Renaissance Church: Will you pray for us?

Here is the video that was just completed which documented our friends, Rob and Lauren, as they moved to plant a church in Pittsburgh, PA.

We joined the Maines, along with 2 other couples that we are close with, to scheme and pray forward this church plant for the past year. Since January we have been seriously considering moving with them, instead of just being financial supporters and praying from afar.

Please pray for us as we consider this option for our lives. We both feel a call, but saying “yes” means great sacrifice. It means not moving home to be near my parents and it means not raising our children alongside our longtime friends and church family at the Oaks. It means committing many years and laying down roots there.

Also, will you pray for our friends? Rob and Lauren and the Binkowski family have recently moved, and many have joined their core team already! Praise God! They hope to begin launch services in the Fall. Pray that their team grows, that the Holy Spirit would give them influence in the city, and that they would receive the financial funding they need.


today i became a mentor!

So this is super exciting for me: Today I became a mentor! I am working with TAPP, a school for teenage mothers. TAPP helps these girls graduate high school and readies them for college! The school was featured on MTV a few years back for a documentary called “Baby High.” Click here to watch the 40 minute long special: Baby High- MTV

I was blown away by the school! Prenatal care, postnatal care (the girls are back at school in 7 days after having their babies, and teachers come to the hospital so they don’t fall behind!), parenting classes, AMAZING day care program– all while providing the same high school courses, advanced courses, and specialty courses that JCPS high schools offer! The staff works with the girls to tackle life issues, manage after school jobs, daycare, and transportation, and plan for after graduation goals! The graduation rate is 99%! Mentors are basically paired up with one student to be a friend to her. We will meet once a week to talk through motherhood, career plans, and life issues. Today I met my high school girl and her little boy. He and Jackson are exactly a month apart in age! I think it is going to be so fun to learn with her and from her, and hopefully make her feel loved and supported!

Even though this is not a Christian program and I can not do a lot of “preaching” (as the director called it!), please pray for our relationship and that God would open doors of trust and friendship. Pray that we would have a long lasting friendship that will eventually continue outside of school. Pray that her heart would long for Jesus and that He would call her to Himself!

Quick update on the Martins!

I feel like fall has been flying by and I haven’t gotten to catch up with people as much as I would like. So I thought I would share some exciting things that are happening here in Louisville!

First off, Kevin and I both love our jobs more and more everyday. He is working hard and striving to become a personal banker soon! And I have finally learned all the ropes at my (real) Starbucks store. (Sidenote- If you work at King, do not make the mistake that you are working at a Starbucks…It may look similar, but the drink recipes are completely wrong! What the heck?!)  Also, like I said before, I am working with 6 awesome friends from Sojourn. It has been so much of the Lord’s grace to place me in a work environment where I can experience encouraging friendships and ministry through community. We get to have awesome conversations with a couple regulars in particular and most of our regular customers know that we go to Sojourn and are Christians. I thank God every day that I work for his provision in multiple ways through Starbucks.

At Sojourn, God has been so good to us in giving us ways to serve and get connected to the body. We have been enjoying making extra money serving with childcare at Sojourn events, and I have been even been asked to coordinate childcare for some events more recently. Again, God is blessing us with more financial opportunities and he is giving me a chance to use some of my leadership and administrative gifts!

Kevin has loved serving in childcare on Sunday mornings and is pursuing growth as a community group leader. I have loved serving on the connect team in college ministry, connecting students to community groups and membership–I have even began meeting with a freshman girl named Lindsey who is very teachable and excited to learn. In both of these things, we feel so blessed that the Lord would bless us and stir us up by giving us ways to use our giftings. I don’t deserve to be given opportunities that bring so much joy to my heart and allow me to serve with gladness, but our God is good, church!

More recently, I have had a growing desire to love my neighbors in Shelby Park. It is a very hurting neighborhood with a lot of fatherless children, single moms, violence, poverty, and prostitution. We are one of 5 Shelby Park community groups and God has really placed a burden on many of our hearts to be generous and servants to our neighbors here. Pray with me as I try to figure out what that looks like and what kinds of needs God is pressing on my heart to meet. Something I am particularly excited to get trained in is the Benevolence ministry, which is where I would interview and build relationships with women who come in to the church for financial assistance. I think it is a way that God is answering my prayers to build relationships and trust with single moms in the neighborhood, something I feel a strong desire to do.

