Miracle Baby

fullsizeoutput_9It is with great celebration and excitement that Jacqui and I announce that she is pregnant.  This excitement is preceded by 2 years of sadness, a feeling of defeat, and grief that we have never before felt.  This announcement is also preceded by a tremendous outpouring of love and support, and constant reminders that, in the face of pain and sadness, our Heavenly Father is truly a good, good Father.

I would like to invite you on our journey to parenthood…

Baby Ziggy

January 2016 I was away at a ministers conference in Newport Beach, California.  Jacqui came to pick me up… and by surprise, she handed be a bag with my favorite candy, Sour Patch Kids, a newborn onesie and a positive pregnancy test.  We leapt for joy!  It only took a couple of months to get pregnant!  I was so excited that I couldn’t contain myself.  Folks would come up to me and say “Hey Roy, how’s your day going?”  (Just as normal people usually do.) I would answer, “Jacqui’s pregnant!!”  Even though our closest family has struggled with miscarriages, we were over the moon with excitement and no fear. 

President’s Day weekend hosts Highland Park Pres’ crazy fun Polar Bear Retreat.  It was a blast!  And even more fun because we knew Jacqui was pregnant.  All 100 + kids and leaders knew…heck all of Dallas and our family probably knew we were expecting!  It was a great retreat where kids came to know Christ and grew closer to him and each other.  We were all on a spiritual high.

We all headed back to the church for parent pickup.  Jacqui and I drove separately, so she decided to bow out a little early.  As she stopped at the last stop light to get to our home, she felt an incredible pain.  Jacqui made it home and into the house, she went to the bathroom.

There was blood. 

Jacqui called me once, I didn’t answer because I was with parents.  Several times later I answered to a call hearing the sobbing of a scarred wife who said, “Roy I’m bleeding I need you to come home right now!”

In fear and prayer, I sped home.  Jacqui was in pain and bleeding.  We went across the street to the emergency room, but they didn’t have an OBGYN.  We got referred to another ER, but they were closed.  So we went to Presbyterian Hospital and by God’s grace we were seen right away.

The doctor came in, turned on the sonogram machine, and we saw the baby’s sack.  The doctor said he couldn’t tell if Jacqui was miscarrying just yet.  He said it was hard to tell because even his wife bled throughout her entire pregnancy.  He sent us home saying we were “at risk” of miscarriage and to see her OBGYN in a few days.

That day and night the cramping intensified, and the bleeding more heavy.  We called her OBGYN that morning and they saw us right away.

The sonogram machine turned on, and there was no more sack.  We waited for the doctor to confirm, that our baby had passed away.  Bleeding would continue for a couple more weeks. 

Before we left for Polar Bear, our sweet dog, Daisy Mae, passed away in the vet’s office from liver failure, we believe, caused by Pet Armor’s flea medicine.  This was extreme grief, but the retreat lifted our spirits.  Then we lost our baby.  Two days later our second dog, Ella Bee, succumbed to the same liver failure and passed away.  My mom rushed up to Dallas from San Antonio to be with us during these dark days. 

All of this grief, while still trying to be a good husband, a youth pastor, and simply a believer in Christ.  What a test… Jacqui and I were surrounded by death and pain at every corner!

God proved to be a good, good father even though at times we didn’t feel like he was good to us.  Our small group community, church community, friends and family lifted us up in tremendous spiritual and tangible ways during this time.  God’s goodness shown through them.

BABY EMBY

After Jacqui healed, we wanted to start trying for another baby.  Except she had no cycle anymore.  Another month went by and no cycle.  Her OBGYN put Jacqui on hormones to force a cycle so she could ovulate.  Still, no pregnancy.  Jacqui would take a pregnancy test after pregnancy test.  Not having a cycle would tell her she was pregnant with excitement, only to realize it was an imbalance in hormones causing no cycle…not a pregnancy.

