Wow. I feel like it should only be March! Life is flying by.

So we wanted to write this post as a catch you up/year in review /pray for us. Hopefully the pictures above better communicate the wonderful year we have had and the words below fill in the gaps.  I have also written a similar post about the ministry HERE on the AR ministry blog.

Our City- Lansing, Michigan continues to be a good home for us right now. I still do wonder what it would have been like if we had moved to Austin, Texas (we seriously contemplated this for a while). I especially wonder/daydream about this in the middle of winter! (One day Daganis, we’ll show up and stay for good!)
Moving into the city has been great. It’s a small city but it still has many of those urban challenges and charms.  Living in the city we are reminded constantly that many, even here in the U.S., live very hard lives (Book Recommendation: Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America). We need to continue to pray for our cities and seek their welfare (Jer 29:7).  This year our church has begun planting a new venue 10 minutes from our house with the compelling vision to love Lansing. #lovelansing

Our Neighborhood- Our neighborhood is pretty racially diverse and blue-collar. I like to think of myself as having a blue collar heart but I’m stuck doing a white-collar job. Haha.  We’ve met all our immediate neighbors and various others up and down the street including the Jehovah’s Witnesses who visit regularly. We are enjoying slowly getting to know them more and trying to figure out how to better serve, witness to and love all our neighbors (sharing my backyard BBQ efforts has been a good bridge). The Lord has really challenged us on this. Reorienting our lives to intentionally love those He puts around us is strangely difficult, but we are determined (Book Recommendation: The Art of Neighboring).  It is still hard for me when people throw trash out their cars or steel the benches in our park. Annie hates it when people let their Pit-bull dogs roam the neighborhood while our kids are out playing in the yard. We are not immune from those annoyances and frustrations. But in some small ways we hope to be salt and light here.

Our House- Living in our house for over a year now has been fantastic. You never know what can go wrong with a house; so far we have had just 1 porch light go out and half a tree fall down in a storm, but that’s it. As our house becomes a home we try to keep it filled with people, meaningful conversations, laughter and learning. The idea of our house being a warm, safe place for all who enter and it’s the environment we want our kids to grow up in, is very important to us. We are ridiculously blessed and seriously grateful for our home every single day.

The Family-
Judah (4) has started preschool and just thrives in that environment. He’s creative, a daydreamer and a kind hearted kid. He loves stories (especially ones where the little boy is the hero who saves the day). He asks so many questions and really enjoys new people, places and anything to do with old school Ninja Turtles. He also finally learned to use the real toilet but needs to work on his aim.
Skylah (2) it appears is the clown of the family. She has a wicked sense of humor and at the same time can be a moody little brute. She appears to be made of rubber because she’s never hurt when she falls, bumps her head or runs into things. She is growing up so incredibly fast. And it has also been confirmed that she is half raccoon, half human. Yes, we had to get a trash bin in the kitchen that locks. (Annie says I should add here, that she is also a very sweet and entertaining little raccoon.)
Annie continues to spend every waking hour and many sleeping hours being Super Mom.  With all the people coming through our home, she’s gained the skills of feeding multitudes.  In that way she is very much like Jesus. She has a good group of women in our church she does life with and blesses them with her raw honesty and humor. She is the hero of our home and the glue that keeps it all together. A Proverbs 32 woman! (Yes 31 and then some!)
Allan (29). This year I finally took the plunge and became an American citizen.  I’ve been here 13 years now and with ¾ of the family already being U.S. citizens, we felt it important that we all be on the same color passport, especially when travelling internationally. And the U.S. has really become my home in many ways.

Our Ministry- This past year of ministry was a year of refocus and preparation; we have been laying the ground work for a more focused direction. Our vision, our staff and our mission are the best they have ever been. Our renewed focus on missional discipleship and relational compassion really excites me for 2014. Please read more about this here on the ministry blog. One of the changes I am most excited about is our gifted friend Rebecca Clendenin coming on board to free me up from some of the administration load I have been carrying alone for so long. I am now freed up to recruit fundraise and mobilize for the mission.  2014 looks to be a pivotal year for AR!

Prayer Requests-

  • We both still long for deeper community and more connectedness in our lives. When our lives are overly busy and crammed with just events and commitments they aren’t healthy, they’re exhausting.  So we’re trying to figure out how to have healthier family time, better boundaries and more meaningful connectedness in all our relationships.  Pray for that for us.
  • This year we took a stab at raising our support, as the last time we did it was before we had kids. It is slow going but God has been faithful in keeping us going.  As this year has been a year of stabilizing the ministry, we have come to realize that in many ways, the more financially stable we are, the more effective our ministry efforts can be. So please continue to pray for new supporters and if your church or friends are looking for a great grassroots ministry to get behind, get them to join us!

We love this time of year. There’s nothing like shoveling snow hours on end and scraping ice off car windows. The merriment of Christmas shoppers shoving and pushing to get ahead just reminds us of what it must have been like for Mary and Joe to arrive in Bethlehem at the time of the census. And as we turn into Zombie consumers for a few weeks and give gifts, we are reminded of the greatest gift ever given. “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6 Amen.

I have been reading a good book called “The Celtic Way of Evangelism- How Christianity Can Reach The West… Again” There’s an emphasis on faith bubbling up in the mundane day to day activities. This is commonly seen in simple Celtic prayers for everyday life. I would like to end by borrowing an Irish Christmas Prayer to bless you with.

“May God grant you lightness in your step, a smile on every face you meet,
Loved ones gathered at your hearth, and at your door, good friends to greet
A holy hymn upon your lips, a window candle burning bright,
And may the Good Lord bless your Heart and come to dwell there Christmas night.”

Beannachtaí na Nollag duit : The blessings of Christmas be with you!