Hello, Orlando!

We made it. We made it. We made it.

As I write this I’m sitting in our sun patio, watching cars drive by on the road in front of our apartment in the cool yet humid air as a light rain falls. At 72 degrees it’s the coolest it has been in the afternoon since we arrived. When we got here we were greeted by temperatures in the high eighties and low nineties (and not to mention the Florida humidity!), and it has rained every day since. Welcome to Florida!

Florida State Line
Crossing the Florida State Line

It took us a total of two days, about 22 hours of travel time, four people, two cars, and one moving truck to get here. We left Joplin mid-morning about three weeks ago on a Monday and arrived in Lake Nona on Tuesday in the late afternoon. It seems so typical to describe the drive as “long” when people ask me how it was, but that’s truly the best way to describe it. As someone who hates driving, this trip was LONG. And I didn’t even drive the entire time like some of our driving crew did! Without a lot of things to break up the monotony of the drive, I was thankful when we got to pass through big cities that I had never been to before, like Nashville and Atlanta. When we passed through Nashville it was right as the sun was setting, and seeing the sun and sky reflect off of all the downtown buildings was absolutely beautiful. I was driving at that point, so I didn’t get to take it all in at once like I wanted to, but luckily Lauro was in the passenger seat and he got some great photos for me.

 

We finally made it to Lake Nona and our apartment complex, and after a quick check in and some final paperwork we were able to begin moving in to our new home! We were so blessed by the people who came from the church to help us unload our stuff and start unpacking. By that night we had the master and guest beds assembled and the kitchen all unpacked and put away—a big accomplishment! Especially when you’re doing all of that without air conditioning. Yes, that’ right. Our air conditioner was broken the minute we walked in the door. The filter was completely frozen over, so there wasn’t any amount of cool air being produced to relieve us from the Florida heat. It wasn’t until about a week later that it was finally fixed after two attempts by apartment maintenance and one by an outside A/C company. (There’s always got to be something that goes wrong, right? I honestly would have been worried if there wouldn’t have been any problems at all when we moved in. At that point in the moving process we just expected road bumps and inconveniences and learned to go with the flow.)

The Sotos
Pre-move photo of our little family

So here we are, starting our new life in Orlando, Florida. We had our first Sunday with Thrive Church on the 4th of this month and it made us so excited for the growth the church is experiencing now and how it will grow in the future. We’re starting to build more connections and relationships with people and deepen the relationships we had when we got here. Just thinking about how this church is going to expand and impact the community and reach people and teach and disciple and worship and love, all for the glory of God? I feel like a giddy little kid just thinking about it! Jesus is just so good, so, so good, and I want everyone to know and experience that goodness.

What is so amazing about serving our good God is that you get to be part of a body full of His people who are striving for the same thing: to live like Jesus. There is no way we would have been able to make it to Florida without the help of our friends and family, our brothers and sisters in Christ. Without them, we could have just forgotten about packing up our house in Joplin and loading up the moving truck. Driving our two cars and the truck to Florida would have been impossible. And even if we would have made it that far, I can guarantee that Lauro and I would have been absolutely MISERABLE travelling for a combined 22 hours without any help. It would’ve taken many hours to unload all of our stuff into our new apartment and get it all unpacked. Just imagining how our move would’ve gone if we had to do it all alone frightens me! I don’t think I can ever thank our people enough for how much they helped us. On both ends of the move we had so many people helping us, encouraging us, and giving us advice (and as young, married college students whose biggest move was a six-hour drive hauling our stuff in a borrowed horse trailer, we needed all the advice we could get!). People have packed, loaded, driven countless hours, unloaded, unpacked, suffered in the heat, offered us a place to stay with air conditioning, and provided household goods, food, and meals, all for us! I feel so undeserving, but that’s what following Jesus is all about, right? Giving to and loving those who don’t deserve it? That’s what Jesus did for us all, right?

I will always be so thankful for God’s people. He created us for community and to do life alongside other believers, and this move has shown me just how vital that is. By design we were made to be together, living and loving and serving others and each other. We were made to help shoulder one another’s burdens and to rejoice alongside each other’s victories. As the family of God we need each other to encourage and build one another up, not for our benefit, but so that we are able to go out and show people the love of Jesus with a full and encouraged heart sustained by the limitless love of our God and the support of our fellow believers.

