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.
If you or someone you know would like to give a tax deductible end of the year donation please click on the ‘PARTNER WITH US’ here or the link on the left. Matching programs through your employer may also be an option.
We also have a need for airline miles to offset the cost of travel to/from Oxford, England. And we could benefit from a second car of any kind to use in Redding. We are managing with just the mini-van and enjoying the lower costs of maintenance and insurance on one car, but as our family has grown so have our transportation needs. If you know of someone looking to donate or sell a lower priced, dependable car or donate/gift airline miles please contact us directly: firstname.lastname@example.org