The Epic Journey to Leave My House

By: Amber Harder, Communications Specialist

rain.jpegAttempting to control anything when it comes to small children is futile. The absolute worst is trying to get out of the house. I make my plan to leave at a specified time, taking into account missing shoes, bathroom breaks, and little people running around elusively. Yet with all those things factored in, I still cannot leave at the time of my choosing because of unforeseen circumstances and meltdowns…sometimes my own meltdowns!

When I am trying to get out of the house at a specified time and the world is not cooperating with me, I get so incredibly wound up. Just thinking about it now I feel my shoulders tensing! I wonder what my blood pressure would be if I wore a monitor during those agonizing moments when we’re trying to get out the door. I freak out because nobody is cooperating with MY PLAN! It would all go so smoothly if they could just do what I asked the first time.

On the rare occasion that I open up my clenched fists and release my plan, God does amazing things. I recognize an immediate change in my stress level when I say, “God, I have no idea how we’re going to get there in time, but You’ve got this. I trust You.” Then the whole situation gets put into God’s hands – where it should have been all along – and it’s up to Him. There is such freedom in releasing it back to him and waiting and watching to see how He’s going to work it out.

I remember one day in particular when we were running late, I started to back out of my driveway and noticed a woman I didn’t know walking slowly along the street and looking at me as if she wanted to speak to me. I rolled down my window and greeted her. She asked if I had a minute. I didn’t. But I engaged in the conversation anyway. Turns out that I didn’t have a minute in my plan, but God needed me to have a minute for her in His plan.

This woman worked in an assisted living group home in our neighborhood. While the residents were away at the day center, she would come in and clean the home. She had accidentally locked herself out of the house when she left to take out the trash that morning. Her keys, phone, wallet, everything was inside the locked home. She asked if she could use my phone and I invited her into my car because at that time it had started to drizzle too.

She was able to contact her supervisor and got back into the house. She was very grateful for my help, but I knew it wasn’t me. This was a divine appointment that God had given me for the day, and I was glad that I had stopped trying to control my day and instead submitted to His plan for my day. It was an honor to be there for this woman. I experienced deep peace and joy when I looked to God to control the situation instead of myself.

I wish I could say that I have lived happily ever after since, releasing my plans and control to experience God’s plans and freedom. That is not the case. But I’m trying. I’m learning. And the moments when I get it right are so rewarding that it leaves me wanting even more.

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Cutting Through the Chaos to Listen

By: Deron Vaupel, Ministry Administrator

seagullMy house is pretty loud. That’ll happen with a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old. Hourly nonsensical screaming, arguing with each other, and songs randomly being sung at the top of their lungs are the norm. Trying to cut through the noise can be challenging, but it’s often necessary because important things need to be communicated: go brush your teeth, don’t sit on your brother, and many other statements I never really expected I’d have to say.

Psalm 46 contains a pretty well-known command: Be still and know that I am God. What’s truly fascinating is that the rest of the chapter (just 11 verses) describes absolute chaos. In the midst of that, God is calling us to ‘be still’ and refocus our understanding that He is exalted, He is in control.

I’ve never had an easy time listening to God. My mind too quickly jumps to everything else that’s on my list. That’s even more true when I’m stressed or anxious, when there’s a lot of chaos around me. But as I’ve thought through what it means to really listen, to take that time to have my focus shifted back to what’s important, I find a great reminder right in front of me. As I try to cut through the chaos to get my boys to listen to me, I will use those times to also, if even briefly, listen for those quick reminders from God that He’s in control.

What Are My Kids Learning?

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By: Amber Harder, Communications Specialist

 

It was Sunday morning and I was tired. It had been a particularly hard night with the baby, and not just that night but the 100 nights prior to it too. The thought of making it to church early to attend 9am Connect seemed overwhelming, exhausting, and next to impossible.

We broke the news to our kids over breakfast. “We’re not going to make it to 9am Connect today. We’ll just be going to church today.”

This did not go over well. What ensued was a mixture of whining, debate, and heart-felt promises of “I’ll get ready right away if we can go to Connect!”

I looked at Zac. He looked at me. Our kids were begging us to go to church. In the grand scheme of things, this was a really good problem to have. So, with the energy of a team breaking from their huddle, we finished breakfast and scattered to our separate corners of the house to get ready and GO!

