Happenings in Austin


Highlights from April

As promised, here’s the next installment of our recent adventures.

The last we posted, we had not yet listed the house but were continuing to work on home projects and ongoing SWR related business in hopes of relocating at some point during the summer.  As for the house, our goal was to have it on the market by end of April in order to meet the prime selling season.  However, on a day trip to Round Top, Texas in early April, CJ was discussing the sale of the house with our friend, Kennette, and she mentioned how much she loved the community.  By the end of their girl’s day, she let CJ know that she would be very interested in looking at the house despite the fact that we still had 101 projects to complete.  When she came by for the walk through, Kennette was amazed by the fact that the floor plan was the exact floor plan of a home that she lived in when her daughter, Bentlee, was small.  What a surreal “Diosidence” (a term coined by our Spanish speaking friends in the Dominican Republic referring to a Godly non-coincidence).  Needless to say, she fell in love with it immediately!  This was a dream come true…and yes, our God is really THAT good!  But here’s the rest of the story…..

In preliminary conversations around the sale price, we discovered that what our friend was hoping to pay was a good bit less than what we expected to list the house for.  However, we also learned that she would not be retaining a realtor (the seller typically pays for the buyer realtor’s commission) so that difference certainly helped fill the gap.  After much prayer and deliberation, I was still unsure as to what we should do given what I expected we would need in order to relocate.  Then CJ made a comment that made me see things in a completely new way.  She mentioned what a blessing our home had been to her and our daughter, Alli, when she was a single mom. She also shared that she would love for our home to be a blessing to another single mom and her daughter. I sensed that was a sign that God was leading us to sell our house to our friend.

We looked at the numbers and figured that we could sell the house at a price very close to our friend’s pre-approved amount. We figured that since she wasn’t going to use a realtor that we could save at least 3 percent, and transfer that savings to our friend by reducing our asking price. We discussed this proposal with our realtor, and he agreed as long as we did all the negotiating without him, to avoid a conflict of interest. Our realtor just handled the paper processing that would be required of the buyer’s realtor. Once our friend and we agreed to a price, we met with our realtor to sign the contract. God’s hands were all over each step of this process. We are so thankful that he worked it out that we did not have to go through the difficulty in keeping the house show ready with five animals living in it while showing it.

We were able to set the closing June 1st; however, that would have left us very little time to find a house in Salida.  Our friend said that she couldn’t get out of her current lease until July 1st, so we worked it into the contract that we would lease the house back to her for the month of June. This was clearly another Diosidence! It worked out that we would have two months to find a house in Colorado, and that our friend would have income to cover her mortgage for the month she wouldn’t be in the house. GOD is Great!

In between doing all the house stuff, I was able to expand the SWR website to make it more like an actual website not just a blog. The site now includes the following pages: Home; About Us (Mission, Statement of Faith, History, and Board of Directors); Adventures; Recent Posts; Contact Us; and Donate. CJ was also able to help me finalize the content that was uploaded to the website. Most of the pages are now self-explanatory, but the Adventures page may not be as clear. The Adventures page describes the various types of trips that SWR will offer, the possible trip duration, and the level of SWR involvement in a particular trip. So if you get a chance, check out the site. We would love to get your feedback on the site.

So, that’s our April adventures following God’s path.

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A Long Time Coming

I guess I should start by apologizing for the lapse in time since the last posting.  CJ and I were so busy trying to get things in order for the big move that we didn’t have a lot of extra time for blogging.  However, we’re hoping to get completely caught up in the next couple weeks and promise to be more diligent in updating on a more regular basis in the future!!  Not only do we want to keep you guys in the loop, but we’ve found that in our updates, we are continually reminded of God’s goodness and sovereignty.  We’re still amazed to see how He’s been working in and through us and we’re so glad you’re along with us for this journey.

