I often wondered where the term "spill the beans" came from. Did someone have a secret in the bottom of a can of beans, and they had to spill them to get the story out? Who knows... anyway... (do you think it was green beans or kidney beans?) Ok, ok... for real now...
This has been a long time coming, and I regret not including very many people in the journey, but I honestly think it was one that we had to make. Just us - and God. It's easy to let other people give you their advice, or their criticisms, or even concerns and questions, but this time, we wanted our decisions to be based on where we were feeling LED and not where we were being pushed, pulled, shoved or cornered. And yes I DO have an issue with telling people "no". Or at least I did.
To make a long story short (yeah, right!), quite awhile back we left a church under circumstances that weren't ideal for our family. We had all good intentions of leaving on wonderful terms, with people waving sad goodbyes and sending their best wishes and being really supportive of our future adventures, but that never happened. We just had to leave... and that was that. It's been a couple years and people are still asking us where we went. It's kinda frustrating... kinda sad... and kinda disturbing. It hurt. A lot.
Over the course of the last 2 years, we've huddled up in a comfortable church in our local community that is full of nice, happy, loving people. I really like these people. They are really starting to feel like family to me. It's nice to FINALLY have people in my town that I can trust, that I can rely on, and that I can turn to in an emergency. It's nice that I can be that for them too (at least I hope I am!) From the beginning, our first visit to this church, I felt like it was where we were supposed to be. We visited, and then never went anywhere else. It felt "comfortable" and I liked it. But something felt itchy.
That itch continued to feel itchy for months. We felt rather useless for many weeks as we were just "regular" church attenders. Something we hadn't been for years. We were used to being in the trenches each and every Sunday, as well as a couple weekdays in-between. We didn't just GO to church, we got our hands dirty every chance we could.
Our family settled in. The kids got involved in kid things, us parents got involved in small groups. Only something different happened, we weren't in a group together anymore, we were in separate men's & women's groups. Nothing wrong with that - we actually blossomed and formed friendships that we wouldn't have otherwise. But, still something was itchy.
Bryan wanted to do things in the church. Then he stalled, because he wasn't going to do them if I wasn't ready. Then I wanted to do things, and in the meanwhile I felt that he had backed off, and it continued like this for some time. It was still itchy.
About the time we both had our hearts ready to get in there and serve in various ways, we found ourselves unable to really connect to something or to feel that overwhelming sense of accomplishment. I don't mean the self-serving kind of accomplishment where you pat yourself on the back, but the kind where you really feel like what God has asked you to do has been, or is being, accomplished. We did good things, we enjoyed them, and our hearts were in the right place, but it was still itchy.
In the meanwhile, over the last year, I managed to go through a severe depression that lasted many months. I struggled a lot. I struggled with my purpose, with the meaning of my life, and with my husband (poor guy). I struggled with the weather, with my kids and with my physical body. I struggled with loneliness, with isolation and with God. I also struggled to get us some help. Almost exactly a year ago, we found that help. I know that I previously opened up on this blog about discovering my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and that we entered marriage counseling. But shortly after that, I watched several marriages around us begin to crumble. Then I wrote a post on Marital Suicide. I am pretty amazed that I can write a sermon to myself, and still be surprised that it affects me. I guess it's called practicing what you preach. It made a big difference in where I was coming from, and where I'm going.
Basically I just got off topic. So my background story was "we've been through a lot - as if you didn't already know that". So in the course of going through "a lot", I found myself quite literally clearing my plate of all obligations, commitments, activities and anything else that took up my time, energy and emotions. I do believe it was related to the depression, but looking back I'm pretty sure that I had help clearing that plate, because there was something coming down the road that needed to have a wide berth. No interruptions. No lame excuses.
Then we turned a corner. Our marriage began to bloom again, our kids began to turn into wonderful young people (because grouchy parents cause grouchy kids) and we became more centered and focused. I'm pretty sure that wouldn't have happened if we'd been holed up in "busy, busy land" during that time. VERY slowly, I began considering new ideas, new options and new ways to serve that brought me joy and at the same time gave God the glory. I found a quilting group and got them set up with a website (since I was new at sewing, it's the least I could do for all the help they've been for me!). I discovered afresh what it was like to be working with my heart.
