Give Local: Two Wonderful Ways to Bless Others This Holiday Season

For the past several years, Keystone friends have endeavored to make the holidays a bit brighter for those in the Sibley Community. For many, the holidays are a financially stressful time. Over 90% of the families at Sibley School live below the poverty line. There is still time to give!  Here are two wonderful ways you can get involved with the Sibley community this Christmas season:

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You can select a specific family to “adopt” for Christmas. Sibley has provided us a number of family profiles which provide a great deal of useful information on each family member, including sizes, as well as basic needs, such as warm clothing.  The Local Extend Team will have a table set up during both services on Sunday, December 8. You can look through family profiles and select a family at that time. Delivery arrangements should be made with the families no later than December 12, with delivery occurring by December 18.

 

Sometimes two or three Keystone families join together to adopt a larger Sibley family. “Big Idea Groups” have even gotten on board and adopted a family together. All arrangements are welcome and encouraged!  This is a wonderful way to connect with the Grand Rapids community and make a real difference in someone’s life. Many Keystone families look forward to this tradition each year. 

If adopting an entire family does not meet with your giving plan this season, consider donating individual toys to The Other Way Ministries Christmas Store. Our participation in the Christmas Store is sponsored by The Keystone Students.

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From The Other Way’s website:
Each December, The Other Way hosts the Christmas Store, an opportunity for neighborhood parents to earn and spend credit to purchase gifts for their children. By allowing parents to work in the community and in the store to earn credit, dignity is maintained.

We begin planning for our annual Christmas Store in September and we are now at the point where we need your help!  Parents have already begun to earn credits for the store working in the school and community so we need to collect enough gifts to honor their hard work.

To stock the store, we depend on churches, families, businesses and other organizations to provide new, unopened presents.

New toys can be brought to Keystone and placed under the Christmas tree by the main entrance. Please leave the price tags ON. Keystone will coordinate delivery to The Other Way. As the gifts must be delivered by Monday, December 9, December 8 will be the last day donations can be accepted.  Gift suggestions and guidelines can be found on the Other Way’s website here.

 

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Keystone Local Extend: Thanksgiving Bags for Sibley

We’re down to our final week of our Thanksgiving food drive for Sibley School! If you have attended Keystone for a while, Sibley School should be familiar. We have been working with the Sibley community for years.  Over 90% of the families at Sibley School live below the poverty line and struggle to provide even basic necessities.

You can make a real difference this holiday season by purchasing basic food items to supplement their Thanksgiving dinners. Spartan stores will be donating turkeys!

However, Thanksgiving will be upon us soon! All donations must be delivered to Keystone by this Sunday, November 24.  Bags will be delivered Monday, November 25.

Please consider filling a grocery bag with the following items:

Potatoes (2 boxes)

Rice (large bag)

Vegetables (4 cans)

Stuffing (2 boxes)

Gravy (2 cans or dry packs)

Canned fruit (2 cans)

Peanut butter (1 large jar)

Cake or brownie mix (1)

 

If possible, please send the above items in a fabric or reusable grocery sack. It makes delivery much easier!  However, paper grocery bags are fine too.

Keystone’s Local Extend Team and the Sibley Community greatly appreciate your generosity! 

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Living a Better Story

I don’t’ know about you but I truly enjoyed the series we just finished at Keystone, Living a Better Story. It has challenged me to think about my story and how I’ve traveled to where I am today. I think about the roads I could have taken, roads I should have taken, and the roads I’ve decided to take. My path has had it’s moments of twists and turns, struggling to go up hill one moment and flying down the hill the next.

In the busy-ness going on this fall, I haven’t really stopped to reflect on life and the people around me. During one of the Living a Better Story messages Brady delivered, he read from the Bible that in our times of struggle, trials and pain we should try and choose joy.

This has stuck with me.

