Saturday, July 31, 2010

Jasper

I decided to write this post in response to a comment on my last post from the Ahlstrom family regarding my jasper collection.

My first introduction to jasper was about 20 years ago. My aunt Brenda was in town (Nashville) visiting us and we went downtown to visit some local shops for some basic touristy shopping. There was a street vendor selling rocks. At that time, I discovered a red jasper stone and a tiger eye stone that I loved. I bought them. I assumed at that time that jasper was only red. I had no idea how wide a variety the stone could be. Over the years, I have found a few red jasper stones that I have liked and kept.

About 3 years ago I traveled to a beach in Florida with some of my girlfriends and visited a shop. I fell in love with a stone necklace there and learned from the store owner that it was jasper. This took me a little by surpirse, because the stone was not red at all. It was then and there that I learned jasper comes in a hundred or more varieties, from all over the world.

Why does this matter? It doesn't.

Except that the book of Revelation in the Bible has many verses that describe the New Heaven and New Earth and many of the descriptions include surfaces (floors/walls) made of jasper and other stones. Some quartz, etc. But jasper is mentioned several times. This works beautifully for me as a vision. Now that I have seen so many varieties of beautiful jasper, I can envision my own idea of Heaven. Here, in this life, we emphasize beauty in many natural stones by using it for flooring, kitchen counters, bathroom surfaces, etc. But no one uses jasper for anything. Not to my knowledge anyway. Perhaps it isn't available in huge sheets and slabs like granite or soap stone. I don't know. Perhaps God is saving jasper for floors in Heaven because it is so incredibly beautiful and varied. I of course, don't know. This is why my blog is called "jasper walls". I am referring to the walls of jasper that will make up the new Heaven and new earth according to the scriptures. This life is my journey to Heaven.

Now, don't get me wrong.... I do not at all imagine Heaven to be like a hotel. I do not imagine that I will arrive there someday, check in, be issued my room key, and live forever in a room constructed of jasper. But I do believe there will be jasper. A lot of it. And because it is so rare and unused in this life, I can hold a jasper rock in my hand and I can see it as a special creation by God...so special in fact that it will adorn the walls of Heaven. When I hold a jasper stone in my hand, I am reminded that this life is a journey and a mission, literally. I am reminded that there is reward and beauty in Heaven that I cannot begin to imagine or fathom, but that there is much work to do here before I go there....and I'm thankful to have something inside of me that wants to take this seriously.

When I visited Zimbabwe for the first time, I discovered a rock vender who sells many varieties of jasper. So many varieties and so many colors....amazing. On that first trip, I bought a piece of ocean jasper that was said to have been found off the coast near Cape Town, South Africa. I bought another piece of jasper also, but cannot recall it's name. On that first trip, I saw a rock that i loved, called picasso jasper, but it was so big and so expensive that I didn't have enough money to purchase it. I bargained and the guy did lower his price quite a bit, but I still couldn't afford it. On my 2nd trip to Zim, I specifically took enough money to purchase that rock at the bargain price, if it was still there. It was and I bought it. I also bought 2 more small pieces...and they are such a variety of colors and I do not know the names of them. But in addition to several pieces of red jasper that I have, I also have the one large picasso jasper and 5 other jasper stones that I keep on display in my house. The big picasso jasper rock is about as large as a big potato, and shaped about the same. The other pieces that I have are slightly smaller than an egg. They are very special to me.

So, most of my jasper stones have come from Africa. I also found a bead vendor locally that sells a lot of beads made of a variety of jasper and I have since made a necklace and a bracelet for myself.

So there you have it.... I do love jasper. It excites me.

