low country boil and life groups.

Our friend from Life group, Weston, hosted a low country boil at his house in Chapin yesterday. The weather was perfect — warm and breezy — and the food and drinks delicious. I haven’t tried boiled peanuts since high school, and wasn’t impressed back then, but yesterday I couldn’t stop eating them. Judah’s response when he cracked one open, “There’s something wrong with these peanuts!!!”

The main way we foster community and discipleship at CPC is through small groups, which we call Life groups. We have six Life groups meeting right now, and it’s been very much a learning process for the church as we’ve figured out leadership and curriculum and scheduling these past seven months.

I’m so glad we’ve pressed on (and by “we” I mostly mean David and John), and I’m glad our Life group leadership has been open and honest about what works for them and what doesn’t, because I feel like we’re in such a sweet season now. I wanted friendships in all of the Life groups to grow and becoming transparent, but I worried if that happened our groups would become exclusive and not quick to welcome newcomers.

I love how that worry has melted away as I’ve seen that our Life groups are a natural extension of our church family. CPC is a friendly, welcoming church, and so time and again David and I hear of people feeling welcomed and pursued as they join a Life Group. It’s been encouraging to see others thrive in their Life Group, and also to feel like David and I are thriving in ours.

If you’re curious about how our small group ministry works right now: we meet twice a month and have discussion questions to process and apply that Sunday’s sermon. There is purposeful age diversity in all the groups — young families with college students with singles with empty nesters.

Each group has flexibility as to whether they want meeting times to be with all adults, or to split up by gender. The group decides together which evening a week to meet on. Our ladies meet two Sunday evenings a month at my house and the guys meet the alternate Sundays at another house. Then we do a whole-group hang out (like a picnic at the river or a low country boil) every couple months or so.

This has worked perfectly for our group since we have lots of young kiddos and meeting girls and guys separately has kept childcare from being an issue. But a couple groups with fewer kids meet all together, and another group hires a babysitter. It’s fun to see people have freedom to decide what works best for them rather than trying to have one specific formula for everyone.

The groups were started by location, but have evolved into a more organic style. Newcomers can choose a group either based on location, on what night works best for them, or if they have a friendship with someone in the group. I hope this has created a more natural atmosphere instead of just assigning someone to a group.

One of my favorite things on a Sunday morning is to greet a visitor and after chatting for awhile, to invite them to check out our Life group — only to have them say “I’ve already been invited to three other Life groups!” I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to be apart of a church family like this.

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our church.

In December our friend Lucas Brown of Kickstand Studio came and took photos of a worship service for the Columbia Pres website. We love they way they turned out and I’m excited to give you a glimpse into a Sunday morning at our church . . .

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christmas eve.

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Last night Columbia Presbyterian Church hosted a Christmas Eve service with two other churches in town. The whole evening felt like a blessing, and here’s why.

David and John and Jonathan and Kenny worked hard all month to plan the service. David spent his Christmas Eve at Tapp’s, sweeping and scrubbing and restocking bathrooms after a big party the night before. Justin and Beth showed up early to run sound. Jonathan set up chairs and made coffee and screwed light bulbs and took care of the logistical details.

Chris led worship. My Dad and Mom and Sarah and I organized the nursery and played with a roomful of infant-to-two-year-olds.

The blessing of last night was sitting on the floor surrounded by rambunctious babies and realizing with wonder that serving is a gift. And serving together — working as a team — is an even bigger gift.

It’s a lot of work, but it brings so much joy. It brings gratitude. It brings a deeper bond. It’s pouring yourself out for people like others have poured out for you. Like Christ has poured Himself out for you.

Serving is at the very heart of Christmas, you know? It’s maybe the best way to celebrate “The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood,” because it’s what He did first, and what He still does for us every day.

Serving is a gift just as much as twinkling lights and presents torn open and hot coffee and Christmas carols.

Our Christmas Eve service was a gift. And all the people who faithfully and joyfully serve with David and me are a year-round gift that makes me bow my head and give thanks.

Tonight I’m thankful for the Giver, whose generosity knows no limits and whose gaze on us is pure delight at our wonder-filled faces.



whole hog weekend.

This may sound funny but it’s been one of my husband’s dreams to roast a pig.

He’s been talking about it for at least a year — tried to plan it a couple times, but it never quiet came together. You need a whole bunch of people to eat a whole hog. You also need either a large hole in the ground or a pig cooker. And a good long Saturday to cook the thing and then shred it.

So it’s kind of a big event.

But now we have a church. We have a whole bunch of people.

We planned our first communion service for this Sunday and what better reason to have a celebration feast (i.e. roast a pig)? So we had our event.

We even have an awesome butcher, Robbie Jeffcoat at the Steak Mart, who placed the order for our pig last week. All the plans were in place.

Then, on Friday Amie woke up with mysterious little red spots on her. Maybe they weren’t so mysterious . . . maybe they were . . chicken pox!

