Thursday, March 09, 2017

Our new life in Iowa...inner musings and what we've been up to!

One week from today will mark our 4th month anniversary of living in Indianola, IA.  I have been reflecting MUCH about these last several months, but I never seem to find any extra hours in the day to write my thoughts down. 

But today, my family has given me the "day off" for my birthday, and I have been exploring Des Moines, eating LOTS of free food and having my free Caribou and Starbucks, and shopping for several items we still need for our new house....

like curtain rods and room darkening curtains for the kids' bedrooms...there's a certain little boy who thinks that anytime after 6:00 am is a fine time to wake up....

"the sun is awake, Mommy!" 

"Yes, but Mommy isn't, sweet child!"

And yes, Josiah is still the cutest little 2 year old around!  

It has been a wonderful, hard, sweet, lonely, and exciting last few months.  I think it was especially hard because the kids had to change schools mid-year, one week before Thanksgiving.  The holidays are usually such a sweet time for our family, but with each new day, there seemed to be something that was hard for at least one of us....missing some of the great Advent activities we did every Christmas in the Twin Cities or missing being able to walk next door and hang out with our neighbors or missing places that were familiar.  

But sprinkled between those hard, first few days and weeks were things that gave us hope....enjoying an evening with other church families at the "Rockin' Around the Square," finding a dance studio for Hannah to take a dance and acrobatic class, meeting other young moms in town and having play dates.  We often were sad about the people, places and things that we missed about Minneapolis, but were so blessed and grateful when we learned of new places to explore and made deeper relationships with friends here.

As I look back now, those early days were filled with more sadness than joy. I liken it to the feelings of grief.  After suffering a great loss, sadness is always hanging right in front of you.  It's all you can see.  Everything, joy, foggy and in the background.  But, eventually, as time passes and our hearts heal, the sadness fades and you can fully see the beauty again.

I feel like that's how it's been.  Gradually, almost with each new day, the sadness of leaving sweet friends, family, and favorite places has began to diminish and joy has become the reigning emotion.

It's been a hard, but beautiful thing to have walked through this with my each of my kids and reflect on it with Brad as individuals and as a couple. God has done MUCH in tearing down idols of familiarity and comfort for all 6 of us, and He has given us more of Himself in the process.  Very little of our new house, neighborhood, town, church, school has been "just like" those same things in Minneapolis.  It's been difficult shepherding our kids (and shepherding my own heart) through it, but God continually shows us that this is exactly where we are supposed to be. And that has truly put so much joy in our hearts!

So, what have we been up to?

 Well, I'm glad you asked!

We have been enjoying our new home!

We have been integrating into the life of our new, sweet church.
We packed shoe boxes with our church just 2 days after we moved.
We've been exploring our town library and participating in free Monday afternoon Lego building classes and other craft and engineering classes.

We got a membership to the Des Moines Science Center....

There are several great rooms filled with toddler friendly activities for Josiah and fun engineering activities for my "always building and creating something that move or flies or does something cool" Caleb.

And we also got a membership to the Blank Park Zoo....

We've also been able to make a couple quick trips back to the Minneapolis area to see friends from the kids' old school, visit neighbors, and see family in Wisconsin.

Some extra sweet things have been 1) the father/daughter dance at our parks & rec....

...I totally did Hannah's hair, and my girls were SO impressed!

2) My amazing granite countertops and island that held an insane amount of Christmas cookies!

3) Sweet friends for my kids! (And a wonderful violist from the Des Moines Symphony Orchestra who gives Sammy private lessons.)

4) A 11 hour, one way visit from my parents in January.  They drove through mountains of snow to watch our kiddos so Brad and I could go to a pastor's and wives conference.

5) A parks & rec basketball league for Caleb.  This kid LOVES basketball just like his mama!

 6) Sweet dinners, game nights, movie nights and a super bowl party with some pretty cool families from our church.  These meals, fellowship, and fun have been some of my favorite times so far!

Overall, we really are loving our new life in Iowa.  We love the fact that we can get pretty much anywhere in 5 minutes.  We don't miss the traffic AT ALL!!!  We love the slower pace of life.  We love our new church and the wonderful families that God has placed there.  Brad's really enjoying his position, and it really is a good fit for his passions and skills. The kids have slowly adjusted to their new school and have made some new friends.  I LOVE the women that God has given to me here.  I don't know what I'd do without them as I've missed my seminary wives and dear college friends so much! I love our new house (though I miss my laundry chute and large storage room A LOT!). And as our neighbors are slowly coming out of their houses and interacting more with us, I am hopeful that we can build some relationships with the families around us.  

Last Saturday night, as we sat around the bonfire at a neighbor's house eating smores, I thought of that little song...."make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold." God has been gracious to give me, an extreme extrovert and type A personality, wonderful friends and activities in Minneapolis AND here in Indianola.  

