Thursday, December 25, 2014

A new kind of Christmas...

It's Christmas, and I am sitting here on the couch soaking in the happy squeals of my crew running around outside with walkie-talkies, while the smell of turkey roasting in the oven fills our home. This is the first Christmas I can remember since we left Kansas 6 years ago that my heart is full. 

I forgot what normal feels like. I forgot what it feels like to embrace the season of Christmas with gladness and gratitude. 

It's not that we didn't have lots to be thankful for in the past several years, but it has been hard. Really hard, and my reactions of been human, really human. I can't say that I handled all of the changes in our life with perfect grace and ease. 

In the last 5 1/2 years, we have moved five times & James has changed jobs five times. We've had two new babies and I have started two businesses. We went from homeschooling our kids to putting them in public school, and now we are homeschooling again. 

We are both working from home doing something we love, and this is the first year since having our first baby 12 years ago that we haven't wondered how much debt we were going to be in after Christmas. 

The Lord has been faithful to provide everything we have needed all of these years and now he is providing more than we could ever have imagined. I will not take this life for granted. I will live with gratitude in my heart for this season we are entering into.

Sitting where I am now, it is easy for me to beat myself up about not being grateful even through the most difficult times. I wish I could say that I had been a better example for my family and friends. But I can't change the past, I can only look toward the future and live with intention. 

I can look back over the last several years, however, and marvel at God's sovereignty.  I can be grateful for every single thing we went through, even for my own mistakes, because they have shaped me to be someone who will not stand in judgment over another person for the way they are walking out their journey. I will not stand in the way of what God is trying to do in another person's life by trying to tell them that I have all of the answers for them like I used to do so often. (I didn't even have the answers for myself. Why did I think I could offer wisdom?) 

The only thing I know for sure  is that God is in control and that he has plans for us that we could never imagine or understand. We have only to trust in him and put one foot in front of the other knowing that if we are his children, he will direct our paths. 

So, I sit here this Christmas morning on my couch crying sweet tears because I am overwhelmed at the mercy he has shown me, the grace he had given me. I don't deserve this life, and yet it is mine, at least today.  

Thank you, Lord! Merry Christmas!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Berkley's maternity pics...

This pregnancy has flown by faster than I ever could have imagined. In a few weeks, we will finally be meeting Miss Berkley Bella. Today, Shelby took some maternity pics for me. I think she did an amazing job. She is an artist.
Emily gave me this beautiful afghan made by her Mother-in-law.  I hope it is Berkley's favorite.

Some of these photos were taken on our playhouse and some in front of our office building out back. Our new yard is a photographer's dream.

I am praying for her to be a precious perfect happy baby. Our family has had a very stressful year and I hope the stress of it all will not impact her sweet little heart. She is already loved and wanted and we are anxiously awaiting her arrival.
I'm 33 weeks. She will be here before we know it!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Dreamin of a Lichtenwonderland...

Preslie could practically get lost in our new beautiful wooded backyard. We have wanted land for as long as I can remember, and we are finally making that dream a reality. Just roaming around the property is a grand adventure for the kids. Being there brings me so much peace and joy. It gives me hope that we can get back to ourselves...Regain our identity and closeness...have less distractions...remember our free...It's a new beginning. So many new beginnings!
Praise GOD!

Jesse was in heaven, running laps through the woods and mapping out the 2+ acres!

There is a huge free standing playhouse in the middle of the back property. It needs some repairs, but it's going to be amazing. It even has a look-out deck on top and wrap-around porch of its own.

Tiny littles amongst the tall trees!

Here is a view from the back porch facing the woods. Plenty of room for football or a pool!

This is the opposite view from where the girls were standing facing the back of the house. And below is the front of the house looking back from the gated driveway. The home is perfect for us and we can't wait to move in!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Bebe thoughts and reveals...

Sweet 18 week bebe with a perfect profile! We had the big ultrasound a few weeks ago. 

