Back to Bethel


Since my bride was honest in her last post, I figured I might as well be honest, too:  this has not been easy on me.  It’s been 3 months now since I’ve gotten up and gone to work in the morning, 3 months since I’ve had the privilege of standing before our church and leading them in worship, 3 months since I’ve had to do anything.  Now, let me tell you, that sounds great when you’re in the midst of the craziness of everyday life, family and ministry.  And, again to be honest, it has been great in so many ways:  I’ve had a ton of time with my family, some time to just rest, room to breathe, time to think.

One of the things people have said to us as we’ve walked out the path before us is “Man, you guys have such faith!”  I often wonder if what’s being said out loud hides what they’re really thinking: “You guys are absolutely nuts!” Either way, when I hear that, I cringe. Faith?  Us?  My faith is so small!  I doubt constantly. I wonder if I heard wrong, if all this was just bad pizza. I get scared. I feel like a loser. I feel like a failure.

All.

The.

Time.

It’s hard.  And when, over and over and over, we keep hearing God say “wait”, well, it’s enough to make you lose your mind.  To me, waiting is an action that’s really the absence of action; it’s the complete opposite of action!  What, Lord?  Do nothing?  Just sit here?  Just wait?  We’ve had every tie that bound us to our community severed:  our home, our church, my job, daily contact with friends….and we’re just supposed to wait???   

Yes.  Wait.

And as we’ve waited, trying to keep an ever shrinking ember of hope alive, one word has kept popping up:  Bethel.  House of God.  Bethel in our devotions.  Bethel in our kid’s school work.  Bethel on road signs.  Bethel on church signs.  Now, I’m not usually given to seeking meaning in every little thing, but Bethel was coming up so frequently, we’d have been crazy to ignore it.

One of the few constants on our journey, actually the only constant, has been the Holy Spirit’s use of the Word of God to guide, direct, and confirm.  As we’ve navigated the waters He’s placed us in, we’ve gotten directions to stay, directions to wait , and at times, the push to go.

So when Bethel kept coming up in the most unlikely of ways, we did what anyone in our situation would do:  we Googled it.  If you’ve never done that, let me assure you, there are a lot of places named Bethel.

A LOT.

Yet I knew a Google search wasn’t where we were going to find the answer.  Like always, it was in prayer and going back to the Scriptures that we’d find the next step.

Bethel was the first place that the Lord God met Jacob and spoke to him.  It was at Bethel that Jacob slept on a rock pillow and dreamed a little dream of angels ascending and descending a ladder between heaven and earth.  At Bethel, God promised Jake the land of his father Isaac and his grandfather Abraham.  It was during this first encounter at Bethel that Jacob set his heart to follow the Lord.

Then sometime later, Jacob goes back to Bethel (Genesis 35). This time, the Lord told him to go.  He told him to go there, to dwell there (that means to abide, to remain), and to build an altar there (to worship).  And Jacob went, and the Lord appeared to him again (Gen 35:9-12), changed his name from Jacob to Israel, and reaffirmed the promise He made to give the land to Jake’s descendants.

You know, sometimes, in order to go forward, you have to go back.

Sometimes in order to find the thing we’ve lost, we have to return to where we last remembered having it.  After praying about it, talking about it, thinking about it, we realized we were to go “back to Bethel”, back to where all the stirrings and unsettledness kicked into high gear, back to where the Lord really started preparing our hearts for this move.  We were going back to Oklahoma.

So we packed up the car and we headed west on I-40.  We took our time, wanting to enjoy the trip across the country with our kids, to take in the sights.  We climbed on boulders in the river below Chimney Rock.  We gawked at the neon lights of Nashvegas.  We drove along the breathtaking beauty of the Natchez Trace parkway.  We rode and elevator to the top of the Pyramid and gazed on the Mighty Mississippi in Memphis.  And finally, after 1200 miles and two full days, we arrived back where it all began:  Oklahoma City.

Thanks to the kindness of my sister and brother-in-law, we’ve had a place to unpack our bags and rest for a bit.  They have made us feel completely at home, and have given us the unrepayable blessing of time to pray and seek the Lord.  For the first time since October, we have worshipped at the same church for 3 consecutive Sundays.  If that sounds insignificant to you, I’ll pray for you.  I can’t explain how HUGE that is for me, for us.  I’ve been able to show my kids around the land I grew up in, the land I left 3 decades ago.

It’s been great, but it hasn’t been easy.  We had hoped for a quick word once we got here, something that would give us clarity about the next step.  Is it here?  Is this where we’re supposed to be long-term?  This was not what we had planned.  And each time we seek an answer we get the one we’ve gotten for so long now:  wait.

So…again…we wait.

Funny thing to close this chapter:  on the way out west, as we were driving in Western North Carolina, I texted a close friend and pastor that I served with at our church.  I let him know we were heading west to seek the Lord.  Immediately, he called me back and said we had been on his heart a lot lately.  That very morning, the Lord had spoken to him in prayer that we needed to go, to get out of NC, to take the next step.  He said he was going to call and talk to me but got into the office and got busy.  It was so awesome to hear that, to receive that confirmation that we were on the right path.  I hung up the phone with tears in my eyes.

Then we passed an exit sign that caused me to throw on my hazards, pull off the side of the highway, and slam the car in reverse to read it again:

Bethel Road.

Ok Lord…we’re listening…while we wait.

Let’s Be Honest

(This is the latest post by my  wife as we chronicle the journey the Lord has us on right now.  I’m so thankful she has been willing to share her thoughts here at the Wading Pool.  I couldn’t be more proud of my bride!)

I’ve likened the last few months to being stuck inside one of those snowglobes my kids always want to play with at Christmas.  On numerous occasions lately, I’ve felt paralyzed by the weight of our current situation.  It’s like I’m standing frozen inside, all the while, watching someone lift the globe then violently shake it.  It’s as if every area of our life has been turned upside down and is now twisting and swirling around me.  Numb, I just stand and watch.  Chaos.  Total chaos.  And to be completely honest, I’m exhausted and weary.

In basically three months time, we’ve found ourselves jobless, church-less, and homeless.  There’s no job or final location in sight and bouncing from church to church each week is getting old.  Throw in the stress of prepping and selling a house, packing and moving, having our belongings in storage while we keep the roads hot between Burlington and Benson, toss in the busyness of a few holidays and raising and homeschooling three kids …. I’ve just about reached my limit.

Now I know, I know.   This is something we chose to do, our own doing, a decision we made. And believe me, we feel the pressure when people ask, “you did what?  You have no idea where you’re going?  You mean, you haven’t sent out any resumes?!”  People look at us like we are out of our minds, but for us NOT to have done this would have been in direct disobedience to what we know God is calling us to do.  When He confirms over and over in the ways that He did…we have to obey!  Although we took that step of faith, the pieces haven’t immediately fallen into place.  In fact, for the majority of that time we’ve been bombarded with a message of “wait”.  So, what do we do?  We wait.  But y’all, the waiting is hard!  So, so hard!  And I know we don’t have a monopoly on waiting and hard times.  Tons of people are going thru or have gone thru much more difficult trials than we are.    We all go through testings of our faith and right now, for us, this in one of those times.   But y’all, I’m physically, mentally, and emotionally spent.  I’m all tapped out.  I have nothing else to give.

Amazingly enough, praise God, I’m still in The Word, but even that time has morphed into something very different.  As silly as it sounds, I miss my big “Ebenezer” chair (1 Sam. 7:12).  I miss sitting in that comfy spot, sipping my coffee, reading my Bible, & spending time with The Lord.  Currently, it’s read a few verses here, read some there, get it in whenever and however just because it’s so crazy right now.  It’s times like these though that I’m so thankful for the psalms.  Have you read some of those gut wrenching prayers & cries?  Honest, brutally honest prayers.  Thank you, Lord!  It lets me know that I’m not alone!!!  Verses like:

Psalms 6:6 “I am worn out from sobbing.  All night I flood my bed with weeping, drenching it with my tears.”