Highlights from March

So we continued to work on getting the house ready to sell, completing projects both inside and out.  But despite the immensity of that task, it did not completely distract us from our work on SWR.  God, through the unlikeliest of sources, connected us to the leaders of two existing Christian retreats.  A friend of ours, Bridget, happens to work at a youth camp along Lake Travis in Lago Vista, got us introduced to Don Barr, the President and Program Director of Candlelight Ranch. I spent some time with Don discussing the camps’ property arrangement, the phasing of their infrastructure and general operations. It’s always nice to hear others’ stories and to see how God has worked in their lives!  A few days later we got a call from our friend, Judith, who was living in Washington at the time.  In talking to a friend of a friend, she mentioned SWR.  The gentleman that she was in conversation with mentioned that he had a friend that runs a Christian retreat in Twin Lakes, Colorado, which is be about 45 minutes to an hour north of the area in which we expect SWR will be located.  Funny thing is, she gave us his phone number and it turns out that he actually lives in Austin during the off-months….how crazy is that?  So I called Jerry James, the president of Majestic Mountain Ministries and spent the time discussing our ideas about SWR as well as how they handle their operations and property / infrastructure arrangement.  Although there was a similar vision, it turns out that their facility only operates from May to September (it’s not located near a ski resort or other winter sport area) and is focused more towards church staff retreats.  Jerry invited us to visit their retreat and we look forward to that at some point in the near future.  After all, the more we get the feel for other retreats and how they do things, the better educated we will be on how to manage SWR.  So in the end, both conversations were very informative and totally God ordained. We just love the way He connects us all!!

In March, we also continued to work on the 501(c)3 application, a very dry and tedious job indeed!  I was able to develop the preliminary budget forecast and retreat phasing spreadsheets, adding some great search features with CJ’s excel expertise.  CJ and I also refined the retreat’s mission statement / goals as well as creating the SWR faith statement, which illustrates the retreat’s core spiritual beliefs. And finally, we were able to sell our Suzuki (Lil’ Blue), so we were back down to two vehicles and one less worry on our plate.

So that’s pretty much March in a nutshell.  As always, we find ourselves continually amazed by God.  One of the major insights that He’s recently given us is the importance of putting ourselves out there and networking.  God has laid this vision on our hearts, but it’s definitely not the Lance and CJ show and we sure don’t have a lot of answers.  We definitely feel that He’s calling us to continue to reach out, bring others into this and depend on Him for all the answers.  We can’t wait to see where He leads us next.  This is very much a God thing and He will get all the glory! We will be posting more updates for the months of April – June through out the next couple weeks.

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It’s Official!

As we left Colorado, both CJ and I felt a sense of sadness. Not that we won’t miss our friends and family in Texas, but we both feel such a sense of belonging and peace when we’re in Colorado. We believe this feeling is a reassurance that we’re walking the path God has for us…a path that’s leading us into the wilderness.  However, before we can make this transition, there’s still a lot to be done here in Austin.  This is a challenge that we eagerly face.

So a lot has happened since we’ve been back. CJ and I have been working diligently on getting our life and belongings prepared for the move and I’ve been working on the legalities of incorporating in Colorado and becoming a 501(c)3 nonprofit.

Prep for Move

There are quite a few logistics that need to be taken care of before we can physically relocate to Colorado, including selling the house, cars, etc.  Before we left on our trip, we bought an all-wheel drive Subaru Outback, which we believe must be the state car of Colorado based on the number of Outbacks we saw on the road while there.  But now we’re a little car heavy.  We plan on selling both of our other vehicles, since neither will drive well in the snow, and head to Colorado as a one car family.  So if you know of anyone that’s in the market for a little Suzuki Reno or rear-wheel-drive Xterra, let us know.

As for the house, we plan to put it in on the market near the end of April.  Working towards that goal, the weekend after our return we invited our community to help us in numerous construction projects around the house.  About 15 of our friends showed up to help us in our efforts.  Although we originally planned for both inside and outside projects, the weather kept us inside for most of the day.  But even so, due to the hard work of our friends, we made tremendous progress.  We are truly blessed to be a part of such a servant hearted community!  We even had the pleasure of having our sweet friend Katsy with us, as she travelled all the way from New Orleans to be a part of our work weekend.