Thank you Ahlstrom family for inquring..and yes I would love to receive some of your jasper stones if you ever find them from storage. And i'd love to know where they are from and any other info that you might have. You are a sweet family and I'm grateful for the way that you participate in my life through the blog, the emails, and most especially the prayers. I'm so happy to know you all. God bless your sweet family!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

this week

I have been blessed beyond measure to receive my little cousin from the airport on Monday night. She is staying with us for a week and I have to admit...I'm having a wonderful time with her. She is 13. Emmalee. We all love her, and with good reason, she is precious. So far...we have been dining, driving, going to Movies, swimming and we are going to hit some shops for the next two days. Oh, and the pedi. We had pedi's. I love having a girl in our house. And not just any girl...but one of the most precious on the planet.

I also have a quick Zim update. I have reached my goal this week. I am waiting to receive a couple of other donations that should be coming in soon, but taking those into account...I have reached my goal. Sweet SB paid $50 to my paypal account. I received $25 from EP in the mail and one of my dear sisters sent me $1,000. I am so thankful! Honestly, I'm speechless, again. God uses so many sweet people to provide the funding for my trips to Zim. I am so grateful to Him and to them. I am still spending several hundred of my own, but that is totally okay with me. As I have mentioned before, they are worth every penny. My prayer now is just that the amount of cash I take will suffice. I don't know how much my food will cost... and I'm hoping to have enough money at the end to purchase another jasper stone for my collection.

I'd write more, but the kids are waiting "patiently" for me to take them to the swimming pool. Here we go!

Monday, July 26, 2010

A Change is Gonna Come

In a few weeks, my life will be radically different than it is today. That might seem like an overblown statement when I tell you why, but I can tell you it isn't overblown at all.

For 5 1/2 years I have been "mommy" again. Apparently Joe and I responded right on time to God's calling for us to be parents. Asher was and is the most delightful joy in my heart, beyond adequate words to describe. His baby brother (now 3 1/2) is the cherry on top of the cherry on top of the cherry on top of the icing on the cake. Spencer - he's the cake.

Spencer is currently apartment hunting. He has no furniture, no eating utensils, no towels, no dishes. But he will soon have an apartment. And as if that isn't radical enough....for the first time in 5 1/2 years, Asher will be in school full-time and Shawnie will be in school almost full-time. Instead of 1 full day and 4 half days, Shawn will go to school 3 full days and 2 half days.

Soon, I will have THREE "free days" instead of only one. Days where I can actually clean my house, be less stressed about the work I have to complete, plan menus, paint rooms, take stuff to goodwill, work in my flower garden, read, write, make lunch plans, exercise....and perhaps even take a few naps here and there.

I head toward this time with mixed emotions. It is overwhelming but exciting.

If you're a mostly stay-at-home mom who has experienced this before....I'd love to hear from you what you most enjoyed about this transition.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Spirit Invasion

I do have updates on my Zim fundraising. My old friend B gave me $200. My friends S&B gave me $370 toward my expenses and $200 toward a computer for Fatima. S gave me $100. P gave me $50. D&B gave me $150 I received payment this week for a few hours of consulting I did for $100. So yes, my fundraising is making progress and I am SO thankful. To date, I have received $1,990 toward my expenses. AND, I have already purchased the netbook computer for Fatima!!! Praise God!

My airfare is $2,800+, $350 for lodging, $30 for the visa. I'm not sure how much my food will cost. I will not be taking any excursions or side trips.

I would love to raise the additional $900 for my airfare. As I have mentioned before, I am prepared to spend $1,000 of my own money.

The countdown is on. I will board a plane to fly to Zim, in 11 days. My initial excitement is geared toward seeing the faces of the kids and hugging them! I also cannot wait to hear them sing and dance. They always perform for me and it is amazing, beyond words to describe. They project such loud and clear voices, with amazing harmonies and rhythm. They sing in their native Shona tongue. Lovejoy plays the conga drum, and they all dance. I will sit and stare at them with tears running down my face and a plastered smile incapable of being broken. Boaz will lead the troop in their performance. He can captivate any audience all by himself. That boy can dance like nobody's business. And his smile is off the charts.

