heart; hopefully you can see how God was involved every step of the way. We wouldn’t have done ANY of this without His leading.

Listen for His voice, pay attention to His movement in your life. What is He doing? Where is He leading? Join Him! I promise you won’t regret it. I don’t.

Unmet Expectation

Sometimes life isn’t what we expect. I had dreams as a child. I wanted to work at Sea World and be a marine biologist who got to work with Shamu and the dolphins (super glad I didn’t go that route). I had dreams as a teenager and as I moved into young adulthood. I dreamed of being a pilot and taking the Gospel into remote villages of South America or Africa. While that dream didn’t pan out either, for soooooo many reasons….one did. I became a mom.

For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to have my own children, to teach them, to play with them, to love them. I was a nanny for a few years after college and absolutely loved it! We made tin foil rivers for ice cube boats, had backyard picnics, went to the park as often as we could, fed the ducks and geese with our leftover bread from lunch (don’t judge), caught leprechauns, and had movie days when they were under the weather.

Real life as a mom doesn’t exactly look like that. I mean…for me… Yeah, I see those moms on social media, on Pinterest. And there are SO many days that I compare myself to them and fall so, so short of what I see. But, for one, it isn’t real life. I don’t see the imperfect of their lives because social media allows us to filter all of that out. And, second, life looks different as an adult than it does through the eyes of a child. Being a mom seemed glamorous and fun.

The reality? There will always be dishes and laundry. It is literally never ending. In fact, there is a stack of clothes on the couch waiting to be folded and an ever growing pile of dishes next to the sink because I SERIOUSLY HATE DOING DISHES! Meals need planned, groceries need bought, the house won’t clean itself, appointments have to be made and canceled and rescheduled, and so. much. more.

Not my actual sink (mine is MUCH worse). Photo by Kelly Moon on Unsplash

21-year-old-me, newly married and hopefully expectant, expects today-me to also plan daily crafts (obviously found on Pinterest), cook organic food, make my own cleaners, create awesome memories that they will never forget, homeschool, volunteer on the PTA (for homeschool kids?!?), take them to sports, volunteer in a ministry, and a million things I’m sure I’m forgetting that I wanted to do…

And let’s be honest – on a good week – not all of that is possible! Or healthy! Why did I think it was?!?! But life threw me another curve ball called chronic illness. I have good days and I have bad. But those bad days mean that more has to be crammed into the good days. I barely have time to do the necessary things let alone all of the “extras.” I spent almost a full year in therapy dealing with this. And I came out on the other side with a much better grasp of reality. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t hard. When I have a really great day, I trick myself into thinking that maybe, just maybe, I’m getting better and the next day, and the next, and the next will also be good.

But then something as simple as a blood draw cripples me to the couch. Yes, a blood draw. For a routine check-up. Well, it was a blood draw where I had to be poked 3 times because I have awful veins….but still only one or two vials. That was at 2pm….I wasn’t back to the land of the living until the next afternoon. And the world keeps turning. We still have to get homeschooling done, there is still laundry waiting to be washed, dried, or folded. And that insane pile of dishes isn’t going to wash itself.

Today we got a doozy of snow storm. At least a foot in daylight hours. Justin is away on a work trip. I talked to him about hiring someone to deal with the driveway, but we both thought I should try – after all, exercise is something I’m lacking and need to add to my wide-open schedule (ha!). So while the kids were out building snow forts and collecting icicles, I put on as many layers as possible and trudged out into the snow. An hour later I was 1/3 of the way done and could barely stand. I paid for it the rest of the day. We didn’t finish school and we had cereal and waffles for dinner because I was not going to cook.

As I looked outside at the sadly shoveled driveway (now covered with a new inch or two of snow) and watched my kids eat cereal while watching the 2nd movie of the day….I felt like a failure. Who am I kidding? I still feel like a failure. I still have to figure out how to get our driveway taken care of before tomorrow evening so Justin can even get into it, I have to catch up on school tomorrow, I still have dishes to wash and clothes to fold, and I can already tell my body won’t like me tomorrow. And in the back of my head all I can hear are the words to “Surface Pressure” from Encanto: “I’m pretty sure I’m worthless if I can’t be of service.”

Worthless. I look back at the mom I thought I would be and the mom I actually am and I don’t measure up. At all. 18-year-old-Bri would be highly disappointed in me. For not pushing through. For not having it all together. For not having a spotless house. For not being able to shovel the driveway when my husband isn’t home. I am fragments of what I wanted to be.

Every day. Well, every bad day, I have to remind myself from one moment to the next, that my worth is not found in what I do. It isn’t found in footprint art that I’ve never done with my own kids, or in coming up with creative activities every day. It isn’t found in my physical ability to withstand a blood draw or a driveway shoveling. And, past-self, it isn’t found in your grades, accolades, or rewards…

My worth comes in the fact that I am loved by God. He created me, He formed me, He fashioned me, and He loves me more than I know. Everything that I struggle with on a daily basis is already on His heart. I am lovely, I am worthy, because He loves me. There is freedom in that. Freedom from disappointment and expectation.

I’m not writing this to say I have it figured out and the weight of expectation (from self and others) doesn’t bother me. I’m writing this to get out of a funk, to overcome the negative inner thoughts, and focus on the Truth. I’m writing this as a reminder that I am who God says I am. I am not defined by a diagnosis or bloodwork. I’m not defined by social media or Pinterest. And I am *not* defined by what’s checked off on my to-do list at the end of the day.

