Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Moving, Grieving, Meeting, Adjusting, Growing, Learning

It was hard to figure out what to call this post, or when to write it. We've been dealing with some spiritual issues for a while and it hasn't really seemed like the right time to mention them, but last week at church our pastor talked about community. He reminded us that God's plan for His people was for them to have community, to rely on each other, be accountable to one another, and to lean on one another. So we are asking for the prayers of the community who read our blog.

A few months ago, our very small church was drastically altered (for lack of a better word) by the very sudden and surprising resignation of our pastor and disbanding of our church body. For the most part, this came as a complete shock to the church body. There were many phases to this, after the resignation. For a few weeks pastors from nearby PCA churches came to give our sermon and lead the service. Our new church leadership (only recently approved by the presbytery during our organization ceremony in the summer) were stretched to the max as we had meeting after meeting. We met for many Sundays after church armed with food to talk about what had happened and where the church was going to go, especially in light of our very small size, extremely recent move from church plant to organized PCA church, and strong desire by many members to cease being a congregation.

For a while it seemed like there were several options. There was a pastor (and family) familiar with the situation who wanted to assume the congregation. Unfortunately our contributions (combined with a large amount of debt that it was revealed the church had fallen into) would not support a pastor (or family). There was discussion of our body joining another local PCA body and our "potential" pastor, coming alongside us and attending to us there. Hopefully in this scenario we would relaunch in Oakland at some point and he would be our pastor. Another option was for our church to join the other local PCA church (Christ Church) indefinitely. A final option would be for our church to disband and for it's members/attenders to join other congregations with no plans for reorganization as All Nations Presbyterian Church.

There was much heartache in this process for so many members. The majority of the church's voting members (Matt and I had not officially joined the congregation yet and were not able to vote) voted to completely dissolve the church. They struggled greatly with awaiting the Presbytery's reluctant agreement that the church should disband. Most of these meetings were very difficult to be in. There was a great deal of hurt, and anger.

Most of this happened in October and November. It really couldn't have been a worse time. Although the plan was for the majority of the congregation( who did not plan to attend a different church or change denominations) to attend Christ Church in Rockridge (about 10 minutes from our old location) this was only the case for a week or two. The new church has a morning and evening service in 2 different locations. The closest to our old meeting location was the evening service, so it was planned that we would all attend that one. For the first week almost everyone from our old church came. It was great to see everyone and to see (hopefully) continued healing and fellowship. But soon it was Thanksgiving and traveling and Christmas around the corner and many families (including ours) were gone for weeks at a time. I think it became discouraging to people who came to only find a family or two from All Nations at Christ Church and many stopped attending. Several families had been traveling a long LONG way to keep up their membership at All Nations and found it to be a fitting time to locate a church close to their homes.

Since we've returned from our holiday traveling there has been some consistency in our former members attending the new church and it seems like roughly a third of our previous congregation will find a home there. We are excited about this! Christ Church has a RIDICULOUS number of young couples and families, 4 pastors and lots of great opportunities to be involved. We've attended a long dinner/orientation for newcomers (with many of our fellow All Nations friends) and the church as a whole has warmly welcomed their brothers and sisters from Oakland. From a very discouraging time, has emerged a much more hopeful future and we are excited to see what God will do. Matt and I moved to Oakland because of our church and our friends here. Matt was also leading worship at All Nations which was something that he loved! We moved for lots of other reasons too.....(too long a commute for Matt from Martinez, closer to the city for our business, etc.) but there were many close locations to choose from, and Oakland very special because of our church family.

On Sunday at church I was convicted to finally write about this spiritual battle that so many have been facing because of this difficult time. Some of our sermon was from Thessalonians, a book that really emphasizes the community relationship and fellowship that God desires in a church body. In Thessalonians, Timothy reports to Paul that many have become discouraged through a misunderstanding that those who have died before Christ's return will not arise when He comes back. They are grieving for their "lost" brothers and sisters. Paul writes to them and says:

"But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. " 1 Thess. 4:13

"For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing." 1 Thess. 5:9-11

It is our prayer that our church family, old and new, will continue to remember to encourage each other during difficult times so we will be attentive to others among us who may be grieving. It is a great joy to remember that God has a plan for our church, and for us in our new church and that there is a whole body of believers (here in CA, and all over) to encourage us and build us up. Please pray with us that we are constantly reminded of God's plan for salvation! Please pray for those in our church who are discouraged and feeling displaced and a little lost. Thank you for being our friends, and our community that we can call on in a time of need. What a great joy you are!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Life Lessons on Work

A Lot of Housework will get you:

A rather large hole in the seat of your "work pants". (which after our latest projects have become, "throw in the trash pants". Illustrated by my hand fitting through the rear, and our big cat. We've been working hard around here!