New Tile Floor and Baseboards

Several years ago we had wood floors installed throughout the house.  In order to save money, we decided to do the baseboards ourselves.  However, it was now 3 years later and we still didn’t have all the baseboards installed.  But with our energetic work crew, we got most of our baseboards installed and painted on saturday.  And that’s not all….our blessings come not only in the shape of enthisiastic and loving friends, but also in very skilled friends.  With Eric’s help, we were also able to install tile in both bathrooms!  What an accomplishment!!  We will definitely miss this community, but we recognize that separation is not the end of friendship.  Our friends not only have an open invitation to our place in Colorado, I really think CJ is planning to start a relocation program.  She would be on cloud 9 if everyone just picked up and came with us.

After the big workday, CJ and I spent the next week finishing the baseboard and tiling projects.  And then the weather cleared, with Saturday dawning bright and beautiful, allowing us to tackle a few of the outside projects.  A couple of our friends came out to help and we were able to complete a few of the smaller tasks as well as making a big dent in two of the larger ones.  One step closer to being ready for market, woohoo!  Our last big project is improving the front curb appeal. This will include replacing most of the front shrubs, creating a large planting bed around our big oak tree, and installing new sod in the front yard. Inside we only have a few small projects left to complete.

As for the cars, I spent quite a bit of time detailing our little blue car in order to get it posted for sale. If nothing else, this process has reminded me how much I dislike selling things on Craigslist.  I’m having to deal with so many scams and people trying to negotiate online before even seeing the car, which is only the start. What happened to the old fashion way of negotiating….come take it for a test drive and then talk to the seller?  ‘Lil blue car has been a good car, but it has some blemishes (hail damage from before we owned it).  This has been a huge deterrent for many people.  I know this sounds odd, but I find myself feeling bad for the car.  It reminds me of how the world often judges people based only on their external appearance with no regard for what’s on the inside.  Maybe this is just one more lesson God is teaching me through this whole process.  I may not understand it all, but I feel sure that God is molding me more each day.


As for the majority of our time, CJ has been spending her days building pricing models for Dell while I continue to work on a number of important documents necessary for the establishment of Sonshine Wilderness Retreat.  Although I continue to network, the majority of my time has been spent deep in legal documents and tax language.  This has definitely been a learning experience, but I won’t bore you with all the very dry details.

Incorporation Form

On a positive note, I was able to submit all the legal documents needed to incorporate in Colorado. So we are are now a legal nonprofit corporation in Colorado, can I hear an AMEN?!  So now that’s done, I’m working on the 501(c)3 application to become an official religious nonprofit organization in the eyes of the IRS. This type of organization doesn’t have to pay taxes and the donations are tax deductible. The application is extensive and very complicated, requiring a number of large items before the final submission. The requirements include an Employer Identification Number (EIN), a faith statement, a board of directors, bylaws, and a phasing  and financial plan, just to name a few. So far I’ve  mailed out the form for the EIN and CJ and I have started drafting the faith statement and bylaws.  We’ve also prayed about and invited several people to be on the Board.  And if that’s not enough, I’ve also started our phasing and financial plans, although these will take a while.  Not to mention, most of these documents will require Board approval before the application is submitted.  Fascinating, isn’t it?  All this is definitely guarenteed to put you to sleep!!

