This is our last fall of college ministry here in Raleigh. It feels weird to type that sentence. Overall, we are sad to see this season of our lives come to an end. We are excited about what's coming in the future but we love this ministry and these students. It is hard to imagine this not being a huge part of our lives. This post is a glimpse into our conflicted present moment - excited to see so many students again, sad that this is our last run with them, and still excited about London and the future...all at the same time.
August is spelled C-R-A-Z-Y
August (& September if we are being honest) in the West house is full, busy, and often described as "survival mode." Inspiring, we know. This month is full of unique tensions that we don't feel any other time during the year. We began with a few day vacation in Washington DC. We returned to a full gamut of ministry activity from leadership retreats, staff transitions, and loads of behind the scenes planning. Thomas tends to put in more hours this month than any other time in the year. As a family we have learned to ride the roller coaster and we look for some key times to rest as a family.
Last weekend we had our leadership retreat for our Life Group (small groups) leaders. We are absolutely blown away by the people God has brought together for this year. They are sharp, bold, and so loving. We laughed, planned, discussed, and prayed our way into a game plan for the upcoming fall semester. These leaders are really special people. They literally do the work of the ministry. We love them so much.
The next few weeks are full of campus info fairs, outreach events to connect with new people, and a fresh start to our Sunday morning college gatherings at Providence. We are excited to see who we will connect with in the days ahead. Perhaps our favorite part of this time of year is to watch which leaders will emerge. Pressure and opportunity have a way of drawing out the best in some college students and new people step up and into multiple moments of need.
We love these days. They are long, tiring, and good. So much of the year is setup by the work and connections that happen during these days. There is something about knowing that this is our last run through the course at this season of life that has us running harder than ever.
Finding Our Family In The Fray
We have learned to endure our various seasons as a family. From Thomas studying for a Masters and PhD to the long nights and early mornings of pastoral ministry - we have learned to live in different seasons. Like any family we face pressures and restraints that limit all we want to do and pull us away from one another. So, we work hard at slowing down so we can maintain balance in the midst of busyness.
In these days we look for ways to cultivate moments when it's just the four of us focusing on one another. Our approach is not fancy or novel - but it is lifegiving and necessary. We prize our neighborhood walks (especially the ones where Thomas doesn't talk about ministry the whole time). We love going out to eat lunch as a family on Fridays together. And, it's hard to beat a pizza and a Disney movie family picnic in the living room. We fight to protect time together.
We have chosen to do ministry in a way where our life will be really full and busy. We embrace it. We are grateful for the opportunities to serve and we receive them as a stewardship of time and talents from God. To serve in the ways God has called us to we must protect time with one another, family, and close friends.
On Sundays, we don't want our kids to feel like they get the short end of the stick since daddy serves as a pastor. We routinely go up to the office to get a sucker after church and find slivers of time here and there to do things as a family. Wherever possible we say "yes" to doing ministry as a family. It's not always convenient or easy but it helps us follow-through on one of our core principles: we do ministry from our family relationships and not around them.
Finding Our Rest
So, here we are. A normal family faces normal life pressures. We are excited to be in the buzz of college ministry for one more fall semester. We look forward to the climb through the end of August and also crave the slow-rolling-hills of October-November. At the same time, our hearts feel an undertow of transition setting in as we are being called to London to bring the joy of Christ and local church ministry to people who have no experience of either.
This season will have inevitable times of slipping away for training, networking, and support-raising. We will embrace those as God's good and necessary ways of preparing us for the work to come. For this Friday night, we are finding our rest. We're learning that the rest is as important as the work.
Elizabeth is reading a book called The Church Planting Wife. It's a fantastic read on pastoral ministry from the perspective of Christine Hoover - a church planter's wife who planted in Charlottesville, Virginia. This book has been doing both of us a lot of good in this season. We leave you with a quote that reminds...rebukes...and comforts us well in this season...
"God has given us rest not only as a gift but as a way of acknowledging that we need. Like priorities, rest is an act of dependence and trust: Lord, I am not responsible for everything and everyone, but You are. In my rest, I trust that You are still working. While we rest, God, who needs nothing, remains at work on our behalf and on behalf of our families and churches."
*** Thank you so much for joining us on our journey. We would love to hear from you as we carry on so please do not hesitate to comment, share, or send us a message. We would love to hear from you.