Thursday, January 12, 2017

New Year; New Beginnings

*sorry for the 2 year delay in blogging, life gets in the way occasionally*

2016 closed ended on a high note but not without challenges.  We were officially “homeless” and had become renters while we await a new endeavor living debt free on 7 acres we purchased, our future homestead.

            When we bought/built our current home 11 years ago we did so with the forethought that in 5 to 10 years we would sell and reap a nice return to put down on a land purchase. McKinney was up and coming at that time, but not in the way it is today.  The Sam Rayburn tollway was still only a 3 lane road with a stop light at the Preston intersection (where the big mall is).  Half way to our house the road turned gravel and Custer was a 2 lane black top with a stop sign.  With what we paid for our home, we were living the high life!  Fast forward 3 more kids, a few job changes for Josh, and a booming suburban city and we found ourselves ready to fulfill that dream we had long ago and leave concrete suburbia behind.

            Two years before I “gently persuaded” my dear husband to start actually looking at properties, he had already been searching and researching both properties and areas to live.  Our priority was schools, which can be difficult in small towns. I work for a large health care system whose hospitals are in the DFW metroplex so having a not-too-long commute was a request, albeit I only work 2 days a week.  The day may come that I decide to transition to a closer facility, but my benefits and pay won’t be matched and that is hard to walk away from.


            I’ll save process of the search and how we came about our place for it is its own story, how it points to Jesus like I never thought it could! What I will say is that by the determination and financial planning of my hubby and the rising market of our area, we were able to pay our house down far enough that we made a profit that matched what we paid for our home in 2005! That allowed us to buy our land outright, purchase the garage/barn we need, and invest in a home slightly larger than we have now with enough beds/baths to fit our family (we have a 3/2 1750 sq ft now).  We found 7 acres in Celeste, TX feeding into Leonard ISD (yea!) and reaping the benefit of Hunt County Ag Exemption (grandfathered in).  We have spent the majority of our holiday cleaning debris from the land left by the previous owners (of 27 yrs) getting it ready for its owners, planning the homestead, and packing a smidge bit here and there.  The home should be ready to move in the beginning of March and I. CAN’T. WAIT!!!  

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Reflection


As we close on 2014, the year I turned 40, I find myself reflecting back on more than just this past year.  I’m actually looking forward to the next decade because there is a small voice inside of me that tells me God has something really big in store. 

2014 wasn’t a year full of milestones.  I did start back to school and did better than expected my first semester J  It was the first full year of accepting that there will be no more babies added to our immediate family as our youngest turned 1.  Our oldest turned 21.  He is growing and maturing and we are so very proud of the Christian man he is becoming.  Josh had a record year with private lessons, camps, and clinics in his quest for a PGA card.  He also made some health changes and has shed at least 25 lbs!  The 3 girls are growing.  Abby , at almost 10, has changed and matured the most.  She is a young girl with a passion for others and for Jesus.  Keara is still so innocent and na├»ve, still set on being a trick rider.  Ashlynn is having some “growing pains” with authority and abiding by the rules but we are working with her.  She has a determined and fierce spirit that will take her far in whatever she chooses to do. 

I left my role of 5 years that I loved with a passion because of a coworker that, despite my best effort and intention, could not build a relationship with.  She chose to continue to hound me and make complaints based on a perceived possible issue.  It was suggested that maybe I needed a position with more flexibility…by my manager.  This was said to me with no basis for the statement; I have a near perfect attendance record, never had to leave for family/kids early, and could work any day of the week.  I’m struggling with forgiveness.  I feel as though I was bullied out and it still hurts because I loved that job.  So as I work and pray through the process, I am being intentional with hearing where God is taking me. 

I found a new church home. Well, really my dear friend just prayed me there but it took 2 years!  I can’t be more content with the decision to drive 45 minutes to church every Sunday.  Praxis Arlington has the most humble, truthful, open group of redeemed sinners that I have ever been graced to be a part of.  They love fiercely.  I’ve joined in with the women’s blog (link here) on occasion and look forward to posting more as I feel led to share.   

I think what I have come to take away from 2014 is contentment.  Sometimes I get so caught up in the search that I fail to stop, breathe, and be still.  God speaks loudest when we are the quietest.   It has in turn allowed me to see the beauty in my family that surrounds me, the moments in chaos that are more precious that loading the dishwasher, that my kids don’t want clean…they want me; that a bigger house and home that looks like a model home is not what I want my legacy to be.  I want to go and live where God is going to use me in His plan the greatest.  I’ve learned that a neighborhood is not a street, that community is not a city; it’s the people you do everyday life with.  It’s those who truly care about you, who call or text or message you because they happen to think of you or missed you at church.  I’ve learned that I don’t have to pursue and chase friendship.  If I am meant to be a part of someone’s life, they will meet me where I am just as I will meet them.  I want intentional relationships. 

