The Tower of Babel and My Own Unmaking

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Last year at this time, I was sitting in a new home in an unfamiliar town surrounded by piles of boxes and probably trying to remember where I put something (or everything).

They say hindsight is 20/20…and while there’s still much about the past few years that may continue to be confusing, God has graciously allowed us to start to make sense of much of the chaos and change and challenges of the past few years…and all I can see is GRACE.  Perhaps a grace that was disguised for a time – as suffering or injustice or disappointment or hurt or need – but a grace uncovered, unwrapped, and unpacked like the boxes that left our moving truck last November, revealing the valuable goods inside.

As I reflect over the past few years, my heart jumps at the evidence of God’s mercy and kindness, even and especially in the midst of disappointment and difficulty.  I feel as though my Father faithfully continues the process of unmaking my kingdom of me, and though sometimes painful, I am so grateful for it.

During the late winter/early spring of 2014, it became apparent that some major decisions needed to be made about the house we lived it.  It belonged to the church my husband was ministering at, and though we knew that it was probably a temporary housing solution, it became our home for 6 years and the place we started a family.  Despite all its quirks and imperfections, it was what we knew, really all we knew, and we were grateful for it.  But the living room ceiling was beginning to sag, the windows needed replaced, the bathroom leaked, and the heating system broke.  The reality of those circumstances meant that either the church would have to sink a LOT of money into the house…OR they would tear it down and we would need to find a different place to live.  At that point, I did NOT want to move into a different house.  I begged God to let us stay.  The irony was that even though the house itself was insecure and unsafe and uncomfortable, to me leaving that house is what shook my security and comfort.

Packing up and leaving?  So much work.

Looking for a new house?  So overwhelming.

Buying our own home?  So. much. money.

In the midst of all of that we also had begun to question our longevity in our ministry there.  Though we had cherished our time there and had fallen in love with the people and students we were privileged to serve, there were some yucky circumstances that left us reeling, confused, and uncertain about the future.  To be honest, it hurt and felt unfair and just plain scary.  It certainly wasn’t in our plans.  We had felt confident and competent in our ministry there.  We felt good at our ministry there.  We liked our life there.  Though it certainly wasn’t easy, it was familiar and comfortable and safe.

But we also were feeling God was stirring in us something new.  Something different.  Something unknown.  And now, looking back, we can see Him using all of those things to push us out of the nest…while still being sheltered under His wings.

We really, really wanted to stay.  But He said “go”.

The choosing to go felt uncomfortable.  It did hurt and it was scary.  But we needed to – we WANTED TO obey.

And if we hadn’t been met with those yucky circumstances, I wonder if we would have.  I wonder what we would have missed.

This past weekend marked the one year anniversary of our move across the state, and Adam just happened to be preaching on Genesis 11 and the Tower of Babel, as he’s been preaching through the Bible’s grand story of redemption.  I was struck with what he drew out of verse 1-4.

1 Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. 2 And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3 And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, aand bitumen for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”

So what’s the big deal?  They were just using the resources and abilities that God had given them to make something pretty great, right?  Why did God have to go shut it down and spread them out?

You see, God had told them back in Genesis 9, after the flood, to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth”.  They got the “be fruitful and multiply” part down, but they didn’t “fill the earth”.  Instead, they found a nice spot, settled there, and made themselves not only good and comfortable, but also good and proud of themselves.  Building the tower revealed not only their self-suffiency and pride, but also their defiance in trying to keep themselves from being spread out over the earth.  John Piper has said that their two sins were a love of praise (so you crave to make a name for yourself) and the love of security (so you build a city and not take the risks that come with filling the earth).

So God’s confusing of the people, frustrating their plans, and dispersing them across the earth was not a jerk move, but actually the exact opposite.  It was a beautiful act of kindness, mercy, and grace.  And that same God that is in the business of rescuing us from our own little kingdoms is the same God that, thousands of years later, is still in the process of graciously rescuing ME.

THIS is the grace of God – to not leave us in the mess of sin, false securities, and our love for things that will never truly satisfy.  To rescue us from ourselves.

“We all want our will to be done.  We all know what we want, when we want it, how we want it, where we want it, and who we want to deliver it.  So God give us His grace.  Is His grace given to give you what you need to be your own king?  Is His grace bestowed on you so your little kingdom purposes will happen?  No, God’s grace dethrones you from your little kingdom and welcomes you to a much better kingdom than you could ever want for yourself.  But in this kingdom, you will never be at the center, it will never be all about you, and you will never rule, because in this kingdom, all things are for God and God alone.”

Paul Tripp

I thought back through the past few years.  The frustration and confusion.  The packing up and leaving.  The going and starting new.  All done to keep me from staying when He asks me to move.  To push me to risk in order to trust.  To crush my man-made attempts at building for my own security and praise.  To give me the grace to love His Kingdom more than my own.

This past year in a new place has been FULL of grateful excitement and contented fulfillment and intense joy…but it has also forced me to stand face to face with my own insecurity and incompetency and insufficiency.  And though often painful, it’s all been part of God’s beautiful, continual process of unmaking me.

Tearing down my misplaced security.

Questioning my misplaced identity.

Confusing my self-sufficiency.

Thwarting my plans and autonomy.

Crushing my pride and idolatry.

Losing myself and giving me Himself.

My identity given at the cross.

My approval and value fixed.

My security protected.

His perfect sufficiency in place of my lame attempts at being enough.  

So what if our biggest disappointments and devastated plans and greatest sorrows are all part of our loving Father’s gifts of satisfying grace?

Taking what we thought was best and giving us what’s even better…  

more of HIMSELF.

And so now, we allow Him to rebuild.  Continuing this chapter of our lives in a home we love in a town we love among people and a church family we have come to dearly love.  But my prayer is that rather than “making a name for ourselves” (Genesis 11:4), in our unmaking we will make HIS name great.

“Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!”

