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.