Needed vs. Used

Needed/ 1. Require (something) because it is essential or very important.  2.Expressing necessity or obligation.

Used/ Employed for a purpose; utilized.

This week I am preparing to go on a backpacking trip with 53 other ladies from my church!  It takes a lot of thought, work, preparation, planning and PRAYER to pull this off.  And every single minute of preparation is totally worth it!  This morning though, my phone been blowing up with last minute questions, prayer requests, last minute to-do’s and tasks.  In a lull between phone calls, texts and emails I sat out on my porch and in an effort to think positively, I thought how nice it is to be “needed”.  As soon as that thought left, I felt a check.  You know the thing I’m talking about- where you know what you said, did or thought wasn’t quite right.  Think Jiminy Cricket and Pinocchio.  Let me say how incredily grateful I am there’s not a cricket jumping on my shoulder every time I start to go “off”!  That stupid cricket would need to set up a permanent camp on my shoulder!  But I digress, you know the gut-check feeling I’m talking about.  As I took a moment to breathe, I thought I would look up what the word “needed” means.  I could think of plenty of examples, but what does it really mean.  “Needed: Require (something) because it is essential or important.  Expressing necessity or obligation.”   While I would like to think I am required and essential to my family, friends, ministry, job…..the truth of the matter is, I’m not.  While I may be an important part of each of those, I’m not needed for each to keep moving and thriving.

Before our thoughts turn sad and depressing, let’s look at the other word-                    “Used: Employed for a purpose; utilized”.  Do you see the difference?!  I love this!!  So many times, we hear the word used and it has negative connotations- used and abused, used car, use people without consideration, use drugs, use alcohol, no use, used up.  But, when you look at the above definition, “Employed for a purpose; utilized” I can get excited about that!!  I want to be used in my family, in my friendships, the ministry and the job I’m in!  I want people to need Jesus, not me!  And I want to be used by Jesus!  Because that takes all the pressure off me!  I am not needed to be anyone’s savior- Jesus did that!  I am not needed to fix anything or anyone- Jesus does that!  I am not needed to be all things to all people- Jesus does that!!  What I can do is be available, willing and open to being used by Jesus wherever He has me for however long He has me there.

There are so many examples in the Bible and throughout history of unlikely people God used to do amazing things, all because they said yes.   Moses, all kinds of messes there but God used him to free His people.  David, a kid used to slay a giant.  Peter, impulsive & even denied Jesus but that was turned around and God used him mightily. Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr, Billy Graham, you know all of them!  What about…Katie Davis-as a single lady she went to Uganda, stayed there to live, has adopted 13 daughters and started a school that is changing lives.  How about George & Lolly Greene-founders of Water Missions International: tackling the global water crisis after they saw immense need and no solutions.  Ok how about, Brian and Barbara Fischer- dear friends of mine who fostered over 20 children and have adopted 3 children.  Jerry and Lana McSwain, friends who are passionate about mentoring, discipling and pointing people to grow closer to Christ.  Leroy Harper-had some rough starts in life but is now working with youth and communities to show and teach what he has learned and lead other young men in the wholeness of Christ.  Greg & Liz McCool, Lynne Stroy, Caleb & Sierra Scott, Brian Lewis, Katie Crowell, David & Sharon Lyon, Elyse Salamon, Greg & Laurie Boevin, Casey & Rachel Glowacki, Dan & Leslie Rimerman, Amy Treneff, Brian & Jessica Warden, Josh & Jen Arel, Dana Martin, Oliver & Amie Heath, Jennifer Williamson, Megan Ferrell.  I could go on for days!!  These are people who said yes!  They have said yes to the hard, the messy and they said yes to being used by God!  It’s not easy.  Most if not all would say some days it’s downright hard & exhausting.  But I believe they would all say it’s worth it. As Stephen and I are still moving into the “yes” of the farm, it is so incredibly wonderful to know God doesn’t need us to accomplish any of it.  How humbling to know He wants to use us to see His will accomplished.  Totally changes the perspective, doesn’t it?   My prayer is that we don’t ever let the desire to be needed cloud or change where our focus should be.  Let’s leave the needs to God and stick to being used wherever He has us.

There are current areas and will be even more possibilites of being used at the farm as we continue on.  If you would like more information, please email Stephen at slewis@journeytogetherministries.org.  We can also add you to the launch team and you can be kept up to date with all that’s hapening at the farm.  Blessings!

Pain and Beauty

Romans 15:4 “And the scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled.”

