Established Thirty Three

It all starts with an ache.

This last Sunday we had the opportunity to talk to our church family and let them know some big changes that were happening in our life.  We’ve had big news before…babies and stuff like that, but this was definitely different.  Our big news was that we felt like God was inviting us into a new season of life and inviting us to plant a church near Emily’s home town Atlanta, Georgia.

Which means that Jesus was asking us to consider leaving.

This has been such a wild season.  I have had several people who’ve asked me, “How did you decide this?  Why Atlanta?  When did you know you were going to plant a church?”  Good questions…the problem is that the answer isn’t as quick and easy as the question itself was.  This has been a long journey and an even longer conversation where it feels like a series of dominoes fell into each other and until the last one really fell we really didn’t what God was saying.

It all started with an ache.  It’s hard to explain really, just an ache for something I didn’t know how to fix.  It’s almost like one day my heart recognized a puzzle piece was missing, so it went on a long adventure to find out what it was.  As time went on I realize what this ache was, it was an ache to lead and to give my life to the gospel in a new way.  I told my church yesterday how hard this was, because I’ve never had an ache to leave, just to lead and it hurts like hell that in this decision leading means leaving.

Here is ache in art form.  Things were definitely stirring when we filmed this.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c2SpYJoq0_g

So in these last 6 months Emily and I have prayed…and talked…and prayed…and talked.  Our emotions and ideas have swung the pendulum on what we felt was right and what it all meant.  Everything was on the table and everything was possible.  There were times that we 99% on staying and committing to Mill Creek in a brand new season, times that we really felt like we were supposed to make ourselves available to transition and lead a church.    Then about 5 weeks ago we finally saw it.

All along we were waiting for that supernatural moment.  We were waiting for that defining moment that meant we didn’t even need to think…we just needed to say yes.  And we’ve waited for good reasons because in many ways God has always guided our lives in such ways.  

I remember sitting on a field in Montana experiencing a supernatural moment where in a vision a map unfolded and Thailand began to glow hot red and pop out of the map.  It slowly went back into the map and rolled up and went away.  About two months later I was staring at this vision of a woman in an ice skating rink in Chiang Mai Thailand knowing she was going to be my wife.  I remember sitting (maybe this is a repeated theme…if I want to hear God’s voice I should just sit somewhere random) on the bookstore floor of Powell’s and hearing God speak direction into my confused life.  The voice of “do not hand your generation over” still rings louder than almost anything in my life.  Every move and every step has had these beautiful moments with Jesus and clarity was overwhelming.  

All along I was waiting for this.  I was waiting for God’s supernatural presence to speak from the clouds and say, “Phil…plant a church in Atlanta.  PS:  You make bald look so good.”  Instead God took me all the way around and showed me that he had been speaking.  He had been speaking a lot and he was taking me on a journey of personal discovery.  He led me to see that church planting was the only way for me to be obedient to the things he had been speaking about.  Church planting wasn’t the direct call of obedience, but the only vehicle that I could possibly feel obedient within.  It was the culmination of a long conversation, and now I see with that same clarity as before.

Some of you might ask, “Why Atlanta, that seems random.”  And my response would be that it is and it isn’t.  Atlanta is Emily’s home, it’s where much of her family lives and always held a very sacred place in her heart.  That’s a huge part of this, but it isn’t the only part of this.  When we really knew that God was inviting us to plant a church we set out every city we would consider.  We landed on several places like Washington DC, Virginia, Denver, Seattle and Atlanta.  We met with leaders, had very specific conversations and over time knew that Atlanta was the only right choice.  It’s as if in this process every other city was in black and white and Atlanta was in color.  It had a different substance that Emily and I both couldn’t ignore.  Jesus had his finger on Atlanta.

So…this is our new story.  Church planting in Atlanta.  I’m believing for everything and prepared for anything.  I close my eyes and see a passionate movement and incredible things and yet at the same time I am soberly aware that failure is an option.  We don’t know all the details yet…but we plan to move our family some point in early 2013. 

To MC4…I love you more than I can explain.  I would die for our church, it is the most beautiful community of people I have ever known.  Thank you for allowing me and my family to grow up in your midst.  I believe the best days of our church are in front of us and I have never known a pastor like my brother.  I’m 29 and I can still say with confidence I just want to be like Chris Manginelli.

To my students…you’re spiritual powerhouses.  I’m not arrogant enough to feel like Paul very often but I feel like him in this one way when he says in Ephesians 3 (Phil’s amazing paraphrase), “I wish you believed me.  I wish you believed me when I told you Jesus was this good and in Him you have everything you need.  I pray you see HIs immense love and start living in the confidence and freedom that he bought for you.”  I will give you these 6 next months to continue to show you everything that Jesus has done for you.

