{31 Lessons Learned the Hard Way} :: Lesson 21~We Are Family

Brad and I have been at New Life Church for 16 years. We met here, got married here and have grown our family here. We've been involved in youth ministry and worship ministry. We've done premarital, parental and marriage counseling. Brad has performed weddings, funerals, vow renewal ceremonies, baptisms and baby dedications.

This is pretty typical for pastors. These responsibilities come with the job. What I feel is unique about our situation is how long we've participated in these things with the same people and the same church. For 16 years.

I know that many pastors have stayed in the same place longer than us and most of those people will agree with my words:

It's so worth it to stay around.

We are part of a healthy church. It is not perfect. People make mistakes and disagree. People are hurtful at times. And those things are to be expected. We are all people, after all. We have had times when we've wanted to leave. When the pressure or the work load or the dealing with people becomes so challenging that we want to run away. The call is high and the battle is strong and it is everyday life.

And we did leave once. We knew God was calling us away and although it was hard, we had peace and knew we were doing what God was telling us to do. And then He called us back 18 months later.

And you know what I missed the most during those 18 months? WHO I missed the most? The normal, everyday people that I see every Sunday. The people who have known me for years. The people who have watched me grow. The people that I've seen grow. I missed walking into church and seeing people's faces...and behind those faces knowing the stories of their lives. Stories that I know because I've known them for years. I've seen them struggle and overcome. I've hugged them and prayed with them in times of grief. I've laughed and rejoiced with them in times of triumph.

A few weeks ago, Brad and I prayed over a couple as they were dedicating their second child. This is always such a privilege, but what made it extra special was that the dad was in our youth group and youth choir years ago. We watched him grow and then go out to travel the world and tell people about Jesus. Then we watched as he got married and is now having children. It feels like a little wink from the Lord when we see a bit of fruit from our youth days. Not to say that we made him into who he is--he has an incredible family and has had many other wonderful influences, but I love that we've participated and had the chance to witness his life.

We've had amazing transformations happen at our church. One that comes to mind is a woman in our choir. She came to our church 4 years ago, distraught and hurting. She didn't know the Lord very well, even though she had been a "Christ follower" for many years. The disappointment of fallen hopes and dreams had left her jaded. She joined our choir and got connected with other believers who have supported her and prayed for her. She used to come to rehearsal and cry the whole time. As we've seen her grow, she is now ministering to others. Now when she cries it's because she is so overwhelmed by the miracles God has done in her and in her life. She is now in training to become a pastor and counselor herself!

The only way I know these stories is because I've been here. I've been here when it's hard and I've been here when it's great. We spent that short time away and we loved those people too, but there is something about longevity that cannot be replaced. God has knit our hearts with the people of New Life Church. They are our family. In good times and in bad.

We've had an amazing year of miracles at our church. Yesterday was one of the really, really good days. We had lines of people getting baptized and our children's choir and worship team joined our adult choir and worship team to lead worship.

In the middle of the worship time, I caught eyes with one of my dearest friends. We both smiled, knowing that we were experiencing a miracle. There are so many reasons why yesterday shouldn't have happened. The fact that our church is still a church, and a thriving one at that, is a miracle in itself. But what goes beyond that is looking into the eyes of a friend and being able to smile in the midst of the challenges that face her. Knowing that there is a plan for good for her life and a plan for destruction (as there is for every one of us) and knowing that she is choosing life and freedom. Even when it's hard. And knowing that I will walk every step with her because I'm not going anywhere anytime soon.

I can't say we'll be here forever. Only the Lord knows that and we would leave again if He told us to. But for now, we know we're where we're supposed to be. Getting to witness changed lives and growing families and triumphs and trials is what makes it so rich and rewarding.

We are family.

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


  1. I think you're awesome .. that's what I think! I think God looks down on you, Brad and the kids and His wonderfully big heart smiles, knowing you have free-will to do whatever you want, and still you choose Him! You choose to see, to love, to care, to give, where others miss God-opportunities at every turn! Just like I said, God's very big heart is smiling at His precious daughter and her loved ones! Keep being used, darlin'! You're so on the right track. Love to you, Brad and the babies! Gayleen & Mike (Yakima, WA)

  2. Love it. I agree. Great church, great people. Moving away and coming back makes you so much more grateful. The depth of relationships we've all built here just can't be replaced anywhere else. Love you!


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