Changes

So, we moved to North Carolina.  I feel like I should punctuate that with an exclamation point, because shouldn’t I be excited about this big change in my life?, but that feels a little false.  I could also punctuate it:

So, we moved to North Carolina?

Or:

So, we moved to North Carolina…

Perhaps the ellipses is the most accurate, because I don’t know what’s next!

We have been here about nine weeks, and a lot has happened during that time. So, upon several requests, I am bringing the blog back (at least for this update).  IMG_3840.JPGSome of this story is just David’s, but in short, he has been wrestling with his call for a while.  We both absolutely loved our church in Florida, but he was feeling restless.  When he was first approached about applying for a new position, I was in one of the hardest seasons I have ever been in and flat-out told him NO.  You cannot disrupt our life right now; it is hard enough.  I cannot cope with more.  If you are gone any more, if we have any fewer resources at our disposal, if I have to implement one more change, that will be the straw that breaks me.

Although I told him no, it began an almost two-year conversation about what a new call might look like.  What would make us leave the people we loved and the important work we both did in our community? What would be “worth it?” Every few months he would hear from a church wondering if he was interested in an interview.  We said no every time.  We both acknowledged that we would likely move at some point so that David could advance in his career track, but you don’t leave a job when things are going well (or so we thought).

Things got easier with the kids.  Last spring, I was offered an exciting job opportunity.  The position would require me to stay in our area for the next three years.  David told me that I should take it–then told me three days later over tacos and my tears,  “I don’t think I can commit to staying here that long.”

This timeline was new to me.

(I want to pause here and say that marriage is a growth opportunity.  It’s easy to say the vows; it’s harder to make choices that prioritize another person’s happiness over your own.  Deciding, ok, your fulfillment is more important than mine—I’ll figure it out is SCARY. Yet I believe it is what we are called to, and I believe that God will bless us when we are obedient.

There are, of course, more complex layers to this decision involving long-term finances and health insurance and childcare–and in some of those decisions, David has laid down some of his happiness for us.  So don’t interpret this as my martyr story.  Healthy, loving families sacrifice for one another; marriage generally works best if you do, too. Moving along…)

I didn’t commit to the job opportunity.  But the conversation had shifted something anyway.  I noticed that David began to say “when we move” instead of “if we move.”  Things were going well for him AND for me professionally and personally, and the kids were thriving, so I pretended I couldn’t hear him.

In November, David went on a weeklong retreat for pastors.  I sent him away somewhat rudely, telling him he needed to figure out why he was so restless.  I assumed they would tell him to try harder to have a positive attitude, or something.  Instead, the vocational coaches told him he was restless because he was ready for a senior pastor position.

He came home and had barely updated me on the retreat when two churches contacted him to set up interviews for a senior pastor position.  Two in one week.  And here is where I sort of lost my mind, because THIS WAS MOVING SO FAST, and when I said, “figure out your restlessness” I didn’t mean, “move our family in the next few months.”

Yet just eight weeks later, I found myself in a tiny rental car, driving towards a a small town in North Carolina.

Over a long weekend, I learned that this church wanted and needed my husband’s exact skill set.

I could see the opportunities in front of the church and the growing community; I could see how his gifts would allow this church to expand their ministry and share God’s love with more people.

But I was so comfortable in Florida. I was happy.  Life was running smoothly(ish)—finally. 

IMG_3404As I spoke, journaled, prayed them—these objections disturbed me.  I used to want to be a missionary in another country—and now I wouldn’t BE MISSIONAL because I was too comfortable? Since when was my comfort a good decision-making standard? And was my happiness truly contingent upon being in a 5-mile geographic radius, or was God big enough to fulfill me anywhere? Could I trust God to help me handle the transitions that would come with a big life change, or not?

Long story short, through lots of prayer (mine were mostly “DON’T DO THIS TO ME PLEASE DON’T DO THIS TO ME CRAP I THINK YOU MIGHT WANT ME TO DO THIS”) and with the help of wise counsel and a good offer, we decided to take the job.  I still wasn’t totally jazzed, but the logical part of me saw how all of this was good, and I didn’t want to hold us back with my selfishness.

Mechanically, I got ready for the move.  But my heart wasn’t in it.

IMG_3063About a month later, just before we announced our move, I was perched on my kitchen bar stool, reading and journaling and doing my best to work through all this when I got to Romans 10:

For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!”

And for the first time, I could picture more than my comfortable life.

I pictured the small town, growing by the day.  I pictured the church–which has been ministering to the community since the 1700s.  I remembered the search committee’s description of the church: their sincere desire to share good news with their community, and their longing for someone to equip them to be the best messengers possible.

I realized that while I was begging NOT to be sent, they were begging TO be sent.

And then God hit me over the head with this thought (from my BSF lesson):

IMG_3070What if I stepped out—and something amazing happened in someone else’s life because of it? What if someone found Christ because I agreed to move? That would be worth it. 

And here, I found a vision that compelled me more than my comfort.  I still wasn’t (and honestly still am not) happy to leave my friends and community, and man, it has been a lot of work, but I feel purpose in this transition.  David is doing a great job.  The church is thrilled to have his leadership.  The community is responding.

We have a new house, in a wonderful school district.  I have six new friends’ names and numbers in my phone.  I even got here in time to plant a garden…and it’s growing!

IMG_4026I didn’t picture this.  I didn’t plan this.  But once again, I find myself “journeying with Him.”  Surrendering to the mystery of the journey.