God used that talk to help me see that there is so much brokenness in the world today. I mean, I knew that there was brokenness, but God has really opened my heart to that reality. Some lyrics from the popular Christian song “Hosanna” came to mind this week as I was pondering what God had laid on my heart. The song goes:

“Heal my heart and make it clean. Open up my eyes to the things unseen. Show me how to love like you have loved me. Break my heart for what breaks yours, everything I am for your Kingdoms cause. As I walk from earth into eternity.” 

The Lord helped me see brokenness around me, but has given me hope as well. The devotional Jesus Calling by Sarah Young has brought me encouragement this week. It writes, “ I am the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, dwelling in unapproachable light. I am taking care of you! I am not only committed to caring for you, but I am also absolutely capable of doing so. Rest in Me, my weary one, for this is a form of worship.” (pg 288) Even though our world is broken, we serve a God who knows each and every situation of our lives. He is taking care of us and is ever capable of doing so.

Hold onto His promise that He is in control, will always take care of us and rest peacefully in His presence.

-Caitlyn
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I don’t’ know about you but I am truly enjoying our current series, Living a Better Story, at Keystone. It has challenged me to think about my story and how I’ve traveled to where I am today. I think about the roads I could have taken, roads I should have taken and the road I decided to take. My path has had its moments of twists and turns, struggling to go up hill one moment and flying down the hill the next.

 

In the busyness going on this fall, I haven’t really stopped to reflect on life and the people around me. In the talk this week, Brady read from the Bible that in our times of struggle, trials and pain, we should try and choose joy. God has used this talk to help me see that there is so much brokenness in the world today. I mean, I knew that there was brokenness, but God really opened my heart to that this week. Some lyrics from the popular Christian song “Hosanna” came to mind this week as I was pondering what God had laid on my heart.

 

The song goes, “Heal my heart and make it clean. Open up my eyes to the things unseen. Show me how to love like You have loved me. Break my heart for what breaks Yours, everything I am for Your Kingdom’s cause. As I walk from earth into eternity.” 

 

The Lord helped me see brokenness around me, but has given me hope as well. The devotional Jesus Calling by Sarah Young has brought me encouragement this week. It writes, “ I am the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, dwelling in unapproachable light. I am taking care of you! I am not only committed to caring for you, but I am also absolutely capable of doing so. Rest in Me, my weary one, for this is a form of worship.” (pg 288)

 

Even though our world is broken, we serve a God who knows each and every situation of our lives. He is taking care of us and is ever capable of doing so.

 

Hold onto His promise that He is in control, will always take care of us and rest peacefully in His presence.

 

Blessings,
Caitlyn Ouwinga 
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God Jumps the Fence

This week my grandmother went into a home where she could be better cared for. These kinds of things are never easy. They can be emotionally exhausting and even physically challenging.  This past weekend, I needed to empty her apartment. I didn’t know HOW I was going to do that. But family and friends continue to amaze me. The “workers” quickly jumped in to help. But I still had no idea what I was going to do with all the STUFF.

Mark VanDellen, our Eastside Campus Site Leader, reached out to the Keystone staff about a homeless man he had met.   It was a compelling story. The gentleman is in his 60’s and disabled.  Mark spent some time with him and heard his story. He really took some time to listen to him and encourage him. Mark’s a great encourager. Mark left the man with his phone number in case he might ever be of service.

Wild.

This week, of all weeks, that man called Mark to tell him he had finally gotten his own apartment!  Mark spent more time chatting with him, listening to his excitement and congratulating him on such an epic new chapter in his story. In that conversation, Mark learned that all this man had in his new place was a blow up mattress. While thrilled to be there, he had no other belongings to start his new life.

Some people would say this man is lucky, given my need to unload some things and his need to acquire. But I see God’s hand in all of it.

If we listen, it seems God speaks louder in tough times. I see him using Mark to serve and lead. I see him helping us make hard decisions to best care for his children, young and old. I see God  changing lives by using each of us to help another along on the journey.

That man now has a kitchen that is fully stocked with everything you would need, a couch, chair. His apartment looks like he’s been there forever.

We put up fences. But God continues to jump them.

I’m humbled.

