Wednesday, April 22, 2015

McGee's in NYC!

We have a new, beautiful website up and running! My husband is so talented and he built this website himself. It outlines our story, the neighborhood we are moving to, and our need for partners in this mission.

Please check out our website. We would love it if you would share it as well. We are so humbled that after the first day, several generous donors gifted us with the first two month's needs. We can move in June! We will be moving between June 7- June 14 (his first day at Crossroads is June 14). We are already seeing the Lord's faithfulness in His provision, and it is humbling and exciting. We know that we are called to this specific church in this specific neighborhood. We cannot wait to do ministry alongside the believers in the neighborhood and encourage others in the gospel. Exciting times are ahead! Thanks again for your prayers and support. We truly cannot do this mission alone. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Israel: 3.5 Years Old

This month Israel turned 3 and a half years old. I want to remember all the things he is doing and saying right now, because he seems to be changing so much these days.

Talking: Started to say "No," "want that," "Chair" (for drumset!), "bye bye car/baby/puppy," "Kickey" for Mickey, "Oh, Plop/Crap," "Uh Oh," "night night", "Nack" (snack). Also uses sign language to say "all done!" which is probably my favorite thing. He says "Yum!" and "Mmmm" when he's hungry and sees food. He still babbles a lot and I'm going to be really sad when that is gone one day, I love his little language.

Improving: He has little muscles in his legs for the first time ever! He is still a little beanpole but there's tiny little muscles where straight bone has always been. This makes me SO PROUD.  He's becoming stronger, able to cross his body with his hands to reach things and do activities. He loves to brush his teeth now and wants to do it himself. Still loves drinking out of an open cup and can sometimes use a fork and spoon to self-feed.

Moving: Walking long distances in the walker, scooting on bottom, taking & initiating steps in the walker (not just being guided or pushed anymore!) although we do use a bungee cord to pull him along. Loves sitting in a scooting toy and going fast on the floor.

Preferring: He would watch TV all day if I let him, specifically Elmo ("Melmo" or "Mo") and Daniel Tiger. Favorite toy is the Learning Puppy that sings... the same toy he has loved since he was a tiny baby. I had to buy a second one because the first one is so gross from being loved so much. If he's not playing his drums, he's wanting to jump/stand on his trampoline. It's great sensory input and he is becoming so strong! Also loves long walks in the stroller and being outside.

Sleeping: Ugh, this is the worst part right now. He's not sleeping that great at night anymore, and will wake up several times a night. We recently switched to a toddler bed and I think that's the problem. Sometimes we nap together, and sometimes he ends up in our bed in the middle of the night. Still holding on to naptime for a little bit longer, although I'm seeing that the end is near!

Least Favorite Parts of this stage: The yelling, screaming and kicking. I think this is because he can't communicate with me what he wants. He also hates shopping, so going to the store with him is really awful. Also least favorite, we are having to throw out pants all the time because he rips them from scooting. I bought about 20 pairs of shorts for the summer, so let's see how long that lasts us.

Favorite Parts of this stage: He can be so, so sweet. Still charms strangers and LOVES people that he loves. Loves to snuggle, play with long hair, give and receive kisses and hugs. He can be so silly and will show off for applause (Israel Cheer Time) and laughter. I love watching him with his friends and with his sister. He is a sweet brother and loves his family!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

My Head is Spinning!

Hey friends, thanks SO much for sharing in our excitement about our upcoming move. We are so excited and expectant for this next season in our lives.

As we prepare for the move, I have to admit that Will and I are thinking non-stop about our growing to-do list. Will still has a few weeks left of our college ministry, and he wants to finish strong in his time with our students.

I am already starting to purge and sell things that we won't need... which is about 75% of our stuff. We are blessed to live in a giant 4 bedroom house right now, and we are going to downsize to a small apartment. We know that MILLIONS of people are doing that in the city right now, so it shouldn't be that intimidating, but it is! I am trying to figure out what we want to keep or get rid of, and it is overwhelming. I know that we have about 8 weeks left here, so I don't need to get rid of everything YET because we are still living here...but there is a looming list of things hanging over my head that I need to sell at some point.