We all wore pink or blue that day to vote for our team. 

The big gender reveal came in the form of a piƱata stuffed with either pink or blue candy. 

Me at 18, then 20 weeks. I really wasn't showing this time until right around 18 weeks. I'm trying to stay healthy and exercise as much as I can this pregnancy. My main cravings have been chocolate and red meat! Aside from being tired and super forgetful, I have felt great. This has been my easiest pregnancy so far! I hope I'm not speaking too soon. Using essential oils for headaches and tummy issues has worked magically! I don't think i will ever have to go back to taking prescription medications for my migraines. 

So anyway, surprise, it's bebe Girl! 4 girls and a boy. Wow! Crazy, I know. 

We've pretty much decided on a name too! I just don't want to share until we tell our parents. We can't wait to meet her! She's going to be the most loved and spoiled baby of them all with all of these siblings to shower her with attention. Plus, I'm an old pro now, so she'll just hang out on my hip everywhere I go probably. Going from one baby to two was super hard & a lot to get used to. From 3 on, it's a piece of cake, except for getting in and out of the car and getting places on time. It's so worth it though! Lichtenbabies are well-loved!

This is kind of a marathon "I haven't posted in forever and I'm posting from my phone run-on blog post." Try to deal. I can't string coherent thoughts together today. But, I get an A for effort, right?!

So, here's where I get real and someone will get mad at me, but I won't lose any sleep over it because I'm pregnant afterall...
I also don't know how to change the font below from my phone, and I'm too lazy & busy to find out right now. Have grace.

When you have 4 kiddos, your 5th pregnancy flies by, and you usually want it to. You can't wait to meet this sweet baby, get her all bonded into the family and get on with your life. (That's reality) 

But, honestly, being pregnant at 40 and having no preggo buddies to share preggo stories with is hard for this extrovert! I seriously have started what my friends are calling a post-pregnancy bucket list of all the things I can't wait to do (for myself) when bebe gets here: margaritas, crossfit, more tattoos, girl's nights, have a glass of wine midday w lunch (I've never done that), get in even better shape than before...but wait! Why am I focused on time passing so quickly?

All of those things are fun, but totally selfish in light of the miracle that's happening inside of me. I don't want to wish away the days and months until she's here. Partnering w God in the miraculous creation of life is one of the greatest privileges of a being a woman. I want to savor every change in my body, every movement, every kick and early glimpse that I am lucky enough to get of her while she's in still my womb. I do not want to take for granted this incredible gift, especially in light of the fact that there was a time I believed & was told I'd never have my own babies.  So, if you see me, remind me of this: that I am blessed and chosen and privileged to carry another life into this world! It is a beautiful miraculous thing; the most beautiful experience imaginable. 

I love being pregnant! I love labor and delivery, and I love being a Momma! Momma to five Lichtenkids. Cray.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Family Pics...

Finally posting these. We clean up pretty good. Sure, we may choose very different wardrobes for fam pictures than most, but hey...we are all about color round here. This is us. These pics pretty much sum up our kiddo's personalities. Flora Jones did a beautiful job!

My kids are being robbed of my bloggy rantings, memories and philosophizing lately. I am going to start writing again very very soon! Promise.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Forever changed...

I'm not a very consistent blogger lately and this is a major time of transition for us. I have so much I want to process, share and remember in years to come, but I'm honestly going through a kind of difficult and confusing season & I don't feel like doing it publicly. I'm torn because writing always helps me process, yet I am super cautious and guarded because I've been hurt and betrayed by people I thought I could trust. I've even betrayed myself by not holding fast to my values and also having faulty judgement and sketchy discernment when choosing who I could trust. I have always been a good judge of character, until Enid... It's not this town, just this season of my life. 

