7.14.2014

On Why Leaving is Good

Brad and I have been married for almost 15 years. In those almost 15 years, we have worked for 3 different churches and 4 lead pastors.

I always thought that our testimony would be about staying. We served at New Life Church for 10 years before we left and went to Church of the Highlands. After 18 months, God called us back to New Life. We were serving under a different pastor, but with many of the same people we had known for years. I truly thought we would live the rest of our days there, living life through change and trial, triumph and new beginnings...staying. I thought many people can come and go, but we stay steady. We would be the ones that stayed.

Now we are here, on our 4th "assignment". We're in a totally new church, with completely new people, new lead pastors. Brad has a long history here. For me, however, this is completely new.

I first heard of Jesus' saving grace at New Life 18 1/2 years ago. All of my early, formative years as a new Christian were there...under the same teaching, same pastors, for 10 years. The first time we left I felt somewhat lost. Orphaned. Like I couldn't find my people. Of course, this went away over time. Now in this transition, I have not felt so much lost but just different...there are differences between the way I'm used to doing things, or the way I've seen things done and the way they do things.

It isn't about good versus bad. It isn't about sin versus holy. It isn't about what is Biblical. It's about patterns. Habits. And every church has them. House rules.

House rules.

When Brad and I married, we began creating our Parsley-House rules. We didn't know we were doing it at the time, but we began this process of combining how he grew up with how I grew up. What should family dinner time look like? What about date nights? How would we manage our money? What would nights at home look like? Now, the result is a somewhat balanced representation of each of our upbringings.

We rarely miss church, we sing loud and eat sausage balls on Christmas morning. We eat strawberry shortcake with homemade biscuits versus spongecake...things the Parsleys do.

We eat my mom's fruit salad and Thanksgiving stuffing. We do holidays big and have a high priority on traditions and family vacations...things the Gilmores do.

These have now been adopted as our own and come naturally to our children. We also have little things we've created on our own like sleepover nights between siblings, kitchen dance parties, and "how was your day" (a game we play at the dinner table). They are our Parsley-House traditions.

Our family is a beautiful blend of our extended families and new traditions. Things we were brought up with and things that we have learned and created on our own.

So it is with our relationship with Christ.

I have years of New Life in me. Much of the way I worship, am strong in trial, pray for the lost, desire to reach the unreached...is rooted deep in me. It began and grew at New Life.

 (My Savior Lives Live Recording, New Life Worship, 2006)


(Prayer Service, New Life Church, 2005)

I have Highlands in me. Doing ministry with excellence, having accountability, reading my Bible every day with intent and not law, the desire to bring change to a region...these were deposited in me during our time in Birmingham.











(our last day with Highlands Worship, 2008)

I also have New Life 2.0 in me. It was during these years that I learned what Biblical rest is. I learned that it is important to work hard, to expend much of what I have, and then to recharge. I learned what prophetic worship is. It was during this time that I learned much of what I now believe about international missions and how to partner effectively with Christians in other nations.


(Strong God Live Recording, New Life Worship, 2013)





(Uganda, 2012)

And now we are here. I have brought all of what is in me...pieces of each house. I also have strengths and desires that are learned simply from my relationship with Jesus. And I am learning from this house. I am learning so much about leadership and excellence and welcoming diversity. It is just beginning here.

I am so thankful for the Body of Christ. I'm so thankful for the privilege to see many different expressions and traditions and ways of doing things. I'm thankful that we've been a part of four thriving churches. We (the global church) have such a diverse culture. And it is beautiful. Each house has it's own expressions, it's own traditions, it's own "norm." We can spend our time complaining and criticizing...trying to make everyone fit into our box of what we think church should be. Or we can be thankful and appreciate and learn. We can smile knowing that we are all reaching for the same goal. We can be unified and grace-filled. We can strive to see each other the way that Jesus sees us...as one beautiful house with many facets.

It is then that they become we.

 

7.02.2014

West Palm Beaches for Beginners

I love that we live by the beach. I prayed years ago for the privilege of living near the beach. Now that we do, I want to take full advantage! The sand between my toes, salt in my hair, sun on my cheeks, sound of the waves...it is so relaxing and fun! Not to mention the free entertainment for our kids!

We have tried several beaches here around our home. Before moving here, I had no idea that each beach could be so different. Each one has it's own perks and our children quickly chose their favorites. Unfortunately, until recently, we couldn't find one that we all loved!