The two biggest things that are consuming my mind are 1. what kind of stroller will we use and 2. how are we going to get the finances together. I know that both are going to work itself out, but it is still overwhelming. We are still working out an online giving portal. I was talking to a friend in the city yesterday and she explained how you get an apartment in the city. Basically, you hunt on zillow or craigslist, or use a realtor to find an apartment in your price range and location. Will and I are estimating that a small two or three bedroom in Bay Ridge will be about $2,000 per month (and that is MUCH cheaper than Manhattan). To actually rent the apartment we would have to pay a deposit ($2K), then first month's rent ($2K) then a broker fee, which is typically the price of one month's rent (another $2K). You can't rent an apartment until you are about to move in, so we will not really start looking until mid or late May. So by that time we need to have about $6K ready to drop on our first month's rent. AHHH. But people do this all the time?!

I remember talking to a person a few years ago that described living in New York City. He told us that if we were going to make it in the city, we had to be comfortable lighting a $100 bill on fire, because that's about how quickly it takes to run through money in NYC. This is a completely different life than our suburbs! Will and I will still be pretty tight in our money management, but we know that city life will be just a lot more expensive than what we are used to.

So... finances, strollers, selling stuff... that's pretty much what's on my mind this week. We know that it will all work out, but right here right now, I'm just a little dizzy from thinking about all of it.

**We don't have any online giving set up yet, but if you want to make a tax-deductible donation into our salary account, you can go ahead and write a check and mail it to Orchard Group with "McGee-Crossroads" in the memo line. Giving to Orchard is tax-deductible.  

The address is:

Orchard Group
928 Broadway, Suite 404
New York, New York 10010

Thank you for your encouragement, prayers, and support! We're really doing this!!! **

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

We're Moving!

The McGees are moving to New York! I type this with a breath of relief and a knot in my stomach. I'm scared, excited, and so thankful. Here's the full long-version of the story:

Part 1: The Seed Was Planted!
During Will's senior year of college, Will was given the offer to come work with a church plant in New York City right after he graduated. He loved the city and thought that it was a great opportunity. He sought counsel from other pastors who knew his long-term vision of being a pastor, and they encouraged him to go to seminary first. The seed of a love for New York was planted when Will was only 22, but there were many steps that had to happen before it could become a reality.

When we lived in Raleigh-Durham during Will's time at seminary, we were a part of a church that valued church planting and sending out missionaries. We constantly heard scriptures about the importance of going and being a part of the global mission to share Christ with those who did not believe. We felt convicted that we should be a part of that calling. During this season Will felt called to be a pastor in an urban setting. We thought that we would be involved in a church plant through our former church, The Summit, and had two paths presented to us: Will could stay on staff at our large church in a small associate role, learning from the amazing team of pastors and church planters in our community, or we could go to Alabama and start a college ministry, where Will would have the opportunity to preach every week to a large congregation.

We felt that ministry in Alabama was where God was leading us, and we thought that the opportunity in Alabama would better equip Will to begin and lead a new church one day. During our job interview in Alabama, the search committee asked Will what his 5-year vision was, and Will told them it was church planting. Even though we were moving to Alabama, our heart's desire was still New York and planting a church. We trusted God that He was ordaining our steps, even if it meant going to Alabama and that didn't make sense to us!

Part 2: Waiting in the Pasture
Moving to Alabama was really hard. The first two years felt like we were in a holding pen. Ministry was slow, the wait for our adoption was agonizing. I (Rebekah) wanted to be a mom so badly and I felt like an outsider in our community. (By God's grace I don't feel like that now, but back to the story!). We constantly reflected on a sermon our former pastor preached about David being anointed as king but returning to the pasture as a shepherd until his time to reign actually happened. We felt that we had a calling to be church planters, but we were sent to the pasture to wait and grow. I remember looking at each other several times and wondering, "what are we doing here?!" but God was so faithful.

As I said, the first years were hard. And then...suddenly... we loved it here. We really loved our students, we felt like things were finally clicking in their heads and there was fruit from the plowing that the Lord did through our hands. The college ministry grew by hundreds of students. Will's skills in graphic design, preaching, discipling others, etc., were really coming along. We were able to look at each other and we could testify to God's faithfulness in our season in Alabama. We could already see specific purposes for our time here. We have grown as a couple, we brought our two babies home here, we had the support system that Israel needed, and Will was able to complete all of his PhD seminars (all he has left now is dissertation).

