Favorite Things Monday: He Split the Stinking Sea Edition

My first thought of a title was the “Heart Stretched Thin Edition”. Who doesn’t need a bigger picture on Monday? I most certainly do. While my first thought was valid, I went with the one I was the most bossy about.

Today has been a day. I started writing Favorite Things Monday posts in attempt to combat the Mondays. Writing this out is therapeutic for me. It’s like my journal that I invite you to read. It’s been a place to talk about the good and the bad and helps me (and hopefully others) keep their eyes on the main thing. The main thing always tends to get lost so we get back to that, the bigger pictures and the hope found in seemingly small things. So today, it has been a day and a perfect one to write something that puts me back in my place. And one that reminds me of God’s grace, mercy and his unfailing love and faithfulness. Today screams it and I need reminded of it all at the same time.

Life is so tricky like that.

So often I have wondered how joy and sorrow can co-exist. How does frustration, disappointment and awe all take up resident in one heart at the same time? Not only does it, I have had plenty of opportunity to see how God uses it. The problem is, I see how He works that out when I am on the other side. My problem is seeing it for what it is in the present.

Don’t we all? Just me? This is why I write.

Six years ago today, we started a church. It was called Revive Church (3 1/2 years ago, that church merged with Austin Grace and became Central City Austin). Six years ago today, I didn’t know if I would just cry or throw up. Six years ago we had worked up to a launch of something brand new. Something that had burned in our hearts for years. Something we had prayed for, talked about, dreamed about and sacrificed for. Six years ago was a new beginning to something that had been stirring for a long time.

In six years, I have known more excitement, disappointment, discouragement, joy, fear, anticipation and have walked into more unknowns than I ever imagined and certainly more than I have in my life up to this point.

And you guys…we are just getting started.

Today it made me cry. A lot. Like, off and on all day (except for at the work bowling event, I maintained my cool…but my bowling score was terrible). I have never reacted to this day like this before. And today, the makeup is basically gone. I think I went through every emotion possible today. Some of it was gratitude. A lot of it was. But some others snuck in there and they screamed loud. It’s been a beautiful and really crazy and often difficult six years. Some times you just have to feel it. Today, I felt six years worth and even as I am writing, it sits in my throat and falls from my eyes.

The best is still yet to come. It always is with Jesus. It always is with His Church. It always is because we are His.

Today was Caleb’s Cup. My family makes me cry. They are have put one foot in front of the other, putting purpose to pain and inviting others to join them. I miss them something fierce today but I am beyond proud of them. I am so glad that God lets me call them mine.

Putting one foot in front of the other is always worth it. Always. God shows up in our faith steps, our grief, our joy and everything in between. He is good. He does not fail.

On Sunday, I led No Longer Slaves and while any part of that song is worth getting stuck on, this week I was stuck on our sea splitting God.

He split the stinking sea! He did it for his people. Jesus went to a cross and the veil in the temple…the separation between God and man was torn in two. He splits the sea, he tears the separation and calls us His own.

So here we go. Our God who splits seas and does not fail, He is with us, He goes before us, He made a way just to get to us and we are his people, He is our God, we are His Church.

This stretched thin heart can rest in the God who is that for his kids…

New Year…New Post and the Thoughts That Swirl ‘Round My Brain…

I’ve been a bit of a blogging slacker. New Years Resolutions are supposed to fix this through at least mid February. I’ll blame a pretty significant change in work schedule (due to an answered prayer of a new job), the holidays and the fact that sitting down to write what is swirling in my head may not yet be blog material. Somethings are meant for personal journal writing….some questions are good for online…and some need much prayer before going public. I’m learning the difference.

The last month has been a whirlwind…

Our Christmas backpack and taco outreach was awesome. Not a single person left empty handed. For those wondering what was a huge hit…bus passes. We also had McDonald’s gift cards and backpacks. This year in comparison to last was night and day. Thanks to Mike Vogt, we were organized and were assembled and ready to roll within minutes of pulling into the parking lot. Conversations, kids passing out cookies,  warm smiles, full bellies, Tracy singing with a guy who brought his guitar…that all happened.

