Friday, November 15, 2019

Our New Adventure: Part Three

If you haven't read parts one and two of our story yet, you need to. Trust me. Take a minute to do that here: Part One. Part Two. All caught up? Okay, cool! Let's keep going- it gets even better. 

As we kept coming back to the idea of building a chapel, we started searching online for some inspiration. We wanted something modern and timeless, something white and bright that didn't look "too churchy", but also held to tradition. And in the process, we stumbled upon a chapel that offered free weddings. This place happened to be just twenty minutes away from where we had already booked an Airbnb for our trip (coincidence? I think not), and we were at first baffled, and then incredibly impressed by both their business model and their heart: maybe offering free weddings could be an option. Maybe it would be a way to love couples well and to help them invest not only in their wedding, but more importantly in their marriage.

So we went out on a limb, and we fired off an email, telling a bit of our story (which you've already heard- the letter, the land, the extra land, and more) asking if it would be possible to meet while we were in town. We wanted to pick their brains, to learn from their mistakes, and to gain all the knowledge and expertise we could before adventuring down this road. So we emailed their generic email, and then we waited. And we got a response- they would meet with us. We didn't know just how big of a deal this was at the time, or honestly how big of a deal they were with their other endeavors. And yet, I love that, because it kept our hearts in the right place.

We went on our trip. We stuffed ourselves on amazing food, laughed our way through two step lessons, and hoped and prayed on the way to our meeting that God would do something big. I'll never forget jamming to the Passion worship CD that I'd tucked into my carry-on, Aaron's hand on mine, as he told me that he had a feeling something big was going to happen- something much bigger than us. We rounded the winding roads up into hill country and toured the chapel and campus, a magical place, which was nestled on the side of a cliff. Then we sat down at the table with one of the owners, who had dreamed a dream and brought it to life alongside her husband, just like we hoped to do. Her presence was calming, and she exuded grace and kindness. As we starting telling her our story, her husband entered, and then waved over another man- who turned out to be their architect, who had designed their entire campus. An architect: something we didn't have. Without saying a word, Aaron and I both were invigorated by the question we knew we were silently asking - why was he here?

We began telling them more of our story and heart behind it: that we believed marriage matters. That we felt like it was a time to step into people's lives and love them well, pointing them back towards Christ without ever mentioning his name. That we believed in living life full and showing people that a life with Jesus was meant to be immeasurably more than all that we could ask or hope. That we would be so full of His joy and love that we could then overflow into the lives of others in a positive way. And that we could help people avoid spending a fortune on their wedding, while still having a nice day and investing in what matters even more: their marriage.

They said, "Let's go upstairs", and so we followed them step by step up and into another room, hearts racing as the "meeting" became much more than that. Corks were fetched out of wine bottles. Tears were spilled. Laughter and stories were shared. We told them of our hearts and desires- our long term goals to host anniversary dinners and marriage retreats and offer premarital counseling, something that people usually didn't do unless they were a part of a church, or were getting married in a church that offered it. We told them of the name of our business and of our space: The Brim. A nod towards John 10:10 and also towards John 2:7 where the servants filled the vats "to the brim" with water before Jesus turned it into wine. The idea of a life so full and overflowing that every event, not just weddings, would hopefully be meaningful experiences in our space that left people wondering just what was behind our hope and joy.

They gave us wisdom they didn't even know we needed. Direction we had been longing and praying for. Advice that kept us from making stupid decisions. They reminded us of the importance of telling the story and letting people be a part of it with us, rather than doing it all on our own and attempting to bite off way more than we could chew- to avoid just getting it done as quickly as we could. They reminded us that "it takes what it takes, and it costs what it costs." They encouraged us to seek the Lord and to listen for his leading, taking small steps in faith along the way, and then to "jump and let the safety net appear".

When we mentioned that we didn't have anyone crafting architectural plans, and were attempting to do it all ourselves, the architect threw down his business card and told us that we had a designer now. He then proceeded to offer to design the master plan and the chapel. For free. And he did. He flew out to Kansas City, saw our property, shared a meal and heartfelt conversation with us, and dreamed our dream alongside us, while making it all a little more real. He and his beautiful fiance even came to Eli's second birthday party, and met all our friends and family. We were overjoyed. And we had a design. Our vision had become more focused, more clear, and more real. And it continues to become more and more real.

Additionally, at the end of our meeting, we walked away with a check that paid for 10 months of our mortgage on the land. The exact dollar amount that was normally charged by the owner in order to meet with him, our debt, he paid us instead. He and his wife liked our story and our hearts and they believed in us enough to write us a check, to relieve some of our debt and to give us the means to get things going. We were completely blown away, grateful, and overjoyed. And a little bit in shock. God had utterly amazed us in an unbelievable way.

