Somewhere that’s Green

Me in Little Shop of Horrors

Me as Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors

In high school, I played Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors, a musical comedy about a man-eating plant. A florist on Skid Row, Audrey longs to settle down with her kind, but nerdy, coworker, Seymour. She imagines their future home in her song, “Somewhere That’s Green.”

After high school and college in my home state of Maryland, Jesus took me on one adventure after another—to China to teach English and study Mandarin, to North Carolina to attend seminary, and, finally, to Illinois to serve at a multi-site community church and then a century-old Chinese church. In Chicago, I also forged forever friendships, met and married my incredible husband, Mark, and had two daughters.

Then the Lord led us home. (Read the story here.) We moved to Maryland on May 1st, and Mark became the Minister of Youth and Young Adults at Greenridge Baptist Church. Though we’ve only been here a month, we already see what a marvelous match God made for our whole family.

Photo courtesy of: http://www.greenridgebaptist.org/

Photo courtesy of: http://www.greenridgebaptist.org/

Though Mark misses his friends, family, and the youth he poured into for six years, he absolutely loves his new job. The position’s perfect, he likes the staff and feels comfortable with them, and he appreciates having a ministry assistant plus great volunteers who free him up to preach and counsel more. Because most of the congregation lives within 20 minutes of the church, he can have Bible studies and do lunch with people throughout the week.

Angelina digs the nursery and Michaela, her three-year-olds class. Plus, they love spending every Thursday with their seven Carter cousins (all under the age of five) and getting to see their Culp cousins more often.

Personally, I’m being fed by the passion, preaching, and perspective at Greenridge [tweet that!] and am enjoying family dinners and marshmallow-topped snowballs at Aunt Debby’s. Instead of stop-and-go traffic through a concrete jungle, every drive seems like we’re taking the scenic route.

My family’s excited to have us—especially our kids—and the church seems happy, too. The youth have been warm and welcoming, the pastors encouraging and enthusiastic, and the administrative assistants helpful and hilarious.

During the months Mark was interviewing, I was searching for a house online. In February, when he returned from a promising weekend meeting the pastors, elders, and search committee, I showed him a beautiful rancher on an acre of land off of Green Valley Road. In March, we toured that house and, this Friday—Lord willing—we get the keys.

Serving at Greenridge and living off of Green Valley Road, we’re finally settling down . . . somewhere that’s green.

View from our Future Deck

View from our Future Deck

He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake(Psalm 23:1-3, ESV).

Open Doors

“There is a wide-open door for a great work here…” (1 Corinthians 16:9).

Photo courtesy of: http:/www.liesyoungwomenbelieve.com

Photo courtesy of: http:/www.liesyoungwomenbelieve.com

I grew up in Maryland in a close, extended family with our own “compound” and big holidays and Sunday dinners. After graduating from college, however, God led me to China, then to seminary in North Carolina, and finally to Illinois where I met and married my husband, Mark.

For years, we’d talked about moving to Maryland once Mark finished his masters at Moody Bible Institute. However, the Masters of Divinity is 90-credits, and Mark’s taking classes part-time, so six years have passed, and he still isn’t finished.

Michaela holding newborn AngelinaAfter our second daughter was born, we began praying about moving sooner, but didn’t want to waste the 60 credits he’d already earned. Two weeks after we started praying, Moody changed their masters program so it could all be completed online.

Meanwhile, a church named Greenridge had posted a Minister of Youth and Young Adults position that sounded perfect for Mark. He sent them his resume, and they set up a Skype interview with the pastoral search committee. Mark liked the search team and thought the interview went well, but then we heard little from them for three months.

Meanwhile, another church began pursuing him. We met with the pastor and his wife and toured the church. Before we left, the pastor said he was going to meet with a consultant to make sure the position was the right direction for their church.

We’d been praying God would open the doors He wanted us to walk through and close the rest. Greenridge invited Mark to meet the pastors, elders, and search committee in person. One week later, the other church told Mark they’d decided to hire a worship and family pastor instead.

Greenridge flew Mark out, and he had dinner with the pastors and the head of the search committee. He called me and said, “I really like these guys.”

The next day, the elders and search committee interviewed him, and he toured the church. When he saw the 3-year-olds’ room, he almost cried, knowing our older daughter would love it. He was amazed at the youth area, which included two rooms—a sanctuary with a stage plus a huge hangout room with sofas, TVs, and pool tables.

Two weeks later, Greenridge flew our whole family out to meet the congregation and, especially, the youth group. We loved the people, the music, even the “feel” of the church and could see ourselves ministering there for a long time.

My mom’s catchphrase for the weekend was “exceedingly abundantly” because God kept doing more than we could “ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20).

The next Sunday, the members voted, “Yes!”

Photo courtesy of: http://www.biblestudyoutlines.com

Photo courtesy of: http://www.biblestudyoutlines.com

Thinking about moving, changing jobs, or starting a new ministry? God knows us and the work He’s doing around the world better than anyone else, so let’s pray like David did: “Lead me in the right path, O LORD . . . . Make your way plain for me to follow” (Psalm 5:8). (Tweet that!)

And He will.

Exceedingly abundantly.

In a Bit of Trouble

Photo courtesy of: shutterstock.com

Photo courtesy of: shutterstock.com

The other day, I was working in our home office when my two-year-old daughter came in, sat on my lap, and started coloring in my composition book with my pens and highlighters.

“I’m helping you because I love you,” she said.

I smiled and hugged her tight, wishing I could just hang out with her the rest of the day, but I still had a lot to do. “That’s so sweet, honey, but can you go help Grandma cook dinner?”

“I can’t,” she said. “Because I need to help you. You’re in a bit of trouble.”

I laughed and colored with her for awhile. But though she may have been right—I may have been in a bit of trouble—she wasn’t really able to help, at least not with my novel.

Psalm 46:1 An ever-present help in trouble

Photo courtesy of ehc.org/blog.

But there is someone who can help us, no matter what kind of trouble we’re in: “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble” (Psalm 46:1 NLT). What kind of trouble are you in today? What do you need strength for? What do you need refuge from?

I don’t know about you, but it’s easy for me to get overwhelmed by the projects or problems before me and forget I have an all-mighty heavenly Father who is always ready to help.

But Philippians 4:6-7 reminds me of the truth: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:6-7 Etsy Artwork

Photo courtesy of Etsy.com.

Today, on the National Day of Prayer, let us not forget we have an ever-present help in trouble, One who has walked on water, calmed a raging sea, and even risen from the dead. No project or problem is too difficult for Him.