There a few things that make Florida beaches unique, particularly Palm Beach County Beaches:
~Most of them are havens for sea turtles and their nests--some have restrictions about beach umbrellas    
      that dig too far down in the sand.
~Floridians take their beaches seriously: most are not developed (meaning very few hotels,
     restaurants, etc can be found on the beach). Make sure to take bags for your trash. Whatever you
     do, do not mess with the sea turtles or their nests.

We still consider ourselves beginners, but here is a run down of the beaches we've tried and our opinions of each:

Hutchison Island: This is the furthest north we've been since moving here. The beach (sand area) at this one is deep and and very easily accessed from the parking lot (no crossing the street). The water is shallow for a ways out. It is life guarded. Nice bathrooms right next to the beach. Downsides: parking is definitely a struggle and this is a decent 30-45 minute drive from our house.

Blowing Rocks Preserve: We ended up here on accident..I was actually looking for Jupiter Beach and went way too far north. This is a preserve so parking is far from the beach. It's a neat, natural, jungle-y type walk from the parking lot to the beach. The water comes right up into the rocks at high tide. We wanted beach so we walked a really long way with all of our gear to the sandy area of the beach. We were the only ones on the entire beach which was fun, and a bit nerve racking when I realized there was no lifeguard. No restrooms and they do ask for a $5 suggested donation. And did I mention the large spiders in the canopy of the nature trail? Cool, but uh...we haven't been back!


Jupiter Beach/Dubois Park: This is one of our favorites. It is a large park with lots of parking and several access points to the water. There are 3 swimming areas: the lagoon which is shallow and pretty clear. It feels like a natural pool. The intracoastal which is deeper and rocky and the beach side which is also Jupiter Beach. The jetty is here and there are always pelicans hanging out as people fish. We don't normally swim on the beach side because we've heard of many shark sightings there. All 3 areas are life guarded. The views of the intracoastal, the boats and multi-million dollar waterfront homes make for a scenic backdrop. There are restrooms, playground, picnic tables and grills right along the lagoon and intracoastal. The downsides are the no-see-ums that come out at dusk and rumors of the dangers of the stagnant lagoon water.




Carlin Park: Our very favorite! This is the one beach that we all love. Parking right next to the beach access. Life guarded and wash offs easily accessible. Rocks right along the beach on the north end provide lots of seashells and crabs and snails. The water is very shallow and pretty clear. Lots of sea life here: this is where I swam with the manatees and we saw a sea turtle swimming here too!


Marcinski: Parking right along the beach or in the parking lot directly across the street. Dog friendly (which can be good or bad, depending on your preference). The tide can come right up to the beach access at some spots. Most of this beach is not life guarded.

Juno Beach: This is the only pier on our end of town. Lots of fishing, which also means sharks (yes, maybe we're paranoid!). The currents are stronger near the pier as well. You can pay a small fee (if I remember it's $2-$4) to walk the pier which is used primarily for fishing. This is also one of the best places on this side of town to surf. It is life guarded, parking is across the street.


Loggerhead Park: Another favorite! The Loggerhead Marine Life Center is a must see--we love seeing all the sea turtles being rehabilitated and all the babies! We went once and saw a rehabilitated sea turtle being returned to the ocean. So fun! Beyond that, this is a great family beach. Decent waves for our boogie boarders but not so strong that the littler ones can't enjoy it. This is also life guarded. Parking, restrooms and a playground are right across the street.


Macarthur Park: Brad and I have been here once and we look forward to going back with the kids. A $5 entrance per car gets you all day access to this State Park. There are many things to see and do, including kayaking, nature trails, a nature center and gift shop. A boardwalk provides access over the intracoastal to the beach side of the park. This beach is somewhat untouched and natural. There are restrooms but no lifeguard.

Singer Island: This part of town actually reminds me the most of Cocoa Beach...shops, hotels and restaurants right next to the beach...surfing, jet skis and other water sports are easily accessible. It is life guarded and restrooms, playground and volleyball nets are right there. This beach is more "in town" so we've found it to be very crowded at times.


Have I mentioned I love the beach? And this is just the beginning...we haven't even come close to experiencing all there is to see!

 

6.30.2014

Lessons from Brookie

I swam with manatees the other day! It was the first time I've even seen them in the wild since moving here to Florida. We were at one of the beaches here close to our home. The water stays shallow for quite a while and I was out a bit with Brooke in the inner tube. The water was so clear that day and we were enjoying all the fish swimming around us and collecting seashells off the ocean floor.



I looked back toward the shore and noticed a man pointing in our direction and I turned to see what looked like a large (very large!) clump of seaweed. Then I noticed that it was moving right toward Brooke! I grabbed her quickly and I think it probably would have hit her if I didn't move her in time.

