I know, I know. I've already packed my house and put it on the market; told all my friends, family and supporters we are going. We have already had one fund-raising campaign and are working on a second and I had NEVER EVEN SEEN THE PLACE!!!
For one thing, I needed to wait til the snow melted! Didn't want to psyche myself out by going in 10 degree (or colder) weather for my first visit when I am definitely not prepared for that yet. Secondly, and I know this sounds Christian cheesy, but I really am following God on this one and not hunting for "America's Best Town to Live In". I went through a "God wants us to plant in New Zealand" stage. I was going to hike the road to Mordor for Jesus ;), but at this point, I was totally willing to move without ever visiting. But, alas, Jonathan said "No!" to that. Good husband.
I fell in love the minute we stepped off the plane. It helped that it was 90 in Texas and 53 in Madison! Ha! However, Madison felt like coming home. It is this great mix of Boulder and Denver with a side of Golden thrown in. It's granola crunchy and high-end; it's University and Government; it's crunched housing and wide-open spaces; crazy traffic and Botanical Gardens. If you're a Texan it must sound just like Austin to you, but cooler (degree wise, not popularity--don't pull out your revolvers). But to be fair, it's totally it's own place. It's all Wisconsin and completely not Wisconsin (which we learned from the hard-working people of everywhere else in Wisconsin who said, "Madison, that's where the fruits and flakes live!").
We landed at noon on Wednesday and got to have lunch at the Church Key Pub off State Street. To translate: We had lunch at a bar on 6th Street in Austin. Then we tooled around State street, went farther out on the Peninsula and looked at the city, drove up on campus and admired the architecture (to 2 grads of ACU that was pretty amazing. our Alma mater thought that architecture consisted of stacking several blocks on top of each other with a roof and calling it good). The stateliness of UW was breathtaking. However, on campus we ran into the Madison Welcoming Committee, aka the horn-honking sophomore in Daddy's graduation present for whom we were driving entirely too slow, and he introduced us to what appeared to be the state word, yelling it from his window at the top is his lungs. Later we saw it written on bumper stickers on the back of all the cars near the University! ;)
Thursday we got to see more of Madison. We walked the Botanical Gardens, chatted with mom's on Willy Street near the co-op (think Vitamin Cottage or Sprouts or Trader Joe's), and visited the East Town Lake Mall. Out that far, you wouldn't know you weren't in Temple. Middle class is middle class pretty much everywhere. The difference being that "beg" here in Texas is when you ask for money and there it's something to put your groceries in ;)
Friday we met with the Elders of River of Life and discussed our internship and got to view Portage a little more. That night I got to go to the ROL chicks retreat. I finally got to meet my Facebook friends face-to-face. It was great. Those women are wonderful and I am so excited and blessed to be getting to be a part of their lives soon!
Saturday we had a SWBA meeting. If you don't know what that means, it's really just code for "other Jesus followers in Wisconsin". I met some wonderful men and women who are truly passionate about spreading the Gospel and equipping pastors to reach Wisconsin for Jesus. It was such a blessing to network there, not politically but passionately. We are NOT lone wolves in trying to plant the Gospel in Madison. We need support, supporters and a support network. Church planting is a team sport! And we are blessed!
Then we got to party for Bob's birthday Saturday night! Cookout and family fun with some of ROL and the Turners. They are so warm and loving. I have to admit, this was when it was nearly physically painful for me to be away from my boys. I missed them so badly. Everyone else at the party had kids and I only had to fix a plate for me! It was surreal! ha!
Sunday was breath-taking. We worshipped with ROL. When I say that I mean it in all it's glory. The people at that church know what it means to "glorify God and enjoy Him". They sang with all their hearts, some songs I had never heard and some I hadn't sung since college. The children danced for joy and participated in worship. Bob spoke the Gospel in a way that really connected with my heart and it was so nurturing to be a part of that body of Christ.
Returning home was bittersweet. I really have begun to love Wisconsin. I am entranced with the idea of beginning to meet people and build relationships there. I can't wait to visit story-time at their library, take my kids to the Botanical Gardens, join a good homeschooling co-op and begin to do life with the people of Madison. But I also realized the reality of leaving. I am truly going to be 1700 miles away from all I've ever known. I'm going to be leaving my best friends (all by my very bestest, Jonathan). I'm going to be out of my comfort zone. I don't even know what the major grocery chain is there! But God really placed Romans 12:1-2 on my heart.
"I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."I realize that living out this calling IS offering my body as a living sacrifice. I am sacrificing what I WANT for what I NEED, which is to "glorify God and enjoy Him forever". Even when it doesn't feel very enjoyable at times. Even when I know I'm going to be horribly lonely for awhile. Even when I know my kiddos are going to cry and mourn for their far-away family and friends. Even though I have no idea if/when my house will sell, we will raise enough support or Jonathan will get a good bi-vocational job. I am letting my mind be renewed by the truth that this is God's calling, God's planing, God's watering, and God's growth. He will do His good and perfect will. His heart is for Madison. He is calling His sheep there.
Please pray for us and for Madison on this journey. And pray for the other pastors already there fighting the good fight, enduring suffering, doing the work of evangelists and fulfilling their ministry. It's not sexy and glorious. It's "living sacrifice". And it's totally worth it!
PS. Big shout out thanks to Bob and Alisha (but especially Alisha) Turner for hosting us in their home. They were amazing and generous and their girls are AWESOME!! Can't wait to see them every week and do life together!