The Nexus Of a New Day

I started “Notes From the Vicarage” over two years ago just as Brenda was coming home from her mission in The Netherlands for the regular furlough required by our fellowship. The blog was supposed to help her with connection and fundraising as well as giving our readers a glimpse into life at a vicarage full of ministers. In that endeavor I failed.

I wasn’t prepared for the fact that Brenda and Amanda were not really ready to launch into the world of regular blogging on the scale I was used to.

I wasn’t prepared for how difficult the transition back into American life would be for Brenda.

I wasn’t prepared for how my life was about to change professionally.

And none of us were prepared for a pandemic that would stall the world and missions fundraising efforts for more than a year.

We have come full circle. Brenda will be returning to The Netherlands tomorrow.

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So much has changed in two years:

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Brenda’s new dining room.

She is returning, not to her farm on the edge of the Jagersfeld, but to a new row house in the midst of a newly formed artistic district.

She is returning under the umbrella of a new missions agency….Artists for Community Transformation.

I am now lead pastor of Cornerstone Church.

Amanda holds the post of youth and children’s pastor.

The whole world is living under the cloud of what we are calling our new normal, which I think is not actually going to settle into any kind of normal from here on until the age changes.

And on top of that The Vicarage is about to undergo some necessary surgery.

The front gardens of The Vicarage at dusk last night

It is the end of one day.

the forest garden of The Vicarage by first light.

And the beginning of another.

Each new day is a nexus, a connector of past present and future. I am learning to celebrate what was. Hope for what is to come, and concentrate on what is.

The last two years have taught us God is able to bring the best out of even the worst circumstances. He is truly able to make beauty out of ashes.

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Pandemic gave Brenda time to further her calling and connect to her new missions organization which is built for artist/ missionaries.

Pandemic prepared me for the work of being a lead pastor, by helping me to discover what my real ministry gift was.

Pandemic prepared our church for the move of God which is now beginning to take place.

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As we approach this nexus of a new day I am looking forward to the story that is about to unfold before us. I realize that my role in this unfolding it to be the teller of the story. This time I am determined to make time to tell it.

WHAT STORY ARE YOU DETERMINED TO TELL JUST NOW?

#WeekendCoffeeShare: The Quick March

If we were having coffee or tea or whatever today, I would tell you that this week feels like fall is rushing towards us.

Even as the garden remains in full bloom I am watching as the trees in the neighborhood take on the faintest tint of their autumn colors. But this year fall is about more than the shift of seasons, it is the changing of a host of things here at The Vicarage.

Brenda is packed and ready to leave on Wednesday for her new home in Zaandam. Her team brought in her dining set today.

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Those of you who have been following “Notes From the Vicarage” know that Brenda’s old landlord had gotten rid of almost all of her furniture from her old apartment without telling her. He has made amends and God has given Brenda almost a whole new House of furniture (new to her anyway) for a total cost of less than $100.00 Euro. She still needs to buy new mattresses, linens, curtains and towels but her furniture is all set.

She is still dealing with a heavy heart over the knowledge that her dog Snug will not be able to join her on this trip. COVID has made the veterinarians who deal with oversea pet travel very busy and she could not get an appointment before October. So the Vicarage is becoming a 3 dog, 1 cat household.

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Snug being dubious.

If we were having coffee I would tell you that the renovation for the Vicarage is moving forward quickly now. The floor guys came forward this morning and said that our floors can be refinished rather than replaced! That is good because apparently our floors are made of red birch which is super pricy if not impossible to replace.

Red Birch Hardwood Flooring

I would also tell you that this week we picked out our new bathroom fixtures and cabinets. This week I have to make appointments to decide on countertops and bathroom tiles.

Finally, if we were having coffee I would tell you that tomorrow I am hosting the second children’s dedication of my lead pastorate at Cornerstone Church. I have the privilege of dedicating my grand daughters!

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Signing On the Dotted Line

The summer has passed so quickly. Like the seasons everything is changing.

Brenda spent the week packing and doing last minute tasks that have to get done before she heads to her new home in The Netherlands.