This fall has also been a great time of growth for both Kevin and I. He is loving pastors school and  seminary and I have had my mind challenged and encouraged by the theology we studied in the first six weeks of women’s school. We have also both built a few friendships where conversation go deeper and challenge us to repent of sin, grow in our marriage, and trust the Word of God. We have had a few close Ohio friends visit us, which is always a comfort, and we have spent a lot of time together walking at Cherokee Park (picture above) dreaming of future plans.

All in all, it has been a great season of busyness and encouragement, after a hard, dry summer. Praise God for his faithfulness!

Sandals, Butter, and a Self-Sustaining commune?

As I was doing homework yesterday, a new friend walked up to my table and we got to talking about ministry and diversity.  I shared how I have been convicted lately about the fact that I only am friends with/minister to people who are essentially just like me. She went on to say, “You know, that’s what I have noticed about you and your friends…” “What do you mean?” I asked.  She explained,

“You guys have a great community.  You love eachother well, you talk about Jesus, and most of you reach out to high school students and share the gospel with them.  Thats great. But when you come back to Oxford, that stops.  You all have the same ministry,  the same friends, you work together, live together, worship together, dress the same, have similar extracurriculars, interests, and lingo, and for the most part, you are all part of the college of education, arts, and science.  Basically, you are like a little self-sustaining bubble– like a commune.  All you need is to start making butter and sandals and you would look pretty similar to the Amish.”

Now, nothing against the Amish, but I was extremely convicted for myself about how I am so complacent with this. None of those things above are “bad” (maybe a bit exaggerated) but why am I not bringing people outside of our great community, in? Why am I not showing people, who currently live in darkness, a picture of what it looks like to live in the light? Why am I not verbally proclaiming my hope?

Yesterday at the Oaks, we analyzed the way we as a church do mission.  Luke 10: 1-20 shed light on our lives and convicted us that we are selfish with the gospel.  In my life, I used to go to my designated city of ministry, hang out with high-schoolers, sometimes talk about Jesus (but usually just go swinging and sing really loud to Taylor Swift songs because I was more concerned with keeping a friendship and “winning the right to be heard” than being an agent of the gospel), and then I would come back to Oxford and feel entitled to check out, relax, and spend all of my life with believers who are exactly like me. Don’t get me wrong- I think there is something to be said for being refreshed in fellowship and being poured into by believers- THIS IS ESSENTIAL; God calls us to this.  If we are not meeting regularly to speak and hear the Gospel to and from each other, we will forget our motivation to persevere.  But so often I think we can justify our laziness with “community.” For me, hanging out with non-Christians (even doing a group project) made me feel “put-out”–I was and still am self-absorbed and just want to be comfortable.

“To understand the gospel, there is no room for selfishness.” -Kevin Jamison

We been delivered from the dominion of darkness! We have been brought into the Kingdom of Christ! Because Jesus died, we get the opportunity to be Christ’s workmanship (Eph. 2:9-10) We have been saved to good works that have been prepared for us BY GOD! And we are called to alleviate suffering in the world by bringing the good news of Jesus to hurting places wherever we are! (Isaiah 61)

Since I have stopped leading, my eyes have been opened to how selfish I am.  When I would come back from Springboro, I felt entitled to turn the ministry switch off.  After all, ministry is exhausting, right? Not if the gospel is your motivation its not.

So this is my conviction.  I may be the only one in my community who struggles with this, but I doubt it. Here is what I do know: I can repent. And I want to. I just want to be proclaiming the gospel one, for God’s glory, two, to express my joy and gratitude for the very God who made me alive, and three, so that people I love can know and treasure Jesus as Lord and by his will and power be brought from the dominion of darkness.