Even enjoying the journey.

Maybe I’ll blog about the journey?

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Our Journey to Riley: Part Two

“In no way is it enough to set out cheerfully with God on any venture of faith.  You must also be willing to take your ideas of what the journey will be like and tear them into tiny pieces, for nothing on the journey will happen as you expect.”
–from Streams in the Desert, by L.B. Cowman

When we left off in Part One, David and I had just agreed to adopt Zoe’s biological sibling, who was due in eight weeks.  Over the next month, we told our parents and closest friends about our news, prepared a nursery, prayed hard for our future addition, and got organized for life with two.

On Christmas Day, we told our extended family about the upcoming addition.  Everyone rejoiced.

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As the weeks went by, some red flags started to emerge.  The birth mom skipped several OB appointments and lied about several things.  But she kept reiterating that she intended to place the baby with us.  Ordinarily, red flags would make us run—but we knew her.  She had given us Zoe.  We loved her and trusted her.  And we didn’t feel like God was telling us to run.

Then, two weeks before the baby’s due date, I got a call from our case manager.

The birth mom was having second thoughts.

I want to make it clear that I respect the enormity of a decision to place a baby, and that I don’t automatically think I am more qualified to parent than someone else.  However, in this particular case, every professional involved thought it would be in the best interest of this child to come home with us as the birth mom lacked the physical, emotional, and mental resources to care for this child and lacked family support as well.  After working in Title I schools for a few years and learning the difference between “rougher than my upbringing” and “harmful to a child,” I agreed with their assessment.  We were scared by the thought of a child entering this situation.

The case manager and the social worker working with the birth mom suggested that I have a phone conversation with the birth mom to remind her of her positive feelings towards us. I agreed, feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of this assignment.

The next day, I was on the elliptical machine at the gym when my phone rang.  Was I free to talk to her now?

I stepped out of the gym and sat in my car.  It was a crisp Friday morning, and I shivered a little in the car as I chatted with the birth mom.  At first, it was just a conversation between two moms—updating one another on their kids and on life.

Then it got serious.  She said she was having second thoughts about this adoption.

I told her, “I know it’s a huge decision.  I want you to know that we love you regardless of the decision you make about this baby, and we will always love and respect you because you are Zoe’s birth mom.  I want you to make the decision that is best for the baby.  I can’t tell you what that is.  But either way, we will still love you.  Please just let us know what your decision is.”

And at that moment, she said “I woke up this morning and knew what I have to do.  I need to place the baby with you.  It’s the right thing for the baby.  Talking to you makes me feel certain it’s right.”

She said it would be helpful if I would come to some OB appointments with her, as she didn’t have any friend or family support, and invited me to go to an appointment with her a few days later.  Everything she said sounded “right.”  But I still came home and said to David, “I’m not sure what will happen here.”

We felt exhausted.  But at the same time, we didn’t feel like we were supposed to “move.”  In many ways, I wished we felt that way.  It would have been easier.  But God kept telling us, “stay with this.”  1518807_709743621525_999587354_o

I wrote to my prayer group that day,

“I was reading this morning about how a planter and a harvester aren’t always the same person and I realized that in this situation, I feel called to faithfully ‘plant’ love regardless of whether I see this ‘harvest’ or not. I get the sense that God just wants me to obey and live out what He has called me to (pursuing this adoption and loving and supporting the birth mom) regardless of outcome.  I feel strongly that there is an entire spiritual dimension going on that I know nothing about, that may have very little to do with me, but that my obedience still can impact.  Of course, God is going to do what He is going to do and I couldn’t stop Him by NOT obeying—but maybe He wants me to play a ‘willing participant’ role instead of ‘mere bystander.’

And so my cry to God is ‘if all I am in this situation is a planter—let that be enough.’  I am praying for the outcome I want too, of course, and I trust that God CAN do that and very well MIGHT do that but that is not the most important thing to me anymore.  And so I ask for your continued prayers for this situation, for the outcome but also for the process in me and in whoever it is supposed to be impacting.”

Over the next two weeks, I attended two appointments with the birth mom.  She acted relieved and excited to have me there.  We made our birth plan.  My mom came, ready to help.

And then, the day of the C-section arrived.  We waited and waited for the phone call telling us our baby’s gender.  Hours went by, with no information.  “She should have been done by now,” we realized.

It was pouring outside.  My mom snapped some photos, trying to capture the mood of the day our new son or daughter would be born.  They are telling.

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IMG_3469Then the phone call came.  My mom, not knowing what was being said and thinking she was snapping photos of a happy moment, took these photos.  They make me tear up looking at them even now.

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IMG_3494It was not a happy moment.  Our birth mom had been through the C-section procedure, refused calls for a while, then finally got in touch with our case manager only to tell her, “it’s a girl.  I love her and I’m keeping her.” 

Our case manager said, “she sounded pretty loopy from the pain meds.  I bet tomorrow she will say something different.”

If you’ve read my blog or followed our life at all this year, you know that she didn’t.  For three weeks, she wavered while we waited, grieved, felt guilty for grieving, hoped, felt stupid for hoping, prayed and generally went crazy, but ultimately, she said she was keeping the baby—that she knew it wasn’t the best decision for the baby, but that it was her decision.

Our case was closed.

Now what?

We didn’t know.  But we knew—and wanted to trust—that Someone else did.

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Part III coming soon.