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Things like signing the loan paperwork this week so the Vicarage project can move forward. Yay! We have the money to fix this old house.

AfterI finished signing yesterday, one of my friends from church, came over to help me move some more brush.

Joe has come twice to take brush. I figure he has saved me about two days of brush burning. He was even able to fit a few of the pallets from the pile.

I am pretty excited about where we are going with the Vicarage project. I am also reminded that I have a whole life outside of the project. After moving brush I got ready for my evening meeting, a meet-n-greet for a town project called Heal Winchendon.

Having been through many other building projects in my life I am aware how all consuming they can be especially when they are this big. Balancing ministry and living the building project is going to be tricky. God keeps reminding me that prayer is the key.

HAVE YOU DONE BUILDING PROJECTS BEFORE? WHAT WAS THE KEY TO KEEPING YOUR SANITY?

Back To Busy

A few weeks ago I said I was no longer using the word “busy” because busy carried the connotation of stress. Instead I had determined to use the word “full” for the life I was living because full speaks of abundance and prosperity…..Yeah…..I got back to busy today.

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Today is writing day. The normal course of writing day is full….prayer-pastoral reading- Digging Deeper Devo- sermon- Prayer meeting planning- scheduling the week- prepping for staff meeting and other meetings- 5 Star Man Group. Adding to that just pushed the day from “full” to “busy” for me.

When the e-mails started rolling from the insurance company and the bank doing the HELOC for us about missing paperwork that was scanned to them last week I got just a little edgy.

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A thirty minute call to our insurers…most of which I spent on hold…got the issue resolved and then a quick trip to the bank with some more necessary paperwork for the signing finished that part, and I thought the stress was over…..I was wrong.

As I got back to The Vicarage, I noted Brenda was working in the yard with the clippers. She was clipping down the Japapnese knot weed that was overhanging the sidewalk. I thought about helping, but I had a sermon to write. I had almost hit my rhythm when Brenda called m,y cell and asked me to come and help her. Did I mention I was wrong about being over my stress?

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Stress is not about what is going on outside of us anymore than busy is. Busy and stress are all about what is going on inside. Shifting the interior world is what shifts busyness to fullness.

I realized it was time for more prayer.

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Silencing the inner turmoil with centering prayer is an effective way to shift me from busy to full, from negative to positive.

The second step for me to shift from busy to full is to realize all that has gotten done this week…to count my many blessings so to speak.

We got the trees down around the Vicarage so the project can begin.

The paperwork is now complete for the HELOC.

Brenda’s team in the Netherlands continues to replace her furniture with deals they are finding with God’s help, and one of her Bridge M.A. Team has started a Gofund me page to help with the costs.

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Her new bookcase
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The dining set she will be bale to pick up upon arrival in The Netherlands…a second hand deal.
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Her new couch… another second hand deal found by her team.
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A new bedframe.

And I just found out that my friend Joe is coming to take another load of brush away for us on Thursday!!!!

And the final step toward shifting my mindset is to envision the possibilities before me.

Updates From Among the Trees

I really love the forest garden at The Vicarage.

But the forest has encroached on the house over the years.

As we look at our big renovation project, the first thing we have to address is the trees that are rooting at the foundations and branching into the Shingles of the house.

On windy nights the branches of one of the maples actually scratch against my window like the scritching of nails in a horror film.

Today is the day! The tree guys are coming!

The work started around 7:30 A.M.

Mom needed lots of reassurance as the men worked outside her window. It sort of let me know what we will be looking at as we head into the house construction.


It seems strange being able to see every corner of the house.

Now to the trimming and cleaning work! The yard around the house will look a lot better when the contractors come to set up their staging for the siding work.

If We Were Having Coffee 8-7-21 #Weekendcoffeeshare#31

I haven’t done the weekend coffee share in a long time. Actually I haven’t participated in any challenges for a long time, but it feels like things are shifting and the time is right to start in with the challenges again. IF WE WERE HAVING COFFEE TODAY, we would be sitting on my front porch at the Vicarage where I have drunk most of my coffee this week.