I cannot wait to see Sarah. The story of her past abandonment is just so devastating. No matter what, any child losing their family to the ravages of Aids is horrifying. But for some reason, when I picture Sarah in the brush, unable to find love from her grandparents.....running from wild baboons, I sink a little inside myself. A little girl running scared, in search of someone to save her....just rings a little differently than a boy. I believe that every child who made their way to Fatima was surrounded by heavenly angels.

Boaz carried his little sister a very long distance to a doctor and watched her die. No one cared enough about her to help Boaz transport her. So he picked her up and walked for miles and miles.

Keldon lost his parents and his twin brother to Aids.

Some of the kids have been too reserved to share their stories with me, but I deeply hope and pray that after several days with me this time, I will know them all. I want to know Emily better. Emily is stunning and shy. Her little voice is so sweet. I want to hear her story. Precious has a wild, gorgeous afro. Her smile covers her entire face. She says she loves me like a mother. I want to know her story. These young ladies are strong. They are so strong.

They are so intrigued by my life. No, not my American life, but my life as a "mum". They want to know about my children. They like to ask me questions about how I love them and how I relate to them. They ask me very hard questions and I give them very honest answers. I can't help but wonder if they are seeking a glimpse of how their mothers would love them if only their mothers were still here. They look for my joy and they imagine hers. They look for my love and they find hers. I'm not sure....but that is how it seems to me.

If you are a mom and if you have ever wondered what your children would do without you....well, they would look for you in the face and hearts of others.

I have worked myself into tears this morning. I want to do everything in God's plan for me to do while I am in Zim. I want to share every word He would prepare and I want to comfort anyone who needs it. I want to be prepared for laughter and for tears. He is sending me as a minister and a messenger. He expects me to allow them to explore and He requires me to be real. It's harder than you might think. Sometimes they lead me to drudge up things I'd rather forget. They are teenagers and that is what teenagers do. They are facing a very difficult life of independence in Zim. Their challenges are hardly even imaginable to our American minds. I am weak and unworthy of this opportunity. Please pray for a mighty spirit invasion into my heart.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Through and Through

Sometimes these words run through my mind.

..."through and through"

These words lead me to a myriad of thoughts. I picture a grocery store aisle. I'm searching all over for some random product. And what about that crazy spice section? Have you ever searched through and through to find something?

Sometimes I see the toy box. There is no counting the number of times I have searched through and through to help one of my kids find the tiniest toy on earth. At times I find cracker crumbs, remnants of broccoli, puzzle pieces....but oh for that tiny wheel or the shrunken little man that is supposed to be piloting the tiny little plane. Through and through I search.

Ever lost a photo or a special letter? Gone through the attic or the basement through and through every box, so many times over and over not willing to give up, and to the point that you now know by heart where everything is? Everything but that one thing?

You ever dig through the junk drawer, through and through, to find the address or phone number you wrote down yesterday and now cannot find?

Through and through seems so intense, so detailed......like nearly physically unearthing something. Doesn't through and through reveal so much. Maybe you find what you aren't even looking for. Or perhaps you clean out a bunch of clutter in the process.

One of my favorite scriptures over the pass few months, one that haunts me at times like today. 1 Thessalonians 5:23 "May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Sanctify means "to be made holy" or "to be set apart". And sanctification means "Act of God by which believers become more and more conformed to Christ's image."

I love this repetition of the word "through". He will not just sanctify me and you. He will sanctify us through and through. He will search and shape every part of us. Everything broken. Everything small. Everything hidden. Everything dusty. Everything rotted. All things shredded. All things torn. All things missing, altogether. There can be no such thing as external sanctification, only internal. And this process means that His spirit is going to search us through and through. He will touch every aspect of our character, our thoughts, heart, emotions, sins, and more. And by being a willing agent, this process will shape us more and more into the image of Christ himself....not His external image, but His internal image. Our hopes will be more and more like His. Our love will be more and more like His. Our passion will be more and more like His.

