Where do I begin?
If you follow my life and family on Facebook, then you have heard the news of Michael’s passing. If you are following this blog only, then this may be a today-shock, and for that, I am so sorry. Mike spent 11 days in the hospital (over a week of that in the I.C.U.), and we have begun to live an unexpected new way of life since he left this earth on December 2nd, 2015 at 5:11 a.m.
To say the kids and I are devastated over this loss is not even a strong enough word. However, as I said in a post the other day, I find that we are walking dichotomies (encompassing complete opposites simultaneously). Let me give some examples:
* In one breath, I rejoice in having been loved so completely by the most attentive, intentional man I’ve ever known to walk the earth; in the next, I wail and weep that his everything has been physically removed from my side.
* I want to walk into the hospital and hug every doctor, nurse, and attendee with arms of forgiveness; yet I want to file a suit that will prevent someone else from EVER experiencing the specific mistakes and mishandlings that I know were present in our 11 days in the hospital, causing a man with “great vitals and negative test results” to die right in front of my eyes.
* I want to continue loving every person with need in the ways my husband loved; however, I also want to build a fort around my heart while I settle the feelings that others sucked the life out of him (which I know is totally NOT the case, and only a bizarre flippant emotion while I grieve).
* I would love to respond with gratitude and grace to every church leader who hurt my husband while he was living, who now is reaching out to love our family; at the same time, I want to punch them in the face for needing death to enter the story before softening a heart or bending a knee to invite those healing conversations.
* I stand completely amazed by the literal HUNDREDS (perhaps thousands) of people impacted by my husband’s humble life; yet, I crumble inside remembering the late-night conversations in which he wondered if anyone—anyone—was caring at all about the ministry he was living so faithfully to bring to this world around him.
So, yeah. This blog will be unfiltered. I don’t have time to “pretty” it up. I’m just going to type, and express. Why? We don’t know how much time we have. And right now, my kids and I are left to live out our time without the most incredible man we’ve ever known, and the three of us know better what he lived for and believed in, stood for and cared about, than anyone else on the planet!
Because our lives and ministry passions were intertwined from the day we first met (I remember seeing him from a distance, always walking with a teen-aged entourage, thinking to myself, “Now THAT guy must have something special about him. Everyone wants to be next to his calm. I need to get to know him and see what he’s all about!”), I cannot live the remainder of my days without completing all of the things the Lord began in us. I cannot. It wouldn’t be LIFE.
Now, to think about walking this calling without Mike is terrifying, but therein lies ANOTHER dichotomy. It also provides peace, and more peace than if I think about running away with my kids to “be normal.”
I have had several categories of thought to blog about, but let me just keep this one in the physical need category — needs referring to family needs and ministry needs — because so many friends have been asking to know specifics. I’ll do my best to make sense of where we stand.
It amazes me what some people feel permission to ask, actually. But hey—I’m being transparent, so I’m not entirely surprised. I’ve been asked (by family members as well as nearly complete strangers), “Did Mike have any money market accounts?” (and similar questions about life insurance and such).
Well, no. WE USED TO, but we JOINTLY decided to cash everything in to start this ministry together. So, when my brother, brother-in-law, and friend launched the donate link
the day after Mike’s passing, I was so grateful, and to everyone who has been giving, I cannot thank you enough! Some have given $1, and some have given $1000, and there have been amounts everywhere in between. That will help our family get through this current transition. Thank you soooooooo much!!!
Mike developed a percentage-based budget for the ministry, which was brilliant. The thing with Mike that I want EVERYONE to know is that when the “Cre8-a-wish” portion of the budget was maxxed out (always), he still gave when God led him to give to those in need (and we used our family monies), BUT (and please hear me)… MIKE WAS NOT A SUCKER. He ALWAYS prayed and only gave if the Lord was in it. And with EVERY SINGLE PERSON (even if he suspected that they were seeking a “handout” and may not actually progress in life), I heard him say, “This is not a gift; this is an investment. We are investing in your future because you can be more. God accepts you as you are today, but He loves you too much for you to stay there. This is an investment into who you are becoming.” (Or several variations of that sentiment.)
