We are Moving! From Ohio to Illinois

Yesterday our church announced that Tap handed in his resignation at TCN to pursue a calling to move back to Illinois.

Moving fromOH to ILAfter losing my job at the end of September, we felt a lot of strings had already been cut for us… it was just a matter of choosing to loosen a few more or to bind new ones.

The decision was not an easy one, and it was not made quickly. We have been praying earnestly and wanted to be sure that this calling was from God, not merely our own thoughts or desires.

However, in-time we felt a lot of peace, nudges, and signs that this was the right direction for this season in our life.

I was nudged out of my job. Our hearts were stirred to minister to the people we know and love in Illinois in more tangible ways.  Passions to pursue higher education were fanned by Tap’s first seminary class and walking on campus again in October. Affirmation from congregation members spoke life into my desire to become a professor of Biblical Studies.

Blogs, devotions, speakers, podcasts, books, sermons… they were all lining up with a similar message to Take a Leap of Faith. To dive in and Remake Your Life.

Although we are excited for this new adventure, we want you to know how much we have appreciated our time in Ohio.

TCN took a leap of faith in my husband, offering Tap his first full-time job in Worship Ministry. He was able to learn and grow in a loving environment. He was challenged to balance hymns and contemporary music; to schedule, nurture, and disciple individuals; to play any and every instrument when needed; and to organize and develop a culture of integrity and greatness out of reverence to our God who deserves our best.

Marriage Works OH! took a leap of faith in me, offering me my first full-time job as a supervisor- and in a field I was passionate about! I was able to study marriage and relationships and share what I learned in college and at work with teams of marriage educators. I was able to teach classes to couples who were hanging by a thread using the class as their last effort to save their marriage, and to teach others who wanted to start their marriage prepared, and even more who were just excited to kick their romance up a notch. I loved the opportunity to pour into these marriages directly, and indirectly through the supervision of my team.

We are so thankful for the opportunities to grow, learn, and serve here in Ohio. And there are plenty of people we will miss- who poured themselves into us while we were here.

In the next few weeks, our last few days, we plan on leaving strong. Giving it all we got, so that our impact can outlast our presence. We still care and pray for the ministries we are leaving behind, but we look forward to the new as well. The new lives that await us; Lives that God has tilled in preparation for the seed He’s asked us to plant.

We would love for you to continue to be a part of our lives in prayer and support of this new journey.

Thank you for everything!

In the Light, Darkness Flees

In Him [Jesus Christ] was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

John 1:4 & 5

When I walk downstairs to the living room and turn the overhead light on, the darkness jumps back in an instant.  Just as quickly as the light comes on, the darkness scatters.  I am able to see everything in the room- the ottoman I would have walked into, the shoes I would have tripped on, the sentimental pictures hanging on the wall, and my favorite Christmas decorations scattered among the room.  Light is a fascinating concept in itself.  Darkness does not and can not exist in the presence of light; Darkness is merely the absence of light.  Light exposes and reveals… Light comforts you with sight and warmth.

How perfectly fitting it is, that light is used as imagery in the Bible.  In the light of God’s purity, our sins are exposed.  In light of Truth, the lies of the world get caught up.  In Light there is no Darkness. Satan is Darkness while God is Light; Hell is the absence of God.

As I mulled over this imagery, I was so caught by the beauty and depth it brings.  I want to surrender my soul to Him so that I may walk through the light.  I do not want to live in the darkness- stumbling around, walking myself straight into disaster and strife.  Instead, I want to know the beauty of truth and walk in confidence towards a place of peace, love, and joy.  I understand, that when I open myself up to the light the darkness that dwells in me will be exposed.  We all have a past, we all struggle with sin.  In a fallen body, living in a broken world -ruled by the King of Darkness- There will surely be a lot that needs exposed and scattered from my heart, mind, and life.

Here is a plea for THE Light through my art and poetry: In the Light, Darkness Flees.

