Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Be Still

Yesterday morning as we got up and were getting ready to drive to NC, Sophie had told my mom that her stomach hurt.  She had told me Sunday night after dinner that her stomach hurt, but I thought it was because she had three helpings of dinner.  She never eats that much, but after spending most of the afternoon in the pool, I thought she was hungry.  A little while later, she was outside running around, so I thought she was feeling better. 

When I heard that her stomach was still hurting, I just wanted to cry.  We had already delayed our trip a day because Kyrie had been running a high fever.  Her fever had come down enough and her spunky personality had come back, so I figured she was well enough to travel.  Instead of making a decision in that moment, I decided that I was going to go take a shower and just talk with God about what I should do.

As I was taking my shower, I asked God why all this was happening.  I shared that we were just trying to get to VA so we could get settled before we start the ministry He was calling us to (like He needed for me to tell Him that!! Hahaha!!) And then I asked Him for some insight because I didn't want to travel if He didn't want me to.  Then as I waited, I heard the word "personality."  I stood puzzled and asked, "Personality? What does that mean?"  And in that moment a flood of memories came back from my childhood days of moving because my dad was in the Air Force.  I remembered getting anxious before a move...I remembered getting sad leaving the few friends I had made...I remembered the stomachaches.  I thanked the Lord for revealing this information to me, and I finished getting ready so I could go talk with Sophie.

I called her into my bedroom and asked her if she thought her stomach hurt because she was sick or if something else was bothering her to make her stomach hurt.  The next thing I knew, she was cuddled next to me crying.  I just held her and rubbed her back.  After she calmed down a bit, she told me that she was sad to be leaving her Awana friends...nobody specific, but just being at Awana with her friends.  Since we are both introverts, I totally could relate to what she was feeling.  I shared with her about the difference between an extrovert and an introvert.  I explained to her that we are both introverts.  I related to her about how I felt when I was her age and had to move.  And then, we prayed.  We prayed for God to bring peace to her heart.  We prayed for safe travels.  We prayed for that special friend that God already knows about just for Sophie.

I thanked God for that moment because being an introvert I saw the amazing-ness of  the fact that she shared with me something so personal.  I was thankful because she trusted me enough to share her worries.  I was thankful because we had this opportunity to bond as mother and daughter.

I share this to ask you for prayers for Sophie...and Kyrie (largely, she is having a hard time in new situations).  To pray that God will send that special friend for them.  I also share to encourage you to go before God with anything and everything.  He STILL speaks to us.  He STILL gives us insight into situations.  He STILL wants to lead and guide our every step and decision.  He STILL wants to walk with us through each and every moment of every day.  All we have to do is BE STILL.

This morning as I was waiting for the kids to get up, I came across this verse!  How AMAZING is He?!?!

 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

There and Back Again: A Greenwood Tale

3.9.16

As I sit here typing this blog, I stand in amazement...

We started this journey almost two years ago...to the day!  The last two years, have been full of tears, laughter, healing and fine tuning.  There have been many times over the last two years when we felt like Moses wandering in the desert. One day after sharing my heart with a dear friend, she sent me the following quote.  Talk about getting a new perspective on God's timing!! So grab a cup of coffee or an ice tea...yes, this blog is a bit lengthy, but remember this is the two year journey we have been on!

  

The end of March 2014, the Lord began this two-year journey.  We found out Chris was not chosen to be the new senior pastor at the church we had been serving at for almost six years. Before finding out the search committee's decision, Chris and I spent time praying and came to the decision that if we weren't chosen to be the new senior pastor that the Lord had something different for us to do.  We both felt the Lord wanted us to leave.  As we told our former church we would be leaving, there was a lot uncertainty.  Chris had been applying and applying and applying some more to churches all over the country.  By May, we felt like we would be moving. There were two churches that we flew out to visit because we had made it to the final two.  We thought surely one of these churches would extend a call and it would be a smooth transition.  In our minds, we thought this would be an amazing testimony because churches normally don't move this fast in the search process. (The typically search process lasts anywhere from 6-24 months!)  But both churches came back with a no.  It wasn't just a no because you weren't the right fit.  It was a no, but we wanted to say yes.  We like how God has gifted you to do ministry, we like you as a person, but we just feel like we need to say no because God has something else for you.  

