A New Year
If ever a year deserved a Christmas/New Year/What Happened-To-Our family letter, this would be it. It would seem that 2019 was the year to turn everything upside down, leaving nothing unchanged. I mean, we even have new looks. Karissa cut her hair tastefully with bangs and some layers, and Colin plotted with his barber to grow his hair into a mullet.
Yes, you read that right. Colin Barker has a mullet now, because WHY NOT after the year we've had?
Let's start there, shall we? In Colin's own words, what other time in life, besides at this very moment, would he have the opportunity to grow his hair out into a mullet? Karissa supposed that was as good of justification as any, although is seriously considering shaving it off in the night. Karissa is considering the mullet a poetic expression of how completely life has changed this past year. And counting on the fact that no one can see on top of Colin's 6 ft 5 in head very well.
On a more serious note, the reason behind the opportune time for mullet-rocking is the fact that we chose to leave the church that Colin had pastored at for 6 years (on staff for 8), and Karissa had attended for 20.
It was one of the hardest decisions that we have ever made.
This fall God made it clear to us that to fulfill our calling of planting a church and living missionally in this world of BBQ He had thrust us in, we could not stay at that church. We miss the congregation fiercely, and it took all the courage and trust we had to step out in faith, following God into what felt like the wilderness.
Colin is now doing BBQ full time, and running the pit at the BBQ restaurant he helped open last spring. We also are still are running our business and brand Barker BBQ. Leaving our church home and pastoral ministry there to step into a new and different season of pastoral ministry was a big adjustment, but one that Colin led our family through with humility, integrity, and love. We chose to follow God into the wilderness, knowing that God's provision in obedience is infinitely more sufficient than staying in comfort.
Speaking of church homes, we also don't have a "home" home at the moment. I should say that technically we do, but it is currently being sheeted with dry wall. Within a matter of weeks this fall, we quiet suddenly left our church, bought a house we never thought we would buy (after prayerfully waiting almost a year and a half to purchase), sold our house, and Sweet Lou started kindergarten. Proof indeed, that God often does give us more than we can handle. A LOT more. But never outside of His grace.
Our "new" house is a fixer upper we bought in our neighborhood from our dear friend, who built it in 1971 and moved into retirement living a year ago. We prayed for so long about being able to stay in our neighborhood, surrounded by the people we do life with and have gotten to know and love so much, and God answered our prayers. It was a year and a half of up and down, will we or won't we be able to buy the house, but all of a sudden (when the rest of life became utter chaos) it was ours. The more that we demo-d, the more we found that needed to replaced.
Karissa is thoroughly enjoying the process, although her dad (the contractor) maybe not as much. While building another spec house, he has worked tirelessly on our fixer upper, ensuring we have a safe and healthy home to move into. Karissa's parents have also opened their home to us, so we have a place to live while the new house is being finished. As you can imagine, Sweet Lou is LOVING EVERY SECOND, and we are so grateful. Our friends and entire family have helped us move out of a house and into a storage unit, done a TON of yard work and cleanup, and even wheeled a piano and several barbecues from our old house to the fixer upper. We are hoping we still have friends when it comes time to move into the fixer upper, which Sweet Lou has deemed "Grey Griffin".
She started kindergarten this year, and her executive leadership skills are being put to great use. One morning she was coloring on little sticky notes and counting them off (I think she had already colored 13 or so), and when asked what they were for she answered "They are for my kids that are being good listeners." Mama had a chat with her to explain that those kids were her peers, and her teacher already did a great job making sure everyone else was listening.
Sweet Lou is also taking her job as a cousin very seriously to our new baby nephew, who is as sweet as can be. She smothers him with kisses often, and doesn't see why she can't start babysitting him now. One day her aunt gave her the opportunity to do just that ("babysit" by sitting next to cousin while mom was close by), and Sweet Lou decided he was a bit too much work and would stick with her doll. Baby boy lights up when he sees Sweet Lou, and when he is in the room she doesn't care about much else than getting smiles and giving kisses.
This has been a challenging year, but in our short 8 years of marriage we have admittedly walked through harder things. Always, always, always, we are reminded of the God we serve, who loves us dearly. Christ gave himself up for us, and when we see that it becomes easy to give ourselves to Him.
We have felt very much led into the wilderness. Our home has always been our sanctuary, and pastoral ministry a calling and way of life. But, friends, how very incredibly gracious and tender our God is. In calling us to the wilderness, God reminded us that our home is in Christ Jesus, and He is The Way.
So, alas, we discovered again that we have a great capacity for pain. But our comfort, provision, deliverance, and redemption is all founded on the pain Christ bore for us. We are ready daily to take up our cross and follow Him, and we cannot wait to see the calling God has placed for us in new ministry and a church plant come to fruition.
Following Him Gladly,
Colin and Karissa