Life Update May 2023: Building Generations on a Firm Foundation
Updated: May 24
Hi friends, I know- it's been a while since you've heard from me.
Life has been CRAZY.
Wonderful, but crazy.
Would you take 5-10 minutes to get caught up with me over coffee? :) I miss you!
Nine months ago, my family and I moved cross-country from Charleston, SC back home to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma on mission. We had a vague idea why we were moving but all we knew was that the Lord said it was time.
My heart has always been very clear- my priorities are my relationship with Jesus, my family, and serving my community. How that looked always ebbed and flowed, but those were the priorities.
Now here we are.
I followed Jesus and came home. we were so blessed to stay with my in-laws for three months while we got settled and found a house to buy. Poor baby Stephen had colic for AGES but is finally a happy, round baby boy, and we are enjoying time once again with our extended family and the kids spending time with their cousins! My family has finally settled into our new home and new life back in Oklahoma.
Now it's time to serve our community.
Bridging the Gap
From 2013-2018, I served heavily in poverty-alleviation efforts in Oklahoma. As a child and adolescent who escaped poverty and gained much healing from trauma, my passion was to "go back" and help others experience the same freedom. I did this through a statewide initiative called Bridge the Gap Oklahoma through a comprehensive sociological framework called Bridges Out of Poverty in partnership with the YMCA and Oklahoma-Arkansas Salvation Army Divisional Headquarters. I wont go into the details but you can learn more here.
This was my calling from the moment I learned about it as a freshman in college in 2013. This is why I walked the walk I endured throughout my first 18 years of life. But I wasn't ready yet.
Fast forward to 2019-2022, my family and I went on this incredible journey of moving cross-country without knowing why with two infants all because Jesus said to. And MAN, do we have the testimony of how God showed off! For three years, my family was welcomed into the most beautiful church community at North Palm Church in Charleston, SC and it completely changed our lives forever. We grew, healed discovered areas that we needed to allow Christ into in deeper levels and fell in love with the God-people around us.
Then the Lord said it was time to return. It was time to take the "elixer" (if you know anything about a heroes journey in literature) and take it to those who need it- and let's just say Oklahomans NEED the breakthroughs the Lord gave our family in those three years of training.
In fall of 2022, we arrived back in Oklahoma, this time with four babies in tow, one of which was three weeks old. We were hungry for whatever God wanted to do. We weren't sure if we were planting a church, a ministry, a nonprofit, a business, or all of the above. We just hit the ground running.
We knew we had to identify the actuals needs of the area we were serving, at least after resting and getting our home established.
Man Plans, but God Directs His Steps
We had a lot of expectations when we moved, or at least assumptions.
First of all, we assumed we were starting a church in the suburb we love, Midwest City by February 2024. We still might, but don't know.
I also assumed I was not going to come back and be a worship leader.
We assumed we were going to immediately be able to save up all of this money because cost of living was so much cheaper that we could start buying rental houses when the market crashed.
We assumed I wouldn't have very much work initially with my photography and visual communication business.
We assumed we had specific financial investment opportunities.
We assumed that certain people would be on our team to help us run the race God called us to.
We assumed that all of the prophetic words we received leading up to our move would come to pass within 6 months of moving back.
You and I both know what happens when we assume 😉
Instead, for the moment, we are not planting a church in Midwest City, but instead are serving bi-vocationally at a beautiful Foursquare Church in North Oklahoma City with Pastors Chris & Christy Johnson called Abide OKC. We may still plant in Midwest City if the Lord allows, but so far there hasn't been an open door. Abide OKC has opened their arms for all God has spoken over our lives in ministry and have been so supportive of our call as ministers. Their hearts bless us and I pray we are able to bless them in the same capacity as they transition for greater glory in ministry. Travis is coming on as an assistant pastor for teaching and discipleship and I am helping put legs to their worship ministry and helping with infants and pre-k (which if you know me must be from the Lord because i'm not typically a kids church person 😂). They are also opening up a community center serving the needy which is in line with my assignment with poverty-alleviation.
