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Jacksons are going to Duke

DUKE DIVINITY SCHOOL

DURHAM, NC

My heart swells with good news. Daniel and I have been awarded partial merit scholarships and will be transferring to Duke Divinity School, a part of Duke University, in the fall of 2017 to finish our Masters of Divinity. We will be moving to the heart of Durham, North Carolina and plan on being full time students. 

That's the short. The long is that we love and cherish our community in Charlotte. We've had the most beautiful two years here, and we move forward with very full hearts. I got to pastor a bright group of teens at Warehouse242 that challenged me in all the right and best ways and Daniel played music every week for the first time as a full time director of modern worship at Assurance UMC. We cut our teeth with theology at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and are so sad to transfer out from such an incredible school that has given us a phenomenal education. The choice to transfer schools was tough, but right. As we look to the future and our dream to serve the local church, Duke was - after much debate and prayer- a better fit for our family. At Duke, we will get to learn the maverick church planting strategies under the leadership of new Dean Elaine Heath, and for the first time in our academic career we will be able to solely devote ourselves to our education. We have the opportunity to be a part of the incredible field placement program at Duke, where every summer we will get hands on experience of pastoring and building the local church. 

Not to mention - Durham is cool! We will be living in the heart of Bull City, biking through the majestic Duke Forest every day to class, and spending our weekends at Eno state park. From startups to the best coffee/foodie/stationary shop this side of the Mississippi - we are pretty pumped about the next leg of our journey taking place in the New South type of city that we want to be a part of. We are dreaming and scheming, and with fear and joy - saying yes to the great and wild call of God on our lives. 

 Last day of the semester at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary in Charlotte, NC. 

Last day of the semester at Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary in Charlotte, NC. 

WHAT'S NEXT WITH THE ADOPTION

Over the summer, along with some traveling and visiting family, Daniel and I will be completing a 17 house show tour as we continue to raise funds for our adoption. Our adoption is on track and we are 3-5 years out from starting our family. We will start our home study this summer with our amazing and supportive agency, Lifeline Children's Services

If you placed an order with us for a shirt, mug, vinyl, CD, or coloring book from the online campaign, we'll be delivering all of these goods at house shows as we travel throughout the southeast over June and July. At the end of the tour, we will mail off the purchases of anyone we didn't get to visit with at the house shows. Please let us know if you need your purchase sooner, and we're happy to pop it in the mail. 

Here's the lineup:

June 4 - Lucas, TX

July 17 - Nashville, TN

July 18 - Nashville, TN

July 19 - Birmingham, AL

July 20 - Dothan, AL

July 22 - Marianna, FL

July 23 - Orlando, FL

July 25 - Huntsville, AL

July 27  - Charlotte, NC TBD

July 29 - Washington DC TBD

Aug 2/3 - Brevard, NC TBD

 We'll be traveling with a group of musical friends for the Hidden Nation House Show Tour.

We'll be traveling with a group of musical friends for the Hidden Nation House Show Tour.

TRAVEL PLANS FOR THE SUMMER

Over the summer, Daniel and I will be on a walk-about. We are traveling to Texas to visit with some beloved family and do a house show, then we will be camping out for June in a few national parks, the Yukon, and Alaska. While we Sabbath this summer we're going to take a break from social media (with the exception of tour updates) and will be keeping you guys updated thru this blog and our newsletter. If you'd like to receive our newsletter, you can sign up here: 

 

 

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Daniel's EP, Hidden Nation, released to raise funds for adoption

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Daniel's EP, Hidden Nation, released to raise funds for adoption

THE DAY IS HERE! After years of hard work, song writing, studio time, and dreaming - Daniel's 4 song EP is FINALLY OUT! Huzzah! I AM SO EXCITED!

This has been our dream baby for years, and the songs on this EP are the sounds of our home. We we first starting talking about recording, Daniel had a stroke of brilliance and began to dream about the project raising money for our first adoption. Can you believe I married him? He's the greatest.