After the shock wore off, I had two reactions:

I was disappointed that I freaked and didn't stay closer to touch it.

Now, I'm a bit nervous about the fact that I was oblivious to the existence of a large sea animal right next to us! What if it had been a shark?

When we first moved here, we enrolled the kids in a surf lesson. We asked the surf instructor about the "shark factor". She explained that sharks don't eat people, they don't hunt people...they want fish. If you happen to be in the path of the fish, you might get "hit". She then went on to explain the wisdom of checking in with the lifeguards, staying away from piers and jetties where people fish and the importance of the "fishy" smell that exists sometimes. These are all warnings that the presence of sharks might be greater.  I've also reminded all of our children of how many people we know that have lived here their entire lives and we have yet to meet anyone who's been bitten by a shark.

I know all of this, but when we returned to that same beach, I have to admit that I felt fear. 

It's interesting that out of all of our children, Brooke was the one with me in the water that day. I used to say that Brooke was "born cautious". This cautiousness, however, had become full on fear by the time she was 2 years old. She hated being outside. She would scream at the shining sun, at the wind in her face, if dirt touched her hands. She went into full panic if she saw any kind of insect. She was terrified of Chuck E Cheese, Mickey Mouse, Red Robin. Any costumed character would create a huge physical reaction...lots of crying, screaming and shaking. It was true fear.

We took her to the beach for the first time when she was three. I was nervous as we were preparing for the trip...I knew that it could very well be miserable for all of us if she spent the entire time terrified and screaming.

Our first day on the beach, I held her under the umbrella for the majority of the day. Every little while I would carry her around...letting the sun touch her face, touching her fingers or toes in the water. We pointed out the birds in the sky. I would hold sand in my hand and let her touch it. By the second day she was ready to sit on a towel and touch the sand. She would stand at the edge of the water if we held her hand. Slowly, she became more comfortable. By the end of the week, she was comfortable being at the beach. She still didn't want to be in the water, but she could spend the day with us and enjoy herself.


That is the trip that turned things for her. It wasn't immediate, but from then on she was more willing to try new things. She gradually became at peace with the world around her.

Now, many of these fears have dissipated. She hugged Mickey Mouse for the first time last fall. When we go to Disney now (which is only 2 1/2 hrs away from us!!), the character greetings are a high priority to her. Now, she loves being in the water. She is my nature-lover...always observing God's beautiful creation all around us. I was shocked when one day this spring, I picked her up from school and she was telling me how "cool" it was to see a hissing cockroach in her science class!

I love that I get to watch her grow and explore and figure out what she finds fascinating. When we returned to that same beach a few days after we "swam with the manatees", she was the first one in the water. As I watched her run and splash, I was met with a choice:

I could choose fear or freedom.

And isn't it the same for all of us? We can stay on the shore, where it's safe...clean...where we feel in control. Or we can jump in and fully experience all that awaits us. The joy and excitement that come with jumping in, over, under the waves. Then, if we go even further, past the breaking point, we find the place where we can float. The peace that comes with floating on the water, gazing up at the blue sky with sun kissing my cheeks. It's such a wonderful place to be!

So it is with our relationship with God! It's meant to be exciting and joy-filled. Adventurous! And when we relinquish control...when we go deep enough...we are able to float. Float over the waves. Float amidst all the "dangers" that lurk beneath. Not that the dangers aren't there, 

But it's that our trust in the One who overcame all will conquer the fear that could keep us captive.

"There is no room in love for fear. 
Well-formed love banishes fear. 
Since fear is crippling, 
a fearful life--
fear of death, fear of judgement--
is one not yet fully formed in love. 
We, though, are going to love--
love and be loved. 
First we were loved, now we love. 

He loved us first."
1 John 4:18-19 MSG

We are loved. I am loved. You are loved. And the One who loved us first...JESUS, Who loved us first has come so that we are no longer crippled with fear. We can leave it at the shore and jump in...

uninhibited.

joy-filled.

FREE.


 

6.25.2014

{Parsley Farms}

Thank you so much for all of the kind words, emails and comments regarding my previous post. I'm so thankful when the Lord speaks and uses this quiet little blog to bring hope and joy!

In that post I mentioned that we are about 5 months into our new home in Florida. We searched for about 6 months and when we saw this one, we knew it was it.

Okay, so Brad knew this was it. I had my heart set on a home just a few miles away from this one that, crazily enough, was even more of a fixer than this one. I'm soo thankful now that we didn't go that route!

