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My Hedge. 
He does all he can to care for me, love me, and value me. He loves me with a real kind of love, its gone from a young emotion of love to a deep self-giving love that overflows out of the spirit of God in and through him.

JR went to a small private school and by age 18 he planned out the next 40 years of his adult life. He grew up in a home that loved the Lord, but as a teenager he battled with making his faith come alive. He didn't try to do anything that resulted in stupid consequences and that wasn't because he was afraid, it was because he didn't care to be rebellious. His biggest battle was apathy. He enjoyed sports and he was pretty darn good at some. So he planned his life around them. During a time of prayer at age 16 he said to the Lord, "I am going to plan my future and anytime you want to give me a plan I will follow it, until then, I am going to do this."

A month before he was heading off to college to run track and play soccer, he had gone on his 4th mission trip. In the midst of a very practical conversation he was radically challenged to do more with his life. Something in his heart shifted and he gave up his long term plans and followed God to northern Illinois for ministry training and discipleship. The passion to pour into others lives was birthed inside of him in that three year season of life. We met at the tail end of those three years. When we met, JR was structurally sound (aka buff!). But even as big as his biceps were his character was bigger. He was faithful and consistent, and seriously... everybody's friend! He didn't have clear direction with what was next in his future, but he knew he wanted to work in ministry pouring into young people but wasn't sure what that looked like for him.

We met when we were 19 & 21, and we have been learning life together since. We began a dating/courting relationship a few weeks after my 20th birthday. We began our relationship in a unique way in that the leadership that we were serving under required us to seek permission and blessing from our parents. We got the blessing to date/court with 1700 miles between us. He was in northern Illinois and I was in central Arizona.

A month after we were officially dating, My pastor boldly said to JR "If you hope she will someday follow you forever, then set the example and follow her out here and pursue her." We spent that first summer together in West Texas working with students at a local church and then Hedge packed up his life in the Midwest and drove his truck to the southwestern dessert. We both worked as staff members in different areas of ministry within that discipleship program. We grew in our relationship daily and we were engaged the following spring and married by the summer of 2002. We seriously had no idea what we were doing, but we sure thought we did! Through all of our learning, failings, growth, and maturity, we have seen a grace that beckons us to be in awe of Jesus as He has made us become one in Him.

JR has done all he can to love me and faithfully treasure me. I have not been lovable many times and sharing his heart with words was not his first nature. But he has met me on every emotional level that he possibly can. He has learned to listen and he has learned to grow. He has learned to open his heart and engage in deep conversation. He has learned to be transparent and vulnerable. He has learned how to love me.

He wasn't perfect, but when we first got married I decided somewhere in my subconsciousness that he was. I was a wild free spirit that God drew in and redeemed at 17. I had a past that was colorful, and stained with pain and brokenness.  But what I didn't have was purity to give to him. Can I tell you, I am the only girl JR has ever kissed! Jesus took two stories so polar opposite from each other and wove our hearts together. He has loved me as a bride should be loved, seeing me the way Jesus redeemed me. But he wasn't perfect.

I set my expectations high walking into a very idealist view of what marriage would be like. We fought, yelled, screamed, threw things (pillows) at each other. We failed and failed and failed at loving like Jesus did. We would pray for each other to change, then we gently learned to pray for ourselves to be changed... and change began to stir in each of our hearts. 

Marriage isn't easy, and if it is then is it fulfilling? We allowed God to shine light on our sin and our shortcomings and God to refine us and make us more like Him towards each other. That willingness took us to a place where we actually love one another. We now have over a decade of marriage in our past and each year keeps getting better.

I honestly loved being single before I met JR I was a few years into following Jesus and I was passionate about sharing his love to others. I had no desire to settle down and get married and the idea of motherhood wasn't even a thought let alone a dream. If I was to have them I hoped it would be through adoption someday. I didn't really like kids and I was sort of afraid of babies. JR was apart of God's beautiful design to bring fullness and healing to me. I didn't know how passionate God was about family until a few months after we got married. I all of sudden had this burning desire to become a mom that I had no idea existed. 

I remember thinking... "we get to make people together! I want to be a mom to your children!" Wait what? I want to be a mom? The desire to be a mom caught me off guard, but the longing and passion for it was not my own, God was leading my heart towards family. At that time I didn't really know how children came out of a woman (like seriously, I really didn't know). I was so far detached from the way God designed us to live, I hadn't grown up around adults that valued children. A few months into marriage we began talking about our future kids and that led us to pray together and we decided to step out in faith and stop preventing God from blessing us. Then the longing and waiting came.

We both spent years under the covering and leadership of the full-time discipleship ministry. We worked on staff as individuals and then through our first year of marriage. 16 months into marriage we moved to the Midwest for a half a year waiting on the Lord to lead us. We moved south for two years to pastor a youth ministry under a church (that walked through a lot of issues that we stepped into without prior knowledge.) Being real here, things were messy (I will leave it at that) the church vision was unclear after a few years and after seeking the Lord we moved back to the Midwest arriving just in time to give birth to our first born. There we established a young adults ministry in the community JR grew up in, and celebrated our fourth year of marriage. In each place we had lived up until that point we were blessed with relationships, He gave us great mentors and allowed us the privilege to pour into the lives of others. 