There is so much to be done. Let’s love our cities!

I just finished reading Undaunted by Christine Caine. If you need a shot in arm, kick in the face or a good, healthy dose of reality and the purpose of our faith. Read it! If a books intro is written by Max Lucado and says “our generation has a Paul, an Esther and a Mary and her name is Christine Caine”. You should probably see what its all about.

We just started our James bible study. Fact – Beth Moore is crazy and I want to be a little bit like her. We are in week 2 and loving it. Women, study the bible with other women. In fact, if you are in Austin…join us. We are only scary if you don’t appreciate crazy.

My grandmother is 98 and still possess the same stubborn streak I have always known her to have. With this information, I don’t allow certain arguments to happen in my house. My kids are stubborn and I want them to use it for things that matter. Jackets when it’s 30 degrees outside is not worth fighting for, so we don’t. It’s a healthy dose of perspective. Thanks Grandma.

Every time I watch The Avengers, I say “my favorite Avenger is Tony Stark (Iron Man), I’m not sure what this says about me”. Help me folks.

My husband and daughter are frighteningly similar at times. He is NOT dramatic, diva-esque and in love with Justin Bieber…but other than that…I look at them and they are kind of the same.

A real wrestling thought has been about churches in general. The camps we are in, what we are for, against and how it wrongly divides us. This has been on going for a little while. Forget one blog post on this one. It may take a book.

Why do people say “well, you can do that in Austin”? I’ve heard it since we said “we are planting a church in Austin”. Most of those questions have come from dear friends. This is not a jab. I want to know the difference. It makes me use words like “sub-culture”. Pray for me. LOL.

The purpose of the church is great. Something about a new year excites me…and this year has a whole new list of prayers, expectations and believing in what God is going to do.
While my list of thoughts is long, my heart is not troubled. It may be a tad uncomfortable but not troubled. I’m learning that it’s His kindness that leads to repentance. I’ll wrestle with the stirring and know that God is at work. I will not allow condemnation to lead to inactivity. Let’s do this church! 

Ladies – A New Years “triple-dog-dare”

This thought lingers in my mind often. I’ve judged much by how I’ve seen this unfold. I’ve seen it in the church. I see it on tv. I see it in my kids movies. I see it everywhere. This has gone on for far too long.

Ladies, let’s step it up and show the world (and more importantly our daughters and other young women in our lives), how this is done.

This all came to a head on Christmas day. Yup. Christmas.

We were watching Brave. Yes, that cute little Disney movie where everyone has a thick Scottish accent. Cute movie. Strong women.

The strong is awesome. How it is portrayed is my HUGE issue.

Women – our purpose is beautiful. It is not weak. It is not passive. It is strong, beautiful, God ordained and grace covered. It requires leading and guiding from the Holy Spirit because it is indeed far greater than we can do on our own. We have much to offer to a room and to the world. To quote Stasi Eldredge “we speak to others that all is well, because of God all shall be well”. Proverbs says that a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised and she is clothed with dignity and strength. Psalms says that “surely goodness and mercy shall follow”. Thanks to Pastor Shelly Nelson, I am constantly reminded that I leave goodness and mercy in my wake.
We are fierce. We handle trials. We handle heartbreak. We weep, we comfort, we are loyal and we feel much pain. We know that joy comes in the morning. We live as an example of God’s heart. He made us on purpose.

This is all true. I speak this with much passion and a desire to live that example and speak this to others. We as women want to offer dignity back to other women who are broken.

There is more.

This strength doesn’t have a camoflage. At it’s rawest state, it is evident.

Raw – not a fun word. It’s exposed. No hiding.

We have strength to offer. We are pretty much awesome.

Here is my beef…

When the men in our lives feel belittled, out to be the idiot, a constant failure and disrespected by us; we have failed.

