Hello friends, Brooke here. We have been updating you all on our ministry and life here in Oklahoma for exactly three years now and we are so thankful for those that are still following along.
Here is an excerpt from our very first blog post from May 2016:
“Brooke and I (and Henry too, of course!) believe, if nothing else, that God is leading and directing this move. He has proven himself faithful at every step of this process, as he has our entire lives. Throughout this journey and next season of life, we look forward to sharing with all of you about our great God and his provision and faithfulness to us.”
You all have read the ups and downs of our lives here in OK for the past three years and we are so thankful. And we hope that we have communicated to you that God HAS been faithful to us, that He is in everything and a part of everything, even if we do not always acknowledge Him as we should. He led us to Norman and he has provided oh so much for us. He is in everything, and in Him all things hold together.
What God has provided for us since May 2016:
In April, we celebrated Easter and everything that that means to us as believers. In May we had a baptism service, which is my favorite Sunday of the year. We celebrated how God has changed people’s hearts and had a huge party with our entire church after the service. I especially loved watching one of my closest friends share an incredibly vulnerable story of how God drew her to Himself in front of everyone before she was baptized.
Our church does not feel like a place we meet for 90 minutes a week and then go on with our lives, but a family. We mourn and celebrate with each other. We are not perfect and we have problems and disagreements at times because we are people, but we are committed to continue meeting with one another and growing in unity as He has called us to.
Hey friends, we hope you’re all doing well! Spring is officially, well, springing here in Norman. We are loving every minute of it and have been out in the yard and going on walks as often as we can. It’s been great to get the kids out of the house and away from screens. They don’t seem to care about them as much when they are outside exploring, even if it means they are just playing around in the dirt and looking for worms.
It’s been a busier season for us in that we’ve had quite a few things going on in the evenings and on weekends. We recently went to NW Arkansas for a wedding of some friends of ours. We were all in it, which made for an interesting ceremony! I officiated the wedding, Brooke was a bridesmaid, Henry was the ring-bearer, and Eden was the flower girl. In larger crowds or in new settings, Eden stays especially close to Brooke and I. Once Eden walked down the aisle (which she did in the most gracious and stunning way!), she decided to stand by me under the arbor. Most everyone in the audience couldn’t see her, but it was difficult to stay focused with her pulling on my leg and talking to me during the ceremony. The couple was cool with it, so we just rolled with it!
We’ll be heading back to NWA this evening. For my Christmas gift, Brooke purchased us tickets to see a John Crist show in Bentonville. We’re big fans of his, so seeing him live should be fun. We’re going with some friends of ours and are looking forward to taking a true mini-vacation for a few days.
Since I last wrote, we launched our youth ministry here at Providence Road. We’ve had a group of middle school students meeting in our home on Monday evenings (see top picture). It’s been a joy seeing the students get excited about meeting together as a group, exploring the Bible together, and to think about what this could become. We’ve got 10-12 students that have been coming, which seems incredible given that we have tried a few different things in the past couple of years and they never took off. This time, it feels different. We are going to remain committed to meeting weekly, which has been huge. Consistency matters.
Additionally, I’ve had a young couple from our Missional Community commit to being there every week with me. Relationally, they have been such a huge help. I’m leading or involved in several areas of the church. Leading the discussion and hosting are sustainable for me during this season, but interacting with and really getting to know each student on a personal level isn’t realistic for me right now. That’s where they have stepped in and done such a phenomenal job. I’m excited to see what God does among our youth over this next year!
I’ve been really excited about what’s happening within our Missional Community as well. Our MC has embraced the church’s special emphasis on prayer and mission. Once a month, our MC spends a night in prayer over those in our life who we are hoping to see come to faith in Jesus this year. The Elders have challenged us to all have 2 people we are consistently praying for and are evangelizing. As events come up, those are the first people we are inviting into our spaces. Cookouts, walks to the park, or games we get together to watch are examples of events we are inviting people into.
Easter is coming up, as well as a big celebration we will be having on May 5. Our church recently turned 7 years old, so we will be celebrating that day with baptisms and a church meal afterwards. You guys can be praying for those events, as many non-believers will be around for those days.
