Today I wanted to share my East Coast story with you. One of the topics that I am most sensitive talking about is our church plant. It is the piece of my heart that is most vulnerable, and I could never find the right words to describe it. I love the church, and have always loved serving in MGC, my California home church . It is there that I found a love for community, and people.
Around two years ago, on a cold Sunday morning, I arrived in New Jersey with my newly married husband. I was fresh off the west coast. I still remember that morning so vividly in my mind. I was expectant, filled with jubilation like a little girl on her first day of school. The first Sunday service in our home felt like a daze to me. I was trying to take it all in. The worship, the word, the people… This was going to be my new community. I remember driving around to pick up some snacks for fellowship after the service. The roads were all so new, and I didn’t even know my own address yet! I punched in grocery store into a GPS and it led me to the nearest one. After preparing some quick eats we gathered around the table and said grace.
The first year of church was a blessing, and I was overcome with a season of deep gratitude…for my upbringing, for community and for my family back home. I fully acknowledged the blessing of being raised in a Christian family. I was so filled with an overwhelming feeling of God’s mercies upon my life as I heard numerous testimonies of others and their struggles in life. I stopped shopping for the first year of marriage in order to allow the Lord to work on my heart a little:) , and (after watching a few documentaries) we decided to become vegan. Haha I know!:). Lots of change. But so much simplicity & contentment. I learned then and am still learning to listen rather than talk out of judgement. I learned to extend grace and that the power of praying for/over people. There was so much joy and fulfillment in growing and sharing together. Going to bed tired and heart spent was the perfect combo. Our Sunday nights always ended with a sink full of dishes. Dishes that spoke of fellowship, child like faith moments, of testimonies (my favorite), of growth. Our relationships grew with one another and God filled our hearts. We started the prayer wall and began to pray for those struggling in addictions those in our city!
The beginning of this year on the other hand was more trying than I ever imagined. I learned the harsh truth: MINISTRY is SO hard! I realized that I was so unprepared. It’s a spiritual battle out there. People are hurting. A handful of people left the church. Disaccord and judgement made me allow discouragement to take root in my heart. I remember every time someone asked me how the church was doing I just wanted to burst out in tears. The deep longing in my heart for true feminine friendship and mentorship was so constant. I earned for someone older to pray over me. Although I was still and still am happily married and loved my husband very much, I went through a season of loneliness. A season that I had never been through in my life. I had always had a ton of girlfriends. Always had a kindred spirit close by. It was however a blessing in disguise that I only come to see now.
I repented to God for taking my relationship with him for granted for bearing things in my heart without coming to HIM. I asked for forgiveness for my selfishness. For not encouraging my husband enough. One thing I learned is that I ALONE will be responsible for the condition of my heart. There will be no one else, and no situation to blame when I stand before the Lord. So whatever happened and will happen in the future I want to be resolved to hold fast to my Refuge. I’m in it for the long haul and I know that his GRACE will be enough to sustain.
Now what was the whole point of sharing that far back? Renewal. Summer was when we found vision as a church. Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty! It was wonderful I was encouraged to have family & friends staying with us. It was a fresh breathe of air. Victories were won! Encouragement was poured into our hearts. Answered prayers. New friends were made and I learned so much from the people that God sent into our lives. I can now say God took away those feelings of discouragement and turned them into hope and passion once more. The same giddyness of a school girl. Although I know we don’t have everything all planned out and the answers may not all be there & we still meet in our living room; what I do know is that God is for us and nothing can stand against us. And maybe the devil will try to attack me in the future with discouragement this verse is what I want to lean on:
Lamentations 3:21-23 // Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this; the faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. GREAT is his faithfulness, his mercies begin afresh each morning.
I full well believe that GREATER things are yet to be lived. GREATER days for a GREATER cause. The vision that God poured into our hearts is ready to be lived out. So if you are just in a rut or stuck in a place that isn’t going anywhere let’s pray for breakthrough, for forgiveness, for hope, for renewal. Because it’s real. God is SO real!
I want to put in your heart a hope that I know to be true. When things feel like they may be crumbling around you, when the light isn’t showing in the end of that tunnel, or when healing is just not coming. Look to Jesus! Sing with confidence. Praise Him. The hope that comes from Jesus is what keeps me going. He showers me with mercy and grace that I don’t deserve.
After reading this I hope the message is not about me, or our church, but about HIM, and HIS CHURCH. A testimony isn’t a testimony without God’s grace involved…and I am not who I am without God because ”He goeth before me”. -Amy Carmichael
This is my story.