– Psalm 115:1

“This is where the walls gave way
This is demolition day
All the debris, and all this dust
What is left of what once was
Sorting through what goes and what should stay

Every stone I laid for You
As if You had asked me to
A monument to Holy things
Empty talk and circling
Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do

What happens now
When all I’ve made is torn down
What happens next
When all of You, is all that’s left

This is the unmaking
The beauty in the breaking
Had to lose myself
To find out who You are
Before each beginning
There must be an ending
Sitting in the rubble
I can see the stars
This is the unmaking

The longer and the tighter that we hold
Only makes it harder to let go
But love will not stay locked inside
A steeple or a tower high
Only when we’re broken, are we whole

What happens now
When all I’ve made is torn down

This is the unmaking
The beauty in the breaking
Had to lose myself
To find out who You are
Before each beginning
There must be an ending
Sitting in the rubble
I can see the stars
This is the unmaking

I’ll gather the same stones where
Everything came crashing down
I’ll build You an altar there
On the same ground…”

Nichole Nordeman

Ditching My Running Shoes

I have specific memories of one particular argument that I had with Adam just a few months into our marriage.  I don’t remember the specifics of what we were even upset about so it obviously wasn’t anything too terribly significant.  But it was enough that I know I was upset, hurt, and angry.  I hated conflict, hated confrontation, and hated the yucky emotions I was feeling…so I put on my running shoes and left the house.

It’s not that I wanted to run away from my marriage…but I DID want to run away from the fight.  It felt like too much work.  Like there were too many feelings to process.  Like it was too risky to bare my soul and bear someone else’s needs.

Maybe the reason that memory is so fresh in my mind 9 years later is that that’s the last time Adam ever let me run.  He has been the one in the midst of difficulty that pulls me close when I want to back away.  The one that makes me look into his eyes when in anger mine want to look down.  The one that makes me talk when it seems easier to keep quiet.  Over the past 9 years, he’s given me little opportunity to reach for my running shoes when he reaches for my hand instead.

While we were on vacation with our families last week, Adam and I snuck away for an evening to celebrate our upcoming anniversary.  We visited a quaint little nearby town, ate ice cream, and took a walk on a trail along the bay.  That boy that stole my heart once again grabbed my hand and asked me to share some memorable moments from this past year of marriage.

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This year of marriage that literally started with labor pains and ended in a different house in a different city for a different ministry.  A good year.  Not because it was easy and comfortable and euphoric…but because it was hard and stretching and pressed us closer to each other and closer to the Cross.  There were lots of fun and happy moments to chose from…but as I dug through my mind and dusted off my memories, I also remembered the really hard moments.  The moments of misunderstandings and miscommunications and taking stress out on each other and navigating through major life changes.  Moments when I felt too weary to fight for us.  When it was tempting to grab those running shoes and hide.

DSC_4969 As we walked along the bay that night we saw a tent being set up for a wedding.  A new bride and groom preparing to dive into this gift of marriage.  We talked about our own wedding and about the time we went to jazz club on our honeymoon and spit out fancy, expensive cheese and accidentally turned my mineral water into a science experiment by adding Splenda “to make it taste better” (we’re super cultured, guys).  We had laughed and felt horribly out of place, but we enjoyed the music and our time with each other.  That night on our honeymoon 9 years ago, I had asked Adam to dance with me and he promised to during the next slow song.  But there never was another slow song and I left disappointed.  On the way back to our rental house, however, Adam pulled our rented Jeep over along the bay, turned on the radio, stepped out of the door, and asked me to dance.  On that night so long ago, my heart felt like it would explode.

Nine years later as we walked and talked along another bay, hair a little more gray, faces a little more wrinkled, and feet a little more worn, Adam took out his phone, put on a song, and asked me to dance.  Barefoot on the dock, we swayed to these words…

Love is not a place
To come and go as we please
It’s a house we enter in
Then commit to never leave

So lock the door behind you
Throw away the key
We’ll work it out together
Let it bring us to our knees

Love is a shelter in a raging storm
Love is peace in the middle of a war
And if we try to leave
May God send angels to guard the door
No, love is not a fight
But it’s something worth fighting for…

Love will come to save us
If we’ll only call
He will ask nothing from us
But demand we give our all

Yes, I will fight for you
Would you fight for me?
It’s worth fighting for…”

Barefoot on the dock.  Heart exposed.  Hand in hand.  We were standing on holy ground.  Continuing on in a covenant with each other meant to be a picture of the One Who fought the ultimate fight for us and continues to pursue our hearts.

DSC_4948DSC_4952I want to still put on my running shoes.  Not to run away, but rather to run toward.  To fight what’s worth fighting for.  Because, after all, love doesn’t quit.

“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

– 1 Corinthians 13:7

Love endures.

Love hypomenō: to remain; to abide; to not recede or flee.

Love endures.

Endures labor pains and hormones and sleepless nights.

Endures growing families and changing dynamics and messy houses.

Endures loss and want and gain and provision.

Endures moving boxes and grief and change and starting over.

Endures crazy schedules and crazy boys and crazy risks in ministry.

Endures harsh words and mistakes and misunderstandings and hard confrontation.

Endures expanding waistlines and shrinking bank accounts and sick days and snoring nights.

Love bears all things.  Believes all things.  Hopes all things.

Love endures.  Love remains.  Love abides.

Love ditches the running shoes and stays close, pursues, fights, and dances on the dock instead.

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Karate and Confidence

Last week Isaiah was invited to a classmate’s “Bring a Friend” night at his karate class.  Isaiah really enjoys spending time with this friend and was pumped to get to sit in on something new.

This is where the problem started: Isaiah assumed he would be sitting.  Sitting on the sidelines comfortably and safely with his dad.  Simply watching and observing and getting to hang out with his friend.

Isaiah was the only “newbie” there that particular night and he was invited to come out onto the mat with his buddy.  He stood with his friend and tried to follow what the students were doing…until the instructor asked them to turn and recite part of their “pledge” that they said every week to their parents.  Of course, Isaiah didn’t know it (nor did they expect him to), and he froze.  Panic spread across his face, followed by a rush of embarrassment.  He didn’t know what to do or how to do it.  And he hated that.

So he started to cry.  Right there on the mat.

The karate instructors were kind and helpful and handled the situation beautifully.  Isaiah went and sat back down on his daddy’s lap.  But then he completely shut down.

