Singing on Sunday, this song, my arms found themselves stretched high because I saw God’s love greater than anything I saw this week. And I saw more than my heart could handle.
I was on my way to meet a friend for lunch and got interrupted. My interruption had a long flannel shirt on and boots. Nothing in between. You’ve got to imagine with me or click exit on this screen. A long flannel shirt on and boots. Nothing in between. He was right outside of the Marriott and was grooming his hair and carrying on a conversation with his reflection in the advertisement window. “This is my city and this is not okay,” was my thought. Not my first thought. Or even tenth. I’d already been downtown and seen more depravity of humanity.
I told the valet. “Not again,” he replied. “Target has already had to call the police on this guy and all they could do was tell him to move along.” “Move along?” I said out loud. I’m sure of it. As if that would suddenly make sense to a man in nothing but flannel shirt and boots? I was greatly interrupted.
I sat on a bench with my friend to pray and a man lay sprawling in the grass. When was the last time he ate? Where were his friends? How did this reality become his reality? My prayer time was interrupted.
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And we are in the throws of it. Not because we seek out friends who leave or because we ourselves are moving, but it’s the flow of life. We find ourselves saying a number of goodbyes this summer and it never gets easier. And goodbyes are exponentially harder when it affects your kids.
I bring you not a how-to on saying goodbyes or finding new friends or numbing the pain, but reflections from our family as we learn to let go and keep our hearts open for more.
you’re always welcome here! i’m sharing on @themamawellinstagram account, but wanted to invite you over here to the neighborhood. i write regularly about urban life, family life, church planting life, and writing life! you can click on the about page and read more. what i want to do with this post is show you a day in the life of our family!
we moved to San Francisco in 2010 to start a church in downtown where we now have 3 services with over 60 nations represented. we left family on the east coast, but have created a community of friends and family. our four kids are at three schools: charter, public, and catholic. we have one car and even that’s a luxury in the city. our kids ride in the mini-van, bus, and train to school and ben gets to work by foot and train. our city is transient so we say just as many “hi, my name is” as we do, “good-bye.” our kids see everything here. it brings about conversations that i wasn’t having until college and is growing compassion, empathy, and a faith that is all their own. i wouldn’t want to be anywhere else doing any other thing! it is all by the grace of God, a community of believers, and the power of prayer that we are thriving as a family in one of the most influential cities in the world.
Two years ago while on Sabbatical, Ben attended a FOCUS retreat of HTB London. He witnessed just a few days, but he saw the church in the city venture to the countryside for a week together of worship, encouragement, rest, and recreation. Ben began to pray about doing something similar with our church. He shared the vision with our team. The vision and prayer were now in the making! We would do this in May on the weekend of Bay to Breakers (an “athletic event” in the city that runs from the Bay to the breaking of the ocean waves in the Pacific where clothing is optional, but one cannot run intoxicated) This weekend always affects getting downtown to Epic anyway - so let’s head to the redwoods! We secured the location, speaker, and worship leader. Our Kids director wrote a full curriculum and our team executed the most excellent, well-run weekend ever, full of games, personal tote bags for every camper, and marketing/storytelling that wowed us all. Even a week prior to our first FOCUS, Ben and I were talking with a pastor in London. He said, “you’ll see things happen in a weekend away that would take 5 years to come together from one Sunday to the next.” We shook our heads believing he was telling the truth. We just didn’t know how good it would be!
we’ve been to london. but more than that, we’ve been changed.
Ben and I had the incredible, most humbling and exhilarating opportunity to see the Church alive. Believe me. I saw it with my own eyes. The Church is alive all across this planet!
God is using Debbie and her brother to invest in the lives of thousands of youth in India. Pekka from Finland is stepping into schools and seeing life change. A lawyer from Germany has started a church in a pub. Danny and Jackie remain faithful leaders at a church in Indiana. Issac and Valerie are forming a community of creatives in south Florida. Al reached out to a Michelin star restaurant in East London about partnering with his church to provide meals for the single mothers in their community and the chefs said yes! Claude was a drug dealer at a young age and found Jesus and is now studying to be a pastor. Jessica and David Oyelowo talk marriage and acting and Jesus being central to all they do.
And while conferences can be quite overwhelming with information, God did something so sweet and intimate with me and Ben. He repeated Himself to us. He used new friends and main stage speakers and His Spirit to repeat what He’s been speaking to us for the past few months. How kind is that? I didn’t fill my journal with a wealth of new information. Rather, I wrote phrases that I’ve written down recently and I let Him wow me with confirmation of what He wants to do in me, in His Church in San Francisco and in this season of life.
Here are a few takeaways. My London leadership learnings: