When Following God Looks Messy
We sold our dream home almost two years ago now (When God Turns Your World Upside Down). It was not something I ever saw coming, but in my over 40 year walk with God, He’s surprised me more than once. In fact, that seems to be His speciality…an unexpected pregnancy, loss of a loved one, a rebellious teenager, job loss, etc. The surprises aren’t always bad, sometimes they are GREAT, but we simply never saw them coming and even that requires adjustment…how does this surprise affect the other areas of my life and of my family’s lives?
After we sold our home, we moved into a rental house in town. After living in Timbuktu for EVER, it was like a dream to have the grocery store, post office, library, restaurants and our kids’ activities SO close. We relished having our garbage picked up every week by a wonderful man in a big green garbage truck (as opposed to hauling it to the dump ourselves). We smiled and waved at the snow plow truck as he plowed the streets for us (as opposed to plowing ourselves, truck breaking down, etc). We took walks on pavement through streets neatly lined with houses and a golf course. We thought we’d died and gone to heaven. My husband told me he thought this must be what retirement feels like.
So we happily lived life, but realized at one point, that we needed to make a decision. Buying a home would be more affordable than renting in our particular neighborhood. So at the tail end of winter, we found a home down the street that needed some cosmetics, but was in a comfortable price range for us.
This was good. My husband, who is typically very healthy, had major shoulder and bicept surgery and other physical things go on that made our home a good spot to be in for that time.
But there was something going on under the surface and once my husband and I finally had time to talk about it, we both agreed there was a stirring in our hearts, but we had no idea where God planned to go with it.
The second I could see the kids were going to start leaving the nest (5 years ago), I started praying that God would give me a vision for the next season. He answered part of that prayer through my friend, Heidi St. John, over at The Busy Mom. We’d known each other for 16 years, but hadn’t seen each other much in several years. I started writing for her and slowly began working with her more frequently. As more and more of my natural giftings became evident, my job morphed into scheduling Heidi’s speaking events and travel, helping negotiate her contracts and coordinating all of her women’s conferences. It was a great fit for this new season that I found myself in as a mom. I did this long distance and could choose which hours I worked. My husband and kids were fully on board and it was working for us as family.
In the meantime, my husband had been expressing for quite some time, his desire for a change in what he did for a living…or at least most of it. I totally got it. This man had been as faithful as the day is long to provide for a family of 10 on a single income for years. He even managed to have a little nest egg to work with after all of that, but we had no answers as to what this transition would look like or what exactly to do with this nest egg.
We kept living life…graduating more kids from high school and college and sending them off into their new and exciting futures. All the while, we were still feeling the stirring, this nagging/exciting feeling that change was on the horizon.
Last summer, we felt like God was asking us to be willing to move across the state to help more with the ministry I was working for. We bought a travel trailer and a Suburban…this was us putting our money where our mouth is and being ready to GO when our house sold. We were trusting Him as fully as we knew how. Our house didn’t sell. All ideas of renting it out fell flat and we found ourselves a bit dazed and confused and wondering if we had heard correctly. Maybe this was just timing. And so we prayed.and.prayed. We took our house off the market so we could take a break over the holidays.
Just a few days before Christmas, we finally wrapped our heads around the fact that God had indeed closed the doors to move across the state. So we resorted to logic. We need a plan, right? If plan A isn’t going to work, we need a plan B. Makes sense. In our weariness we picked what looked like the sensible thing: Let’s buy a piece of property and build again. A place where the kids and grandkids can come home to a few times a year. A home base….because that’s what parents do, right? That’s what we have done for years…provided security, a refuge for our children, a safe haven. We had worked so hard to have a cohesive family, why would we NOT do this?
Not once were we ever compelled to go look at property. The thought of it sounded like one more thing to do. So we didn’t. We sat with that plan B and continued to pray over it. I kept telling my husband that every time I prayed about it, I had a very strong feeling that we were NOT going to stay here. He did too. It didn’t come from a place of discontent, but anything we tried to do or think or pray that would lend itself to staying, again fell flat.
