What Oklahoma Gave Me: Church

What Oklahoma Gave Me

Our time in Oklahoma is drawing rapidly to a close.  It’s been five years since our moving truck arrived here in Ada, OK after exiting at the Wayne Payne exit and driving through an hour of nothingness. Some days it feels like it’s flown by and then others I can’t believe we’ve ever lived anywhere else.

As I drive around town and move my feet through our awful WalMart, Our favorite park and our beloved church I’m starting to feel like a ghost. I can feel myself fading away from these spaces and it’s ever so bittersweet.

I see our footprints all over town, cataloged in moments and photographs. This place has shaped me into the woman I am today, our other homes did as well, but it feels like Ada bore the brunt of it.

My heart swells with love for this town, these roads, these walls and these people have woven themselves into my story.  I am thankful, deeply, powerfully thankful to Oklahoma for all that it’s given me.

So I’m going to spend a week thanking Oklahoma for the gifts, joys and memories, pouring over my keyboard with teary words. This will be a heart-taxing week and I’m not sure I’m ready.

First Off: I want to say thank you to Oklahoma for our church, H2O Church.  This is the place that has sustained me in a somewhat foreign land.  Yesterday I walked out the doors for the last time (for now) and my heart could hardly bear it.

This place has given me a sense of what Church Truly Is that I deeply needed, it was part nourishing and part kick in the pants.  I went from being a church critic and consumer to being spiritual contributor, a lover of the bride of Christ.

One of our church’s core values is: The church does not exist for us. We are the church and we exist for the world. This focus will forever change the way our family does ministry and I love it endlessly.

We stepped foot into our church, on main street in the heart of town the day after our moving truck settled into our rental home with the 1970s kitchen. I was newly pregnant and completely overwhelmed, I had no idea which end was up in my own life, given the fact that nearly everything had recently changed.

We choose it because it was the only contemporary church that supported my husband’s ministry.  There were a lot of colored lights, a smoke machine and at the end of each service they did an “ask” where people were invited to ask Christ into their hearts.

Not only that, the sermons weren’t live, we watched a feed from a larger sister church in Oklahoma City, that was weird and trendy…. I wasn’t sure I was okay with it.

It was a challenge for me, I’d never been this evangelical before.  I was sort of a snob when I arrived in Ada, and when it came to church I had big, huge, snarky opinions which I  always flung upon Kel the second our car doors clicked shut.

But, at some point in the last five years I laid most of my snarky ways down in the flow of the love of God at the hands of his people. When you feel the spirit moving and the authentic, powerful love of God all around you… style just doesn’t matter that much anymore and snark smells awful in your own nostrils.  

You just let God work and do your part to be a member church as much as best you can.

You try to get your snarky, crazy, humanity to make way for the refreshing work of the Spirit. You worry less about what you’re getting and focus more on what you have to offer, how you can give more.

This church provided my bread and wine in every possible way.

When we arrived I wondered if anyone would come to the hospital when I had Noelle, but our church was there, they sent flowers and brought meals to our door.

When my mom died our church was at our door at 1 am with a basket of travel essentials for our arduous drive to Michigan.

They Christmas Caroled our house that year when my heart was too broken to feel the joy of that season.

They were there again when Caedmon was born, laughing with me as we prayed that my bladder would start working and I wouldn’t need another catheter… “Dear Lord, we pray to pee.”  Oh the camaraderie of women and childbirth… it’s a club I love to participate in.

This church has given me so much and taken a piece of my heart that belongs properly in those walls with these people. 

So… Dear Oklahoma, Dear Lord, thank you for this Church on main street, this place where your spirit dwells in the hearts of your people. Thank you for all you have given me here and all you’e taught me to give away.  Dear H2O family, I am eternally and forever grateful for you, you’ve changed our family and we don’t walk away easily.  Amen and whimper.

The Big Move Announcement (our quasi Abraham adventure)

Since November we’ve had a for-sale sign in our yard.  I’d give it a glance every time I pulled in or out of our driveway, when I got the mail or when we played in Noelle’s room with the windows open.

I wondered just exactly when the right person would drive by it, had they done so already?  What did they think or our home from the outside?  They couldn’t possibly know it’s potential like I do, all the memories and warmth we’ve cultivated so carefully.

DSC04773 - Version 2

For the past 4 months we’ve been waiting for the right person drove past that sign, because when they did everything would change. Our time in Oklahoma would draw to a close and our journey back to Michigan would begin.

And last week it happened, someone bought our house.

Yes, that’s right, after an almost 6 year stint living in both Kentucky and Oklahoma, the Penny family is finally returning to West Michigan.  We close on our house on May 8 and we will likely move the weekend before.

So, deep breath, because I know you have questions, so do I for that matter.

1) Where will we live?  We will not be buying a house right away, we will be renting while we figure things out.  We don’t know exactly what part of West Michigan we will plant roots in for the long term.  I’d like to dig into Holland and never let go… but our prospects may be pointing us closer to Grand Rapids proper, who knows!

2) Does Kel (or I) have a job?  Shouldn’t we start with that?  At first we thought that would be the way to go and we sent off resumés galore.  That didn’t pan out and we began to realize that we could work anywhere and pay bills for a while (deliver pizzas and work retail if needed) but we couldn’t pay for 2 houses.  So we prayed about it and decided that the sale of the house would be the moving point.

As far as whether or not we have jobs at this point, technically… no but there are a lot of exciting prospects for us and we have a feeling that good things may be just around the corner.  Sometimes it’s very hard to justify this move financially, logically, but we know that God’s leading on this and that he will show up.

Sometimes I falter, often I freak out, the unknowns are many but the excitement is huge.

3) Why West Michigan? It feels like home and it’s where a large majority of our family is, and Kel is family to them as well.  Even though Oklahoma is technically home for him, he feels quite happy and at home in Michigan and lived there for over two years while we were dating.

I’m one of 25 first cousins between both sides of the family and over 90% of them all still reside in the West Michigan area, and we miss them.  I’ve also kept in contact with many friends from college that are as good as family as well.

Also… All these reasons too.

Michigan CollageSo we know it will be West Michigan and we know it will be early May, other than that we are praying, wondering and working out all the details.

I’ve been told by a dozen people that we’re like modern day Abraham, we believe God is calling us to go somewhere and we’re following his lead with all the details.  It’s true that our move is a God-led leap of faith, but you have to understand we aren’t going somewhere unknown where we know no one.

I’m not sure we deserve Abraham level credit.

We’re going home, and all four of us right down to 2 year old Caedmon, feel this way, Michigan is where we belong.  

So, all that being said, if you would like to employ a member of the Penny family please let us know.  Kel and I have a myriad of skills from writing to pastoring to rolling enchiladas.

Caedmon is available for baby modeling and Noelle will gladly do the music at your next special gathering.  She’s very talented in singing Gagnam Style like a kitty and you can pay her in strawberries.

So, guess what guys?  We’ve moving 1,000 miles and so many things are about to change.  Whoa.  Crazy, eh?