Part 3: The Calling Returns
Over the past few years, Will and I have continued to feel a stirring in our heart for New York. We've taken brief trips and followed New York social media accounts. We have had different opportunities to see what God is doing in the city, and we have always been encouraged by the believers who are working there. There have been times when we have daydreamed about what it would be like to live in the city. We have looked at neighborhoods and boroughs and have had conversations with church leaders and church planters who live in urban settings. There were a few times where we thought maybe God was calling us to New York in a specific way, but each time we didn't feel a peace. We just had this gut feeling that we weren't done in Alabama yet. We didn't feel clarity that our engageJSU chapter should be closed.

At one point we were offered the position to plant a church in New York with our former church, the Summit.  Let me tell you, this was one of the hardest decisions we had to make. We had our dream on a plate in front of us, but we didn't have a peace about it. Israel was in a hard place at the time and he wasn't yet walking in a walker. We were months away from an important neurologist appointment (when he received his CP diagnosis), owning our own equipment (walker, wheelchair) and having an IEP started. We again didn't feel like we should leave engageJSU. We were confused, we were heartbroken. We'd waited in the pasture for this! And it wasn't right?! We decided to stay in Jacksonville for a while longer. Plant roots. I needed it. I needed to have a deep community somewhere, and had never really felt that connected in Jacksonville. I wanted to let my heart rest and just BE somewhere without thinking about the next step or where we could possibly live. We stopped looking at NYC neighborhoods and stopped talking about planting. We thought through where else God could take us. What if it wasn't New York? What if Israel couldn't handle the city? What if when we adopted Israel, it meant that we had to let this dream go?

Part 4: The Right Timing.
This past year in Jacksonville was so good. I really have to honor the Lord for that, because He was so faithful. Ministry was good, we both felt fruitful and that we were making an impact in the lives of students. I was able to lead small groups of college students, Will started a Pastor School for students wanting to go into ministry. I had close friends, finished school and got my LGSW license. Will passed his PhD comprehensive exams. Israel had an IEP, started making huge progress, and even started walking! We felt truly blessed.

Then... an opportunity came up.

When Will had been making connections in the previous years, he developed some relationships with a church planting company called Orchard Group. Orchard Group plants churches in urban contexts, and they wanted to be one of our collaborators if/when we planted a church in New York. Just before Christmas, one of the Orchard Group staff members emailed Will that a small church in Brooklyn, one of their church plants from 15 years ago, had an opening for a lead pastor and they immediately thought of him. Will looked into the situation and it seemed almost too good to be true. In Brooklyn! They have about 80 faithful members, an office, a rented worship space, two part-time staff members! This church has so much potential and it is a truly amazing group of diverse people who love the Lord.

So, we began the interview process. Will had several Skype calls, email sessions, and finally for our anniversary, we spent a whirlwind weekend in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, with our future church. They had narrowed the candidates down to Will and another pastor. We were able to spend time with many of the members, and walk around the neighborhood. We could picture our lives there. After we had gone home, we found ourselves thinking about the people and the church. The Lord was already moving in our hearts and we knew that He could use us in that setting! The search committee picked Will and the church voted on it to affirm the choice. Will was chosen to be the lead pastor of the church in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn! Is this real life?!

Part 5: So What Now? (and Reflections)
The plan is that we are going to move at the beginning of June. The church is small and already has a TIGHT budget... so we have to raise a good portion of our salary. That is very humbling and intimidating! We cannot move unless we are supported by others. We hope that long-term, the church will grow and we will not need to raise support. However, we know that in the first few years we will need the support of others to SEND us on mission to New York.

Honestly it is so crazy to finally be in this position. We've daydreamed about this and thought that we had to let this dream go at several points. It is truly the Lord who ordained this whole journey and we feel that we are equipped to GO and live missionally and guide the church. Will is always challenging our students to go and live in a strategic place. It has been really hard to read Isaiah 6 and know that WE wanted to be sent, but it wasn't our time (not that living in Jacksonville hasn't been purposeful, but we are in a very churched area and wanted to live somewhere outside of the Bible Belt). Our time in Jacksonville has been so edifying and good for us. We love our church, and it is going to be really sad to go... but we trust that our church is not going to see that we are leaving them, but that they are sending us.