We may be stretched and rearranged when He is doing His work, and surely by the time He is done. But in the "through and through", we will be "more and more." We will be set apart and holy.

Friday, July 16, 2010

My Morning

Oh there is such glory in the silence. I know, right? I mean, I'm up early and the kids are asleep and these are the moments when I can dream. I didn't even realize that I still had dreams left in me. My moments of the noisy day are spent organizing, coordinating, hesitating, dreading, cleaning, emailing, work calls, fussing at the dog, wondering why there are so many more weeds in my yard this year..... but the silence. The boys are still sound asleep. The sun is up and little birds feed themselves around my flower garden. The chipmunk comes to the low bird feeders and he stores food for the winter. Where does he go in the winter anyway?

The early morning quiet is when I do some bible study. Mornings like this as there is a countdown for my next trip, I think about those kids. I think about the Africa air, the calls of unfamiliar birds, and the eyes of the strangers I will come in contact who will first take me for a mean white person, and then will soften when they quickly realize I have a smile and a softness toward them.

I hear the sounds of dirty laundry sitting, waiting, needing to be tended to. I hear the sounds of the coffee maker, as it sits still and cradles my warm delight. Oh how rare the silence is, and how much I love it.

Shawn wakes with a growl. It's a soft, lonely growl. I think it is equivalent to the morning stretch. He springs forth and approaches the top of the stairs, spots me with an extra large grin, and he slowly descends the stairs toward me in the garden chair. The closer he gets to me the faster he travels. His arms reach and his smile transitions to that look of anticipation and knowing that he is about to receive the best.morning.snuggles.ever. He pulls up. I help. He straddles my waist facing me, inserts the thumb into his mouth, leans left onto my right shoulder while my arm cradles his precious little body. He stares into my eyes with a sweet smile forming around his thumb, for 5 minutes, in beautiful silence.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

$25 today and a letter worth a million

I received $25 today for my mission trip. Thank you so so so much SC. You are very sweet peeps. Your letter was beautiful and inspiring. Thank you SO much.

I have also received some emails asking me who the people are in the photos below from a previous post. Well, the hot brunette is me, of course. (Ha). And the sexy bald man is the hubs. You know my boys by now.

The myriad of beautiful women include my 2 cousins, Leslie and Theresa, my precious friend Tracy, and my little cousin Emmalee. Tracy's son Jackson is in one of the photos and my cousins' son Christian is the happy little one. Thanks for asking! They are basically all peeps who bring me much happiness. I just love 'em.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

What if YOU were a teenager, WITHOUT PARENTS, and ON THE STREETS?

Below is an email that I sent out to explain my mission, and to raise funds. A friend of mine who wasn't even a recipient of this email called yesterday to tell me that she has $370 for me. Yay and PRAISE GOD. I still need to raise $1,400 - $2,100. I really need help. Thanks so much for reading!




Dear Friends & Family,


I am sending an email to save postage. Please forgive the de-personalization of a mass email.

I am returning to Zimbabwe in August, for my 3rd solo missions trip. I have booked my flights to depart on Aug 4 and return on Aug 13. Each flight takes two days, so I will be on the ground with the children in the orphanage for 6 full days. This time I will be visiting only 1 orphanage rather than 5. If you have been a part of my journeys before, or the recent truck fundraiser, you will know that I have developed a very close and special relationship with a group of 15 orphaned teenagers in Zimbabwe. They range in age from 15 - 19. Some have HIV Aids. All are facing the harsh reality of life as an orphan in Zim, and that is that they will all be forced onto the streets when they "graduate" from the orphanage. Their orphanage founder does everything she can to raise money for them to go to school to learn a trade, or even Bible school...but still many will turn to drugs, prostitution, or theft, if they are manipulated or brainwashed by strangers to believe that those are their only options for survival.