So we spent David’s morning off at the doctor’s office. Turns out she got chicken pox from her vaccine last week, which is like a one in a thousand chance. But there we were. I had no sooner texted Shari the news when she called me and said, “Owen has red spots all over him.” So yep, Amie took her cousin down with her.

I was so bummed. I’d been so excited about our weekend plans, our first church dinner, etc., etc. And instead I was basically quarantined in the house with our girl. Thankfully her case (and Owen’s too) is very mild. She’s her normal, bubbly self — just a little itchy, and contagious. So I know it could be much worse (as someone who got chicken pox as an adult, believe me, I know).

But here’s where it’s very, very wonderful to live near my family. My mom stopped by the house yesterday morning to play with the kids and give David and me a break. David let me escape for a couple hours yesterday afternoon to be part of the pig roasting (though I’ll confess I did more socializing than roasting). Then today Kenny drove straight home after leading worship at church and watched Owen, Oliver and Amie so that Shari and I could go to the dinner.

And honestly, even though we hated missing the worship service today, it was the best feeling in the world to walk into Tapp’s at noon to a buffet line still loaded with pulled pork, sides and dessert, and a roomful of people eating and chatting and laughing. Our friends Brian and Jeanette organized the whole dinner. A friend from Lexington loaned us his pig cooker — even “drove to the city” to drop it off. Lots of folks showed up at the Paullings yesterday afternoon to hang out and shred the pork. And today everyone arrived at church with sides, drinks, and dessert.

For me this sense of teamwork is about the most freeing thing I’ve experienced in ministry. It says that we’re a community.

It’s not David and I running this show — dashing around like chickens with our heads cut off to do every single thing each week. People are present, they’re serving, they’re friendly, we’re all working together as parts of a whole so that if one person can’t be there others move in to fill the gaps. It makes me so very happy to introduce a new person to a group of people and be able to walk away and know that person will feel welcome, will feel noticed. To me that’s what the body of Christ is.

After a whole year of aches and pains and plain hard work, this right here is the pure joy. It makes everything worth it. This community makes everything worth it. And what’s more they’re people I actually like hanging out with. After a tiring weekend of details I’m excited to go right back out for our monthly Ladies’ Night tomorrow night.

IMG_1640David living his dream on Friday: taking the hog to John and Anna’s house (yep, it spent the night on ice in a kiddie pool)

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IMG_4530The chicken pox twins quarantined. As you can tell they don’t look any worse for the wear.

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Service with a smile

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We all came away big fans of whole-hog barbecue! And of church dinners, which we’d love to do quarterly.



she says.

Amie’s prayer in the car before the first service at Columbia Presbyterian Church:

Dear Jesus, thank you for God’s church. Thank you for helping Daddy and his friends build us a church so we don’t have to keep going to new churches. Amen.



practice service.

We hesitated to call this Sunday’s worship service with our core group a “practice service” because of course such a thing doesn’t exist.  There’s no “practice” in the family of God because the Holy Spirit is always with us and everything we do, whether it’s building sound panels or buying office furniture or tuning a guitar or texting a new friend, is real worship.

But having said all of that, with the full knowledge that we are a garden and not a corporation, it still takes an enormous amount of work to gather for worship as a group.  It takes knowing where the bathrooms are and whether the children’s space is properly sanitized and how the offertory transitions into the sermon.

And so this Sunday, August 18, was our real practice service.

It’s been a long, hard summer friends.  Many weeks I’ve scarcely seen my husband.  And other women in our church plant have scarcely seen their husbands.  There’ve been a thousand details, a thousand (or several thousand?) texts exchanged, meetings, phone calls, orders, last-minute problems to be solved.

And it’s been a long year for our family of not having a church home.  Ever since we moved back from South Asia we’ve worshipped in a different church nearly every.single.week.  Because first we were connecting with supporting churches.  And then came the missions conferences.  And after that, after we got the green light from our denomination and David was an official church planter, the support-raising started all over again.  David has spoken at different churches most Sundays this summer.  It’s been wonderful and it’s also been difficult.

I tell you all of this because I want to better explain the surge of joy that grew in my heart all of last week.  When things were hard, when I felt so exhausted, I could see the light of this Sunday’s worship service, and my friends, I was so very happy.

And when the kids and I walked in the Blanding Street entrance of Tapps on Sunday morning I could’ve cried I was so relieved.  It felt like coming home.

The whole morning felt like that.  Several things were already going wrong by the time I got there.  The bulletins weren’t printed.  The power point wasn’t working.  But nothing could dampen the gladness in the air around us.  There was coffee brewing, there were smiling faces, and people filed in the doors.  I saw familiar faces and I saw new faces and I wanted to talk to all of them at once.

Judah and Amie and I ventured down the winding stairs to the basement where the kids gather.  My parents are in charge of the children’s’ ministry at Columbia Pres this year (did I tell you that?), and the room we walked into was magical.  They thought of everything.  Bright-striped rugs on the floors and a changing table for the babies and toys and books and little wooden tables for the fours-and-fives class.  Shari was sitting there, checking in the kids, gathering information.

