Monthly Archives: April 2017

Making a Difference One Step at a Time

Standard

Unitec

My fellow readers, I have to share this post from my dear friend Raelenna Ferguson.  This will be my first guest speaker, and I can’t think of a greater honor to bestow.  Raelenna, along with her wonderful husband Jeremy Ferguson, is bringing about change in our community.  Change is always hard, but a necessary matter in life, especially if you want to see progress and unity.  No matter if the change is big or small (but this will be epic), the heart of this particular project has Jesus holding the wheel.  I hope you are able to take time and read this piece of beautiful transformation and learn how two individuals are making great changes to unite one another with love, compassion, and understanding.  All in “One City” of Cape Girardeau. 

Here we go…

The biggest dream yet – One City.

April 23, 2017 by Raelenna Ferguson

“I want you to start something like this” those are the words I heard.

Jeremy and I were standing in a worship service at Austin New Church, the church founded by Brandon and Jen Hatmaker. The music was incredible (I mean it’s Austin, funky cool people and awesome music) but it wasn’t the music that God was talking about when He spoke those words into my head. It was the culture around us, it was the mix of people, it was the colors of the people worshipping together, it was the ages, it was the different style and ways each person was worshipping, the unity and sense of togetherness. It was the freedom and feeling of true community in the atmosphere that day that took my breath away.

During the rest of the service I quietly and internally panicked. I was determined to not tell anyone what I just heard in my head. I was terrified that God had just spoke into me and called us to plant a church and the last thing on my life plan would be to start a church, and by last I mean VERY last thing. So I decided I would tuck that little nugget away and keep it tight and safe, telling no one not even Jeremy.

Service ended and we headed to our rental car so we could hit up downtown Austin before flying home that night. As soon as we got in the car I could tell something was up with Jeremy. He just looked off and I was afraid to ask, so I didn’t. I didn’t have to. He looked at me with tears in his eyes and said I heard something in that service (my inner voice was like well crap or maybe something worse). He said I heard “I want you to start something like this”. There it was, the exact same 8 words I heard he had heard at the exact same point in the service I did.

I would love to tell you that sitting in our rental car in that school parking lot after we knew without a doubt that we just heard a calling from the Lord that there was all kinds of magical feelings of excitement and trumpets were blowing. Nope nothing like that, actually the exact opposite. I sort of lost my mind and started spitting stupidness out of my mouth, lots of selfishness and lots of whining and crying about how this is not what I want in this phase of life. How I don’t really even like church, how I had been a pastor’s wife before and it didn’t work out real good for me. Do you see the pattern of the “me” and the “I” here? Again, at this point we both really felt it was a calling to start a church. I knew I would be obedient, but I had made up my mind I was going to go kicking and screaming.

God was very gracious with us after that morning, even that night our flight was canceled and we had to stay in Austin another night. It was actually perfect, we had an extra night away from real life and could be alone together and process and sort of wrap our heads around what was happening. We had some more time to capture our thoughts and realize maybe it wasn’t the literal version of a church God was calling us to, maybe it was a new way of doing community together with the church.

We came home from Austin on a soul journey. It was game time, we both knew it. What the Lord spoke to us was not a prophetic word for 10 years down the road, it was for now. The time was now! We met with our pastors and shared what had happened, we wanted them to know first because we knew we would either be leaving our church to start a new one or we would be starting something new that hopefully our church would want to be part of.

One thing Jeremy and I knew when God said to us both “I want you to start something like this” he meant diversity. He meant relationships, connections and life with people that look different than us. He meant people lifting each other up, sharing life and resources, coming together as one, as a true community. We knew this because we had already felt this conviction for a while, that our world was very white and very homogenous, that we had no friends of color. Three things really hit us hard: First, we have an adopted African American daughter who has no one that looks like her in her life. Secondly, we have no one in our life that looks different than us. Three, there are needs in our community and we know people with resources. We need to figure out ways to connect the dots

Here’s one thing about me, I may kick and scream for a little bit about something I don’t want to do, even when I know the Lord is calling me to it. But once I become obedient, I am all in. It didn’t take too long and both Jeremy and I were going all in.