Psalms 13:1-2 “O Lord, how long will you forget me?  Forever?  How long will you look the other way?  How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart everyday?”

Psalms 119:81-84 “I am worn out waiting for your (the Lord’s) rescue, but I have put my hope in your word.  My eyes are straining to see your promises come true.  When will you comfort me?  I am shriveled like a wine skin in the smoke, but I have not forgotten to obey your decrees.  How long must I wait?”

Yep.  I can relate.  I can soooo relate!  But it’s also in the psalms that I read and remember the hope I have in Christ.  The hope that carries us through the storms of life.  Hope that rings out in verses like:

Psalm 18:16, 19-20  “He reached down from heaven and rescued me; he drew me out of deep waters…He led me to a place of safety; he rescued me because he delights in me.  The Lord rewarded me for doing right.”

Psalm 139:5-10 “You go before me and follow me.  You place your hand of blessing on my head.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand!  I can never escape from your Spirit!  I can never get away from your presence!  If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there.  If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me.” 

Psalm 13:5 “But I trust in your unfailing love.  I will rejoice because you have rescued me.  I will sing to the Lord because he is good to me.”

Oh man!  Has He been good to me!!!  A sinner covered by His grace and mercy!  Thank you, Lord!!!  Passages like these remind me of His faithfulness and the times He has already rescued me and heard my honest cries.  He was faithful then.  He will be faithful now.  He’s “the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8).  Remembering what He has done in times past gives me the hope and courage to stay the course.  I do rejoice & sing because He is good to me!  And I know that He who began a good work in us will complete it.

A New Thing for a New Year

I can’t say that I’m too sad to see 2016 to go. Whew, what a whirlwind of a year! The first few months of 2016 seemed to be a never ending wilderness, followed by months of stirrings & confirmations, and finally months of waiting and limbo living.  As crazy as the year was, there were many “stand out” moments, and among the top was one Matt blogged about a couple weeks back….

It was a day back in September when The Lord gave us both an unexpected little push at the home-going service of a dear brother-in-Christ. It was certainly not the message we were expecting to hear that day, but a perfect way to honor a faithful servant like Pastor Jeff and challenge those of us in attendance to go deeper still.

Since Matt had the privilege of helping with the worship portion of the service we were sitting apart, which meant I was on kid duty. We agreed from the start we wanted our three kids to be there with us. In the months and weeks prior, our family, as so many others, had prayed for Pastor Jeff and his precious family. We felt it was important for our kids to be able to witness first hand the celebration over a saint going home and the hope we have in Jesus, but also the harsh reality of the sinful world in which we live. Going into anything like this we try to give the kids a very clear picture of what’s expected from them, but even still, as the pastor began to speak, I found myself praying extra hard that my kids would be on their very best behavior! I knew this was something I didn’t want to miss.

As I sat there stunned over the words I was hearing, the tears began to pour and pour (Yes, this is a recurring theme in my life. My tears tend to flow very freely).  And yes, this time my tears were over the loss and sadness I felt for this dear family but also over the fact that I knew God was speaking to us…..deeper waters, surrender, letting go. This was the exact same issue He was dealing with me over three days before. He was reminding me (us) to give up control, to surrender the farmhouse sink.

The Creator of the universe, The Maker of the waters, seas, and oceans deep was calling us out. After the beach trip and now the home going message, the lyrics of the song “Oceans” by Hillsong United seemed to be on repeat in my brain:

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

Pretty awesome, huh? And that’s just a small snippet! We had sung this one several times at church and each time I really tried to make it my prayer, “Yes Lord, lead me where my trust is without borders,” only now I realized it was actually becoming my reality. I could feel the waters rising.