Every season over the past 10 years has been consecutively more difficult than the last. It has produced in me a firm faith in the sovereignty of God and a sort of submission/resignation to whatever He has planned for us. Reality has given any idealism I once had about life a tune up. I know that God's good isn't always what I might have considered good and I'm okay with that. I do confess that I long to find joy in that, though. Accepting something and rejoicing in it are two very different things, and I want to rejoice. It's going to have to be super natural. I've seen too much...felt too much...done too much...

If you look closely into my eyes in this picture, even though I am smiling, there is a deep sadness that's waiting for the first opportunity to spill out in tears on my cheeks. It's not always this close to the surface because I have so much to truly be thankful for, but I see it in pictures of myself. I can remember the joyful, hopeful, passionate woman I once was...she just sees the world through eyes that have been forever changed now. 

Still I pray, Lord, could I be her again? Could you help me be me again?

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Dance bebe dance...

This pregnancy has brought out my inner dancer. I mean, I still have no rhythm, but when music is on I just find myself dancing. Like crazy. It's so weird. Shocking really. But, it's fun and hopefully I'm burning some calories too. My current favorite dancing songs are both Maroon 5 songs. Most people
Know that I have been living under a rock for several years when it comes to pop culture, but fitness classes and running got me hooked on music that I used to just make fun of. I've just recently discovered Adam Levine's magic and Lucky Strike & One More Night are my faves to dance or run to. Blame it one the bebe. He or she will probably be a break dancer or hip hop honey. 

I need this shirt:

Thanks, Adam, for the inspiration...

Monday, March 3, 2014


These kiddos are resilient. They are happy, healthy, strong-willed, creative and too smart for their own good. Because we used to be so structured, so calendar driven and goal oriented, I used to worry that I wasn't raising flexible adventure seekers who hold on to this world and their own plans loosely. 

Thank God that where we lack as parents he is faithful to provide the real life teaching only their Heavenly Father could orchestrate. They've been on this gypsy caravan with us and learned how to adapt to new environments, make new friends, and adjust to new life circumstances over and over. It will build their character, just as it is building ours. 

I am so grateful for their resiliency! Now that we are able to focus in on healing our family, they are regaining their confidence and security and acting like Lichtenkids once again. And, they are looking forward to the next adventure of our lives. 

According to my preggo app, this is what the new bebe might look like in my belly. 
10 weeks...

Monday, February 24, 2014

It's our happens.

I'm reading this book by Anne Graham Lotz. In it, she is honest about the wounds that her family has experienced at the hands of Christians. If we aren't careful, we can make the misguided mistake of believing that churches are super safe zones where people are all kind and we won't be hurt. If that were true, Christians would have no need of a savior. We don't just need him once, at the time of conversion, that's just the beginning. At that point we declare our need for his forgivness of our past sins and grace and mercy for us now and the rest of our lives. If we "get" that, we understand that it's the same for all of our Christian brothers and sisters and that since they aren't perfect either, will needn't put our faith in them, but in God.

That said, some leaders or institutions are relentless in their continued spiritual abuse and/or mistreatment of their flock. We experienced this and acknowledge it and feel that it is important to share at least part of our experience without mentioning names or specific circumstances. Because of this, we decided to put those few deleted posts (edited and re-edited as to not hurt anyone) back up in hopes of identifying with those who have been hurt and proclaiming the healing power of Jesus Christ in our lives. Praise God, we are in a much better place, physically, emotionally and spiritually and he has made beauty from ashes! 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Letter to a new daddy...

I am having so much fun finding these old journal entries and letters. This was from my first pregnancy...we really thought she'd be our one and only miracle baby. Wow! Crazy.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The surreal life

I am now 8 1/2 weeks pregnant with our fifth child and it is still hard for me to wrap  my mind around the fact that this is my real life. I could have never anticipated all of the adventures that the last few years would bring, especially this one.

I have 6 pregnancy tests, 2 ultrasounds and 5 weeks of blood tests to prove it along with 3pm - bedtime nausea and an appetite that cannot be satisfied. I should be utterly convinced. I know that it's true, I just have this weird sensation like I am floating through someone else's life...kinda like I am living in a dream world where nothing makes sense, but it's all good. I know that sounds crazy, but hey, it's how I feel. 

                  (Bebe at 7 weeks)

We are all happy and excited and still when the kids and James start listing possible name choices, I feel strangely like we are naming a niece or nephew. Again, crazy...blame it on the hormones. When I start showing, maybe it'll feel real.  I lost 10 lbs the first few weeks, so I started lower than normal. But don't worry, I've gained it all back the last 5 days. Lol. I have been continuing to run and workout this time, so I expect to be back in shape in no time after this surprise bebe arrives. 

            (8 weeks...almost a bump)

I cannot believe Preslie is going to be a big sister. My baby won't be the baby of the lichtenhouse in a blink. I'm still gonna cherish every moment with her and all of the lichtenlittles! 

We have our lives back. The last few years chewed our family up and spit us out. God is redeeming the time the locusts devoured. I can feel warmth in our home again and a renewed sense of purpose and worth. Our family is healing and it just feels right...I had forgotten how to live. God gave us life again! (in 1more ways than one!) lol

                          Miss P 4

                      Little LuLu 6

                            Jess 9

                                         Shelbo Macaroni 11
                               Dang, we make beautiful babies!

Friday, February 14, 2014

My musician...happy valentine's day

Haha! I just found my old journal from when we were only married a year. We started dating in October of 1993, and were married in 1997. Even after  five years his music still gripped me. I can remember feeling this way, but reading my own words from 16 years ago cracks me up. I am never at a loss for words when it comes to describing how I feel. 

I love my man. We are coming out of the hardest season of our marriage and rediscovering our love for one another. God has shown me that James truly is the one he created me for. This man loves me so much and has more grace for me than I could ever imagine. I'm in awe of him. 

His compassion, faithfulness, honesty, integrity, loyalty, unconditional love, and passion for life are unmatched. I've never met a more trustworthy person. He is an amazing father, artist, athlete, musician, teacher & lover.

He mine now and forever. I am so blessed. Happy Valentine's Day.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The control lesson...will I ever learn it?

