I just finished stacking this winter’s store of firewood. I realized a couple of weeks ago that we were getting low, and wanted to get it taken care of before we got any serious snow. It’s a couple of weeks until Christmas, and a few days less than that until we get to see my side of the family for a few days. Mark and Jocelyn will come in from Lubbock with my first niece, Margot. Becka and Daniel, who live north of Little Rock, will swing through Fort Worth to pick up my dad. And then they’ll all converge on us for a long weekend. It’s been too long since we've all been together, and we’re very much looking forward to this time!
It’s coming up on the 2-year mark since I started with Church At The Ranch (CATR), and has been a little over 2 years since we moved here to Denver from north Dallas. Between my job, Amy’s job, other church activities, and our 3 kids, the last 12 months have been very full. When we started with CATR, we knew that I’d be spending a period of time training and being mentored to plant a church, and that at some point, we’d really start actually doing the work of that church plant rather than just dreaming about it. That transition time began in the late spring of this year. One of the last and perhaps most important phases of my training took place over the summer. My pastor and his wife planted CATR about 15 years ago, and they got to take their first sabbatical from mid-July until mid-October. It was my first real taste of what it would be like to oversee all aspects of ministry for a church for a longer duration, and although it was a very busy 3 months, I also learned a lot, and got some great hands-on experience that I’d never had before.
I would add that it was also a learning and experience time for Amy and our kids as well to have a taste of what life might look more like in the upcoming years as we start a church together. After all, this is going to be a family affair. Amy and I strongly believe that God is calling US into this work, and that he’ll use both of us in a variety of ways to accomplish his purposes as we start this new work. As of the beginning of November, we have been blessed to help start a new community group with another CATR family – Solomon and Amy Madron - who live in the area where we plan to start the new church. Through a community organization we are starting to partner with, as a group, we have adopted a couple of families for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. These families joined our community group at the Madron’s home for a wonderful Thanksgiving meal (complete with an oven fire!) We’ll be doing the same again before Christmas in addition to being able to help supply them with some gifts. Our hope in all this is to begin to build some long-term relationships with some families in this new area that our burgeoning church can come alongside of and love in the name of Christ. We’re getting our kids involved in this process because we know that God can and does use little ones in unique ways to show his love to people in ways that adults cannot.
Amy’s job continues to go well. For the first year that we lived in Denver, she was in a time of transition with PwC, holding a few different roles. It was a crazy time that resulted in much travel for her. In January, she was blessed to start a dream-role of sorts. She is now involved in the creation, development, and implementation of strategic planning for the Assurance arm of PwC’s finance division. (I don't know what that means either, but it sounds impressive.) It is really a fantastic fit for her skills and passions. She enjoys a certain degree of flexibility in her hours, a much reduced travel schedule, the challenges and tasks that are part of this role, as well as the people she works alongside.
Ellie is now 8, Emma is 6, and Nathan is 3. The girls are doing very well in school. We continue to love our neighborhood for how many children it has, and our kids spend hours a week playing, riding, screaming, and running up and down our friendly street. Ellie and Emma have been participating in cheer and gymnastics classes this year and have enjoyed those a lot. Ski season will soon be upon us, and they’re looking forward to getting back out on the slopes. We’re also planning on introducing Nathan to skiing this year as well, so he’ll take some lessons at Arapahoe Basin for 4 consecutive weeks this winter. One other Nathan update that I’ll add is that in just the last couple of weeks, we have reached a major milestone: Our last child SEEMS to be fully potty-trained and out of diapers. For any other parents out there who have been there, you know how exciting that is. We've had a child in diapers for almost 8 1/2 years!! And for any of you who are looking out to that distant horizon, your day will come!
I’ll wrap up with one more thought. Over the last year, there have been some really high highs, and few valleys as well. God has spoken to us and led us in some very exciting ways and directions, but I also believe that he has used some hard experiences to both toughen us and to prune us in some ways. God’s pruning is never comfortable, but it always for our good. It has also given us some great experience in dealing with people - who, as we all know are imperfect. With a church plant, we anticipate the high highs as well as the valleys to be a part of the process. It is easy to be thankful in those moments of excitement and blessing. It sometimes feels impossible to be thankful in those hard moments. However, the promise of God is that he is always with us. My heart for this upcoming season in our lives, as we look toward Christmas, and beyond as we head into this next season of planting a church, is captured in Paul’s encouragement to the church in Corinth from 2 Cor 4:16-18 when he tells them that in the midst of his great struggle, “That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.”Blessing on you all at this time of year, as we set aside extra time to celebrate the momentous occasion of Christ’s birth!