30 December 2013

where he leads.

it's rather fitting that i just recently blogged about memphis because…. i'm moving there this coming september!!!

now if you'll bear with me while i tell the story, you'll get to see how well God works in all of the details and how He incredibly brings life full circle!
once upon a time, over 20 years ago, my parents landed in memphis, tn due to a job transfer. they really had no idea what they were doing there but the Lord had given my daddy a heart for reaching the urban poor and as God placed them right on the outskirts of midtown, He also began to bring opportunities of serving to my parents. memphis has always been a city known for high-crime rates + severe poverty… leading to so much brokenness, hurt and NEED. there's also the two-way racial prejudice dynamic (which, from what i've heard, HAS seen improvement) that breeds a lot of division and hurt. there was a large "white flight" movement taking place in the 90's and my parents specifically chose to live in a mixed neighborhood. though by mixed i mean white families on one end of the street and single black mothers on the other end. 
it was so healthy for my siblings and i to spend several of our growing up years there… though the significance of where we lived was lost on me until i was older. 
i remember playing with the neighborhood kids, taking sunday afternoon walks up & down the street to connect with people, welcoming children into our home for help with homework (with mama) and watching daddy play basketball with the teenage guys out back. over the years (since moving away when i was 7yrs old), i have heard the stories told & memories stirred over and over of the struggles, joys, scares, triumphs, trials, disappointments & obvious hand of God at work during the 10 years my parents loved on the people of memphis.
i've also heard a lot about how cold the churches (collectively but not across the board, there were exceptions) in memphis were to the brokenness and need that surrounded them so clearly. my parents joined several other couples from their sunday school class in praying that the Lord would raise up groups or individuals to serve the people of memphis together and build ministries that would unite the churches in serving & tear down the social/racial walls. more on that in a few.

since living in memphis, my family has made two major moves (one in-state to nashville and the other out of state to indiana) and as i grew up and came to know the Lord as my personal savior, a small flame began to kindle inside of me  >>  the desire to live/work in the inner city again someday. perhaps even in memphis! this desire grew stronger throughout high school but i always had the thought, "how can i, as a single-female-teenager, just jump into the inner city? isn't that so dangerous? maybe when i'm married someday…if my husband has the same vision".

 my senior year of high school, i was in a play production and as it turned out, all of the practices and rehearsals were in a church on the near east-side of indy. little did i know when i drove to that first play practice (after lots of admonitions from mama to lock my doors at all times and make sure i had a guy walk me to my car though it was broad daylight), that the same neighborhood that church was in would soon be my community.  the spring and summer that i graduated, we were visiting a church and one week during sunday school, a woman came and talked about this ministry called heart change that focused on serving & discipling poverty stricken mothers on the near east side of indy. i was riveted to my seat. literally leaning forward to catch every word she said! there was this ministry for women that needed women like me to serve?! i made a beeline for her after her presentation and literally said, "i've been praying for an opportunity just like this! i'm willing to do whatever you need me to do!". (if you're interested in knowing more about heart change ministries click HERE.) then the first day i walked into morning worship at HC, i had this sliding thought in the back of my mind, "i wonder if this is just preparation for me to serve in memphis someday".  you see, i really was not a fan of indiana. nope, not a bit. 6+ years hadn't made me love it any more and  in the back of my mind, i was always looking for a way out. content with the present but not content in the long run.

well over the past 2 1/2 years i have become increasingly more involved with HC (joining their staff in the fall of '12) and even more connected with the east side community. it's been an incredible journey and huge learning experience. building relationships with every member of our heart change family (woman, volunteer, child, teacher, staff) has become such a beautiful piece of my life. in may i joined two of my dear friends and we started a biblestudy for young girls in the neighborhood.  i missed the first two weeks due to family vacation and my first week home, i remember commuting down to the east side as usual to start picking up girls for biblestudy. i specifically remember passing a drunk, a prostitute, a pregnant woman poorly clothed, children running the streets and one trashy/run-down street after another. all things i had become accustomed to seeing but this time they almost seemed beautiful to me. as i drove on the street right in front of the community center, after 7 1/2 years of unrest, the Lord spoke clearly in my heart saying, "i have planted you here and i want you to thrive here for the good of others. this is your home until i say otherwise." and bam. that was that. instead of spending so much time pining (whether intentionally or not) to live in a different state, i now had clear focus for where i am and why i am there. and with that change of heart, i have been given an immense love & passion for the people & well being of this community. 2013 has been so full and for the first time in many years, i never had a single thought about moving back to tennessee… until work took me there in november.