Every time I circle back through this lesson, it is shorter and shorter because I fight against it less and less, but I have a feeling it will be my life's battle. It all started when we were trying to conceive our first baby. I remember it like it was yesterday.
I was 26 years old when we decided it was time to start a family. I got off the pill and expected to be expecting before my next period. I mean that's how it always happens, right? Not for us.
(about the pill: had I known then what I learned after Shelby was born, I would have never taken it and haven't since) After a year of trying to conceive, I went to my doctor to see what was wrong.
They couldn't really pin point the reason I wasn't conceiving and our life started to revolve around that 28 day cycle every month. Anticipation, planning, charting, scheduling, praying, then disappointment, depression, research, fear, doubt, more planning and praying...and replay the record.
Meanwhile, all of my friends and many of my students were having babies. I felt like I was being punished for my past sins or that God just knew I was going to be a horrible mom and would never give me a baby. It was all about God either giving me a baby or withholding a baby from me. It was all about ME. My plans, hopes and dreams of being a Momma. Of course at the time, I never considered that it is always more about the child and his or her appointed time and ministry on earth than giving me what I wanted or thought I needed. By the middle of the first year after I seemingly couldn't get pregnant, I had become obsessed with having a baby and was living in a crazy control cycle, where I obviously had no control but refused to admit it.
I tried to trust God and give over my anxiety to him. I tried to squelch my need to know WHY. I begged and begged for God to give us a baby in His perfect timing and give me peace in the meantime. For another year, still no baby, and no peace.
After 2 years, we went to a fertility doctor who tested us both and told us that unfortunately, we were both individually infertile and we would never conceive on our own, especially together. We walked out of the office in tears and in shock. We had just been told that all of our dreams of a family were shattered. Thankfully, I decided to check out another fertility doctor recommended by a friend 6 months later. He was a wonderful doctor and he acknowledged that while the odds were stacked against us, scientifically, God performs miracles every day and there was a chance we could conceive. He suggested that I have laparoscopy surgery to see if I had endometriosis. I did, all over my ovaries, bladder and colon. He was able to laser it all out, raising our chances of conception to about 4-7%.  Not a huge improvement, scientifically, but hey...remember God?
2 months later, after a lot of prayers and finally letting go...which, by the way, was a super-natural experience that I cannot explain, we were pregnant!!! US, pregnant.
I could not control when I would conceive (birth 'control' lol), but God was in control all along. He always is. We fight to carefully plan out and control our lives and the lives of our children according to our own hopes, dreams and desires, and He already has a plan that was written long before we took our first breath. Some of us learn that more quickly than others. I am stubborn.
So fast forward to 3 weeks ago, after having 4 kiddos and being pregnant 5 times. (cough, infertile, cough, cough, wink) After our youngest started pre-k and I got back in shape and started running for the first time in my life. After we finally decided we were finished having children and ready for the next phase of life. After I had accepted and embraced the fact that my time with babies was over and that now I get to enjoy my siblings' babies and give them back to them...after all that, and the fact that I had just started taking a hormonal balance supplement because I was sure I was entering perimenopause, I found out we were expecting. We did not expect to be expecting ever again.
Who is in control? God, not me...oh yeah.
So, 2 weeks go by and last Thursday, I'm finally accepting that I am, in fact, with child and that I will be 80 when this baby is my age and that my body is not my own for another 2 years...
(see the I, me, my pattern again? yep, selfish)
Then, comes bleeding. Thursday afternoon, I found myself in the hospital getting an early ultrasound to confirm that I was miscarrying the baby that I had never expected and was just now accepting the idea of. The tech would not let me see the screen and said I had to wait for a call from the doctor. I have seen all of my babies at 6.5 weeks. Every tech and doctor had allowed me to see the baby and have a picture. Even when I miscarried, they let me see that there was no baby and no heartbeat. But this tech said it wasn't allowed and I'd have to wait.
I waited and waited for that doctor to call, a nervous wreck, because after all, I need to know everything that is happening inside my body and what the outcome will be, and I need to know now! (control)
I waited until almost 8 o'clock, when the doctor finally called and told me that the baby was fine and he or she had a strong heartbeat and there was just a little blood in my uterus that may still pass, but for now it is ok and all of my blood work looks good. Of course we are still in the first trimester and anything can happen, but I had not miscarried. The baby was fine.
The baby I was sure I had lost, yet never knew I wanted was fine, for now.
And, with that I knew I once again that I am not in control of my life or what happens inside my own body. The day of anxiety and 'needing to know,' was all wasted because the anxiety would never change the outcome. A dear friend called me the next day and admonished me for something I said to her over and over. I kept saying, "I have had a miscarriage before, I know I can deal with it. I will be sad and it will be hard, but I know I will be ok, we will be ok no matter what. It is the not knowing I can't stand. Just give me an answer either way and I can deal with it." She told me that she never heard me say that I had peace that God was in control and that whatever the outcome, God is sovereign...It was again, all about ME. She said it seemed like I may be struggling for control of my life and if I didn't learn the lesson, God may make me take the test over and over again until I pass it. I just had to laugh because it has been the repeated test of my life. I don't know that I have ever or will ever pass that test, but I bring my grade up quicker every time, because He has proven faithful and in my heart I do know that He is sovereign and that I will never be in control!
The two and a half year infertility test proved that to me first, and since then it's been easier and easier to accept His will over my own. Praise God.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

He is our maker, provider, comfort and rescue...

