People tend to want to know what are we planning to do after England. We typically reply with the same answer, “Our ‘plan’ is to come home, but it’s up to God where we end up. Our family is ready to go wherever He directs us.”
Wherever He directs us.
One year ago, we were starting school, settling to a new schedule, just as every other average kid in an average family in an average American suburban home was doing. If you had told me that twelve short months later we would be doing everything but average…
I would have believed you.
The last few years, we’ve been watching “average” unravel. That’s a pretty long story. Every line of it points to a God of grace and goodness.
As a family, we had dreamed around our timeworn kitchen table of “radical things”. Especially when “average” got boring. (Let’s move to Uganda! Or, India!) Other times, average was so appealing. (That is way too hard and uncomfortable, so I’ll just stay here in my little bubble.) Sometimes we were joking, other times we were serious; but there was always that budding desire in the back of our minds. A desire to take up our cross and follow. Follow where? We never were sure about that part.
Jesus said, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” [Matthew 19:21, NIV]
We respond, “Yes! I agree; we need to give our all to God, no matter what. I really like this idea!” We write it in our notebooks, highlight the verse, feel great about ourselves, smile, and go on with life. Is this grieving the Spirit of our Lord? Is our faith real? As a family, we have been tested in recent years. We certainly aren’t always all in.
We are learning that following God means everything – everything.
Even the Hard Things.
Things like selling your home
Or finally getting that “ministry job” yet seeing that it was a temporary plan
Or giving away the beloved family dog
Or battling the immigration paperwork into daylight hours
Or leaving behind best friends
I remember the day I spotted the postcard lying on our kitchen island last winter. It was a glossy image of a big English manor house nestled in blooming countryside, addressed to us from Ellel Ministries – Pierrepont. I admired the dreamy pictures, read the brief inscription on the back, laid it back down and forgot about it. It was just mail, nothing special.
That postcard stayed on our island. A pamphlet came. Then a CD. Teachings and information about some program called NETS. The little pile traveled to my mom’s desk, then my dad’s, then back to the kitchen island.
I briefly wondered what the postcard meant, but life came and stole my mind away and I ignored it.
Nothing special or life-changing about a pretty postcard.
One day, my siblings were at school and I was in the kitchen chatting and working with my mom. I jumped up on the counter and sat there, legs swinging, laughing and talking away. A lull broke out in our conversation and my mom reached over to the island and held up the slightly wrinkled postcard.
“Do you know what this is?” she asked with a barely contained smile. A million guesses ran through my head.
“This used to be a boy’s boarding school located in Surrey, England. Now it is the campus for an organization named Ellel Ministries. They have a one-year training program called NETS (Never Ever the Same). The next program begins on October 5th. Your Daddy and I have been praying about this and we feel God is leading us to fill out applications and submit them to NETS.”
A long, exciting conversation commenced as I pressed for details and together we dreamed up the possibility of moving our family of seven to a campus in England.
The days turned into weeks and the rest of the family’s reaction to the news was much the same as mine – excitement and anticipation coursed through the house.
Many factors remained in God’s hands though. Little factors like selling our house, purging our possessions, finding a nanny, moving in with someone for the summer, actually being accepted, and breaking the news to family and friends. Simple little factors like that.
Only God could do something like this. It’s hard to be patient and trust in the Lord. His plans are perfect, yes, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy; and it wasn’t – I doubt it ever will be.
As my parents sent in the long applications to NETS, we prayed as a family. Each application sent cost $150. For a family who had learned what it meant to literally pinch pennies, this was a step of faith.
The day came when the official acceptance email was received. The shouts of disbelief rang through our house. Now England was a reality, a living breathing thing we could touch and feel. A long summer awaited us, one of the hardest ones for our family. There was so much to do, and all of it required trust – trust in the one who held our future in his hands. Together, we had taken the first tiny hurdle towards the predestined plan God has in store for us.
Looking back months later, I am awestruck by my God’s ability to work all things together. Even in our innumerable times of weakness as a family or individuals, He lifted us up and marked the path before us – a path that’s leading towards a most exciting time for our family.
Twenty-one more days until we board a plane away from “familiar”, away from our home in Greenville, away from our beloved church, and away from the comfortable bubble we’ve lived in. Are we nervous? Yes. More than you could know. But we can trust, because our God is BIG.
BIGGER than us.
Thank you Abba, thank you!