after several weekends in a row of road trips by myself for work, mama joined me on my trek south and i was so grateful for the company! we stopped overnight in nashville to see some friends and found ourselves exploring the east side of nashville-- in neighborhoods that i had some how never discovered despite living so close by for several years! many of these neighborhoods held a lot of section 8 housing and after an intriguing conversation with the owner of 1907 Apparel (read the story of how they came to be-- so cool!), i began to wonder about the ministry opportunities in nashville. why i had never considered serving in nashville, i don't know. i had definitely dreamed about moving back there often enough! so here i was in nashville and those little flames that had turned to embers were catching kindling and beginning to ignite again. we stayed with a former pastor & his wife and they shared about the huge need for refugee ministries in the city. that was really interesting to me… but while i was still mulling over thoughts and ideas in my mind, we were on the road again to memphis.

(side note: earlier in the summer, when looking out at the next few years of my life, i realized that i had a desire to do some kind of extended missions trip, internship or job either here in the U.S. or abroad. i began looking into one specific ministry that seemed to fit what i was looking for, but then before i could even apply, there were red flags (for me personally- not in the ministry necessarily) and closed doors. that was that and i wasn't sure where to look next)

i mentioned {HERE} that we had originally planned to do a bunch of sight seeing over the weekend. i've been back to memphis several times in the past 13 years but never had an opportunity to really get to know the city where i was born. in planning the trip,  i had emailed several old friends to see if we could stay with them for the weekend. each one of those requests had been met with the reply that "we'd love to have you but unfortunately we'll be out of town that weekend!" what are the odds that many of our memphis friends (and we still keep in touch with quite a few) would all be traveling that same weekend?! so daddy offered to contact some old friends (who i didn't know as well because they were missionaries in turkey for most of my growing up years) to see if they would be in town. providentially they were, and that is (partly;)) how it came to be that we cancelled our site-seeing plans & i first heard about SOS | service over self.

you see, mama & mrs. f had almost 20 years of life to catch up on and memories to relive:) and as conversation turned to talk of memphis, then-and-now, those fires kindling in my heart really burst into flame. mrs. f shared how much has transpired in the the last 20 years during which we moved away and they moved back. those prayers for the churches to unite had come to fruition, ministries had been established & were flourising (christ community health clinics recently won the state funding away from planned parenthood- a HUGE bonus for memphis!), two of the worst ghetto neighborhoods had seen a major turn-around & the Lord was continuing to raise up people to do His work there.
the next morning, we took things slow & slept in (due to certain mothers staying up till the wee hours of the morning. *ahem* haha) and then one of the girls who works with christ community clinics came over for breakfast and we spent a couple more hours talking about all of the urban ministries in memphis. it was incredible to hear her heart and share in all of the similarities of our communities. i *knew* i needed (wanted?) to plug into one of the memphis ministries (or all of them, let's be honest! haha) but the problem was HOW. i lived 9 hours away, had several commitments/responsibilities back in indy and couldn't just pick up and move anytime soon.
before we headed out the door to my photo session, mrs. f said, "one more organization you should look into is called SOS. they focus on construction & home repairs for people in the urban community but they also have a year long internship academy you might be interested in." in my mind i was thinking, "well that's awesome what they do, but i don't honestly see myself repairing homes & doing construction for a year!". (side note: it's funny because i actually do like that kind of thing… but it wasn't what i was looking for in an internship program!)
 at the end of the weekend, we headed home to indy and i couldn't get memphis out of my mind.

late monday afternoon i had a few minutes and started looking up some of the urban ministries in memphis. last of all, i googled "SOS Memphis". as i explored their site, it did give the impression that the focus was reaching the people of memphis through renovation/revitalization of homes… but then a few things on the academy page caught my eye and so i shot an email to the director saying that i had a few questions. he responded that it'd probably be easier to talk via phone and asked if i was free later that week.  on wednesday, i was just about to walk out the door of molly & kendall's when he called. i only had a few minutes but he quickly gave me an overview of the internship academy and by the time i got off the phone i was squealing with excitement!!

i had been praying for some way to become better equipped in serving, discipling & leading but couldn't fathom setting aside the culmination of the last 2 years in order to go to school full time. i also wasn't sure about completely setting aside my business after working so hard to build it up. obviously if that was what the Lord wanted me to do in order to pursue what was next, then i would do it… but i wasn't so sure he was calling me to that.
 i learned that the academy provides internship placements with various ministries around memphis (farming, school, refugee & medical positions to name a few),  while leading the interns in biblical discipleship & leadership courses for 11 months. the interns live in a few houses that are in the same community as many of the people they serve (side note: this community is literally ONE  street over from where i lived as a child. WHAT?!!!) which is very similar to what i am doing now in indy. there is an international vision trip at some point during the 11 month internship and in the spring, (if i remember correctly) the SOS interns lead some of the summer constructions camps for college & high school students. what i love MOST about this is that learning & applying are simultaneous & go hand-in-hand- exactly what i was praying for!  also, when i mentioned to the director of SOS that i was a photographer and my business could go wherever i went, i was ecstatic to find that he saw no problem with me still taking a few sessions or weddings each month as long as it wasn't consuming all my free time! what?!!! another answer to prayer!

