I am sitting at a coffee shop. It's something I've done quite a bit of over the last 6 years. When I moved to Washington I didn't even like coffee! Now I love it! Some might even use the word addiction! But as I sit here, with my cup of coffee and my computer, I am so thankful to God for all that he has done over the last 6 years. I thought I would just share a few things I'm thankful for with you...
1. God gave us a home. Many of you can probably relate to this, but I've always been nomadic. I'm an Air Force brat. We were constantly moving... and I really do look back on that with fond memories. Home was family and family was home. That is important and I'm so glad I learned that at an early age. But there's something unique and special about being able to call a specific city... home. Kelli and I lived in Oklahoma for a time, but we knew it was temporary. We lived in Snoqualmie for a time, but again, we knew it was an apprenticeship. It was temporary. We even got a little nervous about finding where God was calling us to plant our lives. We just didn't know how on earth we would be able to find a city and make it home. But then God showed us Tacoma. And we learned quickly that we don't make a city our home... God does that. He put us in Tacoma and he put Tacoma in us. In 6 years we've fallen in love with a place and people. We've purchased a house. We've birthed... excuse me... Kelli has birthed 3 beautiful Tacomans. God gave us a home and for that I am so thankful.
2. God saved my children. I know this sounds a little extreme and I don't want to be over-dramatic. But as I look back on the birth of my first 2 children, I realize how naive we were to the health issues they faced. They were born at 2lbs 14 oz. and 3lbs 14oz. They were NICU babies for 6 weeks! They would literally forget to breathe and alarms would go off in the hospital and we learned, with the help of the nurses, how to "remind" them to breathe. We spent our first Christmas as a family of 4 in Tacoma General hospital. Over the first 2 years of their lives they battled more health issues than I can even remember... MRSA, Scarlet Fever, severe ulcers, a hernia, and for Jagen what was eventually diagnosed as Fructose Intolerance. There was a day when they would not have survived all this. But God has allowed humanity to progress to the point where they could not only survive, but thrive. Today they are perfect. Well, not perfect, but perfectly healthy. You would never know they had any issues. You would never know they were preemies. God saved my children and for that I am so thankful.
3. Living on the corner of 19th and L. It has become a joke in my family that Kelli should write a book entitled "Living on the corner of 19th and L." We had no idea what we were doing when we moved into that house. It was in the heart of the Hilltop, a neighborhood whose reputation is much worse than its reality, but is still far different than the suburban life to which we were accustomed. 19th St was on one of the busiest in town. It was kitty-corner (that's right... it's not catty-corner... 6 years has converted me) to the "scary" corner store where lots of "stuff" happens. We learned quickly that we didn't need cable, we could just look out the window! We learned what to do when there's a shooting and the police tie the caution tape to your fence (What did we learn? Call your husband and let him know you're ok!). We learned that when you hear a gun shot, you don't just ignore it, you look and you help. We learned that if a drug dealer sets up shop on your corner, you just ask him to move and he will... crazy! We learned to love our neighbors in that house. We learned that on one block you will find recovering addicts, "normal neighbors," gossips, biker gangs, homosexual couples, hurting people, renters, home-owners, and they all have one thing in common. They need the gospel. Some know it. Some don't. But they all need it. God, in his sovereignty, placed us on the corner of 19th and L and for that I am so thankful.
4. God birthed a church. Some friends of ours from college are planting a church just south of us in Olympia and they had their first worship gathering yesterday. My heart was full of emotions as they posted prayer requests and updates, fears and excitements, plans and pictures. I remember those days. I remember the pressure. I remember the anxiety. I remember the hope. I remember the failures. I remember the successes. But what I'm most thankful for is that in the midst of it all, God birthed a church. Not just a bible study. Not just a worship gathering... a church. We're messy. We're ridiculous. We're hilarious. We're broken. We're selfish. We're healing. We're maturing. We're learning. We're growing. We stumble. We fall. We get up. We help each other up. We celebrate. We cry. We party. We pray. We evangelize. We worship. We disciple. We mourn. We love. We hate. We are a church. And God birthed us. We came to Tacoma and this particular church did not exist. And now, by God's grace, it does. God birthed a church and for that I am so thankful.
6 years. Wow. I just can't believe it. What will the next 6 years bring? I don't even want to know! I don't think I could handle it. But my plan and my prayer is to continue to walk in faith with my family, trusting that God will show up and do what he always does... immeasurably more than all we could ask or imagine according to the power that is at work within us!
Thanks for journeying with us. We love you. Please keep praying. God's not through with us yet!