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Saturday, January 17, 2009

God and Pajamas

Strange moment today. Jumping off into church planting has entailed some budget cuts at the Kemp's house. When the weather started getting cold this fall I realized that Abby did not own any pajamas. I began praying for God to meet this need since I really at that moment could not come up with any extra cash for clothes. Then, honestly I forgot about it and moved on with life.

Today I was sorting through her clothes, reorganizing, packing up what's too little, etc. It took most of the day since we were recently blessed with two big batches of hand-me-downs. I was grumbling about the big mess and the big job a bit when I started folding pajamas.

It was when I began putting away her pajamas and needed not one, but two drawers that I began to cry. You see, I had prayed for warm pajamas and then moved on with life. But my God who is faithful even in the small things of life blessed us with gifts from grandmas and hand-me-downs from friends so that we now have two drawers full of pajamas. My daughter is warm at night, and I had not even noticed that God had answered my prayer.

God is good...all the time....and all the time....God is good.

Thanks for the p.j.s!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

the burning question....did I survive offline?

The burning question...did I survive being offline most of the week? Absolutely. I went to bed early, spent more time with the kids, got caught up on grading papers. Still haven't paid bills...I keep putting that off....must be done.

The kids and I made it through the week without Shawn just fine. We certainly missed him, but we were okay. At no point did I think I was going to see my head totally and completely explode from frustration with the kids. They tried really hard to be extra good and helpful. Now things are right back to normal.

Two of the three nights my stuff I cooked turned out decent or least edible. The third night with the slightly scorched dinner, James said, "No offense mom, but while we're on the topic of food, when's dad coming home?" (I lost two pounds!)

Speaking of supper conversations, that third night was a hoot. The kids just all suddenly broke into some old rock songs and were drumming on the table with their silverware and laughing and giggling and having a great time. (The whole reason I burnt the food in the first place was because we were jamming and dancing before supper.) The jokes were flying.....with middle school aged kids the cheese factor is pretty high, but still funny. Then they started telling me all these funny stories from school, and I seriously could not stop laughing. So sucky food, but great entertainment.... not a bad trade-off. (Oh, and out of the blue Grace says, "Hey mom, what's a virgin....without even considering that we haven't exactly had all of "the talk" just yet I reply nonchalantly, "Somebody who's not had sex yet." James spits his milk out his nose and laughs....Grace turns red.....and Katie was just confused. And then the singing started right back up again.)

It has been a long, hard week at school this week. I've had some difficult conversations with a couple of upset parents. I've done 21 individual, very detailed, reading tests with my class - all while managing the other students at the same time. Put that together with school wide benchmark testing which meant no P.E. or music (no breaks for me at all) - and I'm pretty exhausted! I did have 12 minutes for lunch a short break. I'm really looking forward to the weekend! And I'm really looking forward to sleep!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Monday Morning Update trying again to add photos. Be patient if they are oddly positioned. Still having a hard time with this.
This morning I was overcome with emotion during worship to the point that I had to work really hard at keeping my composure long enough to finish the set. I loved the worship set, but it was seeing the now familiar faces of people that were strangers just a few weeks ago that did me in. I was so touched as I realized how God is slowly and steadily moving in Anna. I think that sometimes I forget just how amazing God has already been in the life of The Crossroads. I thought that tonight I would take the time to review the journey with you. Sometimes, remembering where we started from helps us to fully see where God has brought us. So settle in for a long read....God has been really good.....There's lots of blessings to share!
Some Crossroads Firsts

This was back that first night when we unrolled the sign for the very first time and were sorting the things for the first preview service and packing the truck. I remember our excitement. My fear of the unknown and my dreams of the future. God blessed us with start up supplies through many sources....Friends, family, other churches, local and state organizations. Somehow we had plenty of funding for everything we needed to begin a new church. We trained with Shawn's coach for our summer work, and began praying for "the friends we haven't meet yet" (Joel - the second shyest member of the launch team. I was first place.)