So here's to a new and crazy chapter in our lives... life in the city!

We finally have our website ready to go! If you would like to learn more about our move to NYC, and would consider partnering with us in the mission, please check it out and SHARE! - you can find out more about the financial need and how we are trusting the Lord for partners with us in our mission. Thank you so much!

Thank you for your encouragement, prayers, and support! We're really doing this!!! **

A Message From Will from engageJSU on Vimeo.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Scottsboro Weekend

We went to Scottsboro this weekend to visit Will's family! We packed a LOT in the short weekend!

Janice and I went to Cinderella and got pedicures for my birthday! We all got teeth cleanings! We played outside A LOT and the kids loved playing with their grandparents. We went to a mini circus and had a blast! It was such a fun trip! Thanks Gaga and Pop!

Easter 2015

This Easter was a nice little family day for us. We had a great worship service at church, and we were blessed to have lots of visitors come join us! I'm such a procrastinator, you guys. I didn't buy the kids Easter outfits, I was just going to pull something out of their closets. Well... my brother Daniel is so generous and he mailed the kids brand new, coordinated outfits for the kids! I opened the box Saturday night and I was just overwhelmed with such a sweet and perfectly timed gift!

We went to a lunch, where there was a bounce house! One of our college students' dad owns a business and he is very generous! He has an open lunch for those who don't have families to spend Easter with. He goes ALL out with an egg hunt, delicious meal, bounce houses and a train! It was such a fabulous event and we are so grateful for the chance to go!

We came home, the kids kind-of took a brief nap, then we loaded up and went walking on the Ladiga Trail. We stopped by the park and played for a few minutes.

Once we were home, we unloaded the Easter basket! I do a shared basket for the kids, and this year Israel got a new Learning Puppy (his current one is gross), a personalized bunny for Edie, a book about Jesus, some bubbles and a new customized family book.

Other cuteness involved Israel wearing his bunny ears for the entire afternoon, and Edith sharing a snack with her dog-dogs.

It was a great day! We woke up with the cross on our minds. What an unbelievably gracious and generous Father God is. To send a saviour for our sins, and Jesus paid our penalty when we didn't deserve it. I'm so humbled by the gift of salvation and so thankful for a day where we can celebrate what was done for us by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

House Showings, Spring & Filling the Days

Here's a few insights into my brain these days.

1. Our house is on the market. It's been on the market since October.... and no, we don't own our home. We are renters. Our landlord is really nice and promises not to boot us out on a really short notice if/when it sells. However, we have been in the uneasy when-is-it-going-to-sell mode since October, which means that every time we have a house showing it could mean that we are homeless. :) Speaking of which, why do house showings occur ONLY when your house is a complete wreck? We have one scheduled for tomorrow, and we recently decided to take EVERYTHING out of our office to decide what we wanted to keep and purge.

2. Spring. Ahhhh the season change! I am so thankful for the warmer weather and the opportunities to get out of the house. We are spending lots of time outside and I have watched each day as the buds on the bare trees turn into blooms and leaves. The revival of the foliage just stirs something in my heart. He is making all things new, each season, each day. What a refreshing thought for my heart because I am so in need of restoration. I need that reminder that even though the trees may be barren now, there will be blooms tomorrow.

3. Filling our days. I have decided that I am truly an extrovert, and if there are two consecutive days without much people interaction, then I will go crazy. I'm trying to spend time with our college friends and other friends as much as possible, because I know that if my tank is full - then it will pour over into my little people. I've had a lot of work on my plate lately, and that also fills my heart tank. I love being a part of the foster care process and getting to talk with prospective families about how they can serve the needy children in our community. We just started Edith back in UCP's daycare on Mondays and I'm really excited about having a full day to work and also to clean and do whatever needs to happen if/when we are booted out of our house (see point #1).

Overall, we are relying fully on God's grace and the Holy Spirit. I was talking to a foster family recently, and one of my questions for the home study is "How important is it to be a Christian while raising children?" and they said, "It's hard raising kids no matter what, I can't imagine doing it without Christ." AMEN. I'm so thankful for the grace and new mercies that I receive when I fail so often. 

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