I Feel So Bad For You

Support Raising. The very words elicit so many other words. Challenging. Difficult. Hard. Lots of waiting. These are all words I have used and heard to describe what support raising is like. I don’t think I’ve ever heard support raising described as beautiful, rewarding, or encouraging. But the longer God has placed us in this season of support raising the more I actually would use those words. You see, as long and difficult as this process has been, I wouldn’t change any of it.

What I have learned and experienced throughout this process would not have happened without the difficulty, the challenge or even hardship and for that, I am so thankful.  I don’t know how many times I prayed that I would be transformed, changed, and stretched by God.  And well, we know that God is a God who listens and answers prayer – so He did. He answered those prayers in amazing ways. And by amazing I mean both beautiful and uncomfortable, sweet and painful, and surprising and frustrating.

One of the surprises to me has been just how much ministry we’ve gotten to do within the support raising process. We are support raising so that we can go to Spain to make disciples of Jesus. As we go, we are called simply to be faithful to the process and share the gospel – we ourselves can’t make someone choose to follow Jesus – that’s God’s part. In the same way, within the process of support raising we also can’t make someone join our partnership team – we are simply called to faithfully share our story and invite people to join with us in what God’s already doing. And what has often times come out of those conversations has been incredibly beautiful. We have had the honor of hearing so many people’s stories. We have been trusted to listen to tender prayer requests, passionate hearts, and sweet stories of what God has done and gifted with an opportunity to respond. We have gotten to affirm, empathize, and celebrate what God has done in and through these wonderful lives! That’s not a bad deal!

Another surprise along this journey has been getting to hear things like “I’m so sorry” or “ this must be so hard” or “I feel so bad for you.” And actually, I love those comments too. I love them because its been an invitation to share from a deeper place the ways I’ve been able to connect with God because of this experience. I have been forced to question how much I actually trust God, which then of course leads to so many other questions and truths about God. Is God really in control of this process? Is God actually going to provide? Is God going to do what He said He would do? Wrestling with God and these questions has given me so many tender moments with God. It has driven me to be completely honest about who I believe God is and what is actually in my heart. Through that process I’ve felt the presence of the Holy Spirit stand with me in my fears and brokenness. He has cared for me, listened to me, and gently pruned my heart along the way, and for that I am so grateful. So when I hear “I’m so sorry” in reference to support raising, I actually am grateful – and not sorry at all and don’t want others to be either. This process has taught me so much. The conversations we’ve had about the support raising process have so often been beautiful invitations to share just how good, faithful, and gracious God is and has been. It’s been hard – for sure – but I wouldn’t trade it – because it’s deepened my faith and understanding of who God is in ways that I would have never imagined.

When hard work doesn’t equal results.

“To go to a place you do not know, you must be led down a path you do not understand.” – John of the Cross

What do you do when all your hard week seems to feel like it leads nowhere? For the past year and half my wife and I have been working tirelessly connecting with churches and individuals sharing our story and vision for ministry in Spain. Few times in life can I remember working so hard round the clock. Partnership development is a long, laborious, and yet beautiful process that requires a monumental amount of time, energy and heart. 

For much of my life things have come easy. School, relationships, jobs – all of these things I’ve been able to do well and with relative ease. For as long as I can remember I had functioned from a place of expectation – do the work and you’ll get the results. And in a way, I liked that – people saw me as successful, able, and a hard worker. I took pride in that.

Naturally as we began the process of support raising for ministry in Spain, that very line of thinking undoubtedly followed me. Surely this would be the same. As long as we work hard, we’ll get the results, and get to Spain. Sure I knew the stats on the length of time it’s taken most missionaries to get over there. Talk to just about any missionary who’s gone to Spain and they’ll tell you – it took FAR longer and was MUCH harder than they’d ever expected just to get there. But I knew, if I do the work, I’ll get the results. 

