Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Meet Gunther

The kids have been begging and pleading for years for a dog. The funny thing about this, is that all of the kids have been fairly timid, if not down right terrified of dogs for that same amount of time. We always have one reason or another to dish out for why we wouldn't get a dog. The biggest was that I had enough poop to clean up, and until everyone was potty trained, there would be no dog. Well, Malachi is potty trained. And go figure, the kids remembered that I said that. (Yet somehow forgot to bring their clothes up from the laundry area this morning.) So they have been hitting us hard for a dog. We managed to buy some time with some pet frogs the last month or so, but they've all died. (And they let us take on caring for another animal ? ) So the kids started asking for a dog once again.

Aaron and I figured we better really think about it. We couldn't just keep coming up with one excuse after another. We needed to decide if we were going to ever do this dog thing or not. We talked about the pro's and con's. One of the biggest pro's that we came up with was the reality that dog's are great for helping kids learn responsibility. One of the biggest con's was that if the kids failed to be responsible, being the one at home during the days, I would be the one to would take on such responsibility.

We talked about what kind of dog we'd want. I wanted a Jack Russell, but turns out those dogs aren't great with kids. (So I begged everyone to at least let me name Gunther - Jack Russell, because of course, that's funny. I got denied.) Aaron grew up on a farm in the early years of his childhood, and really feels strongly that our dog needs to be outdoors A LOT of the time. My wood floors agreed. So then I said it needs to be a bigger, strong dog that can handle that. I grew up with a Pomeranian who required the snow being shoveled to walk out to go to the bathroom in the winter. I don't have the patience for that. We said we'd like to find a dog a little bit older in the hopes that it was already house trained. I said I wouldn't have a big dog that jumps on people because, 1) it would trample my little people, and 2) that's a pet peeve of mine (no pun intended).
After all that discussion, we got online later that night to look at what dog's were available at the Humane Society. I saw this sweet picture one particular dog. Of all the dogs there, he was the only one I really wanted to see. (The kids spotted a Jack Russell mix of some kind, but turns out it was in quarantine for some reason. Not a good sign.) When I looked at his description, this dog had everything we were looking for. He weighs about 60 pounds, it said he was great with any age kids, was house trained, understood basic commands, and didn't jump. Perfect ! So the next day we went to meet him. (I'm also allergic to a lot of dogs, and I can feel it most when they lick my skin. It itches like crazy! So the next step was making sure I wasn't allergic. I wasn't !) He was so gentle with the kids, and had such a sweet temperament. We went home that night, and Aaron and I began to research on good 'ol google about his breed and what it would take to have a dog like that in our home. We agreed that he'd be a good fit for a dog for our family.

The next day, off I went to "adopt" him, or whatever. We kept telling the kids we were still thinking about it, even once we had decided. I enjoy being able to surprise people, and especially my kids. So while they were at school, Malachi and I took care of business. Their faces, joy, and excitement can only partly show in words on a blog, or even in photo. But needless to say, they were beyond thrilled ! It was so fun to see ! Provi even is volunteering to be on pooper scooper duty..... (wonder how long that will last.) I realize there are a lot of pictures of Provi and Gunther. I guess she's waited the longest for a dog, so it makes sense.

Without further ado, meet Gunther !

American Staffordshire Terrier/Pointer mix (AmStaff/Pointer if you want to be hip)
60 lb. male
2 1/2 years old
Incredibly sweet. Plays well with other dogs. Very gentle with kids. Thinks he's a lap dog if given the chance. (Seriously. He tries to sit IN our laps. It's pretty funny when he tries it with Provi.)
Snores loud.

Hope he likes us.