In the Light, Darkness Flees

Fear wrapped my hands into fists.
Let no one know, so no one will judge.
Cling to my secrets, and hold them tight.
My nails puncture my skin, and my sins creep in.
Infection grows throughout my lungs, lies breathe out and nothing comes in.
Spoil runs through my veins as the devil takes his place.
My heart grows black and starts to fail.
Lord, Lord help me prevail.
Expose my soul.
I’ll let you in.
The walls of my lies tumble down, the facade falls to the ground
The light shines and all my darkness exposed
The love wraps and warms my soul.
The darkness screams and tries to flee
God’s face looks on it’s crawl, and it’s grasp diminishes, vanishing all.

Turning your “God WHY?!” into “God HELP!”

Nearly almost every Christian struggles with a “God why” moment.  God why… did you send that storm, did you make me this way, did you make my mom sick, did you let them die so young : God why do you let these bad things happen…. to good people.

If you are struggling with this yourself, know that I sympathize with you.  Please know that you are not alone, and you are certainly not the only person who has asked this question.  However, this is not a time to abandon your faith, but it is a time to cling to it.  This struggle should NOT break you, you should allow it to make you stronger.

As long as “the good people” are strong in their faith, they are also a threat to the Devil.  Therefore, all these “bad things” that are happening are the Devil’s way of trying to turn you over into his kingdom instead of God’s.  So do not let your doubt be Satan’s victory over your life.  Instead use the opportunity to find some answers. After wrestling with my own “God why”s, I have decided that these events are not God’s fault – but mankind’s.

It all started in the Garden.  When Adam & Eve took a bite of the forbidden fruit, life as we know it began.  The first rule broken was that Adam & Eve took the Devil’s advice over God’s.  Interconnectedly, Adam & Eve were making themselves the god of their lives instead of letting the LORD be God over their life.

“You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.” The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her.

– Genesis 3:4-5 (emphasis added)

This one act created quite a “jam” for God, in our human perspective.  In reality, He knew it was going to happen in the beginning, but he longed for us more than an eager wife who longs for her firstborn – He created us anyways.  God’s just character demands that consequences are served.  Our consequence was a cursed and broken world ruled by Satan.  In this cursed and broken world comes the storms, the disposition to be gay or an alcoholic, the sickness, and death. All of the things that plague us were turned over to Satan’s control.  Why? Because mankind gave it to him, and now we reap the curse we sowed.

BUT! This is NOT the END!  God let all of this happen, and He -from the beginning – also had a plan to redeem it.  God sent His one and only Son to die for our sins.  Justice had to be served.  Our punishment for our sins is death, so death must be served.  Instead of serving mankind with death, God took it upon Himself and served our sentence. This has allowed hope to enter the world again.  And when He returns, the world, too, will be redeemed.  God will restore the garden to it’s intended state, where we will continue to live in His presence, where His light wipes out all of the darkness and plagues of Satan.

I hope this can be a start into your own journey… Discovering the answer to “God Why?!” in your life.  But let me suggest : Instead of screaming out “God Why!”, we should be pleading “God help, God restore, God redeem, God shine your light, God come home.”  God is not our enemy, God is our hero.

 

Beauty has Become a Treatment

For the last three weeks I have been participating in a Beth Moore Bible study on the book of Esther at TroyNaz.  I’ll be honest, this is the first time I’ve given the book of Esther much of my time, and what a shame that was! Esther has proved to be a beautiful story of God’s unseen hand and deep profound love for His people.  It is rich with history, ironies, and applications.  Let me share with you one small snippet that hit me over the head with a deep recognition and familiarity to our culture today.

We will be looking at the portion where King Xerxes is looking for a new bride: Esther Chapter 2.

Then the king’s young men who attended him said, ‘Let beautiful young virgins be sought out for the king. And let the king appoint officers in all the provinces of his kingdom to gather all the beautiful young virgins to the harem in Susa the citadel, under custody of Hegai, the king’s eunuch, who is in charge of the women. Let their cosmetics be given them. And let the young woman who pleases the king be queen instead of Vashti.’