To my friends…thank you for believing in us.  We need you more now than ever.

And so the adventure begins…

November 4, 2010

I am in month three of my spending fast. The first month was ok. But about week four, I couldn’t believe it was only week four! Month two got pretty hard. So while as before I would avoid clothes sections and online shopping completely, during month two I made up for it with avid window shopping – Target, Gap, even Anthropologie (which I could never afford anyways). I would look wistfully, and feel sad. So to offset this plummet in enthusiasm, I decided to tell my sister of God’s little plan. She’s too far away to buy me things, so I didn’t have to worry about that, and she knows and loves me enough to support me in this anyways. It was good to tell her. I hope you have someone in your life like my Jennie.

Since then, it has kind of been on cruise control. I am definitely used to not spending money on myself. There are still things I want, but I just dismiss them. They will always be there. Stuff will always be there. Things to spend money on will always be there. But what is God trying to teach me now?

That, I suppose, has been my biggest question. Why am I doing this? A lesson in discipline? A practical way to save money before Christmas? No reason except to see if I’d obey? All are good enough reasons for me! And I think he will reveal some more of those reasons as time goes on. Today was a good example of that…

Today was the first day I officially broke the rules. You see, Phil had bought me a Starbucks gift card so I could get some drinks here and there. But between taking out students and buying chocolate milks for the kiddos, it ran out quickly. And today I just wanted a tall, warm, delicious eggnog latte. Yes, they are back! I was starving (didn’t have time to eat breakfast, as per most days), and it was a glorious, sunny fall morning. So I rationalized it as “It’s food. I’m allowed to buy myself food!” although up until now, Starbucks had been off limits. I order, I wait, I try not to feel guilty. But when I get to the window, the barista tells me that the car ahead of me paid for my order.

Convicted!

But in the best possible way. I didn’t feel guilty or ashamed, just reminded of how much God really looks out for me, and how much (for whatever reason), he really wants me to stick this out. It makes me think of what Paul says in Romans 5:8 – ‘but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’ Today, that verse might as well say ‘God shows his love for me that while I was in line ordering and disobeying, Christ paid for my Starbucks.’ I sure love Jesus.

P.S. When I ran out of shampoo, Phil noticed and picked some up at Target with other toiletries. Thank you babe, for noticing my empty shampoo bottle.

Baby Food Making

It all started before I had even given birth to my sweet baby girl…

My husband, dearest mother-in-law, and I all went to a “Make Your Own Baby Food” class.  We were so excited about the birth of baby/grandbaby  no.1, can you tell?  It was a great class, and I did learn a lot about what to make, what to use, and how to do it safely and with good results.  In the end though, we made applesauce.  I was itching to expand my baby food-making abilities.

Fast-forward, eh, a year and a half, and we’re here: two ladies, two 14 month old baby girls, and a bunch of raw food staring us down.  My gorgeousamazingwonderful friend, Jen, and I have decided that it will save us money and help put wholesome for in our babies’ bellies if we sacrifice one Saturday each month to make baby food.  If you’re still with me this far, I guess I should get to the point.  I thought I’d share some techniques and ideas from last Saturday.  I’ll share what we made and try not to complain too much about how my feet ached.

Here’s what we need for any successful day:

1) Each OTHER!  Don’t try to do this alone.  We not only encourage each other to go through with this crazy day, but we also keep each other sane throughout it.

2) A support system.  Someone (or ones) to help you remember to eat and keep the babies out from under your feet.  Today that was my wonderful husband Chris.  His bro, Andy also showed up halfway through the day and taught the girls how to steer on GT5. 🙂

3) A plan.  Again, don’t try it without one. (been there, done that, almost killed each other)

4) Fooooooooooooood. Today we had (o. means organic): butternut squash, o. apples, o. pears, o. spinach, hormone-free chicken, o. sweet potatoes, tofu, juice, gelatin

5) Tools; oven, stove, blender/food processor/sieve, freezer, baking pans, scoop, aluminum foil, freezer bags.

Apple-Pear Mash-Up: We start out by boiling half the apples and pears (cut into quarters) in juice/water for 3-4 hours until they are cooked to oblivion.  They are then mashed through a sieve to remove skins and seeds.  This is a fruit combo that gets frozen for desserts or snacks. I line a baking tray with aluminum foil, shiney side up, and put scoops of the food onto the tray.  Stick them into the freezer for 30 minutes (at least) until they are hard to the touch.  Label and Date your freezer bag, throw the frozen scoops in, and put them back into the freezer.  Voila! Ready to go ≈1oz frozen servings of food at your fingertips.