I’m going to get real for a few minutes and talk about the struggle.  This has been a tough few weeks. Health, finances, vehicles, marriage…. they’ve all been hit. It’s like that game of battleship where your ships either sustain hits, near misses or not even close shots.  We’ve experienced all three of those scenarios and while all our ships are still floating, they’ve taken some hits. And in the middle of all of that, I read the above verse.  And for me, it is so true.  I can tell when I haven’t been reading my Bible.  Discouragement settles in like a fog and makes hope seem like a far-off shore that I can’t quite reach. My temper becomes shorter and my patience runs low.  It’s not good for me, our marriage, our kids, the ministry or my friendships.  I tend to pull back and withdraw when things get tough. I internalize and retreat.  The self-protection walls go up and I batten down the hatches to ride out the storm.  The thing is, God doesn’t want me or anyone to live that way.  We are meant to live in authentic community and support each other.  God is using the farm and this journey we’re on to teach me that; again. Because sometimes I’m a slow learner.

Stepping out and asking people for help is scary. Stepping out and starting something like the farm is super scary!  And there’s this lie that we’re not brave enough or strong enough to do the hard and scary.  But the truth is that with God we can handle the pain, the hard and the scary because of who He is, not because of who we are or what we can do on our own. Because God takes our weaknesses and uses them.  God takes the tough and the hard and the scary and uses them. I was listening to a podcast in which the speaker likened pain to a hot potato in which nobody wants to hold onto it; they keep passing it off to the next person because it hurts too much to hold onto it.  What I am learning is that it’s ok to say something sucks.  It’s ok to say something is hard and you’re not sure what to do next.  Sit down, be still, be quiet and just be present in the pain. Whether that’s by yourself or with someone else. Don’t try to fix anyone. Don’t try to find a solution. Just be there and allow God to do the healing and the mending.

I believe God is teaching me this because we’re going to have kids coming to the farm who are going to be in pain. They’re going to be hurting, scared, angry and they will have walls of their own.  Yes, we will have professionals who will unpack that with them, but I can sit with them, cry with them, hold their hand, let them be angry without needing to say anything. Rest assured, I will also pray for and with them. I’ll be asking God to do the healing, restoring and renew all the hurt places.  And pain has a brutal companion called shame, and shame can be even more crippling than the pain. Because shame tells an even bigger lie that not only did you do something wrong but somehow, you deserve it.  In John 10:10 Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”   Jesus doesn’t say anything about a perfect life or a pain free life.  He talks about having a full life and a full life includes pain and beauty.   Even now, we are praying for the kids that will be coming to the farm. We don’t know their names or their specific situations, but God does. So while I’m not jumping up and down with joy for the current “tough” our family is experiencing, I do know that He will work everything out and use it. God never stops loving us, caring for us, interceding for us or pursuing us and for that I am incredibly grateful!

Lawnmowers and a Launch Team

Many of you have been asking for an update and it is way past time that we posted one! -Sorry about that!  Here is what we’ve been up to out on the farm! We have moved in and LOVE living out here!  It is incredibly peaceful & it feels like home.  But there is also an expectancy for what’s to come and for that we are daily having to ask God to give us patience!  We of course want to be up and running yesterday but God has us on a slower timetable. So here is what we are doing to keep busy:

-Meeting with a lot of exceptional people ~ teachers, horse experts, event planners, cow experts and friends that are praying for this adventure who want to help in some way!  All the meetings are part of the foundation for Arrow Farm. We’re planning the school with excellence.  Planning an equestrian program that will benefit the kids on the farm and also be a sustainable income source.  Looking at what needs to be done to hold events & weddings at the farm for another source of income.  Also talking about and planning some cool fundraising ideas.

-Cutting the grass and weed eating.  There’s a ton of grass to cut and with all of the rain you can literally watch it grow!  You’re always welcome to join in on the fun!

-Something we are really excited about….Putting together a Launch Team!  What is a launch team? So glad you asked! A launch team is a group of people who want to support & be cheerleaders for something really incredible!  Like; Arrow Farm!

We are asking people who have a heart for seeing kids thrive to be Ambassadors for Arrow Farm!  If you have been reading the blog posts, talking to us about the vision for Arrow Farm or you’ve just heard about this farm-thing we’re doing out in McClellanville and your heart starts to beat faster, you get really excited about helping kids and families stay intact and you just know that you need to know more; then you are who we are looking for to be on the Launch Team!

We’re going to utilize Facebook as our primary tool of communication within a closed group, so you can live anywhere in the world and be part of the team!   Launch Team members will know the vision and mission of Arrow Farm and then all we’re asking is that you talk to people about it!  Social Media will be the easiest tool and what we recommend. That’s it. Not gonna ask anyone to go door to door selling anything. You don’t have to put a team together. There will be zero homework (Praise Jesus!) and no meetings you have to show up for.  We will have some fun events for the launch team and we would love to have you join us for those!

