Summer in Holyoke: A Little Taste of Heaven

I was recently offered the opportunity to write a column for our local newspaper. It has been so much fun! This article was originally published in my column: Samantha’s Salt in The Holyoke Enterprise – September 3, 2015 (photos included in this blog post only).

First Baptist Church Holyoke

Jeremiah caught this rainbow a few weeks ago. Our new church home: First Baptist Church Holyoke (side & back view)

Before my husband began the interview process for his job in Holyoke, we never knew such a town existed on the map. The mountains were all we’d experienced in Colorado so it was a surprise to learn of the Northeastern plains. When we drove in for the first time and saw the cornfields, water tower, parks, elementary school, and nicely manicured lawns, I could sense it was a special place. The serenity is what struck me most.

I didn’t grow up in a small, rural town. I moved twice in my childhood and my dad’s work brought us to medium-sized cities on the east coast. During my summer breaks in college, I traveled overseas and did several out of state publishing internships. After I met my husband at seminary in Virginia, we moved to Dallas for more schooling. The big city has been our life for the past eight years.

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Breaking in our new yard. This will be the year of the John Deer 🙂

In June, when our big yellow Penske truck made its way to our driveway, I felt the baseline stress of the big city falling off my shoulders. The air was clean. The wide-open spaces refreshed my spirit. The slow pace of life was new to me and was what my soul had been craving. The orange, yellow, pink, and red radiant bursts of color in the sky at sundown gave me something to look forward to each evening.

Before we moved out, I wondered how the adjustment would go. Would I go into shock not having access to all the “stuff” and entertainment? Would it be difficult living somewhere more remote?

I miss those conveniences occasionally. But the majority of the time I appreciate fewer choices and less stuff. Less temptation is present to hit the Starbucks and Chick-fil-a drive thru. Amazon Prime has been my best friend. You can’t beat free two day shipping. We have taken a few trips out to the surrounding cities and it’s always nice to return.

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Will in the field of dandelions behind our house

My kids have found joy in exploring new swimming pools, lakes, parks, dirt roads, animals, and farms. My son got to ride on a combine for the first time and learn about harvesting. Our new church family has opened up their arms to us and is becoming the family we couldn’t bring with us.

The ability to hop on our bikes and ride to Subway, Heidi’s (the dirty chai tea latte is my favorite), mail a package without waiting in a long line, or peruse The Oak Tree is something I’ve never had before. And a 1-minute drive to the marketplace… it doesn’t get any better than that when you practically live at the grocery store with four young mouths to feed.

I realize the story I’m writing may be different when the streets are blanketed with ice and snow and all I’ll want to do is hibernate under the covers. Since it’s human nature, I will probably grow familiar with the charm and hidden blessings this little town has to offer. I know it’s not a perfect town- no place is. No people are.

12032349_10102246540751678_1138077519_nBut I pray that my heart will always find something to be grateful for here. Many people would love to live in such a place where you get the kind of “feel” you just don’t have on city streets. Where you meet some really special people who genuinely care for others – whether it’s found in a friendly wave, a genuine conversation, or in a surprise vegetable delivery on your front porch.

I definitely realize your perspective may be different than mine, especially if you’ve lived here all your life. I’m an outsider looking in. I find it amazing that you could stay planted somewhere for so long. But now I understand why. You’re in Holyoke.

As the leaves will soon fall to the ground and the air grows crisp, I will remember and be thankful for what this town meant to our family this summer – a little taste of heaven in the midst of a big transition.

And as the Lord wills, we do plan on staying a while.

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What’s Next on Our Horizon? – Part II

kriegerfamilyphoto2015This post is continued from my husband’s blog today, “What’s Next on Our Horizon? – Part I.”

This past weekend, we traveled to the golden plains of Northeast Colorado for Jeremiah to preach at First Baptist Church Holyoke. For the past several months he has been interviewing with them for the Senior Pastor position as what has become their first choice candidate. And in that time we have been in much prayer about the next steps for our life and ministry as Jeremiah mentioned. Since the time we were dating, 11 years ago now, we have both sensed a strong desire for full-time ministry but we weren’t sure how that would be fulfilled and when that might happen. So after we got married, getting the right training and preparation was the most natural next step.