Jacqui’s OBYN said she couldn’t help us anymore and referred us to Dallas’ top fertility specialist.  This doctor and his team were superb.  He was aggressive in his treatment and said his goal was to get Jacqui pregnant again.

The amount of blood work and testing Jacqui went through was unimaginable.  Not only was it extremely expensive, but the pain of test after test was sometimes unbearable for Jacqui.  As a husband you want to protect your wife and family.  It was so hard to sit on the sidelines at every appointment, seeing my wife go through all the uncomfortable and painful poking and prodding.

But, Jacqui was a trooper.  She faced the pain of testings and we did two artificial inseminations (IUI).  We sat in the room as the doctor tested Jacqui after the second insemination.  You see… when you are under the care of a fertility specialist, there is no surprise.  Everything is calculated to the day.  So..our appointment was set for the day that the doctor should be able to tell if Jacqui was pregnant.  To our excitement…it was a positive test!  Jacqui was pregnant!  We held each other and wept for joy.  God gave us another chance at getting pregnant even when we thought we couldn’t again. 

Throughout the weeks we were cautiously excited.  We cautiously told our closest family and friends.  At our next week appointment the baby was looking good.  We heard the heartbeat and could see it beating so fast!  The following week we went for our follow up.  This time our baby was measuring a week behind schedule.  Our doctor said this wasn’t great…but not to fear.  He set up our following week’s appointment.  It was for my birthday, May 22.  I begged Jacqui to move the appointment.  I found out my father was going to pass away from injuries encountered in a car accident on my birthday and he passed 2 days later.  I couldn’t have another dose of bad news on my birthday. 

The date moved a couple for days after.  The sonogram turned on, the baby grew, but there was no heartbeat.  Our baby was now with Jesus and Baby Ziggy. 

We wept.  We wept and wept in the room.  Finally got ourselves together enough to leave the room and reschedule our next appointment. 

Jacqui opted for a surgical removal of the baby from her womb (DNC).  This was scheduled for a few days later.  Her own OBGYN did the procedure.  This doctor is the sweetest, kindest doctor I have ever met. 

Jacqui was strong.  Stronger than I’ve ever seen her.  Her spirits were up.  She left to the surgery room, and I waited.  I waited to see my wife who no longer had our baby inside her.  The doctor warned me that, due to the anesthesia, Jacqui would be hyperemotional and sensitive.  I found my wife weeping in tears in her hospital bed.  She was beside herself, so sad that the baby was really gone.  We held each other.  Our friends and family loved on us. 

Jacqui healed physically, and we continued to heal emotionally. 

A few months later I accepted a call to be a lead pastor of a newly forming church in San Antonio.  Jacqui and I took a short vacation before all the craziness to Puerto Rico.  The second we walked into our Airbnb her cycle started all on its own!  While, as the husband at first I was not too excited, quickly that was thrown out the window and we held each other with great excitement!  This meant Jacqui’s body was starting to work properly on its own!  We were given another chance all natural to get pregnant! 

BABY BEE

The house hunt quickly began so that we could be in the neighborhood God was calling us to.  The very first house I saw was the one.  Within a week we put an offer on the house in faith…and the owners accepted!  30 days later we were moving in the house on Thanksgiving week.

Sunday morning the POD was unloaded into our new house.  It was a fun maze of boxes in our new home.  Monday morning at 5:30am Jacqui woke up to get ready for work while I was totally asleep.  She decided to take a pregnancy test…and it was POSITIVE!

Jacqui says that she looked at the test in disbelief.  Could this really be?  We have been under doctor’s care for a year to try and get pregnant and haven’t seen a doctor since we moved to San Antonio.  How could I be pregnant?  She pondered for an hour before waking me up.  Jacqui came to the bed and said… “Roy…wake up…I gotta show you something in the nursery…the dogs messed something up.”  So I woke up, discombobulated, and ready to get mad at the dogs.  Walked into the nursery… and there it was.  A little baby onesie and a positive pregnancy test!

We held each other, cried for joy, and prayed. 