His embarrassment and fear of failure prevented him from interacting with anyone the rest of the time there.  The instructors tried to gently get him involved again, promising to show him exactly what to do.  But he wouldn’t make eye contact, wouldn’t speak, and wouldn’t participate in the fun things they had planned (which is completely uncharacteristic of my boy).

When Adam and Isaiah walked in the door that evening, I knew something had gone wrong.  My question of “How was it?” was met with a cold, silent stare from my 6 year old, followed by a “We’ll talk about it later” from my wise and patient husband.

But I could have guessed what happened.  And I cringed.  It was a moment when I saw all too much of his mama in Isaiah.

I was the kid that was afraid to try to new things…the kid that wanted to minimize the risks – the last one to learn how to ride a 2 wheeler, the first one to sit out from an amusement park ride, and the only one to avoid the monkey bars for my entire elementary school career because I was afraid of falling again.  But more than that, I was the one who despised failing or feeling incompetent.  A perfectionist by nature, I’d try to calculate my abilities and if I couldn’t do it well, I didn’t want to do it at all.

This past Saturday we were out and about all day having lots of fun, enjoying amazing weather and making memories as a family.  Trying to be resourceful and efficient, I threw dinner together quickly using leftovers and some other things I had on hand.  I patted myself on the back, looking forward to eating a quick, yet delicious dinner before heading back outside to enjoy the evening.

I called the boys in and washed them up for dinner before realizing that the chicken wasn’t even close to being cooked through.  And if I waited for it to finish cooking to a safe temperature, I’d have hungry boys and little to no time left to go for a walk (my plan) before bedtime.

To say that I was frustrated in that moment would be an understatement.  I huffed.  I puffed.  I tore myself down.  I was embarrassed and felt like a failure.  As I pulled other food out of the fridge and grabbed an emergency box of macaroni and cheese out of the cupboard, I snapped at my husband.  While we ate, I didn’t engage in conversation with my boys.  I shut down…and then I melted down.

The tears started streaming down my face and it was my turn to give Adam the “we’ll talk about it later”.  I realized that my “calamity” in the kitchen had very little to do with the chicken and instead very much to do with my heart.

In that moment, I felt completely incompetent.

I don’t have a job or a title.  I’m not Supermom or Pinterest Mom or Really-cool-niche-Mom.  I’m not quite exactly sure what my role in this new ministry adventure will be yet. I had been struggling with feeling like I was no longer “using” many of the skills and talents that I had used in past ministries…you know, serving in the ways I felt confident in.  Ministering to and with my husband and mothering my 3 boys left me very little time to do many of the “fun” things I felt good at.  Sooooo, in my irrationality of the moment, if I couldn’t handle simple things that I did know I have to do like cooking and taking care of my family, what in the world was I doing?!  Who in the world am I?!  In that moment, there was very little that I felt good at.

Though it’s been good and super exciting, this year has also been full of leaving the old and entering the “new”.  New baby, new town, new house, new church, new ministry.  I had never had 3 boys before, never bought a house before, never done church planting before.  I had stepped away from the things that I felt comfortable, safe, and confident in – many of those things that I felt good at – to step out into the great unknown.

And like Isaiah, I was startled by the feeling that I had no idea what I was doing.  And I hated it.

That night after the kids went to bed, I wept over my weaknesses and grew sorrowful over my fear of failing.  I wanted to shut down.  Wanted to walk back to the sidelines.  Wanted to run back to what I felt “good” and “expert” at rather than embarking on the new tasks God has had planned for me.

In those moments, I felt very much like Peter stepping out onto the waves (Matthew 14:22-33).  I had stepped out in faith, but then began questioning my own abilities, strengths, and self-sufficiency.  I felt myself scrambling to climb back into the boat.

Instead, like Isaiah, I did climb back into my Father’s lap.  But like Adam, He didn’t give me permission to run away or quit or act like a jerk.  And also like my husband, my Father used the perfect combination of comforting encouragement and loving, yet firm confrontation to show me my immaturity and to elicit repentance, all while bringing calm and confidence to my fearful and hurting heart.

While I spent some time reading and praying that evening, I came across 2 Corinthians 9 in two completely different books in two totally different contexts.  (After the 2nd time I figured it was some kind of hint and decided it would probably be a good idea to look my Bible for myself.)

When I did, I was struck by verse 8…

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.”

As I looked into the original Greek meanings behind the words that make up this verse, I was humbled and challenged by how fitting it seemed for me in that moment…

And God is able (“powerful; mighty”)

to make all (“each, every, any, everything”) grace (“merciful kindness through which God turns souls to Christ, keeps, strengthens, and increases in them faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to exercise the Christian virtues”)

abound (“overflow, exceed; abundantly furnished; excel”) to you

so that having all sufficiency (“perfect condition in which no aid or support is needed; mind is contented with its lot”)

in all things (“everything”)

at all times (“always, ever”)

you may abound (“overflow, exceed; abundantly furnished; excel”)

in every good work (“that which one undertakes to do; act, deed, thing done”)

am inadequate.  I am insufficient.  I am horribly weak.

And on my own I will fail.

But my God is powerful, mighty, and able to abundantly furnish me with the grace, strength, knowledge, and affection in everything He sets before me.  Here, I can stop scrambling to find that perfect condition when no help or aid is needed because my sufficiency and contentment are found in Him rather than in my own abilities or identity.  Then, and only then, will I overflow, exceed, and excel in the things God has given me to undertake – not for my own good or glory, but rather for His. 

“We tend to think of our strengths as inherently part of our identity.  Strengths are our value-add; our competitive edge.  But gifts connote grace.  A gift does not originate with us.  It’s something we receive from God and steward for his sake.  Therefore our gifts are not so much our identity as our offering.  And since God has given us these gifts, he’s not obliged to always put us in places where we can use them fully.  In fact, God frequently places us in positions where we struggle and feel weak for the very reason that he receives particular glory by showing his strength through our weaknesses.”

– Jon Bloom

Isaiah wouldn’t have had to walk away from the mat if he had humbly let the instructor show him what to do.  If only he would have allowed himself to lay down his own pride and insecurities for the expertise and proficiency of the one leading him.

I’m trying to not make the same mistake.