So we worked. Hard. A couple months in and we saw minimal results. To say we saw nothing would be untrue – but my “do the work and you’ll get the results” had not fully been realized – we’d be doing the work, but not really seeing the results (well, the results I wanted). I began to become frustrated and disappointed. In my mind I figured, we just need to work harder, pray more, be more diligent. That’s what I’d done before. And so that’s what I did again. But this time, it didn’t work.

“Huh?! How could that be? I don’t understand!?!” We’d done all the work – but were still seeing only minimal results. My frustration and disappointment began to turn to anger. 

“God, what the heck?!?! Why is this not working? What are we doing? Are we still supposed to go Spain? I don’t understand!! We’re doing what you told us to do!?!? What are people going to think? I’m failing! I’m trying so hard, but I better try harder. I can do better. I’ll do better.” Questions swirled, frustrations grew, impatience and disappointment clouded a lot of my thoughts. It’s funny how quickly and easily your heart shifts when things don’t go the way YOU thought they would. Confused and even a bit disoriented, I started letting God have it. 

“He’s the one who got us into this mess in the first place right? It’s His fault this isn’t working. I’m doing the work, I’m being ‘faithful.’ God’s not holding up His end of the bargain.” A good friend of mine reminded me of all the passages of Scripture that talk about how when we’re faithful we see God’s faithfulness. It’s all over Scripture, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, the list goes on and on. Great!! That’s exactly what I had needed to hear, I’d been faithful, I’d done the work – so let’s move on.

“Wait…what? They all had to wait a LONG time to see God’s faithfulness?! A. Really. Long. Time.” (Insert the sound of a deflating ballon) The problem for me was I felt as if we didn’t have a long time. We’ve been waiting a long time already. Plus, people are partnering with us as we prepare for Spain – they’re expecting us to get there and get there soon! I figured, God has to know that, so what could possibly be the hold up?

Day after day I’d walk around our neighborhood with our dog Satchmo offering God my prayers of lament. It felt like my prayers were on repeat. I wrestled with God – still uncertain as to why we haven’t already moved and why we’ve not seen the results that we wanted to see. And slowly I began to hear His voice.

God’s Spirit, in such a gentle way, began to reveal my true heart. I wanted God to work like a coin operated machine; I do my work (partnership development) and God would do His (bring the partners onto our team). When I failed to see this play out I quickly turned my attention to what I’d done before – just try more. That had always worked in the past. But funny thing about that line of thinking, it’s all about me.

I was more concerned about how I was being perceived by others rather than paying attention to the ways God was moving and shifting my heart. I was struggling to believe that God truly was in control and knew what He was doing. I began to doubt what God was inviting us into and the truth that God always provides for those He invites into places of ministry. In fact, time and time again God reminded me that He was in control and would provide. And yet, my response tended to always be about what I needed to do get the results.

Partnership development moved my heart and mind to a place of chaos that I wasn’t necessarily wanting to enter into. The way I found myself responding to this chaos began to be a mirror to what was really going on in my heart. The funny thing was, God was using it to let me in on something – how filled I was with my self, and how preoccupied I was with myself – He wanted to take me into a place of humility. And for me, the spiritual pride was saying, “what’s going on? What did I do wrong?” My coin-operated view of God was nothing more than spiritual pride – I was choosing to believe that God was only showing up and “working” because I was working hard. But instead what was really happening was God was taking me on a journey out of His deep love for me. 

God in His gentleness was reminding me, “its always been me who’s been at work. I want to show you places where you don’t love me. Those are the places where I want to love and teach you.” The irony of the season of chaos was that God brought me into it not because of my actions of pride but rather because of His love for me and purposes for me. In other words, this season was, and actually still is, a gift from God. 