When you have had difficulty with pregnancies and fertility like we have…once you’re pregnant you see that doctor every week.  Week after week we got to see our little baby grow and grow.  We got to hear the heartbeat… and at our fourth week sonogram, our incredible doctor turned on the 3-D image.

WOW!   Words cannot even describe to you the extreme joy that fills our entire spirit and being when we think of our little one. 

Our first baby was called “Ziggy” our second was called “Embie” and this one is our little “Baby Bee.”

In our heart of hearts we believe little Baby Bee is growing healthy and strong.  We believe we will hold Baby Bee in our arms and introduce this little one to the world.  We believe we will see Baby Bee dream and accomplish those dreams… and that Baby Bee will live a long, healthy life all for the glory of Christ and the advancement of God’s kingdom. 

CHEERS

Thank you for taking time to read our story.  Thank you for praying for us and for celebrating the gift of life with us.  We know we will see Ziggy and Embie in heaven one day and hold them.  Perhaps my father who has already passed…perhaps he just wanted to experience being a Grandpa and hold his only son’s little ones before us. 

Now would you join me in prayer.  For all the friends and everyone out there longing to be parents.  For those who go to doctor visits after doctor visits…testings after testings…bleak news after bleak news.  Pray that they hold fast to the love and hope of Christ.  When God created the world…pain was not his plan.  But…now we have and experience pain.  However, we know that God’s love is stronger than pain and darkness…and his light overcomes the darkness.

In Christ we hold fast.

Love,

Roy, Jacqui, our pups Finn & Topanga, and Baby Bee

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Compass

broken compass

“Believe God is always the God you know Him to be when you are nearest to Him. Then think how unnecessary and disrespectful worry is! Let the attitude of your life be a continual willingness to “go out” in dependence upon God, and your life will have a sacred and inexpressible charm about it that is very satisfying to Jesus. You must learn to “go out” through your convictions, creeds, or experiences until you come to the point in your faith where there is nothing between yourself and God” -Oswald Chambers My Utmost for His Highest

The author of Hebrews in chapter 11 goes on and on with story after story of faith in action.  The author speaks of the faith of Abelthe faith of Enochthe faith of Noahspends a considerable amount of time on the faith of Abrahamand many more.  The author is encouraging the reader to hold on to faith.  Abraham did not know where he was goinghe was just going where God led him.

You and I, we want to know where we are going, how to get there step by step, how long it will take, what we will do when we get there and how we will be received.  We have our trusty compass to help us make the right moves.  There is little need for reliance on God when we have so many human made devices to guide our steps.  And don’t get me wrongI am the most dependent on my Google maps, just ask my wife.  When I am outside of cell service and my map doesn’t work I am utterly and completely screwed. 

God will do what God will do to get his children into obedience and reliance on him.  He will even allow our compass to be broken, just so reliance and faith in him will be sure or failure will be quickly upon us. 

In this world of church planting that I have found myself in, I have incredible people around me, holding me accountable, and guiding me along the way as we guide our unmatched church plant team to help lead the way. 

Our church has timetables, goals, strategic planning, even a project management coach who is an expert in his field for the city of San Antonio.  People ask me all the time, “How is the church plant coming along?” I answer, “They say we are right on track for our September launchbut only God knows his perfect plan and timing.”  There is a sort of blessed assurance that, while we have plans and goals, this church plant will only flourish if God be our compass, master planner, and our reason.  

I have all the faith and confidence that this church plant will launch and be a tangible blessing to our community for the glory of Christ.  That is whybecause it is for Christ’s glory.  For Christ to be made known and visible in the lives of our neighborhood and city.  Our team’s unified goal is not to be a community of thousands who are inactive and apathetic to the needs of our community.  Our goal is to be a tangible presence of the love and justice that Christ’s gospel brings, and offer it to everyone. 

When you read Hebrews 11 you will see verse by verse “By faithBy faithBy faith…”.  Even the author said, “What more shall I say?…” (v.32). The author goes on by reminding us of the pain and torment many of the women and men of God before us went through for the faith. 

