Monday, June 25, 2007

Clear as Mud

So we looked at nine houses in Kenosha yesterday. The good news is: we found several that could work for us, and two that we really liked a lot. The bad news is: they're right next to each other in a brand new subdivision, 10-15 minutes away from our first choice neighborhood.

Let me explain our dilemma.

As I've described before, we believe that God is calling us to lead this church plant, Light of Christ--and that eventually it's to be more than a church, but also a prayer community and retreat center of sorts. A primary component of that vision is geographical proximity to the sanctuary, for members of that community to be able to meet daily to pray together.

We are tired of living 20-25 minutes from our church. (In fact, in the Chicago suburbs, it seems we are about 15 minutes from everything, as some wag has pointed out.) We have become more and more convinced that in order to live a simpler, more focused life, in which church members pray together, worship together, serve one another and the community, and help those struggling with holiness issues and those who need healing and rest, geographical convenience has got to be built in to the structure of this church community.

So location has always been the big question for us as we have prayed and dreamed about this call. Cost of land and facility is the big reason why we are unable to fulfill it in the area we now live, and it was an interesting, highly affordable option in Kenosha that first got our attention directed that way. As it became clear that that facility was not the place God had for us, we found that our hearts and minds were open to joining in what God was already doing in Kenosha in this tiny church plant that was just starting. The Lord confirmed His call on Papa Rooster to lead this new church, and here we are.

But we can't shake the sense of this community that will eventually rise up around this church, which is meeting, for now, in a conference room in this facility. Go ahead and have a look at this former Episcopal girls' boarding school, now a park-district-owned conference center. I'll wait.

As soon as the church grows a little bigger, we'll rent the lovely chapel pictured, which will hold nearly 200, I'm guessing. So we think the church will be in this location for a good while at least, unless the Lord provides or points us elsewhere. And our friends already live across the street, so--why not try to buy right in this neighborhood?

Now have a look at this map. Since the Kemper Center is right there on the lake, we can only look west of it, and in the past two months we have looked at three houses on 3rd, two on 5th, and one on 7th. They were all nearly-100-year-old houses, with small rooms, small closets, and small yards. Only one was suitable, really, for our family, and it had two offers on it already. Going further west, the houses are even smaller.

We've been waiting, but nothing new has come on the market in this neighborhood. Of course, our house here hasn't sold yet either, but we're open to buying there even before our house here sells, especially if it's a house that needs work before we can move into it.

So maybe the Lord doesn't want us to buy in that neighborhood. Maybe the church will end up buying a building or land somewhere else sooner than we think. Maybe no one else will be able to find anything in that neighborhood either and we'll all end up living in the more affordable suburbs. Maybe...

So we decided to spread the net a bit wider and look for a house that would suit our family. We found several. Two are 5-7 minutes south of the Kemper Center--good, solid, non-cookie cutter options in established neighborhoods. The two largest, light-filled, spacious and versatile options are 10-15 minutes away in a brand-new subdivision that is...15 minutes away from everything: grocery, library, dry-cleaners, Panera. BUT, it's 15 minutes closer to Papa Rooster's job and Lake County CYT (Christian Youth Theater)--5 trips a week for him, 3 trips a week for me, during a show. And there's plenty of land for sale nearby. I'm sure grocery stores and the like will be springing up in the next 5 years--and maybe new churches?

What to do, what to do?

Meanwhile, the second weekend that our home has been listed with a realtor came and went--and no one even called about it. One might immediately conclude that it's overpriced, but we and two realtors are reasonably certain that it is not by much, if at all. We'll have a better idea on that soon; we are having a realtor open house tomorrow. Our agent gives out $5 Starbucks giftcards to any realtor who will come have a look AND fill out a form giving feedback on the price, among other things. ("It's amazing what realtors will do for a Starbucks giftcard," our realtor ironically observed.)