We knew we had to start forming relationships and friendships within our diverse community. We knew without a shadow of a doubt it was time for us to get around people who did not look like us, more than anything to learn and just listen. We knew we needed to get to know and hear from our neighbors who live in different socioeconomic areas of town than we do. God was stretching us more and more and challenging us. We began having hard conversation with people. Have you ever had to have a super awkward conversation with anyone? Like just plain uncomfortable and out of your comfort zone? Well that is just what Jeremy and I had to start doing. Yet, through these uncomfortable phone calls or meetings we have been met with grace and love and the same desire to get to know our community as a whole without preconceived racial or economic barriers. It has been refreshing, inspiring, fun and so very hopeful.

We know God has been preparing us to lead this new calling for many years, we can go back a full decade and see His hand all over this. It has became more and more evident as we have dug in deeper on this journey of searching out what the Lord was calling us to. A little bit of this is shared on the Behind the Scenes page of the One City website. (can be found here: http://onecityunite.org/the-team/)

There is a lot more to this story and many details that have been perfectly orchestrated, one day I may put the entire story into words. For now I want to share a few personal things and how God confirmed One City very specifically to me. I journal almost daily, every morning I wake up before everyone else and write out my thoughts, my prayers, my dreams and just anything that comes to my mind. When we were praying about this new possibility for our community I decided to go back and read some of my very old journals, specifically looking for direction or confirmation.

What I found in my journals were paragraphs and paragraphs of me asking God to show me my place in this city, over and over again. Asking him to reveal ways for our family to serve and make a difference together. I have one specific prayer in my journal asking God to please reveal our purpose and mission to Jeremy and I at the exact same time (hello Austin). There are prayers of empathy and determination, prayers of frustration and fears. It’s all there in my own words, in my own handwriting, almost a decade of searching and asking.

I am sharing a few pictures of my journal entries that have been confirmation to my hesitant heart. While re-reading my journals I found things I don’t even remember writing or feeling. I also found my heart was stirred for our community as far back as 2007. I found where I had journaled the name One City and how it had came to me while vacuuming my floor one day in 2013, with no idea what it was meant for, until it was revealed this year. Back in 2013 when our church did the Circle Maker series by Mark Batterson. One City was the name I wrote inside my circle for 21 days, without an hint of what would be coming 4 years later. Isn’t it crazy 4 years ago God gave me the name One City with no other instructions. I was actually so confident that that name would mean something one day that I went straight to godaddy.com and bought the domain, again 4 years ago. Then I sort of forgot about it, until God spoke again 2 years ago when this whole new adventure was beginning. We knew without a doubt the name was One City and our mission would be to unite our city as ONE. I hope you go check out our website, sign up to stay in the loop and get involved!! We are excited and hopeful and we would be lying if didn’t say we weren’t a little bit scared…taking one step at a time and walking in faith and settling for nothing less than unity in Jesus.

To see some great pictures of how this all began, I encourage you to visit the website of “One City” and discover just how amazing this is for our community.  Perhaps your own community could benefit from the inspiration!  

http://www.raelennaferguson.com

Be sure to go read the short story and also visit our [One City] full website http://www.onecityunite.org. Sign up to stay connected and ways to get involved and follow us on social media. One City needs you.

We are ONE–Ephesians 4:4-6 T’here is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

I encourage you all to take a look at this endeavor and learn how you can make a difference in your own community.

Until next time,

Cheers!

Advertisements

How the Cat ‘Rocked’ the Boat

Standard

IMG_2173

I don’t know how many of your mornings begin, but I felt I had to write about the way mine started today.  If your house is anything like ours, mornings are not a great adventure. They are very stressful with people running around like crazy, clothes flying everywhere, and someone usually leaves without brushing their teeth.  Why getting two kids and myself ready for school is stressful is beyond my comprehension, but it is (of course a snooze alarm has everything to do with the situation).

So, as I sleepily stumbled into my daughter’s room this morning, the haze of slumber suddenly lifted.  Why you ask?  There was a crime scene.  Now, before I go forward with this tale, I need to back up a bit.  My daughter has a very inquisitive mind, and she recently acquired a rock collection.  This particular collection came with twenty or so different types of rocks which make up all those lovely gemstones you learned about in freshman earth science, or the kind you see at family vacation gift shops.  Each pretty little stone was nestled delicately in a plastic tray, accompanied by a book to explain about rock formations and information regarding each stone.  And this collection was something very special to my daughter, and she was proud of her collection.  I was proud of it for her!

