Given the fact that our last blog post was in mid-March of this year, I feel that we should acknowledge that we have taken a bit of a hiatus from blog-writing, this because we have been pouring our time and energy into a multitude of other things. It was unintentional, but necessary. I will explain the reasons why, but most of them have to do with busyness, the extreme level of which has now subsided. It will best be told as a story so you can see how the events unfolded. (Also, if we’re being super transparent, it’s also because our website was set up during that time and we had to figure out how to use it!)
In mid-March, right around the time Amy wrote her last post, we had determined after much prayer and conversation with many people that we would be moving north, out of Highlands ranch, for the purposes of being closer to the area where we planned to begin the new church we’ve been working on for the past number of months (and years). A friend of ours who has worked in the mortgage industry for many years recommended a friend of his, who he used to work with, for our mortgage broker. It turns out that her husband is an accomplished realtor, and that by using them in tandem, we’d not only save a lot of time and paperwork, but also realize a significant savings in our real estate and mortgage fees, which we were excited about. He came by our house on a Saturday to look at the Highlands Ranch house to see if there were any significant issues we’d need to address before selling, and to get an idea of what and where we might be looking for the next house. (A quick sidenote: having moved 12 times in the last 15 years, we wanted this next house to potentially be the long-term house, and thus, we were a bit more picky about it, particularly considering the fact that we plan to “do church” out of this house for at least a few years into it’s inception. Also of note is that Denver is a seller’s market right now. Our hope was to find the future house and put in a contingent offer as we anticipated the sale of our current house would go quickly. That turned out to be a massive understatement!) After going over these details, we planned to meet our new realtor up in the Arvada area the following Friday to look at a few houses and get an idea of what to expect moving forward. We also made it clear in these couple of meeting that our planned time-frame for a move was toward the end of May or early June after the girls finished their school-year.
That next Friday, we did indeed meet Kevin in Arvada and looked at a half dozen houses, none of which particularly piqued out interest, but gave us an impression of what to expect. At the end of the night, Kevin said something along the lines of, “Hey. I wanted to ask a question. My nephew’s parents live down in your old neighborhood. In fact, their house has the same floor plan as yours. And my nephew and his family want to move down there to be close to his parents. Would it be okay if I showed them the house next week sometime?” We answered saying essentially, “Sure. You mean the house that we’re not listing until mid-May? Why not!” This was the third week of March, two months ahead of our planned time-frame.
The following Friday around 11am, the nephew and his wife and their realtor came to look at our house. It wasn’t an official showing, and the nephew had indicated it was fine for us to stay at the house while they looked around. They walked through, and then walked through again. We answered a few questions and pointed out the work we’d done to the house when we moved in. They asked a few more questions and we talked for a few more minutes about how much we loved the neighborhood, the plentiful number of children that our kids had enjoyed spending hours upon hours with over the previous 2 years, and the fantastic neighbors we’d gotten to know during that time. Then, the meeting was over, and after a friendly goodbye, they left.
Around 6pm that evening, still the third Friday of MARCH, we received a full price offer on our house, a price that frankly blew our minds. And this was before, two MONTHS before, we’d even listed the house. I’ll point out that there have been a few “God moments” in our lives over the last few years, and this was certainly one to add to the list. We happily (ecstatically) accepted the offer and started to work out the details with them on timing. They were very gracious with the facts surround our move northward, and over the next two months we ended up finding our current house. The purchase of the new place was a little tricky, and took some diligent persistence on our realtor’s part in order to pull it together, but at the end of the day, we ended up with a beautiful house in an area of town that we are very happy with. We closed on the Highlands Ranch house on April 22nd, the new place on April 24th, and moved our little family to Lakewood, CO on my 38th birthday – April 25th.
In the weeks that followed, aside from the usual craze of unpacking, we also had a number of reasonably significant projects to accomplish to finalize the house into a finished product that we’d all be happy with for the next unknown number of years. Painting, floor replacing, accent wall carpentry, new carpet in a couple of places, replacement of a couple of ancient windows, painting, some other interior carpentry, a little electrical work, more painting. You get the idea. Lots to do in a reasonably short time frame.
Why the reasonably short time frame? Well, here’s where we admit that we’re a little insane. Like I said, we closed on the new place on Friday, April 24th. Amy and I were scheduled to fly to Tacoma, WA for a week of church planter training called Soma School on May 12. And being ambitious people, it seemed reasonable/insane that between finishing packing, getting some critical painting done, moving, and starting a few other projects, we’d be able to go out of town for a week. The fact of the matter is that we were pushed beyond our limits several times, but God was gracious with us and gave us the energy and stamina to do what needed to be done. It was a whirlwind during those 18 days but we survived, left our kids with Amy’s very helpful mother, got on our plane, and spent May 12-19th, as one fellow trainee described it, drinking from a firehose of some of the best information on church planting, discipleship, relationship building, and Gospel intentionality we’ve heard in our entire lives. We also got a chance to interact with a number of people from Soma Tacoma who have been “doing church” this way for a number of years, pepper them with questions, serve alongside them, and get a real sense for how to move forward in our next steps. It was really fun and exciting, but also intense and not a little overwhelming. After a remarkable week of training, we flew back to our new home.
One thing I’d like to highlight here is that there is no reason why we should have been able to stand upright under our own power by the end of all of that, but God was very literally our “rear-guard” during this time, and provided more than we needed to not only make it through this time, but to thoroughly enjoy it. We had moments where we didn’t choose our words carefully enough or gave each other dirty looks or used tones of voice usually reserved for scolding a puppy that poops on the carpet, but overall we gave each other grace and exercised patience that God supplied for us in abundance. Not only this, but God also gave us children that displayed great patience and character during what was a very long, stressful, and overly busy period of time. They too needed patience and extra grace at times, but we could not be prouder of how they walked through those couple of months with us. I will also add here that without the help of friends and family that God blessed us with, we would have surely succumbed to the stress and gone off the deep end.
SO, now we’re moved in, we’ve been to what was one of the best chunks of training available for what we’re planning on doing with the rest of our lives, and we’re back home continuing with the multitude of projects. I’d say it was “back to the grind”, except it wasn’t. Yeah, we put in a lot of hours and elbow grease. As we did, we thought and prayed for all of the people we’ll have in this house. People who may just come to visit. People who may live with us for periods of time in the future. Neighbors and others who would come for an evening. We want this house to be for them and ultimately to be used for Christ. We prayed and prayed that God would lead us to the right house. We are incredibly blessed by our home, but we don’t want the blessing to be just for us. Our goal is that this house is used to bless others. Through May and into June, we were up many nights until 11pm finishing a project or painting one more wall or piece of trim. But at the same time, we were getting to spend time together, and with the families from our missional community. “Missional Community” is a phrase we got from our time in Tacoma, at Soma School, and is way of describing what has often been referred to in church circles as a “life group” or a “small group”. But missional community is really more than either of those things. A missional community, in our (and Soma’s) definition is a group of people who commit their lives to being disciples, and making disciples who live on mission. I’ll get more into the weeds of what this looks like practically at a later time, but suffice it to say that we are working on being intentional about living life together in a way defined by the power of the Gospel of Christ in everyday life.
As I write this on July 21, 2015 I look back at the last few months and breathe a deep sigh of relief. We have continued to be very busy since we got back from Soma School. We’ve had our first neighborhood block party (which I’ll write more about later), a missional community group camping trip (our first with this group), a couple of families from Texas stay with us for a week or so, and I just returned very late Sunday night from my 20th high school reunion (which I’ll also write about later). In the coming weeks and months, we have a lot of things planned, and we are excited to see what else God does, and how he equips and sustains us through our busyness.
Before I sign off for today, I’ll share one more thought. One lesson I’m still in the process of learning is how important it is to be careful about the things we categorize as “ministry”. What I mean by that is that we are often inclined to only call things “ministry” if we’ve opened and closed in prayer and included a Bible verse. While those things are essential to Gospel-centered ministry as a generality, we’ve done a million Gospel-centered things over the last few months that have not looked like typical ministry. They wouldn’t fall neatly into a typical ministry category. One of the things we talked about extensively at Soma School was “Gospel intentionality”. The idea behind this phrase is that we bring the power and meaning of the Gospel into everything we do. This reminds me of a verse from the book of Colossians:
All of life, if we are intentional, is relatable to the Gospel. One of the ways to go about moving our brains in that direction is to consistently be praying about and asking ourselves the following question: “What about the Gospel – the power and message of Jesus Christ and what he’s ALREADY done – can I bring to bear on this situation?” Everything from calling a tow-truck to mowing some grass to sharing a meal to leading a Bible study to tucking your kids into bed at night can be influenced by the power of the Gospel if we’ll only allow it to be. Our everyday, seemingly mundane activities and interactions with people can be Gospel moments when we consistently ask the Holy Spirit to be in the middle of them. More importantly, it is sometimes those seemingly mundane and meaningless moments in which the power of God becomes very potent to someone who does not have experience with the potency of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That’s about it for now. More to come soon!