There is something about being in Alabama that makes me feel at home. We only lived there for three years and yet, each time I go back, I am flooded with the open sky and good memories. There is space to breathe and a slow pace of living that I always find refreshing. In my most recent visit, I was able to stay with a good friend of mine in her heirloom home and take some portraits of her little girl in the blooming azaleas. Children are probably my favorite to capture, because of the challenge it is! One of the easiest ways I've found to take portraits of small children, is by letting them play naturally and working to get those smiles and laughs. It was easy with Rylee because this was her "home." She loved picking berries and flowers and running down the dirt road. We were outside in the middle of the day, but the contrast in lighting really made for a beautiful scenery. This entire shoot took about 20 minutes - simple and quick - but now they can cherish these adorable portraits of her at this age forever.
I wrote a post a couple months ago talking about how I wanted to get back to blogging like the old days again. And while the intentions were good, and I do long to write more frequently like I used to, I've been struggling with how to approach it.
The real problem is there's been a lot going on in this head of mine. And I've just become so exhausted, personally, reading article after article of one-sided commentary on every single topic - that I really don't want to sound like another gong beating my own drum.
I think it would help, though, if I approached blogging like having a conversation with a friend over coffee.
If you were that friend, I would start by telling you that we've been living in Jacksonville for 10 months now and I am still recovering from the emotional toll that this specific move has taken on us. It's hard to complain when you have so much to be grateful for, so I won't go on and on about it. But I am so thankful for the friends that have sent a message or text to let us know that they are praying for us on this journey. It has been so encouraging. Every time we move, the most painful part is leaving people. And as long as we are investing our lives in wherever the Lord calls us, I'm certain that will never get any easier.
Speaking of investments... we are praying through whether or not to buy a house again! Our first home that we purchased in Alabama has still not sold (but thankfully has a tenant!) so we have been reluctant on taking that leap again. But now that our church campus has launched and our rental lease is up in May, we are looking to join in with the community on the Northside of Jacksonville sometime in the next few months. Not to mention, we've been told it's a good time to buy before the "economic boost" that is projected to take place now that Trump is in office.
Speaking of Trump in office... it's been something, hasn't it? I've never seen a single party so divided over a candidate quite like this. And, truthfully, I've never felt more confused in where I stand myself. It's about time, though, that Christians separated their faith from allegiance to a certain political party. And I will be the first to admit that I've gotten it wrong in the past so many times. But there is just too much at stake, spiritually, for us to keep putting our hope or hate in any governing office. Instead, let's pray and turn our actions towards being the change we want to see happen in the world (cue, Michael Jackson!) How can we love those close to us better? How can we love the least of us better? Jesus said in John 13:35 that the world will know us by our love... not by our political platforms or strong opinions.
If I were having coffee with you, I'd probably let out a deep breath right after that last sentence and take a big sip of that coffee to shut up my own strong opinions from spewing all over the place. Because it's easy to do. And I know once I get started on a tangent, I have a hard time shutting up.
But then, I'd probably sit back and let you take over the conversation from here. Because I'd want you to know that I value you and your thoughts as well. We may even disagree at some point, but we'd probably never raise our voices or belittle each other for having an opinion. It's funny how differences become minor when you're sitting face to face with someone - seeing their expressions, hearing their tone, and learning about all of the life experience that has helped shape their views over the years. That's the benefit of having conversations over coffee.
“Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions.
Intelligent people are always ready to learn. Their ears are open for knowledge.”
Proverbs 18:2, 15
... but you can't take the building out of the Church!
Next weekend, on January 29th, we OFFICIALLY launch the North campus of Chets Creek Church, which we lovingly refer to as "Chets North." But good news - you don't even have to wait until then! You can join us tomorrow, January 22nd, at 10:30am for church if you want to!
Nine months ago, my husband (Josh) and I moved to Jacksonville to join the mission of seeing God build His church on the Northside of Jacksonville. We sensed that He was already at work in the hearts and lives of people all around the community and felt a call to be a part of continuing to spread the love and saving power of Jesus Christ!
But, this whole process of moving, preparing and launching a new church has caused a great deal of work to be done in my own heart. For starters, God had to completely wreck my view of what "church" was all about and tear down the walls of pride that were slowly making residence in my heart. The walls of pride that said church must look a certain way, take place in a specific environment and that it was mostly about my spiritual growth. Those walls? Completely shattered by the end of this nine month long journey of preparing for a church plant in a school, with limited technology (although we have been blessed and equipped with more than we could ask for!) that takes longer to set up for than actually take part in.
Here's the thing I've had to come to grips with - the church isn't about me. If it was, then I would have a hard time when it let me down. Sure, as believers, we make up "the Church." But the Church exists for so much more. It exists to be the literal, hands and feet, eyes and ears, arms and legs of Jesus. We are the body of Christ.
I think the enemy's greatest tactic in our culture today is to try and keep the "Church" in a building. He wants us to believe that our mission is a rocking, Sunday morning church service. Or an awesome, community-building life group. Or even volunteering our time, giving our money or using our talents to serve a local congregation.
And those are all great things that every church should strive for! But we can have all of that and still not be fulfilling the greatest mission of the church - to make disciples of all nations, by sharing the love and gospel of Jesus Christ.
And to think, there was a time when I thought church was just attending a service. Worshiping God together. With music that everyone enjoyed and preaching that always challenged and convicted the heart. And if someone didn't like the way one place did "church," they could always go down the road and find another (or start one themselves!)
At least, that's what my experience shaped me to believe.
But in leading us to start a new church, God has completely wrecked that view. Church is a people. It is people you commit to. People you choose to willingly sacrifice for. People you serve together with. People you don't always look like. That's why Paul wrote that we are one body, with many different parts.
Josh and I are just a part of the body of Chets North. Which is just a part of the body of Chets Creek Church. Which is just a part of the body of the global Church. All parts are needed. And based on Scripture, the ones we think are least important are most necessary.
We are planting a church in a growing part of Jacksonville, where there are truthfully not enough churches to reach the people living there. My husband went to a church planters meeting recently that pointed out that even if every church building in Jacksonville completely filled every seat - there would still not be enough churches to reach everyone.
That's why we are launching a new opportunity to join together as a body of believers. To be a part of the bigger picture of reaching the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ! I am thankful for the work God has done in my own heart, laying the foundation of what the mission and existence of the church is really all about. There's a great quote by Rick Warren that says, "Focus on building people, before you build a steeple." And while a building would be nice one day, we know the true building is already taking place.