Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Hey Y'all

I live in Greenville. Yeah, THAT Greenville. I know, sometimes I find it hard to believe, too.

How did we get here? Greenville? South Carolina?  The land of grits and slaw and monogramming and twang?  Wait. What?

It's been almost two years since my last post, I loved blogging even though I didn't have a lot of time to write over the years. I blogged about why birds eat their young and our dear Abraham. I rambled about an exciting day when Josiah was a toddler. I wrote about feeling torn after we left a former ministry and I recorded thoughts and feelings while we waited. I wrote a post to my 21 year old self.

And then, I stopped writing. Partly, because it was too painful. I had nothing new to write and didn't really think recording the same things over and over again would benefit anyone. I composed scores of blog posts in my head - usually in the middle of the night and almost always when I was lacking sleep  - but most of those never made it to the screen, either.

So here we are. In Greenville. Let me tell you how we ended up in this wonderful place.

In the spring of 2013, Joel was continuing his search for pastoral ministry. At that point he had been looking for several years (it seemed like forever). He had been interviewed by a church and we were thrilled at the prospect of being part of this particular church. We tried not to get our hopes up, but honestly, that's really hard to do!  We'd been down this road so many times - interview after interview had come and gone. But this place...it was the type of ministry where we thought we could see ourselves for forever. It was a place that we wanted to raise our boys. The pastors there are good, godly men who want what God wants.  We were so excited at the prospect.

And then they said no. How can two letters hurt so bad? I still remember the searing pain of being told that it was not going to work out. We had heard that little word so many times and yet this time it hurt so deeply that I was honestly ready to give up. I was so tired of it all that I just wanted to quit.

We were out of options. All other leads had dried up and we were back to square one. I cried. A lot. If you know me at all you know that I'm not a public crier. I'm not a frequent crier. There were several times at work when I would barely make it out of the office before the floodgates let loose. I could not see what God was doing or how He was working. 

Joel and I had many, many conversations about what we should do.  Go back to school? Stop pursuing ministry? Move to the woods and hide out forever? My sweet sister in law, Kristin, shared Romans 12 with me, and verse 12 in particular: "Rejoice in hope. Be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer."  I typed this verse and taped it right next to my keyboard at work to remind me throughout the each day that God was working. 

In July, Joel sent out an update email to those who had been praying and watching for openings for us. He included his resume and let the men know that we had been pursuing a ministry but God had closed the door and we were ready to look again.  I didn't hold my breath.  After all - we'd walked down this road before and it was rocky and dusty and hard.

That same day, Joel received a response from a man who said he'd passed the resume to the chair of the search committee at his church, Hampton Park. I checked out the church's website (like I always did during this process) and promptly told Joel that it wouldn't work. It couldn't work. We didn't belong in Greenville, and besides, Hampton Park was far to big for us. We didn't belong in a huge ministry with a huge youth group and well, too bad that lead is dead.

Joel told me to keep an open mind.  I assured him that I would be right and that we'd never hear from that search committee. They could choose from hundreds of BJU grads at their fingertips and certainly had connections to get someone far more qualified! We're Maranatha grads and we're from the Midwest and we just will never fit in and we certainly aren't ready for a ministry like that!  We had a good laugh and thought it would end there. I honestly didn't even give Hampton Park much more thought.

Imagine my surprise when the search committee contacted Joel to let him know he was being considered!  I laughed (again) and thought for sure that the next thing we got would be a "thanks...but no thanks" letter.

We didn't hear anything for a couple of weeks - which didn't surprise us, really. It happens a lot in the pastoral search.  We went on vacation at the beginning of August to an amazing lodge in northern Michigan with all of the Gearharts before Nate and Kristin left for the mission field. One day I was sitting on the deck with Kristin and Tracy (my sisters in law) when my phone rang.  I didn't recognize the number, but since my cell is our home phone I decided to take the call.

It was Hampton Park.  More specifically, it was a lady (now my friend, Michelle) calling to set up a time to interview me.

Wait, what? Me? They want to talk to me? Why on earth? Are they nuts? They've got to be nuts.  I thought they threw that resume out already!  Why are they calling ME? I think I'm going to be sick. Surely they called the wrong number. There must be a mistake.