So tonight I will go to bed wrestling between the overwhelming freedom of Love that Christ has given me and the grief and disappointment of unmet expectations. But where do those thoughts come from? The enemy. For he has come to “steal, kill, and destroy.” He wants to steal my joy, kill my hope, and destroy any sense of freedom I have found. On many days, he wins. On occasion, he wins the battle, and I wallow in self-pity or self-hate. BUT, and this is the a BIG but – we already know, he already knows, that he is defeated in the end. He WILL NOT win the war.

So, friend, keep fighting with me. I’ll fight harder on your bad days and vice versa. Let’s stand strong, no matter what sort of battle we are facing. Know, KNOW, that you are loved, you are worthy, and you are never alone. Keep reminding others of that too. They need it.

I need it.

The Burdens We Carry

Have you ever run into someone who was rude or oddly quiet? Usually we take offence or assume something negative (I think it’s in our sin-nature). But, what if that person is just genuinely overwhelmed by something they can’t talk about? What if they just don’t have the words to express what’s going on?

We so often see this in children. They don’t know how to express the big feelings that are inside of them, how to communicate what their minds are thinking and bodies are feeling. So it comes out in tantrums or withdrawal or biting or misbehaving in any number of ways. And we easily forget that they are just trying to communicate. Trust me, I forget all the time. My temper runs hot and my patience short when it comes to their big feelings….

And, adults, well, we expect them to have the whole “feelings” thing figured out. But do you? Because I sure don’t. I’m a hot mess. Especially when I’m wrestling with something or overwhelmed with any number of things life has thrown my way. We make excuses for ourselves but forget that others are dealing with similar things. Yes, sometimes those things are self-inflicted. But, often times, they aren’t. But should it matter if the things we struggle with are self-inflicted or not?? Even those self-inflicted struggles are sometimes consequences we recognize but cannot change. Knowing it is our own fault definitely doesn’t make the struggle easier…

But, I digress…the point of this post….well, one of them… is that you never really know what someone is struggling with. I, somewhat, write this selfishly. People see me and often see a chipper 30-something momma who has it all together. But I am FAR from that. Currently, I am struggling with the weight of a life-changing decision, numerous health issues (including chronic pain) that are yet to be solved, side effects from medications that *might* help, looming depression from said issues, and the constant needs of a 6 and 3 year old.

It is SO easy for me to wallow in self-pity, to grab the blanket, hide from the world, and believe that my life is sooooo difficult. And, yeah, my life isn’t a walk in the park right now. It is heavy and messy and difficult. But so is your life. So is the life of your neighbor, the brother or sister who sits three rows back in church, your actual sibling, and so on… They may not have my struggles. They may not have your struggles. But, heaven knows, they have struggles.

Shouldn’t we all try to be a little more patient with others?? Love your neighbor as yourself, right? What if they were dealing with what you are? Would they handle it the same? Would it be a breeze? Or would it break them? We cannot know.

What I do know is that my hope is in Jesus. As I sat down this evening, wanting to curl up on the couch and disappear, I opted to, instead, read from the Word of God and listen to some worship music. I’m SO glad I did. Nothing changed in that time. I still have the same struggles. But my burden was lightened as He took on some of that load. As I wrapped up my reading, the song Another in the Fire came on. It was exactly what I needed to hear. He doesn’t promise to take away the fire but He DOES promise to be with me through it. No matter what I face, He is by my side. And, sometimes, He is holding back more than I am facing and I don’t even know it.

There is another in the fire…

Today was a hard day for me. But it was a day of rejoicing for a sister in Christ. While she was in the fire for some time, today was the day that fire went out. And I am rejoicing with her.

As for me, just as Radshack, Meshack, and Abednego said – my God will save me. But EVEN IF HE DOESN’T – I still believe.

I was going to end here, but I think I need to add: It is okay to not be okay. Yes, I know that the Lord is with me, but that doesn’t mean the fire doesn’t hurt. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have to wrestle.

So, if you see me and I seem quiet….if I don’t say hello or I come off as short or rude, please be patient. My heart is hurting. Most days, I carry it well. But some days I’m just exhausted…

Be patient with me. I’ll do my best to do the same for you!

Victory is Sure

I found this poem in a keepsake box of mine, written by me. I felt like I should share it. I’m fairly sure it was written after a break up. BUT, there are definitely still things to be gleaned and applicable to my life today. How difficult is it to get our heart, mind, and soul to work as one? Especially in times of chaos. But I think that’s where true peace comes in. How do we bring our heart, mind, and soul together? By giving them over to the Prince of Peace – Jesus Christ. Which is much easier said then done. But every day I’m trying…

Blank pages fill to brim
As my emotion overflows again
All is well, nothing amiss
But I feel as though the world collapsed
Like nothing is sacred anymore
I give my heart away
Each time thinking it will be different
That Godly standards will be met
Foolish human error won't intervene
But letting my heart believe is a deceiving my mind
It knows better
It remembers the pain, the embarrassment
Its like a battle within my own being
Pulling one way, pushing the other
Spears and swords than bullets and bombs
Blood is shed
But victory is sure
I don't know which will take control
The heart?  The mind?
I hope the soul.

