No Place Like Home

By: Bryanna Martin

On August 11, 2016, I posted a video of my kids playing in the rain on Instagram because we were going on several weeks of a never ending, nonstop, steady flow of rain. It was the end of summer and we were all a bit stir crazy. So why not? We decided to embrace the rain and play in it: making lemonade out of lemons as the saying goes. 

We could never have imagined the implications of that steady little rainfall or known that was my last post capturing what we knew as "normal life". I was about to discover a new normal and a complete redefining. I was stepping into a season I didn't ask for or want, but instead of resisting I learned to embrace it. God saw what I didn’t and knew what I needed. I needed to experience His unexplainable, unrelenting, unmoving kindness. The beautiful home God blessed us with only 14 months before was about to be baptized, so to speak: washed clean, purged, torn apart and rebuilt, but in the end better and stronger and more beautiful than I could’ve dreamed.  

I remember waking up a few days after the flood, before we had been able to assess the damage of the water. I sat in our friend's home who had graciously taken in my family of six to merge with their family of seven. Slightly shell shocked and sobered, I began to reflect on what was happening. I was struck by the paradox of life. While only weeks before there was strife and tension in our city, now a flood that altered thousands of peoples lives, was bringing unity that only comes when you walk together through fire, or in our case, water. God allows trials to pull us together, when the enemy would love to tear us apart.  

Little did I know what was happening in the natural realm, God wanted to do in the spiritual realm. He wanted to come and wash me clean. He wanted to purge, refine and rebuild me on the inside.  He wanted to strengthen my inner man to believe I could carry more than I thought, because He is my sustainer and He is my strong tower. He wouldn’t allow me to be crushed under the weight of life. He wanted me to experience my shoulders broadening to carry this larger load. He wanted to teach me that what really matters are the lives around me and the people He puts in front of me. He wanted to rip all that I cling to, so that I could cling to Him. I experienced a jolting into reality, the reality of what matters. We really are living for another kingdom. He allowed me to lose what I knew as my home to find a more everlasting home in His presence. 

It’s true that “there’s no place like home.”  We all long for home, where we feel safe, nurtured, comforted and known. Where we can wear jammies all day and no one cares. Where people know our favorite snack and the sound of our walk down the hall. 

Even as I write this, one year later, the story isn’t finished. I sit in a rent house that isn’t my home. I sleep on a mattress lying on the floor like I have all year.  My bedroom looks as though a bomb exploded with clothes. Sturdy walls but naked ones with nothing to hang. Our third home in one year. But again, I've learned that this is not my home. Home is when I open His word, when I hear His voice, when I bear my soul and He meets me.  Home is doing messy life with people.  Letting go of things I can’t control. He has me in His grip and He wants me to trust Him. Here's what I've learned this year: home isn’t a location or a place. Home is His presence. Home is people. I didn’t just learn this, I lived it. I experienced home in the people of God who reached out and cared, who didn’t just gaze from afar but literally stepped inside the boat with my family. 

It was as though time stood still and all that mattered were the people around me. I couldn’t fold laundry or clean out my drawer. I couldn’t organize my pantry or repaint my den. I couldn’t even go shopping or surf the web. All I could do was look at my people and give them my all. Nothing else mattered. Unsure of the road ahead, all I could cling to was the moment before me and the people in front of me.  I saw, felt, and experienced the kindness of God like I’d never known.  One day as I counted his kindnesses in detail I saw one common thread. Beside every number was a name: a person who tangibly displayed HIs kindness. From feeding my family, to caring for my kids, to holding me as I cried, to bringing supplies, to washing and washing and washing my clothes, to scrubbing and cleaning and demoing our house, to gift cards and money, to phone calls and texts, to hugs and cards at just the right time, we lived and experienced the kindness of God through the body of Christ and total strangers.  I never will forget being carried by kindness and sustained though prayers. 

I’ve never felt more indebted to people and incapable of expressing my gratitude. The glory of this trial has been the beauty that was drawn out in people. The way our city, our schools, our churches pulled together to help those in need. God loves to bring beauty from ashes and hope to the hopeless. He loves to restore what’s been lost, to bring light into darkness and bring life where there’s death.  He’s done that for us. He’s restoring our souls. He’s renewing our hearts. He is rebuilding our house.

