A Quick Update from Malaga.

I was hoping to update a couple more times whilst here in Spain, but our schedule has been full and our time has been filled with joy, excitement, and new experiences. Thank you for praying for us. This trip has been huge for us. God has been at work, that much is clear. We have spent a lot of time praying, exploring Malaga, and having critical conversations that have gone a long way for us in the discernment process. I will update more when we return next week. But until then here are a couple of things that we’ve experienced whilst here.

Overlooking the neighborhood of Pedragalejo in Malaga. This was taken while we prayer walked the neighborhood. This is the neighborhood we could potentially move into.

This is a picture of a vineyard in the Malaga Botanical Gardens. Here we each went our own way, spending time with God praying and reading Scripture while enjoying the beauty all around us.

A cafe in Pedragalejo with Deric Moen and Shaun Sheehan. The coffee here is nice and strong.

La Cala Church in East Malaga. Sunday gathering for one of the very few Protestant churches in the area. 

Our first time in the Mediterranean Sea with Shaun and Maria Sheehan. Beautiful!!

Thanks again for all your prayers. I’ll write much more when we return. We are so thankful to be here and thankful for God’s guidance and wisdom as we seek to follow Him. Malaga is a beautiful city with so much history. We’re thankful for the hospitality of the Moen’s and the many conversations we’ve had with them about this site here and the vision for ministry here in Spain.

Emerson just turned 1!!

This past Friday we celebrated our son Emerson’s 1st birthday. It’s hard to believe that a year has gone by. As a general rule we don’t post too many pics of our son on the ol’ information superhighway, but many have asked that we share some pics of him from this past year. Here are a couple of him from this past year. We are so thankful for our little guy. What an amazing blessing he’s been to our family. God’s taught us a lot from Emerson even in this year and we know there’s much more to learn. Anyways, without further adieu. Here’s a couple pics from his first year of life!

April 5, 2012 

About 3 and half months

His first Christmas!
10 months
11 months – loving his food!

Easter in San Diego

Happy Birthday Cupcake

What a year it’s been! We’re so thankful for this guy. Love him tons! Thanks for keeping all of us in your prayers!!

Things I’ve Learned as a Starbucks Barista

I apologize for the lack of updates here on the ol’ blog…I’ve been sickly for about 3 weeks now and I’m just starting to come out of the fog that was sinus troubles, at any rate, this one’s been…wait for it…”percolating” for some time (sorry, I couldn’t resist).

So this past December I picked up a part time job at Starbucks. I picked up the job for two reasons. One, as we continue to be in the process of raising support, we needed to supplement some of our income from another job of some sorts. And two, I wanted to work in a job that kept me in and connected to our neighborhood. Enter Starbucks…it’s literally two blocks from our house and has been an amazing place to put the things we are learning in our apprenticeship into action. God’s been teaching me quite a bit through this little part time job.

Our neighborhood Starbucks

A couple of months ago, while working an early morning shift, I was asked a question by a co-worker whom I had only ever worked with once or twice before. Out of nowhere, she had said that she and our manager were talking about me and wondering if I meditated. She said, “Jeff do you meditate? Because it seems like you are always calm, cool and collected; no matter what’s going on, you’re pretty laid back.” I was a bit surprised by her question. “No,” I said, “I don’t meditate, but I do pray. And I think what you see in me is Jesus. I’m not always calm, cool and collected, but I do try my best to love people, regardless of what’s happening and how I’m treated, cause that’s what Jesus’ does with me.” “Hmm…,” she responded,”I need to learn from you. I have a hard time dealing with a lot of people.” And just like that the conversation was over. As I’ve reflected on that time, and that question, I’m more and more aware of the reality that people are always watching us. The way I respond to others, the words I use, the actions that I take with others are being watched. My desire is to point those I come in contact with towards Jesus both in words and actions. I am reminded that even when I working, I am called to be on mission for Jesus. To be a follower of Jesus means I am on mission wherever I go; work, home, throughout my neighborhood; I’m to live out the realities of God’s kingdom. I’m so thankful for the opportunity to be able to live this out day to day in the midst of so many different neighbors, friends and coworkers at Starbucks. But it’s not always easy.

One thing that working as a coffee barista teaches you is patience. I’ve been learning through my experiences at Starbucks how to be patient and loving to those who are really difficult. Spend any time in a coffee shop and you know what can happen. That one patron in front of you who can’t decide what they want to order, and so they take their good old sweet time, while the line behind them continues to build all the way to the door. Or that patron who has the craziest and most intricate little drink that you make for them but it doesn’t taste quite right, and so you make it again…and again…until you get it just perfect…and then there’s not even a thank you at the end, they just huff and puff out of there, frustrated that you didn’t get their drink right the first time. Some days can be tough at Starbucks. Some days are filled with non-stop “go-go-go” busyness, others are filled with ungrateful and terribly rude customers, and still others are filled with coworkers who are having bad days that tend to spill over to everyone around them. Those days can often times challenge you. Let’s face it, it’s not always easy to love those who aren’t nice to you, or those who don’t treat you with sincerity and patience. In fact, it’s a lot of those situations where I find myself struggling so hard to show love, patience and kindness. It’s in those situations where it can be difficult to find joy. But what I began to notice on those days is that my joy was tied up in how my work days went. When I had a “good” day, I would find myself in a “good” mood. However when my day was particularly trying I found myself frustrated and would classify it as a “bad” day. At the beginning I found there were a lot of frustrating days replete with frustrating people and situations. I decided to begin praying specifically that I’d find joy day in and day out regardless of what was happening around me. Now, it didn’t necessarily happen over night, but over time I began to see that as I turned my focus on Jesus and my call to serve, love, and show grace as He himself does, my joy shifted, from joy based on circumstances to joy based on Jesus regardless of circumstances. This was a huge shift for me. When I find my joy in Jesus, I am joyful regardless of what’s happening around me. Huge. And so I continue to pray and ask Jesus to be my joy each early morning as I walk to work. And as I do that, God is so faithful to help me find joy sometimes even in the smallest things.

One thing I continue to be reminded of when I interact with my customers, coworkers, and neighbors is that we (ALL OF US) are needy and broken and want to be loved and accepted for who we are. What a joy it is to be in a position to remind people of the reality that they are indeed loved and cared for, even if it’s just with a smile, or a free cup of coffee when they’re having a rough day, or a word of encouragement when they’re struggling to even get words out of their own mouths. I can rejoice with my coworkers when they succeed in their lives and their studies. I can mourn with my coworkers as they lose parents or struggle to find who they are in life. I can pray for my coworkers and regulars as I see them each day. I can work and serve with excellence even when I don’t feel like it, because I’m not just working for my Starbucks manager but for God himself. I can remind others of reasons to find joy even when they struggle to do so themselves. The reality is people matter to God and therefore they must matter to me. Pointing people to Jesus, through words and actions is a joy. When we live with an understanding of the gospel, we will serve selflessly, because that’s what Jesus did. We will love, even when it’s really hard to do so, because that’s what Jesus did. We will point others to God, because that’s what Jesus did. When my life is focused on doing that, I find true joy and peace. What a privilege we have to serve others. I don’t know about you but I need to continually be reminded of my call to be on mission wherever I am at. And I’m thankful for a job that is seemingly inconsequential on our culture’s scale, but has unbelievable opportunities and value on God’s Kingdom scale. Whatever we’re doing, wherever we find ourselves, we represent God to those around us and that’s a big deal!

I’m not gonna lie; getting free coffee is kind of sweet too!!

Jot it down…before it gets lost.

Today I had the opportunity to head over to the Mission Basilica, San Diego’s Misison for some prayer and reflection. Walking the grounds of the Mission is always an amazing time of connecting with God. Few places do I feel the presence of God more palpably. To think that the spaces of that Mission have been filled with prayer for over 250 years blows me away.

As I sat and prayed, I pulled out my journal, a journal I first received back in 2008 by two very dear friends as we were embarking on our first trip (as a couple) abroad. We were headed to Kathmandu. I opened the first page and was blessed to read the note written in it.

In case there is no electronic medium available when your senses are alive with what you are seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting – jot it down in here before it gets lost.

Wow…I teared up a little bit reading that little note. That was July of 2008…It’s amazing to see where God has taken us over the course of these past five years. And yet, I felt the weight of that little note and its importance even today as we experience, sense, and learn new things…we can’t lose them.

I thumbed through some of the entries and came across one that stopped me in my tracks. I felt like I should share it.