But maybe once I stop to rest
Give up my need to be the driver
Pull over, switch places, close my eyes
Then maybe, just maybe...peace will win
Sheaths and guns will disappear
A new victory will surface
Heart, mind, and soul will work as one
So I can fulfill my purpose...

Entering a Pandemic

It has been over 6 months since I last wrote… and a LOT has happened since then – let me briefly catch you up:

The Good – We officially opened R&P Coffee Co. between Thanksgiving and Christmas and it has been amazing (that story starts here)! We easily met more people in our community in the 6 weeks after opening than we had in the 6 years we lived here. I have sooooo many things to share – but that’s for another day!

The Bad – My struggle with depression intensified a bit with opening the shop. While I did have a peace with all that was happening, change is always a challenge for me.

The Ugly – Well….I hate to state the obvious…but we entered a global pandemic. Less than 3 full months into operating a new business/ministry, still struggling with the adjustments, and the whole world got flipped on it’s head. Needless to say, the whole depression issue got much worse.

BUT…it did get better.

I wrote the following on my typewriter on the day they announced that schools were closed for 2 weeks (over 2 months ago…):

As I sat on the couch, it became clear that I was not okay. I was not myself.

The shelves sat half empty, but as I walked through the aisles, as I heard the whispers and saw the face masks, it became very clear to me that the world would be different now. No matter what, none of us would be the same. It wasn’t about not having bread or milk, or heck, even toilet paper, it was the fact that history was, no is, being made. Tomorrow we will wake up to face a future that no American has experienced before. We may be entering an era much like the depression. Fianances are going to be hit hard. The economy is rapidly tanking in a way we have never seen. Or it could blow over and we will look back at this as a time we overreacted to a bad cold.

But today, I was going to remember how it was. I was going to remember the way I could pick up my phone and connect with anyone I could dream of in a matter of moments. I have to remember the look of joy as my kids had their season’s first ice cream, or the giggles as they spilled some in the midst of sharing even though I’ve reminded them 100x that sharing isn’t the best idea right now. I want to remember the hope of opening the coffee shop and wanting to make a difference right here where we are. I want to remember the innocence of my children – they have no fear, no worrries, no second thoughts. They haven’t been to the store and heard the hushed whispers of the unsure or seen the terror of a group of teens (maybe 20 somethings) wearing face masks and debating how they are best going to spend their $50. Would it be name brand medicine (all thats left) or their favorite snacks? My children don’t see the overwhelmed widow who is staring at the empty shelves and wondering what tomorrow is going to hold. They are oblivious to the severity of the week’s events. All they know is that they get more time to play at home, that Mommy is home a bit more – and that’s all good for them.

My thoughts are jumbled, jumping around like the jumping beans I used to play with in grade school. One moment I think its all silly – we’re going to wake up and realize it was all an overreaction – like when I get angry at my husband for not rinsing the dishes. I say something ridiculous, we end up fighting all night, and then realize it was all over a dish, a simple, silly little dish. But then I look at the world around us and the turmoil that are already facing and I fear that we have underreacted. I fear that we haven’t done enough. In two weeks, I hope I’m not laying on the couch finding it difficult to breathe while my kids lay in the other room coughing and hacking because we’ve been carrying around COVID-19 this whole time. And while I’m 95% certain we would all survive, what about all of the immune compromised individuals I ran into in that time frame? The eldery? Those currently undergoing chemo or on other life-altering drugs? There is such a fine line between being smart and being fearful. Just as their is a very find line between being selfish and common sense.

We may never know the direct impact we each have had with our choices. But the consequences remain despite our knowledge. Just because we don’t see the consequences doesn’t mean that they don’t happen. Just because I don’t see the elderly couple in despair in the canned good section of the grocery store or the new mom staring at empty diaper shelves, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Every choice we make has ripples of impact.

It is an easy time to forget that the world is so much larger than just us. Do I bunker down or do we go out and help? What is tomorrow going to look like? What about a month from now? Or 6 months? Or even a year from now? I have a feeling our lives are going to look completely different for so many reasons. Our healthcare system is probably going to be getting an overhaul and be seriously backed up dealing with the side effects of now. Anxiety is heightened, depression , inflammation, and lots of other things. All the non-essentials are going to be pushed to the side for now and its going to take some time to catch back up. We already have 6 month waiting lists for things like genetics, infectious disease, or even rheumatology. It’s only going to get worse. We have ORs being turned into ICUs! Surgeries are being postponed so that we can care for the critically ill. I keep pinching myself because this has to be a dream. Or a movie. I’m just an actor in a new version of The Truman Show, right?

Not to mention, our economy is going to take a long time to get back on track...

I don’t know if I will ever forget this feeling of the unknown, of how unsure I am of the next week, of how much I truly have to depend on the Holy Spirit for peace. And I’m not just pretending to do that because of the stress I put on myself. Now, I HAVE to depend on Him, on His Word, because almost everything is out of my control. I literally, maybe for the first time in my life, have no clue what tomorrow holds. I don’t know if we will have enough food or enough money. I don’t know if we will all stay healthy or if we will still be able to keep our jobs or our house. My head tells me to be afraid, but my heart know that God is here. He is still in control, He is holding my hand, my heart, and my family in the palm of His almighty hand.