If you would like to know more about the Launch Team or you’d like an invite to join, shoot me an email at: llewis@journeytogetherministries.org and I will get you set up!  I know some of you are still wondering what Arrow Farm is all about and we would be happy to answer any questions you have.

On September 16th, we’re having our 1st Launch Team Party out at the farm!  There’s going to be an inflatable waterslide, food, games and fun for the whole family!  Let me know if you want an invite and I’ll send it right to ya!  We will also take some time on the 16th to answer questions: let you know what the business plan looks like, the phases of the farm, who we will be serving, house parents, school and everything else!                                                                                                                                                                         We greatly appreciate everyone who continues to pray for the Farm!  We cannot thank you enough!

Living at the Farm!

Barn 07142017

It has been awhile since our last blog post about Arrow Farm and a lot has happened in that time!  The Lewis family is now living at the Farm!!  To say it has been an Ephesians 3:20 experience would be an understatement!  Journey Together is still raising funds to purchase the farm and while we are doing that, the owner agreed wholeheartedly to let us rent one of the houses!  On July 1st with the help of family and friends we loaded up the truck and made the move to the future Arrow Farm!  We are enjoying life in the country tremendously!  From riding tractors to cut the grass, doing a little shooting and our favorite, sitting on the front porch in the cool of the evening and dreaming of what will be.

Farm moon 07102017

Dreaming of the kids that will be running around the property one day. Volunteers helping in the garden, teaching kids how to nurture and grow a young seedling.  Children learning how to groom a horse, then trusting something so large and seeing the connection that only comes from an animal that will trust you completely when they feel safe in your presence. Archery practice. Soccer games. Swimming lessons. Bible studies where children are learning where their true identity comes from. Outdoor classrooms where kids aren’t just reading about science but they’re experiencing it firsthand. The list goes on and on!  Can you see it?

Ashley Shooting 07042017

That is what spurs us on.  That’s what we know and believe Arrow Farm will be and that is why we still need your help.  We need your prayers most of all.  If you have the margin to give financially, that is our next biggest need.  If you know someone you think would be interested in learning more about the Farm we would love to talk with them.  Starting in August we are going to start having Family Days once a month where you can come out, bring the family and see for yourself what we see in this Farm. We will also have dinners once a month for people interested in partnering financially with Journey Together to fund and purchase Arrow Farm.  We are working on some ideas for this and can’t wait to share more!

 

If you have any questions or want to talk with us, we are always happy to grab a cup of coffee or iced tea and chat with you! Please click on the link below to give towards the farm!

ARROW FARM PHASE 1

 

 

 

Moses Moments

We are days away from the Fundraiser at the Farm!  This Saturday, February 25th from      1-4pm, we are going to share a great meal, hear about the vision, why we are doing this, how we plan on accomplishing this, reveal the name of the farm, stroll around the property and tour the homes!

When we talk to people about the farm, we hear a lot of “wows”!  We couldn’t agree more.  It is a HUGE task and if I’m being totally transparent, we are scared, excited, nervous and did I mention scared!   You remember Moses in the Bible, right?  Remember how he questioned God when God presented him with a really big task?  Stephen and I have had several Moses moments throughout this process and God has answered our questions every time with, “I’ll be with you and I’m sending you help”.   Every time we have come up with a, “But we don’t know how to do this”, God has responded with bringing someone that does.  Moses had Aaron and let me tell you, God is providing us with many Aarons!

-Starting a Homeschool/farm hybrid?  God, we aren’t homeschool parents, this is beyond us.                                                                                                                                                                 God’s response: Here are a few people to help give you guidance that have done exactly that and would love to help you plan and dream!

-Raising cows, pigs, sheep and chickens? Lord, Laura lived on a mini farm as a child and doesn’t remember a whole lot other than; don’t wear anything shiny when collecting eggs. God’s response:  I have the perfect people to help you!  They love farm animals, have tons of knowledge and have been looking for an opportunity to get back on a farm to help someone!

-Horses, I love them!  I know how incredibly therapeutic they can be for kids. I also know they are a ton of work and have very specific needs.  As do all animals!  Surely, you don’t intend for us to go that route?                                                                                                                       God’s response:  Yes I do and here are about 5 people that are over the top knowledgeable, have certifications, passion and love for all things horses. They’re going to help you.

Do you see where this is going?  Every single time we have doubted or questioned this, God reassures us that we’re not doing this alone.  Not only is He with us, but He is sending people to help!