Monday, August 30, 2010

This is the day that never ends, it goes on and on my friends

The day all began with the alarm going off at six in the morning and it isn't normal that I actually acknowledge my alarm, other than to slap snooze upside the head, but this morning I was actually moved to my feet and out to the kitchen to make my morning cup of joe then to sit at the feet of Jesus at such a quiet and peaceful time before the monkeys are all awake and I have to move on to the morning normal routine of making lunches, pleading with the littles to make their beds, yada yada yada, and then for some reason, I thought today would make a good day to bike with the kids to school so we left a little earlier and I loaded Malachi (along with all the kids bags) into the carrier on my bike, but it was so cute that I had to stop and take a picture to upload to twitter for the world to see, only in my rush, i misspelled a word (role, should've been roll, I think) and accidentally hit send before correcting it, and while I'm sure there is a way to go somewhere to fix it, I figured it didn't matter because it was already out there for the world to see and mock, but I left it because I realized that 6 of the tires needed to bike to school were flat, and needed to be filled so I rushed to do that and off we went, the whopping 1.5 miles to school that somehow takes us 20 minutes to ride, and since that wasn't enough of a workout, I continued on after kissing the babes good-bye, yup, just Malachi and I and the flying crickets took off for another 10 miles or so, only to come home and realize that I indeed did not think or plan the timing of my day very well, because see, we were planning on getting a dog today and I should have been out the door rather than standing in my kitchen realizing that I desperately needed a shower before doing anything else, so of course, I took a shower and then loaded up Malachi to head to the Humane Society to get our new dog, but then I realized that it was lunch time and we had no food for lunch, so a granola bar and graham cracker would have to do for Malachi's on the go lunch,and then as we were driving I remembered that I still hadn't stopped at the store for a leash or collar or food or any of the things they say a dog needs, so we stopped by the pet store and then made out way to the Humane Society where unknown to me, a process was about to unfold that seriously felt like I was possibly adopting a human again, it was all a little strange to me, and it took a really long time, only then to find out that I needed to wait for an hour to actually leave with Gunther (our new dog), so I realized I had time for lunch after all and off Malachi and I went to Great Harvest Bread company to share a lunch and then make our way back to actually pick up Gunther who was ready and waiting for us, and was kindly escorted to my car where they actually let me leave with him and I sorta felt like I did when I left the hospital with my first child - "they really are going to just let me leave with this thing .... what am I supposed to do with it" - but off we went just the same to arrive home to meet some friends who graciously came with treats and manuals and tips on how to train Gunther, which of course needed an experimental walk around the block, which we did only to come back for me to realize that I had 20 minutes to bike back to school to get the kids (and at this time was wondering why I bothered to actually fit in that shower in the morning because I really needed another one at this point) and I was wanting to surprise the kids with Gunther, because they didn't know that we had actually decided to get him, and what a surprise it was when the kids got home .... they were so very excited and chaotic because of their excitement, and felt the need to bring the neighbor kid over to see the dog, and another neighbor who had a horrible day asked for a helping hand which I'm always wanting to extend to them because they are really great neighbors, but then I remembered that I needed to get dinner in the oven (rosemary chicken) for Aaron and the kids to eat AT 5 because Sam was scheduled for his first football practice at 6 and I needed to leave at 5:30 as I was heading out for a night with some girlfriends, so I quickly threw the chicken in and took Gunther for another walk per the kids request only to return to the oven beeping telling me the chicken was done, so I took it out, started the rice, sat down to the computer to tell the girls I was meeting that I was probably running late, only to see an email from Sam's football coach stating that practice started at 5 NOT 6, but the problem was, it was almost 5:30 and Aaron was just getting home from Walmart where he and Sam went to get Sam's mouth guard because I had forgotten to do that earlier in the day, so I quickly turned to him to tell him he had to get Sam there NOW, so off they went, and instead of us as a family supporting Sam at his very first football practice, Aaron had to drop him off to come home so I could leave, then he ran back to get Sam (see we had to switch cars for me to leave), and I felt so bad I had to call Sam right at 6 to see how practice went (it went great), and there I was, in Boulder to meet the girls where we shared some great food, great Margarita's, great conversation, great laughs, etc, and then time to head home so I could see Gunther because he's really cute, and so I sat cuddling him a bit, then put him in his kennel where he is now barking and howling and waking my kids up at 11:38 at night and I have no idea what I'm supposed to do other than blog, because see, it's not that today was an exceptionally busy or productive or meaningful day (and was even mostly enjoyable), it was just one of those days that when I look back over the course of events, I realize that I haven't taken a breath since that quiet moment at 6:30 this morning and now all I want to do is take that deep breath and to end it it thankful for that brief moment so early this morning that made it possible for me to make it through this run on day.
Sigh. Just another day, I guess.....
(Oh, and Gunther will get a blog post all to himself tomorrow ... don't worry...)