Now when the turn came for each young woman to go in to King Xerxes, after being twelve months under the regulations for the women, since this was the regular period of their beautifying, six months with oil of myrrh and six months with spices and ointments for women— when the young woman went in to the king in this way, she was given whatever she desired to take with her from the harem to the king’s palace.

Esther 2:2-4, 12-13

Let me recap… They gathered all the beautiful women.  These already beautiful women then had to go through a TWELVE MONTH beautification process including ointments, spices, and cosmetics.

Beth Moore states that beauty is no longer depicted as something you are, but something that you do.  The natural beauty gathered for the King wasn’t enough. Beauty is no longer a characteristic, but a treatment, it is what you do.  The Persian culture treated beauty this way, and sadly, so does today’s culture.

We can be gorgeous on the inside and out, but our culture today says that we can only be beautiful if we are a certain size, weight, wearing makeup, revealing ourselves, and have every inch Photoshopped.  Beauty is no longer just a treatment, it’s imaginary.  We can’t live up to photoshop, nor should we have to.  Why chase this false beauty?

Instead of looking at the mirror and judging our every bulge and pimple, we should look at the mirror and examine our hearts before God.  Instead of spending thirty minutes to an hour primping our hair, we should take the time to delve into God’s Word and fill our mind with TRUTH instead of these cultural lies.  Time spent on makeup, outfits, and accessories could be invested more wisely in the nurturing of the Fruits of the Spirit.

True beauty is defined by the characteristics God calls us to : “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness, self-control” Galatians 5:22-23

Easier said then done, right?  The first thing we have to do is believe it.  Redefine what beauty is in our own hearts.  Our physical beauty will always age and change, we can’t hold onto it for our own security… it’ll never be enough.  Where one flaw is covered, our eyes search and find the next.  Let’s root our beauty in what God’s eyes see.

He loved us so much that He humbled Himself – God became a man.  He humbled Himself further and died a cruel and painful death, taking our guilty sentence upon Himself so that we may go scott-free.  There is no love greater than Love, Himself… and He looks at us with that great overpowering love.

Why don’t we put God’s perspective on for size?  We can become overwhelmed in the tender love He offers, we can be rooted in His vision for us, and we can learn to treat ourselves with the respect He desires for us.

The Mysterious Journey of Life

The weather is finally warming up!  I was starting to lose hope when we got a snow storm on the first official day of spring, but alas, it is coming!  To usher in this warmth, my husband and I have been going on walks.

I’m not sure what it is about walks, but my husband opens up and is willing to talk about anything and everything.  Generally speaking, men are “side-by-side” bonders – Doing an action (e.g. sports) helps them open up and bond with others.  Whereas women are “face-to-face” bonders – We like to sit down over coffee and can chat for hours.  So maybe this theory rings true for Tap, but whatever is the cause I am so thankful for these moments!

On our last walk, Tappy was sharing this story with me… It was at night time, and he was hanging out at a friends house when they began to hear fireworks.  They knew the fireworks were being set off by the lake and decided they were going to run through the woods that lay at his friends backyard to get to the fireworks in time for the grand finale.  As they were running through the branches, twigs, hills, and hurdles – in the dark! – they would hear a loud explosion as the fireworks climbed up and burst into beauty.  In that moment the forest would be illuminated and they were given a small glimpse to see the entire woods before them.

I’ve been thinking of this imagery – often picturing war movies- but then I thought about the mystery of our faith journey.  Hold tight with me here…

How often are we crawling through life in the absolute dark.  We get scraped up by the brokenness of the world, we stumble over hurdles we’ve created for ourselves, and we get frustrated because we don’t even know if we are going in the right direction.  This is where I am.  God knows that I’ve been crawling on all fours wondering if all those hurdles I’ve overcome have a purpose.  Have I gone through this wilderness just to find out I was going the wrong way this whole time?