After the service I made my way to Matt and with one look I knew he was feeling the same way I was ….holy cow! We were both trying to convey thoughts and emotions through a single look, desperately wanting to talk but knew it wasn’t the right time….. You know, that’s a really difficult spot to be in, wanting to talk but you can’t! It’s times like those that you realize really quick the only person you truly have is Christ Himself.

But even at 40 years old, no matter how hard you try to keep things secret, somehow, someway our parents always seem to know when something is brewing. This time was no different. Our parents had sensed during all the stirrings that something was up. It is truly a blessing to have been raised in a home by Christian parents! Even after we’ve left their nests, they continue to be our biggest cheerleaders and frontline prayer warriors. Since my parents were there for the memorial service that day too they heard first hand the challenge and charge.

On the way back home that evening, we were able to share with my parents some more about how we felt like The Lord was calling us out. To what? We didn’t know! But we felt like it would be something “new”. As I shared how God had lead me to the “new verses” (specially Isa. 43:18-19) during our time at the beach I heard my mom crying from the back seat.

She began to tell me about a time when I was six years old. One day during her devotion & prayer time The Lord took her to Isa. 43:18-19. It made such an impact that she wrote the verses down on an index card and tucked it away. Later that same week, their church was having a nightly revival that they attended. The minister asked my parents if he could pray for me, and after a sweet time of prayer he proceeded to quote Isaiah 43:18-19 to my mom!!!

Y’all!!! And now here we are 34 years later! I don’t remember or ever recall hearing that story before. She hadn’t told anybody about her scripture index card all those years ago. The revival minister didn’t have some magic way of knowing he was quoting the same verse she had written down OR it would be the same verse God would lead that six year old girl to many years later! Only God!!! All those years ago, even then, God was orchestrating the puzzle pieces that would ultimately impact today’s big picture.

God’s ways are so much different than our own. Just when we think we have it all figured out He surprises us with something completely different! Just as CS Lewis wrote in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” For now that’s what we’re clinging on to. He’s King, He’s in control, and He has a plan for our good. So, bring on 2017, I’m ready for God’s “new things”!

“But forget all that— it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”

Isaiah 43:18-19

 

Dealing with Doubts

Luke’s account of the Christmas story begins not with Mary and Joseph, but with Zacharias and Elizabeth, another unlikely couple to take part in the coming of the Messiah and the rescue of humanity from darkness and the shadow of death.  Unlikely, in the world’s view, but not in the eyes of the Lord.  He specializes in doing things contrary to our way of thinking.

Luke 1 tells us their story.  It recounts how they longed for a child for years, but like Abraham and Sarah so long ago, it appeared their line would stop with them.  How many years had they prayed for a son, only to see, year after year, their prayers go unanswered, or perhaps unheard?  But one day (all it takes is one day, y’all), one day Zacharias’ turn to burn incense in the Temple came up, so he went into that holy place…alone.

He stood before the altar prepared to do his priestly service.  How many times had this privilege fallen to him?  How often had he stood here and offered up the sweet smelling aroma that symbolized the prayers of the people going up to the Lord…the prayers of Zacharias and Sarah, too.  All those years of praying.  All those dreams and hopes unfulfilled.  Zechariah’s heart longed for a son, an heir, but the length of his days made any flickering hope of this being fulfilled go up like the smoke upon the altar.  His heart broke not just for himself, but for his wife, too.  He had seen the pain in her eyes grow as the years passed, and he had seen her hope dwindle alongside his, hope that, against all odds, against nature even, God would intervene and do a miracle.

