I mentioned in my last post that Ali is starting a blog. It is up at www.aliincali.com. It’s titled “Parenting, Prophetic and the Presence” and her focus is on awareness of and experiencing God in the everyday stuff of life, even nonstop, sometimes mundane, daily life spent parenting.
Realizing God’s is ‘in the room’ with us, that we can hear God’s voice and even experience his presence has changed everything for Ali and I. But we’ve both found ourselves surprised how easy (and confusing) and normal (but not always natural) interacting or being ‘with God’ in the everyday stuff of life is. It often means more a change in perspective, identity and expectation then necessarily behavior modification, attendance to church programs and effort (religious or otherwise). And God is closer, kinder and wilder than we often think.
We’re most excited about what this all looks like in everyday life, in jobs, relationships, daily moments and decisions, etc. So these blogs focus on us doing and learning this ourselves, with a little extra on my blog on the specific research I’m doing. So, take a look at www.aliincali.com and look back here for future posts on experiencing God in everyday life.
Ali and I have been shifting a few things around in terms of blog posting (hence the few months hiatus and no posts). The dust has settled quite abit after the last year and a half of transition, and this site has served as a catch all place to share what we’ve been up to as a family and in our move, work, funding, etc. Now we’re making a slight, subtle shift of using this blog for me to focus in on what I’m doing in my research and Ali is starting a blog soon to be launched titled: Parenting, Prophetic and the Presence of God. More on this to come.
For now I thought I’d mark this shift by briefly describing what the research I’m doing on the way people tangibly experience God’s presence (manifestations of the Spirit) is all about. I think the simplest way to do this may be sharing a link to Dr. Crispin Fletcher-Louis’s blog post where he describes my research from his perspective. Click on this link to take a look: http://www.humanidol.com/blog/the-153/bill-johnson-tom-wright/ . Thanks for your interest and support!
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Part of the adventure of this season for us is partnering with you and others financially to do this work. Although it’s often been difficult to ask for help in this way, we feel like God has told us he will provide and our job is to let people know our needs and trust him. To that end, we need to raise more financial support over this next year. We are so grateful for the support we have received, not only for the tangible impact it has on us but also how encouraging it is to be ‘sent’ and ‘supported’ in what we are doing.
We set up this website as a hub for info like the different ways to contribute under “Partner With Us” and specifics on what we are doing. But if you, or someone you know, would like to hear more we’d love to connect by e-mail or over the phone. All that to say, please consider partnering with us this year and thank you so much for staying connected with us and what we are up to.
Again thank you for staying connected with us and for all your encouragement and support!
Next time you are at the grocery store and you see a mom give in to her 2 year old throwing a tantrum, buying him the candy he wants-don’t judge because that is probably me, or has been me or will be me. Don’t judge because you don’t know what that mom has been through that day, night, or week. You may not realize that her husband has gone for an extended period of time. Or that she has been up cleaning up puke all night the previous 3 nights before. Or that they just moved to this new location and she is feeling lonely and isolated. I know from experience because I have been that mom and I am also the queen of judging.
We recently had the stomach flu come through our house. It started while my husband was gone on a 10day trip. He joined in the “fun” a mere 3 hours after returning and got so sick it took him a week of not eating and sleeping to recover. So with six people in the house it took us over 12 days of someone constantly well…having the stomach flu…I’ll spare the details. On one of my many runs to the store to buy more electrolyte enhanced water (thank you Trader Joes, since my kids refuse pedialyte), crackers, kefir, bananas, apple sauce etc. my 3 year old threw a bottle of kefir out of his cart (sarcastic thank you to Trader Joes for having little carts that my kids think are the best thing ever and best used as race cars). He happened to narrowly miss the elderly woman standing next to us. Needless to say she was not amused. She was even less amused as she watched the following:
My son proceeded to throw himself on the floor and declare he needed 2 kefir bottles and they both had to have a blue lid (his favorite color). “Not fair,” chirped my daughter, “if he gets 2, I want 2.” In a finer moment of parenting I would have given them choices, “you can have a kefir or a yogurt container”. But on this particular Tuesday I was exhausted and in a hurry. So my son got 2 kefirs in his cart and my daughter got 2 in hers. We are now set on kefir until the end of June. In fact if you had seen their carts at the checkout stand you might have thought I had a problem. They EACH had 2 bottles of water, 2 kefirs, 2 yogurt containers, 2 bunches of bananas and 2 bottles of sprite. My son likes to have two of each. My daughter values “fairness”. And I could not deal with conflict. I just needed something to help the other 3 Millikans at home get better.