Let us know how you guys are doing as well. Feel free to call, text, or email us. We’d love to connect with you and hear how your families are doing and how we can be praying for you all.
Before sitting down to write, I (Jay) spent some time reading earlier posts that we've written detailing our journey with Josiah. Last year was such a hard year for us. Four months ago sort of feels like a lifetime ago. But with each day that passes, God has brought healing to our family. Like we've mentioned in the past, we have been cared for so well by our friends and family from all over.
One thing we prayed for early on was that God would not let us waste our tragedy. We hoped we would get to see tangible ways our grief and pain could be used for His glory and the benefit of others. Over the last few months it's been a joy for us to share, in the right situations, about our pain and suffering. And each time someone asks about how we are doing since Josiah passed away, it's been a gift for us to talk about because those conversations are becoming more rare by the day – probably because people are afraid to ask and don't want to reopen old wounds. The truth is, we miss our little boy so much and love talking about him, thinking about him, and sharing how much he meant to us.
The holidays were a really good time for us to spend with family. Henry and Eden just turned 5 and 2 in January, so they have received their quota of gifts for the foreseeable future. For Henry's birthday, I took him to see the OKC Thunder and eat at Buffalo Wild Wings. He was ready to leave about halfway through the 2nd quarter, but I was able to talk him into staying with a bag full of gummy worms. Henry still loves pre-K and Eden gets excited to see "Miss Pat" at Mother's Day Out three days a week. And just last week, Henry lost his first tooth! Right now, he wants to be just like his Daddy and I'm perfectly okay with that.
Things have been going great at Providence Road. For 2019, the elders have encouraged our Covenant Members to place a special emphasis on prayer and mission. For four weeks, we have gathered together to pray for our city and for unbelievers in our lives. I'm excited to see how God uses our prayers to bring people to find freedom and joy in Jesus. Additionally, the church recently installed deacons for the very first time. This has been something the elders have been planning for and praying about for a while now. I am honored to be named one of the church's first five deacons.
Personally, these past couple of months have felt busier than normal for me. Along with my regular responsibilities, I've been asked to lead out in starting a couple new endeavors for our church. We recently formed a partnership with the 405 Center out of OKC. They are a bridge that connects local churches to non-profits in the community who are serving the poor and the marginalized. They have been great for us, both training our people to live missionally and serving as an incredible resource in helping us identify the local organizations who are already doing fantastic work. I'm excited to see how our people respond.
In addition, I will be initiating our efforts to begin a youth ministry this spring. This Sunday, we are having an info lunch with families of youth and hope to begin weekly or biweekly youth gatherings in the next few weeks. We currently have four students committed to be a part of that, with another five that we hope will join us in the summer. I envision a lot of pizza and late nights in my near future.
We appreciate the continued calls, cards, and messages you guys have sent our way. Keep them coming! As often as you think of us, pray for us: for our family, for our ministry in Norman, and for our communion with Christ. We love you guys!
As we reflect on this past year, and in particular these last few months, we would never have chosen to experience the things that have happened in our lives. Josiah David was stillborn on October 8, and we said goodbye to Brenda, my step-mom, just days later. The emotions come and go as we process all that’s happened and think about the hard days ahead of missing them both, but it’s also been especially challenging seeing other family members struggle with everything that has happened.
As hard as these days have been, they would be infinitely more difficult for Brooke and I if we had no future hope. Because of Jesus, we look forward – now more than ever – to a day where there will be no more tears, no more pain, no more cancer, no more death. Because of Jesus, we have triumphed over death in Him and have no reason to fear what is ahead. These days have been extremely painful. God has certainly not taken away our pain. But He has promised that our pain will not last forever.
When we last wrote, we expected Josiah to be a girl. I don’t know how many ultrasounds we had leading up to the C-section, including just minutes before we went back. And every time it was confirmed that he would be a girl. So it was quite a surprise when she was actually a he! In the midst of a heavy morning, it was fun for us to scramble and think quickly over boy names. We had nothing in mind going in and we wanted to name him before any family or friends came to see us.
I think it was four days later that Brenda passed away. Her 3+ year battle with cancer got extremely difficult towards the end. Incredibly, she did make it to my sister’s wedding in mid-September and even walked her down the aisle. She was an incredibly strong woman and we will certainly miss her.
