Family as a Verb


Family as a Verb

by Ashley Randleman

“I think we should buy a camper,” my husband Jeremiah told me after we spent a weekend with my parents. We were in the second week of a 5-week family series at River Church and creating intentional family time was very much on our radar.

Church planters know that God has ultimate control, but they also know God has given them the task of stewarding a congregation. The survival of the church community they have begun weighs heavily on them. This pressure often makes time management a struggle. In this mix, the family can quickly feel the strain.

I am so grateful for the words my husband spoke. “I think we should buy a camper,” was a statement that became an act of prioritizing the family.

This summer, Jeremiah rearranged his office hours so he was essentially working Saturday through Wednesday — having Thursday and Friday off. He worked hard to have his sermon ready to preach and his notes handed in by 11:35am on Wednesday morning — allowing us to “check out” as a family on Wednesday afternoon for a couple of days.

I worked hard to have the camper stocked, packed, and ready to go by the time he returned home from the office. It was no small task, but as the summer wore on, we settled into a nice rhythm of putting our house in order and locking it up tight so we could all squeeze in tight and do this thing I’d like to call “familying”.

I believe that the word family should be revised in the dictionary to be a verb. When done well, it becomes so much more than “a group consisting of parents and children living together in a household.”

When done right, Jesus is at the center and His love never fails. Familying is taking ownership of the family that the Lord entrusted you with and stewarding it well for His Kingdom and Glory. It’s being a family — on purpose, and for a purpose.

This past June thru October has been the most adventurous, intentional, and relaxing summers of my life in my marriage and mothering. We skipped naps so we could skip rocks. We climbed trees and then jumped out of them. We ate one too many s’mores and still had some more. Our children giggled around the fire as we told them our own childhood stories. We got sand in all of the wrong places and got dirt under our fingernails. My husband took up fishing. I began running again.

My oldest caught the biggest bullfrog we had ever seen. Our second caught his first fish. My daughter earned her nickname of “Barefoot Wonder” as I decided to raise the white flag in any attempt of keeping her feet sandaled. The baby became a toddler and I smiled when he signed and said, “Outside,” for the first time. The summer of 2017 will be one for the books as my children grew wings and flew.

We recently winterized the camper and towed it away to store in preparations for Iowa’s soon-approaching winter months. It was bittersweet as we closed the door (literally) on something that has brought our family together in ways I didn’t anticipate or expect. Although the camper will be unoccupied for the next six months, spring will be arriving soon. Until then, we will be busy familying.

Family on, my friends.

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Ashley Randleman is a pastor’s wife of ten years and a mother of four (Nathan, Josiah, Lydia, and Titus). She and her husband, Jeremiah, planted River Church in February 2014. Ashley has a heart for the mothers and women in her life and church. She pours into them on a weekly basis from the comfort of her living room carpet over strong coffee and meaningful conversation.

A Weak Sermon


A Weak Sermon

by Rebecca Burtram

I wanted to write an awesome sermon. It was Mother's Day, and it was the final message in a series on a book that I wrote.

Instead, I struggled all the way through it. I was so disappointed because it felt as though all the time, energy, and emotion I had invested in writing the book had culminated in a last-minute sermon presented by an overworked, exhausted, worst version of me.

I could feel myself bombing. I transitioned awkwardly. I cried and told stories I didn't plan to tell. I was a mess. It was not at all the presentation of the message that I would have done if I'd had the time and energy needed to prepare. I have done so much better. I wanted to do so much better.

Then I realized, it couldn't have gone any other way. 

Church planting ladies might understand multitasking better than anyone else. I didn't just have to write a sermon. I had to run a household, run a church, and keep up with my full-time job teaching. On top of all that, I spent the week leading up to the sermon as a single mom since Jon had to go on a last-minute trip to New York to repair some recent storm damage to our rental property.

Here is how my week of sermon prep went:

Monday- I arrived home around 8:30 PM from the Potomac Ministry Network Council (at which point had already missed Kaleb's soccer practice). I promptly realized Annalyn had a field trip we needed to pack extra supplies for, and Ella needed me to arrange rides for her to honor choir because Jon wouldn't be around to take her in the mornings. I packed supplies, arranged rides, and got the kids in bed. Then, I read the chapter I was preaching from in Our Broken Hallelujahs.

Tuesday- I taught all day, took Ella to ballet and Annalyn to tap, fed everyone dinner at 7:30, helped with homework, cleaned the house, edited a video for life group, ran a background check, sent follow-up emails to guests, and went to bed.

Wednesday- I taught all day, led a church staff meeting, took Annalyn to soccer, led our life group, and went to bed.

Thursday- I taught all day, went to Ella's honor choir concert, fed everyone dinner, helped with homework, worked on editing a video for the sermon and next week's life group, praised God because Jon returned, and went to bed.

Friday- I taught all day, attempted to get some hubby time by going on a dinner date, and fell asleep as soon as we got home.

Saturday- I woke up early to work on the sermon, thanked God for the soccer games being rained out, helped the kids clean the house, worked on my sermon, went to the movies with my family, worked on the sermon, made sweet tea for Mother's Day tea, worked on the sermon, and stayed up late... 

Sunday- I woke up early to work on the sermon...

I walked into our school to set up for service on Sunday morning feeling completely drained and unprepared. I knew that if God was going to use that message, it would be a true example of God using my weakness for His strength to be made known.

I was broken, weak, and tired. My sermon was about God's ability to use our broken hallelujahs. I hadn't planned to be the living example of the point that day. Yet, there I was living it in front of everyone. I was the proof that our broken pieces are beautiful when offered to God for his use.

My main text was 2 Corinthians 12:6-10 (NIV):

Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

I didn't feel strong. I felt empty, spent, and ineffective.

Then, a first-time guest came up and said, "That was the message I needed today. That is exactly what I needed to hear for where I am in life at this moment."

I may have felt that I bombed on that Sunday, but I know God didn't.

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Jonathan and Rebecca Burtram planted Redemption Church Charlottesville on Easter of 2016. Rebecca is the author of Our Broken Hallelujahs and blogs about grace and imperfection at She is passionate about helping others know that they are not alone in their struggles or their triumphs. If you have a church planting story to share with other CMN women, contact her at

Set the Traps


Set the Traps

By Ashley Randleman

My five-year-old named him Garmadon. That was a few days after I discovered his droppings all over my daughter’s bed and noticed nibbled-on snacks throughout the cupboards. There was a mouse in the house- or, in this case, our camper!

Sharing the 21’ space with a rodent wasn't on the list of things I planned for our family vacation.

Before we moved to plant our church, we found ourselves (as many of you have) in a season of transition. We moved in with my father-in-law for five months and put all but our clothes, shoes, and toiletries into storage. And by “storage,” I mean stacking boxes and totes in the garage and shed on his acreage.

When it came time to move to Clinton, much didn’t make the move as mice had found their way into nearly everything. Among some of the damage was our couch and childhood books that were completely destroyed.

Garmadon was bringing back unpleasant memories. I wasn’t going to allow this rodent to destroy our camper and vacation.

I drove to the nearest Walmart, found aisle 23, and grabbed a package of mouse traps. I purchased the kind with the metal bar that you probably grew up with as well. They’re cheap and efficient and come with an unpackaged adrenaline-rush as it’s a gamble if your fingers will remain intact while setting the trap.

“Choosy moms choose JIF.” Garmadon chose it as well and much to my dismay escaped the trap that went off in the night. He made the rounds and licked off all of the peanut butter from the four traps I had set out for him instead.

He was devious and sneaky, and after a couple of days and a few more failed attempts of catching him, I returned to Walmart for reinforcements. I wasn’t playing games anymore. This was war! I was so determined on catching that stupid mouse that I purchased every single type of trap Walmart had to offer.

I diligently set and checked the traps — morning, noon, and night. My husband lovingly teased me and questioned my trap-setting capabilities. I even prayed using the Name of Jesus that I would catch him! I wanted him gone so badly.

Meanwhile, Garmadon was becoming very well fed after indulging in our peanut butter pretzels, bread, bagels, graham crackers, marshmallows, Hershey’s chocolate, and sweet potatoes. He also helped himself to the bait that the traps were set with. He was ruthless.

Eight days and ten traps later, I screamed when I found him inside a drawer, stuck to a sticky trap. The war was finally over, and I had won.

In our roles as wives, mothers, and church leaders, we need to be unrelenting about setting the traps in our hearts to catch the mice nibbling holes in our homes. We need to declare war and be diligent to exterminate “the sin that so easily entangles” using the word of God.

When pride creeps in, keep yourself in check.

Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us. Romans 12:3 (NLT)

When selfishness budges to the front of the line, escort it to the back.

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Philippians 2:3 (NLT)

When tempted to compare, remind yourself that God gave “each according to his ability”. Be found faithful with yours.

To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. Matthew 25:29 (NLT)

When jealousy gets the better of you, train yourself to rejoice with those who rejoice.

Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Romans 12:15 (NLT)

When greed salivates, thank the Lord for what you already have.

Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said,“I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.” Hebrews 13:5 (NLT)

David said it best in Psalm 139:23,24:

“Search me, God, and know my heart;

test me and know my anxious thoughts.

See if there is any offensive way in me,

and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Let’s set the traps in our hearts, check them daily, and capture those Garmadons!

