A Growing Family

No, we’re not having another baby. But our family is growing.

My parents took me to church when I was four days old. When I was 24, Jaron and I got married in that same church. I had the same pastors for the bulk of those years. In high school, most of my best friends didn’t attend my large suburban high school. Instead, they were fellow members of our youth group. And boy did we have fun together. Life as a part of that church family defined the weekly rhythm of my childhood, teenage years, and young adult life. It shaped how I viewed God and the world.

Throwback pic from a Shawnee Naz youth group retreat. Photo credit: Kyle Miller.
Throwback pic from a Shawnee Naz youth group retreat. Photo credit: Kyle Miller.

When we moved to New Mexico, I felt a great sense of loss. It wasn’t just because I was missing trees and green grass or city conveniences and certain rhythms of life. It also had to do with a church family that I missed.

But then, this strange thing happened. When I visited “home” in Shawnee, Kansas, I felt a strong place of belonging, and each time I equally missed doing life with my family in Lovington. I had this really strange sense of wanting to be two places at once. I love spending time with my family and friends in Kansas City. I love worshiping with my church family there. And, I love my church family in Lovington. Gradually I realized that in moving to New Mexico, I hadn’t lost anything after all. Rather, I gained a whole other family to love and be shaped by.

Enjoyed a few days of fun with these goofballs in Albuquerque at the beginning of the week. Aaron, Rachelle, Ellie & Maxwell are special members of both our NM and KS families.
Enjoyed a few days of fun with these goofballs in Albuquerque at the beginning of the week. Aaron, Rachelle, Ellie & Maxwell are special members of both our NM and KS families. Group selfie by Aaron Tiffany.

Last week, we spent several days at district meetings in Albuquerque. We were with Nazarenes from across New Mexico. I had a strong sense of being an integral part of this family. It was sad to acknowledge that this was the last time we would gather with them in this role. At the same time, it was exciting to have a sense of being “sent” by them.

Last weekend was significant for me as well because I was ordained as an elder in the Church of the Nazarene. My biological family was there to voice support. So were members of my Lovington Church family AND members of my Shawnee, KS church family. They all love me enough to celebrate alongside me. As all of my worlds collided, I was affirmed in this wonderful realization: I’m not losing anything. I am not losing a family or a church or a community that I love by leaving Lovington. Rather, I will be gaining a whole new family.

Ordination service. Photo credit: Jeren Rowell.
Ordination service. Photo credit: Jeren Rowell.

Just as Shawnee Church of the Nazarene is a part of my story and a place I call home, Lovington will always be a part of my story and a place I call home. It is filled with people I love and have invested in, people who have loved me and invested in me. People with whom I will celebrate life’s greatest accomplishments and mourn life’s deepest hurts. Of course, I won’t get to do that on a daily basis, and that will be hard and different, but I am not giving up anyone completely.

Jeren Rowell, clapping behind me in this photo, was my pastor for 13 years. Photo credit: Starla Rowell.
Jeren Rowell, clapping behind me in this photo, was my pastor for 13 years. Photo credit: Starla Rowell.

Rather, our family is growing. There’s another group of people in a community across the ocean that will be added to our family. A family that will help broaden our worldview, teach us what it means to be like Jesus in their culture and context, and challenge us to be more than we have been.

Our big family is only getting bigger.

 

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