Although I'm embarrassed not to have posted pictures yet, since we've moved in (in a little over 3 months) we've, torn up all the flooring in Matt's studio, replaced it with new flooring, painted every square inch of the studio, put in a new toilet, resolved a somewhat disgusting plumbing/sewage situation, torn up a good part of the back yard, replanted vegetables, flowers and trees, replaced a non-functioning garage door with an automatic door and had a brand new alarm system installed, only resulting in one visit from the Oakland PD. :-)

We've also been working on attaining some furniture for Matt's studio (to meet with clients, he has a meeting this Sunday and had another last week), our front family room ( we are hoping to start a Bible study with our church in the next few weeks, which we'll host here) and lighting and backdrop equipment for Matt. We've been really blessed to find most of this second hand, or at great bargains and are really starting to feel like the house is taking shape. There are still disheartening moments, for example, when we stood over a very very large hole that had been cut/drilled in our concrete sidewalk down to our old old OLD clay sewage pipes staring at a "mess", we'll call it, and the nice nice plumber said, "Well that's what I always say the first 5 years of home ownership is like, fixing these kind of problems." 5 YEARS!!!

But all in all, we are loving our house in Oakland, and working very hard on it's maintenance and improvements.

Monday, January 19, 2009

We Love Our Kitty

Matt bought a toy for Mocha for Christmas. We didn't realize it would be a toy for Joey too. :-) They had a great time playing with it together on "our" Christmas morning. **WARNING** You might want to avoid the last 4 seconds or so of the video, where Joey falls. I thought about editing it, but frankly, I don't know how to do that and he was up whacking the cat again about 20 seconds later, so just don't watch the end. :-)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Joey at the Playground!!

Thank you Thank you Sarah!! Well you won't be seeing any more blogger videos on our blog since I now have to upload them to google video or youtube or something else to make it work, but after like 4 days of unsuccessful trying and a great tip from my friend Sarah, there is cuteness again to share! Thanks Sarah.

And Without further ado, Josiah at the playground... (I think he is very brave! :-)

But NOT Broccoli...

For Christmas this year, Matt gave me a juicer!! We have both (all 3 of us really) been really excited about it, and have used it nearly everyday since we got back from our travels. It's amazing!! We can juice whole apples, pomegranates, even broccoli. It has a low setting for really juicy things that are super soft like berries, pears, oranges (peeled) and a high setting for carrots, whole apples, etc.

The juicer is really neat! Here are some pictures of our endeavors:

So far we've had a great time with it! We've made some good juices and some "healthy" ones too (those would be the not so great ones), but we are definitely getting the hang of it. I had a little learning experience today when I realized exactly how far a little broccoli will go... I think I'll use less next time, but it was still o.k.

Bottom's up!

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Nutcracker

A few weeks before Christmas I came home to a beautiful poinsettia holding 2 tickets for the Nutcracker in San Francisco!! It was a great surprise date night! Our friend Sarah graciously came over to watch Joey and we went out early and had an Indian Feast in the city. Although we've eaten in the city before, we've never done it without Joey. Whenever we have a date we usually stay closer at home rather than battle the traffic to get in the city, but this was a special occasion! So we went for great Indian food and then lattes and the Nutcracker. It was the first time that I had ever seen it, live.

It was amazing!! I can't say enough what a great time I had, or what a nice surprise it was!

After we got home we did a little wiki reading and found out that The San Francisco Ballet was the first in the U.S. to perform the play in its entirety. The SF Ballet was the first to make it an annual tradition and the only ballet for 10 years that performed it completely. If you are interested in reading more about it visit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_nutcracker_ballet for more info. I actually really enjoyed reading some of the history. I have great memories of watching the PBS versions each December with Gelsey Kirkland and Mikhail Baryshnikov. Excitingly (and a little sadly) the old PBS version is being replaced for future years (starting with 2008) with the San Francisco Ballet's Nutcracker. If you happen to catch it next year, think of us...

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Giving Up

I have been TRYING and TRYING to post a cute video of Joey that I have, on a playground, but I just cannot get it to work. I've been trying all weekend.

So in lieu of cute Joey pictures, I have some pictures of our backyard after I planted our flowers and vegetables. I have tons more to catch up on from Christmas, etc, but I'm going to try to pace myself. (shouldn't be too hard ;-)

The 3 rows in the middle are seeds, 1 row of turnips, 1 of beets and 1 of broccoli. They are now all up. The turnips came up in full force, about every seed I dropped, so now I need to pick out the best ones and replant them in my row. the beets are coming up slower and more like about 1/2 of the seeds dropped, but it is really need to watch them because the shoots are all dark red. The broccoli I probably won't have to do anything with. The seeds were bigger and they are well spaced. I can't wait to see how it all turns out. Of course it could warm up too quickly to really yield anything. Today it was 60 degrees when we went to church!