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.



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!