Friday, January 13, 2012


Trees for recycling

On New Year's Day we spent some time at the park. When we pulled into the parking lot, I instantly noticed the pile of Christmas trees. It was one of many designated spots the city of Cedar Park had chosen for tree disposal. Something about it made me sad. Of course I always feel sad when Christmas is over. I even feel sad the week of Christmas because I know it will soon ALL be over. But this is coming from the girl who begins listening to Christmas music the day after Halloween and the girl who begins decorating two weeks before Thanksgiving. I love Christmas! I love the to-do lists, a crowded Target, a busy mall. I am one of the few that actually finds joy in all the "fuss". For homeschooling, it is magical. We pull out our Advent stuff/Jesse Tree, read Christmas books daily, drink hot chocolate and construct craft after craft as we celebrate the season. Let's not forget the baking! Give me a reason to bake and I will strap on a vintage apron and go to town! And so will my daughter!

As I looked at these Christmas trees dropped off for recycling, I began to feel a kindred spirit with the dead trees. Just days earlier, the trees were the center of most family rooms. Decorated with lights and beautiful, treasured ornaments. Underneath was full of presents wrapped in beautiful paper, matching ribbon tied around the boxes. Gifts chosen with love!

Suddenly it's OVER! Done! All of the Christmas music, festivities, even the holiday flavors at Starbucks...GONE. I don't like the sudden halt! Not one bit!

Leaving a church, finding a church, joining a church, it is ALL exhausting. Jeremy and I have really struggled in this area. I have shared  many times through my writings on this blog about our journey from Dallas (our hometown) to Austin. Moving to Austin to help plant a church, leaving that church, attending another one, leading worship, stepping down from that, only to sit out for TWO YEARS has been exhausting. It has caused more "wrestling" in our life as a married couple than ever. But it has been so stinkin' good. I am not ashamed of our journey. I am not ashamed of our non-committal season. Our relationship with Christ never suffered, only grew stronger. Wrestling purifies you. Wrestling refines you. It shows you who you really are! Our ministry story is LONG, but it is so precious. We have had so much joy serving in the church, yet we have experienced intense pain.

Those Christmas Trees SCREAMED at me as we played at the park on New Year's Day. I kept thinking about our family. Those trees were grown for something. They were grown on a farm to be beautiful Christmas Trees. Once they reached maturity, they were cut, tied to the roof of a mini-van, and taken home to be the highlight of the room. Unfortunately for the Christmas tree,  it was only meant for a season. That's been our experience. 

God prepares us, equips us, plants us, but relational issues, theology differences or GOD causes our branches to become dry. Time to go. The after effect sucks. Ezekiel would not approve of my word "sucks". "Mommy, stop cussing." But sucks" has to be the best word to describe it. One day you are in, the next day you are out. I do not blame the church for this. I used to. I know what it is like to be on staff at a church and have so many people on your radar screen that you have to let the ones who leave...GO. Most churches take it personal when you leave too. Another thing I understand now. But not having a church home feels a lot like being left out on the curb for recycling.

Suddenly it's OVER! Done! I don't like the sudden halt! Not one bit!

Over the Summer we had some amazing things happening in our family spiritually. God began to do a huge transformation! This has a lot to do with "growing" our family. It started with an intense struggle with what churches were offering. We could not do pentecostal. We could not do baptist, we could not do EMERGENT. The struggle became intense. We spent hours on the Internet reading Church beliefs, Pastor Bios, and so on and so on. I had led worship at churches that did not refer to themselves as emergent, but by all means were. We had a horrible taste in our mouth. 

We had also been homeschooling for four years and struggled to find other homeschooling families. So we tried Family Integrated. It was not for us. We connected with the theology (mostly), but not the style of music or the fact that everyone homeschooled. We felt like we were cutting ourselves off from anyone and everyone not like us. We thought that was what we wanted... it was not. But we had to give it a try.

Suddenly it's OVER! Done! I don't like the sudden halt! Not one bit!

My friend and mentor explained it to me like this. With her precious Texas accent she said, "Listen, y'all are doing what most people DON'T do. Y'all are walking through it. You are searching for that place and you don't give up. Most people just stay where they are at and they don't even believe the way the church does." She probably explained much better than that, but you get it.  

The Christmas trees have stuck with me. I told my best friend the other day. "I don't know what we are doing. We are camped out at a church right now that is nice. The teaching is Bible, the kids enjoy their classes, but we can't get on board with anything else. The core beliefs are not exactly what we believe. The service itself is a bit chaotic and it does not flow within the vein we are in. But, we don't know where else to go." I went on to tell her how I really felt like God wanted us anchored. Our family is anchored. We have those boundaries set. We are a strong family. But I believe there has to be a place for us. There has to be! There must be.

We are not the church's dream family. Oh sure when you see us walk in, you might say "What a pretty family. Wow! Look at all those kids." But we have questions. We have past hurt. We struggle to trust. We are skeptics. And we have built a WALL around our family. Don't you dare try to have us at your church every single night because we won't do it. We did that. We won't do it again. Family is first. We are weird. We homeschool. We use a midwife. And we don't do hype on Sundays! We want to be surrounded with families living out their faith every single day, not just for your services. And when you say that you preach from the Bible? Do you really? Or do you study the things of this world, looking for ways to attract us with your charm? We don't want culture Christianity. 

I don't want to feel like that dead Christmas tree anymore. I don't want to be cut down. I want to STAY rooted in one place. I want our family to grow into mighty, strong trees, nourishing each other and those around us.

I believe there is a place for our recycled family. I know it! And HE will get all the glory!

Soli Deo gloria,

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Liz said...

What a beautiful testimony to God's working in your life. You are an encouragement to me. I love your heart, thanks for sharing it!

Jenn said...

I didn't see a place to comment above but I just wanted to share this Piper quote: ""Some joys are only possible on the other side of sorrow."

Amanda said...

Thank you, Liz!! Thank you for always encouraging me.

Jenn, I LOVE that quote. I was trying to think of it the other day.