that evening i walked into my dad's office. "have you heard of SOS Memphis?", i asked, "i'm going to pray about applying". "alright", he said, "i'll be praying too! i think it'd be wise for you to clarify where they stand theologically. especially since you'll be under their discipleship & leadership training".
then i met with my mentor the next day and told her the same thing. "wait, SOS? as in service over self in memphis, tn? my daughter-in-law's parents used to be on the board of that ministry!" (WHAT are the odds? seriously? that my mentor in indy had a connection to this small ministry 9 hours away! so amazing!) she also encouraged me to clarify their theological stance so when i had a moment i shot the director another email. he responded with an outline of the books/authors they use after primarily sticking to scripture… and it was everything we had hoped it would be!
after praying about it and receiving the counsel i had so far, i was ready to apply… but i had two more people i wanted to run it by- my pastors. they are rather known to be really picky when it comes to christian ministries/mission agencies because there is just SO much out there with the christian label. to be honest, i really had no idea what their perspective of SOS would be. but a week later, they touched base with me and said that from all they could learn of the ministry, they saw no red flags and they thought i should pursue application!!
so after a lot of prayer and council in a really short amount of time, i sent my application & had my follow up interview a few weeks before christmas. annnnnnd two days ago i received the email letting me know that i have been accepted onto the 2014-2015 SOS intern team!!!

to bring the story full circle i'll leave you with this.
when mama and daddy gathered with a group of people 20+ years ago to pray for revival and an uprising of ministries in the city of memphis, never did they think that their own daughter would be one of those called.
to me, it is a huge testimony to how *faithful* the Lord is and how He truly loves the details:)

and as thrilled as i am for this opportunity, i also feel the weight of my heart already being broken for the people i have yet to meet and the great feeling of inadequacy to make a difference. please, please join me in asking the Lord to show me how to live a life overflowing with compassion, grace & understanding. the 2 1/2 years of experience i've had in the east side of indy seems to pale & fade away when i think of going to a new city. i will be learning everything all over again from the very beginning.

oh, and i won't be moving till september 2014;) nine more months to live out life in indy!

if you have made it all the way to the bottom of this LONG (much longer than planned) post, bless you!
 i'm so very touched that you took the time to share in my passion!
may God receive all the glory for this endeavor:)

{this is an unpaid internship & i will need to raise my support for a year. 
if you are interested in following my journey of preparation, please email me or keep up with my Facebook >> ecgluntz@gmail.com | Emily Gluntz}

28 December 2013

thanksgiving weekend traditions

the boys came home for thanksgiving and we spent the weekend lounging around, laughing, carrying out wonderful thanksgiving weekend traditions (Buca, christmas tree, Drumstick Dash…) and eating lots of yummy food. it was the best:)

18 December 2013

memphis | november edition

{cont'd} so mama and i spent the afternoon in the car driving from nashville to memphis. i really wanted to relive a childhood memory by going to watch the ducks at the peabody walk from the indoor lobby up to their little rooftop roost. sadly, we got into town 15 minutes too late but the view from the top of the hotel at sunset was still really pretty. it was really surreal coming home to a place that i have so few memories of… but here's to changing that! 
we stayed with some old friends, the fraziers, and where we had originally planned to do a bunch of sight-seeing, our weekend consisted of sitting around their kitchen table for hours talking, catching up and talking all things urban ministry. it began to kindle some smoldering embers in my heart and i'll probably be writing out a whole separate blog post on that soon:) i also got to hang out with a 2014 bride & groom, allison & andrew, to do their engagement session one evening (the purpose of the trip) and that was so fun! allison and i were babes together in the nursery so it's crazy to think that we're now old enough to get married! mama and i had a wonderful dinner with her family and i'm so excited to make another trip back for their wedding next summer! 
emily (frazier) has a blossoming interest in photography so all weekend we "talked shop":) and sunday morning, when the light was gorgeous, before we headed to church, we went out back and i snapped a few images of her. seriously LOVE her laugh!!
it was such a good trip. spending time with mama and reconnecting with old friends. aaaaaand it was just the beginning of something bigger:) hoping to share that news soon!