Perhaps as he stood in the dim light of the Holy Place he offered up yet one more prayer, the tiniest spark of his faith trying to start fire, in spite of all his head told him about how hope-less and crazy it was.  At his age, this could be his last chance to stand in this place, standing in for the people, and for his wife, offering up their hopes and fears.  Perhaps, for Elizabeth as much as any one, he asked once more, “Lord, please…”

And suddenly, he wasn’t alone any longer.  Just to the right side of the altar stood one of the angels of God Most High, in all his glory;  a truly terrifying sight for a mortal to behold.  And while Zacharias was filled with fear, Gabriel spoke not judgment but words that sounded too good to be true: “Do not be afraid, Zecharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.” (Luke 1:13)

His mind reeled.  Could this be happening?  HOW could this be happening?  All the years of doubting God would hear his prayer now transitioned to “how in the world could this thing take place?” He was old.  Elizabeth was old!  Surely this was all just the wishful imagination of an old man’s mind, clouded the years and the incense before him.  Could God…would God really do such a miraculous thing as this?

Zacharias was a priest.  He knew the stories.  He knew all about Abraham and Sarah, how the Lord showed up in their old age and miraculously gave them a child, the child of promise, the long hoped-for son who would be the first of a people as numerous as the sand on the shore and the stars in the sky. He knew this story well, and he should have known better.  But knowing something is true and having to walk that truth out in your own life are very different things.

Zacharias doubted God’s word to him, but God’s word was bigger than his doubts.  God’s word was sure:  Zacharaias would have a son.  Not just any son; this boy would be special. His son was also a child of promise, spoken of years before by the prophets.  His son would go before the Lord, the Messiah Himself, to prepare His way, to give His people knowledge of the salvation that was coming.   And to give ample time to prepare for this arrival, to ponder all that God had said and done, Gabriel decreed that Zacharias would be unable to speak until the child was born.  He would watch in silence as God worked to bring it all to pass, just as He said.

As I read this story again, I realized I could relate to Zach a bit better this year.  Where I used to scoff at his doubt, this year I find myself nodding in understanding.  Where I used to shake my finger at a priest who could doubt what God had clearly and wonderfully said, I hang my head in silent shame, knowing this pastor is capable of the very same thing.

In spite of the clear Word God has given us, I have found myself doubting God’s  call for us to get up and go.  I often wondered how Zach dealt with being unable to speak, unable to declare the great things God had done and was doing, unable to lift his voice in song; this year, he reminds me of Psalm 42:

“When I remember these things, I pour out my soul within me.  For I used to go with the multitude; I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept a pilgrim feast. “

I miss our church family that we are leaving behind.  I miss serving them, lifting my voice along with their’s to proclaim the goodness of the Lord, to sing of His grace and mercy.  This journey has been hard.  As the time has gone on, as we’ve waited and waited, it has gotten easier to doubt what God has clearly shown us, to doubt His word to us.  I’m not equating this journey we are on with the gravity of Zacharias’ and Elizabeth’s, but I have definitely gotten comfort and a new understanding through considering it.  God’s Word is sure and true, no matter our level of faith.  Even those of us who shouldn’t doubt, do. God’s Word is bigger than our doubts and fears.   God is loving and compassionate to His children when we doubt.  God is bigger than circumstances that look hopeless and crazy in the world’s eyes.

I know God will bring His Word to pass…in His time.  Waiting for that time has become the hardest part.  Our pastor used to say that it’s not the intensity of the trial so much as the length of the trial that gets to you; I’m learning that’s true.  The longer we get from the initial “going” to the “where” has taken a toll on us both.

I wait in a different sort of silence than Zacharaias.  Like Abraham, I feel a stranger and a sojourner in a city that’s been home for nearly two decades.  I wait in hope that God will show us the path soon.  I wait in hope that He will bring us to the place He wants us to be.  And I wait in hope that,  along the way, He will bear with me in my doubts and fears.  And one day, like Zacharias, I will open my mouth and praise Him for all He has done.

So on this Christmas Eve, here at the end of a long and trying year, if you find yourself doubting how your hurt, your problem, your hopeless situation can change, go read the first chapter of Luke. Go realize that these were real people going through real problems that seemed hopeless, too. And realize that God’s Word is true…He will bring it to pass.  God has hands big enough to handle it all. Don’t doubt Him any longer…put your doubt in His hands.