Will you continue praying for us as we settle in to our new life in Orlando?

  • I am still looking for a full-time job here. Pray that I will trust in God and be patient, knowing that He will provide one at just the right time.
  • Pray for the Creative Arts ministry at Thrive Church. Lauro has started planning and organizing all the different aspects of this ministry, and soon we will be inviting people to join us in serving in those different areas. Pray that as the foundations for this are laid that Christ would remain as the center focus.
  • Please continue to pray for our financial support. We have been in absolute awe of how much God has provided for us already. We couldn’t be more grateful! As this is a three-year process, we ask that you will keep praying for the support we have to raise as we continue to trust our Provider.
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Already, but Not Yet

If you have ever been in a season of transition in your life of any sort, you probably understand the feeling when the change is already here, but still not yet at the same time. Transitioning can be, well, awkward until the transition actually happens. There is tension between the anticipation and the importance of living for today and enjoying the journey and being present. We are living in that season right now as we’re preparing for our move, and I for one am glad that it’s just that: a season.

We are already moving to Florida.

Last month we flew to Orlando to spend Easter weekend in Lake Nona and lead worship for Thrive’s Easter services. The church invited us to come that weekend as kind of a preview for the congregation of what is to come in the area of worship. On Saturday Lake Nona had their annual “Pig Run,” which is a 5k fun run/walk with the coolest twist ever: there are stations set throughout the race route with DOUGHNUTS. For every doughnut you eat, you knock fifteen seconds off of your race time. Funds raised from the run went towards helping children with cancer. We spent Saturday morning at the run with the Cruzes and the Thrive truck cheering on the runners and playing pump-up music for them.

Pig Run

Another thing we got to do on Saturday was apartment hunt. We spent the entire afternoon going to as many apartments and getting as much information as we could, because that was the last weekend we’d be in Lake Nona before actually moving there. We found a community that we fell in love with and have nailed down an apartment that we’ll call home in May!

Easter morning was wonderful. We got to see several familiar faces at the church and meet new people as well. New and newer relationships are being built, and I was reminded of the love of Jesus through the overflowing graciousness and generosity of those people towards Lauro and myself. I have no doubt that there will be help for us when we need it through the people at Thrive, and I praise Jesus for that.

Easter
Thrive had the cutest photo booth set up for Easter, so of course we had to snag a picture!

We are not yet moving to Florida.

We’re still living in Joplin, working our jobs, and Lauro’s still taking classes. We see our church family twice a week and are soaking up serving alongside them as much as we can. It’s been business as usual, except there is the whole added factor that we will move across the country in less than a month, adding a very large to-do list to our schedules. We have had to slowly start saying goodbye to people we know we won’t see before the move, and we know that it’s only the beginning.

Despite the awkward tension we’ve been living in, God has absolutely been working and moving and providing in our season of waiting. He’s provided us with an awesome place to live in Lake Nona. Fundraising efforts are starting to come together. Even the incredible support of our family and friends is a huge blessing from God. Yes, there have been times when things haven’t lined up exactly how we wanted them to, or happened too fast, too slow, or not at all. It’s then that we find peace in our God who has a greater plan and purpose than our plans and desires. We are confident that He who has called us to this place will not abandon us because that’s just not who He is.

So here we are, neither here nor there it sometimes seems. Waiting and anticipating. Ready, but not ready. Ecstatic, but saddened. Already, but not yet.

Will you continue to pray for us as we live in this season?

  • I’m still searching for a full time job in Lake Nona. Pray that I will be obedient to serving in whatever job God provides for me.
  • Pray for our move that will begin on the 29th of this month. It will be a two day, eighteen hour drive from Joplin to Lake Nona. Prayers for our safety and our sanity are greatly appreciated.
  • Pray for our churches as we transition out of one and into the other. The relationships in each one mean so much to us, and we will always be thankful for the love they’ve shown us.
  • Pray for our fundraising. This month we have a few fundraising efforts happening that will be a huge part of raising our $6,000 by May 28. Pray that we will continue to trust in our God as the ultimate provider.