Because here, my strengths and my weaknesses become an offering.  Here, in the abundance of God’s grace, my identity, peace, security, and “usefulness” no longer are defined by nor are dependent upon me, but on the One I’m following.

And that is one thing I can most assuredly be fully confident in.

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201 Spring Street

My Sweet Boys,

Four months ago, we moved out of the only home you had ever known.  Yesterday that home was torn down.  It needed a lot of work…and the church is growing and needs more parking space.  When I saw pictures of that house being leveled, my heart hurt.  I cried…like a lot.  Not because it was such a nice house (guys, it was in pretty bad shape) or because we’re not happy where we are.  My heart hurt because of the sweet memories.  When I saw the pictures, scenes from those years of our lives flashed before my eyes.  There are things I don’t want to forget…and that I want you to know.

When Daddy and I moved there, it was just the 2 of us (and Gunther!).  Isaiah was due to be born in a month and was running out of room in Mama’s belly.  We had no idea what life would look like for the next 6 years…but we were excited.  We had no clue how to be parents…but we wanted it more than almost anything.  Some of our greatest joys and best memories involve bringing the 3 of you into that house and learning how to be a family together.

Isaiah James, you came into the world 8 days before your due date.  We had lived in the house less than a month and our friend Dave was working on putting dry wall up in the dining room.  Things were still a mess.  We weren’t really ready for you.  But you came anyway…and you came fast!  (And you haven’t stopped moving ever since.)  When we brought you home, you didn’t follow any of the “rules” or go by any of the baby books I had poured over for months.  Your sleeping (or lack of it) drove me absolutely bonkers.  We paced those floors with you.  We rocked you in that nursery.  We got on our knees beside that crib.  The first months of your life were hard…but they were also so rich and you brought us so much joy.  I can’t begin to tell you how much God used you to refine me and strip me of my pride.  That house reminds me that I’m not in control, but I have a loving Father that is.

When you were 2 years old, Mama had another baby in her belly.  We were so excited to give you a sibling.  But God turned our world upside when that baby’s heart stopped beating.  After 4 days in the hospital delivering our Heaven baby, we dreaded going back into that house…the home we were supposed to bring another baby into.  When we pulled into the driveway, we saw our garage door covered in cards and notes from the teens and college students that Daddy ministered to.  Grief washed over us later, but for the first hour, reading those cards helped give us such peace.  When we moved 4 months ago, there were still tape marks on that garage door from those cards.  They were daily reminders of the love poured out on us when we were so very sad.  We wrestled with God in that house over that baby’s death.  Boys, He met me there.  He carried me through those dark months.  He showed me more of Himself and He used that baby to change me from the inside out.  That house reminds me to hold things loosely, that God is sovereign, and that heaven is near.

Toby boy, oh, how we begged God for you.  When we found out you were growing in my belly, we stood in that kitchen so happy and yet so terribly scared.  Daddy held me and we prayed.  We were so afraid of losing you, too…but were so overwhelmed with gratitude that He gave you to us.  You filled that house with such laughter.  You brought us such healing.  You taught me how to trust and how to not fear.  You made happy messes and kept me on my toes.  Every day with you in that house was an adventure.  That house reminds me that, whatever our circumstances, God is so very good.

Jack-Jack, you only spent 4 months of your life in that house and every one of them was part of our transition and major life change.  You were ready to join our family on Mama and Daddy’s wedding anniversary, but I was in denial.  I played outside with your brothers and went grocery shopping.  I tried to eat dinner and laid on the couch in agony, determined that you wouldn’t be born that day.  But it was a good thing the hospital was just minutes away from that house because we almost didn’t make it in time!  We brought you home to a house full of noise and chaos and packing and emotion and change.  You just rolled with it.  You helped me enjoy those last few months there.  God used you to bring me peace when I was really scared of the future.  That house reminds me of God’s abundant grace upon grace and His gentle shepherding of our hearts.

Boys, over the years that house became the Grand Central Station of our ministry at Martinsburg Grace Brethren Church.  It was regularly filled with people…so much so that you would often wake up asking who was coming over that day.  When you were a baby, Isaiah, Mama taught Jr. and Sr. High Sunday School classes in our living room while you napped.  The girls loved to see you and you absolutely loved being the center of attention.  After you went to bed on Sunday nights, teens would come over for Bible study.  They regularly crammed into our living room to study God’s Word…and then spread out all over our house to pray together.  I loved walking through and hearing them talk to God…and looked forward to the day that you could, too.  Toby, by the time you came along, every Sunday morning our house was filled with college students and young adults.  We read the Bible together, talked about the gospel, and prayed for God to change us.  You couldn’t wait to see “the big kids” each week and they couldn’t wait to see you – regularly fighting for your attention (smart phones usually worked best ;-)).  They were even there, Jack, the Sunday after you were born – marveling at how beautiful and tiny you were and imagining who you were going to grow up to be.  Guys, you were so loved.  They absolutely doted on you.  In fact, I’m pretty sure that a lot of the times that they came to see Mama and Daddy they really were just coming to play with you.  You were so lucky to have so many outstanding young people to look up to.  That house reminds me of how grateful I am for the people that have poured into your little lives.

There were knocks on the door late at night.  Phone calls early in the morning.  People dropping by to talk to Daddy, to ask him a question, or to pray with him.  Daddy’s intern, Ben, spent MANY hours with us in that house.  Isaiah, the second he walked in the door, you had his utmost attention.  You’d steal him away to play drums or blocks or cars or read books.  He made you laugh and you made him smile.  Jenny worked with Daddy for a few years at the church and became our dear friend and Isaiah’s favorite baby-sitter.  She fed your imagination and turned that house into a circus ring, the jungle, and outer space. It was just normal life for you boys to have 20 young adults around your dining room table.  They knew where our dishes were and where I kept the hot chocolate.  They saw us be a family.  Watched Mama and Daddy handle conflict.  Saw us discipline you.  Heard my exhaustion and my desperate need for Jesus in this mothering gig.  They saw us on our good days and our bad days…and it was quite humbling.  Dusty, Ryan, and Laura, Jared and Janae – they spent many hours there hanging out with us – with you.  They became a part of our family.  Almost like your big brothers and big sisters or aunts and uncles.  Every year different engaged couples would also come into our living room and sit on our couches while they prepared for marriage.  We loved it – and they were great reminders of how beautiful and hard and fun and challenging marriage is.  I sat on our backyard swing many different times with many different girls – though I remember each of them by name.  We talked about life and boys and figuring out what it looked like to follow Jesus.  They challenged me and brought me to my knees and I loved it.  That house reminds me that discipleship is up close and personal and involves sharing your life with others.

