tis the season…

…for cleaning.

…for yard word.

…for walks in the rain.

…and for forgiveness.

With Easter approaching, most of us who believe in Jesus have our hearts fixed on the cross and the empty tomb.  We’re consumed with the thoughts of forgiveness and grace and mercy.  Sometimes, though, those concepts are so abstract and hard to wrap our brains around.  Thankfully, our Father gives us real-life examples of true forgiveness and tangible grace-gifts.

Last week during our MC time, I got to participate in such forgiveness.

Over the last year, two of the beautiful girls in our MC have been knock-down, drag-out fighting with each other.  They live on the same block, tried to go to the same school and failed, and couldn’t both be at SOKs at the same time…two girls who are baptized Christ-followers.  How these two could have such “beef” with each other was beyond me; they are both sweet, loving, respectful girls.

Sunday was different.  Sunday brought words of grace and not of hate.  Sunday brought life and not death.  Sunday brought forgiveness instead of bitterness.

Both girls offered vulnerable apologies to each other and I got to be the onlooker.  They initiated, or should I say the Holy Spirit must have.  Not only was there forgiveness; there was over-the-top restoration.  An olive branch of candy, hugs, and an invitation to hang were offered and accepted.  Truthfully, I had always hoped for them to be civil to one another, but to actually be friends could only have been from Jesus because I never even expected it.

So, as you’re cleaning your house and planting your garden and jumping in puddles and thinking about the cross, give thanks for this relationship that has been rescued, just like our lives.

-Natalie

 

 

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thanksgiving on the porch

Because our home is open often for family to gather, there are lots of days we get to spend playing and talking with kids from the neighborhood.  Some days, I wonder why they want to spend time with our family…one with two little boys, little boy things and toys around the house, and no special events.  I suppose it’s as simple as family.  We don’t provide an endless supply of entertainment or even food when kiddos pop in throughout the week.  But we do provide family anytime they step foot through our door.  This must be the draw…a Kingdom Family.

There are other times I know exactly what the motivation is…pizza.  About once a month, we do some sort of neighborhood activity (delivering cookies to neighbors, setting up a lemonade stand, picking up trash, etc), and we always return to our house for pizza.  If you read back over some of the blogs written by kids, pizza is never forgotten in the stories!  Kids love pizza!

This last Sunday was no different, kids came out of the woodwork and ended up in our living room for pizza.  In fact, after our time together was finished, we still had kids knocking on our front door; some were kids we have a relationship with and others were brand new.  I quickly thought, how can giving pizza away at my front porch be a moment for these five boys to pause and possibly hear from God?  So, I told them how at our house, we always pray and thank God before we eat.  After a brief conversation about what prayer is and who we pray to, I asked if they would be willing to pray with me.  They agreed, but not without knowing what they were getting themselves into.  If you’ve spent any meal with us, you know our boys love to sing a prayer my family sang when I was little.  It’s a simple, repetitive song that I thought the boys would be able to join in on.  Sure enough, right on our front porch, five young boys sang a prayer of thanksgiving to God our Father.  What a sweet moment for me.  I’m certain it was also music to our Father’s ears as He heard little voices offering acknowledgment and thanks to Him.

-Natalie

gifts of love

The winter months can be a bit tricky to find ways to be in our neighborhood; people stay inside often, sidewalks are not shoveled, and kids aren’t always dressed for the weather.  Despite these obstacles, one of our leaders suggested we bake cookies and deliver them to our neighbors on the weekend of Valentine’s Day.  So, we sent cookie dough home with all the kids with a note giving directions on how and when to make cookies together (note: most of the kids who are part of our missional community do not come with their parents, and we’re often looking for opportunities for them to show God’s love at their own homes).

When the time came for us to deliver the cookies, we bundled up and slipped down the snow-covered sidewalks together.  We chose to go to homes that were very near to our own houses; one of our leaders suggested one of his neighbors who is elderly and might be lonely.  She recognized us right away and smiled ear to ear when we offered her cookies.  As we were walking, we also ran into a woman we met when we first moved to the neighborhood.  She asked right away if we would pray with her; we prayed for peace among her family and a new sense of trust in God with her own life.  Once all the cookies were gone, we headed back to our house to find Nate and another young boy; they, too, had a story of love.  The pizza delivery man (who happens to be our neighbor) got his car stuck as he was leaving our house, and the guys were able to help push him out of the snow.