So here is to 2015 and all that God has in store for me.  Whether good, bad, ugly, or struggles I know that He will be with me.  I want to be sitting here on December 31, 2015 writing to tell you of how awesome life is when you let Jesus take the wheel.

Jenny

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

In the Shadows

I live an inconspicuous life to other Christians: I am married to an atheist.  There are men, husbands of acquaintances, who will be talking to me and then suddenly look around wondering where my husband is, "Is he here?" they ask. No, no he is not.  Nor has he ever been.  This is a blog entry I wrote for Praxis.  Take the time to read the many entries on many topics women face here.


Each Sunday we are in Church.  I would drop my 2 youngest off in their classes while the 2 older run ahead on their own.  I would stop by the bistro and order a vanilla latte (part of the church’s ministry and staffed by the older teens).  I then enter the sanctuary, check in with the lead usher as I’m part of a First Responder team for medical emergencies.  Then I take my place- in “my” seat; the section second from the right, upper level, 5th or 6th row, left hand side.  Same place each week.  Same empty seat saved next to me.  Yet no one knows me.  No one welcomes me beyond the “Good morning, glad you’re here”.  No one speaks to me, only at me.  Lots of people smile and wave, but they don’t know me or my story.

I’m part of a growing group of primarily women, but men too, who live an inconspicuous life like me.  We are a somewhat secret group within the church; a lot of us have no ministry, no small groups, and no support system.  We are clumped in with those who are divorced, widowed, or single.  Yet we are not; we are married, happily or with struggle.  Some of us are starting families, raising families, empty nesters, or retired.  We have a passion for Christ that may be slightly different than others because Jesus is our bridegroom.  He is truly who we are married to.  We are the unequally yoked, the spiritually mismatched.  We are married to agnostics, to believers of a different faith, or to hardened atheists. 

I’ve had Christian friends who tell me that I probably have an easier time being a wife to a non believer than they do.  The logic behind their statement is this:  The bar is set higher for them since their husbands have “expectations” as to how they fill the Christian wife role.  They are held to more accountability when it comes to submission.  My response to them is, “Really?  Are you sure your married life is harder than mine? “.  I have yet to find scripture that differentiates between a wife of a believer and a non believer in regards to the level of behavior and submission.  The only difference is that if my husband chooses to walk away, I am to let him go (1 Corinthians 7:15) to which Paul follows that up with, “How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband?”  We wives are bound by the same scripture in verse 10: “A wife must not separate from her husband.”   I am bound to submit reverently to my husband regardless of his beliefs because I have accepted Christ as my savior and therefore I am to walk in His light, abiding by His Word.  I cling to the verse that is common amongst all of us who are unequally yoked:  “Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives. “ (1 Peter 3:1)

I’ve struggled with my role in our marriage.  I’ve arm wrestled with God regarding whether it’s my purpose to “bring” him to Christ.  Early in my walk, I saw it as my calling.  I’ve read countless books on marriage by many different authors.  One of my favorites is When He Doesn’t Believe by Nancy Kennedy.  I laugh and I cry at the common thread we have.  The first 5 years of our marriage were rough, not just because of circumstance, but because I failed to see that my behavior was not in line with my belief.  We attended counseling but it wasn’t until I came to an enlightening moment that things began to turn around.  In the shower one day (my best place to think) God smacked me with this thought: “Jenny, it’s not for you to convert him.  It’s between Me and him.  His salvation is his alone, and only through Me.”  Talk about a load off my shoulders!  From that point forward I have made it a daily reminder/mission/call-it-what-you-may to pray him up, walk in the light, and constantly remind myself that my actions speak louder than my words.  Might I also add that the actions of our 5 children speak volume, as well.  Our oldest, at 21, reminds his dad that he prays for him.  Our 4 youngest include daddy in dinner prayer, especially when he is at the table “praying” with us.  I am blessed to raise our children in Christ and that my small army surrounds him with Jesus on a daily basis, not throwing it in his face but as a gentle, warm glow. 

I love this verse from the aforementioned book:

“A woman married to an unbeliever can expect opposition as well as blessing, and from her marriage she can expect to reap what she sows…  But if a woman sows a desire to find common ground with her husband and sows patient acceptance of him just as he is…If she encourages, admires, and respects him and rejoices that God includes him in his covenant of grace with her…And if she sows hopeful anticipation of what the Lord can and will do in both of their lives…Then she can reap a marriage filled with moments of happiness and Joy.”

It’s not easy, ladies.  But we are not promised easy, only that we will not endure this alone.  Find a church family that supports you; that reaches out to meet you, that encourages your place in your marriage.  I found Praxis.  Each woman has her own struggles and blessings in a marriage of unequal faith and some have to make the decisions regarding the safety of herself and her children.  Persecution as a Christian is one thing; violence for our belief is another.   

