The day the dream of Ebenezer’s died (again)

#StainedGlassDec guest post by David Docusen

For as long as I’ve known David, which is something like four years now, he has been dreaming about opening Ebenezer’s Coffeehouse in Uptown Charlotte, North Carolina — modeled after Ebenezer’s in Washington, DC, a place you may be familiar with if you’re a fan of Mark Batterson. In the last few years I have seen David and the rest of my friends at Center City Church dream time and time again, hoping against hope and facing disappointment over and over — yet they still stand. They still choose to believe God has the best in mind for their dream for their city. David Docusen is the kind of leader I would follow anywhere — in fact, Noland and I were praying about moving to Charlotte at one point for that reason. I’m excited for you to get to peek through a little window into this guy’s life and walk with Jesus today.

***

November 20, 2013 will always hold a very special place in my heart. It’s the day that the dream of Ebenezers Coffeehouse died again in my heart.

For the preceding six months, I had prayed countless prayers, fasted countless meals and casted a vision to countless people that all aimed toward this date. November 20, 2013 was the closing date that we had scheduled for 420 W 5th Street, a historic fire station in the heart of Uptown Charlotte, NC.

Ebenezer's Charlotte

The first floor would be a 2,000+ square foot coffeehouse. The second floor would be a 300 seat multiple-use venue for our community. Instead of building a church facility, we have aimed to build something for our community to enjoy (and our church could use on Sunday mornings).

Everything seemed to be lining up. Meetings with the city were met with incredible enthusiasm for our project. The Historic Commission was shockingly supportive and excited for the adaptive re-use of this registered landmark. Financial contributions came miraculously to cover the cost of the due diligence period (over $20,000 for the deposit and various studies on the building to ensure it’s ability to function as we planned).

Ebenezers Charlotte Plans

Every arrow pointed toward November 20, 2013 being the most monumental day in the life of this dream.

November 20, 2013 came and went last year rather unceremoniously. We had built a relationship with a donor for the past two years that we thought would be at the closing table with us to bring this dream to life. For various reasons, this donor decided not to move forward with us, leaving us a bit disoriented and confused.

This is not the first death of this dream. We have had five separate properties that God seemingly opened doors, only to close them somewhere along the way. In this case, it was only a few steps away from the finish line of a marathon. We had worked on this project, specifically, for the past fourteen months. And every door opened except the last one.

There have been many long nights and uncomfortable interactions with God. Attempting to understand the all-knowing God while having a quite limited, human perspective is not an easy endeavor. I have wrestled with wide-ranging emotions;  faith, trust, disappointment, loss, shock, joy, disorientation, etc. And I can’t say that I’ve arrived at any answers, only a simple reminder.

 God only gives us what is best.

Here’s a few thoughts that I have arrived at on this journey:

  1. God is good, full of love and completely able to provide for his dreams.
  2. When my dreams align with His, our shared dream will come to pass.
  3. I don’t understand His timing, but believe his timing is perfect.
  4. I have a propensity to pitch fits like my kids do when they don’t get their way.
  5. God loves to hear me talk to him (even when I pitch fits), because the more I talk to him, the more he is able to shape my heart, perspective and understanding.

Strangely enough, the same week this dream died was a week that I arrived at Matthew 7:7-8 in our teaching series at Center City Church through the Sermon on the Mount.

 **Matthew 7:7-8 – “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”

I choose to keep on asking, seeking and knocking. Knowing full well (or at least choosing to believe) that God only gives us what is best. Just because I ask doesn’t mean I will receive what I want. But this verse promises that when I ask, and align myself with His desires, I will certainly receive the best that God has to offer.

The dream of Ebenezers Coffeehouse died on November 20, 2013. But the dream of Ebenezers Coffeehouse is fully alive, today more than ever. Turns out that, yet again, I have had to let my dream die. My desires. My timetable.

And it’s in that death that the dream of Ebenezers Coffeehouse on the corner of 5th & Graham comes to life as my spirit actively dreams of the day that God brings his best to pass for the glory of his name and the benefit of our city.

God knows what is best for us. He knows how to withhold for our own good just like he knows how to give without sparing. – John Stott (from his brilliant book on the Sermon on the mount, “Christian Counter-Culture”)

I believe that the dream of Ebenezers Coffeehouse in the heart of Uptown Charlotte is God’s dream, not ours to own or hold. And I believe that we are one step closer to seeing this dream come to life.