“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest;
For you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways,
To give knowledge of salvation to His people
By the remission of their sins,
Through the tender mercy of our God,
With which the Dayspring from on high has visited us;
To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death,
To guide our feet into the way of peace.”

Merry Christmas, y’all.

The Push

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Every parent knows the feeling, that moment when you’ve told your child for the thousandth time, “If you jump, I’ll catch you!”  They stand looking at you, knees knocking at the edge of the pool, eyes all aglitter at the thought of jumping, one hand hesitantly held out toward you in anticipation of the catch.  Yet even then, there often remains that seed of doubt, that hint of fear, often shown in the one hand held up to their lips in comfort.  And then, they’ll trust you, lean forward and leap into your arms.

Sometimes.

And then there are those times they could benefit from a little nudge, a slight push in the right direction.  Not that I’ve ever done that, of course.  I’ve just heard it can be helpful sometimes.

As we grow older, there are still times we can benefit from a push.  After confirmation, after the surrender of the farmhouse sink, after the waiting, I found myself standing on the edge of the pool, so to speak, unable to jump.  I didn’t want to admit it, but I needed a nudge.  I needed God to do something to coax me from the edge into the air, from the waiting into the going.  And my Father was kind to His fearful child and gave me a push in the most unlikely of places:  at the home-going celebration of a dear friend.

A church full of friends and family gathered on a Sunday evening in late September to celebrate the life of Pastor Jeff Rudd.  As we sat together and remembered Jeff, we laughed and we cried.  It was a wonderful night to remember and celebrate what God had done in and through Jeff’s life and ministry. It was a wonderful reminder how the gospel changes lives, and those lives go on to change lives, and those lives go on to change more lives.

Jeff’s friend and former pastor from New York challenged us to not just remember Jeff, but to follow his example.  Don’t just nod in agreement; live it. Jeff had stepped out from the security of a life in local government into the unknown of full-time prison ministry, with a wife and four kids, and he did this faithfully for the last 15 years of his life.  Each of us might not be called to full-time prison ministry, but we are called to be a light, to share the gospel, to go where God sends us carrying the love of Jesus Christ.

At one point, the pastor read from Ezekiel 47, an incredibly powerful image in Scripture. There we find Exekiel standing in the river that flows out from beneath the throne of God.  As Zeke first steps into the water, it comes to his ankles.  He goes a bit further and it’s up to his knees.  Zeke goes farther, and now the water comes to his waist until finally, Ezekiel saw a river he couldn’t cross, water that was too deep for him to feel the bottom.  If he went any further, he’d lose control and be taken wherever the river rolled.

Coming on the heels of our beach trip, the metaphor of stepping out into the waters, of stepping out to the place where your feet no longer find the bottom, of where the current is too strong for you to control on your own and being taken wherever the river goes was incredibly poignant for me.  Sitting in that pew and hearing the Word of God, remembering the life of my dear brother-in-Christ in something I have a hard time communicating.  I have been working on this blog for nearly two weeks, and I can’t adequately convey how powerful it was. All I know is the Holy Spirit spoke to me that night. He made it clear it was time to step out into the deep, time to trust the Lord beyond what I could see, to walk by faith and not by sight.

“But Lord,” I protested, “What am I supposed to do?  Where do you want me to go?”  You see, I wanted God to spell out the entire process for me, to show me the next three steps before I went out beyond the waist-deep water  into the rushing current.  I wanted the Lord to give me the entire picture, but He was only showing me the next step (Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path, right?).  He was asking me to trust Him to go beyond where I was comfortable, to relinquish control, to step out into the deep water past what I was familiar with.

Like a parent swimming in the deep end, trying to convince their child to take that leap of faith and jump, my Father was holding out His more-than-able arms and telling me to jump.

I just needed a little push.

Surrender the Farmhouse Sink

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(This is the THIRD post by my wife here on the Wading Pool.  So thankful for her willingness to take up the challenge of writing.  I think she’s doing an incredible job!)