Dallas Theological Seminary was where we landed in 2006. We got plugged into our beloved church, Watermark, and were involved in an apartment outreach for two years. During this time, Jeremiah was a nurse and student part-time. We had our first child, John in 2008. We began developing some of the richest friendships we have ever had with our community group at church and fellow friends in seminary. Seminary was one of the most rewarding and challenging times of our life. We continued to grow our family and before we knew it, Jeremiah completed his Master’s in Theology in May 2012, we had our third baby and bought our first home in East Dallas. The desire for ministry remained in our hearts but we knew we needed a sabbatical so we stayed put.

Jeremiah was faithful to get his resume out there and Dallas Seminary started sending his information directly to churches. One of those churches was First Baptist Holyoke. From the get go, they were excellent in their communication (this is huge these days) and Jeremiah began the interview process through Skype calls. They flew us out in March to see the town and to gauge whether it might be a place we’d like to be permanently. They were sensitive to the fact that I didn’t grow up in a super small town and wanted to make sure I felt comfortable there.

The search committee made welcome bags with home-made cookies, coloring books and crayons for our kids. They gave us a great tour of the area and we attended the church to get a feel for it. We felt refreshed by the church body and sensed a connection with the people. They are using their gifts in a great way and have a heart to reach their town with the gospel. They have a brand new building on land and remained debt free through the building process. By the end of that trip, I felt like it was definitely a place I could see us serving in. While it is a very small town, it has a lot to offer young families. A few weeks later, Jeremiah was invited to come back and preach. The congregation would vote on him as to whether or not to extend a call for him to be the next pastor.

This past weekend he preached their Saturday night and Sunday morning services and did a greeting at the Spanish evening service. He did a wonderful job preaching out of Hebrews. I was pretty nervous during that time, but he wasn’t! The members of the church finished casting their vote on Sunday night, the search committee called him in, and let us know that the vote was very favorable and he was offered the position for Senior Pastor. Everything felt surreal and we accepted the offer, knowing this was where God was leading us. We are humbled by God’s goodness in seeing a desire and dream come to fruition that was birthed in our hearts over a decade ago.

As we embark on this new opportunity in finding out what God desires to do in and through us in Holyoke, CO, we value your prayers and support for the work that lies ahead. We know it won’t be easy, but God will be with us. We are excited for the change ahead, but of course, it is bittersweet leaving behind our family, friends, and church in Dallas.

I feel a little like Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman. She was once a city girl turned country. She has four kids and is also a writer and blogger. I am not exactly an exceptional cook though! I am looking forward to supporting my husband, new friendships, wide open spaces, sunsets, stars at night, fresh air, and a little more quiet (outside our crazy house, of course). 🙂

Thank you for hearing our hearts and walking alongside us. We appreciate it so much!

– Samantha & Jeremiah

 

The Sacred Echo in Crested Butte, Colorado

This past week our crew filmed The Sacred Echo DVD in breathtaking Crested Butte, Colorado. The Sacred Echo DVD is based off Margaret Feinberg’s new book, The Sacred Echo. I was able to read her book a few weeks ago to begin brainstorming story ideas for the project. I was really touched by her stories, the way she uses Scripture, and most of all her heart for Jesus.

During the filming, our crew put in long hours, sweated in the heat and froze with the cold, as Margaret said. She even said she has 30 mosquito bites to prove they were really in the middle of nowhere. They shot scenes with waterfalls, mountains, wildflowers, and the beauty of God’s creation was their backdrop. I can’t wait to see the final project.

In the upcoming weeks, we’ll be seeking out people for specific stories that intertwine with the themes addressed in The Sacred Echo. Check in for updates on The Sacred Echo DVD release at Bluefishtv.com.

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