I would tell you that the renovation project at The Vicarage is moving forward. Our loan was conditionally approved this week and the design team came out to see the house together and put together a more concrete estimate of what this is going to cost us. So we are waiting with bated breath. Meanwhile I am continuing to clean and prune and prepare the Vicarage for the work that lies ahead. We of course are going to need to empty the kitchen as it is going back to the studs. So step one is throwingout things we will not use, do not need or things that are just plain broken.

If we were having coffee I would tell you this has been an exciting month at Cornerstone Church.I am preaching on the baptism in the Holy Spirit just now and this has been a very exciting study. Here’s just a taste of what we are talking about.

If we were having coffee I woul tell you all about Brenda’s new home in The Netherlands.

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I would tell you she has bought her ticket by faith and is heading back to her home in North Holland on Sept. 1st. I am so excited for her.

If we were having coffee I would share with you that life is full…not busy…just wonderfully full and exciting right now.

WHAT WOULD YOU SHARE?

Nitty Gritty Reality Faith

5:20 A.M. get up walk dogs.

6:20 A.M. Pray and prepare for the big day

7:20 A.M. Get mom her breakfast and medications/ Make coffee for household/ Vacuum/ move clothes drying racks/ make beds/ sweep kitchen/ clean bathrooms/ move broken pallets from stone porch to burning pile/ Gather trash for dump run/ light candles to fragrance house (I love fragrance)

9:30 A.M. Meet with contractors and sub contractors to begin getting Nitty Gritty Reality framework into place. Here is where the dream begins to take on earthly shape and all the warts and pimples begin to show. I think this stage of a project is the part that needs the most faith.

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DREAMS ARE GREAT

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AND WHILE JOURNEYS CAN BE BOTH DAUNTING AND EXHAUSTING THE ACTUAL GOING BUILDS MOMENTUM.

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BUT THIS SPACE BETWEEN THE DREAMING AND THE JOURNEY IS THE PLACE WHERE MOST OF MY PLANS COME TO NOTHING. THE “WE’LL SEES” AND “WHAT IFS” BEGIN TO TAKE THEIR TOLL AS MAYBES BECOME NITTY GRITTY REALITIES.

For instance we discovered….Not just new shingles. We will need new windows.

And…Yep…. This old house will need some new electrics.

And before we can even think of beginning the trees must go.

We will have appointments this week with the plumber and the gutter people and get their thoughts on the job.

For me faith in this part of the project is the part that just keeps going, just keeps organizing. This is the part where I just keep telling myself it will be all right and we will handle whatever comes our way and make whatever modifications we have to to get the project done. This is the part where I guard my prayer time. It is in this season I most appreciate the place of quieting the soul.

NITTY GRITTY REALITY FAITH LOOKS LIKE…

11:00 A.M. Dump run and then reviewing the appraisal for the house. Send it off marked “done” to the bank

12:00 P.M. Lunch for me and Mom. Brenda is off to deal with the fact that her furniture in The Netherlands is all gone. Her old landlord decided to remodel and just chucked all her stuff!

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1:00 P.M. Contact one of my old students about the trees (he runs a landscaping and tree service)/ Contact our insurance company to get information the bank needs sent off/ cancel haircut …it just ain’t happening/ send e-mail to personal assistant about a ministry event coming up that we need to coordinate/ field phone calls and messages from church members.

2:00 P.M. Prayer break…I really need to center down

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3:00 P.M. Walk dogs/ Brenda goes to have tire fixed before she heads out for weekend of ministry in Buffalo.

4:00 P.M. Amanda starts supper/ I do daily devotional and start writing.

5:00 P.M. Supper!

And now I am heading back into prayer…

Nitty Gritty Reality Faith is the faith that keeps pace and keeps peace and keeps hope and just keeps going.

DO YOU HAVE ANOTHER NAME FOR NITTY GRITTY REALITY FAITH? WHAT IS IT?

Commitment!

The bank sent us the Mortgage loan commitment today! Yay!

Brenda and I signed it and sent it back!Yay!

So the Vicarage project has taken another step forward.

