Monday, June 19, 2017

This.

We have had Marquis in our home for just over a year. We took an almost two year old from the foster home he'd known since he was a couple weeks old and invited him to become family with us.

Family is a fascinating thing. It's one thing when you simply understand it through the lens of blood relatives. There's something that links us together but often times something we take for granted.

But seeking family with a stranger? It's devastatingly hard work. I'm so thankful Shaina had laid out some clear boundaries and structures and values that made us distinctively "Thompson". By us having predictability and consistency in who we were as a family, it has given Marquis a clear framework of what family means and how to Thompson. We are not perfect by any means, but the guy was uprooted from everything he'd known and what he'd known hadn't been particularly stable or structured (biggest understatement ever on the Foster Care system!)

Being born into a family is pretty simple.

Being grafted into a family is far less so. It takes guts, grit and grace. Those first weeks, when Marquis had a strong aversion to Shaina and bonded overly strongly with me were challenging. He cried most of the time. He slept awful. And he had habits and routines that were "un-Thompson". Before he came to us, he was allowed to fall asleep watching tv and then someone would carry him to bed. If he woke up, he'd come back out and watch more tv until he fell back asleep and repeated the process. He had a scarcity mentality with food. So anytime it was in front of him he devoured it in fear it would be taken or run out. He was used to having a toy in one hand and some kind of unhealthy food in the other, while walking around and playing or watching tv. Thompsoning was a little different than that. We had a bed time routine with prayer and stories and snuggles and then rest. Thompsoning at mealtimes happened around the table with no screens.

And I will be honest, as we battled constant crying and zero sleep consistency, we contemplated whether family could really happen with a stranger. We wondered if maybe we were in over our heads and needed to evaluate if we should pursue adoption (he was placed in permanent custody of children services shortly after we took him in). And Marquis, as a scared almost 2 year old with all his relationships, boundaries and expectations being overhauled had to decide if he would enter into the process with us or sabotage the one thing we were seeking to provide for him and the one thing he desperately needed: Becoming Family took guts for Marquis and for us.

There is a plethora of opportunities to quit, bail, or compromise. I find myself repeatedly tempted to give in...to be inconsistent...to change the standards and values of our family to accommodate or excuse Marquis' behavior. What I mean by this is something more than just showing grace when Marquis doesn't Thompson well. That is necessary and appropriate (and gospel!). Instead what I mean is that once a bar had been established and Marquis repeatedly was choosing to not rise up to where the bar was set, we had the choice to either lower the bar of our family values or through consistent grace and truth remain steadfast on where the bar had been set. The former is easier. The latter is better. If what it means to be a Thompson is specific, attainable and good, then keeping the bar unwaveringly set there is important. If it is an unrealistic bar that perpetuates failure and fear and inadequacy, perhaps we should reevaluate. I have heard it said that we reap in years 5 through 12 what we have sown in years 1 through 4. I believe it. And we have watched both our kids rise to the bar. This commitment requires GRIT from both parents and kids. We have to be willing to have a degree of sticktuitiveness in order to see the outcomes we desire to see.

But don't miss the caveat. Marquis is two. He pushes limits, fails at self control, breaks rules, pinches, bites, doesn't share, talks back, doesn't listen, etc. etc. etc. Of course kids will fail to measure up. Of course they will have off days/weeks/months! How we handle this their failures is crucial. Will we do nothing and let the bar be compromised and confused? Will we respond with sternness, overreaction, or anger and cause the bar to be tied to fear and anxiety? Neither are great, but parenting day in and day out seems like this roller coaster of inconsistency. One day I'm tempted to laugh and enable. The next day I'm tempted to scream and line up every wooden spoon and remove every toy in the house to use consequence as the behavior modifier.