Worship Dude

We had supplies, we had been blessed with a big truck to haul and store all our stuff, we had found a place to meet.....we were less than a week away from our first preview service.....and no worship leader. I had prayed long and hard for this unknown man. There are specifics in an older blog, but I had a really long list of criteria. We scouted local bands, interviewed men we heard about through the grapevine, and totally exhausted every single resource and person that we knew or heard of. Nothing. Then Shawn went back one last time to one of our sponsor churches to basically beg them for someone just to help us out through the first three preview services of the summer. They reluctantly told us about a guy on their worship team that they thought was probably interested in worship ministry. To me, this is still one of the most incredible things that God has done. That he united Robby (worship dude) and The Crossroads is amazing. I can't imagine anyone else who would be a better fit with Shawn, the band, and the congregation. God did really good on this one. Much better than I had ever hoped for. Honestly, as a brand new church plant, I expected us to get stuck with some has-been, or some mediocre talented guy until we could afford better. Instead God delivered somebody more talented than I ever expected to have the opportunity to work with in my lifetime. We are richly blessed. Shawn's coach told us to dream big about a worship leader and not be afraid of the big ask. I didn't know to ask this big. But God did it anyway!

Block Parties and other summer events

We did four big events this last summer to meet the community and try to generate interest in The Crossroads. We did everything from cotton candy (ewww.....I was sticky for days) to large inflatables to a movie night to a live band. We gave away door prizes, had lots of fun, and began to love our new community. We made hundreds of contacts and saw people becoming interested in us and receptive to hearing about Jesus. By the end of the summer, God had taken a small team of friends and taught us how to create community events and how to trust God to provide for our every need.

One of our big jobs last summer involved door to door surveys. We learned a lot about the community. About their music preferences, which helped us design a musical style for The Crossroads. About their perception of needs for the community - by far the biggest desire was for a sense of community. We had a mission team come in and help with this huge task. I still could only dream and imagine what God had planned for the Crossroads. But as we walked the streets in the heat and prayed for our community, God created in me and each member of the team a sense of hunger and desire to reach Anna. He bound our launch team together with bonds tighter than I have ever experienced in church before as we united around a common goal.

We did three preview services last summer to practice set up and tear down, to generate interest in The Crossroads, and to give us the opportunity to learn how to best reach the community. The first set-up took several hours as we tried several different approaches. It is hard now to remember a time that set-up wasn't totally automatic. It is hard to remember back in the day when we needed photos to make sure we replaced everything where it went. When it still seemed strange to have church in a gym. We are so thankful to have the opportunity to meet in a location that is inexpensive and meets our needs so well. God provided favor with the landlord. While we could not find anywhere to meet, God was paving the way for a cheaper location with much more space than all the other places we looked at. The inexpensive overhead left us plenty of funds for all the outreach events of the summer! God had a plan!

Since the launch:

We have met weekly since September. God continually brings us new people and is really connecting some families into The Crossroads. We have baptized three people, and licensed one guy to the ministry. This fall we did a trunk or treat at Halloween and handed out spirit towels at a football game. (by the way...ended up with a grant for the spirit towels)

LaRissa and a friend at Trunk -r- treat

11,000 pounds of snow at White Christmas

But more important than the statistics and the numbers are the relationships that are building. Every week I watch as our new friends are becoming old friends. Every week I see the excitement and energy as people set-up for services and tear down afterwards. I can't imagine enjoying church more than what I do. Sunday has become the absolute highlight of my week. The day that I count down to. Church is not routine. It is not boring. It is fresh and exciting and beautiful.
Licensing Brad Brinkley to the ministry

Our First Mission Trip

As a new church,we are hungry to share Christ with the world. We went on our first mission trip over the holidays. If you missed all the details, check out my last few blogs. God provided nearly 700 blankets, toys, van rental, and gas for the trip. Total cost of trip per person - $30. I was blown away by God's planning and provision on the trip. He provided the perfect location for us....which was not where we planned to go. God blessed us in so many ways on the trip.

On a personal note

One of the greatest blessings this year has been seeing my family grow. Many years ago I visited with a missionary wife from Russia. She said that becoming missionaries was the best thing that ever happened to her family. We have not left home for a new country, but I have to absolutely agree with her. I am seeing my children loving church. They are anxious and available to help us out. They have important jobs and enjoy the responsibility and importance of being needed. I have seen the church family adopting my children as their own. I deeply appreciate all of the people who have stepped up to love my children like family. I saw this type of relationship at Saddleback several years ago as I watched some staff children with church members. But I never honestly expected to have that level of relationship in a church. Don't misunderstand me here. People in churches where we have served have always been good to our children and loved them - even sacrificially giving of themselves to help us out. But this is different. This is like attending church with family. Thank you.

I've found that there is much that I've forgotten. And then there's much that I don't have the words or the time tonight to share. However, I do know for sure that if God never did another thing at The Crossroads, it would still have been the best ride of my life. But the really exciting thing is that God is not finished yet. He's just getting started!