We launched our fundraising platform 7 short days ago thru Generosity, and all proceeds from the album go towards our first adoption. You can hear our adoption story, and purchase all of the beautiful goodies from the album below: 

Check out our adoption story here:

Over the next few weeks, we'll be sharing more about the song writing process, the journey behind 'Pioneers', 'One Day', 'You Are', and 'Strongest Man Alive', and where we are in our adoption journey. I'm going to go cry now! Thanks for dreaming with us. 

- Sherei

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UPDATE: We've hit 30% of our goal! In celebration, check out the Pioneers & You Are music videos below:

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Charlotte Update: 3 Months

Daniel's been singing, I've been designing, and Avery's been napping since we arrived in Charlotte nearly 3 months ago.

When Daniel and I were first making plans to come to Charlotte, we connected with some brand new friends who were planting a church in the city, Rock Harbor Charlotte. At the same time, Daniel accepted a position at Assurance UMC. It was so much fun to help Rock Harbor in its infancy, and we made some pretty great friends along the way. 

After a lot of prayer, seeking wisdom, and discernment, Daniel and I have joyfully shifted our full attention to Assurance. Daniel is leading worship for 2 services, with a third on the way, and I am so excited to dive in the deep end of helping on the communications team.

It's amazing how impactful having a church family can be when you are new to town, and I can honestly say that we've falling in love with the family of God at Assurance.  I look forward to the teaching and worship (well, I'm biased) every Sunday and honestly cannot wait to get more involved. 

Some beautiful doors are opening in the city as well. Daniel and I have also joined the communications team for CharlotteONE, an incredible ministry that is reaching the 20s and 30s in our city. I have started doing freelance and contract work in graphic design, and have stayed busy! I've been working a lot with local restaurants and event coordinators, which has been just plain fun. We've stayed busy between school, work, and being members of Assurance - which honestly can be nice when you're in a new city and just making friends. A full calendar helps me keep my netflix binging at bay!

I think one of my favorite things about Charlotte has been the climate. We've had a rainy season, which I've honestly enjoyed, and witnessed the most stunning fall. Being just a few hours from the mountains has kept my spirits high. We haven't made it to the outer banks yet, but plan on taking a winter beach trip soon. 

 

It's hard to describe how rewarding our time in seminary has been. It's harder than I thought it would be, but in all the right ways. I feel like I'm going through a personal renewal, and I can hear the spirit of God teaching me and speaking to me in ways I've never experienced before. I've always had a really easy time handing my heart over to Jesus, I'm one of those wierdos who has absolutely no problem with the idea of God and the measure of faith that was given to me is high. But I do think I can be a lazy thinker, and so getting to experience God with my mind has changed my relationship with Christ in such a unique way. I feel like I'm growing up in and with Christ. My favorite class is Survey through the Old Testament. We've journeyed through the origin stories, historical books, and are preparing to get into the prophets. Please ask me sometime about what we're learning - I'm dying to share. 

We've got some really fun projects on the horizon for 2016 (Hint: we may finally be hearing that long awaited EP from Daniel). Both of our schedules have alot of freedom for travel, and one of my 2016 goals is to do more tag-team conferences. If your youth group is planning a winter retreat or spring break retreat, hit us up:

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I found my BFF in my husband

 What I'm listening too //  Michael Ketterer & Laura Hackett The Rock

This time 4 years ago I was 2 weeks out from marrying Daniel. Pinterest wasn't really a thing, and I was toting around a huge notebook (thank you Carly) with 'pinned' ideas for the big day. I had my 15 bridesmaids on speed dial, and had created some sort of wedding craft army. 

In those days, and even the months leading up to our wedding, my thoughts were consumed with the immediacy of the wedding. I had no real perspective for the coming marriage, and how it would change the course of my life. I knew that I was preparing to make a covenant with Daniel, but I had no real knowledge on what my new life would be like, or what it would mean. 

My parents were both in the military, and so I grew up all over the place. I've always made friends easily, and am a natural social bug. Even though I've been blessed to find a new hood rat group of friends wherever I may call home, I've always had this overwhelming desire for a best friend - one that would be thicker than blood. I've had some GREAT friends in my life. I've experienced deep community, and have been so blessed by the various circles of friends I've experienced. And though I count myself very blessed with friends and family, there's always been this - gap. 