David Docusen

daviddocusen

David Docusen grew up in Orlando, FL and moved to Charlotte, NC in 2008 to plant Center City Church. The church began to form in the Docusen’s living room  in the Fall of 2009 with a dozen people and a pot of spaghetti. The church continued to gather in the Docusen’s home until Center City Church was officially launched on Easter Sunday 2010 at Elizabeth Traditional Elementary School in Uptown Charlotte.

Four words describe what David hopes every person embraces at Center City: Read. Pray. Gather. Go. He believes that when a community gathers around the Word of God and learns to apply it to their lives, there is no limit for what God can do through that group of people.

David lives in Uptown Charlotte with his wife, Dara and their four children: Max, Mary, Jack and Ben.

Continue to follow David by reading his blog or following him on Twitter.

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Living through your worst case scenario

#StainedGlassDec guest post by Annie Lawrence

I met Annie through a few different mutual Young Life friends. We’ve never lived in the same place, but somehow over the last several years we’ve become dear friends. I love how the kingdom does that to friendships… not bound by time or distance, but instead held together in prayer and camaraderie that spans miles and miles. I’ll never forget the pit in my stomach feeling when I received a text message in November of last year, asking for prayers for Annie because she had just been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I’ll never forget the tears of joy that came soon after when I heard of the miracle of her healing. I love what God has done in her heart along the way, and I’m so grateful she’s willing to share some of the story here. This woman is gold, y’all. Enjoy.

***
Annie Lawrence

Looking back on this past year, it’s been one that has completely rocked my world, to say the least.  Never could I have prepared myself for what I was about to walk through.  Never have I been so terrified, walked through such hardship, and yet grown so vastly in one year.

On November 20, 2013, I went in for a routine appointment with my gynecologist to address some “irregular symptoms” I was having.  We soon discovered that there was a 10” by 9” tumor on my right ovary (To give you some reference, this is about the size of an eight-month in utero fetus – almost a full term baby).  The doctors reassured me that the tumor was benign and that I had a “less than one percent chance” of it being cancerous.  “We just need to get the tumor out so that it stops growing,” they said.

On November 25, 2013, I went in for a major abdominal surgery to remove the very large tumor within my ovary.  My dad recounts the next part of the story in a blog entry he wrote this past February on our journey.

“We sat in the waiting room about 30 seconds before Dr. Numnum [Annie’s oncologist] came out.  He looked very serious and his eyes showed evidence of tears that rarely come from a doctor that sees cancer every day.

He said, “I need to talk with you all . . . in private.” He seemed to be quite shaken.

He took us to a private room and said, “It’s cancer.”  He told us Annie was still on the table and the tumor was huge (the size of an in utero baby who was 32 weeks). He said a bunch of other things that we were unable to hear. We were completely shocked. Annette started crying and I was just dumbfounded.”

I spent the next week recovering in the cancer ward, awaiting the results of nineteen biopsies my oncologist had taken within my abdominal region.  If the biopsies showed that the cancer had spread, I would need chemotherapy and further surgeries.  Also the type of tumor I had did not respond well to chemotherapy, so to put it simple: if the cancer had spread, I would be in big trouble.

That next week was not an easy one.  My entire abdomen had been cut open and I was in serious pain.  By body was having reactions coming off of the anesthesia, and my pain medicine had to be so strong that it’s honestly hard to remember a lot of what happened during that time. 

Although it was the most horrible and terrifying time of my life thus far, my week in the hospital was also one where I saw the Lord show up in huge ways.  I had thousands and thousands of people praying for me: my church in Nashville, my church in Virginia, 1.2 million Rwandan Anglicans in eleven dioceses, college friends, high school friends, music fans, Young Life friends across the country, etc, etc.  You name it, they were praying.  I had 77,000 followers on my social media outlet “Vine”, that were sending me encouraging video messages, trending hashtags, and telling everyone they knew to pray.  

It had gone viral.  God was doing big things.

Annie Lawrence Hospital

A week later, I received a phone call from my doctor.  “The biopsies came back, and they were all negative,” he said.  “Your cancer was contained within the tumor when we removed it and there is no longer any evidence of disease!”  I was with my family at the time and we were all jumping up and down, crying, and hugging.  We could not believe it!  What we had so earnestly and diligently been praying for had been heard and answered.  The Lord raised me up from the cancer bed and literally gave me a new life.

In my battle with cancer, so much happened in such a short amount of time that it has been difficult to process the journey, even within this past year.  The entire time I had cancer, I had no idea it was there.  By the time I found out about the cancer, it had been taken away.  However, as I began my healing process, a question I was often asked was, “What has the Lord show you during this journey?”

