Since my last check-in at Christmas, when I went on a blogging spree in an attempt to catch up from the year, our entire life has been turned a little upside down! For starters, my computer stopped working, as in the power cord will no longer connect or register as discoverable, meaning as the battery life drains from the computer I have no way of powering it back up again. I did manage to get all my pictures off the hard drive and I've saved just enough battery life to grab a couple of documents too, but the end is near and therefore the blog is at a standstill. It's an old computer, they can't service it any longer at the Genius Bar and it's time for a new one, but as you'll soon know, that purchase has just been moved to the very back burner for now. In the meantime, I'm thankful to be coming to you from the Blogger app, via my iPad, so all is not lost! I am sad to not be attaching pictures to this post, by now you know my LOVE for the pictures, but no need to hand me a violin, I have more than enough good news to share with you today!
If we are Facebook friends or real life friends, then you already know the bullet points of this post;
-Travis has a new job (same Church, same department, new title, new role!)
-We sold our condo!
-We are moving into a great house in April!!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I feel like those three statements are just amazing movements of God, each in their own right, and worthy of a little pause to throw all the praise hands up in the air before I even begin!!!!!!!!!!!
What in the world??? Life happens fast!
Yes, those are the all caps headlines, but as I promised and as the famous Paul Harvey used to say, "and now, for the rest of the story..."
It would be almost impossible to sum these last few months up without some context. Really the whole last year, actually. If you would have asked me to write this a year ago, I could have imagined some similar bullet points, I just would have predicted completely different circumstances. It's been my experience that as the Lord orders our steps and His will for us unfolds, there are major hinge points in our story that He uses to shape and direct us and most of the time, they are completely unsettling and unknown as we walk through them. Times in our life when we sense He is up to something but for the life of us, we can't figure out what or why and in our darkest moments, we aren't really even sure if He's on our side. Do you know those seasons? They happen to all of us at one point or another and of course His Word tells us that He is on our side and He's always acting for our good, but they aren't easy, in fact they are often the exact opposite of easy. They tend to be full of character building, walking with one-foot-in-front-of-the-other times, that come hand in hand with sleepless nights and exhausting days. That's sort of what this past year has felt like for us. Tons of unknowns, feeling like this was a hinge year for us and yet not knowing what on earth it might look like or mean.
It's no secret that the Lord has indeed been stirring and moving at our Church this past year too. In many, many ways He has been turning the page on a new season and writing a new narrative for His plan with His church. That's looked like many tough goodbyes to many ministry partners who have all started new chapters of their own, in new places and continents even! Each of those transitions are always hard, even when God does a beautiful thing in the process and faithfully takes care of each family. Ultimately it's change we struggle to embrace. And who loves change at the beginning?? But life with Jesus is an adventure and serving Him full-time as a vocation means you sign up for the adventure to be your "normal." So as only He could do, and with perfect timing as only He could orchestrate, we found ourselves on the roller-coaster this year, only to be called to stay right here, in the same Church, with the same people and students we love. After nearly a decade of Travis specifically being a junior high pastor, he is now turning a new page as pastor to all students, overseeing both junior high and senior high. We are thrilled about it, thankful for it and very humbled to have the opportunity. Travis would say his best way to describe the joy of what this means, is that instead of being able to shepherd and invest in a student's life for just 2 years, he now gets to do that for 6 extremely transformational years. And we both consider that such a privilege and a delight. 2015 wrapped up for us with this new change in the works and it's been a joy to experience the change and just in the last two weeks, for it to finally be announced and set into motion. We are thankful for the way He answered our prayers and for the gift of being able to stay and to continue putting our roots downs here in Minnesota. In hindsight, we now see the fruit of so many of those hard days and we are able to trace His hand as we look back and see how He was preparing us and protecting us and guiding us all along, even when we couldn't have known or seen what He had in store. We learned wonderful lessons, helpful not only in ministry but just in life. And maybe the biggest blessing of all, is that He used this stressful year to grow us closer and to keep us on the same page. I consider that miraculous grace. Somehow as we navigated this season, our marriage has been strengthened and we know that is simply grace from Him. We were completely surprised with this new role and we praise the Lord as we anticipate new, exciting days ahead.
