A New Year....a new season

We have become parents!!! Well, foster parents that is. Crazy right! I know, I know....God is wonderfully crazy awesome. Well, let me backup and fill you all in on just how this amazing blessing happened. 

 The last you heard from us, we had just left Rockford, heading to Cincinnati. While we were in Rockford, we perceived the Lord was leading our hearts to come off the road. For a sec, we even thought that maybe Rockford was the place and we did indeed pray about staying there. However, we didn't sense that was quite the place, but that the time was coming soon and God was preparing our hearts.

We got to Ohio and stayed with an amazing family. While in Ohio, our hearts grew ever stronger in feeling the time to come off the road was quickly approaching. With that, we knew that God wanted us to plant deep roots and have a strong community with an open home.  We began praying about where and we prayed for our future community. We took a look at our natural desires which revealed a list; we wanted to be in warm climate, we did not want to go back to the west coast (mainly I couldn't think of being that far from my nephews again), we fancied the beach, a place close to a 10th Planet where Niko trains jui jitsu. So, there you have it. If you wanna be on the beach on the east coast, there aren't a ton of options, I mean if you want warm weather. We were left with Florida, Alabama, or South Carolina. There were only 10th Planets in Jacksonville, Fl, and Gulf Shores, AL. After really looking at each of these states, we really wanted to live in Florida. Jacksonville didn't really seem like a great fit for us. Pensacola was only 45 mins away from Gulf Shores, and that was drivable. In one GIANT STEP OF FAITH...we headed to Pensacola! Not knowing a soul, having never been here, just knowing God would be with us. 

We arrived, and two days later we were connected through friends of a friend of a friend to this rad couple that lived 45 mins away! They were so awesome, they immediately set up a lunch date with us for the next day. At lunch, be became instant friends with this couple and they sweetly offered for us to park in their driveway! We'd already been staying at the local Walmart for several nights, so we jumped to the offer. Bush and Rachel opened their home to us for almost a month, it was just unheard of kindness in today's day and age, but such a beautiful example of God's grace and mercy. We will forever be grateful for them! 

Niko and I had been applying for jobs daily! Three weeks after arriving, and we were getting zero job bites. A lady at the church that Bush and Rachel attended sent us an ad she had seen that was looking for foster parents for a local non-profit. Upon reading the ad, the seriousness of a gig like this really hit us. I have always had a heart to foster and a special love for children who are often stuck in disheartening situations that they have no power to change. Myself coming from a similar background of a broken home with abuse and domestic violence.  Niko was adopted in a timely manner keeping him out of the foster system. So, needless to say a job like this felt more like a calling. We took a few days to pray over it. Somewhere inside me, I was just so scared to be told no. This was my dream and I honestly was scared to hear someone tell me no, knowing I'd be so crushed, and that fear almost kept us from applying for the position. 

Well, I overcame that fear, and we did apply, and praise Jesus we got it!!! A week and a few days after applying we moved into a 15 room house! 6 bedrooms, 4 baths. We received two work cars (Ford Flexes) and everything we could ever need! We sold everything back in Cali when we left, and God has blessed us with even more! It is so awe inspiring to feel so loved and seen by Him! It somewhat feels like Job when he lost everything, and God returned to him even more! Though completely different situation of course. The organization we are working for is amazing! They focus on keeping siblings in the foster system together. They have set us up for total success to love and care for the children put into our care. All our needs are provided for,  even gas money for the cars! Food, household items... all handled. Yes, there is wildly a salary too. There is literally nothing we need. The home is completely furnished and beautiful located around such a sweet community, and we are 10 mins from the most magnificent beaches we have ever seen. 

We have been here now for almost two months and we have gotten our first two kiddos! An 8 year old girl and a 7 year old boy! They are amazing! We have never felt so fulfilled! We know this is exactly where we are suppose to be and what we are suppose to be doing. Our home can house up to 12 kids, but we likely will only get up to 8. We had no idea what lied ahead when we took a giant step of faith leaving California! We just knew we felt something was missing. I am so glad we left and took off to find what God had for us! We are having so much fun and this work, showing these kids that they matter! That they are so loved! Ahhh, there is not one thing in this entire world we would rather be doing. 