I remember the drive back to town, the meal we shared, just smiling and shaking within the dim headlights of our rental car, completely in awe of the way God was working. Clearly, at this point, He was leading us and calling us to this. There was too much happening, too many big and crazy things, for this to just be coincidence or just "our" idea. At this point, we felt validated and assured. At this point, we would just be disobedient if we didn't do all we could to make this a reality.

So we went back home to KC. And we opened a business account. We deposited our first income for our little LLC. We got an address, a business phone, and an email. We made what felt like a million phone calls and spent every spare second we had pouring ourselves into this. I worked on our website. And we marched on to make The Brim a reality.

This summer, Aaron resurrected a 1951 bulldozer and started leveling out a parking lot with the help of my dad. He brought water up from the road, installed an irrigation system, put in a gravel parking lot, and planted grass seed. And he put poles in the ground in the dimensions of the future chapel, painted them white, and paved an aisle. Now we're inviting people to come and get married. This area is currently called “Founder's Square” (although we aren't set on that name), and it's a powerful space. Come and see for yourself.

There are so many other stories to tell. A million different things we've had to do, a thousand little struggles, and a thousand other glimmers of hope and excitement. Big things are happening, and we are so blessed to be along for the journey. We are excited to talk to brides, to help them have beautiful free and inexpensive weddings, beautiful receptions, and even more beautiful experiences to shape their marriage. We look forward to other special corporate and private events, like showers, parties, and more. We look forward to the fun and special events that we'll throw for families and friends alike to come join us for meaningful, unique experiences. We're hopeful that we'll see some of you there, and get to love you as best we can. But we can't do it alone. And so, that's where you come in.

Again, this would be pretty incredible end to an amazing, unbelievable story. But we know that God is not finished with this story yet. We have already seen people jumping into this adventure with us, purchasing anniversary bricks and sponsoring poles, helping us invest in marriage in our community. The story is continuing to be written as we speak.

Even if we never see you on our property for an event, we'd love for you to be a part of this story with us. Be a piece of this puzzle, a small line in the vast book that is being written by an amazing author. We believe marriage matters, and we believe you believe it too. Please visit our website, and see how you can be a part of building The Brim with us. Help us make marriage matter, and help others to live life full.


Monday, November 11, 2019

Our New Adventure: Part Two

If you haven't already read part one of our story, take a minute to do that here. You'll need a little back story on why we wanted land and the crazy awesome way we got it. All caught up? Okay, let's continue!

It may sound a little strange, but while we were in the process of buying our 11.1 acres, we also had our eye on some nearby acres. We felt like they'd be the perfect addition to make our land seem whole. Plus, they would give us the ability to do what we wanted to in our county. Sure, we didn't have any money to buy them. And sure, there was probably no way that the owners wanted to sell them. But still, we felt a tug to them, a dream, a hope that someday, somehow, they would be ours. We prayed over it, and even considered writing them a letter too, but we placed it momentarily on the back burner as a "someday" item.

Once we were official landowners, some crazy circumstances led to us being given the additional 5.5 acres that we'd had our eyes on. And, to top that off, we were able to get a driveway cleared and put in for us through the woods, which would have been a nightmare and would've taken forever to do ourselves. We were absolutely blown away. Even now, I can't quite fathom the series of events. Clearly this was much more than our idea. This was something that God was going to make happen, no matter what it took or how daunting it seemed to us.

Not only did this series of events leave us with a total 16.6 acres and a new driveway, but it also made another part of our story a possibility: putting in our own vineyard! In order to do this and have a space that could be used as a tasting room in the county where our land was, you had to have at least 15 acres. Without the extra land, we wouldn't have been able to have a tasting room. We had stepped out in faith, and God had provided in the biggest, craziest way, as He seems to do over and over again on this journey!

Vineyards take time, and you really don't see any wine production happening for at least three to five years or so, but eventually we will be able to have a tasting room by appointment, something we're really looking forward to as it offers the opportunity to share hours of great conversation with those who gather with us. There's something so amazing about working with the land to produce fruit that then can be made into wine- it's such an intriguing process, and something that Aaron has really become passionate about over the years of visiting Napa, Sonoma, and Hermann, along with doing wine tastings all over the nation. And funny that this whole journey began in Napa and now we will (Lord willing) have our own little crop of vines growing on our land someday! As of this summer, they're planted, so we'll see how it goes.

Jumping ahead a bit here- us with the vines in July 2019.

After everything with our newly acquired land was sorted through, we officially were able to apply for our Special Use Permit. This permit allows us to do several really important things: mainly, we are able to use our land as an organized meeting space for weddings, parties, and events for the next 50 years! Long term plans/goals include living on the land, and having the tasting room as we mentioned. We hope that our space will be an inviting place for the growing community where we can love people well and help them to live life as we were meant to: full of hope and laughter and purpose.

The entire process of getting our permit was pretty interesting: lots of meetings with the health department and county, signatures from folks at the water department, fire department, and more, along with alerting neighbors of our plans and preparing our own site plan. Keep in mind that we were also doing all of this while working our full time jobs and taking care of our kiddo- so there were lots of late nights, lots of to do lists and meetings or phone conversations to fit in to tiny slots of time throughout our days. There were tears and arguments and lots of doubt and worries. But there were also lots of laughs and "What is happening!?" moments of awe and excitement. Our dream had the potential to turn into much more of a reality in a matter of months.

On September 11th, 2018, we attended a meeting where our permit was officially approved by a unanimous committee vote. People were able to come and voice any concerns they had and we were present to answer any questions. It was pretty surreal and exciting, and I remember sitting in my chair in my favorite blue dress, looking down and seeing my legs literally shaking at the weight of the moment. Along the way, it was fun to see all the little connections that God would bring to light, and the ways in which He would guide us along this sometimes scary path. Aaron and I went to dinner that night, bubbling with excitement and gratefulness, and in awe of all that had happened in the last nine months. We took a picture at home with our sweet baby boy, commemorating this special day. This was the official blessing to continue our plans- something that we hadn't made public yet because we knew that it had to be approved before we could proceed.

Not too long ago, I was just a 22 year old girl in her first year of teaching, without a boyfriend, overwhelmed by my work, feeling pretty lonely and very unsure of myself in many ways. Things aren't all sunshine and roses these days, but boy, the Lord has sure been up to a lot in the seven years since then. I am reminded again and again that He is able to do IMMEASURABLY more than all I can ask or imagine. It doesn't always follow our ideal timeline, and we certainly aren't in control, but wow, friends- He keeps showing up in big ways. If you are in season of waiting, wishing, and hoping- feeling lonely, overwhelmed, or ready to throw in the towel- hang in there. God is at work, and He's going to knock your socks off with His good plans for you! In a world where so many things will fail us, His love never will. 💕🎉
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From there, we got things officially recorded with the county, and then worked to get building plans underway in order to apply for permits and get to work. We had gone back and forth about building our space first or building our home first, and we had also considered building some sort of space where we could live in part of it and use part of it for our original intended purpose: gathering people around a table for great food and conversation, giving them hope to live life full. It was (and still is) our biggest desire that people would see that a life lived with Jesus didn't have to be boring or less than a life without him: that it would literally be overflowing with a joy that was contagious.

In some areas, we made great and quick progress- getting our name settled on (more about that soon!), getting an LLC started, and continuing to dream of and pray about all that the Lord would do with our space. In other areas, we struggled. We were working to design this on our own with some help, but we kept feeling like we were hitting roadblocks here and there. It was easy to get caught up in a desire to hit a certain timeline and feel the pressure to get things done when the weather still permitted, but we had to let go and let things happen as they should: all in God's timing. This journey has been a process of letting go of the tiny bit of control I so desperately try to hold onto, and yet it has been freeing at the same time. There are so many things we would have done differently, and things that we would have probably regretted had we put our heads down and made decisions to leap into huge loans or proceed with architectural plans (that I would have likely changed my mind on). Instead, we took one little step after the next, trusting that seasons of waiting would pay off in the end, and that we would be led down the correct path. And boy, were we ever.

 In the midst of all the crazy planning and working, Aaron and I scheduled another little getaway, this time for January of 2019, and to a place we had never been. We continued to think and pray about our plans, feeling a little stuck but refusing to give up. An unexpected adventure and meeting lay ahead for us, and it all started with a little idea that kept making its way into our brains: a chapel. In conversations, in books, it just kept coming up. And so, with designs on my mind, I googled chapels.

We could have just gone and built one, and that, again, would have been a pretty great end to a pretty great story. But our story would continue to develop into something pretty incredible. Something almost unbelievable. Something much bigger than us.

To read part three of our story, click here! 

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Our New Adventure: Part One

It all started with a burrito wrap. Not the food kind, the spa kind. The end of 2017 was drawing near, and Aaron and I had jetted off on our first "kid-free" getaway to the Napa Valley area. Aaron had found a little mud bath spa day on Groupon, and the end of the treatment involved being in separate "burrito wraps" in the same little room. It was while we were there, cracking up about the entire strange experience, that everything started: an idea that would grow into a dream, which would grow into a hope, a reality, and a calling.