For every person that walks away from a conversation with either Stephen or I and you’re shaking your head….we’re right there with you! Trust me, we KNOW we can’t do this on our own, but God can.  I think if we went into this over confident and had the attitude of, we’ve got this!  Then, it would be time for concern.  Doubting our abilities? To a certain extent we think that’s a good thing.  Doubting God’s abilities?  That is where we never want to go!  We want to go wherever God leads, no matter how uncomfortable, difficult or even impossible it may seem.  I’ve heard it said before on a few occasions, that when God asks you to do something and you drag your feet whining about your inabilities or flat out say no.  He will use someone else to accomplish what He wants done.  If we say no to this, what are we missing out on?  If we say no to this, we feel that we would be disobedient to what God has put in front of us.

I was in one of April Knight’s Scripture Doodle classes and she was talking about obedience.  She asked this question and it has stuck with me ever since.  “Who could your obedience impact?”  The answer, generations!  Children’s lives will be changed not by what we do, but by what God does through our obedience and your obedience.  All of you that are encouraging, praying and helping are all a part of changing the trajectory of a child’s life. That is something to celebrate!  We need your continued prayers and if you are able to, your financial support as well.  We would love to see you on Saturday, February 25th but if you aren’t able to make it, we can sit and chat with you another time or send you information.

You can make a donation on the JTM website at www.journeytogetherministries.org

Or mail a check to 1223 Tambourine Court, Mt. Pleasant SC 29466.  Please make all checks out to, Journey Together Ministries.   We appreciate each of you and are beyond thankful for you!  See you at the Farm!!

 

The Farm, Part 2

Since the first blog post we have had a bunch of questions from people who want to know more about the Farm!  We are so excited to keep sharing more details with you and hope you’ll continue to join us on this journey!  So here is Part 2!

No it will not be called, The Farm.  We have prayed and landed on a name that we feel captures the purpose of the farm.  We will be unveiling the name and logo at the fundraiser on February 25th!  Want to be among some of the first people to see it and hear about it?  Come on out to the farm on the 25th!

Stephen and I are not purchasing the farm.  It will be bought through the 501C3 non-profit we founded, Journey Together Ministries.  Journey Together has an existing board and the board voted unanimously to move forward pursuing the farm with Stephen leading the overall charge.  A budget is being worked on, goals have been established and there’s momentum!  JTM is prayerfully adding a few more board members to help with the oversight and accountability with the farm.

Who will we serve?  There are approx. 225 children in foster care in Charleston County alone.  There are over 1,100 children that are on the radar of Charleston County DSS but they have not been placed in foster care.  And there are even more children that schools, churches and other organizations see that are in need but are not counted among the 1,100 children on the radar of DSS.  The children and their families that need a break so they can breathe, heal and receive some direction….those are the families and children we want to serve.

How will we serve them? By providing an option and a choice.  The single mom that has to work and can’t afford childcare will have a choice. For the grandparents that are raising their grandchildren and just can’t keep up with them anymore, they will have a choice.  For the parents that are experiencing situational poverty and they fear for their child’s safety and well-being, they will have a choice.  We will provide an option for the child to attend a Christian boarding school where he will live in a home with house-parents, mentors and no more than 8 children in the home. There will be onsite counseling for the child and their parents. We want the child-parent relationship and bond to stay intact. The end goal is for families to stay together. Holidays and school breaks will be spent at home with their family. And all of this will be done on a working farm with cows, sheep, chickens and horses.  We are not going to pursue a therapeutic certification for working with animals at this time.  But the simple of act of growing food, brushing out a horse, collecting fresh eggs and learning about God’s love for them and who He says they are, through all of that will be therapy in itself.  *we will have people that are very knowledgeable and trained with animals working with and assisting the children.

This is still just the tip of the iceberg but I hope it gives you a little more insight into what we are praying and believing for.  We are still seeking wise counsel from people that are helping, guiding, cheering and are passionate about seeing children and families healthy and whole!!  We are still praying daily for God’s clear direction.                                                Will you please continue to pray with us and for the people God is bringing to make all of this happen?!  If you feel led to sow into the farm, we would greatly appreciate it.  This is something that is absolutely and utterly impossible to do on our own!  But isn’t that the best place to be?  We want ALL of the praise and glory to go to God because without Him, this would never happen!  This is a definite But God, adventure!  We can’t do this on our own, But God can!