I’m not just talking about our husbands. This goes for brothers, boyfriends, co-workers, men in our community…um…our SONS…

Imagine what could change if we modeled this for our daughters.

Imagine a shift in a whole culture of men, when our dignity and strength treats them as such. When it invites instead of nags, encourages instead of belittles and recognizes our differences as gifts instead of a curse that we don’t understand.

How does this sound for a New Years Resolution?

Revive Church – Year Zero Part 1

We are coming up on our one year mark as Revive Church.

Folks, this is a big deal! I’ve never had a year like this in my life. The year prior to launch is another story…this is the year zero story. It hasn’t looked like I thought it would.

For a year, every time I talked to my friend Anna she said the same thing…

but you’re doing it“.

My friend Addy just got her Master’s Degree from UT. She is crazy. She says something slightly different but true to many living life out on the limb. It goes like this…

I just keep showing up“.

To both of those profound statements I say this, “Yup“.

 

Over the next couple of days, I’ll share with you some thoughts and experiences on this last year. We now know why many church planters refer to the first year of a church plant as “year zero”. What an insane ride it has been! It was full of emotions, growth, change, a health scare, new friendships, brokenness and freshly broken hearts (hello 7 ladies), perspective and change of, tears out the wazoo, frustrations, joy, faithfulness, blessings and an enormous amount of grace I never expected. What I thought was important has really been brought to light and a good amount of what I thought was necessary, it’s not. This was a year of growth and learning curves unlike I have ever experienced in my life. This continues.

I will start and end with this…

God is good.

This is just the beginning! The best is yet to come.

We look forward to year 2 (or 1 if you do church planter math) with great expectations.

Its worth it.

If you have any questions regarding our personal experience, I’d love to answer them. Will answer any questions in a later post. Ask away! 🙂

Weekly Update

How to summarize a week that is not yet complete…

The weekend is still ahead of us. I get to hug one of my favorite families and enjoy best friend conversation. This does not happen often enough. I ask God why Alaska and Texas can’t be a little closer to each other. It’s something to do with Texas being awesome and saying everything is bigger in this grand state and Alaska getting mad that they became a state a little later in the game and not being able to coin the phrase first. Something like that. Alaska is bigger but it’s way colder. It’s also home to the Gerald’s (the Haggards and bunch of other AMAZING people) and the Addy Esco. That’s just the way it is.

Our first service at the new location is on the countdown…it’s THIS SUNDAY! 1006 W. Koenig. 5pm! If you are in the Austin area, join us! Having Matt, Jen, Bryce and Abby at this service makes me that much more excited.

Ray and I finally watched Machine Gun Preacher. If you have been a reader of this blog or a friend, you know why this is significant. Around the end of October last year, Ray and I were supposed to go and see it. I was really struggling (all those books, prayers, tweets about serving the poor and those in need…geez!) during that time and was what some would call “emotionally unstable”. I was frustrated with all this stuff going on in my head and my heart and no clue where to start. I was a basket case! Sometimes, I can’t be explained. Prior to leaving I was laying on my son’s bed crying. Ray suggested seeing that movie may be a bad idea at that time. He was right. We got coffee and went and sat by the lake instead. Watching a movie about a man who goes from abusive addict, to man building an orphanage in a war zone would have made me flat out ridiculous.

This movie finally comes out on Red Box! I find the emotional stability (though you may find me questionable) and we watch it. We both cry. What a story! Life isn’t PG and this man’s life was no exception. It wasn’t a pretty story with a guaranteed happy ending. It was raw. I told Katie that if she saw it, Brandn was done for. To which he said, it was too late for that 🙂 The kids in that movie will rip your heart out. I thought it was necessary to document my progress.

I’ve decided that everyone should keep some kind of gratitude list/journal/phone app…whatever. I loved adding this this week. Beauty can be found in the unexpected and when I write it down, I’m reminded of much more. That’s just me…

A few things that make my heart smile this week…

I’ve decided to make this gratitude post mostly in photo form. Not all things can be captured but I love the things that can be 🙂

#1 – His name is Cephas. He is a super hero and a rock star.

