thank you for joining in! this post is part four of a four-part series about living fearlessly. for the first post, click here.
after nearly a year of praying and wrestling, growing together more as the time went along, my husband came to me one day and said he was going to apply for a job as athletic director at a Christian conference and retreat in new jersey. now, my first goal in our current “adventure,” after his finding joy and renewed sense of calling for his work, was to end up closer to my parents (or my husband’s parents, or preferably both!). i so long for my children to be near them, and they, near my children, while time is young and there is so much wisdom to soak in. my parents are NOT in new jersey. nonetheless, i prayed with him and encouraged him to go for it. this is where I started to see it played out for real, that:
it’s in offering ourselves (or our “thing,” as the case may be), that we find fulfillment, and possibly in the magnifying of a gift He has given us.
you see, in the course of that conversation, from a wife’s second-hand perspective, the director basically told my husband he was better suited elsewhere. after several applications where directors couldn’t see how his years of experience both in and out of vocational ministry actually prepared him for work, the director said he was willing to look at my husband for the job he applied for, but he had another position in mind to discuss. it sounded as if he recognized in my husband the very gifts and passions i had been praying would be developed. the man who would become my husband’s boss described a job he had envisioned, and as he described it, it seemed to me it was hand-made for what I knew to be my husband’s giftings.
now don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t the quick answer. although half of what we owned had been packed for eight months in anticipation, and our house had been on the market for 3/4 of a year, it still took five months of interviewing for my husband to be offered this job, which he is, literally, now developing with his director. (from the “other side” of that process, by the way, we see how the intentionality was so part of the process, and built a near-immediate sense of partnership in work and ministry.)
yet when the offer was made, in three weeks, with help beyond what I can even comprehend, we packed our family of seven and our belongings from the last 12 years. we sold an unsellable vehicle, sight unseen, for cash, to an investor who knew exactly what he wanted. we prepared to move to a place I never wanted to live. (or so, in the moment, i thought!!)
during our times of waiting, there were two passages that God continually called me to. the first was Proverbs 31, especially verse 25, which describes a “virtuous woman,” who is highly acclaimed. one tiny little verse tucked into the passage says this of her:
“she is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.”
so often i felt (and still feel) completely unprepared and ill-equipped for this great adventure. i feel so small, so lost, and so afraid. but this woman from history, so greatly respected, laughed at the days to come. i picture myself in the miraculous moments, buried to my eyeballs in liquor-store boxes and packing tape, surrounded by busy mamas themselves, packing us and preparing us to head off to the unknown. and in the sweetest of moments, i laughed.
i also was often drawn to the story of sarah, abraham’s wife, as retold in 1 peter 3. most telling to me was the mention, as it applauds her honor of her husband, that we will also be lauded if we “do what is right and do not give way to fear.” (1 peter 3:6) how the writer must haven known that desperate, raging desire that simmers ever, to either control our circumstances to our standards, or else give up and run and hide.
i mentioned an utter lack of desire to ever live in new jersey, either for me or my children. a not-so-small irony here is that one summer in college, I served with an urban ministry called Urban Promise, in camden, new jersey, just half an hour from what would become our new home, as a summer missionary. during that summer, i served and i prayed that God would someday call me back with my husband and children to minister in this area. we would also soon discover that this new area would be rich with both historical depth and geographical interest, both important to our children and our home education.
we decided to make our travel a time of historical and educational exploration. we met a man (our server at a restaurant in colonial williamsburg, of all things), who immediately connected with our journey to pursue God’s calling in a new place. during the course of serving our lunch, he practically pulled up a chair to tell us his family’s story of moving cross-country to a ministry job. what he stressed was that God worked most mightily in their temporary waiting time. the refrain he repeated again and again? “God doesn’t always give us exactly what we want, but He always gives us an adventure.”
we’re currently living in what we call our “cottage by the sea.” we still have work and educational ties in Florida as we await our “real” home in a new place. our cottage is about 900 square feet that somehow manages to squeeze in four bedrooms. we’ve already had new friends in for coffee, lunch, and dinner, and we have gone from soaking in the salt breeze and autumn winds, to playing in snow on sand. we’ve had new friends shower us with borrowed surf boards which turned to cold-weather clothing and Christmas decor. (one precious sister showed up on my front deck, in the early morning hours, wind nearly whipping her off her feet, to adorn my entry with live garland and white lights… to ward off my “grinch” tendencies as i so longed to be in a more “permanent” home.) yet as we search for the right home at the right price to make our move “official,” i’m not going to lie – the tendency to fear is still great. after a long wait, our florida house still hadn’t sold. where i expected all the ends tied up in bows, there are kinks to work out.
also, the people are really different. at first we thought they were more reserved, and they are slower to speak. but somehow, in a few short weeks, we’re connecting everywhere we turn. we are challenged by the work ethic here. i’m dared to be slower to speak, slower to move. i am awed by the depth and story of people who look and talk differently than i do, and yet have such beautiful stories to be told, and who embrace me as if i were worthy of the embrace. and as I sat on the deck overlooking a radiant sunrise reflected on the water not long ago praying, i realized with tears that God had indeed answered that year-long prayer for my husband to find great joy in his calling, and fulfillment in his work. to my surprise in a short time, He even gave me the opportunity to speak for a group of women, some of whom were photography clients, telling them the story of His dare to be fearless.
the interesting thing, and we know this, in an abstract-oh-the-Christians-far-off-who-suffer kind of way, is that God doesn’t think in the same way we do of adventure or “good.” He has his own very large, very grand idea of these concepts. and the more interesting, and honestly scary thing, is that His idea often directly opposes ours.
i am realizing (even as I type these very words, with a broken heart for how recently I have still fought for the idol of ME), that when we stomp our feet and tell God we don’t want to be in the place we are in, but we aren’t willing to be faithful until our circumstances change and even if they don’t, we are missing out on the biggest blessing of sensing His actual presence in our suffering. when we live out actions for our work, our family, and our marriages based on fear of either our continued current circumstances or what might happen in the future, we miss the GLORY of what He is doing in the “little things.” but when we commit with all our might to serve Him where we are, and to give up what He asks us to, for what might be waiting, He might blow our minds with the great adventure that awaits.
in a sermon at a first church visit in new jersey, the pastor shared from Romans 12:1-2, which says,
“therefore, i urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.”
as he spoke, tears shimmered in my eyes, because i saw in the margin of my Bible the notes from a dear pastor friend at our former church, where he had challenged (during our time of longing and transition in Florida), to give our “whole self, all the time.” but also in that margin? i found the notes from decades ago, when during a summer off from college, i served on a team in camden, new jersey. i shared a challenge to my team from this exact passage, daring each of us to run with courage after God, however and whenever, and wherever He called us.
even as i re-tell our story, i see how much i still need to grow in the trusting, and the waiting. i see the beginnings of how He may use the very things i give up, to bring Truth and glory to those who need its encouragement. and i wonder, what is a pressing issue of desire or prayer for you – an area where you would be amazed to see God work?
do you have a secret “life fear?” something you think you couldn’t literally couldn’t give up if called to do so?
i wonder if you, too, might have a “me thing,” something you have to offer up, that could be an amazing gift, when handed over. would you be so brave to share below?