And today, on my 40th birthday, I am so grateful for my dear friends here and there, our sweet church, and the promise I have that Christ has gone before us, has been with us every step of the way, has equipped us to serve His church here, and has provided ALL that we have needed.  

"For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,  from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,  that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,  so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love,  may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen."

Ephesians 3:14-21

Thursday, October 13, 2016

What can happen in just a month.

Exactly a month ago, Brad and I were still knee-deep in packing, organizing, staging, and finishing final projects on our Brooklyn Center home.  It took us 9 days from when we first made our list of 60 things we still had to complete/finish/repair/stage until the professional photographer arrived to take pictures of our home.

I can't remember much of it, but I DO remember that I only freaked out/had a panic attack TWICE about how we were going to finish everything in time.

This was a miracle people... a miracle!

I give much of the credit to my lack of "freaking out" to my 4 years as a seminary student's wife.  I was taught and trained in more areas that I can count and experienced more growth in becoming more flexible than I had ever before and really learned to not "worry about the million things that need to get done and just do the next thing."

Yet another sweet gift of seminary life.

Our house hit MLS on the afternoon of Thursday, September 15.  We had 4 showings on Friday, 2 more on Saturday, and by Saturday night we received 2 offers!!!

We officially accepted an offer on Sunday, and there was MUCH rejoicing at my house!!!

I don't know whether the kids or I were more excited about not having to have the house cleaned and spotless!  

Selling our house so quickly was such a gift from the Lord!  I know that He doesn't always work in this specific way for others...I believe He uses the quick sales and the LONG sales both for His glory and our good...but I was grateful for His graciousness to our family. 

About a week and a half later, Brad, Josiah, and I drove to Indianola to look at homes.  We were again amazed at God's sweet provision for us.  As we interviewed Iowa realtors, God led us to a wonderful woman whose passion is finding just the right house for each family.  She loves the challenge of it and loves learning about what specific needs each family has.  After going back to look at a certain house for the second time, we made an offer. After a day or two of negotiations, they accepted our counter offer!

The one tricky part is that we aren't able to close on our Brooklyn Center home until November 16.  Brad and I were really sad that we couldn't close sooner.  We realized that Brad would have to begin working at Grace Evangelical Free Church in Indianola before the rest of the family was able to join him.

Living separately was something we were hoping to avoid. 

But God has continued to be gracious to us.  After talking with the senior pastor and elders and looking at our schedule, we decided that Brad would begin at Grace on October 9 and would leave Minneapolis on Saturday afternoons and return back to Brooklyn Center on Thursday evenings for 5 weeks until we move into our new house on November 17.

It wasn't our first plan, but it is God's plan for us during these last 6 weeks in Minnesota.

We're now almost done with the first week.

I'm super tired.... Josiah got hand, foot and mouth on Sunday...

I'm super emotional...due to missing being a part of forming these new relationships with people in our new church alongside Brad AND realizing how much I will miss my neighbors, friends, and nearby family...

and I'm completely aware of my limitations and how self-sufficient I try to be...I just can't be ALL things at ALL times for 4 matter how hard I plan or work.

While this may first appear as a hardship, I have been reminded over the last few days that God doesn't waste anything.  These next several weeks are a gift!  The kids and I are able to be with some of our dearest friends and to enjoy "just one more MN fall" and "just one more trip to Chutes and Ladders" and "just one more outing with our WI cousins."

What a gift!

And, even more, God is gently reminding me that while He has given me the personality and gifts to manage a lot of CRAZY, He also is calling me to depend on Him fully and not in myself.

"But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me." II Corinthians 12:9-10


Sunday, September 11, 2016

A new adventure

This past January,  Brad attended the Desiring God Pastor's Conference in Minneapolis.  During one of the "meet and greet" sessions, he met a senior pastor who shared with the group about a new Pastor of Family Discipleship position at his small, 8 year old church plant just south of Des Moines, IA. 

I remember that evening very clearly.  Brad came home, and for the first time after several weeks of job searching, he was really excited.  He was instantly drawn to this pastor and this particular position. And as we slowly continued the journey getting to know this church, her leadership and her congregation, we were more drawn to the possibility of serving there.

After 7 months of resumes, questionnaires, references, interviews, candidating weekends, phone calls, emails, prayer, fasting, and seeking wise council, the Lord has clearly led us to serve at Grace Evangelical Free Church in Indianola, IA.  We are grateful for God's leading, clarity, and direction as we prepare for this new adventure.

Since Brad officially accepted the position on September 2, it's been a bit crazy around the Aust house! We decided, before the REAL crazy began, to squeeze as much fun and sun from our last Minnesota summer as we could.  As a family, we explored, played, and traveled all over the Twin Cities during Labor Day weekend. 

