If you follow me on social media, then you already know our big news.
We are moving!
It would be so easy for me to leave it at that. Three simple words. We are moving. But this decision has been anything but simple. Behind those three words is a big story and I am going to do my best to write it.
It was months ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday. I was leaning on the doorframe of our laundry room, tears streaming down my face. Phillip and I were having the same conversation we had been having for months now. The one where he tells me he feels that God is calling us to Virginia and I say I can’t, even though deep in my heart, I knew God was telling me the same thing.
“When you talk about us selling our house and giving up everything that makes up our life right now, I feel like I’m dying. I feel like I will have to be stripped of everything that defines me in order for this to happen and that doesn’t make sense to me.”
At the IF:Local Leader Training in September, Jennie Allen was talking about the various lies Satan will tell us in order to keep us from doing the things God has called us to do. When she said that Satan will make you hate your story, I knew she was speaking to me.
I was angry at God. This isn’t the story I want. I don’t want to sell my house, leave my friends, and leave my church. I don’t want to move to Portsmouth. I don’t want to work at an inner city church. I don’t want to be missionaries and have to raise our salary by asking friends and family to support us. I don’t want to have to live by that kind of faith. It’s too hard. What about my creative dreams? What about the life I want for our kids? This isn’t what I want.
Whoever loses their life for my sake will find it. Matthew 10:39
So this is what dying feels like, I think to myself.
I’ve always known we’d end up in Virginia. Well, at least for 7 years I have known. I’ll never forget that one summer in Portsmouth. It was the second year we took our youth group on a summer mission trip to run an inner-city camp with Hope Charitable Services. Jack was 2 years old and I was watching him play on an old ride-on toy we had found in the nursery at Sanctuary of Hope. I thought of all his nice toys I had so carefully chosen to set up the best creative play environment for him in the safety of our home. As I watched him scoot around the lobby of that inner-city church with dirty bare feet and a big smile on his face, God spoke to my fiercely protective mama heart about trusting Him with my kids and it was then that God and I began our conversation about the intersection of ministry and motherhood.
We continued visiting Portsmouth each summer. We would volunteer at the camp during the day and load up all the teenagers in the church van to spend our free evenings at Virginia Beach. Each year, our attachment to Virginia and HOPE grew stronger and we would drive home to Atlanta feeling as though we left part of our hearts in Portsmouth.
Four years ago, Phillip and I had made up our minds to move to Virginia. We didn’t share this with anyone. We were going rogue. We were going to get non-ministry jobs and had big plans to work with HOPE in whatever capacity we could and eventually plant a church and start a thrift store. But we had debt and were not in a good place to sell our home for any profit. I had a spreadsheet called “Virginia or Bust” and the plan ended up going bust. It wasn’t God’s timing for us to move to Virginia and he was very clearly opening doors in another direction. And through those doors I stepped into my dream life.
I like to call it my Pottery Barn dream.
Before I had kids, I would often thumb through the Pottery Barn Kids catalog to look at the photographs of the beautiful children sitting in the beautiful playrooms in the beautiful traditional homes. The Pottery Barn Kids catalog represented my mid-thirties, white picket fence American dream.
In 2012, I was at Allume and Phillip texted me a picture of the exterior of a house owned by a lady in the church. She had been keeping it as a rental property and was willing to sell it to us, and it was my dream house in my dream neighborhood. I texted back “Yes!” without even needing to see the house in person. As you know from my home tour here on the blog, I have put my heart and soul into this house and into planting our lives here.
So when Phillip started sharing his heart with me that he felt like God was saying it was time to leave it all behind and go to Virginia, I was very resistant to the idea.
I was sitting in church last summer and a man was sharing his testimony about how God had called him to quit his full-time ministry position and become an advocate for orphans. He quit his job without a plan, and God provided for his family in incredible ways.
I thought to myself, I want to live a story like that. A story where God gets all the credit. But I want to jump to the end of the story where God has already provided the ram in the bushes because it is much easier to rejoice in the provision than it is to walk up the mountain.
I wish I could say that my faith has been strong this past year. That I’ve declared the truth of God’s Word and been singing songs of God’s faithfulness. Some days I have. But more days found me wandering around the desert of my kitchen, murmuring and complaining, walking in fear.
In fear, I begged Phillip to try to make things work here so we could stay in our house and near our friends. In fear I tried to sustain this dream as long as possible. We had tried to move to Virginia before and it hadn’t worked out. I needed more time and more clarity to make sure we had really heard from God.
I’ve heard that an eagle builds the interior of her nest with rough objects and then covers the exterior with softer materials. When it is time for her babies to fly, she begins to remove the soft materials to make the nest uncomfortable for her babies, so they will be more apt to leave the nest. I did some research and I can’t find any real evidence to support this, but it makes for a great analogy.
While my heavenly Father was extending grace and waiting for me to say yes, He began gently removing things from my life that I thought we couldn’t make it without, and He showed me that we were okay without those things. He was teaching me to put my faith and trust wholly in Him instead of in a paycheck and a life plan.