Now, I’d love to say that I’ve learned and grown and now view this season we’re in as a gift – always. That’s simply untrue. We’re still hard at work sharing our story and building new partnerships with churches and individuals. But I’m continuing to learn that our results are not indicative of our work ethic or abilities, but rather God’s complete control and timing in moving us to Spain. Some days I fall back on my pride and get angry we’re still not in Spain, since we’ve worked so hard and all 😉 But more days look like us trusting God’s provision and timing and remembering that we are called to be faithful and yet still put our faith in Him for the results. 

And so, we cling to 1 Thessalonians 5:24 – “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.”

Semana Santa

“Penitentes carrying torches in hopes that Jesus will forgive their sins from the previous year”

As we find ourselves in the midst of Holy Week – we’re reminded that all around the world communities stop and reflect on the death and resurrection of Jesus. In Malaga, and Spain, this week is a huge deal – a sacred week – Semana Santa. It is a week filled with processionals and pageantry all meant to remember and reflect upon the suffering of Christ. All throughout Spain these processionals are taking place.

Each afternoon/evening during the week, 17th century floats bearing imagenes of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary, emerge from the old churches and process through the streets for hours and hours until finally snaking their way back to the church from which they came. Costaleros bear the weight of these enormous floats, while penitentes, both large and small, lead and follow the float bearing traditional capirotes and candles. The eerie and sorrowful flamenco hymns, written in minor keys, are played by the Semana Santa bands to set the desparing tone of these processions. The hymns of the band, the wailing singers, and the cries of the pregoneros who bring the story of Jesus’s crucifixion, can be heard from miles away.

For the entire week pageantry, beauty, and grandiosity grips communities in Spain with such wonder and awe. And yet still, when all is said and done, when the week is over, and the costumes return to storage, the floats go back from whence they came – life in Spain returns to normal. Reflections of Christ become nothing but images in the rear view mirror.

As Jenifer and I look forward to and prepare to engage this beautiful context in ministry; this week especially, reminds us of how we all can at times be prone to production and grandeur to the point that we sometimes lose sight of Jesus. This is certainly the case in Spain as pageantry and religion clearly overshadows conviction and actual belief. But, at the same time, I can’t help and think of how easy it is for me to sit comfortably as an evangelical and point the finger toward a culture or cultures whose images convey grand religiosity devoid of Jesus when I myself can at times easily do the same.

As we somberly sit in this holy week and reflect upon the suffering of Christ and at the same time prepare for our celebration of His resurrection –  My prayer is that I/we would not get caught up in all of  our grand plans for celebration and at the end of the day forget Jesus. May we celebrate well and then allow that celebration to set the tone for lives that are lived well in light of that celebration – Jesus suffered and died, was buried, but rose again in triumph so that we too would live resurrection lives, lives impacted, shaped, and directed by His resurrection.

“The walk of penitence in Andalucia”

Lessons From A Construction Site

My son loves “digger trucks.” LOVES them. Our house is stocked with digger truck puzzles, sheets, toys, books. He was a construction man for halloween. He can’t get enough of the digger trucks. Lucky for us (or unlucky for us), our neighborhood has been under construction as long as I can remember. There have been digger trucks in and around our neighborhood for well over a year. And we’ve made sure to visit them. Repeatedly. 

One afternoon, a couple of weeks ago we needed to get our dog some exercise. Getting ready to go, my son asked if he could come with. “Of course,” I said. But before we could get out the door he asked in his two-year old english “go see digger truck?” And before I knew it, we were out the door on the lookout for diggers. 
As we walked, we talked about digger trucks, our neurotic dog, and the things we saw in our neighborhood. As we continued the walk, my son blurted out, “run daddy.” And he took off running, desiring me to chase him. As I started to run he took my hand and we ran together laughing and trotting as fast as his little legs could carry him. Smiles for both of us from ear to ear. We took breaks intermittently, simply to “catch” our breath.
Finally we arrived at those diggers. The best part – they were all still working. Eyes wide, he became overwhelmed with excitement. We stood there watching them come and go for a while, squealing with delight every time the excavator unearthed more road or the digger truck carried dirt across our path. He could have stayed there forever.
We then began the long walk back. But instead of walking, Emerson took my hand again, looking up he asked, “run daddy?” And so we did; we ran most of the way back, hand in hand, laughing and smiling. In the midst of one our sprints through our neighborhood God’s Spirit spoke right to me. 