8-3-08
I am sitting in some coffee shop in Kathmandu; who would have ever thought. It is amazing to me that six months ago the very idea of Nepal wasn’t even on our radar. God has a funny way of working things out. The things you often least expect, God can use. I must say I do like it here. There are so many things to take in; it is still hard to wrap our heads around what is happening. I am still not sure why God has brought us here. I pray that God continues to unravel that mystery for us. Is he  leading or preparing us for missions? Is he simply calling us to step out of on faith? One thing I do know is that God is faithful and that we are where we are supposed to be. We can rest in that. Kathmandu is very different than home; but that’s ok, it’s a good different. It is so good to see another part of the world. What a joy it has been to meet so many wonderful people. I trust God will use this experience in a mighty way as he already has. The thing is, I can’t help but think that God is continually moving us towards bigger steps of faith. I feel like we will end up on the mission field. I don’t where or when, but I just feel like the next time will be a big step. I have every bit of confidence that God will prepare us and move us where we need to be. It excites me. This kind of work excites me. Building relationships and serving God’s people excites me. Father, move us like we’ve never been moved. May our hearts be tuned to your voice. It is my heart’s desire to serve you and glorify you in all that I do. Amen.

As I sat in the Mission’s sanctuary and reflected on something I’d written five years ago, I was overwhelmed with the reality of how faithful God has been in using our time in Kathmandu to shape the rest of our lives. We are in San Diego right now, because God used that time in our lives. We are headed to Spain for a vision trip in April, because God used that time in our lives. We have answered God’s call for us to be full time missionaries, because of that time. And so here we are in a new season of life, preparing, learning, and seeking after God, knowing He has, and will continue to shape our lives as missionaries for years to come. It’s funny, I feel like I could have written that journal entry today…

God doesn’t waste experiences, even when we have no clue what he’s doing, I am thankful for the reality that God is using our experiences to make us more like Jesus. I need to be reminded of that: what I experience, see, taste, hear, sense, each and every day – God is using.

Spain in the springtime

It’s been a little while since our last post. We were blessed to be able to spend a couple of weeks in Chicago visiting family over the holidays. It truly was a blessing and we were grateful for the opportunity to be able to go home! We returned back to San Diego refreshed and ready to go. This past month we’ve been able to have our neighbors over for dinner, we’ve met and begun to build new relationships with people through the local Starbucks and have begun to get a little clearer picture of what is next for us beyond this apprenticing year.

Almost two years ago now God connected us with a couple: Deric and Amber Moen who had just moved to Spain with CRM. They serve with NieuCommunities and have done so for about 6 years now. Through many skype calls, much prayer, and countless conversations with others we began to sense God leading us to move in to ministry with NieuCommunities and to further explore ministry overseas in Spain with the Moens. It has certainly been a process. For us, moving to San Diego to join the apprenticeship was a first step to see whether ministry with NieuCommunities was what God was leading us into. Over the past 4 months both Jenifer and I have become even more confident than before that NieuCommunities is where we are supposed to be. We are thrilled to be a part of such an exciting ministry that really is making a difference in communities throughout the world for Jesus – and we want to continue to be a part of this ministry long term. We are thankful that God has really confirmed and affirmed these passions in our heart.

Malaga, Spain

And with that, we sense God calling us to take another step towards Spain. This spring (mid April) we will be heading out to Spain on a vision trip. This trip is designed to help us further discern whether or not we are truly supposed to be in Spain. While there we will have time to really see where we would be living and ministering as well as spend time praying, asking questions and dreaming with the Moens. We are very excited to see what God has for us as we pray, go, and explore. It’s been really neat to see God begin to bring a team of people together to birth this new Spain community and we are thrilled to be able to head out there this spring to see if we might join the team.

Would you pray for us as we go?
Here are some specific ways you could pray for us in the next couple of months:

1) Pray for the ability to hear well the Spirit as we try to discern whether this is in fact where we are to be.

2) Pray for the team God is forming, that he would place this team exactly where they need to be. (The Moens along with others are in the process of discerning where they want to officially launch this community. They have been in the outskirts of Malaga for the past two years but are praying and exploring options in other places as well)

3) Pray that while we know we are not going to be in San Diego long term that we’d be faithful to serve our neighbors and community well while we are here.