After both funerals, Brooke and I took the kids out of town for about a week in the hills of Arkansas to rest and begin the healing process. We so appreciated the amount of people who called, texted, sent us letters and messages, brought us meals, sent flowers, and everything in between. However, I don’t think we realized the extent to which we let people in during those months and how necessary it was for us to be alone as a family. While we were away, we really didn’t do anything of note. Henry played with a bonfire in the backyard most days. Eden slept all the time. (We all took a nap everyday. It was glorious.) Brooke and I’s hardest decision each day was whether or not we should get take out or make a meal in. And it was such a great week.
Brooke and I went back to work about a month ago. The kids are back in school and daycare. I’m not sure things feel like they are back to normal, but our routine is normal again. And that has been a gift to us with really no routine at all for so long. We’re taking things a day at a time and I’m sure Christmas will be hard, but we really don’t know what to expect. If I’ve learned anything in all of this, it’s that everyone grieves differently. There were days that I was a wreck and others when I felt like I probably should’ve been a wreck, and I just wasn’t. As we move forward, there is a temptation to look back on all that happened and have feelings of regret for decisions we made or in conversations we might have had. We’ve learned to look back and give ourselves a lot of grace with hard decisions we had to make, knowing that we were experiencing such heartache and loss.
We haven’t updated y’all on anything at Providence Road in a while, so I’ll do my best to catch you up to speed. First off, the people we are in community with are some of the best people on the planet. They cared for us the best they knew how, when they would also admit that they had no clue how best to serve us. We love them so dearly!
In August/September, Brooke and I had several long-term discussions about Prov Road, support raising, and where we want to be in the future. We decided that we want to make a move to come off of support raising in the near future. The conclusion we came to with the Elders of Prov Road is that we would voluntarily cut my overall salary in 2019 by 30% if it meant that the church could come up to cover half of my salary. They agreed to do so and I believe it gives us a plan for the future as well as more time to look for a part-time job if that is what needs to happen. So in 2019, I will make much less but the church will cover 50% and we will raise support for the other 50%. At the end of 2019, we will no long raise support externally. The hope long term is obviously that the church will be able to cover all of my salary, but if that is not possible in 2020 then we will be looking at part-time jobs and other opportunities.
Providence Road is not doing poorly financially. In fact, I’ve been so impressed with the way our people give sacrificially. The reality for us is that we are a young church, both in age of the church as well as the average age of our members. That fact, coupled with the building we’ve decided to move into, makes for lean times currently. However, we are aggressively seeking to pay off debts and hoping that our hard decisions now will set us up really well in 3-4 years from now.
I’m still thrilled to serve in ministry here. I love our team and who I’m in the trenches with. The longer I’ve been here, it seems that they continue to trust me more and more as well. I’m thankful for a place and people that has allowed me to both explore the gifts that God has given me and use those gifts for the Kingdom. We stepped out of leadership within our Missional Community back in August, but will resume that in January. In a couple weeks, I’ll be preaching again in our Sunday gathering, weather permitting. This weekend they are talking about a potential 5” of snow in central OK! I’ll believe it when I see it…
As always, and probably now more than ever, we just want to again say how much we love all of you out there and are thankful for you in our lives. Life is hard. But it would be so much harder if we had to do it alone. Boomer Sooner.
Since so many of you have been following our story from afar, we wanted to give a quick update regarding the month ahead for us...
This Monday, October 8, we will go in for Brooke's scheduled c-section. I believe it's scheduled for 7am. From there, we are going to soak up as much time as the Lord allows us to have with Eliza. A friend has offered to take family photos and the kids will get to meet and play with her as well. We may get minutes, we may get hours, we may even get a few days. We have no idea what to expect, but we are totally prepared to be unprepared.
Eliza's funeral will be on Saturday, October 20 at 10am. It will be held at our church in Norman – Providence Road Church. The next day, we are going to take some time as a family and get out of town for a while.
We can't stress enough how grateful we are for all of you who have been there for us in this. I can't imagine walking through this alone... apart from the people of God or from God himself. He has been near to us during this season, and we anticipate that to be true moving forward as well. For we often don't know how or what to pray, but the Spirit has surely been interceding for us. As have many of you.