Though Daddy was a pastor and our house was the church’s, your Daddy was so good about stepping back and making his family his first priority and most important ministry.  He played with you, made you special breakfasts, prayed with you and over you, and took you for bike rides in the parking lot.  Sometimes that meant saying “no” to things that people expected him to say “yes” to.  Sometimes that meant shutting off his phone or not answering his emails.  Sometimes that meant leaving town on his day off to protect his focused time with you.  Sometimes people criticized him for it or talked behind his back about it, but it didn’t matter – YOU were that important to him.  That house reminds me that our first calling is to shepherd and disciple YOUR hearts…and that you have a really awesome dad.

So many friends came to visit us in that house.  Friends from Ohio, Indiana, Chicago, Africa, and France (to name a few).  Before he was married and had a family of his own, our friend Jeremy stayed at our house so much that Isaiah called the guest room “Jermy’s room”.  Our friend, Jack, once spent a whole month with us and there were months when our friend, Seth, was there every weekend.  Ruthie and Casey drove to be with us right after our baby died and the Irvings came for several holidays.  There were many pots of coffee made, many board games played, many prayers prayed and tears shed, many hugs given, and many, MANY laughs (mostly because of your Daddy).  That house reminds me that long-distance friends can still be friends for life.

You made friends of your own in that house.  Keith and Annika, Cade and Carter and Colton, Eva and Brittian, and many others.  We piled waaay too many toys in that sunroom and it was almost always a mess, but you had so much fun.  I can still see you dressed up like cowboys or ninjas or animals, still hear your sound effects and giggles and stories, still smell the cookies being baked and popcorn popping, still taste the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and popsicles, and still feel the squishy hugs and tiny high-fives.  That house reminds me of how blessed it is to share.

For those 6 years, we were less than an hour away from your grandparents and aunts and uncles.  Everyone would congregate in that house for your birthdays and Easter and for brunch on every Christmas Eve.  We loved that you could know your Papa and Nona and Pappy and Grammy so well and that they could visit (or babysit) whenever they wanted.  Papa chased you in circles through the house and pushed you on your swings.  Nona took you for walks and rocked you to sleep.  Pappy played his guitar for you and fed you sugar.  Grammy read you books and snuggled with you on the couch.  They helped with so many projects – fixing things or making things or painting things.  That house reminds me of how special it is to have family.

That house was far from perfect.  The basement constantly flooded until it was closed off.  The ceiling leaked over our bed and over the kitchen sink until it was fixed.  The bathrooms were quirky, the carpet was stained, and before we left we didn’t have any heat.  That house reminds me that “stuff” doesn’t last and that this world is not our home.

Daddy and Mama didn’t just have to figure out how to be parents there – we also had to keep learning how to be husband and wife there, too.  There were misunderstandings and times when we sat on the couch staring out the front window in silence – not knowing exactly how to enter into each other’s worlds.  We had to learn to say “I’m sorry” and practice forgiving over and over.  There were hard, discouraging, and painful trials that we had to walk through together – times I had to listen to Daddy be angry and confused or watch him hurt and cry when he faced discouragement in ministry, and times when Daddy had to literally pick me up off of the floor while I grieved or talk me down when you boys had threatened my sanity.  But there were also times of such joy – such deep love.  Your Daddy and I talked for hours, giggled like we were kids, danced in the kitchen, and kissed…a lot (someday you’ll appreciate that).  That house reminds me of how passionately I sure do love your Daddy.

Oh, Isaiah, Toby, and Jack, I remember sitting on our swing in the back yard almost 7 years ago, belly bulging with a growing baby Isaiah.  I rocked back and forth and prayed and imagined a little boy running around that yard.  Lilttle did I know, that one day I’d get to watch THREE little boys play in that yard.  There are so many memories, so much fun, and so much love.  We really were (and are) so very blessed and that house we lived in for 6+ years is a sweet reminder of that.

The house wasn’t anything special in and of itself.  It was imperfect, outdated, and inefficient.  It wasn’t worth much.  We could have done whatever we wanted to make it look better on the outside, but it still wouldn’t fix its brokenness.  (“You can’t polish a turd,” your Daddy would say.)  But it was what happened on the inside of that house that gave it life.  What made it worth remembering.  As I looked at the pictures of the house being demolished – roof caving in, inside walls becoming outside walls, making room for something new – it reminded me of my own heart.

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IMG_5049Boys, there is nothing particularly special about me.  On my own I am broken, sinful, and terribly weak.  I could dress myself up and parade around my talents and “good works” and self-righteousness, but none of that would matter.  As God continues to tear down my walls and crucify my flesh, it’s Jesus that fills this shell.  He is what gives me life.  Makes me new.  Determines my worth.  Breathes in me purpose and meaning and joy.

That house in Martinsburg will soon be forgotten.  And boys, I’m sure we will eventually be forgotten, too.  But the Jesus that filled those walls and filled our hearts is what I want you to remember.  What I want you to cling to…no matter where we go.

I love you to the moon and back,

Mama

A few weeks after moving in in July 2008

A few weeks before moving in October of 2014

A few weeks before moving out in October of 2014

I Don’t Belong Here

A few months ago I couldn’t even fathom packing up and moving out of this house.  My heart just downright broke at the thought of leaving it.

This place where we went from a family of 2 to a family of 5.  Where we joyfully brought 3 babies home from the hospital.  Where we mourned when one didn’t make it.

This place where my boys took their first steps and celebrated their first birthdays.  Where we had dance parties and camped out under the Christmas tree.  Where we paced and rocked during sleepless nights and where Adam made our favorite breakfasts on Monday mornings.  Where friends visited and family gathered.  Where our marriage was challenged, strengthened, and flourished.

