Do you ever go through your life thinking, "Wow God, I didn't see that one coming?" I mean, it seems to make sense once things are set in motion, but at the beginning you wonder how in the world is this what you had planned for me? I can very much relate to that feeling over the last 2 months.
Within the first few weeks of leaving our ministry while my husband was hitting the phone making connections, searching for leads in the ministry world and figuring out exactly what he should do with the next half of his life, God was at work. I know he was at work because somehow He gave my husband a perfect peace. Me... not so much. Skip is a strong, confident man by nature, but this was just something out of the Twilight Zone that he was experiencing. Now don't get me wrong, he came up with some pretty crazy ideas for our family at first. Just to name one, we were going to move to our favorite vacation destination, Estes Park, Colorado and start a family restaurant. Not that that wouldn't be a new adventure, but seriously??? Not what I envisioned at all.
While all these crazy ideas were floating through his head, he was in constant contact with his best friend of 35 plus years. His best friend Bard is a pastor from our home town in Victoria, Texas and they served together at a church for a year almost 3 years ago. Bard had just started Renegade Church this fall and Skip decided to go surprise him and check out his Sunday service. The church was running about 35 people a Sunday after launching in September. Skip was blown away at the loving, relaxed vibe he felt as he entered the doors for the first time and saw his buddy fulfilling a God-ordained dream he had held in his heart for quite some time. You can read about his heart here. Skip stayed around after the service and met a few people, and offered to help Bard with any needs he had for the month of December since basically his Sundays were now fully open for ministry. Victoria is only an hour and 45 minutes away from Corpus, and all of our extended family is in Victoria so we always have a place to stay the night when we are there. I remember thinking to myself, that's awesome that Skip will be helping out in ministry, but I just hope he knows that there is NO WAY I want to go back there to live. Ever! I don't want to sound at all like I don't love the town of Victoria, I do! It is hurtful memories of being somewhere where we weren't wanted that are engraved in my memory that is hard to face. Ministry is just hard sometimes, and the year we spent in Victoria will go down in our familiy's history as "The year we would like to forget." I don't regret it, mostly because it showed me a lot about how I never want to treat others in church by the way my husband and I were treated...and we were serving the congregation. It is a wonderful, thriving church, but it just didn't want us...that is what was hard. Enough of the past, God began stirring Skip's heart as he began leading worship at Renegade, and doing the media/production to bring some new things to their service. It reminded me of our first years at BAF when nothing was too crazy for reaching people. Laughter filled the rooms from their video bumps to introduce the series, and relaxed people to hear the Word of the Lord. Bard allows creativity and individuality, but he pulls no punches about laying out the truth of scriptures. God's Word is taught, plain and simple to grow the congregation to maturity.
The first weekend I went, I was expecting to see a bunch of motorcycle gang looking people. Don't tell Bard I said that...he is a rider himself. What I found was a diverse, loving and welcoming group of believers who wanted to know me, and made me want to know them. It was scary, don't get me wrong. I am coming from a 2 and a half year stay at a church were I felt loved and comfortable each week. Sometimes I think feeling comfortable in church is a sure sign you are about to have your world rocked. I also came from a church with VERY close friendships. I loved the women like sisters and they loved me. That is a hard thing to leave and a hard thing to let go. Luckily God has shown me that the true friendships will always stay with me. Facebook, and phone calls will be our lifelines and prayer groups.
As we began to serve at Renegade, and fully committing ourselves to whatever God had for our future...let's just say the RAIN began. The showers of blessings that followed in the month of December had me in happy tears daily. I am going to highlight just a few for you that we will never forget. One of my biggest struggles of losing our job and the thought of ever leaving Corpus was our children's schools. We have been blessed with the best private Christian schools in the country. The teachers are like family to us and the parents and administration are simply the best! I knew with our income immediately coming to an end in the month of December, and having to save what little we had that tuition payments were not something we could part with in the upcoming months when food, housing and necessities had to come first. When we contacted our youngest two's school, they were more than willing to work something out with us, but my eldest's school really didn't have much to offer at the time. I was devastated, but I knew God knew our situation and would provide for us somehow. I love how even though you can be coming to terms with something horrible, God will show you beautiful rainbows in your life. During the last week of school in December, as the kids' Christmas programs were about to take place (all three of the kids had huge roles for some reason..I know it was God's plan to show off to me)...I received an email from Ashley's school. I still can't tell this story without crying. Ashley had anonymously been granted a $1000 dollar scholarship that had been set up in honor of a dear friend's daughter who had died expectantly from Cancer in her mid twenties a couple of years earlier. Okay, a little back story here. The mother of the girl that passed away was my bible study teacher/women's ministry leader about 6 or 7 years ago. I remember praying for her daughter's salvation and rejoicing when she came to know the Lord. I also remember sitting in the mother's living room and praying for this 20 year old who was embarking on her first Beth Moore bible study. You know I love me some Beth Moore so I literally broke down when I heard that as she was diagnosed with cancer two years ago, she was leading her own Beth Moore study. Her death was a huge shock, but her life impacted so many, and even as she has gone, her life blessed my daughter Ashley's. Some people would count all this as coincidences, but I know my God is personal, and loves to bless us in ways that make us smile and know He had a plan 6 years ago for what is happening right now. Ooh, I just praise his goodness!!! The same night of the email telling us about the scholarship, I talked with a couple at my youngest two's Christmas program. They are part of the school board and wanted to know what was going on with our family and what had happened to us and our job, etc. As I was about to leave, the husband looked at me and said, "You do not need to worry about anything regarding the kids school." I thanked him and said, "I know, we were told that we could work out the payments as we found a new job." And he said again, "No, you don't need to worry about the tuition. It will be taken care of for you." I really tried to hold back the tears, but it wasn't happening. I made it to the car, and just had a big ole' cry. In one day, I had not only seen God take care of one school need, but two that were secretly weighing heavily on my heart. Not only that, I saw my beautiful daughter Annie shine and dance her heart out at the Christmas program, and my son had a big role making everyone laugh as a one of the leads in his play. My heart was so full!