Friday, August 20, 2010

When Facebook isn't enough, it's time for the DTR

Remember how I said in my post on the sabbatical that I had more to come on the topic of community. Saddle up.

Turns out this isn't a new topic for my little blog. If you've read any of my posts for longer than .... oh ... a month ...you'd know this about me. However, there was one blog post that I recently dug up from a little over a year ago where I had written in detail of my thoughts on community. I don't know that I have much different rantings on the subject now, other than a few observations from our sabbatical.

Facebook, twitter, blogging, buzz, four-square, linked-whatever .... the world is trying, and as stereotypes go, the world thinks it is succeeding. We've managed to connect to anyone, anywhere, anytime of day and in many different ways (that are all technologically connected to each other, so not only do we connect once, but anyone in our "network" gets our connection in about 5 different places). I don't know about you, but it's taken it's toll on me. I perhaps feel more alone in this world than I have in a very long time. Strange thing. Because see, I have 456 Facebook friends. Surely I'm not alone. But maybe that's part of the problem. People have actually said to me, "You have so many friends!". What we as a facebook era seem to be missing is that "network" is very different than community. Put all my one line status updates together, and you still will be very distant from actually knowing ME.

Let me back up a little bit to a truth that God convicted me of hard core this summer. I sat in a service at some new church. I don't even remember what was being preached. But I remember what God was speaking to me. He gave me the grace to see something that has been a BIG roadblock in my pursuit of community. That being, I have idolized it. Big time. Community became one of those things that I knew was right and good and had the approval stamp by God to pursue. After all, it's important to Him. He's got the ultimate community w/ the Son and the Holy Spirit. My problem is that it became too right and too good. I have had this idea of what community should look like, and I've put it up there on a pedestal where no one can touch it (let alone measure up to it) .... not even God. I've thought that if I could just find THAT, I would feel complete. I would find joy. I would be the woman I'm supposed to be when I found how I FIT into my little golden calf. God broke my calf as only He can do. He revealed to me my sin in my expectations. He revealed to me that I am to be found in Him and Him alone. He revealed to me that any community, as nourishing as it is, will still be made up of broken, sinful people such as myself. He revealed to me that I will struggle and wrestle as I come face to face with other peoples brokeness. Struggling and wrestling are never easy. Community, in it's purest earthly form, will still be messy and needy and broken. And then He revealed to me that now that I've got that clear, it's still good. So I pursue.

It's interesting (perhaps saddening is a better word) how many people I have talked with lately who feel desperate for deep, meaningful, restoring community. What? Facebook isn't working for you either? Huh. I've heard from so many that they feel alone. They have a lot of friends, but no one (or two) friends. Does that make sense ? I have a theory. (Watch out!)

As often as I'd like to think that I'm the only person who fears rejection, or craves approval ... I know that isn't true. In fact, I think it is a root issue for most people. (AKA: pride) And there in lies a huge stumbling block to living in community. Think about it. If I fear rejection, I won't be honest with you, because I'm pretty sure you'll chew me up and spit me out. I'm fairly certain that you will air my dirty laundry to people who I didn't choose (most likely for a reason) to air it to myself. If I crave approval, it is doubtful that I will reveal to you the deepest parts of me that aren't worthy of any approval, but in fact are in need of harsh disapproval. So where does that leave us in way of community ? Who is SAFE ? No one. Or at least that is what we let ourselves eventually believe. If I can't trust you, if I don't know that you actually want to be in community with me (or think you are just extending niceties), if I'm afraid or intimidated by you, if I'm not sure that you desire from community what I desire from community, I will most likely throw my guard up. And so will you. This isn't going to get us very far.

