The post title has so many meanings.
It's so weird to begin here, where we are today, with this story, because SO much has transpired in the last several weeks that I really don't know where to begin. This story is hard, but it's good. This story is sad, and yet joyful, too!
Jeff and I have lived (and loved) Bartlesville, OK for nearly 8 years. It's where our life as a married couple began. It's where our children will always get to say "I was born in...and started life out in..." We moved into the Holiday Inn (currently La Quinta) just shortly after arriving back in Oklahoma from our honeymoon. We lived there for about a week and then moved into a too-sweet-for-words rental thanks to a sweet family in the church! We lived there and did ministry there. We conceived our first child there. We moved and became first-time homebuyers and have stayed in that (this) house ever since. We've had all three kids' nurseries in this house. They all learned (learning) to walk, talk, and play here. We've sent our first born to school for the first time right around the corner (Jeff was able to walk him to school too, something he’s always wanted). We've loved here. We’ve watched friends turn to family. We've really lived life here. It's forever a part of us.
But, before we even knew what was going on, we felt the Lord tugging our hearts away. How could this be? We love our church/ministry. We love our home. We love the school. We love everything about this place. This is life and we were living and happy. Content.
About August I'd say is when the Lord began working out loud in our hearts, but we didn't understand. Jeff had uneasiness in his spirit, but we pressed on in life, ministry, work, etc. When nothing really changed, we somewhat moved past it.
Around this time Jeff had read Radical by David Platt (I recommend). It was a God-timing thing too, because he had begun the book months prior but never finished. Finishing the book is where the Radical Experiment begins. He had me read it and we decided this was where we were and aligned with our hearts and knew the Lord was calling us for big change. We began just giving away so many of our things and trying desperately to simplify life, and begin praying fervently for the nations/countries. Little did we know this was just the beginning.
With where we were with our Radical Experiment (RE), and the other ways the Lord had begun to prepare our hearts for major change, we felt the Lord calling us away from Bartlesville. But just didn’t know in what manner. Another part of the RE is to serve outside your community/comfort zone. Our hearts have been in Haiti for a long time even though our hands and feet hadn’t been there in 8 years. We began thinking maybe we would just get to Haiti and then see what the Lord had planned.
In November (I think) we get a phone call out of the blue from a church in Bixby, OK, called New Beginnings (NBC).
The way it all transpired is somewhat comical. Jeff's sister Jennifer puts on a youth conference in Enid every year and has had
a lady Carol Sallee from Bixby (NBC) come speak several times. I think a couple times her husband, the senior pastor from NBC (Phil), has also come. There are details here I am fuzzy on, but anyway, they liked Jennifer so much and thought she did a great job they asked her about moving to Bixby (?) and she of course declined. But mentioned she had a youth pastor brother that was "amazing" that they should check out if they ever needed a youth guy. (don't quote me on all that). Anyway, 2 years ago they didn't need a youth guy. But this year they were looking and they'd just come back from the event and spoke again with Jennifer.
So, the random phone call for us came...
Jeff initially said no, we weren't interested. I (for some reason) said, "let's just go hear them out" and I believe Jeff had told GCC at this time what was going on and they said it's a good learning experience and we should go ahead and go. So we went. It was a yummy lunch and great conversation with the pastor and his wife and then we went home. We didn't think too much about it at the time, because things were just good and we didn't want to leave. Then a few days later they asked us to come to a formal interview. I said "no" this time, but Jeff said, "I'll just let them know where they stand and see if they still want us to come." He said, “on a scale of 0 to 10, you're a 1 and that's only because a 0 takes God out of the picture.” So after being brutally honest, they still wanted us to come down. So we did. The interview went very well and really perked our ears and pierced our hearts. They had a vision that was very in line with where we were as a family. It was different and yet it made so much sense. Their ministry vision was exciting, and that excited us. We really felt the Lord’s hand in this in so many ways. We felt He was confirming over and over again in so many details that this was what He had planned.
We met one more time with the Phil and Terry (the church administrator) to go over what would be very specific details. They offered the job early December. We prayed and talked and prayed and talked and prayed and cried and talked and prayed. It was a heart-wrenching decision. The loss seemed too big for something unknown and new. We prayed some more just to confirm with the Lord that this was His thing and not ours. We still felt the path forming in front of us, so we accepted the next week. We were elated and sad and every other emotion in between.
It was the beginning of a new journey and even though the details of it all began to unravel years ago, it had come together seemingly so fast to us. It was kind of a whirlwind next few weeks.
With any job change there is an order of how things have to play out, with church staff it’s even more intense. It’s really out of your control, because it’s not about you, it’s about the whole. We wanted that too, even though it was hard selfishly. We had to keep it a secret, and I felt like I was living a lie. I hated every minute of it really. I felt terrible that we knew we were leaving but because of the holidays and break and vacations and just about a million other things, we had to keep mute about it for what felt like eternity.
But things were firing on all cylinders, of course, in this Type A brain of mine and so we went house hunting and Bixby exploring and had to do it all without getting outwardly excited. It was good too though because it allowed us time just Jeff and I to have ample conversations and time together.
Grace decided timing would be best to let congregation know on Sun. January 2nd. We were very sad because we had plans already to be out of the state and wouldn’t be there for the announcement. Again, it wasn’t about us, but what they felt was best for the whole church. So, we waited. It felt like the longest few weeks in a long time. Once that day hit, so did the texts and calls. But the weight of the world left my shoulders. I was so thankful I didn’t carry the secret anymore. Now it was time for the conversations though and that was harder than I ever thought. We’ve had cries, cussing, happiness, laughter, sadness, madness, smiles, encouragement, discouragement and everything in between, but nothing we didn’t expect really. We’ve been serving in the same church for a long time and we weren’t leaving because things were bad (in fact we have never felt so supported and enabled to do ministry), so it was a shock to most, and we knew we would be missed as much as we were going to miss them!
NBC introduced us to their church family January 9th (yesterday) and we will be starting February 1st. We will still live in Bartlesville until the house sells. For so many reasons I hope this house sells very fast! Keeping it “show ready” with 3 kids is just an impossible task. Plus, once Feb 1 hits, I really hate the idea of Jeff having to commute an hour and a half each way. So, if you are inclined to pray, please pray for us as we step out on our New Beginning (journey) and that our house would sell quickly.
There are so many things that just are God-things. For remembrance sake for us, I’ll just list the main ideas so we can look back and see how the Lord provided and showed up, and confirmed in our hearts: the 21.4K price drop on a home we loved so it’d be in our price range THE day we were going to look at other houses, the acceptance of a contract on said home, Adoption Ministry, Haiti, financially meet US standards to adopt internationally, Bylaws pass, Model B, Tuesday Morning Pastor’s wives breakfasts, close to CPO, Mothers Day Out, and I am sad to say I know there are more I’ve already forgotten.