Hello there! I hope you are well and have been enjoying these first weeks of spring. Our oldest, Jack, was born on the first day of spring, so I have such sweet feelings associated with the beginning of this season. And after a what has felt like such a very long season of winter in my life, I am so happy to be experiencing the warmth and new beginnings of my very own spring.
As most of you know, over a year ago my family took a big step of faith and moved from Georgia to Virginia to serve as missionaries to the poor. We purchased a little 1910 Victorian in a rough neighborhood, and proceeded to make it our home and plant our family in that community.
I’m not going to lie. Last year was one of the darkest and hardest years of my life. It was a year of intense loneliness, a year where I questioned my personal call to ministry and undermined my value as a woman who has chosen full-time motherhood and homeschooling over a career.
I felt like I was wandering around in the dark, lost and without hope of ever finding my way out. Our whole mission was to bring hope to those who felt beyond help. I had no idea that I would find myself on the other side of the equation.
My difficult season began long before we moved to Virginia. The past several years have not been easy. My husband had some major health issues and was frequently hospitalized or on extended periods of bedrest. My grandfather passed away. I was dealing with some broken family relationships, one which ended with a suicide. And we found ourselves in a financially unstable full-time ministry position, which brought stress and anxiety as we once again began looking for a new job.
For the most part I powered through. My life was busy and I had plenty to distract me from really dealing with all that was going on. But once we moved to Virginia, all of that was gone. No friends. Nothing on my calendar. My distractions were gone and my heart was hurting. It was like a bandage had been ripped off, revealing an infected wound that I had long been neglecting. For many months I just cried. I complained. I felt sorry for myself. I blamed. I lamented.
But as time went by and the layers were pulled back, I knew that both the problem and the answer were within me. God was inviting me to an encounter, and I needed to choose to show up.
“The spiritual desert is the place of the great struggle and the great encounter. You don’t have one without the other.” ~ Henri Nouwen, The Way of the Heart
I began waking up early to head downstairs while everyone else was still sleeping. I would light a candle and pray the Morning Office from The Divine Hours before opening up my prayer journal and pouring my heart out to God. Praising and giving thanks. Confessing and asking for forgiveness, strength, and grace. Praying for Him to change me from the inside out. Laying down my burdens and anxieties daily. And always praying for His Kingdom come, His will be done, on earth, and in my life, as it is in heaven. I began taking other action steps of faith to take better care of my body, soul, mind, and spirit that I had neglected for so long.
And as I continued to encounter, as I continued to show up and take responsibility for my life, I was changed.
“The way of Jesus is oftentimes broken, it is oftentimes lonely, it is oftentimes hard. There are storms. There is ache. It’s a hard road, because the point of the journey is not the end result. It is what happens to you, how you are transformed through encounter in this space.” ~ Stephanie Moors
By fall of last year, I had experienced a deeply transformative change. It is hard for me to describe or explain, which is one of the reasons it has taken me so long to write about it. I still don’t really have the words as I continue to process and ponder my feelings both then and now. The best I can say is that I now have an inner strength and sense of peace and contentment that overwhelms me. The past few months have been full of transitions and unknowns, but I have continued to experience no fear or anxiety, no intense need for things to be a certain way in order for me to happy.
I now understand Paul when he said, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:11-13)
I believe it is important to tell stories of God’s faithfulness. I want to pass these stories on to my children and my children’s children. And I want to share them with you. Because I know that so many times we only see the good things in other’s lives. The pretty pictures on Instagram. The blessings. But we don’t always know the struggles. We don’t always see the pain.
I remember walking around Disney’s Magic Kingdom two years ago. Kate was 1, the boys were 5 and 7. It was our first real family vacation and here I was at Magic Kingdom with my kids, while my husband was laying in a hospital bed in Florida. We had purchased two-day passes and after walking around the park the first day, he had developed a severe infection in his leg that landed him in the hospital for the remainder of our vacation. I tried my best to remedy the situation for the kids, taking them to Disney Springs and local playgrounds. Phillip’s mom and sister drove down so that his sister could accompany me to Magic Kingdom for the second day use of our passes.
I remember walking around the park looking at all of the other families, laughing and smiling and having a great time. And here I was, alone with my kids while my husband was in the hospital. I was having a major pity party until the Lord gently spoke to me and reminded me that I had no idea what anyone else was going through. What may have looked to me like a perfect family having the perfect vacation, could just as easily be smiles hiding stories of cancer, divorce, job loss, and grief, just as my smile was hiding my own pain.
If you follow me on Instagram, you know that we just got back from another trip to Disney. We had no plans for a vacation this spring, but we were surprised and blessed with a one week trip to Orlando with our good friends and new pastors. (More on that in a minute.) It was a beautiful week and I felt like we were given a second chance at the vacation we had planned two years ago, and I was once again overwhelmed at the goodness and love of God and his attention to the details of our lives.
We moved to Virginia with the plans of raising financial support for one year and the hopes of opening a thrift store to financially support our family and the ministry moving forward, but the Lord had other ideas. He provided for all of our needs last year through the support of donors, but was not opening any doors for us to start a thrift store. We soon realized that the Lord had led us to Virginia for different reasons than we had thought. We learned to surrender to what He was doing in our lives and humble ourselves to learn what He was trying to teach us. It was never about us bringing hope beyond help. It was about us finding it.
As the end of 2016 drew near, we were praying for God to give us direction as to what we were to do next. Stay in Virginia and find jobs outside of the ministry? Move back to Georgia and…? We prayed and fasted and begged God to show us His will for our lives and He answered with a perfectly timed opportunity to move back to Georgia to work with some dear friends we have long loved and respected who lead a non-profit organization that reaches out to single-parent families to provide assistance with moving, after-school care, car maintenance, back-to-school supplies, Christmas presents, and other individual needs brought to the ministry’s attention throughout the year. Phillip is now working full-time with that ministry and we have joined this couple and a team of others in planting a church in one of the lower-income apartment communities where we serve.
The faithfulness of God continues to overwhelm me. Our dream for opening a thrift store was always to have a large warehouse to store furniture and household goods that we could give away to families in need, and now a major part of Phillip’s job is running a warehouse full of donated items to give away to families in need. God is in the details.
And the Lord hasn’t forgotten me and the personal call to ministry He placed on my life at the age of 16. I have been given the opportunity to direct the children’s ministry of our new church plant and I couldn’t be more thrilled. I am passionate about sowing seeds of faith in the garden of my children’s hearts and I am so excited to be able to use my gifts and creativity to reach out to other children and families each week.
In January we put our house up for sale, packed up our clothes, homeschool books and toys, and moved to back Georgia, believing that God would provide both a buyer for our Virginia house and a new home for us in Georgia. And He has been so faithful! Even though other houses on our street had been sitting for sale for over a year, our house sold within three months! We traveled back up to Virginia in March to pack up our furniture and say goodbye to Mint Green Gables.
During this time of transition, a dear friend offered us her furnished home to stay in as long as we needed. Her house has been such a huge blessing to our family, offering us a sense of home and normalcy during all of the changes.
And a little over a week ago, we purchased a house of our own and it already feels like home!
I was so sad when we sold our other house in Georgia. It had been my dream house, and I had such a hard time giving it back to God when He called us to Virginia. But this new house is everything that house was to me, and so much more than I ever hoped or imagined we would ever have. This is the house I want my kids to grow up in. The house I want to grow old in. The house I want my grandkids to visit for sleepovers and family celebrations. Everyday the kids and I thank the Father for the blessing of this beautiful home and pray that we will use it for His glory.
Through all of these transitions and changes and not always knowing what was next or how it was all going to work out, I have continued to experience such an overwhelming sense of peace, contentment, and inner strength like I have never had before. I have come back to Georgia a different woman than I was when I left. Our year in Virginia was hard, but so very necessary. God did amazing things in our hearts and lives, both individually and as a family and I am ever grateful for what I learned and how I grew in the wilderness.
“See I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:19
And for our last bit of good news, and to end on an especially sweet note…
We are so happy to announce our greatest blessing of this new season… Baby Medlin #4, joyfully expected October 2017.
Spring has come.