That's where the DTR comes in. We've all heard of that in dating relationships. (Will you "go out with me"?) And I'm a pretty firm believer in it in that sense. So why would community be different ? Maybe if there were some level of defining a relationship amongst friends, community could perhaps form a little easier. If I know you are committed to loving me, in all the good the bad and the ugly .... then all of a sudden my pride no longer has much water to swim in. If you know that I think you are worth being in a covenant style of community with (in other words, I have voiced my willingness to do so), your fears of rejection or need for approval no longer hold much weight. This is because fear and pride have no place in covenant. Covenant relationship, on the other hand, holds a very safe landing for community to thrive.

No, I'm not asking for a promise ring, or a BFF split heart necklace where we both wear one side. I'm just saying that it might be less intimidating for those of us longing to be part of a community to know others who feel the same ... and who feel the same about us personally.

I'm not the first person to have this thought either. There was this guy who lived a really long time ago. His name was John Wesley. Maybe you've heard of him. Some great friends/mentors from long ago sent us "John Wesley's Rules for Band-Societies". (Band as in community, not 519.) It's pretty intense. They said they actually voiced and committed to these rules with their community. I'm not saying it has to be this intense list of rules and vows and wedding cakes and such; but maybe in reading it, you'll get the idea of what I mean. Can you imagine covenanting with a small group of friends to do and be all of these things ..... WOW ! I'm not sure community would be lacking if we did. (It's a loooooong list ... beware.)

Wesley's Rules for Band-Societies

     Drawn up December 25, 1738.

The design of our meeting is, to obey that command of God, "Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed..

To this end, we intend.
1. To meet once a week, at the least.
2. To come punctually at the hour appointed, without some extraordinary reason.
3. To begin (those of us who are present) exactly at the hour, with singing or prayer.
4. To speak each of us in order, freely and plainly, the true state of our souls, with the faults we have committed in thought, word, or deed, and the temptations we have felt, since our last meeting.
5. To end every meeting with prayer, suited to the state of each person present.
6. To desire some person among us to speak his own state first, and then to ask the rest, in order, as many and as searching questions as may be, concerning their state, sins, and temptations.

Some of the questions proposed to every one before he is admitted among us may he to this effect.
1. Have you the forgiveness of your sins.
2. Have you peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ.
3. Have you the witness of God's Spirit with your spirit, that you are a child of God.
4. Is the love of God shed abroad in your heart.
5. Has no sin, inward or outward, dominion over you.
6. Do you desire to be told of your faults.
7. Do you desire to be told of all your faults, and that plain and home.
8. Do you desire that every one of us should tell you, from time to time, whatsoever is in his heart concerning you.
9. Consider! Do you desire we should tell you whatsoever we think, whatsoever we fear, whatsoever we hear, concerning you.
10. Do you desire that, in doing this, we should come as close as possible, that we should cut to the quick, and search your heart to the bottom.
11. Is it your desire and design to be on this, and all other occasions, entirely open, so as to speak everything that is in your heart without exception, without disguise, and without reserve.

Any of the preceding questions may be asked as often as occasion others; the four following at every meeting.
1. What known sins have you committed since our last meeting.
2. What temptations have you met with.
3. How were you delivered.
4. What have you thought, said, or done, of which you doubt whether it be sin or not.

You know what ? I sin. A lot. Over the past year, God has given me the grace to pursue a friend, or a couple of friends with my junk. When it would have been so easy to hide in my sin, I knew that community is what was needed to assist in killing my sin. They didn't ask to hear it. But I knew I needed to give it. Nothing like airing your dirty laundry to someone who didn't ask for it. But I had to. And that's part of community. It's not going to come looking for us most of the time. WE, I, have to be committed to seeking it.

So what does this have to do with our sabbatical? (Bunny trail if I ever saw one!)

EVERY.SINGLE.CHURCH. that we sat under (as well as the sermon series by Matt Chandler that I recommended to you earlier in the summer) voiced the need for community. From community groups, to redemption groups, to life groups (call them what you will) ... it was clear that these churches found community crucial to sanctification.

Enter in "over-programing", stage left.