I could write post after post on ways I judged others then had to “eat” that judgment. I’ve cloth diapered and used disposable diapers. I’ve made my own organic baby food and bought baby food. I’ve homeschooled, sent my kids to public school and sent them to private Christian school. At one point I had 3 kids under the age of 3 and I used to think it irresponsible to have too many kids too close in age. So why? Why do I keep judging others? I think we judge when we don’t know others stories, their hearts, their vision. We judge when we are feeling fear, insecurity, and inferiority. When we judge we put up a wall between ourselves and that other person. Judgment is in so many ways the opposite of love because rather than connecting to someone we disconnect, stand on the outside and look in. In law, the judge is supposed to be completely removed from the situation.
We end up judging not only others but also ourselves. As I sat down to “unwind” this evening I found myself on Facebook and Instragram and before long I was feeling woefully inadequate compared to people who looked like they had enjoyed a better, healthier, fitter, “funner” or more productive day than I did. One mom was showing a picture of her new and improved biceps from hours of working out, another mom was posting recipes comprised solely of ingredients from her garden, another was out with some friends at a movie—they all looked so much more….well better than me. What had I done today? A text from a friend encouraging me snapped me out of my social media induced coma and I realized here I was again—comparing and judging both others and myself.
The Christian story is so amazing because the One who was The Judge came to be judged, on our behalf. Rather than standing at a distance He became one of us—he embodied love and perfect love, casting out fear which has to do with punishment and judgment. Now by the same Spirit rather than stand in judgment and fear I can love. And really this starts with me. Am I ok with who I am and who God has called me to be?
Being a mom has been the most humbling process and probably taught me more about living in love rather than fear, than anything else. And the most amazing part is that I have a Heavenly Father who does not judge me, and longs to love me in such a way as to cast out all fear. And that is what I want to do for my kids and for those around me.
As a wise husband of mine once said—comparison is of the devil, always. So the next time you watch a mom struggle with her 3 kids trying to buy toothpaste ask yourself: What she has been through today? If you are prophetically inclined ask Jesus for an encouraging word for her—even something as simple as—“you are doing a good job” can change someone’s day. Or if you find yourself judging you to be inadequate remember, the God of the Universe thought you were significant enough to die for. And ask Him—“who have you created me to be?” And then wait—because He has an answer that is better than we could ask for or even imagine.
This weekend I was holding Joy, fast asleep in my arms, by the lake close to our house and watching the 3 “big kids” swim and splash around. Yes in Redding summer starts in May…I don’t get to hold a sleeping baby as much any more because she can’t quite sleep through her siblings noise like she used to. She is 7 months old and has just started solid food. Somehow starting solid food is always a marker to me. Up until that point Joy has become the size she is solely dependant on me. It is crazy to think a year ago she was a wee one inside me and now here she is a laughing, cooing, drooling, teething person in my arms.
As I looked down at her I was struck at how weird it all is. I mean I can affect her growth and process dramatically. While pregnant, what I eat, drink, do affects her growth and health. A pregnant mother can even cause physical deformities through substance abuse. There is so much mystery surrounding the connection between a mom and baby’s health. Like for example How much coffee can I have before it affects her one way or another? Some doctors say you can have up to 3 shots. Others advise against coffee all together. Yet while it is true that she eats what I eat I can’t decide her hair color, eye color or height. I can’t mentally will her to grow…after conception she does that on her own. There is a process set into motion that is dependent on me and my body and yet completely independent from me. Both at the same time.
I wonder if that is sort of our relationship with God and bringing His Kingdom. In some ways we can dramatically change the outcome and yet in others it is completely independent from us. Yet without our participation could it happen at all? Without my participation Joy would not be born. Yet in so many ways I have very little to do with her existence. God works through me to bring about new life, but it is still God doing it. The flavor changes from person to person. The style changes. But it is still God. And ultimately we can opt completely out.
For example: I can’t actually heal people. But unless I pray for people to be healed God won’t heal through me. And if I don’t he won’t. But it isn’t dependent on me. Is this as crazy and confusing to you as it is me? And yet it is so beautiful and mysterious. The line between where I end and God begins becomes blurry because really I am in the process of becoming one with him. And so here I am with Joy in my arms. Up until this point all of her food and nutrition has come from me. And yet her little person is so independent from me. And I am so so so glad we chose to participate with God and that she exists. And in the same way I am so excited to partner more with God in bringing his Kingdom knowing that I have power to change things but that ultimately it does not rest on me, at all!