Another thing you should know is my daughter has a cat named Cookie.  This was a rescue kitten she begged to bring home after helping out at a friend’s veterinarian office last year.  She nursed this kitten and took it under her maternal wing, so of course, the cat was going to become a family pet.  How does one argue with humanitarianism? And I am a sucker for any baby animal that has fur.  The cat also sleeps with my daughter, every night, and completely tears up her room while she peacefully rests.  If you know anything about cats, they are the laziest creatures on earth.  I think a slug accomplishes more than a cat does in one day.  Our cat is no exception, and he chooses to sleep all day and spend several hours each night running around the house or climbing anything that stands still.  He also destroys things because of his “Feline Ninja” obstacle course.  So last night my daughter brought her newly acquired rock collection upstairs to keep safely on her dresser…along with her precocious cat.

Now that you know the background, you might be able to piece together the details of the crime scene I witnessed as I tried to get my daughter up for school this morning.  As I walked into her room and turned on the lights, I noticed several of those precious little gems sprawled all over her floor, and the case had even more missing.  Panic started to set in as sleep hastily left my foggy brain.  Oh. My. Gosh.  All those rocks are not in their properly labeled spots, and I have no idea where they all go, or if I can find them!  What if the cat ate one?  Will I be hovering over the litter box for the next few days?  She saw my horrified expression before I could mask it and play the entire thing off.  Can you blame me?  I had not even had the first drop of coffee!

“My rocks! Noooooooo!” she wailed to me, tears beginning to well in her eyes.  Oh Lord, no.  Not right now when we have exactly twenty-five minutes to get dressed, get breakfast, make lunch and get out the door on time.  I console her and say I will look for the rocks on the floor and she should begin getting dressed.  Now, for those of you reading this and who know me, you probably also know that I HATE to loose things.  I hate losing puzzle pieces, game pieces, pairs of socks, and even lego pieces (crazy, I know).  So I really can’t figure out whose face was more horrified when seeing the overturned rock tray, myself or my daughter!  My obsessive-compulsive mind started to take over and I could feel the urgency to start looking.  My husband walks in and I tactfully pretend to be helping get my daughter ready while picking up rocks, but I was also going back and forth between standing and lying on the ground, trying to find the rocks.  Argh, I needed to get dressed too, though!!! Deep breath, I know I will find them.  So let’s focus on the immediate task at hand; getting ready for school.

As my first-born child sniffled and whimpered her way through the morning routine, I found myself ignoring this logical piece of advice, and instead found myself sprawled flat on the ground, scouring under every piece of furniture in her room, plucking up tiny pieces of semi-precious stones, old jelly beans (gross), and pieces of golf ball-sized lint.  Some rocks were trapped under her dresser, so I had to get a long stick to reach them and pull them out of their dusty grave.  While I am doing this, the culprit to the crime decided to join me.  Here comes Cookie the Cat.  Cats have this innate ability to give you a look of utter disdain no matter what the case.  They sneer their whiskers at you, subtly letting you know you are the dumbest thing that ever walked the planet, all while playing with a dust bunny from under the rug.  This is exactly what Cookie did to me while I am belly down on the ground in my pajamas, trying to solve a huge crisis before going downstairs to get breakfast made and a lunch packed.  Oh wait, I still need to get dressed too.

I turn my head to the side while elbowing through the trenches of my nine-year-old’s room, and there he is, poised like the Sphinx in Egypt.  I peered into Cookie’s yellow eyes while they bored holes into my soul.  I knew he was laughing inwardly because this cat KNOWS the entire scene is his fault.  He knocked over the tray and decided to play “rock hockey” all night long in my daughter’s room.  He also knows I will spend every waking minute looking for each and every stinking rock until that tray is completely restored.  Yep, he has become the Cheshire Cat from “Alice and Wonderland.”  Cat, score one thousand eighty-four; human still has a score of zero.