This past Tuesday night, along with millions of other people around the country, I tuned into the season four premiere of Fixer Upper.  Matt & I have been fans of the HGTV show for quite a while now and our kids even look forward to our Fixer Upper nights!  Together we all gather around the big black box waiting to see what beautiful design Jo will dream up or what kind of crazy stunt Chip will pull.

I guess it’s only natural for me to love a show like this because I’ve had an affinity for design and decorating for as long as I can remember.  At ten years old, I would pour over the pages of my mom’s Southern Living magazines, tearing out all the house plans I could find to file away in my “dream house” folder.  Then as a teenager, I opted to take an architectural drafting class over chorus, even though I knew I’d be the only girl in a class full of boys – yikes!  And again as a newlywed, decorating our first home with its French Country kitchen and Big Bird yellow spare room.  Just ask Matt about that one – Bahahahaha!!!  Whatever the stage of life I’ve always been drawn to design, crafting and creativity.

In fact, the Big Bird room would later become the sweetest little nursery for our firstborn, with a fresh coat of paint, of course!  But from then on, I knew I wanted to create a comfy little nest for my family that we could all enjoy.  It’s something I love and find so much joy in, and even more so, if it’s done on a dime.

Through the years, I’ve tackled many DIY projects, scoured thrift stores, yard sales, and Craigslist for a bargain (that, I credit to my mom – the bargain-shopping queen).  I’ve sewn, recovered, or painted to revamp an item into something “new”.  But in May of 2015, I was ready for a bigger challenge….a kitchen remodel.  It would be a big project but I knew with my ideas, Matt & my Dad’s handyman skills, and the unexpected blessing of others’ generosity, we could make this dream a reality!  My design would open and brighten everything up, add a long center island, new countertops and a farmhouse sink…Sigh!  It would be beautiful…Pinterest worthy!

It was a perfect plan, but the only thing going against us was time.  A year and four months after that first #DemoDay we were finally ready to have the cabinets painted.  Yes, you read that correctly:  A YEAR & FOUR MONTHS later!  And that landed us right in the middle of our 2016 changes and stirrings!

Painting that many cabinets wasn’t something I wanted to DIY, so we hired it out and planned a last minute beach trip to get out of dodge.  We also knew this would be a great time to really quiet our souls before The Lord and seek Him.  We desperately wanted details since all we knew up to that point was that we were moving!  Wouldn’t you know it, it was the most dreary and depressing weather that week.  Instead of having lots of quiet, serene moments alone with the Lord, we were wrangling three stir crazy kids the majority of the time.  Ha!

As the week went by, we didn’t have any more clarity than when we first left home.  Since God wasn’t revealing His plan for us fast enough for my liking I was giving lots of suggestions and dreaming up plans of my own.  Plans to buy a fixer upper!  Yes!!!  I began to conjure up all the different locations we could move to, all of which were among familiar places in my comfort zone.  I stayed up searching online, into the wee hours of morning, hunting for old homes all across NC, scheming about the possibility of buying one to fix up.

But one morning after my searching, I was hit square in the face with a devotion about a woman wanting to build her dream home but needing to surrender her dreams to Him!!!  What?!!  I knew right then He was asking me to relinquish ALL of my hopes, dreams and fears not just some of them.  Here I was thinking, I was enjoying the ride, but boy, was I fooled!  I was still fighting for control but He was calling me to let go of everything from the farmhouse sink, the fixer upper house, to the state we lived.  He was inviting me out to unchartered waters.  He was reminding me to trust Him completely.