This place that was weekly full of people – teens praying together and playing board games in the sunroom and RockBand in the basement…college students drinking coffee, studying God’s Word, eating around our dining room table, and napping on our couches…engaged couples chatting in our living room, preparing for marriage, and planning their weddings…adults gathering in this house to learn, cry, laugh, and pray together.

This place that never belonged to us, but that we made into our home.  It was comfortable.  Familiar.  Enjoyable.  Attractive, even.  And for all of it’s quirks and flaws, I didn’t want to leave it.

Then a few weeks ago, we found a new house in a new town.  Our first home that we will have purchased and owned ourselves.  It’s nothing extravagant, but it’s more than we thought we’d have and definitely more than we deserve.  It’s pretty, well taken care of, and seemed put there just for us.  And we got really excited.

Thus began the process of packing up this current house.  The more we take down and put away, the less comfortable and attractive it’s become.  The more that gets undone, the more chaotic it feels.  Removing the decorations and curtains and picture frames reveals the house’s imperfections.  It’s starting to feel empty and often ugly.  The carpet stains that were once sweet evidence of having a house full of people are now just stains.  The floors once covered with toys are now covered with boxes.

The furnace hasn’t worked since March so the house is cold.  The living room ceiling is cracked and separating from the walls and could crumble with the weight of too much snow this winter.  The windows are airy, the bathroom toilet leaks water all over the floor, the shower walls are beginning to cave in, and the garage door breaks at least once a month.  This house has so many things wrong with it that after we move out it will eventually be torn down and become something new and entirely different.

Regardless of the memories made here, the joy it has given us, how grateful we’ve been for it, or how much we’ve loved living here, now this home is feeling more and more empty.  Flawed.  Uncomfortable.  Broken.

I’m feeling more and more like I don’t belong here (and I’ve got the same old Switchfoot song in my head every day).

We’re consistently finding ourselves yearning and longing for our new house.

We look at the pictures at least once a day.  We strategize where we’ll put furniture and how we’ll decorate.  We daydream about sitting around the fireplace and playing in the backyard.  The reality of living there has a direct effect on how we live here.   And our hope is set on that reality.

As I’ve been studying through 1 Peter this week, I just haven’t been able to get verse 13 of chapter 1 out of my mind…

“…set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Christ Jesus.”

Just as we’re longing for our new earthly home, how much more so should I be longing for my true home.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you…”

– 1 Peter 1:3-4

Because of the gospel, I have an inheritance waiting for me.  A new home given and prepared for me out of His great mercy.  One that I don’t deserve and did nothing to earn.

Imperishable.

Undefiled.

Unfading.

Kept not where I am, but where I’m going.

“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – found more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

– 1 Peter 1:6-7

Just as the stripping away of the comforts of our current house has made me cling to it less…just as the reality of the brokenness of our current living situation has made me yearn for something better…just as the stains and imperfections of this house are reminders of what won’t be wrong with the new house…

How much more does the pain and confusion and brokenness of this life make me long to be at home with my Savior?

“Though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory…”

– 1 Peter 1:8

In this I will rejoice and look forward to with inexpressible joy!

“…knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ…”

– 1 Peter 1:18-19

My eternal home, purchased not by silver or gold or works or law-keeping or generational church-going, but by the precious blood of Jesus.

…so that your faith and hope are in God.”

– 1 Peter 1:21

Not in the joys of this life.  Not in the attractive things of this earthly dwelling.  But having my faith and hope fully set on my Creator and the Author of my salvation.

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ Who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.”

– Colossians 3:1-3

So I will enjoy this earthly home and will be increasingly grateful for the gifts and blessings that come with it.  And I will strive to follow Jesus in the every day  of this life.  But I will do so with my hope set fully on the life that is to come.

Because I don’t belong in Martinsburg anymore.  But I also won’t belong in Hatboro or anywhere else on earth God calls us either.

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him Who called you out of darkness and into His marvelous light…Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh…”

1 Peter 2:9, 11

So I don’t have to cling so tightly to the things of this life…even the good things…because I know that my true home is going to be far better.

“For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens…He Who has prepared us for this very thing is God, Who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.  So we are always of good courage.  We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight.”

– 2 Corinthians 5:1, 5-6

Because of the gospel, the Lord Jesus is my reward.  My inheritance.  My hope.  My inexpressibly joy.

And my one true home.  

After all, He is where I belong.

Oh, Lord, come quickly!

Outside of our Martinsburg home after moving in during the summer of 2008

Outside of our Martinsburg home after moving in during the summer of 2008

Un-Making My Home, Un-Idoling My Heart

My house is filling up with boxes.

Every nook and cranny of our home slowly becoming undone.

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And in the midst of the packing, there’s laundry piles on the floor and dishes filling the sink and bathrooms that desperately need cleaning.

To me, right now our house is chaos.  I’m a homemaker literally un-making my home.

And in the midst of the joy and excitement I feel to move on to this new season in our lives, this chaos is sometimes enough to drive me bonkers and all of life feels a little out of control.

But God is in control.

I know that.  That’s Christianity 101, right?  It’s plastered in hallmark cards, Facebook statuses, and songs.  (I can hear my nasally 13 year year old voice belting that Twila Paris classic even now!)  The phrase is used so much, I honestly often feel like it’s cliche.

What I mean is, I’m confident that God, indeed, is sovereign.  We say God is in control when we’re faced with the BIG things.  The decisions, the events, the sickness, the healing.  But is He in control of my emotions?  Of my heart?  Of my affections?

Hmmm…then the song doesn’t seem to flow so freely for me.

You see, my heart longs for control.  Not so much in the sense of the big decisions or world affairs…I know God’s got that.  What I long for control in is much more subtle.  I want stability and security.  I love “a+b=c” and tried and true formulas for success.  I desire comfort and peace.  I crave order and routine and properly executed schedules.  I pride myself in creating a home environment that is peaceful, comfortable, and safe for my family.