I just returned home after a 10 day ministry trip to Argentina as well as a church conference in Michigan. Trips like this provide excellent opportunities for hands on mentoring from a pastor 20 years more experienced than I am and to carry out my research on the different ways people experience God’s presence in an international setting. In the midst of all the highlights of time spent with pastors and leaders, seeing many types of healings and people encountering God’s love and presence in tangible ways, I was particularly impacted by my time with children and youth. Throughout our trip, I kept having kids aged five through teenagers requesting prayer from me. But, even more powerful was when they prayed for me. We all experience God in different ways, I happen to very tangibly. Like while visiting a 4th grade classroom at the church’s primary school. The kids gathered around me, prophesied and prayed for me. I could feel the electric-like energy of the Spirit for over two hours afterward. Then, on separate occasions an 11 year old girl and 9 year old boy prayed for me. Both times I was so overwhelmed with God’s presence I couldn’t stand up any longer. I also was able to activate them in praying for healing. Three different youth each took turns praying for a man seeking restoration of his eyesight. After one boy prayed he was able to distinguish colors for the first time. Another boy’s prayers made objects visible but blurry. After a third boy’s prayers the man was able to read signs and see people. God loves to move through his kids.
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Yes it is true…I have been known to ask my kids to stop laughing and “do what they are supposed to do” which usually means be serious and get something, like brush their teeth, done. This last week it was heightened because Greg was gone and I find putting four kids to bed to be one of the most taxing processes ever. Yes even harder than law school. In fact it takes all 3 years of my legal training to try to negotiate my kids into their pajamas and bed. Because for some reason right around bed time they all start getting along fabulously, laughing, playing, dancing, singing and having a grand old-time. The problem is at that same moment in time I usually want to collapse on the couch with a bowl of ice cream and watch something on the TV.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the fact that Jesus says that we need to become like kids to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matt 18:3. My kids spend a lot of time laughing, dancing, singing and playing. Sure they fight and fight and fight again but it is amazing how much they laugh and how really little I do in comparison. And I’m not sure why. Am I too tired to laugh? Too busy? Too focused on the next thing I need to get done? Laughing is so present tense—in order to laugh at the joke, at the funny dance, at the silly noise I have to be focused on the present. And really truth be told I spend a lot of time thinking of what needs to happen next…
People have done research on how many times a day kids laugh compared to adults—300 times compared to maybe 10? That is a HUGE difference. Scientists have also done research on the medical qualities of laughter. We have a friend who recently was at the Mayo Clinic and was told by one of the doctors there that laughter is a good healing method. I know in the healing rooms at Bethel Church they use laughter to heal people—and as they laugh with and over people, people experience healing. And yet I will actually tell my kids to stop laughing and focus on what they are supposed to get done. I need them to produce not fool around. Why? Why do I need them to be serious? Why do I spend so much time trying to get them to be more like me as opposed to me becoming more like them?
I recently had another birthday and as I prayed about this next year, a little tradition I have, I think God told me to laugh more, sing more and dance more…essentially to be like my kids. So this year…when I am 36 I am asking God to instill in me childlike qualities and to remind me that sometimes bedtime can wait and dancing is really the only necessary response. Because my kids get it. They understand how to be kids. And Jesus tells us to be more like them. So while I get to train and equip them how to function in our world, and about who they are and who God is, they get to train and equip me on how to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. And right now that looks like laughing, dancing and singing…
Where does my peace come from? I’m in a season of life where I hear God promise me peace and joy. It sounds counter intuitive given that I have a 5 month old baby and 4 kids 6 and under. Just the number of socks I have to find pairs for is overwhelming. I could spend all day cleaning dishes and feeding people. I have found that having a clean and organized house makes me feel peace inside. It is some sort of calm in the midst of the relational chaos and the incredible amount of energy my kids exude through out the day.
BUT…having a clean house all the time feels nearly impossible. So recently I lowered my expectations to just a clean kitchen/dining area. The trick with even this is I have a 2 and 1/2 year old son who is in the “self do it” phase of life. As I type this he is sitting at the table next to me “eating” a pumpkin muffin–which means he is exploring what happens when he smooshes it, sticks his finger in it and when he shoves the whole thing in his mouth at once. He’s the only child I’ve found climbing the pantry shelves to reach the cookies hidden on the top shelf. Needless to say I could spend ALL day cleaning up after him and trying to keep him occupied enough to maintain some sort of order to our house.