This is the kind of scoop I use when freezing baby food

Spinach-Tofu-Apple-Pear Mash-Up: (Whatever, it tastes FINE and is EXTREMELY NUTRITIOUS!) We peel, core, and quarter another ¼ of our fruit.  It’s baked for 45min-1hr to be blended with this and one other mixture (reserve half of this for another mixture below).  Cook ½ (about 1.5lbs) spinach in a pan with olive oil until bright green and wilting.  The tofu doesn’t need to be cooked.  Blend it all together with a food processor or blender.  Freeze in scoops on tray.

Fruit Finger Food: The last ¼ of fruit is peeled, cored, diced, baked until soft, but still keeping shape, then frozen for an easy, fast, toddler finger food.

Sweet Potato Fries– Wash and peel your sweet potatoes.  The easiest way to cut them into even, fry-like pieces is by trimming each potato to a rectangular-like block.  Don’t worry, we’ll use the scraps.  Chop your potato blocks into fries, coat in 2tablespoons olive oil, 1tablespoon brown sugar, and 1teaspoon cinnamon (or to your liking), bake on a parchment paper-lined baking tray for 45 minutes or until edges are starting to crisp and turn brown.  Cool, freeze on a baking sheet, separated.  Round 2 of easy toddler finger food!

Spinach-Sweet Potato Mash-Up– Cook the rest of your spinach in the pan until bright green and wilted.  We microwaved our sweet potato scraps and another whole one, washed, peeled, and cut into pieces.  Put only a small amount of water in the bottom of your microwaveable bowl.  It will cook much faster.  Cool and throw into the blender with your spinach and some of the cooking liquids from your boiled apples/pears.  Freeeeeeeeeze as above.

Butternut Squash-Chicken-Apple-Pear Mash-Up– Rinse, half, and deseed your b.nut squash.  Then cut it into pieces as needed to fit into your pan.  We had two squash(es?) and two chicken breasts on the ribs.  Cook the squash in the over with water to cover the bottom of the pan for 45min-1hr.  Boil the chicken (added celery and spices if desired, salt not needed for baby palates) until tender and easy to remove from bone.  Use the rest of your cooked fruit from above.  Once squash is cooked, it will be easy to remove the peel.  Blend everything together.  In this mash-up we blended the fruit separately and left it chunkier.  We blended the chicken and squash until smooth because my baby doesn’t enjoy the stringy texture of chicken.  Mix, scoop, bag, label, freeze.

(I’m getting tired!)

Oats & Naners Apple Drops: Because of a food allergy to bananas, we made these oatmeal biscuits with our apple-pear mash-up instead of bananas.  We also added 1/4cup of brown sugar so they are cookies instead.  Just go here.

We also tried gelatin squares with our applesauce-pear mash-up and some gelatin. »epicfail« »don’twanttotalkaboutit« (maybe we’ll try that again next time)

DINNERTIME FOR MOMMIES A day that full of cooking requires a night out for adult food.  At least it does for us!  And the margarita sure didn’t hurt one bit either!!!

Mmmmmmm

Happy Cooking!!

♥J

New Dishes!

My husband and I registered for Pier 1 “Red” dishes when we got married 8 years ago. We met in Thailand and have a heart for southeast Asia. So we were definitely into the asian decorating craze. I love our red plates; I love how they pop against our black table, and I just really like red in general. All of our colors on the wall are warm beiges, with red and teal accents.

Our old kitchen theme

However, about two years ago, I got really into gray. I painted my son’s room a gray that reminded me of a vintage locker room and decorated it with brown and slate blue. We are trying to sell our house, so I didn’t want to spend any more time or money changing the walls in this house. But I have been dreaming very much of how I will incorporate gray into whatever new home awaits us. I think the golden hues are going to be a thing of the past in my home (for awhile, you never know how your tastes will change!)

One place that I would LOVE to paint gray is my kitchen. I know they are supposed to be bright, but I think with the right color gray, a bunch of bright accents would be so classic. Specifically, off-white or white accents. This includes dishes, bowls, tile backsplash…Here are some kitchens I love that give this feel.

Wallpaper Kitchen

This bright kitchen has so many little features I love, especially the wallpaper and whitewashed floors!

Gray Walls

This has the perfect tone of gray for the walls, although I might pick a shade lighter

Open Shelving Kitchen

I love the open shelving in this kitchen.