In the midst of all of that, we had not one thought about this condo, except that with each week it seemed to be growing smaller and smaller as our kids grew bigger and bigger. But as you who have been faithful blog readers know, that's the same song and dance we've been singing for about 5 years now. I won't re-hash the whole story or detail all the circumstances again, I have plenty of old posts that do that. I will just remind you that we bought at the peak of an inflated market 9 years ago, with no kids and a big, sweet golden retriever. As God grew our family, He blessed us with three darling kiddos in 7 years, all while our square footage shrank and the value of our home plummeted. It wasn't a story unique to us, many families have found themselves in similar situations, but it has been our reality and it hasn't been easy. By the grace of God we've made 1200 square feet work for us and truly, there have been more blessings than we could have ever imagined here. I've detailed those before too and I've thoughtfully put together list after list of what we can thank God for about this condo, in my quest to fight for Godly contentment and daily joy. I have poured out my sorrows and struggles to the Lord and faithfully, He has walked with me through each one and has taken such great care of our family in the process. We have not been abandoned by Him and we do not believe for even a second that He dropped the ball for us. We could not have known what an unpredictable market fall would look like, or how it would feel so crushing for our first home purchase. Life is not like that. We don't get a crystal ball or a map of what lies ahead. I have always known in the depths of my heart that this season of waiting and struggling was part of His plan for us because it was building godliness and character into us as we quite literally worked our salvation out, here.
Probably 4 years ago, the Lord in His mercy helped me change my prayers from "please get us out of here" to "please help us not waste these years here." He opened my eyes to the possibility that maybe us being stuck in this financial pickle, really wasn't all about us. Maybe this season of living in this condo was so that we could be used here to love our neighbors and share Jesus with them in tangible and real ways. I began praying that way and as I did, the Lord did shift my perspective and He gave me thoughts and scriptures that were life to me as I tried to obediently be a Gospel blessing to our neighbors. The fruit of that has been one of the greatest joys we will take with us from this chapter of our life and it's also what makes leaving this condo very bittersweet. We have made dear friends here, our kids have so many extended grandmas and grandpas here, we have been able to share the Gospel and have wonderful conversations with many neighbors, we now go to Church with a neighbor down the hall from us, and we have tried to use every opportunity we've been given to bring honor to the Lord. As much as we are able, we speak very boldly and freely about who He is to us and how He has taken care of us. Our sweet neighbors know how hard this has been and we have been able to share openly with them about what Jesus is teaching us and now, how He has provided for us. I could cry remembering a day when I broke down before the Lord in total frustration, weary of living with little ones in such close quarters with no end in sight, and as I prayed with a broken heart before Him I can remember telling Him, "if we need to stay here, please don't let us stay without making an impact. Please let this be for something greater than just a really long season. If and when we do go someday, I hope we will have made such a difference that our neighbors will be sad to see us go."
I genuinely meant that and it has been something that has sustained me over these last few years. While our incredible neighbors have been so good to us and so understanding, when Walker entered the picture things got harder. We couldn't love our Walker more and he certainly was/is a gift from God to us. But three kids in a 2 bedroom condo and the days of middle of the night feedings, crying for no reason (x's 3!!) early mornings and now the throws of toddlerhood have translated into a very stressful situation. Walker was born with a megaphone volume and he exercises his lungs on a regular basis! We have been living with so much stress in an attempt to keep him quiet for the sake of our neighbors, that it has turned home from being our refuge into our greatest challenge. Carter and Ava have also continued to grow (as kids do-wink, wink) and they have needed space to run, freedom to play, permission to make noise, etc. and all of those things have been hard for us to give them. There have been some hard days and nights these last two years and we have fought to not lose hope or our joy as we faced a market that still had not quite rebounded enough for us to make a move. We pursued renting it out multiple times and even then, the Lord just firmly closed one door after another. We just knew He was asking us to hang on and stay until He made it clear that we could go. We have had to be very creative and on the go a lot these years, trying to help them get their wiggles out at a park or a gym or wherever we could find freedom, before we'd come home and try to stay reasonably quiet. Truly this last year of job stress was a great distraction from the stress at home! We both resolved to not worry about home for awhile and to just thank Him for whatever we could here because at least we had a roof over our heads and food on our table. And so, with this condo an afterthought, wouldn't you know that is exactly when the Lord stepped in and began to move on our behalf...