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Ministry, Marriage, and Family

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It was 2016. I was pregnant with my third baby, and life was about to become a lot busier. Jimmy and I had been leading small groups for years together, and we were praying through our next steps. He had gotten information about a Residency Program at a different church location, and was super interested. Jimmy has always had a heart and a vision for men, and maybe this would allow him the opportunity to be involved more in ministry and church planting, while also continuing to be firefighting as well.

He told me about this upcoming Weekend retreat, and of course I was on board (I mean, it meant a weekend away with him, and no kids---- I'm in!). We attended the meetings, we met the staff, and our last stop was one of their church plants that Sunday morning. It was a newer, small church, and it was so sweet. We sat in that service, watching this new pastor lead, and I grabbed my pen and a piece of scrap paper. I scribbled a little note and showed it to Jimmy. It said, "I can see you doing this." And that was it. That was all I wrote. And from that moment, it was clear to me, and to US, that we were called for it. We weren't sure exactly where or what we were being called to just yet, but we were ready to follow and seek God's plan for us.

Fast forward to that next upcoming year: we didn't know that saying yes to all of these changes would bring about some of our hardest, most trying, years of marriage and family life. I mean, we had gone through a lot of changes: we left our home church, where we had served for years together, I left my family who was still attending there, Jimmy switched fire stations, we were in the middle of newborn life, I was home alone with the kids a lot as Jimmy was working more, our marriage was struggling, a lot of our close friendships were changing, Jimmy's new residency was asking a lot of us, traveling an hour away a few times a just felt like a lot. Was this where God wanted us?? Would he be having us forsake what is MOST important to us, for a job or a way of serving? I just didn't think so.

I began praying. hard.

This is when my prayers strengthened and my desires changed. This is when it became clear to me that, just because you are serving your church and fully involved in ministry for Jesus, if you are forsaking family life, it all means nothing. I remember crying and praying, on my knees, for God to show me how He wanted us to move and change. Jimmy and I went to Starbucks one night, and God had been stirring in my heart how to approach Jimmy with how I was feeling, and how all of this was affecting me and our family. We were talking, and he said, "I think I know my calling...I think I know my ministry. I think I know how God can use me ---- a church / pastor position." And I started sobbing. I looked up at him, behind eyes of tears, and said, "Your calling is sitting right in front of you, crying her eyes out, asking, begging you to make her your first ministry right now. THIS is where God needs you right here, right now." And from that moment, a lot changed. My prayers were being answered - my prayers for us to live in a way that remembered our FIRST callings in life, and to remember that seasons of life change. I KNEW our marriage could make more of an impact, and I wanted to work for that.

I told Jimmy how amazing he is at what he does, but that maybe, for now, God wanted to use him in our home. God wanted to rebuild our marriage stronger, God wanted to refocus our parenting. God wanted us to surrender all of OUR desires, to trust where HE wanted to lead us. And from there, our lives changed. From there, we were united in a different way.

The crazy thing about church, ministry, serving - yes, it is all for Jesus, which of course is great. But it doesn't come without a cost, and it surely doesn't come without FAITH. It is easy to attend conferences, to serve on ministries, to show up to church ready to be welcoming...but the behind-the-scenes, the marriage relationships, the family life, the ROCK of this life, it has to be Jesus first. All of the other things we do or succeed at, they are done in vain if we aren't doing it all with the correct focus and surrender. Now, the hard part was figuring out how to continue walking in faith, knowing our desires and passions, knowing that God DOES want to use us, but also knowing not every season and phase of life has to be full-blown ministry. I remember getting to a point where I was ready to just quit it all. I felt hurt, I felt sad, I felt a little lost. It was hard for me to trust after being deep into ministry, and having allowed it to negatively affect our family life. I had to pray for God to change my view of Jimmy altogether, to give me new eyes to remember all the GOOD and AMAZING in him, and to focus on how blessed I was to have a husband who pursues Christ. I had to relearn that it was OK for me to serve in my home fully, and not in all the other areas of church, in this season of young children and parenting. I had to remember that God does give us gifts and ways He wants to use us, but that there's no cookie-cutter way it should be done.

Once we came to the point of unity in marriage and ministry, we were able to be our best. A strong marriage and strong family will only BENEFIT any and every area of ministry. I always told Jimmy I didn't want a husband who could recite the Bible, but a man who could LIVE OUT the Bible in his home! Amazing. We can know it all and preach it all, but if we aren't convicted and LIVING it, then what is the point?? At that time, we decided it was best to take some steps backward, to kinda pull away from things that were taking our time and our thoughts. We clung to each other and our family, remembering that God gave us these short years with our children as a gift - we didn't want to waste them.

From that year on, we never did things the same again. From that time, Jimmy's calling in ministry became more clear - everything we would do, we were going to do together. We believed God wouldn't call us to something that forced us to be separated. It has been crazy and cool to see how our gifts and our strengths are not being used by God in a similar, united fashion. Jimmy's main ministry is called Conform Collective - he defines it as this: "Ordinary Men by Ordinary Means".

To us, that defines us. Real-life people, in this crazy world, going about ordinary life, but serving an extraordinary God in ALL of it.

Our calling is not just our ministry job or our church position - OUR CALLING IS OUR LIFE. From our calling of loving God and loving others stems everything else.

Now, 2022....and I can scribble that little piece of paper in permanent marker all over every page Jimmy owns. "I CAN SEE YOU DOING THIS." I can see him changing lives, I can see him seeking the Lord, I can see him living out his convictions in our marriage and our home, I can see him pouring into the lives of men and families, I can see him serving the church, I can see him creating and designing ways to disciple fellow firefighters and church friends, I can see him standing on stage and sharing the love of Christ, I can see him being bold in his walk, I can see him unwavering in his faith through hard times, I can see him praying, I can see him teaching our children the Bible and life, I can see him DOING THIS, and I see it every day. AND NOW, I SEE MYSELF RIGHT NEXT TO HIM.

I see it every day as we continue to walk together through each up and down season of life, holding fast to our priorities and our Christ.

I can't imagine where our lives would be without these years of transformation.

Marriage and Ministry isn't always smooth and seamless. And really, it isn't spoken about much. But God can use us and WILL use us when we are ready and willing.

Here we are, send us.

Our dream is to continue building our ministries outside of the home together, even including our kids to give them a vision of how God can use them, too. We pray that our different "callings", me with women, and Jimmy with men, will continue to come together and bring more families TOGETHER. We have been given such a time as THIS, and our days are numbered. We hope to be remembered for more than success or a job, but for a legacy left full of love and passion. We want our children to know their parents lived for Jesus alone, and that they loved each other so much more deeply because of that. We pray they are confident and unashamed of their relationship with Jesus, and make Him their priority through their entire life.

When you consider your life, what legacy are you leaving? Are you allowing other things to distract you from what really matters? Have that talk, make that change, don't wait until tomorrow. God has designed you with a purpose, and if you are married, your purpose as a couple can CHANGE LIVES.

"And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith." Hebrews 12:1-2


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