What is fun about this is that each season you can bring in whatever color is “in” or simply whatever color you love. Last spring, this rave green was everywhere. Set up a pillow on your barstool and a jar of limes, and you are good to go!

 

 

Shameless plug for the Sounders

 

This spring, I think we will see a lot of what I call persimmon (an orange-pink). With a neutral gray and white kitchen, you can bring in some flowers, or even buy new dish towels in this color.

Persimmon, the fruit

Persimmon, the color

 

 All that said, I don’t have the luxury of painting my kitchen right now. Too much work for a house we are tyring to sell. However, I did take my first step toward this new, lovely kitchen when I dragged my hubby to Macy’s on Friday. I had an $85 gift card from Christmas and knew that they were having a huge kitchen sale. We came across these amazing Martha Stewart dishes called Kensington. They are a little bit off-white, and coordinate with all of her other ceramic kitchen items. I love their simplicity and the color. But the best part was the price. A place setting of 4 was originally $38, down to $34, buy one get one free! So we bought six sets (34 x 3 = 102). Then, because I was wearing red, they gave my 20% off my entire purchase! (102 x .8 = $81) So including tax, I walked away with six sets (dinner plates, salad plates, mugs, and bowls) for about $95. Minus my gift card of course…Your husband can’t be sad when you spend $10 on new plates!

Kensington plates

Kensington plates

 I am thrilled with them, and I am excited to buy a few finishing touches, such as these:

Serving dishes

Serving dishes

Creamer and sugar bowl

Here is the preliminary design palette for my new kitchen. It is small, but will be fun to add to!

I can’t wait!

Radical Part 2

September 12, 2010

It is the middle of September, so I am about three weeks into my “no buying anything for myself” time. It is getting harder, and I am still trying to decide which things count. For example, the other day I had Sidney by herself for an hour and we wanted to do something fun, but of course it was raining (September in Seattle!) So I took her to the McDonald’s play area. I’m not sure if this is normal, but I just cannot use a place’s amenities without buying something. I don’t know if I was raised that way or if it’s my oversensitive awareness of fairness or if it is common courtesy that everyone feels, but if I use someone’s toilet, I’m going to get a coffee there. Anyways, I needed to buy something at McDonalds. I did feel very firmly that buying Starbucks definitely counted as something for myself, and thus, something that I was not to do until after Christmas. (Which, incidently, has made the two pumpkin spice lattes that Phil has bought me taste SOOO delicious!!). But I did buy a regular black coffee at McDonald’s. My reasoning was that 1) I needed to do right by McDonalds, 2) this was something that I would have had at home anways i.e. not a special treat, and 3) it was $1. So I feel fine with that. But there are still things I’m not sure about. I have a coupon for makeup remover from Target and I REALLY need more makeup remover. But I think I’m going to wait on that. After all, if this is about seeing if God will provide, I have to give him the chance to do it. And if I go all the way until Christmas without having makeup remover, I guess I will just have to start washing my face. 🙂

I still am staying away from places in stores that have things for me…clothes and jewelry and shoes and HOME DECOR…sigh. But I have dallied a bit online, kind of making a wish list for Christmas. Fasting from buying things has cleared my palate, and I am feeling really picky about what I want. I like simplicity, I like having a fairly empty closet, and I want to be particular with the “stuff” with which I fill my life, and closet.

Another thing I have had to watch was the stuff I end up buying for Jacob. Because really, does he need another set of pajamas? Or am I trying to cheat by buying him things too? So I have only bought him things when Phil is with me to, so that he can nay or yay the purchase.

Overall I’m still feeling good. I am a little bit anxious for when I do run out of shampoo and conditioner. Will God put some on my doorstep? Will Sierra hate the new stuff she bought and give it to me? WILL I HAVE A CEASELESS SUPPLY? That would of epic, biblical proportion. I hope that happens.

Radical

~A few months ago, God asked me to do something. I blogged along the way, but did not publish them, because it was kind of a private thing. Now that I am at the end, I am excited to share what I did and how God changed me. So without further ado…