4) Pray that God would continue to use us in the lives of our new friends and neighbors here in San Diego, pray that they might find Jesus.

Humbled by eggs and sausage

One of the requirements for the apprenticeship that Jenifer and I are apart of here in San Diego is that we go around to some specific places in town and just listen and take in what is happening here. As we go we are to ask ourselves some questions regarding what we are experiencing. We were to ask ourselves:

  • What do you see, smell, and hear in this place?
  • How does walking through this environment make you feel and what are some of the first thoughts and emotions that came to you when you entered this space?
  • How has the story of this place affected the story and identity of San Diego?
  • What kinds of people are here?
  • Do you feel comfortable in this environment?  And Why?
  • What role does this place play in the current narrative of our city?
  • What kind of story is this place telling?

A little over two weeks ago we had the opportunity to visit one of the homeless food kitchens here in San Diego. It is planted in one of the “roughest” parts of town. My initial thought was, “ok, I’ve done this before, we’ll probably just go and serve some food for breakfast.” But then, I was corrected; nope, we’re going to partake in a meal at the kitchen. Needless to say for both Jenifer and I discomfort really set in and we both were kind of nervous about the whole thing. And so, I wanted to share with you Jenifer’s reflection of our experience at God’s Extended Hand:

“What a stretch outside of our comfort zone this was. Overall the experience was both sweet and uncomfortable. We were definitely feeling the apprehension of going to place that “isn’t for us” and intruding on what feels like a completely different culture. After we parked and walked into this new space, we immediately felt out of place and uncertain about how to navigate the room we had just entered.  Whilst stepping deeper into the room, we were soon greeted by friendly faces gushing over Emerson.  We talked babies and the impending arrival of a couple’s son, due just 19 days from now. It was almost a relief to have a conversation so quickly in this new environment.  After we found our seats, we found ourselves sitting among several single men who were all very quiet, but they too also seemed to enjoy watching Emerson. We soon learned that there would be a “service” before breakfast would be served, which gave us even more time to soak in this space. It was a warm and inviting place but it was also clear that there were rules to follow and an order to how this place flowed. There was much prayer, clapping in appreciation both for the cooks and for all that God has done for us, and several ‘Amens’ and ‘Hallelujahs’ shared during the service time. It was evident that Jesus was in this place. The meal was mostly quiet around us but Jeff did have a great conversation with two young men, Cliff and Gary. Gary shared how tolerant and positive San Diego is of the homeless and how he felt responsible to conduct himself well in response to the kindness shown him. Twice the family we had first met when we walked in reached out to take care of me, first making sure I was served a plate since I had a child and second, giving me a baby snack that was being handed out. We felt very blessed and even cared for in the midst of being in such a different place.  Not once were we treated differently or like we didn’t belong. We were welcomed and embraced and our host even invited us back this afternoon.”

It’s funny to me (Jeff) how easily we set up preconceived borders, boundaries, and ideas of the way things are without even an afterthought. What I mean by that is, I myself, and I think “we” had thought that this homeless food kitchen would be a certain way; that we wouldn’t belong there or that we don’t actually “need” anything, or even thinking that we aren’t “like” that group of people. When the reality is we were more accepted and more invited into that space than many other places we often find ourselves in. It reminds me of Colossians 3 and how Paul so well reminds the Colossians and us that in God’s kingdom there are no distinctions – we are all loved, cherished and accepted by the King. God taught us a valuable lesson that day and reminded us just how precious the reality is that we live out each day in this world as image bearers. As image bearers of God himself, we have value and a great deal at that! I need to see people as image bearers, not as rich and poor, nice or mean, Caucasian or Latino. We were accepted as is, no questions asked, the awkwardness was on our part – not theirs. If we are going to live lives on mission it has to start by seeing people as God sees them…no questions asked. That’s a heart issue we need to deal with. How do I see people and how do I love them well? We were really thankful for that humbling experience that Saturday morning at God’s Extended Hand.  

Who the heck is Franklin Pierce?