Now we can get this fixed!
And this fixed!
And this!

Friday we are meeting with the whole design team including…

Plumber

Electrician

Siding installer and vendor rep

Painter

Mason

Finish Carpenter

We’ve been asked to make some choices on styles of kitchen that will match the new footprint. I like this one.

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We’ve also been asked to think about siding or painting. A lot depends on price but if we side I think I want something like this.

Queen Anne RevivalA 1902 Queen Anne-style house in Franklin, Indiana regains its turn-of-the-century charm
Photograph by Nathan Kirkman

Or this…

Do you like shake siding or straight siding?

Gopher Gladness and Great Hawk Gasps

Today two things happened to me in prayer. As I sat for my afternoon devotions on the porch (which generally last at least an hour) I was listening to my meditation music, and around the corner of the steps came a gopher.

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He was as surprised to see me as I was to see him.

“Hello!” I said….and he was off like a shot.

It makes me happy that nature lives at my front door.

The second event happened around 6:30 P.M. as I was having my evening devotions. I was listening to the book of 1 Corinthians on my phone. The birds and the squirrels were gathered at the feeder eating supper.

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Eight or ten doves and several squirrels and a chipmunk were happily munching at the birdseed. Then, they were off like a shot. The rodents skittered into the underbrush and the doves took to the skies in different directions.

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The hawk was barely more than a shadow and an explosion of feathers as it grabbed the mourning dove from its flight. It was over leaving only a rain of dove down falling into the sumac below.

Life has been a mix of gopher gladness and great hawk gasps lately.

Brenda got the keys to her new apartment in Zaandam yesterday.

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She needed a new laptop. So we prayed and less than two hours later she was on her way to get a new laptop provided by one of her donors.

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Then she got a call from her landlord saying that all her furniture had been destroyed by an air B-n-B customer (she had consented to leave her furniture in the apartment if her landlord would hold the apartment for her when she returned).

Gophers or great hawks, you never can tell what’s coming across the porch on any given day. The only assurance is that both will show up at one time or another. Sometimes they will even show up at the same time.

In my experience though God has this singular talent to turn our sorrows into dancing, our gasps into gladness and our great hawks into gophers.

How about you are living in the shadow of great hawks right now or are you playing with the gophers?

By Inches

It feels like I have used this title before…maybe I have but if so its worth repeating. I live my life by inches not by miles.

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The older I get the more I realize that life, to be truly tasted and enjoyed needs to be taken in small bites.

There is a temptation to lose the beauty of the single flower because I am trying to conquer the whole forest.

When I give into that temptation, and start to think about the miles I have to go before I sleep for the night, instead of the inch I have left to walk before I can rest for a minute, I find myself getting filled with stress and striving. In that negative mindspace I find myself constantly disappointed by my own inability to meet my self imposed demands and by the world which falls so short of my expectations.

Take the Vicarage project for instance.

When I look at the project as a whole, and think of all that needs to be done, and think of all the money its going to cost, and consider all the possible problems which are going to rise between now and the time I pay the final installment of the loan we are taking out to pay for it all well….

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But life isn’t meant to be lived in all those miles at once. It is meant to be lived in the inch we are on right now, because honestly that is all we can deal with…right now.

More than that it is meant to be a celebration of this inch. Not a worry about what the next inch will bring. What can I find to be thankful for in the moment….

I am thankful that all of our bank paperwork has now been received.

Something bad kept happening when I tried to send it, but our friendly neighborhood banker Deb took care of it for me this morning. Yay!

More than that though Brenda has found a new home base for her work in The Netherlands. She was told just over a month ago she would have to move from her current BOO (Base of operations) becacuse the owner is selling it.

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That news created a few tough inches. It is not easy finding an apartment when there is an ocean between you and a site visit. But thanks to some very dedicated ministry partners and a good recommendation from her old landlord, Brenda just signed paperwork on a new two bedroom house.

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Further she has sensed the leading of the Lord that she will be back in the Netherlands by the end of August or the first week of September!

Life is full and fast now, but living by inches is how I am keeping my peace.

How do you keep your peace?