Neither are the better way. Guts and grit isn't enough to parent well, especially parenting kids from hard places like foster care and adoption. It's guts. It's grit. And it's grace. Set and maintain the bar. That's what parents MUST DO. But when they fall short, can we follow through with them in such a way that communicates, "You are loved and trust between us is going to be reinforced through this encounter" AND "The bar hasn't changed, isn't changed and mustn't change."

Invitation. I'm 100% for you. (Even when I tell you not to poop in your swimsuit, you do it anyway, then you lie about it, then I don't notice that said poop has fallen out of your swimsuit and after I get you all cleaned up and bathed and put to bed and then I come down to hang your swimsuit outside to dry and then step in the said poop that had fallen out and end up with it caked all over my foot...hypothetically.)

Challenge. I'm 100% for who you need to become. (A young man who walks with integrity and consistency and security in who he is and who God has made him to be...and who doesn't feel the need to poop in his swimsuit anymore.)

As much as this lesson can benefit us in our parenting...it is really a lesson I am learning about CHURCH.

Family takes guts, grit and grace. If you find yourself going from one place to another seeking where the grass is greener, maybe you should consider watering your lawn.

A number of people have quit churches I've been a part of (C3 included) because the family component didn't happen quickly or deeply for them.

What I'm learning with our son who was a stranger and with a church full of unchurched, dechurched and badly churched folks is that FAMILY never happens that way!

It happens through Guts (have the courage to know and be known!) Grit (have the sticktuitiveness to commit to a people for more than a few months!) and Grace (have the patience and love...even when they end up causing poop to be on your foot).

Because there is nothing better than when it clicks for someone that they are a part of a forever family.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

&

The vision of City Campus Church is to see people being change(d) in Columbus. God changing us and changing the city through us. There are so many vignettes of how this has happened and is happening.

It's the school we meet at giving us an award for being the outstanding community partner for their family of schools and having deans of other schools in that tribe asking if we could get churches like ours to meet in their spaces as well because they have been so encouraged by the partnership.

It's that school partnering with us to provide 4 beds/bedding sets for a family whose kids were sleeping on the floor.

It's packing and sending tens of thousands of meals to those in need in Columbus, Central Ohio and the ends of the earth.

It's the 50 people who have been baptized. And the number of people who have been baptized at C3 then investing in others and baptizing them at C3.

It's the dozens of people who have been huddled and the number of huddles being started.

It's a group serving home cooked meals to women coming out of the sex industry and hearing one of the women exclaim that her view of men was changing because of the guys who were showing up to serve them food.

It's 5 families broadening their understanding of family to go after foster/adoption.

It's a missional community partnering with a foster/adoption agency to provide care and support for foster parents so that they stay in the fight.

It's a missional community building relational capital with an organization to the point that they are ready to trust that MC to pioneer a crucial missing component of the organization to care for and support families with terminal or chronically ill children.

It's a missional community forming a partnership to help single mothers go from surviving to thriving.

It's a missional community serving and praying with our city's poor and in need and being present to help a free store meet the needs of the most vulnerable in the city.

It's also the miracle of a little girl who is supposed to be dead but a heart of stone became a heart of flesh.

This is church. It is a grind. It is slow-going. It is helping the disenfranchised and jaded find a place in the story God is telling.

But it is only the first part of the vision.

The dream has always been Columbus AND the ten largest university contexts in the country. It has always been to get the DNA right in the 614 AND take it to other areas of the country to replicate it and reach a generation that is widely reported as leaving the church and the faith in droves.

Enter these guys.


In two weeks, we commission the two guys who have been shoulder to shoulder with me in helping build C3 to go with their families and team from Columbus to plant Ampersand Church, with a desire to Love God & Love their neighbors in Austin, Texas. Austin is the fasting growing metropolitan area in the country and the city can't plant churches fast enough to keep up with the considerable growth. It's a fascinating intersection of innovation, technology, art and music and is self-proclaimed as WEIRD.



And what has been started in Columbus, will continue in Austin.

The guts it takes to go across the country, away from family and support systems to chase after what God is calling them to do is awesome.