 

#2 – The Addy Esco reached a massive goal this week. A text that made me cry.

 

#3 – a sweet wedding celebrated with friends (the ceremony ended and the wind whipped in)

#4 – Ray would say he is grateful for not being asked to be in the picture. He gladly took it 🙂

#5 – the years in youth ministry that brought us to that wedding…and all of the people in that picture.

#6 – Grateful for those crazy teenagers who grew up and now do life and ministry with us.

#7 – 10 birthdays celebrated together

#8 – The Moore’s for introducing us to sushi.

#9 – the amazing surprise that followed dinner! Our team put Ray’s new office area together! Best team ever!!!

 

#10- a coffee cup with a story. It still serves the same reminder that it did when it was given to me over 5yrs ago. Turns out even coffee cups can remind us of how faithful God is. This one does.

 

I’ve argued on a 4 and 6yr old level. Been frustrated, let laundry pile up, nothing is as clean as I would like it to be and for right now, that is ok. It will face me in the morning. I’ve snuggled and read with my kids, timed their swim races and stopped Wii fights.

I’ll leave you with this for today. I must! That laundry is starting to give me the stink eye. It has powers.

What are you grateful for this week? If you had to play a little game of high/low…what would you say?

 

 

 

Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself…

You get a group of girls together and anything can happen. Add in the fact that we are all part of a new church plant and most of us have had the most topsy-turvy year of our lives thus far; we are a perfect storm of faith, emotion and questionable sanity…and we are right where God wants us.

As a women’s community group, we have been going through 7 by Jen Hatmaker. Having read the book before, I knew potentially what I was throwing my friends into. I couldn’t wait. I think some of their husbands were a little scared. We’ll ignore the fact some of us tend to live in momentary extremes. Their fears are valid. I’ll discuss the differing personalities in a moment. There is a reason God assembles us in our differences. I had certain hopes and prayers going into this. God has exceeded every expectation.

To sum up the first three weeks…

Turns out that talking about reduction, simplicity and fasting goes a lot deeper than the stuff you are giving up. Go figure. This has brought up far more than I anticipated. I love that we can wrestle with what we needed to wrestle with together. This has stirred new dreams, fresh vision and a bold call to action that we can no longer just talk about. Have I mentioned tears? Those were NOT planned. Ah, community…Thank you Jesus…that is all.

We sit and laugh cause that is what we do. We sit and cry over what we used to pursue and how God is giving us fresh eyes.

One who tends to live in extremes mentions selling all her stuff and her house and living under a bridge. We don’t all fully believe she is joking and we thank God that she has us for stability sake.

In the middle of week 2, one girl ended up giving a drunk woman at a restaurant a ride. She turned out to be a stripper, a prostitute and a list of other things. Insert a shattered friends heart after dropping this young woman off at a bus station headed for San Antonio. You can read about that here. Lots of tears followed.

One has filled out a home loan application and bawled over World Vision kids support packets…and takes one named Goodluck. Read about that one here.

Different women, different responses.

This week we went over months 3 and 4. We survived Month 3 talking about possessions. Not without someone (who shall remain nameless) ready to clear out their apartment, every closet included. Month 4 is media month. I thought I was good. Then…a big fat THEN…I got to a portion where Jen talks about what she would go back and say to her 2004 self. I had read this part before. This time, I read it like a blubbering idiot. This time I was reading it out loud. I could read it again right now and would likely have the same reaction. Tears!

Each season of our lives plays a part. We learn, we grow, we change. God jacks us up, we live in the tension and He reveals. We act.