It doesn’t mean that it won’t be difficult, but it does mean that the worst thing, the very worst thing, death itself, in a way, is actually a gift. If the worst happens, it will be the best day of my eternal life. My head just wants to know what comes between now and then. How hard will it be? How many people will I lose before it is my turn? Will I outlive my children? Will my parents outlive me? Will I get to see my children grow? Or what about little things – will we get to go to the beach this year? Will Justin and I get to travel next year? Or ever? How different will our lives be in 2021 – after the virus? What will we have endured? Who will we have lost along the way? Will everything we’ve worked so hard for at R&P suddenly be gone? I don’t know.

And while my mind is constantly playing these questions on repeat, I really do have a peace that surpasses all understanding. For, as cliche as it might be, though I do not know what tomorrow holds, I do know who holds the future. He loves me, He loves my parents, my grandparents, and my children more than I ever could. And He is working all things for our good and His glory. I may not be able to see Him weaving all of the mess together, but I have an assurance that He is. He always has, He always will. Until eternity He is weaving a tapestry that will shout His name, show His love, and open our eye in wonder. I just have to trust Him in the meantime. And today, I am. I hope that stays the same tomorrow and the next day and the next. I hope I remember to rely on His peace in the coming chaos like I have in today’s turmoil.

He is good. He is God. I am not.

And neither is COVID-19 or the media or the fear that has caused complete chaos at Walmart.

The irony in all of this – I type all of these thoughts on a typewriter made by Smith (….wait for it….) Smith-Corona! Ha!

It will be okay.

That doesn’t mean it won’t be hard or that it won’t hurt. It simply means that God is still on the throne.

He loves you.
You matter.
And you are never alone.

I look back on these words and some of the concern has disappated, some has not. I still have some of the same thoughts, added with a mixture of confusion on how to move forward.

But the Truth still remains and I am so very grateful for that.

One thing I have learned during this season – grace. Grace for others is SO crucial!! We all have different opinions and we cannot think less of those who think differently. We’re all just trying to do our best. We must LOVE FIRST as Jesus Himself exemplified. Show grace, love others, put your faith and hope in Christ, and keep taking the next step forward.

Family First

I wrote this months ago and found it in my drafts tonight.  I’m leaving it as is.  Enjoy!


I know I have mentioned this before but…I always feel the need to write when it is the absolute last thing I should be doing.  And I am convinced that God prompts me to write because He knows what’s good for my soul.  While my to-do list might be neglected, my soul gets a bit of refreshing.

This post has been gnawing at me for at least a couple of months.  After the initial light bulb moment, I just didn’t make the time for it.  And then the longer that went by, I just didn’t feel that spark anymore.  But it just keeps coming back in one way or another.

Family.

The way family functions, the way family is viewed has changed decade after decade.  And family means something different in each culture, even for each person.  For some, the word “family” can evoke strong emotions – positive or negative.  For others, it just doesn’t mean a whole lot.  In America, “family” means a lot of different things.

For us, family is everything.  Well, almost everything.  Our everything is Jesus.  And then after that, is family.  But we can’t truly understand family without first understanding Jesus.  His sacrificial, relentless, overwhelming love sets the bar pretty high.

But why am I talking about family?  You see, my initial want to write this blog was because of a passionate response to a bit of criticism received.  There are a few people (maybe more) who don’t think we’re doing enough for the coffee shop (that story starts waaaay back here).  We aren’t sacrificing enough time or “giving it our all” because we aren’t working on the shop in every free moment we have.  And I get it.  I want to see this thing happen so very badly.  It needs to happen.  Our community needs it.  And it seems like every day that goes by is a day wasted because we aren’t open yet.

But early on, at the beginning of this journey, we decided (based on Biblical knowledge and wisdom handed down from respected elders) that family has to come first.  While we are 100% certain that God has called us to the mission of this community and this coffee shop – the first mission he gave either one of us was our family.  If we don’t handle that well, we will never be able to handle the rest that He has given us.

Generations past (and some current), particularly men, worked long hours, missed bedtimes and first steps, were up before sunrise and not home until after sunset.  And they accomplished much.  I wouldn’t have a lot of what I do today if it wasn’t for the hard work of many men and women before me.  But we cannot sacrifice our family, our missional unit, to accomplish things on societies timeline.  First of all, God’s timeline looks different.  And second, I truly believe, that if we are faithful in our marriage and with our children, that He will bless our endeavors elsewhere.

I don’t want to wake up 15 years from now, with a thriving coffee shop that has truly turned our community upside down and changed hundreds of lives, but with a broken marriage and children who don’t truly know who Jesus is because their parents never had the time to be Jesus in their lives.

So for today, and hopefully every day to come, our family comes first.

Now, I need to clarify a few things.