Due to the Aids epidemic, the average life expectancy in Zim is age 27. Treatments, anti-virals are available and all of these kids who are infected now are receiving their meds. When they are forced out of the welfare system by their government, they might rapidly decline and face an early, unnecessary death. Their country does not care about them, in the slightest. They are alive today because Fatima cares for them. When she is legally forced to push them out, they will need buckets of hope.

For whatever reason, these kids love and trust me. Their orphanage director (& founder), Fatima, believes that I can motivate them and inspire them to be more and do more than what their own country believes in. And I believe this too. But my understanding and belief is simply that God is preparing me for this, not at all that I can do it on my own. I can know this firmly and soundly because of His presence with me specifically on my first trip to Zim. Their questions were intense. My answers were delivered of my voice, however the words were quite honestly, supernatural. If I could ever know with confidence that I have ever been used as a vessel of the Holy Spirit, it was then. And it is now. And this is all I know. I am going back to inject their spirits with hope. I have been the recipient of hope. Over the years of my life, hope has been gifted to me by random people at various times and with a multitude of consequences. I know first-hand how powerful it is to be encouraged and motivated. I have a gift to encourage. My plan is to exhaust that gift over a 6 day period in Zimbabwe, even if it somehow means that I do not eat or sleep. I might come home empty and depleted, and that is okay.

My airfare was $2,400. I paid for that with $1120 in mission donations and my credit card holds the balance. I will have to pay for lodging and food, my visa to enter the country, and incidentals. I would like to purchase a laptop computer for Fatima (approx $600). I need to raise a minimum of $1800 more and up to $2500 more. The more I raise, the more possible it becomes for me to purchase a computer for Fatima, which she needs.

If you can help to support me as a sender on this mission, I am asking that you do so right away. I will need to receive funds no later than July 24. However, if you need to mail me a post-dated check, that will be fine. I can wait as late as July 30 to deposit any checks that I receive. Once again, this is not a tax deduction, because I am not a charitable organization. However, I do believe that in God's economy, there are many deductions, rewards, and benefits to supporting the missionary for His kingdom. I also just happen to believe the benefit of the sacrifice is greater than anything that can be measured.

Please know that any amount is humbly appreciated. Every dollar matters so much. I truly cannot express the magnitude of the value of each dollar. Please feel free to send $5 if that is all that you can afford right now. It all adds up in the end and I could not be more grateful.

If you have a computer connection and have the ability to help me provide a computer for Fatima, one that can be used on a Zim electrical system (or converted somehow) please contact me about this.

Thank you as always for reading my plea and considering a donation. Asking for contributions is by far the hardest part for me. Indeed, the kids are worth it.

Please mail donations to me at 6840 Bridgewater Drive, Nashville, TN 37221.

Please don't hesitate to ask me questions or share your thoughts with me. I am always so appreciative of the prayers, the words of encouragement and the motivation to not give up. I need those things as much, if not more, than the generous donations.

P.S. I will be posting this letter on my blog website as well. If you have friends, coworkers or family that you can share this with, it would be a great blessing. Please direct them to www.untilthejasperwalls.blogspot.com Thank you again! I WILL ALSO BEGIN UPDATING THE DONATIONS ON MY BLOG SO THAT YOU CAN KEEP TRACK OF THE PROGRESS.

Be blessed. Thank you.

Always,
Melissa Irwin




Monday, July 12, 2010

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Times 3

Today I am filled with many emotions about my upcoming trip back to Zim. I can see the kids and hear their voices with very little effort in reflection. My memory is working overtime as my heart prepares to see them again. The first time I went, I had no idea what to expect. But that trip was amazing. The second time I went, I had much more expectation and some disappointment. This next trip offers the most opportunity for me to pour hope and encouragement into the kids. My heart is being impressed each day as I lead up to my departure on Aug. 4 and my reunion with the kids on Aug 6. I have become aware in my spirit that I have to pour out buckets of hope to the 15 teenagers. I have to encourage them against the realities of a harsh world in Africa when they are released from the care of an orphanage. I have to warn them and somehow inspire them to overcome. I have to encourage them to climb obstacles that most run from. I have to motivate them to choose purity over the false promises of salvation via theft, prostitution and drug dealing. I have to remind them that God is with them, no matter what. And I need to pass on the teaching that my own pastor (Pete) has taught...and that is...."if you are absolutely confident that God is with you, then how would you live in your circumstance?"