Even though I didn’t have all the answers and clarity I longed for, I knew I was supposed to put my house up for sale, and I had this feeling that once I did, I would need to hold on tight because things were going to start happening quickly.
Close your eyes, take a step
It’s okay, I know where we’re going
Don’t fret, I’ve been before
Through these valleys
Down these long and dangerous roads
Yet dark as they seem
Though you can’t see
You can trust me
The way may be steep
You can trust me
Let me lead
It was a Saturday afternoon in December. I grabbed my computer and uploaded the pictures from my blog home tour and in a few minutes, my house was listed on Zillow. I didn’t tell anyone and I didn’t put a sign in the yard. I didn’t want the boys to know and I knew I could take it off Zillow at any time, no questions asked.
We had a few showings that week and the following Sunday, we were driving home from church when Phillip received a text message that a couple wanted to make an offer on our home. I cried the rest of the way home.
I had been putting off telling the boys about Virginia. We had already left our church a few months prior and that had been really hard on them. How were they going to handle the news that we would now be leaving our house and neighbors, grandparents and best friends, Cub Scouts and Swim Team? I was still on an emotional rollercoaster myself and wanted so badly to be strong for them as they went through their own stages of processing this move. I had been earnestly praying for God to prepare their hearts for this news. We told them on a Friday night over pizza and I was wholly unprepared for their reaction. Not only were there no tears, they were actually excited! The Holy Spirit was so evident in their joy and I was reminded again that God loves them more than I do, and He has not forgotten about them in this journey.
In January, we took a trip up to Virginia to attend a retreat with some of the HOPE staff members and to look at houses in the area. I was still struggling in my heart and was praying for God to give me peace about the unknowns. While Phillip was in meetings, I took the kids on various outings and people would often ask where we were from and I told them a little of our story. We were walking back to our car in when Jack said, “Mom, why do you keep telling people you THINK we are moving to Virginia. We ARE moving to Virgnia.”
I had thought I needed to be strong for Jack and here he was being strong for me. Jack’s seven year old faith strengthened my thirty-five year old faith and I went home from that trip with the peace I asked for. A peace that truly passes all my understanding.
During our January trip to Virginia, we toured a little mint green 1910 Victorian fixer-upper. The price was low and the seller generous with repairs. God made himself known to us over and over again during the purchase of this home and on March 1, #mintgreengables became ours.
A few streets over, we had also looked at a house owned by a homeschooling family with 2 boys in Cub Scouts. I believe God led me to that house just to show me that our family could thrive in this neighborhood that is so very different from the one we are leaving.
And my hesitant steps of faith turn into a brisk walk.
The sale of our house enabled us to be debt-free. Hallelujah! Four years ago I looked at a spreadsheet that held many entries representing financial burden that was holding us back, and today I look at only a few entries that show our simple cost of living and freedom.
And I break out into a jog.
We have opened a missions account and without even asking, we have had friends and family pledge to support us as full-time missionaries to the poor and I am both humbled and awestruck by God’s provision.
And my breathing gets steadier and I pick up speed.
Just last week, some local investors felt that God laid it on their hearts to do something for the ministry of HOPE. They asked if we had any use for a retail space and so our dream of opening a thrift store unfolds.
And I am running.
It’s 5:00am and I can’t sleep. In a few short hours, we will say our final goodbyes and make the 600-mile drive north to where our empty green house awaits. Our furnishings will be delivered tomorrow and the five of us will begin making ourselves at home in this eclectic community we’ve been called to love and to serve.
You probably wouldn’t believe me if I told you I am excited, but I truly am and that is evidence of the Holy Spirit at work in my heart. It is the miracle I prayed for months ago.
I still don’t have all the answers to my questions or probably yours, but I am oddly okay with that. This is a season of blind faith and the beginning of a beautiful new chapter in our story. Everyday I am in awe of God and His faithfulness. I also know there will be difficult days ahead and I ask you to pray for our family.
Please specially pray for:
- Boldness to overcome the fear of embarrassment or failure.
- That God will open doors of ministry, partnerships, and friendships in Virginia.
- That God’s Word will indeed spread rapidly and be honored wherever it goes.
- That our faith will be stronger than our fears as we continue to trust God as our Provider.
If you would like to learn more about what we will be doing in Virginia or would like to support our family as full-time inner city missionaries, please visit our family ministry website www.hopebeyondhelp.org.
Open your eyes, but don’t let go of my hand.
Let your tears give way to smiles
See your joy inside the trials
Don’t worry, you’re safe with me around
Rest assured I’m on your side
I won’t let you hit the ground
But close as it seems
Though you can’t see
You can trust me
The way may be steep
You can trust me
Let me lead
Virginia here we come.
Lyrics: Trust Me by Crystal Lewis
Photo Credit: @christinecaine on Instagram