“This is the same way I enjoy you – in big moments or small…” 
“I take joy in you and the things you love.” 
“I want to run with you, laugh with you, celebrate with you.” 
In that moment of joy with my son, God spoke to the depths of my heart. What a beautiful reminder. I’m thankful for the ways my son continues to teach me about God and how He cares deeply for me, wants the best for me, actually takes joy in me! Something as silly as trotting down the street and laughing with my son became a sweet moment and example of God’s care and love for me.
It’s funny how even the moments so simple and sweet can often be the times God speaks so vividly and lovingly. May my ears and eyes continue to be open to experience God in all moments big or small.

Nervous in the alley

A couple weeks ago I was headed to a CRM staff meeting which was being held over at another teammates house a couple of blocks away. As I walked through our neighborhood that morning, for some reason I made a turn and decided to take the “back” way to his house.

As I began down the alley I instantly felt like I was being watched. I could see a man and a woman digging through the trash up ahead, their hands on the trash; but their eyes were locked on me. A little unnerved I kept walking. As I continued to walk, the man began shouting at me from the distance.

“Partner! Partner!” “Hey partner, how you doing?!”

I could barely understand what he was saying, let alone why he was shouting partner at me. I became a bit unnerved. As I got closer, I recognized their faces. I had seen both of them around Starbucks a couple of times. My experience with the man was of him being very volatile and getting pretty angry quickly.

Even before I could engage them the man turned to his friend and pointed to me, “He’s my partner, this guy’s helped me out.” I was still confused; he turned to me, “You’re my partner, you’ve helped me a couple of times before, thank you! God bless you!”

Stunned, I said, “yeah I’ve seen both of you around, I work at our Starbucks here in the neighborhood.”

“Yeah, that’s where you helped me – thank you for helping me,” he said again. I introduced myself and asked them their names. “I’m Jamaica, and this is my friend Red,” the man replied, extending his hand.

We shook hands and parted ways. “God Bless you brother,” Jamaica said as I walked away.

As I continued walking that morning, I was humbled. I replayed the few interactions I had had with Jamaica and Red at Starbucks in the past over again in my mind and realized how very little I had actually “helped” them. All I had really done before was be nice to them. As our neighborhood’s transient population comes in and out of our store, many people have little or no patience for their requests and lingering. I’ve simply tried to be kind and patient.

That morning as I finally arrived at my meeting I was reminded that even the most minuscule and seemingly insignificant interactions we have with people can have significant kingdom impact.

My Dear Little Faiths, It’s Time to Expect More

So excited to have Jenifer share a piece of what God was doing in her heart through the conference. Here’s one of her reflections from our time at the CRM World Wide Conference:

My head has been spinning with challenges, new ideas, and plenty of questions from our time at the CRM World Wide Conference 2014. One of those challenges came from a short skit that left me going back to those moments over and over again. Maybe it had something to do with the sweet British accent that performed it, but it probably had more to do with what the Holy Spirit had been stirring in my heart for some time. 

‘My dear little faiths, it’s time to expect more,’ was repeated over and over again throughout the skit. 

This skit told the story of another CRM family who had struggled and prayed relentlessly for a long time through a season of trial and challenge, without seeing any change. This season of difficulty continued to drag on and their frustrations began leaking into their prayers. As they continued to pray faithfully and earnestly, God began coming through in miraculous ways. Because of this challenging season, they began to draw near to God in deeper ways than their family had ever before, and they began receiving miraculous responses from God.

‘My dear little faiths, it’s time to expect more.’