Being an army kid means you're late to the train of friendship. Try as a might, some friendships really do mature and become precious with time. Time often wins. Despite my efforts to be lovable, cool, funny - the friend who sticks around the longest is the one who gets the BFF title, and to put it simply I'm normally the 'newcomer' in a crowd. Even now, at 26, I'm moving to Charlotte where I'm in intimate friendship with a total sum of 0 people. I'll be the new kid again. 

This time of year marks 4 years of marriage with Daniel. 5 Years together and a near 6 years of friendship. Without me really realizing it, he's becoming my longest and deepest known friend. 

I'm so thankful for Daniel's friendship. It's filled up a gap in my heart that I've longed for my entire life. As much as Jesus is perfect, beautiful, and deeply fullfilling, he did ALSO create us for community. He did give the second commandment. He does want us to know and experience love with God - and with each other. I have experienced love that I've never known from being Daniel's friend. I've decided that Daniel is my best friend forever, and I can exhale, resting in the peace of knowing this friendship is for life, separated only by death. 

So how has my life changed, now that I've experienced having a BFF?

Being married to Daniel has given me confidence. 

I'm not a people pleaser, and tend to tell it how it is. I've never really struggled with confidence, but it's incredible how Daniel's friendship has released total new levels of confidence in me. As Daniel loves me, supports me, encourages me, and just sticks with me - I learn more and more about God's astounding faithfulness. Daniel has literally seen me at my worst. When I'm my ugliest, meanest, craziest, most irrational - and he is faithful. This type of - I love you and I'll never leave you - dedication of Daniel has given me a lot of new found confidence. I gained 50 pounds. He didn't go anywhere. I wrestled with depression that kept me in bed. He didn't go anywhere. I got into really big stupid fights with my sisters. He didn't go anywhere. I tried to color my hair mint green - it turned out a mildew gold. He didn't go anywhere. That type of faithfulness will give you wings. Before I preach, before I lead, before I stand up for something I believe in - I glance over at Daniel. Fear subsides, and I see the Love of God manifest in his confident and assuring gaze. His love give me confidence. 

Being married to Daniel has given me boldness. 

I am bold. But I do second guess. Daniel is there at night, to dream big dreams with. To bounce off ideas. To build websites with and a constant travel buddy. With Daniel I've traveled coast to shining coast. Gone to what feels like the ends of the earth for the sake of the gospel. If you know Daniel, you know he's a peaceful man. He's calming presence has given me assurance that it's okay to be bold, it's okay to dream big, it's okay to be loud - I won't scare him away. He is a dream breather, and I feel the most bold when I see him in the audience, cheering me on. He reminds me of Jesus because he is relentless in his encouragement, faith in me, and dreams of the future.

Being married to Daniel has given me joy. 

I'm an extrovert, so naturally I really do think that everything is better with 2. We share a car and have always worked in the same place, so Daniel is a constant witness to everything in my life. And that makes life fun. Yesterday I was picking up medicine from the pharmacy and I was explaining to the pharmacist that my whole family got sick while on a vacation to Puerto Rico. A old man next to me said, "Puerto Rico! My wife just got back from Panama and she's go the SAME THING". I politely smiled and tried to bite my lip. As we walked away Daniel said with a wicked grin, "Germany! My wife just got back from Sweden and she's Got the SAME THING!" We broke into a silly fit of laughter, then mortified laughter as we realized the poor old man may have heard our mischievous joke. I'm sorry old man! We weren't trying to make fun of you. 

That's what life with Daniel is like. I can be serious, hard headed, and stubborn to an absolute default. Just when I'm determined to be mad at Daniel over something really silly - he makes the goofiest face at me or carries Avery (our boxer) over to me as a peace keeper. Having Daniel's friendship has just brought me so much joy. 

It's Simple.

Marriage is good. Marriage has been medicine for my heart. It gets better every year. We were made for friendships like this - covenant friendships. 

Let marriage be held in honor among all... - Hebrews 13:4


Sherei

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The Secret Enemy of Marriage

Author / Daniel
 

Marriage is hard.

