Laurel Senick

In Christ: The Grafted Fig

By Laurel Senick

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“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful; I know that full well.” Psalm139:14 NIV

Figs are my favorite food especially when they are in season. I love to stand under the branches each summer and eat to my heart’s content. I said heart not stomach because eating fresh figs fills me with joy. Walking with Jesus also fills me with joy and thankfully I don’t have to wait until Jesus is in season. 

There was a brief time when my walk with Jesus lacked joy. As a relatively new Christian I believed that as a child of God I had lots of work to do but wasn’t quite sure what. I had happily surrounded myself with other believers and assumed that there was a certain mold of Christian that pleased my Father best. Innocently I studied the other believers and began comparing myself, trying to be like them. Feeling inadequate, I tried on one outfit after another. Often, I felt like a phony. Not religious enough for some and too religious for others. I didn’t seem to fit in until I learned a lesson in horticulture. 

One spring morning at our local Farmer’s Market I chatted with a fellow fig lover who sold fig saplings at his booth. He chuckled at my fig exuberance and told me about a man he knew who collected figs, more than a hundred varieties from all over the world. He had a large fig tree on his property, and he would graft the different figs he’d collected onto this one tree. The tree was planted in a large greenhouse so other varieties from warmer climates could survive. Each year when the tree produced its fruit, every branch he had attached emerged just as it would have on its own variety. Can you imagine it? More than 100 different figs all with their own unique shape, color and flavor fruiting on the same tree.

Suddenly I realized that God never intended me to be like any other child of God. The revelation exploded in my mind like a bite of fresh summer fig. God desired that I would bring all the qualities that he designed in me to His family. Grafted in through Christ’s precious blood, I am now the righteousness of God through Christ in my own unique way. 

Now as a more mature child of God, something new has fruited in my spirit. My husband, Don and I have been ministering at the Harbor, a recovery detox center. Time and again we hear the cry of a broken child of God who feels like they have disappointed God one too many times. They are afraid to ask again for forgiveness. In their hearts they hope and pray this is the last time they ask, but it might not be. Already after only the five months that Don and I have been going we have seen a handful of unfortunate souls return. 

I think it is true what Paul said in Romans 6:1, “Does this mean that now we can go ahead and sin and not worry about it? For our salvation does not depend on keeping the law, but on receiving God’s grace! Of course not!”  But I also believe any sincere effort to quit sinning is met with the grace and mercy of God. Yes, we may fail repeatedly but just as Jesus tells us to forgive our brother when he comes to apologize 70 times 7 times, is God not more faithful than us? Of course! 

I think some would read the story of the prodigal son and note that when the son returned and was perfectly restored, he never strayed again. And maybe he didn’t. But having been a believer for forty of my fifty years I can tell you that this is not true for me. Praise God he is able to rescue and restore us over and over again. It is his loving kindness that leads to repentance and his discipline that trains us in the way we should go. God always is good and for our good. Because he is a good, good Father. 

More Than Enough

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By Laurel Senick

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”  Luke 6:38 NIV

When I began tithing my life differed greatly from what it is now. I was a single, newly born-again believer who lived paycheck to paycheck. I had a small amount of debt from a credit card and from my first computer a huge Apple desktop. Does anyone have desktops anymore? Dave Ramsey, the finance guru, would have called that a dum-dum purchase. But at the time I didn’t know who he was.

I actually think it was helpful to have some debt when I started tithing. It took more faith to give, which built muscle. God had shown me he was faithful with whatever I gave him. My home, my sexuality, and my boyfriends were the major struggles in my eyes. Funny, finances came last. The last frontier of a life submitted to God? Maybe it’s that way for everyone, like the wild wild west of religion! But in my tithing journey there have been a few defining moments.

In those pre-tithe days, my car was one oil change from its grave; that is, if I were ever to get one. Did I mention I’m tough on cars? Finally, when it kicked the bucket a friend directed me to Engine Angels, a ministry born from a dad helping his daughter fix her car. Then this dad went on to fix his daughter’s friends’ cars and then their friends’ and so on. Engine Angels will let you buy a car that has been donated and inspected, at Blue Book value, paying whatever you can afford every month at no interest. Being a single female with a job is all you needed to qualify.

What a miracle my ‘87 Grand Prix, fondly nicknamed Big Blue, was to my worried soul. Driving on and off the beach with the foam straps and surfboard—this eye-sore was one of the ways my husband Don first noticed me. Who could have thought of that but God! I was learning God’s goodness by trusting him with my tithe.