So to answer the question Paul raised: No, I won’t save my husband.  But I do know that my example and how I live my life can and will have a profound impact on him and may ultimately tip the scales of salvation towards the saving of his soul.  
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins.”  1 Peter 4:8

Always know, no matter your circumstances in marriage, you have a Bridegroom who loves you passionately, and went so far as to die for you. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

A Portion

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of sharing a kind of brief version of my testimony.  I say brief because in hind sight, I left out a lot of life that plays into my current place with my Savior.  Since I seem to never post blogs anymore, this one is the best place to start.  Click on over to Praxis Womens and read how God is doing amazing things in the lives of broken women from all walks of life!


I was raised knowing God, knowing the rules I needed to follow in order to be in good standing.  The rules that, when adhered to, would allow me through the gates of heaven.  Then my parents divorced, my mom remarried, and we moved from upstate NY to Arlington, Texas; my world had turned upside down in 2 years.  At 8 yrs old I questioned who God was and by 12, church was no longer part of my life.  I had no significant relationship with my mom and my step dad was borderline abusive and strict.  The next 7 years were filled with isolation, shame, alcohol, drugs, and an abusive relationship which culminated in a pregnancy at 18.  As I look back, this is where God started his work in taking over what I was failing at trying to do. I was at rock bottom and now I could only look up. Problem was I didn’t.

My 20’s were spent balancing parenting, college, and still rebelling.  I was searching for a love and acceptance that I just couldn’t find.  I went through a couple of relationships, one that was significant but he left me for another woman; love was pretty hurtful to me.   I lost my step-dad to cancer when I was 24.  We had developed a bond the moment I told him I was pregnant.  He was there for me no matter what.   6 months after his death I graduated with my nursing degree.  The one prayer I prayed went unanswered; to have him live to see me graduate.  Again, God let me down.

I met my future husband.  Something was changing, but I didn’t have a clue to the road I was about to embark on.  He had recently moved back to Dallas from Florida knowing (unbeknownst to me) that he would “find his wife in Texas”.  He says he always knew this.  We were dating 6 months when he proposed, found out we were pregnant and 6 months later we were married.   Within 1 ½ years from our wedding date we added 2 kids, a new house, and suffered 3 job lay-offs.  Life was rough.

Our son, in 6th grade at the time, was invited to a youth night.  He had a fun time and wanted to check out the church.  So I took the kids and thus began a brand new chapter in my life.  God was calling me and there was going to be no turning back now.

You see, my husband and I never placed our faith/belief as even a remote priority in our dating.  I knew he was raised with an Episcopalian background (me Catholic) and that he didn’t attend church; I just never knew he had turned away and was atheist.   My walk in Christianity meant it would be alone.

I’ve spent the last 9 years walking blindly on the narrow path of faith; Limited family support, no spousal support, no system of support for new believers from my church.  I’ve read a ton of books on being a godly wife and on being married to an atheist.  I’ve grown in my knowledge of scripture more than I could ever have imagined.   I pray through my days as I lead my 5 children on a path to salvation and pray that God will turn my husband’s heart towards Him.  What I have not been able to find is a church home.   A place where the people not only welcome you wherever you are in your faith, but a family that meets you where you are and walks the journey with you.  Well, I found it.  Oddly, I found it in the same neighborhood I grew up in even though I’m 50 miles away now.  Despite the distance the truth, grace, and rawness continue to draw me in. 
My name is Jenny.  Come join me at Praxis.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Concerns of the church

I'm in a new season. I'm questioning the focus of the church I've been attending for over 3 years; where it's heart and vision is and if the actions reflect that.

The deeper I get into scripture study, the deeper my passion is to follow the commands of Christ.  This concern was brought about one Sunday while listening to our Pastor describe a new "need" to build a larger Childrens building...which means another fundraising. More money for more space for more people, but at what cost? Is the concern for quantity or quality?
Are we converting non/unbelievers or bringing in new-to-the-area Christians? And what are we doing to mentor these new converts in their new life? I'm speaking of both adults and children. 
I was disappointed to receive an email about sending my girls to the new believers class just 3 months after their baptism!! They had both attended it before hand, as required! To this day, they go unnoticed in class as we visit other churches. What about the baptized kids, why are they not sitting in service with their families during Lords Supper? Should they not be exposed to this wonderful sacrament? A record number of young adults are turning from christianity, we are responsible for giving them not just a foundation but empowering them with the truth of the gospel. We continue to fail them in this.
How does one remain accountable in a congregation of 2,500? From the pastor to the elders to the ministry leaders, small group leaders, and members. I recently inquired to my pastor about an "author" of the sermon series studies. He was unaware of her "certificate" through an online course (no theology or doctrine degrees) and had to research it.  This, folks, concerns me. I want my theology "teachers" to be validated!

I'm learning that there is something to be said about "small churches", a gathering where the passion of the people is taking the gospel to the people. A church whose pastor is more concerned with the quality of the Christian life rather the number of members. A church who holds each other accountable to daily life, not just on Sunday or during small group. A church who routinely reaches out to the needy. A church who engages the youth in scripture instruction, not just tickling the ears with fun a study. A church with transparency, rawness, honesty, love, compassion, truth, and Grace.