But I even see my desire for control rearing its ugly head in the packing.  Books, photo albums, DVDs, and things that fit nicely and neatly in a box?  Sure, I’ll gladly pack that up…I might even enjoy it.  But the things that are odd shapes, fragile, or don’t fit nicely in a specific category?  Ick.  Makes me cringe.

Ugh.  My name is Megan Johnson and I am addicted to control.

Yesterday the boxes were piling up.  Dust and dirt invaded my carpet.  Dirty dishes were filling the sink.  Our noisy dryer reminded me of the laundry that needed folded.  My husband is currently between jobs and has an erratic schedule.  There was the realization that our routines and commitments and responsibilities were a thing of the past.  Trying to close on a house within 30 days of finding it requires an insane amount of paperwork, phone calls, and (gulp) money.  Then my 3 month old woke early from 2 naps in a row, my potty-training toddler pooped in his pants, and my 1st grader’s math homework left even this former middle school teacher frustrated and confused.  And I broke.

I wanted to scream.  I did cry.  In that moment, I despised the unrest in my home and in my soul.  And my fingers started wrapping a little tighter around the illusion of control.

But God showed grace to my wandering heart and I ended up cross-legged on the floor of my bedroom, tears in my eyes, and my heart actually willing to hear what He wanted to tell me.  And I knew I needed to hear it.

Megan, what is controlling your heart?  What is determining your joy?  What are you placing your confidence, worth, and security in?

John Calvin said that the human heart is an “idol factory”…constantly giving god-like weight to things other than our Creator.  It’s the things that we spend our time thinking about, working towards, and sacrificing for.  That determine our joy and affections and contentment.  That we put our confidence, identity, and security in.

And it’s becoming increasingly evident to me that this desire for control, stability, and purpose can take idolatrous places in my own heart.

I am most happy when I’ve had a productive day and kept to a purposeful schedule, my house is neat and in order, I’ve had peace and quiet to spend time with the Lord, and my kids sleep well and are delightful and obedient.  I want to feel competent, accomplished, secure, and comfortable.  These things get thrown off, and it’s a fight to maintain my joy in the midst of this chaos.

In her book, Glimpses of Grace, Gloria Furman says this…

“I think that if I don’t see any chaos, then that assumes the presence of peace.  That’s the deluding lie.  I humbly submit to you, if you heart is anything like mine, it doesn’t matter how well you’ve organized your storage closet, your kids’ toys, or your in-box if there is discontentment bound up in your heart.  

If there is discontent bound up in your heart, then there is no room in your house where you can go and feel peace.  You will, as I have, attempt to create the perfect environment that is rid of distractions so that you can focus.  At the end of the day you will find out that the chaos isn’t in your environment – it’s in your heart.”

These things that I desperately try to control are only illusions of contentment that will never fully satisfy my heart.  I begin to worship the stability of created things rather than the stability of the Unchanging One.

“…and HE will be the stability of your times, abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge;

the fear of the LORD is Zion’s treasure.”

– Isaiah 33:6

Yesterday revealed what my heart was truly treasuring.  And it wasn’t Him.  I treasured my own counterfeit version of stability, control, security, and comfortability.  But what my heart is really yearning for is more of the Lord.  He is my true stability.

Life is in a bit of a trapeze act for us right now.  We’ve let go of of “what was before”, but we haven’t quite grasped on to “what’s next”…and really don’t know exactly what to expect.  It feels like a bit of a free fall.

And YET because of the gospel, I can remain secure.

“We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor for the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf…”

– Hebrews 6:20

So, I can either worship at the feet of my own work, my own effort, my own righteousness, and my own comfort…or I can worship at the nail scarred feet of the One Who has already accomplished it for me.  I can try, unsuccessfully, to maintain an image of myself and of my home that I create…or I can make my goal to be conformed to the image of Christ instead.

Because of the gospel, I can have joy.  True lasting, consistent, and secure joy regardless of the circumstances surrounding my day or the environment that I’m in.  IF I let my Father be the determining factor for my joy…Who, even in the midst of these changes and transitions, does not change (James 1:17).

And in Him alone can I find peace for my restless soul.

The Old Testament prophet, Habakkuk, attested to this in the midst of his circumstances…

“Though the fig tree should not blossom
And there be no fruit on the vines,
Though the yield of the olive should fail
And the fields produce no food,
Though the flock should be cut off from the fold
And there be no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will exult in the LORD,
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.

– Habakkuk 3:17-18

So today, as I tear apart my home, I’m striving to also tear down my idols.

Though the rooms are filled with boxes and the walls are bare, yet I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.

Though my feet are sticking to the kitchen floor and the cupboards are begging to be filled, yet I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.

Though my calendar is erratic and a “normal” day hard to define, yet I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.

Though I struggle to find a defined purpose and feel stuck in the in-between, yet I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.

Though I may watch our savings dwindle and seem to mail checks out daily, yet I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.

Though my baby may fight sleep and my toddler may not make it to the potty, yet I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.

Though I can’t control my past, my present, and certainly not my future, yet I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.

And in doing so, I’m loosening my grip and letting HIM control my emotions, thoughts, plans, and feelings.

My purpose, my joy, my peace is to worship HIM alone.

“You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you.”

– St. Augustine

God is Gracious

Redefining good.

That has certainly be a theme for our lives the past few years.  Allowing God to crush our definitions of “good” and replace them with Himself.  Life is often hard and confusing.  But this good God has continued to impress His goodness upon our hearts most heavily in our darkest and scariest moments.

In His goodness, God has shown us His grace more clearly.  Unmerited favor, benevolence, compassion, mercy, and beauty…not dependent on my goodness, but upon His.  

This good and gracious God owes me nothing.  Yet He chooses, in His grace, to give me life and salvation.  To bestow on me gifts and provide for my needs.  And to also bring tough stuff into my life in order to conform me into the likeness of His Son.

This is grace.

And the past few years have been constant reminders of it.

Which is why we chose to name our newest little man Jack Nathanael.  God’s gracious gift.

Jack ("God is gracious") Nathanael ("Given of God") Johnson - born June 24, 2014

Jack (“God is gracious”) Nathanael (“Given of God”) Johnson – born June 24, 2014

God proved His graciousness through my pregnancy (giving me a healthy, full-term baby that we prayed for), though my labor and delivery (turning a breech baby just in the nick of time and thus trading a scheduled c-section for a quick and natural birth), and through this little joy boy’s life.   All gracious gifts.  None of which I was (or am) entitled to or deserve.

