Though the Mountains May Crumble

Since things have pretty much been silent for a couple of months, I thought it was time for an update.  AND I needed to write…  🙂

(Want to get caught up?  For the whole story, start to finish, head here…or for the short version, start here.)

So, about that update…

First – we did not get the coffeehouse grant.  Which was a bit of a bummer.  However, I never thought it was about the money, I wondered through the whole process, if it was God’s way of forcing our hand and casting the vision to our church.  I believe, without a doubt, because of the series of events that occurred, that God brought us to that grant.  He had a purpose for it, and quite apparently, it wasn’t about the money.  But, now, instead of a small group of people on board – we have handfuls of people in different walks of life who are excited about it, and talking about it, and wanting to be involved.  And that is exciting!  While our $0 budget has expanded very minimally, the vision itself has increased 10 fold.  And, the most important part, we are moving forward!  We officially have a board started and have begun the process of narrowing down a location.  I would ask that you would continue praying for us as this journey has still just begun.  I can’t wait to see what God has in store once it all comes to fruition!!

Personally, this season has been difficult.  Not because of the grant.  But because of life.  Justin and I are struggling on multiple levels with adjusting to two kids.  Balancing their needs while prioritizing our marriage and jobs and still trying to get this coffee stuff up and running has proved to be beyond exhausting.  I have somewhat recently entered a season of postpartum depression and, consequently, Justin has been struggling as well.  The irony of so many other people being excited about the coffeehouse while we are simply in survival mode and unable to thrive, or be excited about pretty much anything, is extraordinarily disheartening.  But we are pushing forward and fighting back the dark.  And, lately, I have had more good days than bad, which is helping.   But, again, prayers are more than appreciated.  As we keep discussing, the enemy is real and active and he will do whatever he can to isolate us from others in our lives.  We are in the midst of a battle and many days, lately, it feels as if the enemy might win.  Thank goodness, the war is already won!

Recently, the Lord reminded me of His goodness with the words of Corrie Ten Boom, “When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away the ticket and jump off.  You sit still and trust the driver.”

We will remain strong.  We will live to fight another day.  And, with God’s strength, we will accomplish the mission He has set us on.  I am trusting the driver while we remain in this dark tunnel…but, truth be told, I think I’m beginning to see the light at the other end.

Isaiah 54 has also been a source of constant encouragement.  I’ve included that chapter (all 17 verses) in its entirety below, with my emphasis added…the words that keep me going:

1“Rejoice, childless one, who did not give birth;
burst into song and shout,
you who have not been in labor!
For the children of the desolate one will be more
than the children of the married woman,”
says the Lord.

“Enlarge the site of your tent,
and let your tent curtains be stretched out;
do not hold back;
lengthen your ropes,
and drive your pegs deep.

For you will spread out to the right and to the left,
and your descendants will dispossess nations
and inhabit the desolate cities.

“Do not be afraid, for you will not be put to shame;
don’t be humiliated, for you will not be disgraced.
For you will forget the shame of your youth,
and you will no longer remember
the disgrace of your widowhood.

Indeed, your husband is your Maker—
his name is the Lord of Armies
and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer;
he is called the God of the whole earth.

For the Lord has called you,
like a wife deserted and wounded in spirit,
a wife of one’s youth when she is rejected,”
says your God.

“I deserted you for a brief moment,
but I will take you back with abundant compassion.

In a surge of anger
I hid my face from you for a moment,
but I will have compassion on you
with everlasting love,”
says the Lord your Redeemer.

“For this is like the days[a] of Noah to me:
when I swore that the water of Noah
would never flood the earth again,
so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you
or rebuke you.Isaiah 54:10, Struggle, Depression, Mountains, God, Jesus, Overcome, Love, Love of God, Promise, Shame, Disgrace, Fear, Disheartened

10 Though the mountains move
and the hills shake,
my love will not be removed from you
and my covenant of peace will not be shaken,”
says your compassionate Lord.

11 “Poor Jerusalem, storm-tossed, and not comforted,
I will set your stones in black mortar,[b]
and lay your foundations in lapis lazuli.

12 I will make your fortifications[c] out of rubies,
your gates out of sparkling stones,
and all your walls out of precious stones.

13 Then all your children will be taught by the Lord,
their prosperity will be great,

14 and you will be established
on a foundation of righteousness.
You will be far from oppression,
you will certainly not be afraid;
you will be far from terror,
it will certainly not come near you.