I recently met a woman who moved here from South Africa 18 months ago. She and her husband and 4 kids moved here to go to the ministry school at Bethel church. A year after arriving (and a year after a vasectomy) they discovered they were pregnant with their fifth child. I asked her how she was doing, pregnant with 4 kids 6 and under! “Jesus’ grace is sufficient and enough to carry me through.” She said she was in tears a few days ago in the closet praying to Jesus, overwhelmed and exhausted. She spent 30 minutes worshiping Jesus and felt his peace, joy and energy rush through her body. “He gives me what I need.”
I’ve heard this my whole life–when we are weak he is strong. But still I am trying to find peace in my circumstances, my mopped floors and clean counters. It makes such a difference to have peace come from Jesus because that can last longer than my floors looking clean (5 minutes) and can occur in any situation even one in which all four kids decide to start crying about something. Instead of controlling chaos in order to find peace, I can actually have peace in the midst of the chaos. I can do a puzzle on the floor with Anna even if the dishes aren’t finished. I can wrestle with the kids and then fold the laundry. I actually spend time enjoying my kids instead of yelling at them because they are messing with my peace (a clean house!). I know it sounds dumb and so simple but it can radically change my day, and my kids day when I allow my hope and peace to be in Jesus rather than in cleanliness and control. Not to say that we don’t find peace in our circumstances–we do, but how much more when I allow Holy Spirit to come into my circumstances and bring a taste of heaven-peace and joy! Relationships all of a sudden become more important than my to do list! My peace comes from heaven. But how?
I recently heard Jesus say that my kids need my presence more than anything else, just like I need His Presence. That my presence will bring peace and joy to them. Being present to them requires some internal stillness so I can listen and even absorb the noise/chaos they are experiencing. For example Eli just crushed Anna’s princess crown and Anna responded by throwing a book at him which knocked Sam’s water over on the picture he had been drawing causing him to start to scream and wake up Joy from her almost asleep state in my arms…where does my peace come from? Not from the order or cleanliness of the house, or the well behaved children I have, but it is at that moment I can choose to scream–”to your rooms all of you” (something not uncommon) or laugh internally at the craziness of the situation and help my kids learn how to restore trust, clean up messes and tend to each others hearts. My polished stainless steel fridge will not help me with the latter. So to God I turn from where my peace comes from.
Some would say that I have an over active imagination. This makes swimming in lakes and oceans sometimes a mental test for me. I start to imagine all the living creatures underneath me, then I imagine them swimming around me, and then before long they are nibbling my toes. This makes snorkeling a challenge sometimes. Greg is certified as a scuba diver–he loves to swim under the water, and take a look at all the different ocean creatures. It always takes me a bit to be able to relax while snorkling. At first, I can’t see anything, I’m so focused on not getting caught up in a current, or in making sure I can see Greg, and that there are no sharks within my vicinity. Sometimes I get so afraid and panicky that it takes Greg holding me by my hand and showing me the fish–the amazing, multi colored fish, creatures, coral etc. Then all of a sudden I’m on an amazing adventure.
I think that the Kingdom is a bit like snorkling. We’ve been invited on this amazing adventure to see God’s Kingdom here on earth. Some of us are content to just sit on the shore and have the waves of His Kingdom roll over our legs. We know that one day we will be fully immersed in heaven…and we have no expectations of anything more this side of death. Some of us want to venture into more than just a ticket to heaven, but we are so afraid of being duped, led astray, or being weird that we can’t see anything. Others of us are moving so fast it is like we are water skiing on the water and then frustrated that we don’t see fish. So we slow down, get off the boat and start treading water.
God has given us the tools to snorkel, or even scuba dive, to see into a world that we can’t with our plain eye. But it isn’t automatic…just because we are by the ocean does not mean we will see clown fish. Just because we accept Jesus doesn’t mean we will automatically see angels and hear God’s voice. We can tread water, have waves roll over us, or water ski on the water without seeing into the world below.