Support letters have been sent out! If you would like to know more about the vision of Thrive Church, the community of Lake Nona, or how you can partner with us, please contact me and I will get one of these letters to you! If you are interested in supporting us financially, please see the “Giving” tab at the top menu or visit our donation page through Orchard Group here.

Doors: A Life and Ministry Update from the Sotos

ABP Photo

My husband, Lauro, and I are planners. Like, big time. We love schedules and order, visions and goals. We find value in the details. After taking the DISC personality test (which is about behavioral preferences in peoples’ natural and adaptive states), we found out that we both have a high “C” score: we prefer procedures, standards, and protocols. Neither of us were surprised by that. We are all about quality control, always striving for excellence. These preferences play themselves out in every area of our lives, especially in school, work, and our ministry. In short, we love being in control and knowing what’s going to happen, and oh what a blessing and a curse that can be.

I’m pretty sure God has been chuckling at us and our schedules and life plans, especially in the past several months.

This past December we were made aware of a job opportunity for Lauro at a church plant called Thrive Church as the Worship Arts Pastor. Our dear friends, Julio and Krystal Cruz, are a part of this church plant, Julio being the Associate Pastor and Krystal a part of the hospitality team. This family has been a huge part of our lives! Julio has been mentoring Lauro since he was an eighth grader, he was our former youth minister back in our hometown of Dodge City, and he officiated our wedding ceremony. I can’t even begin to try and count how many times they have opened up their homes to us. That being said, when their church’s next step to take in order to keep growing was to hire a worship minister, Lauro got a phone call from Julio saying they were wanting to hire someone as soon as possible, and that he was a very likely candidate for the job.

My jaw hit the floor when Lauro shared that with me, and it stayed there for a while.  Why would God move us from our comfortable little corner of Southwest Missouri this early? Why would we leave when Lauro still has one more year of school left before he graduates? We have experienced a lot of stability living in Joplin. The cost of living is extremely affordable, we live less than five minutes away from Ozark, and we both have very secure jobs that take really good care of us. Travelling home to Dodge City is a six hour drive, which, in the grand scheme of things, isn’t that bad. Even more, we thought why would God lead us to another church when our ministry and relationships at our loving and gracious church in which we currently serve have really turned a corner, and we have recently been seeing more growth than ever before?

You see, in our minds a job opportunity like this wouldn’t come up until after Lauro finished college, because that’s how it’s “supposed” to go. When you graduate high school, you go to college for four years, maybe go to grad school or seminary, and then go out into the world and start your career. In our minds, we could see ourselves in worship ministry at a church plant alongside the Cruzes further on in the future. It’s been a dream of Lauro’s to serve in this way, but of course it wouldn’t happen until after he graduated college. There we were, though, sitting in our living room after that phone call and thinking, “This is really happening. This is really happening right now.”

Our schedules and life plans were very quickly and very obviously being knocked off course, and our planning personalities went into overdrive.

January came along and we arranged a weekend to go visit the church plant and go through the interview process for this position. We hopped on a plane and upon our arrival, walked outside to a sunny and 80 degree day in the middle of January (this Kansas girl’s DREAM). After several conversations with the church leadership, meeting some wonderful people from the church, and leading worship for their Sunday morning services, we came out of that weekend with a job offer for Lauro to be the Worship Arts Pastor at Thrive Church in Lake Nona, Florida.

“THIS IS REALLY HAPPENING. THIS IS REALLY HAPPENING RIGHT NOW.” It seemed like no other thoughts could occupy my brain except those for several days after the trip (and sometimes even to this day). And so we came back home and continued to saturate this opportunity in prayer. We prayed for wisdom, for clarity, and for direction. Our days were filled with LOTS of thinking and LOTS of prayer. We knew that either way we chose that God would be glorified and his Kingdom work would continue, but we still had to choose: would we stay or would we go?

By no means was it an easy decision. I could write pages and pages about all the details of this situation; the pros and cons seemed to be endless and the stakes miles high. Thankfully, we don’t have to rely on our own reasoning to make big decisions like these in our lives. Through our praying and our seeking God was opening our eyes to see how this has been a part of His plan for not only several months, but several years. It was because of the mentorship that Lauro received from Julio that he decided to go into worship ministry when he was a sophomore in high school, and eventually study worship ministry at Ozark Christian College. Through meeting Lauro in high school, transferring to Ozark, and getting married and becoming a minister’s wife, God gave me a heart for ministry. Little by little, God was opening door after door for us to walk through, leading us along to where we are today. Looking back it makes sense and is truly a beautiful journey, but in those moments we had no idea that those milestones, hardships, and yes even the small moments in our lives were all going to be a part of God’s plan for us in ministry. Gradually God opened one door after another, and one step at a time we walked through them, saying, “Yes, Lord,” and followed His leading.