Becoming parents to the sweetest baby boy in February of 2017 had been the biggest blessing. But now that we had our son, Eli, we had needed to step away from the role in YoungLife that we'd previously held. With a tiny baby, and me going back to work full-time as a teacher in August, it just wasn't ideal to be away once a week until 10 pm, giving up evenings with our little one when it was already hard enough to force myself to leave him all day for work. To us, our marriage had always been about not only ourselves, but also loving others and serving them through some sort of ministry, so it had been a hard transition to walk away from YoungLife, but we knew that it was what was right for our family in this season. This left us wondering what our ministry should look like now. What was next? We'd loved YoungLife's ministry approach, and we fully believed in meeting people where they were, loving them, sharing the Gospel with them, and then continuing to love them regardless of their response. We began to talk more and more about times when people let faith into their lives, about how we could use this same approach to minister to adults. And so we landed on three main times when people let faith in: when they get married, when they have kids, and when someone passes away.

Out of these three, we were right in the heart of two of them- married and having a young child ourselves. But we both felt drawn to the idea of investing in marriage- that it matters, that it's a beautiful picture of the Gospel, and that it sets up a solid parenting approach later in life. So we thought about ways in which to pour into marriage- both for ourselves and for others. We thought about anniversary dinners, marriage retreats, and more. Maybe we could invite people for free meals and great conversation? One thing was for sure- we needed some sort of draw to give us the best opportunity to do this well- and we wanted to be able to do it on a bigger scale than just hosting people around our dinner table (although we're all about that too)! So we began to search for land, a place where we could turn this dream into a reality.

We'd always wanted to own a little bit of land. I grew up on three acres and I loved the way that it felt like we could breathe a little bit without reaching our hands out the window and shaking the hands of our neighbors. Aaron and I had looked for a while on and off without much success, but we still wanted a place we could call our own. And with this new dream of investing in marriage and hosting things more large scale, we decided we needed to look a little bit bigger- for something that could hold a house and some sort of space for these little events, along with a garage for Aaron. So we started looking for ten acres in the area. We cast our net far and wide, considering everything from Weston, Smithville, Platte City, and North Kansas City into possibly even Holt, Kearney, and Trimble. We hoped to be able to keep our jobs and still attend our church, but we wanted to keep our options open.

Land was coming and going so quickly that we weren't sure we would have any luck. But then Aaron drove by a property that looked pretty vacant, looked into county parcel maps, and found out who owned it- people who lived in California. In the midst of painting and remodeling our bedroom and bathroom, Aaron wrote a letter to the landowners, telling them our dream and letting them know of our hearts and goals for the land, asking them if they would be interested in selling. We stuck a leftover family photo in the letter for good measure and dropped it into the mail, praying over it and wishing for the best. And then we waited.

The next month came, and we still hadn't heard anything. If we didn't purchase land, we had discussed purchasing a property to rent out, or even buying a school bus and flipping into into a "schoolie" that could be rented out and used as a RV of sorts on vacation. But really, we thought we were being called to something more purposeful. We had just enough saved up to know that we were ready to invest in something, we just weren't sure what it would look like yet. We didn't think the land thing had just been our idea (instead of God's), but we also didn't know where or when it would happen at this point. Aaron and I went to lunch on our Professional Development day- a rare luxury where we were away from our 20 minutes lunches on the typical school day. We had been arguing about the schoolie thing for a while, but I remember that day finally telling Aaron that I was okay with it and giving him my blessing to take the next steps.

On the way home from school that day, I got a phone call from Aaron, telling me that I needed to call him right back. Honestly, I thought maybe something had fallen through with a job opening Aaron had applied for, and that maybe they were re-considering him for that position (which would have been at my school). I quickly dialed him right back, only to find out that someone had called him asking him if he was still interested in buying some land. The owners in California had gotten our letter, and as a result, they wanted to sell! Not only that, but they wanted to give us first dibs on making an offer- which was a dream when properties were moving on and off of Zillow in mere minutes. Was this really happening?

We drove out to see the property that afternoon. Aaron had seen it before, but I hadn't yet. It was a dream. Rolling hills, an incredible view, a pretty wooded area, and the best sunset I've ever laid eyes on. We had to try to think rationally about this major decision, but we also knew that we had to make an offer quickly or we would lose our chance and regret it forever. It just seemed so much bigger than ourselves- this gift of land and the opportunities it offered. It would take money, but money didn't matter so much anymore. So we took a leap of faith, made an offer, negotiated a bit, and settled on a fair price. A month later, we closed on 11.1 acres of our very own, just 15 minutes from our current home and still reasonably close to our work and church! We were on cloud nine, just dreaming of all that was to come.

If that were the end of the story, it would be a pretty great one in itself. But oh friends, that is just where the story begins...

To read part two of our story, click here!