God is so good. I can't even begin to describe all that has transpired in our hearts over just the past month or so. He's carried us through a really sad, really difficult time of mourning, provided for us through brothers and sisters in Christ, gave us courage & hope to keep moving forward and showed us how he truly has rescued us and will continue to. He provided a good job for James that he is excited to start very soon and is growing my Essential Oils business rapidly out of the blue!  
Biggest shock: He has also blessed us with another life. A week and a half ago I found out I was pregnant. This was totally unexpected and a huge surprise. I am still processing reality right now, so I will keep my words short, but I love what James' reaction was, "Well, we are starting a whole new chapter of our lives and God has given us this gift to remind us that he is in control and we have a new season of hope to look forward to." We, who were told we were infertile, are pregnant for the 6th time. (We lost a baby in the 5th week of pregnancy in 2006.)
He is so good. After all he has done and continues to do for us, how can we ever doubt his goodness?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

God can still use me and he can still use you...

God uses broken people and we are all broken.
He is the potter and we are the clay.
We will make mistakes.
He will redeem us.
We belong to him.
We are adopted sons and daughters of the King, even when we are messy.

blogs are blogs...stories heal

I want to thank everyone who has called, emailed, messaged or even texted me to say how thankful they are that we are willing to be vulnerable and share our story. We have had dozens of people thank us. People who we know and some we don't who are suffering in silence.

I said in my last post that we are not blaming any particular person or group of people for what we have been through. God works all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes. We know he closed this door. The method used by men to close the door was so painful, I cannot even put it into words. BUT, still, He removed us. I wrestled with whether or not to share what I shared a few posts back for weeks. I spoke with a mentor about it, prayed about it and James and I revised it over and over. It is the truth from our perspective and the perspectives of the many staff members and families who have left over the past two years. Every one of them felt most of the same things I mentioned. Every one of them has a family that was effected by their experience there. Every one of them has been gossiped about and slandered ever since leaving and if they do still live here, they feel alone and ostracized, unless they have found a healthy place to call their church home. Every one of them is and was afraid to speak up because they knew the culture and how they would be treated.

I am willing to take the heat and insults and threats on their behalf. And, yes, we do believe it is true and kind and necessary. Because our stories are our stories...We each have a voice. God used imperfect people to write His stories in the bible and they weren't always rainbows and sunshine and David playing his harp. People had real lives, messy lives, were hurt, betrayed, beheaded, cheated on...they murdered and slandered and committed every type of sin imaginable. Was it kind of him to share those stories with us? I have to say "YES," because through those stories we find comfort, peace, gratitude, hope in our struggles, common threads in our own messed up stories. (sidenote: I am not setting my blog on a stand with the bible...merely using this as an illustration)

We are not perfect people. Not even close. We are broken people who need Jesus every moment of every day. We are grateful for the refining fire he allows us to go through, but we are still covered in ashes anxiously looking forward to the beauty that is coming.

We apologize if you read any part of this and feel like we might be talking about you in particular. It is not our intent to hurt anyone, but to help facilitate healing. This institution has had this same pattern of behavior and system of leadership long before we came. Multiple staff have turned over for years...and we have heard from some of them that their experience mirrored ours. So, before you decide to make this about you or about us, you need to know that people have actually called us and told us that they feel like through reading these words, some of their wounds are finally being healed.

For them, I pray. For them, I write. For the critics, I pray. For the critics, I apologize if you feel hurt.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

glory in the journey....

I can still remember when we flew to Oklahoma from Arizona for James to interview for the Sports Outreach Pastor position. We fell in love with the staff and the facilities immediately...even the town. It just felt right. They said they wanted to hire someone who would help change the culture, and bring in more families and young adults. They were advised that it should be a pastoral position and after learning about the value of sports ministry, we agreed.

We flew home starry eyed with heads and hearts full of dreams and plans. We prayed, made lists and brainstormed for hours about what all the facility could be used for to bring in the people of the community. We saw how empty it was and knew it had great potential. It was like a mini YMCA and we were fired up to get it filled up with the constant buzz of activity a community can bring.