We and the market are not favorable for moving forward with rental properties as of yet, though that is definitely something that will be on our radar as the Lord allows. Real estate is one of the three wealth paths for anyone wanting to create generational wealth. You can learn more about this with Wealth with God with James Baker of Zion Christian Fellowship. Highly recommend!
Since arriving, my photography work with Life Photo & Design has been well! Still building, but it has been a steady flow coming back and I work out of a natural-light studio in Oklahoma City called Willow Rose Studios.
Instead of who we thought would be on our "running" team, the Lord has brought us brand new, so loving and faithful people who have been so supportive and are the real deal. Brandi Belt, a mentor of mine, tried to warn me that we will go through stages of who will run with us and it's never who you think- BOY was she right! In addition, the Lord has also brought us non-ministry related friends to be able to rest with and enjoy.
Last but not least, I assumed I would mostly be working with families who were not in crisis in my community efforts. I wanted individuals with stable housing and access to transportation. I wanted families who were just looking for resources to grow their family or career but already had a lot of the pieces. I thought I would be too overwhelmed or it would not show fruitful. How foolish and selfish of me.
After arrival, we began to pray and seek the Lord to show us the needs in Midwest City and where He wanted us to help. For family night, Travis wanted us to make homeless care packages to keep in the car in case we came across someone living on the streets. I also felt the need to make four or five specifically for kids with crayons and chalk and snacks. I didn't know if we would need them, but I wanted to make some just in case.
It is with great heaviness in my heart that I share that it has not been hard to find people to give these to, just in our usual commute around the city. And the children! 😭 We have seen so many children with their parents sitting quietly in the sun while their parents have to beg for money for housing.
This isn't a food problem- they have foodstamps(SNAP).
This is a housing problem and more and more families are losing their homes due to the economic conditions of today's America. Many families are spending insane amounts of money to live in hotels because they can't come up with lump-sum amounts of around $1500-$3000 of first and last months rent to get into a rental. Especially if they have children.
I wont go much more into detail, but those packs (especially the kid packs) helped open the door for me to help a displaced family in Midwest City (which until now has NEVER seen homeless family units walking the streets). The Lord MOVED and so swiftly. I met them on my way to a doctors appointment and the care packages helped open the door to talk to them and learn their story. At the end of the day, they just needed stable housing. Within 10 days, our community including churches, businesses, individuals and the Midwest City Police Department were able to raise $2000, find them a long-term stable rental that was within their budget, and get them on their way with support services.
This was in March. They are doing well now and growing day by day in stability.
Since then, I have come across two more families in similar situations. It only seems to be getting worse and my heart is so broken for them because I know the feeling of near-homelessness and am thankful we had my grandparents to live with when we were in between housing.
Another evening in prayer, Travis heard a word that the Lord wanted us to do something for every baby born in Midwest City. When I heard that, I was like, "Wow, that seems pretty crazy and intense. How many babies are born in Midwest City?
During Covid, our labor and delivery center in our suburb closed down as well as the only pregnancy resource center, leaving the moms-to-be in Midwest City vulnerable and without access to pre and postnatal services. I gave birth to my oldest, Gracia, in 2017 at this hospital. And the new hospital ownership in Midwest City, though I love and respect their mission and place in the community, has no plans to open a labor and delivery center.
Transportation is a HUGE problem in Oklahoma City as Oklahoma City metro spans the space of five to six major cities in land mass. You don't survive here unless you have a car. Most poor people do not have stable transportation.
With further investigation, we found that because of this gap of resources in our city, women were not making their six week postpartum appointments, taking the ambulance anytime they thought they were in labor or concerned for their baby (stressing our ambulance system), and or having to Uber 20-45 minutes away ($30-$50 cost round trip every trip) just to have medical access for their pregnancy.