We are all starting to see how to start with where we are and with what is in front of us. There is no going back and we are ok with that 🙂

We have a Garage Sale For Orphans coming up at the end of the month (June 30th to be exact). I can’t imagine a better way to end out reading this book. So we are selling our stuff, our friends stuff, strangers stuff…give us your stuff and we’ll sell it. My kids know where toys and clothes are going. They also know why…and that if they leave that toy on the floor one more time.

So, to summarize…this book is great and much like life, it is best lived out in community. Let the good times roll. We are on this crazy train and we are not alone 🙂

Do I Believe a Lie…

I wonder if I have ever fed a lie. Stay with me…

We believe that His grace is sufficient. We know that it covers, allows and because of His blood His grace conquers. Do we believe that it is enough for all the “before”. The before we knew Christ. Do we believe it is enough for our present? The “after and I should know better”. Both cause us to live in a degree of shame because I think that deep down…we believe a lie.

The conversations I’ve had in the last few weeks leave me freaking speechless. There is beauty in these stories that causes me to stand in complete awe of the love of God.

Recent conversations and a recent book have caused me to look deep…at myself and at the grace of God, the grace that has nothing to do with me. In case you were worried, I hope I cleared that one up.

How often do we believe a lie? Even more frightening is this…how often do we feed a lie? Do we set up rules and limitations?

Someone recently said to me something that went like this. “I want to give my life to God but there is something…”

It does catch me off guard when someone actually says “I have to get something right before I give my life to God”.

Since when is that the gospel?

Isn’t the good news that while we were yet sinners, messed up, scared, confused or flat out blind…that He came. He gave. He did it. It is finished. Those three simple words ruin me. We call on the name of the Lord. His love is what leads to change…not our change leading to His love. We seek Him and find Him. The rule isn’t “get your stuff in order, then call on me…then I can fix it when it’s less broken”. Without Him, it’s never less broken. With Him…even the most broken, lost, confused, so thick in sin they can’t see straight, the scared, the envious and the lonely…we find. We find wholeness, direction, restoration, love, purpose, identity, reason and family. We find love. We find that rescue came. We find that that rescue is the greatest and it is sufficient. We find the joy of their salvation. We find that in that love there is a divine trade of beauty for ashes, gladness for mourning.

My prayer for you is that you find.

I’d love to hear your thoughts…

Monday…Monday!

I start off this fine Monday feeling rather encouraged.

Yesterday was a good day. It wasn’t because we had some record breaking attendance at church (because we didn’t). It wasn’t because of something someone said. It wasn’t because of anything I can put my finger on…it just was. I loved it.

I loved my husband’s message. The Laws of Motion – Disruptions. This was out of Acts 19. You can listen here.

Something else happen yesterday…

I went to a church I’ve never been to before for a Sunday night service. I’ve heard about this church for a long time. I read the book that the pastor wrote. I read it 6 weeks before we had our first service as Revive Church. It was a timely, thought provoking and challenging read. I highly recommend! Since I read it, I knew what the lead pastor’s convictions were. I knew what the vision of the church was. I knew what massive efforts this church continues to make to serve the city. I’ve heard of the community that exists in this huge church. Walking in, this was obvious.

I’d like to take a moment to share what struck me.

Ray was on his way back from being gone with some of the guys from our church. So, I went solo. Meaning, I sat by myself. Awkward! I wasn’t going to let it stop me and took the opportunity to be observant.

I sat alone for a little bit, then a couple asked if the chairs beside me were available. They sat for a whole 2 minutes before they introduced themselves and started asking questions. They asked if I had been there before. I said I had heard of it for a while now but had never attended. The girl looked me in the face, eyes wide and said, “this place is legit”. After that, she proceeded to share with me the vision and ministry emphasis of the church. It wasn’t some long list of what they have, it was a list of the passions of the church. Clearly, she shared it. It wasn’t some overbearing conversation. It was refreshing.

Eventually we started talking specifics. They seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say. They shared the excitement as I shared about Revive. For the second time in a week, someone looked at me and said, “every church starts that way” as a way of encouragement. It was a brief but encouraging conversation.