Though we know we are about to experience a great loss, we have already received so much. There have been so many kind words, so much generosity extended, so many prayers prayed, so much love from so many people. It has been a sweet gift during the worst of times. And even when someone has reached out, not knowing what to say or maybe saying something they didn't mean to say, we know that they are saying those things because they care. We are so deeply loved – both by the Father and by you. And for that, we are eternally grateful.
I know many of you are thinking, even now... What can we do? How can we help? Right now, just keep doing those things. Keep praying, keep reaching out, keep extending love in the ways that you have. The difficult days are just beginning.
So much has been hard and terrible about all this. We would never wish to walk through this, even if we had known all the love we'd receive from others. The new friendships we've formed as a result of this have been so, so good. But I'd prefer to have never met those people and see Eliza's first steps.
And yet... We know there's coming a day when Eliza will have kidneys and lungs that are fully functioning. She wasn't – and isn't – an accident. She is being formed right now in Brooke's womb and is being fearfully and wonderfully made. In the new heavens and the new earth, our King will be on his throne. We will rule and reign with Him forevermore, including Eliza. And in that day, our tears will be no more. Death will be no more. Pain and suffering will be no more. Long with us, friends, for that day.
July and August have gone by incredibly fast. As we wrote in our last post about our sweet baby girl, the past few months have been spent sharing and processing this news. We have received so many words of encouragement from those in our lives. We are incredibly humbled and grateful for our tribe of people here, near, and far that have rallied around us through prayer, cards, flowers, monetary gifts, and even books we have received. In the midst of it all, if we haven’t said thank you this is me (Brooke) saying thank you now! This is no doubt the most challenging trial our family has gone through and yet, the Lord has been so faithful.
I have told people I haven’t been fervently praying for healing and even struggled with guilt for not wanting to. But then a dear friend who has gone through the loss of a child gave me a book called “Holding onto Hope” by Nancy Guthrie and her words brought life to my feelings:
With great boldness and passion and persistence, we cry out to God begging for physical healing. And in these prayers there’s often a tiny P.S. at the end where we say ‘if it be your will.’ Shouldn’t we switch that around? Shouldn’t we cry out with boldness and persistence that says, ‘God would you please accomplish your will? Would you give me a willing heart to accomplish your plan and your purpose? Would you mold me into a vessel that you can use to accomplish what you have in mind? And then perhaps add a tiny P.S. that says, ‘if that includes healing we will be grateful.’ Isn’t real faith revealed more through pursuing God and what he wants than pursuing what we want?
I am learning what it means to submit my plans to Jesus, who I believe works all things together for His glory and my good. I have learned to pray differently. And while I desperately wish that didn’t mean I had to lose a daughter, I believe his purposes are for my ultimate good. A few weeks ago, Jay and I began planning Eliza’s funeral (most likely, it’ll be October 20). Deciding what type of gravestone you want for your child is incredibly painful, especially as I walked through the cemetery with a pregnant belly. And yet I know He is still good, even when we feel like we are in the shadow of death.
I know many of you have prayed for Jay’s stepmom, Brenda, for years as she’s been fighting colon cancer. In July, she was placed in hospice and given about two months. Jay’s sister is getting married in a couple weeks and we would covet your prayers that she will be able to be there to watch her daughter walk down the aisle.
While we are in an incredibly hard season, we still have some fun things going on. Henry started Pre-K this past month and although he can get super tired and cranky toward the evening hours, he is such a little extrovert and school is like a big party for him everyday. I’m still working part-time, so Eden and I have a few days together each week. If you’ve been faithful blog readers, you may remember my pregnancy with her. It didn’t happen in my time, but I know even more now that God gave her to me just when I needed her. She is 18 months old now and at the most fun age. She’s incredibly sweet, learning to talk, and loves to cuddle and give hugs. In these hard days, she is such a little sunshine.