If you would like to give a monetary donation, you can visit the Journey Together website at  www.journeytogetherministries.org  and there is a secure link to donate.  Any amount will help!  And if you or someone you know would like to know even more about the farm, the ministry, serve opportunities, goals, anything!  We would love to invite you to the Fundraiser at the Farm on Saturday, February 25th from 1-4pm.

For questions or an invite to the fundraiser, please email Stephen Lewis at slewis@journeytogetherministries.org

 

Dreams, Kids and a Farm

barn
Fundraiser at the Farm

It all started with a dream.  Six years ago, in September of 2010, Stephen woke up from a dream with the realization that we were going to adopt a little boy from Africa.  Adoption had been on our radar 20+ years ago, but since then we had three biological daughters and were looking towards being empty nesters in the near future. After a lot of prayer, seeking wise counsel, lots of tears (by me, Laura) researching, and more prayer, we moved forward with adopting our son from Uganda, Africa.

From the beginning, we always felt that our adoption story was going to have more to it than bringing a child into our family.  We had no idea everything that God had in store! A 501 C3 non-profit was started and an adoption community was formed.  We decided on the name, Journey Together Ministries because adoption is a lifelong commitment and journey with your child and with the community you surround yourself with.  What originally started as an International adoption group quickly became and International and domestic adoption group.  About 2 years into the journey with Journey Together Ministries, (JTM) foster care was brought to the forefront.  This created a big learning curve for us and praise God He once again sent incredible people to help, lean on and learn from.  Learning more about foster care, hearing of the huge need for licensed foster families, assistance needed for children transitioning out of foster care, help needed for the DSS workers; the list goes on and on.  It was overwhelming and daunting to say the least.  But, God.  What may seem overwhelming and impossible to us is God’s way of showing us that we can’t do anything without Him and this was no exception.

In 2013, some good friends kept urging us to visit a ranch in Tennessee where they serve on the board.  We finally visited Wears Valley Ranch in November of 2014.  It opened our eyes to an absolutely excellent, God honoring, life giving, transformational way of helping kids from hard places, heal, grow and thrive! We left the ranch with big dreams and a longing to see something like that in the lowcountry of South Carolina.  At the time though, Stephen was running the business we had started 5 years ago and I was managing JTM.  We were also parents to 5 children, active in our church and didn’t have a lot of extra margin in our lives.  But, that didn’t stop us from thinking about and talking with friends about a Wears Valley model.  Several of us would look at camps or farmland for sale in the area, sigh wistfully and think, one day.  In October of 2016, Laura drove by a farm for sale in the small town of McClellanville, SC where our youngest son attends school.  To say it is perfect would be an understatement!  Big sighs followed by thoughts of, this is so ideal it’s crazy and maybe one day, went through our heads.   In December of 2016, we made the hard decision to shut down the businesses we started.  There were a lot of reasons and a lot of prayer that went into that decision but overall, we both felt it was the right thing to do.

With Stephen now having more margin, do you see where this is going; we decided to take a closer look at the farm in McClellanville.  Yup!  It was perfect!  Lots of praying, seeking wise counsel, talking to people that are really good and knowledgeable in areas that we are not, meeting with planning boards, meeting with the JTM board, meeting with our church leadership, meeting with our mentors and of course talking with our family happened next. The whole thing sounds absurd, incredibly overwhelming and even impossible; if we’re being completely honest!  What we know: we don’t have 2.3million dollars to purchase the farm; we aren’t farmers, teachers or counselors.  Here comes that But God again!  But God, has all of the above and even more!

This whole adventure is an opportunity for us and this incredible community we call family to say yes to a God sized dream and watch how He puts it all together!  There is seriously no other way this will work!  Yes, we have to do the hard work of planning, goal setting, budget planning, hiring of staff, buying farm animals, getting two houses up to code and more on a very long to-do list!  But as long as God keeps moving this forward, we are going to keep following His lead. We are believing for an Ephesians 3:20-21 blessing, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

Our home Church is Seacoast and there are three simple things they tell people: Pray. Give. Go.   We would like to ask you to please join us in prayer. Pray that God would give us and the team we have leading this charge wisdom and discernment.  Give of your time, resources and knowledge. And, go!  Will you go with us on this journey?  There will be lots of opportunities over the next few weeks, months and years. We would love to grab a cup of coffee or some sweet tea and share this God sized dream with you!  On February 25th, 2017 we are having a fundraiser at the farm!  If you or someone you know would love to hear more about the vision, walk around the farm and be a part of impacting the lives of children and their families, we will send you an invitation and we will see you at the Farm!

If you would like to receive more information about JTM and the Fundraiser at the Farm, please send Stephen Lewis and email at:   slewis@journeytogetherministries.org