Last year we made the official announcement that we were planting a church on the NorthEast side of Grand Rapids. This past January they gave us the keys to a beautiful old building, a well loved home for our new church. We soaked in the pictures of the beautiful sanctuary together, and you all offered your most sincere prayers.
We had so many dreams starting out, I was going to write weekly updates and blog about the church plant, both here and on our church website. We were going to be a place of authenticity that made space for brokenness and lament, a community that could weathered life’s seasons and hard questions together.
A community that engaged creativity
That loved our neighborhoods by being a part of them, shouldering burdens, being present.
I committed to bring my true self to this church, not the paper doll pastor’s wife I felt I should be.
We labored over a name and many of you got involved by taking a survey.
We bought a house specifically so we could be nearby the church and engage our neighborhood with Christ-centered hearts, loving honestly and opening our home. We wanted to be authentic members of our community with no agenda other than to show love.
I saw so many dinners and real-true conversations happening in these rooms when we walked through this home for the first time.
Sometime this summer I stopped writing about the church plant, because well, when things aren’t going well you’re generally not the first to bring it up, you deflect or hope no one will ask.
Last week Wednesday Kel and I sat in a meeting where we agreed that it was time to close the book on our little church plant.
We realize that this seems soon and know that the decision wasn’t ours alone, the conference that supports us felt that it was time to move our family on to something else, to allow us time to rest and to realize that the team that had promised to show up to support us in this, wasn’t coming.
The churches that promised members and families wouldn’t be sending anyone and that ten months of going it alone was enough for us.
When I write about how hard life has been this summer, now you know why. This has been so, so hard on our family.
It’s painful to fail at something when you feel like you’re failing God, failing at faith.
There were many times when Kel and I took our frustration out on each other saying things like “maybe if you’d only” and throwing the blame at each other as we ached.
Losing our parents was hard on our marriage, but somehow? Somehow this was harder on us. Not a greater loss, but it was much harder to stay together in our pain.
Maybe if we pray harder? Are you praying enough? I’m not… maybe that’s why? Maybe we suck at faith, what are we even doing and why?
When we started this, there were many friends who came forward to talk to us about their experiences with church planting, and to be honest they were usually painful stories. Stories of heartache that lead to seasons of examining their own faith, feeling cynical and even drifting from the church because it all felt more like a business than a bride.
Seasons of walking through church doors wondering what they did so well that you did so wrong.
There were some that questioned us honestly in the beginning, asking why the world needed another church in the first place. I get that cynicism too, but even after all this pain I still believe in church planting, some of it, somehow.
So now, here we are ten months down the road with nothing to show for our work but a box of t-shirts with no one to wear them bearing a logo that will go generally unused.
We are grieving, questioning, a little ashamed and just generally sad.
If you’ve been around long, you know that I’m hard on myself…. really, unfairly hard on myself. So I’ll be drifting in and out of mental sessions where I throw us under the bus all while trying very hard to temper those thoughts with logic, grace and deep breathes while we trudge through this season of church plant postmortem.
We are going to be fine financially and the conference Kel works for is going to find him a new appointment and work in the meantime. This might mean another move, it could be a few hours away but oh God, I really hope not.
And yes, we could use your prayers and your encouragement as we wade through this season.
Pray that we can read true words, talk good walks and engage in things that are a balm to our wounded souls, rather than hide in misery and netflix binging.
Pray that Kel will find peace as a pastor without a church for a while as he waits tables instead of writing sermons and hearing stories.
Pray that I don’t wander into anger more than is needed to heal.
And honestly, pray that his next job doesn’t take us too far away from the friends and family we love and moved home to share life with.
Thank you for your support and encouragement, your kind words and prayers. Life is messy, risks are still worth taking, failure will always be hard and life is comprised of all sorts of seasons.
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