  1. That doesn’t mean that our family is all that matters.  I think the American dream has made that a reality today and turned the family into a bit of an idol.  Our family is our priority, yes, but in a Biblical sense, that just means that we are on mission together.  Yes, while our children are little, that means a bit more time at home than I would sometimes like.  But as they grow older, it means them tagging along and participating in the mission that the Lord has given our family.  When He called Justin and I on this voyage, He wasn’t leaving our kids out of it.  He called us as a multi-generational unit that also includes our parents and grandparents (if they so choose to participate).  Which leads me to my second point…
  2. “Our family” doesn’t just mean my husband and kids – it includes our extended family as well.  This is Biblical!  Multi-generational ministry is all throughout the Bible.  And its a beautiful thing.  Take a look at other cultures even…  It isn’t rare to find multiple generations of Hispanic families living under one roof.  Breaking the family unit down even further only increased the isolation that the enemy has been pushing on our society for ages.  Less people to do life with, less people to engage in healthy conflict with, leaves less opportunity to learn what being Jesus really means.  (Jefferson and Alyssa Bethke have some fantastic resources on multi-generational ministry.  Specifically, check out the podcasts here and here.)
  3. “Our family” doesn’t just mean blood relatives.  We also have what we call our “framily,” our friends who are also brothers and sisters in Christ, or our church family.  These are the people who we are breaking bread with on a regular basis.  And since relationships are what we believe to be the key to turning our community upside down, it is important that we maintain and cherish the ones that we currently have.  That means spending time with these people outside of meetings and church service!!

Time is precious.  We don’t want to waste it or get it wrong.  It would be so easy to say, “well, this is what God has called me to” and throw every precious second we have at this project.  And there are days and weeks that we do.  But if those days and weeks turned into months and then a year or two….or five or ten….  what happens to all of the other things mentioned above?

Regardless of whether or not you think we are doing enough, I want you to know that we are constantly evaluating how best to balance the priorities that God has placed in our lives.  With jobs and a home and other responsibilities it isn’t always easy.  And, I’ll be honest, we don’t always get it right.  And if I’m being 100% transparent, I’m personally struggling with depression, which makes ALL of this so much more difficult.  It is a struggle some days to just make sure my kids are fed.  But we keep striving forward, we keep going one step at a time.

But I didn’t share all of this to prove myself.  In fact, that’s a large part of the reason why I waited so long to write this – I wanted my motivation to be pure.  I shared this because I hope it stirs something within those that read it.  I hope it helps you to reconsider the priorities in your own life, the calling that Christ has placed upon your family, or how the American dream has negatively impacted our culture and our families.

It’s time for a change.  It’s time for families to really start acting like families.  Church, I’m talking to you!  Stop isolating yourself, stop pushing others away – embrace the mess that is community by learning what it truly means to be a family.

Family, Multi-generational, Mission, First, Community, Coffee for Community, Better Together


We love you guys.  And I am so thankful that you stuck around to read through another one of my ramblings.  For those of you who are curious, the shop is actually coming along quite well.  When I first wrote this, the guys were just starting to work on the flooring at the shop.  Now, we are just days away from our inspection!!  Which, hypothetically means, we could be open within a couple of weeks!

Please be praying that we stay in step with Him, that we don’t fall behind or jump ahead.  Be praying that He provides for all things in such a way that all the glory belongs to Him.  But more importantly, be praying that He is already preparing the hearts of those this place is meant to impact, that our community would be stirred to life, that change would be noticeable.  You guys are amazing and we wouldn’t have made it this far without you.  ❤

 

After the Storm

Late summer may be my favorite time of the year.  The evenings start to cool off again and time seems to slow down just a bit, as if our little corner of the world is taking a big breath before jumping into the next chapter.  And I love the slow and steady rumble of a late summer storm – the kind that doesn’t make too much noise, but slowly rolls on through, enjoying a leisurely pace before disappearing for most of the fall and winter seasons.

Last night we had a storm roll through.  And it hit HARD…. for about five whole minutes.  I heard the thunder in the distance and then moments later, the down pour began.  What I thought was going to last awhile, passed in less time than it takes me to make coffee in the morning (who am I kidding? I don’t make coffee – Justin does.  I just drink what’s left in the pot).

But while the rain didn’t last long, the thunder and lightning lingered.  After dropping the kids off to spend the night with Mimi, Papa, and Gigi, I had the privilege of driving home on country roads at dusk.  I rolled my windows down and took a big breath.  The air was fresh, it smelled delicious, and it was crisp in my lungs.  The storm, though short, was cleansing.  And now, everything around was waking back up.  Crickets were chirping, the fog was slowly settling in the lower parts of the valleys, and the lightning was still showing off behind a few clouds in the distance.

Like the fog settling in the valley, truth slowly settled into my heart.  Storms come and go in this life.  Some are short and last moments.  Others last hours, or even days.  But all storms can be cleansing.

If we let them. 

I know how destructive storms can be.  I lived in Oklahoma for 5 years and I have seen with my own eyes the damage that even a “minor” tornado can have.  I have watched, helpless, from 1200 miles away, as my previous community has had to completely start over because entire city blocks have been flattened by a tornado whose intensity was stronger than anything the F-Scale has seen.

Storms can be absolutely devastating.

Storm, Thunder, Lightning, Destruction, Pain, Sorrow, Grief, Loss, Death, Failure, Cancer, Money Trouble, Financial, Turmoil, Fear, Promise, Hope

And this life throws plenty of storms our way.  Whether it comes in the shape of illness, or financial turmoil, or relationship upheaval….whatever the case…storms will always come.

Sometimes, we can predict when they come, what seasons will be more difficult or tiresome than others.  Other times, they pop up unexpectedly, and hit us by surprise, leaving us ravaged and unsure of our next steps.