Every church has it. They have their "programs" for community. But what if the programs aren't working ? Why aren't they ? Why do so many in the church feel alone? Here's my only conclusion..... because we are 1) idolizing community, 2) expecting community to find us (usually through said program), and 3) don't feel safe in a desired community because of our pride. All are wrong. Community starts when, by no program, I lay my life down and serve others. Community begins when I confess my sin without waiting for someone to point it out to me. Community begins when I open my home, despite the fact that very few may invite me into theirs.  Community begins when I intentionally choose a day and a time to set aside for others. No sports events, no birthday parties, no mountain home, no skiing, no boating, no napping .... just others.

I sure made community sound glamorous, huh ? Maybe it's not supposed to be glamorous.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Kids rooms

First, a Baby Britton Blurb :
I was ironing (shocker) the kids new bedskirts. Eden walked in and asked what I was doing.
"Ironing", I said.
"What's ironing?", she asked ... barely able to pronounce the word ironing.
"Uh, see this thing? (holding iron) It's called an iron. It's used to take the wrinkles out of clothes."
"Oh. I didn't know you could do that."

Sigh. While it's not much of a secret that I don't iron often (okay, hardly ever), this was rather pathetic I thought. My 7 year old had no idea what an iron was.

(You're wondering how I never iron, aren't you ? Because I like wrinkles. Actually, Aaron irons his clothes for church once a week. I've tried to be a good wife and do it for him, but he says I make it worse. Huh, I don't know how ???? ;) )

Onto the bedrooms. I was done with bunk beds. While the boys beds were fun, the set up was huge, and just not as practical as I had hoped. Also, there is nothing worse than making the top bunk. To top it off, the girls were in desperate need of new dressers. Soooo .... what do you do when you need something and can't afford it ? Charge it ! NO ! Sell stuff ! And sell stuff we did. We sold the boys and girls bunk beds, our old washer and dryer, and also held a garage sale. Add up all the sales, and we made it. Just enough to buy all new dressers for the girls, PLUS new bedding for the girls and the boys ! Yippee !!!!!

This is Sam helping Aaron get the old washer and dryer cleaned out for the new owners. :)

The girls wanted to get away from the old pastel colors. They have very different taste though. When they spotted this bedding, they both loved it, but couldn't agree on the pink or the blue. So I thought I'd take my chances on mixing it. I like how it turned out, and they are both thrilled. Now they just need new curtains.

Before : (although we haven't had the girls bunks set up for a while now. They were separated and on the floor)

 After !

The boys could care less, but I enjoyed finding matching bedding for them that already matched their curtains and bedroom. And not only that, but on a major sale even !!!! The boys bedding was on clearance for $19.99 each. That included the comforter, sham, sheets & bedskirt ! Can't beat that!

Before :

After !

My sister, Lynette, made this adorable quilt for Malachi when we brought him home from Ethiopia. 
The girls bedding came with these big bags. They are possibly more excited about the bags than they are the bedding.
What is one to do with a bag that big ? Oh, right, put your little brother in it.
Lastly, one of the things I'm most excited about is the bedskirts. (Which according to Eden, has now made all the beds girls.) For some reason, under the bed becomes the home for all things when a child is instructed to put their toys away. Now I don't have to see that chaos when I walk in their room. It gives me a mild panic attack every time. Plus, they think it's fun to hide under their beds now.

Malachi gave away the hiding spot.

So there you have it. Our new rooms ! (And I don't have the new blogger picture loader figured out yet, so sorry the placements of the pics/captions are strange.)

The rooms won't be this clean tomorrow.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Church-Shopping meet Sabbatical. Sabbatical, Church-shopping.

Three months of Sabbatical are coming to an end.  And while it was technically Aaron's sabbatical, I enjoy talking as if it was mine as well. There is so much to "unpack". Not only in the way of actual suitcases (thus laundry), but heart stuff too. Aaron and I have processed a lot this summer. It's truly been a blessing, a much needed and greatly appreciated blessing. Aaron gave the option on his blog to his readers to vote for him to blog about his sabbatical or not. He chose to not due to lack of interest. So while Jeff S. may be the only person to read this blog post in it's entirety, this is where I go to process. This is no secret. (And yes, "process" is my key word for "very long post".) Be forewarned that many of my upcoming posts will have to do with this summer.