I didn't know what to think. Joel was out shooting guns with his dad and his brothers and when he got back I told him the news.  He was in disbelief, too. We laughed it off, decided I would do the interview (via Skype, yikes) and then we would have at least done our part and could walk away knowing that we tried. I refused to think that this could actually happen. I mean, Greenville? Hampton Park?  Once they got to know me a little bit, this would all be over and I could climb back under my rock.

Please don't misunderstand. I was in awe over the fact that they were still considering Joel. I was just sick over the fact that it would be the interview with me that would end it all! We headed home from vacation on Friday and the Skype interview was set for Saturday afternoon. 

I survived the interview. I may or may not have stressed just a tad bit over what to wear and how to do my hair and whether I should use my "fake phone voice" (ask my sister) or just be myself.  I opted to just be myself (awkward and all) and just grit through it. Michelle and Brittany were very kind and after a few minutes, my talkative (ahem, normal) self took over and I just shared my heart with them. I love my husband. I love ministry. I was willing to follow Joel anywhere (even Greenville). I love teenagers.  Most of all - I love God and want to be where He wants me to be.

Joel had an interview scheduled for the following Monday with the search committee, also via Skype. The interview went well....then, they asked us to come visit. In disbelief, I told Joel (this may be a direct quote...), "I can't believe they're going to make us drive all the way down there to tell us no."  I just knew that once they met us in person and spent a little time with us that they would have no problem letting us drive our weary selves back home.  Not that I thought the people here were cruel, I just could not fathom that God would ever let us come to Hampton Park. I mean really - it was just too good to be true.  A pipe dream!

We came. Joel and I came alone for a weekend in September and left the kids with his parents in Michigan. The weekend was an absolute whirlwind of meetings and tours and questions and answers. We toured the campus, and learned as much as we could about ministry here. Joel met with the search committee and the pastors. We met with those who had been serving with the teens and on Sunday we worshiped at Hampton Park for the first time. We loved Hampton Park! This was going to be a huge let down once they gave us the inevitable bad news.

On Monday we drove home, talking and thinking and praying and wondering the whole way.  I tried so hard not to get my hopes up.  I figured since they didn't tell us no before we left they must be waiting until we get home. After all, there was NO WAY God was going to let us move to Greenville. I felt a little guilty, too, because I still wanted to be at that other ministry in a big way.

The phone call came.  I couldn't believe it when I overheard Joel talking through dates when we could go back to candidate.  Candidate? They still want us to come?  These people must be crazy. Don't they know that there are so many other people out there that can do a better job?

At the beginning of October, our family traveled to Greenville for the weekend. We hadn't involved the boys in the process much (trying to spare their hearts as much as possible) so this was a new venture for them. I prayed all weekend that bringing them wasn't a big mistake.  How would they handle the rejection? What if this didn't work out? Then what? After the weekend we drove back home and waited. It was the longest week ever.

Hampton Park was voting on Sunday, October 14, so we left church that night in a hurry, wanting to be home when the call came so that we could handle the emotions alone. At this point, I was fully prepared to hear another "no". I was nervous, because I still didn't know how we were going to break it to the boys. When Bill and Shelley Moorehead called, I sat on our bed in disbelief. God had answered "yes" and we were moving to Greenville. Yeah, that Greenville!

The next month was a flurry of activity. Packing, planning, and working took up just about all of our time. We made plans to spend time with dear, dear friends before we left. We secured a moving truck. We notified the boys' school and filled out enrollment paperwork for HPCS.

Saying goodbye at my job was the hardest part of this move for me. I loved my job. On my last day, I cried the whole way home. I was so excited to move and to jump back into ministry life, but I was certain I would never find a job like that again. A few days later our friends came to help us load our truck. What dear friends they are!  We missed them as soon as we said goodbye.

On November 11, 2013 the Gearhart family left Michigan and drove south to Greenville, SC. We stopped overnight in Tennessee, not wanting to tackle the mountains while we were tired. We moved into our home the next day, November 12th, amid a swarm of teens and adults from our new church. I could not believe how many people came to unload our truck, unpack our kitchen and put our beds together.