The next defining moment was after Don and I were married and the company I worked for suddenly shut its doors. While the owners skipped town, most of us finished out the work week with our special needs clients knowing we wouldn’t be paid. Days before our church had just completed a money series, prompting Don and I to spruce up our budget - including a heftier tithe.

Despite the absence of my paycheck we trusted God and gave the full tithe that would have been included with my check. God says test him in this whole money thing you know. Not only did God provide an opportunity for me to pray for my co-workers during the crisis of losing our jobs, but by the end of the next week another company had adopted all our clients and us. Suddenly, I had my old job at a new company and this one provided health insurance. We cannot out give God. I wonder how often we miss out on this promise.

Recently I had a doozy of a faith test. I didn’t realize my automatic draft for tithing had stopped until I began working on a new budget and realized I hadn’t tithed in eight months. Uh oh. Suddenly I had to make a decision. There was no extra money sitting in my account. That money was G.O.N.E. I spent it even though it wasn’t my intention not to tithe. Surely someone should have let me know, right? Oh, I had excuses, lots of excuses. Trust me—it was a battle. “The money in my savings account is mine,” I whined.

I can just imagine God getting quite a chuckle watching me wrestle this out. I wonder if he thought, let’s see if she really trusts me. He must have whispered something like, “Don’t forget you’re mine, dear daughter. Have I ever forgotten the lilies of the field or the hairs on your head?” Because I remembered His faithfulness and I knew what to do. I knew all the times when it made little sense to give but somehow, I always had enough. More than enough.

“‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.’” Malachi 3:10-11 NIV


The Interview Series | The Herrings

By Laurel Senick

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Aubrey, how did you and Jonathan meet?

Jonathan and I were introduced by friends through Overflow at Port City Church. He was in the band, and I was very hesitant because I wanted to be single forever. He talked me into it, and here we are.

How did you know Jonathan was the one?

I knew Jonathan was the one because I knew if I got married it would be to someone named Samuel. He told me after dinner on our first date that his name was actually Samuel, and that was pretty much that.

Is there a place you’ve always wanted to travel?

We both have a desire to visit New Zealand next I think. Aubrey has traveled to Germany and England, which were high on her list, and she would love to go back, but it’s always nice to go somewhere together that neither of you have seen before.

In what unexpected ways has Harrison your fourteen-month-old son changed your life?

Aubrey: I’m a completely different parent than I thought I would be. I’m learning a lot about discipline and responding to Harrison by looking at the way God corrects us and comforts us. He’s gentle and responsive, and that’s the sort of mom I want to be. God doesn’t necessarily punish us for our mistakes. He shows us what’s right and redirects us.

Jonathan: As cliché as this sounds, I have a new understanding of unconditional love. You always hear people say that when they have their own kid, but it’s really true.

Was there a dramatic beginning in your life with Christ?

We were both raised in the church, and while we have had our ups and downs, Jesus has always been there as a constant.

Your small group recently did a spiritual gift study. Can you share a little about your Holy Spirit gifts?

Aubrey: My spiritual gift was giving. It made sense when the bible study explained this gift brings the ability to see through money schemes, and that someone with this gift is good with budgeting. I also have the desire to help others financially, whether it be through a gift or through teaching.

Jonathan: My spiritual gifts were prophecy and teaching. I enjoy learning the ins and outs of things on a theological and philosophical level and sharing that information with others. Also, any practical skills or hobbies that I find entertaining, I also love to share that with people (If they are willing to listen).

You’ve brought Financial Peace to Live Oak. In what ways do you see this program helping people and glorifying God?

Living in debt is stressful and not the way God intended it. This program can help us all move away from being slaves to our money and teach us to live with financial freedom. Having a plan seems like it will hold you back, but it has been the thing that has always made us feel more secure in actually spending our money, because we know we have planned for every expense, so it won’t throw something else off.  

What do you believe about tithing and how has it impacted your lives?

We strongly believe that tithing is an exercise for us to remember God gives us what we need and cares that we are taken care of. He tells us to remember the lilies of the field and that they are clothed better than Solomon in his temple. We are saying, “I know this isn’t mine and I don’t need it.” Knowing that gives you the ultimate sense of freedom from anxiety with finances.

How can Live Oak family pray for your family?

Please pray for our future. We each have new jobs which are relocating us to Raleigh.