I am excited to return, yet I am heavy. Please keep me in your prayers. I know that our Heavenly Father is preparing my heart for this. His Spirit is traveling with me, and I am seeking His words alone to speak to the children. Please let me know if you are a prayer partner with me on this journey. I need you. Thank you!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

We're Back from Over Yonder

My boys behaved like old, long road trip traveling pros.

The ate food out of other peoples fridges, like pros.

The pee'd in other peoples potty's, like pros.

They fought over other kiddo's toys, like pros.

The watched cartoons on other people's tv's, like pros.

They fell off of other peoples beds, like pros.

They whined about other peoples vegetables, like pros.

I cannot believe that we just spent 10 days traveling to 3 major cities, by car, in the sun, and even at one point in flood waters. We saw fireworks. We stayed up super late. We stayed in 2 hotels, 3 houses and played in 4 playrooms. We had the most fantabulous time. My children completely blew me away at how adaptable they are.

It really is true. Your house is not your home. Your home is where your family is. And we were all over the place. Well, all over Texas, but you know, I think Texas is bigger than Zimbabwe.

Speaking of Zim - my flight is booked. I'm going on Aug 5 and still need to raise tons of funds. Please contact me if you can help support this mission trip.

Later, y'all!




Thursday, July 8, 2010

Houston, We Have a Problem

The problem......we are loving Texas and might not want to ever go home.

We have been to Ft. Worth to visit family, then on to Austin to visit more family and a treasured friend, and now we are in Houston visiting friends. The sweetest part about this Houston trip is that Tracy, my friend, has really just become my friend through facebook and blogging. We went to high school together, but we didn't really know each other back then. I love how facebook can cause a spark. I have been truly blessed to develop friendships with some women I went to high school with...even though our circles were not the same at the time. So - we are truly enjoying Tracy and her precious family. I just feel blessed to be welcomed so openly into so many homes across Texas. This road trip has been well worth every mile, every moment of lost sleep, and every extra calorie. (I will have to totally start my diet over when we get home.)

Texas, you are swell. And, you are hot and wet!

We drove into flash floods in Houston yesterday. In fact, we had to park 2 blocks from Tracy's house and wade through the water. Wild, eh?

Oy, that drive home is gonna be long.


Monday, July 5, 2010

regurgitate

Whoa - when I wrote the last post "Introducing Justin".....I did so for a couple of reasons, I suppose. I wasn't really consciously aware of any reasons at all at the time. I was internally purging my guilt and shame for my judgements against Justin. I literally wept through writing that post. In fact, I cried so hard that it gave me a disgusting headache and I was worthless the rest of the day. My head hurt so badly that it made me nauseous. But, I deserved that.

My blog is like a journal to me. It is the place where I feel free to write whatever I want, whatever I am thinking. It is the place where I am free to be me. As it should be. I like to live somewhat exposed. It keeps me real, and there is nothing I want more than to be real.

My blog got nearly 1,000 hits that day, thanks to a tweet I am assuming. I did not mean to have attention drawn to myself, but I'm thankful for the encouragement I received for being honest. Justin sent me an email apologizing that he wasn't who I had thought he was, back then. And you know....he never owed me that apology.

What I learned about myself especially since the Bellevue campus of our church opened.....is that I didn't realize how unforgiving I was being toward people who never owed me an apology in the first place. I have practiced the forgiveness of friends and loved ones....and for a long time have been free from the pain of grudge holding. I believe I can honestly say that I have forgiven every wrong, every pain, and every betrayal against me personally. I enjoy many healed relationships, etc. I just didn't know that I was even holding judgement against others. And wow, what an ugly look on myself. Blech! What an ugly look on any Christian.