It is one of the greatest challenges to our own pride. It can be a powerful device for becoming Christ-like. It can also be explosive. If we aren't willing to humble ourselves, to learn and to grow, we may find our marriages fraying at the edges. Sherei and I attended marriage counseling for a bit during a tough season of our relationship, and walked away with a few incredible tools that have been invaluable to keeping this ship afloat on our adventure. The reason I tell you this is not to be overly vulnerable, but rather in hopes to normalize counseling some, coming from someone who isn't crazy, and whose marriage is not trying to be saved from divorce. The truth is, we just needed some help, so we went to an expert to get some. 

I fully recommend it to individuals, to couples, and to families, and believe in it so much, that I am getting my Mdiv with a focus on pastoral counseling. Scripture says there is "safety in a multitude of counsellors" (Prov 11:14). My point is, things don't have to be rock bottom before you get help. Let's be more vulnerable about our weaknesses, save a few more bad years, and seek healthy counsel. 

That being said, I wanted to share the most valuable tool we picked up from our time in counseling: it's called polarization.

Polarization

Polarization is when two people in a relationship push one another to the extremes of characteristics they already have. The easiest way to understand this phenomenon is to think of it as "the more of - the more of". For instance: "the more he is messy, the more she cleans. The more she cleans, the more messy he gets." In polarization, one person begins a certain behavior, which activates in the other person a response to counteract it. This action incites the initial behavior to only be worse. It is a vicious cycle of stimulating and exponentially multiplying  some habits of ours that can start out as not-so-bad, and perhaps end up hideous. 

This revelation has been so insightful for Sherei and I. We will find ourselves picking at one another, or feeling as if things are unfair as one of us is carrying more of a particular load. And right before things get bad in a fight, one of us will have a light bulb go off, and we will realize that we have begun to polarize. This has happened several times with us. 

After observing and listening to several couples since, I realize how much polarization is the silent killer of relationships. I have seen the nasty transition from the engagement/honeymoon period of relationships to "I can't believe he/she actually lives this way," once they are under the same roof for a while.

Sound familiar? Not sure if you have symptoms of polarization?

Here are 3 examples of polarizing: 

1. The Toilet paper roll
"Does he really leave the toilet roll on top of the holder? How much effort does it take to just put it on there!" Mind you, this is all in her head. She goes behind him everytime she sits down on the toilet and puts the roll on the holder. Where he used to occasionally place it on there, he slowly but surely he has been trained that he has to put forth zero effort, and the toilet roll always ends up on the holder! He will never have to put the toilet roll on the holder again. 

2. The alarm
"Wake up, honey. Your running late to work again." Where before they were married, she seemed to have no problem setting an alarm and getting herself up for work, albeit being late far a few between since she isn't a morning person, she now never set an alarm. Now she gets mad at him for waking her up late. How did this happen? He is a type-a early morning riser, and after a time or two of seeing her push the limit on waking up late, he decided to take it upon himself to wake her up. She now believes that he is her alarm.

3. The spanking
"Which parent should I tell that I broke the vase playing hockey inside? Who won't get me in trouble?" We all did it as kids. Who is the more lenient parent? Who tends to not dish out discipline. Or maybe it is polarized all the way: one parent does the spanking, and the other does the consoling. It probably began with one person having a more passive personality, and the other more confrontational. One day your boy pulled his sisters hair, and you had a conversation about how to deal with it, and the confrontational parent decides to speak with and discipline the boy. Slowly you become the go to person for this task. The kid cries to you a few times because of what they said, or how bad the spanking hurt. At first you consol and defend your spouse to the kid. Eventually, you might even feel as though the other spouse is taking things too far, and being too harsh. You become the children's advocate, changing teams, and now your conversations about how to deal with discipline have turned into compromising terms, with you on the understanding side and your spouse on the discipline side. You have polarized, and you now fight against each other, rather than for your child. 

How Does This Happen?

Is this hitting a note with you? If so, let me take you to the roots of where this all starts. We fall in love and everything "other" about this other person we find amazing, exotic and intriguing. Their outlook on life. The way they spend money. What they spend money on. What they want to do with their lives. How they solve problems. What they do for fun. How they communicate. What their hobbies are. And all this seems so interesting. Like exploring a museum of a foreign land, with foreign customs and traditions. And then those come and live under your roof. With you. With your customs and traditions. Everyday. And one day, those exotic differences don't seem that interesting anymore, because you wouldn't do things that way. They are cute or intriguing; they are wrong. 

The root cause of polarization is the idea in someone's mind that their way of doing things is better than the other. And therefore action must be taken. We will communicate that outlook, and if nothing is done, we take matters into our own hands. And yet here is where we see the come apart spiritually. We are called to "Count others as more valuable than yourself." And "look not only to your interests, but also to the interests of others." The truth is, most polarization doesn't happen over sin issues, they are minor character flaws or nuances. Messiness. Laziness. Money management. Eating. Sleeping. Hobbies. These are things we need to learn to have "long suffering " for. We are broken people being redeemed into the likeness of Christ, and it is a process. There are areas where we need to have extended grace for those we are in relationship with, and I don't mean just months, I mean sometimes years! We are told to "bear with the failings of the weak", not make them feel so bad about their problem they finally change (Eph 4:2, Rom 15:1). Some things we may need to just write off as issues that they need to work out with the Lord. They are minuscule enough that we can allow for some error and faulty characteristics. If they ask for our help, great! We will offer our best hand. But let's not forget that we did not walk into this relationship to change them. We are here rather to partner with them, to be a helpmate. An encourager. a listener. An understanding friend. A passionate lover of their soul. Their biggest fan.

So how do you get out of it once your in it? Here are 5 simple (yet difficult) steps.

5 Steps to Stop Polarizing:

1. Empathy. As Atticus so wisely told little Scout when trying to reason with her why not to be mad at her teacher, " sometimes you have to put in someone else's skin and walk around in it awhile. Walk in their shoes, look through their eyes, and see what they're going through. Empathy is the first step of love, and is the heart of god( it basically summarizes the question: why Jesus?) when we understand where they are coming from it will help us have patience and understanding, to reevaluate how you see them. 

2. Remember your old lens. Look back on how you used to view that person. Those things that frustrate and stress you out used to be charming and "make them who they are". Put those lenses back on and take a look at your old love. Relish in the difference. Begin to believe that maybe your way isn't necessarily the "right way".

3. Realize that your are polarizing. Both of you. This needs to come at a time when you are not neck deep in a fight. Rather, come at a peaceable time, apologize for your side of the issue, and leave it up to the other to accept that polarization truly is occurring. Let me input here that I think it is a great idea for a counselor, pastor or mentor to join you for this and the last few steps. The more he/she leaves the room messy, the more you clean it up for them. The more you clean it up for them, the more they leave it messy.

4. Recognize your triggers. What is it that sets off each of your polarizing behavior? Identify them for both of you so you can be aware when they show up. Detach from those triggers so they you aren't sucked into polarizaion when the cue comes. Messy room. Ding!

5. Do the exact opposite of whatever you were doing. This will most likely produce the result that you want. When the room is messy...don't clean it up. Let the room become atrocious! A pig sty! But realize, this is not a sin. This does not mean they don't love you (it probably just means their mom loved them too much - side note polarizing can happen in ANY relationship dynamic, parent/kid too). Evaluate if this is a big enough issue that you would like for them to work on since you live together. Pick your battles wisely, we can only change so much. Then, if you decide that this is something that you would really appreciate some change in, calmly and gracefully communicate that. Then wait and let them do it. It may take weeks, months, even years. Encourage them toward this aim sparingly as to not exacerbate them. Then watch. If kids sit in their own crap long enough with nobody to help them, they will realize they stink and clean themselves up. The same goes for grown ups. 

Polarizing in Any Relationship

Let me make an addendum here to say that polarization, as I mentioned briefly earlier, can happen in any relationship between two people. The requirement is that they be close and up in each other's business. It could be siblings, parent and child, friends, or even grandparent and grandchild. Keep your eyes open in just your family and I bet you will see it. Let's fight to communicate and make each other aware of this dangerous and damaging cause of so much division in our lives as we strive for unity to be "one in love, even as (they) are one" (John 17:21).
 