15 If anyone attacks you,
it is not from me;
whoever attacks you
will fall before you.

16 Look, I have created the craftsman
who blows on the charcoal fire
and produces a weapon suitable for its task;
and I have created the destroyer to cause havoc.

17 No weapon formed against you will succeed,
and you will refute any accusation[d]
raised against you in court.
This is the heritage of the Lord’s servants,
and their vindication is from me.”

This is the Lord’s declaration.

 

 

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Encouragement Along the Way

Sometimes on a normal day, God takes your breath away.  Even if it’s just for a moment.

If you haven’t been following this journey, I highly encourage you to catch up here (or for the much shorter version you can start here)…or else most of this won’t make sense…

Yesterday was our monthly staff meeting at the faith-based non-profit I work for.  We always start with a small study.  Currently we are working through Experiencing God (so good!).  Even though it wasn’t mentioned, the subject of prayer naturally came up (I think a discussion of faith spurred this).  Basically, there was a full discussion about how long that ministry had been prayed for and how some of us were the answers to prayers prayed before we were even born.  It was a humbling discussion.  And one I won’t quickly forget.  But God wasn’t done speaking to my heart.

I occasionally take my little one to work and had decided to do so yesterday.  Throughout most of this discussion, I am on my feet, swaying back and forth, trying desperately to get my precious, yet cranky, little man to take a nap.  And I hear my name:

“Bri!  This reminds me…do you know the Smith’s*?”

“Nope.  Doesn’t ring a bell.  Why?”

“Well…” she says, noticeably excited, “they go to my church.  Saturday we had this thing and they came in.  They started talking about how they really felt led to pray for this couple in (insert name of my town here) because they were going to open a coffee shop, a third place for the community…”

I froze.  Literally.  No more swaying, no more bouncing.  Frozen.  And my breath was gone.  My thoughts were everywhere.  What did she just say?  Who are these people?  How do they even know about this?  We’re a really rural town, over 30 minutes away from this church…it wasn’t adding up.

But God…

She continued to tell me how she told them she already knew about it because she worked with me.

But I was still standing, frozen, tears welling in the corners of my eyes.  Everything around me had disappeared.  I was in His presence, in awe of how He was moving.

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Discussion continued elsewhere.  But when our meeting wrapped up, I was still reeling, trying to figure out how they even knew.  I figured it had to be Facebook since we have the CrowdRise campaign happening right now.  But there were some details that they had that aren’t on the campaign page.  It didn’t add up.  Maybe this blog?

I wasn’t sure.  But a brief discussion definitely took Facebook off the table since this couple doesn’t have any form of social media.

God’s encouragement comes in many forms.  These strangers are praying for us and encouraging their church to do so also.  And they happen to go to church with someone I work with.  There is no doubt in my mind that God wanted me to hear this little bit of encouragement.  Why?  Because He has called us to go forward.  He has called us to turn out community upside down!  And, most of all, because He loves me.  And He knows how fragile my human heart can be.  He knows that as this continues, I will need encouragement, I will need to remember moments like this.

We’re on the right path.  Of that I am sure.  We just have to keep pushing forward.

And a side note?  Because I need to remember everything some day…  We went to another Rend Collective concert last week.  And, not so coincidentally, met up with the couple that had encouraged us the last time.  Their words this time were humbling.  “Ahead of the curve,” “this is where Jesus is taking His church,” “placemaking is kind of His thing,” and so much more.  We’re looking forward to a visit from them in the next few months.  I am so thankful to have such a wide circle of help and encouragement on this voyage!

I am so excited to see where God takes us and our church in the coming months.  I can’t wait to see how He moves!

*Name changed to protect the innocent* (ha!)

For the next chapter of this voyage, head over here.

When He Doesn’t Make Sense

**Stick around to the end of this post – we’ve got some BIG news!**

After all the craziness of a couple weeks ago – I started second guessing it all.  It was too difficult.  No one would understand.  We don’t have the time.  The excuses were clouding my thoughts and overwhelming my spirit.

Sunday afternoons we spend at my parents house.  Lunch with the whole family and then some down time.  It gives a chance for my kids to spend time with their grandparents.  And it gets me away from my to-do list (most of the time).  That Sunday, with all of those doubts and excuses and downright pessimism invading my peace, we decided to turn on a movie.

Netflix has Evan Almighty currently, which I knew my daughter would enjoy.  And it was funny – just what I needed.  And apparently just what God thought I needed.  Ha!

The whole movie is about obedience.  About a quarter of the way through, I thought to myself – seriously?  Why did I pick this movie??  More conviction.

For those of you who haven’t seen it – Evan Almighty is basically a modern day version of Noah’s Ark.  Evan (played by Steve Carrell) is told, by God, to build an ark.  He tries to ignore the call from God, tries to run from it, even tries to hide it.  But it keeps coming back.  God is persistent.

When He calls you to build an ark in the suburbs of Washington D.C. it might not make sense, but He has a plan and a purpose.  When everyone around you thinks you are certifiably insane, He is still there prompting you forward.

When He calls you to open a coffee shop in the middle of a rural town with a declining economy and population – it doesn’t make sense and a number of people will think you are ridiculous.  But He has a plan and a purpose.  And He is still prompting us forward.

My job is to be obedient.  Not matter the cost.

*BIG NEWS HERE*

So here we are.  We started the process to apply for the grant at the end of last week (Not sure what I’m talking about?  Go here.) with the help of our church.  And we were accepted to enter the running!  One hurdle jumped!

But here’s the interesting part – we have to raise $3,000 before we are eligible to win the grant.  And that task is a bit daunting.  But God…

But God is able to do immeasurably more than all we could ask or imagine.

Even when applying for a national grant doesn’t make sense….  He has told us to.  So here we are.

If you would like to join us on this journey, you can also make a donation at the link below.  We will be eternally grateful!  I cannot wait to see what He does with all of this!  There is no doubt God has some big plans.  And YOU can be a part of it!  Check out our fundraising campaign here:

Coffee for Community Campaign

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The voyage continues here.

We Can’t Not…

Some of you will rebuild the ancient ruins;
you will restore the foundations laid long ago;
you will be called the repairer of broken walls,
the restorer of streets where people live
.
– Isaiah 58:12  (CSB)

I absolutely love this verse.  But I love it even more in The Message version:

You’ll be known as those who can fix anything,
restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate,
make the community livable again.

Make the community livable again….  Wow.

Justin and I have been on a journey that has lead us to this place; to this place where we want to revitalize the community in which we live.  We want everyone here to have hope, to be happy, to find true joy.  But it isn’t just a want, we have been called to make a difference.  So it’s a supernatural compelling of the Holy Spirit that has lead us to this place.

And at first we weren’t entirely sure what that looked like.  But with that still small voice, God has been speaking to us over the past two(ish) years and in the past month, He has confirmed, we believe, what turning our community upside down looks like.

A coffee shop.

For those of you that have followed along on this voyage, this probably doesn’t come as a surprise.  He has been nudging us this direction for some time.  But I was never completely confident in the idea.  Whether it was my own insecurities or the fact that God had us in a waiting period, there was nothing moving us forward for a time.

And in that waiting, there was struggle.  God definitely had to teach us some things about forgiveness, bitterness, letting go, finding joy, and allowing Him to be in control.  And some of those lessons took awhile to sink in.  When we finally surrendered to what God was doing and allowed ourselves to be mold-able once again, God started to move.

That was about three weeks ago.  With a renewed passion, we began discussing what He wanted for us.  We really felt like the coffee shop/third place route was the way to go.  So we decided to continue to circle the matter in prayer.  Specifically, we have no monetary means of making this happen.  And, inspired by Mark Batterson and National Community Church, we decided to just start praying for the money without asking anyone but Him for it (check out Draw the Circle for this story).

I wish I could tell you that He sent us the money the next day.  He didn’t.  He sent us an opportunity instead.  While mindlessly scrolling social media just a couple of days later, Justin happened across a grant for community wellness.  He sent it my way and I instantly started to laugh.  God is funny sometimes – my current profession?  Grant writing.  And a grant for community wellness was exactly what we needed.  We had often discussed searching for grants but with life and the thousand things coming our direction, it just never became a priority.

Until now.

There were (and are) still some hurdles we have to jump before we can actually apply.  But the night I approached my first hurdle, it went much better than expected.  I was overwhelmed at the positive response and encouraged that we were moving in the right direction.

But the next morning God made sure I knew we were headed in the right direction.  I had recently begun to read Next Door as it is in Heaven, including a small section in my morning routine each day.  As I read about a girl named Ali who had begun to turn her community upside down, these words jumped off the page:

In the midst of Ali’s neighborhood is Quay Coffee, which she says primed the pump for Neighbor Nights.  It served as a neutral hangout where neighbors began to notice one another as regulars, striking up conversations that evolved into friendships and community.

Um…what?  I instantly snapped a picture and sent it to Justin and a couple of others who have been on this journey with us.  Sometimes God shouts.  And I fully believe He did that day.

I immediately began to dive into research for the grant.  While I knew a good third place would make a difference in our community, I didn’t have the research to back it up.  Now I do.

  • Only 22% of people believe their communities have opportunities to meet new people (Pew Research).
  • 1 in 4 people (25%) in the US say they have no one to talk to.  That number doubles if you don’t count family.  This is up from only 8% in 1985 (National Science Foundation).
  • “The strength of our social relationships is comparable to well-established risk factors for mortality such as smoking and alcohol consumption.  Weak social relationships are a more significant risk factor than physical inactivity and obesity…” (Susan Pinker, The Village Effect)
  • “Creating destinations that people choose to go to, rather than just spaces people go to out of necessity, is an ideal way to improve their quality of life…” (Project for Public Spaces)

This just scratches the surface.  Social connections mean more than anything else when it comes to the health of a geographic community.  And in order for social connections to thrive, placemaking is essential.

The more I read, the more excited I became.  A coffee shop wouldn’t just provide a place for us to meet new people – it would actually increase the physical health, economy, and culture of our community while at the same time making it a safer place to live!  We have to do this!  This is our opportunity to make the community livable again.

Fast forward a couple of days.  My dad gets a phone call from a nearby, but not local, pastor friend.  In a conversation completely unrelated and irrelevant, this pastor mentions a coffee shop.  Which prompts my dad to share a bit of what has been happening.  This pastor knows of a place not too far away that has done what we want to do!  And the best part?  A coworker of mine had already mentioned this place to me about a year ago.  And I had forgotten.  Coincidence?  I think not.  My friends, this is what we like to call God moments.

While this all may seem like trivial things to you.  God is definitely leading us this way.  And I will keep moving with Him until He changes direction.  Whether or not the grant comes through, I know we are meant to do this.

I see a place where people go after work to relax.  I see tired moms stopping in after dropping their kids off at school to catch up with friends, teenagers stopping after school, retired couples stopping in just to chat, young children laughing at story time…  I see evening events such as trivia or open mic nights where people are laughing and chatting and gathering for community.  I see relationships develop.  Young and old.  Doctors and farmers.  I see connections made.  I see the community thriving.  I see hope.  I see light.  I see Jesus.

Coffee, Cafe, Community, Together, Gather, Relationships. Social Capital, Vitality, Life, Laughter

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Am I excited?  Yes.  Am I nervous?  Absolutely.  This will completely turn our lives upside down.  Nothing will be the same.  But we must take the next step.  As my dad finished his sermon on Sunday, I looked at Justin, choking back tears, “We can’t not do this…”  It was complete conviction.  Beautiful, humbling, sweet, unadulterated conviction.

And so we move forward into the great unknown….  To find out what happened next, head over When He Doesn’t Make Sense.

 

Holy Discontent

“Many have traveled this road before. I see their tracks in the dirt.  But maybe I don’t agree with where they are leading…”  

Bethany Dillon, Revolutionaries

The Church in America is dying.  You can look up the stats and figures on Google if you would like.  Most of it is depressing and leaves a feeling of defeat.  The very tool that God intended for His glorious news to spread around the world, is failing miserably.  Why?  The reasons are numerous and layered.  But, simply put, I think the Church has stopped being the Church.

Tracks, Bethany Dillon, Muriithi, Status Quo, Different, Change, Meaning, Holy, Discontent

Photo by Seth Fogelman on Unsplash

A lot of people want to blame society, the government, the “way the world is now.” The reality, however, is that if the “light” were being the light it has been called to be, the darkness would not have spread so far.  Light disperses darkness, not the other way around.  I was fortunate enough to spend a weekend or two in the panhandle of Oklahoma while I was in college.  The land out there is FLAT.  I mean, most of Oklahoma is flat, but the panhandle is extremely flat.  And the area is super rural.  You can see for miles.  Literally.  At night, it is pitch black dark.  No light pollution from the city, no cars around for miles.  Just you and the blackness.  As we drove around, I remember asking about the light in the distance – is it a city?  A town?  Nope…it was a cattle farm, that was miles and miles away.  A single cattle farm and the light was visibly noticeable…for miles!  Talk about pushing back the dark!

Light expels the dark.  We cannot blame society for the death of the church.  We have only ourselves to blame.  So what is the issue?  Again, I don’t think there is a singular issue.  It is multiple things, with deep layers, and some good intentions.  I actually started to write out some of what I believe these reasons may be…but the list got a little long and I felt like I was a bit all over the place (so those thoughts may or may not come as their own posts in the future…).

I was born and raised in the church.  I loved it then.  I love it now.  I love the Church because I love Jesus.  And I know what the Church was meant to be.  I know what we can be.

What I want to focus on today is where my heart is in all of this.  I know that a lot of people misinterpret my passion and the passion of others as something different.  It can come across as a power play or as controlling or manipulative.  And, as a people pleaser, this can often keep me up at night.  And it has, tears and all.  I wish that everyone could see my heart, could know my intentions.  The unfortunate reality is that they can’t.  Only God can.  It is to Him I am held accountable.  And I have to remember that on my bad days….AND on my good days.

My heart is broken for the community that surrounds me because they don’t know Jesus.  At least, not like I do.  The perception of the Church in the society around us is not a good one.  Whether from poor personal experience (childhood or otherwise) or from the media – the picture that comes to mind of the community of “Christians” is grim and distasteful.  We have become less than palatable.  And the very image of the Church, whether we like it or not, is how people see Christ.

I want to change that.  I want the world, especially the community I am in, to see the Jesus that I know.  The loving, compassionate, never-gives-up-on-me, Jesus.  The man who constantly gives and expects very little in return.  The man who gave His life so that I might live.  The God who is big enough to hold the sun in the sky and yet personal enough to care about even my simple hurts.  I want my community to see Jesus through me and, ultimately, through the Church.  Because the Church, when functioning in a healthy way, is capable of being absolutely beautiful.

I was fortunate enough to attend a conference in April with a few others (Exponential – it’s amazing, you should go if you ever have the chance).  One of the speakers that week, Muriithi Wanjau, from the Mavuno Church in Kenya, shared his story and it rocked our world.  His hope for his church was that if the government were to try to shut them down, that even the Muslims would try to prevent it because of the difference the church made in the community.

We left with that same fire.  If we were to disappear tomorrow, I would want the community to care!  I want the community to notice if we are gone.  And to fight for us to stay!  Because that is truly what Christ intended.  If we are to be a light on a hill – will anyone notice if the light were gone?  They should!  Or we aren’t being bright enough.

As Muriithi ended his time with us, he prayed a prayer over everyone in that room – “May You (God) lead them into a season of holy discontent.”  The idea was that we would no longer be okay with the status quo because the status quo isn’t working.  His prayer was that God would stir our hearts so much that we would be discontent until HIS purpose and HIS will was being played out in our communities.

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Photo by Tyson Dudley on Unsplash

And that prayer has been answered in our lives.  We can’t sit still, we won’t sit still until we have made such a difference in our community that everyone  would notice if we were gone.  It isn’t easy.  In fact, one of the others that went on the trip said to me the other day, “I’m going to go get on a plane right now, fly to Africa, find Muriithi, and make him to take it all back!”

This “holy discontent” stuff is hard.  It is a cross I often don’t want to carry any longer.  I would gladly pass it off to a more willing participant.  There are many days that I feel like giving up because no one gets it.  Or someone else misunderstood my intention.  Or it has led to yet another argument in my marriage because we don’t see eye to eye on how things need to be accomplished.

But I won’t give up.  I won’t back down.  I will claim this holy discontent and let it fuel me.  Because I don’t want my life to go back to the status quo.  I don’t want to go back to the normal mundane maintaining of the “American Dream.”  To quote The Afters, “I’m never going back to okay.  I’m never going back to easy.”  I want life to mean something.  I want the Church to have a holy discontent.  I want the world to know my Jesus.  I want my community to know my Jesus.

Because He has changed my life for the better, in ways that I cannot put into words.  I am forever grateful.  And I want to live my life in such a way that my gratitude is expressed in my every action.

Thank You, Jesus, for this Holy Discontent.

For the next exciting part of our journey you can head over here or if you want to start at the beginning, check out this post.

Another Piece of the Puzzle

Often times, when I read the Bible, I find myself wishing that I could walk in the shoes of that specific person, whoever it might be at the time.

What would it have been like to be a disciple? To walk with Jesus, to listen to Him speak, to eat meals together? Or what about Paul and the blinding come-to-Jesus moment? I would love to know what Noah felt like, shouldering the continuation of humanity. But lately, I’ve wanted to be Moses. He had this moment, much like Paul, where it was perfectly clear God was speaking to him. The man encountered a bush…on fire and not burning! And then he heard the audible voice of God.

I mean…seriously!?!  Can I get a burning bush moment??  Something so obvious I can’t deny it was Him?

Those words came out of my mouth during staff devotion time yesterday morning.  And by the end of the day, I was shaking like a leaf, taking my shoes off and standing in awe because I was on holy ground, in His presence, hearing Him speak into my life.

I’m not sure how much I can share at this point.  But I’m not sure our lives will ever be the same after yesterday.  I still don’t know exactly what He is doing but He’s got our attention and we don’t want to take a single step without Him.

At the beginning of the day I received a message from a friend sending us a link from a contact we had yet to be in touch with.  I didn’t get the chance to read it before I headed into work.

Work comes and goes (insert burning bush comment and dialogue here).

Justin gets home and we have a discussion about how God’s vision seems to change.  I don’t think the vision changes, rather, it grows.  I’ve heard it compared to a seed in some places.  But last night I thought of it like a puzzle.  I think God gives us the grander vision piece by piece.  If He gave it all at once I don’t think our finite minds could handle it.  So He gives us a piece or two to start.  The funny thing is, we think we have the whole vision and so we rush in without giving it a second thought.  And, often times, we have to back track a bit.  But as we grow, as our faith grows, as our dependency on Him grows, He gives us a bit more of that vision, piece by piece by piece.  And the puzzle fills in a bit more.  We finally realize, ‘oh wait, I guess that doesn’t look exactly how I thought.’  I’m not sure we will ever have all of the pieces.  He only gives us what we need as we need it.  Why?  He wants us to live in complete dependence upon Him and how He moves.

The point of that being – sometimes, down the road, the vision doesn’t look like what we originally thought.  I think God gets a chuckle out of that.

Within minutes of finishing our dinner conversation, Justin received a message from a couple who we have met with less than a handful of times.  A couple we have shared our heart and our vision with.  In just a few sentences, they turned our world upside down.  In a good way.

It was then I remembered the link from that morning.  Uncannily, it was a video dealing with the exact scenario we had just found ourselves in.  I started laughing….was this the burning bush I had asked for?

I was on holy ground and I didn’t even know it.  God had given us another piece of the puzzle.

Puzzle 3

I have yet to figure out what exactly He is doing.  I keep trying to create these hypothetical futures in a thousand different directions.  But I know it is futile.  I know whatever He has up His sleeve is bigger than I could ever ask or imagine.

So we wait.  And pray.  Our devotion tonight was on seeds becoming trees and the years and years it takes for that to happen.  We don’t want to rush into what we think is the vision.  For all we know, we’ll get another piece of the puzzle tomorrow.  And it could change every single assumption we have today.  We are praying like it depends on Him and acting like it depends on us.  He’ll change the trajectory of our path if He needs to.  We just have to keep seeking Him.

For the next part of our story, head here.  Or, if you want to start at the beginning, head here.

Puzzle, God, Mystery, Vision, Moses, Paul, Disciples, Jesus, Change, Growth, Journey, Voyage, Burning Bush, Voice of God

Along the Way

When I started this blog it was because God has set a vision before us.  And He had done so in big ways, ways that I didn’t want to ever forget.  So as we started on our voyage, I wanted to keep track of all that was happening.  So much was happening!  These unmistakable God moments seemed to be a weekly occurrence.  You can catch up by starting here.

I have been writing more recently because we’ve been learning more recently.  But, I know I haven’t written an update on where our vision stands.  There’s a reason for that.  I truly believe that God has us on pause.  Though I keep praying, it seems the answers never come.  I should clarify that I know the answer isn’t “no.”  God has given us a vision to start an intentional community outside of the walls of a church building.  Of that I am sure.  But, I believe at this point, His answer is “wait.”  And that frustrates me.  A lot.

Especially when trials and troubles seem to have replaced the God moments we were thriving from!

But then come the moments of conviction.  In relatively odd places.