Just like knowing what is beneath the waves makes the ocean more interesting, knowing who else is in the room with us, or what God is up to makes my days more interesting. It takes practice, learning, much like snorkeling and scuba diving. It takes training my eyes and ears to see and hear things in a different way and moving in love not fear. Fear clouds everything. It involves living from love, not for love, from peace not for peace. The other day I was overwhelmed, tired and was driving to have dinner with some people. I felt empty. As I was driving I asked Jesus to help me get through the dinner. All of a sudden, I felt a gentle wave roll over. With it came peace. I relaxed. Another wave rolled over me. I breathed a little deeper. In a minute I felt rested, refreshed. Holy Spirit was with me and I was aware of another person in the room that I could lean on. It was as if instead of treading water I dove down under and became aware of a whole other reality…
God is good. All the time. All the time. God is good. and this good God is with us and wants to show us a world that is better than we could ask for or even imagine–here on earth as it is in heaven.
I have the Thomas the Train syndrome: I have this constant nagging need to be useful. I’m not sure if it is because I have a ridiculous number of years of grad school (5 to be exact) under my belt and have used those 5 expensive years for a total of 15 hrs a week for 10 months before getting pregnant with child number 2 and having to decide whether to be a full time attorney or a no time attorney. Or maybe it is because I still don’t think it is enough to just take care of my kids as a stay at home mom. Or maybe it is an identity thing that I still don’t believe that who I am is good enough without having produced a tangible/deliverable at the end of the day (which in parenting young kids seems virtually impossible–got gum out of Anna’s hair–check; changed 14 diapers–check; helped Eli clean up his spilled water 8 times (he refuses a lid on his cups)–check; helped Sam find socks that feel right, again–check. Not that these are tangible and for some deliverable but somehow their usefulness does not make me feel useful. Probably because just about anyone could deliver these results and arguably some could also teach their kids Spanish, piano, soccer and ballet at the same time.
Greg doesn’t seem concerned about my usefulness, nor do the four other members of the family: Sam, Anna, Eli and Joy (that is as long as I am providing food they want to eat). My friends aren’t asking me what I’ve accomplished throughout the day. Is God asking me to be useful? Was I created to be productive? The problem with this question is that I was created for relationship not for accomplishments. I was created to be a daughter, not a slave. A slave is useful. A daughter is loved. I love Anna not when she does everything I ask, but when she wakes up in the morning with her hair a mess, or when she does her happy dance, or when she hums while eating her food just like she has since she was six months old. I love Anna when she spontanenously starts handing out coins from her piggy bank to the whole family. I love Anna when she has her grumpy face on and I need to intervene before someone else in the family is whacked on the back. Sure when I ask her to set the table and she does it brings me comfort but it doesn’t make me love her more. Sure she can affect me–but our heart connection is not determined by her usefulness.
So where did I go wrong? Where did I learn the lie that I must earn my keep? Earn the air I breath and the space I take up on this planet? My honest desire is to bring heaven to earth. It isn’t as if I want to slip into a coma and do nothing the rest of my life. But I want to do it from love not for love. I want to do it from joy not for joy. And really I want to pick up Thomas and throw him off his tracks and say that he is fun to watch not because he is useful but because he is a talking blue train who talks to talking red, and green and orange trains. Rest. Play. Have a vacation. Try it–can you be “unuseful” and feel ok? Or are you a production addict. Because detoxing from performing can be harder than detoxing from caffeine. But transitioning from slave to daughter is worth it…because our Daddy is the King and He is Good!
It will come to no surprise to anyone reading this that we have four kids. However it does still sometimes take me aback—I have to count them, 1,2, 3 and 4. Four kids!! I am so thankful for each one of them. They are amazing, passionate, fun and I am learning so much from them these days. But I can also easily slip into this mode where I am just trying to survive and keep them alive. Keeping them clothed, fed, clean and healthy is a full time job. In the space of 1 hour this week Anna swallowed a quarter, Sam cut off the circulation on his wrist with a plastic tie thing, I found Eli decorating himself with Anna’s lip gloss while I was trying to change Joy’s diaper. It wasn’t as if I was sitting on the couch reading a book neglecting them!
And to be honest, keeping kids alive doesn’t get me out of bed in the morning. It isn’t inspiring or even that invigorating. I know its bad when I am checking facebook “news” to try to find some brain stimulation. I was at Hebrews Coffee Shop at Bethel church by myself for 30 minutes after dropping Sam off at school and I overheard a couple of gals next to me talking about different dreams they had in life. Somewhere in my sleep deprived state I realized I had stopped dreaming, or at least thinking beyond the “to do” list of laundry and groceries. What are my dreams? And not even dreams for myself but dreams for my kids? What is the bigger job description as the mom of Sam, Anna, Elijah and Joy? What am I about during the day?