Another item on our agenda is an idea that we brought home from our trip, something that our new friend Bruce suggested….the possibly of SWR partnering with an existing organization. He thought it would be worth investigating becoming a part of an organization that currently exists but doesn’t do what SWR proposes.  An example of such an organization would be a Christian dude ranch, which focuses primarily on ranch activities centered around horses and not on wilderness treks and other outdoor adventures. We are lifting this up to God and allowing Him to work on our hearts in this as both CJ and I seem to be struggling with letting go of some of the control.  It’s not that we feel the need to be calling all the shots, but we seem to have an idea in our heads of what this all will look like and it’s been difficult giving this up.  But in the end, this is God’s plan, not ours, and we want nothing more than to be walking in His will. Our initial response to the idea was that the organization would need to have a similar belief structure / approach to its ministry.  We would also like the two operations to be autonomous.  However, if this is not God’s plan, we pray that He open our eyes and humble us on this front. We continue to pray and I’ve also been active in doing research on the existing Dude Ranches in the area. The only one that exists in the area we’re looking at does not include their faith statement on their website.  Concerning but definitely not a closed door.  This is were we can use prayer, to understand if this is the direction God is leading us in the development of the retreat.

Day of Rest

With all the busyness, CJ and I really needed a day of rest.  After an awesome sermon on fasting Sunday morning, we decided to take the dogs for a walk at a leash-free trail in Central Austin. Both of us were desperately in need of some time in nature, away from all the activity.  We can very easily get caught up in the “Doing” that we forget to “Be” with God and each other.  Our hike on Sunday allowed us some time to go deep, discussing where our hearts are and where can encourage/support and pray for each other.  We also spent time talking about our highs and lows of the week and found ourselves refocusing on one of the main reasons we’re taking this step in the first place.  And of course, the dogs were in hog heaven….or is that dog heaven?!!

In any case, wishing you all a similar experience some time soon.

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Adventure to Salida….

We continue to plug away on the development of the retreat as we sit here in Austin.  However, CJ and I will be taking a big step in the upcoming weeks as we head to the Salida region to make local connections and explore possible sites.

We already have an appointment with a county representative to hash out the development process and zoning requirements.  We’re also really excited to be meeting with a local builder/realtor that is a relative of a Gateway pastor. He’s worked with the youth camp, YoungLife (that is located near Buena Vista), for many years. We’re looking forward to hearing his perspective on camp life, gaining insight about operational issues, discussing building ideas, and developing a new friendship with a local brother.

But this isn’t just a business trip…once we move to the Salida area, we want to plug into a community pretty quickly.   We’ve been doing research on local churches and plan to visit River Valley Community Fellowship for Sunday service.  We’ve already gotten great feedback, so pretty excited about checking out this faith community!!  Also, in our property search,  we would like to be located near Monarch Ski Resort to provide winter retreat opportunities. Having said that, only seems right to spend some time exploring that area….aka, spending a day on the board!

This journey has been one step in faith after another, some big…some small.  But with each step taken, God has shown His direction  without fail.   It’s been such a wonderful experience for us to see up close God’s hand move in such amazing ways. We’ve been praying for people to come forth to walk with us in this journey.  We are fully believing that “if we build it, they will come” ….the trickle has started, we await the flood!

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Status of our effort as of early January

We have been working on what we need to incorporate in Colorado, and are currently waiting to hear if we need a physical Colorado address before we can incorporate. We also completed draft by-laws for the organization. Now we are working on a strategic plan which we will need to include in the federal 501(c)3 application, as well as drafting rough concepts of the envisioned buildings. We will soon be approaching individuals to be on the Board of Directors.

There is still a lot to do before we can start the initial phase of the ministry. We will need outside help in order to complete many of the tasks. The following tasks are where we currently need volunteer help:

– Logo/Branding: graphic artist (work with marketing person)
– Real Estate: Realtor in Colorado
– Marketing: Help with marketing strategy
– Web Designer: Create website
– Legal Help: Lawyer to review legal documents
– Architect: Review concepts and help with rough capital and construction cost estimate (required by Federal application)
– Site Engineer – To assist in evaluating a potential property
– Administrative – To assist in the paperwork necessary for the federal application.

There will be more opportunities to help, but right now this is all I can think of. We ask that you pray on these opportunities to see if your desire, gift set and time are a good match. Or if you know of someone else that may be a good fit, please let us know. CJ and I have been praying for the right people to join us on this journey.

Categories: Austin | 2 Comments

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