I am introducing a new Thanksgiving tradition this year and have high hopes that it will be a hit. I've placed a paper mâché pumpkin on a low shelf and set a few sharpie markers to its side. In flowing black writing, I scrawled "I am thankful for" across the pumpkin, then used the sharpies to jot down a few silly things that have brought me joy over the past year. 'Potatoes' made the list, along with 'healthy indoor plants.' Over the last few days, the kids have added a few items of their own, including 'gratitude pumpkins,' 'family,' and 'food.' We'll continue to fill it up during our morning devotions, and I'll have our Thanksgiving guests add their thanks as well. This activity also perfectly complements the new dinner exercise Jason introduced, as our mealtime prayer now works around the table with each person saying, 'Thank you, God, for providing..." and listing off something they are thankful for.
It is amazing how a grateful heart shifts our perspective from our own temporary comforts and conveniences to the eternal goodness of our gracious God.
And we have much to be thankful for!
What God Has Done
CHURCH PLANTING TRAINING
God brought us to Benicia, Ca one year ago, where we joined a new church plant and were given a front-row seat in many of the inner workings of a fledgling congregation. From starting ministries and instigating outreach projects, to pouring into people, refining the leadership and organization of Sunday services, and invitations to sit at the table during hard conversations, business decisions, discipleship, and growth opportunities, this year has been an incredible chance to be further equipped to plant a church in Calistoga next Summer.
God has also provided a church property in Calistoga at no cost whatsoever and no strings attached, and in a couple weeks we will be signing papers to transfer the assets and make everything official.
We are already building relationships with folks in the Napa Valley, and are so grateful for the people God has placed in our lives for fellowship and encouragement.
What God Is Doing
BUILDING A CORE TEAM
For the past year and a half we've been praying for a young man in our life, in the hopes that he might be led to be a part of our core team. And just this past week he called to let us know that he is planning on joining us! WOOHOO!!! Our core team will be the handful of fellow Christians who will join us in Calistoga, building a rich body of believers who are willing to pour themselves into the Calistoga community to showcase Christ. We are praying that Jesus will lead 4 other families to be a part of the church plant, and are excited for the relationships God will continue to build.
BUILDING FINANCIAL SUPPORT
We are also starting to raise funds for the rebuilding of the church. The sweet little building needs a lot of TLC, and after watching a bunch of HGTV home revamp episodes, I am sure the cost will be incredible. In an area where value is understood through dollar signs, we know that the building itself must be hospitable, and we are excited to create a simple elegance that will use God's resources wisely while also communicating value to the Calistoga community.
What God Will Do
Though we cannot foresee all that God has planned for our church plant, we are excited for the many things that are falling into place in miraculous ways.
REACHING THE COMMUNITY
Our church is directly across the street from an elementary school and we are thrilled to be a part of these young people's families, offering them tangible opportunities to understand the love of God. We have hopes of joining the annual "bike to school" event, putting on a pancake breakfast, hosting a trunk-or-treat hot dog feed, teaching music lessons out of the church, offering counseling, planning food drives, hosting a Minecraft server, and a myriad of other opportunities and we are SO excited to be a part of the lives of our Calistoga neighbors. We are planning on talking with the City Manager in hopes of better understanding and meeting some of the unique needs of the community.
PROVIDING FOR OUR NEEDS
The cost of living in Calistoga is astronomical ($7000/month to cover our family's living expenses, pay for underwear, cover dental care, and eat meat occasionally), and we are excited to see how Jesus will provide. We have always lived simply and have learned to be incredibly frugal, so we are well prepared to tackle a tight budget, and trust that God will meet our every need.
How To Pray For Us
Between Jason's seminary classes, church planting pursuits, pastoral duties at church, and bring a faithful husband and father, while I am busy with homeschooling, church ministries, cooking lasagna for the community, and writing, there are very few moments left for intentional rest. As we strive for excellence in each area of our lives it is crucial that we only say yes to the best opportunities (discernment), pursue them intentionally (diligence), and derive our joy (delight) from serving and loving Jesus first, best, and only.
Friends for Kaden, Thea, and Auna
Our kiddos have been amazing. They are excited to be a part of this church plant, and we are so grateful for how their personalities how been wired so perfectly for this venture. With all our previous moves, however, my mama's heart is aching for all the friends they've had to leave behind. It is my desire that they would have a handful of deep friendships to carry them through the next several years, to lead them to know God more, and love more like Jesus.
Learning the Language
While Jason has been getting comfortable with Greek and Hebrew, I have been slowly learning Spanish, as it's the primary language for 61% of Calistoga's population. My hope is to be able to discuss life, family, and the gospel with the bilingual kids and their families within a year of planting. My mama brain doesn't seem to hold quite as much these days, though, so your prayers for my retention is appreciated!
Support- Financial and Core Team
We are learning the skill of inviting fellow believers to join us on this amazing adventure God has been orchestrating. Our current responsibility is to invite our brothers and sisters in Christ to consider if the resources God has entrusted to them line up with the work He is doing in Calistoga. We are also carefully seeking families who are in the Napa Valley or may be called to relocate to Calistoga to be a part of our congregation. We are reminded often that these big asks are not inconveniences to those we speak to, but invitations to join the front line of hard and holy gospel work.
As I finish up this post (which was supposed to be half the length it ended up becoming!) I am remembering yet another item which should be scribbled onto our gratitude pumpkin: you. The fact that you are reading this implies an involvement in our lives for which we are SO thankful. The Lord is so gracious to have given us people like you to encourage and pray for us. Thank you.