Our priorities were:
1. Good public elementary school
2. Our own swimming pool (or easy access to one)
3. 4-5 bedrooms

Pretty reasonable, right?
I'll go on.

Our dream items:
1. Hardwood floors vs tile
2. A large garage
3. An outdoor shower
4. A cabana bath

We got ALL of these with this house!
The only downside: we're a bit far from church/work and the beach. But the drive from our home in Colorado was MUCH further from the beach than from this house *wink*

Okay, and the fact that it needed A LOT of work. Not like major construction...a handful of pretty large projects and then a really long list of "small", but very time consuming ones.

I'll fill you in on details, including before and afters, in the coming weeks. For now, I'll leave you with this:






6.23.2014

With love, from Florida

It's kinda crazy reading back over my last published post...a letter from Brad explaining as best he could about the transition that was ahead of us. We had no idea what this journey would look like...how it was to unfold. How could we have?

Nine months later, we are...thankful. Peaceful. Joy-filled.




We're five months into our new home: a foreclosed fixer upper that is beautiful and difficult and so-far-from perfect but somehow simply perfect for us.



We spent our first school semester homeschooling our five children, followed by another semester of homeschooling three (ok, threeish...alright, alright...two and a half. I turned Micah over to playing a few months ago!). We are in the final stretches of registering and landing all five children in schools here in this beautiful town that I still can't believe we live in.

We're part of a growing, thriving, healthy, exciting ministry. After spending much of 17 years in the same place, in the same home even, we are in the full throws of adjusting and stretching and growing...making mistakes and having moments of comfort.

Comfort.

It's such a warm, fuzzy, wonderful word.

When I think comfort, I see myself cuddled under a blanket with a fire burning nearby...in our old home in Colorado.

The same home where our now-12-year-old learned to walk.

The same home where Brad and I experienced so many early-marriage-newlywed bickerings and made so many memories.

I think of unexpected visits from forgiving friends who caught me in my sweats (or...pajamas) mid-day more times than I care to admit.

When I think comfort, I remember walking into gatherings and prayer meetings at our church...in the same room where we had said "I do" years before.

Comfort. 

The very opposite of stretching. Comfort could very easily turn into settling.

And that's what Colorado had become for me. After years of asking the Lord to move us somewhere warm, somewhere near water, somewhere with humidity and salty air, I had settled. I was completely content to view the beautiful mountains of Colorado every day. To watch our children experience kindergarten and graduation from the charter school one mile away from our home. I was digging deep...growing vulnerable with friends in new ways. I had found avenues of ministry, ways of living out some passions that were fun and fulfilling and rewarding. I had what seemed to be a clear path in front of me.

Until it wasn't clear anymore.

In the beginning, it was so hard to imagine that God could actually be moving us on to a new thing. We were full of questions: had we done something wrong? had we not stewarded well? how could it possibly be God's plan to move us away from the people we loved so dearly? our family? a church home that we loved so dearly?

But in the end, it was His plan. It IS His plan. He has more for us to do. New adventures to explore. More growth for us to experience. More relationships to develop.

In this God-adventure, calling does not equal comfort. 

He is more interested in the journey than the destination.

He is after our hearts, fully given over to His plans and desires.

And sometimes He has to kick us out of the nest in order for us to stretch out and fly.

I had come to this conclusion before we even knew where the next place was. I am so thankful that He cares so deeply about my heart...about my growth...that He is willing to watch me struggle. He is willing for me to be confused, upset, even angry at His plan. Because He knows that in the end, it brings US CLOSER. This struggle brings me closer to HIM.

I once heard someone say, "You're happiest when you're at the center of God's will." However, I believe it is entirely possible to be in the center of God's will and very unhappy about our circumstances. 

God's will does not always equal happiness. He does not walk with us to make us happy. 
He walks with us so that we may become more like Him. 
So that our vision becomes His vision. 
So that our passion for people goes deeper than our personal happiness. 

We were at the center of His will back when Brad wrote that letter almost a year ago. And we weren't happy about it! There was nothing happy about choosing to leave the people we loved so much. 

But there is a peace that comes from walking with Him. From following Him into the pain, into the unknown. There is a peace that goes far beyond happiness and comfort...and this peace leads to a deep joy and satisfaction. It leads to such inner strength and amazement as we watch His plans unfold before our eyes.

"Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way." James 1:2-4 MSG

Mature.

Well-developed.

Not deficient in any way.

What we all desire, right?