I am grateful that my kids like going to church. I appreciate that enCompass has a nurturing, energetic, Bible-based place for my kids to soak u

 

p what it means to follow Christ. My oldest, Feven, is learning amazing information about the Bible and its history through her 9am kidConnect group. I’m in awe of what she tells us on the car ride home and throughout the week. Recently I shared a Bible passage with her from the book of Luke and she said, “Mom, did you know that Luke wrote Luke?!?” Incredible. My 6-year-old is learning who wrote specific books in the Bible!

My daughter is also learning what it means to be in community. On one of our car rides home from church recently she said, “Mom, some of my friends and I have been talking. You know there’s a Dad’s Night Out group and a Mom’s Night Out group? Well, we think there should be a Girl’s Night Out group for me and my friends. We were thinking maybe on a Wednesday. We want to build community.” Yes, my 6-year-old actually used those words “build community.”

Through her experience at church, she sees the adults in our congregation building community by checking in, praying for one another, and spending time with each other. She sees that as important, and it’s further emphasized in her Sunday mornings at church with her Club E! class. Cate has stressed to her students the importance of building community, and they have taken it to heart and are looking for more ways they can do so.

 

I love it. I love everything about this. I’m grateful God is working through our church to teach my children what it means for them to follow Him – both in their personal lives and in their social lives.

Growing Through Connect Groups

By: Deron Vaupel, Ministry Administrator

In my time at enCompass, I’ve had the privilege to be a part of several different Connect Groups – Dads Group, Men’s Groups, House Groups, Sunday Morning Connect, etc. Of all the different ways I’ve been a part of the enCompass community, my involvement in these groups has probably been the most meaningful. I’m generally someone who prefers interactions in smaller groups of people, and the relationships that have been built in these different groups have been quite formative in many different areas. A couple examples:

For the past several months, I’ve been getting together with other dads from enCompass every Tuesday night to discuss a book about raising life-ready kids. There’s something special about younger dads coming together with ‘seasoned veterans’ to talk about our mistakes, successes, challenges, and hopes (not to mention the interspersed YouTube videos). We’ve learned a lot from each other about different ways to teach our kids and how to incorporate our faith into the day-to-day of parenting. I might even go so far as to say that we’re all (at least a little bit) better dads because of this group. This group has been a great respite for me and a source of a lot of wisdom.

Sunday morning Connect Groups always have a lot to offer. While the topics vary quite a bit, following along with the sermons or focusing on more topical content, the discussions are always rousing. There’s usually a range of generations represented, which means a lot of different perspectives when it comes to interpreting scripture. There’s something unique about young adults and retired people interacting over topics of faith. Over the past year, I’ve had the privilege of leading several of these sessions, and I’m always challenged and energized as a result of the time we spend together.

Connect Groups exist at enCompass to give people different opportunities to grow in their relationships with God and others. Along with the other ministries of enCompass, they’re guided by 3 core values: Belong, Grow, Serve, and over the years, I’ve experienced each of these values to varying degrees. For me, when it comes to building a meaningful relationship with God and others, I’m not sure there’s any better way.

Even though some groups are wrapping up for the season, my encouragement to you is this: If it’s been awhile since you’ve been a part of a group, start thinking through what it might look like to join something in the near future. If you’ve never been a part of a Connect Group, see what will be a good fit for you. Or you could even consider what it might look like to lead one yourself. You may have the perfect idea for something new, and the passion to make it happen – and who knows…there might be someone else looking to connect in the same way. If you fall into one of these categories, I’d love to talk to you more. Click here to get in touch with me.

That Tingly Feeling

By: Nicole Quast

photo-for-nicoles-blogThere are some things in life that just give you that feel good tingly feeling or a high you just can’t explain.  It might be a baby’s laugh, a child saying I love you, a hug or kiss from your spouse.  For me it is all of those things but it is also serving others.

A few years back, my New Year’s resolution was to serve more.  I tried multiple times to corral my friends and family and have them commit to dates to do larger events.  I would always get responses like, “well I think I can make it” or “I will try to make it”.  It was so challenging to get a firm commitment and I was starting to feel defeated.  This is when I stumbled upon enCompass church.  I was overjoyed to find out they had a Community Service Team and felt it was an answer to my prayers.  I was so nervous to join the team but I am so glad I did!   I enjoy being part of the Community Service Team.  I enjoy the planning phase, the collection phase, the conversations etc.  I think it is a wonderful group who are giving, loving, and serving people.  Some of our most recent service activities have focused on filling the needs within the backyard of enCompass – at Central Park Elementary School.  Through our service ministry, we have developed a relationship with this school and have been able to support them in many areas.  Some of these are Bucks for Backpacks, Warm and Wooly Winter Wear, Sheridan Story weekend packs, and a few other things.