It has been 1 year today since we made Greenville our home. I tell people here that the only thing I miss about Michigan are the people. It really is true! Not a day goes by that I don't marvel at the fact that God could have sent us anywhere, but He chose Hampton Park Baptist Church in Greenville, South Carolina.

Trust me, I know that no ministry is perfect and Hampton Park is not an exception to that. However, it is a perfect place for our family. We love, love, LOVE this place and these dear people. It was a long wait, but oh so worth it! 

God has been so good to us - and we are so blessed! Every day when I go to work (I started working in the office in January), I look around and shake my head in disbelief. I love my job (remember when I thought I'd never have a job again that I loved??). I work with an incredible team that I have learned to respect and love. I get to see my husband and kids throughout the day (how awesome is THAT?!?).

I could go on and on (because this blog post isn't long enough already).  Perhaps I'll keep blogging about lessons learned along the way. Maybe I'll blog about life here, our teens, or things my not-so-little boys say.  I don't know yet. What I do know is this: This is the Lord's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. (Ps. 118:23)

Friday, January 04, 2013

Though the Storm Rages

Though the Storm Rages - 

In the quiet blackness of the night
The heart wonders and waits.
And cries.
For the storm has raged longer than
Anticipated.
And the pain has dulled some - 
A scar has formed
But the longing is still there.

To be there and not here - 
But where is that elusive place?
To what extent must the tree be
Pruned
And how long before the sap wounds heal
Completely?

Longing for the place for roots to grow
Deep and Strong - 
To be wanted and used and grown and loved

The winds have blown hard - the tree
Must be replanted and the roots
Long for fresh water.

As the cover of night fades to day
And the heart continues to long for rescue
From the storm - 
The promises remain and the hope for 
Deliverance continues.

He has not left.  He has not forgotten.
The growing and the pruning, the pain - 
The tears - 
Have not failed to serve a purpose.  
He is still right.  He is still Sovereign.

Through the wind and rain He still deserves
Praise.
Worship.
Honor.
Glory.
Adoration.

Though the storm rages on He is still
Holy.
 Sovereign. 
   Unfailing.
    Lovely.
     Just.
      Good.
       Wise.
God.

                                      





Wednesday, January 02, 2013

2012 Year in Review

I've done this a couple of times.  You can see last year's list here

1. What did you do in 2012 that you'd never done before?

I became a substitute teacher.  I've taught before (both in schools and as a homeschooler) but this is a new adventure for me.

2. Did you keep your New Year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Um...I don't know if I had any to be honest, so I guess not!  I'm not really a resolution maker....I'm constantly realizing areas that need to change...

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

My cousin, Erin, had a baby.  Other than that, nope.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

Thankfully, no.

5.  Which countries did you visit?

We didn't venture very far this year.

6. What would you like to have in 2013 that you lacked in 2012?

A real family vacation.  Due to a move and other circumstances, a vacation didn't happen.

7. What dates from 2012 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

July 15 - we said goodbye to our Roseville home.  We signed our name in the rafters of the attic and drove away.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Hmmm....I re-taught myself how to knit and used that skill to make Christmas gifts for the women on our list.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Organization.  One of these years I'll master it.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Yes, in February I had pneumonia.  It took a LONG time to get back to full health.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Stocking stuffers.  I shopped after last Christmas and tucked some things away, so it was nice to have that done already!

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

Our boys have adapted well.  We've had some rough days and some transitional times, but they've done so very well!

13. Where did most of your money go?

Bill.  He shows up in my mailbox and demands that I send him money multiple times every month.  He has a problem!!

14. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

We moved closer to our church and to a much safer area.