- We will miss this sweet family that is moving to Raleigh. Please hug and kiss them good bye when you see them. Laurel Senick


From The Senicks, With Love

The following is the first installment in a series of blogs, each written by a different member of our Live Oak Church family.

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Don and Laurel Senick

 

Don, my husband, is a maintenance man. I work in mental health. Both jobs can be exciting in entirely different ways. Picture going to battle with a 7-year-old who's swearing like a sailor, and a mucked-up toilet. You get the picture. Not glamorous, but our jobs provide us a nice life.

Don didn't have to work the day after Christmas. Since I wasn’t as lucky, he planned dinner. I know most of you know by now that the man can cook, so here’s the menu. For starters: a ginger-soy tuna tartare with sesame rice crackers, followed by miso soup (my fav), and finally chicken fried rice done right, in a wok.

Don worked most of the day clearing out the garden. Tasked with the grocery list, (my small contribution to the meal), I picked up the needed items including a stop at the local fish market. By the time I arrived home a roaring fire overflowed out of the firepit. The pit disappeared beneath the garden debris. As I walked out he shoveled another load on top.

Flames licked the tree limbs above as Fiona, our pup, raced up with her toy donut for me to throw. I immediately voiced my concern for Fiona, afraid she’d catch a spark from the out-of-control fire. God knows she’s so fast, she’d be toast before we could catch her.

But Don said, “It’s fine.” And with a nonchalant shrug, he continued to toss even more dead twigs and leaves with glee into the five-alarm fire.

I couldn’t watch. A little annoyed, I walked away, doubting his wisdom. It happens you know, me doubting him. More frequently than I like to admit. To make it worse, it’s not like I can hide it. My feelings wear on me like an ugly Christmas sweater, obvious and unbecoming.

Later, as the fire and my annoyance died back, Don started the appetizer. He chopped scallions, ginger and garlic. He mixed the marinade as I watched, but as he sliced into the tuna he made a face – it was borderline. We both sniffed it a few times and determined we probably wouldn’t die. And since it was all we had, he used it. Luckily, it turned out delicious.

After the yummy appetizer I wandered out by the now more reasonable fire. Fiona joined me as Don worked his mojo in the kitchen. Forever obsessed, Fiona brought over her donut. As I threw the toy over and over, I listened to a sermon online. When the flickering amber light dimmed I picked up the pitch fork. Shoveling another pile of debris into the fire, the dry limbs and leaves crackled and hissed.

As if drawn by the fire, Fiona stood in the narrow space between my chair and the pit, her tail waving as if fanning the fire. I quickly threw the donut. As I did, the preacher said something that piqued my interest. He said he felt like God challenged him to be “joyfully inconvenienced.”

What was that? I’ve been joyful, and I’ve been inconvenienced, but never the two together.

Usually when I’m inconvenienced I look annoyed. Even if I say I’m fine, anyone with two eyes would know different. Is it possible to have joy while being inconvenienced? I hardly can muster up patience. It would have to be a God thing. Maybe a New Year’s resolution…

Just as I was pondering this, the sliding back door opened, and Don put his Bluetooth speaker- the one I bought him a few Christmases ago- on the deck. He stepped back inside and closed the door. My ears perked up when I recognized the song by Ed Sheeran. The lyrics rolled off my tongue as the song played, “Baby, we’ve found love right where we are.”

This sweet gesture provoked tears to my eyes. Liquid gratitude rolled down my cheeks for this husband of mine. My heart spilled over like Don’s fire had earlier. I thanked the God of Love for giving me Don. I am so blessed. Blessed by God. Blessed with a wonderful husband who I know is blessed by our Church. By his male friends, brothers in Christ, Brian, Hunter, Richard and others. They give him the courage to be vulnerable and accept love, God’s love, my love and their love. I am blessed by Live Oak Church more and more each day. It is our family where we can make mistakes and learn to love God’s way together.

I don’t know if it’s possible this year to be joyfully inconvenienced, but I believe thankfulness may be the key. And I know with God’s help and the love and truth from my brothers and sisters in Christ I might just make some strides.

Prayer requests for the Senick family:

  1. We take our yearly PR trip end of Jan. Please pray for opportunities to share the love of Christ, especially in the wake of Hurricane Maria. (We did hear most of Rincon just got power!)

  2. Just got word back from my editor about my surf novel. He gave it a thumbs-up and feels it’s publishable, after I work a few kinks out that he (for a large sum of money) pointed out. Prayer for supernatural stamina and success.