So...anyway....thanks for all of you who left sweet comments, who sent me sweet emails, and who tweeted sweet tweets. And thanks to Justin and Trisha who embraced my post.

I am currently touring the great state of TX with some of my fam. We are having a great time with more fun yet to come. Happy Birthday America! God Bless the whole world.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Introducing Justin

I'm gonna have to be completely honest here. Usually, being honest is easy for me, for the most part. But today it's gonna be difficult. I did not like this guy. I just didn't. Years ago I did...I adored him. He was the youth pastor at a church we used to attend and my oldest son was crazy about him. He was so easy to like back then. In fact, we liked him so much, that when he and his family moved to a different state to start a church, we were in between churches and so for a while, we sent them our tithe....to help start their church that we would never attend because it was so far away. We just wanted to support a cause for Christ, and we believed in and were excited about this new church he would plant.

This is where it gets ugly. Soon his church was a success. There was growth and attendance. I assume too that their were hearts being reached and lives being changed. But this pastor engaged in an affair with a staff member, nearly destroying the lives of his wife and his three sons. Now, I'm all about grace and redemption, but apparently in my heart I held him to a higher standard. He was a pastor. I felt he was free to make a lot of mistakes. No one can be free from sin. I didn't think he was a liar or a fraud. But I was disgusted. I didn't think he should be kicked out of the church. But I also didn't think he should be a pastor any longer. And for a while, he wasn't.

Last year, one year ago exactly, Justin was hired to be the campus pastor of our newest church location in my town. It is, in fact, the closest campus to my home and so you would think I would be very eager to attend the new location. I wasn't. Because of him. My rationale was that it was just too soon. I don't think I believed he had suffered enough. Funny....that isn't my call, but in my own heart, I had an opinion. His story is amazing. He and his wife are an unbelievable example of grace, restoration, redemption, and love. And I already knew that....I just didn't think I could stomach him in the flesh. (To type this out makes me want to vomit....but I think I'm probably in the popular majority...and I'm just trying to be honest).

Our community was utterly pounded by the flood. For weeks after the flood and before the new campus launch, our community rallied to serve those who had lost nearly everything. For the few weeks before our new campus launched, I witnessed community like I had never seen before. This really endeared me to the new campus and made me want to go and visit just for the opening weekend. But no more than that...just a quick prop and then we'd get out of there. That first service was so powerful. I wept. The kids LOVED the new location. All I can say is now we are regular attenders of the new campus. We feel like we are truly at home. And pastor Justin is a humble, redeemed, forgiven sinner who I am so thankful to be able to call my pastor. I truly do not know of a better example to learn from than that of the journey, the public journey, He and his wife Trisha have walked. I am not envious of the affair, but I am truly envious (in a good way) of the love and the bond that God has constructed with His power between the two of them. He has created a ministry that will no doubt save hundreds or thousands of marriages over time. And I am willing to bank that Justin is a better pastor today than he ever could have hoped to be before his fall from grace.

I want to introduce you to Justin and his blog. I am asking for forgiveness for my harsh judgement and condemnation in my spirit towards Justin. I truly believe God has worked a miracle in Justin, his marriage and his ministry. And I am so thankful that I get to be a witness. And I am grateful for the humbling experience I have been through as a Christian with a hardened heart. We all fall short of the grace of God.

I encourage you to follow Justin's blog. It is truly incredible. I especially love the post he wrote today. I have added him to my blog list on the left side of my own blog. Or you can click here to read this incredible post.

Justin and Trish, I am sorry that my heart was cold toward you. I know you didn't know, but you do now...and I'm sorry. I'm sorry I doubted God's plan (HA!) and the leadership of Crosspoint to bring you on board. You just might be one of the sweetest deals that Crosspoint has got going. We are blessed to have you. Happy 1 year anniversary.