The miracles along the way have been tangible. The provision remarkable. The obstacles noticeable. The calling undeniable.

And on June 4, Dennis, Trish, Lianna, Braylen, Mia and Ian Burky will be sent out with Noel and Sophia Arroyo and be joined by key C3 people, Dillon Limbaugh and Christy Andrews to give it a go. We would love for you to join us in sending them off. We will have a commissioning service that day at 11 a.m. and then we will have a picnic celebration together, with a variety of smoked meats and non-meat options, a potluck of sides and desserts, inflatables and fun to send these guys off well.

God's grace has been all over the story of City Campus Church and I'm asking you to join me in praying for His continued grace to be poured out for this team of heroes.

The Burky Family is trying to raise funds to pay for the move. Apparently, moving a family of 6 across the country isn't free. They are selling miles to get from Columbus to Austin. So far they have made it past Little Rock, Arkansas, so they are on the home stretch. Would you help them get there?

Go here and buy a mile. They cost $5 each. Buy 20, or 50 or 100 miles and get them closer and closer to their new home.

The best part is that as God begins to grow the church from the ground up in Austin and while C3 begins the reload process in Columbus, we are already both looking toward the next steps in this story, as we will both begin investing financially and looking for the next church planting residents who will be raised up and sent out to plant the third and fourth churches in this story. Whether its at Arizona State or Michigan or in the Boston metro or somewhere else, the story will continue to unfold.

It will be Columbus & Austin & so much more!

Saturday, May 6, 2017

All the Feels

It's been 5 years. 5 years since we moved to Columbus with a little girl who was very sick.

5 years since we survived the 100 day stay at the Cleveland Clinic.

That place. Awful.

We got there in the middle of the night. Chaia had been transported from Akron Children's Hospital to the Cleveland Clinic. Talk of drastic measures needing to be taken. It was raining.

And the sterile white walls and the melancholy music that played as we entered the place made it feel more like asylum than a place to help people.

And the news was awful.

No diagnosis. Us rehearsing the same terrible story over and over to every medical specialist imaginable and getting no clarity on why our little girl was dying.

5 days to live.

That place. Painful.

I watched my wife's joy wither in that place. She couldn't hold her daughter for days. Chaia was in bad shape. She was intubated, restrained, hooked up to more cords, IVs, and monitors than I could keep straight.

It went from bad to worse. Rare genetic disease. Calcified arteries. Survival rate between slim and none. I remember holding strong to hope the day they took her for a PET Scan to find out how much of the heart was dead vs. how much was dormant. The doctors came around that morning for their rounds and asked how we were doing. I said confidently and humorously, "Ready to crush a PET Scan today." A few hours later, they closed the curtain and gave us privacy as we wept over the news that her heart was the one that was crushed. We were the ones who were crushed.

She wasn't going to make it.

Some freakish disease, I was a carrier...Shaina was not. So a spontaneous deletion of that exact gene on her side of the genetic coding had to happen. The odds of it happening were about as good as the odds of Chaia getting out of the hospital.

We had a doctor come in and share that he was also a man of faith (he knew we were holding out for God to do something miraculous.) He was Hindu. He said we needed to understand that Chaia's heart was not good and it would not get better.

And the news was painful.

People rallied. We couldn't stand the white walls. So we asked for cards and prayers and anything with color. People came through with well over a thousand.

Our church showed us Christ. They visited, prayed, went through the social work channels to get us financial assistance, brought meals, gave us date nights, set up a fund to help with expenses, and so much more.



The lady who brought us the mail when it came it just laughed each day as she brought 50 or more cards and packages. She even made a sign for Chaia that said "Miss Diva". People prayed from all over the world.


Praying For Chaia from Mustard Revolution on Vimeo.


That place. Hope full.

And somehow, Chaia turned a corner. Still a bleak prognosis, but no longer talk about her life being confined to the hospital with quality and quantity of life in question. Now there were hopes of something more. They started weaning us off the stuff that would keep us in the hospital so that we could go home.