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Moving to Charlotte Update

 

Author // Sherei

What I'm listening to // Break Every Chain: Will Reagan & the United Pursuit Band

It's been a wild ride of summer! So far it's been Birmingham, Nashville, Jacksonville, Puerto Rico, Charlotte, Dothan, and Panama City Beach. I'm tan...word.

We just got back from Puerto Rico and are crashing at our sister and brother-in-law's house in Brevard, NC right now, commuting into Charlotte during the day for interviews, to check out housing, and to get things squared away at Gordon Conwell. 

We met with our advisor yesterday and I cried...2 times. Once during his closing prayer in our meeting and again when I was standing in a classroom. When I was a little 17 year old girl, I longed to go to a place where I could receive a Christian education, giving myself fully to the learning of scripture. It was important to my dad that I earn my college degree at a secular university first. Going to seminary has been a near 10 year dream in the making. I am excited - crying level excited - to have a consecrated season of studying and understanding God's word. Thank you seems too small of a phrase for all of those who have encouraged, poured resources, and helped Daniel and I get to this point. Nonetheless...thank you. 

A few things to celebrate so far:

  • Our classes have lined up so that I can continue to work a near full-time job during the semester & we will have a lot of room in our schedule to travel for speaking & worship leading opportunities
  • Daniel and I are getting to take the majority of our courses together
  • WE GOT THE TEAM MINISTRY GRANT SCHOLARSHIP! This scholarship is available to married couples who are enrolled full time at GCTS. It gives me a partial tuition scholarship. 
  • Some great housing opportunities are on the horizon. We found a flyer for a home on the student job board at GCTS. The house is a 2 bedroom, on an acre of land, and the rent would be low enough that the money we save can help cover the other half of my tuition! It's a local family home that is used specifically to bless GCTS students. We tour it on Saturday, and I'm praying it's the perfect fit. Daniel and I have also narrowed down the search to 3 apartment communities and 1 townhouse. Please pray that the we find a home of peace to live in where we can study together, a place that Avery pup can play, and a place that we can gather new friends and host community nights. 
  • My contract graphic design work with FundtheNations has been steady and so enjoyable! I have a second interview at another part-time opportunity on Monday that I'm excited about. Please pray that the perfect work situation irons out for us to be able to graduate debt free while we earn our degrees. 

The next few weeks:

  • Decide on housing
  • Decide on jobs
  • Buy books, start working on syllabus work
  • Have a big fat Nashville Yard sale
  • If time allows, spend some time in Nashville visiting with friends, flipping some furniture pieces, and writing
  • Rent a U-Haul and OFFICIALLY MOVE TO CHARLOTTE

Our deadline to be in Charlotte full time is Aug 22 (orientation), but we are praying things work out to land sooner. 

Thank you for joining us on this journey, and don't forget to sign-up if you want to stay posted with our newsletter.





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Moving to Charlotte

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Moving to Charlotte

Author // Sherei

What I'm Listening to // No Longer Slaves (Bethel Music Radio on iTunes)

WHY WE'RE MOVING

I call it 'the great unrest'. The wiggle in my heart that dreams of big things. I can accredit 'the great unrest' to: being a millennial, being a childless-20-something, or being a child of God. The first two are easily dismissible. A weekend in the woods or on the road usually cures me of restlessness. The third is undeniable. When the Spirit of God starts speaking to my heart, His still small voice becomes thunderous over time, relentless in His invitation to the great unknown. 

Great times in Nashville with our best friend, Daniel Akridge

SIDE NOTE: It's with a bit of pain and hesitation that I write this post. While I am convicted and certain of our future, my heart hurts for students we will leave behind. Matt Gilman's song Every Captive Free just came on. This is a confirmation from heaven for me. This song has been a banner song for me in two ways: 1) to remember who Jesus is to me and 2) to remember who I am in Jesus. Obedience to Jesus is costly, and this time it's costing me a great deal to let go and say goodbye to my students at LCA. This song is one of those banner songs over my life that keeps me connected with the call of God on my life. This is a sign to me that Jesus is in control.

This was our happy norm. Our foreign exchange students, Mario and Peter enjoying some American Christmas traditions. Avery..not so much. 

For those reading who are new to Daniel and I, we have spent the last 2 years as Campus Pastors at Lancaster Christian Academy outside of Nashville, TN, where we led 220 students between 6th-12th grade.

Last December 'the great unrest' was knocking on my door. It didn't come from complacency or frustration. Daniel and I were working in a position that we loved. We were surrounded by an incredible staff at Lancaster Christian Academy who were more than supportive of our vision and ministry.  Tiffany Trotter comes to mind, a precious friend who led the ministry with us. Her support for us was unwavering, and I often felt we could change the world with her by our side. I also think of Brian Barrett, one of the music and drama teachers. One day I was freezing in the computer lab, noticably flustered, and Brian Barrett brought me a heater. He lovelingly set it up for me and said, "stay warm" with a wink. Those type of friends. Our core team of students were growing, and becoming the pride of our hearts. Daniel was on a growth track at the school and our dreams of recording music, buying a house, and starting a family felt inches away. Then 'the great unrest' came. 

Celebrating one of my students turning 18!

I felt the Lord, sweetly and gently say, "Sherei, don't camp here." I was confused. The grass was green, the soil was good, and our hearts were happy. Why shouldn't we camp out? Sometimes being obedient to Jesus means leaving the comfortable, safe, reasonable, and even fruitful environment you are in. Daniel and I began wrestling through the idea of 'what's next' with one another, the Lord, our parents, and our closest friends. Once we began to ask that first hard question, a river of dreams that had fallen asleep came to surface. Daniel has a dream of worshipping and stewarding the next generation. I have a dream of preaching across the country and waking up the sleeping giant of the culturally Christian church. We dream of going to seminary, and concentrating years of our life learning and understanding the scriptures to prepare us for the future. We dream of being a part of a local church where we can serve to our fullest in the areas of leadership and worship.

SIDE NOTE: Okay this is getting ridiculous. A Little Longer by Jenn Johnson just came on. The song of great significance that reminds me not to strive, but to rest in God's plan and love. Wow. Jesus is confirming so much. I hear you, Lord.

Spring is in the air! Lots of time in prayer about the future. 

 By the spring, these dreams were swelling in our hearts. We were searching our already crowded life to see where and how these next steps could fit in. Could we be at LCA and go to school online? Could I teach and get a sub to cover my classes while I traveled? With sadness, we realized that in order to pursue the things of God with excellence, we would have to drop a few spinning plates. Downsize. Re-evaluate. 

After several key conversations and time, by Spring we were actively researching seminaries. To be completely transparent, we both had no intention of leaving LCA. We knew we would have to find a way to simplify, but we were so not ready to put LCA on the cutting block. We came up with plans to move into a small one bedroom apartment a mile from the school, hoping we could cut back on costs, cut back on activities outside of school, and find time to do seminary on the side. 

Hard goodbyes came in May. Sending our boys home, and sending graduating seniors off. 

The last week of school, it became clear to Daniel and I that we needed to let go. It was so obvious that in order to be obedient to Jesus, we needed to surrender our comforts, and say yes to the GREAT UNKNOWN. In the two weeks leading up to the end of our contract, we decided not to sign the contract for the 2015-2016 school year. The administration was in full support of our decision, equally desiring us to pursue the call of God on our life. We left with such a blessing. So many co-workers, friends, parents of students, and students themselves showed us love, support, understanding, and joy at our future. It was a hard, sad time for us, but we stepped forward feeling loved and sent out. 

WE'RE GOING TO SEMINARY

We spent the next several weeks applying for seminaries, and praying for the Lord to highlight cities that had seminaries that we wanted to attend. Before we knew it, Charlotte was popping up everywhere in our little world. On billboards, in news articles, in facebook posts. I, who am SO not a basketball fan, started randomly following Steph Curry's story - the man from Charlotte who loves Jesus with all his heart. Of course I saw Steph everywhere with the NBA finals happening. It was one of many confirmations that stirred our hearts for Charlotte. It is home to Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, a beautiful multi-denominational, multi-racial, moderately conservative, profoundly evangelical, academically elite southern seminary based out of Boston. As we narrowed our seminary search, Gordon-Conwell rose in the ranks.