This story has caused me to ask more questions about my own expectations of God. What does it mean for me to expect more from God? 

At this point my internal monologue starts getting a little bit out of hand. “ How do I expect more from God without being disappointed? Just how creative can I get with my expectations? And what happens when I ‘try to expect more’ and it doesn’t work?” 

The truth is, I don’t know the answer to these questions. And ultimately, whether my prayers, new expectations or questions see any response big, small or maybe even nothing, it really doesn’t matter. I believe God puts us in the midst of difficulty so that we might draw nearer to Him – He will make himself known, He will respond. But the point isn’t what can I get out of it. The point is Jesus.

No matter what happens or where I end up in this little journey my desire is to experience Jesus. Jesus, who is the Resurrection and the Life. I want to seek and find Jesus, who is the Bread of Life. I want to seek and find Jesus who is Living water and the Light of the World. I want to live and breathe and pray and experience Jesus as though I truly believe who He is from the depths of my soul. I want to see the face of God and to be still with Him.   I want “to know love that surpasses knowledge – that ‘I’ may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. And now to him who is able to immeasurably more than all ‘I’ can ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work in us.” (Ephesians 3:19-20.) I get chills just reading this verse and being reminded of just how powerful our God is. 

This sweet skit ended as though God was talking to me…”I am the light of the world. I am Yahweh. I am the God who does more. Will you be the one who asks?  Will you be the one who imagines? It’s time to expect more.” 

What I expect as I seek God in the midst of my brokenness, my trials, and my life is that I’d experience Jesus more fully than ever before. In ways that are beyond my imagination. When we seek God, we ought to expect to encounter Jesus…every time. 

My dear little faiths, it’s time to expect more.’

Truth and Love

These past couple of months have been pretty crazy around here. We’ve seen a lot of suffering, brokenness, and devastation in the lives of those around us. Fires have destroyed homes and left many to start over completely. Some have lost loved ones; babies, relatives, friends, all without any warning or reason. Others have been hit with financial burdens that seem almost too big to overcome. Addictions have ruined marriages and families. All of these are vivid reminders that things aren’t as they were intended to be. 
If you grew up in the church at all – upon one of these tragedies extending to your immediate family you’ve most likely been inundated with promise upon promise about how God will take care of you, how He’s always there with you, or even how He has a plan for your life even in the midst of this tragedy. When something in someone’s life begins to go wrong these promises come flying out of mouths faster than clay pigeons out of a trap. We drop “promise bombs” all over the pain, hoping to bring comfort to the afflicted and hope to the suffering. 
When someone dies; Tell them it’s part of God’s plan, Jeremiah 29:11 – 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.” Then follow it up with, “I’m praying for you.”
When someone loses their job; tell them about the birds, Matthew 6:26 – “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” Then follow it up with, “I’m praying for you.”
When someone is struggling with just about anything else; tell them God’s always with them, Hebrews 13:5b – “…“I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Then follow it up with, “I’m praying for you.”
I want to first acknowledge the truth and complete veracity of Scripture. I believe that these passages (though most often taken terribly out of context) are completely true and point us to the reliability, faithfulness and deep love our Father has for us.

With that being said, if you’ve been on the receiving end of any of those “promise bombs” you know that in the midst of pain, they often times ring hauntingly hollow. I believe people genuinely want to say something that’ll help. Most of us simply don’t know what to say. But we feel obliged to say something to fill that awkward void that so often surrounds the pain. But I’d argue, saying something along the lines of the aforementioned is about as helpful as a solitary box fan in the middle of a house with no AC in the middle of a heatwave (useless – not that I speak from experience or anything).
Often we think that pointing people back to the truths of Scripture in the midst of devastation and brokenness is helpful. And, in most ways, it absolutely is. The problem arises when we point back to truth and it’s devoid of any real, tangible love. When that happens, our words often serve more as a catharsis for our own selves than actually providing any semblance of encouragement for those in a place of hurt. And when we speak truth apart from real tangible love we are encapsulating well what Warren Wiersbe says, “Truth without love is brutality, and love without truth is hypocrisy.” The two must go together.