As we were faithful in finding ways to be out in our neighborhood, God gave us lots of opportunities in one afternoon to show His love in practical ways.

-Natalie

Rebecca’s heart

photo
Hey, it’s Natalie!  I’d like to share a poem that was written about SOKs.  It was inspired by our time together, which included sneakily delivering gifts to neighbors (who we’re hoping will, in turn, go deliver their own gifts), eating and playing together, and choosing gifts for loved ones (thanks to my Aunt Donna and Uncle Barry, who were so generous in blessing our family).  So, without further ado, here’s Rebecca’s take on the evening:

Finally, I see something that I’m sure is through His eyes.
At last, I feel that which I’m positive He felt in his heart.
Definitely, this is one of the many times I know God and our Lord Jesus Christ lives within me.
Seeing the beauty of young ones and children learn of our King and Father;
Witnessing the welcoming of our Christ;
It moves me.

The joy in my heart is unexplainable, but yet that’s the perfect way to describe it.
The peace of mind and soul is comforting;
I know now the messages sent to me have been secured, assured, and made clear.
My identity is announced to me.

My reflection,
My place,
My heart;

All these things have been shown to me through this one day of dropping off bags of God’s love.

I am Christian and that is enough.
A part of a family that goes beyond blood,
One with a body that can not be seen, but only felt.
Meant to be with others who shine, but to roam among others who have not yet been sparked.

I’m loved by many and beautiful because of my heart.
Learning because I want to know Him, but also because I want others to feel His love.
The battle is hard and the journey is great;
Regardless I’m learning that the reward that comes from it all is more than worth it.

This is what I tell the Lord in my heart.
Rebecca - blog signature (Black BG)

new life

photo (2)Over the last six months, exciting things have been happening in the life of our church!  God has moved us to end our pilot Missional Community that has existed for the last year and a half to train, equip, and release leaders.  We saw this pilot MC go through many seasons, seasons of growth, of change, and of pruning.  Now, we get to see it bring about new life.

Three new MCs have been birthed from the pilot.  The first is called “Koinonia” which is the greek word for communion, unity, and fellowship.  The mission for this MC is “redeeming the Family.”  They exist to provide safe spaces for individuals and families to bring about conversations, fun, and restoration.  The second is called “GameOn!” which is geared around people who play and love games and value fun together.  (Look for blogs from and about Koinonia and GameOn! in the coming months!)  And the third is called “SOKs” which stands for Southern Orchards Kids; this is the neighborhood where Nate and I have put down roots.  We weren’t planning for a MC focused on children, but God was.  So, now that the pilot has ended, we have transformed that MC into one that is intentionally discipling children and raising up young leaders in this community.  We’re using the huddle format with them and inviting some of the young teenagers to begin making decisions and leading on a small scale.

We’ve seen overwhelming breakthrough in both MCs already, with people new to the idea of oikos jumping in and participating, children making plans based on what they’ve heard God say, and adults from the Southern Orchards neighborhood see deliverance from sin revolved around their parenting.  This is only the beginning.  We expect God to continue to do great things as we press in to being part of Him bringing His Kingdom to earth.

Natalie - blog signature (black BG)

always thankful

photo (2)SOKs (Southern Orchards Kids) was writing all the things we are thankful to God for doing on the sidewalks.  Before we went to go write, I taught the kids the prayer my dad taught me when I was little!  Some people wrote, “I’m thankful for a family,” “I’m thankful for my haters and enemies,” and so on.  While we were writing, it started to rain and get dark.  The whole purpose of doing it was to meet different people and to be kind.  After we were done, we came in and the little kids watched Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving, and we waited for the pizza to come.

Izyah - blog signature (Black BG)

Today, God blessed us to write things we are thankful for on the sidewalk, and afterwards we were going to have pizza.  Unfortunately, it rained and we did all that hard work for nothing, but it was fun!  God blessed us to have in between a lot of people and a little bit of people, so it was medium sized.  After writing with chalk, we went in because it started to rain.  Then, we watched Charlie Brown Thanksgiving until the pizza arrived.  Once the pizza arrived, we served the little kids and then the big kids.  Everybody prayed together and dug in and ate while we watched the movie.  More people came to eat and then left.  Once everybody was finished eating, we helped clean up and talked about what went well for the night.

Ruby - blog signature (Black BG)