Needless to say, after endless searching and telling the cat to kiss off a few times, I eventually did find all the rocks.  I was forced stop halfway through the rescue and recovery process this morning because I HAD to get dressed and get things ready to go since I needed to drive the kids to school.  But the minute I came home I found myself wading through dust bunnies and dead ladybugs trying to rescue each and every rock that was lost.  I succeeded, and all the rocks came home safe and sound.  Not sure my daughter appreciated the means to get this task accomplished, but that is okay.  All my socks, I mean rocks, were safely home and in their proper place.  The world was right, and the cat continued to prey the weak and lonely in our home, unmoved by all the drama he created this morning.  Come on, he’s a cat and he doesn’t give a lick.

If you have a cat or a dog, you can probably appreciate how fast they can raise the household terror level to red.  But they are a part of the family, and now my daughter knows she needs to put anything special and small under lock and key so the cat doesn’t try to break in and destroy.  Little life lessons learned in under twenty minutes, and I still had time to make a to-go cup of coffee.  Life is good, and I hope you can find humor in some of the curveballs life throws you this weekend.

Until next time,

Cheers

 

Kale Salad with a Twist

Standard

fullsizeoutput_7266

It has been a while since I last posted anything on this blog.  Between Easter holidays and a never-ending schedule of activities, writing has taken a back burner in my life.  But, yesterday I found myself at home doing some editing and decided I needed some good greens in my life.  That morning I had mad a quick run to the store and picked up a few of my favorite staples, such as lacinato kale and fresh avocados.  For a healthy lunch, without any animal protein, I created a salad I will definitely be making again in the future.

The ingredients for this salad are as follows:

  • 3 leaves of lacinato kale, ribs removed, sliced or torn
  • 1 ripe avocado, diced
  • 4 or 5 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1/3 of an English cucumber, diced
  • 1/4 of red onion, sliced
  • 1/4 can of organic black beans, drained
  • 1/2 cup of edamame, shelled
  • 1/2 cup of chopped fresh parsley, curly or flat leaf is fine

I gathered my ingredients in a bowl and then made the dressing, which was the juice of half a lemon, 1/4 cup of really good extra virgin olive oil, 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar, 1 or 2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard, 1 clove of finely chopped garlic, salt, and pepper to taste.  I mixed up the dressing ingredients in a separate bowl and tasted it before pouring on my salad.  If you feel it needs a little more of one of the ingredients, adjust to your liking.  Everyone has different tastes, so make it your own!

I tossed the ingredients together and then just ate it straight out of the mixing bowl.  It was so yummy and I felt like I was really giving my body some good ingredients.  The kale is like food for superheroes.  It is amazing what this green leafy vegetable gives the body, like provide iron, calcium, Vitamin C, and even protein.  Avocado gave me really healthy fats, as did the good olive oil.  Good fat can be your friend, and your body needs it to function daily.  The parsley and cucumber are good for detoxifying and parsley can help your breath.  The black beans and edamame gave me the needed protein to help me stay full longer and build lean muscle.  Tomatoes provide lycopene, and they added a nice texture to the salad.

What I didn’t finish yesterday I ate again today for lunch and it was even better.  The dressing helped break down the kale leaves, making them more tender.  So, the longer it sits to marinate, the better the outcome.  But I wouldn’t go over a day in the fridge because you want the ingredients to be as fresh as possible.

Hope you enjoy my latest inspiration in the kitchen!

Until next time,

Cheers!

The Unexpected Leading to the Uncorked

Standard

A pile of used wine corks.

I had an interesting experience this weekend with my two children, and as I flesh this piece out you will hopefully empathize a bit with me here.  To start with, my husband’s family lost an aunt a few days ago and we had to travel north towards St. Louis for the funeral.  It was going to be a short ceremony so the hubs and I figured it would be fine to let the kids come.  Other family members were going and they don’t get to see the kids much anyway, so what the heck, right?