Because I believe Scripture to be TRUTH, and because I believe that God is not a liar and will not go against His own Word, I KNOW that Luke 6:38 happens:
“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 back to you.” ~Luke 6:38 HCSB
I have hit the PAUSE button for a while around here. To those whom Mike has invested, I recommend reading all of Luke 6. The good fruit will reveal out of that investment, and there is nothing I hope to see more evidenced in and through your life.
When I hear, however, that a person Mike gave so much time and money to is handling his absence by getting drunk every night in bars with friends, I grieve a greater loss, and anger wells up in all of my insides. If there is ANYONE who “deserves” (for lack of a better thought) to be doing that, ummmm…. it would be ME. And I will not. And because I am choosing to live and to RISE, I can only hope that those who have been blessed by the Lord through my husband will choose to rise as well. Now, do I have grace while people process? Sure. But, come on, friends. Mike is a human man. He is absent in the body, but the supernatural presence of the God he served is still very much alive and active, and THAT is what we all receive for help anyway. It was never Mike who brought your life-change to begin with. So remember that.
Are you still with me? Or have I made everyone mad enough to quit reading?
If you are still reading, I will continue…
When I say that I have hit the PAUSE button, let me explain what that means:
This ministry is being re-evaluated.
Hear this: Michael Shroyer NEVER started a church. (That’s what only Jesus did, actually.)
We fought against using the word “church” for quite some time, until people begged for it saying, “It’s just an easier word to use when explaining what this is to our friends.”
To which Mike finally said, “We will include the word ‘church’ along with the word ‘Cre8’, as long as everyone knows that ‘church’ is an identity and to ‘cre8 church’ is a VERB—not a place, an event, or a location. We are to BE the Body of Christ in our community, and as we gather, it is only to fuel that activity that needs to be happening throughout the entire rest of the week, in and out of every home. Your ‘church’ is first and foremost your family. YOU are to lead one another with love. In realizing that the ‘church’ is your family, then losing members is non-negotiable, and walking away is not an option.”
So, what IS Cre8? Well, Wide Open Ministries is a not-for-profit organization and Michael Shroyer was the Director. The dreams here for the community (and that includes collections of people who ATTEND OTHER CHURCHES, by the way), are just that: dreams for the community. This ministry was INTENTIONALLY not established as a church, and Mike would say to people, “If you want to call me ‘Pastor’ that’s fine; just know that I will call YOU ‘Pastor’ too. We are to nourish one another in the Lord, and as Jesus Himself said, ‘Don’t let anyone call you rabbi; there is one Rabbi…”
“But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.” ~Matthew 23:8 KJV
The other day, I walked the property.
THERE IS NO WHERE ELSE I WANT TO BE. But in order to be here, and in order to continue serving this community dream to completion, a whole lot of money will have to fall from the sky. It’s rather terrifying, actually. As I walked, Mike is EVERYWHERE here. All of our conversations, dreams, plans, restoration ideas… They are all here.
Peculiar side note (and words and phrases I never thought I’d be using):
We weren’t sure what to do with Mike’s body, so he was cremated and I had him put into two boxes. He lived his entire life in Springfield, OH — even commuted from home to college — until he met me and traveled the world. Springfield’s nickname is “Champion City” and when I made that realization, it was an ah-ha that YES, Mike, my Champion, needs to be there, perhaps in a fishing area that was special to his father. But, I want him with me, too! (I know, I told you this was peculiar and weird.) To think about having him HERE, on this land, with this dream becoming a reality, feels so right. To take him in box with us should the kids and I leave this land and go somewhere else… just… seems… not right.
My brother asked me, “Ami, wouldn’t it be better to start with clean land and build from scratch—from the ground up—should you choose to continue this ministry?”
I thought about it, but said, “Our draw here was that this land was used for such wrong in the past (long stories that put the wiles in the word Wiley), and to renovate and restore these buildings, gardens, and heal this land IS exactly the point. The renewal physically was always supposed to be taking place alongside the spiritual renewing and rebuilding of the lives of families around us. A physical manifestation of the spiritual and relational healing.”