After joining the Community Service Team, I continued to have a strong desire to serve! So, last spring, I organized a Mom’s Night Out at Sheridan Story to do a packing event.  A group of enCompass moms and church goers showed up at their warehouse and packed weekend food packs.  We worked hard and filled so many weekend packs!  Before leaving, we discussed with the staff how much fun we had and our desire to do it again.  They told us that they were full for the rest of the school year.  We were bummed, but realized that this was a good thing! I left that night a little more tired than when I got there but with a tingly heart filled feeling!

So this fall, I decided to plan 4 Sheridan Story meal packing events for our church.  So far, we have completed two of the events.  At both of the events, we have had a great turnout!  I have enjoyed each one and have gotten the chance to get to know some enCompass goers better.  Each time I leave exhausted but with a tingly heart filled feeling.  Our next packing events will be April 6th and May 4th.  Please consider joining us and getting your heart filled! You can learn more here.

These past few years, I have been working hard to fill my heart, but this year I also really wanted my children to learn about giving and serving.  It is my desire to teach them about serving and helping them to develop a sense of pride when they do things for others and ultimately get that tingly heart filled feeling when they do!  This Christmas at our house I wanted my children to understand that Christmas is about giving and not receiving.  I decided to have them do an advent basket for the food shelf.  Each day we added an item to the basket of something they used or ate that day to try to make it relevant.  A few days before Christmas we delivered it to the local food shelf.  I wasn’t sure my kids truly understood what or why we were doing it, but when my youngest son said to the volunteer who helped us with our food, “Merry Christmas,” with the proudest smile on his face, I didn’t care if he totally understood, I thought it was enough because I had tears in my eyes and that tingly feeling in my heart!

I don’t want my children to just think that we give at Christmas time, so I have been thinking about other ways to get them involved in serving.  My oldest son and I participated in a Feed My Starving Children event right after Thanksgiving.  We had so much fun and he wants to do it again.  So, I am interested in setting up a Feed My Starving Children (FMSC) event.  This allows families with younger children to participate; children 5 and over are welcomed to pack bags at FMSC.  I am also interested in setting up an event to make sandwiches for the homeless.  This event would allow children even younger to help out.  Please send me a message if you would be interested in having your families participate in events such as these or if you know of other service activities that allow children to participate.

With this I will leave you with a Bible verse I came across when thinking about writing this:

1 Peter 4:10, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms,” (NIV)

There are so many ways we can serve; I encourage you to find yours and I bet you will receive a tingly heart filled response in return, for God will know you are doing good works through Him!

Nachos & Oatmeal

By: Deron Vaupel, Ministry Administrator

pic-for-derons-blogI always feel bad writing a blog about my interactions with my kids. There truly is more to my life than being a dad, but I learn so much from my boys…

Dinner can be challenging for a little one, especially when they’re sick, teething, and want nothing to do with one (or more) of their parents. After a few minutes of fussily picking away at the delicious assortment of food on his tray, we decided it wasn’t worth the fight and took the sick teething child out of his seat so he could go somewhere else and we could perhaps eat a bit of our dinner in peace.

That of course failed to pan out. More fussiness and frustration (from parents and child) and an overall feeling that the day was going to end on a hopeless note. To her (somewhat) delight, mom had an obligation outside the house, so I was left to handle the bedtime routine with the perturbed little one. Still more frustration, but then some glimmers of hope. And then the weirdest thing started to happen. Angry sick child started making his way around to the table. And showing interest in what might be available for his sustenance. Never mind that the warm succulent options were now tepid and unappetizing. Or that his eventual meal looked more like what you’d find at an early morning tailgate party. His attitude was gone, his tummy was full, and bedtime was solid.

The whole experience got me thinking…What do we miss out on when we reject God’s wonderful gifts because of our own pride? What more can we hope to experience by trusting God even through frustrations? I don’t necessarily have great answers to those questions just yet, but I pray for the awareness to be able to trust in God’s goodness even when I see very little of it in myself.