You see, rarely can a response make something better; what makes something better is a connection, a relationship. The reason I think that so many times our little words of encouragement ring so hollow is because they come from a place detached from connection and relationship. It’s so much easier for us to simply speak truth from a place of “having it all together” than to step into the hurt with those dealing with it. Walking with people through the hurt is a lot harder than simply offering up a little anecdote. It takes work, it takes risk, it takes being inconvenienced – it takes love.

Jesus was a great example of this, he stepped into those places of pain, walked through it alongside of those suffering. I love John 11, it paints this beautiful picture of death, suffering, and Jesus entering into the pain that was felt by Mary and Martha in the wake of their brother’s death. He felt it with them. He didn’t simply say, “At least you still have your sister,” or “Don’t worry, I work everything out for the good of those who believe in me…” No, he listened, he entered into their pain, and loved them well in it and through it. Jesus’ response was one rooted in connection and relationship.

As we walk with our neighbors, our friends, our family, we are continually reminded at just how hard it is to really love them well and contend for them as Jesus did. But I believe that’s what we’re called to do. Especially as we walk through difficulties and tragedies with them. May our first response to tragedy be one of love, engagement, and walking with those who hurt. It’s when we do that well, that our words of truth have much more power. Truth and love must always go together. 

Get Out Your Pom-Poms

I was not a cheerleader in high school. I know – shocking. But I’m trying to be one today.

I say that because I’ve been reflecting on Romans 16 this past week. Now bear with me – I promise there’s a connection. You know…Romans 16. That chapter that caps off one of the most theologically in depth treatises on the gospel ever, with…a really long list of names…yeah you read that right:

Paul finishes his letter to Romans, perhaps the most celebrated book in the entire Bible with a list of names. 

Now be honest, if you’re like me, when you come to Romans 16 after an incredible time studying the book of Romans; you probably approach it with all the vigor and in-depth study of the previous 15 chapters, right? Yeah me neither.

Most of us look at this list much like a genealogical list in the OT; with about as much vigor and passion as a first grader trying to read the most books in his class to win a trip to the principal’s office for a pizza party (To be fair, no one ever said anything to me about the need for comprehension)…But that’s another story for another time…I digress.

Over the past couple of years I’ve come to appreciate Romans 16 for a lot more than just a list of names. It’s really a testimony of the important role people play in our lives and in our ministries. Spend any time in a church and you know just how many people it takes to make things run well; quite a few actually. The same can be said on the “mission field.” We have countless people praying for us, financially investing in the ministry, and serving alongside of us. People who are all-stars when it comes to ministry! What I appreciate so much about Paul’s list in Romans 16 is that he publicly thanks and praises all of those people who have given their lives to serve God and his Church. More than just a list, I think it’s a great reminder to all of us.

People matter.

A lot. 

We’d do well to be people who affirm, uphold, and encourage those who have gotten us to the places we are today and those who are killing it when it comes to ministry! Honestly I don’t think I necessarily have the spiritual gift of encouragement, but I sure love those who do. I love being encouraged. I love being told I’m doing a great job. Most people do. Most people (not all), love it more than they love telling others the same things. And just because I may not have that gift doesn’t mean I’m off the hook. This week I was reminded once again of how important it is to call out those who are doing it; those who are serving and loving people like Jesus; those who have helped us; who’ve sacrificed for us.

I want need to be like Paul, put on my cheerleader’s outfit, get out my megaphone and be someone’s cheerleader. People need it. I’d encourage you to do the same. Paul clearly valued people. Jesus sure did. I must.

So, who’s on your Romans 16 list? Who are you cheering on? Let them know. Tell them. Tell others about them. 