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Ashley Randleman is a pastor’s wife of ten years and a mother of four (Nathan, Josiah, Lydia, and Titus). She and her husband, Jeremiah, planted River Church in February 2014. Ashley has a heart for the mothers and women in her life and church. She pours into them on a weekly basis from the comfort of her living room carpet over strong coffee and meaningful conversation.

Lost Soles

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Lost Soles

by Rebecca Burtram

In the past month or so, the church planting life has been exciting and rewarding. I have seen God at work and some of my own sweat paying off. As I was reveling in this, I was thinking through the various seasons in church planting. Some seasons aren't exactly as energizing or fruitful as we would like.

With that in mind, I decided it would be good to share what I wrote on my own blog this past winter in order to encourage others to remain faithful because there will be a season of fruitfulness.

“I once was lost, but now I’m found”-Amazing Grace

Recently, I have been lost.

I have been clinging to my faith and trying to find my sanity. I have been burnt out and weary. Judge if you like, but for every one person looking down on this feeling, there are three to five thinking, “me too,” or, “I’ve been there.”

I am doing things I love, but I am doing too many of them. I have become trapped and lost in the world of obligations, and the joy has become stress. Of course, I have joyful moments, but the default setting lately has been empty, tired, and sad.

Logically, I know why. I am overextended, a female with hormones, and it is winter (give me some vitamin D please). Because I have been able to identify the factors, I have felt it is okay to let it slide for a little longer.

Here is when I realized I let this go too far:

  • At Christmas, my sister-in-law said, “I feel like I always have to fail somewhere,” and I wanted to curl up on the floor and cry because someone else finally said the exact thing that weighs so heavily on me every day.
  • Staying in bed with a movie was starting to sound better than being with people…. always…. but I couldn’t because every break means something else falls through the cracks.
  • I read my “About the Author” section while checking the interior proof for my upcoming book, Our Broken Hallelujahs, and I realized I wasn’t the same person who wrote that section over six months ago. It says, “Rebecca is a lover of God, a wife, a mother to three, an avid runner, a chai tea drinker, and a recovering perfectionist. She has found great joy in owning her flaws and learning to rely on God and his great grace.”

I know this might not make sense to a lot of people, but the part that really got me was “avid runner.” Something I have identified as a part of who I am since elementary school was no longer true about me.

I know we are more than what we do, but runners reading this will understand that there is something about it that is part of who we are. It is our balancing mechanism. It is our restorer of sanity. It is our daily challenge and victory. It is one foot in front of the other for another day.

Yes, I am a little crazy. I have no problem admitting it. The part about “finding great joy in owning her flaws and learning to rely on God and his great grace” is still true.

You haven’t heard from me here since mid-December. I haven’t run since Thanksgiving. I let my desire to do everything right take over, and I have continually let something I love, something that is important for my emotional and physical health, sit on the back burner in order to get everything done.

A Thursday night conversation with some friends encouraged me to embrace the “Holy C.” They were saying it is okay to give only what you are capable of giving at the moment. If all you have to give is a C, it is Holy.

With that in mind, I did my Friday (and started today) differently. I played basketball with my son as soon as I got out of the car after work. I didn’t even bring my laptop into the house. I let my daughters watch way too much TV while I took a nap next to them. The house was not cleaned or even touched up. My husband got the kiddos hot and ready pizza on his way home, and we went out to dinner on a gift card from friends.

This morning. I woke up and chose to let the tasks of the day wait. I went for a very slow 3-mile run, and I wrote this post. I will do my daily devotions after I hit “publish.” Then I will set aside two hours for cleaning and bills. I will stop when the time runs out whether the laundry is folded or not. I will spend this day with my family, and I will hang out with friends tonight.

I am finding my soles and my soul.

God didn’t call me to minister to others and lose myself in the process. He has called me to find myself in Him. He is the priority, and he has commanded (yes, literally commanded) me to rest and to find my peace in him. I don’t need to do more. I need to follow him and remember that he can do miraculous things. Even if my efforts result in a human C, he can make it holy.

If you need permission to start doing that thing you loved again in order to care for your soul, for what it is worth, you have mine.

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Jonathan and Rebecca Burtram planted Redemption Church Charlottesville on Easter of 2016. Rebecca is the author of Our Broken Hallelujahs and blogs about grace and imperfection at She is passionate about helping others know that they are not alone in their struggles or their triumphs. If you have a church planting story to share with other CMN women, contact her at

The Harvest and the Promise

The Harvest and the Promise

By Lacey Hartman

"The people refused to enter the pleasant land, for they wouldn't believe His promise to care for them" (Psalm 106:24).

I can totally relate to this verse! There have been moments on my journey where my unbelief, fear, and worry overshadowed God's promises.

In the pre-launch phase, I knew He had called us, but I also knew it was going to take some crazy work to start a church and then to pastor a baby church. There was a new land He wanted us to sow seed in and harvest! I have often thought of harvest as a high feeling where you have momentum, wind in your sails, and great energy.  