Some storms are just rain storms that come and go without much notice, some are small storms that leave a lot of damage, others, like tornadoes or hurricanes, can last a long time and leave more damage than we think is repairable.

But a storm is always temporary.  And, if we give it a chance, every storm in our lives can be cleansing.  There are certain storms in our lives that will leave behind more damage than others.  Some storms will vastly altar the course of our lives – leaving us little or no opportunity to return to the way things were.  But if we lean into the Creator, if we lean into the One who made us, who cares for us, and loves us more than we could ever fathom – then, like the crickets outside my window, we too will be able to sing once the storm has blown through…even if we can still hear the rumble in the distance.

Storms make our roots grow deeper, grow stronger.  Storms wash away the dirt that has built up and nourish the earth around us.

We can either give up or allow the cleansing (though painful) process to happen.  Every storm is an opportunity.

Lately, I’ve been feeling like we are in a storm.  Discouragement has crept up on us in full force.  It isn’t a short burst, but it isn’t much of a tornado either.  The damage isn’t vast or even noticeable most days.  I feel like we are in the midst of a monsoon.  While there isn’t thunder booming or lightning flashing, the rain just

keeps

on

coming.

It is unending and relentless and I don’t feel like we’ve seen the sunshine in days, or weeks…  But we keep trudging forward, shoulder to the wind, clothes soaking wet.

And I’m just so tired.

But the rain will stop.  The clouds will part, the light will shine bright again.  And, if I let it, this storm will be a moment of cleansing.

After the storm, I’ll be able to shake off the dirt, wring out my clothes, and start fresh.

I’ll be able to breathe in the fresh, clean, crisp air and allow my heart to sing as His peace, the peace that surpasses all understanding, gently settles into the crevices of my soul.

Because, at the end of the day, the sun is still shining.  Even when I can’t see it.  While the storm is loud and the sky is ominous, the sun is still there.  In the dead of night, the sun still shines!!  If I pay attention, sometimes I can even catch evidence of that…

Rainbow, Storm, Sunshine, Problems, Trials, God, Devotion, Cancer, Death, Financial Trouble, Unexpected, Loss, Grief, Abortion, Unplanned, Tension

He is still there.  He is still calling me forward, beckoning me to continue the mission He spoke years and years ago to the very first disciples.  He is using every drop of rain, every hail stone, every storm, for my good and for His glory.

Thanks You Lord, for the beauty within the storm.

I Want to Live Alive

At 11pm, after a full night of working a fundraising banquet, and still suffering from the pain and discomfort of shingles, writing might be the last thing I should be doing.  But on my hour drive home, a song came on that I played over and over.  And I don’t know if it’s the caffeine from the extra cup of coffee I had tonight or if it’s the Holy Spirit…but I can’t sleep and everything that’s going through my head because of said song needs to come out.

First of all, I think it’s important to note – I recognize that I tend to talk a lot about my frustrations with today’s Church.  I would apologize, but I’m not sorry.  I don’t think if Jesus were in the flesh and here today that He would be happy with our Sunday morning version of “church.”  I don’t think we are living out what He wanted His Bride to be.  And I’m not okay with the status quo.  But, in saying that, I also think that it’s important to note that I STILL. GO. TO. CHURCH.  And it isn’t, necessarily, my favorite version of church either (if we’re being honest).  I believe that God plants us in His body where He wants us to be.  And we are placed there to learn, to serve, and to help others along (ALL three!).  I hope that if you are reading some of these posts, that you continue to heed His call.  The Church is sacred (read the Bible).  He is STILL using His Bride to accomplish His purposes.  And He can still use YOU where you are, as long as you are willing to be obedient to His plans and purposes for you.  And I can promise you that His purpose is not for you to be outside the Church.

But that isn’t why I’m writing tonight.  Tonight, I’m writing because…

I want to live alive.  Yep, you read that right.  I want to live alive.

“Don’t want to just survive
Be safe but half alive
This little light of mine
This little spark divine
I’m gonna let it shine

I am letting go of every fear
I am letting go of every lie
I am taking hold of every dream
You placed inside

I wanna live alive, I wanna live alive
I wanna live alive, I wanna live alive
Don’t wanna live a lie, don’t wanna live a lie
I wanna live alive and you make me alive

There’s danger up ahead
But I’m not running scared
You are the light of mine
You are the spark divine
You’re gonna help me shine

There’s a courage that is forged in pain
There’s a purpose in the furnace flame
I will risk my heart a thousand times
To feel again, to feel again, yeah

I wanna live alive, I wanna live alive
I wanna live alive, I wanna live alive
Don’t wanna live a lie, don’t wanna live a lie
I wanna live alive and you make me alive

…And you make me alive”

– Rend Collective, Live Alive

Listen/watch here.

I think a huuuuuuuge problem in the Church today is that most “Christians” aren’t living alive!!  How many church buildings or services have you walked into and the key ingredient that is missing is life?!?  Worship comes and goes and people barely even smile, arms are crossed the whole service, you might hear a cricket or two during the sermon, and half the people are out the door two seconds after service is over (or before!).  It’s depressing!  The Church isn’t just dying because numbers are dwindling and doors are closing.  I think the Church is dying because the people inside are already dead…well, at least spiritually speaking.  But I’m sure, sometimes, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference!

