Saturday, October 22, 2011

Melt My Heart

The past few weeks have been a bit tough around here living with & disciplining a moody almost three year old...but then, when you least expect it, the clouds break and God gives you an angelic moment to hold on to! That moment happened this morning at our house. Evan woke up a little too early, so he hopped in bed with us for a little bit. He pointed across the room at our wedding photo and said, "Mommy's a princess!"

He wanted to hold the picture, so I handed it to him. He just kept staring at it and saying how mommy was a pretty princess. He didn't even want to get out of bed when we got up. Below is how we left him (and he stayed there, gazing at the picture, for at least 15 minutes!).

Ah, what a sweetheart. I guess we'll keep him.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

2nd Anniversary Part 2: Ministry Update

Keeping true to my word in posting Part One, it's time for an update on some of what's been happening in ministry at Redeemer over the past year.

Providential Enounters Revisited

Some of you might remember reading on our first anniversary last year about our very cool encounter with James Meredith, local civil rights leader who integrated Ole Miss in the 1960s. We met him at a local community barbeque, and long story short (read last year's blog for the whole story!), I felt compelled to invite him back to Redeemer for a church service and also to visit our Sunday School class that was studying the book When Helping Hurts, which looks at how we can better serve the poor. Well, imagine my shock when just a few weeks later, who should show up in Sunday school but Mr. Meredith himself?! I pretty much had a little heart attack. He continued to attend our class for several weeks and eventually became a regular attender of worship as well.

Now I want you to understand that I really wanted to write about this way before now, but I felt that it wasn't my place. That might sound odd, but after getting to know Mr. Meredith a little better, I could tell that he was very private about some things, his spirituality in particular, and I felt I needed to respect that privacy. I could tell that God was working in his life, but I didn't really know how much until an interview with Mr. Meredith was published in the Clarion-Ledger, Jackson's local newspaper, last spring. In the article, he expresses how he had wrestled with God his whole life, but finally made peace with God last December. How amazing is that? That happened during the time he was atttending Redeemer, and since he said it himself in the media, I don't feel like I'm overstepping my bounds to share it with you. How cool that God used our church to minister to such an important man in Mississippi's history!

Moving Up & Out

Another really exciting thing happening at Redeemer is our building expansion. We broke ground last spring and should be finished the first of the year. Our building occupies one city block, so architects had to be creative in how they designed our expansion. Basically they built a new shell over our existing sanctuary, then knocked down the interior walls. Our new sanctuary will seat double what it does now, which will be about 650 seats. We are also adding additional classrooms & nursery space. The cool thing is that we're continue to grow despite the construction zone and being crammed into our Fellowship Hall as our temporary sanctuary.

The side of the Sanctuary (note the missing walls!)

Living behind the church while this is going on has been an adventure for Evan for sure. Almost every day I hear the request, "Mommy, let's go look at the tractors!" or "Can I ride on Cranky (the name of the crane in Thomas & Friends)?" Many times we even pray for the tractors. While it has been fun to watch the building going up, I certainly won't miss the noise or layer of dirt on our cars when they're finished!

The back of the church (what we see from our house) and all the bricks about to go up!
There are many, many more cool things happening here at Redeemer, but those stories will have to wait for another day. We count ourselves very blessed to be a part of such a special body of believers.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

2nd Anniversary Part One: Feeling Settled

It's hard to believe, but this past weekend marks two years since we moved to Jackson, MS, and we can honestly say it's definitely starting to feel like home now. When I was growing up, I moved every two years until I was in middle school. I remember my mom saying that the two year mark was when you just started feeling really settled, so it was always hard to leave at that point to begin anew elsewhere (although it was always a fun adventure, too). I definitely think she was right. We are feeling settled. We love our church, are developing some great friendships, and we have several favorite restaurants (which isn't hard to do with all the great local spots!), a sure sign of being settled, right?

When we first arrived in Jackson, we moved into the church's "intern house" (so named because ministry interns and their families had lived there before) thinking it was just temporary until we sold our home in Atlanta. We even packed our belongings into two categories: things we need right away, and things we'll unpack at our next house in Jackson. Little did we know that the Atlanta housing market would continue its downward spiral, and we would be left with no choice but to rent our house and remain renters here in Jackson.

Two years later, I am attacking the second group of boxes. All this week, I am taking advantage of cooler mornings to vigorously prepare for a fall garage sale to rid us of superfluous things, realizing that less really is more. It's amazing how we've adjusted to a smaller space! Our home here is a small 3 bedroom, one bath (yes, that was an adjustment!), built over half a century ago as a part of a GI neighborhood (now known as Broadmoor) for troops returning from WWII. It's really a cute house with lots of charm, and it's right behind the church. Ryan literally walks to work every day-you can't beat that for a commute!

This new found enthusiasm to simplify and settle in more in our current home comes from many conversations as of late that Ryan & I have had. God has been working in both our hearts to really develop a love for this community where He has called us to serve. Broadmoor is the neighborhood where many of our youth, and almost all of Redeemer's tutoring students, live. We have recently become involved with a new neighborhood association and are getting to know more of the people who live here.  Since we live in the neighborhood where we serve, we often have some of our students stop by to see us, visit, and in some cases, stay for dinner :).

To say that God is working in our hearts concerning the neighborhood should lead you to believe that we weren't so fond of it in the beginning. To be perfectly honest, I was leary of living in Broadmoor when we first moved here because it was quite a change from Hanarry Estates (our old neighborhood) in Lilburn. I certainly didn't feel as safe when I went on walks by myself with the kids due to wandering dogs and random men walking around. In fact, I just stopped going without Ryan or a friend. We often hear of break-ins in our neighborhood, and for the first time in my life I live in a home with an active security system. I could also tell you a few interesting stories involving cops, missing criminals, etc., but that's a whole different post.

Despite these differences, Broadmoor does feel like home now (and don't worry, the street right behind the church is safe and pretty quiet too!). Ryan & I believe that this time we spend living in the community we serve is a gift from the Lord because we are able to better understand those He has called us to minister to. I am currently reading Generous Justice by Tim Keller, which is incredibly practical for our current ministry. Keller does a wonderful job of showing how God's generous grace should lead us to care for the poor and help to bring justice to those in need (I won't even try to explain how Keller makes the argument because he's much better with words than I am, but if this topic interests you at all, READ THIS BOOK!). One of the ways he says true transformation of communities happens is when people actually LIVE in the community with those they are trying to serve. Now I realize this isn't always practical for everyone, but it's cool how God has provided us this rare opportunity. I'll leave some of the ministry details for how this is working out practically in Part me, you'll want to read it to see what God's been up to here in Broadmoor!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Fighting Fires

Last night our neighborhood participated in the National Night Out program, which is a part of our neighborhood's crime prevention partnership with the local police department. It was a cook-out where folks got to know their neighbors. Some of Jackson's local fire-fighters showed up with their fire engine trucks for the kids to enjoy. Let's just say that Evan was in little boy heaven!

On another note, you know that adorable stage of babyhood when they become so darn cute that you just want to keep kissing them all day long? Well, Levi (now 6 months old) has officially entered that adorable stage--laughing, smiling, cooing, & drooling non-stop. I just love it! Here's some proof: