As Family We Go

Have you ever had one of those moments where God completely knocks your socks off?  A moment where He completely blows you away?

We have had a few of those lately.  I often stop and wonder, sometimes, why we continue to be shocked and surprised.  God is bigger than anything we can imagine, so it should come as no surprise when He shows up in a big way, or when things coincide in a way they never could have without His hand at work.  But as a sweet friend mentioned lately, “I hope He never stops surprising me.”  I couldn’t have said it better myself.

So let’s talk about one of those moments, shall we?

At the end of December, Justin and I started planning our anniversary trip for sometime in March (5 years!!).  We decided to take an extended weekend and go to a Rend Collective concert in Maryland.  Little did we know at the time, God would open a door on that trip that we never expected for a voyage we didn’t even know we were on (that voyage begins here).

Fast forward to March.  We now realize God is calling us to “young” adult ministry (think age 20-40) – specifically those outside the church.  But February and March were extremely difficult months for us for a few different reasons.  Our trip was April 1st and we couldn’t wait to get away.  As parents of a toddler, we were desperate for a few nights of uninterrupted sleep and the ability to sleep in.  Anybody else out there a living example of The Walking Dead??  Ha!

Road Trip, Getaway, Kid Free, Adventure, Family, Unknown

When we hit the road – cheesy faces and all. 😀

The weekend, from start to finish, was pretty fantastic – not much of a schedule, the ability to sleep in, being able to get out the door without packing the diaper bag, strapping an octopus into a car seat, realizing you forgot the sippy cup, going back in, returning to the car, noticing said octopus is missing a shoe, retracing steps….  Yeah.  We just walked out the hotel door.  No problem.  😉

The concert was Sunday night and we had VIP tickets for the Q&A with the band beforehand.  Because who doesn’t enjoy listening to a bunch of Irishmen (and a woman) conversate?!?

During that Q&A we had a chance to learn about the history of the band.   Get this – they started as a gathering for young adults because there was a missing age gap in the church.  I kept looking at Justin – “are you hearing this?”  I’m not sure if he understood all of that through my wide eyes and gaping jaw.  But I was floored.  Seriously??  What a resource.  So, like a die-hard fan (because, let’s be honest, I am) – I raised my hand to ask a question.  But instead of the cheesy questions I had thought through on the road-trip there, I asked one thing, “How did you make that work?”  Because that is the question we were left with.  We had a calling but no clue as to how to move forward.  And, unbeknownst to us, our favorite band potentially held the answers.

With limited time, Gareth and Chris gave us a brief explanation but promised that there would be a little bit more detail during the concert because they had started a ministry for this exact purpose.  Um, what?  Again, I look to Justin, bulging eye balls and gaping jaw.  Is he getting this?  Can he tell that I am freaking out excited?  Or do I just look like a lunatic?  I don’t care.  God is awesome.  The Q&A ends and we have almost an hour before the concert starts.  Justin did interpret all of my craziness because I didn’t even have to say a word before he jumped in and said everything I had been holding in.  At this point, all I wanted to do was find the band and sit down and have a friendly chat – no longer because I was a fan, but because I desperately craved their ministry insight.

Family, Christian, Community, Faith, Young Adults, Outreach, Unchurched

– Photo courtesy of Zao Church Facebook Page

In the midst of a beautiful worship experience, the route pastor, Dustin, came out and talked about “As Family We Go” – basically a movement to mentor intentional communities with a mission to grow in faith and love with Jesus Christ.  We knew we had to talk with these people.  So we did.  And the conversation went something like this – “This is what we’re called to do but we have no idea what that looks like.  We are stuck.”  After some brief discussion, we discovered that Dustin and his wife only lived a couple hours away from us (definitely not as far as Ireland).  AND, the tour was going to be stopping in Pittsburgh just two days later for their off day.  They offered to meet up with us and we knew that it had been God ordained.

 

 

I remember calling my dad the next day and saying, “You are never going to believe what happened…”

Though it was entirely out of our comfort zone to drive an hour to meet with two perfect strangers, we made the arrangements to meet them and I am so glad we did.  That short meeting in a college Starbucks left us reeling.  So much information, so much to process, so much encouragement.  And the best part?  The knowledge that our “family” had grown ten fold in just a few days.

But really, the family had been there all along.  Faith is thicker than blood, folks.  And God allowed us to meet some of our “extended family” and form a bond this side of eternity, a blessing we will never take for granted.

For now, it is as family we go.  Into the great unknown….

The voyage continues here.

 

 

 

 

The Unknown

Sometimes God whispers and sometimes He shouts.

The first time we noticed God really nudging us in the direction of the unchurched small group idea, it started as a whisper (to catch up on how this all began go here).  We knew we needed a spot outside of the church to make this work.  Unfortunately, the only “hang out” spots in our very rural neck of the woods are bars.  I just kept wishing we had a coffee shop, just a single coffee shop, or….something. Curious as to how rural we really are?  Drive out to Amish country and then backtrack a couple of miles, you will find us there.  🙂

Farm Town, Farming, Amish, Unchurched, Reach, Unknown, Learn, God, No Answer, Prayer, Trust, Seek, Find

Life in a farming community – a little dull, but always breathtaking.

 

Anyways, my mind came to an empty space in the tiny plaza with our ice cream shop and pizza place.  But I knew we couldn’t afford to rent it full time and wasn’t sure if we could work anything out.  So I let it go.

Well, again, during my prayer time I felt like I needed to talk to the owner (we’ll call him Tim).  Waaaaaay out of my comfort zone.  But God doesn’t know what a comfort zone is – does He??  😉  Despite His whispers, I wasn’t feelin’ it.  I would just wait and see what else turned up.  In the back of my head, I thought, if Tim is at the bank when I go today, then I’ll talk to him (side-note, Tim does not work at the bank).  And as quick as I thought it, I forgot it.

Running my errands, last on the list for the day – the bank.  The bank that I have been to less than a handful of times.  I have a quick meeting in the office and as I’m leaving I glance back over my shoulder. “What?”  Take a couple of steps.  Stop for a second.  “That wasn’t him.”  Take a couple of steps.  Stop for a second.  “Okay, so it was.”  The door shuts behind me.  “God, I hear you loud and clear.”  The owner of the aforementioned space, Tim, was standing at the counter!!  I thought about going back inside the bank, but realized it wasn’t the right time.  The purpose of Tim being at the bank wasn’t so that I would talk to him right then and there.  Rather, it was God SHOUTING.  Keep going, keep moving forward.  We are on the right path.

In the end, that space won’t work for what we need.  It doesn’t even have utilities yet.  But he may have another space and we are waiting to hear.  However, it seems a bit like a dead end.

I think sometimes God does things for reasons we don’t understand.  Maybe He just wanted to give us an affirmation that we are moving in the right direction.  Maybe He was is testing our commitment to the  cause.  Maybe He just wanted to get a good laugh out of me tripping over myself at the bank because I could hardly believe my eyes.

And maybe someday I’ll understand it all.  Because, right now, I don’t.  But living in the unknown is where our faith grows.  The unknown is where we learn to trust and where we learn to seek.

Unknown, Trust, Seek, Faith, God, Journey, Voyage, Adventure, Unchurched, Outreach

 

What more does God long for?  For us to trust His name and seek His face!  We find Him in the unknown!

The story continues here.

The Unexpected Voyage Begins

 

Faith, adventure, curve ball, follow, journey, voyage

– Extreme Days, 2001

This year, though we are only one quarter of the way through, has been quite the wild ride.  And I can’t say that we expected any of it.  Part of the reason that I started this blog is because we feel something big brewing and I wanted to make sure we had a record of all of those “God moments” that, somehow, we so easily forget.

But let me start at the beginning.  A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….  Oh wait, um, that’s not our story.  Hmmmm…  I honestly don’t even know where the beginning is.

At the beginning of the year we were struggling.  Burnt out from doing a lot at the church, feeling alone since there are so few young(ish) adults, trying to balance the care of a toddler at church while still serving on the worship team, – the result was us not “feeling” fed.  So we made a commitment to buckle down and keep moving forward.  We decided to put in a little extra devotional time at home, both individually and as a couple.

Around the same time, after a few discussions on a couple of different committees, our church decided to make a few changes in pursuit of growth.  We are still in the midst of that.  However, these two things together – our personal commitment to growth and the church as well as the church’s commitment to growth, apparently created the perfect storm.  God showed up.

Or rather, God made Himself known.  Because God is always here, of that I am certain.

Faith, Following, Adventure, Journey, Voyage, Unseen

I can’t say the road from there on out has been as easy one.  In fact, I’ve spent many nights in tears (not of joy).  Justin and I still don’t see eye to eye on everything.   And life, outside of our hearts, continues as usual – screaming toddler, work demands, exhaustion, etc.

But back to the story of where we are and how we got here…

I had been doing a lot of reading and thinking, processing and studying.  And I was continuing to go through my usual routine.  One day as I was working, a thought crossed my mind – a small group for the unchurched, outside of the church building.  I scribbled down a couple of thoughts and left it at that, meaning to talk to Justin when he got home.  But I forgot.  Two days later as I read through Scripture and had my prayer time, the thought just kept coming back to me.  Okay, I guess I need to talk to Justin.

So I called him, knowing he was still driving into work.  I explained the rough idea of thoughts in my head and his response was,“Okay.  Let’s do it.”  

“What?”

“Okay, let’s do it.  I think we’re supposed to do this because I have a really weird peace about it.”

You see, Justin hasn’t exactly been comfortable with talking about his faith outside of church.  And leading anything isn’t something he would sign up for.  So I was a bit blown away by his response.  As we talked, we both grew more excited.  This might actually work.  For us to be so excited about something so far outside of our comfort zones was a clear indication that God was nudging us forward.

And the voyage began….

(Continue the journey here.)