What is my job description? To have fun! To raise revivalists-kids who are about bringing heaven on earth. I want to help my kids know who they are and whose they are. I want to show my kids how to have fun in all circumstances. To train them to hear God’s voice and to become aware of what God is doing in the room and in the world. I want my kids to who feel confident in who they were created to be and who are free to be different, creative, powerful and who love well. I want to teach my kids to feel the freedom to try new things and make mistakes but also to know how to clean up any messes they make in life relationally or otherwise. I want my kids to be wise stewards of money, who are generous and not afraid. I want my kids to know that God is good and God is for them. I want my kids to know the love of the Father, the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the Friendship and power of Holy Spirit.
When I think of this all–being a stay at home mom doesn’t feel so mundane. I feel empowered, like one of the most important people in the world. I feel so lucky that I have two boys and two girls that I get to learn from and with and who I get to empower to go further than we have gone. As I write this, Joy is lying beside me cooing and waiving her hands, Sam is next to her studying a map and dreaming about creating a machine that could turn the world so that it was always Christmas, Anna and Eli are asleep and Greg is somewhere in Germany teaching and showing people that God is good, that is he way more loving that we can imagine and that in God’s presence there is fullness of joy. God is good. All the time. God is good.
What a year! Every once in awhile we just lean back and take a deep breath looking back on it all…With this post we are combining a Christmas letter with a quarterly ministry update. With our recent move we don’t get to see alot of you as regularly as we’d like and kids grow up fast. So, there’s something brief and then longer about each of us and the last year (i.e. a Christmas letter). It’s up to you how much you want to hear about us. And if you scroll down, there’s an update on what we have been doing related to work in ministry including a snapshot of our current financial picture, etc. these last few months. If you haven’t already, ‘subscribe’ on the left to get our bi-monthly posts about what we are learning or doing.
Baby Joy is almost three months old, sometimes sleeping through the night, smiling, holding her own with her older siblings and just figuring out that she can control the hands and feet attached to her body.
Elijah is as strong and tender as ever. He loves his baby sister, looks up to his big brother and is giving his big sister a run for her money.
Ali is adjusting to the new normal of 4 kiddos and the reality of nearing the end of over six years of having little humans directly dependent on her physical body for life. She is thriving in the community and life in the Spirit here at Bethel Church.
Greg is settling into this new season of research and training and equipping. It has been a big adjustment from the last eight years. It has particularly been a significant time of doing things that he’s wanted to for years, but not been able to find the time or opportunity.
A Little More In-depth:
Joy: Four is a big number. Every once in a while we ask ourselves what this feeling we keep having throughout the day is…oh ya, overwhelmed. Joy has been an incredible addition to our family. She is cute, sweet and carries a big presence in a small package. She has proven a game changer in terms of redefining a new normal for our family and brings a sense of closure/completion to a significant season in our lives. It really is something to know she is our last child, this is our family, and after over 6 years of Ali being pregnant or some stage of having another human directly dependent on her physical body for life and sustenance, that we are done having kids and now focused on raising them. Joy is now three months old, sleeping through the night (mostly) and although she’s fought various ailments is a healthy, happy and very talkative little lady. Occasionally, we look back to last February when our doctor sat us down with the ultrasound images showing dark spots in Joy’s brain and explained that at 9 weeks she was not viable and probably would not survive. Now she’s already holding her own with three older siblings who like to hold (squeeze, pull, yank) and kiss her almost constantly. She’s definitely got a special place in our family as ‘lil’ baby sister even though her favorite place is high up in momma’s arms where she can keep on eye on everything.
Elijah: As Ali often says, having Eli is like have three kids. If it gets too quiet all of sudden we go looking for him. We are very glad to have gotten some timely parenting advice about how you cannot control your kids. We are also grateful for some words we received from God about who Elijah is: powerful, fire, one like the prophet Elijah in boldness and strength. Our vision is to raise powerful people who choose to love and empower others. Eli has got the powerful part down. One minute he’s gently kissing ‘baby Joy’ on the forehead with her cooing in response and the next poking her in the eye. Sometimes he is playing dress up and doing his big sisters bidding, the next moment chasing her with a toy sword. None of our other kids quite match his combination of strength and tenderness. He is so free, so fearless (except of the dark and elevators), so affectionate and so his own man– whether it involves taking his diaper off on the trampoline and throwing it over the fence into the neighbors yard, re-upholstering our furniture with a marker, getting out of the bath and walking past the toilet to pee in the closet, praying for a man’s broken wrist at the grocery store with his dad or finding the harshest words he can come up with to express the powerful emotions he is feeling, “I’m mad at you! That’s poopy!”.
