We met in a strip mall.
That is the short, uninteresting version of how Ryan came to be my husband. When Landon was four months old, I described it to him like this:
Once upon a time I was 19-years old, all alone in Arizona missing the ocean, and trying to earn a degree. I was getting to know Jesus through a Bible study at ASU and decided I needed to find a place to go to church. I remember all too well sitting in the parking lot of the Granada Plaza strip mall in Chandler, afraid to go into the little church in the corner of the plaza. “What kind of church meets in a strip mall?”
Somehow I summoned the courage make my way through the front doors. I remember being the youngest one there, save a few children and teenagers, and how that boded well for me once the pastor and his wife discovered I was a starving college student in need of a free lunch. I knew instinctively during lunch that I needed to stick around and allow myself to be loved by Pastor Duane, Sheri, and the others.
Fast forward a year and half. By this time I had made my way into the leadership of the church and was feeling a sense of belonging, usefulness, and confidence in my faith. I had gotten to know the associate pastor, Brad, and his family pretty well and looked forward to learning new things from them. Then one day I received a letter telling me Brad and his family were moving back to Minnesota. Upset and confused, I wondered how their leaving could possibly be a good thing, and all God said was, “Just wait…you’ll see.”
A few months later a new associate pastor arrived. His name was Ryan and he came recommended to the church by Brad, as the two knew each other from Minnesota where Ryan grew up. Slightly unkempt and younger than the average bear, Ryan was welcomed gradually (and hopefully) by the growing church. Weeks later, Hope finished building a new facility and your daddy and I spent countless hours getting it ready for occupancy. In the process we developed a friendship and began dating.
Eight months later we were engaged, and nine months after that Brad came back to marry us in the very building that helped bring us together. Much counsel and support came from the church during our engagement, and for that we owe our family at Hope a debt we’ll never be able to repay…
I often tell people that Hope Covenant Church was the house that built us, and I shudder at the thought of what might have been had I not summoned the courage to give the little strip mall church a chance.
So what does this all have to do with a Target gift registry?
Two months ago, while searching quite unsuccessfully for a school, movie theater, or community center for Advance Church to begin meeting in this fall, Ryan sent me a text:
“I think I found our space.”
A couple weeks later, he walked our family into an eerily familiar corner unit of a Las Vegas strip mall, looked at me and said, “It looks like Granada Plaza. It even smells like Hope, doesn’t it?” I nodded and walked through the space’s rooms and hallways (which were last used by some other church) with a noticeable lump in my throat. I could not believe my eyes (and nose). It was like being in a time warp, and all I could do was shake my head and think, “Clever, God. Real clever. Way to lead us back to where we started. And, oh, by the way…how do you expect us to pay for this?”
After a long negotiation process with a broker and the strip mall’s owner, Advance Church is about a week away from renovating the space that’s located at Flamingo and Durango. We are up to our eyeballs in carpet swatches, paint samples and, yes, a gift registry. Our first preview service is on September 25th, and, like a new bride and groom walking into their first home together, we own little more than a desk and a bookshelf. As of right now, our guests will have to sit on the floor.
So here’s the thing: We’d love for you to parter with Advance by sending us some goodies from Target. And we’d love for you to rope your friends and family into it, too. For real. We have a Club Wedd registry started (apparently Ryan and I are getting married again on September 25th), and we need hope you can buy something and have it shipped to us. Click on the image below to get to Target’s registry area. Once you are there, click “Club Wedd” and type in Kristen Lunceford:
We don’t care if you buy us hand soap or a diaper changing table. Everything on our list is significant (but especially the toilet wands!), which gives you an opportunity to have a significant impact on helping us open this building. The reality is that come September 25th there is bound to be a terrified college student or a single mom or young family or a lonely widower sitting in the parking lot wondering what kind of church meets in a strip mall. And when they finally summon the courage to make their way to our front door, we want them to feel like a VIP, like a invited guests who will one day say to Advance what I said to Hope as we bid them farewell:
Thank you for drawing us near to Christ, for embracing us through a menagerie of life changes, and for offering us your grace and blessing as we move forward into what He has for us next.
If you have any questions about the registry, please get in touch with me, Kristen Lindstedt, or Sara Grassel. If there are items on the registry that you already own (or can pick up second hand somewhere for cheaper) and would like to donate, that is totally cool by us. Just let us know. Also, Ryan and our worship pastor, Jordan, will be heading to the Tempe, Arizona IKEA in about a week, so holler in my direction if you’d like to hook them up with a gift card.
Thank you in “Advance” for your help!
p.s. Target’s website is buggy brand new, so bear with any error messages you encounter and know that it’s them, not you. 🙂