You are probably thinking this is the longest post you have ever sat through so surely it is coming to an end now. Sorry, but I have a few more big things to share and really don't want to write a part 3. Okay, go get a cup of coffee or take a bathroom break so I can continue...
If you know me at all or have read this blog for an length of time, you know my heart is Women's ministry. The thought of leaving behind my life groups that I love, the women I've invested in the last year and a half at RLF was truly the knife in the heart for me. I love my friends so fully and literally had them at my kitchen table about once a month if not more just because. We prayed together, studied God's word together, laughed together, cried together and even zumba'd together. There has never been a group of girls I invested more into than these sweet gals. On December 21st, one of my bible study girls came by the house unannounced. That is usually no big deal, but I was rushing to get out of town and still had a bazillion things to do. She is probably the girl that I have known for the least amount of time and probably the quietest one. She is not the girl people flock to, doesn't necessarily follow your typical christian walk and certainly has not had anyone give her the time of day to get to know her...including me-ouch! I invited her and her toddler in and offered her something to eat and drink, but told her I was in a big hurry and couldn't visit long. God stopped me in my tracks when those words, "I'm in a big hurry, " came out of my mouth. He whispered in my heart, "Ummm... just because your husband is no longer getting a paycheck for ministry, you are still in ministry Susie. Sit your bottom down and start ministering." I did and I am so grateful for it. She had so much on her plate she needed to share, and besides that she needed a friend to pray for her. As I prayed over her serious health issues, praised God for her not having cancer, her homeless mother she was about to take in, her fiance to be a man of God, her finances, I also encouraged her to find a new bible study in January. She told me no one had ever reached out to her like me. She said my bible study was the first one she had ever been apart of and she thanked me. I reminded her that it wasn't me, but God working through me. God was the only one she needed to thank and to seek for encouragement, love and acceptance. Oh, I am so glad I opened my door. I needed that reminder as much as she did. Okay, here is the coolest part of this story. While I was meeting with my friend, Skip was in Victoria preparing for the Christmas Open House for Renegade. He got a call from a good friend that he does video/commercial work for on occasion in Corpus. They have also worked for years together in ministry and he and his wife hold such a special place in our hearts. His friend said that his daughter and her husband had been praying and seeking a place to give. They wanted to know that their offerings were going to go to a place that would make a difference in the Kingdom and they both had heard about our prayers about helping out at Renegade and Skip feeling a calling there to serve. I didn't mention this earlier, but Pastor Bard doesn't take a salary at Renegade. God has blessed his family through other avenues and they have no support from other church organizations or church affiliations. To get us to Renegade would have to be a huge God size miracle and leap of faith. The offerings that come in right now only cover the rent and utilities. There is absolutely no way to pay us with the congregation the size it is. Back to our friend's phone call... he told Skip he was putting his daughter on the line. She was excited to hear about Renegade's mission and our situation and wanted to get in on it. She told Skip she would be sending us a check of $9,000 dollars to Renegade church to go to Skip and Susie and getting us there. As I was talking to one person doing ministry in my home, God was blessing us in a mighty way. Skip couldn't wait to share it with me, and I know our obedience was being honored. When my friend left, I called Skip and heard the news. We both were crying over God's goodness. I wish I could say we had months and months of burning bush moments to lead us back to Victoria, but sometimes it comes in ways of the heart where there is just a peace. A peace that passes all understanding, and you know God is leading you and you are to follow. No other doors open, but the one that does, is so wide and inviting that you just know.
I am scared, anxious, excited, joyful and ready ALL at the same time. I have no idea how things are going to fall into place, but somehow they will. Lots of details to iron out in the following month, but God is an expert at the details as well as the big picture. Though the church has a small congregation, and to the human eye we are taking a step backwards...God's ways are not our ways. He could be see this as our biggest role and challenge ever and found us worthy to take it on. The fact that we love our friends and new bosses Bard and his beautiful, sweet wife Mollie like crazy is a risk in itself. Thank you Jesus that we can tell each other that it is weird and scary. I am ready to be uncomfortable if it is for God and His glory.
This post could go on and on about people slipping us an envelope with $400 dollars here and another best friend giving me free haircuts there, and another couple giving us a card with a $150 dollars because they love us and Skip's parents paying for our car to get fixed right at Christmas when the bearings and brakes went out. The list of provision is so long and dear to our hearts, that we can simply never repay the love we have been given. Not to mention the many friends who have supported me in my new Scentsy business, a Christmas tree given to us, and most of all the prayers, emails, phone calls, and hugs. My heart is truly overwhelmed by support and love from family and friends.
If you are reading this and questioning the existence of a loving God who cares for you, or sees your struggles, or cares about the troubles you have, please look at what he had done in less than two months of my life and believe. God is the reason for my life, the reason I can speak this words on this page, and the reason for my future. He is my EVERYTHING! Make him yours too.