Volunteer Thankquet

We quite literally could not have church every Sunday without our fabulous team of volunteers! This group of well over 100 people helps set up and tear down all of our equipment, minister to the kiddos, lead us in worship, assist with the wide array of technical needs, and greet everyone who comes with warm and welcoming smiles. Our "Thankquet" was a small way to say a BIG thank you to this army of servant hearted people! We had a delicious lunch, a hilarious serenade by none other than two of our pastors, Preston Seibert and Matthew Armstrong, and an encouragement from our pastor, Donny Martin. We wish we could give everyone a million dollars and a vacation home, but we hope lunch and homemade cake-balls expressed our thanks! Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU, volunteers!  

Motherhood

We had such a lovely time gathering as moms for our Motherhood Event! Our evening consisted of sweet fellowship with delicious treats, opportunities to connect with other moms, a powerful message from our guest speaker, Diann Garnett, and time to pray over each other. We're thankful for all the moms who came! We were also so blessed by the Parlor for hosting us, and all those who helped prepare and pull together an evening of encouragement and refreshement. 

The Journey of Motherhood

Hi Church family! I am touched to be asked to share with you my thoughts and experiences as a mother. If you are a mother or hope to one day be a mother, God bless you! This journey of motherhood is full of awesome surprises and abundant blessings. You have so much to look forward to. It’s also full of challenging days, sleepless nights and fervent prayers. But again: you have so much to look forward to! How do I know? Well, I’ve been doing this “mom thing” for almost 23 years. I’ve been a working mom and a stay-at-home mom. I’ve had four full-term pregnancies and one miscarriage. I’ve mothered healthy children and a child with cancer. I’ve mothered strong-willed children and compliant ones (sometimes the same child in different seasons). I’ve been confident at times and completely bewildered at others. I’ve been there. I’ve done that. And I am SO BLESSED!

My husband (Jeff) and I have four “little ones” that are not so little anymore: Gabe is 22, Miller is 20, Cam is 18 and Jensen is 16.  As I’m moving into this different season of life, not only mothering our own kids but also others that God places in our path, I can truly see the way God has been faithful. I feel like I am living in the land of milk and honey. Like God’s richest blessings are being poured down on me. That may seem sappy: my perspective has no doubt changed as I have moved away from the sleepless nights of babies. 

Even after 22 years I don’t have all the answers. And frankly, I haven’t met any mothers who do have all the answers. We are all doing the best we can with what we have, and I truly believe God honors that. So, here are my thoughts from one mama to another. I pray that you receive them in the love and heartfelt humility with which I say them.

God thinks I’m great! Motherhood isn’t a hobby. It’s a calling. We are all imperfect moms with imperfect kids. But the truth is that we are the most PERFECTLY suited imperfect people because we were chosen by God! He picked us! He has such an amazing way of making the ordinary extraordinary! One of my favorite prayers that I’ve carried in my bible for a long time (until I spontaneously gave it away to a young mother) is this one from Lysa Terkeurst:

"As a mom, I want to be single-minded on the reality that if God entrusted these kids to me, I am the exact mom they need.  And as the rightful holder of that position, I will believe not only in God but I will also believe that I have what it takes to raise these kids right.  As long as I ask for God to help me each day, I can be the mom I need to be."

How comforting to know that the creator of the universe believes in me! God’s got my back!

This too shall pass. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed sometimes. I still do. Even as I’m writing this actually. Motherhood is exhausting and it’s happening RIGHT NOW. It’s an in the moment kind of job. It’s sick babies in the nighttime, school projects due tomorrow, 3 practices at 3 different fields and driving a minivan like a NASCAR driver. Life feels crazy at times! According to Jerry Seinfeld, parenting young children is like turning on a blender without the lid! Reminds me of the time we found the big brothers had covered the baby and the baby’s room in baby powder. I had to take a deep breath. Maybe two. Then I remembered that these moments don’t last forever, and this is actually pretty funny. So I took a pic of the snow-covered boys and powdered bedroom, had a good laugh and then tackled the cleanup job! It’s definitely true what they say about parenting...the days are long but the years are short.

I am covered by GRACE! The greatest blessing of all is that God’s grace and forgiveness covers our sins. As mothers we will make mistakes; we will be humbled and brought to our knees. We will come up short and  speak harshly, hurting the ones we love. But the good news is that Christ died for us while we were still sinners. Any feelings of guilt or inadequacy are not ours to carry: Jesus gave us victory! So let’s move forward accepting grace, believing Romans 8 that there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. And claiming this grace for our children too: knowing that God fills in the gaps where we fail.

My prayer is that we EMBRACE each season of motherhood, living in the FREEDOM Jesus died for and ENJOYING every moment with the BLESSINGS we’ve been given.

Happy, Happy Mother’s Day!

Jennie Hilliard