I wanted to start with the topic of "Church Shopping". Why ? Well, because I've never experienced "church shopping", but I got a little glimpse of what it must be like as we started our 3 month adventure. See, we've always picked a church based on where Aaron has a job. (Mind you, we've NOT picked some churches because Aaron (or I) didn't want the job there. So it's not ALL about the paycheck.) As part of Aaron's sabbatical though, we visited many different churches over the summer months. It was rather interesting. I began to imagine in my mind what things I would look for if I was sitting in a worship service with the intention of finding a church home.

In matter of importance, I mean, in no particular order .... I made a small list of things that I started to survey that would impact me if shopping was my goal. One, the coffee served. Two, the friendliness of the people at the church. Three, childcare. Four, weekly programs offered. Five, the music. Six, the preaching. Seven, the parking lot. Eight, community.

Truth be told, I sorta cringe at the phrase, "church shopping". It just seems a funny phrase. Because I don't know about you, but when I shop, I shop with the sole intentions of finding what is cheapest for ME, what is the latest trend for ME, who can offer ME the most savings and value even if at the expense of quality. I shop with the end result of feeding into MY easily inflamed idols of stomach, home decor, clothing, comfort,  entertainment, or organizational tools. (I really am a sucker for anything with a lid that can be shoved under a bed....) Did you catch the common theme in all that I shop for ?  ME ! Church shopping with ME and MY needs being met is very dangerous. See, church isn't about ME. It's much bigger than me, in fact. And when it's all said and done, the church I call "home" will be best for ME when I die to myself and serve the CHURCH.

So, back to the things that stood out.

One, the coffee. Yes, that's right. Every church serves it. And I was on a mission to sample them all and determine who served the most excellent coffee. Because you know, that is extremely important at a church. My bar is fairly low for the coffee snob that I am known to be. Church coffee must exceed gas station brews. That's all. All but two churches got a big FAIL. (One exception was The Village Church which Aaron attended without us. I asked him to try their coffee for me. Turns out they don't have coffee. He came home telling me that the Pastor there, Matt Chandler, actually addresses their lack of coffee and states that the church is not there for the comfort of the attenders. You start to catch on to that when you listen to his preaching. I must say, I sorta love that.)

Two, the friendliness of the people at church. Mars Hill Church Albuquerque won the award for that one. I was standing in the lobby with my small brood of children while Aaron parked the car (such a gentleman). I must have stood out as a single mom perhaps ? Because within a minute, two men came to me to greet me. One of them asked if I was new, and if I needed help getting the kids to chilcare. This I'm sure was because if I WAS a single mom, I was a really cute one. NO ! Not at all. It was very obvious at this church that MEN took the lead to make people feel welcome, comfortable, safe, and cared for. Okay, do you realize how huge that is ? I have a husband that does those things for me everyday, but to experience men taking a lead like that in a setting where for all they knew, I didn't have a man to do that for me .... how sweet of a welcoming. I would love to see men taking the lead to make both men and women feel comfortable, safe, and cared for as they enter a church service.

One last tidbit about "programs". I believed the statement that we are programmed out at churches. (Insert SOME before every program listed here.) Programs wear on volunteers, programs drain staff, programs aren't the be-all end-all, programs eat up budgets that could be used more meaningfully. Our church offers some fantastic programs that I am often part of and even lead a few. But they are not KEY to my faith. The one "program" that is .... is one that is centered around community. Community is a huge portion of my spiritual life, and I believe it should be. Life groups, community groups, Redemption groups, Celebrate Recovery, Home groups, etc.... are all beautiful things because of what they facilitate. They are but a means to an end, however. While I suppose that some of the programs churches offer are a great way to move people to action, the people moving is still what is most important. More on this topic to come in days to come .....