And so I dropped my kids off and went back upstairs to my spot as a greeter and spent the moments before the service started meeting new friends and showing folks to the nursery and giving lots and lots of hugs.  I loved glancing around the room and seeing others do the exact same thing.

The worship service was so very sweet.  Leading up to yesterday I would pop over to Tapps and just stand and look hard around the Skyline room and for the life of me fail to imagine a church worshipping in that space.  But it was perfect.  It really was.  That’s not to say everything went off without a hitch of course (the power point never did get to working).  But it’s to say, it was just right.  God was present in our midst.  Kenny and our friend Leslie led us in worship and as we all sang the familiar hymns soaked into my heart. We moved through the rhythms of the liturgy and I bowed in prayer and listened to my husband preach from I Corinthians and I felt deeply grateful.

God is faithful when He calls.  It’s not always easy.  But I can tell you that the joy of watching Him answer prayer is better than easy.  When we gather together we know — because we’ve been through it — that this is all happening because of Him.

After the service, after more conversations and packing up chairs and sound equipment, a group of us went out to Five Guys for lunch.  It was chaotic and loud and happy.

Then later on that afternoon as soon as naps were over I loved that the four of us piled in the car and drove over to Kenny and Shari’s, because we all just had so much to talk about.  The kids played and the grown ups ate chips and homemade guacamole as we debriefed.  I feel very humbled to have a family who loves talking about church planting as much as David and I do, who cares about the little details few would think of.

I told David that the best part of Sunday was that it all just felt so natural — natural to be gathering with these people, worshiping God with these people, dreaming and planning ahead for the future with these people.

Now we have a couple weeks’ hiatus since our official launch is after Labor Day.  And that’s great because there are some kinks to iron out, changes to be made so that everything will run more smoothly.  And all of that is just as much worship as gathering on Sunday morning.

As David announced at the close of the service, “We will begin services September 8th and worship together until the Lord returns.”  I can’t wait.



weekend.

We got home from PA on Tuesday evening, and somehow the succession of days since then has run together in a blur of craziness.  Not so much crazy for the kids and me as crazy for David and the guys working on our church meeting space.  We’ve barely seen him since we got home, and so the days have been long for all of us.

This is the very hardest part, I believe.  This building and scrambling and trying to get everything done right.  And all with a project David has never done before — one that is very different from planting a church.

But God is faithful.  He is providing grace for each day, and we’ve been abundantly blessed with help and encouragement and funds and prayers.  Our practice worship service is this coming Sunday, and our first official service is September 8th (bonus points if you know what else happens September 8th).

Here are some snapshots of our weekend:

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IMG_3722I can hardly put into words how much I adore this book.  Not really a cookbook, not really a memoir, I love it as much for Adler’s simple-but-breathtaking writing style as for her recipes.  It’s so much more than a “how to,” it’s a philosophy of food, of cooking, of life, one I hope to read and reread over the years (yes, I’ll be buying it).  And if you’re nosy like me, you’ll be delighted by this peek into Tamar Adler’s kitchen.

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The kids and I made a trip to the Gourmet Shop and surprised David when he got home Friday night. A few treats to thank him for his hard work.

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Here’s a sneak peek of our back porch, where the treats were enjoyed.  We’ve got a couple more additions, then I’ll show it to you.

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IMG_3733The kids and I met my parents at the Farmer’s Market bright and early Saturday morning, then walked a block down Main Street to Drip for coffee and tea and a little art work.

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Panels, panels, and more panels.  300 of them to be exact, which explains the long days. The sound panels are those fabric-covered boards you see hanging around the room, which our church designed, purchases, built, and is now installing as part of our contract with Tapp’s Art Center.  The panels help absorb noise so the space isn’t full of echoes. It’s been remarkable to stop by every couple of days and hear the drastic difference.

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IMG_3755We picked up our friend Emma Taylor and went to the splash pad Saturday afternoon.  I’m so thankful we discovered this place last month.  It’s free, five minutes from our house, and it provides hours of entertainment for the kids.

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We had a quick family coffee date this morning before David headed back to work at Tapp’s and the kids and I headed to church.  Lately Amie has been asking to take pics of me with my phone, so here’s: “Portrait of Mommy with her tea, by Amie.”

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IMG_3778Judah: “Mom, I want to give Kenny a giant cookie for helping us with our church.”  Me too, Judah, me too.  I’m so thankful for Kenny and John and all the others who have put in long hours getting our worship space ready.  I’m also thankful for the wives who have sacrificially given up their husbands for this task.  And now as I get ready to publish this post our space is finished and ready!

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IMG_3783This weekend I decided to try my hand at a homemade sourdough starter.  If you can keep two human children alive then you can keep a sourdough starter alive, or so I’m told.

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IMG_3789And finally, I loved ending the weekend with these wonderful friends, eating an Austrian summer feast and celebrating Charissa’s birthday.