The enemy does not want this church or any Christ-centered church to flourish.  We will face hardship.  We will face disappointments.  But by faith we will see many souls come to Christ.  We will see many saints equipped for the advancement of the Gospel in their workplaces, sports teams, neighborhoods, social groups… and the world!  

Finally,

I praise the Lord for an incredible Christmas party our team hosted.  This was our first community event as Alamo Hills Church and there were so many new faces! 

We look forward to what is to come!

PRYAER REQUESTS:

-Continued fundraising to reach our goal of $100,000 by September 2018

-God to open the doors for the perfect rented space starting in April

-Our launch team to continue growing in dedicated and diverse folks

-Our launch team to continue their devoted service, that we all stay unified, and for innovative ideas on how to make Jesus visible in our communities.

-For God to be glorified and lifted up in all that we think and do…

Christology–>Missiology

I was invited by my coach, Pete Mueller, to join him and other church planters at a micro-conference about church planting.  This time was led by the Senior Pastor of Hill Country Bible Church, Tim Hawks.  Tim Hawks has overseen a church ministry that has planted over 20 churches in and around Austin.  On Easter Sunday, all of the independent Hill Country Bible Churches shared the resurrection story with almost 25,000 people!!  Now that’s nothing short of incredible!

I can go on and on with all of the amazing things Tim taught me in his short one hour presentation.  Rather, I will share with you a nugget that will shape the way our launch team operates.

Tim said that the church is too tied up in what seminarians call “ecclesiology.”  Meaning, we are acting like the Pharisees and Sadducees that Jesus rebuked!  We are concerned with our structure, our order, our polity, our governance, our do’s and don’ts.  We are better at criticizing one another rather than building one another up in our most holy faith.  (Jude 1:20)  And I couldn’t agree more.

Rather, Tim says that the church needs to be concerned with Christology which will lead to our missiology.  Meaning, the church must concern herself with making sure we are making known the love and wonders of our beautiful Saviour.   When we are so in love with Jesus and the study of our Saviour, then the only thing that can come about this is being a missionary to everyone and everywhere we go.  Tim says that ecclesiology (church structure) will come as a by product (for better or worse).  However, our focus must and should be about this: How have we been a Christ loving neighbor to those around us?  What are we doing to love and bless our neighbor for the glory of Christ?

Therefore, as a church plant launch team, very little time will be spent discussing church structure and polity.  The great thing about not planting a non-denominational church is that our Lutheran sisters and brothers have already done this for us through our church network.  We have our theological foundation and we’re sticking to it.  Thankfully, as a launch team, we get to focus on the practice of our faith.  We get to discuss ideas on how we are going to be such a blessing to our neighbors in and around Alamo Ranch that our presence is felt and seen in our communities.  We get to experiment with ways of being an infectious Jesus movement where our fellowship can do nothing else but grow and flourish.

One thing that Tim said he regrets is planting churches that didn’t plant pregnant.  He says that if their church would have planted churches with the expectation that they plant a new church every three years, imagine how much more Austin would be saturated with the Gospel!

That is why our church will be sure to be planted pregnant.  We have a church brewing inside of our little church plant right now.  When we launch September 2018, you better believe we will have a new worshipping community launch by September 2021.  If not, be sure to call our church out!

In our next post we will be able to share with you what God has put on our hearts to name this church plant!  It will be a name that reflects our community and our birth from Shepherd of the Hills.  I can’t wait!

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

In Christ’s gratitude for you,

Roy

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“They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” Acts 2:46-47

God has blessed us with an incredible launch team! Here is a team of committed folks who want to see the name of Jesus proclaimed in and around Alamo Ranch and beyond.  At our launch meetings, you will see a group of people bringing food and eating together, opening the scriptures, praying for one another, caring for one another, and collaborating together to discern what God has in mind for our worshipping community.  This month’s meeting was no different.  During our meeting time, we began the discussion of what our commitments will be on this launch team.  Next month we will finalize this covenant and begin to see how we will each be a vital member of this church.

