A new season is upon us....

This time next week we will be spending our last night in our home in Brazil. Saturday, August 4 we will head to Springfield, Missouri and officially begin a new season in our lives. If you've been following our journey this past year and half, it has been nothing short of an "unexpected adventure". We look back at where we were and couldn't have imagined being here now. Ryan lost his job two weeks ago and rather than attempt to drag ourselves through another year of killing ourselves to get by, we have taken the leap and chosen to move on to "greener pastures". Now don't let that phrase give you any impression that suddenly our problems are over and we've had a "silver platter" land in our laps. Nope. It is an entirely different picture than what we would have expected. Our "greener pasture" is going to require starting over, starting new jobs especially for Ryan and it will include going back to school and finishing his degree. If you keep up with the economy and are in any position similar to what Ryan has been through, you know now more than ever is a good time to just do it. We have our work cut out for us in the next few years, rebuilding financially and making some difficult but necessary decisions for some form of security for our family's future. We will not look back, we will consider our blessings and strengths for this day and we will walk confidently into our future trusting in the One who has planned and purposed our lives from beginning to end. Here are the facts:
*Ryan has started a job, temporary but so far unending, with a reputable company in Springfield. We are hopeful it could lead to something permanent, but for now we are thankful for this start. He has several other job possibilities in the works too.
*Andrea has accepted a position as area supervisor with Kohl's. It is a smart move, with the opportunity to advance if she chooses. Pay is not great, but it is a start to what could be a dependable career. That said, she is keeping her options open to what may come about in the way of something better. In fact, this week there have already been several other open doors. Nothing is set in stone, and it is amazing and wonderful to watch as God leads the way to numerous possibilities.
*We have secured a nice 3 bedroom apartment in a new community in Springfield. It will be tight, but it meets our needs and will work for the time being. We are hopeful that in a year we will be able to secure something roomier. For now, we are focused on being thankful for this and that there are many families living in much smaller, poor conditions in comparison.
*Both of our families, including Ryan's youngest brother and his family as well as Andrea's brother and his family are there and this will be a welcome comfort and support throughout our transition in this new season.

We are excited to get involved in a new church, participate in worship teams and enjoy some much needed rest and fellowship. We have learned over the years that being in ministry is a calling, and for many of us it requires examining the heart of the matter. We are not certain that being on church staff is right for either one of us, but in looking ahead we both feel very confident that it would have to be something extraordinary, unique and nothing like what the majority of churches are choosing to define as a pastoral role today. Too many churches are getting it wrong, and too many people in our churches are being hurt in the process for the sake of one committee's definition of what it means to be a pastor and if you are the "right fit" or not. I believe wholeheartedly that churches, ministry in the way it has been defined and practiced is going to take on a big change in the next twenty or thirty years. It will not be the same and it should not be the same, if we truly are following Christ's call and the purpose of the church. We should never be comfortable doing the same things, we should adapt and change as needs, pressures, demands, society as a whole evolves. It is an ugly world out there and we cannot approach this dying world with the same song and dance. We need to share God's love in new but relevant ways, so that ultimately lives are changed for Christ. It isn't about doing worship the same way, doing Sunday School or not, doing the same programs year after year, season after season. As we find creative and imaginative ways to meet people's needs, we will see the truth remains and that bottom line: God loves us and cares enough to meet us right where we are. When they see that we care more about what's going on in their lives than what's going on inside our churches, that is when they stick. That is what keeps our churches alive and thriving, doing what God intended for the church to be doing all along.

Please keep us in your prayers as we walk through this new season, especially for our kids. This will be a difficult time for them, starting new schools, making new friends and all the unfamiliarity that comes with a new place to call home. We know they will adjust but it is this adjustment period that will be hardest of all.

We are so thankful for you, for your prayers, your encouragement in text, email, beautiful cards and personal notes, and your amazing generosity at times when we had no idea how we could make what was in our bank account last another week. God is so good and so faithful and it is a certainty that He can always be trusted to take care of us, in good times and bad times. He never changes and He never fails us. Thank you, from our overflowing hearts!

If you would like to keep in touch, our contact information is changing. The best way to reach us is by email: aofree6@aol.com

We will keep you posted as we walk through this journey. Thank you, family and friends! You are a treasure, each one for which we are truly thankful.

I Need You More, Lord...

What a great message today from the interim pastor at my brother in law's church, a reminder that life comes and goes in seasons and this, like so many others, is just that. A season. Although it seems like we have been in this season for an eternity, I realize and I hear God speaking to my heart, "All in good time, my child, all in good time." Some scripture for today:

2 Corinthians 1:8-11 ...We were crushed and completely overwhelmed, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we learned not to rely on ourselves, but on God who can raise the dead. And He did deliver us from mortal danger. And we are confident that He will continue to deliver us. He will rescue us because you are helping by praying for us. As a result, many will give thanks to God because so many people's prayers for our safety have been answered.

2 Corinthians 1:21-22 It is God who gives us, along with you, the ability to stand firm for Christ. He has commissioned us, and He has identified us as His own by placing the Holy Spirit in our hearts as the first installment of everything He will give us.

I am listening to Kim Walker/Jesus Culture sing "I Need You More", and it is the song in my heart today. I need Your presence Lord, more than the air I breathe, more than the song I sing, more than anything...I need You more. I identify more than any other time in my life with the time Jesus chose to be alone, to spend time in deep meditation with God the Father. Ryan and I have appreciated taking a slower pace, the kind of pace that being in full time ministry does not afford. We have seen it from both sides now, life in ministry, life out of ministry and we have learned so much from our experiences to this point. We recognize this is not it, we have so much to learn yet but we know we are on a journey of healing.

As of two days ago, Ryan is unemployed again, and we are at a point once again where we need to make some decisions quickly. I have been contacted with a great job opportunity this past week but it is just in its infancy stage. We are praying that calendars will coordinate for this next week for me to secure a second interview, it is just a matter of waiting to hear from the employer. We are tired of trying to find just any job in this area for Ryan, and I know he is ready for something better than what he has had to do for the past year or so. Emotions are running very high, and the stress levels are through the roof. We are thankful for God's provision, our faith in Him is grounded more than ever, and we know that with the prayer support of our families and friends that we will get through this and there must be something greater on the horizon! Keep praying, know that we are thankful for you and we believe God will work only good from this. We may not be able to see it, but we know He does and He has our best in mind.

my Ebenezer...

“…Thus far the Lord has helped us.”-1 Samuel 7:12 There are moments in my life when I look back and can see how God in His perfect yet my...