To answer this question, I’ll have to backtrack and talk about something vulnerable, something that most people may never know about me.  Ever since middle school, I have had an ongoing struggle with depression.  It comes and goes in seasons, but sometimes it can be extremely present, difficult, and overwhelming. 

For years and years I’ve prayed to the Lord, asking him to take it away for good.  I continuously become frustrated with the struggle and ask God why he would allow it to stay for so long.  “Can’t you take it away now?” I would ask God.  “Have I not learned and struggled enough?!”  It felt as though my questions were always left unanswered.

Looking forward to my battle with cancer, I was also often asked the question “Were you mad with God for giving you cancer?”  No.  I wasn’t mad with God for giving me cancer.  Actually, I was expecting a much longer and harder journey with it than I was given.  What I didn’t understand was why God would allow me to have cancer and take it away IN ONE WEEK, when others I knew had been fighting the disease for years and years. 

It was in fumbling through these questions that the Lord whispered to my heart, “Annie, don’t you see?  I did this to show you my power.  I did this to show you the power that I have to take away your pain.  It doesn’t mean that I always will when you ask me to, but I want you to know that your life and your struggles are in my hands.  You can trust me.”

Even though my struggle with depression has not completely gone away and never fully may, I can be reminded of this journey of the Lord’s faithfulness to me.  I can hold fast to his promises and cling to the truth that he holds my life in his hands.

Dear friends, I pray the same for you: that no matter what kind of battle you may be walking through, you can hold to the truth that the Lord is powerful and righteous and good.  That he loves you more than you may ever know.  And though we may never understand why we have to walk through certain hardships, we can rest in the peace that the Lord will use it to grow us and bring himself glory.  May you be reminded of the Lord’s never-ending faithfulness in your life.

“Great is Thy faithfulness!  Great is Thy faithfulness!

Morning by morning new mercies I see;

All I have needed Thy hand hath provided –

Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.”

Annie Lawrence

annie1

Annie Lawrence is a 24 year-old singer/songwriter living in Nashville, Tennessee. Born and raised in the foothills of Roanoke, Virginia, Annie started her journey with music by serving as a worship leader at her local church in college. This ignited a passion in her heart to share music and her story with others. In 2011, she released her debut EP, “Light Is Stronger”. Annie moved to Nashville in 2012 to continue her dream of pursuing music. She continues to serve as a worship leader at her church and for different events across the country.  Career highlights include playing at the Grand Ole Opry and being signed as an artist with Weber Mandolins.  Annie is currently finishing up work on her second record, which will release in 2015. She continues to share her story and all that has shaped her journey to bring encouragement and hope to others.

Follow Annie on social media:

Instagram – @annieplawrence

Twitter – @annieplawrence

Facebook – Annie Lawrence Music

To read the full story on Annie’s journey through cancer, visit her blog.

When Hollow Makes Hope a Home

#StainedGlassDec guest post by Erika Kraus

Many of you followed along as I helped tell the stories of some brilliant souls in Haiti over the summer. I had the honor and privilege of being a part of that when a girl I knew from church called one day in March to ask if I would be willing to help. We spent a lot of hours over several months piecing together these stories of hope, and in the process, Erika became one of my dearest friends. God has used Erika and her story to ignite hope in me this year, in the midst of being storm tossed and afraid, and I have found a wholeness in Jesus through walking closely with her in this season that has sustained me in some of my hardest places. She’s a kindred spirit and a marvelous comrade, and I am so unbelievably proud to introduce her and this tiny piece of her beautiful story to you.

***

Just out of college I joined a team of friends who wanted to plant a church in the Northwest.  At the mature ages of 23 & 24 (one married couple and 5 single people), we drove budget trucks and trailers from our home state of Texas and settled into the gorgeous city of Seattle.

It took no time to realize that we were completely in over our heads.  But we dug in together and built family out of our weakness – a community that has become a place of life and discovery for many people over the years. 

I’ve learned that being a part of anything that has substance costs something of you. 

EK_seattle

I’ve also learned that while you are investing in one dream you might simultaneously be longing for another.  That some dreams reach maturity while others are busy digging a hole of longing inside of you…so deep sometimes, that you can feel haunted and hollow in the waiting.

That’s how it’s been for home and me.