I got asked to do twenty-seven-dozen other things, and politely declined all but a few that were very short term. I felt like I was being picky. But that picky feeling wasn't coming from myself. The itch was starting to lessen with the things that my heart was leading me to do.
Along the course of a men's retreat (for Bryan), a separate camp weekend (for me) and then High School Camp in the summer (for both of us) we ran into the Mattenley's. We heard their ideas for the people of Haiti and how different the ideas were from governmental organizations. It really appealed to us. It's crazy how many times we've talked about helping in the mission field (hundreds), and how many times we separately felt led to help with THIS particular mission (dozens), and then how ODD it was to run into Shane Mattenly together and have him ask US to partner with him. How weird is that? Not weird at all if you know who's running the show I guess. I'm pretty sure it was that guy upstairs who planted me in the Dominican Republic one summer about 20 years ago, and then placed a burning desire on my heart to come back to the Island someday. Pretty sure that the Dominican Republic is the same Island as Haiti - it counts, right?
So we thought, we prayed, we talked... We mentioned it to a family member who thought the idea was completely absurd. Then we mentioned it to another family member who thought the idea was wonderfully grand. Then we decided to just keep it to ourselves so we wouldn't fall victim to allowing other people to make up our minds for us. We knew we wanted to do it. We knew we needed to.
Just about that time same time, we got the call to help with a new church plant. You probably could have heard a pin drop in the room when Bryan told me, except the sound of my jaw hitting the floor was kind of loud. It felt SO RIGHT. I wanted to burst out and say "YES!! I have been WAITING FOR THIS!! I want to do it, I want to do it! I've wanted to help with a new church plant for the last three years! I get to hear you SING again!!" But I didn't, and quite honestly I didn't even know where those thoughts were coming from. Did I really want to do that? Had I been wanting to for quite some time? Huh??
Granted, we had tossed around conversations with our good friends from church #1 about how it would be so cool to help with a church plant, and that if they were on board too it would be just THEE best. But that was awhile ago. And I'm sort of busy with... um... with stuff that I don't know yet. (Uh huh... where's the excuses now?!)
Fast forward a few days, and we find ourselves giving Shane from Haiti a resounding "yes". We tossed around our thoughts and ideas, and ways to help from our side of the planet. We are now on a Committee for Highland Farms in Haiti to help promote sustainable living along with changing lives in the process. What's even better, is that we are also working alongside a few other really good friends that I had no idea were even on board until we accepted. But what tops that, is that the other members of the committee are people we knew from the first church we ever went to many years ago! It's almost creepy how all these things keep coming together and falling into place. It's like "wow!" followed immediately by, "WOW!!" I'm so full of anticipation. It's so brand new to me, and yet I'm so encouraged by being a part of it all. Plus the coffee we were sent to share with others is A-MAZ-ING (shameless plug).
It doesn't end there though. Another couple of weeks later, we found ourselves speaking to our pastor and his wife, and letting them know that as much as we loved the church they were leading - we really felt that we were being called to help with the new church plant, and to do something more UNcomfortable. The positive support we got, and continue to receive, has been a beautiful breath of fresh air. I am not sure what I was expecting - but it was a REALLY weird to wake up the next morning, and no longer feel itchy.
Now, when I look back over my shoulder at the last 36 months or so, it appears that we've been going through training and we just didn't see it. We tore spiritual and emotional muscles, we spent time in physical and emotional therapy, we went through spiritual rehabilitation, and we even had time on "bed rest" - where we were nice and comfortable - in order to prepare ourselves for what is now ahead of us. I feel like we just trained for a marathon, and we're about to see just what all that training prepared us for. I can tell ya one thing though... whatever that itch was, has been replaced by a full heart and a delightful feeling of accomplishment. The kind that isn't just a pat on the back.