Let’s do this. Let’s love people here. I have been so encouraged lately as I see this vision catching on around me and its been cool to see many of my friends reaching out to their class friends or co-workers! Let’s bring non-believers into our times of fellowship and hanging out.  Let’s invite people to hear truth spoken at the Oaks and in our community groups! Let’s look for the opportunities that God has given us to share life and the Gospel with non-believers; to build relationships with people in our classes or even at the random picnic table we choose to sit down at. After all..

26And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us.” (Acts 17)

People around us have been placed in our presence to feel their way towards God! What a calling we have and We are not ashamed of the Gospel for it is the power of God for the salvation of all who believe! (Romans 1:16) Amen.

What does Ministry look like after Young Life?

Alania, Me, & Caroline at the Reds Game

This has been a question I have been praying about A LOT these days.  I’ve been unsure, overwhelmed, and battling feelings of worthlessness. But God blessed me tremendously this weekend when I got to hang out with my good friend Caroline and her friend Alania.  Caroline is someone who does ministry really really well.  She doesn’t only love people and share the gospel in the confines of New Miami, but she even seeks out her classmates and catches a vision for who they were created to be.  Alania is someone that Caroline got to know through her creative writing class and they became friends.  Long story short, we are all now friends with Alania!  I got the opportunity to go to a Reds game with the two of them this weekend.  On the drive home we got to talk about Jesus and how his righteousness given to us is the ONLY thing that gives us right standing with God. Jesus offers us this grace through faith that on the cross God exhausted his wrath on him for our sin.  Alania didn’t know the Lord before this weekend, but after that conversation and her honesty and Pastor Bryan’s bold words on Sunday at the Oaks, I’m pretty sure she sees her need for a savior and has claimed Christ.  Praise God for how he moves and redeems and also how he blesses the Saints to be a part of his work!

Getting to share the gospel was an answered prayer and such a blessing.  I’m starting to see how God wants to use me to build his Kingdom right now, even without a formal ministry title.  I don’t have a context.  I don’t have events.  I don’t have a team.  But I have been made new by the Gospel and that gives me the ability to love people and speak truth.  I want to love people and I want to speak truth.  Pray with me that I would grow in confidence to seek people out and form friendships.  All of a sudden, high school girls seem way less intimidating than they used to…yikes.

God is moving.

Speaking of high school girls, I miss being a young life leader sometimes.  Last night I got to help team Boro make a track with segments of songs for a need talk.  I loved serving them in that way.  Tonight I got to sit on my roof at the 8-9 hour and pray for the city, for kids, for the team, and for club.  It was so good and my passion for the Gospel to radically change the city was relit.  Like Christie so beautifully reminded me last night, God is just teaching me how to serve behind the scenes.  I don’t get to be up front, see fruit, or even receive love from girls, but I am getting to learn how to love and serve the city in the way God has called me to in this time.  I still have a heart for Springboro and for the girls I love, but God is ripping away my desire to be relevant and seen.  God, You are good and you do good. Enter into this broken city and into the hearts of people who live there!  They are being fed a false gospel of performance and materialism. Open thousands of hearts to know the gospel of grace and worship you as King. Amen.

Who I used to be.

I wanted to start this blog as an expression/processing center as I work through this season of refinement that God has placed me in.

I’ve been a Christian since high school, but it wasn’t until about 2 months ago that Jesus became my only identity, my only claim.  I used to be a lot of things.  A best friend. A girlfriend. A discipler. A busy person. A happy-go-lucky, always-try-to-please-everyone kind of girl. But the thing so many people in my community tagged me with was “Springboro Young Life Leader.”

I used to be one.

Now I’m not.

I was asked to step down from my position as a Young Life Leader due to not adhering with the Young Life code of conduct we sign.  Even though the period of sin was in the past, repented of, and held accountable for, nevertheless, it was the will of God that I be asked to stop.  This was nearly two months ago and that sunday, my world was rocked. My heart is still recovering from the blow.  Relationships with girls had to be severed. A bible study of sophomore girls that I had built up in the Gospel for a year was handed down to my co-leader. Cross country girls that I have practiced with and cheered for the past two years will never see me again. My team now runs alongside each other for the city…without me. The area of my life that brought me the most joy, lead me to the most prayer, and made me most passionate about the Gospel of Jesus Christ was taken away.  Why? Why did you choose to discipline me so long after my time of rebellion? Why do I have to be exiled, without the oppertunity to have occasional contact with girls who I, not only led and discipled, but had deep fellowship and friendship with?