What made things even more confusing is that we had no real frame of reference to work within. We had always made our decisions based on what was best for our family. We had Biblical responsibilities that were crystal clear to us and that created some pretty sure boundaries. Now the boundaries were new and we weren’t sure what that looked like. Our youngest kids are getting older (our youngest is 12) and we now KNOW what that leaving looks like and how soon it will be here. We are clearly in a new season. We are also keenly aware of the fact that we had spent most of our years raising kids and technically are on the downhill run. How did we want to spend that time? We want these years to count every bit as much as the years we spent raising kids. We know what we love, what we don’t love, where we are gifted and where we are not. But mostly, we want these upcoming years to make a difference for eternity. We want our lives to intersect with others in ministry and to slide into heaven at warp speed screaming, “WOW!! What a ride!!!!” But what in the world does that even look like???????!!!!!
There is no way on God’s green earth that we could figure this out on our own. It reminded me of when you go to try clothes on at the store. You try on an outfit you think is going to look fantastic, but once you put it on, you realize it’s just not quite right. So it turns into this messy process of trying things on, looking them over and then realizing it’s not bad, but not great. You could live with it, but it ultimately it’s NOT going to be the best fit and you are at a loss to conjure up what “the best fit” even means.
So we prayed. And talked. Shared our thoughts and hopes from deepest places of our being, which isn’t something you can hurry along. It takes time and a willingness to just “be” in order to mine those gems from far beneath the surface, but we did that. Usually we walked away feeling better, but with no real answers. This was the waiting on God that everyone talks about. It’s not new to us, but this kind was. We knew one of our priorities was to continue to nurture our marriage. We had seen too many marriages end or at least get sour at this phase of the game and from what we could tell many had just stopped enjoying each other and doing things together.
We decided to take a trip to a place that had become our favorite place to visit…North Carolina. We have friends there and a particular little town that had stolen our hearts that we enjoyed visiting. We toyed with the idea of buying a little house there for us to go to whenever we wanted (it is an affordable market there) and the rest of the time rent it out as an Airbnb (it’s a small tourist town). Since we had always loved looking at houses and fixing them up we thought it would be a fun idea to explore. And then we bought a house.
As we spent that week together, we saw puzzle pieces FINALLY start to make sense. So many specific things we had been talking and praying about fit together perfectly when we realized that we didn’t want to visit occasionally, but wanted to make this little town our home.
The details are still coming together, but we see God’s fingerprints all over it. So often you have to “try on” several things that aren’t right before you can KNOW what IS right. Our prayer all along was, “God show us where you are working so we can join you.” He answered that prayer so faithfully.
Our Suburban and our travel trailer sold in 4 days. Our house goes on the market March 1.
Yes, we are leaving some of our kids and grandkids…another thing I didn’t see coming, but as we talked through it and acknowledged how emotional that will be, we also found ourselves staring into the clear and relevant truth that, as Christians, we are called to go where God tells us to go and do what He tells us to do and to ENTRUST our loved ones to Him, knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that His plans are good…for ALL of us.
This life should be a faith walk…an adventure, and exercise in deep, deep trust. God wants us to be bold, not fearful. Our security should be fully anchored in HIM, not controlling our circumstances and never taking risks. Faithful men and women throughout the Bible often looked senseless…even downright crazy and yet God proved Himself in HUGE and miraculous ways..for HIS glory. We live… and we die for HIS glory.
The vision for this next season has begun unfolding. We are looking forward to ministering to guests who stay at our Airbnb, but also praying that God would show us where He is working in that community so we can join in whatever He is doing. I can also keep doing what I’m doing for Heidi and actually be of more service being located near most of her events. We are excited about taking our kids to many historic sites, interesting places and on lots of hikes!
I have no false notions of anything close to a perfect life ahead of us. Following Jesus is messy. I’m confident that He has a plan beyond our wildest notions as we begin again on the other side of the country. And when it gets hard (because we know it will), we want to look back and have confidence that we are walking in obedience to God because we above all, we want to be found faithful to One who redeemed us and makes our life worth living.