Now, I don’t know how many of you out there have attended a funeral with children.  But let me just break it down a bit for you here.  My 9-year-old daughter had a thousand questions about it all, and my son was just wanting to know when it was over so he could talk again.  In actuality, I was very proud of my children and how they behaved.  I also thought it very intuitive of my daughter to be so inquisitive about the entire “death process.”  Neither of my children showed timidity when it was our turn to step up and stand next to the casket.  My son, who is 5, made a few loose comments and then just sat down in the front row and waited for the rest of us to do our thing.  I don’t think he really understood what was going on, to be quite honest.

My daughter, on the other hand, knew exactly what was happening,  Unfortunately, her life has already endured two funerals, both for her grandfathers, and they were under a year apart.  So she has a better grasp of death, and all the ramifications it has on a person, after watching my husband and I go through those experiences.  But this funeral was not like those, and she felt more open to ask questions and try to understand what this whole “bury the dead” entailed.

I chuckled a little bit to myself when I had to keep telling her not to touch her great-aunt. I mean, you don’t see that one every day!  “Mom, there is a bug that keeps flying around on her face!”  I told her just let it be and come sit down.  “No, mom.  I need to get it off.”  At this point I was gently grabbing her arm, trying to tug her in my direction towards the seats.  “Mom…”  Oh Lord, here we go again.  “Today’s April Fool’s Day, so are you sure this isn’t a prank?”  If I could insert the “smack my head” emoji here, I totally would because that is exactly how I felt.  I am pretty sure China heard her ask this question.  Suddenly my mind blasted a picture of this lovely woman, who was resting peacefully in her casket, sit up and yell out “just kidding!”  I guess that is what you expect when you take kids to things like this.  You go in holding your breath that nothing odd or disrespectful is said, but that gets squashed the first five minutes you walk in the door.

Just when I thought I had pulled my daughter away, she was right back up there by the casket, examining every nook and cranny.  Swiftly walking towards her I see her suddenly take one of the poor woman’s fingers and lift it up! Now I am almost running, in heels, towards my daughter while saying her name under my breath so it doesn’t echo throughout the room.  I didn’t want to be harsh because I know she was just curious, but heaven help me if someone saw her do it.  My husband saw it happen too, and he was closer to intervene.  Luckily at this point, we finally had everyone sit down so we could start the service.  Once we were graveside, my daughter then wanted to know about the pallbearers and how that all worked.  Then it was investigating the final resting place and the ground around it.  The questions never stopped and my husband and I tried to answer them as best we could.

In the grand scheme of things, it was a lovely ceremony and I have a feeling our aunt would have chuckled a bit at my daughter’s impertinence.  You just never know what you are going to get when you have children with you.  But I do know you have to just laugh it off and chuck it up as a good story to tell when she is older.  Parenting is such an endeavor and so hard, but also so fun and rewarding.  Stories like this remind me what fun children can be, and how innocent and beautiful their minds are compared to ours.  The tarnish of reality and age have not set in on how they view the world, and I find myself a bit envious of it all.

After getting through the day’s events, I thought it appropriate to open a nice bottle of wine from my dad’s collection.  I know he would have gotten a big kick out of the entire ordeal and all the questions my daughter asked yesterday.  I have this warm feeling that both my dad and my father-in-law are chuckling together in heaven, basking in the wonder of their granddaughter.

Once we made it safely home, I decided it was a great night to open up some wine.  Can you blame me on this one?  My head was still spinning a bit from the deluge of funeral and death questions.  I figured the wine I chose was going to be done Russian Roulette style.  The day had sort of held that theme.  I picked a 1990 Newton Cabernet Sauvignon from California.  It was delicious, and I am still drinking on it today as I compose this piece.

For a wine that is 27 years old, it still holds up.  But I think I need to see if other bottles are lurking around because it needs to be drunk.  With notes of blackberry and vanilla, the wine smelled so good after I opened it.  On the palate, the tannins mellowed out and had a slightly bitter taste, but in a good way.  Something you would expect, perhaps, from a wine like this.  The only thing I found lacking was the taste finished very short, so that is probably why it needs to be drunk now.

It still amazes me how wine holds up after so many years, kind of like parents.  We get through the battles and have a few scars.  But in the end, we tend to mellow out and enjoy the wonders life has to offer.  Whatever life brings your way, I hope you can at least enjoy the moment, perhaps with a glass of your favorite wine.

Until next time,

Cheers!