As the weeks passed, it was getting  harder and harder for me to continue to be at our former church. I wasn't upset that we weren't chosen, but I was hurt by the way the process was handled.  The Lord used the process of Chris not being selected as the new senior pastor to work on some areas in my life.  At the time, I didn't see it as a good thing, but today, as I see how far the Lord has brought me and see the work that He has done in my life, the only thing I can do is praise Him for using that event to continue to mold me into who He wants me to be.  But by the middle of the summer, Chris and I knew that we needed to leave...for my well being.  I was not in a good place emotionally or spiritually.  I was afraid for Chris to give up his full-time paying job with benefits as I saw four sets of eyes looking up at me, but we both knew we needed to go because my husband needed his wife and our children needed their mom.

As we were making plans to move to NC,  I was reminded of these verses in Exodus 14:13-14

Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance
 the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

We needed to step out and trust the Lord.  We needed to put fear aside and stand firm in the Lord and trust the journey He was taking us on.  We needed to trust that the Lord would fight for us by simply being still and not rushing the process...and for someone like me, not having a plan was a real struggle for me.  

At the end of July/beginning of August 2014, we let our former church know we would be moving to NC to live with his dad and (step) mom to wait for our next call.  We had no idea what we were going to do.  We were very thankful our former church gave us a monthly support to pay our regular bills, but Chris still needed a job to pay for  gas, food and all the things that come along with having four children.  Chris began searching for a job in NC.  Before we left and out of the blue, Chris was contacted by one of our good friends who had started a church in the town we were going to in NC wanting to know if he would like to come work with the youth part-part time while we waited for the Lord to show us our next call.  God had provided.  

At the end of August 2014, we began our desert wandering as we packed up the moving truck.  We needed to trust the Lord, and we had to cling to the verse, Exodus 13:21,


"And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way,
 and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night."

Shortly after moving to NC, I began meeting with a dear lady who began to counsel me.  

When we left our former church, I was broken. Again, it wasn't because we weren't chosen to be the new senior pastor, it was the process we went through that brought a lot of the hurt.  It hurt because we had spent almost six years pouring into these people only to be told at a mall food court that in three days they were going to let the church know they had picked someone else.  It hurt because before we left, we sat down with the search committee to share our hurt and were told that they didn't believe they could have done things any differently.   

As I met with this lady, we worked through the book "Total Forgiveness" by R.T. Kendall.  She poured into me knowing I needed to forgive because if I didn't Satan would have a field day with me.  I knew in my heart of hearts she was right, but I didn't want to forgive.  I wanted to be justified.  I wanted someone to say I had EVERY right to be hurt and angry.  But she didn't.  Instead she challenged me to forgive.  I am thankful she saw something inside of me I didn't see at the time...that I would be able to reach a place of forgiveness.  

Chris continued to apply for positions at churches.  He was looking at all kinds of associate pastor positions.  There was a part of me, as Chris was applying to these positions, that wasn't sure if I wanted to be a pastor's wife again.  Even though I was working through the process of forgiving, I didn't know if I was willing to put myself out there to possibly be hurt again.  Again, Chris would get down to the final two or three in the interview process to be told no.  Like before, it wasn't a no because you aren't the right person.  It was we want to say yes, but when we do the final vote we just can't say yes. The Lord is telling us to say no because we feel like He has something else for you.  So, at this point, we decided that maybe we needed to consider all kinds of options. Chris started to have conversations about going on the mission field, doing a church plant, and even looking at senior pastor positions (side note:  Chris NEVER desired to be a senior pastor, so this was a BIG stretch for him!)  After a few conversations, we felt like the mission field and church plant needed to be crossed off.  Chris then began applying to senior pastor positions.  Again, we would make it to the finals.  Again, we heard the same answers of wanting to say yes, but just felt like the Lord wanted them to say no because He had something else for Chris to do.

So, in the fall of 2014, Chris was asked three times in one week if he had thought about starting a discipleship ministry.  Chris had thought about it in the past, but always came back with a no because he didn't want to be one more ministry that created a program for the church to do.  But after the third time being asked, he came to me and said he needed 20 minutes to go sit at the computer.  When  he came back, he had typed up what a discipleship ministry would look if he started one.  When he showed it to me, it was exciting...but it also looked overwhelming AND impossible.  He asked me if I thought he was crazy, and I told him no but that it fit God perfectly....asking us to do something that seemed impossible.  At that point, we decided that we would no longer apply to churches.  We were in the process with a few churches and decided that we would see those through...just in case God wanted to call us to one of these churches.