Perhaps the phrase, “the harvest is ripe,” must mean that hundreds of people are going to get saved and no doubt come to our church. Ever been there?!  

When we truly think about harvest, we are reminded that harvest is hard! In harvest season you are putting in long hours, sweat equity, and facing loneliness because the workers in the field are few! Our unbelief, fear, fatigue, and worry (fill in your own woe!) can overshadow God’s promises, and, like the Israelites, we can get to a place where we forfeit the very dream God has for our lives because we don’t trust His promise!

Let’s remember His faithfulness!   

One day my husband felt God say, "You are going to be moving." This may not seem like an earth shattering statement to you, but for us, those six words changed our life!  That was all God said in the moment. Nothing more. No writing on the wall, no burning bush, just a deep assurance that we would be moving and we needed to be prepared for a leap.

We had no idea that would mean God moving us to the Little Apple – Manhattan, KS. We had heard nothing about the 65% of people unclaimed to any faith in this town. Our minds hadn't even thought to dream about connecting the unconnected and providing a safe place to find and follow Jesus in that community.

"No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him" (1 Corinthians 2:9).

Wherever you find yourself today, remind yourself of the promises of God. The same God who spoke the stars into existence knows your name and loves you! He doesn't love you for the work you are doing, but He loves you for YOU!

Whatever the world may say or not say about the role you are playing on this earth, God is PLEASED WITH YOU as you surrender to Him and love others like He loves you! The God of the universe is singing over you! He is fighting for you.

Let us look forward with joy to the days ahead and the land He is calling us to take!

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Lacey Hartman serves alongside her husband, Troy, at Rock Hills Church in Manhattan, KS. She has been a pastor’s wife and leader for 10 years.

Lacey is passionate about empowering others to take next steps. Troy and Lacey have two vibrant daughters, Jovi and Jade. When Lacey isn’t reminding her daughter’s to stop jumping on the couches, she enjoys reading, movies, and pedicures (who doesn’t?!)!

Connect with Lacey on social media, or email

Count On It

Count On It

by Jenny Wheeler

“But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it?” Luke 14:28 (NLT)

This powerful go-to verse has been with me all of my life and has truthfully driven many of my decisions. We certainly heard it a lot during our church planting interviews, evaluations, boot camp, and launch process. As a pastor’s wife for 15 years and church planter for the past six, counting the cost comes easily for me.

Let’s face it, we don’t do this for the paycheck, the fame, or because we have nothing better to do. So we learn early on to count the cost, and, before long, we’re counting it all.

Counting the losses we’ve endured.
Counting the pennies in our bank account.
Counting the people we thought were with us for the long haul but left.
Counting the hours until we can get a few moments alone to rest.
Counting the empty seats every Sunday.
Counting the times we’ve had to say no to vacation yet again.
Counting the weeks that have gone by with no new visitors.
Counting the offering, hoping we can finally get paid.
Losing count of the tears we’ve cried, feeling like our efforts are in vain.

I’m pretty good at counting, y’all – good at counting the losses and heartbreaks, and keen to count the sacrifices required to birth something from nothing.

If I count too much my spirit gets discouraged, causing me to wonder why we were crazy enough to do this church planting thing in the first place.

However, the past few weeks God has been challenging me to see this verse differently. And here’s what He whispered to my weary soul:

“Because you serve Me, you also get the joy of counting the rewards.”

Oh how patient He is with me, teaching me how to count all over again!!

Count the lives that have been changed, including my own.
Count the prayers He’s answered.
Count the lessons you’ve learned. Even the hard ones? Yes, those too.
Count the miracles you’ve seen.
Count the people who have stayed.
Count the ones who sowed for a season and got you here.
Count the losses as gains because He who called you is faithful.
Count your blessings, and don’t even try to name them one-by-one, because you’ll never be able to count that high.

When we count the cost but neglect to count the reward, we come up empty. But, if we count the many things God has done and will do because of our obedience and surrendered lives, we’ll find that it’s always worth it.

And we can always count on Him. He’s the true reward.

Insecurities, exhaustion, weariness, financial lack, those who walk away, or any other factor may attempt to count us out. But He has counted us worth the risk. He has counted us worth the cost. The glorious reward of being His will always add up to more than whatever we must give up.

You can count on it. 

Through poetry, blogging, songwriting and worship leading, Jenny Wheeler has spent nearly 40 years expressing God’s love using the power of words.

In 2010, she and husband, Chad, embarked on a journey after 15 years of youth and worship pastoring to start a new church in Charlotte, NC. REACH Church is a relational and discipleship based church where Jenny serves as Worship Director and speaks on occasion.

In addition to serving at REACH, Jenny is a full time administrative assistant and continues to write and release music as well.