15. What song will always remind you of 2012?

"I'll Never Forsake You"

O soul, are you weary from wave upon wave
Of grief and affliction whom no man can save?
Has sickness surrounded, or unending night?
Uncertainty stolen your joy and your might?
O doubting, o fearful– remember His care,
The helpless and hopeless need never despair
For from your afflictions His glory shall spring–
The deeper your sorrow, the louder you’ll sing!
Remember your Father– His promise, His love:
“I’ll never forsake you, this pain will not break you,
For I will remake you for unending joy;
My promise is faithful though now it is painful;
No power can trample my covenant love.”
Remember your Savior– His grief and His pain,
The lonely affliction, unmerited shame.
Though you had betrayed Him, He died in your place;
The joy set before Him He offers by grace.
Remember your Father– His promise, His love:
“I’ll never forsake you, this pain will not break you,
For I will remake you for unending joy;
My promise is faithful though now it is painful;
No power can trample my covenant love.”


16. Compared to this time last year, are you happier or sadder?

I'd have to say happier.  God has never failed us.  Trials have come and still continue to bear down at times, but we have our God to guide and care for us.  I'm happy.

17. What do you wish you'd done more of?

Travel - one thing I miss about ministry is the trips we would take with our teens.  Also, we need to take a vacation (I think I mentioned that, lol!)

18. What do you wish you'd done less of?

Packing and unpacking boxes.  While I am oh so ready for God to give us a new ministry, I loathe the idea of moving again!!

19. What was your favorite TV program? 

We like Blue Bloods and I want to give Downton Abby a try.

20. What was the best book you read?

We're working through Knowing God by Packer for our Bible study at church.  It's been the most profitable.  I also read The Hunger Games.  That was the best "pleasure" reading I did this year.

21. What was your favorite film of this year?

I found Obama 2016 to be informative.  I enjoyed The Dark Night and Spiderman.  Snow White and the Huntsman was not so wonderful.  My favorite though?  Hands down:  "October Baby"

22. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2012?

Don't wear anything that my sister would be embarrassed by :)

23. What kept you sane?

Joel - he's sure and steady.  God was gracious to give me a husband who is a rock!

24. What political issue stirred you the most?

Ah, the 2012 election season brought many topics to debate.  Benghazi, gay marriage and healthcare reform have been discussed a lot around here!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Fall...........

This summer did not really go as I had anticipated.  I had grandiose ideas of fun and exciting things to do with the boys.  We made a list and bought little scrapbooks. We schemed and planned.

And then Fall came.

That's not to say we didn't do anything fun this summer. We hit the beach a few times, made homemade ice cream, played lots of backyard baseball and moved into a different house.

Okay, so maybe moving shouldn't be categorized as something fun we did this summer.  I've moved enough in my life that while it's exciting and new and challenging...it is not fun.  Sweating buckets while hauling boxes upon miserable boxes cannot in any way be categorized as fun.

So our summer has passed and we are officially into the best season that exists here in Michigan - Fall. Yes, I capitalized it (yes, on purpose).  Sure, nothing compares to Fall in New England, but God has placed me in Michigan ;)  The air is crisp and the cider mill is just begging for our family to visit.  The boys have switched from backyard baseball to football and we've begun making our daily trek to school and back.

It's funny.  When the boys were all really little I used to long for empty, peaceful days when I could get things done.  It seemed like the flurry of activity would never cease.  Now that I have the house all to myself each day, it's kinda surreal.  I can't stand the lack of noise - I guess you just get accustomed to the rambles of boys and when they're not here it is just too quiet.  So, it's a good thing I like to listen to music or I think I'd go a little nuts.

I'm learning that I'm not nearly as patient as I thought I was.  God has asked us to wait longer for a new ministry than I'd ever imagined.  We've done a lot of thinking, a lot of praying and, to be honest, a lot of sighing and wondering when and why and how.  I'd like to say that I never question what God is doing and I'd like to say that I've never asked why.

But I can't, because I have.  Joel and I know that God has something in mind for us.  Joel and I both remain convinced that ministry is where God wants us long-term.  We never imagined that we'd still be searching and waiting and learning to trust and trying to understand, but we are...

We don't know why God has allowed us to walk the path we have for the past little while.  We don't know when the rain is going to stop and when the sun is going to start shining again.  We're trying to dance in the rain, but there are days when we seem to have two left feet and the music gets all jumbled in our heads.

So, we keep trusting and waiting and taking dancing lessons.