By January 2015, we had filed for Mathetes 268 Ministries to be an official ministry.  We had LOTS of conversations with people who thought the ministry was a great idea, but who also thought it would be impossible for it to actually happen.  Shortly after we received paperwork that Mathetes 268 was official, we got a phone call from an Elder at a church in VA wanting to know if we were in the process with any churches.  (We had a relationship with this elder because Chris discipled his (step) son, and I discipled his daughter-in-law.  Chris had also preached at this church while their pastor was on vacation.)  He told us the pastor was getting ready to retire and wanted to know if Chris would consider applying for the position.  Chris and I took a couple of days and felt like we needed to apply.  In our minds, we felt like maybe the Lord would call Chris to this church so he could implement the ministry plan he had written down for Mathetes 268.  As we waited for the search committee to go through the process, Chris continued fine tuning Mathetes 268, but we didn't do anything to launch the ministry.  

There was one point in late winter, that I felt like the Lord had restored me.  Up to this point, I still had hesitations about being a pastor's wife again.  But as I sat one afternoon discipling a lady, we read Jeremiah 29:11 because she needed some encouragement.


"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, 
to give you a future and a hope."

But as I was reading, the Spirit told me to read a little further.

"Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.  You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile."
-Jeremiah 29:12-14 

As I read these verses, I began to tear up.  I felt like the Lord had brought tremendous healing to my heart.  I knew the Lord was restoring me. I realized He had driven us out of ministry so I could have a season of healing.  I knew the Lord was returning me to a place from which He had sent me into exile.  In that moment, He was giving me a desire to go back into ministry and even be a pastor's wife again.  


We continued on with life as we waited for the search committee in VA to do their thing.  Easter 2015 was a very hard day for Chris.  He was struggling with the fact that he may never be a pastor at a church again.  But as the days went on, Chris felt like he needed to surrender this area to the Lord.  He got to the point where he knew he would be OK if the Lord never called him to be a pastor at a church again.  Things were still moving along with the church in VA and in August 2015, they came to NC to hear Chris preach and to have an in-person interview.  The weekend went really well.  Again, we were in the final three.  As we waited some more, Chris and I felt like if we didn't get called to the church in VA, we needed to go ahead and move to GA and officially launch Mathetes 268. The beginning of September we got an email saying that we were not chosen.  Chris called the elder that we are friends with and found out more of what happened.  Again, going into the vote we were the strong contender. But when the search committee voted they unanimously voted for the another guy.  The elder was shocked because even though on the way to the church he felt the Lord telling him to vote for another person, he knew there were quite a few Greenwood fans, so he thought his vote wouldn't make a difference.  


Chris and I took a day to process the news that we weren't going to be called to the church in VA.  Chris asked me if we should really close the door of being a pastor/pastor's wife.  I told him if we kept applying then I felt like we would be running from what the Lord wanted us to do and at some point it would cross the line of disobedience.  We had  a day of grieving as we realized the Lord was closing the door of being a pastor and a pastor's wife for a season.  We didn't know how long the season would be, but we knew we had been called to go and start this ministry.  Within the next couple of days, we began the process of making plans to move to GA. 

Again Exodus 13:21 became a verse we clung to.  


"And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way,
 and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night."

We both knew the Lord was going to need to go before us if Mathetes 268 was going to be used to further His kingdom work.  We knew it was risky because it was asking churches to re-think the way they have been running their church.  We knew it was going to be hard for pastors to let another pastor consult them on how to do church differently.  But Chris and I were given this call, and we knew we needed to go.  We also knew that we needed the Lord to follow behind us because the spiritual warfare was very real.  We needed His protection.  One of the first things we did as we launched Mathetes 268 was start a prayer team.  I am so thankful for each person that has committed to pray for His ministry and our family because it has gotten us through some very real spiritual attacks!  