On Facebook while I’m talking to my Mom-in-Law on the couch.

Driving from place to place.

In a work meeting when we’re discussing the opening of a maternity home.

God stops me in my tracks in those moments.  I have found myself in tears.  Not because I was sad or even overly happy, but because I remembered I was in His presence.  I was standing on holy ground.

He has a plan.  He has given me a vision.  He has given us a vision.  And He will bring that vision to pass, so long as we are obedient to His promptings.  And, I believe, that as long as we remain in prayer and in His word, we’ll recognize those promptings.

That doesn’t mean the vision will come to pass tomorrow or in the next few years.  For Moses, it was 40 years.  40 years!!  And that’s just one of many instances I could refer to.  I know it will happen.  I know that we will be a part of making a difference in the community we are in by starting intentional community.

I *think* I know what that looks like (can you say ‘coffee shop?’).  But I also know that as a vision grows, it may start to look a bit different from the original view point.  The end goal remains the same.  The purpose remains the same.  But God is moving.  And sometimes that means that I change.  Because, after all, change is growth, without change there can be no growth.  If a seed remains a seed, it will never become a tree.

Growth, Change, Vision, Tree, Seed, Waiting, God, Moses, Patience, Faith

And I want to be a tree, a tree that bears fruit.

I want to make a difference for the kingdom.  And I won’t settle for anything less.  Not now.  Not tomorrow.  Not 40 years from now.

When I reach those pearly gates, I long to hear the words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”  And I truly believe the only way those words will be spoken is if I have a whole crowd of people with me.  I want to make my Abba Father, my Daddy, proud.

So we march on toward the vision, working diligently along the way.

The vision continues to unfold here.

 

When God Gives a Vision…

I always have a plan for the way things are supposed to go.  And more often than not, God tends to throw a wrench into those plans.  A lot of the time, I don’t even understand what’s happening or why there was a shift.  But sometimes God grants us a peek at what He has in store, sometimes He allows us to see a glimpse of what is to be.  Those are moments of vision.  Sometimes God gives us a vision of how He wants us to move forward in furthering His kingdom.

Glimpse, Clouds Part, Vision, Dream, God Sized, Hope, Future, Nehemiah, Furthering the Kingdom, Goal

Now, I’m not necessarily speaking of something supernatural like a dream where we see the future and know for certain exactly what it all looks like (though, with God, all things are possible).  One of the ways Merriam-Webster defines ‘vision’ is “the mode of seeing or conceiving; unusual discernment or foresight.”  God often gives us an unusual foresight to conceive what the future might hold.  For instance, God has given Justin and I a vision for our church of young adult ministry, specifically for those outside the church.  That vision certainly wasn’t expected.  And since that moment of foresight, we haven’t heard much, I believe, because God is saying ‘not yet.’  I can see as I reflect upon this past year and our current situation that He is preparing us now for something in the future (However, about half way through writing this post…that ‘wait’ became a ‘ready, set, GO!’).  He has given us a vision, of that I am certain.

So what should our response be when God does give us a vision?  Nehemiah was a man of vision.  Before there was ever a vision, he spent a lot of time in prayer (more on that here).  Prayer is vital to any vision God gives us, both before and during the implementation of that vision.  We can’t carry out God’s plans if we aren’t in daily, constant communication with Him.  If we aren’t communicating with Him then we are doing nothing more than making the plans of God the plans of man.  Prayer is essential.

Once Nehemiah is sure of God’s vision, he sets himself to plan for the task.  He has to evaluate the situation, see the reality of what needs to be done.  In the second chapter of Nehemiah, verses 12-16, he mentions twice that he doesn’t tell anyone what God has put in his mind to do.  When God gives you a vision, it isn’t to bring glory and fame to your name.  When God gives you a vision, it is still HIS vision.  If we ever use that to bring attention to ourselves, we have missed the point.  So Nehemiah quietly moved forward without attracting any attention.

In the midst of that planning and preparation, the vision or the problems that arise within the vision, may seem insurmountable.  Nehemiah was surrounded by ruins and disappointment (quite literally).  He was given a vision for a problem no one else seemed to want to fix.  And in the middle of the night, as he was planning, he literally came to an impasse: “Then I passed on to the Fountain Gate and the King’s Pool, but there was no place for my mount to pass” (vs. 14).  So what did he do?  He found another way!  Nehemiah didn’t give up at the first sign of difficulty.  The vision seemed impossible from the start, but he didn’t let that stop him.  And even when it became even more difficult, Nehemiah kept moving forward.  Why?  Because this wasn’t a vision of man.  This was a God sized vision.  And only with the power of God could it be accomplished.

