Today I am unpacking. I have ventured upstairs to the piles of boxes that do not contain essentials. These are the boxes that I both love and dread. They are filled with scrapbooks and pictures and journals. I have letters from my grandparents who are no longer with us, birthday cards from my mom and dad, and a thousand other pieces of paper that are significant in one way or another. They remind me of where I have been, things I have done, and how I got to where I am. And this leads me to tell you about how we arrived in Greeneville, Tennessee.
We knew it was time to go. We honestly had known for months that it was time, but we didn't have a release. You know what I mean... that peace that God gives when He wants you to go. And we searched. We did. We looked at ministry opportunities in the Fort Worth area, thinking that it was nice and close to home. We talked and prayed through going to Portland, Oregon with some friends to revitalize a church there. I bought a Fodor's travel guide to Portland at a thrift store, and I planned out the places we would see when we went. We met up with friends moving to San Antonio to plant a church. San Antonio is a city I love, and it was only four short hours from family. San Antonio felt like something I could say yes to. And still... no confirmation. I felt like we could choose to go. I still feel like we could have done those things and been fine. I don't think God's will is as hard and fast as I used to believe. I knew that there were opportunities to minister, no matter where we went.
Then there was Preston Trail Community Church, a great, established church in Frisco. We loved Preston Trail. We needed a new place to minister. They needed a couple to work in their worship ministry. The people were genuine and lovely. And while the church was cooler* than I am, the church was growing and had active outreach ministries that we could just jump right into. Jake was sold. I wanted to be sold. So we prayed and talked through it. Through all of our conversations, I just couldn't come around to a definite yes in my spirit. Jake and I argued about it. When I would express my unease, it would upset him. Eventually, I got to the point where I assumed that this was the job we would take, and that my unsettled spirit would settle as we got more involved. After all, there was no reason to say no. This was a great opportunity.
Then I got the call. It was a Saturday night, and I was preparing for Saturday night services at Ranch Community Church, where Jake and I were still serving. It was a strange, unfamiliar voice on the other end, and he introduced himself as the pastor of the church in East Tennessee where my dad was preaching that week. He said that my dad had told him that we needed a job, and he needed a worship pastor and youth pastor. It was a blur of a conversation, but I wrote down the details of the job and the town where he served on a white paper bag. The town was 900 miles from Dallas. The pay was less than what we had been offered at Preston Trail. We knew nothing about being youth pastors. Nothing about this job made sense. It did not seem worth such a huge move. I promised to discuss it with Jake, and I hung up from that call thinking one thing.
We're not doing that.
I brought it up to Jake after the service, and he agreed. This was not something we would consider. And then...
The next day over lunch, we talked about it again. And this time, we felt differently. We were open to at least talking to the pastor. So we arranged a quick phone call for that night, agreeing to nothing more than just seeing what he had to say. That night Jake and I sat in the parking lot of a Steak and Shake, waiting to order our dinner, and we had a speakerphone conversation with the pastor about the church and the people and the needs of the area. When we hung up, we drove through and ordered our dinner, and when I got home, I cried. I cried because this was it. The peace I had been missing with all of these other wonderful opportunities was there. I had not yet seen the church or met the people or seen the town, but the Spirit of God inside of me said yes. And when He says yes, I have learned not to say no.
We have been here a little over four weeks, and I can honestly say that this is the place we are supposed to be. There is no question in my mind. The day we arrived to our adorable little rental house, we were greeted with a crowd of people to help us unload our moving truck. Our kitchen cabinets and refrigerator were filled with food. There were cards and gift cards and home-canned vegetables. We have experienced kindness and generosity and hospitality since we have arrived. We do miss home and our friends and family. I miss Target. And Starbucks. And Tex-Mex. Several things have gone wrong. My car has had a flat tire and the alternator is going out, and we still don't have medical coverage settled for this baby just yet. And in all of that, we still have seen God's hand at work. He is still meeting our needs. He is working out provision for us just like He always has.
One of our desires when we moved here was to really serve people. We felt that and expressed it in our conversations, and yet, we feel like we are being served and loved by people far more than we are serving and loving. We feel so very blessed. We are excited to see how God works in our church and community. We can't wait to be a part of it.
*If you have been in church for any length of time, you know what I mean by the church is cooler than I am. If you don't know, here it is. I am leading the first song here.