“Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”So Abram went, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of Canaan. When they came to the land of Canaan, Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him. From there he moved to the hill country on the east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. And there he built an altar to the Lord and called upon the name of the Lord. And Abram journeyed on, still going toward the Negeb.”
-Genesis 12:1-9, ESV
The other night, I had a dream where I went back to Virginia to visit some good friends. In my dream, it was a very short drive and I showed up at the Yee's house. So then I went in and visited with my friend, who in my dream had just put her baby to bed. All of her other children were still awake, and we talked about a dance convention they had recently attended, as well as just marveling at how much her children had grown. On the way out of her house, I bumped into another good friend, the leader of one of the homeschool groups I had been a part of up there. Again, it was good to see her and we hugged and talked and then I got in my car and drove home. At that point, I woke up. It way WAY too early to actually get up, so I lay in bed, and bittersweet feelings overwhelmed me. I felt sad that it was only a dream, and that such a spontaneous type of visit was not impossible. At the same time, I realized how blessed our family was, to feel such deep emotional connections in multiple physical places, and I realized that along with the hardships of moving to a new place, there have also been many blessings. At that moment, I wondered how universal our experience was, and I would LOVE to hear from others if, after reading this blog post, they could share if they identify with what I am saying here, or if it is something unique to my perspective.
At heart, I am a small town girl. I spent all of my growing up years in the same town. Even when my parents divorced when I was in third grade, my mom and stepdad built their new house down the road from my dad's. When I hit high school age, I had a hunger to see the world, but not necessarily to venture out permanently beyond the safe confines of my small town existence. I felt giddy with anticipation when I went off to college a whole HOUR away from my small town, as some might have felt who moved to another state or country. Reflecting back, it seems almost humorous to me now how I perceived such a small distance as a distant place. It was at college that I met my husband, and we spent the first years of marriage in this same small town.
Looking back, I can see the hand of God clearly in our lives at that time. It was a rough time of transition for us, as we finished college and adjusted to the changing realities of being married and starting and having a family. Along the way, God sent many people who sowed love and care into our lives. I remember fondly the married couple who led the first church I was a part of there, and how she volunteered to watch my then one year old daughter free of charge one day a week, so that I could take the last of my two classes to graduate college. I remember the BSU director, Dr. Joe, who married me and Joe, and couseled us so lovingly in a difficult time. I remember the first church we were a part of as a married couple, Trinity, and especially several of the pastors there. Pastor Mike counseled us on occasion and mentored Joe (my husband) in many ways at a promise keepers group, while the Senior Pastor at the time, Pastor Eddie, modeled to us true humility and compassion for the lost, and transparency in his struggles serving God. Our young married class was a place of growth for us as well; the married leaders at that time, first the Grogans and later the Kings, both in their own ways enriched our walk with the Lord and our marriage to each other. We formed several deeper relationships with friends in our church, and so when God made clear it was His will for us to move to Virginia, it was not a vision I embraced enthusiastically. And even though there was a stirring and a restlessness in our hearts, I wondered how we could ever feel a part of a community of believers as intimately as we had in that place. But we felt a peace when we considered the move, and in our hearts we knew God had opened the door. So we set out with expectation of His provision and excited to see the plans of God unfold. That, however, did not mean there were not tears or sadness as we left the familiar for the unknown. The small town girl sought to “enlarge her territory, and to drive the tent stakes outward”, trusting that it was God's will and His best.
So we arrived in Virginia, in a little town, sight unseen to myself before we actually were moving into our first home. The first order of business was to locate Wal-mart, and I wondered indeed to what God-forsaken place my husband had moved us to, when he explained that the closest Wal-mart was FORTY FIVE MINUTES away. But we adapted. There was certainly a period of time that I struggled with depression in this new place, feeling abandoned by my old friends (no one really called or checked on me, and that stung a little) and not yet feeling close to any new ones, as relationships take time. I see now even in this the hand of God, as he used my isolation to show me He could be enough, even if it was not a life lesson I embraced enthusiastically. And over time, God led us to our first church family there, and I began to feel a part of the community of believers there. At that church, we saw the love of Christ modeled so clearly in their love for each other, and they received us with open arms. There were many large homeschooling families in that church---I say large, because at that time, they seemed large to me, but really they were no larger than my family is now, most having no more than four or five children. But seeing the love within these families grew my and Joe's vision of children being perceived as a blessing, and not a curse, as the world often perceives them, and our own ideas about the kind of family God had called us to raise changed as well.
There came a time there, though, when God stirred our hearts again that He was calling us somewhere else to grow and minister, and it was about that time that a Sovereign Grace Church plant started in the area. We had never heard of the Sovereign Grace churches before, but from the first service we attended in the Pastor's home, it was clear to us that the Holy Spirit was saying it was where He wanted us to be. So we left our other church, not in hostility or brokenness but with love and gratitude in our hearts for how they had been a part of our lives, and set out to help in this new church. It was difficult to leave, for they in fact were our family to us. But we knew the Lord was calling us, so we put aside our feelings of sadness at leaving them to obey His call. We were there for two years, before God sent us here to Alabama. Again, it was hard to leave, because we were so content in our church home there, but we felt the Lord was saying to go. So we left, feeling a bit like Abraham, not knowing to what body of believers he had called us, but knowing He was opening the door. And we moved ourselves, and I worried who would unpack us in a strange place, where we knew no one. And then J found the church online that we attend now, and they all showed up on our unpacking day, atleast 30 or 40 people who did not know us but showed up to help us just the same, all of these total strangers, and our truck was unpacked in no time, and I was in awe of God's goodness.
My point to all of this is that while it is hard to move from a physical location you are comfortable in, I see now how it is also a major blessing. I see how God has grown us in ways he never could have if we had stayed in Tennessee. I may have known when I lived in Tennessee that God could be bigger than one place, but until I experienced the reality of that truth it wasn't a meaningful thing to me. Now that I have lived it, I can say with confidence what a mighty God I serve, a God who knows know physical boundaries or limitations. Does that mean I never worry or fear? No, unfortunately, I am still quite an anxious person sometimes. But my faith has grown because of my experience, and I find peace and comfort in knowing that I serve a God who truly does know the end from the beginning, and causes all things in His sovereignty to work for the good of those who love Him.
When I woke from my dream the other night, this was what was stirred up in my heart, and I wanted to share it with others. I wanted to encourage other believers, that if God is asking you to do a difficult thing, you can trust Him. He is the good Shepherd, and He is faithful. He leads us beside still waters, and He always, always takes care of His children.