Finally, Nehemiah feels it is time to cast the vision (vs. 17-18).  He explains to the Jews the situation they are in, the why.  Then he gives them a solution to fix it and says, let us fix the issue, together.  He doesn’t cast the vision and say, ‘Okay, God gave me this vision, I’ll be over here working on that.  Can you guys pray for me?’  No, a God-sized vision requires that His people come together in unity to accomplish the task.  And He also explains how God has been in the mix.  It’s one thing to cast a vision of how we see things.  It is another when we are able to point to God in the process.  I love how Matthew Henry  looks at Nehemiah casting the vision: “By stirring up ourselves and one another to that which is good, we strengthen ourselves and one another for it; for the great reason we are weak in our duty is because we are cold to it, indifferent, and unresolved.”   If we are weak it is because we have become indifferent.  When God gives us a vision, it is our responsibility to stir ourselves and others up.  And no matter how crazy or impossible the task, we can’t take the time to worry about what other’s think, “The man who is in dead earnest has no time to be self-conscious, he does not indulge in sickly reflection on the effect of what he says on other people’s opinions about himself, he will not care what they think about him so long as he moves them to do the thing it is laid on his soul to urge upon them” (Expositor’s).

And lastly, when faced with opposition, Nehemiah doesn’t give up on the vision God has given him.  Instead, he clings more tightly.  We will face opposition.  When God gives us a vision, it is usually something that can’t be done by the hands of man.  In order for that vision to succeed, God will have to be in the mix or it will fail.  That way we can’t take the credit.  Because of that impossibility, there will always be naysayers.  And there will always be obstacles to overcome.  Nehemiah’s response to that opposition is this: “The God of heaven will give us success; therefore we His servants will arise and build…” (vs. 20).  In other words, we are determined to make this happen, we will not give up because God Himself will grant us success.  When you know you have a vision from the Lord, there is no need for doubt or discouragement, there is only moving forward.  If He has given you a vision, He will provide the means.  All He requires from you is faith.  I have been reading through Draw the Circle by Mark Batterson (I highly recommend it).  He notes at one point that it is “Our job is to hear [God’s] voice.  His job is to establish our steps.  And if we do our job, God will do His” (pg.25)!

So stand firm.  Push forward.  And never forget to pray – “We need to work like it depends on us and pray like it depends on God” (Batterson, Draw the Circle).

The voyage continues here.

our-job

 

When the Waiting Ends…

Waiting is a funny thing.  You wait and wait and it drives you crazy. Why aren’t things happening??  Why can’t we move forward yet?  It feels like someone hit the pause button on life.  And so you wait some more.

And you wait….

And you wait…

And you get comfortable waiting.

And then all the sudden, something happens, and you’re not waiting anymore.  You’re like an arrow shot straight from a bow.  No stopping, no slowing down, headed straight toward the target you’ve been waiting for.

But, wait, I’m comfortable waiting.  This…this not waiting thing, I don’t like it.  Why is this all happening so fast?  Nope, go back.  I’m okay with waiting some more.  I’m not ready yet.  Please make it stop.

God is funny like that.  His timing doesn’t always coincide with ours.  And we’ve been waiting for awhile.  And we’ve gotten comfortable again.  The first fire that started this voyage has died back quite a bit.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s still there, embers glowing, sparks flying….but the flames aren’t roaring like they were.  We got too comfortable with the way things are.

embers

So God woke us up with a free fall back into our vision.  So much of a free fall, that I’m not sure I’m ready.  Things went from 0 to 180 in two seconds flat.  And I’m still stuck against the seat back trying to catch my breath.  I don’t know what tomorrow holds.  But, like Nehemiah, I am praying day and night.  If this is His vision come to fruition, than my feeble soul will catch up eventually.  And if this is just a way to wake us up, then so be it, let’s shake up those embers and fan the flames – I want the fire to roar again!

fire-roar

Please be holding us in prayer as we aim for our target and flesh out this vision.  Thanks all!

Update, April 2017: This didn’t unfold quite the way we expected.  But God is still moving.  And, I’m excited to say that the fire is burning, steadily.  Continue the voyage here.

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.