Reading magazines, going to a conference and asking other sports outreach ministers how they ran their facilities and drew in the public energized us. Finding out how closely fitness and faith can work together was exciting. We had never before thought of how sharing fitness and health goals with others creates an intimate bond that can lead to very spiritual conversations. God was moving greatly in our ministry and we were meeting people we cared deeply about.

James loved the sports aspect of his job with all of the volleyball and basketball tournaments happening in season. He also loved working out with the patrons or hanging out with the "coffee club" each morning as they laughed, talked politics, ate donuts and drank coffee. We painted the facility and changed the menu to be a little more of a coffee bar than a snack bar, but it was mostly a snack bar still. Programs started forming, fitness classes for all ages, dance classes, indoor playdates, birthday parties, dodgeball tournaments, homeschool groups...It was hopping and our family practically lived there.

It was our home away from home and we hosted bible studies there and made some of our closest friends working in that kitchen or behind the counter. James job was really a dream. It was the perfect job for him. He is a teacher, coach, athlete, business man and pastor. He was in his element. If he would have had the freedom he was promised, given 5 years, that place would be running like a well-oiled machine. That wasn't God's plan. We do not blame men. God appoints and removes leaders and we have come to learn some pretty cool things about ourselves if we allow ourselves to see them through positive eyes. It seems that God tends to move us and place us in situations where we are called to be change agents and then leave...allowing someone else to take the wheel. We are ok with that in theory, but in practice it hurts. It hurts because God has to make it apparently clear to us when we need to leave. We are visionaries and sometimes our visions may not match the church's or even God's. Many are the plans in the mind of a man but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand. Proverbs 19:21

We are sad that this chapter has closed in our life, but because of the circumstances, we are ready to move on. We love so many people who are still there and wish we would've had more time. We don't always get to choose. But, we have made friends here that will last a lifetime and for that we are very thankful!

My Man is a Good Man.
He was an Amazing Sports Ministry Pastor!

Monday, January 20, 2014

blog therapy...

I want to start out by saying, my husband and I are not anywhere near perfect. We have great days and not so great days. We mess up, fall down, and try to stay on the narrow path but often fail. We reveal our humanity daily, and we know only a few answers to life's big questions...we do not pretend to know how to fix a messed up broken church, or feel that it is our responsibility to do so. However, we have attended and been on staff at a healthy church and know the difference that the leadership's focus can make. We know how it feels to be loved by our church family, and now we know how it feels to be questioned, mistrusted and wounded. Even still, we are silly and happy and we have good and bad times just like everyone else. We LOVE one another and the LORD! We are in the process of healing, focusing on our family and wrestling with all we have been through. Even though we feel an incredible amount of freedom and we can breathe again, we still need to heal.

Over the past few years, we have been incredibly encouraged, convicted, lifted up and have been able to plainly grasp the fact that we are not, in fact, "crazy" simply by reading books, articles and blog posts that describe what a gospel centered life looks like in all areas of life. Because life should not be compartmentalized, the gospel should be an overflow of your heart. I am not setting out to write this series of blog posts to bash anyone or say anyone will have the same experience we have had, but writing is therapy for me and I haven't written on a regular basis for a long time. In fact, many people have asked me why I quit writing. Honestly, I was afraid to share my story for fear of how it might effect my husband's job. I can only speak of my own experiences and I will never name any names of people who have shared with me the opinions of others or the names of those who have these various opinions...I almost forgot who I was because I didn't feel I was "allowed" to be me. Now, I am determined to get ME & my family back. I have no need to get anyone else back or cast insults upon anyone. I say this in all honesty and with a heart only for truth, nothing I will share is meant to hurt or be is our truth. (that's my disclaimer)

The past few years here have left us raw, deeply wounded and disillusioned. We acknowledge that no one can make another person feel a certain way and that we all have the power to choose what we accept and believe and ultimately feel. Still, when you are involved intimately in a church family, the culture effects you see yourself, how you treat the lost, what you value, and how ministry should be done because your leaders are supposed to be your mentors. A church culture and personality is more caught over time than taught. By example, and without any balanced feedback, leaders knowingly or unknowingly passed on philosophies on to us that were very legalistic and void of love, leaving us feeling rejected, unacceptable, unworthy, and incompetent.