This is what I contemplate now...here, where God has given me those deep desires I had hidden in my heart. As I walk the beach and taste the salty air and watch my kids splash in the ocean. These seemingly fleshly desires that He that He wrapped up and handed me. I am still amazed at how much joy can come out of so much pain.



So friends, let us press in. Let us lean into ALL that He has for us, even when it's difficult. Let these present tests and challenges, this pressure...let them do their work. So that we may become...

Mature.

Well-developed.

Not. deficient. in. any. way.

7.05.2013

Transition :: A Letter From Us


Dear Friends and New Life Church Family, 

As many of you may know, Pastor Brady and I have been talking and praying about a transition in the Worship Department of New Life Church for several months.  The process and journey have been challenging at times, but we know that the Lord has been with us in the process and that He continues to remain faithful.  While the entire picture wasn’t clear at the beginning, we knew that a transition was coming and that Jon Egan and I would be changing roles.  As we have moved closer to the time of this transition, we know the Lord has spoken and given direction to the things that we've been praying about, for which we are very grateful. 

I wanted to let you know that in the Lord's speaking and giving clarity, my family and I will be moving to West Palm Beach, FL to step into the role of Worship Pastors at Christ Fellowship.  It is a wonderful congregation founded by friends Pastors Tom and Donna Mullins and led by their son and daughter-in-law, Lead Pastors Todd and Julie Mullins.  I’ve known the Mullins for about 20 years now and we are excited to join them and the Christ Fellowship family. 

The timeline for this transition is August 1.  Jon Egan will step into the role of Executive Worship Pastor at New Life Church and I will step into my new role as Worship Pastor at Christ Fellowship.  With that timeline quickly approaching, our last Sunday at New Life Church will be July 14.  We are, of course, very sad to leave our New Life family after serving for so many years, but we look forward to the good plans God has for us, and New Life Church.  It has been our joy to serve and we thank God for all of you that we have enjoyed relationship with over the last almost 17 years.  We will always be family. 

The kids are doing well and are excited about our upcoming move, but every once in a while have some concerns about new friends and new schools, etc., which is understandable.  We know that the Lord will take care of them and we appreciate your prayers for them especially as we make this transition. 

We know we won’t be able to say goodbye to everyone personally, but wanted you to know our timeline so that we might be able to catch many of you at church on our last Sunday. 

We love you all. 

The Parsleys 
Brad & Andrea 
Caleb, Emma, Paige, Brooke & Micah

12.19.2012

{31 Lessons Learned the Hard Way} :: Lesson 31~Doing a Blog Series Will Either Kill You or Grow You

Wow! I can't believe it. I actually did it. I have written my first series! I also managed to blog twice a week for the past 4 months (except for those 2 sick days...).

I have learned so much in this process. So much about myself and also about you! Here are just a few of the things I've gleaned from writing these last 4 months:

I really enjoy writing, but it is also very hard and so much work! Making myself do this series made me stick to a schedule. Even when I was tired. Even when I felt uninspired. I had deadlines to make and although you are a very forgiving audience, it helped to know that you were waiting for my next post. That you would notice if I went missing. There were times that I would sit down to write and have no idea what to write on. You were my motivation to press on!

Writing brings out emotions I didn't know were there. There were many times that I would sit down to write and not think about how it was going to affect me. I was very vulnerable and very open and that was painful at times. Sometimes I would have tears streaming down my face as I wrote. Other times I would find myself shaking as I typed, emotion spilling over. There were several posts that had my heart racing and hands trembling as I pressed the "publish" button. Almost every single time, I felt better after I was finished writing. Writing (a blog specifically) can make me feel somewhat anonymous. I learned about myself and this "character" that I play in real life as my fingers rolled on the keyboard. I was shocked at how much I hadn't verbalized before now.

Blogging let's all kinds of people in. And that's good! I know that by writing these words, I am opening myself up to anyone who happens to type in the address or click a link or perform a search through a search engine. I have talked with people all over the country, and really around the world, who have read from these pages. God has used my heart and my mind and my emotions and my fingers to touch those of you that I never see in every day life...or I have never actually met in person. That's so amazing!

You have stories too! I can't count how many times I received a long email, facebook message or comment telling me how you relate. Get those stories out! They are meant to be told!

I really enjoy writing!! I feel more accomplished, stronger, more determined every time I publish a post. Even though it's hard and emotionally draining, somehow I come out a better person on the other side. I will always be a writer.

So there, it is. {31 Lessons!} On to other adventures...



This post is part of the series {31 Lessons Learned the Hard Way}. Did you miss a lesson? Catch up here.