Matthew 7:9-11

9 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

 

Want Less, Live More

By: Steve Lynch

house-in-shopping-cartLike the rest of America, I get caught up in the desire to add stuff to my life.  For some people, it’s stuff for their closet.  For others, it’s stuff for the garage.  We’re in this constant race to acquire stuff.  My weakness is houses.  I’ve developed a bad habit of spending my precious free time on real estate websites, looking for the perfect cabin, home or lot.  I can easily spend an hour looking for that next great house for my family to live in — one that’s in a better neighborhood or in a better school district or one that’s on a lake or has a bigger garage or more entertaining space or whatever I deem to be the needed improvement to our lives on a particular day.  It’s a constant pursuit until I inevitably find the house we “need” to have.  At that moment, the time investment grows exponentially.  From an open house visit or a scheduled showing to discussions about remodeling plans or finances, I get myself (and my wife) caught up in the serious pursuit of something we didn’t need a day or two earlier.  The real estate opportunity consumes my mind over the course of the hours/days/weeks that follow and dominates conversations with my wife.  Rather than discussing us and our boys, our conversations turn to things like “what if we blew out that wall and…” or “imagine if we took down the old garage and…”  I run through scenarios in my mind at all hours of the day/night.  I eventually come to my senses and I’m reminded that we already live in a great house, in a great location—a house where everyone has what they need to be safe, happy and healthy—and I let it go.

This is not a great pastime for me.  The pursuit has me focused on the wrong things.  It fails to acknowledge and appreciate all that God has given us.  Instead of appreciating what we have, I’m focused on what we don’t have, with no real proof that adding this stuff would tangibly improve our lives.  Taking it a step further: while this pursuit is supposedly about making our lives better, the unintended consequence is that my fixation on it is actually taking time away from enjoying what I already have, and giving thanks to God for all of my blessings.  It’s taking time, energy and focus away from what truly matters, which is our love for each other, the experiences we share and the presence of God in all of it.  Romans 8:5-6 says living with this sort of misdirected focus is actually not living at all.

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.

With that, my resolution is to want less and live more in 2017.  Rather than dreaming about lake moments and entertaining moments, I want to be more present in the moment—seeing God’s presence and expressing gratitude for all that we already have.

 

Photo Credit: © Kts | Dreamstime.com – House Shopping Cart Photo

enCompass Begins for Me

By: Darcy Mears, Children’s Ministry Coordinator

darcys-blog-photo-1When my daughter was about five years old, she started asking where all of our loved ones were going when they died. Unfortunately, we had a slew of losses over the summer months into Fall. My sisters quarter horse had his last run, my Aunt Sunny passed away from colon cancer and Karlene’s betta fish, Thumbelina, floated to the great beyond in our backyard.

I could tell her what I believed but felt it was time to find a church to help her with this question. I began asking around and a good friend told me about enCompass Church in Vadnais Heights. It was very close to our home and a smaller congregation, which I love. I grew up in a small community, attended a high school with only 155 in my graduating class and was confirmed in a close-knit church; this is still my preference for any group size. No chance for obscurity or anonymity, instead an opportunity to meet everyone and become involved.

The involved part happened quickly as kidZone needed a preschool teacher and I was happy to be hired. Apparently, I was still going to be answering her questions along with various other meaningful questions from these little ones, all equally important. Thankfully, I was blessed with a church support system which allowed me to learn right along with the kids as I was also a preschooler by church staff standards. Eventually, I was given the opportunity to become part of the Coordination staff for kidZone. My role continued to grow toward a regular part of staff meetings and various ways to support enCompass, our church home. It began with the gift of enCompass families and their kids walking upstairs to read, play and explore with me and my children and blossomed into the perfect opportunity for me as time marched on.

From the start, the adults at enCompass did more than drop off their children, they also served the kids of enCompass in many ways. Besides volunteering during regular Sunday services, weeks of VBS and events like Birthday Party for Jesus, we also moved MANY tables and chairs and rolled out numerous racks of toys, materials and games each and every Sunday. I remember the day my friend, Frank, told me he would commit to running check-in every Sunday for at least a year! In the end, I think he stayed for close to three which was a HUGE help to me and the families.

Many years later, at Concordia Academy, we still move tables and chairs and roll the same racks out of storage each Sunday…in a wonderful church home. Again, I am reminded how truly grateful I am as a few other volunteers have committed YEARS (almost every Sunday) to set up in our new home; Stan, Dan and Mark. I still sense God’s grace and love when the kids of enCompass and their families join us in kidZone to grow, serve and love each other every Sunday.  I have had the privilege of serving many for a long time, a few for a short time and I appreciate every family for any time. I am happy to say; the questions still continue but the answers are now easily found.

