Archives For Family

Yesterday marked the 14th year of Mark and I being pastors in Vancouver, WA.  We came from the Seattle area after serving as youth pastors at two previous churches.  When we loaded up the moving van, I honestly thought it was a very temporary move for our little family.  Now, fourteen years later, both of my children were born here, we’ve grown roots, and beautiful Clark County is our home.

Along with it being the start of a new year, our “anniversary” brought many reflections to my heart about our tenure here:

1.  I love the Church.  Capital C.  The Bride of Christ is Jesus’ first love and I am so thankful for the variety of churches that our community offers to believers.  They all look slightly unique, but every week they gather to honor our Savior Jesus.  We are blessed to pastor alongside some amazing men and women who valiantly give their lives, do their best everyday, and fight the fight!  Thank you to all of you pastors who love our city.

2.  We’ve seen the best in ministry.  We’ve seen lives transformed, families rescued, addictions broken, healing happen, and hope set free in people’s hearts.  Every prayer, every baptism, and every life is valuable to my heart.  I am humbled and honored to be a part of it all.  Pastoring is a difficult and trying job, but the rewards are rich.  The Bible is clear that many will fall away, which is difficult to process, but those who hold tight to Biblical principles are a treasure.

3.  We’ve seen the worst in ministry.  Our first church experience in our city was racked with lawsuits, division, and horror.  I’ve never seen anything like it and I pray to God I never see anything like it again.  I realized that we, as Christians, have the ability to do far more damage to the Church of Jesus than any non-believer out there.  Guard your words, dear believer.  The Church is Jesus’ deepest treasure and we must treat it accordingly.  As a pastor, this would be the reason behind many sleepless nights as I pray for a unified church that gets behind the mission and vision.  If that happens…well, read the Bible.  We become an unstoppable force to be reckoned with.

4.  We have lifelong friends here.  The greatest jewel in our ministry experience has been the friends we have gained along the way.  We have been blessed, from day one, to be surrounded by people that we LOVE to work alongside.  We have pastored together, held each other’s brand new babies, scolded each other’s kids, and now are cheering on our teens.  We have started a church together, failed together, succeeded together, and worked out a thousand struggles along the way.  We’ve eaten too much pizza in youth ministry and drank countless cups of coffee in church planting.  It has been a joy!

So, we continue on in pastoring and in doing our best to reach this county with love.  We continue on in building His Church and in dreaming for a bright future.  We continue on in looking for new friends to add to our hearts and lives.  The best is yet to come!

Happy New Year!

 

Find Joy

stacynewell —  November 27, 2014 — 2 Comments

I called my mom yesterday to see how she was doing after a fall earlier this week where she hurt her ribs pretty badly.  She picked up the phone completely breathless and said, “Hi Chip!  How’s it going?”

“Mom, why are you out of breath?  Are you Okay?”

“Oh, yeah!  I was just out building a snowman.  Actually, it’s a snow girl!”

“Mom….why are you out building a snowman?”

“Well, you just never know when you’ll have good snow like that.  I try when the snow is dry, but it doesn’t work well at all, but today’s snow is wet, so it stuck good. She won’t last long though.  She should be melted by tomorrow with the way the weather is going.  It was sure a bit harder with my ribs, though!”

“Uh huh….”

“Your father thinks I’m nuts!”

“Uh-huh….”

In my mind I was picturing about a two foot snowman with sticks and rocks gracing it’s icy frame.  I pictured her rolling in agony as each rib rubbed hard against her body.

“I’ll send you a picture!”

 

When I got the photos, I laughed deep within my heart with a sweet and precious joy.

She wasn’t just building a snowman, she was enjoying the moment.

sandy 2

I stared at that snowgirl in my inbox for quite a while.  It was staring back at me reminding me of the most profound gifts that my mother instilled in me all those years ago.  It was as if that snowgirl made of something temporary was reminding me that this life is temporary as well.   She screamed at me through her red construction paper lips:

FIND JOY!

Celebrate the moments!

Throw out your to do list for fun!

Enjoy being by yourself!

Laugh!

Share your happiness with others!

Look for the opportunities around you that will quickly pass and SEIZE the moment!

 

Isn’t it so true that this life can suck the best out of you and replace it with stress, obligation, time constraints and conflict?  My mother and her ridiculous snowman reminded me that so much of the weight we carry is unnecessary.  It’s our job to look around and find ways to make this world a little brighter, make our hearts a little happier, and FIND JOY.

sandy

I hope that on this day you will take my mother’s legacy to heart.  She’s an amazing woman, who by the world’s standards hasn’t “succeeded” at anything “important”, but when the snowman melts and her life passes, my memories will be filled with one thing:  Joy.  Isn’t that the greatest gift we can leave with this world?