My 2nd year in Seattle I lived in a blue house with girls that were almost likes sisters.  We had dance parties, hosted holidays, and missed buses together.  That was great, but starting a church was tough – we were learning so much and becoming so much at the same time.  I was also dating someone long-distance – a lovely and tumultuous experience that ended after a year while living in that house. Right after the break-up my best friend moved to Dallas to be with her mom who was fighting cancer.  And then my sister and another close friend fell in love and got engaged and my other best friends had a baby.

I was grieving with one friend, thrilled for the others, and gutted for me — emptied out from dreaming so big and working so hard, and from stretching my heart across the United States to build a life with someone that ultimately didn’t work out.

Weary from constant transition, but still smitten with Seattle, I started dreaming about owning my own home and settling in for the next 20 years.  Every time I’d pray about my future I’d be filled with hope and for months there was this picture in my head of a gorgeous grey craftsman house with white trim.  It felt like such a miracle, yet almost tangible, so I’d pray for “that” house and what I dreamt came with it… 

Lovely home.  In a city I love.  With a family of my own. Neighboring people I adore.

A crossroads in my life came when through a series of events and a journey of surrender I realized to my own shock that this Seattle season was coming to a close and I was being invited into an unknown adventure.

There was a huge white canvas on my wall for at least 6 months before I moved just to remind myself that empty spaces are wide open to being beautifully filled.

Headed back to Texas at 28 (4 neighborhoods, 5 houses and 11 housemates later), I was out on a limb in faith, and dealing with an incredible amount of anxiety.  Some of the most important things I thought I was made for and moving toward were getting smaller and smaller, like a ship drifting out to sea, losing its lights on shore.

While I was dealing with fading lights and a couple anxiety attacks — a devastating earthquake struck Haiti. 

In transition, I was completely available to volunteer for the relief effort.  What started as a couple hours a week turned into my full-time job.  I flew back and forth with relief teams and planned a recovery effort for 150+ families living in tents in a soccer field.

Erika Haiti Transformed

My team lived in relief worker guesthouses and beach bungalows temporarily but some of us eventually moved into a grey concrete house with razor wire, mosquito nets, and security guards.  We initially had no electricity or running water, cooked over a fire, and sweated ourselves to sleep.  A far cry from living in a grey craftsman in the drizzly cool northwest, but I was alive to life and riding a wave of grace. 

That year we partnered with a community on the Western coast to build 176 colorfully painted homes throughout the village.  The tents in the soccer field gradually disappeared, families planted gardens around their new homes and people started to hope again. 

Erika edits-2186

These days my Facebook feed is flooded with newly engaged couples, ten-year anniversaries, brand new babies, and gorgeously decorated first (or second) homes.  I’m almost 5 years into working in Haiti and the ache for a family of my own neighboring close friends swells again.

The other day it occurred to me that all these years without a home of my own, in a world of waiting — I’ve stretched, and grown to love and build homes for hundreds.

My hollow made a miraculous home for hope. 

And I’m seeing these days that hope is all about expansion – you stretch and make deposits and while you wait they grow interest.  In the end what you hoped for is so much larger than what you thought. 

The longing that dug a hole in me was both current and prophetic.  It spoke about who I was and who I was becoming, but was never the full story.

God took my grey house and dream neighborhood, my love for beauty, family and friends as a deposit…and he multiplied it in neighborhoods throughout Seattle, and in families throughout Haiti.  That deposit wasn’t just about what I did, though. It grew interest inside of me as well.  I’ve known camaraderie and purpose to depths many dream of – and I’m blessed to have been hollowed enough of my own ambition and self-making to host a contagious sort of Hope. 

This is the MIRACLE of Grace.

The ache can be flipped into a promise – and while everything is going exactly the wrong direction – still, our deepest dreams are being realized.

Sometimes we can only see what’s not happening — but often the greatest stories of our life, the places we experience extravagant favor and lavish it on others, flow out of the caverns we live with, waiting to be filled. 

Erika Hope Instagram

Erika Kraus

Living somewhere between Texas and Haiti for the last 4.5 years following the earthquake in 2010, Erika gets to see heaven come to earth and rubble get made new every day.  She is small-town and city girl simultaneously, a globe-trotting adventurer, that won’t settle for anything but living life to the fullest.  She loves the Church and its many expressions and enjoys collaborating to see things change for better in the world around her. Hosting dinner parties and exploring new cities are always a win in her book.  Follow her adventures on Instagram and read stories of some of her favorite people in Haiti and the ways they are making a wake in the the world around them at beyondtherubble.com.

Erika Haiti Transformed