-Michelle
SchaalMichelle

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A Fresh School Year

A couple weeks ago, as Fall craziness set in, I took a Thursday morning walk around Reed’s Lake. I needed it. This is the first year where both my boys are in school full time (praise be!) and I got to thinking about that while on my walk.  Previous to having children, I was a middle school special education teacher. My oldest, Luke, was born nine years ago and I made the decision to become a stay at home mom (I actually couldn’t wait, to be quite frank with you).  Reality then quickly sunk in and I had a new appreciation for mothers AND a new appreciation for teachers. For those of us who send our child(ren) off to school every day, we have an unspoken expectation that our teachers will love, protect, and teach them in a way that we approve of. But do we pray for those teachers (who, to many of us, are still strangers) to have the energy and discernment to do that on a daily basis?  I remember some teaching days when prayer (and running out to Subway for lunch) was the only thing that got me through. We are our children’s first teacher and then we pass on the education baton.  But there is so much more going on in those classrooms than just “teaching.”  It is a demanding and exhausting job.  Might I encourage you to pray for your child(ren)’s teachers today?  And might I encourage you to pray for your children while at school?  That they would be kind to EVERYONE and learn the importance of working for that good grade!  On my walk, I had the opportunity to thank the Lord for my time alone with Him (I joke that school is a stay at home mother’s reward), for our ability to send our kids to a Christian school where they talk about and sing to (that is a beautiful thing to hear when walking into a school…) and learn about who God is and why it is important for them to be the best person He created them to be.  And I thanked Him for their teachers and begged Him to keep them safe…tomorrow I will pray for your kids and their teachers or daycare providers or babysitters or the moms who are home with babes.  The Lord anticipates and takes delight in our prayers and conversations with Him.  Please join me in as we continue to pray for yet another great school year for each others’ children. 

Blessings,
Lesley

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I was spending time praying in my office this morning (my son Sam tells people that all I do at work is “read my Bible and pray”… arrgh) and I found myself so very grateful for so many of you.  Keystone’s fall launch is only a couple of days away and the efforts and talents of so many people are evident.  Volunteers old and new will be taking their places serving others, encouraging our kids, changing diapers, parking cars, cleaning the gathering space, playing beautiful music, mixing the sound board, creating moods with lights, and bringing the Bid Idea to us in a way that helps us each live a better story.  Your staff deeply thanks you and thanks God for you.  It is a privilege to watch many of your stories develop right in front of our eyes!
 
Many who come through these doors are seeking a better story and you know what?  One of the ways God may accomplish that is through YOUR story.  So ask others their story and be ready to share your story.  In my experience, God intentionally places people in the right place at the right time to make a difference in a specific person’s life.  Open your eyes to the possibility that you might be the one God is prompting to share your story with someone needing to hear it.  Maybe God has someone ready to share their story with you.  Be ready to receive it.  
 
Proverbs 11:25 says:  The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed; those who help others are helped.
 
See you Sunday!
– Randy
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Blessed

What happened to summer? How is fall here already? As summer is coming to a close and with some leaves on the trees changing already, I can’t help but look back on the summer and think about all that has happened and how my life has been changed.

In the middle of June I had the opportunity to go to Sharptop Cove, a younglife camp in northern Georgia. This was a new experience for me and one with much learning. One significant experience happened in the middle of the week. Every leader and student was challenged to hike the mountain that our camp was in the middle of. I had the privilege of hiking up the mountain with a Keystone student. We talked most of the way, talking about life and encouraging each other to keep going. Once we reached the top of the hill, I was speechless. To stand in awe of God’s creation is one of my most favorite feelings. To simply look out and find that He takes such good care of His creation, and then again realize that He takes care of me even more than that is such a humbling feeling.

 A few weeks later I had the privilege of going on the Keystone Student Serve Trip to the Dominican Republic. Here I found how blessed Keystone is to have such great students. Our students absolutely loved each and every child in the Dominican and displayed such joy in doing so. Even though it was terribly hot, each student usually had a child in their arms. They loved these children and loved every second they had with them. It was beautiful to see the connections they were making with the children and how they became a family with them. Seeing the growth in our students was such a joyous experience for me.