Did the Church forget what Christ has done??  The blood that was shed?  The forgiveness we will never be able to deserve?  Do they not know that they are in HIS presence?? Where is the joy?  Where is the love??  Where is the LIFE??????

Dear Church,

It is time to stop living in fear!  It is time to stop playing it safe and only living half alive!  As a blood-bought, born-again believer….as a Christian (little-Christ) – YOU are empowered with the Holy Spirit.  The very same power that rose Christ from His grave, lives within you!  Why aren’t you acting like it?!?  Why aren’t you living like it?!?

Are you letting His light shine or have you buried it somewhere deep inside??  Are the fruits of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, kindness, etc.) abundant?  Or has the enemy’s root of bitterness crept into your soul?  WAKE UP!!

He is able to do exceedingly and abundantly more than we could ever ask or imagine…and yet we “live” like He’s still in the grave!  That’s not living.  It’s merely existing.  That’s not what Christ has called us to.  He has called us to abundant life.  He has placed God sized dreams within each one of us.  Are you living His dreams?

What is keeping you from living alive?  Is it pain?  Let it forge your courage to keep building the Kingdom!  Is it trial or tribulation?  Allow Him turn it to good, as He has promised!  Is it bitterness?  Embrace the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome and produce the fruit that only He is capable of.  Is it fear?  Let it go!  HE is the light, He will help you shine!  As I once heard it said, if you believe it, if you really have His joy within in you and are living the full life He has offered….don’t forget to remind your face

Survive, life, half alive, rend collective, journey, song, God, devotion, daily, church, dying, hope, abundant, more

I, for too long, have lived only half alive because of fear and the “need” to please so many other people besides Him.   But I am done.  I am done walking on egg shells.  I am done hiding my emotions and passion.  I am done allowing fear to hold me back from what needs doing, from what needs said.  I want to live alive!!  And He makes me alive.  Which means that every single day, I have to die to self.  I have to die to the selfish desires and wants that are within me, so that I can truly and fully live!  Because what He has to offer is SO MUCH MORE!  And, yes, sometimes I forget to tell my face.  Because life is hard and sometimes, I’m just not feeling it.  But that’s why they’re called the fruits of the Spirit and not the fruits of Bri – because it is HIS power within me that enables me to be joyful (kind, peaceful, loving, etc.) despite the feelings that exist within me (I’m not saying we have to fake it, even Jesus wept, but we need to live alive!).

So for today, and tomorrow, and the next day, as for me and my house:

“This little light of mine, this little spark divine, I’m gonna let it shine….” 

Church, are you with me???

 

There is Still a Remnant

This post is for the weary traveler who is burnt out and ready to give up.

This post is for the one who has walked away from the church because it doesn’t look anything like the Church we see in the Bible.

This post is for the discouraged who see churches torn apart by offense and petty differences.

This post is for the one who has given up hope in anyone ever actually getting it.

This post is for the person who desperately yearns to see the that the supernatural love for one another Jesus spoke about is actually possible.

This post is for you.  This post is for me.

Because a month from now, a week from now, or even tomorrow – I’ll see or hear (or do!) something that leaves me completely discouraged and wounded, wondering how we are ever supposed to move forward, or how God is ever going to be able to work through the mess His creation has…well…created…or struggle with why no one seems to get it.  And I’ll need to hear what God has  spoken into my heart today….again.

I always struggle with just how vulnerable and transparent I should be when I write.  I definitely feel a bit safer here, on the other side of the screen, unable to see your face as you read the words that have been tucked inside my head and heart, just dying to get out.  But, usually, they are words I don’t often speak out loud because I’m too afraid of the reactions, too afraid of what other people think, and too afraid I won’t be able to defend myself.  But, I’m trying to let go of my need to please everyone…so here it goes…

Before explaining how God has encouraged me, I think it’s necessary to share what I have been struggling with lately.

First, I feel stuck.  Stuck in the middle of two worlds.  You see, most of my liberal friends think I’m a crazy right-wing conservative and a significant portion of my conservative friends and family think I’m a liberal nut.  I don’t fit cleanly in either party.  And, for some, that means I must be less of a Christian and, if they don’t think that, they at least lose a bit (or a lot) of respect for me.

Sad

We have made Christianity something it was never meant to be – political.  There are countless arguments as to why you can’t be a _____(insert name of ANY political party here)_____ and still be a Christian.  I’ve heard it all.  Some things I agree with and others I don’t.  But that isn’t the point.  The point is love.

We should be able to look past our political differences, no matter how Biblically rooted our beliefs may be, and really truly love our brothers and sisters in Christ.  I shouldn’t feel “less” than within the church.  I should feel safe to discuss (rather than demand) my opinion without fear of losing respect.  God’s conviction, when needed, can work beautifully in an environment of love and respect.  Guilt, however, is a tool of the enemy and thrives in environments of pride, isolation, and lack of compassion.

God isn’t limited to one side or the other and desires that all may come to Him!  Are we coming alongside Him or pushing people away from Him?  At the end of the day, I would rather err on the side of love.  If I’m going to be wrong – may it be that I loved too much instead of too little.

Love, Politics, Church, Sacrifice, Jesus, Remnant

Aside from politics, there is SO much more that breaks my heart about the church.  And I’m struggling.  Offense has infested every corner of the Church – people don’t act the way others think they should, feelings are hurt…but instead of learning to love through the mess, as Jesus has exemplified and called us to, we opt to leave, to run away from the problem.  And it is destroying the church.