Five, the music. This was a strange one for me. Since graduating high school, I've only ever sat under Aaron leading worship (and often lead with him). To hear others doing the songs he does was strange. They do them so different. The singers were good and bad. The band was soft and loud. The worship leaders themselves appeared confident and distracted, humble and proud. It really was odd. None of them were Aaron. I like Aaron. All biased opinions aside, he is still the best worship leader I've ever had the privilege of being led into worship by and with. Sure, other churches had worship that I would eventually grow used to, just as every church we've gone to has had it's time of growing used to Aaron. The worship services that really drew me in though were the ones where you just knew the Holy Spirit was moving. Isn't the Spirit always moving ? Yes. But sometimes maybe he moves in one church more than another (or just different, I don't know). One church we were at, we were told that there was a recent revival. A real bible-belt, demons cast, repenting of sin revival. Can you imagine ? I thought people made that stuff up. I thought it was bad pizza or too much beer the night before. But this church was a church were we have many dear and close friends. The Pastor and his wife are two of the most influential people in our married and spiritual lives. So we trusted them, we believed them, we knew that what was happening at their church was indeed real. The Spirit was moving .... powerfully. And you knew it as you sat through worship. In fact, ten minutes in, I had tears streaming down my face. It was almost suffocating. I begged for the Spirit to move like that to Boulder next. (PLEASE notice that what was most important to me about worship had NOTHING to do with the worship leader himself. It had everything to do with the hearts of the worshipers responding in obedience to God's leading.)

Six, the preaching. We were so blessed to hear some phenomenal preaching this summer. I am blessed every Sunday at my current church to sit under great preaching. We couldn't stay if it weren't the truth of the Word and the Saving Grace of Jesus that was taught from the pulpit at our church. But this summer I heard words like, "Gospel-wakefulness", "Gospel-centered", "Gospel-truth", "Gospel-driveness", just "GOSPEL", almost every weekend. I've talked about my current awakening to how big the Gospel is growing in my heart compared to the limited understanding that it has been, so this in particular was especially meaningful to me. I wasn't hearing self-help with a spiritual bent TAUGHT. I was hearing the power of the Gospel over every area of my life PREACHED. And week after week God was revealing my sin and muck and pride more and more as He asked me if I was ready to let his blood on the Cross be enough for whatever my poison of the day was. It was amazing. More on this topic perhaps to come in the near future as well. I'm processing this one A LOT still.

Seven, the parking. One church we attended had NO parking spaces. It was annoying. I thought about going to a different church because of it. You know I'm not serious, right ? I did have fun joking with my parents about it, however. And in fact, one church we went to had no parking at all. The church was this beautiful old Catholic church that had been donated to the church. It was set in the middle of an urban city housing area and you were forced to park up and down one way streets that posed "Residence Only" parking signs, and were thus forced to drive a little bit farther away. I thought that was great. It made me want to move into one of those houses just so I could walk to church every weekend.

Eight, community. I know I briefly talked about this one up their with programs. And this comes in second place to the Gospel as the biggest thing I'm continuing to process from this summer. I will for sure be blogging more in days to come on this one. All but one church that we were at this summer talked about community from the pulpit. It was obvious that the churches we were at were centralizing themselves around not only the Gospel, but GOSPEL-COMMUNITY. Now THAT is a church that when shopping, would earn my money. (Please tell me you saw the pun in that.) Many Sundays after church we were invited to go to lunch, times during the week we heard our phones ring from members at the church asking to hang out with us. This extrovert, often lonely heart felt, if but for a brief moment, a part of something.

So, 45 pages later, I've managed to wrap up our summer and combine it with a training in how to church shop. I'm glad I'm done shopping and can now go home. I pray a lot for my church family, for my home. I pray all these eight things (make that 6. Take a guess at which 2 I really could care less about.) for my church. I'm thankful to have a place to call home. It's full of broken and sinful people, so it has it's ups and downs. But just the same, it's a church that preaches the Gospel, a church that has a safe place for my children to attend, some great ways to plug into both serving and community, and perhaps the most fantastic worship leader in our current day. And to be honest .... the coffee is not good AT ALL. (No offense if the one who makes it is reading. Really, it's not you, it's me.)
If you are still reading this, you should really leave a comment. You've earned a $5 Starbucks card for enduring. You can contact Jeff S to retrieve it.