Franklin Pierce – 14th U.S. President

About a month ago I finished reading a biography on Franklin Pierce. You know – Franklin Pierce – the 14th president of the United States. Franklin Pierce – the cause of the Republican Party’s introduction into the American political landscape. Franklin Pierce – the only president from New Hampshire. The reason the Kansas-Nebraska act came to fruition. Franklin Pierce was historically one of the worst presidents the U.S. has ever had. That’s probably why he’s not ringing a bell. That’s ok, you’re not alone. The reality is that most people have no clue who Franklin Pierce was or why he was important to the political landscape leading up to the Civil War. But he was a Northerner with a Southern sympathies and his decisions regarding slavery and newly admitted states would pave the way for the disintegration of the once lively Whig party and the introduction of the newly staunch opponents of slavery – the Republican party. His poor presidency and the decisions that came out of it, would set the North and South on collision course that would finally be realized some 20 years later. Franklin Pierce, though often forgotten, was an important cog in our nation’s history, especially as it relates to slavery in the U.S..

I write all that not because I want to write about Franklin Pierce, but rather to make a point. History is important. But so often, we (myself included) fail to understand just how much our current situation is shaped by history. History matters a great deal. And whether you enjoy the study of history or not, you’ve been undoubtedly shaped greatly by it.
Learning the history of our place while overlooking downtown San Diego
This past week we (NieuCommunities apprentices) had an awesome opportunity to learn about the history of our place. We spent a couple of hours learning how San Diego came to be the San Diego we know today. We spent time looking at some of the themes that arose from that history. Themes of “Boom and Bust,” “Partnership with Tijuana,” “Manifest Destiny,” “The Spanish Mission Movement” and the “War of Water” just to name a few. And what we found is that every one of those themes plays out one way or another within the narrative of our city and can be identified today. History has impacted this city more than I think we ever could realize. We also looked specifically at the history of our neighborhood. We learned how Golden Hill started as the premiere neighborhood within San Diego and over time changed and morphed into it’s 1990’s name “Heroin Hill” and then the metamorphosis into what San Diego magazine has just named the “Best up-and-coming” neighborhood in San Diego. 
A mural in San Diego’s Chicano Park.
An important and often forgotten part of San Diego’s history.
It’s fascinating to see how history really tells you a lot about a place. As people on mission I wonder how much more of an impact we could have if we were faithfully seeking where we’ve been and how that affects where a place is going. Knowing the history of a place allows you a window of sorts into the victories, pains, and needs of a community. But learning these things takes time. Each one of us is a product of history. Whether it’s the larger narrative of your country or culture’s history, or the the smaller more personal narrative of your life; history matters. History shapes us and history tells us a lot about people. I am thankful for our time learning the history of this place we now call home. I pray that we would be able to minister in light of what has happened in our cities, communities, neighborhoods and lives recognizing that our past shapes us, but doesn’t define us. It is our prayer that through learning the history of our place we would know how to better pray for, care for and invest in our neighbors and neighborhoods.  

Birds and their love for blueberry scones

I’m prone to worry. There I said it. I know I’m not supposed to. Scripture’s pretty clear about worry, instead of worrying I’m supposed to be characterized by peace. But it often feels like there’s a perpetual battle between worry and peace playing out in my head. The truth is I worry about a lot of different things.