A member of the launch team, Nick, shared with the team an exciting tool called “APEST” that seeks to help people know and understand their gifts for ministry and evangelism.  We are all going to take the assessment and share our results together so that we can see where our strengths are… and where our weaknesses are.  I would love to see this tool be used to push one another out of our comfort zones and try new things!

Not only does this church have the support of our launch team.  We also have the support of our Texas District and our sending church!  What a great blessing this is.  From the Texas District, Mike Newman met with Aaron and me to go through our proposed timeline from now until our launch date in September.  This was an incredibly successful and fruitful meeting.  Mike has helped oversee scores of church plants throughout his career, so his suggestions and fine tuning will set up our church plant to be success in so many ways.  One of the things Mike helped us think through was, how many volunteer ministry directors we will need for our new church and ideas for evangelism and outreach in the coming months.  Aaron and I left that meeting with a clearer picture of goals and ideas to take back to our launch team so we can all work together to reach our goal of being a group of people making Jesus visible to our community.

Aaron and I also enjoyed our monthly gathering of local church planters.  This was a great time of fellowship and support for one another.

Meeting with our network over lunch reminded me that the work of church planting is tough.  I think it’s supposed to be difficult.  The evil one comes to try and destroy the work of the Gospel.  However, “what God has joined together, let no one or no thing separate.” -Mark 10:9.  It’s through diligent prayer and intercession that will keep the Evil One away from our community of faith.

Would you diligently pray for us in your quiet times?  Will you pray that God keeps our team together under his authority//that God brings the right people and grows our launch team into a diverse, thriving team//that we be a community that is so reflective of Christ’s love that people are immediately drawn to this community//that we care less about what we want out of church and more about what Christ wants from us for our neighbors//for Christ to continue going before us as we launch into a thriving and growing worshiping community for the glory of Christ?

Studies tell us that 34% of folks involved in a church plant were previously unchurched!  God, will you begin to prepare the hearts of those you have called this church to reach?!  What an exciting time to launch a new church!

Exponential Conference

What is Exponential?  Exponential is a conference that gathers believers together under the mission and vision of church multiplication.  At this three-day conference, we all gather together for incredible teaching and worship, along with many workshops to attend.  I focused on workshops that were geared to where our church plant is.  In the beginning stages about a year out from launch.   At this conference I was able to gain incredible insights from leaders who have planted hundreds of churches and helped support hundreds more of church planters around the world.  What was also encouraging for me, was that the books I have been reading on church planting were reinforced by the workshops and speakers.

One of the most valuable experiences being at Exponential was being adopted into the church staff family of a local LA church plant I previously wrote about, Real Life LA.  This congregation is about two years ahead of where our church plant is today.  I was able to learn from where they are now and how they got there.  Before the conference, I worshiped with them on Sunday morning.  Real Life currently rents space from a local middle school in town.  I was able to see how the set up, service, and tear down went; knowing that our church plant will more than likely use rented space for some time.  I was also able to learn from a seasoned pastor, Jim Miller, and spent time with a board member, Mark Perone.  It was an incredible learning experience spending time with the Real Life team throughout the week.

What I learned from the Real Life team was church planting is tough!  HAHA Not that I didn’t already know that, but looking two years ahead of time I saw how important the need is for God’s people to step up and take ownership of their faith community.  We need faithful followers of Jesus to see how their participation in a church plant is highly evangelistic.  This made me realize that I must present to our church plant team how one of the best tools Christ has to reach new people for himself is his church.  According to research presented by the ECO Presbyterian Denomination, Church plants have members and attenders where 80-90% of whom were unchurched!  That is an incredible figure!  When a church plant team member gets to church early to set up the chairs and AV, they are working to reach a large segment of unchurched that will come check out a new church plant!  We need co-workers in the gospel, and we need even more than that!