And what about the fact that there aren’t very many people actually being the Church?!?  Coming for an hour or two on Sunday isn’t exactly what Jesus called us to either.  We care more about hymnals and pew colors than actually making disciples.  If Jesus were to attend “church” today, I have a feeling he would be heartbroken or enraged…or probably both.

And it’s all so overwhelming.  When it piles up, the mountain of imperfections and struggle seems insurmountable.  How?!?  How do we become the Church that God wants us to be?  How do we actually impact the Kingdom with the structure that exists?  How can we instill passion in those that have, for so long, just gone through the  motions?  How do we learn to love in a supernatural, offenses-forgiven, politics-don’t-matter, kind of way?

And then I was reminded of Israel.  They didn’t get it.  Over and over again, they “got it” but, what seemed like moments later, they were worshipping idols and forgetting their covenant with God.  And time after time, exile after exile, God maintained a remnant.  A remnant, a small remaining quantity of His people.

But not for their sake…

For His.  After all, His name was on the line.  The world at that time KNEW that the Israelites were the people of God.  So, in order to bring glory to His name, God maintained a remnant and saved His people (Multiply, Francis Chan).

And then, thanks to choice words in a podcast, I was reminded that there is a remnant of His people today as well.  There is remnant of people who are able to love, live with, and respect both democrats and republicans (Gasp!).  There is a remnant of people who are erring on the side of love, who are loving without reservation or expectation, who are exemplifying irrational forgiveness and learning to overlook offense.  There is a remnant of people who are choosing to fight through the mess, love God’s people, and reach out to the broken and outcast in our society, no matter the cost.

And it isn’t that small of a remnant.  It’s widespread and growing and I’m so excited to see what God is doing in this generation. When I stop focusing on the negative, I see glimpses of this remnant in so many places and it is extraordinarily encouraging.

So my words of encouragement for you:

  • If you are frustrated with church, don’t give up.  Our battles is NOT against flesh and blood.
  • If you are battling offense, if someone has hurt you, be sure to handle it Biblically instead of just walking away (see Matthew 18).  Again, our battle is not against flesh and blood and when we don’t handle things according to God’s word, the enemy wins.  Period.
  • If you’re frustrated with leadership, offer grace.  Being in leadership in the American church today is one of the most difficult places to be.  Everyone expects perfection and everyone wants things their way.  Most pastors are following Jesus and leading you the best they know how.  Encourage them, they need it more than you know.  Offended??  See above.
  • If you are stuck in the middle of politics and feel alone – you’re not!  Don’t ever forget it.
  • If you don’t love your church, check your heart, “Our King, who allowed Himself to be tortured and killed for us, tells us to love one another in the same way.  Have you ever even considered loving a fellow Christian as sacrificially and selflessly as Christ loved you?  When was the last time you looked at a Christian brother or sister selflessly, wanting to bring him or her life no matter what the cost” (Francis Chan, Letters to the Church)?
  • If you are discouraged with no one getting it, soooo many people are.  Here’s a few of my go-to’s for genuine encouragement and inspiration:

The above list might not be your speed.  And, you know what, that’s perfectly okay.  Unity isn’t about us agreeing on everything (or even anything!).  I’m still going to love you at the end of the day even if you think Francis Chan is a heretic or that Rend Collective isn’t all that great.

Because the love of Christ supersedes all of that.

Keep looking for the remnant.  Let go of the negative.  Focus on the positive.  As I heard recently – it doesn’t matter if the cup is half full or half empty – there is still water in the cup!  There is still a remnant.  Go live like it.  Go love like it!

 

 

And Yet…

Lyrics break the silence as the day moves forward
“We will be the generation that learns how to love.”
And for a moment, I believe it
But I take a breath…                           and then I don’t

Because my thumb scrolls by thousands of words, hundreds of comments –
All fueled by hate, condemnation, and just
plain
old
mean

You see, it’s easy to love those we see as victims in the dark
But it’s hard, oh is it hard, to love those we don’t agree with, hard to love the person on the other side                                             of that opinion we are so sure is wrong.

And so we pick up sticks & stones and throw our words as hard as we can
Knowing that wounds from words
last longer than the broken bones of harmless stones

Yes, sticks and stones may break my bones
But words will…
words will break my spirit

Did we forget that there were generations before
that boldly marched for peace, not war
And yet…

And yet…

The war rages on

Instead of stooping down to help, we puff ourselves up with pride
Instead of entering into the mess, we pick sides
We set up camp, arm ourselves with justified hate, and just wait…

We wait like trolls beneath a bridge – all gruff and tough.
We’ve figured it out, we’ve got it right
And until you get it figured out….
You                                                                 
Shall                                               
Not                            
Pass!     

While we’re busy hurling stone-sized words across the great divide,
Arguing about who’s right and what’s best, who’s who and what’s next…

The people in the middle
of the war zone

are
losing
their
lives

Hate does not stop hate.  It just causes collateral damage.

Just STOP.

Stop hurling stones.
Stop flailing sticks.
Put your sword back in its sheath
And
Shut
Your
Mouth

Hate cannot stop hate

Only love can.

love, hate, sticks and stones, voyage, together, community, love first, war, peace