Monday, June 04, 2012

The Third Day in June

On June 3, 1995 I graduated from Victory Christian School in Londonderry, NH.  My parents hosted an open house and I spent the day celebrating my accomplishments, dreaming of my future and crying a few tears.  Like most high school graduates, I had big plans and couldn't wait to go off to college and begin the rest of my life.

On June 3, 2003 Joel and I moved into our apartment in Clinton Township.  We had driven from Wisconsin to Michigan the day before, but we had arrived just a few minutes after 5 p.m.  The leasing office would not give us our keys after 5, so we ended up spending the night at Matt and Rachael Wipf's house.

I was expecting Camden at the time, and was only 7 weeks away from my due date.  Joel had accepted the youth pastorate at Macomb Baptist and we were excited to see what was coming next. The next 7 and  a half years would be full of blessings, challenges, laughter, tears and joy.  In God's plan, He moved us from that ministry and placed us in His waiting room - where we remain today.

On June 3, 2012 we spent the day (the weekend, really) to honor our current Pastor and his sweet wife.  Pastor and Sue have served Maranatha Baptist Church for 25 years - and they have served MBC very well.  While we've only been part of this church body for less than 18 months, we have grown to deeply love and appreciate this sweet couple.  They are genuine.  They are sincere.  They are humble.  They are loving.   As Mike Sanders said yesterday, they are true Christians - and that is the greatest title in the world.

God has been so good to MBC.  This weekend was about thanking God and honoring Him for giving us this good gift. It was about recognizing that all of this is possible only through the grace of our good God.  

I am so thankful for Glen and Sue Currie.  God has given us a wonderful gift.



Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Family Update - May 2012

As you know, our family has been in the middle of a transition for a while now.  We continue to wait on what God has for us in vocational ministry, but we are making a few changes in the process.

Joel is still working the secular job he's had since last year.  While it's not what he wants to be doing long-term, we are very, very thankful that he has had continuous work.

Our family will be moving closer to our church in a month or so.  We have found a house to rent and are making preparations to move.  This will eliminate a lot of driving (especially on Sunday) and allow us to be more involved with our church family.  Since we won't be locked into a long-term lease, we will be ready to pack up and move again when a ministry fit is found.  We have to be out of our house by August 2, but we plan to move well in advance of that date.

Many have asked how the search is going - to be honest....it's difficult.  We drove to one ministry (here in MI) in March and spent several hours with a search committee.  Joel has had several phone conversations and even a conference call with a pulpit committee recently.  None of these options have resulted in a new ministry for us.  We continue to look, send resumes, follow leads and pray for guidance.  It's frustrating, at times, but we know that we are not in control of this timeline.





Friday, May 11, 2012

Living the Fishbowl Life?

Are you/Have you been a ministry wife?  Can you give me your input?  I'm trying to put some thoughts together and need some thoughts from you.  If you would, answer the following questions - and if you don't want to post them publicly, you can email them to me (gearhart0624 at gmail dot com) or send me a Facebook message.  All emailed answers will be kept confidential.

1.  What do you think is your role as a ministry wife?

2.  What kinds of struggles do you face because of your role as a ministry wife?

3.  Did you/do you feel like you live in a fishbowl - under constant scrutiny and the watchful eyes of those around you?

4.  What are your greatest joys as a ministry wife?

5.  If you have children, how does the ministry play a role in how you are raising/have raised them?  Would you do things differently if you were not in the ministry?

6.  What keeps you up at night?

7.  What kind of ministry are you part of (school, church, missionary, camp, etc.)?

8.  If you had it to do all over again, would you choose this path for your life?  Why/Why not?

9.  What topics have you found to be "taboo" when it comes to discussing ministry life?

10.  What do you wish you could tell a younger woman about ministry life?

You're probably wondering why I'm asking these questions....and rightly so.  I've actually been brainstorming for a new blog idea (I'd love to write a book, but a blog is much more manageable.)  I don't know if it will ever happen, but I wanted to ask the questions anyways.

Resources and discussions regarding life as a ministry wife are few and far between, especially online. Issues are skirted and there seems to be some sort of odd silence about what life is really like for ministry wives.

Any input you can offer is greatly appreciated.