Several weeks ago we were standing in front of a wide open door to worship ministry in Florida, and it was one of the hardest choices we’ve had to make. Unlike the previous doors in our lives, this door was bigger, riskier, and scarier than ever, but it was also the most exciting, rewarding, and life-giving door. And so we decided to say “Yes, Lord,” once again, submitting to HIS plan and not ours, and Lauro accepted the position of Worship Arts Pastor at Thrive Church!

We are SO excited to be a part of this new church plant and on board with their vision to spread the Gospel message to Lake Nona and the surrounding area. We believe that God has called us to this church to use our gifts and talents to build up the Thrive congregation, and to do His Kingdom work in the community so that we can show people the immense love and fullness of life that is found in Jesus. We know that church planting is extremely hard work and that this move to Florida is not going to be all sunshine-y and vacation-y and a life lived in paradise. This will be a difficult move for many reasons (financially, moving further from our families, leaving our amazing New Life Church family and Joplin friends, etc.). At the same time, we also know that God is our faithful provider and source of strength. As we follow the scripture from Matthew 28 when Jesus tells his disciples to “go and make disciples of all nations,” we have confidence that as we are going God will provide everything that we may need and continue to lead and guide us as we serve Him.

The next couple of months for us are going to be BUSY, to say the least! We are scheduled to move to Lake Nona in the middle/end of May after Lauro finishes this semester of school and I walk at graduation for my Associate’s Degree in Christian Ministry. On top of everything going on normally (work, school, church) we will have to prepare to move across the country and complete some fundraising. Because Thrive Church is such a new church plant, we will have to raise financial support for a portion of Lauro’s salary. There is a short-term goal that we must meet before moving and a long-term goal to raise over the next 3 years.

Will you be in prayer for us as we prepare for this huge transition in our lives? Below is a list of prayer requests that we would love to pray for alongside you:

  • Pray for the preparation of our hearts as we transition into a brand new ministry and community. There will be so many changes relationally, financially, culturally, and emotionally. We praise God that He will be constant through it all.
  • Pray for a smooth moving process in May. We still need to find a place to live, as well as a full-time job for myself.
  • Pray over our future ministry at Thrive Church. Pray that we will allow God to work in us and through us as we move from working in an established church to a church plant. Our desire is that God will be glorified in everything that we do, no matter how big or small.
  • Pray for our support financially. We are determined to raise as much as we can prior to our move, along with additional funds over the next 3 years. We believe that through God working through generous donors that this will be provided! Pray that we will have faith and trust in our God in this area that can cause so much worry.

If you are interested in donating towards our short-term and/or long terms goals for financial support, please click here or visit the “Giving” tab on the menu at the top of this page. We need to raise $12,000 a year for the next three years and must have $6,000 of that already raised when we arrive in Florida. When you follow the link to our donation page, please select “Lauro Soto” under the designation drop-down menu.

We would love to talk with you in person, over the phone, or even via FaceTime or Skype to answer any questions you might have and to share more about our vision with Thrive church and how you can be a part of it! In the meantime, we will take all the prayer we can get! Prayer is so powerful and we believe that it works. I cannot wait to see how God answers these prayers in the upcoming weeks, months, and years.

Florida

Thank you so much for visiting this blog post and my new blog! (Whooo!) My goal with this blog is to regularly update it to share our journey from Missouri to Florida and keep you all up to date with our lives before and after we move. I know that along with the physical journey, our spiritual journey is also going to be eventful with lots of mountaintops, valleys, and GROWTH. I am excited to see how God works in us and through us over the next few months and years, and to share these experiences with you so that His name will be glorified.

If you would like to subscribe to my blog and receive an email each time I make a new post, you can click here or visit the “Contact” tab at the top menu and click on “Subscribe.” Thanks!