Some worries are probably legitimate. Like how good of a father I’ll be to Emerson. Or, if I’m loving my wife like she needs me to. Some are, I know, ridiculous. Like worrying about the 7th game of the Stanley Cup Finals and which Luongo will show up (Ok, now, to be honest, if you’re a Canucks fan, some may argue that’s legitimate). Or, if that sound outside my house at 3 am is a robber trying to break into my storage shed that’s in the back yard (oh, nevermind, it’s just my dog licking himself next to my bed – heart-rate can go down any time now).
Worry for me comes out in a number of different ways. Some are pretty common. I worry about money and finances – having to raise support brought this one into a whole new light for me. If we don’t get all the support we need, how will we pay for things? How will we live? Another common worry – I worry about the future – where is God going to take us? How are we going to get there? What if “such and such” doesn’t happen? The list goes on. For me this is the kind of worry that can induce a lot of stress if I let it, it can fog my ability to think and it can even cause me to lose sight of what’s happening right in front of me. 
Some worries are more subtle. I worry about how I am perceived by others. If I say “this,” what will people think? If I do “that,” will people respect me or think I’m a wreck? This worry can cripple my ability to be vulnerable and honest; it can hinder my ability to invest and engage with people. I can still remember the times I’ve misspoken in the midst of a group of people with vivid detail and even allow that to haunt me as I interact in other settings at times. Shoot, I even struggle to start conversations with people at Starbucks sometimes because I worry about asking the right questions or saying the “right” things. Worry causes me to over think situations. Worry causes me to second guess myself. It causes a lot of anxiety in social situations. I’m insecure – I know, I have issues. It’s something that I’ve wrestled with for a long time. But most of the time it safely plays itself out in the “friendly confines” of my head – so people won’t see my struggles as lucidly. 
Now the whole reason I’m writing this is because it feels like God has really been working on my heart in this area of worry…not to mention, I know I’m not alone. A lot of us have those same insecurities, same worries – both legitimate and crazy. For whatever it’s worth, I process better by writing things down. So here it is…thanks for bearing with me.
Over the past week or so I’ve been spending a lot time at our neighborhood Starbucks. Our Starbucks is literally two blocks from our house – I know, DANGEROUS. It’s been a great place for me to spend reading, praying, and listening. This past week or so, I’ve really been thinking and praying about the transition we’ve made into NieuCommunities. Moving to a new place causes a lot of anxiety for me. I’m a routine person, I function really well when I’m in routine and my surroundings are familiar. Take me out of that rhythm and comfort zone and I really am like the cliché “fish out of water.” Change is hard. And for me, change and transition seem to only magnify my ability to worry about things. I bring up Starbucks because last Friday morning I found myself sitting outside and sipping on my iced coffee reflecting on the various things that were weighing heavily on my mind. As I sat there I was suddenly struck by a tiny little bird right underneath my table. This little bird was just content as can be; pecking away at somebody’s fallen pastry crumb. The bird stood there eating it, not even a little bit concerned about the large ominous being overlooking it peck away at the food. “Ok God, nice work, I needed to see that.” Matthew 6 came rushing to my mind: 
“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?” (Matthew 6:26 ESV)  
Here’s the thing, I’ve quoted this verse probably a gazillion times, reflected on it, shared it with others, but seeing that bird, in those circumstances, on that morning, it struck me differently. I watched that bird for about 5 minutes as it hopped from morsel to morsel eating without a care in the world. “Wish I could function like that.” Funny thing, the Bible speaks pretty well to the reality of God’s faithfulness. I’ve experienced that reality so many times and in so many different ways. The reality that God provides, cares for, intercedes on the behalf of, and really fights for His people plays over and over again throughout the pages of the Bible. I’ve read those stories, I’ve taught those stories, I’ve experienced the truths of those stories. And yet I still struggle. But as I sat there at Starbucks that morning it hit me just how carefree that bird really was. I want that to characterize my life. I know the pat answer is Jesus, but sometimes, if I’m honest, I need help just like anyone else connecting the dots. I need to be reminded of who I am in Christ. I need to be reminded of God’s faithfulness – repeatedly. I need to be reminded that I am living in the midst of a battle, and that the enemy LOVES to play the doubt and worry card. I need to be reminded of Romans 8, of Ephesians 1, of Matthew 6. While watching that bird, I simply began to pray. “Thank you for the reminder, please Lord, keep reminding me.”  
And God in his faithfulness, has continued to remind me of all those realities. I feel like I have been reminded a lot lately. God really has used the community down here to help remind me of those truths. See, that’s the beauty of community – no one has to go it alone. If you are wrestling with something, chances are good that someone else has wrestled with it at some time or is wrestling with it now. This past Sunday evening our community spent time working through Colossians 3 together. We spent time reading through the chapter and then began to really reflect on what this passage tells us about God, about humans, and in light of those realities what does that mean for how I’m to live. Two things kind of connected for me and a couple of others too. Low and behold I was not the only one wrestling with anxiety, there were others. In the middle of Colossians 3 Paul tells the Colossians to be thankful three times in a matter of three verses. Seems like he really wanted the Colossians to be thankful; to give thanks to God. When we as a community began to talk about how this passage should lead us to live I felt God impressing upon my heart the need to be thankful in all circumstances. I need to work on having a thankful heart. I tend to be a glass half-empty kind of guy, or as I like to put it: a realist. But this past Sunday I was convicted. I am quick to look at circumstances in front of me and see the problems, the negatives, the shortcomings and completely fail to see the positives…That’s a problem…shoot, there it is again. At any rate, I recognize that a large part of worry and anxiety stems from not being able to see or at least not acknowledging and reflecting on the areas of God’s provision and faithfulness. I need to work on this. Kind of fitting, seeing as Thanksgiving is a mere two weeks away – perfect time to put this ol’ discipline into action. That evening others began to share tangible ways that they could allow this passage to be lived out in their lives as well. And there it was, there were others, wrestling with anxiety – the battle between worry and peace. As we talked about that for a bit, Philippians 4 came to mind.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7 ESV)

There it was, another verse I’d memorized and repeated a gazillion times. How many times have I said that verse out loud, and forgotten or mumbled over the “with thanksgiving” part. Yep. Probably too many to count. But for some reason that night God reminded me of the connection between God’s peace and the need for a thankful heart. We talked through that a little bit with others who were struggling with the same. I’m thankful for our community. I’m thankful for the people God has connected us with and their love for God, their neighbors and each other. I’m thankful that God has put people in my life to remind me of God’s truth when I need it most. I’m thankful that God hears our prayers and not only listens, but answers them. I’m thankful that God knows exactly what I need when I need it. I needed to be reminded that the answer to anxiety is God’s peace. God’s peace comes through prayer which is presented to God with a thankful heart. And there it is. Prayerful and thankful people are peaceful people. I need to be both.

This next month it is my goal to be more conscientious and thoughtful in proclaiming what I’m thankful for. God has blessed us immensely. God’s faithfulness plays out in our lives on a daily basis. God is teaching us, stretching us and changing us in this new season. For that I am thankful. Even when I struggle to fully realize and understand what God is doing in and around me God’s truth rings in my ears and eyes through others and even through little birds that eat crumbs under tables at Starbucks. For that I am thankful.

A Wise Old Owl

Finally we are settled into our new home! It’s good to be settled. It’s good to be in a place and feel like it is home (well sort of). Pictures are hung. Our fridge no longer looks like a 19 year old college bachelor’s fridge. We even have a kitchen table. The past month or so has really been one of getting settled in and adjusting to our new city. The thing is that even though our physical house is beginning to take shape into a home, we are still very much foreigners to Golden Hill. But there’s something pretty cool about finding your way around in a new place. Slowly we are beginning to get the “feel” of San Diego and Golden Hill. It’s kind of funny, but when you live in a place for a long time you almost begin to take the daily rhythms of your city and neighborhood for granted. It’s easy to look past what happens day in and day out around us because we are so consumed with our lives, our homes, our jobs, our fill-in-the-blank. I feel like the longer we are in a place the easier it is to fall into that pattern if we’re not intentional. Nowhere is this more glaring than in a new place. A new place is full of new sounds, new people, new homes, new weather, new conversations – new everything. It kind of hits you smack dab in the face when you’re used to life a certain way and your “new place” does it a little, or a lot differently. We’ve quickly re-discovered that moving and entering into a new season and a new place in life requires an ability to listen and take in what is happening all around you. If you don’t, you’ll have a hard time connecting with the people around you. Jenifer and I are becoming more and more aware of the need to listen to the world around us and begin to understand what the rhythms of our new neighborhood are telling us about it’s beliefs, it’s values, and where the gospel needs to be brought to bear in its midst. The more we listen, the more we are able to speak grace, truth, and love into our neighbors’ lives.

Praying over one of the apprentices.

About three weeks ago now Jenifer and I began the formal training part of the NieuCommunities Apprenticeship. Each Tuesday night we, along with 10 other apprentices, gather to learn and be trained as leaders who will be sent out as salt and light to cities and neighborhoods all around the world. The apprenticeship has begun by focusing on our need to listen. Here in NieuCommunities we call this taking a “posture” of listening. We are learning more and more each week how very important it is to listen to God and hear from through His Word, through prayer, and through the counsel of others. We are learning about the need to listen and understand how we best connect with God and to be in tune with how He has created us to serve Him. Finally, we are learning how to listen to our neighborhood. This requires us to ask a number of questions. What are the rhythms of life that are happening day in and day out? What are the beliefs and values of those around us? What are the needs and hurts of our community here in Golden Hill. As we listen, it is our hope and prayer that as a community of believers we may be instruments of love, grace, and reconciliation in this neighborhood we call home and in the world around us. That is our prayer right now – that we would listen more and speak less. A little while ago I posted on facebook an old english proverb I had come across right as we began the apprenticeship – how fitting it is for us right now, I felt I should repost it here:

A Wise Old Owl
A wise old owl lived in an oak.
The more he saw, the less he spoke.
The less he spoke, the more he heard.
Why can’t we all be like that wise old bird?