Thank you for all of you that followed our journey this summer! Stay tuned for this next chapter... we can't wait to share it with you. 

**We cannot share the organization's name because we want to be able to share with you our life here with our kids. 

**If you feel called to something like this....let me know! I'd love to let you know if other house parent positions open up. 

Love,

Niko and Michelle

A Rocky Ford

Our time in Rockford, Il was God ordained!! There was so much blessing and alot of growth there. It is clear that God desires to finish the work he started in us individually and also together in marriage. As He does that, He is always so gentle and so patient with us, because we are not perfect and we are always growing more and more into the image of Christ, God's Son. 

We were in Rockford for two weeks. We went with plans to work, but God shut that down and decided to do a different kind of work, and not a fun kind. After 5 days of such a sweet time house sitting, and just in time for a marriage conference! We hit that lovely little thing in marriages that I'll deem a 'speed bump'.  Those tricky things you hit on the road of life that forces you to either slow down or stop and make sure you're not gonna crash into something. Not our best days, if we are honest. Pride and selfishness wiggled its little way into our hearts and it ended up being a hard few days for us both. These days are so difficult and can make everything feel so wrong. However, Emmanuel, God with us, and he absolutely was!  Vision gets really murky during these unfortunately hard days and it's tough to see how God is working at all. It's almost impossible to see that He's using that time and those days to bring out things in us that He desires to deal with. They are the days that you just have to rely on your faith and faith does get you though! Amen.  How thankful that our Fathers work is so strategic and intentional and not all at once. It doesn't crush us or our spirit. Could you imagine if God just put all of the sins that you've ever done, just right there before you! You'd fall to the ground and never get up! (heard that on the radio). He works on us bit by bit, never a thrilling time and you may find yourself looking for the nearest exit door to this particular form of sanctification, the kind he does like this in marriages. But continue on and push past the un-comfort and glory does await. As you let God complete this much needed weeding out in you, you can experience the Kingdom of God here on earth...and it feels fabulous! Rockford was basically a ford of rocks (in our hearts) that we had to carefully navigate across to get through to a stronger side of ourselves. 

Once we do, we get there, to that other side. We walk through the depths of ourselves. Guess what? God is there as well because He held your hand across that rocky plain and He led you even closer to Himself! Repentance and Redemption always come hand in hand, and they are real sweet to the taste. But, eating a spoonful and well, sometimes a plateful of humble pie is a must to get there. This journey has been beautiful, yes, but it's not all been easy, don't let the pictures fool you. We have been renewed 100 times over already. Our faith has been renewed 100 times! Our marriage has been renewed 100 times! Redemption in us has been renewed 100 times. How could we ever get through a day of life anywhere without His forgiveness that gives us the power and the strength to forgive each other?

So, even though Rockford was 'hard as rocks', we are once again new! By God's grace, we left stronger than arrived. Our love deeper than before we got there. There is just no planning for what God wants to do in us! From ashes, we see the beauty and that phrase just always rings true when you go through something where everything feels as weak as dust. Trust God in the hard stuff!  He is divinely planning your steps and ours and some crazy way we still have gas in the tank! 

 If you wanna take part in this blessing, pray about donating to our mission of sharing the gospel and loving people. 

"But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand." 1 Chronicles 29:14

 

Where to Next?

We are currently in Rockford Illinois! Go cubs!

These past 3 and a half months we feel we have lived so much life... and though at times it's testing and so hard, the Lord is growing our faith so much! Like we needed this time for God to just cause such a growth spur in our hearts. It's been so cool to visit different churches and different denominations and experience so many different aspects of the body.

We are now praying about where to go next! We need your prayer and crave your encouragement! We are heading to Cincinnati area next we believe, then southward toward Atlanta. That's a very rough idea directionally.