We can only conclude that God knows what He's doing, and wait. Even if we could settle on a house to buy, we wouldn't feel good about moving forward when there has been absolutely no movement on the one we're selling. We might if it was crystal clear that it was the right house in the right neighborhood, but when it's all clear as mud--we'll wait.

Waiting is hard. It's not fun. It's not exciting. It's anxiety-producing. I'd like the option, at least, to put one or two children in school next year; we want to be up there before auditions and rehearsals begin for Lake County's fall show, Les Miserables; Papa Rooster would love to stop spending three hours a day commuting (he'll cut that in half when we move). The kids don't get waiting. "Why can't we just...?"

So I explain to them, remind myself:

I will wait for the LORD,
who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob.
I will put my trust in him. (Isaiah 8:17)

But as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD,
I wait for God my Savior;
my God will hear me. (Micah 7:7)

I waited patiently for the LORD;
he turned to me and heard my cry. (Psalm 40:1)

Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you;
he rises to show you compassion.
For the LORD is a God of justice.
Blessed are all who wait for him! (Isaiah 30:18)

Since ancient times no one has heard,
no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you,
who acts on behalf of those who wait for him. (Isaiah 64:4)

The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food at the proper time.
You open your hand
and satisfy the desires of every living thing. (Psalm 145: 15-16)

At the proper time....


Anne Kennedy said...

I sympathize with the waiting. Its frustrating to have a vision and then not know why God is taking his own sweet time.
As for location, we landed accidentally in a situation where church, groceries, house, coffee shop were all within a mile range from each other, such that we can walk to church when we need to (or want to), can walk to the park when we want, can walk to the coffee shop. And when we drive, its only 3 minutes. All this allows daily Morning Prayer in the church, daily bible study, real life changing ministry in the neighborhood (soup kitchen and other outreaching ministries) and a very daily oriented church life, rather than weekly. All this happened quite by accident (from our perspective) and in God's great providence, but having once experienced this kind of ministry, I would definitly go looking for it again, and wait for God to line everything up, because its so worth it. Right now I'm waiting and waiting and waiting on God for more space around the church-Sunday School rooms, an After school program space, and maybe some rooms for people to stay overnight instead of running off to buy more drugs. But God is taking his own sweet time, and I'm trying not to be impatient. In the meantime, as I pray for myself, I will pray for you.

Lindsey @ Enjoythejourney said...

Oh I can relate. I understand deeply the desire to be in the community you serve directly. Being in the 'burbs where we are we are always 20-25 minutes away from everything in the big city.

And we're trying to get even further out actually. We want some land where we can feel the earth between our toes and not mistake it for the walking trails or sidewalk!

I'll continue to pray for your house sale, and keep ours in prayer too!

Randy York said...

Somehow, I cannot get out of my mind that in this case waiting may have much more to do with convergence than with molding. Many events are already set in motion. Puzzle pieces are in various stages of placement. Some are being matched to other pieces they belong with, while others have yet even to be turned face-up. Meanwhile, we wait and wonder...or do we wait IN wonder? We are praying that your family's piece will be securely placed soon.

Anonymous said...


I am praying that you find a place close to the church. I totally agree with you about how important it is to live near your community.

We used to live "20 min away" min away from everyone...and I cant even begin to say how much better our sense of Christian community is now that we're living within blocks of many people in our church community. It has made all the difference in the world for us.

Jen in Seattle

At A Hen's Pace said...

Thanks, everyone, for your prayers and the very encouraging words!

It's wonderful to hear from Anne and Jen that they've lived this ministry life and believe it's worth waiting for.

Randy, I love this: Do we wait and wonder, or do we wait IN wonder? Great perspective.


Jenny in Ca said...


praying for you. We meet with a group of Christians with such a view, and the majority do indeed live surrounding the meeting hall. It is really homey to see everyone walking down the street to meeting. We didn't buy in the neighborhood however..we live 15 minutes away. We felt definite peace and direction about our house, but I do wonder sometimes what it would be like to live right in the community of believers. I know it is a hard decision.

peace to you,