So, it still seems right to me to see this home renovated, to see a broken down doberman kennel become One Life Studio, to see the walking trails, the gardens, the artist studios, and the Stage 3 theater in the back where cars were once repaired and cows came in from the cold.
For two years now, Mike has said three phrases to me that MADE NO SENSE… until now. I am not happy with the way they now make sense, but they do, nonetheless, and God will handle my heart.
1) “Ami, someday, there will be so much activity all around this place, and I will be the least seen person here.”
Now, I thought that meant that he’d be an old man, giving someone directions, or a cup of water. Not this.
2) “Ami, you need to be praying earnestly. I don’t even know what this means, but you are being raised up to do more that I need to back away from.”
Me: “Well, tell me what to do and I’ll do it.”
Mike: “I don’t know; I just know I’m praying for you, and you need to be too. We’ll know when the time comes. Just promise you’ll prepare with prayer.”
Ugh… here we are.
3) “Ami, I have all of the fundraising material put together, but it just doesn’t seem right. I keep hearing that YOU are the one to raise the money, and it’s like I am in the way. It’s going to come through you.”
Me: “Tell me what to do, and I’ll do it! I don’t know what to do.”
Mike: “I don’t know; I’m just telling you what I hear when I pray.”
And, here we are.
I really need everyone’s help!
There is nothing I want more than to see these things through. It will be a LONG, in fact a LIFE-LONG process. And it may be messy along the way, in fact, I can promise that—that’s one thing I know!
Here’s what I am committed to:
1) Huddling with my kids while the PAUSE button is pressed. Our hearts need each other, and healing, and prayer, and conversations, and expression, and time.
2) Writing Mike’s words and stories for people to read who would care to read them.
3) For 3 months now, Mike and I have been preparing an idea of MINE called “Passages.” New music, but more than that. It is supposed to provide devotions and words, scripture passages, and thoughts to be used along with the holistic health modalities and essential oils, prayer, and more… in the Journey to Wholeness that coincide with the classes I just launched. It’s SO STRANGE. The example that I used 3 months ago was GRIEF. I told Mike, “Grief is not meant to be a final destination. It is a passage. People go THROUGH it to the other side of being made whole again. FEAR is not meant to be a final destination; it is a passage. People need to learn to pass THOUGH it to the other side…”
Well, here we are. Me and my grief. GOOD GRIEF!?! And now my brother Jeff Sandstrom, Cheryl Rogers (amazing, she is!), and I are planning to embark on this project’s beginning after the holidays.
4) If this property purchase is possible, then we will stay here, and I will become the biggest cheerleader for the community. As leaders arise with ideas ***that fit within the original vision only*** then I will support and see that a team can make happen the things that this community needs for Wholeness and Spiritual Growth (it will ALWAYS point back to your own home, however.)
One of Mike’s BIG THINGS with volunteerism was this: “I will not give you opportunities to serve here if you are not first serving your family. When your own family is getting your service, first and foremost, THEN we will open the avenues for your service here.”).
I suppose I just threw a ton at you, and I should stop now at this seemingly good stopping point…
Or is it a STARTING POINT?
Please help me decide.
When the donate buttons
were launched, there is one for our family that is not tax-deductible. But if you read closely to the end, you will see that there is a ministry link as well, and this particular area is beyond the Shroyer family! This is MISSIONAL, and provides donors with a tax-deductible option
If I were to throw down a number (which some have asked of me), I would say (with some fear and trembling)… that we really need to raise $500,000.
(Yikes! I just put that out there!)
And now, I can breathe because I did.
About two years ago or so, I wrote on Mike’s bathroom mirror with white chalk ink. The phrase is still written, and still very much applies:
“This is not ‘your’ ministry; this is God’s. The consequences of our obedience are up to God, not us.” (a paraphrase of something Charles Stanley has been known to say)
Thank you for helping me give God the opportunity to do A WHOLE LOT of miracles!!!!
Serving Him (and as a result, serving others).
Ami Sandstrom Shroyer
(The new director of Wide Open Ministries. NAH! Forget that! That’s too much, too soon!)