I, in my little faith, promptly told God, “Ok, but You’re going to have to give me one of those verses about doing something new … confirm it like You’ve done before”.  And of course, the very next day I opened my One Year Bible and this was the verse in my daily reading that glared back at me:

“I will lead blind Israel down a new path, guiding them along an unfamiliar way. I will brighten the darkness before them and smooth out the road ahead of them. Yes, I will indeed do these things; I will not forsake them.”  Isaiah 42:16 NLT

What in the world?!  Wow!!!  Cue the waterworks…

And then the following day (more waterworks):

“For I am about to do something new.  See, I have already begun!  Do you not see it?  I will make a pathway through the wilderness.  I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”   Isaiah 43:19 NLT

It’s been two months since that beach trip. We still don’t know specifics of what He’s doing, but I do know I have to surrender, totally and completely.  I have to be willing to lay down those dreams and fears and trust that it will be ok even if I never have a kitchen with a farmhouse sink or a fixer upper in NC.  Whatever the case, I have to remember His plan is so much better than my own.  I have to turn it ALL over to Him, to seek Him first, and to trust Him with the unknowns.

When we walked into our freshly painted, finally finished kitchen back in September I squealed like a little girl and then immediately the tears began to fall.  I knew this beautifully remodeled kitchen wasn’t meant for me and that’s ok….my God is big enough to handle a farmhouse sink!

Waiting

I tweeted that yesterday. It is where my heart is right now. I was thinking about my family’s current state of limbo as we wait for the Lord to reveal to us where we are to move, and while we wait for our house to sell. Super-spiritual, right?  I failed to realize it was posted on the first Sunday in Advent. This morning, the irony slapped me in the face.

Advent is a season for waiting. It is meant to instill in us the feeling the Israelites had in waiting for the Messiah to come, to fan into flame the anticipation of all things being made right. It is intended to remind us not only of the first coming of Christ, but to get us to look up in anticipation as we wait for His second coming.

For my kids, it’s the official countdown to Christmas, and a severe test of waiting. Just this morning, my boy wanted to go to Target to get a new Lego set. When I told him he’d have to wait until Christmas, 4 whole weeks from now, he replied “But that takes sooooo loooooong!”

My sentiments exactly, son. I feel like I’ve had the same conversation with the Lord lately.

“Lord, where are we to go?”

Wait, and I will show you.

“Lord, please send a buyer for this house!”

Wait, and I will send them.

“Lord do we go right or left?”

Wait, and you’ll find out.

That’s just a snippet of the running conversation I’m having with God. To be honest, I’m struggling, y’all. If you’ve followed us so far on this journey, it’s involved a lot of waiting, but nothing like right now. It’s required obedience in stepping out from our comfort zone, taking a leap of faith. But honestly, all that was nothing like the obedience required to continue to wait. I’m a guy, we like action, getting up and doing is the easy part. Waiting is not.

Waiting is a part of what we do. And we are usually terrible at it. Like my son waiting for the opening of presents on Christmas Day, we protest at the slightest of perceived delays: the slow guy in front of us on the way to work, the long line at the checkout counter. Or less trivial, the test results to come in, the call back on the interview, the son or daughter to come home at 3 am.

Scripture is filled with waiting. Abraham waited until all hope in human means of having a son was extinguished. Joseph waited in Pharoah’s dungeon for a couple servants to remember him. The disciples waited in the upper room for the promise of the Spirit to come.

The Psalms repeatedly speak of waiting:

Wait on the LORD; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the LORD!”  Psalm 27:14

“Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him; do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass.” Psalm 37:7

“And now, Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in You.” Psalm 39:7

“I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in His word I do hope.” Psalm 130:5

And who can forget the most familiar verse on waiting in the Bible, Isaiah 40:31:

“But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

And throughout the Old Testament runs the scarlet thread of waiting for the One who would crush the serpent’s head and redeem His people from the power of sin, death and the grave.

As a Christian, I’m continually faced with the hypocrisy in my heart over what I say and sing about God’s sovereignty and my inability to trust Him, to hope in Him, as I wait. Is He sovereign? Then the timing of our house selling and the revealing of our next home is up to Him, and I can wait on Him in peace knowing that.  Is He faithful?  Then I can trust that the things He is calling us to will come to pass.

I hope not in circumstances, though that’s easy to do.  I hope not in man, and I certainly hope not in myself.  “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I do hope.”