Please pray for us! Living in a way that causes us to solely rely on the Lord is sooo good for our hearts but challenging in many ways. Fear and doubt (least for me) can easily set in and the enemy loves to try and get into my head.

As we look for opportunities to serve and love people, please pray God will send us where he desires us to go! To build up and mutually encourage one another.

If you yourselves could use our services, or know anyone who could....that live between Chicago and Cincinnati and then between Cincinnati and Atlanta ... please let us know. We would love to come to you.

Thank you so so much! Please follow us at stoneandflower.org and feel free to comment and subscribe if you have time, as that is so encouraging to us!

Much ❤️ M

Redeeming the Time

We have been blessed in having a Heavenly Father who sees us, knows us, loves us and forgives us! We have not always walked in a way that gave glory to Him (none of us do, for we all fall short of the glory of God Romans 3:23) especially in our busy lives in Los Angeles, though we tried in our own strength to do so. We failed.

Our hearts have 'always' been for the Lord, and for those we love... to know Him and experience the love that we have received through Him.....but life was hard there in LA, detraction was readily available and it was too easy to focus on ourselves, our pain, our desires... with what little time we had left. We didn't live fully in Christs desire for us...... Open our doors like we should, give like we could, listen like we should, speak truth like we should, extend grace like we should, pray like we should, surrender like we should.... lots of coulda', shoulda', woulda's as we reflect back on that time....but gosh thankfully, Jesus had done all this and continues too as we learn daily to do this more and more in a closer walk with Thee. His grace was and is efficient for us. 🙌🏼

Our weary hearts stepped out in faith, to go on this journey, down a different road with our Dad👆🏼, to learn to do those things better and strip away the things of this world that keep us from it (to shut out the noise to hear His whispers). To love greater, to listen more, to give what we can, to see God's heart for each created Soul.  All our lives we will have varying successes and failures in this, until Christ is complete in us.

There are tons of things that compete for our time and our attention in this world. Redeeming the time, honestly doesn't come natural, it's pretty hard! As we learn to press in, God's grace abounds for us more and more and our eyes and hearts open to the greatness of His love for all people. We chose to go out into this world and seek His will via His Spirit, and share His gospel and serve others. To strip ourselves; from the chains of unfulfilling jobs, the bordem of paying bills, the unfulfilling depths of material things, ...though we know this particular way isn't necessary, to learn any of this. God meets us where we are at, we are thankful for the Lord's faithfulness to us, that as we stepped out in faith with this crazy desire to try something different (vanlife) and fully give of ourselves in a way that can seem unwise to some.  We are humbly blessed that (for now) our days can look like this and that our hearts are being transformed through it.

Thank you to you!!! For loving us when we have failed you. Thank you for showing us mercy and grace, if we didn't. Thank you holding us up over the years through your prayers and kindness! Thank you for not abandoning us, when we may have. For giving of your hearts and other ways when we didn't deserve it. Forgive us in all the ways we have failed and will fail. Thank you for pressing into us and carrying us when we couldn't. We love you and are thankful for you.

We hope you will carry us in your prayers, for continued growth and sanctification. For wisdom and direction. For strength to not grow weary again! For acceptance with joy in all things! 

We love you! JESUS KNOWS YOU! HE CREATED YOU AND HE LOVES YOU!

Update: We have been with my brother and family for the past 2 1/2 weeks and are praying on Gods timing when to leave and where to head next. Right now we could leave by next Monday or stay to the end of the month, depending if my brother buys a house or not. Our hearts have been stirred to pray about returning to Israel as well. We look forward to see who God sends us too and we pray now for them and that time. 

To our family in Thousand Oaks and Gardnerville: You are daily on our hearts and we love you! Your encouragement and sacrifice to us is such a blessing! May God open the mercies of heaven upon you!  Thank you for your support that allows us to do this! May it be returned to you many-fold. 

To our sister in Boston: We are so proud of you and love you so so much!  

To our brother here and his family: we are speechless at the gifts of the Lord that you bestow on us daily. Humbled by your servant heart that shows us the love of Jesus. May He be full in you all!!  

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