And the news was Hope full.

And we made it home. On 12 meds a day, 3 to 5 times a day. Tube in her nose. Continuous feeds that went through the night. We would have to get up twice a night to reset the feeds. She threw up entire feeds at least a couple times a day. We changed her bedding every night in the middle of the night when she vomited over everything. She developed a pseudo tumor in her brain. Her bones weakened from one of the experimental treatments and she ended up with fractures all over her body from her body being stripped of calcium. She had massive oral and texture aversions. Blood draws too often. She was on a med that made her devastatingly sick and we just had to sit there with her as she suffered. Wouldn't eat anything...Fell from lack of strength and lost multiple teeth. Virtually every system in her body in some way shape or form: dysfunctional. Shaina on the phone for hours a week trying to get meds ordered in timely fashion and seeing a flawed system's shortcomings in patient advocacy.

That place. Sorrowful.

The toll something like that takes on you and on your marriage for such an extended period of time cannot be overstated. We were weary. (Granted we were planting a church and having dozens of people in our home every week, but if anything it helped people see us bleed. There is something incredibly relatable when you allow others to see your suffering.) How do you find God in the middle of your child's immense pain and low quality of life?

To be honest it was much easier than you'd think. We experienced the tears of God. It still appeared as though at some point another pound gained or another inch grown would cause her distressed heart to go into worse heart failure and she would be done in.

And the news was sorrowful.

Slowly but surely, Chaia has experienced healing. I can say with confidence that God's deliberateness is bringing the healing has been with high intent. He could have reversed the disease instantly, but we never would have been drawn to trust God's goodness even in the midst of something that didn't resemble good. Chaia's bones became less brittle and she started crawling, pulling herself up, and eventually walking, running and everything else. The news has been consistently better news.

A couple weeks ago, Chaia had her eyes looked at. They suspected that by taking her off the med she had been on, it would lead to the pseudo tumor in her head increasing in pressure (which if left untreated will lead back to the puking and potential blindness. Instead, the pressure remained stable! The doctor was so surprised, he suggested we go buy a lottery ticket. (We didn't...Dave Ramsey would not approve.)

This past week, Shaina took Chaia to the Cleveland Clinic for her first check up in a half year.



They did an ultrasound of her head, an echo and an ekg of her heart.

The cardiovascular surgeon, who we haven't worked with, but has been around since Chaia was first admitted (and was the first to meet with us to explain a course of action), looked at her echo results and then peeked his head in to tell Shaina, "You have a medical miracle in the room with you." And just as quickly as he'd stepped in, he stepped back out.

The cardiovascular head of transplants, who has been over Chaia's case since the beginning came in, took her off two more meds and said that the remaining two meds are such minuscule amounts that she could probably stop those but for his own peace of mind he wanted her to keep taking them for a little bit. From 12 meds 3 to 5 times a day to now 2 meds, twice a day!

He also said that looking at her heart now, you could not even begin to tell that she had had a major infarction. There is still some dysfunction, but Ezekiel 36:26 continues to take root. A heart of stone becoming a heart of flesh!

That place. Beautiful! Joyful! Delightful!

5 years.

Some Heaven. Lots of Hell.

But you have to know: He makes beautiful things. He is good. And often his goodness is most tangibly experienced in the Awful, Painful and Sorrowful places of your life.

Healing is right here.

I'll be honest, I would prefer to short-circuit this process. I would rather fast forward to the beautiful, joyful, delightful and hopeful.

But we can't know Promised Land without Wilderness.

We can't know Resurrection without Cross.

We can't know Love without Cost.

To those whose story is awful, painful and sorrowful...keep going:

The next chapter could be the best chapter.

Not because of you, but because of One who holds the pen.

The Author is graceful, powerful and wonderful.

And He wants to give you your heart back too.