Since writing this the first time, we have heard from many ex-staff members and volunteers who felt the same way. We will not presume to speak for them, though, we can only share our experience. We edited and reworded this post to reflect only our story and softened details again and again, but still we decided not to share specifics unless someone would like to speak with us in person. Our story is not an isolated one. People need to know they are not alone and that they are not wretched horrible people because they do not fit into one church leadership's mold. Our goal is that no one will be hurt and that those who have been will find healing in Christ through sharing their experience and encouraging one another. Our God is a God of reconciliation and redemption. He is not an elitist or an exclusive God. His desire is that his children would live in unity and love one another even if we disagree.

It breaks our heart to hear that people we love are being told not to contact us or that they shouldn't be our friends because of what that might look like for them. It hurts to hear that we have been painted as villains by a few key leaders in a church that was supposed to be family.  It hurts when our kids come home and tell us things they have heard that are absolutely untrue and that they have lost friends because their friends parents have been convinced that there is something wrong with our family. It hurts to see people laugh at our pain and feel pride for "putting us in our place"  on behalf of the church. We will never understand why these people feel the need to hurt us. We poured our lives into that church and ministry. We love the people we had the privilege of serving. Still, we are at peace with where God has taken us and is still taking us.

We can see how God is using this situation for our good as well as the good of the church. We have no doubt that we were supposed to move on and that God appoints and removes leaders. We needed to be removed in order for Him to fulfill his purposes for both the church and for our family.

Thankfully, we will never wonder if we ran away or gave up because the choice was taken out of our hands. We are freer now than we have been in years, and are incredibly grateful to be plucked out of a toxic environment. 

We still have a lot of processing and healing to go through, but we are getting our identity back. Our family slipped into a dark place while we were there. We allowed ourselves to be taken under, but in his great mercy, he rescued us! There is no anger left in us, only relief and gratitude. We won't make the same mistakes again. 

It is a good thing for us to be taking a break from ministry.
Many are saying we are not fit for ministry because we don't fit their mold.
I am not sure we do right now because of all we've been through, but the bible and tell me who was qualified. God is rebuilding, refreshing and restoring us. We need him more than ever.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

tell your story...messy and all

Anyone who knows me knows my motto is "share your story because it is ultimately God's story."
He works differently in each of our lives to complete his purposes. While some of our stories may be similar, they are worlds apart, because God is orchestrating them...Apart as well as together.  

 I have an instagram friend named Layla Payton who is an artist. Journal credit goes to her. She was inspired by Creative Illustration & Beyond Stephanie Corfee. She gets it.
We all have a story to tell...ugliness, glory, pain, suffering, joy, death of dreams and people, highs, lows, and mediocrities.... It all counts. He makes all things work together for our good. Even ugly.

So, this is gonna scare some people, but I plan to share the ups and downs of our lives over the past few years...the pretty and the ugliness of ministry. We were (are) two of the most passionate people we know and this place sucked the life out of us. We were wrong, progressive, too forward thinking, too honest, too real...and we were discarded and pushed out for it. We absolutely loved our ministry. LOVED IT. God moved us.

Here is the deal, we are real or nothing. Here we are. We only have one life on this earth and we will be brave and speak out for injustice and the mishandling of the true Gospel of love. Who knows where this will take us, but I am ready to write and we have words to speak! Hang on.

p.s. bc I have already been asked, that is not my tattoo...but may be my next.