 Avery's got his game face on and promises to be the best study buddy. 

Avery's got his game face on and promises to be the best study buddy. 

We took a scouting trip to Charlotte the last week of May. While the trip was fruitful, we were still unsure. The following weekend we went to our nephew's baby dedication in Chattanooga. A precious family friend was at the ceremony and subsequent lunch after service. She is a mighty prayer warrior and is a source of peace for Daniel and I. We began sharing our plans with her and she mentioned a friend, Thaddeus Fennig, who was planting a church in Charlotte in the late summer. With our little church planting hearts thump, thumping, we knew we needed to get in touch with Thaddeus to see what he was all about. 

WE'RE HELPING TO PLANT A CHURCH

On the two hour car-ride home, I immediately googled him. I read aloud to Daniel the heart behind the church plant, which was outlined in Thaddeus's blog. He and his wife, Kristen, are church planters from ROCKHARBOR Church in Huntington Beach, CA. Thaddeus had been in a church planting residency for the past two years, preparing to plant a church. To make a long story short, he and his wife, along with a small team of planters, are relocating to Charlotte in July to start ROCKHARBOR Charlotte. We called Thaddeus and talked with him and his wife for the rest of the trip home. By the end of the conversation we were spinning. The heart, vision, passion - lined up so clearly with mine and Daniel's desire for the local church. They were specifically praying that the Lord would send them southerners, who knew and understood the culture, to be a part of the plant. They were also praying for a worship leader and graphic design person to join the team. Daniel and I just kind of stared at each other at the end of the conversation and said, "Did God hand pluck us out of LCA to be a part of this team?"

Yes.

That was our answer. We prayed, talked with family, and sought wisdom. All of the unknown was turning into 'A-HAs'! We stepped out in the dark, and He turned a light on. My heart feels so full, and so encouraged. 

 Thaddeus and his wife Kristen will be leading the church plant in Charlotte. 

Thaddeus and his wife Kristen will be leading the church plant in Charlotte. 

So what does the future look like for the Jacksons? 

In late July we will relocate to Charlotte, North Carolina where we will become full time students at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary to pursue our Masters of Divinity. We will also be serving as a part of the launch team for ROCKHARBOR Church Charlotte. Daniel and I will have a very flexible schedule to be able to pursue a huge dream in our heart and step out more in worship leading and speaking at conferences. Little Avery will be happy to have mom and dad home more, taking study breaks to throw a stick with him.

WE'RE LAUNCHING DANIELANDSHEREI.COM

As a part of stepping out and being obedient, Daniel and I have have created www.danielandsherei.com as a landing place for people to learn more about our worship & speaking ministry. One of the passions of heart is to minister together in the local church. We are a good team too! Daniel and I love and enjoy working with one another, and our camaraderie is evident when we are given the opportunities to serve together. We have been invited to lead several ministry events together, including nights of worship, chapel services, youth services, and week long camps. We are carving out intentional space in our life to be able to step into this type of ministry more. If you know of a ministry event that you think we'd be right for, from guest leading a wednesday night service, being the guest speaker and artists at a weekend conference, or leading a special event, please let us know. We are willing to travel anywhere and everywhere, and love serving both large and small congregations. 

 Goofing off with some of our girls on a ministry trip this summer.

Goofing off with some of our girls on a ministry trip this summer.

We'd love for you to come on this journey with us. Our friends and family have been the support system that's enabled us to DREAM BIG, and we want you guys to continue to be a part of our story. We can't say thank you enough for the lavish love you've shown us as we've faced the unknown. Please take a moment to subscribe to our Newsletter, so we can keep you posted on what's next. 

Don't forget to leave some feedback :D. We want to know our readership. We'd love to hear your encouragements, prayers, support, and general feedback below!

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