I thought things would begin to make sense by now, but I still sit here today, asking myself the same questions…

On the morning after I was asked to stop leading, I remember reflecting on the Lord’s will.  In the midst of tear filled eyes I journaled:

Jan. 24, 2010– God you are so faithful. You are my strength and my portion forever. Even when my heart condemns me, you are greater still.

Lord thank you that your will is being done.  Even though that period sin is in the past, Lord the idols are still here…just manifesting themselves in less offensive ways.  Your discipline is just, but it is also loving like a Father.  What a BLESSING to be disciplined in such a way to make me more holy, pure, and in love with you.  I will know you so much through this and you will change my heart to rely on you alone.

Lord so many idols are threatened: Reputation, People’s View of Me, Control, Ministry.  I have nowhere to go but you.  Mark 10: I knew that the one thing that would be hard for me to sell was my reputation.  Here it is God. You have broken it and I am holding up the broken pieces and ready to follow you. It will be hard and I fear people who don’t understand the Gospel and will only judge, speculate, gossip, and slander so that they can be exulted over me in my sin.  Hold me Lord and set my heart to know that my identity is in you alone.

Jan. 25, 2010– Lord my heart is heavy right now. I miss my girls. I can’t even say goodbye…I’m so sad. I was telling Kevin about how they are starting to hang out with each other outside of bible study and how I feel so passionate about discipleship and how God blesses and encourages me through them.  Why do I have to have this taken away? It’s such a good thing that points me to you and I just feel like I’m starting to doubt your goodness. Restore to me my sight lord! You are better than you blessing. Please God release me from bitterness or sadness.  Lead me to find peace with your will.

Grow me in prayer Jesus.  I pray for Springboro and your redemption there.  Change girls hearts and draw Abbi, Corissa, Natalie, Sierra, Rachel, and Christiana’s hearts nearer to yours.  By the power of the gospel, sanctify them.  You are so good.

I feel peace to keeping moving forward.

Jan. 27, 2010– God I am so thankful! Today was so hard but now I can rejoice in sight of your work!  I just went to dinner with Christie and just feel so confident that you are going to move through her so much in those girls lives!  I am so encouraged by the faith you are giving her.  Gosh you are going to change her so much and bless her as you blessed me as she sees them fall more in love with you.

THANK YOU FOR HOW YOU ARE MOVING IN ABBI!  I just got her letter and it was so rich and deeply from you.  You have changed her into such a beautiful woman who loves you more everyday and I can see that in her words.  I also see so much of myself in the letter- but in a good way.  The words you spoke from me gave her life and grew her in her understanding of you.  I got to see fruit and that is such an undeserved blessing that many don’t get to see the way I have.  I am so thankful.  I think I am ready to let go of Springboro.  I have had so much passion over the past two years.  I am so excited to find more passion in you alone.  Direct my steps lord.  Where do you want me?  Increase my faith that you are enough for me!

I prayed those things with so much faith. but today that person seems so distant. I think I half believed that this was a big mistake or that some how my “penance” would be paid off quick and easy and I would be able to talk to my friends again–but its been two months and I’m starting to realize I will never be a Springboro Young Life Leader again.

Here is what I am learning…Well, trying to learn.

God is the author of this.  He is good and he loves me.  He is not bringing me through this time to punish me but to BLESS ME.  It is a blessing that I get to know Him better and have more of Him.  I’m trying to learn that even compared to some of the best things in this world, he is better still! I was made to know and treasure the glory of God above all things- My discontentness is really me selling out and starving myself from what I was created to find my utmost joy in!  Do I really count all things as loss compared to knowing Jesus and His SURPASSING worth? Am I this temporally focused that I forget the GLORY that will be revealed to us sons and daughters for eternity? Lord give me back my child-like faith and prayerful heart I felt the day you took this part of my life, and let me eagerly long to invite you to abide in its place!

Not to this, oh God, but to your name be glory.

I love all of this, but Jesus I want to love you more.