Be blessed today!

 

Yesterday was my 38th birthday, which is also marked my 20th year of adulthood.  I was thinking last night that I wish I could have known then what I know now.  If there was a time capsule, here are the things I’d tell myself about:

1.  You’ll end up happily married, so calm down.  When that other guy breaks your heart, do not do that ugly cry in front of him…he’s not the one.  You’ll wish you could forget that image of yourself. On that note, saving sex for marriage is one of the best decisions you’ll ever make.

2.  You should write a book in your 20’s, when you think you know everything.  In your 30’s you find out you don’t and it gets a lot harder to write about how little you know.

3.  Be kinder.  By the time you are 38, you will understand that the world is an awfully mean place.  Leave behind you a trail of encouragement.

4. Live every day as if something great is about to happen.  One of those days will be July 21, 1996 when you will meet three people who will change the course of your future….Your husband, your mentor, and your best friend.  It will be a day you look back on with great joy and amazement.

5.  Don’t put that semester of summer school on your credit card.  Don’t put anything on your credit card that you can’t pay off at the end of the month.

6.  Travel more when you are first married.  There will never be enough money or time, so make it a priority!

7.  You’re going to have amazing kids.  You won’t believe that in the middle of one of your youngest’s toddler tantrums.  She can throw a fit like no other, but that determination will pay off in her life.  And never raise your voice to your oldest child.  She has a sweet spirit that needs to be protected.  You’ll see it in her eyes when you lose your patience.

8.  Never, I repeat NEVER, turn on a blender with boiling liquid in it.  Not only will you get a severe burn, but you’ll be washing asparagus soup off of your ceiling for months.

9.  Laugh, laugh a lot.  You’ll have wrinkles around your eyes from doing it, but they will remind you of your dad’s smile for the rest of your life.

10.  You might want to get out of the house REALLY bad as an 18 year old, but you will never have it so good again.  You should call your mother every day and thank her for taking care of you.  You will understand the weight of motherhood in due time and you will be amazed at how much you took for granted.

And most importantly I would tell myself that living a life dedicated to Jesus is worth every moment!  Here’s to the next 38 years of my life!  I can’t see the future, but I am sure I have some funny and some tragic turns along the way.  Through it all I know I will be surrounded by family, friends, and the love of my Savior.

 

Below is a post I wrote in September 2010.  I am reposting it today in honor of Edee.  This week I attended her funeral and while I wish the end of this story was not such an early goodbye, I also know that the very hope she gave me in Jesus is the same hope I carry now knowing that I will see her again in Heaven.

What you need to know about Edee is that she simply lived her life with love and grace.  She never did anything grandious or ostentatious and yet God used her life in precious ways.  Sometimes we try to seek a spotlight or a stage, but Edee reminds me that Jesus is often found in the ordinary moments of love and grace.

 

About 25 years ago my best friend’s mom gave me my first Bible. I had just met Jesus at summer camp and was so hungry to know more about him and what impact he could have on my life. My family home did not have one Bible in it and even at that young age, I knew that there was a plan and a purpose for my life. I was desperate to discover what the Bible had to say about that.

My friend, Kristi, and her mom, Edee, came to my rescue. They went to the local Christian bookstore and bought me a blue New Testament. I was SO excited! I literally took it home and over the course of the next year I read the whole thing…as an elementary student.

After I was finished with that one, it would again be Edee who would buy me another Bible, this time with the Old Testament included! And again, in a year’s time, I finished reading that Bible as well. It was the beginning of a deep love affair for the Word of God that would infiltrate my life for the next quarter of a century. It would be the catalyst for a list of good decisions and the basis of my calling into ministry. Knowing the Word of God would literally steer the course of my destiny.

This month Edee was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. When I got the news, it very much took me aback. It caused me to reflect on the 30 years that I have known her and I wondered what she’s been thinking about as she looks back on the significance of her own life.

Edee probably went to the bookstore that day, 25 years ago, and wondered if her purchase would be wasted on a dusty shelf. I can imagine that she said a prayer that this Bible would be used well as she laid those dollar bills on the counter to pay for it. I laugh to myself thinking of what God saw as she drove the few miles into town to buy a Bible for a little girl down the street. He saw my future. He saw me studying at Bible College, marrying a pastor, becoming a pastor myself, and He saw this church plant. He knew that Edee was changing my life that day.