And just like our Tobias’s name was a timely reminder for us of God’s goodness, our Jack-Jack came at the perfect time to be a consistent reminder to trust our gracious God.  And he is one pretty INCREDIBLE gift.

Toby ("God is good") and Jack ("God is gracious")

Toby (“God is good”) and Jack (“God is gracious”)

My husband has been a youth and young adult pastor for the past 9 years.  We’ve loved the ministry that God called us to and really pictured ourselves doing it for the long haul.  However, about 2 years ago, God graciously began redirecting our hearts.  Though Adam still felt passionately about youth ministry, he began desiring to do more shepherding, equipping, and leading within the Church as a whole.  As he took on more responsibility at our church (preaching, vision-casting, equipping leaders, etc.), God continued to allow him to hone his skills and gift set for His glory.

In the past 2 years, we’ve seen and experienced some of our highest highs in ministry, and I’ve also had to watch my husband walk through very dark lows.  Still, in each circumstance, we can look back now and see how God was using it ALL to graciously refine, humble, and guide us.  Showing us where our idols reside and what we were adulterously placing our confidence in rather than Him.  Gently digging up our sin while graciously also confirming His call on our lives.  Leading and shepherding us and promising to give us our hearts’ desires…all the while making our hearts simply desire more of Himself.

For the past 6+ years, we’ve lived in a parsonage owned by the church.  In March our heating system broke, which also drew attention to the several other major problems with the house.  The church was faced with a decision of whether to invest the large amount of money required to fix it, or ask us to move out.  It was obvious and completely understandable that the wisest decision would be for us to find housing elsewhere so we began our search.  The problems with our house, however, forced us to have more of an urgency in trying to figure out if God was calling us to stay here…or asking us to move on to another ministry.  Because there is no heat in the house, we knew that our Pennsylvania weather would only allow us to remain in the house comfortably until maybe October.  As we sought the Lord and prayed diligently, the Lord confirmed to Adam that He was calling him out of youth ministry and into a different type of leadership position.  He wanted to minister to families, disciple men, equip leaders, preach God’s Word, and continue to cast vision and trouble shoot in order to build a gospel-centered church.

At first we really believed that God would allow Adam to do that here where we were already ministering.  We had, over the years, developed a deep love for our church, the people that made it up, and the community at large.  We didn’t want to leave.  This had become our home, the place we grew a family, and the ministry we had built our life around.

Shortly before Jack was born, however, it became more apparent that our time at this church was coming to a close.  Our philosophies of ministry were beginning to not always match up and our church’s leadership’s vision for a family/discipleship pastor did not fit Adam’s gift set.  We realized that Adam’s longevity here would only be as a youth pastor…and he couldn’t continue at the pace he had been going doing the preaching and other pastoring responsibilities on top of that.  Like Paul and Barnabas, Adam felt confident that it would be healthiest for us and for the church if we parted ways.  It stung and downright hurt.  We didn’t want that to be God’s answer.  And it’s still painful for us.  But we’re also seeing so much of God’s grace in the process as He works on our weak, wandering hearts and opens our eyes to His hand in all of it.

In July, Adam announced to the church that we would be leaving.  And though it didn’t make sense to others, or to us for that matter, we knew that God was calling us to trust and step out in faith.  We were being asked to walk away even though we didn’t know where He would be taking us next.  It was scary, and yet by God’s grace we felt so much peace.  Adam’s last day on staff at MGBC was September 26…and even at that point we still didn’t know for sure where we would be going.

On the other side of the state, however, a recent church plant that was being led by lay leaders began praying for a pastor…right around the same time that Adam was honing his skills, desiring a different position, and praying for guidance in his next steps.  The Penn Valley Church‘s Bux-Mont campus was looking for a man to lead them and equip them.  They wanted someone who was relational and a natural gatherer of people.  Someone who was gifted at communicating the Word and passionate about centering everything around the gospel.

Without even really knowing what we were getting into, Adam sent a resume out to Bux-Mont.  They began pursuing Adam and we cautiously walked through doors as God opened them.  The more we learned about the church and it’s leadership and vision, the more our hearts were stirred and the potential of ministry there was more and more exciting to us.  We had always talked about potentially doing church planting some day and this one truly felt like a perfect fit for Adam.  There are so many sweet details that I wish I could include that God used as blazingly obvious confirmation that this was where He was leading us.

Adam candidated there on September 14th and the congregation and elder boards voted unanimously to extend a call to Adam to become their lead pastor over the weekend of September 21st – the same weekend as our last Sunday at MGBC.  After talking through logistics, Adam accepted the position on September 27th – one day after his last official day on staff here.

God, in His goodness and grace, had provided for us again.  And like any good adventure story, He did it right in the nick of time.

With deep sadness, we’ve turned a page on our ministry at Martinsburg GBC.  But with joy and excitement, we await how these coming chapters at Penn Valley Bux-Mont will read.  And we can’t stop thanking the Author, who also happens to be the true good and gracious Hero of our story.  He is faithful.

“Not to us, LORD, not to us, but to YOUR name be given glory on account of your GRACIOUS love and faithfulness.”

– Psalm 115:1

Our family sporting the T-shirts given to us at our last youth meeting at MGBC

Our family sporting the T-shirts given to us at our last Wednesday night at MGBC

“Once pardoned and forgiven, we must travel the daily journey of life under a deep conviction that we are ‘unprofitable servants.’  At our best we only do our duty, and have nothing to boast of.  And even when we do our duty, it is not by our own power and might that we do it, but by the strength which is given to us from God.  Claim upon God we have none.  Right to expect anything from God we have none.  Worthiness to deserve anything from God we have none.  All that we have we have received.  All that we are we owe to God’s sovereign, distinguishing GRACE.”

– J.C. Ryle

So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say,

We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’”

– Luke 17:10

Photo made for our farewell party at "Synergy" Youth Group

Photo made for our farewell party at “Synergy” Youth Group