Anna: It’s been a big year for Anna, moving from everything she knew in Bellevue/Seattle without fully understanding what ‘moving’ means, starting pre-school and having a new girl in the family. At times she’s needed some reassurance along the way taking in these seismic shifts in her understanding of her world. Anna’s love language is definitely gifts (and touch – it seems like if she could figure out a way she would wrap herself around one of your internal organs to snuggle with you). At first we were curious why God was so specific with us that when Anna asks for another Band-Aid to give it to her, even if she didn’t ‘need it’. It became a thing for her to want new Band-Aids even when no blood was involved or at times when there wasn’t even an ‘ouw-e’. When it comes to the challenge of sharing we often tell our kids ‘there is more than enough’. God wanted Anna to experience this in a tangible way. We’re catching on to why. She is generous at a level that makes us as her parents anxious at times, like when she gave a friend a pink balloon shaped like a butterfly Anna got for her birthday. “Are you sure you want to give that away, Anna” (some of the things we say to our kids…) “Yes, it’s okay, I know I’ll get another one on my next birthday.” In this big year for Anna, she has made some fun new friends, found her sweet tooth, her love for dancing (particularly to the song “Move it! Move it!” from the Madagascar movies) and developed her own intimacy with God while hanging out with him in the ‘secret garden’ in her ‘imagination’ where Jesus gives her gifts, tells her how much he loves her and plays with her.
Sam: Our little man is becoming a big boy. He’s taking to his ever-increasing role as big brother in realizing the special influence (and impact) he has on his siblings and the way they look up to him. It’s extra responsibility he’s embraced, but doesn’t always enjoy. It’s a paradigm shift from “everyone is equal and everything needs to be fair” (Sam has a strong sense of justice) to “it has way more impact on Eli when you (Sam) hit him than when he hits you” (even if he did do it first). The Christmas season is one of Sam’s favorites. He dug out our Christmas decorations two weeks before Thanksgiving (he might have a future in retail marketing). It’s a common question from Sam, ‘when is the next holiday?’. Part of it is getting time off school to be home with us during the day, but part of it is his love to celebrate, dress up, decorate and get themed out whenever the occasion allows. Sam who developed early verbally in speaking took awhile to catch on to reading, but is now in a word explosion trying to read everything in sight. It’s amazing watching kids’ natural hunger to learn, even though now it means mom and dad having to develop a different secret parent code language other than spelling out words to each other when our kids are around.
Ali: I have four kids…4 kids! Sometimes I still have to count them to make sure I really have four kids and that they are all accounted for! I love this season of life and I love our family. I am so grateful that Greg has a flexible schedule and a desire to be present to the family. I am so grateful to have 2 boys and 2 girls to learn from, learn with and learn how to set them free to be all God created them to be. I am thankful for this community at Bethel that is teaching me more about being heaven minded and bringing heaven to earth both as a mom, a wife and also as me—the unique combination God created me to be. I am continually in awe at God’s presence with me, and here corporately. Luke has a story about God wanting to give his kids good gifts, like a good Father and I feel like I have been experiencing that this year—God keeps taking care of us and giving us more than I could have dreamed of. He is good. I am tired, I am stretched thin a lot of days and I spend a lot of time feeding people and cleaning up messes. It’s a season in life that some day I will look back to and laugh about the chaos and craziness but will also miss. God is redefining a lot in me and it is good!