Part 1 – September 2, 2010
I am starting this blog in September, although I won’t post it until January of next year. I am generally not good at keeping any kind of journal, but this is something that I think will be important for me to look back on, and hopefully will be interesting to others. Let me start at the beginning…
Two weeks ago I was flying home from a family vacation in Cape Cod. Phil and I were on different plane, and it was the first time I had flown alone in a long time. I can’t believe I used to think flying was boring! It was five of the most relaxing hours of my life. I journaled, did my devotions, prayed, cried, and read a book called “Radical” by David Platt. In it he records his personal challenge to live radically for Jesus and in turn challenges the reader. The word ‘radical’ gets thrown around a lot in the church, but it never really stuck like it did when I read this book. He addresses money, lifestyle, martyrdom, and puts the American church up against the Gospels. I cried a lot, but I am happy to say that I think Phil and I are already on the same page. I didn’t feel convicted that my lifestyle was not radical. (I cried the most during the chapter of practical ways to live radically, blessed that God had already moved us to do so many of the examples Pratt gave!) Instead, I felt challenged to live more radically. And I felt like God asked me to not spend any money on myself for three months.
Now, to chronicle this journey is something that I think will be useful in the future. But I can’t post this as I write them because there would always be this ulterior motive. “Maybe if someone sees how self sacrificing I am, they would buy me some things I need or want.” So I will post this in January, and hope that people read it 🙂
It’s easy for me to make hard decisions. I just try not to count the cost and do what is right! So when God asked me to do this, I said yes instantly. I am a good obey-er. Of course, following through is where I struggle. So when I got home, I started realizing how hard this would be. I imagined that God meant new clothes, fun makeup, accessories, shoes…things that I buy for my pleasure that I could do without. But the very next day, I went to youth group and wanted to buy some gum and a twix bar (I hadn’t had dinner and that sounded really good!). I saw a student, invited her to run to the am/pm with me, and picked out my candy. We get to the counter, and Laura buys my things for me. A 16-year-old, buying a $3 purchase for a 28-year-old. The complete reversal of what usually happens! I thanked her, but still completely clueless about how this related to what God had asked of me the day before. It was not until I was sitting in chapel that I had the revelation that God had kept me from breaking my promise on day 1!! Which led to another revelation – he wanted me to abstain from buying things I think of as necessities. (Not that a twix bar is a necessity, but it was my dinner.)
So how far does this go? Shampoo, conditioner, deodorant? What can I buy, and what should I not? I’m not even sure! I know that I don’t want to be sneaking in and stealing Sierra’s shampoo. This isn’t a lesson in surviving with no money. It’s not even a lesson in living on less in order to save more (which is what I originally thought.) It’s a lesson in trusting God to provide, with a side benefit of saving money!
I didn’t know if I should tell Phil, but I realized it would be weird if I didn’t. Of course, I don’t want him buying me things that I want in lieu of me buying them. But I also don’t want a “secret” between us, that is going to affect my every day life. So he’s in on it. Without planning it this way, we ended up doing normal grocery shopping together, and Phil even did some alone while I was at work. I generally do the shopping alone, but since Phil beat me to it, I was saved from the temptation of buying things that would be just for me. Thanks Phil!
How this has affected me so far:
*Part of me is really thankful to have this challenge over the next few months. It saves a lot of time and heartache for lack of a better word. Knowing that I can’t buy anything keeps me from even looking. I don’t go on Gap.com or into the clothes section of Target. And if I don’t see things I want, then I don’t want anything. I really do already feel more content. Secondly, I am forced to be more creative with what I have. I am pulling out old home decor items to change up our family room. I am finding new ways to wear old clothes. It’s kind of fun!
*I want to make sure that I am doing what God asks, but not being legalistic and making this some kind of holy crusade and taking it too far. I want to be prayerful about what God really wants in these three months, and what he wants to teach me.
Stay tuned for Part 2!

When the world falls in love

Every song you hear seems to say Merry Christmas, may your New Year’s dreams come true.

The Christmas Waltz – Frank Sinatra

Well, we’re 5 days and counting until Christmas morning.  I hope you’ve had the chance to take some time out for relaxed family enjoyment of this season.

I think the key is taking, even a few minutes, to just stop and think about what makes you happy.  Now that I’m a mom, I’m a big believer in celebrating the small stuff.  Everyone says this, I know.  Easier said than done, I know.  Even more than celebrating the small stuff, though is appreciating what makes you happy when it makes you happy.

Like when I get my daughter out of her crib while she’s sleeping so I can enjoy being the mom of a baby who still fits in my arms.  Like when I stop eating, look at my little family, and tell them how happy they make me.  Like when I yell at my mom that I love her as she drives out of my driveway. Like when I eat cookies my best friend made for breakfast.

I’m certainly not impervious to social norms, but if we love someone, shouldn’t we tell them?

Enjoy what you have.  Appreciate who you have.  Say it aloud so they know.  After all, it’s true wherever you find love, it feels like Christmas.

And remember we are celebrating someone who loved us so much, he laid down his life.

Merry Merry Merry Christmas All!  We love you!

Haven reads a book with her Daddy at her birthday party.