After a few years of running the young adults ministry, in the summer of 2008, JR was informed that the church was overstaffed and because of the economy and budget, eight salaries had to be cut. He absorbed it so gracefully. I was six months pregnant with our twins and his meek salary was already stretching us to the max, yet he was excited to step out and trust God to provide for us and run the ministry from a volunteer position.

Six months later he was burnt out and incapable of fully being present in any area. Our marriage, the ministry, fatherhood, and the never ending job of real estate that he had begun were all getting bits of him. After getting away and clearing his heart and mind, he felt the nudge to put everything back on the table and trust God to lead our family in a different way. His short time in the real estate field working for successful realtors showed him that although he could financially provide for us well if he worked hard, that selling homes was not for him. 

JR found an hourly paying job, stepped away from running the young adults ministry, and felt for the first time in his adult life like he was right where he was supposed to be. Fully reliant on God. At first we went to the Lord asking Him to lead us and give us direction. Those prayers were desperate and constant. They went from "Lord, give us direction" to " Lord, give us more of you." Then He led us to step away from attending the church JR worked for and go into a season of rest at a church where nobody knew us. That was a step of faith. Our character was questioned deeply in that season. We felt more certain God was speaking and leading us in that lonely season than ever before. We found a place to rest for the next three years. That is where the vision and passion for family was fully birthed in us. Our day-in and day-out life was radical, it wasn't mundane. Living life, parenting our kids, being unknown by so many and so completely cared for by God was blinding us from thinking we were insignificant or "not being used". God was working through us.

JR worked in a warehouse fixing Xbox's. He sat in his chair with his head phones on, tools in hand, mindlessly fixing machines and simultaneously his spirit was being renewed as he listened to worship and sermons. The people he worked with knew he was a pastor. People would randomly come to him for prayer. That's were God broke in and redefined his gifting. God spoke to JR "You are a pastor not because of your paycheck, you are a pastor because of your gifting. I made you to care for people."

That released in JR, faith. 
After months of praying, and asking God to bless him with a dream, I finally learned what it meant to let my husband lead. I gave God my dreams of working in full time ministry and I began to support my husband. 

If you read about Bet's story, you would have learned about when we decided to take classes at a local community college. JR had signed up for a semester of training to be an EMT. One day he called me (in the fall of 2009) and said "please be praying for me honey, I believe God is trying to speak to me and I don't want to get in His way." I was so excited! I mean even though I was content not doing full time ministry, my first thoughts immediately went here... well maybe God is leading him to go on the mission field! Maybe we are gonna sell it all and head for foreign grounds.

A few weeks later JR sat me down and with intention in his eyes and vision in his voice he said "I love what I am learning about. I love medicine. I want to go all the way." Ok, can I just say, I literally felt my tongue be held from moving or making a sound. I immediately thought in my head, I had been asking God to give him a dream and here JR was with more hope in his eyes than I had seen in years. I knew that I had to support him. 

I kindly said "how do you think we are going to financially make it? I am carrying our fourth baby and we can barely pay our bills as of now." What I love about JR is his ability to not see the bad and always hope for the good. With that great trait also comes the ability to over look some details. But as he began to share how he met with doctors for counsel, and how he had figured out what type of grants he could get for school, I could see all the details he had thought through. But beyond those details, I could see he had encountered God. 

What do you do when your husband has a dream? You support it. Its so cool because the direction of MD has been redirected to APN (Nurse Practitioner). For years, God had spoke to JR that God was going to use him through healing. God is giving JR practical hands on tools that we know will someday advance the kingdom. I have begun to believe God is as big as I thought He was. His big picture is eternal, and I don't have to wonder any longer. I just have to love Him. Loving Jesus means believing in my husband. Loving Jesus means not being afraid to obey. Loving Jesus means I am constantly being made whole in Him.

Whatever the field of work God desires to lead you in is just a vehicle to how you can encounter others, see others, and give to others. Going into the field of medicine has given JR a physical skill set to serve others. Currently he is still working on his masters and that won't be done for another two years. He often times gets frustrated with the endless school work, but he knows God has given him direction and he is being faithful to it. Once he graduates, the end goal isn't to settle in and build a comfortable life for just us. We serve little outside of our home currently, but that's not because we are being selfish, we are being obedient to this season.

We believe God will lead us in to how to use the education JR will have. Maybe it will uproot our family and He will call us to a new city to serve in and grow in life with others. Maybe he will keep us in the (cold) Midwest forever. Either way, we will follow. We see our "right now" season as it is, a gift. We are intentional with all our days. They aren't easy. We aren't super people, we have a supernatural helper that dwells within us. Because of the comforter, we are cared for so personally and we have hope.  Many could see this season as a transitional time, a daily grind, insignificant even. But we don't, we see so much of God in so many moments through out our days, that we don't need to concern ourselves with what He will do with us and through us because He is already at work. Obedience is the goal, not the degree or the planted roots, but a life listening to God and obeying in faith as he leads us in our dear life.