Greg: It’s been a 180 degree transition in many ways from all that was involved in overseeing the youth ministry at a large Presbyterian church to being a PhD student and developing a small nonprofit. About a year and a half ago, when there was a clear sense transition was in the air after nearly 8 years at First Pres Bellevue, I asked God what he wanted me to do next. God’s response was very clear: ‘What do you want?’ So I rephrased my question, “What do you want me to want?”. I had the intellectual/theological capacity to handle the question God asked, but not the practical experiential knowing. He continued working me through a paradigm shift from me being the servant of a benevolent master who heard commands and then as fully and faithfully as possible obeyed to being a friend (John 15:15). Noticing I was a little caught off-guard God told me to think about what I wanted and then when I was ready, let him know and we’d get it done together. So, it took a little unpacking, but among many wants, three specific ones stood out above the rest: time/space to study more fully the Bible and church history around people’s experience of God’s presence and sustainable revival, it become natural and normal to heal the sick, cast out demons and ‘preach the kingdom’ in everyday life and everyday interactions so that more people experience God’s loving presence particularly outside the walls of the church, and have someone that was doing this all that I could learn from and really sit under for a season. At times I am still blown away at how each of these have come together and are specifically happening right now, through PhD studies, through being immersed in a community of sustainable revival taking risks to give it away in everyday life and having a mentor 20 years down the road in the things I want to learn who is taking me under his wing. On top of this was a clear sense of call that God wanted our whole family to do and become this together. It wasn’t just me doing it and our family tagging along. God had something for each of us, to experience together and even through one another. Ultimately this approach has proven to be one of the most significant things I am doing with my time, energy and resources.
Quarterly Ministry Update:
Life and ministry has been full these last three months. We are all adjusting to the new normal with the birth of Joy. We battled a month of cold and flu season, a lot of late nights, early mornings and middle of the night wake up calls but are finding our stride as a family of six.
Highlights of some of what we’ve been up to: I (Greg) went on a significant 10 day ministry trip with Kevin Dedmon giving me the opportunity to learn more about how to carry this message of God’s presence and power in a dynamic, ‘secularized’ context like Germany. I’ve been more clearly defining and refining the research methods I will be using for my doctorate as well as studying Biblical Hebrew. I’ve spent the last three months particularly focused on learning from Bethel Church in inner and physical healing ministry and finances, as well as doing work with Kevin on gnostic influence for his book project. Ali has put some specific focus on Bethel’s teaching on experiencing God’s presence as a daily reality. And along the way we are learning a lot by practically demonstrating that heaven is near to people we meet. It has been a powerful time of God revealing things to us through our own study, the community we are part of and in prayer that we are taking risks to apply and practically live out. For specific stories and reflections keep checking our occasional blog posts, which you can subscribe to on the left.
Financial Update: We are so grateful for the community of support we have in prayer, words of encouragement and insight, and financially. We have reached just over 80% of the total funds needed for this year. We have also developed other income streams like subletting our home to people visiting Bethel Church as well as carefully managing our expenses.
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Greg is gone for 10 days to Germany with Kevin Dedmon. I miss him. Its not so much that I have anything specific to tell him or that I need him to do something. I just miss his presence. As the kids fall asleep, this is usually the time when we hang out—watch a movie, talk, clean. I miss knowing he is in the house, somewhere close.
This fall I have been attending a class at Bethel called “cultivating the Presence”. It is all about the Presence of God. The Presence of God–God’s Spirit that dwells in us and on us. Sure God likes it when we have specific things to talk to Him about, or that we need Him to do but He also likes to just be with us. Various speakers have talked about creating a space publically and also personally where Holy Spirit dwells.
I’ve known for 20+ years that Jesus lives inside me and that Jesus is my friend. But it is newer to think of being a friend of Holy Spirit and creating a place for Holy Spirit to rest on me, around me. I so want to miss Holy Spirit’s presence like I miss Greg’s presence. Not for anything in particular but because I’m in love with Holy Spirit like I’m in love with Greg.
Jesus said it was better for him to leave and go to the Father because an Advocate was going to come. (John 16:7) What could be better than hanging out with Jesus for 3 years—watching him feed the 5000 and walk on water, raise the dead? I think Jesus was referring to Holy Spirit, the Presence of the living God, breathing, in dwelling and surrounding me just like Holy Spirit surrounded Jesus. A whole world full of Spirit empowered people.
It is new for me to think that while I am always a Christian, the Presence of God can increase or decrease in a place or in me. I suppose it isn’t too different from the reality that I am married but Greg and I can have different degrees of connection. The Presence of the living God is amazing. As Joaquin Evans, a staff member at Bethel says, “The presence makes everything better.” The joy and peace as well as the incredible love of the Father that comes with Holy Spirit is amazing—it is addicting. It is better than anything else. I can understand why the disciples started to do crazy and radical things because with the Presence of God fear disappears and I want nothing more than for everyone to encounter the Love of the Father. And amazingly God wants to pour out his Presence on us because God loves us more than we love ourselves! So these 10 days while Greg is gone, and I miss his presence, I’m excited to cultivate more of God’s presence here, in my living room in Redding.