Through the month of September, I was helping a friend decorate for her wedding, so that kept me busy.  Chris continued to work hard getting things lined up for us to move.  At the end of September, we went to my friend's wedding and the next day my parents took all the Hooties with them to GA.  Chris and I took two days to pack up an initial load of stuff to take to GA to move in with my parents.  By October, we had raised a considerable amount of funds to allow us to rent our own place...it had been over a year since we had our own place.  We kept finding places that were priced well and had a safe location, but we were always the second person in line waiting for it.  I was starting to get frustrated because we would find a place and then find out that someone else had already applied for it.  Towards the end of October, we found the place that we are currently renting.  There were still people living in it, so we couldn't see it, but we let the rental company know we were interested in it.  The first day the house was available for showing, Chris was going out of town to a meeting.  I was so adamant about being the first person to see the place that I asked him to go get the key on his way out of town, so nobody else could look at it.  Being the wonderful hubby that he is, he swung by the office and got the key.  When he got home that afternoon, he picked me up so we could go look at the place.  He got a phone call on the way there, so he stayed in the car to finish his conversation while I went inside.  When I walked in, everything on our checklist was being checked off.  Chris finally comes in the front door and before even looking at the house he said, "This is where we are going to live." He told me as he was sitting in the driveway, he just felt like the Lord was saying this is where we needed to be.  So, we headed back to the rental agency and filled out the application.  Within a couple of days, we heard that we had been approved.  We were able to move into our place in November.  We quickly got settled and started life in our new home.  


We were going on with our life.  Spending time with my family, homeschooling, finding a church to get involved in, and kids were enjoying the activities they were involved in. In November, Chris was meeting with a retired pastor who mentors pastors and now works within the denominationDuring that conversation, he asked Chris if he had from any churches looking for a pastor of discipleship.  Chris thought it was an odd question, but didn't think much of it.  In December, Chris was meeting with this pastor and again he asked if Chris had heard from any churches.  Around the middle of December 2015, Chris received an email from the pastor of a church in VA. They were searching for a new Associate Pastor of Discipleship and the retired pastor friend had given him Chris' name. He wanted to know if Chris was open to considering an Associate Pastor call. Chris told him he was open to considering anything the Lord might offer and asked the pastor if he knew about the ministry the Lord had called us to start.  The pastor said he was fully aware of Mathetes 268 Ministries and had taken time to read through our website. Chris then asked for their Church Information Form (CIF). The pastor told Chris they were finalizing it and would send it as soon as it was done.  

We received the CIF  in mid-January. Chris and I took some time to read over the CIF and felt like we had a green light to consider this position. Honestly, we weren't expecting a result any different than we had received before. The next weekend Chris went to presbytery in Florence, SC. While he was there, he spent about an hour and a half talking with the pastor. When Chris called me that night to tell me about the conversation, I could tell he was excited!  He said he wished I could have been there to listen in because I would have loved everything that the pastor had to say.  He said that I would have been amazed. Long story short it just all made sense to him...and from what he shared with me, it made sense to me, too! As we were talking, we both felt that if the Lord would call us to this church that the church would have to be very unique because we knew Mathetes 268 would need to go with us. After Chris got home, we took a few days to listen and hear if the Lord was asking us to simply say no thank you and close the door.   

We did not hear that from the Lord.  
What Chris did hear from the Lord was, "I'm not saying it will happen, but you won't be hurt."
I know that sounds like an interesting thing to hear from the Lord, but it made perfect sense to us. Going through the search process with a church is not an easy thing. Many churches don't handle hearts and lives very well in the process. We believed the pastor understood that and was committed to doing it the right way.
So, the following Tuesday, Chris spoke with the pastor and told him we were ready to explore what a call to the church might look like. He was very excited and scheduled a Face Time interview for the next Wednesday between us and the current pastors. He also told us the next step would be to fly up to VA and let us have some time to see the area, worship with the church, meet the Session, and talk to as many people as we would like.
The Face Time chat with the pastor and  the assistant pastor went really well. Chris wasn't sure about the dynamic with the assistant pastor since he had never met him, but within the first few minutes we knew they would be able to minister together. The conversation between the four of us lasted almost 2 hours! When we got off, we felt even more that this church was a very unique and fully understood our heart for discipleship and the ministry God had called us to start. The next day, Chris got an email to begin lining up a weekend trip to fly to VA. We flew up the last weekend of February while the Hooties stayed in GA with my mom and dad.  They had a blast spending a long weekend with them, getting to do all the fun things grandparents let grandchildren do.  
 