This was not a church staff member. This was a seemingly involved church member who loved her church.

It had me thinking about how people will talk about Revive Church. I can’t escape how clearly she was able to communicate the vision of the church and her genuine joy in being a part of it.  My communication was challenged.

So…dear members of Austin Stone…thank you for your passion! It was exactly what this church planter needed 🙂

Attention Pastors – Groundbreaking Advice!

The title may exaggerate a smidge. Then again, maybe not.

I’ve said something a lot as of lately. It occurred to me that just maybe someone may benefit from this.

I am a church planter…and I am a waitress. That’s right! It is two very different worlds (and what it has taught me deserves its own post). I’ve learned something in the past two years of waiting tables. In regards to living on mission, being intentional, being a part of your community…I have some ground breaking news that I hope you take as advice.

I know my regulars!

I know mine. They know me. It may start out as me remembering what they drink or eat…but our approach towards someone shifts a tiny bit when they become regulars. Think about it. You frequent the same coffee shop, corner store, restaurant, café…whatever it may be, those employees will know you. You never know what can happen.

So, dear pastor, small group leader…whatever title you have and in whatever capacity you serve…

Be Regular!

2011 in Review – Part Deux

I type out “Revive” instead of “Review” every time. It seems only fitting.

It would be a travesty (yes, I said travesty) to not have an entire post dedicated to those who serve alongside us.

Let’s play the “this time last year” game. It’s fun. You know you like it. We were on Christmas break, enjoying the time with family and friends…and wanted to puke at what news we were about to deliver to our pastors, church, youth leaders, students and close friends. You start praying prayers that sound like this –“God, could you just tell them for us so when we tell them it is just confirmation…and let it all be awesome? Ok? Amen”.

Our friends Matt and Catherine (who weren’t even married yet) were preparing to get married and move to be a part of Revive to serve as Executive Pastor and Nursery Director (they are now expecting twins). Our friends Anthony and Tracy had already stepped down from their position at their church so that they could jump right in as our youth pastors (have I mentioned we were their youth leaders…reason #183897 why youth ministry is amazing).

I love these stories.

We had only told a few close friends and family at this point. We were about to go public and going public is scary. There is no more hiding your dreams. No more hiding the vision that has been seared on your heart. It’s all out in the open for everyone to see…and to have opinions.

December 31, 2010 – I was home waiting on my husband to get home from a youth concert trip. I see the following on Facebook from my friend Katie “God use me more this year than last” (read the post here). I wanted to puke again. We were blessed with some amazing youth leaders in Katie and Brandn and Erica and Michael. We were a team…these were close friends y’all. I knew that no matter what happened, it looked like we were about to throw their world upside down. All of that, then I see a “God I surrender” post.

A couple of days later my husband tells our senior pastor…who was amazing (thanks Pastor Todd). The rest was warp speed. Ray told all the church leadership that night. Just before that, he tells Katie, Brandn, Erica and Michael…I was at work and you guessed it, I wanted to puke.

Several weeks later, Katie and B were in our living room and informed us they were moving to Austin. They were selling their house, leaving their entire family, getting new jobs…moving. On our last Sunday, Erica and Michael informed us of the same information. Yes, I did say “can you please repeat that, speaking slower and using smaller words”. I couldn’t believe it.

There have been others that have joined us…each leaves me speechless. Some we have known since they were teenagers (reason #183898 why youth ministry is amazing). We have met new faces. I’m looking forward to more new faces.

This year, these people have dreamed with us, prayed with us, worked hard, made sacrifices, cried, laughed, ran, stuffed envelopes, passed out door hangers…and been introduced to disc golf…have I mentioned prayed and made took huge steps of faith…with us.

Each of them stands with us believing in the purpose of the Church. Each stands believing in the vision for Revive. Each person has a story as to how they got here. Each of them causes gratitude to stir so strong in my heart it leaves me speechless.

I love these people! Come on 2012! The best is yet to come!!!