This past weekend we attended a wedding of friends of ours that Jay officiated, and we have two more weddings in the next four weeks. They will be fun distractions for us. Then I will be having a C-section, probably the second week in October. Please continue to pray as we approach the day we have to say goodbye to Eliza Joy and I will no longer feel her little kicks and get to hold her. Pray for Jay and I, that we process this well and continue to trust God, even when it gets harder. We have explained to Henry what’s going on and yet, we have no idea how he is going to handle it once she’s born. Pray for his little heart, as this will probably be one of his first memories. Thanks for sticking with us this far. I have no idea how people can go through things like this alone, so we thank y’all so much for all of your love and support.
A little over a week ago, Brooke and I went in for her 21-week ultrasound appointment. Regarding gender, we decided to stay in suspense for a few days so that we could have a gender reveal party with a few of our closest friends. It's a girl! We've decided to name her Eliza Joy and couldn't be more thrilled to be having a girl. This is the good news.
Unfortunately, there is also bad news. At these ultrasound appointments, we have no idea what we're looking at unless it's the hands, feet, or head. All of these were present. We heard her heartbeat, saw her moving, and everything seemed normal to us. Though it was abnormally long, we left that ultrasound appointment with no indication that there was anything wrong and Henry walked out as excited as ever. He couldn't stop telling Eden, "Look, Sissy! It's your new friend!"
Within thirty minutes, Brooke received a call asking us to come back in. They invited us to visit a high-risk doctor in the area and that it'd be ideal if we could come in right away. "In the meantime, drink lots of water. Your fluids are low," they told her.
We never could have fully prepared for what was next. "How much have they told you?" the doctor asked. "Nothing? Okay. I'll tell you what I know and what I don't know." (Immediately followed by the longest fifteen seconds of our lives.)
Our sweet Eliza has Potter's syndrome – sometimes called unilateral/bilateral renal agenesis. Over the last few months, everything has been developing normally – hands, feet, heart, brain... everything. Everything except for her kidneys. Because there are no kidneys, there is no amniotic fluid. And because there is no amniotic fluid, the lungs won't properly develop. Inside the womb, Eliza can continue to grow in the tightest of spaces. Outside of the womb, she won't be able to survive.
Since finding out, I've been reading everything out there on Eliza's condition. And friends, it's not good. Estimates suggest that this happens to something like 0.01% of babies. Of those, the majority have some type of kidney issues in their family history. Brooke and I have both kidneys (fully functioning – to our knowledge) and have found zero trace of kidney issues in either of our family backgrounds. Taking that into account along with the already long odds of receiving this diagnosis, it feels like we've just hit the worst lottery of all time.
"There is no hope," our doctor concluded. A little under half of babies with this condition are stillborn and the remaining typically get a minute or two before they are unable to breathe. This is a terminal diagnosis.
As you might imagine, we are devastated. The past week and a half has been a roller coaster, filled with lots of tears and sadness. And yet, we both know that our darkest days are still ahead of us. We are going to continue on with the pregnancy and enjoy her presence as long as we have her with us. Natural causes may take Eliza's life, but we will not. We love her because she is our baby girl and we are going to provide for her and protect her until God welcomes her home.
Because so many of you out there are just awesome, we know you'll be asking what you can do to help us during this time, and the answer for now is prayer. Pray for our family in the coming months and especially for Henry, as we talk through this tragedy with him. We are in the calm before the storm, preparing for what's coming in the fall. Then, we will need you all more than we ever have.
Before we walked into that doctor's office and received the worst news of our lives, Jesus was enough for us. We had committed our lives to following Him, but not because of what He would give us. We've never expected comfort, wealth, or a perfect family as a result of following Jesus. We follow Jesus because we believe He is who He claims to be – God. And Jesus, God in the flesh, gave his life for sinners that we might be reconciled to Him. Because He was enough for us then, He is still enough for us now.
Through tear-filled eyes and hope-filled hearts, this is our song:
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus' blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name
On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand
When darkness seems to hide His face
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil
On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand
His oath, His covenant, His blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way
He then is all my hope and stay
On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand
When He shall come with trumpet sound
O may I then in Him be found;
Dressed in His righteousness alone
Faultless to stand before the throne
On Christ, the solid rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand
Summer is here! Not sure where you're reading this from, but here in Oklahoma it sure felt like we went directly from winter into summer. Whatever happened to spring?!