We used to…

Every Monday night a few of us head over to the neighborhood park to partake in some soccer and volleyball. It’s a ton of fun to not only play, but to play with such consistency that people know – Monday’s 5:30 – we’re there. From day one the aim was two-fold: have fun with friends and connect with our neighbors. Through the consistent week in and week out play we’ve met a lot of people, many of whom have joined us for just a season, some we’ve built friendships with, some we’ve seen once and then never again. But consistently we get a chance to meet our neighbors, and it’s pretty darn great. But what happens when the very thing we’ve set out to do – meet neighbors – begins to work.

Hint: It changes things.

Over the past couple of months we’ve had some new neighbors begin to come with great regularity. Neighbors we rarely get to interact with. Somewhere around December a number of our Latino neighbors began showing up to play volleyball at the same time we play. They’d bring their own net, their own ball, their own people, and be ready to play. All 10-15 of them. It certainly changed some things. Before when neighbors came we could have them jump in and play, our numbers rarely got above 6 on 6, so everyone could play – no problem. But 10-15 extra changes things.

Let me explain. It’s a gift to have an entire segment of our neighborhood that we rarely get the opportunity to connect with show up and invite themselves into our world and vice versa. But with it comes a whole slew of new challenges. We all know living out Kingdom values costs us. In fact, that sort of life always asks us to put others ahead of ourselves – humbly choosing to serve, rather than be served. And yet, we like things to play out the way we want them to, don’t we? I know I sure do. And so when something different happens in ministry or even life than I expected to happen there can be a pretty strong rub. I’ll find myself using the phrase – “we used to” a lot. You see, we used to be able to all play as many games as we’d like without having to rotate in and out. We used to be able to play by our own set of rules. We used to be able to fully understand everything that was said and done on the court. But now we can’t. Inviting our Latino neighbors into our game means I play less; it means I need to be more flexible with the rules we play by; it means I need to pick up a couple more Spanish phrases to participate in small conversations with my neighbors. It means, volleyball really isn’t about me – it’s about getting to know my neighbors. But that’s the funny thing about ministry and life, we get used to things a certain way – we might even say something like “let’s do such and such so that we can better connect with our neighbors;” which is great until it costs us something. But if I’m honest, when it costs me something than I tend to balk a little bit.

What’s so encouraging to me is that our community has done such a great job of welcoming, loving, and being flexible with our new friends. Mondays are now a lot bigger, and even more so a place where we can connect and meet with our neighbors while having fun. Which is exactly what we set out to do! I may not be able to get into as many games, but if my focus is on Kingdom building and not myself – it really doesn’t matter how many games I get to play; because it’s not about me. Whenever I begin to starting saying, “we used to,” it’s probably worth a look into my own heart and motives and remind myself why we’re doing what we’re doing. No matter the ministry, no matter the circumstance, when God starts moving and things start happening, it’s gonna be messy and it’s gonna cost us something – but the payoff is always, always worth it!

2013 A Year In Pictures

It’s crazy to think about all that happened this past year. We are grateful for the ways God moved in our hearts, continually drawing us to closer to Him and giving us greater clarity in our calling. Over the past year many have asked for more pics from the family, so we wanted to share a couple of pics highlighting this past year as a family. Enjoy!

Jenifer and Emerson hiking around Cabrillo National Monument
Hanging out with one of our Spain teammates Charlie
Celebrating the wedding of friends down in Mexico

Jeff and Jenifer at the Al-Hambra during their vision trip in Spain
Jeff stopped at Arches National Park while helping his brother move across country
Getting his art on
NieuCommunities Staff and Apprentices graduation night
A great day at the beach
Commissioning prayer welcoming us on-staff with CRM
Getting ready for Trick-Or-Treating
Pondering the intricacies of life
Opening presents Christmas morning in Chicago
We looked forward with eager anticipation at what God is going to do in our lives this next year. Blessings on a new year! May you experience the grace, peace, and life of God like never before in 2014!