Even though we knew there was so much to do, I was bound and determined to have some good old family fun with our kiddos after a summer of job interviewing and candidating weekends, and I just had to make sure we completed the last several stops on our 2016 summer bucket list.

And those of you who really know me, know that I'm a bit of an over-achiever. 

Brad and I made our plan, and once the older 3 kiddos headed to school on September 6, we began to tackle our to-do list of the 60 final things we had to do to get the house on the market.

Yes, I did say 60 MORE things!  Eeek!

We have been slowly progressing through our list, and we hope (Lord willing) to get our house listed by Friday, September 16.

We have felt many of your prayers for wisdom and clarity for us these last few weeks, and we praise God for His answer to those prayers! He was faithful to have led us to Bethlehem Seminary over 4 years ago, and He continues to be faithful to lead us to Grace Evangelical Free Church.

We must also confess that we have had many bittersweet moments this last week as we look ahead at God's good gift of this pastoral position and also as we say goodbye to so many dear neighbors and friends in Minneapolis.  Brad and I have realized that we have lived in or within 2-3 hours of the Twin Cities for over half our lives.  It really has been our "home" since we both left our North Dakota and Indiana homes for college at Northwestern 21 years ago.  We have deep roots here, a strong support network, and the comfort of many familiar places and things. Yet we do not put our confidence in those things.  Our hope is in God!  He has been faithful to provide all that we have needed during seminary, and we are fully trusting Him to provide a home, new friends, and new opportunities to love and serve the people He brings into our lives.  Our desire continues to be to make much of the name of Christ, whether that is in Minnesota or Iowa.

"being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 1:6

Please continue to uphold us in prayer this week as we work to get our house listed and begin to think through the many, many other details about our move to Indianola. 

Monday, August 29, 2016

Please pray for us.

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths." Proverbs 3:5-6

These verses have always been a key component to how Brad and I make major decisions.  And we are at the point of a very big decision about a pastoral position and where we believe God is calling us to serve His church. 

This verse has been ringing in my head all day as we have prayed, fasted, and sought the Lord.

Much has happened since the middle of July.  The church that chose Brad as their final candidate extended an invitation to us to candidate on August 5-7.  We accepted and our entire family spent a wonderful weekend with that sweet church.  On August 14, the elders there extended an official call to Brad to come serve as their Pastor of Family Discipleship.

During this time, the second church extended an invitation to Brad to candidate on August 26-28.  We accepted that invitation and returned home just last night. 

We have been praying, over these many last months of journeying with these 2 different churches, that God would give us wisdom, discernment, and lead us to where He wanted us to be. 

So that is what we have been doing today, and we are asking you to join us in praying tonight and tomorrow as we hope to make a decision on where we feel God is leading us. 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

July update

In the fall of 2011, before Brad was accepted into Bethlehem College and Seminary, a friend told me something that struck me.  She said, "I think seminary is going to change you more than Brad." She knew that Brad would love the rich study of God's Word and the amazing classes and living life with these wonderful small group of men.

And she also knew me.

I like planning.  I like schedules.  I like making goals.  I like being organized.  And oh, I LOVE my 6-12 month plan.

I was, after all, a teacher for 6 years and LOVED the unit planning and curriculum design side of teaching.

But in plans and schedules and agendas went out the window. There were times I had no idea how things would get done, how bills would be paid, when the next time I would get around to washing everyone's bed sheets, or what in the world I was going to make for dinner.

There were many times that a dear friend would say to me, "just do the next thing."

That was all I could do.

Because of that, I have had a greater dependency on God to be sufficient for each day. I have had to let go of my pretty organizer and have learned to live one day at a time.  And that lesson has come in very handy this last month!

Now, we find ourselves in July and the future is still unsure.  And we find ourselves living one day at a time.

There is much more unknown then there is known, but I will share with you what we DO know!

One of the churches we interviewed with last month has chosen Brad as their candidate, and Brad and I will be driving to meet with the elders tomorrow morning to ask further questions before we decide whether or not to accept their invitation to candidate.  Then on Saturday our whole family will attend an outreach event at a different church during their town's community days.  We will be spending some time getting to know this congregation and the community and will be attending their worship service on Sunday morning.  Later this month, this same church has asked Brad to meet again with their elders on July 30 and preach on July 31.

While we continue to get to know these churches, their pastors and leadership better, we will continue to get our house ready to get on the market and will enjoy every day we get to have with dear friends and neighbors here in Brooklyn Center.

When people ask us what's next for us, I have become content with responding, "we don't know, but God knows and that's all I need to know."

Please continue to pray for God to give us wisdom, to make clear our path, and to calm our hearts when the road ahead still seems unknown.