But then there is a loud explosion!  It shakes the earth under your feet and drops you down to your knees. You hear God speak more clearly than you’ve ever heard Him.  His light bursts and you see the whole path shine before you, and for a glimpse of time you understand where He wants you to go and what He has planned for you.

I pray that you find yourself on your knees in awe. That His glorious path is unfolded before you, and you are able to walk with faith and your chin straight up in the direction you’ve been called!

…like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.

-E.L. Doctorow

What’s Round on Both Sides and Hi in the Middle?

OHIO!!

After lots of packing, dragging, driving, and unloading we are here!  Tappy and I spent a few weeks packing our house little by little, and when the big day came all those boxes were quickly swept up and carried into the Uhaul.

This was the first big move for me.  I found myself sitting on the one lonely chair left in our house exasperated by the flurry around me.  In the end the house sat empty, and all of our stuff was ready to go, while my heart desired to cling at the doorstep of 1106. As much as I miss my family, I know that following God’s vision for our life is more important than my temporary happiness and comfort.  In God’s plan there is peace in the sadness, stability in the changes, and comfort in HIS arms.  Happiness fades, but the JOY found in God is a firm resting place.

 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4ff

God has certainly been a great comfort, even in this simple move.  His people, the members of Troy Nazarene Church, have blessed us beyond our wildest dreams.  When we pulled up to our apartment Tuesday morning we had atleast six people waiting to help us unload the Uhaul – Which, with their help, was unloaded in only 30 minutes!  Then they all stayed to help unpack!  Every night until Sunday,  we were given warm meals by different church families.  My first week in Troy, I didn’t even have to cook!  God certainly knows how to use His people to spread the love and comfort we can only learn from Him.

Thank You- Family members who helped us move & who have alway been there.  Thank You- Church Family who are already welcoming us with open arms & have given with their servant hearts.

Hollowed Instruments

I graduated in December of 2011, Tappy in May of 2012.  Since then, my husband has applied to over 80 churches, has interviewed with eight to ten of them, and we have visited four.  In the meanwhile, I have been working two part-time jobs, and the moment I clock out, my husband is clocking in at one of his three part-time jobs.

We have had small moments of excitement, followed by huge disappointments.  Seemingly, most Churches are seeking someone who has three to five years of experience in a Church of two-hundred or more (which is hard to get, fresh out of college).  It has been frustrating at times, but, ultimately, it has been a growing experience.  We have learned to step back from these interviews and not get so attached – It is not about what this Church can do for us, but what can we do for this Church.  Will we be stunting their growth, or will we be the proper instrument God needs to do His work?

In Acts, we find the story of Paul’s conversion.  Paul, aka Saul, was working against Christianity, and was slaughtering God’s faithful servants.  When God was ready to call Paul back onto His side, He asked His man Ananais to deliver the news.

Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.”But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.

Acts 9: 10ff

When we go to a concert and hear Kenny G. playing his saxophone, we are not mesmerized by the ability of the saxophone.  The saxophone is simply a hollow tube, awaiting a master to breathe music into it.  Similarly, we need to empty ourselves of our own ambitions, our selfishness and pride, and our sinfulness.  That way we are ready to be used.  Then, when God breathes the Holy Spirit into us and let’s His work come out of our God-given talents – People shouldn’t see us, but see the artist behind the instrument.

During this season in life, we have also struggled to accept that God’s timing is perfect, and in most cases it is not the same as the timezone we live in.  God gets to see the end of the book simultaneously as he views what we call our present. He’s all-knowing, and He’s way smarter than us.  Whenever a Church turned us down, or our plans didn’t go the way WE thought it would, I like to remember Jamie Sullivan’s (Mandy Moore) line in A Walk to Remember, “Maybe God has a bigger plan for me than I had for myself.” … and that He did!

Almost a year of searching has finally brought us to a full-time Worship Ministry & Creative Arts position at Troy Church of the Nazarene, in Troy, Ohio!  Praise the Lord for His provision and always better plan!