We arrived in VA on the last Friday of February around lunch time.  Our journey began by being met at the airport by the pastor, his wife, and one of his sons. After getting our luggage and rental car, we met some of the church staff for lunch. We were made to feel so welcome that it was easy to be ourselves. After lunch, we went on a tour of the church, and then we checked in to a beautiful location and prepared for dinner with a few Elders and their wives. We didn’t know what to expect but were blown away with not just great food but even greater conversation.  Once again, we were made to feel so  welcomed that it was easy to be ourselves.

The next day we had a relaxing morning before meeting with the Session and pastors. Again, we didn’t know what to expect and were wonderfully surprised to spend the morning just sharing who we are and the journey we have been on with a very kind group of people. During our time with the Session, I realized we hadn't really talked much about ministry stuff.  Towards the end of our time, the pastor informed us they hadn't asked many ministry related questions because they had all that information in Chris' resume.  They really wanted to know who we were as a couple, as parents, and as individuals.  

Saturday afternoon, we drove around trying to get a feel for the area. We were able to identify some things for possible future plans and felt much better about how to move forward...if we were called.  Later that afternoon, we were able to spend around an hour with the assistant pastor and his wife. It was great to hear some of their story and share some of ours. After our time with them, they drove us out to the pastor's house and we had dinner with all of the pastoral staff. It was a great time to just relax and be with the pastoral staff.
               
Finally, we concluded our trip by worshiping Sunday morning. Before worship, we had a chance to get to know the children's director.  We thoroughly enjoyed our time chatting with her and seeing where our children could potentially go to learn about Jesus. The worship service was a wonderful blessing!! We were encouraged by the freedom people had to worship as they were led and the faithfulness to the proclamation of the Word of God. The people were kind and friendly...once again, we felt welcomed. 

As we were saying our good-byes, we were told that the Session would be meeting on March 8th to make their decision.  Needless to say, we were on pins and needles as we waited.  BUT I must say we waited so much better this time than we had in the past.  The 8th was very hard because we had been here so many times before...everything felt really positive...we were a strong candidate...but in the end the Lord said, "No."  We wanted to be excited about possibly being in VA, but at the same time we FULLY realized that we could hear a no.  That morning as I was doing our morning devotional with the Hootie Hoos, the Lord lead me to these verses: 

"Do not worry about anything.  Instead, tell God about everything.  Ask and pray.  Give thanks to him. Then God's peace will watch over your hearts and your minds because you belong to Christ Jesus.  God's peace can never be completely understood... My God will meet all your needs.  He will meet them in keeping with his wonderful riches that come to you because you belong to Christ Jesus.
- Ephesians 4: 6-7; 19 (NIrV)

As I read these verses, I knew no matter what the decision was that we would be OK and that we would be EXACTLY where God wanted us to be...and ultimately that was our GREATEST desire.   Throughout the day, I kept coming back to these verses...sharing with God our desire to be in VA, but also praying that my greatest desire was to minister where He could use us the most.  I spent time thanking Him for all that we had learned over the last couple of years.  I kept praying and received a peace I hadn't felt while going through the search process with a church.  And just to be clear, I was still anxious while waiting for the news, but I had a peace that whatever the decision it was the BEST decision.  

The pastor had texted Chris to tell him that he would contact us on Wednesday to let us know the decision.  The Session of the church met that night to make their decision on whether or not we were a good fit for the position. Every time Chris' phone went off, we got a little anxious in hopes that the pastor decided to let us know that night.  As we were getting off Face Time with a couple we disciple, Chris' phone went off.  I honestly thought it was our friends pranking us.  Chris said it was the pastor, and I thought he was pranking me, but it really was the pastor texting Chris a quick note to let him know it was a unanimous YES vote with no red flags raised and everyone was excited 

As Chris and I read the text, there were a flood of emotions, but the most prominent emotion was thankfulness!!  We were thankful for this gift that He saw worthy of entrusting us with.  So, in the next few weeks, we will be transitioning our family to VA Beach to serve at Kempsville Presbyterian Church.  As we serve at KPC, Mathetes 268 Ministries will continue with some modifications.  We are excited to go on this journey with a church that is as excited about discipleship as we are...not to just the local church, but to His Church.  

"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. 
And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
-Matthew 28:19-20