That’s really where we are at right now. Speaking less allows us to learn and to hear what is happening around us. Our neighborhood is telling us a lot about itself each day; we must listen and do so well if we are going to be effective people on mission for God. We are thankful for the reminder of how important it is to learn, understand, and listen to our neighborhood. If we truly desire to see lives transformed by the gospel we should probably know as much about those lives as possible so that we may love well, serve well, and proclaim the glories of God well.

Emerson’s first baseball game!

We are thankful that as we’ve transitioned down here we have had time to simply spend together as a family exploring different areas of San Diego. One thing we got to do recently was bring Emerson to his first baseball game!! We’ve explored beaches, parks, and all the different neighborhoods around the city; it’s been great! We’re thankful for this time together as a family!

Moving forward here are a couple ways you can specifically be praying for us:

  • Pray that we continue to transition well here in San Diego (we are still learning and getting used to living down here).
  • Pray that God would provide all the finances we need for ministry. 
  • Pray that we would be good listeners as we learn from and interact with our neighbors.

Blessings,
-The Otts

Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen

It only took one day – apparently the sun is pretty bright here – too bad we packed the aloe away in the truck. 

It’s good to finally be here in San Diego. In a lot of ways it’s a bit surreal. It was just this past May that we first came down to visit NieuCommunities down here; in June we made the decision to join the apprenticeship for this next year; last week we actually moved. We have officially been down here for a week now. There’s something strangely exciting and terrifying about packing everything up and saying goodbye to dear friends and family – to saying goodbye to your support system, to letting go of your safety net. It’s in those times especially where your faith becomes real. It’s the place where God tends to force you (most of the time uncomfortably so) into a place of responding to the question “do you trust me?” For Jenifer and I that question rang over and over again in our ears. “Do you trust me that I will provide for you?” Do you trust me that I will protect you?” Do you trust me that I will follow through in what I’ve called you to?” 
It’s funny that even in those times of coming face to face with those questions of faith, God’s faithful to provide wisdom, guidance, and encouragement right when you need it. He doesn’t simply just let you wrestle with those questions alone. God speaks through His Word, God speaks through His people, God speaks. Both Jenifer and I were amazed that in the midst of struggle and wrestling with life shaping decisions God was faithful to speak. Over and over again God’s voice quietly nudged, “move forward.” And so we did. And so, here we are.
Our first Sunday gathering
What a crazy week it’s been. As many of you know we didn’t exactly have a place to live as we headed down here. With that little “detail” still in flux we were thrilled to be able to come down and stay with some new friends while we looked for a home. The community here has been such a huge blessing. Not only have they welcomed us with open arms, but they have welcomed us into their homes and lives and have even helped us in our house hunting endeavors. The crazy thing is God provided us with a home within 4 days of being down here! And just like that, God whispered into our hearts, “I didn’t bring you down here to fall on your faces – do you trust me?” It’s amazing that whenever we take steps of faith, God’s faithfulness shines through. We move into our new home on October 1st. In the meantime we have the privilege of staying with one of the families down here. There have graciously opened their home to us while they’re away on vacation. Jenifer and I have already been able to join with the community in our Sunday gathering times which are great times of worship through song and teaching as well as fellowship.

The next two weeks really are adjustment weeks for us. Getting used to living down here, exploring some areas of San Diego, taking a deep breath and enjoying the rest before the apprenticeship actually begins and finding good coffee in San Diego (which I liken to trying to find Waldo in the midst of all the fake Waldo’s…it’s not so easy).
We are thankful for your prayers and encouragement. Please continue to pray for us as we enter into the apprenticeship at the end of the month.
Here are some specific ways you can be praying for us:
Pray that we would get settled into our new home quickly come October.
Pray that God would continue to provide the financial support that we need.
Pray that we would be connected quickly to our community and be able to build relationships with those who are far from Jesus.
Peace, Love and I guess Baz Luhrmann was right, we really should have used the sunscreen.
-The Otts