But, how?  How do we grow our church plant team?  How do we grow our commitment to this team?  How do we cast a vision so great and so heavy that we can’t but help to serve God’s kingdom in this way?  These are the questions that I keep seeking the Lord and my mentors about.  These are the questions that I so long answers to.  If only there was a proven formula.  However, the great thing about church planting that I have learned in my early tenure is that every church plant is different because every community is different, every culture is different, every group is different.  One success story may or may not bleed into another story.  We must continue to seek God’s leading… Because it is God who will draw people unto himself.  It is God who will draw the right people to say “YES” to serving in this way with a dedicated and servant’s heart.  The team and I must continue to pray for God encounters so that we can be open to meeting folks who are waiting to join a movement like church planting.

My prayer is for our team, our future church, and all the church plants now and to come; that God will recruit, train, and equip his children to say “yes” to his calling.  It will happen… And in God’s timeless reality… It already has happened.

Month 1.5

 

When Jacqui and I received the call to come and plant a church in San Antonio, we were in the thick of summer student ministry.  If you know anything about summers in student ministry… They are not for the faint.  Our church sent out about 130 students and leaders from 7-12 grade to one of the scariest areas in the country.  The Tenderloin District of San Francisco.  Our students did a phenomenal job at reaching the homeless population for Christ.

When we returned from the mission trip, I answered “yes” to the call to come and be the lead church planter for Shepherd in San Antonio.  I informed our pastors in Dallas and, with a bittersweet heart, we rejoiced together for this new journey God was calling my family into.  All of the sad goodbyes were beginning while I got to lead our Confirmation students to their confirmation retreat in Colorado one last time.

Jacqui and I spent some time in our favorite getaway spot so we could recharge together before our new journey.

Then the work began… Jacqui and I hit the ground running getting to know the staff and community at Shepherd of the Hills.  Aaron had a list of committees for me to meet with and other folks in our new church family.  Jacqui served as one of the speakers at the women’s Bible study, and we had the opportunity to share our heart for church planting during the Pastor’s Bible Study.

In our first month, Aaron and I began to meet once a week, we’ve had our first church plant coaching session with Pastor Pete Mueller, Reverend Mike Newman invited us to join other local pastors for a monthly book study and fellowship, we began our monthly two-on-one meetings with Mike, we began our monthly fellowship meetings with our church plant friends in the ACTS church network, Pastor Chris and I began our monthly check-ins, and I began weekly meetings with my spiritual mentor, Jay Saliceti.

While all of these things are really awesome, I must say that meeting with our current church launch team takes the cake!  If you’re unfamiliar with the term “launch team” let me clarify.  It is just that!  This is a group of folks committed to seeing our community launch into a thriving worshiping community in Alamo Ranch.  We gather monthly for fellowship and to seek the Lord’s leading in how we can best serve Alamo Ranch for Christ, and to visit other churches so that we can learn from our sisters and brothers in the faith.  Initially our team will use The Intentional Church by Randy Pope to guide our team meetings.  I cannot be more excited to serve alongside this team as we seek to join other churches in the area to help make Jesus visible to our neighbors.  Currently our team consists of about 20 people, all worshipers at Shepherd who have a heart to see a new church form in Alamo Ranch.  In the very near future we will see this group continue to grow into a diverse group of folks from various backgrounds, church traditions and walks of faith.  It is my hope that our team will be so diverse and continue growing into such a loving and committed group of people that we can’t help but launch into a thriving church community.  We will be an Acts 2:42-47 community:

The Fellowship of the Believers
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

This week, I will hop on a plane and head to Newport Beach, California for the Exponential Church Planters Conference.  I cannot wait to be around other like-minded folks and learn from them, the amazing speakers, and all the breakout sessions.  While in LA, I will also be meeting with one of my amazing mentors, Cheryl Fletcher and visiting a new church plant in the suburbs of LA called Real Life LA.

Be sure to check back on this blog as I share a summary of what God revealed to me through this incredible conference and time spent with co-workers for the Gospel in LA.