So, Edee, in this trying time in your own life, as you are looking back over the significant moments, I hope you will add that one gift to your list. That errand on a summer afternoon made all the difference to me. In fact, I still have those two Bibles. The covers have long since been ripped off, the binding is battered, and the pages are a mess, but I have never thrown them away. When I “use up” other Bibles, they are disposed of, but these two I will keep forever.

You are in my thoughts and prayers! I trust that you will turn to the pages of the Bible as well and find the hope, strength, and determination to win this battle. I stand upon the greatness of God in this situation for you and for your family! Highlighted in the first few pages of that tattered New Testament it says, “What god is so great as our God? No god is as great as our God.” Thank you for giving me the book that taught me to believe that.

kennedy bw

My youngest daughter Kennedy was a difficult baby and toddler.  She didn’t sleep through the night until she was almost two, she was picky about every food choice, and we would later find out she was very anemic, which caused lots of lethargy and mood swings.  Her uncontrollable tantrums were frequent and I often threw my hands up in exasperation as to how to break the cycle of being held hostage by her erratic behavior.  She clung to me with a fear of abandonment that was difficult to navigate.  Her preschool teacher even warned me that she was too shy and uncommunicative to begin kindergarten as she would struggle socially if we put her in school.

Mark and I spent lots of time in prayer believing that God would have to intervene in little Kennedy’s life.

Maybe that’s why I remember the warm summer day when she was just two years old.  Kennedy was running across the yard with her baby-fat-filled legs and I felt God whisper to my heart, “She’s going to be a gymnast.”  OK.  I didn’t know anything about gymnastics, but it impacted me so clearly that I would often repeat those words when I saw her run….”She runs like a gymnast.”

What was very far from my reality that day was that God wasn’t just telling me about a talent; He was telling me that He had a way to turn all of her weaknesses into strengths and that He had a plan to mold and shape her.  He was telling me that He had it all under control.

I would spend the next three years asking Kennedy if she’d like to try gymnastics, but her social issues made the conversation too tense to pursue, so we waited.  At five years old she finally decided to try a tumbling class.  From my perspective I watched something unlock in her little heart on those mats.  Very quickly we went from a class to pre-team and then had the opportunity to try out for team.  A gymnastics team is an unbelievable financial and time commitment.  Once again we prayed to God for wisdom…”We are pastors, Lord.  The two things that in short supply are money and time.  If you want us to do this, You will have to provide.”  His answer was the same, “She’s going to be a gymnast.”

So, we prepared to jump into a team situation with a large financial commitment and 12 hours a week of practice.  Our deal with Kennedy was that she was not allowed to quit for one year if she was going to start.  “It’s all or nothing, Baby.”  Shockingly, she decided to do it.

I’d love to tell you that her apprehension stopped there, but it didn’t.  We would spend the first four months of practice literally pulling her body out of the car with tears running down her face and dropping her on the gym mat.  Our hearts grieved and we spent HOURS debating our decision.  Were we hurting our child by pushing her too hard?  Every time the answer was the same…”She’s going to be a gymnast.”  We mustered enough determination to finish out the year.

And then one day it all changed.  I watched as God used gymnastics to validate her perfectionistic traits.  Her focus was precise and unwaverable in hour after hour of practice.  She began to find comfort in who she was and how she could relate to those around her.  Suddenly she began to dance as she waited in line for her turn.  She laughed with her friends and hugged her coaches with abandon.  She was changing before our eyes.  Even school became easy and confidence preceded her in almost every situation.

Last weekend was a strange full-circle moment for me as we headed to the State Competition.  I watched her rise to the occasion, nail out an unbelievable score (37.975) and win First.  Not only did she take gold in her age division, but Kennedy ranked 4th in the state for Level 3 out of all age groups.  On top of that her team won the Team Competition and her All-Star team won for our section.

But all of that was shadowed by the fact that she was there at all.  The little girl that jumped up on the winner’s podium on Saturday was unrecognizable from the girl I knew a year ago.

Saturday reminded me that God is growing and shaping our lives with a plan and a purpose.  He has put things inside of us that will propel us to where we need to be.  And the key to unlock all of this is simply perseverance.  We’ve all just got to stay the course…when it’s easy, when it’s hard, and even when we are in the winner’s circle.  We need to trust in God to finish what He has started.

I don’t know where gymnastics will take Kennedy from here.  Honestly, there is no pressure for it to be the answer forever, but what I do know is that God used it as a catalyst for Kennedy to get to the next season of her life.  I am forever grateful for the journey that the last seven years has taken us on and I have a lot of hope for the next seven…Go Kennedy!  Go Jesus!