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Freedom in Brokenness

By: Samantha Barrett, Connect Group Leader

Coming to the end of the Loved, finally series, I have many emotions to sort through. You see, with the feeling of love comes freedom and that is not an emotion I regularly equate with my God.

The vast majority of my knowledge of God has come from a previous church that was more about how your relationship with God appeared than the condition of your heart. You didn’t sin. You didn’t show any brokenness. So when my now husband and myself found ourselves pregnant without a marriage we did not see God’s love from the church. Since the pregnancy was something that would be clearly visible, the church required us to make a public confession of our sin to the congregation. The unfortunate result was our far drift from the notion of church. We were angry and bitter. We knew that while our pregnancy was not in the order God intended, this was also not the feeling that we should be feeling in a church. Attending became about putting on a face of repentance and looking sorrowful about my growing stomach. We went to repentance counseling and had acts of service homework. Inside, instead of finding grace and moving forward, I found my heart hardening. I knew I did not want to be part of the “church” and at times struggled with knowing who God was and if I wanted to still seek Him. We moved to Texas after our marriage which afforded us a fresh start. Getting away allowed me to refocus on my personal relationship without the baggage of attempting to look like I had it all together and would never sin again.

Slowly we started bringing our children to various churches but never really called one “home.” We found enCompass upon our move back and appreciated the open nature of the attendees. I felt like people attended because they enjoyed seeking Christ and finding His love. There was no tally counting if you stayed home some weeks. I found a light sparking back up in my heart. A passionate longing to know God and His love ignited in me. The beauty of this new relationship with God was that it was not about who was following which rules and who knew what book such and such event happened in. This relationship is about feeling the lavish love God has for me and pouring it out unto others, regardless of their circumstances.

As I journey and grow in my faith, I find myself looking back and seeing God’s love even in times I felt alone. It was so easy to feel shame and guilt about the premarital pregnancy. Instead of carrying those feelings, I choose to feel God’s immense love and be grateful for the innocence a new baby brings. The little life shows grace. Even in times of shame God forgives us and pours out love. He forgets our mistakes and like the newborn, has nothing but love and a readiness to move forward with life.

“Rewrite the shame or guilt and find love” is the message I feel I have been hearing for awhile. I want to break free of the bitterness so there is room for joy.  It is such a foreign concept to accept love when we have not earned it. I have seen though that I am free to take the love, Christ just wants me to pour it back unto others.  I hope to find such extreme amounts of love, that it pours out of me and immerses others in it. I do not expect to finish this here on Earth, and I think God loves me enough that He is ok with that.

 

Because I Know the Way and It Is Safe

By: Darcy Mears, Children’s Ministry Coordinator

I have a new driver at my house. At 8 AM on her 15th birthday, her Dad drove her to the DMV and by 8:30 AM she drove out for about 10 minutes…then reality set in. It was fun AND a little scary. Thrilling AND a little scary.

new-driverI remember this same craving for the next new adventure or experience while I was growing up. I remember the dichotomy of butterflies AND nausea in my stomach on the first day of Middle School and High School. I remember the confidence and anxiety that occupied equal parts of me for my first Varsity volleyball game or the stage performance when I opened the show with the first words and closed it with the last.

Now that I am a grownup, I am much better at tempering my expectations. Past experiences have taught me what will probably happen and how to deal with whatever runs into the road. I can now easily take the wheel and push the blinker, press the pedals and pump the gas.

Yet at times, I miss the butterflies and anxiety that can come with expectation without actually holding the wheel. You guessed it; I am starting to realize that always sitting in the driver’s seat can be mundane and flat. I tend to drive the same places and do the same things because I know the way and it is safe. In doing so, I close the door on fresh and possibly audacious experiences in my life. I long for that willingness and exciting freedom of allowing someone else to drive so I can just enjoy and be thrilled by the ride.

So, I am setting out to embrace the unknown and ride in the passenger seat. Through prayer, I hope to learn something new about myself, my faith, and seek a new understanding, trusting that God will take me where I need to go while I sit back and revel in the journey. I want to find a bold new way to accept God’s love and grace in my soul and love Him back.

love

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.” Ephesians 1:18 -19