While the summer has been a busy one, the fall has great things in store for students at Keystone. I am excited to begin our fall Kick off in a few weeks and be able to see God move through our students this year.

Join me!
– Caitlyn
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“WHEW”

 “Whew!”

 Let me say that again: “Whew!”  

Since I was invited to jump into the music programming role at Keystone Spaulding, we have been on an amazing and truly challenging musical ride to say the least.  Far more than one would ever think possible at a church, right?  Seriously! We have done a bluegrass style set, R&B style, country style, rock, classic rock, and pop, even jazz….

 We’ve done everything from Toby Mac to Jackson Brown to Steve Miller to Lady Gaga. We’ve had some amazing breath taking “God” moments and yes, even a couple of not so great moments (can we say ooops :-)…..

 And that was just in our first 7 or 8 Sundays!!! 

 Did I say “WHEW” yet?!

I cannot wait to see what is next for this fall.  With Brady coming in to lead our teaching and all of the great, talented and humble folks around here at Keystone, making music has never been more fun.  I have toured around the country and have been fortunate to play with some pretty amazing musicians and vocalists over the years.  But nothing can compare to making great music in such a creatively free place that has the potential for impact and purpose. Music that can honor the creator of the universe!!! 

 I sometimes have to remind myself of this, even when my crazy schedule is off the tracks and I cannot imagine how I am going to pull it all off.  Where do I sign up for that?  Oh, wait I DID!  I’m so thankful I said yes when God asked me to join in! 

I’d love to ‘blog’ more, but I am off to go work on this week’s set.  Awake my Soul by Mumford and Sons (with upright bass, banjo and mandolin!), Washed by the Water by Need to Breathe (one of my all time favorites), Love Has Come, We Won’t Be Shaken…

 Oh and for all you fans of the Oldies station, we’re opening church with Happy Together by the Turtles, (but possibly in a reggae version for all you Marley fans)

Can I get a “WHEW!?!”

– Paul

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Perseverance

A few weeks ago I was having lunch on one of the San Juan Islands in Northern Washington with the Keystone High Adventure group.  We had sea kayaked a few hours and stopped for a well deserved lunch.  I dropped part of my lunch on the beach and within seconds an ant latched on to it and began to take it home.  The piece of bread seemed about 100x bigger than that persistent ant, but he or she was undeterred.  For over 1/2 hour I followed that ant’s progress, sometimes bumping into rocks that could not be climbed, sticks that snagged the food, and sand that kept slipping away under all 6 of its feet.  That ant did not give up.

 
You won’t hear it Sunday, but this was the genesis for the upcoming Labor Day weekend talk.  Watching that ant reminded me of past times of hardship and difficulty when instead of pressing on, I wanted to fold.  The rocks are too big, the sand to loose, the situation too much for one person to handle.  One person?  Yeah.  Maybe that is the problem.  We are not meant to walk those trials alone.  I admired that ants persistency, but he could have used a friend.
 
Have you been there? Are you in a place now, where your world just up and changed on you?  Things were going well, life was blooming and then all of a sudden someone threw hot asphalt on top of  you and ran you over with a steam roller?  
 
A few years ago I was sitting in my office watching that very thing happen.  Between our business’s parking lot and Johnny Carinos’ parking lot was a 1ft wide gap that was left unpaved.  It eventually began to fill in with plants. Because it did not look professional, the paving company was called in to fill the gap with their steaming hot tar and steam roller.   As I watched, I commented to one of my co-workers that it would sure stink to be one of those plants.  He said “I’ll tell you Ran, I’ve been there, and I know you have too.”

He was right.  We smiled in agreement and went on with our day.  A few weeks later, I was heading to my car when I noticed something that blew me away.  I had to take a photo.   It was inspirational to me and i hope it will inspire you too.  

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Hope to see you Sunday,
Randy

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