It's been a full couple of months here. Buckle up...
In our last update, I (Jay) shared with you about our involvement serving the city we're in and in particular, many of the homeless that are near our new location. I've spent a lot of time recently researching what organizations are already in our city and who they serve, talking with local church leaders and non-profits for advice and to discuss potential partnerships, and praying to ask God for direction in all of it. During the process, we were introduced to the 405 Center in OKC. I'll soon be meeting with some of our Covenant Members who've expressed interest in leading in our serving efforts in this way and I'm hopeful that we can develop a partnership that will mobilize our people to demonstrate and declare the gospel to our city.
A few weeks ago, Brooke and I's Missional Community said goodbye to Henry and Harry, exchange students who were at OU studying meteorology for the past two semesters. If you remember, our MC launched last August, right around the time they got involved with Providence Road. They didn't realize it, but they jumped in our MC from the get go, so saying goodbye to them was tough. A recent article I read spoke to what a lot of us felt, A Gospel Goodbye. On the other hand, we spent some time thinking back on all that God has done in our MC and how we've grown together as a family. The last nine months have been a sweet gift from the Lord to us.
Along those lines, I have noticed recently how God has given me more opportunities to minister to and counsel those in our church, specifically young men. It's probably a natural result of being present and serving here for close to two years now, but it's been especially encouraging to get those opportunities and for them to happen naturally out of relationships that have been built over time. Again, a gift from the Lord.
Our church held a Baptism Sunday in April where we baptized 11 new believers. There were a couple of kids, but mostly college students and young adults. It's not lost on us how rare that can be, and we are grateful for special partnerships with college ministries in the area and how God is at work through our Covenant Members in their neighborhoods and in their places of work. God has empowered *all* people with His Spirit and in Jesus, *all* Christians are priests. Another gift from God to see. He's good!
To some personal/family things... The kids are growing up so fast. Eden is a full-on toddler now. She is just so, so sweet. Well, until she tells me: "NO!" Then, not so much. But we're working on it. The kids wrapped up their year at Mother's Day Out (to them, it's "school") and Henry will begin pre-K in the fall. How is that even possible?! Brooke's pregnancy is going great. Everything we're hearing from the doctor's is positive and we're targeting the end of October to welcome Baby #3. In the next month we'll find out gender.
This spring we tried out soccer for Henry. We got mixed results. I think the first game that he intentionally touched/kicked the ball was week 4, but he said he enjoyed playing. The first game Brooke took a 60 second video of him spinning in circles and picking flowers while the ball was in play! Text me if you want to see it... hilarious stuff. He'll also have swim lesson this summer. He's scared of water and has to wear ear plugs because he has a hole in his ear drum, so that will be another adventure.
About 10 weeks ago, I injured my back pretty good. I've done that multiple times in the past several years and tend to recover in 4-6 days with rest. About a week after the initial injury, I was bedridden and had significant pain while walking and realized this injury was different. After 6 weeks of no improvement, I got in to a local doctor. It took steroids and muscle relaxer to relieve the pain and inflammation. Thankfully, there is no structural damage in my spine/vertebrae. I've been going to physical therapy for the past few weeks, but still experience discomfort every now and then. I feel so much better now than right after the initial incident, but I'm hesitant to get back to doing things I was so used to doing (jogging, basketball, heavy lifting in the yard, etc.).
That said, we'll be taking a vacation next week and it couldn't come at a better time. Brooke's parents will be watching the kids so we'll be able to get some real rest. We're headed west to the mountains, so I'm thrilled about high temperatures in the low 70s and low temperatures in the 30s.
Here are some ways you can pray for us over the next couple of months:
As always, thank you for following our journey, for praying for us and our family, for giving financially so that we can serve Jesus and the city of Norman. We sure do love each and every one of you.
In many ways, the last few months of 2017 and the first couple months of 2018 felt like a blur. Some of you have experienced being in a church during a major fundraising effort and/or a renovation process. However, none of our church leadership had been through anything like that (before now), and I (Jay) think it was a lot more work than any of us anticipated.
Having been in our building for right at 2 months now, I think we would all agree that it was worth all the late nights and long weeks. We are already meeting all sorts of new guests, primarily because of the location we are in. Downtown Norman isn't like Bricktown in OKC or 4th Street Live in Louisville, but it is highly active with events happening all the time. In our short time in downtown, we've sought to partner with the city a couple times and it's allowed us to meet people as they are out and about.
In addition, we're being pressed to make a decision soon on how we want to minister to the homeless population in Norman. It feels like about every other day, someone new is coming to our doors or we're being introduced to someone in desperate need of some type of assistance. This Wednesday, we have a meeting with a couple other churches/ministries that have started similar ministries before. Please be in prayer for us in this regard. We are limited in resources, yet we feel burdened to care for our neighbors and want to welcome them as we've been welcomed by Jesus.
Last Friday, we held a joint Good Friday service with another Acts 29 church here in Norman. It was a sweet and sobering time as we read passages, listened to poems, and sang songs that pointed us to the cross. Honestly, I have always struggled with Good Friday because I know Jesus has already risen. So why should we sit and mourn as if He is still in the grave? But more and more I'm learning that in order to celebrate well I must also mourn well; to feel the deep agony that Jesus felt and to remember it was my sin that put Him there. Then come Easter Sunday, I can celebrate with greater joy!
Speaking of Acts 29, a couple weeks ago I travelled to Kansas City with one of our pastors and an intern at the church (His name is Quinton, and he lives with us. Not sure if we've told y'all that! We've loved having him in our home and he's especially been great with our kids.). We were only in KC for 24 hours, but it felt like a week of being refreshed with other brothers who are living in the trenches. For me, it almost feels like a college reunion because so many of my friends from SWOSU are currently in A29 churches in the Midwest Region (OK, Kansas, & Nebraska). I've so appreciated the Acts 29 Network because behind the scenes, so much emphasis is placed on unity amongst churches and personal holiness of its ministers. It's beautiful to be a part of.
For some more personal news... We're super excited to let everyone know that Brooke is pregnant with baby #3! The due date is October 30 so we're still a ways out. Henry had his first soccer game this past Saturday, but he wasn't very interested in the ball. He made some new friends and picked a couple flowers, though! Eden took off walking about 3 or 4 weeks ago and hasn't slowed down since.
As always, thanks for reading, praying, and supporting our ministry. We love you guys!
"There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind."
This quote now sits above our fireplace instead of the Christmas garland and lights that were once there. I love this quote because although this year was fuller than most years we have had, I also loved 2017. Eden Grace, the absolute sweetest little girl joined our family this year. Henry just turned four and has turned from a toddler to a "kid " in his words, and is growing so fast. We bought our first Norman home this summer and we (mostly Jay) put lots of sweat equity into fixing it up. I went back to work full time which was mostly terrible. Thankfully, I was able to go part-time in December. When I look back on my life, knowing all that my family has been blessed with, it's almost like I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop. So this quote reminds me that God's grace will always be enough, no matter what the next year brings. And far, far better things are ahead because each day is a step closer to glory.
Jay has spent most of January directing the building project for our new church building in the hippest part of Norman (in my opinion). I know, I know... church isn't about the building but the people, it doesn't hurt that we get to meet together in a cool, rustic building with slick ceiling tiles, exposed brick, and original wood floors.
On Friday, our Covenant Members walked around the building and covered each space with prayer. Our first Sunday gathering was yesterday and it was a sweet, sweet time. Life is hard and people are messy and so we pray that God will draw people to our building and that lives will be changed, sin will be laid down, and freedom will be found through the grace and kindness of Jesus. A few Sundays ago, Blake and Jeremy – two of the guys who planted Prov Road – were serving communion together and it was such a visual reminder to me of God's faithfulness in bringing us to Norman, to Providence Road. We are thankful for them and their leadership.
Jay also had an opportunity to preach at the beginning of this year and did a great job. He has been using the gifts God planted in him to administrate all of the tiny to huge details of our new building, something that would probably make me cry myself sleep for weeks on end. All that to say, we are hoping to get away for a few days at the end of this month and have a few days of rest. Thank you all for your prayers and your support!! You all have stuck with us for awhile, and we couldn't be more grateful!